Which is healthier, life in the city or life on the farm? Which is better, life in the city or life on the farm? Which is more rewarding, life in the city or life on the farm? Which offers the most meaningful opportunities, life in the city or life on the farm?

I grew up on a farm. For several summers one of my first cousins who lived in Nashville, Tennessee visited for a week. One summer he visited when we were clearing a creek bottom. In years past, the area had been a sloping field that bordered a creek. It had not been used for years, so it was filled with blackberry briars and small trees about four or five inches in circumference. Dad hired a small bulldozer with a huge, heavy disk to knock all the small trees and briars down and cut them up. We had to use axes to cut the roots out and stack everything in the brush piles to be burned.

This was a weeks long project that included a hot, dusty, dry July. We were right in the middle of this project when my cousin came for his visit. The daily routine was to go to the creek bottom very early in the morning and work until mid-afternoon.

The first day my cousin worked about two hours and went to the shade. He was totally unaccustomed to that kind of work. The truth is that it was probably dangerous for him to even try it. About the third day he asked me, "Don't you people ever do anything but work?"

Occasionally my family made visits to Nashville. And, occasionally, I would spend an afternoon with him in Nashville. The city terrified me as much as the country bored him. I felt totally insecure. I was overwhelmed by the realization of how easy it would be for me to get lost. I could not imagine how he found his way around. His world was as strange to me as mine was to him. I was just as out of place in his world as he was in mine.

Which is healthier, better, more rewarding, and offers the best opportunities? That depends on the city, the farm, and the family in question.

  1. There has been one major advantage to life in the country: the rural setting more readily encouraged dependence on God.
    1. A few generations ago, most of our population lived on farms.
      1. In those days people were in control of so little when it came to farming.
      2. Far more was unpredictable than was predictable--the weather; the seasons; how wet or dry it would be; how late spring would come; how early fall would come; how long would harvest weather continue.
      3. Farm life very effectively humbled people--the farm constantly reminded you that you were not in control.
      4. Perhaps farm life still does today, but maybe not to that degree.
        1. Farm tools and machinery today are incredible--and very expensive, but incredible.
        2. But the seasons still remain unpredictable.
    2. In the city we are surrounded by constant reminders of the power and the creativity of people.
      1. Our streets, homes, utilities, conveniences, systems, hospitals, fire stations, businesses, factories, trucking terminals, airports, and sophisticated machinery suggest every moment of the day that we are smart and in control.
      2. Appearances suggest that we can control anything, that we can solve any problem, and that we can fix any situation that needs to be fixed.
      3. Our whole environment constantly impresses us with human intelligence, human ability, and human creativity.
      4. In the city--outside of the "neglected area" steeped in poverty--our environment challenges us to believe that "we can solve any problem."
      5. Even in the poverty stricken, neglected areas of the city, we are still convinced "we" could solve the problems if only "they" and "we" worked together.
    3. In any prosperous city environment, it is too easy to become our own god as we admire, praise, and worship our achievements in science and technology.
      1. In basic ways, people have not changed much.
      2. People have always been drawn to the gods that they made.
      3. Something in all of us seems to yearn to be more powerful than the god we worship.
      4. If we make the god, when we worship it, we are actually trusting our own power and creativity.

  2. In Isaiah 44:13-17, Isaiah writes about Israel's addiction to idolatry.
    1. Were Isaiah writing right now, I think he would have begun his statement in this way.
      1. "Think about this: a man takes a piece of wood, measures it, takes some red chalk, and draws an outline on it."
        1. "Then he shapes the piece of wood with a plane and a compass until the statue looks like a beautiful person."
        2. "Then he takes the statue he made, and sits it in his house to worship."
      2. "Think this situation through from beginning to end."
        1. "The man begins by planting a tree and watching the rains make it grow."
        2. "When it grows big enough, he cuts it down."
        3. "He uses some of the tree for firewood to warm himself and to bake bread."
        4. "He uses some of the wood to make a god, and then falls down before it and worships it."
      3. "He takes half of the wood to build a fire to warm himself and cook his food, and is satisfied; he really enjoyed watching the fire burn as he warmed himself and ate."
      4. "But with the rest of the wood he carves an image."
        1. "Then he bows before that image, worships it, and prays to it."
        2. "As he prays, he says, 'Deliver me, for you are my god."
    2. That entire picture is so foreign to us, so unbelievable to us, so ridiculous to us, that it is difficult for us to believe that anyone would do that."
      1. Worship something that you made with your hands?
      2. Pray to something that you carved from the wood that you cut?
      3. Call a statue that you carved from the same tree that you used to make your fire and cook your food your god?
      4. Ask something you carved to deliver you?
      5. Would you ever consider doing that?

