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#WithinUs#How’sthatWorking?#RealPeace

Sunday, July 5th, 2020

Ever since sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden, man has tried to do things on his own. Cain thought he could change things by killing his brother Abel.  Nope. The downhill slope we started on when our parents sinned just amped up even more. Over the course of 6000 years or so (give or take a few), we have continued trying to do things our way. Frankly, the “trying it our way” schtick hasn’t gotten any better. In fact, recent events show it has gone from bad to worse. 

Enter Chris Cuomo, the CNN host of Cuomo Prime Time. This past week he said something so asinine that I can hardly believe he said it…but then again I shouldn’t be surprised.  He said instead of trusting God to get us through uncertain times,  we should “look within us” for the answers. He went on to say:

If you believe in one another and if you do the right thing for yourself and your community, things will get better in this country.  And then he added this: {You don’t need help from above, it’s within us}. Emphasis mine.

I can be really snarky but perhaps this question will do the trick:  ‘Hey Chris! How’s that working out for you?”  One commentator said, “Yep. That tactic is working SUPER well right now.” Another said, “How do we know what the right thing is Chris?”  

You see, that latter question is very telling.  How do we know? When he was being interviewed for a documentary for ESPN 30 to 30, disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong was asked if he was going to tell the truth during this interview. His response is typical of many: ‘Yeah, I’ll tell the truth. MY TRUTH.” Say what? Since when is my truth different from THE truth?  The last I read my truth is to conform to HIS truth. Anything less is falsehood. With Lance we were going to get his version of the truth. Typical of our world and now you know why that last comment was so probing.

Folks, things are not going to get better by our own efforts. Try as we may. Protest all you want (as if those have been peaceful). Woodstock was seen as a harbinger of the “summer of love.” Less than 4 months later two festivals- Altamont and Isle of Wright- were unmitigated disasters. Sort of like Seattle. Sort of like any other man-made effort for peace.

Mark it down: PEACE WILL NEVER COME TO THIS WORLD UNTIL JESUS RETURNS.  No matter what Chris Cuomo or any of his ilk say. “Even so, come Lord Jesus.”

 

#AllLivesMatter#NoMatterWho

Monday, June 8th, 2020

I wrote this for my Communion Thought/Mediation for this past Sunday (yesterday).  As I laid my head on the pillow last night I was thinking ahead to this morning’s Quiet Time.  This came rumbling back into my mind and when I woke up this morning it was still there. I decided I would share it with you today.

Events of the past week/week and a half have probably both sickened us and angered us. The death of someone should sicken and sadden us. The wanton destruction of lives and property is despicable and should anger us.  What I am about to say is not a political statement as you will see at the end:

Black lives matter.

White lives matter.

Chinese lives matter.

Russian lives matter.

American lives matter.

African lives matter.

Homosexual lives matter.

Straight lives matter.

Unborn babies’ lives matter.

Birth defected babies’ lives matter.

Young lives matter.

Old lives matter.

Rich lives matter.

Poor lives matter.

American lives matter.

Muslim lives matter.

The list is endless. Nowhere in the Scripture does it say anyone’s life doesn’t matter. Nor does it say anyone’s life is worth more than another.

How do I know that?  Romans 3:23 tells me “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  We are all infected with the same disease. It is called SIN. 

As a result…WE ALL NEED A SAVIOR.

And again, how do I know that? Because John 3:16 hasn’t changed. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (ESV)  There is a saying which says, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.”  It does not matter who we are. It does not matter what color, race, nationality, status in life we are. We all have to come to the cross on the same level-sinners in need of a Savior.  No one group of people is singled out as being more important or more deserving of God’s love than any other.  (End of devotion)

We all must recognize our sad, sorry state of the inability to meet God’s standards and realize we are all the same. No life matters more than any other. 

#MemorialDay#Tribute#Jesus

Monday, May 25th, 2020

Over at my other blog I wrote the following devotion. I decided to do double duty today and also post it here.  My plans today involve working on a sermon, having an early morning ride, then spending the rest of the day with my wife and daughter.  Here is my devotion:

Today has been set aside as Memorial Day. It’s a day of remembrance for those who served in the military. In my 67 years, I have met many who have served. WWII. Korean. VietNam. Desert Storm. Gulf War. Afghanistan. Marines. Navy. Army. Air Force. Reserves. National Guard. Coast Guard. I know some who have come back wounded-physically, mentally, emotionally, socially. I know of spouses back home-families-who anxiously waited for their return.  I simply cannot fathom the agony of ones back home receiving word their loved one-husband, wife, son, daughter, etc.-are coming home, but in a casket. I shudder as I think of that even now.

But I am grateful for each and every one who served to keep something we value-freedom. I hate war. War is a necessary evil though. Sometimes we have to resort to that to preserve something so important. Freedom from the crown. Freedom from slavery. Freedom from oppression and evil. Freedom from terror and fear.

Each week we celebrate another kind of memorial-a memorial of a life given for others. We call it the Lord’s Supper. Someone went to battle for us. Only it wasn’t a battle with swords and guns; it was a battle against sin. Someone who didn’t deserve it went in our place. It was at the cross where the defining battle took place. Seeming defeat became the prelude to a death-defying victory.  This victory is far more important than any battle fought here on earth. This one had eternal implications.

“Thank you Father for the cross. Thank you for Jesus’ willingness to die in my place, to secure my freedom from death, hell, and the grave. I thank you also for each man and woman who served our country. May they know our gratitude today and always. And finally, and more importantly, I thank you for Jesus.”

#Pursue!#Challenges#TheRightThings

Friday, May 1st, 2020

True or False? Experience is the best teacher.

