Our God and Our Chaos

Posted by on June 25, 2000 under Sermons

Do you know someone who truly, genuinely misunderstands you? I do not mean that this person occasionally misunderstands what you said. I do not mean that this person occasionally misunderstands your actions.

I mean this person does not understand YOU. When you speak, this person rarely understands what you said. In fact, he or she responds by saying, “What you mean is …,” but it is never what you meant. This person rarely understands your actions. They never grasp your purposes. When he or she explains what you are trying to do, you just shake your head in disbelief.

You tried to help this person understand you better. You tried to build bridges. You kindly tried to correct incorrect thoughts and ideas. But it was hopeless. The harder you tried, the more he or she misunderstood.

Because this person misunderstands you, he or she also misrepresents you. He or she is not malicious. In fact, this person always tells others what close friends you are. This person loves to talk about how well he or she knows you. He or she is convinced, “I understand you better than you understand yourself.” But the truth is that he or she does not understand you at all. And the truth is the failure to understand you creates a lot of problems for you.

Do you know such a person? Do you have such an acquaintance?

Is this the way you represent God? Do you misrepresent God because you are so certain that you understand God–when you do not know Him well.

  1. The first chapter of Genesis, which is the Bible’s first chapter, is fascinating.
    1. Genesis 1 says something fundamental about our world, us, and God.
      1. It reveals God’s involvement in and interaction with the beginning of our physical world.
      2. It reveals some basic understandings about us.
      3. And it also reveals some basics about God.

    2. “What basic understanding about God does it give us?”
      1. The Bible opens with these words (Genesis 1:1,2):
        In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.
      2. The words, “The earth was formless and void,” can be translated “the earth was waste and empty.”
        1. Before God’s presence expressed itself, there was chaos.
        2. When God’s presence expressed itself, chaos was destroyed.
      3. “So what does that tell us about God?”
        1. The presence of chaos is precisely the opposite of the presence of God.
        2. When God is present, chaos is destroyed.
        3. God replaces chaos with order.
        4. God’s order creatively brings into existence things that are “good.”
      4. God did this and continues to do this through the work of His Spirit.
        1. The business of God’s Spirit is using the presence of God to destroy chaos, to create order, and to bring good into existence.
        2. God always has used His Spirit for that purpose.
      5. Every time things move toward God’s order, the result produces good.

    3. That basic understanding is necessary if faith is to exist in any person.
      1. Do you believe that God produces order out of chaos?
      2. Do you believe that when God produces order out of chaos, good comes into existence?

  2. The fact that chaos and order are natural enemies provides us a basic insight into God.
    1. Evil is the enemy of God, and God is the enemy of evil.
      1. Evil opposes order and promotes chaos.
      2. God opposes chaos and promotes good.

    2. Consider that truth in a very practical way.
      1. God promotes order, stability, and good in human relationships.
        1. How many of you have a relationship that would be described as chaotic?
          1. I am talking about a relationship that causes struggles and problems.
          2. I am talking about a relationship that is more likely to experience bad instead of good.
          3. I am talking about a relationship that commonly causes you and the other person trouble.
        2. When this relationship moves toward God, it moves toward orderliness, stability, and good.
        3. When this relationship moves away from God, it moves toward chaos, instability, and problems.
      2. God promotes order, stability, and good in marriage relationships.
        1. How many of you would describe your marriage relationship as chaos?
          1. I mean it is very troubled and has frequent problems.
          2. I mean it causes both of you constant anxiety.
          3. I mean your interaction causes distress and frustration.
        2. When your marriage relationship moves toward God, it moves toward the orderliness of respect, the stability of love, and good produced by honor.
        3. When your marriage relationship moves away from God, it moves toward the chaos of disrespect, the instability of lovelessness, and the problems of contempt.
      3. God promotes order, stability, and good in parent-child relationships.
        1. How many of you parents would describe your relationship with your child as chaos?
          1. I mean it is commonly confrontational.
          2. I mean it is hostile because you antagonize each other.
          3. I mean your horrible attitudes, horrible words, and horrible treatment of each other end in frustration, anger, and distress.
        2. In those times that the relationship moves toward God, there is the orderliness of respect, the stability of love, and good produced by honor.
        3. In those times that your relationship moves away from God, there is the chaos of disrespect, the instability of lovelessness, and the problems of contempt.

    3. If you do nothing more than honestly examine human relationships, something becomes obvious.
      1. God’s creative force moves all human relationships to a higher level of good.
      2. Evil’s disruptive force moves all human relationships to a lower level of confusion and chaos.
      3. That is why respect, love, and kindness expressed in the proper treatment of people is a fundamental reflection of faith in God.
        1. It is not just a matter of commands and laws.
        2. It is not just a system imposed on us by divine authority.
        3. It is the intentional union of ourselves with the eternal force that opposes chaos.

  3. What God did in creation in Genesis 1, He did again through recreation in Jesus Christ.
    1. The man or woman who exists in Jesus Christ has been recreated.
      1. Listen to Paul’s statement to the Ephesian Christians (Ephesians 4:22-24):
        that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
      2. Listen to Paul’s statement to the Colossian Christians (Colossians 3:9,10):
        Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him-
      3. Listen to John’s statement about Jesus (John 1:1-5):
        In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
      4. Listen to Jesus’ statement about people and the light (John 3:19-21):
        This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”

    2. The man or woman who belongs to Christ has been recreated by God.
      1. As God’s new creation, he or she opposes the chaos in his or her life.
      2. Behavior that sustains the chaos must end.
      3. Attitudes and emotions that sustain the chaos must end.
      4. That is the purpose of baptism.
        1. The one who trusts God by turning from evil’s chaos is baptized.
        2. He or she is baptized to let God destroy the chaos by recreating him or her in Christ.
        3. Baptism is not some mysterious religious ordinance.
        4. The person baptized consciously unites himself or herself with the God who destroys chaos and recreates the person.

