Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

Religious Freedom or Discrimination?

April 23, 2015

Things change.

Not that many years ago, homosexual sex was against the law.  It was listed as a mental illness.  It was a sin.  Gay marriage was unthinkable.

Now, those laws have been either rescinded or forgotten.  They certainly are not enforced.  It has been taken off the list of mental illnesses.  Some churches have embraced it as an alternative lifestyle.  Many states have legalized marriage of same sex couples.

There are still a few holdouts.

Some people of religious faith continue to hold to their view that it is a sin, that gay marriage is a sin.  They want no part of it.  They base their beliefs on a few scriptures.

Leviticus 18:22

 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.

Leviticus 20:13

 If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.

I Corinthians 6:9-10

 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.

I Timothy 1:8-11

But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.

Romans 1:18-32

 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

There are actually still quite a few people who believe that homosexual activity is sinful.  Some of these people are in business.  They believe that it is wrong for them to support a gay marriage by providing services such as photography, baking, or catering.

Is the refusal of these services criminal discrimination, or an exercise in religious freedom?  Should the people newly in power force compliance upon those who have been slow to change?  Or who will not change?

Recently Indiana had a law passed that was meant to protect people of conservative religious views.  It was poorly written, being far too broad in scope. There was an uproar of protest.  The law was quickly changed.  I would like to suggest something more specific to be considered.  Something like:

“Business people who have strong religious convictions against gay marriage will not be forced to provide services to support a gay marriage ceremony so long as those services are available by another business within a fifty mile radius.” 

This type of law would protect the right of the individual’s religious conviction while still allowing the desired services to be obtained.

Of course, maybe we have become a society that will not tolerate disagreement or noncompliance.

 

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Heaven is For Real

June 19, 2014

I recently watched the movie Heaven is For Real.  I had heard a lot of good things about it.  After viewing the movie I have a mixed response.  The movie is good in that it helps people to believe in a life beyond the grave.  It gives credible support to the existence of an afterlife.  That is a good thing.  Unfortunately, one could easily come away from the movie with the belief that everyone goes to heaven.  I am told that the book did a better job of presenting that a life in heaven came as a result of faith in Jesus Christ.  The idea that everyone goes to heaven is a belief called universalism and is a very dangerous belief.  No repentance, no faith is necessary.  A loving God simply welcomes everyone home to heaven.  That is not biblical truth.  There is a line in the movie where the minister states “What if we truly believed that heaven is real?  Wouldn’t we live differently?”  (This quote may not be exact, but it is close.)  I would suggest a different question “What if we truly believe that both heaven and hell are real?  Wouldn’t we live differently?”  The Bible tells us in Revelation 20:15

And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

If we truly believe this to be true, would we live any different?  If only heaven is real, that is one thing, but if both heaven and hell are real, how should we live?

 

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Justice and Forgiveness

April 10, 2014

Last night in our Bible study at church, we were discussing the Lord’s Prayer and the emphasis on forgiveness.

And forgive us our sins,
For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.  (Luke 11:4)

We were in agreement that it is necessary for us to forgive those who have wronged us.

Then someone asked about justice.  Just the day before, a family had observed the one year anniversary of a tragic event.  A baby had been shaken by his father, causing severe damage.  The child went through months of seizures, and has lasting damage that, unless miraculously healed by God, will likely be permanent.  While the baby fought for his life, and while the mother and family dealt with the multiple treatments, seizures, and ongoing effects, the father moved out, and was free to go about his business while the justice system went through the various steps leading eventually to conviction and confinement.  The family was, and is, concerned about justice.  A wrong had been done, a penalty should be paid.

How do we reconcile forgiveness and justice?  This blog does not claim to present the final solution to that problem, but rather, a starting point for thought, and perhaps discussion.

I would suggest that forgiveness is an act of an individual, while justice is a function of society.  Forgiveness is an attitude that allows us to let go of the anger, resentment and hatred that poisons our hearts.  Justice is a necessary component of society that punishes wrongdoers, thus preventing us from taking matters into our own hands.

