The War

Posted by on July 26, 1998 under Sermons

Long before we were born a war began that directly involves our lives on a daily basis. But this war is so old that we are very accustomed to it. In fact, we think this war is a part of “normal” existence. We are not afraid of the war. Why? Because we think this war is just a part of life, and it really cannot hurt us.

“David, get real! There is no way that we are in the middle of a war! You can’t seriously expect us to believe that we would accept a war as normal existence.”

Really? Will you be honest with me? More people took drugs for recreation yesterday in Fort Smith than will take communion today. Does that trouble you, or is that just a fact of life?

More people drank alcoholic to excess yesterday in Fort Smith than will attend Bible classes today. Does that cause you any anxiety, or is that just the way that the “real world” is?

This weekend, in our nation, in our state, and perhaps in our city more people will commit acts of fornication, adultery, or homosexuality than will worship Jesus Christ as Lord. Does that truly disturb you, or is that just the way things are?

At times this war irritates or angers us. But rarely does it trouble us. The only time the war grieves us is when it claims someone that we care about as a casualty.

  1. Satan hates God; Satan wars against God; Satan never stops making war against God.
    1. Satan is obsessed–he will oppose God in every possible way regardless of the cost to himself.
      1. Satan has lost the war, and he knows it.
      2. Hebrews 2:14-18 states this regarding Jesus Christ’s victory.
        1. Jesus was a human who lived the true flesh and blood experience.
        2. He so completely lived the human experience that he died.
        3. Jesus’ death accomplished two irreversible things.
        4. First, he destroyed Satan’s power–Satan’s power was death.
          1. Death was Satan’s control.
          2. The power of resurrection destroyed the death’s control.
        5. Second, Jesus became our perfect high priest.
          1. He created the perfect solution for our guilt.
          2. He is also merciful and faithful.
          3. Because he endured suffering and temptation, he knows how to help those who are tempted.
      3. Even though Jesus won the war, Satan is determined to do as much destructive damage as possible to the works of God.
      4. Satan cannot hurt God, but Satan can hurt people.
        1. God loves people.
        2. Satan can grieve God by turning people against God or by stealing people away from God.
    2. If you do not regard Satan to be a deadly enemy, consider just one evidence of his effectiveness.
      1. Satan’s greatest accomplishment was the execution of Jesus.
      2. While God used Jesus’ death to destroy Satan’s power, Jesus’ death was Satan’s most cunning, vicious victory.
      3. Satan motivated God’s people to kill God’s Son.
        1. The people responsible for Jesus’ execution were Abraham’s direct descendants.
        2. They were the descendants of the people that God led across the Red Sea.
        3. They were the descendants of the people to whom God gave the law.
        4. They were the people who were blessed by such men of great faith and devotion as Moses, David, Elijah.
        5. It was the people that God claimed as His own that killed God’s Son.
      4. Satan not only used the people who did not believe, but he also used the people who did believe.
        1. He used Judas, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, to betray Jesus.
        2. He used Peter to deny that he ever knew Jesus.
        3. He caused all twelve to desert Jesus temporarily at a very critical moment.
        4. The masses who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem as King one week before his death were the angry mob who demanded his execution.
      5. To me the most chilling evidence of how deceitful and effective Satan can be is found in John 11:49,50.
        1. Consider the context of the situation:
          1. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead in Bethany very near Jerusalem.
          2. Many people witnessed this miracle, and as a result the number of people who believed in Jesus grew enormously.
          3. The chief priests (those priests who were in charge of God’s temple) and the Pharisees (the people who were experts in God’s teachings) were deeply afraid of Jesus’ popularity.
          4. This was their fear: Jesus’ was so popular that the people would accept him as King; the Roman governor would declare that to be an act of treason; the Roman army would destroy the nation of Israel; and their positions as leaders in the nation would be destroyed.
        2. Do you know what the high priest said? The high priest was the man that God declared would be the mediator between God and the people of Israel. He said:
          1. “You are so ignorant that you don’t see the obvious solution.”
          2. “You don’t understand that it is better for one man to be killed than for the whole nation be destroyed.”
        3. Do you want to see the cunning and deceitfulness of Satan?
          1. God’s representative to God’s people said that the leaders should save God’s nation by killing God’s Son.
          2. For Satan that had to be a moment of incredible triumph.
          3. God brought the nation of Israel into existence to bring Jesus to this world.
          4. For Satan to deceive and manipulate that very nation into killing Jesus must have seemed an enormous achievement.
  2. When we think about the future and the development of this congregation that we rarely talk about the Satan factor?
    1. Do you think Satan has a spiritual interest in what we are and what we do?
      1. Do you think that Satan is totally disinterested in what we think or plan?
      2. Do you think that Satan could not care less about what we do–if we want to be dynamic people of faith involved in God’s work, he just doesn’t care?
    2. The only thing that Satan fears in this world are people of faith who are alive in Christ and are committed to doing God’s will.
      1. Satan fears those people because Satan does not own those people.
      2. Satan fears those people because God uses those people to do His work and to fulfill His purposes.
      3. Satan fears those people because he can hurt them, but he cannot destroy them.
    3. For the preservation of his work and his kingdom, Satan must do everything possible with his power and ability to prevent us from being a faith filled community of believers who are genuinely dedicated to God’s will and purposes.
      1. Satan’s greatest battlefield is in the church among Christians who are devoted to God.
      2. No battlefield has the potential for hurting Satan’s work as does this battlefield.
      3. As in any war, battle tactics depend on the situation.
        1. The way Satan fights in the inner city is not the way Satan fights in the suburbs.
        2. The way he fights in government is not the way he fights in business.
        3. His tactics among teenagers are not his tactics among retired people.
        4. The way he wages war among those who belong to Christ is very different to the way he works among people who have no faith.
  3. He has some very special tactics that he uses among Christians in the church.
    1. One of his favorite and most effective tactics is to get Christians arguing, fussing, disagreeing, and dividing among themselves.
      1. As long as Christians waste their time and energy disagreeing and arguing among ourselves, we pose no threat to Satan.
      2. The surest way to stop fighting Satan is to fight among ourselves.
    2. A second tactic that Satan loves to use among Christians is selfishness.
      1. God placed an enormous emphasis in Israel and among Christians on the necessity of God’s people existing as an unselfish community.
      2. For Satan, selfishness is a versatile weapon that is powerfully destructive in any situation.
      3. Selfishness comes in many forms and is often hard to recognize.
        1. Selfishness can consume a person with “my rights” so that everything rotates around “what everybody owes me” and “what is best for me.”
        2. Selfishness can consume a person with greed–the number one motivation in every situation becomes “me” what “I” want.
        3. Selfishness can consume a person with self-pity–all my thoughts and all my feelings are focused on feeling sorry for me.
        4. In every form, selfishness convinces the Christian that the most important consideration in the church, in the family, or on the job is “me.”
      4. Selfishness is the exact opposite of sacrifice; sacrifice achieves God’s purposes and selfishness destroys God’s purposes.
    3. Religion for religion’s sake neither scares nor worries Satan.
      1. He doesn’t care how many people attend a worship assembly.
        1. Bodies sitting on pews do not worry Satan.
        2. But hearts and minds that humbly worship God terrify him.
      2. He doesn’t care how many members we have.
        1. A membership of 2000 would not disturb Satan.
        2. But when Christians truly begin to care about people, he is terrified.
      3. He doesn’t care how much Bible knowledge that we have.
        1. The truth is that Satan loves a good theological fight among Christians.
        2. But Satan knows that he must act swiftly when Christians begin to understand because understanding changes thinking, attitudes, and behavior.

