David and Anger

Posted by on December 24, 2000 under Sermons

part five

One great enemy of the godly man and the godly woman is anger. It is not evil to be angry. It is evil to allow your anger to control your motivations, decisions, and actions. Paul declared to the Ephesian Christians, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity” (Ephesians 4:25,27).

We can be angry and not sin. However, human anger presents Satan an enormous opportunity. Remember the enormous opportunity that Cain’s anger provided evil (Genesis 4).

It takes a heart truly dedicated to God’s heart to prevent great anger from providing Satan great opportunity.

  1. I want to focus you on one of David’s heart qualities that made his heart special to God. Consider 1 Samuel 25.
    1. May I begin with a simple observation: violence hardens the hearts and minds of people.
      1. In war people cope with so much dying by “getting used to death.”
      2. In continual work with tragedies, people cope by “getting use to suffering.”
      3. People who live or work around lots of blood “get used” to seeing blood.
      4. People who work around a lot of pain get accustomed to seeing others in pain.
      5. The process is called desensitizing.
      6. Violence desensitizes people to death, suffering, blood, and pain.
      7. From the death of Goliath, David was around and involved in a lot of violence.
      8. As violence desensitizes a person, violence becomes the acceptable way to solve problems.
      9. Anger tempts that person to be violent.

    2. David and his troops were hiding from the forces of King Saul in the wilderness area south of the city of Hebron.
      1. Evidently, they had a “safe” base camp in that area that they used frequently (the area is about seven miles south-southwest of Hebron).
      2. As David and his men traveled to and from their camp in this wilderness area, they never posed a threat to Nabal’s shepherds or flocks.
        1. That was unusual: it was common for bands of thieves and marauders to find security in wilderness areas.
        2. These bands were threats to shepherds and flocks (who were considered “fair game” of opportunity to violent bands).
      3. David and his men treated Nabal’s shepherds with respect, never took anything from their flocks, and protected Nabal’s shepherds and flocks from dangerous people–quite a contrast to what was commonly the situation.

    3. The time of year came for sheep shearing.
      1. This was a time of celebration and feasting.
        1. Special workers were brought to the flocks to shear them.
        2. There was a lot of food, drink, and feasting because people celebrated their new prosperity.
        3. It was common to thank God for the gift of prosperity.
        4. It was common to give gifts to the less fortunate as an expression of your joy and your gratitude to God.

  2. David sent ten young men to bring a statement of blessing to Nabal and to ask for a gift.
    1. Because of the time of year that we now celebrate, we should relate well to David’s expectations.
      1. The greeting was something like wishing Nabal a long life and best wishes for the coming year; may it be a good one.
      2. Nabal was a wealthy man.
        1. He likely had experience with dealing with bands of thieves and marauders who threatened or attacked his shepherds and flocks.
        2. Maybe he knew what the forces of Saul did to the priests at Nob when they were massacred and did not want to get in the middle of that feud.
      3. Whatever he knew, whatever his motives, he was a greedy, evil man who had no respect or appreciation for anyone but himself.
        1. Stupidly, foolishly, he insulted David’s men by rejecting their greeting and showing them no respect.
        2. “Why should I do anything for you? I should be impressed that you follow a runaway slave? Why should I reward the likes of you?”
      4. David’s men returned to camp and told David about Nabal’s insult.
        1. David told four hundred of his men to put on their swords.
        2. The insult deeply angered David.
        3. In anger, he decided it had been a mistake to be kind to Nabal’s shepherds and take nothing from his flocks.
        4. His intention was simple: kill everyone.

    2. Abigail, Nabal’s wife, was a very unusual woman for that time: she was a lady of excellent understanding, and she was beautiful.
      1. Her heart was incredibly open and approachable.
        1. A servant felt free to report to her the horrible thing her husband did and explain why it was unjust.
        2. She listened to a servant criticize her husband.
        3. Both Abigail and the servant clearly understood the danger created by Nabal’s insult.
      2. Likely her job in shearing time was coordinating food preparation for the workers.
        1. She quickly gathered a huge gift of food–enough to load several donkeys–and sent the food and a servant in the direction that would encounter David and his men as they came to attack.
        2. The food preceded her; David would see the gift before he saw her.
        3. She hoped the gift would soften David’s anger.
      3. Abigail met David with great respect and used great wisdom.
        1. She asked David to hold her responsible for what happened because she failed to see his men come.
        2. She asked David to allow her gift to appease his anger and not to attack Nabal.
        3. “My husband is a foolish, stupid man.”
        4. “You are too significant and he is too worthless for you to kill him.”
        5. “You are not the kind of man who takes vengeance for yourself. You let the Lord care for such matters. You fight to defend the Lord, never to defend yourself.”
        6. “The Lord protects you, and the Lord will make you the next king of Israel.”
        7. “Avenging yourself will only cause you trouble and grief. You are not that kind of man.”

    3. David saw God at work in Abigail and was thankful.
      1. He blessed God for sending Abigail to stop him.
      2. He blessed Abigail for being a wise, insightful person.
      3. He was thankful that he was stopped before he avenged himself, something that he had never done.
      4. He told Abigail to return home in peace; he had heard her plea and would respect her request.

  3. Abigail returned home to find Nabal feasting, celebrating, and drunk, and she did not talk to him about anything.
    1. The next morning when he was sober she told him what she did.
    2. Her actions seemed to cause him to have a stroke.
      1. Ten days later he died.
      2. It says simply that the Lord struck him and he died.

    3. Some time after Nabal’s death, Abigail agreed to be David’s wife.

  4. In this incident I want you to note a quality of David’s heart that made him a man after God’s own heart.
    1. David was a violent man, a man of war, a man who was responsible for a lot of people’s deaths.
      1. David never killed to avenge himself.
      2. David only killed to avenge God’s honor.
        1. He killed Goliath because Goliath defied and mocked God.
        2. He killed the Philistines because the Philistines defied God and worshipped an idol they called god.
        3. David refused to harm Saul (even in self-defense) because Saul was God’s anointed.
      3. Defending God, fighting for the Lord, was the focus of all David’s acts of violence.

    2. Yet, personal anger generated by the insult of an evil man almost caused David to avenge himself, to kill for the sake of his own honor.
      1. Anger almost caused David to do something he would never do when he thought clearly.
      2. David did nothing to avenge David.
      3. David did everything to honor his God.

    3. When David realized what he almost did to avenge himself, he knew that act was not true to who and what he was.
      1. He was close to behaving like an angry person who did not belong to God.
        1. Angry
        2. Driven by negative emotion
        3. Self-centered
        4. Being his own avenger, his own instrument of justice.
      2. He blessed God for sending Abigail to stop him.
        1. He clearly saw God working through Abigail.
        2. He praised her wisdom and understanding.

Never let anger decide who you are. Never let anger determine what you do. Serve God, and always leave justice in God’s hands. Only the man or woman whose heart belongs to God can do that.

Romans 12:17-19 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

Paul acknowledged an ancient truth for people whose hearts belong to God.

Where Is the Awe?

Posted by on under Sermons

We live in a cynical nation during cynical times surrounded by cynical people. No, I am not trying to be Ebenezer Scrooge saying, “Bah humbug,” on Christmas Eve Day. I just ask you to look at our circumstances and situation.

Consider a list of ten commonly accepted views many Americans do not question. Please do not agree or disagree. Instead, ask a question: “Do the majority of people I know think this the way?”

  1. Our systems of education are a destructive force in our children’s lives.
  2. Teens are supposed to distrust their parents.
  3. Parents are supposed to have trouble with their teens.
  4. People married to each other are supposed to fight with each other.
  5. People should not expect marriages to last.
  6. Needy people learn how to be con artists.
  7. Unprincipled people make good politicians.
  8. Businesses care about money, not about people.
  9. Positive role models are a thing of the past.
  10. Beware of strangers who want to something good for you.

Are those common views cynical?

  1. Today you and I live in a society that holds little in awe.
    1. We have just concluded a long, long political campaign which is an excellent illustration.
      1. “It is fair to misrepresent your opponent in any way you can as long as what you say is technically true.”
        1. “It is okay not to tell the whole truth.”
        2. “It is okay if the political ad is deliberately biased and oversimplilfied.”
        3. “It is okay if the political ad deceives.”
        4. “The uniformed may hear a lie; the uninformed may believe a lie; the uniformed may be deceived; but it is okay as long as what is said is technically correct.”
      2. One evening I heard a political analyst seriously suggest that the late night comedians seemed to be in better touch with people’s reactions than political analysts.
        1. That is an incredible statement.
        2. The satire, critical statements, and cynical suggestions of David Letterman and Jay Leno more correctly reflect the thinking of the American public than do the insights of a serious political analyst.
      3. We are supposed to accept as fact that nothing is sacred in our society.
        1. Nothing is above ridicule.
        2. Little if anything is trusted.
        3. Everything done is for some self-serving reason.

