When the World Crumbles

Posted by on May 31, 1998 under Sermons

The impossible happened. The unthinkable became reality. They knew they were God’s people, and they were. But they were also selfish and materialistic. They worshipped, but they just went through the motions. They did what God commanded, but not with their hearts. Their faith was in themselves and their identity. With all their hearts they believed, “God will not let anything bad happen to us.”

A powerful empire invaded their country. This mighty, ungodly empire laid siege to their capitol city (2 Kings 24, 25). Their city fell, their world crumbled, and in time the whole nation became prisoners of war in a foreign land.

About seventy years later, their conquerors fell, and a new empire with a new king came to power. He told the surviving prisoners of war and their descendants that they could go home. He encouraged them to return, to rebuild their temple, and to worship their God (Ezra 1). But only 42,000 people returned (Ezra 2:64). There was nothing to return to. The temple had been destroyed. The buildings had been burned. The city had been rubble for over 50 years. And there was no safety: the wall that protected Jerusalem had been destroyed.

  1. Later, a small group of men traveled from Jerusalem back to the land of captivity.
    1. Nehemiah, who was one of the king’s personal servants, visited these men.
      1. He eagerly asked about conditions in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1).
      2. He was told that things were horrible.
      3. The city was still in ruin, the walls were useless, and the gates had been burned.
      4. There was no protection for the people who had returned, and they were hated by local enemies.
    2. Upon hearing this news, Nehemiah prayed, and his prayer is one of the most touching prayers in the Bible.
      1. “You are the God who keeps His promises to those who love and obey You.
      2. “Please give special attention to my prayer.
      3. “I confess that I and my ancestors have been sinful, corrupt, and disobedient.
      4. “You warned us through Moses that if we acted in these ways that You would scatter us throughout the nations.
      5. “But You also promised if we repented that You would gather us together again in the place that You cause Your name to dwell.
      6. “Please, when I go before the king today, help me be successful.”
    3. Nehemiah literally took his life in his hands by going before the king with a sad face (Nehemiah 2).
      1. The king asked why he was sad, and Nehemiah explained the horrible conditions in his homeland.
      2. The king asked, “What do you want to do?”
      3. Nehemiah replied, “Let me go to Jerusalem and rebuild its walls.”
      4. The king gave him permission to go and gave him all the necessary letters to do that job.
    4. The book of Nehemiah explains how enormous the job was, how difficult the work was, and how many crises Nehemiah and the people faced.
      1. But, with great difficulty, they succeeded.
      2. They succeeded for two reasons.
        1. Nehemiah had great faith in God, and he used his faith to build faith in the others.
        2. They did it for God, and not for themselves.
  2. This congregation is one of the most generous congregations that I have ever known.
    1. It has been a privilege to be a part of you for over a year and a half.
      1. I have never worked for a congregation that had so much ability.
      2. I have never worked for a congregation that had so much potential.
      3. I have never worked for a congregation that gave so generously in so many ways to sustain such a wide variety of efforts and works.
    2. Every week that I am a part of you, I become more and more aware of how powerfully we can yet serve God’s purposes.
      1. God has given us many unique opportunities.
      2. We can serve God’s purposes in many unique ways.
      3. I constantly pray that God will use me to help that happen.
  3. We are blessed with a group of highly motivated, highly committed, extremely generous members in this congregation who are committed to touching other nations with the powerful message of Jesus Christ.
    1. They have been doing this effectively and creatively for years.
      1. When our mission group leaves for Guyana next week, this will be the eighth year that a group from this congregation has gone to Guyana to combine medical mission work with evangelistic work.
        1. In those eight years, 105 members of this congregation will have spent a week in Guyana doing that work.
      2. If my information is correct, members of this congregation have been involved in teaching and preaching efforts in twenty nations outside the United States.
    2. As of this day, there are almost six billion people in our world.
      1. Since 1996, 95 out of every 100 births occur in less developed countries.
      2. The population of the U.S. is 270 million people.
    3. These capable, motivated members committed to teaching people of other nations are not intimidated by seemingly impossible challenges.
      1. They are not intimidated by disease, or illiteracy, or language barriers, or poverty, or the enormous challenges of cross-cultural communication.
      2. They are not intimidated by unfriendly governments, or political red tape, or ethnic barriers, or racial hatreds, or tribalism.
      3. They are not intimidated by individuals or by groups who have the wrong motives in befriending us or who seek to exploit us.
    4. The work of a missionary is very unusual work.
      1. It is the hardest work I have ever done because it presents the most complex challenges and demands that I have ever encountered.
      2. One stage of mission work is enjoyable beyond description: that is the explosive response stage when people are eagerly converted.
      3. Another stage of mission work is commonly agony.
        1. When few of the new Christians read, when few have any Christian concepts, the process of helping new congregations grow toward spiritual maturity is an incredible challenge.
        2. The growth can be so slow, and the need can be so great, that it is agonizing.
      4. Mission work is hard work, demanding work, and expensive work, but we are not about to abandon it.
  4. We are in the process of bringing together another group of highly motivated, highly committed, very generous members in this congregation who are committed to touching Fort Smith with the powerful message of Jesus.
    1. This group is coming together right now in the congregation.
      1. The inner city work, C.U.RE. which is an aid program for those who have experienced a disaster in this region, our newcomers and visitors ministry that is just taking form, and our youth work are just a few expressions of this group.
      2. This group wants to touch the lives of people in this city and in the surrounding area with the reality of Jesus.
      3. This work is also hard.
        1. There are people who take advantage of us and use us.
        2. The challenges are enormous–you have to learn how to reach out, how to be real help, how to do more than just make an effort.
      4. There are times when this work is exciting.
        1. To see a person come to the point of discovery and repentance is exciting.
        2. Nothing is more exciting than seeing someone who had no hope find hope in Jesus.
      5. But there is the same agony in this work, the same challenges of helping people grow toward spiritual maturity.
    2. Just like the challenges of mission work, reaching out through Christ to our own society is hard, demanding, expensive work, but we are not about to abandon our society.
  5. In the name of the God who gave us Jesus, in the name of Jesus who died for us, in the name of God’s Spirit who lives within us, in the name of the mercy that is saving our souls, I challenge each of us to rise to our highest level of commitment.
    1. Our society desperately needs Christians who care.
      1. It desperately needs Christians who will be lights by the way they live.
      2. It desperately needs Christians who will show people another way of life.
      3. It desperately needs Christians who will model the life that produces hope instead of despair.
      4. We dare not abandon our society!
    2. There are some things I know from actual experience.
      1. I know how desperately missionaries need the right tools.
        1. I know those tools often take very unusual forms.
        2. But when a missionary has the tools he needs, it creates opportunity.
      2. I know how desperately a congregation in this nation needs the right tools.
        1. I know those tools also take some very unusual forms.
        2. But when a congregation has the tools it needs, it creates opportunity.
    3. Help us get the tools we need.
      1. Help us use them powerfully and effectively when we get them.
      2. Help us do this without significantly increasing our indebtedness.

Nehemiah was a man of great faith. His first great work of faith was rebuilding an enormous rock wall. Building a rock wall does not sound very spiritual. But it was. Building that wall created enormous spiritual opportunity. One of the great renewals in Israel began because that wall was built.

Building a Family Life Center may not sound very spiritual. But what we do after we have that building will help create the greatest spiritual opportunities we have ever had. It will be one important step in producing spiritual renewal.

A more relevent issue in our lives is the tearing down of the wall in your life that separates you from God. Do you have enough faith to show people hope who live in despair? Do you have enough faith to tear your wall down? Will you trust the God that gave life to His crucified and buried Son? You can tear down the wall. Remove it today. Then God can give you life. Does that involve being baptized? Does that involve a need of our prayers?

The Power of Visions and Dreams

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

The sun rose and set as always. Physically the world looked the same. But things were eerily different. A popular man who did nothing but good was executed about two months earlier. However, hundreds of people saw him alive after his execution. His after death appearances were the talk of Jerusalem.