    3. Consider the progression.
      1. God destroyed chaos and replaced it with good.
      2. God made man and woman and placed him and her in the center of every good thing God made.
      3. Evil could not replace God’s creation with chaos, but evil could pervert God’s creation by placing chaos in the lives of people.
      4. From the moment Satan introduced the world to evil, chaos plagued the lives and relationships of people.
      5. But God sent Jesus to remove us from the control of chaos and recreate us.

[Prayer: God, help us understand that You rescue us from chaos, and help us live by trusting Your deliverance. Be the source of our strength as we reject chaos in our lives.]

All of us struggle against the forces of chaos in our lives. Do you want to see how much you trust God? Do you want a genuine measure of your faith? We show that we truly trust God when we give our specific struggles with chaos to God in the confidence that God can restore order in our lives and move us toward good.

Is that what you do with your chaos? Or do you declare, “God cannot help me with this”?

If You Could Be God For a Day …

Posted by on June 18, 2000 under Sermons

What would you do if you had the governor’s powers and options for one week? If you could do anything the law allowed a governor to do, what would you do?

What would you do if you had the powers and options of the president for one week? If you could do anything the law permits a president to do, what would you do?

If you had the right and the power to rewrite the tax laws of this nation, what would you do? What changes would you make in the tax code?

If you had the right and the power to change the Social Security system, what changes would you make? How would you make the system different?

Suppose you were given those rights and powers with a condition. The condition: you had to personally witness the impact of your choices on the lives of each man, woman, and child affected by your decisions.

  1. Suppose for just one day, 24 hours, you could function in God’s position.
    1. For just one day:
      1. You could see what God sees.
      2. You could hear what God hears.
      3. You saw and knew the hearts and the motives of every individual.
      4. You saw and knew every expression of evil in people and their actions.

    2. Suppose that just for one day you saw everything evil that occurred in the entire world.
      1. Suppose worldwide you saw every child who was abused, and you saw every child abuser.
        1. You knew what happened within each child because of the abuse.
        2. You knew exactly why the abuser committed those horrible acts and used those horrible words.
      2. Suppose for just one day worldwide you saw every spouse who was abused, and you saw the husband or wife who was the abuser.
        1. You knew what happened within the adult who was abused.
        2. You knew exactly why the abuser committed those horrible acts and used those horrible words.
      3. Suppose just for one day worldwide you saw every person who was raped.
        1. You knew what happened to the life of each rape victim.
        2. You knew exactly why each rapist committed the act.
      4. Suppose that just for one day worldwide you saw every assault, every injustice, every murder, every person in despair, and every person in grief.
        1. You saw how the life of every victim was affected.
        2. You knew the motives of every person who committed the evil.

    3. And suppose on that day that you had God’s power.
      1. What would you do?
      2. How would you use your knowledge and power?

  2. Before the Babylonian empire captured the nation of Judah and placed them in captivity, God gave Judah a special message through His prophet Isaiah.
    1. God through Isaiah made it very clear that their evil had reached a level that He could no longer ignore or forgive.
      1. They were so thoroughly evil and rebellious that they were like a person that did not have a single, healthy place on his or her body (1:4-6).
      2. Their worship so sickened God that He hid His eyes when they sacrificed and closed His ears when they prayed (1:10-15).
      3. The city of Jerusalem was like a prostitute who helped murders and thieves take advantage of widows and orphans (1:21-23).
      4. God promised that the time of reckoning would come soon, and He would punish all their evil (1:24-31).

    2. As God continued to speak to Judah through Isaiah, basically Isaiah declared two things.
      1. God documented their evil and proved they were a wicked people.
      2. God promised that vengeance and devastation would consume Jerusalem and all the people of Judah.

    3. And it happened.
      1. Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, starved Jerusalem into submission.
      2. Israelites were taken as captives to Babylon; they lost the “good life” and became slaves.
      3. The city of Jerusalem and the temple were completely destroyed.
        1. The city and its walls were reduced to rubble.
        2. The rubble served as a home for wild animals.

  3. After Judah was taken captive into Babylon, God through Isaiah invited Judah to come home to Jerusalem (Isaiah 55).
    1. Read Isaiah 55:1-13 with me.
      “Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you, According to the faithful mercies shown to David. Behold, I have made him a witness to the peoples, A leader and commander for the peoples. Behold, you will call a nation you do not know, And a nation which knows you not will run to you, Because of the Lord your God, even the Holy One of Israel; For He has glorified you.” Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the Lord, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” For you will go out with joy And be led forth with peace; The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, And all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up, And instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up, And it will be a memorial to the Lord, For an everlasting sign which will not be cut off.
    2. The chapter’s structure is fascinating.
      1. First God speaks (55:1-5).
        1. “All you exiles who realize how much you need Me, come to the waters.”
        2. “I will bring you to My blessings; it will not be you; it will be Me.”
          1. “You do not need money.”
          2. “You need to trust my grace, my goodness.”
        3. “I will be as dependable and as merciful to you as I was to David.”
        4. “If you trust Me, as David did, you will be a witness to the world to show what I can do.”
      2. Then Isaiah speaks (55:6,7).
        1. “God is calling you; come to Him while you can locate Him.”
        2. “Turn to Him, and He will have compassion on you, and pardon you.”
      3. Then God speaks (55:8-11).
        1. “Do not try to figure Me out; just trust Me enough to come to Me.”
        2. “My purposes will be accomplished; what I say will happen; depend on it!”
      4. Then Isaiah speaks (55:12,13).
        1. “Go with joy while God calls you and find peace.”
        2. “If you will trust God and return to Him, the whole creation will applaud you.”
        3. “Everything that opposed your return will now help you.”

