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Posted by on January 31, 1999 under Sermons


Spirituality: Giving God What He Wants

Posted by on under Sermons

Serious gift giving is a complicated, complex undertaking. We enjoy giving a gift to someone we appreciate. Two things are necessary to make a gift wonderful. The gift must express your genuine appreciation. The gift must touch the life of the person who receives it. The ideal gift does two things. It meaningfully communicates your heart. Equally, it meaningfully communicates to the heart of the receiver.

My greatest desire when I give a gift is to touch the person who receives it. For me, one of life’s hardest jobs is to select such a gift. I never want the person to wonder, “Why did he give me that?”

Have you had that experience? Have you received a gift, sincerely appreciated receiving the gift, but wondered why that gift was selected for you? Several years ago an engaged couple knew they would face major marriage adjustments. They were not members of the Church of Christ and did not worship in the congregation. We were friends, and they asked for my help. We spent several weeks learning how to build a relationship.

After that, the young lady surprised me with a unique gift for my office. The gift was beautifully prepared and reflected a lot of thought on her part. I deeply appreciated all the gift represented. But I did not know how I was supposed to use it.

  1. The majority of us have been in that situation.
    1. Usually that kind of gift comes from someone who is very confident that he or she knows us.
      1. In that confidence, the person selected the gift.
      2. When the person saw the gift, he or she said, “This gift is him (or her)!”
        1. “He will love it!”
        2. “She will be thrilled with this gift the minute that she sees it!”
    2. This is also the kind of gift that is given when a person says, “I know what he says he likes, but I know what he really likes.”
      1. The person confidently assumes, “I know what you enjoy more than you know what you enjoy.”
      2. “Though you don’t know that you want my gift, you will want it when you see it.”
  2. That situation happens to God far more than it happens to us.
    1. Every person who has a serious faith in Jesus Christ has decided what God wants.
      1. Sometimes our decision is based purely on our own human intuition; we “just know” that is what God wants.
      2. Sometimes that decision is based on what we were told by other people.
      3. Sometimes that decision is based on a specific scripture; for our own reasons, we decide that this scripture is more important than other scriptures.
    2. Too often, we think that we understand God better than He understands Himself.
      1. “I know scripture does not say much about this, but I also know that is what God really wants.”
      2. “I know what God said He wanted, but this is what God really wants.”
      3. “I have decided what is really important to God is…”
    3. With this kind of thinking and reasoning, we make subtle changes in what God reveals.
      1. We make artificial distinctions between what God says and what God wants.
      2. It becomes more important to give God what we decide that He wants than it is to do what God says that He wants.
      3. So our gifts to God reflect our priorities, not God’s.
  3. A few days after Peter correctly declared that Jesus was the Christ, the son of the living God, Jesus was transfigured in front of Peter, James, and John (Matthew 17:1-8).
    1. For Peter, James, and John it was an incredible moment and a terrifying moment.
      1. It happened on a mountain top.
        1. Just the four of them climbed to the mountain’s top; Peter, James, and John knew that they were alone.
        2. They knew no one else would just happen to “walk up.”
        3. Luke 9:28 says they went to the mountain top to pray.
          1. While they were praying, Peter, James, and John got sleepy.
          2. But when Jesus and two other men, all three in their heavenly bodies, stood shining and talking, Peter, James, and John were wide awake.
      2. Right there, in front of them, a man who was flesh and blood had the body of a heavenly being. Terrifying!
        1. It was more terrifying than that! Two men who did not walk up that mountain were standing in their heavenly bodies having a conversation with Jesus.
        2. The two men were Moses and Elijah; Peter, James, and John knew it was Moses and Elijah; and these two men had been dead for several hundred years. Terrifying!
        3. Luke 9:31 says Moses and Elijah discussed Jesus’ departure and the things that Jesus would accomplish in Jerusalem.
        4. Mark 9:6 says that Peter, James, and John were terrified.
    2. As Moses and Elijah were leaving, Peter said, “I am glad that we were here.”
      1. I doubt that was an honest statement.
      2. “Let’s honor God’s presence on this mountain top by building three booths.”
      3. “We will honor God’s great law giver, Moses; we will honor God’s great prophet, Elijah; and we will honor God’s son, you.”
      4. In the light of Jewish history, that seemed like a good proposal.
      5. Peter wanted to give God a gift, and Peter was sure it was a gift that God wanted.
    3. A cloud swallowed them like a dense fog, and a voice spoke from the cloud, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him!”
      1. God did not want to honor Moses, Elijah, and Jesus.
      2. Moses was a powerful spokesman for God who gave the law.
      3. Elijah was a powerful spokesman for God when few people trusted God.
      4. But Moses and Elijah were not God’s Sons; listen to Jesus; now he speaks for God; he is God’s son.
    4. When the cloud passed, there was Jesus, alone, a flesh and blood man.
  4. When we listen to Jesus, what does he tell us God wants?
    1. This is a clear, obvious emphasis in Jesus’ teachings: a gift that God cherishes is caring about people and treating them right.
      1. The greatest command God has given is to love God with all our being (Matthew 22:36-38).
      2. The second greatest command God has give is to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39,40).
      3. When we love God with all our being, we will treat people as we want to be treated (Matthew 7:12).
      4. When we love God with all our being, we will love our enemies (Matthew 5:44,45).
      5. Loving God with all our being will make us forgiving, compassionate, merciful, kind, and helpful to those in need.
      6. Jesus showed us how to love God with all our being, and showed us how to love people the way God wants us to love them.
    2. This congregation did something in the last two and a half months that rarely happens.
      1. Months ago you agreed that we should build a family life center.
      2. Then, in November, we were informed that the cost demanded that we rethink what we need to build.
      3. In November you said, “Let’s build something that will meet our needs.”
      4. In late December, at the worst time of the year financially, we began selling bonds.
      5. In less than a month, the bonds were sold, and the Family Life Center is under construction.
      6. In that same period, you gave our former property on Windsor Drive to C.U.R.E. to be used for local and worldwide benevolence.
      7. Thank you! That is remarkable!
    3. Permit me to focus you in two ways.
      1. First focus: may we all understand that our gift to God is not a building; our gift to God is the way we use that building to bless people.
        1. God did not ask for buildings.
        2. God asked us to love and help people.
        3. Help us use the Family Life Center and every material thing we possess to love and to help people beyond all that you have done (and you have done many wonderful things).
        4. May our mission work explode as we reach out to people with God’s love.
        5. May C.U.R.E. lead us as we help more people than we ever imagined.
        6. May our inner-city work touch and bless more and more lives.
        7. May we strengthen the weak, encourage the discouraged, show compassion to those who make mistakes, and forgive those who hurt us.
        8. May we give hope to those in distress, help troubled families find healing, give vision and direction to our young, and be a source of encouragement wherever it is needed.
        9. May we help people discover what God can do for all human relationships.
        10. By loving people, may we lead people to love God.
      2. Second focus: I have no idea of what will happen when midnight of December 31, 1999 arrives.
        1. Right now indicators suggest that the closer we come to the end of the year the greater people’s concerns and anxieties will grow.
        2. If there is a Year 2000 Problem, that problem will give us the greatest opportunities that West-Ark has ever had.
          1. Just a little over two years ago, a terrible tornado brought destruction and opportunity.
          2. If the year 2000 brings unusual problems, those problems will create incredibly opportunities.
        3. I would love to see us give serious thought and planning to what we will do to help people if the year 2000 brings unusual problems.
    4. I challenge us as individuals and as a congregation to continue to grow in giving God a gift that He wants.
      1. As a gift to God, may we love and care about people.
      2. As a gift to God, may we guide people to the forgiveness, the hope, and the peace found in Jesus.
      3. As a gift to God, may we help troubled families find guidance and broken families find healing.
      4. As a gift to God, may we help our young people find direction and purpose.
      5. As a gift to God, may we encourage, strengthen, and lift each other up as we all struggle in our war with Satan. May we enjoy and offer Christian friendship.
      6. May it never be every person for himself; we need each other.

