Wednesday, August 10, 2011

VICTORY OVER VULTURES

Fair Oaks Church
David R. Stokes
Series: What Would Jesus Tweet?
July 31, 2011
Transcript

Victory Over Vultures
Luke 17:31-37; Genesis 15:1-11

When I laid this series out, I communicated with the creative staff and particularly my son-in-law Mike who just sang. He is the leader of the creative arts team and lays out the services. He takes the theme I'll be preaching on and builds a wonderful service around it with the help of all of the other members of the team. I sent him these crisp, concise statements of Jesus that fit in that 140-character window—“WHAT WOULD JESUS TWEET?”

"Have faith in God," was the one for last week. "Render unto Caesar…" was an earlier one, and so forth. I got down to the one today and he wrote me back, "What are we going to do with this? Where are you going with this?" Most of them are pretty apparent. "Have faith in God." You know it's going to be about faith. "Render to Caesar and render to God." It's about patriotism, God, and country, and the balance. But this one was a little bit of a challenge. I sort of let it lay there for a little bit and let the curiosity grow…

The title of the talk this morning is Victory Over Vultures, which may seem to be an unusual title for a talk. Let’s look at the tweet du jour, which is found in Luke, chapter 17. I'm going to read several verses and the context of this is Jesus is talking about a future event that we know as Armageddon, the future event yet to come, the great end-time battle.

Jesus, in describing it, says this, "'On that day no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot's wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.' 'Where, Lord?'" is the question of verse 37. "…they asked." (The disciples.) "He replied, 'Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.'" I sent that to Mike. "This is what I'm going to preach on on the 31st of July: 'Where there is a dead body, there the vultures…'" He wrote back, "Exactly where are you going with this?"

Now the context is of course Armageddon, which is described in Revelation chapter 19, that great end-time battle that is very real, and very much looming in the future. Armageddon is a term we throw onto everything. I've heard the term used for the whole debate about the debt ceiling and the default potential and all of that. But nothing rises to the standard of what will happen, and this is the second coming of Jesus and all the armies of the world railed against him. It will be a time of great carnage, and it says there at the last part of the 19th chapter of Revelation that the vultures will be gathered for the carnage.

In the opening scene of the movie Patton, at the Battle of Kasserine in World War II, there's a scene where the vultures are there preying on the dead bodies of the soldiers. It's a common theme. Vultures are ugly creatures. There are actually several different families of vultures. There are Old World vultures and New World vultures, but the commonality is they're birds of prey, and they feed on carrion. In other words, the dead, putrefying flesh of animals, or in some sad cases, humans.

The acid in their digestive system is so toxic and so strong, that it actually has the power to neutralize the diseases that would normally come from feeding off of putrefying flesh. So they are birds of prey, and the text that Jesus is saying here is actually a pretty common phrase. You know how we would say, "Where there's smoke there's fire"? It's one of those little phrases.

It was a common phrase in most cultures and languages because it was a clear thing. Where there is a dead body, a carcass, there the vultures will gather. Now where am I going with this? Well I want to talk about it in the context of our own lives and how to have victory over these things, and I need to take you back for a little foundational material.

Genesis chapter 15. Turn your Bible there if you have one. I want to read a passage, 11 verses. This is a story of Abram. This is before he becomes Abraham. He's in this period of life where God has already called him and God is continuing to speak to him, showing him things that must boggle his mind. This is certainly the case in Genesis 15.

For us here today, all these centuries later, this is really an important plot point in all of history, because it's a really important point in the chain of spiritual evidence that comes down to us to our day about how God redeems, and how God takes care of us and saves us, and about the principle of faith and sacrifice.

So Abram has had several experiences with his family, and it says in Genesis 15:1: "After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: 'Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.' But Abram said, 'O Sovereign Lord, what can You give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?'" Now God had already promised Abraham he was going to have this progeny, this tremendous seed, and out of his seed would all the nations of the earth be blessed, evidence of the covenant relationship with the Jewish people and the ultimate Messiah.