  4. Judah could not understand God’s compassion, mercy, and grace.
    1. “You mean the God who destroyed us because we were wicked now wants us to come back to Him?”
      1. “You mean the God who knew how murderous, arrogant, idolatrous, materialistic, and evil we were would just take us back?”
      2. “You mean the God who was sick of our worship, who refused to look at our sacrifices, who refused to listen to our prayers would take us back?”

    2. And God answered, “Oh, yes, if you will repent and trust me, I will take you back.”
      1. “I will not only take you back, but I will bless you.”
      2. “I will not only take you back, but I will make you my people.”
      3. “I will not only take you back, but I will make an eternal agreement with you.”

    3. And Judah said, “But God, that is not the way we would do it–destroy us, make us slaves, and then restore us–we would not do it that way.”
      1. And God replied, “Of course you would not.”
      2. “I do not reason like you reason; I do not react like you react; I do not think like you think.”
      3. “I think and act in ways that you never think and act.”
      4. “My ways and your ways are different; my thoughts and your thoughts are different.”
      5. “Trust me, repent, and come.”

[Prayer: God, help us stop trying to figure You out. Instead, help us follow You because we trust You.]

Can you forgive, accept, and restore loving relationship with a parent who abused you? a spouse who rejected you? a boss who exploited you? A person who caused you enormous pain? Probably not. We do not do things like that.

God can. God does. He can and does because He is filled with compassion, mercy, and grace. And that is why I am glad that none of us ever are God for a day.

How Do We Measure Trust?

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

“Faith” is one of our “religious words.” Christians have a “religious vocabulary.” We took common words with ordinary meanings and made them religious words with special meanings. Consider an example. When do we have faith in our husbands or wives? in our children? in our parents? in our God? Is our concept of faith in God different from our concept of faith in a person?

The best word in current English language to accurately reflect the concept of faith is trust. When do we trust our husbands or wives? our children? our parents? That which expresses trust in key human relationships expresses trust in God.

How do we measure trust in human relationships? What do we mean when we say, “I trust you!” How can someone determine our trust exists and measure it? In that same manner, trust exists and is measured in relationship with God. God determines if it exists and to what extent it exists in the same way we determine a person trusts us.

If a person tries to reduce trust to words and good intentions, we are not impressed. Forgetfulness and empty words attack trust. Deceit and exploitation destroy trust.

We expect of God what we cannot expect of people. When we reduce trust to words or good intentions, we expect God to be impressed. When we are forgetful, deceitful, use empty words, use acts that exploit, or even say to God, “I do not trust You in this matter,” we still expect God to “understand” that we believe in Him.

How does God measure our trust? In the same way we measure another person’s trust. The truest measure of trust is not demonstrated when we are secure within ourselves. The truest measure of trust is demonstrated through our insecurities. Trusting when we know that we can “make everything okay” cannot measure our confidence in God. Trusting when we are vulnerable and afraid powerfully measures our confidence in God.

Trust is inseparably linked to the feeling of security. We prefer to trust when security is not in question. However, when our security is not in question, little or no trust is required or expressed. Great trust expresses itself in the face of great insecurity. Trust in that which is trustworthy creates peace in the face of insecurity.

We cannot demonstrate great faith in God “when we have it covered.” We demonstrate great faith in God when we trust Him while everything declares we are insecure. When God is our source of security as we confront our vulnerability, we trust God.

Finding the Wealth

Posted by on June 11, 2000 under Sermons

All of us hear our share of weird statements about our work. That is because people who never did our work do not understand our work. I do not understand the work that many of you do, and many of you do not understand the work I do. I would not swap jobs with many of you, and many of you would not swap jobs with me.

Is it not true that some people admire you because they cannot understand how you do what you do? Is it not true that some people think you “have it made”?

Both reactions are frequently expressed to me concerning my work. This week someone said in all sincerity, “I do not see how you do it. How do you do what you do week after week?” And there are people who think I “have it made.” “You just have to talk two or three times a week, and really you just work hard one day a week.”

When we were on the mission field we received letters from American friends who said, “I do not see how you live in those conditions.” At that same time, we had visits from African friends who wanted to be as prosperous as we were.

Consider a thought that most of us will acknowledge to be true. Meaningful work that produces blessings always requires sacrifice and the determined commitment.

  1. Paul never visited the Christians who lived at Colossae.
    1. He invested a major effort to teach in the city of Ephesus.
      1. Acts 19 states that Paul taught in the Jewish synagogue for three months, then left that teaching environment because some in the synagogue publicly spoke evil of his teachings (Acts 19:8,9).
      2. He then began teaching daily in the school of Tyrannus for two years (Acts 19:9,10).
        1. As a result, people throughout Asia heard the word of the Lord.
        2. People came to Ephesus from all over Asia.
        3. Some of these visitors studied with Paul and took what they learned home with them.
        4. On occasions Paul sent men to specific cities to study with the people.
        5. Paul’s work in Ephesus produced the congregation in Colossae.
      3. When this congregation heard that Paul, their spiritual mentor, was in prison, it had to discourage them.
        1. Paul also was concerned by the report he received about the focus and foundation of the Colossian Christians’ faith.
        2. So, from prison, Paul wrote them a letter, and we call this letter Colossians.

    2. Read with me Colossians 2:1-7.
      For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument. For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ. Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

  2. Paul wanted them to realize that it was not easy for him to do what he did.
    1. I do not think that Paul was making a pitch for their sympathy.
      1. In this letter Paul emphasized some sobering truths.
      2. It was extremely important for them to consider carefully the things Paul shared in this letter.
      3. It was spiritually critical for them to understand the importance of Jesus Christ.

    2. How they received what Paul said would be greatly influenced by their view of Paul.
      1. If they saw Paul’s life as a life of convenience, that would affect the way they received his message.
      2. If they understood that Paul struggled, and they were partially the cause for his struggles, they would receive his message quite differently.
      3. Paul said, “I want you to know that I greatly struggle for you.”
      4. “My struggles are not just for you, but for all the Christians in that region that have never seen me in person.”

