Holy Manners: Kindness

Posted by on May 31, 2007 under Bulletin Articles

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” (Colossians 3:12, 13)

“The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:22-24)

“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8)

The New Testament includes so much emphasis on the spiritual importance of kindness, it is overwhelming. Kindness (1) is a characteristic of God (Romans 2:4); (2) a characteristic of Christian love (1 Corinthians 13:4); (3) a characteristic of a servant (2 Timothy 2:24); in the Spirit’s fruit (Galatians 5:22); a part of the Christian graces (2 Peter 1:7); and a part of Christian behavior (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12, 13). Many in the first century were not kind prior to conversion. Jesus Christ taught them to be kind after conversion. Their kindness toward people and each other made them distinctive.

The American Restoration movement began as a unity movement crying, “Not the only Christians, but Christians only.” In time, it confronted those not in the movement. In more time, it confronted those in the movement. In still more time, it decided faith should be affirmed by attacking baptized believers. It declared that unity should be preserved by division.

In this migration, kindness was abandoned, rarely taught, and regarded by some to be a spiritual weakness rather than a godly strength. Why do Christians abandon gossip, hypocrisy, mean spirits, judgmental attitudes, hurtful motives, etc.? If we say because of commands, something is lacking. What is lacking? The Holy Manner of kindness. Kindness is not what others show us, but what we show others.

Food Fight

Posted by on May 27, 2007 under Sermons

The narrative of Daniel 1 is comprised of Four Moves:

  1. Setting (1-2)
  2. You Will Be Assimilated (3-7)
  3. Food Fight (8-16)
  4. Rising to the Top (17-21)

Key Questions – Daniel 1

  • What is the royal food and wine?
  • Why is it defiling?
  • What is Daniel’s alternative diet?
  • Why do “Daniel and Co.” end up healthier and heartier?
  • What does it mean for us?

What is the royal food and wine?
“The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table.” (1:5)
This is the king’s provision and hospitality.
The king is their host. He provides for them. To share from his provision is to be a part of his court. It raises the question of whom we trust.
This is about more than food choice. They live in a world of simple starvation, famine, and no refrigeration. When you depend on someone for food, you are closely aligned with him.

Why is the food defiling?
There are four options:

  1. Daniel is ascetic or fasting (suggested by Josephus). Problem: There’s no evidence for this. None in the text or otherwise.
  2. It’s not kosher. It is unclean or improperly prepared. Too much blood. But wine isn’t un-kosher. And nothing is said of the nature of the food – it couldn’t have been pork for three years!
  3. It is not healthy. Why not? What do we mean by healthy? We should be careful not to read our sensibilities about food back into the ancient world’s concepts of health. Food was kept differently and processed differently. Fat was needed keep people alive. What is healthy for a starving person or a person who rarely gets to eat isn’t necessarily the same thing as what is healthy for an overfed person.
    • The example of “Ezekiel Bread” is instructive here. At the health food store you can get bread made according to the recipe in Ezek. 4:9. There’s nothing wrong with that. It is much better for some people than regular processed white bread. Thankfully, the recipe for the bread stops at Ezekiel 4:9 and does not include 4:12, which suggests that the bread is either cooked over human dung or possibly mixed with it.
    • The bread Ezekiel eats is a prophetic sign of the poor conditions the nation in exile will have to endure. This is poor people’s bread – not bread for fitness elitists. (Having said that, there’s still nothing at all wrong with the bread and if it benefits some, then that’s great – – but don’t read dietary considerations back into the text.)
  4. Accepting the food means losing identity and freedom. They already had their name changed and they were already going to learn the language of the natives. But to accept the food was to declare their total dependence on the graciousness of King Nebuchadnezzar which compromised their dependence on God. It means becoming “the king’s man.”
    • Daniel 11:26-27 uses the same word for provisions: “Those who eat from the king’s provisions will try to destroy him; his army will be swept away, and many will fall in battle. The two kings, with their hearts bent on evil, will sit at the same table and lie to each other, but to no avail, because an end will still come at the appointed time.” The meaning here is that those who are closely associated with the king will turn against him.

What is Daniel’s alternative diet?
What is “pulse?” (KJV) Answer: Seeds, vegetables, beans. This is inferior food. It would not be considered part of a well-balanced breakfast or any other meal for that matter. Daniel’s alternative is what he gets for turning down the king’s food. It is simply that which he can scrape together. It isn’t his health-conscious secret diet.
Don’t miss the point of the story.
Why do Daniel and his friends end up healthier and heartier?
They choose not to defile themselves and God vindicates them.
They do well in spite of their diet and not because of it. The story is indicating that God gives them health and wisdom.

In God We Trust
All the stories in Daniel 1-6 will set up situations in which Daniel and friends find it difficult to trust in God. In every case, God proves trustworthy. Daniel and friends are vindicated.

