Where Will My Knowledge Lead Me?

Posted by on August 30, 2009 under Bulletin Articles

Few societies throughout history have dedicated themselves to the education of everyone within the society as have we. This nation has long realized that an essential key to opportunity, to a better lifestyle, and to an improved life is education. To neglect people’s mental development curses a nation. How many nations aspire to teaching every person for years? Why do we? Education benefits the person and the nation.

We wish to encourage and challenge those who impart knowledge and those who gain knowledge. There are benefits, and there are dangers. We urge you to see both. To those of you who impart knowledge, may your task be a privilege. May it never be just a job. To those who seek knowledge, may knowledge always be a part of opportunity. May seeking knowledge never be just an obligation to get “out of the way.” To both groups, may education always be a challenging opportunity that only begins with school. May learning to think accurately be a key to personal fulfillment.

May none of us use our knowledge as the means for justifying evil. Most murderers justify their destruction of life. Most addicts justify their addictions. Most greedy people justify their greed. Most people who exploit justify their exploitations. When we justify our evil acts, we often lose sight of the consequences of our actions, or the impact of our actions on other people.

Paul even knew people who were extremely committed to their religious views, but were committed to zealous ignorance rather than honest insight. Their basic problem: they substituted their values for God’s values-and were not aware of the substitution. The result: they substituted their righteousness for God’s. Learn, but do not be foolish in what you know. Know, but never justify the existence of evil within yourself. Knowledge cannot make you a god, so never let what you know deceive you.

Undeserved Kindness

Posted by on August 23, 2009 under Sermons

Who is Building for Whom?

  1. David and Nathan – Did they ask God?
  2. David wants to build God a house
  3. God refuses

God’s Position and Promise

  1. I will do the building (Psalm 127)
  2. When did I ever ask for a house?
  3. This is not the time

God in a Box?

  1. God is wild and untamed
  2. God is on David’s side, but not in his pocket!
  3. We don’t take care of God, he takes care of us
  4. God cannot be contained in any box, temple, church, or idea

Annie Dillard in Teaching a Stone to Talk

“Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping God may wake someday and take offense, or the waking God may draw us out to where we can never return.”

Worship and Politics

  1. Worship must be central concern
  2. Worship should not be an adjunct to work/politics
  3. God brings Israel out of Egypt to worship Him
God Worship

God acts

we respond

Pagan Worship

god(s) respond

we act

David’s Response

  1. He sits and prays (v. 18)
  2. He submits to God
  3. He asks for a blessing (v. 29)
  4. Kindness to others (chap 9)
  5. The honor is undeserved


  1. David chooses to show kindness and loyalty
  2. Mephibosheth is crippled
  3. He becomes a guest at the King’s table
  4. The honor is undeserved

The Fate of Ammon

  1. David chooses to show kindness and loyalty
  2. Hanun is king after his father Nahash died
  3. Hanun humiliates David’s envoy
  4. David wars with Ammon, they surrender
  5. The fate is deserved

Baptism: United With Christ

Posted by on under Sermons

  1. We are united with Christ in the water
    • Connected with Christ – the water and the river – The early church often baptized in the river, just as Jesus we baptized in the river. The thought was that Jesus met the believers in the water.
    • We are creatures who occupy space and time. We often find things and places that connect us to others – these things, places, and elements connect us
      • A little girl puts on her mother’s shoes
      • A little boy puts on his dad’s hat or jacket
      • Gettysburg – In 2001 we made a trip there and I was uncertain how my children would respond to the place. We had just been to the Hershey Chocolate factory. We had all been cooped up in an RV. Would they run around like berzerkers or would they show reverence? It was a calculated risk, and there’s just something about the place – an energy, an atmosphere – that inspires awe and reverence.
      • Leo’s chair – It connects us to his presence, for those who don’t know him, now you do to some extent.
      • If all of this is true with mundane things and our connections with one another, then how much more is it true with our connection to God the Creator, the living Christ and the Spirit in the waters of baptism?
    • Symbols connect us to things larger than ourselves. They are as real as what they represent because they are part of that reality. No, the water isn’t magic (no more than the bread is magic) but think about the meaning of water …
    • Water is life … communities and cities have always gathered by rivers. The river contains power, but the river also brings life and activity. This is why the early church preferred to baptize in living water.
    • Didache 7:1-2 – “baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in running water; but if thou hast not running water, baptize in some other water …”

