Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Bethany Bullet - November 9, 2011

It was week 12 of the 2010 NFL season. The Buffalo Bills were hosting the heavily favored Pittsburgh Steelers. On paper, this match up shouldn’t have been close. But they don’t play games on paper, do they? For almost three quarters the Buffalo Bills were out played and outscored. But then, a furious comeback, and with less than one minute on the clock, the Bills kicked a tying field goal to send the game into overtime. In the extra period, the Bills continued their momentum and on a first down play from the Steelers 40 yard line, Bill’s quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick found a wide-open Steve Johnson in the end zone. Just one problem, the ball bounced right out of Johnson’s hands and to the turf. The Bills would never recover and a few minutes later the Steelers scored the winning field goal to send Buffalo home losers for the 9th time of the season.

Click HERE to watch highlights from the game.

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After the dropped catch, Johnson was inconsolable. "I had the game in my hands and I dropped it," Johnson said. He added, "I'll never ever get over it, ever!" Johnson didn't stop at blaming himself for the drop, but he went to twitter to blame the Almighty.


Memories of dropped passes fade slowly. They stir a lonely fear, a fear that we have disappointed people and that we have let down the team; that we have come up short. A fear that, when needed, we didn’t do our part, that others suffered from our fumbles and bumbles. Sometimes, we even try to blame others or even God.

Of course, some of us would gladly swap our blunders for Johnson’s; if only we’d merely disappointed a football team.

All too often, our failures have more drastic consequences; a ruined marriage, angry kids, self-inflicted liver disease, job loss, delayed retirement, rising debt, and unhealthy habits.

Can God ever forgive me?

  • He gave me a wife; I blew it.
  • He gave me kids; I blew it.
  • He gave me a good job; I blew it.
  • He gave me good health; I blew it.

Failures are a part of life but we need to remember that Jesus came for people like us. His sweet, life giving words quench the dryness of our souls and are found in this place.

I am guessing that many of you have come here parched, feeling the weight of sin, needing the life giving water found in Jesus. Many of you were here just a week ago, but once again you come, longing for refreshment and filled with fear. The parched soil of fear needs steady rain.

Do you fear that you have finally out sinned God’s patience? Have you given in to the lie that God’s grace must have a bottom to it? Our common sense and logic dictates that we can only request forgiveness so many times. Cash in too many mercy checks, and sooner or later one is going to bounce!

If the devil can convince us that God’s grace has limited funds, we will draw the logical conclusion: The account is empty, God has locked the door to forgiveness, and there is no use in coming to church.

If we give into this lie, our sinful minds open a beehive of concerns. We are orphans, unprotected and exposed. Heaven—if there is such a place—has been removed from the itinerary. This is a scary place to be, and this fear has teeth.

But Christ has forceps. Jesus, in His ministry did some serious de-fanging. His words from Matthew, “Take courage; your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2). Notice how Jesus places courage and forgiveness of sins in the same sentence. Might bravery begin when the problem of sin is solved?

Jesus spoke these words to a person who could not move, “a paralytic, lying on a mat…” The disabled man couldn’t walk the dog or jog the neighborhood. But he did have four friends who loaded their companion on a mat and went to see the teacher. An audience with Christ might bode well for their buddy.

In this encounter with Christ, we hear the unexpected, “Take courage; your sins are forgiven.” It seems that given the man’s condition other words would be more appropriate: “Take courage, your legs a healed, your paralysis is over, sign up for the triathlon you’ve always dreamed of.”

The man had limbs as sturdy as spaghetti, yet Jesus offered mercy, not muscles. What was He thinking? Once again, Jesus knows what we really need; He sees our deepest fear, He sees our sin. Before Jesus heals the body (which He did), He treated the soul. “Take courage; your sins are forgiven.”

In many ways we are the paralytic, not lying on a mat but sitting on a pew. Our strength is as strong as spaghetti, our efforts never good enough, our failures many, our fear real.

Because of the sinful state of humanity, many have avoided coming into God’s house. You’ve heard the excuses; perhaps you have made the excuses “I’m not going to church. If I do I will surely be struck by lightning.” Others come to this place masking their fear and never really hearing the life that is spoken in the Word and offered in the meal. I am sure that many here today would admit that they are not filled with courage, but full of fear.

Our lives are me-focused, not God-focused. It’s been that way from the beginning. Prior to sin, Adam and Eve lived in a fearless world. They were one with creation, one with each other, and one with God. But then the serpent came, sowing seeds of doubt, and offering a sweeter deal. “Has God indeed said…,” he questioned (Genesis 3:1) “You’ll be like God,” he offered. (Genesis 3:5)

Just like that Eve was afraid. Some say she was pride filled, defiant, disobedient…but wasn’t she first afraid?

  • Afraid that God was holding out, that she was missing out?
  • Afraid Eden wasn’t enough?
  • Afraid God wasn’t enough?
  • Afraid God couldn’t deliver?

In the moment, they mishandled fear, and fear did them in. Adam and Eve did what fear-filled people do; they ran for their lives and hid.

Fear mismanaged leads to sin. Sin leads to hiding. Since we’ve all sinned, we all hide, not in bushes but in 80-hour workweeks, temper tantrums, and religious business.

Many people hide from church thinking that God can’t see them away from this place, convinced that if I don’t think about it, God will forget about it. In reality, we all live in fear.

As one philosopher once said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering.” Master Yoda from Star Wars was not talking about our life in Christ, but this quote describes the slippery slope that happens when live in fear. Perhaps President Franklin D. Roosevelt said it best, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

But the same words spoken to the paralytic so many years ago, are spoken to you today and perhaps they too are unexpected, “Take courage; your sins are forgiven.” In this place—in worship—is where sin is solved, fear is finished and failure forgotten.

We have been called to worship faithfully, and in this place we find courage and forgiveness. It is the devil’s lie that tries to convince us to stay away, to give in to fear, to believe that staying away from this place is better than walking through the doors.

Nothing fosters fear like an ignorance of mercy. Bravery begins when sin is solved, and here sin is solved, completely, totally, and utterly.

In his letter, John reminds us, “perfect love drives out all fear.” (1 John 4:18) If God loved us with an imperfect love, we might have high cause to worry. Imperfect love keeps a list of sins, but God keeps no list of our wrongs. His love casts out our fear because; in this place he casts out our sin!

One day we won’t have to worry about fear. Like the Saints that have gone before us, we will worship without fear in the very presence of Jesus. As we remember the Saints this day, we also rejoice that they too have heard the wonderful words that their sins are forgiven and they are worshiping with all the Saints in heaven.

So, take courage; your sins are forgiven. The past is behind you. Jesus has healed your greatest fear, stand up and walk, in his love. And take heart, when Jesus sets you free, you are free indeed. And when you need to hear the message again, our Lord invites you back to this place, an audience with Christ might bode well for you, to worship faithfully, to find courage in forgiveness, and to be fearless.

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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