Sun, 12 August 2018
Sun, 5 August 2018
One of the most intriguing figures from World War II is a Japanese soldier named Hiroo Onoda. He was deployed to the Philippines by his commanding officers. He was given strict orders never to surrender. He took those orders seriously.
The war officially ended in August of 1945 with V-J Day, but not for Onoda. He refused to believe it. He continued to wage guerilla warfare for 29 more years. This was no laughing matter. Estimates are that he was responsible for killing at least 30 Filipinos and wounding approximately 100 others. He finally laid down his weapons when he was “relieved of his duties” by his old commanding officer who was flown to the Philippines so that he could personally issue the order.
That is tragic—fighting when the war is over.
But there is another tragedy, equally as dangerous.
This other tragedy does not consist of fighting when there’s no war; instead, it consists of not fighting when there is a war. It is perilous not to know when you have an enemy that is bent on your destruction.
On September 11, 2001 the United States was caught half-asleep by a group that intended our destruction. Nineteen terrorists aboard 4 jet planes launched an attack that shook our country to its core. Almost 3,000 people died that day.
Some of these terrorists had been in our country for months. Some had taken flying lessons. It was a plot that was detailed and deadly. If we had but known that an attack was imminent—if we had been more alert--perhaps the course of events could have been different.
It is bad to fight when there is no war. It may be worse not to fight when there is a war.
I have a news alert for us this morning. We are at war! To ignore this reality is to add to the danger that already surrounds us. In a new sermon series beginning this Sunday, we are going to learn that, not only are we in a war, but we have been given the armor necessary to win the war!
“We’re at War!”
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might (6:10).
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil(6:11).
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm (6:12-13).
Sun, 5 August 2018
Sun, 29 July 2018
A city slicker bought a horse from a weathered cowboy. The cowboy was God-fearing and had trained the horse using biblical terms. Instead of “giddy-up,” the command to go was “Praise the Lord.” “Amen” was the signal to stop. He coached the new owner on the importance of using these phrases and these alone.
Now fully prepped and astride his new steed, the city slicker said to the horse, “Praise the Lord!” Off they trotted. Soon enough, a rabbit darted in front of the horse and startled him. The horse began to gallop at full speed. The rider saw that they were quickly approaching a cliff with a sheer drop of a couple hundred feet.
He forgot the coaching he’d received. He shouted “Whoa!” “Stop!” He pulled back on the reins. But nothing slowed the horse. Finally, he remembered the necessary word. “Amen!” he shouted. At that the horse came to a screeching stop at the brink of the canyon. The rider sighed with relief, lifted his hands heavenward, and said with sincerity, “Praise the Lord.”
That may be the only situation where a heart-felt “Praise the Lord” would be inappropriate! God’s word makes it abundantly clear that we are to praise the Lord at all times and in all places.
This Sunday we wrap up our summer series through the Psalms. We have ascended to the very peak of the book as we come to Psalm 150. The unrelenting cry of this Psalm is that the Lord is to be praised. In it we will learn the “who,” the “where,” the “why,” and the “how” of biblical praise.
Join us as we praise the Lord!
Songs of the Summer
“Praise the Lord!”
Praise the Lord! . . . Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! (150:1a, 6)
Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens!(150:1b)
Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! (150:2)
Praise him with trumpet sound; . . . with lute and harp! . . . with tambourine and dance; . . . with strings and pipe! . . . with sounding cymbals; . . . with loud clashing cymbals! (150:3-5)
Sun, 22 July 2018
Buckminster Fuller studied the accumulation of information. He created what is known as the “Knowledge Doubling Curve.” He noticed that until 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By the end of World War II, knowledge was doubling every 25 years. Today, on average, human knowledge is doubling every 13 months! According to IBM, the build out of the “internet of things” will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours.
We may be getting smarter, but are we getting wiser?
A young, university graduate crossed a large, dangerous river on a barge. An elderly, seasoned fellow was steering the barge. As they made the crossing, the odd couple struck up a conversation. The university student asked the old man three questions.
The first one was: “Do you know anything about physics?” “Nope”, replied the old man. “Then a third of your life has been wasted!” decried the young student. His second question was: “Do you know anything about philosophy?” “Nope”, answered the old man with no note of angst. “Then another third of your life has been wasted!” protested the collegiate. Finally, he asked: “Do you know anything about the social sciences?” “Nope”, dryly replied the old man. “Then another third of your life has been wasted!”
Suddenly, the barge hit a large object, took on water rapidly, and overturned. Both men were thrown into the water. The old man cried out to the young student, “Do you know anything about swimming?” The young man replied “Nope.” “Then your whole life is wasted!” replied the old man.
The young man thought the accumulation of knowledge about certain subjects was essential to life. The old barge pilot knew that none of that mattered in the world of piloting a barge if you can’t swim. What was essential in his life was knowing how to swim.
What knowledge is essential? What is it that we should know in a world where knowledge is doubling virtually every year? We may have a tremendous amount of knowledge about the things of life, but, without a proper knowledge of who God is, all of life (and eternity) can be wasted.
This morning we will learn “How to Stay Ahead of the Knowledge Curve.” Psalm 139 celebrates the attributes of God and how they impact our lives. David is the inspired author and he is amazed by the nature of God. There may be no other place in Scripture where the magnitude and immensity of God are more explicitly revealed.
Songs of the Summer
“How to Stay Ahead of the Knowledge Curve”
O Lord, you have searched me and known me! (139:1)
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? (139:7)
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb (139:13).
