Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Higher Way - A Pastoral Letter from Rev. Dr. Lee Spitzer

I sometimes like to share things of interest from other pastors, and that's what I'm doing today.  The Rev. Dr. Lee Spitzer is the General Secretary for American Baptist Churches - USA, and he recently wrote a pastoral letter addressing what he sees in society today.  Here is an excerpt:

In brief, our culture suffers from a form of spiritual amnesia.  Having forgotten or ignored the Baptist and biblical core conviction of the infinite worth of every human being because we are all made in God's image, many movements and individuals no longer act as if longing one's neighbor is a fundamental and necessary manifestation of a just and healthy society.  We are so quick to judge, denigrate, criticize, attack, and assume to be superior to those with whom we differ.  There is precious little grace, courtesy and mutual respect remaining in American discourse and life.  We must recapture these virtues which can resupply society with much needed social capital.  

This is a very well written document that, I hope, will get you thinking about your position on some issues.  Some of the issues he brings up are considered political issues, and he calls out the need for discourse and biblical thinking wherever you are in the political arena, and whatever your political affiliation. 

He talks about loving our neighbor, and the need to have that love which motivates us to serve all people in need.   He goes on to talk about what that love would look like in the context of racism, immigration, and those who suffer from violence, especially violence in the form of sexual harassment and human trafficking.  And he talks about showing our love to our 114 churches in Puerto Rico who have lost so much from recent hurricanes.

The letter is bit long, but it's well worth a read.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear your comments...

Monday, February 26, 2018

Sermons from FBC - Jesus is the Better Adam

This is the second in our new sermon series that looks at Christ in the Old Testament.  This week we'll be looking at Adam, and how Jesus is the better Adam.  There will be a lot to unfold, I think you'll learn something, so grab a cup of coffee and enjoy...   

To read (or listen to message) click here:

    Jesus is the Better Adam

Hope you enjoy - love to hear your comments!

Friday, February 23, 2018

When God Seems Distant

In the book, Sacred Reading, The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina, by Michael Casey, he brings out something that I think deserves some reflection.

He talks about times when God seems absent. There are times, I suppose when you start any new discipline, that spiritual growth comes quickly, and you feel it. But then there are times, often after doing the same discipline for some time, that spiritual growth doesn’t seem to come at all. It almost seems that God has moved on and has left you alone.

Aldous Huxley calls this phenomenon “induction” – the principal that “every positive begets its corresponding negative.” Casey writes, “Any striving after specific virtues is followed by an almost irresistible tendency to backslide.”

I don’t know if I agree with that exactly, but I know that in my own life my spiritual growth has been very cyclical. I experience highs of incredible growth and special closeness with God, followed by times of dryness and distance from God. I suppose all of you have experienced something similar to this.

Perhaps the positive in this is that this happens to everyone. Maybe it goes back to our sinful nature. Maybe any commitment toward God brings up an unconscious pulling away. Maybe it is a spiritual battle being fought, the enemy not willing to give up on us. Whatever it is, the key to moving on is persistence on our Bible Study, in our devotions, in our prayers, and in our disciplines.

God is there, even when you don’t feel him. Persist in moving toward him, and I bet you will feel him again…

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Favorite Chapter...

Yesterday I talked about being asked what my favorite verse was.  I answered with Galatians 2:20, which we talked about yesterday.  But I also shared a favorite chapter.  That comes from Psalm 121.  If you've ever had me visit, I've probably shared that passage...

I lift up my eyes from the hills - where does my help come from? 
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  

He will not let your foot slip - he who watches over you will not slumber;
Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 

The Lord watches over you - the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.  

The Lord will keep you fro all harm - he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going both not and forevermore.  

That's my favorite - I'd love to hear yours.  Please leave a comment...

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Favorite verses...

At a small group a few days ago, we talked about our favorite Bible verses.  I actually had a favorite verse, and a favorite chapter.  I thought I would share them with you.  I guess I'll share the verse today, and the chapter tomorrow...
My favorite verse is Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me gave himself for me."

To me, this verse speaks of the new life we have when we come to faith.  Our past problems can no longer hold us back, our skeletons in the closet can no longer haunt us.  We are new, because the sinful people we were are gone, and now, Christ is in their place.  We live our lives in the body secure in the love Jesus has for us, it is Him who gave us this new life.  

To go on living as we have is folly.  That life is dead.  And only Christ lives now.

That's what it means to be a Christian.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Drop me a comment and let me know your favorite verses...