[Song of reflection: 705, “A Common Love”]

One of Old Testament Israel’s biggest mistakes was centered in a gift they gave God. The mistake was not in giving God the gift. God accepted the gift. Their mistake was placing faith and trust in their gift instead of their God.

When did they do that? When they built God the temple. God never asked for a temple, but God accepted the temple. For generations after they gave God the temple, they placed their confidence in the fact that they had God’s temple. They failed to place their faith and trust in the fact that God was their Savior and their Deliverer.

When we build a building, don’t place your faith in the building. Use the building to serve God’s purposes.

Have you given God your greatest gift, yourself?

Our “World Wide Touch”

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

How many visits were made to the West-Ark congregation in December? I do not know the number of visits made to our building. Not all of our visitors fill out a card. In December many of us had family and friends visiting. Visits to our building? Maybe 300 for the month?

Thousands made 96,025 “visits” to West-Ark by visiting our Internet Web site ( People in at least 53 countries made “visits.” Some “visited” several times. Many “visited” every week.

Sunday evening we shared and illustrated the types of information and study aids available to “visitors” to our Internet Web site. So much is available that (literally) a person cannot read it all in a week. Of those who “visited,” fifteen enrolled for a Bible correspondence course by e-mail. A Wisconsin lady studying with one of our teachers completed the course. She visited a congregation near her, had a wonderful experience, is studying further, and plans to be baptized this weekend. Others, here and abroad, studying with our teachers have been baptized.

New material is placed on our Web site every week. Each Sunday’s sermons are placed (in full text) on our Web site the following Monday. We want every possible person to know about the opportunities and information found at our Internet address ( Help us spread the news! Share the address!

E-mail is used to this congregation’s advantage in many ways. When we are informed about a sickness, an emergency, or a need, that information is forwarded to every member with an e-mail address (100 plus households). John Fowler had a major heart attack Friday about 6:30 p.m. By 11 p.m. those with e-mail received the news and a statement about his current condition. They received further updates Saturday. Do you have urgent news the congregation needs to pray about? Contact Myra Flippo (the office) in the day, or Michael Cole in the evening.

When Meg and Jerry Canfield were imprisoned in Laos, e-mail was our information lifeline. As the plight of our Laotian brothers and sisters evolved, e-mail was our lifeline. As worldwide concern developed, e-mail was powerful. Information about the eight still imprisoned is available and updated.

Our Web site does something that no Christian can do: provide information 24 hours a day. Will it replace a teacher? Never. Will it become a powerful, incredible teaching tool that “touches” people around the world? It already has.

In December, We Had 96,000 Visits

Posted by on January 24, 1999 under Sermons

If an American of Islamic faith wants to pray to Allah while listening to an Arabic call to prayer, he can turn his computer on, connect to (log on) IslamiCity, and listen to the call to prayer in Arabic as he knells facing Mecca. If an American Buddhist wants to hear a “message of enlightenment” as a Buddhist teacher discusses the meaning of life, he connects to (logs on) BuddhaNet. If an American Jew wants a prayer placed at the Western Wall of the temple mount in Jerusalem, he sends his prayer to and a student in Jerusalem will place his prayer at the wall.

Printing using movable type was invented in 1436. Before the printing press, nothing was in print. Can you imagine the entire world with nothing printed? Today, absolutely everything is in print. The most immoral, ungodly material imaginable is in print. But, the Bible is also in print…in every major language and in many minor languages. The finest Bible study aids to ever exist are in print. And a world without printed languages is unimaginable.

In a brief period of time the Internet is doing what it took the printing press hundreds of years to do. Some things on the Internet are ungodly beyond imagination. At the same time, the Internet creates our greatest opportunity to share spiritual teaching with the world. It is an incredible tool for evangelism. With all its faults and dangers, the Internet is fast becoming a primary means for sharing Jesus Christ with the world.

The Barna Research Group has found that one out of every sixteen American teenagers are using the Internet right now for spiritual input. The Barna group estimates that in a decade, by the year 2010, between ten and twenty per cent of all Internet users will rely exclusively on the Internet to worship or to access their faith. To put that in perspective, today considerably less than forty per cent of Americans attend a place of worship once a month.

