Truth

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#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.

#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.

 

#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.

#SpeakUpandOut#ItisTime

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

As the title suggests, it is time to speak up and out. I have rued speaking about politics on purpose.  In the long run, it serves no purpose. Talking heads will want to believe what they want to believe. My wife has asked me on several occasions, “Can’t people see that what he is doing is ruining our country?” I nodded in the affirmative to her thoughts about the country but then simply replied, “Nope they can’t because they don’t want to. Big tech and the liberal media only tell people what they themselves believe or what they want people to hear.” We saw that since the first impeachment (farce) of a trial and we saw it the whole 10 months leading up to the election.  (And please don’t get me started on that).

But I have another “bone” to pick. All this talk of science during the whole pandemic as though science was the end all. Science had/has all the answers.  “Science says this or science says that.” If science is so right on that subject, why is science so wrong on another subject?  Cases in point:

The current administration has signed into law that transgender males may participate in female sports. Science says that gives the males an unfair advantage because of the testosterone which is running through their body. But we suddenly push science aside for the sake of political “woke-sim.”  Can I say how much I despise that word “woke”?  Even athletes like Martina Navratilova, a known and out-spoken lesbian,  has gone on public record that it is a bad thing. “It gives the transgender athlete an unfair advantage,” she says. Oh, she took some heat on that one for sure. She isn’t alone. Even Billie Jean King spoke out.  And many others.  It is unfair that woman/high school/college athletes will be punished by the travesty of allowing males to compete as females. So we kick science to the curb for the sake of being PC (a word we no longer need to use since we have “woke”).  Have I told you much I despise that word?  🙂  Oh, and if you think this is not backed by big money then take a gander at this articleThat ought to chill you to the core.

Another “Kick science to the curb” scenario is the recent vote to allow babies who survive abortion not to receive medical help, i.e. just let them die. The fact that they are breathing even science will admit means they are alive.  How can babies be denied life-saving means, especially when a botched abortion was meant to take their life to start with? I am beyond stumped with that. And I am beyond livid when it comes to abortion and now this?  I submit to you there will be some lawmakers who will cringe when they stand before the Judge of all and have to give an account for their actions.  I seem to remember Someone saying we “need to become like children to see the kingdom of heaven” and “it would be better if a millstone were tied around our neck rather than cause one of the little ones to stumble.”  Of course, I suspect many or most of them don’t care what God thinks. And for a supposed pastor to vote for letting them die? I do not want to be in his shoes on Judgment Day.

I have other thoughts but will keep them to myself.  🙂  I will also now climb down off my soapbox and be on my way.  I ranted long enough.  Oh…by the way…these are not political issues; they are moral issues. On those I will speak.

#Positive#WastingLife

Saturday, December 26th, 2020

It seems no matter how hard one tried there seemed to be no way to avoid the China virus. I am no exception. Nor is Jo. Nor is Tami. Nor is Diana or her husband, Jim. Nor is Ryan and his wife, Hope. It hit like a landslide and there was nothing any of us could do about it. It wasn’t just us. Some of our friends as well. So we have been quarantined since Monday and if we finally get symptom free our breakout day will be Wednesday or Thursday. Jo, Tami and I were tested Monday.  So, needless to say, in-church is not meeting Sunday. We are doing all virtual. Since Ryan, Jo and I are all positive it will be just us three in the morning. Your prayers would be appreciated.

As for the sermon? Well, it is the end of truth. That sounds bad since truth will never die. It is the end of the year long theme of “Truth!” Sunday’s sermon will be Back to the Future. I subtitled it “Don’t Waste Your Life.” It will be a quick look over this past year and a challenge for 2021. I’ll share some of my thoughts in another post or two.

I’ll also unveil my theme for next year with a new banner thanks to my techgeek, Ryan. What a gem of a friend God gave me! 

You can watch Sunday’s sermon via live stream on the church’s FB page or YouTube. I hope you will join me. The links are on the church’s website.

#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!

#SupportingCast#Messy

Friday, November 27th, 2020

One of the hardest times for me to preach is Christmas. I know that sounds weird. But it is true. It isn’t that I don’t like Christmas. I love it! What makes it so hard to preach at Christmas is most people know the story so well they could probably do a better job than me. 🙂  So the hard job for me is to find a new way to tell an old story. By new way I obviously don’t mean denying it or the truth of it or the virgin birth or the Incarnation.  The questions are:

How do I make it come alive?

How do I make it appealing and not boring?

How do I tell this timeless story and bring old truths to life?

