The War and the Congregation (part 3)

Posted by on February 27, 2007 under Sermons

If you were determined to defeat an enemy, what would you do?

If, beyond doubt, your enemy did something guaranteeing your certain defeat, but in your hatred for your enemy you refused to surrender, what would you do?

If you preferred destruction to surrender, what would you do?

In those three questions, we describe Satan’s predicament. Satan was determined to defeat God’s work. Satan failed, but he did not quit. When Jesus died and was resurrected in submission to God’s will, Satan was irreversibly defeated. He knew it! Yet, he hated [and still does] God so much, that he refused to surrender and acknowledge his defeat.

So what did Satan continue doing? He continued resisting God [and still does] rather than surrender to God. Can Satan hurt God personally? No! Then what can Satan do to cause God pain? Satan can hurt those God loves.

Satan’s activity since Jesus’ death and resurrection has been limited to causing misery to those on earth who are dedicated to God and His will. He can do that in the lives of those who surrender to God and in congregations of Christians committed to surrendering to God’s will.

How long will Satan continue this pointless yet certain resistance? Until God destroys him by casting Satan into hell. Satan’s resistance against God and His purposes on earth will continue until God destroys Satan as a being!

1 Corinthians 15:25-28, "For He [Christ] must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all."

Revelation 20:14, "Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire."

Revelation 20:10, "And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever."

Satan will resist God and His people until God destroys Satan! Satan will never surrender to God! Only by forcible removal resulting in destruction will Satan cease his resistance against God. At times he will focus his resistance against God in the life of a person, and at times he will focus his resistance in the activities of a congregation. This lesson focus on Satan’s resistance in a congregation.

  1. As Christians, we should not be surprised when Satan is actively at work in a congregation.
    1. If he could deceive Eve, he can deceive us!
      1. Paul warned Christians to be aware of deception.
        1. Galatians 6:3,4 "For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another."
        2. Galatians 6:7-10, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith."
        3. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God."
        4. 1 Corinthians 3:18, "Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise.
      2. For Satan, congregations of Christians always will be his first and foremost battlefront in his war against God.
        1. If he was bold enough to come into God’s presence to accuse Job (Job 1:6-9: 2:1-5), he is bold enough to come in our midst no matter how much faith we have.
        2. If a congregation is active for God in bringing people to Christ, there always will be people in every stage of spiritual development in the congregation.
          1. If Satan can cause the spiritually immature [regardless of chronological age] to create confusion of any sort in the congregation, he can shift the focus of that congregation from bringing people to Christ to self-preservation issues.
          2. When that happens, Satan wins temporarily!
          3. He so consumes the congregation with self-interest that he distracts them from God’s concerns.
          4. Satan is a master at doing this, and we are masters at justifying our destructive behaviors!
      3. The ability of Satan to convince us we should fight us is astounding!
        1. Consider Paul’s warning to the Ephesian elders.
          Acts 20:28-31, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.”
          1. The battle was not won!
          2. The victory was not theirs!
          3. In fact, some of the problems would be created by some of these elders!
        2. Consider John’s words against Diotrephes in III John 9, 10:
          "I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church."
          1. His spiritual priorities were not God’s priorities!
          2. He was more concerned with what people thought of him than what people thought of God!
          3. He sought to advance himself at the expense of God’s people.
        3. Or consider Paul’s anguish about Christians in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 and Galatians 1:6-10.
          1. This division is not caused by external forces that do not belong to God nor is it produced by a denominational approach.
          2. It centers on congregational division promoted by those who are supposed to belong to Christ.
          3. Paul anguished because of the self-inflicted wounds these Christians inflicted on Christians and sustained in congregations.
        4. Do not think for a minute that such behavior began and ended in the first century!
          1. Christians have been wounding themselves in all ages.
          2. That does not happen by accident–it is the determined work of Satan every time it occurs!
          3. The only way Satan can cause God pain is to cause His children to hurt others who are His children!
          4. Congregational division causes only Satan to rejoice!
          5. We never purify through division–we only destroy ourselves!
  2. "Can God bring this messy war to an end?"
    1. Of course He can!
      1. He could bring the judgment right now and end it all!
      2. However, if He did, we and not He would be the losers.
    2. I do not think we as Christians have ever realized how much God loves the lost.
      1. Matthew 20:25-28, But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
      2. Romans 5:8,10 "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. . .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."
      3. Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me."
      4. Ephesians 5:1,2 "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma."
      5. Incredibly, God invested the life of His own son in the lost!
      6. With such a personal, large investment, God is not going to abandon the lost easily!
      7. Thank God for His commitment to the lost, for we certainly are among them–the only way we can stand before God is through forgiveness, not through perfection!
    3. If God calls all humans in judgment now, those who do not trust in Jesus Christ are abandoned without hope.
      1. Then why does God not "cut His losses" and destroy Satan?
      2. I think Peter’s response in 2 Peter 3:8, 9 addresses the issue.
        2 Peter 3:8,9 “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
        1. Literally, God patiently waits so more will be saved.
        2. Rejoice in God’s patience, and let us unite in God’s purpose.