    2. Many would react by asking, “What is wrong with that? That is a good situation, not a bad situation.”
      1. “That protects people from being disillusioned.”
      2. “It protects those who are gullible.”
      3. “It helps shock proof our society.”
      4. “People learn to expect the worst (that is good!), to not trust others (that is good!), to understand everybody functions on bad motives (that is good!).”

  2. For all their faults, flaws, and failures, Old Testament Israel at times did hold God in awe.
    1. Deuteronomy 16:16 states:
      Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed.
      1. All of the adult men of Old Testament Israel were commanded to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for national sacrificial worship threes times each year.
        1. At the time of Passover when they remembered the night they were released from Egyptian slavery.
        2. At the time when the first gatherings of the harvest were sacrificed to God.
        3. At the time when the harvest was completed
      2. Families could accompany them if the men so chose.

    2. In the book of Psalms there is a collection of psalms (Psalm 120 to Psalm 134) that are known as the songs of ascents.
      1. These seem to be the songs sung by the Israelite pilgrims as they were going up Mt. Zion on special occasions.
      2. Listen to some of the verses in their songs as they gathered to praise and honor God.
      3. Listen to the awe.
          Psalm 120:1,2

            In my trouble I cried to the Lord,
            And He answered me.
            Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips,
            from a deceitful tongue.

          Psalm 121:1,2

            I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
            From whence shall my help come?
            My help comes from the Lord,
            Who made heaven and earth.

          Psalm 122:1,2

            I was glad when they said to me,
            “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

          Psalm 123:1,2

            To You I lift up my eyes,
            O You who are enthroned in the heavens!
            Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,
            As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
            So our eyes look to the Lord our God,
            Until He is gracious to us.

          Psalm 124:1-3

            “Had it not been the Lord who was on our side,”
            Let Israel now say,
            “Had it not been the Lord who was on our side
            When men rose up against us,
            Then they would have swallowed us alive,
            When their anger was kindled against us.

          Psalm 125:1

            Those who trust in the Lord
            Are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever.

          Psalm 127:1

            Unless the Lord builds the house,
            They labor in vain who build it;
            Unless the Lord guards the city,
            The watchman keeps awake in vain.

          Psalm 128:1

            How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,
            Who walks in His ways.

          Psalm 130:1-4

            Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord.
            Lord, hear my voice!
            Let Your ears be attentive
            To the voice of my supplications.
            If You, Lord, should mark iniquities,
            O Lord, who could stand?
            But there is forgiveness with You,
            That You may be feared.

          Psalm 131:1-3

            O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
            Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
            Or in things too difficult for me.
            Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
            Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
            My soul is like a weaned child within me.
            O Israel, hope in the Lord
            From this time forth and forever.

          Psalm 133:1

            Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
            For brothers to dwell together in unity!

          Psalm 134:1-3

            Behold, bless the Lord, all servants of the Lord,
            Who serve by night in the house of the Lord!
            Lift up your hands to the sanctuary
            And bless the Lord.
            May the Lord bless you from Zion,
            He who made heaven and earth.

  3. At this time of the year many people talk about the awesome thing God did when He sent His son to live in this world.
    1. It is easy to talk about the awe while we are concerned about things that have nothing to do with the awe.
      1. The month of December is an important month in our economy.
        1. In the retail business, it is the most important month of the year.
        2. What stores sell in December often determines if a business survives.
        3. But those concerns are not about the awe.
      2. Probably more family reunions occur in December than any other month of the year.
        1. For some people it is a frantic time.
        2. For some people it is a time of deep depression.
        3. For some people it is a time to renew love and relationship.
        4. But those matters are seldom about the awe.

    2. Let me ask you about the awe.
      1. What do you consider to be the most awesome thing God did when He permitted His son to be born into this world?
        1. The separation when Jesus left heaven and became a human infant?
        2. The fact that God would let a part of Himself become human?
        3. The sending of a Savior to a world that did not deserve a Savior?
        4. The mercy and forgiveness that Jesus made possible?
      2. All of those are awesome, but to me something is more awesome.
      3. The most awesome thing to me is what God made possible in all human life.
        1. In many places this morning men and women are worshipping God through Christ as they sit on bamboo poles mounted in dirt floors.
          1. Many of them cannot read, never went to school, and never owned a book.
          2. They speak a language that has not yet become a written language.
          3. They are sick most of the time, and they will not live over forty years.
          4. Some of them will never travel fifty miles from the village of their birth.
          5. But God has zero problem understanding them, knowing them, or making them 100% His sons and daughters.
        2. In many places this morning men and women who are well educated and highly successful are worshipping God through Christ.
          1. They are among the most educated, intelligent people alive.
          2. They speak more than one of the most advanced languages known in the circles of the educated.
          3. They enjoy the best benefits and opportunities known on earth.
          4. They often travel to the population centers of our world.
          5. And God has zero problem understanding them, knowing them, or making them 100% His sons and daughters.
      4. Because of Jesus Christ, no person is beneath God and no person is above God.
        1. No one is too small for God to hear, understand, and help.
        2. No one is too accomplished for God to hear, understand, and help.
        3. And, to me, that is awesome!

Do you realize what that means to your life? Your life is never too small, too complicated, or too accomplished for God to understand and to help. May you look with awe at what God can do for you!

David Repented

Posted by on December 17, 2000 under Sermons

part four

“The nominations are now open for the spiritual activity that people who seek to follow God least understand and do poorly.” There are several nominations.

    Nomination one: trust God.
    Nomination two: praise God.
    Nomination three: resist temptation.
    Nomination four: pray.
    Nomination five: learn for the purpose of understanding.
    Nomination six: concentrate when worshipping.
    Nomination seven: depend on God’s promises.

    1. Mercy and grace
    2. Forgiveness
    3. Love

“Well, David, what would you offer in nomination?” My nomination for the spiritual activity we least understand and do poorly is repent. “Why would you nominate repentance?” There are three reasons.

  1. In all ages, God’s people have misunderstood repentance.
  2. God’s people commonly substitute “being sorry” for repentance.
    (We can “be sorry” for reasons that have little to do with repenting.)
  3. It is difficult to repent–repenting involves the heart and understanding.

We have been studying why David’s heart had special significance to God. Why was David a man after God’s own heart? We noted David trusted God, and we understood what that meant to David. We noted David praised God, and we understood what that meant to David.

Tonight we want to focus on another “unimpressive” truth: David repented when he did evil. Our immediate reaction is, “Of course he did!” But, just as in his trust and his praise, we may not understand what that meant to David.

I want to thank Roy Dunavin for pointing me in the direction of the ideal illustration. David’s repentance is best seen and understood by contrast. An excellent contrast exists when we look at King Saul and King David.

  1. I want to begin by looking closely at King Saul’s heart and actions in 1 Samuel 15.
    1. The background of 1 Samuel 15 actually began with Israel in the wilderness as they traveled from the slavery of Egypt to Mount Sinai.
      1. Exodus 17:8-16 states the Amalekites made an unprovoked attack on Israel at Rephidim as Israel began its journey.
        1. In this battle, as long as Moses held his staff above his head, Israel prevailed.
        2. But Moses’ arms tired.
        3. This was the occasion when Aaron and Hur had Moses sit on a stone so that they could help hold his arms up.
      2. When this battle was over, God gave Moses a special instruction.
        1. “Write this down and make certain that Joshua knows it well.”
        2. “I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”

    2. Generations later God through Samuel commissioned King Saul to keep God’s promise.
      1. The instruction God gave Saul through Samuel:
        1. “I will punish the Amalekites for their attack on Israel in the wilderness.”
        2. “Attack and destroy them.”
          1. “Utterly destroy them.”
          2. “Kill all the men, women, and children and all their livestock.”
      2. Saul took 300,000 soldiers and destroyed the Amalekites.
        1. The only person he kept alive was King Agag.
        2. The troops kept the best of the clean livestock and killed the rest.

    3. God spoke to Samuel immediately after Saul’s victory before Saul returned home.
      1. “I regret I made Saul king; he refuses to do what I ask.”
      2. God’s message deeply grieved Samuel.
      3. Remember, Samuel anointed Saul to be king and presented Saul to Israel.

