1998 Sermons

A Nation Whose God Is the Lord 6/28/98

Psalm 33:12
Page 822 Come Alive Bible

Jesus Christ warned the people of His day regarding their hard and unrepentant hearts: “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing fruits of it” (Matthew 21:43).

America has enjoyed the signature blessings of the Lord. God has blessed America. America has born the fruits of the kingdom at times. A great gleaning needs to be done in our society to gather and groom those spiritual qualities inherent in our emergence as a nation.

When the virtues of our young nation are mentioned there are those who seek to deny a Christian influence in our emergence. Some then seek to discredit those of us who espouse such from a historical perspective by saying we want to make America a theocracy governed by Old Testament rules. God Himself doesn’t want that. Those rules were not even intended for modern Israel. They were the civil laws of the young fledgling nation of Israel.

Not even Theo wants America to be a theocracy.

There are persons intent on changing public policy who contend that America was not founded by Christians on Christian principles. A study of the lives of the signers of the Declaration of Independence speaks of their values.

Of the 56 signers of the Declaration 27 had degrees from seminaries.

Reverend John Witherspoon over saw the printing of the Bible by Congress in 1782.

Charles Thompson, Secretary of Congress, was responsible for the first translation of the Bible in America and published the Thompson Bible.

Benjamin Rush founded the first Bible Society in America, the Philadelphia Bible Society.

The signers of the Declaration of Independence were responsible for starting 121 Bible Societies in eight years.

Francis Hawkins was responsible for printing the first hymn book in America.

John Adams and Benjamin Rush sat next to each other during the drafting of the Declaration in which 56 men proposed to overthrow the most powerful nation on earth. Rush leaned over and asked Adams, “John do you think we can really win this conflict?” Adams replied, “Yes, if we repent of our sins and rely on God.”

Rush later said he wrote that in his diary so he could teach others it was possible to be Godly and in politics, that those two were not incompatible.

John Adams, who was one of those who signed the Declaration and the peace treaty with England, wrote a letter in 1813 in which he said, “The principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the principles of Christianity. I will now avow that I did believe and now believe that those principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the general attributes and characteristics of God.”

That is what history from the period recorded before modern day revisionists with an agenda began to misrepresent it. Primary sources from the day support the concept that our founding fathers work was an outgrowth of their beliefs in God. Modern day persons trying to bash God want to refute history in their efforts.

Thomas Jefferson has long been considered an iconoclast among our early presidents in matters of religion. Jefferson wrote most of the Declaration of Independence. Some evidence from his early public life indicates he was not a Christian though on occasion he declared he was. His deeds do attest that he subscribed to Christian ethics. While Governor of Virginia he called for days of fasting and prayer. He helped found Bible societies and fund missionaries to Native Americans. Jefferson had a broad understanding of the Bible and quoted it frequently. In starting the University of Virginia he invited the various denominations to establish their seminaries around the University so students could choose their denomination. He thought of it as good to have a non-denominational school.

In the Jefferson Memorial in Washington there are four quotes considered by historians to be his most important statements. Three of the four are God centered.

One of those statements closely parallels our text which says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people He has chosen as His own inheritance” (Psalm 33:12).

One quote from Jefferson found in the Jefferson Memorial states: “Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed the conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

Let’s first review some court decisions from the modern era as a backdrop before considering what the founding fathers had in mind.

Encel v. Vitale, June 25, 1962 was the first case to separate religious principles from public education. In this case removing prayer from schools there was no legal precedent ro history cited. No reference was made to the Constitution. Seven members of the Supreme Court making this ruling had no background on court benches. They were all politicians appointed by politicians.

This marked a new direction in the legal system in America. It was to be no longer constitutional law.

Most persons have never heard the prayer that resulted in this legal action. It was: “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee and beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our Country.”

In these 22 words God is acknowledged one time. He is acknowledged four times in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution is dated “in the year of our Lord.”

Abington v. Schempp was the cause resulting in the prohibition against Bible reading. Without any Constitutional basis it was said doing so could be “psychologically harmful.”

Stone v. Gramm, 1980, the court removed the Ten Commandments from schools even though they said it was a “passive” display, meaning someone would have to stop on their own will to read them.

James Madison, chief architect of the Constitution, said, “We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments.” That’s what he thought of the Commandments.

In Jefferson’s letter to the Banbury Baptist he asserted Christian principles were never to be separated from government.

This is an era in which every Christian who is a citizen of this great republic should rededicate self to the God who has granted us such liberties.

Four times in the Declaration of Independence God is acknowledged and reliance on Him referenced. Jefferson started by referring to God as “our Creator.” He goes on to refer to the “Supreme Judge of the Universe.” Mention is made to the “laws of nature and natures God” and speaks of “divine providence.”

Confusion regarding his beliefs related to separation of church and state have arisen from a statement in one of his letters. His response to an appeal from the Danbury Baptist Association that no one denomination be made a national religion has caused this. In his famous response he used the phrase referring to a “wall of separation between Church and State.” What did he mean by that metaphor? The question is “what did he mean,” not what do modern thinkers interpret it to mean?

First, consider why the Baptist wrote Mr. Jefferson. Europeans had fled to these shores seeking freedom of religion. They had come from countries with state churches such as England, France, Holland, and the Netherlands. Others had come from countries that were church states, such as, Italy. In these countries denominations that were not the state supported denomination were discriminated against and often persecuted. Some of this had come over into certain colonies. In those colonies with state churches other denominations were discriminated against and adherents persecuted.

William Penn, the Quaker who founded Pennsylvania, was the first to afford asylum to persons of all faiths.

The Baptist noted that the Constitution did nothing to prevent the government from establishing a national church. This prompted them to write Mr. Jefferson in an attempt to insure the government would not establish a national, or state church.

In his letter of response, in order to insure them there would be no national church, he asserted a “wall of separation” has been established that will prevent the government from doing so. That is all it meant. His conduct thereafter bears this out.

His letter to the Baptists was written on Friday, January 1, 1802. Two days later he attended the first church service in the House of Representatives on Sunday, January 3, 1802. Note: “in the House of Representatives.” He continued to do so for seven years. Church services were held during this time in the House with the Speakers chair as the pulpit, in the Supreme Court Building, the War Office, and at the Treasury Building. Sunday School was also conducted.

Jefferson was a tactful politician. His words and actions were coordinated to fit together like hand and glove in order to convey his policy to the citizens. By attending these services he was attempting to signal to the electorate his support of non-state supported religion. In his view the government could not be a party to imposing a uniform religious exercise or observance. It could on the other hand support as being in the public good voluntary, non-discriminatory religious activities, including church services. As proof of this he put at the disposal of the citizens public property, public facilities, and including public personnel, including the president himself.

