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Showing posts with label Sermon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sermon. Show all posts

Monday, June 27, 2022

God is Great. God is Good.

Introduction
When I was a kid, we would all sit around the table and eat dinner together.  We took turns saying a blessing before each meal.  So even as a young kid, I would often say the prayer.  Most often, it was the simple prayer we had memorized: “God is great.  God is good.  Let us thank Him for our food.  By His hands, we all are fed.  Give us Lord our daily bread. Amen.”


Preview Of Our VBS
That prayer so many learned as children will be the theme of Vacation Bible School here at Pleasant Grove this week.
We will pretend we’re having a Food Truck Party
and each day we will consider a statement from the old, traditional meal blessing.
Monday is “God is Great” – Ex. 18 – God sends Manna and Quail for the Hebrews…
Tuesday is “God is Good” – 1 Kings 17 – Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath
Wednesday is “Let us thank Him for our food” – Daniel 1 – Daniel and the exiles’ special diet
Thursday is “By His hands we all are fed. Give us Lord our daily bread – Matthew 14 – Jesus Feeding the 5,000

Today, I want to talk about the Elijah story.  If you read 1 Kings chapter 16, it tells a long list of kings of Israel and it says each king was a bad king.  The last king mentioned is King Ahab and it says Ahab was the worst one of all.  King Ahab led Israel to worship false god’s and even allowed child sacrifice.
Therefore, in 1 Kings 17, it tells how God punished Israel, but it also shows how God provided for Elijah and a widow and her son.

1 Kings 17:1-16
1
Now Elijah, who was from Tishbe in Gilead, told King Ahab, “As surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives—the God I serve—there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!”

Then the Lord said to Elijah, “Go to the east and hide by Kerith Brook, near where it enters the Jordan River. Drink from the brook and eat what the ravens bring you, for I have commanded them to bring you food.”

So Elijah did as the Lord told him and camped beside Kerith Brook, east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat each morning and evening, and he drank from the brook. But after a while the brook dried up, for there was no rainfall anywhere in the land.

Then the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.”  [Zarephath was not an Israelite town. They were pagan Phoenicians who worshiped Baal and other false god's.]

10 So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.”

12 But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.”  [Notice the widow swear by Elijah's god.  She recognizes he is a foreigner and she swears by his god, not her own.]

13 But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!”

15 So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days. 16 There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.

Drought and Famine
We need rain.  I haven’t had a drop of rain on my garden in three weeks.  In Elijah’s day, it hadn’t rained in 3.5 years!  Now, ancient Israel was well adapted to long periods without rain.  The ancients would dig huge cisterns in the bedrock of the land and channel rainwater into them.  Some of those cisterns are up to an acre in size--they can hold a lot of water.  And one good rain can fill up their cisterns and provide water for a long time--both for drinking and irrigation.  I've been to Israel and have seen some of those ancient cisterns.  They're quite impressive and they helped the ancient Israelites deal with the sporadic rain that is a normal part of their climate.

However, even with these cisterns, a really long drought could be deadly.  In Luke 4, Jesus said the Elijah's drought lasted three and a half years.  Let's consider how that would effect the people of ancient Israel.

The ancients had to grow all the food they ate.  If they couldn't grow enough, they went without.  So it was important to have a good harvest and to store up the surplus to get them through to the next harvest.

Drought Year 1
Let's assume the Israelites under King Ahab had a good harvest the year before Elijah's drought.  So they've got some food in storage from last year when the drought begins.  In the first year of the drought, they will have little to know harvest.  However, they still have some food stored from last year.  They could make those stores last longer by reducing their reduce daily rations.  When times are tough, you tighten your belt.

Drought Year 2
After a second year of drought, there would again be no harvest.  Plus, the remaining food stores would start to runs out. People might be able to barter and trade with neighbors and foreign countries to get get somethings to help them survive, but it would not be pretty.  No one is eating well.  They are in survival mode.  People are getting weaker and are more susceptible to other illnesses.  The elderly and infirm are most susceptible of all.  People are certainly starting to die.

Drought Year 3
There is no harvest again this year.  There are only scraps of food left.  WHat people are eating are the dregs of their food stores.  This is food that is rotting, full of bugs and worms and mold.  It's not even fit for animals to eat, bit people are eating because it's all they have left, otherwise they will starve.  No one in 
neighboring towns and villages has any food left to trade either..  Everyone is starving and surviving on tiny rations.  Bread is worth more than gold.  What little water is left in the wells and cisterns is dirty and contaminated.  People have to drink this disgusting water and they are suffering from water born diseases and parasites.  Many die from these illnesses alone.  others are dying of starvation.