This congregation is moving in good directions, in directions that will bring us closer to God, in directions that will produce growth, in directions that will bring us closer to each other. We have a long way to go, but we have definitely begun the journey.

You must clearly understand this truth. What we are doing is challenging Satan. Satan takes challenges very seriously. He will create every possible difficulty. He will complicate and attack our lives in the congregation, in our families, on our jobs, and in every other arena of life.

The more serious we are about being a community of faith that exists to serve God, the more aggressive Satan will become. But never forget that if we have the courage and the faith to be God’s community of servants, Satan cannot defeat us. It may never be easy, but it will never be impossible.

Satan is impossible.
Jesus is possible.
Serve Satan and he will enslave you.
Serve Jesus and He will liberate you.
You won’t be completely free of problems if you serve Christ. Satan did not quit working evil. He is just as deceitful as he ever was.
The peace you find in forgiveness will exceed any other joy. God will never desert you. There will be terrifying times, but you can have the assurance that it will be okay, because Jesus will be there. He will be there for eternity.
Enter Christ and be born into the family of God

May I Commend Our Great God To You?

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Jesus is the full expression of the goodness, love, and glory of God. Jesus came because God loved the ungodly so much that He sent His Son (John 3:16). Our excellent God sent Jesus to be the Light who would lead us out of the darkness of evil (1 Peter 2:9, 10).

Jesus made it quite clear that he represented God. He could do nothing of himself; he could only do what he saw the Father doing (John 5:19). He could do nothing of his own initiative; he did not seek his own will, but the will of the one who sent him (John 5:30). He devoted himself to doing what the Father gave him to accomplish (John 5:36).

Jesus shows us the depth of God’s love. Jesus being on earth documents the determination and persistence of God. All the failures from the flaws of the patriarchs to the colossal short comings of Old Testament Israel could not prevent God from fulfilling His intent and keeping His promises. Jesus’ death shows us the depth of God’s grace and mercy. Jesus’ resurrection shows us God’s power.

Jesus did not come to glorify himself. He came to bring glory to God (John 17:1). Do you wish to see God’s goodness? Look at Jesus. Do you wish to see God’s compassion? Look at Jesus. Do you wish to see God’s concern for the individual? Look at Jesus. Do you wish to see the power of human repentance to move God? Look at Jesus. Do you wish to see God’s untiring forgiveness? Look at Jesus.

It was God who used resurrection to make Jesus Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). It was God who placed the resurrected Jesus on His right hand (Acts 7:56). It is God who gave Jesus all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). And it is to God that Jesus Christ shall willingly surrender all things that God gave him. In fact, at that moment, the Son will subject Himself to God that God may be the “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:23-28).

May we commend the excellencies of our great God to the world. May our glorious Savior work through us to bring people to God.

Did Jesus Have A Job?

Posted by on July 19, 1998 under Sermons

In a typical week, how often do you hear the word “Jesus”? In a typical week, how often do you hear someone say something about Jesus? In a typical week, how often do you call Jesus by name or say something about Jesus?

Do you think that you know Jesus pretty well? How would you rate your knowledge of Jesus? This evening I want you to focus on your knowledge of Jesus.

