Doctrine

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TESTS

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

I disliked taking tests. Maybe dislike is the wrong word. Maybe hated is a better one. 🙂 Actually, I didn’t mind the essay kind. I could “blow off” and hope I said enough to make my point. I didn’t mind multiple choice because somewhere along the line I might remember and get the right answer. I disliked strongly (how about that choice of words) the True/False kind.

One of the biggest struggles I run into among fellow Christ-followers is the assurance of salvation. Too many are always questioning “Am I saved?” “If I die today would I go to heaven?” “How can I know?” While I personally have questions about what is called Eternal Security, I don’t believe a follower of Christ ever has a reason to doubt their salvation. Based on what you ask? Well, Sunday I gave two tests to ask as you seek to figure out not only your own, but who might be preaching a strange gospel. Here are two from I John:

  • Belief in God and the certainty of sin. [1:5-6,8,10]  False teachers and doctrinal errors are spread when there is uncertainty about God and sin. John tells us “God is Light.” He also tells us “in Him is no darkness at all.” Ever since the Fall man has tried to excuse sin. We call it a “mistake” or a “failure” or a “disorder, illness, or addiction.” Call sin what it is…sin.
  • Belief in forgiveness of sin and confession. [1:7b,9] That verse 9 stands like a rock for me. We can deny it. We can argue. But we cannot erase that verse from the pages of Holy Writ. What is written is written. Way too many followers of Jesus live in the past and think they cannot be forgiven. The tense used for forgive is one which not only shows past forgiveness but specifically present forgiveness. And since my tomorrow is actually today, forgiveness is always there.

I’m sure you can think of more. But these are huge to the freedom of every follower of Jesus. What do they say to you?

Idols

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

In Numbers 21 there is a story of the people of Israel and a serpent. They had begun to grumble against God and Moses, complaining they brought them out of Egypt into the wilderness to die. Their complaining got so bad God sent fiery serpents among them and when they bit the people they died. Suddenly complaining about being in the wilderness was not such a big thing anymore. The remedy for all of this mayhem was for Moses to make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole. Anyone who looked on it would live. Sounds all well and good.

E.X.C.E.P.T!

“He (King Hezekiah) removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (and it was called Nehushtan).”  2 Kings 18:4

That which was for a good purpose turned out to become something bad. The serpent had become an idol.

We may not have those kinds of idols but we do have them. An idol is a representation of what we honor, esteem, pay allegiance to, or worship. Idols tell us we can’t live without them.

My sermon this week is #3 in the series “I Am Fifth.” I’m calling it “Who’s Your Daddy?” because of the subject of idols. It is a tough sermon to preach since it hits all of us (especially me). I’m going to take a post or two next week to cover this subject in a little more detail. Stay tuned!

Sovereignty

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

captured

Before I talk about the idea of Sovereignty, I wanted to take a moment or two and do two things: give an update and also a huge thanks.

Thanks so much for your thoughts and especially your prayers concerning my accident. Tuesday and Wednesday were rough days as my body bruised and ached all over. But today (Thursday) is a new day and I woke up excited because I was alive but I hurt less today than previously. The bruising has spread. I look like one of the My Little Pony toys with my purple hip/leg. All I need now is fuzzy hair and a horn in the middle of my forehead.But seriously thanks for praying.

My sermon Sunday is on Sovereignty from Isaiah 45. Some people shy away from that topic. Some stare at you like you are a two-headed monster. Others glaze over. And some are “right there” with you. They like the challenge of trying to delve deeper into that mystery.

There are still others who question God’s sovereignty based on events which happen: the school shooting of the Amish children; Sandy Hook; the devastating tsunami of 2004; earthquakes and other natural disasters. They leave unanswered questions…questions which will remain unanswered because of our limited ability to comprehend the infinite.

This topic is a deep one, one which certainly will not be answered in one sitting. As always I’d appreciate your prayers for me and for the folks who are here…so all may have clarity.

 

Awesome!!

