God’s Concern — Or Ours?

Posted by on October 27, 2002 under Sermons

[Open with prayer: “Father, this morning we will deal with some simple thoughts. While the thoughts are simple, they can be highly emotional. Please be with our hearts. Please help us think instead of react. Please help us come closer to you.”]

This morning I have a special request: please think with me. Let God control your thoughts. Do not give control of your thoughts to your feelings and emotions.

Understand the context of my statements. I am talking about Christians. I am talking about men and women who are in Christ, who are a part of Christ’s church.

  1. What God did in Jesus’ death and resurrection freed God to forgive any sin of any person anywhere. (See Romans 3:21-26)
    1. God paid the total price of perfect forgiveness in Jesus’ atoning death.
      1. Because God surrendered His son to death, He can forgive anyone He chooses to forgive.
      2. The ransom God paid in redemption [buying us back from sin] is great enough to cover anyone who will come to Him.
      3. God could and can substitute Jesus’ innocent death for our deserved punishment [that is basically what propitiation is about].
      4. God can make any person holy, can cleanse any person, through Jesus’ blood.
    2. God can save any person at any beginning point when that person turns to Him.
      1. Let me divide all people into three basic groups.
      2. First, there is the group with an ideal religious background.
        1. This person is Bible literate.
        2. This person, as a child, grew up in a third generation Christian home.
        3. He or she began attending Bible classes in the first month of life.
        4. He or she always has been taught God’s ways.
      3. Second, there is the group that has a weak religious background.
        1. When this person was a child, his mother and father worshipped occasionally–Mom and Dad were the first persons in their families to be Christians.
        2. He or she knows a little about the Bible, but not much because he or she came to a few Bible classes and a few vacation Bible schools before the age of thirteen.
        3. He or she knows only a little about the Christian life, the church, and Christian commitment.
      4. The third group has no religious background.
        1. His or her parents were not married.
        2. He or she has spent most of life around people with addiction problems.
        3. He or she knows absolutely nothing about the Bible.
        4. Most everything he or she has heard about Jesus Christ and Christians is undesirable and negative.
      5. People from each of these groups enters Jesus Christ.
        1. Does God care about the background or life circumstances of the person? No. [See 1 Corinthians 7:21-24.]
        2. So which group does God prefer? It does not matter to God.
      6. The issue with God regarding every person regardless of his or her background is the same: is this person growing toward God?
        1. God’s deep issue is this: trust in God because of what God did for the person in Jesus and repentance that constantly redirects the life of the person toward God.
        2. Regardless of the background of the person, baptism is a meaningful commitment to God only if the trust and repentance is a living force in the person’s life.
        3. That fundamentally is what God’s grace and mercy in Jesus Christ are all about.

  2. Speaking from years of work and involvement in the church, our issue and God’s issue commonly are not the same issue.
    1. God’s issue is the trust and repentance that produces growth in the right direction.
    2. Our issue:
      1. If the person who has been baptized into Christ learns the correct WHATS,
      2. And if that person adds to those correct WHATS the correct HOWS,
      3. The result of adding the correct WHATS to the correct HOWS produces a state of salvation that we acknowledge to be faithfulness.
    3. May I make two observations:
      1. For at least 150 years, the most fierce, destructive, deadly disagreements among Christians, in which they feel totally justified in trying to destroy each other, usually focus on one of two things:
        1. The HOWS we feel comfortable with.
        2. Matters God’s word says little or nothing about.
      2. What has happened for decades is this: we draw lines among ourselves to include and to exclude.
        1. The line we usually draw is the line of “conformity to my understanding.”
        2. All Christians I declare to be above that line I classify as “approved” or “in.”
        3. All Christians I declare to be below that line I classify as “rejected” or “out.”
        4. Our tendency is to be very patient with those who understand less than we do and very skeptical with those who understand more than we do.
      3. So we draw lines to exclude each other, and Satan laughs, and God grieves.

  3. This is a very old, old problem among God’s people.
    1. This very old problem existed when Israel’s leadership rejected Jesus.
      1. The leadership that rejected Jesus [many of the Pharisees, many of the scribes, many of the temple priests] drew their lines using [as we would say] book, chapter, and verse.
        1. Jesus did not confront them about using scripture.
        2. He confronted them about their misuse of scripture and misunderstanding of God’s purposes.
      2. The leaders who rejected Jesus were very certain about their lines and very certain they had the authority of God’s word to draw them.
        1. “For more than 1500 years we have circumcised because God told us to!”
        2. “For about 1500 years we have followed Israel’s dietary code because God told us to!”
        3. “For about 1500 years we have offered the right sacrifices in the right place at the right times because God told us to!”
        4. “For almost a thousand years we have conducted proper temple procedures because God told us to!”
      3. “It is very clear that Jews who do these things are ‘in’, and Jews who do not do these things are ‘out’!”
        1. “Jesus you are ‘out’ because you teach and associate with the wrong kind of Jews!”
        2. “You teach and associate with the Jews who are ‘out’, and that is a dangerous misrepresentation of God.”
    2. This very old problem existed among Christians in the early church.
      1. Many Christians who were converted from a Jewish background and many Christians who were converted from an idolatrous background had a very difficult time accepting each other.
      2. Let me use just one example from the church in Corinth found in 1 Corinthians 10:25-30.
        1. A big issue in the church at Corinth involved buying meat to eat at the meat market in Corinth.
        2. Some Christians declared, “Christians cannot eat anything that has been offered to an idol; therefore they cannot eat anything from the meat market.”
        3. Some Christians understood idols did not represent real gods because there is only one God.
        4. These Christians understood that all food came from God.
          1. They understood that giving God thanks for God’s gift made any meat they ate holy.
          2. They were correct.
        5. Paul gave this instruction.
          1. If a man who does not believe in Jesus invites you to have a meal with him and you wish to accept his invitation, do it.
          2. When he serves you meat, do not ask him where he got that meat.
          3. Just eat what he gives you.
          4. But , if he says, “This meat comes from a sacrifice to an idol,” do not eat it.
          5. Do not eat it because he will think you are worshipping his idol if you eat it, and his conscience will be hurt because he misunderstands your devotion to Christ.
        6. Some Christians at Corinth judged the motives of Christians who ate meat in the homes of people who worshipped idols.
    3. The very old problem still exists in the church among Christians today.
      1. We use words to draw lines and to place other Christian brothers and sisters in categories.
      2. We use words like:
        1. Legalist
        2. Charismatic
        3. Anti
        4. Conservative
        5. Liberal
      3. We judge motives of other Christians.
        1. We say, “All they are interested in is making laws.”
        2. Or, we say, “All they are interested in is entertainment.”
        3. Or, we say, “All they are interested in is feelings.”
        4. Or, we say, “All they are interested in is tradition.”

