Monday, February 28, 2011

NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH

Exodus 20:16; Deuteronomy 19:15-21

Sunday February 27, 2011

The story of Pinocchio is old childhood favorite. We were fascinated with a wood carver named Gepetto who carved a boy out of wood so that he could have son. But Pinocchio was still made of wood and he was very mischievous. During his escapades he has to face his guardian fairy. When questioned about going to school he lied. And his nose grew. His Guardian Fairy informed him then that every time he lied his nose would grow.

And so as a child I sat fascinated in Mrs. Stauffer's first grade class- hoping that no one would notice that my nose was growing bigger all the time.

There is something very important for us to understand this morning about this whole idea that our 9th commandment brings up: God values truth.

Notice our grid for the Ten Commandments:

PRECEPT- "Thou shalt not…"

PRINCIPAL- "God's values"

PERSON- God's character

This command reminds us the importance that God puts on the trustworthiness your spoken words must carry. I also believe that this command shows us the laxness so many of us are guilty of in the way we speak about other people.

So consider these points this morning so that we can have a greater understanding and a greater application of this command: do not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

  1. The Verdict of Truthful Testimony.
  • The Justice System must be based on truth. If the system is riddled with falsehoods and opinions based on falsehoods then there can be no justice. This Command was important to the justice system that would be needed in order for the judges to make proper decisions. This required that…
  • Witnesses must tell the truth. And so there were penalties for perjury. Humans can be fickle and deceitful. Memories do fade and things people see can be remembered wrongly. This is why the Bible calls on the standard of "two or three witnesses" to establish guilt.
  • Judges and juries must discern the truth. Even then, justice was not to be meted out by the citizenry. There needed to be those who were sworn in to uphold the law according to the guidelines set. Not every case would be the same and there was not going to be the kind of guidance that Joshua experienced when Achan was discovered to have sinned. Even today, judges and juries- even those who participate that are born again Christians who love God and their neighbors- must struggle through evidence presented and make decisions… and be wrong sometimes.
  • What about "Moral conviction of truth" without evidence? There is no room in any courtroom for the "moral conviction of truth" about the guilt or innocence of someone charged with a crime. It is my "moral conviction of truth" that OJ Simpson did it but got off by slick lawyers. However, I also know that they did present some very important facts about how evidence was handled and it became a lightning rod for the justice system and investigators of crime in the future.

This 9th Commandment, however, goes further than just the courtroom. It also imposes itself into the courtroom of public speech.

  1. The Violations of Respectful Speech.

When I was in college we went through a tremendous revival time. Confession of sins flowed from the pulpit of chapel times for several days. But the confessions didn't stop there. There was private confession. I experienced a couple of people coming to me with confessions that they had spoken ill of me and wanted my forgiveness. No sweat, because I was guilty of so much sin in my life compassion was experienced and given. However, I got to wondering what they said about me. How bad was the "spoken ill"?

May advice is that you don't need to confess everything to everybody. There is a time and place for restitution but I'm not so sure that one is. However, the idea of violating respectfyl speech cuts to the heart of what this "do not bear false witness against thy neighbor" is all about.

  • Lying about someone. This is absolutely undoubtedly the worst thing a person can do to another person. Too many have accused their ex-husbands of child molestation in order to get custody of the children. That is so wrong. Telling other people lies about someone you don't like to get back at them or to just be a jerk to them is a huge sin.
  • Gossip to elevate one's self. Some people don't lie about others but they do pass on rumors they heard. If only fence-posts could talk! However, gossip is that subtle sin that can affect anyone- you, me, the pope, anyone. We must constantly be on guard that what we are saying about another person- even if true- should be said or not.
  • Character assassination. Politicians are great at this. So many people decry the political discourse nowadays. It's bad but not like the early days of the United States. All sorts of things were said then and in nearly every election since.

I had the opportunity to referee a couple of high school basketball games in my years at my previous charge. I actually enjoyed reffing but what I didn't like were the Christians behind speaking evil of me. They were telling me all of my mistakes and what I was missing. I had one coach screaming at me because he thought that his players were getting hacked on the inside. Well, I didn't see it.

I know how easy it is to see the shortcomings of other people. I find myself questioning the judgment of referees, especially when my beloved Kentucky Wildcats are playing. However, I remind myself so many times that these are human beings and these are people who have families. Some of them are most likely Christ-centered Christians. And here I am questioning their integrity! I must be more careful and more cautious about what I think and say about others.

Here are some guiding verses for us to think about:

  • James 3:6- The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
  • 2 Corinthians 12:20-21
    20 For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. 21 I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged.
  • Ephesians 4:31- Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
  • Galatians 5:19-21-  19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

I like this quote by Thomas Watson: "He that raises a slander carries the devil on his tongue; and he that receives it, carries the devil in his ear."

Something else this commandment points out:

  1. The Value of Telling the Truth.

Remember the old television show "To Tell the Truth"? The "To Tell the Truth" TV show was a 30 minute game show series on CBS where three contestants would all claim to be the same person. Then a celebrity panel would ask them questions in an attempt to tell which one was telling the truth. After questioning ended, the panel would vote on who they believed was the truthful contestant. The contestants could win up to $1000 depending on how many panelists they had fooled.

It was all in fun but yet nowadays there is a real move in society that has caused Chuck Coleson to term today's world as a…

  • "Post-truth Society." What bothers me is that it seems that lawyers are out to assist defendants in getting out of the crimes they have committed rather than simply upholding the rights of the defendant. Although I guess if you want to make money as a defense attorney you need to get people off of crimes they've committed. But what about evolutionists being intellectually honest that they do have lots of problems supporting their theory- because it is just that- a theory which is not grounded in what is true but speculation? What about Pro-Choice and Pro-Abortion crowd being intellectually honest that the unwanted pregnancy still possesses a real live developing baby?

What about the other things we see happening in society that simply require us to tell the truth and believe the truth?

What must we do? Realize that…

  • God is true to us. Before we really can grow in our relationship with God we need to recognize that God has never ever been dishonest with us. This then forces us to do something radical:
  • We must be honest before God about our self. I want God to be honest with me and keep his promises but do I want to be honest before God about who I am and what my motives are? This is a huge step for you as a person to take but a step that must be taken.

For us to proceed from our private honest relationship between us and God requires then that…

  • We must be true to others in word and actions. What I say to others does matter. I've been called on it and I strive to be sure that what I say is true- no matter who I'm speaking to. And I've been careful not make rash promises that end up cornering me when I can't keep them. The bottom line is that as Christians we all must…
  • "Speak the truth in love." When a brother or sister has offended you or is wrong about something, speak the truth in love. Be kind and gentle; don't over-reach your hand justice; do unto others as you would have them do to you.

