Tuesday, May 27, 2014

SHOULD A CHRISTIAN BE CREMATED?

WHAT ABOUT CREMATION?     
What a cheerful topic!!!  But over my ministry it has come up time and time again whether Christians SHOULD, CAN, or ARE PERMITTED to be cremated.   What does the bible say about cremation?  Does it forbid it?  Well, no.   Can Christians be cremated?  Yes.  Should they be cremated?  That is the uneasy question.
            The ancient world and the modern world have various ways of disposing of dead bodies.  The ancient Romans and Greeks (and Hindus) practiced cremation because they believed the soul was trapped in the body until fire released it.  Hindus, with their belief in reincarnation, still believe this.
            On the other hand, the Egyptians believed that the dead were waiting to get into their land of plenty and so they mummified their dead, preserving the corpse indefinitely.  The rich  buried their dead with food and other luxuries they would need there.
            American Indians and other animists believed that man was a part of nature and should go back to nature.  They tied their dead up in the trees or left it out in the open so the birds and animals could be nourished by human flesh.
            The Hebrews and Jews had a different approach based on scripture.  David wrote in Psalm 90 “You turn man back into dust And say, "Return, O children of men." For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it passes by, Or as a watch in the night. “ God created us from the dust and to dust we will return.  I spoke with rabbis who said the Jewish way of funerals is to wrap the deceased up in a sheet and bury them un-embalmed before the sun goes down that day.  Their aim is to return the body to the dust.  Then they worship God thanking Him for the gift of life.
            Christians throughout history have for the most part chosen to bury their dead. You can see why in the word “cemetery”.  Did you know this literally means “sleeping place”?  Daniel 12:2 "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.”  Also  read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 among other verses.  Christians are concerned about a “decent burial” because we believe every human is created in the image of God and deserve to be treated better than the animals.  At a Christians’ death the scriptures are read about God’s promise of eternal life and hymns are sung glorifying God.  We also believe that when Jesus became flesh He sanctified humanity with hope that death cannot take away.  WE believe that as Jesus was buried and raised bodily from the dead, so our bodies will be raised and joined back with our souls which at death immediately go to God and on the last day our bodies will be raised for the last judgment. 
            Now God can as easily raise our bodies back from the ashes as easily as from the dust from cremation.  But as in life our bodies are a Christian witness, so at death they are also a witness.  That is why we mark our bodies with grave stones. 
            There are concerns on both sides.  Some burials today more resemble Egyptian than Christian.  We go to great lengths to preserve the body while there is really no need.  It is a rather recent thing to embalm bodies to the point some funerals deny the person is really dead “Look how lifelike she looks??”   What’s the point!  We are not Egyptians trying to keep us presentable to cross over the River Styx.  We are also not animists who think we should turn bodies into food products to save the environment.
            Now about cremation.  In many places around the world we are running out of room for great, sprawling graveyards.  Many Christians are being cremated because they don’t have the money, the time or the family and friends to go through the big ceremony, burial and headstone.
BUT, did you know the first cremation in the US took place in 1876 and it was a religious statement by atheists who had readings from Charles Darwin and the Hindu scriptures read.  Cremation to liberals is their attempt to slap God’s face denying the resurrection or the value of human hope.  Also it is a little concern when you hear people wanting their ashes kept on the mantle or scattered on the water (as the Hindus do).  This can also be an attempt to slap God by saying “Let’s see if you can bring this back together!!!”
            It is interesting to look into the Old Testament where cremations are spoken of, e.g., Achan, King Saul, and the King of Edom.  These cremations involved God’s judgment and curse.
            So has anything cleared up?  Can you be cremated?  Of course!  Should you?  Well, a Christian can if you do it respectfully, prayerfully and giving glory to God.  Any other way would be sin.  Most of us would say “I don’t care how I’m buried!”  Well I do, I don’t want tied up in a tree for the birds to eat – I’d probably give them diabetes.  I don’t want my head cut off and frozen in the hope science will find a way to bring it back to life.  I have a better place to go.  And if I’m cremated I would like a little tear shed, bury those ashes decently and a lot of prayer and scripture to proclaim that as in life – my death is a proclamation of God’s goodness and promises to the world of the resurrection to the life to come through Jesus Christ our Lord.



