The Man Was Upset!

Posted by on September 25, 2008 under Bulletin Articles

For years, many have noted that Paul’s letter to the Galatians began differently than his letters to other congregations. Typically, no matter how bad a congregation’s problems, Paul began his letters with encouragement. For example, even though the Corinthian congregation had enormous problems, Paul encouraged them. Read 1 Corinthians 1:4-9.

But not to the congregations in Galatia! Why was Paul so upset with them?

No one had a deeper personal appreciation of what God did in Jesus Christ than did Paul. Prior to his conversion, we would have called Paul “a mean man.” His convictions were sincere, but they made him vicious. His convictions made him destructive, not helpful. He was merciless to Jewish men and women who believed in Jesus Christ. He protected the robes of those who killed Stephen, and he thought they did the proper thing by killing Stephen (Acts 7:58, 8:1). He dragged Christian men and women from their homes to imprison them (Acts 8:3). He used force in attempts to get Christian Jews to blaspheme (Acts 26:11). He even described himself as hostile (see Acts 26:9; Galatians 1:13-14; and 1 Timothy 1:13, 14).

Then he discovered his error concerning Jesus (Acts 9:1-9). The result: he became what he despised, was forgiven of murder and abuse of harmless Christians, and became a great missionary among gentiles (read again 1 Timothy 1:12-16).

Why? Why did God forgive Paul for such horrible acts? Among the reasons for such forgiveness is the reason Paul listed in 1 Timothy 1:16. He demonstrated that God’s mercy and forgiveness exceed any form of human failure if (a) a person sees his [or her] error, (b) turns against his [or her] error, and (c) redirects his [or her] behavior.

Then why was Paul so upset with the Galatian congregations? They did not realize what an incredible thing God did for them in Jesus’ death and resurrection! Jesus Christ is God’s good news! For congregations to act like there was a “good news from God” that rivaled what God did in Jesus was unthinkable!

Paul personally knew what God did in Jesus Christ. He did “the unthinkable” and later received forgiveness. He understood that the Galatian congregations existed because of what God did in Christ. He understood that those gentiles could be Christians because of God’s actions in Jesus. To say there was another gospel was unthinkable! Therefore, there was no encouragement because there was no appreciation of God’s acts in Jesus.

Do you appreciate what God did for you in Jesus? Does your behavior show it?

A Tribute to Tom Drane

Posted by on September 21, 2008 under Sermons

photo of Tom Drane

Thomas L. Drane, 63, of Fort Smith died Monday, Sept. 15, 2008.

He was a security guard for the Fort Smith Regional Landfill and a member of West-Ark Church of Christ.

He is survived by four sons, Abraham Drane of Muldrow, Peter, Isaac and Timothy Drane, all of Rudy; and six grandchildren.

What follows is a collection of memories from a church family that appreciated Tom very much. He was our neighbor, but he very quickly became our brother.

Tom wasn’t a part of this church family for very long but we came to know him … We knew that he loved oranges and Dr. Pepper. We knew that he served his country in the U.S. Navy. We knew that he loved his wife and missed her very much. We knew that he loved his sons.

We knew that he loved to study the Bible and had a thankful heart. We knew that he cared about everyone without regard to their status. We knew he was our friend. We knew that he was God’s friend.

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:11-13

In Memory of Tom Drane
From the West-Ark Church of Christ

Tom was never without a sense of humor and encouraging word.
He was always patient and kind, even under the strenuous circumstances he lived in.
Tom came to our house a few weeks ago when we had a church fellowship and ice cream supper.
He was a delight to be around and we will miss him greatly.

In Him,
Meg Canfield

I haven’t been at West-Ark long enough to know Tom well. But, I will always remember his warm handshakes on Sunday mornings.

Tom befriended Daniel and me and always seemed to find us and say “hello.” He would tease us, and ask me if Daniel was being a good husband and ask Daniel if I was being a good wife. Tom encouraged us to keep on loving each other and growing closer together in his humorous way. He was joyful amid his physical ailments, and I never heard him complain.

I will miss seeing Tom on Sundays. I will miss him checking up on us, and I’ll even miss his teasing. :-)

Julie Tignor

Tom was a wonderful person, with a tremendous heart. He always had a smile, a laugh or a word of encouragement for those around him. I will certainly remember my friendship with Tom. May God richly bless his family during this time of grief.

