Monday, July 7, 2014

Workshop of Wonders: Imagining with God

Workshop of Wonders: How NOT to Build with God

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Preached by David Kautt
Community Christian Church, Durant, Oklahoma                            
Sunday Morning, July 6, 2014

Matthew 16:13 -18, “When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”  So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

God is the Consummate Builder.  Like me, when I was in high school, some of you fellows may have tried your hand in building a desk, an end table or a lampstand.  And, some of you ladies may be skilled in building in other sorts of ways; using fabric and thread or needles and yarn; or even using clay.  Still others of you may have entered into the huge project of building or rebuilding your own home - that one will change your life, won’t it?

Most of us like to build, in one way or another, and some of us are actually pretty good at it.  But, whatever ability we have in building - we must remember – comes from God.  And, even the best of builders, whoever they may be, well, none of them can compare to God.  He is the Consummate Builder, the Best of the best! 

Maybe you’ve never looked at it this way before, but as Creator, God displays His ability to build. 

When I set out to build the one and only piece of furniture I’ve ever fashioned, I did what every other furniture builder does.  I went to the lumber yard to get the supplies I needed.  I utilized what someone else offered to supply to build my desk… But, did you know that God, when He began to build the heavens and the earth, the galaxies and stars, the birds and fishes, the trees and flowers, the beasts and the bumble bees, He began with NOTHING!  Hebrews 11:3 puts it like this: “the worlds were framed by the word of God… the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible!” 

God, the Consummate Creator, the Best Builder of all, simply spoke, and it was done! 

God also manifests His amazing building abilities in how He has gone about building covenant-connections with people - specific people He selected for His purposes, people like Abraham and Moses and David, and groups of people like the Nation of Israel and the tribe of Judah.  Yes, as Relator, Re-lator, God is the Consummate Covenant-Builder! 

Most important of all, as the text we read a moment ago indicates, God, in His Son Jesus Christ, is all about building His Church!  He is intent on carrying out a New Creation building plan, and His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, through nails – not that He drove, but that were driven through Him, through His hands and feet – God’s Son, Jesus Christ is bringing that plan to a reality! 

God is the Consummate Builder!  Whether it be as Creator, Relator or Savior, He is the Better Builder, who offers a Better Blueprint (His Word) and who always builds using the best – the ONLY true – foundation: His Son, Jesus Christ. 

God is the Consummate Builder, we’ve said that already, two or three times, haven’t we?  But, here’s the amazing part, the ‘It’ll blow you away’ part: God, the Consummate Builder, He wants you and you and me to ‘go into business’ with Him!  His invitation to us, in other words, is for us to come, and build with Him

Now, you’d think, wouldn’t you, that this would be the easy part for us, right?   I mean, after all, He’s the CONSUMMATE Builder! He doesn’t have to go to Lowe’s for nails and 2-bys.  Yes, He’s the Consummate Builder – Better Blueprint, Better Foundation, Better plan – and all of that… 

But, you know me, don’t you?  And, yes, I know you . . . We’re both like that carpenter Jesus described in Matthew Chapter 7. Do you remember the one I’m talking about?

Jesus’ profile of this carpenter – as He read His ‘ad’ in the Jerusalem County Shopper – went something like this:  “He hears these words of mine”.  Jesus says, “This carpenter listens to Me. He hears My instructions on building, but then he goes and does what he wants to do. Instead of using a rock-solid foundation, set and formed, following My instructions, he does his own thing. He starts every one of the homes he builds the very same way – with a sand pile for a foundation.”

Yes – you know me. And, I know you. And whose blue print do we tend to want to follow?

And, you know what Jesus, the Consummate Builder calls that, don’t you?  Foolish!  Foolishly trying to build – without God!

Brothers and sisters, oh, how we need to drive home this one, simple principle as a take-away from Jesus’ words there in Matthew 7.  It relates to building. Believe me, it does.  Here it is:  we learn - we listen to the Consummate Builder – in order to DO what he says!  We read His blue print, this Book, in order to follow it!

Yes, we can build WITH God, or we can build WITHOUT Him!

Take for example, the farmer Jesus told about in Luke chapter 12. This is that parable about the farmer, whose crops went “Eureka!”  One hundred fold-plus…every plant.  In fact his harvest that year was so abundant that he was faced with a dilemma.  “Do I let some of it, maybe even a lot of it, go to waste, because I don’t have a place to store it? Or… do I tear down my smaller barns, and build bigger ones?”

Wouldn’t you like to have that dilemma for once?  But, listen….

According to Jesus, the Master Builder, this was not just an agricultural-strategy moment, a John Deere moment.  No!  This was a test – a spiritual crossroads moment, a Homer Depot moment for this farmer! Was he going to build with God – for God, or, was he going to build just for himself?  You know, Sit back. Relax. Eat. Drink and be merry.  After all, you’ve got more than enough stored away.  You won’t have to work again for years!”

What was God’s one-word assessment of this man’s decision to build – only for himself – and neglect to be rich toward God?

Luke 12:20:  “Fool!  You fool!  Tonight your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have stored up?”

Building WITH God.  What‘s the financial principle that pertains to building WITH God, that Jesus drives home through this parable?  You know it, don’t you?
God prospers us, not for the sake of BIGGER BARN BUILDING, but for the sake of kingdom of God advancing!

