God In Christ Can Make Us New!

Posted by on November 29, 2007 under Bulletin Articles

As we get older, life changes and takes on new qualities. Whatever you used in the past to measure the significance of your life becomes less meaningful, less important. You begin realizing that your life is coming to its close. All the medicine, all the surgery, all the technical advances in our physical world cannot keep physical life from ending.

In the past you acknowledged the things God did and does. He created, He can renew, and He sustains what He renews. He created-He made physical existence possible. He renews-He can make it possible for anyone to begin again in Christ. He sustains-with His grace and mercy, He can make anyone His continually.

It is only as you get older that you are filled with a new sense of awe at the incredible things God does. As we become increasingly powerless, we see from different perspectives the awesome things God does. The “beginning again” of anyone-privileged or not, educated or not, free or not-is truly remarkable. Regardless of what a mess you made of your past, regardless of how poor your focus was, regardless of how stupid your past choices were, in Jesus Christ you can begin again-incredible!

What God did and does in Christ is so “mind blowing” it is beyond our comprehension. In Christ’s death, God paid the full price of our renewal. In Christ’s resurrection, God assured us that He is more powerful than physical death, that the end of the physical is not “the end.” The fact the He can take that which was created in His image, trashed and marred beyond recognition, and create again men and women who can reflect Him is beyond our imagination. The fact that He can sustain them in all their human weakness really reveals what faith is all about. (Do you trust God to do what He promised to do?)

And what does He want from us? He wants us to become what He remade us to be. Why? So we can reflect Him. The objective is to see us and glorify God because God made us what we are. Read Matthew 9:1-8 and pay special attention to verse 8. Then read Matthew 5:16. Consider 2 Corinthians 9:13.

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

A Reflection on James 4

Posted by on November 25, 2007 under Sermons

  1. The best New Testament companions of the Ten Commandments are the Sermon on the Mount and James.
  2. Read James 4:1-10
  3. Friendship with the world and Friendship with God
    1. Greed as a force that leads to anxiety
    2. Desire for things
    3. Murder and Coveting

Two Reflections

  1. 1991 – On the streets of London.
    1. The homeless poor.
    2. The two I met were would steal and cheat in order to survive.
    3. Christian witness
    4. They had never met someone who was a friend of God
    5. All they knew was friendship with the world
  2. 1992 – Mexico
    1. My co-worker and brother in Christ in Mexico
    2. My age, married with three children.
    3. Karen and I were invited to a meal in his house.
    4. A small place. Rice, beans and tortillas.
    5. They shared a feast with us. Hospitality.
    6. They were friends with God.

Don’t Steal

Posted by on under Sermons

If you went shopping on Black Friday or Green Saturday (and even if you have shopped on-line in advance of Cyber Monday) it is likely that you went about your purchases and business unconsciously aware of the many security devices that are now a common feature of our public life.

Consider the fact that we move past security cameras regularly in banks, stores, and public spaces. The items we buy are protected against tampering and shoplifting with plastic seals, magnetic strips, ink packets, and strapped-on sirens. When we check out check out or shop on-line our transactions are locked up in 128-bit encryption and initiated with PIN codes and passwords. All of these layers of security, and we are rarely conscious of them!

These facts of life indicate that our culture is conditioned to assume that someone is always stealing something. Doesn’t that strike us as a natural outlook? It’s not only the suburban teenager stuffing a sweater in her oversized bag that we imagine stealing from us. We have also learned the hard way that some of the richest and most powerful people in big business and government are also thieves. The image of the robber in a striped shirt and domino-mask with a dollar-sign bag has been replaced by a man in a $5,000 dollar suit and tie.

There are a few other facts we might draw from the reality of our high-security world:

  • First, stealing costs us all. Who pays for all the cameras, metal detectors, and encryption? We all do. And it doesn’t only cost us in cash, there is an erosion of public trust that is costing us dearly.
  • Second, not only is public trust eroding, but the environment we live in is highly toxic to personal integrity. If there is theft going on everywhere, then who really notices our efforts to be completely honest – does it really matter?
  • Third, stealing in America is not typically motivated by material needs. Only in the rarest cases or in disasters do we hear of people stealing for food and water. When we consider that statistically, theft was less of a problem in the Great Depression than it is today, we might conclude that theft today is not based on need, but it is motivated by greed.


