Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Youth Who Quit Church after High School

I found this information on Art Rogers blog--HERE and thought I would add a comment. He has more coming that I may share as well in another post.

From Lifeway Research via Joe Ball, Youth Ministry guru for the Kentucky Baptist Convention,

Of the teens who are active members of churches during High School, but walk away after they graduate…

  • 80% are from families who are NOMINAL Christians. They attend church, but that is about it. They are not living lives of personal depth.
  • 50% are from unchurched homes. This means the teen attends Youth Group and church, but the rest of the family does not.
  • 20% are from churched families whose members are pursuing individual and personal relationships with God.

EDIT: For Clarification, I asked about the meanings of the numbers. Here's what I received.

  • Of actively churched teens whose parents are nominal Christians, 80% bail and 20% stick.
  • Of actively churched teens whose parents are unchurched, 50% bail and 50% stick.
  • Of actively churched teens whose parents are growing Christians, 20% bail and 80% stick.

80-50-20 is not a total of teens,
but of those bail in three different categories.

This shows that the worst thing you can do as a parent is to not take your faith very seriously. If its hit or miss with you--they learn it's not very important or vital for them to continue. They will learn the lesson you provide--if faith is not a priority for you, no surprise, it won't be for them either. If church or your faith is more of a chore and a burden for you--something you're just expected to do but you don't really want to do, then they learn that lesson. They get inoculated against the life and power of the real thing by seeing the passionless, mundane faith you present before them. They get just a taste of Christianity and they see it doesn't really change you all that much, it doesn't really make their family any better, it doesn't really improve their life much so who needs it.

I thought it was interesting that those youth who's parents don't attend at all have a greater likelihood of staying involved in church. If you think about it, it makes sense. They aren't going because Mom & Dad are making them. They are going b/c they want to, because their friends are there or b/c there are things to do. It's more of a "want to" than a "have to". These kids are going in spite of their parents--because they see something better.

Of course, I'm glad that the best likelihood for continued church involvement is for those parents who take their faith seriously. They will see your example and respond to it. Your involvement improves their involvement. But do notice it's not a guarantee. 20% still leave even from committed families. Prayer is still very vital.

How should we respond as a church--the best thing for us to concentrate on would be to get those parents who are Nominal in their faith to be committed to their faith--while it has benefits for them--it will also have great benefits for the future of the church.

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Sermon--1 Peter 4:1-11--Faith's Call Not to Fit In

This message may not read as well as some others. There are times I just introduce a word and fill in the rest as I speak. I'm trying to do a bit more of that.

If you want to hear recent sermons (this one will be up soon) you can go HERE and click on the individual sermon title. So far, the system seems to be working well.


Faith’s Call Not to Fit In

There is great pressure to fit in. As much as many youth want to stand out and be noticed, there is an even greater pressure to fit in. They want to stand out, but not too much.

This pressure wants to make us find out what the Normal is and match it—for the most part. The problem is, the world’s definition of normal is not the best one to be living for. It has many unintended consequences.he World’s Normal—1 Peter 4:3

This is a description of someone Living For Self—complete Self Indulgence. It’s the part of the world that says you cannot have a good time unless you’re drinking. That you don’t have a good sex life if you’re committed to one person for your whole life.

I remember in 1994 during the World Cup Soccer tournament—Brazilians in CA didn’t need alcohol to celebrate which totally confused the Americans.

Peter has strong words of condemnation for the World’s View of Normal—

Debauchery—sensuality—HCSB—unrestrained behavior, unbridled lust, excess, outrageousness, shamelessness

Lusts--desire for what is forbidden


Orgies—drinking parties

Carousing—a parading around of the fact that you’re a part of the party crowd-- parade through the streets with torches.

Detestable—abominable--contrary to law and justice, prohibited by law, illicit, criminal

idolatry—the worship of false gods, idolatry --of the formal sacrificial feats held in honor of false gods

This type of idolatry was the idolatry of self—what I want, what makes me feel good without any real concern about the effect on anyone else.

Tell me if you don’t see this? If you had come up and driven around the block of the church last night—you would have seen this verse in action.

The desire for a life without restraint—without consequence, free to do whatever, whenever, with whoever—There is no society of human beings that does not possess the idea that this is how you have a good time. It is the world’s sense of normal and life to the fullest.

It is so normal for the unbelieving world—it becomes as a religion—a means of idolatry. It describes those without God in their life or thinking—vs. 3 sets this context within the understanding of Evil Human Desires.

Human Desires—What are they? What makes them evil?

It doesn’t matter if you are a life long pagan, if you came to Christ as a child and spent your whole life in the church—you have had and will have struggles with your desires.

Desires are meant to satisfy a need—you are thirsty and desire an icy lemonade, you are hungry and the anticipation of lunch makes your mouth water with every word of this sermon. You desire a good job so you can provide for yourself or you family. You desire love and affection because we were never meant to be alone.

The problem in the world today is that our desires are affected by our fallen world. Sin occurs when the good thing that God has given us is abused, distorted or misapplied. What makes a desire evil is how it takes us away from the good things of God.

Being thirsty is not wrong, but satisfying it with alcohol to the point of drunkenness is. Being hungry is not wrong, but a pattern of baking, then eating a whole batch of cookies by yourself demonstrates gluttony.

Noticing an attractive person is not wrong, but allowing your thoughts to dwell on someone can quickly lead your mind to the wrong place.

Sex is not bad, but fulfilling that desire outside of an exclusive marriage relationship violates what God created it to be.

At the heart of all of this is idolatry—the rejection of God and the taking on of something else. And this taking on and indulging of your flesh

Romans 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.

