THE INESCAPABLE PERTUBATIONS OF GOD’S LOVE

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on THE INESCAPABLE PERTUBATIONS OF GOD’S LOVE
Jul 142024
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: THE INESCAPABLE PERTUBATIONS OF GOD’S LOVE

     “To love at all is to be vulnerable.  Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung, and possibly be broken…the only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of (God’s) love is Hell”.  The Bible’s main message is best summed up in John 3:16-“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life”.  Paul later defined that love in more detail in Romans 5 when he said “when we were without any strength to save ourselves…Christ died for the ungodly…God commended His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (5:6-8).  The word commendeth is an interesting word.  The Greek word is the word “sunhistemi” meaning “to stand together”.  The idea is that “the promise of God’s love and the proof of God’s love came together in one act-Jesus dying for us as the gift of God on Calvary’s cross”.  It is a present tense-should be translated-“God keeps on demonstrating His love for us by bringing together the promise and proof of His love in the sacrificial act of Christ dying for us while we kept on being sinners!”  God loved us when there was nothing loveable about us!  He did not need us.  C.S. Lewis clarifies that truth when he wrote, “God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them.” I like the way author Lewis B. Smedes puts it-“it may be a bad thing that I needed God to die for me, but it is a wonderful thing that God thinks I’m worth dying for”.

     Jesus says that God is like a shepherd that has lost a lamb, and although He still has 99 in his fold, he will search for the lost sheep until He finds it.  Robert Fulghum is one of my favorite authors.  My favorite book of his is Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.  All of his books are enjoyable and challenging.  In the just mentioned book, he talks about hearing kids outside of his office playing hide and seek.  He says when you play that game there is always one kid that hides too well and it ends in all the kids giving up the seeking-leading to fights about the true nature of the game: hiding and seeking and bickering.  Listening to them playing he wanted to shout out to the kid hiding too well-“get found kid!”  But he figured that would only cause trouble.  But in his book he writes that adults too have tendencies to hide too well.  We cover up our faults, fears, and flaws, and wonder why we feel so abandoned and alone. He writes, “Wanting to hide. Needing to be sought. Confused about being found” is the diagnosis of the human condition.  He says that some people write about God hiding from man.  The old term for that is Deus Absconditus-“the God who hides Himself”.  Fulghum says in reality God is into being found not hidden.  He says when he was young they played a game different from hide and seek.  The played Sardines.  In Sardines the person who is it hides.  The rest of the players look for him.  When you find him you hide next to him until everybody is hiding together with him, and laughing and giggling so loud their location is no longer a secret.  He writes, “I think God is a Sardine player. He will be found in the same way players in Sardines are found-by the laughter of those finding Him-and they are all heaped together in the end”.

      One of the most beautiful expressions of the seeking nature of God is the poem The Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson.  He writes, “I fled Him down the nights and down the days; I fled him down the arches of the years; I fled Him down the labyrinth ways of my own mind; In the midst of tears I hid from Him; under running laughter.”  But God kept pursuing him and he finally concludes: “Halts by me that footfall; is my gloom after all; shade of His hand outstretched caressingly? Ah fondest, blindest, weakest; I am He whom that sleekest; Thou longeth for love from me, who longs for thee!”  He was found by the one seeking him!  All who respond to the Hound of Heaven will be found by Him and finally experience the love we have been seeking all our lives.

     There is no gift like being chosen, no pain like rejection.  When a reject is chosen by someone a life is changed by love.  Mary Ann Bird, in her book The Whisper Test, tells a very personal experience that happened to her.  She writes, “I grew up knowing I was different, and I hated it.  I was born with a cleft palate, and when I started school, my classmates made it clear to me how I looked to others: a little girl with a misshapen lip, a crooked nose, lopsided teeth, and garbled speech.  When asked what happened to your lip? I’d tell them I had fallen and cut it on a piece of glass…I was convinced that no one outside my family could love me…There was however a teacher in second grade that we all adored-Mrs. Leonard.  She was short, round, and happy-a sparkling lady.  Annually we had a hearing test-and Mrs. Leonard would give it to us.  We would stand against the door and cover one ear, the teacher would sit at her desk and whisper something, and we would have to repeat it back to her.  Things like-The sky is blue.  Do you have new shoes?  When it became my turn I waited there for words that God must have put in her mouth, those seven words changed my life.  Mrs. Leonard said in her whisper to me, I wish you were my little girl!”  Being loved, and being chosen to be loved, even though we are unlovable is the greatest experience that a human being can have.

     Experiencing the Love of God changes our lives for time and eternity.  Martin Luther wrote, “Now we have received from God nothing but love and favor, for Christ has pledged and given us…everything He has.  He has poured out on us all His treasures, which no man can measure and no angel can understand or fathom, for God is a glowing furnace of love,  reaching even from the earth to the heavens”  Thomas A Kempis wrote, “The one who loves flies, runs, and is glad; he is free and is not bound; He gives all for all, and has all in all, because he rests in one who is supreme above all things, from whom every good thing flows, and goes forth”.  Frederick Buechner wrote, “We are above all things loved-that is the Good News of the Gospel…to come together as people who believe that just maybe this gospel is true should come together like people who have just won the Irish sweepstakes!”  Victor Hugo, in Les Miserables, tells of Jean Valjean, a criminal pursued by an unrelenting lawman, is shown love by a bishop, and that love changes him into one who reaches out in love to others, and even tries to love the one who pursues him to put him back in prison.  The bottom line and most important statement in Les Miserables is that “to love another person is to see the Face of God!”  How true.  To experience the Love of God in Christ Jesus is to incur the debt to pass it on!  Paul wrote in II Corinthians 5:14 and 20 that having experienced the Love of God he found it to be “a love that constrains him to become an ambassador begging others to be reconciled to God and His love.”  Those of us, who have found the love of God, in the Christ of the Cross, must by the resurrecting power of the Spirit join the Hound of Heaven in pursuing those who are playing hide and seek from Him and encourage them to change their game to that of Heavenly Sardines!  Let the laughter of every one that finds Jesus be an echo of love calling out to others to join us in that Holy Huddle!  Augustine summarized this truth when he wrote-“Love slays what we have been so that we may become what we were not!”  By the way-the word “perturbations” is defined “anxiety, mental uneasiness, mental disquiet”.  God shows His love to us through Calvary’s cross.  Everyone that is confronted by it finds themselves troubled by the love of God.  Perturbed by it-something from which you can only escape by surrendering, or resisting until it is no longer available.  The only place that is true according to C.S. Lewis is Hell!

SERMON: PURSUED BY THE HOUND OF HEAVEN

Luke 19:10

  1. SEEKING REQUIRES COMPASSION
  2. SEEKING REQUIRES CONTACT
  3. SEEKING REQUIRES CALVARY
 Posted by at 5:34 pm

Hollow Saints-Hollow Church

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on Hollow Saints-Hollow Church
Jul 072024
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Hollow Saints-Hollow Church”

     Things are not always as they appear.  No one has hammered that message home with more impact than the poet Edwin Arlington Robinson, in his poem Richard Cory.  He tells the story of a model citizen who was the envy of his entire town.  Then he pulls the rug out from under us with his conclusion!  He wrote:

Whenever Richard Cory went downtown,

We people on the pavement looked at him:

He was a gentleman from sole to crown,

Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,

And he was always human when he talked;

But still he fluttered pulses when he said,

‘Good-morning’ and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich-yes, richer than a king-

And admirably schooled in every grace:

In fine, we thought that he was everything!

To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,

And went without meat, and cursed the bread;

And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,

Went home and put a bullet through his head!

