Augie’s Sermon on the Cross

Three crosses with a red sky

Choosing a Sermon Topic

Kids…as best as you can…this week I need you to pay attention. No, I won’t make you put everything away…but you’ll shortly understand why this week and next you shouldn’t tune me out. So…

Do I have your attention?!

I said…

Do I have your attention?! 🙂

Early this week I asked Augie what I should do a sermon on. He responded that I should preach about Jesus on the cross and Jesus coming back.

What do you think? Were those good suggestions?

They were awesome suggestions!

However, to do both at once would break one of the rules of preaching for children, so this week it’s “Augie’s Sermon on the Cross” and next will be “Augie’s Sermon on the Second Coming.”

So far so good?

And the reason, [fill in the kid’s names here], I need you to pay attention is that although this sermon is titled “Augie’s Sermon on the Cross”…it’s not just for him…it’s for you too.

Do I still have your attention? 🙂

Preaching to Children

Now, in order to preach to you, I figure there are some rules. Can you tell me if I have them right?

  • Use simple words.
  • Keep it short.
  • See #1 and #2.

Did I get that right? Three simple rules and we’re good?! 🙂

Let’s repeat the together:

  • Use simple words.
  • Keep it short.
  • See #1 and #2.

Related to those three rules, let me share a quick story about a famous physicist who was also a very fun guy, Richard Feynman. One time he promised to write a lesson about a really difficult topic for students who were starting their first year of college.

He failed at that and said, “You know, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t reduce it to the freshman level. That means we really don’t understand it.”

And to be honest kids, if we adults cannot explain something important about God simple enough that a child can understand…

Well, maybe not a toddler. 🙂

If we adults cannot explain something important about God simple enough for you to understand, then…

Maybe we really don’t understand it.

[Read more…]

Time in a Bottle (Redux)

Hourglass running out of sand

Previously…

I call this sermon “Time in a Bottle (Redux)” because, back on October 3 of 2010, I did a sermon called “Time in a Bottle.” The title of both talks is based on Jim Croce’s classic love song of the same name…well, minus “Redux” in this one :-)…

The first time I started it off with Ephesians 5:15-17…

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

…and the primary point of the first sermon is summed up by its very end:

I also know that we can learn, from his experience and the Bible, that we can never assume we have more time.

So I ask you…Christian…and non-Christian…

How should you be spending your time?

Where will you be spending your time in eternity?

Outside Looking In

This time…no pun intended :-)…however, what brings “time in a bottle” to mind for me is a part of the conversation James, Nev, and I had during the Bible study Nev led before service last week. As beings trapped in space and time, it is impossible for us to understand an existence outside it.

To understand a state with no time.

Don’t agree? Let’s do a quick test. I have my handy, old-fashioned stopwatch here…for five seconds I want you to imagine no time. Ready? Go!

[ Wait five seconds. ]

How successful were you? I bet you were very aware of every second that passed. The silence…well minus the constant hum of the fans and coolers here…might have been deafening.

Now, in fairness to you…it’s not like this is an optimal atmosphere to think of “no time” and I didn’t give you…time…to prep…but, regardless, at best you can lose track of time. You cannot truly imagine no time because, without time, you wouldn’t exist. It is foundational to your being and your experience.

You might say that time is trapped in a bottle and we are trapped in time. As such, we are also trapped in that bottle.

Whereas, I would argue, God created that bottle and is on the outside looking in.

And if I am going to make a convincing argument about that, what will I have to base it on?

That’s right, the Bible! 🙂

So let’s turn there…

[Read more…]

I Promise

Backyard rainbow

I Love Rainbows

I. Love. Rainbows.

How about you?

And one of the greatest things about living in Strasburg, Colorado is that not only are there quite a few of them, our open fields mean often we can see them end-to-end…resulting in some spectacular views.

When you see a rainbow, what does it remind you of?

A pot of gold at the end? 🙂

Something else?

For me, it brings to mind what may be the most famous promise from God in the Bible. Backstory is that humanity has become so degraded and evil, God kills all but eight with a worldwide flood (see 1 Peter 3:18-22). Noah and his family are spared…and afterward…I suspect…might worry about it happening again. Enter God:

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth (Genesis 9:8-17).

