Family

People sitting at churchHumor

When you think of family, what comes to mind? Does it cause you to break out in a big smile? A sad face? A grimace? Comedian Richard Lewis said:

We had a depression fair in the backyard. A major game there was Pin the Blame on the Donkey.1

Is that your family? 🙂

Or do you feel like Rodney Dangerfield?:

I looked up my family tree and found out I was the sap.2

Ouch.

Okay, one more…how about this from Brent Cushman:

I go visit my nephews. I get out of the car. They see me and drop what they’re doing and hug my legs. I feel like the most important person on God’s earth. Seven minutes later I would trade their pelts for whiskey. I look down at them. “How could you be so obnoxious?” Then I look at my brother.3

Is that your family?

There are tons of jokes about families or family members because, well, it’s complicated. 🙂

Movie Night

Friday night, about 15 people…many from this church…came over for a barbecue and a backyard movie. Although we were tired by the time everyone said goodbye and headed off into the night, Michelle and I really enjoyed it. The combination of neighbors, Cub Scout folks, and congregation members…all friends…felt like…well…

Family. [Read more…]

Anthony’s Sermon on Why and How Is God…God (Part 3)

Cross out of blocks spelling God LoveCatching Up

Welcome to “Anthony’s Sermon on Why and How Is God…God (Part 3).” Before we wrap up this three part series, we need to review what we learned about God in the previous two installments. Do you recall the multi-syllable words we discussed to describe God?

  • Uncaused cause — God was not created; He has always been and will always be.
  • Incorporeal — God does not have a body and is not made of matter.
  • Omnipresent — God is everywhere at the same time.
  • Omniscient — God knows everything.
  • Omnipotent — God can do anything.
  • Immutable — God does not change.

Ready for the last three divine characteristics? Let’s dive back in with immortal! [Read more…]

Anthony’s Sermon on Why and How Is God…God (Part 2)

Flying doveLast Week

Last week’s sermon was too long for one aimed at children, so I’m going to try to behave this week and limit this one to just three characteristics of God. Before we can do that, however, we need to quickly remind everyone of what we learned about the Most High in part one of this series.

Kids, the first thing we learned last Sunday was God is omnivorous, right?

Not exactly, eh? 🙂

Actually, the first thing we learned was that God is the uncaused cause. Nothing created God, because He was never created. He has always been and always will be. The great I Am just is.

Do you remember the other two things we learned about God? That He is…

  • Incorporeal — God does not have a body and is not made of matter.
  • Omnipresent — God is everywhere at the same time.

Now on to our first divine characteristic of God…

Omniscient

What does “omniscient” mean? Heading back to my Mac’s dictionary:

knowing everything: the story is told by an omniscient narrator.

[Read more…]

Anthony’s Sermon on Why and How Is God…God (Part 1)

Cloud with glowing crossText Messages

I think I may have mentioned before that I am never quite sure if it is Augustine or Elisa who is texting me when a message comes from their family. 🙂 Maybe after church today I’ll write down each of their phone numbers and put them in my iPhones contact list so it’ll keep track of who is texting me…but recently one of them sent a message saying:

Anthony wants me to ask why and how is God…God?

Great question Anthony!

So, today I’ll be preaching “Anthony’s Sermon on Why and How Is God…God (Part 1)” Anthony, it’s a awesome question, but so as not to break the second rule of preaching to children, I cannot fit its answer into one sermon.

And kids, to you remember the three rules for preaching to children?:

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

I’ll break rule #1 a little bit…but promise to explain all the “not so simple” words. However, as I mentioned, this will be a three part sermon so as not to break rule #2!

Why God? [Read more…]

The Gospel Message in the Sermons of Acts

A continuing debate about interfaith dialogues on Twitter often hinges on whether a full gospel declaration was provided. For my undergraduate degree at Liberty University I wrot a paper, “The Gospel Message in the Sermon of Acts,” that first had to define what is in the gospel. If you click on the title, you can read it. 🙂

Is Jesus God?

Jesus woodcut

Last Week

Last week’s sermon, “Your a God,” taught three things:

  • We are not gods
  • Something isn’t Christian just because it sounds like it
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is not Christian

I also mentioned that I wasn’t trying to rag on the Mormon church…however, they are a denomination that actually believes you can become a God, if you are male:

“As man now is, God once was:

“As God now is, man may be.”1

That is about as far from orthodox as you can get…and it shows how just because someone says they believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He is Lord, and so on…

Well, it shows you something isn’t Christian just because it sounds like it.

