Help My Doubt

Faith seeking reason- Mark 9:24

The Christian Journey (11): Sabbath

Oh boy, I love God’s gift of Sabbath rest. Of course, since this is Palm Sunday it is easy to remember the spiritual rest Jesus made possible by riding into Jerusalem to die for the sins of the world. If Jesus didn’t bring us peace with God then all other types of rest would be meaningless.

God’s word reveals that God gave us Sabbath rest because of they way He created us as recorded in Genesis 1. I had to take the opportunity to cast down the terrible fantasy of Darwinian evolution with scientific evidence that dating methods revealing millions of years are flawed. If we can’t believe in the 6 days of creation then how can we believe in the 7th day of rest? We can and must!

When it comes to Jesus’ correction of Sabbath Day observance we also have to be careful about the extreme of being too conservative. Jesus criticized the church leaders of his day. They considered it a sin to pick grain, roll it in your hand and toss it in your mouth! Jesus said, “no way (Brad’s paraphrase)!” God wants everyone to honor the Sabbath Day but He also wants us to enjoy it.

Bishop Donald Bastian (retired) wrote a good booklet on this subject recently and I copied a Sabbath survey for everyone to take home and use. You can also see it online (http://www.freemethodistchurch.org/pdfs/resources/sabbath_worksheets.pdf).

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March 29, 2010 Posted by | Sermons | Leave a comment

The Christian Journey (10)- Study

This week I had to begin by confessing my negative attitude. I have been very pessimistic about our country and the world lately.

The headlines I read on a weekly newsletter put out by premillennial-rapture group have not helped. They seem to expect the world to go to Hell in a hand basket.

The problem with this negative attitude is that there is evidence from what Jesus said that such could very well be the case.  Matthew 24 is very negative in prediction about the condition of the world in the future.

However, the point of my message today is the importance of careful study of God’s word- both Old Testament and New Testament Scriptures. The Old Testament reminds us that God is in control and often gives entire nations 2nd and 3rd chances. The New Testament reminds us that, even though the sinful people of the world will increase in number, “the gates of Hell will not prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18)”. That’s our source of optimism.

Sinful people will  always outnumber God’s saints but they will never be powerful enough to defeat the Kingdom of God as it spreads into every nation. There will always be pockets of peace within nations of sin. Some of them will be very small but some of them can become quite large. Then Jesus will return and remove sin, sinners and Satan forever!

I feel optimistic again. That’s what careful Bible study will do for those who are willing to turn from their sin and towards God through faith in Jesus alone.

March 22, 2010 Posted by | Sermons | Leave a comment

The Christian Journey (9)- Prayer

I guess I got a little long winded during my sermon this week. I guess I just enjoy talking about prayer. I especially enjoyed talking about it this week because I compared our relationship to God with my relationship to my youngest daughter, Hannah.

I’m going to stop posting my full sermon online and, instead, just post excerpts. Here’s a few from this week:

I was walking to the (1) Post Office with Hannah this week as we usually do. We put on our rain coats and boots to brave the rain. We took the mail back and my collection of keys to open our 2 mail boxes. On this occasion it was just Hannah, our youngest and I, going to get the daily mail. We walked down the sidewalk to Barbers’ then through the basketball courts, around the mud puddles in the parking lot of the Corner Café and stopped before crossing the street. At that point I said (2), in no uncertain terms, “hand!” Hannah has heard that many times before and knows that I expect her to hold my hand before crossing the street because of the danger involved. I can see things she can’t see. I know the rules that drivers follow at intersections and stop signs and pulling in and out of parking lots but she does not. When I said, “hand!” I’m sure I sounded pretty harsh and maybe even mean but I don’t think Hannah took it that way. As we continued (3) our trip to get the mail, we safely crossed the street, walked through the library parking lot, negotiating a safe crossing of the street again and filled our mail bag with mail. On the way out (4) of the Post Office I asked for her hand again, but this time I spoke much more softly and said, “Do you want to hold hands?” Of course, Hannah was more than happy to do so and we held hands all the way back home as we talked and walked safely home.

That’s how I have been thinking about our relationship to God in prayer this week. There are times when God (1) expects us to pray, whether we want to or not, for our own good; and there are times when God invites (2) us to pray, just to be close, talk, listen and to love.

Never mind the numbers in my text. I just use those to help me keep on track when I’m preaching.

