Are You Willing to Let God “Finish His Work”?

Posted by on August 30, 2007 under Bulletin Articles

Recently I read a work of fiction. One line really captured my attention. A wife talked to her father (a preacher) about her husband. Fearful and concerned, she expressed her anxiety. Her father replied by saying, “Just because God saved him does not mean God is not still performing surgery on him.”

There is a tendency among too many to look at baptism as the completion of our covenant with God rather than the beginning of our covenant with God. We forget Paul wrote to Christians in Ephesians (Ephesians 1:1). So for Christians, Paul prayed that they would be “filled up to all the fullness of God.” Or, in Peter’s words, “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord” (1 Peter 2:1-3).

At creation, people were sinless. They lived in purity and innocence with voice-to-voice contact with God (Genesis 3:8). As long as they were sinless, they were not terrified of direct contact with God. Only when the power of choice was used to rebel against God’s wishes and instructions were they terrified of God.

There again will come a situation in which people will live in God’s presence without terror–in Heaven. In a real way, existence in Heaven will only restore a relationship between God and people that existed when God created people.

However, the current reality: we all exist in a world of good and evil, living lives that are a strange mixture of good and evil. Only by God’s grace and mercy expressed in His forgiveness can we escape the consequences of our evil. Thus, from the time God was the “All in All” until the situation when He again is the “All in All,” God has much to do (with our cooperation).

In a real way, the immersion of a penitent believer is signing the consent form that knowingly, willingly permits God to do surgery as He cuts away the evil rebellion from our lives. God wants us to be all we can be spiritually. What we “look like” at baptism and what we “look like” after years of development in Christ scarcely resemble each other. God’s surgery makes us better. Only to a sinful world are we hideous.

As we exist in a world of good and evil, nothing Satan does destroys us. Causes us suffering? Yes! Destroys us? No! “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).

Back to School Blessing 2007

Posted by on August 26, 2007 under Sermons

This is the fourth year for the Back to School Blessing at West-Ark. I am so thankful that we take the time for this event. I appreciate the fact that students and teachers and school workers report that they feel blessed not only from this event, but from knowing that someone is praying for them all year long. [On your way out, please pick up a refrigerator magnet that contains the name of a student, teacher, or support person. Pray often for them.]

Words of blessing are so rare in our times. In our society we often give awards; we praise achievement and accomplishment. But that is not the same as a blessing. A blessing pronounces God’s favor on another simply for the sake of the other. To speak a blessing is to seek the good of another simply for the sake of the other.

God blesses in this way …

  • God intended to bless Abraham so that through Abraham and his descendents all people might be blessed.
  • God instructed Aaron in the way of speaking a blessing upon the people.
  • When Jesus began his ministry (Luke 4) he read from the scroll of Isaiah: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. To proclaim release to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom for the oppressed; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
  • Jesus opens his Sermon on the Mount by proclaiming God’s favor on those who had not earned it or achieved it, but simply on those who were the recipients of God’s gracious blessing.

We have a choice as to how we will live under the blessing of God. Certainly cursing is not an appropriate choice …Cursing is more than saying bad words. It is much more serious than that. Cursing is the opposite of blessing. It seeks the downfall and promotes the harm of another. Sometimes the purpose of the curse is to humiliate or condemn another. Curses are spoken out of anxiety, fear, and anger – not the grace of God.

The people of God are called to be a source of blessing, not curses.

Blessing of Students

Blessing of Teachers/Workers

For Students:
We love you and we ask the Lord to bless you. We promise to pray for you …Someone will be praying for you this year when you are having fun at school, and even when you’re not having fun. Some one will pray for you when you are sick and can’t make it to school. Someone will be praying for you if others are acting mean toward you. And they may be praying for you when you’re not acting as nice as you should. Someone will be praying for you when you feel left out, and also when you have the chance to make a new friend.

Sometime this year someone will be praying for you when you’re taking a test, when you’re playing sports, when you’re performing. Sometime this year someone will be praying for you by name when people are saying bad things about you for no reason, when you’re on a date, whenever temptation is strong. Sometime this year someone will be praying when you are praying on a retreat, when you are reading your Bible, when you are thinking about your place in God’s church.

For Teachers, School Personnel, PTA and PTO, and Tutors – –
We wish to bless you because you have such a wonderful mission. The one who gives a blessing must know that he/she is blessed. To all of you who serve as teachers, principals, school workers, counselors, and in many other ways I don’t even realize I offer you this pledge: someone will be praying for you when you have those victorious moments and the children “get it!” Someone will be praying when it seems they don’t. Someone will be praying for you when you’re convinced that this is your last year, and when it really is your last year. Someone will be praying when you wonder what you are going to do about a student in trouble. Someone will be praying for you when an opportunity to minister open up before you and you feel the awesome responsibility of the moment. Someone will be praying for you when a red-faced parent blames you for their problems, and someone will be praying when a student shares with you his or her dreams and thanks for what you have done for them. We will all be praying as a student gets closer to Christ because of your influence, whether you know it or not. We lift you up before God as our partners in healing this land.

a. Charge the church to be in prayer
b. Give them instructions about the prayer magnets

God’s Power at Work within Us – Ephesians 3:20

God Is Good – We Are Not

Posted by on August 23, 2007 under Bulletin Articles

The above statement was made by Solomon when he dedicated the temple. It is one of the clearest statements that declared this understanding: God acts in order that godless people will not have the wrong concept of Him. In Ezekiel 20:44 God said, Then you will know that I am the Lord when I have dealt with you for My name’s sake, not according to your evil ways or according to your corrupt deeds, O house of Israel, declares the Lord God. Israel misrepresented Him, and He was not pleased. Again, God said in Ezekiel 36:22, Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went.” Again in verses 31, 32, Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and your abominations. “I am not doing this for your sake,” declares the Lord God, “let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel!”

