2 Kings 10:28-31
2 Kings 9:1-8a [8b-37]
1 Kings 18:20-39
1 Kings 13:11-24 [1-10]
1 Kings 13 presents a bizarre story about a man of God. His name alone, “man of God” makes us realize he has big shoes to fill. When we hear the words, “man of God,” thoughts like righteousness and holiness may come to mind. Someone who is indicated as a man of God might be expected to conduct himself in the ways of God. This particular man of God in scripture started out how we would think a representation of God would look. At the beginning of chapter 13, we read he starts out on the right foot by voicing God’s displeasure with Jeroboam and even heals him by restoring the king’s arm. At this point, this man of God is being obedient to God’s requests. Then further along in scripture everything begins to go south just like in the garden when God told Adam and Eve not to eat the forbidden fruit. The man of God was to leave Bethel a different route and not eat or drink. However, he becomes compromised. He conceded and fell to the words of a false prophet. His disobedience led him to be killed by a lion. This is such a sad story and a horrible ending to this man of God.
We don’t even know this man of God’s name, maybe we should call him, “John Doe.” As I examine this man more closely, I could call him “Joshua” or maybe you could insert your name. The more I look at this man who compromised God, the more I see myself. Do you see yourself?
We are men and women of God. Through Christ, we have been adopted as children of God.
As God’s children, we are to imitate and take on the likeness of Christ. Being an image-bearer, Christians are called to live out the love of God and love of others. As Christ followers, God expects us to love our enemies, turn the other cheek, and be people of forgiveness.
At times, we are successful at living out the gospel of Christ in our lives. Then, there are times we do the opposite not seeking to love our enemies. We seek revenge, are unforgiving and unloving to people. Lacking compassion, empathy, and love for others, we compromise our faith. When we compromise our faith, we have allowed pride, self-righteousness, and hatred to rule our lives.
Let’s compare our spiritual walk to a basketball goal. It’s our goal as a player to shoot at the 10 foot goal as to be the best player we can be. However, when the 10 foot goal becomes too challenging, we lower the goal to 6 feet creating less effort for ourselves. Here, we have compromised ourselves to being what we planned on achieving. In our spiritual walk, God’s standard is comparable to the 10 foot goal. However , when we compromise our faith, we have lowered our standards (the 6 foot goal) and we are cheating the life God has called us to live by thinking such a life is ok.
It’s not ok for us as people of God to compromise the Gospel, to love God and love others. Hating anyone based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, or religion is not ok. If we think hating certain people groups is acceptable, our Christian faith is being compromised. Hatred is a learned behavior. Either we learned this through our own experience or we have learned it from our society, such as family, friends, teachers, political leaders, or other Christians.
Prime examples of hate can be observed in Germany a century ago. The Nazi regime used anti Semitic propaganda to convince Christians to endorse the genocide of Jewish people. Hitler used Bible passages to justify his actions blaming the Jews for killing Jesus. Hitler said, “Thus I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the mighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jews, I am fighting for the work of the Lord (Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampala).”
There is one instance when Hitler escaped a bomb explosion. After surviving the attack, Hilter was now even more convinced God was protecting him and his mission to kill Jews. His mission was to “rid the world of evil.” Christians began to believe Hitler was right. They supported the Nazi flags being draped inside churches. Christians in Germany compromised their faith by supporting a man and his mission to hate a particular group of people.
Christians throughout the centuries and even today have compromised the true message of God when they have supported such heinous acts of slavery, xenophobia, racism, ethnic cleansing, misogyny, and many other evils.
There is a growing divide in our country. This division can be seen by the growing number of hate groups popping up in our state. Research shows there are over 34 hate groups spreading their messages of hate. Some of these hate groups proclaim they are Christian. These Christians are promoting hate and have compromised the Christian faith.
The false prophet in 1 Kings who proclaimed he was under the banner of God speaking for God, fooled the man of God. Christians can be fooled. We need to be discerners of God’s truth and not be fooled. Ask yourself, are my actions loving? Would Jesus partake in this action?