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

captured

A couple of years ago our grandson, Braden, was visiting with us when The Lego Movie made its debut. Trust me when I say him being here was the only reason I would go. The theme song was heard over and over and over..ad infinitum, ad nauseum in the movie and the radio: “Everything is Awesome!” Other than the fact I sat through the movie with him and found it a tad bit better than I thought it would be (if you were a child), that song was absolutely annoying. On several fronts actually. First, it is annoying because it was played soooooo much and I could hear kids singing it. Second, and this is the real kicker, it simply is not true.

While I am not a scrooge and understand a childhood song more than I care to admit, everything is not awesome. Seriously? Everything is awesome? Do I really need to go into things which are not?

So here is my thinking: Everything is not awesome; God is. My problem, I think, comes from the fact we have over-trivialized the word. “Mom, these cookies are awesome!” “Awesome sermon today, Bill!” (Really? You say that every week). Then we sing, “Our God is an awesome God,” and wonder why things fall flat.

My sermon this is week is Captured by God’s Awesomeness. I plan to spend time on the idea that God is truly the Awesome One.

Holiness

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

captured

First, my thanks to my techgeek, Ryan, for the graphic. I most often give him ideas then he makes sense of my “dream ramblings.”

A new series of sermons start this coming Sunday. You can see the series is entitled

CAPTURED

The idea of the series is to focus on God and how He has captured us. First up: Captured by His Holiness. That word gives off a strange vibe to many people. It is probably because we get weird pictures in our head of what holiness is. Thinness. Hollow-eyed gauntness. Beards, sandals and long robes. No sex. No jokes. Fasting. Hours of prayer. Stained-glass windows.

But consider this:

Holiness is the everyday business of every Christian. It evidences itself in the decisions we make and the things we do, hour by hour, day by day. Chuck Colson

So…what about when we say God is Holy? Nothing is as breath-taking, fearsome, mind-blowing, bring-to-your-knees powerful as the holiness of God. That reality sure hit Isaiah like a ton of bricks. It drove him to his knees…I’d almost say out of desperation of what and who he was compared to What and Who God is!

I’ll be spending the next five weeks on Captured! I’m praying for life change…for all of us.

 

GraceEffect

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51pbqw8T5uL._AC_US160_.jpg

Several weeks ago I published a review of the book “Hitch” by Larry Alex Taunton. In that book he mentioned an encounter between Hitch and his internationally adopted (Ukraine) daughter, Sasha. After reading of that friendly encounter and Hitch’s reaction to her, I thought I wanted to read the book based on the adoption. The name of that book is The Grace Effect and this is my review.

I know several families who have adopted internationally. Several of you have done so. My brother has. Several from the church have. An acquaintance from the Y has just adopted 5 siblings from Bulgaria. (UGH!) Larry’s wife and their three sons all wanted to adopt Sasha after a mission trip where they fell in love with her. Until the point of adoption Larry had never met her. He was on board with it though and once he saw her there was never any doubt. Little did they know the hoops they would have to jump through to make it happen. Ukraine is a country from the old Soviet Union. It may say “Free” but old habits die hard. I cannot even begin to write down all they were put through-emotionally, physically, financially (and every other “ly”) in the year it took them to adopt her while in Ukraine! 

It was an emotional roller-coaster for them. I have to admit it was for me as well just reading the book! This was far more than just reading a book about the horrors of international adoption. It was also a book about the false promises of socialism; the emptiness of communism; the soul-destroying influence of unbelief; and, in short, what the atheistic worldview would give us without Christianity-something cold, pitiless, and graceless.

I’m glad I read this book even though I really had no idea what to expect. It was eye-opening on so many fronts. I’d suggest you find this book and read it also. You will thank me for suggesting it.

Split

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

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I thought about titling this “Another Lover” but I didn’t want a bunch of spammers hitting me with their garbage.  So I went with “Split” as in “Split Personality.”

Be assured I am not making fun of anyone who is or has dealt with a “split personality.”  I have counseled some and it is no picnic whatsoever. It is a genuinely troubling illness which is not funny in the slightest. I use the term/title because of the words used by Jesus of the church at Ephesus: “You have left your first love.” Where once a flame burned for Jesus now the ember is dying out. While the church was busy defending the faith and holding to true doctrine firmly, they were also losing their love for Jesus.

We can also get that way. People who will defend the faith to the hilt, even dying for it. People will take a stand against evil, but more often than not do it because they always have.

