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#Don’tMiss#Announcement

Saturday, December 7th, 2019

I’m a little bit behind for posting this. Sorry about that. My week was anything but normal. Besides, what is normal anyway? But I guess better late than never.

Depending on circumstances, announcements can be either a curse or a blessing. How many of us can remember the announcements made over the loud speaker at the beginning of every school day.  (Oh you can’t remember that far back? They didn’t have PA systems when you went to school? I’m sorry. 🙂 )  You don’t mind hearing announcements of a special award or a day off from work. But you don’t want to be on a airplane and the captain coming on the speaker saying, “Strap in folks. We are going down.”  Then there is the infamous church announcement time when most don’t hear or it goes over their head. Gender reveal parties are all the rage today as the big announcement is made about the sex of the baby.

Can any announcement be bigger than the proclamation to the shepherds at the fields of Bethlehem? While we have Christmas plays with cute kids dressed up in towels and robes and groans of “Ooooh” and “Aaaah” and “Ain’t he cute!” coming from our mouths, this story is so much bigger than that.

My sermon this Sunday continues the theme for this month of “Don’t Miss Out!”  As you probably can guess, my sermon will be based on the story of the angel’s announcement to the shepherds. While I will be talking about the shepherds, the main idea will be the names Jesus is given: Savior, Christ, and Jesus (Matthew 1).

I’d appreciate your prayers for Sunday. And I thank you ahead of time.

#ChristmasChallenge#Post3

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019

I read something this morning that got my wheels spinning. It was something I had never really thought much about. So I’d like to put it out there for you to think about.

First, let me say this: I am not a political person. I hate politics. I hate talking about it. I won’t blog about it. So you may ask, “If so, Bill, why this devotion?” Because I don’t believe the “baby in the womb” is a political discussion; it is a moral one. With that being said, I give you this devotion.

It struck me today that when Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was already six months pregnant, Luke 1:39-45 records part of their interaction. Verse 41 says, “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” Not bad for a blog, a mass of nothingness. I’m being sarcastic-yes. The baby (John) leaped in her womb. That being-whom some say is not alive, viable, or a person-recognized who just came into the room. Not Mary but Jesus! Not only is Elizabeth humbled with the visit from Mary, but her next words reveal even more: “And why is this granted that the mother of my lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” WOW!! If there was any question who Mary’s baby was that answers it. And if there was any question about the personhood of a baby in a womb, that question is answered also.

Person or blob. There should be no question.

“Father, thank you for this account. In a different way than normal, you have shown me the personhood and the awareness of a baby in the womb. May I react the same way John did when I am in the presence of Jesus.”

Please check out two others who are taking on the challenge:

Ed here

Diane at Hadarah.

 

#ItBegins#EssentialTruth#Don’tMissIt!

Saturday, November 30th, 2019

And so it begins…

The race to Christmas. Much of the way we celebrate Christmas finds its roots in our younger years. We carry traditions with us. Some we ditch; some we keep observing.

Growing up nothing we ever put out except the lights. No tree. No gifts. No nothing. But when we woke up Christmas morning the whole house, especially the living room had been transformed. We don’t do that today. Our tree goes up Thanksgiving Day or the day after and stays until the day or two after Christmas.Gifts are placed under the tree as they are wrapped.

Growing up we were taught not to use our Christmas gifts (except for games) until after the real tree was taken down. We don’t that one either.

We NEVER opened a gift until Christmas morning. We don’t do that one either, however, I did get Jo’s family to compromise. One gift on Christmas Eve; the rest Christmas morning.

One fact is a constant though: the meaning of Christmas has never changed. The teaching of that meaning has never changed. The impact of that meaning has never changed either.

Just as there is a backstory to each of our histories of Christmas, there is a backstory to the story of Christmas as well. Christmas didn’t start at the manger; it started years before we can conceive. Before the OT.  This story was formed before recorded time and if we were somehow able to put it on the silver screen there would be no CGI or animation able to convey it.

I have given my series for this month the title of “Don’t Miss It!!” Each sermon (4) will be one aspect of Christmas which is so important we dare not miss it.  It would be a tragedy if we did. This Sunday my sermon will be taken from John 1:1-14 and my aim is to show the essential truth of Christmas.  A.W.Tozer once said:

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

When you think about Christmas what is the first thing that comes to your mind? My desire is to lay the groundwork for a meaningful Christmas by presenting the essential truth of Christmas. May you know that as well. I would appreciate your prayers.