When hate rules a life, one is far from God. If we have hate individuals or particular groups of people, we are furthering the divide between us and God. Whatever kind of hate that is growing and living in us, we have compromised our faith. We are showing disobedience to God.
The man of God in our text found a physical death by a lion because of his disobedience. Our compromised faith leads to a death within our spirit. Christ is not living in us. Christ can’t live in a heart with hate.
Unlike the man of God, we are not dead yet. We have the chance to change and follow the ways of Christ. We can erase hate and seek love, tolerance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. In other words, be the true Christian we are created to be.Each day we are on this planet is an opportunity to grow in our love for people and show our obedience to God. Loving people can be hard. Love can be a process. Loving individuals or groups of people can take time, but with the Holy Spirit within us, love is possible and in the end, powerful!
A story about a Bible College professor, Yohanna Katanacho, demonstrates how it is possible to show love when it seems impossible. Not only is Yohanna a professor, he pastors a small church in the Israeli city of Jerusalem. As a Palestinian living in Israel, and a Christian, he faces a wide variety of persecution.
One of the more dangerous forms of harassment comes from the Israeli soldiers who patrol the city, looking for potential terrorists.
These soldiers routinely impose spontaneous curfews on Palestinians, and even have the legal right to shoot at a Palestinian if he or she does not respond quickly enough to their summons.
Christ’s command in the Sermon on the Mount to “love your enemies” seemed impossible to Yohanna. He said, “For me, love was an active and counter-cultural decision, because I was living in a culture that promoted hatred of the other…And not only did the context promote hate, but the circumstances fed it on a daily basis—the newspapers, television, media, neighbors, everything. One of the markers of the Israeli Jews and the Palestinian Arabs is alienating the other. To break that marker, I must have some other worldview.”
At first, Yohanna tried and failed in his attempts to feel love. Instead, the Israeli soldiers’ random, daily checks for Palestinian identification cards—sometimes stopping them for hours—fed Yohanna’s fear and anger. As he confessed his inability to God, Yohanna realized something significant.
The radical love of Christ is not an emotion, but a decision. He decided to show love, however reluctantly, by sharing the gospel message with the soldiers on the street. With new resolution, Yohanna began to carry copies of a flyer with him, written in Hebrew and English, with a quotation from Isaiah 53 and the words “Real Love” printed across the top. Every time a soldier stopped him, he handed him both his ID card and the flyer. Because the quote came from the Hebrew Scriptures, the soldier usually asked him about it before letting him go. After several months of this, Yohanna suddenly noticed his feelings toward the soldiers had changed. “I was surprised, you know?” he says. “It was a process, but I didn’t pay attention to that process. My older feelings were not there anymore. I would pass in the same street, see the same soldiers as before, but now find myself praying, ‘Lord, let them stop me, so that I can share with them the love of Christ.'” Yohanna’s decision to show love even before he felt it is a powerful story of changing from hate to a life of love.
This same love is in all of us, it just needs to be accessed. We can decide to love even before we feel it because of the power of God within us. The Bible says, “…for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4).” What is in each of us is Jesus’ very own Spirit. There is old saying, “you are a spittin’ image.” It’s shorthand for spirit and image. The saying means more than just that you look like that person. It goes beyond just appearance to include character and temperament. It means that you remind people of that person, you do the same things they did.
As Christians we are called to be the spitting image of Jesus in this world. Our lives should be a reflection of Jesus’ love. Our lives can reflect love with the power within us! The less and less we compromise our faith, the more we show what we are meant to be – not people of hate but rather men and women of God! Thanks be to God, amen!
Sermon: Finding Freedom
Scripture: Mark 5:21-24a, 35-43
Sermon: Asleep in the Faith
We had technology issues today at church. We were unable to record the entire service. The full sermon was recorded on my iPad here.
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:19-25
Sermon: Wounded Healer
Due to technology challenges this morning at church, we are unable to post a video of the sermon. Below, is a written version of today’s sermon. Thank you for your flexibility and understanding.
