Sunday, February 25, 2007

February 25, 2007--The REAL Inconvenient Truth

Note--Posts taken from loose outline notes of pastor sermon. No video available.

Scripture: Matthew 24:36; Matthew 25:13; Revelation 16:15

Tonight the Hollwood secularists and humanists will gather in Hollywood to worship one another and hand out awards. One of the movies up for award is former Vice President Al Gore's "documentary" 'An Inconvenient Truth.' It is about global warming and climate change. The real inconvenient truth has nothing to do with global warming. In many cases, to us, the true inconvenient truth is that Christ is coming again.

Let's stick with an acting theme. In many ways, we are the actors in a play. We all have plans and scripts and lines we want to follow. However, we think we are the ones writing the script. We think we know where we are going and what is going to happen.

You know, I am not a Shakespeare fan, but here is something I read about a character in the play King Lear:
In King Lear there is a man who is such a minor character that Shakespeare has not given him a name, merely "first servant." All the characters around him are named and have fine long term plans. They think they know how the story is going to end, and they are quite wrong. The servant has no such delusions. However, he does understand the present scene. he sees an abomination(the blinding of old Gloucester)taking place. he will not stand for it. His sword is out and pointed at his master in a moment: then Regan stabs him dead from behind. That is his whole part: eight lines all told But if it were real life and not a play, that is the part it would be best to have acted.

The Second Coming teaches us we do not and cannot know when the world drama will end. Any moment the curtain could fall. This eems toi some people terribly irritating, and as stated above, inconvenient. So many things would be interrupted, and we have so much important things. What? Christ is comng? He can't come now...I have a movie to see, I have the grass to mow...Perhaps you were going to get married, perhaps you were going to get a raise, perhaps you were working on that new invention to make you rich and change the world....Surely no good and wise God would be so unreasonable as to cut this short? Um...wrong...what about ending the suffering, ending the wait for Christ...well, but you don't understand, I have plans.

We think this because we keep on assuming that we know the play. We don't. We don't know which act we are in. Only the Author knows. The audience (if the heavenly host and the fallen angels and such can be called that) might have an idea. But we, never seeing it from the outside, never knowing any other characters except those "on" at the same time as we are, we cannot tell at what moment the end ought to come. That it will come when it should, we can be sure; but we waste our time in guessing when it will be. That it has meaning we can be sure, but we cannot see it totally. When it is over, we may be told. We are led to expect that the Author will have something to say on how we played the parts. What matters most is playing it well.

Which brings me to another point. Like Hollywood actors, we spend way too much time listening to what the 'critics' think. Actors are obsessed with critics, even as they say they don't know what they are talking about. However, they check out what Ebert has to say all the time. However, we should only care how well we are playing out what the Author of the drama has set before us. That is all that matters.

The Second Coming is a doctrine that needs more frequent meditation, not because it is meant to make us fear, but in reality it is meant to make us think a bit more about how we are playing the part, and to realize it is not the costuming, it is not the scenery, it is not the critics. Rather, it is about how the parts are played and how we choose to play them either as the Author intended, or we choose what we think we know and in the end the only review that matters, the Author's is a thumbs down. The Second Coming, really, is the medicine our condition needs. It is the only way to complete the cycle, to end the holes in our hearts. However, so often we don't think about it, well, because we have plans. However, our plans are but as specks to the Author, and I would much rather do it His way and get a "well done good and faithful servant," than to worry about what the neighbors, the bosses, or whoever thinks.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

February 18, 2007--Judgement

Note--sermon taken from loose outline notes of pastor, no audio or video.


Scripture: Jeremiah 17:10; Romans 14:7-12

Our ancestors frequntly used the word judgement as if it meant punishment--it is a judgement upon him. However, it is clearer to think of it not as the sentence or award but as the verdict itself. Someday, an absolutely correct and perfect verdict shall be passed on each of us.

We all have encountered verdicts on ourselves in this life. We sometimes get verdicts from others and even ourselves. We sometimes discover what others really think of us. And I don't mean what they say to our faces, but rather what they say behind closed doors or when they think we are not listening. Sometimes we get it through the unknowing repetition of children repeating what they overhear. Also, we see in many ways, in sometimes more meaningful ways, in others' actions.

You know, we find out by what people do. You know, like those who say they support the troops, out there with photo ops and flags, but then, then they go and try to take resources from them. They say things when they think people aren't listening. They should be judged by their actions, not by their platitudes. And trust me, they will face JUDGEMENT.

The judgement we get from others can be bitter or sweet. But the tastes of these judgements are limited by our doubt as to the wisdom of those doing the judging. WE always hope that those who clearly think us cowards or bullies are ignorant and mean. But, on the flip side, we frequently fear that those who trust and admire us are misled by partiality. I suppose the experience of the final judgement will bel ike thse little experiences, but to the NTH degree.

Because, it will be infalliable judgement. If it is favorable we shall have no fear, if unfavorable, no hope that that decision is wrong. There won't be any doubt, like the OJ trial, the Duke Case, whatever. We shall not only believe, we shall know, beyond any doubt in every fiber of our appalled or delighted being; that as the Judge has said, so we are: neither more not less nor other. WE shall maybe even realize that in some dim way we could have known it all along. WE shall know and all creation will know, too.

I do not find that pictures of physical catastrophe\\the sign in the coulds, etc--help one so much as the naked idea of judgement. We cannot always be excited. WE can, perhaps, train ourselves to ask more and more often how the thing which we are saying or doing (or in most cases not doing)at each moment will look when the irresistible light streams upon it; that light which is so different from the light of this world.

