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Living in a War Zone; Forty Days Kickoff
Scripture: Ephesians 6:10-18
Track 1 of 8 in the Purpose-Driven Life series
Running time: 26 minutes, 24 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, September 11, 2005
1st sermon in an 8-part series.
"Living in a War Zone"
Purposeful Words: A series of Sermons on living a Purpose-Driven life
(Ephesians 6:10-18)
Copyright 2005 G. Charles Sackett

I don't know what you would be tempted to do on your 50th Birthday but for my 50th Birthday I decided I would run a mile for every year old I was. When I decided that I couldn't do that (laughter), I decided I would run ten miles in less than 50 minutes and then I decided I couldn't do that either. So I just decided to have a good morning run and hope it came out okay and I was still breathing at the end of the morning.

I had survived. I was actually standing in front of the bathroom mirror. I was getting ready to go off to class when all of a sudden, I heard something on the television that arrested my attention. I stepped out into the room where we had this little tiny TV set up and I was starring at Tower number One and there was smoke billowing out. I was in absolute unbelief. I had the radio on and they said well, maybe a small private plane had crashed. And then pretty soon it became apparent that was not at all what had happened.

The newspaper version is "The U.S. is Attacked" and the newspaper version sounds something like this. "8:46 a.m. - Tower one; 9:03 a.m. - Tower two; 9:37 - the Pentagon; 10:03 - a plane goes down in Shanksville, PA. 2,752 casualties, which includes 265 passengers; 343 firemen; 23 policemen; 37 from the port authority and 125 at the Pentagon. The 2 NY flights: there were 10 hijackers; 20 crew members and 127 passengers that died. 5 buildings in the World Trade Center collapsed; 4 subway stations were destroyed and an additional 25 buildings were damaged at what we now call Ground Zero." That's the reporter's version. It's what you read in the newspaper.

I'd like you to just sit back and just listen to the poet's version of that day. (Springsteen song - My City in Ruins)

Tomorrow at noon at Disciples of Christ Church here in town there is a special service for the First Responders and you are invited to attend if you have the occasion to do so.

In that moment we went into, what has become known as a war on terror. And since that time everything about us has been just a little bit different.

I flew on an airplane later that week. It was not exactly my best experience. And airports have not been the same since.

We have created a 5 level system whereby we can tell by some color on a chart how dangerous the world might happen to be for us at this moment. We've developed the Department of Homeland Security. We have created the U. S. Patriot Act. We have an Information Awareness Office. We have begun to install cameras in subways. We live in a different world because we consider ourselves to be at war.

Our soldiers are in Afghanistan; they're in Iraq and they are various places around the world where they are doing their best to be able to do battle against an enemy that seems almost impossible to spot, find or deal with.

I tell you all of that because today is 9/11 and it would be remiss for us not to remember. Celebration or no celebration, this one needed to be mentioned.

But I mentioned for a far more important reason than that. Because if you think that the war on terror is significant, then how much more should you think about the war for your soul, for the soul of your family; for your marriage; for your community; for your neighbors? If you don't think that we are currently in another kind of war, let me just read for you a brief excerpt that came out this last week. It concerns a lawsuit against the University of California Educational System, the University System.

"Unless these students choose to take other college prep classes that use text books deemed acceptable by the University of California, these students' applications will, most likely, be denied. The reason - the Christian text books used in several new college prep courses at their high school were considered too religious to be accepted for college entrance credit at the University of California. Six students who attend a school accredited by the Association of Christian Schools International have filed lawsuit against the University of California." according to the Los Angeles Times, August 27, 2005.

Their attorney says, "All viewpoints are perfectly acceptable until they are Christian." He goes on to say, "The University System approves courses and offers its own courses from Buddhist, Jewish, Feminist and other viewpoints. This is picking one viewpoint and banning it for being Christian."

University of California says, "There was no problem with the material facts in the text books. That if the Scripture verses that begin each chapter were removed, the text book would be approved for the science lab course requirement."

Other courses rejected by University of California officials include, Christianity's Influence on American History, Christianity and Morality in American Literature and Special Providence - American Government.

So if you happen to be a Christian, you live in a war zone. And they are out for your life. They want the soul of your children. They want to destroy your marriage. They want to make us live in a world that is radically different than the world that God intended for us to live in.

I read just this morning that there is a Southern Baptist Convention study by their Family Life Committee that estimates 88% of all Christians, all Evangelical Christians leave the faith by the time they're 18 year old and they never return.

He wants your children!

One out of every three new marriages in this country ends in divorce. He wants to destroy your life.

Only one character I know has enjoyed the last week and a half of watching a half million evacuees get transplanted to various places in the country, often not knowing where they are until they step off the plane and that is our enemy, Satan, himself.

Here's the poet's version of the battle that you and I are in.

"A great Sign appeared in Heaven: a Woman dressed all in sunlight, standing on the moon, and crowned with Twelve Stars. She was giving birth to a Child and cried out in the pain of childbirth.

And then another Sign alongside the first: a huge and fiery Dragon! It had seven heads and ten horns, a crown on each of the seven heads. With one flick of its tail it knocked a third of the Stars from the sky and dumped them on earth. The Dragon crouched before the Woman in childbirth, poised to eat up the Child when it came.

