“Look Unto the Hills”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS McCARTHY
20TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

OCTOBER 7, 2018

Title: “Look Unto the Hills”

Text: ‘I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.  My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth” (Psalms 121:1-2)

Scripture Reading: Psalms 121:1-8

God is the God is a God of the mountains.  His footprints can be traced from mountains peak to mountain peak through the Bible.  In fact, there are 467 references to mountain in Scriptures. Early Israel thought of the mountains as the dwelling place of God.

A beautiful legend tells about the creation of the mountains.  Once, long ago, the earth was flat or gently rolling plains. There were beautiful flowers ; rich, luxuriant grasses; groves of tall, leafy trees and peaceful lakes mirroring the fleecy clouds and blue sky.  God looked down, and everything was so beautiful and his heart was filled with so much love that he wanted to embrace the whole world. God must have thought, “Oh, world, I cannot hold you close enough!” With infinite tenderness, forgetting his great powers, he stroked the earth, caressing it with his mighty fingers.  The force of his touch dredged out the valleys and piled the mountains high, stretching them out for miles along the earth. He looked again, saw what he had done, and it was good.

The mountain do declare the glory of the Lord, and every rock, tree, and spring shows his handiwork.  No wonder the psalmist wrote, “I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.”

 

In the Bible, there are many different hills of God.  We have mount Calvary. It is the place where Jesus died for our sins,  We as Christians look in faith to the cross of Calvary and experience God’s forgiven grace and saving power.  Mount Sinai is a mountain that depicts well-disciplined life. It is the place where God calls us to keep his commandments.  The Bible says, “Blessed are they that keep my ways” (Proverbs 8:32). Will we climb the mountain of obedience? It leads to happiness.  Mount Hermon tells us about the Transfiguration. It was the place where Jesus Christ was transfigured before His disciples and they saw Him as the divine Son of God.  They heard Moses and Elijah talking with Him and knew that He had direct communication with heaven.They heard the voice of God saying, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.  Hear ye him” (Matthew 17:5). Mount Olivet is referred to as the mount of the ascending life. It is the place where Jesus ascended to heaven and His disciples looked up desiring to follow Him.  As we lift our eyes heavenward and strive to be with Jesus and to be like Him, we can live the ascending life. Let us look at the lessons we can draw from the many hills of God. Let us look what it means to look unto the hills from where our help comes.  

In our quest to bring the good out of life and know God, we must understand that the road to life is upward.  There is no downhill road to living. My grandmother was eighty six years when she died. My grandmother loves to visit with us.  I love to listen to her tell historic things about the town my dad was born in. I also love to listen to her quote Bible verses while she was in her eighties.  She was aged, wrinkle, and gray, and she was feeble, but she always had a sparkle of humor about her. She told me a story about a man who went about collecting ants to cut down the ants population in town. When I asked her why she was always happy, she would say with eyes twinkling, “I am on the downhill road and can’t find something to hold unto.” I knew she was speaking to me figuratively about her physical being when she said that.  It did not surprise me because I have seen the tragedy of that statement in people’s spiritual lives. Many people seems to be on that downhill road and cannot seem to find something to hold unto. They are not able to resist the downward pull of life and its temptation.

 

Colossians 3:1-2 God is saying to us, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affections on things above, not on things of the earth.” Paul gave us his personal testimony, saying: “I count not myself to have been apprehended: but this one thing I do…I pressed toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).  The life and character of Christ challenge us: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

 

Though we may never be able to attain perfection, humanly speaking, we are challenged to keep climbing .  The heights appeal to the daring , heroic, adventurous nature of people. Living a victorious Christian life captivates the courageous.

Captain George Mallory had always wanted to climbed to the top of Mount Everest.  When he spoke at Harvard, he said, “Someone is bound to ask me why I wish to climb to the top of Everest.  My answer is, ‘Because it is there.’ ” The questions from Captain Mallory’s story are, Doesn’t the life of Christ beckon you? Doesn’t it challenge you to keep reaching heavenwards? It is said that the higher mountain climbers climb , the higher they want to climb.  The higher you climb in Christ, the higher you want to climb.

One subject that fascinates me is History.  I learned about the Valley of Arve in Switzerland.  In that Valley it is told that the statue of Horace Savesure stands beneath.  Horace pioneered the trail up Mount Blanc. His body is thrust forward, his hand extended toward the mountain.  There is an inscription that reads, “This is the way.” Jesus Christ, the pioneer in living, stands in the valley beckoning all humankind, pointing upward, saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

 

Look unto the hills. On the hills we get God’s viewpoint.  Study the life of Jesus and you will see that time after time he withdrew  to the mountains to pray. Whenever Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, he returned with power to serve in the valleys.  This same rhythm of Jesus characterized the life of Elijah. A voice told Elijah “to hide thyself” (1 King 17:3). Later the voice told him “shew thyself” (18:1).  We must hide ourselves away taking time for prayers and meditation, and then come forward to show ourselves strong on behalf of the cause of Christ.

A missionary in the Balkans once took a little boy who had lived at the base of a mountain on a journey up its side.  When they gain the summit, the little climber looked this way and that and said in astonishment, “My, what a wonderful world.  I never dreamed it was so big!” On the heights our horizon are broadened, our imaginations are kindled, and our vision of God is greater.

Look unto the hills.  Finally, life on the heights is uplifting and strengthening to the soul.  It brings a lift to the spirit. It heightens the vision. It empowers the will.  Paul wrote to the Ephesians, God hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).  I have been on some mountain peaks with Jesus. I have stood on some high places spiritually. It has been place of joy, service, and worship.

At the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana, I went one morning on the mount to spend the day to seek the face of God.  I wanted to seek God’s face on what direction in life He wanted me to go in the midst of my refugee struggles. As I approached, a group of people who had been there early were singing: “As the deer pants for the waters so my soul longs after thee.  You alone are my heart, desire, and I long to worship you…” As I stood there and look at the sun rising in the east, and I looked across the broad expanse of the heavens, I felt the presence of the Lord. A sense of hope and joy filled my heart. I experience a moment of inspiration that my life did not end in a refugee camp.  I was not only on the mount physically, but emotionally and spiritually was well. Life is so refreshing on the heights that you can certainly forget all your troubles. Life on the hills with Christ is so refreshing.

A man advise a friend, “live above the snake line.”  There is a level on every mountain that marks the place above which snakes cannot live.  Live above the snake line, above the cheap pettiness of this world, above the bitter jealousies and seething resentments, and above the burning prejudices and brooding hatreds.  If you live on the heights with Christ, you can face the temptations and evils of the world about you and be victorious.

A father bought his son some parallel bars for Christmas.  Out in his backyard everyday, the little fellow would reach up and try to take hold of the bars.  One day a neighbor asked him what he was doing. He replied, “I am reaching up, trying to take hold of the bars.  My father says if I keep reaching, one day I will be able to take hold of them.”

 

Keep your eyes on the hills of God and keep reaching upwards.  Look unto the hills, it is where you will get your help. Look unto the hills for it is where Jesus went and returned with power to minister in the valley.  God bless you.

“The Faithful Steward is Faithful in Giving”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS McCARTHY
19TH DAY AFTER PENTECOST

SEPTEMBER 30, 2018

 

Title: “The Faithful Steward is Faithful in Giving”

 

Text: Mark 12:41-44

And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. 42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. 43 And he called unto them, verily I  say unto you, that this poor widow hast cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury; 44 For all they did cast in of their abundance, but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

 

Last Sunday we talked about stewards.  We dealt primarily with the religious beliefs of stewards and what might be called the underlying foundation of stewardship.  Today we will talk specifically about faithful stewards and the matter of giving their money.

 

Probably everyone here has a special connection with our church and some interest in the cause for which our church stands.  Furthermore, we know that our church will be able to accomplish its task only in proportion to our financial support of its efforts. We also are aware that our support of our church is a much broader concept than the financial support alone; but this in no way minimizes the need for our financial support.  In all of this, it is important to understand that we are first and foremost stewards of God. We must be faithful in giving ourselves and our substances. In doing this, we must give voluntarily. We must give proportionately, and we must give generously.

 

To begin with let us get an understanding of the background of our text.  Our text this morning talks about a time when Jesus Christ had gone to sit quietly at the Gate Beautiful.  The Gate Beautiful was between the Court of the Gentiles and the Courts of the Women. It may well be that Jesus had gone to sit quietly there after the argument and tension of the Courts of the Gentiles.  In the Courts of the Women, there were thirteen collecting boxes called “the Trumpets,” because they were so shape. Each of them was for a special purpose. Some of the collecting boxes were to buy corn or wine for the sacrifices.  They were for contributions for the daily sacrifice and expenses of the Temple. When people came to throw in what they had, many threw in quite a considerable contributions. On this special occasion, a widow came. She put in two mites.  The coin she threw in was called a lepton, which literally means a thin one.  It was the smallest of all the coins and was worth one fortieth of one pence.  And yet Jesus said that her tiny contribution was greater than all the others, for the others had thrown in what they could spare easily enough and still have plenty left, while the widow had put in everything she had.  She was faithful in her giving.