Gone is the fervor.

Gone is the “hot love” for the Savior.

Gone is the love for others that once motivated them to act.

Things are different now. Sometimes they are for me. Sometimes they happen in a church that is all about “saving the Gospel” but forget to love those they are supposed to be reaching.

As you can tell, the next sermon series is simply called “7” and will be about the 7 churches in Revelation 2 & 3.  I’d appreciate  your prayers for me and the church as we make our way through these two chapters. Thanks.

Discrepancies?

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

Sunday I spoke from Psalm 13. If you would indulge me I’d like to share some of my thoughts with you. But first, please read verses 1-2 and then jump down to verses 5-6 and read them.  The following is the study I led the folks through:

  1. In verse 2b David says his enemies were triumphing (exalting) over him. At the same time in verse 5b he rejoices in his salvation (God is delivering him). How do you explain that?
  2. In verse 2a David says he wrestled with many thoughts and had sorrow in his heart every day. But in verse 6a David said he sang with joy at the same time. How do you explain that?
  3. David says in verse 1 that God hid His face from him, and yet at the same time in verse 6b, David says God was good to him (dealt bountifully with him).  How do you explain that?
  4. If God truly forgot David as he says in verse 1a, then how did God at the same time truly love David with a steadfast love? How do you explain that?

Looks like a serious series of discrepancies doesn’t it? I think the answer is found in the differences between David’s feelings and David’s beliefs. David felt like God has forgotten him, while at the same time he really believed God’s love for him was unceasing.

Question: How often have you/I allowed our feelings to dictate how we act? We have allowed our feelings to beat us up, to carry us places we don’t need to go. Truth: when our feelings are stronger than our beliefs we will find ourselves blown away by circumstances and events out of our control.

Always remember this: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22 We need to remember who God is. His character never changes.

I am indebted to Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur for some of these thoughts and the insight to “stir” my brain.

 

Sheep

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

LifeAsAnAdventure2

The great philosopher, Bob Dylan, once said, “Most of the time I’m half-way content.”

A great leadership principle says, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

When I was a high school student working in a dairy store, I had a bad habit. The owner would have me move merchandise, wipe it down, rotate it and rearrange the shelves. Okay that’s one job I could do. My trouble came when I was also expected to run the register, oversee the front, cut meat, dip ice cream for people, answer questions and offer help finding things if necessary. I would leave the shelves undone or forget they were messed up. I wasn’t (and still am not) a very good multi-tasker.

In his book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Philip Keller tells about “marking” his sheep. They had to catch each ewe and lay her ear on a wooden block and then notch it deeply with the razor-sharp edge of the knife. This same process was used with slaves to show ownership. It was hard for a slave to run away and go unnoticed because of the mark. It also told another landowner that he/she was the property of another.

My message this Sunday is entitled Trail Boss and will cover Psalm 23:1-3. In one of my posts next week I plan to share some thoughts from the message. Your prayers are appreciated.

Forgiveness

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

I realize forgiveness is a much-talked about subject. That’s okay. I talked about it some more today (Sunday).  🙂  In my mind, I can never talk about it or grace enough.

Psalm 130 opens with a cry from the depths by the psalmist. What is in question is why is he in the depths? Is it because of suffering or because of sin? Both are legitimate thoughts. I said that in my sermon. But I also felt there was a big need to let people know if he is speaking of sin there were four thoughts to keep in mind:

  1. God’s forgiveness is inclusive. Verse 4 tells us that. We would do well to stop putting a premium of one over another.
  2. God’s forgiveness is for now. The verse uses the word “is.” The Hebrew grammar is even more intense. There is no verb. It literally says, “With You forgiveness.”
  3. God’s forgiveness is for those who want it. Confess sin; don’t cover it up. The psalmist is pleading for mercy.
  4. God’s forgiveness leads to godly living. Verse 4 says, “that you may be feared.” I can hear some saying, “Wait! Shouldn’t that say loved?” Biblical fear has to do with a reverence and awe of God.

The important thing to remember is this: forgiveness is not dependent on feeling forgiven. God’s promise is unfailing.

I know there were  those in attendance who needed to hear that. (And probably some not there). Maybe you do as well.