I Need Your Help

Posted by on September 26, 1999 under Sermons

Tuesday morning a person called me at the office. I answered enthusiastically. The person said, “You sound different.” I laughed and said, “I guess I do. I just came back from vacation and I feel rested.”

I love going on vacation. It is the one time all year that I can turn the “alert button” in my mind off. I love coming back from vacation because I love what I do.

I want to attempt something that I never remember trying. This attempt has a specific purpose. I want to try to give you some insight into my work.

  1. Let me begin by interviewing me. “Why do you love your work?”
    1. First, I love God.
      1. I stand in awe of what God has done and is doing in my salvation.
      2. I stand in awe of what God has done and is doing in my life.
      3. I stand in awe of what God is doing in the world around me.
      4. I am in the last section of my work life; I do not believe that there is any way that I could have used my life that would have been more fulfilling.
    2. Second, I love people.
      1. I love to help people and to watch them grow.
        1. In Luke 15:7 Jesus said that there is more joy in heaven over a repenting sinner than over ninety-nine righteous people who do not need to repent.
        2. I find that incredibly exciting.
        3. Jesus did not say that the ninety-nine righteous people did not cause joy in heaven.
        4. He said there was even more joy when someone who has really made a mess out of life decides to redirect life.
        5. The most exciting thing I see is not the person who has it all together: I deeply appreciate such people.
        6. The most exciting thing I see is someone who finds the faith in God and the courage in Christ to turn life around.
        7. If you find that difficult to understand, think of your own family.
          1. Do you really appreciate the family member who “has it all together?”
          2. How excited would you be if the person who made a mess out of life turned his or her life around?
      2. I love the challenge of teaching in ways that help people better understand God, Christ, and Christianity. The key to life is Jesus Christ.
        1. Long ago Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).
        2. I find it exciting beyond explanation to teach people with hungry minds and hearts.
    3. “Basically, what do you do?”
      1. For over forty years I have heard the old joke that preachers just work one day a week.
      2. I work on a weekly deadline every week–there are certain things that must happen every week without fail.
        1. What would you say if I told you one Sunday morning that it was a tough week and I just did not have time to prepare a sermon?
        2. Or if I got up one Wednesday night and said that I was not prepared to teach because there just was not time?
      3. “What are the weekly deadlines you must meet?”
        1. On Mondays I write the bulletin article and care for things I set aside the last week because I could not get to them.
        2. On Tuesdays Brad, Ted, and I have a staff meeting first thing that morning. We also meeting throughout the week on a “need to” basis. If at all possible, Tuesdays I need to prepare Sunday morning’s sermon.
        3. Wednesdays I need to produce the Sunday morning projection script and prepare to teach the Wednesday night auditorium class, and teach in the 7 p.m. assembly.
        4. Thursdays I need to prepare the Sunday evening sermon.
        5. Fridays I need to prepare Sunday evenings projection script and prepare for my Sunday morning class.
        6. Those things must happen while I have secretarial help.
      4. While those things must be done, these are some of the things that I must fit around those deadlines.
        1. Four months a year I prepare and tape the television program.
          1. I tape 26 or 27 programs.
          2. Those programs are repeated.
          3. I change the format for each year’s programs.
        2. I try to be available for any crisis situation that arises, and it is rare to have a week that there are not crises.
        3. There is correspondence to be answered.
        4. Ted and I are preparing special class materials for adult classes for the year 2000 on the themes of serving and whole life stewardship.
        5. I try to do some hospital visitation.
        6. Then there is a significant list I would call “unusual needs,” and it is rare to have a week that something in that category does not arise.
      5. “What is a Sunday like?”
        1. I get up at 6 am Sunday mornings, and all available time until Joyce and I leave for the building is spent in:
          1. Prayer.
          2. Focusing on Sunday morning’s sermon.
          3. Focusing on Sunday morning’s Bible class.
          4. Studying the church directory.
        2. I teach the young adult class at the 9:30 assembly and preach at the 10:20 assembly.
        3. I greet people as much as I can when we dismiss; Joyce and I usually get home around 12:30 to 1 p.m.
        4. Unless there are meetings that I need to attend or appointments that I have, I try to relax for two or three hours Sunday afternoon.
          1. I focus on Sunday evening’s lesson.
          2. I preach in the 6 p.m. assembly.
          3. I greet people, and Joyce and I often go out with a group to eat.
          4. We ordinarily get home around 9 p.m. Sunday night.
        5. Then Monday morning schedule begins again. And it never matters how good last Sunday’s lessons were.
      6. In addition to these things:
        1. Joyce and I try to attend four to five fellowship group meetings a month, which we genuinely enjoy.
        2. We accept personal invitations unless there is a conflict.
        3. We assist with the Discovery Dinner program, Joyce works with the inner city program, the jail ministry, the Wings Bible class, the quilting group, and substitute teaches in the first and second grade Bible classes.
      7. It is very important for you to understand that we enjoy everything that we do.
  2. About two weeks ago, Bill Dickey, Earl Flood, Mat Griffin, Bob Null, and Sam Roberts (our elders) met with me for the purpose of discussing my work.
    1. It was a very constructive meeting, and I really appreciated their focus and the discussion we shared.
      1. One thing they emphasized to me was the fact that I cannot do everything.
        1. The demands of teaching two classes and preaching two sermons on a regular basis was too much.
        2. They told me that I need to give up one of those responsibilities because they did not want me to “burn out.”
      2. That is really tough for me to do.
        1. I love to teach the young adult class.
          1. They are the immediate future of this congregation.
          2. That class is the only meaningful contact I have with that age.
        2. I love to teach the Wednesday night auditorium class.
          1. Many people in that class are the reason West-Ark has the opportunities of right now–they sacrificed; they paid the prices.
          2. That class is the primary contact I have with these people.
        3. I love to preach.
          1. I believe preaching can be a powerful teaching and motivational tool.
          2. I believe the primary purpose of preaching is to build faith in the individual’s life.
          3. No person can get the spiritual education he or she needs to survive in this evil world from 104 thirty-minute sermons a year.
          4. But people can be challenged to awaken to their spiritual needs.
      3. The elders are right: I cannot do everything.
        1. What I do places three basic demands on me: time demands, physical energy demands, and emotional energy demands.
        2. I enjoy what I do.
        3. But I confess that my schedule and my work drain me at times.
    2. My suggestion for consideration:
      1. Let my Sunday evening lessons assume a teaching format.
      2. Let those lessons basically be a direct study of the text of scripture.
      3. Do not use projection scripts on Sunday evening.
      4. Incorporate special times on Sunday evening.
    3. Having said that, we need to look at some realities.
      1. For most of you who attend regularly on Sunday evenings, that will be fine.
      2. For many who do not attend, that will not create interest or desire.
      3. Reality one: people learn differently.
        1. I am not trying to convince you of anything; I am just sharing.
        2. From one-on-one involvement, from small group involvement, from large group involvement, from preaching, I can tell you a fact: people learn differently.
        3. A method that is interesting and effective to one group with one background is ineffective and uninteresting to another group of another background; I live and work with that reality every single week.
        4. Some people are very visual, some are very verbal, some are very interactive, some are very passive.
        5. Knowing and respecting those differences is extremely important when there is nothing compulsory about attending or learning.
      4. Let me give you a specific illustration.
        1. “Why do you use a full sentence outline for you sermons?”
          1. Personal discipline: I take my teaching very seriously; that makes it necessary for me to study and prepare; I don’t use old material; I don’t coast.
          2. Longevity: at one time in Mississippi statewide the average stay for a preacher in a congregation was six months.
            1. If you knew what it was in Arkansas, it would astound you.
            2. It is not uncommon for preachers to move every two to three years.
          3. Opportunity: I do not just preach to those who attend, but to all who read or use the lesson.
            1. Before I moved here, Duane Walker told me he had 500 of my sermons on his computer.
            2. He copied several and gave them to the elders.
            3. Some of the elders read them and Sam Roberts called me.
            4. Every month I receive letters from preachers and teachers who use the material I share with you.
            5. I approach my lessons as mission work.
          4. Protection: that kind of preparation protects me from substituting emotions for substance.
      5. The two practical purposes of preaching are teaching and building faith.
        1. I have not taught unless people learn; teaching involves more than presenting material.
        2. If I do not help you discover the difference between sincere prejudice and genuine faith in God, I fail you. I fail myself. I fail God.