Greed is a problem for all classes. The wealthiest and poorest may be influenced by greed. Related to the greediness of our culture is the rampant materialism and consumerism of our age.

Do we really need to go shopping at 3 AM on the day after Thanksgiving? I always wonder what the hot item of the year is when I see people lined up and camped out in front of a store. Deck the Halls takes on new meaning at this time of year ever since people started throwing fists at each other trying to grab a limited supply of Cabbage Patch Dolls and Tickle-Me Elmos.

The long-lines, the early-bird shoppers, and the huge profits are often reported on the news with a wink and nod, but do we ever stop and realize how upside-down it may truly be? In our country we wait in lines for high-priced Playstations and Nintendos, but in many other nations the people wait in lines for food that may not be available. What we spend on our one purchase may be as much or more than what people in other nations make in a single year.

Overcoming Greed

  1. Concept of Ownership –
    • God owns all things. “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it.” -Psalm 24:1. Do we own anything that hasn’t been given to us?
    • Stealing is the false idea that you can take something and make it your own. That goes beyond legal and illegal. Even if you acquire something “legally” it may not be your own. Stealing can be more that theft.

  2. Giving counters Greed.
    • Do we really think that God has no interest in how we spend all of our money as long as we give him a tenth? Stop and think about it: God doesn’t care if we lose large sums of money at the casino as long as we paid our tithe? Money that could have been given to help others? Stop and think about it: God doesn’t care that we have more houses, cars, and clothes than we need as long as we put our offering in the plate? Stop and think about it: God doesn’t care that we have bought high-end tech gadgets which are marked up by 1000% as long as we pay him his cut?
    • The 10% is not all that God owns or cares about. God has an opinion with the 90% too. In his parable of the seed and the sower, Jesus taught that the deceitfulness of wealth and desire for things chokes out the growth of the gospel in our lives (Mark 4). James issues a serious warning to those who live in self-indulgence (James 5). The message is clear that we should use all of our wealth to honor God.
    • Giving counters greed and every act of giving is a rebellion against the desires and powers that makes us materialistic. How we give should lead how we spend.

  3. Today is Always Thanksgiving. We have our holidays backwards. We gather around to give thanks for what we have on one day – the fourth Thursday in November, then for the next month we are consumed with materialism. It seems like we should start the shopping season and have Christmas and then after we open all the presents the next day ought to be Thanksgiving. If we did that we might not scurry and scamper for so much stuff. We might realize that we are really just children over-doing it on too much Halloween Candy.
    • If we realize that all we have comes from God then we give thanks. Cultivating an attitude of thanksgiving transforms our attitude about things and ownership. It overcomes greed and it allows us to be more content. We learn to trust God by giving thanks. And it just might change our whole society starting with us …

Acts 4:32-37 –

There’s something different about the community of believers that live with Christ among them. There’s no stealing among them. There are no PIN Codes or passwords. There are no metal detectors or magnetic sensors. There are no food lines or forgers. Why? Because they have overcome greed and need. Why? Because they don’t own anything they will not share.

This could be us, if we have the spirit of Christ rather than the spirit of the age.
This could be us, if we devote ourselves to the apostle’s teaching, worship, and prayer.
This could be us, if we will truly meet together and eat together with glad and sincere hearts.

And if this could be us, we just might be filled with awe and wonder at what God can do through us!

Keeping Covenants

Posted by on November 18, 2007 under Sermons


  1. Foundational oaths and agreements
  2. Antecedent to Law
    1. Noah (Genesis 9)
    2. Abraham (Genesis 12)
    3. Jacob (Genesis 28)
  3. Jew-Gentile Controversy (Acts 15)

Covenant-Keeper vs. Self-Maximizer
[This dichotomy is taken from Lewis B. Smedes, Mere Morality: What God Expects From Ordinary People.]