  2. We are baptized into Christ
    • Our baptism participates in all the many, many beliefs and practices that are a part of our faith. Some of these may even seem incompatible – we are called out of the world, but we also live out Christ’s love for a lost world. We are dead to sin, but we have a new life. We are not saving ourselves, but we are submitting to his saving grace.
    • This is why it is important to note that we are baptized into Christ. We are never baptized into a church. Baptism is much more than a one-time ceremony – it is a connection with the Lord that we never leave behind.
      • Discipleship – Life in Christ
      • We are united with Christ in his death, but also with his life and his resurrection.
      • We are being saved (1 Corinthians 1:18) – it is a process. We are saved from a crooked and depraved generation – even now. (Acts 2:40)

  3. Our baptism is a transition
    • Friday I attended a preview for a movie called the River Within. A young filmmaker from Paragould, AR, Zac Heath, made this film on a budget of about $40,000. One of the themes of the movie is a river that flows through a small town in Arkansas. Like the river, God is flowing through the lives of the people in that small town and in that church.
    • One of the scenes I especially appreciated in the movie was a portrayal of a baptism in the river. The minister made mention of the group that gathers around the banks of the water and welcomes the new Christian.
    • As the church we are people who live close to this river of God.
      • We are forever bringing people down into the water. We are always bringing people to Christ – they are growing into their baptism.
      • We are also forever living alongside the river. All of us who have come up out of the water are learning what it means to live this new life – we are growing out of our baptism.
    • Baptism is a transition. It is the anchor point that we can go back to – but it carries us forward as God’s spirit flows through our lives and our lives are changed. – not just then, but even now.
    • So, our lives have purpose in Christ.

Our Amazing God!

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

We Americans are living through a major recession. This is more than a nationwide reality; it is a worldwide experience. This economic downturn offers amazing opportunities, but none of those are for the fainthearted. One must be certain he (she) is addressing a genuine need and has the needed finances to bring the project to completion.

The foundation of the project must be built around an ideal product–addressing a universal need, worthy of sacrifice, and affordable to an enormous range of people.

God invested in a morally bankrupt humanity at a moment of enormous moral recession. His investment utilized His every act, His every involvement with people for centuries. Everything God did in the past bore witness to this amazing thing. His investment was not limited-He did not hesitate to give His own son, and His son did not hesitate to be God’s gift. The human need God addressed was universal! Every person needed it. The divine product also was attainable! Incredibly, it was available to every person-every person literally could have access to God’s gift! What God offered/made available could be found nowhere else-it was truly unique!

Amazingly, God not only addressed a universal need, not only used all His past acts to declare the uniqueness of what He offered, not only made His product accessible, but He also provided this product (a) as a gift and (b) verified His own character in providing it.

Whatever did God provide in such a harsh moral climate? Redemption from personal moral failure! To whom did He provide it? Everyone! How could all cultures, societies, and levels of humanity have access to what God did? Through confidence in what God did in Jesus Christ! Is God’s gift available to us? Yes, if we trust what God did!

What God does for us in Jesus Christ is beyond our imagination! God works; we accept! Through Jesus’ blood God redeems, and we gratefully accept through an obedient response.

Building the City of David

Posted by on August 16, 2009 under Sermons

Click here to watch or download the PowerPoint presentation.

Baptism: Entering Into the Life of Christ

Posted by on under Sermons

There’s a story about these two ministers who were great friends. One was a Baptist and the other a Methodist. They used to spar back and forth about who was more correct in their understanding of spiritual things. Now one of their favorite arguments concerned the form of baptism. The Methodist minister favored baptism by pouring water on the head and the Baptist minister insisted on full immersion. … (The earliest and best version of this story that I have found comes from Grady Nutt.)