But by this time… That's in chapter 12. You get to chapter 15 and nothing has happened. He says, "'O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?'" He talks about: "This one of my household; will he inherit and be my heir?" Which would have happened. Verse 4: "Then the word of the Lord came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body…'" "You're going to have a child. A physical child coming from your body will be your heir."

Then God takes him outside and says, "'Look up at the heavens and count the stars, if indeed you can count them.'" Now this is pre-industrial, pre-the civilization as we know it, with incandescent lights, and powerful lights, and the illumination of all that is our modern world. If you've ever gone totally out into the country and totally away from any vestige of civilization and lights, and you see the night sky, it's illuminated much more distinctly and sharply with stars and the wonders of the heavens than it would be even in our area, because it's tempered, our ability to see is tempered by all that is around us, the light that comes from this area.

He says, "Look…if you can count them." Then He says, "'So shall your offspring be.'" He's going to have a bunch of kids. Verse 6 is one of the most important verses in all the Bible. Now you may never have heard it described that way, but it truly is, because everything flows from it to where we are this morning, to where I am in my spiritual journey and where you are.

"Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness." Abraham believed God. You go to Romans 4, talking about faith, leading to justification by faith in Romans 5, it goes back to this Abram story. Abram believed God, and God put it on his account, accounted it to him for righteousness. This is the Faith principle right there established.

Verse 7: "He also said to him, 'I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.' But Abram said, 'O Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?'" In other words, "All right, you're telling me I'm going to have a progeny. Now you're telling me we're going to take possession of a land."

So this is what the Lord described, this ritual: "'Bring Me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.' Abram brought all these to Him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half." Now what's happening here? What's indicated, what's implied, is an altar, already something that was very present in society, the meeting place of God, this idea of sacrifice. Hebrews tells us that without the shedding of blood there is no remission. This is why Jesus died as the sacrifice for our sins on the cross, a bloody death.

So he has laid on the altar these animals. Then verse 11 says, "Then birds of prey (vultures in other translations) came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away." Now I want you to connect these two thoughts. The tweet today is, "Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather." And here Abram is worshipping God, the principle of the covenant that God has made.

This is a promise that's being made by God to Abram. This is a promise that Abram is making to God that he believes this. The way he believes this is with this altar and this sacrifice, this ritual which is an act of worship. He is laying this down. He's not only laying these animals down, he's laying his own life down in a sense on this altar, saying, "I'm believing You, God. I'm charting my course with You."

While this happens, because of the presence of these dead animals, the presence of death on the altar, the birds of prey swoop in to try to take and partake of the carnage and he has to chase them away. So you have this dynamic where he's worshipping and he's chasing away the vultures. I want to talk to you about that today. I want to talk to you about how that relates to your spiritual journey.

Dietrich Bonheoffer, the German theologian who died in the last days of World War II, part of the Confessing Church, said in his book Cost of Discipleship, "When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die." I don't know if you've ever noticed how often death is used in a positive sense as this process we must go through. Death speaks of separation. Death speaks of putting something behind. "…reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin…" (Romans, chapter 6) "…but alive to God…"

The altar is of course ultimately the cross. "We have an altar…" it says in Hebrews, chapter 13, and that's the cross of Calvary. But in a very real sense, as we worship God, what our worshipping God is about, what our journey is about, is God all the time saying, "I want this of you. I want you to get that out of your life. I want you to go in this direction. Here is My plan." It's this series of choices that we make, and when we make the choice that goes God's way, in a sense we're laying ourselves on this altar, and part of us is dying to the old life and alive to what God wants us to do.

That imagery is in Scripture. Romans 12: "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices…" Sacrifices. That's altar language. "…holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship." The language, and I've quoted this Scripture often, but in Galatians 2, this is how Paul sees his life: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."

In other words, Paul says, "The reason I'm able to do this stuff is because I realize that I'm crucified with Christ. I'm dead to the old me, and I've laid that on the altar. I've made these choices to go God's way. This altar is a place of death that brings forth life. This intersection of covenant and promise and obedience."