It would be wrong to think that God only supports forgiveness.  The Mosaic Law set forth laws, and punishments for those that broke the law.  These penalties were considered to be just.  It would be wrong to think that the God of the New Testament, with the emphasis on forgiveness; and the God of the Old Testament, with an emphasis on judgement, are incompatible, or different Gods.  God is both just and forgiving.

There are consequences to wrongdoing.  These consequences can be both temporal and eternal.  God is both merciful and just.  We can be forgiven the eternal consequences of our sins, and still face the temporal consequences of our actions.

For the believer who has been wronged, it is important for us to forgive the wrongdoers and leave the consequences for their actions in the hand of God.

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:19)

Clearly there is a tension between justice and forgiveness.  As individuals we must forgive those who have wronged us.  As a society we must pursue justice for those who have been wronged.  The Holy Spirit can help us have the ability to forgive in our hearts,  and the wisdom to pursue justice in our land.

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End Well

July 11, 2013

Here are the notes from the message 7/7/13.

Introduction

This past 4th, we attended the local fireworks display.  They did an outstanding job, finishing with an awesome grand finale.  Then there was one final firework that was launched just a little late.  It was not a large burst, but rather a small pop.  It was weak ending to a spectacular show.

I.  Moses:  Numbers 27:12-23

Now the Lord said to Moses: “Go up into this Mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given to the children of Israel. 13 And when you have seen it, you also shall be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother was gathered. 14 For in the Wilderness of Zin, during the strife of the congregation, you rebelled against My command to hallow Me at the waters before their eyes.” (These are the waters of Meribah, at Kadesh in the Wilderness of Zin.)

15 Then Moses spoke to the Lord, saying: 16 “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, 17 who may go out before them and go in before them, who may lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be like sheep which have no shepherd.”

18 And the Lord said to Moses: “Take Joshua the son of Nun with you, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him; 19 set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation, and inaugurate him in their sight. 20 And you shall give some of your authority to him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient. 21 He shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire before the Lord for him by the judgment of the Urim. At his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, he and all the children of Israel with him—all the congregation.”

22 So Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation. 23 And he laid his hands on him and inaugurated him, just as the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses.

Moses had served for forty years as the leader of the people of Israel.  He had been, not perfect, but faithful, through many difficult times.  As his period of leadership was drawing to a close, he appointed a leader to carry on in his stead.  He ended well.

II.  Solomon: I Kings 11:1-4

But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites— from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David.

Solomon had started so very well.  He had been a magnificent king, widely known for his wisdom, contributing to the text of sacred scripture, serving God for many years.  How very sad that when he was old, that his heart turned towards other gods.  He is a great illustration of what can happen if we do not carefully guard our hearts.

III.  Keep Your Heart:  Proverbs 4:23

Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.

As a person with a family history of heart disease, I read these verses in two different ways.  First, I do watch my diet, and exercise regularly so that I can continue to enjoy good health, and the productivity that may come with it.  Secondly, and more importantly, I am reminded that I must keep my heart right before God.  I certainly do not want to follow in Solomon’s footsteps, serving God for years, and then falling away at the end.  I want to finish well, and to finish well, I must keep my heart right before God.

IV.  Warning!  Numbers 33:50-52 & 55-56

Now the Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan, across from Jericho, saying, 51 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you have crossed the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 52 then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, destroy all their engraved stones, destroy all their molded images, and demolish all their high places;

But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall be that those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell. 56 Moreover it shall be that I will do to you as I thought to do to them.’”

