Love Takes the Nasty Out of Nastiness

Posted by on May 29, 2008 under Bulletin Articles

I never met a person who enjoyed the experience of changing diapers. I met many who gladly changed diapers because they loved. On a cold night, my father-in-law told Joyce he had never seen it cold enough to make dishwater feel good. Yet, I saw my father-in-law wash dishes because he loved his ailing wife. Take your pick-ironing white shirts, canning, unstopping a commode, splitting a rick of gnarled hickory, digging a septic line, cleaning up vomit, dressing bad wounds, etc.-there are many tasks performed because of love that otherwise would be neglected. It is not love of the task! It is love of the person who benefits from the task!

Never think it is easy for God to forgive! Sin is everything God is not. Never think it was easy for God to surrender Jesus to death! Jesus was the only adult who never rebelled. Never decide it is easy for God to sustain fellowship with us when we continue to sin and need forgiveness. Were I to attribute human characteristics to God, I would see God heaving, gushing each time we make a mess. It is amazing God tolerates us!

Consider a fascinating question: Why does God put up with us? The simple answer: He loves us. Because He loves, He forgives. Because He loves, He endures. Because He loves, He tolerates the objectionable to bless the person.

I wonder when we-each of us-will “get it.” When will we understand it is not “correctness” that covers a multitude of sins, or “justification,” or “history.” It is love that covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). It is a fervent love for each other that responds to the messes we make.

Why? Because such love is characteristic of God-and enduring friendships, and enduring marriages, and quality parenting, and-above all-an enduring fellowship among those who have entered Christ. May I be spiritually mature enough to love the God who forgives you when I have difficulty loving you. Why? Because God in creation and Christ gave you that kind of worth. And-that same God forgives me.

“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35).

Insights From Ephesians (part 6)

Posted by on May 28, 2008 under Sermons

First, we want to put ourselves in the frame of mind Paul was in when he wrote our text today. To do that, play a game of "Let’s Pretend" with me. Pretend that you have a close friend you admire and respect. This person is a close friend because he cared about you. In his care for you when he first met you, he went "way out on a limb" to help you. He literally put himself in a situation that he could be hurt because he helped you.

Continue to pretend with me. After he leaves you, your close friend does get into trouble because he helped some people just like you. The trouble is so serious that he winds up in jail. In fact, you are convinced that one of the reasons he is in trouble is because he helped you.

And there is nothing you can do to help him. He is too far from you for you to be of personal encouragement to him. You would have no influence on the people who put him in jail if your were with him.

Then one day you get a letter from him. In the letter he is concerned about you. He is genuinely concerned that you are discouraged because of his problems. He wants you to know as fact it is okay that he is experiencing problems. He knew from the beginning he would have problems because he cared about and helped people like you. He saw his situation as a price he paid for helping people like you. He saw his opposition as a God-given task the Lord gave him to help others understand God’s intentions in Jesus.

His concern: you might be discouraged by his problems. The thing that encourages him most in his situation is knowing you are okay. He does not want his troubles to discourage you!

I ask you to listen to or read with me in Ephesians 3:1-13 and see if you can hear all of this in this passage of scripture.

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles-if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you; that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory (Ephesians 3:1-13).