After 3.5 Years of Drought
At this point, everyone is about to eat their last meal and dying of starvation.  That's where we find the widow of Zarephath when Elijah finds come to her town.  However, the Bible tells us God took care of the Elijah & the widow who lived in Zarephath with her son.

The widow has a surprising amount of faith and compassion.  Even though I'm sure no one in Zarephath had much water to spare at this point, the widow doesn't argue with Elijah when he asks for some water.  I don't many people who would have been so kind to a man who was a stranger and a foreigner.  Yet, she's on the way to get Elijah that cup of water when he makes a truly absurd request:  "Can I get  a piece of bread too?"  It is at this point the widow tells Elijah she doesn't have any food to spare.

Now this widow and her son were not Israelites.  They were not “The Chosen People” (by Old Testament standards).  They were Gentiles, foreigners, outsiders.  Some in Israel at the time would have said God despised this widow and her son. Ironically, many in the town of Zarephath would have said the same thing about Elijah--he was a foreigner who didn't worship their gods.  He was not worthy to receive any compassion from the people of Zarephath; he was despised by their gods.

However, the One true God of the Bible, Yahweh, doesn’t think the way people think.  God loves all people--even those who reject Him.  God sent Elijah to be a save this foreign widow and her son and to take care of Elijah at the same time.  And while the so called “Chosen People” people in Israel were turning their back on God, worshipping idols, and sacrificing children, God had compassion on a foreigner, a gentile, because she had enough faith and compassion to give her last cup of water and piece of bread to a stranger no one else cared about.

In the New Testament, Jesus mentioned this story of the widow of Zarephath in a homecoming sermon Jesus preached in Nazareth in Luke 4.  Jesus pointed out that God loves everyone—even foreigners and social outcasts that religious people look down on.  Furthermore, Jesus taught again and again that God’s real “Chosen People” are not defined by a religion, or race, or where they or their ancestors were born.  God’s chosen people are people who choose to rely on God for every blessing while living faithfully for Him.

We have to be careful not to look down on or reject anyone.  We must love the sinner, even if we hate the sin.  This is what we do for ourselves, isn't it?  No one truly hates themselves.  I may hate the things I do sometimes.  I may say, "Why did I do or say that? I hate that I did or said that!"  But at the same time, I don't hate myself.  I love myself.  We must be sure to extend the same grace we give ourselves to others.  We may hate their bad words or bad behavior, but we must love them because they are made in the image of God and are sacred to God.  All human life is sacred.  So we must love all people--even sinners; we love the sinners and hate their sin.  This is how Jesus loves us all.  It is how he was able to eat with sinners and tax collectors and prostitutes and all kids of immoral people, but also call each of these sinners to repentance and to transform them into new creations more able to glorify God with their words and actions.

God’s Chosen People
God’s chosen people live by a simple creed expressed surprisingly well in the simple meal blessing many learned as kids.

God is great. We believe God is all powerful.  He is great enough to do anything.  He made the world.  He can control it.  He can do whatever He wants.  Now an all powerful God who is malevolent could be a ver scary, very dangerous and appalling thing.  But thankfully…

God is good.  God is not just all powerful.  He’s also a good God who does the right thing.  He cares for people—not just the good looking, strong people everybody likes. No.  God even cares for the weak, the lost, the foreigner, the outcast.  He cares for the widow who’s starving to death with her only son--even when she lives in a foreign land that worship's idols and false gods.  God cares for the orphan everyone has abandoned. So…

Let us thank Him for our food.  God’s chosen people depend on God and are thankful for every blessing He gives.  We believe, and are eternally grateful, that God provides for us.  We recognize that we rise or fall by the grace of God, not by our own efforts and abilities.  Rather…

By His hands, we all are fed.  Some people in this world think they deserve good things.  They think they deserve to be rewarded because they work hard, or live right, or they’re better than other people.  They believe they deserve a higher standard of living than the rest of the world.  They may even go so far as to believe God owes them.  After all, they think, they have earned their blessings.  However, God’s people realize they aren’t fed by their own hands.  Nope.  It is “By His hands, we all are fed.”  And so they humbly ask…

Give us, Lord, our daily bread.  God’s people realize we are completely and utterly dependent upon the Lord.  The very bread we eat is a gift from God.  God’s people willing submit to God and wish to enjoy only the blessings He provides and will decline any blessings that don’t come from God’s hand. 

When the world says, “You deserve to enjoy this or that pleasure.  Why not indulge yourself?”  God’s people say, “I don’t deserve anything.  But God is good and takes care of me anyway.  And I will only enjoy the blessings God gives me and I will abstain from anything God does not allow.”

