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#ItBegins#EssentialTruth#Don’tMissIt!

Saturday, November 30th, 2019

And so it begins…

The race to Christmas. Much of the way we celebrate Christmas finds its roots in our younger years. We carry traditions with us. Some we ditch; some we keep observing.

Growing up nothing we ever put out except the lights. No tree. No gifts. No nothing. But when we woke up Christmas morning the whole house, especially the living room had been transformed. We don’t do that today. Our tree goes up Thanksgiving Day or the day after and stays until the day or two after Christmas.Gifts are placed under the tree as they are wrapped.

Growing up we were taught not to use our Christmas gifts (except for games) until after the real tree was taken down. We don’t that one either.

We NEVER opened a gift until Christmas morning. We don’t do that one either, however, I did get Jo’s family to compromise. One gift on Christmas Eve; the rest Christmas morning.

One fact is a constant though: the meaning of Christmas has never changed. The teaching of that meaning has never changed. The impact of that meaning has never changed either.

Just as there is a backstory to each of our histories of Christmas, there is a backstory to the story of Christmas as well. Christmas didn’t start at the manger; it started years before we can conceive. Before the OT.  This story was formed before recorded time and if we were somehow able to put it on the silver screen there would be no CGI or animation able to convey it.

I have given my series for this month the title of “Don’t Miss It!!” Each sermon (4) will be one aspect of Christmas which is so important we dare not miss it.  It would be a tragedy if we did. This Sunday my sermon will be taken from John 1:1-14 and my aim is to show the essential truth of Christmas.  A.W.Tozer once said:

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

When you think about Christmas what is the first thing that comes to your mind? My desire is to lay the groundwork for a meaningful Christmas by presenting the essential truth of Christmas. May you know that as well. I would appreciate your prayers.

#Atheism#Confrontation#BadRep

Sunday, November 24th, 2019

In one of my posts last week I reviewed two books dealing with abuse. You can read that here. Bookending those two books were two books of similar vein on a subject, but approaching it from different perspectives.  I had this first book and then read the two on abuse, but I needed to get away from that subject for a bit so I read the book which is my second review.  I’m now reading a totally different book because I like variety as well as needing a more biblical study.  So here are my reviews of the two books.

My first is Confronting Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin.

Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World's Largest Religion

Rebecca was not raised in “Christian” America, but in the UK. Her Christianity was not handed to her on a silver-plated American Christianity platter (my words not hers). But trust me when I say she is nobody’s lackey.  This woman is smart and knows her stuff. Her book is subtitled 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion and she delivers the goods. I wondered if I would be overwhelmed by the sheer “brain power” she brings to the table. I am happy to say Rebecca has done an excellent job of making it so that even we who are not deep thinkers can understand her writing. This book is so good I have given one copy to my small group leader, one to a searching college student, and have another copy for someone I love. Here are just a few of the questions she asks and answers (masterfully I believe) :

  • How Can You Say There’s Only One True Faith?
  • Doesn’t Religion Cause Violence?
  • How Can You Take the Bible Literally?
  • Hasn’t Science Disproved Christianity?
  • Isn’t Christianity Homophobic? {Note: Rebecca admits to her former struggle with SSA so she writes from an “insider’s” viewpoint.}
  • How Can a Loving God Allow So Much Suffering?

That’s just half the questions. This is one of my nominees for “Book of the Year” (as if I have any say).  I love Rebecca’s writing style and her attention to the answers. Never harsh but always engaging. I do believe you will benefit from this book.

I followed Rebecca’s book with another that intrigued me: Why I Still Believe by Mary Jo Sharp (MJ). 

