What God Might Do Among Us

Posted by on April 30, 2006 under Sermons

Tonight will be our quarterly Family Meeting. It is aptly named. Families have always gathered around the dinner table to discuss what’s going on and check in on everyone. That’s the same spirit we want to have at our family night. When a 700-member family gathers around a dinner table it looks like West-Ark Family Night.

Think of it in the spirit of the text of Acts 14 as well. The church gathered together to share the news of what God had done among them. God was opening a door of faith to the Gentiles. That probably made some a little nervous. It excited others. But notice that the church didn’t gather for a mission report from Paul and Barnabas. They gathered to hear what God had done and was doing. And that must have been inspiring – for if God was doing something out there, then he could do that in here as well. They were all in awe of the wondrous and amazing things that God was doing.

That’s the spirit we want to have as we gather tonight. Yes, we will share needs and encourage you to get involved – but over all we want to talk about what God has done and is doing and may yet do!

This morning I have asked two brothers to share what God has done. …

  • Brent Evans – Dynamic Marriage
  • Brad Pistole – Youth and Family Ministry

  • Ephesians 3 – My Excel spreadsheet measuring high attendance and low attendance. How many different factors do we measure? (Yesterday at the Hope Park ministry we kept counting how many attended). To measure it is one thing – what it means is another. All of this is okay. After all, Luke thought it important to note that 3,000 were added to the church on Pentecost.

    But how do we measure what God is doing? How do we measure what God is able to do among us? Can we measure it? What is the formula? What are the criteria?

    He is able to do immeasurably more that all we can ask or imagine!

    • Yet we often try to contain God or we unintentionally limit God to our measures.
    • Yet we reject what God is doing because what he can do through us doesn’t fit into our measurements.
    • He is able – but too often we are focused on what we are able to do or not to do.
    • More than we can ask or imagine – What do we ask? Do we ask? What can we imagine? Do we imagine?

    Don’t assume that this means we shouldn’t ask or imagine. Just keep in mind that whatever we ask and whatever we imagine, God is ABLE to do more – How much more? Immeasurable more!
    Luke 10 – The disciples were sent out by Christ. And God did through them immeasureably more that any of them could ask or imagine.

    They came back to Jesus and told him – with astonishment!
    And Jesus rejoiced! Wouldn’t you do anything to make Jesus rejoice?

    We begin in worship and praise of God who is able to do immeasurably more.

    • Paul is not giving us a formula for what God can do – he is singing a song of praise.
    • Jesus isn’t giving a lesson on how to cast out evil – he is singing a song of praise to God.

    In worship we encounter God who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine. He sends us out. And we return with news that not only inspires all of us – but it also brings a smile to Christ’s face.
    What do you have to share today?

    Praying on a Bad Day

    Posted by on April 27, 2006 under Bulletin Articles

    Hebrews 5:7 In the days of His flesh [speaking of Jesus], He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.

    Most Christians enjoy praying on a good day. We enjoy thanking God for blessings we see and glorifying Him for kindnesses obviously surrounding us. To the Christian, it is a real pleasure to say, “Thank you!” to God when life is wonderful and going our way.

    However, praying to God on a bad day is an entirely different story. While the Christian is glad God is there to pray to on a bad day, it is much more difficult to see blessings on a bad day than on a good day. Yet, I suspect all of us have had bad days and prayed the following prayer in some form on those days.

    “Lord, this is a horrible day. I am so shook up all I feel is anxiety! If something could go wrong, it has gone wrong. I feel awful! I am so discouraged and feel so blah! I feel like there is one knight fighting ten dragons, and I am that knight. My Christian armor may be protecting me, but it is getting uncomfortably hot in here.

    “Most of the time my life flies by, but this bad day seems to be dragging on forever. I surely wish this bad day would come to a conclusion, and I could start fresh with a good day tomorrow-could you do that for me? God, I know You are there, but I surely have trouble seeing You. This bad day makes everything so dark I just do not see You at work as I did day before yesterday when everything was going great.

    “Father, help me feel Your presence. Things are so bad I do not even know what to ask to make the day better. Just be close enough to me that I can sense Your presence, and-please-help this bad day come to an end.”

    Everyone has bad days. Jesus had Gethsemane. Paul had the Damascus Road. Stephen was stoned to death. Out of Jesus’ “bad day,” God made a Savior. Out of Paul’s “bad day,” God made an apostle to the Gentiles. Out of Stephen’s “bad day,” God made a martyr whose faith encourages us 2000 years after his death.

    Wonder what God will make out of your bad day? He is able to take your bad day and fashion it into something incredible and unbelievable-just like He made a Savior, an apostle, and an example from bad days. However, there is a price! The price is the faith of surrender. When we have the faith of surrender, God can fashion the incredible from our bad days.

    Do not ask God to end your bad day. Ask God to use your bad day for His purposes. Then God can turn our bad days into salvation days.

    Repentance (part 4)

    Posted by on April 23, 2006 under Sermons

    Luke 15:1-32 Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So He told them this parable, saying, “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’ In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” And He said, “A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.” ‘ So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate. Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.'”

    Tonight I am going to challenge you to think. As always, I do not ask you to agree, but I do ask you to think about something that you likely thought you had all figured out. I certainly did!

    We will start by looking at the text in Luke. You will need a Bible, so use yours or use one of the pew Bibles. We will begin by turning to Luke 13.

