Collateral Damage

Black and white cross with sunPunishing the Class

I’m going to assume two things of everyone here.

First, that during school you were (or are) perfect angels. Never the troublemakers. Always the innocent, well-behaved bystanders.

Second, that you’ll relate to this experience…

You are just there, doing what the teacher wants, as white as snow…but the other kids in class are talking, horsing around, and otherwise not lending to a conducive learning experience.

And then… [Read more…]

Be Like Daniel

Bible with candleBe Like Daniel

Daniel Duda

We didn’t have church last weekend, because I was in Redlands, California visiting a non-profit I volunteer for. It was a recording weekend for them, and the speaker/facilitator was Daniel Duda. Now, even though this sermon is titled “Be Like Daniel” and I think Daniel Duda would generally be a good person to emulate… [Read more…]

Short and Sweet

Black and white cross with sunPower of Three

I’ve mentioned before that if you are doing a presentation, there is a power of three. For instance, on a page supporting a given idea, only have three bullets. Not two, not five, but three.

This sermon is titled “Short and Sweet.” you might say three concise bullets are exactly that, “short and sweet.”

We humans like the number three…and recognizing that today, we are going to use “the power of three” to answer the simple question, “What must I do to be saved?”

To begin doing that, let’s look at biblical reference one of three:

5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:5-13).

Who will be saved?

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord…” [Read more…]

The Price of Fame

Megachurches

Has anyone else here attended a megachurch? Wikipedia says…

A megachurch is defined by the Hartford Institute as any Protestant Christian church having 2,000 or more people in average weekend attendance.[1][2][3][4] The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term, first documented in 1984, as a church with an unusually large membership, especially one preaching a conservative or evangelical form of Christianity and also offering a variety of educational and social activities.1

Based on that, anybody here attended a megachurch? Or perhaps, as I like calling smaller churches using their handbook, megachurch wannabes?

Earlier this month I ran into a tweet that, based on the event it linked to, had this image:

Speaking to a large crowd

Image from Eventbrite

What do you think it is?

With the crowd and the lights, you might think it was a rock concert…but with what appears to be balding white guy in a collared shirt…it makes sense that, instead, it is someone preaching.

This was the description of the event from Eventbrite:

This conference will help you grow as a communicator and enable you to better lead from the pulpit. You will learn from world-renowned preachers who know how to translate theology into captivating and engaging sermons

You’ll also learn more about Rick Blackwood’s platform Leading from the Pulpit and learn about the M.A. in Ministry Leadership in partnership with Wheaton College.

Lunch provided by Chick-fil-A

You will receive a free copy of Rick Blackwood’s book The Power of Multisensory Preaching and Teaching.2

That had you at “lunch provided by Chick-fil-A” too, eh? 🙂 [Read more…]

Don’t Judge Mephibosheth Too Quickly

Justice with scalesDon’t Judge Mephibosheth Too Quickly

Pronouncing Names

Am I the only person, when they run into a hard name in the Bible, basically reads past it?

And there are a lot of names like that in Scripture, eh? 🙂

However, before we try to pronounce the name of the main biblical character in today’s message, let’s go with an easier one.

Jonathan.

Who is Jonathan? [Read more…]

Very Bad Grapes

If there is one thing I should hate my wife for, it’s training my youngest to like food channels. For instance, when you are in a hotel (like we are right now), who would put on the Food Network (or whatever other horrible one this one is)?!

Woman buying grapesEither way, there is a program on that had a section where they go over things people do and rate them as not really bad, pretty bad, or very bad (or something like that). The first case they came up with was eating grapes while shopping.

Of the four hosts/guests, three seemed to immediately go with “not really bad.” One even admitted to doing it recently, eating 10 grapes while strolling around the grocery store.

I am a Christian. They may be. How do you think I rate it?

Well, the final host spoke up and said she rated it “pretty bad.”

Phew! Some sanity!

Except she went on to say it was “pretty bad” because of all the pesticides/etc. use on them.

Egad folks! IT IS VERY BAD BECAUSE IT IS STEALING!

Now, you may happen to shop at a store where they have pre-weighed bags that you’ll pay the same for even if you munch away half of the grapes. Until you actually pay for them, it’s still stealing.

Simple advice from the Bible: Don’t steal.

(And by “advice” I mean “command.”)

