Gratitude and Prayers

Posted by on April 26, 1998 under Bulletin Articles

“Burnout” is a devastating experience. It occurs when a person feels totally depleted, “used up.” He or she has nothing left to give. He or she is beyond regenerating energy, recharging motivation, and renewing commitment.

A factor that significantly contributes to each incident of “burnout” is ingratitude. People who serve zealously with sacrificial hearts and selfless efforts are refreshed and strengthened by sincere appreciation. God’s family should never allow a single child of God to suffer “burnout.” This congregation must be a fountain of gratitude. We must refresh all servants in its flowing waters of appreciation.

We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the building committee. They were given a specific job to do for us, and they did it well. Please create an opportunity to express your appreciation. To each member of that committee, thank you for your hours of work in meeting with groups within the congregation and meeting with the architect. Thank you for taking to heart the many suggestions, for considering present needs, and for considering future effectiveness. To Ron Lenderman (chairman), James Anderson, Sandy Berger, Gary Brown, Richard Broyles, David Dickey, Barbara Herren, Jim Pratt, and Jane Smith, thanks!

Please begin praying in behalf of Gary Brown, Jerry Canfield, Tom Porter, Paul Shirley, Jay Trotter, Bill Walker, and Jim Wilson. Last Sunday evening you selected these men to serve as the congregation’s screening committee. In the Sunday morning worship assembly, the elders will give this committee their charge. In the immediate future, they will receive your nominations for additional elders.

Pray for God to guide their thoughts as the Spirit works in their hearts when they interview the nominees. Pray that their efforts will result in a sense of togetherness and unity that takes us to new levels of service and fellowship.

Pray for God’s guidance as you consider men to nominate as potential shepherds of God’s flock at West-Ark. Pray that God will guide you in understanding of the kind of qualified men we need to lead us to God’s green pastures and still waters.

And let no one who serves among us suffer “burnout” because we did not notice their service and failed to express gratitude!

How Do We Stand For Christ?

Posted by on April 22, 1998 under Sermons

One of the oldest hymns that I know is “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus.” It has been familiar as long as I can remember.

All of us agree that we should stand for Jesus. All of us have an opinion about how Christians should stand up for Jesus. All of us have a strong opinion about what we should stand for as we stand.

Tonight I propose that we let Jesus tell us how to stand for him.

  1. Let’s begin by considering Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:20.
    1. After Jesus introduced his lesson, he made this statement:
      “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
      1. That is a very specific, very definite, very clear statement.
      2. We need to understand it and allow it to form our understanding of how we should stand for Jesus.
    2. First, let’s focus on the statement.
      1. Jesus was born, lived, died, and was resurrected to bring into existence a spiritual kingdom that would never end.
        1. To most of us, that is not a new understanding, and we would agree that Jesus brought that spiritual kingdom into existence.
        2. Most of us would agree that a man or a woman who enters Christ immediately becomes a part of that kingdom.
      2. Jesus was specific about what was necessary to be a part of that kingdom: our righteousness must surpass the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.
      3. Who were the scribes?
        1. The scribes were the educated, trained Jewish men who had the responsibility of reproducing the Old Testament scriptures by hand.
        2. That was the only way to reproduce scriptures in a world without printing.
        3. When a new copy of an Old Testament book was needed, these men made it.
        4. They were committed to accuracy.
          1. They knew how many times each letter of the alphabet occurred in the book they copied.
          2. They knew the middle letter of each book, and they knew the middle letter of each main section in the book.
          3. They counted letters to make certain the book was accurate.
        5. Can you imagine how much knowledge of scripture they acquired as they copied books over and over?
      4. Who were the Pharisees?
        1. The Pharisees were a specific segment of Judaism who were dedicated to taking the nation of Israel back to “the old paths” of the fathers of Israel.
        2. They believed that scripture was the literal word of God, was God’s complete authority, was the living word of God, and was to be applied to any situation in any age.
        3. They were literal in their study, literal in their application, and committed to the true meaning and intent of scripture.
        4. They were the dominant religious influence in Israel.
        5. Jesus himself paid this tribute to their knowledge: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore, all that they tell you, do and observe…” (Matthew 23:2,3).
        6. The Pharisees’ spiritual problems were not rooted in their knowledge.
    3. Jesus specifically said that our righteousness must exceed their righteousness.
      1. That will not happen through knowledge–our knowledge of scripture does not exceed their knowledge of scripture.
      2. That will not happen through obedience to commands and traditions–our obedience rarely equals their obedience.
      3. That will not happen through a commitment to preserving our heritage and traditions–they were experts in preserving religious tradition and heritage.
      4. Then how will we exceed their righteousness? Jesus told us how to do that in Matthew 5.
  2. Jesus contrasted the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees with the righteousness of those who followed him by using two phrases: “You have heard that it was said” and “I say unto you.”
    1. These two phrases contrasted two concepts of righteousness.
      1. “You have heard that it was said” reflected the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.
      2. “I say unto you” reflected the righteousness of those who followed Jesus.
    2. Contrast number one: Matthew 5:21-26.
      1. You have heard that the ancients were told, “You shall not commit murder.”
        1. You obey that standard by not murdering.
        2. If you do not physically destroy someone’s life with intent and purpose, you meet the standard of the scribes and Pharisees’ righteousness.
      2. Jesus declared, “But I say to you:”
        1. Do not be angry at others.
        2. Do not hold others in contempt (“Raca” declared contempt).
        3. Do not slander others (calling someone a fool slandered him).
      3. Further, Jesus said, before you approach God in worship, make peace with any brother that you have offended.
    3. Contrast number two: Matthew 5:27-32.
      1. You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit the physical act of adultery.”
        1. Refrain from sexual intercourse with anyone but your husband or wife.
        2. As long as a person did not physically commit adultery, he meet the standard of the scribes and Pharisees’ righteousness.
      2. But I say to you:
        1. Adultery involves more than the physical act.
        2. Do not indulge your sexual desires through your eyes.
        3. Don’t look at women as non-persons, as creatures who exist to indulge the fantasies of your imagination.
        4. Moses gave the divorce laws to protect women.
          1. Moses would not permit you to desert your wife.
          2. If you left her, you had to inform her that you were leaving her.
          3. You had to inform her in front of witnesses in writing.
        5. I tell you when you marry a wife, you make a covenant with her.
        6. Keep your covenant.
        7. Abandoning your covenant is also adultery.
    4. Contrast number three: Matthew 5:33-37.
      1. The ancients were told, “Do not make false promises; do what you promised God that you would do.”
        1. As long as you technically did what you said you would do, you met the scribes and Pharisees’ standard of righteousness.
        2. But they placed a heavy emphasis on technicalities.
      2. But I say to you:
        1. Be a person who keeps his word.
        2. The scribes and Pharisees said technicalities voided a promise, so you could deceive someone or break a promise if you did it the right way.
        3. I say, keep your promises–even if you are not legally liable.
        4. When you say, “Yes,” mean yes, and when you say, “No,” mean no.
    5. Contrast number four: Matthew 5:38-42.
      1. You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”
        1. As long as you did not exceed justice, you met the scribes and Pharisees’ standard of righteousness.
        2. It is fine to make the offending person pay the full price of justice, but do not be vengeful.
      2. But I say:
        1. Be ruled by kindness, not by justice.
        2. Be ruled by humility, not by justice.
        3. Do more than is expected of you.
    6. Contrast number five: Matthew 5:43-48.
      1. You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.”
        1. If you did that, you met the scribes and Pharisees’ standard of righteousness.
        2. By their standard, that is the maximum.
      2. But I say:
        1. Love your neighbor, and love your enemy.
        2. Pray for those that physically abuse you.
        3. Treat your human enemies like God treats His human enemies, and that will make you God’s sons.
        4. If you are mean to people who are mean to you, and if you are good to people who are good to you, then you are just like everybody else.
        5. God’s love is to be your standard.
  3. Recently I enjoyed a very profitable, private conversation.
    1. In this conversation, a Christian friend shared a thought that powerfully illustrates the point.
      1. As Christians, we have not learned the difference between redemption and godly character.
        1. Redemption is a gift from God that comes to us through Jesus’ blood.
          1. It blesses us through forgiveness.
          2. Because of redemption, we receive mercy and grace.
        2. Godly character is built.
          1. Godly character is built after we have been redeemed.
          2. It is not a gift and does not come automatically.
          3. It exists when we develop godly behavior.
      2. Is redemption real? Absolutely!
        1. When is redemption real?
        2. The moment we enter Christ; the moment we chose by faith and repentance to join Jesus in his death, burial, and resurrection.
      3. At that moment do we suddenly have godly character?
        1. No.
        2. There is a lot of evil to be killed in our lives.
        3. There is a lot to learn from Jesus.
        4. There is a whole new value system to build and live by.
    2. Our failure to understand that truth often costs us dearly in the church.
      1. Some Christians think that standing for the church is standing for Jesus.
      2. Some Christians are convinced that they can stand for the church and:
        1. Be angry with fellow Christians.
        2. Hold Christians they disagree with in contempt.
        3. Slander Christians they regard to be enemies.
        4. Regard it an act of faith not to seek peace.
      3. Some Christian men are convinced that they can be fine Christians and:
        1. Look at women as impersonal, sexual objects.
        2. Indulge their sexual desires through their eyes.
        3. Break promises by using carefully crafted technicalities.
        4. Be ruled by justice instead of kindness and humility.
        5. Regard doing more than is expected as a sign or weakness.
      4. Some Christians think that you represent the church well when:
        1. You are committed to justice in and out of the church.
        2. You love those that like you.
        3. You hate those that oppose you.