On this day, a loud, strange sound was heard throughout the city. It attracted thousands of people to one place. Twelve disciples of the executed man spoke to this huge crowd. The men were obviously uneducated. Yet, they spoke their message just once. Instantly and without interpreters, people from sixteen different regions heard the message–in their own native language.

One of the twelve took charge. He said what they witnessed was the result of God pouring out His Spirit. This was the actual fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Joel 2:28-32). God’s Spirit would be poured out. Their sons and daughters would prophesy. Young men would see visions, and old men would dream dreams.

With these events (Acts 2), the family of God, the community of Christians, the “called out of sin and into Christ,” or the church began. That day a unique spiritual movement began. Though it was very small, it would change the world.

When evil entered this world, God began tirelessly working toward this day. Three things made Jesus’ resurrection the pivotal point of history. The first was God’s work and planning. The second was the pouring out of God’s Spirit. The third was the visions and dreams of people.

Jesus Christ’s resurrection powerfully declared a unique truth. Death could not stop God’s work in Jesus. Therefore, death cannot stop God’s work in the people.

The combination of (1) Jesus’ resurrection, (2) God’s work and purposes, (3) the Spirit’s work and purposes, and (4) the visions and dreams of people who are in Christ changed the world. Not suddenly, but certainly.

What reason is the foundation for our special contribution June 7? For raising a million dollars for the renovations and the Family Life Center? We wish to blend our visions and dreams with the work and purposes of God and the Spirit. Why? To work with God, Christ, and the Spirit to produce eternal results through resurrection.

Do You Understand the Old and Recognize the New?

Posted by on May 24, 1998 under Sermons

People who understand the old are commonly confused by the new. This is true in every area of life. This is true in every age. There was a time when most people walked, and they were concerned when more and more people began to ride horses. There was a time when most people rode horses, and they were concerned when more and more people began to use carriages. There was a time when most people rode carriages or wagons, and they were concerned when more and more people began to ride motor cars. There was a time when most people rode automobiles, and they were concerned when more and more people began to travel by air. And on it goes.

The same thing is true in every area of life: changes in the work place, in marriage roles, in parenting styles, in lifestyles, in education, or any area you wish to name. We who understand the old are commonly confused by the new.

It is certainly true spiritually. We say spiritually that nothing is new. In a sense, that is true. God has not changed. Christ has not changed. The Holy Spirit has not changed. What God accomplished in Christ has not changed.

But anything we learn more accurately and more correctly from scripture about God, and Christ, and the Holy Spirit, and what God accomplished in Christ is new to us. Because no generation ever perfectly understands God, or Christ, or the Holy Spirit, or what God accomplished in the death and resurrection of Jesus, we always will be learning and understanding things we did not know. Each time we learn and understand, what we discover is “new” to us.

In a way it is not new: it has been true since the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus. In a way it is new to us because we learned and understood something we did not know. In that sense we will always grow, and we will always be moving from the old to the new.

  1. There is a person who serves a unique, invaluable role in God’s work.
    1. This person knows the old and recognizes the new.
      1. He or she understands both the old and the new.
      2. In that understanding, he or she can help others understand the old and the new.
    2. Jesus told us about this unique person in Matthew 13:51,52.
      1. He asked his disciples, “Do you understand these teachings that I have given you about the kingdom?”
      2. And they said, “Yes.”
      3. Then Jesus said, “A scribe who has become a disciple is like a father who is in charge of a household.”
        1. “He has treasures;” perhaps Jesus was speaking of the treasures of experience and wisdom.
        2. Some of the things that he shares with his household are old, understood, and obviously valuable.
        3. But he also shares things with his household that are new, that they had never seen or considered.
        4. And because of him, they see the value of the new.
    3. To get the full impact of Jesus’ statement, consider the situation.
      1. Jesus’ mother, brothers, and sisters came looking for Jesus, and they found him teaching a large crowd of people (Matthew 12:46-50).
        1. Someone told Jesus that his family was there and wanted to speak to him.
        2. Jesus declared that all who were his disciples, all who did the will of God were his family.
      2. On that same day, he went to the sea shore, sat in a boat just off the shore, and taught parables to a huge crowd of people who stood on the shore (Matthew 13).
        1. First, he taught the parable of the sower.
          1. When he finished that parable, his disciples asked him, “Why are you teaching in parables?”
          2. He explained why he taught in parables, and to them he explained the parable of the sower.
        2. Then he taught a whole series of parables on the kingdom of heaven.
          1. He taught a parable about an enemy who corrupted a planted field of wheat by sowing a weed.
            1. The land owner left the weeds in the field until harvest time.
            2. Then he gathered the weeds and burned them.
          2. He compared the kingdom to the growth and development of a tiny mustard seed that grew into a 12 foot tall tree.
          3. He compared the kingdom to yeast.
          4. In fact, that day, every lesson he taught the multitude he taught in the form of a parable.
      3. The huge crowd of people left, and Jesus and his disciples went to a house.
        1. In private they said, “Please explain the parable about the enemy who sowed weed seeds in a man’s wheat field.”
        2. Jesus explained that parable, and then he taught his disciples three more parables about the kingdom.
          1. He said the kingdom was like a hidden treasure that a man discovered.
          2. The kingdom was like a pearl merchant who was looking for the most valuable pearl that existed.
          3. The kingdom was like a drag net that caught anything and everything when it was used.
      4. At the conclusion of all these teachings, he made the point about the scribe.
        1. He asked, “Do you understand what I have said?”
        2. He declared the great value of a scribe who could share things old and new from his treasures.
  2. Let’s dig a little deeper to get the full impact of what Jesus said about the scribe.
    1. The scribe was an expert in the Jewish scriptures we call the Old Testament.
      1. A Jewish scribe copied scripture by hand.
      2. The process he used was exact, pains taking, and meticulous.
      3. To insure accuracy, there were a number of checks that were performed on his copies.
      4. This process with time and repetition made him an expert in the divine wisdom and teachings of the old.
    2. This scribe was like the scribe of Mark 12:28-34 who recognized that Jesus’ teachings were correct.
      1. A scribe who understood Jesus’ teachings understood new revelations from God’s wisdom and purposes.
      2. He could bring new, valuable understandings from the treasures of God’s wisdom and purpose.
      3. This unique role helped people see and understand the old and new from the wisdom and purposes of God.
    3. Let’s illustrate that fact with the concept of God’s kingdom.
      1. Until Jesus began to teach, God’s kingdom was the nation of Israel.
        1. It was a specific people who had descended from Abraham.
        2. It occupied a specific geographic place with specific boundaries.
        3. It was ruled by a human king.
        4. It contained a temple on a specific geographic site in a specific city that was declared by God to be the only place for sacrificial worship.
      2. But Jesus taught about God’s kingdom in entirely different terms.
        1. It was not limited to one nation of people who descended from Abraham.
        2. It did not occupy a geographic area with physical boundaries.
        3. It did not have a human ruler.
        4. It did not have a specific site for worship that was the approved place for worship.
      3. What Jesus taught about God’s kingdom was radically different to what was recognized to be God’s kingdom for 1400 to 1500 years.
      4. The scribe who understood both could help people see and understand the great wisdom of God and His purposes in both the old and the new.
  3. We, as Christ’s church, struggle to grasp and understand God’s wisdom in the new and the old.
    1. For example, we are so comfortable with our old understandings and practices in the church that it is very difficult for us to learn from scripture anything that we have not understood in the past.
      1. It is so easy to think that we have always understood everything that can be understood.
      2. It is so easy to think that we have always been 100% correct in everything that we understood.
      3. It is so easy to believe that there is nothing new to understand.
      4. It is hard to learn.
    2. As hard as it is for us to be open to learning from scripture, it was much, much harder for the Jewish people of Jesus’ day.
      1. They heard a voice, but they had nothing in writing.
      2. If it had been in print, most of them could not have read it.
      3. And this voice belonged to a man who had not been trained in the scriptures by the accepted schools of that day.
    3. Let me give you a specific example. I encourage you to follow me in your Bibles.
      1. Deuteronomy 12:5,10-14.
        1. By God’s specific commandment, Israel was to offer national worship at one specific place, “the place I cause my name to dwell.”
        2. Only there could an Israelite sacrifice or give his tithe.
        3. They were absolutely forbidden to offer sacrifices any place else.
      2. Deuteronomy 15:19,20.
        1. All first born male animals and first born sons belonged to God (Exodus 13:1,2).
        2. First born sons were redeemed (Exodus 13:13).
        3. First born animals were sacrificed to God and eaten by the family.
        4. That sacrifice could only occur at this place.
      3. Deuteronomy 16:2.
        1. The Passover was to be observed only at this place.
        2. Only here could the lamb be sacrificed and eaten.
      4. Deuteronomy 16:16.
        1. Three times a year every Israelite man was to travel to this place to observe three occasions of national worship.
        2. Only here could this national worship be offered.
        3. When Solomon built the temple, God accepted the temple to be that place permanently (2 Chronicles 7:12).
      5. For eight hundred years the temple mount in the city of Jerusalem was that place.
    4. With the death and resurrection of Jesus, God no longer appointed a geographic place as the site of acceptable worship.
      1. No longer was there a holy site where people had to assemble to worship God (John 4:21-24).
      2. The temple of God was no longer a place; the temple of God was the body of the Christian (I Corinthians 6:19,20).

