Archive for September, 2008

God’s Willingness to Heal the Sick

September 29, 2008

Title: Continuing in the Book of Matthew – God’s Willingness to Heal

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Text: Matthew 8:1-17

Time: September 28, 2008

It’s been about 2 years since I last taught from the Book of Matthew verse-by-verse. If you remember I taught through the entire Sermon on the Mount by Jesus, from Matthew 5-7. Some of you remember when I started that sermon series we were still in the old church building on Foote and 2nd Streets and when we finished that series we were in the present location. After that series I taught through most of the Book of Romans, and then after that I taught through the beginning of the Book of Acts. Now, I’d like to go back into the Book of Matthew and pick up where I left off a couple of years ago, just after the ending of the Sermon on the Mount. So, we’ll begin at Matthew 8:1-17 (read). The topic is faith and healing, or healing and faith — whichever comes first. One of the strange facts of the Bible is that it describes people being healed by God who apparently have no faith at all, and then it describes people being healed by God who it says are healed because of their faith. Which is it? Are people healed because of their faith or are they healed simply because God wills it to happen? The Bible seems to teach that sometimes it’s one and sometimes it’s the other. Of course, all healing described in the Bible is because of the will of God, but the question is whether some healings are conditioned on one’s faith or not? It seems to be the case that some healing is conditioned upon one’s faith. On the other hand, it seems to be the case that others are healed solely through the will and power of God, not by the individual’s faith. In this section of Matthew 8, we see a good example of both truths displayed. The first section, 1-4, emphasizes God’s will in the healing process. The second section, 5-13, emphasizes man’s faith in the healing process. The third section, 14-17, shows both God’s will and man’s faith in the healing process. This section of the New Testament forces us to focus on a relevant question for us all today: what do we think about divine healing? I’m sure you are all aware there are certain television preachers and radio ministries that promote faith healing. What do you think about that? Is it real? Is it a fake? Is it a mix of the two? What do you think? Maybe some of you don’t give it much attention. Maybe many of you think very little about healing because when you are sick you either take some medicine or go to the doctor or hospital. But do you ever pray to get better? If so, you are praying for healing, you are asking God to heal you. I’m sure most of us have prayed for someone to be healed, or at least have prayed to God to heal us of something, whether as simple as a stomach ache to as complicated as cancer. What has been your experience with healing from God? Some claim to have prayed and received a healing, while others can’t say they’ve ever been healed of anything by God. What is the truth about healing? What should we think? Let’s turn to the Book of Matthew to find out more. (more…)

Do You Have the Gift of Singleness?

September 26, 2008

Title: Do You Have the Gift of Singleness?

Text: 1 Corinthians 7:1-7

Time: August 19, 2008

The Apostle Paul was arguably the greatest Christian of all-time, and he was a single man. He often urged Christians to imitate him in singleness: “I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that, ” 1 Corinthians 7:7. The gift he is talking about is, of course, the gift of singleness. Evidently Paul considered it a gift from God that enabled him to live as a single man in a world of sexual temptations and avoid falling into sexual immorality. He was able to travel, work and live his life without the normal and natural male/female sexual relationship. He didn’t have a wife and yet he was able to fulfill his calling and mission from God. While the other apostles had wives and carried out their assignments from the Lord, Paul fulfilled his calling single. He resisted the temptations that came his way as a single man and kept his focus on God and God’s will. He had a special gift – the gift of singleness. Now today many Christian singles ask themselves the question: “Do I have the gift of singleness, like the Apostle Paul?” They are really asking the question: “Can I live out my life single, resist all the sexual temptations of the world, and fulfill my purpose on earth as God wills?” These questions are particularly relevant today because, as a percentage of the population, there is a greater percentage of single adults than ever before. This is mostly due to divorce, but it also has to do with the fact that people are marrying later in life. It’s a simple fact that adults today spend a great deal of their life living single. So then the question, “Do I have the gift of singleness?” becomes an important question to ask, especially for Christians seeking to do the will of God. According to a popular Christian writer, the gift of singleness is “the special ability that God gives to certain members of the body of Christ to remain single and enjoy it; to be unmarried and not suffer undue sexual temptations.” I realize this definition isn’t specifically spelled out in the Bible, but it pulls together a number of biblical truths found in 1 Corinthians 7:1-7: “Now for the matters you wrote about: it is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” What Paul seems to be describing is a special gift of singleness. Do you have such a gift? Let’s explore further. (more…)

Cohabitation? No!

September 25, 2008

Title: Cohabitation? No!

