“Witnessing the Resurrection”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

EASTER SUNDAY, APRIL 1, 2018

 

Title: “Witnessing the Resurrection”

Text: John 20: 11-18

  1. Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying.  As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 13. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14. At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.  15. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for? Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, i you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” 16. Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”) 17. Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.  Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18. Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he said these things to her.

 

Understanding the circumstances leading the resurrection of Jesus can be explained by the events during the holy week.  The events of the holy week is symbolic of how Jesus works in our life, preparing us to be witnesses to His truth. The holy week began with the celebration of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, with crowds cheering and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest Heavens!” Others questioned who he was. It was a short-lived joy, for Jesus would be arrested on Holy Thursday, and brutally killed on Good Friday.

Prior to His crucifixion, Jesus Christ carried out some acts that are worthy of remembrance.  On Holy Monday, Jesus entered the temple and chased the folks who were trading in the temple.  Jesus enters the very temple precinct itself and stirred up the place.  Jesus comes into our life stirring up our temple or body, removing prejudice, old hurts, and anything that blocks His relationship with us.  After cleaning the temple, Jesus began to teach the Word of God. After He had removed the clutters of our lives, he filled us up with the word.  On the third day of the holy week, Jesus began to performed miracles of healing the blind and crippled. Jesus Christ brings us in contact with the supernatural.  He brings us to the very throne room of God, but yet the road ahead seems so gloomy. On the fifth day of the events leading to the resurrection, Jesus Christ had some intimate time with His disciples.  Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples. At this high holy meal, Jesus accentuated His love for His disciples and washed their feet. Jesus assured them of His love, but also reminded them that one of them would betrayed Him.  Before daybreak Jesus had been denied and betrayed. Good Friday is the darkest day. On this day, we remembered the events of the rigged trial, the bloodthirsty mob howling for Jesus’ blood because He failed to meet their patriotic expectations.  We remembered the brutal beating and the savagery of the soldiers. Jesus is on the cross with nails pounded in His flesh. His death meant the death of the faith of His followers, the end of the hope they had in Him. This evil day, this black Friday is filled with cruelty unimaginable.  Holy Saturday came and there was silence everywhere among the faithful believers. It is like that tunnel where we find ourselves when the lights of our faith has gone out. It is like the point in our lives when we go to church, but we no longer believe. It is a time when we say prayers we do not mean. It is a time when there is instability in our Christian faith. But it is a time when something deep down in us brings hope.  It is that time when we revive our hope by witnessing the resurrection. It is this winessing of the resurrection that affirms the reality that Jesus rose from the dead.

The Resurrection is the secret of Christian stability. Actually, the symbol of Christianity is more an empty tomb than a cross.  The empty tomb gives meaning to the cross. Were it not for the empty tomb, the cross would have been a tragedy.

It makes a lot of sense to see that the witnesses of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus Christ were also the witnesses of His resurrection.  According to our text, Mary Magdalene had gone to the tomb early during the Resurrection morning and met an empty tomb. She and the other Mary were the first to received the news of the risen Lord and the first to encountered Him.  They had been at the cross; they had been there when He was laid in the tomb; and now they were recipients of the rewards of love. They were the first to know the joy of the resurrection.

The events of the holy week have been focused on the cross. Some of those in the crowd at the cross were also at the empty tomb.  They were the witnesses of the resurrection. And so we do witness the resurrection, the return to life of Jesus Christ, and the defeat of death.

Let us know first and foremost that witnessing the Resurrection affirms the reality of the resurrection.  Our Christian faith is built on the reality of the resurrection. It does not, alone, prove the deity of Christ, but it is consistent with it.  Because Jesus is Lord, we can believe that he is the resurrected Lord.

Was the resurrection authentic? Josh McDowell, the well-known Christian apologist studied the authenticity of the Resurrection for more than 700 hours.  His conclusion is that the resurrection is “the most remarkable fact of history.” In his book, “Evidence that Demands a Verdict,” McDowell explains that the empty tomb is the most notable of evidences that show Jesus’ resurrection. The disciples did not go elsewhere to preach.  They preached right there in Jerusalem, where the evidence of the empty tomb could not be denied. Both Jewish and Roman sources and tradition bear witness to the empty tomb.  The breaking of the Roman Seal is also evidence of Christ’s Resurrection. The breaking of the Roman Seal was death for anyone. Christ disciples all show cowardice and could not do it.  The Romans soldiers knew the penalty was immediately execution. It could be only the angels of God or the power of God. The Roman soldiers went AWOL. How could they abdicate their responsibilities of protecting the tomb, when discipline among Roman soldiers were exceptional? One way a soldier was put to death for leaving his duty was to take his clothes of and burning him. If one soldier or all of them had emptied the tomb, they would all be killed.  According to McDowell, Dr. George Curie, a student in Roman military discipline explained that because Roman soldiers feared punishment, “they produced flawless attention to duty especially during night watches.” There was no way the soldiers could have done it. Many scholars say that it is the best-attested fact in history. But those who do not believe in the resurrection try to explain away the Resurrection by saying that the women went to the wrong tomb; or that Jesus fainted and later revived; or that thieves stole His body, the disciples removed His body, or the Romans or Jewish authorities took His body into their own custody.  But the tomb is empty! Jesus was resurrected and set loose those in the world.

In the amazing drama of the Trial of Jesus written by John Masefield, there is a passage in which Longinus, the Roman centurion in command of the soldiers at the cross, comes back to Pilate to hand in his report on the day’s work.  The report is given. Then Procula, the wife of Pilate, backons to the centurion and begs him to tell her how the prisoner died. When the story has been told, she suddenly ask, “Do you think he is dead?” “No, lady, Longinus answers, “I don’t. “Then where is he?” she asked.  The centurion answers, “Let loose in the world, lady, where neither Romans nor Jews can stop His truth.” When we have gotten all the facts of the resurrection, what do we do? We tell others about the resurrection.

In our passage, Jesus called the name of Mary.  Mary recognized Jesus. She shouted in Aramaic, “Rabboni,” meaning Teacher.  In verse 17, Jesus immediately told her to go and tell the good news of the resurrection.  The first declaration of the Resurrection was a call to action. Even in the Matthew account in chapter 28:7, the angels said to the women to “go, quickly, tell.”  Church, this is the kind of news you do not keep to yourself. If you were in the hospital room of a very ill relative, the physicians came in and told everyone the crisis is over and the relative will live.  You do not just quietly sit there.  You run down the hall to find the wife, husband, son or daughter.  You run to Mojo’s coffee shop to find the uncle and aunties. You run to the telephone to tell the grandparents.  There are some news you just don’t keep to yourself. The resurrection is that kind of news. It is news that give hope, inspiration, courage: “fear not”; news that give assurance: “He is not here”: news that give joy: “with great joy.”  This is the news that give life. It is telling this news that give witness to the Resurrection!

As we read Matthew and John gospels, we will know that during this difficult period of the lives of the disciples, the appearance of Jesus gave them hope.  During this most difficult period, their young Jewish Rabbi had been murdered. Their only hope, the hope upon which their faith depended, was dead. For a moment, their dreams and aspirations of receiving eternal life were shattered.

If we carefully follow the gospel account, we will notice a change in the disciples who followed Jesus.  If we follow this account to the opening of the book of Acts, we will observed that the lives of the disciples were changed greatly, when they received the news and witnessed the resurrection of Jesus.  

Peter had denied the Lord three times.  He had cursed and sworn as though he had never known the restraining influence of Jesus.  Peter had gone out and wept bitterly. Peter joined the other disciples behind closed doors when Jesus died.  Two pages after this account in the Bible, the same very Peter is standing outside the very upper room of the Last Supper preaching Christ boldly.  After Peter witnessed the resurrection, he defied the same Sanhedrin that had condemned Jesus to death. And he slept in his jail cell the night before he was executed.  What changed Peter? It was his witness to the power of the resurrected Christ.

James later assumed a position of leadership in the Jerusalem church.  But in Jesus’ life time, he did not believe in Him. After the Resurrection this earthly brother of the Lord was transformed from a doubter into a believer just as Simon Peter was turned from fear to courage.  Lives are changed by the resurrected Lord.

This is the greatest assurance of the Resurrection in our lives.  We have met the resurrected Christ, and he has changed us. Then he charges us.  He gives us a job to do and the power to do it.

  

“The Irresistible Love of God”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

PALM SUNDAY, MARCH 25, 2017

 

Title: “The Irresistible Love of God.”

Text: Hosea 3:4-5

  1. For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: 5. Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.

 

Today, we symbolically celebrate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  It marks a time which fulfilled some of the messianic prophecies of Jesus Christ.  These prophecies talks about Jesus the King riding on a donkey, unlike many kings who ride on horses.  It is a time when palm branches were placed in His path, before His arrest on Holy Thursday, and His crucifixion on Good Friday.  It ends the period of Lent and begins the Holy Week. The prophecy of His entry into Jerusalem is mentioned in Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”  It is a time when a crowd went before Him and some followed behind Him shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heavens!  Interestingly, when Jesus entered into Jerusalem, some were asking, “Who is this?”  The answer the crowd gave was, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”  People were too busy to learn about Jesus. Some who knew Him did not take Him serious.

Yet maybe in the midst of busy lives at the end of a Spring break, or in all the upcoming thought about Easter, the real meaning of it may, even unintentionally, get missed. The significance of the palm branches is goodness and victory and was symbolic of the final victory Jesus would soon fulfil over death.  The donkey signifies peace for a world filled with turmoil.  The shout of hosanna signifies that they were hailing Christ as king, the word actually means save now.  The scripture tells us that Jesus actually wept for Jerusalem amidst the praise: that these very people would turn their back on Him and betrayed Him, and crucify Him.  His heart broke with the reality of how much they needed the love of God. This is what brings us to the heart of our message today: “God Irresistible Love.” We will use the story of Hosea’s love for Gomer to illustrate how much this powerful or convincing love God transcends all else.   

