15 February 2004

God's Action

by David Chadwell

What is the nicest thing a person has ever done for you? I would hate to answer that question aloud! So many nice things have been given and done for me, I would hate to single out just one. So many nice things have been done for me, I know I do not remember all of them.

When something really nice is done for me, I have a very real problem. Actually, I have two problems. The first problem: if what is offered to me is much too kind, much too generous, much too thoughtful, I really struggle with accepting the kindness.

Back in the 1960's when I preached for the Senatobia congregation in Senatobia, Mississippi, a Christian friend came to me and said, "Why are you so selfish?" The question astounded me. I muttered back, "I don't know. How am I selfish?" The friend answered by asking another question: "Do you really enjoy doing nice things for other people?'

I knew the answer to that one! I quickly replied, "Certainly!"

He then asked, "Why won't you let others have that feeling when they want to do something for you?" I had not thought about it that way, and obviously I never forgot it.

The second problem I have is found in how do I show gratitude for something I genuinely appreciate. What is the appropriate way to show gratitude?

  1. One person in the Old Testament who knew how wonderfully God blessed him was the psalmist, David.
    1. I am going to ask you to do something with me if you feel comfortable doing this.
      1. Many think David wrote Psalm 118 when he was a king.
      2. In the first four verses and in the last verse, there is a thanksgiving phrase that is repeated five times.
        1. The phrase is, "His mercy endures forever"
        2. We will project the reading on the screen.
        3. Each time that phrase appears, I would like for all of us to say it together out loud in the first 4 verses and in the last verse.
        4. After verse 4, I want to continue reading some sections of the Psalm that do not include that phrase.
        5. However, I ask all of you to join with me by repeating the phrase in the last verse of the Psalm.
      Psalm 118:1-4 O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: because HIS MERCY ENDURETH FOR EVER. Let Israel now say, that HIS MERCY ENDURETH FOR EVER. Let the house of Aaron now say, that HIS MERCY ENDURETH FOR EVER. Let them now that fear the Lord say, that HIS MERCY ENDURETH FOR EVER.
      Psalm 118:5-9 I called upon the Lord in distress: the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? The Lord taketh my part with them that help me: therefore shall I see my desire upon them that hate me. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.
      Psalm 118:19-29 Open to me the gates of righteousness; I shall enter through them, I shall give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; The righteous will enter through it. I shall give thanks to You, for You have answered me, And You have become my salvation. The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone. This is the Lord's doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. O Lord, do save, we beseech You; O Lord, we beseech You, do send prosperity! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord; We have blessed you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, and He has given us light; Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I give thanks to You; You are my God, I extol You. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For HIS MERCY ENDURETH FOR EVER.

  2. In the New Testament, the Christian Paul was deeply appreciative of God's blessings in Jesus Christ.
    1. Listen to Paul's words:
      1 Timothy 1:12-17 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
    2. Paul knew what he was before he believed in Jesus Christ, and Paul knew what God made him after he believed in Jesus Christ.
      1. Before he believed in Jesus Christ, Paul was a devoutly religious person, but a very ungodly religious person.
      2. After he believed in Jesus Christ, Paul through Jesus Christ was truly a servant of the Most High God.
      3. Paul said God patiently, mercifully saved him to prove that in Christ God can save anyone.
    3. How can we say, "Thank you!" to God for the redemption, the forgiveness, and the resurrection God gives us in Christ?


Thanksgiving for Bread
[Bread served.]

Thanksgiving for Cup
[Fruit of the vine served.]

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 15 February 2004

Our Response

by Chris Benjamin

1 Peter 2:2-10

Rockwall Recollections -

As a child on the farmland in Brentwood, weekends and summers were spent building the houses and other structures on the land. I recall the genesis of the old barn from its time as nothing more than a wooden framework rich with the smell of sawdust and construction materials. We used the resources available to us on the land. For a time we even had our own sawmill and made planks from the trees on our land. Using the resources from our 400 acres meant using rocks and stones. Stonework is a common feature of the structures my family built. It is a part of every building – the well house, the garage, the chimneys of houses and the patio walls.