Something else that we must always be careful of in addition to these things is what William Barclay called…

  • "The Sin of silence." This is when you should speak up and don't. This is when you are witness to a crime and you keep your silence. Now it's easy for me to say when I'm not living in the circles that some people live where to open your mouth would open you and yours to sinister retribution. But there is a wisdom that is needed as well as lots of courage to stand up against sin and to testify regardless of the consequences. The "sin of silence" also happens when we don't defend someone in the workplace who is being gossiped about or ripped by someone else.

If you've got nothing good to say about someone then do as Uncle Buddy Robinson. I like the story of when someone asked the old Nazarene preacher of the 1800's about some heretic in town. He simply replied, "Well, he's a good whistler."

At the very least you can find at least that about some people.

  1. Witnesses against Jesus on Trial.

In Mark 14:55-59 we find the discourse of Jesus on trial and the confusion and outright blatant deception that was going on in the name of God. What a travesty!

 55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.

 57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58 "We heard him say, 'I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.'" 59 Yet even then their testimony did not agree.

  • No valid evidence against Christ.
  • He did no wrong.
  • His enemies had to create false testimony to achieve their goal.
  • And the false testimonies were conflicting.

And so we witness what happens when the eyes of justice are shielded from truth: an illegal and unethical behavior from the very people who are supposed to be living out truth.

What about you? What about me? Are we living lives to tell the truth always, speak the truth in love, testify to the truth and live out lives of holy truth every day?

Conclusion: Psalm 15:1-3

1 LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
   Who may live on your holy mountain?

 2 The one whose walk is blameless,
   who does what is righteous,
   who speaks the truth from their heart;
3 whose tongue utters no slander,
   who does no wrong to a neighbor,
   and casts no slur on others;


 

Monday, February 21, 2011

IF IT’S NOT YOURS

Sunday February 20. 2011

Exodus 20:15- You shall not steal.

Ephesians 4:28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

(So much of what I have gleaned for these messages comes from: Written in Stone by Philip Graham Ryken, Maximum Happiness by Dr. Wilbur Williams, Pulpit Commentary, Adam Clarke's Commentary, John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Bible and for this particular commandment I've take liberties to retell the story of Achan as told to children by Linda Sue Pochodzay Edwards "I W-a-a-ant!" www.childrenschapel.org She just tells it a little better than I could.)

Imagine carrying a sign in front of the local courthouse that reads: "I stole from a local store."

Imagine doing that at 12pm. Under the hot beating sun. With sweat dripping down your forehead. For two hours.

If you get caught stealing and you end up in Putnam County, Ohio Judge Peter Miller's courtroom, that just might be your punishment.

"It is better than going to jail, but it's not fair," said Rashane Lewis, who was arrested for being the lookout in a Wal-Mart while a friend of hers took some children clothes.

Over the past twelve years, Judge Miller has sentenced over 600 people to these unusual punishments either outside the courthouse or at the store where the incident took place. Walking around with an embarrassing sign is his preferred method to deal with shoplifters.

According to the administration of the Putnam County probation system has said only three of Judge Miller's sign carriers has repeated their offense. He, along with other judges around the United States believe that public penitence, involving some sort of public humiliation works to rehabilitate convicted offenders.

'If you see someone marching up and down in front of a store, you may think twice before stealing. I'm not going to say it is going to prevent it, but it will stop the one who did it from doing it again," said Judge Miller.

He gives the offenders an option. Take a 30-60 day jail sentence or endure two hours of public embarrassment. Along with their choice, they must perform 25 hours of community service, they have six months of probation and they are fined $294.

http://lawvibe.com/get-caught-stealing-and-face-public-humiliation/#ixzz1EQ9asxbN


 

Consider this:

Thieves come in all shapes and sizes.

  • Pilfering by employees.
  • Taxpayer fraud.
  • Insurance fraud.
  • Welfare & Social Security fraud.
  • Disability fraud
  • Frivolous lawsuits
  • False time cards.
  • Over-worked & underpaid employees.
  • Off-shore banking, Enron, WorldCom.
  • Ponzi schemes. Bernie Madoff, Mona Shores High School
  • Identity theft.


Granddad bandit. This guy robbed a dozen or so banks in the Virginia area before being apprehended.

I-35 Serial Bank Robber. In the state of Texas, this man uses a variety of disguises- and even looks like one of the dudes from ZZ-top. He preys on small town banks that are easy on and easy off the I-35 Expressway that runs east and west through Texas. He has robbed some 15 banks without hardly a shot at catching him- so far.

The Sparta Elders. This couple used another man's stolen credit card to buy basic essentials at a local supermarket. The surveillance caught them entering the store. Nobody knows who they are and all they did was spend about $100 bucks… and stopped using the credit card.

As a child I got the big idea that I would take candy from behind the counter of one our neighborhood stores. My sister ratted on me, the man in his bloody butcher's apron came chasing after me down Ionia street in front of other kids. He caught me, my parents were notified and I was properly disciplined.

Stealing is big business, little business but everybody's business and very immoral.

The Bible takes very seriously the issue of thievery and business dishonesty. Proper measures and scales were to be kept.

United States measurements and scales. Under the direction of the United States Department of Commerce, the National Institute of Standards and Technology estimates that 50% of the US economy is based on measurements and weights. This means that when you buy a pound of carrots you are buying a pound of carrots. When you pump a gallon of gas you are pumping a gallon of gas. When you purchase an eight foot two-by-four, you are purchasing an eight foot two-by-four. Wesco will get periodic "check-ups" by the State of Michigan where a State worker will actually pump gas and measure it to see if their pumps are accurate. The Weights and Measures Division promotes uniformity in U.S. weights and measures laws, regulations, and standards to achieve equity between buyers and sellers in the marketplace. This enhances consumer confidence, enables U.S. businesses to compete fairly at home and abroad, and strengthens the U.S. economy. (www.nist.gov)

What I have noticed about the Ten Commandments- and especially the ones dealing with relationships- is that the ante seems to get jacked up with each one. Starting with family as the foundation of society, then respect for human life, maintaining proper relationships and now preserving integrity within the system we see the importance of these Ten Commandments not as something that is dictating and controlling but something that makes human life better, brings glory to God and allows all of us greater freedom in living with one another.

The Heidelberg Catechism- a Puritan document that describes the Christian concepts of faith- summarizes the eighth commandment: "God forbids not only outright theft and robbery, but also such wicked schemes and devices as false weights and measures, deceptive merchandising, counterfeit money, and usury; we must not defraud our neighbor in any way, whether by force or by show of right. In addition, God forbids all greed and all abuse or squandering of his gifts."

