Give Up Indifference!

Perhaps the greatest name in American history is Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865). Everyone knows his story. Self-educated, he became a lawyer in Illinois and in time became our sixteenth president in 1860. His election was not embraced by all. Before he could be sworn into office, the country was divided over the issue of state’s rights. (We still struggle with state’s rights.) Lincoln sat in the oval office during the bloody years of the Civil War, tested time and time again.

History tells us Abraham Lincoln often visited military hospitals during the Civil War to cheer up the wounded. On one occasion, he saw a young soldier who was near death. Lincoln’s heart was broken. “Is there anything I can do for you,” asked the compassionate President. “Please write a letter to my mother,” the young soldier replied. Unrecognized by the soldier, Lincoln sat down and wrote as the youth told him what to say. The letter read,

My Dearest Mother,

I was badly hurt while doing my duty, and I won’t recover. Don’t sorrow too much for me. May God bless you and Father. Kiss Mary and John for me.

The young man was too weak to go on, so Lincoln signed the letter for him and then added this postscript,

Written for your son by Abraham Lincoln.

Asking to see the note, the soldier was astonished to discover who had shown him such kindness. “Are you really our President,” he asked. “Yes,” was the quiet answer. We can admire Lincoln for many reasons. One of the reasons was his compassion. Do the people in your life consider you compassionate? Maybe this is a better question: Has there is been a time your life when you needed some compassion? I wrote this message in the middle of the great pandemic cause by the coronavirus. Now is a time when compassion is needed. Webster defines compassion as, “A sympathy for the feeling of others, often including a desire to help.” Compassion has always been important because our world can be a hard place. You know it is true. You don’t have to be a soldier in a civil war to relate to that story. I have never met a person who never needed compassion occasionally.

Have you ever felt victimized? You did absolutely nothing wrong and you tried your very best. The problem is everything went wrong. Your entire world attacked you and you found yourself filled with self-pity. In a world filled with seven and a half billion people, you felt completely alone. Then, from a most unexpected source, God sent you someone who showed you kindness and compassion. The rest of the world questioned your motives and desires, but your angel only gave you peace. Compassion can be a powerful medicine. The scripture lesson for today is filled with compassion.

Let me let you in on a little secret. It has become my custom to take a nap on Sunday afternoons. I have no proof to support the following statement, but I believe it is true. I expend more energy on Sunday morning then the rest of the week combined. I get up early on Sunday mornings to review my material and update my prayers. I participate in three worship services, which means I preach three times. I relate to countless people and try to remember everyone’s story. I try to welcome everyone who enters our building. There is a certain amount of stress to my job. I try to be prophetic; I am speaking for God, yet I can’t insult anyone. Some have real thin skin. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but I find these few hours to be exhausting. When I leave the church after Sunday morning I am spent. I struggle with the simplest conversations because I can’t focus. I eat a lunch out, enjoy my wife’s company, turn off my cell phone and take a nap on the sofa. It is the deepest sleep I have all week. This fact is not exciting, but it is true.

According to the text today, Jesus was a better man than I. When Jesus left worship, he didn’t nap; he healed the sick. I don’t just mean a healing I mean a multitude of healings. Verses thirty-three and thirty-four say, “The whole town (of Capernaum) gathered at the door (of Simon and Andrew’s house), and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.” One of those healings, the first one mentioned, was the mother-in-law of Simon Peter. Verse thirty is key to our understanding of this morning’s message. It says she was healed because they told Jesus about her. I am not exactly sure who is included in the word “they”, but “they” must have included Simon Peter. She may not have been healed if “they” had not told Jesus about her. “They” had compassion on her and got her some help. They got her the best help you can possibly get someone in need, Jesus. She benefited from their compassion. Do the people in your life consider you a compassionate person?

Today, I want to cultivate your compassionate side. I want to do this by giving three pieces of pastoral advice that you should never forget. Our world needs more compassionate people because our world has a surplus of struggling people. You can find the struggling everywhere. You can find them in your neighborhood. You can find them at work. You can find them at school. You can find them at church. We are not excluded. Our world is filled with suffering, broken people who need compassion.

Compassion is sensitive to the needs of others.

First, never forget, compassion is sensitive to the needs of others. British statesman and financier Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902), whose fortune was used to endow the world-famous Rhodes Scholarships, was a stickler for correct dress—but apparently not at the expense of someone else’s feelings. A young man was invited to dine with Rhodes. He arrived by train and had to go directly to Rhodes’s home in his travel-stained clothes. Once there, he was appalled to find the other guests already assembled, wearing full evening dress. After what seemed a long time Rhodes appeared, in a shabby old blue suit. Later the young man learned that his host had been dressed in evening clothes too, but he put on the old suit when he heard of his young guest’s dilemma.

Simon’s mother-law was in bed with a fever. The story doesn’t come with a medical chart and a graph with all her test scores. The truth is, we don’t know the source of her suffering. That is not important; all that is important is that others had compassion on her. They got her help. Does anyone in your life need help? Do you have anyone in your life that needs Jesus? If you do, say, “Amen!” Compassion is sensitive to the needs of others.

Compassion takes advantage of interruptions.

Second, never forget, compassion takes advantage of interruptions. Have you ever noticed there are times when your agenda and God’s agenda don’t match? You know the scene. You have a million things to do. You have a deadline to meet or a sea of people waiting for you. You are in a hurry trying to get it done in time and suddenly, someone shows up who just talked to you. They have a problem and you are the

only one that can help. I know it is hard, but remember, compassion takes advantage of interruptions.

Consider these ten Bible stories with me:

1. The Parable of the Good Samaritan

2. The Greatest Commandment

3. The Blessing of the Little Children

4. The Healing of the Ten Lepers

5. The Healing of the Paralytic

6. The Healing of the Man Blind from Birth

7. The Rich Young Ruler

8. Zacchaeus

9. Blind Bartimaeus

10. Nicodemus

What do they all have in common? They are all special moments in the Bible that were produced by interruptions. Jesus had compassion on these people and used these interruptions to do real ministry. Have you ever noticed there are times when your agenda and God’s agenda don’t match? The healing of Simon’s mother-in-law was not on the agenda for the day, but Jesus healed her because this was an opportunity for true ministry. Compassion is sensitive.Compassion takes advantage of interruptions.

Compassion is gracious.

