Vengeance is Mine

Posted by on June 28, 2009 under Sermons

Saul in David’s Hands (chapter 24)

  1. Saul is vulnerable
  2. David’s Men: “This is the day God promised – Saul is in your hands!”
  3. David cuts of piece of robe but protects Saul: “He’s the anointed.”

Saul in God’s Hands

  1. David confronts Saul: “God will avenge me!”
  2. David puts the matter in God’s hands
  3. Saul is humbled by David’s grace
  4. Who is right? In whose eyes?


  1. David promises respect to Saul’s family
  2. They part company. The pursuit is over
  3. Samuel dies

David and Nabal (chapter 25)

  1. David and his men ask Nabal for hospitality
  2. Nabal is rude and selfish
  3. David plans revenge on Nabal
  4. Abigail intervenes. David trusts in the Lord – again.
  5. Nabal is stunned and later dies.

David in Saul’s Camp (chapter 26)

  • David and Abishai enter Saul’s camp
  • Saul is in David’s hands once again
  • He calls Abner out and chides him for not protecting king
  • David and Saul call for peace

David and Christ

  • Christ did not defend himself, but trusted in God
  • Christ could have avenged himself, but he trusted in God’s justice
  • Christ was rightfully God’s anointed

God Favors You

Posted by on under Sermons

What do you expect when you come to worship? I wonder what the worshippers who came to synagogue in Nazareth expected? Maybe they thought it would be a day like any other. Saying prayers, reading Scripture, some study. …

I want you to imagine what it would have been like for the men and women who had high hopes for Jesus’ ministry. They were there that day when Jesus read Scripture. He said …

The Spirit of the Lord is on me and he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come. (Luke 4:18-19)

He claimed that this ancient reading was fulfilled even as they heard it. Jesus certainly proved to have the power to back up his claim. No wonder people followed him and wanted to learn how to live.

But now it is years after that and those same men and women have lost their hopes. Jesus is hanging on a cross.

  • Do you know what a cross is? It is a form of public execution. It is a method of political execution. The ruling power reserved crucifixion as a way of publicly shaming those who threatened their laws and their power. It was a way of saying to everyone in the land – if you oppose our rule or break our laws we will destroy you.

What did Jesus do to end up hanging on a cross? The answer is not “nothing.” In fact Jesus did everything that he said he would do. He proclaimed good news to the poor. He set captives free. He restored sight to the blind. He released the oppressed. He had the audacity to say that God favored us.

Now, I understand if you feel like that isn’t fair. I understand if you feel like that isn’t just. It isn’t. In fact it sort of makes us think that there’s something sort of broken with the way things are. It shouldn’t be like this. You are right. It shouldn’t.

But Jesus was a threat to the powers that keep us poor, blind, imprisoned, captive, and oppressed. And they would do anything to keep their power – even if it meant remaining captive to sin. They nailed Jesus to a cross in order to send the message that there was no good news for the poor, blind, captive, and oppressed. They wanted to reserve God’s favor for those that they considered worthy.

Can you feel what the disciples of Jesus felt when all of their hopes were dashed?

What happened to the Spirit of the Lord that rested on Jesus? Did God remove his favor?
Even as Jesus suffered and died, he trusted in God and his goodness. He said “Into your hands I commit my spirit.”

The cross seemed like the end, but it wasn’t. Jesus’ trust and submission to God was not misplaced. God raised him from the dead and exalted him. Hope was restored.

Here we are now. What did you expect today when you came to worship? Maybe a song, a prayer, communion, some preaching and scripture reading.

What if I told you that the Spirit of Christ is still proclaiming Good News. For those who are poor, captive, oppressed, there is hope. God favors you.

But be warned …

  1. Some people rejected Jesus in the synagogue – as soon Jesus got very generous with God’s favor, they wanted to kill him.
  2. Some people rejected Jesus at the crucifixion. Jesus threatened the truce that they had made with the powers of sin and evil. They had become comfortable in their blindness and captivity. Jesus threatened that comfort.

Those who reject God’s favor, choose poverty, captivity, blindness, and oppression. Could that be you?

