1 Samuel 8:4-7
Matthew 18:1-7; 26:52-53
The vast majority of people in our society live in the will and knowledge of other people rather in the will and knowledge of our Lord.
This is nothing new. We've been doing this ever since Eden when Eve and Adam listened to the will and knowledge of the serpent rather than what God desired for their lives.
The Hebrew Testament is filled with examples of people not listening to God, but rather desiring to follow other people.
For example, Listen to what is recorded in 1 Samuel 8:4-8.
4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,
5 And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
6 But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.
7 And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. (KJV)
When the people said that they wanted a king like all the nations, they were speaking of the ungodly nations of the world.
They didn't want to have a leader appointed by God so that they would live according to the will and knowledge of the Lord. They wanted other people to lead them, even if these leaders were ungodly.
They rejected the Lord's kingship and rule over them, and God gave into their desire.
He gave them the desire of their heart, not what was best for them or what He wanted for their lives.
God lets evil people live in their evilness until they repent of their ways.
Let's look at an example that Jesus gives us in Matthew 26:52-53
52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? (KJV)
The Lord is telling Peter and all of us that we are not to take up a weapon for any reason, even to defend the Lord Himself, for He can take care of Himself.
Also, the real job of every Pastor and Missionary is to be a representative of the Lord our King in everything that we do.
In the 19 July 1999 issue of U. S. News and World Report there was an article about three "missionaries" who were arrested and accused of being mercenaries, because they were found with an arsenal of 24 rifles (some sniper rifles) and shotguns, 20 handguns, 2,000 rounds of ammunition, 70 knives, radios and camouflage face paint.
Their pastor, who was in the United States, was questioned about this, and he told authorities that these weapons were for hunting and that they played paint-ball war games.
And there is even more. A Republic of Congo official commenting on this case said, "We have never seen a missionary who does not even carry a Bible."
To me, it is obvious that neither these three men nor their pastor believe what Jesus said.
They are trying to sanitize violence under the veil of Christianity, which is the same as saying to Jesus, "We want a different king than You. We want one who will agree with what we want to do."
They do not wish to walk in the knowledge of the Lord, and as a result, their apparent violent way of life has come back upon their own heads.
We need to think about the way we live and present ourselves before others.
Let's look at a little more subtle situation, one in which we may all be able to relate.
Our society has become so desensitized to the natural sensitivities that God created in our being, that we become callous in the ways in which we respond to our children.
In so doing, we can cause severe trauma and destroy our children's developing faith and sensitivities.
At the 1999 NAVS Summerfest on the University of Pittsburgh Johnstown campus, author, lawyer, and lecturer, Jim Mason told us of how this occurred in his life.
When Jim was five years old he walked out into the back yard of his farm home in Missouri, and for the first time in his life, saw pigs being slaughtered.
He saw their bodies hanging from a tree.
What he saw and smelled and heard so traumatized his God-given sensitivities that he became seriously ill and suffered nightmares for days, and had to be taken to his aunt's home for a while.
Jim said, "I was reluctant to return to the farm. I still have a memory blackout of that time. My last memory is the image of those pigs' bodies hanging from the tree, the tub full of heads, and the blood."
For several years after this, this family would also send young Jim to his aunts, when they were slaughtering animals.
This many-generation Methodist family only recognized that Jim had a problem with "growing up".
They never recognized the hardness of heart that they were exhibiting, and how they might not be living in the knowledge of the Lord.
This conclusion was amplified when Jim was eleven years old. The "men" of the family were going to castrate the calves, which Jim knew was very painful for the calves, for he had previously heard their cries of pain.
When he held back from following them, he was told to either go back to the house with the women, or become like the men and go to the barn with them.
Here was this sensitive lad being faced with the dilemma of being called a sissy and a girl, or becoming a "man" by being hard of heart.
Today, he says that he should have gone back to the house and learned to cook, but he didn't. He went with the men.
Such treatment left Jim feeling very much alone, for in his heart, he knew the truth that animals are sensitive, loving and feeling beings, just as we are.
His only real friend became his dog, and the two were very close.
When Jim was thirteen his dog died, which left him heart-broken.
Jim's family has a long Methodist tradition, and Jim had what he considered to be a strong belief in God.
Jim knew in his heart that animals had souls and spirits, just as we do.
He knew it because he observed these beings on their terms, and because of his relationship with his dog.
Reaching into his faith, Jim reconciled his sorrow with the fact that he would once again see his friend in heaven.
When he went to his pastor and asked for confirmation of his conclusion, his pastor looked sad, but told him that animals don't go to heaven.
Immediately, Jim's faith was shattered. Better this pastor had tied a millstone around his own neck and drowned himself than do such injustice to this sensitive child.
And this pastor is not alone in his actions. Jim's family members also have participated in this violence to Jim's faith and sensitivities. It's as we are told in Matthew 18:1-7...
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
2 He called a little child and had him stand among them.
3 And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 "And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.
6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
7 "Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! (NIV)
Nowhere in the Bible are we told that animals don't go to heaven.
To the contrary, we are told that they are living souls just as we are.
Even if this pastor didn't fully understand this, he could have said, "The Bible doesn't tell us, but we can hope and pray that it's true. Would you like me to pray with you?"
But this pastor didn't do this. Our societal influences had so corrupted this man's faith and sensitivities, too, that he was likewise blinded to the truth.
Jim has since turned his attention to helping people become more loving and compassionate toward all of God's non-human creatures, but he has never returned to the church from where he saw much of this hardness of heart coming.
How long are we going to continue to shoot ourselves in the foot by sanitizing violence in our society?
How long are we going to blind ourselves from the truth that we are not living in the knowledge of the Lord, where there will no longer be any hurting or destroying of any kind?
How long are we going to blind ourselves to the fact that violent video games, movies and television do harden the hearts of our children?
When are we, as a society, even as a small part of society, going to begin to live in the knowledge of the Lord as He desires us to live, and not just some of the time, but all the time?
God really and truly loves us all, and desires only the best for us, if we would only allow Him to truly be Lord of our lives; if we would only allow Him to soften our hearts.
Let us pray...
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