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#Control#ShownMercy

Sunday, January 19th, 2020

I have come to the conclusion that much of the Christian life is one of control. Who controls whom? For example, I was speaking to someone this past week and we were talking about legalism. I made a statement I firmly believe in: many pastors/teachers/leaders use legalism as a way to control their people. I know when I was very legalistic in my outlook and preaching it was my way of controlling people. I wouldn’t have called it that. I would have called it “loving words from your pastor.” But in reality, I and others like me, used a legalistic approach to keep people “under my thumb.” Grace changed that for me. But it still happens. How many pastors do you know who tell their people “You better” or “If you don’t” or “If you do” in order to keep their flock in the sheepfold and not wander out at night?  So we make dress, church attendance, hair styles, tattoos, etc a way to judge a person’s “Christian” witness.

But consider this if you will: We are not meant to control our Christianity; Christianity is meant to control us. (I read that recently but can’t remember, where so I’m sorry for the failure to give credit).  So many in our culture might say they embrace Jesus but they want to conform Jesus and His teachings to their lifestyle. I think it should be the other way around: Jesus should inform us on how to conduct our lives and how to treat others. His teachings ought to transform us rather than trying to bend the teachings to fit us.  We are, after all, told to “present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God which is your reasonable service of worship.” Then we are told “not to be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” That sounds a whole like surrender to me, of giving up control to someone else.

There is only one Person who should control our lives. Not us. Not a pastor. Not a leader. Not a teacher. Not a (fill in the blank). Only Jesus.  ONLY. JESUS.

#Qualities#NewCovenant

Sunday, January 12th, 2020

I’m thinking that sometimes we who are Christ-followers really do miss out on the importance of the New Covenant over the Old. Now…before I say even more I want to make one thing very clear: I am in no way discounting the importance of the Old. The TRUTH is that we miss out on a lot of the meaning of the New by discounting the Old and we miss out on the observances of the Old by relegating it to “non-person” status. The power of the New Covenant is enhanced by our understanding of the Old.

In my sermon Sunday I brought to light 8 distinctive qualities of the New Covenant as found in 2 Cor. 3:6-18. I’d like to share them with you but also ask you to go to your Bible and see them for yourself. Underline and highlight them and use them to earn a greater appreciation for what we have. Here they are:

  1. It gives life. (v.6) Check out this verse on your own. “The letter kills but the Spirit gives life.” What a powerful statement against legalism. I’d almost say it was this one verse that solved the mystery for me years ago.
  2. It produces righteousness. (7a,8-9) The phrase “now if” can be translated as “since.” Since the law was a ministry of condemnation it could not offer righteousness. That could only come through Christ.
  3. It is permanent. (7b,10-11) Just as Moses’ covered reflection faded, so does the Old Covenant. The glory of God never fades away.
  4. It brings hope. (12) Those under the law had no hope, which also meant (are you ready for this?) no forgiveness of sins. Hope is the confident belief that God will fulfill all the promises of His New Covenant. It is a hope the Law could not offer.
  5. It is clear. (13-14a) Moses had to put a veil over his face after being in God’s presence.  He did that for two reasons: to hide the blazing glory of God, and to hide that it was fading. In contrast, the New Covenant reveals the mysteries of God that were obscure in the Old. All those sacrifices. All those rules. All those rituals.
  6. It is Christ-centered. (14b-16,18a) The veil which obscured the Old Covenant was removed in Christ, and was made plain in Him.
  7. It is energized by the Spirit. (17) The same God who gave the Old gave the New. The same God who gave the Law is the same God who gave salvation to all. The same God who gave the rules and regulations of the Old is the same God who set us free through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
  8. It is transforming. (18b) We are daily being transformed in the image of Jesus.

There is no doubt the New Covenant is superior to the Old. Let’s not denigrate the Old; let’s just remember its place and purpose. Galatians tells us it was a “schoolmaster to lead us to Christ.”  Paul was upset with the Galatians that they were going back to the “old ways of the Law.” Let’s not go backwards. Let’s move forward in faith.

