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Noel

Monday, December 11th, 2017

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without songs. Old songs. New songs. Classics. Soon-to-be-classics. I’m going to do something different over the next two weeks. Because my schedule is whacked (and with Christmas it should slow down right?) I’ve decided to take a writing “break” so to speak. But I still want to maintain my presence here and also “bless” people. So…here is the deal.

On Christmas Eve morning our church family will be meeting at another facility. Our auditorium is way too small for our normal crowd. Normally in two services, we have gone to one service December through February for various reasons, and after the first two weeks, there is no doubt in my mind we will not have enough room. Unless, of course, we have a blizzard then we will have all the room in the world. (I’m praying we don’t). Anyway, this past week I spoke with our new neighbors, Bill & Suzie Abram, who have built an event center called Abram Farms Event Center. It is used for weddings, receptions, and all sorts of gatherings. Suzie has been so gracious to allow us to use it for our Christmas Eve morning worship.  To make things even better? She is allowing us to use it FREE of charge!!

I decided to do something different that morning long before we found that out. I am not preaching (some wanted to stand and clap when I announced that. I dispatched my security team) 🙂 🙂 Just kidding, of course. We are going to have a magical, musical Christmas Eve morning worship. Congregational singing. Special music by our own people. Families will be together that morning. We want to pack the barn (house)! My plan is to share with you some of the music we will be hearing and singing that morning.

Hanna O’Neal will be singing a new song called Noel. You can find it being sung by Lauren Daigle on Chris Tomlin’s new CD called “Adore.”  Here are two versions: one is just lyrics while the song is being sung; the other is a live version of Lauren singing it. Funny: I have not always been a fan of her singing, but she won me over big time with this song.  I guarantee you will fall in love with this song.

Excitement

Friday, December 8th, 2017

 

Perhaps you have heard the story about the little girl who came home from Sunday School triumphantly waving a paper. “Mommy!” she said. “My teacher says I drew the most unusual Christmas picture she has ever seen!”

The mother studied the picture for a moment and concluded it was indeed a very peculiar Christmas picture. “This is wonderfully drawn, but why have you made all these people riding on the back of an airplane?” the mother gently asked.

“It’s the flight into Egypt,” the little girl said, with a hint of disappointment that the picture’s meaning was not immediately obvious.

“Oh,” the mother said cautiously. “Well, who is this mean-looking man at the front?”

“That’s Pontius, the Pilot,” the girl said, now visibly impatient.

“I see. And here you have Mary and Joseph and the baby,” the mother volunteered. Studying the picture silently for a moment, she summoned the courage to ask, “But who is this fat man sitting behind Mary?”

The little girl sighed. “Can’t you tell? That’s Round John Virgin!”

We laugh, but the sad truth is that little girl’s mixed-up perspective of Christmas is not really a whole lot more muddled than what the average person carries around. In fact, many are so jaded they don’t even want to hear the Christmas story anymore. Look at the faces of many of the people walking around the stores. Many of them are haggard-looking, definitely not all that thrilled about Christmas.

When did we lose the excitement of Christmas? At what age did it become so “old” to us? Well…something excited the prophets! Something excited the shepherds! Something excited the angels! That very same something should excite us also. My sermon this Sunday is about that…Familiarity Breeds Excitement. And as you might be able to piece together it is about the prophets and the angels and the shepherds. And hopefully…me.

Willingness

Friday, December 1st, 2017

In 2001 author John Grisham broke from the norm. Usually writing crime dramas which focus around lawyers and courtrooms, he wrote a book which was totally different. I don’t know why he wrote the book he did, but it was successful. Perhaps, since he is purported to be a Christ-follower, he shared the same concerns about the Christmas season as you and I might. Anyway, he wrote a book called Skipping Christmas which followed Luther and Nora Krank’s desire to have a different kind of Christmas. They have it in their minds to skip the holiday altogether. Theirs will be the only house on Hemlock Street without a rooftop Frosty; they won’t be hosting their annual Christmas bash; they aren’t even going to have a tree. They won’t need one, because on December 25th they’re setting sail on a Caribbean cruise. But the weary couple is soon to find out that skipping Christmas beings enormous consequences-and it isn’t half as easy as they’d imagined.