When Satan is at work in your midst, never encourage him! Do not let Him deceive you, and do not let him use you to assist his purposes!

Jesus Christ: Son of God, Savior

Posted by on February 25, 2007 under Sermons

  1. Jesus Christ the Son of God
    1. James Cameron’s Press Conference scheduled for February 26th to announce the discovery of the tomb and body of Jesus and his wife
    2. Ichthus – Ancient Christian symbol – Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior
    3. Father, Son, Holy Spirit — The significance of “Son of God” is to fill out the trinity
    4. But Scripture means much more when the term Son of God is used

  2. Jesus Christ
    1. Jesus – Yeshua (He Saves)
      1. Jesus of Nazareth
    2. Christ – The Anointed One
      1. Messiah and Savior

  3. The Gospel of the Son:
    1. John 3:16 – Too bad it has been connected with fanatics, sports fans, and wrestling
    2. Reading John 3:12-21I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven–the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.

  4. The Son SHOWS us GodNo one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven–the Son of Man. (John 3:13)

    1. The Unseen Glory of God:
      1. Exodus 33:15-20: Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” And the LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
      2. God is pleased with Moses, yet Moses never saw the Face of God.

    2. God has revealed himself to us in his son:
      1. John 1:14, 18: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth … No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
      2. Hebrews 1:3: The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.
      3. Colossians 1:15: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

    3. More than a messenger or representative:
      1. The Son is God: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, `Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” (John 14)
        1. Recognized by his enemies — John 5:18: For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
        2. Philippians 2:6-7: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
      2. His teachings and actions are in synch with the Father:
        1. John 8:38: I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.
        2. John 5:19: I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

  5. The Son is SENT from GodFor God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son (John 3:16)

    1. God loves us, so he sends the one who can best express that love:
      1. John 14:23-24: If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
      2. John 15:9: As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.

    2. Jesus is obedient and trustworthy:
      1. He is sent to do God’s will
        1. John 8:29: The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.
        2. John 12:49-50: For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.
      2. He is sent to do God’s work
        1. John 4:34 — My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.
        2. Philippians 2:8 — And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!
        3. He was sent to save the world

  6. The Son SAVES the WorldGod did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17)
    1. The Son Has Life and Authority:
      1. John 5:21, 26-27: For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
      2. Who is the Son of Man?
        1. Daniel 7:13-14: In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
      3. Life or Judgment?
        1. John 3:18: Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
        2. John 12:47-50: As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”
        3. The Son, as judge, has come to “sentence us to life” through the grace of God. He would judge in our favor. But if we reject the Son sent by God to save the world, we condemn ourselves.
        4. 1 John 5:11-13: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

  7. Savior:
    1. Savior – Children of God:
      1. The Son of God has invited us into the family, set the slaves free!
        1. John 1:12-13: Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
        2. Galatians 4:4-7: But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”
      2. Why don’t we realize we are his children?
        1. The girl in Nicaragua:
          • Setting: the meeting. We talked about her hopes.
          • Then she mentioned her Father who owns all the land and wealth …
          • My first reaction was “Why doesn’t he pay for it?”
          • Then I realized she was talking about God!
        2. Why are we so reluctant to live dependently upon God – like little children!
        3. 1 John 3:1: How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
        4. This should give us …
    2. Confidence:
      1. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. – 1 John 4:15-17
    3. When you answered “Yes” to the confession question [“Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?”] … Do you rely on the love of God? Do you depend upon the life in the Son of God? The only other option is self-dependence, which is self-condemnation.

Welcome to the Table of the Lord

Posted by on under Sermons

Review: We worship God because he created us to worship him. He equips us to worship him. In the everyday realities of time and matter, God gives us ways to worship him. The rituals and rhythms of worship have been passed on to us, but each generation must claim them and make them their own.
Throughout the ages God’s people have gathered together to praise him in song and petition him in prayer. Why? Because he made us to worship him.
They have gathered by the waters to be baptized. Why? Because he made us to worship him.
And so also, God’s people have gathered around a table. Just because God made us to worship him. There has always been some sort of Lord’s Table. Eating and drinking in the presence of God has roots that extend back through all the festivals of Israel to that simple meal of bread and wine between Abraham and Melchizedek. We shouldn’t dismiss these festivals as mere ceremony of symbolism. As I hope we can understand today, ceremony and symbolism are critical to being human and being God’s people. Worshipping God is more than a mental exercise. It is a living activity. And the symbols and practices of our worship are alive. Done rightly, they are part of our worship to God – and after all God created us to worship him.

