Does God “Do It My Way”?

Posted by on June 28, 1998 under Sermons

Every person here tonight is a child of someone. All of us have had a childhood experience. All of us have been in or are in a parent-child relationship as a child.

I want all of us to think as the child. Parents, I want you to think as an adult child, not as a parent. Grandparents, I want you to think as an adult child, not as a grandparent.

From a child’s perspective, does this sound familiar? “If you would just do things my way, everything would be fine. That is the problem. You won’t do things my way.”

Whether verbally or implied, every child received this message from his or her parents. The message: “My way is the way. Just do it my way.”

Now I want us adults to consider the transition that we made. When we reach our teen years, at some point in adolescence, we become determined not to do it “their way,” but to do it “my way.” The desire to do it “my way” increases in strength and determination as we grow older.

All of us as adults like “important” things to be done “my way.” Some of us as adults want everything done “my way.”

Important question: does God do things the way we would do them? Does God do things “our way”?

  1. Does God do things the way people would do them?
    1. The Bible declares that God produced two great acts of deliverance.
      1. In both situations, God Himself designed the deliverance.
      2. In both situations, the deliverance occurred to accomplish God’s purposes.
      3. In both situations, God set people free–God produced a seemingly impossible freedom.
    2. The first deliverance: freeing the Israelites enslaved in Egypt.
      1. God promised Abraham that his descendants would become a great nation (Genesis 12:1-4).
      2. God also promised that He would use that nation to bring a great blessing to all people of the world.
      3. Over 400 years later God kept that promise by delivering the Israelites, who were the descendants of Abraham, from Egyptian slavery (Exodus 12:29-42).
      4. God secured their release from captivity, but God knew that they did not trust Him.
        1. They did not have the kind of faith that would allow God to work through them to bring the blessing that He promised Abraham.
        2. Their becoming a people who trusted God was important to them and to God’s purposes.
      5. So how did God give them opportunity to grow in faith?
        1. God led them out into an unpopulated area away from Egypt’s towns and cities.
        2. God allowed them to be trapped between the Egyptian army and the waters of the Red Sea.
        3. Escape was impossible.
          1. As slaves, they were totally incapable of fighting the Egyptian army–they were not even armed.
          2. And there was no way to cross the sea.
        4. The people immediately went into total, complete despair.
          1. As far as they were concerned, they had escaped Egypt to be slaughtered helplessly out in the middle of nowhere.
          2. Pharaoh knew that he was in total control of the situation (Exodus 14:8).
          3. In terror, the Israelites began screaming to God for help (Exodus 14:10).
          4. Instantly Moses dropped from the status of great deliverer to the status of the villain who led them to death (Exodus 14:11,12).
            1. “Why did you bring us out here to die? Weren’t there enough graves in Egypt?”
            2. “Didn’t we tell you in Egypt to leave us alone and let us be the Egyptians’ slaves?”
        5. God’s rescue was 100% God and 0% them.
          1. He rescued them in the face of their greatest fear and deepest doubt.
          2. When they stood safe on the other side of the sea, they knew God did it, and they knew that they had every reason to trust God.
      6. What do you think about God’s method? Did God do that “your way?”
      7. Please note something very important.
        1. God’s primary objective in rescuing Israel and giving them a home was not about creating a good life for them.
        2. God’s primary objective was keeping a promise to bring the world a Savior.
        3. It was about creating a salvation that would benefit the whole world.
        4. God’s primary purpose was to advance His preparation for sending His Son Jesus to our world.
    3. The second great deliverance: giving all people the opportunity to be free from the slavery of evil by accepting the atonement of Jesus’ death.
      1. Sending Jesus into this world and making him God’s sacrifice for sin was the fulfillment of the second promise that God made to Abraham.
      2. God allowed His son to be born as a human being.
      3. His son taught the nation of Israel that God was ready to keep His second promise to Abraham–the kingdom of God, the rule of God, would become available to all people of the world.
      4. God created this deliverance, this freedom by allowing His son to be horribly, painfully executed by crucifixion.
      5. As that occurred, Jesus’ crucifixion looked like God and God’s purposes were in total defeat.
      6. What actually happened was total victory for God.
        1. He kept His promise to Abraham.
        2. He destroyed the power and control of Satan.
        3. He guaranteed Satan’s total, eternal fall.
        4. He created the opportunity for every person in every nation and every culture to be free and forgiven of all evil.
      7. To achieve this victory, God worked through betrayal, denial, fear, desertion, injustice, contempt, abuse, mockery, extreme pain, agony, public humiliation, public disgrace, and death as a public spectacle.
      8. What do you think about God’s method? Did God do it “your way?”
      9. Again, it is very evident that God’s deliverance is 100% God and 0% us.
        1. Just as Israel had to accept deliverance, we also must accept deliverance.
        2. But we only respond to deliverance, we do not create it.
      10. Again, please note something very important.
        1. God’s primary objective is freeing us from the slavery of evil–it is not primarily creating a good life for us on earth.
        2. The primary objective had two purposes.
          1. The first is our personal, eternal salvation with God after death.
          2. The second is promoting godliness in this world by making salvation available to all people.
        3. God’s success in our lives and in the world is not measured by our physical contentment.
  2. When you examine God’s work and the methods that God uses, He does not do things the way we would.
    1. Just consider a few examples.
      1. God delivered Jacob’s large family from starvation by working through Joseph’s betrayal and his slavery in Egypt.
      2. God prepared Moses to lead Israel by working through Moses’ exile in the wilderness.
      3. God prepared Israel to follow Him in capturing the land of Canaan by having them wander in a desert wilderness for forty years.
      4. God led Israel to repentance and redirection by using the Babylonian captivity of the nation.
      5. God created the possibility of salvation for all people through the crucifixion of His own son.
      6. God spread the church over the world of the Roman empire in a generation by working through suffering and persecution.
      7. Is that the way you would have attempted to accomplished those things?
    2. Knowing the way God has worked, how do you think God is going to work in this congregation? in your personal life?
      1. God would work in this congregation and each of our lives in the following manner if He did it our way.
        1. It would be systematic.
        2. It would follow neat, progressive steps.
        3. It would be calm and peaceful.
        4. It would use prosperity.
        5. It would involve no problems and no troubles.
        6. It would make sense to us, be logical to us, and let us see exactly where we are going and exactly what would happen.
        7. It would allow us to determine our own goals and to reach those goals in a very orderly fashion.
        8. It would be comfortable and physically enjoyable.
    3. May I ask you two questions.
      1. What do you personally know and understand about successfully building genuine, controlling trust in God?
        1. If God gave you the job of building people’s faith, how would you do it?
        2. Would you prove that you really understand how to build faith by using the level of faith that you have in your own life?
      2. What do you know and understand about successfully fighting evil in people’s lives?
        1. Again, if God gave you the job of teaching people how to fight evil in their lives, how would you do it?
        2. Would you prove that you really understand how to fight evil by using the success you have as you fight evil in your own life?

When you look at how God worked in Joseph’s life, worked in the exile of Moses, worked in the wilderness experience of the nation of Israel, worked in the Babylonian captivity, worked in the crucifixion, worked in the sufferings of Christians in the first century, how do you think God is going to work in this congregation?

When you look at how God worked in Joseph’s life, worked in the exile of Moses, worked in the wilderness experience of the nation of Israel, worked in the Babylonian captivity, worked in the crucifixion, worked in the sufferings of Christians in the first century, how do you think God is going to work in your life?