     Model citizens are not always models.  Christians are not always the saints that we portray.  We often fool ourselves and fool others about our walk with God.  We live for years on decisions of yesteryear.  We are often like sinkholes that form when underground rivers dry up, and the weight above ground becomes too much for the vacancy below can bear up, and there is a major sinkhole collapse.  That is why the Christian life must be “so daily”.  We must fill each day with worship of God-that includes talking with Him, (prayer) and hearing from Him, (Bible Study).  We must fill each day with witness for God-where we share our faith-which keeps it real to ourselves; and relevant to our world, that is in truth hungering for Him; We must exercise our faith daily as we engage in spiritual warfare so that we can walk in victory instead of waving the white flag of surrender to the world, the flesh, and the devil.  A Christian that fails to keep his faith alive in those ways may convince himself that all is well, by going through the motions, but in reality is becoming hollow inside spiritually.  T. S. Eliot epitomized this condition in his poem The Hollow Men.   He wrote: 

“We are hollow men

We are stuffed men

Leaning together

Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!

Our voices…quiet and meaningless

shape without form, shade without color

paralyzed force, gesture without motion. 

…a fading star…

such deliberate disguises

Behaving as the wind behaves

In the twilight kingdom

valley of dying stars

this is the hollow valley…

His context was England after WWI-the emptiness after the War to End All Wars.  But he also was talking about the loss of real character and underpinning faith that sustains us for the difficulties in life.  Life becomes empty and hollow activity without, as he says, “Thine is the Kingdom”…we need to keep alive in our “kingdom”. 

     If you take a tour on the Hudson River you will pass Pollepel Island, a 6.5 acre island in the middle of the river, fifty miles north of New York City.  It is a famous island that was prominent in the Revolutionary War.  George Washington wanted to use it for a prison during the war, but that never materialized.  But it you look closely this island is home to an intriguing Robin-hood type Castle.  It is the Bannerman Castle.  In the late 1800’s Francis Bannerman VI, an immigrant from Northern Ireland, living in Brooklyn, started a military surplus business.  He purchased military equipment from the Civil War; from the Spanish-American War.  In November of 1900 he purchased Pollepel Island, and moved his military arsenal to the safety of the Island, after building this Castle to house it.  It became named “Bannerman’s Island Arsenal” and from there catalog orders provided guns, weapons, military clothing world-wide for many years.  In 1920 an explosion destroyed part of the castle.  A severe storm and Bannerman’s death left the Arsenal and island essentially vacant.  The state of New York bought the Castle and Island, and removed the military merchandise.  Tours of the Island were given in 1968.  But a fire in 1969 damaged the Arsenal even more.  The roofs and floors were destroyed.  The castle and island became off-limits to the public.  If you pass by it today…you see the hollow shell of a once mighty business empire and arsenal.  It is empty and hollow, and on the verge of collapse.  Yet commuters on the Metro-North Hudson Line and the Amtrak Empire Service can see clearly the title “Bannerman’s Island Arsenal” on the side of the Castle, it is nothing but an empty, hollow, ruin of what it once was!  The Church of Jesus Christ has been for years an Arsenal of Spiritual power in a world that is in desperate need of such power.  But due to many Christians stumbling in spiritual maintenance, and becoming shadows of the vibrant Christians that our Lord intends us to be, the Church is in danger of becoming a hollow shell of a has-been spiritual arsenal.  Revival is the only thing that can change that!  Most leading Christian leaders will tell us that we are at a cross roads in these last days.  The cross road is REVIVAL OR RUIN.  CONQUEST OR COLLAPSE.  STRONGHOLD OR SURRENDER. 

     As T.S. Eliot concludes his Hollow Men poem… he says, “This is the way the world ends…this is the way the world ends…this is the way the world ends…Not with a bang…but a whimper!”  Only you and I can see to it that the Church’s impact in these last days end with more than a whimper and a collapse of a hollow shell of hollow men…making the Church an empty Arsenal of Spiritual Power…still bearing the name…but far from the reality of the bang the Lord intends us to have as we end this Church age!   Revival or Ruin!  Let’s choose revival.  We need it.  The world needs us to experience it even more than we do!  Jesus said, “They that worship God must worship Him in Spirit and Truth”.  (John 4:4). He was talking about a spirituality that is possessed more than professed!  Francis Schaeffer wrote of this in his book True Spirituality!  A book written well ahead of its time. The time has come.

SERMON: BOLD MISSION THRUST

Matthew 28:19-20
I.  THE VISION
II.  THE VENTURE
III.  THE VOICE

 Posted by at 7:56 pm

Lost Passion-Lost Persuasion

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on Lost Passion-Lost Persuasion
Jun 302024
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Lost Passion-Lost Persuasion”.

     One of the great agnostics of all time was Bertrand Russell.  He was a very outspoken enemy of Christ and the Church.  He wrote many books refuting the arguments for Christianity.  Yet, in one of his books he spoke very pointedly to the key to our ministry and mission.  His wife, Patricia Spence Russell was dying of a terminal illness.  In his book, Why I Am Not A Christian, he wrote about his experience.  Concerning watching his wife die, he wrote: “She seemed cut off from everything with walls of agony, and the sense of solitude of each human soul overwhelmed me!  Every since my marriage my emotional life had been calm and superficial.  I had forgotten all the deeper issues and had been content with flippant cleverness. Suddenly the ground seemed to give in beneath me, and I found myself in quite another region.  Within five minutes I went through some reflections as the following:  the loneliness of the human soul is undurable-nothing can penetrate it except the highest intensity of that sort of love religious teachers have preached! Whatever does not spring from this motive is harmless or at best useless; It is love that penetrates this loneliness in each person-we must speak to that!”   

     We live in a world that has no answers.  They are looking for answers anywhere and everywhere and I finding none!  The Church has the answer in Christ.  But just trying to convince them of answers intellectually, without love and passion, the kind that Jesus shared with all He encountered, we will never get close enough to hear what we have to say.  T.S. Eliot, in his Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, spoke about all men’s fear of eternity, and desire for answers.  He wrote:  “I have seen my moment of greatness flicker!  And I have seen the eternal footman hold my coat and snicker!  And I was afraid!”  Mankind facing mortality and facing an uncertain future, behind the facade and false courage, is desperately open to loving passionate answers!  This is a great opportunity for the Church to speak up and not stutter.  What is the state of the Church?  A.W. Tozer tried to warn the Church to stay ready.  He wrote, in his book Rot, Rut, or Revival, in the chapter entitled “Causes of a Dozing Church?”- ‘What is the present condition of the Church?  The bulk of Christians are asleep! Not unconverted!  But asleep.  God’s alarm is going off…yet we are sleeping through the alarm!”  Another prophet to the Church, Southern Baptist Preacher, Vance Havner said, “If ever God’s people needed to be aroused and shocked, alarmed and awakened to their privilege and solemn duty-it is today!  The Holy Spirit was given not to be a sedative, but a stimulant!  We live in a time where people get excited about the trivial and shrug their shoulders at things affecting eternity!”  C.H. Spurgeon says, “I am sure I do not have to unroll a page of history and ask you to glance down it except for a second; you will see the Church has fallen asleep, and has become…destitute of zeal having no ardent Passion!  Every Christian is either a witness or an imposter.  If you have never had sleepless hours; If you have never had weeping eyes. If you have never swelled as if your heart would burst-You need not anticipate that you will ever be called zealous.  You do not know that the beginning of true zeal, for the foundation of zeal lies in the heart.  The heart must be heavy with grief, and ever beat with holy heavy ardor!  The heart must be vehement with desire-panting continually for God’s glory in saving the lost!”  Tozer again speaks to our contentment with no passion.  He writes “Too many Christians want to enjoy the thrill of feeling right, but without being willing to endure the inconvenience of being right!”  This contentment with our current status, without a passionate burden for winning the lost, we can convince ourselves that we are pleasing to our Lord.  But George MacDonald reminds us-“In whatever we do without God we must fail miserably, or succeed more miserably!”

