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…]

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…]

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…]

I Didn’t Do It!

Butter, dish, and knifeGood or Evil

What do you think? Are humans inherently good or evil?

How many here believe humans are inherently good?

How many here believe humans are inherently evil?

I suspect the best answer to the question, “Are humans inherently good or evil?” is…

Yes.

🙂

But, if there is one thing that I think argues for the latter…that we are inherently evil…at least in part…is our propensity to lie.

It seems to me that, even at an early age, when you are going to get into trouble for doing something, human nature automatically wants to say…

“I didn’t do it!”

Pretty much as soon as we can feel guilt and/or understand we might get in trouble, we want to (and to often do) lie. Say we didn’t do it. Blame someone else. Claim ignorance about it. Anything but just fess up and admit we are the guilty party. [Read more…]

Who Is Your Father?

Justice with scalesThe Internet provides many blessing, but it also comes with destructive curses. One of its banes is the ease by which it allows damning accusations to proliferate. Most common today are charges of “isms” and their equivalents, e.g. racism, sexism, and nativism. I’d like to propose some understandings when it comes to accusations in general, but especially on social media. They are an attempt to combine logical and biblical principles.

The burden of proof is on the accuser

Whether you are the first one making an accusation or just passing it along (with or without commentary), the burden of proof is on you. “Innocent until proven guilty” is important because, otherwise, our government could arrest anyone they wanted, charge them with a crime, and then say, “Prove you didn’t do it.”

We would consider that tyrannical and backward if our government did it. It is equally tyrannical and backward for you to do it. [Read more…]

Augie’s Sermon on the Cross

Three crosses with a red sky

Choosing a Sermon Topic

Kids…as best as you can…this week I need you to pay attention. No, I won’t make you put everything away…but you’ll shortly understand why this week and next you shouldn’t tune me out. So…

Do I have your attention?!

I said…

Do I have your attention?! 🙂

Early this week I asked Augie what I should do a sermon on. He responded that I should preach about Jesus on the cross and Jesus coming back.

What do you think? Were those good suggestions?

They were awesome suggestions!

However, to do both at once would break one of the rules of preaching for children, so this week it’s “Augie’s Sermon on the Cross” and next will be “Augie’s Sermon on the Second Coming.”

So far so good?

And the reason, [fill in the kid’s names here], I need you to pay attention is that although this sermon is titled “Augie’s Sermon on the Cross”…it’s not just for him…it’s for you too.

Do I still have your attention? 🙂

Preaching to Children

Now, in order to preach to you, I figure there are some rules. Can you tell me if I have them right?

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

Did I get that right? Three simple rules and we’re good?! 🙂

Let’s repeat the together:

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

Related to those three rules, let me share a quick story about a famous physicist who was also a very fun guy, Richard Feynman. One time he promised to write a lesson about a really difficult topic for students who were starting their first year of college.

He failed at that and said, “You know, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t reduce it to the freshman level. That means we really don’t understand it.”

And to be honest kids, if we adults cannot explain something important about God simple enough that a child can understand…

Well, maybe not a toddler. 🙂

If we adults cannot explain something important about God simple enough for you to understand, then…

Maybe we really don’t understand it. [Read more…]

LGBT and the Church

Jesus loves you blocksA friend of mine on Facebook linked to this article:

“Homosexuality: We Need A Posture Shift”

You should read the whole thing to ensure you aren’t basing your opinion on my post, but it starts off with:

Jesus’ radical love toward the marginalized and outcast is shocking. Not just that he loved, but how he loved them. Jesus rarely started a relationship with the law, and he never offered his “stance” on political issues. He usually began the relationship with love and always showed acceptance, especially with those rejected by the religious elite. And this has massive Jesus-shaped implications for how Christians have (mis-)treated the unchurched LGBT community.

From there it uses a centurion and a tax collector (Matthew) as examples of how we should treat LGBT people. He wraps up with:

Religious people always got upset whenever Jesus befriended people who they thought were terrible sinners. If you’re a Christian who is trying hard to love LGBT people, and if this ticks off a lot of religious people, perhaps even those really close to you, then take comfort. You’re in good company. Jesus knows exactly how you feel.

