For What Food Do You Hunger?

Posted by on June 29, 1997 under Sermons

What is the kindest thing you ever did for your family? What is the kindness thing you ever did for a fellow Christian? What is the kindest thing you ever did for someone you did not know? What is the kindest thing you ever did for someone who did not even know you helped them?

One of the greatest joys we can experience is the joy of helping someone else. There is a sense of fulfillment discovered in helping others that is found in few other experiences. It is ironic but true that helpfulness arising from kindness adds meaning to life.

However, one of the most discouraging experiences in life is discovered when a person attempts to exploit our kindness. Consider this depressing sequence of events. In compassion, you help someone. At first, the person truly appreciates your kindness. Soon after you help the person, the person decides to exploit your kindness. He or she tries to make you responsible for his or her situation, or put you on a guilt trip, or manipulate you into doing what he or she wants you to do. That is one of life’s discouraging, frustrating, depressing experiences.

  1. In the gospel of John chapter 6 a huge crowd of people who have no direction for their lives pursued Jesus until they found him in an unpopulated area.
    1. They had watched him heal the sick, and they were impressed.
      1. First, they probably were touched by the fact that he cared.
      2. Second, they probably were awed by his power.
        1. There was no natural explanation for what he did.
        2. His power went far beyond human ability.
    2. When these people found Jesus, the gospel of Mark says that Jesus was moved with compassion because they had no leadership or direction (Mark 6:34).
      1. So Jesus fed all these people with one boy’s lunch.
      2. Just counting the men, there were 5,000 people.
      3. He took five barley loaves, which probably were about the size of large dinner rolls, and two fish and fed all them all they wanted to eat–and they had twelve baskets of leftovers.
      4. Suddenly, the lights went on in the minds of this huge crowd.
        1. “We were impressed with his power to heal the sick.”
        2. “But you don’t have to be sick to benefit from his power–he can feed all of us from virtually nothing.”
        3. “This truly is the Prophet who has come to earth.”
          1. One of the popular spiritual expectations was that God would send an unnamed Prophet to the nation of Israel to lead them into a new age.
          2. They concluded that Jesus was the prophet.
          3. They were actually considering taking Jesus by force and making him be their king.
    3. Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he climbed the mountain to be alone.
      1. About sunset, Jesus’ twelve disciples entered a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum.
      2. Jesus obviously was not with them.
      3. So the crowd spent the night in the same area that Jesus fed them.
      4. During the night, about three hours before sunrise, Jesus walked out across the sea and joined the disciples in the boat.
    4. The next morning the crowd waited for Jesus to come down from the mountain.
      1. When he did not come, they went to Capernaum to look for him.
      2. They found him in the synagogue and asked, “How did you get over here?”
      3. Instead of answering them, Jesus made a frank, pointed statement.
        1. “You are not looking for me because you are impressed with my miracles.”
        2. “You are looking for me because I fed you.”
        3. Jesus knew their only concern was their physical benefit.
      4. Jesus gave them some advice:
        1. “Don’t focus your life and your efforts on food that spoils.”
        2. “Focus your life and your efforts on the food that will enable you to live forever.”
        3. “I can give you that food, and God Himself has confirmed that I can give it to you.”
      5. They asked Jesus to tell them how they could work God’s works (at this point they understood what he was talking about.)
      6. Jesus said that the work of God was to believe on the person that God sent (they knew Jesus was talking about himself).
        1. Now the situation takes a subtle turn.
        2. They responded, “Show us a sign so that we can believe you. What work do you perform?”
        3. “Moses gave our ancestors manna to eat while they were in the wilderness.”
        4. Then they quoted Psalms 78:24, “He gave them bread out of heaven to eat” (do you hear the attempt to manipulate?).
        5. The implication is clear: God sent Moses to be our great leader and he fed our ancestors with manna; if God sent you to be our great leader, feed us.
      7. These people were neither dense nor stupid.
        1. They watched Jesus heal the sick.
        2. Jesus fed them–they knew he could do it.
        3. They were trying to work Jesus, to manipulate him.
        4. Jesus obviously had God’s power, and they were determined to get him to use that power to feed them indefinitely.
      8. Jesus replied:
        1. “Moses did not give your ancestors bread from heaven; God gave them that bread.”
        2. “It is God who is offering you the true bread from heaven right now.”
        3. This bread that God is offering right now has the power to give life to this world.
      9. In our words, they responded by saying, “Now you are talking! Now you are telling us what we want to hear! That is the bread we want–give it to us.”
      10. Remember that this conversation has been about eating; Jesus said:
        1. “I am the bread from heaven that gives eternal life.”
        2. “Come to me, and you will not hunger.”
        3. “Believe in me, and you will not thirst.”
        4. “But your problems is this: you have seen me, but you don’t believe.”
  2. In the synagogue listening to this conversation are the local Jewish leaders (the writer distinguishes them from the multitude by calling them “the Jews”).
    1. When they heard Jesus call himself the bread from heaven, the new manna, they were genuinely offended.
      1. “We know who your father and mother are.”
      2. “We know where you grew up.”
      3. “What is this ridiculous nonsense about you coming from heaven?”
    2. This was Jesus’ answer:
      1. “No one will be attracted to me unless God pulls him toward me.”
      2. “The person who has allowed God to teach him will come to me.”
      3. “The person who believes in me will receive unending life.”
      4. “Your ancestors ate the manna God gave them, but it did not give them unending life–they all died.”
      5. “I am the living bread, and the person who eats me shall live forever.”
      6. “I will give my own flesh to the world” (in the context, he means for food).
    3. With these statements, confusion really begins to rule the situation.
      1. The grumbling had already begun, but now it is louder.
      2. “How can this man give us his flesh for our food?”
      3. Jesus intensified the grumbling: “If you do not eat my flesh and drink my blood you will not receive life. The person who does eat me (use me for food) will live in me as I live in him.”
    4. Now the grumbling turns into disgust.
      1. “This is ridiculous! Who can make any sense out of what he is saying?”
      2. Their thinking was locked on the physical; Jesus was trying to teach them spiritual concepts.
      3. Many of the people who had been following Jesus were so disgusted by what he said that they left him and never followed him again.
  3. What happened? At least two things happened.
    1. First, Jesus challenged their concept of what it meant to follow God and to do God’s work.
      1. Israel’s concept of following God and doing God’s work was:
        1. Law centered.
          1. You followed God by keeping the law.
          2. You did God’s work by doing what the law said.
        2. Following God and doing His work was “this world” focused.
          1. It focused on being God’s nation.
          2. It focused on having a good ruler for the nation.
          3. It focused on having peace in the nation.
          4. It focused on being independent as a nation.
          5. It focused on individual well being or prosperity.
      2. Remember neither the Old Testament nor Old Testament Judaism said anything about an eternal home with God, or eternal accountability, or the concepts of heaven and hell.
      3. In the Old Testament, the consequences of evil were primarily physical and material.
    2. Second, Jesus was revealing a new concept of following God and doing God’s work.
      1. Following God and doing His work was Savior centered, not law centered.
        1. He was the bread of life, the source of eternal life.
        2. He was, not Moses, not the law.
      2. Following God and doing God’s work had an “other world” focus.
        1. Just as there is physical life, there is eternal life.
        2. The physical exists in this world; the eternal exists in the next world.
        3. In that world there is an eternal home with God, and there is eternal rejection by God.
    3. Jesus rejected their obsession with the physical.
      1. Most of these people were poor people who lived in a difficult time.
      2. To them, the two most important considerations in life were health and food.
      3. As far as they were concerned, if physical survival is guaranteed, you have it all.
  4. Think carefully with me.
    1. They saw his power to heal sickness and feed the hungry.
      1. Immediately, they said, “God sent this man. He can feed us indefinitely.”
      2. They did not say, “God sent this man. He can teach us how to live and what to live for.”
      3. They said, “Let’s make him be our king, or, let’s manipulate him so that he will feed us every day.”
      4. When Jesus tried to give them the bread of life, they left in disgust.
    2. Most of us understand that God spent thousands of years preparing to bring Jesus into this world.
      1. God allowed Jesus to be sacrificed in a horrible death, and God raised him from the dead to prove that He has the power to raise us from the dead.
      2. God has told us that through Jesus He can completely destroy our sin, make us holy, purify us, and teach us how to live in an evil world.
      3. He promises us He will be our Father who always hears us and always helps.
      4. Knowing that, what are you hungry for? How would you use God’s power in your life?
      5. Is all you want from God:
        1. A better life style in a better home?
        2. Healing for a family member when he or she is sick?
        3. Ending any injustice you suffer on the job?
      6. Can you measure what you want from God in dollars, possessions, or material opportunities?
      7. Or do you want the eternal God to show you how to live? how to deal with evil in your life? how to live for values and priorities that last eternally? how to survive your war with evil?

