In Defense of Paul

I was accused a few years ago of being in a cult of Paul. The assertion was that myself and others made too much of the Apostle Paul, his writings and his particular brand of New Testament theology. We needed to be less Paul-focused and more Christ-focused. I argued that Paul was Christ focused and studying Paul should bring Christ into focus. Paul pushed back on some of those same accusations during his ministry stating the Christ is not divided and there are not Paul Christians, Apollos Christians, etc. Here is a link to my first Defense of the Apostle Paul from eight years ago. The comment thread was very involved, and might be longer than the actual post.

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Let’s Talk About Eternity

The Heritage Singers once said “Forever is a long, long time.” That’s the way many of us probably think about eternity; a very, very long time. A verse of Amazing Grace starts out “When we’ve been there 10,000 years…” The truth is that eternity takes place outside of time. It’s not made up all time but is rather the exact opposite of time.

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Application for Jeremiah 29:11

The Bible is God’s Word. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness... but the proper application of scripture to our lives requires discernment. Some verses speak directly to us while others require historical or cultural context. The United States is not Israel. The people of Israel in the Old Testament is often an allegory for the Christian Church but promises made to the nation of Israel do not apply verbatim to Americans. 2 Chronicles 7:14 is often taken out of context wrongly applied. If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land was a promise made to the nation of Israel. There’s a lot of truth in that verse that does apply to people everywhere. We should humble ourselves. We should pray, seek God’s face and turn from wicked ways. But the United States of America is not going to be healed as a whole as a Christian nation. The Kingdom of God is being built from people of every nation.

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What Christians Really Believe

I recently saw a question online asking if Christians really believe Jesus came back from the dead. It was obvious that the question comes from the point of view that people don’t do that; come back to life that is. Jesus was a man, he died, and it seems unreasonable to think that he came back to life three days later. Maybe he was a wise teacher with many followers, maybe it is not crazy that we study his sermons and emulate his behavior but do we really believe he rose from the dead and appeared again alive to his disciples and others? Fasten your seatbelts.

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Peace on Earth?

When a multitude of the heavenly host appeared to a group of shepherds out in the field, they proclaimed “Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men.” Someone may take a critical look at the world today and ask “Where is it? I don’t see peace on Earth.” The first thing we need to do is examine what this group of messengers were really saying. The full text of Luke 2:14 is “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Your translation of choice may not include among those with whom he is pleased so let’s not even go there. These angels are worshipping. They proclaim Glory to God in the highest which we do not see everywhere in the world today. The creation points to God’s glory but the majority of people walking the face of the earth do not acknowledge God. The angels were announcing the birth of the Messiah/Christ so peace on earth could be similar to Jesus himself saying “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” He certainly was. So the angels did not prophesy in so many words “There is going to be peace on earth” or “from now on there will be peace on earth and goodwill everywhere you look.” But I still want to address these two questions: Is there or can there be peace on earth? Will there ever be peace over the whole earth?

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A Biblical Perspective

bibleIf you are a follower of The Master’s Table, or a former student, or have ever listened to me preach, teach Sunday School or lead a small group of any kind, you know by now that I do not pick up a recent newspaper and use the headlines for talking points about Bible prophesy. During Advent I talk about prophecies of the Messiah being fulfilled by Jesus’s birth and the events surrounding it. During Easter and Pentecost I talk about prophesies Jesus fulfilled during his earthly ministry, his death, burial and resurrection, and the promise we have of his future return. What I have never done is point to earthquakes, volcanoes, war in the Middle East or any other current event while quoting snippets of scripture and saying “See, the Bible says so.” I’ve seen preachers and other church leaders look foolish when Mikhail Gorbachev did not turn out to be the antichrist, Saddam Hussein was not the Beast described in Revelation and the world did not end in 1988 despite the list of 88 reasons that it was going to. Continue reading

Pentecost Sunday

Here is a sermon I wrote a few years ago for Pentecost. I found full text of this message, originally title The Holy Spirit Bears Witness, courtesy of cloud storage and decided it was worth sharing. 

Our celebration of Easter corresponds with the Jewish festival of Passover. It’s no mere coincidence if we think about the Passover lamb as symbolic prophecy for the atoning sacrifice of the Lamb of God. Pentecost, fifty days later, corresponds to the Jewish Festival of Weeks. Jews still celebrate Shavuot (Pentecost is the Greek word for Shavuot).

Before the crucifixion, Jesus told his followers that he must go in order for the Comforter to come. Before his ascension in Acts 1 to told the Apostles to stay in Jerusalem and “wait for the promise.” John the Baptist had prophesied that one coming after him that would baptize with fire. Jesus said in Acts 1 they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit. I’m going to take for granted you either have read or will read Acts chapter 2.  On the day of Pentecost Peter preached the first “Christian sermon” and the New Testament Church Age began. Continue reading

A Seed Must Fall

And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. –John 12:23-26

Wednesday April 8th was the first day of Passover for observant Jews. The event we know as the Triumphal Entry occurred when Jesus came into Jerusalem to celebrate Passover for the last time. Ethnic Jews and those practicing Judaism gathered at Jerusalem from all around the Mediterranean world. John 12 records that “some Greeks” came looking for Jesus. The very well known statement “Sir, we wish to see Jesus” is found in verse 21. Philip told Andrew, Andrew and Philip went together and told Jesus. His response is shown above. He talks about bearing fruit, eternal life, following him and being honored by the father. He also talks about, as he had many times before, sowing seeds but in this instance uses what happens to seeds to allude to his crucifixion and burial. The grain of wheat must fall into the earth and die in order to bear fruit. Continue reading

The Gospel Changes Things

A few years ago we tried something new that just didn’t work out. I have decided to spare you the details but we made a few slideshow presentation videos and since I never throw anything away the ones we produced still exist on YouTube.

As we begin Holy Week here is a sermon titled “The Gospel Changes Things” with scripture texts and images. To share the Gospel is why Jesus came into the world. The Church has the potential to do a lot of good in the world but above all else sharing this message is what we are called to.

We Need Something to Push Against

Whether you believe in a literal six day creation week 6,000 years ago or evolutionary processes that took eons, conservative Christians and anthropologists agree that before societies developed humans were hunter-gatherers. During times of plenty the human body stores extra in fat cells, using those reserves in times that are lean. Evolution at work or God’s providence? Since you’re reading a religious blog, and I’m a Baptist preacher, we’re probably on the same page. We probably agree on what happened next. Technology improved, life got easier, and since none of us have to spend the majority of time making sure we have enough to eat we have to go jogging or walk a treadmill to stave off morbid obesity. We are designed for the struggle. When we are provided an abundance, with no hard labor required, we get fat. Continue reading