    3. Paul wanted them to have four experiences.
      1. He wanted their hearts to be encouraged.
      2. He wanted them to be knit together in love; he wanted a powerful closeness based on love to bind them together.
      3. He wanted them to discover and possess the wealth.
      4. He wanted them to have the complete assurance that is produced by understanding.

    4. Those four things would be the result of this essential knowledge: they had to have true knowledge of God’s mystery.
      1. Last Sunday night we discussed Paul’s use of the word mystery.
      2. A mystery was something that had been hidden in the past but was now clearly revealed.
      3. The true knowledge of God’s mystery was based on knowing Jesus Christ.
      4. Let’s use a question to focus our understanding on Paul’s point: how can you understand God and what He is doing?
      5. There were different ideas at Colossae about how a person could understand God and determine what God was doing.
        1. Some thought the way to know God and understand what He did was to possess a special kind of knowledge that only a few people had.
        2. Some thought the way to know God and what He did was to approach God through mysterious sets of mediators in the other world.
        3. Some thought the way to know God and what He did was to use the self-denial of asceticism.
        4. Some thought the way to know God and what He did was to practice the correct religious rites.
      6. Paul said that there is only one way to understand God and what He does: the only way is to understand Jesus Christ.
        1. All the treasures of God’s wisdom are hidden in Jesus Christ.
        2. All the treasures of God’s knowledge are hidden in Jesus Christ.
        3. You do not need a mysterious knowledge that is not available to most people.
        4. You do not need some divine forces in the other world to be your guide.
        5. You do not need to practice self-denial in pointless ways as though it produced spiritual power.
        6. You do not need to learn a secret set of religious rites.
        7. You need to develop and grow in your knowledge of Jesus Christ.
      7. Paul said, “I am telling you this so no one else can delude you (mislead you through deception) by making you believe it takes something more than Jesus Christ to understand God’s work and purposes.”
        1. “My body may be away in prison, but I am with you in spirit.”
        2. “I want to rejoice in your good discipline: I want the joy of knowing you will continue to place your faith in Christ and not place it in something else.”
        3. “I want to rejoice because you stabilize your faith by putting it in Jesus Christ.”
      8. “Never forget what you received in Jesus Christ.”
        1. Jesus Christ died on the cross for them to destroy their sins.
        2. Jesus Christ gave them the assurance of resurrection from the dead.
        3. Jesus Christ made them spiritually alive.
        4. Jesus Christ made them God’s children.
        5. Jesus Christ placed them in God’s kingdom as citizens.
        6. Jesus Christ placed them in God’s family.
        7. Jesus Christ was their constant access to the grace and mercy of God.
      9. “When you decide how you are going to live and act on a day by day basis, remember what Jesus Christ did for you.”
        1. Be firmly rooted in Jesus Christ.
        2. Be built up in Jesus Christ.
        3. Establish your faith in Jesus Christ.
        4. This is what you were taught.
      10. When you realize all that God has done and is doing for you in Jesus Christ, overflow with gratitude.

I want you to see something very clearly. Christians at Colossae placed their faith in something other than Jesus Christ. Christians believed that the key to understanding God was something other than understanding and trusting Jesus Christ. Christians believed that the key to salvation was something other than understanding and trusting Jesus Christ.

That should frighten all of us. It should frighten us to know that people who call themselves the “Christ-like ones” can build their spiritual identity and existence on something besides Christ. It should frighten us to examine our own lives and the church and see how little is actually based on our knowledge, our understanding, and our trust of Jesus Christ.

We discover God’s eternal wealth when this happens: we have a true knowledge of God’s mystery. The true knowledge of God’s mystery is Jesus Christ.

Leading Us Into God’s Purposes

Posted by on under Sermons

In our lives there are some key relationships that assist us in becoming a complete person. These key relationships are essential to our development as a person. If these key relationships are absent, we face major obstacles in our personal development. If these key relationships oppose us, we face major problems in our personal development. If these key relationships bless us, we mature naturally into the person that we are capable of being.

Two of those key relationships are our relationships as a child with our mother and our father. There is no way to exaggerate the blessing of being loved and encouraged by both mother and father. There is no way to exaggerate the personal problems created by being ignored or rejected by either mother or father.

In our spiritual lives there are some key relationships that assist us in becoming a complete spiritual person. These key relationships are essential to our development as God’s son or daughter. If these key relationships are absent, we face major obstacles in our spiritual development. If these key relationships oppose us, we face major problems in our spiritual development. If these key relationships bless us, we mature naturally into the spiritual person we are capable of being.

There are several key spiritual relationships. One of them is being a living part of the relationship between a congregation and a kind, godly, loving elder. Any Christian who is a part of that relationship is powerfully encouraged to mature spiritually.

  1. We know that the first congregation, the church in Jerusalem, had elders.
    1. Initially the Jerusalem elders worked with the apostles in providing leadership for those who believed in and were baptized into Jesus Christ.
      1. This probably was not new to Jewish Christians because Jewish elders exercised a key leadership role in Israel from the earliest days of their history.
      2. The fact that the Jerusalem congregation had elders is well documented in the book of Acts (Acts 11:30; 15:2, 4, 22; 21:18).
      3. But we know nothing of how these men came to be recognized as elders or what their leadership responsibilities were.
        1. We know they worked with the apostles (Acts 11:30; 15:2,4,22).
        2. We know they received reports on mission efforts (Acts 21:17-20).
        3. We know they helped settle disputes among Christians (Acts 15).
        4. We know they attempted to get Jewish Christians to accept Paul as a Jewish Christian (Acts 21:17-26).
        5. But no scripture specifically states the role and function of the Jerusalem elders as leaders.