PASTOR DON – decaying more and more one day at a time.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Vikings, Little Ice Age and the Rise of Christianity in Sweden

Wow, that's a big title, one that scholars could write their thesis on.  I am more interested in the faith side and how people accepted the pagan religions and why they came to Christ.

I will be traveling to Sweden soon for a study leave.  All around Sweden you see the remnants of the pagan past.  I have seen hundreds of rocks with Rune stones.  Usually they have snakes on the ones I saw and strange writing.  The language is Germanic and the alphabet was what the Northern peoples used before the Roman alphabet.  These Runes were written during the pagan Viking age.  The writing on these stones include grave stones telling us who was buried underneath, others are religious prayers, curses or spells.  Some speak about trade and taxes and secret messages during wars.  Some are love letters or messages between friends.  Some are advertising signs telling of blacksmiths or metal workers and some are just graffiti.  Some of the latest ones are bible verses and invitations for Norsemen to come to receive Christ as Savior.  They are sort of evangelistic pamphlets.

When I lived in Sweden I often stayed with friends.  One friend I met in college lived in the country outside Sodertalje (where they made Saabs) on his family farm that went back all the way to the middle ages and before.  He took me through fields where generations of his ancestors picked out rocks from the fields and made fences and barns.  Among the rock piles were those that were in the outline of ships.  He said that those were the graves of the Vikings who were buried in boats and then covered in stones.  This was before the Christian time.

The age before Christianity was the Viking age where people worshiped the Germanic gods, especially those on top.  Uppsala was the center of pagan religion and this city had a huge temple with three statues in it.  The center one was Thor the mightiest, and the other two were Wotan and Fricco sitting on thrones on the right and left of him.  Everyone with an open mind sees that this world did not come into its own by itself.  These gods, as all false gods, concerned things that were vitally important to the people.  They represented fertility (which everyone needs to keep alive), war (to conquer and to protect yourself) and love and peace (when you could afford it).  All pagan gods are like this.  The vikings offered sacrifices asking their personification of their needs to help them. This was usually done by killing people and offering the false gods their life stuff, blood.  Literally pagan religion is trying to make a deal with the devil.

During the Dark Ages Vikings swooped down out of Scandinavia and wrecked havoc on Britain, Ireland, Europe, Russia and beyond.  They killed, took slaves, destroyed whatever they wanted and stole the rest.  They also prayed and offered spoils to their false gods.  The temple in Uppsala was covered in gold and gems (probably taken in plunder).  These pagans also worshiped trees because, after all, they provide shelter, food and heat.  All of this is very typical - animistic stuff.  You worship what scares you, what you need and what you think will give you what you need.

You can say that many people today are pagans and don't know it.  They may say there are no gods, or that there are many gods or that they have nothing to do with gods.  But we all do.  Whatever is most important to us becomes a god, whether it be gold or money, security, war, plunder, strength and power, etc.  The vikings did it and so do we.  The bible calls this idol worship.

What led the Vikings to act out the way they did in Europe?  It was a little ice age whereby it became very difficult for people to provide for their families and grow crops.  As it got worse and worse the Vikings set out in search for easy prey with the message "You have what we need and we are going to kill you and take it".  People may think they are too sophisticated to have false gods but they are just ignorant of their own lives.  False religion has its roots in selfishness, "my needs before anyone else and I'll worship whoever gives me what I want".

What happened towards the end of the Ice Age was that Scandinavia was invaded itself not by blood thirsty thieves but by Christians who set off to show their enemies that Jesus Christ loved them.  The pagans tried to kill them or push them away but gradually they began to see their gods were false and that the one true God was real and loved them.  They did not have to kill, steal and plunder to survive.  This happened between the 8th and 12 centuries A.D.  It was a slow process because stealing, hating and plundering and other evil is hard to let go off when you think it is your security.

