Monday, January 31, 2011

Sermons January 30 Galatians 1

Morning Sermon Audio Link

Evening Sermon Audio Link

Note: Don't be mislead by the early AM posting times on the blog. Much of what I write is done the day or two before and then I schedule it to post at about the same time every day. That's at least my goal. So, no, I'm not up posting sermon outlines at 4AM. I try to do this before I go to bed Sunday Night. I don't always, but I try.

Morning Outline:

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! ” (Galatians 1:6–9, NAS)

Fundamental: Abandoning the truth of the Gospel is exactly the same as abandoning the Lord Jesus Christ.//You cannot “respect Jesus of Nazareth” and reject the Gospel

All parts of the Gospel: Depravity of man, necessity of atoning sacrifice

1. Abandoning the message of salvation by grace: when we add works, we lose Jesus Himself

2. Abandoning the exclusivity of the Gospel: when we believe that the Cross was unnecessary, we desert Him who died for us

Fundamental: The truth of the Gospel is independent of the messenger

1. Messengers may change: some may have once preached truth but now don’t: change the channel now.

2. Don’t focus on the messenger: should the messenger fall short, God’s truth

Application:

1. Accept the Gospel: Surrender to Christ as Lord

2. If we accept that the Gospel is the only way to salvation: what price is too high to restrain us from telling the world?

3. Compare what people teach and preach now to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Hold to the standard of the Word

4. Be certain that you are not the stumbling block

5. Don’t let a constantly shifting world shift your Gospel---let it remain fixedly His Gospel

 

Evening Outline:

For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. ” (Galatians 1:10, NAS)

I. Paul has been, apparently, accused of having preached ‘grace’ to receive people’s approval

II. He is asking the Galatians to consider if he is now seeking man’s approval or God’s.

III. He then highlights the critical issue:

a. It is not always possible to please God and man

b. So, we must choose

IV. Is our goal in life to please people?

V. If we have been bought by the blood of Christ, it cannot be our goal to please men

VI. What does this mean for us?

a. At church:

i. We will not always be happy in church

ii. We are here to serve God

iii. We are here to please God

1. If these ideas result in us also pleasing mankind, great

2. If not, tough break

b. At work:

i. You do understand you don’t work for your boss, right?

ii. You work for Jesus Christ, your Master

iii. Please your Master and forget your boss’s opinions

1. Given that pleasing your Master results in:

2. Integrity

3. Industriousness

4. Intensity of effort

c. At home:

i. Husbands: you are not here in to please your wives

ii. Wives: you are not here to please your husbands

iii. You are both in your home to please Christ

1. In how you behave

2. In how you treat each other

iv. Children: you have to obey your parents because God commands it

v. Parents: your goal is not to raise kids that are:

1. Good students

2. Good mannered

3. Good citizens

4. Rather: that please God

5. If the first 3 happen, great (and they generally will)

d. At life:

i. What parts of your life are you trying to hold on to?

ii. Let it go…be obedient.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A letter to Jeff Fisher

Note: it seems that the blog-flavor of the month is the “Open Letter” to someone famous. Usually they’ve contained rebukes, but occasionally admiration. Many of these posts have been high-traffic. Not one to avoid shamelessly copying success, here’s one from me.

An Open Letter to Jeff Fisher:

Dear Coach Fisher,

We’ve never met, and likely never will. However, I thought I’d take the time to write you a brief note now that your name is all over the NFL news for a day or two. The first time I really heard anything about you was the Titans-Rams Superbowl. No, I don’t remember which one that was or what year, because I’m not that big of a football remembering person. I remember how that game ended, with your team about a yard from winning. I remember the “Music City Miracle” that it took to get you there. I was also happy you lost, because I was a Kurt Warner fan at the time.

Next time I saw you was when you appeared with Kurt as a Dove Awards presenter. Not many people bother even watching the Doves, and maybe you only did it for PR since they were in Nashville, but at the time I appreciated your graciousness with your ‘nemesis’ and enthusiasm for where you were as a coach and person. Over the years since, I’ve become a fan of the Tennessee Titans mainly because I’ve been a fan of you.

Now, I recognize that you are not perfect. Far from it, perhaps, but no more so than I am. I’ve seen your efforts over the years to produce teams that were not just effective on the field but that also contained men of character off the field. I know that, from what I’ve seen in media, some of the off-field situations have caused you personal grief. You’ve worked hard to rise above those.

I’ve seen your public reactions to success on your teams and adversity with them. You earned my respect years ago with how you handled yourself, and I have yet to see a reason for you to lose it.

It was with sadness I saw the initial “tweet” from the official Titans Twitter account that you were leaving. Any other source and I would not have even gotten on ESPN to check it, but there it was. I don’t know what finalized the rift there in Nashville these past few months, but it’s over.

I will remain, for a time, a fan of the Tennessee Titans. Growing up, I had a preference for the Dallas Cowboys, but a combination of losses and lost character has caused me to look elsewhere. In time, perhaps, the Titans will face the same response from me, not that they’ll notice.

You, however, have a fan in me. I hope that you land well from your departure, whether you go to broadcasts, another NFL team, a college, or, heck, if you go down the road and coach an Upward Flag Football team, I’ll watch when I can. I hope that you receive the success your commitment to excellence deserves. And yes, I know you have a commitment to excellence even though there were bad years at LP Field. You rarely made excuses and you certainly were not pleased with them.

From a fan, I wish you well in the future, but with that I have a request.

Don’t go to Oakland.

Doug Hibbard

Friday, January 28, 2011

Reboot my life!

Something that has become the vogue in Hollywood in recent years has been the "franchise reboot." What that seems to mean is that: 1.)They're out of new ideas; 2.)The old ideas were better; 3.)All they can do is tinker with the old ones!

Actually, the reboot works like this: a new writer takes an old idea, like Star Trek, uses the same characters and same general inspiration, and writes a whole different story line for it. This is what you've seen with Batman, Star Trek, Spiderman, The A-Team, Godzilla, and Robin Hood. The better reboots, like Batman, Star Trek, and Robin Hood, keep a level of truth to the original tales and universe of the first. The Star Trek movie, for example, even explains how both stories actually happen at the same time. Robin Hood keeps the characters and the important parts: bad King John, good Robin, Lady Marian as his love, and so forth.

This has somewhat driven me to this point: I think I'd like a life reboot. In fact, most of us could use one. Batman got rebooted because the years of growth in the franchise had added a bunch of superfluous nonsense to the series (like Ah-nold), and they wanted to get it back to its roots. Robin Hood had been saddled with Kevin Costner ('nuff said).

Our lives get saddled with nonsense and weird actors too. The truths we'd like to keep in remain the same. I'd keep: my wife, my kids, and my faith. I'd even keep my current home, job, and hometown. Yet there's so much else that would be great if it would go away (like the house in Mississippi!).

The joy is this: 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that God makes us new creations. It's the life reboot we need, that works from the inside out. No longer do we have to hold onto the things of the past or even the extras that we don't want. We do have to stay true to certain parts of the story: our family is our family, we are where we are, though it may change in time.

Of course the difficulty is this: just like William Shatner will always be Captain Kirk for me, I do like the newer version. I can't help but compare Russell Crowe to Kevin Costner (though one easily wins). So, I can't help but compare my life as it was and as I hope it continues to be, with questions about choices and changes.

Yet, in the end, I like the reboot. Some of the processes that are still happening will be less than fun, but the end result will be better. Just like having a Starship Enterprise that doesn't sound like it's shifting when it engages the warp drive….or a Robin Hood with a non-American accent (or, for that matter, one that actually acknowledges that King Richard never returned).

What parts of life would you like rebooted?

What movie reboots have you enjoyed?

Doug

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Book Tuesday

Book Tuesday

I had planned to stop doing book reviews at random times and just do one every Tuesday. I expected that I would have enough books that I would be able to rotate through and keep things read and ready to post.

Well, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray…usually distracted by cheese. The plan has faltered. First of all, there was a shipping delay with one book. Then two of the books I’ve gotten are not easy enough reading to knock out in a day, so those will have to come in another week or two. Finally, one of the books I’ve gotten is actually a scheduled blog tour, and I don’t even think it’s on a Tuesday.

So, I don’t have a book review for you today. I do, however, have a recommendation for you. It’s an important recommendation, one I feel well worth your time. Ready for it?

Read.

Read books.

Not just blogs or websites or magazines or even newspapers, but books.

E-books are good, especially if you get an Amazon Kindle and start loading up on out of print and public domain works that you’re not going to get anywhere else very easily.

Books. Those things that are often dismissed as long, boring, out of date, and many other derogatory terms, those books. They need to be read. Pondered, considered, and remembered.