When the world says, “Your crazy!  Why would you hold to such old-fashioned ideas?”  I will say:

God is great.  God is good.  
I will trust Jesus.  Am I understood?
I turn my back on worldly gain. 
This world won’t last.  Let me explain.
You think wealth, and pleasure are great. 
It all turns to dust at Heaven’s eternal gate.
You can’t take it with you, not a thing whatsoever. 
I have something that lasts forever.
I live for Jesus, because He died for me. 
Heaven’s my Kingdom. And Jesus is my King.

I invite you to chose Jesus today.
Choose to rely on Christ for every blessing
and live faithfully for Him every day.
He will take care of you
And you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Amen.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The Names of God - Advocate

Introduction
So far, we’ve covered quite a few names for God in the Bible.  I hope this series has helped you know God better—not just know about Him, but actually know Him.  It is never enough to know about Him.  God wants you to know Him, personally.  It is one thing for you to know about a person; we know about many people.  But when you know a person, it’s like you have dinner with them and sit around the living room talking about their life until late in the night.  You tell them all about your life and they tell you about there’s.  Even more than that, you really get to know a person when they come rescue you when your car breaks down, or when you are sick in the hospital and they take your children to school for you while you’re having surgery.  When you live life with someone—when they are at your wedding and the birth of your child and in the good times and the bad times and everything in between, then you really know them.  And this is the kind of relationship God wants with us all.  He knows us and He wants us to know Him.  And the names for God, which He reveals in Scripture, show us different ways He is there with us and who He is to us.  And I hope this series has helped you see some of the ways God is there.

Our name for God today is Advocate.

John 14:15-17a
15 
“If you love me, obey my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.


1 John 2:1
1 My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.  2 He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.

Paraclete
Who would you call to help you if you were in really big trouble?  Imagine something terrible happens.  I mean, suppose you are driving through the Kroger parking lot and a 4-year-old kid dashes out in front of your car before you even have a chance to react.  And you hear that awful sound—kadunk…  You immediately stop and get out of the car and see the horrible sight of a mangled child.  It wasn’t your fault.  You had no chance to stop.  There was nothing you could do, but none of that matters to the crowd gathering around.  You mind is swirling and the mother is screaming.  The crowd is angy.  All they see is broken child, a devastated mother, and you and your car.  Someone yells “He was probably texting and driving!”  You weren’t. Your phone was in your pocket, but it doesn’t matter.  The mob wants someone to blame for this senseless tragedy.  They blame you.  The police arrive.  They take you to jail…  Who would you call?  Who would be on your side and fight for you no matter what?

I hope you never get in a situation like that.  But if you do, you will need friends who love you unconditionally.  You will need a good lawyer who will fight for you.

I say all this because it steers our thinking towards one of God’s most beautiful names—Advocate.  In John 14:16, Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.  The Greek word for Advocate is Paraclete.  It literally means, “Called to one’s side.” 

In the ancient world, a paraclete (advocate) was the person you would call to defend you before a judge. They would plead your case and fight for you with every means possible.  In our day, you would hire the best lawyer you can afford.  We have seen in our time the difference between having a high paid lawyer as opposed to a public defender (that the court appoints for those who can’t afford a lawyer). 

Public defenders are notorious for providing bad defense.  It’s not necessarily that they are bad lawyers.  It’s just they are overworked, underpaid, and understaffed.  You are just another name on a long list of clients they have to defend.  On the other hand, we have seen how a really rich person might hire a brilliant lawyer who’s only job is to defend their one high-paying client, and they do it so well their client might even get away with murder.  Having the right advocate can make all the difference.

And Jesus says, “I will ask my Father (God) and He will give you an Advocate.”  The God of the Universe gives us an Advocate.  The Advocate is the Third Person of the Trinity—God the Holy Spirit.
When we decide to follow Jesus as our Lord, the Holy Spirit comes to live in our hearts.  He is there fighting for you, encouraging you, defending you, advising you, guiding you every step of the way.  Isn't it good to know that even if the whole world is against you, God the Holy Spirit is on your side?

Prevenient Grace
The Holy Spirit was there fighting for you before you even know He was there.  We celebrate the prevenient grace of God whenever we baptize and infant.  Sometimes people think the practice of infant baptism is peculiar.  They wonder why we would baptize a person before they can consciously understand what Jesus has done for them.  One reason we do infant baptism is specifically because represents how the Holy Spirit is working on our behalf before we even know or understand.  Parents present their child to God for baptism and ask the Holy Spirit to pour grace into the child and the parents and the church to help raise the child until they are old enough to accept Christ for themself and complete the baptism at confirmation.  Then they will recognize all that God has done for them through so many people and in so many ways.