To see God’s power in Jesus and dream of groceries, houses, possessions, and health is more foolish than looking at the power of a space shuttle and dreaming about using it for a wheel barrow.

Do you want Jesus to use his power to give you your material ambitions, or do you want Jesus to use his power to forgive you and teach you about finding the life that will never end? Are you hungry for things, or are you hungry for life?

David Chadwell is going to die. I don’t know when.
You are going to die, even with our marvelous technology.

If all I want from God is what He can do for me here and now, when I die I leave it all behind. If I learn to let Jesus be the Bread of Life, I take that with me.

I can use religion to temporarily benefit myself, or let my Savior give me life everlasting.

Place your confidence in what God did in His Son.

From My Heart to Your Heart

Posted by on June 22, 1997 under Sermons

Some people brought Jesus a man who was afflicted (Matthew 12:22-29). He was blind and deaf–could not see and could not hear. That would be a horrible life to experience. But the man was afflicted because he was demon possessed. It was widely known that Jesus could cast out demons. Jesus had healed many people who were sick or afflicted because they were possessed by demons.

The people brought the man to Jesus in hope, and Jesus did not disappoint them. He healed the man; the man spoke and saw.

The huge mass of people who were observing and listening to Jesus were astounded. The man was led to Jesus unable to see or speak. Jesus healed him, and he immediately spoke and saw. They began to ask the question that the Pharisees absolutely did not want asked. “Can Jesus be the descendant of David that God promised us?” That question meant, “Can this be the Messiah that God has promised us? Can Jesus be the Christ that we were told was coming?”

The Pharisees were determined to stop that kind of thinking immediately. The last thing they wanted were the multitudes deciding that Jesus was the Christ. So, as soon as they heard people asking that question, they were ready–they had a quick, mean answer. “Sure, he cast out demons. And we know how he does it. He gets his power from the ruler of the demons. The fact that he can cast out demons is not a sign from God. It is the proof that he gets his power from Satan.”

  1. Jesus responded to their suggestion with a series of observations.
    1. Observation one: any nation engaged in civil war will destroy itself; any city engaged in civil war will collapse.
      1. The statement more familiar to Bible students is this: a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.
      2. If the true explanation for Jesus’ ability to cast out demons was that he used Satan’s power to stop Satan’s work, then Satan would defeat and destroy himself.
      3. If Satan was fighting against himself, then Satan was rapidly approaching his self-defeat.
    2. Observation two: “If I cast out demons by using Satan’s power, what power do your sons use to cast out demons?”
      1. Jesus was not the only one who confronted demons.
      2. Many attempted to cast out demons.
      3. Some of their own sons also were involved in attempts to cast out demons.
      4. It is possible that they were successful on some occasions –at least they claimed success on some occasions.
      5. Jesus asked, “When they are successful, what power do they use?”
      6. Of course, they declared that God’s power enabled them to cast out demons.
      7. Jesus’ question is evident: “If you are convinced that your sons can use God’s power to cast out demons, why do you assume that I use Satan’s to cast out demons?”
    3. Observation three: “If I am using God’s power to cast out demons, what does that mean?”
      1. No one cast out demons as did Jesus.
      2. No one was as successful at casting out demons as was Jesus.
      3. So Jesus asked, “If I use God’s Spirit to cast out the demons, then that is undeniable evidence that God’s promised kingdom is here right now. God is at work right now bringing into existence what He promised would come.”
    4. Observation four: you cannot rob a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless you first tie the strong man up.
      1. That was literally true.
      2. If you were going to steal the possessions of a man who was able to defend his house, you first had to tie the man up.
      3. If Jesus was, as it were, throwing Satan’s demons out of Satan’s house, he had to be stronger than Satan–he had to have the power to tie Satan up.
      4. If he used God’s power, not Satan’s power, when he ordered demons to leave the body of a person, the power he used was more powerful than Satan’s power.
    5. Jesus’ made a specific point that I want you to note carefully: as powerful as Satan is, as powerful as evil is, and as easy as it is for Satan to function in this world, not even Satan can fight himself without destroying himself.
      1. If Satan fights against Satan, he loses.
      2. If Satan fights against Satan, he destroys himself.
      3. If that is true for Satan, is it not true for Christ?
      4. If Christ fights against Christ will not Christ destroy himself?
        1. You say, “That is ridiculous–Christ would never fight against himself!”
        2. True–Christ will not fight against himself; but if Christ followers fight against each other, will that not produce the same destruction?
        3. Can Christians fight against Christians without destroying themselves?
  2. This congregation has two incredible opportunities immediately before it, and these two opportunities have nothing to do with land or church buildings.
    1. First, as a congregation, we have an enormous opportunity to heal.
      1. I have not inquired into the details of the history of this congregation.
      2. I have not asked what happened in the past, and I do not want to know about the past.
      3. But it has been obvious that some distressful things occurred in the process of this congregation relocating in this building.
        1. In the process of relocation, some members were wounded.
        2. Some suffered deep, painful hurts.
        3. Some felt betrayed.
      4. Some of those wounds have never fully healed; some of those wounds can be easily reopened.
      5. The wounds, the pain, and the memories sometimes affect the cohesiveness of this congregation.
      6. There is a lot of love in this congregation; there are many generous, caring hearts in this congregation; and there is incredible talent and opportunity in this congregation.
      7. But there are also some painful memories in this congregation.
      8. Right now we have a golden opportunity to heal.
      9. Whatever decision we make as a congregation about land and buildings, if we make it together, if we make it with good hearts and godly attitudes, if we make it with respect for each other even when we disagree, we will produce healing and cohesiveness.
      10. With good attitudes and right hearts, we can heal the wounds, we can let bad memories fade out of existence, and we can live and work in the present as never before.
    2. Second, we have an incredible opportunity to send a powerful, positive message to this community and area.
      1. Church fights in all religious groups are common.
        1. Congregations of all religious groups disagree much of the time over many, many things.
        2. Members get mad at members all the time.
        3. Fights break out in churches all the time.
      2. Typically, in most communities in most states, the Church of Christ has serious image problems.
        1. Churches of Christ have a reputation for fighting.
        2. As a religious body, Churches of Christ have the reputation of being hostile and disagreeable.
        3. And Churches of Christ have the reputation for fighting among ourselves.
        4. As individuals, we have the reputation of being really nice folks–we make good friends, and we make good neighbors.
        5. But collectively, as congregations, we can be hard to get along with.
      3. If we, as a congregation, can make a sensitive, difficult decision about land and buildings without fighting, with love for the Lord, with love for each other, with respect and kindness as thoughtful people, we will send a powerful, positive message to this entire community.
  3. As we approach this decision, there are some considerations that I want you to think and pray about.
    1. The first thing I want you to think about is this: any decision about land and buildings is not a doctrinal decision.
      1. There is no theology involved in the specific decision about land and buildings.
      2. There is no specific evil or righteousness involved in a decision about land and buildings.
      3. If we must make a decision, it is not a decision about a right and wrong.
      4. The decision is about good and better.
      5. The decision involves wisdom and stewardship.
      6. That decision truly should be concerned basically with one question: what will allow us to accomplish God’s work and purposes in the best way possible?
        1. Are God’s purposes best accomplished at this location?
        2. Are God’s purposes better accomplished at another location?
      7. The decision really should not be about personally preferences; it should be about what is best for the entire congregation.
    2. Second, this decision is a matter of judgment for every one of us.
      1. We will have different priorities.
      2. We will see and be sensitive to different needs.
      3. We will see and be sensitive to different opportunities.
      4. We all will have reasons for our perspectives, and our reasons will not be the same reasons.
      5. It is not a matter of establishing absolute truth–there is no absolute truth when it comes to land and buildings.
      6. This is not a salvation matter–it is not a heaven and hell issue.
      7. It is a matter that involves brotherly love and respect.
    3. Third, I want you to remember that church buildings are tools.
      1. They are tools to be used to accomplish God’s work and God’s purposes.
      2. Church buildings are not holy places, and church buildings should not be monuments.
      3. They do not represent our greatest gift to God or our most important gift to God.
      4. The most important gift any one of us gives to God is our hearts, our minds, and our lives.
  4. I want to make an important, special request of each member: please, please do not abuse our elders.
    1. Almost every week someone in this congregation asks me, “Do you really like Fort Smith?”
      1. When I am asked that question, I am really being asked two questions.
      2. Question one: “Are you happy to be here?”
      3. Question two: “Are you glad that you decided to move here?”
      4. May I answer both genuinely.
        1. I am very happy to be here–I am thrilled to be a part of this congregation, and I truly enjoy working with you.
        2. I am very glad that I moved here–I believe that God guided me to the group of people I needed.
        3. In every way, you as a congregation and as individuals have been and are a wonderful blessing to Joyce and me.
    2. But I want you to understand that the number one tangible reason that I decided to accept the invitation to work with this congregation was our elders.
      1. I met them, visited with them, and talked with them a lot before I met you as a congregation.
      2. Mat and Jo Griffin and Paul and Jonette Shirley drove all the way to Oxford, Mississippi, unannounced, to hear me preach, and to ask me to consider coming to Fort Smith.
      3. On our first visit, Joyce and I spent about eight hours talking with the elders and their wives before we considered the invitation to move here.
    3. The first impressive thing that I saw at West-Ark were your elders.
      1. They are open.
      2. They are genuine.
      3. They are determined not to be dictators.
      4. They are determined not to function as a board of directors.
      5. If our elders had not created such a positive impression of the leadership , I doubt that we would have moved here.
        1. I can trust these men.
        2. I can work with these men.
        3. And I know that these men are genuinely concerned about you, your best interests, and about doing God’s work.
      6. I know that you will not always agree with them, but, please, when you don’t agree with them, respect them.
      7. Even when you disagree with them encourage them.
  5. I have a pledge to make to you.
    1. If there is a decision to be made, it will be your decision.
      1. It is yours, not mine.
      2. I work with you and for you.
      3. I have no idea how long you will want me to work with you and for you–I hope a long time.
      4. This must be the your decision as a congregation, not the preachers’ decision or the elders’ decision.
    2. This is my pledge: whatever you decide as a congregation, I will work to the best of my ability for the Lord as we together seek to accomplish Christ’s purposes.
    3. The question I ask you is this: what is your pledge to the congregation?

