Category Archives: Sermon Illustration

The Standard of Justice

Genesis 18:19 “For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.”

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Webster was right when he said, “Justice, sir, is the great interest of people on earth.”  Without justice, there is no hope or expectation of continuance for our culture. A just society must first acknowledge a moral law higher than itself: a supreme lawgiver to whom even the most powerful are held into account. America’s founders writing the Declaration of Independence, in the very first sentence acknowledged the existence and dependence upon something greater than themselves.  Our nation is founded on a supreme, objective basis of justice and righteousness. Justice is not a whim of whoever is in political power at any given election cycle.  Justice is based upon the supreme lawgiver. To substitute man-made morality or even personal political ethics as a new standard is just folly. God’s perfect justice is established by His unchangeable nature. To set any other ultimate measuring stick of justice is foolishness.

The greatest attribute of justice

Matthew 1:19,20 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded putting her away privily. When he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 

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In the King James Version of the Bible Matthew calls Joseph, the husband of Mary, and “just” man.  When he learns of her pregnancy, he wants to protect Mary’s reputation and “dismiss her quietly.”  Then, as a more authentic expression of his justness, Joseph takes to heart the angel’s words that Mary has the Lord’s blessing. He makes a conscious decision to take on the responsibility of being a husband to Mary and a dad to the child.

The culture in which Joseph found himself demanded justice of banishment or stoning. Even if Mary was not accused of adultery, it would mean the equivalent of a divorce. Either would involve the religious leaders of the town. Either would include condemnation and rejection.  Joseph chose a third course: to listen to God, a voice of compassion and love.  Was Joseph still just?  Was Joseph still righteous? Joseph would raise, nurture, and help educate a stepson. Joseph chose to love.  The greatest attribute of justice.

Jesus the mathematician!

 Matthew 28: 18,19,20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

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My path has been far in traveling.  I have not come to its end.  I would have liked to have traveled further, to see all the mercies God has in store for me down the road.  My steps are sometimes belabored.  My burden causes my back to scream in pain. I trod my road set before me and am winded. “God, why can’t this be easier?”

What I have discovered along my path is that God seldom takes things away.  Instead, God is in the adding.  He is more a giver than a taker.  When I run along my path in darkness, he does not take away the clouds but increases the sun.  When my path seems terribly dry and my lips are parched, he does not heal the thirst but brings gifts of water. When my path is lonely to a point of panic, He does not take away the terrible foreboding isolation, He simply comes near Himself. He adds. When I stop and take a rest because of pain in my old joints, He does not take away the pain, but adds joy to the steps I can make. He adds.

What shall we call Him? Jesus the mathematician.

Jesus the Creator

John 1:3 “Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.

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From the first electron circling around a single proton, to UY Scuti a hypergiant star with a diameter that is around 1,700 times larger than the sun, all were made through him. Creator of the smallest and the largest.  Creator of every piece and all pieces. Creator of individual and the total. My creaky knees are made up of the very stuff Jesus made an eternity ago.  I may mold, construct, re-vamp, sort, refine, invent, combine, stir, cook, and even try to destroy. Yet they are all actions based upon the “all things were made”.

What boggles my mind is that everything in heaven and earth, the visible and the invisible, were created for Jesus and by Jesus and Jesus holds them all together. Colossians 1:19-17.

You are a creation of God, do you believe it?

So what shall we call Him? 

Jesus the Creator.

All hail the power of the skeptic

Close your eyes and imagine a church sanctuary filled with those who all think, believe, and feel the same. They all say AMEN at the appropriate times. They all pay exactly ten percent of their income.  The songs are all well accepted and sung with both bravado and familiarity. The Preacher of the day is recognized with constant bobblehead responses. After service, everyone remains to greet each other and inquire about the glorious victories of overcoming.

Open your eyes and realize this perfected vision is not real.  Christians are not cookies cut out of the heavenly bread of life each perfectly identical to the other. This picture is what Psychologists refer to as groupthink.  It is a place where the congregation values consensus and conformity over vulnerability and self-examination.

The church needs a liberal sprinkling of skepticism.  Without criticism, dissent, and critique, there is no place to grow. There is nowhere to go to be more than the status quo.  An unexamined faith only leads to idolizing an ideal image, a disdain for outsiders, a denial of personal faults, and a lack of growth. Without a dose of dissent, there is no place for healing.

We need a liberal dash of skepticism, uncertainty, critique, and self-examination. Further, this infusion of questioning is to be handled with care and respect.  The number one roadblock to faith for a true skeptic is not a theological stance about Jesus, but the behavior of those who claim to follow Jesus. Those of us who diligently question almost everything find it striking that those who are in the knowing, act as if they have a monopoly on what it is to be proper or good. This ownership comes with dread, a rejection, a fear of any who would ask why.

Those who have doubt or uncertainty should not silence their questions to be accepted by the Body cemented.  We should not silence the skeptic for the sake of the comfortable.  Being a skeptic does not automatically mean heresy any more than the status quo automatically equates to perfection.

Those who are asking questions are vital to the church.  They make the church vibrant, accepting, and accessible.  They give the comfortable a chance to grow a little.

1+1=2

Mark 12:42,43 “A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

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Science is not a bad thing.  Being able to prove two plus two is a good understanding when you have to pay for something.  Yet when science tells me the cold clear water coming from a mountain stream which rushes down from the crest of a snowcapped mountain is equal to the tepid liquid coming out of my kitchen faucet, while true, is a little disappointing. In science, the granite gravel in my dad’s driveway is the same as the grand sheer face of Half Dome in Yosemite. There is no wonder in science.  There is no place for miracles. The mystery of the world hides behind the constant scientific explanation and presumption.  The very fabric of our seemingly poor, browbeat days are miracles.  Two small coins became a treasure; a miracle. Each miracle shines brightly, and sometimes we do not notice.

