A Significant Crisis

Posted by on September 27, 2007 under Sermons

Among the common struggles we experience is our struggle for identity. That struggle begins very early in our lives. When we are quite young, our identity is commonly formed by our perception of our Mom and Dad. When we are a child at home before starting to school, we commonly exaggerate and embellish the images of our parents to fill our own needs for significance.

Then we begin our long journey through school. Constantly, we are trying to determine who we are. Do I determine my identity in terms of what I have? In terms of what I wear? In terms of who are my friends? In terms of what activity I am a part of? In terms of my skills (what I can do?) In terms of my interests?

In high school we get a degree in peer pressure. In college we get a graduate degree in peer pressure. If we are not very careful, in careers or jobs, peer pressure can determine what we buy, our priorities, and what we do. It takes a wise person to distinguish between peer pressure and personal interests.

Not only do we struggle with a sense of identity as a person, but we also struggle with a sense of identity in our institutions. That is ONE (just one) of the reasons some people do not like change within an institution. Being a part of the institution contributes to the person’s sense of identity. When change occurs that affects the institution in what the person regards as significant, they feel threatened.

Today, the church tends to be an "institution" in most of our thinking. We speak of "membership" in the concept of being an acknowledged member of a particular organization. The "membership" is determined by people who say a person is "in" or "out." Our common concept of membership often is in conflict with Acts 2:47 and the Lord adding to their number daily those being saved.

Christians tend to get more upset by the way worship is done than how people behave in their daily lives. "Where does the prayer come? Is there too much or too little prayer? Who leads the prayers? How many songs should we have? When should we sing? How old are the songs? Who leads the songs? Should songs be on a screen or in a book? Who can preach? What are the acceptable subjects? How often should he preach on a subject? Are his sermons too long or too short? When should we have communion? Who can serve it? How should it be done?" Thus, if the right things are done in the right way at the right time by the right people within the right time frame, it is a good worship and therefore a good congregation with good elders and a good preacher. The institution is good. If it is institutionally correct, the church is sound, the truth is taught, and our personal identity is intact. We have done "Church of Christ" things in "Church of Christ" ways and my identity is intact because I have declared, "I am Church of Christ." If I regard the institution as sound, then I can know I am sound because I am a member in a sound church. How does that concept fit with the fact that the congregation in Sardis was dying, desperately needing to repent, but they had a few worthy people who had not soiled their white garments (Revelation 3:1-4)? Worthy Christians in an "unsound congregation"? How can that be?

  1. The first thing I want to call to your attention is the fact that their evangelistic lessons focused on Jesus the Christ as Savior.
    1. First, direct your attention to the lessons in Acts and note how often people are called to the Savior.
      1. In Acts 2 Peter spoke to a Jewish audience after Jesus died and was resurrected.
        1. In verses 22-24, Peter focused his lesson on Jesus:
          Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know-this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.
        2. After Peter used proofs that his Jewish audience understood, he said in verse 36:
          Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ-this Jesus whom you crucified.”
      2. In Acts 3 when Peter and John went to the temple to pray and healed the lame man, Peter utilized his opportunity to teach by focusing their attention on Jesus:
        Acts 3:12-16, But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, “Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all.
      3. When Peter and John were arrested for their miracle and for teaching about Jesus, a part of their explanation to the court included this:
        Acts 4:8-12 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead-by this name this man stands here before you in good health. He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
      4. When all the apostles were arrested by the Jerusalem Sanhedrin, consider Gameliel’s advice to the counsel and the apostles’ reaction.
        Acts 5:38-42, So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
    2. The same was true when the message was spoken to the gentiles.
      1. Consider part of Peter’s message to Cornelius and those he assembled.
        Acts 10:34-43, Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)-you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”
      2. Consider Paul’s message to the Jewish synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia with gentiles in attendance.
        • Acts 13:32-39, And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ?You are My Son; today I have begotten You.’ As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: ?I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ Therefore He also says in another Psalm, ?You will not allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.’ For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay; but He whom God raised did not undergo decay. Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.
        • Acts 13:44-49, The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. 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. And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region.
  2. Throughout Acts the church is spoken of as the ekklesia, "the called out," God’s people who have been called out of an idolatrous world to enter Jesus Christ.
    1. Consider the fact that the church was a saved people.
      1. It experienced "great fear" (Acts 5:11).
      2. It could be persecuted (Acts 8:1).
      3. It could experience havoc (Acts 8:3).
      4. It could experience rest (Acts 9:31).
      5. It had ears (Acts 11:32).
      6. It could be mistreated or vexed (Acts 12:1).
      7. It could pray fervently (Acts 12:5).
      8. It could be gathered (Acts 14:27).
      9. It could bring people on their way (Acts 15:3) and receive them (Acts 15:4).
      10. It could be confirmed (Acts 15:41).
      11. It could be fed (Acts 20:28).
    2. Paul writings confirmed that the church was people who entered Christ.
      1. Most of his letters were addressed to the church at a specific place, even if it was as troubled as the church of Corinth.
      2. It was not to be "offended" (1 Corinthians 10:32).
      3. It could be persecuted (Galatians 1:13).
      4. It could be nourished and cherished (Ephesians 5:29).
      5. It can be saluted (Colossians 4:15) and hear a reading (Colossians 4:46).
  3. My point is not that Jesus and his church can be or should be separated; my point is that we should not reverse the roles served by Jesus and the church, thus making the church something it was not in the New Testament.
    1. Jesus is the Savior.
      1. He and he alone can extend salvation.
        As Peter said in Acts 4:8-12, Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead-by this name this man stands here before you in good health. He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
      2. It is his blood that cleanses us of our sins and his resurrection that gives us the expectation of life after we die.
    2. The church is those who are saved by the Savior.
      1. It does not have the power or the mission of saving.
      2. The church is the saved who are excited about what they have found, received in their Savior, Jesus.
    3. People are not converted to the church, but to Jesus.
      1. They are converted to the Savior to be part of the saved.
      2. They are not converted to be Saviors but to call people to the Savior.
      3. They allow Jesus to change their behavior so they can give glory to God, be Jesus’ disciples, and live as a contrast to godless lives in this world.

