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Understanding the Times
By Chuck McCoy
Hillsboro Family Camp Sermon
August 12, 1997
Essentially, what God was warning Israel was, ...
that once you get in the land and get settled and become economically and militarily secure, beware that you don't start thinking that you did it all on your own, and brethren, that's exactly what's happened in the United States since World War II. We wound up on top of the heap and increasingly, God just wasn't necessary. We did it ourselves. And we picked that mindset up by forgetting that lessons of history and the lessons of scripture.

The next generation that heard this went in and conquered the land under Joshua's direction. Look at Judges 2:10, 11: "All that generation also were gathered to their fathers and there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord nor yet the work which he had done for Israel." Their parents conquered the land. One generation later, they don't know the Lord, and they don't know what He's done for Israel. Are we there?

We have young people come to Bible college, a lot of them, and they don't even know the books of the Bible. Guess what one of the earliest lessons is. We start learning the books of the Bible. You can't use tools that you don't know how to handle. I'm very fortunate. I know there are people that have some questions about Bible college and I do, too. But I got hired out there, and they let me teach Bible survey, basic Bible doctrine, Bible evidences, developing a Christian world view, church history, restoration history, and I figure as long as I've got a hold of those things, I can do what I want to. And I'm going to try to do it faithfully.

Judges 2:11 says, "Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and served Baal..." You see, if people don't know the Lord, their spiritual nature's going to be expressed somewhere, and it's coming out in lots of different areas.

Judges 21:25 should strike home, too, as we think about our generation. You remember back in the 1960's, one of the best phrases that we heard (we thought it was best). "Do your own thing, man!" Remember that? "In those days, there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." That's just do your own thing, man.

Israel wanted a kingdom, and they got it, just like the other nations have. Does that say anything about where we get some of our church programs? "I want to be just like everybody else that's got full parking lots!" I'd love to have full parking lots, but if you don't do it by making disciples, you're making something that's about 5 feet wide and one quarter deep.

Well, Israel followed the foolishness of the world, and do you know what happened to them in 586 BC? The Babylonian army moved in on them, destroyed the city of Jerusalem, destroyed their temple, and hauled them off. And the prophet Jeremiah said, shortly before that happened in Jeremiah 2:13, "My people have committed two evils. They have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water."

Sex education, distributing and demonstrating birth control methods and legalized abortions have NOT decreased the teenage morality problem. It's only made it worse. Multi-culturalism has NOT led to increased and better race and culture relations. I really believe, from my sociology background and what I see, that it is bringing on a new wave of tribalism. We're breaking up into our little groups and fighting for control. That's what's going to happen.

Legalized gambling is not paying for schools and highways as promised. Instead it's destroying families and lives. When we elect a president who openly asserts that his character is not an issue, we should not be surprised if controversy and corruption constantly swirl about him.

We've banished God from our education system, our public sector, and we wonder why people have no ethics. We wonder why they have no sense of personal responsibility, no shame when caught, and no fear of the penalties. My brethren, it's because we are increasingly, as a nation, hewing cisterns that can hold no water.

But there is a good way: Jeremiah 6:16 says, "thus says the Lord; stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient path where the good way is and walk in it, and you'll find rest for your souls." And I believe that is good advice for us. Brethren, I want you to know, that we live by what's in our imagination. What do you think Jonah imagined when he went down and bought passage on a ship for the other end of the Mediterranean? God said, "I want you to go to Nineveh. Jonah, you know what the Ninevites are like." I know exactly what Jonah was imagining: Oh, yeah. Those Assyrians! When they capture an army, they sort out 2-300 of those guys while they're still alive and they rip the skin right off their bodies right in front of everybody. They yank the tongues out of their mouth. You know why they did that stuff? To scare everybody that was left so they would be good slaves.

Jonah thought he would just have a nice little cruise off to the other end of the Mediterranean and everything will be great. He didn't want to go to Nineveh. You know where he wound up? Jonah learned a couple of real good lessons, and so can we. There are worse things that can happen to you than whatever happens to you doing God's will. And there are worse places that you can wind up than Nineveh. And strangely, when he got there, they believed him!

I can also prove to you that you live by your imagination. How many of you would like to have a fifty dollar bill right now? If I put a 2x12 plank down this aisle, and I put a fifty dollar bill on the end of it, and I said that if you walk down it without stepping off on either side of it, you can have the $50. I'll bet almost every one of you would try it.

Now, if I took that same plank and I put it 500' in the air on scaffolding, I'll bet at least 95% of you would back off, wouldn't you? You know why? It proves my point. When it's on the ground, failure, stepping off an inch and a half, isn't even a consideration. It doesn't even have a place in your thinking. When it's 500' in the air, all you can think about is failure and falling off. Does that tell you anything about your imagination? These stories about preachers driving around the block because they don't want to go up to somebody's door, what might happen? I have never been insulted or badly treated going up to somebody's door, calling on somebody I didn't know. Never! I've had some people that weren't interested, but my imagination creates all sorts of fears that are not real. How many times in scripture do we read: Don't fear! Don't be afraid! Do not fear! Do you think God's trying to tell us something? Watch your imagination, and don't let it get the best of you! Put truth into your imagination, and then function that way.

A world view is how we view the world. It's the whole thing. I am really tired of people viewing Christianity as just a little compartment. "Okay, I gotta be a Christian, and I've got to do some things on Sunday, and maybe Wednesday night, but it doesn't effect the rest of my life." You've got to die! I am not living this life anymore; Christ is living through me. You know, I think about what's happened in America and all the things we've got. And I've got a lot of nice things, too. I was a musician for several years. I've got a MIDI studio in my basement. I got a lot of nice stuff! You know how often I get to use it? Not very often. Because my number one priority is to be sure I do the best job I can teaching the Word, and I just don't have very much time for most of my recreations. Jesus said, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me." I think I understand what He meant. I'm not the best servant, but I understand there's nothing else I'd rather be doing.