 

In chapter one and two of Hosea’ prophecy, the narrative gives an account of a broken home (a broken relationship between a man and his wife) and of a broken nation (a broken relationship between a people and their God).  Yet, there is something unique about this broken home. First, the tragedy is heightened in that the one sinned against is a prophet of God charged with the responsibility of preaching to a nation. Second, the Lord God knew what was going to happen in Hosea’s home even before he commended his prophet to marry this woman, Gomer.  In his sovereign purpose, God used this heartbreaking tragedy to add a dimension of compassion and love to Hosea’s life and ministry that he could never have had otherwise. It enabled Hosea to catch a fleeting glimpse of the unfathomable suffering God experiences when his people sin against him.

In the five verses comprising Hosea 3, the love of God is described and demonstrated in four ways.  We might compare God’s love here with a finely cut diamond having four distinct facets, each of which flashes its fire in a different color or hue.

 

God’s seeking Love.  

Verse one reflects the heart of Hosea’s entire message: God’s love toward those who are not worthy of it.  God was showing Hosea and commanding him to demonstrate a revolutionary concept of the love of God. Throughout the Old Testament era, God’s people had placed a confining limitation on God’s love.  They believed that God’s mercy and love were limited to those who feared him and remembered his commandments; or, in order words, God’s mercy was for those who merited it.

When Jesus came, he redefined love.  Paul expressed it like this: “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.  But God commanded His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:7-8. Thus, through Hosea’s experience with his unfaithful wife, Gomer, God was revealing the love of His “new covenant,” a love that seeks all people, regardless of their moral, social, or spiritual condition.

There is no way Hosea could have obeyed God’s command to “go again, love the same woman, Gomer…(now) an adulteress” with human love.  By every standard, Gomer had forfeited her right to any degree of acceptance by her fellow humans. Yet in this command Hope was giving Hosea the first and basic lesson of New Testament evangelism: God’s love goes out to humanity not because humanity is lovely but because God is love.  This, when we say that God loves humanity, we are not saying anything about humanity and their moral qualifications, but we are saying volumes about God and His seeking love. This, then, is the kind of love with which Hosea went out seeking Gomer, and it is the kind of love with which God seeks sinful people.

God’s Redeeming Love

As we gently turn the diamond of God’s love, another facet catches fire: “So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for a homer of barley, and a half homer of barley” (3:2)  Here, we see the redeeming love of God.

Gomer had become a slave, a concubine.  She had voluntarily sold herself. So Hosea bought her back at a prize of a slave.  This is the love that seeks not its own, that takes no account of evil, that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things.”  It is redeeming love. When Hosea bought Gomer back from the slave market – a woman who had defiled herself in prostitution – he saw her in a way he had never seen before, through the eyes of God, and he loved her with heart of God. That, again, is New Testament evangelism!

What kind of man was Hosea? He was gentle, sensitive, a man of unquestionable integrity, whose personal life was above reproach.  This makes his redemptive act, his willingness to take Gomer to himself again, all the more meaningful. Had Hosea been of questionable character himself – had he compromised with sin in his own life – he might lightly brushed aside Gomer’s sin. Instead, Homer suffered agony because of her sin.

This is a part of our redemption that we often do not see.  This is why Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, sweat “as it were great drop of blood” (Luke 22:44).  He was experiencing the agony , the suffering involved in taking to himself our sins. Hosea was not Jesus; he was not perfect and sinless, nor did not take on himself the sin of Gomer, as Jesus took on our sins.  Yet there was within his situation the human counterpart of the relationship between Jesus Christ and sinful humanity. 

God’s Disciplining Love

The third facet is found in verse three, which describes a love that disciplines: “And I said to her, You shall be (betrothed) to me for many days, you shall not play the harlot and you shall not belong to another man.  So will I also be to you (until you have proved your loyalty to me and our marital relation may be resumed)”

Gomer was the prodigal wife who had been bought out of the slave market.  The beautiful and pure flower of chastity and godly womanhood had been torn from its stem and trodden in the dirt.  Now she is told she must remain for a time in seclusion. It will be a period of discipline ; she is not to enter her new relationship with Hosea in a flippant way.  She needs time for reflection, for a realization of where she had been, where she was at the moment, and where she must go henceforth.

Jesus told a man who, in the heat of enthusiasm and excitement, began to built a tower.  But he had to abandon the project before it was finished because he had not counted the cost (Luke 14:30).  There are doubtless many Christians whose spiritual growth and development have been aborted because there was no discipline following conversion.  They needed to have been taught, nurtured, and instructed. Hosea instituted this program of discipline for Gomer, just as the church should consider itself the spiritual custodian of new believers who come into its midst.  This is the discipline of love, which is more than mere sentimentality and emotion.

God’s Triumphant Love.

The fourth facet of our diamond flashes its fire: “Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, inquiring of and requiring him, and (from the line of) David, their King; and they shall come in fear of the Lord and to His goodness and His good things in the latter days.

Here is that which is always typical of our God: the last word is love, not wrath: grace not judgment; return, not exile.  To fear God is not to be afraid of Him as one would fear a tyrant. That kind of fear “hath torment.” Rather it is to stand in awe of Him, to bow reverently before his majesty and holiness.  For God’s goodness places a person under much heavier obligation than evil. If the father of the prodigal son had been hard or cruel, then the far country would have been nearly as tormenting to the wayward son.  But to sin against love, to return evil for good, is a heavy burden for people to bear.

What should be our response to this irresistible love of God? We must remember that a good God is far more to be feared or reverenced, held in awe, than an evil God. For a good God requires goodness of His people, a goodness that is found in His righteousness, which is imputed to them by grace, through faith.

 

 

“Pride: A Landmine Waiting to Explode”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

5TH SUNDAY OF LENT, MARCH 18, 2018

 

Title: “Pride: A Landmine Waiting to Explode.”

Text: Daniel 4: 27-30, 37.

  1. Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor; if there may be a lengthening of thy tranquility. 28. All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar. 29. At the end of the twelve months he was walking in the royal palace of Babylon.  30. The king spake and said, Is not this great Babylon, which I have built for the royal dwelling-place, by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty? 31. While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken: The kingdom is departed from thee:….. 37. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of Heaven; for all his works are truth, and his ways justice; and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.

 

Pride is a very dangerous sin. It engulfs a person without you knowing it. In Isaiah chapter 14, we see a fascinating picture of the first victim of pride.  It is a narrative of how the devil became a devil. The account tells us that the devil was not created a devil. He was created a charming, beautiful angel named Lucifer.  This angel was the highest of cherubims. He was the leader of the heavenly choir. Lucifer was the most intelligent and powerful of the created beings.  God being a just God allows his created being to make independent choices.  Unfortunately, Lucifer made the worst decision to put himself above every other creatures.  Lucifer became so hyper and enchanted by his own beauty.

The account tells us, “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!… For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into the heavens, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit above the mount of the congregation on the farthest side of the north; I will ascend above the height of the clouds, I will be like the Most High’.”  

Lucifer was a wayward angel who spread His prideful spirit on the other angels.  Because of this pride that had enter him, God evicted him from the heavenly court.  God’s sending him to earth gave rise to the human creatures disobeying God and assuming the attitude of pride.  Pride is a self destructive sin. What is pride?

Pride is a form of idolatry.  It is a sin that involves the attitude of me, myself, and I.  The great controversy that involves Lucifer and God brought him down to earth. Ezekiel 18 will further explain the drama that surrounds his fall to earth.  It was the pride of power, the pride of position, the pride of possession, the pride of intelligence, appearance and more. In this final chapter of human history, it is important for us to understand that pride is a sin that will destroy us.  Our inability to listen to the voice of God in these last days will be a serious hindrance to our deliverance. Pride is the invisible sin that Satan used to sway people away from worshiping God. 

The Bible is full of accounts of people who struggled with the sin of pride.  In our passage today, the King of Babylon struggled with the sin of pride. At the zenith of his power, King nebuchadnezzar suffered with this sin.  The accounts tells us that King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream about a tree from which the entire world was fed. He watched the tree cut down. The worried King sought wise counsel on the meaning of the dream.  The prophet Daniel without hesitations informed the King that the tree represented him. The prophet advised him to turn from his sinful ways, live righteously, and show mercy to the poor. The king was convicted of his sin and made a decision to humble himself for a while.  Under King Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon flourished. It’s army won battles. Many buildings were erected. One day the king walked out on one of his balconies to take in the glorious accomplishments of his kingdoms. Realising the many accomplishments, pride took root immediately.  Nebuchadnezzar proclaimed, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” Daniel 4:30.

Sounds like Satan, doesn’t it? Pride has crept into the heart of the king. Irresponsibly, he took credit for everything over which he was given reign.  God watched this stubborn king refused to the plea of the prophet to turn from his sinful ways, and send a striking judgment immediately. Daniel 4:31 tells us, why the words were in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, “O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; the kingdom is departed from thee.”  What follows next is amazing. God took away the wisdom, power, and intelligent from Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar crawled around like an animal.  He was insane for seven years.  After seven years God had mercy on Nebuchadnezzar and restored his sanity.

The lesson here is crystal clear.  God will share His glory with no man. This is evident based on what we see happened to the devil in Ezekiel.  All praises belongs to God. He alone deserves our praise. No matter how much money, power, and fame we possess in this world, the ultimate source is God.  When God gives us the ability to influence other people, reach out to others, be a blessing to others, we should not act like we did it on our own. It would be a blessing if we use our money, power, or fame with deep humility.  Nebuchadnezzar refused to do exactly that. He lost everything for seven years because of pride. Pride can also bring a person to a place where we can lose our access to the kingdom of God.