Then what is the crisis? It is the crises produced when we preach the church as an institution instead of people, when we deliberately create the impression that the church saves rather than Jesus, and when we assume people know Jesus. The result of this crisis is that people feel "spiritually safe" if they are a part of "the right" institution and exhibit very little faith in Jesus, or desire to change their behavior, or desire to involve their time and lives in God. This crisis commonly exists when people want "to belong" rather than serve. Rather than living lives of faith, we are convinced that all we have to do is conform to the demands of the institution.

Faith or Control

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

These are difficult days throughout our society and world. Faith in God is separated from everything. “Informed” people often regard believing, placing implicit trust in God, as an expression of superstition used by “weak” people. For the first time in any of our memories, it is becoming increasingly unpopular to place primary trust in God.

When faith is under so much stress in our society, it is easy for us to want to build defenses to protect ourselves. Rather than seeing opportunity in an increasingly hostile environment, we are tempted to huddle up with only us, see those who wish to be a part of us as potential threats, and cautiously welcome those who are totally in agreement.

Without realizing it, we are tempted to migrate toward a position of control instead of being a people of faith. We let “our light shine,” but too often the only time we turn the light of faith on is when we are inside our closed community.

What is the harm of exercising control rather than living in faith?

(1) People who are controlled are not people of faith. Thus when stress occurs, controlled people have little understanding of how to rely on God.

(2) God’s values in Jesus always have attacked faithlessness with love and compassion. Christians attract attention to God through their good works. (See Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:16.)

(3) Faith in Jesus advances through sacrificial service. Jesus became our Savior by dying. Christians of the first century often found life in him through suffering. (See Jesus’ statement in Matthew l0:38, and remember that the only use of a cross then was as a means of execution.)

Jesus died to be Savior. At his death, not even his disciples (who became his apostles) could see God at work. At the cross, to them, it looked as if Satan won and God lost. When Jesus physically rose from the dead, the apostles were elated-but they still did not see how God would use Jesus’ resurrection to accomplish His purposes. Yet, today we understand that God’s most significant achievement to date is seen in Jesus’ death and resurrection. What looked like defeat at the cost of enormous suffering was actually God’s greatest victory. May God always work through our suffering to produce His victories! May we dare to be a people of faith who live by God’s values even in times of stress!

Law and Order

Posted by on September 23, 2007 under Sermons

Code of Hammurabi

  • 6th century King of Babylon – Hammurabi is known for the set of laws called Hammurabi’s Code, one of the first written codes of law in recorded history.
  • 1810 – 1750 BC
  • He received the Babylonian Law code from the gods of Babylon
  • The Law Code is engraved on a stele and placed in public
  • Offenses receive specific penalty
  • Law greater than King

Sample Codes
#25 – If fire break out in a house, and some one who comes to put it out cast his eye upon the property of the owner of the house, and take the property of the master of the house, he shall be thrown into that self-same fire.
#108 – If a tavern-keeper (feminine) does not accept corn according to gross weight in payment of drink, but takes money, and the price of the drink is less than that of the corn, she shall be convicted and thrown into the water.
#127 – If any one “point the finger” (slander) at a sister of a god or the wife of any one, and can not prove it, this man shall be taken before the judges and his brow shall be marked. (by cutting the skin, or perhaps hair.)
#196 If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out.
#200 is tooth for tooth.
#218 – If a physician makes a large incision with the operating knife, and kill him, or open a tumor with the operating knife, and cut out the eye, his hands shall be cut off.

Ancient Law Codes

  • Law Code of Ur-Nammu (2100 BC)
  • Codex of Eshunna (1930 BC)
  • Lipit-Ishtar of Isin Code (1870 BC)

Two Types of Law
Apodictic law is the kind of law that we have in the Ten Commandments for example. It is not conditioned on anything. It is unconditional, it is general, it is unlimited, it may be expressed in the positive or the negative, but the “you shall not laws” are among the things that keep people out of trouble.

