Category Archives: Jesus

Praying With Patrick

As you wind down from a weekend of celebrating St. Patrick Day, pause for a moment and read a portion of the real St. Patrick’s prayer, one he prayed every day.

May it be our prayer, also.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. – Philippians 1:21

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Christian Unity, Christianity, Faith, Jesus, worship

“My Jesus I Love Thee:” Sermon In Song

Song Sermons

One thing I love doing is taking old hymns and turning them into sermon outlines. Frankly, many of the old songs of the church were nothing more than condensed sermons put to music. They were not only meant to give us a means to sing praise to God, but to learn of His character, of his goodness and grace.

Last week I explained to the congregation at the church where I pastor that the songs we sing should be known and understood. I mean, how profitable is it if we stand as a group and sing something that makes no sense? What kind of corporate praise can we offer to our God if we cannot relate to the lyrics? It is so much better when we can all stand and sing from the bottom of our hearts the words of a hymn that means something vital to our soul!

An Outline

The following is an outline which I will be using soon, maybe even this Sunday. The outline is based on the song “My Jesus I Love Thee” by William Featherston (1864).

Please note, Featherston wrote this poem when he was between the ages 11 and 16 (he died age 27, long before the song became well-known). Adoniram Judson Gordon (founder of Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) added the melody. How many teens do you know these days who could write something like this?

On a different note, how many teens could God use if they would only let Him?

“My Jesus I Love Thee”

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. 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)
  4. 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)

I would love to know what you think of this, especially after you read the biblical references.

What do you think of topical sermons like this? Expository preaching is something I regularly do, but I also think we need to mix up the delivery styles every so often. Doing it this way – a song sermon – is not only a good way to explain a song, but doing so with Scripture helps reinforce the truth the next time the song is sung.

Head’s up, South Soddy Baptist! You might be hearing this sermon tomorrow morning 🙂

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Filed under Bible Study, God, Jesus, Love of God, music, poetry, Preaching, worship

Wisdom vs Knowledge 

There’s nothing wrong with getting an education – I have one. However, we should first desire to learn of Christ, the Wisdom of God, rather than knowledge for knowledge’s sake. An ignorant wise man is far more profitable than an educated fool.  – A. Baker

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Filed under Jesus, wisdom

Is It Enough to be God-Centered?

The Prayer

A while back I asked the Lord to make me a “characteristic example of a life centered on God.” But as soon as I prayed that prayer, another thought came into my mind…

Maybe being “God-centered” is not enough.

God-Centered Living

You may be asking, “What is wrong with that?” Well, there is nothing wrong with living a God-centered life, generally speaking. On the other hand, there is more to being a Christian than being “God-centered.”

“Outrageous!” “That’s blasphemy,” you say. Well, is it? Stop and think about it for just a moment. Start with thinking about what being “God-centered” actually means.

Does someone have to be a true Christian in order to live a God-centered life? You may think so, at first, but there may be a few church folk fooling themselves. Don’t believe me? Read what Paul wrote to the Church…

“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” – 2 Corinthians 13:5 KJV

Why would the Apostle tell church people to “examine” and “prove” whether or not they were in the faith? Could it be that there were some who were going through all the motions, but were never converted, never born anew? Could it have been possible that there were some doing all the right things, for the right reasons, but not right with God? He says that the answer to the test will be whether or not “Jesus Christ is in you.”

Can people live God-centered lives and still be lost? To help answer this question, consider the following people (names are fictitious). Do their actions guarantee salvation?

  • Bob goes to church every day the doors are open, including every other function on every other day
  • Henry gives 20% of his income and 10% of his time to the church. If there is a need, ask Henry for help.
  • Margaret goes to a Fundamental church, has the right translation of the Bible, and never wears pants – ever.
  • Mary would never say a dirty word, tell an off-color joke, or even permit foul language in her presence.
  • Sharon put aside marriage and gave her life to helping orphans on the streets of Mumbai, India.
  • Scott and Karen have Bible studies in their home, take the kids to Sunday School, and even have gold crosses in every room of their home, not to mention on their necks.
  • A rich young ruler keeps all the commandments (not just the Big 10) from his youth.

If these people were to examine themselves, as Paul asked, what might be missing? Colossians 3:23 says, “And whatsoever ye do, do [it] heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” Is it not possible that someone could do everything for God’s glory (live a God-centered life), but still die without Christ?

What are your thoughts?

Have you “proven” whether you “be in the faith?”

Do you know of Scripture that supports a “God-centered” life being proof of salvation?

The Realization

When contemplated what I had asked of God (to make me characterized by a God-centered life), the mental picture of a wheel came to mind. It was the picture of a wheel with a center hub and spokes, much like a bicycle or wagon wheel. As I thought about this, however, something seemed wrong. Something seemed almost selfish.