The devil lost it’s access to the kingdom of God. Ezekiel 28:14 informs us, “Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so.” Some people grow proud of their position at work and in life. The devil struggled with this issue before he was thrown from heaven. In the Bible book of Proverbs, the writer points out, “When pride cometh, then cometh shame; but with the lowly is wisdom.

In the fifth chapter of Esther, one would see Haman as a prime example of self-destructive pride on display. Xerxes of Persia got information that a Jew by the name of Mordecai had saved his life by thwarting an assassination plot.  Xerxes wanted to honor Mordecai, but pride let haman stand in the way. He wanted Mordecai to bow before him. Mordecai refused. Haman wanted to kill God’s chosen people, the Jews. The sin of pride fester in his life. He bragged to his friends “of the glory of his riches, and the multitude of his children, and all the things wherein the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the princes and servants of the king” (Esther 5:11).  Haman wanted honor for himself. Yet Mordecai continued to refuse to show Haman reverence. Pride drove Haman to plan to hang Mordecai. Folks, Pride is a distorted mirror that obstructs clear thinking and reason.  In this condition, Haman only saw himself. Pride makes us only think about ourselves and not others. It makes us think we are more knowledgeable than others, more beautiful than others, much better than others. It makes us exalt ourselves above others.  It makes us lie to cover our sins.This is where we go wrong and bring shame upon ourselves. Haman was hanged on the very gallow he had built for Mordecai.

Even Jesus’ closest disciples were infected.  In Mark 9, Jesus disciples argue among themselves about who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  These disciples had heard Jesus’ teachings on “He who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:11, 12).  They forgot all about His teachings. Pride blinded them. Let us not exalt ourselves, while striving for position and honor. God will humbled us then. If we humble ourselves, God will find a way to exalt us. Do you ever feel you have been look down upon because of your economic or social status? Do you think you have been cheated at work of a promotion because of favoritism rather than skill? Do not let it bother you. Be happy to serve where God has put you.  He will lift you up in due time. 

Pride can bring you to a place where you lose access to the kingdom of God. When we take on showing off on the good works we do, it demonstrates the spirit of pride. Jesus explains this in a parable in Luke 18.  Jesus talked about two men who went to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other a publican. In the parable, the Pharisee full of pride prayed as such, “God I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, or even as this publican.  I fast twice in the week. I give tithes of all that I possess,” while the “publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (verse 11-13). According to Jesus, it was the humble publican who went home justified. The Pharisee was proud of his good works, believing that his deeds earned him standing and acceptance before God. The Pharisee was denied access to the kingdom of God. Pride is dangerous. It is important to recognize it and fight it. How can we combat this deadly sin?

There is only one way a person can combat this deadly sin.  To combat pride, we must choose humility!

The bible admonishes us over and over, God delights in people with humble heart. It teaches, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Micah 6:8

Pride is like a hand with a pointing finger with some fingers pointing back to us.  The Bible does not say we should ask God to humble us, but it repeatedly asked us to humble ourselves (2 Chronicles 7:14).  If it takes God to humble us, He will because he loves us. 

Many of us are excited about living with Christ in eternity. That is never going to happen until we choose to embrace humility.  We ought to be like Moses when he was alive. It is said about this great man of God, “The man Moses was very meek, above all the men who were on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). It is quite marvelous considering he choose not to live in the palaces of the Egyptians. He could have been a proud king. He could have look at the pyramids glistening in the gold and boast about it like Nebuchadnezzar. Yet he humbly walked away from it because he wanted to serve God.

Let us be like Jesus who humbled Himself and died on the cross. Philippians 2:8, 9 tells us, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.” For your sake and for the sake of God’s kingdom, choose humility today and ask God to help you. Amen.

 

 

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS McCARTHY

4TH SUNDAY IN LENT, MARCH 11, 2018

 

Title: Lust and Envy: The Uncomfortable Truth.

Text: Exodus 20:17

  1. Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid servant, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s. 18. And all the people perceived the thunderings, and the lightnings, and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off.  19. And they said unto Moses, speak thou with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die. 20. And Moses said unto the people, fear not for God is come to prove you, that his fear may be before you, that ye sin not.

 

The issue of how we deal with our sins before God is very important.  The question continues to loom. How do we respond when confronted by our sins? How do we respond, when the Holy Spirit convicts us of our wrong doings?  Our response is depended largely on our awareness of the sins in our lives. It is important to know the sin that bothers us. The anonymous writer of Hebrews in chapter 12 puts it this way: …Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth easily besets us.”  This is the reason why during this time of Lent, we must identify the wrongs in our lives and confess to God.  We must consecrate ourselves. This morning we want to discuss two of the sins that are hindrances to our Christian lives: Lust and Envy.

Most often the sin of lust is talked about in terms of sexual desires.  But lust is much more than that. The meaning and history of the word in Greek is “to be hot after something.” Using the word lust in this context simply tells us that it is any sinful desire that goes against the will of God.  It is our inordinate desire for something. It is that excessive desire for something which does not seems right. 

Radio personality Paul Harvey tells the story of how an Eskimo kills a wolf. The account is grisly, yet it offers fresh insight into the consuming, self-destructive nature of sin; the sin of lust.

First, the Eskimo coats his knife blade with animal blood and allows it to freeze. Then he adds another layer of blood, and another, until the blade is completely concealed by frozen blood. Next, the hunter fixes his knife in the ground with the blade up. When a wolf follows his sensitive nose to the source of the scent and discovers the bait, he licks it, tasting the fresh frozen blood. He begins to lick faster, more and more vigorously, lapping the blade until the keen edge is bare. Feverishly now, harder and harder the wolf licks the blade in the arctic night. So great becomes his craving for blood that the wolf does not notice the razor-sharp sting of the naked blade on his own tongue, nor does he recognize the instance at which his insatiable thirst is being satisfied by his own warm blood. His carnivorous appetite just craves more and more, until the dawn finds him dead in the snow!

Lust is the desire that creeps up in us.  In this desire, nothing is enough for us. It is when a person is taken over by the spirit of covetousness.  It is a bad spirit. It is the desire to have things we do not have. It is our desire to be someone else or somewhere else.  It is the trick of the devil, who makes the lives of other people look better than yours. Then we begin to wish. It becomes I wish I had this.  I wish I had that. I wish I was her. I wish I was him. It is the seduction of the devil to make us unsatisfied with what God has given us. Lust is dangerous because we will never be happy.  We sometimes lust for us to be like others. We see others flourish and we have to have what they have. Church, we don’t know what goes on in the houses of other people. Stop coveting others for their marriages because you don’t know what goes on in the homes of folks.  

Lust is focus on taking.  Love is focus on giving. Love unlike lust is tied on a greater principle.  It is tied on the principle of godliness. For example, if a person have lust as the reason of entering into a marriage, that person will be focus on taking away from the other person.  When what fascinated the person about the marriage has dwindled, love flies out the door.   If one enters a marriage for the purpose of love, that person gives their everything to a marriage.

We have heard about the lust of the flesh.  The flesh is the human nature corrupted by sin. So the lust of the flesh will be a situation where we allowed our life to be dominated by our senses, rather than be control by the spirit of God.  Lust gratifies our desires for material possession. It is the use of our possessions or our talents in a selfish manner. It is a situation where all our desires is centered on pleasing us rather than please God.  It goes contrary to the will of God for our lives. In Galatians 5:19-24, Paul lists all the desires of the flesh followed by the fruits of the spirit. Paul urges us in Romans 13:11-14 to put on the Lord Jesus and leave no provision of the flesh.

Lust can also be looked at as “Lust of the eyes.”  This simply means we desire what we see. When we look to Scripture, we will see that the eyes are the main organ of perceptions and the main way by which temptation comes. This was the case, when David who should have been fighting for the Lord’s people saw Bathsheba, lusted after her and later committed murder.  David forgot to adopt the principle Job lay down for himself in Job 31:1, “I have made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully on a woman.”

Church, the lust of the eyes describes a person who is captivated by outside show of materialism.  This person sees a new car, must have it. See a new dress, must have it. There is a new position available, must have it.  Car, dress or position itself is not bad to have. What is bad is our excessive or large desire to have them that is sinful. An excessive or large desire to have anything against God’s will is sinful.  It is a fearful thing that people can be “consumed by their own lusts.” Only God’s grace keeps us from the wolf’s fate. Lust is powerful, but the Spirit of God can help us. It is when we harbor those excessive desires then we begin to envy.

Envy is the cousin of lust.  The Webster dictionary defines envy as a feeling of antagonism against someone because of some good, which he is enjoying but which one does not have oneself.  It is an evil desire to deprive another person of what he or she has.  Envy is to want something that another person has. Envy is the emotion all of us feel when the news tell us that someone has won the 500 million lottery.  It is the feeling an experienced fisherman will have when he has not caught any fish, but a 15 year old boy comes holding a ten pound rainbow. For some of us, this feeling can be temporal or instant.  For others it can be a feeling that sticks in our heart. It stays with us and irritates us. When this feeling festers, it can mean trouble. Proverbs 14:30 says, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.  

Dwight L. Moody once told the story of an eagle who was envious of another that could fly better than he could. One day the bird saw a sportsman with a bow and arrow and said to him, “I wish you would bring down that eagle up there.” The man said he would if he had some feathers for his arrow. So the jealous eagle pulled one out of his wing. The arrow was shot, but it didn’t quite reach the rival bird because he was flying too high. The first eagle pulled out another feather, then another and another until he had lost so many that he himself couldn’t fly. The archer took advantage of the situation, turned around, and killed the helpless bird.