The Casuistic laws, on the other hand, are what might be called case law, where an instance of something is cited. In effect, an example or sample is cited, so these are conditional. These do not usually apply absolutely to everyone. They apply only when the conditions described in the law are met. They are very specific as guidelines rather than being universal.

Decalogue and Law

  • Exodus 20:1-17 are the Ten Words
  • Exodus 20:22 – 23:19 are Laws
  • The Laws are both Apodictic and Casuistic
  • The Decalogue is extremely Apodictic (See Deut. 5:22-32)
  • The Decalogue is unique in that none of the ten words carry a penalty or charge. They are apodictic, but even more so. They are behavioral and ethical. They have to do with character and relationship

Decalogue Structure
Words 1 – 4 describe the relationship with God.
Words 5 – 10 describe the relationship with one another.

Greatest Commandments
Love God with all you heart, soul, strength, and mind.
Love your neighbor as yourself.

The First Word

Posted by on under Sermons

There’s not a lot to brag about when it comes to flying on Southwest Airlines. The planes are high mileage. There’s in flight service is basic. Forget about movies and in-flight radio. There’s no formality. The flight crew is super-casual. You typically fly into the older, less used airports. Southwest is all about no frills bargains. It’s the Wal-Mart of airlines.

But Southwest Airlines has a way of making me feel great about flying on their planes. After the plane lands, a flight attendant grabs the mike and after announcing all the gates for connecting flights she will say, “We hope you enjoyed your flight today. We know that you have choices when you travel and we thank you for choosing Southwest Airlines.” Southwest Airlines may not give me the greatest airline snacks, but they recognize that I have the power to choose and they respect that. They make me feel good for choosing them instead of Delta, American, or Continental. Southwest knows that I am a customer and they are so thankful and appreciative of me. And they had better appreciate me – or I may just fly Northwest!

Perhaps God could learn a lesson from Southwest Airlines. You see, God has always been in competition with other gods. In ancient times there were dozens of gods to choose from. Really neat gods and goddesses with cool names – they went on adventures and had magic powers.
Well, we’re supposedly enlightened now and grown up past such beliefs. But there are still choices. Today one can choose different types of spirituality. One doesn’t even have to have a god in order to be spiritual. So, God isn’t the only option. God might think about the choices that people have and try to respect that. Maybe he should do more to greet us when we come to worship him and then send us out with a word of thanks saying, “I hope you enjoyed your worship today. I know that you have choices when it comes to a Supreme Being and I thank you for choosing God.”

But God isn’t listening to Southwest or their marketing agents. No, God has the audacity to make the following statement: Exodus 20:2-3 “I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. You must not have any other god but me.”

How on earth can God make such a statement? People do have choices, right? So why does God have to be so absolute?

  1. God isn’t a retailer, he’s a relator. There’s a relationship here when God says: I AM the one who delivered you. The Israelites who first heard these words at the base of Mount Sinai, had been slaves for generations in Egypt. God had delivered them from slavery. No other god. No other power. God was the one who had saved them, fed them, nurtured them, and protected them.
    God is still delivering people from enslavement. People are enslaved to fear, worry, hatred, addiction, pride, poverty, loneliness, and despair. People are dehumanized and demeaned by oppressive powers of sin. But God is more powerful than the powers. What other God died for us and redeemed us? What other God made us into a people with purpose. What other God brings us hope? Before we ever thought about choosing God – He chose us!
  2. Because of that relationship, there are certain claims established. God is our God and we are his people. It’s like a marriage. You have a choice in who you marry, but once you marry that relationship is exclusive. So God is all-inclusively exclusive. God knows that there are choices. I suppose you can choose another god, but once you choose God, it’s exclusive. Anyone can come to God. God can deliver anyone. But once you enter into the relationship – it’s you and God. It’s us and God. The relationship is established.
  3. This is why the first word in the Ten Words is so important. You have to get the first one right or the others won’t follow. [Buttoning my shirt in the dark.] The other nine words don’t have the same effect when they are out of alignment without the first word. When that happens, and it often does, the “Ten Commandments” are like gems that have fallen off a chain. They may sparkle and shine on their own, but you cannot tell how the jeweler put them together as a whole.
    There are numerous books and articles from different perspectives that appeal for a return to the ethics of the Ten Commandments, but they stop short of returning to the God who spoke these ten words. Without that relationship, the other words lose their impact because they are no longer personal. You have to get this one right or the others won’t follow.

Ten words aren’t simply for anyone to anyone to follow. Living them out begins by accepting that God chose us. And so these ten words are for those who accept God’s invitation to enter into an exclusive relationship – the good news is that all are invited, but living out the ten words is the adventure that awaits those who dare to live in total dependence on God.

A Significant Challenge in Sharing Jesus

Posted by on September 20, 2007 under Sermons

Please get your Bibles and read with me.

Matthew 9:14-17, Then the disciples of John came to Him, asking, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.”

