Encouraging Those Who Are Reaching Out

Posted by on May 30, 1999 under Sermons

Reading: Acts 13:1-3 Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

The congregation in Antioch had the largest, most successful work outside the city of Jerusalem. The work of sharing Christ was going so well that they had five prophets and teachers working in the city. The work was so successful that Barnabas personally made a long, special trip to find Saul and bring him to that city to work. In the middle of all that opportunity and success, the Lord called two men away from that team to other needs and works. Few of the works were as successful as was the work they left.

Barnabas and Paul were sent to their new work with encouragement.

  1. Next Saturday morning for the ninth consecutive year we have a group leaving to spend an intensive week of work in Guyana.
    1. Read the names of the forty-seven people going.
    2. In this group:
      1. Thirty-two are members of this congregation.
      2. Four are former members of this congregation.
      3. As of this trip, one hundred thirteen members of this congregation have been a part of the nine groups that worked in Guyana.
    3. In the past two trips:
      1. Over two thousand people saw a doctor on each trip.
      2. In 1997 fifty-one decided to be baptized into Christ.
      3. In 1998 sixty-three decided to be baptized into Christ.
    4. The group will be engaged in four activities:
      1. The sick will receive medical attention.
      2. Those interested will have one-on-one Bible studies.
      3. Teens will teach VBS-type classes in schools.
      4. Roy Dunavin, Ted Edwards, and Larry Roper will preach each evening in three different places.
    5. Michael Cole, who coordinates the group, will lead us as we pray for the group’s safety.
  2. Compassion for the sick and suffering:
    1. Readings about Jesus and Christians’ concern for the sick:
      1. Peter told the group assembled in Cornelius home, Acts 10:38 You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      2. Matthew 4:23-25 Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      3. Matthew 9:35-38 Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      4. Matthew 14:13,14 Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      5. Acts 5:12,14-15 At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico. ..And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number, to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
    2. Mat Griffin will lead us in a prayer for the sick who will receive treatment.
  3. Love for those who need to hear the good news about Jesus Christ.
    1. Readings about those who heard:
      1. Acts 2:5, 6 Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. … 14 But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. … 40, 41 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      2. Acts 5:14 And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number… (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      3. Acts 11:19-24 So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
    2. Jerry Canfield will lead us in prayer for those who will hear the good news about Jesus.
  4. Glorifying God for our Savior and salvation:
    1. Readings that glorify God for salvation:
      1. Ephesians 1:3-8 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      2. 1 Timothy 2:1-4 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
    2. Buster Herren will lead us in prayer as we glorify God for our Savior and salvation.
  5. We as Christians are given three basic responsibilities by God.
    1. The first is to spiritually mature as God’s son or daughter.
    2. The second is to encourage our brothers and sisters as they grow and develop in Jesus Christ.
    3. The third is to share our Savior with all the people in the world.
  6. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
    1. To those of us who placed our trust in Jesus Christ, who redirected our lives to live for God, and who were baptized into Christ, I give us this challenge.
      1. Mature in the Lord.
      2. Practice discipline and run to win.
      3. Do not preach to others, and fail to qualify yourself.
    2. To those who have not yet placed their trust in Jesus, or redirected their lives to live for God, or been baptized into Christ,
      1. We invite you to accept God’s gift of forgiveness and salvation.
      2. We invite you to share our Savior.

[Invitation song]

Would You Choose To Live In Hawaii or Heaven?

Posted by on May 23, 1999 under Sermons

I want to begin this morning with a typical joke about heaven. The joke illustrates some common perspectives I want you to consider.

A man and his wife were killed in an automobile accident and awoke in heaven. As he and his wife were welcomed to heaven, he was asked, “Are you glad to be here?”

He replied, “To tell you the truth, I don’t know. You see, when I lived on earth, I played golf every day. I love to play golf! I don’t know how much I can enjoy living in a place where I can’t play golf.”

