Not By Bread Alone

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A little boy was with his father when he stopped at the delicatessen and purchased some cold cuts and some rye bread. The father explained to his son that there is no better bread in all the world. When they returned home and the table was prepared for the meal, the son asked if he could pray. He emulated a portion of the Lord’s Prayer to the best of his ability: “Give us this day our deli bread.”

Following his baptism, Jesus is taken into the wilderness, for forty days and nights. During this time, Jesus does not eat. Satan comes and offers the idea, tell these stones to become bread. After all, He is the Son of God. He has the ability to turn stones into food. Jesus however, sees beyond the immediate (the physical hunger) and sees a greater need. A need that is present in every one of our lives, and a need that even Satan had!

Satan is asking, “Aren’t you hungry? You haven’t eaten in 40 days!” We all need physical food to stay alive. But you see there is also a spiritual need. We also need to be fed spiritually. Or we spiritually die!

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. ” Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. The wind blows wherever it pleases. (John 3:1-8)

Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” It is a good question, because all of us at one time or another ask the question, “what must I do to be saved?” If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” “Which ones?” the man inquired. Jesus replied, ” `Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and `love your neighbor as yourself.'” “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Matthew 19:16-22)

Paul wrote, When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. He understood the necessity of growing up spiritually. Life is more than just physically living, there is the spiritual as well. I gave you milk, (written to the Corinthians) not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.

When I lived in Arkansas, I had a wonderful garden in my back yard. When I moved to Wichita, I got out my tiller and was going to cut a place for the garden. The ground was very hard, full of rocks and not very accepting of a garden. No wonder they used that area of town as a wheat field. In order for that garden to produce, there were several things I had to do. Remove the rocks. Add ingredients to the soil to make it more productive. And give it lots of water.

The same is true for our spiritual lives! There are five (5) areas or things that we can do to mature.

FELLOWSHIP, is very important to the Christian. Paul writes, Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Fellowship is important because we begin to look and act like those whom we associate with. Ever seen a certain haircut in school? Everyone gets the haircut. The fellowship keeps us accountable.

STUDY, we have to know God’s word. ROM 10:17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. It is easier to live when we know how we are to live! It is amazing what peace knowing the word of God will give to us. Every topic may not be covered in the Bible, but there are enough topics that it gives us direction.

PRAYER, builds a relationship with God. We talk to those who we love. Look at relationships in the Bible with God. Adam and Eve. Enoch was walking with God. Jesus in the garden, talking to His Father.

GIFT or SERVANTHOOD, we have to use the gifts God has given us or lose them. 1CO 12:31 But eagerly desire the greater gifts. MAT 25:15 To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The rule: You have to give to receive!

DIFFICULTIES, we grow in extreme trials. We want to be spared difficulties, but difficulties can be opportunities to deepen our walk with God.

There is an ancient folk-tale about a tiger that was brought up with a herd of goats. From the day his eyes opened, all he saw was a goat’s life so it became his style of life too. The tiger munched grass with the rest, butted heads with the younger goats for recreation, and learned to bleat in an odd sort of way a sound that resembled, so he thought, the goat’s voice. Once in a while there was a nagging voice inside him that said, “You don’t belong to this life!” But always he put it aside as a fantasy, some disturbing intrusion from the world of dreams. So he, a tiger, chose to stay with a goat’s way of life because he believed that was the way life had to be.

Then one day a tiger came into the clearing. He was all tiger, having grown up knowing who he was. He looked into the clearing and spotted the goats. He roared the earth-shaking roar of his species, bounded out and made his kill. The goats fled in terror and so did the tiger who had grown up with them.

At first he wanted to stay. The roar from the edge of the forest had stirred some lost memory in his soul. He flexed his great muscles in a kind of automatic reflex to the challenge from the forest edge. For a moment he could have been a tiger too, but he could not believe in the sound he heard, the challenge it brought. He couldn’t believe in himself, in the instincts that had lain dormant so long.

That which was created in the image of God wants to become like its creator.

The Rapture

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It is not uncommon to read about religious groups that set dates and times for the return of Christ. All of those groups that have set dates and times have all been wrong. Why would we expect to know the date or hour when Jesus said that He didn’t even know the time, only the Heavenly Father knows. Jesus said we will know the season, which simply means that we will have an idea of when the end of time is approaching. The beauty of our faith is that we are to live our lives as if Christ were coming back today.