Women sometimes have the problem of trying to judge by artificial lifht how a dress will look by sunlight. That is very like the problem of all of us: to dress our souls not for the neon poorly lit lights that lead temptingly to destruction, but rather for the daylight of the next world. The good dress is the one that will face that light. However, we cannot come up with such a dress. WE can only wear the hard fought salvation by Christ, the dress that looks good in all light, even the daylight of judgement that reveals our hurts and warts, because Salvation and being made perfect is so amazing it erases those warts, and being made to withstand the light of the next world is so important, because that light will last alot longer.

February 11, 2007 Sermon: Through a Glass Darkly

Note-sermons taken from loose outline notes of pastor. No video or audio available.

Scripture: I Corinthians 13:9-12

You know, our vision of Heaven, despite it being paradise, involves a lot of negatives. No need for tears, food, drink, time, no need for art. We do get one positive, however: the Vision and enjoyment of God. That is a huge positive! Since that is a great plus, we hold correctly that it is better than the minor others. However, a question develops. Can our present view of that great Positive outweigh our present views about the negatives?

The concept of the Vision is difficult, somewhat abstract based on limited experience, while our ideas of the negated things is vivid, persistent, intense. The Negatives seem to have an unfair advantage. The exclusion of the lower goods begins to seem THE characteristic of the Vision of God. We begin to think that the Vision will come to destroy our nature rather than revealing our nature.

Think of this story. There is a woman who is locked in a dungeon. She bears and rears a son. They see nothing in the dungeon except the walls, ceiling, and a small little patch of blue sky. However, the woman was an artist, and she smuggles in with her pencils and a drawing pad. She constantly teaches her son about the outside world by drawing pictures--the wavy fields of grain, the waves of the ocean, rivers. She teaches her son about all of these. He listens and tries to believe in it.

One day, he says something that makes the woman realize he has lived under a false view--He thinks the world is full of lines drawn in pencil! Huh? She tries to tell him, and in so doing shatters his world. So it is with us. WE know not what we shall be, but we may be sure it is more, not less than what we are on EArth. Our current experience (the five senses) is like a drawing, with lines of grease pencil. Those lines, those barriers, vanish in the Resurrection, vanish as pencil ines from landscape. They vanish not as a candle flame that is put out but as a candle flame which becomes invisible because someone has pulled up the blinds, thrown open the shutters, and let in the blaze of the risen Son!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Past Sermons up til 2/4/07

Here are sermon notes of some sermons given between our last entry and February 4, 2007. If they are not in order, I am sorry. Remember, they are taken from loose outline notes of the pastor. No video or audio available...

Seek the Kingdom First--February 2007

Text: Matthew 6:33; John 12:24

I am beginning to think that we need an act of submission not just to future afflictions but to blessings as well. I know it sounds crazy, but I think it is true. Hear me out on this one. We often rather sulkily reject the good God offers us, because it is not the good we wanted at the moment and we expected something else. on every level of our experiences we always have some arbitrary standard we go back to, whether it be a myth we saw on TV (like Ward and June Cleaver and the Boys being the perfect family) or some memory we have of the "good ol days." These serve to cut down our current experiences. But these other evenets have their own blessings, even if they don't hold up to these "standards". I believe we could see and learn from them, if we only opened our eyes to them.

God shows us a new facet of glory with each experience, yet we refuse to look at it bcause we're still looking for some other one. And of course, we don't get that. We go looking for it to be just like the first time, just like the perfect time, and we don't get that. We can't have that perfect Christmas when we were kids, because we aren't kids anymore. We can't have that perfect family because it was a TV show. We can't. it is like watching Star Wars for the 30th time.

I am a huge sci fi fan. I love Star Wars. However, the 30th time I watch Star Wars, it is not hte same as the first time, so long ago. See, I am enthralled by Darth Vader; he is such an imposing and interesting character. However, each time he first comes striding onto the scene in Star Wars, it is not like the very first, frightening, amazing, adrenaline filled time when I was a kid. My dad is probably happy about that, because way back then I was sitting on his lap as a child and lost control of my faculties and let's just say it wasn't soda spilled on his lap.

Now, I could be sad about that....woe is me, the thrill is gone, boohoo. However, each time I watch the movie, I notice something different. See, I know it is not going to be like the first time, amazing as it was. It is not like the first time, but what you get can be in tis own way as good as the first.

This applies especially to our spiritual devotional life. many people cry that the first stirrings and passions of their conversion have died away. They think, sometimes rightly, but not always, that their sins account for this. They may even try to recapture those good ol days by getting stuck in a ritual or a reading. However, the question must in some casees be, were those initial passionate feelings ever intended to last?

Think of the evolution of a romantic relationship. Those initial flames of passion may dim, but they are replaced by an evolution of other things. You get the understanding, the friendship. Things evolve and change. In some cases, those feelings of passion were so intense they could have been unhealthy. So they evolve. They aren't destroyed, they just evolve and change, or some new feeling comes which is just as good.

It would be wrong to say that there is any prayer which God never grants. But the biggest candidate can be expressed in this way: do it again, or do it over. And how should the Infinite repeat Himself? All space and time are too little for Him to utter Himself in them once!

The tragedy is that these golden memories become torments when we make them into standards and norms. They should be food for us, nourishing us and encouraging us to dig deeper, to persevere, to give praise. They can be nourishing, enchanting, and wholesome if we accept them for what they are: memories. properly bedded down in a past where we do not miserably try to conjure back, they will ssend up wonderful growth. Leave the bulbs alone, and the wonderful new flowers will come up. However, dig them up and hope that by sniffing and touching and gripping them tightly that you can get last year's blooms, and you will get nothing. It is like one of our verses says, "unless a seed should die..."


