The Disappointment of Failed Expectations

Posted by on September 27, 1998 under Bulletin Articles

As a society, we are a people of exaggerated expectations. We frequently expect the unlikely from our nation, community, marriages, families, careers, and life situations. In all spheres of existence, our expectations prime us for disappointment.

Interactive factors generate high expectations. One example: advertisements and promotions entice us to anticipate the unrealistic. “Buy this car! It will grant you status…alter your relationships… change your image…give you access to a desirable peer group…change your lifestyle…and boost your career.” A car? Really?

And how does a person feel when basically that car gets him or her from point A to point B at so many miles per gallon like any other car? Talk about failed expectations! When our car is a primary measurement of our life, what commentary does that make on the basic nature of our expectations?

Often failed expectations disillusion Christians. Our most common reason for being disappointed with God is failed expectations. We assume that if God does not produce the results we expect through the plans that we make, that God has failed us. God has not “been at work” as “He assured us that He would.”

God never stops working. Never is there a moment when God is not at work. Never do we humans create conditions that make it impossible for God to work. Christian disappointment never measures God’s productivity or success.

Never is there one way to accomplish God’s objectives, or one avenue to pursue God’s purposes, or one means to fulfill God’s will. God worked in Egyptian slavery, the Sinai wilderness, the idolatry of Israel, the legalism of the Pharisees, the denials of Peter, the persecutions of Saul, and the cross of Jesus.

Regardless of how evil the world becomes, God works. In spite of our misguided goals, God works. Through the worst and best intentions of weak humans, God works.

His work produces its best results when fellowship is genuine; love is unpretended; commitment is whole-hearted; and our faith is 100% in Christ and 0% in us.

Moses Has Something To Say To Us

Posted by on September 20, 1998 under Sermons

Generally, most Christians give little or no thought to Moses. Who Moses was or what Moses said has no significant place in our thinking. If Christians want to consider “important spiritual matters,” rarely will those matters include Moses. We identify Moses as “the voice of the old covenant.” We are very quick to inform people that we are under the new covenant. We shift the spotlight dramatically and exclusively to Jesus Christ as we focus their attention on the new covenant.

Moses was not the Son of God. Moses did not reveal eternal atonement for the sins of all people. Moses did not inform Israel or anyone else about God’s eternal redemption.

Because that is true does not mean that Moses is insignificant to Christians or unimportant to Christianity. It certainly does not mean that Christians should pay no attention to the man and the message that God gave him.

Moses can teach us invaluable lessons about loving God and being devoted to the will of God. Moses will teach us these lessons if we will only listen. Just as Moses taught Israel essential lessons about being the people of God, Moses has essential lessons to teach us about being the people of God.

  1. Our impressions of Moses are heavily influenced by the negative occasions that occurred in his life.
    1. We are likely to be familiar with these facts.
      1. Moses fled into the wilderness to run away from life and hide when he was forty years old (Exodus 2:11-25).
      2. Moses did every thing possible to say, “No,” to God when God instructed him to return to Egypt (Exodus 3, 4).
      3. Moses struck a rock to provide water for Israel while in the wilderness, and God had instructed him to speak to the rock (Numbers 20).
    2. The last forty years of Moses’ life were devoted exclusively and entirely to leading Israel out of the slavery of Egypt to the promised land of Canaan.
      1. These were by far the most difficult, demanding, frustrating, exhausting years of Moses’ life.
        1. His first forty years were lived as a part of the royal family–a time of privilege and easy living.
        2. His second forty years were lived as a shepherd who tended a flock in the isolation of the wilderness–a very simple, uncomplicated existence.
        3. His last forty years were an adventure in frustration and exasperation.
      2. Few of us have ever considered the depth of Moses’ frustrations as he led Israel.
    3. I want you to consider how exasperating being Israel’s leader was from beginning to end.
      1. Moses returned to Egypt convinced that God had given him a simple task.
        1. God had given him the power to perform some miracles to impress and convince both Israel and the king (Exodus 4:1-9).
        2. He would get an audience with the king.
        3. He would make his request and perform his miracles if necessary.
        4. The king would release Israel.
        5. They would leave.
      2. He successfully convinced the people of Israel that was what would happen (Exodus 4:31).
      3. That was Moses’ expectation, but that is not what happened (Exodus 5).
        1. The king rejected his request.
        2. The king immediately made the Israelite slaves’ work next to impossible.
        3. When their work became an impossible burden, the leaders said to Moses, “May the Lord look upon you and judge you, for you have made us odious in Pharaoh’s sight and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.) (Exodus 5:21).
        4. And Moses said to God, “O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.) (Exodus 5:22,23).
        5. And God said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for under compulsion he will let them go, and under compulsion he will drive them out of his land” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.) (Exodus 6:1).
    4. That was just the beginning of forty, long, frustrating years.
      1. When Israel was trapped between the King’s army and the Red Sea, Israel said to Moses, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?’ For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.) (Exodus 14:11,12).
      2. As Israel began their journey in the wilderness, they grumbled at Moses saying, “What shall we drink?” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.) (Exodus 15:24).
      3. When Israel was hungry, they grumbled against Moses and Aaron saying, “Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.) (Exodus 16:3).
      4. While Moses is up on Mount Sinai receiving instructions from God, Israel convinced Aaron to build a golden idol, and they said of the idol, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.) (Exodus 32:8).
      5. Moses’ own brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam, challenged his leadership saying, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.) (Numbers 12:2).
      6. Moses led this people to Canaan, sent out spies to prepare for an invasion, but when the spies returned, ten of them said, “The people of the land are too powerful for us to conquer.”
        1. Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron saying, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” So they said to one another, “Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.) (Numbers 14:2-4).
      7. Korah led a rebellion again Moses and Aaron saying, “You have gone far enough, for all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.) (Numbers 16:3).
      8. Dathan and Abiram joined the rebellion and said to Moses, “Is it not enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to have us die in the wilderness, but you would also lord it over us? Indeed, you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor have you given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.) (Numbers 16:13,14).
    5. Nothing more clearly reveals the depth of Moses’ frustration as does Numbers 11:10-15.
      1. People began to ask, “Who is going to give us some meat to eat?”
      2. They began thinking about the vegetables and fish they ate in Egypt.
      3. They were sick of eating manna day after day after day.
      4. So everybody began crying in their tents–a whole nation of depressed people crying!
      5. And Moses reached “the end of his rope.”
      6. Listen to Moses’ frustration as he talks to God: “Why have You been so hard on Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all this people on me? Was it I who conceived all this people? Was it I who brought them forth, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries a nursing infant, to the land which You swore to their fathers’? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me, saying, ‘Give us meat that we may eat!’ I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.) (Numbers 11:11-15).
        1. Note that he did not ask for God to kill Israel; he asked God to kill him.
        2. God did not rebuke him or get angry with him, but provided him some help.
  2. Let me give you some insight into the spiritual measure of this man.
    1. When his own brother and sister challenged his leadership, they angered God.
      1. It states of Moses that no man on earth was as humble as he was.
      2. When God punished Miriam with leprosy, Moses prayed that she be healed.
    2. That is characteristic of Moses.
      1. When Israel built the golden calf as an idol, God wanted to destroy the people and begin again with Moses.
      2. It did not happen; it did not happen because Moses interceded for the people.
      3. When the people refused to trust God enough to enter the land of Canaan, God wanted to destroy the people and begin again with Moses.
      4. It did not happen; it did not happen because Moses interceded for the people.
    3. I want you to note a powerful, marvelous evidence of the depth of Moses’ personal devotion to God.
      1. When God wanted to destroy faithless Israel, God did not care what unbelieving, wicked people thought or said about Him, but Moses cared what unbelieving, wicked people said about God.
      2. Listen to Moses reason for interceding for Israel and note that it had nothing to do with Israel or Moses; it had everything to do with God.
        1. At the incident of the golden calf: “Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ “ (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.) (Exodus 32:12,13).
        2. At the incident when Israel refused to enter Canaan: “Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for by Your strength You brought up this people from their midst, and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, O Lord, are in the midst of this people, for You, O Lord, are seen eye to eye, while Your cloud stands over them; and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. Now if You slay this people as one man, then the nations who have heard of Your fame will say, ‘because the Lord could not bring this people into the land which He promised them by oath, therefore He slaughtered them in the wilderness.’ But now, I pray, let the power of the Lord be great, just as You have declared, ‘The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations.‘ Pardon, I pray, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Your lovingkindness, just as You also have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.) (Numbers 14:13-19).

