Sermons

God Disappointed?

Psalm 103:1-12
Luke 22:14-20

Last fall I preached a sermon series on what to do when, for whatever reason, we are Disappointed with God. Today I would like to turn that around and consider why and what to do when we think God is disappointed in us.

Have you ever disappointed someone? When that happens, how do we react?

We can become embarrassed, ashamed, guilty, humiliated, and/or ill at ease. In other words, uncomfortable in the presence of the one we’ve let down. And we often begin to create scenarios about how we think that person feels about us. They are disappointed in me, upset, maybe angry, they don’t want me around. And so we avoid them if possible. And when it’s not, it’s hard to look them in the eye, let alone carry on a meaningful conversation.

How many of you would be willing to admit that you have let God down? And that He is; therefore, disappointed in us.

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The War Within

Galatians 5:16-25

As kids, we almost all inevitably faced the temptation at one point or another to slip our favorite candy bar into our pocket at a store without paying for it. So easy, and harmless, right?

That’s what a 38-year-old New Jersey man seemed to be thinking when he robbed the exact same 7-Eleven store at knifepoint four different times in four days—just to satisfy his craving for candy. His escapade began on a Monday and came to an end on Thursday as he was caught red-handed with a dozen Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups stuffed down his pants and later pled guilty to first degree armed robbery. He said to the Judge, “I know I shouldn’t have done it, I know it was wrong, but I couldn’t help it. I would do anything to get my hands on Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.” 1

That story illustrates exactly what Paul is discussing with us in Galatians 5:16:25:

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

There is a tug of war that goes on in our hearts; in yours and in mine; where on the one hand we desire to serve and follow Jesus and on the other, we desire to serve and follow self. I call it the war within; what do you think?

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The Sirens Call

Proverbs 7:1-23
I Thessalonians 4:1-8

In Homer’s Odyssey, the Sirens were gorgeous, but dangerous creatures, who lived on rocky islands in the Aegean Sea. From the waist down fish, from the waist up strikingly beautiful women, the Sirens sang spellbindingly beautiful songs that would lure passing sailors to their deaths. As they sang, sailors couldn’t resist the temptation and flung themselves over the sides of the ship to swim toward the enchanting voices, only to be dashed to death upon the jagged rocks that surrounded islands.

A couple hundred years before Homer composed the Odyssey, a man named Solomon penned the Proverbs. In chapter 7, he blares out a warning to resist the temptation of the sirens:

Follow my advice, my son; always treasure my commands. Obey my commands and live! Guard my instructions as you guard your own eyes. Tie them on your fingers as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart. Love wisdom like a sister; make insight a beloved member of your family. Let them protect you from an affair with an immoral woman, from listening to the flattery of a promiscuous woman.

While I was at the window of my house, looking through the curtain, I saw some naive young men, and one in particular who lacked common sense. He was crossing the street near the house of an immoral woman, strolling down the path by her house. It was at twilight, in the evening, as deep darkness fell. The woman approached him, seductively dressed and sly of heart. She was the brash, rebellious type, never content to stay at home. She is often in the streets and markets, soliciting at every corner. She threw her arms around him and kissed him, and with a brazen look she said, “I’ve just made my peace offerings and fulfilled my vows. You’re the one I was looking for! I came out to find you, and here you are! My bed is spread with beautiful blankets, with colored sheets of Egyptian linen. I’ve perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let’s drink our fill of love until morning. Let’s enjoy each other’s caresses, for my husband is not home. He’s away on a long trip. He has taken a wallet full of money with him and won’t return until later this month. “So she seduced him with her pretty speech and enticed him with her flattery. He followed her at once, like an ox going to the slaughter. He was like a stag caught in a trap, awaiting the arrow that would pierce its heart. He was like a bird flying into a snare, little knowing it would cost him his life. (Proverbs 7:1-23).

Now having heard Solomon’s warning, would like to venture a guess as to what commands he was referring to? “Thou shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14)
And “Thou shall not covet. Thou shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.” (Exodus 20:17).

Homer, Solomon; does the great Apostle Paul have anything he’d like to add?

Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way that pleases God, as we have taught you. You live this way already, and we encourage you to do so even more. For you remember what we taught you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor; not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways. Never harm or cheat a fellow believer in this matter by violating his wife, for the Lord avenges all such sins, as we have solemnly warned you before. God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives. Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. (I Thessalonians 4:1-8).

