Revenge Versus Reality (Part 1)

Voodoo doll with pins

Romans 12:19

19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Has everyone heard those words from Romans 12:19 before? Just in case you haven’t, I’ll repeat them again:

19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Pretty straightforward, eh? Two clear facts can be easily extracted from it:

  1. Do not take revenge
  2. God will take vengeance for you

Agree?

Okay, that was a trick question. #1 is accurate:

Don not take revenge.

And please note that Paul said to “never avenge yourselves”…

However, I took some liberties with #2:

God will take vengeance for you.

Is that what Romans 12:19 really said?

“Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Hmmm…that should pretty close to “God will take vengeance for you,” doesn’t it? However, it only clearly says vengeance is God’s (not yours), and that the Lord will “repay”…but not for what and how.

Do Not Take Revenge

Before we try to settle on what #1 and #2 should actually say, let’s look at a few more biblical references…first trying to confirm #1:

22  Do not say, “I will repay evil”;

wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you (Proverbs 20:22).

29  Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me;

I will pay the man back for what he has done” (Proverbs 24:29).

15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone (1 Thessalonians 5:15)

What do you think? Am I on firm ground with #1?:

Do not take revenge.

I think so…especially when we read Romans 12:19 in it’s larger context:

17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:17-21).

It should not surprise us that an apostle of Jesus…the one who not only said to turn the other cheek (see Matthew 5:39)…but did not repay evil for evil to the point of dying on the cross for our sins….

That the apostle of Jesus would tell us not to repay evil for evil…

That Paul would tell us…

Do not take revenge.

And there are plenty of good reasons not to. For instance, the famous Englishman Francis Bacon is quoted as saying:

A man that studieth revenge keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well.1

And John Milton, in Paradise Lost, notes:

Revenge, at first though sweet,

Bitter ere long back on itself recoils.2

Basically, in taking revenge you are not just injuring your the one who wronged you, you are injuring yourself…perhaps even more.

However, my favorite quote as I was researching for this sermon was from Martin Luther King, Jr…and given how race relations have taken such a southward turn the last eight years, I think his wisdom is especially apropos. This is from his speech as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on December 11, 1964:

Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for a man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence.

Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.3

Social media gives ample opportunity for each of us to be wronged…as part of a group or as an individual.

[Read more…]

Fruit of the Poisonous Tree

Castor plan

Dreams

Early Thursday morning I had a strange dream…where this object…I have no clue what it was…

Where this object, if it touched something, would divulge unknown information.

My memory of the dream is pretty foggy…but within it the object revealed a wife had been cheating on her husband, and that revelation (understandably) blew the marriage up.

However, it was clear that the object wasn’t from God…which…of course…means it was from a dark source.

The information was accurate.

The source was demonic.

[Read more…]

Children: Milton Berle Versus the Bible

Jesus with Children

Milton Berle

Who here is familiar with the late Milton Berle? Born in on July 12, 1908 as Mendel Berlinger, he passed away around 15 years ago on March 27, 2002. So, contrary to what some of you might think, he was a bit before my time. 🙂

But, like another great comedian, Bob Hope, he wasn’t so far before my time that I am not familiar with his tremendous comedic talents. I especially remember him being famous for supposedly stealing other people’s jokes…but, per TIME, “in later interviews, Berle claimed that it was all a publicity hoax, that he wasn’t really a thief.”1

Regardless, “Uncle Miltie” was immensely funny…and accomplished. His official site’s “Fast Facts” section has:

Did you know…

  • He was a founding member of the Friars Club of Beverly Hills in 1947.
  • He was the first major star in television to have the nickname “Mr. Television.”
  • NBC signed him to a 30 year television contract in 1951.
  • He held the Guinness Book of World Records for greatest number of charity performances.
  • He performed in silent film, vaudeville, radio, motion pictures, and television.
  • He was a Lyricist for over 300 songs.
  • He had a collection of 5 to 6 million jokes.
  • His career lasted over 75 years.
  • He was married four times, twice to Joyce Matthews2

Why Milton Berle?

Why am I starting a sermon discussing Milton Berle? Because he was funny enough that I grabbed a couple of his books from Half Price Books back when I lived in northern California for a short while…and as I was preparing this sermon about children I thought it would be good to sneak in a couple of his comments about kids.

After reading some of them I then thought, “It would be fun to compare what he says about children to what the Bible says.”

And here we are! 🙂

We’ll see if you think that is a fun or good idea as we hop right into “Children: Milton Berle Versus the Bible.” 🙂 [Read more…]

“If I Could Turn Back Time”

Do not turn back timeRegrets

How many people here are fans of Cher…at least musically? Perhaps as part of Sonny and Cher?

How about Eddie Money of “Two Tickets to Paradise” fame?

Both came to mind this week as I was pondering this sermon because they both have songs of regret. With Cher it is “If I Could Turn Back Time” and with Eddie Money it is “I Wanna Go Back.” Cher wanted to unsay some hurtful words and Eddie Money wanted to return to a time when he wasn’t alone.

However, as Eddie Money’s 1986 hit recognized:

But I can’t go back, I know.