Funeral Surprise (Mark 15:37, 42-46)
Surprises can be exciting! Some surprises can be shocking! Here’s a surprising story about the later of these two emotions… A couple had been married for nine years and had three children. The husband fell ill and within a few days died. With support from friends and family, she kept strong. After the funeral services and just before people disbursed, a woman came to the wife with a shocking surprise. The woman claimed she had two children with her late husband, a boy and a girl. The woman addressed the man as “our husband.” Sometime after the funeral, the woman presented birth certificates and pictures of the children with the late husband. The wife could not believe what she saw. The evidence was too strong to be disputed!
The journey to the cross and burial of Jesus holds some surprises. When John the Baptist died, Mark reports his disciples made preparations for John’s body (Mark 6:29). However, after Christ’s crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples are not around to take care of His body. With bewilderment, they had all quickly dispersed from the man they once held allegiance to. Moreover, Simon the Cyrene was a surprise character as he carried the cross for Christ when His disciples once again were not present (Mark 15:21). In addition, after Christ’s arrests, the disciples were no longer claiming Him as the messiah but what a glorious surprise when the centurion confessed what the disciples could not by stating, “Surely this man was the Son of God! (“Mark15:39).
The surprises do not stop at the crucifixion. Joseph of Arimathea. a member of the council of the Sanhedrin, took it upon himself to take care of Jesus’ crucified body. Why is this so surprising? The Sanhedrin were the religious leaders who sent Jesus to Pontius Pilot to be crucified. The Sanhedrin hated Jesus. Joseph was the exception. Joseph had been responsive to Jesus’ message of love. Jesus touched his life. Requesting Jesus’ body showed Joseph’s bold witness. Furthermore, Joseph demonstrated generosity. Joseph laid the body of Christ in his personal tomb and wrapped Jesus in expensive fine linen. Joseph went out of his way to honor Jesus. Joseph’s courageous witness and kindness displays discipleship. Shockingly, a member of the Sanhedrin gave us one of our first examples, post-crucifixion, of discipleship.
Joseph of Arimathea was demonstrating exactly what Jesus had been teaching, compassion and love. Jesus cared for others; He came, He showed compassion, and He died for us. Out of pure love for humanity, Jesus took our place on the cross to relinquish our sin giving Himself up as a living sacrifice.
The movie, Armageddon, focuses on a burly, oil-mining veteran by the name of Harry Stamper, played by actor Bruce Willis. Stamper had been called upon to take part in a last-ditch mission to save the human race from a massive asteroid on an unstoppable collision course with planet Earth.
Landing a space shuttle on the surface of the deadly rock, Harry and his compatriots drill a hole deep into the asteroid’s core and drop into it a nuclear bomb that might just split the asteroid in two with the hopes of it missing the Earth.
At the movie’s climactic moment when the charge has been set and the shuttle is about to lift off the asteroid, something goes terribly wrong, and it becomes clear that someone will have to stay behind and manually detonate the bomb. Without hesitation, Harry Stamper chooses that job. In the final minutes, Harry speaks by videophone to the command center in Houston and says his last words to his daughter, Grace. With tears streaming down her cheeks, the daughter burbles to her dad: “Everything good I have inside of me, I have from you. I love you so much. I am so proud of you. And I’m so scared.” “There won’t be anything to be scared of soon,” Harry assures her. “I’ll look in on you … I love you, Grace.”
Moments later, Harry kneels on the surface of the asteroid as it violently shakes with volcanic eruptions. Struggling to maintain hold of the detonator, he watches the shuttle safely escape. Then Harry stares … the beautiful blue planet rotating quietly in space. A gentle smile creases his rugged face as he whispers, “We win, Gracie,” and then presses the detonator.
Suddenly, the screen fills with a racing stream of images as seen through the love of this father’s eyes. We see back in time to a sunny day when Harry is pushing his laughing little girl on a backyard swing set. We’re treated to a blur of images reflecting the glorious and grainy moments of miraculous human life. We see a moment out in the future when Gracie will be dressed as a radiant bride on her wedding day. Then, the asteroid erupts in a blinding explosion, fractures in two, and careens clear of our planet, as the surprised, saved humans of the Earth explode in wild cheers!
