It Is Hard to Say “Thank You!”

Posted by on November 25, 2001 under Sermons

Years ago as Joyce and I served with a mission group, the whole group had serious problems with a particular government official. Though this official knew none of us personally, he just did not like us individually or as a group.

The fact that he disliked us caused real problems. The government’s system was pyramid style. In order to comply with any government requirement, we had to contact a specific sequence of offices and officials. The government imposed many requirements on every foreign group. And point A in the process, government office # 1 was this man.

I wanted to try to build a better relationship between our mission group and this official. The congregation providing our support and oversight had many people who were experienced in missions. I asked them to help me find an appropriate gift that would not be looked upon as a bribe, but be seen as a honor.

proof set example It was suggested that I give such officials a set of American proof coins. Proof coins were 100% silver, and were the first coins made with a die. They are truly collectors items. Even in the United States, those coins have special value. In a third world country, I suspect only a local banker would be able to determine their value.

At my first opportunity on my second tour, I presented this official with a set of the coins. His eyes lit up, and he asked me to explain what each coin was worth. He had no idea what American coins were worth, and he certainly had no idea of how much proof coins were worth.

Because I was caught up in his eagerness, I forgot what he did not know. Instead of telling him that only a banker could tell him the worth of the set, I began to explain the street value of each coin. Instantly, his eagerness changed to contempt. He tossed the coins on his desk and informed me that he would take them home for his children to play with–which was intended as an insult to me.

I wanted to honor the man. I wanted to say thank you for your past help. I made considerable effort to find him a gift. But my “thank you” quickly became an insult.

  1. Saying, “Thank you!” in a meaningful, accepted way is not simple.
    1. “Thanks” says many things, and the more meaningful the gesture and the more important the person, the more “thank you” says.
      1. It says, “I noticed what you did.”
      2. It says, “I appreciated what you did.”
      3. Its says, “I honor you for what you did.”

    2. It is especially hard to say, “Thank you!” to two kinds of people.
      1. It is hard to say, “Thank you!” to someone you love dearly.
      2. It is also hard to say, “Thank you!” to someone you do not know well.
      3. One of the most embarrassing memories in each of our lives is a memory of trying to say, “Thank you!” to someone and failing.
      4. It still distresses me to think about my act of honor becoming an insult when I visited that government official.

  2. How do you say, “Thank you!” to God?
    1. Telling God “Thank you!” is a very difficult problem!
      1. Everything you or I give God first came to us through God.
      2. God’s worthiness goes far beyond any possession you or I have.
      3. Any sacrifice we make for God, He has made bigger sacrifices for us.

    2. There is only one thing in our power to give God that has great value and meaning to God.
      1. The only valuable thing we control that we can give to God is our heart.
      2. God gave us our heart; it is ours; we love what we choose to love.
      3. God finds it deeply meaningful if we of our own choice freely give Him our hearts.
      4. If I give God my heart, I give God myself.

    3. When I consider people who gave their hearts, I think of several people. I challenge you to consider three of them.
      1. I think of Job.
        1. God knew Job served Him because Job’s heart belonged to God, and God allowed Satan to take every blessing from Job for that reason.
        2. Job lost his wealth, his children, and his health.
        3. Job did not understand what was happening to him, and he thought that everything that happened to him was most unjust.
        4. But of everything Job lost, he never lost his God.
        5. In his fourth answer to his accusers in Job 13:15, Job made this statement:
          “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.”
          1. Job said he would argue before God about what happened.
          2. But he would not desert God even if God killed him.
          3. Job’s heart belonged to God.
      2. The second person I think of is King David.
        1. In 2 Samuel 15 David’s own son, Absalom, made a serious attempt to steal David’s throne and the nation of Israel–from his own father!
        2. The attempt was so serious David had to flee Jerusalem to save his life. The situation was dangerous and bad!
        3. In the process of running for his life, David wrote these words:
          Psalm 3:1-3 O Lord, how my adversaries have increased! Many are rising up against me. Many are saying of my soul, “There is no deliverance for him in God.” But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head.
        4. David’s heart belonged to God, and nothing Absalom did changed that.
      3. The third person I think of is Mary, Jesus’ mother.
        1. An angel appeared to her while she was an engaged but unmarried virgin, and just that appearance and greeting shook Mary up.
        2. The angel explained she would have a son, and Mary said that was impossible because she was a virgin.
        3. The angel explained how it would happen, and Mary accepted one of the most difficult, heart breaking responsibilities God ever gave anyone.
        4. She accepted it with these words in Luke 1:38: “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”
        5. Mary’s heart belonged to God.

