Archive for October, 2017

This Into That

October 25, 2017

When I first began this message it seemed to focus on joy and gladness which seemed an odd message to accompany a presentation about rescuing girls from sex trafficking.  Then I realized that it was about the transformation that takes place when a person comes out of the darkness and into the light.

I.  Weeping into Joy:  Psalms 30:5b

Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.

As believers in Christ we are not promised a life without sorrow.  There will be times when weeping is appropriate.  The good news for us is that those times will come to an end.  Some nights are long.  I cannot imagine what these girls have endured.  What I do know is that God has something better for them.  I do not know what your sorrows have been.  I do know that God can bring comfort, peace and joy.

II.  The Path of Life:  Psalms 16:11

You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

When these girls are rescued from the brothels they need to be taught a new way of life.  For many of us, when we have left our old lives behind, we need to learn how to live as the children of God.

It is a new life.

The greatest joy that we can experience is the joy of being in the presence of God.  The things of this earth may fade, but the joy that comes from the presence of the Lord never loses it’s luster.

III.  Peace:  Psalms 4:6-8

There are many who say,
“Who will show us any good?”
Lord, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us.
You have put gladness in my heart,
More than in the season that their grain and wine increased.
I will both lie down in peace, and sleep;
For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Some may have given up in despair of this life.  God is able to show us a new way.  If we will live our lives for Him, He will bless us with peace, joy and gladness.  These qualities do not arise from the things of this world, but from the Spirit, hence they are not dependent on external factors but rather on our internal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

IV.  A New Life:  Psalms 5:11-12

But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You;
Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them;
Let those also who love Your name
Be joyful in You.
12 For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous;
With favor You will surround him as with a shield.

For those who chose to place their faith in God, God will watch over them.  The new life that we have will be a life that is watched over by God.  We can have confidence in the Lord of lords and the King of kings.

V.  Mourning into Dancing:  Psalms 30:11-12

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

For those who have come out of the darkness into the light these verses are particularly powerful.  This does not mean that we should seek to fall far so that we can fly high.  It is a powerful testimony of the power of God for a person to walk with God throughout their life. We do not wish for any to fall away from God so that they can experience a greater sense of redemption.  Rather, we are to thank God for His mercy and grace in watching over us and sparing us from the ravages of sin.

Either way it is appropriate for us to sing praise to God and give Him thanks.

He has turned our mourning into dancing.

He has turned hopeless into hopeful.

He has turned death into life.

May He be praised forever and ever.

 

These are the sermon notes from 10/22/17.  All quotes are from the New King James Version of the Bible.  Any advertisements that might appear are placed by WordPress.  I have no control over them, nor do I receive any money from them. 

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My Redeemer Lives

October 18, 2017

In my devotions this past week I was reading in Job and was impressed with this particular portion of scripture.  It seems as though it could be three messages, but it is only one portion of scripture so I will make it the three points of one message.

Job 19:23-29

“Oh, that my words were written!
Oh, that they were inscribed in a book!
24 That they were engraved on a rock
With an iron pen and lead, forever!
25 For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
26 And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,
27 Whom I shall see for myself,
And my eyes shall behold, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!
28 If you should say, ‘How shall we persecute him?’—
Since the root of the matter is found in me,
29 Be afraid of the sword for yourselves;
For wrath brings the punishment of the sword,
That you may know there is a judgment.”

I.  The Word (vv23-24)

Each time that I read this passage I am reminded that these words have been inscribed in a book.   They are now, and have been for a long time, recognized as a part of God’s Word.    The words of Isaiah 40:8 come to mind  “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”

At North Central University, where I went to school there is a large granite stone with verse 24 engraved on it sitting outside of the chapel.    It is a powerful visual reminder f the truth and permanency of God’s Word.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:18 “ For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

The Word of God is powerful and permanent.

II.  My Redeemer (vv25-27)

It is believed that Job lived in the time of the patriarchs, about 1800 BC.  When we read these verses in Job we know that he is talking about Jesus who would not appear on the earth for a long time.  Not only is Jesus our redeemer, but he is the full expression of God.  John 1:1 and 14 says ” In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”    Jesus revealed to us the nature of God.

