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#Control#ShownMercy

Sunday, January 19th, 2020

I have come to the conclusion that much of the Christian life is one of control. Who controls whom? For example, I was speaking to someone this past week and we were talking about legalism. I made a statement I firmly believe in: many pastors/teachers/leaders use legalism as a way to control their people. I know when I was very legalistic in my outlook and preaching it was my way of controlling people. I wouldn’t have called it that. I would have called it “loving words from your pastor.” But in reality, I and others like me, used a legalistic approach to keep people “under my thumb.” Grace changed that for me. But it still happens. How many pastors do you know who tell their people “You better” or “If you don’t” or “If you do” in order to keep their flock in the sheepfold and not wander out at night?  So we make dress, church attendance, hair styles, tattoos, etc a way to judge a person’s “Christian” witness.

But consider this if you will: We are not meant to control our Christianity; Christianity is meant to control us. (I read that recently but can’t remember, where so I’m sorry for the failure to give credit).  So many in our culture might say they embrace Jesus but they want to conform Jesus and His teachings to their lifestyle. I think it should be the other way around: Jesus should inform us on how to conduct our lives and how to treat others. His teachings ought to transform us rather than trying to bend the teachings to fit us.  We are, after all, told to “present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God which is your reasonable service of worship.” Then we are told “not to be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” That sounds a whole like surrender to me, of giving up control to someone else.

There is only one Person who should control our lives. Not us. Not a pastor. Not a leader. Not a teacher. Not a (fill in the blank). Only Jesus.  ONLY. JESUS.

#Mercy#VitalAttribute

Friday, January 17th, 2020

Name an attribute of God and I seriously doubt mercy will be first one out of someone’s mouth. Omniscient. Omnipresent. Omnipotent. Loving. Majestic. We might eventually come out with mercy but I’m willing to wager (and I’m not a betting man) that mercy will not be first.

Reading the headlines or listening to them can be a downward spiral into despair. A few weeks we had the TV on the local news station (Indy) and story after story seemed to be negative. Jo finally said, “It seems like all they talk about is the bad. I get so tired of it.” She is not alone.

Top that off with the natural disasters which plague our planet. Hurricanes. Tsunamis. Earthquakes. Forest fires. Droughts. Persecution. Terrorist bombings. It is like a first class ticket to the land of despair.

So people ask, “Where is God in all of this?”  “Why didn’t He stop this before it happened?” Been there? I have.  But those accusations are calling into question God’s mercy. Doesn’t He care? The answer is Yes He does. Mercy tells us He does.

My sermon Sunday is from 2 Corinthians 4:1 where it talks about mercy. I’ll also bring into the discussion the passage found in I Timothy 1:12-16.  I’ll talk more in my next post about mercy. In the meantime, consider this thought:

We are not meant to control our Christianity; Christianity is meant to control us.

Your prayers would be appreciated for Sunday morning. It is going to be a long weekend with a busy day off (did I say day off?), a really busy Saturday, and preparing for the sermon. Thanks for praying.

#Qualities#NewCovenant

Sunday, January 12th, 2020

I’m thinking that sometimes we who are Christ-followers really do miss out on the importance of the New Covenant over the Old. Now…before I say even more I want to make one thing very clear: I am in no way discounting the importance of the Old. The TRUTH is that we miss out on a lot of the meaning of the New by discounting the Old and we miss out on the observances of the Old by relegating it to “non-person” status. The power of the New Covenant is enhanced by our understanding of the Old.

