Changing the Way We Look at Life

Posted by on May 27, 2001 under Sermons

There is no end to the different ways that people look at life. People view existence in this world through very different sets of eyes. Even when people look at the same circumstances and situations, different people have totally different views. Let me use two examples as illustrations.

To some people, life stinks. No matter what the circumstances are or the situation is, they always see the stinky things. Trouble chases them like a vicious dog. Problems cling to them like ticks. Tragedy rains on them like hail stones. When something good happens, they cannot enjoy it. They spend their time wondering when the bad will come. If they win a million dollars, the taxes are horrible. When someone is kind to them, they wonder, “What is that person trying to do to me?” To them, life is horrible, so they look for the bad in every situation.

To some people, life is wonderful. Everything is wonderful! If trouble chases someone like an angry dog, that person irritated the dog. If problems cling to someone like ticks, that person walked among the ticks. If tragedy falls on someone like hail stones, that person chases tornadoes. Life is naturally good! Bad things do not happen unless you invite them into your life. They never look at life and see anything bad.

Three men experience the same plane crash and survive. All three sustain basically the same injuries. After the crash, one lives life in fear. Everywhere he looks, he sees something threatening life. One lives in anger. Everything is a giant conspiracy against him. One learns from the experience. The crash and recovery made him wiser, more insightful.

How can the same crash in the same plane at the same moment which caused each man similar injuries produce such different reactions? It was not the crash experience. It was the way the three men viewed life. The way we look at life molds the way we live life.

  1. Are you a Christian?
    1. If your answer is, “Yes,” may I ask you a question: is it not obvious that something is basically incorrect with our concept of Christian existence, our concept of “church,” our concept of spirituality?
      1. It is obvious to me that something is basically incorrect with our concept of Christian existence, the church, and spirituality.
        1. If you talked to Brad Pistole who works with our young people, I have no doubt that he would tell you that it is obvious to him that something is basically incorrect with our concepts.
        2. If you talked to Ted Edwards who works with our education program and involvement, I have no doubt that he would tell you that it is obvious to him that something is basically incorrect with our concepts.
        3. There are any number of Christians in this congregation, some in leadership roles and some who are committed servants, who would say it is obvious that something is basically incorrect with our concepts.
      2. Someone says, “Amen! It is about time you talked about what is wrong!”
        1. “We need to correct some ‘doctrinal issues’ around here!”
        2. To me, what is obviously incorrect about the way we look at Christian existence, the church, and spirituality is far more basic than what many call doctrine.
        3. “We need to get some ‘church practices’ straightened out around here!”
        4. To me, what is obviously incorrect about the way we look at Christian existence, the church, and spirituality is far more basic than what many call “church practices.”

    2. “David, what are you talking about? What possibly can be more basic than doctrine or church practices? Can anything be more basic than that?”
      1. Yes. There are understandings that determine our view of Christian existence, that determine our view of the church, that determine our view of spirituality that are more basic than what many classify as doctrine or church practices.
      2. “Why would you think that something is incorrect with our basic views?”
        1. I want to say some things that I need to say, that we all need to consider in our minds and hearts.
        2. I have a problem: some of you will think, “He is talking about me.”
        3. I want to make this very clear.
        4. I am not talking specifically about any person or situation.
        5. I know for a fact these things are common place.
      3. Let me share specific reasons for concluding that something is basically incorrect with our concepts of Christian existence, the church, and spirituality.
        1. Too many who sit here most Sunday mornings view Christian existence, the church, and spirituality as a matter of projecting an image.
          1. Everyone in the family knows the rules.
          2. Rule # 1: “All family arguments on Sunday morning stop when we are within one mile of the church building.”
            1. “We can fight like cats and dogs at home or in the car any other time.”
            2. “But not on Sunday morning when we are within a mile of the church building.”
          3. Rule # 2: “When we get out of the car, everybody must act like we are one, big happy family. We are not. But everyone of us must act like we are on Sunday morning at the church building.”
          4. Rule # 3: “Nobody can say anything to anyone about our family problems to anyone who goes to West-Ark. If you have to fake it, fake it. We must protect our image.”
        2. There are too many of us who think that a lifestyle of drinking, or drugs, or addictions have no relevance to spirituality.
        3. There are too many who think that pornographic habits have no influence or effect on Christian existence.
        4. There are too many who have concluded that sexual activity outside of marriage has nothing to do with faith in Christ.
        5. We Christians get our lives in horrible messes; we Christians inflict horrible pain on ourselves; and we Christians struggle with the consequences of ungodly lifestyles because we allow godless influences to shape our view of life.