In the book of Colossians (we've talked about this), Paul tells them, "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God." Colossians 3:1. "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." Verse 3: "For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ…" You're dead? Yes you were dead in trespasses, in sins; now you're dead, separated, disconnected from the world.

He follows it by saying this: "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." In other words, in a real sense, the spiritual life is rejecting certain things as a lifestyle, embracing the lifestyle God would have, and he calls this "putting to death." Now this is not a legalistic thing. It's not about will power. It's not about beating yourself up. It's not about isolating yourself from all of the vestiges of modernity and civilization. But he says, "Put to death…" He uses that language. "Put to death."

In fact, in the King James it's the word mortify. Mortify. What's the word? Mortician. Mortuary. It's death. So the Christian life is not only about living for God, it's also about death in a very real sense. It's about the death of an old self. Now he goes on to say this in Romans, chapter 8: "Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation, but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live…"

Misdeeds put to death; same language as in Colossians. But here is the key: "By the Spirit." So we don't do this by will power, by legalism, by rules, by beating each other up, by beating ourselves up, we do this by yielding ourselves to the Spirit, and through spiritual power we're able to overcome the things of this flesh and the world. So I place myself on the altar. When God says, "This is the way," and I say, "I want to go that way," and I say yes to God, in a sense I'm putting myself on the altar. I'm alive to Him but I'm dead to the old life.

So when there is death, vultures will gather. "Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will be gathered," Jesus said. What's the dead body? The dead body is the Christian who says, "I'm going to live as a sacrifice to God. I'm going to put to death my old life. Through the Spirit, I'm going to mortify my old life." Because there is that death there, there's the sincere desire of the Christian to live alive to God and dead to the world, and dead to sin, and dead to the Devil, the vultures gather sent by the Evil One, and a lot of our lives are spent chasing them away.

What they want to do is steal, rob, overtake your best intentions of doing what God would have you to do. This is why Paul said this in 1 Corinthians 15: "I die every day—I mean that, brothers—just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus…" Paul said he died every day. I think this is what this means. Every day when he got up he realized he had to make decisions that day along the lines of what God's plan was for his life, and not based on any other values. In a sense he had to remind himself every day that he was dead unto sin, but alive unto God.

If he didn't, he'd be surrendering to the vultures. "Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather." Let me give you some truth about how you can live victorious over certain vultures. Let's talk about vultures that… When you're just open to God, you're letting go, you're laying it all out there, you're vulnerable before God: "Yes, Lord. No to the world. I'm dying to that. I'm saying yes to You." When you do that, and the vultures start to gather, what will happen?

1. The vulture of false teaching. Along the way, one of the things you'll deal with and have to swat away and chase away, is as soon as you have come to a place of clarity, inevitably there'll be something or someone that will try to twist your thinking away from what brought you to that place of obedience to God. Sometimes it's theological; sometimes it's secular.

There's a lot of bad theology out there. There are a lot of people who have twisted views of Scripture, who superimpose all kinds of stuff. I'll never cease to be amazed, and I've seen this happen time and again, where people get saved and God starts doing something in their lives. They lay stuff on the altar and they're an open book. "God, use me."

And people in their lives, who had professed to be Christians but never lifted a finger to tell them about Jesus, who didn't even tell them they went to a church, are the first ones to say, "Oh you're going to the wrong church. Oh you're doing it all wrong. Oh you need to have this, you have to have that. You have to have this, you have to have that." Those are vultures. That's not witness.

Sometimes the vultures will be secular, when you'll think, Well it's good advice no matter where it comes from. Not true. The Bible says, "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly…" When you're going to get life advice… I'm not talking about advice on, you know, something benign like, "Is the fish here good at this restaurant?" I'm talking about advice on matters of life. Do you get your advice from people who share your values?

