Sunday, December 8, 2019

Sermon Series Wrap-Up: What If You're Reaping What You Sow?

Most people have heard the term “Karma” before. It’s a concept taken from Buddhism and refers to the belief that karma is something we all amass as a result of our actions in life. Eventually, everyone will have that karma come back to them, and the nature of that karma will be a reflection of how we live our lives. If we live righteously, we will receive good karma. If we live evil lives, our karma will be bad. Most people understand this concept, and even if they don’t really believe in karma itself, many probably believe or want to believe that our actions have corresponding consequences.

As Pastor Pope pointed out in his latest series, that concept is part of Christianity too.
Do not be deceived:  God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.  For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. - Galatians 6:7-8
Here we see Paul using the process of planting and harvesting crops as a metaphor to express the same sentiment as the concept of karma. Pastor Pope asks us all how we know we’re not reaping what we’ve sown. Many of us are going through hard times. Maybe they are the consequences of sowing to our flesh. That doesn’t mean that we should stop striving to do what is right. If you have changed your ways and are now sowing good, then you should believe that eventually you will reap good. All Believers should think that way. Jesus gives a clear example of just how far the principle of reaping what you sow can go.
So He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life. - Luke 18:29
Jesus made that statement to his disciples following an encounter with a rich man who did not want to sacrifice his worldly goods. Jesus is making a promise that those who sacrifice for God will be rewarded both in the present and for eternity. Those of us who believe in Jesus need to believe in what Jesus said. After all, it was his sacrifice that allows us to reap such a great reward for living according to God’s will.

This concept of reaping what we sow doesn’t mean that if we’ve done bad, we’ll be stuck in a cycle of doing wrong and paying for our wrong. We will have to suffer consequences for the wrong we do, but we can turn our lives around. Pastor Pope used the story of Jacob in the Bible to illustrate that truth. Jacob tricked his brother, Esau, out of both his birthright and blessing, and in turn he was tricked and taken advantage of by his father-in-law, Laban. He sowed wrong and reaped wrong. However, Jacob also sowed goodness by being faithful and obedient to God and struggling both figuratively and literally against an angel to overcome his trials. As a result, he also reaped goodness and was blessed by God.

Most people can probably come to terms with the concept of accepting the consequences for one’s own actions. However, at times, we may have difficulty understanding just how great God’s blessings might be. Doing good will result in good, but that doesn’t mean the good we receive will be the equivalent of what we did. God can and will bless us beyond what we have earned. We just have to believe. Pastor Pope used the stories of Abraham and Mary to illustrate that point. Abraham was obedient when given commands by God, and in turn, he became the father of God’s chosen people. Mary was obedient when she was told about God’s plans for her, and in turn she became the mother to Jesus, the Messiah. Simple obedience resulted in unbelievable blessings from God, but this should not surprise us. As the Bible says:
For with God nothing will be impossible. - Luke 1:37
We Believers have to keep that in mind. When things seem bleak and show no sign of turning around, God can change our fortunes. If we remain faithful and obedient, we will reap goodness because that’s what God wants for us and there is nothing he can’t do for us.

Perhaps, Paul is the Bible’s greatest example of a person reaping what he sowed. He spent much of the earliest part of his life persecuting Jesus’ followers. God could have dispensed with him, but that’s not what God did. Instead, he chose to use Paul. Paul became one of God’s greatest servants, but he didn’t escape reaping the bad he sowed. He served God and at times his life was tough because of it. Suffering for God was the price he had to pay for working against God. Even in the midst of that suffering he found peace and reason for joy even in the midst of his tumult. 
For I consider that the suffering of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. - Romans 8:18
As Pastor Pope said, Paul was “Too Blessed to Be Stressed.” Paul knew that serving God would one day lead to something much greater than anything he had gone through. He trusted God, and we must do the same. He knew that if he gave God his best; God would give him His best. That’s something we all need to take to heart. Too often we put so much of ourselves into the things of the world that God simply becomes an afterthought. We don’t give him the main parts of ourselves. Instead, we give him the leftovers. Then many of us wonder why things aren’t working out the way we’d like. We feel that we’re doing good, but we don’t see our lives impacted the way we want. We have to understand that we can’t give God what is left over and expect our blessings to overflow. If we sow scraps, we will reap scraps. We have to do the best for God and give him our best. Then, we can expect God to give us His best. We will come out as the winners in that exchange because no matter how good we are, we can’t beat God’s goodness.

It's not Karma that we exude, but we reap what we sow. As the Bible says, don't be deceived God will not be mocked, whatever a person sows, they will also reap.  Let's do our best to both sow and reap the fruits of God's will.