Kenny Hollomon

Tom was never without his smile. He was always ready to shake your hand, talk and share some laughter. I look forward to seeing him again in our Lord’s kingdom.

Ed Grist

Tom was such an example to our family. He impressed us with his love for his church family and his encouraging spirit. There were no strangers to Tom. He had a kind word and a smile to offer everyone. We learned most from his example of great effort and sacrifice to participate in worship with his church family. He made God his priority. No matter the weather, he endured it to worship his God and to fellowship with his brothers. We admired his commitment and dedication. The foyer will not be the same without him. He will be missed by all of us.

With our sympathy,
David, Carenda, Makensie, Hannah, and Bethany Cobb

Tom was always positive and he always took time to talk to the kids.

Shelly Robbins

Tom was my friend the first time I talked with him. I noticed he loved Dr. Pepper, and I made a big deal of calling him “Mr. Dr. Pepper” and making sure he always had one. He loved it.

I know he didn’t feel well, but he didn’t complain to me. He always had a positive thing to say, a smile, a handshake. There is a lesson there for all of us. I will miss seeing him and being able to say hello, but I know he is free from a body that was plagued with problems, free to rest until that day when Jesus calls us all home.

Sleep well, brother.
Mary Burkett

I have been greatly blessed to have had this past year as Tom’s friend. When he wasn’t at church on those Sundays I was able to attend I missed his ready smile, the radiance that he showed. I knew that no matter what he was going through that he always looked for the best in the situation and had an encouraging word for those around. I will miss his presence but know that his spirit will still be felt in our church and in the lives of those he touched. Farewell my friend until we meet on that golden shore.

Jim Priester

When Tom was in Sparks hospital earlier this year, I went to visit him and while I was there asked him if there was anything that I could do for him. He said he would like a book so that people could sign or leave him a note if he was not in his room. He also wanted Dr. Pepper. Later that day, I came back with Dr. Pepper and his notebook, and he was so grateful. While I visited with him, he paged the nurses’ station. She came in and asked what he would like. Tom said, “Last night I had a really good ice cream bar, and I would like another one, please.” She came back and showed him two different kinds, and asked which one he would like. Tom (just like him) said, “I’ll take them both!”

I met Tom while I was cooking for The Way. He loved to come to dinner before he went to the services. If you asked him how he was he ALWAYS had something positive to say. He would always remind you how God knew what we needed and we shouldn’t complain about it. It didn’t matter if it was the weather, his health, the economy, or just life in general, God always took care of everything and everything would work out. The power of positive thinking. My life was enriched just by knowing him and I will certainly miss him. I never knew anyone who loved Dr. Pepper, cantaloupe, or life better than Tom!!

Linda Davis

Salt and pepper. That’s what Tom used to say when he saw me. Although I don’t remember exactly how it got started, it basically had to do with our “salt and pepper” hair (some call it gray!).

Tom always seemed to be in such good spirits and was almost always teasing and smiling. I had to wonder how he kept such a good outlook. It was obvious that he liked being around people. Whenever I caught his eye, that glint would start up in his eyes and the mouth would start twitching — I knew that he was about to launch some comment or tease my way. He never failed to make me feel that he was truly glad to see me.

The last time I saw Tom was at the Canfield’s for the ice cream social. He was quiet and not his usual self. We talked for awhile and he cried and we hugged. I’m so glad we did.

I know almost nothing about Tom’s situation or condition. What I know is that he was joyful and that I enjoyed talking with him. And I feel lightened to think of his freedom now.

Dwonne Cogswell

Tom impressed us with his concern for others and his ever-present pleasant attitude. We delivered some items to him which we hoped he would be able to use. He called the next day saying they didn’t work for him, but he had made friends with someone at Legacy who had a like need and those items would work great for that person. Could he just give them to him? He was so pleased to be able to help his new friend. Jim was in the Tuesday morning Men’s Bible class with Tom. They never left their class that he didn’t tell Jim how much he enjoyed being there. Even on those days when he didn’t feel well, he had a big smile as he greeted everyone. That was a tremendous encouragement to others. We will miss our friend, Tom.

Helen & Jim Pratt

My first thought upon hearing of Tom’s death was “I didn’t get to say good-bye.”