    3. “What do you mean? What are you talking about?”
      1. Let me try to say it as plainly as I know how to say it.
      2. Too many Christians willingly look at life in the same way that people who do not belong to God look at life.
      3. Too many Christians willingly look at spirituality in the same way that people who are not spiritual look at spirituality.
      4. Too many Christians willingly look at the church in the same way that people who have no desire to be the church look at it.
      5. Too many Christians willingly look at Christian existence in the same way that people who do not want to be Christians look at Christian existence.
      6. Too many Christians hunger to live just like people who are not godly–and just add “going to church.”
      7. It is impossible to look at life as do the godless and belong to God.
      8. Question: who is influencing whom in the way they look at God and spiritual existence?

  2. A basic truth that is fundamental to spiritual existence: when a person is converted to Jesus Christ, it changes the way he or she looks at life.
    1. I want to share two illustrations from the Bible.
    2. The first illustration comes from Jesus himself.
      1. I could use many of Jesus’ statements, but I will use Matthew 6:19-34. Read with me.
        Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
      2. Sometimes in our studies we are so focused on dissecting the thought that we never see the basic point.
      3. What is the basic point? “Israel, people who are serious about godliness and righteousness absolutely must change the way they look at life”.
        1. “You cannot look at life the way you always looked at life and be God’s people.”
        2. “I know that is the way your religious leaders look at life, and even tell you their view of life is God’s view of life.”
        3. “But if you truly want to be God’s people, you must see life differently.”

    3. The second illustration comes from Paul as he wrote to Christians whose background was in idolatry. The statement is found in Ephesians 4:17-24.
      So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 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.
      1. “You must not look at life in the same way as do people who live godless lives.”
      2. “You cannot look at life in the same way you did when you worshipped idols.”
      3. “Christians look at life differently; they think differently, feel differently, and have different values.”
      4. “Christians desire to be what God created them in Christ to be–they want to be different because Christ makes it possible for them to look at life differently.”

Too often the influences that control the minds of Christians are the values of godless forces, the pleasures of godless forces, and the standards of godless forces. Many of these forces do not even pretend to be godly.

When I study the Bible’s concepts of godliness and spirituality, and I look at our common concepts of godliness and spirituality, I grieve. Our concepts too often are based on church membership, church attendance, and church programs. They are not based on being something. They are based on doing something. So if we do what we consider to be the right things, we can live and behave like people who have no spiritual interests.

That is not the Bible’s concept of Christianity. That is churchanity. Is the church important? Absolutely! Those who are in Christ are the church. Jesus died so we could be the church. But we who are the church simply cannot look at life in the same way as do people who are not the church. We who seek to be godly, spiritual people in Christ cannot look at life and adopt the lifestyles of people who have no interest in being godly or spiritual.

If we think the difference is seen in church attendance, we do not understand godliness. If we think the difference is seen in church membership, we do not understand spirituality. If we think the difference is just a different set of rules, we do not understand righteousness.

The difference is seen in the way we use life. We use life differently because we look at life differently.

A Personal Understanding of Our Purpose

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Many Christian principles are stated simply but are challenging to understand. One such principle is this: God saves us to do good works, but our good works do not save us. It is easy to place our faith in our accomplishments (good works) instead of the grace in Jesus’ atonement.

Paul emphasized that principle to the Christians in Ephesus. He stressed Christians owe their salvation to God’s grace (Ephesians 2:1-10). God’s rich mercy and great love makes it possible to be resurrected to life in Jesus Christ. They were saved by God’s grace in Jesus Christ. The “surpassing riches of His [God’s] grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” made their salvation possible (Ephesians 2:7). No reason for human arrogance exists. Everyone depends on God’s grace for salvation. Salvation is the result of what God did, not what we do. God saves; human works do not.

However, God recreated them when He saved them (Ephesians 2:10). Salvation recreates. When a person enters Christ, God makes him or her something he or she never was. God recreates Christians for a purpose. His purpose is simple: to do good works [to live daily life doing good works]. That remains God’s intention for all who enter Christ: every Christian is saved to do God’s good works.

American Christians have difficulty understanding this simple principle. Our view of human existence rejects that principle. We are products of the free enterprise system. Our economic system declares a person should be paid for what he or she does. Payment for our work is earned wages “owed us.”

Older generations regard a common concept of younger generations confusing. That concept is entitlement. “I am entitled to have (or to enjoy) ‘X’ because I am owed ‘X’ experience.” Older generations survived times when “no one owed you anything.” The concepts of “society owing me,” “the world owing me,” or “life owing me” are foreign to their experience.

Younger generations regard older generations’ past experiences as irrelevant to current existence. All are “entitled” to a basic standard of living. Everyone is “entitled” to specific experiences. “Society,” “the world,” or “life” owes everyone specific things.

Salvation is not the result of earnings or entitlement. It is the result of Jesus’ atonement.

As a people, we are poorly prepared to understand that God does not reward us for what we do but for our trust in Christ. We are poorly prepared to understand that God expects each Christian to do good works when salvation is never a matter of earnings or entitlement. The foundation of Christian existence is not mere “church membership.” It is serving God’s purposes in Jesus. It is doing God’s good works because we love God, believe in Jesus, and live in the atonement they provide through grace.

