The Gap

Posted by on October 30, 2008 under Bulletin Articles

It seemed an impossible problem. Humanly, it was! It was only in Jesus’ cross that God solved what people could not.

For hundreds of years there was a significant division between the descendants of Abraham through Isaac (Israel, the Jewish people) and the gentiles (all peoples or nations not Israelite). God created a special relationship with Abraham’s descendants through Isaac. His intent: nurturing these people away from idolatry (the Egyptian experience) so they could lead idolatrous people to the living God (see Isaiah 49:6).

Oh, we humans! Israel never realized nor accepted her God-given mission! Instead, those people thought all God wanted was them. Thus, the people God designed to reach out to other nations decided God did not like other people. The more exclusive they became, the more they rejected other people. Others resented being rejected!

Thus the gap grew into a chasm that was so broad, deep, and dangerous that no human could bridge it. Then God built a wide, sturdy bridge across that chasm, adequate for every age. With that bridge (the cross of Christ) the chasm was tamed, the division ended, the barrier was broken, the dividing wall came tumbling down, and the peace produced by reconciliation became reality. Israelites could be in Jesus Christ, gentiles could be in Jesus Christ, and God’s purposes could be accomplished.

There was a time when I naively thought I could help our “gap.” Call our “gap” generational, sociological, theological, economic, cultural, or anything you wish, but obviously we again created the “gap.” Regardless of your “camp,” we all conclude “I am better than you-besides that, I am correct!” The end result is that we close God’s bridge, ignore His purpose, and attack those in Christ who disagree with “me.”

God challenges all of us: “See what I did in Jesus’ cross, understand My purpose, and pursue My purpose instead of changing it by substituting your anxiety.” Keep God’s bridge open! Take self out of God’s equation. What matters is being in Jesus Christ, not agreeing with what “I” champion. May Jesus Christ forever be bigger than any of us! May each person in Jesus Christ always know that! More than merely knowing it, may we show it! May “I” always help “you” come closer to God!

Don’t Fear What They Fear

Posted by on October 26, 2008 under Sermons

Read Isaiah 8:11-22

Background: It is the 8th century BC. The nations of Israel and Aram are afraid of the wolf at their door – Assyria. If they can invade Judah and set up a leader who shares their national interests, then they just might have a chance at withstanding Assyria.

There’s a lot of fear in Judah. The people are eager to consult the experts and intelligencia to come up with a plan that will secure their future …

Entering into this political mess is a preacher. A man whose sermons are not heard. The preacher’s name is Isaiah. His two young boys are with him – he has given them such strange names: Shear-Jashub and Maher-shallal-hash-baz. Their names mean “A Remnant Will Return” and “Quick to the Spoils, Hurry to the Plunder.” These boys have been given names that preach. Names that proclaim the imminent dawn of bad times but also a hope that some will be spared.

Isaiah preaches in Judah; his nation is very afraid right now. Their enemies are planning an attack and intend to set up a puppet-ruler to replace the current king, Ahaz. The people want the king to get help from another country … and soon. Ahaz feels the same way, and even more so. Ahaz intends on becoming the closest of friends with the king of Assyria. Ahaz’s fear has motivated him to get an altar just like Assyria’s and to worship Assyria’s gods, just like Assyria.

But there are some who disagree with Ahaz and the people. Isaiah is the leader of the dissenters. The rest of the nation talks about Isaiah and his kooky cult. They call them trouble-makers, and unpatriotic. They sneer because Isaiah and his followers claim to speak on behalf of the Lord God, but what they say isn’t anything like the word from the temple priests.

(Isaiah 7) During the midst of the Israel and Aram’s attacks against Judah, Isaiah approached the king. Ahaz was out inspecting the city’s water supply in the event of a siege. Isaiah was waiting to give him a message:

“Be careful, keep calm, and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of those two smoldering stubs of firewood–because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. Aram, Ephraim, and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin saying, ?Let’s invade Judah; let’s tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make Ben-Tabeel king over it.’ Yet this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ?It will not take place. It will not happen. Because, the head of Aram is Damascus and the head of Damascus is just Rezin. Within 65 years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people. The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is just Remaliah’s son. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” (Isaiah 7:4-9)

God even authorized Isaiah to give Ahaz a sign to bolster his confidence. He would give Ahaz’s son a name that preached – “Immanu-El” meaning “God Is With Us.” But Ahaz believed that signs were in bad taste. He decided to go ahead with the Assyrian treaty, he was even confident that it was God’s will to do so. Nothing, not even a sign freely given, could change Ahaz’s mind.

