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#SticksandStones#Words

Friday, September 18th, 2020

There is absolutely no doubt, and I mean NO DOUBT, that words affect us. Call someone a name and it sticks.  We used to say the old adage to make people think we weren’t affected by their words: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”  The only way I want to respond to that ditty is “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”

Someone has said the average American speaks about 700 times per day. If that sounds high, chop it in half (350). If that still sounds high cut it in half again (175). Face it, there are very few things we do 175 times a day, at least voluntarily. I’m sure I blink or swallow or breath more than 350 times a day but that is all part of God’s magnificent creation called the body.

Harmful words damage relationships and reveal a heart out of tune with Jesus.  Physical wounds often heal before emotional wounds. There are words said to us in the past which still haunt us.  Our heart flutters and our stomach turns when we hear them or think about them. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue holds the power of life and death.”

This Sunday my question is What about Words? (as if you couldn’t tell).  Prayers would be appreciated for this Sunday. Consider this quote by Ben Franklin: “A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over.” ‘Nuff said.

#SoulCycle#Wellness#Prosperity(un)Gospel

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

I’m continuing with my discussion on this book:

Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World

Today’s installment is a bit more understandable than the last one here.  One of the most famous phrases used in today’s world is “It’s all about you.” “Seek your goals. Strive for the best. Do your thing.”  Now, understand I am not against setting goals and reaching for a dream. On the contrary, I think it is important to have goals and a place you want to strive for.

But I hate to be the bearer of bad news: IT IS NOT ALL ABOUT YOU.  No matter what an advertisement may say. No matter what an exercise lifestyle may tell you. Hence, the mention of SoulCycle. It is much more than physical transformation. It is more like a double whammy: material improvement and spiritual transcendence.  You aren’t just pedaling a bike to lose weight and become healthier in the process, but you are pedaling to become a better person. Their moniker: You are a Renegade, a Hero, a Warrior.  That sounds all well and good until SoulCycle begins to be seen as an emotional and spiritual outlet. Yeah…”God is a woman, and she’s a SoulCycle instructor.” Say what?

But it is more than SoulCycle. It is the whole Wellness Culture. Their philosophy can be summed up in a war between the authentic, intuitional self-both body and soul- and the artificial, malevolent forces of society, rules, and expectations. We are born good (Ahem!), but we are tricked, by big Pharma, by processed food, by civilization itself, into living something that falls short of our best life.  Hmmm. Maybe they can get Joel to teach them about their best life being now.  (Yeah…that is snarky…but true).

Folks, if there is ever a sense of hypocrisy, it is in this scene. They tell you things like “You are you.” “There is only one You.” “You are beautiful just as you are.” But then they turn around and offer you tricks (and I might add expensive ones) to better yourself, to make yourself more beautiful (at least according to what they think is beautiful).  The author gives so many different examples of this C**P that I can’t keep it straight. And, of course, neither can anyone else. If this one doesn’t work, I can always try something else. Then I can say, “Hey, I’ve tried multiple diets and they didn’t work. I found myself being like a yo yo until I tried Product XXX.”  And please don’t get me started on WW and its spokewoman! (I’ll reserve what I really want to say).

This whole scheme is what is called New Thought. But like many things,  New Thought is not new, nor is it thought. It’s a bunch of gobbledy-gook dressed up as intellectualism. It is called Transcendentalism (Emerson, Thoreau, and others).  It found its way into religion (I hesitate to say church) through a man named Phineas Quimby until one of his patients and disciples, Mary Baker Eddy,  founded a “church” called the Church of Christ, Scientist (aka Christian Science).

And here is where New Thought gets really warped or is that wrapped into the church world. Ever heard of a man named Norman Vincent Peale? One of his disciples: Robert Schuller?  And then a plethora of others:  Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, the Bakkers, Benny Hinn, and other Word of Faith false teachers; and now the current batch of false teachers (Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Todd White, Bill Johnson (actually all of Bethel), ad infinitum, ad nauseum).

I’m not making this up folks.  And you may think I have an axe to grind.  I guess in a very real sense I do. I see so much damage being done to the proclamation of the Gospel and the spread of the real message of Jesus and His life-giving death on the cross that it turns my insides. Jesus  is not for sale.  He is not some magic genie who can be conjured into blessing us because we declare it to be so.