I Corinthians 11:23-26
23For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Paul was passing on a living participation in a real event that held significance for the past, present and future. At the time he writes this to the Corinthians, the Lord’s Supper communion was already quite established in the practice of the Christian community. In fact, Paul is writing this because the Corinthians participation in the Lord’s Supper had become something of a disgrace. They weren’t paying proper attention to the symbols …

When it comes to the table of the Lord and the Lord’s supper there is much historical debate about the meaning of the elements: bread and wine. It won’t do us much good to get into all of that now. Besides, it really misses the point to try and dissect how symbols work. Why can’t we just understand how we engage and respond to symbols and the realities in which they (and we) participate …

  • The flag – The fabric and dye and that makes up this flag isn’t sacred, but we show reverence. We stand when it is presented. We salute and sing our anthems. And what about flag burning? The ire of multitudes is raised when the U.S. flag is burned. But when an old tattered flag is taken out of service it is burned. What’s the difference? Attitude, reverence, the way in which people regard this banner. The flag becomes an embodiment of concepts and beliefs that are particularly real and meaningful.
  • Wedding rings/ceremony – A lot of energy and investment goes into the wedding rings. There is a good amount of ceremony and special words that go along with the exchange of rings at a wedding ceremony. There’s nothing necessarily biblical about it, but we regard these rings as special. We even regard the ceremony as meaningful. Why? Because the ceremony and the rings embody something that we deem meaningful and important. The very fact that we show up is a witness to and participation in something we regard as more than real. At every wedding, done rightly, we are saying to everyone that marriage is a reality much larger than just this couple, but we invite them to participate in this special covenant. And the way we communicate and experience this is through ceremony and rings.
  • Can you see how the tangible symbols of our faith engage us in a reality much greater than us? The water of baptism becomes an embodied participation in the gospel. Songs and hymns become embodied experience of the spirit of God.
  • Think of the Cross. This is one of the most incredible symbols of our faith. What is it? What does it mean? The people of God did not invent this symbol. We co-opted it and changed it through and through – thanks to the work of God. It belonged to the Roman Empire. For them it was a symbol of fear and domination. But when Christ surrendered himself to the cross he exposed the corruption and depravity of human ambition and our need to be in power and in control. His sacrifice exposed our illusions and deceptions about ourselves. One of those illusions was the illusion of the cross – that it equaled punishment and power. God transformed it into a symbol of atonement. It became God’s embodied participation in reconciliation (Col. 1:20). Through Christ’s sacrifice there is peace between us and God.

Which brings us to the Table of the Lord: In the worship festivals that God’s people have participated in throughout the ages there is often a rhythm of sacrifice and thanksgiving. Through sacrificial love God provides reconciliation and redemption. A new hope is made real and the opportunity of new relationship between Creator God and his creation is established. And that relationship is important to worship.

When we come to the Table of the Lord and eat the Lord’s Supper of bread and wine we need to understand that this is a thanksgiving meal. This is a supper of peace and reconciliation. The war has been fought. This is the table of peace. (Just as it was with Abraham and Melchizedek). God has defeated the enemy at the cross. Sin has been atoned for. Because of that, we are welcomed to God’s dinner table.

Consider what this means as we participate in these symbols that embody this very great and life-transforming reality:

  • The Lord’s Supper is not a funeral. It was never intended to make us suffer for our sins. The brutality of sin and shame was left at the cross. This supper is God’s way of embodying the reconciliation he so dearly desires.
  • So, when we exclude ourselves from the Lord’s Supper, we are rejecting God’s invitation to come and eat with him. “But doesn’t 1 Corinthians 11 say we ought to examine ourselves and not partake if are unworthy?” No, it doesn’t. It cautions us not to eat and drink in a way that is unworthy of this very special supper. [Recall that the Corinthians were turning the Supper into a drunken glut-fest]. None of us are ever worthy of coming to the table! That’s why the cross precedes the table. But to eat the bread and wine in a worthy manner is to eat with thanksgiving and gladness and in loving fellowship with one another. The cross accomplishes that – the Lord’s Supper celebrates it!

Read Luke 24:28-36.

