666 The Dehumanization of Man Rev. 13:18, Luke 21:36
In the “50’s there was a movie in the theaters called The Time Machine. In it a scientist built a time machine. Testing it he went backward in time with success so he decided to go forward into the future. He pushed the control lever forward and began moving through time. When he tried to stop the lever stuck and he went hurdling through time. When he finally got stopped he was in a time when animal like creatures were breeding humans for food. Do you think such a thing would ever be possible? I don’t think we will ever be used for food but being treated as animals is exactly where we are going.
The task of the devil is to separate us from God. If we are created in the image of a holy and moral God then we are obligated to strive to be as holy and moral as that God. If we are merely a higher form of animal, then we can be as unholy and immoral as we desire. To that end the devil has been seeking to dehumanize us.
I am going to try to put together a time line of sorts, of major events, which have occurred in history that have demonstrated that.
In 1831 the philosopher George Hegel was sitting in a pub sipping on a tankard of ale and thinking about truth. That’s what philosophers do, they think a lot. Do you know the difference between a philosopher and a daydreamer? Both think, but the philosopher writes down what he or she thinks. So if you are prone to sitting and thinking a lot, be sure to write down what you are thinking and you be known as a philosopher.
As he was thinking he came to the conclusion that truth is relative, what may be truth to one person may not be truth to someone else, and what may be truth today may not be truth tomorrow. This he wrote in a book and gave birth to what we now call situation ethics. Basically what situation ethics says is that morals and ethics do not depend on established truth but rather on the situation. If the situation calls for it the individual may do anything they desire.
So no one is guilty of anything any more. I used to have a friend who was Deputy Warden of the prison in Beattyville Kentucky. He told me once, “Vernon, we don’t have any guilty prisoners in our prison. According to them they are all innocent.” I was a substitute teacher for 15 years. You could sit in a classroom for most of the hour and put up with a student breaking every rule in the book, and when you have had all you can take and send him or her to detention do you think they will apologize for their actions. Not at all, instead what you get is, “What did I do? I didn’t do anything.” The sad thing is they really believe that. People fight and steal and kill today without remorse or apology.
In 1848 Karl Marx wrote The Communist Manifesto in which he said that religion is the opiate of the people, and began the attempt to start a godless society.
In 1857 an escaped slave named Dred Scott took his search for freedom to the U. S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of the United States of America declared that black people could be owned and bought and sold like animals, thus dehumanizing blacks.
In 1859 Charles Darwin wrote his Origin of The Species and for the first time all mankind was linked to the animal kingdom. Prior to that time the Biblical account of creation was never seriously challenged. Now Darwin’s theory is the primary teaching in schools and colleges around the world. If we are merely higher forms of animal life then life becomes less valuable and war, suicide, and violence of all types increases. Though there is much proof that evolution is not possible it continues to be taught.
The law of thermodynamics proves that it is not possible, that is that everything runs down, nothing runs up. The Cambrian level proves it. If one digs down into the earth far enough he reaches a level called the Cambrian level where all fossils appear. Beyond that level there are no fossils, proving that life began suddenly not gradually over a period of 44 billion years.
It will take a little time but let me throw in the evolutionary cycle of the Woodpecker. This is free, no charge. 44 billion years ago all the birds were eating on the ground as birds do. Suddenly one of the birds decides that there must be good food beneath the bark on the trees. There must be many changes to take place for him to be able to do anything about that, but he had 44 billion years to fix that doesn’t he. First he has to develop a way to stand on the side of a tree while he is banging away at it. He has lots of time to work on that problem doesn’t he? He then has to develop a powerful beak that will not crack under such impact. Any other bird that attempted it would die in the process. Then he has to develop a skull that will not crack. After all it takes quite an impact to penetrate wood, right? Once again any other bird that tried it would crack their skull and die. Well he has 44 billion years to work out these problems doesn’t he?
The stuff under the bark isn’t stupid. When it feels the rat-a-tat-tat of the woodpecker on the bark it will burrow deeper into the tree, so the woodpecker has to devise a way to get down through the tiny tunnels. He has to develop a tongue 6-8 inches long, not only that but he has to develop some sticky stuff on the end of it to trap his prey and drag it out. That creates another problem, where will he store all that tongue. What he does is wrap it around on the inside of his skull like a window shade and send it out through his left nostril. Well he had the 44 billion years right?
How many of you have seen the fallacy in this already. The problem that evolutionists have is that the whole process must take place in less than 44 days or he will starve to death, or certainly in less than 44 years or he will become extinct.
In the late “30’s an obscure little artist rose to power in Germany and attempted the extermination of entire races of people. 6,000,000 Jews and 2,000,000 Gypsies were branded like animals, loaded into boxcars like animals, and slaughtered like animals.
Today another group of people has been dehumanized, unborn babies. Imagine this, the Supreme Court of the United States, supposedly made up of intelligent people, has declared that unborn calves are cows, but unborn babies are not people. They are fetuses, growths which women can have removed if they desire. How did we ever start saving trees and whales and killing babies? How did we get to a point where a person goes to prison for killing unborn eagles and gets rich killing unborn people?
In the future another person similar to Hitler will rise to power and attempt to dehumanize all of society. All people small and great will be required to receive a mark. The purpose of the mark is the same as that of branding cattle or the same as the mark placed on Jews in Germany, to show ownership and control.