    1. I want to note that Luke 13 begins a section in this gospel in which the Pharisee’s perspective on God’s thinking is contrasted with Jesus’ teachings about God’s perspective.
      1. Look at Luke 13:31.
        1. The Pharisees said to Jesus, “Leave this area–you are causing this area to come under the scrutiny from the authorities, and we do not need that!”
        2. Jesus responded, “The authorities are not concerned about the spiritual well being of Jerusalem!”
          1. “I will leave, but it is because it is not yet time for me to die.”
          2. “The salvation of Jerusalem does not depend on my physical presence or absence–it depends on understanding my teachings.”
          3. “I want to spare Jerusalem, but Jerusalem does not want to be spared.”
          4. “Tragedy in Jerusalem is inevitable!”
        3. Note the contrast:
          1. The Pharisees: “Jerusalem will be secured by your physical absence!”
          2. Jesus: “Jerusalem will be secured by listening to me!”
      2. Look at 14:1
        1. Jesus was eating (by invitation) in the home of one of the leading Pharisees (members of the elite Jerusalem Sanhedrin).
        2. He was watched closely to observe his actions (likely to be criticized).
        3. Jesus’ question: “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
        4. They would not answer, so he healed a sick man present and sent him away.
        5. He asked, “Is it okay to help an animal on the Sabbath (but not a person)?”
        6. Note the contrast:
          1. The Pharisees view: “Wait until the day after the Sabbath to heal.”
          2. Jesus’ view: “Do good when the opportunity presents itself–even if it is the Sabbath.”
        7. That event is followed by a series of parables and teachings.
      3. Look at 15:1,2.
        1. The grumbling of the Pharisees and scribes is the preface (context) of these three well known parables.
          1. What Jesus taught had a powerful appeal to the worst of the worst: the tax collectors and the sinners.
          2. The tax collectors were regarded as traitors and thieves.
          3. The sinners were people everyone knew to be evil people engaged in wicked practices.
        2. From the perspective of these religious leaders in Israel, Jesus was appealing to and associating with the wrong kind of people.
          1. People would get the wrong impression of God if Jesus appealed to people who did not belong to God.
          2. Jesus discredited himself and his teachings because of the kind of people he appealed to and associated with.

    2. In response to the Pharisees and scribes grumbling about his appealing to and associating with the wrong kind of people, Jesus told three parables based on some commonly understood realities of life.
      1. The three parables are likely quite familiar to most of you.
        1. The parable of the lost sheep.
        2. The parable of the lost coin.
        3. The parable of the lost son and older brother.
      2. Typically speaking, we look at each of those parables from our American perspective.
        1. We interpret each of them as though they happened in this country and this culture with our values.
        2. We even make the points of the parable and the lessons to be taught as though the parable occurred in this country in our world of today.
        3. We take the act of repentance to be centered exclusively in human acts–the focus is entirely on what we do to repent.
          1. That is an interesting way to approach the parables since few of us are shepherds and never have had a shepherding lifestyle, few of us have a headdress of coins that may have been part of a dowry, and few of us have been a middle eastern father.
          2. Our way of approaching the parables has nothing to do with the culture or setting in which they were given.
            1. Our view of the parables and their lessons are distinctly different from their view of those parables.
            2. That means the lessons they heard and the lessons we hear are not the same lessons.

    3. Here is where I want to challenge you to think: what if the three parables are about God’s involvement in repentance instead of our acts of repentance?
      1. What if the basic point of all three parables is the same: God is actively involved in the human response of repentance?
        1. What if the parables are about God’s involvement in repentance instead of the human act of repenting?
        2. That would be contrary to our whole philosophy of salvation.
          1. Salvation primarily rests on us–we basically save ourselves through acts of human obedience.
          2. Too many of us have little place for God’s actions in the salvation process.
          3. In theory we say God is involved, but for many of us we doubt God’s active involvement.
      2. Allow me to call your attention to some facts.
        1. First, consider the parable of the lost sheep.
          1. The sheep was lost because it simply was not paying attention to where it was in reference to the shepherd and the flock.
          2. The shepherd secured the 99 sheep and searched for the lost sheep.
          3. The shepherd found the lost sheep; it did not come wandering back to the security of the fold.
          4. The shepherd carried the lost sheep back to the fold–he did not even make it walk to pay for its “stupid” mistakes!
          5. Who was responsible for ending the ‘lostness’ of the lost sheep–the shepherd or the sheep? Who was actively involved in the recovery?
        2. Second, consider the parable of the lost coin.
          1. That concept is so foreign to most of us we do not even relate to it.
          2. The lost coin had a sentimental value to the lady.
          3. She searched for it.
          4. She found it.
          5. Did the lost coin cease to be lost because of the actions of the lady or the actions of the coin?
        3. Third, consider the parable of the prodigal son and his older brother.
          1. When the younger son wished to go, what did the father do?
          2. When the son returned, how did the father react?
          3. When the returning son expressed the willingness to be a slave, how did the father react?
          4. Did the older brother think the father’s actions were proper?
      3. Consider some additional facts:
        1. The sheep was found because it was of value to the shepherd.
        2. The coin was found because it had value to the lady.
        3. The father acted in ways that were totally unacceptable in any middle eastern society because the son had value to the father.
          1. The son insulted the father by leaving, but the father refused to react to the insult.
          2. The son insulted his entire family by the way he lived in exile, but the father refused to react to the insult.
          3. The father should not have run to the son, rewarded the son, given a feast for a son who insulted him.
          4. The father’s actions made no sense to the older brother–to him it seemed the father was rewarding evil behavior.
      4. The contrast continued:
        1. The Pharisees’ and society’s view: the son should be regarded as dead to the father because he insulted his father and his family.
        2. Jesus’ view: The son continued to have value to the father.
        3. The lesson: God rejoiced in the interest of the tax collectors and sinners, and would willingly forgive them.
      5. This same kind of contrast is seen in 16:14, Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him.
        1. Let me paraphrase this whole section in these words.
        2. The Pharisees: “You cannot be serious about that! That is not the way God does things! That is not what God wants!”
        3. Jesus: “I am very serious! This is exactly what God wants! I see things exactly as God sees them–He told me what to say!”
        4. To most of us, that should be a frightening perspective!