So, welcome to the table of the Lord …

Focus on the Bread:
When those disciples at Emmaus sat down for a humble meal of bread, they recognized Christ when he broke the bread and gave it to them. God is located very near us. He is as close as the food we need to survive. The bread is the body of Christ broken for us. It embodies a reality that we hold dear and sacred. Receive this spiritual food with thanksgiving and in response to God’s desires that you share this meal with him and with one another. He is here in the breaking of the bread.

Focus on the Cup:
When those disciples at Emmaus knew that they had been in the presence of the Lord, they were moved from being downcast to being excited. This cup is a cup of thanksgiving. It is a festive celebration that our brokenness cannot keep us apart from God’s love. Receive this spiritual drink with thanksgiving and in response to God’s desire to share in this festive drink and look forward to the day that we will drink a new cup with him in the kingdom to come.

Am I the Same Me?

Posted by on February 22, 2007 under Bulletin Articles

Recently, life has provided me different opportunities to be with people I knew in the past and had opportunity to know again. Something repeatedly “jumped out” at me in different contexts. Some people I met again changed from the person they were when I first met them and are still changing. Some people changed and reverted back to the person they were. Some people resisted change of self years ago and continue to resist any changes in self. With some, redirection was permanent. With some, redirection was temporary. With some, redirection never occurred.

Stated in another way, some found a new direction and continued in it. Some found a new direction, but also found a convenient detour route back to the old self. Some “is” what they always were, only “is-er.”

Most (not all) who found a new direction and continue in it are people who had major discouragements or powerful temptations to revert to old ways. Some who reverted or did not consider changing did not have any visible discouragements or temptations. I constantly am amazed at people who find redirection of life a helpful friend, and those who find the same redirection a feared enemy. Some passionately grow spiritually, and some passionately refuse to grow spiritually.

To me, such observations are frightening. I have no interest in judging people-I have not lived their lives. My interest is in observing. It goes in two directions: (1) Why do people have different attitudes toward personal redirection? (2) Which kind of person am I? Do I fight the need to redirect me, or do I embrace the need to redirect me?

The essence of repentance is personal redirection. While repentance may demonstrate itself in events, repentance is not an event but an attitude that produces events. When “planted” in a person’s life, it grows until, with time, it fills the person’s life.

The attitude of repentance expresses itself in the behavior of the penitent. The person’s behavior constantly seeks to be true to the attitude. It refuses to seek self-justification.

The truth is whether you do or do not repent is not my issue. Surely, your repentance may encourage me. However, your lack of repentance never justifies me. My issue remains the same: Am I willing to redirect my life? Can I admit it when I am wrong? Can I embrace needed changes in me? Will I continuously allow my penitent attitude to reflect itself in my behavior?

The repentance of just one person causes heaven to rejoice! Does your attitude and behavior increase heaven’s joy?

God the Father

Posted by on February 18, 2007 under Sermons

Psalm 68:5
Malachi 2:10
John 5:17-18

  1. God the Father:
    1. Jesus came to give us the proper view of God.
    2. His message: GOD IS GOOD.
      1. To the rich ruler (Luke 18, Matthew 19, Mark 10): “Why do you call me good? There is one who is good!”
      2. Parables: The caller at night, the persistent widow. God will do right.
      3. Lessons from Fathers: (Luke 11:11-13)
        1. If we can be good fathers, then God is much better!

  2. The Parable of the Good Father (Luke 15):
    1. Jesus is teaching about the love of this good God – his concern for the lost.
      1. He tells of a shepherd looking for a lost sheep.
      2. He tells of a woman looking for a lost coin.
      3. But the best illustration of God is that of a loving father waiting for a wayward child.
    2. Tell the Story:
      1. A man had two sons, the younger insults the father demanding his inheritance.
      2. The son squanders his wealth so shamefully!
      3. He finally ends up feeding unclean animals.
      4. He was hungry and craved the slop. No one had compassion on this young fool!
      5. He decides to confess his sin, and submit himself to his father as a slave.

        “The Forgiving Father”
        by Frank Wesley (1923-2002)
      6. The father notices the son far off.
        1. He has compassion.
        2. He runs to his son!
        3. He kisses him!
        4. He has a banquet for his son!
      7. The elder brother is so disgusted with his father’s reaction.
        1. He never got a party!
        2. But that sinful wretch gets treated like a prince!
        3. Remember: He had sex with prostitutes! He disgraced himself! He is unclean! He has polluted his body! He wasted the money!
      8. The Father to the elder son:
        1. “You are always with me, and all I have is yours!”
        2. He is saying, “I would be just as good to you. Even if you had done what he did, I would be good to you.”
      9. But the elder son doesn’t look for goodness in his father! He wants DISCIPLINE and JUSTICE!
        1. Looking for these, the elder son missed out on his Father’s goodness.

