Sermon Select

What’s Your Game Plan? 6/6/99

Philippians 3:12-14

Jesus Christ constantly looked for the teachable moment. That is, He seized the moment and used it to dramatize a spiritual truth. He used the language of the people and incorporated events with which they were familiar to imprint His point on their reasoning.

Throughout Scripture this same principle is used. Many of the metaphors were agricultural. Today our urban society doesn’t often use those terms. Contemporary speakers employ the language of today to communicate ancient truths.

This is done in Philippians 3 where there is a personal spiritual biography given. Three figures of speech are used.
PAST is represented by “the accountant” (vss. 1-11),
PRESENT is illustrated by “the athlete” (vss. 12-16),
FUTURE is depicted by “the alien” (vss. 17-21).

In Philippians, Paul uses four vivid illustrations:
MILITARY “whole armor”
ARCHITECTURE “temple of God”
AGRICULTURE “sow…reap” now, the
ATHLETE.

Most conscientious Christians will admit:
(1) Past failure, that is, they have not reached the goal God has set for them,
(2) Dissatisfaction to remain at their present spiritual level. Those who feel they have arrived – cease growing.

I. AN HONEST ADMISSION VERSES 12, 13
Paul had achieved much, traveled extensively, had significant accomplishments BUT was on no ego trip. He had not attained. This was an explosive disclaimer. There is always room for growth and improvement.

“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Cor. 10:12).

There are many examples of the better team losing to a team not as good as a result of overconfidence. Our Lord wants us to be confident but not overconfident.

To strut is sweet but it can lead to defeat.

When an athlete becomes overconfident and starts slacking off in practice, neglecting personal discipline, losing mental sharpness, or not giving attention to little details he or she is setting up self for a let down.

When a Christian becomes overconfident because of a significant spiritual accomplishment and neglects regimented Bible reading, consistent prayer time, and becomes egocentric spiritual defeat is imminent.

That is true athletically and spiritually. Live up to your potential by living as unto the Lord.

This balanced spiritual equilibrium is noted:
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

The “I” indicates personal responsibility for doing ones best. The “through Christ” means Christ is the power that motivates and enables the achievement.

Paul was satisfied with Christ (vs. 10), but not himself. He did not compare himself with others BUT with Christ.

II. A HEARTY ATTEMPT VERSE 12
Though imperfect, Paul was enthusiastically in pursuit.

“I PRESS ON” (NKJ), “FOLLOW AFTER” (AKJ) = TO PURSUE, a term used for sports competition.

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air” (I Corinthians 9:26).

The finish line is perfection. This is not a sprint, a quick burst of brisk energy. It is a marathon. “Run with patience” (Hebrews 12:1).

May I remind you that the author of a book entitled “Finishing Strong” offers this studied conclusion. Of those who start out strong in the Christian experience only one out of ten finishes strong at the age of retirement. Commit yourself to being that one.

“That I may apprehend that for which I am apprehended.” There was purpose in this pursuit. He wanted to live out his purpose. APPREHEND = “to seize and take possession of.”

We use the word “apprehended” to speak of law enforcement officials catching a person. Christ literally arrests us in salvation.

In another state in another day law enforcement officials put out an all points bulletin showing the three dimensions of a wanted person. It showed a left and right profile and a straight ahead likeness.

Soon they got a reply from a Barney Fife type law enforcement official in another state reading: “We caught the one on the left and the one on the right and have a good lead on the one in the middle.”

Christ knows your I.D. and in love He wants to apprehend you for your good.

The verb tense speaks of a specific time in which this happened. The moment of transformation in the life of Paul occurred on the road to Damascus when he encountered Christ. He left Jerusalem as emissary of the high priest. He entered Damascus a servant of the Lord Jesus.

Christ wants to “lay hold on” you not just to forgive you, but to give you a new character, a new nature.

God used certain things to apprehend Paul. Paul was appointed by the Sanhedrin to investigate the resurrection. He concluded, “If Christ is not risen, our faith is in vain.” He heard those he sought to intimidate say, “We ought to obey God rather than man.” He watched as Stephen was stoned in triumph. The final factor was when Ananias, one of those he was hunting, put his hand on his shoulder and called him “Brother.”

Paul wanted to “lay hold on” that for which he was “laid hold of.” What was it? He had just noted it in verse 10.

“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10).

III. A HOLY ASPIRATION VERSES 13, 14
ONE THING possessed Paul. He avoided all diversion. During the exciting Olympic competition athlete after athlete has been heard to say, “I have to stay focused.” Undivided and undiverted attention to the task at hand is essential for victory.

At Jesus’ feet Martha criticized Mary. Of her He said, “One thing is needful” (Luke 10:42).

Nehemiah, the wall-building governor, replied to distracting invitations, “I am doing a great work so that I cannot come down!” (Nehemiah 6:3).

“A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8).

“One thing” is the inspiring unspoken theme running through every achieving life. We are not to limp between two opinions. We must learn to say both “yes” and “no.” Yes, to the things of Christ and no to the things of the world. Concentration is essential.

Jim Egan worked at the West Coast Computer Fair in 1977. His job was to help displayers by providing booths and decorations.

Egan was approached by a couple of long-haired kids who wanted some chrome displays to make their booth “look flashy.” These guys were evidently under capitalized entrepreneurs. Egan offered to rent them what they wanted. They explained they were low on cash but offered him stock in their new company of which he had never heard. Having such brash young men come and go Egan said he would accept only hard cash. So Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs kept their stock in their small company they called Apple Computer. Presumably, Jim Egan is still decorating booths for hard cash only.