We stand for Jesus by exceeding the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. We stand for Jesus by becoming men and women of godly character.

When we accept the gift of redemption, we must commit ourselves to godly character. When we don’t, we create all types of problems within the church. Then people outside the church see us as looking like everyone else. When we look like other people without character, they reject redemption.

May we rejoice in our redemption. May we pursue godly character. May we stand for Jesus by exceeding the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.

Are you growing?
Are you growing in the right direction?
Do you need God’s redemption?
It is available free to everyone who wants it.

Opportunity: God’s Golden Gift

Posted by on April 19, 1998 under Sermons

I want to invite you to travel with me to Palestine in 28 A.D. Let’s listen to a conversation between two Israelites named Benjamin and Abda.

Benjamin: “I cannot believe the moral and social decay that has occurred in Palestine since the Romans took control! This was a godly nation! Nothing has been the same since Rome took control. Everywhere I look I see evil.”

Abda: “Things have changed incredibly. Without question we see evil everywhere we look. It’s true that nothing is the same, and I doubt that it ever will be the same. But, Benjamin, I can still see God working.”

Benjamin: “And Herod decided that he would rebuild our temple! He started that project 9 years ago. All he has done is make a mess and disrupt the city! The priests are so preoccupied with rebuilding the temple that they don’t have time to be priests! All Herod is doing is glorifying himself. Jerusalem has just not been the same since Herod started his temple project.”

Abda: “What you say about the rebuilding project is true. Things are a mess, and Jerusalem is not the same. Everybody knows everything Herod does is to promote himself. But still, I see God working.”

Benjamin: “And this new teacher who spends most of his time in Galilee, this Jesus fellow. All he does is stir things up. As far as I am concerned, he creates a lot of confusion. I don’t think that he does anything worthwhile. He has all the common people and all the wicked people all worked up with his teachings. Everywhere he goes with his miracles he generates hysteria. It is all a bunch of showmanship and emotion. I have not heard a single lesson that he taught that emphasized the importance of synagogue attendance, or the necessity of temple sacrifices, or doing the right things the right way. He never talks about tithing or the temple taxes. If people listen to him, all Judaism will fall apart. He never teaches on the important things!”

Abda: “Jesus certainly causes a lot of excitement. I have never seen common people so excited about God! In fact, I have never seen common folks so interested, so willing to listen. Nor have I ever seen the priests, the rabbis, and Pharisees so upset. But I still tell you, Benjamin, I see God working.”

And God was working–powerfully!

  1. God is working right here right now. Do you see Him at work?
    1. “Well, I don’t know.”
      1. “We are doing some things in ways that we never did them before.”
        1. We surely are.
        2. Can you see God working in what we are doing?
      2. “The elders really expect us, as a congregation, to participate in decisions, and that is different.”
        1. It surely is.
        2. Can you see God working in that?
      3. “But, whatever we do, it will happen because we as a congregation decided for it to happen.”
        1. It surely will.
        2. Can you see God working in that?
    2. Tonight, as a congregation, we take one of the most important steps this congregation has taken in its seventeen years of existence.
      1. Tonight we select seven people to serve as our screening committee.
      2. This committee:
        1. Will receive nominations for men to be considered as additional leaders.
        2. Will interview these men.
        3. Will present qualified men to us as a congregation for our consideration.
    3. This is step number one in the process of adding additional elders, additional shepherds, to our congregation.
  2. Last October I taught a series of lessons on leadership profiles in the New Testament.
    1. We looked very carefully at the profiles in I Timothy 3, Titus 1, and I Peter 5.
      1. We noted that the leadership needs in the congregations at Crete (Titus 1) were different to the leadership needs in the city of Ephesus (I Timothy 3).
      2. We also noted that the basic responsibility of elders is to “shepherd the flock” (I Peter 5).
        1. With care and love, they unselfishly lead the flock.
        2. They do it by being examples who care about the sheep, the people.
        3. They do not use the power and control of a lord.
    2. In that series of lessons I wanted to increase your awareness of the full teaching of the New Testament concerning congregational leaders.
      1. The men who lead a congregation as its shepherds must have a spiritually mature foundation.
        1. Each man must have a living faith that allows Jesus to direct his life.
        2. Each man’s life must produce the fruit of the spirit–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22).
        3. Each man’s life must demonstrate the Christian graces: faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love (2 Peter 1:5-8).
      2. These men will also fit the profiles of 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, and 1 Peter 5.
        1. They will be men of spiritual experience in whom God’s word lives, who know how to guide others by the teaching of the Bible.
        2. They will have healthy, loving relationships within their families, relationships that bring them love and respect from their families.
        3. They are men who genuinely love God and love people.
        4. They use their lives and the warmth of their homes to minister to and encourage others.
        5. They are kind men who control themselves, who live consistent lives, and are respected even by people who are not Christians.
        6. They are men of courage, men of vision, and men who are flexible.
  3. All the terminology regarding the elders, or bishops, or pastors (all words that designate the same leaders) are rooted in the concept of a shepherd.
    1. That is very understandable because they are to work with people in the same manner that Jesus worked with people, and Jesus was the good shepherd.
      1. In John 10:1-18, Jesus said of himself that he is the good shepherd.
        1. He knows his sheep and they know him.
        2. He knows their names and they know his voice.
        3. He responds to their needs and they respond to his leadership.
        4. He laid his life down for his sheep–he was more concerned about the needs of the sheep than about his own well being.