Discernment. Discernment. Discernment. And do what I John 4:1 says to do: “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

#Work

Friday, September 4th, 2020

In the late ’60s I purchased an album by Chicago Transit Authority. They had a song on that album called Questions 67 & 68.  There weren’t that many questions in the song so I had no clue why they named a song by that title. Thanks to the internet I recently found out that the song actually referred to the years 1967 and 1968.  Of course if you follow the name change and their next album, they never did learn the answer because a year or so later they asked another question: “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”  🙂

I start a new series this Sunday called Q & A. They are questions people have asked or are asking and I hope to give Biblical answers to those questions. The first in line is one tied to this weekend’s holiday. I thought I would try to answer the question “What about Work?” I think it is a fair question to ask, especially since the whole virus mess has caused many to take stock of why they do what they do.

Speaking for myself: I love doing what I do. I love my job. I love the people I work with on a daily basis.  However, I am also aware my job is different from many.  I work for the Lord as the pastor of the church so I don’t face the daily influences many of you do.  But I still feel there is common ground we can stand on.  There is another issue we all face. Many today find it more convenient to stay home and collect than to work. There are cases where that is good, but tragically we face a scourge of laziness to just stay home and not work.  There is a difference between will not work and cannot work.

My purpose this week is to show how work has been given to us by God as far back as Genesis and there is value found in working.  I’d appreciate your prayers for me and for those who listen.  Meanwhile, have an enjoyable Labor Day holiday.

#BadNews#GoodNews

Friday, August 28th, 2020

In Job 5:7 Eliphaz tells Job: “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” It is hard to disagree with that statement. The statistics of the wear and tear on people over the past 6 months or so tell an ugly story of loneliness, depression, anger, isolation and a whole bunch of other words. Suicides have reached an alarming rate as well. Parents are tired of having children at home and under foot and children are tired of being home and having their parents around all the time. 🙂

There is other bad news though, far more devastating than something political or social. Psalm 40 describes it as being in “a pit of destruction and mired in clay.” But he also wrote on to say that God set his feet upon a rock and put a new song in his mouth.”  Let me give you a word picture of our dilemma. A mother comes home to see her children all hovering around something.  She looks closer and it is five black baby animals with a white streak up their back. She yells, “Run children!” to them and then watches as they each grab one and run in opposite directions. Yikes!!

We all have had problems blow up in our face, but there is one we can’t seem to handle. You find the answer in Romans 5 where it says we are weak (v.6); sinners (v.8); and enemies (v.10). And there is nothing we can do about it.  That is the bad news.

But there is some very, very good news. We can’t do anything about it, but Someone else has.  Ironically, the same passage that gives us the bad news also gives us the very, very good news. I’ll be sharing both the bad news and the good news Sunday in my sermon entitled Good News for a Sad World. This will be the final sermon in my series on “Promises, Promises.”  My new series starts next Sunday called “Q & A.”  I’ll explain more next week.  But for this week I would appreciate your prayers. And if you have a chance, drop by and listen. Live stream is at 10:45.  Thanks.

#Sovereignty#Timing

Friday, August 14th, 2020

I heard a great statement the other day that I will be using in this week’s sermon. 

The silence of God does not equate the absence of God.

That really struck home to me as I thought about the sermon. We are afforded very little information about the future. Unless you are talking about the book of Revelation and even that is clouded in mystery. In our personal lives, we really aren’t given any either. No crystal ball, Ouija board, seance, or Tarot card will tell us what is in our future.

But we all would like, I think, to know something about our future.  Who of us would not like to know what stocks to buy when a company first went public? Who of us would not like to have known not to have taken that route home after work?

But when you think about it there are more important things we would like to know and not given an inkling about. I can think of a couple in the Bible.