    2. We need to pause here and focus on something obvious but seldom considered.
      1. The function elders served among Christians in the first century and the function elders serve today typically do not have a lot in common.
      2. In my understanding, in the first century, Christian congregations did not:
        1. Own property.
        2. Have church buildings.
        3. Have legal recognition as a religion.
      3. Consider what that obviously meant.
        1. They did not have elders’ meetings that focused on property issues.
        2. They did not have elders’ meetings that focused on church buildings.
        3. They did not have elders’ meetings that focused on meeting legal matters.
      4. God’s purposes were centered in people in the first century.
      5. Does that mean that it is wrong for leadership to address property issues, church building issues, or legal matters?
        1. No.
        2. All of those are a part of the reality of our existence.
      6. Then what does it mean?
        1. It means if we want our elders’ time and energy to be focused on property and buildings that they are not focusing on the concerns and purposes of the early church.
        2. It means that the original work of elders focused primarily on caring for people.

    3. Paul is the first person to provide us insight into the role and focus of elders.
      1. Paul and Barnabas completed their first mission trip by going to each congregation established on that trip and appointing elders (Acts 14:23).
      2. At the conclusion of Paul’s last mission trip, Paul asked the elders from Ephesus to meet him in Miletus.
        1. When they came Paul did basically three things (Acts 20:17-35).
          1. He reminded them of the nature of his work among them.
          2. He stated that he would not have opportunity to visit with them again.
          3. He gave them a specific charge.
        2. We could spend some quality time considering the way Paul worked and understanding why he would not be back.
        3. We need to note something very important in his charge because it gives us a key insight into the work and role of elders.
      3. This is what I want you to see and consider in Paul’s charge to these men who were elders in the city of Ephesus. The verse is Acts 20:28.
      4. The context:
        1. The elders were to be on guard for themselves and the flock.
        2. The congregation at Ephesus was the flock.
        3. They occupied the work and role of elders by the appointment of the Holy Spirit.
        4. The congregation would be endangered by men who were concerned about themselves but not about the congregation–these men would behave like wolves killing sheep.
        5. Some of these destructive men would be some of them.
        6. They needed to be alert.
      5. Now look at verse 28:
        1. NAS–they were to “shepherd the church of God.”
        2. KJV–they were to “feed the church of God.”
        3. RSV–they were to “care for the church of God.”
        4. TEV–they were to “be shepherds of the church of God.”
        5. NIV–they were to “be shepherds of the church of God.”
        6. JB–they were to “feed the church of God.”
        7. NEB–they were to be “as shepherds of the church of the Lord.”
      6. The imagery of the whole charge is that of a shepherd.
        1. Christians were the “flock” or the sheep.
        2. They were to provide oversight, which is what a shepherd did.
        3. They were to see that the flock was fed, which is what a shepherd did.
        4. They were to be alert and vigilant, which is what a shepherd did.
      7. In the first statement that gave a charge to elders, it is obvious that elders provided leadership and care for believers.

  2. Very soon you will be selecting men to lead us as our elders.
    1. A couple of years ago we did a series of lessons on elders.
      1. We saw that in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 that those qualifications were not intended to be a check list.
      2. They were descriptions of men who were capable of being spiritual guides in the city of Ephesus and the city of Crete.
      3. We will quickly make those lessons available to anyone who wishes to study them.

    2. But please keep this in mind as we prayerfully approach our decision.
      1. We want spiritual men with godly hearts who care about people.
      2. We want men that you respect and trust as God’s men committed to God’s word and God’s purposes.
      3. We want men that you would approach with your personal struggles in the confidence that you would be understood, encouraged, and helped.

    3. What do we want these men to do? We want them to lead us to greater spirituality. How?
      1. We want them to help us be living sacrifices as we place our lives on God’s altar (Romans 12:1).
      2. We want them to help us fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1 says the law of Christ is to bear one another’s burdens.
      3. We want them to help us fulfill the royal law of loving our neighbors as ourselves (James 2:8).
      4. We want them to help us make Christ Lord of our hearts and to be able to explain to people why we let him be Lord (1 Peter 3:15).
      5. We want them to help us be God’s living temple that allows God’s Spirit to live in us (1 Corinthians 3:16).
      6. We want them to help us be a kind, tenderhearted, forgiving people who act like Jesus acted (Ephesians 4:32).
      7. We want them to help us rescue the struggling, restore the fallen, and help anyone find strength and hope in Jesus.

  3. Follow me very carefully, because this is all related.
    1. Many times Jesus stressed the fact that God increases His gifts to those who use His gifts to serve His purposes.
      1. This is the principle: God increases opportunity for those people who use what He gives them for His glory and purposes.
      2. Listen:
        1. Matthew 25:29 For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.
        2. Matthew 13:12 For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.
        3. Mark 4:25 For whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.
        4. Luke 8:18 So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.

    2. If we want God to send us more people to help, we need to diligently serve and help the people God has sent us.
      1. Jesus helped every kind of struggling person that God wants us to help in the grace, the forgiveness, and the hope of Jesus Christ.
      2. Jesus helped every kind of person from the demon possessed to the public sinner, from the adulterer to the divorced, from the spiritually misguided to the ignorant.
        1. God will draw to us those who struggle with evil when we will help them.
        2. God will draw to us those who struggle with sexual sin when we will help them.
        3. God will draw to us those who struggle because of failed marriages and homes when we will help them.
        4. God will draw to us those who struggle spiritually when we will help them.
        5. God will draw to us those who struggle in ignorance when we will help them.
      3. Just like Peter was directed to Cornelius in Acts 10, just like Paul was directed to the struggling, Jesus will direct people to us when we can and will help them find deliverance from their struggles in Jesus Christ.
        1. “David, do you really believe that?”
        2. With all my heart.
        3. “Why?” Because I have spent my entire life watching God do that.