32bthey not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Only those who participate in these things with them really ever merit their approval. Only by living the same way will you ever be considered normal.

This kind of behavior is so normal and expected that they expect you to join in with them. And here begins the conflict.—vs. 4

Vs. 4—They think you are strange—for not jumping right in. When you say “no” when offered a beer or a drug—they think—“what’s wrong with you?” When you avoid certain places, certain behaviors certain jokes or movies, because your conscience won’t let you, your past struggles say stay away—they think it strange

Astonished, surprised, shocked—“well who’s ever heard of such a thing?”

Some reactions you see will be like…

· if you’re on the internet

· if you’re at work

· if you’re at home…

You don’t go to the bars and get trashed? That’s not natural. You don’t cuss up a storm—well why on earth not? You mean you plan on waiting until you’re married? You really won’t consider cheating on your husband, your wife? Come on… live a little, indulge yourself.

Flood—excess—outpouring, overflowing,

Dissipation—negative coming from the word meaning safe—so essentially the same unsafe activity, reckless

When you refuse—“they heap abuse on you”—you are then blasphemed--to speak reproachfully, rail at, revile, calumniate, blaspheme--to be evil spoken of, reviled, railed at.

How many of you can look back at times when a friend, even a family member criticized you because of your faith in Christ, because you made a decision that didn’t make sense, b/c you refused to go along with something that was questionable, that they thought was fine

1 Corinthians 2:14—“ The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

It’s especially hard for people who knew how you used to be and how you are now. Most of us have things in our past that we’re not proud of. I know there are people from high school, if I ever go to a reunion, who will laugh when they find out I’m a pastor.

In some way or another, each of us has “spent enough time in the past doing what [they still] choose to do.”

In some way or other, whether you indulged a little or a lot in that kind of lifestyle, living for yourself—you have spent, you have wasted enough time doing these things. Such a life promises to make you happy, but it leaves you empty. It has no lasting or redeeming value.

Such a life of self-indulgence has consequences.

Galatians 5:19-25-- The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

May You Be Judged Strange—vs. 4

Contrast that with what it is to live for God.

Living For God—vs. 6—live according to God in regard to the Spirit.”

1 Peter 4:1-2—“ Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires but rather for the will of God.”

Now that you are in Christ—you have died, just as He died—in your baptism, you were buried and raised just like He was—so sin no longer has a claim on our lives, even though we let it.

Our faith Calls us to a Life that is bigger, a life that is greater, a life that is more important than our own. It is a life that is beyond the “earthly” but is eternal. And it is quite a contrast to the World’s Normal.

Galatians 5:16-17-- So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

Romans 6:12-13—“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.”

READ 1 Peter 4:7-11

Prayer—prayer requires some things for it to be effective. A Clear Mind and Self-Control. Without these 2 things, your mind can wander, your heart is distracted. Praying for others, praying for yourself, praying to hear the will of God.

Love—directed toward those who share your faith—the reason why this is so important is that even those sitting next to you still struggle with sin and selfishness. They will continue to do things from time to time that upset you, that hurt you. So true love, empowered by the Spirit of God is going to “cover over a multitude of sins”—unlike the world which will hold on to every hurt, every slight, every insult and wait for the opportunity to inflict pain of its own.

Hospitality-- generous to guests—without grumbling—muttering, a secret debate, a secret displeasure not openly avowed

Service—whatever your gift, whatever you enjoy doing, whatever your talent, ministry, or skills—use them to serve others—because through you, God is giving grace—He is comforting, He is encouraging, He is teaching, He is leading into worship.

Through the strength God provides—realizing that all you accomplish in life is because you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.

Romans 12:6—“We have different gifts according to the grace given us.” Prophesying, Serving, Teaching, Encouraging, contributing, leadership, mercy.

12:11—“ Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

The Will of God—vs. 2

For His Glory—vs. 11—so that—God is praised—for His glory

When God is at work in our lives, we will see the evidence of Him…

GAL 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

The Attitude of Christ—Philippians 2, 1 Peter 4:1

The attitude of the World

Are you living with the attitude of the World’s Normal—do you fit in well? Or does the world think you’re a bit strange? You have permission from God to be strange. You have God’s direct call to live, to pray, to serve each other---for His Glory

Now the hard part—will you commit to being strange in the eyes of the world—but still loving of those in the world. Most of them are just deceived, not evil. You have to show them another way—you have to reach out to them in love, not shun them or criticize them. Maintaining your strangeness without compromise, but being evangelistic about it is one of the great challenges you as a believer will face—that’s why you need prayer, that’s why you need the strength God provides because it is all for His glory.

Will you commit to pray and reach out to those who are deceived?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

For Virginia Tech

Right now, in the midst of tragedy, support and comfort is being poured out to the Virginia Tech community. I know my prayers are going out to all of those who are suffering. It is greatly needed. With that, I wanted to share this passage of Scripture.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5--"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows."

Many of those extending their support and prayers are able to do so more effectively because of their own history of tragedy and pain. What once has caused us pain, God can use to touch the life of someone else in their moment of need.

A blogging friend of mine is in a similar position today as a result of the VT tragedy. Read about it here.

One thing I appreciate about my faith in Christ is that my God also understands my suffering. The Author or Captain or Pioneer of my faith was made perfect through suffering according to Hebrews 2:10.

God knows what it feels like to be betrayed, to be hurt, to be killed, to lose a loved one, even to experience the pain of divorce. There is no pain we have that God cannot comfort--drawing from His own experience walking around on the earth--and also from often using you and me and our experiences.