    Covenant-Keeper is …

      Keeps faith
      Holds relationships together
      Keeps life decent

    Self-Maximizer is …

      Seeks fulfillment
      Evaluates relationships on basis of return
      Seeks maximal happiness
      Striving for personal growth

The virtues of the covenant-Keeper are what we want in all other people. But they can be personally demanding.
The virtues of the self-maximizer are not all bad, but if everyone felt that way society would collapse.
When staying committed is drudgery and self-mortification, why? Why keep covenants?

Why Keep a Vow?

  • We give ourselves over to a permanent identity in the face of an unpredictable future
  • Covenants and name-changes go together
      Abraham’s covenant with God assures Abraham that he will be “Father of a Nation” even though he cannot secure that future for himself.
      In a marriage, a man and wife assure one another that they will be one even though they cannot guarantee how their lives will turn out.
  • Breaking a vow is murder and stealing.
  • Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, Parson’s Tale – Understand also that adultery is fitly placed in the ten commandments between theft and homicide; for it is the greatest theft that can be, being theft of’ body and of soul. And it is like homicide, for it cuts in twain and breaks asunder those that were made one flesh, and therefore, by the old law of God, adulterers should be slain. But nevertheless, by the law of Jesus Christ, which is a law of pity, He said to the woman who was taken in adultery and should have been slain with stones, according to the will of the Jews, as was their law: “Go,” said Jesus Christ, “and have no more will to sin,” or “will no more to do sin.”

Submit to One Another

  • Ephesians 5:21
    • The Bride of Christ
    • Christ takes care of the Bride as if she is part of his own body
  • Fidelity
    • More than not committing adultery
  • Covenant-keepers seek the growth, enrichment, pleasure, and freedom of the other -(1 Corinthians 7)

Bad Marriage
According to the prophets, God himself suffered the pain of a bad marriage – a marriage hurt by adultery.

  • Ezekiel 16
  • Hosea
  • Isaiah 57

John 8 – There is grace and renewal for all broken covenants in Jesus Christ.

Don’t Commit Adultery

Posted by on under Sermons

When God says, “You will not commit adultery” he is giving us a word to live by. Not just those of us who are married. Not just those who have problems in marriage. It is a word for all of us to live by. This word to live by affirms that all of us are stakeholders in certain covenants and boundaries. And when those covenants and boundaries are broken, we are all affected.

See 2 Samuel 11 – King David and Uriah’s Wife

But even though we know that boundaries and covenants such as sexual purity and marital fidelity ought to be respected, they are constantly ignored. Why is that? It may be that we have bought into some really bad ideas about sex . . .

1. Sex as a commodity. Sex sells. Why does the poster for welding equipment feature a woman in a bikini? That’s not proper attire for welding. We know why. We have been taught that sex sells. The sports car does not come with the beautiful girl, but men buy the sports car anyway. We have been taught that sex sells. Sex has become a commodity. The buying and selling of sexuality is not limited to prostitution. Victoria’s Secret does not sell underwear. It sells sexuality.

    When the store opened up in the Lake Jackson mall you couldn’t walk through the mall because blocking the aisles was a gang of 14 year old boys standing in awe of the 7 foot poster of the woman in her skivvies. They were not there to buy gifts for their sisters.

We are always pressured to buy the lie. The cosmetic surgery industry is growing at an astonishing rate. The goal is to enhance features of the human anatomy to make one sexy and youthful. Sex sells. It is good business. Pharmaceuticals to enhance and effect sexual ability are also a growing industry. It is just good business.

Sex and scandals involving sex make for good ratings. And if a few boundaries have to be crossed to make a dollar, well what’s the harm? If people don’t like it, they wouldn’t buy it. X-Mart and the other “Adult” stores in our area perpetuate the bad idea that sex is something with a price tag.

God didn’t intend for sex to be merchandise. Sex and sexuality are powerful forces, much more powerful than capitalism and consumerism. When sex is regarded as a commodity, people just might break the rules to “get it.”

