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Sermon – The Deadly Sin of Pride – the 7th Deadly Sin
II Corinthians 4:1-12
August 25th, 2013
Jim Whittaker
 
<<Show adorned pot and an unadorned pot>>
We come to the book of II Corinthians and find Paul asking for permission to act like a fool (II Cor. 11:1). You see there are evangelists that have criticized Paul. Paul is criticized for not being a good public speaker. Well, he is in good company, Moses asked for help in his public speaking. Paul’s gospel message was criticized. Paul counters by saying if by keeping you bound in chains makes for a strong preacher, I guess I am just weak. If you are looking for someone who has suffered for the sake of Christ, Paul says I have been beaten to the point of death numbers of times. If you are looking for someone who has had visions, I have had them. Paul says, you made me brag because of those so called “super apostles” that you are following. Paul says I am made strong in weakness. 
Today we look at the danger of pride in a Christian’s life. It is considered the deadliest of all the deadly sins. It is said that pride is at the root of all sin. Paul refers in II Corinthians 11 about pride being the problem with Adam and Eve. St Augustine said pride was there in the original sin. Many have looked at Isaiah 14:11 as it talks about the Babylonian king and his pride that it was also talking about the reason the devil fell from heaven – pride. 
Pride is different than the other deadly sins in that pride can be a virtue. You teacher may have said take pride in yourself and make good grades. Your mom and dad may have said take pride in yourself and be the best you can be for where ever you go and do. It is OK to be proud of your children. It is OK to be proud of your church. Paul very much tells us that he was proud of the gospel. It is OK to be proud to a point. Now, this is where it gets tricky. When does pride become a sin?
Here is a story of pride creeping in:
“On May 31, 1889, there was a terrible flood at Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Thousands of lives were lost. The event was one of the most significant news makers of that year. A story was told about a man who lived through the flood. Every time he got a chance, he would tell people about it. He died and went to Heaven, where he was told he could have anything he wanted. The man said he wanted a great hall where he could tell his story to tens of thousands. The wish was granted. The day came. The hall was packed. As he was ready to make his talk about the Johnstown flood, the master of ceremonies told him he would be the second speaker on the program. He would be preceded by a man named Noah.” [SOURCE: Robert C. Shannon, 1,000 Windows, (Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).].
Pride becomes a sin when you have to stand on the backs of others and not let them up so you can be seen. Pride becomes a sin when in boasting, it takes away the dignity of another. Pride becomes a sin when we start setting ourselves up to be God ourselves. Pride becomes a sin when we say who needs God? Here is another story on pride:
The famous British Baptist pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon tells the story about “a Spaniard in South America who suffered severely from the gout but refused to be cured by an Indian. ‘I know,’ he said, “that he is a famous man and would certainly cure me, but he is an Indian and would expect to be treated with attentions which I cannot pay to a man of color, and therefore I prefer to remain as I am.’” [SOURCE: Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc., 1990)].
Pride as a sin by definition is to look down on others. It is to hold yourself up higher than you should. Isn’t that the temptation of Adam and Eve. Be God yourselves, sit yourself up on the throne of your heart. If you are filled with pride, the world will see it, because it will be all about you. 
Now where are some facts about pride:
Fact #1 – Pride as sin is a reflection of spiritual blindness.
In John 3, we find Nicodemus coming to Jesus and confessing God was with Jesus. Jesus responded if you want God to be with you, you must be born anew. 
You see we have all been born. We have born sinners right from birth. As soon as we learn to talk and say mama and dada, we learn to say mine and no. Sin is in us from birth. St. Augustine taught that the original sin in the garden taught us to look upon ourselves. We do not naturally look toward God. We will do it ourselves. Ever heard your children say that? 
Nicodemus was spiritual blind because he had not submitted his life unto God. He was trying to gain salvation by doing the right things. Wearing the right clothes. Going to church on Sundays or in his case the Sabbath. If that is what salvation was, it would be all about pride in what we had done, but that is not how you defeat spiritual blindness. 
You defeat spiritual blindness by opening up your eyes to Jesus. You defeat spiritual blindness by saying not by what I have done. You defeat spiritual blindness by saying Jesus I want a new start. I want to be born anew or born again since we have already been physically born. Salvation is to admit we cannot be saved on our own, we need God to do what we cannot do. That is what Jesus did. He did not sin in the body, and he sacrificed himself for us. 
Fact #2 – We are deceived by pride to try to improve on our spiritual resume by working harder, and creating the false illusion that we are not sinners. 
Pride causes blindness. We cannot see our own sins. Pride will bring us to destruction and to the very depths of hell. 
Tie to the Text:
I want you to consider our passage for today. 
Paul was dealing with some super apostles as Paul calls them that looked down on Paul. That made fun of Paul’s faults. They did everything they could to make Paul look bad. This wasn’t done around Paul. This was done when Paul wasn’t around. It was done behind Paul’s back. Sin is like that. It is always on the back alley in the dark, because sin cannot stand the light of Jesus. Do you see the problem? The super apostles were filled with pride. Paul has to in some way defend his case, and critique their positions without looking vengeful. That is a hard thing to do. 
First, Reject the symptoms of sinful pride. 
So here is what Paul does: Paul rejects secrecy, shameful actions, and deception. All of those actions have a foundation of pride where the person that is built up, is our selves. Now we all need built up at times. We all need encouragement, but we don’t need to gain our strength through belittling the efforts of others. 
How can we keep on the straight and narrow where pride is kept so that we are the best we can be, but pride is not misused so that we lift ourselves up as Paul says on the “road to destruction?” Here is Paul’s instructions: Don’t be like the braggart super-apostles, preach Jesus Christ. Become a slave to Jesus. What would Jesus do takes on a whole new meaning. 
Jesus did not lift himself up in pride, but as Philippians 2 says, “he humbled himself.” Dying on the cross was considered to be worst way you could die – it was unflattering. Paul even quotes you were cursed if you died on a tree, but that is the way Jesus showed us. 
Second, Make yourself open to the Holy Spirit.
Here is the thing. We are all clay pots. There is nothing fancy about them. They are made from the earth. They are molded to be used for a good purpose. Pots hold valuable assets such as water and wine. If your clay pot, which is yourself, is filled with pride, then there is no room for anything else. Nothing else can be poured into the pot. When it is all about you, it can’t be all about God. 
Jesus told us to go and make disciples. Jesus told us to go to the sick, the hungry, the naked, the imprisoned, and to the least of these. We can’t give out to the world, if we haven’t been filled up with the love of Jesus. 
You can’t lead someone toward salvation, if you truly do not feel salvation in your own heart. You can’t say give your heart to Jesus, if you haven’t given your own heart to Jesus. 
Third, pray to God to make you spiritually humble. 
By that I mean not lowly so someone can abuse you, but to not lift yourselves up so that it hurts others. It is not all about us. It is about God. The work of the kingdom requires that we submit ourselves unto God. 
Jesus said to Nicodemus, I can’t believe you go to church and are a leader in the church, and do not know what it means to have your spirit set on fire so the old self is burned up and dies and the new self is born as a new creation unto God as we believe in the saving work of Jesus on the cross. This was hard for Nicodemus. He had to admit. He didn’t have it all. He couldn’t do everything he needed for salvation. No matter what he did, he needed God’s salvation – Jesus. Tradition says that Nicodemus did finally give his live to Jesus. He humbled himself. It is hard to be humble. 
I want to share with you a little about the ordination process that Methodist preachers go through. I truly believe that a chief aim of the process is to help us as preachers be more humble. It doesn’t matter how much you have studied. It doesn’t matter how many books you have read. The process is humbling. I had to verbally recite how I felt God had called me to ministry 6 times and by writing a paper on it twice. The last thing I heard from the Theology committee was “there are plenty of errors in this paper.”   The theology committee asked me three times to explain how Wesley’s quadrilateral (Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Reason) help us live as Christians today. It was obvious that I wasn’t saying something exactly right. 
It is easy to let the process make you mad, arrogant, and prideful. That committee was unfair and doesn’t know what they were talking about. Many people do not make it through the process, but I learned that God could use the process as difficult as it could be, as a way to make us humble. 
We are all vessels made of clay. My question for you today has pride filled your vessel? Is there room for Jesus? When you pour your self out, does Jesus come out? 
This can’t happen, until you are born anew. Jesus is asking you now to give your live completely and all the way for him. Amen. 
“A Little is a lot when God is in it.” 
 
 

 

 

Sermon 6 – The Deadly Sin of Envy
I Kings 21:1-6
August 18, 2013
Jim Whittaker
Illustration:
Once there was a monk who lived in a cave in the wilderness. He had a great reputation for holiness. His reputation reached Hell itself, whereupon the devil took three of his key demons with him to tempt the monk out of his sanctity.
When they reached the wilderness, they found the monk sitting at the mouth of the cave with a serene look on his face. The first demon walked up to the monk and planted in his mind the temptation of great power, with visions of kingdoms and their glory. But the face of the monk remained serene. The second demon walked up to the monk and planted in his mind the temptation of great wealth, with visions of silver and gold and all that money can buy. But the face of the monk remained serene. The third demon walked up to the monk and planted in his mind the temptation of sensuous pleasure, with visions of dancing girls. But the face of the monk remained serene.
Annoyed, the devil barked, "Step aside, and I will show you what has never failed." The devil strolled up beside the monk, leaned over and whispered, 'Have you heard the news? Your classmate Makarios has just been named bishop of Alexandria." And the face of the monk scowledhttp://www.preaching.com/sermons/11563616/
It is said that no one wants to admit envy, and it easy to pass things by until they get personable. I realized that envy hits even pastors as I went to Duke Divinity. My friend Karl and I both started to Duke about the same time. He got a Duke Endowment grant, and I didn’t. We got all of our bills paid off before I started Duke and the first semester at Duke, the Heat Pump went out and the foundation of the house had to be paid. My only health insurance was the COBRAS plan from Farm Bureau, and it would end soon. Money was going out faster than it was going in. My laptop also quit within that first semester. I met my friend Karl weekly for encouragement and prayer. Karl told me that someone had given him a laptop computer. That is when it hit me. I was envious of Karl’s good fortune. I needed a laptop, and we had to borrow money to pay for it. I felt like I was going down a giant financial drain, but being envious of Karl did not help things. I had to let it go. When I went on the Walk to Emmaus, I laid that down at the altar. God had forgotten me though that first year at Duke Divinity was a pretty difficult year. I asked why hadn’t I gotten a Duke Endowment Grant, and I got one. Karl lost his. Karl got prostate cancer. His father committed suicide at age 80. I wasn’t envious of any of those things. 
Envy will kill your relationship with God if left unattended. 
F. B. Meyer was pastor of Christs Church in London at the time that G. Campbell Morgan was pastor of Westminster Chapel and Charles H. Spurgeon was pastor of the Metropolitan Chapel. Both Morgan and Spurgeon often had much larger audiences than did Meyer. Troubled by envy, Meyer confessed that not until he began praying for his colleagues did he have peace of heart.  When I prayed for their success, said Meyer, the result was that God filled their churches so full that the overflow filled mine, and it has been full since.  [SOURCE: --BIBLE ILLUSTRATOR, Topic: Envy; Index: 1137-1138; Via: : http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/the-seven-deadly-sins-envy-r-david-reynolds-sermon-on-envy-118375.asp
We come to the 6th of our Deadly sins with envy. 
The ancient theologian Thomas Aquinas said, envy is contrary to charity. Charity rejoices over your neighbor’s good fortune. Envy grieves your neighbor’s good fortune. The Bing dictionary describes envy as “wanting what someone else has.” You will remember the 10th commandment on coveting, but envy seems to take it a step further so the Bing dictionary continues with this addition to their definition. It is the “unhappy feeling” caused by others good fortune. 
If you look up envy in a Biblical concordance, you will discover there are 4 Greek words in the New Testament that speak of envy. I am going to sum up from the NIV Theological Dictionary what they mean:
1.    It is a symptom of an unredeemed life.
2.     It is one of the acts of the sinful nature as opposed to the fruit of the Spirit. 
3.    Jesus was delivered unto Pilate (Mark 15:10) out of envy. 
4.    It has the sense of an evil eye. 
5.    It connotes being sick; thus, we often say “they were green with envy.” 
6.    It has the form of being zealous but in a bad sense: with ill will and jealousy. 
That would never happen to us right? It seems our greatest temptation is when we compare ourselves to others that are equal to us like siblings, cousins, neighbors, or class mates. It might come out like I can’t believe my neighbor got the hay off his field and I didn’t it. I can’t believe my friend got that job position and I didn’t. I can’t believe the person I graduated from high school is now president of a company. I work as hard as so and so and they have a nice house and cars, and I don’t.  Envy will slip in on you. 
The Bible cautions us about envy many times over. I Cor. 13:4 says, Love does not envy or as the CEB translates: “love isn’t jealous.” 
Eccl. 4:4 says, ”I also observed that people work hard and become good at what they do only out of mutual envy. This too is pointless, just wind chasing” (CEB).  This is Ecclesiastes way of saying “keeping up with the Jones.”
Proverbs 3:31 says, “Don’t envy violent people or choose any of their ways” (CEB).  
We said last week that a story often helps to describe best what we are talking about so we again this week go to a story in the Old Testament. 
Tie to the Text
We have a story where the King wanted a man’s vineyard, because it was near the King’s palace. Now mind you, the King has the money to buy any land he wants that is for sale, but this land is not for sale. King Ahab approaches Naboth, and tells him he would like to buy his land. He would give him top dollar. He would trade him out vineyards if he wanted. Whatever, he wanted King Ahab would do. Naboth just plainly said, this is family land. My family has owned this land for generations. Nothing could replace the value it has so there is no deal. I can’t part with the land. 
How did Ahab feel?
Dejected, depressed, and irritated. The bible describes him in the NRSV as sullen, resentful, and depressed. The CEB describes him as irritated and upset. All of these are descriptors of the Hebrew word sar, but I would also add from Strong’s Dictionary and that is “heavy and sad.” King Ahab was sick to his stomach.   He was “green with envy.” Now envy left unattended can lead you down the devil’s path. That is what happened in this story. Queen Jezebel seeing her husband in distress go some thugs to testify that Naboth was a traitor to the government and a terrorist. He was quickly executed. King Ahab then happily claimed Naboth’s land. This is where envy leads us – to sin. Envy will also lead us to destruction as we know that God brought judgment down on Queen Jezebel and King Ahab. 
Here is what Kaplan said about Envy: “Envy may generate hatred for the other or the desire to take away his coveted possession. Sometimes it may even provoke a drive to hurt or destroy” Kalman Kaplan, The Seven Habits of the Good Life (Rowan and Littlefield Publishers: New York, 2008), 23.
This is not where God wants us. Right? So how do we position our lives to prevent ourselves falling victim to envy? 
The virtue - You have heard this story. 
As the story is traditionally told, a mouse is caught by a lion and pleads for her life by arguing that one day the lion might need her help. Although the lion scoffs at the thought that a tiny mouse could ever help such a mighty beast as a lion, he releases the mouse. However, the lion subsequently gets caught in a hunter's net, and the mouse--hearing the lion's distressed roar--ends up freeing the lion by nibbling a hole in the net. The traditional moral: "Little friends may prove great friends." Traditionally, then, the story is meant to embolden the meek ("You may be a great friend one day!") and to encourage the proud to look out for the little guy.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/3841144
 
