Archive for April, 2016

The Cost of Sin

April 28, 2016

King David was a man after God’s own heart.  This does not mean that he was perfect.  Even when he was a mature man of God who had served the Lord for years,  he made some serious mistakes.

I.  If God…then God…  II Samuel 24:1-2

Again the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.”

So the king said to Joab the commander of the army who was with him, “Now go throughout all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and count the people, that I may know the number of the people.”

A.  When we read this with our cultural understanding, it seems as though God had caused David to sin so that He would have justification to punish Israel.  We have a problem with this understanding because it makes God actively causing sin and death.

Ancient Jews, and many contemporary Christians, believe that God is in control of what happens in the world.  For ancient Jews, they interpreted that to mean that God caused things.  They did not have a problem with that thinking.  Today, we do not believe that God is an active source of evil.  The way that we interpret it is that there is evil in the world, both humans and angels.  God restrains much of the evil that could happen, but sometimes He allows evil to have it’s way.  King David was not supposed to number the children of Israel,  that is one of the commandments that God had given them as a nation.  David knew the commandment, and broke it.

B.  Why God?  Why does God allow evil to have it’s way?  First, if we could not sin, then we would not truly be free.  Why does God allow some sins, but not others?  We do not have an answer to that question.  I would suggest that we be thankful for all the evil that is restrained, rather than be upset about what God does allow to happen.  God will give us the grace to deal with what He allows to happen in our lives.

II.  David Repents:  II Samuel 24:10-14

And David’s heart condemned him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O Lord, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.”

11 Now when David arose in the morning, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying, 12 “Go and tell David, ‘Thus says the Lord: “I offer you three things; choose one of them for yourself, that I may do it to you.”’” 13 So Gad came to David and told him; and he said to him, “Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or shall you flee three months before your enemies, while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ plague in your land? Now consider and see what answer I should take back to Him who sent me.”

14 And David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Please let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man.”

A.  David’s heart condemned him.  He has grown in his relationship with God.  He did not need a prophet to confront him with his sin.  He knew he had done wrong and asked God for forgiveness.

B.   David was given a choice of what would be the penalty for his sin.  This is highly unusual.  We do not normally have a choice.   He chose the plague, perhaps thinking that God would show mercy and the price would not be too great.

III.  The Price of Sin:  2 Samuel 24:15-17

 So the Lord sent a plague upon Israel from the morning till the appointed time. From Dan to Beersheba seventy thousand men of the people died. 16 And when the angel stretched out His hand over Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord relented from the destruction, and said to the angel who was destroying the people, “It is enough; now restrain your hand.” And the angel of the Lord was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.

17 Then David spoke to the Lord when he saw the angel who was striking the people, and said, “Surely I have sinned, and I have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Let Your hand, I pray, be against me and against my father’s house.”

We do not realize how our sin affects others.  In this case 70,000 people die.  That is a lot of people, a lot of death.  When David saw this he wanted to change his mind, but the choice had been made and it was too late.

We can be forgiven for the eternal consequences of our sins, but there may be consequences here on earth that may be severe.

We should resist sin.  James 1: 12*-13

Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.

We sometimes think that because God is loving and merciful, that sin is no big deal.

That is not true.

Sin hurts. 

IV.  David’s Offering:  2 Samuel 24: 18-25

 And Gad came that day to David and said to him, “Go up, erect an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” 19 So David, according to the word of Gad, went up as the Lord commanded. 20 Now Araunah looked, and saw the king and his servants coming toward him. So Araunah went out and bowed before the king with his face to the ground.

21 Then Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?”

And David said, “To buy the threshing floor from you, to build an altar to the Lord, that the plague may be withdrawn from the people.”

22 Now Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take and offer up whatever seems good to him. Look, here are oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing implements and the yokes of the oxen for wood. 23 All these, O king, Araunah has given to the king.”

And Araunah said to the king, “May the Lord your God accept you.”

24 Then the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. 25 And David built there an altar to the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord heeded the prayers for the land, and the plague was withdrawn from Israel.

Jesus has paid the price for our sin.  There is nothing due.

However, out of gratitude we should offer something to God.

