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#InMemorium#ThankYou

Monday, May 17th, 2021

In 2003 my brother, Garry, and his wife, Deb, adopted a little girl from China. Lia’s “delivery” was delayed a year due to the SARS virus which shut down the whole adoption from China wheel, but eventually they held beautiful Lia in their arms.

Early in my blogging years, I faithfully followed (and he me) a pastor (Jason) who lived in Alaska (yes, I am jealous). He and his wife were already parents but chose to adopt 2 children from Japan.

Some in the church I serve have adopted children from other nations. One family  has two-one since a baby and the other in her elementary years. They have both grown into beautiful young ladies. One graduates high school this year and the other I look for her to be seen as an Olympic diver if she realizes her dream.

Foster parents and grandparents are making life different for hundreds, even thousands of children every day.

The Bible speaks of adoption into God’s family.  Take a moment and read Romans 8: 14-15; Gal.4:5; and Eph. 1:5. Adoption says we are legally His. He has put His stamp on us. We are identified as His child. He is our Abba Father.

There are several reasons for adoption. One is the desire to make life better for someone. While withholding my comments about what is going on at the southern border, there is a reason so many are making their way here. They see a better life.  For most of them, if not all, they see America as the “land of opportunity.”

We have those who have served our country whom we should thank for that perception (which I do believe to be true). America and its capitalistic ideals, despite all its flaws (which I will not go into), is still the greatest place to live. (And here I will make a statement: if you don’t like it here…leave. See if you can get away with your free speech, etc in China or Russia or some other socialist regime).

I am grateful I live in America…flaws and all. And I just want to stop and say thank you to all the men and women who served, are serving and are training to serve this great nation to keep us free. Have you taken the time to say thanks?

THANK YOU!!

#Deconstruction#Religion101

Tuesday, May 11th, 2021

Have you ever noticed there are some things which are “all the rage”?   One Sunday as I was visiting with people before our services started, I said hi to an 8 year old who had double bell-bottom jeans on. I had just spoken with two older teen girls who were wearing bell-bottoms. I asked the older girls if bell-bottoms were coming back and they said, “Yeah.” Then I commented how I wore them while in high school.  That, my friends, was over 50 years ago. Yikes!

Anyway, one of the things which is “all the rage” right now is something very sad. It is called Deconstruction. No, that is not what you do when you flip a house-tear it down to its nubs and rebuild it. The deconstruction I am speaking of is that which speaks of someone’s faith. Some very high profile people have come out as “deconstructors” of their faith. Josh Harris (“I Kissed Dating Goodbye”). A worship leader for Hillsong. The former lead singer of Hawk Nelson. The Gungors who have gone on to what is called Progressive Christianity (avoid at all costs). Tons of books have been written; podcasts recorded; articles written and posted via blogs; social media posts; you name it. One of the best I have ever read concerning Deconstruction is a new book by Michael J. Kruger entitled Surviving Religion 101.

Surviving Religion 101

Michael takes a unique approach in his book.  He addresses the whole deal with deconstruction by writing letters to his daughter.  When he wrote this book, Emma was in her first year of college at UNC (University of North Carolina), home of the infamous Bart Ehrman, a renowned deconstructionist whose life passion seems to be destroying peoples’ faith.  There are a total of 15 chapters, each chapter a letter where he addresses concerns Emma might face as she interacts on campus with both teachers and fellow students.  A short list of what he addresses: the intelligence of her professors; her morals being seen as intolerant; the same-sex argument; hell is a fairy tale; the issue of suffering; science and the Christian faith; there are several chapter on the reliability of the Bible; and others.

I didn’t know what to expect when I first bought this book and began reading,  but I can honestly say this is one of the most enjoyable books I have read on this subject. Probably because it is not technical but practical.  My brain is on overload at times because I want to absorb all he writes but that is impossible for my mind to accomplish. But I do know I have underlined a ton of sentences and will revisit this book as I find myself in the place where I need to.  If you know of someone who is seriously questioning their faith, or is even in the process of deconstructing their faith, this is a book you need to put into their hands. It won’t answer every question but it sure will make you (and the person you care about) think. And it will show you that the Christian faith can and will stand up to scrutiny.

#EyesWideOpen#Compassion

Friday, April 30th, 2021

When I was a young boy, we had a TV.  In an age of multiple TVs in a household; where some TVs are as big as a wall; where hued colors so vivid it seems unbelievable; I was privileged to watch a black and white TV with rabbit ears. There was no such thing as cable TV or satellite TV or internet.