We Love to Praise Early 2007

Text: Hebrews 13:15; 1 Peter 2:9

We like to praise what we enjoy because praise doesn't just describe the enjoyment or the fun, it completes it. For example, lovers keep telling one another how beautiful they are not just out of compliment, but to complete their delight in each other. Think of it this way. Have you ever been frustrated because you you couldn't give praise or share the virtue of a good author because of the company you were in, or ever been frustrated that you can't discuss the beauty of the beautiful view you are taking in because the rest in your company just don't see it? Or the frustration at not being able to share and appreciate a good joke because the other person doens't get it or whatever? Our enjoyment of good things is not complete until we give praise to them. This is true even when are expressions are not adequate, as they often are and most of the time are.

If we could praise to perfection, imagine how complete the delight would be! Then, the object or thing would have een fuly appreciated and our delight would have attained perfect development. The worthier the object, the more intense this joy and delight would be. If it were possible to do this, then the soul would be in complete beatitude.

It is along this route of thought that I find it easiest to understand the Christian idea that "Heaven" is a place where the angels are now, and men hereafter, are perpetually employed in praising God. this does not mean, as it can so sadly suggest, that it is like being in church. No offense, but our services, in their practice and in our power to participate, are just attemptes at worship, never fully a hit and most often times a miss. We are not riders but pupils at driving school.

Why should we praise? Read 1Peter 2:9. Also, think back to our description of perfect enjoyment. We don't have complete fulfillment until we praise our love, and don't we love God?

To see what hte doctrine really means, we must suppose to be in perfect love with God. There is a Scotch verse that says man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him for ever. But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is truly inviting us to enjoy Him.

And how do we continually praise God? Read I Thessalonians 5:17.


The Pain Issue--Early 2007

Text: James 1: 2-4, 12; Matthew 6:19-20

You know, I have come to the realization that our human spirit (not the Holy one) will not even begin to try to surrender its own self-will as long as all is well with it.

Error and sin have a similar characteristic--they are masked evils in that the deeper they are the less their victim suspects their existence. However, Pain is different. Every person knows that something is wrong when they are being hurt. It is also impossible to ignore. We can laze around happy in our sin life and in our stupid nature; and anyone who has watched gluttons shoveling down the most exquisite foods as if they did didnt know what they are eating, they can admit that we can ignorne even the pleasures of our life. We ignore even the happy things, because we are too concerned about moving fast or getting ahead or what have you.

However, pain is insistent. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is like a super megaphone for a deaf world.

Here I am living my life in my ordinary and happily fallen and godless way, absorbed in hanging with my friends, or reading a new book or watching a new video; when suddenly a stab of pain hits me that threatens serious consequences, like chest pain; or a headline in the papers that threatens our immediate destruction, sends my whole sand castle falling to the ground. At first I am overwhelmed, and all those little happinesses look like broken dolls. Then, slowly at first, It ry to bring myself into the frame of mind I should be always. i remind myself that all these little things were never intended to have my soul, my heart; and my only real treasure is Christ and his salvation. Then, by God's grace, i succeed, and for a day or two become a creature consciously dependent on God and darawing my strength from the right and good sources.

Then, the moment of threat is withdrawn (say a medicine is taken to fix the pain, or the news story dies down), and my whole eing jumps back to the toys. I am even anxious to do what so many of us do, to banish from my mind the only thing that supported me under the threat because it is now associated with the misery of those few days. I want to put God in a box.

Now, the terrible necessity of trial is all too clear. God has had me for bu 48 hours and hten only by dint of taking everything else waway from me. Let Him but sheathe that sword for a moment and I behave like a dog when that hated bath is over--I shake myself dry adn look for the nearest mudheap.

And what about Christians in pain? Maybe we need a wakeup call, maybe we are blessed in the sense God is using us to show others. Either way, we need our pain in this world. Pain cannot cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is hopeless. I pray to be remade, and that we all be remade. However, as trauma is needed to reshape and remake metal, so too it must be for us, for we are far more dense than metal.


New Things--New Year's Sermon 12/31/06

Text: 2Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:21-24; Revelations 21:5; reference verse Colossians 3:10

The new year is coming. This is the time of year when we are to cast off the old year and jump into the new. The time of reflection, renewal, and reaffirming, both as individuals and really as a Body of Christ here at the church. We make new plans for the coming year, figure out what went well, where we want to go, and how to get there.

In the secular sense, in some ways, we are to become new people. We get resolutions to become new people, to lose weight, quit this habit or do this new thing, change our wardrobes, etc. etc. However, what about becoming truly new things, a new person in Christ?

To become a new person in Christ, we must lose "ourselves." We must step away from all the stuff of us, and into Christ. His Will is to become ours and we are to think thoughts like Him. And if Christ is one, and if He is thus to be in us all, shall we not be exactly the same? That is what you may think, and many in the world think Christians are just wanting to be little robots, but that is not the case....

Suppose a person knew nothing about salt. You give them a pinch to taste and they experience a unique, strong, sharp taste. You then tell the person that in your country people use salt in all their food. This person will most likely say, "in that case I guess your food tastes exactly the same, because the taste of that salt stuff is so strong it will kill the taste of anything else." However, we all know the opposite is true. Far from kiling the taste, salt (when not used to excess) actually brings the flavor of food out...

It is like that with Christ. The more we get our selves out of the way, our worldly needs and such, the more truly US we become. There is so much of Him that millions and millions of little Jesuses, all different, will still be too few to express Him fully. he made them all. He invented all the different men that you and I were intended to be. in that sense our real selves are all waiting for us in Him. It is when we turn to Christ, when I give myself up to Him, that I first begin to have a REAL PERSONALITY of my own, free from the expectation of the world.

The first step, though, is a real giving up of the self. We must give it away blindly, so to speak. Don't go to him for the sake of getting a personality but for just getting Him. As long as your own personality is what you are worried about, you are not going to Him at all. The real, new self will not come as long as you are looking for it. it will come when you are looking for Him. The same principle holds true for most things. Even in society, you will never make a good first impression on other people until you stop thinking about what kind of impression you are making.