If we are getting close to the coming of the Anti Christ then we are also close to the second coming of Jesus. All of the prophecies of the second coming have either been fulfilled or are in the process of being fulfilled. Soon Jesus will appear in the air and those who are ready will rise to meet Him. Those who are not ready will be left behind to live through a man made hell worse than anything the world has ever seen. Earth quakes and other natural disasters will multiply greatly, famine and disease will be rampant, violence, murder, and war will be greatly increased. The Bible says that more than 2,000,000,000 people will perish during that period. It further says that unless those days were shortened nothing alive would survive not one man, woman, boy or girl.
Knowing these things how should we react. We just read the answer to that, “Pray that you be counted worthy to escape the things that are coming upon the earth and to stand before Jesus.” Jesus is coming and we are not ready.
There is so much anger and fighting within the church. I had a dream once. In the dream I saw a church and everyone in it was angry about something. I woke up asking myself, “When would it ever be appropriate to have anger in the church?” For the life of me I couldn’t think of a time when anger would be appropriate in church. I know of churches that are having anger management courses. God help us, Jesus is coming and we are not ready.
All manner of sexual immorality is creeping into our churches; preachers and laity are turning from the teachings of the Bible and are embracing the teachings of men. Jesus is coming and we are not ready.
You can be ready now.
If you will admit to yourself and to God that you have sin in your life, and
believe that Jesus died so that you could have forgiveness for that sin, and
confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior you will be forgiven. We have the promise
from God that if we confess our sin He will always forgive us.
The Transfiguration Matt. 17:1-21
At one point in his ministry Jesus took Peter, James and John and went up on a mountain. There he was transfigured before them and Moses and Elijah appeared and talked to him. Wonder why he chose those three to go with him?
I have heard it said that they were his favorites. The Bible says that he had no favorites so that doesn’t seem to be the case. I’ve also heard it said that he was preparing them for leadership of the group when he was gone. That’s possible, but we know that James was martyred very early and by the time of the Jerusalem Council, James the brother of Christ seems to have been in charge of the church in Jerusalem. There is another possibility. In every group there is a small group who excel beyond the others, and a group who are willing to allow them to do that. I think there is the possibility that Jesus knew that the nine others would be willing to stay behind. If you will notice, not one of them protested. It almost seems that their attitude was, “You guys go ahead we will be right here when you get back.” Suppose that Matthew had said, “Lord please don’t leave me behind. I want to be by your side everywhere you go. Please don’t leave me behind.” I just can’t see Jesus commanding him to stay.”
In any case Jesus is Lord and he does what he wants to do. If he wants to take only three of them along that is what he will do. I’m sure you have heard the little thing about King Kong, “Where does King Kong sit when he comes in the room? Any where he wants to.” The same is true of Jesus. Where does He sit when he comes in the room? Anywhere He wants to. What does Jesus do? Any thing he wants to.
Peter was so overwhelmed by this experience that he became a little incoherent, and offered to build three shelters, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. What is there about us that makes us want to build some kind of monument to such experiences. If you go to Israel today you will be somewhat disappointed to find that there is a church built over most of the sites where Jesus was. Peter was so touched by what was happening that he didn’t want it to end. Did you ever have such a powerful experience with the Holy Spirit that you didn’t want it to end? I have had a number of such experiences. I have seen churches try to duplicate successful revivals by inviting the same evangelist and the same singers, but they usually learn that God seldom if ever duplicates his work. We are seeing a national trend of churches trying to duplicate the experience of certain highly successful churches, or duplicate powerful revivals that have taken place at certain churches. They soon learn that God may have a separate blessing for them but not the same one.
God realizes that these guys are putting way to much emphasis on the experience and steps in and gets them back on track by telling them to listen to Jesus. You see, Jesus knows that there is no ministry up there on the mountaintop. God gives us mountain top experiences to prepare us for ministry. Jesus knows that at the foot of the mountain there is a little boy whose life is being made a living hell by the devil. That’s where the ministry is.
Well we know what the guys on the mountaintop were doing, but what about those guys who were at the bottom. We don’t know much about what they were doing, but we do get some insight into what they were not doing. We know that they had an opportunity to minister to this little boy but were unable to help him. After Jesus had cast the demon from the boy they asked why they had not been able to do it. Jesus told them it was because of their lack of faith and because that type of ministry required fasting and prayer. So we don’t know what they were doing, but we know what they were not doing right? They were not fasting and they were not praying.
So many of us want to be involved in ministry but are not willing to do what is necessary to be successful in ministry. So many of us are majoring on the manifestations of the Spirit and not learning how to allow the Spirit to work through us in ministry. Many of us haven’t even learned where ministry takes place. Maybe all of us need to learn to listen to Jesus. Maybe God needs to get our attention some way. The whole thrust of Christianity is to continue the ministry of Jesus.
When Paul found a
group of Ephesian believers the first question he asked was, “Have you received
the Holy Spirit since you believed.” Let me ask you the same question. Have you
received the Holy Spirit since you believed.” If not you can receive it right
now. Just invite him into your life. Jesus said, “If our earthly fathers know
how to give us good gifts, how much more will our heavenly Father give the Holy
Spirit to them that ask.”
The Beatitudes Matt. 5:3-12
The list found in this block of scripture has become known as the beatitudes. They may be more properly called the beautiful attitudes. It’s a list of the type of attitudes God would have us to have.