Credibility and God’s Outreach

Posted by on May 20, 2001 under Sermons

God is prepared to set the final segment of His salvation outreach in motion. His Son will be sent to live as a human on earth shortly. Before sending His Son, He calls a conference of righteous people to explain what is about to happen. You are one of the righteous God calls to attend the conference.

God speaks. “Here is what I will do and what I will begin. Soon I will send my Son to earth. He will be born as a person and named Jesus. As an adult, he will have a ministry in Israel that reveals the coming of My kingdom. His ministry will be devoted to two purposes. First, he will challenge Israel to understand the priority I place on mercy, grace, and forgiveness. Second, he will prepare the Jewish people for the coming of my promised kingdom.

“This spiritual kingdom will be brought into existence by My Son’s death. In death he will give his blood to atone for all sin. Then I will raise him from death to be Lord over this new kingdom. All who will place their trust in him, redirect their lives away from sin, and participate in his death and resurrection through immersion will be citizens in My kingdom. Anyone on earth who accepts forgiveness and submits to his Lordship can be citizens in that kingdom.

“Are there any questions?”

  1. There are a lot of questions and comments.
    1. One question is asked that was on many righteous people’s mind.
      1. “The Jewish community is basically a closed, isolated community that is not really open to outsiders.”
        1. “They are not going to be thrilled about the fact that your new spiritual kingdom is available to everyone.”
        2. “Obviously, after Jesus dies and is resurrected he will need to use a human spokesmen to tell Israel what You have done and to tell the world what You have done.”
        3. “Those critical roles are sensitive and extremely important. Who do you have in mind to do this?”
      2. God responds, “Men by the names of Peter and Paul will serve those purposes.”

    2. How do you feel about Peter and Paul functioning in such sensitive positions?
      1. Because we are Christians who live about 2000 years “after the fact,” our likely initially reaction is, “God really knew what He was doing when He used Peter and Paul.”
        1. Both men did incredible work.
        2. Both men functioned in the way God wanted.
        3. Looking back, it is easy to see that.
        4. I do not think I ever heard a Christian suggest that God could have done a much better job if He had used men other than Peter and Paul.
      2. But this is the truth of the matter: if it was our decision to make today, right now, most of us would not use Peter or Paul in the role they served.
        1. Why?
        2. Today we would say that it was a matter of credibility, that such was not in the best interest of the church.

  2. Why would we feel that way about Peter?
    1. There are a number of things that we admire about Peter during the time of Jesus’ ministry.
      1. We admire that fact that he left his occupation to follow Jesus as a disciple to learn (Matthew 4:18-20).
      2. We admire the fact that he became one of the closest disciples to Jesus during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry.
        1. “Peter, James, and John” occupy a special relationship with Jesus as disciples.
        2. When Jesus selected some disciples to share a special moment with him, he commonly selected Peter, James, and John (the transfiguration –Matthew 17:1; the “in the garden” time of prayer–Matthew 26:36,37).
      3. We admire the fact that Peter would drop the nets because Jesus asked him to lower them (Luke 5:1-11).
      4. We admire the fact that Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water (Matthew 14:24-29).
      5. As a disciple while Jesus lived, we admired his determination, his single-minded devotion, and the strength of his commitment.

    2. But there is some thing we do not admire about Peter.
      1. We do not admire Peter’s reaction to stress when the unexpected and undesired happened in the moment of great crisis.
        1. The last night of Jesus’ life, prior to his betrayal, he told his disciples that all of them would stumble that night because of him (Matthew 26:31-35)
          1. All of them said they would not stumble because of Jesus and they would die if necessary.
          2. Peter was quite emphatic in his denial: “If everyone else does, I will not.”
          3. Jesus replied that Peter would deny him three times before the roster crowed.
          4. Peter replied, “Even if I have to die, I will not do deny you.”
        2. When Jesus was arrested, Peter was ready to die (Matthew 26:47-56).
          1. When a single fisherman engaged many Roman soldiers in a sword fight, the fisherman was ready to die (John 18:10,11).
          2. He would die fighting, but not standing there.
          3. He and the others fled into the darkness leaving Jesus alone with his enemies.
        3. Before the roster crowed, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times, the last time with cursing and swearing (Matthew 26:69-75).
          1. Right after the third denial, the roster crowed.
          2. Peter left the courtyard crying bitterly.

    3. If we were on a search committee looking for a man to explain God’s work in Jesus Christ for the very first time, we would not select Peter.
      1. The first sermon was to be preached in the same area of the denial, and some of the people who heard the denial likely heard the sermon in Acts 2.
      2. We would reason that Peter’s denial destroyed his credibility, and the occasion was much too important to risk Peter being the speaker.
      3. Honestly, most of us would not do it that way.