There were some fantastic shows back then. Perry Mason. Red Skelton.  There were the “hero” shows like Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Sea Hunt, and Superman (who looked anything but super).  One show was really popular: Eliot Ness and the Untouchables.  Kevin Costner did a movie version of that a good number of years ago.

In the days of Jesus, Israel had their own set of untouchables. It wasn’t because of social or moral status. There were literally untouchable. This week’s sermon is titled Eyes of Compassion from Luke 5: 12-16 and Mark 1:40-45. It kicks off my new series called EYES WIDE OPEN. I will be looking at people who entered Jesus’ life and how He treated them and talked to them and met their needs. I have never done a series like this before. I’m looking forward to it.

I hope you will join me either in person or online. As always, your prayers would be appreciated.

#That’sIt?#LifeMatters

Friday, April 23rd, 2021

There is always a sense of satisfaction when you come to the end of a book or project. I know what it is like to be reading a book and reading that last page, especially if it has been a tough go. We come to the end of Ecclesiastes this week with a sermon I have titled Is That All There Is?

My purpose this week is to remind the folks what Solomon has taught us over the past 4 months (with a 4 week break for Easter). I’ve been able to weed down each sermon into a short lesson that I think will make it easier to see Ecclesiastes as a whole with tremendous lessons (if we are listening).

All of this will make more sense if we remember our main purpose in life. The Westminster Shorter Catechism (a creed we don’t really know or follow as a church body with regular recitations) opens with the words, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to worship Him forever.”  Bottom line: that is our purpose.  With that as the main idea, I am going to review the lessons Solomon has taught us throughout his book.

I’d love it if you would join me-in person or online. If not, then please pray for me, for us. I need that more than anything.

#Heresy#FalseDoctrine#SayWhat?

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

I prefer to stay out of politics. I think I do pretty well with that. So what I am about to post has NOTHING at all to do with politics, even though it involves a politician (who probably ought to stick to his wretched politics).

Raphael Warnock, who calls himself Reverend Raphael Warnock, is the “pastor” of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Historically, it is the church Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr was the pastor of before his death. On Easter Sunday Mr. Warnock tweeted the following:

The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whether you are Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others, we are able to save ourselves.

All I can say is, “Say what?” The blowback was quick and strong.

“With all due respect, this is literally the opposite of what the Gospel says. Ephesians 2 states that clearly. Faith alone, Christ alone,” tweeted Jason Romano, an author and the director of media at Sports Spectrum. “Love God, Love others. We should always help others. But … that’s [not] how we’re saved. Romans, Ephesians, the Gospels all make it clear we can’t save ourselves. If we could, then Jesus dying on the cross for nothing.”

Mark Jackson, the pastor of Oakhurst Baptist Church in Clarksdale, Miss., responded to Warnock by tweeting, “You sir have totally missed the meaning of this day. Without the resurrection of Christ, there is no hope of salvation at all. There is no greater meaning of this day than that of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

And here is one I totally agree with:

Another person tweeted, “This is a false gospel and heresy. We cannot save ourselves.”

First, Mr Warnock campaigned on the idea the Bible condones abortion. Now he says this. Seriously? Mr. Warnock should stick to politics rather than spread around the kind of false messages he is busy doing.  This latter one is just sheer poppycock. And blatant false teaching.

Now you know how I really feel. 🙂

#GreatestEvent#Celebration

Saturday, April 3rd, 2021

Oddly enough there is one thing atheists and Christ-followers can agree on.  I believe you can say we have a common ground. That common ground has been summed up very well by Billy Graham: “If I were an enemy of Christianity, I would aim right at the Resurrection, because that is the heart of Christianity.” 

I found an interesting quote recently by a man named Jaroslav Pelikan:

If Christ is risen, nothing else matter. And if Christ is not risen-nothing else matters.

All that to say this: the validity of Christianity rises and falls on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  By an outward look, the cross is the final blow to Jesus and the life He offered. But ONLY IF the resurrection is not true. However, if the resurrection is true, the finality of the cross is done. It is defeated.

Of course, I believe very strongly that the resurrection of Jesus Christ physically from the tomb is true. If I didn’t I would quit my job, find another job, and live in despair for the rest of my life.  In a book called Moorings in a World Adrift, the late Clayton Bell wrote the following words:

The fact of Jesus’ resurrection is the benchmark from which we measure everything about Jesus Christ: his birth, his life, his teachings, his miracles, and even his death.”