From the story we see that if you are envious of others, the one you will hurt the most by your actions will be yourself.  In the story of Cain and Abel, God accepted the offering of Abel and rejected the offering of Cain. Cain became so angry. Envy began to stewed and broiled in Cain’s heart.  Cain’s heart was troubled. A person with envy is a person with a troubled heart, a troubled mind, and a troubled life. God said to Cain, Why are you angry? Why are you downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it” Genesis 4:6-7.  Cain did not heed the warning of God. He refused to examine himself.

The Greek philosopher Plato pointed out that, “An unexamined life is a life not worth living.” When we examine our lives, it helps us to understand ourselves.  It helps us to understand what God’s will and purpose is for us. It is only when we strive to come to know ourselves and to understand ourselves do our lives have any meaning and value. Envy is a crippling sin.  It cripples our ability to examine ourselves.

I know we all have come to a point of wondering why others are getting it together and we are not.  In Psalms 73, the writer metaphorically compares the godly with the ungodly. It is a lament of the writer on why does God allows the unrighteous to prosper when the righteous suffers.  Some often asked, “why does God answers his prayers and not mine?” Be mindful! James 4:3 says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you got on your pleasures.”  God knows what you need even before you ask. He knows your needs, your wants, your desire, your aspirations, your goals, your plans. Envy cripples our security and shatter our trust in God. May the Spirit of God abide with you all to overcome the spirit of lust and envy.

 

 

https://firstchurchnewton.org/sermons/1537/

Anger: The Uncomfortable Truth

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS GEORGE MCCARTHY

3RD SUNDAY IN LENT

MARCH 4, 2018

 

Title: “Anger: The Uncomfortable Truth.”

Text: James 1:19-27

  1. My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.  23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do. 26. Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

 

As we continued the season of Lent, we focus our attention on things we can rid from our lives. We come to God to ask Him of the wrongs we have done. As we reflect this morning, we want to deal with one thing that can be good or bad depending on how well we handle it.  There are many examples in Scriptures that tell us that anger can be good and anger can be bad.  

A friend of mine told me one time that he gets angry easily.  On meeting this brother, you will never be able to tell he deals with the issue of anger.  Like this friend, many people deal with anger. But their anger is hidden under a calm exterior.  The anger ferments where no can see it. Others burst out easily when they are angry.  Some folks turn red in the face when they are angry.  Some folks turn red in the face and begin to tremble.  Yet others become depressed and quiet.  Some people will become vocal and cutting with their tongue.

No matter where we live or where we come from, everyone has to deal with anger one way or the another. Anger is a worldwide issue.  It is universal.  Most of the angers are not good.  No wonder the book of James warns us, “everyone should be… slow to be angry. Anger does not produce the righteousness that God desired,” James 1:19, 20.  James is basing his warning on the fact that what comes out of our mouths when we are angry is tainted with unrighteousness.  It is not of God.  It is simply human rather than godly.

I will submit to you this morning that not all anger is bad. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, whose death and resurrection we will soon celebrate, expressed His anger many times.  In Mark 3:5 Jesus looked at them with anger because he was grieved by the hardness of their hearts.  Mark clearly explains that Jesus was angry, yet He was angry for a good reason.  There are lots more Scriptures that talked about positive anger.  Psalms 7:11 says, “God is angry everyday.” We just completed the book of Ephesians in our Monday Bible Study.  As I explained in our bible study, Anger is not always bad.  Paul explains it in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry and sin not.” Why is anger not always a bad thing?

 

Anger is a God given emotion.  Anger is an emotion planted in us by God.  Everyone loves peace and justice.  Everyone loves fairness.  Everyone loves when the right thing is done.  We have an instinct in us to do right.  If this is true, then this emotion God has given to us must be used for constructive spiritual purposes.  There are so much evil in the world.  A person who does not feel anger for evil that is done to others lacks the enthusiasm to do good. You see church, our text  in James 1:20 tells us that “Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.”  If Pastor Amos does not hate wrong as a person, it is questionable whether Pastor Amos really loves righteousness.  If a person does not hate injustice, domestic violence, emotional abuse, profanity, it is questionable whether that person wants to be in right standing with God.

Jesus Christ demonstrated positive anger in many ways.  He showed anger by going against everything that was wrong. In Mark 10:13-16, He showed His anger when His disciples tried to send away the mothers and their children.  Jesus Christ was indignant and distressed at the way the disciples were hampering His loving purposes and giving the impression that He did not have time for ordinary people.

Also in Mark 11:15-17, Jesus again shows His anger when he drove “out those who sold and those who bought in the temple. The people were using the house of God as a den for thieves.  God was not being glorified.  Anyone who cannot be angry at the things that hinders God’s purposes is far from loving God.

Godly anger is not explosive, or abusive.  Godly anger does not lose its temper. It is always under control.  The person who demonstrate such anger can control it. An anger that is express in love and for the common good of human is always compassionate and under control.  The Scripture lets us know  in Psalms 78:38 that God being compassionate, forgive their iniquity, and did not destroy them; and often refrain His anger, and did not arouse all his wrath. On the contrary, human anger is deadly.

 

Our text today reminds us that anger is dangerous and deadly.  The Bible warns us against the danger of anger, “Be slow to anger, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desired,” James 1:19-10.  “Put away all anger and wrath and malice,” Colossians 3:8.  “Let all bitterness, wrath, and clamour…be put away from you with all malice, Ephesians 4:31.  “Everyone who is angry with his brother should be liable to judgment,” Matthew 5:22.  We can go on with many scriptures from the Bible warning us against anger.  How is anger dangerous and deadly?

 

I want us to know that when anger takes root in your heart, it can becomes a grudge and an unforgiving spirit, destroying you.  Jesus makes this point clear in His parable in Matthew 18.  This parable is about the unforgiving servant.  The king forgave him of all the debt he owed the king.  This servant will not forgive someone who owed him far less.  The king throwed this servant in jail because the servant was heartless.  He is someone who kept a grudge.  The grudge blinded him from the great lesson of forgiveness that was shown him by is own boss.  

The story is told of how the anger on one player from the Baltimore Orioles caused so much damage in a matter of a second.  In the Spring of 1894, the Baltimore Orioles travelled to Boston to play a routine baseball game.  But what happened that day was nothing close to routine.  The Baltimore Orioles’ John McGraw got into a fight with the Boston third base. This was a fight that could be avoided if McGraw had not kept a malice for the third base.  Within minutes, all the players from both side had joined the brawl. The fighting quickly spread to the grandstands.  Among the fans from both team, the fighting went from bad to worse.  One angry fan set fire to the stands and the entire ballpark burned to the ground.  The fire did not stop but spread to about 107 other Boston buildings.  The chaos will forever be remembered in the game of baseball.  The anger of one person, caused so much destruction.  Anger is dangerous and deadly when we allowed it to take root in our heart, when we keep a grudge and malice.  It can blow up in our face.  How can we fight against ungodly anger?

Jesus Christ provides the answer when He talks about the servant with the unforgiving spirit.  You see church, the source of the anger and bitterness we carried comes from unforgiveness. The season of rage and bitterness and fed up “I am out of here and want nothing to do with you” spirit stems from our inability to see the love of Christ, which He demonstrated by dying for our sins.  Unforgiveness is the root of ungodly anger.

 

Let understand that human anger which is not bend on supporting or glorifying God is ungodly.  Like depression and other emotional stress, anger can destroy us.  This negative anger can cause us physical problems.  We can be affected mentally, physically and spiritually.  In anger, our relationships with others and our relationship with God can suffer.  Human anger is a destructive emotion that is rooted in hate.  The only remedy for such emotionally bad thing is for us to put away malice and anger.  Let us not remember the wrong people do to us through anger but through love and forgiveness.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. In Romans 12:14-21, the Bible says,”Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

I do not know how you handle anger in your life.  But God has provided for us the emotion of anger to express ourselves positively.  The use of our anger should be to oppose wrongdoing.  The use of our anger is to oppose injustice, violence, and profanity.  Let us use our anger to glorify God, and for the purpose of righteousness. Let us remember that anger is dangerous.  The way out of negative anger is to have a forgiving spirit.  People will make us angry at any given opportunity, but love for the righteousness of God will liberate us.

 

Sin: The Uncomfortable Truth

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

2ND SUNDAY IN LENT

FEBRUARY 25, 2018

 

Title: “Sin: The Uncomfortable Truth.”

Text: Genesis 3:1-7

 

We continue the season of Lent with an attitude of repentance. Even as we prepare for the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we spend our time reflecting on how Christ made the ultimate sacrifice for our salvation.  We look back on our lives, think about all the wrong things we have done. We then come in the presence of God and asked for forgiveness. Sometimes it is uncomfortable knowing we have sin in our lives. We become embarrassed when the wrongs we do come to light. This morning we want to go down memory lane and look at how others responded when their sins came to light. What is going to be be our response or our action, if confronted with our wrong doings and informed about the wages of our sins? I want to share with you how the truth of our sins can be embarrassing. For the next two weeks, we will talk about some sins as we go through a period of consecration and preparation.   

It is said there are three kinds of people in this world.  Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened.  Think about those who watch things happen, those who see trouble and say nothing.  A great philosopher once said, “The only thing necessary for evil to win is that good men and women do nothing.”  Throughout the Bible, God was constantly confronting people about their sins and their situations.  When the two brothers, Cain and Abel presented their offerings to God, God accepted the offering of Abel but rejected Cain’s offering.  When Cain saw that, he became very angry.  God confronted Cain and said to him, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” God called attention to several issues Cain had.  Cain had anger issues.  He had moral issues by not doing what is right.  He had sin issues.  He had discipline issues.  God told him what he had to do to correct those issues but he ignored God and eventually killed his brother, Abel, bringing divine punishment on himself.