I do not work any harder than a number of you do. While many of you would not change places with me, I would not wish to change places with you either.

But some of you do not understand why I work as I do. You will understand when we all stand before God. I fervently pray that you will understand long before that occasion. In all of life, nothing is as important as being alive in Jesus Christ.

When we understand who Jesus is, what he has done for us, and what he is willing to do for us, we understand an essential truth. Becoming a Christian is not just a matter of assuming some responsibilities. Becoming a Christian is learning to live a specific life.

Jesus Changes the Way We See People

Posted by on under Sermons

I want to begin by talking to everyone who has loved someone enough to marry them. Whether you did or did not marry the person, or whether the marriage was a success or failure is not my present concern. I want to talk to every person who loved someone enough to marry him or her. I want to ask you some questions.

  • Can you remember the first time you met this person?

  • The very first time that you met him (or her), did you say to yourself, “I want to marry him (or her)”?

  • Can you remember the first time that you knew that you were in love with this person?

  • What happened between that first time you met the person and the moment that you knew that you would marry him (or her)?
  • A lot of powerful things happened. Among them was a simple but important thing: the way you looked at the person changed.

    1. Why are Christians unique?
      1. I cannot answer that question until I understand what you mean by “Christian.”
        1. By the word Christian, do you mean:
          1. People who have a religious background and call themselves Christians?
          2. People who go to church?
          3. People who have placed membership in a congregation?
          4. People who believe the Bible is the word of God and are religious?
        2. To be honest, if that is your definition of “Christian,” there probably is very little that is unique about such people.
          1. Many of them believe that they are religiously unique. But
          2. Many of them rarely read the Bible and never actually study the Bible.
          3. Many of them seldom pray to God.
          4. Many of them attend church assemblies either because they feel it is necessary or because it is a life long habit.
          5. Yet, many of them rarely worship when they attend.
        3. Or, by the word “Christian,” do you mean those people who see the eternal God working through Jesus Christ?
          1. These people believe God actually put His work to produce salvation “in gear” when evil first expressed itself in human life.
          2. They believe God’s work will continue until the moment comes when God through Christ will judge all people who have ever lived.
          3. They believe that all the total work and purposes of God are tied together with the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.
          4. They actually live their lives on a daily basis by placing their trust and confidence in Jesus who was raised from the dead.
          5. They govern their daily lives by understanding Jesus’ teachings.
          6. All their definitions of right and wrong, of good and evil are based on faith in Jesus’ teachings.
          7. Therefore, they commit themselves to Jesus’ purposes.
          8. They rejoice in their forgiveness and welcome both the responsibility and the privilege of being God’s son or daughter.
          9. They declared their faith in the power of Jesus’ cleansing blood by being baptized into Christ.
          10. And they honestly redirected their lives.
        4. If you are asking what is unique about these people, there are too many unique things to list.
      2. I want us to look at just one basic way that people converted to Jesus Christ are unique: it changes the way they look at people.
        1. When Jesus lived on earth, he looked at people in a way that Israel’s religious leaders never saw people.
          1. When Jesus called Levi the tax collector to follow him, Levi gave a huge banquet for tax collectors, and Jesus attended (Luke 5:29-32).
            1. The Pharisees saw a group of dishonest, thieving men who collected taxes for the Romans, men to be shunned and rejected.
            2. Jesus saw people who needed a spiritual doctor; Jesus saw people who needed to be called to repentance.
          2. When a prostitute washed Jesus’ feet, the Pharisee saw a prostitute who was known to be a prostitute by everyone in town; Jesus saw a woman who grieved as she repented (Luke 7:36-50).
            1. The Pharisee saw a horrible sinner and said to himself, “If Jesus knew who she was, he would not let her touch him.”
            2. Jesus saw a grief-stricken person who was repenting, and he said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.”
        2. As you read the gospels, it is amazing to note the times the Pharisees saw sinners to be shunned and rejected when Jesus saw people hungering and thirsting for direction and forgiveness.
      3. But changing the way people look at people was hard even in the early church.
        1. It is obvious in the New Testament letters we call epistles that changing the way people looked at each other in the church was one of the greatest challenges of early Christianity.
          1. Jews looked at non-Jews and saw a bunch of spiritual heathens who had worshipped stone images and were incredibly ignorant about the living God.
          2. People who were not Jews looked at Jews and saw a bunch of stuck-up, arrogant people who thought God loved them more than anyone else.
        2. In the church, it was very hard to change that, but Paul made it clear that Christians must change the way they looked at people.