So What?
Who am I? Whose am I? – Perhaps we don’t ponder enough what it is that defines us. What gives us our identity? What gives us our freedom? Memorial Day is a good example of a time for reflection that often is given up to nothing more than recreation.

We are in a changing culture. The values we have appreciated are changing and that creates crisis. Do we have to change everything back to the way it was to establish our identity? What if we cannot change anything? How do we assert our identity? Daniel and his friends maintained their independence and freedom by keeping their integrity, they didn’t have to launch a revolution. They didn’t get anxious. They stayed true to God.

We can place our trust and security in many things that less dependable than God. And we can revere some things even more than we revere God. Israel learned to remain true to God even though they lost some of their symbols and rituals. Can we do the same?

And finally, our trust may be best reflected by our attitude of thanksgiving. We live in a culture that thinks of food more in terms of what we do not eat rather than what we cannot eat. (When you are poor you eat what is available). When we give more thought to whether or not our food will make us fat, maybe we are missing the point of being thankful.

Of course this text is about more than food. It is about remaining true to God and not accepting the compromises of culture that will cause us to lose our integrity and identity as God’s person. Sometimes that is difficult, but who do you trust?

The Whole Truth

Posted by on under Sermons


  • Psalm 15
  • Hebrews 6:16-19
  • 1 John 2:3-8
  • Matthew 5:33-37

    How familiar to us is the court room scene in which the bailiff approaches a witness with a Bible held in his upright hand. He raises his right hand and the witness mimics his motion and places his hand facedown on the Bible. Finally the bailiff utters those legendary words that are familiar to us even if we’ve never been in a court room: “Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”

    In those words we hear the basic elements of good society and human life together: truth! Truth is so elemental to our life together. If we are a body, then truth is the connective tissue that runs throughout linking all the parts. If we are city, then truth is the bedrock upon which we are built. Truth is the glue and gravity that holds together our “life together.”

    So the challenge for all of us is: “Will we tell the truth?” This is especially true for God’s people. When we tell the truth we imitate God. We are called to be God’s children and that means we must speak truthfully to one another. [Notice the Scriptures that were read in worship: Hebrews 6, 1 John, Matthew 5]

    1. Character: When we speak the truth, we are like God. For God, truthfulness is the same as trustworthiness. God does not lie. His word can be trusted.
      • Telling the truth develops a character that can be trusted. Trustworthiness holds us together: The power of a promise kept in the wedding vows (yes is yes and no is no). Truth is foundational to trust.
      • Lying corrodes character. Anything else that one says after lying is suspect. The continual, habitual practice of lying actually erodes one’s inner sense of truthfulness.
      • All of the positive virtues such as loyalty, commitment, and faithfulness are rooted in telling the truth. All of the negative actions such as gossip, slander, deception, scheming are rooted in lying.
    2. Community: Community, any sort of human grouping, cannot survive without trust based on truth. Virtues like loyalty, commitment, faithfulness, promise-keeping. These are based on truth.
      • Telling the truth respects our neighbor. We respect others enough to consider that our dealings with them should be truthful and not a deception (pseudos). You and I know how important it is to be treated honestly and truthfully, so why would we deny that to another?
      • Lying demeans others. Lying dehumanizes others. When we lie, we do not allow the other person to make decisions and act based on the truth. We treat others as unimportant people whose dignity is of no consequence.
      • We may think our motives for being less than truthful are well-intentioned. Maybe we think we are sparing them pain and hurt. Maybe we are afraid of their reaction. We think that they cannot handle the truth. But who are we to decide that? When we think we know what’s best for others, we dissolve the basis of community and we stop acting as if we are members of the same body.

    Bottom line: In order for us to live in community, you need me to be truthful and I need you to be truthful.
    If truth is the glue and bond that is foundational to every other aspect of our life together, then lying is the acid that erodes our oneness.

    So we are going to put away lying. Just as we put away or put aside the old person and are clothed in Christ, so we are going to put away deception and lying and start telling the truth. That is Christ-like. That is how God does it.


    God’s vision for the church is that it should be a community of believers who are committed to speaking the truth to one another.

  • Holy Manners: Respect

    Posted by on May 24, 2007 under Bulletin Articles

    So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. (John 13:12-17)

    If I belong to God, I should respect you. Why? God created me in His image, and God created you in His image (Genesis 1:27). If I respect God, I must respect you.

    If you are in Christ, I have two reasons to respect you. Not only did God create us in His image, but God also recreated us in Christ (Ephesians 4:20-24; Colossians 3:9-11). Everything we are physically and spiritually we owe to God.

    What does it mean for a person in Christ to respect another person in Christ? (1) It means I will never give you reason to distrust me. I will always hold you in honor. I will value your reputation as much as I value my own. I will be as sensitive about your person as I am about mine. I will be as devoted to your spiritual success as I am devoted to my own spiritual success. I look at you as a trust given to me by God. Because we belong to Christ, we belong to the same family. That means family relationship in Christ is bigger than any sibling rivalry or dispute.

