1998 Sermons

Stress Management 7/19/98

Psalm 37:1 – 7
Page 826 Come Alive Bible

Jesus Christ was God in flesh and blood. He was called “Immanuel,” which means, “God with us.” We do well to learn from His example as well as His teaching. On an occasion when He was depleted from ministering to others He left the demanding crowd and went off by Himself. Even He knew He could not minister out of a bleached out body and spirit. He learned to take minute vacations as well as to retreat.

On an occasion the disciples came to Him and said the whole world is here to see you. He walked away. He just walked away. Sounds impersonal and disinterested doesn’t it. He knew His limit and limited His public ministry in order to be renewed Himself.

Ours is a stressful society. The other day I saw a teenager zoom onto the parking lot at a funeral home going at least twice the appropriate speed while talking on a cell phone. I thought, “Has life has become so urgent and so stressful as to demand this.”

Adults often manifest a martyr complex by overextending themselves. It is as though there is a guilt complex by persons who think they can relieve the guilt by abusing themselves. We seem to have developed a “Society for the Admiration of the Stressed Out.”

Stress is a subject Christians need to address. UPI just released the results of a study made by three sociology professors at the University of New Hampshire that shows Georgia ranks third, behind only Alaska and Nevada, in stress.

Stress related diseases are higher in Georgia and the other two states than the national average. Georgia ranked number 8 in alcohol related deaths and alcoholic psychoses.

Family stresses are given as the reason for the high stress level in Georgia.

We need to manage to control stress for economic reasons also. Stress-related pain is estimated to cost American businesses some 700 million workdays and $60 billion a year.

Stress results in a chemical or hormonal imbalance caused by heavy demands made on the body. It is a major contributor to cardiac disease, hypertension, peptic ulcers, arthritis, and numerous other maladies, all with a common denominator —- excessive stress.

Researchers estimate that 60% to 70% of all illness is stress related.

Dr. Hans Selye, M.D. is perhaps Canada’s most celebrated scientist. He founded the International Institute of Stress. He concluded stress induced diseases are on the increase in our society because the changing environment creates great demands on mind and body. He wrote:

“Stress can and does affect every aspect of life. Though it is necessary and unavoidable, too much of it produces staggering changes in intellectual and emotional attitudes as well as in health.”

Dr. Selye and his colleagues stated that though undue stress is adverse to good health and performance stress it is also the spice of life and the absence of stress is death. It is a stimulus that motivates us. We thrive on properly balanced stress. Such is called eustress.

To control stress it is essential to be attentive to the early warning signs. There are four, check yourself on them now and often:
Physical – upset stomach, dry mouth, muscle aches and pains.
Cognitive – loss of the ability to concentrate, being forgetful or humorless.
Emotional – being short tempered, sarcastic, or demoralized.
Behavioral – uh-oh, drinking more coffee or alcohol, eating more sweets, or over sleeping, and compulsive exercising.

Just the normal every day demands are enough to devitalize a person. When it happens what can a person do? Therapy for such a time is noted in Psalm 37.

I. DO GOOD (VS. 3)
Enter the training school of duty. Don’t sit in despair. When stress comes your way reach out to help someone.

In the poem “The Shoes of Happiness,” Conrad the old cobbler dreamed the Master would visit him. Expectantly he waited. Each time someone came by or entered his shop he excitedly responded hoping it was Christ. He didn’t come. A beggar came and Conrad gave him shoes. An old woman came stooped beneath a load. He refreshed her and gave her food. A lost, teary eyed child came and he returned her to her parents. His Divine guest didn’t come. However,
Then soft in the silence a voice he hears.
‘Lift up your heart, for I kept my word.
Three times I came to your friendly door;
Three times my shadow was on your floor.
I was the beggar with the bruised feet,
I was the woman you gave to eat,
I was the child in the homeless street.’

Christ said, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40).

The Hebrew text reads: “Be silent in God” or “Hold still before God.” This implies a troubled mind, an agitated state of being, a person perplexed, mentally extended, emotionally exhausted, and physically depleted. It depicts one with a great cloud over his or her spirit.

These words are addressed to two groups:
(1) Persons suffering from a guilt conscience – convicted, sin weary unbeliever.
(2) Distracted and distraught believer experiences trials.

There is an active and a passive rest.

ACTIVE rest is being engaged in work, doing God’s will. This enables one to get your mind off yourself and yourself off your mind. This requires involvement but with detachment.

PASSIVE rest involves unplugging and setting aside time to be alone with God. This is the interior fountain of active goodness.

This is difficult for those of us enthusiasts.

A well known psychiatrist has written, “Repose in God is the secret of power.” Psychologically there is a reason. We use only a small percent of our mind. It is divided into the conscious, fore- conscious, and subconscious. In the routine of a busy day the conscious mind is used. The fore- conscious mind is the seat of the imaginative and contemplative faculties. Poems, music, prayers, insight and creativity of all forms rise from here. It is there that great enterprises are given birth. There God and man meet.

Dr. Selye notes prayer is one of the three most effective treatments for stress. Don’t neglect this vital factor.

We are like birds looking for a tree in which to nest, but every tree in the forest has a woodsman’s mark on it awaiting the cutting. Every tree that is, but one. That one is illustrative of Jesus.