Third and final, never forget, compassion is gracious. When I was in the Cleveland area, I had a parishioner who claimed he hadn’t missed church for fifty years. One day, I figured out he had heard 2600 sermons, plus the messages on the liturgical holidays. You do the math, fifty years times fifty-two weeks. I was impressed.

One year I got involved in the annual pulpit exchange. You know the event. It is a way to get to know other preachers in the area. I went to the Presbyterian Church, and the Lutheran Church minister came to my church. The Lutheran preacher was just great! He was new to the area and everyone was surprised to discover he was Korean. Mr. 2600 sermons saw the Lutheran minister and thought he was Japanese. He stood up from his pew and began yelling some ugly language. He said, “We fought them in the war. I don’t have to listen to them in my church.” He stormed out of the church, never to be seen again. Everyone wanted to know what happened. I wanted to know if he had heard a single word of those 2600 sermons. There is no room for prejudiced behavior in God’s church, because compassion is gracious.

I really don’t want to offend anyone, but I must ask, how much of a difference is Jesus making in your life? How many sermons have you heard in your life? How many of those sermons altered your life? The world doesn’t really care about your opinions. The world needs your compassion. Compassion is sensitive.Compassion takes advantage of interruptions. Compassion is gracious.

Let us end at the side of our dying Civil War soldier. You remember the soldier. He was wounded and Abraham Lincoln came to visit him. In time, the president wrote a letter home for him and said his good-bye’s. The soldier couldn’t believe the president’s kindness and compassion. But he really couldn’t believe it when the president said next, “Now, is there anything else I can do?” The lad feebly replied, “Will you please hold my hand? I think it would help me see this through to the end.” With the weight of the world on his shoulders, Lincoln held the young man’s hand until he died. How many hands have you held during life’s most difficult moments? The situation may not be death, it may be divorce. The situation maybe a family problem, it may be a personal pain. It may be disease; it may be disappointment. How many hands have you held? How many people in your life need compassion? Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910) was a Scottish Baptist minister He once said, “Kindness and compassion make a person attractive.” How attractive are you?

Give Up Enemies!

We are in the first chapter of John. It is early in Jesus’ ministry; he is still collecting his disciples. In the story prior to our reading, Jesus welcomed Andrew and his brother, Peter. The next day, Jesus invited Philip to be one of the folds. In verse 44 we are told the original three disciples, Andrew, Peter and Philip, were from the town of Bethsaida, a town on the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee. Philip told Nathanael about Jesus. At first, he is not impressed. As a matter of fact, he was quite cynical. The source of his doubts came from Jesus’ hometown, Nazareth. He assumed Jesus was like everyone else in Nazareth: a second-class citizen. Everyone at that time knew the truth about the citizens of Nazareth; they were a little less intelligent and less attractive than the average person. Rooted in this first-century prejudice, Nathanael says, “Nazareth! What good can come from there?”  It wasn’t until he met Jesus that his mind was changed. You know the truth. We have no problem understanding verse 46, because our society is filled with prejudiced behavior. Have you noticed our society is filled with racial tension? That tension is rooted in our prejudices. This is not an isolated case. Our prejudices have been damaging the church for a long time.

In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi (1869-148) wrote that during his student days, he read the Gospels seriously and considered converting to Christianity. He believed that in the teachings of Jesus, he could find the solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India. So, one Sunday he decided to attend services at a nearby church so he could talk to the minister about becoming a Christian. When he entered the sanctuary, however, the usher refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go worship with “his own people”. Gandhi left the church and never returned. “If Christians have caste differences also,” he said, “I might as well remain a Hindu.” That usher’s prejudice not only betrayed Jesus, but also turned a person away from trusting Him as Savior. That is an ugly story, but this is the truth. Every church struggles with their own prejudices. We are no exception.

Several weeks ago, our country celebrated Martin Luther King Day; a day to remember the life and spirit of the Civil Rights activist. It is a national holiday, and it has become my custom to give a little history on each one. Several years ago, I asked the congregation, “How long have we been celebrating Martin Luther King Day?” Do you remember what happened? One of the saints here yelled out, “Too long!” Some of our white faces giggled at that comment, and I was uncomfortable. Those two words, and our response to those two words, did more damage than we will ever know. Several days later, I found an opened letter on my desk. It was written by a woman who was visiting us that day. She told me she was relocating from the south and was looking for a church home. She was upset that in church of all places, someone would yell out such a thing. She was shocked that some thought “too long” was funny. She was appalled I didn’t reprimand the congregation. She may be right. It is safe to say, she will not be back. I wonder, how many Christian people she will tell about her time with us? Every church struggles with prejudices.

When I was in college, I took several sociology classes. One of the things we looked at were our prejudices. I remember, clearly, three things about our prejudices. This is what I remember: 1.) Everyone is prejudiced. 2.) Our prejudices are learned. 3.) Our prejudices reveal our fears. I don’t pretend to be an expert on prejudiced behavior. However, I will admit it is one of my great challenges in my discipleship. I live in a white world and have very little interaction with non-white people. Everyone I know is just like me, socially, economically and politically. I struggle relating to how others live and how others think. It would be easy to ignore this topic, but I won’t do it. We are disciples of Jesus Christ and the Master expects more from us. We are supposed to be a little more like Jesus every day. Jesus loved unconditionally. Let’s look at those three statements.

Everyone is Prejudiced

This is sociological fact number one: everyone is prejudiced. There is not a single person in this world that escapes. Sociologists says the reason we are all prejudiced is the numbers. Did you know, the United States Census Bureau estimates the world’s population is more than 7.8 billion? It’s impossible to know everyone. How many people do you know? In 2013, the New York Times reported that the average American knows about 600 people. That figure seems high to me. Do you think you know 600 people? Why are those numbers important? They reveal to us why everyone is prejudiced.

Sociologists tell us everyone is prejudiced because there are so many people we do not know. With so many unknown people, we gather in groups together to gain some sense of control. It is impossible to know every individual; it’s much easier to know the stereotypes of various groups. Look at the text with me. Nathanael did not know Jesus personally, but he did have some preconceived opinions about Nazarenes. The stereotype broke down once he met Jesus. Just admit it, you are prejudiced! You will always hold a certain amount of prejudice, because it’s impossible to know everyone. Our prejudices fool us into believing that we have some control.