Building – without God.  Carpenters sometimes do it.  I can listen to Jesus. After all, I really do like what He has to say!  I can hear His words. But, when it comes to doing them. Well, don’t count on it.  I’ve got my own blue print to follow!

Then there’s the prosperous, those who do well financially – like the farmer in Jesus’ parable. They can be tempted to build without God also, can’t they? Can’t we?

“God, I’ve made it big this time!  Like Peter and his fishing buddies.  This time…what a haul!  I mean the boats are overflowing with fish!  And, You say You want me to leave all of this, and follow You so I can learn to fish for men?!”

Yes, the prosperous can have those spiritual-crossroads moments, when the choice is between building our empires, and building God’ Kingdom!  Which will we choose?

Building with God – or, yes, building WITHOUT Him.  Which will it be?

Did you know that the Church, yes, even this church is or can be torn in these two different directions?  Let me show you what I mean.  The book of Revelation, Chapters 2 and 3 – the 7 churches of Asia Minor.  Yes, they were real, historical congregations, in actual ancient Greco-Roman cities during the life and ministry of the apostle John. And, yet these churches in many ways portray what churches of today are – or can be

For example, there’s the church of Ephesus, addressed in Revelation 2:1-7.  Like with virtually all the rest of the seven churches, Jesus commends this congregation for some good things He observes in it. Hard working, tough on sin and false teachers, persevering. But, there’s one big problem: Verse 4 “you have left your first love.”  “You shall love the LORD your God, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength….”

Undoubtedly, these folks knew that command of Jesus.  But, for whatever reason, they had left it, neglected it.  Left, and forsaken Him!

What kind of church is a church that’s being built that doesn’t have Jesus at the center – as its first love?  Is it one that has the preacher’s name in lights.  Or, one that revolves around a favorite elder or teacher or youth worker? Nothing wrong with honoring those people, especially if they are worthy of honor.  But, listen.  Who’s our FIRST love, really?  Who really IS worthy of honor and adoration?
Are we building with God? Or building a “personality cult”?

How about the churches locate in ancient Pergamos and Thyatira.  Revelation 2:12-17 and 2:18-29.  Once again, Jesus commended them for the good He saw in them. But then He confronted the wrong, and called them to repent.  They were allowing teachers and teachings that permitted and promoted idolatry and sexual immorality into their midst: the doctrine of Balaam, the doctrine of the Nicholaitans, then a prophetess referred to as Jezebel.  What kind of church were the congregations likely to be or become, if they continued to tolerate such things?  Would they be building with God, or without Him?

Do you know the answer?

God – the Consummate Builder. Jesus, the Chief Cornerstone.  What kind of church do they want to build? A pleasure-seeking church?  One whose teaching and teachers are leading people to stray into immorality and idolatry?  The answer is “No!”  God intends to build a pure Church, a spotless Bride, and He intends to use His truth, His Word to do it!

Once again, are we building WITH God?  Or, building a church like the ones at Pergamos or Thyatira?

Move across to Revelation, Chapter 3.  And to what Jesus says about the church in Sardis.  Revelation 3, verses 1-6.  This church, oh my!  Along with the church at Laodicea, this church Jesus has absolutely no word of commendation for it! None!  Why not?  I mean – after all – they had a name – a REPUTATION – for being very much ALIVE.  That was the word around town about them, you know what I mean?  But listen – does anybody here know what it means to just sort of GO – THROUGH – THE – MOTIONS?  Does anybody here understand what it means to PLAY CHURCH? 

Revelation 3, one and two:  “These things says He who has the 7 Spirits of God and the 7 stars:  ‘I know your works, that you have a reputation for being alive – but you are dead!  Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.’”

Listen, my friends – how can a church build with God if it’s on LIFE SUPPORT and the VITAL SIGNS are fading fast?  PLAYING CHURCH – JUST GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS – is NOT – is NOT – what it means to build with God.

Neither is being LUKEWARM – neither hot nor cold.  Remember the church at Laodicea?  Talk about Building WITHOUT God – this church – this MINDSET – on the part of someone who CLAIMS to be a Christian – may be the worst of all.  Revelation 3, verse 17:  It’s the PERFECTLY SELF-SATISFIED Church.
Listen to how this church talks about itself:  “I am rich – I have become wealthy – I DON’T NEED ANYTHING!”

I guess at that church the song, “I Need Thee Every Hour” had been removed from the hymnal!  Building WITHOUT God – is that the kind of church we are?  Are those the kind of Christians I am – or am becoming?

Building WITH God:  Perhaps – as I wrap up this message – I ought to give you the title of it.  Here it is:  Building WITH God – How NOT to Do It!

You want to build WITHOUT God?  Listen – just listen – but never DO what Jesus says!

You want to build WITHOUT God?  Be rich toward yourself – bigger barns and all – but be skimpy with God.

You want to build WITHOUT God?  Those 5 churches of ancient Asia Minor.  Look at them – closely.  Look at Jesus’ words to them – words, by the way, that were meant for EACH, INDIVIDUAL MEMBER – not merely to the group as a mass!  Look at what Jesus says to them – then, ask yourself, “What kind of church MEMBER am I?”  And, remember – Jesus KNOWS what kind of church member each one of us is – He does!

Listen, my Loved Ones – Jesus intends to Build HIS Church – and believe me – nothing – NO ONE – can prevent Him from doing so.  He WILL build HIS Church – HE WILL!

