Tag Archives: Religion

“What Must I Do…?”

The Philippian jailer (Acts 16:30) asked Paul and Silas a question that is still asked today, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” In response that question, I have written the following, simple post and included it in a permanent page, Eternal Life. Please, take the time to read it, then consider what you read. This is what I believe, and I’ve staked my eternity on it.

“Now is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It won’t last forever. We must take it or leave it.” – C. S. Lewis

My Story

Circa 1973-75

One day, when I was a boy, I took the chance. I placed all my eggs in one basket (and we’re not talking Easter eggs). The fate of my eternal soul, as much as I could grasp the idea, was placed in the control of a Man I had never seen in person, nor heard with my ear, but one I believed loved me and died for me.

Now that I’m older, I can use words I never knew back then, such as justification, atonement, and propitiation. But the simple truth that led me to surrender my heart and soul to this Man can still be explained with simple words…words written thousands of years ago… “For God so love the world, that He gave…

What did God give?

Do you know what a gift is? Sure you do. It is something you give to another when you care. It is something you give with no expectation of payment in return. It is best when it is something that required some sacrifice, but it was a joy to purchase. It means even more when you know the gift was something needed, but unexpected.

A gift is something that is received. I have a friend that has no more family, so for Christmas he goes out and buys things for his self, wraps them, and places them under a Christmas tree. On Christmas morning, all alone, he opens them. How sad is that? Those are not real gifts – he bought them!

According to God, as written in His Word, the Bible, eternal life is a gift. That’s right, a gift. In the letter to the Romans we read that the “gift of God is eternal life…” (Romans 6:23). God is offering it to you for the taking. He is offering it to you for free! But it wasn’t cheep. It cost Him a whole lot – it cost him his Son.

God loved the world so much, that He gave his only begotten Son…” (John 3:16). Why did God give his Son? Well, so that you and I could be rescued from the eternal penalty we owe for our sins – our breaking of God’s laws. Our lies, our lusts, our broken promises, you name it: all of these things are sins. Each one deserved separation from a holy God. But God “so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son (Jesus), that whosoever [puts his whole faith] in Him, would not perish (be separated from God), but have eternal life.

Why did He give?

All men and women have broken God’s laws. And even though you may have not actually committed murder, or robbed a bank, or abused a child, James 2:10 (RSV) says, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” So, you see, we need a Savior. We need the Gift that God is offering. Won’t you accept it?

The whole verse in Romans (6:23) goes like this: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” This is why C.S. Lewis said those words above. Eternal life is a gift, but it will not be offered indefinitely. You see, all of us will die, one day. Hebrews 9:27 says that it “is appointed unto man once to die; but after this, the judgment.” One day we must either give an account for our lawbreaking, or rest in the fact that our account has already been settled by putting our faith in Jesus.

“From death to life”

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24 NIV).

Jesus also said, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36 NIV). And to those that put their faith in Jesus, he said, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any [man] pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28 NIV).

The Apostle John wrote, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12 NIV).

The Invitation

What can I say about the greatest gift ever, especially in a thousand words or less? I can’t cover all the bases, answer every question, or defend every point – but I can offer you Jesus.

Have you been searching for meaning, for hope, for unconditional love, for eternal life? Give your heart to Jesus. Make Him the Boss of your life. Confess your sins to Him, repent of the things that caused Him to have to die so that you could have life, and cross over “from death to life.” For “whosoever shall call upon the name [Jesus] of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

You could even pray a prayer, in your own words, similar to this: “Dear Jesus, I believe you are God’s Son, and that you died for me, and rose again, that I might have eternal life. I know I have sinned, and I confess. I also confess that I cannot earn heaven on my own. I need You! Please take my life. I give freely give it to you. Be my Lord, and my God. Amen.

If you prayed this prayer, honestly, and from your heart, then I would love to hear about it! I am sure many others would love to hear about it, too! If you accepted God’s gift of eternal life, let the world know in the comment section below.

If you would like to talk with someone, there is a phone line open 24 hours a day. Call 1-800-NEED-HIM (1-800-633-3446). Someone will be happy to show you how to be sure you have eternal life. Don’t wait.

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Decaffeinated Christianity

Like vs. Love

I like coffee, but I wouldn’t say I love it. My wife and kids, on the other hand, are worth dying for. I love them. I only like coffee. I’m not going to jump in front of a moving train to save an espresso.

But there are times when I like coffee more than I like my wife. Every once in a while I want a cup of coffee more than a kiss or a hug. I still love my wife, but she won’t fit into the French press.