Apple Computer was successful because they did one thing and did it well. They have faltered in the market because they drifted from that single mindedness.

Another true story from the business world illustrates how essential it is to have a single minded purpose. Domino’s Pizza was founded by Thomas S. Monaghan who owned 97% of the stock. He borrowed $900 on which to start. The company grew so fast that in one year alone, 1985, it opened 900 stores. Suddenly Tom became a multi-millionaire. He bought the Detroit Tigers, he purchased airplanes and about 200 cars. He bought a north woods lodge located on 3,000 acres that was worth over $30,000,000.

He was so busy chasing multiple visions he failed to notice one thing. The business was slipping and Pizza Hut and Little Caesar’s were growing. His sales dropped and stores had to close. He said, “I’d taken my eye off the ball.”

After reading C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity he came to realize he was full of false pride. God got his attention. He said he then began to focus on God, his family, and Domino’s. He once again prioritized his life. Once again the business prospered and profits rose to $3 million a month. He said, “I feel good about having gotten the distractions out of my system…”

If you get them out of your system and focus on Christ you too will feel good about life.

One thing should motivate us above all else. As one who delights to travel in the Bible Land I try to be observant. Shepherds and their dogs can teach us much. As Christians we should be like sheep dogs. When a shepherd is in the process of giving a command the dog lies down at the shepherd’s feet and looks intently into the shepherd’s eyes. The dog listens without moving until the command is given. When the dog knows the mind of the master he jumps to his feet to carry out the command. There is another characteristic of the sheep dog. He never stops wagging his tail at any moment. He delights to hear and do his master’s will. So must we.

FORGETTING THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE BEHIND. A runner who leads in a race must concentrate on what is before NOT the competitors and distance behind. Paul had balance. He remembered the good (Philippians 1:3) and put behind him that which would hinder. “The load of tomorrow added to that of yesterday, and carried today, makes the strongest falter.”

A distance runner never considers the laps run, only what is ahead. That must be our preoccupation. Keep focused on what is yet to be done and do it.

In overcoming the hurdles in our lives we need to consider Olympic hurdlers. They do not allow themselves a split second to think of a hurdle they just knocked over, they focus on the next one to jump. We must divert our attention from past failures and direct it to the next challenge. The past one can motivate us in our approach of the next, but it must not retain our attention.

He had been cleared by the courts of heaven and though he didn’t forget the lessons learned, he did not dwell on the past. We break the power of the past by living in the present for the good of the future.

REACHING FORTH

Time flows from the FUTURE to the PRESENT and into the PAST. LAY ASIDE EVERY WEIGHT.

IV. AN HONOR ACHIEVED VERSE 14
We need to keep before us at all times a standard, an objective, a goal. The motto of the Olympic Games is: CITIUS, ALTIUS, FORTIUS, meaning “swifter, higher, stronger.”

Spiritually applied that is what it means to “press.” There is a drive to excel.

I PRESS, same verb translated “I follow” in verse 12. Intent endeavor. Two dangers:
(1) “I must do it all” (activist) and
(2) “God must do it all” (quietest). Some stay so involved “dying to self” they never “exercise thyself rather unto godliness” (I Timothy 4:7, 8). It is the individual who must “strive…reach forth…press.”

It would be absurd for a quarterback to say, “OK, fellows let’s let the coach do it all.” Equally absurd, “Listen to me and forget what the coach says.” Both are wrong. “Without me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The believer does but with Christ’s enabling grace.

MARK = goal on which to set ones attention.
THE PRIZE OF THE HIGH CALLING = upward calling.

What is the “prize” that motivates you. We are at our best when there is a goal to be reached and a reward to be received. Olympic competitors have inspired us by their stories of self- sacrifice and discipline in order to “Go for the gold.” The gold is performance enhancement at its best.

When our goal is to please Christ and conform to His image we are motivated thereby.

Don’t be like the character in “Pilgrim’s Progress” that could look no way but downward with a muckrake in his hand.

AN APPEAL (Vss. 15, 16). Some day you will stand before the “judgement seat” (BEMA). The same term used for where the Olympic judges gave out prizes.

“But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: ‘As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14: 10 – 12).

BE PERFECT. In verse 12 the verb is in the perfect tense, but here a noun. In verse 12 he had said he wasn’t “perfect.” Now he refers to “as many as are perfect.” In verse 15 he is not speaking of absolute perfection but relative perfection.

A peach tree illustrates the relativity of the word. In April peaches are green but for that state, perfect. In June they must have matured to another state for perfection. “Become like Christ” is a life-long process.

One problem is we set standards too low for us. Looking at our old self we see we are better than we were and exercise pride. We look at many of those around us and get a superiority complex.

For this reason it is good to stay around mature believers. They challenge us by their example. However, the ever present example is the Lord Jesus Christ. Keep your eyes on Him. Spend your life getting to “know” Him better and more intimately.

The expression “follow after” means this is a continual process. It should be our life long pursuit. Throughout life we must “press forward.” The reality we are to press on indicates the Christian life is not a passive life.

Do you have a sense of personal discontent? That is, are you satisfied with your state of spiritual maturity or are you ambitious to grow spiritually?

How to Defuse Your Frustration 5/16/99

Luke 21:25-28

JESUS CHRIST spoke of a time when there would be “distress among nations, with perplexity…” and of “men’s hearts failing them.”

This summarily speaks of a time of great frustration. Nationally and internationally that potential is becoming increasingly clear. Perhaps you personally are facing a time of frustration.