Some of us are poor – literally and figuratively, our spirit is impoverished – we quench the joy that can be ours by submitting and trusting our spirit to God the Father.
Some of us are captives – to the state, to debt, and to our lusts
Some of us are blind – to the truth, to the needs of others, to the sin in our own lives
Some of us are oppressed – by our own selfishness, our anger, our hatred, our sin.

The Spirit of the Lord, through Jesus, is proclaiming good news. Something good and something new … The good news is this: God favors you.

The Holy Spirit of God was working through those disappointed disciples who had their hope restored when they met the risen Christ.

Peter preaching to those who rejected God’s Favor …

(Acts 2:38-40) Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles-all who have been called by the Lord our God.” Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!”

There is hope. God favors you. Will you trust your spirit to God? Will you accept the gift of the Holy Spirit?

Believing In What God Did In Jesus

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

The above statement was written by Luke as Paul’s statement to King Agrippa. The Lord Jesus spoke to Paul when the resurrected Jesus appeared to Paul near Damascus. Note these things: (1) the unconverted Paul’s acts of persecution against Christians abused the Lord Jesus himself. (2) The infinitely Jewish Paul (Galatians 1:13, 14) was sent to the gentiles as a minister and witness. (3) The converted Paul’s objective to gentiles was fourfold: to open their eyes, to direct from Satan’s dominion to God’s, to extend to them forgiveness of sins, and to make them eligible for the divine inheritance.

How would this be accomplished? The gentiles would be sanctified by faith in Jesus as being the Christ that God sent. The foundation of their faith would be God’s work in Jesus. How would the gentiles, these idol-worshipping people, see the light? They placed their faith in God’s work in Jesus. How would these people leave Satan’s control and place themselves under God’s control? They placed their faith in God’s work in Jesus. How would they receive forgiveness of sins and the inheritance? They placed their faith in God’s work in Jesus.

The beginning point of holiness for these unholy idol-worshippers was to place faith in God’s accomplishments in Jesus. Faith does not come from obedience. Obedience comes from faith. Faith in Jesus gives obedience meaning and significance. The person who trusts Jesus obeys Jesus. Without faith in Jesus, acts are just acts. A person obeys because the person trusts God’s acts in Jesus. Why do you obey? Do you trust Jesus?

Giving Away

Posted by on June 21, 2009 under Sermons

I stand before you preaching today because there were believers not much different that you and I who put a lot of energy and effort into a method that was aimed at giving away the gospel.

The Center Street church gave away rides to church. They had a church bus in the 1970’s, just like many churches. Yes, those buses were a lot of work. Yes, it was difficult to maintain a church bus in the midst of an oil crisis. Yes, there was a too much rigidity to the method of bus ministry and promotion of a one size fits all program. Yes, bus ministry was sometimes sold as the magic bullet that would produce instant church growth.

But thank God that those people in Fayetteville drove that bus down Turner Ave. Thank God that he was working in the hearts of men like Blondie Edwards and Lonnie Farrar. Thank God that Blondie knocked on the door of our house and asked if the kids wanted to come to church. And when my mother asked if she could ride the bus to church too (because she thought my sister would not go without her), thank God that Blondie didn’t wonder if this conformed to the guide book nor did he tell her that he had to ask the elders – thank God he said, “Absolutely!”

Thank God for Colleen Shirley who befriended my mother and made her feel welcome. Thank God for the men who made my father feel welcome. Thank God for people at that congregation who welcomed my unbaptized mother and father into their community. Thank God for Tommy Dockery who preached and conversed with my mom and dad. Thank God that he eventually baptized them into Christ.

There were all sorts of methods at work in that church family. Everything to one-on-one kindness to high powered bus ministry. I don’t think for a second that it was all perfect and I rather suspect that there may have been some people who were annoyed by it. But thank God that those believers all had a mission to give away the Gospel!

I don’t know how many others turned them down. I don’t know how many others slammed a door. I don’t know how frustrating the work might have been. I don’t know if there was criticism or concern within the church. I just know that they offered my family a ride to church and VBS and it made an eternal impact on us and anyone that we’ve been able to help along the way.