We guard our lives by practicing mercy. Rather than using our state of mind to be envious, we allow our actions to reflect mercy and love. 
 
Matthew 5:7 says, “blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy. “
 
This is what God commands us to do – to show mercy. Envy will lead to hate.    Yoda in the Star Wars movies once said “Envy leads to jealousy, jealousy leads to hate, hate leads to anger, anger leads to the dark side.” From: http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/envy-is-the-green-monster-john-morris-sermon-on-sin-general-119527.asp
God commands us to love and be merciful.   Mercy requires us to look at others misfortune rather than perceived fortune. Envy looks at the fortune and becomes jealous. Love requires us to look at others misfortune and become compassionate and show mercy. There is a difference in focus. 
God is saying be thankful for your state, because things could be worse, but we are also commanded to reach out to those who need help. 
 
St. Thomas Aquinas said there are two aspects of mercy. The first is affective. We feel for those who had their homes flooded in New Jersey this spring or those in the middle of our country this past week. We can sympathize with their pain and suffering. We can see ourselves there. 
 
Effective mercy is to see someone’s pain and do something about it. It is mercy in action. We need both types of mercy. 
 
Did Ahab or Jezebeel consider the feelings of Naboth? No. He was an object that was in their way. There was no mercy in feeling what Naboth felt. There was no concern about his life. They misused their politics and bribed the witnesses. They helped see that an innocent man was executed. It all began when he looked upon the vineyard of Naboth, and said I would like to have that field. The devil will use subtle temptations to drag us down to destruction so watch out my brothers and sisters. 
 
We are called to live a life of mercy. We are to look upon those who have experienced misfortune – the hunger, the naked, the sick, those in prison. We are to reach out to them. Love is not envious. It is patient and kind. 
 
This is where we are called brothers and sisters. 
 
Do you feel any resentment toward anyone? You need to let it go. You can resent many things. How someone looks. The clothes they wear. Their success in life. You need to let it go. 
 
Mercy, compassion, and love. That is where you are called. Amen. 
 
Sermon – The Deadly Sin of Anger
Jonah 3:8-4:4 – Vigilantes
August 11, 2013
Jim Whittaker
 
Introduction:
Many of you (may remember what happened in) the Washington area on Thursday, April 4th, 1968. I don’t need to really set the stage for it, because you lived it.

It was about 7:30 in the evening when Walter Cronkite broke the news. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Memphis for speech, had been resting on the balcony of hotel, when an angry young man decided he had enough of that uppity pastor. Hiding out of sight, Earl Ray took his gun, and shot him.

Within hours, an angry Stokely Carmichael demanded that all business in DC should close out of respect. Shortly thereafter, even more angry young men decided that businesses not already closed should be closed permanently with fire. Chaos and pandemonium ensued as fires were set. Soon, most of the inner city was engulfed in flames. At one point, the flames reached within two blocks of the White House.

With the hindsight of nearly forty years, we can understand the passions on both sides. The injustices, the indignities that came to a head. But it doesn’t bring back 100 city blocks or repay nearly $27 million worth of property damage. It doesn’t bring back the 12 killed; it doesn’t heal all 1100 injuries. And the 6000 incarcerated that day are still shackled with the record of their pasts.
Both men were fired up by anger. They and others thought they must exercise justice in their own hands. They became vigilantes. Is that the proper use of anger? I think we would have to say no. So, let us define anger in terms of the Bible.
Definition: Anger is a natural human emotion that occurs when a perceived injustice has occurred. It may be a real injustice or just one in our own eyes, and in there lies the problem. If God or someone else does not fix our perceived injustice, we may go to arms ourselves to correct the injustice. Perhaps, that is why the counter virtue against anger is patience. 
We come to our 5th Deadly Sin, which is anger. It can get confusing; after all, did not God himself say vengeance is mine, and did not Jesus himself turn over the money exchanger’s tables in anger. It would appear that there is a place for anger. In a direct contrast, from the book of Colossians we get this advice that seems to say give up anger. 
Colossians 3:8: “But now set aside these things, such as anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene language” (CEB). 
Here it seems there is not a place for anger. Which is it? Eventhough Jesus turned over the money exchanger’s tables in anger, did not Jesus himself say that to call someone a fool in anger would make us guilty of hell’s fire (Matthew 5:22). Is that two different messages. As one preacher I read this week said it is not all black and white or maybe another way to say it would be there aren’t easy one liner answers. I read one Jewish writer this week who said to have anger is to be human, and to not have anger is to not be human. So what is the proper place of anger? The place to go to find the answer is the scriptures. 
Tie to Scriptures:
Let us go to our story of Jonah. We find that God is bringing justice to the people of Ninevah for their evil living. Romans 2:8 gives us an explanation: there will be wrath and anger for those who obey wickedness instead of the truth because they are acting out of selfishness and disobedience” (CEB). In other words, God gets angry when we live a life in direct disobedience to how God has told us to live. Perhaps, we should call this:
Fact #1 – God gets angry at evil living. God considers it an injustice for God’s creation to ignore the creator. God is love so people who make it their life time goal to hate, and to be angry at people for no logical reason, God gets angry at them. God gets angry at all who act in disobedience unto him. 
Now, Jonah has noted the evil living of the people of Ninevah. These are the Assyrians that have given Israel plenty of trouble. Jonah has several reasons to be angry. He is angry for the lack of punishment for their evil living, and the lack of punishment for their treatment of the people of Israel. So as we begin this story, God is mad – justice must be made to those living in disobedience. Jonah is also mad and is looking forward to the justice that God is going to lay out. In fact, he is so excited about God clamping down on those evil doers, he may not be far from taking things in his own hands. He is angry at the injustice and has a right to be. 
Fact #2 – We can be angry at the same things that anger God.  God gets angry at injustices and disobedience.
If we bring this to today, we find that God still gets angry and punishes evil doers. We find that we also get angry and likewise want justice to be served. Everyone is together at this point, but right at the point of our story, God’s anger subsides while Jonah’s anger seems to increase. There are two different responses going on. God is willing to allow for mercy. Jonah is not. I think it is important for us to note this difference. For what we are looking for is what does one do in this situation? What does the Bible say about anger management? Is it a sin to be angry? What does it mean when God asks Jonah was his anger right? 
Let’s go back to the scriptures. God is going to exercise judgment, but in God’s mercy he sends a reluctant prophet to preach to them the impending judgment from God if they did not repent and get their lives right. Jonah did not want to do that. That is the whole point of the story. Jonah did not want to give the Ninevehites any chance for mercy. They must pay. Jonah had become both the jury and the judge and the Ninevehites were found guilty. 
Problem #1 - The only solution was Jonah’s solution. 
There is no recourse given by Jonah for a peaceful settlement. It is Jonah’s way or the highway. Don’t miss this point. Anger can be misplaced. Anger may not be appropriate. 
In the movie Forrest Gump, Forrest has a lifetime friendship with Jenny. In one scene, when both of them are grown and Jenny is just beginning to retreat from her lifestyle of sex and drugs, they are walking down a dirt road. Soon they come to the shack where Jenny lived as a little girl - the shack where she experienced abuse. As they come up to it her face contorts with hatred and anger. She reaches down, picks up a rock and flings it towards the shack. It chips off some of the already deteriorating paint. She picks up another rock and fires again, this time crashing through an already broken window. She picks up and hurls another, and another, and another - all with reckless abandon. Finally, she falls exhausted to the ground. Forrest gazes down at her and says, "I guess sometimes there just aren't enough rocks."

There was more to what Forrest said than what he probably knew. Surely she could have thrown stones all day and never destroyed the shack. That was obvious. But not so obvious was the deeper meaning of the scene - throwing stones all day would never abolish the abuse, or demolish the effects of it. Throwing stones would never bring her torment, her agony, her misery, her anguish to the ground.

And weve been there - weve thrown the stones - at situations, at people, at memories. And its never relieved the agony, destroyed the misery, or lessened our anguish. It has never eased our torment. So Jennys question is ours When throwing stones wont cut it, what do we do?
 
We will look at both an Old Testament passage and a New Testament passage. 
Proverbs 19:11: “Insightful people restrain their anger; their glory is to ignore an offense” (CEB). That verse is saying people with wisdom allow forgiveness and mercy to rule the day. Now in our scriptures, God is willing to forgive, but Jonah is not. 
This is Problem #2 – Jonah cannot forgive or let it go. 
Ephesians 4:26: “Be angry without sinning. Don’t let the sun set on your anger” (CEB). This verse seems to indicate that there is a right and a wrong way in being angry. Sin enters in when we take things in our own hands. I’ve got to fix the situation, and the end result is we hurt someone else. 
Anger and resentment can lead to abuse usually to children and women. A perceived injustice has incurred, and punishment must occur so I as the abuser give out the punishment. Perhaps, with this image in mind, it is easier for us to see what Jesus meant when he said if you devalue someone in anger, you are guilty of hell’s fire. 
Anger can be right when a real injustice has occurred. Martin Luther King promoted non-violence. He was angry with racism, but he said there is a right way and a wrong way to handle it. If you end up hurting innocent people, then obviously, that is the wrong way. We have said Jonah responded wrong in his anger. 
In comparison, let us look at God’s anger. First, God allowed for the possibility of a peace settlement. God offered them grace. God offered them a second chance. 
God’s Response was different. God responded to repentance – a true change in the lives of the Ninevehites.   We are reminded of II Peter 3:9 that says, “but he is patient toward you, not wanting anyone to perish but all to change their hearts and lives” (CEB). 
Ex. 34:6 “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness
With patience as a counter virtue to anger, we are told that patience should include mercy, compassion, and forgiveness.  Galatians 5:22 that lists the fruit of the spirit lists patience as one of those attributes. 
So our help to deal with anger is patience. 
James 1:19 says, “19 Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry. 20 This is because an angry person doesn’t produce God’s righteousness” (CEB). 
When we get angry, we should be cautious, be patient, and reconsider. We make rash decisions in anger. Anger is not a biblical tool to use in relationships so as we began this sermon, we are reminded that we should not react in anger. 
Yet, the Bible is also clear that we can be angry at injustices in the world and seek to fix them, reconcile them, and to help deliver peace. 
Conclusion
Daniel Payne got angry. It wasn’t 1955, but rather closer to 1835, when he was asked to get up out of his seat on the train. He was 70 years old, a distinguished bishop and professor at Gettysburg College, but he was black.

Sixty years earlier, he had been there as Absalom Jones, an ordained Methodist preacher at St. George’s in Philadelphia – also a black man – began to lead a prayer. A white deacon who saw this got angry, interrupting the prayer and telling them, “You can’t pray here! If you don’t stop, I’ll have you thrown out!” Jones protested, asking that they could finish the prayer, but the deacon kept shouting. Finally, unable to continue, Jones said, “We will finish, and then trouble you no more.” And, he was true to his word. That day, he left the Methodist church and began a new one in old blacksmith shop – now Mother Bethel Church –the first African Methodist Episcopalian Church that gave birth to all the others.