The first is, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It has nothing to do with poverty, but rather with spirit of poverty, a spirit of “having nothing yet having everything.” Maybe a humble spirit is a better way to say it. It’s a lack of pride. In the Book of Proverbs there is a list of seven things that God hates. Who knows what the number one thing is? What do you think, murder, prostitution, drunkenness, drug addiction? The number one thing that God hates is “a proud look.” Pride is the number one thing that God hates. Just for your information, number two is a lying tongue.
The next is, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Blessed are those who can shed a tear for others. Blessed are those who care about the needs of others. Sometimes all you can do is cry with them, but blessed are those who can do that. Very early in my ministry, at my first pastorate, I was called out in the middle of the night to visit with an elderly man whose wife had just passed away. All the clichés I could think of were terribly inadequate, so I just sat there crying with him, and listening to him. I heard a story once about a man who was driving a wagon, in the days before cars. Driving through a stream he became stuck in the mud. The harder he tried to get his horse to pull the wagon out the deeper it sank. After a while he became so discouraged he just sat there crying. A man on horseback came by, saw the man crying, and rode up to the wagon. Upon learning of the mans predicament he said, “my horse isn’t strong enough to help your horse pull the wagon loose, but if you will wait until I tie him up I’ll come up there and cry with you.” Often that is the best thing we can do.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” This has to do with a meek and mild spirit, not weakness. Jesus was a meek and mild individual but certainly not a weak one. Moses was a meek and mild person, but certainly not weak. Blessed are those who don’t feel that they have to crawl over or hurt others to get what they want.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Have you ever been hungry or thirsty? I mean really hungry or thirsty. So much so that you were willing to do anything to find food or water. That’s what we are talking about. A deep down hunger and thirst for a closer relationship with Christ. So much so that you are willing to do what ever is necessary to accomplish that. It’s not easy to find that kind of search for the Lord. Some years ago I was teaching a young adult Sunday school class at a church in North Carolina. One Sunday morning I asked the class to share why they came to church. I asked them to be open and honest and they were. Someone said, “I’ve just never done anything else on Sunday morning.” Someone else said, “I’m afraid God will punish me if I don’t.” No one said any of the things that you would hope to hear, “I want to learn more about God, or I want to find a closer relationship with Jesus.”
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Mercy is when we have an opportunity to hurt someone or get leverage over them, but don’t use it. God could destroy us because of our sin, but He loves us so much that He chooses not to. That’s God’s mercy. The next best illustration of mercy that we can relate to is taken from an episode of the TV show “Happy Days.” In this episode Fonzy is teaching auto mechanics in high school. I have no idea how that happened. As far as I remember Fonzy never graduated from high school. In any case he was in the hall one day and broke up a fight. He asked the boy who started the fight what his name was. When the boy answered he asked if he had a brother named something or other. The boy said, “yeah, what’s it to ya?” Fonzy said, “I saved your brothers life once.” The kid said, “Yeah, how’d you do that?” Fonzy replied, “I quit hittin’ ‘im.” The boy’s reply “Oh! Your that Fonzerelli?” That’s mercy.
“ Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Blessed are those whose mind and heart are controlled by God, and who refuse to dwell on sinful and impure things.
“Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” There certainly is a lot of opportunity to make peace these days with all the violence, crime, war, anger, and rage. Blessed are those who love and work for peace and hate violence and anger.
The next three kind of go together. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” It appears that many, perhaps even most, Christians are not serving Christ to the point that they might offend anyone. The Bible says, “All who live Godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” The only thing we can glean from that is that a lot of us are not living Godly in Christ Jesus. Many of our churches, even mega churches that are serving thousands, are making no disciples and training no one to continue the ministry of Christ. And preachers are preaching messages that are guaranteed not to offend anyone or stretch anyone’s faith or service to God.
The thing is that even the very presence of Jesus offended some. If we are doing the will of God and continuing the ministry of Jesus we should be having the same results.
As we sing our
invitational hymn please allow the Holy Spirit to break your heart and change
your attitudes. Allow Him to give you the Beautiful Attitudes.
Feed My Sheep John 21:1-17
Jesus appeared to His Disciples on several occasions between the time of His resurrection and His assent ion back to heaven. This is the story of the third of those occasions.
It must have been very bewildering to the Apostles; Jesus kept appearing but never staying. His only instructions were to wait until they received power. They had lost their leader, they didn’t know what the future held for them, and they lacked the motivating power of the Holy Spirit.
Seven of them were together on this occasion, no doubt contemplating these questions when Peter spoke up and said, “I don’t know about you guys but I’m going fishing” (My paraphrase). Peter’s situation was somewhat different from the others with the possible exception of James and John. His family owned a fishing business. His life was laid out for him. Others like Matthew, who was a tax collector, could not get their job back.
Life is kind of like a dot-to-dot game. Sometimes you know what the picture id going to be early, other times it becomes clear later. My life was all laid out for me. I was going to be a professional golfer like my father. That fell apart when my parents divorced and I knew that I couldn’t be with my father that much without my mothers stabilizing influence. I decided to go to Nashville and be a star instead. Well God had a different plan in mind. He had a different plan in mind for Peter as well. I believe that God has a plan for all of us; It’s just a matter of us submitting our will to His. Some of you may have plans for the future, or others may have plans for you, but God may have something entirely different in mind.