         God confronted Abraham about Sodom and Gomorrah.  In Genesis 18, God told Abraham that Sodom had gotten so corrupt and immoral that He was going to destroy it.  God said to Abraham, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great. Their sins are so grievous, that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”  God decided to find out for Himself if all the rumors he heard about Sodom and Gomorrah were true.  He sent two angels on a fact-finding mission.  

         While the angels were on their mission, Abraham tried to bargain with God to save Sodom.  He asked God not to destroy the city if there were 50 righteous people and God agreed.  But they could not find 50 righteous people.  So Abraham reduced the number to 40 righteous people.  God agreed, but they could not find 40 righteous people.  Abraham then pushed for 30 righteous people.  If there were 30 righteous people in Sodom, will God save the city?  God said yes.  They could not find 30 so Abraham kept bargaining with God until he reached 10.  If there were ten righteous people in Sodom, will God save the city?  God agreed.  The angels could not find five because they saw Lot, his wife, and two daughters.

         God confronted David when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and killed her husband Uriah to marry her.  When this happened, God sent the prophet Nathan to tell David a story.  The story was about “two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor.2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.”

Nathan went on to say, “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the baby lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”  When David heard that story, he burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this must die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” 7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!

         God confronted David through Nathan the prophet.  When David realized God knew what he did, the first thing he said was, “I have sinned against the Lord.”  David wrote Psalm 51 as a prayer of confession, a prayer of repentance, and a prayer seeking forgiveness.  In Psalm 51, David wrote, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”

         Nobody likes to be confronted.  We just want to go on with our lives and ignore or avoid anything that is uncomfortable.  It is like turning on the light in a dirty room.  We know we need to clean it up but when the light is off, we can’t see it so we ignore it.  But when God turns the light on and shows us our dirty room, it makes us uneasy.  But God turns on the light because He knows a dirty room, which is sin in our lives, keeps us from living faithful lives for Christ.  God uses people to confront us, but in particular, God uses the Holy Spirit.

         But when God confronts us, it is not to destroy us; it is not to embarrass us; it is not to disgrace us; it is to correct us and give us a chance to correct our mistakes. When God confronts us, we get to see ourselves as we are and we are given a second chance. What is important is how we respond and what we do after God confronts us.

         In 1 Samuel 3, after Hannah had offered her son Samuel to the Lord for service, Samuel began his training for the priesthood.  The priest who was training Samuel was Eli.  God saw that Eli had no control over his two sons.  These boys were crooks.  In 1 Samuel 2, we read more about what kind of sons they were.  The Bible described them as crooks and rascals.  Worse of all, they had no regard for the Lord.  When it was time to prepare the food for the offering, they would come in and take meat from the pot while it was boiling.  It was like a pastor collecting the offering on Sunday and taking it home.  It was like the son of a pastor taking what people donate to the church and claiming it was his.  

         God decided to confront Eli.  It was his responsibility to raise his children right and he was not doing a good job.  His sons were corrupt.  He had to know to give them a chance.  God decided to use the young man, Samuel to reach Eli.  One night God called Samuel but Samuel did not know it was the Lord.  He heard his name and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am. You called me.”  Eli said, “My son, I did not call you. Go back and lie down.”  It took two other times for Eli to recognize it was God calling Samuel.

         Do we recognize the voice of God when God is calling us?  A young man went to his father and asked, “What does the voice of God sound like?” His father didn’t know what to say but told his son, I pray one day we will find out.” That summer, the young went off to his first camp. In the middle of the week, this man went to find his son. While he was there, he saw his son had started to fight with another kid but had been held back by his friends. His son was unapologetic and wanted to leave camp. He pulled together his stuff, and shoved it into the car.

This man walked with his son and sat on a rock and asked his son.  “Is there any voice inside you telling you what you should do?”

“Yes,” he nodded.

“What’s the voice telling you?”

“The voice is telling me that I should stay and work it out.”

“Can you identify that voice?” The father asked.

“Yes,” he said immediately. “It’s the voice of God.”

It was the moment the father had waited for.

“Son,” the father said. “Do you realize what just happened? You heard God’s voice. He spoke to you from within your soul. Forget everything else that’s happened. God spoke to you, and you were able to recognize Him.”

The boy thought for a moment and then he said, “Well, I’m still not doing what God said.”  The father explained to his son that that was his choice, but this is what would happen. If he rejected the voice of God coming from deep within and chose to disobey

His guidance, his heart would become hardened, and his ears would become dull. If he continued on this path, there would be a day when he would never again hear the voice of God. Most Christians are like this.  They hear the voice of God; they know it’s the voice of God, but like this young man, they say, “Well, I’m still not doing what God said.”

We saw how David repented of his sin of adultery. But Eli was different.  When Samuel told Eli the message from the Lord, Eli said, “He is the LORD; let him do what is good in his eyes.”  It was Eli was saying, “Whatever.”  Or, “I don’t care,” or “It doesn’t matter.”

One day a young lady in college was reading a text message of instructions from her father about meeting him for lunch at a nearby restaurant. One of her friends asked her, “What are you reading?” The young lady answered, “I’m reading directions from my father to meet him for lunch. I need to know where he will be today.” Her friend said, “Why should you bother to meet him? What does it matter to him what you do?  I heard your father was an unreasonable man.” The woman answered, “But you’re not in my family. You’ve never met my father.  When you meet him, you will find he really cares about me.  He’s my father. I love him and want to have lunch with him.  If I ignore these directions, I won’t get a chance to be with him.”   

It means to respond to God the same way.  He is our Father who has sent us directions in the Bible to meet him and have fellowship with him. The more we have fellowship with him, the more we will understand our role in the world and what God wants us to do.  When we disobey God’s instructions, He will confront us.  God want us to be active in the world to help make it a better place.  The world is full of negative news and there is too much evil.  Sometimes we just want to avoid dealing with it and hide.  But, as the philosopher said, “The only thing necessary for evil to exist is for good men and women to do nothing.”  Yes, we can become bystanders and observers to the events of life and become distant.  But God wants us to make things happen, to become active in our local church, in our community and in the world.  When we don’t do what is expected, God will confront us.  When God confronts us, we can become like Eli and say, whatever.  He is God.  Let him do what is good in His eyes.” Or we can become like David and say, “I have sinned against the Lord.”  When God confronts us, it may be uneasy and tense, but it is to help us see the dirt in our lives we need to clean out.

Then we can say like David did, Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

Maybe God has been confronting us about something we did.  How did we respond?  Did we say, “Whatever.  Who cares?”  Or did we seek God’s forgiveness?  May the Spirit make us humble enough to accept our mistakes when God confronts us.  Amen.

“God’s Time Is Always the Best!”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

1ST SUNDAY IN LENT

FEBRUARY 18, 2018

 

Title: God’s Time is Always the Best”

Text: John 2:1-12

1.On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee.  Jesus’ mother was there. 2. And Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “they have no more wine.” 4. Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied.  “My hour has not yet come.” 5. His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6. Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.8. Then he told them, “now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, 9. And the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.  Then he called the bridegroom aside, 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” 11. What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. 12. After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.

 

Reading Matthew, Mark, and Luke gospels, one would find out that the scenes of Jesus’ ministry is different from the scene of His ministry in John.  In the three other gospels, the scene of Jesus’ ministry is in Galilee.  Jesus does not enter Jerusalem until the week He died.  In the gospel of John, the main scenes of Jesus’ ministry is Jerusalem and Judea. John tells us that Jesus occasionally withdrew to Galilee (2:1-13; 4:35-5:1). It is during one of those scenes in Galilee that our text today is concern with.  Jesus had gone with his disciples to Cana of Galilee, a small village closer to Nazareth for a wedding feast, where His mother was also present.  During such notable Jewish feast, wine was important. According to William Barclay, the absence of wine during Jewish festivities meant the absence of joy.  So the absence of wine at such feast was a crisis.  This does not imply that the people were drunk, because drunkenness was a big disgrace in that culture.  The people even drank their wine mixing it with water. Moreover, hospitality in middle eastern culture is a sacred duty. So for a provision like wine to run out at a wedding was even more humiliating for the bride and bridegroom. There was clearly a problem.

Mary sensing the problem comes to Jesus informing Him of the crisis.  Looking at our text from the Authorised translation of Jesus’ reply, one would think that Jesus’ words, “Woman, what do I have to do with thee. My hour has not come yet,” was spoken in reproach.  But this is not the case. That is the translation of the words, but it does not set the tone.  Jesus was telling His mother Mary that she didn’t quite understand what was going on; that things should be left with Him. He would settle it in his own way and time.  His time is always the best. Sometimes we do not wait for God’s time and run ahead of Him.

In Genesis 16:1-3 the story is told of how Sarah got tired of waiting for God’s promise to her for a child and ran ahead of God.  Sarah was barren and could not bring forth the child that God had promised Sarah and Abraham.  The years after the promise, Sarah urged Abraham to sleep with the maid Hagar to bring forth a child. Hagar felt a sense of superiority over Sarah because she could not give birth to a child.  Hagar looked down on Sarah and ridiculed her.  Sarah with the permission from Abraham started to maltreat Hagar who ran away.  God instructed Hagar to return to her mistress, and blessed her with a son Ismael.  But God also kept His promise to Sarah and give her a son Isaac. Sarah did not wait for God’s time and ran ahead of God, yet God bless her.