Why?

I’m sitting here in a hotel room where I last night I watched a couple of History Channel specials about mysteries of history. These shows were about trying to decode what remained of evidence from prior civilizations. There are the hints of a double-hulled oar-powered ship that had 4000 rowers, a wooden ship that carried thousands of tons of cargo, and a Pharaoh that was thought to have been a traitor.

There was much effort spent to explain if each of these assumptions were true or false. The end result? Further guesses, doubts, and wonderings.

Because there are no major written records to actually answer the questions.

Were there no people that understood what was happening then? No, there were people that knew. They just lacked either the ability or, more likely, the desire to write it down. Along the way, it just wasn’t important enough to record.

We have to choose to first of all, learn from the past, learn from those who have gone before.

Once we do that, we need to pass on the knowledge. Both the practical knowledge and the pure knowledge, both directly to others and by preserving the information in ways we can be reasonably certain will endure for generations.

So don’t let your ability to read to go to waste. Use it to help you grow and use it to help others.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sermons January 23: Galatians 1:1-5

LONG POST WARNING!!

I've been writing out more of my sermons, even though I don't preach it word-for-word from what I write. It helps me wrestle out some of the thoughts more clearly. The evening sermon is still more of a short outline. I'll post it first, then the morning preaching guide.

I'm in Galatians.  Here are the audio links to the:

Morning Sermon on Galatians 1:3

Evening Sermon on Galatians 1:4-5

Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen. ” (Galatians 1:1–5, NAS)

Evening Outline:

January 23 PM Galatians c1v4t5 FBC Almyra

Rescued from this age, the evil one, for that age, where He is and His glory is unconcealed

4 who agave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil 1age, according to the will of our God and Father,

5 to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen. [1]

I. Like the Galatians, we live in evil times—in fact, we live in the same “evil age” that the Galatians did: The age after Eden and before Paradise.

a. Evidence?

i. 53 million babies killed in the womb

ii. School shootings

iii. Government corruption

b. More evidence?

i. Religious apostasy

1. Predators in churches

2. Use of the church for personal riches

ii. Religious insanity

1. Date-setting apocalypse

2. Syncretism

II. We cannot get out of this on our own

a. We don’t always want to like we ought to want to

b. We don’t know how to anyway!

III. Jesus Christ came

a. First, to seek and save the lost

b. Second, though, to show us the way home

IV. WE HAVE BEEN RESCUED FROM THIS AGE!

a. While we sojourn on this earth

b. Our residence is in heaven, our citizenship there

c. When there is a conflict, home should win in our hearts

V. The non-accident of the Gospel:

a. “Gave Himself up”

b. “According to the will of our God and Father”

c. There was no other plan from the foundation of the world

d. Christ’s sacrifice was not:

i. Plan B

ii. An Accident

iii. A tragedy

VI. The glory of God

a. “Forevermore”= “Age of Ages”

b. We have been rescued from the evil age to the age of ages

c. To worship and glorify God


Morning Preaching Guide:

Sunday AM January 23 Galatians 1:3

Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen. ” (Galatians 1:1–5, NAS)

Highlight Verse 3: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Introductory material:

Now that I’ve been here as your pastor for a few months, and we’ve upped the lighting here on the platform so you can actually see me, it’s time to share a few, well, secrets with you about preachers.

These aren’t dark and dirty secrets or anything like that. I certainly wouldn’t want you to have to sit through all the dark and dirty secrets of preacher lives, and it’s not about how, secretly, while we won’t cancel church for the Superbowl, a lot of us really think it wouldn’t hurt.

Instead, this is just a few secrets about preaching itself. If you’ve listened closely over the years, you’ve realized that most sermons are the same. Really, they are. It’s not that we all pull from the same website, although all sermons should be coming from the same Source. But there are just some rampant similarities to every sermon you hear preached. Here’s how a sermon goes:

I. Introduction story, which is optional

II. Scripture passage

III. Prayer

IV. Preacher explains the text:

a. Who wrote it

b. Who read it

c. What happened

d. Why it happened

V. Preacher then explains the meaning behind the text

Note that Scripture has, in essence, unchanging meaning in each passage. The application of that meaning may change, but what God intended remains the same.

VI. Preacher now explains why that meaning matters to the current audience

VII. Preacher gives audience a list of application points related to why the meaning matters

VIII. Those application points are, really, these things:

a. Surrender to Christ as Lord

b. Live like you’ve surrendered to Christ as Lord

i. Alone

ii. At home

iii. At church

iv. At work

v. At everywhere else you ever go

That’s it.

So, to break up the monotony, I’m going to preach differently today. Let’s go backwards. Not backwards so far that we do the invitation now, unless there are folks that know, right now, that they need to publicly profess Christ, ask for baptism, ask for church membership, or otherwise share a decision with the church family. We’ll come back, though, to that, in case you come to one of those conclusions in the next little while.

We’re going to start with application.

I recognize that the little preaching primer I gave you was a little generic, but the application part is still highly relevant. The idea in preaching is help you find the specific applications of each text for yourself, because I can’t possibly know what 50-60 people each individually have to do in relation to the text. However, the applications I listed I know need to happen:

First of all, there is no place in Scripture that does not resound with the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. If you do more than pick out a few happy lines in the midst of the whole, you’ll constantly encounter that people go through life expected to be in fellowship with God, but not. That we were made to reflect His image, and that we’re marred, warped, like a damaged mirror reflecting Him. All of Scripture points us to Christ on the Cross and not in the tomb, paying for our sin, to bring us forgiveness. Surrendering to Christ as Lord is not merely a good choice or a nice thought, but necessary. Not to make this life easier, but to have any hope that the next one will be tolerable. Eternity is spent either in the presence of God’s love and holiness or His wrath. You can surrender now or wish you had then. And until you have, that’s really the application of everything in Scripture, that’s the answer to every question you put before God: surrender. If you try and practice Christian morality without Christ in you, you’ll get either a Pharisaic legalism or a cultural shifting morality, but you won’t be saved from your sins or at peace with God.

The second application point is this: live like it. For many of us, we hear the “live like it” as a command to attempt the moral behavior of a Christian, the outward practices of a Christian, and the spiritual appearance of Christianity. Now, there are, truly, morals, practices, and spiritual habits that are characteristic of followers of Christ.

Yet that’s not truly where the application of Scripture begins. You can attempt to control behavior, but the work of God’s Holy Spirit begins in our hearts. No more than you’ll eat dinner today by smearing it on your skin, but rather you put it inside you and allow it to nourish and work from the inside out, spiritual application is the same way. We strive to behave, but first we must allow ourselves to be changed.

We are not supposed to be earning God’s favor. Rather we are living up to His gift of favor to us. Since His gift to us is greater than we will earn, we have a better attitude about our obedience. We are not short-tempered with our fellow Christians, we are not angry towards the lost. These attitudes are replaced by encouraging others in growth and lovingly sharing the truth of the Gospel with our lost neighbors, near and far. We will worship humbly with our whole hearts, and dedicate ourselves to serving the Lord with gladness rather than burden.

Why?

Galatians 1:3-> Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I. Grace: this is the word for unmerited favor at the hands of a greater party. It’s an unearned effort on the part of someone with more power, authority, and strength to strengthen and support a weaker party. It’s used 155 times in the NT, by nearly every author of the New Testament. In the Greek-speaking world, this was what you sought from a ruler when you were in a bind.

a. It’s also related to the Greek word for joy

b. And the word that we translate as “spiritual gifts”

II. Peace: Remember those angels talking to that batch of night sheep watchmen? “Glory to God in the highest. And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased”(LK 2:14). Peace. Not peace just in the sense of not at war, but peace in the sense of good relationships, right relations. Peace, not the “we avoid each other to get along” but “we can’t wait to be together” relationship.

III. To you: or in you (it’s a dative). Importantly for us, we need to see that this is one of the places that proper English fails Bible translators these days. “You” isn’t the right translation here. “Y’all” or even “All y’all” is the right word, because, you see, English lacks a difference in you-singular and you-plural. It’s all just you. Us Southern folks, though, have this down: we can tell if you mean one person or lots of folks: am I addressing “you” or “y’all”?

a. This is to y’all.

b. It’s to the church together. We need to understand that, while Paul may hope that the church would be left alone by the world, he’s not wishing for peace with everyone around them. He’s calling on the church together to be at peace with each other.

c. He’s pointing out that grace is a part of the whole church, is a gift to the entirety of the family of God. You don’t get more than the person next to you or the person in that other church over there. You get all you need, and they get all they need. He’s pointing the Galatians to the truth that all of them need grace, even the holiest of them.

