Faith

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#4Truths#ClingTo

Sunday, November 1st, 2020

I mentioned in my last post that I was deeply influenced by 4 truths taught in Jesus Revolution by Greg Laurie and Ellen Vaughn. Before I share those 4 truths, I think it is important to give you the backstory to them. Greg and Cathe Laurie are the parents of two sons. The oldest, Christopher, had gotten into drugs and the way of the world. But one day he recommitted his life to Christ and it was real. He became a good husband and father. He also worked alongside his dad, who was and is the pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California.  One day they were waiting for Christopher to show with water for a ministry they were doing when it became later and later. Finally Greg received word that Christopher had been killed in a car accident. He said he collapsed on his front porch and and wept. But as he wept he said, “You gave him to me in the first place, and now I give him back to you.”  Would the faith they absorbed during the Jesus Movement days and practiced since the ’60s sustain he and Cathe? The reality of faith didn’t anesthetize the pain. Trusting Jesus wasn’t an emotional Xanax. But faith did make the pain bearable. 

They knew four truths, not just intellectually, but deep in their souls. These truths were what they could hold on to in the midst of their storm.  Here they are:

#1- Life is full of trouble, just as Jesus had promised.  John 16:33 comes to my mind when I think about this.

#2- They knew God loved them.  I personally think this is where we get tripped up the most. Sometimes we think we are owed something because of the life we have lived-both good and bad (our childhood for example). We might be going through a tough season-mentally, physically and spiritually-but we have the assurance of God’s love.

#3- They knew Jesus wept with them.  Ask for a memory verse in a contest and invariably someone will says, “Jesus wept.” We chuckle (although it is old) but have you ever considered the power in that short verse?

#4- They knew God can be glorified, in some mysterious way, by human suffering.  Job was able to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” The Lauries were able to say that as well.  The proof is in the fruit.

So much there.  Unpack it some more on your own. Want some help? Feel free to contact me.

#Worry#Wringhands#Trust

Saturday, October 24th, 2020

Corrie Ten Boom, the Holocaust survivor who for years traveled the globe telling of her experience in the Nazi prison camp and spreading words of God’s love and forgiveness once said:

Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrows; it empties today of strength.

I think we all know people who worry a lot. We even call them “worry warts.” They wring their hands, bite their nails, toy with their hair, bite their lips, and a host of other physical displays, very often a sign of worrying or being overly concerned about something. 

Oh…then add in this all-important upcoming election which has many up in arms and you can find plenty of people filled with worry. Just listen to them (then again…you may not want to). No matter the outcome, we must realize as Christ-followers that we are not in charge (neither side is) but God is.

All in all, worry is counterproductive to what God has in mind for our lives.  The word worry means “to take a thought” or “to be careful.” The Greek actually takes it a step further and tells us it means “to be divided” or “inwardly distracted.” Boy, ain’t that the truth!

As you might have been able to gather, my sermon is on worry this weekend. 🙂  I’m using two specific examples and Scriptures for my thoughts. Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42 and the words of Jesus in Matthew 6: 23-34. It certainly is not the definitive sermon on worry, but if it gets a conversation started among people then I will consider it a good thing. I would appreciate your prayers please as I preach and as people listen-in person and online. Thanks.

#Anger#WrongorRight?

Saturday, October 10th, 2020

The idea of anger is a hot topic (pun intended) especially as we see it played out before us almost on a daily basis. Is it right or wrong to be angry? We hear of stories of people consumed by anger for one reason or another and we cringe when we think of its dangerous interplay in our own lives from time to time. People passed over for promotion; people losing their jobs after years of service and commitment to the company; people feeling like they were abused as a child or taken advantage of in an athletic contest; people who have anger issues that seem to be passed down from grandpa to dad to brother to you; and people who have justified reasons for being angry. They are all there in the mix.

So two views emerge about anger for the Christ-follower: it is either right or it is wrong. To show anger is good; to show anger is bad. To reveal it is not very “Christian”; to hide it is not very “Christian.” Sheesh!

So this week I’m going to speak about anger. Is it always wrong? But, then again, maybe that is not the right question to ask at all. Maybe the right one to ask is “what should I do with the anger I have?” My main Scripture is Eph. 4: 26-27.

I’d appreciate your prayers. If you won’t, I must get just a tad upset. 🙂

#Faith#Feelings#Doubt#

Sunday, October 4th, 2020

Today, Sunday, I spoke about how doubt should not be panned and dismissed as invalid. While I don’t question God’s character or who Jesus is as the Son of God, fully God and fully man, I do have questions. They center mostly on why things are the way they are. I struggle with not knowing what God has in mind for my life. I don’t doubt his love for me, nor do I doubt He has an ultimate plan. I struggle with Him not sharing it with me. 🙂

Part of my sermon was spent in Psalm 13 as David wrestles with the whole faith vs doubt thing.  I owe a debt of thanks to Randall Arthur (Randy Dodd) who first wrote about this in his excellent novel, Wisdom Hunter. (And yes, I am encouraging you to buy it and read it).  Anyway, here is how he teaches Psalm 13.