    (2) It means I do not deceive you. I will be honest with you and about you. What I say to you will be consistent with what I say to others about you. Your integrity is important to me. I will handle your integrity as carefully as I would want you to handle my integrity.

    Being a Christian no more gives me the right to seek your destruction than it gives me the right to ask God to destroy you. Being a Christian no more gives me the right to seek to harm you than it gives me the right to ask God to harm you. By God’s act, we were both forgiven. By God’s act, we both continue among the saved. By God’s act, we are part of His family. Neither of us have what we have in Christ by our own goodness. Both of us are what we are in Christ because of God’s goodness.

    So I honor you as a brother or sister. My honor is genuine, not pretended (Romans 12:10-16). I honor you because we are together in Christ. When we disagree, I still honor you. When you succeed, I honor you. When you fall, I pick you up. I do for you what God does for me. You do for me what God does for you.

    My honor for you causes others to honor the Christ who made you and me. We expose all to Christ’s kindness by showing holy manners to each other. When people fail to see holy manners in society, we Christians show them such manners by the way we treat each other.

    Godly Behavior (Part 2)

    Posted by on May 23, 2007 under Sermons

    A common concept among Christians is this: "It is physically profitable to live a godly life." Thus, if a person wants a guarantee of ‘the good life,’ he or she needs to be a godly person. If a person wants protection against disease, he or she needs to be a godly person. If a person wishes to be delivered from accidents, he or she needs to be a godly person. If a person wants the guarantee of deliverance from an early death, he or she needs to be a godly person.

    Then Christians observe godly people live in poverty, lose fortunes, or struggle in their older years. They witness godly people die of cancer, die in car wrecks caused by someone high on drugs or alcohol, or die when they are young. If they expected some form of physical deliverance from undesirable physical happenings, incidents such as these deeply shake their faith in Jesus Christ. They cry out, "How could God let that happen to him (or her)?" "Why did that happen to him (or her)?"

    Two questions. (1) Is it only now that bad physical things happen to godly people? (2) Is our confidence in good things happening to godly people based on an American concept or a promise from God?

    It may be effective to tell Americans in a prosperous country physically to expect good things to happen if they are godly. However, never suggest that on mission fields where the country is poor, positive changes come slowly, and physical hardship is the common existence for the majority of people. The core of the gospel when first presented was not, "Belong to God and receive good physical rewards."

    This does not suggest that God does not bless us when we seek His ways. His ways lead us to existence with him. It was the apostle Paul who wrote to suffering Christians:

    "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us." (Romans 8:18)

    Shortly after those words, he wrote: "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)

    The blessings he wrote of were about the certainty of salvation in Jesus Christ. He wrote of the intercession of God’s Spirit on our behalf, justification, God’s devotion to us, freedom from condemnation, and the fact that nothing can deprive us of God’s love–not even suffering or death.

    Our confident hope is base on God’s gifts after death, not on Satan’s harassment in this life.