#Atheism#Confrontation#BadRep

Sunday, November 24th, 2019

In one of my posts last week I reviewed two books dealing with abuse. You can read that here. Bookending those two books were two books of similar vein on a subject, but approaching it from different perspectives.  I had this first book and then read the two on abuse, but I needed to get away from that subject for a bit so I read the book which is my second review.  I’m now reading a totally different book because I like variety as well as needing a more biblical study.  So here are my reviews of the two books.

My first is Confronting Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin.

Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World's Largest Religion

Rebecca was not raised in “Christian” America, but in the UK. Her Christianity was not handed to her on a silver-plated American Christianity platter (my words not hers). But trust me when I say she is nobody’s lackey.  This woman is smart and knows her stuff. Her book is subtitled 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion and she delivers the goods. I wondered if I would be overwhelmed by the sheer “brain power” she brings to the table. I am happy to say Rebecca has done an excellent job of making it so that even we who are not deep thinkers can understand her writing. This book is so good I have given one copy to my small group leader, one to a searching college student, and have another copy for someone I love. Here are just a few of the questions she asks and answers (masterfully I believe) :

  • How Can You Say There’s Only One True Faith?
  • Doesn’t Religion Cause Violence?
  • How Can You Take the Bible Literally?
  • Hasn’t Science Disproved Christianity?
  • Isn’t Christianity Homophobic? {Note: Rebecca admits to her former struggle with SSA so she writes from an “insider’s” viewpoint.}
  • How Can a Loving God Allow So Much Suffering?

That’s just half the questions. This is one of my nominees for “Book of the Year” (as if I have any say).  I love Rebecca’s writing style and her attention to the answers. Never harsh but always engaging. I do believe you will benefit from this book.

I followed Rebecca’s book with another that intrigued me: Why I Still Believe by Mary Jo Sharp (MJ). 

Why I Still Believe: A Former Atheist’s Reckoning with the Bad Reputation Christians Give a Good God

Her book is subtitled “A Former Atheist’s reckoning with the bad reputation Christians give a good God.” The book is aptly titled. MJ came from a non-religious home and chose atheism, but eventually came to know Jesus as her Savior. (You can read the book’s introduction for her story).  How she stayed with Jesus and the church is a miracle in itself (in my book anyway). The day she came to church with her husband to declare her choice to follow Christ, the pastor’s wife did not welcome her or congratulate her but to tell her she needed to wear a different dress-one that showed less cleavage. She doesn’t say whether it did or not, but I would have probably turned around and walked out. Eventually, she and her husband found themselves involved in ministry full-time (he was a worship leader). Meanwhile, she is struggling with Christians who are giving God and the church a bad name. One heart-breaking example (and one which made my blood boil) came when she brought a friend who was an atheist-seeker to church and he was literally blown off and embarrassed by the self-righteous teacher and the pastor of the church (who publicly humiliated him) because he dared ask a question which challenged their way of thinking. From her own awkwardness of defending her belief in the resurrection with a co-worker (she is a music teacher in a public school); to learning about Islam (a great discussion and info on Islam is included) from her dear friend, the late Nabeel Qureshi; to her confidence in apologetics, she never loses sight of her purpose: how annoying and “turn-off-ish” many Christians can be. I’d have to say it is a good thing she had a pretty solid faith and a good husband who helped her stay grounded. 

MJ’s book was different from Rebecca’s in that it took on issues facing the church within, whereas Rebecca’s focused more on questions from without. MJ’s book read easily also. And she gave some great answers along the way in a very clear style.

I would highly recommend both of these books be part of your reading list. If you know of someone who is struggling with their faith or have questions about hypocrisy within the church, have them read these.

#Dead#Alive#YouChoose

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

As I wrote that title I couldn’t help but think of Bon Jovi’s song Dead or Alive. My sermon this morning was on the postcard to the church at Sardis. I called it “To the Dead Church.”  One of the ideas I tried to stress was that we need to see this letter as more than one sent to a church body, but we also need to apply it to ourselves as individuals.  One of the thoughts during the message was asking the question When is a church dead? The answers are jarring, but I also want to apply them to us as individuals. So, I’m going to put the four answers I gave to that question and then allow you to make the personal application. I have already done that as I prepared; misery loves company so join me! 🙂  When is a church dead?