     We have lost our burden for the lost.  We no longer pray for their salvation.  No longer look for opportunity to share Christ with them.  We no longer spend restless nights without sleep burdened over the fact that they are facing eternity without salvation and Christ! They are not outwardly bothered about it-and the tragic thing is neither are we!  Look at the people that changed history for Christ!  Men like John Knox who prayed “give me souls or give me death!”  “Scotland or I die!”  By Charles Wesley who said, “The world is my parish”-and walked and rode horseback well into his eighties sharing the gospel the length and breadth of England, over 250,000 miles!  Millions of converts! A visitor was taken into the Church pastored by Robert Murray McCheyene.  He was shown the Pastor’s study-his Bible on the desk; the pages stained with tears for those he would preach to.  C.H. Spurgeon who said, “If the lost go to hell do not let them go without being warned and prayed for.  Let them climb over our bodies with our arms around their knees begging them to turn to Christ!” 

Mary Booth, wrote a poem that expressed her heart. 

“Oh for a heart that is burdened!

Infused with a passion to pray;

Oh for a stirring within me

Oh for this power every day

Or for a heart like my Savior;

Who being in agony prayed

Such caring for others, Lord give me,

On my heart let burdens be laid!

My Father I long for this passion

To pour myself out for the lost;

To lay down my life to save others,

To pray whatever the cost.

Lord teach me your secret

I’m hungry this lesson to learn!

Thy passionate passion for others,

For this blessed Jesus I yearn!”

Herbert Lockyer tells us that passion which brings tears of burden for the lost will touch lives, like Bertrand Russell told us!  He wrote: “Tears win victories.  A cold unfeeling dry-eyed Church has no influence on the souls of men!”  William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army was asked after his retirement, why they were not winning the lost any longer!  He wrote back two words! “Try tears!”  Leon Kilbreath, Mr. Sunday School for Southern Baptists used to chastise us for not being involved and passionate about winning the lost.  He used to say, “If we shared our Lord’s passion, why are our eyes so dry, our feet so frozen, our lips so silent!”  In 1904 William Booth was invited to Buckingham Palace to be honored by King Edward VII.  The King said, “You have done a great work General Booth.  England recognizes you!”  He was asked to sign the Kings book.  William Booth wrote, “Your Majesty some men’s ambition is art; some men’s ambition is fame; some men’s ambition is gold; some men’s ambition is power.  My ambition is the souls of men!”  That used to be the passion and ambition of the Church.  Passion for the Lost? Or Lost Passion?  You know the tragic answer.  That might explain our impotency!

LOST IN THE FATHER’S BUSINESS

Luke 2: 41-50.

I.    THE PURSUIT OF THE FATHER’S BUSINESS

II.    THE PRORITY OF THE FATHER’S BUSINESS

III.  THE PLEASQURE OF THE FATHER’S BUSINESS

 Posted by at 10:29 am

Resigning or Re-Signing?

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on Resigning or Re-Signing?
Jun 232024
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Resigning or Re-Signing?”

      In 1937 Picasso was in Paris working on a major art project.  Back in his home country there was a civil war raging in Spain.  The Axis powers of Germany and Italy attacked the little town of Guernica, in the Basque country of Spain.  The horror was devastating.  Picasso, upon hearing it, traveled to witness the destruction.  The result was he then painted what is considered by many, his most famous and important work of art-Guernica-his anti-war mural.  The portrait painted a woman trying to escape from the bombs with her dead baby in her arms; A woman holding a torch as she flees, and the torch just illuminates the destruction.  Exploding chickens and animals from the market shows that war even affects innocent animals.   Most interpret the charging horse and bull, (normally a beloved symbol of Spain), being captured and used against them by Fascism!  Picasso remarked that “a work of art must make a man react; agitate the observer to action”.  That was his goal with this anti-war mural.  After returning to Paris, his masterpiece was displayed in a museum there.  When the Nazis occupied France, Picasso was asked by a German soldier- “are you responsible for creating this?”  Picasso is reported to have responded, “No you are!”  When we look around us and see the battle that is raging in our culture, and the devil seems to be wreaking havoc on all that we hold precious…we wonder who is to blame.  T.S. Eliot, the famous British poet, who became a Christian later in his life, wrote “I do not believe, (I am a Christian myself), that culture could survive the complete disappearance of the Christian faith…if Christianity goes the whole of our culture goes!”  He was so prophetic in his words…that is exactly what has happened.  We want to blame the devil!  We want to blame the world and society.  We even question- “Where was God when all of this came over us?”  The truth be told we as the Church might just share the blame!  Edmund Burke wrote: “When bad men combine, the good must associate (in opposition) else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle”.  John Stuart Mill wrote: “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing”.  In other words,” for evil to triumph, all they need is for good to do nothing!”  That may describe the Church of Jesus Christ in the last few decades!  Even though we know who “wins in the end”. The current state of affairs related to the Church is that we are “losing a lot of battles!”  Truth be known we have waved the white flag-retreated to behind the four walls of the Church…and T.S. Eliot’s prophecy has become a reality.  We don’t like hearing that message.   It reminds me of Charlie Brown, in a cartoon strip I read several years ago.  The scenario was something like this…” You know what the trouble with you is, Charlie Brown?”  asks Lucy.  “No, I don’t want to know! Leave me alone!”  Charlie Brown walks away with his hands in his pockets.  Lucy calls after him: “the whole trouble with you is you won’t listen to what the whole trouble with you is!” Theologian Charles H. Heimsath said, “The chief trouble with the Church is that you and I are in it!”  Another imminent theologian Helmut Thielicke, when responding to the retreat and failure of the Church in Europe, (a forerunner to the failure of the Church in America), defended his hope in the Church this way…”If I were not convinced that Christ is risen, and that He lives…I probably could not have drawn any other conclusion except to leave the Church…Only the friends I have in it, those who bravely endure to persevere in a life of devotion and sacrifice, would make it hard for me to leave.  And what binds me to them most of all is precisely this, that the suffer because of the Church just as I do!”

     It would be easy for us to give up in a spirit of defeat and blame it all on the trend of the last days, while crying out with the Apostle John- “even so come Lord Jesus!”  The great Scottish preacher John Robertson of Glasgow had been a Pastor for forty years.  But he lost his glow, he felt himself a failure, he decided to quit and resign.  He prayed, “Oh God, forty years ago you did commission me, but I have blundered and failed, and I want to resign this morning”.  He broke down in tears, and humbled himself before God.  He said this is the answer that God gave him.  “John Robertson, it is true that I commissioned you forty years ago. It is true that you have blundered and failed, BUT YOU ARE NOT TO RESIGN FROM YOUR COMMISSION.  YOU ARE TO RE-SIGN YOUR COMMISSION!”  That is the message that God has for us today as His Church.  RE-SIGN YOUR COMMISSION!  REVIVAL OFFERS US THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO JUST THAT!  That does not mean that we re-dedicate ourselves to God in revival, and just separate ourselves more from our decaying society.  Salt was used in the first century to slow decay…but it required contact with the decay!  Light can only overcome darkness by shining!  Revival allows us to regain our “saltiness’ and get back in contact with our world.  Light restores the glory of God so that we can be a beacon of brightness to the darkness around us!

     F.W. Robertson contrasted Christianity with Judaism.  He said that the spirit of Judaism was to separate themselves from the evil around them.  Even isolate themselves!  They abstained from other foods, other days, other activities, etc.  But on the other hand, Christianity permeates evil with good, and aims at overcoming evil with good.  We must take seriously the words of Jesus that the “kingdom of heaven is like yeast, taken by the woman and put into three measures of flour until the whole lot had risen” (Luke 13:20-21).  Revived Christians, joined together as a renewed Church, can and always has historically, gone back out into their world and permeated it for the cause of Christ!  We are commissioned, as Esther, “for a time like this!”   The great Lutheran Pastor, Martin Niemoller of Germany was imprisoned by the Nazis.  One night he had a dream that he saw Hitler pleading his case before God, excusing himself because he had never heard the Gospel.  The Niemoller heard a voice directed toward him: “were you with him a whole hour without telling him of the gospel?”  He awoke and remembered that he had indeed been with Hitler for an hour.  He had not said a word about Jesus Christ.  That realization changed Niemoller.  From that moment on every prisoner, every guard, every person he came in contact with for the rest of his life heard the gospel from his re-signed lips!  I am “dreaming” that we have such a revival that causes a Church, in danger of “resigning” in these last days, to determination of “re-signing’ for a new commission to do all we can to impact our world while we yet have time!  It is not too late!  We might realize that we have been part of what is “wrong” with the Church.  But after revival we can definitely be what is “right” with the Church.  Anybody want to “re-sign?”

