“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…]

The Calvary Is Coming

Calvary Soldier

Westerns

Good or bad, my favorite movie genre is action-adventure, but I also really enjoy another one quite a bit…can you guess what it is?

Westerns.

Often westerns are also action-adventure…but even when they aren’t…there is something about heading back to that day-and-age…and those locations…that I really enjoy. John Wayne is one of my favorite actors…and although his career was far from limited to westerns, it’s hard for me to find a western he acted in that I don’t like.

Although less popular within society as time has progressed, many western plots of old could be summarized as “cowboys versus Indians.” In old westerns the good guys were generally the cowboys…and the bad guys were the Indians.

Reality is, of course, that the U.S.’ history with with Native Americans is unforgivable, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Indians were always the good guys and the cowboys always the bad guys. It is just good to remember, even today, that movies at best take liberties with history, and at worst…which often seems to be true with modern films…totally distort it.

However, let’s get back to the old-time westerns and imagine we are in a wagon train crossing the plains, heading for promises implicit in “Go West, young man.” We have circled the wagons and are under massive attack from Indians (you know, the bad guys in our movie script)…and it is pretty clear we are doomed.

We are soon to run out of bullets, and those who are against us are too numerous.

Who do we hope will appear over the horizon?

[Read more…]

Bibles and Temples

Bible with candleA Painful Part of Scripture

The recent daily Bible readings have been in a very painful part of Scripture for me as of late…and I’m not specifically talking about the lengthy genealogies in 1 Chronicles I just got past. 🙂

Instead I find the lack of good kings in Israel and Judah disturbing. Basically, after David, most are bad kings…with just a few good ones sprinkled in.

One of those good kings…getting close to when Judah goes into exile…is Josiah. Kids, you might especially appreciate how old he was when he began to reign. Let’s look at 2 Kings 22:1-2 to find the age when he first sat on the throne:

Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. 2 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left.

How old was he? [Eight.]

That’s younger than at least four of you, isn’t it?!

But, more important than his age was what he did…which was?

He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left.

What does it mean by “he did not turn aside to the right or to the left” kids? [Read more…]

He’s Got Your Back

Skunk

A Tent and a Skunk

Many years ago I was sharing a tent with someone…who will remain nameless to protect the guilty :-)…and outside on the campground we heard an animal making noise. I cannot remember exactly what the noise was from, but perhaps the varmint ferreting about in trash.

So we peer out of the tent, and you know what it was…?

A skunk!

Now, that’s a whole lot less dangerous than a bear, but still not something you want to mess with, so we agreed we’d both slowly exit the tent and walk…again slowly…together away from the noxious critter.

So, we edge out the door, stand up…and the nameless person sprints away!

No, it wasn’t Michelle. 🙂

Someone You Can Depend On

As the future would prove in other respects, that individual was not someone I could depend on. I didn’t get sprayed by the nefarious skunk that night, but I probably should have divined a bit more from the tent incident than I did.

However, instead of thinking of people like that, do you know (or have you ever known) someone you can (or could) always depend on. That never fails you (or never failed you)? The one person you would want beside you in a foxhole?

[Read more…]

A Teachable Moment Since Abel

Cain and Abel

Cain and Abel

Let’s jump right into Scripture today by reading Genesis 4:8-12 together:

8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.”

There are many things we can discuss around those five versus, but I want to have you ponder something it does’t speak to.

How do you think Eve felt?

Imagine you are her. You love your children. Deeply love your children. You have never experienced human death, let alone that of one of your kids. Now, not only are you now forced to deal with the loss of your second son, but he was killed by your oldest boy!

Can you imagine the heartbreak she had? Perhaps we get a glimpse of that grief and anguish in how she named her next son:

25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him” (Genesis 4:25).

Those words do not encapsulate the extent of the pain Eve felt at the death of Abel and the righteous banishment of Cain…but they do show she missed Abel and was constantly reminded that it was her other child that was responsible for it.

How would you feel in her situation?

[Read more…]

Rational(izing) Beings

Man giving excuse to policeman

Definitions

Have you every heard the term “rational beings”? Humans are rational beings in that we can reason…we are not driven purely by instinct.

Although we can overthink things, being called a rational being is a compliment. In most cases you want someone whose brain is engaged before they speak or act. If not, then just go on social media. 🙂

Now…although being called a rational being is a compliment…every ability can have a dark side. For instance, my Mac’s dictionary define’s rational as:

based on or in accordance with reason or logic

But it defines rationalize as:

attempt to explain or justify (one’s own or another’s behavior or attitude) with logical, plausible reasons, even if these are not true or appropriate

That sounds awful close to it’s definition of excuse, doesn’t it?:

a reason or explanation put forward to defend or justify a fault or offense

However, it seems to me that rationalize differs from making an excuse in three ways:

  • Rationalization often is before you do something, whereas an excuse is after.
  • Rationalization is more specific in that it is specifically using logic and reason to excuse something (just like a square is a more specific type of square).
  • Rationalization has a more negative connotation; an excuse can be legit…but if you say someone was rationalizing, you probably are leaning toward the “not true or appropriate” part of the definition of rationalize. It is making an excuse for something you know you shouldn’t do.