  1. Paul the Christian personally cared deeply about the people he taught.
    1. When he understood that Jesus was resurrected, was the Christ (the Jewish Messiah), he was amazed that God was so patient with him to the point of forgiving him and letting him participate in God’s mission.
      1. Listen carefully to what Paul the Christian said about himself and Jesus’ response to him in 1 Timothy 1:12-16:
        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. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.
      2. In what way was Paul the sinner ignorantly acting in unbelief? He completely misunderstood Jesus! He did not know who Jesus was!
      3. Listen to what he said about himself before he became a Christian in Acts 26:9-12:
        So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities. While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests . . .
    2. The transformation in Paul from violent opponent of Jesus to encourager of those who sought Jesus is astounding!
      1. In the scriptures we just read, we see how violently Paul opposed Jesus and those who believed Jesus was the Christ when Paul did not understand who Jesus was and regarded the reports of Jesus’ resurrection as lies.
      2. Listen to the contrast Paul made from the violent man who did not know Jesus was the Christ to the encouraging man who understood the work of God in Jesus. This statement is made to the Christians at Thessalonica concerning Paul’s behavior when he was with them. It is recorded in 1 Thessalonians 2:5-12.
        For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed-God is witness-nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority. But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
      3. The change occurred in Paul because he finally understood God was at work in Jesus.
        1. The same kind of transformation will occur in you when you understand that God is at work in Jesus.
        2. You will continue to change, to grow closer to God’s character all your life, as you deepen your understanding of God’s work in Jesus.
  2. For the reason of spiritual growth and development, Paul never left new Christians alone to struggle to understand their new life in Jesus Christ.
    1. Do you remember the charge the resurrected Jesus gave to the apostles in Matthew 28:18-20?
      And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
      1. I ask you to note four things.
        1. The first thing: God through Jesus’ resurrection gave him all spiritual authority, so the resurrected Jesus had the right to give the apostles this charge.
        2. The second thing: The charge Jesus gave the apostles was a worldwide charge meant for all people, not for a single nation nor a group of nations.
        3. The third thing: the core of the charge was to go worldwide and make disciples.
          1. Disciples are the followers of a teacher.
          2. They were to understand that Jesus was the teacherl; they were to follow him.
        4. The fourth thing: Their message about Jesus would produce two results.
          1. The people who wanted to follow Jesus would be baptized (baptism then meant immersion).
          2. The people who wanted to follow Jesus would observe Jesus’ teachings, his instructions on how to live, his commandments.
          3. These people would not prove they belonged to Jesus just by being baptized, but they would change the way they lived by following Jesus’ teachings.
        5. Today, it is essential to teach people to be Jesus’ disciples, to teach people to allow Jesus’ teachings and values to determine how they live.
    2. Paul cared greatly about the people he converted to Jesus Christ, and he did not leave them to struggle on their own to discover how to be disciples.
      1. Sometimes persecution or other obstacles prevented Paul personally from remaining and being of assistance to people newly converted to Christ.
      2. When that occurred, when Paul attracted so much opposition he was forced to leave, he would either leave part of his team to teach the converts, or he would send someone to check on them.
      3. Often, that person was Timothy.
        1. Listen to Acts 17:15, 16–
          Now those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they left. Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols.
          1. Paul was by himself in Athens.
          2. He was by himself because people who strongly opposed Jesus Christ came to Berea because Paul was teaching there.
          3. The new converts perceived Paul’s life was in jeopardy, so they escorted him–for his own safety–to Athens.
          4. But Silas and Timothy stayed in Berea.
        2. Listen to 1 Corinthians 4:17–
          For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.
        3. Listen again to Philippians 2:19, 20–
          But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.
        4. Listen still again to statements Paul made in 1 Thessalonians 3 —
          Verses 1-3: Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith, so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this.
          Verses 6-8: But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you, for this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith; for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord.
        5. To this same person, Paul wrote these instructions and encouragement in 2 Timothy 2:24-26:
          The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
      4. It is not enough for a person to be baptized into Jesus Christ.
        1. As important as that is, Jesus said it is not enough.
        2. The baptized person must dedicate himself or herself to living as Jesus’ disciple by learning his values and teachings.
  3. I want to end by directing your attention to today’s text we read at the beginning of this lesson, Ephesians 3:1-13.
    1. First, I want to note how deeply Paul cared about these people.
      1. Paul was Jewish by birth, and the people to whom he wrote were not Jewish by birth.
        1. In Paul’s lifetime, and long before, that mattered a lot.
        2. It mattered so much that typically devout Jews had only necessary interaction with non-Jews (gentiles).
        3. Devout Jews worshipped the living God; gentiles generally worshipped idols or believed in nothing.
        4. The lifestyle of Jews and the lifestyle of idol worshippers were quite different.
      2. Paul, who had been very Jewish (Galatians 1:13, 14), understood through God’s revelation that God wanted to save gentiles as much as He wanted to save Jews.
        1. That was not a popular understanding to have!
        2. People never like their religious beliefs to change, and Paul’s understanding would result in a huge change.
        3. Paul’s understanding was not accepted by many Jews, and it was not accepted by many idol worshippers.
      3. Paul said he knew his understanding by God’s revelation meant trouble for him.
        1. However, that trouble was okay.
        2. He looked upon his understanding as a stewardship from God–God was in charge of the understanding; Paul was only responsible for handling this understanding responsibly.
      4. Paul labeled his understanding "the mystery of Christ."
        1. He said this mystery had not been previously understood by people.
        2. He said this mystery of Christ meant through the gospel (of God working through Jesus Christ), God could make Christians of gentiles as certainly as He could make Christians of Jews.
        3. Paul’s responsibility was to tell everyone of God’s grace expressed in the resurrected Jesus.
        4. Paul wanted everyone to understand what God did in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
        5. Paul wanted everyone to see how wise God was.
          1. He wanted everyone to see this was God’s eternal purpose, not some afterthought of God, not some crazy idea of Paul’s.
          2. Paul’s responsibility was to handle this understanding boldly and confidently.
      5. Therefore, Paul did not want them to be discouraged because he was being opposed and physically suffering.
        1. He did not deny what he endured was the result of teaching them.
        2. However, he wanted them to understand that their continuing in Jesus Christ glorified what God did in Jesus.