The children of Israel were directed to cleanse the land from those things that would lead them astray, to serve other gods.  Now, obviously, we are not to kill off all non-believers, and most of us are not tempted by engraved stones, or molded images.  We are however, tempted in a whole host of other ways to pursue things other than God.  Perhaps we are tempted to pursue money, power or fame.  Perhaps we become far too comfortable and entangled in the things of this world.  For each of us, the dangers may be different, but the point is the same.  Keep God first in your life and in your priorities.  This is not a challenge for a part of our life, but for all of our life.  Don’t let a passion for God be simply a phase, or portion of your life, may it be your life.  May you finish well.

 

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The Kingdom of God is Near

June 10, 2013

Here are the sermon notes from 6/9/13.

I.  The Kingdom of God is Near:  Luke 21:29-33

Then He spoke to them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. 31 So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

A.  Christ had promised to return.

1.  John 14:3

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

2.  Acts 1:9-11

Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

B.  We live in expectation

From the very first generation, people have expected Christ to return in their lifetime.  The gospels were almost the last part of the New Testament to be written, because it was only after the apostles began to die off, that it occurred to them that it was necessary to have a written record of the life of Christ.  They had anticipated his soon return.

I remember as a young person hearing a lot of emphasis on the rapture, the belief that Christ would take his people from this world before the seven-year tribulation.  The presentation was very clear that Christ could return at any moment, we should be ready.

I remember reading in church history, that many, if not all generations have had those who read the prophetic words and interpret them in the light of their current circumstances, and believe that they are in the last days before Christ returns.

I consider this to be, not so much an error in interpretation, as a marvel in inspiration.  That God would have inspired the prophets to write in such a way that each generation would read the words and live in expectation is a marvelous feat.

II.  Take Heed :  Luke 21:34-36

But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Take Heed:  We are to be alert, be ready for our Lord’s return.  The day will come “like a thief in the night”  “like the lightning that flashes from east to west”.  We need to continue to do the Lord’s will until He comes for us, or we go to Him.

Watch:  We should live with both anticipation and patience.  Our kids have a dog that provides a nice illustration.  The other day when we picked up our daughter-in-law, their dog immediately went to the window, stuck his head past the curtain, and watched us leave.  When we returned a while later, the dog was still sitting there, head to the window, watching for her return.  That dog is a good illustration of waiting in anticipation and patience.

Pray:  We should pray to be worthy.  We are only made worthy because of the righteousness of Christ.  Yet the presence of Christ in our lives changes us.  We should pray that God continues His work, both in us, and through us.

For our part, we need to be careful to keep God as our top priority.  If we are not careful, the cares and concerns of this world may crowd Christ from the place of priority in our lives.  This  is why  we must take heed, watch and pray; for the kingdom of God is near.  

God Cares About the Lost

June 4, 2013

Here are the sermon notes from 6/2/13.

A number of years ago, we had a speaker here at the church who preached a message with the phrase “God has an agenda, and you’re not it!”  It was meant to emphasize that, although God does, of course, care about His people, that His first priority, is calling the lost to repentance.

I.  The Lost Sheep:  Luke 15:1-7

Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” So He spoke this parable to them, saying:

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

God cares about the lost, and so should we.  The angels rejoice when a sinner is saved.  Christians need to reach out to the lost.  We should not be so wrapped up in our own problems.  We should have a compassion for the lost.

II.  The Coin:  Luke 15:8-10

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins,  if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ 10 Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

If we lose our keys, as many of us do, we will search high and low until we find them.  Even more frightening, if we have lost our wallets, with our cards, our cash, our license, etc.  We will frantically search, calling for all in the house to help as we see for the lost because it is important to us.

Lost people are important to God and should be important to us.  How much effort do we put into evangelism?  How earnestly do we pray for their salvation?  God cares about the lost, and so should we.

III.  The Prodigal Son:  Luke 15:11-32

Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’

20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.

25 “Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’

28 “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’

31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’”

God cares about the lost and is waiting anxiously for them to return.  Do we care about the lost?  Or are we more like the brother who resents the attention that they receive when they return?  Do we resent that they are so quickly forgiven for the sins of their past?