Even in the arts and in writing, it holds true that the person who bothers about originality will never be original, but if you simply try to tell the truth you will, nine tims out of ten, become original without having noticed it.

The principle runs through all life. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, the death of your ambitions and favorite wishes everyday and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find ETERNAL LIFE. Keep back nothing. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, rage, ruin. But look for Christ, and you will find Him, and with Him, your REAL SELF and everything else thrown in.

Forgiveness Sought for Lack of Posting

Dear Friends,

I am truly sorry for the lack of posting of sermons and such from the Church. I know some of you brought this to my attention and asked that I begin again the process of writing sermon notes on the blog. I have no excuse.. I became busy with other things and thoughts and just let it pile up to the point I don't remember which sermon was when and what dates the sermons dealt with and I may have lost a few sermons. However, I am going to post a few of the recent ones and then begin to post the new ones shortly after they are finished each week. I am sorry for the delay but thnigs have been busy and I allowed other things to get in the way as well.

thanks for understanding,


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

November 5, 2006--That Missing Something....

Note: Post taken from sermon given on date listed above. Post taken from loose outline notes of the pastor. Actual delivered sermon may have varied....No video available, sorry....

Text: 1 John 2:15-17; Romans 12:2; Psalm 63:1

Most of us find it very difficult to want "Heaven" at all--except in so far as Heaven means meeting again oujr friends who have died. One rason for this difficulty is that we have not beeen trained: our whole education tends to fix our minds on this world. Another reason is that when the real want for heaven is present in us, we do not recognize it. Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearsts, would know that they do want, and wanat acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, and we try them. These things, however, never keep their promise. When we fall in love, go on vacation, get a new job, etc. we feel fulfilled but quickly there is something we notice. Something missing. The longings we get are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning can really satisfy. There is something we grasped at, that just fades away in the reality of living in a place, sticking to that job, living with that person. The wife mayh be a good wife, and the hotels and scenery in the vacation may have been cool, and the job may be a good one, but something has evaded us. Now there are two wrong ways of dealing with this fact, and one right one.

1. The Fool's Way--This person puts the blame on the things themselves. he goes on all his life thinking that if only he would have tried another woman, or went for a more expensive vacation, or whatever, then, this time, this time, he would really catch the mysterious something we are all after. This person is susceptible to drug abuse, getting that next fix, or other addictions. If only they do this more, or try this, then they will find happiness. This leads down the path to damnation, to bad habits, even with the best of intentions.

2. The Way of the Disillusioned or Sensible Person--He soon decides that the whole thing was moonshine. "fo course," they say, "one feels like that when one's young. But by the time you get to my age you've geven up chasing the rainbow's end." And so he settles down and learns not to expect too much, and represses the part of himself which used, as eh would say, to cry for the moon.....Wow, this is the old fuddyduddy....Now don't go pointing to me yet.....I just look like that, I don't feel like that at all times inside.....heh....

3. The Christian Way, the Right Way----The Christian way says, "Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel desire, there is such a thing as fulfilling that. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, then the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures can satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hadn, never to despise, or be unthankful for, thse earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are onlya kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find tilla fter death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main objective of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.

October 29, 2006--Brother John Ditterline

The chairman of the board of trustees, and retired pastor John Ditterline, Jr., delivered the message today, October 29th, 2006. There were about 25 or so at the service, according to reports to the reporter. Way to go! Mr. D always gives a great message, drawing from his experiences as a Marine in WWII on Saipan, Iwo Jima, and the Pacific; as a teacher, a small businessman, and a pastor.

October 22, 2006--God Wants You to Be a Saint

Note: Post taken from sermon given on date listed. Taken from loose outline notes of the Pastor....Actual delivered sermon may have varied. No video available....sorry

Text: Matthew 5:48; James 1:3-4; 2 Corinthians 6:16

We never wanted and never asked to be made into the sort of creatures God wants us to be. We rather want something in between, to just be nice folks, but not to be saints. But the wquestion is not what we intended ourselves to be, but what He intended us to be when He made us. He is hte inventor, we are only the machine. He is hte painter, we are onlyh the picture. How should we know what He means us to be like? We may be content to remain what we call "ordinary folks": but He is determined to carry out a quite different plan. To shrink back from that plan is not humility: it is laziness and cowardice. To submit to it is not conceit or madness; IT IS OBEDIENCE.

There is another way of putting this into perspective. On one hand, we must never imagine that our own efforts can be relied on to carry us even through the next twenty four hours as "decent people". If He does not support us, not one of us is safe from some gross sin. On the hotehr hand, no possible degree of hiliness or heroism which has ever been recorded of the greatest saints is beyond what He is determined to produce in every one of us in the end. The job will not be completed in htis life: He means to get us as far as possible before death, however.

That is why we must not be surprised if we are in for a rough time. When a man turns to Christ and seems to be getting on pretty well, he often feels that is would now be natural if things went fairly smoothly. When troubles come along, like sickness, money trouble, loss--he/she is disappointed. These things, he/she feels, might have been necessary to rouse him or her and make him repent in his bad days; but why now, when they are a Christian? Well, here is the answer. Because God is forcing him/her on, and up to a higher level: putting him into situations where they will have to be very much braver, or more patient, or more loving, than he/she has ever dreamed of being before. It seems to us all unnecessary; but that is because we have not yet had the slightest notion of the tremendous things He means to make of us....

Think of it this way....Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in, buys the house and means to rebuild that house. At frist, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that thsoe jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of--throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but HE IS BUILDING A PALACE!!! He intends to come and live in it Himself!!!!!