My second thought was of the man in Acts chapter 3 who was healed and went into the temple courts “walking and jumping and praising God.” I felt like that was what Tom was doing in Heaven.

Tom was a man who came to us a stranger and became our friend. He wanted to know us. He looked in David’s office and wanted to know the story behind each thing on the wall. Even though he had struggles that made him have to work harder to do things, he didn’t act like the world was “all about him.”

I guess my next thought was, “Who else is going to greet us older ladies with “How are you today YOUNG lady?'”

We will miss him.
Joyce Chadwell

Before Tom got sick, he attended Kevin Robert’s class. He sometimes surprised me with his knowledgeable comments. God must have loved him a lot, for there are no wheelchairs in heaven.

God bless,
Myra Puckett

To Tell the Truth: Authentic Christian Community

Posted by on under Sermons

I was reading a book on preaching some time ago and came across a very profound statement in the footnotes. [Charles Campbell, Preaching Jesus, p. 222]. The author suggested that what people really needed was a truthful community. That means a community of people who are tied together by their value of the truth. It would suggest a people who can be honest with one another, a people without pretense, a people who are not duplicitous or manipulative, a people who are connected to something bigger than themselves.

In the final words of James letter, he wraps up all the themes he’s been presenting: friendship with God, righteous behavior, endurance in trials, controlling one’s speech, humility, caring for the needy. He wraps them up into a vision of a truthful community … Read James 5:12-20.

No Swearing and Cursing – In our day we think of swearing and cursing as foul language, but that’s not always been the case. Certainly there is a sub-species of language and words that is just crude. It’s immature. However, swearing and cursing is language that invokes the divine and the spiritual. Ancient cultures, like James’, depended on spoken words uttered in the presence of witnesses. When those words invoked the name of God or of heavenly realities, “by heaven,” then some sort of gravity was attached to those words and they were considered true and binding.

James, following the teaching of Jesus, is making the case that the need to use oaths to back up our credibility suggests that we are not truth-tellers at all times. So the instruction is simple: Just let your no mean no, and let your yes be yes. Mean what you say and say what you mean. That fits for those who are “hearers and doers of the word.”

So we’re fine if we just refuse to make oaths and don’t say things like “Gosh Darn and Gee Whiz?” No, that’s being nitpicky. The lesson is much deeper than this. Our language is littered with revealing phrases like “I’m going to be honest with you …” or “Okay, here’s the truth …” as if anything else said was somehow not true? Our written language and much of our dialogue is duplicitous and misinforming. We live in a day and age of legal, careful speech that we can twist and bend through loopholes and technicalities. Euphemisms stand in for that which is wrong or horrible – a layoff is a “downsizing,” casualties mean death, free expression means rudeness.

As disciples of Jesus, we will have to learn to maintain our native tongue. Our native language is truth and we need to practice its vocabulary even though we are often in situations when some other language is spoken.

But what about cursing? It’s the opposite of swearing. Cursing invokes the divine in order to do harm to others. What’s odd about our age is how people who have no regard for spiritual things will summon the divine to condemn others. There are those who do not believe in God or prayer, but certainly seem to believe in hell because they expect others to go there.

Prayer and Praise – The language of a truthful community is plain speech. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t spiritual. Those who are in distress do not resort to cursing, they pray! They don’t even paste on a sappy smile – they pray. When we are distressed we might even be tempted to lash out and vent our anger. James has already warned us that such abuse of language is like a spark that sets a forest on fire.

But praying appeals to God. It speaks the truth about God and about ourselves to God. Many of the Psalms are prayers from the hearts of oppressed and distressed believers. Hear me, LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and oppressed – Psalm 86.

The alternative is to praise God. Psalms were prayers and they were also songs. (We make too much of a distinction). Those who are happy and cheerful tell the truth about it by praising God who gives good gifts. Telling the truth, the simple truth, means learning to praise God. It takes us outside ourselves. [Tom Drane – We noticed that Tom knew how to do this. He gave thanks to God and praised him for all things. And he never begrudged or cursed his situation. Why? Because he trusted in God and he had learned to speak the truth.]

Calling and Care – A truthful community is not just about words, it is about actions. Truth is embodied. Those who are weak are encouraged to summon the elders. This empowers the sick and the weak. There is a trust in God’s power and a confidence in the role of elders as those who minister in prayer. Care is shown in the laying on of hands and the anointing with oil.