IV. From God our Father

a. Our Father: Great or small, the same God is above every one of us. We may be older children or younger, smarter or not, but we’re all still one step behind: He is still the Father.

b. From God: what Jesus died to bring us is the grace and peace that is a gift from the Creator God of the Universe. Our relationship is not with a portion of who God is, but is with all of God.

c. And the Lord Jesus Christ (see above)

V. In all, this is a normal greeting from Paul in his letters. Here are some facts to gather from it:

a. The letter is to the saved ones in Galatian churches: “Our Father” shows us that

b. Paul is emphasizing God’s grace to them

Why does this matter to us?

To remind us that we are in need of God’s grace and peace as well. The consistent repetition of this greeting in almost all of Paul’s letters shows that no matter the church, the people need to remember God’s grace and peace. Need to experience those things, to live in light of those.

Live in light of knowing you are not earning God’s favor, but rather already have it.

Your neighbors in the church already have it. They didn’t need more than you did, either. They needed Christ to die for their sins. So did you. So bickering and envy and judging your neighbor’s worthiness to know God is out.

Your neighbors out of the church need to accept it. Most of them don’t know, though, that the church isn’t after them to change their behavior, but rather to see their hearts change to be like Christ. Will you tell them?

Will you extend grace to the people around you? Your family? Your friends? Your enemies? God has extended it to you, and if grace and peace are in your heart, they’ll show through into your actions.

Those actions will include being a part of the body of Christ, committed to a church that serves God.

We’ll live in the joy of knowing peace with God.

Do you have that peace? Do you have the relationship with God? You need that. You cannot earn it or make it happen any way other than His way.

Do you have that peace with others? Do you have God’s people in your life? You need them.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Finding Encouragement

"Efforts are nice, but results matter."—Unofficial UPS Training Motto

One of my ever-lasting goals, like millions of Americans, is to lose weight and get fit. To that end, I've spent money on various devices and gadgets. One of them is a Nintendo Wii. I won't try and pass the whole Wii off as for fitness, but a large part of it is.

Especially EA Active. This is a program that is designed to be a virtual personal trainer. It includes a strap to hold a Wii controller on your leg to measure leg movement and an elastic band for resistance. I won't call it fun, but it is challenging. The program also talks you through the variety of exercises and tells you how you're doing on each one. Good or bad, it gives encouragement or correction.

Except sometimes the Wii controller doesn't correctly detect the motion. Then, the virtual trainer will rebuke and not record that you've done the exercise properly. My record shows fewer calories burned and fewer repetitions done than I have actually done. I'm slightly aggravated with my virtual trainer for not recognizing my efforts.

Yet my clothes are fitting better and my energy level is up. I'm getting the results even though I'm not getting the encouragement I want.

It leads me to wonder: what things am I discouraged in even though I'm getting results? Am I more concerned that my efforts get noticed or that the results happen?

Encouragement is a necessity for most of us. It helps us endure until we see results from our work. When the results come, we should take our energy from seeing them.

Oh, and on the original thoughts, I've got a Gazelle you can buy cheap.

Doug

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A name worth knowing

….though it's a name most of us have never heard. Robert Hunt. Ever heard of him? In context, he's one of the early settlers of America, Virginia to be exact. Still no good?

Robert Hunt is, more appropriately, the Rev. Robert Hunt. He was part of the settlement at Jamestown, and had come to settle in America and be part of the spiritual leadership of the colony. He led the first prayer meeting there, on the day of landing. He also died the first year of the colony.

Here's what the colonists, his flock said of him:

    His people, members of the Colony, left this testimony concerning him. He was an honest, religious and courageous Divine.
    He preferred the Service of God in so good a voyage to every thought of ease at home. He endured every privation, yet none ever heard him repine. During his life our factions were ofte healed, and our greatest extremities so comforted that they seemed easy in comparison with what we endured after his memorable death.

And to think, these days you'll hear us preachers complain of everything from lousy cell phone signals to having to use a PC when we want a Mac. Hunt traveled with the colonists, worked with them, and struggled with the same challenges that they dealt with, and had to help them get along. How would we handle those challenges?

He's the first church planter in America:

He planted the first Protestant Church in America and laid down his life in the foundation of America.

Yet he's barely remembered, except in a history book. His efforts have slid into obscurity, and his legacy, well, there isn't much of one. Am I willing to labor in such a way? To work, strive, heal relationships, and never "repine"? (be discontented, from pine: suffer a mental/spiritual decline, originating in Latin poena 'punishment')

It's a question that's often asked in success classes and in other settings, but it's worth re-asking: What will people say about you when you're gone? What will people remember?

And how will you feel if people forget? The colonists moved on, found new leadership for the church and Hunt's name is in a list of the colonists, but is hardly highlighted as that important to America today.

If my obituary becomes something that is only seen on an old microfiche of the Stuttgart News, am I ok with that? I must confess, I'd like to be more famous than that. Today, I'm challenged to grow in maturity and accept life as an historical footnote.

Doug

 


William J. Federer, Great Quotations : A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Quotations Influencing Early and Modern World History Referenced According to Their Sources in Literature, Memoirs, Letters, Governmental Documents, Speeches, Charters, Court Decisions and Constitutions (St. Louis, MO: AmeriSearch, 2001).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Losing your head

When John the Baptist first came preaching, he preached the need for repentance and to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. It was a simple message, really, when you read the New Testament.

However, what John the Baptist seems most famous for is not the simple preaching but his execution at the hand of Herod. Yet what happened to move him from a wilderness preacher to the enemy of Herod? Why did he rate the enmity of the state like this?

He crossed a line. A line that, to this day, many Baptist preachers that have followed him shy away from. His preaching became not just one of general "Repent!" messages, but rather he began to call out specific sins. You see it when he preaches in Luke 3 that he begins giving specific evidences of repentance that should be seen, he tells the wealthy to care for the poor, the soldiers to do their duty but not abuse the public, and the tax collectors to stop extorting money. (Sidebar: some of that counsel remains good.) This is not the line he crosses.

The line he crosses is in Matthew 14, when he calls out a public figure for his sinfulness. Herod had, essentially, stolen his brother's wife, and married her. John the Baptist pointed out this sinful behavior.

And it got it him thrown in prison.

Here's where I'm caught on this: what areas have I deemed 'off-limits' for my preaching? Am I afraid to highlight the specific sins of celebrities or of politicians? What about of people within the church I pastor? Am I backing away from being direct so I don't go to unemployment or prison? The anecdotes from others and personal experience shows that this happens: preach about the other people's sins and you're ok. Preach on the sins evident in the body, and you've got to go.

And how have we drawn those lines in general in American churches? Are we backing away from preaching what we should?

If John the Baptist were preparing his message today, would someone point out that if he'd be a little more culturally relevant, a little less offensive, he'd get to preach longer? That if he would at least balance his attack on Herod's sin with a kind word, that he'd get more air time?

Or maybe the more direct approach: If John wants to correct Herod, before he preaches it, he's got to go privately to Herod first. And John had better make sure he acknowledges that John is a sinner too, rather than pointing anything out with a 'holier-than-thou' attitude.

Instead, John the Baptist looks at Scripture (the Old Testament to us), looks at Herod, listens to the Spirit of God and then speaks. He does what he is able to do: denounces the sinfulness as an affront to God. Calls publicly for Herod to repent.

True, John dies before Herod. And yet, "of those born of women there is no one greater than John." (Luke 7:28).

May I be more willing to lose my head in preaching. May we all.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Relinquish!

“What our fathers with so much difficulty attained do not basely relinquish.”---from Governor William Bradford's tombstone

This was in my daily readings of "Great Quotations" from history.  It's from the tombstone of one of the early governors of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  It's also on there in Latin, causing much rejoicing that it was translated for the quote book.

It has me wondering how easily we in America have given up the things our forefathers attained.  Then, guiltily, I have to admit that I wonder what I've given up too easily that was attained with difficulty for me.

I see it often in our churches: for a number of generations, people have struggled and sacrificed to establish churches, seminaries, ministries, and missions.  Yet each succeeding generation wants to trade those sacrifices for the flavor of the month in trends and ideas. Not that all the old things are good or the new things are bad.

I see it in our nation: generation upon generation has fought for our freedom and for freedom around the world. Now we want to talk rather than do, import rather than build, and bicker rather than find a solution. Not that everything from 1776 was perfect or even 1976, but we must not abandon the good.

I see it in my life: throughout the years people have helped me along, taught me, trained me, helped me to grow. Yet do I remember or care for their sacrifice?  Do I remember the efforts to break the Hibbards from owing their soul to the company store in mine towns or the Roses to independence in farming? Or do I belittle the lack of education or sophistication? Not that they were perfect nor did they do all things right.

