Friday, February 29, 2008

Sunday’s Sermon Outline

Introduction: In the February 19th edition of The Commercial Appeal (the daily newspaper in Memphis), someone wrote the following comment about the tornado at Union University in a letter to the editor:

“It is amazing that a seemingly intelligent man like David Dockery, president of Union University, says that he ‘can point to the overwhelming grace and goodness of our God’ (Feb. 10 article). Really? He should ask himself why it happened in the first place. And where is this ‘overwhelming grace and goodness’?”

I will attempt to answer this man’s two questions.

1. Why did it happen in the first place? There are three possible answers:

a. After Adam and Eve committed their first sin, God cursed the ground (Genesis 3:17). This curse affected all of nature, not just agriculture. Thus, God allows a flawed nature to occasionally cause death and destruction through tornados, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc.

b. God sometimes allows Satan to physically attack people and test their faith, even with a strong wind (Job 1:19). God allows such attacks because He knows that a greater good will eventually come to pass.

c. God sometimes directly afflicts humans with destructive force, as when He sent a great wind in an area of the sea where Jonah was sailing on a ship (Jonah 1:4). God can use such direct action to get the attention of His people and change their direction. He can also take His people from this earth as a result of their disobedience, as with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10).

2. Where is the overwhelming grace and goodness?

After Job suffered and had a confrontation with God, he had a better perspective on life and God, and so did his friends. Job’s friends had thought that such personal suffering is always the result of personal sin (Job 4:7-8). They learned a powerful lesson through Job’s suffering. God “gave Job twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10, NKJV). Seven sons and three daughters had been taken from Job. God gave him seven more sons and three more daughters. Is that twice as much? Yes, he had twice as many children because Job’s original sons and daughters were only temporarily separated from him. He would see them again in heaven. In contrast, Job was given 14,000 more sheep, and he originally had 7,000 sheep. Most of all, God’s grace and goodness are evident in that eternal life cannot be taken from us. In contrast, we can lose our physical lives.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Sunday’s Sermon Outline

Introduction: I heard a great man say that he believed in the separation of church and state but not in the separation of God and government. I agree with that statement. Government has a place in God’s plan.

1. When our government does not clearly, seriously violate God’s laws, we should be subject to that government (Romans 13:1-2).

2. When our government clearly, seriously violates God’s laws, we have three choices:

A. Be subject, but work within the system to change ungodly laws. For instance, we can work to elect godly officials who will appoint godly judges.

B. Engage in non-violent civil disobedience to accelerate change or to maintain a clean conscience and be obedient to God (Acts 4:19-20, 5:29).

C. Overthrow the government. This rebellion should only occur in the most serious cases. For instance, our government does not require abortions; rather, it now only allows them. Thus, Christians in America do not advocate a revolution. In contrast, to require abortions would be much more serious. Obviously, during World War II the government of Adolf Hitler should have been overthrown. In 1776 the men who led the revolution in America said that life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness were "unalienable rights." They said, "Whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it." They overthrew the governing authorities from England.

3. Governments that function under God’s authority have the right to kill (Romans 13:3-4). Rulers are both a terror to evil people (deterrent) and God’s avengers to execute wrath on evil people (justice). Bearing the sword has implications both for capital punishment and just warfare.

4. We should pay taxes to whom they are due (Romans 13:6). Fair taxes are important for social justice.

5. We should recognize the separation of church and state (Romans 13:7). Churches and church officials should speak clearly and publicly about issues that are both political and spiritual, but they should not endorse candidates. Some of the issues dealt with by candidates are not spiritual in nature, and those non-spiritual issues must also be considered by voters. Churches and church officials should only be concerned with spiritual issues in their official public pronouncements. They should not endorse particular candidates. The decision to vote for a particular candidate involves more than that candidate’s stand on spiritual issues, although the candidate’s stand on spiritual issues is the most important consideration.