    4. If God talked in heaven this morning about the people on earth whose hearts belonged to Him, would you be part of His conversation?

      [Congregation to sing two songs now:
      #781-Thank You Lord
      #474-Thank You Lord]

  3. If I asked for what blessings from God are you the most thankful, what would you say?
    1. If you were asked that question right now, what would you say?
      1. Would you first mention a number of physical blessings?
        1. The people who touch your life in positive ways?
        2. The possessions that you treasure the most?
        3. The “taken for granted” physical blessings–home, food, water, jobs, health, etc.
      2. Would you first mention the blessings no one but God can give?
        1. Salvation
        2. Forgiveness
        3. Mercy
        4. Grace
        5. Purity
        6. Holiness

    2. If you were asked that question after you died, what would you mention first?
      1. I doubt any of us would mention anything physical, because the moment we die everything physical becomes history.
      2. The moment we see God, we will be overwhelmed by the blessings only He can give:
        1. Salvation
        2. Forgiveness
        3. Mercy
        4. Grace
        5. Purity
        6. Holiness

  4. There are some things I yearn to see happen when we worship.
    1. I yearn for worship that invites God here, makes God delighted to be here, makes God glad we wanted Him here as we worshipped.
      1. I want no one to be here and fail to sense the presence of God.
        1. “God was there in a truly special sense today–those people invited Him, and He came!”
        2. “We wanted God to be here,” or, “They wanted God to be there.”
      2. I want our children and our families to be impressed with the fact that we were in God’s presence on purpose to worship God.
      3. I want every visitor to be impressed with the fact that “those people are not into just ‘doing church’; they are opening their hearts to God.”
      4. “Those people really belong to God; they are serious about giving God their hearts.”

    2. Is that what you feel when you worship? Is that what visitors observe?

“Now, David, just one minute! Enough is enough! What does our coming to church have … to … do …” Go ahead. Finish the statement. What does our coming to church have to do with God? What do our prayers have to do with God? What do our songs have to do with God? What does communion have to do with God? What does our giving have to do with God? What does the sermon have to do with God? Is it all just a matter of going through the motions and fulfilling obligations? Is that all it is? Or does it have anything to do with God?

Today’s Guides: Eternal Priorities

Posted by on November 18, 2001 under Sermons

I want to begin our study and thinking this evening by asking you to use your imagination. I want to trigger your imagination by asking a simple question. The question: “What would you do?”

What would you do if just one of the following things happened this evening when you came to this assembly? If you walked into our auditorium this evening and you saw a piano up front in one corner and an organ up front in the other corner, what would you do? Nobody is playing either of them. Both are just sitting there. What would you do? If you came on in and took a seat, and someone began to play either of them, what would you do?

If today you took communion and in the tray containing the bread there was nothing but yeast bread, what would you do? If we concluded today’s sermons without invitation songs, what would you do? If the style of worship today was radically different, what would you do?

Most of us would do something. Some would get up and leave. Some would never come back. Some would say, “I do not feel like I have been to church today!” Some would make a beeline for the elders. Some would begin confrontations and loud arguments. But almost everyone would do something.

To keep you thinking instead of reacting, it is essential not to lose you. No, I do not think we should have musical instruments sitting up front. No, I do not think we should abandon a capella music. No, I do not advocate using yeast bread in communion. No, I do not advocate abandoning the invitation song. No, I do not advocate making radical changes in worship styles.

Keep thinking with me. Consider about another question. The question: how do you react? How do you react when you see another Christian in a situation making it obvious that he or she has little if any love for God? How do you react when you see another Christian speaking or acting with an unquestionable lack of mercy? How do you react when you hear another Christian angrily refusing to forgive? How do you react when another Christian makes it plain that he or she has no interest in being a godly person or a righteous person?

Which would disturb you more: a musical instrument in the auditorium or a Christian with little or no love for God? Which would disturb you more: yeast bread in a communion plate or a unmerciful Christian? Which would disturb you more: people raising their hands in worship or an unforgiving Christian? Which would disturb you more: Christians saying, “Hallelujah!” and “Amen” in worship or an ungodly, unrighteous Christian?

If you saw or heard a musical instrument in this auditorium, if we used yeast bread in the communion, if we did not use invitation songs, if we radically changed our worship style, would you say, “The people responsible for those changes are going straight to hell!”

If you saw or heard a Christian do or say something that clearly indicated he or she did not love God, or act in unmerciful ways, or refuse to forgive, or behave in ungodly, unrighteous ways, would you say, “That is sad; but that is life; maybe God’s grace will overlook it.”