Are you ready for this? The Marine Corps Band even played for these services in uniform. Vice President Aaron Burr attended regularly.

Jefferson’s personal financial records reveal he contributed to nine local churches. He was a principal subscriber to the building fund of Christ Church in Washington. His liberality benefitted several church building programs.

To insure there would be no “national religion” established, James Madison introduced the First Amendment to the Constitution. As introduced on June 8, 1789, it directed that no “national religion be established.” To insure that no “national” or “state” religion be established the word “national” was dropped and the amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.”

Later Madison wrote his “Detachment Memoranda” after his second term as president. Therein he wrote: “the constitution of the US forbids everything like an establishment of religion.” Then he corrected himself by inserting a caret, “a national” in front of religion. To Madison and his colleagues the establishment clause meant Congress could not pick one denomination and promote it to the status of an official national religion supported by taxes and with coercive authority. It granted to Congress no power to legislate on religious matters.

Obviously Madison and his colleagues believed the Constitution did allow Congress to support religion in a non-discriminatory and non-coercive way for he like Jefferson and their colleagues did precisely that. They attended worship, appointed chaplains, published Bibles and issued Thanksgiving proclamations, wrote in the Northwest Ordinance, “Religion, Morality and knowledge [were] necessary to good government and the happiness of Mankind.”

To them the separation issue involved not endorsing one denomination over another. It gave freedom to all.

Jefferson’s opinion regarding religion obviously evolved as he matured. The statements that seem to be contradictory are indeed. This is explained by them being made at different stages of his life.

In a letter to Benjamin Rush, dated April 21, 1803 he wrote, “I am a Christian.” “I am a real Christian,”

He wrote Charles Thomson in 1816, I am “a disciple of the doctrine of Jesus.” This phase of his life appears to have started in the mid-1790’s. Beginning at this time and continuing through his presidency he immersed himself in biblical scholarship. In compiling his writings of the Scripture he consulted texts in English, Greek, French, and Latin. His passion for privacy kept him from sharing these works with anyone during his lifetime.

His thought progress brought him into closer agreement with his colleagues with which he had argued in earlier years. He was now ready to concede religion fosters morality and, consequently, had a role to play in a free society. In 1801 he wrote, “The Christian religion brought to the original purity and simplicity of its benevolent instructor, is a religion of all others most friendly to liberty.”

Later he informed a Presbyterian minister that “Reading, reflection and time have convinced me that the interest of society requires the observance of those moral precepts…” Still later he confessed to agreeing with his former opponents that “a future state of retribution for the evil as well as for the good done while here” was a crucial concept for the promotion of public morality.

Facts contained herein have been extracted from a scholarly work by James H. Hutson, Chief of the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building Manuscript Division, with a forward by Jaroslav Pelikan of Yale University, entitled, Religion and the Founding of the American Republic. This well footnoted work is for sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office.

Ain’t God Good 9/13/98

Psalm 86:1-5
Page 874 Come Alive Bible

JESUS CHRIST whispered words of encouragement in the ears of His disciples and the world overheard Him. On the Mount of Beatitudes in His Sermon on the Mount He spoke of happiness. For clarity of understanding He spoke of seven facets of a relationship He guarantees will result in a fulfilling and gratifying life. Seven times He said “blessed” are you. In the language of the day the word translated “blessed” was MAKARIOS. It can be translated “blessed, congratulations, or happy.” MAKARIOS had long been used by the Greeks to speak of the blissful and blessed state of their gods. Christ now says in reality you can have true happiness like the Greeks only imagined their gods to have.

The word spoke of a state of being not dependent upon externals. The ancient name of the Island of Cyprus was Makarios. The island was thought to contain everything necessary for a good life. The climate was mild. Soil was fertile and growing conditions ideal. Fresh water was plentiful. In effect, the island was self-contained. This is a picture of what the word really means. In using it Jesus was saying “I can put within you everything necessary to a joyous and productive life. This joy is within and not contingent upon externals.”

This provision He offers every follower. Why then do so few seem to be enjoying it? It is because we have inverted the standard. We have grown to believe happiness is dependent upon externals — things. Having done so we have failed to develop the internal attributes resulting from applying God’s Word.

Recently my dear brother in Christ, Jerry Clower, went to be with our beloved Lord. Jerry had lived in preparation for that moment. When he confronted Christ he wasn’t meeting a stranger.

One of his recordings was made here at Roswell Street Baptist Church. He gave it the title of an expression he often used: “Ain’t God Good!” That “ain’t” good grammar but it is good news. Our text revolves around such good news.

Does it seem to you that you live in a world depicted by drawings seen in some biology books in which a small fish is about to be swallowed by a larger fish which also is about to be devoured by an even larger fish which is in danger of being swallowed by an even larger one. The picture continues with each fish getting bigger. You are always the smallest fish.

Does your life seem like an eight-track tape in a CD world?

Are you like Alice in Wonderland when she had to run as fast as she could just to stay where she was?

Life is such a rat race that they even have cheese flavored tranquilizers.

Someone asked: “What do you think of civilization?” The answer, “It is a great idea. Why doesn’t somebody start one?”

At times it seems we are in a deep forest being pursued by persons whose hands and heads have outgrown their hearts.

In such a world we need to know well the Good Lord.

Without Christ as your guide, all the world can offer you is “cures that don’t cure, blessings that don’t bless, and solutions that don’t solve.” (G.K. Chesterton, God is our Refuge…)

What’s a Christian to do in this mad house?

Realize you are going to have trouble. It never leaves you once it finds you. Acknowledge it will either make you better or bitter. You alone make the choice. Therefore, rely on:

I. GOD’S CHARACTER
With words I can show you what God’s character is like. It is revealed in this story as told by the late Dr. A. J. Gordon. As he came out of his church one day he noticed a young boy with a cage of small field birds. Gordon asked, “What are you going to do with those birds?” The lad’s freckled face lit up as he said, “Look here, mister,” as he pulled on the wing of one, “I like to make them cry out. I’m going to have some fun torturing them some, and then I am going to feed them to my cat.”

Gordon replied, “Son, I’d like to have those birds.” The boy responded, “You really don’t want them. They ain’t good for nothing.”

Gordon and the boy finally agreed on the price of $5.00.

When the boy left Gordon opened the cage door, but the birds refused to move. He finally nudged one out the door and soon the others followed. Gordon said that experience reminded him of a Chinese legend.

One day Jesus was out walking and he came across Satan who had a cage full of people. Jesus asked, “Satan, what have you?”

Wryly Satan replied, “I’ve got the world. I have all mankind in this cage.”

Jesus asked, “What are you going to do with them?”

Satan sneered, “I’m going to promise them everything. Then I’m going to break their hearts and eventually damn their souls to hell without God’s love.”

