Message of Offense

Posted: September 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

When a fine grain of sand invades the body of a mollusk, the particle acts as an irritant.  What does the mollusk do?  It coats it with layer after layer of a substance to relieve the irritation.  When your glasses do not fit properly, what do you do?  Do you buy pads to relieve the pressure and pain, or do you go to the optometrist to remedy the situation?  When you have a pebble in your shoe, what do you do?  Do you cover it with a piece of foam or do you get rid of the pebble?  The church is a lot like the mollusk that coats the foreign particle to make it more tolerable, or like the person that puts all of the pads on the ill-fitting glasses, or the person that puts foam in the shoe to cover the pebble.

What do you mean? We have tried to cover up and pad over some teachings of Jesus to make Him palatable to the church of today.   We have tried to take the edge, the irritation, and the offensiveness out of Jesus and the gospel.  No way we can do that and be true to the word of God.  Look at how Jesus presents Himself in scripture.   Luke 12:49‑53 “I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!” But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two, and two against three.  “They will be divided, father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against mother; mother‑in‑law against daughter‑in‑law, and daughter‑in‑law against mother‑in‑law.”  Matthew 13:57 And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his home town, and in his own household.”

 

No two ways about it, we have tried to take the offense out of the gospel.  A large church in Illinois does not have a cross in the building because they do not want to offend anyone.  A well-known preacher said “I don’t think anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence, counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise than the often crude, uncouth and unchristian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition.”  Why the attempt to take the offense out of the gospel?  To make Jesus more palatable to the religious.  In the times of Jesus the religious people were offended by Him.

Look at the people who were attracted to Jesus.  In John 4, the Samaritan woman at the well was not offended that Jesus confronted her with her sin.  The disciples were offended that He was talking to her.  In Luke 19, Zacchaeus, the tax collector went to see Jesus.  Zacchaeus was not offended by Jesus, the religious people were.    In Luke 7:36-50, a ‘woman of the city’, another term for a prostitute, she came to see Jesus.  She was not offended by Him.  However, Simon, the Pharisee was offended that Jesus spoke to such a woman.

Why were these people not offended by Jesus?  In fact, why were they attracted to Him?  Many people may have their own ideas why they were attracted to Jesus.   But, I think when they looked at Jesus, they not only saw an absolute standard, they saw absolute grace that attracts and compels.

Is it Half Empty or Half Full?

Posted: February 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

   

      If an eight ounce glass  has four ounces of water in it is it half full or half empty?

      How do you treat someone when they mess up?  Do you put them down or do you pick them up, dust them off and get them going again?  It all depends whether you are predisposed to find the negative  or the positive in life and in people.  Do you look for the positive  or the negative in life and people? 

      It is amazing how our attention is drawn to the imperfections, mistakes or failures. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when somebody mentions the apostle Peter?  I imagine most of you might remember when Peter was walking on the water and he sank or  the time that Peter denied Christ.  Many people have a tendency to focus on the negative and not the positive.  You will find what you are looking for every time.

      Peter was the only person besides Jesus to walk on water  but what do we remember?  Peter sank.  Most remember the fact that Peter denied Jesus but do you remember in Acts 4 when Peter  was directed not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus.  Do you remember that Peter said, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to  you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”  Do you look for the positive or the negative? 

      Tom Watson, Sr., founder of I.B.M. had a junior executive who was involved in a risky venture for the company.  The venture ended up losing the company $10 million dollars.  Mr. Watson called the young executive into his office and before Mr. Watson could say anything the young executive blurted out “I guess you want my resignation?”  Watson said “You can’t be serious.  We’ve just spent $10 million dollars educating you!”  Tom Watson was looking for the positive in the situation. When we focus on the negative and not the positive, we miss all of the blessing and benefits that we do have. 

     It’s like the young lady that was always complaining to her boyfriend.  After listening to her complaints he finally said to her “If I gave you a doughnut all you could see would be the hole in the middle of the doughnut.”   So many go through life like that, focusing on the hole and not the doughnut and in so doing they miss all the benefits and blessings they do enjoy.  Look for the positive in life and people.

God’s Grace

Posted: February 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

“Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:8

This promise extends to every believer, but its context is one of severe difficulties, distresses, persecutions, and human weakness. Paul pours out his heart amid severe attacks on his character and ministry.  He had given so much to the Corinthians, and some of them were turning on him with a bitter animosity. His enemies had called his integrity into question.  They had questioned his loyalty and leadership abilities.  They had doubted and denied his love for believers.  To top it off, he was given a thorn in the flesh.  This was probably the greatest single barrage of abuse that Paul ever received in his life and apparently leaders within the church were fueling it.

The greatest pain he ever knew came from some of the people he loved the most.  Their rejection, betrayal, criticism, false accusations, and even hatred cut deep into his heart.  That makes Paul’s situation very practical to us, because the same pain that hit him can strike every believer.