The Old Testament repeatedly makes it evident that God blesses and holds accountable, not because of us, but to verify His identity. In one of the best known scriptures of the Old Testament (Psalms 23), why will the Shepherd God destroy want, give green pastures, and quiet waters as He restores the soul and guides in paths of righteousness? “For His name’s sake.” The pleas of the Psalms are for God to pardon (25:11), lead and guide (31:3), deliver and forgive (79:9), save (106:8), deal kindly with (109:21), and revive (143:11) for His name’s sake, not people’s deservedness.

In the New Testament, this same understanding is transferred to Christ. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promise (1 Corinthians 15:24-28) and the way to God (John 14:6). Thus, even when we suffer ill treatment, loss of life, or loss of material things “for my sake,” we will be generously blessed (Matthew l0:18, 39; 19:29).

We always need to remember that IT IS ABOUT GOD AND NOT ABOUT US. To give people the right impression of God, regardless of how that is achieved, is an honor for us.

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.

Sharing Jesus (Part 3)

Posted by on August 22, 2007 under Sermons

Let’s begin with a reading this morning. Please take a Bible and read with me.

John 6:31-40 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ?He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’ ” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”

To give a gift because the person is moved to give the gift with no sense of obligation is a precious, meaningful act. The more significant the gift is to the giver, the more the giver honors the receiver. May I call a truth to your attention: It is as important to know how to receive with appreciation as it is to give with honor. Those who have the hardest time learning this lesson are those who spend their lives giving.

Let me share an illustration.
Often there is a distinct contrast between a Christmas gift and an impromptu gift. In the Christmas gift there is an unspoken rule: You must have a gift to give the person who gives you a gift. So when the giver receives a gift, the immediate thought is, "What do I have to give him or her in return?"

In the Christmas gift, too often we give with the expectation of receiving. We try to anticipate how much the person who gives to us will spend. We commonly measure what we will spend on our anticipation of what the other person will spend. Often we have as much concern with what we spend as with the gift we give.

Then there is the use of the gift received. We will wear it, or hang it, or display it more out of concern that the giver knows we appreciate the gift than we actually take pride in the gift. In Christmas gifts, there are rules.

In contrast, the impromptu gift is unexpected. It is given strictly because the giver wishes to give. The receiver may feel a sense of embarrassment because he or she was surprised and had nothing to give in return. Yet, the receiver knows without question he or she was given the gift because the giver wished him or her to have it.

Thus, the receiver feels a sense of honor. The gift is cherished because of what it represents.

What God did for us in giving us Jesus literally is beyond human comprehension. God did not act out of obligation, but out of desire. In His gift is life that not even death can rob.

In this lesson, I will attempt to increase our understanding of the incredible thing God did for us in giving us Jesus.

  1. I think Genesis, the Bible’s first book, quickly introduces us to the problem.
    1. In chapter one, God creates and is pleased with all He creates, including people, both male and female.
      1. Genesis 1:31 says, "God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good."
      2. I think most of us understand that if God is pleased and says something is good, it is truly good.
      3. We understand from Genesis 2 that for people there was no sense of shame, nothing to generate a sense of guilt, consequently no bad conscience, no enemies, consequently no fear, and no human need.
      4. Genesis 3:8 strongly suggests there was daily, personal communication between God and people–there was no need for people to be afraid of God.
    2. In Genesis 3, the sin of rebellion is injected into the relationship between God and people.
      1. There are two primary results.
      2. The first is that God’s creation is perverted and can no longer serve its intended purpose.
      3. The second is that God’s relationship with people is destroyed.
      4. By the time we reach Genesis 6, the God who was pleased with the goodness of creation is now grieved.
    3. Genesis 6:5-7, Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.”
      1. God, upon completion, looked at His creation and said it was good. Now he looks upon His creation with sadness, wishing he never made it.
      2. Why? He did so because of the actions of people.
        1. He made people good; now they are thoroughly evil.
        2. Because of their evil, they perverted all He made.
        3. Nothing served its original purpose.
        4. God’s creation became something He never intended it to be.
    4. God faced a dilemma.
      1. Would he destroy everything as a bad idea?
      2. Would he seek to redeem people and seek restoration of His purpose?
      3. Thankfully for us, God choose the route of redemption.
      4. In God’s choice there is the decision to restore humanity to a state of relationship with God.
        1. The ultimate goal is to have people return to being "good" as people were when God made them.
        2. That basically is what heaven will be–people again will be free from sin and in full, immediate relationship with God.
  2. The Bible is the winding road God travels in which God seeks to establish a means to call people back to Himself through a redemption that works by reaching out to all people.
    1. God sought to begin again with Noah and his family.
      1. It did not work!
      2. In less than one generation the problem of sin was pronounced.
      3. People just could not handle the problems of sin and temptation (and still cannot).
    2. The patient God waited until He revealed Himself to a man like Abraham.
      1. From the childless Abraham, God produced a family.
      2. From that imperfect family, God produced a nation.
      3. From the imperfect nation, God produced a Messiah (Christ).
      4. From that perfect Messiah (Christ), God produced a means for all people to be redeemed.
      5. To me, the incredible significance of Abraham is declared by God as He prepared to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah:
        Genesis 18:17-19, The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed? For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.”
    3. God’s intent to produce a blessing (the blessing of redemption) for all people is evident from the time of Abraham.
      1. To Abraham, God said:
          Genesis 12:3, "And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
          Genesis 22:18, "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
          Genesis 26:4, "I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed;
          Genesis 28:14, "Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed."

