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JesusContinued

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

Francis Chan once wrote:

We all see problems in the church. We don’t need another book to point them out. We need the faith to believe that the solution is really quite simple: the Holy Spirit.

What he says is absolutely true. While no follower of Christ would deny His existence, I’m willing to bet there are millions of church-goers across our nation who have no clue who the Holy Spirit is, nor could they confidently say they have experienced His presence in their life.

We set ourselves up for this you know? The benchmark of success in churches has waffled-no make that bee-lined- from purpose and lives being changed to attendance and sometimes the offering. Far more than we would like to admit many churches adopted the “entertainment” mentality of the 80s-90s, i.e. entertain the people or they will get bored with church and go to the one that does it best. We became a church nation of church hoppers looking for the next, best fix.

Who got lost? The Holy Spirit. What go lost? Well, in the words of Bono (whose music I’m not really a fan of) but with whom I can agree on this: “Religion is what happens when the Spirit has left the building.” We can preach without Him. We can have discussions about the Holy Spirit and not have a clue of His powerful effect on a person’s life. And, of course, there are those who can make wild claims of the Holy Spirit’s work and be totally empty or lying or a heretic.

This Sunday, as part of the “Hills” series, I am preaching on the Holy Spirit, or as J.D.Greear calls Him: “Jesus, Continued.” His thought, which I will be focusing on, is “The Spirit inside you is better than the Jesus beside you.”  I’d appreciate your prayers for me and for the folks who listen.

Invasion

Friday, September 15th, 2017

Mention history and ask for examples of invasions and one is likely to hear about Normandy, an invasion so horrific the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan and other movies like Band of Brothers cannot do it justice (although they tried).  over 150,000 troops were committed to the initial invasion, employing 6900 vessels, 4100 landing craft, and 12,000 airplanes flying 14,000 sorties. The death tool was astronomical.

History is filled with invasions like that. In one sense, the great invasions of history are analogous to the way in which God chose to deal with the enemy’s rule over the earth. He invaded, but not with guns and ammo and an army trained and armed to the teeth. Instead, He chose a different kind of invasion. One of the HILLS of our faith is God became flesh and lived among us in the person of Jesus Christ (Christmas). Then He lived a sinless life only to find Himself being led to a cross where He would die for the sin of the world and then raise from the dead (Easter).

That is one of our Core Beliefs, a HILL we will die on defending. Your prayers are much appreciated

Progression?

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

I’ve been using Whiter Than Snow by Paul David Tripp during my morning Quiet Time in addition to my Bible reading and New Morning Mercies. I read one devotion per week, rereading it each day, looking for something new to ponder.

This week’s is entitled “Sinners and Unafraid.”  I’m not exactly sure why that title but it is the first line that I read which gave me the thought for this post.

The older you get the more you move from being an astronaut to an archaeologist. (p.53)

Hmmmm. What exactly does that mean? Maybe this will help. “When you’re young, you’re excitedly launching to worlds unknown…But as you get older, you begin to look back at least as much as you look forward.” (p.53)

That makes sense to me. Like most ventures, the life of being a follower of Jesus is initially something exciting. Like putting on clothes just purchased, or a new car with that “smell,” or finding ourselves heading out for a first-time foray, there is something exciting which happens inside us. We are like an astronaut seeing things for the first time.

But then life hits. We get older and life is no longer like a box of chocolates. (I wish). As life hits, we begin digging into our past, sometimes looking for that missing piece of puzzle. That one thing which will help explain why we are as we are. Why we react the way we do. Why we are making the choices and decisions we are making. Why does this make me happy or sad?

I confess to having done some archaeological digging in my own life.  It’s almost a necessity these days to figure out how we perk. But it definitely reminds me I share something with every other person on this planet. It is called a sinful nature and no matter how I try, I cannot become perfect or sinless. I have also learned something else, something much more important: I must rely on God’s grace to accept me, that it is not based on my performance, my past (no matter how good or bad), my upbringing, or my “religious efforts.”

Progression comes when I become more steeped in God’s magnificent grace.

Homecoming

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

Maybe Homegoing is a better way to say it.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116:15

Saturday. September 9th. 4:00 PM. Mike Murphy went home.

