“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…]

Church Discipline in the Internet Age

Man in stocksIn yesterday’s post, “In Defense of Braxton (I.E. What I Think About Ergun Caner),” I stated:

However, I don’t think Christendom has come to terms with applying Matthew 18 in a Internet world where, it seems, pretty much everything we do is in public.

This is what I was referring to in the Book of Matthew:

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15-17, English Standard Version).

Of course, that’s not the only place Scripture discusses the how and when of church discipline: [Read more…]

Differences Between the Two Largest Presbyterian Denominations

PCUSA logoYou may have heard that the Presbyterian Church (USA) just moved to divest of three companies doing business connected with Israel (strike 1) and to allow their ministers to bless same-sex marriages (strike 2). However, this comparison of them and the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) shows they, from a Christian and biblical sense, struck out long ago:

“13 Differences Between the PCA and the PCUSA”

The article compares women’s ordination, biblical inerrancy, abortion, homosexuality, divorce, Confession of Faith, Calvinism, evangelism (and exclusivity), the relationship between the local church and the denomination, denominational governance, creation and evolution, political involvement, and worship.

Sounds like a lot, but it’s relatively short. It is written by a PCA minister, but I suspect it is fairly accurate about the PCUSA.

P.S. My views of same-sex marriage are discussed in “Beliefs” and my view of homosexuality is spoken to in “What I Think About Homosexuals and Homosexuality.”

P.P.S. I probably should note that although I agree far more theologically with PCA than with PCUSA, there is a reason I am not a member of either. 🙂

(The PCUSA logo is used within normal “fair use” guidelines.)

Good “Happy Easter” News

A Happy Eastertide (angel with flowers)Some good "Happy Easter" news:

"China on course to become ‘world’s most Christian nation’ within 15 years"

And, on this day we celebrate the empty tomb, may we all be as wise as those described by…

Officially, the People’s Republic of China is an atheist country but that is changing fast as many of its 1.3 billion citizens seek meaning and spiritual comfort that neither communism nor capitalism seem to have supplied. (Emphasis mine.)

Hat tip to Instapundit.

A Wedding and a Funeral

Crying brideAs many of you are probably aware, the reason Michelle, Augie, and I are here because of a planned marriage. It is institution that goes back to the very beginning of human time.

How do we know that? Because of an interesting conversation between our Lord and Savior and some first century religious leaders:

3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:3-6).

When two are wedded they are “one flesh”…and the ceremony is so joyous that many are often brought to tears of happiness.

Having said that, as we entered the last week before the scheduled nuptials, Michelle and I also got news about Jim—that the Lord is going to call him home potentially within the next few weeks. I got teary-eyed as I wrote those words in these sermon notes, and I am getting teary-eyed right now…as I suspect is true here of many others who love Jim and Gerry as much as Michelle and I do.

A wedding and a funeral…well, a funeral to soon be…

The promise of a new life together and the temporary separation…and let’s be sure to emphasize the word temporary…of two who shared those blessed vows so many years ago… [Read more…]

Please Return to the catholic Church

Catholic Church

Happy Birthday President Taft!

According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, today is the birthday of our 27 President, William Howard Taft. If he were still alive, he’d be a spritely 157 years old.

Not only that, but it’s the birthday of:

  • Tommy Lee Jones (66)
  • Oliver Stone (66)
  • Dan Marino (51)
  • Prince Harry (28)
  • Agatha Christy (whose books I enjoy and who helped inspire my sermon, “And Then There Were None,” would have been 123)1

Of course, the history of a day isn’t limited to birthdays, and The Old Farmer’s Almanac also notes (in part) that on this day:

[Read more…]

And Who Is My Brother?

Ignoring a man in need

Narrowing Down Our Responsibilities

I assume most of us here today are very familiar with the story of the good Samaritan. To conserve time we won’t read it all, but let’s turn together to Luke 10:25-29 and see what led up to it:

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

First of all, you know it doesn’t bode well when a lawyer is involved, eh? 🙂

Now, this person isn’t a lawyer as we think of it…instead, the Holman Christian Standard Bible translates it as “an expert in the law” and the Common English Bible as a “legal expert.” This guy won’t be able to defend you in a modern criminal trial or sue a doctor for malpractice, but he should be able to comment authoritatively on what the Jewish Law said…well, at least what the Jews of that time thought it said.

And, as we can see in what we read, Jesus confirms the lawyer actually got it right.