All of us deal with the fact that our world changes. Let me illustrate that fact with changes that have occurred in my lifetime. I want those of us who remember to help me by raising your hand. How many of you remember nickel cokes? (Pause) How many of you remember gasoline for 35 cents a gallon? (Pause) How many of you remember when most places that sold gasoline also sold kerosene? (Pause)

Think with me for a moment about wonderful business opportunities. You do not need to raise your hands, but I ask you to think with me. How many of you remember our society before anyone owned a personal computer? (Pause) How many of you would think you were given a wonderful business opportunity if you were offered the opportunity to be the major shareholder in a company that makes only typewriters? (Pause) How many of you would like to own the rights to the production of 8-tract cassette tapes? (Pause)

My point is, hopefully, worth thinking about, but it is rather simple. If we are going to understand the world before the changes occurred, we must understand the changes. If we are going to understand the illustrations Jesus used in our reading, we must understand a time that had little in common with our society.

In the Jewish society Jesus lived in, fasting was a common religious occurrence. Commonly, devout Jewish people fasted. Every Monday and Thursday, devout Jewish people fasted. It was a way of saying, "We humble ourselves before You, God. We know our place. You do not have to punish us for us to know how small we are and how great You are." Jews have been participating in religious fasts from the time when the Day of Atonement was instituted (Leviticus 16:29-31). Religious fasts occurred so frequently in Jesus’ day, it was unthinkable that a person could claim to be God’s spokesman and not fast.

Thus, when Jesus and his disciples did not fast, it was considered just plain strange.

Jesus did not condemn fasting. He merely said it was inappropriate for his disciples to fast then. Fasting was not an appropriate part of a wedding. You did not patch a hole in an old piece of clothing with new, unshrunk cloth — to do so would make the tear worse. You did not put new wine in old, hardened wineskins lest the gas escaping from the new wine explode the old, hardened skin and everything is lost.

You and I understand that Jesus was God’s means of unthinkable change during his lifetime. Even today, the man or woman who dares follow Jesus will be a part of incredible change.

  1. When we share Jesus with people, those who come to Jesus may not be the people you want to come to Jesus.
    1. Jesus was often criticized because the "wrong people" listened to him, accepted him, and associated with him.
      1. In Matthew 9:10-13 we read:
        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. But go and learn what this means: ?I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
        1. Tax collectors and sinners were the worst of the worst.
          1. Jewish people who collected taxes that benefited the Roman government were considered by some to be traitors against Israel.
          2. Sinners were Jews who rejected the religious laws and teachings of Judaism–they did not even pretend to be acceptable.
          3. No self-respecting Jew who considered himself religious would associate with either group.
        2. Jesus did more than let them listen.
          1. He ate with them!
          2. That was the highest form of fellowship/association extended in their society.
          3. Jesus did something no self-respecting religious Jew would do.
          4. The religious elite of their society did not like it one bit!
        3. Jesus’ answer was astounding!
          1. The sick need the doctor, not the healthy!
          2. Understand what God meant when he said through Hosea (6:6) that He wanted compassion, not sacrifice–you need to understand what that means.
          3. I did not come to call the righteous (some were righteous).
          4. I came to call those you consider sinners–people who need to turn to God.
    2. Mark referred to the same incident in Mark 2:15-17.
      1. He adds three details.
        1. It occurred where Jesus customarily ate with his disciples.
        2. There were many tax collectors and sinners.
        3. These people were following Jesus.
      2. It was not an isolated incident, but a situation Jesus encouraged.
    3. Luke refers to a reception which Levi gave which records much of the same information:
      Luke 5:29-32, And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
    4. Luke also refers to another situation in Luke 15:1, 2:
      Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
    5. The point I make is simple: Jesus appealed to people the religious elite did not approve of.
      1. When Jesus addressed his Jewish audiences, he appealed to people in need, regardless of their background.
      2. Who Jesus appealed to was not determined by the Jewish devout.
  2. Later, after Christianity came into existence, Paul made this statement to Colossian Christians in Colossians 3:9-11:
    Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him-a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.
    1. I want you to consider an enormous stress the Christians of the first century faced.
      1. At first the gospel was preached only to Jewish people and those gentiles who has been converted to Judaism (see Acts 2:10).
        1. It started in Jerusalem.
        2. It spread to the Samaritans (who were partly Jewish and accepted the first five books of the Old Testament as their guide).
        3. Only after Acts records its outreach in Palestine does it discuss the outreach of Christianity in other places among other peoples.
      2. Then the presentation of Jesus as the Christ and the Savior of the world was presented to non-Jewish peoples.
        1. The word "gentiles" refers to any nationality or people who were not Jewish.
        2. As long as Jesus Christ was preached only among the Jewish people, those people could regard the preaching and teaching about Christ as a Jewish movement.
        3. However, when gentiles became Christians (consider Acts 10 and the first part of 11) it became a very complex matter for Jewish Christians.
      3. As long as only Jews became Christians, it was simple.
        1. There certainly were Jews who strongly opposed any Jew calling Jesus the Christ or Messiah.
        2. However, they were alike in culture, in tradition, in what they regarded God, and in what they regarded scripture.
        3. Basically, they ate the same things, did the same things, and worshipped the same God.
      4. Then gentiles became Christians.
        1. What they ate, what they did, and what they worshipped before conversion was different.
        2. They did not previously worship the same God.
        3. They did not have thousands of years of history to honor.
        4. Many of them did not have anything that even resembled the role of Jewish scripture.
        5. In fact, most gentile Christians worshipped many gods previously, and often considered people who worshipped only one God as atheists.
        6. They had almost nothing in common with Jewish converts in Palestine.
        7. That is likely why Romans 14 was written to the Christians in Rome.
    2. Because God does not care who becomes Christians does not mean Christians do not care who becomes part of their congregation–I want you to think about how difficult it was for people who believed in Christ in the first century.
      1. Before they became Christians, Jews and gentiles had different gods.
      2. Jews and gentiles did not have the same culture or traditions.
      3. Jews and gentiles did not have the same values, the same concepts of what was right and wrong.
      4. Jews and gentiles did not eat the same things for religious reasons (read Leviticus 11).
      5. Typically, gentile converts had much more spiritual growing to do and would require much more patience than Jewish converts–a person who previously worshipped idols and a person who previously worshipped the God of creation do not have the same starting point when they are converted to Christ.
      6. To look upon each other as Christians required enormous adjustments.
  3. In many ways, we face the same problems as Christians today.
    1. There was a time in many of our lifetimes when we were all basically alike.
      1. We were probably rural because the Church of Christ then was mostly rural.
      2. We were probably lower middle-class because the Church of Christ then was mostly lower middle- class.
      3. We were probably southern because the Church of Christ then was mostly southern.
      4. Our traditions and practices were the same or similar because our backgrounds were the same or similar.
      5. Our values were the same or similar because our backgrounds were the same or similar.
      6. With many of us the Bible played a prominent role in our parents’ lives, and worshipping God on Sunday was not left as a decision or an option.
    2. Have things ever changed!
      1. Now our largest congregations are in cities, and many congregations that were rural have disappeared.
      2. The typical congregation is no longer lower middle-class.
      3. Congregations exist throughout our nation in all regions.
      4. Traditions, practices, and values are no longer the same–they typically change as the region changes.
    3. Now we can no longer assume that converts come from a strong, religious background.
      1. They may come from no religious background, or from a religion that is not Christian.
      2. The only thing we may have in common is faith in Jesus as the Christ.
      3. And everyone will have to adjust.
      4. And faith in Christ starts at many different points.
      5. And nothing is to be assumed.
      6. And it can be very stressful, just as it was when it all began.