I mean Dr. Phil may be right sometimes, but a broken clock is right twice a day. Does it really come from biblical values? I'm not necessarily picking on him. How's that working for him? I'm not picking on him. But my point is this, that the false teaching sometimes comes in and instead of really selling out to God, you let sort of the things of the world and the way the world thinks about life, and you start thinking on the terms of reason and rationality rather than faith.

"Dear friends…" it says in 1 John, "…do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood." So you have to try the spirits, or test them.

2. The vulture of trouble or persecution. I mean seriously, a lot of people think that when you make a spiritual breakthrough (and maybe you've had this experience recently), and you're really saying yes to God, that that means everything should free up. Well there'll be a freeing, there'll be a release, and a relief that comes in your heart, but that doesn't necessarily mean you're not going to have trouble.

Because see, when you lay your life open to God and say yes, you may be relived and you may be obedient, and there may be a peace of heart and mind, but the vultures are going to circle and you're going to have trouble because the enemy is going to throw everything he can: trouble, persecution, difficulty. That's why Peter says, "Don't think it's strange when fiery trials try you."

So how in the world do you chase away that kind of trouble? This is the cool thing about trouble. Get this now. If you're trying to serve God and pressure comes and trouble comes, here's what you do: You welcome it. It says, "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse." Some years ago, when I was pastoring in Long Island, somebody started a rumor about me that was the most absurd untrue thing that has ever been said about me I think.

It was just a stupid thing but it really bothered me. It bothered me maybe that anybody believed it. It really brought me low. I was visiting with a Christian friend, not a member of my church, but a good Christian friend. He was a golf buddy. "How you doing, Dave?" "I'm a little down," and I described what was going on. I was sort of reaching for this friend to be sort of sympathetic, you know, "Oh poor Dave."

He says, "Praise the Lord!" I was like, "What?" His last name was Buttafuoco so I should have known something was wrong. "Praise the Lord!" I said, "Dan, what in the world are you talking about?" He says, "You must be doing something right, because Satan is out to stop you." And he was absolutely right. That wasn't where I went right at first, but it impacted my thinking.

Trouble, persecution, difficulty, did you ever think about this? Pastor Stokes, do you always welcome it? No! I'm telling you to do it. I don't always do this! I admit that. But I think it's good preaching and I sure need to do it. We all need it. It's difficult. It's counterintuitive. We want to push back, and God says, "Bring it on." Why? Because that's the best way to chase that vulture away, just bring him in nice and close. Oh he scares me. Yeah but see when you're in Christ, and you're obedient to Him, chasing away a big, bad, ugly, carnivorous vulture is easier than swatting a fly in the name of the Lord.

3. Worldly seduction. You're just trying to serve God. You want your values to be right and the world just has all kinds of pleasure stuff and fun stuff. Again I'm not an isolationist; I'm in the world. I like sports, I like entertainment, I like all kinds… But you know those things if you're not careful, they can run your life. So how do you keep it in balance? Keep your vision on Jesus Christ.

The old song says, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace." Karen and I are grandparents. We have seven grandchildren. All of them call me, "Grandpa." I'm Grandpa, which is innovative and creative. I don't know how they came up with that.

For those of us who know the family real well, and a lot of the kids in the church do this, little kids, Karen's name is "Day." All the kids call her, "Day." You say, What's that about? That's because, and it usually works this way, the oldest grandchild (in this case David Vaughan who lives down in Lynchburg; he's 12 years old), sort of gets to pick you know the "Papaw," or the "Pepaw," or the "Mamaw," or "Nana" or whatever it might be, or "Hey you."

All the kids call Floyd White, "Dack." I don't know where "Dack" came from but that's… All of them call you "Dack." My son-in-law calls you "Dack." That's what my grandson calls you, and so I don't know. Mary, do you call him "Dack?" No. Good. That's a good thing. But I'm "Grandpa," and Karen is "Day." Where does that come from?

