Doctrine

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Birth

Friday, December 14th, 2018

If you want to strike “fear” into many peoples’ lives, two words will do it. In many circles it will bring up memories of disagreements and shortness of tempers. Those two words:

VIRGIN BIRTH

Books, articles, essays, speeches, sermons, and a whole lot of other means of communication have been used in the discussion of the Virgin Birth: Pro or Con. I can honestly say men a whole lot smarter than me have gone ’round and ’round about it. I’m not well-versed in the deep defense of the VB. I just know this: God’s Word said it was how Jesus would come into the world, therefore, I believe it.

Just a few months ago we were treated (again) to another round of gaudiness and pomp and ceremony. A royal wedding of Prince whatever-his name is and his new wife, Meghan. Despite what the media and paparazzi says, they are mere human beings. Can you tell I am not a fan of their weddings? It lies in direct contrast with the entrance of Jesus into the world.

The attacks on the VB are monumental.  And ongoing-past, present and future. I’m not going to go into detail about the attacks, but the big question is Why? Simple actually: the VB is the line in the sand.  It is the line of demarcation. If someone denies the VB of Christ, IMHO I have every right to call into question the reality of their faith. The truth is that Jesus’ life did not begin at His birth or His conception. He is eternal and has always existed.

This Sunday I’m going to tackle the issue of the VB. In keeping with the “Light” theme, I’m calling it This IS the Light! John 1:1-14 will be my Scripture. Thanks ahead of time for your prayers.

Word

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

Not “word” as in current vernacular.

But Word…as in “The Word.”

Word as in John 1:1- “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word with with God, and the Word was God.” (emphasis mine)

For the past 3 months I have been reading from John Piper’s Christmas devotion book, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy during my morning Quiet Time. It has been part of my attempt (along with Paul David Tripp’s book Come Let Us Adore Him) to prepare my heart for the Christmas season. Piper’s devotion for December 12 struck a chord as I prepare to preach on the Virgin Birth this coming Sunday. His devotion was on “The Glory of the Word Made Flesh.”

Aside from the very obvious conflict I would have with the Jehovah Witness cult over their use of “the Word was a God,” (which totally destroys the whole idea of the Trinity…which they do not believe in), Piper’s devotion really focused on “the Word.” Piper’s point, which I thought was really good, is that it did not say:

  • “the Deed”: The whole idea of deeds being defining is ludicrous. If my words are questionable from time to time, deeds are even more wishy-washy. No one would ever know why I did what I did or do what I do unless, of course, I myself knew why.
  • “the Thought”: The difference between a word and a thought is that a word is expressed from me to you or you to me. Thoughts can be kept inside forever.  If Jesus was a thought then there would have been no communication.
  • “the Feeling”: WOW! Don’t get me started on this one! Can you imagine how fickle Jesus would be if he was nothing more than a feeling?

Jesus is the Word. Jesus is God expressing Himself to us. I’ll take that over a Deed, Thought, or Feeling any day.  Combine that with verse 14 of John 1: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen the glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

I thank God for expressing Himself in Jesus, the Word made flesh. Any thoughts?

Reason

Monday, December 10th, 2018

It is not uncommon this time of the year to hear or see or be given some type of reminder:

JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON

To be honest? I’ve had trouble with that phrase for quite a long time. Yes, I know what the slogan is supposed to be saying. And yes, I know people are well-intentioned (at least most of them) when they say it or display it. But that still doesn’t stop me from having trouble with it. Why?

Simple. Jesus is not the reason for the season. Now…before you brand me as a heretic or a scrooge of some sort, please hear me out.

Jesus is not the reason for the season…we are. That’s right. You cannot read the Scripture without seeing that it wasn’t Jesus who needed Christmas. We did. Bear with me here please. Don’t shoot me because I said Jesus didn’t need Christmas. I’m not talking about the trappings of the season. It would be sort of like I said, “Jesus is behind Easter.” I obviously don’t mean Jesus is responsible for eggs, rabbits, etc.

So, I’m not saying Jesus is behind the trees, lights, decorations, or even gifts. We are told: “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Jesus came as God in the flesh because we needed it to happen. The ultimate act of love of dying on the cross was why Jesus came. He came for us. We were the reason.

So my thinking is this: I am the reason; He is the meaning.  Any thoughts?

Unfiltered

Friday, December 7th, 2018

Don’t you just love genealogies? Aaaaah no. “As a matter of fact I usually just skip over them and go to the end. Sort of like I do when I’m reading all about the clans and offspring in Numbers.”