They fished all night and had the same kind of luck that I often have when I go fishing. They caught nothing. As day dawned they saw a lone figure standing on the shore. The man called out to them, “Have you caught any fish?” “No”, they yelled. He cried out to them again, “Throw the net on the right side of the boat and you’ll catch some.” When they tried it they caught so many that they couldn’t pull the net in. John knew a miracle when he saw one. He said, “It’s the Lord”. When he said that Peter, who was as naked as a Jaybird, grabbed his fishers coat around him and jumped into the sea.
An interesting thing happens in the spiritual realm. Going forward with Christ, and growing spiritually takes much time and is a never-ending process. Going backward on the other hand happens very quickly. Over night Peter had reverted back to his old life. I saw this same thing happen when I was in the North Carolina National Guard. When those citizen soldiers came back for their two days per month training they reverted back to the life they lived when they were on active duty. It was a strange thing to watch. I was a Chaplains Assistant. We shared an office with the lawyers. All those jokers did all day for two days was look at pictures of naked women and talk and joke about them. I know they didn’t do that in their law practice.
When they got to shore with the fish they had caught, Jesus had already started a fire and was cooking some fish. They knew they had been caught in a compromising situation. They certainly were not in Jerusalem waiting for the power to fall on them as they were supposed to. They knew that Jesus would be disappointed in them and were waiting for the hammer to drop.
I’ve always pictured this scene in this manner. The apostles are sitting in a circle around Jesus and Jesus is poking at the fire and turning fish. The apostles are afraid to speak so there is a long deadly silence. Jesus breaks the silence with a question directed at Peter. “Simon son of John”, He says, “Do you love me more than these?” Now what exactly are the these. It could be the other six men, but I don’t think so. Jesus knew that Peter loved Him more than the other guys. I think it is the boat, the net, and the pile of fish. These things represent Peter’s past. They also represent the things of the world. Literally Jesus is asking him, Peter do you love me enough to walk away from the past and follow me, and, do you love me enough to turn away from the things of this world.
Peter answers, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus says, “Feed my lambs.” Now lambs are little sheep. I think Jesus is telling us to spend more time reaching out to little sheep, children. Church experts tell us that the group of children that is coming up will only be 4% Christian. We have to do something about that. Statistically 80% of all people who get saved get saved after 18 years of age. Most churches are spending 80% of their time reaching out to the 20% and 20% of their time reaching out to the 80%. That doesn’t even make sense business wise. We are spending 80% of our time reaching out to our smallest market. And 20% of our time reaching out to our largest market.
More silence. Then Jesus breaks the silence again. “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” Peter is really pricked in his heart, and answers again, “Yes Lord you know that I love you.” Jesus answers, “Then feed my sheep.” More silence. Jesus asks once more. “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter is deeply hurt this time, and answers, “Lord you know all things. You know that I love you.” One more time Jesus says, “Then feed my sheep.”
I’ve heard preachers preach that Jesus asked the question three times in order to force Peter to confess Him three times just as he denied Him three times. That seems a little trite to me for the Lord of Heaven and Earth. No, I think Jesus is really pressing the point home. He is pushing Peter for a lifetime commitment.
Let me ask all of
you. Do you love Jesus? Then care for His lambs. Do you really love Jesus? Then
feed His sheep. Now listen to me. Do you love Jesus with all your heart? Then
feed His sheep. Be willing to walk away from your past, and turn your back on
the things of this world. Don’t be where your not supposed to be. Submit you
will to God’s. Get involved in building the Kingdom.
Revival II Chron. 7-!4
What would you like to do this week? We have a choice. We can have a series of meetings, sing some songs, pray some prayers, hear some sermons, and go home every night feeling good about things, or we can experience a Holy Ghost, heaven sent revival that well last for weeks if not months or even years. I experienced such an event that lasted for three months at a high school in western Kentucky, and led to many students being saved and a morning prayer group growing from 6 or 8 to over 300. A few years ago an evangelist went to a church in Pensacola Florida for a three night meeting and left three years later. So what would you like to see happen here?
There is found in II Chronicles 7-14 a formula for revival. God guaranteed Israel revival if they would be willing to follow it. Charles Finny made the same guarantee in his day, and I believe it will still work for any group of Christians who are willing to follow it today.
It begins, “If my people who are called by my name…” Who are these people who belong to God and are called by His name, Christians right? We tend to look upon revival as a time to reach the lost, but God sees it as a time for His people to be renewed spiritually. I know it’s hard to believe it, but I have a degree in English, and I know that if you put the prefix re on to a word it means “again.” Like the word “renewed” that I just said a moment ago. It means to be made new again, so to be revived a person has to have been vived at least once already.
“If my people, that are called by my name, will humble themselves…” Where are the genuinely humble hearted Christians these days? It is difficult to find a decent church to attend because of the lack of humility of both laity and clergy. The fussing and fighting and back stabbing and power struggles and the liberal unbiblical preaching are turning people away from the church. It’s no wonder that many old line denominations are in general decline, and those denominations that are growing are not keeping up with the population growth. I can’t watch Christian television programming any more because of the tailor made suits and dresses, the big wigs, the gaudy jewelry, and the lavish life styles. Looking at the multimillion dollar homes of these multimillion dollar preachers I can’t find that little itinerate Jewish preacher who didn’t have a place to lay His head anywhere. God help us, somehow we have to find a way to humble ourselves before God and submit to His will.
