A week and a day ago I was chugging up I-45 and Highway 75 through Texas and Oklahoma in my Oldsmobile, its back end weighed down by a U Haul trailer. I felt like a nomad or a pioneer of old making my way to unknown territory. And now I feel like I am home.

And yet I feel incomplete. I really want my family to be here – and they want to be here – but you understand that and you have made me and my family feel so very welcomed. Even before my arrival a week and a day ago you have welcomed us with your emails and cards. We have prayed with you and for you and shared in your prayer requests and your dreams – and we weren’t even here yet.

So much has occurred so quickly that the last week and a day has seemed like a month and a week. I have even experienced two or three seasons since I have been here – summer, fall, and deer season! It has been sunny and it has been rainy – but as heavy as the rainfall has been, it is nothing compared to the outpouring of God’s blessings. This last week has been a week of blessings. I have been blessed to share this with all of you. Friday was particularly a day of blessings. In less than seven hours I was blessed to find a place to rent here in Fort Smith and sell my house in Lake Jackson [Texas]. [All of it happening simultaneously!] I was at the home of Blake and Colleen Frost with Larry and Donna Roper when my cell phone rang and the good news about a contract on our house came in. My phone kept ringing Friday. Now church, I do believe in a cappella worship, but on Friday my cell phone ring started to sound like praise music! It was a day of good news and blessings – and I got to share it with you!

Since that phone call from the West-Ark elders in September following a congregational meeting when an offer and invitation was made and my family has accepted, we have experienced the work of God’s Spirit to create bonds of love and fellowship. This is what I want to proclaim this morning. The wonderful power of God’s Spirit to create unity and to empower a people to praise and service. I believe in this, not only through experience, but also from God’s word (Numbers 11) ...

16 The Lord said to Moses: "Bring me seventy of Israel's elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with you. 17 I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone.
24 So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the Tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took of the Spirit that was on him and put the Spirit on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again. 26 However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the Tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. 27 A young man ran and told Moses, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp." 28 Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses' aide since youth, spoke up and said, "Moses, my lord, stop them!" 29 But Moses replied, "Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord's people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!"

I have already told you how I have experienced the blessings of God with some recent good things in my life and that I was especially blessed to share it with you. But I also want to proclaim that the blessings and Spirit of the Lord may be experienced in difficult circumstances.

Consider this: An elderly man who cares for his ill wife faces poor health himself. He despairs of being separated from her so he takes her life and then his own. I know that this story sounds very familiar to many of you in the West-Ark church family. I know and you know that this happened here over a year ago. But what you may not know is that this very same event took place in where I lived, in Lake Jackson, just three weeks ago. Horrible tragedies and yet I have witnessed the power of God’s Spirit at work in His people to work in a tragic situation to bring about good. I was so very disturbed the night I heard that one of our members at Lake Jackson, a man with a strong family in our church, had done something like this. I was planning to leave Lake Jackson in two weeks and I wasn’t sure if I was able mentally and spiritually to minister in this serious crisis. So I turned to friends outside our Lake Jackson congregation for support. Among those, I contacted the elders and ministers at West-Ark. I wasn’t sure quite how to explain what happened. I was amazed to learn this congregation had suffered through a similar crisis – and suddenly I no longer felt alone. You were sharing the burden with me and understood. And I thank God for David Chadwell. He was able to share with me his experience as a minister of God in a similar crisis. Without David, I would not have been able to minister as I did to the family at Lake Jackson. God’s spirit is not a limited resource.

I am blessed to be a part of a team (David, Brad, Derrick, Roy, Lynn, Debbie and Myra) and a spiritual community. And regarding David and I, I want you to know that I am not replacing David. I don’t see it that way, neither does David, and we don’t want you to see it that way. I feel like I am part of a team - David and Joyce Chadwell are truly friends. I have been blessed by David this week and I look forward to working alongside him – as well as the other ministers, the elders, and ministry leaders. I know that God’s Spirit is easily shared with all who are baptized into Christ and who receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is unlimited. That’s clear to me as I read the vision of the body of Christ Paul describes in Romans 12 ...

1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. 3For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 9 November 2003

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