“That is no problem. You can play golf here.” Upon that statement, the man was shown a golf course more magnificent than any course on earth. He was told that he could play a different course just as nice as this one every day if he wanted to. And they were all free. And he would never hit a bad shot.

The man began sobbing uncontrollably. His wife asked, “What is wrong with you? You are in heaven. You can play golf every day free on the best golf courses that you have ever seen. Why are you sobbing?”

Through his sobs, he replied, “If you had not put me on that horrible oat bran diet after my heart attack, I could have been here ten years ago.”

  1. There are hundreds of versions of that joke, but many of the jokes about heaven share some common perspectives.
    1. First, heaven is commonly portrayed as a physical place.
      1. That is certainly understandable since we are physical beings living in a physical world.
      2. We simply cannot grasp that which is real but is not physical.
        1. We struggle to grasp many physical realities.
        2. Most spiritual realities are simply beyond our comprehension.
    2. Second, heaven is commonly portrayed as a place where time exists.
      1. It is a place where you never get old and do not die.
      2. But it is also a place that marks the passing of time with days and nights.
    3. Third, heaven is a place for having fun.
      1. One of our highest priorities in the American society is having fun.
      2. That can be a high priority because we live in a prosperous society that has the money for recreation and vacations.
      3. Having fun is not a high priority with people that are poor, starving, and burdened with disease.
  2. Given our common view of the heavenly existence, if you had to choose, would you choose to live in Hawaii or heaven?
    1. First, let’s remove hell from the equation.
      1. Hell is real and is a valid consideration.
      2. But in my understanding of the Bible, the primary reason for going to heaven is not to escape hell.
    2. Hawaii offers astounding circumstances:
      1. Fabulous sunsets and beautiful scenery.
      2. The opportunity for easy living.
      3. Incredible opportunities for having fun.
      4. An unbelievable climate.
    3. The picture of heaven that commonly draws our images is found in Revelation 21 through 22:5.
      1. Nobody has reason to cry; nobody dies; there is no sadness; there is no grief; and there is no pain.
      2. This square city is surrounded by an enormous, high wall with three gates into the city on each side, but the gates never close.
      3. It is a city of incredible wealth–the walls are covered with jewels, the gates are made of pearl, and the streets are paved with such pure gold that they are crystal clear. Have you ever seen transparent gold?
      4. The city is like a cube: 1500 miles wide, 1500 miles long; 1500 miles high.
      5. The whole city is made of pure gold that is transparent.
      6. There are no temples, no church buildings because God lives there–everyone can see Him and Christ.
      7. Nothing influenced by evil is there; there is no deceit there.
      8. It has a river that flows from under God’s throne.
      9. It has a main street that runs through the center of the city.
      10. On each side of the river there are trees; each tree bears twelve kinds of fruit; and there is ripe fruit to eat every month.
      11. There is no night because the glory of God and Christ constantly illuminate the city.
    4. Where would you like to live, Hawaii or heaven?
      1. “Well, to be truthful, the thoughts of living in a walled city with gold buildings does not sound inviting or comfortable.”
        1. “Having a river flowing through the city and having fruit trees might be pretty, but it does not sound exciting.”
        2. “Walking on streets of gold has never been a big deal to me.”
        3. “Certainly, the absence of sorrow, pain, and death sound wonderful.”
      2. “But Hawaii sounds very appealing!”
  3. I want to call your attention to two things.
    1. First, the picture of heaven drawn in Revelation 21 and 22 is a symbolic picture that had special meaning to the people in the first century.
      1. Do you remember what Paul told the Corinthian Christians in 1 Corinthians 15:50?
        1. Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        2. The physical does not exist in the spiritual realm.
        3. Life in heaven is as real as life on earth, but heaven is not physical.
      2. There is no flesh and blood, no physical gold, no physical river; no physical food, no physical necessities.
    2. Second, then what does that picture in Revelation mean?
      1. Remember the rest of the book.
        1. The church in Ephesus struggled with evil men (2:2).
        2. The church in Smyrna knew great suffering and poverty (2:8).
