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#AvoidThese!#Devastating

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

I’m a little bit late posting about the sermon this week. It, despite the encouragement to stay inside, has been a busy one. You can read here the approach I have taken starting this week.  That took me away from the office two afternoons.  But I am loving it and actually getting to see some people at a distance. It has satisfied, for now, my desire to see the people and to let them know I am thinking of them.

There is a tradition in Poland I read about. It started over 700 years ago. Every day from the steeple of St. Mary’s Church a bugle is sounded. The last note of the bugle is muted and broken, as if some disaster had befallen the bugler. This 700+ year commemoration is in memory of a heroic trumpeter who one night summoned the people to defend their city against the hordes of invading Tartars. As he was sounding the last blast on his trumpet, an arrow from one of the Tartars struck and killed him. So there is always a muted note at the end. The Krakovians (Krakow, Poland) have never forgotten this heroic warning.

Part of American history is the warning of Paul Revere that the British were coming. Some of you are old enough to remember the air raid drills in school where they hoarded us together in the hallway with no windows, sat us down, had us put our heads between our knees, and cover our heads.

Our life is filled with warning signs. Some very blatant; some as subtle as a lump or a cough or a stumble. Some are heeded immediately; some pushed aside as a cold or aging. The current Covid-19 virus has a list of warning signs of possible infection. The Bible is filled with warnings.

Some of those warnings are of a false gospel.  Read Galatians 1 for Paul’s feelings about the false gospel. In this week’s passage- Colossians 2:16-23- Paul warns them of three false teachings to avoid.  I’ll make it easy for you. They are legalism, spiritualism, and asceticism. You might be surprised how they are applicable to our day and time.  We will, once again, be using FB to stream the service. We have new equipment coming which someone donated the money for so please be patient with us as we try to overcome the hurdles which we were (admittedly) unprepared for.

Thanks for your prayers.

#Anniversary#Celebration#Honored

Monday, April 20th, 2020

I took a break last week from posting on this blog except for the sermon. After posting on two blogs for over a month, a break was needed. Something happened yesterday that I wanted to share.

April 13th is a day that has significance to me.  On April 13, 1932 my mother was born. She went to be with Jesus in March of 2004. So when April 13th came this year, I thanked God for her influence in my life and then moved on. I am not a real sentimental person on things like that.

But something else happened on April 13th. To honor her in one of the biggest ways I could think of, April 13, 1975 was the day I chose for my ordination into the ministry. I had been preaching since I was a Sophomore in college (1972) but that was my official day of being licensed as a pastor. I had heard of it while in college but I didn’t like the reasons some of them did it: to be an official pastor which basically gave them a free ride on Vietnam. I can also remember my mom telling me not to become a pastor because of the respect and “fame” and honor given to clergy. Back then, pastors were seen as upright and worthy of respect. (My how times have changed!)  Anyway, when I saw how some acted and talked and chased woman, I didn’t want to move too fast on this idea of being ordained (not that I did those things). I wanted it to be an occasion where I knew what I was doing and was serious about my calling.  As I reflect on those ideas today, I’m not sure I knew either! What I did know is that it was a big step for me.

So on April 13, 1975 I chose to honor my mother, whose influence on my faith is unquestioned, by being ordained on her birthday. Besides, as I got older I figured it would be easier to remember one date instead of two. Remembering Jo’s birthday and my two daughters was hard enough.  I’ve never made a big deal about special days in my life, except for my wedding date (which I am trying to remember…oh yeah, June 16, 1973) and the birth of my girls (June 3, 1975 and August 23, 1979).  Let’s see…mine is…oh yeah, October 9, 1952.  And I hereby refuse to publish Jo’s birthday since I value my life.  But trust me when I say she is a tad bit older than me, like from January 30, 1951 compared to mine. (But please don’t tell her I said anything! I love my life!!)

But I digress. Yesterday during the virtual morning worship, I welcomed people to the worship and moved away from the pulpit to let the first song play. It wasn’t the one I picked and looked up and it was a slide show Tami had put together honoring my 45th anniversary of ordination. To say I was blown away would be an understatement. To say I walked away to gather my emotions before standing before the people again might (not) be a lie. Anyway, I was honored and humbled she put this together. And I was especially honored folks responded.  It was hard to see via the FB worship so she has posted it on YouTube. It was public at first but she is taking it private. You have the extreme privilege (I’m humble too) to be given the link to watch it.  Here is the link. Hope you enjoy it. And yes, you will notice two people missing from it: Jo and Janna (my youngest).  Least Tami still loves me. 🙂

I have so many people to thank for 45+ years.  But most of all, I want to give praise, glory and honor to the ONE who called me into this high calling. He has been a beautiful picture of grace, forgiveness, patience, and transformation through all of this. And thank you Tami for doing this (she was last one).