The issue is not "is Jesus Christ opposed." That has always been true. The issue is "are you willing to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?" Do you understand what God did in Jesus’ death and resurrection? Are you willing to let Jesus teach you how to live?

Insights From Ephesians (part 5)

Posted by on May 27, 2008 under Sermons

I hope you have had at least one of those moments when you "see" something you never saw before. What you "see" is not new.  It has always been there for you to "see." Yet, for some reason (or a number of reasons), you never noticed it before.  Once you "see" it, it is so obvious that you are forced to evaluate yourself. "Why didn’t I see that a long time ago? It is not new! It has always been there! How could I have not noticed it until now?"

Much of the time this "seeing" has to do with learning.  Maybe a person’s focus was so given to something else that the "something else" is all he or she saw–he or she was so focused on one thing that he or she failed to see anything else.

Often this "seeing" is inconvenient. Once he or she "sees" the obvious, he or she can no longer ignore it. This "new to me" information demands that the person must do some additional evaluation of a matter that was already "settled" in the person’s thinking or view. Reevaluation is downright inconvenient!

Use today’s text as an illustration.

Before Jesus’ ministry, the Jewish people had God, God’s purposes, God’s objectives, and God’s ways figured out and settled for generations. There was not anything to learn. They just needed to evaluate all that happened by what they knew from past generations. They basically knew what kind of Messiah (Christ) God would send. They knew the basic nature of the kingdom God would establish. They knew the kind of rule God would institute. They knew they were God’s people, and God cared about them more than God cared about other people. The key to doing God’s will was convincing all other people to become a part of them as a proselyte. If everyone became just like them, everything would be okay.

Then Jesus began his ministry among the Jewish people. He was not what they expected as a Messiah. He spoke of a kingdom that was downright strange to them. He spoke of God’s rule in ways they found weird. He indicated that God was interested in people who were not "rules-keeping Jews." He indicated they were not God’s objective, but a God-intended vehicle to God’s objective.

Thus many, especially the prominent ones, did what they were supposed to do. They evaluated Jesus. In their opinion Jesus just did not measure up to their expectations. So many of them rejected Jesus.

Thus began one of the major problems in the first-century congregations. Jewish Christians has a hard time understanding how gentile Christians could be saved without circumcision, following the law God revealed through Moses, and adopting Jewish ways of doing things. The most written about conflict (in scripture) among Christians in first-century congregations was this: how can Jewish Christians and gentile Christians possibly be one in Jesus Christ?

Listen carefully to our reading (or read with me) and see if you hear that problem in Ephesians 2:11-22: Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands-remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