The Woman gave birth to a Son who will shepherd all nations with an iron rod. Her Son was seized and placed safely before God on his Throne. The Woman herself escaped to the desert to a place of safety prepared by God, all comfort provided her for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

War broke out in Heaven. Michael and his Angels fought the Dragon. The Dragon and his Angels fought back, but were no match for Michael. They were cleared out of Heaven, not a sign of them left. The great Dragon - ancient Serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, the one who led the whole earth astray - thrown out, and all his

Angels thrown out with him, thrown down to earth. Then I heard a strong voice out of Heaven saying,

Salvation and power are established!

Kingdom of our God, authority of his Messiah!

The Accuser of our brothers and sisters thrown out,

Who accused them day and night before God.

They defeated him through the blood of the Lamb

and the bold word of their witness.

They weren't in love with themselves;

they were willing to die for Christ.

So rejoice, O Heavens, and all who live there,

but doom to earth and sea,

For the Devil's come down on you with both feet;

he's had a great fall;

He's wild and raging with anger,

he hasn't much time and he knows it.

Revelations 12

The poet's version.

Let me give you the newspaper version. It sounds a little less poetic and a lot more straight forward.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

We have a clearly identified enemy. He is the one that Scripture calls the "Accuser", the "Destroyer", the "Father of Lies" and the "Father of Murder". He would love nothing more than to destroy your life. But the writer goes on to tell us to: Therefore put on the full armor of God, (Ephesians 6:13) so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Put on the armor of God. We're going to enter in to 40 Days of Purpose and I know you've heard that before. If you haven't gotten that wind yet, we're having 40 Days of Purpose. It starts next week. We begin with a big "KICK OFF" this afternoon. We will have a simulcast tonight where we will meet together and worship and we will have, we hope, all of us together in this place, having our spirit surged with some kind of spiritual energy to get us excited about committing ourselves to 40 Days of discipling processes. Reading a book, one chapter a day, hearing seven sermons in a row. Can you imagine! Going to a Bible study, either on Sunday morning or in the middle of the week. 40 Days of commitment together to become better disciples because we have an enemy who would destroy us and God said put on my armor. Discipleship is about putting on the armor of God. 40 Days is not a campaign for us to have something to do in the Fall.

If somehow we have not communicated to you the seriousness of this, I'm trying to communicate to you. We're doing 40 Days because we are at war.

If the United States thinks it's important to have a security system; if we think it's important to have a Homeland account; if we think it's important to have an army, how much more significant it is for those who are His disciples to become better disciples. So if you miss a sermon on Sunday morning, you can get it on the website. You can get it from the media center. They will all be recorded. If you happen to miss your small group meeting or your Sunday morning discipleship class, you can come here on Wednesday night and we'll teach the lesson one more time that week so that you can make up the difference. Or, you can go to a women's Bible study one of the mornings. We want you to come. We want you to read your books. We want you to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.

And then look at how he finishes this passage. He says in Ephesians 6:18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests,. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth. . . . Do you hear all the prayer language? He goes all the way to Ephesians 6:20 . . . .Pray, Pray, Pray! Not only do we have an enemy and an armor that we wear. But we have an ally, we have someone who is our resource. We have someone to whom we turn, someone who walks with us. We call him the Holy Spirit and we reach out to God through Him by praying and so, we're asking you to sign up at those sheets. . . . . . . . . so that we cover the next week, every half hour, twenty-four hours a day for seven days with somebody praying about this 40 Day campaign. That means that about 350 of us are going to have to pray for a half an hour this week. Can you do that? Can you find a slot during the day where you can take this half hour break and say, during that half hour, I will pray for 40 Days for Madison Park and for her people.

Wednesday night we're going to have a prayer meeting. Right here, in this building. Now I know you're busy and I know you've already scheduled your weeks. You've got so much stuff going on that it wouldn't surprise me that we only have a little tiny handful here because we're just such busy, busy people. But if you have Wednesday night free, we're going to have a prayer service here, we would love for you to be a part of. I'd love to see the place full of people praying that God would help us in this war.

I'm going to ask you to join me in making a commitment statement. Please only make it if you can. I will read the first line and ask you to read the second one.

"In light of the spiritual war we're engaged in . . . .I commit myself to passionately pursue Jesus and to grow into His likeness."

Now, if I can step out of the preacher mode for a second and become the referee. I don't know if anybody told you we're having a "kick-off" this afternoon. Starts at 3:30. Did anybody mention that? 3:30 this afternoon! By the way, there's going to be a big balloon launch for those of you with children. We'd like to tie your children to a balloon and launch. . . . NO . . . . .(laughter) . . that's not. . . .that wasn't it. We just want a lot of kids there for the balloon launch. That's what it was. The Mayor is supposed to be here unless something gets in the way. We're going to have a ribbon cutting at 3:30.

We're just going to have people touring the building. Some people think this is a nice space. I don't know if you've looked at it yet. But it's a nice "space". God has blessed us tremendously through your generosity and through some really good folks making some good ministry space available. You know, I think, in spite of the fact that I'm really trying to get through on time today, I think we need to stop for a second and just thank God for the blessing of that space.