        Galatians 3:27-29 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

      4. If a person has been genuinely converted to Jesus, if he or she has been baptized into Christ and thereby clothed with Christ, that person must change the way that he or she looks at people.
    2. How can that happen? How does being converted to Christ lead you to change the way you look at people?
      1. The first thing conversion does is change the way that you look at yourself.
        1. This is what the conversion process does:
          1. First, conversion shows you the evil that exists in your life–in living color.
          2. Second, conversion makes you fully aware of the fact that God knows everything about you–everything you think, everything you feel, and everything you do. God knows you better than you know yourself.
          3. Third, conversion reveals to you that God, who knows everything about you, loves you and in Christ will gladly forgive you.
            1. God does not love and forgive us because we are worth it; we are not!
            2. God loves and forgives us because of His goodness.
          4. Fourth, conversion creates an undeniable drive and determination to change the direction of our lives.
            1. Conversion opens our eyes and makes us see self.
            2. We don’t like what we see; in fact, we despise what we see.
            3. Through the forgiveness and strength of God, we are determined to change who we are.
        2. All of that happens because we see ourselves differently.
      2. When we change the way we look at ourselves, we will change the way we look at other people.
        1. Why? It is very simple.
        2. God tells us, “You must understand that I love every other person as much as I love you.”
          1. “I do not love you any less than I love anyone else, but neither do I love you more than I love anyone else.”
          2. “If you love Me, if you love My son Jesus, you must dedicate yourself to learning how to love other people like I love other people.”
          3. “I seek the present salvation and the eternal good of every sinner, and that includes you. If you love Me, you will do the same thing.”
    3. Seeing other people differently is a fundamental uniqueness of any congregation that belongs to Jesus Christ.
      1. Conversion creates the desire for Jesus to use our lives.
        1. If Jesus is to use you or me, we must change the way we see self.
          1. If you cannot see the evil in your life, Jesus cannot use you.
          2. If you cannot see God’s grace in your life, Jesus cannot use you.
          3. If you cannot see your dependence on God’s mercy, Jesus cannot use you.
          4. If you cannot see and appreciate Jesus’ forgiveness in your life, Jesus cannot use you.
        2. Men and women converted to Jesus Christ yearn to see our world change in basic ways.
          1. Converted people hunger to see the pain and devastation of stereotyping end.
          2. Converted people hunger to see the pain and devastation of prejudice end.
          3. Converted people hunger to see the pain and devastation of racism end.
          4. Converted people hunger to see the pain and devastation of abuse end.
          5. Converted people hunger to see the pain and devastation of hate end.
        3. But these things are not ending; they are growing.
      2. How can they be reversed?
        1. The reverse will begin when Christians have the courage to let God teach them how to look at people.
        2. Nothing good can happen until we change the way we look at people.
    4. What do you spiritually expect of yourself?
      1. I am a grandparent with four grandchildren.
        1. I want every grandchild to be a first grader–for one year.
        2. I want every grandchild to be a sixth grader–for one year.
        3. I want every grandchild to be a senior in high school–for one year.
        4. I want every grandchild to be a wiser, more mature person each year of his or her adult life.
      2. Are you converted to Jesus Christ? If you are,
        1. You belong to the eternal God who created you.
        2. You belong to Jesus Christ who died and was raised from the dead for you.
        3. You are committed to understanding the mind of God and developing the mind of Christ so that you can better understand life every year that you live.
      3. What have you learned, what do you understand about yourself, about your God, about your Savior, about your salvation that you did not know and understand two years ago? five years ago? ten years ago?
        1. This year, what has God taught you about yourself?
        2. This year, what has God taught you about other people?
        3. Do you want God to teach you anything? Will you allow Him to?

    [Prayer: Teach us to be unique by reflecting the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.]

    Every Sunday morning we have visitors. Some of our visitors have never visited a congregation of the Church of Christ before. If a visitor who has never worshipped with a congregation of the Church of Christ visits us this morning, what would you want him or her to say about us?

    “They did not use a musical instrument” ?
    “They took communion” ?
    For certain, those are very obvious. Is that the number one difference you want them to see?

    As a converted Christian, let me share the most obvious difference I pray they could see.

    “Those people are unique in the way they cared about
    us and the way they obviously care about each other.”

    Gratitude: The State and the Discovery

    Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

    To be appreciative we must be grateful. We cannot be appreciative if we are incapable of gratitude. Gratitude is more than being polite. After receiving a kindness, it is polite to say words of gratitude. However, selfish people can be trained to respond appropriately to kindness.

    Gracious acts and words of thanks appropriately expressed in a timely manner may prove only that a person is well trained. They may reveal gratitude. They may not.

    Gratitude is a state of heart produced by an appreciative mind. Politeness is responsive behavior expressed through gracious manners and an appropriate vocabulary. While the heart is essential to gratitude, it is not essential to politeness.

    This past week Joyce and I were richly blessed by a week of vacation. While we “had fun,” the real joy was experienced in time together, rest, and escape from stress. The week freed my mind “to see” and “to feel” in ways that heightened awareness. Frequently I found myself quietly praying prayers of gratitude.

    Through opportunities and experiences, God gave me “eyes” that “look at life” from more than the American perspective. The greater majority of the world’s population suffers from a poverty that exceeds our ability to grasp. In their wildest imagination these people could not mentally picture our vacation world.

    For many their government decrees how many children they can have. This decree is enforced through abortion when necessary. For many others, half of their children die before reaching five years of age. Because of poverty and overpopulation, children either (a) are not wanted [by the government] or (b) have a fifty percent chance of survival. The parents are powerless to change either reality.

    From birth to adult death, many will never have enough to eat. Many adults die rarely having eaten all they wanted any day of their lives. The majority could not buy enough food for their families if they spent everything they earned just on food.

    In the early 1990s Joyce and I worked in Poland. Economic recovery had just begun.

    We heard of a Russian who dreamed of visiting America. He could not believe the stories he heard about America’s prosperity. Then, he had a chance to visit Poland. As he prepared to return to Russia he said, “I no longer want to visit America. Nothing could be as prosperous as Poland!”