“And pray…” Do you know that the average time that lay people spend in prayer is 15 minutes a day? How in God’s green earth do we expect God to bless us and to use us to fulfill His will when we give him only 15 minutes out of our day? The average preacher only spends 30 minutes each day in prayer. How in this world can any pastor expect to shoulder the responsibility of oversight of a flock of God’s sheep, spending only 30 minute each day with Him, drawing upon His power. If we are too busy to spend more time with God, then we have to stop doing something. Spending time with God in prayer is more important than anything else in life.
“And seek my face…” At a time when we need God the most, we are seeking him the least. Many churches have dropped both the Sunday evening service and the Midweek Service. If we can’t think of ourselves then think about our children. How can we possibly influence them for Christ when they spend one hour each week in church and more than 20 hours watching television. God help us! What are we doing to our kids?
“And turn from their wicked ways…” This has to be a mistake. Surly to goodness there is no wickedness in the church. The truth is that every wicked thing imaginable has crept into the church. Every year we are hearing of pastors that have fallen into homosexuality, adultery, theft, alcohol, drugs, and pornography. It is estimated that more than 30% of preachers are hooked on internet porn. If these things are this prominent among the clergy how much more prominent must it be among the laity. Brethren we need a time of repentance in sackcloth and ashes. We need to be broken hearted about the sins of the church. The Bridegroom is coming and the Bride isn’t ready. I think we are worshiping idol God’s as well. We have forgotten that “God our God is a jealous God.” We have forgotten that judgment is coming.
Our problem is that we see sin entirely differently than God does. We tend to think that if we haven’t killed anyone for a while or stolen the church offering we are alright. In Proverbs 6:16 there is a list of seven things that God hates and most Christians can’t tell you one of them. I know because I ask people everywhere I go, and only a few have known any one of the seven. The number one thing that God hates is pride.
We have God’s promise
that if we are willing to do these things He will. “Hear us, forgive our sins
and heal our land. I can’t ever remember a time when there was a greater need
for a healing of our land then this present time. As we have an invitation hymn
allow the Holy Spirit to convict you of sin and pour out your heart for your
sins and the sins of the church. Lets allow the Holy Spirit to break us and call
us to repentance, and lets make things right with God.
The Body of Christ I Cor. 12:13, 27
First Corinthians twelve thirteen tells us “we are all baptized into one body”, and verse twenty-seven tells us what that body is, “now you are the body of Christ.” We are placed here on the earth to continue the ministry of Christ, and I believe that God places within each local church the gifts and abilities to do that.
We all have certain natural abilities and talents that we inherit from our parents. It’s in our DNA I guess. We see families that have great musical abilities, everyone in the family plays one or more musical instruments or sings or plays sports or something. I guess the best example of our time is the Manning family for those of you who are football fans. All three of the men in the family were All Americans and Hiesman Trophy candidates. All three have played in the NFL, and the two sons have played on Super bowl championship teams.
Along with those natural abilities God gives us supernatural gifts to enable us to be the living body of Christ. The apostle Paul said, “For me to live is Christ.” Wouldn’t you like to be able to say that, for you to live is Christ? Wouldn’t you like to know that Christ is living in you and through you? For that to happen we must have both the physical and the spiritual attributes for it.
Paul likened it to the human body with all of its many parts. Every thing has to function just as it is supposed to for us to accomplish even the most insignificant task. Just to pick up our coffee cup in the morning requires the finger to send a message to the brain telling it to crook just right so we can grasp that handle. Then the brain sends a message back to do it. Then the whole process begins with the arm and hand until it pours us a drink. If the least thing doesn’t perform as it is supposed to it throws the whole off and we may wind up wearing hot coffee.
The same thing is true of the local church. God places within each church the gifts and skills that are needed to continue the ministry of Christ. If even the smallest gift isn’t working or not working properly it throws everything off and can ruin our ministry.
I like to use the automobile engine as an example. I don’t know a lot about engines but I understand how they work, and I am intrigued by that. It’s amazing how the smallest problem can cause the engine to miss or die altogether. Some years ago we were driving from Minnesota to Tennessee and going through Chicago. You haven’t lived if you haven’t driven through Chicago on the Loop at seventy miles and hour and bumper to bumper. Suddenly the car started missing badly and I could only maintain forty miles an hour. It was a very gut wrenching and dangerous situation. I pulled off at a traffic island service station but they didn’t have a mechanic so we got back on the interstate and started sweating again. After a mile or two more I said, “We have to get off here and get something done about this.” Going into Chicago was the last thing I wanted to do, but we had no choice. I pulled off and found a service station with a mechanic. He the car on his machine and did every thing imaginable. He changed the plugs, plug wires, distributor cap, you name it. Almost three hours later he immerged victoriously, gladly stating, “I found the problem.” Today’s cars don’t have a distributor, but in those days that was a major part of the electrical system. Inside the distributor there was a little condenser with a little wire coming off of it about one or two inches long. That little wire had broken into. One of the smallest things on the car had created total havoc with everything else. The same thing is true in a church. If the smallest part isn’t working, it can create total havoc with the whole church.
There is, found in chapter twelve, a list of gifts given by the Holy Spirit to enable us to do ministry. These are:
Some are mentioned twice and some are found in other lists in the New Testament.