Questions

However, we also left last week a few questions:

  1. We know for sure Jesus was a man…but, how do we know from Scripture He is God?
  2. After the time last week telling you humans are not God, is it a contradiction for me to say Jesus is the Son of God…that Jesus is God?
  3. Is Jesus God or just a really special created being?

The first and third questions are really the same…so we’ll touch on #2 to begin with. Is it a contradiction for me to say Jesus is God after telling you humans are not God?

No.

Why not?

[Read more…]

Who Are You to Pass Judgment on the Servant of Another? (Part 1)

Angry man with fire coming out of his mouth

Insults

A couple weeks back I asked you what the best compliment you were ever given was.

Today, and let’s stay with nothing too cruel, what is the best insult you’ve ever heard?

What comes to mind for me is one that, perhaps incorrectly, was attributed to Winston Churchill. Per the Quote Investigator, Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan had this in his autobiography:

It was therefore unfortunate that on one of Lady Astor’s visits to Blenheim when my son was host Winston should have chosen to appear. The expected result of their encounter was not long in coming; after a heated argument on some trivial matter Nancy, with a fervor whose sincerity could not be doubted, shouted, “If I were your wife I would put poison in your coffee!” Whereupon Winston with equal heat and sincerity answered, “And if I were your husband I would drink it.”1

Now…as your minister…I do not encourage you to respond to insult with insult…but I will admit I thought that was funny…although I also think there is a good chance Churchill never said it…and, regardless, people can trace a form of the joke to a point significantly before Churchill is to have zinged Lady Astor.

Christendom itself is not without some pretty sharp insults. For instance, Martin Luther…as in the Lutheran Church…had quite a barbed tongue.

For instance, against the Roman Papacy, he reportedly said:

YOU THINK LIKE THIS, “AS I AM A CRUDE A**, AND DO NOT READ THE BOOKS, SO THERE IS NO ONE IN THE WORLD WHO READS THEM; RATHER, WHEN I LET MY BRAYING HEEHAW, HEEHAW RESOUND, OR EVEN LET OUT A DONKEY’S FART, THEN EVERYONE WILL HAVE TO CONSIDER IT PURE TRUTH.”2

Between you and me, if you are going to fail to be Christlike with your tongue, I would rather you fail like my Churchill example versus my Luther one. The Papacy is false and worth being called out, but let’s not forget what Jude, the brother of Christ, tells us:

Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. 9 But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” 10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively (Jude 8-10, emphasis added).

If the archangel Michael was wise enough to hold his tongue against the devil…who is unquestionable extremely evil…then we should similarly hold our tongues against those who wrong us or God.

However…

We have a president who either does not know or does not follow that advice. Back on June 29th, he tweeted these in succession:

[Read more…]

Elders, Praying, and Anointing

Man being anointedExpository Preaching

I believe I have noted before that I am a topical preacher…meaning I choose a topic and create a biblically-based sermon around it. Many other preachers are expository…meaning they go through books of the Bible verse-by-verse. Which is better?

Depends who you ask. 🙂

I’ve seen expository ministers act like it is the only legitimate way to preach…which is a bit crazy since they (like me) are committed to Scripture…and the Bible does not clearly say one way or another.

James 5:13-18

Even though I am a topical preacher, today’s sermon is going to be an expository one about some verses in James. Let’s hop right in and read Jame’s 5:13-18:

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

We are only really going to touch on verses 14 and 15…partially because I’ve been meaning to keep my summer sermons short and have failed miserably…and partially because two verses are especially germane to an anointing we are going to do right after I am done. This sermon is basically an introduction to that.

So, let’s reread verses 14 and 15:

14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven (James 5:14-15).

Although those verses seem pretty straightforward, there is some disagreement about what “sick” means in them…so we will focus on three things:

  • Is this ceremony for illness?
  • How should the ceremony be performed?
  • What does it mean if the person isn’t healed?

I know you could come up with many more items to touch on, but if we unpacked all that is in verses 14 and 15, we could be here a couple hours. 🙂

Is this Ceremony for Illness?

Generally, I recommend people start interpretation with a “natural reading” of a book, chapter, or verse. What I mean is that, normally, what a passage naturally means when you read it is probably what actually means. For instance, if you read the creation narrative in Genesis, its natural reading is that God created the world in seven literal days…so God probably… [Read more…]

Augie’s Sermon on Death

Grim Reaper

Jeff Beck

Yesterday, Larry Pareigis, a music promoter I follow on Twitter, tweeted that it was Jeff Beck’s 73rd birthday.1 Anyone know who Jeff Beck is?