Daniel Payne reflected on that as the conductor demanded he move. He said, “You’re going to have to throw me off before I’ll dishonor men like that.” The train stopped, Payne got off, and began walking down the tracks with his bags.

At the sight of this seventy year old man struggling to move along the tracks, the conductor relented and tried to put him back on the train. But Payne refused.

120 years later, at an AME church, Rosa Parks’ same action had exposed the need for a boycott. Looking for someone to lead it, they asked a young black Baptist preacher, Martin Luther King, Jr. And the rest, as you know, is history.

So, when you get angry, do something - Sit there! Be SLOW about it, but don’t stop! Search the Scriptures and expose the injustice for what is – either an offense against you, which can be forgiven, or an offense against God that should be handed over to him.

It’s way more than angry – it’s leaving it up to one who always makes things even. By no means will he clear the guilty. Thank God for his mercy.
Amen. 
 
Sermon – Work for the night is coming
Matthew 25:14-30 – 7 Deadly Sins – The Sin of Sloth
August 4, 2013
Jim Whittaker
 
Sermon Illustration: Sloth
James S. Hewett, former pastor of Saratoga, Californias Presbyterian Church, tells this story: A class of high school sophomores had been assigned a term paper. Now the day of reckoning had come, the papers were due. The teacher knew that a particular student, named Gene, had not been working steadily on his paper as others had in the class. He was prepared for some sort of excuse. When the teacher went to collect the papers, Gene said, My dog ate it. The teacher, who had heard them all, gave Gene a hard stare of unbelief. But Gene insisted and persisted, Its true. I had to force him, but he ate it.�� [SOURCE: --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1988), p. 182. http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/the-deadly-sin-of-sloth-r-david-reynolds-sermon-on-addiction-120701.asp
In this illustration, we might say the young person was lazy. They had no desire to succeed. Perhaps, the real problem was they had no real purpose. The Bible often calls this sloth or laziness. We have a parable that Jesus told us as part of his last instructions before leaving this earth. In Matthew 25, Jesus time after time is saying you better be ready, if you want to go to heaven. There are 5 virgins that are ready to meet Christ and there are five who give out at the end. They did not persevere. They did not invest in the spiritual things. They simply existed. There are the Parable of the Talents or as my Bible calls them “valuable coin.” Then, there is the judgment of the nations.   These three parable as part of Jesus’ last words are clear, what we do matters. 
We are at our 205th homecoming. We come to celebrate the body of Christ and the communion of the saints. There are brothers and sisters in Christ that have gone on before us that we are looking so forward to seeing again. Jesus promised us eternal life if we only believe. Paul said we are saved by faith but with a purpose. We aren’t saved to just go through life as if Christ did not exist. That would be a “practical atheist.” We must have a purpose. 
What are our 3 parables hitting on – sloth so let me give you a definition:
Sloth represents not simply laziness but a dejection of spirit. The malady of a slothful person is that he/she feels that no action has any real meaning or purpose.[1]
According to Strong’s Dictionary we can add some other descriptors as well such as apathy, noncaring, listlessness, unwilling to act, and lack of purpose.  It can be described in attitude and in actions. 
Tie to Scriptures:
We find in our parable that the last servant had been entrusted with only one coin. It was still very valuable unto God. You see whatever God gives us is valuable. We have to see in our own lives that God desires to use our gifts. 
·         God will use our experiences. If you have been hurt, God may use you to help heal someone else. 
·         God will use our natural abilities. We need leaders and followers in the church, and our desire is for each of you to be “fully alive” in your work for Christ. 
·         God will use our resources. God didn’t bless us just so we can be on an ice cream diet. God blesses us so that we will have the ability to bless others. This is what God wants to do – God wants to use us. God wants to use you. God wants to use your time, your money, your family, your job, your hobbies – God wants all of you. 
The problem though is the last servant was slothful. The last servant didn’t care. It is all too easy for us to just kind of let happen an uncaring attitude, a slothful attitude, an attitude of a servant who disobeyed God and paid the consequences. We don’t want that right? 
In 1996, author Regina Barrecca, wrote a series on the 7 Deadly sins in the Chicago Tribune. Although she writes purely from a secular viewpoint, listen to what she says about sloth. The sin of sloth is to say 5 more minutes then I will go tardly, it won’t matter in hundred years, hit that snooze button – what does it matter, what’s the hurry, cut some corners – who will know, don’t strain yourself, cheat on the exam, drink from the milk carton, don’t send a card, if you found it, you keep it – who cares about lost and found, entertain angels – no way – too much effort.[2]
Do you hear the apathy in those statements. “I am going to just bury in the ground what God has given me as my purpose in this life.” That means – I don’t seek to do what God wants me to do. I don’t pray asking for God’s will. I don’t give it a thought; afterall, I am too busy. 
I truly believe our busy lives that we have today are the work of the devil. We don’t have time for family or God or neighbor. We are just busy for busy’s sake. That is a sin. 
One day 2 men were talking as they saw a woman walking down the road. One of the men said, “That’s Mrs. Jones. She always has something good to say about everyone.” The other man decided to test her, so when she got close he hollered, “Mrs. Jones, what do you think about the devil?” She thought for a second and answered, “He sure is busy isn’t he?”[3]
Being busy is not the answer. The answer to sloth is diligence. It is life with a purpose. 
Ephesians 2:10 says, “We are God’s accomplishments created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way we live our lives” (CEB). Let me say something here that I want to be perfectly clear with – this does not just happen.  We can’t be apathetic. 
Philippians 2:12 says, “Therefore, my loved ones, just as you always obey me, not just when I am present but now even more while I am away, carry out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (CEB). 
Again, Paul reminds us here to not just say yes to Jesus and then live your life in an apathetic state. John Wesley called people like this “Almost Christians.” Some have called them “carnal Christians” meaning they care more for the world than they do of God. 
Now let’s go back to our parable. The first two servants were also given valuable coins. To one, he gave five. To the other, he gave two. Each one was given according to their ability. In other words, they were not given more than they could handle. Here is what they did:
Vs. 16 – “went to work” taking care of God’s business.
God gave us work to do as part of our created purpose. In the garden, God told us to take dominion of the earth, and you will eat by the “sweat of your brow” or by work. Work is good, but God also created a time of rest from physical work and a time to come to God’s house to worship to recommit ourselves and to realign ourselves up to our true north – Jesus Christ. Without our time of Sabbath rest, we will lose focus on what is important.    But, even work can get monotonous after awhile. We have a greater calling. We have been called to the work of God. There are some lessons that we should learn from all three of these parables:
From the parable of the 10 virgins, we learn about perseverance. Don’t give up. Don’t lose sight of our goal – that is Jesus Christ. Don’t lose faith. We have to work on these things. Living a Christian life just doesn’t happen in our society. We do not encourage Bible reading or prayer, which are foundational for the Christian. You have to make a plan to build your faith. We are going to begin a new series on discipleship here at the end of the month. You have to make your discipleship a priority or it simply will not happen. To not care, to say I am too busy – tell God about those feelings and pray for his answer. 
From the parable of the talents we learn that God does have something for us to do. Simply taking an attitude of apathy will only lead us to the place where there are weeping and grinding of teeth or hell. We find that God has blessed us all with something we can contribute. We will never be the church we should be unless we are all working into our God given purpose. 
From the parable of the nations we find some specifics on what good works look like to God. Tending to the sick, feeding the poor, clothing the naked, visiting those in jail, welcoming even a stranger for a few. God wants us to show the love of God to those who we might even think unlikely to deserve it or might even be unwilling to do ourselves.
In his Alpha Talk What About the Church, Nicky Gumbel tells this story about John Wimber, the founding pastor of the Anaheim Vineyard Christian Fellowship and the Worldwide Vineyard Movement: John Wimber was once approached by a member of his congregation who had met somebody in great need. After the Sunday service this man told John Wimber of his frustration in trying to get help.
��This man needed a place to stay, food, and support while he gets on his feet and looks for a job, he said. I am really frustrated. I tried telephoning the church office, but no one could see me and they couldnt help me. I finally ended up having to let him stay with me for the week! Dont you think the church should take care of people like this?
John Wimber thought for a moment and then said, It looks like the church did.�� [SOURCE: Nicky Gumbel, What About the Church, in QUESTIONS OF LIFE: A PRACTICAL INTRODUCTION TO THE CHRISTIAN FAITH (Colorado Springs: Cook Ministry Resources, a division of Cook Communications Ministries, 1996), 226.]
Today we talked of slothfulness and being diligent in working into God’s purpose for my life as a saved individual called to the Great Commission, and the Great Love Commandment. We remember homecoming and the hope we have of Jesus’ second coming and the promise that we will be with Jesus when we die. 
Don’t take your salvation for granted.   Jesus saved you for a purpose. 
I encourage you to take these steps in living a life for God:
1.        Be at church – you are encouraged and strengthened in your faith by being there.
2.       Pray that God will use you and that you will live into God’s will. 
3.       Find where it is that God is calling you to live out Jesus to a world that needs to hear about the amazing grace story.  Amen. 
 
 
 


[1] Kalman Kaplan and Matthew Schwartz, The Seven Habits of the Good Life (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers: New York, 2006), 91. 
 
The King Midas Touch – A Sermon on Greed from the 7 Deadly Sins
II Samuel 12:1-7
July 23, 2013
Jim Whittaker
 