    Thank God He is a God of grace! Thank God He knows our motives! Thank God His forgiveness is continuous! May He give us the courage and strength to be a people who repent!

    Leading Like a Shepherd

    Posted by on under Sermons

    We have been gathered together because of God’s mission. We are sent out because of God’s mission. We are the evangelized and the evangelizers. This mission and this gospel we proclaim isn’t from us – it is from God. That’s what it means to be a Clay Jar. That’s what it means for our church to be clay jars. We may be ordinary, broken, flawed, fragile – but we carry within us the precious treasure of God’s good news.

    To be a clay jar church means that we are: Following God’s Call, Being Shaped by Scripture, Taking Risks for the Sake of the Gospel, Living Out God’s Intent for the World, Worshipping God for Sake of the World, Depending on God’s Spirit, and a simple way of saying all of that is that we are pointing the Way toward the Kingdom of God.

    Since we have a mission and since we have been sent we need to keep in mind that we are going somewhere. Maybe not a literal geographic location, but we are on the Way somewhere rather than standing still. We have a mission. To be on the way, and to have a mission, we need leaders. And God has taken care of that too.

    Just so you will hear this correctly, I want you to understand that this biblical teaching applies to all the various leaders God calls. It isn’t limited to elders, deacons, and ministers. It isn’t about the “offices of leadership” it is about the nature of leadership and authority in the body of Christ …

    Alexander Haig was Ronald Reagan’s Sec. of State in 1981. He is most remembered for issuing a press conference after Reagan was shot in which he stated “I’m in control here.” Haig was simply trying to reassure the nation that someone was in charge. He even acknowledged that there was a chain of succession and that he was a part of it. But he was nevertheless criticized not for taking charge, but for appearing to assume the office of leadership too quickly.

    It is human nature to think of leadership in terms of offices, appointments, titles – even royalty. We symbolize this authority with badges, seals, and ceremony. From the very start however God shows us that leadership in his kingdom is going to be very different …

    The Kingdom of God: Who’s In Charge?

    1. Exodus 18. Note that Jethro does not consider Moses to be the sole source of authority. He advises Moses to share his authority with other leaders. God is the ultimate source of authority and a multiplicity of leaders does not threaten that authority. It is God – not a title or office – that empowers leaders to serve.
    2. 1 Samuel 8:4-21. God affirms to Samuel that the people did not reject his leadership and a prophet, but that they rejected God’s authority. Later God chooses the kings of Israel – Saul, David, Solomon. The “succession of authority in Israel follows God’s will, not family lineage. God calls the leaders of his people. He selected David. And the authority that God invests in his chosen leaders never threatens or supercedes God’s authority. God always remains “in charge.”

    The Mission of God: Who’s In Charge?

    1. Matthew 28:18 – Jesus said that his kingdom is not of this world. Rather, it is breaking into this world – it is emerging as a result of the mission. But who’s in charge of the mission?
    2. It is easy to think that we are because of the Great Commission, but notice that part of the Great Commission is the affirmation that God has given Jesus Christ all authority.
    3. Jesus sends out his disciples with authority (i.e., Matthew 10:1). But this is an authority that we represent on behalf of Christ. It is authority proclaimed “in the name of Jesus.”
    4. The leaders that Christ calls and sends are to lead us to participation in the mission of God.

    Like a Shepherd Lead Us: Leadership With Purpose
    The Bible uses the image of a shepherd to describe leaders among God’s people. We apply this to elders, or pastors, but the image isn’t limited to elders. The nature of a shepherd is to lead a flock with purpose. To lead the flock for their sake, not for the sake of the shepherd. And the nature of the flock is to trust to shepherd to lead them with purpose.

    Missional leaders are those who derive their authority from God – they understand their leadership and the agenda of their leadership in the context of God’s mission. God has called them to lead in a particular way and for particular purposes. The purpose of missional leaders is to do the following . . .

    1. One of these purposes is to form missional community.
      Read Ephesians 4:11-1611It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
      What are the different leadership roles mentioned in this text? What is the chain of command of these roles?
      Notice that they are all appointed by God for a common purpose – to form, build up, unify, mature, the missional community that is the church of Christ. We are the body – Christ is the head.

    2. To focus on missional vocation (calling).
      Read 2 Corinthians 5:17-21. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
      Since one of the patterns of faithfulness to God’s mission is following God’s call, it makes sense that God’s leaders would keep us focused on that calling. Paul understood his role as Christ’s ambassador. He appealed to everyone to follow God’s call to be reconciled. Is that any less the charge of our leaders?
      What expectations do we sometimes place on leaders that seem good but actually distract them from “leading” us to focus on the missional vocation of the church? Too often we blamed leaders when it may be our fault for burdening leaders with responsibilities that have nothing at all to do with God’s calling.
      Let’s charge our leaders to actually lead us and keep us focused on the mission. One of the reasons certain people are good leaders is because they never lose sight of the goal – or the calling. Let’s let these people lead us.

    3. Another purpose of missional leaders is to foster missional practices.
      Philippians 3:12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 15All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16Only let us live up to what we have already attained. 17Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.
      If you read the end of Philippians, you notice that that church needed leadership to foster the sort of practices and habits that keep people focused on the gospel. Notice that Paul is willing to make an example of not only himself, but also others who are mature and others who follow the pattern of the gospel life. (3:17)

    The focus is on discipleship and spiritual formation rather than simple policy-making. We have described the mission of God as follows: Making disciples for Jesus who are eager to serve others. That should be enough.