  1. This congregation was the second church (of any kind) in Arkansas to establish a Web site; that occurred on December 2, 1995.
    1. The number of “visits” being made to our Web site is steadily growing.
      1. In the month of December (1998) 96,025 “visits” were made to our Web site.
      2. Those “visits” represent thousands of people, and the number of “visits” is steadily increasing.
    2. Among those “visiting” in December were:
      1. Fifteen people who chose to take a Bible Correspondence Course by e-mail.
        1. This congregation can provide a Bible correspondence course by e-mail anywhere in the world. If a person has access to a computer and an Internet address, we can talk to him or her very quickly.
        2. West-Ark has at least twelve teachers teaching students by e-mail, and we need more teachers right now.
      2. We also had “visits” from people from at least fifty-three different countries.
        1. Look at the list.
        2. Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bermuda, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Dominica, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Guyana, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Singapore, South Korea, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad and Togo, Ukraine, United States, United Arab Emirates, and United Kingdom.
        3. What would it cost to send a teacher for a three week missions visit to each of those countries?
        4. What would it cost to send literature to each “visitor” in those countries who visited our Web site just in the month of December?
        5. Do you realize that we are not allowed to send religious material into some of those countries?
  2. When someone “visits” our Web site, what will they find?
    1. It is literally impossible for me to tell you or show you everything a person can find at our Web site; there is too much.
      1. Michael Cole tells me that if you devoted one entire week to doing nothing but reading material on our Web site, you could not read it all in that week.
      2. I want to show you some examples of what you can find.
        1. Please understand this: what you see is just the beginnings of sections of material.
        2. Following each of these “openings,” there are pages and pages of material in that section (at that site).
        3. We cannot show you the openings to all the sections in our Web site; this is just a sample of what you will find.
    2. You should see the “opening” of a section on the screen as I discuss them.
      1. First, this is our Internet address (
        1. Any person in the world who has access to a computer linked to the Internet can type in that address and connect to our Web site.
        2. We urge you to share this address every possible opportunity you have.
        3. If you want to help someone become acquainted with this congregation, give them this address.
          1. If you want someone to read the sermons, give them this address.
          2. If you want someone to learn about the work we do, give them this address.
          3. Nothing can give a person more information about this congregation than visiting our Web site.
      2. If you start at the Web site’s beginning, this is the first page, our “Home Page.”
        1. It has a basic directory to the areas of information that are available.
        2. It allows you to go directly to the area of interest.
      3. If you want to begin an evangelistic Bible study, you can.
        1. A person can sign up for Bible correspondence by e-mail.
        2. Again, twelve teachers study with e-mail students, and we need teachers.
      4. If you want to better understand how to accept the salvation God provides us in Jesus Christ, you can visit this section and study the plan of salvation.
      5. If you want to know the resources we offer to help you study the Bible on our Web site, OnLine Library will take you to those resources quickly.
      6. An article will reveal how Jesus Christ fulfilled prophecy.
      7. A section contains John Lankford’s articles on Christian evidences.
        1. John has researched this area, and he has written a number of articles.
        2. This section gives the full text of John’s articles.
      8. A section provides answers to questions that we are frequently asked.
      9. A section is devoted to the materials that I wrote or presented.
        1. One of my books is offered free within the United States; if a person sends $2 to cover postage and handling, we will send him or her the book. Weekly, we receive requests for the book.
        2. I plan to place the full text of one of my books, now out of print, on our Web site. If people “visit” it, I will place more of my books in full text on it.
        3. The 185 sermons I have presented at West Ark are given in full text.
          1. Every Monday, Michael places Sunday’s sermons in this section.
          2. You can locate a sermon by the date it was presented.
          3. You can locate a sermon by title; they are given in alphabetical order.
          4. You can examine every sermon that contains a specific word or phrase.
          5. The fact that we place new material on our site every week is one reason that our site receives so many “visits.”
        4. This section also has 73 articles that I have written for the bulletin, the first chapters of the books that I have written, and the complete text for three series of lessons presented on Wednesday nights.
        5. For example, this is tonight’s sermon as it will appear on our Web site tomorrow.
      10. Dena Jenkins designed a section for the ladies’ WINGS Bible classes.
        1. WINGS stands for Women IN God’s Service.
        2. This section introduces people to the objectives and purposes of WINGS.
      11. A section contains the lectures that Jeannie Cole presented to WINGS Ladies’ Bible Classes beginning in 1988.
        1. If you ask the Internet to search for “ladies’ Bible Class,” Jeannie’s material will be the first listing in 4.6 million Web pages under “ladies Bible class.” (Based on search of AltaVista on 24 January.)
        2. The first listing is Jeannie’s material; looking at her classes will bring a person to our Web site.
      12. Each minister has a Web page. Brad’s focuses on the teenagers.
        1. On Brad’s page is a “link” that will connect you to movie reviews that are presented from a Christian perspective.
      13. So you say, “Time out! Time out! That is too much material! What if I want to visit our site to find just one thing?”
        1. Our Web site is equipped with a search engine.
        2. If you go to the search engine and type in what you want to find, it will show you every place in our Web site that this subject appears.
        3. It is not necessary to read everything to find something; you can quickly find a subject.
      14. If you are visiting Fort Smith, or if you are moving to Fort Smith, or if you are just curious about Fort Smith, a section that will give you tons of information about Fort Smith–weather, Chamber of Commerce, TV stations, newspaper, and on and on.
      15. If you live within 1000 miles of Fort Smith and want to know how to get to our church building, a section that will draw you a map, give you written instructions, and tell you the exact distance and driving time.
      16. A section will give you pictures of the elders, the deacons, the ministers, and the secretaries (so you can find a familiar face if you are visiting).
      17. A section will tell you about our ministries; it contains all the information found in “What’s Happening At West-Ark.”
      18. A section that will give you an overview of our missions work.
      19. A page is devoted to our work in Guyana.
        1. It includes what a campaign group does in Guyana.
        2. It also includes the 105 members of West-Ark who made the trip.
      20. A page discusses the situation in Laos and includes a message in the Lao.
      21. There is an introduction to the work of C.U.R.E.
      22. And there is a directory to all the members here who have e-mail addresses.
    3. No, that’s not all.
      1. There is a directory to Churches of Christ worldwide.
      2. There are articles written by a number of people including Roy Dunavin, Michael Cole, and Earl Flood.
      3. There is an article in Spanish, an article in Italian, and an article in Lao.
      4. There is a restoration plea. (And here.)
      5. And there are “links” that can quickly connect you to other Web sites.
    4. Is that all? No. But I hope you do get the idea.

Obviously, this involves an enormous amount of work. A few years ago Michael Cole saw the incredible opportunity and the unbelievable potential. It is his tireless determination that develops and maintains this site. He saw what few of us saw, and perhaps still do not see. To him it is not a hobby; it is a powerful opportunity to fulfill the great commission. He spends on average six hours a day making our Web site one of the best church Web sites on the Internet.

I guarantee you that we did not receive 96,000 visits in December because our Web site is boring, irrelevant, and uninteresting. I guarantee you that soon we will receive over 100,000 visits. I guarantee you that we talk to people in places in this world that cannot be contacted in any other way.

Peter told Cornelius, “God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him, and does what is right, is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:34,35). We use the Internet to declare that truth.

“And just how expensive is this? All of this potential, all of this good, all of this worldwide access? It must really cost this congregation a bundle of money every month.” Oh, it surely does. According to Myra, the total cost is $38.95 a month.

The world is changing fast. Do we have the vision to use change to show the world Jesus Christ and glorify our God?

Adult Bible Study and Our Future

Posted by on under Sermons

In one of my teen summer jobs, I worked as a clerk in a country store. The husband and wife owners were Christians. They were members of a small, very rural congregation. One day she was “flustered” as she planned a trip. This trip was a rare visit with relatives in a city for a weekend. She was anxious because she did not have a hat. In those days a woman commonly wore a hat to church as an act of faith.

