Friday, March 24, 2006

March 19--guest speaker

On March 19, we had a guest speaker, Rev. Lowell Crabtree, to deliver the sermon.

March 12, 2006 Sermon Notes--Can I live a Good Life Without Christianity? Part 2

Note: posting taken from loose outline notes of the pastor. Actual live sermon may have differed in some respects. No video available. Sorry.

Scripture: Mark 8:36; Romans 7:18; Romans 3:20-8, 31; Luke 18:29-30

Last week we talked about this basic question. Next, we are going to deal with the follow up questions of: Will Christianity help me? Will it make me happy? Will I be better for it? THE SHORT ANSWER IS YES! If it is true. However, think of it like this. Before you is a door--a door with the secrets of the universe behind it. If Christianity is not true, then it is the greatest fraud ever. if if is true, then you will gain the secrets of the universe. Either way, is it not humanity's duty then to seve this cause if true or if a fraud to work to expose it?

Christianity will help you. The first thing it will do is hammer into your head that what you have called "good"--that stuff about leading a decent life, being nice, etc.--isn't quite as magnificent or all important as it used to be. It will teach you that you cannot be "good" on your own moral efforts. And even if you were "good", you still wouldn't achieve the purpose for which you were created.

Mere morality is not the end of life. We were made for something far different. People who keep on asking if they can be good without Christ don't even know what life is about. If they did, they would know a "decent life" is mere machinery compared with what we are really made for. Morality is indispensable, but it is useless without the Divine Life, the Holy Spirit. This Life, this Holy Spirit, gives itself to us and which calls us to be more than mere humans. It intends for us something in which mere morality is swallowed up. We are to be remade, groomed if you will.

Midnight, our dog, is occaisionally groomed to make her look pretty. Her old matted hair and burrs are combed out. This is not a painless process. However, it is done to help Midnight feel and look better. She feels much better when the burrs are removed. Likewise, we are to be groomed, all of us--the conscientious, the cowardly, the ethical and the sensual. And as sometimes painfully the fur is pulled and burrs are taken out, we discover something we would have never imagined--a true Child of God, radiant, wise, beautiful, and drenched in joy.

Saturday, March 11, 2006




Sunday, March 05, 2006

March 5, 2006 Sermon Notes--Can I live a Good Life without Christianity? part 1

Note: Sermon notes taken from loose outline notes of pastor. Actual live delivered sermon may have differed. No video available, sorry...

Text: Mark 8:36; Luke 18:29-30; and, especially Romans 7:18 and Romans 3:20-28, 31

Today we are going to start a twoparter, talking about the question some of us may have heard before, some of us may have asked ourselves: can we lead a 'good life' or a life of good without Christianity? Interesting question, isn't it? Is there true good outside of Christ?

Sounds like someone is saying-'I don't care whether Christianity is the truth or not, all I'm interested in is leading a good life. I'm going to choose beliefs not because of whether they are true or the truth but because they are "helpful".'

Man is different, CS Lewis has said, because he wants to know things, to find out what it all means, not for any purpose or job per se, but rather simply for the sake of knowing. We need to know answers. We ask questions. When that desire to know, to eagerly know if something is true, to test it for verification, to wonder, is crushed, we become something less than human. We become a robot, or for lack of a better term, a simpleton.

I find it hard to believe that these folks who ask the can I have the good life question have lost that innane desire. What has happened is probably good hearted folks, some of them pastors and preachers, have led them to believe that Christianity is a medicine, it is happy pills. It is not. Christianity, if it is true, gives us an account of the facts--it tells us what the universe is like. It may be true or it may not. Your natural inquisitiveness should take over. if it is untrue, then no HONEST man will believe it, no matter how helpful. if it is true, then every HONEST person will believe even if it is no help to our present situation at all.

If Christianity is true, and I believe it is, then only those who know it as the truth should be equipped for leading a good life.