      2. In Luke 15, he gave us a beautiful picture of the kind of good shepherd that he is, of the kind of good shepherds elders will be.
        1. A shepherd counted only 99 in his flock when there should be 100.
        2. One sheep did not listen to his voice; one sheep did not follow; one sheep was lost in the wilderness and faced certain death.
        3. This shepherd did not conclude that he still had 99, that the lost sheep was stupid and troublesome, and that a 1% loss was quite acceptable.
        4. He left the 99 secure, searched in the wilderness until he found the lost sheep, and carried it back to the flock.
        5. He rejoiced because he found it; he did not curse because of the trouble this stupid sheep caused him.
        6. Matthew 18:13 said that the shepherd rejoices more over the lost sheep he found than the 99 that were secure–and adds that is exactly the way God feels when He recovers someone who has strayed away.
      3. I Peter 5:1-4 urged “the elders among you” to “shepherd the flock of God” by being “examples over the flock.”
        1. It encourages them by assuring them that Jesus, “the Chief Shepherd,” will reward them with an “unfading crown of glory.”
        2. Men qualified to be elders have the heart of Jesus and the heart of God.
    2. Think about some things that are so obvious that we may not see them.
      1. What is a shepherd? How do you know that you are looking at a shepherd?
      2. For a moment, join me on a tour bus as we tour the southern region of Israel.
        1. Before we started touring the region, you told the bus driver that you really wanted a picture of a shepherd.
        2. The bus driver said, “When you see a shepherd, holler.”
        3. When will you holler?
        4. Will you holler when you see a man with a backpack hiking across a hill?
        5. Will you holler when you drive through a town and see a police man directing traffic?
        6. Will you holler when you see a foreman directing construction?
        7. No.
        8. There will be only one scene that makes you holler.
        9. You will holler when you see a man leading and caring for sheep.
      3. As you consider men that you wish to suggest for elders, first ask yourself, “Are they caring for sheep?” We need to appoint good men who know how to shepherd because they are already caring for sheep.
  4. We live among people who are bruised, bleeding, broken, disillusioned, skeptical, and bewildered.
    1. Let’s be honest–we don’t just live among such people; we are such people.
      1. Do you know a frustrated parent? Do you know a child in despair? Do you know a deeply troubled home? Do you know a broken home? Do you know a single parent home? Do you know someone who is devastated by a death, by serious illness, by a moral crisis, by loss of a job, by financial ruin, by injustices, by enemies who despise them?
      2. Oh, yes! In the church, out of the church, everywhere.
      3. What do these people need? They need a wise, loving shepherd who has the heart of God.
      4. What do each of us need? We need a wise, loving shepherd who has the heart of God.
      5. We need someone to guide, to listen, to encourage, to pray with us, to cry with us, to challenge us, and to lead us.
      6. We need someone we want to listen to and want to follow because we respect that person, trust that person, and know that person truly loves and cares about us.
      7. We need shepherds. Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, intended for us to have shepherds.
    2. As a Christian family, two things must happen.
      1. We must give our shepherds the opportunity to be shepherds.
        1. We desperately need to change our expectations of our elders.
        2. Congregational expectations force elders into roles of financial experts, architects, business advisors, a governing board, repair experts, insurance experts, and on and on.
        3. We expect them to do a thousand things well, a thousand things that Jesus and New Testament writers never had in mind for elders.
      2. Our shepherds desperately need to delegate, and do it in good conscience.
        1. We are blessed with talented, capable people who have expertise in finances, buildings, business, administration, repairs, and the thousand other things that legitimately need to be cared for well and responsibly.
        2. Let’s create expectations and a climate where the elders can feel good about delegating.
        3. Let’s rejoice and encourage our elders when they serve as Christ intended, when they shepherd with the heart of God.

The first hands that a lamb feels when it is born are the hands of the shepherd. When it is weak and cold, he carries it. The first help that sheep receives when it is injured comes from the hands of the shepherd. He doctors it and helps it. The first voice that a sheep hears when it is lost is the voice of the shepherd. He is searching for it.

The shepherd leads; the shepherd helps; the shepherd carries; the shepherd rescues. For all those reasons, shepherds always smell like the sheep.

There is a Shepherd that loved us so dearly that He died to protect us from death. He knows every difficult circumstance and every lonely moment. He can address your needs, whatever they are. He wants to be your Shepherd. He will not stop at anything that is in your best interest. He is bigger than life, even bigger than death. Do you want to be a part of His flock? His name is Jesus. Do you want to belong to Him? Do you follow Him? The Shepherd’s voice calls.

If God Can Save You, I Should Respect You

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Imagine the experience of having a Christian family from the first century congregation at Philippi spend a month at West-Ark. Suppose they were guests in your home for a week. This family spent a normal week with your family. Their children did everything your children typically do. As wife and mother, you arranged for that wife and mother to accompany you through a typical week. As a husband and father, you arranged for that husband and father to be your “shadow” for a typical week. They got an honest look at life in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

In this month, they also experienced typical life in the congregation. That included Bible classes, morning and evening worship, fellowship, a “family meeting,” a funeral, a wedding, teen studies and activities, children’s world, a care group, visitation with the Hilltoppers, quilting with the quilting ladies, delivering a meal to someone who needed it, a hospital visit, etc.

If for a week the two families spoke the same language, interaction overcame major culture shock, and the two worlds did not clash, what would the experience be like for their family and your family? We could write a book about such a week. I doubt that today’s morals, violence, or marital instability would shock them. All of those were worse in their world.