Disclaimer

I am reticent to state an obvious, self-evident, and understandable idea which may or may not be self-evident to the all or part of the readers of this idea.  But I am compelled to state a prima-facie case for any and or all that would agree or not agree with it.  Without any pretense or intent to defraud, mislead, or cause to be misunderstood, I state this premise as a perfectly honest and currently within my humble opinion to state. I reserve the right to change or not to change my personal level of understanding now or at any time in the future. It is stated as is and is not to be construed as an aphorism, fact, truth, or accepted maxim. I do so in due course and without a willful foreknowledge of offending anyone who may or may not think differently from my stated point of view. I acknowledge this statement may or may not be within accepted current cultural mores, traditions, beliefs, philosophies, religion or the the lack of religion, conventions or dogmas.  This idea may well be seen from as many different points of view as there are readers.  My objective is this statement does not include the want to objectify, classify, discount or even nullify anyone with a divergent personal, self-conceived, contextual, multi-personal cultural lens. I acknowledge differing ideas, prejudices, lifestyles, inclusion in one or more identity defined classes or groups that may or may not have existing or inferred statements of being or understandings.   I personally do not assume, in the statement of this idea, there is an inferred, dictated, or required acceptance. Further, in the statement of this idea, any acceptance, rejection, deviance, or restatement is wholly the responsibility of the reader. I acknowledge the reader may well have a contrary or parallel or concurrent faith, principle, trust, confidence, principle, enlightenment, or belief;  all valid opinions. Therefore,  I must state without any hesitancy or intent to affront, without any intent to infer, construe, or confuse, I must say that I just completely forgot what I was going to say, but it was going to be profound.

a goose and guilt

Quite a few years ago I toyed with the idea that I could enjoy golf. I was wrong, but that is another story. I was in Reno, Nv and after I had picked up a set of fourth-hand clubs and headed off to the local public golf course. It sits adjacent to Reno International Airport in the apex between the North and West runways. Reno for its relatively mild winter weather was filled in every green spot with non-migratory geese. The fairways was just the place for them to eat grass and leave their little gifts of grey and white clumps along the fairway.

I think it was on the fourth or maybe the fifth hole I was ready to tee off and my attention was diverted by the sound of thirty or more geese landing in the fairway before me. They were close enough that my shot would easily clear the flock. I put the ball, a brand new one just purchased from the office, on the tee, sized up the shot and let it rip. In golf parlance it was a hedge hopper. It took one hop and hit a goose in the head. There was an immediate feeling of guilt.

Guilt does terrible things to a believer in God. But it was not my fault. But I still felt bad very bad. Even after running up to the now struggling goose to retrieve my ball the shame of it all was almost overpowering. I started to second guess myself, my unworthiness to strike on of God’s creatures had destroyed my will to continue my game.

In the Old Testament the Hebrews had a sacrificial system that was to cover over their sin. To make them no longer responsible. But it was not helping for the individual to deal with their guilt. I was like those Hebrews of old that was struggling with a conscience that would not give peace.

In the book of Hebrews I have since found the solution to the sense of guilt or shame. Hebrews 9:13,14 The blood of goats and bulls and ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from act of that lead to death, so the we may serve the living God.

What is the solution to shame and guilt from within with no cause? What do we do with our memories that bring up the bad stuff that has been confessed and forgiven? REMEMBER, Jesus not only died for our sins but to cleanse our guilt.

Every time I remember that goose and feel a little remorse, I remember full well that I have a clean conscience by the blood of Christ. With that remembrance, I by faith, know it is not real guilt or even shame. AND I SMILE.

Did you learn anything?

It was an accomplishment.  Stepping off the school bus in rural Iowa.  It had been the first day of school.  Her clothes were a little more wrinkled that when he set off that morning to learn, to study, to be a grown up.  There was a little mud on the sweet pink and white checked dress from playing with the kids at recess.  And now she was boldly walking up the path to home where dad was waiting to see how it had went.

After a big hug, a peanut butter sandwich made with extra grape jelly, and a cold glass of milk, Dad asked the big question, “Well did you learn anything at your school?”

The daughter stopped and looked at her dad and with a look of disappointment she answered, “I guess I didn’t learn enough”

“Why do you say that my little sweet pea?”

“Well Dad it is like this, I have to go back tomorrow.”

Learning takes a lifetime.

No choices left?

I completed a Bible study a couple of months ago with ten men about decision making. It was about the choices we make and what criteria we as Christians should use.  But while looking through my obligatory Facebook friends, I was struck by a forlorn and heart-breaking post.  He lives in the back of his car, lives from moment to moment and he seems to be saying, “I have no choices left.”  The outpouring of this helplessness is being spewed out for the world to hear and it is all negative.

In John 15 there is an account of an invalid.  Someone in worse circumstances than my acquaintance.  He could not walk.  He couldn’t gain meaningful employment.  His only choice was to depend on a few that knew him to bring him to a place of prayer, the pool of Bethesda.  No options, no hope, no dignity, no expectations other than getting into the swirling waters first.  But even that was almost impossible because he had no one to help him in. As Max Lucado said, “God’s efforts are strongest when our efforts are useless.”

Jesus told the man, “stand up, pick up your mat and walk.” In a moment a flash of a second the man was able to do just that.

We have to take Jesus at His word.  When God tells us to get up and get out, God enables this motion, this progress to something better.  I believe there is a stubborn unwillingness to cast off our maladies and just do.  When Jesus forgives your sin let the guilt go with it.  When Jesus says you are a child of God, act like it.  When Jesus says something it is our obligation to believe Him.

When Jesus says, “stand up,” don’t just sit there thinking of all the reasons not to but in faith, get up and go.

Just saying.