How about if we help Him?  Let’s help Him, shall we?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Building a Marriage that Goes the Distance (Part 3)

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Preached by David Kautt
Community Christian Church, Durant, Oklahoma                         
Sunday morning, June 22, 2014

Proverbs 5:15 – 23, “Drink water from your own cistern,
And running water from your own well.
16 Should your fountains be dispersed abroad,
Streams of water in the streets?
17 Let them be only your own,
And not for strangers with you.
18 Let your fountain be blessed,
And rejoice with the wife of your youth.
19 As a loving deer and a graceful doe,
Let her breasts satisfy you at all times;
And always be enraptured with her love.
20 For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman,
And be embraced in the arms of a seductress?
21 For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord,
And He ponders all his paths.
22 His own iniquities entrap the wicked man,
And he is caught in the cords of his sin.
23 He shall die for lack of instruction,
And in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.

Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.

My wife, Julia, and I recently received a letter from one of our colleagues in ministry – Dennis Rainey, the President of Family Life Today.  If you don’t mind, I’d like to read just two short paragraphs from Mr. Rainey’s letter as we open up our Scripture study today.  Here’s what Brother Rainey says . . .

“Our nation is obsessed with love.  To prove it, all you have to do is look around you at the stores during the months of January and February.  Right?  Valentine’s Day merchandise is everywhere.  Everyone enters marriage with stars in their eyes and a heart full of hope.  Unfortunately, the reality that follows is approximately 40 to 50 percent of marriages today end in divorce.”

If over 41 years of marriage has taught my wife Barbara and I anything, it’s that marriages that go the distance require more than a Valentine’s Day box of chocolates.  Only couples who know Jesus Christ and are following His blueprints truly know the secrets to building a committed, long-lasting love, and a strong marriage.”
For most of the month of June – we have been focused on – learning about the subject of marriage.

Inspired, in part, by the 40-year anniversary celebration of Kent and Mary Pickens, that we enjoyed earlier in the month – and also by the fact that - traditionally June is the month of weddings – we’ve been investigating what God’s Word says not about planning a bigger and better wedding, but what this Book says about building a better marriage – a marriage that goes the distance.

So, let’s take a moment to review, shall we?  What have we learned so far?  Remember?  Marriages that go the distance – they begin with a Better Builder, right?  The Architect of the majestic galaxies – the Engineer behind the intricacies of DNA – the Person behind marriage to begin with – Your Maker – He is the Better Builder!

Marriages that go the distance – they begin with a Better Builder.

Secondly, marriages that go the distance – lasting marriages – utilize a Better Blueprint – they make use of a Better Blueprint!

My friends, there are Blueprints galore for marriage out there, aren’t there?  Believe me – there are - including many that would re-design it and re-define it in ways never planned for or intended by our Maker.  Some, in fact, X-out the word ‘marriage’ altogether.

All of those supposed blueprints are the ‘Views from the View’ – the Views from Whoopie Goldberg and company – views from the View that will hurt you!

This Book – God’s Book – however, contains the Better Blueprint.  Remember?  “This is the Way – THIS is the Way – walk in it!”

Furthermore, a marriage that goes the distance – which, remember – is God’s plan and intention for EVERY marriage!  A marriage that goes the distance must also be BUILT on a Better Foundation – a Better Foundation.

But what foundations are many people using these days?

“HE will make me happy . . .”                                                            “I want HER body . . .”
“I’ve got to get away from home at all costs – so I’ll just get married to whomever is out there!”                                    “We’ll each give our fair share – you know – 50/50 - and it will work.”

A lot of folks think that those kinds of foundations are all you need.  Listen, my friends – I’m here to tell you that none of them – none – will work.  They’re faulty – full of cracks and holes and weak spots.

Marriages that go the distance are built on a Better Foundation.

How did Dennis Rainey put it?  “Marriages that go the distance require MORE than a box of chocolates.  Only couples who KNOW JESUS CHRIST and are following Him – building on Him – truly know the secrets to building a committed, long-lasting love – and a strong marriage.”

A Better Builder – a Better Blueprint – and a Better Foundation – Jesus Christ – these key essentials are where a marriage that goes the distance STARTS.
But, then, from that basis – a man and woman must go further.  A Better Builder – Blueprint and Foundation – is just the beginning.

Next comes the WORK – Yes, I said WORK!  The two of you – side-by-side – always seeking God to help you – accomplish the work of raising up several necessary PILLARS of the long-lasting marriage.

Once again, what are those pillars – the ones we have seen so far?

Pillar # 1 – Exclusivity – Exclusivity.  Solomon said it like this in Proverbs 5 – “Drink water from YOUR OWN cistern – running water from YOUR OWN well.  Should your fountains be dispersed abroad?  And rivers of waters in the streets?”  No!  “Let them be only your own – and not a stranger’s with you.  Let YOUR fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth.”

The Pillar of EXCLUSIVITY – then, there’s the second Pillar – the one I call the HONOR Pillar – the Honor Pillar, and alongside it, the ENCOURAGEMENT pillar.  Marriages that don’t just START OFF well – but that keep going and growing – do so because these pillars are in place – or, are being put in place – through words, actions and attitudes.  The Encouragement Pillar and the Honor Pillar – these two pillars are critical for a marriage to be able to go the distance.

Now, with all that in review – allow me to sort of shift gears with you, by asking you a question:  HOW IS IT – WHY IS IT – that nearly HALF of the marriages – even among Christians – are NOT going the distance?