Like the Kranks, we may find ourselves wanting to skip Christmas. I’m not so concerned about skipping Christmas as I am with losing Christmas. No, the date will never be changed. No, the season will never be skipped over. Even many merchants, who make no pretense at all of believing the Christmas story, want it to stay. Their reasons are different, than say yours and mine, but the point stands.

This week, and throughout the month of December, my sermon series has a working title of “Familiarity Breeds…” But rather than contempt I want to flip that idea to four other topics. You can see them on the banner above. Thanks for your prayers this weekend. They are greatly appreciated.

Devotional

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

Product Details

I know what you are going to say (least I think I might): “You really like that Paul David Tripp don’t you?” The answer would be “Yes.” I have recommended several books by him here on my blog: New Morning Mercies, a 365 day daily devotion; and Whiter Than Snow, a devotion on sin and mercy. I read and reread one a week. I’ve read several others by PDT and have not been disappointed by any. His Dangerous Calling may be the best book on Pastoral Ministry I have ever read (get your pastor a copy) and Awe is a phenomenal book on recapturing awe for God.  My latest has been the one highlighted, Come Let Us Adore Him.

I wanted something different this year for Christmas (Advent if you prefer). When I saw this book I confess I went on his track record. I was not disappointed! I did something unique (I think). I bought it in October so I read 2 chapters a morning so I could go through it by the end of the month. During this month (November) I have taken one day (read December 1 on November 1, etc) each morning. Starting December 1 I will read it again for the third time. Each time I highlighted something different. For some books one time through is enough. Not for this one! There is so much meat in each day’s devotional I have this sneaking suspicion even three times through won’t be enough (but I will stop at 3 until next Christmas). To make it even more interesting each chapter ends with Scripture to follow up with and also a what-to-do-if-you-have-children suggestion.

I know it may be getting late for you to get a copy of this book and make use of it, but I don’t think it is.  I’d suggest ordering this book and “get with this program” during the month of December. I believe it will make your Christmas season “pop” a little bit more.

Patience

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Okay…before you think I’m going to go from being a friend to meddling 🙂  I want to put you at ease. I’m not going to rehash the age old adage of “patience is a virtue” and stuff like that.

Let me take it another direction.

Several words are used to describe or define what characteristic of God I am speaking about Sunday: longsuffering (the old King Jimmy word) or patience. We like to talk about God’s patience because it speaks of longevity. You know…I can keep doing and doing wrong and God is patient with me. People keep putting off salvation because they want to believe God is patient and even after death His patience will be experienced.

God is a god of perfect love, one with an incredible amount of patience. I should know: I’m typing this. I used to think God was this demanding judge, standing with a paddle in His hand. Psalm 103 paints a totally different picture of God.  That does not sound at all like a God who just can’t wait to get His hands around your throat! Nor does it sound like a God who can’t wait to throw darts at your picture. God’s love for His people knows no limits. And I am thankful for that!

But don’t be fooled. There will come a day when God’s patience will run out and a less favorite attribute will become a reality: His wrath. That is another subject for another day.

I would appreciate your prayers for this Sunday’s worship. Thanks.

Masquerade

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

This is not about the evils/horror/(take your pick) of Halloween.

I couldn’t sleep. No, it wasn’t because of some heavy weight on my heart. I took an inadvertent nap. After a very busy day I sat down in my chair to read. Next thing I knew: Bam! It was a 1/2 hour later. Way too close to bedtime to take a 20-25 minute snooze. Stop I stayed up (actually got back out of bed) to spend some time reading my devotions for today (Tuesday). They were about costumes.

Spiritual fakery is one of the chief tools of the enemy. It is one of the key ingredients of spiritual blindness. 

I don’t know if Paul David Tripp planned for his devotion to focus on costumes or not but there it was.  He writes: “The kingdom of self is a costume kingdom. This is because one of the enemy’s most useful tools is the ability of wrong to imitate right.” 

Hallloween is all about masks. Who can hide who they really are the best? Many followers of Christ are becoming or are already adept at hiding who they really are. Present company included. Wearing the clothing of the personal kingdom to hide the real me. Often wearing a costume to cover me. Sin does that. Since sin wants to reign in me, can I expect anything less?

I’m thinking that maybe instead of spending so much time worrying about the rightness or wrongness off Halloween, maybe we should concern ourselves with our own masks & masquerade.

What do you think?

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?