Tuesday, January 31, 2012

War! Huh! Where Does It Come From?

War! Huh! Where Did It Come From?
James 4:1-3

Think about the last argument you had with someone.
                        -Get examples of arguments people have had recently with peers, teachers, siblings, parents…. Break them down to the lowest common denominator—desire for pleasure that war in our members.
Think about the last fight you had with someone.
                        - Get examples of fights people have had recently with peers, teachers, siblings, parents…. Break them down to the lowest common denominator—desire for pleasure that war in our members.
            Think about some of the wars that the United States has been involved in.
                        Get examples of wars we have had. Break them down to the lowest common denominator—desire for pleasure that war in our members.
James 4:1 “1 What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?”
            Sometimes it is a little more obvious to see that war raging inside of us than at other times. For example, let’s say you and your brother are on a trip to Pensacola. You have to pick a restaurant. Your brother wants Five Guys, and you want Wendy’s. So you put him in a headlock, spin him around and give him a Diamond Cutter right there in the parking lot. He’s unconscious so you get to pick the restaurant. In that example was it easy to see evil desire warring within you? That little conflict wasn’t the fault of Wendy’s or Five Guys. It was the fault of the evil desires that are warring within you. Many people fall victim to that misconception. Let’s look at another example. Let’s say it isn’t you and your brother arguing over where to eat dinner, it’s your mom and dad. And instead of your mom Diamond Cutting your dad on the pavement, they get a divorce. Is it Five Guys and Wendy’s fault for their divorce? No. They just make delicious burgers. Change it again. You get an F on a test. Your dad says you’re grounded for a month. Your mom says you’re grounded for two months. They start arguing back and forth and finally get divorced. Whose fault was it that they got divorced? The fallacy is that we begin thinking, “If only I would have studied more. If only I wouldn’t have flunked that test.” There is no example where a child would ever have been the reason for a divorce. If someone is telling you differently, let me know and I’ll Diamond Cut them in the parking lot.
            People argue, people fight, people get divorced, people start wars because of evil desires for their own pleasure that is warring within them. What makes an evil desire evil? No regard for the other person whatsoever. Three examples:
-One day I was sent to the store by my babysitter to buy Diet Pepsi. I didn’t like Diet Pepsi, so I spent the whole trip back from the store throwing that 2 liter bottle as high as I could and watching it hit the hard concrete until…kaboom! My evil desires for pleasure overtook my rationality and decency.
A wedding day--something girls dream about for years and years. Finally, she meets the man of her dreams, he pops the question and she begins the extensive plans—her dreams are finally coming to reality. Then the big day comes and goes off without a hitch, and then comes the wedding night. Sex is a beautiful gift from God given to and exclusively for married men and women. She had saved herself for marriage so she could offer that gift to her husband on their wedding night. Then her fairy tale dreams came crashing down around her when her brand new husband raped her on their wedding night. His evil desire for pleasure had no regard for his wife.   
Poland, Austria, and France were getting along just fine, and then one day Hitler, with his evil desires for his own pleasure, thought he would do a better job of ruling them than they were doing ruling themselves. So he took them over with fierce violence. His evil desire for pleasure had no regard for the people he was killing and ruling over.
James goes on to say in verses 2-3, “2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.”
You all know I am a huge Buckeye fan. Back in 2002, the Buckeyes won the National Championship in football. I was reading a magazine devoted to that perfect season, and they quoted Jim Tressel, the then Buckeye coach. I remembered the quote because it struck me at how out of place it seemed. Tressel said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “I just told our guys, ‘Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.’ You’ll never win a National Championship until you realize it’s more than just what it can do for you.” National Championships, Super Bowl Championships, World Series Championships are all very big deals. It can make good players and coaches into great players and coaches. It makes people great players into legends. Like it or not, you become role models for every little boy in the state. You will have opportunities to use the elevated platform of your success for the good of society, or to make yourself into an idol.
We may never have the opportunity to become a National Champion, or win a Super Bowl, but God has plans in store for us. He has plans to give us jobs, bank accounts, cars, and positions of authority and status, but He won’t give us any of that if we don’t ask, and if we do ask, we ask with the wrong motivation.
So what’s it going to be? Your plans with your evil desire for pleasure, or God’s plans for you?       

