Friday, December 18, 2015

To Live is Christ...

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.  Yet what shall I choose?  I do not know!  I am torn between the two:  I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body."
Philippians 1:21-24
A nine-year-old boy named Austin, had his tonsils removed. Before the surgery, the anesthesiologist came into start an IV. He was wearing a cool surgical hat covered in colorful frogs. Austin loved that “frog hat.” When the doctor started to leave, Austin called out, “hey, wait.”
The doctor turned. “Yeah, buddy, what do you need?”
“You go to church?”
“No,” the doctor admitted. “I know I probably should, but I don’t.”
Austin then asked, “Well are you saved?”
Chuckling nervously, the doctor said: “Nope. But after talking to you, maybe it’s something I should consider.”
Pleased with his response, Austin answered, “well you should, Jesus is great!”
“I’m sure he is, little guy,” the doctor said, and quickly made his exit.
When Austin's surgery was finished, the anesthesiologist came into the waiting room to talk to his mother. He told her the surgery went well, then said, I don’t usually come down and talk to the parents after surgery, but I just have to tell you what your son did.”
Oh boy, she thought. What did that little rascal do now? The doctor explained that he just put the mask on Austin when her son signaled that he needed to say something. When the doctor removed the mask, Austin blurted out, “wait a minute, we have to pray!” The doctor told him to go ahead, and Austin prayed: “Dear Lord, please let all the doctors and nurses have a good day. And Jesus, please let the doctor with the frog hat get saved and start going to church. Amen.”
The doctor admitted that this had touched him. “I was so sure that he would pray that his surgery went well,” he explained. “He didn’t even mention his surgery. He prayed for me! I had to come down and let you know what a great little guy you have.”
A few minutes later, a nurse came to take her to post-op. She had a big smile on her face as they walked to the elevator. “There’s something you should know,” the nurse said. “Some of the other nurses and I had been witnessing to and praying for that Doctor for a long time. After your son's surgery, he tracked a few of us down to tell us about Austin’s prayer. He said, “well girls, you got me. If that little boy could pray for me when he was about to have surgery, then I think maybe I need his Jesus, two.”
If a nine-year-old boy can live that way... For me to live is Christ and to die is gain... Then why can’t we...

Monday, October 26, 2015

It's too small a thing...

“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept.  I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends to the earth.”
Isaiah 49:6
It sometimes amazes me to think of how big our God is.

I know that He wants to use me, to work through me, and perhaps sometimes I allow that to limit Him.  If God were to work through me, then maybe God can be no bigger than me.  When God works through you, maybe He is limited to how big you are.

But then this verse changes that.  God is speaking to Isaiah, and in verse 5, it says, “And now the Lord says – He who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself…”  Isaiah knew God formed him in the womb, he was destined since birth, he was born for this – to bring the nation of Israel back to God.  

To me, that sounds like a big thing.  How can just one man turn an entire nation?  I’m sure Isaiah thought it to be a big thing.  But then, here in verse 6, we see what God thinks.  “It is too small a thing…”  God wasn’t limited by Isaiah.  

It wasn’t enough for Isaiah to be God’s servant.  It’s wasn’t enough to bring back the entire tribe of Jacob.  It wasn’t even enough restore the entire nation of Israel.  God was way bigger and way more powerful than Isaiah.  And for God, the entire world was always the plan.  That through Isaiah, Israel would become a light for the Gentiles, that salvation might come to the ends of the earth.

As Christian’s today, we have a similar mission, to go and “make disciples of all nations, baptizing tem in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”  (Matthew 28:19).  To be Jesus’ “witnesses in Jerusalem, and all in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Before you start thinking that’s too big a thing, remember Isaiah.  And remember how big God is.  And remember that God is not limited by you.  Rather, through you, He can do amazingly big things.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Paul & Cindy Talley at FBC


Paul and Cindy Talley will be at First Baptist Church in Waverly this weekend!

I have mentioned to many people that Paul and Cindy have become good friends over the years, and I am excited to see them again.  They arrived yesterday and Sandy and I had an opportunity to spend some time with them.  And I'm very excited that you will have an opportunity to meet them, too. 

They will be ministering with us on Saturday evening at 7:00 pm, and on Sunday morning at 11:00 am.  Please join us for this time of ministry.  I know that they would love to meet you.

Can One Person Really Make a Difference?


Yesterday I looked at the healing of the demon possessed man in the region of the Gerasenes.  The man had many demons, Jesus gave these demons permission to leave the man and enter a nearby herd of pigs, and the pigs, now demon possessed themselves, ran down a steep bank into the sea and were all drowned.  Upon seeing such a miraculous healing and demonstration of Jesus' power over demonic authority, the people ultimately rejected Jesus and asked Him to leave. 

There is one other part of this story that I think is really significant.  After all this happened, the man who had been demon possessed, now completely healed, wanted to go with Jesus.  He wanted to follow Jesus wherever Jesus went.  I don't blame him.  He will forever be remembered in his home town as the out-of-control man with the demons.  People will probably reject him everywhere he goes in that area, remembering what he did, perhaps even fearing the demons may return.  We do tend to dwell on the past.  While we know of the change taking place in ourselves, we often struggle to recognize change in others.