Certainly it appears a broad segment of our nation is experiencing an epidemic of frustration. You know frustration.

Frustration is an emotion fathered by anger. It causes our blood pressure to rise, our breathing to accelerate, the pitch and volume of our voice to heighten.

Frustration results from us reacting against seemingly impossible circumstances.

One country comic said, “It makes me so mad I could eat a goatburger!” That’s frustration.

Frustration is the fruit of our failure to succeed and achieve. It is the outgrowth of our inability to reach a goal. It occurs when our hopes fade and our dreams die.

Frustration is a Ulysses on his odyssey coming to a rain- swollen river which he must cross and, finding it flooded, wades out into it waist-deep and beats it with a chain. Such frustrated response does no good. How many times have you found your stream flooded at the wrong time and flogged it with a chain?

Frustration is a little boy who has beaten on a locked door until exhausted and finally sits down and cries. Have you been there? Sure, all of us have been.

When that which promises to be exhilarating proves to be exasperating, we end up frustrated.

Webster defines frustration as “a deep chronic sense of insecurity arising from unresolved problems.”

You know that from your own experience. It is when you want something or want to do something real badly and things happen that just step in your way and shout “NOT.”

You have seen it, or perhaps you have been the one seen, whose plans are frustrated and you go ballistic.

Youth experience it when they get all “jacked up” and life kicks out the jack, causing a big letdown.

Frustration is a Moses coming to a much-needed spring of water and finding it dry, starts beating on the rock with his rod.

It is a John who gets fed up with the opposition and asks Jesus to call down fire from heaven on them.

Do you ever feel as frustrated as the fellow who bought a new boomerang and had trouble throwing the old one away?

At times you can feel it building. Resources aren’t available or have run out, time to act is elapsing, people to help have abandoned and the pressure rises until finally “melt-down.”

It is you senselessly honking your horn in a traffic jam.

It is our response to a comedy of confusing circumstances that keep us from being punctual at an appointment.

It’s kicking carpet when things just won’t go right.

It’s our reaction to the toaster which burns our toast and smokes up the house when we are in a hurry to get going.

It’s the burning of Los Angeles when a jury reaches a verdict that from the public view seems to be wrong.

In general there are two types of frustrations.

There are episode frustrations which are temporary problems, such as missing an important phone call, trying to get a knot out of a shoestring while friends call you a klutz or worse, or being unable to solve a computer glitch.

An episode of frustration is you slamming the refrigerator door because your favorite snack isn’t there.

It’s you kicking the cat or dog because someone chewed you out when you didn’t deserve it.

There are process frustrations which occur when a person continuously feels blocked in an area of life. Process frustrations build up and cause major problems.

It is you and circumstances standing face to face with life shouting “no way” and you responding “yes way” and circumstances won’t yield.

A few years ago psychologist William Knaus wrote a book entitled “How to Conquer Your Frustrations.” Some of his observations are worthy of noting. He said:

1. Frustrations exist when our wants, wishes, and desires get thwarted or interrupted. The feeling results from disparities between what we want and what we find available. For example, when our level of aspiration exceeds our level of achievement, we will likely experience frustration.

2. Frustrations can range from imperceptible to powerful.

3. Frustration starts from a feeling of discomfort.

4. We cause our frustrations because of what and how we think about our frustrations.

5. Strong frustrations result in mixed emotional states that have a disorganizing effect on memory and behavior.

6. Depending on how we interpret our feelings of frustration, they can stimulate positive change, aggression, regression, complacency, or compulsive behavior.

This last one means you choose how you will respond to your frustrations. Options are available to you. You are not a slave to your heredity or environment. You have willpower. You are responsible.

Therefore, from a Biblical perspective, let’s consider how to deal with our frustrations. First consider some DON’TS.

I. DON’T

A. RESORT TO VINDICATION.
In their time of frustration many people try to find someone or something to blame in order to justify themselves. “They made me do it,” is a cover-all for all sorts of inexcusable attitudes and actions.

Remember, Dr. Knaus said, “We cause our frustrations because of what and how we think…”

Solomon wisely wrote: “As a man thinks in his heart so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). If an individual or a group gets to thinking they have been wronged and have the right to destructively retaliate, violence results.

Few people are willing to take responsibility for their own actions. One of the most extreme possibilities I have heard of in this matter relates to a report that peanut butter allegedly increases one’s sex drive. Can’t you just hear some rapist pleading innocent in a court of law declaring: “I am innocent, Jiffy made me do it.”

READ: MARK 7:20 – 23.

“…each of us shall give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12).

Never do wrong in order to get a chance to do right.

“Do not evil that good may come.”

“See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourself and for all” (I Thes. 5:15).

B. RESORT TO VIOLENCE.
John the Baptist was God’s oracle who said, “Do violence to no man” (Luke 3:14).

Proverbs 16:32 reminds us: “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.”

Psalms 11:5, “The Lord tests the righteous, But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.”

Violence may hurt others but it doesn’t help you.

Don’t get “ballistic” over your frustrations.

Plato said, “The good man will suffer evil rather than do evil.”

C. RESORT TO VENGEANCE.
Romans 12:17-19 is a case study in how to respond without a vengeful spirit.

1. Live Honestly. “Repay no one evil for evil” (Vs. 17). The great Booker T. Washington said, “I will not allow any man to make me lower myself by hating him.”

2. Live Harmoniously. “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Vs. 18). Do all you can, without compromising your convictions, to achieve peace and harmony.

3. Live Humbly. “Do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath … Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Vs. 19).