#Choose!#JesusAlone

Friday, April 17th, 2020

Confronting Christianity, the excellent book by Rebecca McLaughlin (2019 Book of the Year) opened with this introduction:

In 1971, Beatles star John Lennon had a dream. Closing his eyes to the atheist regimes of his day, he dreamed of a brotherhood of man with no heaven, no hell, no countries, no possessions, ‘nothing to kill or die for,’ and ‘no religion.’ This dream persists. ‘Imagine’ was sung reverentially at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. Despite prescribing an antireligious pill swallowed by one tiny fraction of the world, it is seen as an anthem of unity across ideological differences. As its notes rang out in PyeongChang, the sister of the supreme leader of North Korea-a state that has tried ‘no religion’ and still found much to kill and die for-graced the crowd.

Eight years before ‘Imagine’ was released, another prophet shared another dream. He dreamed that ‘one day in Alabama…little black boys and black girls [would] be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sister and brothers.

The difference between Lennon’s dream and Dr. King’s dream was the issue of faith. Lennon said None; King said fulfillment. Who was right? Of course, that is not all we have been inundated with.  Our world is filled, no make that flooded, with aberrant philosophies and ideas-vain, Godless and empty.

Paul’s letter to the Colossians presents the only one that will satisfy, that will fill: to follow Christ.  After a two week hiatus from Colossians due to Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday, I’m coming back. My first sermon is on the sufficiency of Christ from Colossians 2:8-15.  We are online as most churches are these days. We are still working  out bugs and I would appreciate your prayers as we navigate these waters.

#LentEnding#33

Saturday, April 11th, 2020

Sunday, Resurrection Day, is the official end to Lent.  A sad time ends in a time of rejoicing.

Pastor and author John MacArthur once said:

Neutrality is not an option. Either Jesus rose and rightly demands your attention, repentance, trust and obedience, or he stayed dead.  If He only became a rotting corpse why should you follow Him?”  {Quoted by Andrew Warnock in Risen With Christ}

Although I don’t always agree with his views on some things, Biblical scholar N. T. Wright made this statement:

The only possible reason why early Christianity began and took the shape that it did is that the tomb really was empty and that people really did meet Jesus, alive again.

Hard to argue with either one. Resurrection Sunday is the crowning event of our belief system. Take away the resurrection and WE. HAVE. NOTHING. Peter knew it. Paul most certainly knew it (he devoted a whole chapter to it. See I Corinthians 15).

Rise up followers of Christ! Do not despair! If the grave could not contain Him, how in the world and why in the world do we get this crazy notion some virus will? So the church is not meeting in a building. Good!  Meet in homes. Meet with friends. Meet with loved ones. Invite others to join in the party. Celebrate the RESURRECTION OF JESUS with me!! 

Bet you can’t guess what my sermon will be about tomorrow!! 🙂 See you on the church FB page at 10:00.

#Lent#Why?

Friday, April 3rd, 2020

Talking about the death and crucifixion of Jesus is not a popular subject, not even among those who claim to follow Jesus. The idea of a crucifixion is seen as absurd. There are those who find the idea of a sacrifice absolutely repugnant. Whether we are talking about an animal sacrifice (I can hear PETA right now) in the OT, or Jesus on the cross, it is a subject we would just as soon avoid. Believe it or not, some see the crucifixion of Jesus as cosmic or divine child abuse. Seriously?

But for those who follow Christ, the cross is essential to the Gospel. Without it, there is no gospel. It is empty. We often ask the question why when it comes to our life’s circumstances being not what we would like them to be. (Current situation included). That question often goes unanswered.  However…think this one through: when speaking about the death of Jesus, while we may ask, “Why?” the question does not go unanswered.  One can hardly find a better Scripture passage than the one from Isaiah 52:13-53:12 in answer to that question.  Charles Spurgeon once wrote:

“This is one of the chapters that lie at the very heart of Scriptures. It is the very Holy of Holies of Divine Writ. Let us, therefore, put off our shoes from our feet, for the place whereon we stand is specially holy ground.”

My sermon Sunday is part of a two-week series I’ve entitled More Than a Man. My focus this week-as you can imagine-is on the crucifixion of Jesus.  Sadly, like many across this country and around the world, we will not be able to meet together as a church body. Least in one building. But we will be meeting all around our town and in other parts of the country.  If you would like to join us at 10:00 EST please request to become part of the church’s FaceBook commuity. It is private so you must ask to join and then be approved.  Keeps the trolls away. And those dorks who post they made so much money by working at home. Can you say, “Scam?” Anyway, I digress. 🙂

These are interesting times we live in. We are hoping to make the most of it. Please join us online or at least in prayer. Thanks.

#Lent#25

Monday, March 30th, 2020

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumblingblock to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”  (I Cor.1:18, 22-24)

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”  (Romans 1:16)

“For I deliver to you as of first importance what I also received: that Jesus died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scripture.” (I Cor.15:3-4)

There should be no question what we should be teaching and preaching. Not politics. Not “feel good.” Not spirituality. Not health/wealth. Not NAR garbage (gold dust falling from heaven? Grave sucking? You have go to me kidding me!).  Not hype.  Not Miracle Spring Water (seriously?).  JESUS. THE GOSPEL. THE CROSS.