#1- When it is content to rest on its past laurels.  Many churches have banners and plaques throughout their building which testify of their past. It’s like little Johnny who was being shown through the church building by his father when they came upon a plaque with names. He asked his dad what that was for and his father said, “They are the names of the men and women who died in the service.” He asked, “Which one-morning or evening?” We chuckle but sadly that is way too often true. (Nowadays it is first or second not morning or evening).

#2- When it is more concerned with form than spiritual reality. We make sure we fit into a mold. The pastor can’t speak too long we have things to do, places to go. Besides, we want to beat the other churches to lunch.  This can be especially harrowing in a small town where options are limited. We make sure we have communion, take offering, sing all hymns or no hymns, offer an invitation. Seriously? That shows a church is alive?

#3- When it focuses more on social ills and politics than changing people’s hearts and minds through the life-changing message of Jesus. There is nothing wrong with being socially aware and conscious, but the church does not exist to change the environment. We exist to carry the message of the God’s life-changing message.

#4- When it is more concerned with material things than spiritual things. “Nuff said. When we hired Ryan one of my first words to him were “People over programs.” We have reminded ourselves of that often. Another: “People over buildings.”  We had a dream of an adult worship center but it was cost-prohibitive.  I was so proud of our leadership when they said, “No” to the building and put things on hold.  God made it possible to pay off our mortgage early as well as build the youth addition debt-free.  We are now in the dreaming stage again and will remember the adage: “People over buildings.”

I think you can see how those can apply to individuals. But it is one thing to see; it another to do. Let’s do it! Let’s not be caught in the “Sardis cycle.”

 

#WrongRoad#Weakness

Sunday, October 6th, 2019

This morning (Sunday) I preached on the letter to the church at Thyatira and I approached it from the aspect of tolerance. I’ll state it right off the bat: no matter what our culture says and even what other “churches” tell us, tolerance is never mentioned in Scripture.  Another word some may be more familiar with is Compromise.  I’d like to take this blog space and talk about that a bit.

In the letter to the church at Thyatira Jesus commends them for their works, love, faith, service, patient endurance and that their latter works exceeded the first (I think that means they were maturing and growing and not stagnant). BUT the church was an immoral cesspool (v.20). That “train” was led by a woman He names Jezebel. I seriously doubt that is her real name. I mean…what parent in their right mind would name their daughter Jezebel, or even Delilah? Be that as it may, my research seems to indicate two possibilities she was teaching:

  1. Gnosticism.  Gnosticism taught that the physical universe was evil and the spiritual was good. This led to what is called Dualism. Today is it is seen in those who teach Jesus was not fully human and fully divine.  A popular brand of this is Jesus was human until His baptism when He became divine and then somewhere before His crucifixion He became human again. One of the most prominent teachers of this heresy is the false “apostle” Bill Johnson and those associated with Bethel Church and the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) movement.
  2. Antinomianism. It is a combination of two words: Anti which means “No” and nomian which means “Law.” Hence, No Law. This teaches you can do whatever you want as long as you invoke God’s grace when you are done. This is taught by….just about everyone. I believe God’s forgiveness is complete and His grace covers any sin, but I also believe He wants us to be holy, not acting however we want then constantly seeking God’s grace for forgiveness.

Tolerance is a slippery slope we want to avoid. We will be called all sorts of names.  We will be looked on as a three-headed monster. But God’s truth stands and we are much better taking “heat” from our culture than taking “heat” from God.

Those are some of my thoughts. What do you think?

#Tolerance#Intolerance

Friday, October 4th, 2019

I’ve been absent from this blog since last week. I always said I would only post if I had something to say. While I have a lot to say (ask anyone around here), not all of it is significant. Least that is what Jo tells me. 🙂  Life has been sort of crazy busy for me and writing did take a back seat this week. Maybe someday…SOMEDAY…life will slow down. It sort of will the next few weeks. But I’ll tell that story in another post.

This post is about this weekend’s upcoming sermon: To the Tolerant Church. After last week’s time away for a wedding in St. Louis (it went well and we had a great weekend), it will be good to be back in the pulpit. My sermon is on the church at Thyatira from Revelation 2:18-29.  In many ways the church at Thyatira and the church at Pergamum has some things in common with the biggest being that they were both guilty of compromise. Thyatira, more specifically, was guilty of tolerance of evil.