“Do not avenge yourselves” means don’t take the law in your own hands.

Don’t retaliate in like manner. If vengeance is God’s business, get out of His way and let Him to His work. He doesn’t need your help.

“Give place to wrath” is better understood as translated in the Goodspeed version: “leave room for God’s anger.” That is, get out of God’s way and let Him work. Don’t get so involved that God’s anger boils over on you also.

II. DO

Realizing we have frustrations we must learn how to deal with them.

A. RESPOND CONSTRUCTIVELY
Earlier, psychologist Dr. William Knaus was quoted as saying frustration can “stimulate positive change.” Resolve to let it do so. Work for positive change.

B. RELY ON THE LORD
“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in the time of trouble” (Psalms 9:9).

To the oppressed, refuge is offered. There are many oppressed in our land. You are on occasion oppressed by circumstances or people. All of us are.

We are a generation that has been taught to demand its rights. No race of any generation has been so committed to demanding rights. Because of the popularity of this mentality, I know I make myself vulnerable to criticism for espousing a contrary concept. Let the Scripture speak for itself.

“Let each esteem others better than themselves” (Phil. 2:3).

“In honor preferring one another” (Romans 12:10).

Can you imagine Christ demanding His rights. “Here Peter, you take this towel and bowl and wash my feet. That’s your job – not mine.”

C. RESORT TO PRAYER
“Cast your burden on the Lord and He shall sustain you” (Psalms 55:22).

You can express frustrations to the Lord. He cares for you.

D. WAIT UPON THE LORD
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the brilliant Russian literary genius, was imprisoned in a horrible Siberian camp because of his religious and political views.

Consider the emotional, cultural, financial, or educational prison in which you might presently be. He had no contact with the outside world and was subjected to strenuous work under adverse conditions.

His frustration drove him to consider suicide, but his faith would not allow it.

Earlier I quoted Dr. Knaus as saying frustration could have a “disorganizing effect on memory and behavior.” In that frustrated state Solzhenitsyn contrived a plan. “I will run in an attempt to escape. They will shoot me, but it will not be suicide.”

Frustration had driven him to the brink of self-destruction.

Just as he was about to spring up and run, another prisoner whom he had not seen before came and stood in front of him. Of this one Solzhenitsyn said, “He looked into my eyes as though he could read my thoughts.”

These prisoners were not even allowed to speak, so no words of encouragement were forthcoming. Then, with a stick, as though doodling, the unknown old prisoner drew a cross in the dirt and walked away.

Solzhenitsyn said, “I knew he was a messenger from God and that what I was doing was wrong. I settled down to trust God.”

It was a moment of unqualified trust. Little did he know at the moment that the impossible was about to happen. Within a few days he was a free man in Switzerland, having been miraculously released unexpectedly.

By not waiting on the Lord you may be about to prevent Him from doing a great and mighty work in your life.

“Wait on the Lord, run not before Him.”

Friends! 3/14/99

John 15:12-19
Page 1580 Come Alive Bible

JESUS CHRIST said, “No longer do I call you servants…but I have called you friends…” Thus, He paid us a supreme compliment. The word “friend” in English, as in its Greek equivalent PHILOS, conveys the idea of loving and being loved. There is something warm and pleasant about it.

The secret of success in ones search for friends is found in the wisdom of Solomon who wrote: “A man who has friends must himself be friendly” (Proverbs 18:24). An unknown poet expressed it:
I went out to find a friend,
But could not find one there,
Then I went out to be a friend,
And there were friends everywhere!

An English publication ran a contest seeking the best definition of a friend. The winner was: “A friend — the one who walks in when the world walks out.”

“A friend loves at all times…” (Proverbs 17:17).

“A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

A good friend is the person who gives you the better of the two choices, hold your hand when your scared, helps you fight off those who try to take advantage of you, thinks of you at times when you are not there, reminds you of what you have forgotten, helps you put the past behind you but understands when you need to hold on to it a little longer, stays with you so that you have confidence, goes out of their way to make time for you, helps you clear up your mistakes, helps you deal with pressure from others, smiles for you when they are sad, helps me become a better person, and most importantly loves you! Yes, whether known since kindergarten or just met a couple months ago,

This is MY idea of a GOOD FRIEND.

A true friend is one who ask you how you are and listens to the answer.

A friend is one who doubles your joy and divides your sorrows.

True friends are like spaghetti, they stick together.

Life is a cookie and friends are the chocolate chips.

A true friend is one who watches as you make a mess of things and doesn’t react as though you have done a permanent job.

Jesus perfected the art of friendship; and after patterning it, passed it on to His followers. By example and expression He answered the question: “What is a friend?”

I. A FRIEND IS COMMITTED “GREATER LOVE HAS NO MAN THAN THIS…”
Friendship involves commitment. (Story of four G.I.’s on patrol in Vietnam: “You gotta care baby…you gotta care!”)

However, laying down your life involves more than looking into the grey face of death. There is a principle of slow sacrifice folded into the words of the Savior.

It is hard at duty’s call,
To lay one’s life down day by day,
As to lay it down once for all.

Friendship motivates one to daily help another.
It means to make joy possible for those who walk in the shadow of sorrow.
It is to make goodness possible for those who stand in the darkness of temptation.
It is to venture into the world day by day to minister and not be ministered unto.
It is to let the message of your music become the harmony of your life.