Next month we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong saying, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Most people aren’t aware that as he was climbing back in the lunar lander, Neal quipped to himself, “Good luck, Mr. Gorsky.” Many at NASA thought it was a remark concerning some rival Soviet Cosmonaut. However, upon checking, there was no Gorsky in the Russian space program. Over the years many people questioned Armstrong, but he would just smile. Until 1995, while answering questions in Tampa, he finally talked about it. In 1938 he was a kid playing baseball in his backyard in Wapakoneta, Ohio. He chased a ball which landed near an open window of the Gorsky’s. As he leaned down to pick up the ball, 8-year-old Armstrong heard his neighbor, Mrs. Gorsky, shouting at Mr. Gorsky: “Sex? You’ll get sex when the kid next door walks on the moon!” 1

The almost 3,000-year-old image of the seductive sirens luring their victims to their deaths upon the rocks is as illustrative today as it was in Homer’s time.

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Hold Fast and Draw Near

Hebrews 4:14-16

Last week, I was straight up with you about how enticing temptation can be, about how once we give into it how intoxicating sin can be; about how destructive patterns of sin always lead to negative consequences. And although we ended by focusing on getting help from Jesus, I just had a feeling as you walked out that some, perhaps many of you, were feeling discouraged, perhaps doubting your faith, and wondering if you are really a Christian at all. In that case, you have something in common with the people to whom the letter titled Hebrews was written.

And so, I decided to turn to Hebrews chapter 4 to form the basis of a message of God’s mercy and grace, so that we can draw near to the Communion table in confidence we are accepted and thereby offer God the worship He deserves.

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same temptations we do, yet He did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians who were being tempted.

They were not just being tempted to sin in the ways that are familiar with us; breaking one of the 10 commandments, refusing to forgive another, outbursts of jealousy or anger, envy or lust; though they may have been guilty of any or all of these. No, the sin they were being tempted to commit was far more dangerous to their souls than any of those. Because they were being tempted to give up on faith in Christ altogether. They were no longer sure they wanted to sing.

‘Why would they do that,’ you ask? And the answer is they were experiencing some sort of persecution for their faith.

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Think Again and Pray

II Samuel 11:1-5
I Corinthians 10:1-12

In an article in Today’s Christian Woman, a Sarah Ames writes that her 7 year-old daughter, Jessica, is a deep thinker when it comes to theological questions. They had recently discussed the why bad things happen sometimes, re-reading the story of Adam and Eve and how sin came into the world. Later that week, Jessica was ill and had to stay home from school. Feeling miserable, she told her mother: “If only Adam and Even hadn’t eaten the fruit, I wouldn’t be sick.”
Before her mother could respond, Jessica added: “Of course, if they didn’t eat it, we’d be sitting here naked.” 1

I think her mom was right . . . Jessica sounds like a ‘deep thinker.’

As we begin to talk about how to overcome temptation, Paul is encouraging you to emulate Jessica and be deep thinkers.

If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall” (I Corinthians 10:12 NLT).

Therefore let the one who thinks he stands firm [immune to temptation, being overconfident and self-righteous], take care that he does not fall [into sin and condemnation]” (I Corinthians 10:12 Amplified Bible).

To the person who thinks they are immune to temptation or the person who think they can handle temptation when it comes along, Paul gives a warning: “Think again.” Why?

Because temptation can be very enticing and if given into often leads to disaster.

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Why God Allows Testing

Mark 14:32-42
James 1:12-15

Last Tuesday afternoon, I put myself in a position to be tempted. I broke one of the commandments; the one that states: “Thou shall not go to the grocery store hungry.” My granddaughter Kate was with me and I told her we were breaking that rule and that it was probably going to be difficult getting out of there without buying some kind of bad for me snack food to satisfy my hunger itch. And I kept telling her all I needed was oatmeal and blueberries for my breakfast. As Kate and I passed by the potato chip aisle, my feet made an inexplicable right turn. And there they were, my current favorite brand of chips, Cape Cod Chips, and lo and behold, they were on sale, two bags for $5. As I reached my hand for a bag of chips, Kate simultaneously grabbed my arm and said, “Don’t do it, grandpa.” She swung me around 180 degrees, and there I was, face to face with a bright yellow bag of Peanut M & M’s in the candy aisle. As I lunged for the M & M’s, Kate insisted, “No grandpa, I’m getting you out of here now.” And she took me by the hand and led me to the self-check, whereas I paid for my blueberries and oatmeal those Cape Cod chips were, like the Sirens who called to Odysseus, “Come back, come back.”

You know what I’m talking about. You struggle too. I don’t need to remind you that every day, maybe every hour of every day, most of us struggle with temptation.

And if all we had to tussle with was candy and potato chips, we would count ourselves blessed. Because the truth is we brawl with much more insidious temptations.

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Why Do Good Things Happen to Good People?

Romans 8:28-30

There was a little boy named Johnny; a good boy to be sure. He loved hanging out at the local 7-11, so much so he offered to sweep the store once a day for free just to be able to hang out. The owner wasn’t sure if Johnny had some kind of problem, but he noticed that other boys would constantly tease him. They would say Johnny was two bricks shy of a load, or two pickles short of a barrel. To prove it, they would offer Johnny a choice between a nickel and a dime. Johnny would always take the nickel; they said, ‘because it was bigger.’