Did you hear about the church bulletin that announced … “Baptismal ceremonies will be held today at the end of early service and at the end of late service. Children will be baptized at both ends.”

The humor just shows that there has been a lot of debate about baptism, especially when it comes to the form of baptism. But what can we say about the meaning of baptism? What can we say about its significance? On both form and meaning, I think the best place to start is with the baptism of Jesus.

The early church believed that baptism was a participation in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That perspective is important to answering some questions that I believe are critical to our current understandings (and misunderstandings) about baptism …

  1. Is baptism entrance into the kingdom or a ticket out of hell?
    1. Baptisms after hours. Getting people to share their baptism stories. They speak more about getting out of hell or not wanting to go to hell – and that’s all? (I mean of course no one wants to go to hell – but is there more to it than that? Do we ever think about what the option to hell is?)
    2. Most of us are willing to be saved from hell, but are we willing to be saved from this evil age, a crooked and depraved generation now. (Acts 2:40) We may not be so willing; we want to sample the pleasures of this world before we die. We want to live in the empire.
    3. Lunnenberg Letter. — It is the image of Christ the Christian looks for and loves; and this does not consist in being exact in a few items, but in general devotion to the whole truth as far as known. (A. Campbell) – Baptism connects us to Christ. At Christ’s baptism, the heavens were opened, the spirit descended and the voice of God proclaimed Jesus as his son. God spoke his favor over Christ at his baptism. Can we not imagine how our baptism is also the entry into the kingdom of heaven and God shouts his favor into our hearts? We rise up from the water with more than fire insurance – we rise with a new life under the rule of our Heavenly Father.

  2. Is baptism the final step or the first step?
    1. We have come to understand baptism as the final step of a five step process. (Critique of the five-step exercise.) Final step thinking leaves us without a connection between baptism and discipleship. Baptism is the First step in a new life.
    2. Final step causes us to ask questions like: What do you have to know? How old do you have to be? – These are the sort of questions that we have concerned ourselves with. They are good questions. But finding answers to these questions doesn’t necessarily tell us anything about baptism. On the other hand, understanding more about baptism can help us answer those questions.
      • For instance, how might we answer questions like these if we stop and think about baptism as “total submission to God” rather than just checking off something God told us to do? Sort of makes the implications of baptism much deeper, eh?
    3. Final Step thinking can lead us to think that as long as I got baptized, I am good — right? But there’s so much more to it than that.
    4. Baptism is the first step into a life in Christ. It is a birth.
    5. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20
    6. What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. – Romans 6:1-4

  3. Is baptism a work of righteousness?
    1. If we are saved by grace, then why does baptism matter? How can we say baptism is necessary and essential to salvation if we are saved by grace?
    2. Some have accused us of being “water regenerationists.”
      1. I don’t know of anyone who makes that claim. I mean really, is there someone who actually claims that water is more important than Christ?
      2. I don’t know too many who can pronounce water regenerationist and when I searched it I found information about water purification systems!
      3. I think that this is a charge that comes out of debates and it is meant to be our “Achilles’ Heel.” If we want salvation by grace then we can’t have necessity of baptism. We have to transcend the question – not just to win a debate, but so that we really understand what baptism and grace and righteousness is all about …
    3. Is baptism a work we do or a work God does to us?
      1. Colossians 1:6-15 – Paul connects grace, submission, righteousness, and baptism.
      2. In vv. 6-10, he’s speaking all about grace. He’s slammed anyone who asserts or believes that righteousness is about checking off a list of requirements or manipulating the system.
      3. So, if baptism were a “work of righteousness” (i.e., something on a checklist) then how could he describe baptism as he does in vv. 11-15? Because Paul sees baptism as the work of God. God is really present and active in our baptism, just as we believe he is present and active in the Communion and in the Word.
      4. So, don’t accept it when someone claims that baptism is a work of righteousness – but more importantly, let’s not reduce it to that ourselves! Think about what God did when you were baptized. Think about how he operated on you! What changes he made in you!