Everyone of us needs to understand that when we attack the motives of another Christian who is seeking to trust God we cause that Christian pain and hurt.

God knows what is in the hearts of His children. He knows when a Christian is trying and when he or she is not. He knows what his or her motives are. God understands why he or she does what he or she is doing.

God knows. We do not.

When discussing this very problem, Paul wrote:
Romans 14:4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

“The” Question

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

It seems to me that “the” question each person must ask and answer is this: “What is life’s purpose?” At least three understandings serve as foundations for life in every American. Each understanding is produced by our answers to this question. “My” answers determine how I look at all people on earth. “My” answers determine how I look at “my” life in this world. “My” answers determine how I look at God. Consider two answers.

In the first approach, the basis of my answer is a conviction that my existence is the result of an accident. Random forces happened to be in the right environment at the right moment and accidentally produced life. When a person bases his or her answer on the concept that all life [including his or hers] is the result of an accident, his or her use of life tends to migrate in certain directions. That migration may be in the direction of forms of violence. It may be in the direction of personal indulgence. It may be in a direction that elevates human concerns to the status of a “god” agenda.

When I conclude the only purpose my existence has is right here right now, I become capable of deciding no morality issues are involved in harming other people. “The ultimate issue is what I consider best for me, not what is best for people.” I become capable of concluding no morality issues are involved when I indulge myself in ways that please me. “If it produces personal pleasure, do it” becomes the focus of life. I become capable of deciding that the most significant moral issues are the issues of preservation of the world. “This planet is the only human reality that must be of immediate or lasting concern.” Physical human continuation becomes the ultimate moral concern.

Contrast the first answer with this answer: life’s purpose is infinitely bigger than any person’s physical existence. While my physical existence has purpose, that purpose finds its meaning and significance in a purpose vastly bigger than me and “now.” God has been and continues to be the source of life and the source of good. My purpose is found in and defined by God’s goodness. Thus when I see people, I do not see beings to be exploited and hurt, but beings to be served and given hope. Hurting others is a moral issue — whether it be family, neighbors, or strangers. Indulgence is a moral issue because selfishness attacks life’s purpose. Abusing the earth and its people is a moral issue, but it is not to be confused with the highest moral issue — God’s eternal purposes. [There is an inseparable link between the physical now and the eternal.]

One answer allows [perhaps even encourages] deliberate hurt to others, indulgence, and the elevation of the “physical now” to the status of a god. The other answer declares hurting others, indulgence, and focusing on the “physical now” are moral issues that either cheapen or ignore life’s purpose.

How do you answer, “What is life’s purpose?” What impact does your answer have on your behavior and treatment of others? What impact does your answer have on your understanding of how to serve God?

Isn’t That Amazing!

Posted by on October 20, 2002 under Sermons

For a couple of months or more I urged you to bring your Bibles with you on Sunday evening. You will find having a Bible this evening will be quite helpful as I call a number of situations to your attention in the Old Testament book of Judges.

To me, what I will call to your attention this evening fits in three categories. (1) First, I find it amazing. (2) Second, I find it sobering. (3) Third, I find it very relevant to typical thinking in our religious society and the church in America today.

  1. I want to begin by calling your attention to several things by reading from Judges.
    1. First, I focus you on the early judges in Israel.
      1. The first judge is Othniel. Read with me Judges 3:9.
        When the sons of Israel cried to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the sons of Israel to deliver them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother.
        1. From this verse we learn several things.
          1. We learn the reasons for God making him a judge: (a) the sons of Israel cried to God for deliverance; (b) God gave them a deliverer.
          2. We learn that His deliverer is a close relative of Caleb.
        2. What does the fact that Othniel is a close relative of Caleb tell us?
          1. There were several things obvious to an Israelite reader and listener that must be called to our non-Israelites’ attention.
          2. Caleb was one of only two Israelite adults to leave Egyptian slavery and enter Canaan.
          3. Caleb was one of only two spies [there were 12 spies] who spied out Canaan [about a year after Israel left Egypt] who believed they could successfully invade Canaan. (See Numbers 13,14; Joshua 14:6-15)
        3. These are the facts about the judge Othniel’s background:
          1. He was closely related to one of the most faith-filled, godly Israelites who left Egypt.
          2. He was a member of the tribe of Judah.
      2. Some years passed, Israel did evil again [likely turned back to idolatry again], and the Moabites dominated them.
        1. God raised up the judge Ehud to deliver Israel from Moabite control.
        2. These are the facts about judge Ehud’s background:
          1. He delivered Israel through personal heroism by personally, courageously finding a private means of killing the king of Moab.
          2. He was a member of the tribe of Benjamin.
        3. In one verse (Judges 3:31) we are told Shamgar was a judge, and we are told that he saved Israel, but nothing else.
        4. Then we are told about the only woman judge in Israel, Deborah. Read with me Judges 4:5.
          She used to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel came up to her for judgment.
          1. I want you to note one fact about Deborah.
          2. She is an Ephamite from the hill country of Ephraim.
    2. Second, I call to your attention the last judge in the book of judges: the judge Samson.
      1. Note two things about Samson.
      2. First, Samson is from the tribe of Dan.
        Judges 13:2 There was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had borne no children. [Manoah and his wife were Samson’s parents.]
      3. Second, Samson delivered Israel by heroic personal acts (as did Ehud), not by being commander of a military force.
    3. These are the facts I want you to keep in mind:
      1. Othniel came from an outstanding godly family in Judah.
      2. Ehud came from the tribe of Benjamin.
      3. Deborah came from the hill country of Ephraim.
      4. Samson was a member of the tribe of Dan.
      5. In Judges, some of the prominent deliverers God raised up came from Judah, Benjamin, the hill country of Ephraim, and the tribe of Dan.

  2. The material in the book of Judges easily can be divided into three sections.
    1. Chapters 1 and 2 introduce the situation in this period of Israelite history.
    2. Chapters 3 through 16 tell us about leaders God raised up to deliver Israel in this period.
    3. Chapters 17 through 21 tell us how horrible spiritual conditions were during at least part of this period.
    4. Again, I want you to keep in mind that God raised important deliverers for Israel from the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Dan [tribes in the southern part of Israel clustered together].