Stewardship is a form of worship where we give ourselves first to God.  This is worship and it is personal. Jesus Christ taught in Matthew 5:23-24 that we cannot make a gift to God unless we are first right with God and with our neighbors.  He said, “if you are offering your gifts at the altar, there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first to be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gifts.  We give ourselves first to God. When we do this we reverence God. Paul wrote of the Macedonians, “First they gave themselves to the Lord” (2 Corinthians 8:5). Paul was encouraging the church at Corinth to give their money for the support of the poor in Jerusalem.   Paul urged the Corinthians to see the relationship between the giving of themselves and the giving of their money to God. Paul sought the Corinthians, not their possessions. Paul wrote, “I seek not what is yours but you” (2 Corinthians 12:14). Paul thought the Corinthians had given themselves to God, but some of them either had not or made little progress in their Christian lives.  Their dedication of themselves to God was of primary importance. Giving their money for the Christian cause was evidence of their having given themselves. Paul repeatedly urged them to grow in the grace of Christian giving. In giving ourselves, we must give voluntarily.

I will submit to you that tithing alone is an inadequate expression of Christian stewardship.  Tithing in the Old Testament involves the giving of 10 percent of one’s earning to God. Today many Christians would never think of giving less than 10 percent of their money to God through their churches.  They give not because the law requires it, but because they have given themselves to God through Jesus Christ and because they attached importance to the cause of Jesus Christ. Christians should be satisfied with giving as little as 10 percent of their money to their churches.  Some are prosperous that they should give 50 percent or more to the cause of Jesus Christ. Christian steward does, in fact, insist on giving oneself totally to God and managing all of one’s resources for the glory God.

This is why Paul commended the Macedonians, “They gave…of their own free will” (2 Corinthians 8:3).  Voluntary giving is cheerful giving. Nowhere is the voluntary element of giving summed up in a better way than in Paul’s statement, “Each one must do as he had made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).  We can grow into cheerful stewards only as we understand more thoroughly our own commitment to God and our dedication to the cause of God in loving and caring for other people. Cheerful giving is giving in proportion to one’s ability. The widow in our text gave proportionately.  She gave according to her ability. Paul indicated that Christians should give in accordance with their ability to give, “as they may prosper. This is a practical way that is fair and equitable. Paul further emphasized this principle by his commitment, “it is acceptable according to what a man has, not according to what he has not” (2 Corinthians 8:12).  Christians should never feel uncomfortable if others are able to give more than they are. Christians stewardship of money is in proportion to one’s ability to give.

Proportionate giving is characteristic of Christian giving.  Early in the history of the church, Christians gave their material means for the support of Christians in other areas who were in need.  Paul and Barnabas took such a collection of funds to Jerusalem on one occasion (Act 11:29). Let us remember that these Christians in giving proportionately, did so to their dedication and their vision of the accomplishment to be made through their giving.

Faithful stewards give generously. To begin with generous giving, let us learn also the principle of giving systematically.  Paul recommended to the Christians of Corinth that they give, on the first day of the week” (1 Corinthians 16:2) The emphasis here is on systemic giving to meet the ongoing needs of the congregation.  Many people receive their money on a monthly basis or even on an annual basis. So regular systemic giving to them would be regulated by the time in which they receive their income.

Generosity is a Christian virtue.  It is giving where in Christians respond to the needs of people and the challenges of the Christian cause.  It is always good to remember that generous giving is measure in terms of ability to give and in terms of enthusiasm for the cause.  Generosity is a Christian virtue that should never be restricted by minimums and maximums.

The Bible talk a great deal about the dangers of wealth in that it often is the occasion through which rich people become caloloused and indifferent to the needs of those about them.  There is a promise to those who give generously. Paul wrote, “You will be enriched in every way for great generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:11).  This is not a promise that generous giver will become rich immediately. Neither is it a promise that will become rich in the future. The promise has to do with the quality of life and the rewards we receive by responding to the people and causes about them.

Finally, faithful stewards are accountable in the proper use of what God has entrusted to them.  Christian stewardship always requires stewards to be responsible, or accountable, for the proper use of the money they give and that is entrusted to them.  It is surprising that some Christians will give their money to their churches but will not bother to attend business meetings or participate in budget planning to assure that their gifts accomplish the purposes for which they are given.

It is even more incredible that many Christians will send gifts to television and radio ministries about who handling of funds they know nothing.  Great caution must be used and much research done before giving to such ministries. Giving money to irresponsible people is not Christian stewardship; it is misappropriation of funds.  You and I are stewards of every aspect of our lives, including the wealth God entrusts to us. How shall we respond to the teachings of the New Testament? Let us resovle to be faithful stewards in every area so that others might helped and God be glorified.  Would you be willing to determine that you will move beyond the minimum in giving and give in proportion to a dream or a hope for the full accomplishment of the cause of Christ in our time. Remember the requirement of stewards. They must be faithful. Are you and I faithful?  When we stand before God in the end of our journey, will He speak that welcome benediction, ‘You have been faithful over a little. Enter into the joy of your Lord”? God bless you!

 

“The Faithful Steward Is Faithful In Living”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS McCARTHY

18th SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

SEPTEMBER 23, 2018

 

Title: “The Faithful Steward Is Faithful In Living

 

Text: 1 Corinthians 4: 1-2

“Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God, moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

 

Scripture: Matthew 25:14-30.

 

Once, a man said, “If I had some extra money, I’d give it to God, but I have just enough to support myself and my family.” And the same man said, “If I had some extra time, I’d give it to God, but every minute is taken up with my job, my family, my clubs, and what have you and me every single minute.” And the same man said, “If I had a talent I’d give it to God, but I have no lovely voice; I have no special skill; I’ve never been able to lead a group; I can’t think cleverly or quickly, the way I would like to.”

And God was touched, and although it was unlike him, God gave that man money, time, and a glorious talent. And then He waited, and waited, and waited…..And then after a while, He shrugged His shoulders, and He took all those things right back from the man, the money, the time and the glorious talent. After a while, the man sighed and said, “If I only had some of that money back, I’d give it to God. If I only had some of that time, I’d give it to God. If I could only rediscover that glorious talent, I’d give it to God.”

And God said, “Oh, shut up.”

And the man told some of his friends, “You know, I’m not so sure that I believe in God anymore.”  

This story depicts a person who wishes he or she could be a good steward for God if entrusted with wealth or time.  Well God blesses him with wealth and time. He does not dispense the wealth and time responsibly. God takes it back and he wishes he could get it back and use it this time.  In our scripture reading we read about the parable of Jesus where our Lord compares the kingdom of God to a faithful steward. This parable of Jesus is referred to as the Parable of the Talents.  It speaks about the fact that faithfulness in stewardship comes about when we use what God has given us for the betterment of His kingdom. God has given each one of us different gifts and talents.  One man is given five talents, another man two, and to another man one. It is not the talents given to man that matters; what matters is how one uses the talents he gets from God. God will not demand from us abilities which we do not have.  God however demands us to use the abilities we have to the fullest. We are not equal in the talents we possessed; but we can be equal in the efforts put in. Jesus Christ is telling us that whatever talents we have, great or small, we must lay it at the service of God.  In our obligations as Christians, we must use the talents and resources God has given us to live faithful lives.

Our text this morning is from Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth.  In chapter 4 verses 1 and 2, Paul here tells the believers at Corinth that they are stewards of the things God wants to reveal to His people.  As stewards of God’s mystery, it is important to live faithfully. The word Paul uses for a steward is the Greek word oikonomos.  This word means a person who is a manager of a property, an overseer, a treasurer.  A steward is one who is working in the interest of another person. Proverbs 25:13 says of a steward, “As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is the faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refresheth the soul of his masters.”  So a steward should be a person who is faithful in working in the interest of his master. He does the work given to him according to how he was instructed or ordered. Being a steward of God is doing exactly as God had ordered. This will involve accountability on our part.  Being accountable is being trustworthy.

The New American Standard Bible (NASB) used the word trustworthy in verse 2 of 2 Corinthians 4.  Jesus uses stewardship as a metaphor of how the kingdom of God operates. God owns everything. Psalms 24:1 informs us that “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.  God is the ultimate owner of all that is. He created and sustains the world; the world answers to God. Both Old and New Testament statements constantly reminds us that God holds the title of the ownership of all the world.  We belong to God. The parable in our Scripture lesson reminds us that our lives are a sacred trust from God. Paul reminds the Corinthians that we belong to God because of Christ’s redemption. In those beautiful words, Paul says, “You are not your own; you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 RSV). God also gave us the land. If we understand that the work God has given us on earth has a religious meaning, we will understand that people work with God for His glory. Earning a living through the work we do is endowed with a sacred meaning.  If we work as a doctor, or nurse, or athlete, we work to glorify God. Man’s purpose in life is to serve God. In serving God, we care for the earth, for the people of the earth just to glorify God. Glorifying God is living in such relationship to God within creation that we reflect His own holiness back to Him.  We do this through serving and worshipping. This is living faithfully.

Man’s purpose in life is to serve God.  Since God created everything, Life is focused on God.  Since God is my creator, my life must be lived in terms of God’s purpose for us.  This requires that I constantly look up to Him to get my bearings. I am not my own to do as I will with my life.  Freedom is never the license to do as I please, but it is rather liberation from my bondage so that I can fulfill the task for which God created me.  So then the ultimate purpose of living is to care for the earth, care for the people, and to glorify God.

When we are faithful stewards we will translate all of life into personal terms.  Faith in God and humanity endows God’s creation with a personal character.

Humankind is masters over all things.   This makes us trustees under God over nature.  We are servants of God and masters of nature. We have a measure of sovereignty over nature as he has total sovereignty over all. We express this sovereignty by serving God.  In this light, stewards of God live by faith.