Jesus said, “Satan I would like to have them.”

Mockingly Satan said, “Jesus you don’t want them. They’ll steal Your money. They’ll desecrate Your day. They’ll blaspheme Your name. They’ll break Your promises. They will break Your heart. You don’t want them.”

Jesus said, “I know the number of hairs on their heads. I know their names. I know their thoughts and I want them.”

Satan taunted, “You’ll have to pay for them.” Jesus said, “I’ll give you gold, the gold of all the universe.”

Gleefully Satan replied, “No, no, no. That’s not enough.”

“I’ll give you wealth untold – pearls, rubies, and all the mountains and all the oceans of the world.”

“That’s still not enough,” said Satan.

“I’ll give you the diamonds of every island and continent.”

“That’s not nearly enough. I want more,” derided Satan.

Then Jesus said, “All right, Satan. Name your price.”

Satan’s lips curled in a snarl as he said, “I want the gold of Your heart, Jesus. I want the diamonds of Your tears. I want the rubies of Your blood. I want You, Jesus. I want you on a cross. But you won’t pay that price.”

Gently, without a word, Jesus began to lay aside His regal robes and make His way to earth.

To understand God’s character keep this story in mind as you reflect on Romans 8: 32: “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things?”

That is the character of the God who has promised you MAKARIOS.

II. GOD’S CAPACITY
FOUR ASPECTS OF HIS CAPACITY ARE CALLED TO OUR ATTENTION IN PSALM 86.

HIS FORGIVENESS – Vs. 5a

We all need forgiveness. General Oglethorpe once said to John Wesley, “I never forgive and I never forget.” Wesley replied, “Then, Sir, I hope you never sin.”

Never in modern America has the secular press given forgiveness such headlines. Never has forgiveness been more needed by more people. The slippery slide of sin that has led to this was greased by our language. For years the operative word in America was “character.” Words revealing character, good or bad, were used to speak of persons. Words such as “integrity, high morals, honest, trustworthy, loyal, dependable.” Every so imperceptibly the operative word changed to “personality.” Instead of referring to persons with character trait words personality describing language was substituted. Words such as “self- confident, assertive, introspective, self-styled, cool, or with-it.”

Then the avant guard of morals began to tell us right and wrong, good and evil were not separate categories of conduct but relative terms based on ones own subjective experience. Sin was thus easily excused.

Forgiveness is the antidote for this moral malaise. Forgiveness is therapeutic. God intends it to cleanse the soul as well as purge the conscience.

It is renewing in its relationship with the Lord and restoring in human relations.

Karl Menninger, the famed psychiatrist, and founder of the Menninger Clinic, said that if he could convince the patients in psychiatric hospitals that their sins were forgiven, 75% of them could walk out the next day. It is therapeutic.

We must not forget there are prerequisites to forgiveness. They are: CONTRITION, CONFESSION, AND REPENTANCE.

Contrition means it is more than merely saying, “I’m sorry…” That may only mean, I’m sorry …. I got caught.” That is remorse. Judas had remorse but not repentance.

Contrition means to share God’s broken heart over our actions.

Confession means to agree with God about it and admit it as wrong.

Repentance means to turn from it and turn to the Savior.

Peter’s sin of denial of Jesus was just as bad as the sin or betrayal by Judas. Judas was remorseful, Peter was repentant.

Many love to rely on the story of the woman caught in the act of sin who was brought to Jesus and He said, “Thy sins be forgiven thee…” That is beautiful. However, we must not forget the rest of the story. Jesus continued, “Go and sin no more.” Translated: “Quit your habitual sinning in this manner.”

Other accounts of forgiveness involve Moses and David.

Moses was instructed in a time when water was desperately needed to speak to the rock of Miraba and it would give water. Moses disobeyed and instead of speaking to the rock he struck it. He repented and was forgiven. Wonderful story!

David committed two horrendous sins. He set-up a young loyalist named Uriah to be murdered and he also committed adultery. Two for one. He repented and was forgiven.

The natural consequence of sin is often overlooked in the stories of these two monoliths. Moses repented and was forgiven but he wasn’t allowed to enter the land of promise.

David repented and was forgiven but not allowed to build the temple. Solomon, his son was given that privilege.

They had disqualified themselves for these roles by their own sinful conduct.

Christians sometimes get confused at this point. They equate forgiveness of sin with acquittal by the law. They are not the same. Forgiveness is an act of grace. Acquittal is an act of law and may not apply even when sin is forgiven.

Simply stated there is a natural consequence to our actions.

HIS MERCY – Vs. 5b. You may have messed up your life. This is God’s Red Cross station for you. God is ready to forgive. Therefore, “Let us come boldly to the throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16).

A mother pleaded with Napoleon to have mercy on her condemned son. The Emperor said, “He doesn’t deserve mercy.” Replied the mother, “I know he doesn’t deserve mercy. If he did it wouldn’t be mercy.” Mercy with its twin sister grace are unmerited favor given sinners.

A man wanted to treat himself to a shave by a barber. This almost lost art, he heard, was still performed in a local barber shop by a young woman named Grace. After the shave he was astounded when told it was $35.00. Nevertheless, he paid up and thanked Grace.

The next morning he looked in the mirror and didn’t need a shave. In disbelief this continued for two weeks. He returned to the barber shop and found his pastor there. He pulled his pastor aside and asked if he had ever gotten a shave there. Sure enough he had. The man explained he had not needed a shave since getting shaved there. The pastor said, “There is an easy explanation. Once shaved always shaved when you have been shaved by Grace.”

Once our Lord saves us we have been saved forever but stand in the need to perpetual forgiveness.

HIS POWER – Vs. 10. Power is the ability to achieve purpose. “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6: 10).

“You will be filled with His mighty glorious strength so that you can keep going no matter what happens–Always full of the joy of the Lord” (Colossians 1: 11 TLB).

HIS UNDERSTANDING – Vs. 15. Notice these traits of His understanding in this one verse: “compassion, gracious, longsuffering, mercy and truth.”

This is a display of some of God’s goods for you. Don’t be like a window shopper who APPRECIATES but does not APPROPRIATE.

His Word was never meant for our scrutiny, or mere study, but our support and instruction.

III. GOD’S CALLING Vs. 11 “I will walk in thy truth…”
David prayed, “Unite my heart to fear thy name.” He wanted every fiber of his being united in reverence to God’s name. Rivet your attention on Him.

Never let the spotlight go off Him from the moment you awaken. Keep Him at center stage of your thoughts from the instant the curtain goes up on a new day.

Let your heart be united in Him. A divided heart is never at peace. The heart can never be united in sin. The Holy Spirit, in love, keeps pulling at it.