    4. The next day Samuel traveled to meet Saul as he returned.
      1. In Saul’s greeting to Samuel he said, “I have carried out the commandment of the Lord!”
      2. Samuel asked, “Then why do I hear the oxen?”
      3. Saul replied, “The troops kept the best animals to give in sacrifice to God, and we utterly destroyed the rest.”
      4. This was the explanation: the people want to honor God with a special sacrifice. These animals will be used in tribute to God.
      5. Samuel said, “Let me tell you what God told me last night.” And Saul said, “Tell me.”
        1. “You know God made you what you are–God took you from nothing and made you king.”
        2. “God gave you a mission: exterminate the Amalekites.”
        3. “Instead of obeying God, you did evil by keeping spoil of your battles.”
      6. Saul replied, “I did obey God; I accomplished God’s mission.”
        1. “The only person who survived was King Agag.”
        2. “The troops kept the best animals for a sacrifice.”
      7. Samuel said, “Worship can not be substituted for obedience.”
        1. “Rebellion against God is worse than idolatry.”
        2. “Because you rejected God’s instructions, God has rejected you as king.”
      8. Consider several things:
        1. Saul thought he was obedient. His concept of obedience was not correct.
        2. Saul did not want God to remove His presence (as is evident in the last of the chapter).
        3. Saul did not intend to rebel against God.
        4. In a single conversation, Saul went from the triumphant king who had already erected a monument to his victory to a man whom God rejected.

    5. After his conversation with Samuel, after declaring he obeyed God, after declaring that he had fulfilled God’s mission, after disagreeing with Samuel, only then did he confess, “I have sinned.”

  2. Now I call your attention to David’s horrible sin (2 Samuel 11,12).
    1. King David committed adultery with Bathsheba.
      1. Bathsheba in no way seduced David; David created the opportunity and instigated the adultery.
      2. As a result of the adultery, Bathsheba was pregnant.

    2. David earnestly attempted to conceal his sin.
      1. He ordered Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, to be sent from the military campaign to Jerusalem.
        1. David hoped Uriah would spend the night with Bathsheba and everyone including Uriah would think the baby was Uriah’s.
        2. But Uriah thought it was inappropriate for him to spend the night with his wife when the army was engaged in warfare, and he refused to go home.
        3. Every attempt that David made to get Uriah to go home to his wife failed.

    3. Frustrated, David sent Uriah back to the troops with a message for Joab, the commander.
      1. The instructions read, “Put Uriah in the fiercest part of the battle, and then withdraw from him so that he will fight the enemy alone.”
      2. That guaranteed Uriah’s death.
      3. David’s orders were followed, and Uriah was killed.

    4. After Bathsheba appropriately mourned her husband, David married her.
      1. David thought the sin was concealed, but God knew the evil he did.
      2. Months later, Bathsheba had a son.

    5. Months later, after the child was born, God sent Nathan to David with a problem.
      1. A rich man with many sheep killed the only lamb of a poor man to fed the rich man’s guest.
        1. David was deeply angered by the rich man’s actions.
        2. David said, “He deserves to die!”
        3. “He will give 400% restitution.”
      2. Nathan replied, “You are the rich man.”
        1. “God anointed you king and delivered you from Saul.”
        2. “He gave you Saul’s house and his wives, made you king of the entire nation, and blessed you.”
        3. “By doing evil you despised God’s word.”
          1. “You had Uriah killed.”
          2. “You took his wife.”
      3. In consequence:
        1. “Violence always will be present in your family.”
        2. “Your own family will do evil to you.”
        3. “Your wives will be sexually humiliated in daylight in public.”

    6. Listen to David’s response: “I have sinned against the Lord.” David knew his sin was more than against Bathsheba or Uriah; it was against God.
      1. Not, “That is awfully harsh for a man who had done so much for God in wicked times.”
      2. No self-justification: “Look at all I have done for God in Israel.”
      3. No, “Doesn’t all my past faith count for something?”
      4. No, “Okay, I really messed up, but:
        1. “Consider Goliath.”
        2. “Consider my behavior toward King Saul.”
        3. “Consider my desire to build God a temple.”
        4. “Consider the honor I gave God in the psalms I wrote.”

  3. According to God’s law, David and Bathsheba should have been executed for their act of adultery.
    1. Exodus 20:14 prohibited adultery in the seventh commandment: “You shall not commit adultery.”
    2. Leviticus 20:10 stated both the adulterer and the adulteress should be executed.
    3. David understood the legal consequences of adultery; he knew the significance of his confession.
    4. I understand that to be the reason that Nathan said, “God removed your sin, you shall not die.”
    5. However, David’s consequences were continuing and severe because he gave God’s enemies occasion to blaspheme God.

  4. I want you to note the power of being a person after God’s own heart; I want you to understand the importance of your heart belonging to God.
    1. David was not killed for his sin as the law instructed.
    2. Instead of being killed, Bathsheba remained David’s wife.
    3. God permitted their next son, Solomon, to become king of Israel.
    4. Does this suggest it was acceptable for David to commit adultery?
      1. Absolutely not! The consequences were severe and long lasting.
      2. David in repentance did not condone or excuse his evil.
      3. David in repentance accepted complete responsibility for his evil.
      4. When David realized what he did to God, He was deeply grieved.
      5. David had known for months his relationship with God suffered.
      6. Listen to Psalm 51:1-13:
        Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;
        According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.
        Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity
        And cleanse me from my sin.
        For I know my transgressions,
        And my sin is ever before me.
        Against You, You only, I have sinned
        And done what is evil in Your sight,
        So that You are justified when You speak
        And blameless when You judge.
        Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
        And in sin my mother conceived me.
        Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
        And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.
        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.
        Do not cast me away from Your presence
        And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
        Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
        And sustain me with a willing spirit.
        Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
        And sinners will be converted to You.

David was a man after God’s own heart because David understood repentance, and David repented when he did evil.

God Is At Work Among Us

Posted by on under Sermons

God is powerfully present and active when His people are convinced that evil is winning. That is and always has been the case when God’s people fall victim to the deceit that they have God figured out. Why are we easily deceived when we think that we have God figured out? Why are we easily deceived when we become confident that we can predict where God is going and what God will do?

Why? God never does things the way we do them. His priorities are different. His purposes are different. His methods are different. His objectives are different. The way God measures success is different. When we are certain we correctly determined how God will do something, we commonly have concluded that God would do it like we would do it. Our conclusions are more likely to reflect our preferences than God’s desires.

  1. In Matthew 16 Jesus asked the twelve men who were his special trainees what people were saying about him.
    1. Jesus was the talk of the Jewish nation.
      1. The Jewish people could not ignore Jesus.
      2. He simply had to be explained.
        1. The way he lived demanded an explanation.
        2. The way he used his life demanded an explanation.
        3. His teachings demanded an explanation.
        4. His miracles demanded an explanation.
        5. Why he showed such compassion and concern for the poor and the sinful demanded an explanation.

    2. So Jesus asked these twelve men how people explained him.
      1. The Jews had a rich history over a thousand years old that was rooted in God’s prophetic activity.
      2. When the Jews explained things, their explanation began with God.
      3. They explained Jesus as they commonly explained things: Jesus represented prophetic activity.
        1. The twelve reported what they heard people say about Jesus.
        2. People said he was the resurrected John the baptizer, or the resurrected Elijah, or the resurrected Jeremiah, or he was a prophet.
      4. Jesus then asked them a direct question: “What about you? How do you explain me?”
        1. Peter immediately said that Jesus was the Christ, the living God’s son.
        2. Jesus said Peter understood that for one reason: God revealed it to him.
        3. Jesus also declared not even death could prevent him from accomplishing his purpose.