Like Sarah, many of us grow impatient and can not wait on the Lord. When we get impatient with God, we sometimes stop walking by faith.  We try to find fleshly solutions to what God has promised us and run ahead of Him. Instead of waiting on God to fulfil His promise to us in His own time, we take matters into our own hands. By running ahead of God, Sarah brought negative results on her family.  The descendants of Ishmael became enemies to the descendants of her son Isaac. How much better things would she have had if she had waited on God?

Like Sarah, our quest to help God accomplish His will in our lives can cost us dearly. For an example, sometimes young people get discouraged that they are not in a relationships like their peers.  The excitement of being in a new relationship is mistaken for love, and despite warning from friends and family and from the word of God, they make the wrong decision ending up in a bad marriage.  Our intentions to turn on the tv set to listen to a preacher cannot replace our fellowship with other believers in the church, or our fellowship at Bible studies, prayer meetings or other functions at church. Our intentions may be good, but the ultimate question here is, Is that how God wants this done.

In 1 Chronicles 13-15, we learned that David wanted to move the Ark to Jerusalem. He put the ark on a cart and had it pulled by oxen. At one place the oxen stumbled and the Ark tilted.  In an effort the grab the Ark, a person was killed. David and others sang and worship as the Ark was moved.  They had good intentions, but they did not consult God, but ran ahead of Him.  There was nothing wrong with David wanting the Ark to be moved, but he did not consult God on how the Ark was to be moved and this endangered the safety of people. The Ark was to be moved on Poles and were to be carried by the Levites. When this was done, Israel was safe. We all have good intentions in life, to glorify God and further the gospel, but how too often do we run ahead of God without waiting for His time. The Psalmists says, “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage and he shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalms 27:14).  Apart from running ahead of God, we sometimes drag behind God.

An anonymous writer told a story of a bank named Time Bank. This bank credits a person account with certain amount of dollars every morning.  A person with this bank has to use all the credited money for that day. No money is carried over to the next day. Every balance is deleted every evening. It is obvious that a person will withdraw all his money before the day ends. We all have this bank.  It’s called time.  We are credited with 86,400 seconds everyday. At the close of the banking day, what we did not used is debited from our account.  Time bank does not allow for overdrafts. There is no borrowing from tomorrow. There is no left over and no second chance.

Life is like time.  It affords us certain opportunities we must take advantage of or we lose. God has certain plan for us.  When God is ready, He wants us to act. When we miss out on such opportunity, we may not have that opportunity again. Certainly, we shall never have that opportunity full and open.  It is important to understand that when we miss one year of preparation, through carelessness or because of sin, it might take another four or five years to catch up with what we lose.

Hebrews 11:24-25 informs us that Moses knowing what great plan God had for him in delivering the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  Moses made a decision to endured the pain of bondage, rather than enjoying luxury of Egyptian royalty. Moses was educated in the wisdom and philosophies of the Egyptians. Moses understood the calling of God on his life. What went wrong with Moses? The problem was with his timing. Moses got ahead of the will of God by killing an Egyptian. An act that took him to a place for which he shouldn’t have been for forty years. This is typical when someone is out of the will of God; whether the person is running ahead of God or dragging behind God.  Waiting for God’s time means staying in touch with God.

One thing that permeated the life of Jesus was His consistent and unbroken relationship with God. If Jesus Christ had allow anything to come between Him and His father, He would have yielded to temptation and ruined any chance of being the world’s Redeemer.  Jesus Christ told his mother ‘the time for Him had not yet come.’ Throughout the gospel story, Jesus talks about His hour.  In John 7:6,8, it is the hour of His emergence as the Messiah.  There was the hour of His crucifixion and death.  All through His life, Jesus knew He came into the world for a definite purpose and a definite task. Jesus viewed His life not in terms of His desires and wishes, but in terms of God’s will and purpose for Himself.  Jesus Christ saw His life not in the shifting of time, but in the firm background of eternity.  

This is the point this morning.  Like Jesus, we have a purpose of coming into the world.  It is important for us to remember that the purpose for which we are here is intertwined with when and how God wants to fulfill it in our lives. In order to fulfill the purpose of God, we have to stay in touch with God.

During World War II, a US Marine got separated from his comrades.  He lost touch with his unit in the intensity of the fighting. Alone in the jungle, he could hear enemy soldiers coming in his direction.  Looking for cover, the marine soldier found his way up a high ridge of very small caves. He crawled in one of the caves knowing he would be found soon by his enemies. He prayed, “Lord if it be your will protect me. Whatever your will though, I love you and trust you. Amen.” As he lay quietly, the enemy began to draw closer. At the entrance of his cave, a spider began to build a web in the front of his cave.  Strand after strand, the spider layered the web to completion.  The marine thought to himself that he needed a stone wall and God built a spider web.  But when the enemy approach his cave, they saw the spider’s web.  They reasoned that no one was in the cave because of the spider’s web at the entrance. In God a spider web is stronger than a brick stone.  God has His own time of building a spider’s web in our lives.

We all have a purpose in this life. We will go through troubles.  When we do, we forget about all the victories God won for us. Let us remember that God’s time is always the best. Don’t run ahead of God, don’t drag behind God, stay focus and in touch with God. Nehemiah told Israel when faced with the task of rebuilding Jerusalem, “In God we will always have success!” Nehemiah 2:20.  God bless you!  

  

“It is good to be here!”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

LAST SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY

THE TRANSFIGURATION OF THE LORD

FEBRUARY 11, 2018

Title:  “It is Good to be Here.”

Text: Mark 9:2-9

2. And after six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone.  There he was transfigured before them. 3. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.  4. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here.  Let us put up three shelters-one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6. (He did know what to say, they were so frightened.) 7.Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him! 8. Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. 9. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

 

The story is told about Napoleon Bonaparte, the French emperor.  During the invasion of Russia, he got somewhat separated from his troupes and was chased by his enemies, the Russian Cossacks. Running for his life, Napoleon ducked into a furrier’s shop. Gasping for air, he beg the furrier to help save his life. The furrier hid him under a big pile of fur and added more furs.  When the Russian Cossacks stormed the store later, they tore it apart looking for Napoleon.  They poke their swords into the pile of furs but did not find him. They later gave up and left the store. After a short while, Napoleon crept out of the pile of fur unharmed. His personal guards caught up with him.  Before Napoleon could leave, the furrier asked, “excuse me for asking this question of such a great man, but what was it like to be under the furs, knowing that the next moment could be your last?”

Napoleon became indignant. He ordered his guards to tied up the furrier and execute him.  The furrier was blindfolded and could see nothing. He heard the guards line up and the clicking of riffles.  He heard Napoleon asked the guards, Ready?.  In that moment a feeling the furrier could not describe welled up with him.  Tears pour out of his eyes. Aim! Moment later, the blindfold was removed from the furrier’s face. Napoleon stood before him.  They were face to face and Napoleon said, “Now you know the answer to your question. The lesson here is clear: How can a person describe a near death experience? You can’t if you have not experience it. The transfiguration of Jesus as narrated in our text cannot not be described. This is why Doctor Luke said they kept it to themselves and told no one till after the resurrection. There are some things about being in the presence of God we cannot explain. But Peter said it was a good experience.  He said, “It is good to be here!” It is good to be here this morning in the presence of the Lord. It is good to be in the presence of God because we experienced spiritual intimacy.  In the presence of God, we learned about the uniqueness of Jesus.

Reading the text brings us face to face with an event in the life of Jesus that is cloaked in mystery. We can only try to understand it. Mark and Matthew gospels point out that it happened six days after the incident near Caesarea Philippi.  Luke says it happened eight days after. There is no discrepancies here. It happened about a week afterwards. There is also debate about the date and place. The Western Churches remember it on the 6th of August.  What happened on the mount we cannot tell.  All we can do is bow in reverence of this great event that took place as we try to understand.  

There are two notable things about the transfiguration.  Mark tells us in this text that the garment of Jesus became radiant. Matthew says his face shone like the sun and his garment became as white as light.  The greek word Mark uses is stilbein which is the word used for the glistering gleam of gold or the golden glare of the sunlight. When the incident came to an end, there was a cloud that overshadowed them. A voice was heard from the cloud telling them, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” These two things can be looked at in different ways.  The first thing I want us to glean from the text is being in the presence of the Lord brings about spiritual intimacy. Why is this important for our Christian faith? It is because there is a difficulty of being spiritually intimate when we live in a dark world.  It is difficult to be spiritually intimate in difficult times, when we come down from the mountaintop and descent into the valley to face real life situations.

 

There is a sense of spiritual intimacy we see in the text. In Luke gospel it tells us that Jesus Christ took Peter, James, and John up the mount to pray; to have a conversation with God. Jesus Christ did not go far and these disciples started to sleep.  This is not the only time this will happen. In Matthew 26:36-45, Jesus Christ after the Last Supper takes Peter and the two sons of Zebedee to a place called Gethsemane to pray because he was sorrowful to the point of death. He said, “Watch and pray with me because I am downcast of soul.” It was a dark moment in Jesus’ life and ministry. It was a difficult period. At such a time when there should be a closeness with God. they fell asleep. “Couldn’t you keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” This is a critical moment for Jesus. The men he gathered to do spiritual warfare are asleep.  Coming to church every time to be in the presence of God can be hard. Paying our tithes with the very resources God provides can be hard.  Spiritual intimacy is difficult. But we enjoy the benefit of it. Peter said, “It is good to be here.” What we don’t want to do is to give the effort, the transparency it requires. We ought to admit our own fears and sorrows. Jesus told his disciples how sorrowful he felt about his situation.  In a world of so much trouble,anxiety and stress, we need spiritual closeness to God.  Spiritual intimacy is hard and there is something in us that works against it.  There is something in our being that works against the spiritual intimacy that Jesus is calling for from these disciples. It is good to be in the presence of God because it refreshes us and provides the catalyst that fuel our relationship to God.