Can you see the incredible challenge of being able to know the old and recognize the new? Do you see the indescribable value of the person who not only does that, but can help others understand by revealing the God’s treasures in both?

And Our God Gave a Sacrifice

Posted by on under Sermons

Sooner than you realize, once again we will witness that uniquely American event called the Presidential Election. A number of men and perhaps some women will spend a lot of energy and money trying to become the President.

These hopefuls will be very creative in their efforts to get positive media coverage. Nothing is more valuable or more cherished than an unique photo opportunity. To get a fifteen second sound bite on national network news is pure political gold. A candidate will go anywhere and do anything for an exceptional photo opportunity. So we will watch the hopefuls pretending to do things that they never did before in the attempt to identify with the American public.

But it is just a photo opportunity. That is all it is. He or she has never done that job. He or she never intends to be in that situation. The only reason he or she is there is to get fifteen seconds of recognition on the news. The candidates are looking for a way to declare, “I identify with you people. I am one of you. That is why you should vote for me.”

God does not use photo opportunities. God never manipulates our perceptions with fifteen second sound bites. God identified with us on the deepest level of existence. God challenges us to identify with Him on the deepest level of existence.

  1. For thousands of years, the inferior sacrificed to the superior; people offered animal sacrifices to God.
    1. One of the more common sacrifices offered to God was a lamb.
      1. Through sacrifice, the lamb became the symbol of sacrifice.
      2. A man named Abel made the first animal sacrifice to God; he killed a sheep as an act of worship, and God was pleased (Genesis 4:2-7).
    2. Often the Israelites were commanded to sacrifice a lamb.
      1. Leviticus 1:1-9 gave specific instructions for offering an animal as a sacrifice of burnt offering to atone for sin.
        1. You had to own the animal you killed.
        2. The animal had to come from your best–it could not be sick or crippled.
        3. The man brought the animal to the Tabernacle, and he placed his hands on the head of the animal to transfer his sin and guilt to the animal.
        4. The priest then killed the animal.
          1. The blood was offered to God.
          2. The carcass was butchered and burned.
      2. If the animal was a sheep, it had to be a male without any defects.
    3. At times the offering of choice was a lamb a year old.
      1. On the night that God freed the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, every family offered a lamb (Exodus 12:21-28).
        1. The lamb’s blood was smeared around the door to protect them from death.
        2. They were dressed to travel when they ate the lamb in anticipation of their deliverance.
        3. Every year after that on the same date, the Israelites gathered for the holiest day of their year.
        4. On that day they remembered God’s deliverance by sacrificing and eating a lamb.
      2. Numbers 28:3-8 instructed Israel as a nation to sacrifice one lamb every morning, and one lamb every evening at sunset.
      3. On the Sabbath day, or Saturday, they offered four lambs (Numbers 28:9,10).
      4. On the first day of every month, the nation offered special sacrifices (Numbers 28:11).
        1. Among the animals sacrificed were seven lambs.
      5. During the days of the feasts of Passover and Unleaven Bread, the nation offered special animal sacrifices (Numbers 28:19).
        1. Those sacrifices included seven lambs.
      6. On the day of Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks, the nation offered special animal sacrifices.
        1. Those sacrifices included seven lambs (Numbers 28:27).
      7. In the seventh month, the nation offered special animal sacrifices (Numbers 29).
        1. In addition to the other animals offered, 119 lambs were sacrificed from the first through the fifteenth of the month.
      8. In the nation of Israel, the lamb became the symbol of sacrifice.
  2. How would you introduce the Son of the living God?
    1. This is the mighty God, the God who gives life, the creator God who brought everything into existence, the God who protects and preserves His people.
      1. What would be the appropriate introduction for the Son of this mighty God?
      2. How should he be honored?
    2. John the baptizer was born for the specific purpose of introducing Jesus.
      1. When he saw Jesus coming to him, he did not say:
        1. “Behold, God’s mighty arm!”
        2. “Behold, God’s King of kings!”
        3. “Behold, God’s great conqueror who will defeat Satan!”
        4. “Behold, God’s great spokesman!”
      2. Just before Jesus began his ministry, John introduced Jesus by declaring, “Behold, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
      3. God let His son be placed on an altar made in the form of a splintered cross, and allowed him to die for our sins, just like a sin offering.
        1. The God who had been worshipped by sacrifice for thousands of years gave a sacrifice, a special lamb without any defect.
        2. Peter cautioned us not to forget that we were redeemed with the precious blood of God’s lamb, the blood of Jesus (1 Peter 1:19).
        3. When John looked into heaven and saw God’s throne, he saw Jesus standing as a sacrificed lamb, and he heard thousands and thousands of angels shouting, “Worthy is the Lamb” (Revelation 5:6,11,12)
  3. God’s sacrificed Lamb calls to all who have life in him to sacrifice as God sacrificed.
    1. No words express this call as dramatically as does Paul’s statement in Romans:
      Realizing all that God did to make it possible for you to be His own people (chapter 11), “I urge you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (12:1)
      1. Permit me to state what Paul said in very simple terms.
        1. Each day of your life, take your body and crawl on God’s altar.
        2. Keep your body on God’s altar all day.
        3. Everything you do, do as God’s living sacrifice.
      2. In every relationship and circumstance of life, be God’s living sacrifice.
        1. Husbands, be God’s living sacrifice in your marriage.
        2. Wives, be God’s living sacrifice in your marriage.
        3. Parents, be God’s living sacrifice as you love and care for your children.
        4. Children, be God’s living sacrifice as you care for your parents.
        5. On your jobs, be God’s living sacrifice.
        6. In school, be God’s living sacrifice.
        7. In your leisure time, be God’s living sacrifice.
        8. As you deal with people in every context, be God’s living sacrifice.
        9. Whatever you do, wherever you go, whatever your circumstances, never forget, “I placed my body on the altar this morning–I am His sacrifice.”
      3. Paul said to do that, we must have some basic understandings (Romans 12:2).
        1. If our living body is given to God in sacrifice, God defines who and what we are; the ungodly world never defines who and what we are.
        2. If we are God’s living sacrifice, we permit God to completely change us, in the same way that a caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly.
        3. That change can happen only if we allow God to develop within us a new mind, which includes a new way of thinking.
        4. That change happens only if we are personally committed to discovering God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will for our bodies.
      4. What will be the end result?
        1. The end result will be a sacrifice that exists to honor and worship God.
        2. The way I live in and use my body will honor and worship God each day all day every day.
        3. Public worship occurs in assemblies like this to honor God.
        4. Private worship occurs in the way my body honors God every minute of every day.
    2. God’s own Son was God’s sacrifice.
      1. When we place our bodies on God’s altar, we join God’s Son on the altar.
      2. There is no better place; there is no better altar.
  4. Once Paul was raising funds from non-Jewish Christians to send relief to Jewish Christians who were starving (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).
    1. Some very poor Christians gathered an incredibly generous gift to give.
      1. Paul knew their poverty.
      2. He knew that they had given much more than they could afford to give.
      3. He almost refused to take their gift, but they begged him to accept it.
      4. Then Paul clearly realized what had happened.
        1. Before the need for the gift existed, they gave themselves to the Lord.
        2. Because they had given themselves to the Lord, they gave themselves to Paul by the will of God.
    2. With all my heart, I want you to realize the importance of placing your body on God’s altar every day.
      1. I want you to make that firm, solid decision as your personal choice.
      2. Whatever happens on any day, you never forget that your body exists to honor God.
      3. When you do that, God uses you in ways that you cannot imagine to accomplish things for Him that you never thought possible.
    3. On Sunday, June 7, we take a special collection to begin a building fund.
      1. These funds will be used in the next year or year and a half to produce facilities that we genuinely need.
      2. Buildings are nothing but tools.
      3. We need these tools to teach, influence, and help people.
      4. If we do as much of the renovation work as possible, and if we contribute generously, we can significantly reduce the amount of money we must borrow.
      5. We need at least a million dollars; we want to borrow as little of that as possible.
        1. We want to use as much of our money as possible to teach and to help people.
        2. We want to use as little of our money as possible for interest payments.

