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#Dead#Alive#YouChoose

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

As I wrote that title I couldn’t help but think of Bon Jovi’s song Dead or Alive. My sermon this morning was on the postcard to the church at Sardis. I called it “To the Dead Church.”  One of the ideas I tried to stress was that we need to see this letter as more than one sent to a church body, but we also need to apply it to ourselves as individuals.  One of the thoughts during the message was asking the question When is a church dead? The answers are jarring, but I also want to apply them to us as individuals. So, I’m going to put the four answers I gave to that question and then allow you to make the personal application. I have already done that as I prepared; misery loves company so join me! 🙂  When is a church dead?

#1- When it is content to rest on its past laurels.  Many churches have banners and plaques throughout their building which testify of their past. It’s like little Johnny who was being shown through the church building by his father when they came upon a plaque with names. He asked his dad what that was for and his father said, “They are the names of the men and women who died in the service.” He asked, “Which one-morning or evening?” We chuckle but sadly that is way too often true. (Nowadays it is first or second not morning or evening).

#2- When it is more concerned with form than spiritual reality. We make sure we fit into a mold. The pastor can’t speak too long we have things to do, places to go. Besides, we want to beat the other churches to lunch.  This can be especially harrowing in a small town where options are limited. We make sure we have communion, take offering, sing all hymns or no hymns, offer an invitation. Seriously? That shows a church is alive?

#3- When it focuses more on social ills and politics than changing people’s hearts and minds through the life-changing message of Jesus. There is nothing wrong with being socially aware and conscious, but the church does not exist to change the environment. We exist to carry the message of the God’s life-changing message.

#4- When it is more concerned with material things than spiritual things. “Nuff said. When we hired Ryan one of my first words to him were “People over programs.” We have reminded ourselves of that often. Another: “People over buildings.”  We had a dream of an adult worship center but it was cost-prohibitive.  I was so proud of our leadership when they said, “No” to the building and put things on hold.  God made it possible to pay off our mortgage early as well as build the youth addition debt-free.  We are now in the dreaming stage again and will remember the adage: “People over buildings.”

I think you can see how those can apply to individuals. But it is one thing to see; it another to do. Let’s do it! Let’s not be caught in the “Sardis cycle.”

 

#WrongRoad#Weakness

Sunday, October 6th, 2019

This morning (Sunday) I preached on the letter to the church at Thyatira and I approached it from the aspect of tolerance. I’ll state it right off the bat: no matter what our culture says and even what other “churches” tell us, tolerance is never mentioned in Scripture.  Another word some may be more familiar with is Compromise.  I’d like to take this blog space and talk about that a bit.

In the letter to the church at Thyatira Jesus commends them for their works, love, faith, service, patient endurance and that their latter works exceeded the first (I think that means they were maturing and growing and not stagnant). BUT the church was an immoral cesspool (v.20). That “train” was led by a woman He names Jezebel. I seriously doubt that is her real name. I mean…what parent in their right mind would name their daughter Jezebel, or even Delilah? Be that as it may, my research seems to indicate two possibilities she was teaching:

  1. Gnosticism.  Gnosticism taught that the physical universe was evil and the spiritual was good. This led to what is called Dualism. Today is it is seen in those who teach Jesus was not fully human and fully divine.  A popular brand of this is Jesus was human until His baptism when He became divine and then somewhere before His crucifixion He became human again. One of the most prominent teachers of this heresy is the false “apostle” Bill Johnson and those associated with Bethel Church and the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) movement.
  2. Antinomianism. It is a combination of two words: Anti which means “No” and nomian which means “Law.” Hence, No Law. This teaches you can do whatever you want as long as you invoke God’s grace when you are done. This is taught by….just about everyone. I believe God’s forgiveness is complete and His grace covers any sin, but I also believe He wants us to be holy, not acting however we want then constantly seeking God’s grace for forgiveness.