    Chris Benjamin

    West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
    Morning Sermon, 23 April 2006

    Treasure in Clay Jars
    Lesson Eight: Pattern 8 – April 23, 2006
    “Shepherding Leaders; Missional Leaders”

    What is this lesson all about?

    During worship, we reflected on key roles that leaders play in helping the church fulfill God’s mission in the world:

    1. Forming loving community – drawing people together in love.
    2. Helping the church discern God’s calling.
    3. Encouraging the church to carry out God’s calling – get it off the drawing board and into real-life situations.

    This small group guide will lead the group to consider some ways the apostles did these things in Acts 6.

    Getting Started:

    1. Invite the group to discuss their understandings of the following phrases:
      • “Respect for the office of the president.”
      • “Reporting a matter to the authorities.”
      • “Developing the leader within you.”
    2. What do these phrases tell us about the understanding of authority and leadership in our dominant culture?
    3. When we speak of leaders “in the church” to whom are we generally referring? (i.e. elders, deacons, ministers, ministry leaders). What qualifies these people to be leaders? Possible answers might include: training, credentials, experience, character, passion, wisdom, title, function, role. Indicate to the group that we have a variety of ways of recognizing authority and leaders.

    Searching the Word:
    Read Acts 6:1-7 aloud.

    1. What are some of the things the apostles did right as leaders? What could have been some other ways to address this situation of hungry widows?
    2. What role do good leaders play in developing loving, supportive communities?
    3. What are some ways this situation in Acts could have destroyed the early Christian community?
    4. What role do good leaders play in helping the community discern its calling? How did the apostles demonstrate such discernment in this account?
    5. What role do good leaders play in launching a community into action that fits the calling? How often have you seen committees discuss an idea at length but never get around to actually serving?
    6. How can good leaders motivate us to do God’s work in the world? What motivates you to live your faith on a daily basis?
    7. How can good leaders motivate us to do God’s work in the world? What motivates you to live your faith on a daily basis?How well did the new leaders in Acts 6 do with their “meals on wheels ministry?” Read Acts 6:8-10 and 8:4-8 aloud.

    Making It Real: Exploration and Response

    1. When have you seen someone get an opportunity to lead and the person shines in amazing ways nobody had expected?
    2. What is one way you are called to be a leader? What is one way you might like to develop as a leader?
    3. How well is our group functioning as a loving community?
    4. How well does our group understand what God has called us to do and be?
    5. What are some ways we are honoring God’s calling to love the world? What are we doing to get the church (us) out of the building and into the world?
    6. Who are some leaders who are helping our group understand and live out our calling?
    7. On a personal level, how well can you discern God’s calling on your life, and what are you doing to honor that call? Who helps you discover God’s mission for your life?

    Reveal Yourself!

    Posted by on April 20, 2006 under Bulletin Articles

    At this time in Jesus’ ministry, He was quite popular with the Jewish masses and quite unpopular with the Jewish leadership. His miracles and his teachings declared to the masses, “You are important to God. God cares about you!” That was a message the poor masses had not heard for a long time. There is a lot of difference in the messages, “The reason you suffer is because God opposes you!” and, “God cares about you!”

    However, the same miracles and teachings threatened the Jewish leadership. The controlling influence in that leadership became much more political than spiritual. The controlling force seemed much more concerned about maintaining their position instead of pursuing God’s will. When Jesus did something, they were more likely to think about the cost to them rather than the potential of actualizing God’s will.

    The situation was so tense and stressful that Jesus had to confine his activities to the region of Galilee. He could no longer be in the area of Jerusalem because in that area there was a known plan to kill him. Having people who want you dead is stressful!

    Sibling rivalry can be quite cruel! Few things are as distressful as having people who should know and love you but despise you! Jesus’ brothers seemed to resent Jesus’ popularity. Knowing the desire of some to kill him, they urged him to go to Jerusalem-the most dangerous of all situations for him! They urged him to ?go public’ for the sake of his disciples! At this time his brothers resented him rather than believed in him. Their recommendation risked his life!

    Jesus refused to go with them to a Jewish national feast because it was not time for him to die. He knew the threat involved in his going to Jerusalem and openly defying the Jewish authorities. He knew this was not the way to accomplish God’s purposes.

    Do we exist to accomplish God’s purposes or to achieve our own agendas? Do the ways we behave and the attitudes we reflect bring honor to Jesus or cause people to resent Jesus? Do we resent Jesus when he is not in agreement with us, or do we trust him to guide us to God? The actions of faith are quite distinct from the actions of grudging compliance!

    Help Jesus be a force for life instead of a force for death!

    Repentance (part 3)

    Posted by on April 16, 2006 under Sermons

    Romans 5:1-11 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

    1. If Christ had not died for us, each of us would be in an extremely awkward (impossible) position.
      1. Speaking for myself, life would be running out quickly.
        1. What I was capable of doing would lie primarily in my past.
        2. When your past 65, what you have to offer society diminishes very quickly.
        3. For many of us, opportunity begins to vanish rather quickly long before 65.
        4. No matter what you think of yourself or your abilities, there would not be many options for using yourself.
      2. If for some reason I believed in God but Jesus Christ had not died for me, I could not be in a relationship of peace with God.
        1. As I saw the physical realities of life coming to a close, I would be filled with anxiety rather an expectation.
        2. There would not be a way to make my life longer.
        3. Yet, there would be a certain understanding that my life was mostly over and I could not productively expand it.
        4. Even if I were confident God existed, the prospect of meeting Him would increase my anxiety instead of giving me hope.