    3. Because of Peter’s awareness, because Jesus confirmed this awareness come through God’s revelation, because Jesus pronounced powerful blessings on Peter, Peter was certain that he had God, Jesus, and the future figured out.
      1. Shortly after Peter correctly declared Jesus’ identity (maybe even on that occasion), Jesus began to inform his disciples that he would suffer, be killed, and be resurrected in Jerusalem.
      2. That was not what Peter had figured out.
        1. According to Peter’s understanding, that was not God’s plan.
        2. Since Jesus confirmed that God revealed to Peter Jesus’ identity, why shouldn’t Peter believe his understanding of Jesus’ future came from God?
        3. After all, Jesus said Peter would receive the keys to the kingdom.
        4. His understanding of the kingdom had to be the correct understanding.
      3. Peter became extremely bold.
        1. He took Jesus aside privately and rebuked Jesus; Peter knew he understood the situation better than Jesus did!
        2. “It is not going to happen! You are not going to die! That is ridiculous!”
      4. Now Jesus told this man to whom God revealed that Jesus was the Christ that he is working for Satan.
        1. “Peter, you are the bait stick in a snare!”
        2. “You are not thinking about what God wants; you are thinking about what you want.”
        3. Peter put Jesus’ surrender and commitment to the test!
      5. Jesus then told the twelve that if they wished to follow him it would require self denial (beyond anything they had surrendered) and carrying a cross.
        1. I have no doubt they thought they already were experiencing self denial.
        2. And the idea of carrying a cross was disgusting and shameful in the Jewish nation.

    4. In this entire situation, I want you to be extremely aware of one truth: Peter, one of the twelve, a disciple hand-picked by Jesus, a man whom Jesus confirmed received God’s revelation, this Peter had God, and Jesus, and the future all figured out.
      1. And he was wrong.
      2. In fact, he could not have been more mistaken.

  2. What Jesus said would happen did happen.
    1. One of his twelve hand picked men betrayed him.
      1. Did the disciples see God at work doing things His way?

    2. Roman troops and the temple guard arrested Jesus.
      1. Did the disciples see God at work doing things His way?

    3. The religious elite of Israel tried Jesus and condemned him to death.
      1. Did the disciples see God at work doing things His way?

    4. The Roman authority permitted his execution by crucifixion.
      1. Did the disciples see God at work doing things His way?

    5. Jesus was humiliated and disgraced mercilessly.
      1. Did the disciples see God at work doing things His way?

    6. Jesus was disgraced in death in crucifixion’s pain and humiliation as though he were a horrible, dangerous criminal.
      1. Did the disciples see God at work doing things His way?

    7. No.
      1. No one believed God did things that way.
      2. The presence of evil was much too powerful, much too overwhelming.
      3. The living God’s son sent to be the Christ was killed.
      4. Everything he did was lost; the future could not happen; evil was defeating God.

    8. You and I do not see it that way.
      1. We look back with hindsight, understand and say, “Wow! Look at God!”
      2. Having full benefit of God’s explanation, believers see this moment as God’s second greatest triumph over Satan and evil.
      3. (God’s greatest triumph will come when God casts Satan in the abyss and Jesus judges all people to eternally destroy death and evil.)
      4. BUT…if you and I stood near Jesus’ cross by his hand-picked disciples, we would have seen the same thing they saw: evil destroying God’s plans.

  3. I thank God that I am a part of this congregation right now.
    1. God is at work in some incredible ways right here right now in our elders.
      1. Every Sunday morning at 8:45 a.m. our elders gather as a group to pray for us and the day.
        1. They report prayer requests.
        2. And everyone of them leads the group in prayer.
        3. As a group, every Sunday, they spend thirty minutes in prayer for us.
      2. The prayer request forms on the back of each pew are more than “a nice touch” to create an impressive effect.
        1. Our elders made the conscious, sincere decision to be our shepherds instead of our business managers who function as a board of directors.
        2. They placed the finances and facilities in the hands of deacons who are quite capable of caring for those needs well, and the elders are seriously committed to learning how to “turn loose.”
        3. Our elders are just as committed to learning how to devote their energies and strength to ministering to us spiritually.
        4. That is not a simple commitment, but they are serious.
        5. They want us to trust them; they want us to know that they will keep our confidences; they want us to turn to them for help and encouragement; they want to pray for our needs and concerns.
      3. Every Tuesday evening they are visiting among us.
        1. Their purpose is not to put us on a guilt trip or to drive anyone away.
        2. They want to encourage and to understand.
        3. Every Tuesday night one team tries to visit people who have recently placed membership, or been baptized, or have visited with us.
        4. Every Tuesday night several teams try to visit to encourage and support.
        5. They visit to listen, and they visit to encourage.
      4. Every Sunday morning two elders are in room 100 for the invitation song.
        1. Some of our traditions in the Church of Christ are powerful.
        2. One tradition that is not understood by most people who have little contact with the Church of Christ is our invitation song.
        3. It is an open invitation for anyone to ask for our prayers or to be baptized.
        4. However, responding to an invitation in front of a group this large is quite intimidating to many.
          1. We commonly have people who ask us to pray with them who do not use the occasion of an invitation song.
          2. Recently, we had three baptisms in less than two weeks, and none of them used the occasion of an invitation song.
        5. We also have people who want to pray with someone who do not feel their need is addressed by responding to an invitation song.
        6. Each Sunday morning we sing the invitation song for anyone who might wish to respond in that manner.
        7. Each Sunday morning two elders are in room 100 to talk to or pray with anyone who would like their help or encouragement.

Our country is going through one of the most unusual and uncertain periods of its existence. As we continue traveling through this period of uncertainty, I want to share this thought. Jesus Christ is bigger than American politics. He is bigger than American economics. He is bigger than American social status. He is bigger than American education levels. He is bigger than American poverty.

Can a Democrat be a Christian? Certainly! Can a Republican be a Christian? Certainly! Can an independent be a Christian? Certainly! Can you believe in a populist movement and be a Christian? Certainly! Regardless of your economic situation, can you be a Christian? Certainly! Regardless of your social status, can you be a Christian? Certainly! Regardless of your education level, can you be a Christian? Certainly!

Is biblical Christianity dependent on democracy? Many Christians in this world live and die never experiencing democracy. Is Christianity dependent on freedom? Many Christians in this world live and die never experiencing freedom. Is Christianity dependent on wealth or lifestyle? Many Christians in this world live and die in poverty conditions you do not even want to know about.

I certainly am not unconcerned about what happens in our nation. I deeply appreciate the blessings of life in America as an American. But I would make a horrible mistake if I tied my faith in Jesus Christ to life in our country. God through Jesus established His kingdom in an immoral world that worshipped many idols and gods. Nothing stopped Him. God always has been at work in His kingdom among His people–anywhere. May we be His kingdom. May we be His people. May we rejoice as God through Christ works through us and among us.

“Turn Around” Time

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

As a whole, Americans tend to be impatient people. As a people, our expectations commonly demand (a) speed, (b) efficiency, (c) effectiveness, and (d) productivity. “We want results! We want the right results! And we want the right results now!”

You want to make the American public complain? Make them tolerate “slow.” Force them to endure “inefficient.” Make them accept “ineffective” results. Require them to wait without explanation.

American Christians are Americans. Because our culture is impatient, we tend to be impatient. Our impatience creates a basic spiritual problem. We impatient Christians belong to an extremely patient God and follow an incredibly patient Savior. Our God endured the “slowness” of spiritually “ineffective” people who “produced” negative results for hundreds of years. He refused to allow faithless, untrusting people to deter Him from moving toward the perfect solution for evil in human life. Our Savior made preparation to teach earth’s entire population without benefit of technology by training twelve men. It was almost three hundred years after Jesus’ crucifixion before believers became a world movement.

To us, anything requiring a decade “takes too long.” Anything requiring more than a lifetime is totally unacceptable. “My life is not a spiritual investment in someone else’s future! I intend for my life to produce NOW spiritual results to my benefit!”

Consider a common attitude among Christians. “Marriages failing? Fix them now! Parenting techniques alienating children? Fix them now! Evil tempting and destroying teenagers? Fix situations now! Too many spiritually weak in the church? Remedy the situation now! Too few being led to Christ? Remedy the situation now!” Whatever the problem, find the cause, find a solution, and fix it! We demand results! Now!

Have you noticed (in your own life if nowhere else) people problems do not “fix” quickly? Do we really believe human dilemmas created by problem situations over a period of fifty years can be “fixed” in a month? six months? a year? Do we really believe it is as simple as discovering “the solution” that “works” and “plugging” it in a system?

West-Ark does not seek “quick fixes.” We are committed to genuine “turn around”–in developing marriage commitments, teaching parenting commitments, making sick relationships healthy, resisting temptations, building spiritual strength, and guiding people to Jesus.

For these worthy goals to become reality, “turn around” must occur. Where? In our understanding of spiritual existence. In our hearts. In our minds. In our Christian character. In our Christian integrity. In our relationship with Jesus. In our relationship with God. We must desire to be in Christ what God knows we can become.