        3. The church in Pergamum existed where Satan’s throne was and saw a member killed for his faith (2:13).
        4. The church in Thyatira had an immoral woman of great influence in the congregation (2:20).
        5. The church in Philadelphia was in severe conflict with people who belonged to Satan (3:10).
        6. The church at Laodicea was wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked (3:17).
      2. In a number of places Revelation describes an enormous, destructive conflict that caused pain, suffering, and death to Christians.
      3. The suffering and deaths of Christians are so terrible that in Revelation 6:10 Christian martyrs are pictured as crying out to God from beneath God’s throne, “How long are You going to wait until You avenge our deaths?”
    3. Then what did the picture of heaven mean to Christians of the late first century?
      1. It is a place of total, absolute safety where no one can be harmed.
        1. Then the safest cities were walled cities build on hill tops.
        2. With no gun power or bombs, gates and walls kept enemies out.
      2. The best way to attack a walled city was by a siege that let no one go in and no one come out.
        1. Because the city was built on a hill, the water supply was outside the city.
        2. Cut the people off from water and food, and in time they would surrender.
      3. For everyone, inside the walls or out, darkness was the time of greatest danger.
        1. Thieves, robbers, and evil people came at night.
        2. Since there was little artificial lighting, if there were enough of them, you were helpless.
      4. Where God lives there is nothing to fear because there are no dangers.
        1. The gates are never closed because there are no enemies.
        2. It is never dark, so you are never vulnerable.
        3. There are no evil people there; there is no one to harm you.
      5. Even if an enemy did exist, the enemy could not hurt the people in that city.
        1. There is a river that gives life right in the middle of the city.
        2. You can’t starve there; there are trees that never stop bearing fruit.
      6. There is no poverty there.
        1. The city is made out of gold.
        2. No one who lives in this city is in need.
    4. Do you see the point God made to these suffering Christians?
      1. God’s place is a secure place of peace where there is no suffering.
      2. Where God lives there is no fear, no dying, no sorrow.
      3. No one can hurt you there, and you are never vulnerable.
      4. There are no enemies, there are no dangers, there is no need.
  4. I have no idea what physical symbols God would use today to try to explain what life with Him is like, but I know some realities He would emphasize.
    1. All pain and rejection would cease to exist including those produced by broken relationships, divorce, insecure children, abuse, lovelessness, hate, anger, bitterness, and sorrow.
      1. He heals all those who live with Him of such wounds.
      2. Wounds created by pain and rejection never exist again.
    2. There is no death or sorrow where God lives.
      1. No death of a child, no death of a loved spouse, no death of a mom or dad or best friend.
      2. Never is there reason to grieve about anything in God’s world.
    3. There is no evil where God lives.
      1. God will destroy any evil in you and me through His forgiveness and grace so that you and I will never hurt anybody.
      2. In the same manner, God will destroy the evil in everyone else so no one will ever hurt us again.
      3. No people who are controlled or ruled by Satan live with God.
    4. There is no insecurity where God lives.
      1. Those who live with God will never experience being afraid again.
      2. There is nothing to fear.
      3. There are no terrors or anxieties real or imagined.
    5. Where God lives there is love, acceptance, joy, and peace.
      1. Absolutely nothing can interrupt them.
      2. And that situation never ends.
      3. And you will never be old or disabled, and you will never die.

[Song of reflection: 867 – To Canaan’s Land I’m On My Way]

There are some realities I cannot imagine. Amazingly, we earnestly try to produce these realities our physical world, yet none of us can imagine the world with them.

I cannot imagine: a world with zero hate; a world with zero anger; a world with zero deceit; a world with zero abuse; a world with zero violence; a world with zero fear.

I cannot image: a world with 100% love; a world with 100% kindness; a world that accepts every person for who he or she is; a world that sees only good, that encourages only good, that nurtures only good because it is a world totally free from every form of evil. I cannot imagine a world of perfect recovery for all who repent.

