“Sing, Sing a Song”

Children singingKaren Carpenter

Is there anybody else who, when they hear a song from a certain group or artist…no matter how much they enjoy it…cannot help but feel some sadness because of what happened to someone involved with the tune?

For me, this is true when I hear a Carpenters hit. Are you familiar with that brother-sister group, Richard and Karen Carpenter? Anyone know why I feel a little depression when I hear their music?

That’s right…Karen’s life was cut way too short. She was only 32 when heart failure took her away from us. However, the underlying reason for her death was anorexia…something she apparently battled from her teenage years thanks to being called “chubby.”1

Based on that last bit of info, I could do a sermon about what how we should control our words…for instance:

29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29)

Do you think that those who called teenage Karen “chubby” were building her up, had words fitting words for the occasion, or were giving grace to those who hear?

Grace to Karen? [Read more…]

Sati

Baby feetIn the Beginning

“In the beginning…”

Are there any more famous words than “in the beginning”?

Let’s turn back to “in the beginning” and look God’s handiwork:

1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. 8 And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

9 And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:1-10).

I know that a bit of a long reference…but I wanted to get to the very last word we read…which was?

Good.

“And God saw that it was good.”
[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the “extras” that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]

Now, I know that it also stated, “And God saw that the light was good,” and I think we all agree that light is good, but that seemed a bit early in the creation narrative to stop. God again proclaims things good in verses 12, 18, 21, and 25.

A lot of good going around! 🙂

Then God creates us in His image…after His likeness…gives us dominion over other living things, blesses us, tells us to be fruitful, and provides us (and other animals) plants as food. After that, we hit verse 31:

31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day (Genesis 1:31)

Creation was complete. Was it “just” good at that point?

No, it was very good.

Do you agree?

The Heavens Declare

However, just how how “very good” was The Almighty’s creation? Psalm 19 gives us an idea:

1  The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

2  Day to day pours out speech,

and night to night reveals knowledge.

3  There is no speech, nor are there words,

whose voice is not heard.

4  Their voice goes out through all the earth,

and their words to the end of the world.

In them he has set a tent for the sun,

5  which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,

and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.

6  Its rising is from the end of the heavens,

and its circuit to the end of them,

and there is nothing hidden from its heat (Psalm 19:1-6)

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”

It was very, very, very, very…”very good,” wasn’t it?

But, I have a bone to pick with David. As amazingly glorious the heavens and sky above, there are equally marvelous things much closer to home. For instance, we live in an incredible location, where if we look west in parts of Strasburg, what do we see?

The Rockies. They are always sensational, but especially so when snowcapped.

However, I still think we can miss the boat if we ignore that things don’t have to be gigantic to be magnificent. Jesus recognized this:

27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these (Luke 12:27).

Solomon was ridiculously rich, built a bunch tremendous things (including the Lord’s temple), and had beaucoup wives and concubines.

Yet, the glory of lilies is greater than the glory of Solomon.

Greater than anything man has created, in my opinion.

You?

However, again I think we are “missing the boat” if we don’t expand our view of glory further.

I mean, is there anything more incredible than, say…

The little toes of a baby…

Or the smile of a child?

Or the caring eyes of someone who loves you?

Sati

Sati and the OracleWhy did I choose this topic for a sermon?

This past week Michelle and I introduced Augie to the three Matrix movies, and I was pondering the end of the third one.

In the final installment, we are introduced to a little Indian girl, Sati. She is not human…she is a program in the Matrix, created by two other programs.

Let me back up quickly for anyone who doesn’t know what the Matrix is. Short version is that it is a computer program created by machines to keep our minds busy so they can harvest energy from us. Everything we experience is just an amazingly complex computer program.

And Sati is a program…with absolutely no purpose…but her computer program parents created her…and love her.

At the end of the movie, the movie’s primary hero, Neo (played by Keanu Reeves), has won…the war between machines and humans is over…and the virus, Mr. Smith, who was threatening both, is destroyed.

Sati is chatting with the Oracle, and off in the distance there is a beautiful sunrise. The Oracle asks Sati is she created it, and she says yes…that she made it in honor of Neo.

Why?

Why did the beautiful little girl create a beautiful sunrise? It was an expression of love…by someone who was created…well…as an expression of love.

When you think of all the amazing and beautiful things around you…whether you use your eyes as is…use a telescope…or use a microscope…ask yourself:

Why? Why, when God could have created everything to just support our needs, did He mix in so much that can take our breaths away…if only we take the time to look…to really look?