Well, that is, until “desiring to justify himself” the expert in the Law didn’t stop while he was ahead.

What do you think “desiring to justify himself” means? The Common English Bible starts verse 29 with, “But the legal expert wanted to prove that he was right…” and The Message paraphrase states, “Looking for a loophole…”

[Read more…]

Church Bulletin Goulash

Christmas Tree StarI had hoped to write this bulletin with Augie. I didn't know if it would work (never tried it before), but I figured that if he and I pulled it off it would be one of my best. Everything goes better with Augie. 🙂

Alas, I also made the mistake of convincing him to try Amazon.com's new service, Kindle FreeTime Unlimited. Basically, it is a program that locks your Kindle Fire or Kindle Fire HD into books, applications, and videos that are appropriate for your child. (Even so, I've already let my munchkin know that SpongeBob and Yo Gabba Gabba are off limits. SpongeBob first because I really do think it's a bad influence on kids, especially ones who already are hyper and/or have behavior issues. The second 'cause it is just plain weird, and I'd rather watch Thomas the Tank Engine for seven months straight than view one episode of that bizarre show. For those wondering years ago…yes there could be something worse…far worse…than Barney the Purple Dinosaur. :-)) [Read more…]

I’m Not the Church Lady, But…

Lindsey Stone

The Moral of the Lindsey Stone Story

If you are active on social networks, there is a decent chance you heard the story of Lindsey Stone from people posting notes of complete outrage at something she did. An article from November 21 on BostInno gives a good summary of what happened before and after Lindsey’s not well thought-out actions:

Lindsey Stone, the Plymouth, Massachusetts woman who posted a photo of herself giving the middle finger in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, creating a firestorm of Internet backlash and outrage, lost her job Wednesday.

Stone’s employer, Living Independently Forever, Inc., a non-profit based in Hyannis, announced that both Stone and the co-worker who took the photo were no longer working at the non-profit after thousands of people rallied for the pair to be removed from their jobs, saying what they did was disrespectful and offensive.1

I’ll admit I personally wish that we could be more forgiving about one foolish act, especially since Lindsey and her fellow miscreant were apologetic. The same article included their expression of regret:

[Read more…]

“Two rival religions? … The real struggle is between Christianity and Post-Christianity.”

A liberal telling a conservative...There is a very interesting article by Albert Mohler that is worth your time titled, “Two Rival Religions? Christianity and Post-Christianity.” Not only does it explain why it is near impossible to convince a liberal Christian of something outside their worldview, but it (in great respect) puts into words how secularism is itself a religion with holy writings, priests, and so on.  For instance:

Secular liberalism also identifies certain sins such as “homophobia” and sexism. As Kainz sees it, the secular scriptures fall into two broad categories: “Darwinist and scientistic writings championing materialist and naturalistic explanations for everything, including morals; and feminist writings exposing the ‘evil’ of patriarchy and tracing male exploitation of females throughout history up to the present.”

The priests and priestesses of secular liberalism constitute its “sacerdotal elite” and tend to be intellectuals who can present liberal values in the public square. Congregations where secular liberals gather include organizations such as Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, the National Organization of Women, and similar bodies. These groups “help supply a sense of affiliation and commonality for the religiously liberal.”

In some ways I’d like to copy the whole article for you :-), but instead of plagiarizing…please take time to read Dr. Mohler’s piece.

SDMF and Hell’s Angels

Black Label SocietyAlthough I can appreciate almost any style of music that includes a melody, I am especially drawn to tunes with heavy guitars. Over the years, Ozzy Osborne has had a knack for not only putting out songs with great guitars—he also attracts especially talented guitarists. (For those not familiar with Ozzy, he first became famous as the lead singer of Black Sabbath—another guitar-laden band.)

Perhaps Ozzy's most famous guitarist is Rhandy Rhoads, who is considered one of rock's best even though he died at the age of 25 in an airplane accident. Rhandy's death was hard on Ozzy…but life does go on, and Rhandy was ultimately replaced by Jake E. Lee, who was later succeeded by Zakk Wylde.

Which almost gets us to the acronym in this article's title. 🙂 [Read more…]

Sanctified Smugness

Snotty manMany of the folks I follow on Twitter are Calvinists. I personally believe in free will, but do grant that they have ample evidence for their predestination views. I just weigh the evidence in toto differently.