In my sermon Sunday I brought to light 8 distinctive qualities of the New Covenant as found in 2 Cor. 3:6-18. I’d like to share them with you but also ask you to go to your Bible and see them for yourself. Underline and highlight them and use them to earn a greater appreciation for what we have. Here they are:

  1. It gives life. (v.6) Check out this verse on your own. “The letter kills but the Spirit gives life.” What a powerful statement against legalism. I’d almost say it was this one verse that solved the mystery for me years ago.
  2. It produces righteousness. (7a,8-9) The phrase “now if” can be translated as “since.” Since the law was a ministry of condemnation it could not offer righteousness. That could only come through Christ.
  3. It is permanent. (7b,10-11) Just as Moses’ covered reflection faded, so does the Old Covenant. The glory of God never fades away.
  4. It brings hope. (12) Those under the law had no hope, which also meant (are you ready for this?) no forgiveness of sins. Hope is the confident belief that God will fulfill all the promises of His New Covenant. It is a hope the Law could not offer.
  5. It is clear. (13-14a) Moses had to put a veil over his face after being in God’s presence.  He did that for two reasons: to hide the blazing glory of God, and to hide that it was fading. In contrast, the New Covenant reveals the mysteries of God that were obscure in the Old. All those sacrifices. All those rules. All those rituals.
  6. It is Christ-centered. (14b-16,18a) The veil which obscured the Old Covenant was removed in Christ, and was made plain in Him.
  7. It is energized by the Spirit. (17) The same God who gave the Old gave the New. The same God who gave the Law is the same God who gave salvation to all. The same God who gave the rules and regulations of the Old is the same God who set us free through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
  8. It is transforming. (18b) We are daily being transformed in the image of Jesus.

There is no doubt the New Covenant is superior to the Old. Let’s not denigrate the Old; let’s just remember its place and purpose. Galatians tells us it was a “schoolmaster to lead us to Christ.”  Paul was upset with the Galatians that they were going back to the “old ways of the Law.” Let’s not go backwards. Let’s move forward in faith.

#SecondBest#WhySettle?#New/Old

Friday, January 10th, 2020

It is common among children, either on a playground, a class or a field to say something along the lines of “My dad is stronger than your dad” or “My dad can beat up your dad.” Since I am not a fighter, I sure am glad my girls never made those kinds of boasts about me! Talk about being in hot water. My Man Card would definitely have been called into question. 🙂

The whole purpose behind those statements is the idea of superiority: my dad is superior to your dad. Many who call themselves Christ-followers are content to settle for second best. We have a group around here-and perhaps you do as well-that want to be known as Torah observant. My question to that is why? Paul’s book to the Galatians effectively-least I think so- negates the life of the one who chooses the OT over the NT. Please understand that I am not taking the stand of one well-known pastor that we need to cast aside the OT (old covenant) and solely follow the New, but I am saying the New Testament should be our “go-to” not the Old. Paul himself said the Old covenant was not evil or wicked, but  it was and is certainly limited in its ability to save us.

My sermon for this Sunday is entitled Why Settle for Second Best? and as you have probably gathered it will on the Old versus the New Testament. I’ll be doing a comparison of both and will obviously come out on the side of the New Testament as being superior.  The Scripture is 2 Corinthians 3: 6-18. I’d love it if you would read it and then listen to the podcast if you are unable to attend. But above all I covet your prayers.

I’m sorry you are unable to listen to last week’s sermon via podcast. We had a guest leading our worship and a person on the soundboard for the first time on a Sunday morning. He pushed a pause button but when he turned it back on it had disappeared. He felt bad. Ryan just doesn’t have a job anymore as the Youth Pastor.  🙂  I wouldn’t trade him for anyone or anything (unless an exchange of significant money was made).  I jest about it all (except for the high praise for him).

Thanks for your prayers. They are much appreciated.

#Truth’sTruth#Can’tForget

Wednesday, January 8th, 2020

In my last post I talked about PostModernism and the importance of feelings to our culture’s way of thinking.  I can’t think what I want to think because it is “all about me anyway.” I don’t like God’s rules or standards so I’ll make up my own. Talk about a world of hurt for a world in hurt!!