If we had the devotion, the commitment, and the concern for God that Moses had, what God could do with us and through us! And we have something Moses never had. We have Jesus Christ.

Is Life About the Desirable, the Urgent, or the Important?

Posted by on under Sermons

What is important? That is such a simple, three word question. But the answer to that simple question is one of life’s most complex answers. The basic answer to that question is influenced by three factors. Who you ask. Where that person lives. What he or she declares to be his or her needs.

If I asked that question in Russia, or India, or Africa, or China, or South America, I would not get an American answer. If the people live in a place of violent instability, or in a place where starvation occurs, or in a place flirting with economic collapse, or in a place of severe political repression, their answers will not be our answers.

So let’s confine our answers to American answers. Most of us live somewhere within the spectrum of middle class America. So, middle class America, “What is important?” I ask you, “What is important?”

  1. Before we can declare what is important, we must answer this question: “How do you determine what is important?”
    1. Do you determine the important by:
      1. The desires of your body that control your life?
      2. What is urgent and pressing “right now”?
      3. Considering long term significance and consequences?
    2. For example:
      1. If I asked eight-year-olds, “What is important?” answers would focus on short term desires.
      2. If I asked teenagers, “What is important?” answers would stress, “Peers who unconditionally accept me for who and what I am.”
      3. If I asked adults in their 20’s, “What is important?” answers would stress career opportunities, or life style choices, or marriage.
      4. If I asked people in their 30’s, “What is important?” answers would stress personal fulfillment through achieving personal goals.
      5. If I asked people in their 40’s, “What is important?” answers would stress some form of success.
      6. If I asked people in their 50’s, “What is important?” answers would stress preparation for retirement.
      7. If I asked people in their 60’s, “What is important?” answers would stress material security.
    3. Let’s ask a different group of people, “What is important?”
      1. Ask twenty-five-year-old expectant parents whose unborn child has just been diagnosed with a catastrophic abnormality, “What is important?”
      2. Ask a thirty-year-old wife whose husband was just killed in an automobile accident, “What is important?”
      3. Ask a forty-year-old husband whose wife has been diagnosed with breast cancer, “What is important?”
      4. Ask a fifty-year-old wife whose husband had a massive stroke and is in a coma, “What is important?”
      5. Ask the family of a seventy-year-old woman or man who has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, “What is important?”
    4. In a very real way, the question, “What is important?” is just another way of asking, “What is life about?”
  2. Hebrews 11:23-29 makes an insightful, fascinating commentary on Moses’ life.
    1. Moses is one of the primary figures of the Old Testament.
      1. God used Moses as God used no one else.
      2. Moses was unique; there has never been another person like him.
    2. Exodus 1 and 2 provides us insights into the problems that enveloped the people of Israel at the time Moses was born.
      1. The Israelites had served the Egyptians as slaves for generations.
      2. The Israelite population had grown so rapidly that the King tried to create population control.
        1. He decreed that every Israelite boy born was to be thrown into the Nile River and drowned immediately after birth.
        2. At Moses’ birth, his mother refused to obey that edict and, instead, hid Moses for three months.
        3. Then, instead of throwing Moses into the Nile to die, she floated him in a basket on the Nile hoping that he would live.
        4. She floated him in the area where the royal family bathed, but she could not predict what would happen when an Egyptian found him.
        5. The King’s daughter found and accepted him.
          1. She had Moses’ mother nurse and care for him until he was old enough to come to the palace.
          2. Then she adopted him as her son.
      3. In today’s terminology, from today’s perspective, Moses had it made.
        1. He was adopted into one of the world’s most powerful families.
        2. He completely escaped slavery to become one of the world’s most privileged people.
        3. Education, wealth, prestige, and opportunity were his as a matter of right because he belonged to the royal family.
        4. No one on earth had a better material life.
        5. He had everything he wanted, and he could do anything he wanted.
      4. But Moses knew his origin and his identity.
        1. Moses also knew that his people continued in the horrors of slavery.
        2. One day he risked everything to help just one Israelite who was being abused by an Egyptian.
        3. The Israelite did not appreciate his help, his effort backfired, and he had to flee into the remote wilderness to keep the king from executing him.
      5. Forty years later, God had plans for him.
        1. Exodus 3 and 4 tells us how God revealed those plans to Moses.
        2. When Moses learned that God wanted him to return to Egypt, he wanted no part of God’s plans.
        3. Though he resisted God, God convinced Moses to return to Egypt.
      6. Hebrews 11:23-29 states these things.
        1. It was faith that caused Moses’ mother to hide him instead of kill him.
        2. Moses could have considered himself a member of the royal family and forgotten all about the fact that he came from slaves, but faith would not let him do that.
        3. Moses had a choice: he could enjoy the temporary pleasures of sin, or he could share the abuse of God’s people.
        4. Because of faith, he chose abuse over pleasure.
        5. Why? Why would he “make that crazy, ridiculous decision”?
        6. Moses understood God was doing something special in His work with Israel.
        7. Though Moses knew nothing about Jesus Christ, God literally was making necessary preparation to send Jesus to become the Christ.
        8. Though Moses did not realize precisely what God was doing, he understood that his greatest reward was found in serving God’s purposes.
        9. Moses understood that there was greater reward in reproach and abuse than in wealth.
        10. The rewards of being used by God to achieve God’s purposes would be greater than the immediate rewards of wealth, pleasure, and privilege.
        11. So he lead all those slaves out of Egypt, unafraid of the king’s wrath, because he saw the unseen.
        12. By faith he kept the Passover knowing that night that Egyptians would die in order for Israelites to be delivered from slavery.
        13. By faith he led those slaves across the Red Sea, the same Red Sea that minutes later drowned the Egyptian army.
      7. “Moses, what is life about? What is important? You had it all. You had privileges and wealth that we will never know. So tell us, Moses, what is life about?”
        1. “Moses, is life about our physical, emotional, and material desires?” No, it isn’t.
        2. “Moses, is life about the urgent, about the things that demand, or push you, or press you?” No, that is not what life is about.
        3. “Well, Moses, what is life about?” Life is about the important, and the important is always defined by God and His purposes.
        4. “But, Moses, where did God and His purposes lead you?” Though I escaped slavery to live in luxury, God’s purposes led me back to the slaves to be their leader.