Does God do things our way? No. And it is very important that everyone of us remember that.

Godliness: Do You Really Have It Figured Out?

Posted by on under Sermons

Time becomes a thief when time causes us to take people for granted. Time weakens the greatest love if time causes the two people who love each other to take each other for granted. Time weakens the bonds of the greatest friendship if time causes the friends to take each other for granted.

We let time rob us as Christians and as the church. Time has convinced us that Christianity and the church is just a religious system. Time has convinced us to take the system for granted. Time convinced us that trusting the system is more important than trusting Christ.

Has time convinced you to oversimplify Christianity by substituting correctness for faith?

  1. Too many Christians think that being Christian, being a part of the church is just a matter of identifying the right system and plugging into it.
    1. Christianity is just a matter of obedience.
      1. God is God.
      2. I am not.
      3. You are not.
      4. Because He is God and we are not, we just obey.
    2. So all we have to do is find the right system and plug into it.
      1. You must find the right system.
      2. You must learn what you are supposed to do.
      3. Then just do it.
      4. A person is spiritually okay if he or she is obedient in the right system.
    3. Do you really think it is that simple?
  2. This morning I ask you to consider two examples.
    1. The first example is King David in Old Testament Israel.
      1. Old Testament Judaism was based on a specific set of laws and a specific religious system that came from God.
        1. Exodus 20:13–Commandment number six in the ten commandments: “You shall not murder.”
        2. Exodus 20:14–Commandment number seven in the ten commandments: “You shall not commit adultery.”
        3. Exodus 21:12–“He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.”
        4. Leviticus 20:10–If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
        5. Leviticus 24:17–If you take the life of any human being you shall surely be put to death.
        6. Is that clear? Is that simple to understand? Is that specific?
      2. 2 Samuel 11 and 12 records King David’s greatest spiritual failure.
        1. David was an exceptional man of God who raised the concept of godliness to a whole new level.
        2. But David was tempted, and through that temptation David fell.
        3. His army was attacking the Ammonites at the city of Rabbah.
        4. Instead of leading his troops, David was at home in Jerusalem.
        5. One evening as he walked on the roof of his palace he looked down on a beautiful woman bathing at her own home.
        6. He found out who she was, sent for her, and seduced her.
        7. As a result, she conceived, and she informed David of her condition.
        8. Her husband was a soldier in David’s army, so David sent for him.
          1. David hoped that Uriah would come home, spend the night with his wife, and conceal David’s sin.
          2. Because of Uriah’s personal code of honor, he refused to visit his wife.
        9. So David sent him back to the army with orders for Joab to kill him by putting Uriah in the fiercest part of the battle and withdrawing from him.
          1. Joab did as he was ordered to do.
          2. After Bathsheba mourned her husband’s death, David married her.
        10. 2 Samuel 11:27 declares, “The thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the Lord.”
        11. Months later, after the child was born, Nathan the prophet came to David.
          1. He reported a case of gross injustice that infuriated David.
          2. Then Nathan told David that he was the guilty man.
          3. David simply said, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:23).
          4. That was a simple, honest confession that carried the full expectation of death.
          5. Nathan said, “The Lord has taken away your sin; you shall not die” (2 Samuel 12:13).
      3. Think about that carefully.
        1. The law clearly said, “Do not murder. If you kill another person, you will be killed.”
        2. It clearly said, “Do not commit adultery. If you do, both of you will be killed.”
        3. David did both; the Lord saw it as evil; but his sin was taken away, and neither he nor Bathsheba were killed.
    2. The second example is that of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5.
      1. The church in Jerusalem was a generous, caring congregation from the first day that it came into existence.
        1. New converts with property and possessions sold them to help new converts who were in need (Acts 2:45).
        2. Christians were of one heart and soul; instead of claiming private ownership, they shared (Acts 4:32).
        3. They were so generous that there was not one needy person in this congregation of thousands of adult members (Acts 4:34).
      2. But not every baptized person renounced greed.
        1. Ananias and Sapphira were a Christian husband and wife who owned some property (Acts 5:1-11).
        2. They sold it, but they did not want to give all the money to help Christians.
        3. Satan filled their hearts with a plan to lie: they would give some of the money and claim that they gave all of it.
        4. Peter confronted Ananias and made it quite plain that the problem was not in keeping part of the money, but in attempting to lie to the Holy Spirit.
        5. Three hours later he confronted Sapphira and learned that she was a full participant in the lie.
        6. When Peter confronted each of them, each literally died on the spot.
        7. Obviously, their sin was not removed.
    3. How are we to explain that? More importantly, how are we to understand that?
      1. One man commits adultery, successfully plots the death of the woman’s husband, and marries the woman after her husband’s death.
        1. All of that is in specific violation of commandments.
        2. And he is forgiven.
      2. A man and his wife lie.
        1. Their lie does not involve a commandment.
        2. The lie involved a matter of personal choice and voluntary commitment.
        3. And they died for lying.
      3. Is the lesson that God is unpredictable, so a person cannot know what will happen when he or she makes a mistake?
        1. No, that absolutely is not the lesson.
        2. The lesson powerfully emphasizes the importance of a person’s heart, a person’s motivations, and a person’s heart relationship with God.
  3. What is this lesson about the heart and the heart’s relationship with God?
    1. From the time that he was a teenager until the time that he died, David’s heart belonged to God.
      1. You see God’s ownership of David’s heart in his confrontation with Goliath.
      2. You see God’s ownership of David’s heart in the Psalms.
      3. You see it in his exile, and you see it when he was king.
    2. But David was powerfully tempted.
      1. In a moment of temptation, David fell, and he fell hard to evil.
      2. When he fell, David did what many godly people do–he committed more and greater evil in his attempt to cover his first evil.
      3. David, the man of great character, acted like a man who had no character.
    3. Even though David did evil, there was no question that God owned his heart.
      1. When Nathan confronted David, David immediately said, “I’m guilty.”
      2. No excuses, no blaming someone else, no evading responsibility–“I’m guilty.”
    4. Ananias and Sapphira’s hearts stand in distinct contrast.
      1. They created a deliberate plan to deceive.
      2. They did not fall to a moment of temptation; they devised and initiated a plan to deceive.
      3. It was more than a plan to deceive people; it was an attempt to deceive God.
      4. They did not have godly hearts that fell to temptation; they had calculating hearts dedicated to deceit.

The questions are not, “Am I in the right system?” “Am I obeying the right commandments?” “Am I doing the right things?”

The questions are, “When I obey God, where is my heart and what are my motives?” “When I do the right thing, where is my heart and what are my motives?” “When I worship, where is my heart and what are my motives?” “When I make a mistake, where is my heart and what are my motives?” “When I fall to evil, where is my heart and what are my motives?”

In your life, where is your heart and what are your motives? As God looks at your heart, what does He see?

How often do you pray, “God give me the right heart. Make it like Jesus'”? “Lord, give me the right motives.” “With the right heart and right motives, help me accomplish your purposes.”

Becoming a Christian means getting a new heart, rebuilt by God. Be rebuilt from within to be used by God.

Have you been reborn through baptism?
Let God rebuild your heart.

Encouragement–God’s Power

Posted by on June 21, 1998 under Sermons

Sometimes the more devoted to doing good we become, the more difficult and complicated our lives become. When Christians commit themselves to doing good, they commit themselves to exhaustion and frustration. That is why Paul told the Christians in Galatia, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary” (Galatians 6:9).