These missionaries presented Christ to the Vikings as the God of strength, victory, mercy and love.  They were very used to following Satan with hate, selfishness, power and blood.  There was something inward that God places in each of us to know this is evil and wrong.  Slowly they began trusting the true God of love who gave His Son as the only sacrifice needed for us to be saved.  When Sweden came to Christ it is interesting to note that the Cathedral first built was in the huge graveyard of the Vikings in Uppsala to show Christ's triumph over evil.

Modern Scandinavia says it is not very religious and Christianity is in decline.  That is not true.  Scandinavians are very religious, it is just that when we grow indifferent to the true God we go back to serving pagan gods of our own inclinations.  Christianity in Sweden was once very broad (in the 1970's over 90% of population was State Church Lutheran unless you openly chose not to be).  Today it is the opposite  instead of Christianity being wide and shallow it is narrow and deep.  This is what I am going to study when I go to Sweden this year.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Why God, WINTER?

      Let's admit it, we have had a hard winter, a very cold, brutal winter.  It seems sometimes like it will never end.  Winter is hard on our bodies.  Hospitals are filled with people with complications from the flu .  I can imagine what it is doing to the wildlife who have little or no shelter.  I look out my window at the brutal cold and hope our cat is OK but we know the Coyotes already ate him.  At least he's not cold.

      Winter is not only hard on us physically, it is hard on us spiritually.  Winter affects our moods and emotions.  We become sick of it, we hibernate, we are less active, we may even blame God.  Have you ever taken a walk outside after a snowfall?  There is literally no path, you walk and set up your own path.  It is easy to get lost or to slip and fall.  But it is also an adventure.   Everything looks fresh and new under that blanket of snow.  When I lived in Sweden I remembered that people there didn't hide from the cold and snow-- they enjoyed it.  Many opened their windows during the day to let in the fresh, cold air.  I remember looking out my window and seeing schoolkids on skies going to school.  Cross country skiing was very popular.  I used to go out at night and ice skate on a frozen lake, just my friends and I, all alone and in the dark except for the moon and stars.  It was a wonderful time to pray Psalm 19,  "The heavens are telling the glory of God;and the firmament proclaims his handiwork."

    Winter is a time that tests your faith.  Do you believe spring is coming?  As we look out at the mass of white we wonder sometimes "Will this ever end?"  The bible tells us in Hebrews 11 "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."  Winter teaches us patience.  As we await Spring we can even celebrate the beauty of winter.  Winter can even be the source of pleasure if you are prepared for it, if you act accordingly and bundle up against the cold and wind.  That has spiritual connotations.  This is a dark, cold world without the love of God in Christ inside us to save, protect and lead.  Winter can be a lonely time until we remember God's Word in Isaiah 41 "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

    Winter is good, it gives the land time to rest, and the farmers tell us the snow protects and nourishes their fields so in the spring they can plant good crops.  It can even be good for us.  Why not try some of these things:
   Catch a snowflake with your tongue 
• Go for a sleigh ride 
• Ice skate 
• Make a snowman 
• Make snow angels 
• Take a walk and look for animal tracks 
• Sit in a sunny place outside and feel the sun on your face 
• Drink a cup of hot chocolate outside 
• Take photos of trees with bare branches 
• Go sledding down a hill

  Winter is a time to share.  Does winter drive you to Christ?  Does it drive you to the pleasures of hospitality?  Our neighbors are also tired of winter.  We haven't seen them unless they are in church.  Call a friend you haven't seen in a while to see how they are doing.  When is the last time you caught up on news from your relatives?  Winter makes time for us to think about important matters.  In fact Winter is a great time to work on our prayer life.  Do you speak with God?   We often say we are too busy.  Winter has a way of slowing us down.   Lauren and I were stuck in traffic hours on the highway a few weeks ago.  It was a good time to pray.

    Lastly, winter is a time to get ready for spring.  We often do not enjoy the beauty of spring fully unless we have gone through the cold of winter.  Prepare for the warm days, the spring rains and remember  what David wrote in Psalm 72 "He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth".

