From the Archives: Enter His Gates with Thanksgiving

Originally published November 24, 2010

Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’s birth, but there is no biblical command to observe it. There are however feasts, songs and prayers of thanksgiving are all over the Bible. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with Christmas; during his lifetime Jesus was an observant Jew, and every indication is that he observed all the Jewish festivals, including the historical ones not just the religious festivals commanded in scripture. The arrival of “God with us” is a major turning point in all of history. But we are commanded to praise God and give thanks. Moses sang songs of thanksgiving, David wrote his own. James reminds us that “every good gift and perfect gift is from above.” The United States was the first country to observe a national holiday for giving thanks.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! -Psalm 100:4

The word thanksgiving appears 9 times in the Psalms. It appears a total of 42 times in the ESV Bible.  Click here to see them all. If you look up variants, such as “give thanks,” you will find many more. Whatever you read, however you celebrate, do not forget to thank God. No matter what this year has been like, there is much to be thankful for.

Hindsight is Still 20/20

Screenshot 2015-11-18 at 2.54.57 PMHave you ever thought of a witty comeback long after it’s too late? We’ve all missed our chance at a laugh out loud one liner or zinger that could have an ended an argument at one time or another. Preachers also have to deal with continuing to critique a sermon long after it’s been preached.

A couple of weeks ago I preached this sermon at Unity Baptist. In summary, Jesus was the light of the world in John 1 but in Matthew 5 said to his followers “You are the light of the world.” The sermon was about being salt and light and how Jesus empowers us to be those things in his absence. There’s nothing wrong with the sermon the way it is. But then just a couple of days ago I came across this verse:

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. John 9:5 

John 1 describes Jesus as the light of the world. Jesus says himself a few chapters later that as long as he is in the world he is the light of the world. Then he tells his followers, that will be conformed to his image and become his hands and feet, they are the light of the world. It would have been perfect. What makes matters worse is that we have been studying John’s Gospel on Sunday nights and read this passage only a few weeks ago.

Hey, you live and learn. By posting this I am sure to remember next time.

The Rest of the Story

Screenshot 2015-11-13 at 2.15.36 PMThe Internet Monk has a post up today about jumping to conclusions based on an Internet meme or a quote on Facebook without having all the facts. Shortly after reading Chaplain Mike’s post I heard a story on the radio that very much relates, which I will try to paraphrase.

“I grew up in a small town that never had any big Christmas events but there was this one guy that put up all the lights. Every year he kept adding more and more and eventually traffic backed up as people drove from all around just to see this one guy’s house. One year we could see him up ahead holding a bucket and my friend’s dad just went off. ‘He’s taking up donations. I can’t believe after all this time he’s out here trying to make a profit.’ He just went on and on about money and commercialism and how this guy was destroying Christmas. When we finally got up to where they guy was with the bucket it was full of candy canes. He wasn’t collecting anything, he was giving stuff away! We were laughing our heads off in the back seat but all the way home my friend’s dad didn’t say another word. He wouldn’t talk.”

The point of this story was about we can never admit being wrong. If we admit to being wrong, even in an apology, it’s an acknowledgement of imperfection. But the Pastor Saeed post on iMonk was fresh in my mind and the story above certainly applies to rushing to judgement without having all the pertinent details.

Why is Nobody Talking About the Starbucks Advent Calendar?

I can’t believe plain red cups are the biggest trending story in social media this week but like I’ve said before no news is good news. So let me put on my Christian blogger hat and do the dance.

Screenshot 2015-11-10 at 10.59.11 AMUnless you’ve been hiding in a cave, you probably recognize former pastor Joshua Feuerstein from his viral video. He infamously pranked Starbucks into selling him a $4 cup of coffee. The evangelist is outraged over Starbucks “war on Christmas” that produced this year’s plain red holiday cup. The lack of snowflakes, doves and trees led Feuerstein to declare that Starbucks hates Jesus. The video describing the prank – that’s a screenshot on the left, no I’m not linking to it – has been viewed 14.5 million times since last Thursday. He told the barista his name was Merry Christmas so they would have to write that on his cup. He’s been drinking the Charlie Sheen Kool-Aid and considers this “winning.” Like I say, he tricked them into selling him coffee. They never saw it coming. Continue reading

From the Archives: I Preached on Baby Diapers

This is reposted from October 31, 2010 

Father’s Day, June 2010

I know what you’re thinking: the stress of working in full time ministry with a 14 month old at home has finally caused me to crack.  I reached a breaking point if my sermon is on changing diapers.  It’s not as bad as all that.  Let me explain.