I pray God, that You will truly make Yourself known to those who have survived this tragedy. Use it Lord, to draw people closer to You. I pray that it will change the heart of someone who is so isolated and in such pain as to consider such an action--that they will be comforted with a greater power than the desire to inflict such pain. I pray Lord, for the family of the shooter--that they have a community of faith around them to minister to them in this time of shock.

Lord, somehow, I don't know how--bring Glory to Your Name.

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sermon--Faith's Pledge of a Good Conscience--1 Peter 3:21-22

A Pledge of a Good Conscious--Making it and Keeping It

This week we are dealing with a very difficult passage of Scripture. It has been used as a proof-text for arguing that baptism is necessary for salvation. However, that is not the point of the passage--we will be looking at the larger context of the passage today. Turn to 1 Peter 3:13-22 and look closely at vs. 21 which describes our baptism as “not the removal of dirt from the body but…” some translations say “appeal”, “promise”, or “answer”—which is an important point in a minute, I like the way the NIV translates this word, “the pledge of a good conscience toward God.” Underline the word in your Bible and note pledge in your margin and keep your finger there. Before we look closely at that passage we must understand what a pledge in the mind of someone like Peter would be. Turn back to Numbers 30.

Numbers 30:1-2—this whole chapter deals with pledges and vows. Pledges are Irrevocable even if they are foolish, done without thinking or have a high cost. In the OT, if you have made a pledge to God, there is no going back. In the same way you were not allowed to go back on a pledge, keep in mind that once Noah agreed to get on the ark and God closed the door, there was no way he could go back to his old world.

The Water of Judgment was also the instrument of Salvation—lifting Noah and His family to safety—but once they passed through the water—the world was forever changed—Noah could not go back.

Jesus addressed the subject of vows and pledges in Matthew 5:33—

Jesus said that elaborate promises and vows are wrong and unnecessary, but to let your “yes” be just as binding as a pledge, your “yes” be “yes” and your “no,” “no”. By saying this, if you agree to something, your honor and relationship with God will hold you accountable to being truthful, honest, and filled with integrity. Again, a vow or pledge does not have to be fancy or formal to be binding for a believer. Take everything you agree to seriously and see to it that you fulfill your word.

When you became a believer, you made a pledge to God.

What is the Evidence of Your Pledge of a Good Conscious? READ 1 Peter 3:18-22

Jesus died for sins (v. 18) in order to bring us to God. We know He was successful because God raised Him from the dead and has (vs. 22) gone into heaven and is now seated at the right hand of God. A position of Power, Honor, Rest and Intercession.

You have been brought to God--while those around you have not. The only way to be brought to God is to have your sin forgiven and your conscious cleansed. Hebrews 10:22-23—“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

You have a good conscience before God in Christ. Your life does not have to be dominated by Guilt & Shame.

Your Pledge is your commitment to Live the Life that Christ has called you to, no matter what—even if it turns into suffering. By becoming a Christian, you are making an irrevocable pledge to be a Disciple—to die to yourself and live for God. The visible symbol of that completed transaction is Baptism.

Pledge out of or in possession of a Good Conscience. “Answer” is also a good translation, but it is an answer in response to a question. Many baptism traditions, even from the early church, ask the candidate a series of questions. The affirmation of believe is what qualified the person for baptism or made the baptism a significant moment. They gave their answer and it changed their world and their lives forever.

Consider the Baptism of Jesus. He did not get baptized in order to be saved or because He needed His sins to be forgiven. It was also more than just setting an example for us. This is the beginning of His public ministry that lead Him to the Cross. He knew from the beginning where He would have to go in order to save you and me. Jesus knew exactly what needed to be done in order to “fulfill (bring about) all righteousness)”—Matthew 3:15. This moment was His pledge—a demonstration of His commitment to fulfill the Father’s plan. The very next moment was Satan tempting Jesus to take a shortcut and not walk that path—not fulfill that pledge. But Jesus refused. When The Father called out—“Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Jesus said, “Here am I. Send Me.”

Baptism saves you because of how you have answered the questions. It occurs after you have been forgiven, and the blood of Christ, and the power of the resurrection has been applied to you. It occurs after your conscience has been cleansed, after you have been filled with the Holy Spirit, after you have been brought near to God.

It is a symbolic testimony to what has already happened. Baptism is not only your testimony to your faith, but your dedication to live and fulfill your faith. Baptism is evidence of your pledge and your commitment to the decision you have made to follow Christ. It is a proclamation of your “YES, I will follow Christ”. And Jesus taught clearly that you should follow through with your word no matter what it costs you.

Baptism does not save; baptism in water in itself means nothing. Baptism is not a guarantee of a person’s salvation—all it will do if there is no decision for Christ is make a sinner wet.

The Water itself did not save Noah—God did—by finding Noah favorable, by speaking to, by directing Noah to build the Ark, by Himself closing the Door, by seeing that they survived the flood, telling Noah when it was safe to leave the Ark.

There is no power in baptism, or in the water to do anything for the believer, the power comes only in what it represents.

The Resurrection of Christ is what holds the power in Baptism. Without the resurrection—there is no salvation, there is no good conscience toward God and nothing to pledge your life to.

Without the Power of Easter Sunday—baptism is worthless—we are still in our sins, our conscience has not been cleansed and as Paul said—we are to be pitied above all men.

Your baptism symbolizes what Christ did for you in saving you--dying, being buried and rising again. Baptism doesn't clean your body of dirt physically, it doesn't spiritually either.

What cleans away your sins is the blood of Christ, not the waters of baptism.

So that means that this verse cannot mean that we are saved by faith plus baptism.

If baptism were necessary for salvation, this would mean that the Savior’s work on the cross was not enough. When He cried, “It is finished,” it wasn’t really so.