Two things might shock both families. First, they would not recognize Christianity as we practice it. Christian activity centered around church buildings and church membership would be strange and new. Christian realities without apostles or the Holy Spirit (as they experienced Him) would be strange. Even printed Bibles would be strange and new to them.

Second, I think they would react to our society and the church like this: “We do not believe that Christianity as we knew and experienced it can exist in this world and time.” I can see how they would believe that. Why? Too much had changed! If we struggle with just the changes from the oldest to the youngest living generations, can you imagine their struggle with the changes between the first and twentieth century worlds?

May I share a thought? God loved and saved people in the first century. God loves and saves people in the twentieth century. If this world continues, God will love and save people in the twenty-fifth century–and I cannot image what that world will be like!

No amount of change prevents God from loving and saving people. Regardless of how extreme the differences are from century to century, God loves and saves people. Regardless of how extreme the changes are within a century, God loves and saves people. Our challenge: if God can love and save us, we must learn to respect each other. Our highest goal should be to love every person God saves. Our minimum goal must be to respect every person that God saves.

Personal Reactions to the Resurrection

Posted by on April 12, 1998 under Sermons

The list of “things that you have to do” has always been quite short for most people. Parents insist that their teens “have to” do certain things, and teens commonly declare either by their words, their decisions, or their actions that they do not “have to” do anything.

Controlling husbands tell their wives that there are certain things that a wife “has to do.” Controlling wives tell their husbands that there are certain things that a husband “has to do.”

Those in control of occupations remind us that there are things that we “have to do.”

Government is constantly revising its list of things that we “have to do” as citizens. And, a number of citizens find ingenious ways to show the government that citizens do not have to do those things.

When we are feeling truly defiant we declare, “We don’t have to do anything but die!”

This evening as a Christian I ask you to think about some things each of us as a Christian has to do. I want to suggest that any person who is converted to Jesus Christ quickly discovers that there are three things that a Christian must do.

  1. What three things would you say that a Christian must do?
    1. Our suggestions would reflect the perspectives of past teachings.
      1. One perspective would suggest that a Christian must believe, repent, and be baptized.
        1. I certainly do not disagree with the importance of any one of those three things; I would strongly “amen” that we need a much better understanding of all three.
        2. But those are three things a person does to come to Jesus when he or she becomes a Christian.
        3. The question is what three things must a Christian do?
      2. Another perspective would suggest that a Christian must come to the assemblies on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night.
        1. When I was a boy and a young adult, worship attendance served as the number one criteria for determining faithfulness.
        2. If you attended every time the church building doors opened, you were faithful.
        3. If you attended less than that, your faith needed to grow.
        4. If you attended irregularly you were unfaithful.
        5. Those were simpler days and simpler times.
          1. In those days, you could not live in Fort Smith and commute all over the United States every week as you did your job.
          2. In those days, very few jobs required a person to work on Sunday.
          3. In those days, a weekend had two days–Saturday and Sunday, instead of one day (Sunday).
          4. In those days, you got home from your work before 6:30 p.m. so that you could come to Wednesday Bible study.
          5. In those days one parent, not two, was employed outside the home.
        6. I certainly would emphasize that maturing Christians want to study and worship with their spiritual family on every possible occasion, but I do not believe that our bodies’ physical presence in an assembly is the primary evidence of the depth or quality of a person’s faith.
      3. Another perspective suggests that a Christian must sing praises to God, take communion, and financially support the congregation.
        1. Basically this perspective says a Christian must worship.
        2. Worship is an essential, critical part of being spiritually alive.
        3. It is a unique form of fellowship with God, with Christ, with the Spirit, and with our Christian family.
    2. The three things that I want to suggest are more fundamental than worship.
      1. Each maturing Christ must do these three things on a continual basis:
        1. He or she must react to Jesus’ life.
        2. He or she must react to Jesus’ death.
        3. He or she must react to Jesus’ resurrection.
      2. Personally, I do not believe that it is possible for any man or woman to be spiritually alive without reacting to those three things.
  2. Tonight I want you to consider the importance of a Christian reacting to Jesus’ resurrection. (The thoughts that I share with you certainly are not all encompassing. I freely confess that your thoughts and reactions to the resurrection easily could be superior to these.)
    1. Reaction number one: if God planned for Jesus’ resurrection before the foundations of this world (Ephesians 1:4), if it was that serious and urgent to God, the resurrection should reveal one of life’s basic messages to me.
      1. You and I–and every other person–desperately needs resurrection in Christ.
      2. We were made and intended for more than a grave.
      3. God was and is determined that our existence would not end in a grave, and that it would not end in hell.
      4. If this matter was so important to God that He let His Son leave heaven and become a human being; that He let His Son live in humiliation and suffering in this physical existence; that He allowed His Son be unjustly executed; and that He brought the lifeless physical body of Jesus back to life again–if it was that important to God, how important is it to me?
      5. Nothing that exists in this world endures indefinitely.
        1. In all history, no nation lasted indefinitely, and this one will not.
        2. In all history, no government lasted indefinitely, and this one will not.
        3. In all history, no human endeavor lasted indefinitely, and none of ours will.
        4. In all history, no specific business lasted indefinitely, and ours won’t.
        5. In all history, no specific job lasted indefinitely, and ours won’t.
        6. There has never been wealth that lasted indefinitely.
        7. There has never been power that lasted indefinitely.
        8. There has never been pleasure that lasted indefinitely.
        9. There has never been a human body that did not wear out or a life that did not end, and neither you nor I will be the first exception.
      6. This temporary world is filled with the temporary.
        1. Only one thing will endure indefinitely:
        2. Resurrection in Jesus Christ.
      7. There is nothing that we will ever have, there is nothing that we will ever experience, and there is nothing that we will ever achieve that will be even a close second in importance to resurrection in Jesus Christ.
      8. And to me, that is the first message of the resurrection.
    2. Reaction number two: Jesus came with a God-given mission; He can teach me how to become a person with a God-given mission.
      1. Jesus revealed by death and resurrection that having a God-given mission means that I must trust my God rather than myself.
        1. Achieving His mission was horrible–injustice, betrayal, contempt, rejection, extreme pain, extreme loneliness, and death.
        2. The results of achieving the mission are too incredible to comprehend:
          1. God made Him the eternal Savior for all people (Hebrews 5:8,9).
          2. God created direct access to Himself for us through Jesus (Hebrews 4:14-16).
          3. God produced the power of permanent forgiveness through His death (Hebrews 10:10-12).
          4. God made adoption into His family possible for every person (Galatians 3:26,27; 4:4,5).
          5. God was free to give a life that was eternal in a place and relationship that was suitable for eternal existence.
      2. The resurrection screams to me that God can create opportunity in any human circumstance, in any human condition.
        1. No matter how evil has expressed itself in my life or circumstances, God can create for me spiritual opportunity in my situation–which is precisely what God did in the cross.
        2. God used the evil of the cross to reveal eternal resurrection.
        3. God can use the evil of our lives and conditions to resurrect us to newness of life.
        4. God will use spiritual resurrection to produce eternal resurrection.
      3. “Oh, but you don’t know–you just don’t know.”
        1. “You don’t know what has happened to me financially.”
        2. “You don’t know what is happening in my marriage.”
        3. “You don’t know what is happening with my kids.”
        4. “You don’t know what is happening with my parents.”
        5. “You don’t know what has happened since my divorce.”
        6. “You don’t know what is happening because I am a single parent.”
        7. “You don’t know about my secret life.”
      4. If God could work in the cross, God can work in your circumstances.
      5. If God could resurrect Jesus after the cross, God can spiritually resurrect you after your evil experience.
      6. There will never be a situation in your life that will surpass the evil that surrounded Jesus’ cross.
      7. The second message of the resurrection is that evil is no match for God–and cannot stop God–no matter how vile the evil is.
    3. Reaction number three: God can do what the human is not capable of dreaming.
      1. May I share some deeply personal things with you.
      2. Spiritually, the three years before I moved to Fort Smith were possibly the most difficult years of my life thus far.
        1. I was physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually exhausted.
        2. I experienced a kind and depth of pain I had never known, and it was continual, and it did not go away, and many Christian friends who love me deeply could not ease it.
      3. Someone says, “You must have been in an awful place.”
        1. No, quite to the contrary–I was in a wonderful place with some wonderful people who richly blessed my life and the lives of my family.
        2. I was loved deeply and genuinely by some of the dearest friends I will ever have.
      4. I felt “locked in,” and I was hurdling toward 60, and I was afraid.
        1. Being 60 did not and does not bother me.
        2. Seeing my opportunity to continue to serve disappear was frightening.
        3. For specific reasons, it seemed to me that my usefulness as a preacher was coming to an end at an incredible speed.
        4. It appeared to me that I had no options.
      5. But I was in a very complex situation and in very complicated circumstances.
        1. Most of my life I have been a “fixer.”
        2. I learned, at least in my life, that “fixing” works against trusting God instead of for trusting God.
        3. After years of sacrificial work, I also learned that “fixing” never “fixes.”
      6. “Fixing” is impossible for many reasons.
        1. “Fixing” entices us to play God, even when we are determined not to play God.
        2. Evil is too complex to be “fixed”–we humans are no match for Satan no matter how gifted or talented we might be.
        3. People are too complex to be “fixed”–there is too much evil in all of us.
      7. The third message of the resurrection: humans can’t “fix,” but the God who gives life and creates opportunity can forgive, and by forgiving God can resurrect.
        1. Through forgiveness, God can give a person spiritual life that is renewed every day–if the person is in Christ, each day starts new because each day starts in forgiveness.
        2. Through forgiveness, God gives every child newness of life because he or she is in Christ Jesus.
        3. And, if we trust the God of resurrection, He creates incredible opportunities even when we think there is no hope.