“Preacher, don’t you realize that you are doing this all wrong. You need time, you need a well organized campaign, you need all kinds of preparation to raise big money.” Yes, I understand that “we are doing this all wrong.” But we have an immediate need, and we have very little time.

So let me share with you what I believe. I believe that every Christian man or woman in this congregation who is God’s living sacrifice will do what he or she can do. I believe this Christian will do what he or she can do because he or she has placed self on God’s altar.

This Christian will do what he or she can do because we all understand that our real goal is to help people. When we do all that we can do, we have done what can be done. And whatever that is, it will be enough. So all I ask you to do is what you are able to do.

God sent His own Son as a Lamb. He let Him be sacrificed to us. When we participate in His death, burial, and resurrection through baptism, our guilt is placed on Jesus Christ. Through His blood we have atonement. We stand in God’s eyes as forgiven.

Combining Heart, Imagination, and Challenge

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Christians are a community that serves God. We serve God because we trust and love Him. We trust Him because He created our forgiveness by allowing people to execute His Son. We love Him because we see His love for us in the blood of His Son.

Jesus built the community called Christians. His sacrificial death destroyed Satan’s power. His blood freed us from evil’s control. His resurrection gives us solid assurance. He who gave Jesus life in resurrection gives us life in Jesus.

Christians who serve God serve people. We treat people as we wish to be treated (Matthew 7:12). Learning from God’s love, we learn to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44-48). The way we treat others is the way we treat Jesus (Matthew 25:40).

We must work wisely within the opportunities the times provide us. By far, the most effective way to touch people today is through the association of friendship. In America, friendship association is the key that opens opportunity’s incredible doors.

West-Ark has enormous potential. We need better tools to take advantage of our opportunities. Our renovations and Family Life Center are such tools.

Some members expressed interest in creating these needed tools without expanding our indebtedness. That would be wonderful!

Two weeks ago I challenged you to consider doing two things. First, I challenged you to help us do as much of the renovation work as possible “in house.” That significantly will reduce the cost of renovation. Second, I challenged you to give generously to a building fund. Contributed funds will reduce the amount of money we need to borrow.

Contributed funds of a million dollars might eliminate the need to borrow any money. This would hasten the day when our indebtedness ended. It would hasten the day when we have “in place” the tools we need to better utilize our enormous potential.

On June 7, 1998 we will take up a special collection for our building fund. We ask every member to do what he or she can do. We want no member to attempt what he or she cannot do.

Quick Fixes or Solid Solutions?

Posted by on May 17, 1998 under Sermons

How would you like for God to remove the greatest problem in your life? How would you like for God to completely destroy that problem? How would you like for God to heal and mend your life as if that problem never existed? How would you like to spend the rest of your life as if you had never experienced any of the consequences that problem produced?

Suppose God, independent of any suggestion or request that you made, searched your life with His perfect vision as He looked for your greatest problem. I am talking about the number one problem in your life, the source of your greatest distress. And when God identified that problem, he removed it and destroyed every consequence that it produced. Would you like for that to happen?

What if God did that, but the problem God removed was not the problem that you considered to be your number one problem? What if God removed your true number one problem, but it was not the problem you wanted removed?

  1. Some men brought a paralyzed man to Jesus to be healed (Luke 5:17-26).
    1. Jesus was teaching in a house when the men arrived.
      1. The house was so full of people that these men could not get in.
      2. They took the man on a stretcher to the roof, opened a hole in the roof big enough to let the man down through the hole, and lowered the man to Jesus–they must have been very determined men!
      3. When the man was lowered to Jesus (can you imagine the distraction to Jesus as the men tore the roof up?), Jesus saw their faith and said to the man, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.”
    2. They brought the man to Jesus to be healed, not to be forgiven.
      1. Healing would take care of a temporary problem; forgiveness took care of an eternal problem.
      2. A healed body would get sick and die; a healed soul would live with God.
      3. I wonder if the men were disappointed when they heard Jesus say, “your sins are forgiven?”
      4. Jesus saw the man’s greatest problem and addressed that problem.
  2. Does entering Christ, belonging to Christ, giving your life to Christ offer us solid solutions?
    1. Last Sunday night I emphasized this point: we should not create false expectations when we present people with genuine hope in Christ.
      1. First, Satan does not cease to exist when a person who in faith and repentance is baptized into Christ.
        1. Personal weakness does not stop.
        2. Temptation does not suddenly become a minor, easily conquered force.
      2. Second, false expectations are spiritually devastating.
        1. They make a person think God has no power.
        2. Or, they make a person think that God lied to him.
        3. Or, they make a person think that God does not care.
        4. Or, they make a person feel like she has been deceived.
    2. Does that mean that you are on your own, that God cannot help you, and that Christ’s solutions are not real?
      1. No, emphatically no, to all three questions.
      2. You were on your own before coming to Christ; you are not on your own after coming to Christ.
      3. You were outside of God’s help and grace before coming to Christ; you are inside God’s help and grace after coming to Christ.
      4. Christ solutions are real beyond your imagination.
  3. The moment you become God’s son or daughter, God places three powerful sources of solutions immediately in your hands.
    1. The first power for solid solutions immediately placed in your hands is faith.
      1. In Matthew 17:1-8, on a mountain top, Jesus assumed his heavenly body in the presence of Peter, James, and John.
        1. When the four of them came down from the mountain, they encountered a huge crowd of people with the other nine disciples (Matthew 17:14-21).
        2. A father came running to Jesus.
          1. He brought a son to the nine disciples to be healed, and they were unable to heal the boy.
          2. Jesus healed the boy.
        3. Later, the nine asked Jesus why they could not heal the boy.
        4. He replied, “Because your faith is too little. If your faith were as big as a mustard seed, you could tell a mountain to move and it would move.”
      2. That statement intrigues us.
        1. We speculate on how much power faith can generate today.
        2. We talk about the faith that will move a mountain.
        3. We discuss how much power faith should or should not have.
      3. But we commonly make an assumption that misses Jesus’ point.
        1. We commonly assume that having a mustard seed sized faith would be simple, and we assume that we are near that level of faith.
        2. Jesus told his disciples that they failed to heal the boy because they did not have enough faith to equal a mustard seed.
        3. They left their homes; they left their families; they followed Jesus full time; they had successfully performed miracles; and they remained with Jesus in trying and dangerous moments.
        4. Do you think you have more faith than they had?
        5. If their faith did not equal a mustard seed, what measure of faith do you have?
      4. The foundation essential to finding solid solutions in Christ is faith.
        1. As your willingness to trust God grows, God’s work in your life grows.
        2. God works in your life by invitation.
        3. You invite Him to work in your life by trusting Him.
        4. The more you trust him, the more powerfully He works.
      5. When my faith comes to life, there are some things that I know.
        1. I know that God is working in my life all the time–regardless of the problems I am experiencing, regardless of my circumstances.
        2. I know that because I love God, He will use every attack, every action of Satan to eternally benefit me (Romans 8:28).
        3. I know that the primary concerns of God in my life are eternal, not physical–the objective of everything He does for me is to bring me home.
        4. I know that I can in God’s love spiritually survive anything that I confront (Romans 8:37).
      6. My biggest personal challenge in developing this faith is being patient enough to let God validate my faith.
    2. The second power that produces solid solutions that God immediately places in your hands is prayer.
      1. In Luke 18:1-8 Jesus gave a parable specifically to teach this lesson: “to show at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.”
        1. He told a parable about helpless, powerless widow who had no influence who went to a judge to plead for him to correct an injustice.
        2. The judge was a dishonest, unconcerned man who had no respect for God.
        3. But the woman persisted until she wore the judge down.
        4. He corrected the injustice just to stop the woman’s visits.
        5. Jesus said, “If that woman could move an ungodly judge who did not care about her, don’t you understand that your cries to the God who is concerned for you quickly moves Him to correct your injustices?”
      2. I do not know how prayer works.
        1. There is far more about prayer that I do not understand than I do understand.
        2. I know effective prayer is not a mathematical formula.
        3. I know that effective prayer is not a repetitious ritual.
        4. I know that prayer does not obligate God.
        5. I know that prayer is the heart language of a human that communicates powerfully to God.
      3. But above all other things, I know this: prayer is real, and it works powerfully.
      4. Prayer is not a method of manipulating circumstances to produce the desired physical or pleasurable results that I want.
        1. I am thankful to see professional and college athletes praying when a contest is over.
        2. I am delighted to hear people give God thanks and credit.
        3. But I often hear them say something that sends a confusing message.
          1. Victorious athletes give God thanks and credit after a victory.
          2. They say that God answered their prayers with the victory.
          3. Often people who believe in and worship God are on the losing team.
          4. Does that mean the losers lost because God did not answer their prayers?
      5. Should we place anything off limits in prayer?
        1. No; I think as children of God that we should naturally and freely discuss anything that concerns us with our heavenly Father.
        2. But I strongly believe that our prayers should spiritually mature as we spiritually develop.
        3. As we grow, I think our prayers will increasingly focus on spiritual needs and realities in our own lives.
      6. One other thought about the power of prayer.
        1. We commonly pray about the things that deeply concern and trouble us.
        2. Often, for God to answer that prayer, something within us needs to change.
        3. May I suggest that when we pray for God to help us that we have the faith of surrender, the faith that says, “Do whatever You need to do in my life, God, to change me in order to address my troubles.”
    3. The third great power to generate solid solutions that God immediately places in the hands of those who become His children is the power of meditation on God’s teachings.
      1. It is important to read or hear God’s teachings.
      2. It is even more important to study God’s teachings.
      3. It is still more important to let your mind reflect on God’s teachings.
      4. When Jeremiah predicted the new covenant that God would establish (the covenant God made through Christ), he wrote:
        “I will put my law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I shall be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33).
        Hebrews 8:10 states Jeremiah’s words in this way: “I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them upon their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
      5. The way you allow God to place His teachings in your mind and write them on your heart is to meditate on His teachings.