Notice something in Bradford's statement: it's not that the old should never be relinquished, rather that it should not be basely relinquished.  There's a time to move forward from the past, a time to realize that the future has come and demands changes. However, it should never be done lightly or flippantly, and should not be done for low reasons.

Let us never forget what it took to get us here.  Many of us are educated because of the efforts and sacrifices of others, some of them generations before. We have homes, jobs, comforts from those sacrifices. We have freedom. Let us not forget this, even as we look to keep all these in perspective.

Doug

 

Quote from: William J. Federer, Great Quotations : A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Quotations Influencing Early and Modern World History Referenced According to Their Sources in Literature, Memoirs, Letters, Governmental Documents, Speeches, Charters, Court Decisions and Constitutions (St. Louis, MO: AmeriSearch, 2001).

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Book Tuesday

I've decided to try and rein in my rampant book reviewing and only do one book review a week, and to do it on Tuesday.  Typically the books I review don't have a specific date to be done.  Occasionally, there is a due date and it's often on a Tuesday, so that simplifies my scheduling.

Plus it keeps me from seeming too much like all I want from the blog is free books.

Today, however, I have not a book review for you.  I'm going to give you a few previews and a peak at my reading list.  Keep in mind that I read for five purposes:

1. Personal growth and curiosity: there are books I read to help me be better at who God has made me.

2. Professional growth: I need to get better at certain professional skills.

3.  Academic requirement: I am working on a master's degree. I have to read for that.

4. Blog reviews: I get free books in exchange for some of the reviews I write. So, I read books to write reviews to get books.

5. Personal enjoyment: I like to read. That's one thing I desperately want my kids to grab: a love to read.

Sometimes those purposes overlap: I'll find myself reading a book for school that helps me professionally grow or a review book that I enjoy, but those five items sum up most of it.

So, previews?

Well, Booksneeze has sent me a book entitled The Jesus Inquest about examining the arguments for and against the resurrection of Christ.  Lots of words, written by an English barrister (lawyer), so it's taking some attention to read. 

I have a review for Tyndale of a Jerry Jenkins novel, but I think I'm supposed to keep the title under wraps until February 9th when I post the review. 

I'm reading a book on Biblical Interpretation for school, as well as a Christian History textbook.  These are, of course, oodles of fun.  By attaching 'required' to a book, material that was interesting last month is now hard to get through.  It's all in my head, though, so I will read those.

Through my Logos Bible Software I'm reading through the Bible in a year, reading a couple of books of great quotations, and reading through the Westminster Larger Catechism and few other odds and ends, like Growing in Christ by J.I. Packer.  It's a handy tool, that Logos stuff.

I still have a few books on communication to finish, like Maxwell's Everyone Communicates, Few Connect and want to reread Irwin's Derailed.  Plus, last library trip I started on O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series, but that's a low-priority.

Sounds like a lot, but it spreads out nicely.  I haven't heard of anything new coming out this year that I'm just itching to get my hands on to read, but I'm watching the lists of upcoming titles.  Surely there will be something as good as Bonhoeffer from Eric Metaxas last year.

How about you? Do you enjoy reading? What are you reading these days? (Other than this blog?)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sermon January 16 Galatians 1:1

Sermon Audio is here

January 16 AM FBC Almyra Galatians 1

Galatians 1:1: Paul, an apostle, not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead, and all the brethren who are with me,

Theological truths:

I. Personal authority

II. Supremacy of Christ

III. Fellowship of followers

The letter is begun in the normal style of Greek/Roman letters. This is the identification of the author, the sender of the letter.

In this case, the sender is Paul. Where to begin with Paul? Shall we spend the morning visiting his conversion from the persecutor to the persecuted? From the Pharisee to the servant of the Lord? Suffice it to say that Paul was not half-involved in the mission of the Gospel.

His name would have reverberated when it was read, as the letter was intended to be, aloud in church.

Here it was, a letter from Paul. Not a piece of junk mail or another fundraising letter or even just a quaint hello from a friend. Paul.

Who had preached the Gospel the first time the Galatians heard it. Who had been there, been involved, and knew the Galatians.

Yet this letter isn’t from Paul their friend or Paul their old buddy, but rather from Paul an apostle. There were few who were truly entitled to be called that. Surely those who were closest to the Lord Jesus Christ when He walked the earth were, and a few others who had been witnesses to His resurrection, like His brother James.

This was not, however, some title that just anyone was entitled to use. The church at Galatia had seen a few people that claimed to be apostles, and they had come with impressive resumes and persuasive teaching. There was just something about being apostle that brought with it authority and respect, as was due such great men.

The apostles that had come since Paul left had likely come with documentation, testimony from other churches and other apostles, signifying that they had been sent by the greater churches around.

Paul, though, hadn’t come with one of those. So, in the time that had since passed, his teachings had been set a little back, not intentionally perhaps, but time dulls the memory.

And here he is writing, reminding that he’s an apostle.

Well, who made him an apostle?

Was it James? Peter? John? Matthias?

None. Paul claims his authority comes directly from God above: an apostle, not by the actions or agency of man but by Jesus Christ, the Lord, and God the Father.

We don’t have anyone in churches these days that has that kind of authority, but for the early church, these men were there, who had authority simply by name.

This was more than just trustworthiness by name, like many of us have for respectable men and women. After all, we would listen closely to a letter from Billy Graham or a newly found one from Adrian Rogers or Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Trustworthiness and usefulness aren’t really at stake here. What’s at stake is authority. You see, whatever we may think of Billy Graham, he can’t require our church to do something. Likewise the president of the Southern Baptist Convention or the state convention directors.

Paul, though, is writing as one who plans to tell the churches of Galatia what to do.

Why do we not have apostles now as we did then? I’ll give you the basic reason: The churches of Galatia, like those in Philippi, Thessalonica, Rome, and Corinth had apostles because they didn’t have what we do: a complete, inerrant Bible.

The churches then had to evaluate each person that showed up to teach them something, each letter, each sermon had to be considered and authentic. The source mattered, the heritage mattered. Then the churches had to make their best effort to determine whether this apostle spoke God’s truth or not.

Now, we actually have it easier. Remember that letter from Billy Graham? How do we know he’s given us something we ought to do? We compare it to the Bible. At this point, for people with access to the Word of God, there is no need for authoritative apostles to tell us what to do. We have God’s own words to apply.

That’s not to take away from those who have put special effort into preparing, teaching, preaching the Word of God. And certainly not to eliminate our need to properly and thoroughly consider the source. Far from it, rather the times in which we live, with Bibles enough for all of us in church, we ought to more thoroughly compare the lives and behaviors of those who would lead churches to the Word of God.

Moreover, we should thoroughly examine their views of the Word of God. A preacher, TV or live, who speaks as if his or her words are the actual words of God, that person is misleading you. Period, without discussion.

NEVER TRUST A RELIGIOUS LEADER THAT TELLS YOU THEIR WORDS ARE AS GOOD AS, EQUAL TO, OR A REPLACEMENT FOR THE WORDS OF GOD. THAT PREACHER WHICH BELITTLES THE BIBLE IS HEADED DOWN THE PATH TO ERROR, HERESY, AND DESTRUCTION, WHETHER HE’S THERE YET OR NOT. DO NOT GO WITH HIM.

Yet at this point, it’s necessary for Paul to provide his authority, and he stresses that this is not from man, but rather from God. He is not an apostle by choice or by preference, but rather out of the sovereign will of God.

It is to this authority that we turn next. It is not the apostle, nor even The Apostles that are supreme in the church. Even we Baptists get this wrong in business meetings sometimes. It is not that the church in business meeting is in authority.

Rather it is Christ the Lord, that God the Father raised from the dead, who is in charge. It is He who sends apostles, He who spoke Scripture into being, who is in authority over the church.

That’s actually why we have business meetings and committees and many of the other things Baptists are known for: it is believed that in a multitude of the redeemed, the will of God as revealed in Scripture and guided by the Spirit can be learned.

In all things, though, in a church the will of Christ is supreme, and never the will of man. Allowing man to rule in a church is a recipe for disaster.

Now, while it was well said that no one stands alone that stands with God (Oswald Chambers among others said this), but the final thing I want us to notice here is that Paul, though he takes a stand on the authority of God, does not take this stand alone. He writes from not only himself but with the brethren that are with him.

We see other places in Scripture where Paul writes alone, but this is not one of those places.

He does not identify these by name, but some general guesses are Timothy, Silas, Titus, or others.

So this is where Galatians starts.

What, then, should we do about it?

