Bob's Sermon for Sunday, April 15, 2018

 

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“What do you crave the most?”

 

Romans 15:5-6 NIV

 

     (Romans 15:5, 6) May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

     We human beings are complex creatures. Philosophers, social scientists, and psychologists try to classify us. Often they define us on the basis of needs, drives, and cravings. If you listen to a bunch of young guys talk, you’d conclude this: That a man’s strongest drive is sex. And his second strongest drive—is sex; Food, booze, and sports run 3rd, 4th & 5th.      

 

     Some studies support these conclusions. You’ve probably heard the results of studies that show how often men think about sex. I’m not sure who did the studies, who paid for them, or who the subjects were. You want those facts before you accept the results of any study. Who paid for the studies? What were their political and social leanings? What kind of sampling was used in study? Residents of Montana or politicians in D.C.?

 

     From what perspectives did researchers conduct these studies? Age, location, and perspective always shade what we think, don’t they? Before I began school in Hoisington, Ks, we lived across 3rd Street from Roosevelt School. My brother Don was in school there. One of our sisters had attended there. I dreamed about going to school, too. From across the street, I’d watch the kids assemble in front of the building in the AM. They crowded seemingly willy-nilly near the front doors. Then I’d see the crowd grow smaller.

 

     From my perspective, as I watched each morning, it was a random assembly. I was watching from the side maybe 150’ away. I was about three feet tall at the time. My perspective? I was short, had no experience and viewed from a distance. But my first day at school I was amazed. That crowd in front of the school wasn’t disorganized at all. It wasn’t a random assembly with the closest kids going in first. Each grade lined in a row and then entered the school by grade. And as I recall, the kids in each grade entered in alphabetical order.

 

     Perspective affects and often clouds our judgment, doesn’t it? I was wrong about those assemblies at Roosevelt School 70 plus years ago. And I’ve been wrong in my judgments many times since. I didn’t know what was happening in front of that school. I know infinitely less about you. And what goes on in your mind. I barely keep up with my own.

 

     Only the Lord really knows anyone’s thoughts. But Professor Will James brought a perspective worth noting. It adds a wrinkle to the view of those who think that sex is   a guy’s prime drive. “The deepest principle of human nature,” Will James said, “is the craving to be appreciated.” Whether the need to be appreciated is the greatest human craving, I don’t know. But it is very strong. There’s a corresponding truth.

    

     If craving for appreciation is important, then fear of rejection—not being appreciated—is equally great.

 

     Clovis Chappell wrote about a childhood event that deeply affected him.

It “took place at a Christmas celebration in our little village church,” he said. “The tree must have been quite a crude affair, but to my boyish eyes it had the beauty of paradise. Santa Claus was present in person. We boys and girls gathered about him while he called our names and filled our hands with presents.

But there was one boy whose name was not called.

He was the “village idiot.” He stood with his ugly face turned toward the tree, with a gaunt wistfulness. Then Santa Claus took down the largest box that was on the tree and called his name. He reached for his present with eager hands.

He untied the string with fingers that trembled. Then he lifted the lid to find the box empty. Somebody mistaking a tragedy for a joke, had given him only an empty box.

Chappell, Clovis G. Evangelistic Sermons of Clovis G. Chappell. New York: Abingdon Press, 1965. pp. 133, 134

 

     Why does this story touch us so? We identify with the so-called “village idiot” because of our own fear of rejection and mocking. We long to feel appreciated—needed. The feeling of not being appreciated or accepted is among our worst experiences.

 

     During his ministry, Jesus predicted that Israel’s leaders would reject him[1] The OT prophets predicted that very thing—that people would reject Christ.[2] But when Jesus told the disciples it would happen, that folks would reject him, it upset them.

(Mat 16:22 NIV)  Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" The disciples didn’t like rejection and no one was going to reject their leader. Not if they could help it.

 

     We humans want to be accepted and appreciated. Fear of rejection hits us at many levels.

“LA Times, Sunday Jan. 6, 1980

Dear Abby, Typographical Error

             By Abigail VanBuren

‘DEAR ABBY: My mother recently passed away after a brief illness. In the obituary published in the local newspaper, they gave her age as 89.

‘Abby, my mother was only 80, so it was apparently a typographical error. Now this may not seem very important to some people, but mother was a very vain and prideful woman who would never tell her age.

‘Because of this typographical error in her obituary, everyone will think she was nine years older than she actually was.’”

This poor woman’s vanity arose, didn’t it, from her fear of rejection? If people knew her real age, they might not accept her or want her to be around anymore. Her daughter, who suffered the same malady, continued her letter: ‘Should we ask the newspaper editor to publish a correction? I say we should. The rest of the family says to skip it.

 

OUTVOTED IN OHIO’

Ann Lander’s reply: “DEAR OUTVOTED: Sometimes it’s better to leave bad enough alone. In support of my advice, I offer the following from the California Newspaper Publishers Assn.  It is an example of a typographical error in the classified section of a small town newspaper and the subsequent disastrous attempts to correct it. :

‘(Monday) FOR SALE – R.D. Jones has one sewing machine for sale. Phone 948-0707 after 7 p.m. and ask for Mrs. Kelly who lives with him cheap.