Yes, he is a tremendously talented guitarist…famous for his own work…but also (in part) for what he did with singer Rod Stewart. When I read Larry’s tweet, the song that immediately came to mind is a remake Jeff Beck did with Rod Stewart of “People Get Ready” – my favorite song from both…even if the track I most remember from my teenage years by Rod Stewart is “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” back from 1978. 🙂

“People Get Ready” is a much better tune, both musically and morally, and it starts off like this:

People get ready

There’s a train a-coming

You don’t need no baggage

You just get on board

All you need is faith

To hear the diesels humming

Don’t need no ticket

You just thank the Lord2

And, sitting at Carl’s Jr. with Augie, it hit me that that song had a direct connection to the sermon about death Augie asked me to preach. Although my natural way of thinking about that song is its about Jesus’ return, the reality is that even if Jesus were to return today, the vast majority of humans will have died before the second coming. The Population Reference Bureau estimates that the total number of people that have ever lived are 107.6 Billion…and that in the middle of 2011, 6,987,000,000 were alive…that just 6.5% of all mankind are presently alive.3

[Read more…]

Divine Compliments

Good job seal

Best Compliment You’ve Ever Been Given?

Think for a moment.

What is the greatest compliment you have ever gotten? Positive words that would change any bad day to a good one?

What was the compliment?

When I was in my 20s, I really liked when, without prompting and based solely on my behavior, someone would say, “You are a Christian, aren’t you?”

Sadly, I think we’ve entered an age where much of society would not consider that a compliment anymore.

But I think everyone really appreciates words that recognize…truly recognize…our contribution…our value…ourselves.

Don’t we?

Divine Compliments

Would you also agree that the impact of a compliment can increase based on who gives it? For instance, if your best friend says, “Great job on you math homework” it is nice, but if you mathematics teacher says it…wow, you know you did well!

Based on that, who would you most like to receive a compliment from?

[Read more…]

I Have Been Such a Jerk

Black and white cross with sunBirthdays and Twitter

Friday was my 53rd birthday…sounds really old, doesn’t it kids? 🙂

However, Lord willing, it is a birthday everyone here…if they haven’t already…will experience. The number 53is special in one way…does anyone know what that is?

It’s a prime number! 🙂

And I’ll have to wait six years until the next one. 🙂

Although the number has being prime special about it, for me 53 is just another ordinary milestone in the life of an ordinary guy. But, birthdays can cause me to reflect, and I did a bit this year.

What do I really want to accomplish? What should I focus on? And so on.

However, reflecting on the past often is painful for me, because the way my brain works I am much more likely to remember negative things than positive. Not negative things about others…but about myself. Times when I was a moral moron. All it takes is recollecting a few of these and I can’t help but think…

I have been such a jerk.

No, I’m not going to provide examples here. 🙂 [Read more…]

Cannot Be a Believer Litmus Test

From a post on my personal Facebook account:

Facebook postThis article is especially troubling for two reasons. First, it implicitly establishes a religious test for a government appointment, which is unconstitutional. Second, Russell Vought is unable to flat-out say that you are lost without Jesus (although, in fairness to him, he does mention, multiple times, the centrality of Christ to salvation).

It is pretty much taken as fact that now that faith equals blind faith. That if you don’t believe in scientism and materialism…and instead have a worldview that includes the supernatural…the reason and logic portions of your brain are either shut-off or so heavily degraded that you cannot be trusted to lead in the public realm. Yet, given throughout history, scientists and other great thinkers frequently (most often?) have believed in something beyond that which we can taste, smell, touch, hear, or see…that which we can measure…it proves faith does _not_ equate to illogic and/or unreason. If anything, belief in a God of order (versus randomness)…and a Being who reveals Himself…aided in scientific discovery by adding confidence that the Lord’s ways in the physical realm could also be discovered, converted into scientific theories and laws, and be used as a foundation for more discoveries, theories and laws.

Faith is _not_ equivalent to blind faith. Even in our little church here in Strasburg we stress individual research and reason. The great principles of science are a boon to theology, and theology is not hampered by the philosophical (not scientific) rule that the supernatural is off-limits. We can truly allow the evidence to lead us where it may…instead of setting arbitrary boundaries that hamper truth, not aid it.

Finally, nobody but God knows the eternal salvation of any individual. I have often said we’ll be surprised by who we see in heaven…and who we don’t. But logic and reason also say that, for instance, Islam and Christianity cannot both be right (although they can both be wrong). If Christianity is right, everything that points people away from its God…whether it be Islam, Buddhism, scientism, or <fill in the blank here>…is an impediment to everlasting salvation. Does that mean every atheist or Hindu or Muslim is damned? No. However, it would be quite unloving (and unreasoned and illogical) of me not to tell non-Christians the path they are on leads to eternal death, not eternal life.