    1. Christian existence from the first was based on physical privation and suffering caused by belonging to God.
      1. Have you considered these facts?
        1. We exist because we place our confidence in a crucified, resurrected Savior.
        2. Tradition tells us all of the twelve but one (John) were killed for their faith.
        3. The twelve were jailed and beaten by the order of religious leaders because they dared endorse Jesus as the Christ (Acts 5:17, 18, 40-42)
        4. Stephen was killed by religious people who disagreed with him (Acts 7:58-60).
        5. The apostle James was executed by sword (Acts 12:1) and the same ruler intended to kill Peter.
        6. The only reason a mob stopped stoning Paul was due to the fact they thought Paul was dead (Acts 14:19).
        7. Paul and Silas were publicly beaten and jailed for healing a possessed girl (Acts 16:19-23).
      2. Have you recently read these scriptures?
        1. Hebrews 11:32-40, And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.
        2. 2 Corinthians 11:22-33, Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ?-I speak as if insane-I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern? If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me, and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped his hands.
    2. I do not think most of us have given serious thought to the enormous difficulties Jesus endured in his ministry.
      1. Consider some things we do not talk about much regarding Jesus’ life during his ministry.
        1. Though he was surrounded by people much of the time, he was a very lonely man.
          1. Great loneliness is created when the people closest to you do not understand you.
          2. Not even his twelve understood him!
          3. Consider two occasions of the many:
            Matthew 8:26,27, He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”
            1. Of the many things they saw Jesus do, they were astounded that the winds and Sea of Galilee obeyed his commands.
            2. They were so surprised they asked, "What kind of man is this?"
              John 16:29-33, His disciples said, “Lo, now You are speaking plainly and are not using a figure of speech. Now we know that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? (Emphasis mine.) Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
            3. This occurred the last night of Jesus’ earthly life as he was with his disciples.
            4. Before his words confused them, but now they understood.
            5. Sure, they did!
            6. Jesus knew they just thought they understood.
            7. What a lonely night that was for him!
        2. His own relatives thought he was crazy.
          Mark 3:21, When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, “He has lost His senses.”
          1. That must have been discouraging!
          2. They did not take any sense of pleasure in what he did, but they were ashamed of his actions.
        3. His brothers urged him to dangerously expose himself to a crowd that could have easily become a mob.
          John 7:1-5, After these things Jesus was walking in Galilee, for He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him. Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Booths, was near. Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” For not even His brothers were believing in Him.
          1. I submit if Jesus knew his life was in danger in Judea, his brothers knew Jesus would be in danger in Judea.
          2. If that is true, his brothers were encouraging Jesus to do something they knew could get him killed.
          3. To have your own brothers unconcerned about your physical well being had to be powerfully discouraging!
        4. Publicly he was said to have a demon by the religious leaders.
          Matthew 12:22-24, Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”
          1. The people who easily should have known his actions were God’s work publicly said his actions were the result of evil forces.
        5. These leaders accused him of being an evil man because he did things on the Sabbath they did not approve of.
          John 9:16, Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” But others were saying, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And there was a division among them.
          1. Again, those who should have confirmed the good he did tried to discredit it.
          2. Because Jesus did not do what they expected in the Messiah, they declared him evil.
        6. People accused him of eating and drinking too much to be God’s spokesman.
          Matthew 11:18,19, For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ?He has a demon!’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ?Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
        7. He was accused publicly of misrepresenting himself.
          John 8:52,53, The Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, ?If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death.’ Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out to be?”
        8. He was accused of associating with the wrong kind of people.
          Matthew 9:10-12, Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick."
        9. People in Mark 5 asked Jesus to leave their country when he restored an uncontrollable man to his right mind at the price of a herd of pigs.
          1. They saw no potential in his deed.
          2. They saw only unacceptable cost.
        10. He found more faith in a non-Israelite than he found in any Jew.
          Matthew 8:10, Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel."
        11. The religious leaders of Israel said the Jewish nation would be better off if Jesus was dead.
          John 11:47-50, Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.”

    Jesus endured the opposition of family members, of the Jewish people, and of the religious leaders to be loyal to God. Do not think you do something special when your godly behavior results in opposition from people that you least expected opposition? Jesus already has been there.

    Godly behavior can produce opposition and suffering! Christians are not good because they expect only good to happen to them!

    Holy Manners: Encouragement

    Posted by on May 17, 2007 under Bulletin Articles

    In an earlier work, I spent years teaching, counseling, urging, associating with, and encouraging people seeking recovery. They came from all levels and involvements in life. All they had in common was a desire to recover.

    This weekend I was in the mall late Saturday afternoon. I did not see one person I knew in the hour I was there. Nor did I identify with anyone in the sea of humanity flowing by me. I had the same feeling I had in the past when in a culture I did not know.

    My point: if you asked people in either situation to name the top five sources of encouragement in our society, the church would not appear in their lists. I know so in my first example. I have specific memories of encouraging tearful people to come into a church building to a group meeting. Why were they crying? In their minds, church buildings were places they associated with pain, not for help with their struggles.

    I confess at times I wearied of hearing about the thoughtless things Christians did or said in “the name of Christ.” I also find it troubling to read of Jesus spending time with people who lost hope. Helping struggling people is always complex. Yet, God cares about those we are often tempted to “write off.”

    It is difficult to be a godly person in this society. Because of persecution? No! There is little persecution here. In this society (1) it is easy to be self-centered; (2) it is easy to substitute society’s emphasis for God’s values; and (3) it is easy to do both. In spite of all the New Testament’s examples of sufferings and hardships, it is easy to conclude that “going to church” will result in having a “good life” (as defined by the individual).

    The church in Thessalonica had significant problems. (1) They misunderstood Christian suffering (3:3). (2) They needed to grow in love for each other (3:12; 4:9, 10). (3) Some were sexually immoral (4:3). (4) They needed to improve in their treatment of unbelievers (4:12). (5) They misunderstood the meaning of death (4:13). (6) They misunderstood when the end would come (5:1-11). (7) They did not respect spiritual leaders as they should (5:12, 13).

    The interesting thing was Paul’s solution. It was not “sweep house and rid yourself of troublemakers.” Paul’s solution: “encourage the struggling.”

    All of us have moments and situations of discouragement. God never gives up on us. Please may we not give up on each other. When we struggle, we do not need added discouragement. We need encouragement! May we as God’s people be known for our ability to encourage others! May the weak look to you for strength (Romans 15:1).

    Thank all of you who are involved with things like the Hope Chest, CURE, tutoring, youth work, college work, mission efforts, the sick, visitors, and the timid. Investments in people are eternal. May we all arrive in heaven because of each other, not in spite of each other. May your holy manners be many people’s spiritual strength!