David Praised God

Posted by on December 10, 2000 under Sermons

part three

Have you ever praised God? “Certainly?” It is an insult to suggest that a serious Christian believer never praises God! Each of us who regard ourselves to be Christians, who are serious about our faith would be deeply offended if anyone seriously suggested that we did not praise God.

Since all of us agree that Christians praise God, let’s ask ourselves some simple questions. I am definitely including myself. In a typical month, how often do you praise God? I know each month is different. I know each month is filled with a variety of situations and circumstances. I know exceptional situations or circumstances motivate us to be more “praise conscious” than we otherwise are. But on average in a typical month, how often do you think that you praise God?

When you praise God, what are some of the common experiences or awareness that create the desire in you to praise God? When are you genuinely moved in your heart, your emotions, and your thoughts to declare praise to God? What specifically motivates you to do that?

For what do you praise God? Praising God typically means that a person gives God credit for something. What are the “somethings” that move you to give God credit? What are the “somethings” that move you to awareness and gratitude?

We are examining the reasons for God attaching special significance to David’s heart. David was known as “the man after God’s own heart.” Why? Last week we noted that David trusted God. We examined David’s understanding of trusting God.

Tonight I direct your attention to the fact that David praised God. Just as last week, that fact does not sound impressive. To David, what did it mean to praise God?

This evening I want to examine three situations in which David praised God.

  1. Situation one is understood by examining 1 Samuel 19:1-17 with Psalm 59.
    1. The situation in 1 Samuel 19:1-17:
      1. Saul’s jealous mistrust and rage against David grew.
        1. Saul told his son Jonathan and all his servants to kill David whenever opportunity presented itself.
        2. Jonathan was David’s close friend, so Jonathan warned David to be careful.
          1. After warning David, Jonathan went to his father and persuaded him not to harm David because David was loyal and helpful to Saul.
          2. Jonathan then told David he could return without threat or fear.
      2. Again there was a battle against the Philistines (Israel’s serious enemy at the time), and again David had a great victory over them, and again jealous Saul tried to kill him.
        1. David escaped from Saul’s attempt and fled that night to his own home.
        2. Saul sent men to watch David’s house to arrest and kill him the next day.
        3. Michal, Saul’s daughter and David’s wife, told David that if he did not escape that night that he would be dead tomorrow.
          1. She helped David escape through a window, and she made a dummy to place in David’s bed.
          2. When the men came to arrest David the next morning, Michael said, “He is sick.”
          3. When they reported David’s sickness to Saul, he sent the men back with instructions to bring David on his bed and Saul would kill him.
        4. When Saul discovered that his own daughter deceived him, he asked her why?
          1. She deceived her father again.
          2. “He said that he would kill me if I did not help him escape.”

    2. My question: if an enemy unjustly caused you to flee for your life leaving your wife and your home behind, would that be an occasion to praise God?
      1. Two statements are associated with Psalm 59.
        1. David is declared the author.
        2. And David is said to have written the psalm the night when the men were watching the house.
      2. Remember the situation:
        1. Saul is making an earnest attempt to kill him.
        2. Men are outside watching his house.
        3. His wife is saying, “If you do not escape tonight, you will die tomorrow.”

    3. In Psalm 59 please note:
      1. David began by requesting God deliver him from his enemies (verse 1).
      2. It is clear to me in verses 2-4 that David knew the seriousness of the situation and is concerned.
      3. In verses 5-8 David reminded himself of God’s greatness.
      4. In verses 9-15 David comforted and reassured himself by remembering the strength of God; God’s strength was his hope.

    4. Consider carefully David’s words in the last two verses of Psalm 59, verses 16, 17.
      Psalm 59:16,17 But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength; Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning, For You have been my stronghold And a refuge in the day of my distress. O my strength, I will sing praises to You; For God is my stronghold, the God who shows me lovingkindness.
      1. First, notice the progression.
        1. Distress and concern because of the situation.
        2. Remembering God’s greatness (as he remembered, the men were still outside).
        3. Renewal of his confidence in God’s strength.
        4. An expression of praise for God.
      2. Please note the nature of the praise David gave God.
        1. “I shall sing of your strength;” would we see God’s strength in that situation?
        2. “I will sing of your mercy when I wake up;” if he fled, he did not then know where he would wake up, and he would be away from his wife and home.
        3. “You are my stronghold (place of safety in danger) and my refuge in distress;” God, You take care of me.
        4. “So I will praise God who is my stronghold, who shows me mercy;” would we feel God’s strength, protection, and mercy in those circumstances?

  2. Situation two is understood by examining 1 Samuel 20:10-15 and Psalm 56.
    1. The situation in 1 Samuel 20:10-15.
      1. After David escaped from home with Michal’s help, this is the progression of events.
        1. David fled to Samuel in the town a Ramah, a place known for its prophets.
        2. Then David made contact with Jonathan.
          1. Together, they devised a plan to discover if Saul was determined to kill David; Saul was.
          2. As David fled, he received help from Abimelech the priest.
        3. Consider the danger of David’s circumstances.
          1. David was the victorious commander in Israel’s battles against the Philistines–David was their hated enemy who had killed many of their soldiers.
          2. David’s situation was so serious that the only place he could flee where Saul could not touch him was to the Philistines!
          3. He fled to the Philistine city of Gath ruled by King Achish.
          4. He was quickly spotted and reported to the king.
          5. David knew that he was in serious danger, so he pretended to be insane.
            1. Insane people were not harmed.
            2. He scribbled on the gates (of the city? in jail?).
            3. He drooled and let his saliva run down his beard.
          6. King Achish told those who reported David that the king had enough mad people without being concerned about David.
          7. David fled Gath to live in a cave in the wilderness (1 Samuel 22:1).

    2. Two statements are associated with Psalm 56.
      1. David is declared the author.
      2. David is said to have written the psalm while he was among the Philistines in Gath.

    3. In Psalm 56:
      1. In the first two verses David was honest about his terrible circumstances.
      2. In verse 3 and 4 he stated how he handled his fear.
        1. He put his trust in God.
        2. He would not allow the dangers of the flesh to be as great as the comfort of God.
      3. In verses 5-7 David was honest about the danger.
      4. In verses 8 and 9 he asked God to take special note of his situation.
        1. Remember my wandering about.
        2. Remember my tears and save them (he cried).
      5. Take special note of what David said in verses 9b-13.
        Psalm 56:9b-13 This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, In the Lord, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? Your vows are binding upon me, O God; I will render thank offerings to You. For You have delivered my soul from death, Indeed my feet from stumbling, So that I may walk before God In the light of the living.
        1. “I know God is for me;” in spite of all that happened and all he endured, he had no doubt but that God was on his side.
        2. “So I will praise him and I will trust him;” the situation and circumstances have nothing to do with his praise and his trust.
        3. “Because I trust God, I refuse to be afraid of people;” trust in God would determine his behavior; fear of people would not determine his behavior.
        4. “Nothing that happens will make me forget to honor you.”
        5. “You have kept me from dying, and You keep me standing.”
        6. “I will not forget that I am walking before You.”

  3. The third situation is seen by examining either 1 Samuel 22 or 1 Samuel 24 and Psalm 57.
    1. In both texts, David was in a cave in the wilderness fleeing from Saul.
    2. Again, two statements are associated with Psalm 57.
      1. David is the author.
      2. The Psalm was written when David was in a cave fleeing from Saul.

    3. As David lives in grave danger, I direct your attention to Psalm 57.
      1. The whole psalm is a psalm of praise.
        1. Verse 1: “God, be gracious to me because You are my refuge Who keeps me safely.”
        2. Verse 2: “God accomplishes all things for me as I live in His mercy and truth.”
        3. Verses 4-6 “Let my terrible circumstances give You glory.”
      2. Especially note verses 7-11.
        1. “My heart is steadfast–I am not undecided about God or filled with doubt.”
        2. “God, You are my glory, and I am not ashamed for anyone to know that I give my thanks to You.”
        3. “I will sing praises to You because Your mercy reaches to the sky and Your truth to the clouds.”
        4. “Whatever happens, may You be exalted and may Your glory be above the entire earth.”

May I give you a sobering thought to take home. Do your worst times and your worst experiences move you to praise God? They did David. That is why his heart was special to God.

The God Who Does More

Posted by on under Sermons

Teens, if you worked hard and creatively on a school project that was special to you, and a person sabotaged your project, what would you do? From your heart, would you ask the person, “What can I do for you?” If you worked hard to create a healthy dating relationship with someone you really cared about, and a person made him or her believe a lie about you, what would you do? From the heart, would you ask the person, “What can I do for you?” If a person unjustly and unfairly created a serious problem between you and your family, what would you do? From the heart, would you ask the person, “What can I do for you?”