Just as planet Earth was headed towards destruction in the movie, we were headed towards devastation because of our sin. God took it upon Himself to offer His son as a sacrifice for humanity. The surprise in this part of the journey is God still loves us despite our despicable, selfish ways! Surprise! God loves you despite _ (you fill in the blank here)! The Father and God the Son looked with compassion at the children of this Earth and chose to intervene in a way that required a cataclysmic self-sacrifice. Jesus’ death was for all of humanity. We are loved by God! Thanks be to God! Amen.
Please fast forward to 2:21 for the service to begin. Thank you.
Call to Worship
L: Come to worship this day. Bring with you all your joys and sorrows.
P: Jesus will offer hope.
L: Come to worship this day believing in the power of God through Jesus Christ.
P: Jesus will bring us healing.
L: Come to worship this day feeling the presence of God.
P: Jesus will teach us new ways to live. AMEN.
Hymn: He Leadeth Me
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 9:16-23
Hymn: Freely, Freely
Scripture: Mark 1:23-28
Sermon Rev. Dr. Joshua Felton
Hymn: Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Prelude: Surely the Presence Michael Rodgers
Call to Worship
L: Come, let us praise the Lord!
P: We praise God with our whole heart!
L: God’s works are great!
P: Open our hearts and spirits to see your works, O Lord!
L: Come, let us worship the Lord who has saved us!
P: May our lives reflect the wondrous love of God that all may see and know of God’s greatness. AMEN.
Hymn: Be Thou My Vision Michael Rodgers
Scripture: Psalm 111 Lynda Reese
Hymn: He Touched Me Michael Rodgers
Scripture: Mark 1:21-22
Sermon Rev. Dr. Joshua Felton
Hymn: Seek Ye First Michael Rodgers
Call to Worship
L: Christ is calling you as disciples
P: Lord Jesus, let us follow you faithfully.
L: You will be led into fields of mission and service.
P: Lord Jesus, where you lead us, we will go.
L: Listen for Christ’s call to you.
P: We are ready to serve the Lord. AMEN.
Hymn: “Are Ye Able”
Scripture: Psalm 62:5-12
Hymn: “Take Time to Be Holy”
Scripture: Mark 1:14-20
Hymn: “Rescue the Perishing”
Call to Worship
L: Lost . . .
P: wandering without purpose, meaning,
value, acceptance, or place.
L: We wander lost. But the Spirit of God descends like a
dove upon us. We hear the ancient words that name and
claim us as children of God.
P: We are cleansed, refreshed, and made new in the love
of those words.
Hymn: Wash, O God, Our Son and Daughters UMH #605
Scripture: Psalm 29
Hymn: Baptism in Water TFWS #2248
Scripture: Mark 1:4-11
Hymn: Shall We Gather at the River UMH #723
Prelude (We Three Kings)
Call to Worship
L: Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations
P: You are the one true God who reigns forever.
Hymn: O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing pg. 57
Scripture: Ecclesiastes 3:1-13
Hymn: O God, Our Help in Ages Past pg. 117
Scripture: Matthew 25:31-46
Words of Assurance and Pardon
Hymn: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross pg. 298
The Covenant Prayer
Hymn: A Charge to Keep I Have pg. 413
Dismissal with Blessing
Postlude (My Hope Is Built pg. 368)
Call to Worship
L: Darkness—we who walk in darkness
P: have seen a great light:
L: a light that is a joy for all the earth,
P: a light that announces new life.
L: In joy we greet this light.
P: In this light we see that our savior has come.
Hymn: O Little Town of Bethlehem
Scripture: Ephesians 1:3-14
Hymn: Rock-a-Bye, My Dear Little Boy
Scripture: John 1:1-14
Hymn: Go, Tell It On the Mountain
This Christmas we are reairing the 2016 Christmas Cantata, “Christmas at the Manger.” May this service be a blessing to you and your family. Merry Christmas!
Please click on the link above to watch Second Sunday of Advent Service