A Tale of Two Watches

Gold watch with penMy Samsung Galaxy Watch

Okay, I’ll admit it. I like to have the latest and greatest toys when it comes to technology. Latest smartphone. Latest tablet.

Latest watch.

And, sure enough, I am wearing the Galaxy Watch…Samsung’s latest wearable offering if you don’t count the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active. (But, I am not sure Active is actually available yet…and, regardless, I think it is a lower cost alternative to the Galaxy Watch.) This, my friends, is the best of the best when it comes to Samsung watches!

However, as much as I appreciate my Galaxy Watch, do you think I’ll be still wearing it in two years? Five? Ten?

Two? Maybe. Five-plus? Not a chance.

Let’s compare that my Casio G-Shock MT-G solar watch that sets itself by the atomic clock here in Colorado. Unless it actually dies, do you think I’ll be wearing that in two years? Five? Ten?

Well, considering it is at least a decade old…I’d say there is a good chance I will. It’s not that it’s fancy or can do amazing things like make a phone call, keep track of my GPS coordinates, or measure my heart rate, but you know what it can do?

It can tell the time. Accurately. Without me worrying about connecting it to my phone, making sure I charge it regularly, and so on. It just always works.

New Covenant

In general, I would argue, most “new” stuff, like my Galaxy Watch, is transient. It’s not worth keeping long tem. It’s not something that will be handed down from generation to generation. [Read more…]

Want to Be a Spy?

Abstract spy in hatBad Spies

This is going to be a short sermon with one basic point…so let’s jump right into Scripture, specifically Numbers 13:1-3:

13 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel. From each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a chief among them.” 3 So Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran, according to the command of the LORD, all of them men who were heads of the people of Israel.

And Moses did exactly as commanded, sending 12 spies to Canaan. Do you remember how that worked out? Just in case you don’t, let’s go a bit further in Numbers:

25 At the end of forty days they returned from spying out the land. 26 And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the people of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh. They brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan.”

30 But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” 31 Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” 32 So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. 33 And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them” (Numbers 13:25-33).

I titled this talk, “Want to Be a Spy?”

After that, how would you answer? [Read more…]

Everything Old Is New Again

Bible with candleOld Testament or New Testament

Let’s pretend that right now I said, “Instead of a sermon, we are going to read the Bible for an hour.”

Would you want to spend that hour reading the Old Testament or the New Testament? [Wait for answers. ]

Why? [Wait for answers.]

I think in a crowd of 100 Christians, 90+ would choose the New Testament…and that’s not necessarily bad.

The bridge to cross for the New Testament is shorter. Much of what it contains is less difficult to read. It is easier to understand. It begins with us hearing about Jesus, the most awesome topic.

However, the Old Testament/New Testament preference can also be because the Old Testament seems archaic in its teachings. If people do certain bad things, we are supposed to stone them. We know more about how the tabernacle and the temple were supposed to be built (and outfitted) than is meaningful to us under the New Covenant. It can seem like a totally different moral world.

What was important theologically back then isn’t the same as what is important in the church age.

Or is it?

Reading through the Bible this year has included Leviticus 19, and the topic for this sermon, “Everything Old Is New Again,” hit me after digesting verses 17 and 18:

17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

Those words are in a book that has all kinds of stuff that fit my Old Testament/New Testament contrast. Yet, right in the middle of it, we hear enjoinments that sound very New Testament-ish. Let’s review them…

You Shall Not Hate Your Brother in Your Heart [Read more…]

There Can Be Only One

Highlander cover

In Search of Connor MacLeod

Who is Connor MacLeod?

No…he’s not a real person…but a movie character. Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod.

Who is he?

He’s the fictional hero in the sci-fi film, “The Highlander.” Beyond having one of the most awesome movie soundtracks of all time thanks to Queen, it has an interesting plot. There are these otherwise immortal beings who, if they kill each other, gain the power of the ones they killed.

And that transfer of power after death is quite…well…electrifying and explosive.

In the end…and Michelle you know this…“There can be only one.”

Spiritual “There can be only ones”

Today, we are going talk about three spiritual “there can be only ones.” I could provide more, but I believe these are the three most important, and I know you prefer not to spend your entire day listening to me preach. 🙂

[Read more…]

I’m Only Human, After All

List of sinsCarl’s Jr in Bennett, Colorado

During our weekly Saturday morning breakfast excursion, a song came on overhead at the Carl’s Junior in Bennett. It was catchy, and I thought it was a new release by Aloe Blacc…but when I looked it up on my Samsung Galaxy Note9, it was actually by a guy called Rag’n’Bone Man…a track called “Human.”