Nineteen hundred plus years ago a man lived a life in Galilee and Judea that is today transforming lives. His secret is no secret. It is found in His statement “I lay down my life for you.” Today those who honor Him most are those who comply with the insight shared by His follower John who wrote:

“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (I John 3:16)

The day following Christ sharing the words of our study with His followers in the upper room, He spoke to John from the cross of His mother, Mary: “Behold your mother…” In this utterance our Lord laid on John the duty of laying down his life for Him by caring for a lonely broken-hearted woman to whom life had spoken most harshly. Looking after Mary, thereafter, was an act of laying down His life for Christ. That is a friend.

II. A FRIEND IS COMPLIANT “DO WHATEVER I COMMAND YOU” VS. 14
Jesus said, “You are my friends…” He didn’t say “I am your friend.” For me to say “Jesus is my friend” is to pull Him down to my level. For Him to speak of us as His friends is for Him to pick us up to His level.

James 2:23, “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness. And he was called the friend of God.”

Obedience evidences friendship.

Epicetus: “I am free and the friend of God, because I obey Him willingly.”

George Whitfield was asked: “Do you ever tire of your work for God?” He replied, “Sometimes I tire in it, but never of it.”

No one can grow weary in well-doing who lives in the light of a friendship that transforms all
duty into delights.

III. A FRIEND IS COMMUNICATIVE “I HAVE MADE KNOWN” VS. 15
A friend wants to help and protect a friend. The closest of friends should be husbands and wives. One wife called her husband on his car phone and asked, “Honey, are you on highway 280?” “Yes,” was the reply.” “Well be careful. I have the TV traffic report on and they say there is a car driving in the wrong lane on 280. Be very careful.”

“A car,” came the reply, “there are hundreds going the wrong way.” He alone was going the wrong way and accused those going the right way of going the wrong way. Friends help friends.

Jesus wants us to consider “all things”, that is, the facts of Christianity again and again until they become sun-clear. He has told us all we need to know. We need to do all we know.

He said, “To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God” (Mark 4:11).

A friend enjoys helping a friend. That includes making decisions.

Many are familiar with the board game chess. Chess requires imagination and the capacity to think of most moves before made. Moves in chess are often compared to moves by two generals on a battlefield. Chess resembles war in that it requires attack and defense. The object is to move the king into a position in which it has to surrender.

It is possible for a skilled player to make such moves as to put the opponents king in a no-win position, defeat is unavoidable. At that point several moves in advance, check-mate can be declared. The game is over though not finished. The outcome is determined.

A skilled chess player who was also an outstanding artist painted a scene depicting a young man playing chess with the devil. Artistically the artist had portrayed the devil as moving his queen into position making it impossible for the young man’s king to survive. Check-mate was announced four moves in advance. The outcome was determined, the
devil wins.

The work of art hung in a major museum for years with chess players and art afficionados alike marveling over it.

An aged chess player from New Orleans, Paul Morphy, saw a picture of the painting. His intrigue drew him to Cincinnati to view the classic work.

The old undefeated supreme chess master studied the painting for the longest. It is said he studied it for a least thirty minutes. He would raise and lower his hands as though making moves. Suddenly his hands paused, his eyes burned with the vision of an unthought of combination. Suddenly he shouted, “Young man, make that move. That’s the move!”

To the amazement of all, the old master, the supreme chess personality, had discovered a combination that the creating artist had not considered. The young man had defeated the devil at last.

Apart from Christ the devil has us check-mated. Thee is no way for us to win. Then the Master devised a move that enables us to win. That move took Him to Calvary and takes us to heaven.

IV. A FRIEND IS CHOSEN “I CHOSE YOU…” VS. 16
Do you recall the thrill of being chosen when playing childish games? What an exhilarating thrill to be chosen. There was the classic, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send …. right over.” That’s ME!

Chosen on a team, what a thrill.

You who are married, do you remember? What a moment it was when the person who is your spouse said “Yes” to your proposal. The two of you chose each other. WOW!

Perhaps there was a job you wanted and after all the interviews you were chosen as the one for
the job. An upper!

Maybe, there are bitter memories of not being chosen also. Don’t dwell on them. If you are chosen for the greatest why be concerned about not being chosen for that which is not as important. You have been chosen for the greatest of all things.

“God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.” (Ephesians 1:4).

That is, long before the dawn of creation God the Father determined that those who would put their faith in Christ as Savior would share His eternal destiny. In Christ you are chosen to inherit a heavenly home. The plus, is you have a
Companion for the journey home, Christ Himself. He chose us for…

Joy, Vs. 11, “…My joy remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” A gloomy Christian is a contradiction of terms. How can a person fail to be joyous while walking in His will?

Love, Vs. 12, “…love one another as I have loved you.” To profess to love Christ Who we cannot see and
not love those we can see is a contradiction.

I sought my soul,
But my soul I could not see.
I sought my God, but my God eluded me,
I sought my brother and found all three.

Be Friends, Vs. 15, “I have called you friends.” This was a term used in kingly courts and in the Roman Empire. The confidants of the king were called “friends of the king.” They could see Him at any time. They ranked in importance above even his generals.

We are not sterile slaves who must cower in His presence. We are not members of the remote crowed which must strain to see Him. We are His friends.

Partners, Vs. 15, “friends.” Inherent in the meaning of the word “friend” is the meaning “partner.” A slave was defined as “a living tool.” We are His partners in His task.

As a child I was privileged to be reared in one of those typical old southern homes with a front and back porch. For years the virgin pine of which it was made was never painted. As the porch aged it became obvious it needed painting. I remember my dad laboring to paint it. As it grew late I passed and he said, “Son, get that other brush and help me so we can finish before dark.” I still remember the pride of being a fellow-worker with my father. That is what Jesus wants of us.