    “God, may we turn from a mere vocabulary of politeness. Give us hearts of gratitude.”

    One of Life’s Little Reminders

    Posted by on September 19, 1999 under Bulletin Articles

    On the Saturday evening of Labor Day weekend, Fort Smith experienced an electrical storm with some much needed rain. When we opened the church office the following Tuesday for “work as usual,” there was no work as usual. The thunderstorm had sent us an electrical surge. The surge burned out a card in the telephone central control panel.

    The result: our phone system was dead. Incoming calls could not “come in,” and we had no dial tone.

    “Big deal! So you were without phones! Phones are not that necessary!”

    The fax machine works through the phone system. Crosswalk, a major youth gathering, occurs here September 25, 26. Some youth groups needed to fax information to Brad. It could not be done.

    Our website depends on our phone system. Over a hundred thousand “hits” (contacts) a month visit our website. One reason: weekly we post sermons and new information. The sermons could not be sent to Michael Cole to post on our website.

    Our internet contact relies on our phone system. It is a valuable resource in several things we do. That resource was unavailable.

    E-mail messages play a key role in our daily work. One example: we send updates about our sick to members with e-mail addresses. Without phone access, there is no e-mail.

    It was amazing to note the things that we commonly do that could not be done on that Tuesday. Why? No dial tone. What if a person did not understand that fax machines, websites, the internet, and e-mail depend on phone lines with a dial tone? When trouble occurred, what if that person did not know to check the dial tone first?

    The popular, common view of life is the compartmentalized existence. According to this view, each of these are an independent compartment in a person’s life: social life, business life, career life, family life, public relations life, recreational life, church life, etc. Compartments are not interconnected or interrelated. In fact, “success” depends on keeping compartments separated, independent, and unrelated.

    We watch people all around us whose lives are falling apart. Our lives are falling apart. Why? We have not learned that every aspect of a person’s life is interrelated. We have not learned that God is the dial tone. Life falls apart when we lose our dial tone.

    God Attacks Our Ignorance

    Posted by on September 12, 1999 under Sermons

    What is ignorance? Ignorance is defined as “the state of being ignorant.” Wonderful! How insightful! That surely explains a lot.

    What is the definition of ignorant? To be ignorant is to be destitute of knowledge or education; to be unlearned. Or, to be unaware or uninformed.

    1. I suggest that ignorance involves much more than a simple lack of knowledge or education.
      1. A couple of questions are in order.
        1. A lack of knowledge as compared to what?
          1. No one knows everything.
          2. Someone always will know things that I do not know.
          3. How much about how many things does a person have to know before he or she escapes ignorance?
        2. What is the correct dividing line that a person crosses that takes him from being uneducated to being educated?
          1. Where must I be taught to be educated?
          2. What must I be taught to be educated?
      2. A general discussion of ignorance must include every aspect of life.
        1. That is much too big to tackle.
        2. So let’s focus on a specific area of ignorance.
        3. What constitutes spiritual ignorance? When am I spiritually ignorant?
    2. I ask you to consider five kinds of ignorance.
      1. First, consider the ignorance of not knowing.
        1. This person just does not know.
          1. He or she has never known.
          2. He or she likely has never had opportunity to know.
          3. There is literally a knowledge void of matters commonly known by others.
        2. The form of ignorance that exists because the person has never known is a common form of spiritual ignorance, and it has always been common.
        3. When Paul addressed the elite philosophers in the city of Athens, he made this statement:
          Acts 17:23 For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
          1. These people did not know the identity or the name of the living God.
          2. They had never known the name or the identity of the living God.
          3. There was a knowledge void regarding anything about the living God.
          4. They had lots of knowledge, they had lots of education, they had a reputation for knowledge, but knowledge of the living God never existed.
        4. There are more people in our world that have zero knowledge of God and Christ than there are people in our world that have some knowledge of God and Christ.
        5. It may be true that there are more people in this country who have no knowledge of God and Christ than there are people who have some knowledge of God and Christ.
      2. Second, there is the ignorance of inadequate information.
        1. Simply stated, this is believing that I know when I do not know.
        2. This occurs when a person thinks he or she has all the necessary information when in truth he or she does not have enough information to reach a valid conclusion.
        3. Don’t you love this experience: a person gives you detailed information about something he or she knows very little about.
          1. You know that you are not an expert.
          2. But you have more information than the person informing you.
          3. However, the person informing you is totally confident that he or she is very well informed.
        4. Listen to the opening of John’s letter called 1 John:
          1 John 1:1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life– (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
          1. John, what a strange way to begin a letter.
          2. When John wrote that letter, a group Christians believed and taught that spirit could not be flesh, and flesh could not be spirit.
            1. Therefore, Jesus was never a fleshly man–that was impossible.
            2. He just looked physical; it just looked like he died.
            3. But Jesus really was not physical.
          3. John said Jesus was from the beginning, so he was spirit.
            1. But John also said he was among the people who saw Jesus, and heard Jesus, and touched Jesus with his own hands.
            2. Jesus was actual flesh and blood and well as being spirit.
          4. These Christians taught in the confidence that they had full knowledge and understanding; they were committed to educating all other Christians.
        5. Very likely each of us has at least one area we are like those Christians. Like them, we are very confident that we know something that we don’t know.
      3. Third, there is the ignorance of misunderstood knowledge.
        1. This person has the knowledge, but he or she does not put the knowledge together correctly.
        2. Because he or she uses incorrect concepts to put the knowledge together, his or her understandings are actually misunderstandings.
        3. Those misunderstandings create incorrect perspectives, incorrect views, and incorrect conclusions.
        4. Paul once explained why God allowed him to be a Christian with a special, God-given mission after he had been a violent man responsible for the death of Christian men and women.
          1 Timothy 1:12,13 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he considered me faithful, putting me into service; even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
          1. Before he became a Christian, Paul was one of the most knowledgeable persons in his age group in all Israel.
          2. Paul was an expert in the scriptures.
          3. He was well on the road to religious success, significance, and achievement in Israel.
          4. Now, what was it you said, Paul? After violently persecuting Christians and blaspheming God, why did God allow you to be a Christian?
          5. “I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief.”
          6. This gifted, knowledgeable man acted ignorantly.
            1. Because he did not know? No!
            2. Because he misunderstood what he knew.
            3. Because misunderstanding kept him from believing.
      4. The fourth form of ignorance is the ignorance of wrong expectations.
        1. This person has the right information, but has the wrong expectations.
        2. Before Jesus was born, Israel had the correct information about the Messiah or Christ that God had promised them.
          1. They correctly understood that he would be a direct descendant of David.
          2. They correctly understood that he would be born in Bethlehem.
          3. They correctly understood that he would be king.
          4. They correctly understood that he would restore God’s kingdom.
          5. They correctly understood the he would lead and rule in the power of God.
        3. But their expectation was that this Righteous One would be a physical king who would restore the nation of Israel physically.
        4. This expectation meant that Jesus could not possibly be the Messiah that God promised Israel.
        5. The ignorance created by wrong expectations is very common today.
      5. The fifth form of ignorance is the ignorance of specialization.
        1. We should be well acquainted with the ignorance of specialization.
          1. During my earlier years of preaching, I would say in a sermon, “The most important thing is…”
          2. I was full of zeal and fervor.
          3. I was learning so many things I had not seen or understood before.
          4. As my knowledge and understanding grew, what I learned had a powerful impact on me.
          5. Interestingly, as I frequently said, “The most important thing is…,” rarely was it the same “most important thing.”
        2. The Pharisees said that all matters concerning God centered in their interpretation of the law.
          1. If something did not agree with their interpretation of the law, it was either unimportant, invalid, or false.
          2. Their specialization caused them to fight Jesus in every way they could.
        3. The Sadducees said that all matters concerning God centered in the temple.
          1. Most of the priests were Sadducees.
          2. The temple was controlled by Sadducees.
          3. Nothing was as important to God as the temple and its sacrifices.
        4. Since Jesus did not emphasize the importance of the temple, Jesus could not be from God.
        5. This problem is much too alive among us.
          1. Some say:
            1. “The most important thing is obedience to the church’s positions.”
            2. “The most important thing is God’s grace.”
            3. “The most important thing is faith.”
            4. “The most important thing is baptism.”
            5. “The most important things are our traditions.”
          2. When we specialize our spiritual emphasis, we guarantee our ignorance.
    3. Let me summarize the problem of spiritual ignorance in this way.
      1. Ignorance of the mind distorts our reasoning.
      2. Ignorance of the heart distorts our emotions.
      3. Ignorance of the conscience distorts our guilt.
      4. When we have knowledge of God’s Word but do not understand God’s purposes, our ignorance is more than tragic; it is deadly.