He didn’t need to create sunrises to our east that can sometimes stun us. He could have just designed a universe like we did our bearded dragon’s tank: with a heat lamp that automatically flips on and off during the day.

But instead the Most High inserted us into a solar system and universe where, if we get beyond the interference of light pollution, any normal human’s jaw will drop when he or she sees it in all its glory.

Additionally, God could have created our vision so that there was no “beautiful,” just enough information so we could tactically accomplish what we needed to to survive. Black and white only. Bland.

But He didn’t.

Taste could have been just so we could distinguish between nutritious and poisonous food.

But, instead, we can truly savor it from McDonald’s. 🙂

Seriously though, why did God make it so we can genuinely salivate over food?

Or have music raise our lift us to another plane?

Or find a smell intensely appealing?

When God created the heavens and the earth…and us…in six days, He had a choice.

It could have just been mundane…something that simply accomplishes what was logistically required.

But He didn’t.

Instead, the epitome of love showed His love by making it so we can truly enjoy His creation.

It is a shame when we miss that. When we don’t slow down to look at the sunsets or sunrises…or the clouds in-between.

When we don’t look at the toes of a baby…or the smile of the child…or the eyes of someone who loves us.

Slow down everyone.

God loves you.

You don’t sense that?

Slow down.

Look. Listen. Taste. Smell. Feel.

Sure, the Cross is the ultimate proof of God’s love for you, but sometimes it is hard to fully mentally digest something that happened 2,000 years ago…that you didn’t personally experience.

But, you can look, listen, taste, smell, and feel.

Slow down.

Experience God’s love here and now.

And then share it.

Image of Sati and the Oracle from matrix.wikia.com.

“You Keep Lyin’ When You Oughta Be Truthin’”

Woman with long nose“These Boots Were Made for Walkin'”

Ideas for sermons come from all kinds of things…although I’ll admit I especially like it when folks ask for me to preach on a topic. However, music is often what puts a topic into my head, although sometimes it is tangental to the subject of the song itself. This week, listening to Nancy Sinatra singing “These Boots Were Made for Walkin'” inspired today’s talk. [Read more…]

Evil Walks

Skull with red eyes

AC/DC

Who remembers the album that caused the Australian group, AC/DC, to finally explode in America?

That’s right…”Back in Black.”

I remember it because I was a normal rock-and-roll loving, 16 year-old teenager when it came out. Nothing like it ever was released before and, I would argue, nothing equal has come out since…even from AC/DC.

Now, does anyone remember what the next new studio album from AC/DC was after that?

“For Those About to Rock.”

As a rock release, it is near as good as its predecessor…and it has a song that came to mind when the subject of this sermon came to me. The tune is “Evil Walks” and its chorus is:

Evil walks behind you

Evil sleeps beside you

Evil talks arouse you

Evil walks behind you

Two recent incidents have reminded me of how true the overall thought behind those verses is…which is that we are surrounded by evil.

A Trial and a Massacre

A Trial

The first incident actually happened back in May of 2017…but intersected my life when I was chosen for jury duty last month.

On May 20, 2017, a man in his late 40s, who had desired an intimate relationship with a 20 year-old woman (who he first met when she was 15), snapped after running some errands with her. It started with him getting angry when she wouldn’t tell him who she was texting…and he threw her smartphone out of her car window. [Read more…]

Hope

Hope signFaith, Hope, and Love

This is sermon three of three based on a wonderful verse in the Bible. Let’s turn to 1 Corinthians 13:13:

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Although it is the third in the series, it is second in that list. We are going to talk about hope.

How would you define hope? [Wait for answers]

My Mac’s dictionary defines “hope” this way:

1 a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen: he looked through her belongings in the hope of coming across some information | I had high hopes of making the Olympic team.

• a person or thing that may help or save someone: their only hope is surgery.

• grounds for believing that something good may happen: he does see some hope for the future.

I think the first and third one fit my perception of hope…although I think they miss that hope also implies doubt…that you think something good is going to happen…or want it to happen…but you know it might not. There is at least a little bit of doubt mixed in.

Today we’ll create two lists: things not to hope in, and things to hope in. Neither will be exhaustive, but both will be informative. 🙂

Do Not Put Your Hope in…

Based on the verses I found searching for hope in the English Standard Version, the Book of Psalms would be a great place to study a biblical view of hope. Let’s turn there for our first example of what not to hope in:

10  Put no trust in extortion;

set no vain hopes on robbery;

if riches increase, set not your heart on them (Psalm 62:10).