Monday, February 19, 2018

Sermons from FBC - Christ in The Old Testament

This week we started a new sermon series that looks at Christ in the Old Testament.   During this series we’ll be looking to see some of the ways that Christ shows up in the Old Testament.  Jesus is the climax of the story of Scripture.  He is the better Adam, the better Jacob, the better Jonah, and the better Hosea.  

To read (or listen to message) click here:

    Christ in The Old Testament

Hope you enjoy - love to hear your comments!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Worship Styles

Several years ago I had an opportunity to attend a Pastor’s Appreciation breakfast sponsored by Houghton College. Houghton had put together a Master of Art in Theological Studies, so part of the reason for doing this breakfast was to introduce and advertise their new Masters level program.

Still, they had a wonderful breakfast, and then a message by Michael Walters, the Chair of the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Houghton. Walters said that many churches are polarized at one extreme or another in their style of worship.  I've been thinking about this again lately, with our change in worship style at Waverly FBC.

Walters had told of a trip to Australia with some students. The first church they attended was very informal, so much so that in the middle of the message people would get up and get some coffee and goodies, conveniently located in the back of the sanctuary. This was just way to informal for his liking. The following week, they attended a service at a very formal Episcopalian church, very High Church, with an incredible choir that sang only in Latin. Much of the elements of the worship service almost seemed to be in code for the students there, they were lost.

I suppose that the best place for a church to be is somewhere in the middle. Visitors need to be comfortable enough in our worship service that they can follow along, and know what we do and why we do it, yet it needs to be formal enough to experience the holy. Symbols can help, the practice of the Sacraments can help, the lighting of the Alter Candles can help.

Our Worship Style needs to appeal to the surrounding culture enough that they will be comfortable joining us, yet formal enough to give them a taste of the divine.

How are doing at that? Let’s talk about it. If you have any ideas, leave a comment, we’ll get a discussion going…

Thursday, February 15, 2018

New Beginnings

When I served as Pastor at Almond Union of Churches, we had a homeless shelter called the Samaritan’s Loft. It was a temporary emergency housing shelter, for one person or family at a time. A guest could stay up to thirty days in this one bedroom apartment while they worked on getting something else arranged. 

As the Pastor there, and since the apartment was directly above the Church Office, I had plenty of opportunities to spend a lot of time with the guests, and help them to see God as an integral part of their new beginning. Some were open to that, some weren't. New Beginnings are really what we were about. We gave people an opportunity to start over. 

Aren’t New Beginnings what God is all about, too? He gives us opportunities to be born again, born of the Spirit, starting over with a fresh slate. Our past failures are behind us, and we can move on, this time with a loving Savior to guide us. 

I used to feel really good when a loft guest moved out and I had the feeling that they were going to be all right. It was very rewarding to know that I helped one more get the new start they so desperately needed. And it can be incredible to know that God used us to help someone in a very important way.

If I felt that good over a loft guest getting their lives together and moving on, no wonder the angels rejoice when a lost soul is found, and one more sinner is born again…

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Good to Great - part 2

Yesterday I started giving you the ten practices that great Christians have in common, as found in Chip Ingram’s book, Good to Great in God’s Eyes: Ten Practices Great Christians Have in Common.

Today, I’ll give you the rest. These are actually 6-10, but numbered 1-5 to keep you on your toes. I hope you find some interesting things to ponder…
  1. Take Great Risks – Every great person has great faith, and great trust that God is leading him. Fear of failure never occurs to you when you are going where God is leading.
  2. Make Great Sacrifices – “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13)
  3. Enjoy Great Moments – take the time to celebrate! The Christian life is an invitation to enjoy life, to live life abundantly. Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 tell us this, “I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil – this is the gift of God.”
  4. Empower Great People – Teach others what God is teaching you. Give others the resources and help them to be greater than you.
  5. Develop Great Habits – God’s plan for us is really quite simple, He just wants us to be more like Jesus. Develop those habits that would bring that about in your life – become more like Jesus.
I hope that you found something great in these practices. I really hope that you might find some to put into practice. I really, really hope that this will help you become great In God’s eyes.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Good to Great

I've recently had an opportunity to reread Chip Ingram's book, Good to Great in God’s Eyes: Ten Practices Great Christians Have in Common.  I highly recommend that book, if you get a chance, get it!

He spoke about some really great things, and makes ten points, which are the which are the ten chapter titles.  Each chapter tackling an idea to become great in God's eyes.  I want to share these with you, hopefully so you'll want to grab the book for yourself.  Here are five – you’ll get the other five tomorrow:

  1. Think Great Thoughts – we are product of our thoughts – we become what we think about. Knowing that, make sure your thoughts are worthy of who you want to be.