          [Pause here.]

  3. You are not going to die.
    1. “David, that is the most ridiculous thing that you have ever said to us–if you mean that, you have just destroyed your credibility.”
      1. I am quite serious; no one in this assembly is going to die.
      2. Your body will die, and my body will die, but you and I won’t die.
        1. In our blindness and short-sightedness, we think we are our bodies.
        2. We rarely think of ourselves apart from our bodies.
        3. If our body is beautiful, we think that we are beautiful.
        4. If our body is in shape, we think that we are in shape.
        5. If our body is sick, we think that we are sick.
        6. We think, “My body is me, and I am my body.”
      3. Not so! My body is just where I live; it is my temporary address.
        1. If I say that life is about satisfying my desires, I am saying that life is about my body, not about me.
        2. If I say that life is about being ruled by the urgent, I am saying that life is about emergencies that concern my body; life is really not about me.
        3. However, if I understand that life is about the important, I know that the basic considerations of life are determined by significance and consequences.
        4. Nothing is more significant than what happens to me when my body dies.
        5. My body will stop existing, but I won’t.
        6. No consequences are greater than the consequences that I carry with me after my body dies and I change addresses.
    2. So which is important: the pleasures of the moment, the emergencies of the day, or eternal joy and peace?
      1. Which is more important, neglecting life to care for the urgent, or living life for God now to prepare to live with God eternally when my body dies and I change addresses?
      2. If my definition of the important ignores and neglects God, my life will be entangled in my desires and trapped by the urgent.

Does your body decide what is important, or do you?

[Song of reflection.]

I have never lived in a place that I did not enjoy living, but I have never enjoyed living in a place more than in Fort Smith. The more enjoyable it is to live in a place, the harder it is to live by faith.

Our country is so blessed, so advanced, and so prosperous that it is hard to live by faith here. Our prosperity and our technology make faith seem backward, unimportant, and unnecessary.

To make Moses’ choice, we must see what Moses saw. All godless pleasure is temporary. Lasting wealthy is not material. Lasting wealth is found only in God. But to find it, you must see the unseen.

Each day you decide and declare what is important. Do you make your body the lord of your life? Or do you make Jesus Christ Lord of your body and your life?

Mind Games

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Satan is a gifted liar (John 8:44). His specialty is “mind games.” His “mind game” with Eve began with a lie. After hearing her repeat God’s warning, he said, “You won’t die! God is dishonest! He knows when you distinguish between good and evil that you will be as smart as He is” (Genesis 3:4,5). Deception then guided her observations (Genesis 3:6). Satan won the “mind game,” and human evil became reality.

All temptation begins with a “mind game.” Deceit is the key to all wickedness. All evil, from vicious violence to “innocent” self-righteousness, begins in the mind.

Satan’s most sophisticated “mind games” are reserved for worship assemblies. He convinces us that we are worshipping while we actually are “playing” his “mind game.”

Three events produced the three most significant transitions in human history. Each transition forever altered human reality. In the first, evil became a part of human existence. In the second, forgiveness became available to all humanity. In the third, humanity will appear before Jesus Christ.

Our weekly communion acknowledges all three. We consider the significance of each transition, and we praise God for what He did for us in Jesus’ death.

The power of the Lord’s Supper is mental. It is not perfunctory, habitual, or mechanical. We do not “take communion” merely because we eat the bread and drink the juice. Communion is far more than listening to prayers, eating the bread, and drinking the juice. One can do all three and not commune with God and Christ.

When you participate in communion, do you focus on Jesus Christ, or do you play a “mind game” with Satan? His selection is as diverse as video games. “Distraction,” “criticism,” “daydreams,” “anticipation,” and “impatience” are but a few of his games.

The ultimate communion experience will come when we commune with Jesus in heaven. How we will celebrate! Celebrate what? Jesus’ victorious destruction of evil. Jesus’ marvelous gift of forgiveness. Jesus granting us eternal salvation in heaven. Praise and only praise will fill every mind! May that praise begin here and now!