Several times that day I heard her talking out loud to herself about what she should do. Times were difficult and buying a hat just to wear to church in the city for one Sunday was unreasonably expensive. But, attending a city church where she would be the only woman without a hat was unthinkable.

Finally she talked to me about her dilemma. I just listened. Then, with resignation, she said, “Well, you know what the Bible says: ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do.'”

I neither had the courage nor the heart to ask where the Bible said that.

  1. Learning is a constant part of adult life, and never more so than today.
    1. Considered the essential role learning plays in adult life.
      1. We spend the first eighteen years of life acquiring a knowledge foundation to equip us for adult learning.
      2. We frequently spend four more years learning how to learn.
        1. The basic objective of university and graduate studies is to advance our study skills on an adult level and teach us how to apply what we learn.
        2. The basic objective of specialized training it to teach us how to develop our observation skills and to apply what we understand.
    2. In your minds, some of you are challenging me.
      1. You are saying to yourself, “Learning is not a continuing part of adult life.”
      2. “Many areas of my adult life do not require me to learn anything.”
      3. Let me challenge your thinking.
        1. How long has it been since you have caught, killed, scalded, plucked, and dressed a chicken? Now when you eat chicken, how do you get it?
        2. How long has it been since you swept your entire house with a straw broom? How do you clean your floors now?
        3. How long has it been since you hand pumped or hand drew water for your house? How do you get your water now?
        4. How long has it been since you hitched a team of mules or horses to a wagon to make a trip? How do you travel now?
        5. How long has it been since you owned a straight shift automobile? How do you get your car in gear now?
        6. How long has it been since you lived in a house without plumbing? What do you do when the water goes off indefinitely?
      4. Please help me make the point. If you ever did any of those things, hold up your hand. Thank you!
      5. When you stopped doing these things, did you have to learn anything new?
  2. Adults, how much better do you understand the message of the Bible today than you did fifteen years ago?
    1. How much better do you understand:
      1. The work of God?
      2. The will of God?
      3. God’s purposes in your life?
      4. God’s objectives in our world?
      5. God’s purposes and work in Jesus Christ?
      6. God’s purposes and work in the Holy Spirit?
      7. If you made a list of the spiritual realities that you understand better today than you did fifteen years ago, how long would your list be?
      8. If you made a list of spiritual realities in which your understanding had made zero change in the last fifteen years, how long would that list be?
    2. In the last ten years, what have you learned about these spiritual concepts:
      1. Obedience?
      2. Forgiveness?
      3. Grace?
      4. Mercy?
      5. Atonement?
      6. Redemption?
      7. Righteousness?
      8. Reconciliation?
    3. We Christian adults are staring at a major crisis that will produce consequences that exceed our imaginations.
      1. I have struggled with that reality this week.
        1. My time is fast running out.
        2. “Oh, David, you are a young man with lots of time.”
        3. I am not speaking of time, in the sense of years, though no one knows how much he or she has.
        4. My “opportunity days” are fast disappearing.
      2. There is so much from scripture that I want to share.
        1. There are so many understandings that I want you to develop.
        2. There are so many ways that I want to motivate, stimulate, challenge, and encourage people.
      3. There is so much I want to do to encourage you to let God build a life of faith.
  3. “You said something about a crisis? What major crisis?”
    1. We adults are caught in the path of a huge avalanche of spiritual ignorance.
      1. In my personal opinion, this avalanche had a small beginning in the 1960s.
      2. For thirty years it has been hurling down the mountain we call society gathering mass and speed.
      3. Now this avalanche of ignorance is poised to bury us.
        1. In our personal lives we have horrible definitions of good and evil.
        2. In our personal conduct we horrible concepts of right and wrong.
        3. We reject the concept of loving God with all our being.
        4. We do not love people as we love ourselves.
        5. We don’t treat people like we want to be treated.
        6. We easily confuse the immoral with the moral.
        7. What God declares as major we classify as minor.
        8. What God gives little or no emphasis to we classify as major.
        9. Too many Christians spiritually have split personalities.
    2. We have contributed to the avalanche of spiritual ignorance in these five ways.
      1. We transformed worship into education.
        1. The central element of worship in every age has been exalting, honoring, praising, and reverencing God.
        2. Today, the central element of worship is teaching.
        3. Far too many of us, the only spiritual teaching we receive in any given week is the sermon we hear on Sunday morning.
      2. We have sanctioned the great divorce.
        1. We have divorced real life from church life, and church life is not necessarily spiritual life.
        2. Real life behavior is for our everyday, real world.
        3. Church life behavior is primarily for Sundays, with a few exceptions.
        4. But do not mix those two behaviors; they are not in relationship.
      3. We endorse an unbiblical conviction: the system saves.
        1. If you do the right things to plug into the spiritual system, if you remain a part of the system, the system will save you.
        2. Faith in the Savior does not save; relationship with God does not save; the system saves.
      4. We declare that the foundation of true faithfulness is determined by issues and positions, not an understanding of Jesus Christ and scripture.
        1. Too often Christians determine the “faithfulness” of other Christians by asking: “Where do you stand on…?”
        2. Too seldom is faithfulness determined by devotion to and service for Jesus Christ.
      5. We permitted belonging to take the place of becoming.
        1. We are more concerned about belonging to the church than we are about becoming a Christian.
        2. Church membership has become an acceptable substitute for Christian transformation.
  4. Spiritually, we have no fear of ignorance if we are a part of the system.
    1. In Jeremiah 10, Jeremiah told the nation of Judah that the stupidity of their ignorance guaranteed their destruction.
      1. First, he talked about the folly of idolatry (10:2-9).
        1. They carved a god out of a tree.
        2. That god had no more life or power than a scarecrow in a garden.
      2. Second, he talked about the life and the power of the living God (10:10-16).
        1. Judah failed to see the difference between an idol and the living God.
        2. Jeremiah said every man is stupid and devoid of knowledge (10:14).
      3. Third, Jeremiah said, “Pack your bags and get ready–you are going into captivity!” (10:17,18)
      4. After stating how pitiful things were in Judah, Jeremiah said:
        Jeremiah 10:23,24 I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps. Correct me, O Lord, but with justice; Not with Your anger, or You will bring me to nothing. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. “I know that people are not capable of finding direction without God’s guidance.”
        2. “Lord, discipline us, but don’t destroy us.”
      5. We have not discovered what Jeremiah knew.
        1. We believe that we are more than capable of finding our own direction.
        2. We do not need God to provide us direction; we need God to care for situations that we cannot; we need God’s power not His guidance.
        3. That is ignorance.
    2. We respond, “Judah had that problem; we don’t. Ignorance won’t destroy us.”
      1. In Matthew 25:14-30 is the parable of the talents.
        1. The servant justified his “do nothing” behavior by declaring that he was afraid of the master because he was a hard man who expected something for nothing. He did not understand his master.
        2. His ignorance destroyed him.
      2. In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus gave us a judgment scene.
        1. The people condemned to eternal punishment protested that they never saw Jesus in need and refused to help him.
        2. Jesus declared that their failure to help insignificant people was the failure to help him. They did not know that.
        3. Ignorance destroyed them.
    3. Too many of us have misplaced our faith and do not know it.
      1. Our faith in is our name, our positions, our system, our commitment to restoration, or our structures.
      2. Far too little of our faith in is in God.
      3. Someone says, “Oh, but it is all the same thing.”
      4. That is the most frightening ignorance of all.