I.                     Defining Greed
You may have seen the commercial with King Midas in it. He has come to talk with his psychiatrist. He has a problem. Everything he touches turns to gold. That is what he wished for. It turns out to be a curse. The story of King Midas is supposed to warn us to not be greedy yet the state lottery is running an ad tempting us to be greedy and win the gold in the lottery.  
Leo Tolstoy once wrote a story about a successful peasant farmer who was not satisfied with his lot. He wanted more of everything. One day he received a novel offer. For 1000 rubles, he could buy all the land he could walk around in a day. The only catch in the deal was that he had to be back at his starting point by sundown. Early the next morning he started out walking at a fast pace. By midday he was very tired, but he kept going, covering more and more ground. Well into the afternoon he realized that his greed had taken him far from the starting point. He quickened his pace and as the sun began to sink low in the sky, he began to run, knowing that if he did not make it back by sundown the opportunity to become an even bigger landholder would be lost. As the sun began to sink below the horizon he came within sight of the finish line. Gasping for breath, his heart pounding, he called upon every bit of strength left in his body and staggered across the line just before the sun disappeared. He immediately collapsed, blood streaming from his mouth. In a few minutes he was dead. Afterwards, his servants dug a grave. It was not much over six feet long and three feet wide. The title of Tolstoy's story was: How Much Land Does a Man Need?   Bits & Pieces, November, 1991.[1]
A website titled 7 Deadly Sins defined greed as “a desire for material wealth or gain” while “ignoring the realm of the spiritual.”[2] That is pretty wide open, which would make any material possession a bad thing. I don’t think that is a good enough definition.
The History Channel recently did a series on greed and they hyped up that Adam Smith, an economist that has had a big effect on how think of our economy, said capitalism was based on greed and questioned whether or not we still think greed is wrong.[3]  The Toronto Star also picked up on this: “greed is the motor that powers capitalism. Way back in the 18th century, Adam Smith understood this when he wrote in The Wealth of Nations that the self-interests of the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker benefit the rest of us.” It is interesting in that we probably would not today consider our economy a “greedy” economy. But, that was not the last word by Adam Smith as he wrestled with the possibility of unrestrained greed when he wrote “The Theory of Moral Sentiments.”
Webster’s Dictionary defines greed as “excessive desire for getting or having wealth” and adds “a desire for more than one needs or deserves.” What is excessive? Most people in America would say you need a cell phone and internet. In Haiti where possessions were scarce, houses were one room, running water rare, electricity unreliable had cell phones and the internet. During the midday break, workers watched soccer on satellite TV at the Ryan Epps Home for Children. Greed has to be taken into context. 
Medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas said of Greed: "it is a sin directly against one's neighbor, since one man cannot over-abound in external riches, without another man lacking them... it is a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, inasmuch as man contemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things." (2, 118, ad 1)
Now I think we are getting to the heart of the matter. Greed is a sin when we have plenty and our neighbor has little. We might want to justify ourselves and ask the question “who is my neighbor?” but that already has been done when Jesus answered with the Good Samaritan story. 
Jesus said in Luke 12:15, Then Jesus said to them, “Watch out! Guard yourself against all kinds of greed. After all, one’s life isn’t determined by one’s possessions, even when someone is very wealthy.”
Tie to Scripture
In our Scripture reading today, King David is given a story of greed. King David wants this man to die for his outrageous behavior. It is then that Nathan the prophet says, King David you are the man. It is difficult to consider that we might also be greedy. We keep asking the question how much is enough? I don’t think possessions in themselves are condemned in the Bible. King David was not condemned for his wealth or his many wives but for desiring someone who wasn’t his to have, which invoked hurt on his neighbor.  We might define greed as when you wealth hurts your neighbor.
I believe that speaks to us nationally that we have to recognize just because we want something cheap does not mean that we run roughshod over others. Remember the textile fire in Bangdalesh? American corporations are being called to consider safety for workers as part of their business. Why? When you are so greedy that a basic human right is ignored, it is just plain wrong?
Well how about us? We live in America. The richest country since the nation of Rome. We like to look as ourselves as the savior of the world and the savior prophesied, but scriptures weren’t kind to Rome. We should be asking what does it mean to live as Christian in a successful economy where greed is described as the backbone of what makes us different in the world than everyone else. 
I think our motto should be “to whom much is given, much is required.” - Luke 12:48
Jesus spoke tough on wealth. In Matthew 6:24, “you cannot serve God and wealth.” You have to choose. It is either God or wealth? As Christians, we might ask how can we defend ourselves from the temptation of greed? We need to remember the scriptures.
Paul says, “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous in every way.” II Cor. 9:11.
Covetous is defined in the 10 commandment. This commandment is not merely behavior. It goes further to describe a “physiologically emotional state.”[4] We have been commanded by the 10th commandment to not be coveting other people’s possessions. That is greed. We are to be thankful with what God has given us. That is gratitude. We demonstrate our gratitude by helping others that are not so fortunate. That is generosity. 
II.                   The Counter Virtue
Here is a command to Israel:  “Poor persons will never disappear from the earth. That’s why I’m giving you this command: you must open your hand generously to your fellow Israelites, to the needy among you, and to the poor who live with you in your land.” Duet. 12:15.
You remember the story of Lazarus and the rich man. There are several things that the rich man did wrong. One – he did not even notice there were people who were in need at his doorstep or rather he choose to not notice. That is a hard heart. That is the opposite of compassion. He demonstrated his hard heart by “doing nothing.” I am sure he had some good excuses. If they would get a job, get a education, if they weren’t lazy, if they would help themselves or I don’t like to be taken advantage of. It is hard to know a heart. All that we can see is a man had plenty and would not part with any of it even if someone was doing without. That is greed. By the end of the story we find the rich man in hell. Interesting, Dante in the Inferno said the greedy would boil in oil in hell. I am not sure how he came up with that, but Jesus agreed that the greedy will end up in hell. We are encouraged to be generous.
The story is told that one day a beggar by the roadside asked for alms from Alexander the Great as he passed by. The man was poor and wretched and had no claim upon the ruler, no right even to lift a solicitous hand. Yet the Emperor threw him several gold coins. A courtier was astonished at his generosity and commented, "Sir, copper coins would adequately meet a beggar's need. Why give him gold?" Alexander responded in royal fashion, "Cooper coins would suit the beggar's need, but gold coins suit Alexander's giving."[5]
From the beginning the Bible teaches to not allow things get excessive. Exodus 16:19 – do not keep anymore manna that you can use, because it will rot. Some did anyway, and it rotted. We are blessed to bless others. The double love commandment tells us that. We are to love God, neighbor, and ourselves. To consider others, that is to be generous.
III.                Balance – Between Greed and Generosity
Can we be too generous? Stories abound about saints of old who gave away all of their possessions to live for Christ - Saint Francis of Assisi comes to mind, but there are warnings to living this way as well.
If you are so generous that you can’t pay your bills, then you probably have gone too far. I want to note though, I believe Jesus calls us to adjust our lifestyle so that we can give generously. 
Move to prudence - capable of exercising sound judgment. Jesus gave an example of prudence when he said that those who answer the call to discipleship and are willing to “pick up Jesus’ cross” would calculate the cost just as you would if you were going to build a tower – before you start, you ask can I finish it (Luke 14:28). Jesus expects us to exercise sound judgment. 
Remember the guy who tied weather balloons to his lawn chair, loaded it up with beer, peanut and butter sandwich, and a BB gun to shoot the balloons to lower him down. His calculations or his guess was he would go 100 feet in the air. In reality, he went 11,000 feet in the air and was in the jet traffic pattern for the LA airport. Let’s just say, that was not prudent. 
We are called to be wise, shrewd even in the Bible, able to count the costs, and prudent so we don’t find ourselves 11,000 feet in the air and are afraid to shoot the balloons. If God has commanded us to not be greedy, if generosity is the answer, and if prudence is our Christian habit to govern us, then we need to plan how we can be less greedy, more generous, and use our heads in doing so. 
So what are we going to do? We live in a rich country. God has blessed us. How are we giving to others? How am I giving to others? 
God help us to live as he has commanded. Matthew 7:21 – Only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. 


[1] From the Web: http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/g/greed.htm
[4] Kalman J. Kaplan and Matthew B. Schwartz. The Seven Habits of the Good Life (New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2006), 79.
[5] From Website: http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/g/generosity.htm
 
 
Sermon – Some Good Ole State Fair Food
Scriptures: Various
July 21, 2013
Jim Whittaker
 
It won’t be long before it is State Fair Time. In Texas, they offered fried butter. In San Diego, they offered ice cream on your cheese burger. How about deep fried Kool-Aid or deep fried bubble gum? Texas also had some fried beer and some chocolate covered jalapenos. Now these are all some foods that I believe we can say are excessive. Did I mention the Krispy Kreme donut hamburger? What a great opening for our topic of today – gluttony. 
Definition: Gluttony is the “inordinate (excessive beyond reasonable expectations) desire to consume more than one needs or even wants.”[1] Gluttony is usually associated with food, alcohol, drugs, and certainly any addictive behavior. At first appearance, there might not seem to be a lot of scriptures on gluttony, but think again. One of the verses that struck me came from the Wisdom literature found in the Apocrypha, which is included in the Catholic Bible, but not in the Protestant Bible says in Sirach 37:31, “many have died because of gluttony.”   Not all references to a glutton in the Bible are with food. For example, the Pharisees called Jesus a glutton in Matthew 11:19 and in that context it means “reckless” for they were referring to Jesus’ habit of hanging out with the wrong crowd and eating with them. What we find with our 2nd deadly sin is another sin of excess. Gluttony is probably most associated with food since there where most of us will find the temptation. When it comes to food, there are none of us I would assume that doesn’t like a good meal. Here are the facts.
“The United States now has the highest obesity rate of any industrialized nation in the world. More than half of all American adults and about one quarter of all American children are now obese or overweight.”[2] In another report, “35.7% of Americans were obese as of 2010, according to the CDC. The last two decades have seen a dramatic rise in its incidence, and the costs to overweight individuals have skyrocketed.”[3] If I use the proper weight for my body size from the 1930’s, I am 2 pounds over the maximum body weight. Today, I am an average weight. We have changed the standards. The French Fries that we got back in 1972, were 1/3 the size of the Super Size fries that we get today. We are told to eat as much meat for a meal as is the size of our palm. Dianna and I went to Outback and got the smallest size steak they had, which was 9 ounces and around the size of your palm. The standard plates were all bigger. I almost feel like we are being victimized as Americans. Food is cheap. We like food. We eat plenty of food, but the truth is our cheap food is not always the healthiest.   Restaurants make food to serve our taste. Companies make food addictive. Salt, sugar, and fats are all used as a way to addict us toward certain foods. As Japan has started eating more like Americans, their heart issues are on a dramatic rise. After seeing the average plate of rice and beans in Haiti, I feel like we are drowning in food. Even the food that we give away at the Food Pantry, would be considered extravagant in many parts of the world. French fries and potato chips are addictive. We have to face the facts. We need to ask, how much is enough? To address this question, we have to face the possibility that our American way of life may need some changes in how we think. 
How Much is Enough (as posted at Jimmy Johns)
The American Investment Banker was at the pier of a small coastal American village where a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of the fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied only a little while. The American asked, “what do you do with the rest of your time?”   The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.” The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds you could buy several boats. Eventually, you would have a fleet of boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small fishing village and move to Mexico City, then to LA, and eventually to NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.” The Mexican fisherman asked, “But how long will this take?”   To which the American replied, “15 to 20 years.” “But what then?” The American laughed and said this is the best part.  “When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public, and become very rich. You would make millions.” “Millions?” asked the fisherman, “then what?” The American said, then you would retire, move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your children, take siesta with your wife, stroll into the village each evening where you would sip wine and play guitar you’re your amigos!” (Author Unknown). 
The twist on this story is the Mexican has already achieved what it would look like if he was a great success. In fact, he is a great success story. He did not need more. As Americans, we need to learn this. We don’t always need more. We need to learn that since we are so prosperous as compared to other nations around the world, our temptation is always going to be we want more. We want more and bigger cars, more and bigger houses, and more technical gadgets. How big do you want your ice cream cone dipped in chocolate? Supersize me, because I can. This is who we are as Americans. We need to go to the scriptures for help as we consider the 7th Deadly Sin – gluttony. 
I.                     The Scriptures View on Gluttony
Gluttony is referenced with laziness – Titus 2:12 – Someone from Crete are always liars, wild animals and lazy gluttons. 
While I am not trying to call anyone lazy, we need to face reality: we are a sedentary nation. That is a fact. My grandfather used to walk to the coal mines to work.  I walked to pretty much all of my High School football games. Why would we walk to anywhere if we could be riding a Gator or a car? That is why we are encouraged to get 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity five days a week. We are encouraged to get 10,000 steps a day to boost activity. Many of us do not get anywhere close to that.
Last week there was a piece on NPR. I had to listen to it. It was on unhealthy clergy. I had completed the surveys. The study was done by Duke Endowment on all the pastors in North Carolina. The statistics – pastors are some of the unhealthiest people because they eat too many covered dish meals with too little exercise, carry too much stress, and are always on the go to help someone else and neglect themselves. That’s a fact. We are now pushing good health in our conference and especially are targeting pastors. Why is this important? It helps the cardiovascular system, boosts the immune system, builds muscles, helps control type 2 diabetes, and obesity. It also controls health insurance costs. 
Gluttony is seen as an addiction to those who are self loving – Duet. 21:20 - “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard” (NRSV).
Gluttony abuses God’s gifts as we supersize it – Psalm 78:29-31, “But they did not stop craving – even with food still in their mouths!” God does not expect us to not use or to eat more than we need. 
Gluttony can bring worldly security – Luke 12: 19-20, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry” God said, you neglected though what was important.
Gluttony can lead to poverty and embarrassment – Proverbs 23:21, ““drunks and gluttons will be impoverished.” We are not considered good stewards if we use more than we need.
Gluttony is inconsistent with a believer’s life – I Peter 4:3, “You have wasted enough time doing what unbelievers desire – living in their unrestrained immorality and lust, their drunkenness and excessive feasting and wild parties”
While we know that there are medical conditions that prevent weight loss, and for health reasons some people cannot weight, but the fact is in America we are over eaters. The Bible has strict words on us when we keep over indulging. The real problem is we are no[4]t respecting the gifts that have been given us. We do not respect the food nor our own body. The sin is we think too much of ourselves and our desires and not enough about God’s commands and God’s desires for us. Here are the five warning signs that Pope Gregory the Great gave: too soon, too delicate, too expensive, too greedily, and too much – all to describe gluttony. God gave us taste buds so we could enjoy food, but God doesn’t want us to cave into excessive physical desires. Our own natural physical desires can lead us from God. 
Philippians 3:17-20 - 17 Brothers and sisters, become imitators of me and watch those who live this way—you can use us as models. 18 As I have told you many times and now say with deep sadness, many people live as enemies of the cross. 19 Their lives end with destruction. Their god is their stomach, and they take pride in their disgrace because their thoughts focus on earthly things. 20 Our citizenship is in heaven. We look forward to a savior that comes from there—the Lord Jesus Christ.
II.                   The Counter to Gluttony is Temperance
Definition: Temperance is moderation in the things needed and abstinence in the things not needed.
By this definition we find that we should let some things go. In the food sense, we have all heard cut the salt, cut the sugar, and cut the fats on the news. It is impossible and not realistic to cut all of these things out of the diet, but we also need to remember that we should strive to honor God by having healthy bodies. 
Too much salt leads to high blood pressure. Too much sugar leads to diabetes. Too much fats can lead to heart disease. What we are talking about is restraint and moderation.   We also need to realize that the more of these foods we eat, the more we want. Again, we are talking restraint. 
The Bible doesn’t put much abstinence from food. We are told in the Old Testament not to drink the blood of an animal and not to eat a limb of a live animal. There is actually one fast day commanded in the Bible and that is the day of atonement. On this day, the fast was tied closely to remembering that we are saved by God and by God alone so the fast was tied with a religious expression. 
There are times in mourning that people in the Bible fasted. David fasted after the death of his son. There are times of discernment that used prayer and fasting. Jesus and Moses by the power of the Holy Spirit fasted for 40 days. Jesus said his followers would fast after he was gone. Matthew 9:15
“But the days will come when the groom will be taken away from them, and then they’ll fast.” 
Fasting appears to be more voluntary but also something that the early Christians did often. (Acts 13:3; 14:23). It is tied to prayer and religious observances.  Our counter virtue to our tendency to eat and live in excess is Temperance or sometimes translated as self-control. Peter in II Peter 1:5-8 says,
This is why you must make every effort to add moral excellence to your faith; and to moral excellence, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, endurance; and to endurance, godliness; and to godliness, affection for others; and to affection for others, love. If all these are yours and they are growing in you, they’ll keep you from becoming inactive and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
III.                Biblical Response
We are to be Thankful. I Timothy 4:3 says: “They will prohibit marriage and eating foods that God created—and he intended them to be accepted with thanksgiving by those who are faithful and have come to know the truth.”
Pray at your meals. It connects us back to our creator. Be thankful for our food, for that will keep us from being greedy. It will also remind us that food is a gift and not to be used in a compulsive food eating disorder that causes us to overeat and then throwup. When we fail to see food as a gift, we are one step in the doorway of abusing and misusing food. We are not to eat in excess but to realized we have been blessed to have plenty and to give our excess food to the poor. 
We are to see food for its God given purpose – to strengthen us for the journey. I Kings 19:5ff
We are to not eat or drink in excess – Daniel 5:1 – “he drank a lot of wine in front of them.”
It was in the middle of a great feast with plenty of wine and food that King Belshazzar got the gold cups from Israel’s temple and God places judgment at this time with the writing hand on the wall. 
We are not to eat a steady diet of rich foods – Daniel 1:16 – “So the guard kept taking away their rations (King’s food) and the wine they were supposed to drink and gave them vegetables instead.” Like it or not, we actually eat too well in America. This Biblical advice does not do away with homecomings, but it does say we can’t eat every day like it is a homecoming. 
We are given excess to give to others - Proverbs 22:9 says, “Happy are generous people, because they give some of their food to the poor.”
Remember our bodies belong to God - II Corinthians 5:10, “we all must appear before Christ in court so that each person can be paid back for the things that were done while in the body, whether they were good or bad” and II Cor. 6:16 says “we are the temple of the living God.” Now God gave us all our bodies: fat and thin, tall and short – we are not trying to change our bodies into that myth of a perfect body for a man or a woman that we see on TV. We are called to be faithful with who God created us to be. 
Eat to live not live to eat - Ecclesiastes 9:7 - Go, eat your food joyfully and drink your wine happily because God has already accepted what you do.
Perhaps our temptation on the tree in the Garden of Eden is another piece of cake or a second or third helping of meat and potatoes. I believe God wants us to see that even in eating we can become too self serving and not see the needs of others.   Even in our eating, we should be honoring God by being thankful, eating healthy, and not eating or drinking in extremes. 
If your life and how you live are out of balance, today give it to God. 
Romans 12:1 says, “so brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service.”
Amen. 