In each set of occurrences which would disturb God the most? About which set of occurrences does God give the most information? Why do we conclude that God gets the most upset about things He said little or nothing about, but God has almost no reaction to matters He said a lot about?

  1. Scripture has a lot to say about treating other people with love.
    1. We need to take a moment to focus on the word the New Testament most commonly uses when it declares the importance of love.
      1. The most common word the New Testament uses is the Greek word agape.
      2. Agape is not about “how I feel;” agape is about my will.
      3. The primary emphasis in agape love is on choice, on decision, on exercising a person’s will.
      4. The primary emphasis in agape is not on feeling–the choice to love is not based on how you feel but on your determination to treat others with kind consideration as you are determined to do what is in their true best interest.
    2. Jesus’ emphasis on the importance of loving other people is overwhelming.
      1. Twice he said, “Treat other people like you want to be treated” (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31).
      2. He said loving God with your whole being and loving your neighbor as yourself fulfills all the expectations of the law (Luke 22:37-40).
      3. He powerfully stressed the importance of loving other people in his parables.
        1. Loving your neighbor as yourself is the basic point of the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37.
          1. A Jew was robbed and injured on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho.
          2. Religious leaders walked by him and offered him no help.
          3. A Samaritan, a person the injured man would have ignored, stopped and took care of him.
          4. Jesus gave this parable specifically because a because an expert in Jewish religious law asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” in the desire to evade the responsibility to love his neighbor as himself.
        2. Loving your neighbor as yourself is the basic point of the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:21-35.
          1. A wealthy man was owed an impossible amount of money by a slave, and he commanded the slave and his family to be sold.
          2. The slave pleaded with the owner and promised the impossible: he would repay the debt if he and his family were not sold.
          3. The owner was so moved he eliminated the debt–he said the slave owed him nothing.
          4. Very shortly the slave saw a fellow slave who owed him a payable debt, demanded immediate payment, then had the man jailed until he paid.
          5. When the owner heard what happened, he reimposed the impossible debt and had the slave he forgave jailed and tortured until the impossible debt was repaid in full.
          6. The parable ends with the statement, “That is what God will do to you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
          7. Love others like you love yourself.
        3. Loving your neighbor like you love yourself is the point of the judgment parable in Matthew 25:31-46.
          1. The criteria for determining whom God accepted and rejected was feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, caring for the sick, caring about people in need you don’t know, giving clothes to those without clothing, and visiting those in prison.
          2. It is about the importance of loving your neighbor as you love yourself.
    3. Paul had a lot to say about the importance of loving people. Consider just a few examples.
      1. He told the Christians in Rome to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who wept (Romans 12:15).
      2. He told the same Christians that loving your neighbor as yourself would eliminate all abuse of other people (Romans 13:8-10).
      3. He told the Christians in Galatia to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).
    4. John told Christians:
      1 John 3:14,15 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
    5. Peter told Christians:
      1 Peter 1:22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart

  2. Have you ever done any of the things?
    1. Have you ever:
      1. Apologized to a man or woman to whom you were not married for sexually seducing them because you understand that is not loving your neighbor as yourself?
      2. Apologized to a man or woman you took advantage of because that is not loving your neighbor as yourself?
      3. Apologized to a man or woman that you misrepresented because that is not loving your neighbor as yourself?
      4. Apologized to a person that you knowingly caused pain because that is not loving your neighbor as yourself?
    2. If your response is, “That is ridiculous!” let me use just one of those situations as an example.
      1. “Sure, I have had sex with someone I am not married to–but that person wanted me to have sex with him or her; I owe him or her no apology!”
      2. You miss the point.
        1. You are a Christian made spiritually alive by God’s mercy and the grace in Jesus’ death.
        2. The issue is not what “he or she wanted.”
        3. The issue is what you did, and what you did in no way qualifies as loving your neighbor as yourself.

