Category Archives: salvation

I’m Going to Offend

Offended Anyone?

Have you ever offended anyone? I bet you have. Sooner or later, all of us will. We may say something we don’t mean, act carelessly, or speak the truth without love. Offenses happen.

However, there are times when  simple words and phrases will set people off. For example, if you want to rile people up into a tizzy, just get on Facebook or Twitter and post any of the following words (your opinion doesn’t matter):

  1. Grits, okra, and turnip greens
  2. Roll Tide! / Go Vols!
  3. “Put some clothes on!”
  4. “It’s only a translation.”
  5. Rapture
  6. First On Race Day (Ford)
  7. “I hate Twilight.”
  8. “My kids will never do that.”
  9. “You’re an idiot!”
  10. Ronald Reagan

Seriously, use any of those words and it won’t take 10 minutes before people are arguing and fighting, calling each other names, questioning each other’s religion, and saying things like, “DON’T JUDGE ME!”

Nevertheless, we should do our best to “live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). It should never be our intent to hurt feelings or make people angry. The apostle Paul instructed us to “follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another” (Romans 14:19).  So, as much as is possible, we should watch what we say, choose our words carefully, and do our best not to offend.

And, when necessary, we should apologize.

The Rock of Offense

On the other hand, there are times when we MUST offend. Sometimes speaking the truth is the only loving thing to do; anything less is an offense to God.

For example, the following words will not make many friends, but are guaranteed to generate hate-filled comments from around the troll-dwelling universe. Yet, they must be said!

  • Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no man can come unto the Father but by Him (John 14:6).

As a blogger, my words are read all over the world by people who hate the name of Jesus, and when I mention Him they go ballistic. I hate it for them, but how can I remain silent?

Jesus told the followers of John the Baptist,

“…Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. - Luke 7:22-23 

I don’t like offending people, but here’s the thing: if we let the fear of offending silence the Truth, how then can we “follow after the things which make for peace?” There can be no real peace without the Prince of Peace.

So, I guess I’m going to offend.

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Filed under blogging, Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Defending Traditional Marriage, Defining Marriage, Faith, General Observations, Life Lessons, salvation

If Ever I Loved Thee

A Hymn Sermon

One of the greatest hymns, at least one of my favorites, is “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” This past Sunday morning I preached a sermon based on the four verses from this song.

Below is a copy of the simple outline I took to the pulpit. I must admit, it got me a little wound up. (Can I get an “Amen!“)

“My Jesus I Love Thee”

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine; (Jn 21:15-17)
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign; (2 Tim. 2:19)
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou; (Ruth 2:10)
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now. (The Place of Regeneration)

I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me, (1 John 4:19)
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree; (1 Peter 1:18-19)
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow; (Mt 27, Mk 15, Jn 19:2)
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now. (The Place of Realization)

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death, (Job 13:15)
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath; (Job 33:4)
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow, (Ps. 116:15)

If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now. (The Place of Resignation)

In mansions of glory and endless delight, (Jn 14:2)
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright; (Rev 21:23)

I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow, (2 Tim 4:8)
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now. (The Place of Revelation)

-William Ralph Featherstone (1864)

Regeneration. As I read the lyrics, I began to see a logical progression through the believer’s life. First, there was the love for Jesus that comes when one is born again – that moment of regeneration, when one is “saved.” The love we have for Christ is evident by our desire to repent of our sin and turn from its “follies.” Along with that there’s the humble heart that asks, as Ruth, “Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me?”

Realization. The second verse describes a maturing love for our Lord that, over time, gains an appreciation for what Christ actually did to save us. Our love deepens when we begin to realize all those little sins, even the most petty, caused the sinless Son of God to have to endure unimaginable pain and humiliation, not out of obligation, but because of His love for us. His cross should have been mine, but He loved me first; therefore, I love Him.

Resignation. Thirdly, there’s that place in life when we must ultimately resign everything – our hopes, our dreams, our lives – to the One who ultimately lends us each breath. This deep, trusting love comes from a life that has witnessed the enduring faithfulness of our Savior, leading us to echo the words of Job, “though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

Revelation. Then, finally, there will be the place of revelation that will send our love for Christ soaring to infinite heights. We will know as we are known. We will have no more need of faith, for faith shall become sight. We will be eternally overwhelmed by the Love of the ages, forcing us to cry out, “If ever I loved thee, my Jesus tis now!

Just thought I’d share ;-)

Sermon: “My Jesus I Love Thee!”


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Filed under Christian Maturity, Faith, God, Love of God, Preaching, salvation, worship

Going Home

A Change of Plans

This morning I had planned on writing about a silly dream analyst I saw on Dr. Oz (totally pathetic). I had even contemplated writing a piece actually defending …da, da, da… Joel Osteen (yes, I know that’s a shocker). But when I sat down at the computer and took a minute to scroll through recent posts on Facebook, I saw a video, and wept.