I always use both Old Testament and New Testament scriptures when I am studying for each message but I’m not going to post both here. If you want to hear the complete teaching you’ll have to come to church!

5“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites), for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men (Matthew 6:5).

Apparently, in Jesus’ day (a), there were church leaders who pretended to be highly spiritual by praying out loud in church and even on street corners (e.g. Pharisees). Perhaps like some of the (b) rich and famous TV preachers of our day, they talk about doing the will of God but their heart is really in love with fame and money. We should not make the mistake of thinking that God wants us to pray like that. Instead, Jesus said,

6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:6).

Jesus said (a) that we should go into a private room, close the door and pray in private. This is very good news to those of (b) us who are shy and quiet by personality anyway. There is a time and place for praying in public but, more often than not, God would like to spend time with us in the privacy of our own homes (e.g. bathroom library!). That is the type of prayer that God likes and rewards.

7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words (Matthew 6:7).

Apparently that was a practice of the false religions some of the (a) Greeks and Romans brought to Israel. In our day (b) the Muslim religion is getting a lot of air time in the world news. One of my bible commentaries, written by Adam Clarke, said that they must pray 5 times a day. They are very religious and devout in their ritual of prayer, even more so than some Christians, I’m sure. However (c), Jesus said, “they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them (v.7)”. Rather, Jesus says,

9“This, then, is how you should pray:

” ‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,

Only the God of our Bible has revealed Himself as the God who loves humanity like a “Father” loves his children. For example, imagine if Hannah had walked with me to the Post Office and repeatedly said, “Dad, I love you.” The first time I would, obviously, return her love by saying (1), “I love you too baby”. The second time she would say, “Dad, I love you”. I would return her love again by saying (2), “I know baby, I love you too”. The third time she said, “Dad, I love you”, I would start to get (3) irritated and say, “I know, now stop saying it over and over again”. The fourth time if she said, “Dad, I love you”, I would start to (4) wonder if something is wrong (e.g. she doubts that I love her). Children who feel like they have to repeat themselves over and over again are showing that they are worried about their relationship with him. Jesus said, “when you pray, remember that God has promised to be your Father, so trust Him”.

I don’t have time to go through all 6 parts of this prayer today. The important thing is that we all, as God’s children, make a habit of spending time with our Father in prayer every day. For example, when I am working with the (a) teens I encourage them to establish a habit of bible reading and prayer either at the beginning or end of the day. The first thing I ask them every week is, “who remembered to pray this week?” We should have that as a normal part of all (b) our small group ministries. Remember to make corporate prayer a consistent part of each meeting. Don’t be afraid to ask each other about personal prayer habits. Use the Lord’s Prayer as a review for establishing a balanced pattern of praises and requests.

God does want us to pray. Sometimes He wants us to pray (1) because it will keep us safe from danger. Sometimes He wants us to pray (2) just so we can hold hands and talk and walk with our Father.

God enjoyed the time you spent with Him (a) last week. God is glad you came to pray together (b) today. Let’s all remember to spend time with our Father © this week praying as Jesus taught us to pray.

March 15, 2010 Posted by | Sermons | Leave a comment

The Christian Journey (8): Sanctification

When I was about 21 years old I went to a Charismatic worship at a church somewhere between Batavia and Buffalo. I can’t even remember why I attended. It might have been related to a pro-life rally but I’m not sure. I heard the preacher talk about the baptism of the Holy Spirit as compared with a police officer walking around with an empty revolver. I went up front at the end of the service to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I stood on the stage and the preacher encouraged all of us to step out in faith by trying to speak in tongues/pray in the spirit. I tried and made some noises but believe they were just noises. The preacher came down the line of us standing there and laid hands on us to receive the Holy Spirit. I peaked out of the corner of my eye and saw people dropping to the floor when he touched them. I told God, “Lord, I am willing to be “slain” but I am NOT going to fake it”. He prayed, pushed and I stood tall. He prayed and pushed some more and I stood tall. Eventually he moved on.

We all want as much of God’s power as He’ll give us! No one wants to walk through life like an unprepared police officer- feeling sad, scared or defeated by every temptation.

In terms of “The Christian Journey”, I have often wondered why I don’t see more power and love and joy and peace in God’s family. Our NT Scripture in Acts seems to indicate that some of what that Charismatic preacher was true.