I tell you this because I want you to forget for a second that I’m the preacher. I wasn’t born with a label that said “Minister or Evangelist.” I didn’t grow up in a heritage of saintly men of the cloth and god-fearing women who served the church. My forefathers were not church leaders. Rather I grew up in a basically good family that wasn’t particularly religious, and yet we loved each other and we did the best we could for me and we lived our lives like anyone else.

I tell you this because I want you to forget that I am preacher and understand that if it weren’t for the grace of God I probably would live a self-consumed life as a basically good person who had no sense of eternity.

And the difference maker was a group of people who were caught up in God’s mission to give away the gospel. They got intentional about it. They employed the best methods they could come up with and did something to share and give away something that was given freely to them. Have I made this clear?

Intentionality vs Perfection.
We have to be intentional. This isn’t something that we can hold onto and give away to those we deem worthy. Intentional about outreach.

One of the greatest obstacles that we have had is that we see the Gospel as something we have to sell. We don’t. We just give it away.

Method vs Mission – The Church Bus was a method. When it became the mission itself, it made it possible to lose sight of why we invested all the energy and effort into maintaining a bus and picking up children. Keeping sight of mission means that when it became unfeasible to maintain a bus, we could all of us use our own cars to bring people to worship – which in itself is still a form of method.

VBS is a method. It’s a good method. It can change. If it fails or falters, it doesn’t mean that the mission has failed. Even in our failed methods, God can accomplish his mission.

If the mission to make disciples is the polar star, then we are always course correcting according to the mission. Course correcting according to method is missing the point.

[Illustration: Negative Illustration about Method and Mission.]

Note: The lesson here is not that we must support bus ministry. Center Street and West-Ark no longer have bus ministries. That method may not be feasible, but the mission can still be accomplished. The lesson is that we must also keep the mission in focus and let method adapt to fulfill mission. Otherwise mission will be forced into the shape of method and that is not responsible.

Our mission is to give away the gospel. Our mission is God’s mission. All of our energy and effort should be in line with what God is doing. One way to imagine this is to see that our methods and efforts, our resources are sails and ships. God’s mission is the wind that drives all of this.

How can I inspire us to keep the mission in view? How can I inspire us to keep the mission in sight whether it is around the world or across the street? How can I inspire us to keep the mission in view personally and as a church – right here and now in Fort Smith.

Illustration: Funerals

But there is something that stirred me and inspired me during these three funerals. I could say with boldness and confidence in each of these funerals that these three saints are safe in Christ. I could say that because they were united with Christ in his death, then they would be united with him in the resurrection. I didn’t have to lie. I didn’t have to sell it. I just said it. It wasn’t because these three were particularly good – even though they were. It was because these three trusted in Christ. The gospel was given away freely and they took hold of it.

I want us to be more concerned for all those who will pass away without to confidence that Larry, Lewis and Louise had because of Christ.

Let this stir us to be fixed on God’s mission. Let’s give the gospel away to the hands that freely open to receive it.

David the Outlaw

Posted by on June 14, 2009 under Sermons

David at Nob

  • Abiathar the priest
  • Holy bread supplies David and his troops
  • David needs a weapon to match Saul
  • Doeg the Edomite

David at Gath

  • King Achish
  • David is recognized as a warrior
  • David acts insane to avoid capture

David at Adullam

  • David’s Army of Outcasts
  • David provides for his family (Moab)
  • Psalm 142

Saul at Nob

  • Saul vs Abiathar – The friend of my enemy is my enemy too
  • Saul’s men refuse his order
  • Doeg the Edomite

David at Keilah

  1. The Philistines raid the farmers at Keilah
  2. David has a choice – do the kingly thing and protect them, or avoid trouble
  3. David listens to his men and God
  4. Keilah does betray David

Giving Up

Posted by on under Sermons

We’re living in the era of big bailouts. It seems like there is a plan for everyone to help us avoid change and the consequences of our overspending and greed.