  3. The third section tells us just how horrible things were spiritually in this period of Israelite history.
    1. First, I want to call your attention to the two incidents Judges used to illustrate the deplorable spiritual conditions in Israel in this period.
      1. The first incident focused on Micah and his idolatrous shrine (Judges 17, 18).
        1. He stole some silver from his mother, and then confessed he stole it.
        2. She was so thrilled with his confession that she took part of the silver to a silversmith.
          1. He made two idolatrous images for her.
          2. She placed them in her house.
        3. Micah made a house for the gods and placed several sacred objects in that shrine.
        4. Then he consecrated one of his sons to be the shrine’s priest.
        5. Sometime later a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah came to Micah’s home in the hill country of Ephraim, and Micah hired the Levite to be priest over his shrine.
        6. Micah then said, “God will give me prosperity because I have a Levite as priest.”
        7. Chapter 18 told how some troops from Dan stole Micah’s idols by convincing the Levite to become the tribes’ priest.
      2. The second incident focused on a man from the hill country of Ephraim who had a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah (Judges 19-21).
        1. The concubine went back to her family in Bethlehem, Judah, and the husband went to Bethlehem to woo her back.
        2. He was successful, so he and his concubine started back to Ephraim.
          1. He had to spend the night along the way.
          2. He decided to spend the night in an Israelite city in the territory of Benjamin instead of the Jebusite city that would later be called Jerusalem.
          3. He was invited to be the overnight guest of a man from Ephraim living in Gibeah.
          4. That night, Benjaminites of that city demanded the guest be given to them for homosexual purposes.
          5. The host protected his guest by giving these base men of the city his virgin daughter and the concubine.
          6. The men raped the concubine all night, and the next morning the Ephraimite man found his concubine dead.
          7. He was incensed that he was not safe among fellow Israelites, so he cut his dead concubine into pieces and sent parts of her to the other tribes.
          8. The tribes were incensed at the actions of the Benjaminite men and demanded that the guilty men be given to them for punishment, but the tribe defended the men.
          9. The end result was a war in which all but 600 male Benjaminites were killed.
          10. The men of the other tribes took a vow not to allow their daughters to marry any man from the tribe of Benjamin.
          11. So they devised a plan: after making peace with the 600 men, they gave those men permission to each steal one of the virgin girls who went to Shiloh to worship God.
          12. The men of Benjamin did, and the tribe survived.
    2. This was a horrible time:
      1. The horrors:
        1. A son stealing from his mother.
        2. The conviction that a person could obtain God’s favor by worshipping idols.
        3. A Levite allowing economics to determine what he did.
        4. Threatened homosexual abuse.
        5. Rape
        6. Murder
        7. “Playing games” with vows to God.
      2. Now I ask you to take a careful look at some facts.
        1. In these two horrible incidents, from where did the principal people come?
        2. The hill country of Ephraim, Judah, Dan, and Benjamin.
      3. The fact that I call to your attention is this: the tribes from whom God called godly rescuers are the same tribes that Judges used as examples of how misguided and evil Israel was in this period.
      4. Deliverance and great evil came from the same tribes! The source of their deliverance also served as the proof of their decline!

  4. To me there are three striking lessons.
    1. The first striking lesson is seen in God’s incredible patience.
    2. The second striking lesson is seen in the incredible wickedness of God’s people.
    3. The third striking lesson is seen in God’s people misunderstanding of God.
      1. Micah totally missed the point in seeking God’s favor and presence.
      2. In providing the men of Benjamin with wives, the other tribes were conducting a yearly feast to God at the right place at the right time, but they had a horrible understanding of what God is all about.
        1. Which is worse: to think of God in idolatrous terms, or to go through the right motions with a wrong understanding of God?
        2. Judges said both were wicked, so wicked that such conditions could only be understood if we understand that at this time Israel had rejected God as their king.

The book of Judges encourages me when I note God’s patience. Judges frightens me when I note that God’s people are capable of incredible wickedness. Even when people do commanded things at right places, if God does not rule them, they produce great wickedness.

Severe Personal Struggles

Posted by on under Sermons

[Open with a prayer: “Father, I want to share some very difficult thoughts this morning. Please help me not misrepresent You. Please help each listener hear from his or her heart.”]

Preaching is an extremely difficult challenge that literally becomes more complex every week. A preacher must be dedicated to representing God properly [this is an impossible challenge in itself]. A preacher must be dedicated to being a positive help to people [always you only help some]. Last Sunday morning’s sermon is a good example. Some were really encouraged and said so. Some were seriously confused about what I said about depression and asked me to explain.

Last Sunday I tried to make one primary point: God’s definition of godliness is a whole life lived in Christ committed to transformation. Every aspect of my life in all my life is committed to allowing God to rebuild me. Christianity is not a major “add on” responsibility in life. Christianity is an existence that involves the total me.

  1. First, this morning when I talk about depression, I talk from personal experience.
    1. There are any number of times and periods I could talk about in the last forty years, but for reasons you should be able to relate to well, I choose to talk about a period in 1974.
      1. About six months after I returned from a country in Africa in 1974, I had what was called reverse culture shock.
      2. At that time I had preached full time for over a decade.
        1. My wife Joyce was in her 30s, and my three children were not yet teens.
        2. I had worked with congregations in Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, and Africa.
        3. I had completed six years of education beyond the high school level.
        4. I was not inexperienced.
    2. One Sunday in less than an hour I migrated from being an experienced person with confidence to a person who was extremely nervous, who had no confidence, and who was so scared it is impossible to describe my fear.
      1. I had severe stage fright, and I had not had stage fright for years.
      2. I clearly remember pausing in the middle of a sermon and consciously deciding if I would stay in the pulpit or walk out and never return.
      3. Being around people terrified me.
      4. There were mornings I went to the church building to work, and could not touch the door handle to open the door.
    3. I knew what was happening to me.
      1. I confirmed medically what was happening to me.
      2. But knowledge in no way eased my terror.
      3. My thinking became so distorted that I thought my family would be better off without me.
      4. I was convinced the congregation would be better off without me, but I did not have a clue of what I would do or how I could support my family.
    4. Even though I had knowledge of what was happening, things continued to worsen for a few months — bad enough that people close to me asked, “What’s wrong with you? Can I help?”