Adults, if you worked hard and creatively on a project at work that was special to you, and a person sabotaged your work, what would you do? From the heart, would you ask the person, “What can I do for you?” If you worked really hard to build a healthy relationship with the man or woman you loved, and a person made the man or woman you loved believe a lie about you, what would you do? From the heart, would you ask the person, “What can I do for you?” If someone outside your family unfairly and unjustly created serious problems within your family, what would you do? From the heart, would you ask the person, “What can I do for you?”

Is your answer, “Don’t be ridiculous! It would be stupid to be kind and considerate to a person who caused you trouble! Anyone who causes that kind of trouble deserves all the consequences they get!”

  1. When God created this world, He gave some incredible gifts (Genesis 1, 2).
    1. God not only gave the gift of life, but He gave everything necessary to sustain life in an ideal state.
    2. Included in the gift of life was the special gift of human life.
      1. God did something very special in the gift of human life.
      2. He made men and women unique; no other form of life possessed the qualities of human life.
      3. In fact, God made the first man quite aware that he was different.
        1. The first man viewed all the animals and named them.
        2. As he did so, he realized no animal’s life was like his life.
        3. After that experience, God presented Eve to Adam; her life and his life were the same, ideally suited for companionship.
        4. God designed them to perfectly meet each other’s companionship needs.
        5. In their ideal state their differences perfectly complimented their needs.
      4. God gave them both another gift: an ideal relationship with Him.
        1. They associated with God intimately.
        2. Their relationship with God was without fear, anxiety, terror, or negative consequences.
        3. God was their great friend who loved them.

    3. Then the first man and woman perverted every good gift God gave.
      1. They destroyed their ideal relationship with God.
      2. They destroyed their ideal relationship with each other.
      3. God created everything to be very good.
      4. Evil, through their choice, perverted every good gift God gave in His creation.

    4. However, instead of annihilating them, God gave more.

  2. In time evil drained God’s good creation of all its good (Genesis 6:1-8).
    1. People became less and less what God created people to be.
      1. The situation became so evil that there was only evil and no good.
      2. Evil so totally perverted the “good creation” God made that God’s Spirit constantly struggled against people.
      3. People became so evil that they thought no good thought.
      4. Even in their unspoken motives, every intention was evil.

    2. And God was deeply grieved for two reasons.
      1. Every good gift that God gave was destroyed by evil.
      2. People were exactly the opposite of what God created them to be.
      3. That which God made good became a source of intense grief to God.

    3. It is true that people paid the consequences for being evil.
    4. It is also true that instead of annihilating humanity, God gave more.

  3. More time passed, and God selected a man named Abraham to begin God’s plan to again introduce ideal good into an evil world (Genesis 12:1-5).
    1. Evidence says God’s selection was not based on Abraham’s goodness.
      1. Joshua 24:15 suggests that Abraham and his forefathers worshipped idols prior to God’s call.
      2. After Abraham chose to follow God, he made some notable mistakes.
        1. When he perceived that he was in danger, he intentionally deceived people about his marriage to Sarah (Genesis 12:10-20).
        2. When years passed and the son God promised was not born, he asked God to accept his solution (Genesis 15:1-6).
        3. When more time passed, he accepted Sarah’s solution which became a disaster (Genesis 16).
      3. Abraham certainly was not perfect, but he always renewed his trust in God after he experienced an occasion of faithlessness.

    2. Though Abraham was not a perfect man, God still did more.

  4. Much time passed, and God produced the nation of Israel from the descendants of Abraham and Isaac [the son God promised Abraham].
    1. Abraham’s descendants became slaves in Egypt, not a nation (Exodus 1).
      1. God with incredible, powerful acts rescued these slaves from Egypt (Exodus 7-14).
      2. Even though God did incredible things to reveal his identity to these rescued slaves, the adults rescued from Egypt were a horrible disappointment; they refused to trust God (consider Exodus 17 and 32).
      3. Their faithlessness and sinfulness offended God so deeply that God separated Himself from the adults who left Egypt (Exodus 33:1-3).

    2. But as huge as that disappointment was, God did more.

  5. With everything God did for Israel, Israel followed the same decline into evil that people followed long before Israel existed.
    1. Israelites in the period of the judges became increasingly evil (consider Judges 17 – 21).
      1. They forgot God and God’s ways.
      2. Every person did what was right in his own eyes.

    2. Israelites in the period of the kings were deeply idolatrous and offended God through fundamental expressions of faithlessness.
      1. In the united nation of Israel, David was the only bright spot (1 Samuel 8 – 1 Kings 11).
      2. In the divided nation of Israel, there were very few bright spots (1 Kings 11 – 2 Kings)
        1. In the ten tribes who broke away, not one king ever followed or directed people to worship God.
        2. In Judah, very few kings tried to lead the people back to God.

    3. In the periods the prophets were active [they spanned many periods] a forgiving God repeatedly asked Israel to return to him.
      1. In love, He tried to awaken them to the fact that they were destroying themselves.
      2. But on most occasions, they refused to listen.
      3. In most periods, they said they had no problem.
      4. They rejected God and refused to repent.

    4. Israel was a huge disappointment to God in these periods, but God did more.

  6. In spite of Israel’s failures, in spite of evil’s reign in the hearts of humanity, in spite of the fact that God’s own people did not know Him, God still sent ideal good back into the world.
    1. God sent His own son as the ideal good (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John).
      1. He sent His son to be a living, human example of what it meant to be good.
      2. And God did more.
      3. He sent His son to use his life doing good for undeserving, evil people.
      4. And God did more.
      5. He let His son die for all the evil committed by all people.
      6. And God did more.
      7. He resurrected His son from death to prove that He, God, had the power to resurrect us from our evil and to resurrect us eternally.
      8. And God did more.

    2. God promised and promises that every person who will place his or her trust in His son will be recreated, right now, to live in the good that comes only from God (Ephesians 4:20-24; Colossians 3:9-11).
      1. God does not do that because we are good.
      2. God does that because He is good.
      3. God is the source of all goodness, and the avenue to God’s goodness is Jesus Christ.

    3. And even with all that, God does more. Listen:
      Romans 5:6-10 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
      Romans 8:31-34 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
      Ephesians 2:1-6 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

  7. God wants to help us.
    1. If we let him, God will help.
      1. Whatever the mistake, the failure, the addiction, or the evil, God can and will do more.
      2. Consider.
        1. With all that God did in spite of human failure and evil,
        2. With God letting His son leave home,
        3. With God letting His son experience human rejection,
        4. With God letting His son die a horrible death for us,
        5. How can we possibly think that God does not care about us?

    2. For every person who trusts, God does more.
      1. Stop predicting God’s actions, and let God help.
      2. Stop doubting God’s ability to help, and let God help.
      3. Stop creating obstacles for God, and start cooperating with God.

God knows when I am trying to resist evil. God knows when I am lying to myself. God knows when I am faking, just going through the motions.

If we will do what we are capable of doing (trusting, repenting, committing), God will do more.

What Is To Come

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

For many, December is a hectic month! Many are so busy in December, they do no want to think beyond Christmas. A common thought: “If we can only survive until December 26th!” As busy as December is, we [your staff] must be busy planning for 2001. Actually, we were seriously thinking and praying about 2001 months ago.

About three months ago, your staff made serious projections regarding our 2001 work. We seek healthy transition from a work that looks at the immediate [“that’s good; let’s do it soon!”] to a work doing good in ways that increase its future opportunities [today’s good create building blocks for tomorrow]. A 2001 calendar for many planned events was printed recently on the back page of What’s Happening At West-Ark.

What is the goal? Actually, the major goal exists in 2002. We hope to interact with the Fort Smith community in a major outreach in 2002. To prepare for that, we want to increase the effectiveness of our outreach and influence in the Fort Smith area. Our primary objective is to use Jesus’ person and teachings to touch [constructively] the lives of people in the Fort Smith population area. We ask Jesus to guide us in helpfully ministering to lives and families. He is the master. He can help “the unhelpable.”

Fort Smith is a religious city. Church buildings and worship sites are everywhere. Yet, about fifty percent of the people in our population area are not religiously active. They do not worship once a month anywhere. Many struggle alone against the emptiness and void. Many have neither purpose in life nor objectives for living. They merely exist.