After reading his article, what are your thoughts? These were mine (which I added as a comment): [Read more…]

When Kings (Should) Go Off to War

Genesis 3:5Greetings

It has been waaaaaaaay too long since Michelle, Augie, and I have been here at the Antrim Church of Christ…and as I typed up my sermon notes I knew I could confidently say how great it is to see you all. We may live 2,000 miles away for now, but you are still our family and always will be. How is it that Paul said it? “For though absent in body, I am present in spirit” (1 Corinthians 5:3, in part).

Of course, let’s just hope I never have to continue with the rest of that verse and say “and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.” 🙂

You will forever be a part of us, and if the Lord does not bring us back in Antrim again, we’ll make sure we put in for the same neighborhood in heaven. Well, we’ll do that even if God does return us here more permanently. 🙂

King David

Although I suspect I could spend a full sermon’s time talking about how much we miss you…that’s not what we are here for, is it? Instead it is to hear the Word of God from the Word of God…so let’s dive right in by turning to to 2 Samuel 11:1:

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

That’s a curious verse, isn’t it?

Being spring…it is apropos to base a sermon on…but that’s not what is curious about it.

How many here think the “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle…but David remained at Jerusalem” indicates David was doing something wrong? [Estimate count of hands.]

Well, then you ____ agree with John MacArthur:

Staying home in such situations was not David’s usual practice (5:2; 8:1—14; 10:17; but cf. 18:3; 21:17); this explicit remark implies criticism of David for remaining behind, as well as setting the stage for his devastating iniquity.1

Now, how many of you instead think the “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle…but David remained at Jerusalem” is just a statement of fact…nothing positive or negative meant? [Estimate count of hands.]

Well, then you ____ agree with the Faithlife Study Bble:

This is probably not intended to be a disparaging remark toward David; in 10:7, he takes the same course of action (see also 3:22). The death of such a powerful figure in battle would likely spell defeat for the nation; David stays behind for his safety and the welfare of his kingdom (see 18:1—4; 21:15—17, especially 18:15 and note).2

Although I am an “assume the best” kind of guy, I have to admit I’m with MacArthur. Especially since what follows is one of David’s greatest failures…it really seems to be saying…

“In spring, when David should have been out valiantly leading his army, he instead was dilly-dallying back in Jerusalem.”

Let’s go back where we left off and read four more verses:

2 It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. 3 And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. 5 And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant” (2 Samuel 11:2—5).

So here we have king who God said was “a man after [His] heart” (see Acts 13:22, 1 Samuel 13:14) take another man’s wife and commit adultery.

And, of course, it doesn’t stop there…because Bathsheba got pregnant and her husband couldn’t be tricked into having sex with her (out of solidarity with those in the field of battle)…David had him killed in a cowardly, secretive way.

How does a man after God’s heart fall into such deep, dark sin?

The same way we humans have from the beginning. [Read more…]

“The Baby Jesus Is Going to Open His Eyes”

Mary and baby JesusNativities and New Years

As Michelle, the family, and I reflect on this past year…one thing we thank and praise God for is that…after more than a year and a lot of mokyearching, the Lord has brought us into a wonderful family here. I may not be able to remember all your names yet :-), but every one of you is a blessing from above to us.

Although it is not the building that makes a church, I’ve also appreciated how this one is decorated…and today’s sermon, in part, is inspired by the nativity you see right in front of me. Just after it was first put up…and before we moved it and the table over-and-over 🙂 Pastor Wayne…Augie came out of the sanctuary and said to me, “The baby Jesus is going to open His eyes.”

Along with a huge, proud fatherly smile a thought came to mind. When baby Jesus opens His eyes, what will He see? From the Bible we can get a picture of what He saw 2,000 years ago…but…and we know when He returns it will not be as a baby…but if Jesus were to return as a baby today and opened His eyes, what would He see?

Baby Jesus is about to open His eyes. What will He see? [Read more…]

“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).

Brains Wired for Sin

Brain from 3 anglesThis week, a Yahoo! News article, “Pedophiles’ Brains Wired Differently,” announced:

Pedophiles’ brains are “abnormally tuned” to find young children attractive, according to a new study published this week.

Supposedly it may be a case of where their brains swap nurturing and sexual feelings:

Usually children’s faces elicit feelings of caregiving from both sexes, whereas those of adults provide stimuli in choosing a mate. But among pedophiles, this trend is skewed, with sexual, as opposed to nurturing, emotions burgeoning.