   

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Very Intense Movie about the Problems in Africa

Memo:
To:   EPC Ministers
From:  Don Hurry, 724-368-1102

RE:  Film that would be good for your church, especially Senior High Youth Groups on the horrible problems of Africa, esp. children.

I have for loan a video that you might want to preview and use.  ACTUALLY – YOU CAN WATCH AND COPY THE FILM FROM ONLINE AT http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/invisible-children/
There is a separate YOUTH GROUP video with it to organize a “House Party” Youth night to inspire youth to organize and help out.


The movie is called “Invisible children”

The purpose of this video is to get Americans informed and connected to the horrible crisis African children are going through.

Synopsis:  Three American youth travel to Africa in search of a story.  They are idealistic and liberal (their hero Che Guevara’s poster is behind them as they prepare to leave indicating they think revolution is the answer to Africa’s problems). 

They arrive in the Sudan where they are immediately confronted with the ravages of revolution and war.  Instead of going to record from the revolution’s side they have to flee and wind up with Christian refuges who flee Sudan into Northern Uganda.  The rest of the film they record children being kidnapped nightly from their homes and subsequently forced to become child soldiers in the revolution. These children, ages 5-12 are forced to kill or be executed.  Children (mostly boys) have to flee the countryside to survive and end up in huge camps on the Verandas of Christian Missionary hospitals.  This film is dedicated to exposing this tragic, and amazingly untold story.  The problems it deals with is brutality, rape, child sexuality, death, overpopulation and under care and the worst problem – a loss of hope.

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), also known as the Lord's Resistance Movement, is a militant movement, which is described by some as a  cult which operates in northern Uganda and South Sudan. Since 2005 there have been claims that the group has entered the Democratic Republic of Congo, but in 2007 it was reported that they were in Central African Republic.

 The LRA was initially formed to resist the Uganda People's Defense Force (UPDF), called the National Resistance Army (NRA) before it took control of the country. The NRA/UPDF has been accused of widespread murder, rape, and pillage.   They commit widespread human rights violations, including murder, abduction, mutilation, child-sex slavery, and forcing children to participate in hostilities

The film is not preachy or even direct.  It merely points out firsthand how little children are forced to leave their homes to avoid kidnapping and worse abuse and end up as orphans.  The American youth interview the children to see what is on their minds.  They face physical and mental disease, PTS, and grow up wild and undisciplined.

While not set up as a Christian film it seems they see that the problems in Africa are definitely Evil versus Good and the only possible answer to the problem is Christian hope. They see Christian missions as the only solution while underfunded and overwhelmed.   The answer to the problem is not just to throw money and feed them or to defeat one group or another.  It is to give Africa stability and hope through Christ.


It is a very, very intense film that needs prescreening and lots of discussion afterwards but it is definitely worth seeing.