Think about this very carefully: If we cannot make a decision about land and buildings with respect for each other, love for Christ, and love for each other, why should anyone look to us to give them guidance in matters of their eternal salvation?

We have an enormous opportunity to heal. We have an enormous opportunity to send a positive message to this community that will improve our image. May God give us the wisdom and love to do that.

In II Peter 3:10-12, Peter says, “It’s all going to burn.” Then things will come into being that will be eternal. Only the investments we make in our souls is permanent.
Jesus’ blood can eternally cleanse us from sin. We can be a part of the eternal Kingdom, not built with bricks and mortar.

From the Head and the Heart, Think and Pray

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

As a younger adult, I made “forever” decisions. I thought that if I could ever buy a new car, I would have a good car “forever.” (When you are thirty years old, you have only been an adult for nine years. You have not experienced adult life long enough to understand the realities of twenty years of adult living.) At that age, refrigerators do not wear out–they last “forever.” The roof on the house does not wear out–it’s guaranteed for twenty-five years, and that is close to “forever.” I thought I would not outgrow my suits and my neckties would always be in style!

I now have lived long enough to know that nothing lasts forever. No situation is ideal forever, and no circumstance is promising forever. We do not truly experience that reality until we live long enough as an adult for a car, a roof, and a refrigerator to wear out; for styles to change; and for situations and circumstances to make significant transitions.

As young adults, the reality of transition is exciting–it means opportunity! As older adults, the reality of transition is frustrating–it means change! Young adults are invigorated by the prospects of opportunity. Older adults are wearied at the thought of more transition in our constantly changing lives.

The Westark Community College wants to discuss the possibility of buying this congregation’s present property. Until those discussions occur, we will not know if there is a decision to be made. If any decision is needed, it will be made by the congregation.

Joyce and I came here with the awareness that this decision was not certain, but was a possibility. My prayer regarding this has been simple: “Lord, help us make the wisest decision for Your work and worship for both now and the future.”

Daily pray with me that the Lord work in all our minds, hearts, and spirits before, during, and after any decision. If you are aware of members who might be troubled by any decision (whatever that decision might be), please pray for them. Do not pray, “Lord, help that person decide X.” With sensitivity and respect, pray for their hearts and minds. May we all pray for each other’s attitudes and spirit. We need love for the Lord and each other, not campaign efforts.

Jesus: Proactive or Reactive?

Posted by on June 15, 1997 under Sermons

I want to be a Christian. What does that mean? It depends on who makes that statement. If the person making the statement has not entered Christ, has not made the commitment to follow Christ, the statement means that he or she has decided to enter Christ and commit his or her life to Christ. His or her faith in the crucified, resurrected Jesus has reached the point that he or she is ready to be born into God’s family by baptism.

To the person who, because of faith in the crucified, resurrected Jesus, has been baptized into Christ, that statement means something else. When he or she says, “I want to be a Christian,” that statement means, “I want to be what God through Jesus made me. By God’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace, He made me His son or daughter when I was baptized into Christ. By His power, through Jesus’ blood, He saved me. I agreed to be immersed, but He placed me in Christ. I want Christ to teach me how to live, how to think, and how to act. Only by Jesus teaching me can I learn how to live and conduct myself as God’s child.”