Read Acts 8:14-17. 14When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 17Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17). Like that Charismatic preacher said to me so many years ago, there does seem to be some believers who get saved but still lack some of God’s power. They:

  1. accepted the word of God (v.14)”- Philip had taught the Samaritans the word of God. We can assume that Philip had reminded them about God’s creation, fall, flood, etc. in (a) Genesis and His promise (b) for redemption through Eve, Abraham, and Moses in the OT. We know that the people “accepted” the word of God- they believed!
  1. had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus (v.16b)”- Philip had also taught them about Jesus. Just as the gospels testify, Philip would have told them that Jesus was (a) in the beginning with God, that Jesus was (b) the promised seed of Eve, seed of Abraham and the promised Messiah through Moses. They trusted in Jesus and were baptized- they were saved!
  1. the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them (v.16a)”- Philip had left out one important part of the Gospel. In “The Great Commission”, Jesus had told his disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son AND the Holy Spirit (Mt.28:19)”. Philip had not yet taught them about the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Samaritans had believed and were saved but “the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them”.

Just like the Charismatic preacher told us, it is possible to receive only some of the promises of God. That’s why God invites us to continue in “sanctification”.

As a Free Methodist denomination, we are not among those Christians who believe that God’s miracles stopped when the 12 disciples and Paul died. We encourage people to seek spiritual gifts including tongues with interpretation, praying in the Spirit, healing, etc. However, that power has a purpose. It must always be used for the benefit of God and His church.

Leviticus 20 reminds us that family holiness is God’s purpose. Read Leviticus 20:7-8. ” ‘Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the LORD your God. 8 Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the LORD, who makes you holy (Leviticus 20:7-8). These verses in chapter 20 give the summary of what God desires but the verses before and after provide the details:

  • Christian (a) fathers (v.1) must not sacrifice their children in satanic religions any more than they should sacrifice them to their career or hobby (e.g. my brother-in-law gave up hobby for family and ministry).
  • Christian (b) children (v.9) should not disrespect their parents by swearing at them or dishonoring them while they are living under the same roof or when their parents are old (e.g. unsanctified children on TV like South Park or Bart Simpson or Beevis & Butthead). Love honors parents!
  • Christian (c) husbands (v.10) should never jump into bed with anyone other than his wife, whether male or female, and the same goes for the wife (e.g. steady boy/girlfriends too).  Love is faithful!

God can and will prove Himself to people with miracles but His purpose is to purify individuals so that individuals purify families and families purify the community!

Whether your heart is for yourself, your family or the community as a whole, I encourage you to pray for the power of the Holy Spirit for sanctification today.

March 8, 2010 Posted by | Sermons | Leave a comment

The Christian Journey (7): Consecration

Every once in a while God stretches me beyond my comfort zone by guiding me to teach on something I don’t feel ready to preach. “Consecration” is such a topic. What I am learning is that there is more to “consecration” than what we did when we became a Christian. Listen to what our Free Methodist bishops have said about it:

Free Methodist Book of Discipline (2007; last paragraph)

“A Christian (born-again believer) who is divided in loyalty cannot serve God victoriously and steadfastly.  Christ must be given preeminence. He must be the Lord of the Christian’s life.

Therefore, to open themselves to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, believers must give (consecrate) themselves without reservation to God. They freely yield all to the purposes of God and devote every desire and ambition to the service of Christ rather than to self (Colossians 3:8-13). Christians (after salvation) cannot be delivered from the dominion (not penalty but power) of sin if they permit self to reign in their lives. They cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).”

Whenever I have trouble trying to explain something deep or complex I find myself wanting to tell a story. So that is what I have done to illustrate “consecration” today.

Annie’s New Name

There once was an average girl, named Annie, who lived in an average home in an average neighborhood. She attended Jr. High School just like all the other girls her age and her mother and father both worked jobs from 9-5. Annie often felt bored and lonely because her parents were so busy and tired all the time.

One day, while riding home on the bus some of the older boys began to pay attention to Annie. One of the boys was a senior but he started to talk like he wanted her to be his girlfriend. Day after day Annie grew more excited about this boy who seemed to like her, until one day, when he said, “I’ll let you be my girlfriend if you let me come over to your house before your parents get home”.

Annie knew that she wasn’t allowed to have friends over when her parents weren’t home but she was so excited to have a boyfriend that she said, “yes”. They spent every day together for a while until a month later when Annie learned that he had another girlfriend. She was quite sad for a while but soon there was another boy on the bus who wanted to come over to her house and be her boyfriend.