It is important that the faithful steward is faithful in living.  If this is correct, then the faithful steward must live by faith and not by sight.  Paul reminded the Corinthians, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).  Looking at this reminder, we learn that life faces many uncertainties. The parable of the stewards laid stress on that uncertainty.  Two of the stewards face their uncertainty by faith; the other rejected faith. Faithful Christian stewards are able to face the uncertainty of tomorrow because of the strength of their religious convictions in today’s world.  Living involves making sacrifices for God and our humankind.. We take risk to take care of God’s creation. We take risks to show others love. This is all done to glorify God.

The story is told of how one stormy night an elderly couple entered the lobby of a small hotel and asked for a room. The clerk said they were filled, as were all the hotels in town. “But I can’t send a fine couple like you out in the rain,” he said. “Would you be willing to sleep in my room?” The couple hesitated, but the clerk insisted. The next morning when the man paid his bill, he said, “You’re the kind of man who should be managing the best hotel in the United States. Someday I’ll build you one.” The clerk smiled politely. A few years later the clerk received a letter from the elderly man, recalling that stormy night and asking him to come to New York. A round-trip ticket was enclosed. When the clerk arrived, his host took him to the corner of 5th Avenue and 34th Street, where stood a magnificent new building. “That,” explained the man, “is the hotel I have built for you to manage.” The man was William Waldorf Astor, and the hotel was the original Waldorf-Astoria. The young clerk, George C. Boldt, became its first manager.  

Faithful stewards are always commended for being faithful.  Faithful stewards live by faith. This means their life is determined by their convictions about God and humanity and the world.  This means they are willing to face uncertainty future and take risks of faith by serving others.  

Our inability to take the risk of faith renders us incapable of being stewards.  Stewardship is synonymous with management. God has entrusted us with certain abilities, talents, possessions, and time.  Life consists of the management of those for God’s glory and humankind usefulness. The steward condemned in Jesus’ parable was condemned because he refused to take the risk of faith.  He rejected the essence of life. He was condemned for unbelief. All of judgment comes to bear on this theme of stewardship. John tells us, “He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18 RSV).  

W. Wiersbe told a story of a stormy night in Birmingham, England, where Hudson Taylor was to speak at a meeting at the Severn Street schoolroom. His hostess assured him that nobody would attend on such a stormy night, but Taylor insisted on going. “I must go even if there is no one but the doorkeeper.” Less than a dozen people showed up, but the meeting was marked with unusual spiritual power. Half of those present either became missionaries or gave their children as missionaries; and the rest were faithful supporters of the China Inland Mission for years to come. If we live faithfully, God will be glorify and our rewards are assured.

A baseball player once indicated that his ambition in life was to hear his coach say at the time of the player’s retirement, “You are the best baseball player I have ever coach.” How much more should we Christians live our lives with the joyful expectation and determination that at the end of the journey God will say to us, “You have been faithful.” Bankers must be honest; soldiers must be brave; runners must be swift; weightlifters must be strong; stewards must be faithful.  God bless you.

 

 

“The Cost of Discipleship”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

17TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

SEPTEMBER 16, 2018

 

Title: “The Cost of Discipleship”

 

Text: 18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake.  19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nest, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 21 Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 22. But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

 

Scripture Reading: Matthew 8:18-22.

 

The story is told in Ministry 127 about how a hog and a hen sharing the same barnyard heard about a church’s program to feed the hungry. The hog and the hen discussed how they could help. The hen said, “I’ve got it! We’ll provide bacon and eggs for the church to feed the hungry.” The hog thought about the suggestion and said, “There’s one problem with your bacon and eggs solution. For you, it only requires a contribution, but for me, it will mean total commitment!” You will contribute what you produce which is less painful.  I will have to go through pain giving myself up. This story illustrates what the the cost of true discipleship actually is. It involves complete commitment to Jesus and His mission. To understand the cost of true discipleship, one must first answer some salient questions: Who is a disciple? Who disciples are we? What is discipleship? By this time in our Christian life, we must have answers to these questions. In addition, we were blessed to partake in ten weeks of discipleship class here at church. Join me as we look at the cost of discipleship together.

Jesus Christ commanded us in Matthew 28:19-20 “to go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them “to observe all that I have commanded you.” This raises a fundamental question if we will undertake the cost of discipleship.  What does it actually means to be a disciple of Jesus? If we are going to take up discipleship, we ought to know what this is.

The standard meaning of a disciple is someone who adheres to the teachings of another.  A disciple is a follower or a learner. Jesus Christ said in Luke 9:23, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” A disciple is then someone who take up the ways of someone.  Applied to Jesus, a disciple is someone who learns from Him and live like Him. A disciple is someone who because of God’s amazing grace, conforms his or her words and deeds to the words and deeds of Jesus Christ. Or we may put it this way that the disciples of Jesus are themselves little Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:21).  To sum this up, if you are a disciple of Jesus, you are a worshipper of Jesus, a servant, and a witness of Jesus.

Being a disciple of Jesus means worshipping Him exclusively.  This is at the core of Jesus’ ministry on earth. In John 4:23-24, Jesus pointed out that God is looking for those who worship in spirit and in truth.  He told the woman at the well that the Father was seeking true worshippers. To follow Jesus and be His disciple means to worship, with joy at the heart.  Jesus demonstrated how we ought to be His disciple. In John 13:5 Jesus is kneeling before His disciples and about to wash their feet. In verse 8 Jesus says, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Mark tells us that Jesus is a servant.  He came to earth not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for sinners (Mark 10:45). To be a disciple of Jesus is to serve like Jesus. It means to serve primarily, by looking at other Christians and going low in acts of love, even if it is an inconvenience to you.  If you are not a servant, you cannot be a disciple of Jesus, because making disciples of Jesus means making servants who love one another. When Jesus washed the feet of the Twelve he said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another (John 13:24).  The truth of the matter is, it is this love that disciples have for one another that identifies them as disciples to a watching world.

John gives another picture of who a disciple should be. In a commission to His disciples, Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you (John 20:21).  This means a disciple is one who is on a mission to tell the good news of Jesus Christ. So a disciple is a witness of the good news. Jesus had a purpose on earth: to reveal God and redeem sinners (John 1:14). We too, as His disciples, filled by the Holy Spirit, is sent for a purpose.  It is to witness (Romans 10:14-17). So it is obvious that to be a disciples is to point people to Him. It means to tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love so that people may know Him and worship Him. This means that we gladly seek more worshippers, servants and missionaries. This means a disciple of Jesus makes disciples of Jesus as Jesus told us to do.  But there is a cost in being a disciple of Jesus. There is a cost to make others a disciples of Jesus.

Our text this morning tells of a time when Jesus reminded His disciples that discipleship is costly. In Matthew 8:19, a teacher of the law approached Jesus and promised to follow Him wherever Jesus went.  He is committing to being Jesus’ disciple or His follower. This is a drive worth accepting immediately. But our wise Lord tells the man about the cost of following Him. Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.”  Jesus Christ is saying here that following him is not an easy venture. It is costly to follow Him or be His disciple. A person must leave everything to follow Him.

In our time and age, we have approached the teaching of discipleship in a way as not to offend anyone. There is a difference between church membership and Christian discipleship. Some folks will think that to become a disciple of Jesus is to join the church, attend worship once in a while and perhaps give an offering. This is not the case.  It is my prayers that we will take our calling as Jesus’ disciples more seriously, commit ourselves to Christ more fully, and feel a greater share in Christ kingdom on earth.

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Book, “The Cost of Discipleship” makes the assertion that grace is free, but grace is not cheap.  Grace was paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ. Because of the price paid, His disciples is led by grace to surrender their lives to God in faithfulness and gratitude to God.  Jesus makes this clear when He says in verse 22 of Matthew 8, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” He further makes it clear in Mark 8:34, “Whoever wants to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” So what is the cost of discipleship?

One cost of discipleship is the loss of one’s identity.  Paul in his second letter to the church at Corinth tells the Corinthians, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold all things have become new” (2Cor. 5:17).  Once we were part of the world and its sinful nature. As disciples of Christ, our old nature or identity is in the past. The emphasis now is not upon us but upon Christ; what’s important is not who we are, but the one to whom we belong.

Paul went on to say that, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me.  That life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me, and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).  

The cost of discipleship is the sacrifice of personal freedom.  When we become disciples of Christ, God gave us the freedom to choose.  We called it free will. In the process, God choose us as His own. We have the choice to say no.  God shows us the way but gave us the freedom to rebel and make our own mistakes. In Paul’s classic statement in Galatians, he writes, “Stand firm therefore in the liberty by which Christ made us free, and don’t be entangled again in the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1).  What we need to remember is that freedom in Christ is not freedom to do your own thing, but freedom to choose Christ over the ways of the world.

John Wesley in a prayer he offered every night on New Year’s Eve asked God: “I am no longer my own but thine, put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt, put me to doing, put me to suffering, let be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalt for thee or be made low for thee….”  As disciples of Jesus Christ, we will do well to pray with Wesley and be reminded that we are not free to follow the dictates of our own sinful nature. We have the choice to surrender our wills to the will of God and to submit to the authority of Christ. The cost of discipleship is the sacrifice of personal freedom.  We are called to give up prejudice, gossips, lies, slander, envy, and all kinds of vices and commit ourselves totally to Christ and His works.