Actually, our whole lives should be given to God.  We are meant to be His servants.

What are we offering to God?

These are the sermon notes from 4/24/16.  Any advertisements that might appear are placed by WordPress.  I have no control over them, nor do I receive any money from them. 

*This is the memory verse for this week. 

 

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The Heart of the Matter

April 18, 2016

I teach philosophy courses at a community college.  One of the courses that I teach is a course on ethics.  Ethical theory can have different areas of focus.  They can focus on the action.  Some people think that Christianity has this focus.  Do not kill.  Do not steal.  Do not commit adultery, and so forth.  Another focus of ethical theory is the consequences.  “The end justifies the means”  is an example of this type of thinking.  This approach is much harder to reconcile with Christian thought, although it is quite popular in contemporary society.   A third focus is to focus on the individual;  their thoughts, motives and character.

Which approach does God favor?  I do not think that I want to make a definite conclusion to this question.  I would not want to wrongly represent God, but I will make a suggestion and offer some support.

I. God Sees the Heart:  I Samuel 16:6-7

Before we read these verses we should know the background.  Samuel was a prophet who served as the last judge over all Israel.  When he was old the people asked for him to appoint a king.  God directed Samuel to anoint Saul king of Israel.  Saul proved himself to be unfaithful by not being obedient to the commands of God.  God decided to remove him from being king and told Samuel to anoint a new person to be king.

So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him!”

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

I believe that God is most concerned with what is in our hearts.  We can exercise self control and act in the right way, at least temporarily, if we have sufficient motivation.  However, God is not fooled by actions that are not heartfelt. We are called to love God and to love our neighbor.  That is first and foremost, an attitude of the heart .

II.  Out of the Heart:  Luke 6:43-45

 “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. 45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

We should seek to be filled with the things of God.  We are spiritual beings in a physical body.  We need to feed the body to meet the physical needs.  We need to feed our spirit to meet our spiritual needs.  We should be spending time in prayer, in the Word, and in fellowship with other believers so that our spirit is well fed and full.  Then we will be able to bring forth good things from our hearts.

III.  No Control:  James 3:8-12

But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.

Some people try to exercise self control and simply do and say the right thing from their own strength.  This will work.  Some of the time.

We cannot always be good in what we say and do in our own strength.  In our flesh we will fall short.  By the Spirit we can be victorious.

IV.  Seasoning:  Colossians 4:6*

Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

Our words can have an impact.  They can build up or they can tear down.  Let us seek to be people whose words are filled with grace.  The right words, in the right tone, at the right time can be used by God to bring life,hope and peace.

V.  What are You?  Matthew 5:13-16

 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

We are called to be both salt and light.  I realize that I started this message by talking about the heart and then I moved on to our words and our deeds.  I believe that is how God works in our lives as well.  He starts in our hearts.  When we turn to Him in repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus He sends His Spirit into our hearts giving us a new life.  This new life is then demonstrated through our lives, through our attitudes, words and deeds.  If we are Christians, then Christ dwells in our hearts, if Christ is in our hearts He should show forth in our lives.

If we are experiencing difficulties, we should not focus on the external symptoms, but on the internal relationship.  Draw close to God and our lives will bear the fruit of righteousness.

These are the sermon notes from 4/17/16.  Any advertisements that might appear are placed by WordPress.  I have no control over them, nor do I receive any money from them. 

*This is the memory verse for this week. 

 

 

Celebration!

April 14, 2016

Palm Sunday is recognized by every Christian denomination that I am aware of as a day of celebration.

Mark 11:1-11

Now when they drew near Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples; and He said to them, “Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose it and bring it. And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it,’ and immediately he will send it here.”

So they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door outside on the street, and they loosed it. But some of those who stood there said to them, “What are you doing, loosing the colt?”

And they spoke to them just as Jesus had commanded. So they let them go. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes on it, and He sat on it. And many spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:

“Hosanna!
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
10 Blessed is the kingdom of our father David
That comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!”