    3. We must add men to our eldership who believe that God will give us opportunities when we will use them for His glory.
      1. We need men to lead us as we learn how to help more people.
      2. We need men to guide us so that God says of us, “Let me send him there; they will help him. Let me send her there; they will help her.”

[Prayer: help us be the kind of congregation to which You entrust more people.]

Two requests: help us find that kind of man to join our elders. Help us increasingly become that kind of congregation.

When Importance Cannot Be Exaggerated

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Exaggeration can be impossible. Consider a simple illustration: the choice of a college or university for your child. “The importance of that decision is obvious! It determines your child’s career preparation.” As important as career preparation is, the importance of that decision goes far beyond occupation and income.

Commonly, that decision determines who becomes your child’s spouse. That marriage determines the quality of your child’s life for over fifty years. It determines the quality of his or her adult spiritual life. It determines who your grandchildren are. It is the primary decision that affects what happens in your family the next generation. That decision determines far more than job opportunities and earning potential.

In the immediate future our elders will initiate a process for selecting additional elders. This process will differ from our last process. The decision will be yours. The elders want you to participate. They want your interest and your active involvement.

The importance of this decision cannot be exaggerated. Men who serve as elders serve for several years. More than anyone else, elders’ ideas, concerns, and interests determine the direction and involvement of a congregation.

The single greatest physical asset a congregation can have is an eldership filled with godly men who combine spiritual minds with loving, kind hearts. The greatest single physical obstacle a congregation can have is an eldership filled with men who are obsessed with control and addicted to power. The Bible acknowledges God looks at hearts. As we select men to be shepherds, God must show us how to look at hearts.

As our elders begin this process, let nothing distract your prayers, thinking, and actions from God’s purposes. We want men who will help us come closer to God. We want men who will help us be spiritual people. We want men who will focus us on God’s purposes. We want men who will encourage us to allow God to rule this congregation through the lordship of Jesus Christ. We want men who will help us be a compassionate, forgiving congregation that draws its life from God’s mercy and grace.

Pray. Be informed. Focus on God’s purposes. Be an example of love and kindness.

God’s Mystery and My Salvation

Posted by on June 4, 2000 under Sermons

What is the most profound, life altering experience that has happened in your life?

For some people the experience blinds them or at least restricts their vision. It makes them cynical, distrustful, angry, suspicious, and resentful. They become people who transform blessings and opportune circumstances into curses. They delight in destroying the hope of other people.

For some people the experience opens their eyes and increases their vision. It has a positive impact on the way they understand other people, the way they see themselves, the way they view the world, and the way they relate to God. They transform hardship and pain into blessings. They delight in giving other people hope.

The person whose life altering experience opens his or her eyes to hope and possibilities is blessed. The people whose lives are touched by such a person are blessed.

  1. Paul had a life altering experience on the road that led to Damascus, Syria.
    1. That experience is discussed three times in Acts: chapters 9, 22, and 26.
      1. The accounts are brutally honest about the kind of man Paul was prior to his life altering experience.
        1. He obtained permission from the Jewish high priest in Jerusalem, Palestine, to visit the Jewish synagogue in Damascus, Syria, and arrest any Jew who professed to be a Christian (Acts 9:1,2).
        2. He persecuted Jewish Christians by imprisoning men and women and voting for their deaths (Acts 22:4; 26:10).
        3. He was hostile toward the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 26:9).
        4. When he visited synagogues, he used physical pain to attempt to make Jewish Christians blaspheme (Acts 26:11).
        5. He said, “I was furiously enraged at them” (Acts 26:11).
        6. All of this was done as expressions of religious zeal and faith in God.
      2. Of himself, Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 1:13 that formerly he was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent aggressor.

    2. Then a sudden experience literally changed everything.
      1. With blinding brilliance, a bright light put him on the ground.
      2. Jesus asked Paul why Paul was persecuting him.
      3. Jesus sent him on into Damascus to learn what he must do.
      4. Jesus also commissioned him as a servant and a witness to open the understanding of Jewish people and of people who knew nothing about God.
      5. Instantly Paul’s entire life totally changed.
        1. The man Paul said was an impostor was in fact God’s Son.
        2. The man Paul said was Israel’s greatest enemy was in fact Israel’s Savior.
        3. The man Paul said was not raised from the dead was in fact resurrected.
        4. The man Paul said was a liar was in fact God’s greatest spokesman.

    3. I am certain some of us are tempted to say, “I wish I had a defining experience in my life like that.”
      1. Are you sure?
      2. Instantly, Paul knew everything he believed was wrong.
      3. Instantly, Paul knew everything he did to express his faith was wrong.
      4. Instantly Paul knew everything he assigned to God’s purposes was wrong.
      5. Instantly, Paul knew that 100% of his religious understanding was wrong.
      6. Instantly, Paul’s relationships changed: his past friends would be his enemies, and if he had friends, they would come from the people he persecuted.
      7. Instantly, Paul knew, if God let him live, everything about his life had to change immediately.
      8. Do you think you could handle that?

  2. With that understanding as a background, read with me Colossians 1:24-29.
    Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.
    (In this reading I want to focus your thinking and understanding on three things.)
    1. The Damascus road experience completely changed the way that Paul looked at pain and suffering.
      1. Before that experience, he inflicted the pain and caused the suffering: “My faith should produce suffering in the lives of people who believe in Jesus.”
        1. He dragged men and women out of their homes in Jerusalem.
        2. He visited synagogues to abuse men and women who believed in Jesus.
        3. He put men and women in prison for believing in Jesus.
        4. He voted for their deaths.
      2. After the Damascus road experience he was a physical threat to no one.
        1. After that experience he endured pain for Jesus and Christians.
        2. After that experience he wanted to endure pain and suffering for Jesus Christ and for Christians.
      3. After that experience, Paul was happy to suffer for Jesus and for Christians.
        1. “Paul, what is wrong with you? You consider physical pain and suffering caused by faith in Jesus Christ as blessing and opportunity?”
        2. That is precisely what he told the Christians at Colossae.
        3. He said that he rejoiced to suffer for them and for Christ.
        4. “Paul, you must be crazy!” No, he was not crazy.
      4. He rejoiced in suffering for Christians or for Christ for three reasons.
        1. First, he understood and appreciated what Jesus’ willingness to suffer did for him.
        2. Second, his suffering for the Colossian Christians increased their opportunity for spiritual growth and maturity.
          1. If he was to be a missionary in that region, he had to suffer.
          2. If he did not suffer, the gospel would not be shared in that region.
        3. Third, Jesus wanted the Colossians to hear what Jesus did for them, and Jesus’ message could not be shared without suffering.
      5. For Paul, the issue was not centered in physical pain; the issue was centered in God’s purposes in Jesus Christ.
        1. If serving God’s purposes produced suffering, so be it.
        2. If serving God’s purposes produced pain, Paul rejoiced that he could suffer the pain.