When the Apostle Paul sets down to write the small young churches in Asia Minor, about 30 years has elapsed between the writings and the ascension of Christ into Heaven. For a new Church, 30 years was a long time. When Paul rises to the front of the church they have one question, “When will Christ return?”

Writing to Thessalonians, Paul says that it will be like a thief in the night. It will come at an unexpected time. To the Corinthians he likens death unto the unexpectedness of Christ’s return. “…we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye…”

Over Sunday dinner, a family discussed the sermon of the morning “The Second Coming of Christ.” The teenager said that he still had a lot of questions about the Lord’s return. The father tried his best to answer him, but after a while He concluded by saying, “We do not have all the answers we might like, but we do have all we need to know. The best preparation is simply to live each day as if it were your last.” “I tried that once,” the teenager replied, “and you grounded me for a month!”

Paul has two views on how to get to God following death. Paul struggles between “theology,” that which he can scripturally substantiate and his “personal view,” that which can’t be proven scripturally or historically but is what Paul believes.
For Paul, there is a difference between what is in the head and what is found in the heart. That is why in some of Paul’s writings we find the phrase “my view” as opposed to “God’s view.”

This first view is Paul’s own personal death. He personally believed that at the moment of his own death he would be with God. “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.”

Paul’s theological view was very different, because he could not separate what he had learned in his Jewish faith about the great resurrection. Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. “Fall asleep,” Paul doesn’t use the term death for the Christian. The Christian doesn’t die, they merely sleep. In that statement lies part of his heritage. There was the Jewish belief of a great resurrection that was coming. In the Old Testament, good and bad alike, following death went to Hades (this is where Catholics get their concept of Purgatory.) This is why in the tiny book of Jude, God sends Michael the Archangel to get the body of Moses. Paul’s message is clear, as Christians we have a very different hope! That sounds so permanent, but we only sleep. Just like in sleep, with death, in a short time we open our eyes. For the non-believer, death is permanent. The non-believer has no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. We believe that Jesus rose from the dead, because there were witnesses to the fact. If God has the power to raise His own Son from the dead, then when He tells that we too will be raised from the dead, we can believe it. It is important to note that at Christ’s return, He is bringing those who have fallen asleep in him. These are those who have died prior to the resurrection of Christ. (These are the ones Jesus visited during the time entombment when descended into Hades to convert the unbelieving.) According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. This is phase two, all of those who have died since the resurrection of Christ will come to life. It must be noted that we are not talking about a physical resurrection, but a spiritual resurrection. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. It is not all of those who have died but only the Christians. As Paul writes, “the dead in Christ,” which Paul considered only sleeping. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Phase three is all of those who are alive at the time of Jesus’ return. They will be caught up in the sky to meet our Lord. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

British recluse named Ernest Digweed died in the early 1980’s and left the equivalent of $57,000 in his will for Jesus Christ if he should return to earth before the end of the 20th century. Digweed’s heirs asked the courts to invalidate the will and divide the money among them. The judges agreed but ordered that they take out insurance with Lloyds of London for the amount just in case Christ does return within Digweed’s stipulated time. “When Christ returns, how awful to know that all of it was true, and that it is too late to do anything about it.”

“What will He say when He shouts?” Asked a student at the West African Bible College. Students can ask some of the most penetrating questions about minute details of Scripture. “Reverend, 1 Thessalonians 4:16 says that Christ will descend from heaven with a loud command. I would like to know what that command will be.” I wanted to leave the question unanswered, to tell him that we must not go past what Scripture has revealed. The man, a high school principal, told me how he was apprehended by a two-man death squad. After several hours of terror, as the men described how they would torture and kill him, he narrowly escaped. The escape cost him dearly: two of his children lost their lives. I also saw flashbacks of the beggars that I pass each morning on my way to the office. I am haunted by the vacant eyes of people who have lost all hope.