Isaiah’s sermons were wasted words. So, he returned to his little school to preach to those who would listen. Along the way, he thought about the treaty that will inevitably be signed; the suffering that it will cause Judah in the near future; and the stubbornness of the king and the rejection of the people. He has no more sermons to give now. Only this parting testimony to prepare his followers for the days to come:

“The Lord God spoke to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people. He said:

?Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy;Do not fear what they fear and do not dread it.The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread,and he will be a sanctuary.But, for both the houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare.Many of them will stumble, they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured.’

Bind up the testimony and seal up the law among my disciples. I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob. I will put my trust in him. [So] here I am. I and the children the Lord has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the Lord Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion. When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? [Go] to the law and the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.” (Isaiah 8:11-22)

What are we worried about? What are we afraid of?

  • The crash of the stock market and the loss of security?
  • The election and its aftermath?
  • Terrorists and invasion?
  • The decline of America’s strength?
  • The collapse of the world as we know it?

All of these things might truly happen. They could be very real occurrences. Isaiah told Ahaz not to be afraid, but Assyria was a reality that would cause Judah to suffer.
All the things that people worry about today might really happen …

But whose way do we follow? Whose hand is upon us?

Do we watch the signs of the spiritualists and mediums of our day an age with their glowing electronic wisdom? Do we wring our hands and wipe our brows in fear of the gloom and doom that they forecast?

Or do we go to the words of the living God and fold our hands and bow our heads in prayer?

Do we follow the way of the people around us in this nation who are filled to the brim with worry and anxiety or do we listen to the voice of God and feel his strong hand upon us?

So many of us dread and fear about our nations borders, our 401K’s, our potential president, and the fate of the USA. So many of us dread and fear the state of health and healthcare.

Why don’t we dread and fear the Lord? Why don’t we hold God to be as holy as our political pride? Why don’t we regard God as a more secure rock and fortress than our investments?

Why? Because we have followed the way of the people. We have made the mistake of Ahaz and put our trust in powerful alliances. We have looked to the wrong signs and consulted the wrong media.

None of the rulers, nations, empires of the 8th century remain. But the sermon of the preacher is preached again today. The names of those children still preach …

God is with us! A remnant will survive! Watch out because they are quick to the spoils and hurry to plunder!

We stand in the place of Ahaz. God offers us a future, a sanctuary. He has given us the sign of a son. We can stand with Isaiah and his sons. We can go the testimony of Scripture, or we can make a deal with the devil and invest in the comforts and securities that will not last.

We have to make the choice that Ahaz had to make. God is willing to do his work right here and right now. God is with us. He can do that in this generation. But if we refuse, then he will bind up the promise for a future generation. And he can do that. He can raise up a generation of kids whose names will preach. I would rather see that now than later – wouldn’t you?

What Did You Learn About You From Others’ Mistakes?

Posted by on October 23, 2008 under Bulletin Articles

Matthew 12:7 – But if you had known what this means, ?I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.

The first quote is from Hosea. The second is from Jesus referring to Hosea 6:6 in a discussion with some Pharisees about what they perceived to be a Sabbath violation.

I have been preaching, teaching, and offering guidance for over 50 years in several states and on more than one continent. I have seen righteousness from godly people who astounded many. I have also seen acts of ungodliness committed by people who were supposed to walk in God’s ways. Concern for God’s influence often was behind righteous acts. Self-justification and anxiety were often behind the other acts.

I have seen the generosity of the poor, and the sacrificial but quiet deeds of the well-to-do. I have witnessed astounding unselfishness. I have seen a congregation provide a car to a missionary with this rationale: “If this congregation can borrow for a building, it can borrow for a car.” I have witnessed acts of kindness and thoughtfulness that defied imagination. I have seen outpourings of concern to meet “unmeetable” needs.