11 And Jesus went into Jerusalem and into the temple. So when He had looked around at all things, as the hour was already late, He went out to Bethany with the twelve. (NKJV)

I.  Celebration!

On the original Palm Sunday Jesus was coming to Jerusalem for the Passover.  He was well known throughout the land .  Lazarus had just recently been raised from the dead.  Jesus was welcomed to Jerusalem by crowds of people who recognized what He had done and praised God.

I remember in my childhood, growing up in a Lutheran church, Palm Sunday was a big deal. The children would march in and form a double line, holding palm branches up in the air.  The choir and then the minister would enter, all the while the organ would be playing joyfully.

I think that it is important to celebrate.

I am not talking now about Palm Sunday.  I am talking about celebrating other events in our lives.  Life is filled with a cycle of work and rest, struggles and victories. It is appropriate for us, as the people of God, to recognize what God has done in our lives and to celebrate the victories.

II.  Remember!

The Christian church certainly continues to remember Palm Sunday.

On that day, the crowd remembered the great things that they had heard and seen.

We have seen God’s blessings in our lives.  We should remember what God has done in the past for us, for our families, for our friends.

Sometimes, when times are tough, we forget that God has been very good to us.

We should remember what God has done.

III. Trust!

As we look into the future we can trust that God will be with us.  He will guide us.  He will protect us.  He will provide for us.  He will enable us to handle whatever circumstances we might face.

On Palm Sunday, Jesus looked ahead to the cross.  He knew what was coming.  He also knew that after the cross, would come the resurrection.

We do not know what the future holds for us.  We may  be called upon to endure severe tests or trials, but we may be assured that we will be victorious in the end.

Resurrection Day is coming!

Proverbs 3:5-6*

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

These are the sermon notes from 3/20/16.  All scripture quotes are from the New King James Version of the Bible.  Any advertisements that might appear are placed by WordPress.  I have no control over them, nor do I receive any money from them. 

*This is the recommended memory verse for this week. 

Blessings and Trials

April 11, 2016

In my devotions recently I was reading in Joshua and I was impressed with a particular passage that I felt gave excellent advice for the Christian life.

Joshua 1:8-9

 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

I.  An Emphasis on the Word:

As a teenager I memorized Psalms chapter one.  A portion of that Psalm supports what we have just read in Joshua.

Psalms 1:1-3

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
    Nor stands in the path of sinners,
    Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
    Planted by the rivers of water,
    That brings forth its fruit in its season,
    Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.

Many Christians today are frightened by the idea of meditation.  They view it as a part of an Eastern religion, and not a part of Christianity.  They are not aware of the role that meditation has played in the Christian tradition.  As can be seen in both Bible readings listed above, the practice of meditation is encouraged.  The major difference between Christian meditation and Eastern meditation is the focus.  In Eastern meditation a person seeks to empty, or quiet their mind.  In Christian meditation, the mind is focused either on the Word of God, or on God Himself.  Instead of seeking to be empty, a Christian seeks to be full of the Word, or of the Spirit of God.

Of course, simply knowing the Word is not enough.  We need to be living in accordance to the Word.  Knowing and doing are two different things.  As Christians we should seek both to know the Word of God and to be obedient to the Word of God.  (See James)

As we live lives of obedience, we will prosper.  That prosperity may differ in manifestation from person to person.  It is not necessarily a means of financial gain.  There is far more to life than money.  A prosperous life may not have a large bank account.

II.  Endure Hardship:  II Timothy 2:3

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

A.  Be strong.  We recognize that the Christian life is not always easy.  There are many blessings, but there are also tests and trials.  We must not quit or give up just because life becomes challenging.

B.  Be courageous.   II Timothy 1:7*

   For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

We should face the challenges of this life bravely.  God will give us the wisdom to know what to do and the strength to do it.

C.  God is with you.  Joshua assures Israel that God is with them.  Jesus told His disciples that He would be with them always. (Matthew 28)  As Christians we can face whatever comes our way because of the knowledge that God is with us.

This life can be both rewarding and difficult.  As we serve the Lord we can expect to see His blessings in our lives, and to receive help in times of trouble.

These are the sermon notes from 3/5/16.  Any advertisements that might appear are placed by WordPress.  I have no control over them, nor do I receive any money from them. 

*This is the memory verse for this week.