  1. Did Jesus have a job?
    1. “I guess that answer would depend on the specific question that you are asking. Are you asking, ‘Did Jesus have an occupation?'”
      1. “If you are asking about Jesus’ occupation, he was a carpenter.”
        1. “Matthew 13:55 refers to Jesus as the carpenter’s son.”
        2. “Mark 6:3 refers to him as the carpenter.”
      2. What kind of carpenter work did he do? We don’t know.
      3. What type of things did he build? We don’t know.
      4. Where did he do his carpenter work? We assume that he did much of it in his home town, Nazareth, but that is an assumption.
      5. The gospels write almost exclusively about Jesus’ ministry. Did he do carpenter work during the time of his ministry? No, there is no reference to his doing carpenter work during his ministry.
    2. “If you focus on gospel information regarding Jesus’ ministry, what was his work?”
      1. To answer that question, we need to begin with the Old Testament scriptures.
      2. There is a section of Isaiah beginning in chapter 40 that is known as the servant hymns.
        1. It is from this section that the word “servant” becomes a title for the Messiah or Christ.
        2. In some places in this series of pronouncements, “servant” refers to the Jewish people as a nation.
        3. In other places, “servant” refers to an individual.
      3. Please take your Bible and turn in the Old Testament to the book of Isaiah.
        1. We will not do an in-depth study of verses; I just want you to notice the use of the word “servant” in a number of verses.
        2. All of these verses are found in the section of Isaiah called “servant hymns.”
        3. First, notice the word “servant” as Isaiah uses in reference to the Jewish nation.
          1. Isaiah 44:1 “But now listen, O Jacob, My servant, And Israel, whom I have chosen.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.) He called them His servant in Babylonian captivity.
          2. Isaiah 44:21 “Remember these things, O Jacob, And Israel, for you are My servant; I have formed you, you are My servant, O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
          3. Isaiah 44:26 “Confirming the word of His servant And performing the purpose of His messengers. It is I who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited!’ And of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built.’ And I will raise up her ruins again.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
          4. Isaiah 45:4 “For the sake of Jacob My servant, And Israel My chosen one, I have also called you by your name; I have given you a title of honor Though you have not known Me.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        4. Isaiah 49 seems to be a transitional point when Isaiah refers to both the nation and to a person as being the “servant.”
          1. Isaiah 49:3-6 He said to Me, “You are My Servant, Israel, In Whom I will show My glory.” But I said, “I have toiled in vain, I have spent My strength for nothing and vanity; Yet surely the justice due to Me is with the Lord, And My reward with My God.” And now says the Lord, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, To bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to Him (For I am honored in the sight of the Lord, And My God is My strength), He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
          2. In verse 3 he speaks of the nation as the “servant,” then in verse 5 he seems to talk of the person as the “servant.”
          3. God formed the person before birth.
          4. He formed the person to gather the nation of Israel back to himself.
          5. But just gathering the tribes of Israel back together again is to small a job for God to give the “servant.”
          6. So God gives the job of being a light to the nations to the servant.
          7. God’s servant will cause salvation to go to the ends of the earth.
        5. Now look at the word “servant” as it signifies this person.
          1. Isaiah 50:10 “Who is among you that fears the Lord, That obeys the voice of His servant, That walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
          2. Isaiah 52:13 “Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
          3. Isaiah 53:11 (To us, the first ten verses are one of the best known prophecies about the suffering and death of Jesus) “As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      4. I just want you to see one thing: I want you to see the strong connection between the promise of the coming of the Messiah, the Christ, and the fact that he will be a servant.
    3. Now permit me to focus your attention on some key verses about Jesus in the New Testament.
      1. Turn to Philippians 2:5-8 and notice something important about the preexistent Jesus leaving heaven and becoming a human man on earth.
        “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
        (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. The preexistent Jesus did not tell God, “I won’t go to earth; I will not become human being or live a human life.”
        2. Instead of clinging to his divine position, he willingly emptied himself of his divinity–he became a true human.
        3. Not only did he become a human, but he took on the lowliest form of human life, the life of a servant, of a slave.
        4. Not only did he become a human servant, but he went even lower–he died one of the most shameful deaths possible–he died as the very worst criminals would die.
      2. Jesus knew this was his work; he knew this was the work that he was sent to do. Turn to a statement Jesus made in Matthew 20:25-28.
        “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.'”
        (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. People who become disciples, who follow Jesus, who belong to Jesus, become servants just like he did.
        2. They will not be like other people–they will not seek to exalt and elevate themselves by seeking authority and high position.
        3. They will do the same thing Jesus did.
        4. He did not come to be served; he came to serve; and his greatest act of service would be dying for the benefit of others.
      3. Right up to the time of his death, Jesus was a servant.
        1. John 13:13-16 records an incident that occurred immediately before his last meal with his twelve disciples.
        2. None of them would be a servant; none of them would wash the feet of the others–the lowliest task of the lowliest servant.
        3. So Jesus took a towel and a basin and washed the feet of each one of them.
        4. Then Jesus went back to the table where they would eat and made this statement in John 13:12-15:
          “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.”
          1. “Do you know what I have done to you?” Jesus was talking about much more than just washing their feet.
          2. Jesus was not instituting a ceremony for them to duplicate and us to follow, though there is nothing wrong with washing someone’s feet.
          3. Jesus was saying, “I am the Lord. You acknowledge me to be Lord. I am the Lord, but I washed your feet.”
          4. “If your Lord and Teacher could serve you in this lowly manner, then you can serve each other in lowly ways.”
          5. If the Lord was a servant, his disciples must be servants.
  2. That was Jesus’ job–to be God’s servant.
    1. Jesus served God by serving people.
      1. He served the needs of people.
      2. He healed the sick.
      3. He fed the hungry.
      4. He taught and gave hope to the ignorant and spiritually distressed.
      5. The gospels are filled with incident after incident of Jesus serving people.
    2. Though he was God’s Son, Jesus never “pulled rank.”
      1. He never coerced people because “I am God’s Son!”
      2. He never intimidated people by reminding them that “I am God’s Son.”
      3. He came to serve people.
      4. He came to do God’s will. How?
        1. By being a great Jewish theologian in one of the rabbinical schools?
        2. Through worship?
        3. Through observance of the ceremonial system?
        4. He did God’s will through serving people.
    3. On earth:
      1. His job was to serve.
      2. His mission was to die.
      3. His purpose was to make forgiveness of sins available to everyone.

Remember that Jesus ascended to sit at the right hand of God as Lord and Christ after he was a servant.

What God Wants Is What You Want

Posted by on under Sermons

What is the greatest feeling that you have ever felt? If you could choose one feeling that you could experience daily, what feeling would you choose?

Let me make an observation. This is given as one man’s opinion. For most of us, if not all of us, the greatest feeling that we experience is the feeling of being loved. The feeling of being loved is greatest when we feel loved unconditionally.

What does it mean to be loved unconditionally? Does that mean that “you must love me even if I abuse you and behave irresponsibly?” No. Unconditional love says, “I love you for the person you are, just because you are you. My love is not based on what you have. My love not based on what you can do. My love for you is not based on your pleasing me.”