Such a world exists. God invites every one of us to live in it. I hope that you would rather live in heaven than Hawaii. You may never make it to Hawaii, but you can live with God.

“Listen! You Can Hear It Coming!”

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

“Hear what coming?” “Summer! It is so close that you can hear it! Graduations! Lawn mowers! Weed eaters! Birds singing! Thunderstorms! Mosquitoes buzzing! Fore!”

Isn’t it amazing?! Only one collective sigh of rejoicing is greater than the sigh heard when summer arrives and school is out. It is the collective sigh of rejoicing when summer is over and school begins.

January’s resolutions are history. February’s good intentions are mere memories. March’s planning fell apart. April’s dreams are fuzzy. May’s ambitions are fading. Summer is here! And that means? Anything a person wants it to mean!

Have you noticed how easily mild June’s adventuresome ideas become hot August’s grueling slavery? “David, don’t distract us! Summer is coming! Time for recreation and ‘relaxed’ schedules!” And by August we all desperately search for relief from all “the fun we are having.” Oh, the agony of having to choose between rest and fun!

Which is the healthy philosophy? Philosophy one: “Nothing should interfere with our pursuit of fun!” Philosophy two: “Nothing should interfere with our relationship with God!” Which philosophy lives in your heart and mind? your family’s?

Healthy family fun times wonderfully bless family relationships (in any season). The togetherness benefits are real and important. While those benefits are genuine, they also are short term. Nurturing a living relationship with God also produces real, important blessings. These genuine benefits are eternal.

Summer creates some marvelous opportunities for spiritual family growth and for personal spiritual development. It also creates countless seasonal opportunities to assault and damage us spiritually. In all your summer activities, travels, and involvement, keep this simple objective: “When summer ends, my family and I will be spiritually stronger and more mature than when summer began.”

Many of our college aged adults will return home for the summer. We invite them to be a part of our young adult classes. They will “fit in” these groups well. On Sunday mornings I will teach “Building a Healthy Faith.” On Wednesday evening Buster Herren will direct a discussion based on “That the World May Know.”

Above all else, make this summer a time that brings you closer to God and Christ. Make Bible classes a family affair! Make Bible study and prayer a family affair!

Who Benefits?

Posted by on May 16, 1999 under Bulletin Articles

Those devoted to God find joy in sharing insights. In conversation, Charles Wilson shared an insight that blessed me. May it also bless you.

Students of the Bible are familiar with the “two kingdom” concept. In our world the powerful forces of God and Satan are in conflict. God has His kingdom, and Satan has his. Each person’s life advances the purposes of God or the purposes of Satan.

The kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan are not merely in conflict. The purposes of God and the purposes of Satan are in total conflict. The Bible always contrasts God and Satan’s purposes. It is the conflict between good and evil, light and darkness, life and death, or that which is eternal and that which decays.

Within us, this conflict is not resolved by affirming “whose side you are on.” At its heart, the conflict concerns purpose. Purpose is the central issue of life. What is the purpose of my life? my actions? my motives? my objectives? my goals? Do my purposes yield to God’s purposes or to Satan’s purposes? Does God or Satan define and determine my purposes?

Charles Wilson’s insight: the Bible speaks of two kingdoms, not three. There is not God’s kingdom, Satan’s kingdom, and a neutral kingdom. Committing to a third kingdom is not an option. It is impossible for “my” life to benefit neither God’s kingdom nor Satan’s kingdom.

Charles did not apply this insight to others. He said each Christian needs to apply it to self. Everything that occurs in my life benefits either the purposes of God or the purposes of Satan. Nothing that occurs in my life benefits neither God nor Satan.

As important as actions and deeds are, they are surface considerations. Spiritual maturity examines in depth my motives, intents, thoughts, desires, and emotions.