I remember our old rusted metal trailer wagon. We hitched it to the back of the Massey Ferguson and chugged out to a clearing in the woods or to a place near the little canyons that cut through our land. The men would fan out and begin gathering rocks of all sizes and shapes. My father told me that as he would walk along scanning for rocks he would look at all sorts of rocks – some of them moss-covered, some of them rough, some of them slick and smooth, some of them light-colored and others black as coal, some buried deep in the earth and others just standing free as if they had just tumbled off the slide of a cliff. He said that as they gathered the rocks he could begin to see the entire wall formed in his mind. After filling the trailer, they would bring the haul of stones and spread them out at the building site. Like the pieces of the puzzle the rocks are combed through to find the rock that is destined to fit. Nothing is forced to fit. There’s a rock for every part of the wall. And every rock will find its place in the wall – some rocks are . My father has a rock shaped like the state of Arkansas in his rock pile at home. One day it will be a part of a wall. Not right now. But one day he will place it into a wall, or chimney, or walkway – in his own time, in his way.

My father tells me that during the gathering of the stones and in the sorting of the stones there is a subconscious search for the stone. The builder knows it when he sees it. It has the right shape and size; just the right height and width. This stone becomes the cornerstone of the wall or chimney. Dad says that when he finds this stone he can see the whole structure projecting from it. Just by looking at that one stone he can see how every other stone fits and stacks to build the whole structure. You can search for rocks all weekend, but only when you find this one rock can the construction begin. It is the key to the whole project.

Because of God’s mercy and kindness, we have been gathered. He has a vision for us. He has a project in mind and we are the materials for that project. It’s a work of restoration – a new house built on ancient foundations.

God had the entire project in mind when he placed the cornerstone.

What is this project God visualizes? For what purpose and for what project is he gathering us and building us?

One way to express this project/purpose might be – "Making Disciples for Jesus who are Eager to Serve Others."

    • Yesterday the elders of the West-Ark congregation spent time in prayer, study and conversation. Their aim was to discern how we might communicate the mission of this congregation. They affirmed the statement above.
    • They also spent time discerning how we can go about making disciples for Jesus eager to serve others. What sort of values and goals ought to be at the forefront of who we are and what we do?
    • The statement of goals and strategies to put the mission statement into action is ongoing – you will be hearing more about this through the next six months, but today I think we can take a look at some of the encouragement Peter gives us ...

  1. Come to Christ ... (v. 4)
      Christ is the cornerstone of our fellowship and community. We are oriented and supported by him.
      We are being built into a spiritual house by the master builder – God.
      Every member and every ministry of West Ark must be oriented and supported by Jesus Christ. If Christ isn’t cornerstone to all that we do here, then why are we doing it?
  2. Crave pure spiritual milk so that you can grow into the fullness of your salvation (v. 2)
      Christ is the source of our growth and nurture as a church. We don’t just rely on ourselves or one another. We’ve tasted the Lord’s kindness and we recognize that God in Christ is the source we need for spiritual nutrition. "Making disciples" means more than just initiating people into salvation – it also means growing into and living out our salvation. We need the gospel not only at our spiritual birth, but throughout our life.
  3. Offer the spiritual sacrifices that please him because of Jesus Christ. (v. 5)
      We show our appreciation and thanks by offering all that we are to the kind, merciful God whose loves endures forever. Every stone fits into the project. Every piece is important to the building of the spiritual house.
      Everyone here has a gift as part of the body. That gift is for the encouragement of the body and is for serving others. We need to recognize one another’s gifts and encourage one another to use them.
  4. Proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (v. 9)
      We have a message – not about ourselves, but about God who has done so much for us. We have a message about Christ, our Lord, God has chosen him and has done and is doing something wonderful through Christ.
      We have an identity – We know who we are because we know whose we are. We are a chosen people, a holy nation, a royal priesthood. We are chosen and called out – but not for our sake but for the sake of the world.

Why do we do all this? Why does God do it? Because his mercy endures forever! He’s kind and good.

1 Peter 1:3 – Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

  • Out of gratitude to God for what he has made us in Christ, make disciples for Jesus and be eager to serve others.
  • If the first disciple you need to make is yourself, then come to Christ, the living stone. Don’t reject him.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 15 February 2004

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