What is significant about this part of the story, for me anyway, is that while this area had rejected Jesus and asked Him to leave, Jesus still had a plan for this region.  When the man begged to go with Jesus, Jesus' response to him was, "Return home and tell how much God has done for you." The man wanted to follow Jesus, and Jesus told him to go home and be a witness of what you have seen God do in your life.

Why I think this is so significant is that if we really want to follow Jesus today, I think He's going to tell us the same thing, "Go home and be a witness of what you see God doing in your life."

To be a witness means to tell other people what you saw.  It doesn't mean you have to be an expert in the Bible.  You don't have to memorize the Roman's Road.  You don't have to have a ton of tracts to explain how to come to Christ.  You just have to know what Christ has done for you.  You have to see Christ's hand at work in your life.  And you have to be willing to share that with others. 

To see what Jesus is doing in your life, and to recognize it's Jesus, not just circumstances, you have to know Jesus.  You have to spend time with Him in a daily quiet time.  You have to spend time in His Word.  You have to speak to Him, and let Him speak to you.  And when you do, He will reveal what He is doing, and you will know it is Him.  And you can share what you see.  That's what it is to be a witness.  We avoid witnessing because we aren't evangelists.  But that's not what it means to be a witness.  We just tell what we witnessed Jesus doing.  People who don't believe don't care what Jesus did 2000 years ago.  They want to know if Jesus can make a difference for them. They want to know if He can make a difference with what their struggling with. 

The people of the Gerasene region had rejected Jesus.  Jesus' response was to send one person to be a witness.  It's impossible to know for sure what affect he had, but Jesus knows that one person most certainly can make a difference.  And if you really want to follow Him, He's going to ask you to witness what you've seen, so that you can make a difference, too.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Do You Fear Jesus?


I was reading this morning in Luke 8, and I came across the familiar story of the demon possessed man in the region of the Gerasenes.

This man had been through so much.  Possessed by not just one demon, but many.  When Jesus had asked the demon's name, He was told "'Legion,' he replied, because many demons had gone into him." (v.30)  These demons had really tortured the man.  For a long time his clothes were in rags and he lived in the tombs.  In fact, v. 29 tells us he was "chained hand and foot and kept under guard." Still, he often managed to escape, breaking his chains and finding solitary places to hide.

It's interesting to me that the demons recognized Jesus immediately.  When Jesus approached, the man "cried out and fell to his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, 'What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?'"  The demons recognized Jesus.  And they feared Him, begging Him not to torture them.  The demons begged Jesus to let them go into a nearby herd of pigs, and in verse 32, Jesus "gave them permission."  So the demons not only recognized Jesus, but Jesus had authority over them, giving them permission to enter the pigs.  The demons left the man, and entered the pigs.  Upon entering the pigs, the entire herd ran down a steep bank to the sea and were drowned.

Now the story gets better.  When those tending the pigs saw what happened, they ran back into town and told everyone what happened.  That's good, right!  They were witnesses to Jesus' power and authority, and they were sharing what they saw Jesus do!  But here's the kicker, found in verse 37, "Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were afraid." (v.37)

This brings two questions to mind:
  1. Why were they afraid?  Maybe they didn't want to give up what they had?  Their lifestyle?  Their property?  Maybe they knew they were sinners and didn't want to give up their sinfulness or their evil desires?  Jesus has the power to save people, but they were more afraid of change than they were of the demons.
  2. Why aren't we afraid today?  Because of their fear, these people had rejected Jesus.  Many people respond the same way today, but show no fear at all.  Instead, they show a mixture of arrogance and ignorance, a very dangerous combination.
I don't think people reject Jesus today because of  fear of Jesus as much as they fear what they might have to give up to follow Jesus.  Are you following Him?  Are you sold out for Him, really following Him?  Or is something still holding you back?   Jesus loves you, deeply desires to have a relationship with you, and offers you life to the fullest.  What is it you fear?

Monday, April 20, 2015

We've Moved!


Effective April 12, I became the new pastor at Waverly First Baptist Church.  While I'm still in Almond while waiting for the Parsonage at First Baptist to open up, we will be moving by the end of the month!

Waverly First Baptist Church is an American Baptist Churches congregation located in Waverly, NY - about 80 miles east of Almond, and about 35 miles south of Ithaca.

The church is great, the community is great, and the opportunities for ministry are great.  (So are the challenges)  So stay tuned as minister together in this new setting. 

God is good!  Let's see where He leads...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Role of the Church

Our Sermon Series at Almond Union is titled A Study in Spiritual Maturity.

We've been looking at those things that we do that lead to a deeper level of spiritual maturity, with the idea that we can be a little holier and a little deeper as we celebrate Easter.

This week we look at the role of the church in developing our spiritual maturity.  A warning - it's probably not what you think!

To read or listen to the sermon, click here.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Standing firm...