Application points:

  1. Seek community of believers: we are less effective when alone, we are less encouraged, and weaker.
    1. We, as followers of Christ, need each other
    2. When you take a stand, you do it, whether it must be done alone or not
    3. It is better to stand together, for a cord of 3 strands is not easily broken
    4. Likewise, as we stand against the world, we will need each other.
    5. How can you support struggling Christians?

i. Prayer

ii. Presence

iii. Prayer (said that twice, didn’t I?)

iv. Awareness

  1. Seek confirmable teaching
    1. Do not focus on teaching that is esoteric
    2. Do not spend time chasing down the rabbit trails that aren’t part of Scripture
    3. Do spend your efforts learning the Word of God
    4. Do ask questions
  2. Seek the supremacy of Christ
    1. A church that exalts itself
    2. A person that exalts themselves
    3. A nation that exalts itself
    4. All will not help us.
    5. We must focus on Christ alone, to the end of all other things.

There should be no question of where we stand—there is no hope in any other than Christ, and there is no place where we can go He is not…

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Philippians 1:7-11 Week 2 #P2R

Thought I'd already given up, did you? That one week of memory work was enough?

No way.  While life never seems to slow down around here, Ann and I are still working on memorizing Philippians.  This week's section is Philippians 1:7-11 (ESV).

It's going alright, but the verses are getting a little blurry.  I am trying to remember verse numbers with the passages, but I think I'm memorizing it as a section: I can tell you that something is in 7-11, but not if it's 8,9, or 10.

What am I seeing?  A couple of things:

1.  As frequently emphasized: love with knowledge and discernment. Biblical love, God's love, is not blind. God loves us while we are yet sinners, He loves with full knowledge.  Our love should be similar: we know what the objects of our love are not perfect. Discernment comes into helping us know what not to do, what not to allow in our love.

2. Partakers of grace, both in imprisonment and defense and confirmation of the Gospel.  That's right: in 3 things that most of us would avoid: prisons, religious debates, and public confrontations.  This was where the Philippians had stood with Paul.  Yet many of us would avoid all of this.  We evade being confrontational in our beliefs, yet that is where Paul and the Philippians cemented their relationship.  Not meaning to suggest rudeness, but rather that just because someone objects, we shouldn't cower in fear of discussion.

3. Yearning for friends: There are times when you can take on life without close companionship, but there are times you need people you can count on. It's not weakness, it's normal humanity.

4. As God is my witness---while this phrase gets plenty of mockery, thanks to Scarlett O'Hara, it's still valid: the best witness for your integrity is God Almighty.  He sees it anyway.  And God is often the only one who can do anything about our situations, so present them to Him.

5. Approving what is excellent means there are things that shouldn't be approved.  Am I approving what is excellent?

So, how are you doing with your memorization? If you're not on Philippians, are you trying to memorize any Scripture? If so, how's it going?

If not, join us on Philippians.  It's fun. And challenging. 

Doug

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Assumptions

Just now, I heard the sounds of crunchy food being eaten behind me, and I was concerned.  Without going into too much detail, our family has been dealing with lots of sinus issues this week, and sinus gunk early in the morning tends to lead to upset stomachs.  What's an age-old upset stomach helper? Plain saltines, one of the crunchiest, driest foods on American grocery store shelves. So, I assumed that Ann wasn't feeling well and was munching down some saltines. 

Except, when I turned around, I saw she had a glass of orange juice.

Which is not upset stomach friendly.  Not at all.

My first thought? My wife has lost her mind.  How can she possibly think that's going to help? How am I going to get any work done when she's sick and making it worse? What is she thinking, and …..

You see the train-wreck of thought there, right? How one thought leads to another? How quickly a person can move from seeing one set of actions to questioning a person's whole motivation for behavior?

We do this repeatedly in this country.  First we see an action that does not make sense to us, or that we simply don't like.  Then we question the action, but that's often not enough.  We then question the motivation of the person who does it. Finally, we go on to express how this one action shows that the whole world is out to get us or out to destroy this, that, or the other.

Either that, or we agree with an action and so build up the person behind it that we assume they are the single most wonderful individual in the world.

However you slice it, we tend to move quickly from a single observation to a complete assumption of people's character.

Except that it's invalid. And we should realize it.  Think about your own behavior.  Is there one thing you do that characterizes your whole person? Often there isn't. (Whether or not there should be is another discussion.)

As people, we need to learn to see what's actually happening and then proceed from there, not jump to conclusions.

This morning? It wasn't even saltines.  It was a homemade granola bar. Which Ann was having for breakfast. Nothing more, nothing less.

So, the whole train-wreck of thought was invalid.  She not only has not lost her mind when it comes to stomach ailments, she had no intentions of wrecking anyone's day, especially mine.

So, to consider….

Have assumptions ever gotten you into trouble?

What can we do to dial back our paranoia and take people at face value?

Doug

Monday, January 10, 2011

Jacob and Esau

I had what was, perhaps, a "duh" moment looking at Scripture this morning.  In my daily Bible reading plan, I'm reading the story of Jacob and Esau, and how Jacob conned Isaac out of his blessing.  Essentially, Jacob received the bulk of the estate, the wealth, instead of the firstborn, Esau.

Then Esau decided he's going kill Jacob. Now, until now, I've always read this, and I think heard it preached, that Esau is angry. That's why he's going to kill.  And that's part of his motivation.  There's another issue at stake, though, here.  The blessing that Isaac received was not just spiritual well-wishes or happy thoughts, but entailed with it the right to receive most of the estate.  Between that and the whole birthright-for-stew swap earlier, and Jacob gets basically all of Isaac's stuff and influence.

And who inherits this if Jacob is dead? At this time, Jacob has no wife and no heir.  His stuff would go….to his brother, Esau.  It's not just anger that's brought murder to the table, it's wealth. It's the response to the scheming: brute force to even the score.

Jacob then flees. Survives, and comes back later. In the meantime, due to Jacob's absence, Esau receives the material inherent in the inheritance. His threat of force satisfies his desire for the stuff.

For the next 20 years, the brothers are separated, the family destroyed.  Why? Scheming, greed, violence.  These attitudes destroy this family.

They still destroy families.  The modern family, especially here in America, sees this modeled on TV, in movies, and too often around their own dinner table.  It's not a good thing.  It's a bad thing.

Look at Jacob: he thought he could succeed through scheming, yet he didn't count on a violent response.

Look at Esau: he wasn't as bright, but thought strength would even the score.

Look at what happens: Isaac and Rebekah do not go the their graves in peace.

A few practical observations:

1. For the schemer: stop it, before you get hurt. Really. There are people in this world that cannot keep up with you, and they will resort to inappropriate means in response. 

2. For the violent: end it.  Seriously, there is no need for you to fall back to brute force to make your point.  People will respond to your violence, not your point.  Where does it end?

3. For the wiser: say something about it to the younger ones behind you.  Isaac and Rebekah had, seemingly, been aware of Jacob's tricky nature and Esau's physical prowess.  Did they ever instruct the boys to dial it back and to balance themselves? No.

One of the things I think we've lost in our society is this: a respect for our elders, a willingness to listen and thereby balance our own youthful impulses.  We watch Band of Brothers and think "I'd like to be a warrior like those men" rather than listening to them: not once do you hear Easy Company suggest wars and violence are good things. My recollection is that Maj. Winters and the others would have given anything for war to be unnecessary ever again, and in fact that was one of their hopes.

We need to listen, to learn, and to restore a willingness to hear the wisdom of the elders in our society.  Our generation is making a mess of things, and we're headed downhill in a hurry.

A question for you: Who are (were) the elder influences in your life?

Doug

Sunday, January 9, 2011

This is not what we want

Like most Americans, I am beyond angry at the actions in Arizona that took the lives of six people and wounded many others. One crucial portion of my beliefs, both political and religious, is that every life is important and valuable to God and to others.

That, apparently, this happened by someone that is claiming to be influenced by the conservative political movement is a disturbing situation.  Although someone that claims to have hated all religions and smoked marijuana, according to one of his acquaintances, hardly seems like a poster boy of the Tea Party. 

It leas to this question: when people talk about political targeting and a grassroots revolution, is this what we want?  Are we really wanting to see unarmed civilians gunned down? Congress people and judges killed?

If your answer is "this is what I want" then you are not what we, the American people, want.  One of the hallmarks of American democracy is peaceful transition of power. Peaceful.  As in, while we may fuss and whine, we do not take to shooting.

Seriously.  Even the American Revolution was fought as a war, even if the tactics varied from the normal warfare of the time.  This is not the resistance. This is not a war.

Now, part of the problem is this: all sides of American politics have taken to extreme rhetoric.  We've talked about "class warfare" and "revolution" and "taking a stand."  And the time may come for such terms to really matter, really apply.