John Wesley comments on this commandment by writing: This command forbids us to rob ourselves of what we have, by sinful spending, or of the use and comfort of it by sinful sparing; and to rob others by invading our neighbour's rights, taking his goods, or house, or field, forcibly or clandestinely, over - reaching in bargains, not restoring what is borrowed or found, with - holding just debts, rents or wages; and, which is worst of all, to rob the public in the coin or revenue, or that which is dedicated to the service of religion.

I have three critical thoughts that I hope would spur us all to greater appreciation and a greater adherence to this commandment: You shall not steal.

  1. Easy to understand but hard to resist.

What makes keeping this commandment so difficult is that it can cut all across all ages at any age and any capacity; to keep it requires constant vigilance.

When I was a teenager I remember hearing the testimony of one of the stalwarts of the church who confessed to taking materials from the company under the justification that "everyone else is doing it so why not me." After he took the stuff he was convicted by the Holy Spirit. He made confession to the Lord, to the Church and then to his company. He didn't lose his job.

It's easy to think that if others are doing it then it's okay. But we must be mature enough not to think that way. We can also believe that it is owed to us. Suppose you do deserve to be paid more- does that qualify you then to pilfer things from work? Of course not.

Satan is a tempter and is crafty. He will constantly strive to trip up your integrity. What surprises me is that even the best of people fall into the trap.

People will illicitly use company credit cards for personal use. I know a fellow who says that this can accidentally happen and the company will give grace for those kinds of situations. Someone's personal credit card may look like the company's; but yet there are people who work for companies and bilk their business for meals and things that have nothing to do with the business. This is wrong and shouldn't be done.

We must be constantly vigilant and watch our step. And like they told us at Plumb's Supermarket: If you don't have a receipt for it then it's not yours to eat.

  1. Stealing goes beyond nickels and dimes.

If avoiding simple theft was good enough then we all might do alright. But consider the Leslie Thrasher painting of a woman purchasing meat. The man weighing has his finger pushing down while she has hers under the scale pushing up; they are both content because they both think they are one-upping the other. In reality, they are trying to steal from each other.

The Bible speaks of having honest scales. The reason is for the need of society to have an honest economy. You've heard it said, "There is no honor among thieves." Yes there is! Try stealing from a thief! I'd bet he gives justice worse than he would want to receive justice. Try ripping off the Mafia and see what happens!

For centuries towns and villages have struggled to make sure that there was honesty in the scales system. Anyone caught cheating customers would be banned from doing sales. Furthermore, some could a hand or even lose their life.

We find that even today in certain Islamic countries that operate by what is called Sharia Law- a very fundamentalist Islamic belief system- affords the judges to have a thief's hand amputated for stealing something of value.

Something else that goes beyond nickels and dimes is people and businesses who take advantage of someone by selling them something that is either too far gone to be of any good or just simply over-pricing their product. Price gouging is not a new concept. In The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the town merchant finds the chance to jack up his prices on wheat because there is none elsewhere. However, "Pa" reminds him that people won't soon forget come spring-time if he over-prices his product.

Something else that gets overlooked is lazy people who are suing companies for workman's compensation and there is nothing wrong; or they sue their neighbor over inconsequential things hoping for a windfall. Greed is a very strong component to thievery.

What about internet theft? With today's high technology you can literally go to a web site and watch a movie without ever going to the theatre and paying for it or waiting for it to come out on video. Software is pirated and then exchanged. I certainly believe that there is a certain point of sharing that is allowed and more should be allowed but at the same time do I have the right to actually steal someone else's stuff when I have not paid for it?

Questions will abound but the bottom line is this: If it's not yours then it's not yours to have.

  1. Stewardship is at the heart of honesty.

God calls everyone to stewardship. Good stewards of God's resources are going to be people who regard everything they have as belonging to God. Whatever we own is his and we must handle them as belonging to him.

This then nips greed in the bud- or it should. When we come to that place in life where we regard all things as gifts from God it then helps us to know that we can trust God for our provisions and that he will provide. We can also know that we don't need to short-cut the system of honesty and integrity to get something we don't need.

When a person is giving to God of their resources they do so because they trust God. They also recognize that God will honor their sacrifices at work and in whatever place they find themselves.

God will honor not only your sacrifice but also your honesty. Too often we can short-cut our way to financial success and think nothing of it. However, God will bless your honesty and integrity as a Christian. In fact, I am convinced that God will bless anyone's honesty and integrity regardless of whether or not they are a believer.

This whole issue of not stealing cuts to the heart of God's character. God is a holy God who cares deeply about doing things justly and fairly. God cares about us as humanity living properly and doing fairly to others.

However, greed undercuts so much of what God desires. I am convinced that what will take America down more than anything is the godless greed that we are seeing today. What a shame it is for people whether they be democrat or republican, Christian, Muslim, Jew or Atheist to cave into moral ineptitude.

The greed we have seen in recent years has created the economic mess we are in.

"Be sure your sin will find you out."

Consider Achan in Joshua 7. Achan took for himself and his family gold, jewels and clothing from Israel's battle at Jericho. The battle was won but he lost his soul in the process. Achan buried these things in the floor of the tent.

You remember the story. Achan had everything he needed.

He had his tent-home. He likely had some sheep and cattle. He had a wife and children that loved him. Achan should have been very happy. But he wasn't.

Achan -- wanted -- more.

During the battle of Jericho Achan saw some very lovely things: a beautiful robe, a piece of gold, and some silver coins. But God had said that everything belonged to him and no one was to take anything for themselves.

But Achan looked at those items and probably thought, "I sure would like to have all that. My clothes are made from sheep's wool. Those designer clothes are much nicer than the clothing I have. It would look so good on me and my family. And if I had that gold and those silver coins, why, I could buy anything I want."

Achan thought it all over in his mind. The more he thought about it, the better it sounded. The robes and all that money was just too good to pass up. He couldn't just leave it there. After all, if he didn't take it, someone else would come along and take it, right? He finally made his decision. Achan picked up the robes, the gold and the silver coins and put them in a safe place. Achan must have felt as happy as he journeyed home. But I wonder too if he must have felt guilty as well knowing that he was stealing.

I wonder if he justified his actions. "Others are getting better pay than me and I'm doing harder work than them." "Don't they know the old saying 'To the victor goes the spoils'? I'm only taking what is rightfully mine." On and on I'll bet his justification of himself went.