October 15, 2006--Liking and Loving

Note: Sermon given on Date Listed...Taken from loose outline notes of pastor, actual live sermon may have varied. No video available....

Text: John 15:12; John 13:35; Matthew 25:40

The way to be loving or charitable is not to sit trying to manufacture affection. Some people are just cold by their temperment. I happen to be one who is sometimes in this category. I am a shy guy, and sometimes am very reserved and quiet at first. However, the fact that we might be more reserved, it does not excuse us from learning charity or love.

The rule is simple: don't waste time thinking bothering whether you "love" your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If yo uinjure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.

There is, however, one exception. If you do someone a good deed, not to please God and obey the law of love, but rather to show what a forgiving person you are, or worse yet, to put him in your debt; then you are not pleasing to God. If you then sit down and wait for this person's gratitude, you will probably be disappointed. ( People are not fools, they have a very quick eye for anything like showing off, or patronage.) But whenever we do good to another, just because it is a self, made (like us) by God, and desiring its own happiness as we desire ours we shall have learned to love it a little more or, at least, to dislike it less.

Consequently, though Christian charity sounds a very cold thing to people whose heads are full of sentimentality, adn though it is quite distinct from affection, yet it leads to affections. The difference between a Christian and a worldy man is not that the worldy man has only affections or "liking" and the Christian has only "charity." The worldy man treats certian people kindly because he "likes" them. The Christian, trying to treat everyone kindly, finds himself liking more and more people as he goes on--including people he could not even have imagined himself liking at the beginning....

Some writers use the word charity to describe not only Christian love between human beings, but also God's love for man and man's love for God. About the second of these two, people are often worried. They are told they ought to love God. They cannot find any such feelings in themselves. What are they to do? The answer is the same as before. Act as if you did. Do not sit trying to manufacture feelings. Ask yourself, "If I were sure that I loved God, what would I do?" When you have found the answer, go and do it.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

October 1 and 8, 2006--Psalm 23 Perfects

Note: Post taken from loose outline notes of pastor. Actual sermon may have varied. This sermon based on something the pastor's sister gave that came from her Church's study.

Text: Psalm 23

IT is amazing how things we have looked at time and again can reveal new things to us. Well, I think we knew these things were there, but we couldn't see the forest for the trees. My ssister gave me this info, and I am going to pass it on. Hidden inside this famous piece of Scripture are 14 perfects God provides for us and we can get in a relationship with Him.

The Lord is my Shepard--Perfect Salvation
We have seen the imagery before. Christ as the perfect shepard. A shepard loves his sheep, he cars for them like they are family. Christ loves us so much he is willing to risk all and did so. Shepards care so much for one sheep that they will leave the rest of the flock to go and find the lost sheep. Glad Christ is like that because we are the lost sheep, he found us and led us to salvation. A perfect salvation, where he is always watching out for us.

I shall not want--Perfect Satisfaction
We have so many needs and wants in our lives. WE need food and shelter, clothing, water. However, we have so much desire for other things, when really all we desire is to have a full relationship with God, to fillup that missing part in our hearts. A relationship with God satisfies us, because when we are with Him we know that He will care for us, we know that He will provide, and we can take satisfaction in knowing He will give according to our needs.
He makes me to lie Down in Green Pastures-Perfect Rest
Remember when we were kids? Remember running in the yard and then getting tired? We just flopped down on the nice cool grass and looked up at the sky and had a nce little rest. That is the metaphor here. When we have a relationship with God, he gives us rest like that. That pure, childlike rest where we don't worry about germs or stains or anything else, we are just at peace outside, taking a moment to soak in His creation. God provides that for us. He gives us the chance to lay down our labors and just lie in the grass with Him, then to give Him our labor and we can rest while he does the heavey lifting.
He leadeth me beside still waters-Perfect Refreshment
Remember in the westerns? The Lone Ranger and Tonto would ride all day, tracking bad guys, and would need a rest. They would come to a stream when they and hte horses were tired. There they would take a drink from the pure clean water. Yes, htis was back before toxic waste and the mess of our waters. Some of you may remember when you could drink by the stil water. God leads us to the still waters to provide us with refreshment. Often, our tanks run dry. WE don't feel like being joyful or doing service. WE come to God and he gives us something which refereshes us, which allows the water of the Holy Spirit to wash us and refresh us, to give us a drink of the water of Life that then we can go out and ride the trails again. That is the perfect refreshment God can provide us.
He restoreth my soul-Perfect Restoration
Sometimes we are battered by the world. Our spirits get bruised, we get hurt by others, we are worn down by the world. God promieses to restore us, and this shows it in the Psalm. WE get worn down by the world, and God gives us the energy to go on, even in sorrow, even in pain. He gives us the ability to have our full being and soul restored. Sometimes we get in a position where we feel our souls are tattered, and God restores us to like pure infants.

He leadeth me in paths of righteousness-Perfect Guidance
God can lead us in a relationship with Him. He will lead us along paths we may not initially want to go down. However, if we trust Him, we will always be led on the right path. It might take unexpected turns, but it is the right path.
I will fear no evil-Perfect Protection
Along our paths, there are temptations, slings and arrows, hidden forces wanting us to go off the path, like the tempting grass of a new meadow for a sheep. God, if we trust him and call upon him, will protect us from these. God protects us so we don't have to fear evil, we can then confront evil and claim his protection.
Thou art with Me-Perfect Company
We all want the perfect friend. We spend our lives meeting people we call friend, and everyone, even those we call our best friends, fall short. Sometimes we are lucky to have a few great friends, whether outsidres, spouses, brothers or sisters, etc. However, if we trust in the Lord and abide in Him, we get the perfect friend. Someone who knows us completely, inside and out, and loves us anyway, without condition. someone willing to sacrifice for us, willing to die for us. We get in our corner the creator of the universe, for goodness sake! What an awesome friend. The best company to have, one who protects and guides us.
Thy Rod and thy Staff, they comfort me--Perfect Comfort
When God is in our company, God provides us with Comfort. He provides us with the comfort of His direction. when we fall off the path, he reaches out with his Rod and tells us to grab hold and be pulled out of the abyss. The comfort is like when we are learning to bowl, when they put the bumpers up to keep us from making a gutter ball. The bumpers allow us to know that no matter if our aim wavers, we still will not fall into the abyss of the gutter. God will reach out to us until there is no time left. He will continue to reach out with that staff to keep us from going into the gutter, or to grab us when we are falling.