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Matthew 16:24-27

            How many of you have ever ridden in an airplane? Did you ride first class or coach? Was it a long flight where they served food and drinks, or was it a short flight? How were the seats? Were they really comfortable, able to recline all the way back? Plenty of leg room? Did you start getting cramped? Did you know older people with blood clot issues can actually die on longer flights because clots form in their legs from not moving and then they eventually work their way up and get stuck in their hearts.
            Now imagine sitting in one of those tight airline seats and a stewardess comes up and says, “Here take this and put it on. It will make your flight more comfortable,” as she hands you a parachute. I’ve never put a parachute on but I looked it up online and they weigh around 90 lbs. So you thank the stewardess, pull the straps over your shoulders, buckle yourself in, and just sit there. About two minutes go by and the pack starts to get heavy. How many of you have ever ridden in a car or a bus with your backpack still on? Not real comfortable, is it? A few more minutes roll by, and you notice none of the other passengers are wearing a parachute. They all seem to be relaxed. They aren’t fidgeting with and re-shifting a 90 lb. pack on their back. They’re drinking coffee, relaxing, and joking about you wearing a parachute. You, on the other hand, are getting increasingly more miserable. After a few short minutes you eventually ditch the heavy load and begin to relax like everyone else.
            For those of you who have never ridden on an airplane, perhaps you have had the opportunity to ride in the backseat of my pick-up truck. You know what a tight fit that is. Now imagine the same scenario except instead of a parachute I said, “Here put on this full goalie equipment. It will make for a more comfortable ride.” So you do.
            Now will a parachute and hockey equipment make for a more comfortable ride? No of course not. In fact, it will be extremely uncomfortable.
            Let’s change the scenario a little. The same stewardess approaches you, hands you a parachute and says to you only, “Put this on. We’ve lost power in our engines and we will eventually have to jump.” You put on the same heavy, uncomfortable, bulky parachute and sit expectantly. Does it bother you that everyone else is relaxing, drinking coffee, and making fun of you? No, because you know the plane is going to crash, and you have the one thing that will save your life. You’ll sit there for hours carrying that heavy load, whereas before you wouldn’t sit for ten minutes.
            Why? It’s the same seat, parachute, and environment. The difference is in the first scenario the man put on the parachute because the stewardess told him it would be more comfortable. In the second scenario, the stewardess told him his life was in imminent danger and it was the one thing that could save his life.
            “That’s a great story, Adam, but what does that have to do with the cost of tea in China?” Many of you have heard that being a Christian is a more comfortable decision than being a non-Christian. Many of you have implied to your friends that they should become a Christian because it is the easier, and more comfortable decision. Is it easy to be a Christian at school? Is it easy to be a Christian in public places like the mall, bookstores, or movie theaters? Do you think it is easy for Tebow to be a Christian when he is mocked for his faith on a national level every day?
            There’s a lie pre-dominantly in the Western Culture, especially in the United States that being a Christian will make your life easier. There are some people who even believe in a prosperity theology that if you are not financially blessed then you are either not praying right, don’t have enough faith, or are a sinner in some way. I believe in the God who created the entire universe, which means that my God is the God of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Eritrea, and every other country in the world. Do you believe that a born again, Bible believing Christian in Eritrea doesn’t have enough food for his children because God loves him less than He loves me? Absolutely not! Do you believe that God blessed me with an Ipad for Christmas because He loves me more than our Compassion child who gets blankets and dinner ware for Christmas? Absolutely not!
            Putting on Christianity, just like putting on a parachute will not make you more comfortable. If you are standing at all in your faith people will make fun of you, they will question you, you will be an outcast, you may be persecuted, and you may even be killed. In fact, if you aren’t suffering even a little for Christ, maybe it’s because you aren’t doing anything, the Devil isn’t concerned about you, and no one even notices anything different about you.
            There are reasons for becoming a Christian, but it is not to be more comfortable. It’s true, you will be more comfortable in heaven than you would be in hell. God will answer your prayers, and give you peace in times of turmoil and strife, and you have the blessed assurance of knowing where you would go when you eventually died.
            Let’s read a passage about what Jesus said about comfort, and then I’ll tell you a story of just how comfortable the Christian life can be.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?[a] Is anything worth more than your soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds.”    
            Take up your cross, your big, heavy, burdensome cross which will eventually be used to kill you, and follow Him. A far cry from, “Hey let’s all hop in my Winnebago and see TobyMac tonight!”
            It is not true, but there seems to be a belief that there is a hierarchy of Christians. You have the typical Christians on the bottom, the preachers and other Christians who have made their faith a career in the middle, missionaries are the next highest, and overseas missionaries are way up on top. Listen to how comforting the Christian life was for Horatio Spafford and Philip Bliss. (Read from Suffering and Song: Lives of the Hymn Writers by Julia Ann Flora, 84-86)