  1. There are several things in this reading you should note.
    1. First, gentile Christians (which most of us are now) were in a really difficult situation spiritually before they became Christians.
      1. They were not a part of the Jewish nation.
      2. God had no covenant (agreement) with them.
      3. God made no direct promises to them.
      4. They had nothing to serve as a basis of hope in God.
      5. They were strictly on their own, and that was a horrible situation to be in.
    2. Second, the situation radically changed when God sent Jesus to become the Christ through the sacrifice of his blood.
      1. Through Christ, God brought even the gentiles near to Himself.
      2. Through Christ, gentiles had as much right to come to God as did Jewish people.
      3. Through Christ, God made (please take note of the past tense) Jews who would accept Jesus Christ and gentiles who would accept Jesus Christ one.
        1. Through Christ, God made a peace between both groups.
        2. Through Christ, God destroyed any advantage Jewish people had through their past relationship with God.
        3. Through Christ, God made both Jews in Christ and gentiles in Christ one body of Christ’s.
        4. Through Christ, God reconciled both groups.
      4. The key for both Jewish Christians and gentile Christians was the same key–Jesus Christ.
        1. Understanding what God did through Jesus Christ allows Jewish Christians to be at peace in God and allows gentile Christians (no matter who they were or what their background was) to be at peace in God.
        2. Jesus Christ was the access to God for both groups.
      5. What does all that mean?
        1. It means any non-Jew who lived in idolatry in the past was a stranger and alien to God.
        2. However, with what God did in Jesus Christ, gentiles in Christ can be citizens in God’s kingdom and a part of God’s family.
        3. It meant that gentile Christians had the Jewish apostles and Jewish prophets as their faith foundation and Jesus Christ as their faith cornerstone in the same way Jewish Christians did.
        4. It meant God no longer lived in temples constructed by people.
          1. Not the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.
          2. Not idolatrous temples.
        5. Why? Because God now lived in the people who belonged to Him.
          1. People who belonged to Him–whether Jewish Christians or gentile Christians–were formed by God into His new temple.
          2. God’s new temple is formed out of people who belong to Him, not out of stones and construction materials.
          3. In the new kingdom, God lives in people instead of in places.
          4. God’s people–wherever they are and whatever they are doing–are to be God’s temple, God’s presence (see 1 Peter 1:5-10 as Peter used the same concept).
  2. There are several indicators that suggest there could be radical transitions in the way "we do church" in the future.
    1. There already has been far more transition than most of us realize.
      1. At the end of World War II, the Church of Christ was basically a rural church.
        1. The majority of its members were poor people living on family farms.
        2. The church building was usually located on some land someone gave from his farm for the purpose of having a building.
        3. There was no air conditioning, primitive heating (by today’s standards), graveled parking lots that were small, and few adult class rooms.
        4. There was no printed material to study, few people with college degrees, few full time preachers, no libraries, no education wings, few classrooms for children, few education programs, and no plans to improve or add to those things.
      2. A preacher who had been to college was looked upon with suspicion.
      3. There were all kinds of divisions that had happened, were happening, or would soon happen.
        1. Should you do anything another church was doing?
        2. What was your conviction on the millenium?
        3. What translation of the Bible could a person use?
        4. Was it scriptural to serve communion at the beginning of service?
        5. Should congregations cooperate in any enterprise or endeavor?
        6. Should you use only one cup in communion?
        7. Was how long you preached and how many scriptures you used a matter of faithfulness?
        8. Could women wear pants?
        9. Could women come to church without a hat?
        10. Could women cut their hair?
        11. Could men grow beards? Get tattoos? Wear "long hair?"
        12. Could you buy groceries from a store that sold beer or eat in a restaurant that served alcoholic beverages?
        13. These were just some of the questions vigorously debated–we always have been a people who sharply defended our positions.
      4. Today we are mostly an urban church with rural roots–family farms have disappeared, and we continue to struggle as we address urban needs and realities.
      5. Today most of us prefer well trained preachers, we want better facilities, we want education programs, we want libraries, we have to have paved parking lots, and we plan creature comforts to be a part of any expansion we do.
      6. Things will change in the future.
        1. For the past 30 years we have been able to economically afford expansions, programs, and buildings–what happens when we cannot afford such things? How will that change what we do and how we do it?
        2. (This is not at all the suggestion that we "hoard" what we have in a useless attempt to address the uncertainties of the future!)
        3. For years we converted people with at least an understanding of Christian basics.
          1. Not so now or in the future!
          2. An increasing number of converts will come from either no spiritual background or a background in a non-Christian religion.
          3. Increasingly, our congregations will be composed of people with needs and challenges that we have not dealt with in the past.
          4. Increasingly, members will struggle with views that are new to us who have been a part of congregations for three generations.
      7. Politically, people who were viewed as Christians occupied a position of "favored status" in the past.
        1. That is changing fast!
        2. How will we react when we deal with opposition instead of encouragement?

As increased needs and challenges become our new reality, passages such as the one we focused on today will become more relevant to us. We will increasingly understand that unity is a gift God gave us in the death of Jesus which we seek to preserve, not a status we seek to achieve through human accomplishment. Just as God in Christ made gentile Christians and Jewish Christians one, God can and will make us one. Not because we all conform–we never will!! Not because we all agree on one lifestyle–we never will! It will exist because of what God did for us in Jesus’ blood.

First-century Christians needed to understand that when Paul wrote. Christians still need to understand that.

Floating the Mainstream

Posted by on May 25, 2008 under Sermons

Please ask Chris Benjamin for permission before reproducing
any of the images, graphics, or charts on this page.

Strengths and Weaknesses

  • A people of the Book.
  • More concerned about what the Bible said than those around us.
  • Not pursuing the American dream but seeking the kingdom.
  • Evangelistic and growing numerically.
  • Cared for the poor and hungry.
  • Race relations – still too much a part of Southern culture.
  • The reputation that: “They think they’re the only ones going to heaven.”
  • Many disputed more, prayed less, and forced conformity to a narrow view of doctrinal correctness.