But what about the humanists? They care about society. They have good intentions. What about them? Humanists believe in the good of the greatest number, the good of society over the individual. Christianity is a little bit different. It empahsiezes the individual over society. It emphasizes the worthiness of the individual over the worth of a country or state. God wants a personal relationship with us, not a head of state or a group. He wants a one to one relationship, not a meeting. Christians and materialists/humanists can have similar goals, of helping, but their methods are different, their cores are different. Basically, eventually those beliefs will come into conflict. Even with the best of intentions or will in the world, people will be helping fellow creatures to destruction, even if intent is noble. Look at the intent of "separation of church and state." It went from being about keeping us from discriminating to being about throwing God out of the country. Look at what the best of intentions have done to our society...

The real question behind can i lead a good life without Christianity is really saying: should I bother? Can't I just let sleeping dogs lie and live a good life? That person is asking to get on with good before he has discovered what good really IS. The true issue is the person is shirking. They don't want to bother with Christianity because it asks tough questions, it requires examining some hard issues internally and externally. They are deliberately trying NOT to know if Christianity is true because there will be trouble if it IS true. There will be conflict.

Christianity is not a panacea. It is the correct path, the way the truth and the Life. However, it is not happy pills. Christ has been upfront with us on this matter when he talks about the cost of it all, about taking up the cross and following him. All of you have seen in your own lives it can be hard. However, it is worth it. Christianity is true. It is indeed the true way, and to be upfront and truthful, the answer to the question in the title is: No, you cannot truly live a good life without Christianity. Next week, we are going to talk about if Christianity can "really" help us, an extension of the question of can we live a good life without Christ.

Friday, March 03, 2006

February 26, 2006 Sermon Notes: What is Being Born Again?

Note: Sermon taken from loose outline notes of the pastor. The actual sermon may have differed on delivery. Sorry, no videotape available of this sermon.

Text: John 3:1-13; Luke 18:18-23

Today we are going to talk about a subject you have probably heard about many times: being born again, and we are going to look a two classic examples where Christ is trying to teach people what it means to be born again, what it means to be his sheep, to be his followers.

First, let's discuss Christ's conversation with Nicodemus. If you remember, Nicodemus was one of the people who helped to bury Jesus, a friend who was actually among the ruling Pharisees, a lone understaander of Christ's message and true identity. I believe this conversation in John was where Nicodemus began to undergo his conversion experience. Let's look at the conversation. Christ and Nicodemus are talking...and Nicodemus asks about inheriting the kingdom. Jesus tells him that in order to enter the kingdom, one must be born again. Of course, Nicodemus was dumbfounded. How in the world can this be possible? I am sure that there had to be some guffaws and even some chuckles. Christ had to get a little sarcastic with ol Nic. 'Pal, you are a teacher of the law, the law given by God, a leader, and you aren't getting this? Maybe you aren't quite so much a leader as we thought....' Jesus had to have a sense of sarcasm. That's another story.

Anyway, Christ talks about how it is a mystery. Christ talked about miracles that people saw and they didn't believe it. He talked about what they could see and verify, but they still didn't believe. How, then, Christ said, could Nic truly understand and seek full knowledge of something heavenly.

The true process of being born again, the mechanics, is a mystery. We cannot fully hope to comprehend. We don't know where the wind comes from, but we know it is there. The air is there even though we can't see it or really grasp it. Likewise when born again. We know it when we see it. We know it when we hear it. We know because we know, we feel it. Being born again is like that. Being born again, to Nicodemus means dying to the world, the world in the sense of valuing what the world believes. We must die to the physical and the worldly to be born again to the spiritual and mystical truths of God. Our souls must be renewed, must be reawakened to the truth of existence being about serving God and following His will.

Let's look at the story of the rich young ruler. He comes before Jesus and says, "hey, I've followed all the written laws of conduct, done everything I've been told." Christ says, that's great. However, you need to give away all the riches you value so much. At this, the young ruler says, wait a minute. No way, Jose, and goes away disappointed. What does this have to do with being born again?