So…when I look out past my backyard and see a rainbow…I remember God’s gracious promise to…even if we deserve it (and we probably do)…flood the world again.

Oh, and is that promise for us? How do you know?

[Read more…]

You Have Been Warned

Downhill trend warning sign

Jeremiah’s Call

Today I would like to jump right into Scripture.

Is that okay with you? 🙂

Let’s turn to the first chapter of Jeremiah…starting with verse 4…and look how that young man was called:

4 Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying,

5  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

and before you were born I consecrated you;

I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” 7 But the LORD said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;

for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,

and whatever I command you, you shall speak.

8  Do not be afraid of them,

for I am with you to deliver you,

declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 1:4-8)

And let’s scan not quite 10 verses down to verse 17…part of a section that starts with “The word of the Lord came to me [Jeremiah] a second time…” (Jeremiah 1:13):

17 But you, dress yourself for work; arise, and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them (Jeremiah 1:17).

Pretty impressive calling, eh? Known before he was formed in the womb…consecrated…and appointed a prophet!

Our calling is far more ordinary…more bland…right?

Peter can help us with that:

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:9-12).

Wow! Chosen race! Royal priesthood! Holy Nation!

A people for his own possession!

Notice also that we may not have been “appointed a prophet,” but we are to “proclaim [God’s] excellencies.”

So, we don’t have the same exact calling as Jeremiah…but it sure seems equally impressive, doesn’t it?

Requires Commitment

Please notice one more thing. Both callings came with an exhortation to commitment. With Jeremiah he is told not to fear…and “Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them.” With us, we are urged “as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh that wage war against your soul.”

These are not commitment-less callings. We represent the Most High!

And…I think we can be confident that just like Jeremiah would be expected “to abstain from the passions of the flesh,” we would be expected to stand up for God and not be dismayed. If you don’t agree with the latter, how about these words from Jesus Himself?:

32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven (Matthew 10:32-33).

Seem’s very similar to “do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them,” does it not?

[Read more…]

So

With life so short
And the world so cold
It should not be so easy
To give up on a friend

“We Can’t Do It Alone”

"We Can't Do It Alone" on Amazon MusicBeginnings

Beginnings.

What do you say at beginnings?

  • At a birth?
  • At a wedding?
  • At the formation of a new congregation in the body of Christ?

Do you…

  • Ignore it and move on to the tactical needs of life?
  • Quickly recognize the occasion and move on?
  • Slow down and take the time to truly, fully recognize the importance of the beginning?

I’ll admit, with beginnings, I am more of the “ignore it” or “quickly recognize” it type of person…although I was smart enough not to do that with any of our births or Michelle and my wedding. 🙂 I am a “tactical” being, with my brain moving on to the next task that needs to be done, not reflecting on the thing that just happened.

But today is truly a momentous day!

Just think, if “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (see Luke 15:10), then there has to be at least a bunch of smiles when the Lord’s adopted children form a new family for those repenting sinners to join.

And I wouldn’t be surprised…

If some of those angels are standing…or maybe even sitting…beside you.

So, let’s slow down together.

Let’s recognize the company we are in…and I’m not just talking about our brothers and sisters…and angels…but the Most High Himself.

And let’s recognize…ponder…and celebrate the formation of the Strasburg Church of Christ in its humble beginnings…The Pizza Shop in Strasburg, Colorado.

Humble indeed…but greatly appreciated of its Christian owners…and not as humble as the beginnings in a manger over 2,000 years ago that ultimately brought us here today.

Van Zant

You can imagine for a bit before this first service I pondered a bit myself.

What should I talk about? As your minister, what did I want you to hear most our first day with me in your pulpit?

It wasn’t until I heard a county-rock song that I was convinced I knew what I should preach about today. I never presume with the Lord…but it seemed that what we said the first day we met to form this congregation aligned so perfectly with what the Van Zant brothers sang. [Read more…]

King Solomon Versus the Hair Band Poison

King Solomon:

For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief (Ecclesiastes 1:18, New International Version).

