Sermon Thought: 1/31/16

“Pray, then, in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’

Matthew 6:9-13 (NASB)

Ken Hemphill points out three request that God grants us.  He provides our needs. He forgives our sins. He delivers us from evil. He does this because He wants us to be an effective part of His kingdom here on earth. He answers our prayers because it’s what He wants for us. Once again, this prayer is not about us. It is about His will and His incredible love for us.

God has our best interests at heart and He enables us to have His. That never ceases to amaze me.

Grace and peace.

Winding Down

This day has slipped by and I barely noticed. Robin and I spent some time deep cleaning the kitchen (especially the fridge). I’ve watched some basketball and I’ve got the bulletins done for tomorrow. I’ve got the Kentucky/Kansas game on right now but I’m only half watching it. I’ve been involved in a conversation online about what makes songs appropriate or inappropriate for corporate worship. That’s a topic I think I’m going to address next week up here.

I’m on the fourth sermon in the Lord’s Prayer series that I’m doing. It has gone well. If nothing else, I’ve gotten something out of it.  I’m not sure what I’m going to preach on next but I’ve still got one more Sunday after tomorrow. I’ve got a list of possible topics that one of the elders gave me (at my request) and there are some good ones up there. I’m trying to listen to what the congregation is talking about so that I am addressing issues that matter to them.

Lent begins on February 10th. I’ve been thinking about participating this year. I haven’t done it in a few years. All of the times I did it I came away feeling refocused. I hope that I have the same result this year. I’m trying to figure out what I should give up. I have a couple of ideas but I’m not 100% convinced yet.

I heard this song for the first time today. I really like it. I’ll close with it. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Grace and peace.

 

Flashback Friday

This is a post I made on my old blog back in April of 2010. My situation is much different now than it was then but I think my thoughts are still relevant. Enjoy.

 

You know what? I mess things up a lot. Becoming a follower of Christ and going to Bible college did not change that. Being ordained as a minister did not change that. The truth is…no matter what I do or how hard I try…I keep screwing things up.

I used to believe that was why I had such a tough time finding a church to minister to. In my mind I told myself that I had to have it all together in order to be used by God. I falsely looked at guys (some much younger than myself) and thought that they had to have things completely straight with God. They would not be working in churches if they were as screwed up as I was.

Boy…was I wrong. I have since learned that many (maybe MOST) preachers, elders and teachers fight the same things I do. We all are sinners covered by the grace of God and we ALL have areas that still need to be completely surrendered to God. Show me a preacher who claims that he has it all together and I will show you a liar.

That is why GRACE is so awesome. God uses us IN SPITE of ourselves. Even when we fall down on our faces, He picks us up and continues to use us. I may never serve as the minister of a congregation…honestly…I am starting to wonder if I even want to anymore…but that is not the point. The point is that God is going to use me right where I am no matter how screwed up I get. Grace…man…it’s a beautiful thing. My goal is to live in that grace and extend it to everyone I come in contact with.

That is what Jesus told us to do…right?

Once again…I’m thinking about it.

 

 

Grace and peace.

Matthew 13:33

33He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”

Matthew 13:33 (ESV)

A few years ago, a Wednesday night small group I was in went through the parables of Jesus. When we got to this one it was interesting to hear how different people read and interpreted it. A couple of the people in our group thought that this one was a warning from Jesus about negative influence in the church. I came across at least one commentator (Warren Wiersbe) who took the same view. Given the various other passages in the Bible which use leaven in a similar negative manner, I guess I can understand the reasoning for reading it that way.

However, given the immediate context in which this parable is recorded (the parable of the mustard seed), I would have to agree with most of the commentaries I have read and say that it is describing either the permeating work of the Gospel in the world or the permeating work of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life. If backed into a corner, I would probably choose the first of those. Even though leaven is often used in a derogatory manner, even in Jesus’ teachings, there seems to be no reason why it must always be used in such a way.

I used to work in a pizza joint. One of my tasks was to come in early in the morning and make dough. I am fully aware of both the positive and negative characteristics of yeast. This passage seems to be describing a woman using yeast in its proper sense. She is making bread and the yeast is a necessity. Without it’s influence, the bread would not rise and would be ruined. It does not take much of it to properly prepare the dough either. The Gospel may seem insignificant to many, but when it is administered, it has the power to transform the world. That, to me, seems the most obvious message that Jesus was trying to convey.

Grace and peace.

Mark 5:1-20

1 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”

Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons,sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.

18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

Mark 5:1-20 (NASB)

 

There are two really interesting things that stand out to me when I read this. The first is the way the people respond to the miracle. The pig herders bring folks back to Jesus after telling them what he had done. They see that something miraculous has happened. The man who had been running around the tombs naked, acting like a lunatic, is sitting there calmly. This is a guy who had a legion of demons inside of him. People had seem him demonstrate superhuman strength. He broke chains. He cut himself with stones. This guy was under the influence of something evil and everyone knew it. Now he’s sitting there, dressed and in his right mind, talking to Jesus. Instead of rejoicing and being thankful, they are terrified and ask Jesus to leave.