“Well, preacher, you touched my guilt button. You are right. I should actually study the Bible. I should come to Bible classes.”

If all I did was touch your guilt button, I failed. I seek to do something far beyond making you feel guilty. Spiritually, most of you are much too old just to feel guilty. I want to open your eyes to life’s real purpose. I want you to understand how desperately all of us constantly need to grow closer to God.

Preparing Teens To Be Christian Adults

Posted by on January 17, 1999 under Sermons

The first thing I want you to understand this evening is that this lesson is primary for us adults, not for our teens.

This month Brad Pistole began a teen worship assembly on Sunday evenings. On Sunday evenings a number of our teens assist a number of our adults in directing our Kids For Christ program for preschool children aged 2 through 5 years old and children from first through sixth grade. The Kids for Christ is an excellent program for our children that is specifically designed to help them grow in biblical knowledge and Christian values.

The teen worship began with an attendance of 43–that is 43 teens in addition to the teens who were assisting Kids For Christ. That number represents more teens attending on Sunday evening than attended our Sunday evening auditorium assemblies. It is a worship assembly just as this is a worship assembly. But it is a worship assembly that focuses on building the faith, addressing the specific challenges, and encouraging the spiritual development of teenagers. Every week it will focus on the spiritual needs and problems confronting teenagers. A number of men in the congregation will be guest speakers, and those men will include the elders.

Tonight the teens are meeting in their assembly. What I share with you is designed to challenge your thoughts. I am specifically speaking to us as adult Christians.

  1. Spiritually, what basic teaching do you think teenagers need to learn?
    1. I would be shocked if there is a Christian adult in this audience of any age who does not have a ready answer for that question based on a strong conviction.
      1. I have zero doubt that our answers would be radically different. For example:
        1. Some of us would strongly affirm that teens basically need to be taught theological truths.
        2. Some of us would strongly affirm that teens basically need to be grounded in the teachings of the Church of Christ.
        3. Some of would strongly affirm that teens must have their specific spiritual needs addressed.
        4. Some of us would strongly affirm that teens must have teen moral problems addressed.
      2. A number of other specific suggestions would be strongly affirmed.
    2. Question: why do you personally strongly feel that your answer is the correct, needed answer? For example:
      1. If your answer is, “Teach teens correct theology,” is your “why” centered in your concern about future ignorance of God and God’s will ?
      2. If your answer is, “Teach teens basic Church of Christ teachings,” is your “why” centered in your concerns about the future of the Church of Christ?
      3. If your answer is, “Teach teens about their spiritual needs,” is your “why” centered in your concern about teens not being spiritual?
      4. If your answer is, “Teach teens biblical morality,” is your “why” centered in your concerns about current immorality?
      5. Whatever your answer is, why do you think that answer should be our primary teaching concern?
    3. Second question: regardless of what your answer is or my answer is, is our concern centered in our teenagers’ relationship with God or is our concern centered in something besides their relationship with God?
      1. Do we want to help the teens?
      2. Or, are we just afraid?
      3. Are we focused on our teens, or are we focused on our fears?
  2. Allow me to call your attention to 1 Timothy; focus on some things Paul told Timothy that I am convinced would bless our teens.
    1. Timothy was a young man who began to work with Paul at the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 16:1).
      1. Paul often left Timothy to work with an infant congregation or sent Timothy to work with a troubled congregation.
      2. In Paul’s letter to Timothy that we call 1 Timothy, Paul asked him to remain in Ephesus and help the congregation in some specific ways (1 Timothy 1:3).
      3. Sprinkled throughout this letter are some things that Paul wanted Timothy personally to understand and remember.
    2. May I call your attention to some of those things.
      1. 1 Timothy 1:18,19 This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. Our teenagers need to understand the importance of having and keeping faith; faith seems anything but necessary in today’s world.
        2. Our teenagers need to understand the destructive power of guilt and the blessings of a good conscience.
      2. 1 Timothy 4:7,8 But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. Our teenagers need to understand the importance of self-discipline that encourages godly development.
        2. Our teenagers need to understand why physical discipline has value, but spiritual discipline has much greater value.
      3. 1 Timothy 4:12 Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. Our teenagers need to understand the value and the purpose of a Christian being an example.
      4. 1 Timothy 4:14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. Our teens need to understand the importance of developing their spiritual gift.
      5. 1 Timothy 5:25 Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. Our teens need to understand that good deeds become obvious (you don’t have to call them to everyone’s attention), and evil deeds cannot be concealed.
      6. 1 Timothy 6:10,11 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. Our teens need to understand the necessity of running from things that look innocent but will painfully destroy you.
        2. They need to understand the importance of chasing things that will spiritually develop you.
  3. Now allow me to call two things to your attention.
    1. First, I want to ask you to consider what I said.
      1. Did you notice what I did not say?
        1. I did not say that our teens need to be told these things.
        2. I did not say that our teens need to commit these things to memory.
        3. I did not say that our teens need to be warned or to be given some sound advice.
      2. I said that our teens need to understand these things.
        1. In the context of their lives, their world, their problems, their challenges, their temptations, they need to understand.
        2. Stating facts is simple; giving advice is simple; passing judgment and condemnation is simple.
        3. Building understanding is not simple; it is challenging, demanding, and time consuming.
    2. Second, I want to ask you another question: why do you think that they do not understand these things? There are many reasons, but consider this.
      1. Too often we adults want our teens to be something that many of us adults never became.
        1. We seem spiritually to operate under the assumption that if we just change the “facts” of their belief system, that will produce the lives and behavior that we want.
        2. Is it true in our lives that the facts we believe have changed our lives and behavior, or in basic ways has our behavior remain untouched by the facts that we believe?
      2. Teens tend to be very idealistic.
        1. Ethics, determining what is good and evil, is important to teens.
        2. It is quite true that their system for determining what is good or evil is commonly very different from our system.
        3. But does the behavior and results produced by our definitions of good and evil challenge their definitions?
        4. How often do they see us doing good simply because it is good, or doing right simply because it is right?
        5. Do they see us doing good or right when it is to our own disadvantage or hurt?
        6. Do the ways we act and the ways we treat people make their definitions look better than our definitions?
      3. In what real way do they see in our lives that the physical is minor and the spiritual is major?
        1. Do we talk about living for eternity when we actually live for retirement?
        2. When they watch the way we live our lives every day, is it obvious that the spiritual is the most important?
      4. Do they see us cultivating the kind of mind and heart that allows us naturally to be an example in all contexts?
      5. Do they see us cultivating our spiritual gifts and using those gifts for God’s purposes?
      6. Do we live our lives in the understanding that good deeds are obvious and evil cannot be hidden?
        1. Teenagers hate hypocrisy.
        2. When it comes to knowing what is going on, teens are very savvy.
        3. The teen information network rivals any adult network ever developed.
        4. And they have inside information because teens share with teens–they know what is happening in the homes.
      7. Do they see us living as close to God as we can get or as close to the edge as we can get?