    2. Because Jesus Christ died for me, I can repent and through repentance let God redirect my life.
      1. However, there is a problem with repenting we have never faced and rarely discuss.
        1. There are at least six situations that confront repentance [and I have no doubt that some of these could be properly subdivided].
          1. There is the adult who knowingly lived a wicked life and brings that wicked life to God in repentance.
          2. There is the adult who has lived a good moral life, but has never been a Christian.
          3. There is the child who is growing up in a home that never worships and is in no way religious.
          4. There is the child who is growing up in an abusive situation–physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect abuse–and knows evil at a very early age.
          5. There is the child who is growing up in a home that goes through the religious motions, but has little relationship with God.
          6. There is the child who grows up in a genuinely godly home with a mother and father who in genuine honesty is devoted to God.
        2. Those are radically different situations.
          1. Repenting means something quite different in each situation.
            1. The situation of the person who lived a wicked life and the person who lived a good moral life have little in common. Both need Jesus, but their repentance needs are quite different.
            2. The situation of the child who develops in a home that “goes through the religious motions” and the child who has been abused is quite different–their repentance needs are quite different.
            3. The repentance needs of a child who is blessed with a godly environment and examples is different in significant ways from all the other situations.
          2. They all need Jesus, but their needs are quite different.
            1. God loves everyone of them, and none more than the other.
            2. God wants a relationship with each of them.
            3. Yet, their repentance needs are distinctly different in becoming a Christian [I am discussing conversion repentance].
            4. The same [identical] repentance message will not fit all those situations.
            5. For every person in every situation, repentance needs to be real life and personally meaningful, not merely hypothetical or theologically based in abstract concepts that are not meaningful to the person.
      2. To me, the situation becomes more complex as we look at scripture.
        1. Every case of conversion in the New Testament is a first generation conversion.
          1. Whether Jew or gentile, the people who came to Christ were the first people in their families to be Christian.
          2. All the New Testament congregations, as far as we know, were composed of first generation Christians.
          3. The New Testament says nothing about people who became Christians in the second or third generations–we cannot give book, chapter, and verse because there are none.
          4. What happened when a person who grew up in a godly home with devoutly Christian parents chose to become a Christian? How did he or she repent?
        2. There are some situations that we understand what needs to happen when a person repents.
          1. We understand what needs to happen when a person turns from a Christless religion to a Christ centered life and community of Christians.
          2. We understand what needs to happen when a person turns from an evil lifestyle to a godly lifestyle.
        3. However, some situations that are not so clear.
          1. For example, if a child grows up in a godly environment as a sincere, God focused child, what needs to happen when that child repents?
          2. How is there to be a redirection of life when you grow up in a home that is focused on godly living?
          3. When a person needs to continue his or her past focus, what is involved in conversion repentance?
        4. We might be tempted to ignore the situation by saying, “It does not matter–it is not something to be concerned about.”
          1. Yet, it does matter, and it is something to be concerned about.
          2. There is an existing segment in most Christ centered congregations who have never knowingly or willingly repented but declare themselves Christians.
            1. Some in that situation are filled with guilt and do not consider God’s promises concerning forgiveness and its blessings as applying to them.
            2. Some in that situation are totally apathetic and are quite content to go through the motions of coming to church as they “play religion.”
            3. Most any preacher or any eldership will acknowledge that much of the church’s time and ministry focuses [in some way] on those two groups.
            4. I am not saying ministering to such people is a meaningless effort; I am saying that is an unnecessary problem.

    3. It seems to me that biblical repentance must involve (1) a redirection of life for those who need redirection and (2) a commitment to redirection as the person lives in Christ.
      1. Surely we do not want to redirect the lives of people who are moving to God.
        1. Such people need encouragement to continue living for godly values and purposes.
          1. We do not wish to discourage such focus.
          2. We want to encourage such focus.
        2. Just as certainly we want to encourage those who need to redirect life to do so.
          1. People who need to change focus need to be challenged to change focus!
          2. Those who do not understand that belonging to Christ includes allowing Christ to define our purpose of life and the lifestyle we need must clearly understand that.
          3. Being a Christian does not involve living as you please.
      2. We need to do a much improved job of helping people understand what repentance is.
        1. It is NOT a one time act that only occurs in conversion.
        2. It IS a lifetime commitment to a constant redirection of life toward God and His purposes and ways.
        3. Repentance begins as a part of conversion, but it continues throughout the life of the person in Christ.
      3. We need to do a much improved job of making repentance relevant to each person’s need or situation.
        1. We all need to repent.
        2. Repentance should be at the core of who we are in Christ.
        3. However, the focus of repentance for the person who has behaved in a manner that cooperates with evil and repentance for a person who is the product of a godly environment may take very different forms.
          1. If what we call repentance makes us arrogant because “I don’t do that,” then what we call repentance defeats the Christian attitude.
          2. Repentance should increase our humility, not make us judges.
      4. Allow me to call your attention to some biblical illustrations.
        1. Consider Luke 1:5, 6 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. [This was John the Baptist’s parents.]
        2. Consider Luke 2:25 And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
        3. Consider Luke 2:36,37 And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers.
        4. Can you image people like these four righteous individuals rejecting Jesus as the Christ? I cannot!
          1. I realize the four mentioned in the passages I read might have been dead by Acts 2.
          2. There were others who were righteous, blameless, devout in Israel–those four were not the only four.
          3. Consider Luke 2:38 and Matthew 9:13.
        5. When such people became Christians, of what did they repent? What form did their repentance take?