  3. Let me tell you why we will get so angry and upset about acts of worship (which the New Testament says little about) and do unloving things without thought (which the New Testament says a lot about).
    1. It is easy and personally costs us nothing to have no musical instruments, to keep leaven yeast out of our communion bread, to convert worship into observation instead of participation, and to sing invitation songs.
    2. It is hard and personally costs a lot to be merciful to those who cause us pain, to forgive those who hurt us, and to be godly from the heart in the hard, every day choices of life.
    3. For generations we were taught a set of reactions that are way out of balance and often have little to do with God’s priorities.
      1. We were taught God’s number one priority has to do with details, with gnats, and God is terribly angry if we do not strain out the gnats before we swallow.
      2. We were taught the things God says a lot about–like loving your neighbor as yourself–do not matter much because they do not “shake God up” as failing to observe details does.
      3. We were taught God has no mercy for gnats, but He has nothing but mercy for camels.
      4. So we live life swallowing camels as we diligently strain out the gnats.
      5. And if anyone calls it to our attention we get angry, or we defend our priorities instead of God’s priorities, or we say the person is crazy and liberal, or we say, “I need to give some serious consideration to my spiritual priorities.”

Which are you doing right now? Spiritually, do you live by God’s priorities or do you miss the point?

Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Posted by on under Sermons

In the 1960s I took a course about restoration history under Dr. Earl West. As always happens, final exam came. As did most of my teachers, Dr. West gave essay examinations. He listed several short answer questions. You selected a specific number of questions and gave at least a page answer to each. He also listed several in depth answer questions. You were required to select one and write at least an hour about your answer.

When I selected my “long question,” I knew well the answer to one question on the list. I wrote furiously. I wrote and wrote and wrote. Then, about five minutes before exam time was up, I suddenly realized a horrible truth. I started my answer at the wrong place. By starting at the wrong place, I left out some of the core material. Everything I said was true. All my facts were correct. But because I began my answer at the wrong place, my answer did not address the point of the question. Everything I wrote was technically correct, but I missed the point.

I tried to “fix” my answer by adding an explanation, but it did not work. Because I started at the wrong place, my answer missed the point.

  1. Perhaps that is a good way to describe the conflict between Jesus and Israel’s religious experts–the place these experts started simply missed God’s point.
    1. The religious experts who constantly questioned, ridiculed, and challenged Jesus were the scribes and Pharisees.
      1. They were genuine experts in the scripture, and Jesus never challenged the fact that they were well read and knowledgeable.
      2. Jesus’ challenge was simple: these experts missed God’s point.
    2. Late in Jesus’ life, not long before these religious experts insisted on his crucifixion, Jesus was specific on how these experts in scripture missed God’s point.
      1. In all the challenges and criticisms before this occasion, Jesus tried to teach these people.
      2. But on this occasion, Jesus straightforwardly declared exactly how they missed God’s point.
      3. Matthew 23 contains Jesus’ declaration of how the scribes and Pharisees missed God’s point.
        1. In verse 13 Jesus said they used their scriptural expertise to blind the Jewish people to God’s kingdom and prevent them from entering that kingdom.
        2. In verse 14 Jesus said they used prayer to create the appearance of spirituality while they took advantage of the helpless.
        3. In verse 15 Jesus said they spared no effort to indoctrinate converts, but, when they finished, the converts were unspiritual people devoted to Satan’s purposes.
        4. In verses 16-22 Jesus said in worship they made artificial distinctions God never made.
        5. In verses 23,24 Jesus said they gave God ten percent of absolutely everything, but they ignored central spiritual matters that God regards essential.
        6. In verses 25-28 Jesus said they were very concerned about projecting the appearance of being righteous, and very unconcerned about having righteous hearts.
        7. In verses 29-36 Jesus said they condemned the wicked acts of Israel’s past generations while they did the same kinds of evil they condemned.

  2. This morning please give serious consideration to Jesus’ condemnation in Matthew 23:23,24.
    Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
    1. If we think carefully about this condemnation, it should terrify us.
      1. First, please note Jesus said not all of God’s commands are of equal importance.
        1. They all come from God.
        2. They all are inspired.
        3. They all are scripture.
        4. But God regards some of greater importance–some are “weighty” and some are not.
      2. May I state this in another way that is also accurate?
        1. From God’s perspective, some exist at “the heart of the matter”–these are “core” considerations.
        2. Others are “edge” matters; they are important, but they are not devoted to God’s “core” matters.
    2. The point is not that core commands should obeyed and other commands should be neglected; both should be obeyed.
      1. However, never make a core teaching out of an edge teaching.
      2. These religious experts gave God ten percent of absolutely everything, even the cooking spices they grew.
      3. But they did little to be just (give everyone fair treatment), to be merciful (to forgive those who made a mistake), or to be faithful (always to be honest and trustworthy).
    3. In fact, their emphasis actually encouraged people to be unfair, to condemn, and to be deceitful.
      1. According to them, giving God ten percent of absolutely everything was extremely important, a core matter.
      2. However, according to them, being just, merciful, and faithful were not core matters.
      3. Jesus said they missed God’s point.