SERMON:  GREAT COMMISSION: MAGNIFICIENT MANEUVER OR MIRACULOUS MANDATE

Mark 16:15-20

I.  THE MANDATE

II.  THE MINISTRY

III.   THE MIRACLES

 Posted by at 4:54 pm

More Star-like Than a Star

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on More Star-like Than a Star
Jun 162024
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE:  “More Star-like Than a Star” 

     This past week Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature, citing the reason being his masterful talent of writing lyrical poetry like no one else in history.  Most who are familiar with Dylan’s music, would admit that his vocal abilities are sometimes hard to endure, but his lyrics indeed are masterful.  One of the songs/lyrics that have been chosen to illustrate his lyrical-poetic talent is his song It’s Not Dark Yet.  Here are some of the words:

Shadows Are Falling

I’ve Been Here All Day

It’s too hot to sleep,

Time is Running Away

Feel Like My Soul is Turning to Steel

I’ve Got Scars that the Sun Didn’t Heal

There’s Not Even Room Enough

To Be Anywhere

It’s Not Dark Yet,

But It’s Getting There!

Well My Sense of Humanity

Has Gone Down the Drain

Behind Every Beautiful Thing,

There’s Some Kind of Pain…

Sometimes my burden,

Seems more than I can bear

It’s Not Dark Yet,

But It’s Getting There!

I was born here, and I’ll die here

Against My Will

I Know It Looks Like I’m Moving,

But I’m Standing Still

Every Nerve In My Body

Is Vacant and Numb

I can’t even Remember,

What I came here to Get Away From

Don’t even hear a Murmur of A Prayer

It’s Not Dark Yet, But It’s Getting There!

    Darkness.  Darkness seems to be falling all around us.  Even the most optimistic seem to agree with Dylan.  “It’s Not Dark Yet…But It’s Getting There”. Darkness has always been something I have avoided.  Thanks to my older brother, who loved to frighten me during early childhood, I was afraid of the dark early on.  I used to fall asleep in bright light, having protested so vehemently that my parents left my bedroom lights on at night!  I lived in Hannibal, Mo., during college years.  Visitors often requested that we take them to Mark Twain Cave.  Every trip included the tour guide taking us deep into the cave, recounting the story of Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher being in there, when their candle went out!  Then as he turned the lights out-he illustrated that fact by introducing us to darkness so dark you could not see your hand in front of your face, though you were touching your nose with it!  That is darkness.  There would be no way out of that cave without light in the darkness.  Years later, with a youth group spelunking in a cave in the Ozarks, it dawned on me that even though we had two or three flashlights among us, all it would take is for the batteries to burn out; another get dropped; and get separated from the leader with the last light, then it could end in disaster.  It was time to head back to the entrance of the cave…back into the safety of the light!

     As Christians we are watching with worried eyes as our world’s days become darker.  The question we must ask and answer is what role do we play in these dimming days?  Jesus said, “I am the light of the world”( John 8:12).  He also said, “You all are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14).  Paul, in writing to the Philippians, told them to “shine as lights in a crooked and perverse world…hold forth the Word of Life”(Phil. 2:15).  The Bible makes it clear that we who know the Lord, who are a part of His Church, have a role to play in the darkening of our days.  We are the ones who have a role to play in the “not dark yet!”.  Adlai Stevenson, in paying tribute to Eleanor Roosevelt, in a speech before the United Nations, in November of 1962, spoke these words, “She would rather light a candle, than to curse the darkness!  Her glow has warmed the world!”.  Proper example for Christians to emulate in these last darkening days.  I recently came across a poem, in my mind also fitting for a Nobel Peace Prize for Literature for its author, though he never got one-It is called Love’s Lantern, by Alfred Joyce Kilmer.  Here is his masterpiece.

Love’s Lantern

Because the road was steep and long

And through a dark and lonely land,

God set upon my lips a song,

And put a Lantern in my hand.

Through miles on weary miles of night

That stretch relentless in my way

My lantern burns serene and white,

An exhausted cup of day.

O golden lights and lights like wine,

How dim your boasted splendors are

Behold this little lamp of mine,

Is more star-like than a star!

     In Matthew 13:43 Jesus prophesies, by quoting Daniel 12:3, of those who are Wise believers who “will shine as stars, (though Jesus says, ‘as the Sun'”.    But then remember, our sun is a star!  One of the smaller ones in the universe.  But what a powerful one.  One that daily overcomes the darkness of the night with its sunrise. So is our daily assignment in these darkening days.  We are the reason it is “Not Dark Yet!”.  Don’t spend your time “cursing the darkness”  but “light and lift your lantern!”  Voltaire, the famous French Atheist and Philosopher, told his generation that he was seeing the “twilight of Christianity”.  Charles Spurgeon responded that Voltaire did not know the difference between a sunset and sunrise.  He said, “It might be twilight…but it is the twilight just before the dawn!”  Christians-“let’s hear the song on your lips, and the Lantern in your hands”.  You are the reason “it’s not dark yet!”  Christian-“get your shine on!”

Sermon: Up, Up, and Away

                        John 14: 1-3

I.     A PERILOUS PREDICTION

II.    A PRECIOUS PROMISE

III.   A POWERFUL PEACE

 Posted by at 3:01 pm

PLOWING THE SEA OR EVERLASTING SPLENDORS?

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on PLOWING THE SEA OR EVERLASTING SPLENDORS?
Jun 092024
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “PLOWING THE SEA OR EVERLASTING SPLENDORS?

     The story of Esau, what an encouragement to all of us!  When God asked him, what is your name?  It must have been with great apprehension and disappointment he could only say, “Jacob”.  But the Angel of the Lord told him no longer!  “Thou shall be called Israel”.  He who now moves forward, not in his own power, but by the power of God.  The new name that God named Jacob, by the power of God He was able to make him.  He promises the same thing to us.  Philippians says, “He who began a good work in you will continue to perform it unto the Day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).  Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved, not of yourselves, not of works, lest any man should boast”.  Then verse 10 says it all, “for we are His workmanship, created unto good works”. The Greek word for “workmanship” is the word “poema” from which we get our word “poem”.  The idea is we are God’s work and masterpiece.  Just wait until you see His completed product. 

     Sometimes as Christians we get discouraged with our progress.  One writer said, after reviewing his life, “that his efforts had been sown in an environment where they could not grow and not even the furrow would remain.  He felt as if he was one ‘plowing the sea’ “. (Van Wyck Brooks). The great Irish poet W.B. Yeats, in his book Reveries, wrote “All life, weighed in the scale of my own life, seems a preparation for something that never happens!”  Os Guinness said, in his book The Call, says most Christian’s lives are “an incomplete story, if not a story of incompletion”.  G.K. Chesterton, in his Magnus Opus, Orthodoxy, wrote “To the question ‘what are you’ I can only answer ‘God knows’. Most Christians do not answer so humbly and perceptively today.  We often answer that question with arrogance specifying our calling and accomplishments in a single sentence, and pronouncing our life’s accomplishments with such confidence as if they were things we could pile on a little red wagon and trundle them to God to solicit His approval and to the pride of our achievements!  Such arrogance overlooks the fact that God alone must do the work in us and that is a mystery at the heart of our calling and identity.  Os Guinness puts it succinctly, “God calls us and just as we hear Him, but do not see Him on this earth, so we grow to become what He calls us, even though we don’t see until heaven what He is calling us to become.”