  1. In verse 1 David says God has forgotten him. But in verse 5 he says God loves him unceasingly (steadfast).
  2. In verse 1 he says that God has hidden His face from him. But in verse 6 he writes that God has been good to him. (dealt bountifully with me)
  3. In verse 2 he wrestled with many thoughts (take counsel in my soul) and had sorrow in his heart every day. But in verse 6 David says, “I will sing to the Lord.”
  4. In verse 2 David writes, “My enemy is triumphing over me.” And yet at the end of verse 5 he says God is delivering him (my heart shall rejoice in my salvation).

Why? Is David schizophrenic? No, of course not.  The point to see it this: There is often a difference between how we feel and what is true. Feelings can be so deceptive and unreliable. How many times have you or someone you know done something because “it felt right” or “it felt good,” but all along it is against the Scripture?  The very fact that David kept on going is proof that his beliefs kept him from being overtaken by his feelings. Trouble comes when our feelings become stronger than our beliefs.

I hope you will keep that in mind as you move through each day.

#Disgusting#Ending

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020

I’ve decided to end my discussion of the following book with this post. First, I am not sure it serves much good in reviewing this book. While many who are involved in the church in a more “official” capacity might find the book important, I’m not sure the “rank-and-file” folks will. Those who read here seem to be more of the latter. Second, I found a much better and much more concise review here. Tim Challies is a much better writer and analyzer than I am. So I suggest you read his review.

Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World

But, for what it’s worth, here are some of my thoughts from the latter half of the book:

#1- I had to stifle a gag reflex as I read the chapter on “Our Sexual Utopias.” I don’t blame Ms. Burton. She was “writing as she sees them.” But what she says is happening and will probably happen was enough to make me gag. I felt dirty when I was done. The acceptance of polyamory is chilling. (I have only one to keep happy. I can’t imagine having more than one…in the same house!!)  Polyamory calls our culture the “toxic monogamy culture.” WOW! I wonder what God thinks of that? A 2015 poll shows 25% of American adults find polyamory acceptable and that number skyrockets to 58% among adults who consider religion “not at all” important.  Adults interested in BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism) find it acceptable. Kink is in. Open marriage. You can say “thanks” to Fifty Shades of Gray for popularizing the whole kink thing.  Their philosophy is “If we had a god, that god would be consent.”  But one little line says it all: “My number one relationship is with myself.” (p.161)  Gag reflex subdued only by coming to the end of the chapter and taking a break.

#2-The whole influence of Silicon Valley on the grand scheme of things. Politically and financially potent this mostly godless climate has run amuck on traditional values. Just ask FB, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and others. Disagree and you are wiped clean as if you don’t exist.  And, oh yeah, let’s not forget #Black Lives Matter, the Marxist organization whose goal is to ruin families and our country. Too bad a good message (by the way..all lives matter) got hi-jacked by godless, Marxists who want nothing more than to tear apart our country.  The rise of “social justice”-the idea that American is at its core built on white supremacy, patriarchy, repression, and hatred- is the hot topic of the day. Even in churches…churches which have lost their focus on Jesus and the Gospel.  They (feminist utopians) see “white men as banks just giving money to fund their s***…Everything would be female, queer, Black, trans art…Every club a drag bar.”  (King Princess-p.179)  Can I gag now?

#3- Atavism (nostalgic, masculinist vision of animal humanity). It is largely an agnostic faith, with little time for gods beyond nature.  In a nutshell to the new Utopians (Unitarians fit this), atavism  is a reimagined, renewed world in which human beings transcend our moral and physical limitations.  The atavists are looking backward.  New atavists are followers of Jordan Peterson and others like him.  Nietzsche disciple, Julius Evola, condemns Christianity for fostering a religion based on womanly qualities like emotion.  Follow that thinking and you have Hitler and Mussolini to name a few. Welcome back Fascism.  Not that all of Peterson’s advice is bad. In actuality, some of it is good: “Stand up straight. Clean your room. Avoid people who drag you down. Treat yourself with dignity. Live for something.” (p.217) Alt-right atavism-unlike its more conservative Petersonian incarnation- is a religion of meaninglessness, one that worships violence and destruction for their own sake. Makes you wonder if we are watching that on our streets and TV’s at this very moment.

#4- New Thought/New Age garbage. AOC even released her birth time to eager astrologers-and the mainstream media breathlessly covered it (surprise surprise). This is called Remixed spiritualism. Norman Vincent Peale, Joel Osteen, the health/wealth proponents all figure in this mix as well.