Romans 5:1 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

We recognize that it is only through faith in Jesus, who died for us, that we can be saved.  He is our one and only redeemer. There is other.  There is no other way.   John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

III.  Judgement (vv28-29)

There will come a day of judgement for all on the earth.  That will be a great day of reward and a terrible day of punishment depending on your relationship with God.

Revelations 20:11-15

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

All have sinned.  Those who have placed their faith in Jesus will be forgiven.

Romans 6:23

 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Those who have rejected Christ will be cast into the lake of fire.  Those who have placed their faith in Jesus will give an account of their lives.

I Corinthians 5:910

Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

What have we done with the new life and the new opportunity that God has given us?

In this short passage in Job we see the comfort of the solid foundation that the Word of God gives us, the hope that we have in our redeemer Jesus Christ and the reality of the coming judgement.  It is a brief but powerful reminder of the hope that is within us.

 

These are the sermon notes from 10/15/17.  All quotes are from the New King James Version of the Bible.  Any advertisements that might appear are placed by WordPress.  I have no control over them, nor do I receive any money from them. 

Anatomy, Attraction, Attitude and Appearance

October 8, 2017

There has been a lot of discussion over the past couple of years about individuals who are transgender and how society should accommodate them, specifically in regards to restrooms and locker rooms.  Although I am a pastor, I am also a philosophy instructor.  This article is not meant to be religious in nature, there will be no scriptural references, nor will I comment on the moral or religious implications, as that would limit it’s application to those who agree with me from a religious viewpoint.  I am attempting to reason with a larger audience, for the sake of social harmony.

I would like to begin with the topic of anatomy.  The vast majority of people are born with either a vagina or a penis. ( I understand that some people are indeed born with both.  This article will address that only briefly in the section on special circumstances. ) On a person’s birth certificate they are marked as either female or male on the basis of their genitalia.  This anatomical feature is a straight forward, external, physical characteristic that anyone can easily identify.

A second issue, that is completely separate from anatomy, is sexual attraction.  Some individuals are attracted to the same sex, others are attracted to the opposite sex.  Some are attracted to both and some to neither.  This is an internal characteristic of individuals that cannot be discerned from external appearance.  It also is something that can change through a person’s lifetime.  It can, at times, be confusing as a person struggles with their sexuality.

A third issue is what I am calling attitude.  By this, I am referring to personality traits.  Earlier in western culture these traits were identified as masculine or feminine traits.  In the 21st century it has been realized that personality traits are not necessarily dictated by either one’s anatomy or one’s sexual attraction.  People who have traits that have historically been identified as masculine or feminine may think that they were born in the wrong body, since their traits do not match up with historical, cultural. preconceptions.  This can be confusing and is based on the false belief that personality traits are associated with anatomy.  They are not.  People with male anatomy do not all have the same personality traits.  People with female anatomy do not have the same personality traits.  Each person is a unique combination.

Appearance is my final category.  Our culture does have certain social patterns of dress and behavior that have historically been associated with males and females.  Sometimes in today’s culture individuals with male anatomy may dress and act so as to appear female and individuals with female anatomy may seek to appear as male.  As long as they are clothed they may very well succeed in this attempt.

For the sake of public harmony people should use the restroom that is designated by their anatomy.  However, we can allow some exceptions.  As already stated some people intentionally seek to appear opposite to their actual anatomy.  Most restrooms have stalls that are private so no one is going to observe the actual anatomy of a person using the facilities.  If a male is dressed convincingly as a female and goes to use the male bathroom they will create far more commotion than if they use the one that is consistent with their appearance.  However if a male is using a female bathroom they should sit as a female would, even if it is not necessary, to keep up the appearance of being female.  Remember, the idea here is to allow people to live in peace with each other, without causing offense, if  possible.

Locker rooms are a different story.  Locker rooms should be designated by anatomy.  Anatomy is easily identified at a single glance.  Individuals with male genitalia and individuals with female genitalia should use separate locker rooms.  For those individuals who like to dress as women. but still have male anatomy, they should use the anatomically correct facilities.  In all of the locker rooms that I have been in there is no privacy.  When you undress and shower your anatomy will show.  You might like to dress as a woman, but if you have a penis you shouldn’t be changing and showering in the women’s locker room and vice a versa.