Well, to me there are a LOT of factors – most of which come back – ultimately – to the fellow in the tuxedo and the gal in the white dress.

But, if I may – I’d like to suggest to you ANOTHER factor you and I may not have considered.  It ‘s one that related to the older, maybe even gray-headed couples pictured on either side of the Bride and Groom in almost all of the wedding photo portfolios I have ever seen. 

What am I talking about here?  I am talking about the POWER – the powerful PILLAR of EXAMPLE – the Pillar of Example.

Last Sunday, I spoke to you Fathers, didn’t I?  Well – here’s another message for us men: 

Fellows, what are our sons going to learn about women – about how to treat their wives and other women – if our life focus is all about SUCCESS – How well I do in the Board Room, in the Bedroom, on the Ball field and with the Billfold?  Yeah, men – if all they see – because SUCCESS is our focus – if all our sons see is you and me with MONEY magazine in one and hand, and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue – in the other hand – what are WE teaching them – about marriage through that kind of example?
One of the HUGE missing ingredients – critical to helping marriages go the distance – is the absence – the virtual absence – of INTENTIONAL TEACHING about marriage – BY PARENTS to their children – in the home.

And, Ladies – don’t think that you’re off the hook on this.  Listen, I know – you’ve got YOUR favorite magazines, too!

While your husband’s out chasing SUCCESS – you’re on a hunt for PERFECTION!
The Perfect BODY – I’ll check out Cosmopolitan and see what it says to get the Perfect BODY.  And then, there’s the need for the perfect living room, kitchen and patio – check out Better Homes and Gardens, right?  How about Perfect CHILDREN?  That means it time to go to Parents Magazine – and for the perfect PERSONALITY – there’s always People magazine, right, Ladies?  All these magazines – sought out by women looking for the way to PERFECTION – and mixing in another guidebook – new on the scene – 50 Shades of Gray!

Ladies – what are YOU teaching your daughters about marriage – about men – about your HUSBAND – through such an example?

The power of THIS pillar of marriage is HUGE!  You don’t think so?  Listen, my friends – the WORLD thinks so – it KNOWS so!  That’s why there are TV commercials every 3 minutes.  That’s why there are slick ads in places like Sports Illustrated and Cosmopolitan!  That’s why there are BILLBOARDS like the ones I read about again last week.

The Ashley Madison Company – Ashley – How is it?  Why is it that that company spent hundreds and thousands of dollars on a billboard campaign around President’s Day – a few months ago – with this one, simple message:  WHO SAID Cheaters NEVER Prosper?  Guess whose photos appeared next to that question on the billboards?  Do the names Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and – yes – Monica Lewinsky’s friend – Bill Clinton – ring any bells?

WHO SAID Cheaters NEVER Prosper?  You know what kind of message – what kind of example those billboards were intended to convey about marriage, don’t you?  And that’s bad, isn’t it?  But, what I’m more concerned – and yes, even convicted by – is the question, “what kind of message, what type of example, is MY treatment of MY wife setting for my children?”  The power – the powerful MARRIAGE PILLAR I call EXAMPLE.  No, fellows – no, Ladies – we CAN’T do anything about the example of our ANCESTORS, but we can set ourselves toward impacting our DESCENDANTS – our children – our grandchildren – and who knows how many generations thereafter – by showing them what it means to build a marriage that will last!

Building a Marriage – what’s the key word again here?  Shall we spell it together?

W – O – R –K.  Building a marriage that goes the distance – it will take work to follow and to set these kinds of godly examples.

Finally, let me quickly point you to two more essential pillars – then, we will close.
Pillar number 5 – pillar # 5 – GRATITUDE – GRATITUDE.

I don’t know if you have this figured out yet, but I am just starting to understand it.  Two of the most important – most powerful words in all the English language – are what two words?  You know them, don’t you?  They are the words, THANK YOU!  THANK YOU!
What are those two words, really?

What they are – my friends – is the simple, satisfying overflow of a grateful heart – a heart, fellows – that looks up above – and, then looks across the table – and says, “I thank God for you…”

“Rejoice!”  That’s how Solomon put it, didn’t he?  “Rejoice – in the wife of your youth!”
Sure, she may look different than she did when she was 21.  But, listen – fellows.  SHE’S the one GOD gave you!  Thank God for her.  Tell HER – you thank God for her!
And, Ladies – the same goes for you.  Yeah, I know – I know – you didn’t figure on him snoring at night, when you said, “I do!” did you?  And you didn’t realize then – what he looks like NOW.  But, listen – HE’S the one God gave you.  He is!  So, Praise God for him – and tell him – tell your husband – that you thank God for him!

Gratitude – regularly expressing just two simple words to each other before God – Every marriage that goes the distance – somewhere – somewhere has those two words written all over it!  And, at the same time – is learning to DELETE words like, “You ALWAYS!” and “You NEVER!”

The Pillar of Gratitude – the Pillar of Example – then, finally – allow me to point you in the direction of the final pillar – the one I call ‘PERSPECTIVE’ – PERSPECTIVE.

What’s the difference – the ultimate difference between a marriage that DOES and DOES NOT go the distance?

To me, the answer to that question comes down to one, simple word – PERSPECTIVE.
Marriages that fail – do so – undoubtedly – for a lot of different reasons.  But somewhere, underneath all the reason and causes – is one critical pillar that’s missing – PERSPECTIVE.

But, what do I mean – when I use this word – PERSPECTIVE?