Well, let me tell another story a retired pastor told me. A rich couple came to church for a visit. They came and seemed to enjoy the service. However, several weeks went by and they didn't come back. Well, the pastor and some members went visiting. When asked why they hadn't come back, the couple said, well, we like the church, we like the people. However, we see that we might have to make a serious commitment to this, and we are not sure we want to do that. THEY WERE NOT SURE THEY WANTED TO COMMIT to the mission of Christ, to His house?

See, being born again means not giving into who has the most, of holding it as the primary value. It involes seeing Christ as the truth, way and life. It involves putting His will and such above our own. It involves putting God's mission above our own desires. See, that is what I think Christ was trying to teach this young man. Does he truly think that no rich person can get into heaven? Certainly not. Is there anything wrong with having good things? No. However, Christ could see that for this young ruler, the whole thing was about doing what he could just so he could still have his finery and do just enough to enter the Kingdom. He wasn't committed. Christ was trying to show that people need to be truly committed to the kingdom, and not just do the lip service of the perfunctory, "doing good deeds". it is about giving our life, our resources, our other words, making that commitment that that one couple did not want to make.

We must not be married to the riches of the world, but be willing to give to the kingdom. We must be willing to give of ourselves, as we care called. WE must give cheerfully, and not just our money. Too many times, churhces make it about giving money, however, it is more than that. While giving or tithing should be taken as part of our worship, because it is, giving our time and work and resources is just as much a part of our giving worship. For us we must be willing to give all, because Christ gave all for us.

Being born again, then, is about "dying" to the desires of the world, to the old "natural" order of greed, selfishness, hunger, self satisfaction. It means having the commitment to do as God asks us. It means ahving the commitment to do as God asks, to desire after following His will. After all, He gave all for us. He died to this world to lead us to the victory. He died and came back to life, having shrugged off all earthly needs. Christ does not necessarily want everything, to have us lead pauper lives, but he does want to know that we are willing to give it all if asked, if necessary. And that, dear friends, means being born again into this world, freed from the constraints of the sinful nature. Yes, we may be tempted, we may succumb, but if we are born again we trust in Christ. WE don't trust in those riches and get upset when we are asked to give it up. We have real priorities. We have priorities of serving the eternal kingdom, rather than this current situation we find ourselves in.

Being born again means having the commitment to the true commandments of Loving the Lord with everything, and loving your neighbor as yourself and not letting the constraints of what others think, of what it costs us, get in the way. That is what being born again is truly all about. There is a mystical process, to be sure, but in order to be born again we must be willing to lay it all aside, no regrets. WE must be cheerful and worshipful givers. We need to lose our marriage to what this world values and instead value the kingdom of God and HIS purposes. When we are born again, we are mystically and mentally and spiritually changed.

February 19, 2006--Start Your Engines!

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

Text: 1 Corinthians 9:24; 2 Timothy 4:7-8; Hebrews 12:1; Ecclesiastes 9:11b

Today is a special day. Yep, it's Daytona time! As you all know, I am a big sports fan, and I love NASCAR! Also, the Winter Olympics have been going on, not that any of you probably watched them, judging by the ratings... But seriously, today I want to talk about the Great Race. I want to talk about what we are striving for. What we should be striving for...

We are all striving for something. 43 drivers today will strive for the first victory in a long season. Athletes strive for victory. Sometimes, athletic competition brings out the pure pursuit of greatness. Unfortunately, if we are merely after the material gain or the recognition over betterment of ourselves, then we end up like that snowboarder who had the gold medal won, only to blow it seeking personal fame and recognition by showboating on the big finish. you see, it wasn't about the competition or the achievement of excellence. It was actually about her own fame and fortune, about getting the big contracts and the big money, rather than in being her best. There is an interesting lesson to be learned from that. Let's get away from that for a minute by asking...How do we strive for that goal? 1 Cor 9:24 talks about running the race in such a way as to get the prize. For the 43 drivers today, that prize is a trophy, a few hundreds points toward a championship, and millions of dolars and fame and fortune. The snowboarder lost sight of that goal, as many athletes do. It wasn't about winning, it became about bragging and overshadowing others. We need to run a race for the prize of salvation, in what way do we do that to gain the prize?