The Impact of World War 2

  • Post-WW2 decades push church into the mainstream
  • Three factors:
    – Education
    – World Missions
    – Middle-class acculturation


  • In 1946 the Broadway church called a national meeting to discuss missions cooperation.
  • The “Sponsoring Congregation” Plan
    – Broadway in Lubbock, Texas, for Germany
    – Union Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, for Japan
    – Crescent Hill in Brownfield, Texas, for Italy

Women in Missions

  • Sarah Andrews, Japan, 1916 – 1961
  • Hettie Lee Ewing, Japan, 1926
  • Elizabeth Bernard, China, Hong Kong, 1933-1971
  • Irene Johnson-Gatewood, Germany, post-WW2


  • Impact of G.I. Bill
    – Abilene Christian College, Harding College, David Lipscomb College, Freed-Hardeman College, and Pepperdine College attendance increased.
  • Between 1942-1964 eleven new Christian colleges are formed in the U.S.
  • Funding came from churches, members, and business leaders.

If You Build it …

  • Attractive buildings are tools for evangelism
  • Special programs for all members of the family
    – Responded to “Baby Boom”
  • New ministries
    – Multi-staff
    – Education, youth, campus

Madison Church of Christ

  • “You Can March for the Master,” Ira North, 1959
  • Madison’s explosive growth made it the model for church growth techniques in many congregations in the U.S.
  • North emphasized one-to-one evangelism

Jule Miller Filmstrips

  • A recorded narrative with pictures
  • Provided ordinary church members with an attractively-packaged “plan of salvation”

Christian Broadcasting

  • Herald of Truth began national broadcasting on radio in 1952. Television in 1954.
  • Batsell Barrett Baxter joined in 1959 as the speaker.
  • Rise of new journalism
    20th Century Christian
    Power for Today
    Christian Chronicle (1943)

In the Mainstream

  • Periodicals, broadcasts, lectureships and workshops created a mainstream identity.
  • National recognition and influenced accepted
    – Celebrities (such as Pat Boone)
    – 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair Exhibit

Innovation and Change

  • Growth meant innovative methods
  • Financial cooperation to support
    – missions
    – colleges
    – media evangelism
    – para-church institutions (children’s homes, etc.)
  • Suspicion: new methods are based on a desire for worldly prestige or attempt to control.
  • Individuals might support innovations but not churches.

The Gospel Guardian

  • Fanning Yater Tant, editor of The Gospel Guardian:
    • Opposed “sponsoring congregations”
    • Used the argument from silence
    • Threatened autonomy and non-denominational Christianity

Advocate vs. Guardian

  • The debate rhetoric was so strong on both sides that a split took place.
  • In 1954, B.C. Goodpasture, editor of the Gospel Advocate, called for a “quarantine” of the “anti-cooperation” faction.
  • 2,000 congregations (120,000 members) maintained the non-institutional position.

The Winds of Change

  • The Church was no longer culturally alienated – it was now “mainstream.”
    Members were generally more educated and affluent.
  • Innovation generated amazing growth and opposition
    – A tension for the Restoration movement
    – Innovations of an earlier age forgotten
    – Innovation to come questioned

  • Ambiguous relationship with politics
    – Opposed Catholic President (1960)
    – Uninvolved in Civil Rights (1964)
  • Theology remained rational and issue-oriented (for both groups in split)
    – The ancient order of things
    – Three-part hermeneutic
    – Argument from silence

What do we do when the mainstream goes the wrong way?

God’s Politics

Posted by on under Sermons

I cannot recall when so many preachers were involved in a political campaign. This week John McCain rejected the endorsement of two televangelists. A few weeks ago, Barack Obama denounced the words of his former preacher. Let’s not forget that Mike Huckabee, who may still be involved in this race in some way, was a once a preacher in Arkansas. Hilary Clinton hasn’t had any problems with preachers – not yet.

So with all of these others getting involved, I wanted to speak my piece and make my endorsements …

This first thing I would say though, is that if I were to endorse a particular candidate I don’t think it would do much good. You shouldn’t vote my way for that reason alone. Every citizen has to make an informed decision and there’s no point in all of us collectively checking out on our responsibility. I would rather endorse certain principles and let you decide …

As we reflect on what it means to be Christians in America, let’s reflect on God’s Politics. The prime political statement in Scripture is this: God is the Highest Authority. There are many ways that this is expressed. God is sovereign, God rules, God is Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

The word of the Old Testament is clear. Kings, monarchs, nations will come and go, but God’s rule is eternal.