It's imperative to educate people, so that they understand the whole counsel of God. Don't just give them the steps of salvation and let them dangle their feet on the other side of the baptistry and say, "Okay! Let's go find another one!" so we can notch our Bible. Make disciples out of them, so they can teach faithful people, and then they can teach faithful people, and then they can teach faithful people, etc., etc. It's going to take effort; you may have to go back to people's houses week after week after week. You know what else might happen? You might become friends with them! Wouldn't that be terrible?

"I urge you therefore, brethren, that you present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship, and do not be conformed (do not let the world press you into its mold) but be transformed.

The word there is medamorpho [editor unsure of spelling], it the word scientist/biologists get the word metamorphosis from. Do you know what happens between a caterpillar and a butterfly? It sets up a little cocoon and essentially congeals into a bunch of goo. It reforms into a new shape. What's Paul teling us to do? Reform! Let God melt your whole heart and remake it.

Ephesians 4:17-19 says, "I say this, therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding (you get the idea that Paul says a lot of the problem with sin is how you think) excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that's in them, because of the hardness of their heart, and in that condition, they become callous and give themselves over to sensuality."

Robert Frost wrote a poem that you may not have thought about for a while, but I think it fits so well here. You know, Jesus told us there were two roads; there's a narrow road and there's a broad one. Deut. 30:15-20 also talks about the two paths that were laid before Israel. This is a very prevalent theme in scripture as well as the foundation you build on. And the poem went like this:

Two roads diverged in the woods,
And I, I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Is that true for you?

As surely as faith comes by hearing, the faithful Christian life is that which naturally flows from a committed relationship based on submission to the authority of God, our Creator, and an honest recognition of our sin, embracing the redemption offered in Jesus, and a continuing remembrance of these things. And I believe that we walk with Christ and win the lost as we recognize and reject the foolishness of the world and its wisdom, come to know to Lord in His Word, and continually do His will.

I started with the head; I want to end with the heart. I'm sure many of you are familiar with Paul Harvey. He knows how to tell stories well. In Ezekiel 28, there's a picture there of God addressing an earthly ruler, but in the background, you know there's somebody else in mind. Please listen to this and see if it speaks to you:

"About sunset, it happened every Friday evening on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida seacoast, you could see an old man walking, white-haired, bushy eye-browed, slightly bent, one gnarled hand would be gripping the handle of a pail, a large bucket filled with shrimp. There on a broken peer, reddened by the setting sun, the weekly ritual would be re-enacted. At once, the silent twilight sky would become a mass of dancing dots, growing larger. In the distance, screeching calls would become louder. They were seagulls, came from nowhere on the same pilgrimage; to meet an old man. For half an hour or so, the gentleman would stand on the peer, surrounded by fluttering white, till his pail of shrimp was empty. But the gulls would linger for a while. Perhaps one would perch comfortably on the old man's hat, and a certain day gone by would gently come to his mind. Eventually, all the old man's days were past. If the gulls still returned to that spot, perhaps on a Friday evening at sunset, it's not for food, but to pay homage to the secret they shared with a gentle stranger.

Anyone who remembers October of 1942 remembers the day that the World War I air ace, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, was lost at sea. Captain Eddie's mission had been to deliver a message of the utmost importance to General MacArthur. MacArthur was headquartered in New Guinea, and Rickenbacker was given a B-17 and a hand-picked crew to take him there. But there was an unexpected detour which would hurl Captain Eddie into the most harrowing adventure of his life. Somewhere over the South Pacific, the flying fortress became lost beyond the reach of radio. Fuel ran dangerously low, and the men decided to ditch the plane in the ocean. The B-17 stayed afloat just long enough for all aboard to get out. Then slowly the tail of the flying fortress swung up and poised for a split second, and then the ship went down leaving eight men in three rafts and the horizon.

For nearly a month, Captain Eddie and his companions would fight the water and the weather and the scorching sun. They spent many sleepless nights recoiling as giant sharks rammed their rafts. Their largest raft was 9 x 5; the biggest shark ten feet long. But of all their enemies at sea, one proved most formidable - starvation. Eight days out, their rations were long gone or destroyed by the salt water. It would take a miracle to sustain them. And a miracle occurred.

In Captain Eddie's own words, Captain William Cherry, the B-17 pilot "read the service that afternoon, and we finished with a prayer for deliverance and a hymn of praise. There was some talk, but it tapered off in the oppressive heat. With my hat pulled down over my eyes to keep out some of the glare, I dozed off. Something landed on my head. I knew that it was a seagull. I don't know how I knew; I just knew. Everyone else knew, too. No one said a word. But peering out from under my hat brim without moving my head, I could see the expression on their faces. They were staring at the gull. The gull meant food, if I could catch it." And the rest, they say, is history. Captain Eddie caught the gull. Its flesh was eaten; its intestines were used for bait to catch fish. The survivors were sustained and their hopes renewed because a lone seagull, uncharacteristically, hundreds of miles from land, offered itself as a sacrifice.

Well, you know that Captain Eddie made it, and you also now know that he never forgot because every Friday evening about sunset, on a lonely stretch along an eastern Florida seacoast, you could see an old man walking, white-haired, bushy eye-browed, and slightly bent, his bucket filled with shrimp was to feed the gulls, to remember that one which on a day long past gave itself without a struggle, like manna in the wilderness.

Brethren, Jesus came forth, in the midst of all the world's darkness and foolishness, to offer Himself without a struggle for us. And like Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, I can think of no other response than, for the rest of my life, to do what He wants. How about you?

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