Let me back up just a little to the little gift of helps. I used to wonder what in the world the gift of helps was. I think God taught me what it is with a living illustration. Let me relate that story to you in closing.
The first church, which I pastored, had completed a building program just before I came there. When they tore down the old church they had removed the bell, which had great historical significance. It had come out of the original church of that denomination. Historically it was the oldest church bell in the denomination. A church member, who had moved away by that time, denoted some six hundred dollars to build a bell tower in front of the church on which to display the bell. As many churches do, they decided that they could save money by building a very plain structure, so they spent four hundred on the tower and put two hundred in the church treasury. This they thought would please the donor. They built a plain brick structure with a wooden top and placed the bell on it. They left a rectangular hole in front planning to place a church sign there.
Before the church sign was put in place the donor returned for a visit and his brother brought him by to see what they had done with his money. His comment, “Huh, it looks like an outhouse with a bell on it.” For a fact it did. It looked just like a brick outhouse with a bell on it. Needless to say the people were dismayed, but that’s the way it still was when I came.
In one of the first sermons I preached when I came I preached on the scripture, “You dwell in you ceiled houses and let the house of the Lord lie waste.” And told them if it was in their front yard it would have been finished a year ago, but it’s in God’s front yard and it hasn’t been completed. Well they asked for ideas and I suggested that matching planters be built on each side with evergreen plants placed in them.
A few nights later one of our farmers came over to the parsonage and asked if I would come out and help him dig the holes for the footers for it. He marked off the hole to be dug on each side and I started on one while he did the other. After a while he came over to my side and took over on my hole. I went over to his side to see what he had done and if a hole in the ground can be pretty his hole was beautiful. The walls were perfectly straight up and down. The floor was absolutely flat. He straightened up mine and made it the same as his. On the way back to the parsonage he said, “Brother Vernon I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t call on me to lead in prayer. I just can’t pray out loud.” I said, “Don’t worry about it. We have lots of people who can lead in prayer but we don’t have anyone who can dig a hole like that.”
I think the gift of helps is those people that God places in every church who just know how to do things that the rest of us can’t do.
As we have our
invitation hymn, invite the Holy Spirit to come into your life and give you the
gifts that you need to continue the ministry of Christ, and to be His body alive
in the world.
The Center of The Church Luke 10:27, John 19:17-18
Who knows what the most important thing in Christianity is, the number one thing for us to remember? We’ve got it right there in Luke 10, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. Who knows what the number one thing for the individual Christian is? "Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind." If we stop being transformed we settle for being informed or conformed.
In the beginning religion was God centered. Everything evolved around God. As time went on religion became more man centered as men thought they could take the place of God, thus the tower of Babel.
Later religion became totally man centered, even to the bringing of male and female prostitutes into the temple to indulge in every kind of depravity and lust.
By the time Jesus came on the scene Things had swung in the other direction and Judaism had become leadership centered. The leadership had totally lost contact with the grass roots and had an agenda of their own. They had added to the scriptures what became known as oral tradition, and were seeking worship that belonged to God alone. They blew horns in the streets to let everyone know they were going to pray. They wore special clothes to draw attention to themselves, and they had little concern for the needs of the people they were supposed to be leading. Jesus accused them of "compassing land and sea to make one convert, then making them twice the child of hell that they were. He also called them snakes; white washed seplecures, and hypocrites. They were totally self centered, selfish, hypocrites.
Today the church seems to be going in both directions. The leadership is controlling the old-line denominations, particularly those that have Bishops. Recently the Bishops of the United Methodist Church prepared an open letter to the denomination stating that they and they alone have the power to determine who will be taken into membership in a local church. Thus taking control away from local pastors and church Boards. The leadership has it’s own agenda and has totally lost contact with the grass roots of their denominations.
On the other hand another movement is gaining strength, what is now called "Seeker Sensitive" churches, which means that they are totally man centered. People attend these churches to get their needs met and have little concern for or training in meeting the needs of others. These have become the largest and fastest growing churches in the country. One of the largest of these churches recently admitted that they were making little or no head way in making disciples, and were thinking of changing their entire thrust.
These churches are little more than self help centers preaching a gospel of self esteem, never calling the people to repentance and discipleship, and never preparing them for the second coming of Christ.
It reminds me of the scripture about People heaping to themselves pastors having itching ears in the last days. We have always assumed that that scripture means that the people will hire pastors who will tell them what they want to hear, and that is very likely true, but the opposite may be true also. The passage doesn’t specify if it is referring to the pastors or the people who have the itching ears. I have seen many preachers preach what the people want to hear in order to get the applause and the pats on the back of the people.
As I understand the Bible the Church is supposed to be Christ centered. I presently don’t know any that are. I am sure there must be some somewhere that are, but I am not aware of where they are. I want you to raise your hand here in this church tonight and by so doing say, "I am tired of trying to make God serve me. I want to become a servant. I want to be the very best servant that I can be. I want to serve God better than I ever have before. I want to serve my church better than I ever have before. I want to serve others better than I ever have before. I am going to become a servant and allow God to be God. I am going to make Christ the center of my life, and I am going to do everything in my power to make Christ the center of this church."