After Achan got home with his stolen treasures, he began to think more about what he had done. I'll bet he thought along these lines: "None of my friends have a robe like this one. It is so special that if I wear it, they will wonder where I got it. I can't tell them I found it and stole it." Then he thought about the gold and the silver. "If I take this gold to the market and try to buy new things, people will wonder how I got the gold. Only the rich people have gold and I am not rich. I can't use the silver either, because it is not from my country, and they will know that I have stolen it. What can I do now?"

Achan began to dig a hole. He dug a deep hole in the ground under his tent. In that hole, he buried the robe, the gold, and the silver. "Ah, that takes care of that!" He thought. "It is all under the ground, and no one will ever know what I have done."

Problem is, Achan forgot about God. Achan forgot that God sees everything and knows what he did. In the end, Achan had to be punished for the sin he committed.

But what happens is the whole nation suffered first. They lost an easy battle against Ai- 30 Israelites were killed. Joshua, the leader of the Israelites, went before God in prayer and God told him that there was sin in the camp. Slowly but surely the truth narrowed down and came out on Achan. His sin of theft was brought out for the whole world to see. And he and his whole family suffered the terrible consequence of death.

All for a few meaningless items that he had buried in the floor of his tent.

I realize that people do and steal far worse but let's avoid justifying the things we have and how we get them. Let's do an honest day's work for our pay. Let's pay those who work for us an honest wage. Let's not justify our actions at tax time in order to save a few bucks and in so doing lose our soul. Let's not rob God of his opportunity to bless us when we give unto him all of what he has given to us.

So how do we overcome the thoughts and temptations to take that which is not ours?

First, give thanks to God for what you already have. I really believe that a person who is truly thankful for what they have are less tempted to take what is not theirs. The reason? They trust God to supply. Which points us to a second suggestion:

Second, be content, as Paul wrote to the Philippians (4:11), in whatever state you are in. Be happy with what you have and realize that others have a whole lot less than you.

Third, give away something. Find something in your home that you can just give to someone else. It may be magazines that your friend here at church might be interested in or it might be a toaster that your neighbor needs or a box of canned goods to the food pantry. Give something away to someone else. Learn to hold the things in your possession loosely.

Fourth, love your neighbor as yourself. You would not want your neighbor sneaking into your garage and stealing something so don't do the same. You would not want the government cheating you out of your taxes so don't do likewise. And even if they do- your neighbor, the local burglar or the government, don't do wrong to those who spitefully use you. And when you see them on the street be nice to them and love them as much as Jesus does.


 


 


 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Joys of Love

Sunday February 13, 2011

Exodus 20:14- You shall not commit adultery.

Matthew 19:4-6- 4 "Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' 5 and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate."

These two verses affirm to us that God wants your marriage to succeed. In fact, Jesus sternly admonishes the Pharisees that it was only because of the hardness of men's hearts that divorce was even permitted. He then gives us a bottom line about marriage of which I underlined for you: "Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate."

Marriage is the greatest joy in the entire world. Talk to anyone who has been through a divorce and almost all of them would say that it is the worst kind of hell on earth.

I love being married. I love the joys of a best friend beside me through good and bad. I love the pleasure of having someone there for me and yet also the pleasure of being there for her.

Marriage should and must be a grand experience for every married couple.

"The two shall become one flesh." And so God begins the relationship between Adam and Eve as a covenant agreement not only between a man and a woman but a covenant with God.

Two one dollar bills add up to two dollars and yet they compose two pieces of paper. What God is saying essentially is that the two one dollar bills become a two dollar BILL- singular. When you rip a two dollar bill in half you don't have one dollar each- you have two halves of a two dollar bill that together make the two dollars but not together make a worthless piece of paper.

Marriage works somewhat the same. For marriage to have the right kind of value requires the two to be one in body, soul and spirit.

Marriage is not a game. This is serious stuff. Lives are blended and knit together. This is why when the family breaks down the community breaks down as well as the culture around them.

At precisely 12:55pm on June 25, 1983 I stood in the pastor's office of the Calvary Memorial Church in Muskegon- across from Reeths-Puffer School. I knew that when I walked out that door my life would change forever. I was nervous but yet anxious and excited about this new adventure in life. Maybe I didn't know any better. Two kids saying "I do" are still in love today.

My heart and passion is to see that each married couple here has a happy and fulfilling marriage. My heart and passion is that each one here would know what it is to live a life with a pure heart toward those of the opposite sex. My heart and passion is to see our families reap the joyful blessings of a Biblical kind of love.

Some observations:

First: Protection of the Family.

This seventh commandment is all about protecting the family. A healthy family will make a healthy church; a healthy church will make for a healthy community; a healthy community will make for a healthy society.

But sadly, we see too much of the opposite. Divorce rates hover at 50% among both those who are not Christian and those who claim to be Christian.

The joy of love protects the family. When a man loves a woman and when a woman loves a man in their marriage it is the difference maker in their lives, their children's lives and makes a powerful contributor to society as a whole.

One of the greatest sins to devastate a marriage is adultery. Too often people are looking for love but settle for sex. They want their cake and eat it too. They forget that there are consequences to sin- especially sexual sin. And the reality is that a person may not ever have their sin found out but God already knows.

This Commandment protects the family from distrust among the leaders and parents of the home. If mom and dad don't trust each other then the home will disintegrate in disarray.

This Commandment also protects the family from unhappy consequences. Sexual sin brings God's wrath upon a person and this can affect his or her entire family. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 gives this ultimate warning: Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. (NKJV)

Something else this Commandment does in protecting the family is this: it creates a legacy of holiness. I am convinced that when a husband and wife keep the marriage bed pure it has a long-term affect on their children and grandchildren. Hebrews 13:4- Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. (NIV)

God knew the importance of the family for overall society. The fifth Commandment "Honor your father and mother" was to establish respect for authority. This seventh Commandment was to protect that established authority beginning in the home.

Something else this seventh commandment does is that it sets up …

Second: Purity in Friendships.

Check out these ideas that I have about this:

  • Purity with the opposite sex.

As a man I can be friends with other women without any other motivation. Women can be friends with other men in the same way. Furthermore, when men and women are put together in the workplace, there can be purity between workers, church people and neighbors.

When I started dating Naomi we attended the District Family Camp over in St. Louis, MI for several days together. In the process of those days she became friends with my previous girlfriend, Robin Weaver. If we had not been pure in our relationship that sure would have made that friendship pretty awkward.