How do we generate understanding in teenagers? There is no formula. There is no guaranteed process. There are many factors involved. Among all those factors, there is one that you and I contribute every day. If they are to understand it, they must see it in our lives and our hearts. They do not expect perfection. They do look for genuineness.

When we deepen our faith; when we mature our Christian behavior; when we love God; when we humbly serve Christ; when we encourage God’s Spirit in our life; when we let kindness, forgiveness, and compassion flow through our lives; in a powerful way, we help teens understand.

Teenagers: An Incredible Opportunity; A Unique Challenge

Posted by on under Sermons

I begin with an apology to our teenagers. Forgive me for beginning in this way. Please permit me to begin by “connecting” with everyone older than teens. Forgive me while I take just a moment to talk to non-teen adults.

I want to share two thoughts with you non-teen adults. Can you relate to these statements? Statement number one: one of God’s special gifts in this life is that we have to survive adolescence only once. Many times I have listened to adults talking about teenage adventures. Often I hear them say, “It is amazing that we survived!”

Statement two: you do not pay for your rearing until you are the parent of teens.

Teens, those statements are not a slam on you. They just acknowledge an ancient truth. A teenager’s life is a hard life.

  1. Adolescence is one of life’s greatest transitions; it may be the greatest single transition in our physical life span.
    1. Adolescence primarily involves the journey from a child’s life to an adult’s life.
      1. The transition called adolescence produces enormous change.
        1. Physically, your body makes incredible, visible changes.
        2. Emotionally, you discover feelings that you have never experienced.
        3. Mentally, your mind begins to work in ways that it never worked.
      2. For ten to twelve years this person has been a child.
        1. Parents talked to this person as a child.
        2. Parents reasoned with this person as a child.
        3. Parents explained things to this person as a child.
        4. Parents focused this person as a child.
        5. And, with occasional exceptions, this person accepted as fact that he or she was a child.
      3. Then adolescence begins, and almost immediately the same person is insulted if parents treat him or her as a child.
        1. This transition drives parents crazy–they had a child; they always had a child; now what they have is not a child; but they are not sure what it is.
        2. Sometimes he or she feels and acts like a child.
        3. Sometimes he or she demands to be treated as an adult.
        4. On any given day parents know it is virtually useless to try to anticipate how this “not a child; not an adult” will think and act that day.
    2. The truth is simply stated but complicated to understand: the adolescent is not a child any more.
      1. As a child, he or she may have challenged your decisions and your acts.
      2. But now the challenge is much more complicated: now he or she challenges your thoughts, your reasoning, your logic, and your conclusions.
      3. He or she thinks about things that you never thought about and are not interested in considering.
      4. He or she questions things that you never questioned.
      5. He or she challenges your absolutes–you don’t challenge absolutes!
      6. These new people living in your house who jumped into your child’s body don’t want the explanations that you always gave your child.
        1. They want answers, answers you have not thought about.
        2. They want answers that they can wrap their reasoning and understanding around.
        3. They want answers that can be tested with their questions and reasoning.
    3. As a parent, you face a critical decision, and you will make that decision.
      1. You can commit yourself to enforcing control about everything in every detail: “I am the parent and you are the child, and as long as you live under this roof you will do what I say do and you will do it my way–end of discussion.”
        1. But this is the truth: the only control you have is physical control while he or she is in your presence.
        2. You may exercise control, but your control will not determine what he or she thinks, what he or she feels, or what he or she holds in the heart.
        3. Control may win a specific battle, but using control alone will lose the war.
      2. The moment will come when he or she will leave and will not be under any form of your control.
  2. Being an adolescent is extremely frustrating.
    1. Through this transition a person becomes a “self.”
      1. During adolescence a person is discovering what it means to be “me.”
      2. The one basic answer an adolescence searches for is, “Who am I?”
    2. Peer pressure is greater during adolescence than it ever be again in adult life.
      1. Peer pressure always exists; adults always cope with peer pressure.
      2. But adolescent peer pressure is the peer pressure that exists in the adult world, but it comes before the teen has the experience of an adult.
      3. As the adolescent struggles to find, “Who am I?” his or her self-concept and personal identity are powerfully linked to peer pressure.
  3. Adolescence provides the church an incredible teaching opportunity.
    1. Why?
      1. Typically the adolescent has an open mind.
        1. A teenager will consider any input.
        2. He or she is open to new concepts and challenging ideas.
        3. Teens typically approach anything with the openness of honest examination.
      2. Probably there is no other age that is as unprejudiced as the teen years.
        1. Everything is super simple: life has almost no gray areas; everything is good or bad, black or white.
        2. But, teens are unlikely to be judgmental; they are more likely to accept a person for who he or she is at that moment.
      3. For these reasons teens respect and respond to openness.
        1. They do not care what you know until you share who you are.
        2. They respond poorly to what you think they need to know.
        3. They respond quickly to someone who “listens to understand” before they speak.
        4. If we want teens to understand our thoughts, we must be open to understanding their thoughts.
          1. To adults, that probably is the most frightening reality about adolescence.
          2. Understanding teens’ thinking makes most adults very uncomfortable.
    2. For the church to take advantage of this opportunity, adult Christians need some basic understandings.
      1. Teens don’t buy “adult assumptions” at face value, and they recognize an adult assumption when they see it.
      2. Teens hate hypocrisy and pretense.
      3. Teens place a high value on relationships; betrayal is the sin of sins.
      4. Teens are very teachable, but they despise indoctrination.
      5. Teens learn by exploring answers to questions; they respond poorly to lectures.
      6. Their education process has relied heavily on the visual.
        1. The computer is the foundation of their entertainment and education.
        2. They learn with their eyes much faster than with their ears.
    3. The teens everyday world is radically different from the everyday world of most of us.
      1. At least half of their peers live in broken homes or blended families.
      2. Directly or through the lives of peers, daily they see the hostility of divorce, the depersonalization of the blended family, betrayal, and abandonment.
      3. Many of them have seen more relationship pain and lovelessness in two to four years than some of us have seen in a lifetime.
      4. Weapons, drugs, alcohol, sexual involvement, and rape are a part of their everyday world.
        1. They are starved to death for openness, trustworthiness, honesty, and relevance.
        2. They want help and answers, not platitudes that do not understand their world.
    4. For teachers, teens need Christians who love them, who care about what is happening in their lives, who are honest and open with them.
      1. For teachers, they need informed thinkers who are willing to be open and honest.
      2. It is not necessary to have all the answers to be a beloved teacher of teens.
      3. It is important to listen, to care, and to understand problems to be a beloved teacher.
  4. You may disagree with this, but I want you to consider it. Included among our teachers of teens, we need some “been there” Christian men and women.
    1. A “been there” Christian man or woman is a Christian who made a mistake, lived through the immediate consequence of the mistake, and recovered by allowing God to put his or her life back together again.
      1. Some lessons about the continuing consequences and pain of an abortion can be taught only by a Christian who has spiritually recovered from an abortion.
      2. Some lessons about the devastation of drugs or alcoholism can be taught only by a Christian who escaped the control of those addictions.
      3. Some lessons about the cost and unique problems of being sexually active can be taught only by a Christian who has recovered from that problem.
      4. Some lessons about the hidden pain, the continuing problems, and the personal devastation of a broken home can be taught only by a Christian who has experienced that problem and recovered.
      5. “Been there” Christians have an understanding of the problem and the consequences no one else has; they understand the continuing challenge as no one else does.
    2. If you feel anger and resentment because I would dare make that suggestion, would you consider this from scripture?
      1. God picked a “been there” Christian to be the primary leader and teacher in the first congregation.
        1. Three times Peter denied that he even knew Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75).
        2. Verse 74 states Peter affirmed that he did not know Jesus by cursing and swearing (taking an oath) that he did not know the man.
        3. Fifty days later God chose this “been there” Christian to preach the first sermon about the resurrection in the very place that he denied Jesus.
      2. God chose a “been there” Christian to be a unique missionary to the world.
        1. Acts 8:3 states Paul ravaged the church by making a house to house search, arresting Christians, dragging men and women out of their homes, and putting them in prison.
        2. Acts 9:1 states he breathed threats and murder against Christians.
        3. In 1 Timothy 1:13 Paul confessed that in those days he blasphemed, persecuted, and was violently aggressive against Christians.
      3. The key point is this: these “been there” Christians recovered in Christ, and because they did, they had something very special to share about the power of faith in Christ–and God knew it.