Solid answers do exist and are more real than any of us have imagined. The highway to solid answers in Christ is a growing faith, a submissive prayer life, and a heart that lets God write His teachings on it.

If you are willing to let God help you change your life in any way it needs to be changed, you will discover rock solid answers in Christ.

Quick Fixes and My Life

Posted by on May 10, 1998 under Sermons

Think with me about specific types of situations. As a Christian you are approached by a man or woman in one of the following situations.

He or she is in a horrible marriage; a total disaster that is creating enormous personal suffering.

He or she is in a horrible home. No one should have to live in such circumstances. The home is a war zone twenty-four hours a day.

He or she has been rejected and abandoned. This person is living in a loneliness that is devastating him or her. Experiencing rejection makes him or her trust absolutely no one.

He or she is a victim. He or she has been raped, or abused, or otherwise victimized by a crime upon his or her person. Though he or she was the victim, the person is a slave to personal feelings of guilt.

He or she struggles with a problem with drugs or with alcohol.

All these people have one thing in common. The person is sick of the problem. He or she is desperate to change life. He or she wants to escape the problem and redirect life. This person asks you for guidance and insights.

What do you do?

  1. “I would convince the person that Jesus Christ is the answer in his or her life.”
    1. Excellent! What do you mean by that?
      1. “I mean that Jesus can:”
        1. “Forgive the person’s sins.
        2. “Give the person hope.
        3. “Give the person strength.
        4. “Change the person’s life.”
        5. Great!
      2. When will that happen?
        1. “When the person is baptized.”
        2. All of that will happen when the person is baptized?
        3. All of that will happen immediately upon baptism?
    2. To often we try to give a person the right hope with the wrong expectation.
      1. Can Jesus Christ forgive the sins of any person who turns to him? Absolutely.
      2. Can Jesus Christ save any person who turns to him? Absolutely.
      3. Can Jesus Christ make any person a son or daughter of God if that person enters Christ? Absolutely.
      4. Does that mean that immediately upon baptism all the distresses the person experienced miraculously disappear?
      5. Listen and see if you hear a subtle but dramatic change in what we say.
        1. Before the person is baptized, we emphasize what Christ can do for the person.
        2. After the person is baptized, we emphasize, “You don’t do that any more.”
        3. Before, it is the power of Christ; after it is “your responsibility.”
    3. Give some serious thought to the situations I mentioned.
      1. After baptism, will the person in a horrible marriage go home to a good marriage? Will being baptized change the marriage?
      2. After baptism, will the person who is living in a home that is a war zone go back to a home that is now at peace? Will being baptized change the nature of the home?
      3. After baptism, will the person who has been rejected and abandoned find marvelous acceptance and immediately be able to trust that acceptance?
      4. After baptism, will the victim who is consumed with guilt immediately have all guilt feelings destroyed? Will baptism immediately and totally change that person’s view of himself or herself?
      5. After baptism, will all cravings for drugs or alcohol disappear? Will the temptation to take the drugs or drink the alcohol just disappear? Will stress and struggle no longer tempt him or her to escape with drugs or alcohol?
      6. I seriously doubt that any of us would affirm that those things would happen.
        1. I have encouraged many troubled people in all of those situations.
        2. I have had the privilege of encouraging and teaching some faith filled, highly committed people in all those situations.
        3. I have never seen one situation instantly change.
        4. The New Testament promises instant forgiveness, but it does not declare that the problems will instantly disappear.
      7. If we build the expectation that coming to Christ will instantly remove all temptation and totally destroy the problems, we create the perfect opportunity for Satan to disillusion the person.
  2. When I mention the apostle Paul, conversion, strength, and the redirection of life, what comes to your mind?
    1. Paul is a striking figure in the New Testament.
      1. Prior to conversion, his opposition to Christianity was dramatic.
        1. He held the robes of Stephen’s executioners (Acts 7:58).
        2. He made a house to house search in the city of Jerusalem to find and arrest Christians (Acts 8:3).
        3. When he located Christians, he dragged them out of their homes and sent them to prison (Acts 8:3)
        4. He used his personal influence to have Christians executed (Acts 26:10).
        5. After being a Christian for years, he said of his pre-Christian life that he was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent aggressor (1 Timothy 1:13).
      2. Then he was dramatically converted to Christ on the Damascus road (Acts 9).
        1. He was certain that Jesus was fraud, that the resurrection never occurred, and that the good news about Jesus being the Savior was an enormous deceit.
        2. He met the resurrected Jesus face to face and spoke to him.
        3. He was devastated; he expected to die for what he had done.
        4. When he was forgiven instead of killed, he immediately began to tell people that Jesus was real, that he was Savior, and that he would willingly forgive and save anyone.
      3. His Christian dedication was just as dramatic as his Christian opposition.
        1. 2 Corinthians 11:23-33 is an astounding list of the sufferings and hardships Paul endured to preach Christ.
        2. And his life ended with execution in Rome.
    2. Consider this:
      1. Before Paul’s conversion, he was a hardened man of violence.
        1. That had to involve his heart.
        2. It had to involve his mind.
        3. It had to involve his view of people.
        4. It had to involve every aspect of his life.
      2. Do you think that after his baptism that everything in and about Paul immediately changed, instantly, without growth, without development?
    3. It is likely that we claim things about Paul that Paul never claimed about himself.
      1. Years after his conversion, Paul said of himself “…I am the foremost of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).
      2. The statement, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24-8:1) is about himself.
      3. He said, “I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest…I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).
      4. He said that he did not consider himself to have obtained his spiritual objective or to have reached full spiritual maturity (Philippians 3:12).
      5. He said that he pressed on toward the goal of God’s call in Christ (Philippians 3:14).
      6. Because of Paul’s activities, because of his writings, and because of his insights, we tend to look at Paul as the person who instantly turned from persecutor to mature Christian, from violent enemy of Christ to perfect servant of Christ.
      7. Paul never spoke of himself in those terms.
      8. Spiritual development in Christ is a journey, not an achievement, and no one understood that more clearly than did Paul.
  3. Consider four common situations of today.
    1. A person who is very young decides to be baptized; he or she has learned the factual information and wants to do what God requested.
      1. The person has had little or no internal struggle with evil.
      2. This person has no experience with moral failure on an intense, personal level.
      3. Within a few years of baptism, he or she confronts evil, temptation, and personal struggles on levels that he or she did not even know existed at the time of baptism.
      4. Should the person conclude that he or she did not know what “I was doing?”
      5. Should the person conclude, “There is something wrong with me or I would not be having these struggles and temptations?”
    2. A person is converted from a good family and good circumstances.
      1. Several generations of Christians within the family live near each other and create an excellent, positive family support group.
      2. The family had worshipped and been meaningfully involved in the same congregation for generations.
      3. It is convenient to live a good life; it would be inconvenient to live an ungodly life.
      4. Because of career or job, this person moves some distance away to a heavily populated area.