If baptism is necessary for salvation, it is strange that Jesus did not personally baptize anyone. John 4:2 states that Jesus did not do the actual baptizing of His followers; this was done by His disciples.

The Apostle Paul thanked God that he baptized very few of the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:14–16). This would be strange thanksgiving for an evangelist if baptism were essential for salvation!

The fact that Paul did baptize some shows that he taught believer’s baptism, but the fact that he baptized only a few shows that he did not consider it a requirement for salvation.

It is not possible to be Filled with the Holy Spirit apart from genuine salvation, apart from the application of the Blood of Christ and Reconciliation with God, yet the filling of the Holy Spirit occurred before Baptism

The Gentiles who were saved in Caesarea received the Holy Spirit when they believed (Acts 10:44—“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message… 47—Then Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.”),

The Holy Spirit showed that they already belonged to Christ (Rom. 8:9b). After receiving the Holy Spirit, that is, after being saved, they were baptized (vv. 47, 48). They were saved first, filled with the Holy Spirit, then baptized in water.

There are about 150 passages in the NT which teach that salvation is by faith alone. These cannot be contradicted by two or three verses that seem to teach that baptism is necessary for salvation. To do so makes baptism a work, added to the work of Christ.

Your baptism--your willingness to be baptized in the Name of Christ is a demonstration of your commitment, not of your salvation. If you have not committed yourself to Christ, there is no reason to be baptized.

It is a visible act of your internal Pledge made because you possess a good conscious before God. By making this pledge, you are agreeing to believe even if it means hardship, difficulty, and suffering. You should not accept Christ thinking that everything will be clear sailing—it will likely bring on hardship—you should know that going into it—once your answer is given—with full knowledge, awareness and understanding, you cannot go back on what you have agreed to even if it means suffering as Christ suffered. Philippians 3:10-11--"I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."

We get baptized because you are pledging your life to Christ—no matter what the consequences of that decision are. You may be called to endure hardship and persecution b/c of your relationship with Christ as the readers in Peter’s day were experiencing.

People may make fun of you when you choose to go to church on Sunday and Wednesday, when you choose not to drink, smoke or do drugs. You may not be tempted to totally walk away from your faith—after all, here in America our lives are not in jeopardy, but you may be tempted to hide it, to not talk about it, to fit in rather than stand out.

The question is whether or not you are going to give up, whether you are going to quit and go back on your pledge and commitment to Christ. What decisions are you making because of your faith? What do you see others doing or getting away with that you refuse to? How can you keep your pledge and your good conscience in the face of temptation and if you are suffering?

How to Keep Your pledge and a Good Conscious—

Thankfully, Vs. 14 says you are blessed only if you suffer for what is right and the following verses give us all hope.

Endure hardships and Persecution--only for standing for your faith. Peter himself understood this. When Peter and the other apostles were arrested in Acts 4 & 5 they had to decide who they should obey, the governing authority or God—they said “We must obey God rather than men.” Even if it meant punishment, (they were beaten or flogged) their consciences were clear. If there was wrongdoing or a genuine basis for accusation against them, their conscience would not have been clear.

In your Hearts--Set apart Christ as LordIn biblical revelation, the heart is the religious center of man that affects and controls the rest of the body and mind. When the center of your life is rightly related to God, no matter what happens around you, you will respond with the power of the Holy Spirit and keep a good conscience. Even if you sin in some way, the Spirit will quickly point it out to you and you will seek forgiveness from God and we know that He is “faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”—1 John 1:9.

Show the Hope that you have —your hope is based on the Resurrection of Christ—that you have been brought near to God--that certainty that your sins are forgiven, that you have power to live for today, and a joyful expectation of eternity. Never let those things be squashed by the pressures and troubles of life to where you don’t have joy in the Lord. Never forget what it took to redeem you, never fail to let your Hope change the way you live.

Be Prepared to give an answer—when you truly live your hope—truly live with the reality of a Good Conscience before God, be prepared to answer why. Be prepared to defend what you are doing, the decisions you are making and how you are living. It’s not your concern whether they fully embrace or understand what you’re doing—your concern is to provide a faithful witness and leave the results up to God.

How will you explain your different way of life? When was the last time someone noticed a difference that you had to? You are fulfilling your pledge to Follow Christ and keeping a clear conscience by giving an answer and sharing your faith.

When you are tempted to be discouraged about how many are embracing Christ just remember that people listened in Noah’s day for 120 years with no response. Only 8 people made it through that time.

Baptism in Noah's day was the burial of the world--judgment of God came--and there was no resurrection for those under the water.

But your baptism says something completely different. You not only were buried under water--death—the penalty you and I deserved which was given to Jesus on your behalf--but you were brought out of the water through the Resurrection of Christ.

The people in Noah's day experienced death and judgment on their own terms--physically and spiritually. In Christ we may experience physical death, but we will never experience spiritual death. Our baptism is not only our public declaration of our faith in Christ, but it is a commitment and a pledge to die to ourselves and live for Christ.

Difference - in Noah's day no one came out of the water, but today, God wants to baptize the whole world again. Not in judgment, but in forgiveness, not unto death, but unto salvation, not to remain buried under the water but to be raised to a new life—a new commitment to the plan and purpose of God.

Have you made that decision, that pledge to follow Christ? If not I want to invite you to do that today.

Baptism also unites us as a fellowship, in that we are united with those who have also answered “Yes” to the questions—in much the same way that the Pledge of Allegiance is supposed to unite our nation as fellow Americans. Our baptism is supposed to strengthen the Body of Christ and identify others around us whom we can call upon in difficulty and for encouragement.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Unveil Me

2 Corinthians 3:18--"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

Moses had to wear a veil in returning from meeting with God because the people were afraid of someone being so close to God. Yet in vs. 16--" whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away." Our spiritual blindness is removed and we are truly able to see for the first time.