A Christian can become exhausted just from doing good. Paul clearly understood that. Encouragement is the greatest single source of human help available to us when we struggle with the weariness created by doing good. To be a Christian encourager is to use God’s power in a special, wonderful way.

When Paul warned against losing heart and growing weary, he spoke from personal experience.

  1. In Acts 21 Paul returned to Jerusalem from a missionary journey and gave a report to the leaders of that congregation.
    1. The leaders were delighted to hear about his success in teaching non-Jews, but they were concerned about the possible reaction of members of the congregation (Acts 21:17-26).
      1. They requested that Paul assist four Christian men as they took their Jewish vows at the temple.
      2. Paul agreed and assisted the men.
    2. The process of taking the vows took seven days to complete (Acts 21:27-36).
      1. They had almost completed the process when some Jews from Asia saw Paul in the temple area.
        1. By shouting angry accusations against Paul, they literally started a riot.
        2. They were trying to kill Paul when a commander of 1000 Roman soldiers rescued him.
        3. But the officer thought that it was Paul who started the trouble and arrested him.
      2. Paul asked for permission to address the mob (Acts 21:37-22:23).
        1. It was given, and he spoke to them Aramaic, the local language that the Palestinian Jews used.
        2. They listened quietly to what he said until he stated that the Lord told him to go teach non-Jews, and then they shouted for his death.
  2. From that point on, for about three years, Paul’s life was one disappointing experience after another.
    1. He made an appearance before the supreme court of Israel (Acts 23:1-10).
      1. Paul knew that he was in grave danger in that court, so he successfully divided the court before the hearing began by turning the Pharisees and Sadducees against each other.
      2. The argument between the Pharisees and Sadducees was so heated that the Roman officer present feared that they would kill Paul.
      3. He ordered his troops to take Paul by force and remove him from the court.
    2. The next day a group of Jews took an oath that they would not eat or drink until they killed Paul (Acts 23:12-35)
      1. Paul’s nephew learned of the plot and informed the Roman officer.
      2. The plot: Ask the officer to return Paul to the Jewish court the next day, and the men would kill Paul as he was in route to the court.
      3. That night the officer sent Paul to the Roman governor in Caesarea with an escort of 200 foot soldiers and 70 horsemen.
    3. Five days later a group from the Jewish court came to a hearing in Caesarea before Felix, the Roman governor (Acts 24).
      1. The result: Paul’s case was postponed to a later date.
      2. Paul remained in custody for two years because the governor hoped that Paul would pay him a bribe to be released.
      3. When Felix left office, he did not want to upset the Jews, so as a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison.
    4. The new governor, Festus, wanted to “get off to a good start” with the Jewish rulers, so he visited Jerusalem (Acts 25).
      1. The Jewish rulers personally petitioned him to return Paul to Jerusalem for trial; their plan was to ambush Paul and kill him as he was brought to Jerusalem.
      2. Festus invited them to present their petition in his court in Caesarea.
      3. When they came to Caesarea, Paul realized what was happening, so he appealed his case to the emperor’s court in Rome; he had the right to do that because he was a Roman citizen.
      4. Later, Festus had several dignitaries attend a hearing to try to determine a charge against Paul.
        1. The governor was in an awkward situation: he had to send a prisoner to the highest court in Rome, but he had no Roman charge against him.
        2. The hearing produced no charges to make against Paul.
      5. However, since Paul had appealed his case to Rome, he had to go to Rome.
    5. Paul went by ship under arrest (Acts 27, 28).
      1. The ship ran aground in a storm and broke up.
      2. The end result was that they spent three months on the island of Melita before they could sail to Rome.
    6. Paul’s ordeal had taken almost 3 years, all of it under arrest, and some of it under the serious threat of being killed.
      1. As the prisoner Paul landed in Italy, I find Acts 28:15 insightful: “And the brethren, when they heard about us, came from as far as the Market of Appius and Three Inns to meet us; and when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.”
      2. Even the tough, committed, sacrificial Paul needed the encouragement of fellow Christians.
      3. Later Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love, giving preference to one another in love” (Romans 12:10).
        1. They needed to do for each other what they did for him.
    7. Paul repeatedly emphasized the importance of Christians encouraging Christians.
      1. Let me share with you three examples.
      2. Paul sent a companion by the name of Tychicus to the Christians in Ephesus.
        1. Tychicus was to give them a full report on Paul’s circumstances.
        2. Paul wrote, “And I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts,” (Ephesians 6:22).
      3. Paul also sent Tychicus to the Christians at Colossae.
        1. Paul wanted Christians who had not seen him to know how devoted he was to them “that their hearts may be encouraged” (Colossians 2:2).
        2. Then, again, he writes regarding Tychicus, “For I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts,” (Colossians 4:8).

The Christian encourager plays a very special role in God’s work. It is a powerful, important role. With the right heart, every Christian can be an encourager.

From a Father To Fathers

Posted by on under Sermons

This morning I want to share with the men. As a father, I want to talk with fathers and to those who in time will become fathers.

I do not share these things as a man who believes that he has the answers. I don’t have the answers. Believe it or not, I clearly remember the themes of sermons that I preached on the family when I was 21 and 22 years old. That was when I sincerely, genuinely believed that I had many of the answers. When you are sincere and ignorant it is easy to believe that you have the answers.

Now I know at least in part of my ignorance. Because I remain sincere, honesty demands that I confess that I am just beginning to understand the questions.