Ambassadors, Vs. 16, “you are appointed.” Knights in the court of King Arthur were not chosen to perpetually revel at the banquet table or attend fancy affairs of state. They delighted to be sent on missions of courage for their king. We are His ambassadors sent on a special message like that of the man healed of his demon possession in Mark 5:19, to whom Christ said, “Go home to your friends and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how he has had compassion on you.” The mandate: “Go…tell.”

Advertisements, Vs. 16, “bear fruit”. We were not chosen to be pets but patterns. We are to bring our friends to Christ.

The route of friendship with Jesus is the road of servanthood. He must first be trusted as Savior before becoming your constant companion and friend.

A friend is CHOSEN. Christ has chosen you to be His friend. Will you choose Him?

You can’t go back and make a brand new start, but you can begin now and make a wonderful new conclusion.

Let Freedom Ring 6/27/99

Leviticus 27:17-19

Jesus Christ said, “… you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

He said this in the context of His disciples of all ages knowing and abiding in His Word. Spiritual and political freedom aren’t always arm locked twins. Spiritual freedom can exist regardless of externals. However, those who enjoy it are best suited to create and cultivate social, political, and moral freedom.

Etched on the rim of our nations revered Liberty Bell are the words of our text: “Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill, and dwell there in safety” (Lev. 25:19).

What a marvelous promise and provision. Globally few nations have ever enjoyed the bounty of the land and freedom from oppression as we. Yet, every civilization is only one generation away from losing such heritage. Let’s not be that generation.

As we rejoice in the promise of our text we must look at the preceding verse to find the reason for such.

“So you shall observe My statutes and keep My judgments, and perform them; and you will dwell in the land in safety.” (Leviticus 25:18)

These are the conditions for the blessings. How are we doing?

II CHRONICLES 7:14 is an amplification of the text: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Recently Lady Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of Great Britain spoke in our community. Among the many wise statements she made was this: “For freedom to prevail there must be the honorable and just application of the law.” Her thesis was that freedom is only possible when bordered by protective law and order. Our founding fathers knew this and designed for us a government of law and order.

In our rush for freedom we have broken many of God’s laws and distorted the laws of our predecessors which were based on our Constitution. Our Constitution was emphatically based on Biblical principles. When we violate the laws of God we do not break them, we break ourselves.

Dr. Kyle Yates had two beloved grandchildren who had their tonsils removed at the same time. The loving grandparents gave them a gift of two goldfish. Like creative children they named them in light of their own experience. What else? Tonsils and Adenoids.

When the children went home they took Tonsils and Adenoids with them. A few days later one of the children was looking out the front window when the grandparents came for a visit. He shouted to his brother the good news they were there. One of them picked up the bowl with the two fish and went racing through the house to show their prize pets. And he ran down the sidewalk he tripped. See it in slow motion. The bowl floats through the air with the child reaching for it as water begins to spill. Dramatically it crashes onto the sidewalk and shards of glass scatter as water splashes. There on the hot pavement are Tonsils and Adenoids flopping around. Good news! They are free at last. They are free…. free, free to die.

Individuals and societies that break God’s laws are free, free to die.

I. GOD APPEALS FOR HIS PEOPLE TO HUMBLE THEMSELVES
God’s Word appeals for His people to humble themselves. In light of our public disgrace, our virus of violence, lewd and vulgar entertainment God’s people should find it easy to humble themselves.

Humility does not preclude convictions and courage. The men who signed the Declaration of Independence were humble but brave men. They had the courage of their convictions.

Humility does not imply having an offend no body, tolerate everything, and stand for nothing attitude. It might mean having to face those who shout at you “bigot,” or “radical,” or “reactionary.”

Our word patriotism comes from the Latin root “pater,” which means “father.” Our country is our fatherland. We call those who forged the foundations of our country our Founding Fathers.

As America was being birthed there walked among the Founding Fathers a mousy little wisp of a man. He was about 5’6″ and weighted around 100 pounds. His weak voice didn’t have the resonance of Patrick Henry, nor the dynamism of Ben Franklin. He was brainy and bookish enough to graduate from Princeton in two years. He lacked social skills, never participated in sports, nor distinguished himself in any way. Eleven of the twelve boys in his graduating class had a part in the exercise, he didn’t.

Being shy around girls he didn’t fall in love and become engaged until 31. The engagement lasted six weeks and the girl broke it off. This increased his feeling of inferiority and he didn’t marry until 43.

It wouldn’t appear that such a person could achieve. However, I have only noted his weaknesses. He had two primary strengths his great mind and humble spirit.

At the age of 36 he represented Virginia at the Constitution Convention in Philadelphia. Here he stood with the greats: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, George Mason, and Alexander Hamilton. They physically towered over him. Him being, that mousy little James Madison.

Later when the Virginia Legislature met to ratify the proposed Constitution the big guns opposed ratification. The silver-tongued orator Patrick Henry who had roused the colonies earlier with his “give me liberty or give me death” address thundered against ratification of the Constitution.

The clerk of the Convention wrote, “Mr. Madison responded, but his voice was so low that he could hardly be heard.” Then Henry would roar again. The clerk wrote, “Mr. Madison brought out some facts, but his voice was very weak.”

Who prevailed? That’s right the mousy little weak voiced James Madison. Virginia ratified and James Madison became known as the “Father of our Constitution.”

Later he served for eight years as Secretary of State under President Thomas Jefferson. When he succeeded Jefferson as president, Jefferson said of him he was a man of “pure and spotless virtue.”