I have been reading a delightful little book recently entitled: “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.” The sub title is: “And All Stuff Is Small.”

We tend to get up tight when someone cuts us off in traffic or slows down just enough to get through a green light but too much for us to make it. Steam rises from our collars. This often slows us down at least .6 seconds. That’s small stuff. Give yourself a break, don’t sweat the small stuff and remember —– all stuff is small.

REST IN THE LORD. He is personally our royal chamber.

HIS POWER – I have omnipotence on my side.

HIS PROMISES – COROCOVADO, a massive statue of Christ rises over Rio, Brazil in a striking manner. It can be seen from all over the city and for miles around. It is often obscured from view by clouds, but it is there. So God’s promises remain.

HIS PURPOSE. He is to be glorified in us. Learn the happy art of passing all praise on to Him. The intended end of life is not happiness, but duty. God has a purpose for you.

“Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” JESUS CHRIST.

Serving the Lord is a challenge – it is difficult.

Suffering for the Lord is demanding – it is more difficult.

Waiting on the Lord is the most severe discipline – it is THE most difficult.

Waiting on the Lord does not hint of passive indifference but active perseverance.
WE ARE TO WAIT – – – –

A. CONFIDENTLY. Vs. 7 “…wait patiently…”
This means to trust God to do His part when we are perfectly sure we have done ours.

We can do this if we will:
1. Pay attention to God’s rules regarding our minds and bodies. Various people have different mental stamina. Physically fatigued bodies can’t fight spiritual battles. What affects the body influences the brain.

2. Maintain a good conscience. This even influences our cholesterol. Diet has about a 10% influence on cholesterol. High adrenalin causes high cholesterol. Our mental attitude dramatically influences our adrenalin level. A good conscience can lower both.

3. Regularly feed your mind on God’s Word. Don’t expect God’s blessings while you are in a state of disobedience.

4. Cast every particular care on the Lord. “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (I Peter 5:7). The word “cast” means to toss them to Him. If you do they are no longer in your hands. Let go of the stressors.

5. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” Employ His strategy of gratitude. This enables one to do the best of things in the worst of times.

6. Engage in prayer. Dr. Selye notes prayer is one of the most effective treatments for stress.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4: 6 – 7).

Ask God to give you the strength to change what needs to be changed, the ability to accept what can’t be changes, and the wisdom to know the difference.

B. CHEERFULLY. Vs. 7 “…fret not because of him…” We often fret and fume as though there is no eternity, no day of reckoning. The ultimate end of the wicked is described:

He shall “be cut off” (vs. 9); “not be” (vs. 10); “perish” (vs. 2).

C. COMPLYING. Vs. 34 “Wait on the Lord, and keep His way…”

Years ago there lived an elderly couple in a modest cottage on a tiny island in the Great Lake area. They lived alone in isolation without any neighbors for many miles. Their remoteness and isolation concerned their friends, Dr. and Mrs. Roy L. Smith. One day the Smiths had a council of love and decided to invite the couple to come and live out their days with them. The next day Dr. Smith and one of his daughters went by boat to the remote island where the couple lived by themselves. To the gracious invitation came the reply, “Of course, we can’t accept the invitation, can we, dear?” The couple then led Dr. Smith through the yard and along a winding pathway until at last they came to a clearing with a carpet of green grass bordered by beautiful flowers. In the center of this little clearing was a tiny mound with a snow white cross at its head. The old man put his arm around his wife and said, “We can’t leave our island home, for you see we lost a son here.”

Likewise, no matter what happens, God will never leave this floating island in the sky called, planet earth, because He lost a Son here!

He will never leave us or forsake us. You can wait on Him.

How to Become Re-Energized 7/26/98

I Peter 5: 10, 11
Page 1771 Come Alive Bible

JESUS CHRIST has personally summonsed you to heaven. Not only does He want you to come to heaven He proposes to give you strength for the journey.

Have you ever seen a bee trapped in a car or house? It may buzz against a window until it finally winds down. When a bee leaves the hive it carries only enough fuel reserve to get to a predetermined destination and back. If it becomes trapped it runs out of energy and can’t fly. Have you ever felt that way and needed to be re-energized. I read that if you find a bee in that condition and dissolve sugar in water and offer it to the bee it will drink and be re-energized enough to return home. Once while dining at Mt. Vernon, the former home of George Washington, I saw such a bee on the window sill by our table. I dissolved sugar in water in a spoon and offered it to the bee. Slowly it drank for the longest time. Then it took off, buzzed around a bit, flew back and stung me.

It may be we appear to respond to the goodness of the Lord with such ingratitude. Don’t forget, “Thanks” is also prayer.

Our Lord desires to ESTABLISH – STERIZO, the believer. That is, He wants to build up the believer. This word has three basic meanings in the New Testament.

I. PERSEVERANCE “Jesus resolutely set out (sterizo) for Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).

From the beginning He saw the ending of His life. As He approached Jerusalem He was very mindful that His hour had come and Calvary awaited. He had no ambition for the agony of crucifixion as is evidenced by His withdrawal to Gethsemene. He had no appetite for the spiritual warfare Gethsemene afforded. Yet, He resolutely determined willfully to go to Jerusalem. He needed strength to fight against natural human reluctance. Each step along the road to Jerusalem represented a separate act of the will. Each separate act of the will represented a triumph over the reluctance of the flesh. In Him, in this act, was true heroism. Every one of His footprints is worthy of our study. From His example we learn.