  • Nebuchadnezzar learned this. God humbled the leader of that world super-power (Babylon) and Nebuchadnezzar left a letter to share with anyone what he learned. This letter calls on all authorities to acknowledge God’s superior authority (Daniel 4:34).

The word of the New Testament is clear: Jesus Christ was crucified, buried, and raised by God’s power and authority. God has exalted him. He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings (Revelation 19 and Philippians 2).

So I endorse this primary principle: God rules. He is in charge and that does not change regardless of who is in the White House, the Congress or the Supreme Court.

Now accepting this principle we ask, so what should Christians do then if God rules? We ought to pray …

  • The prophet Jeremiah urged the exiles in Babylon to pray for the welfare of their captors. These people were being called upon to pray for a nation that wasn’t their home, a nation that did not share their values. But Jeremiah informs them that God wants them to seek to do good and build up that nation. If God’s people could pray for Babylon, then we can pray for our nation. We must pray for our nation (Jeremiah 29).
  • 2 Chronicles 7:14 – Prayer is a humility that bows to God’s authority.
  • 1 Timothy 2:1-4 – Praying for the leaders of our nation is a work of evangelism.

So I endorse prayer. Let us treat prayer as not only a privilege and responsibility but also as a mission.

If God is the supreme authority then let’s remember what issues matter to our Lord. What does the Lord require of us?

  • Micah 6:8 – What does the Lord require of you? His agenda is clear — to do justice love kindness and walk humbly with God.
  • Matthew 23:23 – There are weightier matters such as justice, mercy, and faith
  • Acts 24:25 – Paul preaches to a politician of his time about justice, self-control, and the coming judgment

We can practice justice, mercy, kindness, and humility regardless of what party is in the majority. These virtues should be non-partisan. They ought to be basic.

My son was given an assignment to describe what he would do if he was president. He said …

I would give the people in storms good homes. Also I would raise money to save the poor. Give the U.S. Military a monthly break. Fill bills that needed to be filled. And I would have a speech that all drugs are illegal. Then I would have a party about my new rule.

All I can say to that is “I’m his father and I approve this message.”

Maybe we complicate politics too much. Maybe we should pay attention to the politics of a 9-year-old. Maybe we should see that Scripture’s politics and God’s politics really aren’t that different from such simple politics. Maybe it would clarify things for us and we wouldn’t be so anxious. Instead we would focus on doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God. Those are God’s Politics and I endorse them.

We don’t have to have a certain party in power or a certain person in the presidency to follow those politics. Maybe some of us need to run for office, but whether we hold office or not we know who the supreme political power truly is and we can be a part of his party.

I offer this endorsement as an encouragement from God’s Word. I endorse doing what God requires. No matter who wins the various offices up for election, let us endorse the following …
– God rules above all
– We need to pray
– Let’s do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.

Speak Where the Bible Speaks

Posted by on May 18, 2008 under Sermons

Please ask Chris Benjamin for permission before reproducing
any of the images, graphics, or charts on this page.

“Accept Him Who is Weak”

  • David Lipscomb (1875):
    • “So long as a man really desires to do right, to serve the Lord, to obey his commands, we cannot withdraw from him.”

Declaration and Address

  • Thomas Campbell (1809):
    • Where the Bible is unclear or silent, no disagreement should divide Christians.
    • When Campbell spoke of “being silent where the Bible is silent,” he allowed for strong opinions on what that silence meant.

1832 Union

  • Raccoon John Smith:
    • Silent on the precise positions that Christians might take that are not part of the gospel.
    • Speak where Bible speaks = simply use the words of Scripture.

All Silence is Not Equal

  • Silence permitted the Missionary Society
  • Silence forbade instrumental music in worship

Three-Part Hermeneutic

  • Focus is on what practices the Bible authorizes:
    1. Direct Command,
    2. Approved Example, and
    3. Necessary Inference

Other Considerations

  • Does this practice reflect the nature of God?
  • Is it in line with the biblical story of redemption?
  • Does it build up the church?
  • Does it promote Christian virtue?
  • Is it a “weightier matter”?