        To Abraham’s descendants, God said:

          Isaiah 51:4, “Pay attention to Me, O My people, And give ear to Me, O My nation; For a law will go forth from Me, And I will set My justice for a light of the peoples."
          Isaiah 42:6, “I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations,”
          Isaiah 49:6  “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
      2. When Jesus was presented at the temple as an infant, Simeon read:
        Luke 2:27-32 And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation, Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A Light of revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.”
      3. When some of the Jews rejected Paul’s message about Jesus at Antioch of Pisidia, listen to what he said:
        Acts 13:46-48 Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, ?I have placed You as a light for the Gentiles, That You may bring salvation to the end of the earth.’ ” When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
      4. When Paul offered his defense before King Agrippa, Paul said:
        Acts 26:22,23–"So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”
      5. Paul wrote this to Galatian Christians:
        Galatians 3:16, "Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, ‘and to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘and to your seed,’ that is, Christ.
      6. God’s intention from at least the time of Abraham was to redeem people through the Messiah (Hebrew language) or the Christ (Greek language).

There are two things I would like for you to see and remember: (1) Our salvation began from God’s decision and God’s patience. Humanity, including you and I, were helpless. There is nothing we could or can do of ourselves to force God to save us. The origin of salvation rests in the fact the God is good, not that we are good. (2) God made an enormous investment in our salvation, and God’s investment began long before He sent His son to die for us.

The opportunity for salvation is God’s gift to us. We cannot earn it. All we can do is accept it with appreciation. Our obedience is never an attempt to earn our salvation. Obedience is our way to accept God’s gift with sincere appreciation.

The issue for us is not what God has done for us. The issue for us is this: Have we accepted the gift? Do we continue accepting it by showing our appreciation for God’s gift?

Sharing Jesus (Part 2)

Posted by on August 21, 2007 under Sermons

May we begin with this reading:

John 5:19-30, Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment. I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.

The giving of gifts is an art form in any society. For example, one must understand the value of a gift before he understands the significance of the gift. The significance of a gift is not determined by the receiver but by the giver. Until the receiver appreciates the significance of a gift, he/she is not in a position to appreciate the significance of the gift. If the receiver thinks of the value of the gift only in selfish terms (considering only what the gift means to him), he may miss the significance and value of the gift.

Permit me to give two examples to illustrate the truth of the statement just made.

Years ago, by virtue of opportunity I did not create and circumstances I did not produce, I helped complete a lengthy process that gave the church legal status in another country. The students in the Bible training school in which I taught wanted to celebrate that positive conclusion to a lengthy, uncertain process of questionable outcome. A part of the celebration involved the students laughingly, giddily, dressing me as a chief and presenting me with certain items that looked interesting but rather common to me. A year later I learned by accident the significance of the honor they showed me and the effort they made to obtain permission to present me with what I regarded to be "common items." Only then did I begin to realize the significance of what they did. My appreciation of their gift was immediately transformed.

The second example comes from Luke 21:1-4. As Jesus watched the wealthy place their gifts in the temple treasury to support the temple’s work, he observed a poor widow (the height of helplessness among the helpless) placing two small (we likely would say tiny) copper coins in the same treasury for the same purposes. Jesus stated, "She has given more than the wealthy gave." What a strange statement! How much wood for the sacrifices would her two small coins buy? Jesus explained, "The wealthy gave from their surplus. She gave all she had to live on." One could not appreciate the significance of what she gave until he understood what her gift meant to her.

The patience of God in producing our salvation is much more than good news–it is incredible news!

  1. From the moment sin began its rule over people (Genesis 3), God began His redemption journey that would culminate in humans having the choice of salvation.
    1. In God’s determined pursuit of our salvation, He endured much to give us the choice to be reunited with Him, just as people were given the choice to rebel against Him.
      1. People chose to be rebellious.
      2. God labored to give us the choice to be righteous before Him.
    2. The patient God watched as a humanity that began in absolute goodness descended into absolute evil.
      1. When God looked at all He made (including people), he was pleased!
        Genesis 1:27-31, God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food," and it was so. God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
      2. Then God watched as a humanity that was good and pleased Him descended into evil through choices God did not make.
        Genesis 6:5-6, Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
        1. Though only three chapters are involved, a lot of time passed.
        2. In this transition, there were people like Abel, Seth, Enoch, the people who called on the Lord’s name (Genesis 4:26), and the sons of God (Genesis 6:2).
        3. God watched as people made bad choices, and all people such as Seth, Enoch, and the sons of God disappeared.
        4. He watched as people became so wicked that they did not have any good intents–they were inwardly evil as well as evil acting.
        5. He watched until the human wickedness was so great that He was sorry that He made human beings and was deeply grieved at what people had become.
        6. Yet, in all this He did not give up–rather He attempted to begin again.
      3. Yet, God’s attempt to begin again met with failure because, again, a human made a rebellious choice.
    3. Even though God’s attempt to begin again was frustrated by human decisions to do evil, God did not give up.
      1. He waited until a man like Abraham existed.
      2. Though Abraham was likely an idol worshipper before he met God, living in a society that looked upon deity with idolatrous views (see Joshua 24:2), Abraham was a man capable of enormous faith in God once God spoke to him.
      3. Abraham, in faith, did things most of us would not seriously consider doing.
        1. Though he was a very obedient man, he is forever known as the man capable of great faith in God.
        2. As an act of faith, he lived as a nomad in a area where evil people coveted what he possessed.
        3. As an act of faith, he was willing to sacrifice his son of promise to God Who made the promise.
    4. The patient God waited until the man of faith became a nation.
      1. Have you ever thought about how long it takes a man without children to become a nation?
      2. The patient God waited until the family of Abraham became a mass of slaves in a country that wanted them to be there as slaves, but not as a people.
      3. The patient God prepared them a leader, removed them (with major opposition) from slavery, delivered them at the Red Sea, and led them to Sinai.
      4. Everything they were, and everything they would become, they owed to God.
        1. He rescued them from slavery.
        2. He gave them freedom.
        3. He made it possible for them to have a country of their own.
        4. He provided them the guidance they needed to allow them to become a people like no other people in their time.
        5. Without the acts of God, they would not even exist–they literally owed God everything.
      5. And all God wanted was a people who listened to Him, who lived in His ways, and who were uniquely His people–what God wanted was the source of their blessings!
    5. The patient God proceeded toward His objective even when Israel was faithless in its leadership or as a people or both.
      1. He worked with Israel through the period of the judges, even when Israel was faithless.
      2. He worked with Israel in the the period of the united kingdom even though 2 of the 3 kings abandoned Him, and all 3 made inexcusable mistakes.
      3. He worked with the 10 tribes who devoted themselves to idolatry until the Assyrian captivity, giving them repeated opportunities to turn from their evil.
      4. He worked with Judah until, through, and after the Babylonian captivity.
      5. He worked with the returning remnant through the period between the Old and New Testaments.
      6. In all these hundreds of years, Israel was faithless much more often than they were faithful, but the patient God refused to give up until He achieved His objective of creating opportunity for reconciliation.
  2. Finally, God could send His Messiah (Christ) with a realistic expectation that someone would listen to him and make the choice to be reconciled to God.
    1. When he was born, the angels announced it:
      And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:9-14).
    2. When Jesus was presented at the temple, Simeon said:
      Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation, Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A Light of revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel (Luke 2:29-32).
    3. At 12 years of age, Jesus said of himself:
      “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)
    4. When the man Jesus approached John the baptizer, John said of him:
      “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He on behalf of whom I said, ?After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.”  John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ?He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God” (John 1:29-34).
    5. Years later Peter wrote these words regarding God’s redemptive work in Jesus:
      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 (2 Peter 3:8, 9).