  2. Second, I would like to address this question: “Were any of the people in the Bible depressed?”
    1. I am convinced that some of the main people in the Bible had periods when they struggled with depression.
      1. Our first tendency has been to make “super spiritual heroes” out of important people in the Bible.
      2. Our second tendency has been to declare that depression is not a godly problem.
      3. As a result, we often refuse to see the obvious.
    2. To me, there are several instances that plainly suggest some important Bible people had periods of struggling with depression.
      1. To me, Moses had a struggle with depression (Numbers 11:10-15).
        1. Israel was in the wilderness, and everyone was weeping in their tents — national misery resulted in national crying.
        2. Almost nobody wanted to be free in the wilderness; almost everybody wished they were back in Egypt; they were crying because they had no meat to eat.
        3. Moses said to God:
          1. “Why are You so hard on me?”
          2. “I cannot give these people meat to eat!”
          3. “They are too big a burden for me to handle!”
          4. “God, if You are going to treat me this way, just kill me.”
        4. I think Moses was depressed.
      2. I think Jeremiah was depressed during much of his prophetic career.
        1. He referred to his work as “perpetual pain” (Jeremiah 15:15-18).
        2. He tried to quit speaking for God and could not (Jeremiah 20:7-13).
        3. He cursed the day he was born (Jeremiah 20:14-18).
        4. I conclude Jeremiah was depressed.
      3. I think Paul was depressed in Acts 9 after his conversation with Jesus on the Damascus road.
        1. This super confident “could not be wrong” man was blind and helpless.
        2. God had just revealed to him that he was 100% wrong about Jesus.
        3. Instantly he realized he helped kill a lot of innocent Jews.
        4. I think he was depressed as he spent three days fasting and praying.
    3. To me a classic example of a depressed man is Elijah in 1 Kings 18 and 19.
      1. Elijah was God’s prophet to northern Israel when King Ahab ruled the ten tribes of northern Israel.
      2. Elijah had a contest with 450 of the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel with many men of that nation as witnesses.
        1. Elijah told the men it was time they made up their minds about who was God, and serve him.
        2. Elijah, all alone, engaged the 450 prophets in a contest of sacrifices, and won in a way that powerfully demonstrated God was God.
        3. Elijah thought he had begun to turn the people of northern Israel back to God!
      3. When Queen Jezebel heard what happened, she promised Elijah he would be as dead as the prophets of Baal in 24 hours.
        1. Elijah was afraid and ran into the wilderness where he asked God to let him die.
        2. Through God’s assistance and direction, Elijah went to Mount Horeb and waited for God to speak to him.
        3. When God spoke to him, God asked, “What are you doing here?”
        4. Elijah said, “I am the only faithful one left.”
        5. God said, “Go back and do my work.”
      4. I conclude in Elijah’s flight, he was severely depressed.

  3. Third, we need to understand that when we discuss depression, we are talking about many problems, not one.
    1. Some forms of depression are self-induced and exist as consequences of personal choices or decisions.
    2. Some forms of depression are the result of the actions of other people, and exist as the consequences of other peoples’ choices or decisions.
    3. Some forms of depression are the result of genetic disorders or medical problems and exist as a reality to be endured.
    4. Regardless of the source, the pain and struggle is very real.

  4. Can a depressed person devote himself or herself to God?
    1. Absolutely!
      1. Any man or woman who commits to God and in that commitment clings to God certainly belongs to God.
      2. God seeks two things from all of us — no matter what our struggle.
        1. Humble dependence on God.
        2. Trust in God for the strength to live life.
        3. Sometimes those who struggle deeply do both best.
    2. When we face our struggles, as a person who humbly depends on God and trusts God, one of three things commonly happens.
      1. The Christian struggler can endure — the struggle alters the person’s life; life cannot be lived as if the struggle were not a part of it; the struggle always is an evident reality; the problem always casts a shadow in the person’s life.
      2. The Christian struggler can cope — life is adjusted; he or she can live much of life as if the struggle did not exist. The struggle is there, but it does not control the way he or she must live.
      3. The Christian struggler can overcome the problem — the struggle is removed and becomes a part of the past.
      4. To the person whose only choice is to endure, God says, “My grace is sufficient for you.”
      5. To the person who can endure, God says, “I can make you stand.”
      6. To the one who overcomes, God says, “Humble yourself before me; do not be arrogant.”
    3. Our basic responsibility as Christians is to be God’s light in this dark world (Matthew 5:14-16).
      1. The Christian who endures a struggle can be God’s powerful light to those who are floundering with no strength.
      2. The Christian who copes with a struggle can be God’s powerful light to those who are ruled by the struggle.
      3. The Christian who is blessed enough to overcome can give God’s powerful light to all who will see that God’s strength allowed them to overcome.

I want to call something about severe inner struggle to your attention that I find very sobering. In periods of intense inner struggle, we are spiritually betrayed by our own culture. How? In two ways. We are betrayed by the way our culture defines the purpose of life. We are betrayed by the way our culture defines happiness (on the basis of feelings).

Our culture declares we need four keys to unlock truth in an area of life.

  • The first key is logic. “Logic is an essential key that unlocks the answers to truth” (if we use human reasoning in the right system, we will discover truth!).

  • The second key is science. “Science is an essential key that unlocks the answers to truth” (science can reveal any answer!).

  • The third key is technology. “Technology is an essential key that unlocks the answers to truth” (we can always produce something to solve any problem!).

  • The fourth key is prosperity. “Prosperity is an essential key that unlocks the answers to truth” (the power of prosperity can do anything!).

The goal is to have all four keys. In this society we have all four keys. We are easily convinced by this illusion that there is nothing we cannot do. If these are the four keys to truth, let me ask some questions.

  • Question: why does this nation have so many empty people?
  • Question: why do so many people not even come close to understanding what life is about?
  • Question: why are so many people distressed and painfully unhappy?

We, as a people, desperately need hope. The hope that gives us the strength to endure, the hope that gives us the strength to cope, the hope that gives us the strength to overcome. That hope is not found in the four keys. That hope comes from God’s strength working in your life.

No matter who you are, no matter what your struggle is, God is not ashamed of you, not ashamed to live in your life, not ashamed to work in your life. God wants you to be His child. God wants His son, Jesus Christ, to be your Savior.

When I Cannot See What Is Ahead

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Abraham lived in the city of Ur. In his day for his region, he lived in the most advantaged, opportune place that existed in his “known world” (Genesis 11:27, 28). A God [Who was new to him and was unlike the other gods he had known (Joshua 24:14)] asked him to leave, and eventually asked him to go to an unexplained, undisclosed destination (Genesis 12:1-5). He did, but Ur and Canaan were in major contrast!

When the Israelite slaves left Egypt, God did not direct them to the “short route” by the sea. He directed them to the “long route” through a desert (Exodus 13:17, 18). God knew those people would encounter war on the “short route.” He feared war might change those Israelites’ minds, and they might return to Egypt and slavery. The harsh way was actually the better way.

In 597 B.C. the first of three Israelite groups became Jewish captives in Babylon. Two of the Old Testament prophets were in that group — Daniel and Ezekiel. Existing in strange conditions far, far from home in a forced exile from which they would not return was not a “wonderful experience.” Two men whom God would choose and trust to be His spokesmen were among the first to go into Babylonian exile.