Speaking Where the Bible Speaks

  • Black Churches of Christ
  • “I have had to rely upon God, he is the only one I had. The white man didn’t like me because of the color of my skin. The colored man didn’t like me because of my religion. Now, son, who else did I have?” — Marshall Keeble

The Goal

Posted by on May 15, 2008 under Bulletin Articles

Jesus made this statement to the twelve just a few hours before he died. The “impossible” events that would occur the next few hours and the next few days would test the fabric of the disciples’ faith as had no other time or experience in Jesus’ ministry. There would be the confusing washing of the feet, the bewildering communion, Judas’ betrayal, fleeing disciples, Peter’s repeated denials, Jesus’ trials and crucifixion, reports of Jesus’ resurrection, and Jesus’ resurrection appearances to the disciples. In all this, a core truth held them together-the core truth of LOVE.

Nothing made sense until the disciples realized all that occurred expressed Jesus and God’s love. Being kind to a betrayer hurts! Fleeing hurts the deserted! Denial hurts! Death by crucifixion hurts! How can a resurrected person become an imposing, powerful political figure? What were the twelve to do with all that pain and confusion?

Until those men saw all those events as acts of love, nothing fell into place-not Jesus’ life and ministry, not their discipleship, not Jesus’ death, and not Jesus’ resurrection. After those men could see all the events as acts of Jesus and God’s love, everything fell into place. God’s love expressed through Jesus’ death made sense of pain and confusion.

May I suggest nothing basically has changed for the people (men or women) who accept discipleship by acknowledging Jesus as their teacher. Being people who choose to belong to God in a world filled with rebellious acts and personal indulgence is commonly confusing. Being people who follow Jesus in a world of death, betrayal, contempt for people, and disrespect for God is commonly painful. Declaring such a world “bewildering” is terribly close to understatement. So much happens that is mindless and confusing!

Until. Until when? Until we see God’s love. Then-and only then-do things fall into place. Notice the new commandment was not to love each other. The new commandment was to love each other as I have loved you. I do not love you because you deserve my love. I love you because I belong to Jesus. In Jesus God taught me how to love. God loved me far beyond any sense of devotion on my part, for beyond any loyalty on my part, far beyond any worthiness in me. It is God’s love for me that is the foundation of my love for you. Then-and only then-do things fall into place. Then-and only then-those who have not entered Christ will see that we are his disciples. Why? No one in this world loves like those who follow Jesus. The goal: to let Jesus teach me how to love. Why? So people can see an alternative way of life and death!

If I try to love you like God loved me, will you try to love me like God loves you? Have you read John 3:16 lately? “For God so loved the world …”

Crisis and Controversy

Posted by on May 11, 2008 under Sermons

Please ask Chris Benjamin for permission before reproducing
any of the images, graphics, or charts on this page.

Growth 1906-1946

  • 1906 – 159,658
  • 1916 – 317,937
  • 1926 – 435,714
  • 1936 – 309,551
  • 1946 – 682,172

Aftermath of 1906

  • Debate
      – Controversy was the only way to reach consensus without creeds or conventions
  • Dissension
      – Congregational division over various issues was common before 1930’s
  • Disempowerment
      – Afraid to do anything for fear of doing something wrong

Trivia or Truth?

  • Baptistery or Running River?
  • A plate for the bread or not?
  • Extend an invitation or wait for the question?
  • Elders or no elders?
  • Any song or just those addresses to the Lord?

The Sunday School Issue

  • Opposition to Sunday Schools
      – Unauthorized [silence of Scripture]
      – Biblical pattern instructed parents to teach children
  • 1925 – Directory of Non-Class churches assembled
  • The Apostolic Way listed the faithful preachers and churches.

The Cup Question

  • In the 1920’s multiple containers for the communion became common
  • At issue was the pattern of the Lord’s Supper prescribed in Scripture
      – Multiple cups were unauthorized
      – The one cup was an element of the communion pattern
  • The faithful were listed in the Old Paths Advocate.

Millennial Controversy

  • R. H. Boll – 1915 Gospel Advocate articles
  • Believed the prophetic sections of Scripture should be examined
  • Was told to quit writing. He then started a new journal, Word and Work.

  • H. Leo Boles, Pres. Nashville Bible School
  • 1927 Boll-Boles debate in Gospel Advocate (May-November)
  • After debate Boles invited Boll to speak at NBS Chapel service

  • 1933 Neal-Wallace debate; Wallace suggested the issue threatened fellowship.
  • Wallace not only condemned Boll, but also those he considered sympathetic with Boll.