But there is one genealogy you just don’t want to skip over. I’m sure you know I’m speaking of Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1. I used to. I was lost at the first “begat.” You know…the old KJV version of “father of.” And honestly, when people want to talk about Christmas they want to talk about the baby in the manger, the shepherds, the wise men, Bethlehem, no room in the manger, or some other well known part of the story. But the genealogy? Surely you have got to be kidding!

But there it is in black and white and as glorious as it can be! There is the requisite “father of” found in all genealogies. But, as you may know, there are some women included in His. The culture of that day excluded women from any place of prominence, especially in the genealogy. But not Jesus’. I’m sure you have heard it before but here is what we find with the woman:

Tamar– disguised herself as a prostitute and seduced Judah. Find her story in Genesis 38

Rahab– anyone who has read the story of Jericho knows her profession.  She was an idolatrous, an outcast Gentile woman, and a professional prostitute. She became the mother of Boaz who married our next woman.

Ruth– a Moabitess, a lineage that came as a result of incest. (Genesis 19). She married Boaz (Read the book of Ruth) and became David’s great grandmother.

Bathsheba– Is the anyone who does not know who she is? Just say “David.”

Mary- the mother of Jesus. A sinner like you and me. A virgin but still a sinner.  Definitely not perfect and definitely not deserving to be elevated to the heights with Jesus. She was in need of a Savior like all of us.

The genealogy of Jesus speaks of grace. It shows that God accepts outsiders. Like me. Like you.  The genealogy shows people with warts. It is unfiltered.

Grace is my main topic for this Sunday. The Unfiltered Light of Christmas. Your prayers would be appreciated.

Christmas’18

Monday, December 3rd, 2018

The past few Decembers I have taken to posting something about Christmas. A song. A devotion I read. A quote. I plan to do that this month as well.

My first post is by my favorite singer probably of all time. He made his mark with a group in the 60s and then went solo in the 70s and beyond. He put out a Christmas recording (what else should I call it?) back in 2008 and it stays close to my truck CD player for the whole month in December.  One year it never left the player. 🙂  What’s funny is I have a compilation of his 40 greatest hits and the title tune from his CD is on it: “I Love Christmas.” When that song comes on it truly is Christmas in July.

Anyway, in keeping with the real meaning and spirit of Christmas, I’d like to feature what I consider one of the highlights of the CD. Hope you enjoy it.

And Floyd: you know I had to do this.  In fact, I included this just for you!

Light

Thursday, November 29th, 2018

I must confess. I love lights. Christmas lights in particular. One of my fondest memories as a child was one Sunday night after church we would drive through the neighborhoods around us looking at lights. Christmas was a challenge for mom and dad in many ways, but they did their best  to make them bright and cheery. We never got our tree before Christmas Eve day but when we came down on Christmas morning it was bright with a train underneath. Dad always put lights in the lower windows. Our trips through the neighborhoods were those where money seemed to be no object. But even those would be considered child’s play according to some. Here is one of them: https://youtu.be/MnL0_CsXncI

I know that will never be me. Shoot, I don’t even put lights in the windows.  I’ll let someone else blow their hard-earned dough on contests and taking a chance on the wrath of the neighbors.  🙂

Sunday I start a new series I’m calling Shedding Light on Christmas (as you can see by the banner).  This week I’m taking a look at Isaiah 9: 2-7: “The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light…He shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” My whole focus this month will be on Jesus as the Light. I’d appreciate your prayers for this Sunday. Thanks.

HYMNS

Friday, November 16th, 2018

I am not preaching this weekend. My brother, Rob, will be here to sing and preach. So, I decided I would do something that I hope will set your heart right.

Worship is often confined to what happens on Sunday morning at “church.” I’m a firm believer though that worship is 24/7. However, focusing on the time we gather together on Sunday morning is what I’d like to do in this post. We gather. We sing. We partake of the Lord’s Supper. We give our tithes and offerings. We preach. (Okay…I preach). 🙂  But chances are when we talk about worship to the everyday attender most will point to the singing.

Sunday morning singing has gone through several time warps. It used to be it was all hymns. (I still love Great is Thy Faithfulness and Holy, Holy, Holy and some others like them). Then a few spiritual songs were added (think I’ll Fly Away or When We All Get to Heaven). The Jesus Movement brought in a whole new type of song, both worship songs but also “feel good about me” songs. The evolution of those types of songs has been slow but eventually we morphed into a band, a group of singers, guitarists, drummers, and (choke choke) light shows, smoke machines, and theatrics. Some have even introduced “secular” songs into a worship set (Like the church that played Highway to Hell to introduce their Easter service one time).  We now have songs that last 5-7 minutes due to repetition of verses and choruses. And, of course, there is the resident “jump around and act crazy” songs mistakenly substituted for and called worship. Now…please understand I love some of the music played. I like a beat, even a rockier kind. But there is a point of saturation.