God gave us a perfect Savior. In this Savior, God redeemed us. Through that redemption, God gave us hope. That hope was based on God’s mercy and grace. From God’s mercy and grace flows incredible forgiveness. God did all that — through death.

We struggle, agonize, suffer pain, and face disappointments. We are easily deceived. In our gullibility, we are often eager to believe any lie evil tells us. “Life is about feeling good — indulge your feelings!” “Life is about security — pursue money with passion!” “Life is about pleasure — allow nothing to get in the way of having fun!” “Life is about success — make any necessary sacrifice required to achieve your goals!”

How betrayed we are when our “feelings” change, our “security” crumbles, our “pleasures” enslave us, our “success” is cold and empty. How meaningless our lives become when what we “knew” as the all important measurements of life are not even an asterisk (*) in the footnotes!

Hard lessons for us to learn: (1) Today’s greatest city may not hold tomorrow’s promise. (2) The harsh way may be the best way. (3) Physical tragedy may be eternal opportunity. (4) Our most significant doorway to life may be death.

We cannot see ahead. Life often changes quickly as we stare in disbelief. We can trust God. His love for us does not change. Our future is secure in His hands.

What did Abraham, Daniel, and Ezekiel learn to do? Trust God. What did those Israelite slaves never learn to do? Trust God. Our major issue: regardless of what is happening or where we are, will we learn to trust God?

A Look at God’s Testing

Posted by on October 13, 2002 under Sermons

I wish to begin by asking a couple of questions. I invite you to interact with me by answering the questions through raising your hand. First, let me give you both questions so that you can think about them a moment. Second, I will repeat the questions and you respond by raising your hand.

[Perhaps I need to declare a disclaimer: this is not a scientific poll.]

The two questions I want you to think about a moment:

Do you regard “testing” basically to have negative objectives?

Do you regard “testing” basically to have positive objectives?

Those two questions are very general. There are no right or wrong answers. I am merely asking you how you emotionally react to the testing process.

Everyone who regards “testing” basically to be a negative thrust with negative objectives, raise your hand. Thank you!

Everyone who regards “testing” basically to be a positive thrust with positive objectives, raise your hand. Thank you!

Hopefully you realize testing can be positive or negative. When testing seeks to impose a sense of failure, it is negative. When testing is a method of discovery, it is positive.

Whatever your basic feeling about testing is, I want you to set that feeling aside for a few minutes. I want you to think rather than emotionally react.

  1. I want you to read several scriptures with me.
    1. I want to begin in Judges 2:18-23.
      When the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed and afflicted them. But it came about when the judge died, that they would turn back and act more corruptly than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them and bow down to them; they did not abandon their practices or their stubborn ways. So the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He said, “Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers and has not listened to My voice, I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, in order to test Israel by them, whether they will keep the way of the Lord to walk in it as their fathers did, or not.” So the Lord allowed those nations to remain, not driving them out quickly; and He did not give them into the hand of Joshua.
      1. I especially call to your attention verses 21, 22:
        Judges 2:21,22 “I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, in order to test Israel by them, whether they will keep the way of the Lord to walk in it as their fathers did, or not.”
      2. I see several things in this statement:
        1. God was quite angry with the Israelites, but He had not “given up” on them.
        2. They were capable of depending on God, capable of repenting, but God could not predict which way they would go.
        3. God left some of the nations around them to determine if the Israelites would live in God’s ways or if they would live in the ways of idol worshippers.
        4. Chapter 3 begins with a listing of the nations God left to test them.
      3. This evening I call this concept of testing to your attention by beginning in Judges, but I want you to note it was a common approach God used to determine the hearts of Israel.
    2. Read with me Exodus 15:22-26.
      Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah. So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” Then he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet. There He made for them a statute and regulation, and there He tested them. And He said, “If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the Lord, am your healer.”
      1. These are the ancestors of the people we read about in Judges 2, the ancestors God had just literally delivered from Egyptian slavery.
      2. These people have recently, with God’s help, crossed the Red Sea and have begun the journey toward Sinai through the wilderness.
      3. They arrive at Marah (bitterness) and cannot drink the water because it is bitter.
      4. These people who were delivered from Egypt by God’s ten mighty acts and who crossed the Red Sea by God’s mighty act grumble.
      5. By God’s direction, the water is made drinkable (sweet) to “test them,” to challenge them again to place their confidence in God.
    3. Read with me Exodus 20:18-21.
      All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.
      1. This is the same people, now at Mount Sinai, immediately after receiving the ten commandments.
      2. The experience terrified them–they associated the entire experience with extreme danger.
      3. Moses explained the point of the experience was not their terror, but their reverence.
        1. God wanted them to hold Him in such awe that they reverenced Him and showed their reverence by forsaking evil in order to obey Him.
        2. Note the purpose was to test them–to give them opportunity to move closer to God.
        3. If they were to move closer to God, they had to view God in awe, not in terror.
    4. Read with me Deuteronomy 8:1-5.
      “All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your forefathers. You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. Thus you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.”
      1. These are the second generation adults following Israel’s departure from Egypt who are now ready to enter Canaan.
      2. Note that the forty years of experience in the wilderness were to have these effects on them.
        1. To humble them.
        2. To test them.
        3. To make them realize that depending on God was of greater importance than existing to acquire physical necessities.
      3. The entire experience, including the concept of testing, was associated with discipline, the kind that parents provide the children as an act of love and guidance.
    5. Read with me Deuteronomy 13:1-3.
      “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”
      1. I ask you to notice this: here God’s purpose in testing was to allow God to “find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul.”
      2. If God was to know that they loved Him, they had to reveal their love for Him.

  2. Let me share with you some thoughts about God’s testing Israel.
    1. First thought: if God was to have and sustain the relationship He wanted with Israel, God had to change their view of Him, and testing was part of that process.
      1. God had to change their perception of Him: God is our friend and healer, not our enemy.
      2. God had to change their basic realization in life: God is the source of our help and strength, not a danger to us.
      3. God had to change their basic reality in life: God is our provider; He can sustain us.
    2. Second thought: testing was for God’s benefit as well as Israel’s.
      1. It provided God opportunity to know Israel’s hearts.
      2. It provided Israel opportunity to reveal their hearts to God.
    3. God tested Israel, but Israel was not to test God.
      1. This was not an “inequity” to be explained by “God is God and Israel is not God;” there is no unfairness or injustice involved.
      2. God was (and is) knowable and changeless–His love for Israel was certain and unchangeable.
      3. Israel (humanity in general) was fickle and deceptive.
      4. Israel needed testing, and God did not.
      5. Israel could depend on God, but God could not depend on Israel.