Do You Prefer Good Habits or Good Hearts?

Posted by on September 13, 1998 under Sermons

Which would you prefer for a next door neighbor: a person of excellent habits or a person with a good heart? Which would you prefer for a good friend: a person of excellent habits, or a person with a good heart? Which would you prefer for a husband or a wife: a person of excellent habits, or a person with a good heart? Which would you prefer for a child: a child with excellent habits, or a child with a good heart?

It is wonderful to have a neighbor who conscientiously cares for his property while respecting your property. It is wonderful to have a friend who always treats you with consideration. It is wonderful to be married to a husband who always is thoughtful and courteous, or to a wife who always is gracious in her comments and deeds. It is wonderful to have a son or daughter who shows respect and uses good manners.

As wonderful as those situations are, none of them compare to having a neighbor, a friend, a husband, a wife, a son, or a daughter with a good heart.

When you discuss good behavior, you are discussing the quality of a person’s self-control. When you discuss a good heart, you are discussing the quality of the person.

  1. Can you imagine any person being so arrogant, so vain as to declare that he or she can relate to any person anywhere in the world?
    1. Can you believe that anyone would think that he or she could relate to anyone anywhere in the world?
      1. Can the poor relate to the rich?
      2. Can the privileged relate to the deprived?
      3. Can the illiterate relate to the well educated?
      4. Can the successful relate to the oppressed?
      5. If we think about it, really think about it, few of us honestly believe that any person could relate to everyone.
    2. Yet, God sent one person to this world to relate to everyone, to be the Savior for everyone, to bond with everyone.
      1. Most of us would say, “Sure Jesus can do that; he is God’s Son.”
        1. We say that because that is what we have been told; “Jesus is the Son of God, and the Son of God can relate to anyone.”
        2. May I ask this question: would not the fact that Jesus is God’s Son make it less likely for him to relate to everyone instead of more likely?
      2. Yet, in a very genuine, real way Jesus does relate to every person–that is one of the true mysteries about Jesus.
        1. A life time of teaching and preaching that has given me the opportunity to share Jesus on three different continents.
        2. I am amazed at the way that people relate to Jesus.
        3. I saw it happen in the life of a witch doctor in African.
        4. I saw it happen in the life of an atheist in Russia.
        5. I saw it happen in the lives of disillusioned college students in Poland.
        6. I have seen it happen among extremely poor persons.
        7. I have seen it happen in highly successful persons.
        8. I have seen it happen with the educationally advanced and with those who have no education.
        9. I have seen it happen in the lives of the abused, the dysfunctional, the addicted, the suffering, and the devastated.
      3. In each case, this is what I have seen–every time a person relates to Jesus, he or she relates to Jesus’ heart.
        1. It is always Jesus’ heart qualities that enable people to relate to him.
        2. People do not relate to Jesus because he was a Jew, or because he was poor, or because he was powerful, or because he was the Son of God, or because he was resurrected.
        3. It is Jesus’ heart that allows people to relate to him.
      4. It is his heart that calls people to him: Matthew 11:28,29.
        Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. Are you tired? Do you have exhausting burdens that crush you?
        2. Come to me; I will give you rest.
        3. “Jesus, how are you going to give me rest?”
        4. You will place yourself under my control by putting on my yoke, and as you wear my yoke you will learn from me.
        5. “Jesus, why would I do that? Yokes are made to burden you, to make you pull burdens. Yokes aren’t made for rest; yokes are made for hard work. Why should I put on your yoke?”
        6. First, carefully note what Jesus did not say.
          1. Put on my yoke because I have the power.
          2. Put on my yoke because I have come from God.
          3. Put on my yoke or I will destroy you.
          4. Put on my yoke because all authority is vested in me.
          5. Put on my yoke because I am the Lord.
        7. Second, carefully note what Jesus did say.
          1. Without fear, put on my yoke because I am gently and humble in heart.
          2. Because of my heart you will find rest from your exhausting burdens.
      5. Jesus’ heart creates an appeal that allows him to relate to all people.
    3. The qualities that people most admire about Jesus are always heart qualities.
      1. His meek or unassuming nature.
      2. His compassion.
      3. His mercy.
      4. His forgiveness.
      5. His kindness.
      6. His unselfish, sacrificial nature.
      7. These all are heart qualities.
  2. The person who relates to people with his heart is the person who relates to people by touching their hearts.
    1. Jesus’ emphasis on the state and condition of our hearts is clear and profound.
      1. In Matthew 5:8 he declared, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
        1. We commonly stress the fact that a person with an impure heart will not see God in heaven.
        2. While I agree that statement is true, I personally think that Jesus meant something far more than that.
        3. Without a pure heart a person will not perceive the presence of God.
        4. When, surrounded by nature, I watch an incredible sunset, I see God.
        5. An atheist can witness the same sunset at the same place, appreciate the same beauty, but only see a random accident.
      2. In Matthew 22:37 Jesus said that the greatest commandment ever given is to love God with all of our heart.
      3. In Matthew 6:11 Jesus observed that our hearts live where our treasures reside.
      4. In Matthew 15:8 he stated that it is an insult to God to praise God with our words while our hearts are far removed from God.
      5. And in Matthew 15:19 he declared that evil thoughts are born in our hearts.
    2. Conversion involves the response of the human heart to Jesus.
      1. Becoming a Christian is first and foremost a conversion process.
      2. Logic may play a role in the conversion process of some people, but the core of conversion is not based on intellectual reasoning.
      3. Facts and deductions may play a role in the conversion process of some people, but the core of conversion is not based on the scientific process.
      4. Conversion to Jesus Christ is the response of the human heart to the heart of the Son of God.
    3. The book of Acts verifies that heart responses are critical in the conversion process.
      1. In Acts 2 Peter preached to a Jewish audience in the city of Jerusalem.
        1. A number of these listeners either condoned or encouraged Jesus’ crucifixion.
        2. Peter used prophesy, facts, and reasoning to convince these people that the Jesus that they killed was actually God’s Son.
        3. He declared the fact of the resurrection, and declared that by resurrection God made the crucified Jesus both Lord and Christ.
        4. Those who believed Peter “were pricked in their hearts” (Acts 2:37).
          1. Their hearts caused them to cry out asking what they should do.
          2. Their hearts moved them to repentance.
          3. Heart acceptance led them to baptism, to the forgiveness of sin, and to acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord.
      2. In Acts 7 those who rejected Jesus and his resurrection were angry at a Christian named Stephen, and they put him on trial.
        1. As Stephen defended his teachings, he declared that these people murdered God’s Righteous One just as their forefathers had murdered God’s messengers.
        2. Stephen’s statement “cut them in their hearts” (Acts 7:54).
        3. When Stephen said that he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God, they killed him.
        4. Heart rejection of Jesus moved them to kill Stephen.
      3. In Acts 8 an influential magician named Simon believed and was baptized.
        1. He had been called the Great One because people believed that he had special powers.
        2. When Simon saw the power of the Holy Spirit that Peter and John possessed, he wanted to buy that power.
        3. Peter replied, “Your request to buy God’s power is wicked.”
          1. “In no way are you to be involved in the use of this power.”
          2. “You desperately need to repent of your wickedness and pray for forgiveness.”
        4. Peter did not say, “You are wicked because:”
          1. “You have violated a commandment.”
          2. Or, “You have been disrespectful of authority.”
          3. Or, “Your theology is wrong.”
          4. Or, “Your thinking is evil.”
        5. Peter said, “Your heart is not right. Pray the Lord if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven” (Acts 8:22).
        6. A misguided heart led the baptized Simon back into horrible wickedness.