Tolerance is a slippery slope we want to avoid. We will be called all sorts of names.  We will be looked on as a three-headed monster. But God’s truth stands and we are much better taking “heat” from our culture than taking “heat” from God.

Those are some of my thoughts. What do you think?

#Temptation#RequirementstoDefeat

Monday, August 12th, 2019

Sunday I preached on Joseph’s battle against the temptation Potiphar’s wife presented. Two phrases I used several times were these:

With greater success comes greater measure of trust.  We can read how Potiphar trusted Joseph.

With greater measure of success comes a greater measure of vulnerability.  We can also see how his success made him vulnerable to attacks. The enemy came at him with laser-like accuracy.

What  would Joseph do? Well, with the benefit of hindsight we know Joseph said no, fled, but then was falsely accused by a woman who was scorned.

How can we do the same? Temptation is common to all of us. How can we defeat it? I hesitate giving an easy “Four Step Plan” because most of those don’t work, but Chuck Swindoll gave some great advice in his book on Joseph. As promised here, I’d like to give you his words.  The main thoughts are his; the commentary is mine.

1. Don’t be weakened by the situation. The Scripture says, “Day after day” Potiphar’s wife went after Joseph. Not one and done. Day after day. Fatigue often sets in during the battle. Don’t be weakened.

2. Don’t be deceived by the persuasion. I have heard my share of excuses, as I’m sure you have, when people fall. “No one will know.” “My husband or wife doesn’t meet my needs.” “I’m lonely.” “Just this once. Never again.”  Be careful of justification.

3. Don’t be gentle with your emotions.  Many soft-hearted people are drawn in by their compassion. I think that is one reason for not having mixed sex “gripe” sessions. Too often what started as innocent becomes the downfall for many. “But I don’t want to hurt their feelings.”  You are not being rude or insensitive by saying no.

4. Don’t be confused by the immediate results. Joseph was falsely accused and ended up in prison. We often cannot see the forest for the trees. Immediate results can be deceptive.

There you have it. Four simple ideas about defeating temptation. They aren’t steps to take; they are advice to heed.

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#Safe#Hope#Jesus

Monday, August 5th, 2019

We live in a multicultural world.  That not only applies to our ethnicity but also to our religious bent. It goes without saying that there are as many religions it seems as people in this land.  That, of course, is not true. But it sure seems like it!

I stand on one premise, one foundation. Salvation is found in no one else except Jesus Christ. No Buddha, prophet, swami, or so-called arrogant teacher (translate: cult)  is the one who is worthy of worship and worthy of gaining the attention that Jesus is to be given. Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life and NO ONE comes to Father but by me.”  Peter told the religious leaders who tried to shut him up that “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)  Frankly, one can argue with that all they want but it won’t change the words written down.

There are all kinds of voices these days trying to tell us there are many ways to God.  There are some who deny Jesus is the Son of God so it stands to reason they would deny that. Some who want to say “there are many roads to God.” Again, to say that denies the truth of Scripture. Of course, there are those who say Buddha, Mohammed, and other religious figures are the way. Nope. The cults want us to buy into Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russell (JW), Ellen G. White (SDA),  Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Scientist), or even whack job L. Ron Hubbard (Scientology).

I once read a story of the ship Endurance which was trapped and crushed in the ice off the coast of the Antarctic. The group of explorers led by Ernest Shackleton, had one last chance. Shackleton and five others pushed off from Elephant Island leaving the hopes of the 22 left behind in their hands. Their goal was to make it to South Georgia Island, a trip of 800 miles. If they failed, they would die. Four months later, Shackleton returned. His first words were, “Are you all well?” And the call came back, “All safe! All well!”

There will come a day when every man, woman, boy and girl will face the Father. The only question to be answered  is, “Do you know Jesus?” If your answer is Yes then you will hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.” All will be safe. All will be well.

BUT ONLY IF YOU KNOW JESUS not some pretender to His throne. And not if you think you can travel a different road and reach the same place. Tragically, the Father will also tell many, “Depart from me. I don’t know you.”