The church needs to be aware of the struggles it will face in the future due to the shifting cultural stance toward God, the Bible and the church in general.  Reading this book gives a chilling picture of what has been and will continue coming down the pike.

#Storms#SinkorSwim

Friday, September 25th, 2020

Several days after an earthquake hit the San Francisco area, the story is told that a young boy was seen rocking and swaying on the school playground. His principal asked him if he was okay and the boy nodded and said, “I am moving like the earth, so if there’s another earthquake I won’t feel it.” He was trying to prepare himself for what he thought was soon coming again.

Don’t you wish you knew when the next storm would hit?  Not weather. Life storms.  We have an old cliche’ which says, “Into every life some rain must fall.”  Have you ever felt snarky enough to say, “Yeah rain.  But this is a storm! A downpour with lightning and thunder accompanied by a monsoon!” I think it is relatively safe to say that storms affect us all…to some degree. Some seem to always be in a storm, while others seem to skip some major ones.  There is no doubt we have been and are still in a storm called Covid-19.  I think the fear caused by it which has resulted in a shutdown of our economy, our work, our churches, our schools, businesses, and in some ways our whole way of life, has led to multiple other storms.

Sunday I am continuing my Q & A series with the question What about Storms?  (Bet you didn’t know that did you?) 🙂 I’m going to talk about some storms which were chasing David and then why that makes Psalm 13 such a rich chapter for us to study. I’ll show you in another post how every one of David’s haunting questions is answered by a solid answer.

Join us if you would like to. The church has a FB page and also streams on YouTube.  I’d love to have you join me/us.  And I’d appreciate it even more if you would commit to praying for us.

#JesusMovement#Laurie#JesusPeople

Monday, September 21st, 2020

I was born in 1952 (that puts me at a soon-to-be 68 for those counting. October 9 to be exact. Money accepted. 🙂 )  so I was in my teen years in 1965-1970. I wasn’t very world savvy (translation: not at all) so I knew very little about what was going on in Vietnam. I did not follow the hippie movement; Haight-Ashbury; LSD and the pharmacy; Nixon; Woodstock; Altamont; nor any of the movement called the Jesus Movement (JM). My music at the time was Tommy James and the Shondells, Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons, mostly bubblegum music. But then Tommy James did Crimson and Clover and Crystal Blue Persuasion (still my all-time #1 song). My senses began picking up vibes of another world. I began working and heard about Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. Still I had not heard of the JM or the Jesus People. I came from a pretty conservative church. I knew of the One Way sign and once flashed it to a military vehicle in front of us and promptly got back a middle finger. I’m not sure if he thought I was giving him one or if he was letting me know what he thought of Jesus. A rude awakening for sure. I had never heard of Larry Norman, Barry McGuire Chuck Girard and Love Song, or any of the other seminal artists in what was then a fledgling Christian music genre. And I for sure had never heard of Chuck Smith, Calvary Chapel, or one of Chuck’s protege’s, Greg Laurie. Too bad. But even then that was West Coast and I lived in PA.

This book, Jesus Revolution, by Greg Laurie and Ellen Vaughn was a great way to do an interstate tour through a state route roadway. I learned about Greg’s early involvement in drugs and the counterculture, but also with JM/JP after God got a hold of his life. But I also learned far more. I love history and man this book gives a breezy, Clif Notes version of the JM. It was a wonderful trip down memory lane-a lane I have no memory of…except some of the world events (which I now know about). But I loved hearing about history and how the JM intersected the world; how Chuck Smith opened his neat ‘n tidy church to the young hippies who were seeking meaning to their emptiness. Chuck pointed them to Jesus. One of those burned out people was Greg Laurie. It was fun reading of Greg’s “rise” from a 17 y/o hippie to preaching at Riverside (an effort blessed and encouraged by Chuck) at the age of 19. God began to use Greg to where they eventually had to begin meeting at the Riverside Municipal Building with no A/C! It was nicknamed the Riverside Municipal Microwave Oven.

This book included stories of Greg; his marriage to Cathe (which is about 8 months shorter than mine); his “rise” as a pastor; his influence in people’s lives; the tragic and untimely death of his son, Christopher, in a car accident; the renewal of his son, Jonathan as a result of the accident; his Harvest Crusades and his move back to Orange County to start a church. It also included some great round-ups of world events during the ’60s-’79.

This was a wonderful book!! If you like history, especially contemporary church history, you will want to get this book. You will not be sorry. It makes me want to read more about the JM and more of Pastor Greg’s books.  And just to be clear: this is not a book going on and on about how great Greg Laurie is. I suspect he would eschew that in the highest order.