But the trouble comes because others are supposed to be able to see a difference in us as well. We are supposed to "reflect the Lord's glory". Moses had to veil his face--we are supposed to keep ours exposed.

What do people see in your unveiled face? Some days, people see the Lord's work--other days they see my sin. Unfortunately, God rarely gets the credit for the good things in my life--but He certainly gets the blame for the bad things in my life. "What a hypocrite! If that's what God does in someone's life... count me out."

This transformation is an ongoing, daily process through the work of the Holy Spirit--it is to be an "ever increasing glory".

Are people going to ask you to put the "veil" back on because the Glory of Christ is too bright in your life--or b/c of the ugly reflection?

Let me ask you... how do we positively reflect the glory of Christ? How do we negatively reflect His glory?

Is it possible to hinder the transformation process?

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,


Monday, April 09, 2007

Easter 2007--The Choice of the Lamb

What a great and joyful Resurrection Sunday! Our worship services were great--despite every attempt by Satan to frustrate and keep it from happening from bugs in the sound system, microphones, video--to me cutting my final print of my notes practically in half!

There was some great singing--I even was able to sing the high part in a gospel quartet! That was fun. We also and 2 baby dedications! Only one was expected--the other showed up that morning and said--"can we do that too?" I pray that was a blessing to everyone.

Of course, following the service we enjoyed a great lunch over at friends house--Gene & Jean Fields. Thanks for welcoming us into your home.

It was a full service--but we still made sure the Word of God was shared. Here's the message--minus the on the spot stuff.

The Choice of the Lamb

When Jesus lived, lambs were a central part of the spiritual life of Israel. For centuries, Lambs had died for the sins of the nation. Inside the walls of the Temple, two lambs died every day (Exodus 28:29-31), one at 9 a.m. and the other at 3 p.m. When the lamb died, a priest would sound the shofar, a ram’s horn, and even people who didn’t witness the event would realize that a lamb had just died for the sins of the people.

One of the Lingering problems they had in their worship was bringing animals that met God’s Standard—God has a higher standard than the Food & Drug Administration.

They Had a History of being Lax in their standards

Malachi 1:13-14--"When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?" says the LORD. Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king," says the LORD Almighty, "and my name is to be feared among the nations.

Friday morning, the Perfect Lamb stood before them—one whom John the Baptist had declared—“Look! the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World!” (John 1:29) Next to that Perfect Lamb stood one who had been leading a rebellion, one who had committed murder.

READ Mark 15 :6-11

There they were that Friday morning, standing side by side. Jesus and Barabbas. The Innocent and the Guilty. In many ways He represents all of fallen humanity—the first 2 recorded sins in the Bible are Rebellion and Murder.

Once again, the people, from the leadership down chose what was blemished over what was good. Their Messiah was standing right before their eyes, and they missed it.

But as is so often the case, what they intended for evil, God intended for good. What they rejected as foolish, God intended to show His greater wisdom.

What they rejected as unworthy and unreasonable, God accepted as Holy and Essential

Jesus died while the entire nation of Israel was celebrating Passover. That’s not a mistake or a coincidence. It was the most remarkable object lesson in all of history, and it shouldn’t have surprised those who witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus. Isaiah the prophet had included the idea in his writings about the Messiah. The Christ, he said, would be like a lamb led to slaughter (53:7).

Jesus was Rejected by the people, but those words Matthew 28:5-6—“He is not Here, He is Risen!” Proves that Jesus was Accepted by God. If Jesus was not acceptable to God—if He was not a spotless, sinless lamb—He would not have been raised from the dead.

To be Risen meant to be Accepted. The real turn of histories pages occurs here. We mark our Calendar with BC and AD—and we tried to get as close as possible to the year Jesus was born to begin the count. But if there was no Resurrection—the Birth of Jesus would have faded into obscurity as just another 1 in 10 Billion births.

The Resurrection—fulfilling the Promise and Plan of God is the Exclamation Point validating Jesus’ life, ministry and teaching.

To be Risen—for the Tomb to be Empty—meant that Who Jesus Is—the Lamb of God—What He did—take away the Sins of the World—was accepted by the Father.

The Risen Lamb truly covered over sin—Isaiah promises that though our “sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow.”—Is. 1:18b And that Jesus was “Pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the Punishment that brought us peace was upon Him and by His wounds we are healed.”—53:5

The Risen Lamb lets us Approach the Throne of Grace with Confidence—Ephesians 3:12—In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”

The Risen Lamb Has Defeated Death—Death Has been swallowed up in Victory—Where o Death is your victory? Where o death is your sting… thanks be to God, He gives us the Victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” 1 Corinthians 15:55-56

The Risen Lamb makes us Acceptable

1PE 2:4 As you come to him, the living Stone--rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him-- 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6

The Risen Lamb is the Promise of Life—“whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Now, the Lamb of God sits at the triumphant right hand of God the Father. Jesus is powerful, majestic, and completely worthy of worship. The song of heaven is this, according to Revelation 5:13 …

"To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!"

The resurrection made the difference. There’s a sense that the rules all changed with the resurrection. Never again would the life of the disciples, the world be the same.

It’s Easter that made the difference! The Resurrection is God’s Stamp of Approval. It is the Promise of Victory—because if Jesus has been raised, the Promise that we will also be raised is assured. Jesus Came Out Alive!!!