Thou preparest a table before me--Perfect Provision
God sets us up with all we need, even when our enemies are around. He gives us all we need, provides us with all the tools we need. Like soldiers, we need to have the right tools and things for our mission. Different missions and journeys require different provisions. God provides it all to us.
You Annoint my Head with Oil--Perfect Consecration
Oil is very important. it is very valuable, as we all know about by going to the gas pumps. If you have oil, you have a precious resource. Oil was used to consecrate a king or important person. You poured that precious resource over their head to show how important they were, more important than the resource of the oil. God does that for us. He annoints us with the Holy spirit, he annoints us with Christ's blood, He annoints us with forgiveness and consecrates us to be His people in this world.
My Cup Runneth Over--Perfect Joy
Imagine being a kid and having a neverending supply of ice cream. Wooeee! That would be awesome. A neverending flow of the stuff, overflwing from the cone. That is how our joy should be, especially when we step back and count our blessings. when we take stock of all God has given to us and all He does for us, we find how blessed we are. We find new joy. By counting our blessings, we get that joy, and by realizing how wonderful it is to be with Him, and what a relationship with Him means, ie, eternal life in the glorious New Heaven with Him, then we realize how joyful we should be, despite our present sufferings. AFter all, waht is in store is a place where there are no more tears, fears, or sorrows. How amazingly joyful is that? Why, its better than a neverending supply of ice cream!
Goodness and Mercy shall follow me all the days of my Life--Perfect Care
When we have a relationship with God, he watches out for us. He takes care of us. He provides for us. He will give us good things and we will have the abuundant blessings of being forgiven Jesus people. Though we may endure hardship, we still will have God's goodness and love and mercy.

I will Dwell in the House of the Lord Forever--Perfect Destiny
God has a plan for us. He wants all of us to be with Him forever. He wants all of us to hang with Him in the Big House in the Sky, to eat of the blessed fruit and drink from the water of life. He wants that for all of us. That is aht he has planned for us to do, where he has planned for us to go. Howeer, it is up to us. WE have this thing called free will which sometimes gets in the way. However, God plans for us to be with Him and when we call out ot Him and have a relationship with Him, we can know that this is waht is waiting for us. It should embolden us and enrich us to go from being spiritual infants to spiritual giants. What a great destiny awaits!

You know what else is cool? Look at the tense of these perfects. They are in the present tense, meaning we can have these perfects right now in our lives if we claim these perfects, if we believe in God and his Promises. They are not in the past tense, meaning that we had them, but now we don't. It is not in the super conditional tesne, meaning that there is some parameters that must be met, or some condition. WE can have these right now if we believe in God, and these promises, these perfects, if you will, are even now being fulfilled and worked out in us. Even now, we are being perfectly guided, perfectly cared for, and can have perfect joy. It is not some uncertain time in the future. These perfects can be accessed now. Claim them. Grow your relationship with God. Fulfill and get closer to that perfect destiny he calls us to!

September 24, 2006--Faults and Forgiveness

Actual sermon may have varied, post taken from loose outline notes of pastor.

Text: Matthew 6:12; Luke 6:41-2

When we see how our plans derail on the characters of people we have to deal with we are "in one way" seeing what it must be like for God. But only in one way. There are two respects in which God's view must be very different from ours. In the first place, He sees (like you) how all the poeple in your home or your job are in various degrees awkward or difficult; but whne He looks into that home or office He sees one more person of the same kind--the one you never do see. Of coruse, I am talking about yourself. That is the next great step in wisdom--to realize that you also are just athat sort of person. You also have a fatal flaw in your charater. All the hopes and plans of others have again and again derailed on your character just as your hopes and plans have derrailed on theirs.

Of course, we routinely pass over this with some vague admission of "I know I have my faults." Taht is no good, however. It is important to realize that there is some really fatal flaw in you: something which gives the others that same feeling of despair which their flaws give you. And it is almost certainly something yo udon't know about, which everyone notices except hte person who has it. Or it can be something you don't think is that big a deal, but others can see how big it is. Even the faults you know you don't know fully. You say, " I admit I lost my temper last night", but others know that you're always doing it. It takes more than a general admission to admit your faults.

I suggest we abstain from thinking about others faults unless it is part of our duties like a teacher or a parent makes it necessary to think about them. Whenever the thoughts come unnecessarily into one's mind, shove them away. With what? Why, push out their faults with thoughts of your own faults. For there, with God's help, we can do soemthing. When all we do is focus on others faults, we are still powerless. That person has to make the decision to change. Only God can help with that. All our words mean little. However, when we focus on ourselves and fixing that plank in our eyes, it is practical. Of all the weird and awkward people we know, there is only one whom you can improve very much--YOU. And we had better, the job has to be done someday, and every day we put it off, it will make it harder to begin. Besides, when others see us doing soemthing about our faults and problems, God uses it to inspire them. Who knows how self improvement can become world improvement?