The person converted to Jesus Christ cannot remain the same person. He or she cannot remain the same person because Jesus’ heart has changed his or her heart.

heart Becoming a Christian is much more than giving up bad habits or learning new behavior patterns. Conversion involves a fundamental change of heart. That is why repentance is essential in conversion. Repentance redirects the heart.

When my heart is touched by Jesus’ heart, I cannot be and will not be the same person. When my heart is changed, I am changed.

In human relationships, if your basis for relationship choices is good habits instead of good hearts, you will experience sorrow and disappointment as long as you live.

When God establishes a relationship with a person, it always is on the basis of a good heart, and never on the basis of good habits.

Do you need guilt destroyed? Give God your heart. Wear the yoke of Jesus Christ. Do you need rest? Come to Jesus.

God, the Father of His Family

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

In Ephesians 3:14, Paul began a written prayer. It opens with this declaration: “I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every (or “the whole”) family in heaven and on earth derives its name . . .”

God is the Father of all in the heavenly realm and all on earth. He created all of us in both realms. He created the opportunity for all of us on earth to come back to the family. Originally, we were part of His family. Through redemption, we again can be in His family. We are family because God is Father.

If we accept the opportunity again to be in God’s family, certain things must happen. We must allow His power to strengthen our inner person through His Spirit. We must let Christ make his home in our hearts through faith. We must be rooted and grounded in love. We must be open to God’s total work in Christ. Our comprehension of the full dimensions of God’s work and purposes in Christ must constantly expand.

We must be able to comprehend. We must know Christ’s love which surpasses knowledge. Our goal must be to let God’s fullness fill us.

The state of the American family causes us to groan, lament, and predict dire national consequences. The family problem that concerns us the most is this one. Too many kids control and run the family. Perhaps for much too long the same problem has existed in God’s family. Perhaps we assumed that being Christ’s church meant that the kids run the family. The Father needs to direct God’s family, not the kids.

We desperately need to bow the knees to the Father as we humbly seek His fullness. We must try to comprehend the full dimensions of God’s work in Christ. Our conscious goal must be to be God’s family rather than to run God’s family.

Attending worship assemblies and being God’s family are not identical. Assuming church habits and accepting family commitments are not identical. Being religious and becoming spiritual family are not identical.

Do you want West-Ark to be a great church or to be a great family? Could we be both? Yes! But, becoming a great church is dependent on being an exceptional family.

We love for people to attend our assemblies! Whatever the reason, we love for people to be a part of our worship. But we are committed to being God’s family, and that requires far more than attendance. Be informed! Be involved! Grow spiritually!

When God Has Our Attention

Posted by on September 6, 1998 under Sermons

A common, challenging difficulty that we all experience on a continual basis is the challenge of getting someone’s attention. At no time is this challenge more demanding or more complicated than at those times when the person is certain that he or she already knows what you want.

“You don’t need my attention. You just think you need my attention. You don’t need to tell me anything. I already know what you want. I’ll take care of it. Don’t annoy me. Don’t force me to stand here and act like I am listening to you. I don’t need to listen because I already understand. What I do not know is not important.”

It deeply frustrates us when we attempt to get the attention of someone who will not listen. Refusing to give attention to things that deserve attention is a human problem. We all are a part of the problem. Nowhere do we create that problem more often than in our relationship with God.

We make it extremely difficult for God to get our attention.

This evening I want us to examine some important lessons to be learned from Elijah’s wilderness experience. We will study from 1 Kings 16:29 through 1 Kings 19.