  1. One of the most popular images of God in the Bible is God the Father.
    1. God is so commonly coupled with the concept of a father that we naturally think of God as our spiritual Father.
      1. God was presented as a Father early in Bible history.
        1. Before Israel became a nation, Moses, speaking for God, told Pharaoh, “Israel is my Son, my firstborn (Exodus 4:22).
        2. After Israel became a nation but before Israel entered Canaan, God told them, “You are the children of the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 14:1).
        3. Isaiah the prophet told Israel to call upon God as “our Father” (Isaiah 64:8).
        4. Hosea the prophet told Israel that they were “sons of the living God” (Hosea 1:10).
      2. The presentation of God as our spiritual Father received enormous emphasis in Jesus’ life and teachings.
        1. At Jesus’ baptism a voice from heaven said of Jesus, “This is my beloved Son…” (Matthew 3:17).
        2. When Jesus was transfigured, a voice from a cloud said of Jesus, “This is my beloved Son…” (Matthew 17:5).
        3. Jesus frequently referred to God as “my Father” (Matthew 11:26; frequently in the gospel of John).
        4. Jesus also taught people to understand that God was their father.
          1. He told them to love their enemies in order that they might be “the sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:45).
          2. He taught his disciples to pray, “Our Father, who is in heaven…” (Matthew 6:9).
          3. As Jesus taught, he frequently referred to God as “your Father” (Matthew 6:4,8; 7:11; 10:20; etc.).
        5. From the book of Romans through the rest of the New Testament epistles, God is often referred to as “God our Father,” “our God and Father,” and God the Father.”
      3. The Bible teaches us to look at our relationship with God as a parent and child relationship, a Father and son relationship.
    2. Why are we taught to look at God as our spiritual Father?
      1. In one way, that seems very strange.
        1. Since God is not a physical or a sexual being, why should we look at Him as a Father figure?
        2. It is a figure of comparison that helps us understand two important things.
          1. First, God wants to have a relationship with us.
          2. Second, the kind of relationship that God wants with us is the relationship that exists in a healthy, loving parent and child relationship.
      2. The youngest writings in the Bible are almost 2000 years old.
        1. When the books and letters of the Bible were written, the role of a father was a positive, good image.
          1. Certainly, fathers were not perfect in those ages.
          2. But the image of a good father was powerful and positive.
    3. When the books of the Bible were being written, what was the image of a father?
      1. A good father provided protection for the family.
        1. In those worlds, there were very few sources of protection.
        2. For many, the father provided the only security in an uncertain world.
      2. A good father with loving concern disciplined fairly, but he did not abuse.
        1. He prepared his child for life in the world through loving discipline.
        2. Discipline was always concerned about the best interests of his child.
      3. A good father was a critical source of supportiveness.
        1. He provided love and kindness.
        2. But he also provided forgiveness and mercy.
  2. I would like to do some practical thinking about a good father’s role in his family.
    1. Very little said in the New Testament about a father as a parent.
      1. Ephesians 6:5 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
      2. Colossians 3:21 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart.”
    2. The father-child relationship is a complex relationship that becomes more complex in the years of the child’s adolescence.
      1. Being effective a father is basically a “one shot opportunity.”
      2. There is no tried and proven way to build the father-child relationship.
      3. Each child is different; each child is an individual from birth; and what is very effective with one child might be disastrous with another child.
      4. The degree of success that we fathers have in building a long lasting, effective, influential relationship with our children is strongly tied to being personally involved with our children at an early age.
        1. In my childhood, I was rarely around babies or small children.
        2. When Jon, our first child, was born, babies were a mystery that frightened me.
        3. That directly affected me in two ways: I was afraid that he would “break” easily, and I was clueless about how to interact with an infant or small child.
        4. I feel like I owe Jon an apology because “I had to learn on him.”
    3. I said that becoming an effective father was a “one shot opportunity” with a child.
      1. That “one shot” lasts not much more than a decade.
      2. I certainly do not mean that you stop being a child’s father in ten years.
      3. I certainly do not mean that you cannot improve as a father after ten years.
      4. I do mean that a father’s effectiveness in his child’s teen years is dependent on the relationship he builds with his child the first ten years of the child’s life.
      5. When our children are grown, regardless of how much we learn and understand, we cannot go back and redo our fathering.
        1. I doubt that there are many good or bad fathers who would not like to do some things differently.
        2. One of the ironies of life is that we gain much of the wisdom and understanding we need to be a good father after our children are grown.
    4. Children cannot be programmed to become what we want them to be as adults.
      1. These are most powerful forces that will live in our adult children’s hearts and minds:
        1. The values we taught them by the way we lived and acted.
        2. The concepts we helped them understand because we shared ourselves.
        3. The love we taught them through the love that we gave them.
      2. These three forces will influence their adult relationships more powerfully than any instruction we gave them or any demands that we placed on them.
      3. The time will come when our children will make their own choices.
        1. This will happen–whether we want it to or not.
        2. It will happen whether we think they are ready to or not.
        3. From that moment forward, what happens in our child’s life will depend on his or her decisions.
        4. And we watch; and we rejoice; and we grieve–but they choose.
    5. When our children become adults, we are restricted in what we can share.
      1. We are restricted by opportunity.
        1. Because of the nature of our society and the reality our economics, families scatter.
        2. Scattering greatly decreases the opportunity to share.
      2. We are restricted by our children’s perception of us.
        1. We do not stop growing and changing after our children leave home.
        2. But to our children, we are the same person he or she knew as a child.
        3. Because they do not live with us, they cannot see our development.
      3. We are restricted by transition.
        1. We have never lived in the world of our adult children.
        2. The world we lived in when we were their age was radically different.
        3. The daily world we live in differs radically from the daily world they live in.
      4. These three realities severely restrict the sharing we can do.
  3. “David, are there things that you wish you had done differently?” Certainly!
    1. I wish I had been more involved in my children’s lives when they were small.
    2. I wish I had spent more time with them throughout their childhood.
      1. I was so involved in the church and church work that I did not spend the time with them that I needed to spend with them.
      2. I was so busy helping other people that I did not share enough of myself with them.
    3. I wish I had given Joyce much more help and support in those years.
    4. I told you that I did not know much about small children and babies, so I did not know how to interact with my children when they were small.
      1. But I worked a lot with teens in the church, at camp, and other contexts.
        1. I genuinely enjoyed my kids as teenagers.
        2. Those were anything but simple years, but I enjoyed them.
      2. When my children were small, I dreamed of the things we would do together when they were teens.
        1. But when they became teens, as all teens, they developed their own lives and relationships.
        2. There was no time or opportunity to do the things I dreamed of doing.
    5. As one father to other fathers, I share three thoughts with you.
      1. Don’t try to live your life through your children.
      2. Build and sustain a loving relationship with your child quickly.
      3. Invest heavily in building a relationship in the first ten years of your child’s life if you want to be a significant part of his or her teenage life.

A sober realization to fathers: the way our children look at us as a father powerfully influences the way our children will look at God as a Father.

If you could choose the person your child would become as an adult, what would you choose? Think about your answer, and examine it very closely.

May God give every father wisdom and courage. May every father search for wisdom and courage in Christ.

It’s very special to watch a loving and confident father interact with an infant. The image of God being our Father is a wondrous image. Trust Him.

We need such a Father. That’s why you need to be a child of God. You can make God your Father by making Christ your Savior. You make Christ your Savior by giving Him your sins. We invite you to Jesus Christ.

Things Faith Did Not Do

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Christians commonly emphasize ways that faith in Christ expresses itself. Talking about what faith accomplished is comfortable. Talking about faith’s power is reassuring. We could easily compose a lengthy list of things that faith does.

Consider what faith in Jesus did not do. It did not cause the disciples to flee into the night when the soldiers arrested Jesus. It did not cause Peter to deny Jesus. It was not the reason that the Jewish counsel falsely convicted Jesus. It did not motivate Pilot to wash his hands of the situation. It did not create Jesus’ abuse and mockery prior to his death. Faith did not nail Jesus to the cross and jeer as he died.

Faith did not cause Thomas to say, “I will not believe Jesus is alive unless I feel the wounds.” It did not cause Ananias and Saphira to lie about their contribution. It did not create the accusations and dissension in the Jerusalem church regarding their benevolent program. It did not move Saul to hold the clothes of Stephen’s executioners.

Faith did not cause the confusion about salvation in the church at Rome; or the division and ungodly behavior in the church at Corinth; or the acceptance of Jewish ritual over grace in the churches in Galatia; or the wrangling between Jewish and non-Jewish Christians at Ephesus; or the personality clashes in the church at Philippi; or the mixing of idolatry and Christianity in the church at Colossae; or the irresponsible, lazy behavior found among Christians in the church at Thessalonica.

But faith in Christ had the power to reverse any of those. It revitalized the disciples. It restored Peter. It converted some of those responsible for the crucifixion and placed them in the first church. It forgave Thomas. It gave Ananias and Saphira opportunity to confess and repent. It brought healing to the Jerusalem church. And it transformed Saul into the apostle Paul.

Through faith, all the problems in each of those churches could be reversed. The specific goal of the letter written to each church was to reverse their problems by maturing their faith in Jesus Christ.