[1] Kalman J. Kaplan & Matthew B. Schwartz, The Seven Habits of the Good Life: How the Biblical Virtues Free Us from the Seven Deadly Sins (Roman and Littlefield Publishers: New York, 2006), 67.
[2] Paul Tautges, Gluttony: The Silent American Sin (Delight in the World), 2007 Kindle: location 12 of 259.
[3] http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/03/09/the-price-of-americas-obesity-epidemic.aspx
[4] Prose, Francine. Gluttony (The Seven Deadly Sins) (Oxford Press: New York, 2007), Kindle Location 76. 

 

 

7 Christian Habits - Lust – Chastity – Biblical Love

Scriptures are read during the Sermon
July 14th, 2013
Jim Whittaker
 
Ancient Hebrews said you could judge a person’s character by how they handled three things: their anger, their drinking, and their spending. We will expand the list to seven. Proverbs 6:16 ff has a list of 7 things the Lord our God hates: pride, lying, killing innocent people, evil plans, those who hurry to evil, false witness, and one who brings discord to the family. The Talmud lists 7 legal norms. We are used to having lists of 7. The Seven Deadly Sins origin comes from some writing of the Eastern Orthodox monk Evargius Ponticus[1] in the 4th century. This list of eight was combined to seven by John Cassian to bring them to the western church. Two centuries later Pope Gregory I named the list the “Seven Deadly Sins.” Though it is through Dante’s 13th century poem Divine Comedy (Inferno, purgatory, and heaven) that brought this list to such renown. We will use the ordering of Dante’s Divine Comedy on these sins as to their seriousness. What makes these sins deadly, is their ability to lead us into more sin. In order to help the Christian, a list of contrary virtues were developed to counter the seven deadly sins that goes back to the 5th century. Present day authors Kalman Kaplan and Matthew Schwartz wrote a book titled “The Seven Habits of the Good Life” were they teach that a healthy balance between the sin and the virtue must be maintained or in other words too much of a virtue might also be harmful. It is based on this background that I label this sermon series as “7 Habits for Christians.” First here are the seven deadly sins in their order of destructiveness according to Dante:
1.        Lust
2.       Gluttony
3.       Greed
4.       Sloth
5.       Wrath
6.       Envy
7.       Pride
The first three on this list are categorized as “love in excess.” We will begin today with the sin that will affect the most people and that is lust. The Heavenly virtue is chastity. Our Christian habit is Biblical love. 
Section I – The Sin Defined: Lust
I heard this song by the Georgia Satellites as I was working out the other week:
I got a little change in my pocket going jing-a-lang-a-ling
Want to call you on the telephone, baby - I give you a ring
But, each time we talk I get the same old thing:
Always, "No huggy, no kissy, until I get a Wedding Ring"

My honey, my baby, don't put my love upon no shelf
She said, "Don't hand me no lines, and keep your hands to yourself"[2]
This song gives a southern feel to the dating relationship, but things have changed. Today 41% of all child births are to unwed mothers.[3] Why we might ask? Is it the high divorce rates? Is it the sexual content of TV, commercials, and billboards? Perhaps, there are many reasons. One certainly would be the lack of importance to a Biblical standard in our living. The Bible sets up standards not to harm us but to keep us from harming ourselves. God created us male and female to express love in a family relationship at a deeper level than we usually have anywhere else. I think something else needs to be said here. People are not to be used as objects of desire. They are to be seen as human beings dearly beloved of God.   Women can certainly be seen as objects. One night stands are just that a one night stand – no love only a desire gone rampant.
This subject actually reminded me of one of my all time favorite TV shows – Seinfield. On this show, all the main characters are actually horrible in relationships. Jerry is more interested in conquest and can find something wrong with anyone – she had man hands he said. Elaine is interested in the physical intimacy part but is not interested in a long-term relationship. Once when she was dating and living with Putty, they got in an argument about who was going to hell. They went to a priest and asked him which one of them was going to hell. He asked a few questions and found out they were living together and said oh that is easy, you are both going to hell. Putty said that was bogus. Obviously following God’s rules wasn’t a high priority. Elaine soon broke up with him. George has confidence issues that could ruin any relationship. Relationships have no meaning to them. It is all about fulfilling their desires. 
 So let’s define lust – it is an excess desire though not confined to things of a sexual nature. This does seem to the area that gets the most press. 
I John 3:15-17a, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world – the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches – comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away.
The Justice Department reports that one in 4 women are victims of rape. That is 25% of the women in America. A woman is raped in America every 2 minutes.[4] That is too much. That is lust. That is an excess of desires. That is love gone wrong. That is as the Bible says, “the desire of the flesh.”  We have shelters for battered women. Anytime violence becomes part of the relationship, it is wrong. This is love gone wrong. 
Don’t miss what is being said – do not let your physical desires get out of control. A Christian is to practice self control, but there is something else that needs to be said. 
Section II – Chastity – The Counter to the Sin.
God created us male and female and God told us in Genesis to be fruitful and multiply.  God has laid out rules for how we are to live out our sexuality. Physical Intimacy is to be confined within the bounds of a loving, faithful, and committed married relationship. In looking at lust as one of the 7 deadly sins, our counter virtue is celibacy, but this also can be a problem. Celibacy hasn’t cured lust for anyone as we find sexual abuse even occurring in the church. Celibacy can be take too far. Even Paul himself said I wish all of you were celibate like me but I know that is not for all people. That advice has been overlooked by some. As an example, I give you the Shakers, who make that nice Rocking Chair, have a rule that everyone in their church male and female should be celibate. It is much harder to grow a church that way. That sect has pretty much died out. 
Here are some words of advice from Paul:
I Cor. 7:9, “if they are not practicing self control, they should marry.” 
I Cor. 7:37, but if his own “desires are under control,” he is free to marry or not to marry.   
Self control also works for those who are married as the 10 commandments says “thou shall not commit adultery” or be unfaithful in marriage. Self control is to be maintained before and after marriage. Its form is different. For the unmarried, it is to be chaste. Today we would say practice abstinence.   For the married, it is the call to be faithful to your spouse. In neither case, should anyone be seen as an object and less than a full human being loved by God. 
Let’s relook at lust again – it is desire out of control. The words we find in scripture are not the heavenly virtue of chastity for life for everyone though Paul says some have been given the gift of chastity for life. Protestant preachers can marry, which is different than living as a monk or nun who sees themselves as the bride of Christ. What we find is chastity before marriage, and faithfulness in marriage. 
When we see the statistics of the crimes in our society of sexual nature, it would seem that it is an impossibility to have self control. What does the Bible say?
Galatians 5:23 lists one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit as “self control.” It is by the Holy Spirit that we can maintain self control, but even Paul says there is a time we should get married if our God given passions are running too high. I think the key here to note is when you give your life to Jesus as savior and master, you receive the Holy Spirit. There are a lot of people running around in the world without the Holy Spirit though we as Christians do not escape this deadly sin if we allow our passions to control us rather than we control our passions.   
To avoid the deadly sin of lust, we ask God for the help of the Holy Spirit in self control. I want to move this progression one step further. It is what I call the Christian Habit. 
Section III – The Desired Outcome: Biblical Love. 
In the mythology Pandora’s Box, it is Pandora or the woman who releases all the evil in the world. This is not the story of the Bible. The story we want to tell is “Biblical Love.”   Adam was created in a good creation by God. God saw that Adam was lonely. Adam was unfulfilled. Adam saw all of the animals both male and female so God took from Adam a part of himself to create a woman or the same essence of man or a human being. God created in the Genesis story both male and female and said the female was to be a help. It is hard to go it alone. Two certainly can make it easier. God told them to separate themselves to raise their own family and to be fruitful. In this story, Adam and Eve are equal partners. 
So Biblical love #1 – Both male and female are sacred unto God and both were created to be loved. It is in the love of a relationship that we most easily see what it means to “love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength.” 
Some parts of scripture have been abused. I read unto you from Genesis as part of the curse of sin story in Genesis 3:16, “you will desire your husband, but he will rule over you.” This scripture does not give a husband the right to domineer over his wife, to abuse her, do violence unto her, or to even rape her. Ephesians 5:25 raises the bar for husbands: “as for husbands, love your wives just like Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.” As I Corinthians 13:2, if I don’t love, I am nothing. 
Biblical love #2 – The married relationship is where God commands us to love, and to meet our physical desires.
It is in marriage that we find all 3 Greek words for love coming together: phileo (friends), agape (self giving),and eros (erotic or physical intimacy). Both husband and wife are called together to bring all 3 forms of love into the marriage. 
What we as a society get wrong sometimes is to say or to imply that God is against physical intimacy because we call for times of chastity and faithfulness. That is wrong. God created us just as we are. The problem is when we allow our desires to trump God’s desires. That step of losing our self control is the first step in a downward spiral of sin. Instead, the Bible gives us a love story that is so graphic that we are embarrassed to even talk about it in church. That book is the Song of Solomon. 
The book begins in verse 2 chapter 1 by saying, “if only he would give me some of his kisses.” It is a love story. It is a story of raw passion. It is a story where both man and woman talk about the beauty and the desire they both have for each other.   7:6 says, “you are so beautiful so lovely – my love, delightful one.” 6:3 says, “I belong to my lover and my lover belongs to me.” This story has down through the ages been seen as the love between the church and Jesus – the bride and the bridegroom. What a picture of love. 
So Biblical love in a committed and faithful married relationship is: 
1)       A picture of friendship. What are some qualities of friendship? Read Colossians 3:12-17
2)      A picture of self giving love. Read Ephesians 5:27-33
3)      A picture of erotic love.   Read I Corinthians 7:1-5
Biblical love is love under the self control given as the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Love does not seek to hurt or to bring violence. Love does not force its way. Love always thinks of the other person. Biblical love is not just a place to get my needs met. So we come to Christian Habit #1 – Biblical love – may we bring the proper love in all of our relationships. Amen.
 

 

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Study Guide
 
March 28, 2010
24 Hours and the World Changed
The Crucifixion
 

Jim Whittaker; Original by Adam Hamilton and Church of the Resurrection

 

Mark 15:25-39

25 It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The inscription of the charge

against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his

right and one on his left. 29 Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying,

“Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come

down from the cross!” 31 In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also

mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let

the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.”

Those who were crucified with him also taunted him. 33 When it was noon, darkness came over

the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice,

“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35

When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” 36 And someone

ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait,

let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 Then Jesus gave a loud cry and

breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 Now

when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly

this man was God’s Son!”

 

This is Holy Week – we will read through the account of Jesus’ crucifixion in all four gospels, noting

the differences and meditating upon the words of Jesus from the cross. On Thursday of this

week you are encouraged to here the drama monologue, “Is It I?” This will be our Maundy Thursday service, which will be followed with communion. On Friday you’re invited to join us for a meditative reading of the “Stations of the Cross.” We will celebrate the resurrection with our Easter Sunrise service at 7am at Meroney. 

 

Prayer: God, help us to see your sacrifice more clearly and to appreciate the loving grace you have made available to us. May as we ponder the cross, we be filled with a new sense of gratitude and wonder. May we respond to this act of loving kindness, your sacrifice that should have been ours, by giving ourselves fully unto you. Amen. 