You see, when you look at a wheel, especially the kind with spokes and a hub, it may not be obvious at first, but there are parts. In such a wheel I can distinguish the spokes from the hub, and the rim from the spokes. I can even see that there are spaces in between the spokes that are empty and not attatched or filled with anything – just empty. If God is supposed to be represented by the hub, the center of the wheel, then the wheel is not really all about the hub, but the wheel itself.

It’s about Jesus

The Apostle Paul told the Athenians (Acts 17:28) that in Jesus we “live, and move, and have our being.” In a letter to the Galatians he said “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20). It would seem to me that Jesus should be more than our “hub.” He should be our “ALL.”

That is when I thought of a different picture. This time I imagined a solid circle – a disk. Unlike the other picture where God was the center of everything, yet separate, here was a picture of wholeness. In this picture, if my life is this type of wheel, people won’t notice anything about me, just Christ.

All of the spokes (my life, my dreams, my habits and hobbies, my talents, and my desires); the empty spaces (the areas of my life that seem irrelevant); and the rim (the total expanse of who I am – my identity, my sphere of influence); each part is now inseparable from the life and power of Christ who lives within me.

May they see Jesus

So, I no longer want to be characterized as a man with a God-centered life. I want to be a man characterized by the life of Christ. When people look at me, I don’t want them to say, “Hey, that guy really knows how to serve God,” or “Hey, that guy really loves the Lord.” Even though there is nothing wrong with those things, how much better would it be if they could say, “Hey, I met this guy… at first I thought he was that man they call Jesus.

Remember, it was to the Church at Corinth that Paul said, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” There must have been some hearing this letter read who were deceived. Don’t be like them. Make sure your life is in Christ, and He is in you.

May your activities be “God-centered;” but your life “Christ-filled.” May the world see Jesus in you.

For Discussion:

Can you distinguish between a God-centered and a Christ-filled life? What characteristics would you expect to see?

Do you think someone could live a God-centered life and still be unsaved?

Your comments would be appreciated. 

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Filed under Christian Living, Christianity, God, Jesus, Theology

Not a Failure

Regardless the success of his contemporaries, no man is a failure whose life is a positive reflection of Jesus Christ.  – A. Baker 

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Filed under Christian Living, Christianity, Depression, Jesus, self-worth, Struggles and Trials

How We Know Jesus Was a Gift from God

A Christmas Sermon Outline

Have you ever been given a gift, or seen one under the Christmas tree, that needed no card or tag informing you who sent it? Maybe the meticulous wrapping was a clue to who the wrapper was.

I know Christmas is still 24 days or so away, but some of you might need something to preach or teach between now and then. Therefore, please accept as my gift of an outline I prepared, “How We Know Jesus Was a Gift from God.”

Please, feel free to use it 🙂

“How We Know Jesus Was a Gift from God”

I.  Because of When THIS Gift Was Given

·   Galatians 4:4 “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His son…”

II.  Because of How THIS Gift Was Wrapped

·   Luke 2:12 “And this shall be a sign unto you, you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

·   Philippians 2:7 “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:”

·   Hebrews 4:15 KJV – “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as [we are, yet] without sin.”

III.  Because THIS Gift Was Truly Free

·   John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He GAVE…”

·   Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace…it is a GIFT of God, NOT of works…”

·   Romans 3:24 “Being justified FREELY by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

IV.  Because THIS Gift Was Exactly What We Needed

A.  To Bring Us Life – Luke 2:11 “Unto you is born, in the city of David, a SAVIOR…”

B.  To Bring Us Joy – Lamentations 3:22-23 “His mercies are new every morning”

V.  Because of the Love that Went Into It.

·   1 John 4:9 “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.”

VI.  Conclusion:

A.  Accept the Gift of Jesus

B.  Give Thanks! – 2 Cor. 9:15 “Thanks be to God for this unspeakable Gift!”

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Filed under Bible Study, Christmas, Jesus, Preaching

Jesus Memes and the Comma-Challenged

imageIn a recent Facebook post a friend of a friend posted a meme created by John Fugelsang, the actor, Huffington Post contributor, and former co-host of America’s Funniest Home Videos (1998-99). The meme was posted in an effort to show how that Jesus Christ, if He were politically active in today’s America, would more likely be a liberal Democrat than a conservative Republican.

Mr. Fugelsang uses his meme (if he was actually the one who created it) to state ten assertions regarding who Jesus was and what He believed. For ease of reading and future commentary by me, I’ve listed them below (punctuation intact).