Some have no problem with this, but for some of us it is much harder. Why? The answer is revealing to the way we often form community …

[Rabbits are different from cats and dogs because they are not hunters. They are often what is hunted. Its hard to tell when a rabbit is weak or sick. It’s a survival skill. If they can appear okay, then they are less likely to be attacked.]

Maybe this is why we don’t want to admit our weakness or admit to being sick. We don’t want to be pitied. We don’t want to be shunned. In a truthful community, we do not pity and we do not view the weak as burdens on limited resource, for God’s resources are unlimited.

According to James, the sick are empowered to summon (to call) the elders – Do this, and do not assume that they know your need without a sign. There is no shame in weakness for it is an opportunity for God’s grace to be on display. Praying, laying on of hands, the anointing with oil or other tangible demonstrations of care should not concern us. What ought to concern a truth-telling community is the horrible philosophy of survival of the fittest. Let us refuse to be rabbits or wolves. Let us be truly human.

Sharing and Saving – Sometimes it is impossible to cover up our physical weakness or illness, but what about the illnesses and weaknesses that are not a matter of DNA, cells, tissues, joints and bones? What of the illnesses of spirit, heart, thought, attitude. We can hide these, but they can be just as destructive and just as contagious as any virus. James instructs us to tell the truth. To confess our sins to one another.

But that’s risky, if I confess my sin, then that gives you power over me. But the sin already has power over you. And if anyone takes advantage of the confession, then we too fall under God’s judgment. The confession of sin is a practice that a truth-telling community deals with reverently. It is in the presence of God and we are all humble. So our response to those who confess is to forgive.

But that forgiveness means that we all live in truth as a truthful community. We cannot take that truth lightly. James encourages us to reach out to the person who drifts from the truth. What’s called for here is not the self-righteous meddler who wants to fix everyone else. What’s called for is the loving and honest communication, prayers, and presence of the brother or sister who striving to save someone who is in danger. The goal is to restore the sinner to speaking and living the truth.

Love to Learn!

Posted by on September 18, 2008 under Bulletin Articles

Monday morning as I shaved, I was thinking of this article. (Monday morning is when I typically write the bulletin article.) As I focused on the article, I sprayed shaving cream in my left hand. I am a right handed person. I am also a practical person. Obviously, I do a terrible job of focusing on two matters at the same time.

Fortunately, immediately I realized my mistake. Being practical, I said to myself, “There is no reason I cannot smear a little soap on my face with my left hand.” I am delighted my ears cannot talk and my mouth promised to say nothing! What a mess! I got more foam in my ears than on my jaws! I shaved my whiskers while they laughed-they did not even see the razor coming!

Why did my left hand find a simple task so difficult? My right hand does it daily. Training! I gave all the training from teen years until now to my right hand. So what my right hand does easily without thought, my left hand makes a terrible mess of even when I am deliberate, thoughtful, and concentrate.

So much that seems “to come natural” to a person is a matter of training, not a unique ability. People who conduct themselves righteously do not do so because they have some special ability. They were trained in righteous thought and behavior for a long time. Lengthy training makes their first impulse to think or to act in a righteous manner.

The same thing is true of ungodly thinking or behavior. The person has thought or behaved unrighteously for so long that the first impulse is to think or behave in an unrighteous manner.

So, what is the foundation of the way I think and behave? The key question is, “Who do I wish to be?” Once I decide it is worth the price to change who I am, I begin training. I train myself so my first reaction is to think righteously or behave righteously. I have never met a righteous person who did not consent to righteous training. Who you are is who you are willing to be. It, to you, is worth the price to train.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears the words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell-and great was its fall.” (Jesus’ words, Matthew 7:24-27, NASV)

The History of the History of Romans

Posted by on September 14, 2008 under Sermons

directions everywhere“The Apostle Paul Slept Here”

  • Romans has such a grand history that a history of that history could be written
  • Signposts on the path
  • Attempts to understand Paul

Romans on Romans

  • Paul has never met the Roman churches:
  • “One of the things I always pray for is the opportunity, God willing, to come at last to see you … I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to visit you, but I was prevented until now.” – Romans 1:10-13

  • There’s no real crisis in Rome:
  • “I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness. You know these things so well you can teach each other all about them.” – Romans 15:14