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote of a divided personality in “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Tragically the story ends with the triumph of evil. You make the choice of which prevails in your life.

What makes you eternally significant is what you chose to do or refuse to do. You make the decision. As we decide our lives are formed and our eternal destiny is determined.

[Hold up a seed and remark:] The content of this seed can be determined clinically. Basically it consists of hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, etc. An artificial seed can be made using these components. However, one thing would be missing — the life principle. It must come from another source. One’s life needs the super-additive called ETERNAL LIFE.

What’s a Dad to Do? 6/21/98

II Chronicles 34:1-3
Page 687 Come Alive Bible

Jesus Christ taught us to pray, “Our Father which art in heaven….”

What is your image of the Father God?

No person arrives at the house of God without their “pet God” under their arm. For some the image of this “pet God” isn’t a very good one. That’s because our negative image of God is often rooted in our emotional hurts and destructive patterns carried with us from our past based on our experience with people.

Our perception of God is often an emotional not an intellectual one. It is based on our experiences with people not our study of God’s Word. Our God image should be based on Scripture but psychological studies show it is often arrived at slowly by observing people —- especially our dads.

At Sunday School a child is taught “God loves you.” If the child’s perception of God is based on experience with its natural father the concept of God might be of an unstable, rejecting, abusive person who can’t be trusted.

Dad’s your influence is critical to a child’s spiritual development.

If a dad is impersonal and uncaring, one who will never intervene on the child’s behalf, God is seen in that light. The child grows up feeling God is disinterested in its needs and can’t be gotten close to.

If a dad is pushy and inconsiderate God is thought of as one who makes you feel cheap and undeserving, that is, one who deserves to be taken advantage of by others.

If a father is a drill sergeant, demanding more and more and never showing approval the child feels unaccepted by God. This often results in an adult who is never sure of salvation. Having an authoritative figure in life that can never be pleased is often transferred to God who can never be satisfied. This person keeps praying over and over to be saved without ever having confidence of salvation. They think they can never do enough to please God.

If a father is seen as a weakling who can’t be looked to for help God is considered to be incapable of helping.

NOW THE POSITIVE.
If a father is patient God is seen as patient, forbearing, and long suffering.

If a father is kind God is thought of as kind and gracious.

If a father is giving God is seen as supportive.

If a father is protective God is seen as a shield and defender.

Ideally, instead of our concept of God being derived from our association with people such as our earthly father, the fathers concept of his role should be derived from the model set by our eternal Father God. The Lord God modeled fatherhood through His relationship with His own Son. When the Father spoke of His Son He did so in terms of endearment, “This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” Earthly fathers should speak kindly and encouragingly of their children.

Jesus continued to model fatherhood by constantly reaching out to children.

For the importance of fatherhood to be restored in America we are going to have to recapture the importance of marriage. Americans love to get married. When we become as interested in staying married as in getting married the institution will prosper.

A Sunday School teacher asked children how many times should a person marry. Instantly one child responded, “Sixteen!”

The child was so certain she asked how do you know. Replied the child, “The preacher said so at the wedding last week. ‘Far [four] better or for [four] worst, for [four] good or for [four] evil. That’s sixteen.”

Children have a delightful way of putting things in perspective. Erma Bombeck tells of one such child.

This little girl loved her dad but wasn’t quite sure what dads do. She tells her own story.

“I hadn’t thought that much about dad before. He was just someone who left and came home and seemed glad to see everyone at night. He opened jars of pickles no one else could. He was the only one in the house who wasn’t afraid to go into the basement by himself.

He cut himself shaving, but no one kissed it or got excited about it.

It was understood that when it rained, he got the car and brought it around to the door.

When anyone was sick, he went out to get the prescription filled.

He took lots of pictures —- but was never in any of them.

Whenever I played house, the mother doll had a lot to do. I never knew what to do with the daddy doll, so I had him say, ‘I’m going off to work now,’ and threw him under the bed.

Then one morning daddy didn’t get up and go to work. He went to the hospital instead and died. We had never had so much company and food before.

I went to my room and felt under the bed for the daddy doll. When I found him, I dusted him off and put him on my bed. He never did anything. I didn’t know his leaving would hurt so much…”

Dads, those of you who voluntarily absent yourself from the lives of your children your going away hurts so much.

The little girl didn’t know what dads do. Let’s examine the life of one and learn some good things for all of us to do, but especially dads.

There are numerous studies showing the advantages of having a contributing dad in the home. In reality every home does not have one. If you are a child in a single parent home I want to encourage you by relating to the story of a child whose dad died when he was eight. He overcame this liability and an even greater one. His name was Josiah son of Amon, the evil King of Israel. His grandfather was Manasseh also an evil king. As a college student I heard Billy Graham preach a sermon entitled, “The Meanest Man Who Ever Lived.” It was Manasseh.

To aid in overcoming the liability of not having a living dad and being the product of a home with a corrupt heritage, he chose a role model. II Chronicles 34: 2 spoke of “his father David.” This meant a descendant of David. The David he modeled his life after was the repentant David who was “a man after God’s own heart.”

At the age of eight he became King of Israel.

Don’t give up on yourself if you are a fatherless child.

Don’t give up on yourself if you have a vile and evil dad. Do as Josiah who determined to – – – –

I. SEEK THE GOD OF HIS FATHER DAVID VS. 3c
David had many weaknesses and numerous failures. Josiah chose the lifestyle of David as a man back in fellowship with the Lord. It impacted him dramatically.

It has been determined that the most influential times in a child’s life is between ages 30 months and five years and during early adolescence.

Current research shows three things in the lives of parents, especially dads, influence the faith life of children. Those who:

Research shows that the average teen in our churches spends only two minutes a day in meaningful dialogue with dad. Alarming as it is 25% of the teens say they have never had a meaningful conversation with their father. That is, a talk centered on the teens interest.

A study from Cornell University shows fathers of preschool children on the average spend 3.7 seconds per day in real contact with their youngsters. In contrast children spend approximately 54 hours a week watching TV.

While parents have not been watching, TV has slipped a false image of the family under their door. A contorted imagine of their “pet god” has been included as a supplement. Laughter has been the lubricant making it easy to slip in false concepts of the family.

Previous generations have been laughed at for laughing at “Father Knows Best” and “Leave It to Beaver” the present generation is developing character while laughing at “Bart Simpson” and “Married With Children” that depict fathers as bumbling, befuddled, or beastly.

Dads, children tend to spell love —- “T I M E.”

American fathers spend less time with their children than fathers in any other countries in the world except Britain. Today’s American father spends 40% less time with their children than any previous generation.

Charles Francis Adams was a prominent 19th century political figure who kept a diary. One day he entered the following: “Went fishing with my son today —a day wasted.”