  3. Perhaps we do it everyday and never realize it.
    1. We know about enormous problems that concern us--let me use just two examples.
      1. Likely the single most frightening medical problem in the last decade is the AIDS epidemic.
        1. Basically, a virus destroys a person's immune system so that his or her body cannot fight any form of infection.
        2. Enormous numbers of people world wide are infected with the HIV virus.
        3. Not everyone who has the virus develops AIDS, but thus far, those who develop AIDS have not been cured.
        4. In some cases the disease is arrested, but there is no certain way to know whose case will be arrested and whose will not be.
        5. Continuing treatment is extremely expensive.
      2. The basic reality is this: if you have the virus in a developed country, you have access to the expensive treatment; if you have the virus in a poor third world country, you die.
        1. Our primary cry, our basic concern from the moment the disease was identified was simple: use our incredible technology, invest all necessary money and effort to produce a vaccine or develop a cure.
        2. I fully realize that this is a very complex problem that has many different dimensions to it, and each aspect of the problem is deserving of serious thought and discussion.
        3. The only thing I want you to consider is our basic concern and response: find a vaccine, develop a cure.
    2. On an ABC evening news report this past week, the massive computer problem that could occur in the year 2000 was discussed.
      1. When computers significantly began to enter our work place in the 1960's, the early programmers used a system to identifying dates with a two number code--70 for 1970, 81 for 1981, 95 for 1995.
      2. The computers were not programmed to recognize the numbers 00.
        1. So, unless reprogrammed, computers will think that 00 means the year 1900, not 2000.
        2. The reprogramming project is so massive that it could take years.
        3. Just as an example, the world wide banking industry, our social security system, and our medical system, and all our tax and government service systems are computer dependent.
        4. So there is the possibility when January 1, 2000 arrives that all main computers will think it is 1900.
        5. If true, they cannot function.
      3. Basically, we tend to react to that possibility in this way.
        1. "It can't happen."
        2. Why? "It just cannot--nothing that bad, that massive, with that many serious consequences can happen."
        3. Why? "Technology and science cannot fail us."

  4. For decades we have developed and advanced technology and science.
    1. Things that people could not imagine in 1950 are so common place that we do not even think about them.
      1. Prepare a cooked meal in five minutes in a microwave.
      2. Pick up a telephone, dial a series of numbers, and in seconds talk to someone 10,000 miles away--and they sound like they are next door.
      3. Send a letter by e-mail anywhere in the world in a matter of seconds, and possibly have a reply within ten minutes.
      4. When you walk back into your home this afternoon, just look at all the science and technology that surrounds you.
    2. We brought science and technology into its current status and state of existence.
      1. We have not created anything.
      2. We have just discovered and developed what we discovered.
      3. It feeds us, it warms us or cools us day and night, it treats our sickness, it brings us pleasure and satisfaction.
      4. And it has become our god.
      5. So when we are confronted with the ugly, harsh realities of the health problems created by AIDS, we cry out, "Science and technology, deliver us. You are our god. We made you, we depend on you, and we trust you."
      6. When we think about the potential computer crisis in the year 2000, we cry out, "Science and technology, deliver us. You are our god. We made you, we depend on you, and we trust you."
      7. Except for being better educated and more sophisticated than the man who cooked over the open fire and carved his god out of wood, are we really that much different?
        1. What we have made will save us.
        2. What we have made cannot fail us.
        3. We trust what we made--it is our god that surrounds us, rules us, and protects us.
        4. It must be our god, for we are certain that it cannot fail us.

Bible study classes, religious practices like baptism and communion, and religious traditions like schedules for assembling are to be held in church buildings. For it is in church buildings that we worship our traditional God.

But the real, everyday world god is science and technology. This is the god that makes our world work. This is the god we trust.

Considering the thousands of years that man has walked this earth, one more time, have we as humans become our own god?

Who or what do you worship?
In the reality of your life every day, who or what do you reverence?

What do you honor? What do you praise?
Are you aware that worship involves what you elevate above self?

Do you worship the God who made us? Do you worship the God who loves us even when we abuse Him? Or do you worship yourself, what you have, or what you made?

In God alone is the power of life eternal. Within Him is the power of forgiveness, which He grants when we are baptized into His Son.

I invite you to worship this God.
I invite you to belong to this God.
Begin by giving Him your life.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 4 January 1998

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