      10. What do we expect from our Heavenly Father?
    3. Jesus says look at this father and you understand something about God:
      1. The son asks for his inheritance. An insult! But the father gives the son what he asks for. [God is gracious when he has every right to punish.]
      2. The son squanders the money and comes to his senses. He realizes how good his father was to him [God has blessed us richly.]
      3. The son humbly returns to his father. He finds his father waiting. [God is patient.]
      4. His father, disregarding the indignity, lifts the folds of his robe and runs to his son. [God has suffered shame for us.]
      5. He receives the boy back before formal apology can be given. [God is forgiving.]
      6. The father accepts the boy back graciously. [God is love.]
    4. This view of God is a challenge!
      1. What about Justice! What about Punishment! What about Trust!
        1. We can’t get soft on this foolish kid!
      2. God is Just, Holy, Disciplining, but …
        1. Discipline without love is cruel.
        2. Holiness without goodness is vanity.
        3. Justice without mercy is compassionless.
      3. God is High, Holy, Awesome, Mighty, Exalted, Unique, Powerful …
        1. but we are comforted by the fact that he is good!
    1. Because God is good:
      1. He doesn’t play games with people.
        1. He doesn’t cause tragedies (fire?)
        2. He doesn’t torture and punish vengefully (angered)
      2. He can work in tragedies to bring about good. (Romans 8:28)
    2. Because God is good:
      1. You can go out this week knowing that God is on your side!
      2. God is good. He is for us. Are we for him?

Shall We Gather at the River?

Posted by on under Sermons

Most of the key civilizations in human history formed around rivers. The Middle Eastern nations formed between the Tigris and Euphrates – two rivers that supplied the Garden of Eden. The ancient and modern Egyptian culture is centered on the Nile River. The city of London is formed around the Thames. Midwestern civilization in our own country formed along the banks of the mighty Mississippi.

Living waters, rivers, are critical to forming a people. The river supplies many needs: it gives life, it nourishes the land, it is needed for cleansing and health, and it connects people all along the river.

The people of God are a civilization of sorts who gather around a river. There is a common river, an artery of life, which flows through our community. Did you notice it in the songs we have been singing? These are songs we often sing around baptisms, yes? Did you notice our common river flowing through the stories of the men we have recognized this morning as possible shepherds? It stretches from Encardio, California, all the way out to Carrolton, Kentucky. Along the way it winds through Fayetteville and Judsonia, Arkansas. Here are four men with different stories and from different places but united with each other and all of us through a common river – the waters of baptism.

There were all sorts of people gathered around the banks of the River Jordan that special day long ago. Sinful people were there trying to find hope and forgiveness. The poor were there because they heard that God was doing something wonderful. Tax collectors and soldiers who made their living by extorting others had gathered there – perhaps to find a way out of the life that made them victims as much as the people they victimized. Wealthy and respected religious leaders had gathered after hearing the news about a prophet claiming to announce the arrival of the kingdom of God. Of course there were probably ordinary people there just going about their business scrubbing out pots and jars and doing the laundry. Then Jesus came and submitted himself to baptism. The lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world submitted himself to the washing away of sins – and yet he was without sin. Even the baptizer, John, protested and declared that he needed to be baptized by Jesus. But Jesus insisted. Why?

Jesus knew that God’s work to save all humanity was culminating in that river. He knew that God was working in him so that all people everywhere and in all ages might gather at the river of baptism and be baptized into Christ. But how could any of us unite with Christ in baptism if he himself didn’t gather at the river with us?

When Christ is lifted out of the water, heaven breaks open. The voice of God affirms that Jesus is his son. The spirit of God descends upon Jesus. The unity of Father, Son, and Spirit is visible to all the earth at the baptism of Christ. There’s the source of the mighty river that forms our church civilization. The ancients said that when one is baptized, Christ meets them in the water. Perhaps they were building on an idea that Paul expressed in Romans 6:5 – If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.

We believe that those who are baptized are baptized into Christ. We participate in his death, burial, and resurrection. We believe that sins are washed away and the rule of death and sin in our lives is broken. We believe that Christ gives his spirit and a new humanity is formed in the believer.

We do not believe that those who are baptized are baptized into the church, but we believe that God adds them to his church. It makes sense because if we are all united with Christ in baptism then we are also united with one another, right? “One Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:5-6)

Consider what this means for us. Some of us are very much alike. We have a lot in common. We share cultural values, we know the same people, we have the same interests, we have similar experiences and we have the same needs. Some of us are very different. We come from very different backgrounds. We have different opinions. We have been through experiences that we may not even understand. But all of this similarity and difference is submerged and engulfed in the great river that flows over us and makes us one – the Baptism of Jesus Christ.