“If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!”
Proverbs 24:10
How has your winter been?  Are you anxious to get back on the bike?  When I am done writing this I’m going to go out for a short ride!  I’ve been called crazy, but I like to try to get out at least once a month, and this winter has been so hard, I haven’t been out since December.  I’m tired and oh so ready.
Some people are anxious to get back in other ways.  I’m anxious as in excited.  I can’t wait.  It’s been way to long, and I’m going now whether the roads are good or not, whether it’s warm or not.  But some are anxious because of health issues.  Are bad knees or lung issues or back pain going to make it difficult?  Some are anxious because of financial issues.  Am I going to have the finances available to do what I want to do and go where I want to go?  Will I have the money to the kind of riding I hope to do?  Some are anxious because of a host of other issues.
How do we handle the anxiety that comes our way?  Some can be affected so greatly they almost become paralyzed.  They’re afraid to try, afraid to reach out, afraid to even attempt.  Anxiety keeps them from accomplishing anything.
But on the other side, some can be affected so greatly they become unstoppable.  They become so fully focused and undeterred that they will push on through the greatest obstacles and succeed at all costs.  In fact the obstacles only serve to sharpen their focus and increase their desire.
I’m sure most of us will find ourselves somewhere in the middle.  But Proverbs 24:10 suggests that perhaps the latter example is better.  That we show our strength when we push through our obstacles.  Perhaps more importantly, we show our source of strength when we push through our obstacles.  We all have limits, but we believe in one who is limitless.  Paul shared the source of his strength in his letter to the Philippians, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength”  (Php. 4:13). 
Paul found that to be true in his life, and you can find that to be just as true in your life, when you don’t falter in times of trouble, but push through those times of trouble with Jesus who gives you the strength.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Why We Worship...

Sunday's message was on worship.  What is worship?  Why do we worship?  The Psalms are full of texts about worship, so this sunday, we took at look at a few.  If you would like to read the message, click below...

http://almondunionchurch.org/sermons/why-we-worship/

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Tie That Binds



This article was written by Dennis Christiansen and found in the American Baptist Churches of New York State Region Notes...
 
Your congregation, like mine and others, may have adopted the practice of circling the sanctuary after the service of the Lord's Supper and concluding worship by singing Blest Be the Tie that Binds. The hymn was written by John Fawcett, a dissenting Baptist clergyman (and aren't most of them) of the late 17 and early 1800s, who served an extremely impoverished community church in northern England, enduring meager compensation and habitual privation. Hymnologist Albert Bailey recounts that Fawcett wrote the hymn upon accepting the call to a more affluent church. However, when the distraught and weeping parishioners gathered to say goodbye, Bailey says Fawcett and his wife could not bear to leave their beloved congregants and, unable to undo the tie that bound them, decided to stay.
 
For John Fawcett 200 years ago and for us today, "the fellowship of kindred minds" is a rope that has been tied to bind us together. Today, however that rope is being strained and stretched. Once, the strands of geography, denomination, and tradition braided us together but that rope has unraveled in modern times. Families are dispersed, denominational distinctions are blurred by individualized worship styles and theologies, tradition has given way to a quest for novelty and innovation. In earlier times, "kindred minds" meant uniformity of beliefs, but today a lack of same repels some churches while unconformity attracts others. We appeal to the kindred-ness of our Baptist principles, but many in our congregations are not knowledgeable of them. As a Region and as Associations, we are struggling to keep tied the fellowship of kindred minds that binds us together.
 
Fawcett's "kindred mind" is not the tie that binds; that tie is Jesus Christ. Our "kindred mind" is not the "tie" of denomination or uniformity or tolerance or principles. The "kindred mind" is a concern for one another built on the love of Christ. Our kindred mind is concern for brothers and sisters in struggling churches. Our kindred mind is joy for growing churches. Our kindred mind is not about celebrating diversity, as important as our diversity may be. Our kindred mind is about celebrating churches that are serving diverse people in diverse communities; in cities and villages, in impoverished and affluent communities, in farming areas and among migrant workers, among African Americans, Chin, and Karen congregations. Our kindred mind comes from our love of God and one another. We thank God that we can be Associations and Regions of churches connected in ministry in Jesus Christ.
 
In our church, we only sing the well-known first verse of Fawcett's hymn. It continues, "Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, Our comforts, and our cares. We share our mutual woes, Our mutual burdens bear." The ropes of our kindred minds are tied together by Jesus Christ.

In closing, I say, Lift High the Cross!
 
Dennis Christiansen
Vice President, ABC/NYS


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Something Good Can Come Nazareth


This last week we looked at Jesus calling His first disciples as reported in the Gospel of John.  First were two brothers, Andrew and Simon (later Jesus renamed him to Peter).  The first morning, as they were getting ready to leave the area, Philip comes up to them, and Jesus invites him to follow, as well.

Before they actually get underway, Philip tells his friend, Nathanael, about Jesus.  Nathanael wasn't as easily impressed, and his comment to Phillip betrays his prejudice: "Nazareth!  Can anything good come from there?"  

Soon, he meets Jesus, and learns that Something Good Can Come From Nazareth.  What can we learn from his prejudice against that place, or a prejudice against people?  We'll look at what scripture has to say about our prejudice, and why we need to seek God's help in ending this behavior.

If you would like to read the message in full, click here.

Thanks for reading...