 

The cost of discipleship is countless.  We can go from letting go of personal wealth, giving up of ultimate allegiance to family, friends, and country, to even laying down our lives.  According to the World Watch List From Open Door, around 215 million Christians face significant level of persecution in the world today. It reports that 1 in 12 Christians live where their faith was illegal, forbidden, or punished.  In their 2018 report, 3,066 Christians were killed, 1252 were abducted, and 793 churches were attacked.

I agreed with Dietrich Bonhoeffer when he says, “Cheap grace is grace we bestow on ourselves… the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession.  Cheap grace is grace without discipleship.”

Discipleship is costly because it cost a man His life.  That man is Jesus. It is costly because it offers a man the only true gift, the gift of everlasting life.  To follow Jesus is the greatest thing we can ever undertake, but not without a cost. God bless you.

 

“GOD’S ARMOR: THE SHIELD OF FAITH AND THE HELMET OF SALVATION”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

16TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

SEPTEMBER 9, 2018

 

Title: God’s Armor: “The Shield of Faith and the Helmet of Salvation.”

 

Text: In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:” Ephesians 6:17.

 

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 59:1-20

 

The Bible was written by people inspired by God to reveal His truth,  These biblical writers had two basic choices available to them on how they could reveal the truth of God’s word.  The author could state their teachings plainly in proposition or they could use metaphoric language to express the reality of His character of God.  Both of these methods has its own advantages. However, metaphors conveys the fullness of God’s character in an unique way. There is a difference, for instance, between saying that the Creator is our protector and asserting that He is our shield. Both statements indicate that God is our defender, but to call Him our shield indicates vividly that He stands between us and our enemies to absorb the worst of their blows and keep us secure.

 

There are many biblical references in Scriptures that portrayed God as a shield.  In Genesis 15:1, God tells Abraham in a vision, saying. “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.”  In our text today, Paul in Ephesians 6:16 urges Christians to “Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish the fiery darts of the wicked.”  As we consider Paul’s call to take up the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16), let us keep in mind that the biblical authors of Psalms and Proverbs also mentioned God as a shield (Psalms 5:12 & Proverbs 30:5). Shield comes from the Greek word thyreas which is synonymous to thyra or door.  The Romans used thyreos as a name for their large door-like shield that was wide and tall enough to protect most of their bodies.  The shield that Paul’s metaphor would have brought to mind for his first-century audience was not a small disc but a large, body-length shield that a Roman soldier used to shelter his entire body.  It measured 2 ft wide by 4 ft. high and was made of two layers of wood, glued together and covered first with linen, then with leather. At both the top and bottom were iron bars which not only strengthened the shield, but made it possible to connect with the shields of fellow soldiers.  Soldiers configured into a battle line would hold their shields in front of their bodies, and their fellow-soldiers would do the same. Standing close together, they would erect a solid wall of shields protecting the entire line of soldiers against whatever the enemy might throw at them.  There was, therefore, a communal aspect to the use of the shield. A soldier gained maximum value from his shield when he joined it with the shields of his fellow soldiers.

The Roman army was unstoppable in battle because of their shields. In battle it was almost impossible for enemy armies to penetrate this Roman wall of shields. Soldiers would dampen these shields and otherwise prepare them to put out the flaming arrows and other missiles that were often launched at them from behind enemy lines.  

Paul compares our faith to this invincible shield, and tells us first to take up the shield of faith.  Paul uses that shield as a metaphor for faith. In the New Testament, pistis which is the Greek for  faith has to do with the person’s response to the the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ.  In other words, Christian faith is faith in the Lord Jesus who is steering our ship.

 

Our faith serves a similar purpose as a shield in our conflict with Satan, not because faith in itself is a substance that has magical sheltering properties but because it is the means by which we lay hold of God and all His promises.

To take up the shield of faith is to rest in Christ Himself, who absorbed the blows of temptation and even demonic attack, finally emerging victorious.  Doctor Luke makes it clear in Luke 4:1-13; 22:3; 24:1-12. Turning to Him in faith daily is essential for us, as evil forces are too powerful for us to resist on our own.  Paul makes that clear in Ephesians 6:11-12. This is why Paul wants us to take up the shield of faith, so that we will be able to destroy all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

During battle, Roman soldiers would wrap arrows with cloth, dip them in pitch, set the pitch on fire, and shoot the arrows.  When the arrows hit, the pitch would spatter, setting fires. If it landed on a person’s clothing or skin, it required immediate attention to prevent a disabling injury.  In many instances there was little that anyone could do to put out the fires. It was the napalm of its day. A fearsome weapon that was used. These were “the fiery darts of the evil one” that Paul mentions in this verse.  It is temptations of all sorts.

To fight these temptations, we must take up the shield of faith.Taking up the shield of faith means being convinced we can trust God is completely. I trust what He says in His Word. I trust Him to love me, provide for me and protect me. I trust Him to make all things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.

Paul continues to urge the Ephesians to put on the armor of God.  In verse 17a, Paul says, “And take the helmet of salvation. Paul here is quoting Isaiah 59:17, “He put a helmet of salvation on his head.” What does the helmet of salvation means? Simply put, it means to be saved and know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, if you are going into battle with the Devil.  Anybody and everybody who does not know Jesus as their savior will lose ultimately to the Devil. Victory over the Devil only comes through Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God.

Paul uses this metaphor to demonstrate how important protection of the head is in battle.  A helmet protects the soldier’s head. A blow to the head is more likely to kill or disable a soldier than a blow to the body, so helmets are one of the most important pieces of armor.  Consider this: When you see pictures of people whose jobs are dangerous (police, fire fighters, soldiers, etc.), everyone will be wearing a helmet. First-responders understand that helmets are essential equipment. The protection for the believer’s head is “the helmet of salvation.”

What Paul is telling us to do with the helmet is to protect our minds from the Devil.  Our mind is the primary target in all our battle the evil one. One good blow to our minds often times is all the Devil needs to accomplish his tasks.  Often times all the Devil needs to create devastation and destruction is to place his thoughts in somebody mind. How many of us can admit there are times you know the Devil is attacking your mind?  How many of us can admit the Devil is trying to get into your mind, your thought process and he is trying to pull you in directions you don’t want to go? The Devil is trying to get you to do or to say things you do not want to do or say?  So, Paul is telling us to protect our minds from the Devil. We need to be growing in the Lord by developing our minds spiritually. Our minds need to be saved and sanctified!

The mind is powerful.  It has potential, but it can be polluted. Some of us have heard the catch phrase, “The mind is a terrible thing to waste.” If we allow the Devil to attack our minds and mislead us that drugs will provide happiness or escape from our troubles, then our mind will be wasted to drugs.  The Devil gets into our mind with all kinds of lies and deceptions. But God’s word says in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a Spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” God has given us a saved and spiritual mind. The reason our minds remain healthy spiritually is explained by the Psalmist in Psalms 119:11, “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against God.” God’s Word gives our mind the power we need to resist the Devil; to tell the Devil “I cannot doubt God. He is my refuge and my fortress.”

The record tells us in Joshua chapter one that Joshua succeeded Moses. God blessed Joshua. Yet also, God provided the means by which Joshua would be successful: “This book of the Lord shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt MEDITATE therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8).  The Devil will attack, but when you know, that you know, that you know, that knowledge gives power to your mind. There is power in a save mind. There is power in a spiritually filled mind.

Church, I submit to you this morning that there will be battles.  Some will be difficult. There will be wounds along the way. There will be flashbacks from some of these battles.  But the Scripture tells us, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers us from them all” (Psalms 34:19). There is no battle too great for the Christian with a saved and spiritual mind.

Let me conclude with this story.  A visitor went to a mental institution.  The visitor asked the Director about the criterion or criteria used to determined when a person should be institutionalized.  “Well,” said the director, “We filled up a bathtub, and then we offered a teaspoon, a teacup, and a bucket to the patient and then asked him or her to empty the bathtub.”  What would you used? “Oh, I understand,” said the visitor. “A normal person would use the bucket because it is bigger than the spoon or the teacup. “No.” said the director, “A normal person would pull the plug. Do you want a bed near a window?”  This story illustrates the fact that our memories are like a photo album, and we get to choose what goes into that album. We can choose not to wear the helmet of salvation and allow the Devil to pollute it. Or we can choose to meditate on God’s word and find prosperity and success against the Devil.

Let us fight the Devil with our spiritual armor intact. He will not stand a chance.  Paul says, “Be sober, be vigilant because your adversary the Devil is like a roaring lion seeking to devour you” (1 Peter 5:8). God bless you!

 

“GOD’S ARMOR: THE BELT OF TRUTH AND THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

15th SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

SEPTEMBER 2, 2018

 

Title: God’s Armor: The Belt of Truth and Breastplate of Righteousness.”

 

Text: “Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand.  14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness.”

 

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 6:10-18.

 

Last week I spoke on the “Necessity of Prayer” in the life of a believer.  Our text was taken from Ephesians 6:18. Our text from last week forms part of a passage of Scriptures that has to do with the armor of God. It deals with the passage of Scripture in chapter 6 beginning with verse 10 through 20.  Understanding Ephesians 6:10-20 requires a familiarity with what went before. Paul had called these Christians to “walk worthily of the calling with which you were called” (4:1) which is the key verse for chapters 4-6. Everything in these three chapters spells out what is involved in Christians walking worthily of their calling.  To fully understand the armor of God passage, it is important to understand or learn what Paul is calling these Christians to. Paul called these Christians to put away falsehood and to speak truth with their neighbors (4:25); To deal with their anger not allowing it to cause them to sin. They should not let the sun go down on unresolved anger (4:26).  “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, outcry, and slander, be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God also in Christ forgave you” (4:31-32). Christians should not to be foolish or drunken, but to be filled with the Spirit (5:17).