The objective of faith in human life is to redirect. What has faith in Christ reversed and redirected in your life?

“Did I Do That?”

Posted by on June 14, 1998 under Sermons

If you think in terms of evil, why are you a Christian? First, you are a Christian because you do not want to live a life ruled by evil. A Christian chooses to totally redirect his or her life. You do not want evil to create your attitudes. You do not want evil to create your emotions. You do not want evil to control your reactions. You do not want evil to be in charge of your thinking. You do not want evil to form your values. You do not want evil to dictate your morality.

You are a Christian because you place Christ in charge of your life, your attitudes, your emotions, your reactions, your thinking, your values, and your morality.

  1. In the middle section of the book of Ephesians, there is a paragraph of very practical instructions in chapter 4.
    1. In chapter 3 Paul wrote a prayer that he prayed for them (Ephesians 3:14-21).
      1. Through the Spirit may God use His power to strengthen your inner person.
      2. May your faith let Christ live in your hearts.
      3. May you be rooted and grounded in love.
      4. May you comprehend God’s purposes in every dimension of existence.
      5. May you know the love of God, for that love goes beyond your knowledge.
      6. May you be filled with all of God’s fullness.
    2. Then Paul asked them to do three things (Ephesians 3:20-4:24)
      1. Know that God through His power can do more than they could imagine.
      2. Work together as the maturing body of Christ.
      3. Remember that they left godlessness to be a new person in Christ.
    3. Then came those practical, down-to-earth instructions (Ephesians 4:25-32).
      1. Refuse to lie, and tell each other the truth.
      2. Get over any anger quickly.
      3. Don’t give the devil an opportunity.
      4. Stop stealing, go to work, and earn what you have.
      5. Use a part of what you earn to help people who are in need.
      6. Speak only speech that is helpful to others.
      7. Don’t give the Holy Spirit grief in your life.
      8. Don’t be bitter, or in conflict, or slander, or harbor malice.
      9. Be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving.
  2. In those instructions notice this one: “Don’t give the devil an opportunity.”
    1. Do you knowingly, intentionally, by plan, ever do that?
      1. Do you ever wake up saying, “Today, I believe that I will give the devil an opportunity”?
      2. Do you ever say, “This is a good situation for me to give the devil an opportunity”?
      3. Do you ever say, “I think this situation would improve if I gave the devil an opportunity”?
      4. I seriously doubt that.
    2. But, “after the fact,” do you look back at what you did or said and realize, “I can’t believe it, but I really did give the devil an opportunity”?
      1. Everyone of us looks back at the things that we said or did only to be embarrassed to realize that we really gave the devil an opportunity.
      2. Please note that if the devil has opportunity in our lives, speech, or actions, we gave it to him.
      3. Satan does not overpower us; Satan deceives us.
        1. The lie had its origin in Satan (John 8:44).
        2. He is the master of deception–no human can equal him.
      4. Look in your own life.
        1. A Christian rarely realizes Satan is using him or her while he or she is being used.
        2. Only when you realize what you said or how you acted do you realize that Satan used you.
  3. One of Satan’s favorite tactics among Christians is to motivate them to use evil to accomplish good.
    1. Personally, I believe this is his most effective tactic among Christians.
      1. “This ungodly attitude is right because I am just standing up for what is right.”
      2. “These ungodly words are good in this situation because I have to use ungodly words to defend God’s purposes.”
      3. “Ungodly motives are the right motives for this situation because it is the only way to ‘get done’ what God wants done.”
      4. “Here and now hate is good, wrath is good, meanness is good, horrible attitudes are good, destructive words are good–it is all for a godly cause.”
    2. When we allow Satan to distort our thinking and perspective, we give the devil an opportunity.
      1. It always “makes sense” to do it Satan’s way.
      2. It is always practical to do it Satan’s way.
      3. Satan deceives us by getting us to think that his ways work for God, so we give the devil an opportunity.
  4. I told you from my heart the great joy that I find in you as a congregation.
    1. One thing gives me special joy.
      1. To see the healing that has occurred in this congregation, and to watch that healing continue gives me special joy.
      2. We are composed of people who have different backgrounds, different perspectives, and different concerns.
      3. We have major differences in the way we view life.
      4. We have different priorities, different concerns, and different approaches to the major problems in our society.
    2. But in all our differences, things continue to emerge that we hold in common.
      1. We have a common faith in Christ.
      2. We have a common devotion to God’s purposes.
      3. We have a common commitment to understanding and living by the Bible.
      4. We have the common understanding that God and Christ expect us to love and respect each other simply because all of us are in Christ.
    3. As I watch our healing continue and our oneness in Christ grow, I rejoice and give God thanks.

May we all be devoted to cooperating with God as the healing continues and the oneness in Christ grows. May we be careful as persons and a congregation not to give the devil opportunity.

Does Life Have a Purpose?

Posted by on under Sermons

This week I bought a bottle of concentrated cleaner for fuel injectors for my truck. You add a bottle of cleaner to a tank of gas to clean your fuel injector while driving.

This is an “off the shelf” product that can be purchased in many, many stores. But the clerk told me only an adult can buy it. Young people sniff it to get high, so it can no longer be sold to someone under age.

What a profound commentary on an ongoing transition in our society! What a telling symptom of one of the core sicknesses within society itself. If you mentally dig down to the foundation of this situation, it asks this fundamental question about life: “Does life have a purpose?”