Rev. Vernon Thwaites, Rev_barney@adelphia.ne, 05-22-08
How many of you have listened to Paul Harvey news broadcasts. He used to have a little bit that he did in which he said what he would do if he were the devil. One of the things he would do is make the symbol of Easter an egg. We know that the true symbols of Easter are an empty cross and an empty tomb don’t we?
Lets begin our story in an upper room in Jerusalem, on a Thursday evening over two thousand years ago. Jesus and His disciples had gathered there to celebrate the Passover meal. Jesus used this opportunity to institute Communion as we still observe it today, and to teach them a powerful lesson about humility. He also revealed to them, for the first time, that it would be one of them that would betray him. It was a very solemn and unusual evening for them. At the end of the meal they sang a hymn together and left.
They went east of the temple area, crossed the little brook Kidron, and walked about half way up the slopes of the Mt of Olives. There Jesus took Peter, James, and John and leaving the others behind went a little way farther. There He left the three and went along a little farther by himself. Then He poured out, to God, an agonizing prayer, in hopes that what lay ahead might be avoided. Twice he returned to the three finding them asleep. They had failed to support Him even in His greatest hour of need. It kind of makes you wonder if you would do the same doesn’t it? It kind of makes you feel undeserving doesn’t it?
As this was happening a mob came to take Him prisoner. It was dark and there were no lights of any kind there in the garden, so Judas had agreed to reveal which one was Jesus by kissing him. What a way to betray him, with a show of love.
He was taken to the home of the High Priest where a mock trial was conducted, for which they had no authority. They brought forward many witnesses against him, but none of the testimony could be supported by fact. Finally he was asked point blank if he were the Son of God, a fact that he could not and would not deny. He responded that what they said was true. At that they launched into a tirade of rage, tearing their clothes, throwing dust into the air, and they began beating him. This they kept up for the remainder of the night.
They had no authority to pronounce the death sentence, so very early on Friday morning they brought him to Pilots Hall for the Roman Governor to pronounce the death sentence. Pilot questioned him and finding no fault in him sent him to Herod. In both cases Jesus refused to defend himself. Herod sent him back to Pilot who, hoping to appease the mob, had him beaten. After the beating he was brought back before Pilot again. The Jewish leadership refused to be appeased by the beating and cried out for the death penalty. Pilot refused to command the death penalty, but as happens with politicians often, he gave in to the angry mob.
He was then taken to the lower level of Pilots Hall where the soldiers played a game with him called the game of the kings. If you go to Pilots Hall today you will see a stone in the floor with an inscription. It’s covered with plastic now to keep the tourists from wearing it away, but that is the very stone on which Jesus stood while they played their evil game. He was placed on the stone and made to appear as a king. A crown of thorns was made and shoved down on to his head. A robe was thrown around him. He was given a reed for a scepter and then was beaten by it. These were battle hardened roman soldiers who hated Jews. Jerusalem was the worst place in the Empire to be stationed. The Jews were the most rebellious people in the Empire and delighted in killing any soldier who might wonder into the wrong area alone. They gave him a bloody, merciless beating.
Let me see if I can adequately describe what Jesus looked like at this point. His hair was matted with dried and fresh blood. Blood was streaming down his face, a head wound bleeds profusely. His face was swollen so much that his mother would have trouble recognizing him. Chunks of his beard were missing from being pulled out by the roots. His face as purple from the bruising. His clothes were covered with blood and sweat. His back had thirty-nine whelps and gashes in it from the whipping.
At that point they placed the cross upon him and shoved him toward the door. He staggered out the door and turned left toward Calvary. Obviously he didn’t get far until he collapsed under the weight of the cross. Another was forced to carry it on. When they reached the top of the hill called Golgotha he was nailed to the cross and raised into the air. What an awesome sight. It brings a tear to my eyes as I think about what he had said, "And I, if I be lifted up will draw all men unto me."
When the cross slid with a thud into the hole dug for it, it pulled and tore every muscle, tendon and ligament in his upper body. His body began pumping water to his chest area to fight the inflammation and damage. As he hung there bearing my sin and yours it was more even than the Son of God could bear. His heart literally exploded within him. That’s why when the soldier pierced his side both blood and water came out. Just before that happened he cried out with a loud voice, IT IS FINISHED. Archeologists have dug up artifacts with that same Greek phrase on them. They were found to be financial documents. Literally it means, PAID IN FULL. In that moment, when the first drop of blood ran down his arms and dripped onto the ground. He had paid in full the debt for our sins.
After World War II when the British army was in charge of Jerusalem. The British commander, who was a Christian, saw a hill on the northwest side of the old city. It is not a very large hill, but it has two shallow caves in one side of it. It looks very much like a skull. He thought this might be the very hill that Jesus was crucified on. If so, he thought, there will be a garden area near by. He began excavating at the rear of the hill and did indeed find a garden area. The Roman aqueducts for bringing in water are still there. He reasoned that if this were the garden area where Jesus was buried, there would be a tomb nearby. He dug further and found a tomb in one corner of the garden. I have been in that tomb and can tell you that it was originally designed for a family of three, but only one burial spot was completed. Obviously one person had been buried there and it was never used again. It is not one hundred percent sure that this is the tomb of Jesus. As a matter of fact there is another tomb that has been proclaimed to be the correct one. The little Dutch guide who took us through the area told us, "The important thing to remember is that the tomb is empty."