Conclusion: Government is a God-given institution. It should not be ignored. We should be good stewards of our citizenship and be salt and light in our communities. Government, however, is not a panacea. It will not solve all the spiritual problems in our communities.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

(Click on it to make it bigger.) Damage from Tornado at Union University: Feb. 6, 2008

(Click on it to make it bigger.) Damage from Tornado at Union University: Feb. 6, 2008

(Click on it to make it bigger.) Damage from Tornado at Union University: Feb. 6, 2008

(Click on it to make it bigger.) Damage from Tornado at Union University: Feb. 6, 2008. The Duesner dorm is on the right.

(Click on it to make it bigger.) Damage from Tornado at Union University: Feb. 6, 2008

(Click on it to make it bigger.) Damage at Union University from Tornado: My son's blue Hyundai Santa Fe was barely damaged. Only the passenger side window was broken.

(Click on it to make it bigger.) Damage at Union University from Tornado: My younger son was in the first floor bathroom when the tornado hit. You can see the bathtub in the second floor bathroom in this photo taken on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2008. This building was the Ebersold dorm. The Watters Commons area that collapsed was next to it.

(Click on it to make it bigger.) Damage at Union University: The Roof of Jennings Hall, Feb. 6, 2008

Friday, February 01, 2008

Sunday’s Sermon Outline

Introduction: Many people today think that effective Christian leaders have detailed visions from God and are able to cast their visions well. People who follow such leaders relish having detailed spiritual road maps for the future. Unfortunately, rather than understanding the biblical definition for the word “vision,” such leaders claim to have a new vision from God and use the secular definition—a detailed goal for the future. When the Bible discusses the type of vision that motivates, it always refers to supernatural revelation. Many secular businesses and even schools have "visions" and "vision statements," not supernatural revelation. Many pastors have imported the secular definition and don't understand the biblical definition. If they understood the biblical definition, they would not claim to have a new vision.

1. What We Should Not Do to Determine God’s Will—Look for New Visions

Proverbs 29:18 – “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law” (NASB). This verse is often abused by those who talk about visions. The vision here refers to a detailed prophetic vision of the future that was supernaturally given by God. Such visions always came true. Daniel received such prophetic visions, as did the apostle John on the Isle of Patmos. Jeremiah warned of false prophets who claim to have a vision from God in Jeremiah 23:16: “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; they speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the LORD.’” Another verse that is frequently abused is Joel 2:28: “It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” This verse was quoted in Acts 2:17 by Peter on the Day of Pentecost. Peter translated “after this” from Joel 2:28 as “in the last days” in Acts 2:17. Thus, many people think the direct visions from God will continue until the second coming of Christ, but the verse from Joel was fulfilled during the time that Peter lived. The “last days” does not always refer to the time of the second coming of Christ. Jesus died on the cross in the last days—“at the consummation of the ages” (Hebrews 9:26). The author of Hebrews said that God “in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Hebrews 1:2). The Canon of Scripture is now closed. If people could now receive direct visions from God such as the vision John received on Patmos, then the Canon would not be closed, and we would in fact need notebooks to which we could continually add new visions—new revelations from God. New visions that come directly from God do not exist today. Scripture is sufficient. We now have no need for new visions—new detailed, supernatural, prophetic revelations.

2. What We Should Do to Discern God’s Will—Don’t Conform, Be Transformed

Romans 12:1-2 – “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Paul was writing to Christians here—the “brethren.” The word “prove” in this context means “discern.” Thus, to discern God’s will, Christians must do two things. They must not be conformed to the world, and they must be transformed by the renewing of their minds. Many Christians today have gone to the opposite extreme of the Amish, and they are greatly infected by worldliness. We must allow Scripture to transform our minds like a scalpel in spiritual surgery. Indeed, “the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Conclusion: When an important decision needs to be made, Christians should pray about the issue and carefully analyze the issue using Scriptural principles and renewed minds while not allowing worldly attitudes to affect the decision-making process. The Bible is sufficient to direct us. We do not need any new visions. We can certainly set goals, but we should not define goals as visions. Biblical visions were always direct, supernatural revelations from God.