Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

This is a different sermon for me so the text may not read as well as usual. During the service, the 3 main sections were broken up with additional singing and activities. Overall, the message helped people and the format did too.

Part 1--The World of Cursing

The World is a rough place—fighting and conflict are commonplace and have many causes—financial, religious, greed, insult. Most conflicts are not global but are local and personal.

Insults, Injuries—in many cultures these produce feuds between people, neighbors or families that last for years, even generations.

In some cultures there are very specific ways and rituals to get back at the one who has offended you. These kinds of conflicts causes some to seek even supernatural means. It was typically called Cursing.

Cursing in the ancient world was the calling upon the name or power of a god to punish or inflict harm on another.

Goliath cursed David by his gods—1 Sam. 17:43—“He said to David, "Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?" And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.”

Later, David was Cursed by Shimei, a member of the former King Saul’s family

in 2 Samuel 16:5—“As King David approached Bahurim, a man from the same clan as Saul's family came out from there. His name was Shimei son of Gera, and he cursed as he came out.”

In America, it’s not so ritualized or complicated, but there are still remnants. Who can tell me what these are?

Voodoo Dolls—things that are supposed to influence, control or inflict pain

Many Islamic cultures or countries fear what is known as the Evil Eye—the fundamental concept of the evil eye is that precious persons or things are constantly vulnerable to hurt or destruction caused by other people’s desire to inflict hurt or hardship due to envy, insult, feud. These desires to inflict injury are conveyed through the eye—a mere look is enough to bring down harm upon someone or their family.—and protective measures are sold as jewelry such as these.

It even makes it on to some airplanes in Turkey—it’s the new anti-terror, anti-missile system.

This is the way the world works. It makes sense to the world’s wisdom that if you get hurt, you hurt back. If you’re insulted, you insult back and you hold on to it until you have a chance to get back at them.

We call it REVENGE, Retribution, Settling Scores, Payback, Reprisal, Justice—WHAT ELSE?

When you think back to your reactions over the past week, you’ll probably notice that the biggest reactions you had were probably caused by someone who upset you or did something to make you angry or upset. It is easy for us to want to lash out in response to these upsets.

There are many incidents in modern life that could inspire anger or a desire to lash out at something or somebody.

Maybe it was with a moment like this

Road Rage from seeing too many younger drivers like this…

Maybe you have a Bad Boss—

Or Computer Problems like I’ve had this week

Maybe these are the speaking terms between you and your neighbor


“Repay Evil with Evil and Insult for Insult”

The World wants us to return evil for evil and insult to injury

How many of you have had the opportunity or been tempted just this week to hurt with your words, to say just that one thing that would injure the most?

We exist in a world that returns evil for evil and insult for insult. But that is not how we are called to live—we are called to bless.

Part 2--The Power of Blessing

Bless—to invoke God’s name or call upon the power of God for someone’s benefit or good.

There is power in Blessing—knowing that someone is calling upon God’s goodness in their life—whether they really know Him or understand Him or believe in Him or not—is a comforting and encouraging thing.

Most people you come in contact with will not refuse your offer to pray for them.

Num. 6:23 "Tell Aaron and his sons, `This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

NU 6:24 " ` "The LORD bless you and keep you;

NU 6:25 the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;

NU 6:26 the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace." '

NU 6:27 "So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them."

One of the best examples of the power of blessing can be seen in Jacob & Esau

GE 27:37 Isaac answered Esau, "I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?"

GE 27:38 Esau said to his father, "Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!" Then Esau wept aloud.

Jacob’s blessing had influence of the kind of future the two brothers were going to have. One foretold great closeness and relationship with God, the other foretold violence and bitterness.

Jacob & Esau--HEB 11:20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.

Some of the effects of blessings over 3000 years ago, we are still living in today.

Galatians 3:14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Jesus made blessing a part of His ministry.

Mark 10:14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." 16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

The world wants us to be stingy with our blessings. The world thinks there is greater power in cursing, but that power is destructive, self-centered, self-seeking, and only causes pain in your life and the life of others.

Yet we are called to Bless—because we have an awesome and a wonderful God who Changes us.

Part 3--Called to Be a Blessing in Returning Good instead of Evil

David chose not to retaliate against Shimei—he chose not to repay evil with evil or insult with insult. David had the power, he had the authority to injure back—as creative a writer as David was, I have no doubt that he could have thought of some good zingers to say back to Shimei. Some in his party wanted to go and kill Shimei, but David refrained and trusted himself to God.

An even better example is Jesus, Himself. At His arrest, trial and crucifixion, He did not open His mouth in defense, retaliation or injury. He could have—He could have brought down legions of angels to smite those who were hurting Him. He could have told the whole world the secret sins of every man coming against Him. His curses would have had the creative power of the universe behind them. Instead, Jesus lived out His own words.

