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#Amazement#Faith

Friday, May 14th, 2021

Nietzche, the German philosopher and atheist, once said, “A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.” (Too bad since he ended his life committed to one as a result of a breakdown and depression).

Thomas Aquinas once said,

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

No source better than the Bible says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb.11:1)

In the story and Scripture for this Sunday, we find Jesus amazed. Amazed at a “pagan’s” faith. The Centurion. A Gentile amazes Jesus by his faith.  He asks for healing for his servant and then tells Jesus that just saying the word will do the trick.

My Scripture will be Luke 7:1-10 and Matthew 8: 5-13.  This is a powerful story of faith in action. And although I would like to say I have faith, I’m not sure it would be the kind that would amaze Jesus. I can learn a thing or two from the Centurion. We all can. Join me please if you have the chance-in person or online.  Prayer would be much appreciated either way.

#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.

#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.

 

#Story#Replacement

Monday, March 29th, 2021

Perhaps you have heard this story before. Maybe not. Since I have never read Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities I can’t say I have except in a passing glance. But I used the following story in my sermon yesterday and since it is the week leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection, I thought I would start your week off with a thought-provoking story.

A man named Charles Darnay is condemned to die by the guillotine.  In our vernacular, all means of appeal had been made. The verdict kept coming back “Guilty.” “Condemned.”

As he sat in his cell and thought about his wife and child, he heard the shuffling of feet in the stone passage, a turning of a key, and a quick open and shut door. With a finger to his lips, Sidney Carton stood face-to-face before Darnay with a slight smile on his face. This man had come to trade places with Darney. Carton, an innocent man, is willing to go to the guillotine so that Darnay can be free to live and rejoin his family.

After the exchange has been made, and prisoners are gathered to be taken to their execution, a little seamstress approaches him. “Are you dying for him?” she whispered. “And his wife and child,” he replied.

Sidney Carton died so that another might live. But as great as his act was, it still does compare with what Christ has done for us.  You see, Carton died for 3 people. Jesus died not for just three, not for a hundred, but millions upon millions of people. Jesus died mercifully for a humanity caught in rebellion against God. By His death Jesus reconciled us (made us friends) with God.

Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates his love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Think on that truth as we begin this final week leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus.

#Necessity#Cross#FulfillGod’sPlan

Friday, March 19th, 2021

Paul wrote the following words: “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” (NLT)

The cross has always been the central symbol of Christianity.  And while some wear it as jewelry around their neck or dangling from their ears or even carved into their body, the power of the cross has never been diminished. Some think the cross is a dead symbol. One man is quoted as saying, “A void has opened in the heart of Christianity. Where the cross once stood is now a vacuum.”

Remember two words: Penal substitution. Odds are you may have not even heard of them. Penal denotes punishment.  Substitution speaks of a replacement or a proxy.  Penal substitution atonement is therefore where one person bears the penalty someone else deserves.

All NT writers agree on this: Christ was our sinless substitute, and He died to pay the penalty for our sins. Sin has turned us all into criminals and there is no escape hatch from the pathway to destruction except by way of the cross.

My series on the cross continues this Sunday with the sermon titled The Necessity of the Cross.  There can be no Christianity without the cross. Humanity is not going to get better (do you remember the riots of this past summer?)  Yeah…I wouldn’t call that getting better.  As someone has said, “There is no death of sin without the death of Christ.”

Join me please if you are able to do so. Either in person or online. If not, prayer is greatly appreciated.

#LessonsfromaShadow

Sunday, March 14th, 2021

Yesterday I preached on the Shadow of the Cross. In my last post, I mentioned there were 6 lessons from a book I planned to use during the sermon and then I was going to post here.  I’d like to share three here and then three in the next post.

#1- The shadow of the cross teaches us who we are. The cross should and must humble us. Very few of us look at ourselves with humility. Instead, we compare and tell ourselves we aren’t really too bad. We need to rekindle the thoughts we had when we initially were saved-a sinner in need of and saved by grace.

#2- The shadow of the cross teaches us what we need. The cross teaches me I need inward change.  I don’t need to change my circumstances, my lot in life, my place of living, or even a physical change.  I need an inward, heart change.  And here is the kicker: I am incapable of making this change happen on my own.

#3- The shadow of the cross teaches us who God is. Bluntly put: He is God and I am not.  But it goes much deeper than that. The cross teaches me that God is unrelentingly merciful.  The cross teaches me God is full of grace. The cross teaches me that He is the One who wants to be in charge and I am incapable of managing and running my own life. When God takes over ownership of my life, He wants to be the One in charge. He does not need a backseat driver telling Him what to do with my life.

The main ideas are from the book by Paul David Tripp entitled Journey to the Cross.  The commentary is mine. As you think about the upcoming season of the cross and Resurrection Sunday I hope this helps put things in perspective.  I will post the next three on Wednesday.

#NewPost#FamiliarSongs

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

Over at my other blog I have written a devotion which will post tomorrow. But I know that many do not read it so I thought I would post it here a day earlier. In that post I talk about a song which plays over and over in one’s head.  Here is the rest of tomorrow’s devotion blog. By the way, I’d love to have you join me on a daily basis as I write a devotion that I pray helps my readers face the day.  The link to that blog is here.  And here is that post:

Did you ever have a song in your head and it gets stuck there and it keeps repeating and repeating?  Maybe it was one you heard just before bedtime and you woke up with that song playing over and over in your head. Or maybe you were in a “mood” and a song just struck you right. Or you heard a song that had you waxing nostalgic, reliving a scene from the past that song dredged up.