Now, it must be said that I also like tea. Thanks to the influence of certain English folk, my tea consumption has increased a thousand fold! Yet, tea is not coffee. Sometimes I want coffee more than tea. Sometimes tea needs to leaf me alone. There’s a big difference between loose-leaf anything and some medium roast Jamaican Blue Mountain. That’s real coffee, and I really like it.

What is Real?

But wait! That raises a question. What is real coffee? What is the difference between freshly brewed coffee and let’s say, uh, freeze-dried instant? Both are real, aren’t they?

Fake coffee. Whoever still drinks that stuff on purpose should be psychologically evaluated. Coffee is only coffee if it comes about as the result of gently ground coffee beans being caressed by steaming hot water. Chicory is of the Devil.

Instant coffee. It comes packaged in a jar, but it is made from real coffee. It may not taste as good as fresh-brewed, but it’s real, nevertheless. The worst instant coffee is still better than dandelion tea, believe me.

Nasty coffee. Even the stuff you find in a gas station, an army mess tent, or a crazy relative’s thermos is still coffee. Coffee is coffee, even if it tastes like road tar.

“Unleaded.” What I don’t understand is decaffeinated coffee. Sure, it tastes the same to most people, but why would anyone want it? Without the caffeine coffee is…well…it’s just not coffee. It has the look and taste, but no umph, no kick, no power.

Powerless

Decaffeinated Christianity is the same way. It looks like the real thing. It smells like the real thing. It tastes like the real thing. For crying out loud, it even outsells full-strength, real Christianity 10 to 1! People love it! They wear t-shirts promoting their favorite brand. Yet, decaffeinated Christianity is no better than decaffeinated coffee without the Power.

You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! – 2 Timothy 3:1-5 NLT

What are you drinking?

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, General Observations, Life Lessons, Uncategorized

What Is “Organic” Church?

The following is copied directly from my notes for this Sunday morning’s sermon. I thought it would be worth sharing.

“Organic Church”

In thinking of ways to promote our little church, the word “organic” came to mind. But why? What does the word organic mean, anyway? I went to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary to find an answer. Here is the definition in four points:

Organic

adjective

1    relating to or derived from living matter.

▶   Chemistry relating to or denoting compounds containing carbon and chiefly or ultimately of biological origin. Compare with inorganic.

2    Physiology relating to a bodily organ or organs.

▶   Medicine (of a disease) affecting the structure of an organ.

3    (of food or farming) produced or involving production without the use of chemical fertilizers or other artificial chemicals.

4    denoting a harmonious relationship between the elements of a whole.

▶   characterized by natural development.[1]

 

Thinking about the first part of this definition, what is church if not “relating to or derived from living matter”? What is the Church but the body of Christ in the earth, with Jesus as the Head (Ephesians 1:22-23)? Do we not derive our life from Him? Without a relation to a living Being, aren’t we nothing more than dead sepulchers?

Ephesians 1:22-23 – And hath put all [things] under his feet, and gave him [to be] the head over all [things] to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

Colossians 1:17-18 – And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all [things] he might have the preeminence.

I find it interesting to consider, too, that “organic” means something that is “ultimately of biological origin.” Even though the Church is a spiritual body, does it not find its origins in the actual living body of the risen Jesus Christ? YES! Jesus, God in flesh, the God-Man, is the Chief Compound from which the rest of us get our DNA.

1 Corinthians 15:14-17 – And if Christ be not risen, then [is] our preaching vain, and your faith [is] also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith [is] vain; ye are yet in your sins.

Thinking of the second part, it might be difficult at first to draw a connection. However, “relating to a bodily body of organs” is absolutely pertinent and applicable to whom we are. South Soddy Baptist is one organ in a body of organs; we are part of the Body as a whole. Even though we may have our own structure and unique characteristics, we are organically related to a larger organ, the Body of Christ.

Ephesians 4:16 – From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

Paul made it abundantly clear that not all parts of the body are the same, nor do they all function in the same way. Some are more prone to honor, while others are humble and rarely thought of. Nevertheless, each one is important and useful and needed to help with the function of the whole. Even the smallest organ in the body, if it becomes infected, can spread sickness and death, affecting other parts of the Body in ways that might not be felt until long down the road. Therefore, even though a large church in an association may serve the function of a major organ, such as the heart or the lungs, the small church, like an infected tooth, or a torn tendon, can render the collection of organs ineffective, if not worse.

1 Corinthians 12:14-16, 20, 22 –  For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? … But now [are they] many members, yet but one body. … Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:

The third part of the above definition has to do with food and farming, and that’s really where our modern society has become the most familiar with the word organic. Organic foods are sold for a premium because they are supposedly produced “without the use of chemical fertilizers or other artificial chemicals.” People want “naturally-grown” food, not the kind that needs engineered and artificial influences to produce what is assumed will appeal to the mass market.

