Remember What We Are Called To

1 Pet 3 15

The Supreme Court announced their decision regarding state issued bans on same-sex marriage on Friday morning. Social media came alive with reaction; supporters changed their profile image to the rainbow flag and used the hashtag #lovewins, some angry Christians expressed despair in the collapse of America and quoted verses from Leviticus. But what caught my attention were the Christians that calmly reminded us we live in and also apart from the culture we are immersed in.

I pastor a small SBC church in the deep South. Below is my Sunday morning sermon, directed to my own congregation with all Christians everywhere in mind. Whatever your initial reaction was to Friday’s news, please prayerfully consider this position:

1 Peter 3:15 is the basis for Christian Apologetics. Apologetics may sound like apologizing but an apologist is one that defends the Christian faith. It’s about being prepared to answer questions about why we believe what we believe. One must be well versed in scripture and certain that his own faith has been built on a sure foundation. Apologetics may involve boldness, defending a faith that is not always popular, but care must also be taken not to offend. We will offend people by sharing the Gospel; but we must be sure is the cross that offends and not us.

We must remember what we are called to. (1 Peter 3:13-17) We are called to live differently than the world. We are surrounded by and active participants in society but our values and judgement system is different. We are called to walk circumspectly and to show our faith by living according to our principles. We are called to go into all the world and make disciples (Mark 16:15) to demonstrate our faith by the action of our good works (James 2:17) to be salt of the earth and light of the world (Matt 5:13-16).

We are called to spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:10-18 is all about putting on the whole armor of God, but pay attention to who the enemy is. We wrestle not against flesh and blood… The people you meet each day, regardless of the spiritual or moral condition, are your neighbors. They are the mission field. The spiritual wickedness in high places is not on Capitol Hill, it is cosmic forces in heavenly places. We do not engage the enemy in spiritual warfare by carrying signs in the streets, by arguing with strangers on the internet or contending in our nation’s court system. Our enemy is not made of flesh and blood – that is our mission field. Those are people made in God’s image and that Christ died to save.

We are not called to change the culture. Never be surprised that the world acts like the world. Romans 1:18-31 condemns homosexuality and a whole host of other sinful acts but look at the audience; Paul was writing to the church at Rome and not preaching a sermon on the street corner. Paul is speaking to Christians about the difference between how we live and how they live. In his missionary journeys throughout the Greek and Roman world he was surrounded by a corrupt culture that we in America can probably only begin to imagine. Research Greek bathhouses sometime or read up on the ancient Olympic games. Paul was well aware of what was going on around him in the culture but we don’t see him starting petitions are carrying signs in the streets. We see him starting churches and training leaders. We see him sharing the Gospel and teaching others to imitate what he did (just as he imitated Christ).

We cannot win the culture war. We have not been called to fight the culture war. Fighting the culture war distracts us from the things we have been called to. The president is not your pastor, members of Congress are not our deacons, the Supreme Court is not our final judge. The nations of this world will pass away, heaven and earth will pass away, but the Word of God will never pass away. We are pilgrims and strangers in this world looking for a kingdom not make by human hands. We will be judged based on whether we knew to good and did it or not. Look at Jesus as he was tried by Pilate and Herod. Look at Stephen as he is stoned in Acts 7. We do not win by winning. We do not win by being stronger. In our weakness, God is strong.

Barack Obama is the leader of our country – I am the spiritual leader in my home. I will stand before God and give an account not of how many petitions I signed, or which candidates I endorsed; I will give an account of whether or not I loved my wife, as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it; if I provided for my family; if I raised my child in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Did I rightly divide the Word of Truth? Was I faithful until the end?

Remember the Titanic? As that ship was sinking many perished needlessly because there were not enough lifeboats. This world is sinking. It will end in disaster, God has ordained it and prophesied it. The Gospel provides more than enough life boats for everyone. Our call is not to stop the ship from sinking, it’s to invite people into the boats.

Preaching Easter

Jesus, resurrectionEaster is coming up. The last Sunday in March (there are five this year) is Palm Sunday and the first Sunday in April is Easter. The dates are March 29th and April 5th. Those of you that observed Ash Wednesday and/or the season of Lent are aware of these dates already, as well as anyone planning church activities and worship services. And it is those individuals – pastors, preachers, minsters and directors of music, all worship leaders – that I wish to address.

I spent several years in a ministry that included a daily chapel service. Not only did we observe Palm Sunday and Easter but we had the opportunity to celebrate each day of Holy Week. We could talk about the Triumphal Entry on Sunday and focus on the different aspects of Jesus’ final teachings with the Apostles each day that week. We could give a full day to the Last Supper, another to the arrest and false trial, and spend Good Friday detailing the events of the crucifixion. With all of that said and done the focus of Easter Sunday was entirely on celebrating the resurrection. Continue reading

In Jesus’ Name

Jesus nameLast week I tried to answer the question Why Do We Pray in Jesus’ Name? Paul Wilkinson combined that post with another from the All About Prayer blog for this 2-for-1 special at Christianity 201. When I preached this sermon on Sunday morning I expounded on the name of Jesus by including two other scripture references: Acts 4:12 (And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved) and Philippians 2:9-11 (Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father). emphasis added  Continue reading

Why Pray In Jesus’ Name?

prayer In the company I keep (Baptist churches in the Southeastern United States) it is a common feature of every pray to end with the words “in Jesus’ name we pray, amen.” Whether you invoke the name of Jesus at the beginning or the end of prayer, it’s probably something you do or have heard done even if you are not fully aware of the reasons behind it. We should address our prayers to the heavenly Father in the name of Jesus, but it is important to understand why and not just keep repeating words because we’re supposed to. Continue reading

Book Review: We Will Be Landing Shortly

Hamel, Landing ShortlyThe full title is We Will Be Landing Shortly: Now What? The front cover plainly identifies it as “the spiritual musings of Mike Hamel.” The author is working through some things and is very transparent about that. His thought process is done on paper and at times he offers more questions than answers.

Mike Hamel has been through a lot, and the effects of tragedy have shaken his faith. He hasn’t lost it but after a lifetime of religious faith and pastoral vocation it doesn’t come as easy as it used to. After surviving three bouts with cancer, cancer treatments, a major car accident and seven surgeries, he was prepared to deal with his own mortality. Then suddenly and without warning his wife of 37 years died of a heart attack… on Thanksgiving Day. One section of the book is a collection of journal entries beginning that day and continuing over the next 12 months. Hamel is a writer’s writer and works through his thought process on paper. I sometimes do the same thing but then he publishes his for the world to read! Continue reading

Epiphany

wise men, magi, epiphanyIf you’ve ever heard someone say they’ve had an epiphany, what they mean is that they have discovered something unexpected. It happens suddenly, not over a period of time, and the revelation must of be something of great worth. The January 6th Epiphany on the Christian calendar commemorates the day the wise men discovered Jesus. Epiphany is the celebration of finding something worth finding. 

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:10-11

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Advent Peace

advent candlesFor to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
 Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Isaiah 9:6-7

One of the many titles the Son is known by is Prince of Peace, peace being the focus of the fourth Sunday of Advent. Isaiah 9:7 specifically says Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end and it goes to describe him sitting on the throne of David. Part of the Isaiah prophesy has been fulfilled in the first Advent of Jesus Christ; the child was born, the son was given. He was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) to a virgin mother (Isaiah 7:14). But he has not yet sat on the throne of David, and during his earthly ministry he even said “I have not come to bring peace but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34) There is prophecy yet to be fulfilled in the second appearing (advent) of Jesus as the King of kings and Lord of Lords. Continue reading