There is one thing we all need to understand and remember: people in need respond to Jesus. Those needs may be different and start at different places. But God does not care. And belonging to Jesus means we learn not to be concerned either. We exist to help people find direction in Jesus Christ. The fact that people were tax collectors and sinners does not bother us because it did not bother Jesus. People who believe and repent are always welcome to come to Jesus, and as Christians we want to learn how to help them come to Jesus. It is still the sick who need Jesus. The righteous should not prevent Jesus from ministering to them.

Thank You, Brad!

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Brad predated me. For a long time, West-Ark had only two ministers, one personal evangelist, and two secretaries: Brad Pistole, David Chadwell, Roy Dunavin, Debbie Belote, and Myra Flippo. We approached this work as a team. While we had our areas, in emergencies everyone did anything necessary. Areas did not matter. Brad worked long hours, and went home to continue working. (He and Yvonne lived next door.) So many stopped by his house, they regarded his home as their home.

I remember “a kid” (Brad) running across the parking lot on my first visit to West-Ark, urging me to come to West-Ark (just before he left with a group of young people). I remember knowing soon after arrival that I worked with a person who would always help me, always be concerned about my best interest, and do my work if necessary. I remember working with a person who was “everyone’s son.” If anyone had a need, the first thing they said was, “Get Brad.” I did not doubt that he-though young-was West-Ark’s most loved, appreciated person.

I remember a man so devoted to our teens and their families that he never stopped working-he just did not know how to say “no.” When young adults came back to visit, they always came to see Brad. Before we had a college program, he ministered to everyone. Because one of “his kids” graduated did not mean he stopped caring about them. There were the endless phone calls and the unpublished trips to encourage those struggling with a problem or their faith.

When Brad survived his unique kind of brain cancer, he helped others nationally who were terrified when they learned they had such cancer.

To him, the connection between healthy families and the spiritual health of children was so obvious he qualified (through a program at Oklahoma Christian) to work in family guidance. Throughout those demands, he did his work.

I watched him as his load became too heavy to carry. I watched him as he was forced to restrict his activities of helpfulness. I listened as the elders urged him to learn to say “no.”

It became obvious to him he could only devote himself to the spiritual growth of the kids. His decision left him open to misunderstanding. For the kids’ sake, he willingly did what he could do to encourage and focus them.

