August 17

Some of you who listened to this week’s message may have thought this was an easy sermon to prepare and preach.  After all, all you need to do is open up a Bible and read.  But I wanted to do more than that.  As I mentioned in my introduction, these messages were not written down right away and so the actual words and order of the topics may have been slightly changed or remembered a bit differently.  Plus Matthew gives no transitions between the topics which I am sure Jesus (as the ultimate communicator) would have added in order for his audience to understand.  So I knew I needed some editing and some adding of transitional kinds words to transform it from a message into a sermon.  I just could not read it straight from a translation.  And if I could what translation would it be?  These words have been read hundreds of times and are topics of many lesions, so most people know what they say, but do they know what they mean?  I wanted these words to be heard with fresh ears just as they were to the people in that day who heard Jesus preaching them for the first time.  So it was a bit difficult in that aspect as well.  And finally, the last chapter has several topics that seem to be mixed together as if they were summaries from various sermons.  And so I tried to organize the similar topics and ideas together instead of the way they are placed in our Bibles.  For an example Jesus talks about seeking the kingdom of God in two groups of verses but there are verses in between that talk about misjudging others, were as there are two ideas of not judging others and judging them by their fruit that are also separated from each other.  So I did change the order of the verses from what we have recorded and grouped them together under one subject heading.  I hope in the end this message of Jesus was delivered in a way that was both fresh and understandable.

August 10

This post is late again this week.  Since I took a vacation last week, it took me a while this week to catch up on all the stuff that I took a break from last week.  The message from Andy Stanley we watched Sunday asked a powerful question.  It was not “Are you a Christian?” which is easy to answer because it is not defined in the Bible.  But the question he suggests we ask ourselves is “Are you a Disciple?”.  A disciple is defined in the Bible and it is much easier to ask.  The hard part is answering it.  Because a disciple is someone who follows the teaching and the example of another person, in this case, Jesus.  How well are you following Jesus?  This is a question that we will be looking at further this coming Sunday as we look at the Sermon on the Mount.  I cannot wait to see you there.

August 3

It is hard to preach on the wrath of God and the reality of hell.  Hell is a horrible place and unfortunately according to Jesus many are on the wide road to it.  And it is even more frightening is that one day, every believer will see (at least for a moment those who are suffering in hell.  This is what the last verse in Isaiah seems to say (as was mentioned in the sermon).  “And they (the righteous) will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched (a picture of hell)”  It is something I had never thought of before.  But we might actually see our friends and loved ones who never accepted Jesus as their Savior, suffering in Hell’s fires.  I hope this inspires everyone of us to tell them about Jesus.  You may even have to use ideas like this sermon expressed to convince them that hell is not the place they want to end up and that their time is short and there is no guarantee that they have time to spare.

July 27

The year is going by fast with August starting this week.  School will be starting and students will return to classes to do their best.  The idea from Sunday that we need to do our best is not a new one.  God not only deserves our best but he also expects it.  By giving our all in everything we say and do, we show God how much he means to us and in turn God promises to bless us when we do.  Again, the passage from Malachi about testing God is the only time God makes this declaration.  If we are faithful in giving to God what he asks, he will throw open the heavens and we will be blessed.  I would add giving cheerfully and with a heart for God but that is what we are promised.  I hope you are going to test God this week by giving him your best.

July 20

Got back from vacation yesterday and I enjoyed relaxing and getting renewed.  Everybody needs to get away every once and a while.  In fact, it is biblical to do so.  The Old Testament has several festivals that are intended for people to get away from their day to day work and take time to spend with God.  The feast of booths is one example (also called feast of tablernacles) in Leviticus 23.  So make sure to take time away from your schedule and spend it with God.