As someone who is thus the recipient of it, I have noticed a certain smugness in what quite a few Calvinists tweet, and after non-Calvinist Ed Young embarrassed us free will-ers with an anti-Calvinism diatribe sermon, the Twittersphere was all abuzz. His talk was amazingly shallow and inaccurate, but I did note that sometimes I have found Calvinists to be kind of snooty (as he mentioned in his sermon). Trying to put Calvinism’s most common smug comments into a single tweet, I wrote: [Read more…]

Pacifiers and Hearing Aids

Captain Francesco Schettino

Has anyone here heard of Captain Franscesco Schettino? Why he is famous…or rather…why he is infamous?

It is because he was captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship that sank of the Tuscan coast this past January…a captain who decided to save his own scalp and hop into a lifeboat instead of making sure all his passengers were safe. Although he claimed afterward that he tripped into the lifeboat, he broke a sacrosanct rule: the captain goes down with the ship. Well, at least he or she does if anyone else is going to go down with it. A captain does not abandon ship until he or she knows everyone is safe.

Now…although the sinking of the Costa Concordia was major news, it is not the most famous shipwreck in history. I haven't done any empirical surveying, but what do you figure is the most famous one?

That's right…the Titanic. Although folks do question his judgment in other respects (for instance, launching lifeboats before they were full), the Titanic's Captain Edward John Smith went down to Davy Jones' Locker with two thirds of his passengers. Captain Smith went down with the ship.

[Read more…]

Don’t Let an Earthquake Stop You

Series Finales

As I considered what I would talk about for my final sermon before the Antrim Church…well at least for now…never say never 🙂

As I considered what I would preach about I had multiple options. First, I could have just continued my “Dear Least Important Church…” series, and you could be listening now to “Don’t Be a Sucker.” However, that would be an odd way, short of being unexpectedly being called home by the Lord, to end a ministry.

Or I could do the equivalent of a television series finale…where either we every open question is answered…or everybody is given a happy ending…or things are left in a permanent dissatisfying cliff-hanger. Well…

  • I don’t have all the answers (only the Bible, and the One behind it does).
  • I can’t give everyone a happy ending—we all have to wait for “a cry of a command,” “the voice of an archangel,” and “the sound of the trumpet of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16) “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)
  • As for leaving you with a permanent cliffhanger…well…that would be cruel wouldn’t it?! 🙂 Beyond that, I’d have to make it up…unless, of course, instead of moving to California for my new job I just disappear. 🙂

Another option would be retrospective…again…like those that the sneak into television series. I could replay clips from my sermons…and then we could tell by you nodding…or sleeping…how many you remember the originals. 🙂

Or, I could be a bit more biblical in approach, and I could mimic Paul and the Ephesian elders…where, seeing them the last time, he gave that church he loved so much words of advice.

[Read more…]

Mystery Theater (Colossians 1:24-2:5)

OTR

How many here know what the acronym OTR stands for?

Now…before I asked that question I figured I’d better do a Google search to make sure that there wasn’t some other meaning even more common than the one I’m used to…and visiting Wikipedia I found that…in part…it can also mean:

  • Ótr, a dwarf in Norse mythology
  • “An airport that serves Coto 47, Costa Rica”
  • Optical Transition Radiation
  • Off the road tires
  • On the run

And so on…1

But none of those are it…anybody who knows some of my personal history and likes know what it might be?

Old time radio. You know, the golden age of radio when it ruled. When great shows like The Shadow (“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.”) and Abbot and Costello (“Who’s on first?”) kept people close to radios (that were more furniture than electronic devices).

As hard as it may be to believe for the kids here, I am actually not old enough to have listened to most of those when they first aired :-), but there was one series that I did listen to every weeknight growing up in Canaan, New Hampshire. With my AM/FM radio…one with tubes and not transistors…where only the AM worked…I would tune to 1210 on the dial…and not tune digitally…where you know exactly what frequency you’ve got…I had to use a good old analog one where sometimes you have to have very accurate wrist action to get the exact spot you want.

The reward for getting 1210 was receiving WCAU out of Philadelphia (now WPHT)…and hearing CBS Mystery Theater with E.G. Marshall narrating. For those who haven’t spent some quality time on the AM dial, that set of frequencies is fickle, with atmospheric conditions greatly affecting what you can, or can’t, tune in. (That’s why you can listen to stations much further away at night.)

[Read more…]