    2. The Damascus road experience opened Paul’s mind to the mystery of God.
      1. First, we need to understand the concept of “mystery” as Paul used it.
        1. A mystery was not understood in the past, but now is clearly revealed.
        2. In the past, neither Israel, the prophets, nor the angels understood the purposes of God’s work.
        3. They understood God was at work, they had faith in the fact that God was at work, but no one understood God’s purposes.
      2. That is not based on my speculation.
        1. In verse 26 Paul plainly said, “the mystery … has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but now has been manifested to his saints.”
        2. Listen to Peter’s words in 1 Peter 1:10-12: As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven–things into which angels long to look.
        3. Before the Acts 2 day of Pentecost, no one understood God’s purposes–His purposes were a mystery.
          1. Israel did not understand.
          2. The prophets did not understand.
          3. The apostles did not understand.
          4. No one understood at Jesus’ crucifixion.
          5. No one understood at Jesus’ resurrection.
          6. No one understood the first 49 days after the resurrection.
          7. It was not fully understood before Acts 10 when people who were not Jews or converts to Judaism were converted to Jesus Christ.
          8. The truth is that we do not fully understand today because we have not fully opened our minds and hearts to the revelation of the mystery.
          9. Too many times we focus the mystery in the church.
          10. We understand the mystery when we understand what God did and is doing in Jesus Christ.
        4. The basic understanding that the Colossian Christians needed was an understanding of God’s purposes and work in Jesus Christ.
        5. The basic understanding that we need is a biblical understanding of God’s purposes and work in Jesus Christ.

    3. The Damascus road experience opened Paul’s mind to this truth: our hope of heaven depends on Christ living in us.
      1. The key to eternal salvation:
        1. For first century Israel was “Christ in you.”
        2. For first century people who worshipped other gods was “Christ in you.”
        3. For first century people who believed in no god was “Christ in you.”
        4. For any person in any age is “Christ in you.”
        5. For us is “Christ in you.”
      2. We desperately need to restore Jesus Christ to his God-given place.
      3. Let me illustrate our desperate need.
        1. Too many Christians believe that they are saved because they can say they had membership in the right church.
        2. God will ask, “Did Christ live in you?”
        3. Too many Christians believe that they are saved because they attend where the right acts of worship occur on Sunday morning.
        4. God will ask, “Did Christ live in you?”
        5. Too many Christians believe that they are saved because they did church approved works.
        6. God will ask, “Did Christ live in you?”
      4. Too many place their hope of salvation in the wrong things.
      5. There is only one hope of salvation: Christ in you.

When your eyes are opened to God’s purposes in Jesus Christ, it is a life altering experience. When you see God’s purposes in Jesus Christ, you will never be the same. Who you are changes. How you think changes. What you value changes. How you behave changes. The kind of husband or wife, father or mother, son or daughter you are changes. The way you use life changes.

Why? You understand what Paul understood on the Damascus road. You understand God’s purposes in Jesus.

The Foundation of Solutions

Posted by on under Sermons

It happened again. Just over a week ago a thirteen-year-old seventh grader allegedly shot a teacher in Lake Worth, Florida. This seventh grader was an honor student with a perfect attendance record who had never been in trouble. The teacher killed was his friend. The teacher was a very popular teacher in the school. He is survived by his wife and two small children, one an infant.

This morning I do not want to focus on school violence, or guns, or basic problems in our society. I am not so foolish as to suggest that there are simple solutions for such problems. Simple solutions do not exist.

People commonly declare that such problems have a simple solution. Today’s American society typically focuses the primary concern on (1) controlling events and (2) preventing consequences. A popular conclusion seems to be, “If we just prevent the events, we solve the problem.”

It is very easy for Christians as individuals and as the church to accept that reasoning. It is even convenient to believe that we can solve problems and prevent consequences by controlling events.

We desperately need an awareness of a basic, more important reality.

  1. Early in Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome, he declared that ungodly people needed a way to be saved that is based on faith (1:18-32).
    1. In the context of his day and age:
      1. These people worshipped created objects instead of the God who created.
      2. Their actions were determined by their physical desires.
      3. They were obsessed with sexual indulgence.
      4. And this was the impact on their lives:
        1. Their existence was guided by depraved thinking.
        2. Their depraved thinking expressed itself in greed, murder, deceit, hate, slander, arrogance, and their disobedience to parents.
        3. Such thinking affected them by making them people without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful.

    2. When Paul wrote the letter we call Ephesians, he reminded those Christians they were that kind of people prior to coming to Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:1-3).
    3. What was “wrong” with people like this?
      1. They would say quickly nothing was wrong with them.
      2. They would say something was wrong with people who were not like them.
      3. The question: why did those people live as they did?
        1. Why were they capable of such awful behavior?
        2. Why did they place a high value on things and no value on people?
        3. Why were they ruled by the moment’s desire with total disregard for the future?
        4. The basic reason: they were a people without values.