I do not love Brad because he is perfect. No human is. However, the person I know is ethical, moral, devoted to godliness, and loves this congregation deeply. His love for Christ should be evident in his resignation. When he thought it was best for us (West-Ark), he left. Brad, thank you! Yvonne, only you know how much he gave!

The Story of the Ten Commandments

Posted by on September 16, 2007 under Sermons

When We Were Slaves in Egypt

  • 430 years after Joseph, Israel is in slavery
  • What does slavery do to people?
  • Contest of Life vs. Death
    – Exodus 1-2

Let My People Go …

  • God remembers his covenant (Exodus 3)
    • Israel cannot fulfill God’s mission as slaves
    • God vs. Pharaoh – Who is God?
  • Egypt needs Israel, but not for the reason they think
    • Compare Exodus 12:31-32 and 14:5

… So That They May Worship Me in the Desert

  • Exodus 19 and 20
    In Exodus 19 there’s a lengthy description of how God’s people are supposed to prepare themselves for this encounter with God.

    Finally they get ready for this long anticipated worship in the desert, but how are they supposed to do it? What is the order of worship? It begins with the Ten Words. Worship is about shaping us into the kind of people God wants us to be.
    When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”
    Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”
    The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.

  • What sort of Worship?
    • The Decalogue is Worship

A Holy Nation

  • The Decalogue is mission
    – Exodus 19:4-6
  • I Peter 2:9-10 is the language of the Exodus

Decalogue Transition

The Faith That Lives Is the Faith That Grows

Posted by on September 13, 2007 under Bulletin Articles

How Abraham’s faith grew! God said, “Go to Canaan.” Abraham left the area of Ur and went with his extended family to settle in Haran (Genesis 11:31). When Terah died, God said, “Leave your family, go to a place I will show you, and I will take care of you and make you a great nation” (Genesis 12:1-3). The childless Abraham took his wife and his nephew, Lot, and became a nomad in Canaan. Though God said He would make Abraham a nation, Abraham begged his wife to say she was his sister because he feared the local people would kill him to obtain her (12:10-12). When strife arose between Lot’s herdsmen and Abraham’s herdsmen, Abraham told Lot to choose where he preferred to live (Genesis 13:8, 9). When Abraham continued to have no child, he doubted he ever would. He proposed a solution God rejected, and he trusted God’s promise (Genesis 15:1-6). Abraham’s faith grew to the point that he refused to withhold his promised son from God. When God asked him to sacrifice Isaac, he quickly made preparation to comply with God’s instructions (Genesis 22:1-19).

To this day he is known as our example of faith. Though he did many great deeds in obeying God, he is forever the example of trusting God. Though he likely was an idolater when God first called him (Joshua 24:2, 3), to us he is always the man of faith. Yet, how that faith grew from Ur to Isaac’s sacrifice! How small his faith was at Ur when compared to his faith at Moriah!

We are called to duplicate Abraham’s faith. We are nomads in this life headed to an eternal Canaan of permanent peace. To reach there, we need to trust God against what seems to us to be overwhelming odds, just as did Abraham. If we develop that growing, maturing trust in God, we through our faith become descendants of the man of faith.

We must learn a key lesson from Abraham. Abraham trusted the giver rather than the gift. So must we!

“All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13-16).

Where is your country? To what country do you belong?

Sharing Jesus (Part 4)

Posted by on September 12, 2007 under Sermons

Read with me as we listen to John 8:21-30:
Then He said again to them, “I go away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come.” So the Jews were saying, “Surely He will not kill Himself, will He, since He says, ?Where I am going, you cannot come’?” And He was saying to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” So they were saying to Him, “Who are You?” Jesus said to them, “What have I been saying to you from the beginning? I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world.” They did not realize that He had been speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him.

To put your thinking in the correct perspective for this lesson, ask yourself this question: "How often have I . . . ?" Have you got the question? "How often have I . . . ?" "How often have I been distracted from my schedule and failed to remember to do something important?" I am a very schedule focused person. I have my "routine" for leaving my home and going to my work. One morning this week something important broke into my routine. Later, I realized I forgot to take my medicine. When my routine was broken, I did not think to take my medicine. Has anything ever disrupted your routine and you forgot?

"How often have I been so focused I failed to see the obvious?" We often refer to such incidents as being distracted. You know well the love affair most men have with the remote controls to the television. The other day I collapsed into my recliner after a demanding day. Out of habit I reached for the remote control as I picked up the paper. (I know it does not make sense to have the TV on while you read the paper–but I do it anyway.) The remote control was not where it was supposed to be. That got my attention quickly! Suddenly, I started searching for the remote control, and I could not see it anywhere. Joyce started laughing–the remote control was on the arm of the recliner–the opposite arm where it never stays! Have you ever failed to see the obvious?

"How often have I been so sure I knew what a person was going to say that I got ahead of the person and was wrong?" One habit I had to break years ago as a preacher was assuming I knew what a person was going to ask before he stated his question. As a result, I found myself answering questions people were not asking. What I thought was a "short cut" (I always was in a hurry) just made a mess. Have you ever thought you knew what people were thinking before they expressed themselves?