“Reverend, you have not given me an answer. What will he say?” The question hadn’t gone away. “`Enough,'” I said “He will shout, `Enough!’ when he returns.” A look of surprise appeared on the face of the student. “What do you mean, enough?” “Enough suffering. Enough starvation. Enough terror. Enough death. Enough indignity. Enough lives trapped in hopelessness. Enough sickness and disease. Enough time. What does the rapture mean? Enough!”

Tears

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One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?
I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven– for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”

Then he (Peter) began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace– but now it is hidden from your eyes.

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

Only four incidences out of many in the Bible where someone cries. The unnamed woman is very unhappy in her life. She knows that things are not right. Her life is filled with sin. She fills trapped and wants to be free. She cries for herself and her desire for forgiveness.

Peter, knew better because he had been warned. Peter betrayed Jesus, not once, but three times! Sin is always a betrayal, and we know that pain every time we sin. When the rooster crows, Peter cries, he has failed. Failure hurts.

On the Mount of Olives Jesus looks out over the city and cries. They are not listening to His message. He loves them so much but no one seems to care.
He is being rejected!

Now he goes into a small village to find that Lazarus, a dear friend, is dead. He does a very human thing, He cries.

We stand in amazement of God’s creation. This human body so designed to even heal itself. Part of the healing process is the ability to cry. It is no doubt an emotional release but it is also a physical release.

There was a young man who served his country during the Vietnam War. He was the lead man on a jungle patrol: the one responsible for looking for land mines, booby traps, and ambushes. With every step he risked death, and if he made a mistake, his entire unit would be in danger. When the war was finally over, he couldn’t believe that he was still alive while all his friends were dead. He often felt he would have been better off if he HAD died. He was haunted constantly by nightmares of his friends dying. Slowly his spirit was robbed of life. He saw many doctors and had many tests, but no one could come up with a cure for his myriad of ills. One day he went and visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. Tears flowed freely as he touched the names of his friends etched in the hard black stone. He looked for and found every name he remembered except one. Back and forth he walked, touching the wall, looking for the one last name. He looked in the book that listed all the names and told where to find them on the wall. He asked the attendant, but the attendant couldn’t find the name either. “Are you sure that’s the right name?” the attendant asked him. “Yes,” the man replied, “It’s my name.” The attendant looked at him and said softly, “Your name isn’t here. You must be alive. Go home and get on with your life.” And that was the word the man needed. He was alive! And he instantly became a better man, a better husband, a better father.

Everybody knows the shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept”, but few understand human tears. Men try to refrain, children are encouraged not to, and it’s somewhat expected of women. In 1964, a 16-year-old boy named William Frey saved the life of a 2-year-old girl. He was traumatized by the event but didn’t cry. That experience began Frey’s journey toward becoming an expert on crying and stress. He is one of the world’s leading proponents of the theory that men die younger than women in part because they don’t deal well with emotions. Women average 5.3 crying episodes per month, men just 1.4. Men’s eyes tear up, women’s tears run down their face. Tears for emotional reasons are chemically different from tears caused by eye irritation. 85% of women and 73% of men report feeling better after they have cried about a stressful situation. Boys and girls under the age of 12 cry the same amount. The difference begins developing in puberty. Human tears contain a unique mix of chemicals. They have 30 times more manganese than human blood; Endorphin hormones which provide a natural lift to the body; Prolactin which is a hormone that helps nursing mothers produce milk. “The only physiological mechanism we have to alleviate stress that is different from every other animal is the ability to cry emotional tears.”

On July 17, 1996, TWA Flight 800 suddenly exploded just minutes after take-off.
Although much of the jet’s wreckage has been recovered, the cause of the explosion is still unknown. Initially, there was strong belief that a terroristic act downed the large 747. The senior chaplain for the New York police department told the heartbroken families, “This is not an act of God. This is what happens when people have no God.”

Whatever causes the grief, the difficulty, the pain, God has provided the means to deal with it.

What’s In A Name?

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I remember back to just before Brooks and Jonathan were born, how Vickie and I tried to come up with names for them. I always seemed to lose and Vickie always seemed to get her way. My grandmother wanted me named after her father. My mother didn’t like the name Silas, thank God. Names have to do more than just sound good, they convey a story or message. William means “determined protector” Jonathan means “given by God” Silas means “of the woods” Jesus means “God is salvation.” The angel said to Joseph, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”– which means, “God with us.”