     No one has captured that better than George MacDonald in the sermon “The New Name” from Unspoken Sermons.  He writes “Jesus promised us a white Stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it”.  Then MacDonald pointed out, in good Biblical fashion that “the true name is one which expresses the character, the nature and the meaning of the person who bears it.  It is the man’s own symbol, his soul’s picture, in a word a sign which belongs to him and no one else.  Who can give a man this?  So describe his nature?  God alone!  For no one but God sees what that man is.”  Then he goes even further, “It is only when the man has become his name-that God then gives him the stone with the name upon it, for then for the first time can he understand what his name signifies.  It is the blossom, the perfection, the completeness, that determines the name, and God foresees from the beginning because He made it so;  but the tree of the soul, before its blossom comes, cannot understand what blossom it is to bear and could not know what the word meant, which in representing its own unarrived completeness, named itself.  Such a name cannot be given until the man has become all the name means that God has given him.  He will then be what God had in mind when He first created him-in His thoughts.  To tell the name is to seal the success-to say in thee I am well-pleased”.

     So don’t be discouraged or frustrated because you have not “grown into the name” that will be you in that day!  We can live frustrated by the gap-the veritable Grand Canyon between our vision and our accomplishments.  We are too easily depressed by the pages of our lives that are blotted with compromises, failures, betrayals, and sins. Yes you have had your say.  Others have had their say.  But make no judgments and draw no conclusions until the scaffolding of history is stripped away and you finally see what it means for God to have had His say!  Wait to see how He makes you what He called you to be!

     C.S. Lewis, has probably said it better than anyone.  “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses (he means people being conformed to the image of God through Christ), to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you may talk to may one day be a creature, which if you saw them now, you would be strongly tempted to worship them, or such a horror and corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.  All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations.  In light of these possibilities…there are no ordinary people.  You have never talked to a mere mortal…only immortal horrors or everlasting splendors!”  (Weight of Glory).

SERMON:  REDEFINING GOOD NEIGHBOR

                   Luke 10:25-37

                   I.     THE TORTUROUS RUIN

                   II.    THE TRAGIC RECOIL

                   III.   THE TIMELY RESCUE

                   IV.   THE TRUSTED RECOVERY

                   V.    THE THANKFUL REWARD

 Posted by at 7:19 pm

LAST DAY FAITH-LASTING OR LAPSING?

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on LAST DAY FAITH-LASTING OR LAPSING?
Jun 022024
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE:  “LAST DAY FAITH-LASTING OR LAPSING?”

     I remember hearing Adrian Rogers, who passed away in November 2005, said in a sermon, “In the last days people will be deserting the Church like rats deserting a sinking ship!”  He was basing it on what Paul said in I Timothy 4:1 “The Spirit expressly says, in the latter days many will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits, and doctrines of demons”. Jesus, Himself inferred that, when He asked, “When the Son of Man Comes again, will He find faith, (people practicing their faith), on earth?” (Luke 18:8).  Are we seeing the evidence of that?  Since 2012 The Annual Church Profile of the Southern Baptist Convention denominationally wide has consistently shown that baptisms and Church membership and attendance are declining.  Steve Gaines, Past President of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Pastor of the Belleview Baptist Church of Cordova, (Memphis), Tennessee said, “we are not growing anywhere near a rate comparable to the population increase”.  The SBC is not the only ones experiencing this decline.  According to Pew Research “every major branch of Christianity has lost significant numbers-the biggest being the Catholics and the mainline Protestants”.  Churches of all denominations are closing or consolidating in record numbers!  According to Barna 73% of Americans say they are Christians, but only 31% feel Church attendance is important, and that explains why that same percent usually attend less than once a month!  Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Kentucky says “this is a new age, a secular spirit of our age, with headwinds blowing right in our face!”  Apologist Pastor Voddie Baucham, speaking at the G3 Conference last year, emphasizing the importance of the local Church, said “if we don’t understand the magnitude of the local Church, then what’s the difference between us and the Rotary Club?  If all of this is entertainment then why bother?  God has a plan.  It is the local Church.  It is Plan A.  There is no Plan B!”  As the experts try to explain the cause of the decline, we cannot wave the white flag of surrender!  I think part of the problem lies in the quality of faith that marks the maturity of the believers, or the lack there of, that has caused them to be overwhelmed by the spirit of this secular age, and demonic winds of change blowing on the rank and file of our members. There is an interesting passage of Scripture that talks about this very issue.  II Peter 2:7-8 says, “God delivered Righteous Lot, vexed by the conduct of those around him”.  The word vex here is the word-“kataponeo”-“to completely wear down and exhaust by repeated involvement”.  Then verse 8 says, “that righteous man, dwelling among them day after day, kept on vexing his righteous soul with their lawless deeds.  The second word vex is “basanidzo”- “to buffet, to torment, to beat against, as waves crashing upon a shore!”  The idea is a picture a structure standing on the shore, being battered by the waves and storm of the sea.  Even if it survives, there is usually great damage sustained.  Many times, the structure does not survive the battering!  Think of a lighthouse, standing in the storm to guide lost ships in the storm and darkness, being battered by the winds and waves of the storm.  That is the Lot Complex!  That may be the cause of Christians departing the ranks of the Church in these last days.  That may be the blight of our generation!  Jesus also said, “In the last days, iniquity shall abound, and the love of many shall wax cold!”  The word “wax cold” is “psucho”- “to blow on with chilling air”.  Listen to how Martin Vincent, the Greek scholar translates this verse-“the fervent love of many will be blighted of its spiritual energy by a malignant poisonous wind of evil”.  The question we have to ask and answer is how do we insulate our rank and file to protect their faith from such a last day onslaught, to guarantee they will survive faithful to meet the Lord when He comes?   Jesus was trying to prepare us to get ready for such an onslaught and build up a faith that can stand on the shores of this evil age, and withstand the day by day battering without a total eclipse of our faith.  How do we do that?

     Without offering a pat answer, I believe that the writer of Hebrews, in his great chapter on faith, pointed to the lives men and woman of faith, to show us how they withstood the challenges that battered them in their day, and yet ran their race victoriously.  We cannot look at all he said to emulate from them, but I would like to point out three things he stated will fortify us against those diabolical winds that blow on us continuously in these last days.  First of all, in the face of great evil, he points out that Abel was able to withstand the onslaught by his exemplary WORSHIP OF GOD.  “By faith Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice (act of faithful worship) to God.”  The word “offer” is “proskuneo”- “act of worship”.  “God therefore testified that he was a righteous man…and even after his death…his life keeps on speaking as an example to others”.  The first ingredient to bring a strong faith is worship.  Faithful worship.  In these last days there is nothing more important.  The Church has believed the devil’s demonic lie that worship is not all that important.  Someone has said, “seven days without worship makes one weak!”  That is an incontrovertible truth!  If we neglect worship, we are setting ourselves up for failure in these last days!  That is why the author of Hebrews exhorted “Stop forsaking the assembling of yourselves together as the habit of some have become, in so much as you see the day approaching!” (Heb. 10:25). The very best definition of worship I have ever read is from William Temple.  He says, “Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God.  It is the quickening of the conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of our mind with His Truth; the purifying of our imagination with His beauty (perfection); the opening of our heart to His Love; the surrender of our will to His purpose-and all gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which we are capable”.  A life that is fortified with that kind of daily experience will be able to stand strong in the face of the winds of evil.  A.W. Tozer tells us that worship, that kind of worship is imperative and primary!  He says, “We are to be worshippers first and workers second.  We take a convert and immediately make a worker out of him. God never meant it to be so.  God meant that a convert should first learn to be a worshipper, after that he can learn to be a worker.  Then the work we do will have eternity in it.  When we give God what He is worth, (all our love and all that we are), we become more of who He wants us to become…all the rest will follow.  I am tired of being whipped into line, being urged to work harder, pray harder, give more, without being shown who Jesus is, and how much He deserves all of me, for giving me all of Him”.  Maybe when we deprive our faith of worship, we find ourselves distracted from the very one that makes us invincible!