Have you ever seen the patience of God in your salvation? Have you ever considered how long God endured in order to give you opportunity to be reconciled to God?

Have you responded to God’s patience by making your choice to be reconciled to Him?

None of us begin to know what a great thing the patient God has done for us in our salvation until we begin to understand what God endured to make our salvation possible.

The Prayer of a Righteous Man

Posted by on August 19, 2007 under Sermons

Daniel 9: Three Parts

  1. Daniel’s Study (9:1-3)
  2. Daniel’s Prayer (9:4-19)
  3. Gabriel’s Reply (9:20-27)
    1. Response to Study and Prayer

Daniel’s Study

    “This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,” declares the LORD. – Jer. 25:11-12

Seventy Years

  • The duration of the Babylonian Exile is for a single generation’s life span
  • Seventy is 7 x 10 = Completion
  • Two ages in view – 6th century and 2nd century

The Prayer

  1. Affirmation of God’s righteousness
  2. Acknowledgment of sinfulness
  3. Appeal to God’s righteousness

    Similar to prayers in 1 Kings 8, Ezra 9, Nehemiah 9, Psalm 79

Apocalyptic Faith

    In apocalyptic literature, the faithful are always subject to two forces: persecution and compromise. In Revelation, the threat to the faithful comes from the beast (persecution) and the harlot (compromise)

Seventy Weeks

  • Seventy sevens are decreed . . .
  • To finish transgression and put an end sin
  • To atone for wickedness and bring everlasting righteousness
  • To seal up the vision and anoint the holy one

Seventy Weeks = 490 Years

  • No chronological schedule fits
  • The phases of the 70 weeks are more important than the historical chronology . . .
  • 7 weeks, 62 weeks, 1 week (and half of that week)
  • Jerusalem and Temple is the focus

Phase 1 – 7 Weeks

  • Begins with the word going out to restore Jerusalem
  • Jeremiah’s prophecy
  • Cyrus’ edict (Ezra 1:2-4)
  • Artaxerxes permit to Ezra
  • The coming of the Anointed One
  • Zerubbabel and Jeshua

Phase 2 – 62 Weeks

  • In this phase, the city is rebuilt in detail but in troubled times
  • This phase ends when the Anointed One (the high priest) is “cut off and will have nothing.”
  • The agents of the “ruler who is to come” destroys the city and temple.

1 Maccabees 1:11-15
In those days certain renegades came out from Israel and misled many, saying, “Let us go and make a covenant with the Gentiles around us, for since we separated from them many disasters have come upon us.” This proposal pleased them, and some of the people eagerly went to the king, who authorized them to observe the ordinances of the Gentiles. So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, according to Gentile custom, and removed the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant. They joined with the Gentiles and sold themselves to do evil.

2 Maccabees 4:7-15
When Seleucus died and Antiochus, who was called Epiphanes, succeeded to the kingdom, Jason the brother of Onias obtained the high priesthood by corruption … When the king assented and Jason came to office, he at once shifted his compatriots over to the Greek way of life.

Phase 3 – 1 Week

  • Onias III, the last faithful high priest, is killed in 171 BC
  • The new leaders corrupt the Temple and bring in Greek culture [The anti-covenant]
  • In 167 BC, Antiochus Epiphanes IV further ruins Jerusalem and prohibits Jewish faith
  • Antiochus desecrates the Temple (1 Macc. 1:54-59 and 2 Macc. 6:1-2)
  • The desecration of the Temple last about 3.5 years (The middle of the week)
  • The Temple is rededicated in 164 BC – about 7 years after 171 BC

So What? [The Message of Daniel 9]

  • Scriptural perspective on history and circumstances
  • Corporate sin: The people suffered for their lack of faithfulness and righteousness
  • Prayer appeals to God’s righteousness
  • Hope in God to set things right

Additional Notes:

  1. What are the number of years according to Jeremiah? The devastation of Jerusalem? (9:1-2)
    1. Apocalyptic meaning of 70 – 7 x 10. Completion and augmentation
    2. Daniel is studying Scripture.
    3. Jeremiah 25:11-12 and Jer. 29:10 [See also Isa. 40-55]
    4. The message of Jeremiah and the 70 years is: “None of you are going home. Make a life in exile. Your descendents will return.
  2. How did Judah and Jerusalem sin? What is the curse and oath written in the law of Moses? (vv. 11-13) See 9:3-14
  3. Note the structure of Daniel’s prayer – Affirmation of God’s nature; affirmation (confession) of sin; appeal for forgiveness; appeal to God’s nature and righteousness. [Other examples of prayer – 1 Kings 8:46-53; Ezra 9:6-15; Neh. 9:6-37; Psalm 79; Baruch 1:15-3:8; Prayer of Azariah 1-22; Prayer of Manasseh]
    1. Note the admission of sin. Another feature of apocalyptic is to hold accountable those who have been seduced or lost hope. It is not enough to promise the defeat and destruction of the persecutor. The persecuted have to be made accountable. (In Rev. chapter 18 functions in this way as do portions of the seven letters).
    2. The use of OT history is important in Daniel 9. It hasn’t been used like this before in the book
    3. Daniel’s prayer refers to the covenant, prophets, kings, law of Moses, Exodus. This is the history of God’s work among his people. It is core to Hebrew faith. If God has acted like so in the past, then we can count on him to be consistent in the future.
    4. The prayer of Daniel is similar to the prayers of 1 Kings and Ezra and Nehemiah and Baruch- they are a reaction to the fall of Jerusalem and the Exile. The Jewish people had to come to grips with this cataclysmic event just as we have had to come to grips with 9/11. One of the ways they interpreted the event was to accept it as God’s judgment and refinement.
  4. The concern of the prayer is the destruction and desolation of Jerusalem. Why is this a problem (in the 6th century)? Why is this a problem (in 2nd century)?
    1. For someone in Daniel’s time (6th c.) the 70 years is expanded to seventy “weeks of years” or seventy seven’s = 490 years. [Think decades being turned into definite periods – the 60’s 70’s 80’s etc.; one of their important multiples was 7] This could be depressing to the 6th century
    2. But the message is for the 2nd century and it promises change in their own day
    3. Sabbatical years (7 year cycle) and Jubilee years (49 year cycle)
    4. Israel continues to suffer because their sinfulness continues. [What was going on in the 2nd century?]
  5. What are the seventy weeks? [Note all that will be done in the 70 weeks] 9:24
    1. Gabriel is responding to Daniel’s concern to understand Jeremiah’s 70 years. The 70 years are redefined as 70 weeks. This is a common apocalyptic technique.
    2. Six things happen through these 70 years:
      1. To finish the transgression
      2. To put and end to sin
      3. To atone for iniquity
      4. To bring in everlasting righteousness
      5. To seal both vision and prophet
      6. To anoint a most holy place
    3. 7 weeks [49 years?] – Word goes out to restore Jerusalem and anointing of a prince
    4. 62 weeks [434 years?] – rebuilding of Jerusalem in a troubled time
    5. After 62 weeks – the anointed one is cut off, troops of the “prince who is to come” shall destroy city and sanctuary, end shall come with flood, war, desolations decreed
    6. 1 week [7 years – 3.5 years for half a week] – He makes strong covenant with many (for half of that week he makes sacrifice and offering cease and desolates with the abomination) All until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.

Interpretation of Daniels’ Seventy Weeks

  • Attempts to make it fit a chronology are unlimited.
  • None of the reasonable attempts fits well and none are widely accepted.
  • There is no clear reference point for the 62 weeks. It is expanded time to account for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple
  • The first seven is a little less vague – It could be Jeremiah’s prophecy. It could be Artaxerxes – In 458-457 BC Artaxerxes gave Ezra permission to return to Jerusalem with exiles. This interpretation ends in the lifetime of Christ (though not with precision – 25 to 32 AD), but it doesn’t account for the final week. The anointing of a prince may fit the anointing of the high priest Joshua (Ezra 3, Haggai 1:12 ad 2:2 and Zech 3) – Joshua/Jeshua is Hebrew for Jesus
  • The final week is the least vague of the references and it makes sense for it to fall into the second century – [And if you back date the 490 years you end up in the mid 7th century which is long before the exile and it doesn’t make sense to send out word to restore Jerusalem before it has even fallen]
  • The 70 weeks of years has no interest in corresponding to actual chronology -This is an allegorical, heavenly, visionary view of time. [The ancients were not as concerned with chronology as we are.]
  • The final week:
    1. Onias III, high priest in Jerusalem is killed in 171 BC [2 Maccabees 4:34-38] See also 1 Macc. 1:20-35 and 2 Macc 5:11-21
    2. The strong covenant is between Antiochus and the “reform party” (Hellenistic Jews) which gave Jerusalem a charter as a Hellenistic city and introduced Greek institutions such as the ephebeion “guild of young men,” the boule council of elders, and the gymnasium 1 Macc 1:11-15 and 1 Macc 4:9-15]
    3. Ultimately, Antiochus proscribed the practice of Judaism and the sacrifices in the temple. He even desecrates it. 1 Macc 1:54-59 and 2 Macc 6:1-2
    4. The temple is rededicated in 164 BC (seven years)
    5. 3.5 years is an incomplete cycle. A short time. The time of the desolation was about 3.5 years.
    6. The message is that Daniel’s readers are in the last week (or right after it) and its all going to be ended soon and the six things promised will take place.
    7. The message is that there will be an end and everything that has taken place is under God’s watch and it is the consequence of the sin of God’s people (they are all guilty and culpable as a people).

Crossing Boundaries

Posted by on under Sermons

[Read Acts 10-11.]

Acts 10 is a tale of two cities. More so its an account of two men, Cornelius and Peter, who were divided not only by distance but culture. Under any other circumstances, the paths of these two would not have crossed in any significant way. But God is active in crossing the boundaries and barriers that kept them apart …

Caesarea – Cornelius is military. He’s been deployed to Palestine. He has status and rank. He is among the auxiliary troops that provided stability in Palestine. Cornelius is far from home. He’s from Italy. He is a stranger in a strange land. He stands out. He’s clean shaven with cropped hair. He dresses different. He eats different food. But he is also a religious man. It’s not just show. He is devout and godly – (maybe even godlier than some of the chosen ones in this land.) He respects God. He leads his household in honoring God. He keeps a routine of prayer. He gives money to the poor. But even though he’s a godly man he’s still an outsider in Palestine.