The second thing notable in the text was the appearance of a cloud with a voice coming out of it. Among the Jews, the presence of God is associated with the cloud. When Moses met God, it was in the cloud.  God made himself known why He led the Israelites through the wilderness in the cloud by day. It was in the cloud that God came to the Tabernacle. It was also the cloud that filled the Temple when it was dedicated after King Solomon built it.  It was also the dream of the Jewish people that when the Messiah came, the cloud of God’s presence would return to the Temple (Exodus 6:10). God was present in the cloud.  The voice of God through the cloud was to confirmed to the disciples about the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.  When we come into the presence of God, we will understand the uniqueness of our Savior.  

We see in the narrative that Peter is dashing about making efforts to build three tents for Moses, Elijah and Jesus.  In the process the voice makes it clear that Jesus Christ is His only begotten Son of God. As I endeavor to understand this passage, one thing stands out: Among the three men mentioned, Jesus is the greatest among them.  It shows that Jesus came into the world with so much testimonies.  The Law and the Prophets attest to this greatness. The Law and the Prophet points to Jesus’ coming and His work before He even came to earth.  So the human mediator of the Law Moses, and most prominent of the prophets Elijah served Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is unique because all who preceded Him talked about Him.  All who preceded Him served Him.  All who preceded Him spoke His word.

The most important question this morning as we engage this passage should be- Is Jesus unique to us, to you? Is there anyone else on which your hope for salvation is pinned? Is your hope of being right with God in anyone else? If our answer is yes, then that hope is in vain. The uniqueness of Christ is that He is the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. The uniqueness of Christ is that he is the only one who does the work that God requires.  He calls us to trust Him and to identify with Him.  God calls us to listen to Him.  The message of the Transfiguration is a message of your hope and your future. Jesus says, “Those who trust in me, I am going away, and for those who trust in me I am going to prepare a place for them that they might come to me and be with me where I am.”  

I do not know what you know, but I know that Christianity is a unique faith predicated upon the fact that Christianity stems from the uniqueness and superiority of its founder Jesus Christ.  Of all the founders of other world religions, Jesus Christ is the greatest man who ever lived.  The uniqueness of His birth, His teachings, His life, and His resurrection stand out. The Quran, the Muslim Holy book acknowledged the virgin birth of Jesus in Surah 19:16-22.

In His teachings he is unique.  In regards to human relationship, Buddha the founder of Hinduism taught that if anyone is suffering, that is their karma and no one should help. Everyone should be an island of himself.  Mohammed in Surah 9:5 in the Islamic Book teaches, “Slay the pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war.” Jesus Christ teaches us in Matthew 22:37-40 to love our neighbors as ourselves.  The uniqueness of Jesus Christ is taught when we come in his presence, in our divine worship services. We feel the joy in the presence of God.

I do not know about you, but every time I come to the house of God, in His presence, I always leave lifted up. It gives me a sense of spiritual closeness to God.  It makes me want to jump, to hoop, and to preach.  It renews in me a profound reverence for the uniqueness of Jesus Christ by renewing my hope that my effort to know Him, serve Him and worship Him is not in vain.  God bless you.

“Can You Handle the Truth?”

 

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

5TH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY

FEBRUARY 4, 2018

 

Title: “Can You Handle the Truth

Text: 2 Samuel 12:1-10

1.And Jehovah sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, there were two men in one city; the rich one, and the other poor. 2. The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds; 3. But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own morsel, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. 4. And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him, but took the poor man’s lamb, and dress it for the man that was come to him.  5. And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As Jehovah liveth, the man that hath done this is worthy to die: 6. And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. 7. And Nathan said to David, thou art the man.  Thus said Jehovah, the God of israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; 8. And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added unto thee such and such things. 9. Wherefore hast thou despised the word of Jehovah, to do that which is evil in his sight? Thou hast smitten Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. 10. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thy house, because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife.

In ten days, Christians will begin the season of lent.  It is a forty day period beginning Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday.  It is a season when Christians come before God, praying and fasting.  It is a time of self denial. It is a time Christians give up a particular food (breakfast, lunch, or dinner), or a habit (smoking, watching television). It is a time to repent of our wrong doings and put away wrongful habits. It is a time when we focus on Jesus’ death and resurrection.  It is a time when we consecrate ourselves to God.  In order to make this time a meaningful one, it is important to face the truth of our wrong doings, and take responsibilities.  What if God confronted us this moment about our wrong doing? “Can we handle the truth?”          

“A Few Good Men” is a very popular movie.  The movie is mainly about the investigation of the death of a Marine private William Santiago, at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, and the trial that followed. Two other marines were charged with the murder of their fellow marine and were court-martialed.  During the trial, the Defense Lawyer was Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee, played by Tom Cruise.  Another main character in the movie was the base commander, Colonel Nathan Jessup, played by Jack Nicholson.  

Towards the end of the trial, Lieutenant Kaffee called Colonel Jessup to the stand as a witness.  During questioning, Lieutenant Kaffee discovered a contradiction in the Colonel’s testimony where he said he wanted to help the dead marine but had ordered a “Code Red,” which meant violent punishment for marines who didn’t fit in.  When Lieutenant Kaffee asked Colonel Jessup if he ordered the “Code Red,” his lawyer told him not to answer the question. But Colonel Jessup said, “I’ll answer the question.  You want answers?” Kaffee says, “I think I’m entitled to them.” Jessup asked again, “You want answers? ”Kaffee yells, “I want the truth!” Jessup yells back, “You can’t handle the truth!” Then he goes on to explain why it was necessary to order the death of another marine, because it saved lives.  In the end, Colonel Jessup was found guilty and arrested.

The line, “You can’t handle the truth” is one of most memorable part of this movie.  This line is important because it makes us wonder, if we are confronted with our sinful words and deeds, are we able and ready to recognize them, to claim them, to admit them and to take responsibility for them?  This is what happened in the case of David.  After all the sins he committed against Uriah and against God, was he able to handle the truth?

God decided to confront David by letting him see his sin in the form of a parable. God sent Nathan, the Prophet who came to David with a story. In this story, there were two men living in a certain town.  One was rich and had a very large number of sheep and cattle.  The other was poor.  He was so poor that he had nothing except one little ewe lamb.  This baby lamb was special to him and it was his family.  He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children.  It shared his food, drank from his cup, and even slept in his arms.  It was like a daughter to him.

Nathan continued with his story and told David how one day the rich man received a visitor.  The rich man decided to entertain his visitor.  Instead of getting a sheep or cow from his huge number of animals he owned, he went and took the one lamb the poor man had, killed it and prepared it for his guest.  When David heard this story, he became outraged, and furious.  The Bible says, “David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die!  He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.’”

David was King of Israel and he was declaring judgment on the man who would abuse his power that way.  He was pronouncing justice on the person who took advantage of the poor because he was rich.  He had issued a decree:  The man who did this must die.  It was such a serious crime that it deserves capital punishment.  Not only must the man die, he must repay the poor man for his lamb four times over.  David was reflecting the Jewish concept of repentance and forgiveness.  According to the Jewish tradition, if a man committed a very serious sin, he can only be forgiven if he perform certain acts of atonement such as: acknowledging and apologizing for the sin, abandoning the sin, acting and speaking with humility, and restoring the loss he caused to the other person. This was the law and David was enforcing the full extent of the law.  The law generally did not call for the death of the perpetrator but David went as far as declaring death for this person.

Nathan then said to David, “You are the man!”  Nathan went on to deliver a message from God about how much God had done for David.  God anointed him, protected him from Saul, made him king over both Judah and Israel in a United Kingdom, and gave him everything Saul had and then some.  God even went as far as saying, “And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.”  God exposed David’s sin so he could see it:  “You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own.  You killed him with the sword of the Ammonite.”  God brought charges against David.  He was charged with murder and adultery.  The verdict from the Judge of Heaven was guilty.  The punishment was death, destruction, and disgrace for David and his family. David knew he was guilty.  He knew he had done all those things he was accused of.  He was the man in the parable, the rich man who abused his power and killed the poor man’s lamb.  He was the man without regards for anybody else.  His wealth and power made him arrogant.  He looked down on others because he thought he was better than everybody; he didn’t care how people felt about him.  He did what he wanted to.  He was rich and he was powerful.  But God saw everything and exposed the truth.  Now that he knew the truth about himself, what was he going to do about it? Could he handle the truth?

Not everybody in the Bible handled the truth the same way.  When Adam was confronted about eating the forbidden fruit in Genesis 3, Adam blamed his wife, Eve, and she blamed the snake.  Both of them refused to acknowledge and take responsibility for their sins.  In 1 Samuel 3, when God told Samuel to tell the priest Eli that God wasn’t happy with the way his sons were behaving and treating the Temple worship, rather than saying he was sorry, Eli said, “He is the Lord.  Let him do what is good in his eyes.” In 1 Samuel 15, when Saul disobeyed God, he tried to justify his action by saying what he did was for God, but Samuel told him, “Obedience is better than sacrifice.”

When David was confronted with the truth of his sinful behavior, David handled the truth well.  He took full responsibility for his actions.  The first thing David said was, “I have sinned against the Lord.”  That was an admission, a confession.  Not only did he stop there, he wrote an entire prayer asking for forgiveness.  Psalm 51 is that prayer.  David wrote: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”  He continued, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.”

