Sermon Select

The Son Rose Before Sunrise – Easter 4/23/00

Matthew 28:1-7

JESUS CHRIST arose from the tomb on that first Easter morning just before the sun edged above the horizon and its light ignited the indigo sky of a new day.

In that instant He brought into focus a whole new perception of human worth and wholeness. His resurrection emblazoned across the sky of history the final irrefutable evidence that Jesus Christ is Lord of death and Master of Life.

Revisit the scene where gloom had engulfed home, where death mocked life, where angels wept and demons laughed. Covert disciples who had been present and by their silence consented to His condemnation took his body for burial. Joseph of Aramathea and Nicodemus were the two who under the gaze of the Roman execution squad had buried Him.

His bewildered and despondent admirers having lost hope were disillusioned.

Early in the morning of the third day two grieving followers came to His tomb perplexed as towho might roll away the stone and allow the final preparation of His lifeless body for final and permanent entombment. Upon arrival they were greeted by a stunned detachment of Roman guards.

The stone, to them a seemingly unsurmountable obstacle, was a pebble to the Easter angel who had moved it away.

The correlation of the Greek texts of two different gospels reveals the stone had not simply been tilted away from the cave. It had been moved away a great distance uphill. These stones customarily weighed about three thousand pounds.

When God does something He does it right. He can roll away any stone in your path to spiritual truth and maturity.

Matthew says an angel, one, greeted them. John says there were two. Skeptics say there is a conflict. No there isn’t. This simply shows there was no collusion among the gospel writers. Had there been they would have both used the same number. John who in his writing is known for details gives the total number and Matthew simply focuses on the message of one of the two saying:

Christ alone is the Savior and Master who stands alone as a fulfilled testimony to His validity and worth.

Historian, Arnold Toynbee, in his monumental work entitled, The Study of History, devotes a chapter to saviors. He lists them in four categories:
The savior with a scepter —- the political savior.
The savior with a book —- the philosopher savior.
The savior with a sword —- the militant savior.
The man-god or god-man savior —- those of Greek mythology.

Professor Toynbee points out that each of these finally capitulates to the ultimate enemy, death. Politicians, kings, military leaders, philosophers all die. All of these demi-gods ultimately surrender to death. Then this imminent scholar concludes: “When the last civilization comes to the river of death, there on the other side filling the whole horizon with Himself will be the Savior.”

In the mind of this world renowned historian there is only one who qualifies as Savior who can save. His reason, Christ conquered death.

We call the day on which we celebrate the resurrection Easter without really knowing why. Though it has a pagan origin it has a very special application to the resurrection. Pagans throughout the Roman Empire believed in gods. They observed there was a great light that gave us day and a lesser light that shone at night. The sun rose each morning giving light and set in the evening ushering in darkness. They believed a goddess governed the light. They named her “Estera.” Her light was first seen on the early morning horizon so they called this area “the East,” meaning “the Eastera place,” or place of light. When many of these pagans were converted they associated the resurrection of Jesus with the dawning of light and called the resurrection celebration Easter. The day of the resurrection was the day —– THE SON ROSE BEFORE SUNRISE.

There are three statements in our text associated with His resurrection that can help us get life into perspective.

The Greek verb tense used means “stop being afraid.” All His little cadre of friends could say was, “We had HOPED that He was the one to redeem Israel…” (Luke 24:21). Their hope had died. When hope died fear was given birth. In the moment of death everything seems frozen to those grieving. There is only yesterday – there is no tomorrow.

They were living on the wrong side of the resurrection. Today those who are still searching for some man-made, humanistic solution to our problem are living on the wrong side of the resurrection also. In the resurrection, the empire of joy, peace, and liberty was brought to light. Biblical Christianity is a faith of promise, not of nostalgia. Its thrust and momentum is always forward. It moves inexorably into the future. It calls us to what lies ahead in Christ.

This inspires and enables one to cope. This is the hope Easter inspires, there is reason to find out how to live through the resurrected Son of God who arose before sunrise.

Death had caused them great fear. It still strikes terror in the hearts of many.

What they were to see was very revealing. They had looked at the cross and saw man’s judgement on Christ. Looking at the empty tomb they saw God’s judgement on Christ.

The Scripture depicts John as looking in the tomb and “believing”. What caused his belief? It was not the empty tomb, but the empty grave clothes. For a short time they had been Christ’s wardrobe. For three days His lifeless body had awaited His new Easter outfit. The position and condition of the grave clothes was convincing. They remained like a balloon with the air let out. Grave clothes were put on with a gummy substance like tar or pitch. To remove them was to remove the skin. John saw the evidence of a miracle.

Later the disciples who were in the upper room when Thomas was absent and Christ appeared said to Him, “We have seen the Lord” (John 20:24, 25). They saw and believed.

A brilliant young advocate who was a member of the Supreme Court of the era named Saul was appointed by the tribunal to investigate the report of a resurrection. Note the record of that young investigative reporter appointed by the Supreme Court.

His assignment was to investigate the resurrection and prove it to be a hoax. After his extensive interrogation of believers under threat of their lives, he concluded “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).

A creditable, available body of eye witnesses were still available to testify of having seen the resurrected Christ. Many of those in the first century were so fully accepting of the fact of His bodily resurrection that over 5,000,000 of them died as martyrs rather than disclaim it.