 

Monday, March 29 – This week we’ll read all four gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion. Take a

piece of paper, turn it sideways and make four columns, one for each gospel. Each day make

notes regarding the similarities and differences and your reflections on the last words and moments

in Jesus’ life. Read Matthew 27:32-66. Notice in your reading this week that even now the

people surrounding the cross continue to deride Jesus. This moment represented the apex of evil

in our world – God has come to walk among us, and he is not only crucified, but the crowd, the

soldiers, the priests, even the bandits on the crosses next to him hurl insults at him. What is Jesus

feeling in verse 46? What difference does it make that God, in Jesus, experienced this?

Does it mean anything for you when you pray in moments when you feel God forsaken? Joseph

of Arimethea was a member of the Sanhedrin – one of those who did not speak up when Jesus

was on trial – what do you think he is feeling in vs. 57-60?

 

Tuesday, March 30 – Read Mark 15:21-47. Looking down from the cross, what might it have felt

like for Jesus to see soldiers casting lots (essentially throwing dice) for his clothing? The charge

about destroying the temple was misconstrued by Jesus’ hearers – this was hearsay – Jesus had

referred to his own body as a temple, which would be destroyed and raised up in three days. In

the temple in Jerusalem there was a large and heavy curtain that separated the Holy of Holies

where only the priest could go, from the rest of the temple. What is the significance of the fact

that at Jesus’ death this curtain separating God’s throne room from ordinary worshipers was torn

in two? Notice which of Jesus’ followers were at the cross.

 

Wednesday, March 31 – Read Luke 23:26-56. As we learned last week, verses 28-31 refer to the

destruction of Jerusalem, which will occur 40 years after Jesus’ crucifixion. It will occur because a

would be “messiah” sought to deliver the Jews from the Romans by the power of the sword. The

Romans crushed the revolt and one million Jews were killed while Jerusalem was destroyed. Notice

Jesus’ words from the cross in Luke’s account. Here Jesus is still, as he hangs on the cross,

focused on his mission of seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10). Reflect for a few moments on

the two persons who come to faith in this chapter – what do their stories tell you about Jesus, his

mission, and salvation?

 

Maundy Thursday, April 1 – Read John 19:16b-42. Only John tells us the sign was posted in

three languages – this was likely his way of pointing to the fact that Jesus’ death, and the gospel,

was not only for the Jews, but for the whole world. What do verses 25-27 tell you about Jesus?

When Jesus says, “It is finished,” what does he mean? What is verse 35 meant to convey? Notice

in verse 39 that Nicodemus, another member of the Sanhedrin, joins Joseph. Join us at 7:30

pm in the Sanctuary for the Maundy Thursday service, “Is It I?”

 

Good Friday, April 2 – Jesus is meditating upon Psalm 22 as he hangs from the cross. Today

we have the opportunity to read and reflect upon the very words Jesus was praying and thinking

about as he was dying. Read Psalm 22 and look for the connections between what was happening

as Jesus was being crucified and this Psalm written hundreds of years before. Imagine Jesus

praying this prayer from the cross (which is likely what he was in fact doing). What insight does

this give you into Jesus? Join us for the Good Friday Service “Stations of the Cross” at 7:30pm.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

This study guide is part of the 2006 sermon series given by Adam Hamilton at the Church of the Resurrection. We give thanks for this churches willingness to share with others. See Adam’s book, “24 Hours That Changed the World.” 

Study Guide
 
March 28, 2010
24 Hours and the World Changed
The Crucifixion
 

Jim Whittaker; Original by Adam Hamilton and Church of the Resurrection

 

Mark 15:25-39

25 It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The inscription of the charge

against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his

right and one on his left. 29 Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying,

“Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come

down from the cross!” 31 In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also

mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let

the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.”

Those who were crucified with him also taunted him. 33 When it was noon, darkness came over

the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice,

“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35

When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” 36 And someone

ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait,

let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 Then Jesus gave a loud cry and

breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 Now

when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly

this man was God’s Son!”

 

This is Holy Week – we will read through the account of Jesus’ crucifixion in all four gospels, noting

the differences and meditating upon the words of Jesus from the cross. On Thursday of this

week you are encouraged to here the drama monologue, “Is It I?” This will be our Maundy Thursday service, which will be followed with communion. On Friday you’re invited to join us for a meditative reading of the “Stations of the Cross.” We will celebrate the resurrection with our Easter Sunrise service at 7am at Meroney. 

 

Prayer: God, help us to see your sacrifice more clearly and to appreciate the loving grace you have made available to us. May as we ponder the cross, we be filled with a new sense of gratitude and wonder. May we respond to this act of loving kindness, your sacrifice that should have been ours, by giving ourselves fully unto you. Amen. 

 

Monday, March 29 – This week we’ll read all four gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion. Take a

piece of paper, turn it sideways and make four columns, one for each gospel. Each day make

notes regarding the similarities and differences and your reflections on the last words and moments

in Jesus’ life. Read Matthew 27:32-66. Notice in your reading this week that even now the

people surrounding the cross continue to deride Jesus. This moment represented the apex of evil

in our world – God has come to walk among us, and he is not only crucified, but the crowd, the

soldiers, the priests, even the bandits on the crosses next to him hurl insults at him. What is Jesus

feeling in verse 46? What difference does it make that God, in Jesus, experienced this?

Does it mean anything for you when you pray in moments when you feel God forsaken? Joseph

of Arimethea was a member of the Sanhedrin – one of those who did not speak up when Jesus

was on trial – what do you think he is feeling in vs. 57-60?

 

Tuesday, March 30 – Read Mark 15:21-47. Looking down from the cross, what might it have felt

like for Jesus to see soldiers casting lots (essentially throwing dice) for his clothing? The charge

about destroying the temple was misconstrued by Jesus’ hearers – this was hearsay – Jesus had

referred to his own body as a temple, which would be destroyed and raised up in three days. In

the temple in Jerusalem there was a large and heavy curtain that separated the Holy of Holies

where only the priest could go, from the rest of the temple. What is the significance of the fact

that at Jesus’ death this curtain separating God’s throne room from ordinary worshipers was torn

in two? Notice which of Jesus’ followers were at the cross.

 

Wednesday, March 31 – Read Luke 23:26-56. As we learned last week, verses 28-31 refer to the

destruction of Jerusalem, which will occur 40 years after Jesus’ crucifixion. It will occur because a

would be “messiah” sought to deliver the Jews from the Romans by the power of the sword. The

Romans crushed the revolt and one million Jews were killed while Jerusalem was destroyed. Notice

Jesus’ words from the cross in Luke’s account. Here Jesus is still, as he hangs on the cross,

focused on his mission of seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10). Reflect for a few moments on

the two persons who come to faith in this chapter – what do their stories tell you about Jesus, his

mission, and salvation?

 

Maundy Thursday, April 1 – Read John 19:16b-42. Only John tells us the sign was posted in

three languages – this was likely his way of pointing to the fact that Jesus’ death, and the gospel,

was not only for the Jews, but for the whole world. What do verses 25-27 tell you about Jesus?

When Jesus says, “It is finished,” what does he mean? What is verse 35 meant to convey? Notice

in verse 39 that Nicodemus, another member of the Sanhedrin, joins Joseph. Join us at 7:30

pm in the Sanctuary for the Maundy Thursday service, “Is It I?”

 

Good Friday, April 2 – Jesus is meditating upon Psalm 22 as he hangs from the cross. Today

we have the opportunity to read and reflect upon the very words Jesus was praying and thinking

about as he was dying. Read Psalm 22 and look for the connections between what was happening

as Jesus was being crucified and this Psalm written hundreds of years before. Imagine Jesus

praying this prayer from the cross (which is likely what he was in fact doing). What insight does

this give you into Jesus? Join us for the Good Friday Service “Stations of the Cross” at 7:30pm.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

This study guide is part of the 2006 sermon series given by Adam Hamilton at the Church of the Resurrection. We give thanks for this churches willingness to share with others. See Adam’s book, “24 Hours That Changed the World.” 

Study Guide

Grace Greater than our Sin

March 21, 2010

Jim Whittaker; Original Publisher: Adam Hamilton and the Church of the Resurrection

 
The Torture and Humiliation of the King

Prayer: Lord Jesus, it’s hard to read about your torment. I want to turn my eyes away. But you said you still suffer when children are hungry or hurting, when people lack adequate shelter, when hurts go unhealed, or when even one person is treated unjustly. Often I want to turn my eyes away from those realities, too. Give me even a small portion of your courage. Show me how I can join in your healing, helping work. Amen.

 
 

The Flogging

MONDAY 03.22.10   John 19:1

The Romans used flogging before a crucifixion to utterly dehumanize and shame the prisoner. Jesus had told the disciples he would be flogged in Jerusalem (Matthew 20:19, Mark 10:34, Luke 18:33). In Matthew 10:17 and Mark 13:9 he warned his followers that some of them, too, would face flogging.

·         Reflect on  Isaiah 53:5: “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” In what ways does it speak to your heart that Jesus chose to bear a penalty that was rightfully ours? What limitations (if any) do you see in that image of the meaning of Jesus' suffering and death?

·         Jesus' prophecy that his followers would be flogged came true (see Acts 5:40, 16:23; 2 Corinthians 11:23-24). What do you as Christ’s follower in the 21st century face that, in your mind, is hard for you in ways akin to what the early Christians faced?

 
 
 

The Humiliation of the King

TUESDAY 03.23.10   Mark 15:16-19

In Mark 14:65, the religious leaders spit on Jesus and struck him with their fists. The Roman soldiers had more practice abusing prisoners. They added a crown of thorns, a purple robe, and mocking shouts of “Hail, King of the Jews!” between blows. They didn’t limit the “fun” to just the soldiers on duty—they called out the whole company to join in.

·          “God knows what it means to feel small, to be attacked mentally and emotionally, and to be physically abused.” When have you faced abuse that made you feel helpless or small? How can it be healing to realize that Jesus shared that painful experience with you?

·         Jesus had not insulted or threatened the Roman soldiers. Their cruelty toward him was casual. Do you see any parallel between their actions and the jeering at others that goes on around business rivalries, political issues or even sports (it is “March Madness” time)? Is that “just fun,” or have you ever seen (or felt) it turn cruel?

 
 
 

They Compelled Simon to Carry His Cross

WEDNESDAY 03.24.10   Mark 15:21

After all of the flogging and abuse, it’s no shock Jesus couldn’t carry the heavy cross beam all the way to Golgotha. Simon was likely a Passover pilgrim (Cyrene was in what is Libya today). Being forced to carry the cross no doubt felt like being “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” But that bit of “bad luck” seems to have forever changed his life for the better.

·         Mark named Simon’s sons. That only made sense if his Christian readers knew them. In Romans 16:13 Paul greeted a Christian named “Rufus,” likely Simon’s son. (William Barclay also notes that in Acts 13:1 the Christian leaders in Antioch included “Simeon called Niger.” Simeon is a form of Simon, and “Niger” a term used to mean persons from Africa. This may well have been Simon of Cyrene.) . In that frightening and burdensome interruption of Good Friday, Simon’s life would forever be changed.” What interruptions or accidents have had positive results in your life?  How do you watch for God in the unexpected?

 
 
 

The Crucifixion

THURSDAY 03.25.10   Mark 15:25-26

Crosses didn’t tower against the skyline according to research by Pastor Adam Hamilton. He notes they were only eight or nine feet high. Rome wanted people to see, clearly and close-up, what happened if they defied the Empire. So Mark didn’t need to offer any gory details about Jesus' crucifixion. His readers knew exactly what crucifixions were like—and shuddered.

·         John 12:23-24 quotes Jesus: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified…. unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” What do you think Jesus meant in saying the horror of a crucifixion would “glorify” him? What glory do you see in his death on a cross?

·         In 1 Corinthians 1, the apostle Paul said the message of Christ crucified was “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” In what ways are those words true of the way many people today react to the Christian message? What would you tell a friend who asked, “Why do you believe that stuff about Jesus' death saving the world?”

 
 
 

Father, Forgive Them

FRIDAY 03.26.10   Matthew 27:38-44; Luke 23:34

Jesus' enemies had stalked him for most of three years. Their ugly glee at seeing him on a cross mirrors with eerie precision the words of Psalm 22:7-8. Without meaning to, they “preached” a spiritual truth: “He saved others, but he can't save himself!” Even in extreme pain of body and mind, Jesus asked God to forgive his tormentors’ ignorance.

·         Jesus taught, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” How can you do this without “stuffing” valid feelings of pain and hurt? What enemy can you pray for today?

·         In their seeming triumph, Jesus' enemies chose an odd criticism. They admitted he’d saved others (which a bad man couldn’t have done). They couldn’t imagine having power, but not using it for yourself. When has hatred, fear or other emotions clouded your power to see a situation (or your own words and actions) clearly?

 
 
 

Behold Your Mother

SATURDAY 03.27.10   John 19:25-27

A widow with no son or other male relative to protect her had few legal rights and little social status in Jesus’ day. Jesus had showed compassion to such a woman in Luke 7:11-15. He would do no less for his mother. He could not just give her back the son she had borne, as he did for the widow in Nain. So, suffering as he was, he provided for his mother by asking one of his most faithful followers to care for her.