    The ultimate contrast in belonging to God through Christ is the contrast between self and God. It is from this contrast between the unholiness of self and the holiness of God that repentance arises.

    I Want to Remind You of the Gospel

    Posted by on under Sermons

    This time of year is fascinating. Spirituality and faith are being talked about everywhere – not just in church …

      Even the news acknowledges faith.
      Signs of spirituality abound without the level of commercialism that we see at Christmas.
      And one may encounter spirituality and faith in the strangest of places – my boys were watching Nickelodeon and an icon appeared during one of their shows that said “Happy Passover.” Happy Passover from Spongebob Squarepants! That’s what is fascinating about this season.

    Two years ago, it was the Passion of the Christ.

      It was controversial.
      It was transforming. People left theaters silent, sobbing, and some of them changed!
      If the trend two years ago was to be passionate about our beliefs, the trend now is quite different …

    Now the spirit of the culture has become one of spiritual suspicion and secrecy. What if everything we have been taught is a lie? What if the gospel we always took for granted is not the truth? What if the story of Jesus was very different from what we have always known …

    No one has captured this spirit within the popular culture as well as Dan Brown in The DaVinci Code. The movie is to be out in May and it will be better than the book. It may disturb or upset some that the premise of the The DaVinci Code is all the talk during the season of celebrating Christ’s resurrection, because The DaVinci Code suggests that something very different happened with Jesus.

      These ideas did not originate with Dan Brown. Two other popular books, not claiming to be fiction like The DaVinci Code, claim that the Jesus of history is not the Jesus we thought we knew.

      • Jesus Dynasty, James Tabor
      • Jesus Papers – claim of secret documents that show Jesus survived the cross and raised a family.

      The Jesus Seminar has been doing this for years – claiming that only a small percentage of the gospels are authentic – and the part with the resurrection does not make the cut. (But the Jesus Seminar is a bunch of boring scholars. Ron Howard and Dan Brown have Tom Hanks in their corner! No wonder it is so popular!)

    But none of this is new. You may have noticed the news this week that another “secret document” has been released to the public: “The Gospel of Judas.” The Gospel of Judas has been around since the second century. It, too, claims that the Jesus we thought we knew is not the true Jesus – and even more so, Judas was someone different.

      And ever since the Gospel of Judas and even before there have been “other” Gospels. There have been other claims about Jesus. That he wasn’t really human, that he wasn’t really divine.

    The common denominator between the Da Vinci Code, the Jesus Papers, the Jesus Dynasty, the Jesus Seminar, and the Gospel of Judas is that they have no place for the Resurrection. It isn’t as important or it never happened.

      At worst it is a lie (a con – One of the clues in DaVinci Code is “So dark the Con of Man.”).
      At best, the dominant tradition made a “wrong turn” and bought into those who had an agenda with the resurrection (when we should have bought into one of these other branches of Christianity – because they of course had no such agenda).

    So what if? What if it isn’t true? What if the Code, the Papers, the Seminar, and Judas and the Gnostics are all correct?Perhaps we might say that even if it isn’t true, then this Christian life is still the best life. Perhaps we might say that we would still follow Jesus anyway because Christianity is still the best way to live – just on moral and ethical grounds.We might say that … but a word of advice: Don’t let the apostle Paul hear you say that! He gets rather testy when people say that …

    And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless …

    You see, Paul – and lot of the people he knew – risked everything to follow a RISEN Christ. Paul took all the things he had built up for himself in this world to gain prestige, wisdom, and security and tossed it into the dumpster because he encountered a RISEN Christ.
    Don’t tell Paul that it would be better even if it weren’t true. Don’t tell Paul that this is the safest bet.

      If it isn’t true – if Christ isn’t RISEN – then people ought to feel sorry for us and recognize us as a bunch of losers! Why? Because we have been duped by a big fat lie!

      This is why Paul calls the Gospel — of the death, burial, and resurrection — something of first importance!

      They’ve got secret documents? Fine says Paul, I have documents that I freely disclose to the public! I have witnesses! I have a petition with over 500 signatures! I have a bruise where I landed when the RISEN Christ knocked me down to get my attention!

    But the fact is that Christ has been raised from the dead!

      This is what we preach. This is what we believe. This is what we welcome everyone to believe! It’s no secret. It’s a wonderful mystery that has been revealed by God.
      Because Christ is RISEN, death is not the last word. With every death – not just death of the body – with every death there can be a resurrection.
      Because Christ is RISEN, there is hope! We can face the future because we know that Christ is risen and he is just the first.
      Because Christ is RISEN, he lives – he has not left us – he shall return (not to catch us off guard) but to catch us up in his arms.

    Throughout the ages someone has always tried to reveal a new secret or a new document or new research. And yet for thousands of years in places all around the earth, a simple meal of bread and wine has sustained believers. “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death – until he comes!” How can you proclaim someone’s death until he comes? You can only do that if that person is resurrected!

    1 Corinthians 15
    1Now let me remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then and still do now, for your faith is built on this wonderful message. 2And it is this Good News that saves you if you firmly believe it–unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place.

    Living in God’s Image

    Posted by on April 13, 2006 under Bulletin Articles

    The problem of reacting to enemies in God’s way: it requires being considerate to people we do not like-to those who would not be considerate to us. We could paraphrase Paul’s instructions to the Christians in Rome this way. “Never allow evil people to force adoption of evil means. Instead of using evil means, put the problem in God’s hands. Let God control the situation by your being kind and considerate to an enemy. Realize evil is not defeated by resorting to evil. Only doing good defeats evil.”