However, it is the reason for the tears that I wanted to share a video with you. Yes, I cried tears of happiness for all those little children, wives, and moms and dads who were reunited with their brave dads, husbands, and sons. But I also cried for another reason – the anticipated reunion I will have with my own dad.

Funerals

I have preached many funerals. I have seen many loved ones laid to rest in the cold earth. People have looked to me for comforting words as I have stood beside the lifeless body of a recently passed loved one. All I can tell you is this: the only hope I can offer is the hope found in Jesus Christ.

In the 1 Corinthians 15:19, the apostle Paul said, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” So, to put it another way, if trusting in Jesus is only good for this world, like for making you a better person, then what’s the point? Why follow a dead man to the grave?

Real Hope

But Paul adds in the next verse: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” In other words, trusting in Jesus means that this life is NOT all that there is…that we will one day be reunited with our loved ones…and Jesus’ resurrection is the PROOF!

It has been over 20 years since I last saw my dad face-to-face. I never had the chance (except in a dream) to say goodbye. So let me assure you, when I set foot on those celestial shores…when I breath that sparkling air…when I finally reach Home…there is going to be a celebration like this world has never seen.

That’s why I cried.

 

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Filed under Christian Living, Faith, Future, salvation, the future

After-Christmas Gifts

“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” – Matthew 2:11

Late-Comers

Part of the Christmas story can be found in the book of Matthew, the first book in the New Testament. There, in chapter two, we read of several wise men, Magi, who followed the star till it rested over the place where the young Jesus was living.

But what most people fail to notice is that only the shepherds came to visit Jesus while he was still a baby in a manger. The Magi came later, once they were living “in the house” and Jesus was a “young child.” And, based on Herod’s decree that all male children 2 years old and younger should be killed (Matt. 2:16), Jesus could have been a toddler up and walking.

Simply put, generally ever manger scene protested against by atheists is not a faithful representation of the Christmas story. How ironic is that? But I digress…

The Gifts

When the Magi came to Bethlehem in search of “he that is born King of the Jews” (Matt. 2:2), they brought with them three very rare and valuable gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They were not random gifts, but ones with specific political, spiritual, and practical importance; they were meant to recognize a literal, earthly, but also heavenly King.

gold frankincense and myrrhGold was a universally recognized precious metal, symbolic of all wealth. Frankincense was a substance primarily used as incense, but also mixed with other substances to create the holy anointing oil placed on high priests and kings. Myrrh was a substance used for things ranging all the way from cosmetics and antiseptics, to perfuming the living and embalming the dead.

According to Matthew 2:11, the Magi fell down before Jesus, which would have been an appropriate response when in the presence of royalty (and these men knew the difference). But the wise men did more than fall prostrate before royalty, they “worshiped him.”  This young king was more than just “King of the Jews,” but the long-promised Messiah, and they offered their gift to the Son of God.

Are You Wise?

As long as I can remember there have been sermons preached during and before Christmas entitled, “Wise Men Still Seek Him.” The sermons focus primarily on the seeking leading up to Christmas, but rarely, if ever, on the gifts given after the celebration is over. But today is different.

Today, I am going to ask you to consider three gifts we should give, now that the birthday celebration is over.

  • Gold. Gold represented wealth. In your worship of the King, will you give Him your wealth? In reality, God owns everything, including everything He loans unto you. But with your heart, are you willing to lay everything that is most valuable to you at His feet?
  • Frankincense. Frankincense represented worship. Would you be willing to fall down before Jesus, or do you hold back some of your Frankincense in reserve? Are there idols in your life – people or things – for which you reserve a little of that anointing oil, making those things lords of your life? Would you be willing to make Jesus Lord of all? Will you worship him without reservation?
  • Myrrh. Myrrh was symbolic of the beauty of life, from beginning to end. Would you give to Jesus everything that makes you happy? Everything that brings you hope? Everything that is sweet-smelling? Everything that hides your faults and failures, disguising your true self? Would you give Jesus your life? He can do more with it than you can do on your own.

Returns

For several days after Christmas people will stand in line to return and/or exchange unwanted gifts. Many will trade what others gave them for something they want more. Others will just ask for a refund or in-store credit.

Rest assured that when you give your gifts to Jesus, he will not return them, exchange them, or re-gift them next year. But will you, once you realize what you’ve given, want to take something back?

Don’t wait for a New Year’s resolution. Now that Christmas is over, be like the Magi and leave everything at Jesus’ feet, then “depart…another way.” Once you give Jesus those three gifts, you’ll never be the same.

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Filed under Christian Living, Christmas, God, Love of God, salvation, wisdom, worship

A Flirting God?