If these people were not absolutely certain of the resurrection they would not have allowed themselves to be tortured to death in order to proclaim it as fact.

Get the big picture. Look around you, not just your immediate setting or this moment in history but through the ages. You who follow Christ march with a mighty army. You will never be a part of anything as powerful and important as this. March with dignity and pride as you follow His wounded feet.

Paul wrote this passage in the life-time of persons who could verify it. Peter preached the resurrection within yards of where it happened days after it occurred to the very people who had been present at the crucifixion (Acts 2). The Jesus who was crucified under the eyes of His enemies was now known by many of them to be alive. Christianity is not the kind of nonsense of which fables, forgery, or fabrication is made. It is based on the empirical evidence sworn to by many eye witnesses.

If someone were to say to you they saw a dead man walking, you might think that person to be a candidate for residence on the “funny farm.” If five were to tell you that you might think it a joke. If ten bonded together with that story you might think it a conspiracy. If 500 said it, at the very least, don’t you think you ought to at least look in the coffin.

These did and so should we.

“Seen” as used in the texts means to behold. It can mean to comprehend. They had experienced the power of an elevating presence. Being in the presence of some persons is an elevating experience. Edmund Burke was a writer and statesman of great faith. It was said of him, “If you stand in a doorway to escape a passing shower with Edmund Burke, you would leave that doorway with your shoulders back and your head up and your heart uplifted to face the realities of life.” An encounter with Christ was even a more elevating impact.


This simple statement is Jesus’ intended post-Easter program. We are not simply to give to missions, we are to be on mission. Christianity is like a good disease, an infection that does not produce pain and death, but joy and life. We are to spread it.

The early Christian community was not a memorial society with its eyes fastened on the departed Master. It was a dynamic community created around a living and present Lord. Within seven weeks these hunted, frightened, and cowering fugitives had become flaming missionaries. They were willing martyrs ready to lay down their lives rather than deny the truth of His glorious resurrection and the resulting transforming power.

The highest principle of Christianity is that which happened in their lives can happen in yours. The resurrection gives proof that life is not to be lived as in a rudderless craft or a driver less car. It is to assure the believer of safety. In appealing to persons to give their lives to Christ, we often use the word “accept”. The Bible’s words are trust, commit, follow, and obey. The real issue is not, will you accept Him, but whether He will accept you. Your loving, faithful response to Him assures His acceptance by Him.

The resurrected Christ said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live….” (John 11:5).

You too can join the legion who by faith in Christ have cheated death. You can become prepared today to join the loyalists who have joined the beloved Christ on the far bank of history — ALIVE.

Oh, earlier I said, “There are three statements in our text associated with His resurrection that can help us get life into perspective.” There are actually four. Note, Matthew 28: 9, Jesus Himself, the resurrected Christ gives us the fourth word: “R E J O I C E”

What was seen by those who came that early morning to the tomb gives reason to rejoice. The definitive John says they saw the facial napkin “folded together in a place by itself” (John 20:7).

Like a detective investigating a crime scene John scanned the chamber looking for clues. In that napkin he found a clue with a message. It was the custom of monarchs that upon the completion of a meal they would crumple their napkin and leave it on the table indicating they had finished and would not be back. If they were leaving the table with the intent of returning they folded the napkin and left it neatly in place. In that clue in the tomb Jesus was saying, “I will be back.” He said, “I will come again and receive you unto myself.”

That is reason to REJOICE! Keep your eye on the Eastern sky because the Son may rise before the next sun rise. Those who are ready for His return can and must live in a state of continual rejoicing. Those who do not know Him would do well this day to trust and commit to Him in preparation for that eventually.

An Open Door to a New Millennium 1/2/00

James 4:7-10

JESUS CHRIST, the resurrected Lord of new life, said to the church in Philadelphia, in ancient Greece, that which is applicable to our church today: “I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it…” (Revelation 3:8).

Together, we the redeemed of the Lord who constitute the membership of this fellowship are called “the church”. What is applicable to the church is related to the individual. No person can shut the door opened by the Lord. We can with cowering and timid spirit fail to go through it. Our negative nature can cause us to question and quibble. We alone can cause what the Lord has in mind to fail. We are often our own worst enemies.

For over a year many persons have been worried they would not survive the millennium challenge. They worried about food, utilities, heat, and other essentials. One person allegedly said, “So many things have gone wrong that if any thing else bad happens it will be the middle of next week before I can worry about it.”

Well, our Lord has seen us through the mythical door of the millennium. Now awaits us the challenge of today. If we are going to be ready to move through the open door in this new year we need to be ready spiritually.

Two posters come to mind in facing the new millennium. One pictures a group of little yellow fuzzy ducklings walking through grass too tall for them with necks stuck out. The caption is “Go forth and conquer!” Let’s! As you enter the new millennium remember these basics:

  1. Anticipate difficulties. Realistic people anticipate they will encounter challenges. Those who do are more likely to work through them as expected opportunities to be an over comer. They know every obstacle is an opportunity disguised as an impossibility.
  2. Do an advantage analysis. What is to be gained?
  3. Take small steps. Life by the yard is hard, by the inch it is a cinch.
  4. Admit your negative thoughts. Don’t leave a topic on which you have been thinking negatively without superimposing a positive thought on the same subject
  5. Give yourself credit. Segment your work and allow time for celebration. That is why God worked at creation six days and rested the seventh. It was a celebration.