Our physical world screams that death is the end of life and the end of hope. The resurrection says that is a lie. And to those who react to Jesus’ resurrection, resurrection always thunders louder than this skeptical world can scream.

We invite you to let Jesus give you life.

How Do We Celebrate Jesus’ Love?

Posted by on under Sermons

(The song lead-in to the sermon will be #448, “The Greatest Commands,” [Songs of Faith and Praise, Howard Publishing Company, 1994].) The alto verse: “Love one another, for love is of God; He who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, For God is love, God is love.”

John 3:16-21
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”

2 Corinthians 5:14,15
For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1996.)

1 John 4:16-21
We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1996.)

  1. If it had not been for God expressing His love through Jesus Christ, we would not know what love is.
    1. We would call many things love.
      1. We would call sexual passion love, but that love is rooted in our physical natures and desires.
      2. We would call loyalty love, but that love is rooted in causes.
      3. We would call commitment love, but that love is rooted in purposes.
      4. We would call the desire for things love, but that love is rooted in materialism.
      5. We would call all those things love, but we would not know how to love people.
        1. It is God through Jesus Christ that teaches us how to love people.
        2. Without understanding and developing that love, we don’t know how to love people.
    2. Jesus teaches us a unique form of love that is reserved for loving people.
      1. We know this love because it is the form of love that God has for us.
      2. We know this love because God revealed it and illustrated it in the life and death of Jesus.
      3. How is this love God teaches us through Christ different?
        1. It is a love that comes from the mind as well as the heart or emotions; it begins in a person’s will, not his feelings.
        2. People have this love because of their will as well as their feeling.
        3. This love:
          1. Is unselfish.
          2. Is sacrificial.
          3. Treats other people as the person wants to be treated himself/herself.
          4. Seeks the best interests of other people.
          5. Had rather forgive than judge.
          6. Had rather show compassion than seek justice.
      4. Humanity did not know this kind of love until Jesus lived it. This world had never experienced the form of love that was shown in Jesus’ life and death.

(Sing the alto and bass verses of “The Greatest Commands.”) The bass verse: “Love bears all things, believes all things, Love hopes all things, endures all things.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1996.)

  1. This is the love that lives in men and women who allow Jesus Christ to live in them.
    1. How can we look at Jesus and see this form of love?
      1. It was the love that washed the disciples’ feet when the disciples were too proud to wash each others’ feet (John 13:3-20).
      2. It was the love that touched people who suffered from incurable leprosy when law forbid it and no one else wanted to touch them (Luke 5:12-16).
      3. It was the love that gave the living water to a Samaritan divorcee who was an outcast in her own village (John 4:3-42).
      4. It was the love that forgave prostitutes (Luke 7:36-50).
      5. It was the love that ate and associated with people who had the earned, public reputation for being evil people and for using dishonesty to defraud (Matthew 9:10-13).
      6. It was the love that moved Jesus to feed thousands of people when he knew that most of them would misunderstand why he fed them and turn against him (John 6:1-15, 22-71).
    2. In short, it was the love that cared about people who in no way deserved his love.
      1. This love cared so deeply that it looked at people and saw men and women made in God’s image–even when they were filled with evil, greed, and selfishness.
      2. This love proved that it cared, and it declared itself in terms of people’s eternal worth even when they did not respond to his love.
    3. Jesus did not love people after they responded to him; Jesus loved people before they responded to him; Jesus even loved the people who refused to respond to him.

(Sing the alto, bass, and tenor verses to “The Greatest Commands.”) The tenor verse: “God is love, God is love, God is love, God is love, God is love, God is love, God is love, God is love, God is love, God is love, God is love, God is love.”

John 13:34,35
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1996.)

John 15:12-14,17
“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. . . . This I command you, that you love one another” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1996.)