Which leads us into forgiveing others. Firstly, forgiving does not mean excusing. Many seem to think it does, especially the language we use when someone asks forgiveness or says I'm sorry. WE say, that's ok. But it is not. What they did is not OK, it was bad. WE need to just say, I forgive you. However, those words are very hard to say. Maybe because we want to hold things over thier head. By saying we forgive, it is acknowledging something bad happened and that we forgive them for it, that we are not holding it against them in terms of not being friends or whatever. However, forgivemness does not mean putting blinders on. If someone broke a promise and your forgive them, that does not follow that you must necessarily believe his next promise. It does folow that you must take every effort to kill every trace of resentment in your heart.

In our own cases, we accept excuses too easily. See, this is why I did it....blah blah blah. In others, we do not accept excuses easily enough. However, think about God. He excuses our sin, and we have no excuse. To be Christian, we must do the same thing. It means forgivening the inexcusable, because God forgave the inexcusable in you.

This is hard. You know, I think it is no so hard to forgive a single great injury as the smaller things. The single great ones we pout and we gripe, but quickly it is forgotten. It is the litle things, the incessant provocations like the bossy mom in law, the bullying brother, the nagging wife, those little everyday idiosyncracies. Those are hardest to forgive. How can we do it? Only by remember where we stand, by meaning what it says in the Lord's prayer where it says "forgive us our trespases, as we forgive those who trespass against us." We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse is to refuse God's mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exception and God means what He says.

Sept. 17, 2006--The Need for Study

Note: Actual sermon may have varied. Post which follows based on loose outline notes of the pastor.

Text: Proverbs 30:5; Isaiah 40:8, Isaiah 55:11

You know, sometimes, studying can be tough, but we have to do it. I understand why people are put off by the idea of studying anything, much less God's word. I remember once someone told me about talking to an old Air Force pilot, who said, "I've got no use for all that theology stuff, but mind you, Iam a religious man too. I know there's a God. I've felt Him, out alone in the sky at night, the tremendous mystery, and that is why I just don't believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about him. To anyone who has ever met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!"

Now in a sense, I agree with the grizzled old pilot. I think he had real experiences with God in the sky and flying. And when he ruend from that experience to the Christian creeds and works, I think eh really was turning from something real to something less real. In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from something real to something less real; turning from real waves to colored paper. But here is the point. The map is admitteedly only colored paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people ahve found out by sailing the ocean. In that way it has behind it mases of experience just as real as yours. Only, while yours would be an isolated glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a amap. But the map is oging to be ore use than walks on the beach if you want to get to Europe, or Africa.

Study is like that map. Merely learing and thinking about the Christian doctrines, if you stop there, is less real and less exciting than direct experiences. Doctrines and creeds and testimonies are not God, they are only a kind of map. But that map is based on the experience of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God--experinces compared with which any thrills or pious felings you and I are likely to get on our own are very elementary and very confused. And secondly, if you want to get any further, you must use the map. See, study is our map. By reading Scripture, testimonies, comentaries, doctrine adn the sort, we can gain a better picture of where we are and where we want to go. If we just stick with what we know, we might be missing the forest for the trees. And, without a map, often times we just end up spinning our wheels and not getting the full breadth and depth of the relationship we should have with God.

And we need to study now more than ever, because I feel in some senses, we miss our opportunities to interact with God or to give him praise. By studying the Scripture and the doctrines and the commentaries and such, we gain more depth of unerstanding, we see through others eyes, and our eyes might be opened to things that were there, just we didn't see because we were only looking at it through one point of view. Taht is the value of study. IT can help us to enrich our experience, and also to empathize with others, creating better and greater spiritual warriors, and opening our eyes to more praise for the Creator.

Sept. 10, 2006--5 years later....

Note: Post taken from loose outline notes of the pastor. Actual sermon delivered may have varied.

Text: Matthew 24:4-7, 11-13

Actual sermon notes for this one could not be found, but the overall message was to look to the true faith, not the faith that has a Verse of the sword, for the truth. We must fight against this blasphemy called a faith not just with the sword, but in deed and word. We must realize that we are in a war for the survival of tolerance and faith, that the so called religion of peace is not that. As we remember those who fell on 9/11, let us not lose our resolve. Let us not forget, and let us not let others forget. Let us fight with righteousness, love and the truth.

Sept. 3, 2006--Reflections of Christ

Note: Post taken from loose outline notes of the pastor. Actual delivered sermon may have varied.

Text: Matthew 5:15-6, Galatians 2:20

Our destiny is not in being ourselves, as the world defines it, but in fact in casting off that false notion of just being us, our human nature, and instead being reflections of Christ. It is not when we find ourselves, as it were, but when we find Christ that we reveal what we are truly to be. When we reflect Christ's image, that is when ouir true selves come out.

If we have read the New Testament right, it leaves no room for "freelancing" even in a modified or theoretical way. Our whole destiny seems to lie in the opposite direction, in being as little as possible ourselves, in acquiring a fragrance that is not our own but borrowed, in becoming clean mirrors filled with the image of a face that is not ours, but in fact is the best image ever. Everything else that is inherently ours, that human nature of pride and such, is like so much dust which clouds and lowers the image, lowers its radiance.

Pride does not only go before a fall, but in fact is a fall itself--a fall from our attention to what is better, ie God, perfection; to what is worse, our own selves, our baser needs.

Unbelievers take their experience and temperment just as they happen to stand, on face level. They consider them worth discussing because they are facts, or worse still, because they are theirs. To the Christian, his own termperament and experience, as mere fact or simply because they are there, is of no value or importance whatsoever. We deal with them only because it was through them that something more universally Blessed or Profitable appeared to us.