      5. Everything immediately changes: family closeness, family support group, family congregation, and the convenience of being and doing good are gone.
      6. He or she daily must cope with life in evil and ungodly circumstances unlike anything he or she knew or experienced.
      7. He or she knows struggle and temptation as it has never existed before.
      8. Is he or she to conclude that conversion was not real and baptism was ineffective?
    3. A person is converted from evil circumstances.
      1. His or her family were never religious, never attended any church, never owned or read a Bible, and never had “any use” for religion.
      2. He or she has absolutely no Christian background, no Bible knowledge, and no understanding of Christian values or concepts.
      3. He or she is baptized to escape an ungodly world and life of guilt.
      4. Within months of being baptized, he or she discovers that the same struggles must be faced and the same temptations still exist.
      5. Is he or she to conclude that Christianity is a fraud and that baptism is just one more way to get wet?
    4. A person is converted from a totally messed up life.
      1. Prior to baptism, he or she was depressed, had no hope, felt absolutely useless and worthless, and had a level of self-respect and self-esteem that reached zero on the best of days.
      2. Six months after baptism all the factors that contributed to the mess in his or her life are still there.
      3. Circumstances are such that it seems easier to surrender to the mess than to resist it.
      4. Is he or she to conclude that conversion is a lot of unrealistic words and baptism is a farce?
    5. May I suggest that if we create the impression that Christianity is supposed to create a quick fix for your life,
      1. That it rescues you from your messes,
      2. And that it delivers you from occasions of temptation,
      3. We create false expectations that can spiritually destroy instead of save.

What Christ does in the life, the mind, the heart of a person when that person enters Christ is real. Forgiveness is real. The destruction of sin and guilt is real. The new relationship with God is real.

It is equally true that Satan is just as real after baptism as he is before. Evil has the same power and force in the world and in life after baptism as before. Temptation is just as real after baptism as before.

We must not create the illusion that conversion to Christ is just a matter of learning the right rules and regulations, doing the right dos, refusing to do the wrong don’ts, and taking the right stand on the right issues.

When faith and repentance are combined with baptism, you have a birth. The rest of the person’s life will be spent in learning, understanding, developing, growing, and maturing. The new is not a quick fix. The new is relationship with God. You are now God’s son or daughter. What happens is very simple–you grow, and God forgives. Life does not become wonderfully easy. Life becomes wonderfully possible. That is the transition: from impossible life in an impossible world controlled by evil to possible life created by Christ and sustained by God’s forgiveness.

Me and My Future

Posted by on under Sermons

We live insecure lives in an insecure world. Yet, we choose to feel secure. We choose not to dwell on the many things that could forever alter life in our families, in our community, in our state, in our nation, or in our world.

Every day we are challenged to expand our consciousness. If there is a natural disaster, we see it. If there is human disaster, we see it. If there is war, we see it. If there is terrorism, we see it. tornado

We believe disasters happen to other people in other places. We think, “Things like that don’t happen here.” Then, we become convinced, “That can’t happen here.”

Then disaster comes. Tornadoes rumble through downtown Fort Smith and into Van Buren. Suddenly, life as it was stops. We know it can happen again. We know that all we can do is pick up the pieces and go on. Doppler radar may warn us that it is coming, but that is all Doppler radar can do. All we can do is hide from the fury.

downtown Fort Smith

Grand Forks flood Had you asked the people in Grand Forks, North Dakota, five years ago if a flood could occur in that city, they would have said, “Yes.” Had you asked, could a flood totally destroy the city, I doubt that anyone would have said, “Yes.” In their wildest imagination, they could not imagine a flood of that magnitude. They can now.

Montserrat volcanic eruption
In the early 1970’s I lived less than twenty-five miles from the base of a volcano. It historically erupted every ten years. It was due to erupt. I saw the old lava flows that come within less than half a mile from the highway. And, stupidly, I thought it would be exciting to see an eruption. Ask the people of the former nation of Montserrat if volcanic eruptions are exciting. Their volcano erupted and destroyed their island nation.

When I see a disaster, I automatically think, “What if I experienced that? What if that happened to my family, to my home, to my city?”

  1. Each year of my life I am more impressed with Peter’s words in 2 Peter 3:9-13.
    1. 2 Peter 3:9-13–The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
    2. Everything that we consider to be our “security” will end suddenly.
      1. Everyone will be caught completely off guard–not that there is anything we could do about stopping it if we knew it were coming.
      2. This physical world will cease to exist.
      3. How should that fact affect who you are and how you live?
  2. There has never been a time in my life that I did not want to preach and teach.
    1. I never consciously made the decision to preach.
      1. From the early moments of my preteen years when I considered what I wanted to do as an adult, I knew that I wanted to preach and teach.
      2. I grew up in the Cumberland Mountains of east Tennessee where there was an enormous need and opportunity.
        1. In my home area, there were thirteen congregations and one full time preacher.
        2. Most of the congregations were very small, rural congregations.
        3. Incredible as it seems, they were happy for a teenager to come preach.
        4. I preached on a circuit of congregations when I was 14 and preached in my first evangelistic meeting when I was 15.
        5. That really says nothing about me; it says volumes about the need.
    2. All my life I have wanted to make a difference.
      1. I have always cared about people, I have always cared about God, and I have always had intense feelings for Jesus.
      2. I have always wanted to use my life to teach and help as many people as possible.
        1. We people do not know how to use life.
        2. We people are experts at making a mess out of life.
      3. Early in my life I realized that Jesus can teach us how to live and can help us with our messes.
        1. He does not do that by functioning as an insurance policy against problems or a guarantee against trouble.
        2. He functions as strength, as the source of endurance, as compass.
    3. From the earliest years of my life I had a deep, driving desire to make a difference in this world by serving God.
      1. I do not mean that I wanted to be successful or to make a name for myself.
      2. I mean that I wanted to improve the world by bringing people closer to God.
        1. I was naive enough to believe that I could change the world.
        2. Many times my desire was immature, and sometimes it was misdirected, but inside me it was never about me; it was about Christ and people.
      3. This desire always played a significant role in my life.
        1. It was a significant factor in my decision to do graduate studies in Bible.
        2. It was a significant factor in my decision to do mission work in Africa.
        3. It was a significant factor in my working with university congregations for 26 years.
        4. It was a significant factor in my decision to write.
        5. It was a significant factor that led me to a video and audio ministry.
      4. I wanted to do things that would continue helping people after I died.
      5. None of this came from a sense of obligation or duty; it flowed from a sense of love.
  3. Through the years, God has taught me two profound lessons.
    1. Lesson # one: God taught me how insignificant I am.
      1. I am amazed that God even cares that I exist, and I am dumbfounded when I realize that He loves me.
      2. Have you ever realized how insignificant you are?
        1. I love to fly because it puts everything in a totally different perspective.
          1. On the ground human affairs and human situations look massive.
          2. Five minutes after take off, you look out and see just how small everything built by humans is.