  1. How could Jesus call the commandment to love one another a new commandment?
    1. The law of Moses commanded the Israelites to love fellow Israelites.
      Leviticus 19:18 – You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.
      1. That commandment is as old as the nation of Israel.
      2. The Jewish people had always understood that they were to love their neighbors as themselves.
      3. Even Jesus declared that commandment was the second greatest commandment that God gave.
    2. Why is this a new commandment? Because loving your neighbor as yourself never approached the form of love that Jesus had and has for his disciples.
      1. The love that Jesus had for his disciples, the love that Jesus has for us, is distinctive.
      2. It is so unlike any other form of human love that any man or woman who loves others with Jesus’ love is recognized as Jesus’ disciple.
      3. Only when we follow Jesus can we love like he loved.
        1. Only he can teach us how to love with that form of love.
        2. Only he can give us the strength to love with that form of love.
      4. That is the love that let him die on the cross for us.
        1. That death is the greatest declaration of love that will ever be declared on earth.
        2. That is the greatest manifestation of love that will every be revealed on earth.
    3. Are you a Christian? Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? Do people know that you belong to Jesus by the way you love other people?
      1. Can they see that love in your family? In the way you treat your family?
      2. Can they see that love in the way you treat your neighbors, the people you work with, and the people you go to school with?
      3. Can they see that love in the way you treat people who don’t like you, don’t respect you, or harshly judge you?
      4. Can they see that love in the way we treat each other as disciples of Christ?

(Sing the alto, bass, tenor, and soprano verse of “The Greatest Commands.”) The soprano verse: “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, all thy strength, all thy mind. Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, for God is love, God is love, God is love.”

It is a very simple thing for us to say, “Oh, yes, I believe in Jesus Christ.”
“Oh, yes, I believe in the resurrection.”
“Oh, yes, I believe that Jesus is Lord.”
“Oh, yes, I believe that God sent Him.”

Do you really believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross? Do you really believe that God raised him from the dead? Do you really believe He and God did that for you? Do you believe it in the same way you believe George Washington was the first President of this nation?
If that is the way you believe, then you missed the point about Jesus.

You believe that it was a fact that it happened and you are glad he did that? Or, do you believe that with a life-changing faith? Do you believe enough to let Jesus change your life, your mind, your heart, and your relationships by teaching you how to love?

Repentance means: I can’t go on living like I have been living since I have come to understand what God has done for me. I want to die with Christ. I want to be resurrected with Him. I do that by being baptized. I want my old existence to die and be buried with Jesus. I am resurrected in Him because I don’t ever want to be who I was.

Begin a new existence.
Has Jesus’ death and resurrection changed your life?
If you really believe it, you can never be the same, because God’s love has touched your life.

The only thing you have to give to God is your sin.

Joyfully take His forgiveness.

Knowing What Is Best For Christ

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

One of my biggest problems is taking myself too seriously. I never realized I did that (and still don’t). There are times when, with every good intention, I try to think for Christ and decide for God. I am so serious, so focused, so committed that I am certain that I know what is best for Christ, know what is best for the congregation, and know specifically what must happen if God’s will is to be accomplished.

I hope God is amused instead of angered. Personally, I suspect God is amused at us a lot. He used a cross to establish His eternal kingdom 2000 years ago. He did so without consulting us humans. Good thing! We would have told Him it wouldn’t work! And He has maintained that kingdom for 2000 years. God must have a sense of humor to tolerate us when we are determined to rescue the church when He protects it.

Today I received excerpts from Jonathan Lee’s “Reservations of an Airline Agent” published in The Washington Post. Jonathan’s experience (over 130,000 conversations) hilariously illustrate people who are “certain” when they should not be.

There was the man in Minneapolis who did not know there was more than one city in the South (“wherever the South is”); the man in Dallas who tried to pay for his ticket by sticking quarters in the pay phone he used; the man who asked if the flight flew to exit 35 on the New Jersey Turnpike; the woman who wanted to know if the airline flew to area code 304; and the woman who wanted to know why she had to change clothes on the flight from Chicago to Washington.

My favorite: a woman wanted to fly to Hippopotamus, NY. When told there was no such city, she became irate declaring that it was a big city with a big airport. When asked if it was near Albany, Syracuse, or Buffalo, she exclaimed, “Buffalo! I knew it was a big animal!”

No, I did not laugh at the people. I laughed at me. I remembered all the times that I was so certain that I knew or was so certain about what had to happen. Thank you, Lord, for not requiring us to relive our pasts! The embarrassment would overwhelm us!

Something fantastic happened Sunday night! Two people prepared for eternity! Cyndi Glidewell, and her daughter, Corey Wakefield, joined Jesus in his crucifixion and resurrection by being baptized. They gave Jesus their lives and their sins, and Jesus forgave them and made them his daughters. That’s wonderful! That is what everything we do is about! May we help them mature in Christ as they help us.

Do We Trust God?

Posted by on April 5, 1998 under Sermons

Thank you for choosing to be here tonight. Thank you for your interest in our future as a congregation.

Tonight we will make an extremely important decision. Speaking for myself, this decision makes me nervous. Any decision we make, no matter what that decision is, makes me nervous. If we choose not to build or not to renovate, that makes me nervous for our future for very specific reasons. If we choose to build and to renovate, that makes me nervous because of specific elements of the commitment involved.

In the acknowledgment of that nervousness, I ask you to pray with me. [Prayer]

I want you to consider two familiar scriptures.