  3. There are some basic lessons very relevant to godly human existence today.
    1. If God is to have a relationship with us, we constantly must be growing in our expanded view of God.
    2. God wants to know our hearts, and testing reveals our hearts to God.
    3. God needs to test us because we are fickle and deceptive; we do not need to test God because He is knowable and changeless.

The type of testing dealt with in the scriptures we read contains a distinction between the divine act of testing and the human act of testing. When this kind of testing is initiated by people, it commonly begins with doubts and distrust. When it begins by God’s initiative, it creates an increased opportunity for good for people. When people test other people, they commonly expect the worst. When God tests people, He challenges them to rise to their best.

Those who have the goal of belonging to God welcome God’s testing for two reasons. (1) It provides the opportunity to show their hearts to God. (2) It helps them come closer to God by depending on Him.

God Made the Whole Person

Posted by on under Sermons

I want to begin by asking some questions. I want to make a very serious request: in your own mind, give yourself an answer to each question.

Question # 1: How much of you, as a person, do you want your best friend to love? Can you imagine saying this to the best friend you have: “I know you are my best friend, but I just expect you to love 75% of me as a person.”

Sometimes best friends do extraordinary things for each other. Best friends do that because they love the whole person.

Question # 2: Men, how much of you, as a person, do you expect the woman you marry to love? Can you imagine saying this to the woman you love so much you want her to be your wife: “I want you to marry me and live with me as my wife as long as I live, but I just expect you to love 65% of me as a person.”

Wives who love their husbands as a whole person do some extraordinary things for their husbands. They do that because they love the whole person.

Question # 3: Women, how much of you, as a person, do you expect the man you marry to love? Can you imagine saying this to the man you love so much that you want him to be your husband: “I want to marry you and live with you as my husband as long as I live, but I just expect you to love 60% of me as a person.”

Husbands who love their wives as a whole person do some extraordinary things for their wives. They do that because they love the whole person.

Question # 4: Children, how much of you, as a person, do you expect your parents to love? Can you imagine saying this to your parents: “I want you to be my parents, but I just expect you to love 50% of me as a person.”

Parents who love their children do some extraordinary things for each child. They do that because they love the whole person of each child.

(Transition: I want you to follow me. When I start sharing, you may wonder how all this fits together. However, if you will think with me, I promise you it will all fit together.)

  1. I want to begin with Paul’s brief letter to Christians in Thessalonica that we call 1 Thessalonians.
    1. In this short letter, Paul mentions some of their strengths, gives some challenges, and address some problems.
      1. They needed all three.
      2. They had some commendable strengths.
      3. They needed the encouragement in the challenges.
      4. They needed to deal with some problems.
    2. Their strengths:
      1. Their first strength: their conversion to Jesus Christ was genuine and remarkable.
        1. All of chapter one notes how remarkable the conversion of the people was.
        2. In verse 2 after telling them that he consistently, gratefully remembered them in his prayers, Paul explained why:
          1 Thessalonians 1:3 … constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ …
        3. Their second strength: in their conversion, they turned from idols to God to serve a living, true God.
          1 Thessalonians 1:9 For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God,
        4. Their third strength: They accepted Paul’s message as God’s word, not as the thoughts of a man.
          1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.
        5. Their fourth strength: They used the examples of mature Christians in other places as encouragement to themselves in difficult times.
          1 Thessalonians 2:14 For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews.
      2. Paul’s challenge’s to them.
        1. Keep on growing in the way you live for Christ. (4:1)
        2. Keep on growing in the way you love each other. (4:10)
        3. Stay prepared for Jesus’ return by clinging to the right values. (5:1-11)
      3. The problems they needed to deal with and turn loose of:
        1. They needed to turn loose of sexual immorality. (4:3-8)
        2. They needed to understand that Christians who died would be resurrected to be with God. (4:13-18)
        3. They needed to respect the leaders and teachers. (5:12, 13)
        4. They needed to improve their relationships with weak Christians. (5:14)
      4. At the close of the book, Paul wrote this statement to them:
        1 Thessalonians 5:23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
        1. “God can minister to your whole person.”
        2. “He can completely preserve you, make the whole you holy so that you can stand in purity before Jesus when he returns.”
        3. “God loves all of you, not just part of you.”
        4. “God can make all of you holy, not just part of you.”

  2. I call your attention to two concepts of what it means to be a Christian.
    1. The first concept is this: Christianity is an important “add on” responsibility in a person’s life–he or she just adds it on to the important things a person is supposed to do.
      1. “A person is supposed to be religious.”
        1. “Christianity is the true religion.”
        2. “So a responsible person must be a member of the church.”
      2. “So I am a Christian because that is what I am supposed to be.”
    2. Let me illustrate this approach to Christian existence in two ways.
      1. The first illustration of being a Christian, or being religious, is a bar graph.

        bar chart

        1. A bar graph is often used to represent numbers as they exist in comparison to other numbers; the height of each bar allows you to compare bars.
        2. The projected bar graph has the following bars on it:
          1. Fun
          2. Work
          3. Family associations
          4. Necessary commitments
          5. Religion (In the five bars, religion is depicted as the smallest.)
      2. The second illustration of being a Christian, or being religious, is the pie graph.

        pie chart

        1. A pie graph is used to allow you to compare variables, not only to each other, but to the whole.
        2. The pieces of pie in this graph have the same areas:
          1. Fun
          2. Work
          3. Family associations
          4. Necessary commitments
          5. Religion (In the five pie wedges, religion is depicted as the smallest.)
      3. The bar graph and the pie graph are two ways to illustrate a similar concept of being a Christian or being religious.
        1. In this concept, the objective is to get the bar or pie wedge called Christianity to be the biggest bar or biggest piece of the pie on the graphs.
        2. If things are not going as they should in members’ lives, the bar is too small or the piece of pie is too small.
        3. The solution is to “raise the bar” or “increase the slice of pie.”
    3. Now let me share with you a completely different concept of being a Christian, which I conclude is biblical and fits Paul’s transformation concept.


      1. In this concept there are no categories to be separated from each other, no comparisons between things.
        1. There are no bars.
        2. There are no pieces of pie.
        3. There is a whole person dedicated to God through Jesus Christ, and that whole person is dedicated to being a spiritual person.
      2. Are there still areas of life like fun, work, family associations, and necessary commitments?
        1. Surely!
        2. But no area of life is permitted to be in conflict or competition with being a whole spiritual person in Christ Jesus–life is not about competing areas of living, but being a spiritual person in every area of living.
        3. I cannot be sexually immoral and convince myself that its okay as long as I am religious.
        4. I cannot be a workaholic who neglects my family and convince myself that it is okay as long as I am religious.
        5. I cannot be addicted to any form of pleasure and convince myself that it is okay because I am religious.
        6. I cannot love money and convince myself it is okay because I am religious.
        7. I cannot be obsessed with success and convince myself it is okay because I am religious.
        8. Whatever I am doing, in any area of my life, I am genuinely, honestly a spiritual person (a) because I understand what God does for me in Christ and (b) because that is who I want to be.