  • Paul is at a turning point in his mission:
  • “But now I have finished my work in these regions, and after all these long years of waiting, I am eager to visit you. I am planning to go to Spain, and when I do, I will stop off in Rome. And after I have enjoyed your fellowship for a little while, you can provide for my journey.” – Romans 15:23-24

Origen on Romans

  • Origen of Alexandria, third century teacher
  • Romans describes the Jew and Gentile struggle
  • Age of Accountability

Augustine on Romans

  • Bishop of Hippo, fourth century
  • Divine Grace conquers sinful nature
  • Original sin

Luther on Romans

  • Martin Luther, 16th century
  • Justification by Faith Alone
  • Most important piece of the New Testament!

Moser on Romans

  • K.C. Moser, 20th century
  • The Gist of Romans
  • The gospel of the cross
  • The importance of grace

The Gist of Romans

  1. The gospel has not been preached when the cross has been ignored.
  2. Let us not have faith in men, but in God.

Strengthen Your Hearts

Posted by on under Sermons

How about this weather? We’ve been expecting this hurricane system for days now. We have been monitoring the weather, tracking this system and relying on the best technology to predict down to the minute and down to the MPH just where this storm would go and how fast it would blow. And even though we give weather watchers a hard time, they actually are very good at what they do. They really can predict with uncanny certainty what will happen. After all, when you send a plane full of US Air Force Hurricane Hunters into the eye of the storm, I would say that their data is quite reliable. (Now the news media might hype it up, but that’s a different matter).

Think about how different this is from the situation in many parts of the world without access to this technology and think about how very different it would have been in the first century when they notion of a satellite view would have been reserved for God.

Think of the farmer who has tilled the soil not with machines but with muscle and metal and he has dropped seeds into the soil with his own hands. Now all he can do is wait desperately for a crop to bring some sort of return to his toil. There’s no such thing as irrigation, he has to patiently wait on heaven to supply the rain in the proper seasons. Not in his time, but in God’s time. After the nourishment of the rain, he just might harvest a crop. A crop that isn’t simply his livelihood – it is his very life, it is the food that will keep him and his family alive. That is patience!

James has already called us to be patient and to endure … Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Now, concluding his message, James, the brother of Jesus and the friend of God, uses the image of the patient farmer to encourage Christians to be patient. He wants us to be patient because of the hope that Christ will be arriving soon. Let’s listen to his encouragement and notice the image of the farmer, the judge, and the prophets.

Read James 5:7-11

The farmer works and lives with the eager expectation of something. Christians live in anticipation of the arrival of Christ. We believe that Jesus taught us the ways of God. We believe that the world rejected him and crucified him. We believe that he was buried, but that the power of God raised him from the dead. We believe that he lives and that he rules. We believe that he will return. When he returns, all of creation – even its brokenness and sinfulness – will be judged. Everything will be set right and the Kingdom of Christ will be acknowledged by every creature. Like that farmer who can wait patiently on God’s time, we too will be so patient.

That patience calls for a way of life that is consistent with our hope. It wouldn’t make any sense for the farmer to start selling his field before he harvested it. It wouldn’t make any sense for him to start tilling the soil because he cannot wait any longer. No. And it doesn’t make any sense for us to lose our patience in Christ’s arrival and start grumbling and groaning against others.

James understood that the believers in his day and age could have easily began retaliating against their oppressors or in their frustration they could have turned against one another. We are at our worst when we are under such stress. When we get impatient or even desperate we might take matters into our own hands and start finding someone or something to lash out against. Stress, trials, persecution are no excuse before the judge. James tells us that the judge is at the gate. So let us strengthen our hearts, steel our nerves before we also fall under judgment.

This word for “Strengthen” is the same word used when Luke says that Jesus “set his face toward Jerusalem.” Christ knows that his trial and his test are before him. All of his teaching about the kingdom and the work of God will either be validated or invalidated depending on how he responds. Will he trust in God to see him through to the end, will he trust in God to vindicate him? [This word vindicate is interesting. It is different from revenge. We think a lot about revenge. Someone has done us wrong and we are going to get them back or expose them. But we cannot vindicate ourselves. A third party does the vindicating – God vindicates us. We must be patient and let him judge. His judgment is better than ours].