Jim and Joweena Sanders have taken the bailout plan to the neighborhood level. They are broke and up to their eyeballs in debt. Do they sit down and figure out a budget? Do they get rid of the luxuries in their lives that are costing them so much? Oh no. They come up with a bailout that helps them avoid all responsibility – even if it shoves it off on the neighbor.

[Watch the VIDEO: “Meet the Sanders: The Bailout”]

The Sanders wouldn’t give up their stuff. So, they couldn’t give in to their fellow Christians, they couldn’t give out to help others, and they certainly couldn’t give up to God. All because they couldn’t give up their stuff.

The video is funny – maybe because it is true. Would it surprise you to know that this is exactly what God’s people were doing at a critical time in their history?

Rebuilding the Temple (Haggai)

Haggai – It is the 6th century BC. The Persian king has just released the captives who were taken from Judah by Babylon. The nation that was to be a light to the world is in ruins. God’s Temple, which was dedicated as a house of prayer for all nations, is destroyed. Now God’s people can get back to their mission and restore the temple.

Building the temple was central to the restoration of a nation that would glorify God. They were to be a light to the nations. But the people became consumed with their own houses rather than the house of the Lord. As a result, the mission was delayed for 14 years. Enter the prophet Haggai who holds the people accountable …

Haggai 1:1-11 (they respond 1:12-14)
Haggai 2:8-9

  1. Giving Up means Giving Up on Stuff …

    The people were not giving up to God because they wouldn’t give up their stuff. The irony is that the more they try to hold on to their stuff, the less they have.

    • They have food, but they are always hungry
    • They have clothes, but they are never warm
    • They have money, but they cannot save it – they put it in a bag with holes.

    Do we ever feel like that? So much work, so much toil, so much effort to acquire more stuff and we are never satisfied.

  2. Giving Up means Giving Up to God …

    Discipline is the antidote to dissatisfaction. See Malachi 3 …

    • In pagan religion, worshippers give something to God to get something in return.
    • Giving Up to God is not the same, but there is a long history of God’s people giving in order to get …

When we give in order to win God’s favor, we fail to recognize two things:

  1. God doesn’t need an allowance from us. When we give him 10%, that’s not his cut. He cares about the 90% he has given us as well as the 10%.
  2. God doesn’t change. We don’t give to change God, we give to God so that we might be changed.

When we give up on stuff and give up to God, we develop the heart, the mind, and the culture that resists the influence of the false God mammon. We practice our service to God rather than money.

All giving is giving to God. Don’t play games that leave us in control – those are ways that serve mammon. When you give, give to God. Trust that He will do whatever He wants with your gift. Learn to let go of it and don’t demand a receipt. We wouldn’t want God to hand us a bill would we?

Do You Dare Imagine?

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Numerous things are beyond my imagination. My life would change profoundly without Joyce (my wife), my children, or my extended family. I cannot imagine the change if my friends or this country disappeared! If the lifestyle and opportunities of many people I knew in other countries were mine, I would be dead. This is not all my unimaginable!

While many unimaginable circumstances exist for me, number one is forever the same. I cannot imagine living in a world untouched by Jesus Christ. Do you ever consider how radically our world would change if there was zero influence of Jesus on it?

If there was no Jesus influence, the unimaginable would be commonplace! The concepts of freedom, of rights, of morality, of justice, and of people exploitation would change-at the conceptual level, not merely the application level. Evil would become good, wrong would become right, and we would exist to be used and discarded.

“David, why would you think that?” Consider this in the context of our world: As God’s influence through Jesus decreases anywhere, the evil treatment of people increases. When good departs, there is no vacuum! Evil behavior quickly fills the hole!

Is the situation perfect? Far from it! Is Jesus’ influence exploited or abused? Certainly! Are many disillusioned by the behavior of some who claim to be Christians? Absolutely! Must the situation be improved? Surely!

The understandings of what God does through Jesus Christ, the commitment of faith in God, the abundant life, the trustworthiness of human promises, the God-given value of people, behavior transformation, and the proper measurements of life’s purpose are more valuable than most realize. Understanding Jesus changes people-for the better!