For this post I’d like to take you a bit further. Back in April of 2018 I purchased a book by Steve Lawson entitled The Moment of Truth. Steve is a pastor, a professor and has a ministry dedicated to biblical preaching. I bought it because I was appalled by what some were calling preaching these days. You know…the kind of nonsensical garbage from the “Your Best Life Now” author and others who want to preach their own ideas as Gospel-even though those ideas violate Scripture. Even though they leave out vital truths like sin, salvation by the blood of Christ, etc. Anyway, I digress. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t falling into that hole myself so I bought this book.  The first chapter was titled “What is Truth?” and he gave 8 distinguishing marks of truth. I chose 4 that I shared this past Sunday. The main thoughts are his; the commentary is mine.

#1- Truth comes from God. Truth is divine. All truth originates with God.  I’m certainly glad it doesn’t originate with man. We can’t even make up our minds what we are going to wear in the morning! Salvation is what God says it is. A lifestyle is wrong or right by what God says, not what I think.

#2- Truth reigns supreme. Truth is absolute.  Our culture may say truth is relative but it isn’t. Just like water conforms to its container, so does our version of “truth” today. Not God’s version.  Let me give you an illustration; I am 6’5″ tall. You can disagree with me but it doesn’t change the truth. You can say I’m only 5′ or I am a giant and must be 7’6.” But your thoughts don’t change the truth.

#3- Truth is a fact. Truth is objective. Truth never blurs the line of distinction. We can’t say something is truth one minute and then “fudge” the next. That is why we can’t base truth on our feelings. They change and waver too much.

#4- Truth stands as truth. Truth never contradicts itself. What is says once; it says again and again. If it changes then it is not the truth. God doesn’t say to you, “I love you with grace” but turn to me and say, “I can’t stand you. You aren’t good enough for me.” God’s truth is always the same.

Four marks that make truth stand out. I hope you will grasp onto truth and not let go. What do you think?

#PostModernism#Feelings

Sunday, January 5th, 2020

In my last post I talked about my sermon theme for 2020: TRUTH.  I’d like to expand on that a little in this post and then in my next post say a bit more.

A number of years ago a philosophy made its way to the forefront of our culture and eventually into the church. That philosophy was called Postmodernism. It is much more complicated than I am going to tell you, but I don’t want to muddy the waters too much by complicating things.

The basic premise for postmodernism is there is not absolute truth. In place of absolute truth postmodernism said we can trust our feelings. Whatever you feel is the way to go.

Does that sound scary to you? It does to me.  Some of you will remember a song by Debbie Boone called You Light Up My Life.  It had the lyrics in it which said, “It can’t be wrong; it feels so right. ”  When you shake Postmodernism down to its basics it is safe to say that the only absolute seems to be there are no absolutes, and the only truth is there is no truth.  It is not uncommon to hear someone say, “You have your truth; I have mine.” Chances are good that our truths will not sync up because we are using two separate platforms.  I mean…how can someone who uses the Bible and God’s truth as his/her basis have the same outcome as someone who has no basis for truth whatsoever?

Romans 1:16 tells us the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the truth. But we also read in verse 18 that to suppress the truth always leads to believing a lie. Take out truth and everything is up for grabs.  Rebecca McLaughlin in her book Confronting Christianity (my choice for 2019 Book of the Year) quotes Nicolas Kristof, a liberal journalist. See if this doesn’t ring a bell.

We (liberals) champion tolerance, except for conservatives and evangelical Christians. We want to be inclusive of people who don’t look like us-so long as they think like us.

My next post will highlight 4 marks of truth. Meanwhile, ask yourself this question: what or who is the basis for my truth-God’s Word or my feelings?

#Truth#Nitty-Gritty

Friday, January 3rd, 2020

Bible-based Christianity is dead. Well…at least to listen to some it is. Society wants us to believe that. Churches are closing their doors (and not for good reasons).  Recently several high profile evangelicals have left the faith-some to go to false religions and some to defect.  It is not unusual to read about some who have turned from God completely and have declared themselves atheists or one of the “nones.”