    Who is ignorant? Everyone of us. Everyone of us has areas of spiritual ignorance. One of God’s ongoing objectives in each of our lives is to attack our ignorance. When you have faith in God, God will attack your ignorance. No form of ignorance serves God’s purposes.

    Who realizes his or her spiritual ignorance? Far too few of us. We must be people of conviction. But never mistake the prejudice of ignorance for the conviction of understanding.

    Our World Continues To Change

    Posted by on under Sermons

    I love you. My affection for you runs deep and is genuine. I literally cannot explain how much I appreciate you.

    God blesses my life in many ways. Some blessings are exceptional. One of my choice blessings is the opportunity to be a part of the West-Ark family of Christians.

    I also feel loved and appreciated. I cannot begin to explain to you how special it is to feel loved and appreciated. Not until the judgment day will you understand all the positive things that occur in my life through your love and appreciation.

    1. The reading that is to serve as the foundation for our thinking this morning is 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.

      1 Corinthians 9:19-23 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

      1. Paul’s world was changing fast, and nothing produced as much change as the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
        1. For almost a thousand years, God’s people worshipped at the temple by offering animal sacrifices.
          1. Animal sacrifice at tabernacle or temple worship was the heart and soul of Israel’s worship from the time God spoke to them at mount Sinai–almost 1500 years.
          2. Because of the resurrection of Jesus, the temple was no longer necessary–what a change!
        2. Synagogue study was the backbone of Israel’s spirituality for hundreds of years.
          1. Through synagogue study and prayer, Israel survived her darkest days.
          2. Because of the resurrection of Jesus, peoples who knew nothing about synagogue worship could be God’s people–what a change!
      2. Everything was changing; Israel did not like it; Jewish Christians did not like it.
        1. They were outspoken in their opposition to change.
        2. They were even violent in their opposition to change.
      3. But through revelation, Paul understood God’s purposes in the changes.
        1. In spite of strong objections, Paul taught Gentiles.
        2. In spite of strong objections, Paul worshipped in Gentile homes.
        3. Paul suffered violence because Christians and non-Christians objected to what he taught and did in the church.
      4. In spite of all the misunderstandings and objections, Paul became all things to all people to save some.
    2. You and I live in a world that is changing as fast as Paul’s world was.
      1. The world always is in the process of changing.
        1. Many of you in this assembly can remember when life was radically different.
          1. I remember:
            1. Life without an electric or natural gas cooking stove.
            2. Life without a hot water heater.
            3. Life without a telephone.
            4. Life without a television.
            5. Life when the Saturday bath was the only bath of the week.
          2. I remember:
            1. Ice boxes cooled with a block of ice.
            2. Gasoline wars and gas for 18 cents a gallon.
            3. Nickel cokes.
            4. The first Dairy Queen that opened in town.
            5. Travel before the interstate existed.
            6. When freeze dried meant the clothes froze dry on the clothes line.
      2. Changes in congregations during my lifetime are just as astounding.
        1. I remember:
          1. When it was common for the Church of Christ to be located in a little building in the less desirable section of town.
          2. When there were no education facilities.
            1. Kids from the first through sixth grade met in one back corner.
            2. Teenagers met in the other back corner.
            3. Adults met down front.
          3. When we started using education materials; kids received a picture card and adults began to use the Gospel Advocate Quarterly.
          4. When there were few full time preachers, and many of them were self educated.
      3. What dramatic, good results began when good changes occurred.
        1. The church’s future was powerfully blessed because some visionary Christian men and women had the faith and courage to promote change.
        2. Conditions in the church would be unimaginable today had it not been for those faith filled, courageous men and women.
      4. The Windsor Drive congregation, one of the congregations that merged to form this congregation, had the courage to begin a bus ministry.
        1. In the 1970s I worked for a congregation with a bus ministry.
        2. Let me tell you about bus programs.
          1. It was a brand new concept that had never been tried in the church.
          2. It was expensive, labor intensive work.
            1. To have a bus program you had to buy buses.
            2. Windsor Drive operated seven buses that transported 250 children to the assemblies.
            3. To have a bus program, a congregation must depend on a hard working group of people every single week.
              1. On Saturday mornings the canvassers looked for new riders and confirmed that current riders were coming.
              2. Drivers who drove the route every Sunday.
              3. You had to have men who serviced the buses and kept them in good repair.
              4. You had to have a few adults on the bus to keep order every time the bus ran.
              5. You needed a teacher who taught the kids as they rode.
              6. You had to have people who would sit with the kids in the assemblies.
              7. It took dedicated people to operate a bus program.
        3. I cannot speak for Windsor Drive because I was not there, so I have to speak from experience.
          1. Some people in the congregation really appreciated and encouraged the bus program, but in my congregation encouragers were the minority.
          2. Some people in the congregation did not appreciate the bus program; to them it was unwise if not actually bad.
            1. Some teachers did not like it because unchurched children disrupted the classes and the teaching schedule.
            2. Some parents did not like it because they felt it deprived their children of the level of the Bible instruction that they needed.
            3. Some adults did not like it because unchurched children could be a major distraction in worship.
            4. Others did not like it because it was expensive and did not produce quick results.