        • Heart Surgery … How arrogant it would be to claim we had any part in repairing our heart except to show up.
      5. So, wait! At what point are we saved? Are we already saved and baptism just confirms it? Are we saved right at the end of the baptism? What if you die right when you are placed in the water? How do you call that one? Maybe we are missing the point …

        • Wedding Ceremony … At what point are the couple married? “I do”? “I pronounce you …”? Signing the marriage license? Registering it at the court house? Let’s get rid of all the useless stuff and just process marriages, okay?
        • We can peel away all the layers of the artichoke and find out that the layers are the meat! Those ceremonies mean something …

Learning to Live in a world of meaningful symbols – Meeting Christ in the water …

Are You a “Good Person”?

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Are you a good person? What a hard question! As compared to whom? The popular comparison is to someone we regard to be extremely wicked, selfish, and greedy. In that comparison, we usually say, “I like to think I am a good person,” or, “I never do these things …” or, “I always try to do these things … .” When “good” humans are compared to “bad” humans, we look pretty good.

What if the comparison is to God? That is the comparison we never like! Why? No matter what acts or attitudes are compared, none of us look good. We are talking about the One who gave us Jesus, who gave us forgiveness, who gave us mercy, and who provides us salvation in our unworthiness. How do you compare yourself to that?

Understand one thing, and impossible despair is replaced with the hope of expectation. What one thing? This realization: God does not compare! He gives us Jesus for two objectives: (a) to eliminate comparisons and (b) to provide us goals for transformation. God looks at you, your personal potential for godliness, and your commitment to growth in Christ-likeness. How much do you believe in what God did for you in Jesus’ death and resurrection? Is your confidence in your deeds or in God’s achievements in Jesus Christ? Do you obey God to place God in debt to you, or do you obey God to express your gratitude? Do you serve God because you fear divine punishment, or because you genuinely desire to be like Jesus? Do you do good to honor yourself or to honor the Lord?

God knows your background, weaknesses, struggles, and failures, and it is okay-if you place your confidence in Jesus. Some of the most religious people Paul knew made a huge mistake: they placed their confidence in their deeds instead of what God did in Jesus Christ. Never trust your deeds-they are never enough! Trust what God did in Jesus-it is always enough! The difference is the difference between that of failure and service, between a terror-filled life and a hope-filled life! Trust Jesus, not you!