“I love you because you are you. I love you because you love me.”

The greatest feeling we can have is to be loved just for being ourselves.

  1. From the moment that God’s relationship with people began, God wanted to be loved.
    1. He wanted the love that comes from the desire, the choice, and the preference of the person.
      1. God wanted a people who loved Him because they choose to love Him.
      2. God wanted a people who would choose to love Him above every other option or opportunity.
    2. That is one of the identifiable reasons that God created us with free wills.
      1. He did not want people who did His will because:
        1. God was the creator and they had to.
        2. God has the power and they did not dare cross Him.
        3. God is in control and has the authority.
        4. God would destroy any person who did not do his will.
        5. People were physical robots who had no choice.
      2. God wanted a people who would do His will because they loved Him.
      3. God wanted a people who loved Him by their own choice and desire.
    3. So from the beginning, people possessed independent wills.
      1. They could choose, and they did choose.
      2. People always have possessed independent wills that could and did choose.
      3. We can choose to love God or refuse to love God–but it is our choice.
      4. If we love God, it is because we choose to love God.
  2. God always wanted a people who loved Him unconditionally; people who loved Him because they wanted to love God and be loved by God.
    1. God brought Israel out of the slavery of Egypt.
      1. God led them through the desert to Mount Sinai to speak to them, to give them His will for Israel.
      2. Before God spoke the ten commandments to Israel, God gave Moses a special message for the Israelites (Exodus 19:3-6).
        1. “You saw what I did to the Egyptians.”
        2. “You saw how I brought you to safety.”
        3. Listen carefully to verse 5 and 6:
          “If you will indeed obey my voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine, and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        4. We emphasize the importance of obeying God and keeping God’s covenant.
        5. Focus on what would happen if they obeyed God and kept the covenant: “You shall be My own possession among all the people.”
        6. God wanted Israel to become a people for His own possession.
        7. God wanted them to be His people because they chose to be His people.
    2. About 40 years later Moses reminded them of God’s works and teachings.
      1. In Deuteronomy 4:20 Moses said, “But the Lord has taken you out of the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be a people for his own possession, as today.”
      2. In Deuteronomy 7:6 Moses told the Israelites, “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has choosen you to be a people for his own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”
      3. In Deuteronomy 14:2 Moses said again to Israel, “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; and the Lord has choosen you to be a people for his own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”
      4. God wanted a people who belonged to Him and to Him alone.
      5. He wanted a people who chose to be His people and only His people.
      6. But Israel did not understand God’s desire; and Israel missed the point of following God; and Israel failed to be a people for God’s own possession.
  3. Listen carefully to Paul and Peter as they wrote Christians.
    1. Paul’s statement is found in Titus 2:11-14. Listen and see if it sounds familiar.
      For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
      (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      1. The age of grace is here.
      2. Salvation is available to all people.
      3. And this is God’s specific desire for people who choose to be His people:
        1. It is our choice to refuse to live for ungodliness.
        2. It is our choice to refuse desires that are unconcerned about spiritual realities.
        3. It is our choice to live righteously and godly right now.
        4. It is our choice to live for the glory of God and for the return of Jesus Christ.
      4. Why? Because we understand.
        1. We understand that God gave us Jesus to redeem us from lawless deeds.
        2. We understand that God gave us Jesus to purify for Himself a people.
      5. What kind of people? A people for His own possession, a people who actually exist to do good.
    2. The words of Peter are found in 1 Peter 2:9. Again listen and see if they sound familiar.
      But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
      (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      1. Christians, you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.
      2. Christians, you are a people for God’s own possession.
      3. You are that people for this reason:
        1. You are the people who proclaim the excellencies of God.
        2. You declare how excellent the God is who called you out of the darkness of evil into the marvelous light of His righteousness.
  4. I want you to understand some very important things.
    1. God wanted the people of Israel to be a people who belonged to Him and to Him only even though God knew who these people were and what they had done.
      1. He knew how godless they were in Egypt.
      2. He knew about the golden calf they worshipped in the wilderness.
      3. He knew about all the idolatry and immorality.
      4. He knew every failure and every evil thing they had done, but God still wanted them to be a people who belonged only to Him.
      5. And they could be that people if they chose Him and loved Him.
    2. God wants Christians to be a people who belong to God and to God only, and God knows who we are and what we have done.
      1. He knows our ungodlessness.
      2. He knows all the false things that we have loved and worshipped by giving our lives to them.
      3. He knows all the evil and failure that has occurred in our lives.
      4. God knows everything about us, but he still wants us to be a people that belong to Him and Him alone, and we can be if we chose Him and love Him.
    3. Israel failed to become the people who belonged only to God.
      1. They never understood what God wanted them to be.
      2. They never became what God wanted them to be.
    4. We as the church have failed to become the people who belong only to God.
      1. We have not understood what God wants us to be.
      2. We are not becoming who God wants us to be.
      3. We have emphasized authority, and all authority does belong to God and Christ, but it will take more than authority to make us God’s people.
      4. We have emphasized the fear of God, and we should hold God in awe and reverence, but fearing God’s power will never make us God’s people.
      5. We have emphasized obedience, and we must obey God, but it will take more than obedience to make us God’s people.
    5. Let me illustrate it in this way.
      1. A strong, powerful man marries a woman and controls her through abuse and intimidation.
      2. Everyday he threatens her and says, “I am the head of this house. I am in control. The power belongs to me. I tell you what to do and you do it. I have the authority. You are to obey me without question. You are to do what I say whether you understand it or not. If you do not, you will suffer. I will see that you suffer. If you cross me, you will pay the consequences.”
      3. And she is battered, bruised, terrified, ashamed, and filled with a terrible fear.
      4. And she will never love him; and she will never choose to give herself to him; and she will never be a wife who loves him unconditionally.
    6. God loves you unconditionally: He knows who you are; He knows all your failures; He knows every weakness you have; He knows every evil that you commit; He knows every flaw in you; and he knows that you will never be perfect.
      1. And He still loves you. He wants you to be His and only His.
      2. He wants you by your own choice to love Him unconditionally.
      3. He wants you to choose to be a person for His own possession.