Well when David was real little, as he was learning to pronounce certain phonetics, Karen would talk to me, "Dave! Dave!" That's my name. She doesn't call me, "Pastor," or "Reverend," you know. "Dave!" And I'd answer it. He started to associate D-A, long A, that phonetic sound, with her, and began to think she was "Day," because that was the phrase coming out her mouth. "Dave, take out the garbage! Dave, you didn't take out the garbage! Dave, there are vultures on the garbage! Dave…" You know, whatever. So "Day," which is cute.

So she went with it. Now her email is daystokes, and she's "Day," and a lot of the little kids around here call her "Day." Now if I'm standing by myself in a room and one of my grandkids walks in, "Grandpa!" and they'll run over and jump up, and you know high-five, and "Down low and too slow" and all kinds of cool stuff.

But if I'm standing here and "Day" is standing there, I'm not like the moon; I'm like one of the moons of Saturn. I am so off the charts they don't even know I'm there. They'll just run right by me, never see, and embrace her. I'll try to talk to them and they're still talking to her. It's evil. She's a cult leader with my grandchildren.

"You want some Kool-Aid?" and so forth. I mean that's her. And she delights in doing that. She almost gets this, "Muhaha! I have another one!" Because when they're really young sometimes they actually like me you know, and they'll crawl up on me, but she's like, "Oh it's just a matter of time and I'll have them," you know. And sure enough, they go over to the dark side, or the "Day" side as the case may be.

In a sense, that's the way we ought to be with the Lord. If the Lord was as fascinating to us, and the kingdom of God was as fascinating to us as it ought to be, and all the things related to the kingdom of God, then everything else would pale in comparison, wouldn't exist, wouldn't even be on our radar. If you're on the altar saying, "God, I want to be used," and the vulture comes, and here's the world promising you all of this it cannot deliver, but it's right here, and the problem is, it's right here but God is far away. You have to begin to think by faith.

Listen to what it says in 1 John: "…everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith." Faith overcomes the world. What does this mean? What is faith? Well we said, "Conviction based on revelation that leads to action," last week, but according to Hebrews 11:1: "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." You see the invisible.

Moses was able to do what he did, endured affliction with the people of God, how? Seeing Him who was invisible. Faith is when you see what nobody else can see. When you see God, and you see the kingdom of God, and the things of God, and the Word of God, so clearly and so closely, then you can't see the lights of this world and its seduction.

4. Fear. That's a vulture. Some people are just afraid. All kinds of fear. Phobias. I want to talk about one in particular this morning and that's the fear of serving God, the fear of obeying God. Some people are afraid they'll never keep their commitment. Some people are afraid they're going to get hurt. I want you to know something: It's fear that keeps people from making the right choices.

Have you ever wondered when you get to the end of the Bible, and you start reading the list of people who don't get to heaven, who are in hell, you know, whore mongers, idolaters, did you ever notice that in the list is the fearful? Why would that be a sin? Because people let their fears keep them from stepping out by faith and taking God at His word. It is fear that keeps people from getting saved, and I'm here to tell you it is fear many times that'll keep you from that next step in your spiritual journey, that next little thing or that next big thing God is calling you to do.

Let me ask you a question: Would you rather walk by sight and know for sure what is 10 steps ahead but be going in the way God doesn't want you to go, or would you rather not know the next 10 steps that are ahead but know that's the direction God wants you to go and He's going to hold your hand into that future? Who inhabits the future, my friends? Who stands outside of time and inhabits eternity according to Isaiah? It is God. Chase away that vulture of fear. "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made in perfect love. We love because He first loved us." What else?

5. Guilt. When you start getting things straightened out with God, the accuser… I messed up. God can't use me. God can't forgive me. You don't know what happened back then. You don't know the mistakes I've made. Listen, I understand what that is, but that's irrelevant now. Don't let the past paralyze your present. Take it before God, confess it, repent of it, forsake it, put it on the altar, be an open book before God, and say, "God, I want You to take my life where it is now."