But it's time to dial back from this and the other extreme rhetoric.  I've already begun to see it online: "Obama will use this to take our guns" "they'll be after all of us now" and other such. 

People, there are enough real issues with the policies and politics of the present administration without resorting to exaggerating their decisions.  And there are plenty of opportunities to deal with these actions at the ballot box.

There are things that are evil enough to take up arms to stop. However, while I even see abortion as a great evil, we have not exhausted all legal efforts to stop it, and so even that does not rate the violent actions people have taken against abortion clinics and abortionists.

All the more when people start shooting at Congresswomen over the healthcare vote or whatever this guy's issue was.  It's nonsense.

You do not launch a pre-emptive strike of a revolution.  That makes you a criminal. That makes you, perhaps, a terrorist.  It puts you squarely against the American ideal of the rule of law.  This puts you against the idea that all lives are precious.

And entitles you to forfeit yours.  Whatever your reasons, your purposes, or prior problems, here's to see justice work in the situation: you did it.  There is no doubt you did it.  May a jury of Americans convict you and sentence you, and may your time in prison be long enough to make your peace with God before you meet Him.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Does Snowzilla go to church?

It's time for that nearly annual conundrum we have in the South.  According to the National Weather Service, we're due for a "winter storm" and potential "snow/sleet event" around here.

Now, various people are already laughing.  Tricia Goyer, deservedly world-famous author that has recently moved from Montana to Little Rock has questioned our response to the few inches.  Other friends around the uncivilized-lands of New York, Montana, and the like have mocked us Southerners.

However, it's important to note a few things: 1. We don't have snowplows down here. 2. "Snow event" rapidly degenerates into "ice event" which means you can't drive. Not "we can't drive," but nobody can. You don't learn to drive on ice, you learn to crash into the softest thing available. 3. Yes, it really is that bad. 4. Dirt roads don't freeze hard enough to drive on. You'd think the frozen mud would stay frozen, but it won't.

Since this mess is arriving on Sunday, and most of us are traditionalists that still have church on Sunday nights, it's a great time to answer the question:

Do you cancel church because of bad weather?

Now, this isn't about true chaos weather like the Nashville Floods or Hurricane Katrina where the National Guard is out or the roads just don't exist.  Where it is physically not possible to get to the church location. We're talking about the 2 inches of snow, 1/4 inch of ice that we're forecast to receive.

Many of us preachers are of divided mind on this.  Why?

Well, click here and read this link of what American military POW's went through for having church in a North Vietnamese camp. Consider the brothers and sisters meeting in secret, tramping through snow to meet in unheated caves to worship.  You start to get the feeling that a little snow and ice shouldn't hold us back.

However, let's add a different viewpoint to this.  Philippians 1:24 highlights Paul's viewpoint, that remaining in the flesh, remaining alive is helpful for the Philippian church. 

So, consider this, church member and pastor before you risk your neck on the streets:

1. If you lose your life to get to church, will reasonable people see it as a sacrifice of faithfulness or the price of foolishness?

2. Is it good stewardship of the resources you have to fix the car and the light pole you hit? Aren't there better ways to spend the money?

3. Pastors: Are you mindful of the people that are going to do whatever it takes to get to church if it's happening? That you are responsible for them getting out if you tell them to? And that having that service is telling them to get out to get there?

4. Are you going to this one service just because it's your personal and traditional habit to do it, and not because it's what you know to be God-honoring?

I firmly believe that consistent involvement with the fellowship of believers is crucial to Christian growth. My life revolves around seeking ways to strengthen churches to strengthen Christians for the work of the Gospel.

However, just as the Sabbath was made for man and not the other way, so the church is not your master, the Lord Jesus Christ is.  Have some common sense.

A backwards glance, though, to catch those folks that canceled at the first "advisory:" don't be a wimp, and build a communication structure to allow for a Sunday AM decision, or a Sunday afternoon one. Discretion is the better part of valor, but consider this: Noah had the only 100% accurate forecast, the rest is speculation.

Therefore, tomorrow morning, I'll be at church. If the flakes start to fall tomorrow and it looks bad, tomorrow night I'll be at home.

Me, you, and Snowzilla can stay home and catch the podcast, because if he shows up at our church, we'll likely all be at home.

Doug

Friday, January 7, 2011

The purpose of the church

“The most valuable work a church can perform is to so minister to individual Christian lives that they shall enter into the presence of God for themselves and have a faith that will outlast and outlive all external helps.” --IJ Van Ness

I came across this quote when doing some reading, and I’ve been staring at it off and on for the day. It’s connected to the heart of a frequent discussion these days: What is the purpose of the church?

To some, the church is about providing social services to as many as possible. This isn’t a totally bad work of God’s people, as even James 1:27 reminds us that pure and undefiled religion is looking after widows and orphans. Then there is the need to help find solutions for children in need of adoption and temporary care, families that are facing difficult times, and the ever-present need to feed the hungry.

To others, the church is about education. The church should be teaching children to be moral, wives to be submissive, husbands to be leaders, and teens to be sober and abstinent. When there are needs for education in the community, the church could be there to help with job training or placement.

Still others see in the church the institution of right-thinking government policy. Whether as a haven for immigrants or the bulwark of pure Americana, the supporter of military action or the agitator for peace, there are a dozen other ideas, and they tend to be in conflict. The church shouldn’t support government overreach into people’s lives and yet how can we idly let people face illness without access to medicine? The church enjoys much liberty in America and yet we see the risk of extending that liberty to others, and the conundrums carry on.

A few see the church as the center of revolution in this world. Whether it’s to overthrow rampant capitalism or fight against DC tyranny, the church should grip the Word with one hand and the sword with another! Some would even allow firearms, and suggest the church be the center of the community’s armory.

Yet more see the church as the center of social life. Whatever event goes on, whoever needs people for a party, wedding shower, funeral, or baby shower, the church is there to provide that experience. It’s the place to meet people, have friends and grow.

Of these many suggestions, what should the church focus on? Dr. Van Ness has provided an excellent point about what should be most valued: the church exists to strengthen God’s people to do what they are capable of doing.

I see in Scripture that the Christian faith is a faith of individuals lived out in the midst of people, in the midst of community, and this is what the church helps establish. Why? Is not the church the place for all of these other things?

Actually it’s not. The church is not the place to care for orphans and widows. Your home is. My home is. Likewise with many of the other issues listed. The church, rather, is the place where we gather to be strengthened so that we can do those things. When we try to do all things as “the church” rather than as individuals, it’s too easy to shirk our own responsibility, whether for our growth, our families, or our voting.

The church is the center point for our understanding of what it is to be a follower of Christ, the center point for our encouragement to grow in that following, but should not become the substitute for our own doing and growing.

What do you think?

Generally: what is the purpose of churches?

Personally: Why do you attend, or not attend, a church?

Corrections? Arguments? Disputations? (Not dispensations. That’s a different subject!)

Doug

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Disconnected

Sometime last year, I received a copy of John Maxwell's book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect.  It was a freebie that Michael Hyatt was giving away on his blog.  (side note: if I ever get to be a famous blogger, I'll give away more books than I do now.  Right now, I'm a receiver on this, and hope to someday give.)

As I've read this book, I've seen something in me that I don't like, and that I'm striving to change.  It's actually summarized in the parenthetical above about books.  Often in communication, I'm taking more than I'm giving.  I have a broadcast mentality, and that's not all that effective for building relationships.

That's a change I want to make.  Right now, I broadcast. Really. I write blog posts that people, at least a few, read.  I preach sermons.  I teach longer-than-necessary Sunday School lessons.  My sermons go out as podcasts.  This is all one-directional communication.

I see this blending into my personal life as well.  There are times when my wife and I should be having a conversation, but really we end up exchanging monologues. I get involved in the homeschool process to give a lecture, but rarely to do questions and answers.  And when I do, it's still one sided.

So, one of my goals, resolutions perhaps, in the coming year is that I will work to be more interactive.  Move into, well, the 21st Century.  I do remember when the web was a one-sided thing, and now it's a two-way conversation.

My efforts will certainly fall short, and I'm not going to abandon the traditional sermon and go to a groovy new format.  I am well aware that mass communication is a part of life, and a useful part at that.  However, that can't be all of life.  So, I want to sit down and listen.  Respond to the questions being asked.

This will be a challenge for me.  It's much easier to trade broadsides, but that will never draw close to others.

So, for you, dear readers, two questions and a request:

1.  Generally speaking: what do you think are the more important parts of communication between people?

2.  Specifically: What can you do to help your life contain conversations and not broadsides?

3. Personally, a request: How can I communicate better with you?

 

Doug

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Pros, Cons, Progress and Congress

"If pro and con are opposites, what does that say about progress and Congress?"