  3. Why would we feel that way about Paul?
    1. In the Churches of Christ, Paul is one of the most admired people in the New Testament.
      1. He was probably one of Jesus’ greatest missionaries.
      2. He made incredible personal sacrifices to teach others about Christ (2 Corinthians 11:23-33).
      3. Almost half of the books in the New Testament were letters send by Paul to congregations or individuals.
      4. He was executed for his faith in Christ.

    2. Yet, before he became a Christian, Paul was one of the greatest, most feared enemies of Christians.
      1. By his own words, he was violent, he blasphemed, and he persecuted (1 Timothy 1:13).
      2. In an attempt to destroy the church in Jerusalem, he made a house to house search for followers of Christ, and when he found men or women who were Jesus’ disciples, he dragged them out of their homes and put them in prison (Acts 8:3).
      3. He threatened Christians with murder (Acts 9:1).
      4. In his own words, “I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities” (Acts 26:11).

    3. If we were on a search committee to find a man to share Christ for the first time in areas that never heard of Jesus, we would not select Paul.
      1. We would reason that if anyone ever learned of Paul’s past that it would destroy his credibility.
      2. We just could not risk a man with Paul’s past being a missionary.
      3. In all honesty, we simply would not do it that way.

  4. “So what is the point? The people who have the most troubled past should be our leaders? The people who have experienced the greatest turmoil and struggle should be our leaders?” No, that is not the point.
    1. There were reasons that God could use Peter and Paul so powerfully.
      1. Before they were broken, Peter and Paul were committed, aggressive, determined, confident men.
      2. Before they were broken, both men placed their primary confidence in themselves, their drive, their understanding, and their personal strength.
      3. Before he was broken, Peter knew his capabilities; he had great faith in his own personal drive.
      4. Before he was broken, Paul had great faith in his knowledge and in his being correct.
      5. Both men were driven and were self reliant.
        1. Before either man could be of maximum usefulness to God and His purposes, each had to fail.
        2. Each had to fail in ways that completely disillusioned them.
        3. Each had to fail in ways that transferred their confidence and dependence completely away from self and totally to God.
        4. Ironically, both men were certain they did depend on God and not themselves.
        5. Though both men were absolutely confident they were depending on God and faith, both men were wrong in their assessment of themselves.

    2. “In your understanding, David, what was the basic reason that these two men who failed miserably were able to be useful in such key roles?”
      1. They placed no confidence in themselves or their abilities.
      2. They placed total confidence in what God did in Jesus Christ.
      3. Their spirit and attitude completely changed when they stopped trusting themselves and placed all trust in God.

    3. The point: God makes powerful use of broken people who totally depend on Jesus Christ.
      1. “Why?”
      2. The answer to “why” is found:
        1. In understanding what brokeness does to the heart and the spirit of the person.
        2. In understanding the power that exists in appreciating forgiveness when the person knows he received mercy.
      3. God uses His strength to work through human weakness so that people respond to the God of strength, not a person of strength.

    4. If we want to utilize people who can accomplish significant things for God’s purposes, we must learn to look at converted hearts, not messed up pasts.

Does this mean that a godly person capable of great leadership and service is a perfect spiritual person with all understanding and wisdom? No. It certainly did not mean that for Peter. Doing exactly what God wanted in the teaching of Cornelius cost Peter his position in the Jerusalem church and made him afraid of a group of Christians in that church (Galatians 2:11-13).

If we are to achieve God’s purposes in Christ, we must learn how to be led and taught by Christians who have great hearts. Christians who have great hearts have learned how to depend on God and not themselves. Often they have learned that lesson through weakness and failure.

The “Craving”

Posted by on May 13, 2001 under Bulletin Articles

Commonly we associate “cravings” with eating. To “crave” something is to yearn for it with such inward desire that the desire seems undeniable.

Years ago when I taught in Africa I remember a specific moment when I “craved” something sweet. My desire for something sweet was beyond merely wanting it. It was not, “It would be nice to have something sweet.” It screamed, “You must have something sweet!”

We had nothing sweet in our house. At that time in those circumstances, buying something sweet was not an option. Sweets were not available. The fact that sweets were unavailable intensified my “craving.”

I walked to a nearby fellow missionary’s home and asked, “Do you have anything sweet?” I suspect the thirty-year-old memory lingers in their minds of the day when David had to have something sweet.

Did you ever crave chocolate? a steak? a particular meal? a particular fruit? homemade ice cream? Did you satisfy your craving? What is your most unreasonable act to satisfy a craving for a specific food? What is the most unreasonable price you paid for a food you craved?

“Cravings” are associated with appetites, but those appetites are not always for food. A craving of itself is neither good nor bad. What determines if a craving is good or bad is the focus of the appetite.