Enter a new breed and new wave of hymns. Yep, that’s right hymns. I never thought I’d be saying it but I welcome it. Not going back to singing the old ones that drone on, but new ones which highlight God the Father and Jesus the Son in meaningful, heart-touching words and music. I’ve come across some of the “new” hymns lately by a church out of Australia (no not Hillsong). The group is called CityAlight. I have been touched by their music and lyrics. You know I have been if I tell you I have been to the Y the past two days and have had them in my ears. I’d encourage you to listen to them on your own but I would like to highlight a few songs that have touched me deeply.  No comment will be made by me. I’d like you to listen and then let me know what you think. I’m encouraging our Worship Team to pursue learning some of this music.

First, this was the first one I ever heard by them.

Second, this one is a cry of my heart.

Third, I heard this one today and it jolted me.

Fourth, this one is for good measure.  🙂

I hope you will check out more of their music. I believe you will be blessed beyond measure.  Have a great weekend of worship! Enjoy being in the Father’s presence.

Hope

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

God placed his unshakable love on me.

Let that sink in for a minute or two. That sounds so inviting. So settling. So solid. Especially in today’s world when everything seem so unsettled, so much in an upheaval, it is good to know there is a constant. That constant is Jesus. That constant is the solid hope He gives.

I like what Tripp says: “Hope is a Person and His name is Jesus.”

For the rest of my post on HOPE see my post here on my other blog.

Leaning

Friday, November 9th, 2018

Many of you are not so old that you don’t or can’t remember the song by Bill Withers (later recorded by DC Talk) called “Lean on Me.” It had the lyrics “We all need somebody to lean on.” There is truth in those words.

However, have you noticed that sometimes it is hard to have compassion for people? For example, you walk into a quick shop and see a family where the kids are dirty and obviously their clothes are hand-me-downs. Your heart breaks and then you see mom or dad buying a carton of cigarettes or some alcohol and you may find your compassion going out the door.

I try not to judge too badly because I don’t know the circumstances surrounding their family or their choice of lifestyle. But I do know this:

A church can become part of the problem instead of part of the solution.

It isn’t easy being sympathetic. It is even harder being empathetic. Sympathy can be broken down by saying it is “feeling sorry for someone.” Empathy can be broken down by saying it is “being able to put yourself in someone’s shoes and know how they feel.”

I like what Caleb Kaltenbach wrote in his book Messy Grace:

When people look at your life, it should be so easy for them to see Jesus in how you treat them, love them, and share truth with them.

He also wrote:

We can be orthodox in our theology while committing heresy by how we treat others.

This Sunday I am talking about the church as it reaches out. Two weeks ago we celebrated our 14th anniversary as a church community. Last week we served. Those are easy to do. The hard part is seeing individuals as individuals, someone who may need another to lean on.

WOULD YOU PLEASE PRAY FOR THIS ME AND THE FOLKS AT OVCF THIS SUNDAY? Thanks.

HolyWhat?

Friday, October 19th, 2018

I come from a tradition where talk of the Holy Spirit was almost nil. He was hush-hush. I’m not sure if that was because of ignorance or it was because of fear. My first exposure to someone raising their hands in worship (something I had never been exposed to but had read about) was at a youth conference I was attending. The worship leader was leading us in a song when several around me raised their hands. I kid you not: I broke out in a cold sweat wondering what was next.

I survived. Now I are one (as they say). But seriously, why was that even as issue? Why are there still people today who will not raise their hands because of a “theological problem” with it?  More importantly: why are we so closed off to that type of expression to the praise and glory of God?

There is an even greater problem underlying many churches and pastors today. We are afraid.  We are afraid to allow any semblance of emotion to be expressed. I’m not talking about excess. I’m not talking about the whooping and hollering and the devil-inspired jerking, rolling around on the floor, and barking like a dog we hear about. That is not godly. But we do have an elephant in the room. You see…there are two extremes (as I see it). Some pursue experience in the Spirit apart from the Word.  They listen for voices or seek “signs” from God. They seem to be always talking about what God “said to them.” At the other extreme is the one who seeks to know and obey the Word without any interaction with, or real dependence on, the Spirit. These people are often void of emotion and can become legalistic in their thinking.

My sermon this Sunday is entitled Jesus, Continued. I borrowed the title from a book I read several year ago.  As you might have guessed, the sermon is on the Holy Spirit. I’d appreciate your prayers for this message and those who listen. And, of course, the one who is bringing it. 🙂