There are some special situations.  Individuals who once had male genitalia but no longer do, fall into one of two categories.  They either had some form of injury or a surgical procedure.  For those who lost their genitalia due to an injury, they should still be allowed to use the facilities that they used before the injury.  For those who have been surgically altered, they should use the facilities that match their new genitalia.   For those who were born with both, they should use the facilities with which they most closely identify.

I have intentionally not used the term gender in this article because it is a term that has so many meanings that it is now basically without meaning.  I have chosen instead to focus on anatomy, attraction, attitude and appearance.  I believe that these terms are more appropriate.

Our society should be taught not to mistreat people who are different. We should seek to live in peace and harmony, respecting each others individuality as much as possible. This does not mean that we cannot interact, seeking to bring about change in either individuals or society, but it does mean that we should do so in a courteous and respectful manner.

This article is not meant to be the final word, but only a contribution to the ongoing discussion.  It is not suggested as an ideal, but as a compromise.

 

 

 

 

A Big Project

October 4, 2017

Sometimes we have a big project to undertake.  We should research, prepare, plan and recruit workers with the necessary skills.  Nehemiah desired to see the wall rebuilt around Jerusalem.  The Jewish people had been allowed to return to rebuild, but progress had stalled.  Nehemiah traveled to Jerusalem to encourage the workers.

I.  A Mind to Work:  Nehemiah 4:6

 So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

Initially, the project went well.  The people had been motivated to work and they contributed enthusiastically and good progress was made initially.

So often we start a new project with a fast start.  It is new, exciting, even fun, in the beginning.

This is true with the Christian life as well.  People who are new converts  are excited.  They attend church regularly.  They read their Bibles.  They see God at work all around them.

A good start is important.

II.  Failing Strength:  Nehemiah 4:10

Then Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall.”

After the newness wears off, the test of our wills begins in earnest.  It is hard work to build a wall.  There is a lot of physical labor.  Sometimes it can be overwhelming.

This is true in many other projects as well.  We become tired.  The obstacles seem to be larger and more numerous.  We may be tempted to stop.

In our Christian lives as well, there are times when we grow weary.  We are faced with the tests and trials of life and we can become discouraged.

III.  Frightened by Opposition:  Nehemiah 6:9

For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, “Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done.”

Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.

There were people around Jerusalem who did not want to see the walls rebuilt.  They threatened Nehemiah and made plans to attack.

Nehemiah responded by asking God for help and by taking appropriate action.

Sometimes people will actively try to stop us from doing the work of God.  We  should take this threats seriously, pray for guidance and strength, and take appropriate action.

The devil would love to destroy our relationship with God. He will try many different tactics to end our relationship with God and to render us ineffective.  We should watch out for his tricks and trust that God will guide and protect us.

IV.  Finished:  Nehemiah 6:15-16

So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days. 16 And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God.

Nehemiah was able to complete the project despite the obstacles.  God helped him.  The success was not due to Nehemiah, but to God who worked through him.

It is a wonderful feeling to accomplish major projects.  We should always give God the glory for enabling us to complete the work He has set before us.

God continues his work in us.  (Philippians 1:6)  As long as we are on this earth, there is work to be done in us and through us.  To God be the glory!

V.  Our Strength:  Nehemiah 8:8-12

 

So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.

10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

11 So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” 12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.

As a part of their celebration of the completion of the wall, the Word of God was read to the people.  As they heard the words of the law, they realized just how far they had fallen from where God had called them to live.  They knew that they were not living according to the law and they were sorrowful.

The leaders encouraged them.  The day was meant to be a day of celebration.  They were  not supposed to look at how far they still had to go, but to rejoice in how far they had come.

God loves us.  He is working in us.  We are becoming more like Him.  The process will continue throughout our lives.  We can rejoice that we are saved ‘by grace, through faith’.  (Ephesians 2:8)

It is the joy of the Lord that is our strength.  We find that joy primarily by spending time in the presence of God.  (Psalms 16:11) We also develop joy in our lives as a product of the Holy Spirit that dwells in us.  (Galatians 5:22-23)

The life of a Christian should not be filled with anger and sorrow, but rather with the love and joy and peace that comes from God Himself.  That is our source of strength with which we will finish the projects that God gives to us, most importantly the project of a lifetime of serving God.

 

These are the sermon notes from 10/1/17.  All scripture quotes are from the New King James Version of the Bible.  Any advertisements that might appear are placed by WordPress.  I have no control over them, nor do I receive any money from them.