We want to move from the sorrowful head shake (“isn’t that sad”) to proactive outreach. We want to share Jesus’ hope, God’s promises, and eternal purposes. We want to be a powerful, positive force for God in this population area. We want Jesus to do through us what he came, died, and was resurrected to do.

Desire is not enough to make that happen. If we move from sorrowfully gazing at the need to introducing people to God’s hope, forgiveness, and direction provided in Christ, several things must happen. These happenings rest on a foundation of three things.

(1) We place our faith in God’s power. If we love and serve as Christ wants, God can and will touch and change hearts [including our own!]

(2) We must trust God’s use of us. It takes more than “motivational lessons” to build confidence. As a congregation, we must trust the truth that God can and will work through each of us.

(3) We must believe God will address peoples’ needs in ways that exceed our comprehension. We do not have all the answers to the complex problems evil creates in the lives of people. Yet, we trust God’s grace, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness to minister to the heart of any person cleansed by Jesus’ blood.

“It’s the Heart” (part 2)

Posted by on December 3, 2000 under Sermons

This evening I want to make one point. It is my prayer that you understand that one point better than ever. It is my prayer that you cannot stop thinking about your deeper understanding. It is my prayer that your understanding will mature you spiritually.

The one point: a primary reason for David being a man after God’s own heart is found in David’s trust in God.

I am confident that to those present this point is not impressive. I am confident a common reaction would be, “Certainly! God’s people trust him! That is what being godly is all about–trusting God!” I am also confident that many of us do not understand what it means to trust God. David’s trust in God shakes our faith to the core. David is a person in the Bible who demonstrated what it means to trust God.

  1. To understand David’s trust in God, we need to begin with the first king of Israel, Saul.
    1. We need to remember that God Himself picked Saul to be Israel’s king.
      1. God told Samuel whom to anoint (1 Samuel 9:15,16).
      2. Samuel told Saul that his anointing to be king was from the Lord (1 Samuel 10:1)
      3. God gave Saul a changed heart (1 Samuel 10:9).
      4. Yet, with all God did for Saul, Saul chose a course as king that deeply disappointed God.

    2. We also need to remember that God rejected Saul and took the kingdom away from Saul’s descendants (1 Samuel 15).
      1. In the mission that God gave Saul to destroy the Amalekites, Saul totally disappointed God.
        1. Saul’s concept of obedience and God’s concept of obedience were fundamentally different.
        2. Saul’s concept of honoring God dishonored God.
        3. God made it very clear that acts of worship are never a substitute for surrendering to His will.
      2. God rejected Saul as Israel’s suitable king because Saul was not trustworthy; God could not depend on Saul.

  2. God through Samuel anointed David to be the next king of Israel (1 Samuel 16).
    1. David understood what Samuel’s anointing meant, and on that day David powerfully received God’s Spirit (1 Samuel 16:13).
    2. David’s interaction with Saul after that day strikes us as strange.
      1. Saul suffered from bouts of deep depression, anger, and foul moods.
        1. David played the harp for Saul to soothe Saul’s troubled moods.
        2. Even though Saul made attempts to kill David, David still played for him.
      2. When David’s military accomplishments caused Saul to become extremely jealous, David was still loyal and trustworthy to Saul.
        1. When Saul made attempts to have David killed, David took no retaliation against Saul.
        2. When Saul forced David to leave his wife and family and flee to the wilderness to escape death, David took no retaliation against Saul.
        3. When Saul had the priests, their wives, their children, and their livestock at Nob killed because one priest gave David food, David made no attempt to retaliate against Saul.
        4. When Saul’s elite military forces chased David and his men in the wilderness as though they were wild animals, David made no attempt to retaliate against Saul.
      3. Why? David trusted God.

    3. There are two specific incidents that reveal what trusting God meant to David.
      1. The first incident is recorded in 1 Samuel 24.
        1. Saul took 3000 elite soldiers into the wilderness of Engedi to find and destroy David and his men.
        2. In one place, there was a huge cave; David and his men hid in the cave.
        3. Saul went inside the cave to answer the nature’s call and evidently laid aside his robe while he relieved himself.
        4. This presented David with the perfect opportunity to kill Saul.
        5. David refused to kill him, and he refused to permit his men to kill Saul.
        6. David did quietly cut off a piece of Saul’s robe, but he felt guilty for doing that.
        7. When Saul dressed and left the cave, at some distance away David called to him, and respectfully bowed.
        8. “I could have killed you, but I did not.”
        9. Listen to David’s reason:
          1. Verse 10: “I will not stretch out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord’s anointed.”
          2. Verse 12: “My hand will not be against you.”
          3. Verse 13: “My hand will not be against you.”
        10. In our words, “God placed you in your position; God will remove you from your position; but that is God’s decision, not mine, and God will care for it.”
        11. “I refuse to undo what God did.”
      2. The second incident is found is 1 Samuel 26.
        1. This time Saul took 3000 elite soldiers to the wilderness of Ziph to destroy David and his men.
        2. David had spies watch Saul’s movements, and David knew where Saul made camp.
        3. David watched as the entire camp went to sleep.
        4. Saul was sleeping in the center of the camp (formed in a circle).
        5. David and Abishai slipped to the center of camp and stood with Saul at their feet.
        6. Abishai wanted to kill Saul with a single thrust of his spear, but David would not permit it.
        7. Instead, they took Saul’s spear and water jug some distance away from the sleeping camp.
        8. From a safe distance, David woke up the camp and condemned Abner, the captain of the solders, for not protecting Saul.
        9. Saul clearly understood that David could have killed him.
        10. Why did David not kill him?
          1. David said no one could stretch out their hand against God’s anointed without guilt.
          2. God made Saul king, and God would determine when Saul should stop being king.
          3. But it would be God’s decision, not David’s.
          4. David trusted God.

  3. To those of you who have been serious Bible students for years, there is nothing new in anything I shared.
    1. You have known those facts and situations for many years.
      1. However, we may fail to see the lesson about trusting God if all we do is know the facts.
      2. It is not enough to know and appreciate the facts.

    2. Perhaps the only way we can open our eyes to the lesson about trust is to examine the situation in contrast.
      1. Here is a man who:
        1. Knew beyond question that God selected him to be king.
        2. Saw the evil of the current king, saw his ungodliness in the nation.
        3. Knew the king had destroyed God’s priests and their families.
        4. Knew the king was an evil influence in the nation.
        5. Knew that he, himself, would not lead the nation into evil.
        6. Had his life placed in great jeopardy because of this man, lived in misery, and was unjustly separated from his family and friends.
      2. Here is a man who had the opportunity to correct or avenge all of those situations on more than one occasion.
      3. Yet, he refused to do it because he trusted God.
        1. Because he trusted God he would not make himself king.
        2. Because he trusted God he would not remove Saul as an evil influence in Israel.
        3. Because he trusted God he would not avenge the deaths of the priests by killing the evil Saul.
        4. Because he trusted God he would not relieve the misery this evil man caused him by killing Saul.

    3. Many of us would classify David’s refusal to kill Saul as stupidity, not as trusting God.
      1. Our reasoning:
        1. “Obviously, God intends me to be king.”
        2. “Obviously, God is disgusted with Saul.”
        3. “Obviously, God has commissioned me to solve the problem–the man is evil, he killed the priest, and the nation would be much better off if he were dead.”
        4. “Obviously, the man is trying to kill me; if he succeeds what God intends cannot happen; it is the will of God that I kill the man.”
      2. That is not the reasoning of a man after God’s own heart.
        1. Was David a military man? Yes.
        2. Had David killed people to defend God’s honor? Yes.
        3. Did David use violence to destroy the enemies of Israel? Yes.
        4. But David trusted God to remove Saul as king when God wished to do so.
        5. David did not “reason” himself into acting by “assuming he was the instrument of God’s will.”
        6. David trusted God to take care of His own business, and removing Saul from the throne was God’s business–not David’s.
      3. David trusted God instead of justifying himself.
      4. That is the primary reason David’s heart had special value to God.

One of the most difficult characteristics of godliness is trusting God. It is much too simple to classify our decisions as God’s will. It is much too easy to substitute our justifications for trusting God.

What If …

Posted by on under Sermons

This morning I want to share some thoughts with each person who considers himself or herself a Christian. If you regard yourself a Christian, I am sharing with you. I want to begin by asking for God’s presence in a special, powerful way.

[Prayer: “God, my prayer is very simple. Do what You always have done among Your people. Shake us up. Trouble our minds. Knock the crust off our hearts. Help us wake up and repent.”]