Moses murdered a guy when he was 40, and it wasn't until he was 80 that he really got things straightened out enough for God to use him. But he finally did, and in the next 40 years he changed history. No matter where you are in your life, don't let guilt… Take that guilt to grace. The vultures will come and say, "You're a wretch. There is no way God can use you. There is no way you can be a help to anyone." No, God is in the business of grace.

Listen to this: "The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." You can find true north and true south polar in this world, but not in the east and the west. It's illusive. It continues. That's as far from us as God removes our sins.

6. The vulture of anger. This one really gets a lot of people. Maybe some of the other vultures you swat away, but anger sort of sticks with you, because anger is so self-justifying. Especially if we feel justified being angry about something. But anger is a nonstarter, my friends. It's a terrible toxin. I have a piece out at townhall.com. It was out this weekend, entitled Anders Breivik (the Norway shooter) Is No Christian Fundamentalist. I was upset that he kept being labeled as a Christian fundamentalist.

I actually read the entire 1,568-page manifesto word for word, and there's no Christian fundamentalism in there. There's no Christian anything in there. And the stands he even talks about, spiritual issues, are so far removed from any evangelical or fundamentalist. I came from a fundamentalist background so I can speak to this. I departed from a lot of the stuff. You know, we couldn't go to movies; we couldn't swim with people of the opposite sex. They called it "mixed bathing," which I always thought was a weird thing to call it. We dressed like the Amish.

I've rejected that stuff, but I'm grateful for the doctrinal founding I got. This column talks about that. But I have to tell you also, I've been around conservative Christians all my life, and I will say this: There is far too much anger about a lot of things in conservative Christianity—politics, church, methodology, theology. I mean it's one thing to hold a conviction, but there are a lot of Christians who are just mad at everything and everybody. They're just mad at it all, not realizing that the wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God. The servant of the Lord must not strive.

"Get rid of all anger," Paul says. "…all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." The book I wrote, which I don't talk much about here, is the story of a pastor who had a lot of gifts, but I believe he was consumed with anger, and because of that anger it acted out and he killed a guy.

In that strain of Christianity, that ultra-fundamentalist strain, there's a lot of good stuff, a lot of solid teaching about biblical truth. I'm grateful I got drilled into me the Word of God, but also there was a lot of meanness. And if that's not checked and repented of, that will work itself out in some very ungodly ways.

This is why a lot of kids who grow up in orthodox homes don't stay in church, because their parents were angry Christians. The Bible says, "Parents, provoke not your children to anger, but raise them up in the nurture and the admonition…" There has to be a loving environment. That's what I love about our church. We love kids at this church. Kids just rule this church. They can run around and do all kinds of stuff in this church. Why? Because they're the next generation. Thank God for that. And that's the way it ought to be.

7. Discouragement is a vulture. I must hasten. I don't have time to develop a story, but there was a time in David the King's life, before he was king, when he was greatly discouraged, almost at the end of his rope. It says this: "And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him…" This is the old King James. "…because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God."

There are times that people will be there to encourage you. It's nice when they are. It's nice when you can be there to encourage someone else. But understand something: Sometimes you have to encourage yourself in the Lord your God, and remind yourself, "Chase that vulture away that's trying to steal your obedience."

8. Success. A lot of people have let success ruin them, material success, and sometimes a spiritual success. In the book of Deuteronomy it says this: "When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land He has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe His commands, His laws, and His decrees that I am giving you this day."

A lot of people when they get successful, they sort of let up and it's no longer as serious to them. These are vultures. The message is: "Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather." The dead body for our message this morning is the Christian who puts himself before God and says, "I want to die to the world. I want to die to sin. I want to die to the Devil. I want to live to You. I want to separate myself from the old. I want to build a new habit pattern, a new directive, and a new direction in my life."

When you put yourself there open before God, there's a death process that's happening, and the vultures will gather because they want to steal it. They want to pick on it and take it away. And like Abram of old, when you're in that place of covenant and faith, a lot of what you have to do is chase the vultures away. Maybe you've been trying to put yourself before God but you've not learned how to chase those vultures away. I hope I've helped you this morning.