According to John Fugelsang (and, by extension, the friend of a friend on Facebook) Jesus was a:

  1. Radical nonviolent revolutionary
  2. Who hung around with lepers hookers and crooks;
  3. Wasn’t American and never spoke English;
  4. Was anti-wealth anti-death penalty anti-public prayer (M 6:5);
  5. But was never anti-gay, never mentioned abortion or birth control,
  6. Never called the poor lazy,
  7. Never justified torture,
  8. Never fought for tax cuts for the wealthiest Nazarenes,
  9. Never asked a leper for a copay;
  10. And was a long-haired brown-skinned homeless community-organizing anit-slut-shaming Middle Eastern Jew.

Before I go any further, I must address Mr. Fugelsang’s punctuation. You see, I am not a grammar Nazi, nor am I a punctuation prodigy, but sometimes a point can better be made if one would pay attention to the proper use of commas. For example, without commas it could be inferred that Jesus hung around with the hooks and crooks which belonged to lepers. As for “anti-gay anti-death penalty anti-public prayer,” that simply makes my head hurt.

Now, to the ten assertions…

Radical nonviolent revolutionary.  First, how many radical non-violent revolutionaries are there? I guess they exist here and there, but are they really that common? I mean, once you put radical and revolutionary together, specifically with the qualifier of “liberal,” how many are not violent? Jeez! However, that’s only based upon my own observations, so I’m happy to be proven wrong.

However, the question that ought to be asked first is: “Was Jesus really a revolutionary?”  I don’t believe He was. For one thing, most revolutionaries are focused on bringing about change within a political system – Jesus’ purpose in coming had nothing to do with any political system. Then secondly, it is clear from Jesus’ own words that He did not come to change or do away with anything, only to fulfill it.

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” – Matthew 5:17 KJV

[He] hung around with lepers, hookers, and crooks (punctuation added).  One of the biggest misconceptions about Jesus is that because He chose not to stone anyone for things like adultery (John 8:11) He must have had no problem with their actions. The problem with that assertion is that it totally avoids his command to “go and sin no more.” Yes, Jesus ate with the sinners, but that’s not to be construed that He “hung around” with them. Jesus came for a purpose, to “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10), not to condone their lifestyles and avoid confrontation. No, Jesus ate with sinners so that they might be saved!

And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard [it], he saith unto them, 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. – Mark 2:16-17 KJV

[He] wasn’t American and never spoke English.  Except for the most diehard KJV-only-ist, and one who might never have had even the most basic of history lessons, most would agree. This is pretty much a given. However, the assertion being made is that Jesus is thought of by conservatives as being pro-American and anti-everything else, and that is mostly untrue and unfair. Sure, there are some kooks who believe America is the New Jerusalem, but there are others out there, such as Louis Farrakhan, who believe aliens live in a spaceship and are circling Earth as we speak. Neither represents the majority, I hope.

Actually, the only think that we must be concerned with is whether or not our nation (whichever nation that is) is on the side of the Lord, for His Kingdom is not of this world.

When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the LORD’s army.” At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?” – Joshua 5:13-14 NLT

[He] was anti-wealth anti-death penalty anti-public prayer (M 6:5).  Oh boy. May I break this down into sub points? I mean, really, commas would have been helpful.

  1. Anti-wealth. I’d really like to know where Fugalsang got this. My guess is that he got it from passages like Luke 12:15 or Matthew 6:19-21. In the first Jesus warns us to guard against greed, while the second advises us to store up treasure in heaven, not down here where it can corrupt and/or be stolen. Even more, Fugalsang may be thinking of how Jesus is described as one having no place to lay His head (Luke 9:58), or that passage where Jesus says it’s easier for a camel than a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle (Mark 10:25).However, the fact is that it wasn’t wealth that Jesus had a problem with; it was greed, envy, selfishness, and faith in one’s own money and not in God.

    The reason Jesus spent more time with the poor than the wealthy was because the wealthy more often had hard hearts (much like today). The rich tend to put their faith in their possessions and positions more than in God, so why would they respect the One who divested Himself of the riches of heaven and humbled Himself, even to the death of the Cross (Philippians 2:8)?You see, Jesus wasn’t anti-wealth; He was concerned only with what men do with it (Matthew 25) and the condition of their hearts: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). For crying out loud, the Church is forever in debt to Christians who used their wealth (while remaining wealthy) to feed, clothe, house, and instruct the poor of the world. It was even a rich woman in Thyatira named Lydia who used her wealth to house the early Church in her town (Acts 16:14-40).