The third image James calls us is the prophets. The prophets are heroic figures. People who had a vision larger than what was right before them. He bring in Job to stand among these prophets. Job is the representative of those who have suffered through no fault of their own. Job trusts in a God who will judge all things rightly. Job endures because we waits for the arrival of God to judge all things. Why is James putting the prophets up as an example for us as we wait for the arrival of Jesus Christ? Maybe its because James regards the church as a prophetic community. [And let’s not confuse prophesy with fortune telling. Prophesy is not about predicting the future, it is about heralding the future.] As a prophetic community we don’t have to have special powers or secret knowledge to have vision. We have the story and the witness of those who watched Jesus ascend into heaven. This is no secret. It has been proclaimed for generations. We cannot give you a schedule or program for the end of time, but we can share a promise – Christ will return and will establish a new heaven and earth, the home of righteousness. Be patient as you wait. A faithful, enduring, prophetic people can take encouragement from what we do know about the end (not what we have to guess at) – we know that the judge is standing at the gate and we know that the Lord is merciful and compassionate. So be patient. Humble yourself! Don’t grumble and groan! Why would we grumble and groan? Christ is coming back and that is good news for the friends of God.

[Prisoner of War Camp Liberated before they were Liberated]

The Choice

Posted by on September 11, 2008 under Bulletin Articles

Much has been said in many different contexts about a number of subjects concerning “the right of choice.” Among many of the rights of choice is the right to choose who we are. The choice to convert to Jesus Christ does not destroy choice or the necessity of choice. Choice does not end because a person chooses to follow Jesus Christ.

That is both wonderful and sobering. It is wonderful to understand that I can repent as a Christian at any time. No matter how much I slip as a Christian, no matter what a mess I make of my life, no matter what bad decisions I have made and followed, I can call a halt, repent (redirect), and-with God’s forgiveness and help-turn my life again to following Jesus Christ. It is extremely encouraging to know mistakes, bad decisions, and yielding to evil influences are not final! The option to return to God’s ways is mine! The same incredible forgiveness that made life in Jesus Christ possible still exists for me as a Christian when I make huge mistakes!

It is sobering to realize I can choose to reject God and all His gifts in Jesus Christ if that is my desire. I can choose to revert to anything I wish. That is the core of many temptations-to return to my fantasy of “how good it was when …” (I conveniently forget the struggles and consequences).

Following Jesus Christ never ceases to be a choice. It is a choice in how I see me-a temporary physical being who does not exist after death, or an eternal being who exists after physical death. It is a choice in the way I see life-life as a pursuit of the physical only because the physical only is reality, or life as an investment in what is “to be” because the eternal is as real as the physical. It is a choice in the way I see human existence-only as a matter of time, or as a combination of time and timelessness.

Not matter what I choose, it is a faith choice. I can have faith that the physical, the “here and now,” and that which I physically experience is all there is, or I can have faith in a reality that surpasses the physical, a reality that goes beyond the physical, a reality that goes beyond time. I can believe that life is the result of an accident, or that life is the result of a purposeful God. I can believe I am on my own, or I can believe that the living God wishes me to return to Him. It is my choice, and I will make that choice many times. Every time I am challenged, I will make that choice.

The question: what is your choice? How committed are you to your choice? Is your basic choice for the experiences of now or for God? Who you are very much depends on the choice you make! The direction of your life is determined by your choice!

The Ministry of Prayer

Posted by on September 7, 2008 under Sermons

following 11 September 2001Seven Years Ago … We were talking about getting back to normal [after 9/11]

Pitfalls to Prayer

  1. Piety
  2. “Pentecostalism”
  3. Pragmatism

Acts 6

  • Three works of the apostles:
    – Ministry of Prayer
    – Ministry of Word
    – Ministry of Service

Healing and Hope

  • The Ministry of Prayer and Healing
    – James 5

    – What sort of healing is needed?
    – Prayer places us in God’s Rule

Healing and Hope

  • The Ministry of Prayer and Hope
    – Learning to Pray the Psalms
    – Every emotion and concern imaginable is visible.
    – All prayer is dependence on and humility before God

[as Nike would say]

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

  • Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Friendship With the World

Posted by on under Sermons

What is friendship with the world?

James describes three ways that friendship with the world causes us to turn against God’s intent for us.

  1. Slander and Judgment – 4:11-12
    Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you-who are you to judge your neighbor?