        4. What was the objective of the bus ministry?
          1. It believed that if you changed the lives of children who had never been to church, you would change their adult lives.
          2. It believed that if you worked with the kids you might reach the parents.
          3. It believed that if you planted the seed God would give that seed life.
        5. Several people who worked hard in the Windsor Drive bus ministry are a part of this congregation.
          1. Thank you!
          2. Thank you for having the courage and vision to move the church ahead.
          3. Thank you for going out into the community and touching lives.
          4. You were a part of one of the boldest, purest forms of community outreach ever conducted in the churches of Christ.
          5. You challenged the church to look at the future, and that blesses us even now.
    3. We have been encouraging you to consider our use of small groups as just one of many options to promote spiritual growth and development.
      1. The choice to be in such a group would be a purely optional.
        1. Sunday night assemblies would continue as always for those who prefer to come to the building, and I would be here teaching on Sunday nights.
        2. No one would be forced to do anything.
        3. These groups would not replace anything, and certainly not our fellowship groups.
      2. What is the objective?
        1. Objective one is to address the spiritual needs of Christians who spiritually grow better in a small group setting.
        2. Objective two is to encourage many members who do not come to the building on Sunday nights to be part of a group.
        3. Objective three is to reach out to more friends and neighbors.
      3. Why? Why create that option?
        1. A significant change already has occurred in our society : an identifiable group of people need a different learning method.
          1. Some people do not learn well through the lecturing called preaching.
          2. Let me illustrate: if I say something in a sermon that you never heard before or strongly disagree with, who is correct?
            1. If I have a lot correct information I have behind my statement, if I can document the statement from the context of the whole Bible, who is correct?
            2. About 90% of the time in your mind you are.
            3. “Well, David is just wrong about that.”
            4. Preaching is becoming an increasing poor way to teach.
            5. Too many of us listen to preaching to agree or to disagree, not to learn.
          3. I have been preaching for 45 years; I bet I see and understand that change better than many of you do.
          4. The people who learn better in small groups include most people who rarely come to a church building.
        2. What are the advantages?
          1. Small group settings allow people to form strong relationships quickly.
          2. They encourage deeper study and more time in prayer.
          3. They form friendships that lead to sharing and closeness.
          4. Many people find that setting much less intimidating than an assembly of several hundred people.
          5. It is certainly not new; it is as old as the church; Christians studied and worshipped in small groups in the New Testament.
            1. Church building assemblies did not begin before church building existed.
            2. It was about 300 years after the resurrection of Jesus that the first church buildings were built.
        3. This is not a “quick fix” to growth; when done responsibly, it takes three to five years to produce significant results.

    I find Fort Smith a great place to live and West-Ark a great congregation to be a part of. I am fifty-nine. I could say, “David, you have worked hard as a preacher all your life. You could preach good lessons that help people, encourage things to stay just as they are, and focus on enjoying life instead of working so hard. As long as you preach lessons that help people, no one would mind.”

    I cannot do that for two reasons. Reason one is very personal. It comes from my understanding of Matthew 6:1-18. If I did that, God would say to me when I died, “David, you did not care about the future of my kingdom. You just cared about yourself. You were thinking about David, not about Me. You wanted to take it easy. You got what you wanted. When you got what you wanted, you were paid in full. You have nothing coming from me.” I have not served God to hear those words.

    The second reason: I want this congregation to be healthier in ten years than it is now. Because of my age, I doubt that I will be your preacher in ten years. In ten years, the demographics of this congregation will change significantly. The only way this congregation will be healthier in ten years is to teach people effectively in the manner that they best learn. Preaching assemblies will not be enough.

    We need the vision, the courage, and the faith of those people who used the bus ministry at Windsor Drive.

    [Prayer: God open our eyes and give us faith and courage.]

    Do you want God to open your eyes and give you faith and courage?

    “Fall is coming!” Yea! “Prioritizing time!” Again?

    Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

    The unscheduled (?) time of summer school vacation is over. In May, parents and students yearned for school cycle schedules to end. In August, parents and many students yearned for those schedules to return. The truth: school year “hectic” and summer “hectic” are each truly hectic. Each is quite different. But in spite of their differences, each deserves the designation of “hectic.”

    Is it not amazing that the school year cycle has a primary influence on all our lives? That cycle affects all of us. That cycle even affects those of us whose children are grown. Does any grandparent wish to affirm that the happenings in the lives of your grandchildren has zero impact on your life?

    The cycle of the school year powerfully influences the activities of the congregation. Some things cannot be done well in the summer because of realities created by summer vacation. Other things can occur only in the summer because summer provides the necessary opportunity.

    Summer is commonly a “helter skelter, spur of the moment” period for most people. It is the time of family vacations, weekends at the lake, ball teams, spur-of-the-moment “just-for-fun” trips, and family reunions. Summer months are more flexible for many people. There are fewer scheduling conflicts.

    However, scheduling conflicts and over commitment reign supreme from September through May. Prioritizing is essential. With priorities, life is difficult. Without priorities, life is impossible.