Proverbs 5:21 – 23 – Read it again with me, will you?

For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord,
And He ponders all his paths.
22 His own iniquities entrap the wicked man,

And he is caught in the cords of his sin.
23 He shall die for lack of instruction,
And in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.

Marriages that come apart – before they reach life’s finish line – I believe – do so – because they are entered into and pursued – with a “Let’s Live Like There’s NO Tomorrow”-kind of perspective.  But, listen – marriages that go the distance – that are going the distance – they don’t look at life and marriage that way!  “You only go around once in life – so go for the gusto!”  “Eat, drink and be merry – for tomorrow we will die!”

Those are the perspectives of marriages that don’t make it!

But marriages that go the distance – husbands and wives who – with God’s help – are seeking to build a marriage that lasts – they are driven by – sobered by – a different perspective – they are pursuing life and building their marriage – in light of ETRERNITY.  They are striving for the kind of marriage Solomon describes here in Proverbs 5 – because they realize that they their lives are always lived – CORAM DEO – before the Face of God – BEFORE THE FACE OF GOD!

In other words, their PERSPECTIVE is different than the Bud-more-foolish Beer commercial slogan!  You see – couples who are seeking to build a lasting marriage – they live their lives and build their marriages in light of the fact that one day – one day – they will have to give an account to God what they did with their lives and with His gifts.

CORAM DEO – Building your marriage with ETERNITY in view – with an ETERNAL perspective.

I began this message with a tidbit from Dennis Rainey – the President of Family Life Today.  I’d like to close with something else that he wrote – that I read recently.  It goes like this:
“The people you choose to let SPEAK INTO YOUR MARRIAGE can have an incredible impact – good or bad – on how you grow as a couple.  My wife Barbara and I had only been married 4 months when I asked my good friend Carl for some advice.  I said, ‘Carl – you have been married 25 years – and you and your wife have 5 children.  What’s the BEST SINGLE PIECE OF ADVICE you can give me – as a young man starting out his marriage?

That’s a great question, isn’t it?  And one that the younger couples in our midst ought to feel comfortable asking those of us who have been married a lot longer.

Now, listen to what Dennis Rainey’s friend, Carl said to him:  “The best advice I can give you is this:  COMMIT TO PRAY WITH AND FOR YOUR SPOUSE – EVERY DAY!’”
Building a Marriage that Goes the Distance – through PRAYER!  You know why, don’t you?

Two reasons – Because you NEED God’s help – His strength – to build that kind of marriage – number one.  And, number two – because it’s hard – in fact, almost impossible – to STAY MAD – very long – against someone WITH whom and FOR whom you are genuinely praying.  You know it, don’t you?  I hope that you do. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Aim Higher!

Aim Higher
Preached by David Kautt
Community Christian Church, Durant, Oklahoma
Sunday morning, June15, 2014

Psalm 127:1 – 5, “Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To sit up late,
To eat the bread of sorrows;
For so He gives His beloved sleep.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

Father’s Day is one of the most important days of the year for me. If you don’t mind, I’d like to tell you why.

First off, it was on Father’s Day – 53 years ago – that my dad announced to the congregation of the First Christian Church of Murfreesboro, Arkansas that my mother had given to him a son, born at 2:02 AM, June 18, 1961. I was that son.

Secondly, for 15 years or more, during our ministry in McKinney, Texas, every Father’s Day, I could count on my dad walking into the church building with my mom in order to hear his son preach. Four Father’s Days ago that all changed. My mother came through the church door for the service, but not my dad. Furthermore, it was the week of that very first Father’s Day without my dad – June 2011 – that God began invading my heart and my emotions – in ways I had never experienced before. Fifty years almost to the day AFTER my FIRST Father’s Day – the day of my birth – God began a huge work of re-birth in me that I’m grateful and humbled to say continues to this very day.
Yes, Father’s Day has very special meaning for me. But not because I’ve been the best of fathers. You can ask any of our six children and Julia, and they’ll set you straight on that one. Nor is Father’s Day important and cherished because my dad was perfect. He wasn’t. I knew that and I think he did as well. Rather, Father’s Day is precious to me because through my father, and through being a father, I am learning just how patient, gracious, gentle and faithful God is towards me.

Yes, for my children’s father, and for my father, there’s an amazing mix of the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly – things to aspire to, imitate and improve upon.  And other things to avoid, turn away from and even overcome!  All of which – I’m learning, 50 years down the road of my own life – all of which are saying to me, “Aim higher!”  “Your dad – in his imperfect and incomplete way – was a father to you. And now you, David Paul Kautt, in your own imperfect and incomplete way, have that very same opportunity with your children.  Aim Higher!  All and all, your dad was a good father. But, don’t settle for just ‘good’ – for ‘good enough.’  No! Aim higher!”

Before we go any further, can I briefly state for you what this Book says about the proper context for fatherhood?  The old adage goes something like this:  “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”  Normally, that adage makes us think of the incredible impact of a mother.  And for good reason, right?

But listen.  In keeping with our Creator’s grand design – not only are mothers intended to by God to be influential, but so are fathers! And yet, in accordance with His plan, that impact, that influence flows out of or is meant by our Creator to flow out of a certain relationship context He set up, He designed.