  1. Does it? Does life have a real purpose, a purpose worth living for, a purpose worth sacrificing for, a purpose worth dying for?
    1. All of us from oldest adult to teenager can identify with one of three reactions.
      1. Reaction # 1: “What a stupid question! Why waste our time by even asking that question? Of course life has a purpose, and everybody knows that!”
      2. Reaction # 2: “Yes, I believe that life has a purpose. But I struggle when I try to identify that purpose. Trying to find that purpose is very confusing.”
      3. Reaction # 3: “Life? Has a purpose? Are you serious? Life has no purpose–not beyond the immediate moment.”
    2. Why would anyone flirt with death by putting a plastic bag over his or her head to breathe the fumes of a fuel injector concentrate?
      1. Some of us cannot imagine why anyone would do that; it makes no sense; there is no explanation.
      2. Some of us do not need an explanation; we clearly understand why someone would do that. In fact, we understand why it makes sense to them.
      3. The clear dividing line that runs between these groups is this: to one group, life has a purpose; to the other group, life has little or no purpose.
    3. Those who understand why someone does that see two realities that many of us never see.
      1. Some people are desperately trying to escape the pain of human existence.
        1. Just existing is painful.
        2. They want to escape the pain.
      2. Some people are desperately seeking pleasure in a meaningless world.
        1. To them, life has no meaning.
        2. Where there is no meaning there is no joy.
  2. I want you to reflect on this thought.
    1. I want you to reflect on it deeply, to carry it in your mind, to struggle with it.
    2. “As evil increases, life becomes increasingly meaningless.”
    3. “As life becomes increasingly meaningless, evil increases.”
    4. If you question those statements, I suggest that you do the following.
      1. Look back through Bible history and note, as evil increased, life lost meaning; also note that as life lost meaning, evil increased.
      2. Look back through secular history and observe the same thing; remember specific ages and situations when that is exactly what happened.
      3. Think about current history that has occurred in your lifetime and observe the same thing.
      4. Look within your own extended family and observe the same thing happening.
    5. Evil increases when life loses its purpose; life becomes meaningless when it loses its purpose.
  3. The Bible does something that is truly astounding.
    1. We become so involved in examining details and discussing special interest questions that we fail to see the obvious “big picture.”
    2. With incredible quickness the Bible introduces us to the primary problem of human existence, the foundation problem that supports all other human problems: the problem of evil.
      1. In the first three chapters of the Bible (Genesis 1-3) we are told:
        1. There was a time when there was no evil in this world.
        2. But that situation ended when evil entered this physical world through human decision and choice.
      2. In the next five chapters of the Bible (Genesis 4-8) we are told:
        1. What evil did to the family.
        2. What evil did to society.
        3. That evil totally corrupted the physical world.
        4. Then, with time through generations, evil brought humanity and society into complete ruin.
      3. From Genesis 9 forward to the end of the New Testament, the rest of the books of the Bible relate in some way to the problem of evil in human existence.
        1. Justice demanded the deserved destruction of humanity.
        2. The merciful God did not want to erase humanity.
        3. God immediately confronted these questions:
          1. How could He refuse to impose justice on all humanity?
          2. How could He redeem the guilty and rescue the corrupt from the consequences of their own failures?
    3. Stated in a condensed manner, this was God’s plan and goal.
      1. Objective one: find a righteous man.
      2. Objective two: through the descendants of that righteous man build a nation.
      3. Objective three: through that nation bring His own Son into this world.
      4. Objective four: sacrifice the life of His own Son for the guilty and the corrupt.
      5. Objective five: through the Son’s death, create redemption and establish an eternal spiritual kingdom.
      6. God’s overall objective: to give people an eternal purpose by calling them out of an evil world into Jesus Christ.
    4. And that is precisely what God did.
      1. God found a righteous man in Abraham.
      2. God created the nation of Israel through Abraham’s descendants.
      3. Through the nation of Israel God allowed his Son, Jesus, to be born into this physical world.
      4. Through the crucifixion God sacrificed His Son for all of us, the guilty and the corrupt.
      5. Through Jesus’ blood spilled in death, God created redemption.
      6. All who accept redemption in Christ become a part of God’s spiritual kingdom and will eternally exist with God himself.
      7. As Christ’s church, we are to be God’s spiritual kingdom on earth.
      8. God’s purpose in Christ and in the church: to call people to eternal purpose by accepting redemption from evil and salvation in Jesus Christ.
  4. God used two kingdoms in this physical world.
    1. The first kingdom was a physical kingdom, a nation, a people who existed as a nation in a country on the map.
      1. It had a physical ruler, most of the time a king.
      2. It had nationalistic goals; it was concerned about the common things that all nations are concerned about.
      3. In the Old Testament nation of Israel, I want you to note two things.
        1. Both the blessings and consequences were physical (Deuteronomy 28 is a specific example.)
          1. If the nation diligently obeyed God and kept His commandments:
            1. They would be a leading nation (verse 1).
            2. God would bless their cities (verse 3).
            3. He would bless their children and their livestock (verse 4).
            4. He would bless their work and give them food (verses 5, 6).
            5. He would destroy their enemies (verse 7).
            6. All other nations would fear them (verse 10).
            7. He would give them great prosperity (verse 11).
          2. If they did not obey God and keep His commandments, God would curse:
            1. Their cities (verse 16).
            2. Their food supply (verse 17).
            3. Their children and livestock (verse 18).
            4. Every deed they undertook (verse 20).
            5. He would send disease (verses 21, 22).
            6. He would send drought (verse 24).
            7. Their enemies would defeat and destroy them (verse 25).
            8. Other consequences are enumerated in 21 additional verses.
        2. God tried to sustain a relationship with a physical nation through physical blessings and physical curses.
          1. You do not learn about heaven and hell in the Old Testament.
          2. Heaven and hell were not factors in the teaching or the theology of physical, Old Testament Israel.
    2. The second kingdom is spiritual.
      1. Its citizens come from all nations, all cultures, all economic levels, and from all kinds of earthly governments; every person who belongs to Christ is it.
      2. Its ruler is the resurrected Jesus Christ; he is its Lord and King.
      3. Its goals are spiritual, not material.
        1. This world is a better place because of them, but they do not live for material purposes.
        2. They love God, and they express it by loving and serving people.
      4. They use material things to help achieve God’s eternal purposes.
        1. They understand that God’s greatest blessings are spiritual.
        2. They understand that life’s greatest consequences are spiritual.
      5. This kingdom gives us an eternal purpose that no set of physical circumstances can destroy.
      6. Spiritual well being and spiritual purpose are not dependent on physical well being and material purposes.
      7. In this kingdom, life is given a real purpose, a purpose worth living for, a purpose worthy of sacrifices, a purpose worth dying for.

“David, all that is interesting. But we need to focus on the real problem. We need to teach our teens and young adults responsibility. We need to motivate them to apply themselves, to get to work. That is the real problem. Troubled people just are not responsible; they just aren’t motivated.”

Not motivated to do what? To work hard for what? To have bigger houses? nicer cars? more possessions? more money? If they just learned to want more, if they just learned to work harder to get it, would that create the responsibility that they need?

Stop and honestly look all around you. One of two situations will become obvious. One of two things is true. The bigger houses, the better cars, the more possessions, and the more money are not motivating them. If that is all there is to life, they conclude life is empty. Or, that is motivating them, and they think all life is about is houses and cars and possessions and money. When they live long enough to discover that emptiness, life crashes into despair because life has no purpose.

We say that we are Christ’s church. We say that we live for the eternal. We say that we place our faith in the eternal. We say that we have discovered life’s true meaning and real purpose in Christ. Look at our children. They are not deprived. But how many of them never find the purpose of life.

That is hard to admit. It is hard for me. But this is the truth: if we do not help people, including our own children, find purpose in Christ, they won’t find a lasting purpose for life.

My Greatest Gifts To My Children

Posted by on June 7, 1998 under Sermons

In Matthew 18:1-4, Jesus’ disciples approached him wanting him to settle a dispute. This dispute took different forms at different times. Sometimes the form was a personal, intense confrontation as they argued among themselves. Sometimes it was a general discussion in the form of an interesting conversation. They wanted Jesus to answer the question. The question: “Who is the greatest person in the kingdom?”

Jesus’ answer was simple, direct, and likely misunderstood. “Unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself as a child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

In Matthew 19:13,14, people, likely parents, were bringing children to Jesus wanting him to bless them by laying his hands on them and praying for them. The disciples scolded and condemned them for bothering Jesus in this manner. Perhaps they thought that Jesus’ time should be used in healing the sick rather than in blessing and praying for children.

Jesus said to his disciples, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to me, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

In these two situations Jesus clearly acknowledged the value and importance of children. Children are valuable. Valuable enough to be an example to us adults. As an example, unless children have been prejudiced by adults, they will accept and play with other children regardless of racial differences, economic differences, or cultural differences. Children in their innocence accept other children as children just like themselves.