Poison:

Yeah sometimes I wish I didn’t know now
The things I didn’t know then

Yes, the body of Christ is composed from every nation under the sun, and from folks who grew up with all kinds of different music. 🙂

Poison’s “Something to Believe In” (which includes the line at 4:59 in):

Failure to Communicate

Video snapshotWeeks ago I heard Guns N’ Roses’ “Civil War” again, which starts off with this famous quote from Cool Hand Luke:

What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it. I don’t like it any more than you men.

In this Hollywood case, it is a tyranical, evil prison warden who is saying it to rationalize mistreating a prisoner (played by Paul Newman). However, I cannot help but think that, replacing an evil man with a good God, it can be used to illustrate some biblical truth.

  1. Between God and man, there is a failure to communicate
  2. The issue is on man’s side, not God’s, because…
  3. Some men you just can’t reach
  4. God ultimately gives men what they want
  5. God takes no pleasure in given men what they deserve

(Of course, in this case I am using “man” and “men” in its traditional form, representing humans regardless of gender.)

With the first one, I hope I don’t have to prove it. From the moment Eve first trusted the devil more than our Lord, that failure to communicate has been pretty obvious. As for the problem being on our side (versus God’s), here is an interesting example from just before the first Christian martyr, Stephen, gets stoned:

You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you (Acts 7:51, English Standard Version).

Throughout history, it hasn’t been for a lack of effort on our Lord’s part that men haven’t heard…it’s because we resist. Today, we have even less excuse, because the Ultimate form of communication came:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world (Hebrews 1:1-2).

Yet, there is still a failure to communicate. [Read more…]

Don’t Stop Looking at the Clouds

Closer view of light on fluffy clouds

There was a period in my adulthood where I stopped looking at the clouds. I do not know for sure, but I think it was the stress of a previous job that led to it. Of course, allowing it to do so was my choice, whether or not I realized it.

Life still has its stresses, sometimes as bad (if not worse) than that period. I refuse to stop looking at the clouds again.

God blessed me with these tonight…

Vew of light on fluffy clouds

Rainbows and Skittles

Rainbow in HonoluluWork has brought me to Honolulu multiple times this year, and I type this in a Hawaii Prince Hotel room.

You feel horrible for me, don’t you? 🙂

One thing I love about Hawaii is how often I see rainbows (thanks to sporadic rain showers). The photo in the top left of this article is from this morning, taken as I walked back from a quick swim at the Ala Moana Beach Park. Last week I posted the image directly below on Facebook and kidded that “driving to work in Hawaii is always rainbows and Skittles!”:

Rainbow on the way to work in Honolulu

And, as luck would have it, yesterday I could confirm the same going the other direction with, “It’s all rainbows and Skittles in Hawaii on the drive home too!”:

Rainbow in Honolulu during the drive home

But, none of the pictures I’ve shared so far were the first rainbow that stood out during my Hawaii visits in 2016. Instead, going to the local Costco to get a Hawaiian shirt (on the advice of locals), this greeted me in its parking lot:

Rainbow seen from Costco parking lot

Amazing, eh?!

“Always rainbows and skittles” probably seems a little childish or naive, but it hit me this morning that life is full of rainbows, if only we keep our eyes open for them. To and from work I can focus on the horrible traffic lights and people driving erratically, or…

Ditto with life. With 24 hour cable news, social media, and other forms of information overload we can be engulfed by negative news and miss the fact that no matter how dark the world is…

God’s rainbows break through.

Yes, I am being euphemistic here. 🙂

We’ve done a lot to darken the world, but evil never completely overcomes good. For me, the most sure rainbows are children. Their laughs are infective and their smiles are balm for my soul. However, life’s rainbows aren’t just children, and if I were to start listing all of them this post would become ridiculously long.

Stop staring at the ground in front of you or at the troubles around you and always watch for rainbows. When you see one, be sure to tell someone else! I did that this morning with an older couple and you should have seen the smiles on their face when they stopped, looked behind, and saw it.

Smiles that were another rainbow for me.