The gospel of Matthew records a sermon Jesus gave on a mount (chapters 5-7). He spoke to Jewish people. Common religious interests were seldom based on a personal desire to be close to God. Too many reduced God’s will to systematic procedures. In the majority, the personal hunger for righteousness had died.

Jesus began the sermon with the beatitudes, the “blessed are’s.” A common way to study the beatitudes is to focus on each individually (which should be done). Often that focus is so consuming that we fail to note the overall description of the beatitudes. Collectively they describe Jesus’ and God’s concept of a righteous person. That picture stood in distinct contrast to the commonly accepted description of a righteous person.

In Jesus’ description of a righteous person, he noted that person hungers and thirsts for righteousness. Only the person who “craves” God is promised his or her appetite for righteousness will be satisfied. Today a key problem in and out of the church is this: many people have little or no craving for God.

Can God through Jesus Christ enable us to be righteous? Certainly! He can and will–when our appetite craves righteousness.

Strange Happenings

Posted by on May 6, 2001 under Sermons

What is the simplest way to misunderstand another person?

I realize there are many ways to misunderstand people. I realize that it is much harder to understand a person than it is to misunderstand him or her. The probability is high that in the privacy of your own thinking and emotions you are convinced that no one really understands you. Certainly you would say that a few individuals understand you better than the majority of people. Yet, some people do not understand you at all. But does anyone truly understand completely your thoughts and feelings?

Back to my original question. What is the simplest way to misunderstand another person? My emphasis is on simplest. A suggestion: the simplest way to misunderstand another person is to fail to listen to him or her. If I do not listen to the person, I mistake my misunderstanding for understanding. When I do not listen, I am convinced that I have the person “figured out” so accurately that he or she needs to listen to me.

What is the simplest way to misunderstand God? Again, I realize that many different routes lead to a misunderstanding of God. However, the simplest way to misunderstand God is to fail to listen. When I do not listen, I easily conclude that I have God accurately figured out. “If you do not understand God, you do not need to listen to God. You need to listen to me because I have God figured out.”

In the last two lessons we focused on God’s ways being different from human ways. We looked closely at the meaning of Isaiah 55:8,9 when Isaiah speaking in God’s voice declared that God’s ways were not our ways. We looked at God’s use of Abraham’s family. We noted that we would not use those kinds of people to create the perfect means for saving people. We just would not do things the way God obviously did them.

  1. Tonight I want us to focus on Jesus’ genealogy found in Matthew 1 to note that God’s ways are not our ways.
    1. Evidence within the gospel of Matthew suggests that this gospel was written to Jewish people to verify that Jesus was the Christ.
      1. As this gospel begins, Matthew notes a basic evidence that had special significance to the Jewish people: Jesus was a descendant from Abraham through King David.
      2. In declaring Jesus’ lineage, Matthew mentioned five women, four of whom we today would not expect to see in the lineage of the Messiah (Christ).
        1. If you and I selected just four women to be mentioned in our family’s history, we would not select four women like these.
        2. The four represent incidents that we would rather forget than remember.
      3. The first woman Matthew mentioned was Tamar (Genesis 38).
        1. Tamar’s story is one that we would want to forget if she were in our family tree.
        2. Judah, one of Jacob’s twelve sons, had three sons.
        3. The oldest son (Er) married Tamar, but he was so wicked the God killed him.
        4. Judah told his second son (Onan) to perform the custom of levirate marriage through which Tamar would have a child, and that child would be considered the child of his dead brother.
        5. Onan refused to honor his responsibility because he knew the child would not be considered his child, and God killed him.
        6. After Onan died, Judah told Tamar to allow his third son to mature, and the third son would perform the function of levirate marriage.
          1. While she waited for that time to come, Tamar was to return to her father and live as a widow.
          2. Time passed, and Judah forgot his promise.
        7. After Judah’s wife died, Judah made a trip to check on his flocks.
          1. Tamar knew where Judah was going and when he would make the trip, so she dressed as a temple prostitute and took a position on his route.
          2. Sure enough, Judah saw her and propositioned her.
          3. When he approached her, she asked what he would pay, and he promised her that he would sent her a baby goat the next day.
          4. She asked for a pledge to keep until she received the goat, and she took his ring, staff, and the cord men wore around their waist.
          5. The next day when Judah sent the goat to reclaim his ring, staff, and cord, the temple prostitute did not exist.
        8. Three months later Judah was informed that Tamar was pregnant, and he said, “Bring her out and let her be burned!”
          1. She sent Judah his ring, staff, and cord with the statement, “The man who owned these is the father of my child.”
          2. Judah recognized his possessions and said, “She is more righteous than I am.”
      4. The second woman Matthew listed was Rahab (Joshua 2).
        1. When Israel prepared to invade Canaan, Joshua sent two spies to Jericho.
        2. The spies found lodging at Rahab’s (a prostitute) house.
        3. When their presence was discovered in Jericho, Rahab hid them and saved their lives.
        4. In exchange for a promise for safety when the invasion occurred and Jericho fell, she helped them escape.
        5. Matthew noted this woman, a prostitute, not an Israelite, was an ancestor of Jesus.
      5. Third woman Matthew listed was Ruth (Ruth 4).
        1. Economic conditions were very bad in Israel, so an Israelite man (Elimelech), his wife (Naomi), and his two sons (Mahlon and Chilion) moved from Bethlehem in Israel to the country of Moab.
        2. The Israelite man died there.
        3. The two sons married Moabite women, and they died in Moab.
        4. The Israelite woman, Naomi, left Moab and returned to home to Israel.
        5. One of her daughters-in-law, a Moabite (Ruth), left her country and her family to follow Naomi to Israel, and she worked with Naomi in Israel.
        6. In time Ruth married Boaz, and they were the great-grandparents of King David.
        7. Matthew noted this Moabite woman as an ancestor of Jesus.
      6. The fourth woman Matthew listed was Bathsheba who had an affair with King David while she was married to Uriah the Hittite (2 Samuel 11).
        1. King David initiated a sexual encounter with Bathsheba.
          1. Bathsheba conceived from that encounter.
          2. David tried to cover the pregnancy by having Bathsheba’s husband send home from the war front.
          3. Uriah came to Jerusalem, but he would not go to his house and be with his wife.
        2. As an end result, David issued orders to the commander in charge of his troops to have Uriah placed in a position were he would certainly be killed in battle.
          1. Then, after an appropriate period of mourning, David married Bathsheba in an attempt to cover his affair.
          2. Months later, after Bathsheba had his son, Nathan (God’s prophet) condemned David for his wicked acts.
          3. Among the consequences of his wickedness was the death of the child.
        3. But David was allowed to keep Bathsheba as a wife.
          1. By Bathsheba David had a son he named Solomon.
          2. 2 Samuel 11:24 states that God loved Solomon from birth.
          3. Solomon, David’s son by Bathsheba, became the next king of Israel.
        4. That is not the way we would do God’s business.
          1. We would not let David keep Bathsheba for a wife.
          2. We would not let a descendant of David and Bathsheba be the next King of Israel.

