Monday, January 24, 2011
“Now say to the rebellious, to the house of
Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “O house of , let us have no more of all your abominations” (Ezekiel 44:6). Israel
Father our nation has “legally” killed over 50,000,000 babies in the past 37 years. This is an abomination of the highest kind. Our leaders have lead us here. Our people have pushed our leaders to lead us here. We have not stood up as one man to decry and condemn this travesty. Our nation is deeply imbedded in sin. It shows in the way we are governed—as if we were animals not created in your image. We show it in the way people of other nations are treated—as if they were competitors or victims or whatever makes sense to keep ourselves on top of the heap. Father we implore you to forgive our sins and to turn our nation back to you. We pray that you would grant us repentance and that you would turn our faces back to you and to your children. That you would give us clean hands and hearts.
We know, Almighty and Gracious Lord, that if we in the Church regard iniquity in our own midst, or in our own hearts, this prayer will be ineffectual.
So we confess thinking that our sin is small and insignificant on the grand scale. You have called us to be holy, sanctified and set apart living and we have run after those around us to as if you don’t notice. We squabble and fight because we envy one another. We gossip and slander one another, defending it with the claim that we would say the same things if the person we are talking about were present. We are proud and boast about our achievements claiming that we are correct in our assessment, we are very good, cool, smart, whatever. But Lord, this is all sin and we confess it to you now and ask that you would cleanse our hearts and forgive us. We confess our individual sins to you now... In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.
As I mentioned in my announcements earlier, this is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. It is a day when we pay special attention to the fact that over 50,000,000 innocent people have been killed in our country, in the past 37 years. In other eras and in other countries we could have pointed at particular leaders who were responsible for killing their own people: Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Idi Amin, etc. But in our country there is no particular person to point a finger at.
The Apostle tells us that when people rebel against God and decide to do what is right in their own eyes he gives them over to all sorts of lusts and depravity. Killing is the usual result of those lusts and depravity and is the fruit of living apart from God.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
The word spin has been around for a long time. I remember, as a boy, hearing older men spinning yarns about hunting or fishing trips they had been on. Or reading stories where the author spun a story of intrigue and danger. In this case, the spinning of a story and embellishing it for effect was a good thing and kept my young mind searching to find who dun it in the mystery being described.
That kind of spinning of fables and yarns still goes on today, but there is a much more sinister kind of spin that catches our attention today. It is the kind of spin that people put on stories in order to hide the truth or to embellish the truth in a particular way. This is done either for the advantage of the speaker or his cause, or for the disadvantage of a competitor or his cause. We see it all the time in the news and when we listen to our leaders.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
As a young boy in Sunday School I remember playing a game called Telephone. It was a fun game, not so much in the playing as in the results that came from playing it.
The class sat in a big circle and the teacher whispered a sentence into the ear child next to her. Then than child turned and whispered it into the ear of the child next to her and on and on it went until the last child whispered it into the teacher’s ear. The funny part came when the first child repeated what the teacher had originally whispered and the last child repeated what had been whispered into his ear. The teacher had said something like, “The cows are all brown today.” And the last little boy said he had heard something like, “Aardvarks have
for born in Grammar school.” New York
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Here's what I think. Sermons should be different than lectures. Lectures give a lot of information, they sort of float along with the text, strewing out good stuff along the way, and they are related more to the text than to the audience. A sermon should be proclamatory. It should have one main point, gotten from the text, and clung to throughout the message. For example I spoke Sunday on (I'm only using this example because I actually did what I'm talking about, not because I do this very well or all the time) on 1 John 5:1-5, but I focused on verse 3. The point of the message was "how can John say that God's commandments are not burdensome"? It took the context and wove my whole message around answering this question. I don't think sermons need to be stated as questions, but they should begin as a question and then move along to an indicative and more provocative title. So my title was "God's Commandments are not Burdensome."
It takes a very good speaker to hold a congregations attention for an hour. This is particularly true if the preacher says what he says, applies it, says something different, applies it and on and on and on. Of course your congregation is trained for this kind of listening, but most people are ready to go home when they hear the word applied. I would guess that most Christians are geared to listen well for 40 minutes or so. Going short does not bother folks, going the right length is good, but going too long is something the people will always remember. It is not a good thing to go too long. But again, your people are used to listening for longer periods of time. If you follow what I say below, however, you might want to preach for a little shorter time, just to give your people some time to breath.
So, here's what I would suggest:
Monday, January 10, 2011
As most of you know I do a considerable amount of counseling. Much of it is marriage counseling. Some of it is with young men wanting to get married. Or with people who have habits they need to change. Sometimes it has to do with getting rid of pain: emotional, physical, or mental. While what prompts people to come to me is their life difficulty, my goal in counseling is to help everyone to mature in Christ and to become more Christlike in the process (Col. 1:28). I want to take each person to God’s throne so that they can receive grace in their time of need. Sometimes God takes away their pain, but sometimes he says, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor. 12:9). Sometimes he changes their hearts in such a way that their problems melt away. Sometimes nothing changes and the person simply leaves. But in every case the people I talk with are faced with the commandments of God. Submission to the will of God is necessary, required, and essential if someone wants to have a whole life. But for some, his commands are very hard, difficult and in many cases beyond the person’s ability to obey. This morning I would like to talk about why that is and how you can come to believe that God’s commands are not burdensome at all.
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1John 5:1-5)