What If You're Reaping What You Sowed, Part 1

What If You're Reaping What You Sowed, Part 2

What If You're Reaping What You Sowed, Part 3

Too Blessed to Be Stressed

Don't Give God Your Leftovers

Chris Lawyer
Sermons By Pastor Everett Pope

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Bible Character Spotlight: Moses Part 1

The Bible is full of important people who did significant things in service to God. Many of the people mentioned in the Bible are well known both by those who believe in God and those who don’t. Moses is one such character. He is likely one of the most prominent figures out of everyone in the Bible, potentially second only to Jesus himself. Like Jesus, Moses’ story is told through multiple books. However, the most well known portion of his story is probably the part that takes place in the book of Exodus. Due to multiple movies and other cultural references, the story of Moses leading the Israelites away from bondage in Egypt has transcended the pages of the Bible and become part of the greater culture of the world at large.

In some ways, it is good that a Biblical story has become so famous. Through the telling of the story, people who may not otherwise be exposed to the Faith can come to learn something about God. However, a drawback is that sometimes God’s place in the story can become watered down and seen as something not to be taken seriously. As Believers we have to remember that these stories are more than tales meant for entertainment. They teach us important lessons about God and what we need to know to live godly lives.

After the events in Joseph’s story, many of the Israelites had found a home in Egypt. When a new Pharaoh rose to power, the goodwill that Joseph had built for the Israelites in Egypt was lost. The Pharaoh saw the Israelites, who had grown substantially in number, as potential enemies and felt that he needed to do something to curb the threat that he felt they represented. He took drastic measures by giving an order to have all male Israelite children killed immediately after birth. Those were the conditions under which Moses was born. Right away, we see that God was with him from the start. 

In a desperate attempt to save her son, Moses’ mother tried to hide him, and when she realized she could not continue to do that, she sent him down a river. There are many ways that action could have gone wrong. Instead, it worked out in the best possible way. Moses was discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter. She saved him, allowed his real mother to nurse him, and raised him as her own son. Moses went from being a child in danger of being killed before he even got a real shot at life to being put in one of the most privileged positions imaginable at the time. This change in fortunes is pretty similar to what happened in Joseph’s story, but Moses was a very different person than Joseph.

Both were principled people, but where Joseph was more thoughtful and reliant on God, Moses was impulsive and acted on his own accord. He could have clung to his acceptance in Egyptian society and looked down on his fellow Israelites who had been enslaved. He didn’t though, and that is a testament to his character. Still, his decision making was not always the best. When seeing an Egyptian abuse one of his fellow Israelites, Moses decided to kill the Egyptian and hide the evidence. His attempt at getting away with his crime failed. The Pharaoh found out about what Moses had done and sought to have Moses killed. Moses fled to a place called Midian to escape the Pharaoh. There, he met two young women. The way they described him after that encounter is interesting.
When the girls returned to Reuel their father, he asked them, “Why have you returned so early today?” They answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered the flock.” - Exodus 2:18-19
Moses was an Israelite, and he was loyal enough to that heritage to kill over it. However, outsiders did not see him as such. They saw him as an Egyptian. Even his fellow Israelites did not necessarily see him as kin. That was demonstrated through some of his earlier interactions with them. Neither of those things stopped God from using Moses to save his people. The Pharaoh that ordered Moses be killed eventually died, and Moses was living in peace in Midian married to one of the young women that he had first encountered upon arrival there.  Moses was not necessarily living as a Hebrew when God contacted him. It is unclear to what extent Moses even followed God at that point. However, when God called, Moses immediately recognized Him. God informed Moses that Moses would be the instrument that God would use to save the Israelites. As many of us would, Moses questioned God’s decision. He wanted to know how he could be expected to address the mighty Pharaoh. He wanted to know how he could convince the Israelites to listen to him. God answered the questions and told him that he would take the Israelites out of Egypt and they would be gifted with much by the Egyptians.

Given the reality of the circumstances at the time, what God promised might have seemed crazy. We have probably all been in situations where God’s promises seem unrealistic, but as Believers we have to trust that God will fulfill those promises no matter how unlikely it may seem. This story is a good demonstration of God’s faithfulness. After all, God’s tasking of Moses was itself a fulfillment of the promise he made to Abraham.
During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them. - Exodus 2:23-25
We should also understand that God’s promises aren’t necessarily fulfilled with ease for us. If the promise seems like it would be difficult to achieve, then it very well may require much from us for it to be fulfilled. When God first told Moses that he would have to deal with Pharaoh and would free the Israelites, God didn’t mention anything about Moses (with Aaron) having to upstage Pharaoh’s sorcerers or Moses having to be the harbinger for the 10 plagues or Moses having split a sea down the middle so that the Israelites would have a path to safety. Yet, we all know from the story that all those things took place before the Israelites were free.

Moses’ story teaches us that we don’t have to be perfect for God to use us. It also teaches us that we can never be sure just how He will use us. However, if we have faith in Him, we can accomplish the biggest feats in the most amazing ways. If Moses’ story had ended there, it would have already been suitable to give Believers perspective on what it means to believe in and follow God, but his story was not finished. In some ways it was just beginning. There is plenty more from Moses to be put under the spotlight.

Chris Lawyer
Image Courtesy of ABC News