His son Brook Adams also kept a diary and made the following entry on the same day:

“Went fishing with my father — the most wonderful day of my life!”

Children value the time spent with their parents.

HOW TO TEACH A CHILD
I tried to tach my child with books,
He only gave me puzzled looks.
I tried to teach my child by word.
They passed him by, often unheard.
Despairingly, I turned aside,
‘How shall I teach this child?’ I cried.
‘Come,’ said he,
‘Play with me!’

David, even though king, evidently spent time with young Josiah who consequently sought the God of his father.

II. SET THE HOUSE IN ORDER VS. 3C “HE BEGAN TO PURGE”
A. THE CAUSE OF CONTRITION (Verse 19)
Without a mirror it is difficult to determine how we look. The Word of God acts as such a mirror to help depict our spiritual condition. “Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord” (Vs. 14) and it was read before the king. When it was Josiah saw himself and his people in light of God’s Word. When he did it caused him such grief that he spontaneously engaged in a custom of his day, he “tore his clothes” (Vs. 19). This was a sign of grief and remorse.

B. THE CONSEQUENCES OF CORRUPTION (Verse 21) “THE WRATH OF THE LORD

C. THE CONDITION OF CORRECTION (Verses 26, 27)
“YOU HUMBLED YOURSELF BEFORE THE LORD WHEN YOU HEARD HIS WORD…”

I have a friend, David Simmons, a former member of the University of Georgia football team and corner back for the Dallas Cowboys. He tells of his father a former military man who was extremely demanding and who rarely said a kind word. He constantly pushed David with harsh criticism to do better. His dad had obviously decided he would never allow his son to feel any satisfaction from his accomplishments. He constantly set challenging goals and never complemented Dave of those reached.

When Dave was a little boy his dad gave him a bicycle, unassembled, with command to put it together. Dave struggled to the point of tears with the complex directions. His dad said, “I knew you couldn’t do it,” and took over.

When Dave played football in high school his dad was unrelenting in his criticism. After every game his dad would go over every play in their back yard and point out Dave’s every error. Dave said, “Most boys got butterflies in their stomach before the game; I got them afterwards. Facing my dad was more stressful than facing the opposing team.”

By the time to go to college he hated his dad and his demands. He chose to leave Louisiana and play for UGA because it was the school farthest from his home that offered him a scholarship.

After college he became a second round draft pick by the St. Louis Cardinals. Joe Namath was the clubs first round pick. Dave was so excited he called his dad to tell him. His dad said, “So, how does it feel to be second?”

During Dave’s time in college Christ came into his life. His bitterness toward his dad disappeared. Gradually he began to try to build a bridge with his dad.

Dave learned something during this time about his grandfather. He had such a violent temper he once destroyed a pickup truck with a sledgehammer because it wouldn’t start. He often beat his son. This insight caused Dave to have compassion not contempt for his dad.

One day Dave spoke here in our church. It was the first time we met though we had grown up only five miles apart and a few years. He learned I was going to visit my parents. He asked that I visit his dad and if possible tell him about the Lord. His dad ran a feed store. I went by to see him and was told he was out back in the warehouse. The Lord gave us instant rapport. He learned right away we had relatives who were close friends. Gradually the conversation turned to Christ and we sat down on sacks of feed as I told him of Christ’s love for him. That day he became Dave’s brother by faith in Christ. Dave later said they became friends before his death. Christ made the difference.

Next Josiah —-

III. SOUGHT TO SERVE THE LORD VS. 8C “REPAIR THE TEMPLE”
Josiah rediscovered the Torah, which consists of the first five books of our Bible. He restored it to its proper place as God’s guide for life for that era. It became the inspiration for reestablishing God’s will in the life of the community.

Verse 27 explains why the radical transformation in the life of Josiah and the community was possible: “because your heart was tender.”

This resulted in a devout spirit of self- humiliation before God (Vs. 27).

He engaged in a “purge” (Vs. 3c and 8). If being “salt” and “light” means anything it means being a purging and preserving agent in society. Dads take the lead. Purge your Internet viewing, your TV programming, and your reading lists. Lead by example. Let your standard for yourself be known by your children.

He evidenced devotion in that he determined to “repair the house of the Lord his God.”

He didn’t have a false “pet God,” but was given a proper concept of God by modeling his father David. He became pro-active in serving the Lord.

You’ll Never Walk Alone 4/19/98

Luke 24:13-32
Page 1548 Come Alive Bible

Jesus Christ is often encountered in the most unlikely places at the most unexpected times.

He is not only our guide to tomorrow and our ticket to eternity, but our companion on life’s road through the wilderness of bewilderment.

He is the essential clue necessary to interpret the mystery of life.

Do you ever feel like you are all alone? Does loneliness ever engulf you? Have you ever looked at one of these street scenes from a major city with people walking shoulder to shoulder moving like a river of humanity? All crowded together yet many feeling all alone in the crowd.

A sense of frustration and abandonment prevails in many lives. A gnawing sense of emptiness resulting from a feeling of disappointment is the norm for some. Having been let down dejection is dictated by defeat.

If you are ever described in that manner you might have been the companion of Cleopas as he walked the lonely road from Jerusalem to Emmaus the afternoon of the reported resurrection of the crucified Christ. Their great expectation regarding Christ had crashed at the cross. Now they were alone and dramatically disappointed in Christ. They needed a resurrection of hope and guidance for the moment.
They were DOUBTING what had happened.
They were BEWILDERED about what to do.
They were FEARFUL of what might happen.
Do you ever experience those emotions?

As children most of us were intrigued by the idea of supernatural power. That is why Superman, Captain Marvel, Batman, and their companions have thrived. Youth have an innate desire to know secrets and tap into supernatural power. I was that type child and perhaps you are or were. I remember ordering Orphan Annie’s secret decoding ring so I could know in advance what was going to happen to Annie and Corntassel. I ordered Jack Armstong’s magic answer box in order to tell when a person was telling the truth or lying.

As adults we don’t grow out of our desire to believe there is a hidden factor into which we can tap and improve our destiny. Horoscopes are studied by many while others endeavor to engage in ESP, extrasensory perception.

With our annual date with the IRS just passed one husband asked his wife to balance their account and prepare their tax return. After doing so she put the initials ESP at the bottom. When asked why she said, “That stands for Error Some Place.”

Most of us hope there is somebody out there — a force or power — trying to get through to us to improve our life. Unfortunately the last place many think to turn to find this mysterious power is Christianity. An all too well hidden fact is the most powerful force in the universe is present with us.

That is the message of the Emmaus Road story. Cleophas and his wife were walking alone when a third party joined them. After telling the unrecognized Christ of the crucifixion and exposing their bewilderment He explains the Scripture to them regarding the foretold resurrection. Later in their home as they dined together they recognized the risen Christ.