All of my children were baptized as infants.  They will never know all the people who prayed for them, helped them, babysat them, and blessed them through the years.  All these people were instruments of the Holy Spirit to help them and give them every possible chance to grow up know CHrist and His love so that they were able to accept Jesus for themselves when they were old enough to understand what it means to be a Christian.

But suppose you were an orphan and didn't have a family or a church showing you the Holy Spirit's grace all through your childhood.  I want you to know that when no one else is there for you, God is the for you personally.  Deuteronomy 10:18 says, "[God] ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing."  Psalm 10:14 says, "The helpless put their trust in [God]. You defend the orphans."

When you are helpless and you have no one fighting for you, God is fighting for you personally as the Holy Spirit--opening doors, providing for needs, bringing people into your life to help.  God makes this happen, because God has a deep compassionate heart for the least, the last, the forgotten, and the lost. Read the stories of the Scripture and you will see Him there time and time again for the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, the leper, the lame, and the social outcast.

The Holy Spirit is there fighting for us to bring us to know God—even before we are thinking of God.

Justifying Grace
And then one day, we realize all that God has done for us, even though we haven’t been living for Him.  We see how Jesus died on the cross to save us from our own selfishness and when we cry out, “Lord, forgive me!  I want to start following You know. Come, take control of my life!”  

In the moment, the Devil is there prosecuting you before God.  The Devil lays out all the charges against you about all the ways you’ve sinned and hurt people and turned your back on God.  Thankfully, the Holy Spirit steps in on your behalf and defends/justifies you.  This is called the justifying grace of God.  The Holy Spirit says, “All these sins have been paid for by the blood of Christ shed on the cross.”

However, the Devil is relentless.  He doesn't give up.  The Devil says, “Yes! But she’s not going to be true.  She’s a sinful human!  She will say she’s gonna follow you today, but tomorrow or the next day or the day after that, she will sin again!”

So, the Holy Spirit says, “ALL of her sins are paid in full—her sins from the past; her sins today; and every sin she might do in the future.  ALL her sins are swallowed up by Christ’s death on the cross.  They are atoned.  They are forgiven.  They are washed away by the blood fo Christ, forever!”

Then God will look at you and pronounce: “You is innocent.  I see no sin in you.  I see only Christ in you.  You are completely justified, forever!"

Sanctifying Grace
It doesn't stop there.  Now, the new Christian has to rebuild their life as a new creation patterned after Jesus their Lord.  God has proclaimed them innocent, but now they have to live a new way—for the old has passed and the new has begin.  How will a person know how to live as a Christian?  Howe will they actually do it if they know how?  Jesus was there showing his 12 disciples and helping them every day.  Who is walking with us today showing us how to live?

Jesus told His disciples how this would work.  In John 14:26, He said, “When the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” 

So this is another function of the Holy Spirit, our Advocate.  The Holy Spirit shows us how to live for God and the Holy Spirit empowers us to live holy lives.  If we listen with sensitive spiritual ears, the Holy Spirit is there to guide us and show us what to do, how to live, which way to go.  Our Advocate not only helps us understand what the Bible says, He also empowers us to live it out in every day life, in every situation.  The Advocate is Wisdom that knows the right thing to do, in the right way, at the right time, for the right reasons.  If you will respond to the Holy Spirit's guidance, you will live the way God wants you to and you will be more like Christ and you will bring glory to God thorugh the power of the Holy Spirit.

It’s Time to Follow Jesus
And so today, I offer you a chance to make a choice to become a follower of Christ—a true Christian.  I want you to realize the God was there with you—in the Holy Spirit—the whole time. Even if you couldn’t see Him.  Even if there was no one to tell you about Him or show Him to you, He was there opening doors, guiding your steps, using your decisions and the people in your life and every  circumstance (both good and bad) to lead you to know Him and His love.  Now, it is time to trust Him, to proclaim Jesus the Lord of your life.  It is time to choose to follow Christ.

If you would like to become a Christian today, I invite you to pray this prayer:

"Lord, come in and take control of my life.  I surrender to You.  I recognize that You are the true Lord of all and You deserve my full allegiance.  I want to give my allegiance to you from this day forward.  Lord, please forgive me for my sins.  Wash me clean and give me a fresh start so that I can live for You from this day forward, with the help of Your Holy Spirit.  I know that Jesus is Your precious Son who died on the cross for my sins.  I trust Him to forgive me.  Thank you for giving me eternal Christ, for His names sake.  Now, let me live all my days as Your precious child. Amen."