  1. While the word “Christian” is a very biblical name for the person who is alive in Jesus Christ, it is not the earliest name or the only name for people who have entered Christ.
    1. The earliest name the people who through faith were baptized into Christ sounds like a strange name to us today: collectively these people were called “the Way.”
      1. People we would call Christians were known as the Way in Jerusalem before non-Jews were ever converted to Christ.
        1. Before Saul was converted to Christ and became the apostle Paul, he was the leader of the Jerusalem persecution that tried to destroy the men and women who belonged to Jesus.
        2. He was not content to persecute Christians in Jerusalem–he asked for authority from the High Priest to travel to Damascus, Syria, for the purpose of arresting any Jew who met at the Jewish synagogue but belonged to “the Way.” (Acts 9:2)
      2. Several times the book of Acts refers to people that we would call Christians as “the Way.”
        1. In Acts 18 Apollos was preaching and teaching about Jesus fervently and powerfully.
          1. Verse 25 states that what he taught about Jesus was accurate–he had been instructed in “the way of the Lord.”
          2. However, he had not learned about baptism into Jesus Christ.
          3. So verse 26 says Aquila and Priscilla explained to him “the way of God” more accurately.
        2. In Acts 19:9 Paul was in Corinth teaching about the kingdom of God.
          1. He had opponents who strongly opposed everything he said.
          2. It says that they addressed the same multitude that Paul was teaching, and they spoke evil of “the Way.”
        3. In Acts 19:23 we are told that a riot broke out in the city of Ephesus–the idol worshiping people in that city were upset because of “the Way.”
        4. In Acts 22:4 when Paul was arrested in Jerusalem but allowed to speak to the Jewish multitude in the temple courtyard, he declared, “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons.”
        5. In Acts 24:14 when Paul was defending himself in the governor Felix’s court, he acknowledged, “. . . according to the Way which they call a sect I serve the God of our fathers.”
        6. Acts 24:22 states that the governor Felix had an exact knowledge about (or was well acquainted with) “the Way.”
      3. “The Way” was truly an appropriate designation for people who belonged to and followed Jesus Christ.
        1. The last night of Jesus’ life in this world he told the apostles, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through me (John 14:6).”
          1. He was answering his disciple Thomas who had just said, “We do not know where you are going, and we do not know the way.
        2. Jesus had also stressed earlier in his ministry in John 10 that he was both the good shepherd and the door into the sheep cote: “I am the door; if anyone enters through me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
          1. The shepherd leads his sheep and shows them the way.
          2. The door is the way into the security of the sheep cote.
      4. The first time that people who were known as the Way were called Christians was long after the first people were baptized into Christ in Acts 2.
        1. That first happened in the city of Antioch in Syria–it was at Antioch that followers of Christ were first called Christians (Acts 11:26).
        2. People who were called the Way called themselves disciples.
    2. The designation, disciples, was the earliest name for people who followed Jesus.
      1. In the gospels it was the common way to describe people who committed themselves to follow Jesus during his lifetime.
      2. And it continued to be the common name for people who believed in Jesus’ resurrection and committed their lives to Jesus.
        1. When Acts 6:1 speaks of the church in Jerusalem growing in number, it says that the disciples were increasing in number.
        2. Acts 9:19 states that after Paul’s conversion and baptism, that he was with the disciples in Damascus.
        3. When Paul later traveled to Jerusalem, Acts 9:26 says that he associated with the disciples, but that they were afraid of him.
        4. Acts 9:38 tells us that the disciples in Joppa sent for Peter when they heard that he was in Lydda–they wanted him to come quickly and raise Dorcas from the dead.
        5. Acts 13:52 tells us that the disciples in Iconium were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.
        6. Acts 14:21 tells us that Paul preached in Derbe and made many disciples.
        7. Acts 14:22 states that Paul visited the area of Lystra to strengthen the souls of the disciples.
        8. And Acts 14:28 states that he spent a long time with the disciples in Antioch.
    3. There is a significance in all of this that we need to see and understand.
      1. The earliest common name for what we refer to as the church was “the Way.”
      2. The earliest common name for believers who had repented and been baptized into Christ was disciples.
      3. The significant fact we need to understand is that both designations focused on Jesus.
        1. Jesus was the way.
        2. A disciple was the follower of a teacher–Jesus was the teacher, and they followed their teacher.
        3. The later word, Christian, means Christ-like.
          1. It, too, focused on Jesus.
          2. The concept of Christian focused on the Savior.
  2. When I say that I want to be a Christian, I mean that I want Jesus to teach me how to do God’s will and to teach me how to teach God’s will.
    1. He is my Savior, my Redeemer, my Advocate who pleads for me before God, my High Priest who represents me before God, my sin offering, and my sacrifice.
    2. He lived in an evil society and an evil world in a time of great wickedness.
      1. Some powerful, devout religionists who were totally convinced that they followed God had completely missed the point of following God.
      2. These men were his bitter enemies, his active enemies, and his vocal enemies.
      3. They were determined to destroy him in any way they could–accusation, misrepresentation, or disguised traps.
      4. They were so unscrupulous that they finally decided that they could actually achieve God’s purposes by having him killed.
    3. Jesus could have spent all of his teaching ministry fighting these wicked enemies.
      1. He could have spent his entire time revealing and documenting their wickedness and error–but did he?
      2. Was he reactive or proactive?
      3. Did he react to the situation they created or did he take the initiative to accomplish his purposes?
      4. Did he allow what these people were religiously doing and saying to determine his focus, his actions, and his teachings, or did his purposes determine his focus, his actions, and his teachings?
  3. Let’s use a specific example: turn to Matthew 12:1-8.
    1. The incident:
      1. It was the Jewish Sabbath day, or Saturday.
        1. Saturday had been the holy day of rest throughout the centuries that Israel had been a nation.
        2. Sabbath observances were commanded when Israel left Egypt.
      2. Jesus and his disciples were walking on a path through some ripe grain fields on Saturday.
      3. The disciples were hungry (you were not allowed to cook food on the Sabbath), so, as they walked along, they stripped raw grain from the heads of wheat or barley and ate it.
      4. The Pharisees, who were following to watch, immediately declared that the disciples were violating the Sabbath commandment.
    2. Look carefully at the mission of these Pharisees, devoutly religious men.
      1. They were following Jesus and his disciples in a determined effort to catch them in a mistake.
      2. They were looking for something wrong; they were looking for reason to accuse.
      3. Jesus could have responded by exposing them and condemning their hearts, attitudes, motives, hypocrisy, pride, spirit, and judgmental nature.
      4. But he did not attack them as they were attacking him.
    3. What was the basis of their accusation?
      1. They were saying that the disciples had performed an act of work which violated the Sabbath command, the fourth commandment in the ten commandments (Exodus 20:10).
      2. That commandment specifically states that an Israelite, his family, his servants, his guests, or his animals could not perform any act of work on the Sabbath.
      3. To make that commandment obeyable, the Pharisees defined work, and by their definition, the disciples were guilty of violating the commandment.
    4. The thing I want you to see is this: Jesus did not attack them.
      1. Instead, he tried to teach them by using the authority that they honored and respected–the scriptures.
      2. He pointed to three problems in their accusation.
      3. First, their definition of work did not take into consideration everything the Old Testament taught.
        1. It did not deal with the fact that David ate the bread of presence–the bread which represented each of the twelve tribes in the tabernacle (1 Samuel 21).
        2. It did not deal with the fact that only the high priest and his sons were allowed to eat that bread (Leviticus 24:5-9).
        3. It did not deal with the fact that the priests worked on the Sabbath day every time they offered a sacrifice on the Sabbath.
        4. Thus, their concept and definition of work considered only the parts of scripture that they wanted to emphasize.
      4. Second, they did not realize his significance.
        1. God’s purpose in him was greater than God’s purpose in the Jewish temple (that is a statement that exceeds our comprehension).
        2. He was lord of the Sabbath.
      5. Third, they had failed to understand God’s priorities.
        1. He quoted Hosea 6:6, “I want mercy (or compassion) not sacrifice.”
        2. They did not understand that obeying God’s commands was not enough; God wanted them to understand purposes and accomplish his purposes.
      6. In contrast to the Pharisees:
        1. Jesus did take all of scripture’s teaching into consideration.
        2. Jesus did understand God’s purposes in himself.
        3. Jesus did understand God’s priorities in this world.

That is why I want Jesus to teach me how to be a Christian. That is why I want Jesus to teach me how to teach others. I want him to teach me how to teach instead of just reacting to evil. I want him to teach me how to see and understand God’s full will and purposes in the Bible. I want him to help me understand what it means for him to be Lord of the Sabbath. I want to understand God’s purposes in Jesus, and God’s purposes for us.

The Confusing World of Fatherhood

Posted by on under Sermons

Happy fathers’ day!

Nationally, we celebrate five holidays that honor either family members or the family as a unit. Valentine’s day is a day for all people who are in love. But it is a day of special significance for wives and husbands. Mother’s day exists to honor mothers. Father’s day exists to honor fathers. And Thanksgiving and Christmas have become two of the most important family days of the entire year.

The sad thing is that these days that are intended to honor family or family members have become painful, sad days for a large number of Americans. Between alienating friction, divorce, and death, it is possible that more people suffer pain on these days than experience joy.

A successful father (by that I specifically mean a man who is successful as a father) is one of the most remarkable persons in our society. What is a successful father? Are we talking about the perfect parent? No. Successful fathers are imperfect parents who acknowledge and accept responsibility for their mistakes. Successful fathers are comfortable in accepting the fact that they are not super human, are not always right, and do make mistakes.

A successful father loves his children. He communicates his love with words, kindness, fairness, and touch. He builds and nurtures relationships with his children rather than assuming the role of an authoritarian. He dares to accept the challenge to communicate with his children in the knowledge that communication is a hard and often painful art to learn. He is kind even when his children exploit him. He is fair in all his discipline. He seeks influence, not control. He literally loves his children enough to want them to make their mistakes while they are at home. Then he can in love and forgiveness help them recover and learn from their mistakes. He knows that it is impossible to program a child to live his or her life in the ways that he as the parent chooses. But he also knows that he can live as a positive force in his children’s hearts even after he dies.