And then one day during his regular routine of prayer, God responds to the prayers of a Gentile … an un-baptized, uncircumcised, unclean Gentile.

Joppa – If anyone is an insider, it’s Peter. He is one of the leaders in Jerusalem. He is one of the Twelve. He is one of the “three” with James and John who accompanied Jesus to the mountain of transfiguration. The apostle Peter is hungry. He’s resting on the roof of Simon the Tanner’s house waiting for supper and he falls into a trance. God knows Peter is hungry, so he spreads a picnic blanket for Peter and decides to serve up some barbeque. The catch is Peter has to catch it and kill it. But more than that. There’s game being served up that is clearly un-Scriptural. Pork, shrimp, crab may taste good grilled with sauce – but it’s a Jewish no-no. And even though God is being quite gracious with the picnic, Peter stands on tradition. Peter protests noting that he’s never even soiled his lips with the taste of unbiblical food. It’s unclean and Peter refuses to eat this gentile food! In fact Peter refuses it three times – (he’s good at triple denial.) But before God leaves with the picnic blanket and the wild game he leaves Peter with a lesson: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.”

Just then three Gentiles show up at the door. If Peter thought his vision might have been a fainting spell, the Spirit makes it clear that Peter should welcome these Gentiles and go where they want him to go. So Peter offers hospitality to these strangers — these Gentiles.

Meanwhile back in Caesarea, Cornelius has gathered his family, his relatives, his business associates. Really the sort of people you wouldn’t find in the typical Jerusalem synagogue. There must have been an odd sort of tension when Peter, the Hebrew religious leader, entered the house of Cornelius, the unclean foreigner. This bunch is so odd, they don’t do things the right way. Poor Cornelius doesn’t know whether to shake Peter’s hand or bow down and worship him. And Peter feels sort of awkward when Cornelius does bow down. Jew and Gentile and the first meeting couldn’t have been any more awkward.
But Peter decides to break the tension. After all, he learned a lesson from God just the other day: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” And so Peter breaks the tension … Read 10:28-29.

It was starting to become clear that God had set up a blind date of sorts. He told Cornelius to send for Peter, but wouldn’t tell him what Peter knows. He told Peter to go Cornelius’ house, but wouldn’t tell him why. There’s God setting it all up so that these people from different nations have to depend on each other. Even Peter the insider has to ask questions to get the full story. When Cornelius tells Peter that he has been acting on behalf of God, Peter gets more insight into what God is doing … Read 10:34-43.

Before Peter can finish his gospel sermon, God breaks in. The Holy Spirit moves among these Gentiles in the same way it did in Jerusalem. Yes, even in this house of unclean, uncircumcised, Gentiles the Holy Spirit showers approval. And no one is more surprised than Peter and company. They just stand there bewildered and ask “So what do you think – should we baptize them?” They do. And then they really break with custom and tradition by staying a few nights as the guests of Cornelius.

This is good news, but it’s also offensive. Things don’t seem to happen in the proper order. Things don’t happen with decorum and decency. Social and religious customs are just tossed out the window. There’s no concern for purity. There’s no concern for the ways of the past. I am sure there were a lot of really good reasons that God’s people typically didn’t socialize or associate with the unclean people from other nations. After all, how can you teach people the laws if you abandon them yourself?

Well, Peter faces this line of questioning when he gets home. Everyone has heard the news that the Gentiles have received the gospel. But Peter hasn’t been back in Jerusalem for any time at all when some of the concerned brethren approach him. They’re upset. “Peter!” they say, “You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!”
So what’s Peter going to say? It’s true. He did that. And that’s a no-no. It’s just not done. So Peter tells them the story from the beginning … Read 11:5-17.

Who are any of us to stand in God’s way? The good news of this story is that God is offering eternal life to people who aren’t just like us. That’s good news, but it’s also sort of offensive. Rick Atchley tells the story of a woman who was looking at photos of African Christians on a church bulletin board. They were photos sent by missionaries. The woman spoke to the folks around her and said, “I really wish they wouldn’t baptize so many of those dark-skinned people. I don’t like the thought of all them in heaven.” When this woman heard that heaven was a gated community she got the wrong idea. And that’s what God did in the first century and what he still does today. He really doesn’t have much respect for the boundaries and distinctions that we consider so important. As Peter said, “God doesn’t show favoritism.” No, he doesn’t. God is more concerned that a person respects him and does what is right. And God isn’t offended by that person’s family, or race, or financial status, or even what that person may have done in his/her past. In the future that God has in mind, there will be peace and he will not only save our souls, he will save our relationships with one another.

The good news of this story is that God is out there offering eternal life before we even decide to act. That’s good news, but it’s also sort of offensive. It’s offensive because God doesn’t ask us for permission. This is humbling – and it ought to be humbling because if the apostle Peter had to catch up to God’s activity, who are we to think we are in the position to bring anything to anyone? [Story about missionary to San Francisco]

The good news of this story is that God is saving and redeeming people that we might not think about. That’s good news, but it’s also sort of offensive. We might be like the believers in Jerusalem and get concerned about other things. But there’s more good news for us if we’re willing to hear it. The good news is that God is also at work saving and redeeming us, just as he did with Peter. He taught Peter not to call unclean anything that God makes clean. And the concerned believers in Jerusalem, when they heard Peter’s story accepted it too. They didn’t consider Cornelius and his clan to be “the Gentile members.” They accepted them as brothers and sisters. They stopped objecting and started praising God.

Who’s converted in this story? It’s not just Cornelius and his kin. Peter is also converted. The believers in Jerusalem are also converted. Because Christ is Lord over all people he is reconciling us to himself and to one another.

When God’s power is at work among us, we may be surprised at what God will do. It may even make us concerned at times, but who are we to stand in God’s way. If we can accept what God is doing then we may find we are out of objections and we will simply praise God.