The second thing is more subtle. The man who had been delivered from demonic influence asks Jesus if he can go with him and his disciples. This isn’t an unreasonable request. In fact, it’s something that Jesus had asked others to do; leave everything and follow him. Notice what Jesus does. He tells him to go home and let others know what God has done for him. He’s to go and give his testimony. He does exactly what Jesus asks him to and because of his story, many people heard about Jesus and were amazed. It’s interesting. Later, in Mark 6, Jesus and his disciples return to that same area after being rejected in his hometown. What happens? People hear that he is back and they rush to him and bring people for him to heal. Every where he goes, there are people waiting for him and he heals them all.

We aren’t all called to be a preacher, teacher, or missionary. However, we all have a story. We all have a past. We all have an encounter with Jesus that we can share. The man who had been possessed want to become a disciple of Jesus right then and there but Jesus had other plans. How many people came to know Christ because of his story? How many people will come to know Christ because of yours?

Grace and peace.

A Blast From The Past

This is a post a made on my old blog back in July of 2005. I was looking for something else and came across it. I think I needed to read these words again today. I hope they speak to you as well.

 

I’m gonna paraphrase God for just a minute.

“Sit down, shut up, and recognize who I am.”

If I was better at memorizing scripture I would tell you what Psalm that’s from…but I’m not. I have seen it rendered, “Be still and know that I am God.” I’ve also seen one of the newer translations put it this way, “Cease striving and know I am your God.” No matter how you want to put it, it’s a good way to live your life. I’m kind of partial to my paraphrase because that’s the language that’s easy for me to understand. But…I also like Eugene Peterson’s take on it.

Psalm 46:10 (The Message)

10″Step out of the traffic! Take a long,
loving look at me, your High God,
above politics, above everything.”

Yeah…I cheated. I stopped and looked it up. I had to, it was driving me crazy not knowing what Psalm it came from. I guess if I were to actually sit still and mediatate on God a little more than I would be able to recall more of His words…eh? But it can be so hard. Some of us work jobs and raise families. Some of us go to school and raise families. Heck…the raising family thing is enough to keep a person busy 24/7, work and school are just extra things to consume our time with.

I do like to get away from everything from time to time and just chill out. I had the opportunity to that a few days ago. I, along with my Mom and sister, took my two sons to the beach. There’s just something about sitting on the sand and watching the waves roll in. I took some video on my camera and watched it when I got home. The sound of the waves came wooshing out of my speakers and it was like I was there all over again. I feel very close to God when I am there. I can see His handiwork all around and I KNOW He is there.

I feel similar things when I go to the mountains. They are my second favorite place to go and be with God. I like to sit high above the valley and just breathe in the air as the world goes on below me. It’s so amazing to look out for miles and see God’s creation painted before your eyes. Everything is so still and peaceful and perfect. I can only imagine what it must be like to look out over the Grand Canyon and witness that. God willing, I will find out one day.

But those are the easy ways to be still. No Psalm is needed to stir our minds towards God when we are in those places. It’s when we get back home and have the stack of bills and backed-up work staring us in the face that we need God to shout out, “Hey you! Sit down! Be quiet! Chill!”

I confess…I need to hear it more and more as I get older. I’m just thankful that He loves me enough to keep shouting after me.

Not Much To Say Tonight

I have spent most of the day reading and listening to music. I was reading Two Summers Too Hot by Wilson Crawford. It’s nice little novel set in North Carolina. The cool thing about it is that Mom used to work with Wilson. He’s a pharmacist and was on the same team Mom was on before she retired. If you like Nicholas Sparks and that type of fiction, you’d love Wilson Crawford. He’s got another book called The Envelope that I have not read yet. According to Amazon he also has a collection of original psalms called Psalms For Today. I’ll have to check that one out too.

I have been listening to all sorts of music today. Most of it was on YouTube. I want to share one that totally caught me off guard. I am a huge Petra fan. I thought I knew everything that they had ever done. I found two videos today that I had never seen. One was an original song called Who Do You Listen To? It was for a Josh McDowell video about abstinence. Now that I think about it, McDowell was on tour with Petra when I saw them in 1991. That’s not the one that got me though. That would be Our Turn Now. It’s a collaboration with Carman. I know who Carman is and I have heard one of two of his songs but I was never a fan. I definitely didn’t know about this. I have probably listened to it five or six times now. It is so bad and cheesy that I love it. I hope you do too.

Grace and peace.

Sermon Thought: 1/24/16

“Pray, then, in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]

Matthew 6:9-13 (NASB)

Ken Hemphill points out three “commitments” in the first two verses in the Lord’s Prayer.