Mike fought a valiant battle. He remained upbeat as much as he was able until the disease robbed him of the ability to show it. He lost his physical strength. He lost his ability to verbally communicate. Eventually the cancer which had spread throughout his body robbed him of his ability to even breathe.

But throughout the ordeal, which really wasn’t long compared to some, Mike maintained one very important thought: “I know whom I have believed and I know He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him for that day.” Mike’s attitude soon reflected the same I saw in my late mother: He would fall asleep and wake and with disappointment say, “Oh, I’m still here.” He wasn’t in a hurry to leave Sheila, his wife of 17 years. (I married them in June of 2000 in Terre Haute, IN). He was in a hurry to see Jesus, the One who loved him, saved him, gave him the love of his life, and would say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  Mike is home.

Thanks to all of you who prayed for Mike and Sheila. She needs your prayers now as she makes the necessary preparations for his celebration. They have asked me to speak at his funeral. I’d appreciate your prayers for me as I prepare my remarks. That, of course, means my presence here and at your place will be up in the air.  I’m sure you will understand if I don’t make it by to comment.

I’m glad I can approach Mike’s funeral with joy (mingled with sadness of course), but joy because I know where he is spending eternity.  I cannot say that for all funeral services I do, nor am I happy when I do one where the person has rejected God’s love and invitation. The odds are 1 out of 1 that we will die. Are you ready?

Hills

Saturday, September 9th, 2017

There is an old saying which is often used to stress a point:

Now that is a hill I will die on.

The negative of that is “That is not a hill I want to die on.”

Point being: what is stated is so important or not so important that I want to spend my time defending it or not defending it. Another way to put it is to consider its importance and whether you want to take a stand for it.

My next sermon series is called HILLS because there are certain TRUTHS I will take a stand for.  In 2003, Philip Johnson, a law professor at the University of California was awarded the “Daniel of the Year” award for his efforts to dismantle the Darwinist empire that dominates culture. In 1991 he sparked an enormous controversy by publishing a book called Darwin on Trial. In the years following that book, his attacks on Darwinism continued. Why?

The fundamental question is whether God is real or imaginary. The underlying thinking of Darwinism is the assumption that God is out of the picture.

My first HILL is entitled “In the Beginning.” My purpose is not to debate the existence or non-existence of God, but to begin with the first 4 words in the Bible: “In the beginning God.”  One of our Core Beliefs is found here. I’ll spend the morning looking at two main thoughts found in Romans 11: 33-36:

  • Five Foundational Truths
  • Three Unequaled Qualities

If you care to listen, the podcast will be on the church’s website. Meanwhile, I’d appreciate you praying for me and the church. And pray for the folks affected by both hurricanes.

Milestones

Friday, September 1st, 2017

We all like milestones in our lives. We all have them. They “mark” us.

I am relishing several of them right now.

Milestone #1: I went for a 10 mile bike ride yesterday. First one in about two months. It has been almost 6 weeks since my back surgery. I quit a few weeks before that because it simply hurt too much. I hit one bump too many which convinced me that getting off and staying off the bike for awhile was the best thing. So even though 10 miles doesn’t seem like a lot…my legs tell me differently. 🙂

Milestone #2: I looked before I started this post. I have hit the 2600 mark of blogs published. My first one was 2/20/08. Little did I realize I would be at it this long. I have seen so many come and go. I’m glad for each and everyone who “graced” my comments page with their response.

Milestone #3: I preach my last sermon in the current series on Grace this Sunday. I started the series on June 25th and with the exception of one week (last week) preached a sermon on Grace. We talked about anger, grace, bitterness, grace, forgiveness, grace, pain, grace, and a whole host of other topics, all with the focus on grace. This week I close the series with a sermon from Romans 8: 26-39 and John 11 entitled God is Still Good. We have all had those crushing times when we have wondered about God’s goodness. We’ve struggled with our faith. We’ve struggled with seeing the purpose behind what is happening. God’s Word gives us the truth that in spite of all that happens…and is happening…God is still good. Romans 8 reaffirms that. John 11 shows Jesus taking an ugly situation and making it good.

