The Best Christmas Ever - Because God is with you!
Herod: God is with you despite the unthinkable!
Mason Jar Testimonies / Let’s talk stress! Stress is strain – that is “mental, emotional, or physical strain caused by anxiety or overwork.” I read an article written by Anneli Rufus entitled, “Who’s the most stressed?” So let’s find out – who’s the most stressed? Let’s start with cities - which city in America do you think is the most stressed? Answer: Detroit. Researchers calculated the unemployment rate, income, ozone level, crime rate, amount of sunshine, house prices, and average commute time and determined – people can’t get out of Detroit fast enough. Detroit's residents are more than twice as stressed as residents of Memphis and 10 times as stressed as residents of Nashville, and Buffalo. Which city is the mellowest? Salt Lake City! What would you think is the most stressful job? Firefighting ranked most stressful, followed closely by corporate executive, taxi driver, and surgeon. The least stressful job - musical-instrument repairman! The criteria for a stressful job included workplace hazards, machines and tools used, number and severity of quotas and deadlines, relative degrees of precision, speed, stamina, confinement, competitiveness, visibility, heavy lifting, and risk of death. Librarians and piano tuners rarely risk death! You’ll love this question. Who is more stressed – men or women? Maybe this picture will help? This is all because the copying machine won’t work! According to the American Psychological Association, 28 percent of women say they suffer "a great deal of stress," compared to 20 percent of men. 11% more women than men reporting stress-induced headaches and upset stomachs. Let’s take “stressed out women” even further. Who’s more stressed? Married women or single women? Hands down - married women - 33% to 22%. Frederic Luskin, author of Stress Free for Good, said, “Forty-eight percent of married women suffered stress-induced headaches.” Now what might be the reason? Luskin says there are two. I quote. “It's the kid factor and the husband factor.” These husbands aren’t going to win any awards here. (Images) Can anybody say, “A little help here?” One more: When anticipating the winter holiday season, who’s the most stressed demographic? Hispanics are first followed by Caucasians – 39 to 29%. What causes the stress? Finances and memories of loved ones who’ve passed away.[i] We’re involved in a series right now called, “The Best Christmas Ever. Maybe for you – the best Christmas ever would be a stress free Christmas. For some the correct spelling of holidays is HOLIDAZE! As author Larry Bailey said, There’s very little “ho, ho, ho but allot of go, go, go!”[ii] But let’s face it – allot of our stress is self inflicted, but not for Mary & Joseph. Getting pregnant was not Mary’s idea. That came from God. Joseph is good with marriage first - baby second. But God throws him a detour. I think you can hang your hat on this principle – God doesn’t promise you a stress free life, but he does promise to be with you in the middle of the stress. Jay Winner, author of Take the Stress Out of Your Life said, "If people don't learn effective ways of dealing with stress, their health may suffer...[iii] And not only their health, but the health of those around them. The Bible gives us an example of someone who did not handle stress well at all and everyone suffered. Turn to the 2nd chapter of Matthew. Matthew 2:1. If you don’t have a Bible to turn to just raise your hand and an usher will bring you a Bible as our gift to you! Again Matthew 2:1: (...during the time of King Herod, Magi…) The Bibles is about people, places and events. Here are two people! Herod & the Magi! There are a number of Herod’s in the Bible. Herod reminds me of George Foreman. George named his 5 sons "George Edward Foreman.” He often jokes that he names everyone "George" because he's been punched in the head so many times that his memory is spotty.[iv] Herod has a number of sons. This Herod is known as Herod the Great. His son, “Herod Antipas is the main Herod in the Gospels. Herod Antipas put John the Baptist to death and examined Jesus on the eve of his crucifixion.”[v] The only reason this Herod is called GREAT is because he was a master builder. He built theaters and race tracks. Herod not only began the reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 19B.C but he also built a remarkable fortress called Masada.[vi] Herod was a great builder, but a lousy humanitarian. He was cruel and merciless. The word Magi should include a footnote that says – “wise men.” Actually a better word would be scholars – scholars who specialized in the “predicting and establishing new kingships.”[vii] Did I mention that Herod was also completely paranoid! Meeting the Magi only fueled his paranoia. Let’s keep reading. (Matthew 2:1-3) Herod was a disturbed person. By disturbed I mean - agitated, troubled, restless, anxious and distressed. He felt inward commotion.[viii] I wish I could tell you only Herod felt this way, but that’s not true. I promise you there are many, many more people in this world who are good and loving rather than disturbed. The problem is – they don’t get the press. Disturbed people get the press. What do all these names have in common? Brian David Mitchell[ix], Dylan Klebold, Eric Harris[x] Charles Carl Roberts IV[xi], Seung-Hui Cho[xii], and now Matthew Hoffman![xiii] They were or ARE ALL disturbed.