Another poster pictures a caterpillar looking up at a beautiful butterfly. The caption is: “You can fly but that cocoon has got to go.” You can reach new heights, but there are old limiting things in your life that have to go.

Will James, the father of modern psychology, said, “The greatest discovery of the Twentieth Century is that you can change your life by changing your mind.” In doing so, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ…” James 4:7-10 lists some steps of preparation we each need to take. Therefore, now comes the practical personal part of this new millennium year’s challenge.

To be ready to go through the open door of opportunity there must be:


A. First, positively. You must “Submit yourselves therefore to God.”
This calls for a conscious willful action on your behalf. It requires you making a choice. Some persons arrogantly refuse to submit themselves. Each of us must respond to the self asked question: “Whom shall I serve, God or myself? Shall I make it my chief concern to do the will of my Heavenly Father, or shall I demand and assert my own way?”

It is said that when Aaron Burr, one of the most controversial personalities in early American life, reached the age of 21, he squarely faced the issue of whom to serve. Resolutely he decided to turn his back on the God of his fathers. As a disgraced murderer and tried for treason his body was laid to rest at the foot of the grace of his grandfather, Jonathan Edwards. Edwards was one of the most revered clergy/statesman of his era. The graves of the two illustrate the difference between one who seeks first the kingdom of God and who chooses slavery to self.

B. Second, negatively. “Resist the devil…”
The devil and his allies, the world and the flesh, have designed and do desire your spiritual destruction.

A couple of decades ago the concept of the devil was thought to be simply a clinical form of paranoia suffered by Christians. Today too much evidence exists regarding a personal devil. Devil worship even proliferates today. Its existence is a modern Frankenstein created by a society that decided it could go it alone without God. It should be expected for a decadent society always turns back to the gods of decadence. Foremost among them is devil worship.

You can’t please God while playing games with Satan. You can’t fly with the eagles by day and the owls by night. Resist the devil:
Through prayer
Bible study
Regular public worship
Association with friends who are committed Christians


A. “Cleanse your hands” = outward actions.
Review your lifestyle. What needs to be adjusted? Does Christ have first place in your life? Are you too busy for Him? If the devil can’t make you bad he will make you busy.

God’s will never includes more for you to do than the time allowed you will enable. If you are too busy for Him you are out of His will and out of your mind.

B. “Purify your hearts” = inward attitudes.
Medical science had not progressed in that day. A common concept was that blood carried in it ideas. They became conscious thoughts when the blood flowed through the brain. It was known that the heart pumped the blood. Therefore, it was thought that the heart was the point of origin of all creative thoughts. Hence, an appeal to cleanse the heart was a directive to change the thought pattern. Don’t let your mind dwell on evil ideas. Purify your thoughts by driving out the wrong concepts and ideas with Bible oriented ideas. A critical negative spirit is a common one which needs to be purified. If you are going to think Christ thoughts the mind must be purified of negativism. “Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (I John 3:2, 3).

There is a new book entitled “The Theory of Twenty-One.” The author shows as a result of research that out of every 21 people, 20 think negatively about everything. Only one is a positive person. In another book by a different author entitled “Hide-N-Seek”, persons are urged to inventory their 16 closest relatives. Be objective who among them was negative and who are positive. Most persons will conclude they were reared in a negative environment. Pray to be the “one” among 21.

C. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” This is a wonderful invitation containing a wonderful promise. God has promised He won’t back off. This enables us to become more like Him.

These are three evidences of repentance. Don’t waste your pain. Let it be used of the Lord to draw you to Him.

Verse 9 in summary is speaking of repentance and a changed attitude. The expressions “laughter” and “joy” as used here are terms related to the temporary kicks a person without Christ gets out of sin. Often pious people pretend sin has no pleasures. The sinner knows better. The Bible puts it in perspective however: “the passing pleasures of sin,” (Hebrews 11:25).

Other translations refer to the temporary nature of sin’s pleasures in these ways: “The short-lived pleasures of sin,” and “the fleeting enjoyment of a sinful life.” Get the picture? Sin does afford kicks, but they have a kick-back. Whereas, in the will of the Lord there are pleasures forever more. Pick your pleasures: those with a kick-back or those providing a delight in the moment with lasting joy. In picking your pleasures be kind to your tomorrow self. Grant enjoyable memories to yourself free from regret.

The word “covenant” means an agreement or testimony. Actually, our Bible is divided into a New and Old Testament, literally, new and old covenants. A covenant is an agreement. Therefore, agree with the Lord that you are going to “humble yourself.” It can result in a new beginning. “The Land of Beginning Again” by Louise Fletcher Tarkington: So I wish that there were some wonderful place Called the Land of Beginning Again Where all out mistakes and all our heartaches, And all our poor selfish grief Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door And never put on again. A renewed covenant will result in guidance.

King George VI of England during World War II made the following words vital in his new year’s address: “I said to a man who stood at the gate of the year – ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied: ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.'” The Lord will guide persons who make a covenant with Him.

Again I say this calls for a willful personal commitment from you. You are called on to make a choice.