God and Satan are at war over spiritual purposes. Everything that occurs in my mind, my heart, and my deeds endorses the purposes of one or the other. Growing to godly maturity is more than labeling actions as good and evil and culling them accordingly.

Spiritual maturity is based on a mind that belongs to Christ and a heart that belongs to God. That mind and heart are devoted to God’s purposes–always. The real question always is, “Who benefits, God or Satan?”

Bigger Than “Me”?

Posted by on May 9, 1999 under Bulletin Articles

When individuals are insignificant, slavery thrives. “What is good for people?” is rarely the determining issue. “Who has the power?” is the determining issue.

When the individual is supreme, anarchy thrives. “What is collectively good for all?” is rarely the determining issue. “What pleases me?” is the determining issue.

Both extremes share many things in common. Each declares to people, “You exist for my good.” Commonly, the first makes that statement to the individual. The person’s justification for existence is to “serve the controlling power.” Commonly, the second makes that statement to the controlling power. The controlling power’s justification for existence is to “serve the individual.” The fundamental difference is who serves whom.

Both extremes focus on desires and rights. The first focuses on the desires and rights of those who are the power. The second focuses on the desires of the individual.

Both are extremely selfish and self-centered. In its selfishness, the controlling power is basically concerned with sustaining and advancing itself. In his or her selfishness, the individual is basically concerned with protecting and advancing “my rights.”

An irresponsible, self-centered controlling power is capable of abusing individuals in unthinkable ways. An irresponsible, self-centered individual is capable of abusing society and others in unthinkable ways.

When a controlling power believes that nothing is more important than itself, its natural tendency is to be arrogant, unconcerned about people, exploiting, and abusive. When the individual believes that nothing is more important than “I am,” his or her natural tendency is to be arrogant, unconcerned about people, exploiting, and abusive.

In either case, people suffer. In either case, society suffers. In either case, hearts grow cold and hard, as minds grow arrogant and defiant.

Many values are found through accepting the living God’s existence, placing faith in God, and sustaining relationship with God. Just one is a blessing defying description when controlling human powers and individuals realize, “Something IS bigger than me.” The more we accept accountability and responsibility, the more people are blessed.

Violence In a “Fix-A-Flat” Society

Posted by on May 2, 1999 under Sermons

Fix A Flat

[Place a can of Fix-A-Flat® on a stool by the pulpit before the assembly.]

A few months after we moved to Fort Smith, Joyce and I rode the streets of the neighborhood late one Saturday afternoon. About an hour after we came home, Joyce noticed we had two flat tires. It was almost dark Saturday evening. And we have two flat tires–one spare tire is not enough.

I solved the immediate problem with a can of Fix-A-Flat®. It temporarily sealed the hole and inflated the tire. Compared to the flat tire, it looked great. It looked like I had actually solved the problem.

But my problem only appeared to be fixed. The “fix” was very temporary. Fix-A-Flat® is a short term solution.