July 13

Well before I go on vacation this week, I thought I would write a bit about how we can draw close to God as we talk about in our service yesterday.  There are many ways to draw close to God.  Spending time praising him is a good start.  Praise takes many forms from using our talents (singing, dancing, musical instruments, painting, etc.) and all of them when used for God and for his glory will help us draw close.  Meditating on who God is another way.  Sometimes this is done by listening to the radio while going about our daily activities (driving/riding in a car, while doing housework or homework, etc.).  Maybe you draw near to God by reading a good book or watching an encouraging movie.  Maybe attending or watching a worship service.  Giving, whether it be our time, talents, or money, is another way that people draw close to God.  Just do not treat it as an obligation or routine.  God condemns people in the OT that “worship” God with sacrifices but their hearts are far from Him.  Enjoying the gifts God has given us and using those gifts to help and bless others is another way of drawing closer to God.  I also know that spending time outside enjoying the beauty of nature helps me focus more on Him.  Of course this list of ways to draw close to God would not be complete without adding, prayer, time reading and studying God’s word, and listening to God.  Sometimes our prayers only speak to God without allowing our hearts to pause and listen to His response back to us.
I am sure that this list is not complete, but take several these practices and disciplines to help yourself come back into the presence of God.

July 6

Well next week is the start of my vacation.  And for those of you who go on vacation, especially camping, it takes about a week of planning; making sure all that you need to take with you is gathered, the menu planned, the gear loaded.  It again reminds me of the message from Sunday.  We need to make sure we have given God a place in our lives.  Not just lip-serve, but a real, tangible, and first place in our life.  God will not be happy in second place or given the hand-outs left over.  Make sure God is at the center of all you do.

June 29

I was talking with some pastors this morning.  And the topic we were discussing was weariness, both in ourselves and in our churches.  And to tell you the truth, I have been getting more and more weary these last few weeks.  I even put on our church’s marquee the verse from Matthew 11:28, Come you who are weary – find rest.  And I think the specific area where I personally feel the most weary is finding the right words to say.  Many times people look to me to find answers.  And to tell you the truth, I do not have all the answers.  I don’t always know what to say.  I do not know many times how to express my feelings without wondering if I will offend somebody.  Everyone has an opinion out there and in today’s culture often people have turned their opinion into facts.  And if you say anything that is different than their opinion, they are offended or put off.  We as a culture are starting to discount other people’s opinions if they are contrary to our own.  Not too long ago, differences in opinions were a good thing and by debating and considering each other’s opinions we grew in our understanding of each other without conflict or dismissal.  We allowed differences of opinions without malice or ill will toward the other person.  Now people are so polarized this does not happen often.  And yet it is so important to see where people are coming from.  See things from another perspective or viewpoint.  Otherwise we will remain in conflict with little hope in sight.

June 22

I hope you all had a wonderful Father’s day yesterday.  I just want to thank all the father figures in my life.  My two wonderful grandfathers who are now in heaven.  Dr. Biberstein, one of my professors in college who really helped guide my life during that stage.  And most importantly to my father, who has shown me love, encouragement, guidance, strength, and wisdom.  He has been there for me my whole life and I am grateful God blessed me so much by giving me such a good father.  If I give my sons half of what he gave me, they will be beyond blessed.  Thank you dad for showing me a bit of what my heavenly Father is like.

June 15

Like I said in my message, Habakkuk 3:17-18 has become one of my favorite verses down through the years.  It is ultimate trust.  It is like a wedding vow to remain faithful in sickness and in health.  It is very easy to follow God when things are going well.  When you are not struggling financially and hardships are few, blessing and praises easily flow from our lips.  But when things are tough, when we worry where our next paycheck is coming from, when bills pile up and we wonder how we can make it through, joy is not often to emotion we experience.  I have experienced several times in my life when I was unemployed and looking for jobs to support my family and I.  Those were dark times; times of crying out to God; times when I had more questions than answers.  But they need not be that way.  “Through the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, thought there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, YET I WILL REJOICE IN THE LORD, I WILL BE JOYFUL IN GOD MY SAVIOR.”  How could Habakkuk say this?  Re-read his entire book and you will find out.  And then read the last verse once more.  Habakkuk had such confidence because he followed a confident God who will take care of EVERYTHING in our lives.