What is organic church but the result of seed planted, rooted in doctrinally-rich soil, watered by the Spirit, and exposed to the radiance of the Son? Will it be a product that the mass market will desire? Not likely. It doesn’t usually conform to the manufactured standards and the whims of finicky consumers. Will it meet the desires of every taste? Not when the average palate has grown accustomed to added sweeteners and flavor enhancers, as opposed to the simple, wholesome sweetness of heavenly manna itself.

Numbers 11:5-6 NKJV – “We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; “but now our whole being [is] dried up; [there is] nothing at all except this manna [before] our eyes!

Psalm 19:9-10 NKJV – The fear of the LORD [is] clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD [are] true [and] righteous altogether. More to be desired [are they] than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

The modern church, in so many cases, is nothing less than the result of market analysis and product enhancement. So often, instead of being simple, rough around the edges, oddly shaped, and maybe a little small – i.e., organic tomatoes – the many of the more well-attended churches are often dosed with unnatural additives meant to appeal to the increasingly desensitized taste buds of the average worshiper.

Psalm 119:140 – Thy word [is] very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.

Then there is the fourth part of the above definition: “denoting a harmonious relationship between the elements of a whole,” and “characterized by natural development.” Let’s try to unpack that a little bit.

Something that is organic should have as a characteristic the tell-tale signs of everything having worked together as designed to produce a product that is typical of the original, natural design. It should also display signs of having naturally aged, matured, and ripened.

What healthy church is one that is at odds with, in contention with, or in competition with other elements within the whole? How can there be “harmonious relationship” when one branch fights with another branch of the same plant? How can a healthy church “maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” when it eats its own?

What healthy church is in conflict with the soil in which its roots take hold? What healthy church repels the water of the Spirit? What healthy church is in conflict with the light of the Son? What healthy church grows to great heights overnight? What healthy church – what organic church – produces food with empty calories that leaves the hungry fatter, yet more malnourished than when they first consumed it?

What are some additives we need to watch out for?

  • Elaborate facilities?
  • Mood enhancers, such as lighting, stage sets, pre-service promos, etc.?
  • Creative outlines and sermon series?
  • Committees on committees on committees?
  • Denominational teaching curriculum?
  • Worship times and schedules?
  • Titles and positions?
  • Social and cultural programs?
  • Celebrity status?

What does the unmodified, unaltered, heirloom-seed quality product look like?

Acts 2:42-47 – And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. [43] And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. [44] And all that believed were together, and had all things common; [45] And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all [men], as every man had need. [46] And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, [47] Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

James 1:27 – Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, [and] to keep himself unspotted from the world.

Galatians 6:14 – But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

Hebrews 10:23-25 – Let us hold fast the profession of [our] faith without wavering; (for he [is] faithful that promised;) [24] And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: [25] Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

The only kind of foods that look exactly alike, like the ones in the bins at the supermarket produce section, are the ones that have been genetically modified, chemically enhanced, and very often forced to mature and ripen earlier than nature’s schedule. They are presented that way in order to appeal to the preconceived notions and tastes of the largest number of consumers.

Organic fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, will not always look alike; they may have little flaws here and there; and size will always vary. But one thing is for sure, they will be much better for you and your family; they will require a lot more care to keep fresh; and you’ll definitely pay a higher price to obtain them.

Let’s ask God to work in us, purify us, and make us into the organic church He wants us to be.

[1] Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, eds., Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Christian Unity, Christianity, Church, Preaching

Christmas IS the Gospel

This month will see a lot of Christmas sermons preached, and if you actually go to church somewhere, you might actually get to hear some 😉

But if you aren’t planning on attending any church services this December, or if you just can’t get enough of sermons on the subject of Christmas, I would encourage you to listen to the one I’m attaching below.

Several years ago (2012) while pastoring at another church, I delivered a sermon entitled “Christmas Is the Gospel.” It was recorded on my iPhone that was sitting on the pulpit, so don’t expect too high a quality of production.

Why did the angels tell the shepherds what they are about to hear was “good tidings”? Pick up a Bible and turn to the book of Luke, chapter two, and follow along.

Listen: Christmas IS the Gospel

And remember, “sharing” is caring 🙂

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Filed under Christmas, God, Preaching, salvation

The Answer to a Jailer’s Question

The Philippian jailer trembling before Paul and Silas

Credit: Holman Bible Handbook

A jailer in the ancient city of Philippi once asked the Paul and Silas a question that is still being asked today: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30)

Have you ever asked that question? Maybe the following post will provide you with an answer.