Our Lord graciously allows us to extend the invitation to all to gather at this river of life. We believe that those who are baptized into Christ are his disciples. This claim is exclusive insofar as we believe this is the way to be united with Christ. But it isn’t exclusive in the sense that we forbid any from being immersed into the baptism of Jesus. All are invited to gather at the river.

The river of baptism is branch of the river of life that flows from the throne of God. As we follow the flow of our baptismal river, we will one day find ourselves on the shores of the river of life.
Shall we gather at the river? Yes, let’s gather with all who’ve come to be cleansed of their sins
Shall we gather at the river? Yes, let’s gather with those who’ve heard what God is doing
Shall we gather at the river? Yes, let’s gather with all who are anxious for justice and hope
Shall we gather at the river? Yes, let’s gather with all who are burden by the oppression of false gods and corrupt rulers.
Shall we gather at the river? Yes, let’s gather with all who are changing their ways and have come to share what they have with those who have nothing.
Shall we gather at the river? Yes, let’s gather with all the other saints who have met followed Christ into the river and found peace by the throne of God.
Shall we gather at the river? Yes, let’s gather with Christ.

Can We Have It All?

Posted by on February 15, 2007 under Bulletin Articles

I increasingly notice a concept that promises a lot but causes pain. The concept: “We can have it all!” It promises we can have everything without making choices. We can have “it all,” and no one will suffer. Values will not be diluted. Priorities will not be altered. Relationships will be blessed. Individuals will flourish. Families will remain intact. Everyone will be “happy”-whatever that is.

“Having it all” requires adjustments, but the exchanges are okay. Thus, we exchange spiritual existence for a “going to church” habit. We exchange family time for couple of weekly meals together. We exchange “My word is my bond!” for “Can I legally contest that contract?” We exchange “it is needful” for “it is pushing.” We exchange relationships for lifestyle. We redefine success: success is what you possess instead of who you are as a person.

What results from seeking it all? Parents try to prove love by giving instead of being. Lonely, suffering children turn to anything that offers escape from loneliness. Divorce is expected. Religious habits replace spiritual development. Few are trusted [even in families!]; motives are doubted [what are they up to?] Boats dry rot in garages. Credit cards are over extended. We live today on what we hope to earn next year. We work too hard to enjoy each other. The gap between poverty and the middle class increases. Those with much seek more in the fear of not having. The definition of “rich” constantly changes. Remember when rich was having a few thousand dollars?

As the transition continues, two things are striking. (1) How easy it is to become selfish is striking. The question seems to be, “Am I happy?” The answer seems to be, “No, but I will be when I get …” (2) The confidence “we can have it all” without having to make choices is striking. According to today’s reasoning, responsibility destroys happiness!

Choices are inescapable! We cannot have it all! One huge self-deceit of evil is, “We should never have to exclude anything.” Perhaps we exclude God! If so, that is sad beyond description! Following God is about unselfish choices-always! It is unselfish choices that define God’s concept of righteousness.

God Is

Posted by on February 11, 2007 under Sermons

  1. How do you explain God?

    1. A nine-year-old perspective
    2. Yet some would say that God is just a myth for little children
    3. And the Psalmist says that those are the words of a fool – Psalm 14:1
    4. Anselm: An 11th Century monk, wrote a book called the Proslogium [Ontological Argument]
      1. “Even the fool is convinced that something exists, in the understanding at least, than which nothing greater can be conceived.”
      2. “That, than which nothing greater can be conceived, cannot exist in the understanding alone. For … then it can be conceived to exist in reality; which is greater.”
      3. In the late 20th century, there seems to be a growing interest in the existence of God, in the understanding at least …
    5. Aquinas: Cosmological argument
      1. Unmoved mover
      2. Uncaused casuse

  2. Signs of the Times:
    1. An increasing interest in religion and faith
      1. Many claim belief in God
      2. Our nation still holds on to its Judeo-Christian traditions
    2. A declining importance in God
      1. But that belief seems to make no difference
      2. God has become inconsequential
        1. This is not to say that God is inconsequential.