I’m guessing you said, “True.” What if I told you maybe, maybe not? Truthfully, we can have experience after experience and still not learn a thing. Perhaps that phrase would be better worded:

GUIDED EXPERIENCE IS THE BEST TEACHER.

As I have taken us through the book of Colossians, we are now coming to what is a typical characteristic of Paul’s writings. The first part of his letters are doctrinal; the second half are practical.  Some would accuse him of being a broken record in the first half: he spends a lot of time with false teachers.  But in this section he moves to a more positive approach as he challenges his readers to make a difference. What I like about this is that Paul walks alongside them as he gives those challenges. It’s not like he says, “Okay boys! You’re on your own now!” They are not left on their own to figure things out.

In this week’s Scripture, Paul presents three challenges to the Colossian church and, by proxy, to us. Here they are:

CHALLENGE #1: Seek things above.

CHALLENGE #2: Get rid of garbage.

CHALLENGE #3: Add the essentials.

They stand as a great challenge for us as well. I’d like to invite you to join us at 10:00 EST this Sunday. They are working right now on installing new equipment. I, for one, hope it is ready to go on Sunday. Either way, we will be streaming our service. I would be honored to have you join us Sunday for “Be Careful What you Pursue.”

If you can’t be here your prayers would be greatly appreciated.

#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.

He’s Alive!

Sunday, April 12th, 2020

Today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. It is not quite the Resurrection Sunday celebration we were anticipating that’s for sure.  The past few years we have had one service at a local venue (Abram Farm) that allowed us to be all together as one church family. This year was already going to be different due to the company that normally did our sound having to beg off this year. So, in spite of the graciousness of Bill & Suzie Abram, the owners of the venue, we were going to have two services at our building.

Then COVID-19 happened. Suddenly, we went from Abram Farm to our church building to a virtual celebration. But there is a great lesson here! The grave could not contain Him. What in the world would make us think a virus could? So we celebrate anyway. Virtually.

More could be said. But I’m not going to belabor the point. So I say, “Celebrate! Jesus is alive in our hearts. He is alive in our worship. He is alive seated at the right hand of His Father. Celebrate!”  I’d like ask you to listen to an old song. In my mind, one of the best Easter songs you don’t even know by my favorite Christian group of all time.

#Lent#30

Wednesday, April 8th, 2020

I’ve been listening to some podcasts lately. The bulk of them have been on Crisis Leadership; leading through this pandemic; what a true leader does during times like this, etc. But I took a break the past couple of days to listen to one podcast featuring two ex-JW’s, and one podcast featuring an ex-Mormon for close to 40 years. All three have embraced orthodox Christianity, biblical Christianity. One of the teachings of JW is they don’t believe in hell. Generally speaking, the grave is the end. Worm food. No torment. No suffering.

Jesus has promised eternal life. His death, burial, and resurrection secured that for all who follow Him. His resurrection “blew apart” the grip of the enemy, death and hell. By His resurrection, eternal life became a reality. Not just an empty promise talked about. A reality to be realized.  I believe in hell. I just don’t have to fear it.

One of the reasons I relish this “Easter event season” is it shows me in vivid color that the best is yet to come. For those, and those only, who trust in Christ.  Jesus once said, “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) The best is yet to come. Have you embraced Him?

#Lent#29

Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

I have a grandson who is now 13. He hates losing. He has been that way ever since I can remember. He gets emotional, i.e. angry and (used to) cry when he didn’t do well or the team lost. He was probably around 8 maybe when we went to see the Pirates (my team) play the Reds (his team) at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The game had see-sawed. It looked good for the Pirates until the Reds rallied to tie it late in the game.  It was the bottom of the 9th with one or two outs (I can’t remember) when my favorite player came up and hit a game-winning Home Run. He was sitting on my lap so he could see better and immediately dropped his head into my lap. About a minute or so later-after I celebrated by yelling and clapping and the fireworks went off-I noticed his head was still there. So I lifted his head and he was crying! When I asked him why he was crying he said, “Because they lost and you should never lose or accept losing.” When I tucked him into bed that night at the hotel, I asked him why he said what he did. Who told him that? He told me and I was both sad and angry. I lovingly told him that it was good to win and to want to win, but sometimes losing is part of the game and life.  You accept it. Learn from it. And move on. Yeah, I know, maybe a lot for an 8 year old. But he got it!

It astounds me that people would give us so easily and want to follow a loser. A defeated foe. A supposed victory of death by crucifixion was changed three short days later by a victory. He thought he had won. He looked like he won, but that late inning resurrection snatched victory out of his hand and rendered him a big one in the “L” column.

Satan is defeated and will never recover. Follow Jesus. Don’t follow a defeated enemy. Jesus won!

#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#27

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

A distinction has often been made (and rightly so) between happiness and joy. Happiness has been described as something you have because of your circumstances; joy is something you have in spite of your circumstances.  In other words, one is dependent on good things happening that make you feel good; one is not dependent on good things happening.

The striking words in Hebrews 12:2 ring loudly. Speaking of Jesus, the writer says, “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” (Emphasis mine). What kind of joy could be so strong that Jesus would go to a cross and endure it? I am grateful for John Piper’s thoughts on this. He says “the joy set before Jesus had many levels”:

  • The joy of reunion with His Father. Ps.16:11
  • The joy of triumph over sin. Heb.1:3
  • The joy of divine rights restored. Heb.12:2
  • The joy of being surrounded with praise by all the people for whom He died. Lk. 15:7

Think about this for a moment. If the hope of joy enabled Jesus to endure the cross, just think about what that same joy holds for us. To suffer, to endure = to experience the same joy as Him. Sometimes that is all that makes sense in this world gone mad.

Thoughts on joy by John Piper from The Passion of the Christ.