I also have seen a couple move into a community and place membership in a congregation. Later, they declared their purpose for coming was to infiltrate the congregation and divide it. I have seen men in a business meeting double up their fists to exchange blows because they disagreed. I have seen a set of tires deliberately ruined by roofing nails because one Christian dared defy another Christian’s views. I have seen division intentionally created by gossip, rumors, and anonymous letters.

In the things I witnessed I have learned much. One is this: Most of us American Christians are slow learners. We can be adamant in our views to the point that we close our ears and listen only to self. “Agree with me and you are wonderful; disagree with me and you are terrible.”

Jesus’ use of Hosea 6:6 as a critical insight into God fascinates me. “Jesus, why quote Hosea? Why not some ?profound’ book like Genesis, or Exodus, or Deuteronomy, or the Psalms, or Isaiah, or Daniel? Why, of all things, quote Hosea in something so important?”

Why? Simple! Hosea provided those Pharisees an insight into God that they desperately needed! Hosea said what those Pharisees needed to hear!

We have to learn from the mistakes of others to see ourselves! Why? We never make mistakes! There is always a “good reason” for doing what we do, or perhaps a “good justification.” So, show me to myself by your flaws-then maybe I will learn. Too often, my best view of me comes when you stumble. Hopefully, that is when I learn the importance of compassion. How can an uncompassionate human stand before a compassionate God? None of us dare find out by a judgment experience!

Portrait of a Nation

Posted by on October 19, 2008 under Sermons

Take a look at a nation that is decaying.

  1. Its people are consumed with wealth and they will use every means legal and illegal to acquire. Call it greed or call it stealing, it works the same.
  2. Relationships have very little meaning. Adultery and infidelity are taken for granted. Homosexuality, casual sex and perversion are highly regarded. Children are not considered a blessing, but a financial liability or asset.
  3. Substance abuse is wide spread and overt; values of decency are in sharp decline
  4. Most offenses are not dealt with in the name of justice, but in the name of financial compensation.
  5. Honesty is a rare commodity and one’s creativity at bending the truth is applauded.

Before you assume that this portrait of a nation is our USA, let me inform you that I am in fact talking about civilization on the island of Crete over 2000 years ago. But the similarities are stunning yes? Unfortunately the Crete of 2000 years ago parallels our society today:map showing location of Crete

  1. The courts of law were not interested in justice, but in financial compensation. For instance, a crime as serious as rape did not incur punishment, but a fine. On Crete, mothers could choose to leave their children to die, but only if the father did not want the child. And when a mother killed an infant without the father’s consent, she was charged a hefty fine.
  2. The rest of the world regarded Cretans as reprobates, dishonest, and uncultured. Today we have the ugly American, then they had the ugly Cretan.

Crete had become well known as a degenerate nation by the time of Christ:

  1. The people of Crete were well known as liars and reprobates. A common expression about lying in that day was “to out Cretan a Cretan.”
  2. Crete’s major industry was piracy. The northern shore of Crete was a haven for pirate bands that terrorized the Mediterranean. The pirates of Crete were the most feared in the second century BC. Even after the Romans made Crete a province in 67 BC piracy continued on Crete.

But Crete had not always been such a despicable place. The earlier period of Cretan history (3000 – 1500 years BC) was a shining, golden age. The Minoan civilization rivaled the culture of Ancient Egypt. It was the basis of the legend of Atlantis. Five hundred years BC, Cretan law was recognized as strict, but fair. In fact, the Law Code of Gortyn is recognized today as unique, because the burden to make a case is on the one bringing charges.

A once great nation, now sick and decaying. Perhaps in examining Crete we do not look at the past, as much as we see our own possible future as a nation. We have a tendency to believe that things are worse than they ever have been. I do not at all wish to paint a rosy picture of our society today. There are serious problems and obvious moral decay. But let us not be na?ve and think that this has never happened before. In fact, knowing that times past have been worse may help us. For instance, we wonder how we will ever influence our society for good with the gospel, well consider this: How do you preach and teach the gospel on Crete?
The message of the risen Messiah took shape within the context of the community of Israel. Israel is a highly moral community. In fact, their high morality often leads them to become arrogant, prudish, and self-righteous.
But now, some 20 to thirty years after the resurrection of the Messiah, we find a missionary, a Christian gentile named Titus entrusted with the task of sharing the gospel among pirates, thieves, perverts, drunks and liars. How? How do you do this?