LK 6:27 "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

He demonstrated it again on the Cross when Jesus said—“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”

Paul put this call to love and bless this way.

RO 12:9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

RO 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

RO 12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."

RO 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

In describing his own situation, Paul put it this way.

1 Corinthians 4:9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. 10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.

He was a spectacle before the whole universe because he knew the world was watching his actions and listening to his words.

More than being told what NOT TO DO, Peter gives us instruction on how we should live.

How we live and treat each other, our relationships are supposed to be changed by our faith. Faith Changes our relationships—and how you act toward them and respond to them. Last week we looked at how your relationship with Jesus should change the way you relate to the government, to your work, and within your marriage. Now, Peter being led by the Holy Spirit, covers our relationships in general, with our neighbors, with our fellow believers, even in times our struggle.

READ 1 Peter 3:8-12

We are Called to Bless by Living In

1. Harmony—

a. There is little more important in the world of music than a clear and powerful melody. The great composers and songwriters know this. However, there is little more beautiful in the world of music than a clear and powerful harmony. The Barbershop Soloist was never as popular as the Barbershop Quartet. Mozart’s Violin concerto’s has got to have a harmonizing orchestra in the background. Effective Harmony doesn’t work against the Melody. Effective Harmony doesn’t try to replace the Melody. Effective Harmony is Complimentary, works with the Melody not against it, and makes the entire production more beautiful and engaging.

b. V. 8—no one is left out of this command. If you claim the name of Christ, then you must allow the Spirit of Christ to change you so that you can live in “harmony with one another.” This means you should attempt with all diligence to avoid strife and discord, to compliment each other rather than work against each other.

c. Can you see how vital this is for the church family? A church where the people are living in harmony with each other is one that will be encouraging each other to greater lives of faith and create a beautiful witness to the community. If we are living in harmony with one another, then the church will be creating a music together that draws crowds to listen and join in.

d. You can’t live in harmony without sympathy—doing your best to understand the concerns and emotions of others. Romans 12:15—“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”—1 Cor. 12:26—“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” Sympathy takes your attention off of yourself and on to others.

e. Compassion goes closely with sympathy. When you have sympathy for someone’s situation, then you must be willing and motivated to do whatever you can about it. You will rejoice with them, you will mourn with them, you will suffer with them. God had sympathy for our sinful condition, but His sympathy, coupled with His compassion motivated Him to do something about it. To come down from heaven, to put aside His glory, and come in the person of Jesus. So when our brothers and sisters in Christ, or our neighbors and friends are in need, don’t just feel bad for them, but be willing to reach out with your love, your resources

f. Love as brothers—and not the kind of brother that locks your sibling in the closet, and humility—don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought.

g. “In the worlds way of thinking, if a person does not hit back, it is because he is a coward. But in the Spirit’s way of thinking, the evidence of Jesus’ Power is if he does not hit back… A blow or personal insult becomes an opportunity for a Believer to reveal the incredible greatness & gentleness of the Lord Jesus… the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is not, “Do Your Duty,” but is, in effect, “Do what is not your duty.” It is not your duty to go the second mile, or to turn the other cheek, but Jesus said that if we are His disciples, we will always do these things.”

Instead be a blessing—and be blessed—be a blessing to others because of your relationship to Christ.

You were called to be and give blessings and it affects your eternal inheritance.

Who should we bless?

Our family—when you pray for each other. Ask specifically for God’s blessing upon them. Demonstrate blessing by serving them, by forgiving them, by putting their needs above yours

Bless that cousin who cheated you

Bless that child who looks up to you

Bless that husband, or wife who had a hard day at work

Our Neighbors

Our Co-Workers

Our Community—the cashier at the store

The waiter or waitress at the restaurant

Our Enemies and others who give us a hard time in life. When was the last time you prayed for God’s blessing on Osama Bin Laden? The pouring out of God’s blessing would be for someone to share with him the love of Christ and he would embrace His forgiveness and redemption.

The real meaning behind the question, “Who is my neighbor that Jesus was asked was really—“Who do I have to be nice to, and who can I ignore in this world?”

In response to this Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus’ meaning was not to detail who you can leave out in being a faithful person, but how you are called to be that person to anyone and everyone you come across.

HOW Do we Bless?

Is it just the laying on of hands and making a powerful religious prayer? How can we bless and be a blessing in people’s lives? Responses from people.

Bless the Lord

In blessing others, you are also blessing God in who’s Name you are acting. As you have done to the least of these, we do unto Him.

The greatest Blessing is sharing the love and forgiveness in Christ.

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