    When we speak against others we presume too much. We presume to have the final word on someone’s worth, on their motives, on their personality and heart. When we pass judgment on others we are actually presuming that we know more than God who is the lawgiver. [Well, wait we never intended to do that did we?] Well, actually we did because we made a judgment that the royal law to love our neighbor doesn’t apply to us.

    Friendship with the world lead to such arrogance that we would judge others! Who do we think we are? Rather than judge others, let us focus on the judgment of the one Judge and Lawgiver.

  2. Arrogance and Presumption – Ungodly Boasting – 4:13-17
    Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.

    When we strive to control our future determine our own fate we presume too much. We presume that we have life mapped out. If you are a control freak, then you really like your map. You don’t like anything that alters that map.

    There is a tombstone shrine in Hierapolis to Flavius Zeugsus. He boasts that in his lifetime he made 40 sailing trips to Rome on successful business – (cf. Ben Witherington III commentary on James)

    The Rich Fool – Luke 12:13-21

    Our life is a vapor. It disappears and cannot be reclaimed by anything we do. We can work all our life, make all the right choices, be successful in all we do and gain great power and wealth, but when we die, our life disappears and cannot be reclaimed by anything we do.

    Friendship with the world lead to such arrogance that we assume that we can secure our life and future. Who do we think are? Only God can secure eternity.

  3. Abuse of Other – Taking advantage of the poor – 5:1-6
    Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.[a] You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.

    Grapes of Wrath – Steinbeck describes the plight of the farm workers who are desperate to make a living. 1) There are more workers than work, so the owners lower wages. 2) They charge exorbitant prices in the company store.

    Friendship with the world leads to an acceptance or ignorance of inequality and oppression. This is the worst extreme of arrogance. It assume that our race, our class, our nationality is more deserving or more qualified than another. Once we assume that, then it becomes rather simple to take advantage of those who are less powerful or wealthy.

    Who are we to assume that we can deny such respect to others? God is paying attention to those who suffer because of the greedy and arrogant efforts of those who take advantage of others.

Judgment – Good and Bad
James affirms that there is a judgment. We have portrayed that as something to fear and dread. But why should a humble friend of God fear the day that God makes everything right. [“We are getting our hearing before the judge.”]
Some will welcome the judgment of God, some do not. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t wait for it with humility but also with expectation.

Unbelievable Kindness

Posted by on September 4, 2008 under Bulletin Articles

For most of this week, we will see and hear of deeds of incredible kindness since (1) the hurricane Gustav did not make a direct hit on New Orleans, and (2) Gustav came ashore with much less destructive force than anticipated. (Do not tell those who suffered significant loss that Gustav was weak!) Had there been an enormous, widespread tragedy, we would see the tragedy. Instead, we will hear repeatedly about unusual, unexpected things done by people for unknown people. We rightly will rejoice in the human spirit that is moved to compassion in moments of great danger.

Ironically, the more people experience compassion, the more compassion is expected. With even more events calling for compassion, struggling people develop expectations. They begin to complain because the compassion shown is not compassionate enough. With additional events calling for compassion, struggling peoples’ complaints grow louder because compassion did not “prevent” the tragedy. Unreasonable expectations make kindness appear to be unkind.

The greatest kindness ever given to people was stated by Paul in the verses above. The enormity of that kindness is not understood until a human understands two things. A human (1) must grasp the enormity of his (or her) need and (2) must grasp that sin is the exact opposite of God. Sin embodies all the cruelty and injustice of hate. God embodies all the beauty and unselfish thoughtfulness of love. God allowed His son to become like His greatest enemy so that we humans might become God’s righteousness.

Any person can be God’s righteousness because of what Jesus did for us in his death. In Peter’s words in 1 Peter 2:24 (speaking of Jesus): “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”

We humans are not righteous before God because we are good. We are righteous before God because we are forgiven. It is not (and never will be) what we have done for God, but what God did (and does) for us in Jesus Christ. Does that eliminate the need for obedience? No! It gives us more reason for being obedient to show appreciation for what God did for us in Jesus’ death!

The persons who do not understand complain because God does not meet their physical expectations, or they resent God for not preventing the tragedy we caused. The persons who understand are awed that God could make His enemies righteous.

Are you a Christian? Why? See God’s kindness for what it truly is! Appreciate what you see, and rejoice in divine compassion!