  • Joseph. Remember him? After a life of uncertainty he is elevated to second in Pharaoh’s government. When his father died, his brothers thought, “Oh no. He is going to come back on us.” But Joseph’s words to them stand for us as well: “You meant it for evil but God meant it for good.”
  • Esther. Remember Mordecai’s words to her? When she was wavering on approaching the king, Mordecai told her “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

There are more, but those two and Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4:6-8 will be my focus this week. They are clearly evidence of God’s sovereignty and timing in action. I most certainly would appreciate your prayers this week. Along with preaching, Jo and I will be taking Braden back to Ohio on Saturday. An 8 hour round trip in one day…the day before I preach. That sure beats Jo doing it all on one day by herself (Sunday). So prayers for safe travel and then physical alertness would be much appreciated. Ahead of time: thanks.

#Legalism#Freedom

Thursday, August 13th, 2020

There are a few things I simply can’t stand, the thought of eating them just curls my stomach. (Pun intended). When I say them some of you will say, “Seriously?” I can’t stomach to taste cinnamon, coconut and parmesan cheese (the kind that smells like dirty socks that people like to sprinkle on spaghetti and pizza. **gag**. Talk about ruining pizza!!). It is a joke around here for some to tell me they made chocolate muffins, but added coconut or cinnamon. They ruin chocolate. 

But as much as I can’t stand those ingredients (and probably a few more), there is one thing I hate. I despise with a passion. And that is legalism. Legalism by my definition is ordering the Christian life by a list of rules and regulations, of do’s and don’ts. For way too many years I was in that camp. Tithing (you have to).  Church attendance (no Christian skips). Bible reading (every day buddy). Baptism (by immersion only for the remission of sins). Communion (every week). Prayer (I let some slack on this one because I was sketchy myself). Alcohol consumption (tee-total it without exception). Tobacco use (seriously you would put cancer in your body?). You name it; I probably had a rule for it. Now, in all honesty, I wasn’t trying to be mean. I was trying to legislate the Christian life. Salvation was based on what I do; not based on what Christ has done.

Paul faced that. We see it was an issue in the early church (Acts 15). Paul squared off against it in Galatians 2. The issue was so encroaching and so powerful  it even took down Peter. But Paul was not about to back down from that challenge either! (You can see what he does in Galatians 2: 11-14).  The Judaizers were the culprits, men who said you had to abide by the Mosaic law, especially circumcision. But Paul is very clear in Galatians 2:16: “A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ…by the works of the Law no one will be justified.”

Case closed. There would be no wavering for Paul. He didn’t care if you were Peter or not. Or Bill. I’m so glad I learned about grace and faith and freedom and God brought me out of that ugly jungle.

“Father, thank you for grace. Thank you for the rescue from legalism. Thank you for the introduction to and embrace of freedom. May I always be a messenger of grace.”

#Grace#HassledHeart

Friday, August 7th, 2020

Have you ever read a passage of Scripture before-maybe countless times-and not really read it?  You know…sort of mindless reading. Honestly, I have found myself doing that when reading parts of the OT.  I have in the past read through the Bible in a year several times. But I “cheated” when reading some of the more tedious passages-like Leviticus and Numbers and Deuteronomy and some of the Prophets. Ezekiel was one of them. But one day I woke up as I was reading Ezekiel 34: 11-16. I was blown away and stunned by its beauty, power and all-encompassing picture of grace.  That grace is seen in so many ways, but I think it is especially seen in the one subject I think may plague more Christ-followers than anything else.

What topic is that? It is the one I’m going to be dealing with Sunday.

FORGIVENESS

That just might be the one subject Christ-followers are more fragile on than any other.  When you think about it, forgiveness actually has two dimensions: vertical and horizontal.  Forgiveness starts with vertical-our relationship with God. Then it moves to horizontal-our relationship with others.  So many try to get the latter right before the former is in place. We get it all wrong.

To show you the emptiness of the latter without the former taking place I want to tell you what happened to me the other day. I was in Circle K (a gas station/convenience store) and the cashier made a comment to me and really to all who were around. As I stepped up to pay she said, “There are 3 things that keep me going-caffeine, tobacco and resentment.” I said to her, “The latter two will kill you.” She repeated it to me like it was a badge of honor. So I did likewise-I repeated my warning.  I felt sad for her and wished she had a wise friend who could help her. 

My sermon Sunday is entitled Grace for the Hassled Heart.  You already know the Scripture and the focus. Now I’d like to ask you to pray for me and for us.  Thanks.