  1. Today, of all family relationships, it is possible that fathers face the most demanding family role in our society.
    1. While things have radically changed in all family relationships, no role has changed more radically than the roles of husband and father.
      1. For the husbands and fathers of the 1940s and 50s, family roles were clear cut.
        1. The role of children was to render strict obedience to their parents, and especially to their father.
        2. The role of the wife and mother was to care for all domestic needs, to work long and hard in the home, to stretch the dollar as far as it could go, to meet the individual needs of family members, and visibly to be the submissive one.
        3. The role of the husband and father was to maintain a job, to bring in a paycheck, to work as hard as necessary to financially support the family, and visibly to be the authoritarian.
      2. That was far from a perfect arrangement, but it was an easily understood arrangement.
        1. If there was deep, genuine love in the home, those roles produced a stable family unit that benefitted the family as a unit.
        2. If there was little or no love in the home, it created abuses that caused emotional and physical suffering for the family members.
      3. However, that arrangement dealt with the two basic realities of every day existence.
        1. Job opportunities were limited, money was hard to earn, and paying work often involved difficult manual labor.
        2. The family unit had to manage well if everyone was to eat and be clothed.
        3. You cooked; you did not eat out.
        4. You sewed; you bought clothing only when absolutely necessary.
        5. You learned how to make do with what you had–and that in itself was a full time job.
    2. The 1960s, 70s, and 80s were a period of enormous transition in the American family.
      1. It began dramatically but slowly in the 1960s.
      2. It made significant changes in the 1970s.
      3. And it was in major transition in the 1980s.
      4. The enormous transition in the family in these three decades is seen in:
        1. The sexual revolution that began among college and university students in the 60s.
        2. The growing emphasis on higher education and career opportunities for women in the 60s and 70s.
        3. The increasing acceptance of “live-in” relationships in the 70s and 80s.
        4. The growing divorce rate in those three decades.
        5. The revolutionary change in both roles and opportunities for women throughout those three decades.
  2. The typical American family of the 1990s bears little resemblance to the typical American family of the 1950s.
    1. The one person who has had the least amount of help in this redefinition of family roles and responsibility was the husband and father.
      1. Typically, for the wife and mother, it was a time of discovery.
        1. I certainly am not implying that it was an easy transition for wives and mothers.
        2. It was not simple for the woman who sought to be wife and mother in this period of redefinition, and it still is not simple.
        3. Typically, it was a period of great frustration for wives and mothers.
        4. But this redefinition did involve new opportunities and options, and women did receive a lot of input–both good and bad.
      2. Typically, for the husband and father, it was a time of attack and confusion.
        1. He was told, often correctly, how his role had oppressed the family.
        2. The inadequacies and shortcomings of the father role in the past were highlighted and stressed.
        3. He was attacked for being a man and ridiculed for being what he had always been taught to be.
        4. Though he repeatedly was told that his concepts of masculinity and family roles were hurtful, he received little constructive guidance or assistance in redefining or improving those roles (people often told him what he should not be; few helped him understand what he should be).
    2. My sons are much better fathers than I was.
      1. It was my father’s responsibility to make a living, which he cared for with dedication and single-mindedness.
        1. I never remember my father holding a baby (though I am sure that he did) or spending time with small children until he became a grandfather.
        2. So, basically, I never had opportunity to learn from him how a man did fatherly things with small children.
        3. That is not a criticism; it is just a statement of fact.
      2. When Joyce and I had children, I literally did not know how to help her with the babies.
        1. The first time I ever looked at a small baby was when Jon, our first child, came home from the hospital.
        2. I remember being amazed that a hand so small could have fingernails.
        3. I also was scared to death to touch him because I was afraid that he would break.
      3. My job was to work, and to work hard–and I knew how to do that.
    3. Consider the common concept of masculinity that those of us who are over 50 were taught.
      1. Masculinity was job oriented–a man defined success primarily in terms of his job.
      2. Masculinity was quiet–a man did not talk a lot.
      3. Masculinity did not:
        1. Ask for help.
        2. Show emotion (never cry!).
        3. Never acknowledged a weakness or a problem.
        4. “Tied to wife’s apron strings.”
          1. It would surprise me if the teenagers know what that expression means.
          2. It would surprise me if any person above 50 does not know what that expression means.
      4. If those things described you as man, you were masculine–a man’s man!
    4. The definition of masculinity in the 1990s is totally different.
      1. Today, masculinity includes:
        1. Good communication with your wife and children.
        2. Shared child care–in the healthiest and most successful homes today, fathers are very involved in helping meet all their children’s needs.
        3. Shared domestic responsibility–if the wife has a job or a career, that is an essential.
        4. Sharing feelings and being open.
      2. The 50s concept of masculinity, the transitional concepts of masculinity, and the 90s concept of masculinity are alive and well in different age segments of our society today.
        1. That is one of the significant contributors to the reality of our generation gaps.
        2. In fact, conflicting concepts of masculinity often separate the oldest generation of men from the youngest generation of men by a chasm the size of the Grand Canyon.
      3. Men’s struggle with the concept of masculinity is also a significant factor in our divorce rate.
        1. Presently 51% of all first marriages end in divorce.
        2. The majority of those divorces occur within the first five years of marriage.
        3. It is in that period that men must define their role as husband and father.
  3. The Bible is not a manual on family relationships.
    1. In fact, the Bible in its brutal honesty documents the fact that some of God’s greatest servants did not succeed in influencing their children to follow God.
      1. Consider two examples.
      2. The leader and prophet Samuel was given to God before he was conceived, and he was called by God when he was still a child (1 Samuel 1:11; 3:1-19).
        1. He provided the most significant godly leadership in Israel in the late period of the judges and much of the reign of King Saul.
        2. Yet, one of the basic reasons that the nation wanted a king to replace Samuel’s leadership was the fact that his sons were evil (1 Samuel 8:3, 5).
      3. King David marked a major advance in personal relationship with God.
        1. No other king had as much godly influence on the nation as did David.
        2. Even with his mistakes, the Bible more than once calls him the man after God’s own heart.
        3. Yet, one of his sons raped his half-sister, and was in turn killed by her brother (2 Samuel 13).
        4. One of his sons forced him to flee the capitol city of Jerusalem, and he who killed his half-brother for raping his sister raped some of his father’s wives in public (1 Samuel 15; 16:21, 22).
    2. While the Bible is not a manual on family relationships, the New Testament does declare four basic principals that stand at the foundation of healthy families.
      1. #1: Treat other people like you want to be treated (Matthew 7:12).
        1. Or, treat your wife and children with the consideration, understanding, kindness, and fairness that you wish to receive from them.
      2. #2: Love your wife as you love your own body because loving your wife is loving yourself (Ephesians 5:25).
        1. Or, in your love for your wife, show her the same quality of consideration that you show yourself in your personal life.
      3. #3: Children, honor and obey your parents; this is the key to a fulfilled adult life (Ephesians 6:1-3).
        1. Or, respectful response to your parents’ guidance is the foundation for meaningful adult life.
      4. #4: Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the Lord’s discipline and instruction (Ephesians 6:4).
        1. Or, instead of angering your children by frustrating and irritating them, guide them to an understanding of Christ’s directives and teachings.

Fathers, may God guide you, strengthen you, and give you wisdom as you accept one of life’s most demanding challenges. Develop the willingness to learn to be a better father in the same manner you want your children to learn how to be better sons and daughters. Develop the willingness to better understand and sustain your wife in the same manner that you want your wife to understand and sustain you.

Two Masters At Work

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Strange times, these! We have a thousand questions about why God does what He does. We have no questions about what Satan does or why. We blame God for a multitude of things that God does not cause. We hold Satan blameless for a multitude of things he engineers.

We are angry at God for not stopping evil. We are never angry with Satan for causing evil. We question God’s motives and purposes. We never question Satan’s motives or purposes. God is good and does good, but we hold Him accountable for evil. Satan is evil and does evil, but we credit him with accomplishing good.

Satan is the master of deceit (John 8:44). His style is not that of a “bulldozer” that levels everything in his path. He programs people to serve as his bulldozers. He influences people to level anyone and anything who opposes his objectives.

Satan’s strength is in his incredible ability to deceive. Change a perspective. Altar a fact. Misinterpret a statement. Mock an attitude. Assign a motive. Mistranslate an intention. Attribute an evil reason. He uses deceit to redirect thoughts and emotions.

When he combines his deceit with our desires, he knows he will have all the power he needs. Look at Jesus’ temptations (Matthew 4:1-11). “Jesus, If you starve, will you accomplish God’s mission? Do you really trust God’s promise to take care of you? Since you came to be king of mankind, allow me to make you king of the earth.”

Just as Satan is the master of deceit, Jesus is the master of forgiveness. Satan cannot create an evil that Jesus cannot forgive. He cannot create a sinner that Jesus does not love. He cannot place anyone in such peril that Jesus cannot rescue.

Jesus wants to free you from deceit and rescue you from the slavery of perverted desires. Jesus loves and liberates, redeems and restores, and protects and preserves.

Two masters are at work. One is the master of deceit who brings destruction. One is the master of forgiveness who brings salvation. One deceives to destroy. One forgives to save. Which master do you permit to be at work in your life?

The Many Forms of Faith

Posted by on June 8, 1997 under Sermons

If I asked you to list some Christian concepts that are simple to study and easy to understand, what concepts would you list? Let me give you a list to choose from. Which of these concepts would you say were simple to study and easy to understand:

The word of God

Accepting the word of God






God’s Authority

Jesus’ Lordship

I wonder how many of us would say that all those concepts are simple to study and easy to understand? As you made your selections from that list, I wonder how many of you put faith on your list of concepts simple to study and easy to understand?

We have simple explanations for everything on that list, and we understand our simple explanations. However, if we did some in depth study, we would discover that all of them are harder to study than we anticipated and far more challenging to understand than we imagined.

Let me illustrate that fact with faith. I think the average Christian would say that faith is a simple subject to study, and I think the average Christian would say that faith is an easy subject to understand.

However, one important clue should indicate that faith is not a simple subject. Faith serves as the foundation of the relationship between a physical human being and the spiritual, eternal God. Can it be simple to understand the relationship between a human and God?