 

‘(Tuesday) NOTICE – We regret having erred in R.D. Jones’ ad yesterday. It should have read: “One sewing machine for sale. Cheap. Phone 948-0707 and ask for Mrs. Kelly who lives with him after 7 p.m.”

 

‘(Wednesday) NOTICE – R.D. Jones has informed us that he has received several annoying telephone calls because of the error we made in his classified ad yesterday. His ad stands correct as follows. “FOR SALE – R.D. Jones has one sewing machine for sale. Cheap. Phone 948-0707 and ask for Mrs. Kelly who loves with him.”

‘(Thursday) NOTICE – I, R.D. Jones, have NO sewing machine for sale. I SMASHED IT. Don’t call 948-0707, as the telephone has been cut. I have not been carrying on with Mrs. Kelly. Until yesterday she was my housekeeper, but she quit.’”

There was rejection, un-appreciation, and a lot frustration in those letters and ads, wasn’t there?

 

     Some people reject church because they say it has nothing to do with real life. In some churches, that might be true. It isn’t true where people read the Bible and follow Jesus:

 

      1)       The Bible consistently recognizes everyone’s need to be a part and to be appreciated. Hear how Romans 15 begins. This is from the modern language translation called The Message: 15 Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us.

 

     Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, "How can I help?" The Hollywood church had many work parties over the years. Men, women, and kids would gather one evening or on a Saturday to work on various painting, cleaning, or remodeling projects. On one occasion, the building committee called a work party. Many people showed and accomplished a lot. I was having some back problems at the time and didn’t go. On Sunday a fellow with whom we were close at the time asked me, “Where were you yesterday Bob?” I told him that because of my back I didn’t think I could do anything so I didn’t come. “At least you could have shown for awhile and encouraged everyone.”

   

     I didn’t take it very well at the time. But it speaks to the point, doesn’t it? Most of us preachers want folks to tell us what grand sermons we preach even when they aren’t. But preachers often give encouragement as if it comes out of their savings accounts. Everyone needs appreciation and encouragement.

 

      A. H. Strong quoted this poem in his work: Systematic Theology,           

The parish priest of austerity

Climbed to a high church steeple,

To be nearer God so that he

Might hand His word to the people.

 

And in sermon script he daily wrote

What he thought was sent from heaven,

And he dropped it down on the people's heads,

Two times one day in seven.

 

In his age God said, "Come down and die,"

And he cried out from the steeple,

"Where art Thou, Lord?" And the Lord replied,

"Down here among My people."

 

     That’s where Jesus lived, isn’t it? Down among the people being rejected, not accepted, or appreciated He served. If you want to follow me, He said, serve others and expect rejection.

 

     Recall the last of the Beatitudes? "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. (Mat 5:11 NIV) 

 

      Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, "How can I help?" People will see God’s presence in us as we encourage and strengthen one another.

      2)      If we attend church only for our own encouragement and to feel appreciated, we’ll be disappointed. We assemble to honor and praise God. But proper worship includes something else. A major reason to assemble as a church is to strengthen and encourage one another. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another . . .” (Heb 10:24, 25 NIV)

 

     In 1985 Norma and I went with our Jewish neighbors to hear Elie Wiesel speak at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Elie Wiesel survived the Nazi death camps and went through agonizing personal darkness. He is one of the world’s great storytellers.

 

     Wiesel asked that evening: “What is a salesman? Someone who owns a jewel and sells it to someone who wants a jewel.

 

     A “Real salesman,” he said, “is someone who doesn’t own a jewel and sells it to someone who doesn’t want one.”

 

    “How can Jews claim to be good businessmen?” Wiesel asked. “They don’t get royalties on the Bible.”

 

     The Jews and their ancestors wrote the best-selling book in history. They’ve received not one shekel of royalties. Neither did any of the Christian New Testament writers.

 

     Think of the joy and encouragement God’s word brings.  Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, "How can I help?"

That's exactly what Jesus did. He didn't make it easy for himself by avoiding people's troubles, but waded right in and helped out. "I took on the troubles of the troubled," is the way Scripture puts it.

 

     As we seek God’s glory, and help others, he encourages us.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, The Danish philosopher Sören Kierkegaard said, the gospel is like "a love letter from God with your personal address on it."

 

     Someone recently asked me what I’d learned from my years of ministry in Hollywood. My answer was something that echoed through my mind only a few days ago as I reflected on our ministry there.

 

·         I began with great expectations.

·         After the first year, I realized that I didn’t know what I was doing.

·         After nearly three decades of ministry experience, I still didn’t know what I was doing.

·         I’ve now been preaching in Iowa for 26 years, and I don’t know what I’m doing. 

      

     But I do know a few things with certainty: God is good and he gave me a loving, thoughtful, patient wife to work alongside me. Jesus, God’s son paid an awful price to rescue you and me from rejection and humiliation by taking it all on himself. As long as we hang with Him, and follow Him in unity, God’s Spirit encourages us and helps us each day. 

 

     May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give us a spirit of unity among ourselves as we follow Christ Jesus so that with one heart and mouth we may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 


[1] (Luke 9:22 NIV)  And he said, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life."

[2] (Isaiah 53:3 NIV)  He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

 

 

Bob Blair

PO Box176

Cleghorn, IA 51014

 

 

 

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