Not just our teenagers, but all teenagers, exist as an incredible opportunity if we have the courage to meet the challenge. It is a very relevant challenge. The teenagers of today are the adults of tomorrow. If we cannot help them now, they will not listen to us then.


This is the basic message we need to share with teens and all adults. Hope is found in Jesus. Forgiveness is found in Jesus. New beginnings are found in Jesus. Healing of the heart and soul are found in Jesus. New life is found in Jesus. Peace is found in Jesus.

Have you found them?

Times of Uncertainty…and Faith

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

God told Noah that it would rain as never before. It was an uncertain time.

Abraham was a nomad in a strange, hostile region. It was an uncertain time.

Israel stood between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea. It was an uncertain time.

Israel stood at the border of the land God promised them. Ten spies said this wonderful territory would be impossible to conquer. It was an uncertain time.

For seven days Joshua marched Israel’s army around Jericho. This was their first battle in the conquest of Canaan. It was an uncertain time.

David fled from King Saul in the wilderness. It was an uncertain time.

The captive Daniel walked to Babylon. Though he trusted God, he was among the first captives to be exiled. It was an uncertain time.

Jeremiah preached certain information to a nation who was deaf to everything he said. It was an uncertain time.

After raising the dead, Jesus was executed on a cross. It was an uncertain time.

In each of these, the final outcome was determined by the accepted “reality:” confidence in God produced by faith, or godless anxiety produced by fearing the times. Sometimes trusting God produced immediate results; sometimes it did not.

The President awaited trial in the Senate. The day of the Y2K problem was on the horizon. A leader who hated us built weapons of mass destruction. Social problems grew more complex. The percentage of Americans married hit a low. The percentage of children living without both natural parents hit a high. It was an uncertain time.

But was it a time of faith in God?

The Power of Childhood Memories

Posted by on January 10, 1999 under Sermons

Nothing is more powerful than the memories created by a child’s experiences. The child’s memories fashion the adult’s life. Every day of adult life is touched by the memories of childhood experiences.

Our greatest adult fears were created by childhood memories. Our greatest adult anxieties were produced by childhood memories. Our most negative adult views of ourselves are the product of childhood memories.

Our most important adult goals have their roots in childhood memories. Our most powerful adult drives have their roots in childhood memories. Our adult attitudes, adult perspectives, adult expectations, and adult view of life are all powerfully influenced by our childhood experiences and memories.

Help me conduct an experiment. I want each adult to think about your life during the period from four years of age to twelve years of age. All I want you to do is think. First, I want you to remember a bad childhood experience. This is something that you don’t allow yourself to remember very often. It is one of those memories you don’t want to think about. Second, I want you to remember one of your best childhood experiences. This memory is a real joy to think about. It makes you feel good to think about it. Third, I want you to remember one of the funniest childhood experiences you had. This is a memory you like to share because it is funny to tell.

Now stop remembering and think with me. Did you struggle to pull up a memory? Could you remember the when, the place, the situation, the who, and the circumstances? Let me tell you the incredible thing: the older you become, the more vivid those memories become.