     The second person of faith that is held up to us in Hebrews 11 is Enoch.  It says-“Enoch walked with God”.  Don’t rush over that statement of faith.  The name Enoch-(Chanokh) means “dedicated”.  Enoch was committed to walking daily in the presence of God, when everyone else was walking away, going their own way.  That has become the habit of most Christians in this last day.  Instead of rushing into the presence of God, when feeling the onslaught of the winds of evil from our generation, we let those winds beat us down, or blow us farther away from His presence.  He is the Rock of our Stability.  Every step you take in these evil days should be in close proximity with God.  The further you stray from His presence the more of a sitting duck you become.  Adam and Eve walked with God in the cool of each evening.  It was by His design.  They learned of life from Him…not independently from Him.  Walking with God moment by moment throughout all the experiences of our day is the only way to survive in these last days.  We must start each day in His presence and we will soon learn to complete our days having walked with Him every step of the way.  C.S. Lewis warned us that that must be done at the start of each day.  He writes, “It comes the very moment you wake up each morning.  All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.  The first job each morning consists of simply shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.  And so on, all day.  Standing back from all your natural fussing’s and fretting’s; coming in out of the wind!”  (Mere Christianity). That is daily walking with God.  That fortifies our faith for these last days! Enoch did it daily until the day he was raptured.  What an example for us!

     The third example of faith is Noah.  Listen to what it says about him.  “By faith, having been instructed by God, concerning things not seen, but soon to come, moved with reverential fear, built an ark of salvation”. (Heb. 11:7).  II Peter 2:5 says that Noah proclaimed the righteousness of God, and the coming flood for 120 years.  The word flood is the Greek word “kataklusmon”-cataclysm.  In the last days before the flood, while the world continued on in their wicked rebellion against God, Noah worked every day building the ark of salvation according to the instructions of God.  When asked what he was building he warned of the flood and pointed to the ark as the only way of salvation.  He worked and witnessed daily to everyone who would listen.  He did that faithfully for 120 years.  The demonic spirit of the age prevailed.  But Noah withstood the winds of the evil age till the day the flood came and took them all away in destruction.  What an example of how we too can be strong in the faith in these last days.  Noah withstood ridicule.  He declared the truth though he could not prove it!  His faith helped him work and witness and God kept him strong!  He will do the same for us if we commit to that same activity as we see the day of His coming approaching.  How do we keep our faith from lapsing in these last days?  Worshipping God with a whole heart.  Walking with God-Practicing His Presence.  Working for Him-letting our lights shine in the darkness around us. Witnessing by “holding forth the Word of Life” to all that might have ears to hear.  That kind of faith can withstand the frightful forceful winds of this evil age.  That is the kind of faith that Jesus is looking to find in us when He returns again.  Keep the faith!  That kind of faith!

SERMON: THE SURVIVAL OF FAITH

Luke 18:1-8

I.     THE EXPECTATION OF FAITH
II.     THE EVIDENCE OF FAITH
III.   THE EXPRESSION OF FAITH

 Posted by at 2:00 pm

The Bible: Relic or Relevant?

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on The Bible: Relic or Relevant?
May 192024
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The Bible: Relic or Relevant?

     The Bible continues to be the perennial best seller of all books!  That being said, there is a legitimate question about the impact that it is currently having on lives in this 21st century.  Just before he gave up hosting the Tonight Show, Jay Leno did an on the street interview of people, and asked them Bible questions, and aired it on his show.  What was the results?  It was hilarious and horrific at the same time!  The questions were not tricky or hard.  They were intended to be easy.  That’s what made it so funny…and frightening!  Leno asked one person, “Did Adam and Eve have any children?”  After a few seconds of deep thought, a woman responded, “No, no, they never had kids!’  He then asked, “Can you name the two brothers…Cain…and———” Absolute blank stare.  Had no idea.  They were probably thinking Cain and Hurricane!  No… she had no answer.  Okay—“What happened to Lot’s wife?”  Zero response!  Someone blurted out, “Who is Lot?’  A little hint-“She turned into________” The person blurted out her guess—“An Angel?”  Leno then asked someone-“can you name one of the Apostles?”  No reply.  “How about one of the Beatles” Immediate response-“John, Paul, George, and Ringo!”  The crowd cheered!  “How many commandments are there?” One guy replied boldly-“Three! There are three commandments!”  Another corrected him-“No, everybody knows there are twenty…twenty commandments!”  Another in the crowd heard that and answered “no, it’s like the Apostles…there are twelve!”    Leno, assuming someone in the know asked, “can you name four of them?”  No one could name four.  “How about one?”  The man replied, “Something about not coveting your neighbor’s wife!”  (Leno said, “Interesting that is the only one he can remember!”).  Leno said, “You mean if she’s pretty?”  He said, “yea, I think that’s it!”  “Is your neighbor’s wife pretty?”  The man replied, “No!”  Leno told him, “I hope she is not watching tonight!” “Who was swallowed by a whale?” Leno asked.  The man responded, “A whale?  Is this a trick question?”  Let me give you a hint, Leno replied—“Jo….”  “Joan of Arc” was the quick response!  “No… Jo……..?”  “Joe DiMaggio?” “No” Jay told them.  Someone in the crowd asked…”Pinocchio?”  “Which two cities were destroyed in the Book of Genesis?”  “Let me give you a hint—Sodom________?”  “Saddam Hussein?”  This brief episode revealed that we live in a whole new world, and nothing has been more adversely affected by postmodernism than the Church and its relationship to God’s Word-The Holy Scriptures!  The sad thing may be that the Church may not have fared much better!  Bible Illiteracy is rampant.  But it hasn’t always been that way.  The Bible has impacted civilization all through out man’s history.  Some of the greatest thinkers of all time have been those who were literate of the Bible, and let it have an impact on their thinking and therefore their lives! 

     Novelist, Philosopher, Author, and Literary critic George Steiner wrote, in the New Yorker, some very affirming words on the influence that the Bible has had on civilization…until recent years.  He wrote, “One is indeed tempted to define modernism in Western Culture in terms of a recession of common currency recognition of both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.  That recognition was once the sinew of literacy, the shared matter of intellect and sentiment from the sixteenth century onward…not only in the spheres of personal and public piety, but also in those of politics, social institutions, and the life of literary and aesthetic imagination”.  Virginia Stem Owens, agreeing with Steiner, went on to say, “All Western literature… is a Midrash, (a commentary) on the Bible”. But she went on-“It has become like an unplayed Stradivarius, this once-Holy Text now inhabits the air-conditioned glass case of DISPASSIONATE DISREGARD!”  In other words, this Bible that used to be so revered and relevant…has become a revered but relegated relic!  George Herbert, in his book The Temple—1633 wrote, “Bibles laid open…millions of surprises!”  We have forgotten that!  Not only is it full of surprises…but full of power that we are desperately in need of.  John Calvin wrote, “No human writings, however sacredly composed, are at all capable of affecting us in a similar way.  Read Demosthenes or Cicero, read Plato or Aristotle, or any other of that class.  You will, I admit, feel wonderfully allured, pleased, moved, enchanted; but turn from them to reading the Sacred Volume, and it will so pierce your heart, so work its way into your very marrow that the comparison to that of orators and Philosophers will disappear, making it manifest that in the Sacred Volume there is a Truth Divine, something that makes it superior to all the gifts and graces attainable by man!”  C.I. Schofield, (author of the Schofield reference Bible), wrote “I gave much of my earlier life to the study of Homer and Shakespeare, and while my understanding undoubtedly profited from that study, I found keen intellectual delight in it, these books held no rebuke for my sins, nor any power to lift me above them, but, when I came to the Bible and received Him, concerning whom, after all, the whole Book is written, I entered into peace, joy, and power.  The Bible led me to Jesus and Jesus transformed my life!”