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (139:23-24)
Sun, 15 July 2018
Mon, 9 July 2018
n the book, Amazing Grace, an interesting story is told about a young man named Arlo. He had a godly grandfather. When Arlo got married to his wife, his grandfather gave them a wedding gift. It was a beautiful, leather-bound Bible with their names engraved on its cover. Arlo and his wife appreciated the gift of a Bible, but never took it out of the box. He stored it away.
Every once in a while, his grandfather would ask, “Did you like the Bible I gave you?” They assured him that they did. They sent him a thank-you note. But he wouldn’t let it rest. “What did you think about the Bible I gave you?” he would ask with frequency.
Finally, Arlo took the Bible from its box and began to leaf through it. When he did, he discovered that his grandfather had put a $20 bill at the beginning of Genesis, and $20 at the beginning of Exodus, and $20 at the beginning of every book in the Bible—$1320 in total in cash! Arlo says that he never would have discovered how valuable that gift was had his grandfather not kept prompting him.
I am a grandfather now and I want to imitate Arlo’s grandfather. Do you like the Bible that you hold in your hands today? Do you like the Bible that you have on your shelf or night stand? Have you leafed through its pages and discovered the unbelievable wealth of wisdom it contains? It is not worth $20 or $1320. It is worth more than all the silver and all gold the world contains.
It is “God’s Wisdom for Your Way.” In today’s message, God’s word will remind us of the treasure it is both for our day-to-day living and for all of eternity.
Songs of the Summer
“God’s Wisdom for Your Way”
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word (119:9).
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments (119:10)!
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you (119:11).
Sun, 1 July 2018
The sports world is caught up in World Cup fever [slide with World Cup logo]. On June 17 Mexico played Germany. Germany is a soccer powerhouse. They have won the World Cup four times (second only to Brazil’s five). Mexico has never won the World Cup but they are officially soccer crazy and desperately hungry for a title.
Estimates are that 75,000 people jammed the main square in Mexico City to watch the televised game. When Mexico scored the winning goal, the fans erupted in pandemonium. Nearby seismic meters registered their celebration. There was, on a small level, an earthquake.
Is it possible that a crowd could get so excited that the earth could quake? Yes! And I say, “Let the earth quake again!” But this time, let the earth quake for the celebration of God’s people for the victories that He has won on our behalf.
Psalm 100 encourages and even commands God’s people to exalt Him in exuberant praise. Let’s dive into the truths of this Psalm and “let the earth quake.”
Songs of the Summer
“Let the Earth Quake”
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. . . . Come into his presence with singing (100:1-2).
Serve the Lord with gladness! (100:2a)
Know that the Lord, he is God! (100:3a)
Sun, 24 June 2018
Martin Luther was a devout Roman Catholic priest. He loved the word of God and held to its truths tenaciously. He came to question some of the practices and teachings of his church. He posted 95 theses (or points of concern) to the door of the parish church in Wittenberg, Germany where he often preached.
For his protests, he was ultimately put on trial before the emperor and ecclesiastical leaders. He was ordered to recant but he refused. He famously said,
Your Imperial Majesty and Your Lordships demand a simple answer. Here it is, plain and unvarnished. Unless I am convicted [convinced] of error by the testimony of Scripture or (since I put no trust in the unsupported authority of Pope or councils, since it is plain that they have often erred and often contradicted themselves) by manifest reasoning, I stand convicted [convinced] by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God's word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me.
For his disobediences he was excommunicated by the Pope and condemned as an outlaw by the Holy Roman Emperor. He could be killed with immunity.
A German prince gave him refuge in the Wartburg Castle. It became his temporal fortress and there he translated the Scriptures into the German language. But his true and eternal fortress was the Lord God.
To this point he wrote one of if not the best-loved hymn of all time: “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Some of the lyrics are:
A mighty Fortress is our God,
A Bulwark never failing;
Our Helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth His Name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His Kingdom is forever.
For Martin Luther, God was his fortress. In that confidence he defied emperor and pope. In God he trusted.
What is your fortress? In what or in whom do you trust? To whom do you run in times of trouble?
Psalm 91 makes clear who ought to be our fortress and refuge. It also makes crystal clear the blessings that come when our God is our fortress. Let’s open our Bibles and our hearts to these truths this morning.
Songs of the Summer
“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty (91:1).
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (91:2)
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence(91:3).
Sun, 17 June 2018
In August of 2016 a terrible flood hit the greater Baton Rouge area. The financial impact was catastrophic. Thousands of homes and businesses were flooded and lives were lost.
The people of the United States, through their elected officials, stepped forward to help meet the need. According to reports, approximately 1.3 billion dollars were granted to Louisiana for restoration efforts. Nell and I are grateful recipients of some of that money. I know that many of you have been too.
Would anyone care to venture how much of that amount has actually been distributed to needy families? Approximately $60 million. That may sound like a lot (and it is); however, relative to the amount allotted. It is a small percentage. It is a little less than 5%! In fact, more money has been spent on administration of the program than has actually been given to those who suffered losses in the floods (see attached jpg).
For those who’ve suffered in the flood, you might want to say to the agency , “That money was given to you so that it might be channeled through you to the hurting! Please pass it on!”
We instinctively know that it is not right to hoard resources that have been entrusted to us that were intended to bless others.
But before we get embittered at governmental ineptitude, could it be that we too have been guilty of keeping the blessings of God that have been entrusted to us to ourselves? Instead of being rivers of blessings, we’ve become reservoirs of God’s bounty. Instead of being channels of blessings, we’ve siphoned off inordinate amounts for ourselves.
Songs of the Summer
“Blessed to Be a Blessing”
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us (67:1).
For that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations (67:2).
Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you (67:3).
This morning God will challenge us to lives of greater generosity from Psalm 67 in a message I’m entitling, “Blessed to Be a Blessing.”