    2. Why list those four women as Jesus’ ancestors?
      1. I do not know.
      2. Many have discussed possible reasons, but no reason is the obvious reason.
        1. The fact that this gospel was intended for a Jewish readership makes Matthew’s inclusion of these four women the more unusual.
        2. Jewish attitudes toward women and the values of female virtue in the first century makes the inclusion of these four women the more unusual.
        3. Why not use women who were honored as virtuous, dedicated Israelites?
      3. The fifth woman included on that list was Mary, the mother of Jesus.
        1. We look with great respect and favor on Mary, her faith in God, and her devotion to God as a godly woman.
        2. Could it be that when Matthew wrote Mary was not held in as high esteem among Jewish people then as we hold her now?
        3. Could it be that many Jews rejected the explanation of Jesus being born of a virgin as ridiculous?
        4. Could it be that the typical view of many Jews was Mary had a child when she was not married and was sexually unfaithful to the man to whom she was engaged to marry?
        5. Could it be that Matthew reminded them that God made unexpected use of women in His work by recalling Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba–a woman who seduced her father-in-law, a prostitute who was not an Israelite, a woman who was a Moabite, and a woman who had an affair with their greatest Old Testament king?

  2. Whatever the reason, Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus certainly reminds us that God does not do things the way we do them.
    1. To me, there are some important lessons to be understood from Matthew’s inclusion of the first four women.
      1. Be very careful when you come to the conclusion that you have God “figured out” and know what God would do; you may be deceiving yourself.
      2. God measures righteousness by different standards than do most of us; we need to place our faith in his standards and not our own.
      3. God can make use of anyone to accomplish His purposes if that person places his or her faith in God in a dependent relationship.
      4. Through His forgiveness, God often uses His power to value those we would reject.
      5. Our greatest challenge is to grow in understanding of God instead of functioning as judges as did the Pharisees.

    2. To me, the greatest lesson of all is accepting this truth: God’s ways are not our ways.

As Christians, may all of us have the goal of allowing Jesus to teach us God’s ways. No one ever understood God as completely and correctly as did Jesus. No one ever modeled the physical behavior that God wants and honors as did Jesus. May our understanding of God’s will and purposes always begin with Jesus.