A few weeks ago I had a medical diagnosis hanging over my head that was cryptic at best. “You have a mass of suspicious origin so I want you to get an MRI. It just looks different.” Of course all sorts of things run through the mind. He wanted that MRI to get a closer and deeper look. Thankfully, it was gall stones (which he was able to go in and take out with a process called ECRP.  That led though to a gall bladder surgery this past Wednesday. I’m glad it is over and out. But the morning after those initial words I was driving to the office and a fairly new song to me was playing on my Spotify playlist-Holy is Your Name by Petra. I pulled into the parking spot and found myself overcome with emotion and wept. I just knew no matter the outcome, I was going to be okay. (Here is the link to that song).

One of my favorite worship songs was playing last night as I worked on a jigsaw puzzle. I have related here before how my relationship with my father was sketchy at best. No need to repeat it. But the song hit me last night and I became emotional. “You’re a good, good Father that’s who You are/And I’m love by You, it’s who I am, it’s who I am.” My earthly father loved me in his own way, I guess. But God!! There is no comparison. He is a good, good Father and I’m loved by Him.

Now…that’s a song to have stuck in my head and on repeat!! (Here is the link to that song).

“You are a good, good Father, Lord. I cannot thank You enough.”

#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.

#UnsungHero#SecondViolin

Friday, December 11th, 2020

Have you ever heard the expression, “Close but no cigar?” Or some of you are old enough to remember Maxwell Smart from the TV show Get Smart. One of his favorite expressions was “I only missed it by that much” while holding his fingers up to indicate how close.  Or I’m sure you have heard the saying, “Almost doesn’t count except in horseshoes and hand grenades.”

There are actors and actresses who ply their trade for years and never hit it big. They always seem to wind up second fiddle.  Many of them go year after year playing second or bit parts while working another job to keep food in their stomach. Sometimes they hit it big (think Harrison Ford) and some never get the big time.  Some will always play the “one-who-never-made-it.”  Of course there are always those who think they are worth far more than they are and when a sequel comes up they say, “Bill me top dog or I’ll decline.” A lot of actors overestimated their value and lost out on their future. Hmmm that happened to one of my favorite trilogies.

Anyway, the Christmas story is coming down to the nitty-gritty. We talked about the supporting cast (Jesus’ genealogy) and Zechariah and Elizabeth. Last week I talked about the Unknowns (shepherds and wise men) who showed up, did their part and then were never to be heard from again.  This week is about the Co-Stars, whom I’m pretty sure you will come to realize are Joseph and Mary. I’m calling Joseph the Unsung Hero and Mary is the Second Violin (not to Joseph but to her Son).

There are some tremendous lessons both co-stars teach us and I believe if we can learn them it would change our world (our influence) and ultimately the world.  Two actors, both co-stars, but both vital to the outcome of the play. Join me if you would like.  At least, please pray for us. That just might be the best of all!

#JesusMovement#Laurie#JesusPeople

Monday, September 21st, 2020

I was born in 1952 (that puts me at a soon-to-be 68 for those counting. October 9 to be exact. Money accepted. 🙂 )  so I was in my teen years in 1965-1970. I wasn’t very world savvy (translation: not at all) so I knew very little about what was going on in Vietnam. I did not follow the hippie movement; Haight-Ashbury; LSD and the pharmacy; Nixon; Woodstock; Altamont; nor any of the movement called the Jesus Movement (JM). My music at the time was Tommy James and the Shondells, Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons, mostly bubblegum music. But then Tommy James did Crimson and Clover and Crystal Blue Persuasion (still my all-time #1 song). My senses began picking up vibes of another world. I began working and heard about Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. Still I had not heard of the JM or the Jesus People. I came from a pretty conservative church. I knew of the One Way sign and once flashed it to a military vehicle in front of us and promptly got back a middle finger. I’m not sure if he thought I was giving him one or if he was letting me know what he thought of Jesus. A rude awakening for sure. I had never heard of Larry Norman, Barry McGuire Chuck Girard and Love Song, or any of the other seminal artists in what was then a fledgling Christian music genre. And I for sure had never heard of Chuck Smith, Calvary Chapel, or one of Chuck’s protege’s, Greg Laurie. Too bad. But even then that was West Coast and I lived in PA.

This book, Jesus Revolution, by Greg Laurie and Ellen Vaughn was a great way to do an interstate tour through a state route roadway. I learned about Greg’s early involvement in drugs and the counterculture, but also with JM/JP after God got a hold of his life. But I also learned far more. I love history and man this book gives a breezy, Clif Notes version of the JM. It was a wonderful trip down memory lane-a lane I have no memory of…except some of the world events (which I now know about). But I loved hearing about history and how the JM intersected the world; how Chuck Smith opened his neat ‘n tidy church to the young hippies who were seeking meaning to their emptiness. Chuck pointed them to Jesus. One of those burned out people was Greg Laurie. It was fun reading of Greg’s “rise” from a 17 y/o hippie to preaching at Riverside (an effort blessed and encouraged by Chuck) at the age of 19. God began to use Greg to where they eventually had to begin meeting at the Riverside Municipal Building with no A/C! It was nicknamed the Riverside Municipal Microwave Oven.

This book included stories of Greg; his marriage to Cathe (which is about 8 months shorter than mine); his “rise” as a pastor; his influence in people’s lives; the tragic and untimely death of his son, Christopher, in a car accident; the renewal of his son, Jonathan as a result of the accident; his Harvest Crusades and his move back to Orange County to start a church. It also included some great round-ups of world events during the ’60s-’79.

This was a wonderful book!! If you like history, especially contemporary church history, you will want to get this book. You will not be sorry. It makes me want to read more about the JM and more of Pastor Greg’s books.  And just to be clear: this is not a book going on and on about how great Greg Laurie is. I suspect he would eschew that in the highest order.

Jesus Revolution: How God Transformed an Unlikely Generation and How He Can Do It Again Today