#SecondBest#WhySettle?#New/Old

Friday, January 10th, 2020

It is common among children, either on a playground, a class or a field to say something along the lines of “My dad is stronger than your dad” or “My dad can beat up your dad.” Since I am not a fighter, I sure am glad my girls never made those kinds of boasts about me! Talk about being in hot water. My Man Card would definitely have been called into question. 🙂

The whole purpose behind those statements is the idea of superiority: my dad is superior to your dad. Many who call themselves Christ-followers are content to settle for second best. We have a group around here-and perhaps you do as well-that want to be known as Torah observant. My question to that is why? Paul’s book to the Galatians effectively-least I think so- negates the life of the one who chooses the OT over the NT. Please understand that I am not taking the stand of one well-known pastor that we need to cast aside the OT (old covenant) and solely follow the New, but I am saying the New Testament should be our “go-to” not the Old. Paul himself said the Old covenant was not evil or wicked, but  it was and is certainly limited in its ability to save us.

My sermon for this Sunday is entitled Why Settle for Second Best? and as you have probably gathered it will on the Old versus the New Testament. I’ll be doing a comparison of both and will obviously come out on the side of the New Testament as being superior.  The Scripture is 2 Corinthians 3: 6-18. I’d love it if you would read it and then listen to the podcast if you are unable to attend. But above all I covet your prayers.

I’m sorry you are unable to listen to last week’s sermon via podcast. We had a guest leading our worship and a person on the soundboard for the first time on a Sunday morning. He pushed a pause button but when he turned it back on it had disappeared. He felt bad. Ryan just doesn’t have a job anymore as the Youth Pastor.  🙂  I wouldn’t trade him for anyone or anything (unless an exchange of significant money was made).  I jest about it all (except for the high praise for him).

Thanks for your prayers. They are much appreciated.

#ChristmasChallenge#Post20

Friday, December 20th, 2019

Have you ever noticed how our view of something is determined by our perspective? What I mean by that is this example. Supposed you are driving a car toward an intersection. It is a 4-way stop and you know that because you have been here so many times. The corn is high and as you slow down you do not see the truck coming to your right. It is going way too fast and has no way of stopping in time. You stop then proceed and find yourself T-boned by the truck. Meanwhile, someone is in a helicopter above and sees the whole thing developing. The intersection. Your stop. The runaway truck. Their perspective gives them a totally different view of the developing disaster.

When Jesus was born the world was not the way God wanted it to be. Nor intended it to be.  The world Jesus entered was one of darkness and ugliness and sin. God knew what was needed. His perspective said, “My Son will come. Live. Die. Raise. All to save you.”

The interesting but sad thing is we think we know better.  Our view is skewed.  The Christmas season should remind us we are messed up and needed a Savior.

We are not the way we ought to be or the way God intended. But God is at work to transform us into becoming the way He wants us to be. The Christmas story is so much more than a baby in a manger. It is God’s way of reaching out to us to save us from ourselves and our sin.

“Father, thank you for having a different perspective than us. And because of that perspective we have been ‘reached out to’ in order for us to be transformed. Please do your work in me.”

Make sure you check out my other #ChristmasChallenge bloggers. Diane at Hadarah and Ed at WORD!

#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?

#Forgiveness#WhatJesusdoes

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

It seems to happen more than we know. Certainly more than we like to hear. Someone being shot/killed by accident. Honestly, I do not know the whole story behind this trial. I admittedly hide my head in the sand when it comes to reading much news. But when I saw this on a blog I read I felt I needed to pass it along. I can’t take credit for this so I’m just going to give you the link to the other blog and ask you to go there.

So here is the link to the other blog:

If we as Christ-followers practiced more of this, imagine what a difference we would make. Oh yeah…bring your kleenex.