November and December are difficult months for me personally. It is a time of enormous joy, and a time of incredible agony. There are many contributing reasons. One primary source of the agony is what I see happening in people’s lives. Sometimes the pain I see threatens to overwhelm me.

November and December highlight two devastating realities. The first reality involves Christians who live by the “it doesn’t matter” philosophy. In their choices, they commonly say, “It doesn’t matter.” In their behavior, they commonly say, “It doesn’t matter.” In their pleasures, they commonly say, “It doesn’t matter.” In their entertainment, they commonly say, “It doesn’t matter.” Then November and December come and unmask crises. Then, in naive ignorance, Christians in crisis ask, “What’s wrong, God? We go to church.”

The second reality involves Christians who are certain they have the answers. “I know how to produce the right religious results! I know what makes marriages successful! I know what works in rearing children! I know what works in the universal church! I know what works in a congregation! I know the rules, I know the priorities, I know the objectives–just plug my system in and let it rip!”

Then November and December reveal moral tragedies and relationship tragedies among Christians. And we are astounded by the fact that (a) our answers are not working (b) our system is ineffective.

  1. I receive great spiritual blessings when I learn how to examine Bible teachings and situations through “then eyes” instead of “now eyes.
    1. Learning how to study with “then eyes” is a never ending process.
      1. Often it is not fun, but always produces rich spiritual blessings.
      2. It is never fun to learn that your focus and understanding are flawed.
      3. It is always a powerful blessing to come closer to God.

    2. May I encourage you to look at a situation with “then eyes” instead of “now eyes?” The situation is found in Matthew 11:2-6.
      Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”
      1. The situation: Herod the tetrarch placed John in prison because John condemned him for taking his brother Philip’s wife (Matthew 14:1-12).
        1. Luke 1:5-25 and 57-66 inform us that John was conceived through a special act of God and was born to serve a special mission for God.
        2. Matthew 3:1-12, Mark 1:2-11, and Luke 3:2-20 inform us that John was a powerful evangelistic force in Israel as he prepared the people’s hearts and minds for Jesus.
      2. This is the way that I always looked at John’s question from prison:
        1. God gave John a special mission before his birth.
        2. As an adult, John was a powerful preacher in Israel.
        3. John was imprisoned and could no longer preach to the multitudes.
        4. In the isolation of prison, John wondered, “Did I accomplish the job God gave me to do?”
        5. So he sent disciples to ask Jesus if Jesus was the person John was to introduce to the people of Israel.

    3. When you use the “then eyes” to look at Bible teachings, you ask questions. The question I ask you to consider is a “what if” question.
      1. John 1:29 plainly states that before Jesus’ ministry, John recognized Jesus’ true identity and presented Jesus to his disciples as “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
      2. John 1:32 plainly states that the Holy Spirit confirmed to John that his identification was right.
      3. What if confusion caused John to ask his question?
        1. What if Jesus’ work and actions confused John?
        2. At the time of conception (not birth), the angel Gabriel informed Mary that Jesus would sit on King David’s throne, and that he would rule the descendants of Jacob forever in an endless kingdom.
        3. In his ministry, Jesus did not look or act like a king.
        4. Jesus demonstrated no desire to be political.
        5. Jesus was to be God’s sacrificial lamb and to achieve God’s purposes by using methods and an approach neither used nor seen in Israel.
      4. What if John asked, “Are you the right person?” because he did not understand what was happening?
        1. What if John’s question was not primarily produced by his prison experience?
        2. What if his question came from the fact that he could not understand Jesus’ actions?
          1. Jesus was attracting multitudes.
          2. But Jesus was making no move toward the throne of Israel.
        3. What if Jesus was not causing to happen what John thought should happen?

    4. I think Jesus’ answer provides us powerful insights.
      1. Instead of explaining what he was doing, instead of saying, “Yes, John, I am the man,” Jesus quoted from Isaiah and told John’s disciples to report that they saw and heard to John.
        1. The Isaiah statements Jesus sent to John come from Isaiah 35:5 following and Isaiah 61:1.
        2. The context of Isaiah 35:5 is God’s promise to restore Israel, and the context of Isaiah 61:1 is the restoration of Israel’s relationship with God.
      2. This is Jesus’ message to John (Matthew 11:5,6).
        “The blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”
        1. Had ever the blind received sight, the lame walked, the lepers receive cleansing, and the deaf heard as had occurred in Jesus’ ministry?
        2. Had ever the poor had God’s good news preached to them in Israel? No!
        3. Were devoutly religious people taking offense at Jesus? Yes!
        4. What if Jesus was saying to John, “You may not understand what is happening, but what is happening is what God intended to happen.”
      3. One truth is clearly evident: God did the unexpected in the birth and life of John; God did the unexpected in the birth and life of Jesus; and God did the unexpected in presenting the gospel.

    5. Throughout Israel’s existence, Israelites placed their faith in the system.
      1. Obviously, Jesus was not the system.
      2. Jesus declared, “Place your faith in God, not in the system.”
      3. “The gospel is not found in your system; the gospel is found in God’s son.”

  2. Please think about some insights that we Christians need to understand.
    1. The gospel’s power is not found in a religious system; it is found in a Savior, the son of God, God’s sacrificial lamb.
      1. Haven’t we learned that the realities of spiritual existence in an evil world cannot be addressed by a system?
        1. You and I will never be rescued from evil by a system.
        2. Systems control, label, and condemn.
        3. Systems destroy hope by focusing on failure.
        4. Systems declare it is all up to us; systems declare it is a matter of human performance.
        5. Nothing is as lifeless, as empty of mercy and compassion, as unforgiving as a controlling religious system.
      2. Haven’t we understood that spiritual existence in an evil world is possible only through a Savior?
        1. God’s Savior can rescue us from anything.
        2. God’s Savior destroys human failure.
        3. God’s Savior guides instead of controls, releases instead of labels, and frees instead of condemns.
        4. God’s Savior destroys failure by giving hope.
        5. God’s Savior says, “I did for you what you can never do for yourself.”
        6. God’s Savior is the source of life, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness.

  3. I want to share a personal conclusion; it is the result of over forty years of Bible study, working with Christians in crisis, and being in crisis.
    1. I fully understand this is my personal conclusion.
      1. I fully understand that many will not agree with my conclusion.
      2. I fully understand that your agreement makes me neither correct or incorrect.
      3. I fully understand that I am no more than a human, and not inspired.
      4. This is from me to you; think and use God’s wisdom.

    2. My conclusion: I find enormous irony in the fact that fifty years ago the system we believed would establish faith and stabilize godliness is, today, destroying faith and making godliness look ridiculous.
      1. Some of our own Christian adults take that system and justify anything they wish to justify, “There is nothing wrong with X. The Bible does not condemn that.”
      2. Because of the system, some of our own Christian adults look at the godless forces devastating our marriages and destroying our homes and say, “Don’t be ridiculous! That is perfectly harmless! There is no way that is the cause!”
      3. Some of our own children use the system to declare, “That is not evil! That is good! My friends aren’t evil, and they do that. It is not an evil influence! It does not hurt anybody! Besides, its fun!”

  4. This one simple thing grieves me deeply: we produced a lot of people in the church who know volumes about the rules and regulations of the system; we produced too few people in the church who have a genuine, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
    1. When someone with love and concern tries to awaken us to the obvious, it is too easy to react rather than think.
    2. We watch too many of our teens abandon faith, too many of our young adults justify unspiritual lifestyles, too many of our marriages fail, too many of our homes become hollow shells, and too many of our brothers and sisters in Christ trade spiritual existence for being religious.
    3. What happened? Why can we be more concerned about being religious than being holy? Why can we be more concerned about technicalities than godliness? Why can we be more concerned about self-justification than purity?

What if God sent you, personally, a messenger. The messenger said, “I understand that the West-Ark congregation exists to be God’s community. What in the West-Ark congregation says to you that the congregation is seriously dedicated to God’s purposes?” You had to give an answer. What would you say?

Would you say, “Those blinded by evil see. Those made lame by ungodliness walk. Those who had the leprosy of sin are cleansed. Those who were deaf to God hear. The spiritually dead are made alive in Christ. We share the good news of Jesus with the poor. And Jesus never offends us.”

Is that happening in your life? Has your blindness turned to sight? Do you walk in righteousness? Are your sins cleansed? Has your deafness become hearing? Have you been raised to life in Jesus? Do you share Jesus with the poor? Does Jesus never offend you?