George Beverly Shea, a name well known in Christian music, had to make such a decision as a young man. He was offered a significant secular recording contract and a major media job. During the time he was wrestling with this decision the Lord used his Godly mother to help make the decision. She copied two verses of Scripture and placed them on the piano. Shea came in and found them and sat for a time meditating on them. Slowly his fingers began to wander across the keyboard as ever so gradually his commitment as expressed in his newly emerging song beloved by millions.
He wrote and said:
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-scared hand.

Than to be the king of a vast domain
And be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

Beverly Shea made a covenant with God. He decided to follow Jesus and that decision has influenced every other decision he has made.

Make your decision today. “Boast not thyself of tomorrow” (Proverbs 27).

God has set before us an open door, a new millennium. No person can shut it. You can refuse to go through it, however. Likewise, you can choose to go through it with Him.

The Pop Culture Is No Culture For Pop 6/18/00


PSALM 128: 1 – 4

Jesus Christ is a home builder. The homes of America need and can benefit from His constructive wisdom and enabling power.

Home wrecking crews are varied and numerous. There is one source of bonding and building of family members. That one is Jesus Christ.

An indication of the destructive forces at work in America is seen in the fact that tonight 40% of the children in America will go to bed in a home where their biological father does not live.

Today’s TV dads are all that many of America’s 25 million youth will learn about fatherhood. The average household watches approximately 50 hours of TV a week with children accounting for 26 of those hours. Of the 100 family shows only 15 feature a father as a main character on a regular basis.

Studies show that programs that do feature fathers don’t do it in a positive light. Fathers are portrayed most often as an androgynous father. That is, he is not necessarily a feminine father but a male/female figure. Throughout the history of western civilization the differences in males and females have been recognized and celebrated. In the 1960’s social psychologists began teaching that the roles of the sexes are interchangeable. As a result many dads have become androgynous fathers, that is, feminized and weak parents.

Accept it, we males and females are different. Watch us dress and you will know it. The female coordinates everything. The skirt and blouse must match. Shoes and purse must compliment the outfit. The accessories must highlight the ensemble. The right fragrance is a must.

Now the male. Have you ever heard of a man trying to make sure his wallet matches his shoes. If his coat isn’t too wrinkled it is wearable. He takes down a shirt and smells its armpit and if it passes the sniff test he wears it. We are different.

The absence of the functioning father in the homes of America today is further revealed by the fact that 70% of the juvenile felons have no father figure in their lives.

A chaplain in a large prison was asked by an inmate to get him a Mother’s Day card. She did and the word spread rapidly. Others requested cards. She called Hallmark and they responded generously with free cards. Inmates stood in line to get Mother’s Day cards. Some time later the chaplain was looking ahead and noted Father’s Day was coming up. Again she requested cards from Hallmark. Again they responded generously. The warden announced the availability of Father’s Day cards and a time to pick them up. Not one prisoner requested a Father’s Day card.

There is a great wound in our culture called the non-functioning father.

Perhaps the greatest discovery of the last ten years in America is the influence the absentee or non-functioning father is having on our nation and the need to help men be better fathers.

Let us pray the prophecy of Malachi 3:17: “…turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers.”

Jesus Christ said, “Honor your father and your mother…” (Matthew 15:4). Father’s Day is inventory time. Are you honored? The answer to that in part may be found in the question: “Am I honorable?”

Four insightful traits of an honorable and honored father are given in Psalms 28.

I. A WALK IN THE PATH OF GOD “Who walks in His way.”
“Blessed (happy) is every one who fears the Lord.”

The idea of “the fear of God” is confusing to some. Let me illustrate the beauty and importance of it. I feared my dad. That statement alone may make him look like a brute or tyrant. No, he was a good and gentle dad. He was a loving and self-giving dad who was very involved with his sons. I knew that if I disobeyed him or engaged in conduct unbecoming of him it would break his heart. I feared breaking his heart. A positive way of expressing it is I wanted to please him.

The only one who truly fears God is the one who is afraid of displeasing Him by forsaking the paths of His will. It is not fear of the punishment gained, but the pain given Him. In this way fear of God becomes a constructive, regulating principle.

To FEAR God means to be totally committed in obedience to God and loyal to His Word. Such a person is blessed because he has no other competing loyalties or desires and thus no resulting worries. He is free from contending pressures.

“…you eat the labor of your hands.” (Vs. 2)

An industrious man is an object of his family’s admiration. It has been said, “Youth is a blunder; adulthood is a struggle; and old age a regret.” It doesn’t have to be so for the godly.

“Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house.” The New King James gives a more literal translation of the Hebrew text. The wife is pictured as being like a vine in the inner courtyard of the house. Such a vine is considered an indication of Divine favor. By using the vine to illustrate the role of the wife, the Psalmist points out these characteristics: Attachment, Productivity, and Refreshing Grace.

By noting the relationship of the vine and the wall we see the role of the husband as related to
the wife. He is too: Support, Strengthen, and Shield.

Husbands, turn with me to Ephesians 5: 22, this is the male manifesto.

Please either tune me out now or don’t leave until I have fully finished developing the thoughts in this passage. Unless you stick with me through this you will get a distorted interpretation. It says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Most men know that verse. Some misinterpret it and grossly misapply it with dominant force. “Submit” is their battle cry.

