Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Does Jesus Offend You?
Mark 11:15-18  -  John 6:60-67
     Did you hear about the Ohio man who got fired as the voice of Smokey Bear?  The 65 year old man who volunteered as the voice of Smokey Bear at the Ohio State Fair made a joke about grey hair to a US Senator, and before the day was over – was called into the office and fired.  Fired because he offended someone.

     This is just one example of how sensitive of a society we live in.  Can any of you remember a time when it took so little to offend so many?  We have got to be on our toes everywhere we go, lest we offend someone. 

     Those of you in the medical field, you know how careful you must be when speaking with patients, and with family members.  And those of you who are teachers, or in the education field.  Dealing with so many different students, and parents, and others in your field.  How many of you have been through ‘sensitivity training’, or some course designed to teach you how not to offend others?

     Even the church has to be very careful about offending people.  Many a policy and practice has been put in place, and training sessions conducted in order to help keep pastors and leaders from offending people.  Great pains are taken to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, or causing someone to feel uncomfortable, or causing displeasure or anger. 

     But this morning, in our Scripture readings, we see where Jesus obviously didn’t get the memo or attend those sensitivity classes.  In Mark, He is driving the moneychangers and merchandisers out of the temple.  In the John Chapter 2 it says, “He had made a whip of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!”

     In our reading from John 6, we read that what Jesus said offended many of His disciples, and they left Him, to follow Him no more.  “Then He said to the twelve, Do you also want to go away?”

     Throughout the Gospels, how many times did Jesus say or do something which offended the Jews, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, or the Romans?  How many times did they want to destroy or kill Him?  How many times did He say something which offended, or caused distress in someone else, like the disciples?

     The fact is, Jesus offended a lot of people.  And He still does today.  Jesus offends so many people because He came to call us to repentance from our sins and to follow Him. 

     This offends us because we do not want to admit we are sinners, that we are in need of repentance, that we don’t need to ask for forgiveness, and that we are quite able to follow our own ways. 

     To be called a sinner offends us.  It makes us feel uncomfortable.  It hurts our pride.  We don’t like being told we are sinners.  It bothers us to hear Jesus say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  It makes us nervous and queasy, and offends us to hear Him say stuff like, “unless we repent we will likewise perish.”

     Does it offend you to hear the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 6, remind us, “that those who do wrong will have no share in the Kingdom of God?  Don't fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, who are idol worshipers, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, abusers, and swindlers-none of these will have a share in the Kingdom of God.”

     How many of you watched the movie Passion of the Christ?  How did you feel during the flogging scenes when Christ was being beaten, and whipped with a cat of nine tails?  How did you feel while watching Him being nailed to the cross?  Was it a little repulsive?  Did it offend you to see that level of graphic violence?

     It did me.  I found it very hard to watch.  To see a man treated so brutally.  Especially a man who came with one purpose in mind.  To save us from ourselves and sin.  A man who came to us, to you and me, out of the purest purpose of all, love.  Because God loves us so much He sent His only Son, “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

     God sent Jesus Christ into the world, to you and me with a message of love.  But because of our own pride, our own ego’s, we become offended when we hear the truth of who we are and where we are going – without Christ as our Lord and Savior. 

     Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  A message of love and grace and mercy.  A message that says no matter who we are, no matter what we have done, no matter what our circumstances may be, God loves us and wants an intimate and meaningful relationship with us. 

     He wants nothing more than to see us return to Him.  To set aside the ways of this world, to set our pride aside, and to humble ourselves before Him and accept Christ as our Savior.

     It is not my intention to offend you this morning, but I am admonished to carry the message of Christ to you.  Paul reminds us in Romans 3:23 that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.  And in Chapter 6 he says, “the wages of sin is death.”   But the good news is, as Paul continues, “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

     It is my hope and prayer that you are not offended, or hurt or angered by Jesus’ wonderful message of love, and hope, and grace.  Some of you may however, be feeling a little uncomfortable, or uneasy.  You may be wrestling with the whole sin, self, Son, salvation thing.  It’s OK.  It’s a tough concept for some to grasp.  But one, when understood and accepted, changes the offensiveness - to glory, and peace, and joy.

     As Paul reminds us in Romans 5:1, “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”   Although Jesus may offend some, His message is about love and peace. 

     Instead of being offended, let us rejoice in the love and peace Jesus came to give us.  Hear His words in John, Chapter 14, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  “I am going away and coming back to you.”