Our Prejudices are Learned

This is sociological fact number two: our prejudices are learned. Last Saturday morning, I had a private baptism. I enjoyed the baptism because I officiated at the baby’s parent’s wedding several years ago. It is nice when I can maintain a relationship with a couple beyond the wedding. Baptisms are important for two reasons. The first reason is spiritual. We deal with the original sin, inherited from Adam and Eve. The second reason is practical. The parents are promising that they will raise the child within the Christian faith. That promise is important because no one has a greater influence on the baby than their parents. If the parents make that promise with a sincere heart, then it will be life altering for the child. If the promise is made lightly, then it will have very little influence on the baby. The greatest role model in a child’s life is the child’s parents. Have you ever stopped to consider how much you learned from your parents?

Parents are not just biological parents; parents are role models. So, whatever you want your child to be or do, then you must be or do it. If you want your child to be hard working, then you must be hard working. If you want your child to be kind and compassionate, then you must be kind and compassionate. If you want your child to vote, then you must vote. If you want your child to drink milk, then you must drink milk. If you want your child to be a Christian, then you must be a Christian. Being a good role model in life is so important. Our children can learn so many good things from us. The problem is, sometimes they learn negative things from us, like our negative prejudices. If you want your child to not be a prejudiced person, then you must not be a prejudiced person. Nathanael did not enter this world instinctively knowing there was something wrong with the citizens of Nazareth. It was something he learned along the way. It may or may not have been his parents. Regardless, our prejudices are learned. Would you like our world to be a better place? Then answer this question: What prejudices are you passing on to the next generation?

Our Prejudices Reveal Our Fears

This is sociological fact number three: our prejudices reveal our fears. Sociologists say the group you dislike the most, frightens you the most. I know that is true because I have seen it countless times. I have lived it. Years ago, I was out at the mall with Vlad. It was Vlad’s first trip to America. You know Vlad, he was the first Russian orphan we brought to America to get prosthetic legs. He lost his legs in a Moscow rail yard jumping trains. Vlad was in his wheelchair; I sat on a bench watching people pass. Everyone looked at Vlad because they noticed his stumps. Everyone looked, but only one talked to us. The only one who talked to him was young black man, wearing a baseball cap that hung to the side. He had one gold tooth in his mouth and a gold bracelet around his neck. His oversized leather coat promoted his favorite NFL team, the Oakland Raiders. His old jeans were faded and riding low. When he started walking our way, I tried to ignore him, but it was impossible. When he started talking, his dictation was poor; I could hardly make out his words. I will admit it, I was intimidated. I thought he was going to ask me for money, so I grew defensive. I couldn’t believe what he was saying. He didn’t ask me for money. Instead, he wanted to know about Vlad. He wanted to know what doctor was helping him. I could not have been more surprised. He pulled out a business card and handed it to me. He said, “This is my doctor; he is the best.” Then, he pulled up the legs of his faded jeans and exposed his prosthetic legs. As he walked away, he said, “If you need any help, call me, my number is on the back of the card.” I have never been more ashamed of myself. I had to admit it, I am a prejudiced person. That is one of the things we have in common.

Years ago, I was sitting at Hospice House next to a man who was near the end. The disease was winning. When I arrived, I was surprised to find him alone. I was shocked that his mind was so clear. He was one of the finest men I had ever known. I knew his end was near, so I gave him ample time. We talked about many things, his family, his work, his childhood. As he laid in that bed and reviewed his life, he told me things that he had held secret for years. He told me about visiting his grandparents as a boy. Out of the blue he said, “Russ, did you know my grandparents were members of the Ku Klux Klan?” I said, “Seriously?” He said, “Yes! The group would meet at their house because they owned several acres. I remember everyone was nice to me, but I had to leave once the ceremony started.” He added, “They stored their hoods and robes in my grandparent’s basement. There was a safe in that basement which held the group’s treasury and a list of all the names of all the members.” He was being so honest, I had to ask him the next question, “Did you ever join?” He said, “No!” I said, “Why not?” He said, “I was too young; I was just a boy.” I said, “No, later. Why didn’t you join when you became an adult?” He ended by saying, “Russ, by then, we all knew better.” Can I ask you this question?

Do you know better, or are you holding tight to your prejudices? You may think you are making that other group look bad, but in truth, you are only damaging yourself. How foolish have you made yourself look lately?  Jesus once said, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By doing this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  

Give Up Arrogance!

Billy Graham (1918-2018) died on February 21, 2018. If anyone deserved to go to heaven, it was Billy Graham. He preached the gospel to more people than anyone in history. Only God knows how many souls he won for Jesus Christ. Yet, Billy himself never forgot the truth. He was a sinner, who was dependent on God’s grace. Those closest to him told us, Billy Graham helped plan his own funeral. As he listened to his own arrangements, he had a simple request: less about Billy, more about Jesus. Billy Graham was a humble man. He never forgot, he was saved by grace and by grace alone! How humble are you? With that in mind let us look at our Gospel lesson.

We find ourselves today in the eighteenth chapter of Luke. Bruce Larson (1925-2008) was the Senior Pastor of the University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, Washington. He once said, the first thirty verses of this chapter are vital because these verses contain the qualities, we must possess to live the abundant life in Jesus Christ. In our reading for today, we discover one of those qualities, humility. At the very heart of this parable is humility. Like all parables, it is easy to imagine.

Two men went to the temple to pray. There is nothing surprising about that line. The people of Jesus’s day valued prayer. They prayed regularly. Daily, morning and evening prayer was scheduled at the temple in connection with the sacrifices. However, the temple was always open for private prayer. Prayer was not isolated to the Sabbath. Prayer was a big part of their daily lives. In Jesus’ story, one of the men was a Pharisee. He is the embodiment of arrogance. He stood upright and reported to God all his good deeds. He fasted twice a week and gave generously to the poor. The other man was a Publican, or a tax collector. He is the embodiment of complete brokenness. He stands at a distance beating his breast. He is not proud of the life is he living. He admits he is a sinner, and he asks God for mercy. The two gentlemen in Jesus’s story are from opposite ends of the universe. There is nothing surprising in the story until the last verse. Verse fourteen says, “I tell you that this man, (the tax collector) rather than the other, (the Pharisee) went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  Can I ask you a question? Do you relate more to the tax collector or the Pharisee?

John C. Maxwell (born 1947) is an American author, speaker and pastor. He has written many books. His primary topic is leadership. He once said, “There are two kinds of pride, both good and bad. “Good pride” represents our dignity and self-respect. “Bad pride” is the deadly sin of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance.”  We call bad pride, arrogance. How many people do you know who have “bad pride?” How many arrogant people do you know? Our world is, and always has been, filled with arrogant people. Webster defines arrogance as “offensive displays of superiority.” If you don’t believe me, just ask the internet highway.