All your life you have wanted to be loved by choice, unconditionally. And what you want is what God wants. God always has wanted to be loved by choice, unconditionally.

Just as love is the greatest feeling we can have in life, the sight of love brings the greatest joy. When God looks at you, does He feel loved?

God has so much love that He gave you the blood of His Son. Because He loves you, He will remove your sins and erase your mistakes.

Do you love God?
Does He know it?
Do you show it?

Do you want to be His son or His daughter?
Let God feel loved because of you.

God, Never Stop Opening the Eyes of Our Hearts

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Elders, thank you for making an exceptional opportunity possible last week. Monday through Saturday noon I audited a graduate study of Acts at Harding Graduate School in Memphis. I attended to spiritually feed myself. I chose Acts in order to study under one of the most enlightening teachers I have met, Dr. Richard Oster. A semester’s material was covered in one week of intense work.

At noon of the first day I told Joyce that I learned more about Acts in an hour and a half than I had ever known. It was a spiritually rich, wonderful week. My knowledge of scripture; my understanding the work of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit; and my faith grew enormously.

“Was it a refreshing experience because it proved that your ‘factual knowledge’ was correct?” No. It confirmed some of “my facts,” but it also revealed that some of “my facts” were not facts.

“Was it a refreshing experience because it verified your concepts?” No. Some of my concepts were verified, but some were completely transformed. In some instances what I thought that I saw in Acts and what Luke actually wrote were not the same thing.

“Was it a refreshing experience because it justified the past conclusions that you drew from Acts?” No. Some conclusions were justified, but other conclusions were replaced with understandings that more correctly reflected the teachings of Acts.

“Then why was it such a valuable spiritual experience?” It deepened my understanding of scripture. It brought me closer to God. It deepened my understanding of Jesus the man and Jesus the Christ. It more clearly revealed the workings of God from Genesis 12. It created a better focus on the message of the Old Testament prophets. It created a more accurate understanding of God’s intents and purposes. And all of that was refreshing!

What is the objective of Bible study? We do not study to massage our Christian egos. We do not study to pour concrete around our convictions. We study to draw closer to God. We study to better understand His will. We study to better comprehend His ways.

When we study the Bible to “defend self” or to “prove that I am right,” we defeat the objective of Bible study. We close the eyes of our hearts. We become victims of the same spiritual blindness that destroyed the Pharisees. They knew what scripture said. They did not understand what scripture meant.

“God, please deliver us from the Pharisees’ misuse of Bible study and Bible knowledge.”

The Joy of Christian Opportunity

Posted by on July 5, 1998 under Sermons

In your mind check each of the following words that you associate with genuine friendship. ( ) Dread
( ) Burden
( ) Responsibility
( ) Encouragement
( ) Joy
Check each of the following words that you associate with falling in love. ( ) Dread
( ) Burden
( ) Responsibility
( ) Encouragement
( ) Joy
Check each of the following words that you associate with successful marriage. ( ) Dread
( ) Burden
( ) Responsibility
( ) Encouragement
( ) Joy
Check each of the following words that you associate with a healthy parent and child relationship. ( ) Dread
( ) Burden
( ) Responsibility
( ) Encouragement
( ) Joy
Check each of the following words that you associate with being a Christian. ( ) Dread
( ) Burden
( ) Responsibility
( ) Encouragement
( ) Joy

Do you associate joy with friendship? Do you associate joy with the process of falling in love? Do you associate joy with successful marriage? Do you associate joy with a healthy parent-child relationship? Do you associate joy with the Christian life?