  3. On more than one occasion, Jesus stressed the two most important commandments God ever gave (Matthew 22:34-40; Luke 10:25-28).
    1. Both were a part of the core because all other commandments would be obeyed if a person did these two things.
      1. Love God with all your being.
      2. Love other people like you love yourself.
    2. The fact that people who love God love other people has always been a core matter in God’s priorities.
      1. Six of the ten commandments given to Israel are covered by loving other people like you love yourself.
        1. You will take care of your parents.
        2. You will not murder.
        3. You will not have sex with another man’s wife–consensual or otherwise.
        4. You will not steal things that belong to someone else.
        5. You will not ruin another person’s reputation or lie about what he or she did.
        6. You will not look at anything he or she has and be motivated by greed.
        7. You simply cannot do such things if you love people.
    3. Jesus himself said of all the commandments God ever gave, loving people as you love yourself is command number two.
    4. Paul said the Christian who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law because you cannot have sex with someone to whom you are not married, you cannot murder, you cannot steal, you cannot be motivated by greed, you cannot bring harm to anyone you love as you love yourself (Romans 13:9,10).
    5. As far as God is concerned, that is core material.

So you ask, “David, does that understanding really terrify you?” Yes! “Why?” Because we too often miss God’s point. Because we have made “core issues” out of things God does not emphasize. Because we are unconcerned about things God clearly emphasized.

We make “core matters” out of worship, out of worship styles, out of religious systems, out of the use of church buildings, out of procedures, out of every imaginable kind of personal preference.

And then our unrestrained greed flows, and we are sexually active outside of marriage, and we hate, and we lie, and we neglect our families, and we justify any kind of ungodly behavior when it gives us pleasure.

And we miss God’s point. And I fear we will hear God say to us, “Woe unto you!” And we will say, “But, God, we sang without an instrument, and we used unleavened bread in communion, and we took communion every Sunday, and we gave, and we had invitation songs, and we were very careful about how we used our auditorium.” And God just might say, “And you missed the point! Your answer started in the wrong place! You used your religious lives to strain out gnats while you swallowed camels.”

Does Anything Ever Remain The Same?

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Generally speaking, the answer is no. Regarding some considerations, that is desirable. At times, I know change produces good: when I heat food in a microwave; when Joyce makes a cell phone call from the car as I drive on a trip; when I look at the choice of food items in a grocery store; when a friend has successful open heart surgery; when I enjoy temperature control in any environment.

Regarding some considerations, the absence of change is frustrating: when I cannot control my cholesterol by diet, weight control, and exercise; when I watch society and the church become increasingly ignorant about relationship skills; when I observe the level of moral and ethical ignorance rising; when I watch us “reap what we sow”; when I marvel at the ways greed and selfishness impact and influence all of our lives.

I am reminded frequently and personally that nothing remains the same. New understandings excite me until they remind me of how much I have forgotten and how much I have never known. In the past few years I audited a condensed graduate Bible course each summer. Why? I do it for several reasons: (1) the joy of discovery; (2) the humility of awareness; (3) the soberness of responsibility; and (4) the reminder of personal ignorance.

We measure ourselves through comparisons. When we stop judging others and evaluate self, comparisons frequently disturb us. Physically, I dislike what is happening to my strength and balance in the decade of my 60s. My dislikes are based on my comparisons to the decade of my 20s. Expectations in the 60s should be based on capabilities of the 60s, not the capabilities of the 20s. Self-comparisons are never kind or fair!

But at times self-comparisons are encouraging. Mentally, I like to compare my understandings of my 60s’ decade to my understandings of my 20s’ decade. I appreciate the mental rewards of forty years of experience. I like the benefits of “hindsight.” I enjoy the values of decades of study, thinking, and understanding.

With each Christian, spiritual comparisons are both encouraging and discouraging. Spiritual development is always a growth and maturing process. As we each spiritually develop, certain awarenesses are essential. (1) Never base personal spiritual development on the failures of others. (2) Always remember you are growing toward God’s thinking. (3) Humbly accept your ignorance. (4) Ever allow better biblical understandings to guide you toward God’s priorities. Growth toward spiritual maturity always requires the willingness to change. Why? Imperfect humans are growing toward the perfect God.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He never changes. To be like Him, growth demands we constantly change. Does anything remain the same? No, not if we allow Jesus to help us grow toward God.

The Power and Importance of Respect

Posted by on November 4, 2001 under Sermons

May I begin by thanking you for the ways you responded to my last three Sunday evening lessons on Christian community, meals, and worship in the first century. Thank you for expanding your thinking.