Out of that, can you identify two things not to put your hope in?

Crime or money. [Read more…]

“All You Need Is Love”

Beatles Love album

The Beatles

I can’t say I was ever much of a Beatles fan. They broke up before I started really enjoying music…and, other than a few of their tunes like “Hey Jude,” “Yesterday,” and “Come Together,” none were my favorites.

However, they did one song that is fitting for this sermon:

Love, love, love

Love, love, love

Love, love, love

There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done

Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung

Nothing you can say, but you can learn how to play the game

It’s easy

Nothing you can make that can’t be made

No one you can save that can’t be saved

Nothing you can do, but you can learn how to be you in time

It’s easy

All you need is love, all you need is love

All you need is love, love, love is all you need

So, what do you think…is all you need is love?

First of all, what is love? It’s a word we throw around a lot. For instance, I love cookie dough ice cream. I love the way you did your hair. Didn’t you love how that movie inspired you?

Don’t worry…I’m not going to do a sermon on the three types of love in scripture: brotherly, erotic, and agape.

But I do think it’s important to note that when, up here at the pulpit, I speak of love I am speaking of a biblical love, not a worldly one.

Not one of desire or one of flippant use.

But is love all you need?

[Read more…]

Of Coarse

Woman covering mouth

He Allegedly Did It Again

I want everyone to know that I actually decided on the subject of this sermon before President Donald Trump allegedly decided to use an obscene word to describe some countries. I find it interesting that so many in society that warranted this talk are now acting so aghast at his language.

And it is more than ironic that their response is often more foul than his cuss word was.

Is It Wrong to Swear?

Wait.

I should step back for a moment and see if we have consensus.

Is it wrong to swear?

Notice I didn’t ask, “Is it wrong for Christians to swear?” Although levels of accountability are tied to knowledge, moral laws are universal. We Christians just have less excuse when we break them.

Is it wrong to swear?

[Read more…]

Resolutions and Goals

Rudyard Kipling quote

Beware of overconcern for money, or position, or glory. Someday you will meet a man who cares for none of these things. Then you will know how poor you are.

The new year is here.

Neil deGrass Tyson may be right and it “is a cosmically arbitrary event, carrying no Astronomical significance at all,” but there is something to be said about starting fresh…and making some resolutions.

Or, rather, making resolutions and establishing goals.

Mine for this year:

  • To better know the “man who cares for none of” “money, or position, or glory.”
  • To pray more often and more fervently.
  • To get back down to 205 pounds.
  • To read more (and not just because starting university coursework on January 8 will increase it).
  • To spend less time on social media.
  • To be kinder on social media.
  • To write at least one letter a week.
  • To love. Truly love. Everyone.

Two late additions:

  • Write more.
  • Start work on a children’s book (tween/teen).

Happy New Year! May 2018 bless you and yours…and if you do not know the Man I speak of, may the Holy Spirit draw you to Him, change your heart, and add you to His fold.

Love to you.

God’s Will (2017 Wraps Up)

Church in snowRight after the 2016-2017 school year started, the Strasburg Church of Christ opened its doors. It has been a blessing, at least to me.

The congregation has remained pretty steady at three to five families (depending on how you count), although not all the same ones from the beginning.

Today, however, was just this minister, his family, along with one of the girls we bring to church each week. That is, the last Sunday of 2017 basically was unattended.

I am not one to read omens, but I do wonder…is the Strasburg Church of Christ something God wanted, or something this guy who likes to preach for the Lord desired? (Not that they are mutually exclusive.)

Please pray for our little church and what its future is meant to be, if anything.

“There Is a Sickness in People That Stops Them from Seeing the Truth”

Chalkboard with "knowledge" written on it“The Secret Scripture”

Back in 2016, based on a novel of the same name from 2008, the movie “The Secret Scripture” was released. I have not seen it and don’t plan to, but I did see its trailer on Vudu. Within that trailer there was a statement that seemed so appropriate for the modern age:

“There is a sickness in people that stops them from seeing the truth.”

Do you agree?

Does there seem to be a devastating epidemic that is blinding the world, stopping them from seeing the truth?

Spiritual truth that is obvious if…if only…if only they would open their eyes and hearts and see it?

“There is a sickness in people that stops them from seeing the truth.” [Read more…]

Two or Three Witnesses

Boss harassing

Eight

Eight.

That is the number of women who have accused senate candidate Roy Moore of wrongdoing. It was actually hard selecting the right word for the accusations since they vary from true crimes to a creepy affinity for dating younger girls.