Mission To Crete

  • Titus remained on Crete to complete unfinished work; this included appointing elders (1:5)
  • Titus is distracted by Cretan charlatans who are using Christianity as a profit-making scheme (1:10-16)
  • Paul urged Titus not to get involved in stupid controversies with the charlatans (3:9-10)
  • Rather, devote his energy to nurturing spiritual growth and holiness to form people eager to do good (2:14, 3:8)
  • Titus’ Mistake:

    1. Facing the opponents “on their own turf”
    2. Arguing their warped teaching on their terms. Don’t get bogged down in their senseless and useless arguments. (Avoid foolish controversies – 3:8)
    3. The opponents, who care very little about healthy teaching, will adapt and thrive. They aim to keep as many followers as possible and gain a profit
      • Here is a lesson for the church: We have spent too much time fighting shadows and too little time calling people to grace.
          – As a teen I was not impressed by the reasons that preachers gave for certain music being wrong. I knew all those reasons and I even knew more reasons. What impressed me were people, who appreciated “good” music and godly things even more than I appreciated the things I did.
      • How?
        • Transformation, not just information
              – Leaders that Teach us How to Live
        • Community of Faith – Loving Relationships
        • Generation to Generation – Living Curriculum

        The best way to “muzzle” or silence those who are “upsetting entire households” is not to argue or attack, but to teach “things that are excellent and profitable for everyone.” – (Titus 2:11; 3:8)

    Paul’s Strategy:

    1. Take care of what remains, and 2) appoint elders in every city (Titus 1:5)
    2. Appointing elders is entrusting those who can lead others
    3. Taking care of what remains: Right Belief and Right Behavior
        Belief = Grace and Gospel; Behavior = Holiness
      • Healthy teaching produces holiness (Both are important)
      • “To think is easy. To act is hard. But the hardest thing in the world is to act in accordance with your thinking.” – Goethe

    Healthy Teaching

    • Two warnings to stop, then disassociate with them (3:10)
    • Focus on the healthy teaching (2:1)
      • Build up mentors (2:2-6)
      • Model it (2:7)
    • Doing Good (3:8)
      • Rejecting ungodliness (2:12-13)
      • Serving and maturing (3:14)

    How do you share the gospel in America?

    • This is not your father’s America. Let’s accept that.
    • We have a choice: 1) We can continue to lament, we can criticize and argue among ourselves, or 2) we can live a gospeled life and encourage others to do the same. (Illus: My great-grandfather argued with the TV – I know his excuse, What’s our excuse?)
    • Bob Briner, Roaring Lambs

      • “Go into your office or place of business and ask how many of your colleagues understand the doctrine of inerrancy or know what the apostle Paul meant with the word kephale or [when the rapture will occur]?”(p. 29)
      • “The best way to stop the spread of evil is to replace it with something good.” (p. 39)
    • It’s fine to rebuke what’s wrong – to drive out the bad spirit, but who will offer the good spirit in its place? (Luke 11:24) (Hollywood is not just corrupt because immoral people went to Hollywood, it is corrupt is because we spent our time arguing with those who did not care and we neglected/discouraged creative people who could have stepped in and made a difference.)

    Whether it is Hollywood or Houston, LA or LJ, Federal government or family – we need to follow Paul’s advice to Titus: “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.” (3:14)

    Using Life As An Investment of Faith

    Posted by on October 16, 2008 under Bulletin Articles

    We often say, “If I had lived in Jesus’ day, believing would have been easy! If I had opportunity to see what they saw, placing faith in Jesus as the Christ would have been easy!” You can decide for yourself, but speaking for me, I am glad I did not live then. I do not conclude it would have been easier to have faith in Jesus when he was alive.