Sharing Jesus (Part 1)

Posted by on August 16, 2007 under Sermons

I want us to prayerfully begin with a reading. Take a Bible and read with me John 1:1-5.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

John began writing his gospel (the word means "good news") by introducing Jesus. While each of the gospels were written to a specific readership for specific objectives, they all also shared a common goal. Each of them wanted to introduced their original readers to the man Jesus and affirm God the Father worked through him to achieve God’s long-standing purposes. Each gospel identified Jesus as the focal point of God’s work. Simply stated, one cannot understand God’s work unless he/she understands Jesus.

John’s introduction is profound! If you have been a part of the church of Christ for a few years, you likely have heard at least one part of the introduction discussed in a class or a sermon. In a brief declaration, John affirmed Jesus’ origin, Jesus’ role in creation in Jesus’ pre-human existence, Jesus as the source of life, and Jesus as the light. I would like you to focus on Jesus as the source of life and light.

  1. When I was a teen (many years ago), my understanding of what I heard was this: Sharing the gospel is a simple matter.
    1. The process of this sharing was quite simple.
      1. Any caring person would quickly see the genuineness of your message.
      2. All you needed to do was present their need and their responsibility.
      3. As soon as the one receiving your message understood his/her need and responsibility, they would respond.
      4. The core of the concept seemed to be this: factual information presented, plus the presentation of need, resulted in a response (that is quite simple).
        1. Thus, knowledge of the facts resulted in a response to the facts.
        2. Spiritual growth and development was assumed.
        3. Devotion to the church was assumed.
        4. A change in lifestyle was assumed.
        5. It was assumed that if a person was converted, he/she would become "just like you."
    2. Those were simple, convenient assumptions in that situation.
      1. We pretty much lived in isolation.
      2. There were only white, lower middle-class people in the county.
        1. While there were some distinctly poor people there, such people were the minority.
        2. Almost everyone was similar–struggling to improve their lifestyle but not at all regarding themselves as deprived.
      3. There was a total absence of colors, cultures, or languages–only English was spoken, people were white, and only the local culture existed.
      4. The assumption among the younger people (teens) was that even if colors and languages existed, everyone would be the same–just look different or sound different.
      5. Of the thirteen congregations of the church of Christ in the county at that time, twelve were rural.
        1. Only one congregation existed "in town."
        2. It had the only full time preacher in the area.
    3. One of the naive convictions of people who live in isolation is that they are equipped with an uncanny insight that gives them all the answers–and the answers are simple.
      1. Life was simple so problems, by declaration, were simple.
      2. Needs were simple so solutions were simple.
      3. Problems primarily existed because people complicated life by ignoring the simple.
      4. As a result, there was a genuine willingness to help "those who are trying" and a deep confusion when those with complex problems were occasionally encountered.
  2. How the situation has changed most everywhere in the last 50 years!
    1. Whereas "culture" was not even a word I heard in my teen years, it is often a common vocabulary word of almost everyone.
      1. Differences in color often mean differences in outlooks, traditions, values, concerns, and priorities.
      2. Differences in languages also often reflect differences in outlooks, traditions, values, concerns, and priorities.
      3. In our city there is a Buddhist temple, several Moslem mosques, and a group of Jewish worshippers with deep roots in this community.
      4. Recently, I was in our mall in the early evening, and I could have been in any cosmopolitan city of the U.S.A. as I listened to diverse languages–English definitely was not predominant!
      5. In our physical church facilities:
        1. A congregation of Laotians meet weekly with a Laotian minister maintaining an office in the physical complex.
        2. We are building a Hispanic building as we and our Hispanic brethren move toward an independent Hispanic work in our city.
        3. In the original congregation, we have African-American members, Laotian members, Hispanic members, and Native American members, as well as Caucasian members–all of whom rarely miss meeting as a congregation on Sunday morning.
        4. Any person who thinks we are all alike with our different cultural backgrounds simply because we all speak English is either unobservant or pretending.
  3. The challenges in sharing Jesus are enormous!
    1. Recently, I began (again) reading What Every Church Member Should Know About Poverty by Ruby K. Payne and Bill Ehlig.
      1. What they share is enlightening and frightening at the same time.
      2. They discuss and illustrate the hidden languages and hidden rules of the poor, the middle class, and the wealthy–and these languages and rules are silent!
      3. The different ways that people in different socio-economic groups think regarding "every day" matters is astounding.
        1. The different groups do not approach living and life’s needs in the same way.
        2. They do not value the same things.
        3. They do not learn in the same way (different groups approach their perception of needs in totally different ways)–cause, plus effect, and drawing a conclusion or conclusions, is meaningless to some groups.
      4. Some groups do not approach life with "a plan."
        1. If you do not learn how to plan, you cannot predict.
        2. If you cannot predict, you do not identify cause and effect.
        3. If you cannot identify cause and effect, you cannot identify consequence.
        4. If you do not identify cause and effect:
          1. You do not end impulsive acts.
          2. If you encourage impulsiveness, the end result is often criminal behavior.
    2. To conclude that just putting out facts that concern us will evangelize people is thinking that misses the reality of our situation in our country as well as the world.
      1. Why should your view of life and death be my view of life and death?
      2. What do the concepts that concern you mean to me?
      3. Why should I trust your facts?
      4. Why should my daily life change?
      5. Why should I concern myself with the future?
      6. Why should I concern myself with what happens after death?
      7. Why should the thoughts that concern you concern me?
      8. Why should the values that concern you concern me?
    3. Here is  one example of failure (as a congregation) to understand that different groups learn and perceive on a different basis:
      1. Congregations assume that if a person understands enough to be baptized (which in most cases is very little), the person knows enough to understand what it means to be a Christian.
      2. Then the same congregations often are in constant struggle and turmoil as baptized-but-unconverted people constantly champion values that are decidedly unbiblical and unchristian as people reflect little or no interest in being Jesus’ disciples.
      3. Such congregations are commonly consumed with internal struggles to the extent that they become virtually paralyzed.
  4. We as Christians, individually and congregationally, desperately need a more biblical view of evangelism and conversion.
    1. There is an enormous difference in being convinced of some "facts" and wanting to be Jesus’ disciple.
      1. Consider a contrast.
        1. A troublesome view:
          1. "I need to believe? Okay, done that."
          2. "I need to repent? Okay, done that."
          3. "I need to be baptized? Okay, done that."
          4. "Now what can I expect from God? No serious sickness in my family, right? No tragedy in my family, right? Opportunities for prosperity, right? A lifestyle I really enjoy, right?"
        2. A biblical view:
          1. "Jesus Christ can show me how to escape the effects of my mistakes and focus me on the eternal, both in this life and in my death."
          2. "Through him my life can have a hope-filled meaning and purpose available nowhere else in nothing else."
          3. "In him is freedom from every wrong I have done and from the fear of dying."
          4. "I believe in the resurrected Jesus Christ."
          5. "I turn from the life I have lived."
          6. "I want to be baptized so I can enter a different existence."
          7. "I want to be Jesus Christ’s disciple to express my appreciation for his allowing me to be a part of God’s family."
          8. "I want to be a disciple; I want to learn how to live; I want to serve; I want to use life for something eternal, something besides me and my desires."
          9. "I want God to remake me as a person and use me."
      2. Could you contrast a congregation filled with the people first described and the people last described?
        1. We will become congregations filled with the people last described only when we become a converted people who place total confidence in Jesus Christ as the way to God.
        2. We will become congregations filled with converted people only when we all seek Jesus as the source of life.
        3. We will become congregations filled with converted people only when we want to be light in a dark society that loves evil and its expressions.
    2. So, I urge you as Christians be Jesus’ light wherever you are, in all your life, in all you do.
      1. People may learn differently, but everyone understands a consistent example.
      2. People need to see the influences of Jesus Christ in you as a person who is single, as a wife, as a father, as a parent, and in all family relationships.
      3. People need to see the influence of Jesus Christ in your life as you work.
      4. People need to see Jesus Christ’s influence in your life in every community involvement you have.
    3. The essential step in being effectively evangelistic is developing a people who shine for Jesus everywhere, everyday in all they do.