What do you do if you come across a disturbed person? First, understand this – God is with you! They may be bigger than you. They may have a gun. But God is with you! It happened this past week at a School Board Meeting in Panama City, Florida. Clay Duke, a 56 year old man came to the front of the school board and started rambling. He then painted a V inside a circle and then told everyone else to leave. The majority of Clay Duke’s comments were directed towards School Superintendent Bill Husfelt. Husfelt said, "He had already told us that he was going to die, he was prepared to die, and we were going to die as well. ... You could tell by the look in his eyes there was going to be some killing going on.”[xiv] Then Clay Duke starts shooting and Mike Jones, chief of security for the school system and a retired police officer fired back disabling this disturbed man! I watched Katie Couric interview Mike Jones and he said this after this was over, “I was afraid of what my church might think of me.” I know what I think of him! He’s a hero in my eyes. Do you remember in 2009 when a man walked into the First Baptist Church in Marysville, Illinois and shot Rev. Fred Winters three times?[xv] I’m a minister. If someone points a gun at me I’m hoping they have a bad aim, but if they shoot, I figure it’s my time to go to heaven. Now – if that gun doesn’t go off – I figure that’s my cue from God to chuck my 203 lbs on top of his head because my goal isn’t to hurt that person. My goal is to prevent him from hurting those I love! I’m curious? What sets off a “disturbed” person? Could it be as simple as – they don’t get what they want and what results because they don’t get what they want? Go to Matthew 2:7-12; 16. Bad things happen when people lose it emotionally. Herod is enraged. Here’s an adult who is flat ticked off and doesn’t have to be accountable for his actions. I wonder how many adults in this room grew up with an angry parent! I’m so sorry for you – I didn’t experience that growing up! I’m sorry if your Mom just couldn’t handle the stress and became emotionally detached. I’m sorry if your Dad or step dad took his frustrations out on you physically or verbally - it wasn’t right. And what he said isn’t true – you’re not worthless, you’re not useless! The Bible shows us in vivid detail what happens when disturbed people choose not to exercise self control when it comes to anger. Go back to verse 16! Three separate scholars state that between 12 and 20 baby boys all under the age of two died! And what’s crazy is that Herod knew the Messiah was not one of them – he just did it because he was mad!
Can I ask three personal questions? Are you mad today? What help does God offer to someone who is consistently mad and takes it out on others? This promise! God is with you! Maybe you never knew that! If you don’t know Jesus Christ you don’t stand a chance at beating any sin – let alone out of control anger. God is the ultimate of anger management. When you are tempted to lose it – God is with you – he will give you a way out. But the question is – do you want out? Are you sad today? What help does God offer to someone who is just plain sad? This promise! God is with you! Some people do unthinkable things. Kill folks and then hide their bodies in some hollowed out tree. “Greg, I’m confused. I thought “God being with me” meant nothing bad would ever happen to me!” That’s what Steve Johnson thought. Steve Johnson plays wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills. A couple of weeks ago he dropped the game winning pass that would have beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime. After the game he tweeted, “I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!” Let’s not be too hard on Steve. Is that where we are today? “God, you left me. You abandoned me!” The opposite is actually true. He was with the three Hebrew children who were tossed in the fiery furnace. He was with Daniel in the lion’s den and he was with Stephen as he was being stoned to death. Here’s my last question. Are you saved today? Because God wants to be with you! God sent Jesus in the flesh to be with us. To give us his presence forever. Not so that we live here forever – but so we know the way to heaven! Have you been baptized? I mean once and for all have you’ve decided to live for God! Do you need a healthy dose of perspective? All 20 baby boys who died because of Herod all went to heaven. Do you remember the Florida School Board Superintendent, Bill Husfelt? He told CNN, "If I was killed, I knew where I was going to end up!"[xvi] Do you?
A lady had to have her garage door repaired. The repairman told her that one of her problems was that she did not have a “large” enough motor. She thought for a minute, and said that she had the largest motor made at that time, a -½ horsepower. He shook his head and said, “Lady, you need a ¼ horsepower.” She responded ½ was larger than ¼. He said, “NO, it’s not.” Four is larger than two.”
Yikes! That doesn’t add up and neither does – I’m better off without God or this world is better than heaven! It’s not. Whatever is stressing you out right now? Bring it to God.
[ii] Larry W. Bailey, You can cope with holiday stress, Christian Standard, 12/15/10
[v] MacArthur Bible Commentary, 1123
[vi] John MacArthur, New Testament Commentary Series, Matthew 1-7, 26
[vii] Mark E. Moore, The Chronological Life of Christ, 57
[viii] Logos Bible Software, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon/Disturbed