God cares about the lost, and so should we.

IV.  The Narrow Way:  Luke 13:22-27

And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?”

And He said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ 26 then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ 27 But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’

The vast majority of people in this world believe in some form of God.  We are not saved by having a faith in a generic God.  We must place our faith in Jesus, the Son of God who died for our sins and rose again from the dead.

Many people think that they are good people, and that surely a loving God will let them into heaven.  God does indeed love the world, and sent His Son to die for us, so that we might have forgiveness through Him.  If we are trusting in our own goodness, we are lost.  We must put our faith, and trust, in the One who died for us.  We must trust in Jesus, the Christ.

Some people think that it doesn’t matter how they live.  They think that a belief in Jesus is sufficient.  We are indeed saved by our faith in Jesus, but our faith in Jesus, if it is genuine, will be a transforming faith.   We will “cease to do evil, and learn to do good.”

When we are thinking about the lost, it is not enough to bring them to a generic faith in God,  it is certainly not enough to let them think that they are good enough on their own, and we also should not remain in our sin so that grace may abound.  We seek to lead people to a living faith in Jesus that transforms their lives.

God cares about the lost, and so should we.

Fasting: A Neglected Discipline

May 16, 2013

Last night in Bible study we covered the passage Luke 5:33-35.

Then they said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but Yours eat and drink?”

34 And He said to them, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? 35 But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.”

We discussed the various types of fasts.

Total Fast: Nothing to eat or drink.  This is the most severe form of fasting, and should not be done for any great length of time.  Humans can live quite a while without food, but only about three days without liquid.  ( I wouldn’t suggest testing that theory out!)  Muslims routinely do a total fast from sunrise to sunset.   I think that is about as long a total fast as I would ever recommend.

Water Fast: Nothing to eat, only water to drink.  This is slightly less severe, and can be followed for many days.  Our bodies do have a fat reserve which can fuel the bodies needs for a period of time.  People may fast a meal, or a day, three days, seven days, or whatever amount you feel led to fast, up to forty days.  I do not recommend long water fasts unless you specifically feel led by the Spirit to do so.

Juice Fast:  Nothing to eat,  but you can drink juice, or milk.  This fast is slightly easier than the water fast because the juice will provide a supply of sugar to the bloodstream.  The metabolism will function to process the juice and so it is less uncomfortable than the water fast.  The juice fast is the form most commonly used by people doing fasts longer than three days.

Selected Fasts:  The selective fast means giving up something for a period of time.  There are many different forms of selective fasting.

    The Daniel Fast:  There are two forms of the Daniel Fast, the vegetable only, and the “no pleasant food”.   The vegetable only fast is basically a vegetarian, or vegan diet.  Either no meat, or no animal products.  It comes from Daniel 1:12.    The “no pleasant food” comes from Daniel 10:3.  It is not clear what Daniel was referring to specifically, so individuals are left to their own interpretation and application; such as no desserts, no soda, no coffee, or whatever is considered “pleasant” by the individual.

The Ezekiel Fast:  Ezekiel was commanded by God to eat a bread made from a certain mixture of grains.  It comes from Ezekiel 4:9 and there are recipes available for people who want to follow this form of fast. I have occasionally heard of it available in retail stores as well.

These are two common forms of selective fasts, but there are innumerable variations.  When people give something up for Lent, that is a form of selective fasting.  The thing that is given up may be a certain food, or drink; or it may be an activity or favorite pastime, such as giving up television, or facebook and so forth.

The selective fast can be followed for an indefinite period of time, although most people will determine a start, and end date for their fast.

As you can see by these various forms of fasting, there is something available for people of all levels of discipline.  It can be as simple as fasting a meal, to more lengthy durations.  A person should start off slow and learn how they respond to the practice of fasting.

The important thing to remember with fasting is that we are seeking to deny the flesh, and emphasize the spirit.  During a fast, we should spend an increased amount of time in prayer, Bible study, and reflection.