Ladies turn with me to Ephesians 5: 25. Fellows, you can and should follow along also. It says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it.”

Translated to a single word that verse means men “COMMIT.”

This is not a male female issue. It speaks of order in the family. To submit means to give honor to. Remember the earlier question: “Are you honorable?” If you are as committed to your wife as Christ to His church your wife will have no difficulty fulfilling her role.

“Your children like olive plants all around your table.”

Young shoots grow up around the base of a well-rooted tree. They draw their life from the tree.

The olive tree represented joy and peace. They will if the father is honored. He is more likely to be honored for the following reasons:

Certain positions carry with them honor. The role of the father does. Children pass on what they receive. It is also logical to say children can’t pass on anything they don’t receive. This pattern is seen in that abused children grow to be abusers. Let’s break the bad cycle and build a positive one.

“Heritage Family Builders” has developed an acrostic to make clear some things that are needed and should be passed on. The word is: A – R – O – M – A !

AFFECTION. If “love” is the noun “affection” is the verb. Affection is an act of the will. When relationship priorities are in order affection is shown.

RESPECT. Respect results when we realize the true worth of others. I sat at the bed side of a dear friend as she passed into the eternal presence of our Heavenly Father. Understandably her husband was expressing appropriate deep grief. Someone said to him in that moment “You would have no grief if she were not of value.” We respect others when we realize their value. Husbands/fathers RESPECT your wife and children. By respecting others we teach them respect. If a parent respects a child the child is much more likely to respect the parent.

ORDER. Order is the act of managing and modeling Godly leadership. It results in a refuge of calm. Children need creative freedom within well defined boundaries. We imitate the Creator of the universe when we have order in the home. The Bible asserts: “The steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord” (Psalm 37: 23).

MERRIMENT. Question: “Are you fun with which to live?” Merriment is an environment of enthusiasm coupled with uninhibited joy and happiness. There is life after failure. Realize the difference in failure and disobedience. When there is disobedience teach the child through proper discipline. When there is failure teach the child failure isn’t final unless you accept it as such. Don’t accept it as such. See it as an opportunity where you gain by losing. Laugher does good like a medicine. Learn to laugh at yourself and laugh together. The father of the prodigal son realized the therapy of merriment in that he celebrated his return.

AFFIRMATION. Affirm one another. Help each other to realize who they are and whose they are. Every child has a right to live in an affirming environment that helps him or her develop their full potential. The following letter by Ricardo Montalban to his son originally appeared in “Family Concern.”

“Dear Son:
As long as you live in this house, you will follow the rules. When you have your own house, you can make up your own rules. In this house, we do not have a democracy. I did not campaign to be your father. You did not vote for me. We are father and son by the grace of God, and I accept that privilege and awesome responsibility. In accepting it, I have an obligation to perform the role of father.
I am not your pal. Our ages are too different. We can share many things, but we are not pals. I am your father, This is 100 times more than what a pal is. I am also your friend, but we are on entirely different levels.
You will do in this house as I say, and you cannot question me because whatever I ask you to do is motivated by love. This will be hard for you to understand until you have a son of your own.
Until then, trust me. Your Father.”

Some positions and persons are honored because of their power. The dad has the position from which and the power by which to bring up a child “in the nurture and admotion of the Lord.”

That means to train by discipline. This discipline relates to

  1. The Subject – the one subject to the discipline, the child. Loving discipline rapidly moves a child from a “have to” to a “want to” position.
  2. Self-Discipline – of appetites and attitudes.

“I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day. I’d rather one would walk with me than merely point the way. The eye is a better pupil, far more willing than the ear. Fine counsel is confusing, but examples always clear.” Edgar A. Guest

“…thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.”

A Childish Sermon 8/13/00



Jesus Christ loves children. That is why He loves each of us. Chronologically we may be way past adolescence but there still lives in each of us a bit of the child we once were. Therefore, try to interpret this message from a child’s vantage point. Let the child in you enjoy it.

Jesus loved children while on His earth voyage.

Once while teaching some persons brought some little children for Him to pray over. The dignified disciples thought them to be intruding and held them back. Jesus seeing this said, “Don’t hinder them. Let the little children come to me.”

That historical moment is a living and abiding invitation.

The Bible posts an order: “Train up a child in the way it should go.”

In the Old Testament God gave His people specific instructions regarding training children. All of us: single adults, college students, empty nesters, couples without children, youth, children, grandparents and parents alike need to be attentive to today’s message. There is a Godly way to relate to children. Indications are many aren’t doing it properly.

In America each year there are 2.7 million reports of child abuse. As a result of child abuse approximately four children die every day. We are training children to be violent. Violence among children is growing at an epidemic rate. There is a brat attack going on in our country because children have been improperly taught. Many parents in a guilt ridden generation are raising spoiled kids. Parent your child don’t pamper it. Children who are coddled, indulged, and endlessly forgiven without repentance are developing a paralyzing sense of entitlement.

Having forfeited their role many parents have less influence over their children’s values than TV, movies, and music. Before the age of 18 the average American youth has seen enacted on TV over 10,000 murders. For many who now populate and will populate our prisons this is the acceptable norm. Societal norms and social stigmas have been so laughed at that a generation of morally confused youth have been spawned.

