Category Archives: Christianity

Losing Track of Time

I’m sitting at the kitchen table at 6:26 in the morning. If today had been a work day, I’d be late. However, it’s Saturday morning, I’ve been awake off and on throughout the night, and I’m recovering from surgery. …Not morning as usual.

Tuesday was the day I had rotator cuff surgery on my right shoulder, plus an additional procedure on my left hand. Since then, my nights and days have blended together to the point I’m rarely sure what day it is, much less the time. I tend to want to sleep when others are awake, and wake up when there’s not even a decent infomercial on TV.

This morning I woke up and realized I needed to text someone about an important issue. Yet, when I looked at my phone it was 5 a.m.

I nodded off.

Then, thinking enough time had passed in order to avoid an awkwardly-early communication, I picked up my phone once again… 5:12 a.m.

Seriously, this was becoming frustrating! My sickness, my brokenness, my wounds, my recovery has twisted and distorted my understanding of day and night, of time itself!

At 6:15, I thought of sin.

In Mark 2:17 Jesus said: “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Then, I thought of how often our spiritual brokenness must mess with our ability to truly appreciate what time it actually is.

In the above verse, Jesus made sin analogous to being sick. As the Great Physician, He can diagnose the problem and provide the remedy. But once the surgery has taken place, and even though we are in recovery, do we not still have difficulty telling the time?

We may know Christmas is around the corner, but sometimes our personal aches and pains negatively affect our preparing for the big day. Even worse, our tendency to rest improperly, or too much, may cause us to miss an opportunity to communicate something eternally important.

It’s now 7:20. My left thumb is tired, and so am I. I’m going back to bed…I think.

And I’ve still got those cursed hiccups!

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Filed under Christianity, Future, General Observations

“They are killing us”

This morning, as we go to church to worship our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and thank Him for entering this world as a child, born of a virgin, only to one day die for us that we might receive the gift of eternal life through faith in Him, think on the following message I received this morning from a pastor friend in Pakistan…

“Brother we are dying here
they are killing us
please pray for us”

That was it…just three lines of text on Facebook Messenger.

Inside Bethel Memorial Methodist Church, Quetta, Pakistan

Earlier today a Methodist Church was attacked by two suicide bombers while the congregants were inside celebrating the birth of Christ. The attack was meant to be a message, one that was meant to strike fear. For some, I’m sure it worked. Thankfully, neither bomber was able to get inside the building, and only one was able to blow himself up at the entrance, so only around 10 people (including children) died, as opposed to the 400 who were in attendance.

But how does this affect my day? How would it affect yours? Are you even planning on attending a worship service? While there are Christians who are attending corporate worship services in places where their spiritual enemies are literally trying to kill them, do we take advantage of the complete freedom in America to congregate, or do we shun it? “Forsake” it?

How does the above message from my brother in Pakistan affect my preaching? My worship? Do I go about my day as usual? Or, do I recommit myself to the seriousness of the call to “take up your cross and follow me”?

“Brother we are dying here.” How long before we start dying HERE? With Islam on the rise, and with very few who are willing to challenge its destructive works-based theology for fear of being labeled “islamophobic,” how long before suicide bombings become more common-place than shootings?

“Please pray for us.” How long before we realize ALL of us stand in need of prayer? How long before we repent of our Laodicean lukewarmness? How long before we take seriously the calls from our brothers and sisters enduring persecution and pray for them? In reality, we should be asking them to pray FOR US!

Our churches will be relatively empty, today. Our post-modern, social-justice-minded, hedonistic society will go about this morning without a thought of God, while those who call themselves “Christian” will blend in with them. The relatively few who do attend worship services will hardly consider the rare privilege of worshipping in peace without the fear of being blown to bits while singing “Silent Night.”

Yet, somewhere in another land, there will be followers of Jesus Christ who will not be intimidated or deterred, bravely walking into proverbial lions’ dens. As the Hebrew children who refused to bow before Nebuchadnezzar’s statue, there will be some who will pray for deliverance from the furnace, but continue to worship Jesus and not bow down to Allah, even if the fire is inevitable (Daniel 3:18).

There are many who are dying. How are you living?

I’m going to church, now.

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Filed under America, Christianity, Christmas, Church, worship

Don’t Fret Over the Future of the Church

It’s late, and I’m already lying in bed, but I just finished the evening reading from Spurgeon’s devotional (“Morning and Evening”).

The whole of the reading was worth many “amens!”, but this one, brief portion was exceptionally encouraging. I couldn’t help but share it with you.

“You need not fret concerning the weakness of the church of God at any moment; there may be growing up in obscurity the valiant reformer who will shake the nations: Chrysostoms may come forth from our Ragged Schools, and Augustines from the thickest darkness of London’s poverty. The Lord knows where to find his servants. He hath in ambush a multitude of mighty men, and at his word they shall start up to the battle; “for the battle is the Lord’s,” and he shall get to himself the victory.”

Amen!

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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 couple of sermons I have preached in other places, but they will be new to the folk here at South Soddy Baptist. The first Christmas sermon of the year will be based on the notes I’m going to share with you this morning.

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

One Week After FBC Sutherland Springs, Will You Go to Church?