Who are the most arrogant celebrities? That is the question I punched into my google search engine. You can find anything on-line. There are many sites with such a list. This one came from a website called “top-ten.” According to them, these are the most arrogant celebrities—

I will give the top five to you in reverse order:

          5. Charlie Sheen

          4. Alec Baldwin

          3. Lindsay Lohan

          2. Kim Kardashian

          1. Kanye West

I was surprised that Justin Bieber wasn’t on the list. He came in at number eleven. However, he was number one on the list of annoying celebrities. It pains me to say it, but John Wayne, “The Duke,” is number six.

Then, I punched the question, what are the most arrogant countries in the world? Once again, I will give them to you in reverse order:

          5. South Korea

          4. Israel

          3. Italy

          2. India

          1. United States

Ok, I will tell you. Great Britain was number six and Russia was number seven. Just think about that for a moment. Kanye West and the United States of America have this sad thing in common. We are both viewed by the world as the most arrogant. That means, we are the Kanye West of the world. Could it be our national pride has turned into our national arrogance?

Then, I punched in the question, who are the most arrogant people in history? Our generation is not the first to struggle with arrogance. History is filled with arrogant characters. One of the names on that list is found in the Bible, Herod the Great (74 BC– 4 BC). Jesus was born under his rule. Do you know his story? Insecure and paranoid, he thought the entire world was after his throne. For this reason, he never trusted anyone, including his own family. Everyone said and everyone knew, it was better to be Herod’s dog than it was to be Herod’s son. He hated everyone and in return everyone hated him. Herod the Great knew that everyone hated him, to the point that he feared that people would celebrate at his death. How would that look? He wanted to fool history, so he gave a sinister order. He ordered that on the day of his death, three hundred innocent lives should be taken. He hoped the loved ones of the three hundred would mourn openly, tricking the world into thinking they were grieving for him. I am glad to report, that order was never executed. Listen to the next line. Arrogance fools itself into thinking it is attractive, but it is not. Let us return to our Gospel lesson. It is about arrogance. Here is a question you must answer.

Why does God hate arrogance? There is not a single answer. However, there are four answers. Let me list them for you and give you a Biblical illustration with each one.

  1. Arrogance damages our relationship with God.  The one thing we know about God clearly is that He loves being worshipped. The problem is arrogance lies to us and tells us we are equal to God. In the story of the exodus, Pharaoh believed he was a god. (Exodus 5:2) The Egyptian people at that time saw him as a god in human form. His arrogance led to him challenging God. In the end, the Pharaoh lost. He was devastated, because he was not a god. He was just a man. He illustrates the point. Arrogance damages our relationship with God.
  • Arrogance damages our relationships with others. In my station in life, I have seen it countless times. Siblings live less than a mile apart, but they haven’t spoken in years. Their stories are different, but the stories are the same. There is some ugly scene in the past no one will forget. The relationship between the participants has been eroding to the point that they no longer speak. They think the word, I love you or I am sorry, but they can’t utter those words because their personal pride is so great. Each one plays the anti-Joseph. In Joseph’s story, he reunited with his brothers because he was humble and forgave them. (Genesis 50:15-21) If Joseph can forgive his brothers, then why can’t you forgive? Could it be your pride, your arrogance, is holding you back? Arrogance is a dangerous thing. Arrogance damages our relationships with others.
  • Arrogance damages ourselves. When arrogance fills our hearts, we begin to make poor decisions. We forget about the long range and concentrate on the short term. We have seen it countless times. Celebrities take senseless risks because they believe it will never happen to them. It did. It is a story of self-destruction. In the Bible, Naaman is a story of self-destruction. (Second Kings 5) You remember is story. He had a good life and a powerful position. Then, the unthinkable happens. He gets leprosy. A servant of his wife’s tells him about Elisha. It is the prophet who tells him how to be healed. He is to wash himself seven times in the Jordan, then he will be healed. It seems like a quick fix, but it is hard for Naaman to do because he is an arrogant man. The story has a happy ending. Naaman washes himself in the Jordan and he is healed. Arrogance is a dangerous thing. Arrogance damages ourselves.
  • Arrogance damages our purpose. One of the great challenges in the local church is not a lack of gifted people or money. One of the great challenges in the life of the local church is a surplus of arrogance. Everyone seems to know what is best for the whole and everyone seems to control everything. This is the truth. You don’t and you can’t. That is why conflict is common in the local church. If you think you know what is best for the whole, then you are more like James and John than you think. Do you remember the story? (Mark 10:35-45) As Jesus is traveling down the road, James and John comes up to Jesus with a request. They want one to sit and his right and the other to sit at his left. Those are positions of authority in a political kingdom. The problem is Jesus didn’t come for political reasons. He came to establish a spiritual kingdom. The entire discussion is a distraction and waste of time. James and John are guilty of being arrogant.Arrogance is a dangerous thing.Arrogance damages our purpose. Never forget, God hates arrogance. Do the people in your life consider you arrogant? Do the people in your life consider you humble?

Elie Wiesel (1928-2016) was born in Romania, but he is remembered as an American author and Holocaust survivor. On April 19, 1992, he wrote an article that appeared in Parade Magazine. In his story, a man is sitting on a boat surrounded by other passengers. Without warning he begin to chop a hole in the boat under his seat. The other passengers begin to shout and shriek at him, “What are you doing? Have you gone mad? Do you want to destroy us all by sinking the boat?” Calmly the man answered, “I don’t understand. What I am doing is my own business. It is none of your business. The hole is under my seat, not yours. The egoist ignored the truth that they were all in the same boat. Let me remind you.

We are all in the same boat. This is the bottom line. If you want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, then check your ego at the door and join the team. It is not all about you. However, it is all about Jesus. Do you remember the quote from John C. Maxwell He once said, “There are two kinds of pride, both good and bad. “Good pride” represents our dignity and self-respect. “Bad pride” is the deadly sin of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance.”  How many people do you know who have “bad pride?” Are you guilty of “bad pride?” Do the people in your life consider you arrogant?

Give Up Darkness!