  2. Many people, both religious and nonreligious, ask, “What is happening in our society?”
    1. We are rapidly becoming a people without values.
      1. When we become a people who are self-centered and selfish,
      2. When possessing things is more important than kindness to people,
      3. When our standard of living is more important than our relationships,
      4. When our personal pleasure is more important than our personal commitments,
      5. When “I” am “my” most important consideration in everything,
      6. We are a people without values.

    2. Only people with values treat everyone with respect, mercy, and compassion.
      1. The New Testament has many examples, but allow me to share just one.
        1. The one I share reflects a common theme in the New Testament letters written to congregations, groups, or individuals.
        2. Some form of this illustration exists in many of those letters.
      2. I call your attention to Ephesians 4:25-32.
        1. Do not lie to anyone.
        2. When your angry is stirred, let it pass quickly.
        3. Stop stealing, go to work, and help people who are in need.
        4. Use your words to encourage people; never use your words to hurt people.
        5. Let God’s Spirit live in you without opposition; do not grieve God’s Spirit.
        6. Replace your negative, hateful emotions with kindness and forgiveness.
        7. Allow God to be the foundation of your values.

    3. Statements like these give us a valuable insight into the primary objectives of Christian behavior in the first century.
      1. The objective for people with values in first century (Jewish people, or converts to Judaism, or the people who were not converts but who attended the assemblies of the Jewish synagogue): allow Jesus Christ’s teachings to provide you a higher value system than exists in Jewish law.
      2. The objective for people who had values based in a system of idolatry: allow Jesus Christ’s teachings to provide you a superior value system.
      3. The objective for people who belonged to a system of philosophy that was not based on the living God: allow Jesus Christ’s teachings to provide you a system that is based on eternal principles.
      4. The objective for people who had no values: allow Jesus Christ’s teachings to create the values which will give your life a foundation.

    4. Positive changes occurred in the world when values changed.
      1. When conduct is based on godly values, the person’s behavior changes.
      2. When people’s behavior changes, societies change.
      3. When social orders within a nation change, the nation changes.
      4. But it begins with godly values becoming personal values.

  3. It is not difficult to see that changing values changes the direction of society and the nation.
    1. For forty years the American nation has been changing its values.
      1. Those of us who were adults throughout this time period witnessed it.
        1. We remember when the value system said unmarried people must not be sexually active.
        2. We remember when the value system said married people were not sexually active outside of their marriages.
        3. We remember when the value system said that you honored your commitments.
        4. We remember when the value system said accept responsibility for your actions.
        5. We remember when the value system said keep your word and be honest in business.
        6. We remember when the value system said that people always were more important than things.
      2. We remember when the value system was based on God and Jesus Christ’s teachings.

    2. Was that a perfect world? No.
      1. Did murders and crimes happen? Yes.
      2. Did some people do ungodly things? Yes.
      3. Most of today’s problems existed in some form then.
      4. Then what is the difference?
        1. When problems occurred those people were out of step with society.
        2. When problems occurred it was commonly understood that it was an issue of values.

  4. We Christians as the church share a significant part of the blame for today’s conditions.
    1. We failed to trust the values enough to live by them and share them; that caused others to reject those values.
      1. Too often we did not inspire respect and appreciation.
      2. Too often we created and emphasized values that Jesus did not teach.
      3. Too often we used our values to judge people, not to direct our lives.

    2. May I make two observations:
      1. Observation one: if Christians do not trust God’s values enough to live by them, we condemn our children and grandchildren to a life in a nation that is depraved beyond imagination.
      2. Observation two: if our children do not see those values functioning in our daily lives, our children may never see those values function.

Each time you read about or see the report of some horrible thing done by people, ask yourself two simple questions: what were the values? What was the foundation of those values?

As a whole, the American society has been moving away from godly values for forty years. We are not going to “fix” anything in a short time with a simple decision. We desperately need to restore godly values. The issue is not when will society begin that restoration. The question is when will you begin that restoration?

Advancing Closeness

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

The spirit, attitude, and closeness within this congregation are encouraging. We want to grow and mature as we increase our effectiveness in meeting needs. Special needs always will create unique challenges. Our goal is to be special instruments in God’s hands. We seek mature love for God and each other, not impersonal procedures.

We are growing in our ability to love and care. This is a time of complex transition in our society. We are beginning to understand something God knows. People are extremely different. But God wants to save all of them. And Jesus wants to forgive all of them. And God wants all of them in His kingdom as a part of His family.

We are establishing new avenues to advance and strengthen closeness in this spiritual family. One important avenue is our monthly meal fellowship.

In each four Sunday month: the meal fellowship will occur the fourth Sunday evening. That evening our assembly will focus on singing, praying, and reading the Bible. Following that assembly, we will meet to eat and visit in the Family Life Center.

Last Sunday evening’s worship and fellowship meal were wonderful! Some of the small groups chose to come to the Family Life Center following their group meeting to attend the meal fellowship. The association was great! This informal setting provides new members and visitors an excellent opportunity to establish relationships. All of us have opportunity to strengthen our relationships. We encourage everyone to make it your goal to meet and spend time with people you have not met or do not yet know.

In each five Sunday month: the meal fellowship will occur the fifth Sunday evening. That night we will share a “Celebration Evening.” It will begin with a meal that we share before worship. That evening, worship will be devoted to praise. Everyone, including all the groups, will meet at the building for the meal and worship. Immediately after a praise assembly, we will have our “family meeting.” The “family meeting” will continue to have the same two basic objectives. The first is to allow the congregation to provide the elders input. The second is to allow the elders to provide information to the congregation. Questions and viewpoints, as always, are welcomed.

The objectives of “Celebration Evening” are simple: to praise God, to build closeness, and to stay informed. When a member of West-Ark attends a “Celebration Evening,” he or she will know, “I was part of something important in the life of this congregation!”