  1. When we remember our childhood, we think about things we rarely recall.
    1. When I was about ten years old, a neighbor needed Mom to drive her to town.
      1. We lived on a farm six miles out of town (which was much further than six miles today), and few people in the community had a car or truck available.
      2. It was summer, so Mom left my brother and me at the house.
      3. Soon after she left, we heard a noise in the attic.
      4. The more we listened the louder the noise grew.
      5. The louder the noise grew, the wilder our imaginations grew.
      6. In a short time, we decided someone was in the attic; then we decided that it was dangerous to stay in the house.
      7. We finally stood by the highway until Mom and the neighbor came back.
      8. With grave concern, we told Mom about the man in the attic.
      9. Without laughing, Mom took a baseball bat and led the troops into the attic to confront the man–only to find an empty attic.
    2. I remember when Jack and I played cowboys in the barn.
      1. We roped a young calf and tied the rope to a beam in the stall.
      2. The calf immediately pulled against the rope and began to choke itself.
      3. We quickly had a serious situation: the calf pulled on the rope so hard that we could not untie the calf; the calf choked until it’s eyes rolled back and its tongue stuck about six inches out its open mouth.
      4. And I knew the calf was dying; and I knew what would happen if it died.
      5. So I ran to the house screaming that the calf was hanging itself.
      6. And Mom grabbed a butcher knife and out ran me to the barn–she thought I said that my brother was hanging himself.
      7. Other memories are associated with that occasion, but I choose not to recall them.
      8. We never roped any more calves.
  2. Allow me to illustrate the power of childhood religious memories on the adult.
    1. This is not intended to be a negative statement.
      1. I am not trying to make a broad commentary.
      2. I just want to illustrate the power of religious memories from childhood.
    2. The most difficult spiritual adjustments that I face as an adult are adjustments that confront what I was taught as a child.
      1. My mother and father were a source of many blessings.
      2. I deeply value the spiritual education my mother conscientious provided me.
      3. The small, rural congregation of my childhood rarely could afford a preacher, but good men with good hearts that shared what they knew.
    3. God has given me incredible blessings in the form of wonderful opportunities.
      1. I have spent my entire life studying, learning, and teaching.
      2. I deeply value my opportunities to study scripture in college and graduate school.
      3. I deeply value learning how to study scripture.
    4. It would be a cruel injustice to expect the adults of my childhood to have my understandings without my opportunities.
      1. Yet, it is still difficult to let scripture’s actual teachings replace anything that I was taught as a child.
      2. You and I are much alike in that; it is very difficult to learn something scripture actually teaches if it contradicts what you learned as a child.
      3. That is how powerfully childhood religious teachings influence the adult.
  3. I heard that a person will learn more from birth to age five than he or she will learn the rest of his or her life.
    1. When we consider all we learn from age five to death, that sounds ridiculous.
      1. But the day we were born we knew nothing–not even know how to focus our eyes.
      2. We did not understood any language and we could not use any language.
        1. We learned to understand.
        2. Then we learned to talk.
        3. Then we learned to communicate.
      3. Look at a day old baby for a few minutes, and then immediately watch an active five year old for ten minutes, and you realize that a baby is an incredible learning machine.
      4. In fact, a child from birth to adolescence is an incredible learning machine.
    2. May I ask a question? How much spiritual input does your child receive in this period of incredible learning?
      1. How does the time he or she spends watching television compare to the time he or she spends in receiving spiritual input?
      2. Don’t stop with that comparison.
        1. Think about the different types of learning experiences occurring in your child’s life.
        2. Think about the learning experiences you deliberately, by intention and plan, provide your child.
        3. Does any learning experience in your child’s life receive as little time as his or her spiritual learning experience?
      3. In years to come, when your child makes critical moral and ethical decisions and choices that will affect the rest of his or her life, what is the likelihood that his or her smallest learning experience will have the greatest influence?
    3. I understand that the essential, most critical foundation blocks in building faith and spirituality in any person’s life are the Bible’s stories.
      1. For centuries, Christianity built faith in a world that could not read, in a world that had no printing presses, in a world where few people saw a book, in a world that had no mass media.
      2. How is that possible? Christianity built faith by teaching people the stories.
      3. Spiritual understanding and faith begin by learning the stories.
      4. Our preschool, primary, and elementary children have excellent opportunities to learn and understand the stories.
        1. Bible classes are taught for each age on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights.
        2. Kids for Christ has an excellent program for them on Sunday evenings.
        3. We have an excellent vacation Bible school program.
        4. And at least six times a year there are special activities for these ages.
      5. As we continue to develop our education program, the opportunities will just get better.
    4. I offer this challenge to the parents of preschool, primary, or elementary children.
      1. Bring your children.
      2. Make it a point to have them in class before class begins.
      3. Bring them regularly.
      4. Study with your children at home.
    5. I offer this encouragement to the teachers.
      1. Teach to build memories.
      2. Never, never forget the continuing power of a child’s memory.
  4. During his ministry, Jesus was incredibly busy.
    1. He was busy doing important things.
      1. He was training twelve men to be his apostles.
      2. He was traveling to every town and city in Israel to prepare the people’s hearts and minds for Christianity.
      3. He was informing people that God’s kingdom would come soon.
      4. He was giving hope and forgiveness.
      5. He was constantly teaching adults, constantly performing miracles.
    2. Listen to what happened one day.
      1. First, listen as Matthew wrote:
        Matthew 19:13-15 Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” After laying His hands on them, He departed from there. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      2. Listen as Luke wrote:
        Luke 18:15-17 And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      3. Listen as Mark wrote:
        Mark 10:13-16 And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      4. Consider two things.
        1. First, this very busy man who was no less than God’s Son took time for children.
          1. The disciples thought that Jesus was much too busy with important matters to be bothered with children.
          2. Jesus rebuked his disciples saying, “Stop preventing the children from coming to see me!”
        2. Second, just like miracles were important, and preparing people for the coming of the kingdom was important, and teaching all over Palestine was important, bringing children to Jesus was important.
          1. Years after Jesus died, I wonder how many adults said, “I remember when Mother took me as a child to see Jesus. I remember when he laid his hands on me and prayed.”
          2. I wonder how that memory touched their adult lives.


I am not trying to embarrass you or make you self-conscious, but if you attended Bible classes as a child, would you hold up your hand? Thank you! Do you have a good memory of a childhood Bible class teacher? Can you remember her name (I am certain that the majority of you remember a her)? Was she a blessing?

Parents, don’t rob your children of those memories. Those memories will be important in your child’s life as long as he or she lives. Teachers, help parents build such memories.

Educating For Eternity

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Is your children’s education important? Are the schools they attend of concern? Do you care who teaches them? Is their educational environment, their curriculum, their stimulus to learn, the school’s philosophy, and the balance between academic and extracurricular activities of any concern? Would you consider allowing your children to receive no education?

Will you knowingly, intentionally, send your child to a “party” university that has minor interest in educating its students? As a parent, do you prefer a university that does more to provide “party opportunities” than it does to educate your child for the adult work force?

In your own job or career, must your learning continue? Do you update and advance your skills? Do you learn to understand and do new things? Do you attend seminars or classes that equip you to keep your job or advance your career?

Is it more essential (1) to educate your children for the adult work force and (2) to equip yourself to maintain your job/career than (3) to equip you and your children to live for God now and (4) to prepare you and your children to live with God eternally?

The next three Sunday morning worship assemblies will be devoted to encouraging our spiritual education. The Sunday morning sermons will challenge us to consider the never ending, growing importance of spiritual education.

A teacher achieves his or her purpose when someone learns. Do you learn?