In practical ways, I want to make some applications based on the insights from those lessons. We can be fascinated by the fact that Paul told Christians in Rome (Romans 14) that they could hold totally different conscience conclusions regarding meat offered to idols, and God would accept both persons conclusion. The requirement: they refused to judge each other or hold each other in contempt. However, if our fascination with that biblical fact is not translated into respect for each other, our fascination produces little benefit or meaning.

This congregation is composed of very different people. Few if any of us have even one thing in common with everyone in this congregation (excluding our love for Jesus Christ). May I use myself to illustrate this fact? I grew up on a farm years ago in a rural area known more for its past coal mines than for its farming. Many of you lived in a city environment all your lives. Does that make either of us good or bad? No. In no way does that give either one of us good roots or bad roots.

I was taught not to respect people who grew up in a city. Was that a good teaching? No, that was a horrible teaching. Any feeling of superiority produced by a rural childhood experience is pure arrogance. I have a first cousin who spent a week in my home when I was a teenager. Because we lived on a farm, I had daily jobs to do through the summer. My particular job when my cousin visited was to stack brush in a creek bottom that had been bulldozed and cut with a heavy disk. I was accustomed to the sun, heat, and dust. My cousin was not. When my cousin quickly wilted under the hot sun, I thought it was funny. I have no doubt that I reflected a superior attitude.

However, if you placed me in my cousin’s city environment, I was scared to death. I could get around in the woods, but I could not get around in a city. I never wanted to spend a week with him in the city. Because he could not function in my environment, that was bad. Because I could not function in his environment, that was insignificant.

What was the tap root of my problem? A lack of respect for my cousin.

  1. In our society, little is done to teach the importance of respect.
    1. In our country, people in every distinctive sub-group struggle to respect people from groups who have distinctive cultural differences.
      1. To me it is fascinating to observe the changes since our September 11 tragedy.
        1. Suddenly all forms of bigotry have disappeared.
        2. Have you seen the television advertisement with a number of individuals making the same statement: “I am an American.” There must be 12 to 18 different men and women who make that statement, and each of them is obviously from a distinct cultural heritage.
      2. But bigotry in the United States is not dead.
        1. Hate is still here, and its roots are disrespect.
        2. Racism is still here, and its roots are disrespect.
        3. Sexism is still here, and its roots are disrespect.
        4. Multiple forms of violence still exists, and their roots are disrespect.
      3. If you want to see and hear the enormous expressions of disrespect in this country, look at and listen to our humor.
        1. Note the ridicule in the humor you see and hear.
        2. Note the “put downs” in the humor you see and hear.
        3. Note the contempt in the humor you see and hear.
        4. Notice that “hilarious humor” degrades someone.
        5. What do ridicule, “put downs,” contempt, and degradation have in common? They all begin with a lack of respect.
    2. If we could feel and see respect anywhere among any people, it should be among Christians.
      1. Why?
        1. Because Christians know what it means to be forgiven.
        2. Because we know the acceptance of grace.
        3. Because we know what it means to receive mercy.
        4. Because we have experienced receiving a pardon.
      2. Is that the actual experience Christians have when we are among Christians? Can we move among Christians with the confidence that we will be respected?
        1. Which is the more common attitude: “I know that you are sincere in your convictions and hold them honestly,” or, “If you do not hold my conclusions, you deliberately choose to be wrong and know it!”
        2. Do you feel respect and understanding when you meet with fellow Christians, even when you have differences?
          1. Could you say, “Amen!” It was common practice in the church at Corinth in the New Testament.
            1 Corinthians 14:15,16 What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also. Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying?
            1. Paul did not tell them to stop speaking in tongues (see verse 39).
            2. He told them to use tongues in ways that were orderly and edified all present.
            3. Please note that one of his arguments is this: people cannot say the “amen” if they do not understand what they hear.
          2. Men, could you comfortably raise your hands as you prayed in public knowing Christians would respect you? Christians in Asia Minor could.
            1 Timothy 2:8 Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.
            1. Paul told Timothy what he should instruct Christian men to do.
            2. This was appropriate Christian behavior.
    3. “David, are you suggesting that we have to say “amen” or have men raise their hands when they pray?”
      1. That is neither my point nor my emphasis.
      2. If that is your reaction to what I have said, that reaction well may illustrate my point.
      3. If a Christian sincerely, from heart and conscience truly dedicated to the Lord chooses to express faith, devotion, and praise to God in biblical, but different ways, will I respect him or her, or will I judge, condemn, or ridicule him or her?
    4. We teach Christians to react to other Christians in a lot of ways.
      1. We teach them to judge.
      2. We teach them to condemn.
      3. We teach them to ridicule and belittle.
      4. We teach them to express contempt.
      5. We teach them to control others.
      6. Do we teach them to show respect?