    “Why would you conclude that?” For several reasons, I hold that conclusion. (1) Many were ruled by incorrect motives. Read Matthew 13:10-16; Matthew 15:1-14; John 6:26-33; and John 9:35-39. I fear I might have been one who did not wish to understand, or who was inconsistent, or who focused on physical needs rather than the spiritual meaning, or who experienced the power but did not know who Jesus was. (2) There were only about 120 (Acts 1:15) who remained committed to Jesus immediately after Jesus’ death. Who am I to think I would be one of those? Jesus healed a lot more the 120 people! (3) What God sent Jesus to do was radically different than most Jewish people expected! Not even the prophets and the angels understood what God was doing. They were curious in the extreme about God’s actions (1 Peter 1:12). (4) Many Christians died in that first 100 years for no reason other than faith in Jesus Christ! Are we willing to give our blood to retain our faith in Jesus Christ? (Today’s Christians find differences in congregations to be insurmountable obstacles-what a comparison!) I am not so certain that I would embrace faith in the resurrected Jesus in their circumstances!

    A faith that challenged always existed as the foundation that caused people to follow God. God obviously was working toward His solution to sin in Genesis 12:3 when He promised Abraham his descendants would bring a blessing to all nations. From the time of that promise to Jesus’ coming was approximately 2,000 years. When Jesus’ ministry began, neither Jesus nor his ministry was at all what the Jewish people anticipated. Not even the apostle Peter fully understood what God was doing long after Jesus’ resurrection-carefully read Acts 10:9-20, 29, 34-36. There has never been a time when it was easy to invest life in Jesus Christ through faith in God’s work through him.

    Dare to trust in Jesus by being “one who has not seen,” but one who believes in God’s work in Jesus Christ. Never stop believing in what God did and continues to do in Jesus! Never trust yourself! Always trust in what God did in Jesus! Serve Jesus because you trust God. Dare to be who you are because you trust who Jesus is! Always view life as an investment because your life is an investment-whether you view it that way or not!

    A Common Future

    Posted by on October 12, 2008 under Sermons

    [This lesson was presented by 2 people.]

    Notes of David Chadwell

      In Acts, you can tell by the content of the sermon who the audience is.
      In Acts, God is always the partner — nothing is the result of a purely human achievement.

      Who knows where we will go in the future?
      The destination will be good if we respond well to three questions.

      1. Will we listen to God?
        • Not as easily done as most think.
      2. How will we treat people?
        • Will we treat other people godly?
        • God always placed great emphasis on how His people treated others.
      3. How will we react when we have problems?
        • How will we solve our problems?
        • Nothing declares godliness more eloquently than how we treat each other as we solve problems — and we will have problems.

      Our lives may write a sentence in the history of this congregation.
      Rarely will a life write a paragraph. And never a whole chapter.
      What will your life write?


    Notes of Chris Benjamin

      Golf in the Year 2000, is a novel by J. McCullough written in 1892. It tells the story of Alexander J. Gibson, who falls into a deep sleep in the year 1892 and awakens in the year 2000.

      The plot follows Gibson as he is introduced to the wonders of the dawning 21st century by his host, the current owner of the house where Gibson lay sleeping for 108 years. There are golf clubs that automatically keep their user’s score, driverless golf caddies or carts, and special jackets, which everyone must wear, that yell “Fore!” whenever the player begins his swing.

      Modern readers are fascinated by the many startlingly accurate “predictions” contained in Golf in the Year 2000. These include bullet trains, digital watches, and television (although those specific terms are not used).

      One of the novel’s “predictions” is the liberation of women. In the book, women have achieved substantial equality with men, but with some remaining and new differences. Gibson learns that the women of 2000 dress like men, hold key positions in business and government and in fact do almost all of the work… while the men play golf full time. In the view of the fictional narrator, this is a true utopia, though he does not find 21st century females (not “women”) to his liking. – [Source: Wikipedia Entry]

      What will the world be like in 2033?

      1. It’s a Small World After All — Already we see how the US and world economies are tied together. Politics are also tied together closer than ever. Events in the Middle East and China shape our lives here in very personal ways – gas prices, reservists called into duty are just some examples.

