Category Archives: Christianity

My God Is Faithful, So Let’s Go to Church!

I am going to church this morning. Yep, that’s what I’m gonna do.

I’m not going as one who wants to show off…as one who wants to be seen…as one who deserves any kind of blessing, healing, or anointing…as one who deserves anything at all.

I’m not going because it’s expected of me, even though it is – I’m the pastor, you know.

I’m not going to prove anything to anyone, especially God, because He knows my heart; He knows me better than I know myself.

I am going to church this morning because my God is faithful, despite my unfaithfulness.

I am going to church this morning because my God deserved to be praised by me in front of others, because I love Him, and I’m not ashamed.

I am going to church this morning. Are you?

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Filed under Christianity, Church

Fear In the Christmas Story

Christmas Sermons

You may have never considered it, but it’s a challenge to come up with Christmas sermons year after year without being too repetitive. Sure, one could simply preach through Luke 2 every year, but a little creativity can go a long way.

This year I will preach a few sermons I have preached in other places, but they will be new to the folk here at Bethlehem Baptist. Here are the notes to one that I preached this past Sunday.

To Fear, Or Not to Fear

Did you know there are actually some honest-to-goodness phobias related to Christmas? Here are just a few.

  • Selaphobia – the fear of flashing Christmas lights.
  • Ghabhphobia – the fear of presents or gifts.
  • Krikophobia – the fear of church services.
  • Cyssanophobia – the fear of kissing under the mistletoe.
  • Festivalisophobia – a phobia of the whole Christmas thing.

Therefore, it shouldn’t be any wonder that we can find several places in the Bible where angels told people to “fear not.” Folks back in Bethlehem around 2,000 years ago probably didn’t have a fear of kissing under the mistletoe, but they had every reason to be frightened by talking beings clothed in bright light telling them about babies in mangers, virgin births, and wedding plans.

The story of Christ’s birth is associated with great joy, but it was also full of great initial fear. At least one person in the story (King Herod) never got over his phobias and paranoia, but he never heard an angel tell him “fear not,” either.

Below are my notes/outline from which I will deliver this morning’s sermon at South Soddy Baptist Church. When you have a moment, read the Scriptures I reference. See for yourself what the Spirit has to say.

“Fear In the Christmas Story”

1. Luke 1:12  Zacharias (a faithful, praying priest) was “troubled” (G5015, tarasso), and “fear”(5401, phobos) fell upon him.

The angel said, “Fear (phobeo) not…thy prayer is heard.”

2. Luke 1:29  Mary (a confused young girl) was “troubled” (1298, diatarasso)

The angel said, “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God.”

3. Matthew 1:20  The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph (hurt and scared) in a dream and said, “fear (phobeo) not to take Mary thy wife…”

4. Luke 1:65  “Fear (phobos) came on all that dwelt around” Zacharias and Elisabeth when Zacharias’ “mouth was opened…his tongue was loosed, and he spake, and praised God.”

5. Luke 2:9  The shepherds were “sore afraid” (phobeo phobos megas) …see also Daniel 10:7-8 and Revelation 1:17.

The angel said, “Fear (phobeo) not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

6. Matthew 2:3  Herod, because the wise men asked, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews,” was “troubled” (taraso), and all Jerusalem with him.

7. What should we take away from this today?

  1. True holiness will expose humanity’s sinfulness.
  2. Godly fear will be answered with peace, result in obedience, and respond with praise.
  3. The fear of Christmas will manifest itself in hate, a lack of peace and joy, and no hope.
  4. If you trust in Jesus, He promises the peace of Christmas year-round. John 14:27Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Boston Psychotherapist, Dr. Karen Ruskin (an agnostic) said: “[Some atheists are] not unlike the bully who pushes other people down in order to make himself feel better. There are atheists who have a very uncomfortable belief about [their non-belief] they feel the need to push other people down. There is an emotional confusion among some atheists that drives them to promote their product on others [to make them feel better about themselves]. – From an interview on Bill O’Reilly, 12/2/14

 

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Filed under Bible Study, Christianity, Christmas, Church, Preaching

10 Reasons Why Jesus Is Better Than Santa Claus

It wasn’t an anti-Santa sermon; it was pro-Jesus.

Yes, Sunday morning I did my best to keep things positive and upbeat, rather than pound Santa Claus into the ground as an antichrist-like idol that replaces our Savior as the primary focus of this season.

As a matter of fact, a 5-year-old could have sat in the service and not been dissuaded in his belief in the existence of Saint Nick.

The whole point of the sermon was to highlight Jesus Christ by contrasting Him with the legend of Santa Claus. Therefore, even if you still believed in the jolly old elf, there’d be no comparison with Emanuel, God with us.

If you can spare 39 minutes, click on the picture or the link below and listen to the audio of the sermon. It’s a lot more exciting than simply reading the outline – which I also provided (in case you want to follow along or use it – feel free).