  2. God made great effort to get Peter to Cornelius’ house to teach Cornelius, his family, and his friends.
    1. It took a lot to penetrate the apostle Peter’s understanding.
      1. The roof top vision did not penetrate his understanding (Acts 10:10-16).
      2. The Holy Spirit speaking to Peter directly did not penetrate his understanding (Acts 10:17-20).
      3. The testimony of the men Cornelius sent to Peter did not penetrate Peter’s understanding (Acts 10:22,23).
      4. Peter’s initial introduction to Cornelius did not penetrate his understanding (Acts 10:24-27).
      5. “David, that is just your opinion.” No, that is Peter’s testimony–that is actually what Peter said to Cornelius.
        Acts 10:28,29 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for. So I ask for what reason you have sent for me.”
    2. Finally, the message God wanted Peter to understand penetrated:
      Acts 10:34,35 Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.”
      1. The King James translation begins Peter’s statement with these words: “I perceive that God is no respecter of persons …”
      2. God shows respect for all people who reverence Him and do what is right.
    3. The greatest single problem in the church in the New Testament was getting Jewish Christians and Christians who were not Jews to respect each other in their differences.
      1. The greatest single problem in the church of today is getting Christians who are in Christ to respect each other in their differences.
      2. In my personal judgement, that respect will be of enormous importance in the near future–just simple respect may well determine if we have the greatest opportunity the church in American has ever known or the most impossible mess the church in America has ever known.

Is one of the greatest blessings this congregation experiences produced by your ability to respect Christians who are not like you? Is one of the greatest heartaches this congregation experiences partially the result of your inability to respect Christians who are not like you?

God’s Passion to Forgive

Posted by on under Sermons

What is your passion? I am not asking you what do you like. I am not asking you what gives you a high. I am not asking you what you do anytime you are allowed to indulge yourself. I am asking you, “What is your passion?”

The question I ask has to do with a cause or an injustice that deeply moves you. You are so deeply touched by this cause or injustice that it is your number one priority in life. Any time you must choose between your passion and anything else, you always choose your passion. Absolutely nothing is as important as your passion.

Let me share some examples. Some people’s passion is a political cause. They will do anything legal for their political cause. Some people’s passion is community service. They will endure great personal inconvenience for the sake of community service. Often suffering produces a passion. A parent whose child was killed by a drunk driver opposes drinking and driving with a passion. A spouse whose husband or wife suffered some horrible injustice opposes such injustices passionately.

You can observe this type of passion all around you. Look for anyone who totally devoted to a cause or a “rights” movement. Such people have an obvious passion.

Three questions: do you have a passion? Does God have a passion? Does your passion and God’s passion “hold hands?”

  1. “Allow me to answer your questions.”
    1. Different ones of us would answer in different ways regarding our personal passion.
      1. Some would say, “I do not have one. I have never been into causes.
      2. Some would say, “I probably have a passion, but I have never thought about it much–I would have to think about it.”
      3. Some would say, “I surely do have a passion! I can tell you exactly what it is!”
    2. If we discussed God’s passion, we would have differing answers.
      1. First, we could generate an interesting discussion about the possibility of God having a passion.
        1. Most of us tend to think of God as being dispassionate.
        2. Some of us tend to think of God as being “feelingless”–everything with Him is intellectual and never emotional.
        3. Many of us realize God deeply desires some things, but we never thought of God’s desires being causes.
      2. Second, if we agreed God has passionate causes, we likely would disagree about His number one cause.
        1. Knowing our thinking and priorities, we likely would intensely disagree about God’s number one priority.
        2. I have my doubts that we would agree on God’s number one cause.