Fritz Kreisler (1875–1962) is considered one the greatest violinists of all time. It was common for him to tour Europe. One day he was traveling to London from Hamburg, Germany. He was traveling by boat but had an hour before it sailed. To kill the time, he walked into the local music store. The proprietor asked if he could look at the violin Kreisler was carrying. He then vanished and returned with two policemen, one of whom was holding the violin, “You are under arrest.” “What for?” asked Kreisler. “You have Fritz Kreisler’s violin.” He responded, “I am Fritz Kreisler.” They responded, “You can’t pull that on us. Come along to the station.” As Kreisler’s boat was sailing soon, there was no time for prolonged explanations. Kreisler asked for his violin and played a piece he was well known for. “Now are you satisfied?” he asked. They were, and Kreisler performed in London on schedule. That story is about making a proper identity and so is this morning’s scripture lesson.

We find ourselves today in the third chapter of John. The story and the background are familiar. Nicodemus was one of that society’s leading citizens. He was a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish Ruling council, also known as the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court of the Jewish faith. Regularly, people came to him to ask him questions about the law and to ask him how to solve their personal problems. Yet, in our reading for today, Nicodemus was the one with the question. He hoped Jesus had the answer. Our reading for today is a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus.

Through the ages much has been made about the timing of their discussion. According to verse two it was at night. Some say Nicodemus came at night to protect his reputation. How would it look for a leading member of the clergy to be seen talking to an itinerant preacher? Others say Nicodemus came at night because the day was complete. The two men could talk without interruption. You can make a case for both sides of the argument. However, you can also say the darkness of the night represented Nicodemus’s spiritual condition. He is spiritually confused and in the dark. He is trying to answer that question everyone must asked, who is Jesus? He knew he had come from God because he had heard about Jesus’ miracles, but what does that mean? Making a proper identification is extremely important, but it is not always easy to do.

You know it is true. Each one of us has an identity. The truth is each one of us has more than one identity. How many hats do you wear in life? Let me use myself as an example. I have been out at the mall and someone will walk up to me and say, “Aren’t you the preacher?” I have married or buried one of their loved ones. You know me as your pastor. My parents knew me as their son. My sister knows me as their brother. Kathryn knows me as her husband. My children know me as father. My neighbors know me as the guy in the red house or the guy who is always walking his dog, the world’s best dog, Macy. You get the point. Each one of us is an individual, but each one of us has several identities.

Today, I am going to ask you to identify Jesus. Some believe Jesus is just a fable from the past, like Paul Bunyan. Some believe Jesus was just a wise teacher or philosopher. Others believe Jesus is their ultimate friend, who believes in them when they don’t believe in themselves. I hope you believe Jesus is more. Do you believe Jesus is the Christ? Do you believe Jesus is your Savior? Do you believe Jesus is your Lord? Who is Jesus? It’s a hard question. That is why so many are living in the dark. This message will dig into your soul and will force you to examine your ways. That is a good thing because this is the season of Lent.

Who is Jesus? Do you understand Jesus to be the Christ? One of the great stories in the Bible is Peter’s confession. It is found in Matthew 16. Jesus asks the disciples the question, who do you say I am. He is hoping they identify him correctly. In verse 16 Peter does. He says, “Simon Peter said, “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God.” The Hebrew word Messiah is the Greek word Christ. That verse is vital because for generations the Hebrews had been waiting for the Messiah. The problem is their understanding of the Messiah was all wrong. They understood the Messiah to be the great problem solver. There would be no corner of their lives that would not be improved once the Messiah came. When the Messiah came, there would be no more violence. When the Messiah came, there would be no more disease. When the Messiah came, no one would be oppressed. When the Messiah came, everyone would be well-fed and happy. When the Messiah came, their lives would be perfect. Do you know of anyone who is frustrated with Jesus because their problems remain? If you do, then you know someone who is living in Peter’s generation. Listen to what I am about to say.

The word ‘Christ’ is a title. It is given to Jesus more than 700 times in the New Testament. The authors of the New Testament writings understood the sacredness of Jesus. He was not just another good person. He was the greatest person who ever lived. Do not take those words lightly. There are over seven billion people in the world today. I have no clue how many have lived in the world from the beginning of time. The total number of people is astronomical, but there has only been one Christ. His name is Jesus. He was the son of God; he was the incarnation of God. You know it is true. There is something about that name. Until you understand the true meaning of Christ, you are living in the dark.

Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Savior of the world! Is Jesus your Savior? I hope your answer is YES! The salvation of your soul depends on it. That is why Jesus came into the world. Do you remember the story? We tell the story annually. Mary and Joseph were betrothed to be married. Don’t just jump over that phrase. In their world it meant a great deal. It meant they were legally bound, but she was still sexually innocent. Mary was a virgin, yet Mary was pregnant. Joseph was placed in a difficult situation. He decides to divorce her quietly, but one night he had a dream. In the dream, he was told to take Mary as his wife. The child in her womb is truly unique. This child will be the greatest life that ever lived. Matthew 1:21 says, “She will give birth to a son and you will give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” A savior is one who protects us from harm. A lord is one you obey. Until you know Jesus as your savior, you are living in the dark.

Who is Jesus? Is Jesus your Lord? What does that mean? It can refer to two things. First, you can be describing the very nature of Jesus. For example, Jesus is the Lord, or Jesus is God. Second, you can be describing your relationship with Jesus. Jesus is your Lord or Jesus is your Master. When you are in bondage to someone, you must do what they say. Because, they are your Lord. How many people do you know understand Jesus as the Christ? How many people do you know have claimed Jesus as their Savior? How many people do you know that have grown deaf to their master’s requests? They want Jesus as their Savior because they want to go to heaven. They haven’t claimed Jesus as their Lord because don’t want to change anything about their lives. Is Jesus your Lord and Savior?

Several years ago, my wife, Kathryn, had a wedding in the Cleveland area. The bride and groom were former Youngstown State University students, Katie and Ben. I didn’t have any responsibilities at the wedding, so I got to play out my favorite role, the minister’s husband. I love that role because it is undefined. You can do what you want. I did nothing but tag along. I went to the rehearsal and sat in the back pew of the church playing games on my cell phone. When the rehearsal was over, Katie’s mother walked up to me and asked me if I was Kathryn’s husband. I proudly said, “Yes.” She said, “I have someone you have to meet. He looks just like you! He will be at the reception tomorrow.” Prior to the wedding, Katie’s mom walked up to me and said, “Have you seen someone who looks just like you? It is Katie’s uncle.” I said, “No!” We went to the reception and ate. As the dancing was about to begin, we decided to leave. We had an hour drive ahead of us and church in the morning. As I was putting my coat on when Katie’s mom returned. She said, “Did you see him?” I said, “No!” She said, “Don’t go any anywhere. You have to meet him because he looks just like you!” We promised to stay. I will admit I was a little nervous about meeting my double. I looked over the crowd and looked for someone who looked like George Clooney. I didn’t see anyone, but I soon saw her return. She was dragging a man who looked like Rodney Dangerfield on steroids. His round face was round red, and his stomach was exploding over his tight belt. As proud as could be, she looked at us and said, “You two could be twins! Do you see it?” I smiled and said, “Yes!” Then, I shook his hand. I looked at him and said, “It is hard to believe there could be two handsome studs like us at the same reception.” He sucked in his huge Texas size stomach and said, “I hope we don’t intimidate these young guys!” It isn’t just a story of identity, It’s a question of identity. So, let me ask you the question one last time.