Monday, October 19, 2020

The Ten Plagues fo Egypt, Plague 6 - Boils

Exodus 9:8-12
8 Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot from a brick kiln, and have Moses toss it into the air while Pharaoh watches. 9 The ashes will spread like fine dust over the whole land of Egypt, causing festering boils to break out on people and animals throughout the land.”

10 So they took soot from a brick kiln and went and stood before Pharaoh. As Pharaoh watched, Moses threw the soot into the air, and boils broke out on people and animals alike. 11 Even the magicians were unable to stand before Moses, because the boils had broken out on them and all the Egyptians. 12 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and just as the Lord had predicted to Moses, Pharaoh refused to listen.

Introduction
Can you name the plagues so far? Blood, frogs, gnats, flies, the death of Egypt’s livestock, and boils.  Can you name the ones still to come?  Hail, locust, darkness, and the death of the first born son.

God used all these plagues to prove to Pharaoh and Egypt and everyone there is only one God, Yahweh, the Great I Am, Lord of all.  For He said in Exodus 12:12, “I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord.” And in Exodus 17:17 He said, “By this you will know that I am the Lord…”

Ancient Egypt was a great civilization that lasted some 3,000 years.  One of the ways they demonstrated their greatness was by building impressive monuments.  Each successive Pharaoh was pressured to build bigger and better structures to demonstrate they were greater than the Pharaoh’s who came before them.  This heavy burden forced Pharaoh’s to marshal all the empire's resources and tens of thousands of laborers and slaves to construct remarkable tombs to glorify their legacy. 

In order for build the Great Pyramid of Giza, it took about 30,000 people 20 years at a cost of $1.2 billion dollars (by today's standards).  Do you know which Pharaoh built the Great Pyramid of Giza?  Me either.  You would think for $1.2 billion we would know.  But the vast majority of the world doesn’t really care.  (By the way, I Googled it and it was Pharaoh Hemiunu.)  

An Empire of Idols
Egypt believed in thousands of gods and goddesses, of which Pharaoh was the earthly representative.  I can't imagine the pressure it puts on a person live up to people's expectations that you are a god.  I can't imagine the pressure Pharaoh felt because he actually believed he was a god, knowing all his own flaws.  That was the lie with which they deluded themselves.  

And because life is unpredictable—and life in the ancient world was incredibly unpredictable—the Egyptians believed gods could bless them one day and curse them the next.  And so, the Egyptians sought to appease and control their deities through sacrifices and magical incantations. Much of the mysterious writing with which the Egyptians decorated their buildings were magical spells intended to ward off evil spirits and enlist the help of benevolent ones. 

Among the thousands of Egyptian Gods, one important goddess was Sekhmet, the goddess of war and healing.  “She is depicted as a lioness. She was seen as the protector of the pharaohs and led them in warfare. Upon death, Sekhmet continued to protect them, bearing them to the afterlife.”[i]  But Sekhmet was powerless to help when Moses reached into the brick kiln for a handful of dust.  

Do you remember how Pharaoh forced the Israelites to make bricks to build his temples and tombs?  Now God has Moses use the ashes from the brick kilns to afflict the Egyptians with festering boils.  Boils broke out all over the Egyptians, but not a single Israelite was affected.  Can you imagine the horror and humiliation for Egyptians as they suffered while they saw their slaves--the Hebrews the viewed as less than human--being spared.  Even Pharaoh's magicians were covered from head to foot with the awful misery.  And where was the protection and healing of the Egyptian goddess?  She has no power to stop Yahweh.

What are our gods today?  According to Timothy Keller in his book, Counterfeit Gods, an idol is “anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, and anything that you seek to give you what only God can give.”   

The Love Idol
According to the Beatles, “All you need is love.”  God made us for love and to love and there is a deep longing for it in every human heart.  Unfortunately, instead of finding love in God and healthy human relationships, we usually turn love into an idol where sex and romance takes the place of God in our hearts.  These are such important idols in our culture we don’t even see them as idols.  In fact, I may get in trouble just for trying to expose them as a myth.  (Nobody likes it when you smash their idol.)

The general myth of love in our culture right now is portrayed in a thousand movies and love songs.  It’s a powerful myth.  We sing the love songs and believe the lies, even though we know they’re unrealistic.  We watch the movies with teary eyes and a yearning in our soul.  The myth is imbedded in our worldview.  The details for each story are different, but it generally goes something like this. 