Today, the new Congress gathers.  For the last 2 years, the ruling party of Democrats have claimed the Republicans have blocked them from doing what they wanted.  The Republicans have claimed the Democrats have done what they wanted, and that's why they're now in charge, to fix the mess.  To both of them, here's what I have to say:

1.  Shut up and get to work.  Both of you spend so much time attacking each other that you can't possibly be also listening to the people you're supposed to represent.  You know, the citizens? That whole "For the people" concept?

2.  Alongside that: cut out the "procedural vote" method of hiding what you voted for.  Seriously.  Bring the actual bills to the floor and vote on them, rather than killing them through votes that aren't actual votes.  Do something to produce an actual record.

3.  We have 10% unemployment, and something like an additional 15% under-employed.  Taking more money from the people that have jobs will not help the unemployed.

4.  Neither will allowing companies to book giant profits and tax breaks for moving more jobs overseas.

5.  Free trade is great, except when it allows companies to destroy people's lives and the environment by manufacturing in non-regulated environments.

6. Part of the marriage debate centers over the idea that there are some 1500 or more federal benefits to being 'married' over being in a 'civil union' or whatever.  If the government is capable of handing out 1500 benefits to married people, the government is doing too much. Seriously.  I don't know where those benefits are, but that's insane.  The ability to file 1 tax return that combines her deduction and mine is 1 that makes sense, and survivor benefits for Social Security makes sense, but what else are you doing?

7.  You can't keep spending more than you take in. You probably can't take in any more than you are now without paralyzing the economy. You think you can't spend less without paralyzing the economy. Something's got to give. 

8.  We know that you all ran for your jobs claiming certain ideals.  We also know that you probably won't keep half of your promises.  We are watching you.

9. Especially to my Republican friends: I've said this before "treat as you would be treated, not as you were treated."  You've complained about a lack of respect, a lack of compromise, a lack of work with.  Revenge is for later.  Play a football game or something for that revenge. Be what you wish the other side had been.

10.  You are all supposed to be there for the good of the country.  Guess what? The country expects it from you. Leave the regional battling, the my area first bickering, and what-not for college football. Congress does not exist to help 1 state or 1 of 435 districts.  The Fed exists to help 50 states, all 435 districts.

 

Now, get to work.

 

Doug

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Book Review—The Quotable Chesterton

For the record: this book was received free from Booksneeze, part of Thomas Nelson Publishers.  They send the free book, I write the free review, and everybody's happy. Check it out for yourself if you're so inclined.

The Quotable Chesterton: The Wit and Wisdom of G.K. Chesterton

As you can tell by the above graphic and the oh-so-not deceptive blog title, today we're looking at Kevin Belmonte's The Quotable Chesterton. 

If you're like me, your first question was: Chesterwho?  Well, Belmonte has another book out right now that's a biography of Chesterton, so I'll just give you a short bio.  Chesterton was primarily a literary critic at the end of the 19th Century and beginning of the 20th.  He was also a Christian. He wrote, spoke, and was renowned for his insights into a great many things. The main thing I remember his name attached to was that, when a London newspaper asked the question "What is wrong with the world? Who is to blame for our problems?" and Chesterton replied: "I am."  (or something of the sort.) Wit, wisdom, and writing make for the three parts of Chesterton, from what I can tell.

So, this book is actually a collection of quotes from Chesterton's various writings.  They are organized by topic and listed alphabetically.  A few of them are more than two paragraphs, but most of the quotes are a paragraph or shorter.

Strengths? The first is by nature of the book: the short quips and condensed wisdom are there to be found without having to read the whole books.  The second is that Belmonte has endnoted each quote for reference purposes.  There can be no question if Chesterton wrote each thing attributed to him, since it can be easily referenced.

Weaknesses?  Just a couple that I noticed.  1.) Context issues.  Just as an observation, Chesterton lived in England, and much of his commentary comes from the perspective of a lifelong Londoner.  I'd like to see a few footnotes to clear up historical context where the quotes reference a definite geographic location or current event in Chesterton's time.  2.) Also a type of context issue, and that is there are some quotes lifted from Chesterton's novels.  Having not read them, it's hard to place the character names referenced.  Now, I recognize that this is the fault of my own barbaric lack of reading, but many other readers might have slipped in this manner as well.  I'm not sure how Belmonte could have remedied this short of providing synopses of each novel, so it's probably just going to remain a drawback.  Instead, since many Chesterton's complete works are free on Kindle, I'll be catching up that way.

The question of usefulness of this book is kind of a toss-up.  If you're looking for a good quote or two to fill in a speech or spice up your writing, it's a good source.  However, in some circles, you'll be met with the same opening question you had for me: Chesterwho?

If you've got time to enlighten your audience, though, it's worth it for them to know him, because it's well worth you reading him.

Doug

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Blog Title

As you may have noticed, I've re-titled the blog.  It was "Doug Hibbard's Blog" and now it's "Obvious and Ordinary---The Online Musings of Doug Hibbard."  If you haven't noticed, that's ok.  If you don't change the link on your blog, I probably won't notice yours either. 

Why the change?  Well, I'm kind of trying it out.  I started blogging as "BubbatheRev" and then decided that wasn't really the title I wanted to go by.  So, I went to "Doug Hibbard" since, well, that's my name.  It's also still my web address: http://www.doughibbard.com will be my web address for as long as I can afford to keep it renewed.  I like having my own name.  Someday, hopefully, I'll get the .net too. 

However, I decided that perhaps "Doug's Blog" was a bit boring or maybe just bland.  Anyway, it's an option to go back to.  However, I was looking for something catchy.  Wade Burleson has "Grace and Truth to You," and Dan Phillips has "Biblical Christianity," and the various other great bloggers all use some type of name.  Well, except Tim Challies, but he's "The World's Most Famous Christian Blogger" according to some people, so he's the exception that proves the rule.

What did I come up with? "Obvious and Ordinary."  Why?  Here's some reasons:

1.  One of my nicknames in high school was Captain Obvious.  I'm sure some of you qualified for the same name.  Statements like "It's hot" in an Arkansas summer are pre-qualifiers.  I had such moments as "when the lights go out, it gets dark out here" at a high school football game.  I even had a hat with my name and title.  Was the only specific gift I remember from my 16th birthday.  So, there's part of the Obvious.

2.  There's also this: much of what I write is about seeing the things that, in hindsight, are obvious in how God works and who He is.  Not all of it is, and, in fact, much of it's not so obvious on the front end.  It's perhaps more of a "That should have been obvious" feeling, but I was aiming for a short title.

3.  Ordinary.  I have wanted, and still often do want, to be famous, amazing, or important.  Not just to be important to my children and amazing to my wife, but world-renowned for something.  Or for several things.  One part of how I'm seeing God correct me is to point out that I am called to be quite the opposite.  I'm ordinary.  And this isn't a bad thing.  I'm an ordinary pastor of a mostly ordinary church.  We aren't setting records at giving or baptisms or missions, and I'm not setting records with blog readers or using up all my free podcasting bandwidth.  I haven't been invited to preach at great conferences (or mediocre ones).  Neither have I been nominated for high offices in the denomination.  In fact, last year I was initially informed I had been placed on one of the most influential committees, and then was put on something much lower.

And I'm learning to be ok with this.  Part of what I want to blog about is how God is at work through ordinary people like me and like most of my readers.  How God works through ordinary activities, ordinary jobs, ordinary life circumstances. Not that I'd turn down that speaking gig, mind you, but rather that I need to not need to get it.  I need to go through life happy if it never comes.

4.  Ordinary, also, because it's a liturgical term, and many of my readers don't get liturgical.  You're going to have to look that word up, aren't you?  A liturgy is an organized, formal order of worship that is standard throughout a group of people.  That's the short form definition.  The typical liturgy has the Ordinary and the Proper, the latter of which changes based on times, seasons, and church historical events.  The ordinary is nearly the same every time, every place.  It's the root, the grounding, of the worship service.  Through all times and seasons, there are things we need reminded of.  So, ordinary.  And those who know me know that Proper wouldn't have worked.  Plus, being Baptist, I didn't want to mislead my Orthodox brethren by using Ordinary, Proper, and Common and have them thinking I was one of them.  You're welcome to be here if you're not Baptist, but I shouldn't con you into thinking I'm not.  We all have our faults, after all…

5.  Obvious and Ordinary: Basically, the blog of a normal person, seeking to serve the One True God, in ways that aren't really meant to attract worldwide fame and fortune.

Now, dear readers that have gotten this far: I need your opinions.  Does it work? Should I just go back? What other ideas have you got?