  1. Jesus was dead.
    1. The impact was devastating on his best friends and his closest followers.
      1. For many months a group of women followed him and his disciples in Galilee as Jesus and the disciples constantly traveled from place to place.
        1. There were no quick food places, not convenience stores, no stores that gave same day service to clean dirty laundry.
        2. They took care of things like cooking and laundry as Jesus literally invested all his time and all of his energy healing and teaching.
        3. The gospels of Matthew and Mark state these women followed Jesus to Jerusalem and witnessed the crucifixion (Matthew 27:55,56; Mark 15:40,41).
      2. Twelve men left jobs and families to follow Jesus twenty-four hours a day for at least three years.
        1. Unless Jesus sent them away to do a special work, they were with him day and night.
        2. They went where he went; they helped him do what he did; they slept where he slept.
    2. These men and women felt what any man or woman feels when a person that he or she is devoted to dies.
      1. They were certain that life as they knew it was over; the good days, the exciting days, the profitable days, the wonderful days were over and would never return.
      2. They thought Jesus’ had failed to achieve what he intended to achieve.
      3. They lost their sense of purpose and hope.
      4. Surely they had seen, touched, and spoken to the resurrected Jesus.
        1. But each time he was with them for a little while and then he was gone.
        2. What use was that? What would that accomplish?
        3. What could God do with that?
        4. More importantly, what could they do with that?
          1. His resurrection was very different to the resurrections that Jesus performed or they performed.
          2. When Jesus or they raised a person from the dead, the person continued to live physical life exactly as he or she lived before he or she died.
          3. But Jesus’ resurrection was very different–he was physically resurrected, but he lived a different kind of existence, a kind of existence that they had never seen or known.
      5. They spent the first few days after Jesus’ death in hiding–they were certain that the people who killed Jesus would try to kill them.
        1. When no one attempted to kill them, fear turned into confusion.
        2. They knew how to follow Jesus when he was a living man, but how do you follow a resurrected man who has a different existence?
        3. They knew what they were supposed to do when he was a living man, but what were they supposed to do now?
        4. What were they to do today? What were they to do next week? What were they to do in the future? As far as they were concerned, it was over, and nothing made sense.
  2. Then, fifty days after Jesus was killed, the Holy Spirit came upon these men.
    1. The Holy Spirit brought them power, but more importantly the Holy Spirit brought them understanding.
      1. Now they understood the teachings of the Old Testament prophets.
      2. Now they understood God’s intentions when He made promises to Abraham almost 2000 years earlier.
      3. Now they understood the reason for Jesus’ dying.
      4. Now they understood the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection.
      5. Now they understood the basic nature of Jesus’ kingdom.
      6. Now the understood how to follow Jesus after his death.
      7. Now they understood God’s real purposes.
      8. Now they understood the meaning of Jesus’ message.
      9. Now they understood forgiveness.
      10. Now they understood their own purpose and their blessing.
    2. They began to share their new understanding with conviction and power.
      1. And people believed that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead.
      2. These same people accepted the blessing of forgiveness.
      3. They accepted forgiveness by making a commitment to a new relationship with God, and they made that commitment by being baptized.
      4. These people entered this new relationship with God because they trusted Jesus and accepted his forgiveness.
  3. And joy exploded.
    1. The first people who became Christians were so joyful that the whole city of Jerusalem could see that they were different.
      1. Each day they visited each other’s homes to eat together (Acts 2:46).
        1. They shared meals with gladness and sincerity of heart.
        2. They found it natural to praise God–praising God is a natural expression of joy.
        3. It was natural for people to like them–they were different in a wonderful way.
    2. Joy kept exploding in the city of Jerusalem in the most unexpected ways.
      1. Peter and John, two of Jesus’ followers, healed a lame man who sat asking for money at one of the gates to the temple area (Acts 3:7-9).
        1. The man was born lame, and he was over forty years old (Acts 4:22).
        2. He immediately began walking, and leaping, and praising God.
        3. It caused so much excitement in the temple area that the temple authorities arrested Peter and John for preaching Jesus’ resurrection.
      2. Later, the number of people who believed in Jesus’ resurrection were increasing so fast that the same authorities arrested all the apostles (Acts 4:1-22).
        1. The court told the apostles, “We told you not to preach Jesus’ resurrection any more, and you refused to obey our authority.”
        2. So they publicly flogged these men.
        3. These men rejoiced that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His [Jesus’] name (Acts 4:40,41).
  4. This explosion of joy was not confined to the city of Jerusalem or the beginning of Christianity.
    1. The book of Acts tells us about a high government official from Ethiopia that became a Christian (Acts 8:26-29).
      1. This man heard one lesson a single time as he rode in his chariot.
      2. He understood who Jesus was, why Jesus died, and the purpose of Jesus’ resurrection.
      3. With that knowledge and understanding, he asked to be baptized.
      4. When he was baptized, he continued his journey home, alone, rejoicing.
    2. Acts also tells us about Paul and Silas’ visit to the city of Philippi (Acts 16:11-40).
      1. They performed a miracle, and the miracle made some important people angry.
      2. As a result Paul and Silas were whipped publicly and thrown into prison.
      3. After being whipped, thrown into prison, and being locked in stocks, at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing praise to God.
  5. This joy was to naturally exist in those who became Christians.
    1. In Romans 12:9-21 Paul gives the characteristics of a converted person.
      1. In verse 12 one of those characteristics is that the person rejoices in hope.
    2. The Christians in the Roman province of Galatia were told that joy was one of the basic expressions of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
    3. The church of Philippi had serious problems in their interpersonal relationships.
      1. That problem destroys joy.
      2. Paul told them to rejoice in the Lord (Philippians 3:1).
      3. Again, he told them, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).
      4. Their lack of joy contributed to their problem.
    4. The Christians at Thessalonica were told, “Rejoice evermore” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).
    5. Peter wrote to Christians who were abused and jailed because they believed in Jesus Christ.
      1. He told them to rejoice because their faith was being refined just like you refine gold (1 Peter 1:6-8).
      2. He said the fact that they loved and trusted Jesus should cause them to greatly rejoice.
  6. Does being a Christian produce joy in your life?
    1. Christianity by design is to create that joy in any person who is converted to Christ, who makes a commitment to God.
      1. When a person chooses to turn from evil and to Christ,
      2. When a person in faith commits,
      3. When a person is truly converted to Christ,
      4. When a person expresses all this by being baptized into Christ,
      5. One of the natural expressions of relationship with God is joy.
    2. That joy exists for two basic reasons.
      1. The Christian is given a blessing and a purpose.
      2. The blessing is the continuing forgiveness of God (1 John 1:5-10).
      3. The purpose is to live for God now and with God in eternity (John 3:16-18).

Christians are different. If you associate with the Christian, you can sense the difference. The difference is real, it is genuine, because the Christian has a purpose that is bigger than life, and is even bigger than death. That purpose affects the way that the Christian does things. It affects the way that the Christians treats people. It affects every aspect of the Christian’s life. People see the purpose in the joy.

And it is in that purpose that the Christian finds joy that cannot be destroyed.

Having purpose in Christ produces a joy that cannot be destroyed.

“David, why do you preach?”

“I want other people to find what I have found.”

It can only be found in Christ. I don’t desire for people to claim to be Christian if they don’t repent. It is only with faith, conversion, and commitment that we find the joy that comes through serving Christ’s purposes.

Are you willing to establish a new relationship with God? It would thrill God, the angels in Heaven, and us if you will be baptized into Jesus Christ.

Imprisoned in Laos

Posted by on July 1, 1998 under Articles

Christian Woman Magazine In 1982, Laotian refugees settled in my hometown of Fort Smith, Arkansas, after the war in Southeast Asia. Through the efforts of Tom and Lou Porter, a Laotian congregation was formed at what was then called the Windsor Drive Church of Christ.

Members of the congregation were challenged to adopt a Laotian family. Because our family had an interest in missions and this was a great opportunity for outreach, we met and immediately fell in love with a Laotian mother, Dy, and her daughter, Knott.

During the next 12 years, my husband, Jerry, and I spent a few weeks each year in Nigeria, Indonesia and the South Pacific. Being separated from Jerry when he sometimes went without me was difficult. So in 1996, when Jerry came home from a two-week trip to Laos and announced, “It is time for us to go to help in Laos,” I replied, “Let’s go.”