A little girl begins dreaming from an early age that, one day, she will have a beautiful wedding to celebrate her ultimate achievement—finding true love.  For out there, somewhere, is the man created just for her—her soulmate—the one who will fulfill her deepest needs.  He will be tall, dark, and handsome. (Ladies, you can insert whatever physical traits you prefer here because they aren’t as important as what how the man acts.)  The girls greatest dream is that she will find her one true love and he will fall madly in love with her.  He will get down on one knee and propose ini the most romantic way.  They will have the beautiful wedding of her dreams and spend the rest of their lives together.  He will cherish her and give her everything she needs.  They will have kids and he will take care of her and their family.  And they will live happily ever after.  Now all you have to do is fill in the details a bit and expand the story and you have the makings for a romantic comedy that could make millions on the silver screen.  You’re welcome.

Men have a slightly different love myth, but it pairs well with the feminine myth.  Men grow up believing that somewhere, there is a woman so incredibly attractive he will know “she’s the one” as soon as he sees her.  He will be so smitten he will do anything to win her love.  She will be everything he’s ever wanted in a girl.  Because of her, he won’t even want to look at another woman.  Sex with her will be so amazing he will be in heaven!  Therefore, he will gladly dedicate his life to making her happy and she will cherish him as her provider and protector and hero.  He will sacrifice anything for her because life without her would be meaningless.

It’s just harmless stuff right?  Except, that somewhere deep down we believe this stuff.  The fact is, there is no man or woman out there that can live up to the myth we’ve made up in our minds.  Tragically, this kind of thinking actually hinders true love.  Love is not what another person does for you.  Love is what you do for others.  Love is sacrificial.  It’s not about how the other person makes you feel or what they do for you.  Love is giving without expecting anything.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 tells us the characteristics of true love.  "Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."  Real love is Jesus dying on the cross for sinful humanity.  In fact, the Bible says Jesus dying on the cross is the example of love between a husband and wife.  Which image do you trust?  The popular image of love portrayed in our society or the image of love God give us in His Word?

Conclusion
The very first of the 10 commandments from Exodus 20 says, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.  You shall have no other gods before me.”

This commandment lays the ground work for all the other laws and commandments God gave us.  Why is it so important that we worship only God?  Some complain God is jealous and egotistical.  That's not true.  God is actually selfless.  He is thinking of us as He gives these commands.  If you have any other gods, you will not be able to love God and you will not be able to experience God's love for you in its fullness.  

When we cut God out of first place in our heart, we create a huge hole that nothing else can fill.  Our deepest desire is love—and it’s the only kind of love God is able to give. So many of the love songs and love stories we cherish, we cherish because they portray an idealized love that only God can give.  Unfortunately, when we seek that love from mere mortals, they will not be up to the task and we will be woefully disappointed.  Meanwhile expecting that love from people cuts us off from the true source of perfect love—Almighty God.

It is not that God is spiteful and refuses to love us if we don’t love someone else besides Him. No.  It's amazing that He still loves us despite our unfaithfulness.  Perhaps an illustration will help.  Suppose you are married and you cheat on your spouse.  You have damaged the relationship terribly.  Even if your spouse stays with you, there will be an offense in your psyche that hinders your relationship.  This illustrates our condition with God.  We have broken that relationship with our sin.  Every time we turn to an idol, we are cheating on God—chasing after fulfilment in some fantasy that can never deliver what it promises.  We chase this fantasy until discover it is an illusion.  Then we either settle for the disappointing illusion or we chase after a new fantasy, ending with the same results again.  All the while, our One True Love is watching, heart breaking, as He see--not only our betrayal and unfaithfulness, but also knows with His all-knowing wisdom that--we are inflicting wound upon wound on our own souls.

And so, God came as Jesus came and lived among us.  He is the perfect representation of true love.  It is not that we love him, but He loved us.  While we were still sinners, Christ came and died for us.  He has made a way for us to come back to God. 

Won’t you repent of your sins and turn to God?

Stop believing the lie that there is some person out there who's love is going to "complete you".  Only God, thru Christ, can complete you.  And when you trust Him, He will save you and teach you to love others--maybe even someone you could marry and spend the rest of your life with.  Even if you remain single your whole life, you will still be completely complete because in Christ you have everything you truly need.




Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The Ten Plagues of Egypt, Plagues 3-4 - Gnats & Flies

 

Introduction

Ancient Egypt was an empire with thousands of gods they believed protected their way of life and made them great.  In their pride and arrogance, Romans 1:25 explains, “They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself…”  

The God of the Hebrews, Yahweh, my God, the only true God we read of in the Holy Bible is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  The gods of the Egyptians evolved over time.  It is sometimes hard to determine who their supposed gods were.  One century a god may be depicted as a swarm of flies.  Then, the Egyptian empire would change.  A new dynasty would come to power and the culture and politics of the empire would change and their gods would morph according to people’s imaginations.  The god of the flies would evolve into a vulture or a snake.  These gods could be changed, because they weren’t really gods at all.  They were only the imaginations of people.  They were created to serve the purposes of the leaders of the empire. 