Don’t Be Shocked

I know that the title may come as a shock to many of you, but don’t be too shocked, at least not yet. I have been talking about men and women flirting over the last couple of days, but as I told you, there was a method to my madness.

You might be saying, “And if you say God is a flirt, then you are truly mad, you crazy fool!” But please, hear me (or read me) out. “Flirting” might not be the best word, but what about “wooing”? If not a flirting God, surely He woos us all the time.

Background

Now, just in case you think I am crazy, let me share with you one of my favorite verses from one of my favorite books in the Bible, Hosea.

I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them.” – Hosea 11:4 KJV

With metaphor God explains to the prophet Hosea how He has gone the extra mile to win over His people’s love. That, after all, is the message portrayed by Hosea’s pursuit of Gomer (that’s his wife’s name) as she runs from lover to lover. God would much rather win our love than divorce (judge) us.

When I think of the first part of that verse, the words “cords of a man” become “heart strings.” In other words, in order to win our affections, God is doing everything He can to “pull our strings,” or at least the emotional strings of our hearts. Cool, huh?

Signs of Wooing

As with the last two posts, I’d like to consider some ways in which God might “flirt” with us. In other words, God might be wooing you if…

  • You wake up earlier than you wanted, but see the most beautiful sunrise of your life.
  • You decide to give up on life, only to have an email pop up showing someone worse off than you.
  • It seems that there is no meaning in life, but then you hear a baby cry, or your child says, “I wuv you.”
  • In the dark, late at night, you find yourself crying, but a warmth you can’t explain wraps around you, cradling you to sleep.
  • You find yourself feeling like a failure, worthless and dirty, then from out of nowhere comes a verse you learned in Sunday School: “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son…”

Do I need to go on? Is He pulling the strings of your heart? Will you respond to His advances?

He does love you!

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Filed under God, Love of God, salvation, self-worth

The Story I Love

It’s been a while since I first posted this video, but I think it’s time for a repeat.

A lot of you are new to this blog. You may not be aware that I periodically post videos on Mondays with a puppet monkey, just for fun. This video, however, is one of my favorites, and for good reason: it’s about the story I love to tell.

Benny Berry sang at our church one Sunday. That afternoon I asked if he felt like he could sing for a monkey. He raised an eyebrow, but agreed. The result was genuinely beautiful.

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Leaving? Where Will You Go?

Jesus asked Peter, “Are you going to leave, also?”  Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.” - John 6:67-68

In times of great trial many of us are tempted to walk away from our faith, but Peter realized that there was nowhere to go, at least nowhere that offered the “words of eternal life.”

Today is no exception. With so much going on in the news, many who once claimed to follow Christ are turning their backs on Him. But where will they go? To nothing? To self? To mankind that is becoming less trustworthy every day? To other gods?

Back in the early days of Israel, many were tempted to follow after other gods, even after all that had taken place since crossing the Jordan. In response to those were thinking about leaving, Joshua said the following…

“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” - Joshua 24:15 ESV

And that is where I stand. Even when tragedy strikes…even when my dreams are destroyed…even when it seems like God is nowhere to be found…”as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” His thoughts are higher than my thoughts, and His ways beyond my knowing. Therefore, I will say as Job of old said, “though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).

Come On Let’s Go!

Check out the stories of people who are saying, “Come on let’s go!” Maybe you can relate to Bernie, the Sony Records executive, or Jose, the cocaine dealer.

comeonletsgo

The God I serve is a good God, and He can change lives. He can make a difference in your life, just like those above. When He does, you will understand what Peter meant when he said, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.”

Already gone? Why not come home?

Leaving? Don’t!

 

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Christmas Is the Gospel

The first Sunday of December brought with it many sermons about Christmas, I am sure. Riverside Baptist Church was no exception. The message this morning had to do with Christmas, but especially the “good news” of Christmas…the Gospel.

You may never have the opportunity to visit our little church in Chattanooga, but today I am going to give you an opportunity to hear what I preached. The recording isn’t fancy, but it is understandable. I recorded it on my iPhone…the same one I used to record Mr. Monkey acting like a fool (or is that me?).

Pick up a Bible and turn to the book of Luke, chapter two, and follow along.

Listen: Christmas is the Gospel

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You Might Be a Sinner If…

I’m a Redneck

Yes, I confess. I am a redneck, especially considering how burned my neck is after standing out in the sun for five+ hours. Which leads me to ask a question of myself…why do I never remember sun screen unless I go to a beach?

And I also know that I am a redneck because Jeff Foxworthy told me so. If you remember, Foxworthy’s comic routine made famous the line, “You might be a redneck.” Here are some that I know have applied to me at least once over the 45 years of my life (as of tomorrow, the 17th).