  1. For a second reading, I want you to read with me 1 Corinthians 15:1-19.
    Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
    1. I want to call two things to your attention from this reading.
      1. First, the gospel Paul preached and the Corinthians accepted was person-centered or Savior-centered.
        1. A man who was the Christ died.
        2. A man who was the Christ was buried for three days.
        3. A man who was the Christ was resurrected, brought back to life in a form that was never to die again.
        4. This resurrected man who was God’s promised Christ appeared to a lot of people including Paul.
        5. The reason the Corinthians were Christians was due to their faith in this man.
          1. It was what God did in this Savior that converted them.
          2. It was what God did in this Savior that expressed God’s grace.
    2. Second, unless they placed their confidence in God’s resurrection of this man, their faith was useless.
      1. If there was no resurrection of this man, the preaching they believed was useless.
      2. If the resurrection of this man did not occur, the preachers who said it did happen were liars.
      3. If the resurrection of this man did not occur, their faith in this man is without value.
      4. If the resurrection of this man did not occur, they are still hopelessly enslaved to their sins.
      5. If the resurrection of this man did no occur, dead Christians are just dead.
      6. In fact, if the resurrection of this man did not occur, Christians are to be pitied above all other people–through their deception they waste life.
  2. See one point very clearly: the message of the gospel is Savior-centered; it is not religious system-centered.
    1. It is too easy for us to assume that everyone believes the Jesus of the Bible is the Christ.
      1. For many of us, the people we associate with believe Jesus is the Christ if they religiously believe anything.
        1. Many of us are simply not accustomed to associating with people who do not believe Jesus is the Christ.
        2. Many are accustomed to the religious emphasis of the South–and in America in the past, the South strongly believed Jesus is the Christ.
      2. For some of us adults, and for most of our children, we associate with people who do not even have Jesus in their faith system.
        1. Rapidly our country is becoming multi-religious–religions not based on Jesus Christ are becoming more and more prominent even in the South.
        2. An increasing number of adults associate and become friends with such people.
        3. Almost all of our children in public schools know and associate with people who are not Christian in their religious perspective.
      3. Within a short time, it will be common for most adults to know as many people who have a faith that is not centered in Jesus Christ as people who do believe Jesus is the Christ.
    2. To note the significance of the change religiously, just look honestly at our outreach messages.
      1. Our conversion messages basically are structured for other religious groups who definitely agree that Jesus is the Christ, but who are not in agreement over how a person gets into Christ.
        1. Thus, our "gospel outreach" messages are (a) often designed for people who already believe Jesus is the Christ and (b) are often designed to declare which church is superior.
        2. The result is that the "gospel outreach" messages are far more likely to be church-centered than man-centered.
        3. To see the contrast, ask yourself the question, "What message do we have for people who are religious but do not even know what the words "Jesus is the Christ" mean?
    3. Increasingly, we as Christians must deal with the fact that we have to share with people who do not place their faith in Jesus.
      1. Such people are here, a part of our country and society.
      2. The message of Jesus is as relevant to those people as it is to us or to anyone else.
      3. Through the centuries, the gospel of Jesus has been shared far more with people that did not know Jesus than with people who did know Jesus.
      4. To me, the relevant question that honestly acknowledges the world we are part of is this: "How is Jesus good news to people who do not know him?"
  3. There is an object of faith that is more fundamental than faith in the church.
    1. In fact, confidence in the church should exist only if the more fundamental faith exists.
      1. The church is what we become when we enter Christ.
      2. It is the result of the more fundamental faith.
      3. Each Christian should be able to say, "I am what I am, I live like I live, I serve like I serve, I do what I do in my life because of this more fundamental faith."
    2. What is this more fundamental faith?
      1. It is faith in the fact that Jesus is the Christ.
        1. The man Jesus is God’s reconciliation plan for our world.
        2. He did die for our sins.
        3. He was raised from the dead.
        4. He is Lord and Christ.
        5. All our assurances from God rest in Jesus, what he did, and what God achieved and proved through him.
      2. Jesus is "good news!"
        1. Our purpose as Christians is not to assume that everyone else knows him.
        2. Our purpose as Christians is (1) to know him and (2) to introduce others to him.
  4. We urgently need to be people who share Jesus.
    1. If you wish to be evangelistic, allow Jesus to become the basis of who you are.
      1. Act like you act in your marriage because of Jesus’ principles.
      2. Act like you act as a parent because of Jesus’ principles.
      3. Act like your act in your job because of Jesus’ principles.
      4. Treat others as you do because of Jesus’ principles.
      5. As a person, be who you are because of Jesus’ principles.
    2. If you wish to be evangelistic, devour the gospels.
      1. Share the man by knowing the man.
      2. Understand what God did for people through his death.
      3. Understand what God did for people through his resurrection.
      4. Know the blessings God offers us through life in him.
      5. People will want to know about your church when they see the Savior changing and guiding your life.
      6. If Jesus is not changing your life in ways people can see and respect, your church becomes irrelevant to those who do not know Jesus.