When God spoke to Moses in a burning bush, He said, "My name is Yahweh," which means, “I am who I am.”  In other words, no one gets to make up my character or who I am or what I do.  I am real.  I am eternal.  I make up my own mind.  I don’t change.  You don’t make me what you want me to be.  I made you and you must conform to the person I made you to be, not the other way around. 

And so, Yahweh, decided to pour out justice on the evil Egyptians and prove He is the supreme Lord of all and all the idols and false gods people worship are nothing.  Through 10 plagues, God shattered every false notion of the Egyptians and brought Pharaoh’s empire to its knees to deliver the Israelites from bondage.  He proved there is only one God and his name is "I Am." 


Uatchit, The Egyptian Lord of the Flies
The Egyptians believed in a goddess called Uatchit (pronounced Wadjet).  She started out as the supposedly as the protector of  lower Egypt and was depicted as a vulture.  When the empire unified, she became the protector of the entire empire.  She was often depicted with the head of a vulture or a fly (and later a cobra) and was said to live in the swamps among the papyrus reeds.  Uatchit was supposed to be Pharaoh’s protector.  With an all-seeing eye, she could see trouble coming and warn him.  But none of that mattered, because this false god was impotent against the One True and Living God of our Bible. 

God sent to swarms of insects as the third and fourth plagues of Egypt—first gnats and then flies.  Now, the the exact nature of the third plague is a bit of a mystery.  The Hebrew word used we usually translate as Keenim can also mean fleas or lice.  Now any of these insects would be awful.  Lice and flees infest and bite. Gnats swarm and get in your eyes and nose.  But the Hebrew word Keenim carries with it the idea of flying and biting or stinging.  So imagine biting/stinging gnats or flying flees and lice! Yikes! 

And the fourth plague is flies.  Not only are flies a nuisance, they often transmit parasite and disease.  I was on a mission team in El Salvador a few years back and we had terrible trouble with flies.  They weren't any more numerous in El Salvador than they are in Georgia where I live.  However, the flies in El Salvador carry an amoeba.  If they land on your food, they you will also get the amoeba and it will cause severe nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Almost everyone on our team contracted the amoeba and had to take medicine to get rid of it.  Now, imagine ancient Egypt swarming with flies, possibly contracting diseases and having no modern medicine to combat it.  It must have been terrible.

Well, the Egyptian false god, Uatchit, apparently didn’t warn Pharaoh or do anything to stop the gnats and flies.  Isn’t she supposed to see everything?  Isn’t she supposed to be the goddess of swarms who protects Pharaoh and lives in the swamps where these insects live and breed? 

Only One God
There is only one God.  Most people are familiar with Jesus teaching that we should love our neighbor.  Jesus said this is the second most important commandment (and that it is like the first most important commandment).  What is the most important commandment?  Jesus told us the most important commandment too.  Quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Jesus said, “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.”  There is only one God.  All other gods are idols and false gods.  They are nothing.  And in order to truly love your neighbor, you have to start by loving God.

 

Sadly, people still worship idols today.  There are some listening to this message who worship idols.  It may not be a statue, but you have turned a thing God created into the one you love more than God “with all your heart, all your soul, and all you strength.”  In his book Counterfeit Gods, Timothy Keller says an idol is “anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, and anything that you seek to give you what only God can give.”  If we’re honest with ourselves, I think many realize we have idols today too.

The Idol of Wealth
People are often surprised to learn that Jesus taught about money more than any other subject.  The word money is mentioned 70 times in the Gospels.  Forgive is only mentioned 38 times.  And 11 of the 40 parables Jesus told were about money or used money to make the point.  You see, Jesus knew, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be too.”  (Matthew 6:21)  And He knew that greed and wealth idolatry are rampant.  And so he said:
“Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” (Luke 12:15) And he also said, "No one can serve wo masters… You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money." (Matthew 6:24)

People who worship the idol of wealth do three things: They love it, they trust it, and they obey it.

People who worship wealth, love money.  They dream about it and how to make more. They imagine all the things they can buy with money.  They may be jealous of others who have more money and scheme for how they can “win” in the competition to be wealthiest.  They believe having more money will improve their social status.  People who love wealth are willing to sacrifice in order to have more.  Some things they may sacrifice are their time, their family… their principles… their relationship with God…  1 Timothy 6:10 warns, “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.”  [Jesus to the rich young ruler…]

People who worship wealth, trust money to keep them safe.  If they don’t have enough, they feel vulnerable and out of control.  They are constantly worried about how they will make it if something goes wrong.  They long to have enough money so they can feel in control.  Money makes them feel safe.  They can handle the problems they face, because they can buy their way out of their problems. 