#Satisfaction#Emptiness

Friday, July 31st, 2020

The late Swiss psychiatrist and author, Dr. Paul Tournier once wrote:

It is impossible to overemphasize the immense need humans have to be really listened to, to be taken seriously, to be understood.

I certainly can’t argue with that. Recent circumstances in our world of unrest should help us to see this is true. While there are bad eggs in all things, the underlying factor in many arguments or conflicts are founded in the simple desire to be heard. Sadly, rational conversation and dialogue goes by the board when ears get stopped up with anger, prejudice, unreasonable actions, and other sicknesses.

Many people are walking through life like zombies. I, for one, do not for one minute believe zombies are real, but the picture of people walking like they are in a fog or controlled by a foreign entity is real. They are empty and searching and looking for something, but tragically have no clue where to look.

My example in this week’s sermon is the woman at the well in John 4. Lost, confused, empty, shallow, and looking all over for answers, she finds her answers the only place possible. It is not a thing or an event. It is a Person, Jesus.  He promised her satisfaction for her empty soul. What also shines in this story is Jesus shows us how we should reach out to people.

Satisfaction for an Empty Soul is my title. John 4 is my Scripture. I will be making a very clear presentation of the need for salvation.  I have no clue who will be listening so I am praying there will be someone listening to realizes their emptiness and need for Jesus. So with that in mind I’d appreciate your prayers for two things: One, open hearts to hear and respond; and two, for me as I preach. I want to speak clearly and passionately.

#Endurance#NeverGiveUp

Friday, July 24th, 2020

Over the past year or so we seem to be reading more-than-we-like-to-read articles of people who are walking away from their faith. Some of them have been very prominent people. One well-known author was known for his dating stance and became a very popular author and pastor.  He announced his separation and divorce and proclaimed himself apostate. One worship leader with Hillsong came out as did a recent member of a very prominent Christian music group. (Names are withheld on purpose).  On a much lesser scale, i.e. not being very well-known, are pastors and youth pastors who are defecting.

It happens with common people as well.  We might all know someone who has turned his/her back on their faith and embraced nothing but emptiness or vain philosophy.

The whole idea is nothing new. It happened in the OT. It happened in the NT (just ask Paul about Demas). It happens today as I have stated. The prophet Jeremiah was familiar with the history of Israel and their propensity for falling away. The book of Judges is a chronicle of that very problem. After the judge died it says, “They did what was right in their own eyes.” That about sums it up.

My sermon this Sunday touches on defection, but my point is really the importance of endurance. Jeremiah 2:1-9 deals with the defection of Israel and Hebrews 12: 1-3 shows us the importance of endurance and how to make it happen. My challenge is to stand strong and not quit.  That is for me. That is for you. That is for the folks who will be listening this week in-person or online.

Your prayers would be much appreciated.

#Security#Fear

Friday, July 17th, 2020

If there is one thing I am sure of these days is there is a lot of insecurity among people. We live in unsure times. What started out to be the year that would be (2020) has now become the year that “could have been” or depending upon your perspective, the year that “has become.”  The economy was firing on all cylinders when COVID-19 happened. That was usurped by the unrest, turbulence and violence following the death of George Floyd. Now we are back to the spike in COVID cases.  There is no question we live in an age of upheaval. The big “C” church is under attack. We speak up and we are called homophobic, bigoted, opinionated, etc. Stay silent then we are accused of bigotry, pride,  prejudice, and a lack of compassion. Many live in fear of the future. Truth be known: many live in fear of the present.

My sermon this Sunday is from what I would consider one of the most poignant passages in all of Scripture on the security we have in Christ. This is not a sermon on “once saved/always saved” vs “one can lose their salvation.” This is a sermon on the steadfastness of God’s character and love for His children.  I’m approaching Romans 8: 31-39 with three thoughts:

  1. God is for us
  2. God defends us
  3. God battles for us

Psalm 27:1 tells us, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” With that promise in mind, I hope to give clarity and strength for whatever may come. Not because we strive in our own strength, but because we KNOW and TRUST the One whom we can lean on.

Your prayers would be appreciated. And I’d love to welcome you to listen online at the church’s FB page or the church’s YouTube channel.  You can find more information at the church’s website