    Godly Behavior (Part 1)

    Posted by on May 15, 2007 under Sermons

    There was a time when the sense of "community" and the sense of "family" were powerful. In this time, it was not unusual for a person to allow each of these to affect his/her behavior. The bond with one’s community or the bond with one’s family was more powerful than selfishness. Thus a person might restrict his or her personal behavior because he or she did not wish to reflect poorly on the community or on one’s family. The primary issue was not, "What would I like to do?" but was, "How will this affect people who are important to me?" Was that not one of the major points of Jimmy Stewart’s classic movie, "A Wonderful Life."

    In our society, there has been a significant shift. This shift occurred for many reasons, not just one. One prominent influence in this shift has been [and is] a shift in what is important to us. Self has emerged as the most important consideration in many people’s thinking. With the emergence of self there has been a corresponding loss in the sense of community or the sense of extended (and too often immediate) family.

    One illustration. In many past generations, most people lived quite close to their place of birth. It took a major emergency to motivate people "to leave home." For many who left, the "other place" was viewed as a "temporary" situation that existed only to take care of the emergency. There was only one geographical place that was "home," and the common plan and intent was to return "home."

    Today, people live in many places. They all are "home" because "home" is where you live. I, myself, have lived in seven places that were "home" at the time I lived there. The "community" I was in was "my" community. I had no intention of leaving and no plan to return anywhere. When I took a trip, I was always glad to get back "home."

    Today I know a number of people who commute long distances in their jobs. "Home" is not where their job is. "Home" is where their immediate family resides. Because of job demands, they often move significant distances. The job may dictate a move, but job never defines "home." "Home" is defined by where the immediate family is. When the job demands a move, rarely is there any intent to go back. Rarely is there any intent eventually to return to one’s area of birth unless some emergency demands a return.

    In our mobile society and loss of roots, we pay significant prices. (1) Selfishness continues to escalate. (2) Our sense of community has been lost. (3) Our sense of family is quite restricted and very fragile. (4) Our basic past concepts have changed radically.

    In none of this am I implying that the past was perfect and situations were not abused.

    1. First, I want to suggest that the church of today suffers enormously because of these shifts.
      1. One adverse effect: some are convinced that we as a church would solve all our problems if we would just return to the past.
        1. In the first place, that is not possible.
          1. We, and most everyone around us, live in the now, not in the past–if we are to reach others we have to function in the now or they cannot relate to us or to the message we share with them.
          2. The only way to retreat to the past would be to build walls around us and be preoccupied with defending ourselves.
        2. We would have to deny our identity and our mission to retreat to the past.
          1. Jesus wants us to be light and salt in an existence filled with darkness and ignorance of God.
            Matthew 5:13-16, "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
          2. Jesus prayed this about the 12 and us the last night of his earthly life.
            John 17:14-20, "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word …"
          3. We cannot live for ourselves and be the spiritual influence Jesus wants us to be by retreating to the past.
      2. A second adverse effect: Often younger adults do not feel the commitment to the Christian community that older adults feel.
        1. It is always difficult to make this point without offending Christians who have no reason to be offended.
          1. I am deeply grateful for and encourage all the people in this congregation of all ages who are active in or involved in our many activities here.
          2. A number of the young adults invest major time and major energy to make many of our activities possible.
        2. However, too many look at the congregation in the same way people look at an institution or a civic club.
          1. Often we look at institutions and clubs in this way: "I am glad it is here; I like to use it; my basic question is how it can benefit me?"
          2. The congregation is a community of Christians, a family of people who recognize God as the Father and Jesus Christ as the older brother.
          3. Christians do not look at a congregation as "existing for my benefit" but as "existing for my involvement."
          4. As the concepts in society of community and family diminish, congregations suffer.
        3. Often I hear people say, "Who is going to fix the meals? Who is going to visit the suffering? Who is going to give and attend the showers? Who is going to teach? Who is going to provide leadership? Who is going to organize things?"
          1. Good things do not just happen.
          2. When good things happen, several "someones" work hard and give time.
      3. Adverse effect three: Christians are changing the concepts on which a congregation is built in fundamental ways.
        1. We live in a consumer society.
          1. If we do not like the way you do business, we will not do business with you.
          2. If we do not like the way you provide service, we will not let you serve us.
          3. If we do not like the product you produce, we will not buy your product.
        2. Too often we make the congregation a consumer institution.
          1. Come hear our preacher; he is good!
          2. Come to our youth program; it is wonderful!
          3. Come to our Care Groups or Life Groups; they will be concerned about your needs!
          4. Come to our programs; they cannot be beat!
          5. So people come until they get a better deal offered to them or their family.
          6. Congregations contribute to the problem when they compete with other congregations on a consumer basis.
    2. People who follow God in every age have the faith of commitment combined with the courage to face adversity.
      1. I want you to consider (briefly) three Old Testament men you likely know: Abraham, Moses, and David.
        1. If you know these men, you likely think highly of them.
        2. You probably assume everyone in their day thought highly of them.
        3. Not so!
      2. Consider Abraham:
        1. God said in Genesis 12:1-3,
          Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
        2. If you think that is a "no brainer" covenant, you need to consider it closely.
          1. Would you leave the known for the unknown? It is considered crazy now; it was considered more crazy then.
          2. Would you dream of your descendants becoming a great nation if you were 75 and had no children?
          3. Would you leave the only security you had (the security of an extended family) on the basis of promises from a God your family did not know?
          4. Would you dream of blessing every person who lived in the future when you were 75 and childless?
        3. In Abraham’s day what Abraham did was considered stupid.
        4. If you did the same thing Abraham did, most people who know you today would consider you stupid.
      3. Consider Moses:
        1. Moses had it made!
          1. He was born a slave.
          2. He grew up as royalty.
          3. All he needed to do was sit pat, and he was a rich man who belonged in the highest circles of the greatest nation on earth.
        2. Moses risked everything to help his people.
          1. His people did not appreciate his effort.
          2. He was fortunate to escape with his life.
          3. He lived in exile as a shepherd in the remotest place he could find.
        3. When God asked him to return to Egypt, he was extremely reluctant to go.
          1. His former royal family wanted him dead.
          2. His people did not appreciate him.
          3. He would have to abandon the security of his exile.
        4. He finally went because God was persistent.
        5. Even after he went, he lived a hard, lonely life in a wilderness with a mass of griping people.
        6. Would you call that a wise choice?
      4. Consider David:
        1. He helped King Saul in wonderful ways: killing Goliath when no one else would face the huge man; playing music to the king when the king became depressed; fighting the king’s enemies–the Philistines; making the king’s rule more secure.
        2. His payment was the king’s distrust and jealousy.
          1. The king took his wife.
          2. The king forced him to live as a fugitive.
          3. The king chased him so hard the he forced David to turn to the Philistines.
          4. The king forced David to relocate his parents in Moab (1 Kings 22:3).
        3. Twice David could have killed King Saul and refused to do so.
        4. Never was King Saul in any danger because of David.
        5. In this period of David’s life, would you consider him a wise man?