From my Facebook page this morning…

One week ago nearly half a congregation was murdered in church. Sadly, it won’t take a terrorist to scare people away, today – just the weather, the hard pew, or the encouragement to worship a God other than self. Frankly, any excuse will do. But I guarantee you one thing, I’d rather stand before the Lord one day as one of those in Texas than one who died peacefully while shunning the very commandment of God to “forsake not the assembling of yourselves together…”

Remember how your parents or grandparents used to tell you to clean your plate or eat your vegetables because there are starving children somewhere who would love to have what you’re eating? Well, there are millions who would love to have the freedom you enjoy to worship in a church without fear of being arrested, bombed, burned, beheaded, or shot by their own government. To waste the blessing you’ve been given is to dishonor all those who’d give their lives for what you care so little about…

And, frankly, it won’t go unnoticed when we all stand before the Savior and give an account, either.

Pastor Jacques Houeto in the middle of his burned-out church in 2015.

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Bedtime Prayer of the Saved by Grace

“Now I lay me down to sleep.

I KNOW the Lord my soul will keep.

And if I should die before I wake,

Then, HALLELUJAH! That would take the cake!

Thank you Jesus! Amen! Praise God!”

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Filed under Christianity, Faith, grace, iPosts, Life/Death, salvation

Solas In the Sole

‘O Sole Mio

When I am driving my school bus, alone and no children to listen, I sometimes sing aloud certain songs to keep me alert. Sometimes I sing songs I know well, and other times I make up lyrics to fill in the gaps for songs I know little of.

One particular song is “‘O Sole Mio,” or “It’s Now Or Never.” I will usually sing to myself and use the words interchangeably, adding in what I know of the chorus of “It’s Now Or Never,” then make up the rest from there. The whole idea is to sing loudly, operatically, in order to keep the blood and oxygen flowing, but sometimes my own lyrics crack me up, especially when I expand on the sexually predatorial characteristics of Elvis’ version.

Credit: Wikipedia

Actually, the older (1898) Neopolitan song has nothing to do with the English-language hit recorded by Elvis Presley in 1960. ‘O sole mio actually translates into “my sunshine,” while It’s now or never translates into: “I’m so turned on by your looks that we should have a one-night-stand…I’m outa here come daylight.”

So why am I telling you this? I’m glad you asked.

Sole is the Italian word for “sun.” Luce del sole is Italian for “sunlight.” So, by way of a totally unrelated personal story, I want to segue into something that should be important to us all… I want to shine some luce del sole on the Solas 🙂

Yes, it’s Reformation Sunday (Reformation Day is Oct. 31st). It’s time for the Solas’ day in the sole!

The Five Solas

Sola is the Latin word for “alone,” and for a practically 500 years non-Catholics (such as myself) have held five particular “solas” near and dear to our theological hearts.

1. Sola scriptura: “Scripture alone”
2. Sola fide: “faith alone”
3. Sola gratia: “grace alone”
4. Solo Christo: “Christ alone”
5. Soli Deo gloria: “to the glory of God alone”

What do they mean? Well, nothing Elvis Presley was singing about, that’s for sure. The following can be found on a great website whose link is already on my sidebar, GotQuestions.org.

Sola scriptura emphasizes the Bible alone as the source of authority for Christians. By saying, “Scripture alone,” the Reformers rejected both the divine authority of the Roman Catholic Pope and confidence in sacred tradition. Only the Bible was “inspired by God” (2 Peter 1:20-21) and “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Anything taught by the Pope or in tradition that contradicted the Bible was to be rejected. Sola scriptura also fueled the translation of the Bible into German, French, English, and other languages, and prompted Bible teaching in the common languages of the day, rather than in Latin.

Sola fide emphasizes salvation as a free gift. The Roman Catholic Church of the time emphasized the use of indulgences (donating money) to buy status with God. Good works, including baptism, were seen as required for salvation. Sola fide stated that salvation is a free gift to all who accept it by faith (John 3:16). Salvation is not based on human effort or good deeds (Ephesians 2:9).

Sola gratia emphasizes grace as the reason for our salvation. In other words, salvation comes from what God has done rather than what we do. Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Solo Christo (sometimes listed as Solus Christus, “through Christ alone”) emphasizes the role of Jesus in salvation. The Roman Catholic tradition had placed church leaders such as priests in the role of intercessor between the laity and God. Reformers emphasized Jesus’ role as our “high priest” who intercedes on our behalf before the Father. Hebrews 4:15 teaches, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus is the One who offers access to God, not a human spiritual leader.

Soli Deo gloria emphasizes the glory of God as the goal of life. Rather than striving to please church leaders, keep a list of rules, or guard our own interests, our goal is to glorify the Lord. The idea of soli Deo gloria is found in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

The five solas of the Protestant Reformation offered a strong corrective to the faulty practices and beliefs of the time, and they remain relevant today. We are called to focus on Scripture, accept salvation by grace through faith, magnify Christ, and live for God’s glory.  © Copyright 2002-2017 Got Questions Ministries

Never heard of the five solas of the Protestant Reformation before today? Well, I hope this shed some sunlight – luce del sole – on them for you 😉

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