Who is Jesus? Unless, you understand Jesus to be the Christ and your Lord and Savior, you are living in the dark.  Mother Teresa once said, “Many people mistake our work for our vocation. Our vocation is to love Jesus.”

Give Up Control!

John and Charlotte Henderson, 106 and 105 respectively, live at the Longhorn Village Retirement Community in Austin, Texas. They originally met at the University of Texas as students in 1934. On December 15, 1939, they married. On December 15, 2019, they celebrated their eightieth wedding anniversary. That makes them, according to the Guinness World Record, the oldest living married couple in the world. In marriage, couples submit to one another. Submission is a way of saying, I love you. William P. Young (born 1955) is a Canadian author. He wrote The Shack. He once said, “Submission is not about authority and it is not about obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect.” If it is true in marriage, then it is true in the Christian faith.

We find ourselves today in the fourth chapter of Matthew. The scene is a familiar one. Just prior to our reading Jesus has been baptized and his earthly ministry is about to begin. Yet, there is still one thing that must happen. Jesus must have a showdown with Satan. According to the text, Jesus is led into the wilderness to be tempted. He is not just tempted once but is tempted three times. It is an unfair test because Jesus has been fasting for forty days, and in that weakened state, Satan challenges Jesus to use his power to change the stones on the ground into bread but Jesus will not be tempted by selfishness. Then Satan challenges Jesus to jump off the top of the holy temple, causing the multitude to follow him, but Jesus will not be tempted by popularity. Lastly, Satan takes Jesus to the top pf a high mountain and offers his all the world’s wealth, if he worships him. But Jesus will not be tempted by materialism. In the end, Satan losses, and Jesus was attended to by the angels. If you use your scarified imagination you can imagine the scene.

As you imagine the scene, don’t get caught in the details, but instead, look at the scene at one time. Jesus is at a fork in the road. Is he going to submit to God’s will or is going follow another route? Remember, Jesus was fully human, and this is a pivotal moment in his life. However, it isn’t just Jesus’s story, it’s also our story too. Each one of us stands at the same fork in the road. Are you going to submit to God’s will, or are you going to take another route? You know it’s true. We know what God wants us to do, but we choose the other road. Far too often we follow the ways of this world. This is worth remembering. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, you have no other option but to submit to God’s will.

In 2013, Kathryn and I traveled to Boston, Massachusetts. We went over Memorial Day weekend to celebrate our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. It was a great trip. We flew into Logan International Airport and rented a car. We stayed in Marblehead and took the subway, The T, into the city. We saw all the sites. We visited the capital, walked the Freedom Trail, went to the homes of Betsy Ross and Paul Revere, and went whale watching. We travel to Quincey and toured Peacefield, the home of two presidents, John Adams and John Quincey Adams. The Indians were in town that weekend and we got to see them play two games at Fenway Park. The Tribe won the first game easily, but they lost the second badly. In every Revolutionary site we visited, there were banners with the same slogan. It read: WE WILL HAVE NO LORD TO RULE OVER US! We love our independence but our independent spirit, which created a great nation, is damaging to our Christian discipleship. In my experience, Americans have a hard time submitting to anyone, including God. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, you have no other option but to submit to God.

Michael A. Milton (born 1958) is the founder and president of on organization called Faith for Living in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He says that many reject the idea of submitting because they don’t understand it. He says that their understanding is shallow and innocent. In other words, it is immature. He says that there are four great myths clouding our understanding of submission. This is his list:

Myth #1 – Submission to God is a loss of freedom! Many believe that if you submit to God, they will lose their freedom. This is the flaw in that thinking. We have no real freedom. The Bible says it clearly, we are all in bondage to sin, to the bondage of our own flesh, to the whims of our evil spiritual opponent, and to a world which is alienating itself from God. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, you have no other option but to submit to God. You must submit every area of your life. By submitting to God, you will experience a new freedom. Myth #1 is WRONG!

Myth #2 – Submission to God is a loss of identity! Many believe that if you submit to God, you will lose your identity. Your Christian faith does not make you a robot. Within the life of the church, there are many personalities and many identities. God wired each one of us differently to address the world’s needs in a different way. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, you have no other option but to submit to God. By submitting to God, you will forge a new identity. Myth #2 is WRONG!

Myth #3 – Submission to God is a loss of purpose! Many believe that if you submit to God, you will lose your purpose. In the scripture lesson for today, Jesus turned down the wealth of this world. Jesus knew there was more to life than collecting possessions. Jesus had a narrow purpose for his life and so do you. Let me warn you,  discovering your purpose will consume your life. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) once said, “When Christ call a man, he bids him come and die.” By submitting to God, you will discover a new purpose. Myth #3 is WRONG!

Myth #4 – Submission to God is a loss of joy! Many believe that if you submit to God, you will lose your joy. Our hearts hunger for truth. That is why we have turned everything in life into a party. C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) was right. He once said, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what it meant by the offer of a holiday by the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” By submitting to God, you will experience a deeper joy. Myth #4 is WRONG!

So, there we are with Jesus at the fork in the road. Each one of us must make our own choice, but one thing is clear, in the wilderness, Jesus made it clear where he was going to go. He submitted to God and reject the ways of this world. What road are you going to take?