Fast forward to about 6 or 7 years ago. Someone in the church blessed Naomi and I with some time at a hotel in Muskegon with enough money to go to Red Lobster for Valentine's. As we sat in our booth having dinner we overheard the couple next to us question the waitress about something we had ordered. When we looked over- guess who? Robin and her husband Harvey. Again, there was no need to be embarrassed, blushing or any guilt.

I say this to emphasize how important it is for single people to maintain sexual purity. There is NEVER any heartache by saving sex for marriage. NEVER.

In maintaining this purity let's not leave out pornography. I have been told as a pastor not to be naïve- "over 1/3 of your men ARE involved with pornography in some way." Pornography makes sexual victims of someone's daughter or wife. Pornography is never right and certainly should not be entertained by men who

There also needs to be…

  • Purity with accountability.

This commandment creates accountability not only to God but to others. I am accountable to my wife, to my God and to my church for my relationships. I have a friend who is my accountability partner who I keep an account with. You need that as well- someone in your peer group of whom you can give an account and someone you will listen to when they see something that shouldn't be going on.

I have another friend in ministry who once told me that he never thought about the pictures in his office of the teens that he was ministering to. Kids would give him pictures- especially girls- and he would put them on the wall. One day another pastor-friend was visiting him and confronted him with: "Where are the pictures of your wife and family?" He never had any wrong motivations but his friend was simply warning him and holding him accountable to something he never saw.

Naomi would warn me about other girls in our youth ministry over the years. I have never been offended about my wife asking me questions about anything. I've never worried about my kids using my computer or sifting through my books or magazines.

More than anything we want to keep…

  • Purity within relationships.

The Apostle Paul told the young preacher, Timothy these words of wisdom that I have taken to heart: "1 Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity." (NIV 2010) Every man and every woman should take to heart these things in order to keep their relationships intact with others.

You will not see me with a woman in the neighborhood of my age or younger in my company going somewhere. I must protect my reputation. I have heard too many horror stories of pastors who did stupid things like meeting another woman for dinner somewhere or going out of town together to an event- even a Christian event. We must guard ourselves from even the suggestion of sin.

This purity in relationships extends even to…

  • Purity of communication.

When we respect others properly there is a cleaning up of our language and the way we speak about others. There should never be any course language about the opposite sex; there should never be dirty jokes told among men; there should only be words that uplift and bring glory to God.

Obviously, I could continue on but suffice to say if you want to experience the joys of love in your home that it is protected by this seventh commandment as well as giving you the right perspective on relationships. These further along that joy of love by give you a…

Third: Power in Love.

Love is a many splendored thing and yet love has been so confused with lust in our world. God's desire is not that we would make way for lust but be purveyors of His love in the home, in the Church and in the world.

Love does overcome a multitude of sins. Love breaks the distrust in a relationship and allows a couple to deepen their love through the difficulties and problems.

Love is a very powerful weapon in making a marriage work. Notice these concepts about love:

  • Love is a verb. This action verb is supposed to be what drives you to work and back home at night. This action verb is what overcomes the arguments, disagreements and division in a relationship.
  • Love is a choice. You choose to love your spouse. If love doesn't get past feelings then this will be a long row to hoe. In this choice of loving the other, forgiveness becomes easier, forgetting the others errors becomes easier and working together in the home becomes easier. Don't get me wrong, marriage is always going to be hard work, but that work is a whole lot easier with the right tools and the right tool to have is choosing to love the other.
  • Love is from God. In the beginning of time there was love and communication between the members of the Trinity. This very character and essence of God is what he desires for us to live out in our homes and church and community. Not a love based on performance orientation or a love that is like plucking flower petals (he loves me, he loves me not).

A powerful key to a happy marriage is found in Ephesians 5:25- "Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for her." When I talk with a husband who is frustrated with his wife about something this is my go-to verse. Likewise, by go-to verse for wives is found a few verses later (33): "The wife must respect her husband."

There is power in love when this love is love from God. When two people come together they are experiencing something that words can hardly define. And yet the world tries and messes it up all the time.

Love is that very essence of your life so that whatever you do you do out of love for God, love for your spouse, love for your family, love for your church and love for others. Love puts others before you.


 

Fourth: Purpose in Marriage.

Sex is for marriage and marriage only between a man and a woman. There is no room given to "civil unions" or marriages of people of the same sex in Scripture.

"The Puritan doctrine of sex was a watershed in the cultural history of the West. The Puritans devalued celibacy, glorified companionate marriage, affirmed marriage sex as both necessary and pure, established the ideal of wedded romantic love and exalted the role of the wife." In other words, the Puritans brought a sexual reformation to Christianity and the world.

God purposes in a marriage that the couple should love Him.

God also purposes in a marriage that the couple should love each other.

God then purposes in a marriage that the couple serves the Church.

When a man and woman set these in their sights they will find a marriage that will really work.

Conclusion: they lived happily ever after.

I'm not sure what "happily ever after" is supposed to mean but what I do know is that this life we are living is no fairy tale.

Your marriage will face obstacles and we as the Church of God in all the world will be facing difficult days. How do we take this commandment now and go into all the world with the message that Jesus saves?

First, live a pure life. Whether married, divorced, widowed, or single be pure in all of your actions toward others. Somehow when our relationships are what they should be, we will live this "happily ever after" kind of life. Maybe not like the fairy tales suggest but a life that is at peace with others and with God.

Second, follow after Jesus. I cannot help but believe that the person who puts their hand in Jesus' hand is going to live happily ever after. When a person lets the Holy Spirit have control of their life they always become something better than they could have otherwise.

Third, guard your life. Ephesians 4:27 warns us: "do not give the devil a foothold." Guard your heart and mind against this culture that would lead you into living for the wrong purpose and doing what your heart knows is the wrong thing. It's amazing how selfishness can destroy even the best of relationships no matter what level or area that relationship. Sports teams, companies, churches and homes are destroyed when the seed of selfishness is allowed to fester and grow.

Fourth, learn the art of forgiveness. There is nothing that will do more harm than an attitude of unforgiveness- both toward others and toward yourself. Forgive those who have trespassed against you. Forgive yourself for your own foolishness and sin. Allow the blood of Christ to cleanse your life and make you whole.


 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

WHEN YOUR WORLD IS COMING APART

October 24, 2010

Message about Suicide

{I did not intend this message to be one filled with pat answers about life's problems. There are too many problems in life to be able to answer all of them to satisfaction. However, I do know a God through Jesus Christ who loves you and me right where we are at in life.}


 

I was sitting in my office sermonizing for the next Sunday when my telephone rang. After sifting through the papers on my desk I located the telephone and pushed talked:

"Hello." "Pastor Rob, this Bill Harris." "Hey, Bill, what's up." "I have Joyce Burmeister coming and she was wondering if you would mind doing her husband's funeral? He died by suicide."