2. Sex as an idol. God has already given us a word to live by regarding idolatry. Throughout history, people have carved images of sex gods. Sex has been worshipped and humans have submitted to sex as a power for ages. But that mythological nonsense is all in the past yes? We don’t have temples to sex gods and goddesses anymore, do we? Not with bricks and mortar, no. But we do build shrines of electronic lights and pixels. Pornography is a real power that can work its “magic” in someone’s life as effectively as any force. We like to think that we can control our idols, but in the end they tend to dominate us.
God made sex as something good. It is part of who we are, but like all things in the creation, it is not something to be worshipped. Sex and human sexuality do have power – that’s why certain boundaries will be crossed; the power compels it. All such powers are not necessarily evil, but they (like us) need to be redeemed for God’s purposes.

3. Sex as (nothing more than) a personal choice. Even if we aren’t gratuitous or shocking, talking about sex publicly can be uncomfortable. That’s part of our problem. Although sex is a very intimate subject and does have something to do with our private world, we can go to the extreme of making it so private and personal that we no longer have anything to say about it publicly. And yet, that’s what this word from God is all about. God is affirming that there are certain societal covenants and boundaries that must be respected by all of us when it comes to sex.

This is what the marriage ceremony is all about. We are affirming as a people (single and married) a public statement about human sexuality. This is why the arguments about the definition of marriage are so fierce. It isn’t merely personal choice. If I go into my neighbor’s back yard and move the fence simply because I wanted it moved I am going to have a fight on my hands. Likewise, the ancient boundaries and covenants are not casually tampered with.

So it is doesn’t really work when we trample on marital fidelity and dismiss the breaking of covenants as a matter of personal choice. God intended sex to be something that everyone respects and when everyone doesn’t respect it the way God does, it is cheapened.

God cares a lot more about sex than we do. Wait, that doesn’t seem right, does it? Isn’t God really sort of testy and prudish? Doesn’t God intend to ultimately do away with sex? Isn’t sex just a necessary evil so that we can have babies who will grow up and worship God?

No. God considers sex to be something very valuable and good – after all it is his idea. It is a fundamental part of the created order. He made male and female in his image.

Often, God has much more respect and concern about sex than we do. If we really claim that we regard sex so highly then why do we tend to regard sex as casual and recreational? Why do we cheapen it by labeling it as “hooking up or a quick romp?” A man and a woman might have a one-time sexual encounter and just to make sure there’s no misunderstanding, they check with other to make sure that “it didn’t mean anything.” That’s not a very high view of sex, is it?

God also cares about our bodies. He isn’t simply interested in saving our souls – he treats us as total beings and the fact that Jesus was risen from the dead in a new body teaches us that God cares about the sort of things we do with our bodies.

According to God, sex unites two people with bodies and makes them one (Genesis 2). That’s a high view of sex. Adultery is just one activity that doesn’t fit into that view of sex. If two people are one flesh, there are problems when a third is involved.

So if we respect the physical boundaries, then there’s no problem right? Not quite. God respects sex so much that he made it a matter than involves our hearts as well as our bodies. Jesus understood this. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28)

Jesus is teaching us that sex is related to our character. It has something to do with the purity of our heart. This applies to married and single people. We all have a stake in keeping the boundaries.

“God, What Do You Expect of Me?”

Posted by on November 15, 2007 under Bulletin Articles

To me, there is a significant degree of assurance to realize Christians of the first century often struggled with problems similar to ours. The Jews were quite geography-centered in their worship (Deuteronomy 12:5, 11, 13, 14; 16:16). The Temple was the holiest place of all places! They were quite ritualistic with priests, sacrifices, and correct procedures. They wore tassels on their clothes (Numbers 15:37-41) [as did Jesus-Matthew 9:20; 14:36; Mark 6:56; Luke 8:44]. They were careful about what they ate (Leviticus 11) and observed special days (Exodus 12:15-20). To Jewish Christians it was unthinkable that God would call those who did none of this His people!

To me it is obvious why the New Testament acknowledges the enormous dispute between Jewish Christians and gentile Christians. Jewish people and non-Jewish people were distinctively different in virtually every way.