  • Criticism of Wallace’s crusade
  • J. N. Armstrong:
      – Premillennialism was a personal conviction
      – Minority view should be treated graciously

Dynamics of Division

  • Focus on observable practice.
  • List of “the faithful”
  • No fellowship with error
  • Methodology more important that theology
  • One side opposes divergence from the pattern, the other is indifferent.
      Silence of Scripture

“Accept the Right, Reject the Left”

Our Commitment to Children and Their Families

Posted by on under Sermons

Vacation Bible School is . . .
June 15-18, 6 P.M. each night

  1. VBS is for Everybody!
    • Children
    • Teens
    • Adults
    • Neighbors
  2. VBS is BIGGER!
    • You have a part to play in VBS
    • No one else can do your part
  3. VBS is LONGER!
    • 6:00 – 6:30 – Assembly
    • 6:30 – 7:45 – Classes and Events
    • 7:45 – 8:00 – Closing
  4. VBS is . . .
    • A time to serve
    • A time to grow
    • A time to enjoy
  5. VBS is . . .
      . . . part of our commitment to children and their families!

VBS at West-Ark Handout
It’s for Everybody!
June 15 – 18
6:00 PM every evening

What’s the schedule each night?

  • 6:00 – 6:30 PM – Everyone (children and adults) assemble in the auditorium for opening program
  • 6:30 – 7:45 PM
    • Children through 6th grade will follow their “family tribes” and go to marketplace and other classes
    • Teens 7th – 12th will go to marketplace and/or follow family tribes.
    • Adults who are serving at VBS will go to their stations
    • All other adults can choose one of four breakout classes (see below)
  • 7:45 – 8:00 PM – Assemble in auditorium for closing event

I can help in VBS! Who do I contact?

  • Marketplace Shops – Contact Karen Benjamin
  • Family Tribes – Rochelle Brown
  • Making Bread – Sign-up in Foyer
  • All other questions – Dena Jenkins or Staci James
  • Teen Workers – Chris Benjamin or Jackie Sofio (452-1240)
  • Breakout Classes for Adults – Chris Benjamin

What will Teens (7th-12th) be doing?

  • Teens are encouraged to help adults in the marketplace shops, family tribes, classes, nursery, and opening program dramas.
  • Teens will participate in work days to help set-up and rehearse on June 11-14

What are the Breakout Classes for Adults?

  1. “You’ve Seen the Skit, Now Read the Book!” – Room 100
    • A Bible class based on the Scripture for each evening
  2. “The Parenting Odyssey” – Room 106
    • Equipping parents to teach their children about family, proper behavior, sexuality, and faith.
  3. “Curing the Financial Stresses of Life” – Room 203
    • Discussing biblical principles for managing finances throughout life.
  4. “The Gospel and Our Culture” – Room 211
    • Discovering elements of spirituality, faith, and gospel in contemporary music and television.

Please help us by registering on-line at
Please register to assist or to attend.
Keep watching the bulletin and order of worship for more details about VBS.

The Joy of the Lord

Posted by on May 8, 2008 under Bulletin Articles

Recently I heard an interview with a reporter who for years went worldwide reporting. His task: find the unhappiest people in the unhappiest places and tell their stories.

Then he decided for a year to find places with reputations as the world’s happiest places. His objective: to discover (a) if there were happy places, and (b) what made them happy places. His discovery: (a) The world’s happiest places were climatically located in the harshest places. (b) They were happy places because people depended on each other. The people cared about each other.

You and I live in a troubled society and a troubled world. Many people do not know God, reject God, have mistaken ideas about God, or do not believe Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God. Many have never known love, never been loved, or never knew a loving environment. A lot of people have never been forgiven or do not know what forgiveness is. Many do not interact or behave as we do, or have our social concepts.

God has a message for these people. He says He cares, and He showed the depth of His concern in Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection. The issue is not “does God care?” but “do we as God’s people care?” When such people have contact with us as a congregation or as individuals, do they experience caring, do they feel concern? Do they want to be a part of us because we care?

Easy? No! Tiring? Yes! Why? There is so much demand, and so few resources. There is so much need, and so few to be concerned. There are so many forms of consequences to bad behavior and poor choices, and almost no “fixes.”

For years we could focus on doctrines, but no more. For years we made every question a matter of “simple right or wrong,” but no more. For years we pulled some favorite verses out of context and clubbed people with them, but no more. Why? People who need God the most care not about our view of doctrines, right or wrong, or verses (in context) until first they see we care about them, until first they see God’s joy in us.

When I was a boy there were housewarmings, unplanned pooling of Sunday lunches by several families, games in homes, and various forms of interaction that demonstrated caring. I have heard you speak of campouts, trips together, and lots of social interaction. The joy of being together was obvious, inclusive, and real.

This is not a call to return to the past. It is a call to make our caring obvious, inclusive, and real.