After confessing his sins and declaring God was just in the punishment against him, David pleaded with God and said, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”  David was asking for purification, for reconciliation and for restoration.  David had handled the truth like a mature person of faith.  He has given us an example we can all follow whenever we fall short of the glory of God and God has shown our sins to us.

In 2001, when George W. Bush was President, he had a White House Public Liaison name Tim.  Tim had almost daily access to President George Bush for seven years and helped with managing information from the White House to the public. Then it all ended abruptly on February 29, 2008. A well-known journalist had revealed the surprising fact that Tim plagiarized 27 of the 39 articles he published. By mid-afternoon the next day, Tim’s career in the White House was over.

Tim admitted his guilt and said the incident began “a personal crisis unequaled in my life, bringing great humiliation on my wife and children, my family, and my closest friends, including the President of the United States.”  Tim was summoned to the White House to face the President. Once inside the Oval Office, Tim shut the door, turned to the President and said, “I owe you an…” President Bush simply said: “Tim, you are forgiven.” Tim was speechless. He tried again: “But sir…” The President interrupted him again, with a firm “Stop.” Then President Bush added, “I have known grace and mercy in my life, and you are forgiven.”

After a long talk, a healing process was launched for Tim, which included repentance, reflection, and spiritual growth. “Political power can lead to pride,” Tim later reflected. “That was my sin. It was one hundred percent pride. But offering and receiving forgiveness is a different kind of strength. That’s the kind of strength I want to develop now.”

For Tim, it was pride and stealing other people’s writings.  For David, it was murder and adultery.  For others, it might be a different sin.  But no matter what sin we have committed that led to the death and destruction of others, God knows and will call our attention to the truth of our actions.  When God confronts us with the truth, will we be able to handle it?  We can act like Adam and Eve who blamed others, or we can be like David who took responsibility for his sins.  As a result of David’s ability to handle the truth, his relationship with God was restored.  Despite the painful outcome of his sins, God was there to comfort him and help him along the way.

This week and every week, when the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins, may we be ready to say, “Yes, Lord. I admit my shortcomings.  Have mercy on me, save me and restore me.”  When we do, because we are in Jesus Christ, the truth will set us free and we will be renewed.  As we prepare for the upcoming season of lent, may we acknowledge, claim, and take responsibility for all our wrong doings.  When we do this, God will restore our relationship with him.  Amen.

 

“The Power of Praise”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

24TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

NOVEMBER 19, 2017

 

Title: “The Power of Praise”

Text: Psalms 113:3  

“From the rising of the sun, to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord should be praised.”

 

At the age of 21, John Wesley matriculated to the University of Oxford.  John Wesley was raised in a Christian home.  Mentally, he was gifted. He was a good looking man. During those young years, Wesley was a little sarcastic.  One night Wesley had an experience that set in motion a change of heart for the young Wesley.  In a conversation with a porter, Wesley learned that the poor man had only one coat.  The man was so poor that he didn’t even have a bed to sleep on.  What was unique about the poor man was he was an unusually happy and thankful person.  The man was always filled with gratitude to God. Being immature at the time, and without thinking, Wesley joked about the man’s impoverished condition.  Sarcastically, Wesley Joke, “And what else do you thank God for?”  Smiling, the porter responded with a spirit of meekness and joy, “I thanked God for giving me my life and being, a heart to love him, and above all, a constant desire to serve Him.” Wesley was deeply moved.  He realised that this man knew the meaning of true thankfulness.

This was made manifest many years later, as Wesley lie on his deathbed in 1791 at the age of 88. Those who gathered around Wesley knew how well he had learned, the lesson of praising God in every circumstances.  Despite how weak John Wesley was on his deathbed, he started to sing the hymn, “I’ll Praise My Maker Why I have Breath.”

This great man of God, who contributed so much to the methodist faith, wrote his first hymn three days after he was saved: ‘O,for a thousand tongues to sing my redeemer’s praise.’  We are told that John Wesley wrote approximately Six Thousand Five Hundred hymns.  Wesley was a man of praise.

In this life, we have so much to praise God for.  There is great power in praising and honoring God.  Many of us live out that truth in our daily lives.  The Bible is full of examples, where the power of God is release after praises are offered to Him.  Through the power of praise, we have seen life changing miracles, dramatic stories of the enemies being stopped or defeated.  Through the power of praise, we have seen hearts being changed. Yet the reality is clear that too often, the struggles of this life and daily circumstances can hinder our praise.  When sin, rebellion, discouragement, anger, worry, depression, and the cares of this life come our way, praising God can be difficult, not less impossible.  As we approach a week of thanksgiving, I want us to look at the benefits of giving thanks to God with praises. I want us to explore together, the power of praise.  I want us to learn together what praise is.

Praise is simply an act of expressing esteem for a person.  When we lift the virtue of a person’s accomplishment, we are praising them.  When we praise a person, we are pronouncing that the person is worthy of honor and praise.  However, praising God is much more than that.  Webster defines the word praise ‘as to say good things about.’  It is synonymous to words such as admire, commend, extol, honor, and worship. A footnote from the NIV Bible defines Christian praise as the joyful thanking and adoring of God, the celebration of His goodness and grace. The English word for praise has a french origin, preisier.  Preisier means to prize.  This gives us a basic understanding of what the word means.  To prize means to value, to cherish, to esteem.  So when we praise God, we cherish God.  We esteem and honor God.  We value God.  Now, if we want to praise God, we must get to know more about God and God’s goodness to us.  The less we know God, the less we can praise Him.

In 2 Samuel 2:19-20, David noticed that his attendants were whispering among themselves, and he realized the child was dead.  “Is the child dead?” he asked.  “Yes,”they replied, “he is dead.”  David, a man after God’s heart, suffered the loss of his son.  David knew that he had transgress against God.  David knew a lot about God’s grace, His lovingkindness, His tender mercies.  Death of a love one can be painful, and overwhelming.  But David’s response to the death was unexpected.  David changed his clothes and went to the house of the Lord.  David went to the house of the Lord, to give God joyful thanks and adore him. He went to the house of the Lord, to celebrate the goodness and grace of God.  David worshipped God.  There is no better place to be than in the presence of God, bringing our broken spirit to praise Him.  Praise is to thank and adore God at every given opportunity.  This is what praise is.

In this self-centered world of ours, when almost everything is about ourselves, we need a time to come back to God.  It is a time when we take the focus off ourselves and come back to God to acknowledge Him.  It is a time, when we come back to God, to a place of humility.  The power of praise is what brings us to that hallowed place of humility.  In Psalms 103:2-4, the Psalmist says, “Blessed the Lord O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, who forgive all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.”  God has blessed us greatly.  We forget sometimes, about these blessings and we focus on ourselves, doing what pleases us.  We forget to come back to God in humility.

In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah whose name means bitter, suffered greatly because she was barren.  Hannah was despised, because cultural norms esteemed a woman by the number of children she gave birth to.  Hannah was taunted and teased because of this situation.  But God had a place for her, if only she would focus on Him, come back to Him in humility.  We find in 1 Samuel 1:10, that it wasn’t until she was pushed to her limit, that she went back to God. It was not until she arose and worship, and praise God, that God opened her womb.  The power of praise can bring us back to a place of humility, where God can meet us at the point of our need.  The power of praise clears all negativity and complaining from our lives, and clears the way for God’s blessings.

 

In the Book of Job, we see a level of faith and integrity that proves the power of praise like nowhere else.  Job’s unyielding dedication to God shows us what praise can do.  The power of praise in job’s life removes all forms of negativity in the face of all the difficulties Job faced.  As mentioned above, a person’s knowledge of God will propel them, to praise no matter the circumstances.  Do not forget, the less we know God, the less we will praise Him.  The more we know God, the more we will praise Him.  

We see the beauty of the story in Job 1:20-21: No matter how bad the trial got, Job still had God’s protection.  It is so beautiful that Job, after all he had gone through, “…arose, rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped.  And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither:  The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Word are inadequate, to explain Job’s reaction to all the losses he suffered.  Job not only worshipped God, but he praised God.  With all he had went through, Job may have questioned God, but never once curse God.  The record tells us that Job worshipped God.  He praised God.  When you feel that you have had the worst year, rise up and give God the praise, because someone out there had it much worse.  Praise God because it is an indication that our relationship with Him is shown through our praise.  It allows the power of our praise to bring about blessings in our lives.  Church, there is a purpose in our hurt, pain, joy, or happiness.  Emotions are our natural response, but praise should be our spiritual response.  When we worship God in the face of our circumstances, whether good or bad, we invite God’s presence.  The power of praise refreshes our spirit and the presence of God is renewed.  

The Psalmists puts it like this, “He inhabits the praises of His people.” Psalms 22:3  God dwells close to us when we praise Him.  It brings His presence to us.  There is always fullness of joy in the presence of God. Psalms 16:11  When Peter, James, and John were with Christ on the mount, they felt good and proclaimed, “Lord, it is good to be here.”  Matthew 17:4   When God is closer to us and His presence is with us, it clears the way for God’s blessings in our lives.

God shakes the foundation of the earth through praise, allowing His power to be manifested.  Paul and Silas sat in prison.  They were chained and shackled.  But the pair kept praising God. God’s power was manifested.  Paul and Silas did not break jail.  The jailer who life could have been taken if the pair had escaped, came to know Christ. Acts 16:25-26.  In everyday life, we are faced with a choice. We can either absorbed ourselves in worry or stress.  In this busy world of turmoil and confusion, we can choose to be self-centered, and be about our own business. Or we can focus our praise on God, who holds it all together. God desires our whole heart. In Psalms 63:3-4, the Psalmist made this choice, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.  I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.”  Choose the power of praise today.  It is said in His word, “Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord.”