The Story - Chapter 8 – A few good men and women
Offering Announcement! Offering Announcement: LaVista Winter Coat Drive and The Gift Shop:
On December 13, the FLC will be filled with tables full of toys, games and gifts. We are once again committed to bringing hope to our Friday Fare families through the Gift Shop. The Gift Shop is a place where parents can come to select Christmas gifts for their children. Last year 79 children had gifts to open on Christmas morning—gifts chosen for them by their parents—because of your generosity. With the increase in the number of families we are serving through Friday Fare, we are projecting that we will be serving about 129 kids this year. A list of the items the kids seem to most enjoy is located at www.westervillechristian.org. Those gifts can be brought in anytime between now and December 8. We will need volunteers to help set up on December 12 and serve on December 13. Sign up forms are also located on the website, or you can email Tracy Rush at firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you ever done something and as soon as you did it you knew it was a bad move? Did you hear about the American tourist, a man from Missouri, who was visiting a museum in Florence, Italy? He accidentally snapped off the pinkie finger of this 600-year-old statue of the Virgin Mary. Officials are not sure if he was trying to compare his hand with her hand or if he actually tried to give the statue a high five. Either way, officials are ticked. Museum Director Timothy Verdun said, “In a globalized world like ours, the fundamental rules for visiting a museum have been forgotten, that is, “Do not touch the works.”[i]
We often forget God’s fundamental rules and when we do, life not only gets complicated, but God gets mad! And oh do I ever have an example of that! Allow me to provide you a side by side comparison. Last week was chapter 7 of the Story - this week is Chapter 8. Last week it was the Book of Joshua. This week is the Book of Judges. Joshua is all about success. Judges is all about failure. Dr. James Smith said, “Joshua shouts victory, freedom and progress. Judges shouts defeat, bondage and decline.”[ii] But why? Why are God’s people declining? Turn to the OT book of Judges. Judges chapter 2. There are 21 chapters in Judges but Judges chapter 2 is a “mini me” or cliff notes summary of the entire book! I want you to see this for yourself. Do you need a Bible today? Connect Card! Take Home Paper! Locate Judges 2:4. Why are they weeping? Go to the first verse of Judges 2. Read 1-2. How had they disobeyed? In one word – they compromised. I have four quarters in my pocket. If I say to YOU, I want you to have all of them – how many do I have to give you? ALL four! God said to Joshua and Joshua in turn said to the divisions of people – drive them ALL out because if you don’t you’ll marry their women and worship their gods! Look at what happened in chapter 1. (Vs. 21, 27, 29, 31 and 33)
Oh geez Greg, what’s the big deal? So the children of Israel acted a little juvenile. Children do that you know! Boys will be boys, girls will be girls. BIG DEAL, so they didn’t drive everyone out! Truth is they were just being merciful! Sorry! Mercy doesn’t trump obedience. What harm comes from a little compromise? Go back to Judges 2:8. Read 8-13 - They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them.
Those people are primarily the Canaanites. The Canaanites worshipped multiple gods. Their supreme God was El. El means strong or powerful. The son of El was Baal. Baal was the god of rain and storm. Which is why Elijah always used droughts or fire from heaven to defeat Baal. Ashtoreth was the sister wife of Baal. She was the patroness of sex and war.[iii] These three were Canaanite idols the Israelites started to worship! What did God say to Moses that Moses said to the people? What did Moses say to Joshua that Joshua said to the people over and over again? Don’t worship anything or anyone else other than God! Note my sarcasm. A little compromise never hurt anyone!
REALLY? Compromise threw the Israelites into the SIN CYCLE! I know there are cycles like shampoo, conditioner, rinse and repeat and there’s the crazy cycle in marriage where he won’t love her because she won’t respect him and she won’t respect him because he won’t love her. And that cycle often gets repeated every day. But just what is the sin cycle? It’s the summary of the book of Judges. We, God, We, God, We! We sin, God sends oppressors, WE repent, God sends a deliver and then WE repeat that cycle again. Find verse 14. Read 14a and then 16, 18-19.
What they did in 1300 BC[iv] we do today! They struggled with breaking the sin cycle. Don’t we struggle breaking the sin cycle too? Here again is The Grand Story of God. He made us and he wants to be with us. He wants us to be His people. To love Him and to love others. To worship him in reverence and treat people with kindness. But the lower story – our human story is that we’ve walked away from Him. We’ve become selfish. SIN dominates our mind. We only care about ourselves. Have you heard about all the fights breaking out at Chuck E. Cheese locations across America? From PA to Florida people are getting into fights and it’s not kids against kids but parents against parents. The primary reason? Birthday parties. Parents want the occasion to be perfect so when one kid takes too long on a game or a ride that their kid wants they take it out on the parent.[v] We are so much like the Israelites!