The event we call Easter can’t be reduced to a creed or philosophy. It is not simply believing the doctrine of the resurrection that empowers life. It is meeting the resurrected Christ that changes life. Faith moves us from belief in a doctrine to acquaintance with the person, Jesus Christ. Life takes on a whole new meaning when we can say as they, “We have met Him; He is alive.”

As the two downcast believers walked alone they said, “We had hoped” (Vs. 21).

The good news which was to transcend lost hope was that Christ was there with them though unrecognized.

Many have been blessed by reading the insightful book by Charles Sheldon entitled In His Steps. It is the story of how lives were changed by asking before acting, ‘What would Jesus do? I want to do what He would do if He were here.”

Today many persons wear wrist bands with the letters “WWJD,” meaning, “What would Jesus do.”

Push that a bit further by asking, “What should I do in that Jesus is here.”

What attitude adjustment would that produce?

What dynamic would that add to your life?

GOOD NEWS! He is here. He is your abiding companion.

In math there is the term, “Constant.” It means “a quantity that remains unchanged throughout a given discussion.” It is a principle on which one can confidently rely while trying to solve the mystery of a math problem. It is said to be permanent, unchanged, immutable.

In algebra a variable is an unknown such as “X.” A constant is something that is always what it is. For example “1” is always one. Thus, Christ is a constant.

As in math so in all of life to find the unknown start with the known. Start and stay with Christ.

In life Christ is our “Constant” for solving life’s problems.

There is a moving scene in the dramatic play The Trial of Jesus by John Masefield where Longinus, a Roman centurion, reports to Pilate. After the report is given, Procula, Pilate’s wife, beckons the centurion and begs him to tell her of the prisoner’s death. After hearing him speak of the empty tomb, she asks, “Do you think He is dead?” Longinus answers, “No Lady,I don’t.” Impatiently, she implores, “Then where is He?” In awe Longinus answers, “Let loose in the world, Lady, where … where no one can … stop His truth.”

He is in your world. He wants to be your constant companion and guide.

In our text there are three things that enabled them to realize Christ was with them. These three elements today give us assurance of His presence.

I. SCRIPTURE
To put their troubled hearts at ease “He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Vs. 27).

Prior to His crucifixion Christ noted an important potential: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you…” (John 15: 7).

Today’s Biblical ignorance is appalling. What are you doing to enhance your Bible knowledge? We say we believe the Bible to be God’s Word, and it is. Be real! How often do you read from it? What systematic program of Bible study do you have personally? Do you have a plan for memorizing strategic passages. For your intellectual and spiritual good you should. The mind is like a muscle, it must be exercised. Memorization is a marvelous way to improve your mental functionality.

Can you say with the Psalmist: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105)?

You can’t unless you can also say, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!” (Psalm 119:11).

The two said of their experience in Emmaus when Christ opened the Scripture to their understanding: “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scripture to us? (Vs. 32).

God’s word warmed their hearts, illumined their minds, and revived their hope. It still does the same. However, if you don’t know it you don’t know it does.

Christians need a Biblical world view. Unfortunately many have a secular world view shaped by novels, magazines, movies, TV, and carnal commentators. As a result in times of decisions they make a secular world view choice. That is, we act like non-believers.

Much is in the news these days about crime, violence, drug abuse, and immorality in the youth culture.

A recent study by “Whose Who” reveals that school is a very dangerous place.
One-third knew someone who had brought a weapon to school.
Forty-two percent of the boys had access to at least one gun.
Five percent of the students reported there had been a shooting in their school.
More than half reported frequent fights between students.
One-third had seriously considered suicide.

Various laws are being proposed to deal with it. Forget it! Laws won’t change it. The cause must be addressed. You don’t have to be the sharpest knife in the drawer to understand why. Yet, society seems oblivious to the cause.

Ten million minors have a venereal disease. 1.5 million abortions occur annually. Many by teens. Could it just be that a contributing factor is that 88% of all sex depicted on TV is outside marriage. The entertainment media flaunts promiscuity and homosexuality as normal. Youth act it out and we wonder why.

Surveys reveal one-fourth of high school seniors get drunk at least once a week. Could a contributing fact be that their heros in entertainment consumed ten times as much alcohol in movies and on TV than other beverages?

Various reports indicate that between 1/3 and 1/2 of all children will be involved in some serious chemical dependency problem. Their idols in music and the media flaunt drug use.

Contrast this with a recent Gallup Poll that reveals 65% of evangelical teens never read their Bible. One in ten is said to read the Bible daily.

To develop a Biblical world view one needs to know the Scripture. Then it is possible to look a life through God’s eyes and make valid choices as a result.

If you want to know WWJD read The Book.

II. FELLOWSHIP
There is a further essential step. There is a difference in studying the Scripture and spending time with the Author. Spend time with the Lord alone.

Some years ago my study was here in the church building in a remote location to afford privacy and quiet. Some person learned where it was and when they wanted me they came knocking. I tacked the following note on the inside of the door addressed to myself: “Don’t answer any knock on this door when you have an appointment to be alone here with the Lord.”

Flash back with me to the statement by Christ regarding His word abiding in us. He continued: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7). Fellowship with Him and compliance with His word are the two inseparable elements for a good prayer life.

Our Lord, knowing our need for fellowship designed the fellowship of the redeemed called the church. It isn’t a perfect fellowship but it is the best going at the time. It will do until by death we are initiated into the “Society of the Just Perfected.”

Dr. Jean Rosenbaum, psychiatrist and President of the New Mexico Psychoanalytic Association, observed: “Loneliness is one of man’s worst enemies. Since World War II it as spread like a plague. Chronic loneliness, or alienation, nowadays afflicts 75% to 90% of all Americans. It is the major cause of alcoholism and drug addiction in this country.”

Independent sources record that 60% to 70% of all youth seeking medical care are really suffering from stress and emptiness resulting from seeking good relationships. The church must provide a loving receptive place to establish such.

Youth, please hear me, adolescence is a time when cliques are often formed. Please, I beg you, don’t form cliques within the church that excludes people needing your friendship. Expand the circumference of your friendships.

Build your fellowship around fellowship with the Lord. His clique is defined by the word “whosoever” found in John 3: 16.

There is a third element essential for knowing the presence of the Lord.

III. TIME FOR HIM
Christ’s followers had their hoped dashed by the cruel crucifixion of Christ. Every expectation expired with His execution. In the following forty days they would be given a short course in trust — faith. They were being taught to trust Christ in all things. That is the same school in which He has enrolled you. Perhaps you feel you are taking a post graduate course in adversity management. In it all He is there to bless and guide you.

A popular Christian tune by Andrae Crouch reveals this great truth.