        • One of the implications of this is that categories such as foreign and domestic will not make sense in 2033. UA Fort Smith is working to create partnerships with Japan and China. The world just got smaller.
        • William Carey is named as the father of modern missions. He was an English cobbler who was so fascinated by James Cook’s travels to Polynesia that he wanted to take the Christian faith to “the heathen.” That was 1792. Now, in 2008 we might ask “Who’s the heathen?” And are we supposed to “go” into all of the world or is the world right here?
        • In the 1980’s the vision of West-Ark was to see the world around us because of the Laotian congregation. Tom and Lou Porter’s mission field was here. Already we see terms like domestic and foreign fading in meaning. Likewise in 2002 when the Iglesia de Cristo was planted in Fort Smith.
        • Will there be some major event that will change the world between now and 2033? In the last 25 years we experienced the fall of Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War, and 9-11. How will we respond as God’s people? Whose interests will we support?
      2. Nothing in Common – What defines this generation? Nothing in particular. That’s why they are called Mosaics. In 2033 the people who will be about my age will not have many common experiences.

        • George Barna defined Mosaic Generation as those born between 1984 and 2002.
        • Some describe this group as “comfortable with contradiction,” “post-modern” and exhibiting “non-linear” thinking.
        • Barna said society has taught Mosaics to think in this different way through fast-edit videos, constant computer use and easy access video games. In addition, 91 percent of all Mosaics, compared to 51 percent of all adults, use the Internet, where they absorb information and build relationships. (Source)
        • With the advancement of technology and the availability of media via the internet, TV, radio, cell phones, PDAs, or MP3 players, Mosaics have minute-by-minute information at their finger tips. Fears of a classmate not showing up due to, not sickness, but rather being shot and killed the night before is all too real a possibility for Mosaics. (Source)
        • They are an extremely realistic generation. That’s good. There’s less pretense and more concern for what truly matters. When people learn to cope with such rapid change, instant information, and sudden tragedy, they might become impatient, unsympathetic, or misunderstanding of our lack of realism.
        • Relationships mean everything – but relationships are built differently. Belonging has changed.
        • Ethics are compartmentalized. One set for work, one set for home, one for faith.
      3. The 411 – How we gather information will change. Not sure how, but it will. Live feeds. Constant feeds.

        • The nature of storytelling and communication is changing
        • Post-literate society is a society wherein multimedia technology has advanced to the point where literacy, the ability to read written words, is no longer necessary
        • So how will we read the Bible?
          • We haven’t always read the Bible the same way …
          • Early Christians were often illiterate. Hearing was more important than reading. Faith comes by hearing! Not reading.
          • Acts 8 – that scroll that the eunuch was reading was expensive. It wasn’t common.
          • Oral tradition kept the stories of faith alive.
          • Major changes in the 15th century with the invention of the printing press. Technology changes the way we communicate.
          • Now we have copies of scripture. We have an emphasis on accuracy and word studies. The word is a written event rather than a spoken event
          • In America, the word is regarded as a “constitution,” a body of statement that we read flatly. That’s a very modernist view. Very rational and scientific.
          • Now we communicate with images and symbol, but also with sound. We can print easier than ever, but people don’t read like they used to.
          • And the Word isn’t regarded as a constitution. It isn’t flat. It has multiple terrains. It is more than one genre.
          • Spoken, written, read or symbolized – the word of God has always been a living word. Active!
        • Authority of word will depend on authenticity of those who live it.

        Communication – Symbol or word, communication is still critical. God didn’t always communicate to us through words. He used symbols. He came in the flesh.

        • Technology influences the way we communicate and the way we form community
      4. Faith in the Future – The 21st century may be the most spiritual century ever.

        • Spirituality is not the same as Christianity.
        • Christianity is not the same as Christendom – Christian politics and territory. Churches of Christ have understood this better than anyone – we’ve been apolitical and apocalyptic and we need to hold on to this because it will help us in the future.

      Why will the 21st century be so spiritual? As people lose hope in broken, worldly institutions they will be seeking something more. Something meaningful and bigger than ourselves.

      • Thus we dare not become more institutional
      • Resources: UnChristian and Revolutionaries. (See Barna Group) Half of young churchgoers said they perceive Christianity to be judgmental, hypocritical, and too political. One-third said it was old-fashioned and out of touch with reality. A common concern among Christians and non-Christians = “Christianity in today’s society no longer looks like Jesus.”
      • Implication – we will need to wear our institutional structures and concerns lightly – like a pair of shoes. We can change our shoes depending on where we are going, but we need to have a healthy body otherwise it doesn’t matter what kind of shoes we wear.
      • Attitudes and behaviors will need to reflect the spirit of Christ. The world is becoming increasingly hostile and tribal – evening homes and unfortunately at church. There must be an oasis of healing and hope – a people who are better and different.
      • In 2033, being right won’t make a difference if we aren’t also righteous. [But that’s always been the case – it’s just the rest of the world knows that even before we do]

      Eschatology. The kingdom of heaven is breaking in. There is a story, something is happening.