Paul called wives to be subject to their husbands and husbands to love their wives even as Christ loved the church, and children to obey their parents.  Paul urged slaves to obey their master, and masters to treat their servants kindly and respectfully, “knowing that God is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him” (5:22-33; 6:10-20)

Paul knew that obeying the counsel that he was giving in 4:1 – 6:9 would not be easy, so he adds this “whole armor of God” passage (verses 10-20) to give the Ephesian Christians (and us) the spiritual resources to do what is needed.

This is the most oft-quoted passage from the book of Ephesians and one of the most quoted from the whole Bible.  So it deserves special attention. People quote it, because it addresses real-life issues. We live in a world where the Rulers of Darkness and “the spiritual forces of wickedness” (v. 12) dominate many people’s lives, and our culture reflects their influence.  Every time I think things couldn’t get worse, they suddenly move to a new, dark level. With the entertainment industry including sports leading the way. Living as Godly people in an ungodly world poses a whole host of problems.

We need practical advice to help us cope as we swim in spiritually-polluted waters.  The fact that people feel a need for advice is reflected in the case with which self-help gurus enrich themselves.  Some of those gurus offer good advice, but others are agents of the Rulers of Darkness. Being able to discern the good from the bad is critical—if we want to heed the counsel of secular advice-givers.

But in these “whole armor of God” verses, Paul provides an alternative.  First, he warns that we are facing powerful, malignant opponents, ”principalities, powers, the world’s rulers of the darkness of this age, and spiritual forces of wickedness” (v. 12).

If you think that Paul has overstated the danger, you have closed your eyes to the overwhelming presence of evil in our midst.  There are violence and ruthlessness and greed that dominate so many lives. There are self-destructive behaviors that hamstring so many people.  There is this great divide that separates the very rich from the very poor. While there are many wonderful people in our world, there are also many who are evil at their core.

The hymn, “Just as I Am,” talks about “fightings and fears within, without.”  Those words reminded me that pollution is not just without. It is in the waters in which we swim.  It is also within, in our hearts. The Rulers of Darkness have infiltrated our spiritual bloodstream, and aspire to sit on the throne of our hearts.  While we struggle to deal with the evil that exists all around us, we must also contend with the evil that lurks within. Verses 6:10-20 tell us how to protect ourselves and how to establish a solid defense.  They tell us how to mount an effective offense and how to parry the Rulers of Darkness. They tell us how to live Godly lives and serve God well in a spiritually challenging world. In this context, let begin by looking at two pieces of the spiritual armor:  The Belt of Truth and the Breastplate of Righteousness.

Paul in Ephesians 6 verse 14 says, “Stand therefore, having the utility belt of truth buckled around your waist.”  The belt of truth, or the girding up of the loins, was associated in Hebrew and Greek thinking with the idea of readiness or preparedness. A Roman soldier would never leave his garments blowing in the wind. He would tuck them into his belt, pulling the garment well in place.  Roman soldiers wore a loose tunic that could get in their way in hand-to-hand fighting, so they used a belt to cinch the tunic so that it wouldn’t restrict their movement.  Paul uses that belt as a metaphor for the truth that Christians must adopt as part of their protection against the wiles of Satan:”the belt of truth.”

Truth comes from the Greek word Aletheia signifying that which is real, untainted by falsehood or lies. There are different kinds of truth.  A person who avoids telling lies will gain a reputation as truthful. That is critical to our Christian witness.

However, the greater truth is Jesus, the one in whom we believe and on and to which we have staked our lives.  Jesus is truth personified: “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).  Jesus promised, “If you remain in my word, then you…will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32).

To learn what Christ taught, we need to look first to scripture, especially the New Testament, and not to pop psychology or politically correct thought.  The reformers said “sola scriptura” or scripture only.  Practiced rightly, this means that all other authorities are subordinate to scripture and must be judged by their adherence to scriptural teachings.  Biblical teaching will often prove unpopular, because it is not in synch with the popular culture. It stands against the popular culture and opposes it in the name of Christ. Let us understand this morning that a thorough study of God’s word will lay a foundation of truth. Everything we encountered will be tested against that foundation.  Truth is the foundation that holds everything else in place.

In the second piece of the armor, Paul in chapter 6 verse 14b says,“and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.”  Paul takes this from Isaiah 59:17, which says, “He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head.”

Each Roman soldier wore a breastplate that protected his torso or his vital organs.  The breastplate was designed to stop arrows, spears, and blows from a sword. Paul uses the breastplate as a metaphor for the protection afforded the Christian by righteousness. The Greeks thought of righteousness as conforming to tradition or custom.  Jews thought of righteousness as conforming to Torah law. However, the Christian’s hope is based on grace which is the righteousness given by Jesus. This is the righteousness that we never could have earned.

Paul had pursued righteousness fervently.  In his letter to the Philippians, he said:

“If any other man thinks he has confidence in the flesh, I have yet more: circumsised on the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless” Philippians 3:4b-6

But after encountering Jesus, Paul learned that true righteousness comes through Jesus.  Recounting his personal experience, Paul said: “What things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ….that I may gain Christ and be found in him,not having a righteousness of my own, that which is of the law,but that which is through faith in Christ,the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Philippians 3:7-9).

While Paul wants Christians to live Christlike lives, he makes it clear that moral behavior is the outgrowth of salvation rather than the cause of it.  This emphasis on God’s mercy strikes at the very heart of human pride and thus denies people the opportunity of exalting themselves. This spiritual armor is the practical righteousness of a life lived in obedience of God’s word.  It is living in daily, moment by moment obedience to the heavenly Father. God provides the standard, but we must supply the willingness. God dresses us in imputed righteousness, but we must put on our practical righteousness everyday.  We must be humble. We must be obedient.

To conclude, let us know that the Christian heart is the primary target of the devil. That’s why Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” What protects our hearts from the attack of the enemy? Righteousness!  Satan will attack us with all the falsehood or lies in disguise. It is our responsibility to put on our spiritual armor which is the Belt of Truth. May God give us strength and wisdom to fight our spiritual battles. God bless you.

 

“The Necessity to Pray”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

14TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

AUGUST 26, 2018

 

Title:  “The Necessity to Pray”

 

Text: Ephesians 6:18

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

 

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 6:10-18.

 

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, Satan considers you armed and dangerous.  He will treat you as the enemy. And he won’t fight fair. The devil is the ultimate terrorist. He will attack when you least expect it. God’s word reveals to us certain patterns in Satan’s tactics.  Satan does not attack us when and where we are strong, but he waits for moments of weakness. When we stumble, he is right there. We as Christians need to remember those times in our lives when we can expect Satan to attack us.  

When our Lord Jesus Christ was hungry Satan showed up and tempted him.  In Matthew 4:1-11 the record tells us that Jesus Christ, after fasting forty days and forty nights, the devil showed up and tempted Him. It was a time of weakness because Jesus was hungry and He was tired.  But, Jesus waged spiritual warfare against Satan. In such time, Christians ought to use the only weapon available to us: Prayer. Do you know how to use your spiritual equipment and weapons?

 

In one region of Africa, the first converts to Christianity were very diligent about praying. In fact, the believers each had their own special place outside the village where they went to pray in solitude. The villagers reached these “prayer rooms” by using their own private footpaths through the brush. When grass began to grow over one of these trails, it was evident that the person to whom it belonged was not praying very much.

Because these new Christians were concerned for each other’s spiritual welfare, a unique custom sprang up. When ever anyone noticed an overgrown “Prayer path,” he or she would go to the person and lovingly warn, “Friend, there’s grass on your path!”

This is exactly what Paul the apostle is asking the Christians at Ephesus to do. In our verse under consideration, Paul commands the Christians at Ephesus “to pray always with all prayers and supplication in the Spirit.”  Paul mentions in verse eleven of chapter six how Christians are in a Spiritual Warfare with Satan. This spiritual conflict between the forces of heaven and Satan’s power is the longest warfare. Paul tells us how to win these conflicts.   It is through prayer. Paul wants them to be constant, intense, and unselfish in their prayer life. The reason Paul is asking Christians to be constant and intense in their prayer life can be found in verse 11 of Ephesians 6: “That ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Paul wants us to see the necessity of prayer.  Paul speaks to the subject of Christians needing to pray with authority then anyone else. Paul admonishes Christians that in our walk with Christ, Prayer is a need.

Prayer is a need because God commands us to pray.  The Bible talks about prayer and the necessity of it.  In the King James version of the Bible, Prayer is mentioned three hundred and thirty three times.  The Bible in Mark 14:38 urges us to pray because we are vulnerable to the enemy. “Watch and pray so that you do not fall into temptation. The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”  Doctor Luke says, “bless those who curse you, pray for those who spitefully use you” (Luke 6:28). For our ministry to be bless with workers, Matthew says, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Pray the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send laborers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:38). Walk with me this morning as we learned together, or as we remind ourselves about the need to pray.

Like Paul’s epistle to the church at Ephesus, the first chapter of 1 Samuel talks of the effectual prayer of Hannah.  In the first part of the chapter we read that Hannah was a needy, depressed woman, but after she came to God and prayed, her face was lifted up and God answered her prayer.  We need prayer.  Bishop J. C. Ryle, a great bishop of the Anglican church who also lived in the nineteenth century, said, “I have come to the conclusion that the great majority of professing Christians do not pray at all.” Bishop Ryle also said, “Prayer will either consume sin or sin will choke prayer.” From my own observation I say, “The spiritual exercise of prayer is more difficult than rigorous physical exercise.”  But we need to be constant and intense in our prayer life. And we need to pray for each other.