We attended an intensive Laotian language course at Arizona State University and sold part of our farm and cattle. We also investigated water-well drilling and latrine construction as aid projects for the Laotian people to prepare for our mission.

For the first year we would spend eight months in Laos and the second year only four months. That did not seem too sacrificial; I could handle it.

Only six or seven Christians met in Laos on Sundays in l995. Encouraged by Ken and Jean Fox, the church grew. Many were interested in learning about Jesus Christ. Visitors came to services weekly. During 1997, the church was meeting four nights a week at various home locations, and growth was evident. By fall, approximately 65 people were meeting during the Sunday worship service.

Except for a few minor adjustments, our first year, 1997, went smoothly. Adjusting to the slow pace of the Laotian bureaucracy took time, but we used the free time to teach English and the Bible while we developed loving relationships and worshiped with a small group of Laotian Christians in the capitol city of Vientiane.

After spending the holidays in the States, we were off again to Laos. Near the end of January, the Laotian Christians held a week-long Bible study. We had visitors from outside of town and from within Vientiane. We were especially joyful about the seven precious souls who obeyed the gospel that week. The studies would conclude on Friday evening.

The Laotian Christians studied from 7 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. Jerry and I arrived at 7 p.m. for the last lesson of a study about Revelation.

As we sat and read, we suddenly heard footsteps marching up the walkway and then into the assembly. I thought, Is this real or is it a prank? The men all wore uniforms displaying the words “immigration” or “municipal police.” This surely was a joke. I figured it was a scare tactic and then after the officials finished with their bullying, we could get on with the study.

Suddenly, cameras were flashing, video cameras were taping, and lights were blinding my eyes. I saw the officials remove Kuen Sy, the house owner, along with his son, Bonleurt. The officials were looking at the paperwork that was presented to them, and Kuen Sy and Bonleurt did not show any sign of being intimidated.

As this was going on outside, a few of the brethren left the assembly to visit the bathroom, as if they knew they might not have the freedom to do so again soon. I thought, If I only had a cell phone, I would go to the bathroom and call someone!

They then asked if any foreigners were at the meeting. That was my first reality check. I had not really thought of myself as a foreigner but I was.

After 45 minutes of much talk back and forth, it was decided that the five foreigners in the room would be taken away first: a French woman by the name of Ann, one Thai gentleman and visiting preacher, Udorn, and three Americans – Ken Fox, Jerry and me.

The expressions on the faces of my Laotian friends did not seem troubled about the situation. As I left, Bontavay said, “See you later.” The brethren knew that no matter what the outcome, their faith was in the Lord, and He would see them through.

The Bible studies of the precious few days were now coming alive. The examples from Acts, Romans and Revelation were fresh on our minds and provided the strength to endure. We were told that we were being escorted to the international prison and to give the policeman our keys. The five foreigners loaded into our truck and Ken’s van.

We could barely keep from laughing as the policeman driving Ken’s van choked and chugged along in the unfamiliar vehicle. To my surprise, we were taken to a real prison. Confusion followed as the officials were not sure if they should put us behind the 15-foot, barbed-wire topped fence, complete with armed guards, or deliver us to the front office of the compound where less vile offenders are usually interrogated. After much conversation, it was decided we should be banished, vehicles and all, behind the enormous iron gate.

Ann and I were then separated from the three men, and the questioning began – Ann first and then me. I was frisked and asked if I was hiding any possessions such as jewelry or contraband. I questioned whether this severe treatment was really necessary, telling them that I was a Christian and not a threat to them.

Later I realized that all Christians are a threat to anything evil. After the first round of interrogation, I asked, “Why am I at this place? What have I done wrong?” I got no response.

My next worry was finding a bathroom. I asked for what I needed, just as the Scripture tells us to do, but the reply was no. Okay, I thought, I can do this. God always provides and He will see me through this ordeal.

Ann and I were then taken to a cell to spend the night. The room was very small, 8-by-10 feet, with a raised wooden platform for sleeping. Bars were on the windrows and doors, but the cell was remarkably clean and not offensive.

Our five other cell mates were pleasant. The night was quite cold, and they willingly shared their blankets and pillows with us.

The other prisoners asked if we were comfortable, and this time I meekly asked if there was a bathroom. Much to my astonishment, one was right there in the cell. The reason I had been inspired to wear a skirt instead of slacks that night then became apparent. Asian-style toilets are much more conducive to skirts. Again, the Lord had taken care of my needs.

Once more they asked if we were comfortable, and again I decided to be honest and tell them my feet were cold. They all laughed and muttered something back and forth, and a pair of socks appeared. My faith was growing by leaps and bounds.

After the lights were turned off, I pretended to sleep. For a long time, I could heard Ann telling the other women about what had transpired at the Bible study. As she spoke in Laotian, I listened to the words “Bible,” “brethren”, “faith” and “Jesus” and experienced a calmness as she shared with them the Good News about Jesus Christ.

With the morning came hopes of being released. The women shared their bananas, bread and water. I found comfort in their assurance that “the U.S. Embassy is very strong; you will not be here for long.”

Not knowing whether our plight was known to anyone outside the prison, I was beginning to understand the scripture explaining that my citizenship is in heaven and that “neither death nor life, nor angles nor principalities, nor powers nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:38 NKJV)

We were taken from the international prison to the municipal building for more questioning. As we waited our turn for more interrogation, Ann and I were astounded by the arrival of one of our Laotian sisters in Christ, Phonsawan. She brought oranges and a smile bigger than Texas.

We were elated to see her. But sadness overcame us as she told us that many of the Laotian brethren, including her husband, also had been taken to jail.

As we talked and relived the events of the last 24 hours, we laughed and cried and embraced. I felt helpless, seeing her all alone and nine months pregnant, having to bear the heavy burden of caring for all of her imprisoned brethren.

The Lord found much favor in her because of the great responsibility He had placed upon her. That Jerry, Ken and Udorn had been placed in separate rooms and were not able to visit with Phonsawan caused me to be sad. She was a ray of sunshine in that dismal nightmare.