·         We often tell one another that we’ll “be there” for each other. In what ways was Mary “there” for Jesus during the years of his earthly life? What price did she have to pay in order to “be there” as he was crucified? How was Jesus “there” for Mary, in spite of the suffering he was going through? How confident are you that Jesus will be there for you when you face difficult times?

 

Family Activity: Jesus taught His followers to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Ask each family member to name one person who sometimes makes life hard, and share what that person does to make life difficult. Discuss how Jesus wants us to forgive others, and also to love and pray for them. Ask family members how they feel about Jesus’ teaching. Have your family choose a number between 1 and 9. On each day of the month that includes that number, spend time praying for those “enemies.” Also on those days, share how you are finding those prayers answered. Remember to ask God and others for forgiveness when you are hurtful. Thank God for the gift of forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Many thanks to Rev. Adam Hamilton and the staff of the Church of the Resurrection who makes this study guide available to all churches doing the study of the last 24 hours of Jesus. Adam Hamilton has published a book and devotional guide titled, “24 Hours that Changed the World. “

Study Guide – 24 Hours and the World Changed

 

Bonlee Charge (Meroney & West End UMC)

March 14, 2010

Jesus, Barabbas and Pilate

Developed by the Rev. Adam Hamilton, Church of the Resurrection

PrayerDear Jesus, this week I will read about Pilate and Herod, who treated you like a disposable peasant they could use in games of political intrigue. I will read about religious people who chose Jesus Barabbas’ violent actions over your path of healing peace and love. Speak to my heart as I read. Strengthen me more and more to see through my cultural training and assumptions, to recognize your truth. As I see, help me to choose you. Amen.

 
 

A Choice Between Two Saviors

MONDAY 03.15.10   Matthew 27:15-17

The other three gospels just call him “Barabbas.” Matthew makes the choice more pointed by adding that the full name of the other man Pilate offered to release at Passover was “Jesus Barabbas.” Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua (“God saves”), a fairly common man’s name at that time.

·         Matthew calls Jesus Barabbas a “well-known prisoner.” Why well-known? Mark 15:7, Luke 23:19 and John 18:40 say he took part in an insurrection against the Romans. No doubt many saw him as a heroic freedom fighter defending their nation. To the Romans, he was a terrorist. Who gets your vote: Jesus Barabbas, the violent man willing to fight the bad guys, or Jesus of Nazareth, who taught us to love our enemies?

·         Barabbas was sentenced to die, but Jesus died instead. We don’t know if that did or did not affect Barabbas. In a much deeper sense, Jesus died instead of you, and you get to choose how that affects you. How do you respond to Jesus’ self-giving love?

 
 
The Conscience of a Spouse
TUESDAY 03.16.10   Matthew 27:19

Have you ever wondered how Matthew could have known this story?  Pilate’s wife may have told it.  Adam Hamilton uses Procula and others Claudia for Pilate’s wife’s name. The Eastern Orthodox and Ethiopian churches honor her as a saint. If indeed she became a Christian, she probably shared this story.

·           Many of us want “they lived happily ever after” in marriage to mean constant peace, with no challenges or growth for either spouse.   Adam Hamilton’s devotional suggests God calls spouses to help each other do the right thing. How open are you to letting your spouse, family, or trusted friends help you discern God’s path?

·         In Matthew 1-3, God spoke to Jesus' human father Joseph (as to the patriarch Joseph) by dreams. God speaks in many ways—through the Bible, prayer, other people, inner Holy Spirit “nudges,” and other ways. How do you usually “hear” God most clearly? Might God ever speak to you (as to Pilate) in a way you don’t expect?

 
                                                                                                  

The Examination by Herod

WEDNESDAY 03.17.10   Luke 23:7-11

There are several “Herods” to keep straight in the Bible. This was not Herod the Great, who killed infants in Bethlehem when Jesus was born. It was a son of his—Herod Antipas, who ruled just the province of Galilee, and executed John the Baptist. Pilate tried to duck the need to decide about the Galilean Jesus by sending him to Herod Antipas.

·         “He was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard…he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort.” The ironic view of Herod in Jesus Christ, Superstar fits these verses well. What kind of “performance” do want from Jesus? What happens to your faith if you don’t get it?

·         Verse 11 says when Jesus gave him no answers, “Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him.” Jesus seemed helpless, in their power. What person(s) in your school, neighborhood, or workplace can you safely ridicule and mock? How can you treat people the way Jesus did, rather than the way Herod did?

 

What Is Truth?

THURSDAY 03.18.10   John 18:33-38

Jesus and Pilate were like two people “talking past each other.” Pilate was, literally, down-to-earth—“So you are a king?” he asked. “What have you done?” But this earth didn’t bind Jesus’ thinking. “I am a king,” he said, “but my kingdom is not of this world.” For Pilate, that was a baffling answer. He may have thought, “What other world than this is there?”

·         Like many today, Pilate asked, “What is truth?” He implied that no one knows. Yet Jesus said, “The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth.” Jesus knew clearly the limits of human insight. What do you believe was the core truth Jesus came to witness to? Can you believe it without pride or exclusivism?

·         “I find no basis for a charge against him.” Pilate had treated the people of Jerusalem too harshly. Politically, he couldn’t offend them again. Jesus was not guilty, he knew, but he was expendable. When have you seen an innocent person harassed or abused? What, if anything, did you do? How do you want to act in such a case in the future?

 
                                                                                            

The Shout of the Crowd

FRIDAY 03.19.10   Matthew 27:22-25

Adam Hamilton’s book (pp. 118-119) points out that the “crowd” who shouted for Jesus' death did not include most of the people of Jerusalem.  Many worked for the priests and rulers (see verse 20). Others no doubt lost money when Jesus cleansed the Temple.

·         Take some prayerful time to grapple with this searching question from p. 120 of Pastor Hamilton’s devotional book: “What darkness do you see in your own soul? Bigotry? Hatred? Anger when your sin is exposed? Frustration when others do not see eye to eye with you? Can you see yourself in the crowd?”

·         For centuries, some have used verse 25 (“"His blood is on us and on our children!") to justify bias, persecution and cruelty against Jews. It’s one of the darkest stains on Christian history. As noted, that crowd was a small sample of the people in Jerusalem. Pilate and the Romans were just as guilty, despite Pilate’s showy hand washing. What prejudices get in the way of you loving your neighbor as yourself?

 
 

Wishing to Satisfy the Crowd

SATURDAY 03.20.10   Mark 15:15

Pontius Pilate asked, one last time, “What crime has he committed?” The crowd didn’t answer; they just roared, “Crucify him!” A weak man in a position of trust chose to allow a gross injustice rather than stand up to a crowd. This part of the story may be most disturbing, not because it is strange, but rather because it rings true to the human condition. If we’re honest, most of us find the seeds of Pilate’s choice in our own hearts.

·         In today’s devotional reading, Pastor Hamilton asks us, “What happens when you are faced with doing something you believe is right but which will cause a large number of people to be upset with you, maybe even turn against you?...When have you said or done things aimed at satisfying the crowd? When have you remained silent when you should have spoken out?” (40 Days of Reflection, pp. 122-123)

 

Family Activity: Place a handful of coins in a container. As a family, take the coins with you to a nearby fountain. Sit together beside the fountain, and ask each person to take one or more coins. Explain that this is a time to tell God “I’m sorry” for any sins committed. In turn, ask each person to confess his or her sin to God by praying aloud or silently, “Lord, I am sorry I _____”. Then toss a coin into the water. Repeat this process as many times as anyone feels the need. When everyone is finished, invite family members to dip their hands in the fountain for a quick washing. Finish your time by praying together, “Thank you, God, for your promise of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Amen.”

 

Again, this week we give thanks to Rev. Adam Hamilton, the staff at the Church of the Resurrection, and for the Facebook Planning page for other pastors doing this series. 

 

Study Guide - 24 Hours and the World Changed

 

March 7, 2010 – GPS – Grow, Pray, and Study

Week #3 - Condemned by the Righteous

Developed by the Church of the Resurrection, Adam Hamilton Pastor

Used as is at Bonlee Charge UMC – Pastor Jim Whittaker

 

Prayer: Lord Jesus, many of the religious leaders expected to praise the Messiah when he came—because he had conquered their enemies. You came as promised. But you didn’t value what they valued, and they didn’t praise you. They offered you insults, mistreatment, false witnesses and condemnation. Now, 2000 years later, help me to value what you value, so that I can praise and honor you from the depths of my heart. Amen.

Blasphemy

MONDAY 03.08.10   Mark 14:61-65

Jesus ignored the false witnesses. He broke his silence when the High Priest asked him directly if he was the Messiah. His answer used images of the Messiah from three Old Testament passages, as Pastor Hamilton outlines on pp. 78-80 of his devotional book. Jesus was truth incarnate, and he would not deny that.

In Exodus 3:14, God told Moses, “Say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me.’” In John 8:58 Jesus said, “Before Abraham was born, I AM!” and his hearers tried to stone him. How big was the claim when Jesus answered the high priest’s question with “I AM”? Why do you think Jesus did not ignore this question, as he did the others?

Verse 65 is sad: “Some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, ‘Prophesy!’” These were religious leaders, not Roman soldiers. Have you ever wanted to hurt someone in the name of a cause you believe is holy? How can we stand up for good without giving in to evil actions (see Romans 12:17-21)?

 

Giving Peter Credit

TUESDAY 03.09.10   Luke 22:54-55

The soldiers took Jesus, not to a public court, but to the home of the wealthy, powerful high priest. It took courage for Peter, a simple fisherman, to be in that courtyard at all.  See below a model of what Caiaphas’ house might have been like.

Peter, uninvited, bravely followed Jesus into that courtyard. Would you have?

Peter walked on water (Matthew 14:28-29). Peter came right out and said Jesus was the Messiah (Mark 8:27-29). Peter insisted that he would go with Jesus “to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33). How did Peter show his personal courage and boldness in the crisis of Jesus' arrest? What was he still missing that led him to fail?

As Pastor Hamilton asks in his day 18 devotional reading, when has your faith ever required courage of you? What are some of the ways that faith can call for courage even when you aren’t facing arrest or physical danger?

 

A Failure of Nerve

WEDNESDAY 03.10.10   Mark 14:66-72

Pastor Hamilton’s devotional book asks why all four gospels would tell the story of Peter denying Jesus. We’re used to a notable person’s rivals telling negative stories to shame that person. But Peter was a leader among the early Christians, so this wasn’t told with malice. No doubt he told this story himself, offering all of us the hope and renewal he’d found.

In Luke 9:26, Jesus called us to take up our cross. He added, “If any of you are ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes.” What are some ways in which you could be ashamed of Jesus in your daily life? Do you see a difference between being ashamed of Jesus and being tactful or tolerant?

When the rooster crowed, awakening Peter to what he had done, “he broke down and wept.” Have you learned and felt the difference between a) destructive guilt, shame and self-hatred, and b) the healing, cleansing power of God-given sorrow over a failure to be the person God is calling you to be?

 

If Judas Had Only Waited

THURSDAY 03.11.10   Matthew 27:3-5

Judas left so many questions behind him. What made those 30 pieces of silver, so eagerly received just a day earlier, now so hateful to him that he flung them away? Peter found forgiveness. As Pastor Hamilton’s reading suggests, it seems certain Judas would have, too—if only he’d waited.

Judas and Peter—both failed Jesus. Judas ended his own life in despair, while forty days later, Peter boldly proclaimed the risen Jesus on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). What made the difference? How can you see your failures redeemed and your life empowered as Peter did?

On Feb. 18, Joseph Stack flew his plane into a building in Austin, TX. He left a note saying his self-destructive act was “the only answer.” Judas seemed to reach the same conclusion. If you ever feel that suicide is the only answer, get help!

 

Where Were the Dissenters?

FRIDAY 03.12.10   Mark 14:63-64

Every so often some nation holds an “election” in which the country’s ruler gets 98.4% of the votes. We know those are not open, free elections—humans just don’t agree to that extent! We don’t know the details of how the high priest got this unanimous condemnation of Jesus. We can be pretty sure it did not arise from thoughtful, open discussion.

“Blasphemy” could mean a mortal claiming to be God, the charge against Jesus. It could also mean insulting or lying about God. When God in human flesh met religious leaders who insulted and condemned him, who was really committing blasphemy? How can you live a life that speaks the truth about God to those who know you?

“They all condemned him as worthy of death.” Imagine yourself as a member of that council, knowing the high priest and his inner circle have made up their minds. Would you be the one voice that said, “Hold on—I don’t agree”? Are you willing to speak out about an injustice or cruelty, even if everyone else is silent?

 

On Trial Before Pontius Pilate

SATURDAY 03.13.10   Mark 15:1-5

Pontius Pilate seemed important—Rome’s highest official in Jerusalem. Jesus seemed insignificant—a poor, traveling preacher despised and rejected by the leaders of his own faith community. Who could have guessed that today most of us wouldn’t know Pontius Pilate’s name except for his sad role in condemning Jesus?

The religious leaders hated tax collectors for working with Rome. Now they pleaded with the Roman procurator to help them silence Jesus. Have you ever seen (or been) a person who was willing to use bad means to achieve a purpose that seemed good? From God’s perspective, who was really on trial—Jesus, or Pilate and the religious leaders, who refused to acknowledge Jesus as their king?