So that begs a question: is the handwriting on the wall? Is the church almost done? Will it go the way of the dodo bird? The movement afoot seems to be either change or become irrelevant. (Which by the way is not a new movement at all).  Many, afraid of irrelevance, have changed and given in to the secular media, Hollywood values and the LGBTQ+ thrust.

As you can see my theme for 2020 is TRUTH. I thought the best way to start is to ask and try to answer the question “What is truth?” For a forward glance check out Romans 1:16-17.  I want to lay the groundwork for this series by trying to answer the question.  My approach is to ask whether truth is really all that important or then whether truth is a reality. I’m going to share some of my thoughts in blogs next week.

Meanwhile, I would greatly appreciate your prayers for us this week.

#Challenge#SeeingGodInvolved

Friday, December 27th, 2019

Hard to believe isn’t it that this Sunday will be the last Sunday of 2019? As they always say, “Where did the time go?” My theme for 2019 was Unsinkable. Over the year I looked at different Psalms which anchored our faith. I took a look at the sayings of Jesus on the cross.  I spent several weeks in Romans 8- IMHO one of, if not the, greatest chapter in the Bible. We spent the summer looking at various OT heroes-Daniel; S-M-A; Deborah- and then a multi-week study on Joseph. I rounded out the year by looking at the 7 churches in Revelation; being a servant; and finally, of not missing Christmas.

We now stand at the brink of a new year with no clue what it brings. I’m sorta glad of that. Depending on what it is to be like (and only God knows that) could determine where I felt like getting up or staying in bed.  I kid.  The theme for 2020 is TRUTH and I’ll unveil that graphic next week.

Every year at this time pastors across the land will be preaching on the past and the future. I am willing to wager (although I am not a betting man) more that one pastor will say something like this: “You have no clue what 2020 will bring, but one thing I can guarantee-whatever it brings you will not be able to navigate it alone.”

My sermon this Sunday is titled “I Challenge You!” My challenge for me and for my folks (and you by proxy) is that we allow God to be actively involved in our lives-past, present and future.  I’m using Exodus 33 for my text this Sunday and will be approaching it from two plains: God At a Distant (33:1-6) and God In The Present (33:7-23).  Lots of rich OT history to show God’s distance as a result of sin/choices and God’s presence in the present using the Tabernacle as the backdrop.

A little different sermon for me but one I pray makes a point about God’s desire for us to know His presence in our lives. I’d appreciate your prayers as I close out the year. I’ve also been fighting a cough that wracks my vocal chords and makes them raw. The doctor says all signs are clear. So prayers for my throat and an end to the cough would be more than welcome.

#ChristmasChallenge#Post20

Friday, December 20th, 2019

Have you ever noticed how our view of something is determined by our perspective? What I mean by that is this example. Supposed you are driving a car toward an intersection. It is a 4-way stop and you know that because you have been here so many times. The corn is high and as you slow down you do not see the truck coming to your right. It is going way too fast and has no way of stopping in time. You stop then proceed and find yourself T-boned by the truck. Meanwhile, someone is in a helicopter above and sees the whole thing developing. The intersection. Your stop. The runaway truck. Their perspective gives them a totally different view of the developing disaster.

When Jesus was born the world was not the way God wanted it to be. Nor intended it to be.  The world Jesus entered was one of darkness and ugliness and sin. God knew what was needed. His perspective said, “My Son will come. Live. Die. Raise. All to save you.”

The interesting but sad thing is we think we know better.  Our view is skewed.  The Christmas season should remind us we are messed up and needed a Savior.

We are not the way we ought to be or the way God intended. But God is at work to transform us into becoming the way He wants us to be. The Christmas story is so much more than a baby in a manger. It is God’s way of reaching out to us to save us from ourselves and our sin.

“Father, thank you for having a different perspective than us. And because of that perspective we have been ‘reached out to’ in order for us to be transformed. Please do your work in me.”

Make sure you check out my other #ChristmasChallenge bloggers. Diane at Hadarah and Ed at WORD!

#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.