However, as Vought tries to point out during his testimony, that does not mean that on this side of eternity I will treat anyone differently based on what path, as horrible as it may be, they have chosen. We are all afflicted with the same disease (sin)…and we are all navigating this troubled, chaotic world together.

God is love. He has so much more to do to my heart to make my love even 1% of His, but I do love you regardless of your faith.

And don’t let anyone fool you…we all have faith in something.

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/448393/watch-bernie-sanders-unconstitutionally-impose-religious-test-public-office

Thoughts? Please comment below…

“On Atheism” from a Non-Believer

Although I prefer a less caustic tone, this article about atheism, written by a non-believer is worth a read:

“On Atheism”

This part is especially interesting:

Atheists will argue that atheism is the opposite of religious belief, but that’s what is called a gratuitous assertion. The atheist believes there is no superior being. They have no proof of this as there can be no proof. In that regard, atheism is illogical as it is something that can never be proved. Christianity, in contrast, can be proved. Christ could show up and confirm the tenets of the faith. The same is true of Islam or Judaism. In other words, even though there is no proof now, there could be proof. That’s not possible with atheism.

I do disagree with this earlier thought though:

The believer is willing to accept, without evidence, the truth of some statement, while the skeptic is unwilling to accept statements without proof.

Emphasis mine.

That is blind faith, not faith. There are probably plenty of “blind faith” believers, but Christianity is not devoid of evidence. It is just not convincing for everyone. Additonally, I am definitely a skeptic…including of much of what Christians often believe…and am convinced that is what the Bible teaches us to be (e.g. see Acts 17:11)…not to mention what a God who gave us brains expects.

Doing Wrong Is Like a Joke to a Fool

Crying crocodileIntro

Originally, I was going to call this sermon, “How Not to Repent.” However, as I did research for it, its final title, “Doing Wrong Is Like a Joke to a Fool” seemed especially apropos. We’ll see by the end of this talk if you agree.

How to Repent

We will still end up talking about how not to repent, but sometimes the best way to know what not to do is to see the right way to do it. So, let’s look at a biblical example of the right way to repent.

We’ve discussed the situation before. King David saw a hot chick, committed adultery with her, and then had her husband killed to cover-up the deed (since she became pregnant). Not a wee little transgression…a couple of huge sins. Sins God couldn’t ignore. So our Lord has the prophet Nathan visit him:

12 And the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had very many flocks and herds, 3 but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. 4 Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” 5 Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, 6 and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”

7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. 8 And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’ ” 13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. 14 Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.” 15 Then Nathan went to his house (2 Samuel 12:1-15).

That is a long quote from Scripture…but I think it gives the full picture of what happened when the prophet Nathan called out King David. Additionally, it shows principle #1 of the right way to repent. That principle was implicit in the sequence from Nathan talking to David responding (verses 12 and 13).

12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’ ” 13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die (2 Samuel 12:12-13).

How long did David take to repent?

Not very. It was immediate.

When you do something wrong and realize it, repent immediately.

If you know you did something wrong and you are having an internal wrestling match about whether you should say you are sorry…there is a problem. Just repent. Wholeheartedly. Don’t worry about the ramifications. Just do it. If avoiding getting in trouble by being honest is more important to you then being right with God and whoever you sinned against…

There is something wrong. [Read more…]

God’s Heart or a Warrior’s Heart?

Helmets, crosses, and gunsDavid

Let’s immediately open our bibles today and turn to 1 Samuel 13:13-14. Background is Israel’s first king, Saul, is being told by the prophet Samuel that he blew it:

13 And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the LORD your God, with which he commanded you. For then the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.”

Saul was not a man after God’s own heart and would be replaced by someone who was. Do you recall who?

That’s right, King David! As Acts 13:22 says:

22 And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’

So far so good…and although he did blow it more than once during his reign…David did turn out to be what God predicted he would be. As a matter of fact, David cared so much about our Lord, he wanted to build him a temple. Does anyone remember how that worked out?

6 Then he called for Solomon his son and charged him to build a house for the LORD, the God of Israel. 7 David said to Solomon, “My son, I had it in my heart to build a house to the name of the LORD my God. 8 But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have waged great wars. You shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood before me on the earth. 9 Behold, a son shall be born to you who shall be a man of rest. I will give him rest from all his surrounding enemies. For his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. 10 He shall build a house for my name. He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever’ (1 Chronicles 22:6-10).

Wait a minute! Before David was king God said he was a man after God’s own heart. After David was long dead, the Holy Spirit inspired Dr. Luke to repeat that.

What gives?!

He’s after God’s own heart, but he’s not good enough to build the temple because he was such a warrior?! He’s not good enough because he fought wars…including wars for God?! [Read more…]