A. We should never shrink from the path of duty regardless of the obstacle. Once you know what is right, do it regardless of the cost.

It was said of Joan of Ark, “She set her path and went down it like a thunderbolt.”

“The way of the LORD is strength for the upright, But destruction will come to the workers of iniquity” (Proverbs 10:29).

God wants His will done. When we know His will and engage in doing it His resources are our assets. It is like swimming in a river. You can swim faster and with greater ease going with the flow of the stream. Swimming against the current is much more difficult.

B. Such uncompromising commitment should not expect any hospitality or help from a hostile world. It does inspire a hostile world.

Before the fall of the Communistic Soviet Republic Christians were severely persecuted. One house church grew in numbers in spite of this. They had to meet in secret to avoid disruption and potential persecution. On a given Sunday they would come to the meeting home in small numbers at a time. It often took hours for all to assemble so as not to attract attention to their gathering.

One Sunday evening their worship was disrupted by a banging on the door and then it burst open. Swiftly Soviet soldiers entered with guns ready. The commander ordered everyone to put their hands over their heads. He then threatened their lives but offered a reprieve. Those assembled had committed a capital offense punishable by death. Any person who would renounce their faith could go free. Slowly at first one person slipped out of the room. Then a couple and finally a few more.

The officer in charged closed the door and said, “Keep your hands in the air, but in praise of our Lord Jesus Christ. A few weeks ago we were ordered to raid a worshiping group. We stayed and were converted to faith in Christ. We are your brothers, but we have found only those willing to die for their faith can be trusted.”

Had you been in that room how would you have responded? The faith of the faithful inspired faith in others. Thereby, they were re-energized.

C. Such resolute response impresses and inspires others. Immediately before Christ started out for Jerusalem He had exhorted His followers to “Take up your cross and follow me.” Their interpretation of that exhortation was afforded. His personal example was a glossary to help their understanding.

Dean Alford, referring to his grave as an “inn,” that is, motel, asked for this inscription on his tombstone: “This is the inn of a traveler on his way to Jerusalem.”

The world is begging the Christian community for an exhibit of courage. Such courage as that which will fight to swim up stream against the current public opinion; courage that had rather eat an honest crust than fair sumptuously on fraud; such courage that will set its face like flint on the straight and narrow road of righteousness.

When the Romans landed at Dover they burned their boats. They had come to conquer or die trying.

With like determination, Paul wrote, “This one thing I do…” With singleness of purpose every believer should ask for, receive, and use the strength promised to stand true to the Lord.

By perseverance the snail reached the ark.

II. FAITH Paul “Traveled from place to place…strengthening all the disciples” (Acts 18:23).

Christ confirms the Christian faith by meeting specific needs with suitable strength. He never asks us to go elephant hunting with a fly swatter.

Neither will He outfit us to kill beetles with battleships.

Recently health care professionals met at Harvard Medical School for a course called “Spirituality and Healing in Medicine.” Their study centered around two groups of research to the faith- health connection. Ninety-nine percent of the doctors believe there is an important relationship between the spirit and the flesh.

The prayers of others for the sick was the subject of one study. Nearly 400 people participated in a California study regarding the effects of the prayers of others for heart patients. Half of the 400 were prayed for by others and half were not. Neither group knew they were being prayed for. Those who were prayed for had half as many complications and had a much lower rate of congestive heart failure.

Personal faith was the object of a study by Dartmouth Medical School. They tracked how patients’ personal prayer life influenced their recovery from bypass surgery. After six months a restudy was done. Among those who didn’t pray the death rate was 9%. Among those who did pray the rate dropped to 5%. NONE of those who had a deeply spiritual life died.

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center studied 1700 older Americans and discovered that those who regularly attended religious services had stronger immune responses than those who did not. Blood tests showed those who regularly attended had a higher level of immunity against disease. Thus faith is indicated to be good for one spiritually and physically.

The recommendation was that patients should mix standard medical practices with their personal faith. We should have known that. After all it is in the Scripture.

In the Book of James “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14).

Why don’t we do this? In reality we do. Here is what it means. In the Greek language there are two words for anoint. One is CHRIO. In it you can hear the root for the name Christ, Christo. It means the anointed one. Prophets, priests, and kings were anointed by having oil placed on their brow in a ceremony.

The other Greek word is ALEPHO. It meant to massage or knead with oil in a manner bread is kneaded. In effect ALEPHO means to massage. This is the word used by James. Olive oil has long been highly regarded as having medicinal qualities. In the story of the Good Samaritan he anointed the assaulted man with oil. In Psalm 23 reference is made to “anointing my head with oil.”

What James is saying is use the best medicine known and pray. You will then have done all God expects of you. Therefore, trust Him and the result will be His will and thereby He will be pleased.

Our responsibility in matters of health is to exercise faith in prayer and use the best medicine available. There is strength in faith. Strength to even heal.

“May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father…encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (II Thessalonians 2: 16, 17).