Barabbas was one the people wanted instead of Jesus—in many ways He represents all of fallen humanity—the first 2 recorded sins in the Bible are Rebellion and Murder. And just as the crowd stood that day with a decision—did they want Jesus or Barabbas—you must answer the same question—do you want Jesus and the Victory He brings or do you want to continue to live in the old life of sin and death.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Maundy Thursday Services at UBC--2007

I've always wondered what some of the people were thinking during the life of Jesus, especially during Holy Week. We don't have every conversation, we don't have all their thoughts written out for us to know how they were reacting to what Jesus said and did. That's what our Maundy Thursday services tried to do.

The following Scriptures are expanded by members of the congregation who are reading hypothetical conversations or hidden thoughts of characters within the Gospel accounts.

1. Mark 14:12-16 (Luke 22:7-8 tells us it’s Peter & John)

a. Peter—We’re just getting to Jerusalem and I haven’t heard any of the plans for the Passover meal when we get there. Have you?

John—No, I haven’t.

P—So why did Jesus ask us to go?

J—I don’t really know—but He seems to know where He’s going and who we’re supposed to look for.

P—I’m still not used to that are you?

J—No, and it makes me nervous about all the other stuff He’s been saying about what’s going to happen once we’re all here.

P—Me too, but there’s no way God’s going to let that happen.

b. The Owner of the House—Someone visited me several days ago and asked about the guestroom in my house. Was it available? Could a small group use the room to celebrate the Passover? I told them they could. Unfortunately, I hadn’t heard anything from them sense. Today was the day and I was beginning to wonder if anyone was going to show up at all. Then two men showed up following one of my servants. They asked about the room, but it wasn’t the same person I had talked to before. Their names were Simon Peter and John. I had heard of those names. When they mentioned, “the Teacher”. I knew they were talking about Jesus. Just a few days earlier, He had entered Jerusalem with great fanfare. Since then, I hear such conflicting accounts from people. Some say He’s the Messiah, others a demon incarnate. The part of me that’s scared Jesus is coming to my house is not sure I’ll have a house if the authorities show up. What if they arrest me along with Him? What if my furnishings are not good enough and He gets angry like He was at the Temple the other day? The part of me that is thrilled Jesus is coming to my house is worried whether it will be good enough for Him—I’ve never had a guest like Him before. And I’m honored to be serving Him.

I just hope Jesus is the Messiah, because surely nothing bad will happen if He is.

2. Luke 22:14-16

a. Any Disciple--There He goes again talking about suffering. I still don’t know how that can be right. He’s talking like His life is over, like this is His last Passover ever. He last glass of wine ever?

This week has been strange—just when I think I understand what He’s doing and talking about—He brings up this stuff or drives people out of the Temple. All that good will we had a few days ago is just about dried up by now. I’m getting worried about that. It’s almost as if Jesus is looking forward to this—that His suffering and dying will help us in some way.

What we need is a leader—what we need is a teacher—one who will make all the corruption in the world right.

Even so, I’m glad I’m here with Him, this is obviously a special time. And what’s better—Jesus sounds like He really wants to be here with us—with me.

3. Matthew 26:20-22

a. Unnamed Disciple—what’s Jesus talking about? How could one of us betray Him? I know it’s not me—who could it be? Maybe it’s Simon, he always was a zealot—hard to trust them. Maybe it’s Philip. I know I’m better than them. Maybe I should ask Jesus which of us is the best, the most loyal and who will be what in His Kingdom.

4. Matthew 26:23-25

a. Judas—(with disdain) Listen to the others calling Him “Lord”. I’m not so sure of that any more. He sure isn’t acting like one. He should have taken control of the city by now. Kicking out the money changes was great! Why did He stop there and not kick out the Sadducees and the whole Sanhedrin for that matter. They’re nothing but a bunch or corrupt politicians anyway—selling their loyalty and position to for Roman money. He’s no “Lord”—He’s just an ordinary Rabbi, just like all the others. He probably wants his own seat on the Sanhedrin so he can become like one of them.

There’s no way He can already know my plans. “Surely not I, Rabbi.”

b. Jesus—“Yes, it is you.”

c. Judas—blanching—“that’s not possible… how could he know? I’d better get out of here quick before Jesus sics one of these mindless followers on me.”

Lord’s Supper Celebrated Here with congregation

5. Luke 22:28-34

a. READ 22:28-30—As Jesus is speaking, I imagine Simon Peter thinking—Now you’re talking—finally, we’re getting to the Kingdom! Now is the time, now is the place that Jesus will finally usher it all in!

READ 31-33
But wait, what is He saying about Satan? I really don’t like the idea of Satan knowing my name—and why is he asking about me? And how does Satan sift someone? That does not sound good. Satan is asking for what… permission to sift me and us? Here’s a simple answer—“No”—but Jesus—why didn’t you say “No”?

And what does Jesus mean “when you have turned back”? I’m not going anywhere, I don’t care what Satan throws my way—I’ll go to Prison if I have to.

I can’t believe He just said that. I would never do that! I’ve never wanted Jesus to be wrong about anything before—but God, please let Him be wrong about this!

6. Matthew 26:36-46

a. READ 36-38
Peter—What is going on with Jesus? Why is He so upset and Sad? It’s like the weight of the whole world is on Him?

John—I’ve never seen Him like this, but I’m glad He brought us along—He doesn’t look like He needs to be alone right now.

James—If only we knew what was really bothering Him.

READ 39-41
Peter--Great—good job guys—Jesus needs us and we fall asleep. First He talks about betrayal, then we gripe about who is the greatest, then Satan asks about me—right now I feel like I’ve betrayed Him already. Come on—let’s stay awake and make sure nothing happens. He’s acting like He is expecting something to happen.

READ 42-46

Did He say something about a Betrayer? Who? Oh, Judas is here with the rest of the group… wait, who are these people?

