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#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.”

#Providence#Luck?

Friday, May 31st, 2019

“Man, I was so lucky I was not standing where I had been. That thing would have fallen on me.” “I just happened to be there at the right time and in the right place.”

Those are the kind of statements we make concerning events that take place in our lives.  Maybe it was a close call. Maybe it was a desperate need we had. Maybe we felt alone and was ready to do something drastic. It isn’t unusual to hear people talk about luck or chance or happenstance. I do not believe in luck or chance or happenstance in the follower of Christ’s life.

Chuck Swindoll defines providence as

The events of our lives are not ruled by chance or blind fate by our loving Lord and Savior, who works out His plan and His purposes in the lives of all His children.

My sermon Sunday will from Romans 8:28-30, home of one of the most well-known, most-memorized and oft misunderstood passages in the Bible. There is some powerful truth in those verses and I hope to bring those truths out this Sunday. Your prayers would be appreciated.

Security

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

If i were to ask you what, in your mind, is the most dangerous philosophy we face today, what would you say? In days gone I might get answers like Nazism. Socialism. Communism. White Supremacism. Liberalism.  And maybe you can think of another.

But I am inclined to believe that the most dangerous philosophy we face is Humanism. On the surface it looks good. It is good we can celebrate the advances we have made, but it also gives a false hope that all things can be solved by human ingenuity. Like the words to the opening of ’70s TV show Six Million Dollar Man: “We can make him better. We can rebuild him.” So we have this crazy idea that we can solve anything…which leads to the ultimate conclusion we don’t need God.

And yes, it has infiltrated the church. “God helps those who help themselves.” How many do you know who believe that is in the Bible? Or we adopt this idea we can work our way to heaven. “Just be nice to people. Tolerate all beliefs.” Talk about poppycock human thought! Of course, the question that comes is “Good according to whom?” “I can pull myself up by my own bootstraps. I don’t need help, especially God” is another lie.

The ultimate question is “Can God be trusted?” In this week’s sermon from Romans 8:31-39, Paul takes to task those who doubt God is sufficient.  I’m going to approach this Scripture seeking to look at a series of questions Paul asks (4 + 1)  so we can see God is on our side.  I would appreciate your prayers. Thanks.

#Enemies

Monday, May 20th, 2019

Before we moved here to Spencer, we lived in Castalia, OH, just outside Sandusky. You know…the home of Cedar Point. We originally moved to Castalia after my ministry in Terre Haute was finished and we sold our house a whole lot quicker than the realtor thought. So we moved in with Jo’s mom who was still living in the house she and Jo’s late father had rented. Castalia was known for having a Cold Creek Festival every year that surprisingly for a little burg was well-attended. It’s other claim to fame was the Cold Creek, a pond and its tributaries that never froze. Of course, when you have that you have a nuisance that develops. Geese. Canadian Geese. Geese of all kinds. Geese that take over the pond. Geese that take over the streets (there was a $1500 fine if you killed one). And geese that left their “gifts” (poop) everywhere. They didn’t care where.

I hated (despised) those animals and I say that without apologies to PETA or any other animal rights group who figures animals are as precious as humans (but think nothing of killing an unborn baby in a womb. Oh, but don’t touch those eagle eggs). Now…understand I’m not for cruelty toward animals but this nonsense has to stop somewhere. Okay. Off soapbox.

I disliked those animals and their deposits. My neighbor tried everything, even remote control trucks to run them off his property. He finally got the town to stop allowing them to be fed at the pond and to remove the food machines. Then he got them to pass an ordinance to get rid of a whole bunch of them, especially ducklings by taking them away.

They were mean animals. They thought nothing of putting their head down and charging. I have heard of people being attacked and hurt badly by their attacks. But after driving the lawnmower over their gifts or stepping in them in the yard, one can only take so much. Fortunately, what I have to worry about here mostly is deer, skunks, and birds flying overhead (hence I always close my sunroof when parked).

A number of years ago (mid ’80s) when Frank Peretti came out with his two hit novels, This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness, the idea of spiritual warfare “hit the fan.” His books were entertaining reading but people forgot they were fiction. Just fiction. But people acted like they were real. Demons were under every rock and behind every cold, body ache, mishap, and every other bad thing.

The real truth is spiritual warfare is a real thing. A serious thing. It is important that we acknowledge our enemy is real and is “out for blood” and wants nothing more than to destroy us. We have proof of his devastation. Just look around at our world.  He is also reeking havoc in the church. It’s time we acknowledge his “realness” and then say, “The battle is God’s.” Let’s enlist His help.

#Submissive#Suffering

Friday, May 17th, 2019

Last week (Saturday morning to be exact)  after posting the following blog on Friday, I sensed God impressing upon me to change my sermon to preach on A Wise Woman.  You can read about that here. So I pushed back one week the “wannabe preached” sermon to this week. So I’m just refreshing the post a bit and using it this weekend. Not much has changed except I’m adding a song at the end of this post for you to enjoy.

Those two words are seldom seen together. I mean, who in their right mind would want to be submissive to suffering? But perhaps we need to take a second look.

In his book, Suffering, Paul David Tripp wrote:

Physical suffering exposes the delusion of personal autonomy and self-sufficiency.

If you and I had the kind of control we tend to think we have, none of us would ever-and I mean ever-have to go through anything difficult. I would not have chosen to be hit by a hit-n-run driver and suffer the consequences of his misguided actions. And I certainly would not have chosen to have another accident just over 3 months later that was more devastating than the first.

Suffering is part and parcel of life.  I like what someone has said: “Suffering is inevitable; misery is optional.” No matter how “charmed” a life someone may seem to be leading, suffering will be involved in some way. No one escapes it.

What makes a difference is how we respond to it. That is my point this week as I look at Sermon #3 from Romans 8. Romans 8:18-27 will be my Scripture for this week. Your prayers for me to clearly preach the message of suffering and for light bulbs to go on the minds and hearts of the people would be much appreciated. Thanks.

And here is that song. I’m going to show this before I start preaching. Enjoy.