Why I Still Believe: A Former Atheist’s Reckoning with the Bad Reputation Christians Give a Good God

Her book is subtitled “A Former Atheist’s reckoning with the bad reputation Christians give a good God.” The book is aptly titled. MJ came from a non-religious home and chose atheism, but eventually came to know Jesus as her Savior. (You can read the book’s introduction for her story).  How she stayed with Jesus and the church is a miracle in itself (in my book anyway). The day she came to church with her husband to declare her choice to follow Christ, the pastor’s wife did not welcome her or congratulate her but to tell her she needed to wear a different dress-one that showed less cleavage. She doesn’t say whether it did or not, but I would have probably turned around and walked out. Eventually, she and her husband found themselves involved in ministry full-time (he was a worship leader). Meanwhile, she is struggling with Christians who are giving God and the church a bad name. One heart-breaking example (and one which made my blood boil) came when she brought a friend who was an atheist-seeker to church and he was literally blown off and embarrassed by the self-righteous teacher and the pastor of the church (who publicly humiliated him) because he dared ask a question which challenged their way of thinking. From her own awkwardness of defending her belief in the resurrection with a co-worker (she is a music teacher in a public school); to learning about Islam (a great discussion and info on Islam is included) from her dear friend, the late Nabeel Qureshi; to her confidence in apologetics, she never loses sight of her purpose: how annoying and “turn-off-ish” many Christians can be. I’d have to say it is a good thing she had a pretty solid faith and a good husband who helped her stay grounded. 

MJ’s book was different from Rebecca’s in that it took on issues facing the church within, whereas Rebecca’s focused more on questions from without. MJ’s book read easily also. And she gave some great answers along the way in a very clear style.

I would highly recommend both of these books be part of your reading list. If you know of someone who is struggling with their faith or have questions about hypocrisy within the church, have them read these.

#ClearEyes#20/20#Brightness

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019

“The eyes have it.” Oops that is supposed to be the “I’s” have it. 

Unless, of course, you are talking about cataract surgery which totally transforms one’s sight world. This past Monday I had my left eye’s cataract removed. I knew I was in for a real treat given that I had had my right eye corrected the week before. My world brightened some. But I can honestly say I was not prepared for the “revelation” that came from yesterday’s surgery. Talk about bright!  I told someone this morning (Tuesday) it was like walking into a room filled with new LED bulbs. Everything is so bright I wonder how in the world I was able to see before. I was…it was just cloudy. The doctor told me this morning that in a few days my brain will dial in the sights and it won’t seem so bright.  Truthfully, I’m not sure I want that!  🙂  I like seeing things brightly. Maybe it comes from seeing things a little “shady” and cloudy for the past oh-so- many-months that I relish the light. Can you tell I’m excited about my surgery and newfound “bright sight”? 

The applications to our spiritual lives are easy to see.  An early worship song that was sung a lot had the lyrics: “Open the eyes of my heart Lord/ Open the eyes of my heart/ I want to see you/I want to see you.”  Seeing him physically is not going to happen here on this earth so the song is not speaking of that type of sight. But asking Him to open the eyes of our heart to His Word and His Truth will bring clarity to our lives where before there was cloudiness and murkiness. 

We also can see another application. “When I was a child, I spoke like a child. I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”  (I Cor.13:11) Going from cloudy sight to bright and clear sight means I can give my old glasses to the Lion’s Club to give them away to someone who needs them. I can see things through a different perspective. Someone told me the colors would be brighter; the lights would be brighter; and I would need sun glasses. I confirm all three of those.  Growing in Christ means putting away the old stuff and see things through new eyes.

I sure can see how the man blind from birth must have felt when he first saw “men as trees walking” and then began to see everything with clarity. I thank God for my eyes. But I thank Him even more for the gift of sight for Him. May He and His Word and His will get clearer as each day goes by.

Any thoughts?   Oh, by the way: how is your (spiritual) vision these days?

#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?

#Alaska#Cruise#WOW!!

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

We have been back from our cruise since midnight last Tuesday and I have simply not had much time to post much of anything. I posted some pictures of our trip to Alaska at my other blog here.

I thought I would give you a small taste of some of my other pictures I took with my phone in this post. Jo took some with hers and we also took some on our camera. I need to figure out how to get them from there to here. (Yeah I am technologically challenged so please give me a break) 🙂

Here is one of Jo as we were cruising Glacier Bay:

Here was one I took from the workout center. I was riding the bike when I saw this one and thought I better get that one.