Prayer is the spiritual breathing of God’s children. Bishop Ryle also tells us, “God has no dumb children.” Everyone who is a child of God will cry, “Abba, Father,” by the Holy Spirit. Such people will especially pray fervently when they find themselves in need.

The truth is, we are a needy people. To the church of Laodicea the Lord Jesus said, “You are blind, you are wretched, you are naked, you are poor, you are miserable.” It is our lack of perception of reality that gives us this idea that we are self-sufficient. But Jesus Christ himself told us, “Without me you can do nothing,” and James counsels us, “Is anyone of you in trouble? He should pray.” David says in Psalm 18, “In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help.”  In our need for prayer, we should be constant in our call to God.

Hannah did exactly that.  Even her husband could not comfort her. Hannah’s distress was so great that, no matter what he did, Elkanah could not comfort her. We are told he would give her a double portion of meat, but what can steak do for a deeply troubled soul? He would try to comfort her by words, asking, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” (v. 8). But only a double portion of the Spirit and faith in God’s promises could cause Hannah’s face to be uplifted.

The more meat Elkanah gave to Hannah, the more she refused to eat. Who could help her in her deep trouble? Her trouble was equal to that of the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4, who also did not have any children. Through prayer she received a son, yet later on her son died in her lap. We find the same word in verse 15 used to describe Hannah’s sorrow that is used to describe the “bitter distress” of the Shunammite. Hannah’s own confession was, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled.”

But one year, while the family was at Shiloh for worship, Hannah was guided by the Holy Spirit to get up and go to the tabernacle, which represented the presence of God. In a flash she was guided to pour out her heart in prayer to the living God of Israel. She began to realize what even her husband did not realize, that prayer is power, that prayer prevails, and that prayer is effectual. She told herself, “I know God will hear my prayer and help me when no human being can do so.” So we read in 1 Samuel 1:10, “In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord.”

What about you? Are you needy? Are you in trouble? Are you in deep distress? Have you discovered that human answers do not work? Have you sought answers from God? Have you poured out your soul in earnest and fervent prayer to God? Are you downcast as Hannah was? I counsel you: Follow her example of prayer and your face will be lifted up.  Hannah was not only constant in her prayers, she was intense. She prayed with intensity.

Hannah prayed with fasting. In the midst of her deep trouble, Hannah earnestly sought God, refusing to eat until she had prayed. She was single-minded, focusing on God and God alone, at the exclusion of everything else.What about our prayer lives? Are we so earnest, so focused, so single-minded that we sometimes forego eating so that we may pray earnestly and fervently?

Hannah prayed in faith. In verse 11 we read, “And she made a vow: ‘O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me and not forget your servant. . . .’” Faith is the heart of Christianity. In Romans 10:9,10 we read,”If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Hannah was telling God, “Lord, I am your servant, one who hears and does your will.

Hannah believed that God alone was able to help her. She addressed him as God Almighty, believing in his mighty power. I suspect she was reflecting on the experiences of Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel while she prayed. The word of God declared that they were barren, and yet God caused them to bear children. It is possible she remembered God’s word to Sarah: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Such an idea was repeated later on when the Lord Jesus Christ himself told his disciples, “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.” So Hannah prayed in faith to the Lord Almighty, knowing that he alone could help her.

I don’t know what your sufficiency in life is, but everyone needs prayer. God has called us to a life of prayer.  He has made prayer a need because it is the way we can talk to him. Let us do it with consistency and intensity. Let us pray unselfishly, praying for one another.  God will hear us. God bless you.

 

“The Miracle of God’s Forgiveness”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

12TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

AUGUST 12, 2018.

 

Title: “The Miracle of God’s Forgiveness”

 

Text: John 8:10-11  

“Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 No one, sir,” she said.  “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

 

Scripture: John 8:1-10

 

In “The Christian Leader,” Don Ratzlaff retells a story Vernon Grounds came across in Ernest Gordon’s Miracle on the River Kwai. The Scottish soldiers, forced by their Japanese captors to labor on a jungle railroad, had degenerated to barbarous behavior, but one afternoon something happened. A shovel was missing. The officer in charge became enraged. He demanded that the missing shovel be produced, or else. When nobody in the squadron budge, the officer got his gun and threatened to kill them all on the spot . . . It was obvious the officer meant what he had said. Then, finally, one man stepped forward. The officer put away his gun, picked up a shovel, and beat the man to death. When it was over, the survivors picked up the bloody corpse and carried it with them to the second tool check. This time, no shovel was missing. Indeed, there had been a miscount at the first check point. The word spread like wildfire through the whole camp. An innocent man had been willing to die to save the others! . . . The incident had a profound effect. . . The men began to treat each other like brothers. When the victorious Allies swept in, the survivors, human skeletons, lined up in front of their captors (and instead of attacking their captors) insisted: “No more hatred. No more killing. Now what we need is forgiveness.”

This significance of this illustration is that wherever love is an act of sacrifice, there is transformation.  This is important because our subject of forgiveness is a very difficult thing to pursue even in Christianity. Forgiveness is difficult because forgiveness is not excusing.  One can excuse a child for throwing a tantrum at the grocery store. An expectant father would be excused if he breaks the speed limit trying to get his wife to the delivery room. A nine year old kid can be excused if he makes a certain bodily noise.  The point here is an action that can be excuse does not require forgiveness. There are instances where we placed an item somewhere and we cannot remember where we placed it. This is a memory lapse. This is different from forgetting a serious hurt that someone may cause us.  We may remember the hurt for years, even if we forgive the person. But doesn’t Jeremiah says, “God will remember our sins no more”? This doesn’t mean God suffers from the disease amnesia. The key here is we can forgive what we remember. We have the power to forgive what we remember.  Forgiveness is not reconciliation. Reconciliation is a situation where people who have hurt each other sit down with each other, talk things out, acknowledged their wrongs and rights, take responsibilities, and apologise. Reconciliation takes place in good marriages, good families, and good churches, when all is forgiven and relationships are restored.  This is not always the case because we can have forgiveness without a restored relationship, especially if what we experienced was life-shattering and trust was removed.

C.S. Lewis had a school master who abused him and his brother.  It took thirty years after the alleged abuser died when C.S. Lewis forgave him.  This is because reconciliation requires building of trust and good faith on the part of both parties.  So we all will see that forgiveness is unlike excusing, forgetting or necessarily reconciling. So then, what is forgiveness?  Is forgiveness a miracle? Who performs that miracle?

Forgiveness is a act where an offender is pardoned.  In the Bible, the Greek word translated “forgiveness” literally means “to let go,” a situation where a person does not demand compensation for a debt.  In Luke 11:4 Jesus uses this comparison when He taught His disciples to pray: “Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgives everyone who is in debt to us.”  Jesus also equated forgiveness with cancelling a debt in the parable of the unmerciful slave (Matthew 18:23-35). This is difficult especially if the offense is grave.

Forgiving from a biblical standpoint is a decision, an act of the will by the grace of God.  In making such decision, you may consider all the hurt a person caused you. You want to revenge.  The spirit of vengeance creeps up in you. The person really hurt you to the extent that it is very difficult to let go.  But forgiveness entails the beginning of a process of letting go. We all know the story of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis 45:1-28.  This story clearly tells us what forgiveness entails.

Those years which Joseph spent in slavery and prison could have been the occasion for a slow burn that might have ignited into an explosion of anger at the sight of his brothers. How angry Joseph could have been with God for getting him into such a situation. But Joseph recognized that God was with him in his sufferings and that these were from the loving hand of a sovereign God. Most of all, Joseph could have been angry with his brothers, who had callously sold him into slavery. What made them do this evil in the sight of God? It was anger. It was bitterness.

Let me use as an illustration by Margaret Hess of how anger and bitterness hinders our abilities to forgive. Near a town in the state of Washington, millions of gallons of radioactive atomic wastes are being stored in huge underground tanks. The tanks have a life expectancy of 20 or 30 years. The wastes within them will remain deadly for about 600 years. We live in a society which, like those tanks in Washington, is trying to store up anger that sooner or later is going to break forth, causing pain and misery for many. We are all familiar with the popular bumper sticker in Dallas which reads, “I’m Mad Too, Eddie.”  Basically, there are far too many hostile people going around looking for some way to unload their anger. Anger takes a tremendous toll on those about us: Eighty percent of all murders are committed by people who have some relationship with the victim. Somebody gets angry, there’s a gun or knife handy, and tragedy results. According to hospital records, innumerable parents have inflicted serious injuries upon their small children in fits of temper. One authority estimates that 60,000 children a year in America are beaten to death, that more children under five years of age are killed by their parents than die of disease.  Besides hurting others, anger is killing us. Suppressed anger is eating at our health and peace of mind.

Folks who research and write books on anger conclude that unprocessed anger can produced all sorts of physical disorders. Reading Dr. Leo Madows book, “Anger” I learned that these physical problems can range all the way from arthritis to asthma, from urinary disorders to the common cold. And we have known for a long time that anger can cause serious emotional disorders when it is not handled effectively. All of these will lead us to conclude that anger is one of the greatest problems of our times.  So do we prevent all of this anger and bitterness from taking root in our hearts? Forgiveness is the answer to much, if not most, of the anger we experienced in life. Unresolved anger leads to bitterness, hostility, and revenge. Forgiveness leads to freedom and reconciliation. No character in the drama of the book of Genesis better illustrates the fundamentals of forgiveness than Joseph, and no chapter more clearly defines and describes the essentials of forgiveness than chapter 45.