Sunday if, of course, Resurrection Sunday. The day we celebrate the greatest event in history.  My purpose is to show why I believe the resurrection is true.  I invite you to join us in person or online. And I’ll close this post with a quote from N.T. Wright:

It is impossible to account for the early Christian belief in Jesus as Messiah without the resurrection.

 

#Heart#Cross#Dichotomy

Friday, March 26th, 2021

Hey! Thanks for dropping by my blog. I had planned on posting one more time before this weekend but a quick and last minute trip to Ohio to visit with our daughter and grandson took precedence and me out of the loop. So I’m playing a little bit of catch up and this is one of those places. I have to forego the post I was going to do and post this one instead.

The old hymn used the refrain, “So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross/’Til my trophies at last I’ll lay down.” The question which begs to be asked is, “How can someone cherish the cross? What we know of it and the horrors and torture which surrounded it says anything but “cherish.” It was an ugly instrument of death.

The past two weeks I have been looking at the cross and will do the same this week. This Sunday is commonly called Palm Sunday because it showcases the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem surrounded by followers laying palm branches on the ground.  It introduces what is called Holy Week, so-called because it is the last week of Jesus’ earthly life/ministry before His crucifixion and resurrection.  Some have called this week and crucifixion as being the week where we get to see a perfect example of cosmic child abuse.  Progressive “Christianity” is whacked and the purveyors of it are complicit in its and their “whackness.”

The cross was absolutely essential to the story of salvation.  Take away the cross and you take away the heart of the whole story.  The Bible tells us this is the way it had to be!  JESUS DIED WILLINGLY, laying down His life on His own accord.  He wasn’t forced or tricked or blackmailed or threatened with the extinction of His people. He did all of this willingly. In fact, Hebrews 12 says, “For the joy set before Him.”

My purpose this Sunday is to show the heart of the cross.  I want to show how Jesus defied common wisdom and practice and instead of whining and crying and fighting, He willingly laid down His life for me, for you.”  I even have a great story which Charles Dickens included in The Tale of Two Cities which I will be using in the sermon.  (If you are unable to watch or attend and are good, I will include it in a post this coming week). 🙂

Please join me in person or online on the church’s FB page or YouTube channel.  You can check out the church’s website for those links.  And as always, if you are unable to do either, please pray for me, for us. Thanks.

#TheHole#Emptiness#Life

Friday, February 19th, 2021

Augustine is credited with saying, “Our hearts are restless, O God, until they find their rest in you.” (Edited by me since the original was in King James English).  Just take a look around and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize his statement is true. Solomon has shown us over and over in Ecclesiastes that those things which we pursue will never satisfy. But just when you think he might be done, Solomon moves on to another empty pursuit. This week he will cover riches and honor.

Have you ever researched lottery winners? While there are some success stories of people who stayed humble and are still living in their modest home and living a modest lifestyle, or got a financial advisor to handle their finances,  there are also those who splurged on a new home and new toys and then lost it all to bankruptcy and divorce or in trouble with the law. They would be perfect examples of Solomon’s conclusion: all is empty.

My sermon this Sunday is from Eccl.5:8-6:12. I’ve titled it The Hole because that seems to me what Solomon is saying. But all is not lost! Just as Solomon talks about The Hole we can find ourselves in by chasing after empty things, we can also have the hole filled.  William Butler Yeats once said, “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.” Translated into Grandi language that says: “When things fall apart (as they will), nothing can hold life together.” I would disagree with Mr. Yeats because of the ONE who holds all of life together.  To help me make my point I’m going to share the story of Becket Cook, which comes from his book, Change of Affection. Becket was a practicing gay man who had an encounter with Christ and even though he had the world and all its “things,” he gave it up to follow Jesus. It is a thrilling story.

I’m recovering from gall bladder and hernia surgery as many of you know.  Ryan has a copy of my sermon just in case I can’t go, but Lord willing, I will be preaching this Sunday. I’d appreciate your prayers for health and a solid communication of the truth…by me or Ryan. Thanks.

#ImportantDay#DayofReflection

Wednesday, February 17th, 2021

Today is an important day for several reasons: one personal and one spiritual.