    These thoughts were written to Christians living in Rome’s evil environment which did not appreciate Christian values. Evil people did not appreciate Christian morals because such morals were too different to an idolatrous society’s morals. Roman society craved power and used people. Christians did not seek power and were kind to people.

    The Christian treatment of enemies brings to the forefront an interesting, practical question. Why? Why do Christians give kind consideration to people who would give them no consideration?

    Is it because Christian kindness brings a wonderful resolution to all physical confrontations? No! No one was kinder than was Jesus! Yet, his kindness did not prevent his death. In some instances, kindness merely infuriates those who oppress Christians. Remember, this involves a war between good and evil!

    Is it because doing good “is the thing to do” for a Christian? Before a response can be given to that suggestion, an answer is needed. What is meant by “the thing to do”? If the response is that being kind to the unkind is a hoop a Christian must jump through in order to finish the divine obstacle course, the answer is, “NO!”

    Is doing good to the unkind an appropriate reflection of God our Father? Yes! That is the motive for being kind to the unkind! God is good to us-good enough to show us compassion, mercy, grace, and forgiveness; good enough to let us be children instead of enemies; good enough to give us a indestructible hope.

    Remember Romans 5:8? “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

    Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:44, 45? “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

    Represent God well! May your values be formed by God’s character, not society!

    Pointing Toward the Reign of God

    Posted by on April 9, 2006 under Sermons

    population sign at Alpena ArkansasHow many of us have looked over our schedule and our vacation plans and thought, “I would really like to go to Alpena.” Unless you have family in Alpena, Arkansas, I would be willing to guess that there are not many of you making plans to vacation in Alpena.

    It’s not that there is anything wrong with Alpena. Not at all. In fact I would also guess that many of us have been to Alpena and enjoyed being there – even if we weren’t there for very long. You see, Alpena is on the way to Branson. It is right over the county line between Carroll and Boone County. Highway 412 and 62 connect in Alpena and it is just west of the junction with Highway 65 which leads to Branson.

    What’s great about Alpena is that they know they are “on the way” to Branson. So there’s a few decent service stations in Alpena. There are restaurants in Alpena. And there are signs everywhere. Signs that point to Branson. You can buy your tickets and take care of reservations in Alpena before you get to Branson. It is really the first sign of what Branson is going to be like for the person on the way to Branson.

    I love the church. I love this church. It’s great. But the church isn’t the final destination “on the way” in life. It’s a sign. It’s the first sign of how things are going to be in the kingdom. In the church you live under God’s kingdom rule, you can even enjoy the benefits and blessings of God’s rule, but the church itself is not the whole kingdom of God. The church is a people who are “on the way” to the kingdom.

    These patterns are patterns of people who are pointing toward the reign of God.

  • Following God’s Call
  • Being Shaped by Scripture
  • Taking Risks for the Sake of the Gospel
  • Living Out God’s Intent for the World
  • Worshipping God for Sake of the World
  • Depending on God’s Spirit

    And now a seventh pattern that in many ways combines all of the other six: We are “Pointing Toward the Reign of God.” We are a people who are waiting for that which is eternal. We know that nothing here lasts. We know that this life is not all we were meant to be. We pray “Maranatha!” – which means “Come soon Lord Jesus!” It’s the first-century Aramaic way of saying “Are we there yet?”

    Like Paul and his old clay jar image, we are pointing toward – as we look ahead to – something greater on the way . . .

    2 Corinthians 4:17-18 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

    We know that something better is yet to come. And we are “on the way” to it. Even as it is breaking into our world.And yet, as much as I believe this I have to admit that I sometimes get settled into this world and the rules and kingdoms of this world – even though they are not eternal.
    What are we looking for? What are we seeking? Are we comfortable with the kingdom of this world? Are we trying to secure our life here or are we looking for something more. Three questions for us to consider:
    To what reign do we give our allegiance? There is an insurgency in creation that resists the rightful rule of God. It is easy for us to submit to the reign of temporary powers.

    What kingdom do we seek? Are we attempting to build the kingdom of God in our image or according to our plans, or do we surrender ourselves as living stones to be built and changed by the Lord who establishes his rule?

    Are we on the way or settled in? We used to sing the song “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing thru.” Well, the rent certainly went up! I feel as though I may have broke down during my passing thru and just settled in.

    Signs of the Coming Reign of God
    Whose kingdom do we live in? To what rule do we bend our knee in allegiance? Are we on the way to God’s kingdom, or have we stopped along the way and set up residence there? Being faithful to God’s mission means being happy about the fact that our life here is not all we have. It means taking delight in the fact that we are not the final destination (Branson) but we, the church, are “on the way” to the kingdom. We should be the first sign of what the kingdom will be like, but we are eagerly waiting for that which is not yet to be revealed.

    And that means we are going to have to change – like Zacchaeus. [Read text of Luke 19]
    [I am thankful to Paul Clark and Jeff Christian for sharing their unpublished manuscript “For the Sake of the World.” Some of the material below has been borrowed from that work.]

    Zacchaeus saw where he had comprised his life by joining up with those who lived opposite to God kingly reign. He was invested in the rule of Rome. Yet, after seeing Jesus, Zacchaeus allows God’s radical grace to radically change his life. He even offered to give half his possessions to the poor and give a generous restitution to anyone he may have cheated. Personally, domestically, socially, and economically, Zacchaeus’ life is realigning with God’s reign. The power of Jesus’ good news to Zacchaues is amazing!