Week after week Annie began to let one boy after another come over to her house until one day she found out she was pregnant. When her parents found out they were very upset. In fact, her father said she had to leave the house. That was the last time her parents ever talked to her.

Fortunately, there was a group home on the other side of town for girls who were pregnant. The group home was run by a husband and wife named, “Mr. and Mrs. Hart”. They didn’t ask a lot of questions when she got there. They just said, “If you want a safe place to live you are welcome to stay here”. Annie had no other place to go so she moved in immediately.

Things went well at the Hart home until Annie became old enough to get a driver’s permit. She had already taken the written exam and passed. She really really really wanted to practice for her road test so she tried to bribe Mr. Hart one day when Mrs. Hart wasn’t home. She said, “If you let me drive your car I’ll let you kiss me”. Mr. Hart was a good man so he simply said, “No, I’ll let you drive my car if you pass the driver safety course at school”. Actually, Annie was pleasantly surprised to see that Mr. Hart did not cheat on his wife (and that he did not kick her out of his house).

Another year went by and Annie got her driver’s license. She also had her baby and was doing very well in school. She and the Harts were getting along very well. In fact, on her 17th birthday the Harts asked her if she would like to be adopted as their daughter! Annie was still very angry with her parents for being so quick to kick her out of their home, so, she said, “yes”. She became, “Annie Hart”.

Back in school, Annie had been doing so well that her advisor suggested that she take some classes at the local community college. She agreed to sign up and try one class to begin with. On the first day of class she sat in the back next to a college boy who was 2 years older than her. He let her in on a secret that the teacher had a bad reputation for giving good grades to girls who wore mini-skirts to show off their legs. Annie was nervous about taking her very first college class so she tried it and started wearing mini-skirts to class. Sure enough, the teacher gave her an “A” for the class.

When Mr. and Mrs. Hart found out about how well Annie did in her first college class they decided to celebrate by taking her out to dinner. They had a great time talking and eating seafood followed by cake and ice cream. By the end of the dinner, though, Annie felt guilty enough to tell the truth about wearing mini-skirts so the teacher would give her a good grade. Just like so many times before, Mr. and Mrs. Hart were patient and forgiving with Annie. They said, “You know you don’t have to show off your legs or get straight A’s to look good. You know that! You’re a ‘Hart’ now and ‘Harts’ don’t do that”.

Annie knew they were right so she reported what had happened to the college office. The college decided to fire the teacher and they also reduce her grade to a “C”. Annie felt so much better afterwards and she couldn’t believe they let her pass. Most of all, she was glad to be a ‘Hart’.

In the end, Annie’s parents never did forgive her; but she forgave them. She raised her baby to be a ‘Hart’ and, you might say, “The Hart family lived happily ever after”.

I hope this has been a helpful way to describe “consecration”:

  • Annie is all of us.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Hart represent God and Jesus.
  • Getting saved can be like running to a group home when we have no where else to go.
  • Consecration comes later on when we are tempted to return to our old way of life but choose, instead, to stay.

Listen to the way Paul described it to the Colossian Christians. Read Colossians 3:1-17.

1Since, then, you have been raised (past tense) with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died (past tense), and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is yourF11 life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Like foster parents who offer to save helpless young girls from a world of sin, our lives can be safely hidden with Christ in God.

5Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs (like clothing, v.8, 12) to your earthly (sinful) nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry (10 Commandments). 6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.F12 7You used to (past tense) walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips (Sermon on the Mount). 9Do not lie to each other, since you have (past tense) taken off your old self (consecrated) with its practices 10and have put on the new self (consecrated), which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all (like Galatians).

Even those who have been saved from the penalty of sin will struggle with temptation but “consecration” comes when we remember that we have died with Christ and, therefore, all our sinful desires must also be put to death.

12Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy (consecrated?) and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Like Annie Hart, who began to live in love and forgiveness like her new family, we also can clothe ourselves with compassion and love like God.

15Let (passive verb) the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do (behavior), whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

None of us can do this alone. We need the help of our loving Father and His other children to live in love and peace.

“The Christian Journey” is sometimes hard to understand. Perhaps today it is enough to say that, “consecration” is like an adopted child who later decides, “I want to grow up to be just like my new Father”.

Where are you along “The Christian Journey”? Consecrated?

12Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

March 1, 2010 Posted by | Sermons | Leave a comment