God has a plan even in the ugly situations! Genesis 29:31-35 You may be in situations where you wonder how in the world God is going to show up or make something productive or beautiful come out of it. Some of us have had situations very ugly, circumstances where we ask the big question, why…
“Ministry is messy” those were the words of my professor and adviser Dr. J.K. Jones during my ordination sermon. He wanted me to remember that serving God has its challenges. It’s messy. It doesn’t matter the ministry or service you may be involved in, you will face big challenges. One of the reasons I didn’t want to become a preacher like my father was because I saw firsthand what he went through. If you start working for God and expect it to be a walk in the park, you are in for a big surprise. Every service or ministry has its challenges but the Bible gives us guidance in how we can overcome such challenges.
Today we will talk about one of the most misunderstood teachings in the Bible; hell. Most people don’t believe hell is a real place; others claim that they would not believe in a God who sends people to hell. According to Lifeway Research 60 % of Americans believe that hell is a real place but you have to be real bad to go there. 67 % of Americans believe heaven is a real place. 45% believe there are many ways to heaven. The beliefs about heaven and hell come from the Bible, but people have been making these beliefs more palatable as they continue to refuse the authority of the Bible and create their own beliefs in order to feel more comfortable. Ed Stetzer said it right. “People like to believe in a generic Christian-ish god with cafeteria doctrines”
This is why we must redefine our theology, our beliefs and in order to do so, we must go to the Scriptures. Jesus believed in hell and he spoke many times about this dreadful place.
More than ever in our nation we Christians need to know what we believe and stand for those beliefs. However, there exists the need for us Christians to redefine our theology (our beliefs). Most of us grew up believing certain things that were passed from generation to generation which may not be in line with the word of God. Our beliefs and our worldview (the way we look at the world) must come from God. God is the one who tells us what to believe and what not to believe. He sets the standard, not man.
There is a need to redefine our theology today; most of us grew up believing certain things that have been passed from generation to generation. We have believed them without questioning. There are lots of things people believe today just because it makes them feel better about themselves; however, that doesn’t mean their beliefs are accurate or true. Sometimes we believe things without applying logic or reasoning. We don’t research it ourselves to see if they are true. As disciples of Jesus we need to know what God has said and says in his book, the Bible. Our theology will be messed up if we don’t know the teachings of the Bible. For example, most people believe they are children of God just because they are humans and believe God exists. What does the Bible say? Who are the children of God? How does a person become a child of God?
A young woman at a Bible study had the toughest time viewing God as a father. Her earthly father was abusive and was never in her life. She didn’t understand a father’s love because she didn’t receive love from her biological dad. I explained to her that God is the ultimate Father; that our earthly fathers would do well to emulate God. God is not like our earthly fathers but our earthly fathers should be more like God. There is a story in the Bible that illustrates to us the kind of Father God is.
Last week we talked about prayer. We discussed that Jesus modeled prayer and his followers were committed to it. We also learned that what most people know as the Lord’s prayer is truly a model prayer; a prayer given to his followers as a pattern or model. Prayer is not meant to be about meaningless repetitions.
Last year we celebrated the 45th anniversary of this church and we had chosen a theme “Moving forward.” We talked about in order to move forward you must not linger in the past; leave the past behind and press forward to the goal. We all set goals in life, we make plans but many times we don’t accomplish them all because somewhere along the way, we stop pressing forward. At time we forfeit victory because we give up too quickly; we keep ourselves away from the blessing God had for us due to our attitude.
At the beginning of the year you get to see lots of resources on the web in how to be a better person; people pledge themselves to obtain certain goals in life and so forth. You are probably familiar with the book “Become a better you” by Joel Osteen. His book and many other books have great advice for people whether you are Christian or not. Things like don’t worry, be kind to yourself and others, set goals, forgive those who offended you; always love people more than things, work diligently, etc. However, why is it so hard to implement these things in our lives?
I am sure you have heard many sermons or lessons about faith, trusting God. The Bible is filled with passages about trusting God, We all may profess to trust God but our actions don’t reflect it. Why is trusting God so hard at times? It doesn’t come naturally; it requires us to not be in control at times and most of us don’t like that. Trusting God goes against our reasoning; it goes against our comfort. Therefore it’s hard. Would you trust God even when it doesn’t make sense?
People have so many different ideas about Jesus’ identity. Today people think Jesus was a great teacher; the founder of Christianity; a Jewish rabbi. There are religious groups that have certain beliefs about Jesus. Jehovah Witnesses believe Jesus is Michael the arch angel; Mormons view Jesus as a god, but again everyone can become a god in their theology. They also see Jesus as Satan’s spiritual brother. For Islam, Jesus was a prophet like Muhammad.
With so many beliefs about Jesus, don’t you want to shout: Would the real Jesus please stand up?