  1. Last week was indescribably traumatic for this nation.
    1. The shootings that occurred on April 20th at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, put the nation in a state of shock.
      1. The fact that another act of violence occurred did not shock us; we have become quite accustomed to violence.
        1. Drive-by shootings are nothing new.
        2. Rapes are a common occurrence.
        3. Drug related deaths bring only the comment “what can you expect.”
        4. Domestic violence rates only a shrug of the shoulders.
        5. Suicides bring a confused shake of the head.
      2. But there are certain safe zones in our society.
        1. There shall be no violence in:
          1. A hospital.
          2. A rest home.
          3. Facilities for the mentally challenged.
          4. A church.
          5. Or a school.
        2. When violence occurs in these “safe contexts,” we are shocked.
    2. The Littleton shootings were major fuel for our great social debate: Why is America so violent? Why do kids kill kids in our wealthy society?
      1. We still don’t “get it.”
        1. To those of us who lived in hard times, material prosperity was the answer, the solution.
        2. To those of us who have known only prosperity, material prosperity is boring, and empty, and depressing.
        3. Ask your teenager, “Is this a wonderful time to live in America?”
      2. Predicably, the shootings produced an urgent quest to find something or someone to blame.
        1. The media is to blame because it publicizes violence.
        2. The forms of entertainment that glorify violence are to blame.
        3. It is the peer’s fault for harassing and rejecting the two young men.
        4. It is the parents’ fault; they should have known.
        5. It is the teachers’ fault; they should have known.
        6. It is the fault of the police; they had earlier warnings.
        7. It is security’s fault; it was not prepared.
        8. It is society’s fault; we own too many guns.
        9. It is mental healthy’s fault; our troubled children are not getting help.
      3. Each of those realities has merit.
        1. Each of them acknowledge a real problem.
        2. But each of them have limitations.
        3. And none of them address the core problem.
    3. Second only to the question of “Why?” was the question, “What is the solution?”
      1. You know our American society.
      2. Every problem must have a quick fix that is effective immediately.
      3. A problem takes two decades to reach complexity, but there must be an effective solution that solves the problem in a few days.
      4. A “right now” solution must exist and provide a quick fix that is effective immediately.
      5. The proposed solutions rang out:
        1. Better security.
        2. Metal detectors.
        3. Eliminate access to guns.
        4. Arm the teachers.
        5. Regulate the violence in the video games.
        6. Eliminate violent content in entertainment.
        7. Pass laws that make parents accountable for their children’s actions.
    4. The third question quickly followed, “Who is to blame?”
      1. Fingers pointed in 360 degrees.
      2. You know our American society; it always someone else’s fault.
      3. We must determine who is to blame, and they will be sued.

    I want to say something that only a few people have voiced to me. You may powerfully agree with me; or you may powerfully disagree with me. I am not seeking agreement. I am asking you to form a perspective. I am challenging you to open your eyes.

  2. What Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold did was incredibly evil.
    1. Every aspect of everything they did was evil.
      1. Their hatred was evil.
      2. Their motive was evil.
      3. Their intent was evil.
      4. Their values were evil.
      5. Their hero was evil.
      6. Their deeds were evil.
    2. There is an incredible irony in that truth: a significant segment of our society does not believe in the existence of evil.
      1. The younger the adult, the less likely he or she is to believe in the existence of evil.
        1. Many teenagers do not believe evil exists.
        2. Some teens believe that evil represents the highest form of good.
        3. Everything is good.
        4. Nothing is to be condemned.
      2. Does your child believe that evil exists? What is his or her definition of evil?
    3. Moral vacuums cannot exist, not in individuals, not in families, not in society.
      1. For decades our society has worked to restrict or remove the influence of God from every possible sector of life.
      2. Our humanism denies the influence of God.
      3. Our secularism belittles the influence of God.
      4. Our materialism prostitutes the influence of God.
      5. The result: our society increasingly endorses moral values that oppose God.
    4. As this transition grows:
      1. Our society increasingly devalues human life.
        1. Consider abortion, domestic violence, rape, suicide, murder.
        2. Recently, Bill Smith [an elder in the White’s Ferry Road congregation, in West Monroe, Louisiana, who is an experienced trainer, teacher, and authority in the development and use of the small group ministry] observed that the legal problems for a person who destroys an eagle’s egg are far more serious than the legal problems of a person who aborts a baby.
      2. As a society, we are a self-indulgent, self-centered people who regard pleasure, gratification, fun, and indulgence as life’s highest priorities.
    5. Only God teaches:
      1. The value of a soul is greater than the whole world.
      2. The highest calling of life is to be a servant to everyone.
      3. There is greater blessing in giving than receiving.
      4. We should pray for those who hate us and bless those who abuse us.
      5. We determine how we treat others by examining how we want to be treated.
      6. We forgive rather than hate.
      7. We exalt and value compassion, mercy, kindness, and tenderheartedness as noble virtues.
      8. It is no coincidence that as society distances itself from God that these values evaporate.
      9. It is no coincidence that the more significant God is in a person’s life, the greater respect the person has for people.
  3. If I suggested we do it Jesus’ way, would you tell me, “It won’t work!”
    1. The first century world in which Jesus lived and died was an evil, violent world.
      1. Peter started a boycott of goods and services throughout the Roman world.
      2. Paul led a grass roots movement for political reform.
      3. Barnabas lobbied the Roman senate for laws restricting weapons distribution.
      4. Timothy started an empire-wide petition for a just, equitable security system.
    2. That sounds so ridiculous you look at me like I am crazy.
      1. A world-wide movement began with lost, broken, outcasts who had no hope.
      2. In God, in Jesus Christ, they found an eternal reason to live and to die.
      3. The result: in sixty years the world experienced changes never dreamed of because people changed one person at a time.
    3. Explain to Peter, Paul, James, John, Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, Apollos, Stephen, Mary, Martha, Priscilla, Dorcas, Lydia, and Euodia why it won’t work.
      1. Then explain to Jesus why it won’t work.
      2. Then explain to me how what we have done the last four decades will work.
    4. “David, you are against laws, and reforms, and grassroots movements, and boycotts, and all such things, aren’t you?”
      1. No, I am not.
        1. They each have value.
        2. They each can be a helpful tool.
      2. But every one of those solutions fail when they seduce us to put our faith in ourselves instead of our God.
      3. WE are not the solution; WE are incapable of creating the solution.
      4. The living, active, powerful God is the solution.
        1. Faith in God is the solution.
        2. Dependence on God is the solution.
        3. Allowing God to change our hearts is the solution.
        4. The values of Jesus Christ are the solution.
        5. Repentance is the solution.
    5. The core reason that the shootings in Littleton happened is the absence of God in lives that were controlled by evil.