One day after John grabbed another nickel, the store owner took him aside, “Johnny, those boys are making fun of you. They think you don’t know the dime is worth more than the nickel. Are you grabbing the nickel because it’s bigger, or what?” Slowly, Johnny turned toward the store owner and a big grin appeared on his face and said, “Well, if I took the dime, they’d stop doing it, and so far I have saved $20 worth of nickels!”

Good things happen to good, and in this case smart, people.

Last week, I talked about what the Bible has to say about why bad things happen to good people. Today I want to talk about how and why good things happen to good people. To do so I want to return to the verse I made mention of last week; Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the ‘good’ of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”

This verse assures of something that most of us instinctively know; that as we live our lives for Christ, good things are going to come our way. When we cooperate with God by allowing Him to work in and through us by the power of His Holy Spirit, we will by and large lead good, if not great, lives. Good things will naturally come our way.

Not always of course; I reminded us last week that the Bible is very realistic in letting us know that no one is exempt from trouble and heartache.

But the Bible also indicates that a person who follows God will find more blessing in life than those who do not. Psalm 84:11: “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no ‘good’ thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”

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Bad Things Happen to Good People?

Hebrews 11:32-40

Lori Gilbert-Kaye was a good person. She was happily married and had one daughter. She was one of the pioneering congregants of her synagogue. Her best friend said of her she was always running to do a good deed and gave charity to everyone. “It’s not like she gave a million dollars for a building, but if someone was sick or someone died, she was the first one there with food or asking what she could do.”

A week ago Saturday she went to worship in her synagogue when she was shot dead while trying to shield her rabbi from the bullets. Her rabbi said at a press conference, “Lori took the bullet for all of us. She died to protect all of us. She didn’t deserve to die.”

No, she didn’t; but she did.

Why do bad things happen to good people?

They were good people. Under immense pressure to abandon their faith in Jesus, “they refused to turn from God in order to be set free. . . . Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword” (Hebrews 11:35-37). Certainly, they didn’t deserve to suffer in this way; but they did. Why?

Why do bad things happen to good people? It’s probably the oldest philosophical question ever asked by any human being.

And when you add belief in a good and benevolent God into the mix, it can easily become an issue of whether or not God is fair. We think, ‘I am a reasonably good person, I’m trying my best to follow you, Jesus, so why did this bad thing happen to me? It’s just not fair.’

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To Be Most Pitied

Matthew 28:1-10
Corinthians 15:1-4, 12-22

As the pastor introduced his children’s sermon on Easter, he asked the little ones, “Do you see anything different about our church today?”
Little Heather quickly figured out the difference and blurted out, “It’s full!”

A guy attended church one Sunday and became increasingly annoyed as the pastor preached. After the service, he decided to speak to the pastor about it: “You really have to do something about your sermons; every time I come here you speak about death and resurrection.”
The preacher shot back, “What do you expect, you only come on Easter.”

Death and resurrection; sounds like a good theme to me. Let’s start with death.

In AARP’s magazine a couple of years ago, (not that I get it) Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin were interviewed about their feelings about death. Tomlin, 80, recalled a time when she was four-years-old, visiting her grandmother in rural Kentucky. A little girl had died and they laid the body out in the house. “Everyone was oohing and aahing over her,” said Tomlin. “Death didn’t make sense then, and it doesn’t make any more sense now.”

Jane Fonda, 82, had a very different reaction. “I feel the opposite,” she said. “Death is inevitable, so why not try to make peace with it? 1

In the same article, John Mellencamp, 65, said, “I intend to make my ending good. I’m hoping it’s one of those long, lingering deaths. A lot of people go, ‘Oh, I hope I just die quick.’ Not me; I need time to put things right.” 2

And then there’s Sting, winner of 16 Grammy Awards. In a recent interview for Rolling Stone, the 64-year-old admits that he spends a lot of time thinking about death. He often stares at old photos of family members passed on. He also thinks about all the rock music icons who have died. “I’m 64; most of my life has been lived already, I have more days behind me than in front of me. Most people die in panic, there must be a way to die peacefully.” 3

Whether you have more days behind you or in front of you doesn’t really matter. The simple truth that we are all aware of but choose to ignore is that someday all of us will lose consciousness, our hearts will stop pumping blood to our organs which starved for oxygen will begin to shut down and we will be pronounced ‘dead.’

I am sorry to remind you on this otherwise glorious Easter morning of the cold, stark reality of that which awaits us all.

But how else can we truly appreciate the words of Paul? “But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died” (I Corinthians 15:20).

Of course, not everyone believes what Paul proclaims.

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