My heart sunk. I had the privilege of having his father's funeral eight months before. Of course, I wanted to know what happened. Naomi and I immediately went out to their farm in Coopersville.

What do you say in those moments? How do you preach a sermon to those who are left behind? Where do the survivors go from this tragic point?

My purpose in bringing this message is to raise awareness about suicide. My hope is that you or those you know who face this terrible crisis of life would realize that help is available.

Let me clear up a couple of thoughts: This is not a message about death at the end of life. People choose or don't choose to allow certain medical procedures for various reasons. There are life and death decisions that families have to make with prayerful guidance.

I also desire to be compassionate with those who have had to deal with this issue. The fact is that every one of us has had to face this reality when a friend, relative, loved one, co-worker, neighbor or acquaintance took their life. We had a youth group to deal with when a young teen took his life; a sermon to preach when a husband and father took his life; a funeral to attend when an uncle took his life.

We are all affected in some way.

The scripture I have selected for us to consider is about a man named Ahithophel. Ahithophel was on the wrong side of civil war between those who supported King David and those who supported his rebel son, Absalom. Ahithophel supported Absalom. He gave guidance to him and advice on what steps to make next. He was to Absalom who Rahm Emmanuel was to Barak Obama or Karl Rove was to George Bush, Jr. He was the man with the plan. However, his plan came to be rejected and in that rejection he saw the writing on the wall of his life. Men like him don't take rejection very well and he knew that his life suddenly was on a short leash. And so he took matters into his own hands.

[Scripture reading]

What about you? Have you had recent thoughts of wishing you were dead? Have you thought about suicide? "Oh, come on, Pastor. I'm a Christian. I would never think about that!"

Consider what some statistics tells us:

  • All age groups
  • Every stratus
  • Every Class
  • All walks of life
  • No religion exception
  • Everyone!

The numbers tell us that there are

  • 300,000 Suicides yearly    
  • 1 attempt per minute; 1 death every 16 minutes by suicide
  • 1,000,000 Internationally- more than war & homicide
  • 90% + suffering from mental disease, depression or substance abuse
  • For every 100,000    18 men commit suicide; for every 100,000 5 women            
  • The highest groups are composed white males (75% of all death by suicides; men over 65 seem to be the most vulnerable.
  • 1 teen dies by suicide every 90 minutes
  • 6 people are directly affected by suicide

A Variety of uses are employed and obviously the highest choice is firearms- which may be because of availability and simplicity.

But why would someone kill themselves? I attended a funeral of the Vice-chairman and Sunday School Superintendent of one of our district's Wesleyan churches some ten or twelve years ago. This upstanding Wesleyan had given in to a venial sin that was set to undo his entire life and family. The only way he saw out was like Judas who betrayed Christ- by taking his own life.

I want to say to you that there is forgiveness for sin and there is restoration of the soul but only through Jesus Christ. I and other scholars have wondered what would have happened if Judas had run to Jesus and confessed his failure?

  • Mental disease and…
  • Depression can go together.
  • Failure- business bankruptcy;
  • Loss- joblessness, financial strains
  • Grief- loved one or one's own sense of hopelessness
  • Bullying- goes on a lot more than we think! A person feels like they can't handle it anymore.
  • Guilt- sinful behavior- broken laws- murder/suicides
  • Disappointment- Life just doesn't have meaning anymore
  • Rejection- by family or friends for wrongful behavior; not measuring up to peer group

 

And I am sure there are other reasons. In his book Why People Die by Suicide, Thomas Joiner (2006) outlines several theories of suicide that have emerged over the past two centuries. In this theory, Joiner says that those who kill themselves not only have a desire to die, they have learned to overcome the instinct for self-preservation. That is, wanting death, according to Joiner, is composed of two psychological experiences: a perception of being a burden to others (perceived burdensomeness) and social disconnection to something larger than oneself (thwarted belongingness).

The idea behind burdensomeness is that suicidal people believe that their death is worth more to the people who love them than their life is; they no longer feel purposeful. Because humans are so hardwired for connection, social isolation and ruptured relationships can increase a desire for suicide in some people. People often need to feel that they belong to something larger than themselves, and when they do – through an intimate relationship, a faith community, a school, a neighborhood – these relationships can often serve as a buffer through hard times. [And so] many people can experience suicide desire, but never act on these feelings because they do not have [both parts of the equation working together.]

In other words, by themselves, neither of these states (perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness) is enough to move a person to act on the desire for death, but together with an acquired capacity (or fearlessness) they result in a high risk state for suicide. Sometimes this acquired capacity is developed over a lifetime of provocative and painful experiences of trauma and injury. Other times it builds as a person moves from suicidal thought to increasingly lethal behavior. Still, there are many people who have survived trauma and others who purposely put themselves at risk (e.g., daredevils, adrenaline junkies) who never take their lives because they do not have a desire for suicide. ("Understanding Suicide" Sally Spencer-Thomas www.peoplepreventsuicide.org/understanding-suicide )

So what say we this morning? A few thoughts:

FIRST (and foremost) Suicide is never in God's Plan.


  • God Values Life.
    After all, God is the author of life. He created the universe and everything in it. In fact, we are not our own- we were bought with a price.
  • Scripture promotes Life. You never find the Bible speaking of the destitution of life without promoting the meaning of life. Jesus spoke of a man losing his life to find his life but not in the sense of killing one's self literally.
  • Everyone wants Life.
    Every human being fights to live under normal circumstances. We are hardwired to be survivors even in the face of danger. Our Maker made us this way- to want to live.

However…


  • Satan despises Life.

"The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life." John 10:10

SECOND: Life is for Everyone.


  • Life comes from God. Psalm 139 (of which we will get to in a little more depth later) speaks of being "fearfully and wonderfully made." The concept that the Psalmist gives us is that when we were knit together in our mother's womb, God carefully crafted our being.
  • God knows your name. Jesus said that our heavenly Father knows everything about us. He knows even the very hairs on our head and so we are not to worry about what we will eat or even what we will wear. I find it interesting that what gets someone's attention in the Scriptures is when their name is spoken: "Moses" Samuel" "Mary"
  • God creates nothing in vain. Everything that God created in the beginning was created with purpose and for God's world. Don't ask me about mosquitoes and fleas and ticks, though. However, everything and especially you was not created in vain.

Life is important. You have importance. And regardless of how you may feel about yourself at this moment…

THIRD: You can have hope Restored.