  1. Tonight we honor and encourage the parents of the youngest children in our congregation.
    1. We earnestly pray for God’s guidance and wisdom to rest on you.
      1. Having small children provides you one of life’s unique opportunities–there is no other experience in the entire human experience even similar to the experience of being the parent of a small child.
      2. In this unique experience:
        1. There is the awe of bringing a new life into existence.
        2. There is an awareness of a new form of responsibility–nothing is as dependent on you as your newborn child.
        3. There is the joy of witnessing this new person grow physically, mentally, and emotionally–you can see this person develop as you watch the growth occur on a daily and weekly basis.
        4. You dream dreams and you have hopes that center in this new person.
        5. Nothing will affect and impact your life as long as you live as does the maturing of this person and your relationship with this person.
    2. From the moment that you knew for certain that this new person would become a part of your family, you began planning and preparation.
      1. During pregnancy, you carefully selected the doctor you saw, the food you ate, the medications you took, and precautions you took to protect your baby before birth.
      2. As birth neared, you prepared your home to receive a small, helpless human.
      3. After birth you concerned yourself with everything from diapers to food, from car seats to beds.
      4. When your child began to crawl, you learned to baby-proof your house.
      5. From the moment your child took his or her first steps, you learned to put safety first everywhere you looked, everywhere you went.
      6. With each new stage of life, from birth to twenty-one, you will always address new concerns, always seek the best way to meet new needs.
  2. In the whole process of parenting, as your child grows from infant to adult, what are the most important gifts that you can give your child?
    (That is a hard question to answer, but let me acknowledge some common answers. These are in no sequence, no order of priority.)
    1. Common answer # 1: give your child a childhood that will allow your son or daughter to build a sense of self-esteem.
      1. Provide him or her the experiences that will develop a healthy view of self.
      2. Involve him or her in activities that will encourage self-esteem.
    2. Common answer # 2: provide an education that will equip him or her for a quality adult life.
      1. That may involve the place of education.
      2. That may involve the type of education.
      3. That may involve the circumstances of education.
      4. That may involve the college he or she attends.
      5. That may involve how much education that you make possible.
      6. That may involve the field of advanced studies that you encourage him or her to consider.
    3. Common answer # 3: create cultural and social preparedness.
      1. Help him or her learn how to function in our society.
      2. Help him or her learn how to interact with and relate to other people.
      3. Help him or her develop an understanding of what is and what is not appropriate.
      4. Help him or her develop the basic understandings that produce good judgment.
      5. Help him or her learn how to be responsible and how to work.
    4. Common answer # 4: create an inheritance.
      1. It is expensive to live an adult life.
      2. It is expensive to get married.
      3. It is expensive to have a car.
      4. It is expensive to buy a home.
      5. It is expensive to furnish a house.
      6. It is expensive to live the middle class lifestyle of today.
      7. It is much more expensive to live a prosperous lifestyle.
      8. It seems that all of us parents want our sons and daughters to avoid the struggles we experienced and to have a better physical life than we had.
      9. So we seek to give them a better house than we had as a child, more things than we had as a child, and an infinitely more prosperous lifestyle than we knew as children.
    5. With many parents, these would be among the greatest gifts that they planned to provide their children.
  3. While I agree that these gifts can have value and merit, I want you to consider gifts of greater value that only you can provide your child.
    1. Gift # 1: give your child a stable home environment that has and practices love.
      1. No other situation can teach your child the true nature of loving relationship as can your home.
      2. No other place can teach your child what it means to love as can your home.
      3. Your child’s primary definitions for love and relationship will be created by what happens in your home.
      4. The way your son or daughter as an adult will love and act in relationship will be more powerfully influenced by what he or she sees in your home than any other single factor.
    2. Gift # 2: teach your child how to resolve disagreements in a relationship with respect and consideration.
      1. No healthy relationship exists without experiencing disagreements.
        1. Regardless of how much two people love each other, they will disagree because they are two individuals.
        2. Some disagreements are insignificant, and some are significant.
        3. Primarily, there are two unhealthy ways to handle disagreements.
          1. The first is disrespectful arguments that are meant to hurt and cause pain.
          2. The second is denial–the pretense that there is no disagreement, no problem.
      2. Your children must see you resolving disagreements and problems with respect and consideration; if they don’t, they may never learn how to do that.
    3. Gift # 3: teach your child how a Christian man treats a woman, and how a Christian woman treats a man.
      1. Many major problems in our society are rooted in the fact that men do not now how to treat women appropriately, and women do not know how to treat men appropriately.
      2. A child learns how men and women treat each other by watching Mom and Dad.
        1. That is the most influential, important information about the interaction between men and women that your child will ever learn.
        2. Nothing will influence the formation of his or her adult perspectives as much as what he or she witnesses in your interactions.
      3. A child who enters adult life not knowing how men and women can interact in a considerate, respectful, kind, appreciative manner will be at a serious disadvantage in every relationship he or she has in adult life.
    4. Gift # 4: let your child witness the things that are essential in building and preserving relationships.
      1. Help your son understand that kindness and gentleness are manly qualities.
      2. Help your daughter understand that unselfishness and devotion are valuable strengths, not weakness.
      3. Help him and her understand that godly hearts, Christ-like attitudes, and the fruit of the Spirit lead you to the best, most fulfilled you that an adult can become.
    5. Gift # 5: teach your child moral principles and ethical values in ways that he or she understands and comprehends.
      1. It is never sufficient to teach your child a set of do and don’ts.
      2. Teach your Christian morals and ethics.
      3. Explain to your child Christian morals and ethics.
      4. Help your child understand Christian morals and ethics.
      5. And absolutely illustrate Christian morals and ethics in the way you talk, in the way you treat other people, in the way you live your everyday life, and in the way that you respond to both the good and the evil that occur in life.
    6. Gift # 6: use your life every day to teach your child the importance of living for the eternal.
      1. Help him or her understand that money, career, success, prestige, or pleasure do not measure life or provide life its definition or meaning.
      2. Help him or her see in your life what it means for Jesus Christ to define and direct your life.
      3. Let him or her see this is real and good; let it build memories that they can never forget.
      4. You do not want your child to say as an adult, “The biggest hurdle I had to overcome in becoming a Christian was Mom and Dad.”
      5. You do want your child to say as an adult, “The greatest blessing I had in being a Christian was my Mom and Dad.”
      6. You cannot accomplish that just by coming to church; it must be your life, not just your religion.

Your children will never have another set of role models that influence their lives as powerfully as do you. In fact, you will be the most significant role models that they will ever have. Nothing will influence their marriage as much as does your marriage. Nothing will influence the kind of parents they become as much as the kind of parents that you become.

May God give you wisdom, courage, and strength. May you accept it.

When Evil Destroys

Posted by on under Sermons

During the summer of 1962, I worked as a laboratory assistant in the School of Chemistry at Florida State University. A German student nearing the completion of his Ph.D. studies worked in the same lab. I had very recently graduated from a Christian college, and it soon became obvious that I was a religious person. One day, as a matter of fact, and in no way confrontational, he told me that he did not believe in God.

This was the first time that I had met a person who openly stated that he did not believe in God. It was a conversational, respectful situation, so I asked why? Mentally I anticipated a number of possible responses. But I did not anticipate his response. He said, “If there was a God, He would have prevented the atomic explosion over Hiroshima.” It was not an act of war that distressed him. It was the unthinkable death toll among the children, the women, and the aged. To kill military personnel is one thing; to kill civilians is quite another.

He placed his finger on the pulse of an issue that troubles everyone. If God exists, how can evil destroy the innocent?