  1. First, we need to set the context of Elijah’s wilderness experience.
    1. In all of this, carefully note Elijah’s faith, commitment, and sacrifice.
    2. Elijah was God’s prophet in northern Israel approximately 250 years after the nation of Israel divided.
      1. These events occurred during the reign of King Ahab, who ruled in northern Israel for twenty-two years (1 Kings 16:29).
        1. All the kings of northern Israel were extremely wicked men.
        2. But Ahab was more wicked than all the previous kings (1 Kings 16:30).
        3. He considered it trivial to live in all the sins of the previous kings (1 Kings 16:31).
          1. He married and made queen a non-Israelite, pagan woman named Jezebel.
          2. Through her influence, he built a temple and sacrificial altar for Baal who became the official god of northern Israel.
        4. He did more to provoke God than all the previous kings of Israel (1 Kings 16:33).
    3. Northern Israel was so evil that Elijah pronounced a public curse on the nation: it would not rain for a long, indefinite period; there would not even be dew, not until he asked God for the rain to return (1 Kings 17:1).
      1. After that pronouncement, God commanded Elijah to go into hiding and told him where to go.
        1. He hid in the wilderness and at the brook Cherith.
        2. God sent ravens with meat and bread to feed Elijah twice a day.
        3. Can you imagine how lonely that was? Can you imagine his diet? How would you like to eat food that birds brought you as you lived in isolation?
        4. He hid at the brook until the drought dried it up.
        5. Note: Elijah’s pronouncement created suffering for himself.
      2. When the brook dried up, God sent Elijah north to the town of Zeraphath in Sidon where a non-Jewish widow was to care for him.
        1. I find it interesting that Jezebel who killed the Lord’s prophets, and this widow who took care of Elijah, came from the same region.
        2. Elijah saw her as he approached the gate of the city and asked for water.
        3. As she left to get him water, he asked for bread also.
        4. She explained that all she had was a little flour and oil; she was preparing to bake it for her and her child to be their last meal before death.
        5. Elijah asked her to make him a small cake of bread first, and then make one for herself and her child.
        6. He urged her not to fear, because the flour and oil would last until the rain returned.
        7. She did as he requested, and the flour and oil lasted.
        8. Later, her son became ill suddenly and died.
          1. She believed her child died because a holy man lived in her house.
          2. Elijah saw it as an injustice falling on the person who took care of him.
          3. Elijah asked God to restore the child’s life, and God did.
          4. Her response, “I know that you are a man of God, and that God’s word in your mouth is truth.”
  2. After a long period (James 5:17 in the New Testament says it did not rain for three years and six months) God instructed Elijah to go to Ahab to inform him that the rain would return.
    1. There were several reasons for Elijah speaking to Ahab.
      1. Ahab searched everywhere for Elijah; he wanted to kill him.
        1. Elijah’s curse stopped the rain.
        2. Ahab believed he could end the curse by killing Elijah.
        3. Ahab needed to know that he had not frightened nor intimidated Elijah.
      2. Ahab also needed to know that it was the Lord of Israel, not Baal, who sent the rain.
      3. This was also to create an occasion for Elijah to challenge Israel to a unique contest.
    2. Ahab and his chief servant, Obadiah, divided the territory up to search for water in order to spare Ahab’s livestock.
      1. Though Obadiah was Ahab’s chief servant, Obadiah was totally devoted to the Lord of Israel.
      2. Elijah met Obadiah, and Obadiah greeted him with great respect.
      3. Elijah told Obadiah to bring Ahab to him.
        1. Obadiah knew how desperate Ahab was in his search for Elijah.
        2. He also knew that Elijah appeared and disappeared without a trace.
        3. If he told Ahab that Elijah was there, and if they did not find Elijah when they came, Ahab would be so furious that he would kill Obadiah.
      4. Elijah took an oath that vowed he would be there when Ahab came.
    3. Elijah had a contest with four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel.
      1. When Ahab and Elijah met, Elijah said the indecision about who was God in Israel had gone on long enough.
        1. He asked Ahab to gather the heads of the Israelite families and the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal (male cult god) and the four hundred prophets of the Asherah (the female cult goddess) at Carmel so the matter could be settled.
        2. Ahab did.
        3. Elijah proposed a contest.
          1. Let them prepare a sacrifice for Baal and he one for the Lord.
          2. Let them ask Baal to consume their sacrifice with fire, and let him ask the Lord to consume his sacrifice with fire.
          3. The fire would prove who was the God of Israel.
          4. The prophets of Baal would have first choice of the sacrificial bulls and first opportunity to call for fire.
        4. They agreed–everything about the contest favored them and their beliefs.
          1. They prepared the sacrifice and went to extreme measures to convince Baal to send fire.
          2. Though they spent most of the day calling to Baal, nothing happened.
          3. Elijah drenched his sacrifice in water, asked God to act, and with one request God sent fire that consumed the sacrifice, the altar, and the water.
          4. Elijah expected this to turn the hearts of Israel back to God (1 Kings 18:37).
          5. The representatives of Israel confessed, “The Lord [they called God by his Israelite name] is God.”
          6. The four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal were executed. (Nothing indicates that the four hundred prophets of the Asherah came.)
        5. Elijah then informed Ahab that rain was coming, and urged Ahab to return to Jezereel quickly before the road became impassable for the chariot.
          1. Elijah ran cross country, and Ahab took the road.
          2. God was with Elijah, and he arrived in Jezreel before Ahab did.
    4. When Ahab told Jezebel about what happened at Carmel, she sent word to Elijah that he would die before the next day ended.
      1. Jezebel institutionalized the worship of Baal in northern Israel.
        1. She personally supported the prophets.
        2. They ate at her table.
        3. She was furious.
      2. Elijah was demoralized, defeated, and depressed.
        1. In fear he fled south out of the territory of northern Israel.
        2. He left his servant at Beersheba in Judah.
        3. Then he fled over twenty miles into the wilderness south of Beersheba.
        4. He stopped to sit down under a broom tree, a desert bush that can grow 12 feet high, and asked God to let him die.
        5. He felt like a total failure; he believed that he had accomplished nothing; life had lost its meaning.
        6. He went to sleep.
      3. An angel awakened him to eat food and water prepared for him.
        1. He ate and went back to sleep.
        2. The angel woke him a second time to eat more because he had a long journey, and this is all the food that he would have to sustain him.
      4. After eating the second time, he began a journey of forty days that took him all the way back to Mount Horeb or Mount Sinai.
        1. Moses fled to this same area when he left Egypt (Exodus 3:1).
        2. Israel later camped in this same area to receive the ten commandments (Exodus 18:5).
    5. Elijah entered a cave in the mountain.
      1. God asked, “What are you doing here?”
      2. He explained, “I have been zealous for the Lord; the sons of Israel have rejected your covenant; they have torn down your altars; they have executed the prophets; I am the only one left; and they are trying to kill me.”
      3. God told him to go stand at the entrance to the cave; when he did, it was obvious that the Lord was passing by.
        1. Elijah listened for God’s voice as He passed by.
        2. There was an unbelievably strong wind that broke rocks, but God’s voice was not in the wind.
        3. There was an earthquake, but God’s voice was not in the earthquake.
        4. There was fire, but God’s voice was not in the fire.
        5. Then there was a quiet sound of gentle blowing, and God’s voice was there.
        6. And God asked again, “What are you doing here?”
        7. Elijah gave the same answer.
      4. And the voice of God said, “Go back and do the jobs I have for you to do.”
        1. “You are not the only one in northern Israel loyal to me.”
        2. “There are seven thousand there who have not worshipped Baal.”
  3. Please consider several things.
    1. Elijah’s dream was to turn northern Israel back to God.
      1. He thought that he had accomplished his dream when he won at Carmel.
      2. When the contest at Carmel changed nothing, he felt like a failure.
      3. He felt like he failed, not because he failed God, but because he did not achieve his expectations.
    2. Elijah was a man of incredible faith and sacrifice.
      1. But when he failed to achieve his expectations, his faith turned to fear.
      2. In fear, he became the exact opposite of what he had been in faith.
    3. Elijah expected God to cause things to happen that God had not promised.
      1. The evil situation in northern Israel was not as simple as Elijah pictured it.
      2. It was not as simple as proving that God was alive, or as simple as changing worship.
      3. It was not a matter of dramatically demonstrating the power of God.
      4. The problem was created by wicked people with wicked hearts, and that is a very complex matter.
      5. It took far more than facts and power to change hearts.
    4. Elijah’s fear exaggerated his false sense of failure.
      1. He was afraid of Jezebel (not four hundred and fifty prophets, Ahab, and the heads of the families of Israel) because he realized nothing had changed.
      2. Because he could not change people, he believed that he had failed.
      3. So with feelings of total defeat, he quit.
    5. We are like Elijah–we are convinced that the powerful and dramatic would cause people to accept the facts and worship, and everything would change.
      1. God made it quite clear to Elijah that God’s voice is not found in the dramatic.
      2. In fact, God’s most powerful expressions are not in the dramatic, but in the quiet voice.
      3. It is he who hears the quiet voice that lets God be God.
    6. Were I to paraphrase God’s conversation with Elijah, it would be this: “Elijah, what are you doing way out here where it all began with Moses and the rescued slaves of Egypt? I did not ask you to take care of Me. I don’t need you to take care of Me. I am in control of the situation. All I asked you to do is serve me. That is all I want you to do. I will take care of the rest. You are exaggerating the situation. You are not the only one who is loyal to me. Now, go back and do the work I give you to do.”