The are two more from Glacier Bay:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One more from Glacier Bay and one from the cruise from Ketchikan to Vancouver (taken from our room window):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are more where that came from. I’ll add those into another post. All I can say is “The heavens declare the glory of God and the earth shows His handiwork.”  Don’t you agree?

#LoveLost#FirstLove

Saturday, September 14th, 2019

My sincere apologies for not getting this posted sooner. As many of you know we spent September 2-10 on our trip to Alaska. We arrived home after midnight on the 10th and I played catch-up the rest of the week. But tomorrow is Sunday and I have to be ready to go! I am…in principle. Now all I have to do is get my head and heart in the game. 🙂

I start a new series this week which I am calling Postcards. It will be a seven week series on the 7 churches of Revelation and the letters, i.e. postcards Jesus sent to each of them. Ryan did a great job of introducing God’s idea of the church last week as a lead-in to this series. I’m glad I have someone like him who is so dependable and able to present God’s Word. He’s a good one. 🙂

This week I have titled the sermon “To the Loveless Church.” The city of Ephesus had so much going for it as being one of the greatest cities to live in at that time. Economically. Culturally. Historically. Religiously (even though it was pagan).

The church at Ephesus had a lot going for it also. As you read Revelation 2:1-7 you can’t help but be struck by the commendation heaped upon them: their work, toil and patient endurance; they didn’t tolerate evil men; they hated the works of the Nicolaitans; and their motivation was spot on.

B…..U……T…..

The condemnation far outweighed the commendation. It is very clear. They left their first love. While they had all the outward show of being alive, they were dead inside. Their love for Jesus had grown cold. Their motivation should have been what Paul wrote: “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one died for all, therefore all have died.” (2 Corinthians 5:14). It wasn’t, and therefore they were told in no uncertain terms “to repent or else.” Unfortunately, the “or else” happened and there is no longer a church in Ephesus.

Fighting this battle for “first place” is an ongoing one.  I hope to challenge all of us to renew our first love for Jesus.  I plan to play this song to help emphasize my point.

#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.”

#Blessing#Challenge

Sunday, July 28th, 2019

As a grandfather, I have a desire to see my grandson more often than I have the opportunity to. He lives 4 hours away and is actively involved in baseball and football (oh, and school) so his schedule is pretty full. Him coming to visit his grandparents is not high on his list of things to do. And it is not high on his mother’s list either. She is a busy, working mom and wife. Neither Jo nor I begrudge that.  We just know our situation is unique and unless God says, “Time to move” we will be here ministering in Spencer hopefully for years to come.

My girls are adults now, each with their own life. Tami, our oldest, teaches Kindergarten in Bloomington, IN. Janna, our youngest, works in Delaware, OH for a car dealership (not selling but as a jack-of-all-trades doing rentals, office work, receptionist, etc). When they were babies I would often go into their room at night and pray for them and pray over them. I prayed a prayer of surrender, i.e. “Father, these girls are yours. Help me never to hold on to them so tightly I won’t give them to you.” Sort of like Abraham and Isaac. I also prayed for their salvation.

The first time I held Braden when he came home from the hospital and I surprised Janna by being there, I went off by myself with the little guy in my arms and prayed for him. I prayed a blessing over him. I prayed for his salvation and that he will grow up knowing Jesus.

All this flooded back to me as I read I Chronicles 22 Saturday night. David is making preparations for building the temple and then calls his son, Solomon, to him. He tells Solomon about why he is not building the temple (he was a man of war), but he also speaks a blessing over Solomon and challenges him as well.  The blessing is found in verses 11-12: “The Lord be with you.” But he also issues a challenge to Solomon to stand strong and be faithful to God. [Verses 12-13].

What a great opportunity we have as parents and grandparents to speak into our son’s and daughter’s and grandchildren’s lives with a blessing to cover them. I’m not into so-called “positive confession” that the name-it-claim-it people talk about. But I am into praying over and for our children and grandchildren.  In our case, being 4 hours away, that seems to be the next best thing to being there.  Who knows how and when God will answer our prayers for them.

#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.