  2. Anti-death penalty. Again, this must be one of those derivations from John 8:11, the passage where Jesus rescued a woman caught in the act of adultery. The only problem is that this passage does not assert that Jesus disagreed with the law, but rather opposite. Jesus gave every opportunity for her accusers to carry out the death penalty which was prescribed by law, but none of them were able to stand without hypocrisy. Jesus knew they were trying to set Him up, not to mention the fact that there was an un-mentioned man involved. Jesus took the opportunity to take the Law beyond where it could go on its own and showed mercy and grace.
  3. Anti-public prayer (M 6:5). Seriously? First, you don’t abbreviate the book of Matthew with a capital “M”. I mean, there are other books in the Bible that start with “M,” such as Mark, Malachi, and Micah. I guess since we’re talking about Jesus we’re supposed to know the one to which he was referring.Secondly, to use Matthew 6:5 as a basis for condemning public prayer is to admit one has little understanding of context. The context in this passage of Scripture was one which dealt with pride and hypocrisy. Jesus was addressing those who did good deeds and prayed verbose prayers all for the purpose of being seen and praised by men. That is why He said of the hypocrites, “They have their reward.”

So, what is the assertion being made with this point? That people should not be allowed to pray in public? That freedom of speech should not include two Christian school football teams being allowed to use a public address system to say a prayer before a game? – Yes that just happened.

But was never anti-gay, never mentioned abortion or birth control.  The whole “anti-gay” thing has been argued over and over and much has been devoted to it, yet liberals will only hear what they want to hear; therefore, I will devote very little time to it in this essay. However, saying that because Jesus never mentioned abortion or birth control means these are non-issues and would have been no concern to Him is ludicrous. It would be just as easy to say that governments shouldn’t restrict unnecessary use of antibiotics because Jesus never mentioned Penicillin.

Let’s save some time and get straight to the big theological issue in the room: Jesus is the second Person of the Trinity, the Word of God made flesh, Emmanuel (“God with us” – Matt. 1:23). What was said about homosexuality in the Old Testament are actually the same position Jesus took, for He and the Father are One (John 1:1-2, 14; 17:11).  The only difference is that Jesus came to show that the strict requirements of the Law could only cause men to realize their own sinfulness in the light of Holy God, not save them. Jesus came to show God was merciful and wanted to graciously save men through putting their faith in Jesus. If you divest Jesus from His divinity then all you have is a crazy man who thought He was God and died for nothing.

As for birth control (speaking of contraception), there is no mention of it in the Bible, most likely because it was commonly understood that children were a gift from God (Gen. 4:1; 33:5) and the man with a “full quiver” was blessed (Psalm 127:5). With regard to abortion, it is God who gives life and considers us persons even before we are born (Psalm 139:13-14; Jeremiah 1:5), so I believe Jesus would have viewed elective abortion as murder. After all, it was Jesus’ own cousin, John the Baptist, who “leaped” in his mother’s womb when (Luke 1:41) when she greeted the pregnant Mary.

[He] never called the poor lazy. No, I don’t think He did. However, the Bible (the Word of God – See John 1) does say the following:

  • By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” – Genesis 3:19 ESV
  • For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. – 2 Thessalonians 3:10 KJV

[He] never justified torture. That’s probably true – can’t argue with that. Of course, Jesus wasn’t a military leader who’s task it was to protect the lives of millions of his fellow citizens, either. Actually, Jesus was the One who gave His life so that others might live. Yet, He also said to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16). We will all have to answer to God for our actions.

[He] never fought for tax cuts for the wealthiest Nazarenes.  This is actually correct! Jesus never did fight for tax cuts for the wealthy. However, it is equally true that Jesus never fought to reduce taxes, either – even for the poor. In Matthew 22:17-21 Jesus made it perfectly clear that we are to pay taxes when taxes are due, and that even goes for the least of us. He said, “Give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Later, speaking to average Christians, the Apostle Paul wrote:

And for this reason you pay taxes, since the authorities are God’s public servants, continually attending to these tasks. Pay your obligations to everyone: taxes to those you owe taxes, tolls to those you owe tolls, respect to those you owe respect, and honor to those you owe honor.  – Romans 13:6-7 HCSB

[He] never asked a leper for a copay.  No, I don’t guess He ever did that, either; He just healed them. The last time I checked, neither Republicans nor Democrats are God (even though some think they are) and somebody has to pay somebody for adequate medical services (therefore, refer back to Romans 13:6-7…not just the rich should pay).

And finally, [Jesus] was a long-haired, brown-skinned, homeless, community-organizing, anti-slut-shaming middle eastern Jew.  Well, at least Mr. Fugelsang got the brown-skinned, homeless (technically speaking), anti-slut-shaming middle eastern Jew parts right. The rest, along with the usual lack of commas, he stereotypically got wrong.

Nazarenes (sometimes called Nazarites) were from Nazareth; Nazarites were those who took a vow not to cut their hair, drink wine, etc. Jesus never took a Nazarite vow. But, then again, Mr. Fugalsang is not a Bible scholar, only a political comedian who writes for the Huffpo and creates comma-challenged memes.

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Filed under Abortion, America, Apologetics, Bible Study, Jesus, politics