Here the Scripture speaks of strength to face a life of suffering. There are hidden heroes and heroines in this and other fellowships who, by His strength are facing suffering victoriously. Every day holds new agony and every night new torturous trials. At the end of life awaits dying grace. Encouragement follows strength as heat does fire.

There are people here who would been overwhelmed were it not for the strength supplied by the Lord. Some have had enough grief to overcome ten persons but have been sustained by His strength.

Strength is found in:
PATIENCE: “But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

Are you ever confronted by a situation that demands patience? The next time it occurs think of it as an occasion in which our Lord is trying to strengthen you. The capacity to relax and wait on the Lord should be thought of as a state of being you can access at any moment and not something reserved for later on. You can relax NOW.

Being more relaxed involves training yourself to respond differently to the dramas of life. In doing so you turn your melodramas into mellow-dramas. You have trained yourself to respond like you do presently. Now you can engage in re-orientation and retrain yourself.

Consider life a classroom and patience the course of study. Consider this process of developing patience. Set a thirty minute period of time and say to yourself in advance, “During this time I won’t let anything bother me, I will be patient and wait on the Lord for solutions for everything that comes up in this thirty minutes.” This will strengthen your ability to be patient. This process is one where success feeds on success. The more successful you are in stringing thirty minute periods of time together the more successful you will be in exercising patience. You will develop strength through the Lord.

PURITY: One of the knights of the round table, Sir Lancelot, reputedly said, “My strength is the strength of ten because my heart is pure.”

“Truly God is good … to such as are pure in heart” (Psalm 73:1).

The word “pure” meant to be free from contaminants. Pure water was unpolluted water. The word was applied to an item being “tested by the sunlight.” Items were brought out into the bright sunlight and inspected to be certain they were free of contaminants.

Our lives should be lived with us being mindful we are constantly under the spotlight of the Son of God for His inspection. It is by His standard we are to measure our lives.

JOY: “…the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

The Hebrew word translated “strength” in this passage, MAOZ, means fortress or stronghold. To maintain a joyful spirit is to live in a spiritual fortress. The devil and his allies do not like to be around a spiritually joyful believer.

The Psalmist said it well: “The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1).

“The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, My stronghold and my refuge; My Savior” (II Samuel 22:3).

IN CHRIST: “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Rom 5:6)

Even though we have the power, the ability, the strength, to live as we wish we do not have the power, the ability, the strength to live as we should. We need supernatural power, strength, to do this.

We who are powerless to do anything on our behalf regarding our eternal destiny have a Helper in the person of Jesus Christ. He exercised His power on our behalf by dying for us. Thus, He became the payment for the debt of our sin.

Does Your Faith Need Stirring? 9/6/98

II Timothy 1: 6, 7
Page 1736 Come Alive Bible

Jesus Christ complimented His followers of every era by describing us as “salt” and “light.”

For many life has grown tasteless. For many life is being lived in spiritual darkness.

This has been described as the era of the “Age of the Sellout” in which everything is for sale. Honesty and integrity are traded off like chattel for money and power.

Whether it is the “Age of the Sellout,” or the “Age of the Fallout,” or the “Age of the Blowout” it is our age and a grand time to be salt and light.

Whatever it is it is a grand time to be what the world needs: spiritual salt and light. I pray for persons who are members of this church knowing your task to be to saturate, penetrate, and infiltrate society with the tasty additive of spiritual salt and illumine a spiritually dark society with the light of the gospel. If you are a member my prayers follow you every day as an encouragement to be all God has designed you to be.

Ours is a spiritually challenging society. However in a day even more difficult Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote a young minister named Timothy words relevant to us:

“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (II Timothy 1:6, 7).

Pitch your mental tent over that text and camp out under it for life.

At the time of this writing Paul was in a Roman prison awaiting decapitation. The mad emperor Nero had set fire to a large section of Rome and blamed the Christians for it. Believers were being rounded up and executed. Word spread throughout the Roman Empire as to what was happening in Rome. The word reached Troaz where awaited the young apprentice minister Timothy. A shiver must have gone through him when he heard of what awaited his mentor, Paul, and other believers.

He needed the encouragement contained in our text. Today I need it. Self-confession would prompt each of us to acknowledge our need for the wonderful gifts listed. First a —-

I. CHARGE “Stir up the gifts…” (Vs. 6)
We don’t know what gifts Timothy had but we do well to consider the “gifts,” that is the ability our Lord has given us. Every believer has spiritual gifts.

Most of us have memories of a fire on the hearth in our home or of sitting around a campfire.

Nights around a fire are a storehouse of memories. Are you one of those who can’t resist poking a fire. At a campfire are you one of those who inevitably ends up with a stick in your hand poking the fire. Are you an artist with a poker with the ability to create various patters as the dancing patterns of the flames and embers vary.

The expression “stir up the gifts” translates the Greek word ANAZOPUREO. ZOPUREO refers to embers in which the fire has abated. The prefix ANA means “to kindle again the flames of the fire.”

There is a modern English translation of beauty: “Shake the ashes off the God-given fire that’s in you.”

There is fire in embers. Often they need stirring in order for the flame to blaze. Fires feed on oxygen. By stirring them we give them additional fuel and they flame up. Don’t be surprised or discouraged if the spiritual flame in your life has died down. Neither be content or complacent – stir up your gifts.