Last week I preached this sermon on Galatians 4.  It’s about God adopting us into his family.  I had three well-defined points, as a good Baptist preacher should.  Today I preached that same sermon for our students in their Sunday a.m. chapel service.  I can’t take for granted that 6-12 graders know their Bible stories that way my church congregation does.  I cut some of the scripture citations and needed a more colorful analogy or two.  The first point in the sermon is that we are naturally the enemies of God.  He says “Do this” and instead we do that.  Adam and Eve are the first example, and not much has changed since.  I talked about how cute Johannah is; all our students know this to be true.  But when we’re changing a diaper, sometimes she quits being so cute.  If she sits up, rolls over, or otherwise tries to escape then everything takes longer.  We have to do things twice; or three times.  The students all smiled, nodded and laughed.  Then I pointed out that in my history class some of them are the same way.  I have to repeat myself and/or do things twice.  Sometimes three times.  That’s our nature.

It gets worse.  God sent his Son.  Like the father of the prodigal, God waits and watches down the road for us to come home.  The prodigal son (Luke 15) spent a fortune on good food, good wine and loose women.  Eventually he hit rock bottom, and desired the same slop that he fed pigs.  He had to learn that lesson the hard way.  You couldn’t have told him any different, and if the father had come looking for him any sooner, he would have ran as fast as he could in the other direction.  We were all wallowing (or are still wallowing) in our own filth.  We are slaves to sin, whatever sin you want to fill in the blank with.  If my daughter Johannah has filled her diaper, then she is basically sitting there in her own mess.  She stinks.  Yet when I reach for her she runs away.  She ducks and dodges.  Her natural impulse is to escape the diaper change.  Are we any different?  We wallow in our filthy sin, in our own mess, and push God away even as he wants to clean us.

God loved us when we were unlovable.  That’s the Gospel.  And if you have kids, had kids, or know parents with new kids, fell free to preach the Gospel according to dirty diapers.

Academic Discussion: Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh

It’s been almost two years since we had a series of academic discussions. You can see all of those titles by clicking here. What do I mean by academic discussion? We can present evidence, share our logic and reasoning, but the position we take can be neither proven nor disproven. Such an exercise can hone our analytic or linguistic skills, but at a practical level there is little value if that’s the only type of discussion we are having. I will continue to spend most of my time and energy sharing the Gospel, offering apologetics and encouraging others, but occasionally…

Screenshot 2015-10-30 at 9.36.29 AMThe Apostle Paul refers to a thorn in his flesh in 2 Corinthians 12:7 that he credits with keeping him humble. There has been much debate and discussion as to what this particular thorn was, and even if we are capable of knowing. In the Tyndale New Testament Commentary on Galatians, R. Alan Cole states that there is “no real evidence” that Paul’s trouble had anything to do with his eyes. While there may be no real evidence I think that clues left by Paul combined with modern medical understanding point very convincingly to just such a conclusion. Continue reading

Ron Archer

The Gideons are going into several different churches in our area tomorrow and this morning they hosted a breakfast for pastors and wives. Our speaker was from Catersville, just 30 minutes down the road, and he talked about his recent trip to Africa. He had the obligatory slideshow (but thankfully PowerPoint and ProPresenter have replaced the slide carousels of years gone by).

I’ve been listening to Gideon stories my entire life, but the longer I live the more I realize I will never hear everything. Before we dismissed, we watched this 8 minute testimony of Ron Archer. It’s not G-rated. It’s violent and contains language some may find offensive. But so does the Bible. Listen to this man’s story and give glory and honor to God.