    A critical essential: make certain that you use a mature, wise perspective before you establish priorities. Priorities established without perspective live to mock us by bringing grief and regret. The death of someone we love, our own serious illness, the consequences of poor choices, children who reject responsibility, defiant teens, the pregnancy of an unmarried daughter, the addiction of a son, the “lovers” affair of a husband or wife, divorce, or that economic reversal that totally alters life are just a few of the things that make a mockery of our priorities. These are just some of the things that transform the “essential” into the “ridiculously insignificant.”

    As the school year begins, prioritize with a godly, mature perspective. As you set each priority, consider that priority’s message to your spouse and your children. Consider that priority’s heart message to God. In your priorities, is the eternal supreme?

    To Live With God Eternally, You Must Be God’s Internally

    Posted by on September 5, 1999 under Sermons

    God rescued the Israelites from Egypt after over 300 years of slavery. For forty years, God guided them in the wilderness. Before Israel ever entered Canaan, before they ever had a land of their own, God emphasized that they must belong to Him internally. External obedience was important, but it was not enough. Obedience was valued by God only if its roots were in the heart of the person.

    1. Before Israel entered the land God promised them, He stressed that their hearts must belong to God.

      Deuteronomy 6:4,5 Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

      Deuteronomy 10:12-17 Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. Yet on your fathers did the Lord set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day. So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer. For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

      After warning Israel that times of unfaithfulness and punishment would come, this is what God told them.

      Deuteronomy 30:1-6 “So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all nations where the Lord your God has banished you, and you return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are at the ends of the earth, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you back. The Lord your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

    2. After Israel entered Canaan and was initially faithful to God, there followed generation after generation that was increasingly evil.
      1. God led them through judges, and the evil increased.
      2. God hand selected and appointed them a king, and the king became an evil man.
      3. God sent Samuel to anoint a second king from among the seven sons of Jesse.
        1. When Samuel saw Eliab, he thought to himself, “Surely this is the son that God has selected!”
        2. Listen to God’s reply to Samuel:
          1 Samuel 16:7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        3. David was selected to become king because of his heart.
        4. David revealed his heart in his failures as well as his successes. This same David after a horrible, evil failure wrote:
          Psalm 51:7-10 Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins And blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
    3. Jesus who became the Christ was a direct descendant of David.
      1. The Son of God came to be God’s king in God’s kingdom.
        1. He spoke and taught as God in the flesh.
          Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

          Matthew 15:10-20 After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, “Hear and understand. It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.” Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?” But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” Peter said to Him, “Explain the parable to us.” Jesus said, “Are you still lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.” (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

    4. This Jesus is the Christ, our Savior. But for us to permit him to be our Savior, our response must be internal as well as external.
      1. A listen to the understandings Paul gave to the Roman Christians.
        Romans 6:3-7 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

        Romans 6:16-18 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

        Romans 10:8-10 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”–that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

    What man or woman belongs to God? Our answers stress many responsibilities. “The person who has faith in God.” “The person who obeys God.” “The person who does the will of God.” “The person who serves God.”

    All those answers are incomplete. Who belongs to God? The person whose faith in God comes from the heart. The person who obeys God from the heart. The person who does the will of God from the heart. The person who serves God from the heart.

    If you and I want to live with God eternally, we must belong to God internally.

    The Hardest Request

    Posted by on under Sermons

    Teens, what is the hardest thing that your parents can ask you to do? I am not asking you collectively. I am asking each of you individually, “What is the hardest thing my parents ask me to do?”

    Singles, what is the hardest thing that a close friend can ask you to do? Again, I am not asking you collectively. I am asking you individually to state to yourself the hardest thing a close friend can ask you to do.

    Husbands, what is the hardest thing your wife can ask you to do? I want each husband to answer that question.

    Wives, what is the hardest thing your husband can ask you to do? I want each wife to answer that question.