          Earth in space

        2. One of my favorite pictures is the picture of earth as seen from space.
          1. Each time I see this brilliant, colorful ball of light in a huge sea of black, I realize how unimportant I am.
          2. I am not even a dot on the surface.
        3. Yet, God knows me.
    2. Lesson # 2: God taught me that the only opportunity that I have to make any kind of difference is the opportunity of right now.
      1. I have absolutely no control over the future and no knowledge of my future.
        1. Three years ago I would have told you in absolute certainty that there was no way that I would be here doing what I am doing.
        2. Anything that I have or I am, I have right now and I am right now.
      2. I know nothing about how long I will live or what quality of life I will have should I live.
      3. That is not morbid–in fact, I cannot know joys of the opportunities of now unless I understand the uncertainties of life.
      4. In a unique, powerful way, I know that God did not give me any ability or any possession just for me to live for me.
        1. The only reason that I have anything is to use it for Him.
        2. When I use anything in a way that does not serve His purposes, I pervert His gift.
  4. I want to call all of us, including me, to a special sense of challenge.
    1. First, let me share with you some information.
      1. A gift of $20,000 has been given for building maintenance that will be used to carpet the foyer, do some needed outside painting, and repair some leaks.
      2. There is the intent to sell the gym that we own on Windsor Drive, and more than one buyer has approached us.
        1. If you as a congregation agree, the funds from this sell will be used for a capital improvement fund devoted to making needed repairs.
        2. We will address the needs of the Laotian congregation that meets in the gym.
        3. The elders have asked Jim Selig, Brian Lea, Darold Wear, and Tim Davis to study the renovation plans for this auditorium to determine how we can do the work ourselves.
        4. The architects are doing the design work for the Family Life Center, and we should be ready to receive bids from contractors by early July.
      3. In round figures:
        1. The Family Life Center will cost about $783,000.
        2. The three renovations will cost about $110,000.
        3. Furnishings for the Family Life Center will cost about $68,000.
        4. Total cost should be around $1,100,000.
    2. I have asked permission from the elders to make this challenge to all of us–this is my thinking.
      1. I want to challenge us to work together to actually do as much of the renovation as possible, which should be almost all of it.
      2. I also want to challenge us to raise by contribution to a building fund as much of the total cost as possible.
      3. I want to challenge us through renovation work and through contributions to either greatly reduce or completely eliminate the need to borrow funds.
      4. Jim Pratt is serving as the contact person and the coordinator for raising building and renovation funds.
      5. We need to know how much we will contribute by late July or early August.
      6. The funds we commit must be available upon completion of the construction.
    3. “David, why do you want us to consider this?”
      1. I have zero interest in building indebtedness.
      2. I have zero interest in building buildings.
      3. I have deep interest in having the tools we need to help Christians spiritually mature and to help people trapped by evil find Christ.
      4. I believe with all my heart that this congregation stands on the threshold:
        1. Of doing the greatest mission work it has ever done.
        2. Of doing the greatest work in Fort Smith that it has ever done.
      5. I have spent my entire life working for the church, and I know that we do not have the tools we need to utilize the potential we have.
        1. I have no idea how much future I have.
        2. You have no idea how much future you have.
        3. All of us have right now; right now is all that any of us can use.
        4. I want us to use the stewardship of right now to capitalize on the opportunities of right now.
      6. I am asking you to pray about it, talk to Jim Pratt; and help us do the work of renovation.

God taught me that I cannot change this world. God taught me that Jesus can. Jesus created the potential to change the world by creating forgiveness for everyone, and he forgives one person at a time. Jesus taught me that when I help one person find Christ or develop in Christ, I have changed that person’s world. Jesus taught me to understand that when we change as people, the world changes.

I invite you to the Savior who can change the world by changing you.

Increasingly Alive

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Paul told the congregation at Ephesus “you were dead in your trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). But God, in His rich mercy and grace made them “alive together with Christ” (2:4,5).

When a person enters Christ and receives forgiveness, he or she literally comes to life. A congregation is composed of people who were dead in evil but came to life in Christ. The more Christ-like, transformed, and spiritually mature they become, the more life filled they are.

One fascinating spiritual phenomena we can observe is the process of watching a Christian or a congregation become increasingly filled with life. Watching West-Ark become increasingly filled with life gives me great joy. Our service to Christ is increasing, maturing, and growing in strength.

Last Sunday, after months of preparation and planning, “Kids for Christ” began. This is a special teaching program for ages two years old through sixth grade. It parallels the evening worship assembly from six to seven p.m. Before it began, 53 children committed to attend. The first evening, 66 children attended. Our Sunday evening attendance increased about 12%! Groups of adults will rotate monthly in teaching and directing activities. Contact Rochelle Brown if you want to help.

A group dedicated to encouraging visitors and newcomers is working with Jim and Deborah Wilson and Bill and Martha Walker. They are implementing plans to receive visitors and newcomers with increased friendliness and helpfulness. We want visitors to return! We want newcomers to stay! They are implementing excellent plans.

A group met Sunday evening to discuss and develop effective forms of outreach to singles. There is an enormous opportunity to minister to the needs of singles in the congregation and the community.

We all took special joy in the completion of the first His Needs/Her Needs course. Many are impressed with the obvious accomplishments of that course. Special thanks to all the husbands who shared with the congregation the blessings and benefits each couple experienced through the course! A second course is scheduled to begin in mid-June. If you are interested in being a part of it, contact Paul Shirley. These are just the recent evidences of “increasing life” at West-Ark!

Quick Fix or Enduring Solution?

Posted by on May 3, 1998 under Sermons

Recently, early on a Saturday evening, I ran over something that punctured a tire. The tire went flat after we returned home. When Joyce noticed the tire was flat, it was too late to have it fixed. So I inflated the tire with “Fix-a-Flat.” The tire held its pressure and looked fine. But I knew that I temporarily solved the problem.

Monday morning I took the tire to be repaired. It looked repaired when I took it. It held air pressure fine. It drove fine. But the problem was only temporarily corrected. I knew it needed an durable repair. That meant finding a place that would make the repair, taking the tire off the rim, locating the puncture, patching the puncture with durable material, and remounting the tire. That took time, and it was inconvenient.

I learned two interesting things about the quick fix for flat tires. First, “Fix-a-Flat” makes it very hard to find the puncture because it temporarily seals the hole. Second, the puncture was located by washing the inside of the tire with water. Water dissolves the “Fix-a-Flat.” If you wash it with water, the tire loses air pressure again.

What is the difference between a quick fix and an enduring solution? A quick fix meets the pressing need of the moment and temporarily controls the problem. An enduring solution corrects the situation by eliminating the problem.