Friday, November 8, 2013

A Belated Invitation

OPPPPSSSSS
       I have a belated invitation I hope you will avail yourself of.    I was supposed to invite you over to dinner so that we could watch a Billy Graham video together.  I took the training, assented to promote the viewing.   But there are many things in life that just don't work out the way you plan them.
       I am speaking of Billy Graham's HOPE FOR AMERICA.   This may be Billy Graham's last message to America and we should hear it.  But this crazy, busy, hectic, depressing, world that we live in draws us away from what we should hear and troubles us with many things we should not take time for.
      First, let me tell you what I think of Billy Graham.  He was my parent's preacher - not mine.  Growing up Catholic at school and church we were not encouraged to promote Billy much.  He was not Catholic, he came from the south which was at that time not Catholic friendly and he was a Baptist who are not known for their love for Catholics.
      However from what I saw in my youth Catholics as well as Protestants loved and respected him.  My mother was a Billy Graham catholic.  She spent an hour in church a week but spent just about every day listening to Billy Graham on the radio while she did her housework.  Her Catholicism was shaped more by Billy Graham than by the pope.  And that was a good thing.  As for me, Billy Graham was my parent's preacher.  I could not escape hearing him, respecting his call to salvation, witnessing his great crusades but there were other preachers I listened to more.  There is something about children not identifying with what is important to our parents.  You do respect it but you don't want to admit it because you want to forge your own way.
      I have participated in Billy Graham crusades before and wondered at the great response of people coming out not only to hear him but his associates.   I was a counselor on the floor as people came forward to "Just as I am without one plea but that Thy blood was shed for me".  My own son at 3 years old came forward to receive Christ at a Billy Graham crusade.
     Billy Graham has been called the Pastor to the Presidents.  And he was.  I remember during Nixon's presidency and later Ford and other presidents that Billy was called upon a lot.  I worried that he would be used or bent to promote their agenda rather than turn them to Christ's agenda.
      Lauren and I went to a Billy Graham School for Evangelism in Washington, DC a long time ago.  It was a great experience and I will never forget thinking about sneaking out during a seminar to see the White House and Capital.  As if he knew what I was thinking he said "You preachers don't forget that we are paying your way to be here for this training.  I don't want any of you to think you are going to miss out to go sightseeing."   I felt like a kid caught with my hand in the candy jar.  And we stayed from morning to night every day for the training and didn't see much of Washington.  I did see Christ's protecting hand at work as we walked to our hotel through some of the most scary neighborhoods of Washington, DC.   Billy didn't pay for top notch hotels.  In fact it was roasting hot and the hotel not only would not turn the air conditioning on - the hotel's windows didn't open and we sweltered all night.
      But I am digressing as usual.  Christians were challenged to open their homes and invite unsaved people to dinner and to watch this presentation.  I took the training.  I was disappointed as I heard so many Christians say "I can't do that, I don't know my neighbors, I don't invite people to dinner, it would be too embarrassing."  And then I thought "Who would I invite?"  I couldn't think of anyone who would come.  You can't just go out and invite strangers to your house.  The neighbors I knew were Christians and the ones I wasn't sure of I didn't know."   I pray that the Billy Graham Association found better people than me to make this personal home crusade work.
    That is how I am ending my article.  You can come over for dinner if you like pot luck and we could watch Billy Graham's Hope for America on You Tube.
     Or you can watch it yourself.  Here is the listing,   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mq7xhYuuqCs

     I challenge you to watch it - I did and it was a lot more exciting and pertinent than I thought it would be.  It isn't that long and you will be blessed by the message.  Maybe you can spread the word around and ask people to watch it - either with you - or alone.  It is a message that needs to be heard even if Billy Graham was my parents preacher.

                                 

      

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Pal or a Friend?

Did you ever have one of those strange nights in which your dreams take you back in time to important events in your life?   I had one last night.  It seemed the whole night I was dreaming about a friend I had in school.  It was strange because I haven't thought about him for many, many years.  I was remembering that he wasn't just a pal, he was a friend.

What's the difference between a pal and a friend?  You have lots of pals but many people have very few friends.  Growing up I ran with a bunch of boys my age who were pals.  We played together all summer, we walked home from school together.  But our relationships were based on doing things together.  We played ball, went swimming, went to the movies.  I got what I wanted out of the relationship and they got what they wanted.  We didn't need one another, a pal is replaceable.   As time went on our interests took us different ways and it was easy to part.   Many of my pals went the wrong way and tried to take us all with them.  Some hated their parents and wanted us to hate our parents as well.  They took up dirty talk, swearing. smoking and said "If you want to stay with us you must swear, tell dirty stories about things we knew absolutely nothing about and smoke too."  I tried but I just couldn't.  My parents began to dislike my pals and blamed them for my bad habits.  They only drew me to my pals more.  I wanted to fit in but I didn't like the way they began to follow other gods.  Pals go along and tolerate bad behavior.  Friends care enough to challenge you to believe God and do good.

My father was the one who brought a big change into my life at @13 years old.  He would take the Incline every day and walk over the Ft. Pitt Bridge to work at the Pittsburgh Press.  He met many people on that incline and one of his friends was a Scoutmaster who kept after him about getting my brothers and I into Scouting.  When my dad would bring it up I would think "I already have problems enough without that."