The first four chapters of 1 Corinthians addressed (in various ways) the internal divisions in that congregation. These are the divisions noted in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. Their internal “quarrels” seemed to focus on the person responsible for their conversion-Paul, Apollos, Peter, or Christ.

Among his arguments against internal division is the one in the text. There was more at stake than their group and its perspective. God’s temple that houses His presence (read 2 Chronicles 7:11-16) is no longer a building at a place, but a people who belong to Him through a commitment to Jesus Christ (read 1 Peter 2: 5, 9, 10).

To those firmly committed to Jesus Christ, there is always something more significant than personal views and preferences. It is the understanding of God’s purpose clearly declared in Genesis 12:3c. God intended to bless everyone. He would not do it in a place, but in a people. He would do it in His people, devoted to His character, honoring His values, committed to His purpose.

Paul’s statement (above) is frightening. The KJV translation correctly notes the “you” Paul used is plural. Christians (plural-congregations) comprise God’s temple now-Jewish Christians, gentile Christians, agreeing Christians, disagreeing Christians, people from all backgrounds. They must not use differences to discredit God’s work and purpose. If a Christian does discredit God by harming what is now His temple, Paul said God would destroy that person (strong language for Paul) because God’s temple is holy.

To me, preserving unity is one of the more difficult tasks God gives us. Nothing about it is simple. We are not one because we are wonderful, or can justify our behavior, or God endorses our point of view, or because people agree with me, or because our culture endorses the best and most sensible way. We are one because we are in Jesus Christ.

May God’s purpose always be our purpose. We belong to Him, not ourselves.

A Matter of Life and Death

Posted by on November 11, 2007 under Sermons

Do Not Kill

  • Kill or Murder?
    • Ratsach – Translated as kill and murder
    • Numbers 35:27 – Kill and murder in English translations are the same word in Hebrew
  • Is this absolute or generic?
      ? How can we be consistent?

    • The law seems to forbid and condone killing

The Value of Life

  • Only God can give life, only he can take it away
  • Humans are the only creatures made in God’s image
  • Killing ruins culture and community by making life disposable
  • Genesis 9:6 – Image of God

Matters of Life and Death

  1. War
  2. Punishment
  3. Abortion
  4. Euthanasia


  • What is it Good For? – Edwin Starr song
  • Is there a “Just War?”
  • Criteria for Just War:
    • Justice
    • Redemption
    • Civil Authority
  • Neglect is lack of compassion

Capital Punishment

  • The value of human life justifies the death penalty (Life for Life)
  • The value of human life condemns the death penalty (dehumanizes society)
  • Three approaches to capital punishment
    1. Capital punishment as humiliation and retribution [clearly unacceptable]
    2. Capital punishment as justice and deterrent [debatable]
    3. Capital punishment as legal maneuver (sentence of death but converted to life imprisonment) – [potentially meaningless]


  • This is not only a woman’s issue – If men will take responsibility for their sexual ethics then there would be fewer unwanted pregnancies.
  • Discussion of abortion needs to respect the guilt and regret of those who have aborted a pregnancy
  • Abortion is a medical procedure; respect of life is a spiritual, ethical, and political matter

Reasons Given for Abortion

Risk of Life
to Mother
Rape and
Birth Control


  • It means “dying well.” – But it avoids discussion of what it means to live well in light of suffering.
  • Kevorkian’s machine was auto-suicide – this is a euphemism
  • What happens to our respect of life as a people?
    • The beginnings at first were merely a subtle shift in emphasis in the basic attitudes of the physicians. It started with the attitude, basic in the Euthanasia Movement, that there is such a thing as a life not worthy to be lived. This attitude in its early stages concerned itself merely with the severely and chronically sick. Gradually the sphere of those to be included in the category was enlarged to encompass the socially unproductive, the ideologically unwanted, the racially unwanted and finally all non-Germans. – Testimony of a psychiatrist at the Nuremburg Tribunal explaining how the Nazi government was capable of atrocities.
  • What is a life worthy to be lived?

J. John, Ten: Living the Ten Commandments in the 21st Century, was an important resource in the development of this lesson. His outlook focuses on the application of the Ten Commandments in the UK. It is interesting to apply his observations to the U.S.

