Allow Yourself to Be Pleasantly Surprised

Give people a chance

Who Do You Want to Emulate

On Friday night I asked this on Facebook and Twitter:

If there is anyone (alive or dead) you would like to emulate, who is he/she? How are you doing? Do you care? Do you _really_ care?

The reason I posted it is because there are some people on both who I really care for…and who I know could answer the first question…but don’t really spend time pondering the other three. For instance, as Christians we all want to be like Jesus, right?

How are we doing? How are you doing?

If we are honest and (generally) answer, “Not so good”…do we care? Do we really care?

If we really care we would be actively pursuing fixing it, right?

And on social media there are tons of people who I’m pretty sure would say they want to be like X, but they don’t show it in their actions. It saddens me. Too often, I sadden me. 🙁

A Friend of God

Now, I suspect if I asked a Jew in Jesus’ day, “If there is anyone (alive or dead) you would like to emulate, who is he/she?,” a decent number of folks would say, “Abraham.” [Read more…]

How You Should Vote in 2016

Ribbon with the word 'Vote' on it

Don’t Worry IRS

When this sermon’s notes go up on the web, if the IRS has a bots that searching for “misbehaving” ministers, then this should set off its alarms since it is titled, “How You Should Vote in 2016.”

However, they…and you…don’t have to worry. I am not going to put our tax deductible status at risk by endorsing either candidate.

Now, if I thought God wanted me to…I would regardless of the implications…but I don’t think He does. I can tell you that the two main ones are both horribly flawed from a Christian perspective…and I suspect if I spent time checking out their competition…they also wouldn’t fair well from a biblical perspective.

It’s About You

Instead, this isn’t about Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, it’s about you.

How you should vote, not who you should vote for.

How how you vote…and how how you participate beforehand…reflects on you.

And, I’ll be honest, this election season is sucking the life out of me…so I’m going to keep this short.

I could just skip preaching about it, but just as Paul “did not shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), I will not avoid painful subjects.

Principles

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Now that You Have Blown It

New Year’s Resolutions

Epic fail signWe are 10 days into the new year…and here is hoping that it has started off great for everyone sitting here in front of me. I know the Lord continues to bless my family and me in 2016.

How many of you made New Year’s resolutions? [Wait for hands to raise.] Anyone willing to share one or two things they’ve resolved for 2016? [Wait for answers.]

Are you interested in what other people resolve? I was…and for my tween/teen class last week we went straight to the Internet to find out. Now, I realize that I have to be cautious with that and I pay heed to something a famous president said said that I found on the web. Abraham Lincoln is quoted as advising…

“Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.” 🙂

However, I think Nielsen is pretty safe, and their list of top resolutions for 2015 were:1

Stay fit and healthy 37%
Lose weight 32%
Enjoy life to the fullest 28%
Spend less, save more 25%
Spend more time with family and friends 19%
Get organized 18%
Will not make any resolutions 16%
Learn something new/new hobby 14%
Travel more 14%
Read more 12%

Ignoring the sad commentary on society that not a single one of the top ten resolutions (based on Nielsen’s survey between December 29, 2014 and January 2, 2015) were spiritual…are most of them are at least okay?

If you made any resolutions in 2016…were they included in Nielsen’s list? I had a four that showed up in one form or another…lose weight, be better with money, read more, and get my technical and general ham radio licenses (which would fall under “learn something new/new hobby”).

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“I have the right to doubt, am I using it?”

20140328-095300.jpgI listen to old-time radio all night, specifically 20th Century Radio. This morning, after my wife’s alarm unintentionally went off (doh!) and my youngest daughter (not considering it is two hours earlier here, doh!) texted, “Happy Thanksgiving,” Night Beat’s “Target for a Day” episode was playing. The main character, reporter Randy Stone, had been falsely accused by a competing paper’s gossip columnist of committing a murder that a another man was, midnight that day, to be executed for. The death row inmate’s wife completely believed the article and was going to kill Stone the very moment her husband’s life was ended. There is more to the plot, but given the recent Ferguson, Missouri situation (and the Trayvon Martin one before it), Stone’s monologue at the end seemed especially apropos and sage:

But by the same token, would you past the test? How good are you at telling the lie from the truth? Does the truth vary according to your personal convenience? Black one day, white the next?

The next time you read anything, ask yourself, “I have the right to doubt, am I using it?” Because it is too dangerous living in a world of misinformed people. There is a reason why the lie is the tyrant’s favorite death weapon. It’s killed more people since the world began than all the armies and automobiles put together.

The Bible, a much more reliable source of wisdom than a radio drama (or leaders, politicians, and the media with agendas), states this much more succinctly:

Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment (John 7:24, English Standard Version).

Pray for the families and friends of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, but also pray that your judgment of those two young men…and those who ended their lives…is not “according to your personal convenience.” For…

For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you (Matthew 7:2).

Happy 238th Birthday United States of America

July 4th with flag backgroundHappy Birthday America…

If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it (Jeremiah 18:7-10).