“I’ve had many tears and sorrows,
I’ve had questions for tomorrow;
There’ve been times I didn’t know right from wrong;
But in every situation God gave blessed consolation
That my trials come to only make me strong.”

“Through it all, Through it all,
O I’ve learned to trust in Jesus,
I’ve learned to trust in God;
Through it All, Through it all,
I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.”

The word used by Christ was “abide in Me.”

On the road to Emmaus Jesus indicated He was going further when Cleophas and his companion got to their place. However, “they constrained Him, saying, ‘Abide with us…’” (Luke 24: 29).

He has said, “I will never leave you.” Do you ever feel He has? An honest answer will likely be “Yes.” He said, “I will be with you always.” Do you constantly feel He is? This time your honesty answer may be, “No!” Those are secular world view feelings. A Biblical world view keeps us aware He is constantly with us and won’t forsake us regardless of our feelings.

There is a classic poem that has been set to music entitled,

“FOOT PRINTS IN THE SAND OF TIME.”
One night a man had a dream.
He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Across the sky flashed scenes from his life
For each scene, he noticed two sets of
footprints in the sand; one belonging to him
and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of His life flashed before him,
he looked back at the footprints in the sand.
He noticed that many times along the path of life
there was only one set of footprints.
He also noticed that it happened at the
very lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him and he questioned,
“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most
troublesome time in my life there is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why when I needed
you most you would leave me.”
The Lord replied,
“My precious, precious child,
I love you and would never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering,
when you see only one set of footprints in the sand
it was then that I carried you.”

If you as a believer have felt all alone perhaps you have failed to recognize the form in which He has been present with you.

If you have not begun begin today your life’s pilgrimage with Him. He has been there all along. Perhaps you, like the two on the road to Emmaus have just failed to recognize Him.

Let Jesus “Easter In You” 4/12/98

Matthew 28:1-7
Page 1460 Come Alive Bible

Jesus Christ put on the form of a man, slipped into the envelop of time, and entered our space. He, Immanuel, “God with us,” came to rescue us from our plight resulting from our self-imposed doom. There were requisites necessary to achieve this. The drama of redemption was played out in three acts.

ACT ONE: Bethlehem. He had to be born of a virgin and thus have no old sin nature and thus have no old sin nature. Because of His virgin birth every infant that dies, and every individual lacking the mental capacity of making a valid choice is assured of a heavenly home.

ACT TWO: His life. He had to live a sinless life. Thus having no personal sin He was capable of being the all-sufficient sacrifice for our personal sins.

ACT THREE: He had to die for the sin of the world and have put on His vicarious death the seal of God the Father’s approval.

The noise of the crowd flooding Jerusalem had not yet reached the crescendo of mid-day when the still air rang out with the sounds of hammers. Christ was fulfilling the last requirement in the drama of redemption.

The seventh of His final shouts was heard from the cross, “Father, into Thy hand I commend My spirit…” (Luke 23: 46). He reclined His head against the old rugged cross and breathed His last.

Essentials one and two had been fulfilled. Now all heaven expectantly waited to see the Father’s vindication of the Son.

His lifeless form, wrapped like a cocoon, hopelessly lay in a small cave that served as His borrowed tomb.

By the dawns early light a mighty angel came and rolled away the stone that sealed the tomb. The Roman guards were so startled and convinced of what they experienced there that they fled to report the phenomenon to their superiors.

Anticipating the final anointing of His lifeless body a small band of ladies came to the tomb early in the morning. With sad hearts they were puzzled by how to get the stone rolled away from the tomb. Roman soldiers would have found it laughable to see their feeble failed efforts.

Fright and elation swirled in their hearts like two liquids blended. They were greeted by the angelic messenger who told of Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

Immediately the ladies ran to tell the disciples.

Mary, one out of whom Christ had cast demons returned to the tomb.

Bewildered by what she had just heard from the angel she still was in a state of disbelief. There she encountered Christ, but assumed Him to be a gardener. She inquired, “Where have they taken Him. Where is He laid.” Then He spoke her name, “Mary!”

That intonation, the inflection, the resonance, that was the voice of Christ. She turning to see Him fell at His feet and appropriately greeted Him, “Master.”

The rush of reality engulfed her for the first time. Christ is alive! She became the first person to see the risen Christ.

Understandably the title she used for Him means “My Great Master.”

Lovingly she wanted to cling to Him, but He insisted that she go and tell the others He was risen.

Peter and John came to the tomb to be overwhelmed by the angel’s message, “Why do you seek the living among the dead. He is not here. He is risen as He said. Come see the place where the Lord lay.”

This was the moment of the awakening of human conscience to the reality of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. He was indeed alive.

Requirement number three was met. God the Father endorsed the birth, sanctioned the life and confirmed His Son as our Savior by His resurrection.

EVERY ARGUMENT FOR THE RESURRECTION IS HISTORICAL. What followed the resurrection were not hallucinations resulting from ambitious believers. They did not anticipate nor at first believe in the resurrection. The Gospel of Mark notes Christ… upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not…” (Mark 16: 14).

“These words seemed to them like an idle tale” (Luke 24: 11).

However it was no fabricated fantasy. Modern psychologists agree hallucinations are:
1. Associated with expectation. They had none.

2. Highly individualistic, yet there were small groups as well as hundreds, who witnessed the resurrected Christ. Group hallucinations are unknown.

3. Suitable circumstances contribute to hallucinations. Sunny beaches, open roadways, hilltops, and large crowds aren’t conducive.

FACTS: He was dead. His tomb was empty. He was seen by many to be alive.

Easter is God the Father’s “YES!” to Jesus.

It was also a bold “BRAVO!”

Bravo Jesus for a life well lived.

Bravo, Jesus for suffering and dying faithfully in love and trust to the end.

The curtain is still up at the end of act three. God the Father calls for encores by the Son. Death is swallowed up in victory. A forty day celebration results with numerous curtain calls.

This drama is the affirming disclosure of what God is really like. Christ is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1: 15). He is the God of the impossible and hopeless.

The resurrection is the ultimate breakthrough of God into our world in a manner that defies history and nature.

It is a miracle comparable to removing the yoke from an egg without piercing the shell.

The fact such a thing could not happen does not mean it did not happen. The One with Whom all things are possible intervened in the laws of nature He designed to give us boundaries forming a comfort zone. He did not make those laws of nature as a straight jacket for Himself, but as guidelines for us.

One fact stands out. Those who reported the resurrection believed it. A review of what happened in those forty days after the resurrection reveals why they believed it. They used three of their five senses to confirm for themselves what they could not by nature believe. They touched Him, talked with Him, walked with Him, and on more than one occasion dined with Him.