One day my father came home from work with a big bag.  He said he had a present for me.  I opened the bag and it contained a sleeping bag.  I asked him what I needed that for.  He said I was going on a Scouting camping trip.  I said "No, I'm not!!"  He said "Yes, you are and that's that.  I'm your father and you will do what I tell you."  After a huge fight I went.  The camping trip was at Raccoon State Park and it changed my life.  I learned to love dirt, trees and stars.  I also made a new set of friends.  Dave was one of them.  He was a leader.  He was very positive and very ambitious.  And he saw in me a friend.   His ambition was to be an Eagle Scout and he didn't want to do it alone.  So he invited me to come along with him.  Now here is what makes the difference between a pal and a friend.  He thought that being an Eagle Scout would be good for him (that makes him a pal) but he also thought it would be good for me (that makes him a friend).  It took 4 long years and 36 merit badges and many service projects to make Eagle.  There were times I wanted to give up and Dave kept me going and times he wanted to give up and I kept him going.  We did lots of things together like hiking and camping.  His great love was bicycling and he dreamed of having a French racing bike.  He saved and saved and got it.  He sold me his old English racer and we went on bike hikes.  I can remember a 50 mile bike hike we took.  I can also remember a 25 mile hike we took in one day.  It was Dave that got me going to the Presbyterian church.  He said he didn't like sitting alone in front of his parents and there were few kids his age.  So I started attending.  Then he said he didn't like going to Sunday School because there were no kids his age.  I said I would go one time.  They put us both in the old men's class where we were fascinated by these old men's stories of WW1 and WW2 and how their experiences related to the bible.  I learned a lot in that Sunday School class.

When we went hiking we would talk about God and about our futures.  Dave told me that when he was 6 years old he darted out into the street and was hit by a car and was dragged a long way.  He almost died and had many operations.  He said that experience showed him that God cared enough to keep him alive and that God had a plan for him.  I asked him what that plan was.   He said "When I grow up I am going to live in Philadelphia and marry a Jewish girl".   I thought that was the most horrible plan I could imagine.  Who would want to live in  Philadelphia (Filth-a-delphia)?  And why would he want to marry a Jewish girl.  The only Jews we knew ran the Variety store and Cinema in Mt. Washington.   He said Jews were ambitious and successful and he wanted to be successful too. He asked what I thought God's plan was for me.  After a lot of thinking I said "I want to live in Europe".   He went "Wow, that is ambitious".  Do you know what?  Both of us realized our plans.   He did go to live in Philadelphia and marry a Jewish girl whose father owned an insurance company and he worked for his father-in-law.   I did live in Europe.  What drew us together as friends was faith that God is good, that He loves us very much and has plans for our lives.   This was at a time my pals were blaming and hating God, living selfishly and taking drugs.  Dave had a good heart.  There was a kid in church and school who was our age who had cancer.  Other kids avoided him because he lost all his hair and looked very sick.  Dave would eat lunch with him at school.  Dave was very caring about other people.  His father was deaf and I saw that he could actually relate to his father in a way I wanted to relate to my parents.  They could actually communicate and trust each other.  He had a much younger brother who he thought was very annoying and a huge brat.  But you could tell he still loved his brother.

After achieving Eagle we sort of went our own ways and didn't see much of each other.  His main passion was playing drums in the High School Corps.  He did so well they offered him a four year scholarship to Carnegie Mellon.   He turned it down because he said it would be too much work.  I lost touch with Dave until one day 15 or 20 years later on vacation I went back to Grandview Ave. UP church.  His mother told me that Dave was married but couldn't have children.  She also said he was dying of cancer.  I called him and tried to talk about how much those good old days with him meant in helping me in life.  He died shortly after I called. He was in his early 30s.  It was strange that after all these years I should have a dream about him.  One thing that came though that dream was that in life we have many pals.  But we have few real friends.  Dave was one of those real friends that even when we were apart so many years I knew we were striving for the same things and wanted the best for each other.  The foundation of our friendship was our common love for Jesus Christ, our knowledge that God had a plan for our lives and that it was good.  I wish for you that you can have at least one true friend in life.  Each of us surely needs at least one.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Is Anyone Good? Does Anyone Love?