How the Mighty Hath Fallen

Posted by on August 9, 2009 under Sermons

  • “A law unto themselves” Romans 2:14
  • “A house divided” Matthew 12:25, Luke 11:17
  • “A man after his own heart” 1 Samuel 13:14
  • “Apple of my eye” Deuteronomy 2:10, Zechariah 2:8
  • “At my wit’s end” Psalm 107:27
  • “Blind leading the blind” Matthew 15:14, Luke 6:39
  • “By the skin of our teeth” Job 19:20
  • “Can a leopard change his spots?” Jeremiah 13:23
  • “Don’t cast your pearls before swine” Matthew 7:6
  • “Drop in the bucket” Isaiah 40:15
  • “Dust of the earth” Genesis 13:16
  • “Eat, drink, and be merry” Ecclesiastes 8:15
  • “Eye for an eye” Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20, Deuteronomy 19:21 Matthew 5:38
  • “False prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing” Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22
  • “Fell on rocky ground” Matthew 13:5
  • “Fight the good faith” 1 Timothy 6:12
  • “Golden calf” Exodus 32
  • “Good Samaritan” Luke 10:25-37
  • “Hammer swords into plowshares” Isaiah 2:4
  • “He gave up the ghost” Luke 23:46
  • “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone” John 8:7
  • “Handwriting on the wall” Daniel 5:5
  • “How the mighty hath fallen” 1 Samuel 1:19-27
  • “Labor of love” 1 Thessalonians 1:3
  • “Letter of the law” 2 Corinthians 3:6
  • “Many are called, but few are chosen” Matthew 22:14
  • “Man shall not live by bread alone” Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4
  • “More blessed to give than to receive” Acts 20:35
  • “My brother’s keeper” Genesis 4:9
  • “No peace for the wicked” Isaiah 48:22, Isaiah 57:21
  • “Out of the mouths of babes” Psalm 8:2
  • “Pride goes before a fall” Proverbs 16:19
  • “Put your house in order” 2 Kings 20:1, Isaiah 38:1
  • “Red sky at morning” Matthew 16:3
  • “Salt of the earth” Matthew 5:13
  • “Signs of the times” Matthew 16:3
  • “Soft answer turns away wrath” Proverbs 15:1
  • “Stood by the stuff” (a reference to troops that guarded supplies) 1 Samuel 25:13, 30:24
  • “Strait and narrow” Matthew 7:14
  • “Suffer fools gladly” 2 Corinthians 11:19
  • “Sweat of your brow” Genesis 3:19
  • “The blind leading the blind” Matthew 15:14, Luke 6:39
  • “The love of money is the root of all evil” 1 Timothy 6:10
  • “The truth shall make you free” John 8:32
  • “There’s nothing new under the sun” Ecclesiastes 1:9
  • “Thorn in the flesh” 2 Corinthians 12:7
  • “To everything there is a season” Ecclesiastes 3:1
  • “Twinkling of an eye” 1 Corinthians 15:52
  • “Wars and rumors of wars” Matthew 24:26, Mark 13:7
  • “Weighed in the balances and found wanting” Daniel 5:5
  • “What is truth?” John 18:38
  • Who Killed Saul?

      1 Samuel 31

    • Saul falls on his own sword
    • His armor-bearer refused to kill him
    • 2 Samuel 1

    • Amalekite
    • Kills the wounded Saul
    • Brings David emblems of royalty


    1. Both accounts are true – two different perspectives (Saul attempted suicide, Amalekite finished the job)
    2. Amalekite is lying
    3. Two stories with different intents

    Understanding David’s Response

    1. Amalek is the ancient enemy
    2. Saul’s death could be David’s opportunity to rise
      • Saul was all that held David back
      • There is no king at this time
    3. Amalekite is securing a favor

    4. Bloodguilt –
      • Ancient concept (Cain and Abel)
      • David will not assume any guilt for Saul’s death
      • He will rule only if it is God’s will
      • David curses Mount Gilboa

    Public Grief

    1. David is a poetic leader
    2. He chose poetry over politics
    3. “Where loss is not grieved there are barriers to newness” – W. Brueggemann

    David, King of Judah

    1. David moves according to God’s will.
    2. David is king in the south.
    3. David makes allies with Jabesh-Gilead.
    4. Saul’s tribes are in the north.

    Civil War

    1. Seven and a half years
    2. Joab leads David’s forces
    3. Abner leads Saul’s forces
    4. Contest of champions ends in a draw
    5. Risk of annihilation

    School Supplies Blessing

    Posted by on under Sermons

    Comments for School Supply Blessing

    I remember my first set of school supplies. I remember that I had a box of crayons – they were huge crayons and only half round. The idea was that these would be easier for little kids to handle. What really made an impression on me was that this box of crayons only had eight colors. Just eight! Now don’t tell anyone, but at home I was already up to 16 and had even experimented with a box of 64 with the built in sharpener!

    Every year that we bought school supplies I was eager to see what box of crayons I was authorized to use. I was disappointed when crayons were no longer on the list. And then there was no glue, no scissors. All the fun went away. After that it was just textbooks and paper.
    But for a time, even though I didn’t long for school start and summer to be over, there was some consolation in receiving a brand new set of crayons, glue, scissors, etc. and wondering what neat things we would get to make that year.

    I share that memory, because I have been thinking about the 400 or so students in our community who won’t be able to go to the store with their families for one reason or another and get their supplies. Our school systems will provide their supplies. Sure, there are government funds for such resources and I guess we don’t really need to go to all this effort just to buy crayons and glue. Maybe so, but can we grasp what is represented in all of this?