Personally I do not know if God has “spoken” of America (outside the generic application of much of Scripture), but assuming He has…maybe we Christians should be today’s Moses, standing in the breach.

20  They exchanged the glory of God
for the image of an ox that eats grass.
21  They forgot God, their Savior,
who had done great things in Egypt,
22  wondrous works in the land of Ham,
and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
23  Therefore he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
to turn away his wrath from destroying them (Psalm 106:20-23, emphasis mine).

Patriotic man with flagI don’t mean to be a Negative Nelly on this holiday, but I cannot avert my eyes from the ominous clouds on the horizon because…

They are no longer on the horizon.

Celebrate our country at least for what it was (and somewhat still is). Praise God for it and putting you within its borders. Spend time with your family. Hug them. Stand in the breach. Pray for our nation. Prepare for the worst.

May the New Year Be the Last!!!!

Taking one last look at Facebook last night, I came across this New Year’s wish from a friend:Facebook post

May the new year be better than the last!!!!

And, dear reader, I do hope that is true for you and yours.

However, when I first digested those words they came through as:

May the new year be the last!!!!

Now, that might seem for like a New Year’s curse instead of New Year’s blessing, but I would suggest that the greatest blessing we can all hope for is Jesus’ return:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He 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 21:3-4, English Standard Version, emphasis mine).

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)

I will admit I’m a little apprehensive about the Second Coming. I mean personally apprehensive, not just worried about the billions who will no longer have the opportunity to accept the free gift of salvation. I trust my Lord…I just don’t trust myself.Sun breaking through clouds

How about you? Do these words make you exclaim, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”?: [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…”

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Oops There Goes Another Rubber Tree Plant

Alan Fahrner preaching

Clouds on a sunny day

I’ll admit I’ve been feeling guilty lately. It seems to me that most of my recent bulletin articles and sermons have been less-than-positive. For instance, after a recent talk a young man’s mother told me that it scared him.

And although she said afterward it was good to be scared…I suspect that the frightening present conditions in this world are leading me to focus on the negative…which isn’t optimal given that the gospel…and the God it speaks of…are so overwhelmingly positive.

That is, my messages have been clouds on a sunny day.

But not today…

But not today. Instead, I promise two things…

First, to have you leave feeling better than when you arrived. Well, I’ll do my darndest… 🙂

Second, to keep this sermon short.

Now, see? You are already feeling better than when you arrived, aren’t you? 🙂

You are not alone…

However, before we go positive. Am I alone in being worried about how things are going in our nation and in the world? Do you look around you…on the TV…on the Internet…and wonder if the inmates have taken over the asylum?

Or if Satan has gotten the upper hand and hell on earth has been spawned?

Do you feel like you are bustin’ a hump to live a godly life…only to see those who do exactly the opposite do far, far better than you?

Does it seem like all your efforts are in vain?

Does me bringing up all this bring your spirit down?

Then remember I promised to keep this sermon short! 🙂

[Read more…]

What I Think About Homosexuals and Homosexuality

Since current events once again force me to write about the issue of the pro-homosexual agenda, I wanted to make a clear and concise statement about what I believe about homosexuals (the individuals) versus homosexuality (the behavior).

No one human, homosexual or not, is better than any other. We are all afflicted with the same disease (and it is terminal). Homosexuality is a symptom of that disease, not a (or "the") disease itself. I believe I have found the cure for the disease; a cure that reduces the quantity and severity of the symptoms on this side of eternity (and completely defeats it on the other). I want everyone, gay or not, to take advantage of the cure.

I do not judge the homosexual, I judge the behavior. Rather, I agree with the Bible’s judgment of the practice because Scripture’s ultimate Author is the One who not only established the heavens and the earth—He established right and wrong. Ultimately, I do not think God&#39s moral laws are any different than physical laws. Neither are subjective; they are statements of fact. If you step off the edge of the Empire State Building, the law of gravity correctly posits the sudden stop at the bottom will be bad for your health. If you willingly sin, the moral law similarly factually states it'll have negative effects on you and those around you (not to mention, "the sudden stop" at the end of your life will be equally bad for your eternal health).

To the lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transexual: I do not hate or fear you. I actually do not look at you any differently than I do anyone else, including those closest to me (whether by blood or by Christ). I do not wish you ill or want you to be treated as a second-class citizen (quite the contrary). However, I cannot ever tell you what you are doing is right—it is not mine to say (and I would suggest that those "Christians" who tell you your behavior is fine are doing you a disservice). Additionally, I cannot remain silent when those who purport to be supporting you try to tell my children, my family, my friends, and my neighbors that wrong is right.

And that is not because I am against you (I am not). It is because I love you.

In Defense of James Dobson

Another large tragedy, another Christian leader taken to task for saying that it might be connected to the judgment of God on America. From what I can tell it first began with an article from Right Wing Watch, “Dobson: Connecticut Shooting was God Allowing ‘Judgment to Fall Upon Us’ for Turning Our Back on Him” which included this quote from Dr. James Dobson’s radio program from this past Monday, “A Nation Shaken by the Sandy Hook Tragedy”:

Our country really does seem in complete disarray. I’m not talking politically, I’m not talking about the result of the November sixth election; I am saying that something has gone wrong in America and that we have turned our back on God.