That relationship context, rooted in God’s amazing creation design, is monogamous, heterosexual marriage, the union of one man and one woman before God in Biblical marriage.  Without sounding too harsh and trying not to demean anyone, especially knowing my own failures, let me just say it this way:  every other relationship context where the term “father” might be used is merely an imitation, a cheap substitute offered up by Satan himself to try to replace the good and perfect plan God set forth for fatherhood back in the Garden of Eden.

With all of that being said, let me invite you to take a look at Psalm 127 and the words of Solomon regarding fatherhood.
“Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.  Unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain,” Solomon continues, “for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows – for so He gives His beloved sleep.”

Almost 28 years ago, with the help of God and my wife, I became a father for the very first time. On Saturday, July 19, 1986 at 10:40 AM, Joel Gregory Kautt made his grand entrance into this world.  And all of a sudden, the stunning reality hit home – that Julia and I had just brought into this world a little person who will spend eternity in either heaven or hell! I’d never set foot on this path before, never walked this road previous to that day. How was I to navigate a proper direction for our little fellow, when I didn’t know how?

My brothers, those of you that are dads like I am – do you recognize, have you come to grips with the fact that the task of being a father is bigger than you are?! “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it…” were Solomon’s wise words regarding the subject. Do you understand what he’s talking about here? And, do you agree?

“Oh! I’m man enough to handle it!  I’ve got what it takes to be the father my children need me to be.”  Do you?!  Are you?!
Listen, my Brothers, if you haven’t stopped to admit it before, now is the time to do so!  Fatherhood is not a man-sized job.  No!  It is a God-sized job! This task – this monumental, eternity-impacting task – is bigger than you are! 

Gut-check Number One: Have you ever stopped and humbly confessed, “I don’t know how?”
Like my father showed me, your children need you to show them what faith is all about.  Do you have ay to show them?  Do I? “God, I don’t know how!”  That’s the first step in accessing God-sized assistance, my brothers!

But, listen.  Admitting there’s a problem isn’t enough, doesn’t go far enough!

You and I must also ask for help!  Like the desperate father described in Mark chapter 9, we must not only take the initial step - the ‘I don’t know how’ step.  We must take the ‘I need your help!’ step also.

“Unless the LORD builds the house . . . Unless the LORD watches over the city…”
The task of being a father is bigger than WE are!  It is!  But God is bigger than that!  He is!  And the help He is more than willing to give us is more than enough.  It is!

There’s a second key truth related to fathering wrapped up in the Holy Spirit’s words to us here in Psalm 127.  And I invite you to zero in on it with me, please.

Here’s what that second key truth is:  Children are a Gift, not an Experiment!  Children are a Gift, not an Experiment!

As Julia and I were attending childbirth classes in preparation for the arrival of baby number 2 – our eldest daughter, Abigail – I remember what a fellow in the class said about children to the rest of us.  Half-joking and half-serious – he stated, ‘Children are kind of like frying pancakes.  The first one or two you throw away because they didn’t turn out so well.”

Throw away children – if ever there was a truer statement made about the status and importance of children in this day and age – that’s it.  Children are an EXPERIMENT – at least, the first one or two are – so, if they don’t turn out so well – just chunk them!
Take a look, my Brothers, at what our Maker – your children’s Maker – has to say instead of that:  (READ:  Psalm 127:3 – 5).

Children are not just an experiment – that – if it fails – you just put them in the garbage!  No!  Children are – not they might eventually become – But God says that children – ARE a gift – a heritage – an inheritance from the LORD.  And the fruit of the womb is His reward.

So, what’s the message – the implication of the message of that important truth about children?

Fatherhood is a God-made opportunity!  Don’t miss out on it!  Fatherhood is a God-made opportunity – Don’t miss out on it!  That’s the implication of the message.

So, how am I to make good on this God-made opportunity?

Let me give you 3 suggestions before we close.  Number one – ask God – remember what we mentioned earlier?  Ask God – to give you a change of mind -= a change of heart attitude regarding your children.  They ARE a blessing!  I didn’t say that!  God did!

They ARE a blessing – not, they might – one day – BECOME a blessing.  No! God says, “They are My gift – My reward – to you!”

Second, ask God to work in you to change your approach to fatherhood.  A lot of men – when it comes to fathering – have this one-sided, and not fully, Biblical viewpoint on the subject:  “I’ll just love my wife – as much as possible and as good as possible – and, then let her – let her love and lead the children!”  I mean, after all, SHE’S the homemaker – she’s the one with the built in sense of nurturing.

Listen, fellows – I understand that mindset.  For way too long, I lived that mindset!  But, then I read Psalm 127, verse 4 – “Like arrows in the hand of a WARRIOR – so are the children of one’s youth”.  And I realized that – those words were the description of a HE-man – a warrior - not a homemaker! 
Because children are a gift, not an experiment – I need to ask God to alter my approach to fathering.  Oh – sure, love your wife well – certainly!  And, praise God for her innate nurturing qualities.  But, listen fellows – you are the one instructed by God to bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).  You are!  I am!

Then, finally, because Children are a blessing – a precious gift from God – and not simply some trial and error-type of experiment – listen, fellows – we must ask God to make clear to us a change in our aim – as fathers.

My Brothers – you’ve heard the conversations – haven’t you – around the water cooler at work – or across the back fence in your neighborhood – the interchange between fathers that goes something like this:  Yeah – yeah – I am pointing my children toward their best career choice – the one where they can make the most money.  Or, I am directing my children toward their highest academic achievement – top rated SAT scores and scholarships from first rank universities – Or, I am guiding my children toward realizing their full athletic potential – and maybe even the fame that goes with it.
Now, all of those aims may sound fine and good – for the here and now.  Big money, a position with big influence – big stardom – these may be o.k., if all you and I are thinking about is the here and the now.