  2. Read Great Books – We need to put great stuff in our minds if we want to have great stuff come out. We are transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2), reading the thoughts of others will stretch us, and renew our mind.

  3. Pursue Great People – We need to spend time with great people, and some of their greatness will rub off. Chip had a quote, “Show me your friends, I’ll show you your future.” When I first shared the news that we were expecting our first child, a good friend shared with me the importance of controlling their friends. It really makes all the difference!

  4. Dream Great Dreams – Our dreams give us hope. God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things – and often he gives us glimpses of these extraordinary things through our dreams! What is your dream? I’ve noticed in counseling and sharing with people that use our food pantry that most people really don’t have any dreams. They’re to busy with the day to day, and have been let down too many times, and have given up on their dreams. A dream given up on is a dream that will never be realized.

  5. Pray Great Prayers – The greatest prayers are birthed in brokenness. You will pray great prayers when you pray about the things that really matter to you, the things that break your heart. “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:23-24).

I hope these will give you something to think about. More tomorrow…

Monday, February 12, 2018

Sermons from FBC - Two Lists

This week we looked at Galatians 5, and see two lists.  One is a list of characteristics of those indulging the sinful nature, one of those living by the Spirit.  We'll dig into these two lists, and figure where we are, compared to where Paul says we ought to be. 

To read (or listen to message) click here:

    Two Lists

Hope you enjoy - love to hear your comments!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Finding Calm

In continuing the theme about worry – here is a thought: Can you really feel the full joy that Christ has for you, if you worry about something?

When we face a problem, or anything that we might worry about, we have two options: We can either fix our eyes on the problem, or we can fix our eyes on Christ. We can’t look both directions at the same time.

If our eyes our fixed on Christ, we won’t worry about the problem. If our eyes our fixed on the problem, we are filled with worry. If we are filled with worry, how can we be filled with joy?

It is probably quite natural to fix our eyes on the problem, come up with a preferred solution to that outcome, and then ask God to make it happen. But if you do that, are your eyes fixed on God, or the problem? Even if the solution is a great solution, if it’s our solution, then we aren’t trusting Christ.

Truly turning over our problems to Christ may be the most difficult things we as believers must do, and we may need to daily turn these over to God. But we can’t experience the peace that God offers if we don’t…

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Do You Worry?

My morning devotions for the last several days have dealt with the issue of worry. I don’t consider myself a worrier, but I have found some wonderful thoughts in these devotions.

I know without a doubt that God does not want us to be worriers. Passages like Luke 12:22-34 give us a very clear mandate not to worry.

I also came across a short saying that verifies this – “Never try to carry tomorrow’s burdens with today’s grace.” We pray for God to give us our daily bread, to take care of our real needs today. And we promise to trust Him each day for those needs. When we worry, aren’t we taking back that promise? Aren’t we telling Him we don’t really trust His provisions?

If we are surrendered, then we surrender the problems as well as the rest. In fact, maybe especially the problems! How can we worry about the problems if they are surrendered? Unless, we aren’t really surrendered ???

If you are surrendered, you trust Him to handle your lives. You have given Him control of your live. To worry is to take back that control. To tell him you don’t really trust Him to control your life in that issue, or at that time.

God wants all of us. He wants us to be totally surrendered to Him. If you are, you have nothing to worry about…

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Three Friends

Last night I found an CD from Chip Ingram speaking at Family Life Network’s 50th anniversary.

Chip was talking about ways to go from Good to Great in God’s Eyes, which happens to be the title of his latest book. It was a great talk, and I really appreciate Chip’s way of explaining the biblical truths in way that we can understand them and get the meaning out them in the context of all that we are living through.

One thing that really struck me was the thought that each of should have three friends, a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy. The friend like Paul is a friend that teaches you, holds you accountable, and expects a lot from you. He leads you in your spiritual journey, and you learn a great deal about what it’s like to live your life of faith from this person.

The friend like Barnabas is an encourager. He helps you as you cope with all that life brings you. He comforts you when you feel down. He encourages you and lifts your spirits when you feel like you’re under attack. You share the trials of this life with him, and he understands what you are going through, and supports you and helps you as you struggle through life.

The friend like Timothy is one who is younger and learns from you. He looks up to you and guide him in his faith. You share with him what you have learned, and are learning, in your walk of faith.

Do you have these friends in your life?