Which leads us to Israel’s first king, Saul…

[Read more…]

Revenge Versus Reality (Part 2)

Voodoo doll with pins

Last Week…

I immediately started off last week’s sermon reading Romans 12:19. Let’s look at it again:

19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

I noted it seemed pretty straightforward and posited we could extract two clear facts from it:

  • Do not take revenge
  • God will take vengeance for you

As “Revenge Versus Reality (Part 1)” continued, we proved the first one…but didn’t get to the second one. Will God take vengeance for you? Also, as we look at that question, I’d like to throw two others in for our consideration today: Is God vengeful and is what God does to the wicked in the end revenge?

Is God Vengeful?

I’ll be upfront everyone. If you want to find a vengeful God in Scripture, you won’t have much trouble. For instance, in yesterday’s “all 66 in one year” reading, this is what Judges 2:11-15 said:

11 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals. 12 And they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the LORD to anger. 13 They abandoned the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. 14 So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. 15 Whenever they marched out, the hand of the LORD was against them for harm, as the LORD had warned, and as the LORD had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress.

Sounds pretty vengeful to me. Like a wronged wife going after her unfaithful husband. The Israelites were unfaithful to the Lord, so He got cranky and He got even.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned? Hell hath no wrath like the Most High scorned!

Or so it seems…and, trust me, this isn’t worst case of God apparently “getting even.”

But…

But, did you notice verse 15? Remember what it said?

15 Whenever they marched out, the hand of the LORD was against them for harm, as the LORD had warned, and as the LORD had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress (Judges 2:15).

[Read more…]

Revenge Versus Reality (Part 1)

Voodoo doll with pins

Romans 12:19

19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Has everyone heard those words from Romans 12:19 before? Just in case you haven’t, I’ll repeat them again:

19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Pretty straightforward, eh? Two clear facts can be easily extracted from it:

  1. Do not take revenge
  2. God will take vengeance for you

Agree?

Okay, that was a trick question. #1 is accurate:

Don not take revenge.

And please note that Paul said to “never avenge yourselves”…

However, I took some liberties with #2:

God will take vengeance for you.

Is that what Romans 12:19 really said?

“Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Hmmm…that should pretty close to “God will take vengeance for you,” doesn’t it? However, it only clearly says vengeance is God’s (not yours), and that the Lord will “repay”…but not for what and how.

Do Not Take Revenge

Before we try to settle on what #1 and #2 should actually say, let’s look at a few more biblical references…first trying to confirm #1:

22  Do not say, “I will repay evil”;

wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you (Proverbs 20:22).

29  Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me;

I will pay the man back for what he has done” (Proverbs 24:29).

15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone (1 Thessalonians 5:15)

What do you think? Am I on firm ground with #1?:

Do not take revenge.

I think so…especially when we read Romans 12:19 in it’s larger context:

17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:17-21).

It should not surprise us that an apostle of Jesus…the one who not only said to turn the other cheek (see Matthew 5:39)…but did not repay evil for evil to the point of dying on the cross for our sins….

That the apostle of Jesus would tell us not to repay evil for evil…

That Paul would tell us…

Do not take revenge.

And there are plenty of good reasons not to. For instance, the famous Englishman Francis Bacon is quoted as saying:

A man that studieth revenge keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well.1

And John Milton, in Paradise Lost, notes:

Revenge, at first though sweet,

Bitter ere long back on itself recoils.2

Basically, in taking revenge you are not just injuring your the one who wronged you, you are injuring yourself…perhaps even more.

However, my favorite quote as I was researching for this sermon was from Martin Luther King, Jr…and given how race relations have taken such a southward turn the last eight years, I think his wisdom is especially apropos. This is from his speech as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on December 11, 1964:

Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for a man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence.

Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.3

Social media gives ample opportunity for each of us to be wronged…as part of a group or as an individual.

[Read more…]

Fruit of the Poisonous Tree

Castor plan

Dreams

Early Thursday morning I had a strange dream…where this object…I have no clue what it was…

Where this object, if it touched something, would divulge unknown information.

My memory of the dream is pretty foggy…but within it the object revealed a wife had been cheating on her husband, and that revelation (understandably) blew the marriage up.

However, it was clear that the object wasn’t from God…which…of course…means it was from a dark source.

The information was accurate.

The source was demonic.