Stability in the Instability of Life

Posted by on under Sermons

I want to introduce our visitors to two people who are well known in this congregation. I do this with permission. First, I want to introduce you to Jonette Shirley. Jonette had the symptoms of a respiratory infection last Thanksgiving. In early January, she was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. On Saturday, March 31, we joined Paul and his family in thanking God for the blessing Jonette had been to us and in burying her body. Jonette died just a few days before her 50th birthday.

photo of Shirley family
Jonette & husband
photo of Word family
James & family

Second, I want you to meet James Word. He is a Christian man with a sweet spirit and a caring heart. He helps coordinate our mission committee and foreign mission work. By occupation, James has been an Emergency Room doctor at Saint Edward Hospital for several years. He is in his early 50’s. In recent days he had a stroke that has for the moment robbed him of the use of his right arm and leg. This morning he is with us. Right now he is a patient in Saint Edward Hospital as he begins rehab.

Of all the people on earth, Americans probably have the most developed, stable lifestyle known. We likely have the most predictable, advanced lifestyle in the world. But with all we seem to have, we are constantly reminded of two truths: life is unpredictable, and life is unstable. Do you doubt that life is unpredictable and unstable? We struggled with an ice storm as this year began. How stable and predictable was your life? The stock market recently plunged dramatically. Did that affect your life? We are told that gasoline prices may rise to more than three dollars a gallon in the next five years. If that happens, do you know what that will do to your life?

  1. What is your personal view of God?
    1. More importantly, how did you acquire your personal view of God?
      1. Did your view of God come from someone’s traditional views handed down to you?
      2. Is your view of God built on pieces of hearsay that you fit together like a puzzle?
      3. Is your view of God based on fragments of thoughts that appeal to you?

    2. Which of these two concepts better describe your thoughts about God?
      1. “God is a human invention created by human minds in an attempt to find stability in an unstable world.”
      2. Or, “God is the highest reality of all existence who helps people cope with an unstable world.”

    3. “Who are you people and what are you about?”
      1. That is a fair question, and it could be answered in many ways.
        1. To answer the question well, I would need to know what you mean by what you ask.
        2. Let me share a general answer in the hope it can be a foundation for understanding.
      2. We are a people who believe that God is the highest reality of all existence, and He has enormous personal interest in people and concern for people.
        1. We believe that God made an sacrificial commitment to people’s well being by providing the solution for our number one problem in an unstable, unpredictable world.
        2. We believe that God interacts with people in compassion because He cares.
      3. Because we believe those things, we seriously seek to teach ourselves and others how to base daily life on God.
        1. We are serious about honoring God for His love and compassion–that is why we worship.
        2. We are serious about allowing God to teach us life’s purpose, to define for us life’s priorities, and to reveal to us life’s realities.

    4. “Excuse me, but something you keep saying disturbs me.”
      1. “You prefaced those statements with ‘we believe.'”
        1. “What you seem to say is that you are a people who use faith to consider the most important questions of life.”
        2. “When people talk about life’s purposes, life’s priorities, and life’s realities, they are talking about extremely serious matters.”
        3. “I am all for having faith, but it makes me nervous to include faith in such serious matters.”
        4. “I think there are some things that are just too serious for faith.”
      2. First, you are quite correct: we are a people of faith who constantly learn how to use faith in the serious matters of life.”
      3. Second, you live by faith every day of your life.
        1. I doubt that any of us regard any consideration more serious than the realistic possibility of dying.
        2. Yet, as an act of faith, in faith, you place your health and your possible death on the line every single day when you get in a car to drive or to ride as a passenger.
      4. “How is that an act of faith? How is ‘believing’ involved when I get in a car?”
        1. You have faith that every single car or truck you meet in oncoming traffic is mechanically sound.
        2. You believe that your own car or truck is mechanically sound.
        3. You believe that every driver you meet is sufficiently healthy to drive safely, is trained to drive, knows how to make good judgments driving, is not too tired to drive, is not under the influence of alcohol, and is not under the influence of any kind of drug that would impair their judgment.
        4. If you are the driver, you believe that you will make the right decision instantly in any given situation.
      5. That is a lot of faith in a matter that could determine your health for the rest of your life, and could even determine when you die.

  2. “As you use God to determine the purpose, priorities, and realities of life, how do you use faith?” Let me share two basic faith concepts with you.
    1. Our first faith concept is this: we believe that God seeks our greatest good as we live in and cope with an evil world.
      1. I am quite aware many things are legitimately a part of that understanding.
        1. That concept does not mean that we believe that nothing bad can or will happen to us.
        2. It means that no matter what happens, God is firmly committed to our “greatest good.”
      2. The challenging problem lies in our understanding of “greatest good.”
        1. Who defines what is in our “greatest good?”
        2. Does God make that definition? Or do we?
        3. Does God understand what is in our greatest good when we do not or when we even disagree with God?
      3. Consider an illustration based on realities all teenagers and all parents of a teenagers understand.
        1. Conscientious, caring parents of teens seek the teens’ “greatest good.”
        2. The problem and frustration exists for both the teens and the parents because the teen’s definition of “greatest good” and the parent’s definition of “greatest good” are quite different.
          1. Most teens are convinced that their “greatest good” is to have a really nice car; many parents are convinced a teen having a really nice car is not in his or her best interest.
          2. Many teenage girls are convinced that their “greatest good” will be found by having the right look (the right body, the right clothes, the right physical presentation of self); most parents know that having the right look is temporary and focuses on life on the wrong values.
          3. Many teenage boys think their “greatest good” is found in developing the right image so they can be cool and have a girl with the right look; most parents understand that image can literally destroy a son’s future.
          4. Because of different perspectives and different levels of maturity, the teens’ concept of “greatest good” and parents’ concept of “greatest good” will never be identical.
      4. God is the greatest reality in life, a reality Who goes beyond death.
        1. Not only do we believe that He exists, but we believe He is the origin of life.
        2. His understanding, perspective, and maturity exists on levels we cannot approach.
        3. We are the teenager; He is the parent.