Family Activity: The chief priests accused Jesus of many wrongs. Jesus stayed faithful to God and himself through His many trials. Engage in a family conversation around this aspect of Jesus. What character traits did Jesus display as He was talked about and treated this way? How did Jesus respond to the accusations and assumptions directed at Him? Discuss a time when each of you has been wrongly accused—maybe by a classmate, co-worker or sibling. How did that feel? How did you respond? Have you ever found yourself to be an accuser like the chief priests? Brainstorm steps that can help each of you, when wrongly accused or feeling a desire to assume or accuse others of wrongdoing, to pause, take a deep breath, and remember Jesus.

 

Many Thanks to Adam Hamilton and his staff as they have created and are maintaining a Facebook page to assist other pastors in preaching this series on the last 24 hours of Jesus. 

 

Study Guide

24 Hours and the World Changed

February 28, 2010 – Week 2 of Series

The Garden of Gethsemane
 

Prayer:Lord Jesus, you agonized while people who proudly claimed to be close to God plotted your destruction. But even when the sadness and fear were worst, you didn’t give up and run away from your mission. Because you didn’t, I can trust your faithfulness to help me grow, and to give me eternal life. Thank you for loving me (and all of us) that much. Amen.

 

Father, Let This Cup Pass From Me

MONDAY 03.01.10  Mark 14:35-36

It’s been said, “Salvation is free, but it was not cheap.” When the reality of the cross—the cruelest death the Roman Empire could devise—loomed just ahead, Jesus felt that with awful clarity. He had purposefully come to this city and this moment. Even so, the question came: “Father, isn’t there some other way?”

·                           Mark says that even in the uncertainty and anguish he felt in Gethsemane, Jesus called God the Aramaic word abba. It was a close family word—the nearest English parallel is “daddy.” What light does that cast on Jesus' spirit of complete trust? How good are you at continuing to trust God when things turn difficult in your life?

·                           Pursuing God’s will is sometimes costly. When have you struggled over a choice or a sacrifice that you believed God was calling you to make? In today’s devotional reading, Pastor Hamilton asks, “Are you willing, even grudgingly, to go where God calls and do what God asks, regardless of the cost?”

 

Two Gardens

TUESDAY 03.02.10   John 18:1; Mark 14:36

Why does John alone describe Jesus’ as going to a “garden?” John’s gospel draws imagery from the primeval stories of Genesis, starting with the words “In the beginning…”. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve fell into sin in a garden. Now, from another garden, Jesus goes to redeem the human family from sin.

·                           “Not what I will, but what you will” are among the best known of all Jesus' words. Yet we often quote them at times like the death of a loved one, in which we had no choice. What was Jesus’ active choice, reflected in those words of submission? In what ways do you have to choose, intentionally, to do God’s will rather than your own?

·                           In Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, Paul presents Jesus as the “second Adam.” Genesis 3 says the first Adam’s choice to pursue his own will rather than God’s brought a loss of innocence, and led to death. How has Jesus' choice to follow God’s will set you on a course toward goodness, restored innocence and eternal life?

 

He Came and Found Them Sleeping

WEDNESDAY 03.03.10   Mark 14:37-41

Jesus had asked his disciples to “keep watch.” The New Revised Standard Version renders the phrase as “stay awake,” which follows logically. No one ever rewarded a watchman for falling asleep! Jesus yearned to have his closest friends praying with him as he (and they) faced the supreme test of the cross.

·                           Jesus lived out his teaching that community is vital to our soul’s health. To what extent do your disposition and family history make it hard for you to ask for support and help? Are you more at ease giving someone else support than receiving help from them?

·                           When Jesus urged his disciples to spiritual alertness (Matthew 25:13; Mark 13:34-35), he used the same phrase (“keep watch”) as in the garden. When you are mentally asleep and miss a chance to serve God and bless someone else, how do you react? Do you give yourself human blame or Jesus’ grace (“the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” —verse 38)? What helps you stay awake to God’s call for you?

 

Betrayed With a Kiss

THURSDAY 03.04.10   Mark 14:43-46

In Jesus' culture, a kiss from a disciple was a sign of great regard and honor for his teacher. It was most unusual that Judas chose a kiss as the betrayal signal. Was he “rubbing salt in the wound,” or revealing his own deep inner conflict about betraying Jesus?

·                           Judas brought with him “a crowd armed with swords and clubs…from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.” Jesus' enemies treated him as a political and military threat, more than a spiritual one. What is the last problem or issue you saw solely on a human level, while forgetting to seek God’s perspective?

·                           Judas’ kiss was “a sign perhaps…of a love for this man and yet a desire to be free of him, of a love for God’s kingdom and a desire for the kingdoms of this world.” In what ways do you find yourself torn between love for God and love for “the kingdoms of this world”?

 

The Trial Before the Righteous

FRIDAY 03.05.10   Mark 14:53, 55

The “Sanhedrin” was the 71-member ruling religious court for the Hebrews. As such, they should have been the most fair-minded, conscientious group Jesus could have encountered. But they knew the conclusion before the “trial” ever started. They gathered, not to weigh evidence, but to find a reason to do what they’d already decided to do.

·                           It’s easy—almost too easy—to look at the members of the Sanhedrin who pre-judged Jesus and think, “How awful they were!” What aspects of their attitudes or behaviors can you identify in your own life? How can you remain open to the ways that God’s message might come to you even through an “unlikely” person?

·                           A long view of this story becomes truly sobering. The Sanhedrin saw themselves as the “best of the best,” the leaders of God’s people on earth. Yet when God came among them in person, they condemned him to death. How can we keep our faith centered on God’s goodness, not our own righteousness and traditions?

 

Destroy This Temple

SATURDAY 03.06.10   Mark 14:56-59

Jesus often used “prophetic hyperbole.” The only charge the witnesses against him could agree on meant taking his hyperbolic words literally (see John 2:19-22). Deuteronomy 19:16-21 said false witnesses should face the penalty their false charge would have created. This Sanhedrin just ignored that command.

·                           When Solomon dedicated the first Temple, he prayed a profound prayer recorded in 1 Kings 8. In that prayer, he acknowledged that no earthly building could contain God. But by Jesus’ day, the leaders were willing to kill God to preserve the Temple. How can we honor God even more than we honor the important earthly symbols that point to God?

Family Activity: Jesus needed friends. He asked His closest friends to be with Him in the garden while He prayed. Think about times when you and your family have needed extra help and support. Discuss whether or not you have been willing to ask others to support and serve you. What makes it hard for you to do that (e.g. “don’t like to seem weak,” “hate to be a burden,” etc.)? When your friends are in need, how are you willing to be present and supportive for them? Choose one way to lift others up this Lenten season. And when you are need prayer, encouragement or help, follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Learn to seek, and to welcome, the help and support of your friends.

 

Recognition: Many thanks to Adam Hamilton and his staff at the Church of the Resurrection in Leland, Kansas that has posted worship planning helps on Facebook and other helps on Twitter. Also, Adam Hamilton has written a book worth checking out, “24 Hours That Changed the World.”

Pastor Jim

Bonlee Charge UMC

 

GPS (Grow, Pray, Study) Guide
From Adam Hamilton’s Facebook Page for Pastor’s http://www.facebook.com/notes/24-hours-worship-planning/gps-grow-pray-study-guide-week-1/298998421380
February 21, 2010
The Last Supper
 

Prayer: Lord Jesus, bread is such a basic food. Teach me that your life and your love are just as basic   to my spiritual health. Make my heart as hungry for your life and love as my stomach gets for food and drink. Amen.

What Is Your Price?

MONDAY 02.22.10  Matthew 26:14-16

We read about “the Twelve,” but Jesus had more than twelve followers. (In Luke 10, he sent out at least 70.) All four gospels specify that Judas was “one of the Twelve,” because “the Twelve” were the ones Jesus was closest to. Treachery is always sad, but this was a shocking betrayal by a member of Jesus' inner circle.

·         Exodus 21:32 said if you accidentally killed or badly hurt a slave, you owed the owner 30 pieces of silver. That was about five weeks’ wages for an average worker, a modest price—but it was Judas’ price. What does it mean to you to be loyal to Jesus? In what ways do you show how much that loyalty means to you?

·         On pages 29-30 of 40 Days of Reflection, Pastor Hamilton reviews the main views of why Judas sold Jesus out. The only reason the gospels give for his choice is a desire for money (e.g. John 12:4-6). How easy or hard do you find it to accept Jesus' teaching that “life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15)?

 
I Go to Prepare a Place for You
TUESDAY 02.23.10   John 14:1-3

In John 13:33, Jesus told the disciples, “I will be with you only a little longer.” Peter almost immediately asked, “Lord, where are you going?” To what was probably a circle of worried faces, Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled…I will come back.” Jesus couldn’t leave, they thought. How would they get along without him?

·         At times we tend to ‘sell’ people on heaven by listing benefits— golden streets, no death, mansions. (Translators believe a phrase like “my Father's house has plenty of room” is more accurate than “many mansions.”) What one feature of the future life did Jesus mention in verse 3? What do you most look forward to in being with Jesus?

·         John says Jesus promised the disciples a “comforter” or “advocate” (Greek Paraclete, literally “one who stands with”). In verse 18 he said the Holy Spirit’s presence was the same as his: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” How have you sensed Jesus with you through the Holy Spirit’s work in your life?

 
The Mandates of Maundy Thursday
WEDNESDAY 02.24.10   John 15:5, 8-13

Old Testament writers (e.g. Hosea 10:1, Jeremiah 2:21) spoke of Israel as a vine God planted. In Jesus' day, a golden vine in the Temple symbolized Israel’s link to God. But Jesus said Israel’s faith found its fullest expression in him; he is the vine. The image led to a key object lesson: no branch grows and bears fruit unless it stays joined to the vine.

·         What are some of the ways that you “abide” in Jesus? What commitments or behaviors have you heard other Christians say have helped them to remain “connected to the vine”? Prayerfully choose one new way you will seek to deepen your abiding in Jesus.

·         Jesus said his way of life leads to love and joy: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete...Love each other as I have loved you” (verse 11-12). Would those who know you best say “love” and “joy” describe your life? What experiences or fears block you from experiencing God’s love and joy?

 
A Song of Praise in the Face of Death
THURSDAY 02.25.10   Mark 14:26; Psalm 118:1-29

Mark put no detail in his brief account of how the Last Supper ended. Perhaps that is because anyone who knew the Jewish faith would have known that the last hymn sung at the end of Passover was Psalm 118. Pastor Hamilton, in his devotional for today, invites us to read Psalm 118. See what part of the psalm speaks to you most strongly.

·         Psalm 118:6 says, “The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can human beings do to me?” What do you think those words would have meant to Jesus as he sang them in the upper room hours before his crucifixion? How do those words speak to any fears you carry in your heart?

·         Psalm 118:17 says, “I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.” Again, try to imagine the thoughts and feelings Jesus might have had as he sang those words. We’re tempted to think suffering means God hasn’t done anything for us. What can you say about what the Lord has done for you in and through suffering?

 
The Mount of Olives
FRIDAY 02.26.10   Luke 22:39

Jesus didn’t “just happen” to be on the Mount of Olives at his arrest. Luke says Jesus went to the Mount “as usual” (literally “as was his custom”). This fits with what we know of Jesus' disciplined way of life. Pastor Hamilton’s devotional connects Jesus’ custom with Zechariah’s prophecy (Zechariah 14:4) that Judah’s king would stand on the Mount of Olives.

·         John 18:2 says Judas knew just where to find Jesus because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. God’s can meet us anywhere, but Jesus (like many of God’s people) knew the value of having a special place of prayer. Have you chosen such a place for your own prayer life? If not, will you choose one and use it often?

·         We keep finding “king” and “kingdom” images. We are used to living in a democracy, so these can be tough. Like all images, they have their limits. God, for example, does not rule by coercion and fear, as many kings have. What does it mean to you to make Jesus your king? In what ways is it hard for you to submit to him totally?

 
He Began to Be Distressed and Agitated
SATURDAY 02.27.10   Mark 14:32-34

There are olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane so old they may have been in the garden when Jesus prayed there.  Historically, Christians believe Jesus was fully human and fully divine. His anguish in the garden shows an aspect of what “fully human” means.

·         When was the last time you were “deeply distressed and troubled”? Did others tell you (or did you tell yourself) that you ought to be stronger, that you shouldn’t feel what you felt? Hebrews 4:15 says Jesus is not “a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses.” He knows what terrible grief and fear feel like, and he weeps with you and walks through the feelings with you.

Family Activity: Even though Jesus knew He could pray to God anywhere, He used the Mount of Olives as a special place of prayer. We can also pray to God anywhere, yet we can follow in Jesus’ footsteps and identify a special place of prayer. As a family, walk around the different rooms in your home. Where does your family feel most comfortable and at peace? Where would you enjoy spending time talking to and listening to God? After listening to each other’s ideas, discuss and agree upon a special place where you can pray together as a family this Lenten season. Invite each person to place a symbol or an object in the prayer area that will help your family focus on spending time with God.

 


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