    Following God in any age has never been popular. Having the courage to do God’s will has seemed an act of stupidity in every age. Such is seen as wise only by people who know God.

    Godly behavior has never been accepted nor popular. It will not be today.

    Welcome To My World

    Posted by on May 13, 2007 under Sermons

    Daniel is an exile. He and his companions are taken from their home in Jerusalem and hauled away to a strange and alien land. They live among people who follow different customs and religions. As people who resisted “graven images” they would have been stunned by the prevalence of bizarre sculptures and strange animals depicted everywhere. For them Babylon was a strange world.

    Daniel’s experience in a strange world with different ways is not unlike our experience with the strange world of apocalyptic literature. We are familiar with the straightforward stories, but the odd material in chapters 7 through 12 can become confusing and daunting. However, if we understand the rules and expectations of apocalyptic literature, and also gain some familiarity with the concerns of the 6th and 2nd centuries B.C., then maybe we will feel more welcome in Daniel’s world.

    Where In The World Is Daniel?
    Geographically, Daniel takes place in the Middle East in the area which now contains Iran and Iraq. Daniel’s story and his visions involve a scope of four centuries. In that time, this region changes politically more than once. Political change in the ancient world is fluid and sudden. The fate of millions and many nations may change because of a single lost battle or the death of a monarch with an unworthy heir.

    Before the Babylonian Empire, the Assyrians were the super-power in this region. The Babylonians conquered Judah, which was untouched by the Assyrian Empire. Their rule over Jerusalem and Judah began approximately with the start of the sixth century and ended in 539 B.C.

    In 539 B.C., Cyrus marched on Babylonia and took the country without a struggle. Babylon opened its gates to the Persians. The Persians left the native religious institutions intact and appointed a governor to rule the territory of the Babylonian Empire. The Persians were also accepting of the Jews asserting their own religious institutions and returning to Judah and Jerusalem.

    In 331 B.C., the Persian king, Darius III, faced Alexander the Great at the Battle of Gaugamela. Darius III escaped the battle but the Persian forces were defeated. Darius III was assassinated by his own people and the Persian Empire was absorbed into Alexander’s empire.

    Alexander ruled the area of the Persian Empire, including Jerusalem and Judah, from 332 until his death in Babylon in 323. After Alexander’s death, the empire was divided up among Alexander’s generals after the wars of succession. Two of those generals, Ptolemy and Seleucus, would rise to prominence and establish the two largest powers within the Macedonian empire – the Ptolemaic dynasty centered in Egypt and the Seleucid dynasty centered in Syria and Babylonia.

    In addition to surveying the geographical and political terrain, let’s also survey the literary terrain.

    Rightly Dividing Daniel

    Part 1 is Daniel 1-6
    Stories collected into two triads
    Part 2 is Daniel 7-12
    Apocalyptic visions
    Part 1 Triad 1 – Threats
    Part 1 Triad 2 – Dreams
    Chapters 1, 3, and 6

    The faithful are threatened by outsiders
    who do not follow God’s ways.