  1. First, consider this statement made by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20.
    1. “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
    2. This statement is a charge made by the resurrected Jesus to his apostles. Please take note of these things in the charge:
      1. Jesus has the right to give this charge–they were to listen to him.
      2. He wanted them to do two things:
        1. He wanted them to go among all peoples and make disciples.
        2. He wanted them to teach all who become disciples his commandments.
      3. He noted that two things were to happen.
        1. Those who choose to become disciples were to be baptized.
        2. Those who became disciples were to observe Jesus’ teachings.
    3. I think it is also important to note this fact: when Jesus gave this charge, no congregation of Christians existed.
      1. It is a very simple charge.
      2. It does not address the process of spiritually maturing congregations–that need was not a reality at that moment.
  2. Second, consider Ephesians 4:11-13.
    1. “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors, and some as teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”
    2. Conditions when Paul wrote this were different.
      1. What Jesus charged the apostles to do has been done in the city of Ephesus.
        1. The good news about Christ has been preached there and a number of men and women choose to become disciples.
        2. As disciples, they received teachings about Jesus and his message, teachings which were reaffirmed in Ephesians 1 and 2.
        3. But they still desperately needed to mature spiritually as a congregation.
        4. The church now existed in many places, and this congregation was the product of Jesus’ charge to his disciples.
      2. Please take note of these things.
        1. Jesus was in charge of making some disciples apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.
        2. Paul declared that the overall objective all of these combined roles was to equip disciples for service.
      3. Equipped disciples who served would build up the body of Christ, build up disciples as a body, build up Christians as a body.
      4. The service of building up had specific objectives.
        1. It was to lead to unity of the faith among disciples.
        2. It was to lead to unity of knowledge of Jesus.
        3. It was to produce spiritually mature disciples who functioned as a spiritually mature body.
        4. It was to produce the kind of maturity that resulted in the Christians measuring themselves by Jesus.
        5. It was to produce the kind of maturity that created the ambition to develop spiritually and be the kind of person Jesus was.
    3. Paul also said in verses 14-16 that the end result would be this:
      1. The disciples at Ephesus would not be spiritually immature children.
      2. They would hold on to truth in love.
      3. They would develop in every spiritual aspect of Christ.
      4. All the disciples would literally come together as a functioning body that built itself up in love.
  3. These are not two contradictory statements that are in competition.
    1. They are two complimentary statements that, together, declare Jesus’ complete intentions to do three things.
      1. To give all peoples the opportunity to become disciples.
      2. To give all disciples the responsibility of learning and living by his teachings.
      3. To bring disciples into close knit relationships where they serve and spiritually mature as they learn truth and grow in love.
    2. The New Testament makes it quite clear that these are not competitive, contradictory statements.
      1. Acts makes it clearly evident that the apostles and disciples went about the business of church planting by calling people to Jesus.
      2. Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus specifically addressed church development.
  4. As we approach our choices this evening, each one of us will face two powerful temptations.
    1. The first temptation is to approach the decision solely on the basis of personal preference.
      1. That will be a temptation confronting all of us–both those who feel it is responsible and wise to built and renovate, and those who feel it is responsible and wise not to build and renovate.
      2. Whatever your feeling, it is easy to have that feeling only because it is your personal preference.
    2. The second temptation is to react to the last building experience.
      1. The last building experience left a bitter taste in many members’ mouths.
      2. That bitter taste exists for many different reasons in different people.
      3. It would be very easy for the bitter taste to determine your decision.
    3. I am asking you to meet an enormous challenge face to face.
      1. I challenge you, whatever you decide, to decide on this primary basis: “To the best of my understanding, what decision is in Jesus Christ’s best interests in this congregation right now and in the future?”
      2. If each of us accept and meet that challenge, we still will not be in agreement.
      3. But doing that will mean that we put Christ first in our considerations.
      4. Whatever our decision, if each of us puts Christ first as we decide, no matter what we decide, this congregation will be blessed.

I make this request of every one of us: Do not trust yourself. Make your decision by trusting God.

Express your trust in God by surrendering yourself to His will for you to be born again into His family. Through baptism have your sins washed away.

Jesus Asked Me An Unexpected Question

Posted by on under Sermons

The greatest respect a person can voice is sincere praise. The greatest appreciation a person can show is sincere praise. The greatest admiration a person can declare is sincere praise. Sincere praise shows honor as nothing else can.

Unfortunately, the word praise has been attacked and robbed. Throughout the Bible praise is a powerful word that has a special significance to God. But in our humanistic, selfish, skeptical society the word has lost its meaning. When the word praise is used in contemporary conversation, it commonly means flattery, a tool of manipulation. In our religious vocabulary, often the word praise is a spiritual negative.

I have been a Christian for 46 years. I have preached full time for 36 years. I grew up in a Christian home. There has never been a year in my life when I did not attend church assemblies three times a week.

Yet, I have never known a congregation that specifically taught Christians how to praise God. I have never been asked to lead a Bible study of Biblical praise.