    1. Consider a hard request that Jesus made of a man in Luke 8:26-39.
      1. Jesus traveled by boat to the east side of the Sea of Galilee, the side opposite the district of Galilee.
        1. The people who lived in this area were not Israelites.
        2. Shortly after he went ashore he met a man controlled by demons.
      2. The gospels make it quite clear that one of the major battles that Jesus fought was his battle against the demons who possessed people.
        1. The gospels also clearly distinguish between a person who was sick and a person who was demon possessed.
          1. Matthew 4:24 made a clear distinction between those demon possessed and those diseased, epileptic, and paralyzed.
          2. Luke 7:21 distinguished between those who were diseased, those who had a plague, those who were blind, and those who had an evil spirit.
        2. Demon possession could produce conditions that duplicated sickness, but people could distinguish between conditions that were and were not caused by evil spiritual powers.
        3. Paul reminded Christians at Ephesus,
          Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        4. Among the many wars that Jesus fought in his life and death was the war against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places as he confronted the demons that possessed and controlled people.
      3. The man Jesus met was literally controlled by the living force of demons.
        1. The demons used the man’s voice.
        2. They controlled his behavior.
        3. For a long time he went about naked.
          1. He lived in tombs among the bodies and skeletons of the dead.
          2. He was dangerous and uncontrollable.
          3. He was captured many times, restrained by chains, and held under guard.
          4. Each time he broke the chains, escaped, and was driven by the demons into the desert.
      4. When Jesus encountered the man, he began the process of casting the demons out.
        1. Jesus spoke directly to the demons, and the demons spoke directly to Jesus.
        2. He asked their name, and they replied that their name was Legion because they were many.
        3. They knew Jesus’ true identity, and they knew the power that Jesus commanded, so they begged Jesus not to send them to the abyss.
          1. The abyss is the place that Satan will be imprisoned at the final judgment.
          2. They were begging not to be imprisoned in that place right then.
          3. Instead, they asked Jesus to cast them into a herd of pigs nearby.
          4. Jesus gave them permission to enter the pigs.
        4. When the demons left the man and entered the pigs, the pigs stampeded down a steep bank into the sea of Galilee and drowned.
          1. The herdsmen tending the pigs witnessed everything that happened.
          2. I personally suspect that they had been keeping an eye on the demon possessed man from the moment that they saw him in the area.
          3. When the pigs stampeded into the water and drowned, the men ran into the city informing everyone along the way and in the city what had happened.
        5. People who heard came to see for themselves.
          1. Remember, this is not the age of telephones, radio, and television.
          2. It took a while for the word to spread and the crowd to gather at the sea.
          3. Can you imagine what the people heard as the word spread?
        6. The actual scene was more awesome than the reports they heard.
          1. The dead pigs were floating in the water.
          2. The man that everyone recognized as the dangerous, powerful, demon possessed man who ran around naked and lived in tombs was there.
          3. He was sitting clothed and quietly in his right mind at Jesus feet.
      5. The sight of the dead pigs floating in the water and the man sitting quietly, clothed, and in his right mind terrified the crowd.
        1. I am sure they were struck by the expense of having this stranger visit the area–the dead pigs were a major financial loss.
        2. They were unnerved at the sight of the demon possessed man acting perfectly normal.
        3. Obviously, they were in the presence of enormous power, and that power terrified them.
      6. But for the man who had been rescued from the demons, it was an entirely different matter.
        1. Listen to Luke 8:38,39:
          But the man from whom the demons had gone out was begging Him that he might accompany Him; but He sent him away, saying, “Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
          1. The man wanted to leave with Jesus and follow Jesus.
            1. Can you grasp how much that man wanted to do this?
            2. Jesus had rescued him from one of the most horrible forms of slavery imaginable.
            3. Had Jesus not approached him, he would have remained a slave to the demons.
            4. The man deeply appreciated Jesus and wanted to be with him.
            5. But not the crowd; the people feared Jesus and wanted him to leave.
          2. But Jesus would not let the man go with him; Jesus said, “Return to your house and describe the great things God has done for you.”
        2. Have you considered how difficult it was for this man to honor Jesus’ request?
          1. Go home? Do you realize what an embarrassment this man was to his family and relatives?
            1. How do you think they reacted when they saw him coming home? “Oh, no!”
            2. First, it was his demon possessed behavior; now he constantly talked about what God had done for him.
          2. And to whom would he tell these things?
            1. The people who saw him running around naked.
            2. The people who were terrorized by his behavior.
            3. The people who saw him living in tombs.
            4. The people who captured him and kept him under guard.
            5. Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful, exciting, enjoyable mission?
          3. “I am not the person I used to be. I am not the dangerous man who ran around naked and lived in tombs. Let me tell you what God did in my life.”
        3. What was Jesus’ hard request? “Show your appreciation for what God has done for you by staying here and telling people what God did.”
    2. What about the forces of evil in your life?
      1. What have you suffered because some force of evil ruled your life and controlled your behavior?
        1. “God has never done any powerful thing in my life.”
        2. You are a Christian?
          1. What did you repent of? In what way did you redirect your life? What evil did you turn away from in your commitment to belong to Christ?
          2. As an act of faith and repentance, as an act of conversion, you were baptized so that God could destroy your sins through Jesus’ blood.
            1. If you were baptized to remove past sins, what were those sins?
            2. What evil in your life did you bring to God to forgive?
      2. “Wait a minute, David. You are making me nervous with all this talk about evil in my life.”
        1. “I was baptized because that is what you are supposed to do according to the book of Acts.”
        2. “I was just becoming a member of the church; it didn’t have anything to do with all this evil stuff.”
      3. Let me ask you to consider this in another way.
        1. What would your life be like without your demons?
          1. What would your life be like if the powerful forces of evil were removed?
          2. If any segment of your life is controlled by evil, if there is any area of life in which evil determines your behavior, what would your life be like if that control ended?
        2. If that kind of power was available to your life, would you want it?
          1. If you saw that kind of power, would you be like the terrified people who asked Jesus to leave?
          2. Or would you be like the man with profound appreciation who wanted to go with Jesus?
      4. Let me make a few observations.
        1. Observation # 1: A person never knows the blessing created by being free from his or her demons until the demons are gone.
          1. Commonly, we are afraid to be free of our demons.
          2. We know what life is like with the demons; we know what to expect.
          3. We cannot imagine what life would be without them.
          4. We are afraid to be free.
        2. Observation # 2: The spiritual agents of evil exist to destroy.
          1. Satan exists to destroy; he never builds anything; he only tears down.
          2. Evil functions by destroying; Satan’s intends and designs evil to destroy.
          3. Wherever evil exists in your life, it destroys.
          4. Any control evil has in any area of our lives is destructive.

    [Prayer: Father, deliver us from the evil one.]

    Teen Christians, if you shared the great things God has done for you, what specifically would you share?

    Adult Christians, if you shared the great things God has done for you, what specifically would you share?

    It is impossible for God to free us from evil and forgive us of sin, and we have nothing to share.

    It Always Depends On God, Not On Us

    Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

    Several thousand years ago, God made the promise to childless Abraham. “In you, all families of the earth shall be blessed (Genesis 12:3). Abraham died, and God worked.

    God renewed the promise to Jacob. Jacob was a greedy thief who deceived. Jacob died, and God continued to work.

    God acted on the promise when He used Moses to free Israel from Egypt. Moses led Israel out of Egypt through the wilderness. Then he died, but God continued to work.

    The period of the judges was a time of extreme ungodliness. Israel gravely disappointed God. They were the useless enemy of His purposes. Still, God worked.

    God hand-picked Saul to be king of Israel. This humble, unassuming, merciful man became an arrogant, impetuous, insecure leader. He died, and God worked.

    God hand-picked David because his heart was God’s property. David made mistakes, but he also lifted faith and the praise of God to a new level. He died, and God worked.

    The nation of Israel divided. Both Israel and Judah became extremely corrupt and idolatrous. Still God continued to work. God sent His son. We humans killed him. Jesus died, but God continued to work powerfully. God raised him from the dead and enthroned him as Lord of lords.

    God powerfully used Peter (who denied Jesus) and Paul (who persecuted Christians). They died, and God continued to work.

    Philip, Stephen, Barnabas, Silas, Titus, Timothy, John, Peter, Mark, Mary Magdalene, Mary, Martha, the daughters of Philip, Lydia, Lois, Eunice–God used them all as He kept the promise. They all died, and God still continued to work.

    We seek to be God’s people. Because of our faith and repentance, we committed to God by being baptized into Christ. But, in the arrogance of small faith, we look at the future with grave concern. We act as if the future can destroy the promise of God. As always, we will die, and God will work. Only God’s judgment will bring His work to conclusion. Humans never cancel the promise or prevent God from continuing His work. All our arrogance aside, the fact is this: humans cannot cancel God’s promise or stop God’s work.