“Now is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It won’t last forever. We must take it or leave it.” – C. S. Lewis

My Story

One day, when I was a boy, I took the chance. I placed all my eggs in one basket. The fate of my eternal soul, as much as I could grasp the idea, was placed in the control of a Man I had never seen in person, nor had heard with my ear, but I believed loved me and died for me.

Today, as a man, I can use words I never knew back then, such as justification, atonement, and propitiation. But the simple truth that led me to surrender my heart and soul to this Man can still be explained with simple words…words written thousands of years ago… “For God so love the world, that He gave…

What did God give?

Do you know what a gift is? Sure you do. It is something you give to another when you care. It is something you give with no expectation of payment in return. It is best when it is something that required some sacrifice, but it was a joy to purchase. It means even more when you know the gift was something needed, but unexpected.

A gift is something that is received. I know a man who has no more family, so for Christmas, he goes out and buys things for his self, wraps them, and places them under a Christmas tree. On Christmas morning, all alone, he opens them. How sad is that? Those are not real gifts – he bought them!

According to God, as written in His Word, the Bible, eternal life is a gift. That’s right, a gift. In the letter to the Romans, we read that the “gift of God is eternal life…” (Romans 6:23). God is offering it to you for the taking. He is offering it to you for free! But it wasn’t cheap; it cost him his Son.

God loved the world so much, that He gave his only begotten Son…” (John 3:16). Why did God give his Son? Well, so that you and I could be rescued from the eternal penalty we owe for our sins – our breaking of God’s laws. Our lies, our lusts, our broken promises, you name it: all of these things are sins. Each one deserved separation from a holy God. But God “so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son (Jesus), that whosoever [puts his whole faith] in Him, would not perish (be separated from God), but have eternal life.

Why did He give it?

All men and women have broken God’s laws. And even though you may have not actually committed murder, or robbed a bank, or abused a child, James 2:10 (RSV) says, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” So, you see, we need a Savior. We need the Gift that God is offering. Won’t you accept it?

The whole verse in Romans (6:23) goes like this: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” This is why C.S. Lewis said those words above. Eternal life is a gift, but it will not be offered indefinitely. You see, all of us will die, one day. Hebrews 9:27 says that it “is appointed unto man once to die; but after this, the judgment.” One day we must either give an account for our lawbreaking or rest in the fact that our account has already been settled by putting our faith in Jesus.

“From death to life”

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24 NIV).

Jesus also said, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36 NIV). And to those that put their faith in Jesus, he said, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any [man] pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28 NIV).

The apostle John wrote, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12 NIV).

The Invitation

What can I say about the greatest gift ever, especially in a thousand words, or so? I can’t cover all the bases, answer every question, or defend every point – but I can offer you Jesus.

Have you been searching for meaning, for hope, for unconditional love, for eternal life? Give your heart to Jesus, confess your sins to Him, repent of the things that caused Him to have to die so that you could have life, and cross over “from death to life.”

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord [Jesus] shall be saved(Romans 10:13).

You could even pray a prayer, in your own words, similar to this: “Dear Jesus, I believe you are God’s Son, and that you died for me, and rose again, that I might have eternal life. I know I have sinned, and I confess. I also confess that I cannot earn heaven on my own. I need You! Please take my life. I give freely give it to you. Be my Lord, and my God. Amen.

If you prayed this prayer, honestly, and from your heart, then I would love to hear about it! I am sure many others would love to hear about it, too! If you accepted God’s gift of eternal life, let the world know in the comment section below.

If you would like to talk with someone, there is a phone line open 24 hours a day. Call 1-800-NEED-HIM (1-800-633-3446). Someone will be happy to show you how to be sure you have eternal life. Don’t wait.

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The Magnificent Fifty: Foundation of Faith (North Carolina)

Raleigh, North Carolina (Artist: Susan Cassidy Wilhoit)

Constitution Preamble (1868)

We, the people of the State of North Carolina, grateful to Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, for our civil, political and religious liberties, and acknowledging our dependence upon Him for the continuance of those blessings.


Man, that has to just get under the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s skin, like a rash that won’t go away.

To read the introduction to and purpose of this series, CLICK HERE.

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The Magnificent Fifty: Foundation of Faith (New York)

Albany, New York (Artist: Susan Cassidy Wilhoit)

New York Constitution, Article I, Section 3 (1938)

The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed in this state to all humankind. 


You folk in New York should remind your lawmakers of this. I have a strong feeling it’s been forgotten or overlooked, but I’ll let you be the judge.

On that note, I think I’ll send a shout-out to my New Yorker friend at Beauty Beyond Bones 🙂

To read the introduction to and purpose of this series, CLICK HERE.

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