Later that afternoon, the questioning became more intense. An interpreter was present, and the first phrase from his lips was, “I think you will cooperate with us, and this will go smoothly.”

As he began speaking in a kind, gentle way, I thought, Don’t have too much confidence in this wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s probably one of the approaches he was taught in Interrogation 101 class. Even Satan looks appealing when he is trying to reel you in.

As I answered the questions, it was apparent by the expression on his face that he did not believe what I was telling him about the reason our group had been meeting. But Jerry had told me to be perfectly honest.

We left the municipal building that evening for our new accommodations. It is my belief that they waited until dark to take us so we could not see the filth of the place. It did have air conditioning and running water sometimes, but the facility was filled with mosquitoes, ants, dirt and a trash can that had not been emptied for years. That night for only the second time since our capture, we were given bread and water, and it was very satisfying.

We were told to leave the light on so when the guards came to check on us, they could see we had not escaped. And they did check the cell about every 30 minutes.

Before we turned in for bed, however, were asked what we would like for breakfast and told we would have to pay for it. We were glad to pay for the food, because by this time we were getting very hungry.

Sunday arrived, and still no word came about whether anyone anywhere knew we were in jail. Regardless, it was to be a day of worship and remembering the Lord’s sacrifice. We were given back our possessions, and I was blessed to receive my Bible and Laotian songbook.

Ann and I read scriptures and decided to remember the Lord’s suffering by partaking of some bread and drinking water. We prayed and sang songs for a couple of hours.

Soon the curiosity of the guards could no longer be controlled, and they entered our room to observe our ceremony and to ask questions. Ann took this opportunity to share the Good News again. After we were once again alone, we felt uplifted and encouraged as we read the trials of David and Paul. For the first time we could completely relate to some of the prayers they expressed.

Later, we were interrogated again, and the day dragged on. That evening the guards seemed to soften a bit, and we were asked if there was anything we needed. Ann made a list, and on Monday, the fourth day of confinement, Christmas arrived for Ann and me. A sack came with a bar of soap, bottle of shampoo, towel, toothbrush, tube of toothpaste, deck of cards, and two pairs of underwear – they were two sizes too small, but it was a nice gesture.

After the gifts were given, along with our morning meal of rice soup, several of the guards began cleaning up. A few swipes of the broom were made, and two days of accumulated sacks of trash were thrown out of our window onto the ground. We suspected something was about to happened and prayed it would be a visit from the U.S. Embassy.

After the Monday interrogation session, we were able to be together with the men for a short time. They had been separated from us the entire time, and it was good to see Jerry again.

At 3 p.m. on the fourth day, we were allowed to meet with approximately 13 Laotian government officials and Mr. Jess, a representative from the U. S. Embassy. He assured us that everything was being done to secure our release and informed us of the details that had begun the moment they knew about our arrest.

My eyes filled with tears at that moment, and I recalled Philippians 4:8: “Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.”

The scripture kept my mind from what I was tempted to reflect upon. Later that evening, Jerry and I were taken by the authorities to our house to gather personal items and food.

After we arrived, Jerry sat at the kitchen table with three of the escorting officers while I went upstairs. Although we had been denied phone calls for four days, I was determined to call home to let them know that we were unharmed and not to worry.

My main concern was that my mother would miss my scheduled weekly phone call and wonder why I had neglected to telephone her. Little did I know that she and the rest of the world already knew about our plight. I was so nervous that I locked the keys and my glasses in the house and forgot most of what we were there to gather.

After arriving back at the detention facility, we were told that the interrogation was completed, the materials were being assimilated, and that we would soon know the outcome of this tragedy.

That night was more peaceful with anticipation of the following day bringing our release. As I rested on my bed, I could only think of how wonderful it was in this war of good and evil to be in the Christian regiment. King Jesus, Head of command, had a strategic plan all laid out. No matter how long the war raged, we would win.

Tuesday arrived, and we waited for an interminable amount of time. Instead of release though, the interrogators returned to further question Jerry, Ken and Udorn. After the session was over, we conspired about how to contact the outside world. Finally, at about 5 p.m., Mr. Jess arrived with two vehicles to collect us.

We were concerned about the release of the Thai and French nationals, and Mr. Jess took it upon himself to release them from prison also. He told us he was taking a great risk, but he was willing to try. Again, the Lord was with us.

During the ride to the U. S. Embassy for briefing, Mr. Jess informed us for the first time about all the publicity that had surrounded this incident. This time I could not hold back tears on hearing the recognition the Lord had received through the incarceration of a few Christians in far away Vientiane, Laos. Although released from custody, we were only given seven days to pack up and leave the country. The farewells with the Laotian brethren who had not been arrested were difficult.

Thirty of the people we were closest to were still in prison, and to leave without seeing them and with no assurance of ever seeing them again in this lifetime was a torture much greater than being in jail. The great joy of returning to my physical family and the wonderful church family in Fort Smith has been deadened by the dull reality that the Lao brethren remain in prison.

After two weeks, 17 of the 30 brethren were finally released. But as of April 6, we have just received news of the sentencing of the 13 still imprisoned. Eight prisoners have been sentenced to three years, two to one year, and three – all of whom are innocent grandmothers – were sentenced to serve an additional two months.

I count it a joy to have shared in a small way this experience with the Laotian brethren. My fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in Veintiane, especially the 13 still in prison and their families, continue today to suffer for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

May we all fervently pray that the will of the Father be done, and that His will is for the speedy release of the Laotian Christians and the recognition of their right to assemble to worship the Creator and His Son.

This story was written in loving memory of Lou Porter, who was instrumental in beginning the Laotian work in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Lou served as a grandmother to many of the Laotian families. She was killed in an automobile accident March 3, 1998, as the events in the above article were unfolding.Lou Porter

Copyright © 1998, Christian Woman
Above article reprinted with permission of Meg Canfield, author, and Sandra Humphrey, editor.