[Read more…]

Children: Milton Berle Versus the Bible

Jesus with Children

Milton Berle

Who here is familiar with the late Milton Berle? Born in on July 12, 1908 as Mendel Berlinger, he passed away around 15 years ago on March 27, 2002. So, contrary to what some of you might think, he was a bit before my time. 🙂

But, like another great comedian, Bob Hope, he wasn’t so far before my time that I am not familiar with his tremendous comedic talents. I especially remember him being famous for supposedly stealing other people’s jokes…but, per TIME, “in later interviews, Berle claimed that it was all a publicity hoax, that he wasn’t really a thief.”1

Regardless, “Uncle Miltie” was immensely funny…and accomplished. His official site’s “Fast Facts” section has:

Did you know…

  • He was a founding member of the Friars Club of Beverly Hills in 1947.
  • He was the first major star in television to have the nickname “Mr. Television.”
  • NBC signed him to a 30 year television contract in 1951.
  • He held the Guinness Book of World Records for greatest number of charity performances.
  • He performed in silent film, vaudeville, radio, motion pictures, and television.
  • He was a Lyricist for over 300 songs.
  • He had a collection of 5 to 6 million jokes.
  • His career lasted over 75 years.
  • He was married four times, twice to Joyce Matthews2

Why Milton Berle?

Why am I starting a sermon discussing Milton Berle? Because he was funny enough that I grabbed a couple of his books from Half Price Books back when I lived in northern California for a short while…and as I was preparing this sermon about children I thought it would be good to sneak in a couple of his comments about kids.

After reading some of them I then thought, “It would be fun to compare what he says about children to what the Bible says.”

And here we are! 🙂

We’ll see if you think that is a fun or good idea as we hop right into “Children: Milton Berle Versus the Bible.” 🙂 [Read more…]

“If I Could Turn Back Time”

Do not turn back timeRegrets

How many people here are fans of Cher…at least musically? Perhaps as part of Sonny and Cher?

How about Eddie Money of “Two Tickets to Paradise” fame?

Both came to mind this week as I was pondering this sermon because they both have songs of regret. With Cher it is “If I Could Turn Back Time” and with Eddie Money it is “I Wanna Go Back.” Cher wanted to unsay some hurtful words and Eddie Money wanted to return to a time when he wasn’t alone.

However, as Eddie Money’s 1986 hit recognized:

But I can’t go back, I know.

[Read more…]

And When You Pray… (Part 2)

Praying angel statue

Quick Review

Last week we spent a good amount of time looking at two principles and sub-principles when it comes to prayer:

  • Do not pray like Jesus said not to
    • Do not pray selfishly
    • Do not pray for show
    • Do no pray thinking you can control God with your prayer
  • Pray like Jesus said to
    • Pray constantly
    • Don’t lose heart
    • Remember who you are praying to
    • Pray that others will recognize who God is too
    • Pray for God’s will versus what you want
    • Look to God for your needs
    • Ask God for forgiveness
    • Ask God to protect you from temptation

We all still in agreement that those are good principles? No second thoughts after a week to reconsider? 🙂

Emulating Jesus

As promised, this week we are going to discuss the third principle…along with its sub principles.

Pray like Jesus did.

When I first started preaching in Churches of Christ, I began with a series based on “What did Jesus do?”: WDJD. We all probably have heard people say in situations we should ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?”: WWJD…but Ray Comfort’s Living Water’s ministry rightly pointed out that it may be better to ask, “What did Jesus do?” Scripture tells us what that is, whereas people can argue until the cows come home about what Jesus would do. [Read more…]

And When You Pray… (Part 1)

Praying angel statueBecoming Mormon

Some of you may already be aware of where my “formal” spiritual journeys began. Neither of my parents were religious while I grew up. My dad was, theoretically, Catholic…and my mom was just as theoretically Lutheran.

So they had me baptized as a Methodist as a toddler.

A few years later…maybe when I was six?…they gave my me a choice of whether I wanted to continue to attend Sunday school at Canaan United Methodist Church (although I don’t know if “United” was in its title back then).

How do think a six year-old kid with no true spiritual life at home decided?

Zoom forward to fifteen year-old Alan. Although I think I may have said a simple prayer every night and definitely believed there was a God, I was far from saved. Then my parents had Mormon missionaries over…and what they taught seemed to make a lot of sense.

However, fifteen year-old Alan did not “get religion.”

Now shift ahead to maybe 20 year-old Alan…for 52 year-old Alan the timing of the past gets foggier and foggier… 🙂

At that point I decided (a) that if there was truth in the physical world there is truth in the spiritual world and (b) that I wanted to know it. I was, and hopefully remain, a very logical person…and wanted the truth about God.

And based on my short spiritual history, guess who I went to to start that search? [Read more…]