In 1821 as President he issued a proclamation which called upon the people to do what God has called on us to do, “humble themselves and pray.” In that proclamation he appealed for people to “acknowledge their transgressions which might provoke Divine displeasure.”

II. PRAY
One of the primary prayers that needs to be offered over and over is a prayer of repentance and confession. Confession is an apology to God that results in happiness. He deserves an apology. It is His law we have broken, His love we have spurned, His purpose we have subverted.

The portion of Scripture on our Liberty Bell states, “the land will yield its fruit…” It speaks of dwelling in the land in “safety.” II Chronicles 7:14 speaks of God healing the land of His repentant people.

Safety is lacking in the land because people having violated God’s standards have little regard for others.

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Warren E. Burger stated, “America is being reduced to the status of an impotent society, whose capability of maintaining elementary security on the streets, in the schools, and for the homes of our people is in doubt.”

We love to sing of the “Sweet Land of Liberty.” We need to revive the concept that only “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

If the Spirit of the Lord isn’t in control liberty becomes licence. A person without the controlling dynamic of the Holy Spirit may be uninhibited but liberty is lost.

Jefferson’s voice cracks like a whip across the face of disrespect and disobedience in these words inscribed in the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.:
“Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed the conviction that these liberties are a gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, That this justice cannot sleep forever.”

Our culture has lost its sense of awe and awareness of the blessings of God inherent in His will. A German theologian, Martin Buber, wrote a book, the thesis of which is the “I – it” relation. He stated we have things we love and speak of loving “it.” Things are loved.

He then broadened his thought to include an “I – thou” relationship. This speaks of interpersonal relationships. We are to love “thous” not “its.” Having dehumanized human life from the moment of conception we have degenerative regard for it at any stage. Considering people as “its” violence has erupted. In this sea of violence there needs to be islands of love, harbors of concern and the people of God must provide them.

If God’s people, His remnant, regardless of how few will do as He has commanded they can still be the salt, the preservative of our society. God has saved America more than once and can do it again. A classic example involved General George Washington. On the west end of Long Island in the area now known as Brookline, General Washington’s army of 8,000 was trapped by the 32,000 man army of the British General Howe. Cut off by the mile wide East River the final blow to the emerging union was poised. Unexplainably, General Howe, poised and ready to strike, delayed anticipating the final assault at the next dawn.

All around the people in their homes and churches prayed. Repentant hearts and saintly souls called upon the Lord.

In his diary Major Ben Tolmedge described what happened. In small boats and on rafts the army of Washington rushed to attempt a withdrawal during the night. It soon became apparent the night would not be long enough to effect the withdrawal. Then a weather phenomenon uncharacteristic of that season occurred. During the night a “Peculiar fog rose from the ground and river and settled over both camps until the last boat containing General Washington evacuated.”

God let the people dwell in the land in safety. No less a miracle is needed today.

III. AND SEEK MY FACE
Facial expressions are a dead give away of ones thoughts. This reality is employed to appeal to us to seek to understand God’s will.

God’s will is no more clearly revealed than in His written word, the Bible.

Of it Andrew Jackson said, “That Book, Sirs, is the rock upon which our Republic rests.”

Daniel Webster noted, “If we go on abiding by the truths taught in the Bible we will go on prospering, but if we do not, catastrophe may suddenly overwhelm us.”

It is not that we do not know God’s will it is that many have chosen to disregard it.

Not only is our nation in general failing to seek God’s face there is a concerted effort to exclude His face from every public place under the misunderstanding of the term “separation of church and state.” Ten Baptists got the principle included in the Bill of Rights. Now it appears 10,000,000 Baptists and their allies can’t keep it there. The principle was fostered to prevent there from being favoritism paid to any one denomination as was being done in England and Europe at the time.

Evidence of how far we have come is seen in that Thomas Jefferson, as chairman of the school board in Washington D.C., led the body to purchase Bibles for distribution in the public schools. They established the chaplaincy and authorized prayer in the Congress.

James Madison had no intention to exclude God from the public forum. He was a primary figure in writing the First Amendment with the intent to insure religious freedom.

History records that Madison was to run for public office against a Baptist preacher, John Leland. Surveys indicated Leland would win 5 to 1. However, he didn’t want to run. The two met under a tree on the corner of what is now Madison and Leland Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. There Leland educated Madison on separation of church and state. He assured Madison he would not oppose him in the election if Madison would include the principle of separation of church and state in the Bill of Rights. Leland didn’t run, Madison was elected, and the Bill of Rights was written. The purpose was not to expel God from government and society, but simply to insure no one denomination would be given preference over any other.

We must return to the God of our fathers and seek His face.

Living without God’s plan in our lives is like sewing without thread. It is like writing our name in water.

It is God’s plan that none should perish, but that all should come to repentance. That is His will. Have you ever aligned your will with His at this point of conjunction?

Preparation for a New Millennium 1/3/99

Exodus 14:13-16
(Page 102 Come Alive Bible)

JESUS CHRIST said to His followers: “Go into all the world and make disciples…” God’s people have always been under orders. His orders often involve the little word “go.” A vivid illustration of this is found in our text.

It detracts a bit from the story when you know the end from the beginning. To understand something of the emotion of the people involved in the epoch recorded in Exodus, remember they did not know the end from the beginning. They knew only that Moses had promised to lead them as Jehovah directed him. Their confidence was, at the point we pick up the story, at an all time low. They knew only that the moaning sea was before them and a raging army behind them.

They were right where God wanted them.