Has your fervor been chilled and your zeal chilled. Are you spiritually in the game or on the sidelines. Do you have gifts and abilities not being used for the glory of the Lord. Every criticism that can be levied against the church in America is attributed to Christians not using their gifts. Shake off the ashes. Rekindle the flame of faithfulness. Let the Lord use you.

Paul and Timothy were willing to be used even at the risk of life. Respond to the charge – STIR UP THE GIFT OF GOD WHICH IS IN YOU.

Jesus wants to be your Master. Life without a spiritual master is like an orchestra without a conductor, a team without a coach, an army without a general. Now noted are four gifts.

II. COURAGE “Not of fear,” that is of, “cowardliness or timidity”
It is not craven fear but courage that comes from continual consciousness of the abiding presence of Jesus Christ.

Courage is the result when fear meets faith.

The word translated “fear” refers to cowardliness or timidity. A careful reading of I Timothy reveals some of his basic character traits. He was young and inexperienced, he was sickly, and of a shy temperament. This is not the profile of a great leader. Yet, Timothy became a great leader. Natural limitation had superimposed on them supernatural capacity. Natural liabilities are overcome by spiritual gifts being used fully.

Abraham Lincoln lived during a trying and turbulent time in our nation’s history. On the table beside his death bed was his well worn Bible. The gilded edge was well worn from use. Indentions at one point marked what was a passage to which he often referred. It is good for us also: “I sought the LORD, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).

Are you fearful of international terrorism. Of a spiraling unstable stock market, of the moral malaise in America, or a plethora of personal problems. Those fears didn’t come from the Lord. In light of that can you figure out their source.

When Anglo-Saxon cave dwellers communicated with stick figure drawings on cave walls the depiction noting fear was of a wolf with a strangle hold on the throat of a sheep. Inordinate fear exerts a choking influence on life.

Consider the spirit of those who might well have been dispirited as described in the Phillips Translation of II Corinthians 6: 10 & 4: 8,9: “We are penniless, and yet in reality we have everything worth having … We are handicapped on all sides but never frustrated; we are puzzled, but never in despair. We are persecuted, but we never have to stand alone; we may be knocked down but we are never knocked out!” WOW, what determination! What confidence! What courage! What determination!

There is a little sign you might consider making a homemade version of: D.I.M.T.T.

That stands for “Determination Is More Important Than Talent.
God did not give them a spirit of fear. Neither has He given you one. He’s given —-

III. CHARACTER “Power” or “A spirit to inspire strength”
Drawing from American history we conceive of George Washington as a man with a spirit to inspire strength. The reason he had it was it was a gift given him by God. That strength of character inspired a nation. The legend of the chopping down of the cherry tree lives. What if when asked if he had chopped down the cherry tree young George had responded:
“No, Dad.”

“Son, I think you are lying.”

“No, no, no, I assure I did NOT chop down the cherry tree.”

“Son, I saw you out there with the axe. Your punishment will be much worse if you lie to me. Now tell me the truth.”

“Dad, I answered your question truthfully. Still, I must take complete responsibility for all my actions. While my answer was legally accurate, I did not volunteer information. Indeed, Dad, I did cause the cherry tree to be lying on the ground. To do this was wrong. It constituted a critical lapse in judgement and a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible. I know my answer to you gave a false impression. I misled you, my own father. I deeply regret that. I can only tell you I was motivated by many factors.

First, by my desire to protect myself from the embarrassment of my own conduct. I was very concerned about protecting Mom from this shock. What I did, Dad, was use a saw to cause the cherry tree to fall. Only after the tree was already down did I go get the axe to chop off individual branches. So, I chopped off the branches, but sawed down the tree. Therefore, legally I told the truth.

I ask you to turn away from the spectacle of this fallen tree and to return our attention to a solid family relationship.”

That kind of character does not result from the gift of “power” to develop character.

In the mid 1930s the word character began to be devalued and personality emerged. Character traits, such as, courage, honesty, and loyalty were replaced by personality traits such as assertiveness, self- confidence, and introspectiveness.

Today sophisticated thinkers tell us good and evil are not actually categories but subjective and transient points of view that vary from person to person. Arm your mind by reading the right works. Youth, if given a choice of a book on which to write a report choose books like “Lord of the Rings.” It will help empower your mind.

This power is here depicted as power to —–
A. Be Saved (Vs. 9) “who has saved us.”

B. To Suffer (Vs. 8) “share with me in the suffering.”

“…if we suffer with Him we will also reign with Him” (II Timothy 2: 12).

Everyone, that is, everyone suffers. You may have been laboring under the misconception that you are the only one who suffers. If you have been thinking this is your distinction among humanity it isn’t. Believers and non-believers alike suffer. Being a Christian means you have the capacity to go beyond the breaking point and not break. This is inherent in the power given you by your Savior. With Him suffering takes on purpose. Use your pain for your gain.

If you know someone whose faith you admire you know someone who has suffered.

C. To Be Sanctified (Set aside for His use) (Vs. 9) “called us with a holy calling”

IV. COMPASSION “Love” (Vs. 7)
A. For His Word

B. For His Will

As a college student I memorized this verse by Henry van Dyke:
With eager heart and will of fire
I sought to win my great desire.
‘Peace shall be mine,’ I said, but life
Grew bitter in the endless strife.