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Gal.6:14)

#Burdened#NotHeavy

Saturday, March 28th, 2020

W.E. Sangster was a Methodist pastor in England who lived from 1900-1960. He was so well-respected as a pastor that he would often interview possible candidates for ministry within the Methodist church. On one particular occasion he was interviewing a young man who said he was rather shy and not the sort of person who would set the Thames river on fire- that is, stir up the city.  The story goes that Dr. Sangster said, “I’m not interested to know if you could set the Thames River on fire. I want to know if I picked you up by the scruff of the neck and dropped you into the Thames, would it sizzle?”

He was looking for what we could call passion in that young man.  Paul carried a passion for the church at Colossae. We can see it oozing out of his pores (okay his writing) in this letter. We can see it especially from the passage we will be studying this week: Colossians 2:1-7.  A parent carries a burden for his or her children. The owner of a company carries a burden for its success and (hopefully) the welfare of his employees. A coach carries a burden for teaching his or her players to be winners. A pastor carries a burden for the church he is shepherding.

That is a burden worth carrying.  With the absence of personal “touch” and the plethora of online streaming, it is easy to lose touch with the people. I’m trying not to. I love the folks God has given me the pleasure to pastor. I carry a burden for them I did not know possible. Please pray for us this week. Thanks.

#PrayerfortheChurch

Friday, March 6th, 2020

We might occasionally hear someone say, “We need to pray for the church” and to stop short of gossip and story-telling they end it right there. Their heart and desire is sincere.  Some not so.  My sermon Sunday is going to take a positive spin on this often-used phrase and show how a person can pray for his/her church.

Paul’s prayer for the church from Colossians 1:9-14 is packed full of meaty stuff. 

  1. He first prays for them to have knowledge. This is direct aim at the Gnostics who were haunting the Colossian church with their nasty teaching. The Gnostics taught that Christ was a good place to start, but that there was so much more they could know and experience if only they would incorporate the Gnostic system of passwords, rites, and initiations.  The by-product of that was a know-it-all attitude and intimidation that their faith was not enough.  So Paul prays for knowledge. But here is the important thing: this knowledge is not just given to the follower of Christ to inform them, but to transform them.
  2. He then prays for them to walk well. The word walk has changed in meaning over the years. We all know what it means today. Back in biblical days it referred to a person’s pattern of daily conduct.  I’ll finish this section out with 4 marks of a pleasing walk.

Your prayers are deeply appreciated. Thanks.

#Supremacy#Colossians

Saturday, February 29th, 2020

It never ceases to amaze me how contemporary the letters that Paul wrote are to today’s culture. Case in point: Colossians.  I am beginning a new series this Sunday on the book of Colossians with the title of Supremacy.

Many churches have glorious pasts and they like to live there…forever. You can hear it in statements like “We never did it that way before” which someone has dubbed as The 7 Last Words of the Church. Then there are those churches who revel in their past and want to spend an ungodly amount of money keeping their buildings update, their stained glass windows looking all nice and spiffy and regularly use Murphy’s oil soap to shine and wax their pews. Then, of course, there are those who celebrate milestones by putting people’s names on buildings, pews, and even offering plates.

I’m not trying to be difficult but I sure think a church should have another focus than just the looks of their building. If celebrating the past gives us a heightened awareness of the future, I’m all for it.

In this opening passage of Scripture (Col.1:1-8)  Paul gives us a reason to celebrate in the church. I’ll give you a hint: it has something to do with faith, hope and love. 🙂

Your prayers would be appreciated this Sunday. Thanks.

#WorthItAll#Waiting

Friday, February 21st, 2020

In 1970 a young woman, a teenager, named Joni dove into shallow water and came out a quadriplegic. This past October 15th she celebrated her 70th birthday. She is also a two-time breast cancer survivor.  I once read a book she wrote where she was asked and answered a question: “Would you do anything to change your life if you had to do it all over again?”  Her answer astounded me. “No,” she said, “I wouldn’t change a thing.” 

I have to admit I am amazed by her attitude because, frankly, I’m not sure I could or would say the same thing.  Getting hit by a hit-n-run driver in November of ’17 and then doing an endo coming down a hill in February of ’18 convinced me of the sanctity of life and how much I valued my ability to get around.

But one thing I do know is this: if either of those accidents had ended my life, I KNOW EXACTLY WHERE I WOULD BE SPENDING ETERNITY. There are only two places possible: Heaven or Hell. One good; one bad. No in between place. And despite popular opinion of some very liberal “churches” not all people will be in heaven. The Bible says, “It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment.” I know what Universalism teaches-that all will be saved. But that is a lie from the pit of Hell and smells like smoke.  (Rob Bell take note).

I conclude this version of a “Truth” series this week before I start a new one on the book of Colossians next week. I could think of no better way to do that than to talk about our eternal destiny.  I look at this sermon two ways: One, like D.L.Moody once said, “No preacher should ever preach about hell without tears in his eyes.” And two, talking about the joy of heaven.

I’d appreciate your prayers this Sunday. The last thing I want is to come off as though I’m glad people are lost and going to Hell.  On the contrary, I want to show how Heaven is such a great place why would you not want to go there? Thanks for praying.