One of the worst places a person can get to is that place of hopelessness. Without hope we struggle to live a life of significance and purpose. But for the Christian there are some answers that help us restore hope to life.

  • There is purpose in Jesus Christ. I like Jeremiah 29:11-14a "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord. "Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. And I will be found by you."
  • There is recovery by Jesus Christ. We have forgiveness of sins, restoration of our soul and our broken heart healed. I can tell you that for me this is very significant. I have been a very broken man and the heart of this child has been broken. But because of God's great love for me I am no consumed by death.
  • There is perseverance through Jesus Christ. It is then that I am able to get through the difficult places in life. I realize that others will say "you never know what you would do in my shoes" but I guess I would like to think that my Lord is watching over me and that as long as I trust in him I can get through anything that life brings my way.
  • Life begins with the death of Jesus Christ. Jesus said "I come that they might have life and have it more abundantly." Jesus' death is our entrance into his life. With his presence within our beings we can see life more clearly and enjoy the purpose for which we are created: to give glory to God.

Conclusion: Psalm 139

 13 For you created my inmost being;
   you knit me together in my mother's womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
   your works are wonderful,
   I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
   when I was made in the secret place,
   when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
   all the days ordained for me were written in your book
   before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
   How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
   they would outnumber the grains of sand—
   when I awake, I am still with you.

 19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
   Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
   your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD,
   and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
   I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
   test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
   and lead me in the way everlasting.


 

  • I am an original thought!
  • I am someone wonderful!
  • I am not a mistake!
  • I have purpose!
  • God will never stop loving me!


 

NEXT STEPS:

  • Seek help
  • Talk to someone
  • Talk to God
  • Get Counseling
  • Take Medication
  • Volunteer

Please, please call me! 231-861-5375 or 231-301-0781. Life is too beautiful and your life is too valuable to lose!!


 


 


 


 

CHOOSE LIFE AND LIVE

Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 30:9

Sunday February 6, 2011

CHOOSE LIFE AND LIVE. Most of us remember the story of Cain and Able. Able offered his sacrifice in obedience by faith to God and it was accepted. Cain offered God his sacrifice but it was rejected by God. Cain became insanely jealous of Able, lured him into a field and killed him.

After Cain killed Able he had to face the consequences of his sin of murder. God cannot leave a crime- especially of this magnitude- unpunished. The one who is killed demands that justice prevail. Because blood is the source of life, this life belongs ultimately to God to give by grace or to take by his will.

Cain is cursed by God. He is punished for his sin and will live the rest of his days as a wanderer in the wilderness and desert. Whenever there is murder, there is and must be a profound change in the murderer's environment and for Cain, this happens. He goes to the land of Nod, a place of scarcity, loneliness and separation from God. He will be a fugitive forever with a life of uncertainty and restlessness.

God's mercy extends to Cain though. A mark is put on him so that any who would strive to track Cain down seeking a blood vengeance would be protected. What this mark is no one knows or can hardly speculate.

The point is that even with a crime as terrible as cold-blooded murder, the murderer never loses his or her personal dignity. Hard to believe: God preferred the correction rather than the death of a sinner, and did not then nor desires now that a homicide be punished by the rule of another homicide. (This is why I personally stand against the death penalty. If God was against it in the beginning then maybe I need to consider his position. Yes, Israel had certain laws that required death but this was as much about cleansing a land after Egypt as well as maintaining a semblance of law and order in a time when jails and prisons were not very convenient.)

What is sad is that since the very first real sin and murder between two human beings, murder in some of its more vile forms has splattered the history of humanity with the blood of innocents- and those not so innocent.

Our scripture texts highlight for us this very important Sixth Commandment. Exodus 20:13- "You shall not murder." And then Deuteronomy 30:9- "Choose life so that you and your descendents may live."

All human life is sacred. The proposition I lay before you today is that all of human life is sacred and human beings are endowed with certain Biblical "rights"-

  • God's love for the person ("For God so loved the world" John 3:16a; Ephesians 1:4; Titus 1:2)
  • Personal dignity ("Let us make man in our image" Genesis 1:26; Psalm 139:14)
  • The gospel of Life in Christ ("I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly- John 10:10b).

We maintain as Christians that every human being has intrinsic value in the eyes of God and therefore deserves that same value in the eyes of humanity. There are no "mistakes" born, there are no "accidents" of pregnancy and everyone is "fearfully and wonderfully made" by the very hand of God himself.

Jane Valez-Mitchell, a CNN personality who has her own program said this about an especially heinous murder: "It's incomprehensible to me what people will do for money, for diamonds, for gold. They will kill!"

At the Root of Murder. People kill over obsession and possession. They can't let go of a certain situation, what someone says and the lines between life and death become blurred. At the root of murder you will find anger, envy, bitterness and strife. You will also find selfishness, cover-up for sin, vengeance and despair.

And might I add, guns don't kill people- people kill people. Cain used a club to accomplish what he had set in his heart to do.

What must we realize about this sixth commandment if we are to protect ourselves from committing such a dastardly act? How shall we live as Christians that brings honor and glory and praise instead of hatred, strife and murder?

FIRST: Living as God Intended.

One of the great callings of God for his people is expressed in both the Old and New Testament with these simple words: "Be holy as I am holy." (Lev. 11:45; 1 Peter 1:16)

With these words we understand that as followers of Jesus Christ we are to live a very different life from those of the world. We are to live a life of love for God and love for our neighbor. This standard for living as God intended will never bring despair or churn up a murdering heart for others. When we strive to live out the very character of God by the power of the Holy Spirit we are on the right track to living out this command of living a holy life.

What does this mean?

Jesus expresses something very important for us to understand in Matthew 5:21-22-
21 "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister
will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."

We gather from these verses these ideals:

  • We must reflect the character of God. We do this when we follow the example set by Jesus and obey the commands from the scriptures about human life.
  • We must treat others with respect. This includes those who hate us and spitefully use us. This includes providing for the widows, the orphans, the poor and needy.
  • We must keep our hands and heart clean from sinful thoughts. Just because you are a Christian does not mean that the devil won't tempt you. He is crafty and will strive to sidetrack you from obeying God and from protecting your mind. Remember what Paul told his Roman listeners: Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay," says the Lord. (Romans 12:19)

In 1995 the late Pope John Paul II wrote what is called a "Encyclical Letter" to the Bishops and Cardinals and the whole Catholic Church entitled "Evangelium Vitae- The Gospel of Life". Yours truly has been reading it and studying what he had to say about life with immense admiration. Yes, he was not Wesleyan but he addresses the issues of the sanctity of human life in no uncertain terms as well.