  1. Faith in God involves our vertical interaction with God and our horizontal relationships with people.
    1. If I have faith in God, I will express my faith in my upward reach toward Him.
      1. I will worship God.
      2. I will pray to God.
      3. I will educate my heart and mind in the revelations God has made of Himself and His will.
      4. I will love God.
      5. I will develop proper feelings and attitudes toward God:
        1. I will have reverence, respect for Him.
        2. I will be humble before Him.
        3. I will honor and praise Him.
        4. I will exalt Him in my heart and before other people.
        5. I will yield to His authority and guidance.
    2. However, if I have faith in God, I will express that faith in the ways that I treat other people.
      1. If I have faith in God:
        1. I worship God, but because I worship God, I fellowship other Christians.
        2. I pray to God, but because I pray to God, I forgive people.
        3. I educate my mind and heart in God’s will, but because I educate myself, I serve my fellow man as I accomplish God’s will.
        4. I will love God, but because I love God, I will also express that love in my treatment of both good and evil people.
        5. I develop proper attitudes and feelings toward God, and because I do that, I treat all people with kindness and respect.
      2. In my faith, I must not separate my vertical relationship with God from my horizontal relationship with people.
        1. If I have faith, I cannot have faith in God and ignore people.
        2. If I have faith, I cannot have great concern for people and ignore God.
        3. If faith in God exists within me, it will reach upward to God and outward to people.
    3. As faith expresses itself in my vertical relationship with God and my horizontal relationship with other people, a powerful, fascinating phenomenon occurs.
      1. If my faith is developing in the ways that God intends and wants:
        1. The more I place my trust in my vertical relationship with God, the more merciful, kind, forgiving, and compassionate I become in my horizontal relationships with people.
        2. The more compassion I show people, the more sacrificially I serve people, the closer I come to God because my bond of trust in God grows.
      2. In our lives, our faith will always be powerfully impacted by two things:
        1. The quality of the trust I place in God.
        2. The love, compassion, and mercy that I show for people.
      3. A Christian develops, strengthens, and matures faith in at least four ways:
        1. By studying the Bible to increase his knowledge and understanding of God’s will and teachings.
        2. By praying and through prayer increasing his communication and closeness to God.
        3. By placing his confidence in God as he faces and endures life’s difficult situations.
        4. By showing other people love, compassion, and mercy.
        5. All four of those things affect a Christian’s ability to trust, and faith is the willingness to trust God.
  2. Too many Christians think that the only way that faith expresses itself is through obedience.
    1. Faith definitely expresses itself through obedience; that is a simple concept to understand and accept.
      1. Noah had faith, so he built the ark. (Genesis 6)
      2. Abraham had faith, so he left his home to follow God’s instructions. (Genesis 12)
      3. David had faith, so he fought Goliath. (1 Samuel 17)
      4. Elijah had faith, so he challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest in offering sacrifices. (1 Kings 18:16-40)
      5. Jesus had faith, so he accepted execution on the cross. (Matthew 26:36 – 27:50)
      6. Peter had faith, so he went to teach Cornelius just as the Lord instructed. (Acts 10)
      7. Paul had faith, so he changed his plans and went into Macedonia to teach. (Acts 16:6-10)
    2. But we miss a critical understanding if we fail to understand that these people obeyed because in their faith they trusted.
      1. Their obedience was not the rote, habitual response that says, “God said do it so I will do it.”
      2. Noah trusted God when he was told that a flood was coming.
      3. Abraham trusted God when he was promised that God would produce nations from him and would give the land he visited to his descendants.
      4. David trusted God to give him victory when he fought Goliath.
      5. Elijah trusted God to accept his sacrifice by sending the fire to the altar.
      6. Jesus trusted God to resurrect him.
      7. Peter trusted God when God made it clear that he wanted Peter to teach non-Jews.
      8. Paul trusted God when he was informed in a vision that he should go to Macedonia.
    3. They obeyed because they trusted.
      1. Noah had never seen a flood.
      2. Abraham did not have a son.
      3. David had never fought a soldier.
      4. Elijah had never been in such a contest.
      5. Jesus had never been resurrected.
      6. Peter had never taught non-Jews.
      7. Paul had already decided that it was opportune to go somewhere else.
      8. Only because they trusted did they obey.
    4. Obedience is easily, clearly seen as expression of faith, but it is not the only expression of faith.
      1. It is the expression of faith that we have emphasized through the years.
        1. It is because of our emphasis that it is so familiar to us.
        2. But our emphasis and familiarity with obedience does not make it the only expression of faith.
      2. Faith exists and expresses itself in many forms.
        1. Faith is believing when there is nothing we can do:
          1. Like Abraham believing that God would give him and his wife a son.
          2. Like our believing that God will resurrect us to eternal life.
        2. Faith is trusting when you have done all that is in your power to do.
          1. Like David trusting God to protect him when he was fleeing from King Saul.
          2. Like our trusting God to sustain us when we must endure a horrible crisis.
        3. Faith is confidence when the solution does not lie within yourself.
          1. Like Abraham in his willingness to sacrifice Isaac on the altar.
          2. Like our confidence in God to sustain us in uncertain futures.
        4. Faith is assurance that God will keep all of His promises.
          1. Like Moses leading Israel in the wilderness with the assurance that God would give Israel the land of Canaan.
          2. Like us being assured that our sins have been forgiven and destroyed through the blood of Jesus.
        5. Faith is steadfastness in the refusal to forsake God.
          1. Like the Christians who were physically persecuted in the New Testament.
          2. Like our maintaining devotion to Christ when family and friends oppose and discourage that devotion.
        6. Faith is commitment.
          1. Like Paul’s commitment to teach people about Jesus.
          2. Like our commitment to use our abilities–whatever they are–to serve God’s purposes.
        7. And those are not all the forms of faith:
          1. Faith is reliance on God.
          2. Faith is fidelity to God, being true to God regardless of circumstances.
          3. Faith is dependence on God–in contrast to dependence on self.
  3. Faith also involves some paradoxes.
    1. A paradox involves two statements, two expressions in a concept, that are contradictory yet true.
      1. It would appear that if one is true the other would have to be false.
      2. Yet, even though it cannot be fully explained, both are true though they appear to contradict each other.
      3. A basic paradox concerning faith is this: faith is both intangible and observable.
        1. To be intangible means that you cannot look at it, you cannot feel it with your hands, you cannot measure it with a ruler or weigh it on a scale; it is not a concrete substance.
        2. However, though faith is intangible, you can observe its existence.
          1. You cannot look at or touch the faith.
          2. You can see that the faith is there because of the manner in which the faith expresses itself.
    2. Let’s be specific:
      1. Faith is conviction.
        1. You cannot look at or touch conviction.
        2. You can observe the works, the deeds, the actions that conviction produces.
        3. Those works, deeds, or actions would not occur if the conviction was not there.
      2. Faith is belief.
        1. You cannot look at or feel the belief.
        2. You can observe the fruits that are produced by belief.
        3. Those fruits would not exist if the belief were not there.
      3. Faith is hope.
        1. You cannot look at or touch the hope.
        2. But you can observe the attitudes and actions produced by the certainty that exists because the hope is there.
        3. If there was no hope, the certainty would not exist.
      4. The foundation of faith involves confidence in the unseen.
        1. You cannot see or touch the unseen that forms the foundation of faith.
        2. But you can observe the changes that occur in the person’s life when he places his confidence in the unseen.

Faith cannot and must not be restricted to the single expression of obedience. Faith always exists and is constantly expressing itself. It is not confined to the moment of the act of obedience. Obedience is an essential expression of faith. But it is not the only expression of faith. In fact, all other expressions of faith are just as powerful and just as important as obedience.

Our personal goal as a Christian man or woman must to be express faith in all of its forms.

We Are On a Journey With God

Posted by on under Sermons

One of the joys in my life has been my opportunities to travel. I enjoy visiting other peoples and places. I enjoy experiencing other cultures because I always learn so much about myself. My learning experiences that have come from travel have been a real asset in increasing my understanding of the Bible.

There are many types of travel: family visits, vacation trips, pleasure trips, business trips, research trips, mission trips. There are as many kinds of trips as there are reasons for taking trips. Most trips have two things in common: they have a purpose and they have a destination.

Some of the greatest spiritual accomplishments on earth involved taking a journey with God. Abraham served one of God’s great purposes on earth. To do that, he took a journey with God. Genesis says that journey lasted a hundred years–it began when he was 75 years old (Genesis 12:4) and continued until his death at the age of 175 (Genesis 25:7). Moses also served one of God’s great purposes on earth. To serve that purpose, Moses took a journey with God. His journey lasted for 40 years–it began when he returned to Egypt to become Israel’s leader when he was 80 years old, and it continued until he died at the age of 120 (Genesis 34:7). With both Abraham and Moses, from the time they received their calls, they spent the rest of their lives on a journey with God.

Every person who enters Christ begins a journey with God. That journey begins the moment the person is baptized into Christ, and it continues until the person dies. This journey has no earthly destination. The Christian reaches that journey’s destination after he or she dies.

This journey we make with God as Christians has little to do with where we live on this earth or where we physically travel. It has everything to do with who we are. It is a journey that involves the body, but it is primarily a journey of the mind and heart. No matter where the body is, no matter the age or condition of the body, the journey of the mind and heart always continues. Because it is a journey, our minds, our hearts, and our lives always are changing, always are growing, always are spiritually developing.