My soul was weary, and my pride
Was wounded deep, To heaven I cried,
‘God give me peace, or I must die.’
The dumb stars glittered no reply.

Broken at last I bowed my head
Forgetting all myself I said:
‘What ever comes, Thy will be done.’
And in that moment peace was won.

Any experience that brings us to that sublime experience is worth the price of admission. At the moment of trust endurance that last is given.

C. For His Work

V. CONTROL “A Sound Mind” or “Self- discipline”
When Christ is in control we are under control.

He gives us the capacity of controlling ourselves in the face of PANIC or PASSION.

In matters of PANIC He can keep us from running away.

In matters of PASSION He can keep us from being swept away.

We must treat ourselves as a force needing controlling —-
-A collection of energy needing direction.
-A composite of emotions that must be managed.
-A combination of appetites that have to be curbed.

There is nothing wrong in our society or in the lives of individual citizens that can’t be corrected if Christians stir up these gifts within each of us.

Approaching is a time of decision. Will you in the moment of decision determine to stir up the gifts of love, power, and a sound mind?

On my birthday I was given an Iron Man watch. There is a setting on it “CHRONOS.” It is a Greek word for running time. It is used for clocking the length of time required for something.

There is another Greek word for time, KAIROS. It refers to a decisive time, a moment that requires an important decision. Outside the stadium at Olympia was a statue to the god KAIROS. It stressed that the athletes had to seize the moment, to act decisively before the moment of opportunity passed. KAIROS is linked with the idea of responsibility.

KARIOS, time, has come. Seize the moment, take advantage of this opportunity to act responsibly. Here and now determine to “Shake the ashes off the God-give fire that’s in you.”

Sheep for His Name Sake 6/7/98

Psalm 23
Page 813 Come Alive Bible

Jesus Christ said, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep,
and am known by My own” (John 10:14).

Bonding by humans and animals is a close tie. Those who have a pet dog, cat or some other animal can relate. Pet owners have been known to spend lavishly on medical expenses for a pet. Many have been known to weep and grieve when such a pet dies.

I heard of a child whose cat died. The parent in trying to console the child said, “Don’t cry. Fluffy has gone to be with God.” the child exclaimed, “What would God want with a dead cat?”

Those of us not familiar with an oriental shepherd and his sheep can’t imagine the interrelation between them. Against this backdrop Christ said, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own…”

As our children were growing up and conversation turned to a person they wouldn’t ask, “Do you know him?” Instead they would ask, “Does he know you?”

If you have trusted Christ as Savior He knows you. You are known by God.

Knowing that I am from Georgia persons in other parts of the country sometimes ask, “Do you know President Jimmy Carter?” With increasing pride I am privileged to say “Yes.”

Does he know you?

We were prayer partners for some time. Just the other day I had a handwritten note from him with the greeting, “To Nelson, my old friend…” It evoked memories of many pleasantries shared.

If you were to receive correspondence from the Lord would it bear the greeting “My old friend?” Is yours a warm personal relation with the Good Shepherd? Christ said, “I know My own.”

There is a synthesis between sheep and the shepherd, a beautiful bonding. You are —-

Christ wants to guide, guard, and govern in your life for His name’s sake. Perhaps you are a person professing to be a Christian. The word means a Christ partisan, meaning a follower of the Christ. As such you are the best representative of Christ some persons will ever know. You are His proxy. Therefore, in defense of His reputation He wants to enable you to live the abundant life. As a result He offers to lead you.

A close identity exists between a shepherd and his sheep. He is their hero. He condescends to them and they respond to him. They bond as one.

Wordsworth wrote: “The swan upon St. Mary’s lake floats double; swan and shadow.”

The shepherd and sheep are as one; the sheep the mirror image of the shepherd.

This requires both a leader and a follower. He leads but you must follow.

As His proxy don’t disgrace Him.

He said, “I have come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly.” Let’s look at that closely, “I have come that you might have life (comma) and that you might have it more abundantly.” He wants to enable us to live beyond the “comma.” Life beyond the comma — ENJOYMENT, NOT JUST EXISTENCE.

Beyond the comma life is vastly bigger, braver, and nobler once we become adherent followers of Christ.


Life beyond the comma, which Christ called “abundant life,” means wrestling with powers and principalities and mastering them through the power of Jesus Christ. It isn’t a tame colorless round of trivialities.

Abundant life means to be full of moral energy that throws off temptation like a healthy body throws off disease germs. Life beyond the comma is —

This PLUS living is living with another. That one is Christ.

Psychologists say human beings have three desires: the longing to be —

We are created in the image of God, that is, His likeness. This means He likes to be —

Duty may produce diligence, but devotion produces dynamism.

Life beyond the comma, that is, abundant life, is life beyond the cross.

A relationship with Christ is intended to produce people who are richly alive, alight with an inward fire which ignites real living.

A shepherds “rod” was a type of club used to defend sheep from marauders or predators. Comfort is found in knowing the Good Shepherd protects. Not only is comfort found in the rod but also the shepherds staff. The staff was used for controlling the sheep. Bible land sheep live on rough terrain. If one were to fall into a ravine the staff was used to rescue it. If it were a lamb the hook on the staff was put under the body to lift it. If a mature sheep under the neck.