    3. Aren’t these two trends contradictory?

  3. The Weightlessness of God:

    1. “Those who assure the pollsters of their belief in God’s existence may nonetheless consider him less interesting than television, …
    2. … his commands less authoritative than their appetites for affluence and influence, his judgment no more awe-inspiring than the evening news, …
    3. … and his truth less compelling than the advertisers’ sweet fog of flattery and lies. That is weightlessness.” — David Wells, God in the Wasteland
    4. We live in Athens:
      1. “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. – Acts 17:22-23
    5. Our Pantheon of Gods
      1. Not of gods, but God-perspectives
      2. The Atheist God – the God who isn’t (faith is still involved here)
      3. Generic God – All-purpose, inoffensive
      4. God of Convenience – There when needed, not there when not needed
      5. Rational God – Predictable and manageable. Complicated, but understandable with study.
      6. The Personal God (yet this is all of the above), and all are idolatry — which is self-centeredness)
    6. It can get confusing and overlapping when you have a pantheon

  4. `Eyeh asher `Eyeh
    1. Exodus 3:
      1. Moses investigates the burning bush and is caught up into the will of God.
      2. Moses wants to know more about God
      3. God gives him a name that reveals, but also demonstrates the mystery of God
        1. He cannot be defined by any mere name or concept
    2. The Name of God:
      1. YHWH – An awesome name (unlike nouns, Lord or God, etc.)
        1. Likely derived from the verb meaning “to be”
        2. Not spoken by readers of Torah (Instead they read “adonai”)
        3. Written with a fresh pen by Scribes
    3. The Names of God:
      1. Adonai = My Lord
      2. El or Elohim = God
      3. Jehovah is not a Hebrew Word (Not known until 1520. The result of reading YHWH with Adonai vowels)
    4. What the name means
      1. I am who I will be/I will be who I am
      2. When God speaks his name (I am YHWH) it is assurance of his
        1. Power: God is above all else, under no authority, unique
        2. Promises: God can be trusted. He is the God of A, I, and J.
      3. Yet no name is sufficient
        1. No one names God
        2. He is not rendered by a mathematical formula or title
      4. If the name is awesome, then how much more the God!

  5. God Is …
    1. High:
      1. Sovereign, Holy, Transcendent, Above all else
    2. Near:
      1. Compassionate, Moved with concern for his creation, Love (initiates relationship)
    3. One:
      1. Unique, Almighty, Worthy (nothing else, no one else is like God)

  6. God is High
    1. Exodus 3: Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
      1. What Moses was curious to investigate now strikes him with awe.
    2. Isaiah 6: I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs … and they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
      1. Because the Lord is so high and holy, those who encounter him are struck with awe and fear.
      2. God is transcendent, yet he graciously approaches us …

  7. God is Near
    1. Exodus 3: The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians.”
      1. The Lord is moved by concern for his people.
    2. Genesis 28: He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
      1. The stairway: God has stepped in to our world to do business. He cares about what happens.
      2. There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.
      3. “God is in it with us.”

  8. God is One
    1. Exodus 3: 20 – So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them.
      1. The Lord is moved by concern for his people. So he does the impossible …
      2. He is always doing the impossible!
    2. Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, `Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.”
    3. Exodus 20: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself an idol.
      1. Because of his power and one-ness, he is worthy of obedience.
      2. Yet God’s people have always wavered between obedience to God and the idols.
    4. 1 Kings 18: Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing.

  9. Who Am I?
    1. Exodus 3:11 – But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
    2. In God’s Presence we cannot remain unaffected
      1. Moses was changed in appearance – his face shone!
      2. Moses’ life was also changed.
      3. We too are transformed by encountering the Living God!
        1. We remain unchanged because we withdraw.
    3. When we encounter God we respond with:
      1. reverence
      2. awe
      3. humility
      4. worship
      5. and love
    4. The Greatest Commandment

      1. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
      2. It begins with a word about God, a call to know God!

        1. Hear, O Israel, The LORD is our God, The Lord is One!
        2. I learned about the presence of God when I changed the focus from me to God. When I considered those words: “The “I AM” is our God. The “I AM” is one.
      3. This is what Christianity is ultimately all about!
        1. not the church
        2. not evangelism
        3. not salvation
        4. not even Christ!
        5. but ultimately it is about GOD! (This is the pre-requisite for all else)


Posted by on under Sermons

West-Ark Church of Christ Order of Worship
February 11, 2007

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body and be thankful”

“Lord, I Lift Your Name On High”
“Great Are You Lord”
#238 – “You Are the Song That I Sing”

Psalm 95 – Responsive Reading

Children’s Song and Devotional
(All children to the front for time of singing and devotional thought)
Sing – “I’ve got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart!”
#474 – “Thank You, Lord”

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs”

#587 – “Sing and Be Happy” (vs. 1, 2, 3)
#121 – “Come Let Us All Unite To Sing” (vs. 1, 2, 3)
#258 – “The New Song” (vs. 1, 2, 3)


Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

We have an a cappella style of singing. We are not the only religious fellowship to maintain a cappella singing. [Most notably Eastern Orthodox churches.] The term a cappella means “in the manner of the church or chapel.” What does it mean then to sing “in the manner of the church”? Especially if we understand church to be a family of believers rather than a building or institution. Does it simply mean “without instruments?” Or does it indicate a positive and sacred view of what it means to sing and praise?