Why do I call fasting a neglected discipline?  I suspect that only a small percentage of Christians practice fasting with any regularity, and many may have never fasted ever.

It is not necessary to fast in order to be saved, but fasting is a Christian discipline that can promote both spiritual growth in the individual, and have an impact on the spiritual realm.

 

 

An Active Role

May 6, 2013

These are the sermon notes from April 28.  Yes, I know, I am a week behind.

The message today is from a famous parable, the parable of the sower and the seed.

Mark 4:1-9

And again He began to teach by the sea. And a great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea. Then He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching:

“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”

And He said to them, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

 

We are blessed that Jesus himself gives the basic interpretation of this parable.

I.  The Sower: v14

The sower sows the word.

The sower can be anyone.  We are all called to be witnesses of the gospel, to share the message of salvation.  We should look for whatever opportunity comes our way to share the good news of Jesus Christ.  The word is the message of salvation offered to all.  The message is scattered liberally, without regard to the soil type.

II.  The Wayside: v15

And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts.

Some reject the word when they first hear it.  We should not be discouraged by this result.  Sometimes seed may lay dormant for a long time.  God is able to break up fallow ground.  He is able to soften hardened hearts.  Sometimes it takes a long time before a person will respond with faith, but it may still happen.

III.  The Stoney Ground: vv16-17

These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17 and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.

We all know of people who were saved and served God for a while.  However, for some it is like a passing fad that they embrace for a while before turning to something else.  This is where we should all use this parable as a warning to our own Christian walk.  We are able to take an active part in our faith development.  Let us put down roots through consistent Bible study, prayer, worship, and fellowship with other believers.

IV.  Among Thorns:  vv18-19

Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, 19 and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

We need to be careful!  The blessings that God gives to us in this world can become a hindrance to our faith.  It is acceptable to enjoy the things that God has given to us, but they should never replace our love for God.  God is to be first in our lives, not just a part of our lives.  Again, we should use the lesson of this parable to take an active part in our faith development, and be careful to “Seek first the kingdom of God”.

IV.  Good Ground:  v20

But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”

What does it mean to bear fruit?  The first response is to think of the fruit of the Spirit found in Galations 5: 22-23.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

If we are believers in Christ, our lives should be changed.  If the Spirit of Christ is within us, then that Spirit should be having an impact on our lives.  The fruit of the Spirit should be present, and increasing in any true believer’s life.

There is another aspect of bearing fruit.  In the natural world, fruit contains the seeds of new life.  It is the means of reproduction.  In the spiritual realm, we also, should be reproducing.  We should be sharing the word, planting the seed, if you will, of new believers.

Conclusion:  We can use the parable of the sower, not to resign ourselves to our lot in life, but to break up fallow ground, to send down roots, to weed out the distractions in our lives, and to produce fruit for the kingdom of God.

Out of Death Comes Life

April 4, 2013

Here are the sermon notes  from Easter Sunday March 31, 2013.

I.  Resurrection:  Matthew 28:1-10

Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.

But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”

So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.

And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

Rejoice!  The first word of Jesus to the women in this gospel account is to  rejoice.  Christians ever since that first Easter morning truly have rejoiced that Christ has risen!  It has made all the difference in the world.  It confirms the message that Jesus preached, and gives us a hope that goes beyond the grave.

Our church does not have Holy Week services.  We do not have a Maunday Thursday, or a Good Friday service.  We celebrate the Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday, and the resurrection on Easter.  This gives the impression that the season is only that of celebration.

We must remember that you do not have a resurrection, without first having a death.  Hebrews 12:1-2 says:

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

We will never be able to fully comprehend the true suffering of Christ on the cross.  We cannot understand what it means to take the sins of the world.  Jesus knew what it was going to be like, and He asked three times that “this cup might pass from me”.  However, the Father, and Jesus also, knew there was no other way so “may thy will be done”.