“10 Reasons Why Jesus Is Better Than Santa”

 

1. Santa lives at the North Pole – JESUS is everywhere!
Psalm 139:7-8
“Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from the presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.”

Mat 28:19-20 – Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen.

2. Santa rides in a sleigh –JESUS walks on the water!
John 6:18-20
“And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew. So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see JESUS WALKING ON THE SEA, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid. But He saith unto them, ‘IT IS I; BE NOT AFRAID.’”

2Ki 2:11 – And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, [there appeared] a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

3. Santa comes but once a year –JESUS is our ever-present help!
Psalms 46:1
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Isa 41:10 – Fear thou not; for I [am] with thee: be not dismayed; for I [am] thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego

4. Santa fills your stockings with goodies –JESUS supplies all your needs!
Philippians 4:19
“But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

5. Santa secretly sneaks down your chimney uninvited –JESUS stands at your door and knocks, and then enters your heart when invited!
Revelation 3:20
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”

6. You have to wait in line to see Santa –JESUS is as close as the mention of His name!
Hebrews 4:16
“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

Galatians 4:6
“And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.”

7. Santa lets you sit on his lap –JESUS lets you rest in His arms!
Deuteronomy 33:27
“The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the EVERLASTING ARMS.”

8. Santa has a great laugh: “HO, HO, HO!” – But Jesus sings and dances!
Zep 3:17
The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love (so deep of an expression that it’s difficult to translate), he will joy over thee (to spin around) with singing (a ringing, joyful cry).

9. Santa says “You better not cry” –JESUS says “Cast all your cares on me for I care for you.”
1 Peter 5:7
“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”
He even collects our tears!

10. Santa is most famous for giving gifts to good boys and girls — JESUS was the gift to make bad boys and girls good!
John 3:16
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. ”

For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. – 2Co 5:21 KJV

*************************************************************

*Santa has a list, but so does the Lord: The Lamb’s Book of Life

Rev 21:27  – And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither [whatsoever] worketh abomination, or [maketh] a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Santa checks his twice a year… The Book of Life only once.

Rev 20:15 KJV – And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Remember #5? He’s at the door of your heart right now.

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Filed under Christianity, Christmas, Jesus

Don’t Be Immoral; Be Thankful

Title Undetermined

As I sit down to type this, I still don’t have a title for the post. Several things have crossed my mind, but nothing has clicked.

When I got to thinking about it, maybe that’s a good thing: having a title before the piece is written could affect what I write. So, I’m going to share what’s on my mind, then come up with a title – hopefully a catchy one.

Ephesians 5:23

I was reading through the Book of Ephesians and got to the passage you see in the photo (that’s actually from my Bible). The last part of verse 4 stood out to me so much that I grabbed a couple of colored pencils and marked it (yellow and orange).

But rather… What you have here is an either/or kinda thing. It’s a contrasting statement. Instead of doing one thing, do something else. And what is it that we are to do other than something else?

Give thanks.  Giving thanks is the contrasting opposite to six things described in verses 3 and 4. And what are those things?

  • fornication (πορνεία porneía): any illicit sexual activity outside of marriage
  • all uncleanness (ἀκαθαρσία akatharsía): in a moral sense: the impurity of lustful, luxurious, profligate living
  • covetousness (πλεονεξία pleonexía): the greedy desire to have more
  • filthiness (αἰσχρότης aischrótēs): obscenity
  • foolish talking (μωρολογία mōrología): stupid or rash conversation; like the conversation of a drunk man
  • jesting (εὐτραπελία eutrapelía): witty talk, usually with double, vulgar meanings 

Corruption and Comedy.  Notice, the first three (in verse 3) have to do with immoral actions and desires, while the last three (verse 4) have more to do with talking about it. Isn’t that what most comedians talk about?

Unbecoming.  The fact is that sexual immorality, along with even joking about it, does not “become” saints (Christians). It doesn’t look good on us. We can do better.

Beautiful thanks.  Giving thanks IS becoming! Giving thanks to God for all His blessings is a beautiful thing! It looks great on those who wear the name of Christ.

Why the Highlighted Part?

So why did I highlight the last part of verse 4? it’s because when I looked back at all the sexual sins that are so unbecoming, all of them have roots in ungratefulness.

Simply put, if we would just be thankful and content with what God has given us, then we wouldn’t try to seek out sinful activities to satisfy our longings. It really does make me think the last days are getting closer.

“For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,” – 2 Timothy 3:2 CSB

Let’s be thankful for what we have and leave what we don’t have alone.

It’s more becoming that way. 

(Now I have to think of a title…hmm.)

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Filed under Christian Living, Christianity, Culture Wars, Thanksgiving

My Pre-Salvation Testimony

Testimonies

I’m a Christian. So, when I talk about my testimony, I’m talking about my personal story, not what’s given from the witness stand.

You see, we Christians, particularly we church-going folk, like to talk about what God has done in our lives. We like telling others about where the Lord has brought us from, how he’s changed us, and what He’s currently doing in our lives. We like to “testify.”