The spiritual first. Today, February 17th, is the beginning of Lent, or Ash Wednesday. Lent is the 40 days before the day we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. This year that will be April 4th. I must confess to you that growing up in the church tradition I belonged to we did not observe Lent. I was so naive about it that I almost went up to a teacher who had a dark spot in the middle of his forehead and told him he had dirt there. 🙂 I had no clue! I also know some of my friends would talk about giving up something for Lent. Again, I had no clue.  My teacher was Catholic, as were my friends, and I now know that was a significant aspect of their belief system.  It had to be only 15 or so years ago that I really gave any notice to Lent. I heard some folks talking and decided it would behoove me to know more. For several years I decided to give it a go so one year I gave up caffeine pop. Another year I gave up beef (which wasn’t really hard since I didn’t eat it much anyway). One year I gave up all pop and drank only water. Then I finally figured out it really wasn’t about giving up something; it was really about surrender.

In his book, Journey to the Cross, a 40 day devotional to be used during Lent, Paul David Tripp writes: “It is right and beneficial to take a season of the year to reevaluate, recalibrate, and have the values of our hearts clarified once again. Lent is such a season. As we approach Holy Week, where we remember the sacrifice, suffering, and resurrection of our Savior, it’s good to give ourselves to humble and thankful mourning. Lent is about remembering the suffering and sacrifice of the Savior. Lent is about confessing our ongoing battle with sin…And Lent is about giving ourselves in a more focused way to prayer, crying out for help that we desperately need from the only One who is able to give it.” (Pages 8-9)

I no longer use Lent to give up something physical. I try to use it to do just what Tripp says: “to reevaluate, recalibrate, and have the values of my heart clarified once again.”  May I challenge you to do the same? I have been reading his book in preparation for my sermons on the cross and the resurrection. I’m actually on Day 17…and no I didn’t plan it that way. Perhaps you might even consider getting a copy of his book to help guide you.

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On a more personal note: this day has some significance. Many of you know of my struggles physically since testing positive for Covid on December 21. I will spare you the ugly details. Let’s just suffice it to say I lost between 40-50 pounds in less than a month. After multiple tests they have narrowed it down to gall stones which lodged in my bile duct which caused my physical issues. After having them removed, it was highly recommended that I have my gall bladder removed. My words: I have a gravel pit in there.  Oddly enough, I NEVER had a moment of pain. However much I hated getting Covid, it actually alerted my doctors (and me) to the potential for a great amount of pain and the possibility of infection which could have caused serious issues down the road. So I am having my gall bladder removed today. I guess that gives new meaning to Lent being a time of giving up something?  🙂  By the time many (most) of you read this my surgery will probably be over. I am hoping for the laparoscopy so I can come home today. All I ask is that whenever you read this you do say a prayer. I would like to recover as quickly as possible. On the bright side: we were “blessed” with 8-9 inches of snow Monday and Tuesday morning so I can’t be outside riding my bike anyway.  But I have been riding inside and am praying for a good answer to my question: when can I start riding inside again? I’ll keep you posted on how things went. Meanwhile, I do ask for your prayers. For more on this whole process and how I am “seeing” it, please check out my other blog here.

#Worship#Religion

Friday, February 12th, 2021

Several years ago Victoria Osteen, the wife of entrepreneur, Joel Osteen, was recorded “preaching” and saying the following: “When we obey God, we’re not doing it for God…we’re doing it for ourselves because God takes pleasure when we’re happy…When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really, you’re doing it for yourself.”  I have seen that video clip and am still dumbfounded by it. What I have not seen since it was shared on social media is that clip of her saying that being paired with a scene from the film, Billy Madison where a man says, “What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard.”

When we hear a religious figure say out loud that we do not worship God for God, we know that is patently absurd. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says the exact opposite of what Mrs. Osteen and others of her ilk say. It says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Sadly, much of contemporary Christianity has changed that to “God’s chief end is to glorify man and enjoy him forever.”

One pastor said, “It is possible to go to church and hear little about God and much about you.”

How can a person argue with that when it is staring us in the face?  “I didn’t get anything out of church today.” “What a waste of time today was. The music was too slow and the sermon didn’t touch me at all. I got nothing out of being in church.” What a difference it would make if we flipped that and asked, “What did I give God today? Did I give Him my full-on worship? Did I listen intently to the message as it was delivered from God’s Word? Was my heart into worship today?”

My sermon Sunday will tackle some of these thoughts as I use Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 to talk about Religion Investigated. I would love it if you would watch the live stream if you are unable to come.  If you are I look forward to seeing you in person.  And, as always, I appreciate your prayers.