God got the attention of this dedicated, devout, faith-filled man of God. The only thing Elijah failed was his own agenda, his own expectations.

God meets us in our wilderness to teach us, to get our attention, and to tell us to stop exaggerating. God meets us to tell us that we must stop making our expectations His agenda.

We need to be very careful about being more concerned about accomplishing our agendas as the church than we are about being Christians who serve God.

When Life Overwhelms Us

Posted by on under Sermons

Life is a journey that moves from one crisis to another.

Within the lifetime of many people in this assembly, Poland has experienced four completely different governments, and each government radically altered the lives of its people.

Two world wars have been fought on European soil causing massive destruction.

Two atomic weapons have exploded over major population areas in Japan.

The Soviet Union no longer exists. Russia has experienced complete failure in ideology, total confusion in government, and is close to economic collapse as a nation.

India has been overpopulated and starving for decades.

Africa has gone from colonialism to chaotic nationalist that is often brutal and bloody.

The greater majority of the world’s population lives under repressive governments. At least seventy-five percent of today’s population lives with three unthinkable realities every day. Everyday, they never have enough to eat. Everyday, they never have a healthy water supply. Everyday, they never have access to adequate medical help. For most of the world’s population, survival of the day is the rule of life.

“I am glad we don’t live from crisis to crisis.” Oh, but we do. Our crises are different, but they are just as devastating. Plenty of good food, pure water, and available medical help do not eliminate crises.

All of us move from crisis to crisis. Within the boundaries of just four things, ninety percent of us move from crisis to crisis. Within our marriages relationships, within our parent-child relationships, within our jobs or occupations, and within our financial challenges, ninety percent of us move from crisis to crisis. Add health problems, and ninety-nine percent of us move from crisis to crisis.

Our crisis are wilderness experiences.