In my home these days, there is only one topic discussed. It’s not spring training, the coronavirus, or the upcoming presidential election. It’s the wedding! If you haven’t heard, mine and Kathryn’s daughter, Anna is getting married on May 30 of this year. We couldn’t be happier. Jeff is a great guy, who comes from a wonderful family. No detail has been overlooked for this wedding. Her first, of two, bridal showers, is next week. (I helped make some of the favors.) Her wedding dress has been purchased and she has gone to her first fitting. The bride maids have ordered their dresses and the men have ordered their suits. The church has been reserved, including the musicians and the officiant. The reception hall, DJ, photographer have all been arranged. Mine and Kathryn’s extended families have all made their plane reservations, so they can be here on Anna’s big day. The invitations have been ordered. The limo has been reserved. I have been asked my opinion on one or two things, but nobody seems to care about what I think. I really don’t care. All I care about is that Anna is happy. All I have ever wanted for her is to find someone who loves her as much as I love her. (That would not be easy because I love her so much.) I’m confident in saying, Jeff does. Marriage is the perfect model of submission. Couples submit to on another because they are in love.

I have a friend who just graduated. She is now a nurse practitioner. The other day I went to her party to celebrate her accomplishment. I sat at the end of the table with a guy who was alone. He was a mess, overweight and drunk. We started talking and Anna’s wedding came up. He told me I’m never getting married. That was good since no one wanted to marry him. He said he liked his freedom and he wasn’t going to be accountable to anyone. He thought submission was following the rules. We know submission is a form of love. How deep is your love for God? When we submit to God, we find a different kind of freedom, forge a new identity, find a new purpose and experience a deeper joy. Our independent spirit created a great nation, but it is damaging our spiritual health. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, you have no other option but to submit to God’s will because you are in love. Do you remember the quote from William P. Young? He once said, “Submission is not about authority and it is not about obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect.”

Give Up!

What are you giving up for Lent? That is the question I am asked annually. The one who asks the question is my ex-neighbor. I moved seventeen years ago, but we still get together regularly. He is my escape from this church and my portal into the real world. He was raised Roman Catholic, but he hasn’t practiced Catholicism in years. He married a Lutheran, but they are generally unchurched. However, they are good people. He has nothing positive to say about the Roman Catholic Church, but he looks at the world thru a Roman Catholic screen. His heritage is exposed when he asks me the question, what are you giving up for Lent? So let me ask you the question, what are you giving up for Lent? With that question in mind let us look at our scripture reading.

We begin our Lenten journey in the sixteenth chapter of Matthew. Do you remember the story? Jesus had grown to celebrity status. Everyone was talking about him. Everyone wanted something from him. Everyone was guessing about his identity. However, Jesus was not interested in what the masses thought about him. Jesus wanted to know what the disciples thought about him. So, he asked them the question that changed everything, who do you say I am? The normally chatty disciples grew strangely silent. It is not that they don’t have an opinion. It is that they don’t want to be wrong. It is Peter who answered first and correctly. Jesus is God’s Messiah. Instead of Jesus renting a billboard to announce his identity, Jesus asks the disciples not to tell anyone.

His messiahship was to be kept a secret. The reason is simple. That generation misunderstood the word Messiah. They longed for a military Messiah to liberate them from foreign rule. Instead, Jesus was a spiritual Messiah who came to liberate them from sin, itself. Jesus says it clearly, but the disciples don’t listen. As the spiritual Messiah, Jesus will suffer, be rejected and die. Jesus warns them to be prepared for the same. True discipleship is not about glory. It is about sacrifice. Traditionally people give up things for Lent to show the world they are completely committed to Jesus. By your presence here this evening, I am assuming you have decided to follow Jesus too. 

So, let me ask you the question again: What are going to give up for Lent?

Maybe you are giving up one of these things? The list changes from generation to generation. This list can be found in a variety of places. It is a list of what most people give up. This is what people give up for Lent.

1. Chocolate or Sweets

2. Alcohol

3. Smoking

4. Fast Food

5. Swearing

6. Social Media

7. Shopping

8. Sports

9. Caffeine

10. Sex

There is a website called Catholic Extension. I found an article on that site called What to Give up for Lent. This is their list of what to give up:

Give up bitterness; turn to forgiveness.
Give up hatred; return good for evil.
Give up negativism; be positive.
Give up complaining; be grateful.
Give up pessimism; be an optimist.
Give up harsh judgments; think kind thoughts.
Give up worry; trust Divine Providence.
Give up discouragement; be full of hope.
Give up anger; be more patient.
Give up pettiness; be more mature.
Give up gloom; enjoy the beauty around you.
Give up jealousy; pray for trust.
Give up gossiping; control your thoughts.
Give up sin; turn to virtue.

That list speaks to me.

Unlike Christmas and Easter, Lent has not crossed over into the secular world. The reason is obvious. Christmas and Easter emphasize receiving something. Lent emphasizes giving up something. My Lenten sermon series this year is called Give Up! In the next few blogs, we are going to look at things we need to give up because they are stunting our spiritual growth. This is my list:

  1. Control
  2. Darkness
  3. Arrogance
  4. Enemies
  5. Greed
  6. Popularity
  7. Death

Let me end not with a story but with a fact. Did you know, according to Life Way Research, 24% of all Americans observe the season of Lent? That means 76% of all Americans ignore Lent. That means, mathematically, we are in the minority. That does not bother me because Jesus as never interested in the crowd. Jesus was only interested in the committed.

Why is the Transfiguration Important?

We find ourselves today in the seventeenth chapter of Matthew. Our scene is set-up by the previous chapter, the sixteenth chapter of Matthew. For in that chapter, Jesus gives the disciples a little quiz. There are only two questions. This is the first question: who do people say that I am? They give a variety of impressive answers. Then, he asks the disciples the second question: Who do you say I am? Only Simon Peter’s answer is recorded for the ages. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” That answer means the disciples are making spiritual progress. To show his approval, Jesus takes three of the disciples, Peter, James and John, to the top a mountain. The Mountain was probably Mount Hermon, which raises 9,000 feet above sea level. The inner circle must have believed they were going to receive some special instruction from the Master, but they received so much more. According to the text, verse 2, Jesus was transfigured. We are not exactly sure what that means. It will have to suffice to say, Jesus was glorified. His face began to shine like the sun and his clothes became as bright as light, itself. It was an amazing scene, then the scene grows more complex. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared. They are endorsing Jesus’s ministry. The disciples are rattled, but then the truly miraculous happens. God, himself, suddenly appears. He identifies Jesus, so there can be on further question. Verse five quotes God. The Almighty says, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” The scene is suddenly over. It is a great scene in the Bible, but what does it mean?

Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an American pastor, Bible teacher, theologian and and author. He said there are four things about the transfiguration of Jesus that should never be forgotten.  Consider them with me. They have merit.