Lacey, where are you? Would you come up here? She's going to lead us in a doxology. Some of you haven't been around long enough to know the doxology, but those of us who've been in church more than a couple of years ago, we will remember this song as soon as she plays it. Would you join her. . . . . play, sing it, I don't care whether you play it or sing it or both. But lead us in the doxology will you?

Doxology -

The Quincy Area Realtors thought it was a nice building. We have the Pride of Quincy Award. I had the privilege of going and getting it last night, ah, Friday night. Whenever that was. It says, ah, "Pride of Quincy Award - Madison Park Christian Church - On behalf of work done to build, beautify or improve buildings or landmarks for the betterment of the community." I don't know if you've seen that. It was in the paper a couple of times last week. People have been noticing this building. It has gotten somebody's attention.

They even put in the paper how much it cost. (Laughter) at the Realty meeting I told them there were only two things preachers know how to do; talk and take up offerings and they didn't offer to give an offering. (Laughter) I thought in light of the expense, that would have been a nice gesture on their part.

It's a nice building and we ought to take care of it. So I'm going to ask you to join me in making a commitment statement about just being good stewards of the property that God has blessed us with. Okay?

I'll read the first part. You read the second.

"In light of God's generosity. . . . We commit ourselves to be good stewards of God's property."

Having said that I need to say this. It's "space". It's made up of carpet, concrete and steel, a little sweat, a few other things like that. It's "space". It's a building. It's a tool.

This is my cord. You can tell I take good care of it. Those of you who are in construction I want you not to pay any attention to the fact that it's kind of a mess. I've got to tell you a little story quickly because, ah, because, see this part right here.

It's taped back together, sort a (laughter). My wife was trimming the bushes one day. And she said, "Um, I think I cut the cord in two." I was being the kind of husband that is supportive and encouraging and I knew instantly that I was angry and thought, "This is the dumbest thing you could ever do!" (Laughter) But I was trying not to say that and I was trying not to look like that. I'm not sure I succeeded, so I put it back together and I fixed it.

Well, here the other day, um, I was out trimming the bushes. (Laughter) and low-and-behold, as I was coming around the bush. . . .Yep!. . . . You got it! Ah, I haven't even bothered to put it back together yet. A few minutes later, Gail came out and I kind of sheepishly said, "You're not going to believe what I did." "I cut the cord in two." Now my otherwise, quiet, meek wife, is standing on the front porch and in front of God and everybody going. . . . .YES. . . . .YES. . . . .YES! (Lots of laughter) Apparently I didn't do a very good job of disguising that previous disgust. Ah! It's a cord! Now I know how to keep it from getting hurt. Wrap it neatly and hang it in the garage in its appropriate place and leave it there.

And I know how to protect this building. Don't let anybody in it. Don't use it and whatever you do, make sure there's no red Koolaid anywhere allowed inside this building. (Lots of laugher and clapping)

So here's my invitation. Soon as service is over collectively, let's all go get a cup of coffee. Dump it on the carpet and just get it over with. (Laughter) 'Cause frankly, you know it's gonna happen. Right? It's like that first scratch on your car. Once you get that out of the way, then everything is a lot better. You don't mind parking next to somebody so much after that. I'm kidding about the coffee. Just in case you didn't know, that was a joke.

But I am concerned, that we understand that this is a facility to be used. It's a tool. And it's absolutely worthless if we don't use it.

So would you join me in this commitment statement?

"In light of the great need of the world for Jesus. . . . We commit ourselves to use this facility for the ministry for which it was built."

One last thing. Because we are good stewards, and because it was an expensive piece of property and because we are going to use it, there are going to be things that happen. You know that. There's no sense kidding ourselves. Somebody's going to mark a wall. Somebody's going to spill some coffee or something.

Would you join me in recognizing that this is not about "space". It's about people! This is not about material goods. This is about ministry. This is about faith, not a facility.

Would you join me in making one last commitment to make sure that we really do value people?

"In light of God's love for His creation. . . . We commit ourselves to value people over property; ministry over material; friends over facility."

What we're going to do today is not a building dedication. It's an Open House. And it's not about our "space". It's about our people. There will be people in every ministry area because we're not interested in showing them carpet. We're interested in showing them people. We're not interested in showing you how nice a building it is, though we hope that it will attract some people here who will be introduced for the first time to the possibility of meeting a Christian who seems, well, at least reasonably normal. I don't know if football jerseys and ref outfits make you normal, but, we want you here this afternoon.

Because if the community does come, and they've been invited, in multiple ways, we don't want them to come look at concrete and steel. We want them to come look at you. We want them to know that this is about building people. It's about meeting peoples needs. It's about ministering to the soul of a community by way of its people.

This whole building, this whole 40 Day campaign is about one thing. Helping people become passionate about their faith in Jesus Christ. That's what we're asking. Nothing less than a passion for Jesus. That's not a small request. Because what we're asking for is your whole life. Every breath, every moment given to Him in discipleship.

We're going to sing that commitment. Would you join me?