  1. God’s most useful servants had wilderness experiences.
    1. Joseph had a wilderness experience (Genesis 37-40).
      1. He was the favorite son, the second to the youngest son.
      2. He was an arrogant teenager who loved to provoke his grown older brothers.
      3. He had a horrible wilderness experience that began when his brothers captured him and sold him into slavery.
      4. But the experience matured him, fixed his focus on God, and created the faith of dependence.
      5. Years later, he could look back and see God working in everything that happened.
      6. At that time he told his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:20).
    2. Moses had a wilderness experience (Exodus 2-4).
      1. His parents were Israelite slaves, but Moses grew up in the King’s palace as the son of the King’s daughter.
      2. Moses knew that he was an Israelite and had slaves for parents, and he planned to use his privileged position to help his people.
      3. His enslaved people rejected his first attempt to help them, and they rejected him in a way that would cause the King to kill Moses.
      4. So Moses fled to the wilderness to live as a shepherd for forty years with no intention of ever helping his people again.
      5. But God took Moses from the wilderness and used him to lead Israel to freedom.
    3. The Israelite David had a wilderness experience (1 Samuel 20-31).
      1. His experience was produced by the injustices of a jealous man who left God.
      2. His wilderness experience included many near death experiences, a harsh existence, and a miserable life often lived in enemy nations.
      3. In this period David wrote many of his greatest psalms, psalms that we still read for inspiration, strength, and hope.
      4. The wilderness experience helped David become Israel’s greatest king.
    4. The prophet Elijah had a wilderness experience (1 Kings 19).
      1. Elijah lived as God’s spokesman in northern Israel among people who never worshipped God, but worshipped and served the god Baal.
      2. After years of being God’s spokesman, Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest.
      3. He proved God was real and powerful, and that Baal had no power.
      4. He thought that his great victory would turn the country around.
      5. When the queen promised him that he would be dead within 24 hours, Elijah fled to the wilderness and begged God to let him die.
      6. God refocused Elijah and sent him back to get on with God’s work.
  2. Even Jesus, God’s own Son, had a wilderness experience (Matthew 4:1-11).
    1. Jesus went to the wilderness to focus on his ministry.
      1. He totally devoted himself to focusing by fasting forty days and nights.
      2. When the fasting ended, Satan immediately tried to destroy Jesus’ focus and divert him from his mission.
    2. Satan made three attempts to distract Jesus, to lead Jesus away from God.
      1. Satan’s first attempt dealt with a real physical need and a practical solution.
        1. “Your are weak and hungry–you have not eaten for forty days.”
        2. “You will never serve God’s purposes if you die in this wilderness.”
        3. “If you are the son of God, make bread out of these stones and eliminate the problem.”
        4. This failed to distract Jesus.
      2. Satan’s second attempt asked Jesus to prove his faith by deliberately, intentionally putting God on trial.
        1. “God promised to protect the Messiah.”
        2. “You believe that you are the Messiah.”
        3. “Since you believe that you are the Messiah, jump off this high place and let God catch you.”
        4. “If you are the Messiah, God will not let you bruise your foot.”
        5. This also failed to distract Jesus.
      3. Satan’s third attempt is the infamous short cut.
        1. “You came to this world to become king.”
        2. “Your planning to become king the hard way.”
        3. “Bow down to me, and I will make you king of the entire earth.”
        4. “I will make you what you came to be without all the trouble and pain.”
        5. This, again, failed to distract Jesus.
    3. Jesus resisted Satan.
      1. When Satan asked him to make bread from stones, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3: He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. God said we must understand that food does not give a person life.
        2. A person has life because he lives by God’s teachings and instructions.
      2. When Satan asked him to jump, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:16: You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. Faith depends; faith does not test.
        2. Creating tests prove that you doubt, not that you trust.
      3. When Satan asked Jesus to worship him, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:13: You shall fear only the Lord your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. Evil never achieves God’s purposes.
        2. Worshipping Satan achieves evil’s purposes, not God’s purposes.
        3. Only God is worthy of worship.
  3. Making a trip to the wilderness is never pleasant, but being in the wilderness can serve a powerful, godly purpose.
    1. No wilderness experience is ever fun or pleasant.
      1. Joseph found no pleasure in being a slave–he experienced injustice stacked on top of injustice.
      2. Moses found no joy in the wilderness–it was just a feeble attempt to escape.
      3. David found nothing but suffering, isolation, and intense loneliness in the wilderness–it seemed that his faithful service produced nothing but hardship.
      4. Elijah never expected to find pleasure in the wilderness–all he wanted to do was die.
      5. The wilderness brought Jesus no joy–it brought him into person to person conflict with Satan himself.
    2. In each one of these men’s lives, the wilderness was a powerful tool in the hand of God.
      1. It brought each man to a higher level of spiritual maturity.
      2. It caused each man’s trust in God to grow to new heights.
      3. It reinforced the godly focus of each man.
      4. It forced an essential decision–make the choice to depend on God, or choose to be angry at the world while you resent the injustice.
      5. Because of the wilderness experience, their godliness grew.
      6. Because their godliness grew, God could use them for greater purposes.
  4. My personal world and your personal world are dominated by evil.
    1. Regardless of how godly we are or how deeply we trust God, each of us will visit the wilderness, and more than once!
      1. We can always tell when we are in the wilderness.
      2. Every time we are overwhelmed, we are in the wilderness.
        1. It may be the sense of helplessness.
        2. It may be the distress of failure.
        3. It may be uncontrollable circumstances.
        4. It may be injustice.
        5. Anything that depresses us, distresses us, or causes us to feel defeated takes us to the wilderness.
      3. When life seems out of control, we are in the wilderness.
      4. When life does not make sense, we are in the wilderness.
    2. When we visit the wilderness, one of two things will inevitably happen.
      1. We will grow closer to God.
        1. We will trust God as we have never trusted Him.
        2. Our focus on God’s will and purposes in our lives will become clearer.
      2. Or we will turn away from God and decide to live life on our own.
        1. We will blame God for everything that happens.
        2. We will decide that God is weak and useless.

Satan harasses you; God prepares you. Satan wants your relationship with God to fail; God wants to use you for greater things. If your wilderness experience causes you to be angry, bitter, and focused on yourself, Satan wins. You do not have enough faith for God to use you for greater purposes.

But if your trust in God deepens, God wins. And God will use you and your life in ways that exceed your imagination.

When you are in the wilderness, do you stand alone, or do you hold God’s hand?

A person who is truly converted to Jesus Christ, who understands that life only exists in God, declares war on Satan. The war never ends. Satan will never stop. He will lead us to the wilderness again and again. The strength is not in us. You will never be a match for the evil of Satan. We succeed only because we have the grace and mercy of God. Don’t foolishly say, “I can take care of this by myself.” Reach out and hold on to God. Only God is strong enough to defeat Satan. Survival in the wilderness depends on holding the hand of God. Survival in the wilderness requires surrending to Jesus Christ.

Are you taking the world on alone, or are you holding God’s hand?

The Greatest Expression of Kindness

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Every godly person and many evil people acknowledge human kindness to be an exceptional quality. Godly people admire and respect kindness. Many evil people are touched through kindness. Only a dead heart is beyond the touch of kindness.

Kindness is revealed in a rainbow of actions and attitudes. It speaks through the languages of the word, the deed, the attitude, and the spirit. Kindness is the quality of heart that determines the dimensions of a person.

What is the greatest expression of kindness? the highest order of kindness? Mercy is the greatest expression and highest order of kindness.

Mercy is pure kindness. Mercy in kindness responds to evil circumstances that demand justice. It feels compassion for a person who deserves nothing.

Mercy is never based on “merit.” It is impossible to “deserve” mercy. Mercy shows consideration for a person who is completely undeserving. It recognizes that every person–even the evil one–was created in God’s image. A person’s worth is not found in his status or achievements. It does not come from his or her past or present. Worth comes from origin. Evil cannot destroy origin.

Because humanity needed mercy, God sent us a Savior. He did not send us a judge, or an accountant, or a moral analysis expert.

We needed to escape justice. We were accountable. Moral analysis was unnecessary–we were (and are) evil. We needed forgiveness. Forgiveness is not the product of justice, accountability, or moral analysis. Forgiveness has a single source. It is the supreme expression of the supreme kindness: mercy.

The God of mercy forgives. We, the forgiven, show mercy because we received mercy. We, the forgiven, refuse to occupy the role of judges. When the forgiven judge, they insult the mercy they received.

Never forget this truth: we will never belong to God because we are good; we will always belong to God because He is merciful.