Notice Paul doesn’t say, concerning this, “I went to my therapist, read a book, attended a seminar.”  Paul took a route many feel is too simplistic.  He entreated the Lord.  Three times he appealed to God to remove the thorn and three times God said “No”.

Paul was content with God’s answer, “no”  because God said to him, “My grace is sufficient.”  God answered Paul’s prayer by not granting his request, but by supplying sufficient grace for Paul to endure it.  Like Paul we might ask God to remove some thorn of pain or suffering, only to discover that God wants it to remain. Yielding to His will at such time is the cornerstone of Christian living.

This same suffering that reveals ours weaknesses reveal God’s strength.   When we are least effective in our human strength and have only God’s power to sustain us, then we are suitable channels through which his power flows. Paul didn’t love abuse, but he loved the grace and power that God manifested in him.

What a contrast to our society. Many people think that sheltering believers from all difficulties is the highest expression of God’s grace.  Most people are discontent because they wrongly equate satisfaction with positive circumstance and increased possessions.  This is a result of our self-centered, godless society.  Sin is defined how it affects man, not how it dishonors God.  The focus has shifted from God’s glory to man’s benefit. In a nutshell it says “Jesus is your ticket to avoiding all of life’s pain and experiencing all of life’s pleasures.”

God has always used suffering to perfect and purify His people and to demonstrate the sufficiency of His grace.  Christians today are consumed with the trials and troubles of life.  Caught up with difficulties and sorrows and anguish; desperately looking for some great new secret, some higher spiritual level, some more effective relief than they think they have in Christ.  There is no need for that.  God’s grace is sufficient.

Stand Out

Posted: February 2, 2012 in Uncategorized
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     In the third chapter of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold 90 feet high by 9 feet wide.  For the formal dedication of this great golden image, Nebuchadnezzar invited all of the officials of the kingdom.  What person in his right mind would refuse such an invitation?

     A herald moved through the crowd proclaiming the purpose of the meeting.  The king decreed, that when a musical signal was given, all people present were to fall down and worship the image. If one refused to bow down and pay homage, they would be cast into a furnace of fire.

      This may seem like a drastic measure, but it was not out of the norm for this king.  This is the king, that told the wise men, they would be torn limb from limb and their houses would be rubble, if they could not tell him what he had dreamed.  Earthly tyrants require absolute allegiance and virtual worship from their subjects.  Not even God coerces outward acts of submission to heavenly authority.

      Most who are present in the crowd that day, owe their position, prestige, and wealth to Nebuchadnezzar.  They were anxious to do anything to gain favor with the king no matter how eccentric the command may seem.  The instruments sounded and thousands fell in unison before the image.  Out of this vast crowd, three young men, Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego stick out like a sore thumb.  They are the only ones standing in the crowd of people that are bowed.  They refuse to bow and pay homage to the image.

      Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego could have rationalized “the pressure is great, everybody else is doing it, what’s the harm”.  They did not attempt to rationalize.  In fact, they were going to do something very simple and counter cultural, they were going to stand up for their faith.  Many that call themselves Christian today, would have tried to blend into the crowd.  They would bow and reason in their mind  “everybody is doing it, we really don’t worship this image, but we want to stay on his good side”, not Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego.

      The excuse of the day is “everybody is doing it”.  The truth of the matter is that not everybody is doing it.  Everybody is not doing drugs, alcohol, illicit sex; everybody is not smoking, getting a divorce, going to the bars, lying and cheating to get ahead. Yes, you may have peer pressure but not everybody is doing it.  Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego made a decision not to compromise and they stood by that decision.  Social propriety meant nothing to them, peer pressure meant nothing to them, being God’s person meant everything to them.  Be like Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego; do not blend into the crowd, stand up and stand out.

Are we as a nation heading down a slippery slope?  Consider that 1,500,000 unborn children die each year from abortion. Consider that states have legalized medically assisted suicides for those who supposedly have six months or less to live.  We are witnessing the devaluation of human life on a massive scale.

Forty years ago, this would have been unbelievable.  How is it that we have a come to a place in our society when there is such a low regard for human life?  Mother Teresa said, “If a mother can kill her own children, then what can be next?”

What can be next?  Will a society that has legalized the killing of infants in the womb because they are unwanted, imperfect or inconvenient; will that society have difficulty in  legalizing the killing of other humans, especially older adults who are unwanted, or considered mentally or physically imperfect?

In Genesis 1:26 we read, “Let us make man in our image.”  Only human life possesses the image of God.  It should be no surprise when we turn to Exodus 20:13 that we read “Thou shall not murder.”

We should not be surprised because there is something distinctly precious and unique about human life.  In God’s estimation, it is so precious and so unique He commands that it must be protected and it must be preserved.  It alone represents “the image of God”.