He says that "man is called to a fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence because it consists in sharing the very life of God." Just by us human beings dotting the earth, we at the very guttural base share in the life of God himself. In other words, whether we are Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, atheist; black, white, red, brown or yellow; Republican, Democrat, Communist, Socialist; or any other stripe as a human person we owe it to each other to treat each other with respect and dignity.

When I funeralize a dead man or woman I am messing with the very dignity of that person who was created in the image of God and after God's triune likeness.

He goes on to lament the state of the world concerning the sanctity of human life by saying that we are…

SECOND: Living in a Culture of Death.

The Killing Fields of Cambodia lie silent today. But in the late 1970's the Khmer Rouge regime of this Southeastern Asia nation was a literal killing field. Almost 1/4th of the 8 million Cambodians died by intentional murder of the government through mass killings, torture, starvation and the like.

And despite the Holocaust of six million Jews in the 1940's, the world looked on as this occurred. And it still has not stopped. Saddam Hussein tortured and killed to protect his dictatorship and even gassed his own people; Rwanda suffered terrible civil war where people groups killed each other; Serbia and Bosnia has been a killing field for a thousand years; and all sorts of atrocities against all kinds of human beings.

There is not a person in the Middle East who goes to the store wondering if some crazed homicide-bomber is going to blow himself or herself up in the name of Allah at the behest of Muslim extremists.

What in the devil is going on in our world?

  • Death is Everywhere. No matter when we turn on the television there is crime that almost certainly includes murder.
  • Death is Celebrated. Hollywood and the television industry makes their money off of death. And too often this programming celebrates death rather than life.
  • Death comes out the darkness of the human heart. Jesus said this in Matthew 15:19-20a "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what makes a man unclean…" Notice at the very top of his list is murder.

When a person is not living out the holy life of God's character he does not know truly know what he or she is capable of doing to another person or even themselves.

Which points us squarely to the next line of reasoning for us to consider:

THIRD: Living Next Door to Self-Justification.

Ravi Zacharias wrote this in his book Deliver Us From Evil (p. 96)- We are "a culture schizophrenically staring into the face of our own wickedness." We find ways to justify our own behaviors so that we can cry foul against someone else's.

As American Christians we must face the truth about this commandment "Thou Shalt Not Kill" in our own backyard.

What about some hot-button issues? Euthanasia, Suicide and Abortion are problems that go beyond the necessary recognition of the personal situations. How can make sense, in other words, of what is right or wrong about these?

Let's tackle them one at a time.

Euthanasia. First, Jack Kevorkian "don't" know Jack about human life. Pulling the plug on a person's life has to be one of the most difficult decisions a family has to ever make. When Naomi and I were in high school, one of our classmates, Marie Bosma, fell asleep and drove over the third level of the tri-bridge connecting the Causeway with US-31. She was essentially dead when paramedics arrived. Her parents, good friends of Naomi's family, had to make the very difficult decision to stop all efforts to keep her breathing. Scans showed that she was brain-dead. All of us students took it hard; many were weeping openly in class when the news came.

There is a radical difference between terminating life and terminating treatment. Kevorkian and those like him want to terminate the life of the living. But when a family after seeking much prayer and counsel see no need to continue treatment of a loved one that is only staving off the inevitable, may terminate treatment and leave the person and circumstance up to God; I see no wrong in this. The Terri Schivo case bothered so many Christians because there was a family who wanted to continue to take care of her in spite of her very limited brain activity. What's wrong with that? Instead, the media- especially the liberal media- roped her situation into everything else and never separating the truth from fiction.

Suicide. Does a person have the legal right to take their own life? Maybe, maybe not. Do they have the ethical right? No. To commit suicide is to claim lordship over one's own life and this is wrong. (Philip Graham Ryken Written In Stone p. 141) A person is essentially making themselves their own God. However, let's not forget the problem of mental health. (Time does not allow me to digress but only to refer you to the sermon I gave last October about suicide.)

Abortion. We believe as Christians and as Wesleyans that a child in the womb is a living human being. Human life comes from God not from the government. And yet there are governments all over the world- not just ours- that believes abortion is the right of a woman. What about the rights of the child? But let's also understand the love and mercy needed for the woman who may have done something out of state of confusion and ignorance. Our culture of death has victimized countless women who live many sleepless nights because of what they did. May God's forgiveness and mercy extend to them.

John Calvin wrote this: "The fetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being, and it is almost a monstrous crime to rob it of the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy."

Hear me out on this: When murder is allowed in any way it has the power to do more than kill a person; it has the power to kill shame, reason and meaning. The most perverse idea is that murder is okay- no matter now justified the killing may seem. And when that occurs-whether it's in an abortion clinic or the hands of a homicide-bomber- truth and morality become casualties.

Even more sad, our young people see life as expendable to benefit the many and the healthy and those with prospects and promise.

And so what must we do from this point is be a people who are…

FOURTH: Living a Life that is Beautiful.

The soul of a nation is changed one person at a time. (Ravi Zacharias) If we are going to live out this mantra then it behooves us to take seriously the kind of life we live.

  • Live life to the fullest in Christ Jesus. Too many times we want to keep this so-called "right to privacy" when it comes to our religion. My Bible doesn't seem to speak it that way. May we be like the Apostle Paul who wrote: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of every one- to the Jew first and then the Gentile." Romans 1:16
  • Be a model of love and faith. Love God and live out that love. Love others and love them according to Biblical standards. Love your self as you ought. AND live a life of faith. Trust God for everything (and maybe even vengeance against those who are your enemies.)
  • Be a Good Samaritan every day. Take care of those who cannot care for themselves. That is really what being neighborly is all about.

Conclusion:
Life is beautiful.

In the shadows of depression our two little grandsons were born. Life was about as hard on us as it had ever been. However, through the excitement of their birth, God showed us the beauty of life and fighting to live the kind of life we were called to live.

No amount of drugs, alcohol or sex will make life more meaningful in a person's life than a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

I've got good news for you: Jesus' death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead offers you forgiveness for sins and freedom from the sinfulness that binds so many people. You don't need to be a victim of hatred and strife. You don't need to be a person who reacts to others out of anger and bitterness. Through Jesus Christ you can know what it is to be forgiven and cleansed from sin so that you can proclaim to others what it means to live life for real.

Life is beautiful.

Something Beautiful.

Something Beautiful, something good.

All of my confusion He understood.

All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife.

But He made something beautiful of my life.    


 



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(corner of State/Oceana Dr. and Ferry St.)
Shelby, MI 49455

Contact information:
231-861-5375
robnaomi@charter.net