[Read more…]

And When You Pray… (Part 2)

Praying angel statue

Quick Review

Last week we spent a good amount of time looking at two principles and sub-principles when it comes to prayer:

  • Do not pray like Jesus said not to
    • Do not pray selfishly
    • Do not pray for show
    • Do no pray thinking you can control God with your prayer
  • Pray like Jesus said to
    • Pray constantly
    • Don’t lose heart
    • Remember who you are praying to
    • Pray that others will recognize who God is too
    • Pray for God’s will versus what you want
    • Look to God for your needs
    • Ask God for forgiveness
    • Ask God to protect you from temptation

We all still in agreement that those are good principles? No second thoughts after a week to reconsider? 🙂

Emulating Jesus

As promised, this week we are going to discuss the third principle…along with its sub principles.

Pray like Jesus did.

When I first started preaching in Churches of Christ, I began with a series based on “What did Jesus do?”: WDJD. We all probably have heard people say in situations we should ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?”: WWJD…but Ray Comfort’s Living Water’s ministry rightly pointed out that it may be better to ask, “What did Jesus do?” Scripture tells us what that is, whereas people can argue until the cows come home about what Jesus would do. [Read more…]

And When You Pray… (Part 1)

Praying angel statueBecoming Mormon

Some of you may already be aware of where my “formal” spiritual journeys began. Neither of my parents were religious while I grew up. My dad was, theoretically, Catholic…and my mom was just as theoretically Lutheran.

So they had me baptized as a Methodist as a toddler.

A few years later…maybe when I was six?…they gave my me a choice of whether I wanted to continue to attend Sunday school at Canaan United Methodist Church (although I don’t know if “United” was in its title back then).

How do think a six year-old kid with no true spiritual life at home decided?

Zoom forward to fifteen year-old Alan. Although I think I may have said a simple prayer every night and definitely believed there was a God, I was far from saved. Then my parents had Mormon missionaries over…and what they taught seemed to make a lot of sense.

However, fifteen year-old Alan did not “get religion.”

Now shift ahead to maybe 20 year-old Alan…for 52 year-old Alan the timing of the past gets foggier and foggier… 🙂

At that point I decided (a) that if there was truth in the physical world there is truth in the spiritual world and (b) that I wanted to know it. I was, and hopefully remain, a very logical person…and wanted the truth about God.

And based on my short spiritual history, guess who I went to to start that search? [Read more…]

When the Mob Comes

Don't join mobsWhat Is a Mob?

What is a mob? How would you define it?

My Mac’s dictionary describes it as…

a large crowd of people, especially one that is disorderly and intent on causing trouble or violence: a mob of protesters.

You can see that it technically can just be “a large crowd of people”…but I think we’ve all been within large crowds that we wouldn’t call a mob. For instance, when I saw The Police at Fenway Park, it was a large crowd, but it wasn’t a mob. Ditto for all the Red Sox games I saw there. 🙂

“Mob” generally has a negative connotation, doesn’t it? Even if we drop “especially one that is disorderly and intent on causing trouble or violence,” “mob” denotes a group of people intent on a purpose.

Beyond watching a concert or baseball game. 🙂 [Read more…]

Who Would You Kill?

Who would you kill?Thou Shalt Not Kill

We are going to jump right into Scripture today, starting with Exodus 20:13. Although I normally use the English Standard Version, I’m going to quote from the King James Version since its translation is the way I learned this commandment:

13 Thou shalt not kill.

Pretty straight forward, right?

What shouldn’t you do?

Kill.

Now, having said that, the English Standard Version probably gives a better idea of what the commandment means with its:

13 “You shall not murder (Exodus 20:13)

Again, pretty straight forward, right?

What shouldn’t you do?

Murder.

Everybody agree?

Boy, I sure hope so! 🙂

The Trolley Problem

Given we all concur we shouldn’t murder each other, our neighbors, or anyone else…let me share a situation in a Ted Talk video a wonderful listener and friend, Evette, sent my way on Facebook. It was called the Trolley Problem1, and it goes like this:

[Read more…]

Half-Baked (Again)

God will not leave you half-baked

Re-Using a Sermon

I have an aversion to re-using sermons. I would never re-use some else’s, but…other than quoting parts of them…I have avoided re-preaching any of mine. I can only recall reusing a sermon once. It was when I was in my 20s and originally studying religion, and I got an evening call to preach the next morning…so I re-used one on the Kingdom of God.

Funny enough, the closest thing I ever did to using one of my sermons a second time was when I got a call the same morning to preach, and I quickly threw together a sermon on the Kingdom of God…my sermon notes from over a decade before long gone. It was rushed and not typed out like I did all my other sermon notes…

And the wonderful matriarch of the church, Mabel, told me it was the best sermon I had delivered up to that point. 🙂

[Read more…]

Allow Yourself to Be Pleasantly Surprised

Give people a chance

Who Do You Want to Emulate

On Friday night I asked this on Facebook and Twitter:

If there is anyone (alive or dead) you would like to emulate, who is he/she? How are you doing? Do you care? Do you _really_ care?