All nature praises its Creator. The goodness of the creation declares the glory of the God who made it. But out of this entire symphony of praise and thanksgiving, God created just one instrument to praise him in words: the human voice.

And those words that we use to give thanks and praise our God also communicate to each other. We teach each other. We counsel each other with a wisdom that has been transmitted over generations. Did you know that it was possible to do that through songs?

    In World War 1, we learn a lot about the experience of soldiers fighting in the Turkish military through their songs. Many of those soldiers were illiterate and though they could not write their stories in journals, they composed songs.

Throughout human history, we’ve shared wisdom through songs, epic poems, anthems. Even Genesis 1 has a cadence and repetition that could be described as a song. The wonder of a song or hymn is that it has a tune, rhythm, and structure that evokes memory and thus builds a connection and unity.

    A friend once told me of a story that took place at the beginning of WW2. He had just finished Marine basic training and was in San Francisco waiting to be shipped out. He was feeling lonely, worried, lost. So he found a church service there one night. As he went into the chapel they were singing a hymn that was his mother’s favorite. She had sung this hymn when he was a child. Even though different people far away were singing this hymn it evoked memory and brought comfort to this soldier.

    Songs are participatory and create unity as well as memory. In the last congregation I served, the youth got into the habit of singing some of “their” songs before the worship began. They had a few adults who helped them out too. In time, there were a few of those “new” songs that were particularly captivating. And the rest of the congregation wanted to learn those songs and they adopted them. “Their” songs transformed into “our” songs and we were all blessed to share in the unity of songs old and new.

Singing then is an expression of our praise and thanksgiving to our Creator. It is an expression and participation in our unity with one another. But there’s one other phrase in this familiar text that sometimes goes overlooked: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. What does it mean to let the word of Christ dwell in us? What would it mean to dwell in the Word of Christ?

    The subject of personal knowledge, or indwelling, has been hotly discussed in the late 20th century. It proposes that we do not just know things objectively and dispassionately through our senses, but that we actually know what we know some things because of our personal commitment to knowing them. (Reference: see Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge, 1964)

God knows us because he is personally committed to us. We know Christ when we are personally committed to him. When we sing, praise, lament, and speak the word of God to one another we dwell in the word of Christ – we live in it, embody it, and shape our lives by it.

Colossians 3
1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Song for Responses#674 – “I Have Decided To Follow Jesus” (vs. 1, 2, 3, 4)

“… with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

#781 – “Thank You, Lord!”

#458 – “Redeemed” (vs. 1, 3)

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

#608 – “He Gave Me A Song” (vs. 1, 2, 3)

Sending Out Prayer by an elder

How Do You Get Ahead?

Posted by on February 8, 2007 under Bulletin Articles

Fortunately my week began typically. I got my half cup of coffee, sat at my computer, and read my e-mail messages. As usual, Monday’s messages were over 75% spam. Most of them wanted one thing-money. The authors of the messages frequently promised me (whom they do not know) incredible sums of money if I give them information that allows them access to my money. Or, they promise me great monetary success if I will buy a product. Or, they challenge me to generosity that benefits them.

In most of my spam messages, people are confident that if they can stimulate my greed nerve, they can soothe (for a moment) their greed nerve.

Though I have witnessed it many times, I never cease to be amazed at the people who are convinced that money is the answer–the answer to problems; the answer to indebtedness; the answer to a desire for pleasure; the answer to significance; the answer to security; etc. Name the need, and someone thinks money is the answer [even in spiritual matters!].

Too little do we realize that money brings new problems–new forms of indebtedness that dig new, deeper holes [he or she who cannot manage little cannot manage much]; common substitutions of indulgence for pleasure that create enslaving addictions; a frequent introduction to despair.

This is not intended to be a slam on wealth! Some early Christians had wealth! Paul said to them (1 Timothy 6:17-19)–Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.

He or she who can escape greed while having money is wise. He or she who defines self by relationship with God is wise. He or she who understands how to use wealth for God’s purposes rather than allowing wealth to use him or her for its purposes is wise. He or she who lets God’s values determine how wealth is used rather than allowing wealth determine how he or she is used is wise. He or she who refuses to measure self by “what I have” is wise.

May this be our ambition: “Who I am is determined by God. What I have is determined by God. How I use what I have is determined by God. Only God’s will measures me.”

Careful: Money does not offer us everything. To many, money gives only an internal emptiness and coldness. To the unwise, money costs rather than gives. “God, deliver us from the deceit of our own greed. Help us listen to You instead of deceiving ourselves.”