Will Christian influence exist without my commitment and support? It’s our choice!

The Fear of God’s Spirit

Posted by on June 7, 2009 under Sermons

Saul against David

  1. Saul has slain his thousands …
  2. Reaction: Angry, galled, jealous
  3. Tormented despite David’s music

    Once the people praise David, Saul loses his cool and his graciousness.
    He is troubled by the evil spirit even though David is ministering to him through music.

Saul’s Violence

  1. Throws Spear Twice – 18:10
  2. Sent to battle – 18:16
  3. Price for the Bride – 18:24
  4. Jonathan/Truce – 19:1-7
  5. Spear again – 19:9
  6. Assassination at Night – 19:11-17
  7. Pursuit – 19:18-24


  • David benefits Saul and Israel with his success
  • Saul grows more fearful and jealous
  • Saul is afraid of God’s Spirit upon David

The Triumph of God’s Spirit

  • Saul and his troops are overwhelmed by the Spirit of God
  • Saul is reduced to ecstatic prophesy – He is “among the prophets.”
  • Saul will not finally be able to resist God’s Spirit

Another Truce? – 1 Samuel 20

  • Jonathan advocates for David
  • Arrow message
  • Covenant between David and Jonathan
  • David hides out from Saul

Flight or Fight

  • David does not seek advantage
  • David will not retaliate
  • Maintains innocence
  • Oath with Jonathan

    David does not seek advantage by marrying Saul’s daughter or by taking advantage of the military.
    David could easy fight Saul – he defeated Goliath
    He chooses to elude Saul
    Question of who has the Spirit …

A House Divided – Psalm 55

  1. If an enemy were insulting me,
    I could endure it;
    if a foe were raising himself against me,
    I could hide from him.
  2. But it is you, a man like myself,
    my companion, my close friend,
  3. with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.

Giving Out

Posted by on under Sermons

The king of all reality television is “Survivor.” It was one of the first and it remains one of the most popular. For nine years American audiences have watched players outwit, outlast, and outplay one another in a game in which people are “voted off the island.” Double-crosses, alliances, tricks and strategies are all part of getting rid of others so that the winner is the last person left – the Survivor, who takes home a prize of $1 Million.

I wish I knew what it was about “Survivor” that bugs me. Maybe it’s the fact that it seems to tap into the “Survival of the Fittest, Dog-Eat-Dog” mentality that brings out the worst in our culture.

It’s not just a game. I wonder if we don’t sometimes think that to get ahead we have to compete. Outwit, outlast, and outplay is more than a catchphrase for a game show. It’s tapping into our worst fears as we struggle for our own way and for (what we think are) limited resources.

“Survivor” ends wrongly also. After all the alliances and backbiting, the game comes down to two people. A jury decides who will get the $1 Million. That’s revealed on a big final episode in New York, and the winner celebrates and all the losers are there to act like good sports. If “Survivor” is going to be true to its creed (Outwit, Outplay, Outlast) then I think the final “Survivor” should be left alone on the island with the $1 Million. After all, if the point is to get rid of everyone else, then really do it. Leave the winner with the cash and a note that says, “You got rid of everyone else. You outlasted them all. Here’s the cash. Now use it to get off the island.”

That would be a more fitting conclusion I think.

You won’t see a lot of giving encouraged on “Survivor.” Not unless there are strings attached. I could comment on a game show and we could all walk out of here lamenting how horrid TV is and we won’t gain a thing. But let’s stop and ask ourselves how we escape the corruption of mindsets and worldviews that make us think the goal is to outwit, outplay, and outlast. For if we do stick to that sort of mindset and behavior in family, work, society, or church, we will find ourselves stuck alone with cash – and no one to share it with, spend it on, or buy things from.

The antidote to the poison of selfishness is giving. Giving is a discipline that develops our godly character. Last week we mentioned how we are blessed when we give in. We participate in heaven’s economy when we share freely with one another. Sharing with one another as church is the mission of God at work in this world. But God’s kingdom is always larger than his church. God is drawing in the outsiders and adding them to his church.