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Power of Routine - Fellowship

Here is the final sermon from our current series, The Power of Routine.  In this series we've examined some spiritual routines, or spiritual disciplines, that we should have in our spiritual walk.  This week we talked about fellowship, and the importance of being together with other believers.  Hope you enjoy - love to hear your comments!

To read (or listen to message) click here:

    The Power of Routine - Fellowship

Hope you enjoy - love to hear your comments!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

A final thought from Chapel...

This comment actually came up during a discussion time afterward…

The ancient church swam against the stream of culture on virtually every issue. In the last few hundred years, we have accepted many modern thoughts (the age of modernity). However, now the age of modernity is past, and we are in a time frame referred to as post-modernity. In postmodern thought, the church can no longer be comfortable with culture.

Postmodern thought clings to ideas that are often contrary to the church. There is a belief that what is right for you might not be right for me – there is no absolute right. The same goes for morals – trying to persuade people to live a moral life is old-fashioned, there is no longer a moral right or wrong, and again, what’s right for you might not be right for me.

Of course, the church holds very dear the fact that there is such a thing as absolute truth – and we know the author! We know that the Bible clearly teaches moral right from wrong.

These are two examples, there are many more, but they suggest that the church can no longer be comfortable in the culture around them.

The real question for the church today, especially the church in America, is this: Have we become too comfortable with culture to begin swimming against culture once more?

Are you too comfortable with the society in which you live to swim against the stream of culture?

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Some thoughts on planting seeds...

I am continuing some thoughts from the Ravi Zacharias talk at the Chapel Service at Houghton College.

When we share our faith with people, most of us (myself included) aren’t good enough to convince someone that Christianity is the only way based on logic and sound argument. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t use logic and sound argument, because while we might not convince someone based on these arguments, we may clear away obsticles that a person has concerning faith, and as we work to remove these obsticles, God can do the rest.

In Matthew 13 we read what is commonly called the parable of the sower. In this parable, a farmer is scattering his seed. Some fell on the path, and the birds came and quickly ate it. Some of the seed fell on rocky places, where it didn’t have much soil. It grew, but withered when the sun came out strong, because it didn’t have deep roots. Some seed fell among the thorns. This seed also grew, but the thorns quickly choked out the young plants. And some seed fell on good soil, where it produced a great crop – as much as a hundred times what was sown.

Jesus explains this parable as having to do with people hearing the Gospel message. The evil one is the bird that comes down and snatches the word from some who hear it. Others hear and begin a faith, but the cares of the world overwhelm them and they fall away.

One way to think about our role in sharing our faith is to realize that a big portion of our task is simply to prepare the soil. Sometimes we have to break up some hard packed ground, sometimes we pick out rocks, sometimes we pull thorny weeds. We have to prepare people to hear the message much as we would prepare a garden for our seed.

Share when they are ready, and only what they are ready to hear at the time, and the seeds you plant will grow and the people you share your faith with will produce abundant fruit.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Thoughts on sharing our faith...

Some time ago, I attended a talk at the Chapel Service at Houghton College where Ravi Zacharias was the speaker.  I just found some notes on that talk, and wanted to share some thoughts on that.  Some of the thoughts I’ll be sharing over the next several days will be either from Ravi’s talk, the Question and Answer period after, or things that just came to mind while reflecting on what was discussed.

Today, some thoughts on the importance of using our personal testimony when sharing our faith. On Wednesday, I shared the three things we must keep in mind when sharing our faith. The first of these was that our message needs to be seen, not just heard.

Ravi suggested that because of our growing up in the television age, we have become accustomed to seeing things. Our sense of sight has become a primary way of receiving information. Carrying that to the next logical level, we need to see something to believe it. Often we won’t believe it unless we see, and on the flip side, we see things we believe (on TV, for example) that aren’t true. But because we see it, we believe it.

What does that mean for us as we share our faith. It shows us that we can talk to people all day, and they might agree with us on many points, but they won’t accept it as truth unless they see it. It has to make a difference in your life, and they have to be able to see that difference, in order for them to really believe it. Our lives must reflect our faith. We must be authentic.

It seems to me then, the next step is being able to tell that difference to others. They need to see the effects of our faith on our daily lives, there is no getting around that – they have to see it. But a natural extension would be to share with others the difference that our faith has made in our lives. And that, in a nutshell, is our testimony.

So when you share your faith, make sure to tell people the difference that knowing Christ has made in your life. Hearing that, and seeing the difference in the way you live your life each day, will lead many to a life saving faith of their own

Faith First

  Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  Taking him...