Doug

 

PS---In my search for fame and fortune, I am available on Amazon Kindle for $0.99 a month.  Here's the link: .  I don't think anyone's ever even looked at it, and the graphic is 3 blog changes behind.  I need to fix that.

January 3 Sermons

Morning Audio link is here.

Evening Audio link is here.

 

Here is the AM Outline.  There isn't one for the evening.

Where knowledge begins: Proverbs 1:1-7

I. The fear of the God

a. Notice here: the small caps. This shows us that it is God’s covenant name used, indicating specifically which God we’re talking about

b. It is not a generic fear of some unknown deity that begins wisdom

c. It is fear of the One True God

d. Fear:

i. Respect

ii. Honor

iii. Worship

iv. And, yes, intimidation: He is all-powerful and perfect and holy.

II. From knowing and fearing God, we then move to understand:

a. Righteousness: living a right life

b. Justice: helping others understand what’s right

c. Equity: doing right for others

d. Prudence: making right choices in a chaotic world

e. Wise behavior: the decisions that sustain life

III. Good for all ages:

a. Youths: those who have not learned from experience

i. Discretion: when not to do what the urge is to do

ii. Knowledge: the things that need to be known

b. Wise man: those who have learned

i. From the Word

ii. From experience

iii. Increase in understanding: it doesn’t stop

iv. Beware of feeling like you don’t need to learn/grow

IV. Act on the wisdom

a. Solomon had wisdom

b. He laid out many proverbs (1 Kings 4:32 mentions 3000)

c. He had a little bit of difficulty following them all.

d. Why? Eventually, the fear of one of his many wives outweighed the fear of the Lord (1 Kings 11:4)

e. Wisdom that we fail to act on is worse than ignorance

V. How to act?

a. Read the Word: there is no substitute for reading the Word. Well, except hearing the Word: audio is as good, sometimes better, if you actually listen!

b. Study the Word: don’t be stagnant or flippant to rush it through: strive to understand. Find a good way to learn what you don’t yet comprehend

c. Memorize the Word: while you won’t be asked to quote Scripture at the pearly gates, it’s of great benefit in this world. We’re memorizing Philippians---yes, the whole book. Memorize spot verses, but try a challenge: read, and re-read.

d. Share the Word: with like-minded folks, speak of and discuss the Scriptures and what you’re learning. And how you intend to turn that learning into actions

e. Spread the Word: to those who don’t know: we must spread the Word of God

f. Accept the Word: if none of these sound like what you would want, if you have no interest in growing in His wisdom, understanding His Word---have you accepted His Word in the first place? God’s grace calls you to accept that the Word became flesh and died for our sins, and to surrender to Christ as Lord. Unconditional Surrender to the Risen Lord: it’s a great way to start the year.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Philippians and #P2R

Memorizing Scripture, word-for-word and with references, has not been one of my strong suits.  Sure, I can tell you about the Word, and I can tell you some of what's in the Word, but generally I need a copy in front of me.

That's not all bad, because right now there are few times in America that reproducing Scripture from memory is all that necessary.  However, in an effort to think more on the things of God and grow in my understanding, I've wanted to do better memorizing.

In the great milieu of Christians that blog, I caught a link to Timmy Brister's blog, where he put out a challenge to join him in memorizing Philippians between January 1 and Easter.  He created an easy to use document that you cut out, paste in a little pocket-sized notebook, and use to help with the process.  The document, found here, is a PDF that most computers can open.  Included are tips to help with memorization, and the complete ESV Bible text of Philippians, allocated into weeks. Ann and I used small notebooks that we had available, and I bought this 3-pack to make notebooks for the kids (they're sold out now, but $3.99 was a good price, and we get free shipping on Amazon. Wal-Mart may have something, the 3x5 size is the main thing).  There's enough space to take notes on the verses and also take notes on prayer requests or other needs in the notebooks.

So, I'll pass on the challenge: anyone else want to memorize Philippians with the Hibbard Family? I told Ann what I was doing, and she decided to do it.  The girls saw me making the notebooks and asked what was going on, and they said they wanted to do it.  Steven then asked where his notebook was when we were making the girls'! So, we're all in.  Steven may have Philippians memorized before he can read.

I would love to fill the choir loft at church with people reciting Philippians the Sunday after Easter (well, I started yesterday, but you didn't, so we can add a week).  Call me, email me, see me for details or help if you need it.

Meanwhile, I'll be occasionally blogging thoughts on Philippians and the process.

Philippians 1:1 (ESV): Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, along with the overseers and deacons:

Among the messages in this verse is this very important one: God speaks to the whole church.  While there is a necessity of a leadership in the body of Christ, we see here that there are no private messages where the overseers and deacons are privy to God's will and "all the saints" are not.

This challenges leaders: if what you are telling your church is God's direction for the church and no one else sees it; if you are giving them interpretations of Scripture that no one else gets; if you are taking a walk and think you're leading: Get back with your people.  They are also recipients of the Word.

This challenges the individual saint: if you are constantly the one in disunity, you need to ask some questions: 1.) Am I filled with the Spirit and able to hear the Word? Keep in mind that an unsaved person hears one basic message from God: Repent and surrender to Christ! If you are saved, are you surrendered to His will and full of His Word? 2.) Am I in a church that is actually trying to follow God's Word? Sometimes we have differing interpretations, and that's ok.  However, if you're constantly irritated by those differences,  you may not be in the right place.  3.) Have I really searched the Scripture on this one?

This challenges the church, saints and leaders: Keep in mind that leaders are a part of the church.  I remember playing games in PE in elementary school, and we would run races where there were groups of kids inside large hula-hoops (or something like that).  One kid was the leader at the front of the hoop, but we were all in the hoop, and we all had to run.  Churches are similar: somebody's in the front of the hoop, but everybody's got to run, and run in the same direction.  Are we (or is your church) running together? Are we at a pace that challenges us without tripping the guy in the back? Who is moving with us, and who is being dragged?

There's some basic thoughts on the first of Philippians.  I'll be back with more thoughts, and no, I'm not preaching Philippians this year, at least not according to plan.  We'll see what happens.

 

Doug

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Starting the year off right

Looking over the past decade, one thing I want to express a thankfulness for is the number of people I'm grateful to still have in my life.  You see, my birthday comes before too much longer, and one thing I know is that the older I get, the older the people I look up to get, and the closer to their reward they become.  Now, for some, that reward is simply to retire and disappear somewhere, unbothered by the likes of me, but for others that reward has been to go home. The latter was the case with my speech professor in college, Dr. Buckelew.

So, I'm going to express some personal sentiment here about people I'm glad are starting the new year alive.  Except saving the best for last, there's no order.  Also: this is about ministry mentors and teachers.  Just because you're not mentioned by name doesn't mean I'm not thankful for you to be alive too.

1.  The old cohort of OBU professors: Drs. Hays, Duvall, Carter, and Vang, even though Dr. Vang has relocated to Florida.  These men were a strong influence in my OBU days, and 3 of them are still in Arkadelphia.  I learn almost as much going to the 1 day pastor's conference they put together as I do any other time. Dr. Vang still has many good things to say on Facebook, and was his usual cheerfully challenging self when I saw him last summer.  I don't doubt that I could email any of them with an issue and get a good opinion.

2.  Larry Romack: my old youth minister who is now a pastor.  And who has had to have his heart re-done this year.  Not his heart in the semi-spiritual concept, but the real blood-pumping muscle.  I need to get together with him more, if only virtually, but it just seems a little hard. Anyway, he and Lyndra have been one of my prime examples of a life in ministry.

3.  Emil Turner: Dr. Turner at the ABSC has become one of the prime shapers of how I look at life in Arkansas Baptist-dom, as well as helping shape how I've handled several things in ministry.  While there are others at the Baptist Building that I am glad to count as a friend and who I know I can call on, Dr. Turner is one I strongly look up to.  Except for that whole LSU thing.

4.  This spot should be filled with someone, but I can't nail a name down.  There are quite a few individuals that I interact with that help me grow, and I hope I help them grow.  Some are real-life friends, some are blog friends that I think would be real-life friends if they moved to the Promised Land.

5.  Finally, it's good to have Dad still around.  More and more of my friends talk about missing their fathers, how challenging life is without dads around.  And since the older I get, the smarter Dad is, I can see that it will someday be a problem.  For right now, though, I'm glad I don't have that.

 

Cherish the people you have around you, and stop to consider who you're glad to have in your life.  Don't wait to see how much you cry at their funeral, but show it now.

Doug

Sermon Recap for September 20

Good evening! We had some major technical difficulties this week, so we don’t have the music part of the service, and you get the video from...