  2. I want you to think, and I wish to issue the challenge in this way.
    1. Have you ever felt so moved, so committed, so passionate about anything that it was your number one priority in life for at least a decade?
      1. God has, and it was His number one priority for several thousand years.
        1. It became His number one priority the moment evil perverted His good creation.
        2. It became His number one priority the moment that evil distorted human beings into something God never intended.
          Galatians 4:4,5 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
          1 Timothy 2:3-6 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.
      2. God labored for a few thousand years to give the people a Savior who could offer them perfect forgiveness.
    2. Have you ever felt so moved, so committed, so passionate about your number one priority that you made an enormous sacrifice to benefit your consuming cause?
      1. God has; He was so committed to His consuming cause that he sacrificed His son.
        1. Sometimes people adopt a cause because they suffered the loss of a child.
        2. God sacrificed for His cause knowing that it would cost the life of His only son.
          1 John 4:9,10 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
      2. God knew the ultimate cost of His commitment when He devoted Himself to the cause.
        1. “On the front end” God knew what it would cost.
        2. He knew His commitment would mean the death of His only son, a son who was totally devoted to His will, a son who would depend on Him absolutely.

  3. What is God’s passion? What is His number one priority? What is His ultimate commitment?
    1. God wants to forgive people.
      Romans 5:6-8 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.
    2. God’s desire to forgive people is greater than any desire or commitment you or I have ever had.
      1. “David, that is just your speculation, maybe your exaggeration.”
      2. No, according to the New Testament, that is fact.
    3. Do you think you could describe the kind of person God would and would not forgive?
      1. Let me describe a person to you.
        1. This person was extremely religious, absolutely committed, zealously devoted, and would kill other people to advance his convictions.
        2. Because of his religious commitment, he was part of a killing machine responsible for the imprisonment and death of many Christians.
        3. He was so committed to destroying these people he thought opposed God that he made a house-to-house search in a major city to arrest those people.
        4. He was willing even to travel to other countries to arrest people who were of his nationality but believed heresy.
        5. He even went into buildings devoted to worship to physically abuse Christians in a determined effort to get them to renounce the heresy.
        6. He tried to destroy the very situation God spent several thousand years bringing into existence.
        7. Did God’s desire to forgive include a person like this?
      2. To make certain that you understand that I am not speculating, read these scriptures with me.
        Acts 8:1-3 And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.
        Acts 26:9-11 So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. And as 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.
    4. God not only wanted to forgive this man, He did forgive him, and made him the greatest missionary we have ever known; and allowed him to be the author of many of the New Testament writings.
      1. Why would God do that?
      2. Let him answer your question.
        1 Timothy 1:12,13,15,16 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; … It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

Paul did not know what he was doing; then God got his attention. God showed the scholar just how ignorant he was. God showed the man who believed enough to kill for God that his faith was in himself, not in God.

God wants to forgive you, and He will if you will let Him.

What Shall I Accept?

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

The Old Testament states long ago lived a man named Job. He had great integrity, wealth, and influence. More importantly, he impressed God. God considered Job unique. God saw him as a blameless, upright, reverent man who despised evil (Job 1:8).

Satan argued Job would be stupid not to be who he was. God richly blessed him, and Job knew it. Why should he disappoint God when he realized God gave him all he enjoyed?

Job literally lost everything–his wealth, his children, his wife’s respect, and his health. The situation was so grim his wife suggested he turn lose of his integrity, curse God, and die (Job 2:9). To her, the solution was death. At least it would end the physical suffering and embarrassment.

Job’s response is still insightful: “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10) After that statement, the writer wrote: “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”

In the rest of the book, it is evident (1) Job did not understand his situation, and (2) he regarded his experiences to be acts of gross injustice. Yet, at no moment did Job consider leaving God. Neither his personal confusion, his friends’ false accusations, nor his wife’s loss of respect moved him to consider leaving God.

We never are upset with God for blessing us. Because we are blessed frequently in numerous ways we take our blessings for granted. At times we even convince ourselves we deserve to be blessed. Rather than being content, we often want more. No matter how “good we have it,” we believe we should have it better.

Going from “having little” to “having more” is not a difficult journey. Going from “having more” to “having little” is very difficult. I am not speaking of simplifying a blessed life. I am speaking of losing blessings. Few people enjoy the experience of “going back” if “going back” requires a loss of blessings.

As long as evil functions with influence in this world, adversity will occur. Just as situations can improve, they can also get worse. Just as blessings can increase, they can also be lost. Just as ease can touch our lifestyles, struggles can also touch our lifestyles. Just as our families can know great joy, our families can also know great sorrow. Physical existence is not a continuous experience of knowing good.

Job’s question is relevant for every Christian today. Can we accept God’s good and reject evil’s adversity? This is not a question of justice. This is a question of origins. The origin of the good that touched Job’s life was God. The origin of the evil that touched Job’s life was Satan. The origin of the good that touches your life is God. The origin of the evil that touches your life is Satan. Our dependence on God always will be tested more by the adversity we experience than by the good we experience.