#Chosen#ForSuchaTime

Friday, July 12th, 2019

At different times in history, people have risen to the occasion. Jesus ascended and 12 men rose to become leaders in the fledgling new church. The church is ruled by the papacy and several men, the most prominent being Martin Luther, rose up to challenge works-oriented salvation and the corruption which was so rampant. In the 1880’s a man by the name of Abraham Lincoln steered our nation during the ugly Civil War and birthing of the Emancipation Proclamation.  Martin Luther King, Jr rose up to challenge the lack of equality of races. The history of our country is filled with heroes who were there for “such a time as this” and I’m sure you could come up with your own favorite person and story.

The phrase “for such a time as this” comes from the book of Esther when Mordecai challenged Esther to go before the king and intervene on behalf of the Jewish people that Haman wanted to eradicate. I think that phrase fits the bill when talking about a woman named Deborah mentioned in Judges 4-5. She became the reluctant leader when Barak refused to take command without Deborah’s backing. It was time to cast off the mantle of Jabin and Sisera that had been choking the Israelite nation.

My sermon Sunday will be looking at this whole scenario and how Deborah, like Esther, became the answer to “for such a time as this. ” Your prayers would be appreciated.

A side note: “Leadership is the ability to get men to do what they don’t want to do and to like it.” Harry Truman.

#Stand!#Don’tBowDown!

Saturday, June 15th, 2019

With traveling to PA and then to Ohio my week definitely got away from me as did posting about Sunday’s sermon. Let me put it this way: I started a new series last week that will go through the whole summer. I am calling it Heroes. The first one last week was from Daniel 1. If you read that chapter you know it is the story of Daniel and his 3 friends: Rack, Shack and Benny (as Veggie Tales puts it).  It was titled Cooperation without Compromise. Daniel and his 3 friends had the choice all of us have when confronted by a “test.”

  1. The first option is Absorption. This person basically is absorbed and assimilated into the culture.
  2. The second option is Withdrawal. This is commonly seen in cults and, in the days of the early church, the Essenes. We see this now in the Amish people who believe withdrawal is the best way to avoid evil. (Have I got news for them!)
  3. The third is Cooperation without Compromise. This is the Daniel way. I’d like to encourage you to read Daniel 1 to find out how that happens.

This week’s sermon is called We Won’t Bow Down! Bet you can’t guess what that story is about!! 🙂  If you guessed Daniel’s three friends give yourself a virtual high-five. Daniel 3 is where the story is.  I’m not going to say much more about it here except this- Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego made a choice not to bow down to the image. They were about to be thrown into the fiery furnace when they were given one last chance to change their minds. I love their words: “We believe our God will deliver us but even if not we will not bow down!” WOW!!

So Sunday I’m going to take that very familiar story and try to breathe some life into it so that we can all walk away, especially the dads, with a resolve to stand not bow. Your prayers would be appreciated. Thanks.

#Providence#Luck?

Friday, May 31st, 2019

“Man, I was so lucky I was not standing where I had been. That thing would have fallen on me.” “I just happened to be there at the right time and in the right place.”

Those are the kind of statements we make concerning events that take place in our lives.  Maybe it was a close call. Maybe it was a desperate need we had. Maybe we felt alone and was ready to do something drastic. It isn’t unusual to hear people talk about luck or chance or happenstance. I do not believe in luck or chance or happenstance in the follower of Christ’s life.

Chuck Swindoll defines providence as

The events of our lives are not ruled by chance or blind fate by our loving Lord and Savior, who works out His plan and His purposes in the lives of all His children.

My sermon Sunday will from Romans 8:28-30, home of one of the most well-known, most-memorized and oft misunderstood passages in the Bible. There is some powerful truth in those verses and I hope to bring those truths out this Sunday. Your prayers would be appreciated.

Security

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

If i were to ask you what, in your mind, is the most dangerous philosophy we face today, what would you say? In days gone I might get answers like Nazism. Socialism. Communism. White Supremacism. Liberalism.  And maybe you can think of another.