     That truth is expressed so well in a poem by the great Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier: 

“We searched the world for Truth; 

We cull the good, the pure, the beautiful;

From graven tombs and written scroll. 

From all old flower fields of the soul;

And weary seekers of the best,

We come laden back from our quest,

And find that all the sages said,

Is in the Book our mothers read!”

We could save ourselves a lot of fruitless search if we understand that the “beginning of wisdom is in God’s Word”.  Luther sought for salvation, God, and truth desperately.  To no avail.  But as he studied Scripture he not only found the Jesus Christ as Savior, but truth for his generation, and just sharing it brought about the Great Protestant Reformation, that is still evidenced today in Evangelical Christianity.  Luther spoke about how that happened.  He wrote: “Take me for example.  I opposed indulgences and all papists; but never by force.  I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word.  Otherwise I did nothing.  And then, while I slept…the Word so greatly weakened the Papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it.  I did nothing.  The Word did it all!  Had I wanted to start trouble…I could have started a little game at Worms that even the emperor wouldn’t have been safe.  But what would it have been?  A mug’s game.  I did nothing.  I left it to the Word!  The Word did it all!”  It still does!  If we will embrace the Word and unleash the Word.  The greatest quote concerning the Bible comes from The Prince of All Preachers-Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  Someone had asked him about whether we should defend the Bible.  He gave his answer in an Address to the Annual Meeting of the British and Foreign Bible Society, May 5th, 1875.  He spoke-“There seems to me to have been twice as much done in some ages in defending the Bible as in expounding it, but if the whole of our strength shall henceforth go to the exposition and spreading of it, we may leave it pretty much to defend itself.  I do not know whether you see that lion-it is very distinctly before my eyes; a number of persons advance to attack him, while a host of us would defend the Lion, with all our strength…pardon me if I might offer a suggestion.  Open the door and let the lion out; he will take care of himself.  Why, they are gone!  He no sooner goes froth in his strength than his assailants flee.  The way to meet infidelity is to spread the Bible.  The answer to every objection against the Bible is the Bible.  Defend the Bible?  I would just a well defend a lion!”  Good advice!  Open the Bible and turn God’s ferocious Word loose.  Isaiah said, “Unleash God’s Word…It will not return void!” (Isaiah 55).

SERMON:  The Firm Foundation of the WORD.

                               Matthew 5:18

               I.     THE WORD EXPLAINS

               II.    THE WORD EMPHASIZES

               III.   THE WORD ENDURES

 Posted by at 3:00 pm

The RSVP of Salvation

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on The RSVP of Salvation
May 122024
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The RSVP of Salvation”. 

     In Acts 16:30 the Philippian Jailor asked one of the most important questions that anyone, at any time, can ask and answer…”What must I do to be saved?”  The Apostle Paul gave him a clear and concise answer-“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved!”  The word believe is the Greek word “pisteuo” and means to “have faith in”…“to put your full trust in”…to “commit yourself to Him to be and do what he promises to do”.  John, in the very beginning of his gospel says, “As many as received Him, He gave the privilege of becoming children of God” (John 1:12).  The word receive is the word-“lambano” which means to “take or receive to oneself”.  A synonym is to “accept”.  Jesus would later tell Nichodemus that he “must be born again”…and then explained this to be an action that happens by the power of the Holy Spirit when a person welcomes the love of God into their life.  Jesus said, “God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son that whosoever believeth in Him should not person, but now have as his possession eternal life”.  He then made it clear that condemnation only comes to those who reject that free gift.  In Romans 3:23 Paul explained that the wages of sin is eternal death.  But then in Romans 6:23 said the “gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ His Son”.  In chapter 10 he explains that the way that gift becomes the possession of an individual is “by believing with your heart, and confessing with your mouth the Lord Jesus”. (Rom. 10:9-10).  He then makes it as simple as it can be made-“whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved!”.  The way of salvation is to acknowledge to God, with the prayer of confession and faith, that you receive the gift He has extended to you through the person of His Son and Savior Jesus Christ.  Jesus said, “He that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out“…that is “turn away”.  (John 6:37).  That is why when the thief on the cross asked for mercy-he was assured by Jesus to accompany Him to heaven that very day!  Jesus Himself said, “Rejoice that your name is written in heaven, (Perfect tense)- and will keep on remaining that way forever!” (Luke 10:20).  The best illustration of the importance and simplicity of the response to receive salvation is something I heard David Jeremiah share a few years ago.  Let me share it with you. 

     He told the story of a professional singer named Ruthanna Metzger.  Ruthanna was asked to sing at the wedding of a very wealthy man.  According to the invitation, the reception after the wedding was to be held on the top two floors of Seattle’s Columbia Tower, the Northwest’s tallest skyscraper.  She and her husband Roy, were so very excited about attending the wedding, and really looked forward to the reception and dinner that would follow in such an exquisite location.  She sang at the beautiful wedding.  It was so appreciated by the Bride and Groom, and all the family and friends.  Now to the reception!  At the reception, waiters in tuxedos offered luscious hors d’oeuvres and exotic beverages.  The Bride and Groom approached with a beautiful glass and brass staircase that led to the top floor.  Someone ceremoniously cut a satin ribbon draped across the bottom of the stairs.  The announced that the wedding feast was about to begin.  Bride and Groom ascended the stairs, followed by all the guests.  At the top of the stairs, a maitre d’, with a bound book greeted the guests outside the doors.  “May I have your name please?”  “I am Ruthanna Metzger and this is my husband, Roy!”  He searched the “M’s” and responded, “I am not finding it.  Could you spell it for me?”  Ruthanna spelled her name clearly and slowly.  The maitre d’ looked up and said, “I am so sorry, but your name is not here on the list!”  “There must be some mistake” Ruthanna replied, “I sang at the wedding.  I am the Wedding Singer!”  The gentleman answered, “I am so sorry.  I believe you…BUT if your name is not on the list…I cannot permit you to attend the banquet!”  He motioned for the waiter, and said, “Please show these people to the service elevator please!’  The waiter led Ruthanna and Roy to the service elevator, ushered them in, and pushed G for the parking garage.  After locating their car in the parking garage, and exiting into traffic, they drove in silence for several miles.  Finally, Roy reached over and put his hand on Ruthanna’s arm.  “Sweetheart, what happened?”  Ruthanna, answered with such disappointment and embarrassment, “When the invitation arrived, I was so busy.  I meant to send it back, I really did.  BUT I NEVER DID RSVP!”    Ruthanna started to weep uncontrollably, not because she had missed the most lavish banquet she’d ever been invited to, but because she suddenly realized what it will be like for some people some day who fail to RSVP TO THE GIFT OF SALVATION WITH FAITH IN JESUS AS THEIR SAVIOUR, and they will be shocked when they are ushered out of the presence of God forever, when they could have entered in with the simple “yes of faith” to God’s gift!  DON’T FAIL TO RSVP Eternity’s greatest invitation!

