Friday, June 19, 2009

No Apologies for Some “Offenses” in 50 Years!

Then His disciples came and said to Him, "Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?" But He answered and said, "Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch." --- Matthew 15:12-14

This Sunday, June 21, will be a special day for me and my wife, Jean. On that day 50 years ago I preached my first sermon at the Simpson and Greenwood Methodist Churches in New Castle PA. In the spring of 1959 I had completed the requirements for obtaining a license to preach in the Methodist Church and was eligible to be appointed as a supply pastor in what was known as the Erie Conference. It was a small conference in the northwestern corner of Pennsylvania and was made up of four districts.

Over the 50 years that followed that day in June of 1959 God granted us the privilege of working with 12 different congregations. One of those was very limited when during my senior year at Asbury Seminary in Wilmore KY I was asked to be pastor of a group of Cumberland Presbyterians which was in the process of forming a church in the Lexington area. My work with those fine people only lasted a few months until my graduation and return to Pennsylvania

There are some things for which I have never apologized over a half century of time and never intend to in the future so long as God grants me life here on this earth.

First, I never apologized for believing the Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God and the absolute authority in regard to faith and the practicing of that faith. I have without question accepted the record of the mighty acts of God which involved countless miracles that are beyond human understanding. It all came together when God Himself chose to become human, being born of a virgin named Mary, and continued to do mighty works while He was here on earth. Since becoming personally acquainted with Jesus, I have had no problems regarding Who He really is and what He accomplished on behalf of the entire human race!

Second, I have never apologized for preaching and teaching that Jesus Christ is absolutely the one and only way to experience peace with God, purpose for living day by day, and hope for the future in terms of both time and eternity. His sacrificial death on the cross paid the penalty for the sins of every human being. This clearly suggests that any religious expression that does not have Jesus Christ at the center of its faith and purpose for existing is in deadly error! If I enter into discussion with a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist or a member of any number of other religious groupings in the world, my statement is basically this – “Jesus Christ loves you just as He loves me – He died for your sins just as He died for mine – and without Him in your life as Savior and Lord, you have no hope whatsoever after this life on earth is over!” For taking that position I do not apologize. The reason is simple – all you have to do is to examine all of Jesus’ exclusive “I am…” statements and His absolute demands placed upon all members of the human race such as, “Except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.”

Third, I have never apologized for preaching and teaching God’s truth as it pertains to the boundaries He has established for our sexual experience and expression. The gift of sexuality is a very powerful gift and possibly the most misused and abused of all gifts which God has given us! The very common approach to human sexuality in today’s world is defined in this way – “Sex is fun with anyone or more than one anyone at the same time, anywhere and at any time!” A recent report released by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) gave us some shocking information – one out of every four teenaged females has at least one STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) and there are those who have more than one!

While I have come under fire for being “radical” on issues of human sexuality, I have not and will not apologize. God set the boundaries and when those are violated, a high price is to be paid as large numbers of people are finding out. And in some cases, the price is an early trip to the grave and in other instances, one is forced to live with an incurable disease the rest of his or her life!

Fourth, I have never apologized for insisting that world peace will never come about through the efforts of world leaders or through the actions of that circus by the river in New York known as the United Nations! The reason is simple – the overwhelming majority, if not all, of those who are supposed to be leading the 194 governments of the world are in an unregenerate state. That condition in itself is the formula for trouble. Paul discusses the pathetic situation of the “natural man” in the Corinthian letter. The problem is that such persons will not receive the things of the Spirit of God – they are steeped in unbelief and rebellion.

Fifth, in connection with what has been just said, I have never apologized for preaching and teaching that Jesus Christ is going to return to this world. It is then that peace will finally come to the entire earth under His control. Many are the promises that hold this hope out to all who “love His appearing.”

While there is much distress as to what is happening in our nation and our world, there is a remnant of faithful followers of Jesus Christ who remind themselves and one another that it will not always be like this – Jesus is going to return in glory and His Kingdom will be established!

Clayton & Jean Harriger

50 Years in Ministry

June 21, 1959 - June 21, 2009

Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!" --- Revelation 11:15

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