  1. I need to make a preface statement to the thoughts that I want you to consider this evening.
    1. The problems facing us today in the church and in our society are complex problems composed of several different parts.
      1. Rarely does any problem have a simple solution.
      2. Often the solutions that sound simple create new problems as they solve old problems.
      3. Consider an illustration.
        1. Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s the United States had a huge grain surplus and our grain storage facilities were full.
          1. Farmers growing grain crops could not sell their crops for enough money to cover the cost of production.
          2. The government proposed a solution:
            1. Instruct all the farmers to grow no grain for one year.
            2. Take the surplus grain already in storage and sell it on the world market.
            3. Use the funds from the grain sales to pay the farmers for what they would have made had they grown their crops.
            4. Return to normal production in the following year.
        2. When I first heard that proposal, it sounded sensible.
        3. But the solution would create enormous new problems.
          1. Of the many, let me use two.
          2. The seed industry informed the government that it could not survive a year with no seed sales.
          3. The fertilizer industry informed the government that it could not survive a year with no fertilizer sales.
          4. Those were just two of the primary industries that would experience disastrous effects if that solution was used.
    2. To form enduring solutions to problems in the church and in society, we must take many realities into consideration.
      1. Enduring solutions use multiple approaches to address all aspects of a problem.
      2. It is always dangerous to oversimplify the problem or the solution.
      3. What I am asking you to think about does not oppose using multiple approaches to address all the realities of a problem.
  2. The concept of “quick fixes” is very popular in our society today.
    1. Many reasons make quick fixes look very appealing.
      1. First, there is our view of time.
        1. Today, people value time more than they value money.
        2. We are fanatics when it comes to saving time.
      2. Second, there is our pace of life.
        1. Almost everyone is living too fast as we try to do too much.
        2. We are so over committed that most families do not average eating a meal a week together.
      3. Third, we are impatient.
        1. All of us are amazingly contradictory.
        2. We complain about the pace of life being too fast, and agree that everyone is too busy–“things need to slow down.”
        3. But, we expect anything that affects us personally to happen immediately. Never put us on a waiting list!
      4. Fourth, we live in the age of technology.
        1. One of the justifications for technology is that it is faster.
        2. Faster is good because faster is more profitable.
    2. Our commitment to quick fixes easily transports itself from the “every day, real world” problems to religious and moral problems.
      1. Relationship problems in our society are enormous in number and overwhelming in consequences.
        1. People just do not know how to relate to people.
        2. We demand a quick fix to relationship problems.
      2. Marriage problems are devastating to homes, to spouses, and to children.
        1. Troubled marriages and divorce causes enormous suffering in our nation.
        2. We demand a quick fix to divorce problems.
      3. The fabric of our society is being unraveled by:
        1. Angry people.
        2. Dishonest people.
        3. Greedy people.
        4. Selfish people.
        5. Irresponsible people.
        6. Lawless people.
        7. Self-indulgent people.
        8. “We must do something about what is happening in our society–NOW! It must happen, and it must happen fast!” Is that the way you feel?
      4. Our society is undergoing a visible transformation because of the moral problems in our nation.
        1. The problems created by sexual immorality are devastating to every level of human relationship.
        2. The loss of character is devastating.
        3. The loss of integrity is devastating.
        4. The loss of honor is devastating.
        5. The loss of truthfulness is devastating.
        6. And we want things to turn around immediately.
    3. In our “every day world,” the quick fix is the ideal solution, the solution of choice.
      1. For our moral ills, the quick fix is seen as the ideal solution.
      2. For our religious ills, the quick fix is seen as the ideal solution.
      3. For our relationship ills, the quick fix is seen as the ideal solution.
    4. Why? Why are we so convinced that a solution designed to meet the pressing needs of the moment is the desirable, ideal solution?
      1. Because we are afraid.
        1. We are afraid of our changing world.
        2. We are afraid of the directions that we see our society moving.
        3. We are afraid of present consequences and future consequences.
        4. We are afraid of uncertainty.
      2. Because we feel things are out of control.
        1. We are tempted to believe that control in and of itself is good and will produce good.
        2. We live under the illusion that we came from a past that was under control–which is simply not so. Do you remember the cold war and the fear of the atomic bomb?
        3. We desperately want to feel that things are under control.
      3. Because we want to preserve our values and put them in control.
        1. The values that we want to preserve probably were never in control.
        2. They were ideals that appeared to be in control.
        3. But, as ideals, they were more commonly accepted in the past.
  3. That leads to an interesting question: is Christianity a “quick fix” religion?
    1. Through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, Christianity provides an immediate solution for the sins of the individual.
      1. It destroys the past and current guilt of the believer who comes to Christ by providing him or her forgiveness.
        1. The greatest sin that has ever been committed was the execution of God’s son.
        2. Peter told the people who called for Jesus’ death that even they could receive the remission of sin (Acts 2:38).
      2. Because forgiveness destroys the sin, guilt is destroyed.
        1. God does not remember forgiven sins (Hebrews 8:12).
        2. The objective of forgiveness in Christ is to remove the consciousness of sin (Hebrews 10:3,4,16-18).
      3. Forgiveness brings the person into full relationship with God, and in that new relationship forgiveness is a continuing reality.
    2. But this just begins relationship with God.
      1. This is just the beginning of new life in Christ.
      2. This is just the process of being born.
      3. This just produces a spiritual infant; at this moment the person is a spiritual infant regardless of his chronological age.
    3. From that moment forward, the person must be spiritually growing, developing, and maturing in Christ.
      1. Maturing in Christ is a slow process that involves time, experience, and learning.
      2. Spiritual maturity is not a “quick fix” reality.
    4. Christianity is an enduring solution, but it is not a quick fix solution.
      1. It is impossible for a person to go from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity quickly.
      2. Just as a child cannot reach adult life without living through the years of adolescence, neither can a Christian reach spiritual maturity without going through spiritual adolescence.
    5. Carefully think that through.
      1. If it takes time for a Christian to achieve spiritual maturity, is it not evident that it will take more time for a person who has not yet come to faith in Christ?
      2. Is it not evident that we are searching for the impossible when we want to find a quick way to either convince or to force people who do not believe in Jesus Christ to live under the values of a spiritually mature Christian?
      3. Do we expect to convince people who are not Christians to learn to live by Christian values quickly when it takes years to develop that life in Christians?
  4. What is our message to Fort Smith? What is our message to this nation?
    1. Is our message this: we don’t care what you think, or what you want, or what you feel, or what you believe about God and Christ–even if you don’t believe, we want you to live by our values and our principles.
      1. Is that really our goal?
      2. Is that our mission as people who believe in and belong to Jesus Christ?
    2. Do you realize that if we do not change minds, if we do not change hearts, if we do not bring people to faith in Christ, we have changed nothing.
      1. Let me use one illustration.
      2. I do not support or believe in abortion for many reasons.
      3. But let’s assume that by law we could make it impossible to get an abortion.
      4. Even though we place our convictions in control, have we changed people?
        1. The people who believe abortion is right and good will still believe that.
        2. The people who want abortions will still want them–even if they can’t get them.
        3. The children born to mothers who were forced to have them will not miraculously enter loving families who nurture them as persons of value and importance.
        4. If all that we do is impose control, what will we accomplish spiritually?
    3. Someone asks, “Well, David, do you advocate we legalize abortion and stop opposing it?”
      1. Of course not; that is the reason I began with my preface statement.
      2. That certainly is not my point.
      3. This is what I am saying: if Christians believe that antiabortion laws are a quick fix to this major spiritual problem, we have forgotten who we are and what we are about.

The changes we seek in the hearts, minds, and lives of people are faith changes that change the person, that change his or her view of the world, that change a person’s understanding of the purpose of existing, and that change people’s view of people.

We want people to come to a Savior, to turn to God, and to be transformed. Our mission is not to control them; it is to bring them to Christ. We do not seek to alter society by controlling it; we seek to alter society by bringing people to faith in God.

And that is not and never will be a quick fix solution. That is an enduring solution. Only enduring solutions that change the hearts and minds of people will redirect our society.

Have you allowed Jesus Christ to change your mind, your heart, and your life? Has He redirected your focus?
Bring faith and repentance, and be born again into Christ through baptism.