In controlling, the staff was often used to discipline also. A occasional “whack” was needed. The psalm expresses comfort in being disciplined.

Each day the good shepherd inspects each individual sheep. If there is a wound or an insect manifestation the shepherd uses a mixture of olive oil and sulphur to anoint the sheep. Both have medicinal qualities and the sulphur keeps away insects.

When we are wounded spiritually our Lord does for us the equivalent of anointing us, that is, healing us. He provides relief from the pests of life also.

There is a wonderful payoff awaiting obedient sheep. One thing insecure people want is a sense of permanence. In our transient society people seek permanence. It is offered by our Lord.

Throughout the Psalm the presence of the shepherd with his sheep is a repeated theme. Therefore we can say, “I will fear no evil.”

Jesus has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” He also said, “I am the door.”

He leads His own into His sheepfold. A sheepfold is a pen or a corral. Often the sheep are gathered therein for protection and shelter. Most don’t have a door to close the entrance. Instead the shepherd sleeps in the doorway. He becomes the door. Christ is such for us.

Jesus spoke of the bond between shepherd and sheep: “And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers” (John 10: 4,5).

Sheep of the Good Shepherd are EARMARKED (Vs. 3) and FOOT MARKED (Vs. 4). They won’t respond to any other voice or follow any other individual.

On occasion two or more shepherds will combine their flocks in a fold for a short time. When it is time to separate them the two shepherds go off a distance and each calls his sheep. Each has a specific call and the sheep know the sound. They respond only to that sound and each goes to its own shepherd.

Someday the Good Shepherd will call out all of His flock. Do you know His voice? If so are you obedient to it today?

Christ commented further: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10: 27, 28).

In English grammar a double negative is considered improper. In Greek it is used for emphasis. Jesus literally said, “They shall not never perish…” This speaks of the security of the believer, that is, once saved always saved.

What Motivates One to Serve? 3/29/98

John 12: 20 – 32
Page 1575 Come Alive Bible

JESUS CHRIST said, “if anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, Him My Father will honor” (John 12:26).

People are desirously looking for a way to have a fulfilling life. There is a way well defined.

“The ant knows the formula for the anthill. The bee knows the formula for the beehive. They do not know the formulas in a human way, but in their own way. Only man does not know his formula.” Dostoevsky

Our text states man’s formula. A group of Greeks came asking Philip to aid them in getting to see Jesus. Jesus had spent much of His life ministering along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Caravan routes from Europe, Asia, and Africa ran along those shores. Persons from all three continents had been exposed to Christ and His teachings. Reports of His teaching drew these Greeks back to see Him. They wanted Him to come with them to Greece and be made a king.

A. Source of Devotion “loves” (Vs. 25)

Love of Jesus Christ ONLY is the source of proper devotion. Jesus does not seek devotion to a principle, but to Him.

For many Christians service is something one does; to Christ it is what one IS to Him.

Our love for Him will not permit us to ask Him for help, if we are not making any effort; for strength, if we have strength we are not using; for guidance, if we ignore guidance we already have; for forgiveness, if we continue to hate someone; for mercy, if we intend no expression of it.

Love is the source of devotion.

Dr. Richard Clark Cabbot and his colleagues at Mayo Clinic released the results of a clinical study regarding factors influencing good health. They concluded there are four: WORK, PLAY, LOVE, AND WORSHIP.

The importance of love can’t be overly emphasized.

B. Secret of Disaster “loving ones own life” (Vs. 25)

There are many people devoted to many good causes; but few devoted to Him.

“Demas has forsaken me having loved this present world more.”

“He that is a hireling…flees” (John 10:12).

If you love others, you become vulnerable. If you love others and seek to serve then, you WILL be used. You WILL be hurt. There is no immunity. C. S. Lewis wrote: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung out and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable…The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers…of love is Hell.” The Four Loves (p. 169).

C. Spring of Direction “follow me” (Vs. 26)

Christ and Christ alone should be the spring of our direction. Do not take council of your own cravings but follow His command. Don’t believe what people say about Him, believe Him. If you devote yourself to what some people say is His cause, you can get confused. Devotion to Him personally is at once challenging and comforting.

He said “Take up your cross and follow me.” The Greek word translated “follow” means to follow so closely that when He picks up a foot you put your foot in His track. To follow so closely there is not room for two crosses. Therefore, the cross He carried is your cross.

Many seem to live with their signals mixed up. A visitor was traveling with a new friend who was driving. Every time they came to a red traffic light the guy ran it. Finally, after about three of these the passenger asked, “What’s with this, running red lights?” To which the driver replied, “Me and my brother always run red lights.”

Next they came to a green light and the driver slammed on brakes. “Why?” asked the astonished passenger, “You run red lights and stop at green ones. Why?”

“Because you can never tell when my brother might be coming down a side street!”

In following Christ He enables us to keep our signals straight.

II. THE SOCIETY OF PERSONAL DEDICATION “Where I am there shall my servant be” (Vs. 26) When the society of servants gets together, it results in:

A. Fruitfulness of Friendship “servant”

The nature of things around me tends to make me disloyal. The fellowship of Christ within me makes me loyal. Friendship results in fruitfulness.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (John 12:24).