Jesus once said, "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." (Matthew 5:14-16)

Know the man. Let him shine in your life so people will glorify God. By doing so, you will save yourself and others.

How Much Longer?

Posted by on September 9, 2007 under Sermons


  1. The Messenger (10:1-11:1)
  2. The Book of Truth (11:2 – 45)
    • North and South (11:2-19)
    • Seleucid Family Values (11:20-39)
    • The End of Evil (11:40-45)
  3. Sign Off and Seal (12:1-13)

Daniel 11:14-20
Cleopatra becomes a loyal Egyptian. Antiochus III gets no real advantage from the marriage. Cleopatra urges Ptolemy V to make an alliance with Rome.
Antiochus grabs power wherever he can. In 192 he teams up with Hannibal the Carthagenian. They threaten to take Europe. Rome attacks Antiochus and defeats his advances beyond Greece. Antiochus loses the Battle of Magnesia.
Now he owes Rome a tribute. In 187 BC, Antiochus is murdered while robbing his own sanctuary at Elam.
The Battle of Magnesia was fought in 190 BC near Magnesia ad Sipylum, on the plains of Lydia (modern Turkey), between the Romans, led by the consul Lucius Cornelius Scipio and his brother, the famed general Scipio Africanus, with their ally Eumenes II of Pergamum against the army of Antiochus III the Great of the Seleucid Empire. The resulting decisive Roman victory ended the conflict for the control of Greece.The treaty forced upon Antiochus III by the victorious Romans was crippling, in the Treaty of Apamea Antiochus was forced to pay a huge war indemnity of 15,000 Talents along with giving up significant territory in Asia Minor. The Taurus Mountains became the new frontier. The Seleucid navy was limited by treaty. It weakened the already fractious Seleucid Empire and halted all ambitions of Antiochus III in becoming a latter day Alexander in his own right.
Antiochus III was defeated by the Romans in 190 BC at the Battle of Magnesia.
He died in the East trying to sack the temple of Elymas to get money to pay off Rome.

Antiochus III is followed on the throne by his eldest son Seleucus IV (who loves his father). Seleucus spends the next eight years paying off the debt to Rome. That’s why verse 20 refers to him as a tax collector.
He is assassinated by one of his officials – Heliodorus. (Mentioned in 2 Maccabees 3) Instead of the throne going to Seleucus’ son, his brother, Antiochus IV Epiphanes takes the throne – this is not the normal line of succession!

Daniel 11:21-35

  • A contemptible person
  • Forbids Jewish faith
  • Imposes Greek culture
  • Sides with opposition that kills Onias III
  • Defeats Ptolemy VI – the King of the South in 170 BC

    Antiochus IV starts out invading Egypt and doing a fine job of it (170 BC). He pushes his nephew Ptolemy VI around. In 168 BC he returns for his second invasion but in doing so he is defying the treaty that his father had been forced to accept.

    verse 30 – The ships of Kittim are Roman war vessels. (The Western Coastlands.) Gaius Popillius Laenas was the Roman Consul sent to Egypt to make peace.
    He was sent as an envoy to prevent a war between Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Seleucid Empire and Ptolemaic Egypt. On being confronted with the Roman demands that he abort his attack on Alexandria, Antiochus played for time; Popillius Laenas is supposed to have drawn a circle around the king in the sand with his cane, and ordered him not to move out of it until a firm answer had been given. The Syrians withdrew. According to Livy,

    “After receiving the submission of the inhabitants of Memphis and of the rest of the Egyptian people, some submitting voluntarily, others under threats, [Antiochus] marched by easy stages towards Alexandria. After crossing the river at Eleusis, about four miles from Alexandria, he was met by the Roman commissioners, to whom he gave a friendly greeting and held out his hand to Popilius. Popilius, however, placed in his hand the tablets on which was written the decree of the senate and told him first of all to read that. After reading it through he said he would call his friends into council and consider what he ought to do. Popilius, stern and imperious as ever, drew a circle round the king with the stick he was carrying and said, “Before you step out of that circle give me a reply to lay before the senate.” For a few moments he hesitated, astounded at such a peremptory order, and at last replied, “I will do what the senate thinks right.” Not till then did Popilius extend his hand to the king as to a friend and ally. Antiochus evacuated Egypt at the appointed date, and the commissioners exerted their authority to establish a lasting concord between the brothers, as they had as yet hardly made peace with each other.” Ab Urbe Condita, xlv.12.

    Antiochus leaves Egypt humiliated and enraged and he takes it out on Jerusalem.

    Daniel 11:31-45
    The desecration of the Temple is the crisis in the 2nd century that the book of Daniel is addressing.

    Daniel 12 – A Word of Hope

    1. Antiochus IV will meet his fate
    2. Book of Life
      1. Resurrection = Vindication
      2. How much longer?
    3. Rest, Daniel
      1. Seal the vision for the future
    4. Wisdom!