The reason I posted it is because there are some people on both who I really care for…and who I know could answer the first question…but don’t really spend time pondering the other three. For instance, as Christians we all want to be like Jesus, right?

How are we doing? How are you doing?

If we are honest and (generally) answer, “Not so good”…do we care? Do we really care?

If we really care we would be actively pursuing fixing it, right?

And on social media there are tons of people who I’m pretty sure would say they want to be like X, but they don’t show it in their actions. It saddens me. Too often, I sadden me. 🙁

A Friend of God

Now, I suspect if I asked a Jew in Jesus’ day, “If there is anyone (alive or dead) you would like to emulate, who is he/she?,” a decent number of folks would say, “Abraham.” [Read more…]

Happy New Year (2017)

2017 in blocksI suspect I was not the only one to start off 2017 staying up way too late, but after about six hours of sleep I began the new year in one of the best ways possible.

Reading Scripture.

Many of us at the Strasburg Church of Christ are taking the blessed trek through all 66 books together in 2017, and today’s reading was Genesis 1-3. Because the kids will be joining us on this journey, I am at least beginning it in the version they are using, the New Revised Standard Version. I am glad I did, because in the first chapter of the Bible there was a very cool pairing that happened frequently.

“God said” and “And that’s exactly what happened.”

If there is one thing that history has proven, it is that when God says that He is going to do something, or that something is going to happen…well…

That’s exactly what is going to happen.

My prayer for you is that you will have faith in the One who is so reliable, even when what He promised was at such great cost to Himself.

That is, when He said He would provide a Savior and sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross so we could spend eternity with Him.

Happy New Year everyone! Grace, peace, and love to you all.

2017 New Year's clock

Returning to the First New Year’s Day

Happy New Year with angel

How Many?

Just curious…how many New Year’s Days do you think there have been?

[Wait for answers.]

Personally, based on the Bible, I think it has been less than ten thousand. I know that seems to contradict the geological record and other scientific evidence of the age of the universe, but science also cannot explain how Jesus Christ was resurrected.

“And if Christ has not been raised, then [my] preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14).

Christ was raised and your faith is not in vain…so let’s trust Scripture when it comes to the age of the universe, of the earth, of humanity…and it is difficult to believe things have been around for millions or billions of years based on what is written in the 66 books.

However, regardless of how many New Year’s Days there have been, today’s we label as the one for 2017. Mathematically, what is special about that number?

That’s right, it is a prime number!

Of course, that doesn’t mean it is going to be special…but the mathematician in me likes it. 🙂

The First

2017 will likely not be special…no worse than most and no better than most…but there are some truly monumental New Year’s Days. Today we’ll quickly talk about four of them, starting to the one spoken of in Genesis 1:1-5:

1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Nothing.

Before God created, there was nothing.

Think about that.

When I was young, I could get a shiver up my back by pondering, “If there is such thing as nothing, why do we exist?”

I suspect I could still create that shiver if I focused on it.

But, before the first New Year’s Day, there was absolutely nothing.

[Read more…]

Baby Jesus, Did You Know?

Mary and the baby JesusAway in a Manger

I’m not sure I would say it is in my top three, but I really like Christmas carol, “Away in a Manger.” We all know its first verse, right?:

Away in a manger, no crib for his bed,

The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head;

The stars in the sky looked down where he lay,

The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

It is a simple tune…and the fact that I can recall those words means it’s pretty easy to remember. 🙂

It brings to mind this part of the nativity story:

2 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn (Luke 2:1-7).

In the adult Bible study a week back we discussed how the angel Gabriel gave Mary a heads-up about her miraculous pregnancy and the Savior it would produce, but at that point in Scripture’s narrative I imagine she looked at Jesus the same way Michelle did at Mikey and at Augie when they were first born.

With love, awe, and thankfulness.

However, at some point after His birth, Mary had to ponder the incredible words from God’s divine messenger. What exactly did she know about her newborn’s future fate? [Read more…]

Merry Christmas (2016)

Magi pointing to the starIt is past midnight here in Strasburg, Colorado…so we have crossed into Christmas Day. In a world where minute-by-minute (and overall) life can seem quite askew…Christmas reminds us of a Savior that came to set everything right. To bring peace on earth and goodwill to men.

Merry Christmas and our love to all! 

Anticipating the Arrival

Magi on camels traveling to nativityJust Can’t Wait!

Have you ever really, really looked forward to something?

Looked forward to it so much you just couldn’t wait…and it seemed to take forever?

What was it? A trip to some exotic place? Your wedding day? Something else?

Christmas?

Kids, when I was your age I just couldn’t wait for Christmas. It truly was a magical season for my brothers and me, and boy we wanted the day to arrive weeks ahead. Then…Christmas Eve…we couldn’t wait for Santa to come. My parents would keep our full Christmas stockings away from us until about 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning…since they knew as soon as we had them we were going to be wide awake. 🙂

And then…to torture us all the more…after my parents got an hour or two more of sleep…we’d go downstairs…and although we could see all of the awesome gifts under the tree…many with our personal names on them…we weren’t allowed to open any until we had breakfast.

The horrors! The anticipation could have killed us!

Anybody else feel that way with Christmas? [Read more…]