This report of the resurrection so disturbed the members of the judiciary that the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court of the day, appointed a brilliant young intellect as a special prosecutor with subpoena power to investigate the rumors.

He interrogated individuals under the threat of death trying to get them to renounce belief in what they knew to be true. That young advocate was Paul. He accumulated more facts regarding the resurrection than anyone. His purpose was to refute it and dispel the rumors once and for all. His evidence turned on him and became for him convincing proof of the fact of the bodily resurrection of Christ. The detractor became a devotee.

Hear in part his report resulting from his exhaustive investigation.
“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time” (I Corinthians 15:3 – 8).

Reports of the resurrection was not a conspiracy. Conspiracies unravel with time. Accounts of the resurrection have only become increasingly confirmed. First century believers suffered and died because of their confidence in the resurrection as a fact.

If His friends had stolen the body they would only have had to returned the lifeless corpse to relieve themselves of persecution. They would have if they could have, but they knew Him to be alive.

If His enemies had stolen the corpse they could have revealed it and made a mockery of the resurrection charade. They would have done so gleefully if they could have. They could not because he was alive.

The resurrection celebrated at Easter is God’s class action suit against sin and death.

Although the resurrection is without precedent, it is only natural that it should have been normal for Christ. He arose because it was His logical response to death.

Paul put all his Easter eggs in one basket: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain” he said, (I Cor. 15: 17).

He had not destroyed death as a fact. He had done better, He had destroyed it as a force. Christ is risen to put love in our hearts, decent thoughts in our heads, and more steel in our spines. He is risen to convert us, not from life to something more than life, but from something less than life to a life full of possibilities.

Let Christ “Easter in you.” That is, let Him give your life which He referred to as “the abundant life.”

To accept the resurrection as a fact is an act of faith. To deny it requires no less faith. Either way our response is an act of faith. Faith ceases to be faith when it can be explained.

EVERY ARGUMENT OPPOSING THE RESURRECTION IS PHILOSOPHICAL.

A lack of faith response to the resurrection is the relentless revelation of our unwillingness, if it be so, to admit that there is something out there which we will never grasp and understand fully, this side of heaven. Our acceptance and enjoyment of the Easter message hinges on our willingness to face this human limit unashamedly. This can be done without apology to the intellectual world which still believes that if we can’t fully understand it, it doesn’t exist. There are many other phenomena by which we all live, and which we do not understand.

In light of Job’s critical questioning of God, the Lord responded, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” Job, with things in better perspective, replied acknowledging God’s actions were “things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:3).

The resurrection is too wonderful for me. However, the evidence stimulates my faith response and I rejoice.

A Muslim in Africa who became a Christian was asked why. He replied, “Well, it is like this. Suppose you are going down the road and suddenly the road forks in two directions, and you don’t know which way to go. There are at the fork in the road are two men, one dead and one alive – which would you ask which way to go?”

At the end of life’s road it forks. There you will find many men – all dead, and a man who is alive, Jesus Christ. Which will you ask which way to go?

If we could prove God’s power in a lab it wouldn’t be the ultimate power which it is. Ultimately we all act by faith. Faith to believe or faith to reject.

The resurrection through God’s eyes is seen as logical. It was His way of confirming His Son as our Savior. The decision for or against Easter faith is not taken on the grounds of this miraculous event but on whether we are willing to see life from God’s viewpoint. When we do then we are ready to rely totally upon God in life or death.

The resurrection of Christ resurrects hope in us. Life tends to rob us of hope.

Christian hope alerts us to the possibilities of the future as a field of action, and as a consequence, fills the present with energy. A life filled with hope is a life built on the foundations of the promises of God.

Psychiatrist again and again report that many are unconsciously or subconsciously suffering from despair. People are afraid they will become an appendage of a machine. People feel they have less and less to say about their future; how they will live and what they will become. There is a sense of hopelessness resulting from fear we can’t control the technology we have created. Will acid rain, water poisoning, air pollution, and biological warfare be our modern day Hiroshima or Holocaust?

Jesus did not come to make the world perfect but to perfect us for the next world. He came to enable us to live the “abundant life” amid the hopeless state of society.

The citizens of Feldkirch, Austria, didn’t know what to do. Napoleon’s massive army was preparing to attack. Soldiers had been spotted on the heights of the hills over looking the town which was on the Austrian border. A council of citizens was hastily summonsed to decide whether they should try to defend themselves or display the white flag of surrender. It happened on Easter Sunday, and the people had gathered in the local church.

The pastor rose and spoke, “Friend’s, we have been counting on our own strength, and apparently that has failed. As this is the day of our Lord’s resurrection, let us just ring the bells, have our services as usual, and leave the matter in His hands. We know only our weakness, and not the power of God to defend us.” The council accepted his plan and the church bells rang. The enemy, hearing the sudden peal, concluded that the Austrian army had arrived during the night to defend the town. Before the service ended, the army of Napoleon broke camp and left.

When we celebrate the power of God in our moments of presumed doom He is there to work on our behalf.

Hope is not only threatened by despair but by our conscious fears. Many fear the encroachment of age. Others have the fears associated with youth. Can we make it as a youth? Will the work force offer me a carrot of a job only to snatch it from me when it appears I am about to obtain it? Will I lose my job? Will I be forced to retire before I want to or really can? Will we be bullied or babied in a nursing home?

Many fear God’s anger over their sin. How can I face such a hopeless lifestyle? Christ Who overcame life, death, and the grave gives hope a jump start. He who did all that can enable us to live for Him with confidence.

The resurrection asserts there is something out there beyond the grave. We can’t explain it because we haven’t experienced it. However, if we know Who is out there beyond this life and world we know what is there. Christ stated as His reason for His exodus: “I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am there you may be also.”

Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people. Are you prepared?

ACT THREE still involves one remaining curtain call.

When the disciples arrived at the tomb and peered in they saw His grave clothes laying deflated like a balloon out of which all air had escaped. They were not unwound and disheveled. They were neatly in place.

Customarily a napkin was bound over the face of the deceased. It too was there neatly folded in place.

This is significant because in that era when a person crumpled a napkin and left the table it meant they were finished and would not come back. If the napkin was folded and left in place it meant the person was coming back.

Christ is coming again. He left us the sign of the folded napkin.

He is risen! Deal with it. What does it mean to you? How have you responded?

The world is a better place because Michelangelo didn’t say, “I don’t do ceilings.”

The world is a better place because Mozart didn’t say, “I don’t do symphonies.”

The world is a better place because Noah didn’t say, “I don’t do arks and animals.”

The world is a better place because Moses didn’t say, “I don’t do swollen seas.”

The world is a better place because Jesus didn’t say, “I don’t do crosses and tombs.”

Your world will be a better place if you don’t say, “I don’t do repentance and faith.”