Given the current Harvey situation in Houston it is hard to understand. It is hard to see. I have a friend who is dying of cancer and will probably pass any day. I have someone else close who has been diagnosed with cancer.  As a pastor, I see heartbreaking events almost every day. Sometimes I honestly don’t know how to answer the questions which come. But I have to lean on the promise given in the two Scriptures I sighted.

Prayers are appreciated for this weekend. And, of course, pray for all those affected by Harvey.

Quote

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

After yesterday’s sermon someone walked out and handed me this quote. I don’t know her story yet,  but I do know she is grateful for God’s grace in her life.

Your best day is never so good that you don’t need God’s grace; your worst day is never so bad that you are beyond God’s grace.  Jerry Bridges in The Discipline of Grace

What a powerful quote! I’m afraid that many of us declare our day good or bad based on how we feel. This quote debunks the whole myth that our daily lives matter or don’t matter based upon how we feel. Our lives have significance or don’t have significance based on what we do or don’t do. We need to remember that our acceptance by God is not based on performance of any kind-good, bad or indifferent.

I have adopted the daily prayer of needing God’s grace each day. Each moment of every day. Each hour of every day. Each second of every day. Awake or asleep; studying or not; playing or being serious. I want grace to be such a part of me that I think of it when I wake up; think about it when I work; think about it when I play;  think about it when I lay my head on the pillow.

I need to rest in what God really thinks of me: I am His beloved child and He loves me unconditionally.  How about you?

Chew

Sunday, July 9th, 2017

Chew on this some. Jo read it to me first and I asked her to email it to me. It is from Ann Voskamp:

I don’t have much to say or to add. I’d just like for you to chew on this for awhile. Then if you care, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.  And sorry I couldn’t edit out the header and junk at the bottom.

Need

Friday, July 7th, 2017

Grace…who needs it?

Truth:  it becomes easy at times to say, “That’s not for me. After all, I stack up pretty well against the majority.” Ironically, that is a pretty good indicator it is needed! 🙂  In fact, it is not uncommon to have similar ideas as the woman at the well.

It is also not uncommon for us to look around and feel real good that our “sin is not as bad as that person’s.” It is also easy to become judgmental and opinionated about sin. But there is a verse which tracks well: “See to it that no one misses the grace of God.” Heb.12:15  Ooooh yeah…now I remember. I remember how caustic I was. I remember how standoffish I was. I remember how I looked at people with a sideways glance and a raised eyebrow. All the while feeling pretty good about myself.  But listen to these words from Kyle Idleman’s book Grace is Greater.

When we miss grace things become toxic. Religion without grace is poisonous. A relationship without grace is poisonous. A church without grace is poisonous. A heart without grace is poisonous.

Then he really hits hard:

When we miss grace, the poison of bitterness and anger will eventually become too much to keep buried. The poison of guilt and shame will eventually destroy your soul.

The truth is we all need grace. And I don’t mean grace for salvation. I mean grace for living. One last quote:

God’s grace is compelling when explained but irresistible when experienced.

My sermon Sunday will focus on this subject. I’d appreciate your prayers for me and the folks who listen.

Freedom!

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

One of the best scenes of Braveheart is when Mel Gibson’s character, William Wallace, is having the life ooze out of him and just before he dies he yells, “Freedom!”

Freedom is something we all want. Next week we will be celebrating our country’s Independence Day. Many in the throes of prison or an addiction will cry out for freedom. But what about those chained to a system or a mindset who will cry out for freedom? Will they find it?

I read this recently:

“Other than the name of Jesus, it may be the most important word in all the Bible: GRACE. Grace in the person and work-the life, death and resurrection-of Jesus is what made the difference. If you’re God’s child, stop hiding behind your tree of shame.”  (Tripp-New Morning Mercies-June 29).

This Sunday I’m preaching on Freedom!  I’ll be using John 8 (the woman caught in adultery) and I Cor. 7: 21-13. My focus? Grace frees; the law enslaves. Living in grace is radically exciting; living in law is morbidly exhausting. The follower of Christ can live in freedom-freedom from law, from rules, regulations, and other life-killing bacteria. The purpose of grace is to give freedom.

I’d appreciate your prayers. Meanwhile, have a Happy 4th!!