Important note: I am not now about to create a “moral equivalency” between homosexuality and pedophilia. Clearly the object of the desire (and actions) make them significantly different.

However, we would all agree that even if we find a scientific reason for pedophiliac behavior… [Read more…]

“I can’t explain why we shouldn’t murder disabled children”

Baby cryingMatt Walsh’s blog post, "I can’t explain why we shouldn’t murder disabled children" caused quite a stir this week. This is not really something I want to submit on Christmas Eve, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t forget to post it and (come to think of it) it is apropos given we are about to celebrate the birth of a baby.

Please read Walsh’s entire article yourself (my excerpts cannot do it justice)…but about two thirds of the way into the piece he explains its genesis:

I say all of this because my initial intention was to sit down and write about the couple in Washington who just won a 50 million dollar "wrongful birth" settlement. Brock and Rhea Wuth sued a hospital because their son was born severely disabled. No, they were not alleging that the hospital caused the disability; they alleged that the hospital (and a lab testing facility) did not run the correct tests that would have detected the genetic defects while the child was still in the womb. Had they been given the correct tests, they would have known that the baby was "defective," and then killed it. Tragically, they were robbed of the opportunity to abort their son, so the hospital must pay for the son’s care — for the rest of his life.

I’m speechless. [Read more…]

Learning to Fly

A father helping his son learn to ride a bicycle

Training Wheels

For Augie’s birthday this past August we purchased a new bicycle for him. His old one was getting a bit small, and a bike is always a great gift in my book. After having no luck at Dick’s Sporting Goods, Augie found one at Target he liked—I suspect the neon-like green on it was a factor. Into the bed of the truck it went…well, after we paid for it, of course. 🙂

Now, I knew we were taking a chance. The bicycle was the right size, but Augie had not actually learned to ride one yet…and there were no training wheels on this model. My hope was that if I took him to the paved play area at the elementary school (right next to our apartment complex) he’d learn quickly (and with minimal spills).

Let’s just say that it soon became clear that my hope wasn’t going be fulfilled. It’s not Augie’s fault; I hadn’t taken him out enough previously on his old bicycle. We had to switch back to his smaller bike with training wheels.

I’m sharing this with you because when I was, unsuccessfully, trying to get Augie to ride his new bicycle I noticed several reasons he did not succeed:

  • First, he didn’t even sense a need to balance.
  • Second, he plain just didn’t have the coordination.
  • And third, he didn’t focus (for instance, he would look over at other kids playing when he should have been looking at where he was going).

Basically, as much as he liked riding the birthday bicycle he wasn’t ready to do it on his own, and he needed training wheels.

There is a sermon hidden in there somewhere…

Of course, a preacher doesn’t need even this much to have something to spawn a sermon from. 🙂

I would suggest that Augie’s experience can be analogized to the spiritual…and let’s see how together…

[Read more…]

“To the Left, it doesn’t matter how Robertson actually treats real people.”

Man being pointed atInstead of writing my own version of the articles, I’ll link to them and let you read both. Two things about the Duck Dynasty family patriarch, Phil Robertson:

  1. He’s a true Christian
  2. He’s a character

#1 means he is going to believe (and repeat) what the Bible teaches.

#2 means he is going to share his views in an eccentric way.

Scripture says homosexuality is a sin, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Doesn’t matter if a person is genetically predisposed to same sex attraction or not.

But, in modern American society, it is a sin to call this sin a sin. It is "anti-gay":

[Read more…]

Cause and Effect?

Some woeful news for us ministers:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Americans’ rating of the honesty and ethics of the clergy has fallen to 47%, the first time this rating has dropped below 50% since Gallup first asked about the clergy in 1977. Clergy have historically ranked near the top among professions on this measure, hitting a high rating of 67% in 1985.

🙁

And here’s the graph (please go to "Honesty and Ethics Rating of Clergy Slides to New Low" to see it fully):

Rating of clergy ethical standards

Around the same time I received this news, I saw an article titled "Disgraced Ex-Preacher Says There’s a Major Culture Problem in Evangelical Christianity." Near the top it says: [Read more…]