I’m not sure how I succeed in those but I do try. This year I am calling my series A Grand Production.  I plan to look at it through the idea of a play with the different actors and actresses in their roles. My sermon this Sunday is on the Supporting Cast.  I’m breaking it down into the Messy People and the “Go-Before” people. Do you know who they are? Hint: the first group is found in Matthew 1 and the others are found in Luke 1.  You should be able to figure them out.

If you are unable to come to OVCF don’t forget we live stream at 9:00 and 10:45. I’d love to have you join us. If you can’t would you at least pray for me/us? Thanks.

#Ingratitude#Guilty?

Friday, November 20th, 2020

I read something recently I thought was good. One man wrote:

Wearing shoes is optional. But eating is not. Driving a car is optional. But once you choose the option, driving on the right hand side (in America) is not…I’m not saying these things are impossible. You can choose to go without eating, but if you do you must take the consequences. You must be willing to exist at a low energy level, to invite infection and disease, and, if you persist, to die. You can choose to drive on the left but will pay fines and cause accidents.

In our life as a Christ-follower, we have an option of being good stewards with God’s blessings, or using His gifts for purely selfish means.  It is sad that because Thanksgiving Day is approaching that we find ourselves focusing on gratitude and God’s blessings when, if fact, that gratitude and those blessings are all-year around.

I’m going to make a very blanket statement which I firmly and 100% believe: we who follow Jesus ought to be THE MOST GRATEFUL people of all. Bar none. This Sunday I am going to recap some thoughts about God’s blessings I spoke about last week, but then I aim to draw attention to some examples in the Bible of people who were ungrateful.  What strikes me even more are the words Moses spoke in Deuteronomy 6 where he reminded the people what they had to be grateful for but added these words: then take care lest you forget them. Do you think God had an idea about His people? About me? About you?

This is the last in my series called Q & A and it has a simple title: What about Ingratitude?  Obviously I appreciate your prayers, but let me challenge you to take one step more: spend some time in gratitude for all God has done and given you.

#Blessed#CountThem

Friday, November 13th, 2020

Many of us can remember the old song “Count your many blessings name them one by one/Count your many blessings see what God has done.” It was especially pulled out of mothballs every Thanksgiving. And rightly so. But then again, it is sad. Why focus on blessings and saying thanks for them only when the holiday comes around?

British preacher, Charles Spurgeon, once said, “Memory is very treacherous, by a strange perversity-it treasures up the refuse of the past and permits priceless treasures to lie neglected.” I’m afraid that is true for many of us. We get so caught up in the bad of the past that we often forget the good that has happened.

Psalm 103 reminds us to “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His hold name…Forget not all His benefits.” Here are four thoughts about God’s blessings that we should be aware of and I will be highlighting this week:

  1. God’s blessings are numerous and varied.
  2. God’s blessings are beyond what we deserve.  {Ain’t that the truth!}
  3. God’s blessings are poured out on the just and the unjust.
  4. God’s blessings have a purpose.

This Sunday I am going to begin a two-part sermon series on thanksgiving as part of my Q & A series. It is titled What about Being Blessed?  If you happen to live near us and attend or plan to, we will not be meeting in person this week. Strictly online.  You can find the links on our church’s website.  Our live stream will begin at 10:45 and will be scaled down to an opening song (prerecorded), a communion thought and the sermon. There will only be 3 of us in the building-me, Jo and Ryan.

Your prayers would be most appreciated.

#Troublemakers#WhatToDo?

Friday, November 6th, 2020

Charles Schultz had a Peanuts cartoon where Linus was watching TV when Lucy demands that he change the channel to what she wants to watch.  He says, “No” and she threatens him again.  He then looks at her and says, “What gives you the right to come in here and demand your way?” She says to him: “See these five fingers? Separate they are nothing. Weak. But curl them together and they become a force powerful to behold.” To which Linus answers, “What station do you want?” As he walks away he is shown looking at his hand and asking, “Why can’t you guys get together like that?”

There is no worst kept secret than a church filled with fighting, or even specifically one or two people whom we will label as troublemakers.  In fact, someone has said, “Where there’s light, there’s always bugs.”  At some point in our lives-as a business, a church, a school, even personally-we will have to deal with troublemakers. But it just seems like the church troublemaker speaks the loudest, shares the widest, and spreads the farthest than any of those other examples.

What is a church to do? That is the title of my Q & A series question this week: What about Troublemakers?  I’ll be giving several examples of troublemakers this week and then use Diotrephes (3 John 9-10) as a main example of what is suggested we do with them (besides toss them out).  I’d appreciate your prayers this week. They mean a lot.