Let me illustrate this journey by using John who was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples.

  1. Consider John:
    1. John prior to Jesus’ call:
      1. John was a commercial fisherman who fished the Sea of Galilee and sold fish to the surrounding towns and villages (Matthew 4:18-20).
      2. Luke 5:7 indicates that James and John were in partnership with Peter and Andrew.
        1. Matthew states that James and John’s father, Zebedee, worked with them (Matthew 4:21).
        2. Mark states that James and John also had hired servants that worked for them (Mark 1:19, 20).
        3. This is evidence that their fishing business was quite successful–not many Jewish families in those days could afford hired servants.
    2. John at the time of Jesus’ call:
      1. Luke 5:1-11 gives us the most information about the occasion when Jesus called John to follow him.
        1. Jesus was teaching a large crowd of people on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
        2. He saw two commercial fishing boats beached on the shore.
          1. The fishermen were already out of the boats and in the process of cleaning their nets.
          2. They were taking care of their equipment.
        3. Jesus climbed into Peter’s boat and asked Peter to move it off shore a short distance.
          1. Peter did.
          2. That removed Jesus from the press of the crowd–he did not have security guards to provide crowd control.
          3. Jesus sat down in the boat and completed his lesson to the crowd.
        4. After Jesus finished his lesson, he asked Peter to move the boat out into deeper water and let his fishing net down to catch fish.
          1. Peter had three reasons to refuse Jesus’ request.
            1. He had just finished cleaning his nets.
            2. He had fished all night without netting a single fish.
            3. In clear water and daylight, fish go deep to find shade to protect their eyes–they have no eyelids.
          2. But out of respect, Peter said, “Tell me when and I will drop the net.”
        5. When Peter dropped the net, it was immediately filled with so many fish that the net began to break.
          1. He signaled for James and John to bring the other boat out and help him.
          2. There were so many fish that they filled both boats to the point of sinking.
        6. When they reached shore, Jesus invited the men to follow him.
          1. Jesus told them that from that moment they would begin a different kind of fishing–they would catch people, not fish.
          2. Immediately four fisherman walked away from everything to follow Jesus–four fishermen, including John, began following a carpenter.
      2. Of these four men, three of them occupied a special role in Jesus’ ministry, but of the three, Peter and John seem to be the most prominent disciples.
        1. Peter, James, and John witnessed:
          1. Jesus raising Jarius’ daughter from the dead (Mark 5:37).
          2. The transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:1).
          3. Jesus’ agony within the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:40).
        2. It was Peter and John who made the arrangements for the Passover meal which they would share with Jesus the last night of his life (Luke 22:8).
  2. I want us to take a close look at John’s personal nature during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry.
    1. We often take note of Peter’s aggressiveness and confidence, but we rarely talk about John’s fierce ambition and abrasiveness.
      1. James and John had their mother ask Jesus to give them the two key positions in his new government–in our terminology, they wanted the two most important cabinet posts (Mark 10:35-45 and Matthew 20:20-29).
      2. The other ten disciples, which included Peter, knew what they asked for and were very angry at them.
    2. Both James and John had abrasive tempers that were not opposed to violent solutions.
      1. Luke 9:51-56 records a trip that Jesus took with the twelve through Samaria.
        1. They asked to spend the night in an unnamed Samaritan village; the people refused their request.
        2. The rejection infuriated James and John.
        3. They asked Jesus, “Lord, shall we command that there be fire from heaven to burn this village and all its people to the ground?”
      2. Further evidence of their stormy dispositions is seen in the name that Jesus gave these two brothers.
        1. Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter, or petros, which means small rock (Matthew 16:18).
        2. He also renamed James and John–he named them “the sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17).
      3. Once John told Jesus that he had seen a person casting out demons in Jesus’ name.
        1. Mark records, “We tried to hinder him because he was not following us” (Mark 9:38). Notice he said, “Not following us,” rather than “Not following you.”
        2. Luke records the same thing but uses this phrase: “He does not follow along with us.”
        3. Can you hear John? “Stop that! You have no right to do that [though he obviously had the power to do it]! You are not a part of us. You are not in the official, select group that Jesus himself called. Only we have the right to do what you are doing.”
      4. During the time of Jesus’ life on earth, John never understood what Jesus was doing or why he was doing it.
        1. When John and James suggested that fire be brought from heaven to consume the Samaritan village, Jesus rebuked them: “I don’t know what kind of spirit produced you; I did not come to destroy men’s lives but the save them” (Luke 9:55, 56).
        2. When he tried to hinder the man who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name, Jesus instructed them: “Do not hinder him. No one can perform a miracle in my name and afterward speak evil of me. He who is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:39, 40).
  3. After Christianity began, in the early days when Christians as the church came into existence, John was one of the two leading Christian figures in the early chapters of the book of Acts.
    1. In Acts 3, he and Peter were together when the lame man was healed.
    2. In Acts 4, he and Peter were arrested and appeared before the high court.
    3. In Acts 8, he and Peter traveled to Samaria to bring the power of the Holy Spirit to the new converts there.
  4. When you read the epistle of 1 John, it is easy to see the changes that were produced in John’s heart and mind as he continued his journey with God.
    1. The son of thunder who wanted to call fire down upon a Samaritan village and destroy them later through his journey with God became the apostle of love.
    2. Look at the incredible emphasis on love that John placed in this epistle.
      1. 2:5–Whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has been perfected.
      2. 2:9–If you claim to be in the light and hate your brother you are in the darkness.
      3. 2:10–If you love your brother you live in the light and no one trips over you.
      4. 3:11–The earliest Christian message you heard was this: we should love one another.
      5. 3:14–We know that we have crossed over from death to life because we love the brethren.
      6. 3:16–We should lay our lives down for the brethren.
      7. 3:18–Love in deed and truth, not with word and tongue.
      8. 3:23–We love each other just like He commanded.
      9. 4:7–Let us love each other, for love is from God.
      10. 4:8–If you don’t love, you don’t know God.
      11. 4:11–If God loved us enough to give us Jesus, we ought to love each other.
      12. 4:12–If we love each other God lives in us, and His love is perfected in us.
      13. 4:16–God is love; the person who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him or her.
      14. 4:19–We love because He first loved us.
      15. 4:20–To declare, “I love God,” and to hate your brother is to lie.
      16. 4:21–Command: The person who loves God should love his brother, too.
    3. Can you see and hear the difference in John?
      1. When you take the journey with God, it changes the kind of person you are.
      2. The journey changes the way you think; it changes the way you feel; it changes the way you look at everything.

We become Christians to begin that journey. We continue to be Christians because we refuse to abandon God or the journey. We understand that this journey with God has no earthly destination. We are not traveling with God only until we find a place to homestead on earth. The destination is God’s house. When we become Christians, only God’s house is home.

I appreciate the words of Paul in Philippians 3:13, 14:  Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

We can always quit the journey. We can always homestead on earth. But the person who walks with God continues the journey and continues to be changed because of the journey.

Are you still walking with God?

God, What Do You Expect From Me?

Posted by on June 1, 1997 under Sermons

Three teenagers who had good fathers were discussing what their fathers expected of them. Without their realizing it, their conversation made the subtle shift from what their fathers expected of them to what it took to keep their fathers happy.

The first teen said that it really wasn’t too hard to keep his old man happy. If he cut the grass without being asked, if he kept the car clean without being told to, and if he didn’t run with the wrong crowd, his Dad was happy.

The second teen said that it was harder to keep his old man happy. He had to make at least Bs in all his classes, he had to put half of all the money he made in savings for college, and he had to be very careful never to get home later than curfew. If he did that, his Dad was happy.

The third teen said that his Dad wasn’t like their Dads. His Dad expected him to be honest in everything he did no matter where he was or what he was doing. He expected him to act responsibly in anything he did. And his Dad constantly stressed the importance of developing good attitudes. His Dad was happy when he could see him developing himself.

But the fact of the matter was this: all three fathers basically expected the same things of their sons. It was not the wills of the fathers that were different. It was the perceptions of the sons that were different.

If you asked three Christians what God expected of them, you might think that they had three different spiritual Fathers. One might say that if he came to worship on Sunday morning, if he always put something in the contribution, and he didn’t cause any problems in the church, God was happy.

The second might say, that if he came on Sunday for Bible class, worship, and evening assembly and came Wednesday night, read his Bible regularly, and prayed at least three times a week, God was happy.

The third might say when he was concerned about helping people know Jesus, helping the congregation grow spiritually, and about maturing as a godly person, God was happy.

Are we looking at three different wills of God, or are we looking at three different perceptions of the will of God?