Those years which Joseph spent in slavery and prison could have been the occasion for a slow burn that might have ignited into an explosion of anger at the sight of his brothers. How angry Joseph could have been with God for getting him into such a situation. But Joseph recognized that God was with him in his sufferings and that these were from the loving hand of a sovereign God. Most of all, Joseph could have been angry with his brothers, who had callously sold him into slavery.  The high point of Joseph’s relationship with his brothers comes in chapter 45, for it is here that there is a reconciliation brought about between them. This was made possible on the brothers’ part by their genuine repentance, regretting their sin with regard to Joseph, and reversing their actions when a similar situation was presented with regard to Benjamin. But on Joseph’s part, reconciliation was achieved through his sincere and total forgiveness of his brothers for the evil they had committed against him.  Forgiveness is a vital part of the Christian experience. It is necessary in terms of our relationship with God: For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. Matthew 6:14-15

Forgiveness is also an essential part of our responsibility toward others, both friends and enemies:  “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you,” (Ephesians 4:31-32).  Forgiveness is also an essential part of our responsibility toward others, both friends and enemies: But it takes a miracle. This miracle is what our text is involved with. These people who claimed to be religious brings a woman to Jesus and tests Him.  They want to stone her. But Christ challenge them knowing that are all filled with anger and bitterness. They are all flawed. When they all refused, Christ tells the woman to go go and sin no more. God’s grace! This is the miracle we are talking about.  The miracle of God’s forgiveness.

We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” Our sins are innumerable, but God’s grace in Christ washes away each one if we’ll receive it.

If his grace takes root in our hearts we will, by the power of his Spirit, forgive those who have hurt us because forgiven people forgive. That’s not going to be easy; it’s going to take prayer and spiritual work, and it will probably take some time, but we’ll get there.

You all remember that horrible murder of our brothers and sisters everyday.  All the violence we see everyday are evil, but what come out of the tragedies is forgiveness. The friends and family of those who are killed, beaten, abused go to court and forgive them guilty person. They did not excuse, forget, or reconcile. They sometimes tell the guilty party that they were going to seek justice under the law. But they did what forgiven people who have internalized the grace of God do: They tell the guilty party that they forgave them for hatred, and violence. They called them to repent, receive Jesus, and be forgiven!  This is the miracle of forgiveness.

 

“Christ the Living Bread of Heaven”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

11th SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

AUGUST 5, 2018

Title: “Christ the Living Bread from Heaven.”

Text: “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst’” (John 6:35)

Scripture Reading: John 6:32-40.

This sixth chapter of John is a watershed, a major turning point in the Gospel of John. From this point on, Jesus is not nearly as popular as He once was. His enemies are determined to do away with Him. From a historical point of view, it is only a matter of time until our Lord’s arrest, trial, and crucifixion. Our text plays a pivotal role in all of this, so let us ponder well on the words of this Scripture.  This is one of the great passages of the Fourth Gospel, and indeed of the New Testament.  It is one of those sayings of Jesus Christ that would make people want to run or walk away from the truth. This is evident from verse 66 as John ends the narratives saying, “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked with him no more.” It is clear in this verse that it was a hard saying of Jesus. John, the beloved apostle, lived and ministered in the great city of Ephesians which was a Gentile city where Greek culture was dominant. He faced the task of communicating the coming of Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah who was the Savior of the world.

John announced that the eternal God had entered time and space, the invisible God had become visible, the spiritual had become physical in Jesus of Nazareth, and the Creator had become a part of His own creation.  He proclaimed Jesus as the very language of God in which God was seeking to communicate with people concerning himself, the nature of humanity, the purpose for life, and the meaning of eternity. John has proclaimed Jesus as the very light of the World that dispels darkness and puts chaos to flight.  

John presents Jesus Christ as the living Bread from heaven that sustains and supports life.   He is not medicine that prevents disease, cake enjoyed as a dessert, or candy for its mere sweetness.  He is the Bread of life that is essential for life.

This great chapter concerning Jesus as the Bread of Life follows the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand.  The miracles in John’s gospel are parables through which Jesus sought to teach something about the life of the Spirit, the life of faith, the life of worship, and the life that leads to joy.

Our Lord met a great physical need of the hungry multitude.  He used this experience on the human level to reveal divine truth on the spiritual level. Christ asserted that he came into the world on a much greater mission than that of merely satisfying the physical needs of people.  He came to meet their heart and soul needs.

In this great claim to being the Bread of Life, our Lord used figurative language that identified him with the manna God gave through Moses.  While God gave the manna for only a limited time, he now provides spiritual bread on a continuing basis (John 6:32).  Jesus Christ, the Living Bread, continues to provide sustenance for the innermost being of those who trust him and look to him for grace and guidance in life (John 6:48-51).

There is great physical hunger in the world today.  The population explosion has created vast multitudes in areas of the world where there is a scarcity of essentials for human existence.  In some great metropolitan areas, poverty has created famine conditions. Our governments, churches, and parachurch organizations are faced with an urgent challenge to feed the hungry.  These hunger conditions present every Christian with both an invitation and a commission to e help.

There is also great spiritual hunger among the nations of the earth.  Everywhere there is a haunting dissatisfaction within people’s hearts.  They feel incomplete because they do not know God through Jesus Christ. What is humankind hungry for?

There is a hunger for truth, and Jesus Christ is the truth.  There is a hunger for abundant life. There is a hunger for love, and Jesus Christ is the medium through which the love of God comes to us.  There is a great hunger for forgiveness, and Jesus Christ makes forgiveness possible for us. In the midst of wars and rumors of war, there is a hunger for peace among nations of the world.  But Jesus Christ as the Prince of Peace can help us to have the harmonious relationships that make for peace among the people. There is a great hunger for meaning and purpose in life, and great joy can come to those who follow the purpose of Jesus Christ.  There has always been hunger for eternal life, and Jesus Christ alone can give us eternal life.

Our Lord’s audience does not understand what He is saying at all. They still think Jesus is offering them some kind of literal bread, which they can eat and fill their stomachs, just as they ate the barley loaves at the feeding of the 5,000. So when Jesus speaks to them about “bread,” they quickly ask for more: “Sir, give us this bread all the time!” They offer Jesus a full-time job as their chef.

In His response, Jesus makes it very clear that He is speaking of “spiritual bread,” not literal bread. It is He who is the “bread,” so whoever comes to Him will never hunger. In verse 35, Jesus speaks of the one who “comes to Him” as the one who “believes in Him.” To come to Jesus is to trust in Him, by faith, as the “bread from heaven,” who is God’s only provision for eternal life.

The Food of the world does not satisfy the hunger of the soul.  A barn full of grains cannot satisfy the hunger of the soul (Luke 12:13-21).  Pleasure alone will leave a sour taste in the mouth. Knowledge, as wonderful as it is, cannot satisfy the deepest hunger of the human heart.  Power and position do not satisfy this deep hunger of the soul. Power can often be very frustrating. Why is there too much hunger in the world?

Humanity is hungry for two primary reasons.  First sin has made people hungry for God. When we live a life of sin, we live a life of no faith in God.  For us to live a life of no faith is living a life where we try to satisfy our thirst by drinking salt water.  It is like trying to satisfy the hunger of the stomach by feeding on sawdust.

God has created us with a hunger for himself.  God made us with a nature like his own and has placed within us a hunger that cannot be satisfied with anything except God himself.  People try to satisfy this hunger by piling up money or by studying books or by enjoying all the pleasures that the world has to offer.  The God-shaped vacuum within the human soul cannot be satisfied with anything except God himself. Christ is the Bread sent from God to meet the deepest needs of the human heart.

Christ is the Bread from heaven that makes life possible.  Without bread, people could not live, and without the Bread of Life, people cannot know the life of God.  This is not just a poetic phrase. Throughout the ages bread has been very important in the sustenance of life.  Christ is the bread of life available to the chief of sinners. He is the Bread of heaven available to the hungriest of hungry. He is the bread available to the thirstiest of the thirst.  Christ the bread that strengthens and nourishes and makes growth and development possible. It is he who gives vitality and strength to our moral muscles. Christ is the bread that satisfies perfectly.  Jesus Christ declared that they who hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be filled (Matthew 5:6). Our Lord is adequate to meet every spiritual need in our lives. As we cannot live the natural life without bread, we cannot live the spiritual life without the Bread of Life.

Christ, as the living Bread of Life Heaven, is the best food upon which the soul can feed.  Furthermore, this Bread is a free gift from God and is congenial to the appetites of all who will come to Him. But Christ, as the living Bread of Heaven, is beneficial only to those who eat.  You must eat your own food. When our Lord speaks of his flesh, he is referring to his incarnation, his coming into the world as a visible manifestation of the love and grace of God.  When He speaks of His blood, he is really speaking of His life, which was given for us.  As we trust Him and meditate on all that He came to do for us, and as we give ourselves in obedience to Him, we feast on the living Bread from Heaven.  Our text is much more than mere history, a skillfully written account of what happened in the life and ministry of our Lord. It is recorded to instruct us, and there is much for us to learn here. Let me conclude this message by pointing out some of the lessons it has to teach us.