It was a really catchy tune, with the line “I’m only human, after all” standing out.

Now, in Rag’n’Bone Man’s case, he seems to be using that as a bit of an excuse to deflect blame, afterward saying, “Don’t put your blame on me.”

Being Human

Now, that doesn’t mean that the song didn’t have any legit points. If I were a betting man, I’d think he’s singing to a girl who expects too much out of him. Someone who cannot solve all her problems. Someone who cannot be responsible for her happiness. [Read more…]

Forgiveness in a Social Media World

Forgive button on keyboardKevin Hart

Anyone familiar with Kevin Hart and the Oscars?

Short version is that the comedian, Kevin Hart, was chosen to host the Oscars this year. Some folks looked through his Twitter history and found some old jokes that could be taken negatively against homosexuals. Tweets from back from 2009 to 2011.

He apologized.

Do you think that was enough?

Of course not. At a minimum, many wanted to extract significant penance from him. A simple lashing wasn’t enough.

I suspect whole bunch of others basically consider it an unforgivable sin, whether they consciously recognize that or not.

His genuine repentance for his comments weren’t satisfactory.

And, of course, his is but a small example of what social media doles out every day. Say something bad, or that can be interpreted as bad, in your online presence and that could be it…the mob will attack and, given the opportunity, will take anything and everything that can from you. [Read more…]

This Generation

Three crosses with a red skyBeing Held Accountable

Let’s hop directly into Scripture today, turning Ezekiel 18:19-20:

19 “Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. 20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

Sisco, based on that…will you be held accountable for what your dad has done?

Will your dad be held accountable for what you have done?

No, “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son.”

Keeping that in mind, let’s now read Luke 11:45-52 together:

45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” 46 And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. 47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. 48 So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. 52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”

Who was going to be held accountable for “the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world”?

“This generation.”

See the problem? Well, at least the problem on the surface? [Read more…]

The Final End of the Wicked

Hell

I’ve been blessed by a brother in Christ who recently moved to Strasburg (he and his wife being potential attendees of the church I am minister for). When I meet with a possible new member who especially cares about theology, I figure it is best to be up front about anything he or she might find problematic. The largest doctrinal difference I have with traditional Christianity is around hell. I am an “annihilationist”…although it’s probably better to say I am a “conditionalist,” in that I believe in conditional immortality.

That is, if you are saved, you live forever. If you are not, you cease to exist. Your immortality is conditional. The wicked are annihilated.

Either way, I promised this gentleman I would get him biblical back-up for why I believe the lost are destroyed versus sent to a place of eternal torment. Today, I dug up a paper I wrote while attending Liberty University.  It was a critique of “The Final End of the Wicked” by Edward Fudge, which was published back in 1984 in The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. Fudge is famous for his larger book on that subject, The Fire that Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of the Final Punishment.

Well…wrapping up the preamble…after the critique, I had to provide my personal conclusion. Without further ado, here it is:

Personal Conclusion

I believe God alone is immortal (1 Timothy 6:16) and that the saved only enter eternity because He resurrects them and provides them with the river of life (Revelation 22:1). Since the wicked are not immortal, when God removes His life sustaining power from them, they die—forever. As I mention above, if we are not immortal, then there is no “need” for hell (other than as a description of the eternal destruction of the wicked). Fudge does a fair overview of how an annihilationist would respond to most of the eternal torment references, so I would rather focus on some of the higher level considerations that make annihilation more logical, at least to me. [Read more…]

Yankee Swap

Bow and tagYour All Time Favorite Christmas Gift

Christmas is how many days away kids? Part of today, all of tomorrow…so just two days!

Everyone…what is your favorite Christmas gift ever? One that causes you to smile whenever you think back about it?

Growing up, there was a period where everything I wanted was G.I. Joe related…but I think the two Christmas gifts that stand out most to me were from my older brother and father. When I was a teenager, Erich gave me the album, “Double Vision,” by Foreigner…and as an adult my dad got me “Days of Innocence” by Moving Pictures…which had the awesome tune, “What About Me?”

Now, I’m sure I’ve gotten “greater” Christmas gifts…but those two stand out…how about you? Why? [Read more…]