The problem is, money is usually not the answer you think it is.  Ask someone was wealthy who unexpectedly lost it all.  Jesus told a parable about a farmer who had an especially abundant harvest.  He decided to build bigger barns to store up all his wealth thinking, "Now I can live the good life because I will have everything I need.  But the Lord spoke and said, "You're a fool!  Tomorrow, you will die and then who will get all your surplus?"" 

People who worship wealth, obey their master.  Ironically, people who think money will give them freedom and security, find their idol becomes a cruel master that enslaves them.  They have money and can’t imagine living without it.  And often, the wealthiest people still feel they don’t have enough and they must have more.  Soon it becomes clear, money is not serving rich people.  Rich people are usually serving their money. 

It is human nature to want more, more, more. when we are 15 or 16 years old, we say, "If I just had a car!"  Then we get a car and we soon say, "If I just had a reliable car!"  And we get a reliable car and we're finally satisfied, right?  No!  Then we say, "If I could just have a bigger car!"  And then we say, "If I just had the best car!"  The person who constantly wants more, newer, better things has become enslaved by their insatiable addiction to money and the things money can buy.  They are slaves. 

Slaves must obey their master.  Those deeply enslaved to the false god of wealth will lie, cheat, and steal to get more money.  They will justify all kinds of evil to earn and protect their “god”—tax evasion, fraud, embezzlement, extortion, bribery.  They will hoard their wealth while others starve and say, “It’s not my problem.  They should have managed their money better.”  People who worship wealth have broken both the first and second most important commandments.  They don’t really care what God thinks and they don’t care about their neighbor either—as long as they are rolling in the dough.  But Jesus said, “Man does not not live by bread alone, but by the Word of God.” (Matthew 4:4) 

By His Word, God can make mana fall from the sky to satisfy our every need as He did for the Israelites as they traveled to the Promised Land.  By His Word, Jesus multiplied five loaves of bread and two fish into enough food o feed thousands of people.  Do you want to rely on God or would you prefer to make a god of your own choosing to satisfy your needs.  That’s the core issue. We don't want to be beholden to God.  We want to be in control.

Something happened when my son was two or three years old that really illustrated this principle of sinful human nature to me.  I had a bag of Doritos and my little boy wanted some, so I would give him a chip every time he asked.  I made up my mind I was going to give him as many as he wanted; all he had to do was ask and I would give him more--one chip at a time.  But very soon, he was board of this game and just wanted me to give him the bag.  Even though I told him he could have as many as he wanted, that wasn't good enough; he wanted to hold the bag.  And this is how we are with our Heavenly Father.  It's not good enough for us to rely on God who is willing to give us everything we need and want.  No.  We want to hold the bag. 

The Spiritual Practice that Smashes the Idol of Wealth
Greed is a sneaky sin. Greed is rampant in our culture.  And yet, very few people think greed is a problem for them.  “It must be someone else.”  Here’s a simple test.  Do you obey God’s command to tithe?  Tithing is giving 10% of your income to God’s Church.  It is the minimum standard God gives in the Bible for what people are supposed to give to God’s Church. 

According to nonprofitsource.com, the average church-going Christian only gives about 2.5% of their income.  Only five out of one hundred Christians actually obey God’s command to give the minimum.  5 out of 100!  Now, whenever a preacher starts talking about tithing, people get upset.  They start making all kinds of excuses for why don't or why they aren't required to give the tithe.  The fact is, people are simply trying to justify themselves.  They don’t want to give the tithe; maybe they are ashamed they don’t give the tithe and so they make excuses.  Could it be they are protecting their idol?  One thing is certain, they are not obeying the One True God who said, give a tenth of your income to the Lord through His Church.

Jesus on the Cross
Now, God is a God of grace.  He is patient and He is good.  When we were still sinners, He came as Jesus to die for us on the cross.  Now, it is not that we deserved salvation, but that we desperately needed it.  Christ gave his life for us while we were still sinners so that we can be forgiven when we repent of our sin and turn to God.  Repentance means to turn away from sin and our false gods and turn to the One True and Living God who gave His life for us on the cross.

Aren’t you glad Jesus didn’t give to us the way most Christians give to Him?  How would you feel if Jesus only gave, 2-3% for your sake?  (That would still be more than we deserve.)  How much did Jesus give?  Did He only give 10% or His life and blood on the cross?  No.  He gave it all.  Therefore, even if you are giving a tithe of your income, you are still 90% short.  

Jesus doesn't want your money.  He wants your whole heart.  Jesus gave His all for us and I want to give Him my all too.  Don’t you?