This text exposes some of the wrong reasons people turn to God, and why they reject the gospel when they finally understand it. Consider some of the reasons why people seek God, which are not biblical. First, many people seek God to “meet their needs.” These “needs” are almost always physical or material, rather than spiritual, and they are the “needs” we define for God—which we expect Him to meet. We want physical health, success in our endeavors, and food on the table. We look to God to provide these for us, not as secondary desires, but as primary demands. When God fails to meet our demands, when life doesn’t go as we wish, we find God to blame. How many of us, as Christians, find God’s “meeting our needs” as the dominant theme of our prayer life?

Second, some people turn to God for salvation, but they seek a salvation to which they can contribute, a salvation which they control (see 6:36-37, 44). Jesus came to die in the sinner’s place, to bear the guilt and punishment for our sins, and thus to appease God’s holy wrath on our sin. By His sacrificial death on the cross of Calvary, Jesus paid the price for our sins. It is only by faith in His “flesh and blood” as He came to this earth and died in our place that we are saved. This is how our Lord became the “bread of heaven that gives life to the world.” Have you tasted this “bread”? Have you acknowledged your sin, and the divine wrath it merits? Have you trusted in the sacrifice Jesus Christ made on the cross of Calvary for your sins? I urge you to partake of this “bread” and to obtain eternal life through Him. God bless you!


“The Eagle Christian”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

10TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

JULY 29, 2018

 

Title: “The Eagle Christian”

 

Text:  “But they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength: they shall mount up wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

 

The eagle is the king of the birds.  What the lion is to the animal world, the eagle is to the bird kingdom.  No other bird compares with the eagle in superiority or power. Depending on what version you are using, the eagle is mentioned more than thirty two times in Scriptures.  In our Scripture today, Isaiah tells us that those who yield their life, those who surrender their will to God shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles.  God promises that you and I can be eagle Christians.

To fully grasp who an eagle Christian is, it is important to comprehend some of the habits and heritage of an eagle.  

The eagle is an excellent nest builder.  The eagle builds its nest in the cleft of the rock, in the crags of the mountains.  Some of the eagle’s nest can be ten feet across, can weigh approximately one ton, and be twenty feet in depth.  An eagle stands at three feet high, and has a wingspan of 32 to 36 feet. This bird can weigh eight to thirteen pounds.    Each wing has 1,252 feathers with a total of 7,182 in their entire body.

Each day, the eagle would stare into the sun for about forty five minutes while tears come out of its eyes.  It is a means of cleansing. As it stares into the sun, the eagle would clean its feathers by pulling each through its beak.  This is called preening. The eagle clean and oil itself through the process to prepare for the day. The young eagle is a very ugly bird at birth because it has no feathers, but as time goes on it grows to be a very beautiful bird.

One important habit of the eagle is that it can dive straight down at a speed of one hundred and eighty miles per hour to bear up its young in its wing to teach them how to fly.  The eagle is a bird that can be depressed at some point in its life. It would descend to the low, dark part of the mountain. It would stay there without cleaning itself. The oil in its beak would gum up, the eagle will not fly and would eventually die if food is not brought down by the stronger eagles.  I have seen an eagle.  It is beautiful and strong.  But what I envisage about the eagle is that its habits and heritage brings to the fold great spiritual lessons.  We can study the eagle, marvel at the forty eight wonderful species of eagles God has created, and glean some spiritual truth to help us live our Christian life.  Join me this morning as we delve into Scripture and comprehend why one of God’s greatest prophets urged us to be like an eagle.

An eagle Christian is a Christian that soars above the storms of life.  The eagle is a bird that takes advantage of the wind to soar, to mount up high in the heavens.  The eagle gets above the fog, the mist, and the clouds. Job puts it like this: “Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high? She dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock, and the strong place” (Job 39:27-28).  

Folks go through all kinds of storms in life. Folks get depressed. Everyday dozens of people commit suicide in America.  According to the Center for Disease Control, since 2000 the suicide rate has increased 28 percent from 10.5 to 13.4 per every 100,000.  The rate among men is 3.5 times higher. On average, there are 123 suicides per day. It is the tenth leading cause of death overall in the U.S. claiming over 45,000 lives.  This data is based on death certificates information gathered by the C.D.C. There are many other crisis that affects Christians. These tragedy are storms in the life of Christians.  They posed great danger to many Christians. It is a sad situation. Folks leaped out into utter darkness with a cry of hopelessness on their lips. They feel that life is a prison sentence.  They lose sight of the stars. But if only folks would surrender their lives fully to God, they could rise above the storms of life and find the peace of God that passes all understanding. David remembered this promise when life closed in for him.  His home and hometown were burned to ashes. His family and families of his friends were made captives by roving band of outlaws. But that was not all. His trials were even greater. His own men were blaming him for the catastrophe and were threatening to stone him to death.

What was David’s response? The Bible says, “David encouraged himself in the Lord” (1 Samuel 30:6), and his life was renewed like the eagle’s.  Brushing away his tears, he recognized his men, went forth to battle, conquered his enemies, and David was victorious. David remembered the wings God had given him and, like the eagle, rose above them.  When an enemy attacked an eagle, the eagle soars up out of the enemies’ reach. The eagle puts himself between the enemies and the sun, there they lose sight of him. Satan cannot reach us if we become eagle Christians and if we will direct our lives toward the heavens, soaring high above.  “He that dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalms 91:1). God promises to set us on high places.  The Psalmist spoke of “the rock that is higher than I” (Psalms 61:2). There is a rock in a high place that is a safe refuge for God’s people.  God has promised to put our feet on that rock, the rock of security, assurance, and safety. In the storms of life, God will care for us.

As mentioned above, the eagle will at some point in its life seems depressed.  It lives in the low, dark part of the mountain. It refuses to clean itself accumulating oil in its beak.  Those are low moments in the life of an eagle. This time can be perilous. If not assisted by other stronger eagle, life can be fatal.  We all go through perilous times in our lives. We go through times of depression when life seems to have no meaning. We go through those times when we try to find God in all the wrong places.  These are the times when God Himself exhibits the habit of eagle. The mate and the eagle live together besides the nest and are devoted to each other. Their care for the young is a beautiful and touching scenario.  Deuteronomy 32:11 puts it this way, “As the eagle stirreth up her nest , fluttered over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings.” This verse looks at the mother eagle teaching the little ones to fly.  The mother eagle pushes the baby eaglet out of the nest on top of the cliff. As the little one flies downward, if the eaglets cannot fly, the mother eagle swoops down swiftly and spreads out her wings under the little one and bears it up on her wings lest its life be lost on the rocks below.  

God at times too will try His people, but he does not put more on us that we are able to bear.  In Exodus 19:4 the great Jehovah God speaks to the children of Israel. He recalls with them how he cared for them during the wilderness wandering.  He says, “I bore you on eagle’s wings.” What a beautiful and inspiring picture of God’s care of His people as he led them through the wilderness. His care for them was like the mother eagle’s care of her young.  Sometimes they fainted along the road and sometimes they were hungry or thirsty, yet God was there to bear them up on His wings. The eagle Christian can see visions of his days and future and of the things of God. You and I can lift up our eyes to the everlasting hills and see the city foursquare and a king on His throne.  Like the eagle, God has given a Christian vision to see life through His eyes. We can see sin as He sees it. We can see goodness, love, and truth as He sees them. An eagle Christian we can see opportunities and His will for our lives. As we live for Him, and fulfill the destiny He has set for us, we can say with Paul, “Wherefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19).

It is good to be an eagle Christian because the eagle loves liberty and freedom from bondage.  The eagle never flock. They select the tallest trees of the forest, the topmost crag of the mountains, and pairs live in solitude, hunting and feeding singly.  Humankind’s relationship with God is one where we long to be free. We were created to stand alone before God. As eagle Christian, let us never be afraid to stand alone before our God.  Our quest to stand alone before God and have a relationship with Him is sometimes hindered. This freedom can be lost. This freedom can be bartered away. People can be enslaved by sin.

The story is told of how a rancher saw a giant eagle swoop down in its flight and seize a snake from the plains.  The eagle started to climb back to the heights. Again and again the eagle was bitten by the snake. The poison from the snake fangs sank into the bloodstream of the eagle.  The rancher watched the pitiful sight, the mighty eagle being bitten by the snake. The he watched as the poison gradually took effect, and the mighty eagle began to go down, down until it fell lifeless to the earth.  This is how the life of man is as he takes up sin, some evil habits, and learn the high cost of low living. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

But the eagle inherits a substance in its beak that hinders him in his flight.  The eagle realizes this substance hampers him in his flight. The eagle goes to the rock and hits his beak again and again on the rock until the substance begins to flow from his beak and the eagle is free from it and begins to fly effectively again.  Likewise, by nature we humans have something within us that hinders us from soaring to the heights, from taking flights into the spiritual stratosphere. But one day we can go to the Rock of Ages and have our lives freed from the sin that hinders us. As eagle Christians, we can soar again.

Finally, the eagle Christian longs to inherit eternal life.  The eagle is known to live about 120 years, even in captivity. Each year the eagle sheds of its feathers and has the appearance of youth. God, in like manner, promises to renew our youth like the eagle’s.  By His Spirit and power, God restores and revives our lives and returns us to the days of our yout. As Paul said, “The inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16). As the eagle, we can live long life. We can also live in eternity.  Let us as people of God wait upon the Lord, that our lives may be renewed like the eagle. God bless you.