  1. Every Christian is in agreement that all Christians should do the will of God.
    1. I would be amazed if one Christian here this morning would even hint that it was not necessary to do God’s will.
      1. When Jesus taught his disciples the model prayer in Matthew 6:10 he told them to pray, Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
      2. In the same sermon, in Matthew 7:21, Jesus declared, Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
      3. In Matthew 12:50 Jesus said again, For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.
      4. Jesus said of himself:
        1. In John 4:34–My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to accomplish His work.
        2. In John 5:30–I can do nothing of my own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
        3. In John 6:38–For I have come down out of heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
      5. Absolutely nothing confirmed the truth of those statements as profoundly as did Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane.
        1. Jesus understood clearly the moment of his execution had come.
        2. God wanted Him to surrender His life; He did not want to die.
        3. Yet, he prayed, My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not as I will, but as You will.
      6. Just as God’s will played the supreme role in Jesus’ life, Paul wrote this to the Christians at Rome in Romans 12:2: And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
    2. As I said, we are all in agreement that we should do the will of God.
      1. But what is it?
        1. We want an “it” that is very specific, very identifiable, very concrete.
        2. Then we can feel okay because we did “it,” and God has to be happy with us if we did “it.”
      2. But that is the problem–the will of God is not an “it.”
        1. The will of God cannot be confined to a list of things to do–not a short list, not a long list; the will of God is much more than a list.
        2. The will of God cannot be confined to a set of rules; the will of God is much more than a set of rules.
        3. The will of God is not the right set of commandments; the will of God is much more than a set of commands.
        4. Lists and rules and commands are too simple, too limited to encompass the will of God.
      3. Certainly there are lists and rules and commands in the will of God for us, but each of those and all of those are just a part of the will of God, and they may not even be the primary parts of God’s will.

  2. Well, when I am talking about the will of God, just what am I talking about? I am talking about three things.
    1. I am talking about God’s desire to extend forgiveness and salvation to every person on this earth.
      1. God put in motion the things that must happen to bring a Savior to this world from the moment that Adam and Eve sinned.
      2. For thousands of years God worked to bring that Savior.
        1. He was determined to make the forgiveness of all people possible.
        2. No matter how unbelieving or evil people became, God refused to give up.
        3. He endured every imaginable human failure to bring us that Savior.
      3. God created that Savior through the horrible execution of His own Son.
        1. He let people kill His sinless son.
        2. He let His sinless son be covered with all the evil people committed.
        3. He even withdrew His presence from the son that He loved dearly, the son who was doing exactly what He wanted him to do.
      4. He raised that son from the dead never to die again to prove His own power and to present us with a Savior more powerful than death.
      5. It was, it is, it will forever be the will of God that the whole earth know that we have a Savior.
    2. When I talk about the will of God, I am talking about God’s will for all those people who accept that Savior.
      1. He wants all of those people to understand that they are His sons and daughters.
      2. As God’s own children, He wants us to function as:
        1. A healthy body wherein every part does what it can do to enable the body as a whole to accomplish God’s purposes.
        2. A community that learns to care about each other by learning about God’s love for us.
        3. A family who has healthy relationships, who nurtures and encourages each other.
        4. As servants who serve Him in the deepest love and respect.
      3. It is God’s will that we become a people who find life in the Savior and that people be ruled by love, consideration, kindness, compassion and mercy.
        1. Romans 12:9-21 describes God’s will for us as a people:
          1. We love genuinely.
          2. We hate evil and cling to good.
          3. We are honorably devoted to each other with brotherly love.
          4. We are diligent, fervent people who serve the Lord.
          5. We take care of fellow Christians.
          6. We share each others’ joys and sorrows.
          7. We refuse to take revenge.
          8. We defeat evil by doing good.
          9. That is the will of God for us as a congregation.
        2. Ephesians 4:25-32 describes God’s will for us a God’s people:
          1. We don’t deceive people.
          2. We are not ruled by anger.
          3. Instead of stealing, we work honestly to take care of ourselves and to help others.
          4. What we say is always a blessing to people.
          5. We do not resist God’s spirit as we seek to increasingly become God’s people.
          6. We are committed to see that bitterness, wrath, anger, confusion, slander, and malice do not exist among us.
          7. We are just as determined that kindness, tender heartedness, and forgiveness live as natural expressions among us.
          8. That is the will of God for us as God’s people.
    3. When we talk about the will of God, we are talking about God’s will for us individually.
      1. If I am God’s child, I personally surrender myself to God’s will.
      2. God’s will for our individual lives is not identical; His will for each of us is very individualistic, very personal.
        1. For Jesus, God’s personal will for him was execution on a cross–but that is not His will for all of us.
        2. For Paul, God’s personal will for him was to be a missionary to non-Jews (Acts 26:15-18)–but that is not His will for all of us.
      3. God’s will in our individual lives includes:
        1. The kind of husband and wife we are.
        2. The kind of parent we are.
        3. The kind of son or daughter we are.
        4. The kind of boss or employee we are.
        5. Our honesty, integrity, and kindness.
        6. Our concern for people.
      4. God’s will for you as an individual may be:
        1. Letting God through Jesus help you deal with what you need to deal with in your personal life.
        2. Letting God through Jesus heal the wounds and scars in your life that were inflicted by evil.
        3. Letting God through Jesus help you grow up, spiritually mature, so you can be useful in God’s purposes in the congregation or the community.
      5. For some it focuses in special challenges and purposes.
      6. For some it focuses in recovering from the devastation of evil and helping others recover.
    4. Again, the will of God is not an “it.”
      1. It is not merely attending assemblies.
      2. It is not merely taking communion.
      3. It is not merely reading your Bible and praying.
      4. It is not merely being a member of the church.
      5. Does the will of God include those things? Absolutely!
      6. But the will of God is far, far more than those things.

It is urgent that each of us understand that the will of God is seen in God’s concern that the whole world learn of its Savior. It is urgent that we see that the will of God is seen in His desire that all who have accepted the Savior function together as a healthy body, a healthy community, a healthy family. It is urgent that we all see that the will of God is seen in His desire for Jesus Christ to literally rule and direct our personal lives.

Please do not make the mistake that those teenage boys made. Don’t reduce doing the will of God to merely attempting to make God happy. The will of God is not about learning how to keep God happy. The will of God is about learning how to let Jesus Christ live in us.

Why should we be concerned about the will of God?
Because God loves you as you have never been loved by anyone else.
How can He love us?
I don’t know; I am just thankful that He does.

Think about the Crucifixion of His Son to know just how much He loves you.

No situation will ever exist in your life that is too complicated for Him to improve.

If you surrender to His will, He will bless you eternally.

It’s Summer Time When the Living Is . . . Overscheduled

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Ah-h-h-h! Sweet summer time is here! School is out! Daylight hours are much longer! Shivering has ended! The winter rat race is over–and we don’t have to hassle the kids about their homework assignments.

And immediately begins . . . the summer rat race. T-ball. Softball. Baseball. Soccer. Swimming lessons. Tennis. Youth camps. Fishing. Camping. Going to the lake for boating and skiing. Float trips. And that is just the kids’ activities! Throw in some golf, tennis, and fishing for Mom and Dad, and a family vacation. The result? By August 1 we are longing again for school and fall schedules to return.

In the summer time it is even harder to attend Bible study classes and worship assemblies. The long daylight hours of Wednesdays allow time to “slip up on us.” Summer activities make Wednesday nights an impossible hassle–more so than in school term when school work pushes.

Sunday morning class attendance suffers. Everyone is exhausted from overfilled Saturdays. The family cannot move fast enough to make it to Bible class. And Sunday afternoons are just too pretty to waste–you just can’t do anything and get back home in time to come to a 6 p.m. assembly.

This brings us face to face with two issues. First, why attend any Bible class? Because we are told it is a religious obligation? Or is it a matter of ritual or habit? Do we score “brownie points” with God if we place our breathing but disinterested bodies in a church building while we dream about the golf course or the lake?

No. If guilt is used to coerce members to bring mindless bodies to appointed assemblies, little is accomplished. God is not honored. The person is not benefitted when his/her inattentive body is in “the right place” at the “right time” to fulfill an obligation.

Then why attend? Our lives are challenged by evil every moment in every context. Marital stability, family relationships, work world, social realities, and our futures are determined by every day by real world decisions, conduct, priorities, and perspectives. The objective of Bible classes is to discover the divine guidance that equips and encourages us in everyday life in the real world.

The second issue? Bible classes must help us with “real life” as they apply God’s insights to our real world situations. We need encouragement and understanding. Bible classes exist to provide it.

Ah-h-h! It’s summer time! Will you make mind and body time for study and worship?