I mean millions of people have decided that God doesn’t exist, or he’s irrelevant to me and we have killed fifty-four million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition. Believe me, that is going to have consequences too.

And a lot of these things are happening around us, and somebody is going to get mad at me for saying what I am about to say right now, but I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the Scripture and on God Almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us. I think that’s what’s going on.

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Passing the Point of No Return

Betrayal

How many here have experienced a devastating betrayal from a friend, a spouse, or a family member?

I suspect if you have spent more than a couple decades on this earth it has happened to you…and that by me causing you to think about it you immediately recalled a taste of the same pain you felt when it originally happened.

Betrayal from someone close is traumatizing. Not only can it permanently destroy your relationship with that person; it can impact your relationships with everyone else. To quote the title of a song by Ian Hunter (that I probably most know due to a version by Great White)…

Once bitten twice shy…

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Advice from a Stuffed Tiger

At this point I know I am probably famous (or infamous) for using secular songs as jump-off points for my sermons. However, today’s inspiration came from a comic instead of a tune.

Any Calvin and Hobbes fans here?

Although I wish Bill Watterson was still producing more of that strip, there is something to be said for stopping at the top of your game…and staying “stopped.” Michelle and I have plenty Calvin and Hobbes books, and Friday I randomly opened one of them in the middle and found an interesting four box conversation between Calvin and his loyal friend, Hobbes:

Calvin and Hobbes

Box 1: Calvin: “‘Live for the moment’ is my motto.

Box 2: Calvin: “You never know how long you’ve got! You could step into the road tomorrow and — wham — you get hit by a cement truck! Then you’d be sorry you put off your pleasures!”

Box 3: Calvin: “That’s why I say ‘live for the moment.’ What’s your motto?”

Box 4: Hobbes: “Look down the road.”1

🙂

Well, between Calvin and Hobbes we’ve been given a clear choice between pretty disparate advice, haven’t we?

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Why I Am a Heretic

I am no longer going to update this post. Instead please see the Beliefs page to read the most up-to-date list of what I believe.

AKA, "What I Believe"

Guy preaching with a staff and a stone tabletI had an interesting conversation with a Twitter friend, and after he agreed to an uncomfortable implication of his belief system I commended him on being willing to admit it. I then suggested that someone else who held that same belief system would not be willing to make the same admission, to which he replied:

Yes, I believe he would. I probably wouldn’t just throw that out there in the public forum of twitter. He may not be comfortable with saying

To which I replied:

Why not? If it is true it’s to God’s sovereign glory isn’t it?

My response would seem a whole ‘lot more apropos if you understood what belief system it was in response to. 🙂

Either way, although I can understand choosing a proper forum for airing one’s beliefs, I kind of was taken aback at the idea that someone who has no problem debating for his theological worldview then wouldn’t be willing to lay all his cards on the table.

So, here are all my cards. Traditional Christians will find plenty to consider me a heretic, but I’m not going to do a bait-and-switch on you. (Most of this is from a post I did a couple years back on fahrner.us. All biblical quotes are from the English Standard Version. Oh, and I reserve the right to modify this post at any time, so if you want to beat me over the head with my own words, be sure to grab a screenshot. :-)) [Read more…]

Facing God and the Face of God (Part 2)

Quick Review

For those who weren't here last week…or who have an MTV generation attention span :-)…let's start this week off by doing a quick review of "Facing God and the Face of God (Part 1)." I started off by sharing some pretty disconcerting scriptures, the first of which was Hebrews 9:27:

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment

It actually went downhill from there, with even Jesus Himself causing us some angst with His words captured in Luke 12:4-5:

4 "I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!

After those words…and more like it…we tried to start answering the question:

When we face God what kind of face will we see?

[Read more…]

Facing God and the Face of God (Part 1)

Seeing What We Haven't Seen Before

I just wrapped up a four-part series at the Pleasant View Church of Christ…and after it I find myself returning over-and-over-and-over again to one Scripture in the Bible. It's a verse that I've read multiple times previously without it fully registering in my psyche. I'm assuming that experience is not unique to me…is there anyone else sitting here today who, studying a familiar part of the Bible, has said to himself or herself, "Wow?! Why haven't I ever seen that before?!"?

Do you ever wonder if the reason you've missed that awesome revelation from God is because you were just thick…or maybe instead God was "saving" it for you? Perhaps our Lord hides things in the Bible from us so that we'll never get bored reading His Word because of the joy we feel when, like an explorer, we discover something for the very first time.

At least the first time for us. 🙂

It's like the Most High has lifted a veil and we can finally see what we should have seen before…

The Judgment

So, what is this magnificent Scripture that I'm speaking of?

You'll just have to wait to find out. 🙂

Instead, let's first spend a little time looking at a few uncomfortable verses in the Bible…starting with one I've brought up here multiple times…Hebrews 9:27

[Read more…]