So what would be helpful for me and maybe for you – how do we break the cycle? How do we break the sin cycle? The Bible shows us. Turn to Judges 3:7. Here’s what happened again and again and again. Read 7-9. The only way to break the sin cycle is to be delivered. You can’t break it on your own! Look at this map! Here are the judges of Israel. We were just reading about Othniel, Caleb’s younger brother. Samson, Deborah and Gideon get the most press. The truth is every single Judge listed here is flawed. Who here is left handed? Ehud was left handed. Dr. James Smith said, “Lefties in ancient times were viewed with suspicion.”[vi] King Eglon should have remembered that because Ehud will use his left hand to thrust a sword into the king’s fat belly. Barak was a coward. He would only go into battle if Deborah went with him. Gideon didn’t want to be a judge. My family is the weakest and I’m the runt of the litter. We think Gideon put out two fleeces because he wanted God to prove to him his power? He put out two fleeces hoping it would be a sign to God that he wasn’t the right man for the job. Jephthah was an outcast. Samson had a major testosterone wash! Samson was driven by lust and anger and yet God used him. Did you know that these are not the only Judges in the Bibles. 1st Samuel tells us the Eli and Samuel are also Judges. The NT tells us that Jesus is perfect deliverer. If you want to break the sin cycle in your life you need Jesus. You can’t break the sin cycle until you know your sins are forgiven. You can’t break the sin cycle unless you have the HS of God inside your life whispering to you each day! You are a child of God. You are forgiven. Jesus has delivered you from sin, death and Satan himself. You are not helpless. You are empowered. Is Christ Jesus your sin deliverer? What will it take to convince you that Jesus really lived died and rose again? Be baptized today! We are ready for you!
Go back to Judges 2:20. You will break the cycle of sin when you start listening to God! The following ad has appeared on CNN and in Time Magazine. Thousands of people have received this unsolicited ad via email. I was one of those people. I’m curious. Did you? Here’s the ad. “Life is Short - Have an Affair. The #1 rule if you are considering having an affair is never to do so with a single woman. Instead date a married woman who has just as much reason to keep your affair a secret as you do. At THIS WEBSITE you will literally meet MILLIONS of married women who are stuck in sexless marriages & are searching for someone to have a discreet affair with. THIS WEBSITE is 100% SECURE, completely anonymous and is guaranteed.”[vii]
Here’s the guarantee. If you listen to the makers of that website you’ll regret that decision. Have you seen this commercial for the new Kia Soul? That tune gets into my head. Live for the applause, applause, applause… What factor determines whether you live for the applause or people or the applause of God? It’s who you listen to! Check out this carton! Financial Funny #133. When it comes to my money whose voice shouts the loudest? Mine or God’s? The Word of God and the Holy Spirit of God helps us hear the Voice of God. He’s speaking to us. When it comes to your body, your sexuality, your career, to dating and to this. Let’s LISTEN TO God! Turn to Judges 2:10!
That is the world we are living in today! Many people do not know God. They don’t see God. They are not familiar with the word of God. They don’t even know what sin is! I was listening to ESPN Cleveland 850 and three announcers were babbling about some sports related topic. Someone steered them onto the topic of right and wrong. One of the announcers said, you know right from wrong – it’s dealing with our sin. Sins like lying or stealing or pornography! And the one announcer said, “I never knew pornography was a sin!” And there was stone silence – dead air on the radio! That’s the world we live in!
People don’t know God. They don’t know God’s story and how their story fits into God’s story! Greg, what does someone else’s sin cycle have to do with me breaking my sin cycle? It comes down to purpose. When I start seeing people the way God sees me I no longer see them as the enemy. I see them as they are – lost!
On September 2nd David Welch left his home in Manhattan, Kansas. His family has no idea why. Four days later they filed a missing person’s report. 46 days after he left – on Oct 18 – a pedestrian walking along the edge of a desolate road off Interstate 70 in Utah saw this overturned car in a deep ravine. Inside was the body of David Welch. He was 850 miles from home. The Utah Highway Patrol believe he fell asleep at the wheel. He was trapped alive for an unknown number of days. While he sat in his vehicle he wrote love notes to his wife of 32 years and their four sons. Police have no idea how long he lived. The family has a lot of questions. One being, why was he so far from home?[viii]
The book of Judges is a sad book. It outlines dark times in the lives of God’s people. Here they find themselves living in the Promise Land but so far from God. Do you remember the sin cycle, SIN, OPPRESS, REPENT, DELIVER - REPEAT! Here’s what I would have done. Once is bad, twice is worse, but three strikes you’re out! But God doesn’t. Here’s what’s amazing. As long as there’s breath in your body you are not too far from God! Can I ask you? Have you wandered off? Have you compromised your faith? You are not too far from God! Have you made a profession of faith in Jesus? Why not now? Why not today?
[ii] James E. Smith, The OT Books Made Simple, 68
[iii] James MacArthur, MacArthur Bible Commentary, 274
[iv] The Story, 103
[vi] James E. Smith, The OT Books Made Simple, 72
[vii] Ashley Madison Email blast