         Not only have I been a participant in the human race, I have also been an observer of our race.  And my observations are not good.  I have served on juries, been in courtrooms, worked as a Treatment Coordinator for Disturbed youth, served as camp counselors and directors.   And of course I have been a pastor for a very long time.
         Like most humans I have looked for heroes.  The media is in a constant source of fresh heroes.  But heroes have clay feet, hidden agendas, and some have sorted pasts.  The media not only discovers heroes, they tear them down as well.
         Sit in your local courtroom a day.  You will hear the same story told over and over from case to case.  It is a constant procession or thieves, molesters, spouse or child abusers, crazy behavior.  I almost broke down and cried seeing one such procession as self righteous people who hired professional lawyers to fight for their "rights" in their day of court.  They want to justify themselves and punish others.  Very seldom do I watch Judge Judy or the other media courts because they show how seedy, yes, even disgusting, we humans are, not only the guilty but also the "innocent."
         The question is "Are there any good humans?"  The bible goes against the popular grain and says "NO"  In the Old Testament Jeremiah wrote "(Jer 17:9-10)"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings."   In the New Testament Jesus says (Matt 15:19): “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.”  The Apostle Paul was inspired to write (Rom. 3:10-12): “As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one."
          If you are looking for real human heroes you are sending a holey bucket down into a desert-dry well.  I have been doing a series of sermons on the Book of Genesis and the procession of humans is heart breaking.  Adam and Eve, Cain, the people of Noah's day, Noah drunk and molested, the people of Babel wanting to make a name for themselves, Abram's dealings.  It is all pathetic, we are a pathetic race.   Even when we come to Abram we see a papa's boy at 75, infertile, in a pagan village and he and his wife Sarai show a lot of bad habits.
       And yet God loved these people.  God loves us - that is incredible - how could God love us prideful, self righteous, prideful losers?   The bible and the Holy Spirit convict us that it is true, God loves us.
       The question is "Why does God love us?"   I'm almost afraid to ask. One thing is certain - - God does not love us because we are lovable or because we are good or because we deserve His love.  If anything the opposite is true, we deserve death.   I was on a jury that send a man to prison for many years.  He looked like a nice young man with a good future ahead of him.  All wasted - who knows what he will be like when he gets out?  I hope he has the opportunity to hear God's Word and repent - that's his only hope.
       Why does God love us?  It is because  1 John 4:8 tells us it is not that we are lovable but because GOD IS LOVE.  It isn't us - it's HIM.  This is profound, God doesn't just love, He is love!  God's very essence is love.  Love infuses God's being; fashioning even His wrath and anger.  This is not a squishy, meaningless love, the kind we often give one another.  We don't have anything to barter for God's love, we can never be good enough.  It is just being open to receiving God's love as a cup is open to receive the pouring or a box is open for a filling.  The Bible tells us God pours and we receive.  Noah, Abraham, and all the saints are opened to receive God's love.  And when we receive it in Christ we respond by glorifying God as a cup glorifies with the steaming coffee or the box glorifies with its contents.  We glorify God by receiving His love in Christ and becoming the person we were created to be.
         Our only goodness and glory is having Christ in us.  The bible tells us God demonstrates His love by sending His Son to die on the cross for our sins (I John 4:10).  God demonstrates His love by drawing us to Himself (John 6:44).  God demonstrates His love by making us a new creation.  God demonstrates His love by continually filling us with His Holy Spirit. 
          Is anyone really good?  No, not really.  You show me a good person and you will find a thin layer covering sin.  Our goodness depends on what we are filled with.   A cup or a box is glorified by being filled.  So are sinful humans.  We are made good not by what we do, but by what God has done and is doing in us.  The next time you are ready to bow and honor a human, or pride yourself in self-righteousness or comfort yourself that mankind really is underlying goodness, stop and take and honest look.   Then give glory to God who fills His people with goodness and imputes it to us because of what Christ has done for us.
       The only way to be good is to have Christ within because only God is good as only God is love.