    2. Our second faith concept is this: once we exist, we never cease to exist.
      1. That is the basic meaning of “life after death”: once we exist, we never cease to exist.
      2. That is the basic reality on which the judgment is based: once we exist, we never cease to exist.
      3. That is the basic reality of personal accountability and personal responsibility: once we exist, we never cease to exist.
      4. That is the basic truth of resurrection: once we exist, we never cease to exist.
      5. No issue is ever as simple as “here and now;” every issue involves eternity.
        1. “Why?”
        2. Once we exist, we never cease to exist.

  3. The fact that God seeks our greatest good and the fact that once we exist we never cease to exist are linked together.
    1. Jesus Christ links them.
      1. Because God seeks our “greatest good,” He sent a part of Himself as the human Jesus to show us how to win the war against evil.
        Hebrews 4:14-16 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
      2. God through Jesus paid the total price of every mistake, every act of evil that has been, is, or will be committed by any person.
        2 Corinthians 5:20,21 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
      3. God now patiently waits for us to turn to Him and live in His forgiveness.
        2 Peter 3:9-13 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

[Prayer: Help us understand why You sent Jesus Christ. Create in us the desire to turn to and belong to Jesus Christ.]

In your existence, what do you consider our greatest enemy? Poverty? A poor standard of living? Bad health? A terrible job? No job? No retirement? Death?

Paul urged the Christians at Ephesus to understand that our greatest enemy is not physical or material.

Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Our greatest enemy is not physical. Our greatest enemy is not material. Our greatest enemy uses the physical and the material to attack us now and to destroy our eternity.

But our greatest enemy is no match for Jesus Christ. If we dare to place our trust in Jesus Christ, he will help us survive now, and care for us in eternity.

What Do You Have That Someone Wants?

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Recently I talked to a friend after an auctioneer sold his family’s material possessions. The objective of this type of auction is to dispose of the estate. Late in the day there are some incredible “bargains.” For family members, it is often a time of unique grief.

Why? Piece by piece, chair by chair, plate by plate you watch a lifetime disappear. It is as though a huge eraser removes the marriage of your parents, removes your childhood, and removes your immediate family’s history. Things accumulated through a whole lifetime of living disappear in one afternoon. Late in the day the auctioneer begs anyone to make an offer on things that are priceless in your memories, but of little “real” value to anyone else. Amazed, you note how little money a lifetime of accumulations is worth. The value is cheap. The “real” evaporates. When the sun sets, all is gone.

What do you have that someone would want? Your vehicles? Your house? Your furniture? Your “prized” possessions? Maybe now. What about 10, 15, 25 years from now? In time, how many of your “prized” possessions will be “prized” only by you? Are you not amazed when you realize “memories” are the principle ingredient of a “prized” possession? Take away the memories, and many priceless “prizes” have little value. “Prizes” are best shared with memories still attached. To the one with an attached memory, it is priceless. To the one without an attached memory, there is little value.

I hope your most valuable things are not material. I hope the most “prized” qualities of your life have little to do with what you own. I hope prized memories are about you and not about your possessions. I hope the most valued qualities of your life include compassion, mercy, kindness, respect, consideration, fairness, and gentleness. I hope the most valued qualities in your life are rooted in your faith in God and Christ. I hope the thing you have that others most admire and desire is your faith.

Consider this wondrous quality of faith: the more you share it the more you have. Your faith in God and Christ is never diminished by sharing it with someone else. When you share it, it becomes no less valuable, no less “prized” by you. In fact, the more you share it, the closer you come to God and Christ.

Sunday is a day for sharing. In the first century, the most powerful influence that initially attracted others to those who belonged to Christ was their sense of community. We want visitors to see that we have and share something special: a sense of community taught to us by Jesus Christ. May it be obvious to everyone that we care and love. May they feel our caring and love by being with us. May our desire to share our caring and love be obvious. May it be obvious that Jesus Christ taught us to be that kind of people.

May the value of your faith be seen. May others want to find what you found in Jesus Christ. May your faith in Jesus be the most valuable thing you possess.