But I am inclined to believe that the most dangerous philosophy we face is Humanism. On the surface it looks good. It is good we can celebrate the advances we have made, but it also gives a false hope that all things can be solved by human ingenuity. Like the words to the opening of ’70s TV show Six Million Dollar Man: “We can make him better. We can rebuild him.” So we have this crazy idea that we can solve anything…which leads to the ultimate conclusion we don’t need God.

And yes, it has infiltrated the church. “God helps those who help themselves.” How many do you know who believe that is in the Bible? Or we adopt this idea we can work our way to heaven. “Just be nice to people. Tolerate all beliefs.” Talk about poppycock human thought! Of course, the question that comes is “Good according to whom?” “I can pull myself up by my own bootstraps. I don’t need help, especially God” is another lie.

The ultimate question is “Can God be trusted?” In this week’s sermon from Romans 8:31-39, Paul takes to task those who doubt God is sufficient.  I’m going to approach this Scripture seeking to look at a series of questions Paul asks (4 + 1)  so we can see God is on our side.  I would appreciate your prayers. Thanks.

#Submissive#Suffering

Friday, May 17th, 2019

Last week (Saturday morning to be exact)  after posting the following blog on Friday, I sensed God impressing upon me to change my sermon to preach on A Wise Woman.  You can read about that here. So I pushed back one week the “wannabe preached” sermon to this week. So I’m just refreshing the post a bit and using it this weekend. Not much has changed except I’m adding a song at the end of this post for you to enjoy.

Those two words are seldom seen together. I mean, who in their right mind would want to be submissive to suffering? But perhaps we need to take a second look.

In his book, Suffering, Paul David Tripp wrote:

Physical suffering exposes the delusion of personal autonomy and self-sufficiency.

If you and I had the kind of control we tend to think we have, none of us would ever-and I mean ever-have to go through anything difficult. I would not have chosen to be hit by a hit-n-run driver and suffer the consequences of his misguided actions. And I certainly would not have chosen to have another accident just over 3 months later that was more devastating than the first.

Suffering is part and parcel of life.  I like what someone has said: “Suffering is inevitable; misery is optional.” No matter how “charmed” a life someone may seem to be leading, suffering will be involved in some way. No one escapes it.

What makes a difference is how we respond to it. That is my point this week as I look at Sermon #3 from Romans 8. Romans 8:18-27 will be my Scripture for this week. Your prayers for me to clearly preach the message of suffering and for light bulbs to go on the minds and hearts of the people would be much appreciated. Thanks.

And here is that song. I’m going to show this before I start preaching. Enjoy.

#ILied

Sunday, May 12th, 2019

Yeah…I lied. Well, not on purpose. It’s funny what a pastor will do when God steps in and stops him from doing what he had worked so hard to do.

Yeah…that be me. And God.

Saturday morning I was studying for my sermon when I “heard” this voice say, “Hey Bill! put that aside. I have something else for you to do.”

“Say what?”

“Yeah. I want you to put that prepared sermon aside and I want to preach on something else.”

“God, is this you? Am I hearing you correctly?’

“Yes, it’s Me. And yes, you are hearing me correctly. I want you to preach on something else. I had you read and blog about David, Nabal and Abigail on Friday for a reason. Now I want you to put it to use.”

“And how so?”

“I want you to preach what I tell you to preach on Sunday. I don’t want you to focus on mothers but on women in all stages of life. ”

So I did. I called the sermon A Wise Woman and used I Samuel 25 as my Scripture. Shortly after the sermon is done you can find it on the church’s website and listen to the podcast.  I hope you find it challenging and good for your heart, especially if you are a woman.

As for the sermon on Suffering from Romans 8: 18-27? Stay tuned next week for it.  There was an old commerical: “When EF Hutton speaks everybody listens.” Well…when God speaks Bill has to listen.