Jesus Revolution: How God Transformed an Unlikely Generation and How He Can Do It Again Today

#Remixed#Nones

Saturday, August 22nd, 2020

I’m not preaching this Sunday. We have a guest from the church camp we support, Hilltop Christian Camp, in Columbus, IN. Hilltop took a hit this past summer, as did all summer camps. I believe this ministry is so important I am willing to give my preaching time to the director to inform us of the camp’s next moves and how we can support them.  So this post is entirely non-related to any sermon.

I’ve been reading a book over the past week or so that I know someone recommended but I’m not sure who or where. The reason I say that is that it does not seem to be a book I would just up and buy.  That is a nice way to say the jury is still out on this book. 🙂 The premise sounded good.  Oh, but first the book:

Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World

As you can see it is called Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World by Tara Isabella Burton. Since I believe it is important to know the culture to which Christ-followers are to relate, I thought this would be a good book to get a handle on it.  I can’t speak as to the author’s religious leanings even though she is a columnist at Religion News Service and holds a doctorate in theology from Oxford.  I can’t even tell if she is a Christ-follower or one who writes about religion. One thing I do know is she is knowledgeable and a student of the “Nones.”

The “Nones” have been described (in my very simple way) as a generation of people who have no desire for religious affiliation with the God of the Bible or its teachings. They may have been raised that way; they may have been raised in a church home but walked away from it; or may have even been in the ministry in some way (pastor, youth pastor, etc) and “deconverted.”  Here is the author’s explanation of what she calls a “Remixed” person:

Today’s Remixed reject authority, institution, creed, and moral universalism. They value intuition, personal feeling, and experiences. (p.10)

I live near a university (Indiana University) with two others (Indiana State University and DePauw) not far away.  So I can attest to this philosophy as being very rampant in the minds of many, especially young people. They demand the right to rewrite their own script, their own history, and their own morals. They want to be able to define and describe how the world should operate and turn out.  They have turned their backs on historic, orthodox Christianity and are into making their own rules. 

It’s not pretty now; nor will it turn out pretty in years to come.  You simply CANNOT make your own rules and moral law and see any good come of it. That is especially true when we can’t decide on what’s right and wrong.  (Can anyone say today’s world and uproar?)  We can see or hear the daily devastation of those who want to make their own rules and then try to impose them on someone else. The senseless beating of an innocent truck driver; the beating of a retired police detective; or the senseless beating to a pulp of an innocent white man by a mob. But that is what happens when we have no moral base on which to build. And please don’t get me started on the irreligious and Marxist-leaning BLM organization or the senseless killing of unborn children! And the NONES will find that out. Our world will not be a better world by the lack of moral absolutes and failing to follow the Bible’s advice on how to treat another. We even had a “pastor” (notice the quotes) who tweeted following the death of President Trump’s brother that “#thewrongTrumpdied.” Seriously? That is Christ-like? I think not. I don’t care who it is: death hits us all and there is sorrow and hurt with it. I don’t wish the death of a loved one on anyone- be they atheist, someone I love, or my worst enemy.  That is one of the most un-Christ-like tweets or statements I have seen in a long time…and that man is supposedly a man of God? Give me a break!

I’m going to keep reading this book and will keep posting my thoughts. Agree or disagree you are welcome to respond as long as it is civil. If it is not, I can disapprove your comment.

 

#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.

#ConversionStory#KeepitReal

Tuesday, August 4th, 2020

I’ve just finished reading the three accounts of the conversion of Saul/Paul- Acts 9, Acts 22, and Acts 26.  Paul is efficient in each of them. Consistent in each of them. In other words, he doesn’t embellish, add to or take away a particular thought or action to make a stronger point to his audience. He doesn’t heighten emotion to make a stronger point to his audience. He says nothing more to Agrippa in chapter 26 than he does in his defense before the people in chapter 22.

Some people like to do just the opposite. In an effort to be relevant (whatever that may mean) or to present a more enthralling conversion experience, they embellish their story. I’ve read and heard some whoppers in my days. Mine is simple: I was 8 years old; fell under conviction that is what I must do; went forward on Palm Sunday; and was baptized (with others) on Easter Sunday, April 17, 1960. No big sin. I wasn’t a drug user, a pill-popper, a rebel (except as a sinner against God), a murderer, a rabble-rouser, or an obstinate, extremely disobedient child. I was simply a young boy who realized he was a sinner and wanted to accept Jesus. (I also confess I wanted to take communion but that’s a whole ‘nother story).  🙂  No confetti. No big brass band. No one lining up to hear my stirring story. The only sound heard was angels singing, rejoicing, as Luke 15 says.

Every man’s experience is different. No conversion stories are the same. I did not have a “Damascus Road” experience, but that makes mine no less important or special than someone who is radically saved and tells others. Here is what I think: You tell your story. Tell it truthfully. Who knows who may be listening?