Giving Out means …

Outflowing of God’s Grace

  • It is a troublesome misconception that giving out is simply the rich sharing with the poor. Giving out is a grace that we all must participate in. If you have two cloaks and your neighbor has none, then you are the rich one. Give.

  • 2 Corinthians 8. Paul praises the Macedonians for giving, not because they gave out of excess, but because they were poor. And Paul let them give because they had God’s grace. Not because they were rich.

  • Too often we apologize for asking people to give because we don’t want to burden people who are poor or on fixed income. Etc. This is our misunderstanding of giving. We are never asked to do what we cannot do. We are simply being asked to do what we can do.

  • How dare we not encourage each other to give because we assume that someone cannot afford it! Will we also say that we don’t want prayers because we aren’t sure someone has enough spirituality?

  • When we make giving into a country club sport we are exalting our own abilities and focusing on the gold rather than the grace. Share what you have and are able – it’s the outflowing of God’s grace that counts.

  • Billion dollar philanthropist says he had enough. His story would be the same if he had a thousand to give away. He had enough. He was giving out.

Caring about the Outsider

  • Alien and stranger texts (Exodus 22:23, 23:9, Leviticus 19:33) – Israel was charged to treat the alien and stranger with respect. Don’t make them work on the Sabbath. Don’t enslave them. Don’t use them. You were once outsiders, so treat the outsider among you lovingly.

  • Showing love to enemies and hostile – Matthew 5:44 – Love your enemies and pray for those who mistreat you.

  • Samaritan being a neighbor … The question is not “Who’s my neighbor?” but “How do I act like a neighbor?”

Outrage at poverty and injustice

  • In God’s Law are little statutes that are to be obeyed not just because they are right, but they also discipline us to turn outward and pay attention to what’s wrong with the world. It rouses us from our slumber and the numbness that causes us to ignore what’s just not right with the world.

  • Leviticus 23:22 – Don’t harvest the very edge or corner of your field. Leave it for the poor and the alien (outsider). It flies in the face of greed and gain and gives out. It leaves room for God’s Grace to Flow Out. When Ruth and Naomi are left without means they find a field owned by a man named Boaz who kept this rule and it made a way for them to survive. Boaz paid attention to what isn’t right about the world and gave outwardly and challenged the philosophies of greed, gain, and limited resources. We can too.

  • Baby Bottle Campaign – a simple way to create a different kind of culture. Create an option for life.

  • Service Camp – “First is Third.” Why did our kids do that? It roused them out of the status quo of the world and pushed them into God’s Grace (not guilt) and it moved some of us too.
    • Why fast for 30 hours? Why sleep in cardboard boxes? Why spend time doing service work? Why eat the food that is served to people in starving nations?
    • They did it to understand and share the experience of the poor and others they’ve never met. They did it to get outside themselves and identify with those in need.
    • That sounds sort of like Jesus (Philippians 2:5-11)

Thank You, God!

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

When someone does the incredible for you, how do you say, “Thanks”? There is no way you can return the favor you received on the same level! In fact, anything you are able to do for your benefactor appears “down-right wimpy” in comparison. So what do you do?

First, you do not shirk expressing your gratitude because “you can not repay in kind.” Second, you do what you can do (not what you wish you could do). Third, you understand that your benefactor did what he (she) wanted to do for you. It is this heartfelt desire that made the needed gift the more precious! Fourth, you realize your response must come from your heart-not a sense of obligation. You declare gratitude because you feel gratitude!

Need at times teaches valuable lessons! Because a congregation is “big” (as compared to what?) does not mean it has endless resources, endless programs, or endless finances which enable it to do anything it wishes. Size merely increases need!

This week we were told that in actual spending (merely meeting commitments) we are running $3190 a week below budget. As a congregation, we handle finances responsibly-no one wastes! It will be 22 weeks before our fiscal commitments end. Multiply 22 times $3190, consider the picture, and realize that is only to “break even.”

What is the answer? Each realizes what God and Christ do for us. Each is humbly grateful. Each does what he or she can. That will be far more than enough! Perhaps need teaches some how to say, “Thank you!” to God and Christ.