The glory of His person – The transfiguration of Jesus came from his inside. It was not something that happened to Jesus, like a spotlight. It was something that came from within Jesus. His glory was permitted to shine. (Hebrews 1:3)

The glory of His kingdom – Moses and Elijah represented the Old Testament law and the Old Testament prophets. As great as they were, they are inferior to Jesus. Everything in the Old Testament pointed to Jesus and his ministry. Jesus was the final piece of God’s plan of salvation for the world. (Hebrews 1:1)

The glory of His cross – The transfiguration reminds us that suffering, and glory go hand in hand. In time, the transfigured, glorified Jesus would be nailed to the cross and die. (1 Peter 1:6-8)

The glory of His submission – In many ways, the transfiguration is the beginning of the end. Jesus did not go to the cross because he wanted to go. Jesus went to the cross because it was part of God’s plan of salvation. Jesus submitted to God’s will.

God said it clearly. We should listen to Jesus!

If the transfiguration of Jesus teaches us nothing else, it teaches us about the supremacy of Jesus. In the life of the church, if we don’t have Jesus, then we have nothing at all. That is one of my favorite themes. I have pounded that point countless times for many years. You have heard me. In the local church, I see it regularly. We get so involved maintaining our building, fundraising for a good cause and helping the needy, we forget about Jesus. That is why worship is so important. We are not a service club or a community action group. We are the church of Jesus Christ. Without Jesus, we have nothing at all. That is why we must keep Jesus the focal point of our ministry. If it is true in local congregations, then it is true of entire denominations. We must recognize the supremacy of Jesus and keep him the focal point of our ministry.

In 2014, the World Council of Churches reported there were 12 million United Methodists in the world. That means we are the second largest denomination in the world, behind Southern Baptist Convention. Many believe that will change in the next two months. Our denomination is ready to divide over one issue, sexuality. A 2017 Gallup poll reported 4.5% of American adults identified as LGBTQ. Many believe that figure is much lower. They say the research was faulty. The entertainment industry seems to believe the figure is much higher. The conflict will come to a head in Minneapolis, Minnesota between May 5-15. That is where and when the next General Conference, the largest administrative body in United Methodism, will gather. No one has uttered the word compromise. No one is permitted to be neutral. Everyone must choose a side. The sides are clear. On the one side, there are those who are opposed to ordaining homosexuals and officiating at gay marriages. They quote various Bible verses to support their stance. On the other side, there are those who think we should ordain the gay and officiate at gay weddings. They say the faith should include everyone. No one should be excluded.

How ugly is the situation? A group of influential United Methodist leaders, both lay and clergy, both liberal and conservative, have come up with an exit plan. Under that plan, entire Jurisdictions will be permitted to leave the United Methodist Church. (We are in the North Central Jurisdiction, which covers the Midwest.) Under that plan, entire Annual Conferences will be permitted to leave the United Methodist Church. (We are in the East Ohio Annual Conference.) Under that plan, entire churches will be permitted to leave the United Methodist Church. With means, under this plan, we will have to decide if we are going to leave the United Methodist Church and help for a new denomination. That means, we will lose people because people hate change. If the United Methodist Church begins to ordain gays and officiates at gay weddings, would you vote to leave the United Methodist Church or stay within the United Methodist Church? Everyone will be forced to make a choice.

The transfiguration is important because it reminds us of the supremacy of Jesus! Do you know what Jesus said about sexuality? Jesus said nothing at all. That means sexuality is a secondary issue. It is human beings who have made it a primary issue. I wish the Master would have said one thing, but he didn’t. It would have made the whole matter easier. However, Jesus did say to love everyone. (John 13:34) Jesus did say to judge no one. (Matthew 7:1) Can I be honest with you? The whole topic exhausts me. I have listened to both sides of the issue, those who support ordaining and marrying the gay and others who are against ordaining and marrying the gay. They are so passionate about the issue they have forgotten about Jesus. We have a shortage of love and a surplus of judgment. The one side is calling the other side homophobic. The other side is called the other side non-Biblical and compromising. Both sides seem to be using the issue. Those who want to accept the change, see it as a marketing tool. They seem to believe the entire LGBTQ will suddenly join the United Methodist Church. (I don’t see that happening.) Those who don’t want to see the change, are using the issue to begin their own denomination. They seem to have some ax to grind. May God have mercy on us, because in the end no one wins. In the end, the United Methodist Church, once one of the greatest evangelistic churches in the world, will be crippled. In the end, the only one who will win is Satan. The transfiguration is important because it reminds of the supremacy of Jesus.

When I was in seminary, I served a small membership church between Danville and Lancaster, Kentucky. It was called the Pleasant Grove Christian Church. It is still there. I have nothing negative to say about those people. They were kind to me at a time when I needed some kindness. In the three years, I served that church, I got to know other churches in that community. One of those churches was the Mount Olivet Baptist Church. In Kentucky, at that time, every church was Baptist, regardless of the sign. Their theology leaned to the right. It was named after the Mount of Olives. Since I left that area, the Mount Olivet Baptist Church closed. The reason is sad. The church simply shattered over a series of differences of opinions. It all began when the Board of Elders held an emergency meeting. They were upset the pastor and his wife had filed for divorce. Being Baptist, they believed in the Bible and the Bible teaches against divorce. They decided to let that preacher go. The problem was the church was divided over the dismissal. Everyone who had suffered through a divorced, or had a family member who had been divorced, was upset. A large portion of that congregation left and swore they would never return. People from Kentucky are true to their word. They never returned. A search committee was formed to find a new pastor to fix the mess. They collected a few names. One of the names was a woman. She was by far the most qualified. She had an excellent education, could preach up a storm and was effective in every church she served. There was only one problem. She was a woman and you know what the Bible says about women preachers. For that reason, she didn’t get the call. They called an inferior man. Everything was supposed to be done confidentially, but the word leaked out. Once again, the church was in an uproar. Everyone seemed to know a gifted and effective female pastor. From that moment on, the Mount Olivet Baptist Church splintered. Each side quoted Bible verses and each side claimed they were right. In the end, the once healthy church struggled paying basic bills. In time, the church building and property was sold to a local brewpub. It wasn’t all a loss. I hear both the food and the beer are great. Can I ask you a question?

Why do you think the Mount Olivet Baptist Church closed? Was it a lack of Bible? Was it a lack of love? What it a surplus of a judgmental attitudes. I believe that church closed because they forget about the supremacy of Jesus. Do you remember what God said? He once said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”