No Killing

Posted by on under Sermons

The sixth word to live by is just three simple words – Do Not Kill. [In fact, in Hebrew it is even simpler – it is just two words. Maybe “No Killing” would be a good translation]. This ought to be a very simple word to live by. No sermon necessary. Let’s just affirm that we will not kill and we needn’t discuss this any more.

But it really isn’t that simple, is it? The very fact that such a terse word to live by even needs to be spoken indicates that we have a problem. It may be easy for nearly all of us to say, “At least I haven’t murdered anyone.” But we are all connected in a culture that participates in killing.

Scanning through the commentaries and discussions on this matter, I have been confronted with the complexity of this issue. First of all, is the word “kill” better translated as “murder?” Is there really a difference? Some scholars say yes, and some say no. There’s more debate, can one be opposed to abortion but support capital punishment? Can one oppose euthanasia but support war? Some say it is not right to be inconsistent and still respect this word to live by. Some say the circumstance and issue are different.

It’s complex. We could spend hours engaging in the discussion of these issues — and that would not be a bad thing! We could probably stand to engage in more discussion if we seriously respect God’s instruction on how to live. And we intend to spend almost one hour on that tonight. Differing voices that make their cases quite well are engaged in the discussion of three simple words that make up this sixth word to live by. Today, let’s pay attention to one voice. It is the voice of our Lord and Teacher. What does Jesus say about this word to live by?

Matthew 5:21-26
“You have heard that our ancestors were told, ?You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an [empty-headed] idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.
“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. When you are on the way to court with your adversary, settle your differences quickly. Otherwise, your accuser may hand you over to the judge, who will hand you over to an officer, and you will be thrown into prison. And if that happens, you surely won’t be free again until you have paid the last penny.”

Jesus takes “God’s Words to Live By” very seriously. So seriously that he is not content just to take them at literal face value; rather, he teaches us that there is wisdom and principle within these statements – even the ones that seem so simple. Jesus understands that the root of murder is hatred and the seed of hatred is anger. Being angry without the courage and maturity to resolve the anger leads to violence. Violence and killing result in judgment.

    Jesus is listing examples for us under the general banner of what you can expect from unresolved anger:

    1. Insulting someone in anger can get you taken to court. We call that terroristic threatening these days. In a land where children and disgruntled employees vent their rage with semiautomatic rifles, we have learned to take angry words seriously.
    2. Cursing someone in the name of God is presupposing that we are the eternal judge of others. And the third word to live by taught us that God doesn’t overlook the casual, thoughtless useless of spiritual language used in anger.
    3. All the time people leave worship mumbling about those things that distract them or ruin the experience. Have we ever stopped to think what ruins God’s experience in worship? Jesus knows: God is distracted when his children are living in un-reconciled contempt for each other. God is worshipped in the place – anytime and anywhere – where men and women settle their difference and defuse the power of anger and bitterness before it turns to any form of violence.
      1. Rick Atchley points out that the first funeral on earth was for a murder victim. Cain killed his brother. It began with anger and grew into hatred. It finally ended with violence. What started this spiral? According to the story, it began in worship. Cain should have settled the matter with God and his brother, instead he was consumed by his pride and rage. He killed Abel. And God grieved for both of his children. Wouldn’t we rather make God happy than offer him sorrow?
    4. Jesus even gives a legal advice. He’s a big believer in out-of-court settlements. Not because it is necessarily a better legal move, but because it is a better way than that of the angry soul who wants fight it out in the courtroom. There are a lot of angry people going to court against one other. But just as a drunk has to be convinced that he cannot beat up everyone in the barroom, an angry person needs to know that they will not win every court battle. If it is personal, settle the matter between individuals. The court may not favor you today.
      1. [The People’s Court was the first of the courtroom reality shows. The announcer Doug Llewellyn would always tell the viewers: “Don’t take matters into your hands, you take ?em to court.” Jesus would disagree with Doug, with the stipulation that it is better to take matters into your own hands if you are going to settle things in righteousness and peace. Of course there are times when matters have to be settled in court, but in court or out of court we cannot be ruled by anger, hatred and violence if we want to Live as Jesus Teaches Us and as God Wills Us.]