    Going to the store with parents to buy school supplies is sort of a basic minimum. If that isn’t able to happen, then it’s probably an indicator of much greater problems. Problems of many types: homelessness, job loss, poverty, parents who don’t care, parents who are addicts … the list is numerous and government solutions cannot take into account each individual situation.

    But God is not the government. He knows each and every child that will attend our schools. He knows their families. He knows their whole story. He is working through all of us to show his love for the children. Something as simple as a box of crayons freely given might make a difference in ways we can never record, but God knows.

    So we are going to bring these gifts and give them to God first. Then we are going to trust that God can work through us, through teachers and parents in the school system and his purposes shall be accomplished. This isn’t about us. This is about God’s people willing to give something as simple as cup of cold water and ask that the Lord bless the effort. (Matthew 10:42)

    (Elder prays for the School Supply Donations)

    Comments for Back to School Blessing

  • Take flyers and invite people to come.
  • Be praying for them now and pray later.
  • We can do more than just bless our own, we should share the blessings that we have.

    Thanksgiving for the Opportunity to Teach our Youth Ministry Interns

    Consider our congregation: consider the size of our congregation, the resources that God has blessed us with, our geographic location. Consider all of that and it follows that we have so many opportunities to serve our community. We also have opportunities to serve the kingdom of God.

    This summer, God gave us the opportunity to welcome four young people who have a heart for ministry into our fellowship. We opened our homes and hearts and created the opportunity for these four young people to experience ministry.

    This was an important benchmark, and I understand that not all of us may have experienced that the same way, but I assure you that West-Ark as a whole has benefitted. I believe that it would be very unchristian for a church of our size and means to only evaluate everything we do in terms of how it directly impacts our congregation. There is a godly and biblical principle that teaches that it is more blessed to give than to receive. We gave an opportunity for Chris, Tyler, Denise and Aaron to come among us and learn about ministry. God has blessed us with the means to provide that opportunity. God has blessed us with families who practice hospitality. God has blessed us with a youth minister who has the skill and experience to teach interns.

    So this morning we give thanks. We give thanks to God that he has brought us thus far and by faith we will grow even more. I hope it will be said about us that this church family is a fellowship in which people grow in their faith and learn ministry.

    God weaves stories together. Our stories are always connected even though they may continue in different paths.

    This is an opportunity to be grateful and show thanks. Again, this isn’t about us. It is about God.

  • Lessons From the Past

    Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

    I hate to say it-I do not like to admit it-but honesty forces me to acknowledge it. What? We are spoiled. When I was a teenager, many men died of heart attacks from 50-60 years of age. Nobody liked it. Everybody accepted it. There was nothing you could do about it. We had no telephone of any kind until I was in the 8th grade. There were no telephone lines. Nobody in the community liked it. Everybody accepted it. There was nothing you could do about it. I could talk about TV and hot water in that same way.

    In that time there was a high tolerance level for physical inconvenience. Yes, many were in the same situation. Yes, many things today considered necessities were unavailable. Yes, most did not gripe, because if you could eat, live dry, and survive, that was acceptable. Circumstances that could not be quickly “fixed” were accepted.

    God had a goal. God’s goal-to reconcile with people (2 Corinthians 5:20, 21). Though God worked continuously, people kept hindering God by loving evil and hating His values. The result: our reaction to God’s efforts continued to prolong God’s timetable.

    Godly people committed to God’s values knew God was doing something special. When they inquired as to WHEN God would do these unknown things, God said, “Not in your lifetime.” Though the human need was enormous, God would achieve His goal in the future. So God said, “Keep your commitment by understanding you are blessing people of the future. I am using your faithfulness for My will, but My ultimate goal is not for you now.”

    Can you imagine God telling you that? “It is not about you or now.” Psst-a secret. What secret? Christianity is still not about us or now. The ultimate is not about forgiveness, nor the “correct” combination of forgiveness and physical indulgence. The ultimate is about living with God eternally. Would you suffer for others? Would you say, “God, what happens to me is unimportant-just use it for Your purposes”?