#PerfectTiming#NoDoubt

Friday, August 30th, 2019

This week is the final sermon for the series I called Icebergs.  It was the story of Joseph as he navigated the minefield of complex relationships and events which could have caused him to throw up his hands and quit. As a review:

  • Dysfunctional family
  • Jealous brothers
  • Betrayed by his brothers & sold into slavery
  • Falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife
  • Thrown in prison
  • Interprets dreams then forgotten
  • Interprets Pharaoh’s dreams and promoted
  • Sees his brothers make their way to him seeking grain
  • Bargaining with them until he sees their changed hearts
  • Reveals himself to his brothers and asks about his father.

Now comes the reunion and ultimate death of Jacob. Following Jacob’s death his brothers are filled with fear as to what will happen. The exchange is interesting. They use Jacob as a buffer in the sense of saying, “Your father gave this command before he died. Say to Joseph, ‘Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.’ ”  To that Joseph answers with the answer of all answers:

Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 50:19-20

In my mind those same words are spoken years later when Mordecai tells Esther “for such as this.”  God’s plan brought Jacob and his sons and the Israelite people to Egypt. It was His plan. That is good enough for me.

I’m also going to talk about forgiveness this week and close with this statement: Joseph was led by grace. If you have not forgiven someone, it is time. If you have received someone’s forgiveness, it is time. If you have been the recipient of God’s forgiveness, now is the time to truly believe it.

Your prayers for this weekend would be greatly appreciated.

*****************************

Jo & I leave Monday for our long-awaited trip to Alaska. I’m not taking my computer and will have limited access via my phone.  Please pray for our safety, but most of all, for our rest. Ryan is preaching next week for me as we start a new series I’m calling “Postcards.” He will be preaching about the church as a beginning to the Letters to the 7 churches in Revelation. I’m sure he would love to know you are praying for him.

#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.

#ReadThis

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019

We are so different…she and I.

I’m white. She is not.

I’m a man. She is not.

I’m tall. She is not.

I have no hair. She has tons of it. 🙂

I like rock music. I’m guessing she does not.

I’m a lifetime heterosexual. She was a lesbian.

I write for fun. She writes for her livelihood.

But one thing we have in common. We both believe in the power of redemption that comes from the Cross of Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on that cross.

Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was, and Who God Has Always Been

I have to admit my first thought about reading this book since its release several months ago was I don’t want to read or hear of another “I-was-born-this-way-so-don’t-ask-me-to-change” book.  But after reading review after review I decided to take the plunge and buy it. Then I had to read it after a few weeks on my shelf. (In fairness, I was reading another book at the time).

I. AM. SO. GLAD. I. READ. THIS. BOOK!! I would highly recommend it to everyone. JHP’s way of saying things shows her “wordsmith” talents. I don’t need to be a fan of her style of poetry or music to like the way she says things in this book. Straight-forward.  Non-compromising in her stance. Honest in her discussion of her past (molestation, abuse, drug use and lesbianism). I was impressed when on page 37 she said, “It is important to note that sexual abuse is not what made me gay. Nor did fatherlessness. They only exaggerated and helped direct the path for what was already there-which is sin.”  No blame. No “I was born gay.” Just a note at the bottom of the page stating sin was the culprit. Thank you JHP for that truth.

I tire of those who hate gays. No…make that I distance myself from them. I don’t hate gays; I just don’t believe their lifestyle choice is biblical. I firmly believe same sex action is sin. But hating the person is not Christ-like nor is it ever going to reach someone with the message of the love of Christ.  Just the exact opposite.  Our little community has a very vocal homosexual community. It boasts of having one of the best attended PRIDE festivals in the state, maybe the country. Tolerance they ask for only goes so far until you disagree with them. Recent vandalism against their property was uncalled for. But they are still people. Still people like thousands of others in our community and around the world who need Jesus.  Thanks to JHP’s book, I not only have a better attitude toward them, but I also have a book I can put in their inquiring minds and hands that will show them Jesus’ love.

My plan is to include some of her quotes in another post since this one has already gone on so long. I’d like to think you will look forward to that post. 🙂

I’d highly suggest you buy and read this book. Then pray for opportunities to pass it along or to put it into practice.