  1. The Bible is literally filled with occasions when people praised God.
    1. In Exodus 15 the Israelites that day had escaped from the Egyptian army to the safety of the other side of the Red Sea.
      1. When the sun rose that morning, they faced certain death–they were trapped between the Egyptian war machine and the waters of the Red Sea, and the grave was their destiny.
      2. Before the sun set that day, they were on the other shore of the Red Sea, the Egyptian war machine was in ruin, and the bodies of the Egyptian soldiers floated in the sea.
      3. God made it happen.
        1. God led them to safety.
        2. God destroyed the army that pursued them.
        3. And they knew that it was 100% an act of God.
      4. In relief and awe, they broke into jubilant song–a song composed that very moment as they praised God.
        1. It began with these words: “I will sing to the Lord for He is highly exalted” (Exodus 15:1).
        2. Verse 11: “Who is like You among the gods, O Lord? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders?”
    2. In 1 Chronicles 16, David successfully brought the holy ark of the covenant into Jerusalem and placed it in a special tent.
      1. The ark of the covenant was the most sacred object in Judaism.
        1. Verse 4 states that David appointed some Levites to minister to the ark.
          1. Did they minister to it by keeping it clean and protected? No.
          2. They were appointed to minister to it, “…even to celebrate and to thank and to praise the Lord God of Israel…”
          3. They ministered to the ark by praising God.
        2. Verse 7 states that David assigned Asaph and his relatives to thank God.
          1. Immediately following that assignment is a psalm of thanksgiving and praise (verses 8-36).
          2. Listen to just verses 8-14: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the peoples. Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; speak of all His wonders. Glory in His holy name; let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad. Seek the Lord and His strength, seek His face continually. Remember His wonderful deeds which He has done, His marvels and the judgments from His mouth, O seed of Israel His servant, sons of Jacob, His chosen ones! He is the Lord our God; His judgments are in all the earth.”
    3. The book of Psalms is filled with praises offered to God.
      1. One of the most common admonitions in the psalms is, “Praise ye the Lord.”
      2. In Psalms 22 David cries out in anguish with these familiar words, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”
        1. Then David expressed deep anguish and repentance.
        2. Then he praised God: “I will tell of Your name to my brothers; in the middle of the assembly I will praise You. You who fear the Lord, praise Him; all you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, and stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel” (verses 22,23).
      3. Psalms 117–“Praise the Lord, all nations; laud Him, all peoples! For His lovingkindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord is everlasting. Praise the Lord!”
      4. Psalms 135:1-3–“Praise the Lord! Praise the name of the Lord; praise Him, O servants of the Lord, you who stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of God! Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing praises to His name, for it is lovely.”
    4. In Luke 2, an angel announced to some shepherds the birth of Jesus.
      1. Immediately after the announcement, a multitude of heavenly beings (to many to count) praised God.
      2. These are their words: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14).
    5. This same gospel of Luke ends with the apostles praising God (chapter 24).
      1. The resurrected Jesus explained that everything that happened to him happened to fulfill what God said in the Law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms.
      2. He opened their minds so that they would understand the scriptures.
      3. He commissioned them to be his witnesses who preached repentance for the remission of sins in his name.
      4. Then he took them to Bethany and ascended into heaven.
      5. Listen to the closing of Luke: “And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple, praising God” (Luke 24:52,53).
    6. Acts 2 tells us about the first 3000 people who became Christians.
      1. Verses 46 and 47 tell us how these Christians acted.
        1. Every day they went to the temple.
        2. Every day they met in homes to eat with each other.
        3. They shared their meals with gladness and sincerity of heart.
      2. And they did something else every day: “…Praising God and having favor with all the people.”
  2. We have declared for decades that our serious goal was to be Christians like people were Christians in the New Testament and to be Christ’s church like Christians were in the New Testament.
    1. We see all this emphasis on praise in the Old Testament, in the gospels, in the apostles, and in the first congregation.
      1. We see an emphasis on praise that we have never placed on praise.
      2. It is tempting to say, “Well, that was just the initial excitement of the very first congregations–they were excited because Jesus was resurrected.
    2. Look with me at Ephesians 1.
      1. Paul began this letter by blessing God, the Father of Christ, Who has given us every spiritual blessing in Christ (verse 3).
      2. God chose us in Christ before the world was created, and He intended that we be holy and blameless before Him (verse 4).
      3. God predetermined that He would adopt us as His children through Christ “to the praise of the glory of His grace” (verses 5,6).
      4. Then look at verse 12: since they were the first to discover hope in Christ, they “should be to the praise of His glory.”
      5. Look again at verse 14: God has pledged that we would receive our inheritance; God would redeem His own possession–and Christians are that possession; and God would do this “to the praise of His glory.”
      6. Paul declared that Christians exist:
        1. To praise the glory of God’s grace.
        2. To praise the glory of God’s hope in Christ.
        3. To praise God’s glory for giving us our inheritance.
      7. It is impossible to be what God intended us to be without praising God.
  3. God’s trumpet has sounded, Christ has appeared, and we are talking to Jesus Christ. Please picture yourself in this conversation.
    1. Each of us stand awestruck before the Lamb of God.
      1. “Lord, I surely am happy to stand before you as a Christian–I was a member of the West-Ark Church of Christ for 25 years before you returned.”
      2. Did you place your faith in me as your resurrected Savior? “Oh, yes sir!”
      3. Were you redeemed by my blood? “Oh, yes sir!”
      4. Were you a part of my people? “Oh, yes sir!”
      5. Did you praise me? “What?” Did you praise me? “I think I know what you are asking.”
        1. “I absolutely opposed the use of instrumental music in worship. There was just no authority for it. So I never attended worship where there was an instrument.”
        2. But did you praise me?
        3. “I absolutely opposed the use of multiple song leaders. I did not know anything specifically wrong with it, but I knew it was dangerous–you just never know where something like that will lead.”
        4. But did you praise me?
        5. “Well, one time I changed my membership because a congregation had a singing group; and I knew it was just an excuse to start a choir.”
        6. But did you praise me?
        7. “I was very emphatic about the kind of songs the church should sing.”
        8. But did you praise me?
        9. “I prayed a lot of prayers–in fact we never ate unless we prayed.”
        10. But did you praise me?
        11. “I taught some Bible classes.”
        12. But did you praise me?
        13. “I read my Bible through once every year from the time I was thirty years old.”
        14. But did you praise me?
      6. “Lord, I am not sure what you are asking. I know the Bible used that word. I think people in the Bible did that. But the only teaching I heard about praise was what you shouldn’t do. I was told that was all I needed to know.”
    2. And at that very moment you could see past Jesus and looked directly at the great throne of God.
      1. And you saw the four living creatures with six wings and full of eyes and heard them saying ceaselessly:
        1. “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and is to come” (Revelation 4:8).
        2. And you listened as they gave glory and honor and thanks to God.
      2. And you saw the twenty-four elders fall down before God, and take their crowns off and place them before God, and worship Him saying, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and because of Your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:11).
      3. And you saw the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fall down before Jesus, and they sang a new song that praised Jesus for using his blood to purchase the people who became God’s kingdom and God’s priest (Revelation 5:8-11).
      4. Then you heard thousands and thousands of angels saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Revelation 5:12).
      5. And every created thing in heaven and on earth joined their voices and said in unison, as one single, deafening voice to both God and Jesus: “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever” (Revelation 5:13).

And Jesus looked at you one more time and asked, “Did you praise me?”

How do you glorify God? How do you honor the God who gives you breath? How do you honor the God who keeps the earth turning? How do you honor the God who needs nothing from you? You praise Him and honor Him by trusting His Son. You praise Him and honor Him by treating your wife and your children properly. You praise Him and honor Him by the way you pray. You praise Him and honor Him by the way you sing. You praise Him and honor Him by the way you act as His son or daughter. You praise Him and honor Him by the way you interact with other Christians. You praise Him and honor Him by the way you reverence and honor His Word. You praise Him and honor Him by your awareness that nothing else matters but the will of God.

You begin to do all that by giving yourself to Him, by accepting His gift, by accepting His grace. Let Him wash your sin away in the blood of His Son. You can live only because you live in Jesus Christ.

The day will come when every knee will bend and every voice, saved or lost, will join in chorus and say, “Worthy are you for glory and honor and praise.”

Partake of His resurrection in baptism. Honor Him for His salvation.

When Faith Directs the Person, God Uses Everything

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

At some point in the last 150 years, we placed ourselves under a curse. It happened slowly and innocently, not suddenly and dramatically. When? The moment we concluded that conformity to prevailing religious emphases verifies true conversion.

It is the concept of spiritual cloning. “Conversion to Christ manifests itself in identical ways in every person. Genuinely converted people think alike, reason alike, reach identical conclusions, have identical emphases, conform to identical standards, and defend identical convictions with identical reasoning.”

James and John (the sons of thunder) were very unlike cocky, confident Peter, but God used all of them. Matthew the tax collector and Simon the Zealot came from groups whose thinking and actions were totally opposite, but God used both of them. Nicodemus and the Samaritan divorcee came from different spiritual universes, but God used both of them. Barnabas, the son of exhortation, radically differed from Paul, the converted persecutor, but God used both of them. The discouraged John Mark and the uncircumcised Titus were quite different from all the above, but God used them too. Jews and idol worshippers who were converted to Christ shared nothing in common, but God used them both.

The “people diversity” of the early church is staggering. Only one thing allowed God to use these diverse Christians for His purposes: their living faith in Christ.

Some have asked me, “What do you think the congregation will decide about the building? About the screening committee? About additional elders?” My honest answer: I haven’t the slightest idea. These are your choices, not mine.

“What do you see in all this?” I see incredible opportunity. “For facilities? worship? leadership? growth potential?” Certainly, I see those opportunities, and each has more potential than we grasp. But none of them are the incredible opportunity that I see. Whatever you decide, what an opportunity! For what? For us to grow in Christ’s spirit, for us to destroy old walls, for us to live in the present instead of the past, for us as a congregation to pursue Christ’s total objectives instead of our own preferences.