    Their faithfulness is tested by
    external circumstances.

    Chapters 2, 4, and 5

    Dreams and signs are interpreted
    by God’s wise man.

    The interpretation shows God’s
    sovereignty over all rulers.

    Part 2 – Apocalyptic Visions

    1. Apocalyptic literature is the account of a selected visionary who is given a view of history on cosmic scale, or from heaven’s perspective
    2. Apocalyptic literature uses symbolism: animals, numbers, and colors do not function with strict literal meaning. They engage mystical and metaphorical meanings.
    3. Apocalyptic literature reveals God’s involvement in history. Suffering and persecution are re-interpreted in light of what is taking place unseen in heaven.
    4. Apocalyptic literature gives hope to the faithful by promising that God will intervene at a designated time.
    5. Apocalyptic literature is a revelation of heavenly secrets; as such it always has an air of mystery.

      Really Good Resources

      See the 5,000 year history of the Middle East unfold in 90 seconds.

      Thom Lemmons, Daniel: The Man Who Saw Tomorrow. Multnomah Press, 1991.

      Donald E. Gowan, Daniel: Abingdon Old Testament Commentary. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001.

    Timeline for the Book of Daniel

    Significant Events

    608-597 End of Kingdom of Judah [Removal of nobility]  
    597 First deportation from Jerusalem 2 Kings 24:10-17
    587 Second deportation and destruction
    of temple and Jerusalem
    2 Kings 25:1-21; Jer. 39:1-10;
    Jer. 52:4-27
    539 Persian Empire conquers Babylonian Empire Dan. 5:30
    538-537 Return to Jerusalem Ezra 1:1-4
    516 Rebuilding of Temple Ezra 6:1-18
    459 Ezra leads second return to Jerusalem  
    445 Nehemiah rebuilds city of Jerusalem  
    332 Alexander conquers Palestine  
    331 Alexander defeats Darius III  
    323 Alexander dies in Babylon  
    313 Ptolemy I controls Jerusalem  
    312 Seleucid Empire established in Babylon  
    301 Macedonian Empire divided four ways,
    Jerusalem and Palestine controlled by
    Ptolemaic Empire of Egypt
    Dan. 8:8-22, 11:4
    252 Antiochus II Theos marries Berenice,
    daughter of Ptolemy II
    Dan. 11:6
    198 Antiochus III wins Jerusalem from
    Ptolemaic control; Seleucid rule of
    Palestine and Jerusalem begins
    193 Ptolemy V marries Cleopatra I Syra,
    daughter of Antiochus III
    Dan. 11:17
    170-168 Antiochus IV Epiphanes initiates
    two wars with Egypt
    Dan. 11:25-38; 7:21-25;
    8:24-25; 12:7-11
    167 Antiochus IV Epiphanes desecrates temple
    in Jerusalem; bans Jewish religion
    2 Maccabees 6:3-6
    166-162 Maccabean Revolt  
    163 Death of Antiochus IV Epiphanes  

    Rulers of the Babylonian Empire

    605-562 Nebuchadnezzar Dan. 1 – 2; 5:24-28
    562-560 Amel-Marduk  
    560-556 Neriglissar  
    556 Labashi-Marduk  
    556-539 Nabonidus  
    549-539 Belshazzar[Co-regent in Babylon] Dan. 5:1-28, 7:1, 8:1
    539 Babylon conquered by Cyrus of Persia Dan. 5:30

    Rulers of the Persian Empire

    550-530 Cyrus Dan. 6:28; 10:1
    530-522 Cambyses  
    522-486 Darius I (Darius the Mede?) Dan. 5:31; 6:1; 9:1; 11:1
    486-465 Xerxes I (Esther’s King Ahasuerus?) Dan. 9:1
    465-424 Artaxerxes I  
    423 Xerxes II  
    423-404 Darius II  
    404-358 Artaxerxes II  
    358-338 Artaxerxes III  
    338-336 Arses  
    336-331 Darius III [Codomannus]  

    Macedonian Empire

    336-323 Alexander the Great Dan. 7:7, 8:5-8, 10:20, 11:3
    323 Wars of Sucession begin  
      Egypt (Ptolemaic)      Syria (Seleucid)  
    323-285 Ptolemy I 312-280 Seleucus I Dan. 11:5
    285-246 Ptolemy II 280-261 Antiochus I Soter  
    246-221 Ptolemy III 261-246 Antiochus II Theos  
    221-203 Ptolemy IV 246-226 Seleucus II Dan. 11:7-9
    203-181 Ptolemy V 226-223 Seleucus III Dan. 11:10
    181-146 Ptolemy VI 223-187 Antiochus III the Great Dan. 11:11-19
      Ptolemy VII
    187-175 Seleucus IV Dan. 11:20
        175-163 Antiochus IV
    Dan. 7:8, 11, 20-22,
    24-25; 8:9-11, 23-25;
    9:26-27, 11:21-39

    Words Can Never Hurt Me — or Can They?