But, remember?  In giving us children – God has given to us a gift – not an experiment and with that gift – those gifts – He has also given to us the huge opportunity to aim them – like arrows in a mighty warrior’s hands – to aim them – with only this life in mind?  No!  He has given them to us to aim them with ETERNITY in mind – to launch them toward Jesus and against the enemy and his kingdom of darkness.

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth . . . “  Do those words sound familiar?

They are the words of Jesus in Matthew 6 – “Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth” – Why?  Because moths and rust destroy and thieves break through and steal.

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven – treasures in heaven”.

My Brothers – take a look – gut check number two – in what direction are you aiming your children?  Treasure on earth?  Or, treasure in heaven?

Where your treasure is – there will your heart be also!

The richest man on earth is not the one who makes it big investing in Wall Street.  No!  The richest man on earth is the man who lays up treasure in heaven by investing in what is eternal – his children’s souls – by pointing them to Jesus!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Building a Marriage that Goes the Distance (Part 2)

Preached by David Kautt
Community Christian Church, Durant, Oklahoma
Sunday morning, June 8, 2014
Proverbs 5:15 – 23, “Drink water from your own cistern,
And running water from your own well.
Should your fountains be dispersed abroad,
Streams of water in the streets?
Let them be only your own,
And not for strangers with you.
Let your fountain be blessed,
And rejoice with the wife of your youth.
As a loving deer and a graceful doe,
Let her breasts satisfy you at all times;
And always be enraptured with her love.
For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman,
And be embraced in the arms of a seductress?
For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord,
And He ponders all his paths.
His own iniquities entrap the wicked man,
And he is caught in the cords of his sin.
He shall die for lack of instruction,
And in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.”
Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”
How many of you took me up on my Chili’s Restaurant Challenge Friday night at 6:30 pm?  I’m sorry to say that my wife and I didn’t make it over there till nearly 7:30 due to some car trouble we had on the way over.  But we did end up making it – finally – and we did enjoy a meal and a time of fun together with each other.  It’s something we all – every married couple here – ought to do together – on a regular basis.
Last Sunday, in order to set the stage for Kent and Mary’s 40th anniversary celebration, I preached a sermon entitled, ““Building a Marriage That Goes the Distance”.  Not knowing all there is to know about Kent and Mary’s life together, nor all there is to know about your marriage, I preached in hopes that what I planned to say would somehow be appropriate and meaningful.  It wasn’t until everything was over last Sunday that I realized just how appropriate it was.
For like in my own marriage – and maybe as is the case in your marriage – there were some times when Kent and Mary thought that a 40-year anniversary would never be reached.
Kent and Mary, thanks for sharing that high point with us!  Thanks for inviting us into the celebration with you.  God knows all of us need examples and illustrations declaring loud and clear “It is possible!”  Building a Marriage That Goes the Distance – “It’s possible!”
Praise God for His grace in Kent and Mary’s life and marriage!  Thank God for the witness – the testimony – their lives and marriage give to that effect!  Praise God!
Building a Marriage That Goes the Distance.  Last time I pointed out to you that that kind of marriage is RARE!  It’s RARE!
And the reasons it is rare are these, remember?  Most marriages make use of any old Builder, any old Blueprint, and any old Foundation.  But not the marriage that goes the distance!  No!  Those who take seriously their vows: “In sickness and in health; in poverty and in wealth; in prosperity and in adversity, till death do us part,” those who do more than mouth those words, but who intend to LIVE by them, do so by seeking a Better Builder.  “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it…”  They do so by consulting a Better Blueprint.  “This! This is the way!  Walk in it.”  And yes, they do so, by utilizing a Better Foundation, the only one God every lays: Jesus Christ. The Rock, Jesus Christ!
But having all these things in one’s favor is just the start, isn’t it?  On that strong, stable foundation, Jesus Christ, a husband and wife must purpose to set up several essential “pillars” in this “Home”, this relationship, this marriage they are building.  In keeping with the guidance of the Better Builder – and abiding by the instructions He has set forth in His Better Blueprint, a husband and wife sets up the pillar of “Exclusivity.”  The pillar of Exclusivity.  Remember?  We talked about it last time. 
Proverbs 5:15ff:  “Drink waters from your own cistern, running waters from your own well.  Let your fountains, your rivers of water, be only your own and not for strangers with you.”
The principle of Holy Jealousy and the Pillar of Exclusivity!  A Marriage That Goes the Distance simply must have it!  It must!
And remember, those that DO, those marriages that are built and bolstered by this pillar of exclusivity – they are safer and certainly they are stronger than those trying to go the distance without it!
Building a Marriage That Goes the Distance.  The Pillar of Exclusivity is a must!
Secondly, to Build a Marriage That Goes the Distance, we must set up and establish yet a second essential pillar.  I call this one the “Honor Pillar.”  The “Honor Pillar.”
The writer of the book of Hebrews put it well, when he simply said, “Marriage should be honored by all people, and the marriage bed kept pure.”