Our failure as the church and as individual Christians to understand this last concept is what has us in crisis as the church and as persons. We have separated spirituality from every day living. We have encouraged Christians to be religious instead of being spiritual. And we fail to minister to the whole person in an evil world that assaults all of us.

Does depression create enormous spiritual problems? You better believe it! Does addictions create enormous spiritual problems? You better believe it! Does sexual immorality create enormous spiritual problems? You better believe it! Do disrespect, anger, hate, contempt, and selfishness create enormous spiritual problems? You better believe it!

Will the spiritual problems created by such things just “go away” if we ignore them? Never! If the church continues to ignore such problems, they will continue to cut the legs from under us!

Let me ask you something? Did God create you? If your answer is, “Yes!” may I ask, “Which part of you did God create?” Is your answer, “All of me!” let me ask, “Your emotions?” “Yes!” “Your attitudes?” “Yes!” “Your heart?” “Yes!” “Your body?” “Yes! Yes! Yes! All of me?” Then why do we ever conclude that the God Who created all of us also created a church, a spiritual kingdom that is only supposed to minister to part of us?

God can forgive the whole you. God can nurture the whole you. God can sustain the whole you. And God wants to! Do you give the “whole you” to God?

Do I Know Who I Am?

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Some individuals know who they are. Some do not. Some individuals comfortably ask themselves, “Who am I?” and comfortably, honestly answer the question. Others avoid that question and go to extreme measures to flee its answer.

At any moment, “who I am” is determined by a curious mix of influences combined with “my choice.” First, consider the “curious mix of influences.”

What is my language or languages? What value system directs me? On what do I base my understanding of good or bad? What everyday factors determine importance? What should a husband be? A wife be? A parent be? What is my work ethic? What is the role of money in a person’s life? Or entertainment? Or pleasure? Or people? What is my definition of success?

When a person answers those questions, what is the “curious mix of influences”?

One’s culture
One’s family of origin
One’s present immediate family
One’s peer group
One’s significant commitments
One’s significant involvements

We each combine influences from these sources with personal choice. These influences do not overpower personal choice unless a person allows them to exchange roles with choice.

For personal choice to exercise full significance as I learn who I am, I must realize that my choice is greater than any of those influences in my life. Choice is greater than any combination of those influences, greater than the sum of all those influences.

What is the basic difference between a “victim outlook” and “survivor outlook”? This is the basic difference: the realization that choice has the primary role in deciding who I am.

The victim’s mind says, “I have no choice. I am only the collection of influences on my life. Whoever I am, I had no choice. Whatever I do, I have no choice. I must be what I am because the influences in my life make me who and what I am.”

The survivor’s mind says, “I have a choice, and I will exercise it. I am more than the influences around me. In spite of those influences, I use choice to determine who I am and what I do.”

What is the greatest power to support and sustain the power of the individual’s choice? God. God transforms victims into survivors. God says, “Choose, and I will help.”

God Was Not Their King

Posted by on October 6, 2002 under Sermons

For the next few weeks, I want to take our Sunday evening lessons from the Old Testament book of Judges. In these lessons, I do not plan to do a verse by verse study. I will call some things to your attention that you may or may not have noticed in this book. I hope I can encourage you to include Judges in your weekly readings. The things I share with you will have much more meaning if you are reading in the book. I continue to ask you to bring your Bibles with you.

This evening I call a feature of the book to your attention. It is a feature that all of you who have studied the book have noticed. Tonight we will not be content to note the feature is there. Our primary focus will be on this question: What does this feature mean?

  1. Let’s begin by calling this feature in Judges to our attention.
    1. It is found in the ending section of the book. Turn to Judges 17 as we begin to look at this feature.
      1. Judges 17:6 In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.
        [Everything declared from Judges 17:1 through the closing of the book verifies that God was not a factor in the actions or the directions that were commonplace in Israel at that time. God’s leadership was completely rejected. In fact, some of the people were so ignorant of God’s ways that they thought they were doing what God would have them do.]
      2. Judges 18:1 In those days there was no king of Israel; and in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking an inheritance for themselves to live in, for until that day an inheritance had not been allotted to them as a possession among the tribes of Israel.
        [This chapter combines Micah’s failure that was created by identifying idolatry with God’s way in chapter 17 with the failure of the tribe of Dan to settle a territory in chapter 18. Such enormous, wicked failures can be understood only if it is understood that there is no king in Israel.]
      3. Judges 19:1 Now it came about in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite staying in the remote part of the hill country of Ephraim, who took a concubine for himself from Bethlehem in Judah.
        [A Levite’s concubine was raped to death in Bethlehem of Judah. He dissected her dead body, sent a piece of her body to each tribe, and as a result produced a major national crisis in Israel.]
      4. The book of Judges ends by closing this last section with Judges 21:25.
        In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
    2. Let’s recall a basic understanding in this period of Israelite history.
      1. Moses, Israel’s first great human leader who led them from Egypt through the wilderness, had been dead for a long time.
      2. Joshua, Israel’s second great human leader who led them in the basic conquest of Canaan, was dead.
      3. All the people who assisted Joshua in his leadership were dead.
    3. This statement declares how the historical period of the Judges began.
      Judges 2:10-23 All that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel. Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals, and they forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the Lord to anger. So they forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtaroth. The anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He gave them into the hands of plunderers who plundered them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies around them, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. Wherever they went, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had spoken and as the Lord had sworn to them, so that they were severely distressed. Then the Lord raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them. Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they played the harlot after other gods and bowed themselves down to them. They turned aside quickly from the way in which their fathers had walked in obeying the commandments of the Lord; they did not do as their fathers. When the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed and afflicted them. But it came about when the judge died, that they would turn back and act more corruptly than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them and bow down to them; they did not abandon their practices or their stubborn ways. So the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He said, “Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers and has not listened to My voice, I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, in order to test Israel by them, whether they will keep the way of the Lord to walk in it as their fathers did, or not.” So the Lord allowed those nations to remain, not driving them out quickly; and He did not give them into the hand of Joshua.
    4. To me, these are the keys to understanding what happened in Israel in the period of the judges.
      1. A generation arose that did now know the Lord.
      2. This generation did not know the work the Lord did in the past to bless them.
      3. They wanted to worship the gods everyone else followed.
      4. Any time they or their descendants devoted themselves to God, it was a temporary dedication.
      5. Their behavior:
        1. Moved God to pity when they suffered oppression and cried to Him.
        2. Moved God to anger when they rebelled against Him.
      6. They never learned.