We desperately need disciples of Jesus, not just people who go to church. Which are you?

God Is Not Shallow

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21)

Granite Gorge Almost a decade ago, Joyce and I visited the Grand Canyon for the first time. I have been to numerous places and seen numerous sights, but I have never seen anything that overpowered me as did the Grand Canyon. I have never seen a picture that did the Grand Canyon justice. It is simply too big and too vast for my mind to comprehend. I would love to see it again just to convince myself it is there. I know it is, but my mind kept asking, “Is that really there? Can anything that huge be real?” My reaction to the Grand Canyon is a mere introduction to Paul’s reaction to God’s accomplishments in Jesus.

Paul wrote long after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Prior to his conversion, Paul was quite knowledgeable in God’s past works (Galatians 1:14). Yet, with all he knew, nothing (not even God’s creative acts!) prepared Paul’s understanding for what God did (and does) in Jesus Christ! Nothing documents God’s greatness as do His accomplishments in Jesus Christ! Nothing documents the enormity of God’s love as does Jesus Christ! One cannot fathom God’s greatness until the person begins to see what God did in Jesus.

At times, I hear people speak of God and His ways as being simple. Sometimes I hear people who think they have God all figured out. When that happens, I shake my head internally. Is any ignorance greater than not knowing one is ignorant? The more I seek to understand God and His ways, the more I realize I have far more to understand than I have comprehended. Never will any of us totally comprehend Him in this life.

Always be open to God. Always listen to Him to understand, even if it means changing yourself. Let God mold you rather than you attempting to force God to fit your mold. The object of everyone in Christ is to become more like God. We are catastrophe! He is victory! We are sinful! He is righteous! His ways are not our ways. Our hope is found in being like Him. Never stop seeing Him “again” — He is there!

Limiting God

Posted by on August 9, 2007 under Bulletin Articles

Those criteria make acceptance of God’s person impossible since (a) He exceeds human comprehension, and (b) does many things humans would never do. For example, God’s patience referred to in last week’s article is definitely not human because humans simply do not do that. We get rid of the problem instead of enduring personal revulsion to reconcile the problem-makers.

Many of those who profess Christian faith, skillfully find a way around that dilemma by making God a superhuman. They say of anything passing human comprehension, “God would not do that.”

However, there are problem areas that do not disappear by forcing God to be human or by saying, “God would not do that.” Consider forgiveness. Human limits of forgiveness do not match God’s limits. Humans tend to give forgiveness to those they regard as “deserving” of their consideration.

For example, Christians tend to think of Paul as a pretty good guy. After all, he was a Christian, an apostle to the gentiles, a preacher, a missionary, and a New Testament writer. However, just before his conversion to Jesus Christ, his convictions were just plain mean. When the Christian Stephen was killed, Paul was there. He “amened” the act. He was actively involved. And who was Stephen? A Christian, a deacon in the Jerusalem congregation, one who cared about the needy, an evangelist! “Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison” (Acts 8:1-3).

On the day Paul was converted, he was on his way to Damascus to arrest Christians! Even as a Christian, he did not deny his past. “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor” (1 Timothy 1:12, 13). Can you believe God forgave and used a killer of Christians?

Paul declared that God forgave him to demonstrate that the patient God of mercy could forgive anyone (1 Timothy 1:16). John said God would forgive the Christian of “all” unrighteousness if he/she were honest enough to confess sins when he/she were aware of them (1 John 1:5-10). Baptism merely began an ongoing forgiveness from sin.

We can live with that kind of forgiveness! It is not human-like, but it surely is needed!