Fellows, how many times a week do you find yourself making jokes about marriage, or even making fun of your wife?  And, ladies, before you think you’re off the hook, whose husband were you putting down the other night, as you and your husband hosted that other couple that are friends of yours?  Ladies – I bet it wasn’t the other woman’s husband!
The Pillar of Honor.  Brothers and sister, do you realize how crucial this pillar is to the strength and success of your marriage?
How many of you have seen the movie “Fireproof” with Kirk Cameron? Do you remember the plot line? Fireman, Caleb Holt – his marriage was burning down right before his eyes.  And as long as his words were laced with anger, bitterness, hatred – you heard him scream at his wife, Katherine – and as long as his actions were selfish things like viewing pornography on his computer, and stashing away for the bigger boat he wanted… as long as his words and his actions sent forth the message to Katherine, “I love MEmore!”, their marriage was going to continue to disintegrate!  And sadly, (you remember) because Caleb didn’t honor her, Katherine went looking for someone who would!
But then what?  Then, Caleb chose, he deliberately decided to honor his wife.  Remember?  He demolished the computer.  There’s an honoring action!  He left a card with the words, “I love you – YOU – more!” in its place.  Those are honoring words.  He humbled himself and admitted how he had failed Katherine and hurt her.  More honoring words!  And then he capped it off with the huge sacrifice:  he took the boat money (several thousand dollars) and used it to buy a hospital bed for Katherine’s invalid mother!  More honoring actions!
Ladies - you who saw the movie - did those words and those sacrificial, unselfish actions do anything as far as Katherine was concerned? Did they affect her?
Remember the scene at the mirror as she put back on her wedding ring? Remember the scene in the bay of the firehouse as she said to Caleb, “If I haven’t told you, Caleb that you’re a good man, you are!” 
The Honor Pillar. Where husbands and wives say AND show their spouses that they love them MORE.  Words like that and the actions that back them up do more to build and strengthen a marriage than almost anything I can think of!  The Honor Pillar – it’s a MUST have – if you and I intend to Build Marriages That Go the Distance!  It is!
There are two additional pillars that go kind of hand in glove with the Honor Pillar that I’d like to introduce to you at this time.  They are the Encouragement Pillar and the Gratitude Pillar.  The Encouragement Pillar and the Gratitude Pillar. 
As you’ve heard me say at least a dozen times already, this sermon series is about Building a Marriage That Goes the Distance.  We’re not looking at Proverbs 5 and Hebrews 13 to come up with suggestions for all the engaged couples in our midst about how to have a Better Wedding! There are already loads of those kinds of books and magazines and websites. No!  Young couples, let me make it clear.   This study is to point you, and all of us moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, to what it takes to make a BetterMarriage. One that will not only enjoy the honeymoon, but one that will humbly praise God for the depth and breadth of meaning behind those “I do’s” and “I wills” 20, 30, 40, even 50 years later!
The Encouragement Pillar and the Gratitude Pillar - set up alongside the Honor Pillar and the Exclusivity Pillar – these Pillars are essential components to Building a Marriage That Goes the Distance!
Let me take a few moments to explain what I mean by the Encouragement Pillar. We’ll come back to the Gratitude Pillar next time.
The Encouragement Pillar.  Athletes tell us that one of the challenges inherent in running a marathon is breaking through and making it past “THE WALL.”  “The Wall.”
I’ve never run a marathon before, but having run some pretty long distances before, I kind of know what the marathoners means by the term, “The Wall.”  Hitting the Wall
You’re there, maybe 5 years into your marriage and she miscarries, maybe for the third time.  You’re there, maybe 15 years into your marriage and Boom! He loses his job.  You’re there, maybe 25-30 years into your lives together and he gets cancer, her mother dies, the nest is now empty, and Boom! You hit the Wall!  “I don’t think we’re going to make it!”  “I’m not sure I’m up to all this or want to continue through all this!”
The Wall. It’s a point in your marriage when your “Hope” fuel tank is just about dry!  The trials and maybe even the turbulence of your life together may have just about done you in!
What do you need?  What does your marriage need?  What does your spouse, the wife of your youth, the man you married in his prime… what does she need?  What does he need?
hope-recharge!  You need, he needs, she needs, your marriage needs - encouragementEncouragement!
The two of you need to get away, like my wife and I did, for a hope-recharge, an encouragement refill, a Weekend to Remember!  Where the two of you can say to each other:  “This, too, shall pass!”  But, even if it doesn’t, God has promised us:  “I will never leave you or forsake you. I am your helper.  Don’t be afraid!”  (Hebrews 13:5-6).
Encouragement.  Because Marriages That Go the Distance – like running a marathon – require endurance.  Because Marriages That Go the Distance may actually get HARDERthe further down the road they go, they need – Listen, my friends – they simply MUST have regular refueling of encouragement and hope, or else what God intends to produce what is PRECIOUS, will actually end up producing what is POISONOUS!
Encouragement.  The Encouragement Pillar.  Can I give you 3 or 4 “Hope Re-Fuelers,” and then we’ll close?  Here they are:  
“Honey, I know this is a hard time, but let’s not forget:  we’re on the same team!”
“My dear, I know that things look pretty hopeless right now, but let’s keep in mind that with God all things are possible.”
And, one more:  “Honey, I know you may not think so right now, but listen to me.  You’re still the best, even if…”

Building a Marriage That Will Go the Distance.

Is it worth it?  Ask Kent and Mary. 

Is it worth it?  Ask Harold and Jane. They reached the 60-year milestone recently. 

Building a Marriage That Will Go the Distance.  It IS worth it!  It IS!