Jesus teaches his disciples well. One of his disciples, John the Apostle, understands Jesus’ teaching and the meaning of this sixth word to live by that God spoke.

I John 3:11-20
For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a fellow believer is a murderer, and you know that no murderers have eternal life in them.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another. If any one of you has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in you? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

There is a lot to discuss when it comes to this simple word to live by: Do Not Kill. Let’s continue the discussion – but only if we take it seriously. Taking it seriously means that we are not going to be haters. Haters, says John, are murderers. He is basing that on what Jesus says.
“But what do we do about being angry?” Augustine said that Hope has two beautiful daughters: Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and courage to believe it can change. We all get angry. Even God gets angry. Just remember that Anger doesn’t do well on her own. She needs her sister Courage and together they remind us of Hope. On her own, Anger has a tendency to get lost in hatred and violence — because Courage is absent and there’s no Hope.

Do you have the courage to change the way things are? Hatred, violence, murder or Hope? Which do you choose to live by?

    Notable sources used in preparation of this sermon:

    • Rick Atchley, Sinai Summit.
    • J. John, Ten: Living the Ten Commandments in the 21st Century.

Looking For Water? Look For the Trees!

Posted by on November 8, 2007 under Bulletin Articles

Recently I had opportunity to drive across several wastelands, some of which were just plain deserts. Vegetation ranged from sparse (with small scrub bushes that occasionally dotted the landscape) to absent, with hills gutted by gullies with little to hold the soil.

Occasionally, I saw a ribbon of trees snaking along a low place in the landscape. When I saw that ribbon of trees, I knew there was water available-a small stream or a low river. In the dry areas, the problem was not the nutrients in the soil, but the absence of moisture. Strong trees would grow and produce their fruit if water were available.

In the southern regions of Palestine, the psalmist saw a similar situation. Some regions are extremely arid. In those areas, occasionally there will be a spring and a pool. Around that pool, there is incredible vegetation, including strong fruit-bearing trees with strong root systems.

In short, there is life in a lifeless landscape. Life exists because there is water. The contrast is incredible-no water, arid; water, life.

Once as Jesus was teaching, he said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ?From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water'” (John 7:37, 38).

Consider what Jesus said to the woman at the well near Sychar in John 4:10, 13, 14, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ?Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water. … Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

Knowing and listening to Jesus is like providing a tree in the desert with water. Knowing Jesus will do more than change what you believe. It will change who you are.

In our American society, people need more than information. While they need information, they also need examples. The person who trusts in God must be like the tree in an arid region growing by the water source. The person who trusts God must be sustained by the living water, Jesus Christ. He or she obviously does not thirst. Instead, he or she is a well springing to eternal life in others.

In a society that mistakes pleasure, money, possessions, power, and influence for life, to have the courage to let Jesus quench the thirst for life is the difference between a scrub bush in an arid region and a tree by a water source. Have the courage to be God’s tree. Have the courage to let Jesus Christ be life to you and a well to others through you.

5 False Choices about Evangelism

Posted by on November 4, 2007 under Sermons

  1. Domestic or Foreign
    • Globalization has shrunk the world
    • Here is there and there is here
    • Acts 8 response to change
  2. Evangelism or Edification
    • Discipleship involves both
    • Which is for “us” and which is for “them”?
    • “Insider” or “Outsider” ministry distinctions fail
  3. Service or Evangelism
    • How do we proclaim good news?
    • Jesus’ ministry was teaching, healing, casting out evil
    • Luke 4 and Isaiah 61
  4. Ministers or Members
    • Do we believe in the “priesthood of all believers”?
    • Networking and designated ministers still work together
    • Luke 16
    • Who Evangelized? [Evangelism is the church’s project. Network of relationships.]
  5. God or Us
    • It is God’s work
    • We are God’s work
    • God works within us
    • Ephesians 3:20-21
    • “I am with you always” [Christ’s promise]