British statesman, Edmund Burk, said, “men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains on their own appetites.”

These coddled kids are to live in a world that can never be as good to them as their pampering parents. Therefore, they are destined to become disappointed adults rather than fulfilled ones.

Worse still they will never be able to properly relate to the less fortunate and disadvantaged of the world.
Josh McDowel reports the results of his survey of 3,795 youth from evangelical churches. These are not street kids. 57% could not affirm there are moral absolutes; that is that an objective standard of right and wrong exists.
66% have lied to their parents in the last six months.
36% cheated in the last three months of school.
23% tried deliberately to hurt someone in the last three months.

Adequate fences can’t be built to control unbridled appetites. The story is told of a kangaroo that kept getting out of his enclosure at the zoo. Knowing he could hop pretty high the zoo keeper put up a ten foot fence. The next morning he was out again wandering around the zoo. The keepers put up a 15 foot fence. Again the next morning he was out. This continued until the fence reached 50 feet. Finally, the camel in the next enclosure asked the kangaroo, “How high do you think they will go?” The kangaroo replied, “Probably 100 feet, unless somebody starts locking the gate at night.”

Unless we start locking the gate to the heart we can’t build high enough fences called laws. It is estimated that approximately 80 billion people have lived on earth and still we feel inadequate to rear a child.

Deuteronomy 6: 4 – 9 tells us. The passage begins with the word “hear.” It is a translation of the Hebrew word SHEMA, meaning to hear. Be attentive to what is said. First, teach them there is one God and He loves them. He is to be loved and obeyed for our own good. Instantly cynics step in and question the “one God” concept in light of the Trinity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. No problem. In the Old Testament the regions of Judah and Ephram were one. In America many states are one nation. As with each of these there is one unit with several parts. We might have A bunch of grapes consisting of many grapes. So God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are one unit consisting of three entities.

Teach your children about this God and that He is to be lovingly obeyed. He is to be loved with the totality of our being: our heart, soul, and bodily strength. They were given a visual aid for their era to remind them of this. They were to write the SHEMA on pieces of paper and put then in a little leather pouch called a phylactery. One was to be strapped to the forehead reminding them to use their mind in the loving obedience to God. One was to be strapped to their wrist as a reminder to use their strength, their body, in acts of loving obedience. They were to make evidence of this truth in their home by putting it on their door. If a person were to enter your home what physical evidence would there be of your faith. What visuals do your children see of your faith.

My dear friend Pete Marivich, whom I discipled for a year, had carved in his front door the text of John 3:16 because he wanted anyone who came to his door when he wasn’t home to know what he believed.

Deuteronomy 6: 7 is an appeal to use the teachable moments to share profound truths.

Teach them by example. Bickering, belittling, and battling have no place in interpersonal relationships.
Conversations such as this have no place in the family:
You’re dumber than a box of hair.
You’re few clowns short of a circus.
You’re as dumb as bait.
You’re antenna doesn’t pick up all the channels.
You’re missing a few buttons on the remote control.
You’re a few peas short of a casserole.
You’re an experiment in virtual stupidity.
You’re surfing in Nebraska.
You’re a few yards shy between the goal posts.
You’re 24 cents short of a quarter.
Even Barney knows what to do. “Nip it, just nip it.”

Teach by precept and example how to get along.

A teacher was talking with a group of little children about the Ten Commandments. Having dealt with “Honor thy father and thy mother,” the teacher asked if there was a Commandment that teaches how to treat brothers and sisters?” Without a moments hesitation one child responded, “Yes, thou shalt not kill.”

Use the teachable moments. Create teachable moments that you might teach better. Parents covered a table with plastic and gave each of their children a tube of toothpaste and told to see how much they could squeeze out. You can just imagine the thrill of their efforts and the laughing that went on. Major efforts were made to get out the optimum. When all efforts were exhausted dad put a $20.00 bill on the table and said, “The one who gets all the toothpaste back in the tube first gets the twenty.” Even knowing the impossibility it was worth a try for $20.00. “We can’t do it” protested the youngest child.” Then the teachable moment was seized. “That is just like what the Bible teaches about our tongue. Once words come out, it is impossible to get them back in. You need to be careful what you say because it is impossible to take them back.”

I had a dear young man who is now away in school call me the other night and say, “Pastor I want to thank you for being my pastor and staying true to the word of God. However, before I can do that I need to ask you to forgive me for being so critical of you.” I appreciated his efforts at getting the toothpaste back in the tube. When you discredit the messenger you discount his message.

– Use the teachable moment. Seize the moment of the opportunity if you are to seize the opportunity of the moment.

Two excited children were running all over the house carefully following the complex instructions of the “Truth Map” just given them. They were looking for the treasure.

They had been given a very simple map earlier that was much easier. It led to a false treasure box that was empty. Now with greater treasure in prospect the new map was being followed more closely. It read:
STEP ONE: Walk 16 paces into the front family room.
STEP TWO: Spin around seven times, now walk down stairs.
STEP THREE: Run backwards to the other side of the room.
STEP FOUR: Try to get around Dad to climb under the table.
Can’t you see it. The children are running around like crazy, laughing, and having a ball. After some time they find the “truth treasure box.” Opening it they found in it their favorite candy
“Which map was easier to follow?” ask Dad.
“The first one,” came the reply in chorus.
“Which one was better?”
“The second, it led to the treasure.”
“That’s just like life,” Dad said, “Sometimes it is easier to follow what is false. But it is always better to seek and to follow what is true.”