  1. Over fifty years later, this act of war hardly touches our sensitivity, but the shootings occurring in our schools assault our sensitivity.
    1. February 2, 1996.
      1. In Lake Moses, Washington, a 14-year-old walked into an algebra class hiding a rifle under a trench coat.
      2. He allegedly killed a teacher, two students, and wounded a third student.
    2. February 19,1997.
      1. In Bethel, Alaska, a 16-year-old fired a shotgun in a high school’s common area.
      2. A principal and one student were killed, and two students were injured.
    3. October 1, 1997.
      1. In Pearl, Mississippi, a 16-year-old killed his mother. He was convicted this week.
      2. Afterward, he allegedly shot nine students at the high school. Two died.
    4. December 1, 1997.
      1. In Paducah, Kentucky, a 14-year-old allegedly fired a gun into a prayer circle at school.
      2. Three students died and five were wounded; one of the five was paralyzed.
    5. March 24, 1998.
      1. In Jonesboro, Arkansas, at the Westside Middle School, two boys, ages 11 and 13, fired on teachers and students responding to a false fire alarm.
      2. One teacher and four students were killed; ten people were wounded.
    6. April 24, 1998.
      1. In Edinboro, Pennsylvania, a 14-year-old student has been charged with shooting and killing a 48-year-old science teacher.
      2. He allegedly shot the teacher at a graduation dance as other students watched.
    7. May 19, 1998.
      1. In Fayetteville, Tennessee, an 18-year-old honor student allegedly opened fire in a parking lot at Lincoln County High School
      2. A classmate who was dating his ex-girlfriend was killed.
    8. May 21, 1998.
      1. In Springfield, Oregon, a 15-year-old allegedly killed his parents, then went to the Thurston High School cafeteria heavily armed.
      2. There he allegedly shot 24 people; two died.
  2. More questions than we could discuss in a month deeply trouble us about these events.
    1. But one religious question troubles us so deeply that it shakes us.
      1. How could innocent people be destroyed by such mindless, random acts of evil?
        1. Acts of war that destroy the innocent raise the same question,
        2. As do horrible accidents and disease,
        3. As do violent storms and earthquakes.
      2. But nothing screams that question with the impact these incidents do.
        1. In these incidents, evil and innocence stand in such stark contrast.
        2. The evil is so mindless, so random, so senseless.
        3. The innocence is so real.
    2. Perhaps the reason we are shaken so deeply is because our assumptions are severely damaged. May I call just two of those assumptions to your attention.
      1. Assumption # 1: a major, divine reward given to a Christian is physical protection from evil.
        1. We understand that the combination of faith, repentance, and spiritual birth into Christ brings forgiveness.
        2. But we also are convinced that if we are Christians, God protects us from physical expressions of evil.
        3. In America, the godly prosper.
        4. Christians should be the healthiest, safest, most secure people alive.
        5. Christianity is a first class ticket to the American dream.
      2. Assumption # 2: the highest goal of human existence is to achieve and enjoy a good physical life that is free from injustice and problems.
        1. God’s immediate purpose in Jesus Christ is to bless us physically right here, right now.
        2. In a Christian’s life, injustice will be defeated, problems will disappear, and prosperity will come.
      3. Those two assumptions powerfully influence our everyday life, our faith, and our spiritual expectations.
        1. When these shootings so obviously strike the innocent and kill Christians, that violence and evil attack our assumptions.
        2. When our assumptions are attacked, our confidence in God is attacked.
      4. We need to ask three questions, and we need to answer them honestly.
        1. Where did we get those assumptions?
        2. Why have we incorporated those assumptions into our faith?
        3. Why did we make the American dream the purpose of Christianity?
  3. If your pat answer to those questions is, “That is what the Bible teaches!” I want to call your attention to one of the oldest stories in the Bible.
    1. Genesis 4 tells us about Adam and Eve’s two sons, Cain and Abel.
      1. When the sons were grown, they both worshipped God by offering sacrifices.
        1. Abel’s sacrifice honored God, and God was pleased.
        2. Cain’s sacrifice did not honor God, and was rejected.
      2. Just as Eve’s suspicious spirit caused her to distrust God, Cain was suspicious of God’s reaction to his sacrifice.
        1. Cain was personally offended by God’s reaction.
        2. God approached Cain, not in anger, but with concern.
      3. God asked Cain, “Why are you angry?”
        1. “Don’t you know that if you do well I will accept what you do?”
        2. “But if not, sin is crouching at your door ready to pounce on you.”
        3. “Sin desires to possess you.”
        4. “You must not allow temptation to master you.”
      4. First, Cain was angry at God; then that anger turned to a jealousy and was directed at Abel.
        1. He regarded God’s rejection of his sacrifice to be an act of favoritism.
        2. His younger brother received that favoritism; as the oldest son he was offended.
    2. What happened was not Abel’s fault or responsibility.
      1. But anger and jealousy are irrational.
      2. So furious, jealous Cain lured Abel into a field a killed him.
      3. God provided Cain with several opportunities to express remorse, but Cain never did.
        1. Cain was the ultimate self-centered man; he thought only of himself.
        2. Everything Cain did, including his offering, was about Cain.
        3. His offering was an act of pride, not a declaration of honor.
        4. But Cain was so consumed with Cain that when God rejected his offering, he acted as if God rejected him.
    3. Pay careful attention to God’s reaction to the death of a truly innocent man who had pleased God.
      1. God did not kill Cain for murdering Abel.
      2. He placed two consequences on Cain.
        1. The ground would not respond to his farming efforts.
        2. He would be a wanderer, a nomad.
        3. Even then, Cain thought only of himself: “My punishment is too great; someone will kill me.”
      3. God’s incredible grace assured Cain that he would be physically protected.
    4. How do you factor God’s reaction to Cain into our assumptions?
  4. This difficult question is truly not one question but several questions.
    1. There are so many different realities to be considered in this question that any nice, neat, pat answer will be inadequate.
    2. But I want you to consider some realities that our assumptions commonly ignore.
      1. Reality one: evil is a real, living, active, powerful force in our world and society.
        1. Satan is just as real as God is.
        2. Satan is just as active as God is.
        3. Satan has purposes and objectives just as God does.
        4. Satan exists to pursue his purposes in every possible way.
      2. Reality two: the innocent, the good, and the godly are Satan’s special enemies.
        1. They represent everything that Satan hates and wars against.
        2. In this world, they are Satan’s greatest enemies and greatest threat.
        3. Satan cannot be true to himself or his purposes without seeking to destroy the innocent, the good, and the godly.
        4. Satan knows his destiny is hell–that was irreversibly determined when Jesus died and was resurrected.
        5. Satan’s greatest desire is to take each of us to hell with him.
      3. Reality three: Satan has power in this world and evil exists in this world because of human choices, human decisions, and human acts.
        1. We permitted evil to become a part of this world.
        2. We continue to reinforce that human decision; it was not God’s decision.
        3. The realities and consequences of evil in this world are the direct result of human decisions and choices.
      4. Reality four: The ultimate purpose of physical existence is to find redemption in Jesus Christ and to prepare for life with God.
        1. The greatest objective of physical life is not:
          1. The quality of our physical existence.
          2. Physical security.
          3. Happiness, pleasure, and physical fulfillment.
        2. The greatest objective of physical life is to belong to and serve God through the redemption in Jesus Christ.

If we do not understand the nature of evil and the purpose of redemption in Christ, nothing makes sense. Only in the redemption of Christ can we accept realities that exceed our understanding. Only in Christ can we learn how to fight evil in our own lives and become Christ’s lights in an evil world of darkness.