They were bivouacked between Pi-Hahiroth and Baal-Zephon. They were in a hopeless situation.

We see ourselves mirrored in them. God had blessed and cared for them up to this point. He had promised to give them a land flowing with milk and honey. However, many past blessings are forgotten in light of one present perplexity.

Pharaoh’s army had them hemmed-up in a narrow plain with mountains on one side, an expansive marsh on the other, and the Red Sea before them. Now note:

I. DELAY WHY DO YOU CRY TO ME? (VS. 15)
Moses and the people had been crying out to God. Mixed with their prayers for deliverance were cries of despair and derision. This added to their paralysis of fear.

In effect God said, “It is time to stop praying and start acting.” Christians today need to pray frequently and earnestly but there is a time to stop praying and start acting.

Moses had come to that time.

II. DANGER
The sea would engulf them. The army would annihilate them. Neither posed as their greatest threat. Their greatest danger was to give in to the temptation to go back. They appealed to Moses to let them go back and serve the Egyptians voluntarily as slaves.

One of the greatest threats to the average Christian’s progress is the allurement to go back. A search for security and conformity defeats the cause of Christ.

We are one year from a new millennium. Do you suppose the calendar knows the difference in December 31, 1999, and January 1, 2000? Will the animal world and all of nature be able to tell the difference? Likely not.

There are persons capitalizing on the dawning of a new era. Scare sells and therefore it is being marketed. Some speculate it will mark the end of the world. Others declare it will be the occasion of the second coming of Christ. The last millennium resulted in the emergence of a number of cults proclaiming dooms day. Already they are emerging. In the next months expect to hear all sorts of scare stories that would make great science fiction movies.

There is however one new element in the mix of this millennium known as Y2K. It refers to computer crashes resulting from an encoded date preventing the computer from reading the year 2000. Alarmist say it will result in bank failures, loss of investment records, disruption of medical services, traffic gridlock, food shortages, utility failures, missiles misfiring of nuclear war heads, and many other dramatic disasters. It is a matter deserving serious consideration.

“Newsweek” carried a cover story stating, “The day the world shuts down.” The article called it “The event that could paralyze the world.”

“Computer World” stated, “The problem is far worse than even the pessimists believe.”

Senator Stephen Horn, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Government Management, Information, and Technology reported on behalf of the committee that of 7,300 mission critical systems in the Executive Branch of the Federal Government only 50% are Y2K compliant.

It is estimated it will cost over $600 billion to fix the problem. That is one reason Greenspan has been lowering interest rates. It provides funds to make the repairs.

The Federal Reserve has already ordered the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to print and store $50 billion extra cash in the event misled or panicky people rush ATM’s or conventional banks.

However, there are optimists. Federal Reserve Governor, Edward W. Kelley, Jr. noted: “I would expect Y2K shock to our information and electronic control infrastructure is most likely to be short- lived and fully reversed.” Kelley said the greatest problem is likely the fear of the bug itself.

The impact is likely to be lessened because people who were warned appreciated the warning and have responded positively.

With such mixed signals what should a person do? Be prepared. Some are suggesting some practical steps that are good under any circumstance. Things such as: Get hard copies of vital records, such as, birth certificates, insurance policies, title deeds, investments, store several days of food and water in case there is an interruption of these services. The main thing is don’t panic.

III. DETERRENTS
A. Fear. Vs. 13, “Do not be afraid.” The expression actually means stop being afraid. Don’t ever take counsel of your fears. We should never fear to do God’s will.

B. Self-Assertion. Vs. 14, “The Lord will fight for you, and you should hold your peace.” Note, there is a two- fold involvement including God and man. God “will fight for you” conditioned upon you holding “your peace.” We are to confidently rely upon the Lord.

This expression is an encouragement to have faith.

C. Reluctance to Venture. We must venture or vegetate.

-Don’t let obscurities and enigmas stop you.

-Don’t ever think little steps are not important. We are to: “grow in grace” “add to your faith virtue” “change from glory to glory.”

IV. DUTY “GO”
This demands decision and energy. This is dependent upon Him. God is not a God who says “Go forward” without giving strength with which to go.

If we do what we know to do, He will then reveal what next we ought to do.

V. DIRECTION “FORWARD”
“When in trouble, when in doubt, Run in circles, scream and shout.” Going isn’t enough. Direction is critical. Many people go back or around and feel that motion is momentum. Spiritually we are to follow our beloved Lord forward.

Why were they to go forward? Was there less danger? Was it the path of least resistance? No! It was the path of duty in compliance with God’s command. All of nature goes forward. Rivers run forward, the wind blows forward, and the earth itself goes forward in its orbit. Philosophy, science, art, music and time go forward. It is presumption to think that Christians should not progress in their spiritual growth. We have an appointment in eternity; an engagement at the judgement seat. Therefore, we must move on toward it.

Our motto should be: “Excelsior,” or “Aundiamo,” that is “Forward.”

Missionary David Livingston wrote that He was willing to go anywhere his mission society sent him for God, “provided it be forward.”

VI. DECISION
God used the wind to plow a furrow through the sea once He saw their willingness to obey.

Indecision is decision. If they had demurred and delayed until tomorrow, they would have been defeated.

Be prepared. In light of the Y2K potential persons are being warned to be prepared. Most such encouragement has to do with physical planning. Be prepared spiritually by making the decision to let Christ be Savior AND Lord of our life.

VII. DELIGHT
God enabled them to emerge victoriously. The Book of Revelation speaks of the “song of Moses and the Lamb.” Moses’ song was a song of victory.