P.S. The Lord has also blessed me by having a home where rainbows frequent the horizon:

Rainbow seen from backyard

 

Video of the Week

The video of the week this time is for Father’s Day 2016…my good friend David Britt singing “A Father’s Prayer”:

And yes, I know I don’t do a video a week. 🙂

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!

“The Great Question” About Our Faith

Andrew Klavan begins his “The Great Question” with…

Islamism is the great evil of our age, and the great question of our age is whether this foulness is the natural child of Islam itself or a cancer on its body.

Given the continual, regular atrocities done in the name of Islam (but that we are always told have nothing to do with the “religion of peace”)…

Islamic symbolThis seems an especially apropos query.

Are the terrorist acts of self-proclaimed Muslims an evil aberration or a natural extension of Islam and its holy book? Were the millions purged in Russia and China in the 20th century a natural child of communism? Is the corruption and complete breakdown of the economy in Venezuala (and resulting chaos) a natural result of socialism?

Was the Inquisition a natural extension of Christianity? How about other evil done in the name of Christ the last 2,000 years?

A very wise man said, “We become like the god we worship.”

And everybody worships a god, whether they realize it or not. I’ll unhesitatingly choose Jesus over Allah, Lenin (or Stalin), Mao, or Chavez (or his weaker replacement Maduro). There is no foulness in Christ nor in the pure faith He founded with His blood on the cross.

Can you say the same of ______? When its followers “become like the god [they] worship,” is the result more love and life or more corruption and carnage?

Another “question of our age” I suppose…

Orlando (Jesus Wept)

Jesus wept.

The shortest verse in the Bible (John 11:35) seems especially apropos given the carnage in Orlando. Those two words remind us that the sinless Son of God deeply cares about the pain we feel. In context, Christ knew He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, yet…

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled (John 11:33, English Standard Version).

And…

Woman weepingJesus wept.

There are friends…brothers…sisters…mothers…fathers…children…

Weeping in Orlando.

Jesus weeps with them.

So should we.

Avoid politics. Avoid finger pointing. Avoid judging.

There is plenty of time in the future to do all that where appropriate.

For now, we should just have the heart of Christ…

And weep…

While looking forward to the day when God…

…will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:4).

Amen. Come Lord Jesus!

God’s Love Causes Goodness

Another great quote from C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain:

But God’s love, far from being caused by the goodness in an object, causes all the goodness an object has, loving it first into existence and then into real, though derivative, loveability. God is Goodness. He can give good, but cannot need or get it.

Disbelief Versus Unbelief

Skeptical womanYesterday I ran into a link to an article I think every Christian, especially budding theologians, should read:

“Learning skepticism, an essential skill for citizenship in 21st century America”

Contrary to what some might argue, doctrine is important. For instance, Jesus is the Son of God; if you do not believe that, you are not a Christian and are not saved. However, I would posit that, by sheer volume, most Christian doctrine is neither as clear nor as important as “Jesus is the Son of God.” That is not the same as saying it is unimportant (although some of it isn’t), but doctrines to place in your “castle keep,” that are a “hill to die on,” etcetera are few compared to the total.

Which leads to the article:

Regretfully, the term “skeptic” today is being used by many who adopt that label for themselves in a misleading way. To many, it is falsely equated with the term “rationalist.” The dictionary meaning of the term indicates that a skeptic is one who raises doubts. Thus the word is meant to reflect nonbelief rather than disbelief. But when we look at those who trumpet that they are skeptics towards claims of anomalies, we find disbelievers and debunkers rather than those who express uncertainty or doubt. The public “skeptics” of today present us with answers rather than questions.

It is important to distinguish between disbelief and nonbelief– between believing a sentence is false and merely not believing it true. Disbelief is a case of belief; to believe a sentence false is to believe the negation of the sentence true.

With everything in life, especially that which we cannot confirm with our five senses, we should be skeptical. As the article notes, however, skepticism is not the same as disbelief; it is nonbelief. An atheist should be skeptical of the claims of Christianity, because they are incredible! Having said that, and continuing with Marcello Truzzi’s post, they also would be wise to consider these words from James H. Hyslop: [Read more…]