When we pray for God’s name to be “hallowed” or “holy” we are making the commitment to live a life defined by holiness. We honor His name by living in such a way that we bring Him glory.

Praying for His “kingdom come” is more than looking forward to eternity in heaven. It’s a commitment to participate in the spread of His kingdom here on earth. Right here. Right now.

If we pray His “will be done” we are committing to be obedient and trust Him no matter what we face. We know that He is able to accomplish anything.

This simple prayer is powerful if we really believe what we are praying. It isn’t a magical incantation that we memorize and parrot back to God. It isn’t about asking or telling God what we need or want. It’s all about Him. We when understand this we slowly begin to see the world through His eyes. That is our goal.

Grace and peace.

Taking A Breather

This really isn’t a “Week In Review” post but I do want to comment on my week so far. It has been a very busy (but productive) week. Last Saturday I gave the devotion for a Methodist Men’s prayer breakfast. That was a great time of fellowship. Sunday brought church and everything that goes along with it. I spent most of Monday trying to fine tune my sermon and work on some writing that I had been putting off. Tuesday brought a church board meeting. It was one of our longer ones but we got a lot accomplished. It’s good to serve alongside folks who don’t mind putting their agendas aside for the sake of Christ’s Church. I am blessed.

Wednesday was filled with Bible studies and more writing. Thursday night was the board of directors meeting for Sylvan Hills Christian Camp. That was down in Howard so I had some time on the road before and after. Yesterday was hectic. I came over to the church for about an hour so I could play Legos with Lucas. I had promised him that we would. Then I took Robin to work and Jamie to the doctor. She has been having some pain in her right arm so they did x-rays. They didn’t find anything so they’ve scheduled her to see a physical therapist. We’re waiting to here from them to find out when.

Today has been nice. I went over to New Beginnings Godhab for their annual men’s prayer breakfast. I met a few local pastors, some board members, and some residents (former and current). We had a wonderful time of fellowship. I’m going to meet with their director and some folks in Towanda on Thursday to discuss plans for a second facility. I have been asked to teach one night once things get off the ground and I’m truly excited about the opportunity to reach out to the community in this way.

There is one notable bit of news from this past week that I’d like to close with. It seems as if a LOT of famous people have being dying lately and another one passed away this week. Glenn Frey (vocalist and guitarist for The Eagles) died on Monday. Apparently he had been sick but it seemed to catch most of the music world by surprise. I grew up across from a little redneck beer joint in North Carolina. I don’t know how many of The Eagles’ songs I heard as a kid. I heard so many that for a while I convinced myself that I hated them. As I got older and listened to their music again I realized that I really was a fan. Their country-tinged rock was filled with hooks and vocal melodies that stand the test of time. I leave you with the one song that is permanently etched in my memory. I can vividly remember laying in my bed on Friday and Saturday nights and hearing the crowd over at Reese’s singing along to this one at the top of their lungs.

Grace and peace.

Flashback Friday: Worship From The Vault

I want you to close your eyes for just a moment and imagine that it is 1999. You are in the sanctuary of a small church in eastern North Carolina. You’re sitting in one of the brand new chairs that has replaced the pews and your eyes are focused on the screen that has been pulled down in front of the baptistry. There are three musicians on stage. One sits behind a drum kit, one is holding a bass guitar, and the third one is holding a guitar. There are two more individuals (one male and one female) on stage holding microphones. A sixth individual is sitting down front changing the lyric sheets on the overhead projector that is sitting on the communion table. The stage lights are on but the house lights have been dimmed and there are about twenty people around you, clapping and singing along. This song starts the set.

There is scattered applause afterwards and the band immediately launches into this.

There is a short prayer by the bass player and then the guy playing guitar (who is also singing) asks everyone if it is okay to slow things down a bit. He invites you (and everyone else in the audience) to look inward and really think about the words of the next song. Beginning with just guitar, the band begins playing.

The guy who has been singing (the one without the guitar) asks everyone to sit. He picks up his Bible (a really cool one with a metal case) and shares a verse that has really been speaking to him lately. It’s probably from Ephesians or Colossians. He briefly restates the verse in his own words and then says a brief prayer. The entire room echoes his “Amen” and the girl who has been singing tells everybody to stand up and really sing out. On cue, the band launches into this.

The song finishes and the guy with the guitar asks everyone to “Give it up for Jesus.” There is enthusiastic applause. The girl asks if it is okay to do one more. The crowd cheers. Guitar guy starts strumming chords and tells the audience that they know this one. A few hands shoot up as they start to sing.

The band drops out eight minutes later and the refrain continues a capella for another two minutes. The guy singing (the one without the guitar) begins the closing prayer as the voices slowly fade out. There is a hearty “Amen” by everyone as he finishes praying and tells them to stick around for Bible study.

Boy, sometimes I really miss it.

Grace and peace.