This sermon is not to tell you what to believe about the allegations, the accusers, or Roy Moore.

Instead, as headlines are filled with accusations of sexual improprieties…I want to see if we can establish some guidelines on how we should deal with them. Since Moore is a professing Christian, his case seems an especially apropos starting point for the conversation.

However…one quick sidetrack…

Coming to Light

One of my favorite people on Twitter is Karen Prior, an author and professor at Liberty University. Back on October 12 she tweeted:

From flags to sex, to politics, to entertainment & power, America’s idols are being revealed–a moment of grace, if only we will receive it.1

[Read more…]

Getting to Know You

Jesus with book

Crowning Someone King

This morning let’s hop right into God’s Word by turning to John 2:23-25:

23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

Good news: many believed in Jesus.

Bad news: even then, they weren’t trustworthy.

When I read those verses, I am reminded of in incident back in the Old Testament. King David sinned by taking a census, and God gave him three options for punishment:

13 So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, “Shall three years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider, and decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me.” 14 Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man” (2 Samuel 24:13-14).

Like Jesus, David knew what was in man.

Man cannot be trusted.

[Read more…]

WDJD: Prayer (According to Mark)

Jesus prayingCloverton

Although I know some of you couldn’t make it because it was on a school night, the Lord really blessed many (and will bless many more) thanks to the Cloverton concert this past Tuesday to benefit the CARES Food Bank of Strasburg.

Right Deb and Michelle? 🙂

There were three churches involved. We sponsored it with the Strasburg Community Church and Mountain View Fellowship co-sponsoring. I cannot thank their ministers, Steve and Donn respectively, enough for all the help they and their congregations provided. From a place for the band to sleep to food to being insta-roadies…it was an incredible coming together of brothers and sisters in Christ to help feed the hungry.

And some awesome music praising the Lord!

I’d also like to mention a neat thing that happened to Steve, Donn, the Strasburg Community Youth Pastor Steve, and me. Show time was 7:00 PM…and we went down to the green room at quarter of to confirm some logistics around introductions/etc. When we got to the bottom of the stairs and just outside the green room’s door we had to stop.

Do you know why?

So we wouldn’t interrupt the earnest, lengthy prayer of the band.

And that’s when we 100% knew we made the right decision bringing those godly young men to Strasburg!

WDJD

And that prayer convinced me to add another entry to the series I began with when I started preaching in the Church of Christ. Back in Antrim, NH I first spoke once a month…and the first three sermons were based on WDJD, “What did Jesus do?” The very first was February 22, 2009…”WDJD: Scripture.”

[Read more…]

Women and Children First

Man getting into a lifeboatSinking Ships

I am not one to really want to travel on vacations, but one experience I do want to have is to go on a cruise. Anybody else here never done that, but want to?

Now, let’s imagine together that I get my wish and I, and a whole bunch of other people, are over 1,000 miles from the coast and the ship starts sinking. Who should get in the lifeboats first?

Of course!:

Women and children first!

But why? Why do we say, “Women and children first?”

Widows and Orphans

Before we answer that, I’d like to mention that the concept of women and children first is at least tangentially biblical. Not too long the adult Bible study went through James, and we read this in James 1:27:

27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

A short, to the point statement from a “to the point” writer. A pure and undefiled religion before God, in great measure, is to visit orphans and widows. There we have a subset of “women and children first.”

James is not the first Scripture author to identify the importance of remembering widows and orphans. King David praised this as a characteristic of the Most High in Psalm 68:4-5:

4  Sing to God, sing praises to his name;

lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts;

his name is the LORD;

exult before him!

5  Father of the fatherless and protector of widows

is God in his holy habitation.

[Read more…]

Does God Regret or Relent?

Cloud of the word regret

Do You Regret?

Do you ever regret something you said or did? Or something you should have said or did…and didn’t?

I think any human with a conscience regrets over time…hindsight has a way of ensuring that. We are not like Adolf Eichmann, a major player in the Holocaust, who (while on trial in Israel), said:

To sum it all up, I must say I regret nothing.1

Of course, he may have just been pretending…but one would have to have a totally seared conscience to have been heavily involved in Nazi atrocities. Instead, I am like Letitia Elizabeth Landon, who may have only lived 36 years in the early 1800s, but lived long enough to pen this in her poem Despondency:

Were it better to forget

Than but remember and regret?

It is better to forget than regret in my opinion…as someone who, when he looks back, regrets much. You?

Omniscience and Immutability

How about God? Does God regret? Also, does relent?

[Read more…]