Then they read from Proverbs 2:3, 4: “If you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, and search for her as hidden treasures; Then you will understand … and find the knowledge of God.” Lesson over!

– Use the teachable moment. You must seize the moment of the opportunity if you are to seize the opportunity of
the moment.

Dad stood at the top of the stairs and the children at the bottom. Dad gave the instructions. “I’ll take you to Baskin Robbins for ice cream if you can figure out how to get up here. But,” he said, “there are a few rules. First, you can’t touch the stairs. Second, you can’t touch the railing. Now start.” After exhausting their thoughts the youngest said, “That’s impossible, Dad! How can we get where you are without touching the stairs or railing.” After a bit of bickering one child said, “Dad, please come down here.” Dad did. “Now bend over while I get on your back.” That done the child said, “OK, now you climb the stairs.” Dad then drew the parallel of how it is impossible to get to God on our own. When we trust Christ’s work on our behalf then we can get to heaven. All the family piled in the van and were off for a double-scoop of chocolate-chip ice cream.

Scripture says we must “Unless you are converted and become as a little child, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18: 3).

That means there is no means to get up the stairs other than by Christ.

Children Have Rights… 5/21/00



MATTHEW 18:1 – 6

JESUS CHRIST said, “Let the little children
come unto Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is
the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).

Children have a right to come to Jesus.

Jesus had a harsh condemnation for anyone who did anything to misdirect a child: “…whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).

If that were applied literally today, the person with the millstone concession would make a fortune.

It is estimated that 4.5 million children are abused annually. There are 4.5 million teenage alcoholics today. Most start drinking alcohol at age 12.

Sam Janus in THE DEATH OF INNOCENCE records that there are over 5,000 reported cases of incest annually in America with up to twenty times that number not reported.

The Lord God said, “None of you shall approach anyone who is near of kin to him, to uncover his nakedness” (Lev. 18:6).

The FBI estimates there are over 100,000 young people who run away from home annually. Friends who minister on the beaches of Florida frequently have told me of the hunger, loneliness, and poor housing many youth on the run have. They are abandoned, unappreciated, physically and emotionally abused by strangers. Yet, these youth say this is a better life than the one from which they ran. They say it is better to be beaten up and sexually abused by someone you don’t know and don’t care about than by members of your family you want to love and care about.

Child abuse is one symptom of the stress in our society. It is also an indication of sin in our culture. Both can be dealt with — and must be.

Ruth Kempe in her book CHILD ABUSE states: “Since the abused grow up to be abusers, the intervention we can offer serves not only to protect the children now, but can help break the chain that binds future generations.”


They are:
-Immaturity and dependent
-Social isolation
-Poor self-esteem
-Difficulty seeking and obtaining pleasure
-Fear of spoiling the child
-Belief in the value of punishment
-Impaired ability to empathize.

It was said, “Jesus called a little child unto Him, set him in the midst of them…” (Matthew 18:2). He then proceeded to teach using the child as a model. Let’s do the same asking the question: “To what does a child have a right?”

In the gospel written by him, John tells of the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with 5 barley loaves and two small fish. There is a line in the narrative spoken by the Apostle Andrew that stands out: “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish…” The portion of the statement that is impressive is not the number or kinds of fish and loaves but simply, “There is a lad here…” One translation reads, “There is a child among us…” At times it appears we individually and even collectively are unmindful “There is a child among us…” We need to be mindful of the children among us. They have rights.


They should be considered “a heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3).

We have developed children who have a Narcissistic Complex. The story of Narcissus, the son of the river god Cephisus is told by the Roman poet Ovid in his work the “Metamorphoses.” The Greek mythological character was very much in love with himself. So deeply infatuated with himself that when he saw his image in water he could not leave looking at himself. He eventually fell in and drowned. Upon his death he was turned into a flower called a Narcissus. Persons enamored with themselves are said to have a Narcissistic Complex.

Many young people have been told they are special so much they believe it and are in love with themselves. They have grown to think they deserve pampering. A “me” centered world has evolved around them. This too is an unidentified form of child neglect. Their parents have neglected to teach them their value is related to their worth to the Lord.

Don’t tell them they are special. Be specific, “You are special to me.” That means they are of value to you. That’s good. Others may not consider them so special. Or better still, tell them they are special to God. Indeed, they are. This concept helps to develop a commendable self-worth. The person grows to realize their worth is based on who they are in the sight of God, not in their own narcissistic eyes.

Children have a right to be wanted. We live is a society where disposals are common. Human beings are even considered disposable. If a young woman becomes pregnant and doesn’t want the baby all she has to do is dispose of it.

Today we even have a potential law being considered in Georgia that if a new mother decides within a week after birth she doesn’t want her child she can take it to the local hospital and leave it. If a boy is desired and a girl is born just drop it off at the hospital. If the child isn’t perfect just take it to the local hospital and let the tax payers parent it. Brown eyes might even result in being a dropped off baby.