Christ revealed a basic principle. As in agriculture so in the spiritual realm there is no “multiplication of life” without Him, like grain, falling “into the ground.”

The closer our friendship with Christ is, the more we realize its value and the more we want others to share it.

A recent national survey conducted by Father John A. O’Brien, research professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, revealed that of all the denominations and sects of America, Southern Baptists are making a stronger attempt to win people to their faith than any group. A servant wants to obey his master. Use your vivid imagination and engage in a youthful past time “playlike” or “malike.” Pretend that I run a large company and you are one of my supervisory employees. I go away for a few months but write often letters of instruction, inspiration, and expectation. When I return, I am amazed that the exterior of the building is unkept and the grass uncut. Inside the building is even worse. Employees are casually sitting around playing card games or throwing darts. I ask where you are and someone points down the hall and shouts “I think he is down there.” There I find you finishing a game of checkers with the sales manager. I disturb you long enough to ask you for a few private moments. Upon entering my office I find it has been turned into a lounge for watching afternoon soaps.

“What in the world is going on?” I ask.
“What do you mean ole buddy?” you reply.
“Didn’t you get any of my letters?”
“Sure did. We got them all and bound them in an attractive black leather cover. As a matter of fact, we have had letter study every week since you left. We even divided the personnel into small groups and discussed many of the things you wrote. Some of those things are really interesting. You will be pleased to know some of us have even committed to memory some of the sentences you wrote. Some even memorized entire paragraphs and two entire letters!”

“Okay — you got the letters, read them, studied them, meditated on the, discussed them, and even memorized them. BUT WHAT DID YOU DO ABOUT THEM?”

“Do? Well uh, we didn’t do anything.”

Don’t make that illustration crawl like a baby.

B. Fullness of Fellowship “where I am” (Vs. 26)

In chapter one of the Revelation, Christ is pictured as standing in the midst of seven golden candlesticks. The candlesticks are identified as the churches. Christ is still in love with His church which, with great joy, He called His bride.

Some by their schedule reveal they are not fully with Him. Their being with Him is a matter of convenience. Our present society challenges devotion to Christ. Soccer, baseball, ballet, and other functions conflict with Christ’s schedule. I am persuaded that when worship is being conducted in a members church Christ is there. If that member isn’t they aren’t where Christ is.

If Christ is represented in a Hindu nation people readily respond to Him. To them there are many gods and they are willing to add one more. In doing so they don’t give up their many old gods they add another to their collection. Many modern Christians seem to want Christ to be just another object of their devotion, not the supreme object of their loyalty.

C. Fulfillment of Faithfulness “My Father will honor” (Vs. 26)

There is happiness in faithfulness. The joy of a thing lies in fulfilling its intended purpose. So many people are miserable because they have failed to understand their purpose and/or are failing to fulfill their purpose. When we realize we were created to be co-servants with Christ and commit to fulfilling this role, then life takes on meaning.

Some years ago in Elko, Nevada there lived a successful young, cynical businessman. He was bitter, critical, and skeptical. One day a minister asked Him, “Are you a Christian?” It angered John Randolph, but he could not forget the question nor deny the awful negative answer. It lead to his eventual conversion. Soon thereafter he and his wife went to the pastor and asked, “What is this we hear about the Bible teaching tithing?” The pastor timorously said it did. Randolph replied, “Very well, we’ll do it.” A second question, “Someone told us we are to witness to others. Are we?” Again the pastor swallowed deep and answered, “Yes.” “OK,” said Randolph, “we will.” Several such diagnostic questions regarding the Christian faith followed and John Randolph responded compliantly to each.

Little wonder that when a few years later the pastor left that church the Lord honored John Randolph by the people calling him to be their new pastor. He had been faithful in that which was least and the Lord made him responsible for that which was greater.

A. The Drill of Purity “follow” (Vs. 26)

There is a difference in innocence and purity. An infant is innocent but a forgiven Christian is pure.

Romans chapter five concisely explains what it means to “follow Christ.” Therein, it is revealed: We are saved by Christ’s death — objectively. He is the object of our faith. We are saved by His life — subjectively. We, the subject, are impacted daily by His life.

Romans 5: 1 – 10 uses the word “sins,” plural. Christ’s death cleanses from them positionally.

Romans 5: 12 – 21 changes and uses “sin,” singular. Daily the life of Christ saves us from dominance by our old sin disposition.

We are saved by His death positionally — we are in Christ.

We are saved by His life dispositionally — Christ is in us.

This results in —

B. The Duty of Patience “serve” (Vs. 26)

He asks no one to follow Him who is not His servant.

The Psalmist gave a graphic illustration of our posture as a servant of our Lord.

“Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, So our eyes look to the LORD our God, Until He has mercy on us” (Psalm 123:2).

Rather than always giving verbal commands Oriental masters often gave their servants hand signals. In his letter on Egypt, Savary, an ancient traveler to that land wrote: “The slaves, having their hands crossed on their chests, stand silently at the end of the hall. With their eyes fastened on their Master, they seek to anticipate his every wish.” That should be our ambitious desire.