But as I say that, it seems to me that more Christians than not are pretty silent about what God has done to transform them. To be honest, it’s been a long, long time since I’ve been to a “testimony service” where there’s no preaching, just people telling their stories – their testimonies.

The “Great” Testimonies

But maybe it’s because so often what gets the most press, so to speak, are the testimonies that wow the audience, the “great” testimonies of how God delivered a horrible sinner and turned him into a saint. …Yeah, I know, that’s what salvation is, but work with me for a moment

What people really want to hear are the salacious details of debauchery and crime, the drugs and alcohol, the millions blown on a life of sin … you know, sort of like Kanye … and THEN how God miraculously saved them from all the excitement.  You don’t draw a crowd with a boring testimony like, “I was saved as a small child and lived a relatively God-honoring life the last 40 years.”

Why would the average Christian want to stand up in front of people and watch them yawn? For the most part, a lot of people who are born again by faith in Jesus Christ think their story isn’t worth telling, at least not worth making a big deal.

That’s why I want to share, for the very first time, my pre-salvation testimony… to encourage the average believer who’s never been a murderer, a drug dealer, a dope addict, a wifebeater, a famous musician, or a politician.

My Story

I’ve written before about my life after God saved my soul, but I’ve never written about what I was like before I gave my heart to Jesus. I didn’t want to give the devil too much credit or make my past life look attractive to those who might be tempted by the depravity to which I was bound.

Honestly, some people talk about their lives before Christ like salvation was only something they resigned to. It’s like: “I had everything money could buy – women, drugs, fast cars, airplanes, houses on the beach, and a modeling contract – but then I got saved, and now I go to church.

But not me… I was a true sinner, lost and on my way to hell, and I’m glad Jesus saved me!

Before I got saved, I was an immature, unpredictable, maladjusted mess. For a few years, I was in such a world of my own that nobody could understand me; my vocabulary was horrible, worse than a sailor’s. My language was so bad I’d even make up words to express the neediness inside.

For at least a year I drank all the time. Rarely ate a bite of food.

I never cared about my own well-being, but lived every day without any thought of life or death. I took every risk, broke every rule, and in trouble with authority on a regular, sometimes daily basis.

Before Jesus saved me, I was self-centered, self-serving, and entitled; I felt everything should be done for me, that I shouldn’t have to do anything for myself. For a couple of years, I didn’t even try.

I was like the homeless in San Fransisco; I’d defecate anywhere and anytime I wanted. Once, while attending a party at my parent’s house, I literally walked into the middle of the living room where the church people were sitting, and urinated into an ashtray on the coffee table!

The face of an unrepentant sinner full of unholy potential.

I took advantage of everyone who loved me, especially my mother. Fortunately, I had good parents who loved me through those unredeemed years, even though it seemed like every paycheck of theirs was meant to keep me alive.

That is why I could never thank God enough for what He did when He saved me on September 26, 1973… when I was only six years old!

God spared the world from what I could have become.

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Filed under Christian Living, Christianity, Church, Humor, self-worth, Witnessing, worship

Christian Blogging: Just Sowing Seed

We plant and water seeds of hope, love, joy, and grace.

We sow these seeds all over the world!

Rarely will we see a harvest, but the Holy Spirit knows how to take that divinely inspired “click” and turn it into new life, or at least encourage one.

It will be interesting and wonderful to one day see what God was able to do with the crazy medium of Christian blogging.

To HIM be the glory!

flowers

Photo credit: Katie Marie Baker

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The Table Was Broken – Something WILL Happen!

This morning I was looking on YouTube to find some background music to play while I studied. I usually select Christian piano instrumentals by Dan Mussleman (click here for his channel)

However, this time I saw a 5-hour video with background music; it was a Chronicles of Narnia snow-covered wood theme.

Now, I eventually went back to the piano music; the Narnia music got a little repetitive after an hour. But before I did, I read a comment in the comment section. It was a quote from the 15th chapter of “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.”

“I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been – if you’ve been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you – you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing was ever going to happen again.” (15.8) – C. S. Lewis

When I read that quote and thought of what I was going to be doing in a little while, I realized it was a “God moment.”

I had been praying about what to share with a grieving widow. I know the Bible gives us hope and assures us that we will see our loved ones again, at least those who have put their faith in Christ. Yet, I wanted something that could specifically address the time in between…the time after the funeral…the time of adjusting…the time when things feel like they’re over, like nothing wonderful will ever happen again.

This was it! This was what I was looking for! 

Susan and Lucy had just watched as Aslan has been humiliated, bound, and then stabbed to death by the White Witch. They had to listen to the rejoicing of their enemies as the beloved Lion breathed his last breath. Then, alone, they cried as time meaninglessly ticked by.

A loved one was dead. Was this the end of story? The end?

NO! 

The stone table cracked! He broke the curse! Aslan was alive!

Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. – Romans 6:8-9

Something WILL happen!

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Filed under Christianity, Faith, Future, Life/Death, music