Jesus was placed in the tomb on Friday afternoon between three and six o’clock. The Jewish Sabbath begins on Friday evening at 6 o’clock so it had to be prior to that time. On Sunday morning at sunrise a group of women went to the tomb to continue the burial process. They were met by an angel who informed them that Jesus had risen as He had said that He would.
The important thing for you and I to remember today is that His life, death, burial, and resurrection was planned and lived for us, to set us free from sin and death and hell. He paid the price for us, so that we could go free. If you will accept Jesus as your savior you can be free from the penalty and guilt of sin, and be assured of eternal life.
Rev. Vernon Thwaites, Kentucky USA, Rev_barney@adelphia.net
The Second Coming Matt. 24, Luke 21:25-28
We have no idea when Christ is coming back, but we have a number of signs given in the Bible that are a sure indication, just as surely as leaves growing on a tree indicate that Summer is near. Lets take a look at those.
False Christ’s and prophets: Some years ago I learned that there were some 300 people in the Los Angels area alone that claimed to be Christ. I am aware of at least three internationally known ministers who claim to be Jesus. I get E-mails from prophets on a regular basis. All of them are predicting revival and prosperity. If we are as close to the Second coming of Christ as I believe we are, someone somewhere should be warning us and calling us to repentance. If you read the Old Testament you will see that there was much more negative prophecy than positive yet all these modern prophets say nothing negative. How can they possibly all be true prophets.
Wars and rumors of wars: Whether we realize it or are willing to admit it we have been at war with the Muslim religion for decades and will be as long as they exist. There is no peaceful existence with them. The number of wars worldwide is increasing by one new war each year. That means that if we had 10 wars last year, we will have 11 this year, and 12 next year. Almost daily we hear of the possibility of war somewhere in the world. With new countries obtaining nuclear capability and others constantly seeking it, the possibilities are devastating. At the close of the Cold War half of Russia’s nuclear weapons just disappeared. No one knows where they are. Is that scary or what?
Famine: Famine has been with us so long now that it is not news worthy any longer, but there are still countries where hundreds or thousands of people are dying of starvation every year. Little pot bellied children are still going blind from lack of food.
Pestilence: New outbreaks of virus’s and bacteria are happening every year. AIDS has killed more than 8,000,000 worldwide and there are still some 6,000 new cases every day. In the old days there were only 2 or 3 types of STD’s making the rounds, and only one of them was fatal. Today there are some 20 different STD’s and several of them are fatal.
Earthquakes: Seismologists say that the earth is in a constant tremor somewhere. All of the most devastating earthquakes in history have happened in the last 100 years. Places that have never experienced earthquakes are being hit.
Great sin: The Bible says that because iniquity shall abound the love of many will wax cold. Today we cannot build jails and prisons fast enough to house the criminals. Over crowding of jails and prisons has become a major problem. Drug use and sales have reached epidemic proportions and seems unstoppable. In the Revelation John said that the last days would be marked by murder, theft, sexual immorality, and drugs or the occult. The Greek word there is pharmakia from which we get our word pharmacy, but it can be translated as drugs or the occult, either of which would be appropriate since both are growing rapidly.
Persecution: Christians are being persecuted every day in this country and around the world. Christians have been arrested simply for having a dissenting opinion. Laws have been passed stating that preachers can be arrested for speaking against homosexuality. Christians have been forbidden to speak about Jesus at school or at work. They have been forbidden to have pictures of Jesus or Bibles or anything of a religious nature on their desk or walls. Christians and Christ himself are being mocked in movies and television. God has been thrown out of our schools. A past school superintendent in the Los Angels area said that, "There is no place for God in the public school systems of Los Angels."
Tribulation: There is great tribulation throughout the world. This will continue to increase until during the reign of the antichrist some 2,000,000,000 people will perish. The Bible says that unless those days are shortened no one would survive, not one man, woman, boy or girl.
Destruction by the waves and the sea: The most devastating tidal wave in history hit a few years ago, killing more than 100,000 people. Since that time everyone who lives on a coastline, particularly around the Pacific, has been waiting for the next one, which will surely come.
Darkened sun and moon: This will probably be due to a great increase in volcanic activity.
Stars falling: This will probably be due to an increase in meteor showers. It is not unusual for meteors to strike the earth. I witnessed one myself as a teen in Louisiana.
The sign of the Son of Man in heaven: It is not possible to fully understand this until we see it, but with the advent of satellite TV it is certainly possible for such an event to be witnessed in every nation of the earth simultaneously.
Eating, drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage: I have heard preachers preach this in a literal sense, but I don’t believe that it has anything to do with eating, drinking, marrying or giving in marriage. I think it means that it will be business as usual. No one will be expecting the second greatest event in the history of the world. Jesus said that He would come in a time that we are not expecting it, like a thief in the night.
The gospel preached in all the world: Once again with the advent of satellite TV the gospel can be and IS being sent into every nation of the world. Truly the gospel is being preached in every nation. I have a missionary friend who has a TV station in South America, which is beaming the message of Christ into South, Central, and North America and, part of Europe. Missiologists say that soon there will be at least one Christian church in every nation. I read just last week that one of the little Muslim nations south of Saudi Arabia, which has never allowed Christian churches to exist, has approved the building of one with several others to follow.
How should we react
to these things:
Rev. Vernon Thwaites, Kentucky USA, Rev_barney@adelphia.net