Phillipians 3:14 talks about pressing toward the goal. How do NASCAR drivers do it at Daytona? Faith..and patience. They have faith in their abilities, faith in the pit crew, the crew chief, and faith in the team. They have patience, because they know this is a long race, 500 miles. They know, at least the good ones know, that it is not about winning every lap, but about winning the last lap. it is not about being the fastest, but the first at the end. It is about surviving the wrecks, the mishaps.

LIkewise, we dont' have to be the fastest to learn everything, we don't have to light up every lap. We may even fall back a bit. However, we need to keep our eyes on that finish line. We need to know we have the equipment and team to get us to the end in good order. If we are owned by Christ, if we are on his team, then we are given the best equipment. Our crew chief, Christ, can fix about anything. Any issue or mishap we ahve in our lives, any wreck we get into; we just need to pull in the pits and ask Christ to fix our cars, to get it out on track again. That Christ is a miracleworker. It doesn't matter how many laps we lose, he gets us back out there on the lead lap. The really great thing is, he drove before we did and knows all the pitfalls and the like. He knows about how much it hurts to lose a lap or to blow a tire, he was there. He seemingly lost the race, but he came back to win the race.

Every great driver needs a spotter. Spotters are out there, on top of the track, looking for trouble spots, telling the driver, where to go next so as to miss an accident or a pitfall. God gives us a spotter. It is called the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is that still small voice in our ears, telling us not to go around that corner, or encouraging us to take that risk, to fill that gap. This spotter doesn't miss a call, unlike the humans do sometimes. This spotter only "fails" when we don't listen to its advice, kind of like the crew chief. We only have recurring problems when we fully don't let Him fix our problems. Only by following the team orders by the owner, God, listening and following the Crew Chief, Christ, and paying attention to what the spotter, the Holy Spirit, says, can we hope to win.

Lastly, winning Daytona is about drafting. Drafting is a process where you follow the fast car, and by going in a tight row everyone goes faster. We need to follow the fast car. Sometimes, the fast car at the middle of the race falls away, and those that drafted with him get left by the faster row. it is about consistency, when drafting is used. It is about knowing who to follow and how to stay there to get to the end of the race.

In this case, the best car to follow is that carpenter's car. That one that looks scarred at first, with holes in certain areas, but it stays at the front. It sets the pace of the field, in fact it won the race already, and is merely dragging us behind to help us win. Other cars seek to take us out of this draft, and sometimes we don't listen to the crews or the spotters and we follow them for a while. Then, it seems, that finish line and the glory gets farther away. However, Christ at times slows down enough to allow us to get back in line, to leave the temptations of the short term speed rush for the great and powerful consistency of faith, the great and wonderful gifts of following and learning from him, even better than learning drafting from Dale Earnhardt Sr. You see, we can't be seduced by the short term rush of being out front for a few laps, or going a little faster. We get caught up in the supposed fast track, fast lane, and soon we find we werent really that fast, that we were falling for tricks and gimmicks, that those who sought to "help" us by getting us to the front merely wanted to use us to get ahead on their own. Christ, though, is willing to come back to our level, to reach back for us, and to then carry us to the front, truly making us on the fast track to the success of eternity. Only Christ's line is the most consistent and best. Only Christ will lead us, at the end of the day, to the home stretch, to the glories of eternity. But, we won't lead on our own. We have to follow Him to the finish, and not get diverted by fly by night teams only focused on short term speed, on showing off, and not on showing the way to the glory of God.

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