    Posted by on under Sermons

    “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me!” Really? If that’s true then why is Don Imus out of a job? Imus did not throw any sticks or stones, but by his own admission he did hurl some hurtful words. Perhaps words are not as harmless as the old saying supposes.

    This isn’t the first time and will probably not be the last time that insensitive and hurtful words spoken in the public square will cause us to reflect on the way we talk. Whether or not celebrities and media outlets strive to police themselves, it would be beneficial for us to reflect on the power of words. Words can hurt, but they can also heal. Words can tear down, but words can also build up.

    The power of words is demonstrated so clearly in the creation story. God speaks our world into existence with words. The naming of things defines realities. God sets up definitions by naming night and day, land and sea, human and animals. Of all the creatures that God creates he gives on the power to use words.

    The destructive power of words is also evident in the Genesis story. With the subtle twisting of words and lies, the relationship between God and his creation is disrupted. Our relationship with one another is also strained because of the misuse and abuse of words.

    This reading in Ephesians shows us that as God’s people we are to walk worthy of our calling. We must maintain the oneness of the spirit and the bond of peace. Living out the new life in Christ involves making choices about our behavior. In this text, the writer specifically urges us to overcome lying, anger, stealing, and evil talk. Literally, this kind of talk is described as rotten and worthless. (Sapros in Greek means rotten and decayed).

    • We bring good things to our potlucks; who would dare to bring something spoiled? Why should it be any different with the things we say?

    The opposite of the rotten and worthless speech is the sort of talk that builds others up. It is good because it benefits them. And we want to speak this way because we God’s children and we want our speech to be just like his – that’s quite a goal because when God spoke he created good things.

    • God allows us the privilege to speak incredible things and he let’s us use words that create reality
    • When we come to the waters of baptism some very incredible things are spoken: 1) the confession of belief, 2) the forgiveness of sins, and 3) the reality of new life in Christ.
    • Our blessings today are not merely sentimental moments. We believe that when we speak a blessing, God in his graciousness adds to the benefit of these words.
    • We can use words to forgive and to seek forgiveness. God in Christ forgave us, and he allows us to speak words of forgiveness and unity to one another.

    We always have a choice when we open our mouths to speak: Our speech can be rotten and destructive or it can build up and benefit. We can use words to hurt, or we can use words to heal.

    How will you use your words today? What sort of words will come out of your mouth? I am not encouraging you to feel guilty, rather I would like to encourage you to feel holy and urge you to talk like one of God’s children. I pray that these words will build you up.

    Holy Manners: Unselfishness

    Posted by on May 10, 2007 under Bulletin Articles

    Though the Philippian Christians seemed untroubled in a casual reading of Paul’s letter, evidences in the letter suggest they had interpersonal relationship problems as Christians.

    1. The challenge to behave worthy of Christ’s gospel (1:27-30).
    2. Paul’s plea in the above text (2:1-4).
    3. The sending of Timothy to check on their condition (2:19).
    4. Paul’s explanation for his personal commitment (3:1-17).
    5. Recognition of the “enemies” in the congregation (3:17-21).
    6. The congregational conflict involving Euodia and Syntyche (4:2, 3).

    In the context of internal rivalry, consider Paul’s admonition concerning proper conduct:

    1. “If you want to give me genuine cause for joy as I am under arrest, be of one mind (toward each other), preserve Christian love(that brought you together in Christ), be united in spirit (Jesus Christ’s spirit that produced your salvation), have a common purpose (determined by Jesus Christ’s objective).”
    2. “Never function in selfishness or empty conceit in the Christian community.”
    3. “Function in humility with high regard for other Christians.”
    4. “Consider the interests of other Christians as superior to your own interests.”

    Paul based the example of appropriate Christian conduct on Jesus’ example in yielding to God, coming to earth, and living a life of surrender as a creature he helped bring into existence (2:5-8). He (as should we) let God magnify him (2:9-11), which God did.

    One of the more difficult challenges every Christian confronts: determining appropriate behavior when a fellow Christian does not share our values, come to our conclusions, or behave like we want him or her to behave. Those moments make Paul’s injunction to contending Christians in Romans 14:10-12 extremely difficult to understand and follow. It is hard to leave such matters in God’s hands!

    We understand that we practice good manners in physical matters to preserve civilized behavior. Good manners are not practiced because such are deserved. When people fail to practice good manners, civil behavior unravels. More is threatened than the moment!

    Religiously, Christians practice holy manners to preserve Jesus Christ’s influence in the Christian community. Failure to do so threatens our spiritual family. Always, more is threatened than the moment! God’s influences advance with godly manners! God’s influence suffers when Christian’s use ungodly manners in His family.