All of us have friends who are hard to imagine with some other name. Butch, can you see him in your mind? Grace, can you see her in your mind? It’s like someone saw these people before they were born and knew exactly what to call them. But of course, that’s hardly ever the way it is with names. You get a name, then you grow into it. Maybe he’s Butch because that’s what he was given and, over time, he became as he was called, Butch. Grace, probably too big, too high sounding a name for a wild little girl romping about the house. But over time, called Grace she became Grace, gracious, graceful.

Other people sometimes bestow names upon us and sometimes these names become nicknames. Fraternities are bad about that: Goofus, Jock, Zeus, or The Beast: Family nicknames: Peewee, Squeekie, etc. Sometimes such names represent our cruelty toward others rather than our love. Fatso, Hunchback, Chubby, etc. Can you feel that pain, do you know that pain, the pain of a name that hurts, traps, confines, cuts to the heart?

Our scripture is an interesting lesson about names. Luke who writes this gospel, gets into medical details. Doctors are that way. They will go through this long explanation and at the end you simply want to say, “Well, is that good or bad?”

On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. There is no name only the “crippled” woman, the “bent over” woman. Everyone has a name, why not Mary, Lydia or Elizabeth? She doesn’t have an identity other than that of a victim. She doesn’t have a family.
She doesn’t have an occupation. All she has is a deformity!

Jesus said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. She is there for everyone who so named to the deformity of their lives. Just a drunk, Grossly overweight, A retard, Gimp, Stupid, Nerd.

Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, “There are six days for work. The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites!
Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”

Jesus calls her a daughter of Abraham and not a victim anymore. Abraham is not only the great granddaddy of Israel, Abraham is also a blessing from God because she is his heir. She is no longer the crooked woman. No longer the prostitute,
no longer the liar, no longer the murderer, because God has healed and God has forgiven.

Do we see the power of the name? Paul says, Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, in our church, when we baptize someone, we announce who it is that is being baptized and baptize them in the name that is above of every name. That person’s identity is permanently sealed in Heaven. When we pray, we close the prayer in that name that every knee shall bow to.

No matter what we are named, no matter what we have been called, we now have a much more determinative and revealing name, a Christian. You are also a son or daughter of God. Whatever else we may be called we are a Christian. Stand up straight, act like it, go in peace.

911 Was Only The Start

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I remember 9/11 as if it was yesterday. I stood glued in front of the TV and even watched live as the second plane hit the towers. What at first seemed as horrible accident immediately turned to terror.

Like everyone else, I struggled with what had just happened. It didn’t matter at this point what I had planned to preach the next Sunday, it needed to be changed. It was understandable that everyone was confused, hurting, angry and wanted justice. All of the innocent lives lost called for justice to be done. However, I was disturbed by the rhetoric of war. It came so quickly, so loudly, and wanted an immediate response.

Do you remember that sermon the following Sunday? I do. I had a lot of people to tell me I was wrong. I had some who were very angry. I had some members planning to leave the church. Why? Because I preached to wait, to talk and to find a peaceful solution if possible. To stop using the rhetoric of war so freely. But we were a populace that were hell bent on flexing our might and getting revenge. Here we are, thirteen years later, thousands of lives lost, and we are no closer to resolving the problem.

There were a few that day that said good sermon or timely sermon. I am sure some were real, but others only trying to be nice. But one remark stood out above all others. It was from the late Isabel Gates (mother of Bob Gates who would later become the Secretary of Defense) who looked up at me and said, “That sermon should be required reading of every President.” Her words gave me the courage to go on. Thirteen years later I can say, the sermon I preached was on target!

Sometimes we fear standing for the truth and what is right. It is not easy going against the majority and especially when that majority employs you. It doesn’t mean that you will always get it right – I have been wrong too. What it does tell me is that God is at work in all of our lives and even in this messed up world we live in. It tells me that God doesn’t have the same time frame that you and I run on. There is a lot more power in turning the other cheek and being servant of all than most Christians realize. But it also calls us at times to stand up for the innocent and helpless. God have mercy on those who kill, steal, and pillage the innocent in the name of God, for His vengeance will be awful.