     The words may, at times, be harsh, but the love is unconditional and the grace unending.  “May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  Amen.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

LORD, This Is The Day.....
     In 1981, country artist Don Williams released the song 'Lord, I hope This Day Is Good. It begins, 'Lord, I hope this day is good, I'm feeling empty and misunderstood, I should be thankful Lord I know I should, But Lord I hope this day is good.'
     Ever have one of those days when you feel empty and misunderstood? Ever had one of those days when nothing you do seems to go right? It begins when the alarm doesn't go off when it should. When you jump out of bed you land on a toy or other hard and sharp object causing you to do some weird version of the Chicken Dance around the bedroom until – your toe meets the corner of the dresser. After a moment of silence... (well, maybe not), you head for the bathroom only to find there is no hot water! And where is my toothbrush? (Is that the one used on the dog last night?)
     After a quick, cold shower and only two minor shaving nicks, you finally get to the kitchen for that long awaited cup of fresh coffee. As you begin pouring your coffee into the cup, you hear an awful crack, and the cup seems to explode on the counter. Can it get any worse? After you clean up the coffee and glass, you realize you're running late for work and head for the garage. Off you go down the road, only to find your gas gauge reads EMPTY! So you stop at the first Gas-N-Go you see to filler up – with only two cars ahead of you. Off you go again, well for a few blocks where you are stopped at a railroad crossing. And why isn't that stupid train moving? And there you sit, shaking your head, singing, 'Lord, I hope this day is good.....'
     About 2500 years ago a young fellow wrote a similar song about having a good day. You may recognize some of the lyrics which include, 'Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; The Lord is with me, he is my helper; The Lord is my strength and my song; The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine upon us.' Another verse you may recall goes like this, 'This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.'
     The author of this song was King David and the title of the song is Psalm 118. David wrote this song to give praise and thanks to God for being his strength and guide. In this song we see how David put his confidence in the Lord. Even through the toughest of times, David placed his faith and trust in God.
     We've all had bad days. We've had days which were far worse than what I described above. Days which begin with us feeling pretty good, a spring in our step and a song in our heart, but somewhere along the way, the day turns south. There's an accident. A bad diagnosis. A layoff. A broken relation- ship. A horrible storm or a flood. The day that began so great soon turns into a nightmare.
     How easy is it to 'rejoice' when our day has just crashed. When our world has just
been turned upside down? When every- thing we have worked so hard for is gone? I'm not sure but I think instead of singing 'Lord, I hope this day is good', or 'Let us rejoice and be glad in it', most of us would be crying out to God – Why. Rejoicing would be the last thing on our minds.
     David was not so much different. There were plenty of times when his life was in the tank and he cried out to God in despair. While being chased around the countryside by Saul, David suffered innumerable bad days, including the massacre of the entire priestly family at Nob.
     Yet, through all his difficulties, trials and times of turmoil, David trusted the Lord. He talked with God. He was honest with God. Even when he didn't feel like rejoicing, he prayed to God – he told Him how he felt. He cried out in anguish. No matter how low David felt, he talked to God and as he prayed, his prayers ended in praise.
     Christian author Max Lucado reminds us that it is those awful days when we need God the most, yet it is also when God seems the furthest away. Lucado asks
is it God who is away, or is it that we are furthest away from God?
     The Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 8 that 'neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.'
     The Apostle tells us that nothing can separate us from the love, strength and comfort of the Lord. The Lord Jesus Christ is always with us. In Philippians 4 we are told Christ is with us in every task, as it is written, 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.'
     The Lord is with us in every trial and in times of weakness. In 2 Corinthians we are told, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.'
     I believe that it is when we are at our weakest point, at our most vulnerable moment, Jesus fills us with His Spirit and gives us exactly what we need to get through the moment. All we need to do is ask and trust.
     I know people who have felt the hand of God on their life. Who have felt the strength of the Lord when they were at their lowest point. To know how difficult it was to rejoice when their world came down around their shoulders.
     These are the times, when our faith is tested, we can be thankful and rejoice that we took the advice of the Psalmist who said, 'it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, That I may declare all Your works.'
     For us to rejoice, at any time in our lives, the good, the bad or the ugly, we must first have drawn near to God. We must first have a personal relationship with the author and finisher of our faith and strength – Jesus Christ.
     For it is in Him we can truly rejoice. In the world we will have trials and tribulations – in Christ we have peace. Peace that surpasses all understanding (Eph. 4:7). Through our peace in Christ, we can rejoice.
     Knowing that Christ is with us always, we can sing the ending of King David's song, 'You are my God, and I will praise You; You are my God, I will exalt You. Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.'
     Lord, I hope your day is good...... Pastor Eldon