We can imagine two men seated in diffferent parts of a theater. Both, when they come out, will tell us their experiences, and both may use the first person. But the one is interested in his seat only because it was his--"I was most uncomfortable," he will say. "You would hardly believe what a draft comes from the door in that corner. And the people! I had to speak pretty mean to the woman in front of me." The other, more Christ centered, or more other driven, will tell us what could be seen from his seat, choosing to describe this becasue this is what he knows, and because every seat must give the best view of something. See, that is being tolerant, being vigilant, being open to what God reveals, and less concerned with what others are doing and what it does for you. " Do You know," he will begin,"the molding on those pillars goes on round the back. It looks, too, as if the design on the back were the older of the two." Here we have the expressionist and the Christian attitudes toward the self or the temperament. One can't see the forest for the trees, and the other takes it all in, from different angles, and reflects it back for the greater glory of the Creator.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

August 27, 2006--Half-Heartedness, Love is what its about....

Note: Post based on loose outline notes of the pastor, actual delivered sermon may have video available...sorry...

Text: Matthew 22:35-40

If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest virtue was, 19 of them would undoubtedly say unselfishness. However, if you had asked any of the great Christians of old, they would have replied, Love. You see hwat has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than just semantic or even philosophical importance. The negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love.

The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. WE are told told to deny ourselves and take up our crosses in order that we may follow Chrsit; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern thought the notino that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, then that is due to some false teaching and faulty thinking.

IF we truly consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum becasue he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased by the quick and easy fix.

We must not be troubled by unbelievers when they say that this promise of reward makes the Christian life a mercenary affair. There are different kinds of reward. There is the reard which has no natural connection with the things you do to earn it, and is quite foreign to the desires that outght to accompany those things. Money is not the natural reward of love, that is why we call a man a mercenary if he marries a mwoman for the sake of her money. But marriage is the proper reward for a real lover, and he is not mercenary for desiring it....The school student beginning Grammar cannot look forward to his adult enjoyment of reading as a lover looks forward to marriage or a general to victory. He/she has to begin by working for marks, or to escape punishmment, or to please his parents, or at best, in the hope of a future good which he cannot at present imagine or desire. His position, therefore, bears a certain resemblance to that of the mercenary; the reward he is going to get will, in actual fact, be a natural orproper reward, but he will not know that til he has got it.

Likewise, God calls us to leave the mudpie pit. WE don't want to at first, but we want to get God off our backs, so we start to do what he says. As we clean off and move closer to Him, we begin to get closer and closer to understanding, and our overall desire for eternal happiness begins to come closer to fruition. That makes us want it more. The Christian, in relation to heaven, is much like the student. Those who have attained everlasting life in the vision of God doubtless know very well that it is no mere bribe, but the very consummation of their earthly dicisipleship; but we who have not yet attained it cannot know this in the same way, and cannot even begin to know it all except by continuing to obey and finding the first reward of our obedience in our increasing power to desire the ultimate reward. As we move out of the mudpie pit of the quick fix, God gives us hints, glimpses of that eternal life of peace and joy. That makes us want it more.

It reminds me of the film Major Payne. In it, a Marine major has been called in to lead a JROTC group at a boys school. The group is a bunch of slacking misfits who don't want to do what the major says, and want him gone. He finally says that in order to get rid of him, they must get the JROTC olympics trophy from the rival school. So, the boys go to get it. They fail in their attempt to steal it, but they see it right in front of them, and revealed is the goal we should attain to--instead of taking the quick fix of stealing, we should instead strive to earn the trophy. The ringleader of the group goes to the major and says he wants to earn it. Likewise, when God gives us that taste or that glimpse, we get a desire to persevere and continue onward, to move forward with eternal happiness and leave the mudpie pit. What we are after, is much more and much better than a simple trophy, but rather eternal joy, happiness, and love.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

August 20, 2006--Counting the Cost

Note: Post is taken from loose outline notes of the pastor. Actual delivered sermon may have varied. No audio or video available, sorry!

Text: Matthew 5:48; John 14:16-18

Many people are bothered by our Lord's words, "be perfect." Some take this to mean He won't help you unless you are perfect. If He meant that, then we are without hope. I don't think he meant that. I think He meant that the only help I will give you is to help you become perfect. We want far less than that, but Christ will give us nothing less.

Our Lord is like a doctor. We go and ask for help with a little this or a little that, an ache or a pain. However, every time we go in, we get a full exam. We get the thermometer, the stethoscope, the blood pressure cuff, the whole deal. Like the doctor, God doesn't stop at just what we want, but he gives us the full treatment, seeking to make us perfect. Once, He's been called in, it is time for the full treatment.

That is why He warned us about counting the cost. He is telling us, Make no mistake, I will make you perfect if you let me. The moment you put yourself in my hands, that is what you are in for. You have, will and can push me away, but if you don't I am going to see the job through, whatever it takes. Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost youi after death, whatever it costs Me, I will never rest nor let you rest until you are literally perfect--until My Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased wwith you, as He said He was pleased with Me. This I can do and will do, but I will not do anything less.

Now look at that other verse in John. Christ is going to send us a Helper, something to minister, to advise, and drive us to the goal of perfection. This Helper, of course, is the Holy Spirit, the Counselor. Here is the other and equally important side of it--this Helper if part of the Godhead who will, in the long run, be satisfied with nothing less than absolute perfection, butg will also be delighted with the first feeble stumbling effort you make tomorrow to do the simplest duty. Think about a parent with their child taking their first steps. A father wants his son to have a manly walk, with a good gait when grown up, but every father is pleased with their baby's first attempt to walk. Likewise, as we spiritually learn to walk, God is pleased with every stumbling attempt. God is pleased with even the smallest progress we make. Dad's want their sons to have a great swing, but every time we make contact, they are pleased. Moms want their girls to be good cooks, but they rejoice even in the production of mudpies or that burning mass that was supposed to be a cake. Good parents are pleased with these efforts, but not satisfied. In the same way, God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy.

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