In 1977, Jesse Jackson made the following statement which addresses the matter directly: “What happens to the mind of a  person, and the moral fabric of a nation, that accepts the aborting of the life of a baby without a pang of conscience?  What kind of a person and what kind of a society will we have twenty years hence if life can be taken so casually?  It is that question, the question of our attitude, our value system, and our mind set with regard to the nature and worth of life itself that is the central question confronting mankind.  Failure to answer that question affirmatively may leave us with a hell right here on earth.”

The only way to stop the slide down the slippery slope is to acknowledge that we are made in the “image of God” and that from God’s perspective, life is precious.

Stand Firm

Posted: January 25, 2012 in Uncategorized
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I would like to introduce you to a little known character from the Bible.  We can learn something from the character of Shammah.  In a day and age where traditional values are discarded and it seems like everyone else is doing it, one thing we can learn from him is to Stand Firm.

“And next to him was Shammah, the son of Agee the Hararite.  The Philistines gathered together at Lehi, where there was a plot of ground full of lentils; and the men fled from the Philistines.  But he took his stand in the midst of the plot, and defended it, and slew the Philistine; and the Lord wrought a great victory”

(2 Samuel 23:11-12).

Notice where Shammah stood.  He  took his stand over a field of lentils. And he stood in the midst.  He did not stand to the side or in the ivory tower or over in the comfort of the grandstand.

He stood right in the middle for everyone to see.  That is the way you and I need to stand.  It is easy to fire off an anonymous letter or an anonymous phone call but very few people will stand up and speak their conviction and let people know this is where I stand: Stand Firm.

Notice the way he stood. He stood alone.  The scripture says “the men fled”.  Shammah chose not to flee but to take his stand.  It would have been easy for Shammah to flee because everybody else fled.  When you feel like you are the only one standing: Stand Firm.

He took his stand in the midst of a crisis.  Here he was in the midst of this field of lentils that is besieged by the enemy, the Philistines.  The Philistinian army is on him before he knows it and he was left standing alone.  Can you imagine the thoughts going through the mind of Shammah?  In times of crisis, we are tempted to give up or give in: Stand Firm.

Why did he stand?  It was just a plot of ground filled with lentils.  It may seem insignificant, a patch of lentils, but the line had to be drawn some place. Some things are not worth fighting over and there are some things that are worth fighting over and you better fight for them.  Shammah decided this was worth fighting over.  Shammah defended this pea patch  because it was Gods patch of lentils and he was going to take a stand.  The line has been drawn,  you may try to hide it, to ignore it, to cover it up but the line has been drawn.  Stand Firm.

One of the funniest and most provocative commercials, features Clara Peller, an elderly woman and her friends opening their hamburger buns and finds it virtually bare. The perceptive old lady, who was able to see beyond the obvious, asked, “Where’s the beef?” That response became a popular catchphrase for the essence of something, its core, its central point, its ultimate foundation. We may not realize it, but most people ask the same question about life. They find themselves sandwiched between birth and death, and unfortunately, they often find themselves in a sandwich without substance, a sandwich without any meat. Struggling to find meaning in life, they ask, “Where’s the beef?” “What is life about?” “What am I here for?” “What’s my mission in life?”

Jesus knew His mission.  In John 17:4 He says “I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do.” How would you like to be able to say that about your life?  The purpose of man is to bring glory to God. We bring glory to God by fulfilling our purpose, by completing the work God gave me to do. The problem is that many go through life not knowing their life’s purpose, or the work that God gave them to do.

How can I discover my mission in life? You are going to have to discover it over time. It is a process,  not a one shot deal. The first decision you have to make is “what will be the center of my life?” Who or what am I going to live for? This is the starting point. You need something at the center, which everything else builds around. There are many options you can center your life on; career, family, money, pleasure, popular. None of these things are going to last.

God made you to center your life around him. The first purpose is that God made me to know and love Him. You were made as an object of God’s love.

Why am I here? You were made to be loved by God. The Bible says God is love, not that He has love, but that He IS love. Love is worthless unless you bestow it on something. You can say you are full of love but unless you bestow it on something, it is worthless. God said He made you to love you. God knows everything about you and He still loves you. He wants you to know Him. Not just know about Him but to know Him and love Him back. Human beings were the only creature created to respond back to God. We were made in his image. Your first purpose in life is to know and to love God, because He knows and loves you. Jesus says in Matthew 22:37-38 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment.”

Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Understand who God is, then you are going to understand who you are. Ask, Why am I here? Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? You will not get any answers until first, you understand who God is. Until you know God, you’re just speculating on the purpose for your life. Understanding who God is, is the beginning of wisdom. That’s why Paul said in Philippians 3:10 above all else “I want to know Christ.” Do you know Christ or do you just know about Him?