7. John 18:1-11

a. READ 1-3— Malchus—Finally, we’re going to do something about this Jesus. He’s been causing enough trouble. Inciting enough crowds. Now we’ve got him alone, without all the crowds to protect him. I expect he’ll run like the coward I know he is. His followers may want to fight. Jesus has proven he’s smart enough not to do the fighting himself. He’ll let the fools who follow him do that. It won’t matter—they won’t be able to stand up against us.

b. READ 4-6—This is already making me nervous. He didn’t run—they always run. And yet he challenges us. Something about the way he answered pushed us back. I don’t know what happened, but we all just fell to the ground. It took us a minute to get settled again and back to business.

c. READ 7-9—We came to arrest him and he is acting like he’s not afraid of us, like he wants to be arrested. Does he know something we don’t—are his followers hiding all around us? But then, if he’s going to fight, why is he trying to get his followers to be released? I am so confused. It doesn’t matter anyway, we don’t really care about them—cut off the head and the snake will die.

d. READ 10-11—one of the fools finally decided to fight it out. Unfortunately, he got me on the ear. I don’t mind seeing blood—you see a lot of blood working around the Temple—today no exception—but I hate seeing my own. But then Jesus stopped him, rebuked his follower and of all things, healed my ear. Why would he help me, a man come to arrest him?

Now I’m even more confused—a deceiver would never do this—He has a power I didn’t know about just listening to the Pharisees. He said something about angels but I didn’t hear whatHow could He knock us down with a word, how could He not be afraid, how could He heal my ear? More than how, Why? It was like He was in control of the whole situation. He was so confident—like he really could call down an army at any moment and wipe us out.

Everything that followed was part of the cup the Father has given Jesus. This was the only cup Jesus was still willing to drink here on earth.

(the previous comment left was off topic. I'll try to respond at the original post.)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


If someone you hadn't seen in a while says, "I think I'm definitely going to hell now."

What would you say?

This one is not hypothetical. It happened to me last week.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Sermon-- 4/1/07-- An Emotional Day -- Triumphal Entry

An Emotional Day

I remember the first time I ever went on a Roller Coaster at Six Flags just outside Dallas, TX. I was pretty nervous. I remember my fear hearing the chains click as the train was pulled up the first hill. It was one of those classic wooden coasters that just went up and down. I remember holding on tight, of course, because I remember rising off the seat and being caught by the lap bar. Of course, it didn’t take me long to slightly let go and put my hands in the air. When it was over, I demanded that we ride it again. All my fear was gone, replaced by awe and excitement. This was a lightweight coaster by most standards, by the end of the day, I rode the coaster that had 2 back-to-back loops.Have you ever had one of those roller coaster days where you run the whole gambit of emotions. Life’s ups and downs take you from being elated, to angry, to crying, to thrilled. Days like this are ones that are either the most memorable, or the ones you want most to forget.

We typically look at the day of the Triumphal Entry as a very exciting day for Jesus. And it is. But there was more going on that day than we typically realize—we take some of Jesus’ emotions for granted. That day for Him was a roller coaster of emotions.

Ranging from Celebration & Joy, to Righteous Indignation, to Weeping. Turn please to Luke 19

READ 19:28-40


At Jesus’ approach to Jerusalem, His emotion would have been Joy and Celebration. He would have been excited by the cheers and palms of the crowds. You get that sense of excitement when we read…

When Jesus approached Jerusalem the scene was intense.

He arrived at Passover time. A crowd of Jewish religious pilgrims had already flooded the city. And into this throng rides Jesus on the back of a donkey, and with him, his own parade.

The text tells us around v. 37 that the crowd, especially Jesus’ disciples “began joyfully to praise God.” The lifted up shouts of Hosanna! Which means, “Save!”. They shouted, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.”

The other 3 Gospels say that the crowd waved branches (John says they were palm branches).

These had in the last few hundred years become one of the nationalistic symbols of Judea. Consistently used to celebrate military victories, and probably stirred up messianic hopes.

The Old Testament prophet Zechariah had written:
“Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9)

Jesus came, not riding the War Horse of Military Conquest, but an peaceful young donkey. The people wanted a conqueror; they got a Savior. This was to be the last spontaneous display of public approval of Jesus, and it was also to be the

Why would these people applaud him at all? The text gives us some clues.

v. 37 says, they “praised God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen.”

They had seen the crippled walk. They had witnessed the blind receiving sight. Even the dead were raised.

If Jesus could do all that, imagine what He could do enthroned in Jerusalem!!! The crowds were excited to be a part of it—their deliverer had come. The one coming in the Name of the Lord!

He brought hope to their despair. He brought the dream of the Messiah and the expectation and excitement of what He could do fulfilling the Promise of God.

A man riding on a borrowed donkey using a donated coat as a saddle may not seem a very impressive sight but in the mind of the disciples, in the mind of the people of Jerusalem, He was for the moment… a King. Jesus was finally going to get what He deserved.

To these people Jesus was the hope of better days physically, economically and politically. Even though not all of these concepts were not correctly understood, He was their “Messiah.”
The Crowd was filled with Great Joy and Celebration. And even Jesus welcomed it. “I tell you,” He replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out!”

But that Celebration also created its own instance of indignation.

Two Instances of Indignation!!!
The Pharisees—vs. 39-40

When the Pharisees saw how the crowd was praising and worshipping at the parade of Jesus, they tried to step in and put a stop to it. The implored Jesus to rebuke His disciples and shut them up. After all, what they were saying could easily be understood as blasphemy. The last thing the Pharisees wanted was for the people to look to Jesus for spiritual guidance.