  2. What does the statement, “There was no king in Israel” mean? What should that statement say to us?
    1. To answer that question, we need to read 1 Samuel 8:4-9.
      Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; and they said to him, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. The Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day–in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods–so they are doing to you also. Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall solemnly warn them and tell them of the procedure of the king who will reign over them.”
      1. Samuel, who was a great leader in Israel, was an old man, deemed too old to lead them as they wished.
      2. His sons were dishonest men who took bribes and perverted justice.
      3. Because of each of those conditions, the elders of Israel met with Samuel and asked for a king.
        1. The request deeply offended Samuel–he felt rejected.
        2. He took the request to God in prayer.
      4. God replied, “Give them what they want, but warn them about what to expect.”
        1. Then God said, “It is not your leadership they are rejecting; it is my leadership they are rejecting.”
        2. “I am their king; they do not want Me to be their king.”
        3. “Israel has rejected my leadership from the time I delivered them from Egypt.”

  3. To focus you on the meaning of the phrase, “There was no king in Israel,” I wish to do two things.
    1. Later, in the next two or three historical ages, when Israel had kings, did having a king solve their problems?
      1. Was King Saul, the first king, a solution? No! God was not their leader.
      2. Was King David, the second king, a solution? He was a godly king much of the time, but he made some horrible mistakes. At times God led Israel; at times He did not.
      3. Was King Solomon, the third king, a solution? He began as a godly king and ended as a very ungodly king. Again, God was not their continuous leader.
      4. Were the kings of the divided kingdom a solution? No! Rarely was God their leader.
      5. Let me share with you a statement and challenge you to think about it: the vast majority of the time when they had a physical king, they still had no king in Israel because they continued to reject God’s leadership.
    2. Let me make the same point in another way.
      1. In Judges 17 when the Ephraimite Micah set up his own shrine, placed idols in it, and appointed one of his sons as priest, then later hired a Levite to care for his idolatrous shrine, was God king? No, God was not leading him.
      2. In Judges 18, when the warriors from the Israelite tribe of Dan, stole Micah’s idols, and enticed the Levite to go with them, was God king? No, God was not leading them.
      3. In Judges 19, when a Levite’s concubine was raped to death, was God king? No, God was not leading them.
      4. In Judges 20 and 21 when a national crisis developed out of this situation, was God their King? No, God was not leading them.
      5. Then what was happening? People were doing what they considered to be right and calling it God’s leadership.
        1. Did they realize they were rejecting God and His leadership? Probably not.
        2. Remember, they did not know God, and they did not know what God did for Israel.

  4. Consider what I regard to be some lessons we need to learn.
    1. When people who consider themselves godly people do not know God for the personage He is, they are inviting disaster.
      1. Too many Christians do not know God.
      2. They know their personal concept of God or what they have been told about God, and they assume their understanding is correct.
      3. When God reveals Himself in His actions in ways that contradict our concepts, we reject the revelation.
      4. Remember, God is infinitely greater than we are; our minds cannot fathom or predict Him.
    2. We often fail to live in an awareness of what God has done for us.
      1. God invested thousands of years, the life of His son, mercy, grace, and forgiveness to create our opportunities.
      2. For us to be ignorant of His works and attitudes in our behalf is an insult to Him that will cause of us grief and pain.
    3. Too many of us commonly fail to let God rule our lives.
      1. Too much of our focus is on how we can get others to accept God’s rule.
      2. Too little of our focus is on letting God rule our personal lives.

When we combine these three attitudes and situations, we produce the same result: everyone does what is right in his or her own eyes.

The Christian Challenges of Caring

Posted by on under Sermons

[Brad Pistole began the time dedicated to the sermon by administering (i.e., “walking the congregation through”) the Congregational Family Needs Analysis (see last week’s Sunday morning lesson). After the completion of the analysis, David Chadwell shared the following thoughts with the congregation.]

  1. Brad Pistole guided the congregation through the “Congregational Needs Analysis” (composed of 25 questions, 24 of which were multiple choice).

  2. After the completion of the survey, David spoke to the congregation.
    1. I hope you have your Bible handy and will turn in it to Romans 12. I want you to focus on an emphasis in the last section of Romans.
      1. Read these statements with me:
        Romans 12:3-5 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
        Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.
        Romans 12:15,16 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.
        Romans 14:1-4 Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
        Romans 15:7 Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.
      2. I challenge all of us to take a serious look at Paul’s statements in these scriptures.
    2. General context of the letter of Romans.
      1. The majority of those Christians converted from first century Israel and its Judaism had a very difficult time relating to the Christians who were converted from idolatry.
      2. There were two primary reasons for them having such difficulty.
        1. These people were not Israelites–they had the wrong ancestry and the wrong religious background.
        2. Prior to conversion, many of these did not even know the living God, and some of their concepts were just plan strange to the Jewish devotee to Judaism.
    3. Specific context of chapters 12-15.
      1. Paul spent the majority of this letter declaring two points:
        1. God always intended His salvation to be for all nations, all people, regardless of their ancestry or culture.
        2. God through Christ and the work of His Spirit made this possible by His mercy and grace.
      2. If all of them [Christian Jew and Christian non-Jew] correctly understood what God did for them in Christ, they would start treating each other like members of the same community, members of the same family.

  3. Application: in the same way they failed, we are failing.
    1. We are losing, not because of God, but because of our very poor understanding of God’s purposes.
      1. If people have physical needs, we do great. We do wonderfully well with physical challenges.
        1. We can help feed and pass out clothing in our inner city work, and that is good.
        2. We can give several thousand dollars to the starving people in Africa, and this is good.
        3. We can operate C.U.RE. and send medical supplies all over the world, and that is good.
      2. However, at the very same time we do horribly with people challenges.
        1. If a person is hungry, we know how to help, but if a person is struggling with internal turmoil or relationships we have no idea of what to do.
        2. To struggling people, including struggling Christians, our most common answer is, “You should not be having that problem.”
        3. So we are surrounded by the pain and suffering of struggling people, and basically what we teach people in the church to do is hide it.
    2. This problem is as old as Christianity; not as old as Jesus, but as old as the primitive church.
      1. The cure that Paul said addressed the situation among Christians in Rome very much is the cure we Christians need right now.
      2. The cure is closeness, knowing, encouraging, and helping each other.

Being a religion is not enough. Being a community of believers who trust the God who sent Jesus to be our Christ is the only thing that will fulfill God’s purpose.