     God always keeps His promise!  Several years ago, I heard a dramatic story of cross-country skier Robin Sax.  At 31 years of age, he planned to ski 100 miles cross country in the Yosemite National Forest.  He planned on starting on the crest at 10,000 feet and ski up and down that elevation for a distance of 100 miles.  The date was April 23, 1986.  He began his trek.  All was going as planned until he took an ill-advised short-cut.  He began to tumble down the icy side of the mountain head over heals, finally coming to rest in a snow bank.  His foot was dangling and flopping uselessly from his right leg.  He knew he had to get help, so he dragged himself through the snow courageously for 10 days!  He finally collapsed and gave up-figuring he would now die in this white frozen wilderness, never to be found!  After 10 brutal days, by chance, John Steinmetz, a Park Ranger came skiing by and saw Robin lying lifeless in the snow.  He rushed to him, finding him barely alive, and marked a map pinpointing their location.  He then told him-“do not move!”  “Stay right here!”  “I am going to get help for you!”  Robin Sax’s life depended on the promise of a man he did not know.  He had to trust the words of someone he had never met.  Could he believe the promise of this stranger?  Every impulse within him wanted to keep on dragging himself to a destination of safety.  Somehow, somewhere, someway.  But he invested all his trust in the promise of John Steinmetz.  Friday passed…nobody came.  Saturday passed…nobody came.  Most of Sunday passed…still nobody.  Finally, late Sunday evening…John Steinmetz and the rescue party arrived.  Robin Sax was saved.  His friend kept his life-saving promise!  You and I are helpless to save ourselves.  God has made a way through His Son’s death on the Cross of Calvary.  The gift of forgiveness and eternal life is available to any and all who will receive it by their RSVP of prayer to God with the “yes of faith”.  Trust Him-God will eternally keep His promise.  But He will never force His love, His Son, or Himself on anyone.  As C.S. Lewis says, “There are two kinds of people in the world.  Those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’ and are saved.  And those who refuse, and God says to them, ‘thy will be done!’ and they are lost forever!”  Don’t make that eternally regretful mistake!  For Heaven’s sake-For your own sake!  I beg you-“PLEASE RSVP HIS SO GREAT SALVATION!”

SERMON: THE MARVEL OF THE NEW BIRTH

                               John 3:1-21

I.     THE MESSAGE OF THE NEW BIRTH

II.    THE “MUST” OF THE NEW BIRTH

III.    THE MARVEL OF THE NEW BIRTH

 Posted by at 7:32 pm

A Reach That Exceeds Your Grasp

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on A Reach That Exceeds Your Grasp
May 052024
 

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “A Reach That Exceeds Your Grasp”.

     Despite anything that secularism can undermine; or that materialism can inhibit; or that humanism can defy-there is still a rampant interest in the question is there life after life?  Does life, in whatever form, exist after life, as we know it?  There have been various attempts to answer this question indeed!  One attempted answer proved to be quite a novel approach.  Shirley MacLaine wrote a book titled Out On A Limb. In her autobiographical book she affirmed her belief in life after life, because she believed that she was currently living out another life that was following previous ones.  In a previous life she believed she was beheaded under Henry XV.  Others in Hollywood picked up on her theme.  Glen Ford believed he had been a Christian Martyr in a previous life and had been fed to the lions in the Coliseum.  Lorretta Lynn believed that she had been a Cherokee Princess in a previous life.  Sylvester Stone believed that he had been beheaded during the French Revolution.  Though he now embraces a more evangelical view of the afterlife, since professing to be born again, and embracing a more Biblical faith.  But for these their hidden past experiences were proof enough for them of life after death, at least in some form.

     Dr. Kenneth Ring, Professor at the University of Connecticut, has been studying near death experiences for years.  After studying these experiences of millions of Americans, and listening to them describe common features of experiencing light and love, he was convinced that there had to be something to this life experiences after death.  After all- 8 million Americans can’t all be wrong, can they?  Then too there was Dr. Duncan MacDougall, who was so convinced of life after death that he did scientific experiments on dying subjects to determine that the soul has weight when it leaves the body.  He studied several terminally ill patients as they died, on beds fitted with sensitive beam scales, to determine that each time the dead bodies weighed precisely 3/4 ounces less.  He calculated that the soul weighed precisely 21 grams.  While he was convinced, certainly the scientific world was not convinced then, nor now!  But if you have encountered death up close and personal then you know that there is something significant and holy that exits at death that leaves a completely empty lifeless shell of what used to be a living soul.  Regardless of the exact weight, there is no doubt that the deceased is absent from the body, and the living are “bereaved” in every way!

     In John chapter 11 we have the record of how death came in and devastated a leading family of Bethany.  Jesus was a dear friend of this family.  This chapter shows us how much we need the Lord of Life present if we are ever going to understand the truth of life after death.  Of course, you know the story.  Jesus’ good friend Lazarus became ill.  He grew worse.  They sent an urgent word for Jesus to come before it was too late.  By the time Jesus got there Lazarus was dead.  He had been dead now for four days.  The Jews believed that the spirit hovered around the body for three days, but on the fourth, after decomposition set in, the spirit left with a finality of never returning.  That dead-line had passed.  Lazarus was irreversibly dead!  Nothing could be done.  Death was final.  Into that scene came the Lord of Life!  Note what happened.  Martha went out to meet him with the words, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!”  With all the weeping, and the heartbreak.  We are told, from the Greek New Testament that “Jesus burst into tears”.  He mingled his tears with Martha and Mary’s tears.  Martha was devastated.  Is there life after death?  She looks to Jesus.  Notice that first of all she expresses a Word of Agitation.  She cries out, “Lord, If you had been here my brother would not have died!”  She spoke out of frustration and disappointment.  We have felt that haven’t we?  Why doesn’t the Divine Arm move with more velocity?  It seems at times He could have prevented a lot of heartaches, sickness, and bereavement, if He had just heard our cries and responded to our needs!  So, she spoke with a word of aggravation.  We can rest assured it is ok to express that kind of hurt of our loving Lord.  He is big enough to handle it. 

     But notice something else.  She did not stop with aggravation.  She next spoke a Word of Aspiration.  She said, “Even now, I know that what you ask of God, he will do it for you!”  HER REACH EXCEEDED HER GRASP!  Let me say it again, “HER REACH EXCEEDED HER GRASP!”  She had a sense of faith she could not even articulate.  She would not even dare to believe, that after 4 days, after decomposition has set in, after the spirit has deserted the dead body, and arrived in Abraham’s bosom, that she would ever see Lazarus alive.  YET SHE REACHES OUT FOR SOMETHING.  SOMETHING SHE KNOWS NOT WHAT.  HER REACH EXCEEDS WHAT SHE CAN GRASP.  But Jesus’ presence and power has a way of creating a faith deep within us that trusts Him to do something impossible; something we have no power to grasp in our own power, but faith in Him gives us a reach that goes beyond our grasp.

     Then notice that He gives her a Word of Affirmation that leads to her Word of Affirmation.  He tells her “Your brother will rise again!”  She responds, “Yes he will”.  We all have exchanged those affirmations at the funeral home.  We have been bewildered as we look down on the frozen features of our dead loved ones.  Eyes that will never open again.  Eyes that will never sparkle again.  Lips that will never speak again.  Hands that will never reach out for us again.  And our hearts well up with affirmation and we tell each other-“You will see him again”.  “You will see her again”.  And we respond, “Yes…we will!”  It’s at that time that Jesus promises more than a resurrection.  He assures us-You have Me.  I do more than give life.  I AM LIFE.   I do more than give Resurrection.  I AM THE RESURRECTION!  His presence and power enable us to REACH FOR WE KNOW NOT WHAT-BUT WE TRUST HIM.  FAITH IN HIM ENABLES OUR REACH TO EXCEED OUR GRASP.  HE THEN BECOMES OUR ANSWER TO THE QUESTION IS THERE LIFE AFTER DEATH.  BUT MORE THAN THAT JOHN WOULD REMIND US THAT BECAUSE OF JESUS-THERE IS LIFE BEFORE DEATH.  That is what John has been saying all along.  With Jesus our reach exceeds our grasp even before death.  We reach for a deeper life.  We reach for an abundant life.  We reach for a life filled with Life, with Light, with Liberty, with Love.  Because of His presence and power, we grasp a genuine life that comes from Him, and allow us to “live as He lived, in the World”.  Today’s message gives us staying power for the last days when many are abandoning the faith in alarming numbers.  If you hold on to these three spiritual anchors you will be assured of staying power!

SERMON: THE LOSS NO ONE RECOVERS FROM

Mark 8:34-38

I.  DEFINITION OF THE SOUL

II.   DECISION CONCERNING THE SOUL.

III. DESTINY OF THE SOUL

 Posted by at 11:30 pm