Prayer: God, help us stop placing our faith in ourselves. Teach us how to repent. Humble us before You.

Galatians 6:7,8 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

It is harvest time. We are harvesting what we have sown and cultivated for decades. The crop is ripe. It is long past time that we begin planting a different crop.

Longing For “Times When Things Were Simple”

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“Oh, that we could return to the times when things were simple!” When were those times? In the days of the “great war” which was fought to permanently end the possibility of war? Or the second world war fought after the war to end all wars? Was it the decade when our troops returned home to an economy that could not absorb so much manpower? Was this time during those days when a war time economy struggled to return to peace time enterprises? Were those the times of the “Korean Police Action” or the “Vietnam Conflict”?

Were those the times of the “speak easy” era? prohibition? the escapades of people like Al Capone or Bonnie and Clyde? The times of the “great dust bowl”? The times prior to Social Security or Medicare? Maybe the times when “the smoke-filled room” controlled political parties and elections? Maybe the social upheavals of the 60’s?

The “times when things were simple” exist only in “selective memory.” They are illusions that appear in the rear view mirrors of the “complicated now.” As each generation ages, it looks back to “a simpler time” when things were not so complex and life was not so demanding. However, our backward glances suffer from a perpetual illness. Backward glances “see” from the pleasant light of “glowing memories.” Those memories commonly focus on the “good experiences” (often exaggerated) as the person refuses to recall “bad” realities.

As history marches on, as civilization expands, as one age fades and another emerges, human existence becomes increasingly complex. As peoples become nations and nations become a global community, human existence becomes increasingly complex. As societies develop and fragment, human existence becomes increasingly complex.

Most Americans have only a small taste of how radical “progressive changes” can be. In the early 1970s I talked to an elderly African man who had met the first “white man” to set foot in his region. He was also fully aware of the first man to set foot on the moon. Can you imagine a person being exposed to that much transition in his life span?

Only one eternal constant exists in our complex world: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, yes and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). The ages will never be too complex for Jesus to rescue and sustain. Understanding Jesus will enable any generation to cope with and survive its age.