      2 Peter 3:10-14
      But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.[b]That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.

      Romans 13:11
      And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.

    A Personal Evaluation

    Posted by on October 9, 2008 under Bulletin Articles

    And we think today’s church has problems! Imagine seeking to combine into one fellowship people as diverse as a devout Jew who was converted to Jesus and a devout idol-worshipping Gentile converted to Jesus. Each person followed entirely different religious rules prior to conversion, had entirely different moral values, lived entirely different lifestyles, worshipped different gods, had different concepts of divinity, and often despised each other. Does that not sound like wonderful “church material”?

    Even in matters held in common, they clashed. Both ate part of the sacrifices they offered as worship (read 1 Samuel 1:1-11). Both regarded that eating as an act of honoring the god (God) worshipped.

    Irony: a Christian who understood could eat a pagan sacrifice in a pagan temple and not engage in worship. Why? (1) He knew the pagan god did not exist. (2) He knew that what one ate or drank in a sacrificial ceremony was without religious significance in purity matters. That was (is) correct! Yet, for the sake of someone who did not understand, he would refuse to do what he correctly understood to avoid offending the conscience of someone who incorrectly understood. In concern for a person for whom Christ died, the Christian would forego correct knowledge. A heavy spiritual concept!

    Christians are (and have been) big on rules and regulations concerning “right” and “wrong” purity concerns. We tend to be more confrontational and less flexible than God is. God responds without concern to things that deeply concern us.

    For example, as a personal test (not a “body/church” test) list your 5 favorite T.V. programs.

    Honestly tell yourself why you enjoy these programs. Then tell yourself how they help you pursue a closer relationship with God. In matters of personal purity, in all of life, can you see it is a personal situation involving an objective-far more than learning and keeping a set of “rules and regulations”?

    Danger and Benefits

    Posted by on October 2, 2008 under Bulletin Articles

    The tongue is an amazing organ. Some of the things we find most enjoyable and beneficial in life are the result of the tongue’s acts. I love to eat. In fact, I enjoy it too much. I never consciously think about the contribution my tongue makes to my eating. Day after day, year after year, probably hundreds if not thousands of times daily, it darts in and out of danger. It keeps my unchewed food in place to be torn or crushed by my teeth, and much of the time it has less than a second to do its job. When I enjoy an especially tasty meal, I never say, “Good job, tongue! You kept that wonderful food right where it needed to be for me to enjoy every bite!”

    I never think of my tongue until I bite it. Then, if I am not careful, I say to myself, “Stupid tongue! Why didn’t you get out of the way? Do you realize how much the rest of my body will be inconvenienced because you did not get out of the way?”

    I never remember the tongue replying, “Sorry! I must confess I got in the way on purpose. I just felt like getting bit, suffering intense pain, and adding additional difficulty to my job.” Though it is difficult to remember, the tongue only does what it is told to do. It does not function independently. Jesus said, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” (Matthew 12:34)

    True, the tongue gets all of us in all kinds of trouble because it says what we think. However, the thought existed in us before we said it. If the idea was not in our hearts, the tongue would not have turned loose the “wrong” words.

    The problem is deeper than learning to control what we say-though such control is worthy of great effort. The deeper problem is deciding what is allowed to be in the heart. The truth is that the tongue will not say what we do not think and feel. The combination of a heart dedicated to God and a tongue that is controlled is a wonderful combination!

    Do you speak before you think about the way your words will affect others-maybe even those you love the most? It could be suggested that you “bite your tongue.” Perhaps it could be better suggested that you (a) examine your heart and (b) focus on ways you can give your emotions and thoughts more completely to God. Then when your heart overflows, the tongue is more likely to encourage than wound.

    “God, help us be more like You. Then our mouths will be more likely to praise You than express our human frustrations. In Your ways, not our desires, is life. We seek life!”