Jesus responded to their request with a powerful declaration of His importance in the universe. At this moment, the praises of the people were vitally important. Only God Himself is worthy to be praised and the Pharisees knew this. To allow this worship to continue is to commit blasphemy. But Jesus encouraged it—and it made them mad. So that’s proof that sometimes the things that God does makes us humans mad.

If every person refused to worship God, He would not be without a testimony and declaration of Praise. Creation itself would fill the void. The only thing creation can offer praises to is the One who created it. We have choice where the rest of creation does not. We can refuse to worship our Creator—the rest of Creation will not. And Jesus was worthy of the same kind of worship, even from Creation itself as God is. The Stones would cry out. Jesus, the Word of God was not only worthy of the praises of creation, but worthy of the people’s praises. He received the people’s praise without rebuke.

The Pharisees were indignant because Jesus was receiving praise and worship as only God should. They were worried about bringing offense to God. When in reality—God was much more indignant and upset about something else.

Jesus in the Temple—vs. 45-46

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the first place He went was the Temple, the center of religious life in Judaism, the reason why all those travelers were there in the first place.

It was a magnificent structure. It was supposed to be a holy place, a place of reverence and worship.

But for many, it was a place of business and trade. It was noisy and filled with animals, not to mention their smell. It was a place where many traveling religious seekers were cheated and swindled. This elicited a very unusual response from Jesus. He became angry. In front of the entire city and His disciples, Jesus began kicking people, their booths, their animals out of the outer courtyard. He began cleansing the Temple.

Nothing is said about the disciples helping Jesus clean house. What happened to the loving Jesus? He was physically throwing people out of the temple! We don’t usually think of having Bouncers at church, but apparently Temple needed one.John’s description of Jesus’ cleansing the Temple occurs in ch. 2—vs. 15—puts it this way—“So He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the Temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves He said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn My Father’s house into a Market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for Your house will consume me.”

What made Jesus so angry?
a. His house was being prostituted for purposes other than what was intended.
Imagine our church with these signs of welcome

What if, instead of songs of Worship, you heard only their jingles and tunes of commercials? Imagine if during the sermon, there were people shouting--"Get your peanuts, your hot roasted peanuts!" or some other such phrase. It would be distracting to your purpose in coming. (side-note: I've had a couple of people nominate the Starbucks franchise for UBC!)

"This place looks and feels more like a mall than a temple.”

I. These moneychangers and merchants were Just Doing Their Jobs—but then again, they were profiteers, price-gougers and swindlers, taking advantage of people’s desire to worship God.

Jesus was defending the Holiness of His Father’s House, of the Temple. It should not be looked upon casually. Entering the Temple should be understood as entering into the Presence of God. It made Jesus justifiably angry, righteously indignant, to see it treated so poorly.

The Pharisees had wanted Jesus to shut the genuine worship of the crowd of disciples all because they were worried about offending God. Yet they were perfectly willing to profane God’s Name by allowing all this junk in the Temple.

Jesus went from Celebration to Indignation and Anger, but in between those emotions came another powerful one. An emotion that demonstrates His heart for those around Him and for us today—we see Jesus Weeping—and the cause of it, the root of it is His Love.


Luke 19:41—“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes.”

v. 44—“ you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."

This is what truly grieves the heart of God. Jesus knows there are people all around Him in the city of Jerusalem, that won’t recognize Him, that will reject Him.

It’s not the first time Jesus cried over the rejection coming from Jerusalem.

Matthew 23:37—“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”

Our unwillingness to come to Him when He invites us grieves His heart.

The story comes to its climax, not in Jesus entering Jerusalem, but in his weeping over it. While Jesus deserves a triumphal entry as king, Luke emphasizes that he is moving instead to the place of his rejection.

Eventually the applause ends. It doesn’t take long for the mood to change. And a great truth is dramatically reinforced. That truth being that people have a fickle voice.

At sporting events the same crowd who boos at a player madly after a series of mistakes will cheer for him wildly after a great play. Crowds have a short memory. They’re usually asking, “What have you done for me today?”

That happened to Jesus. The same voices that shouted, “Hosanna!” on Sunday were yelling, “Crucify him,” and “Give us Barabbas,” by Friday morning. It’s pretty sad.

He was weeping for Jerusalem and for those in it who would reject God’s provision of love and forgiveness. It didn’t matter how good of people they were, it didn’t matter how bad of people they were—if they rejected Him, he mourned for that separation.

And if He wept for them, know that Jesus was also weeping for you.

JESUS WEPT FOR YOU. For Jesus, there are no "strangers" in the crowd.

There were those who loved him. There were also sinister faces there, waiting for Him to say one wrong word, to make one mistake.

He still weeps for you today if you do not know Him. He scans the crowd, with the cross now behind Him, offering complete forgiveness to all who will come to Him. "He came unto His own, but His own received Him not, but as many as received Him to them gave He power to become the Sons of God, even to those that believed on His name." - John 1:11-12.

Tell me, what does Jesus see when He looks your way this morning? You may have shouted and sang along with the crowd this morning, but in your heart, have you made Jesus King of Kings and Lord of Lords?

If you’ve not accepted His ultimate sacrifice for you on the cross as the only way of forgiveness from sin, then Jesus weeps for you. The Weeping Hero still sheds tears of compassion because He came for you and you have yet to acknowledge the day of His visitation. Your life can be so different. Your home can be so different. Even your death will be so different if you will only make him Lord of your life! Won’t you come to the Weeping Hero this morning?

It was a very Emotional Day to begin a very emotional and painful week for Jesus

Palm Sunday leaves me with a question about myself. Would I have fared any better than those disciples or the crowd in my ability to cheer for Jesus in one minute and distance myself later?