A person not mature enough to rear a baby has no moral right to birth a baby. Every child has a right to be wanted.


This spoils a child. Sooner or later someone will have to teach the child this principle. It may be a teacher, a drill sergeant, or a policeman, but it must be learned.

By age three, Samuel’s mother taught him good from evil.

By age three, Moses’ mother taught him morals for life.

By age five, Voltaire memorized an infidel poem.

Modern minds are being molded by a common mentor: TV. Monitor what is viewed. It soon becomes the accepted pattern for conduct.

Self-indulgence is self-destructive.

There is a tragic form of illiteracy in America. It doesn’t relate to reading and writing.


One of the best ways to teach and hence to learn is through stories. Our imagination is enlightened and excited by stories. They engage our imagination. In the word “imagination” can be heard the root word “image.” Imagination more than reason helps us make decisions. Reason often submits to imagination.

It is not enough to simply KNOW what is right it is necessary to DESIRE right. Many know what is right but have no desire to do it.

Plato said children should be reared to love VIRTUE and hate VICE. How? Upon hearing the answer you may well concede they are being taught to love vice not virtue. Plato said they are taught to love virtue and hate vice by such things as music, books, and TV. (Plato didn’t mention TV. It along with the Internet are the new entries of consequence.)

The way to teach best is by stories. Stories engage the imagination for good or bad, to love virtue or vice. Not only should children be taught the stories of the Bible we adults need to go back and reread them regardless of how familiar we think them to be. In the stories are found the virtues needing to be taught. In these stories virtue is advocated and vice is shown to be improper and destructive.

If you desire to inspire courage read the story of Daniel.

If it is leadership you want to inspire read of Moses.

If it is sexual purity read of Joseph.

If it is submissiveness read the story of Mary the birth mother of Jesus.

If it is willingness to pay the price read of Esther.

If it is boldness and confidence in the Lord read of David and Goliath.

If it is virtue you want to teach read of Ruth and Boaz.

If it is the love of God read the story of Jesus Christ.

In the book entitled “Lord of the Rings” one character asks: “How shall a man judge what to do in times like these?” “As he ever has,” comes the reply. “Good and evil have not changed… It is man’s part to discern them.”

It may be unclear to a child whether or not he wants to be good or bad, BUT it is easy for him to describe WHO they want to be like. In doing so they choose good or bad. Because children are not being taught by stories they are choosing to be like: Madonna, Bart Simpson and their ilk. Read for yourself, and children, biographies of people of virtue not vice and they will choose to be like those persons and in doing so will learn to choose virtue and hate vice.


Parenting is actually patterning. The young child picks up traits and habits from the parent. Instinctively they walk like the parent. Their vocal pattern is a parroting of the parent. They tend to look at the world through the lens of their parents. A parent should demonstrate what is right and wrong not merely dictate it.


If a child lives with approval, He learns self-acceptance.

If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.

If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence.

If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.

If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.

If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate.

If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.

If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.

If a child lives with shame, he learns to be shy.

If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.

If a child lives with acceptance, he learns to share love.

The title of a Gary McSpaden song is true:

“What They See Is What They Hear.”

* Model for them a good work ethic.

* Demonstrate for them how to handle disappointments.

* Exemplify for them courtesy and good manners.

* Teach them respect for others with whom they disagree.

* Help their understanding of finding pleasure in little things.

* Exhibit for them a willingness to pay the price in order to stand for your convictions.

* Pattern for them a living faith in the Living Lord. Let them see Jesus in you.


“Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Philippians 2: 2,3).


The parent-child growth process is a matter of shared and eventually transferred power. At various stages parents turn over bits of power to the child. First a baby assumes the power of his own locomotion and mobility. Then comes the right to feed, clean, and eventually clothe self. Soon comes the right to watch for cars by himself before crossing the street. It seems like only the next week there is a request for use of the car to go on a date.


Discipline is what a parent does FOR not TO a child. Hebrews 12:3 says discipline is a form of love.

In California an elementary school house was located on a busy corner. The children played close to the buildings and as far away from the streets as possible. A fence was built along the perimeter of the school yard. Knowing the protective limits of the fence the children played all over the yard right up next to the curb. They knew the limits and felt comfortable in them. When a child is blessed to have parents that define the limits they feel comfortable in the area where they are unlimited but protected by limitations.

Regarding the benefits and blessings of discipline Solomon wrote: “he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Prov 13:24).

A parent must discipline self before attempting to discipline a child.

“A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

“Correct your son, and he will give you rest; Yes, he will give delight to your soul” (Proverbs 29:17).


As a result the parent should evidence:

-A glad heart. 

-A sense of self-worth.

-A forgiving heart. 

-A thankful nature.

All of this and more grows out of an uninhibited love for Christ which is shared by example and expression.

With the little child in their midst Jesus charged them and us: “…unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus clearly defined one trait He had in mind as typifying how we must come to the Father.

“Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4).

Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). To deny ones self is to come humbly.

An unstated but obvious trait of a little child is dependency. We must come with Him totally dependent upon Him.

Reflect on the story of the lad with the loaves and fishes. He gave what he had and in the hands of Jesus it was multiplied. Give what you have to Jesus. Learn from this simple story. Give your all to Jesus.