II.  Out of Death Comes Life:  Matthew 16:21-27

From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.

22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”

23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.

I am concerned that we want to skip an important step.  We do not get to have the new life that Christ has for us unless we are willing to lay down the old one.  It seems as though many people want the promise of God’s help in this life and the promise of life to come, but they want to remain the masters of their own lives.  They  do not want to give their lives to Christ, they want to keep them for themselves.  Not everyone seems willing to say “not my will, but thine be done”.

Romans 6:1-4:

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

I am concerned that many of us are so busy telling God what we want Him to do, that we forget to ask God what He wants us to do.

Years ago the Imperials recorded a song titled Water Grave.  It contains the words:

I’m going down to the river.

I’m going to be buried alive.

I’m going to show my heavenly Father

the man I used to be has finally died.

I have a 1983 Yamaha Venture motorcycle.  It runs good, but cosmetically it is in pretty rough shape.  If someday I get a different motorcycle I will have to choose which one I ride.  I can’t ride two bikes at the same time.

We cannot live our lives for ourselves, and live for God at the same time.

If we die to self, only then can we live for Christ.

Christ came that we might have life, and that more abundantly.  Let’s trust God enough to give up the lives that we had, so that we might live the life He has for us.

Obviously, I am not talking about a physical death.  I am talking about telling God “not my will, but Thine be done”.

Pursue the Knowledge of God

March 4, 2013

Here are the sermon notes from 3/3/13.

I.  Pursue the Knowledge of God:  Hosea 6:1-3

Come, and let us return to the Lord;
For He has torn, but He will heal us;
He has stricken, but He will bind us up.
After two days He will revive us;
On the third day He will raise us up,
That we may live in His sight.
Let us know,
Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord.
His going forth is established as the morning;
He will come to us like the rain,
Like the latter and former rain to the earth.

There are multiple layers of meanings in these words.  For the original hearers, there was a call to repentance, to turn away from sin and return to the Lord.  There is also a messianic center, as we recognize the reference to the resurrection.  There is also a timeless principle that can be drawn out of the original, and applied to all ages.

God is our Father, our creator.  We are meant to be in a relationship with Him.

Sometimes God allows difficult circumstances to come into our lives.  He is trying to get our attention.  He starts with a still small voice, but if we do not listen, then He may raise His voice, or change tactics.  He is motivated by a love for us, and a desire for reconciliation.

If we would pursue the knowledge of God, then we would be able to hear His still, small voice.  He would direct our paths by His Spirit and His Word.  We pursue the knowledge of God through studying the scriptures and spending time in prayer.

The knowledge of God can really be beneficial, not only in this life, but in the life to come.

II.  The Fiery Furnace:  Daniel 3

In this chapter, the king has made a golden statue.  He has commanded that everyone is to bow in worship to this image that he has created.  The penalty for disobedience is to be cast into the fiery furnace.  Daniel’s three friends; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego refused to comply.  They are brought before the king, who gives them another chance, warning them of the consequences of disobedience.   Their reply is found in Daniel 3: 16-17.

  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

I appreciate the faith that is expressed in this response.  God is able to save them from the fire.  One way or another, they will be delivered from the hand of the king.  Death would be a form of deliverance, or God can save them from the fire.  Either way, they will not worship the idol of gold.

Daniel 3: 19-25

Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. He spoke and commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he commanded certain mighty men of valor who were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their coats, their trousers, their turbans, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 22 Therefore, because the king’s command was urgent, and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?”

They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.”

25 “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”

The fourth person is a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ.  In this case, God did deliver them by literally bringing them through the fire.  For all of us, as we experience the various tests and trials of this life, we can be assured that Christ will be with us.  Remember that as Jesus was leaving this earth, He assured His disciples that He would be with them always, “even to the end of the age”.  As He was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, He will be with us in whatever test we might face.

We should continue to pursue the knowledge of God.  As we do, we may rest assured that God is with us.