    And his power to change our lives is equally amazing. The question that is left for us today is this, Will God’s reign change us? Will we allow Jesus’ to come into our house today? Did you notice what the kingdom is like. Jesus does come to the house of the broken and outcast. He does come to the house of those who’ve invested in other powers. And he brings salvation. And notice how Zacchaeus changes!
    If we welcome Jesus to our house when he invites himself in, it will change us too.
    God’s reign in our life will change us personally. It is no longer me-myself-and I. I open my life to God and give him the control.
    God’s reign will change us socially. We now find ourselves connected with a family.
    God’s reign will change us economically. Our total life, our possessions, the every day things of our life, are redeemed and used for God’s kingdom good and glory. God’s in-breaking reign has come to the world and people are changed by it.

    The Invitation comes from Jesus. He is inviting himself into your home. Jesus wants to come to your house! Will you welcome him?

    Chris Benjamin

    West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
    Morning Sermon, 9 April 2006

    Treasure in Clay Jars
    Lesson Eight: Pattern 7 – April 9, 2006
    “Pointing Toward the Reign of God”

    What is this lesson all about?

      We have focused on the reign of God and the part we play in receiving and announcing his kingdom. The church is an instrument or agent serving God’s reign, and our changed lives are a sign that a new master is taking over the world. While life in Christ is not the total fulfillment of God’s reign, the blessings we enjoy are a foretaste of how wonderful it will be when all of creation honors God as king.

    Getting Started:

    1. What is the first sign that it is time for a new car?
    2. Have you ever made a trip and dealt with the “Are We There Yet?” problem? How do you help the impatient travelers? What signs do you look for and point out to indicate that “You are almost there!”
    3. What images come to mind when you think of a king? How does that affect the way you view God as a king? How does that affect the way you think of the kingdom of God?

    Searching the Word:

    1. Read I Peter 2:4-12 aloud.

    2. How do you explain all the references to rocks in this passage?
      • v. 6 quotes Isaiah 28:16, a warning to the Israelites that God was about to level their houses of lies and build a new house of faith.
      • v. 7 quotes Psalm 118:22, a passage that talks about how great it is when God re-builds his house. (Read 118:22-24 to include a familiar verse in context.)
      • v. 8 quotes Isaiah 8:14, which says that both houses of Israel will stumble when they face a holy God.
      • So how is Jesus like the rocks described in the Old Testament? See verse 4.
      • How do Christians relate to Jesus the rock? See verse 5.

    Making It Real: Exploration and Response

    1. Our lives are a sign that God reigns. What kind of transformation is taking place in our lives, according to this passage? See verses 5, 9, & 11
      • What do these changes show non-Christians about the reign of God in our lives?
      • At a practical level, how can people tell that God is our king?
      • When have you seen someone’s life demonstrate that God is in control?
      • How well does your life proclaim that God reigns? What would increase or improve your testimony?
    2. Our lives are agents and instruments of God’s reign. What are some ways that our lives are tools for God’s reign, according to this reading? What are we doing to support his reign?
      • 5 – We are his priests
      • 9 – we declare his praises
      • 12 – our good deeds cause others to praise God
      • Who is the builder of God’s house? What is our role in building the kingdom?
      • I Peter suggests that we are the raw materials. We make ourselves available for the builder to use at his pleasure.
      • Sometimes we refer to serving God as “building his kingdom.” How would it change our faith if we viewed God’s kingdom as a movement we participate in rather than something we build? How would we be different if we viewed it as a movement that takes hold of us?
      • If God is the builder and we are simply the stones, why should we invest our time and energy in “church work”? Why is our service important?
      • What is one way you are serving God that is a positive contribution to the kingdom?
    3. Our lives are a foretaste of God’s reign. What are some ways the work of God incomplete in us, according to I Peter?
      • 5 – still under construction
      • 12 – friends are not yet glorifying God
      • What are some ways that our lives already show how wonderful it is to honor God as king? See verse 9-10.
      • What are some blessings you enjoy because of Christ?
      • If God were not king of your life, how would you be poorer?
      • What are some ways you are serving God’s reign by intentionally helping others to honor him as king?
    4. When are some times that you can see God reigning in the world or in your life? When are some times that it is difficult to tell that God is in charge?
      • What do you look forward to the most about Heaven?
      • What keeps people from recognizing God’s work in the world?
      • What helps non-Christians see the reign of God?

    Kid-Friendly Activity

      Bring something the kids can build into a tower or building – rocks, Legos, blocks, Jenga blocks, Hershey bars, 3×5 cards, etc.

      Divide into two teams and see who can build the tallest tower.

      Read I Peter 2:4-5 aloud.

      How are we like building blocks in the hand of God?

  • The Courage to Learn

    Posted by on April 6, 2006 under Bulletin Articles

    Richard Hostetler

    It is easy to indoctrinate. It is hard to teach. Why? Indoctrination only requires that willing people give you their minds for you to tell them what to accept. Teaching requires the student to possess his own thoughts, but to learn how to think. It is harder to teach people to possess their thoughts and think than it is to capture minds of willing people and tell them what to think.

    For a number of reasons, I rarely discuss the death of a member in this article. In this article, I make an exception. Richard Hostetler died last Friday in Sallisaw, Oklahoma after a lengthy illness. Richard was a member of this congregation, but had not been able to attend for health reasons for a few months.

    Early after I came to work with you, Richard-after hearing a few lessons-came to me to offer what I would call ?insightful encouragement.’ Frequently he would specifically encourage me in some matter. His insights were always appreciated.

    Since his death, two members of the class he was in stated how much he would be missed. Both commented on his biblical scholarship. One discussed his positive attitude and his insightfulness. Both observed what an addition to the class he was. When was the last time you heard members of a class grieve the loss of a Bible scholar and a positive attitude in their Bible class? All those who were blessed by Richard will miss him!