You might be a redneck if…

  • You read the Auto Trader with a highlight pen.
  • Every socket in your house breaks a fire code.
  • The taillight covers of your car are made of red tape.
  • Directions to your house include “Turn off the  paved road.”
  • Going to the bathroom at night involves shoes and a  flashlight.
  • You use the term `over yonder’ more than once a month.

I’m a Sinner

Unlike a whole lot of people in this world (and in a world of their own), I can admit that I am a sinner. The only difference is that once I confessed my inability to change my nature, I traded my “filthy rags” for the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:9). Now, I’m still a sinner, but I’m am a saved sinner.

So, based on the actions of Adam and Eve in the third chapter of Genesis, I took a cue from Jeff Foxworthy and came up with my own list of “you might be’s.” From that list I preached a message entitled “You Might Be a Sinner If…

You might be a sinner if…

  •   You have ever talked to a Serpent – and taken its advice (v. 2).
  •   You know the difference between “Naked” and “Necked” (v. 7). Side Note: If you consider fig leaves appropriate attire, you might be a sinner.
  •  You feel like running when the law shows up (v. 8).
  •  God is searching for you, and not the other way around (v. 9).
  •  You feel self-conscious or defensive about anything you’ve ever done (v. 9-10).
  •  You ever play the “blame game” – Others, “The devil made me do it” (v. 11-13).
  •  You were born (Romans 5:12).

Change of Status

Some people try on their own to change their status in life. Sometimes rednecks move away from Redneckville in order to become a different person. But what they find out is that Redneckville never left their heart. They still have those same desires to grill Spam and fish with dynamite.

In the same way, many people think, once they finally realize they are sinners, that change can come with a simple change of atmosphere, or the turning over of a new fig leaf.

The fact is that sinners don’t become “saints” on their own. It takes outside intervention.

If we confess with our sins, he is faithful to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9

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Block Party 2012

What is Evangelism?

I know a whole lot of Christians who would disagree with what we did at Riverside Baptist, today. They would say, “You never preached, handed out a tract, or sang a gospel song. You call this outreach?

Why, yes I do.

You see, there are many in the Church who think that there is only one way to evangelize the lost and reach the back-slidden. They would never even consider having  an event where no one preached, handed out literature, or did a mock hell pit with straw-men torches. They would consider our event a failure.

But what is evangelism? Is there only one way of reaching people with the gospel? Is there only one way to show people you care about them?

An Old Adage

Painting faces.

I believe it was Zig Ziglar who said, “People will never care what you know until they know how much you care.” That is the absolute truth, too. And that was the mission of our block party.

There are so many who are not in church simply because they feel unloved and unwanted. They think that all Christians want to do is take up offerings and sing old hymns. The last thing they ever think is that we are real people who really care about their lives. If they could only know that we care, they might want to hear what we believe.

Instructions

As pastor of Riverside, I gave instructions to all who were to participate at this event. I did my best to make it perfectly clear what was expected of each of us.

  • Kids in a fire engine.

    First, this was not to be a church service. We invited people to a party, not communion.

  • Secondly, everything was to be free. No asking for donations. No admission. No charge for “stuff” that was done.
  • Next, it didn’t matter who showed up, they were to be talked to and befriended. I asked all of my congregation to show up, if for no other reason than to just sit and talk. People like to sit and talk about their lives to somebody who actually listens – and cares.
  • Have fun without any expectations.

This event was to be a seed-planting event. It was to be a time to let the community know that we are here. It was to be a time to let the Holy Spirit work through us in the way that we cared.

The Results

Eating inside where it was cool.

My legalistic friends (do I have any legalistic friends?) might like to ask me how things turned out. I am sure they would want to know how many got saved. I am sure that they would love to ask me at what point I stood up and shared the gospel with all the visitors. I am sure that they would love to point out that this event was a failure, since there was not one conversion.

I would totally disagree.

Our little church had scores of people show up today. Many of them did not attend any church. How do I know that? Because they told me so. They filled out cards in order to register for genuinely nice door prizes.

I got to talk with one young mother who wanted to go to church, but thought people would make fun of her tattoos.

I spoke with a young mother of four who wanted to go to church, but felt that her life was too messed up. Oh, really? I told her we would love to have her. I told her about how God’s grace and forgiveness was there for her.

The Expectations

What do I expect? I expect to see visitors at church in the morning. I expect our members to come to church tired, but with a feeling of hope. I expect people to show up that didn’t even come to the block party (because that’s how God works).

Smiling coming and going.

I expect kids on my bus to mention to their families that their bus driver is a preacher, but he is cool.

I expect people who never talked about this little church to talk about this little church and say, “Hey, those people are really nice. Why don’t we go hear that guy preach?”

I expect more things to come.

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