When I think of this church I think so much of what is going on in the church today. Afraid of what others will think we have become tolerant of blatant evil and sin. We are afraid of being falsely accused of being unloving, of having some phobia, that we are giving in to our culture’s “demand” that we accept it all. The church at Thyatira was guilty of allowing Jezebel to thrive in their midst. I’ll be discussing who this “woman” might be.

Tolerance is the bane of the church today. Least I am convinced of that.  It will not be an easy sermon to preach. I’d appreciate your prayers for this Sunday. Thanks.

#Forgiveness#WhatJesusdoes

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

It seems to happen more than we know. Certainly more than we like to hear. Someone being shot/killed by accident. Honestly, I do not know the whole story behind this trial. I admittedly hide my head in the sand when it comes to reading much news. But when I saw this on a blog I read I felt I needed to pass it along. I can’t take credit for this so I’m just going to give you the link to the other blog and ask you to go there.

So here is the link to the other blog:

If we as Christ-followers practiced more of this, imagine what a difference we would make. Oh yeah…bring your kleenex.

#Test#HardestTask#MajorRoadblock

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

In your mind, what is the hardest thing you have done or need to do?  I’m not going to beat around the bush on that question. I think one of the hardest things anyone has to do is to learn to forgive.

I have heard this quote or some variation of it for years:

To err is human, to forgive, divine-to forgive and forget supernatural.

Some of you may be old enough to remember the movie called Love Story, which starred a very young Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw.  It was a blockbuster hit for those days (1970) and was actually the first date Jo and I had (it didn’t end well). It contained one of the dumbest statements that I think has ever been made: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Now…that statement assumes that a real relationship will never require saying, “I’m sorry.” Forgiveness should just happen. There should be no special initiative on the part of either party.

But I beg to differ.  I hope we are all smart enough to realize any relationship takes time. Marriage. Friendship. Pastor/sheep. And I would be remiss if I left out the part forgiveness plays in any relationship. Forgiveness is never easy, especially when a great wrong has been done to you.  Makes you wonder about Joseph doesn’t it?

I believe this may have been his hardest task. This week’s sermon covers that time of his life when his brothers come seeking grain because of the famine. He recognizes them immediately but they don’t recognize him. There is quite an exchange which takes place until his “great revelation.” It will be a challenging sermon for all of us. I’d appreciate your prayers as I prepare.  Thanks.

#Safe#Hope#Jesus

Monday, August 5th, 2019

We live in a multicultural world.  That not only applies to our ethnicity but also to our religious bent. It goes without saying that there are as many religions it seems as people in this land.  That, of course, is not true. But it sure seems like it!

I stand on one premise, one foundation. Salvation is found in no one else except Jesus Christ. No Buddha, prophet, swami, or so-called arrogant teacher (translate: cult)  is the one who is worthy of worship and worthy of gaining the attention that Jesus is to be given. Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life and NO ONE comes to Father but by me.”  Peter told the religious leaders who tried to shut him up that “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)  Frankly, one can argue with that all they want but it won’t change the words written down.

There are all kinds of voices these days trying to tell us there are many ways to God.  There are some who deny Jesus is the Son of God so it stands to reason they would deny that. Some who want to say “there are many roads to God.” Again, to say that denies the truth of Scripture. Of course, there are those who say Buddha, Mohammed, and other religious figures are the way. Nope. The cults want us to buy into Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russell (JW), Ellen G. White (SDA),  Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Scientist), or even whack job L. Ron Hubbard (Scientology).

I once read a story of the ship Endurance which was trapped and crushed in the ice off the coast of the Antarctic. The group of explorers led by Ernest Shackleton, had one last chance. Shackleton and five others pushed off from Elephant Island leaving the hopes of the 22 left behind in their hands. Their goal was to make it to South Georgia Island, a trip of 800 miles. If they failed, they would die. Four months later, Shackleton returned. His first words were, “Are you all well?” And the call came back, “All safe! All well!”

There will come a day when every man, woman, boy and girl will face the Father. The only question to be answered  is, “Do you know Jesus?” If your answer is Yes then you will hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.” All will be safe. All will be well.

BUT ONLY IF YOU KNOW JESUS not some pretender to His throne. And not if you think you can travel a different road and reach the same place. Tragically, the Father will also tell many, “Depart from me. I don’t know you.”