Text: Hebrews 13:4

Time: August 18, 2008

It’s very popular today for couples who are in love to simply by-pass marriage altogether and just move in together, live together as man and wife but without the benefit of marriage, to shack up, to cohabit – and most everyone is ok with that, or so it seems. Even the older generations of parents and grandparents, those who we’d think might raise an eyebrow or raise questions or even offer objections, seem to lack any energy to challenge the practices of newer generations. Even the Christian church, generally speaking, isn’t making much of a case against couples living together without marriage. Most pastors speak little of the subject from the pulpit – maybe they are afraid they might drive away the members of the younger generation who do attend church on Sundays. Or maybe church leaders feel to object is futile, or maybe it is already a lost cause in our modern times. But for whatever reasons, there just doesn’t seem to be much opposition to the practice of living together before marriage that is becoming almost as popular as marriage among some age groups. Well, I for one, as a Christian, as a pastor and church leader, I for one, wish to present a vigorous objection to the sinful and perverted practice of living together or as it’s also called “shacking up” before marriage. It’s a clear violation of the will of God as clearly expressed in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments. It is blatant disobedience to Christ, the Apostles and all the prophets. But worst of all, it makes a mockery of real, holy Christian marriage, because it cheapens the institution of holy matrimony as outlined in the Bible and handed down for 2000 years in Christianity. Hebrews 13:4 states, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” There are many other verses that I could site as evidence against cohabitation. I could site passages in the Old Testament. I could site passages in the New Testament. But let me start somewhere, with this one verse in the Book of Hebrews as just one example among many that warns against cohabitation. Now we might excuse the sinful disobedient lifestyle of “shacking up” among the pagan sinners as just another evidence of the state of spiritual unbelief; how can we expect unconverted sinners to do anything other than what sinners do – sin? So we might cut the unregenerate sinners some slack — not excuse them, because after all they are under the law and wrath of God for their sins and need to confess and repent and commit their hearts to God through Jesus Christ for salvation. But we might cut them some slack for their sins until they convert to Christ. But we cannot excuse in any way professing Christians from following the pagan world into living together before marriage; it’s inexcusable, it’s a no brainer for anyone who has made any kind of commitment to Christ. It’s an inexcusable sin for a Christian to cohabit, it’s sexual immorality, it’s fornication. But let me unpack this particular verse and explain why it’s wrong and a grave sin. (more…)

Pre-Marital Sex? No!

September 25, 2008

Title: Pre-Marital Sex? No!

Text: 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

Time: August 26, 2008

It’s nearly impossible to watch a movie today at the theater or on television without seeing single people in some form or another engaging in pre-marital sex. It’s so common today, it’s so normal, it’s so typical that when it occurs on the screen nobody really thinks anything of it. That’s because of the sexual revolution that occurred in the 1960s. We live on this side of that secular, sexual revolution, and so we hardly even notice when single adults engage in pre-marital sex. What was once considered a scandalous sin in former times is now considered perfectly normal. In fact, we’ve gone so far in the opposite direction that to not see singles today having pre-marital sex is now odd! Now the opinions, values and practices of people have certainly changed in the last 50 years, but the moral absolute commands of God have not. God’s Word is clear about the matter of pre-marital sex – God’s forbids it, no question. There are so many passages in the Word of God, the Bible, that command against pre-marital sex that if we examined them all we’d be here all day long and still wouldn’t be finished. It’s just so clear in both the Old Testament and the New Testament that it is against the will of God. But let me point out just a few passages from the Apostle Paul to illustrate God’s opposition to pre-marital sex – or sexual relations outside of the marriage covenant. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkard nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” The Greek word “porneia” used in this passage is a common word found in the New Testament and is almost always translated “sexually immoral.” It covers pretty much all classes of sexually immoral behavior – pre-marital sex or fornication, adultery, homosexuality, etc. Really any form of sexual immorality is covered by the Greek word “porneia.” Now you may recognize something familiar sounding in the Greek word “porneia” – it’s the root word from which we get the English word pornography or porno. And what is pornography? Pictures of people engaged in various forms of sexual immorality! So we can understand what the Apostle Paul is communicating in this passage. He’s not saying that sexual immorality is the only sin, or even that it’s the worst kind of sin; but he is saying that it is sin, and includes it in a long list of other sins of various kinds. And he’s also saying that it is a very serious sin because he called it wicked and says that people who practice it will not inherit the kingdom of God. So far from the casual attitude that people have towards pre-marital sex today, it’s a very grave and serious matter to God. And it should be to us today as well. Let me cover a few more examples of how God’s Word commands against pre-marital sex. (more…)

Gay Marriage? No!

September 25, 2008

Title: Gay Marriage? No!

Text: Hebrews 13:4

Time: August 25, 2008

I’ve been teaching a series on marriage, divorce and remarriage by examining passages from the Bible that shed light on the subject. It’s quickly obvious that in many places the prevailing philosophy and practice of the secular world today directly contradicts the teachings of God’s Word. But in no way is this more apparent than in the whole matter of so-called “gay” marriage. Never before have we seen such a rush on the part of secular society to make the gay or homosexual lifestyle acceptable as today. The latest effort to legitimize homosexuality in culture was the monumental decision on the part of the California Supreme Court to legalize “same sex” marriages or so-called gay marriages. By carefully reading the Court’s decision, we see rather quickly that it’s intent was to normalize or legitimize homosexual marriages to the same legal and cultural status as traditional heterosexual marriages. Now California is in no way the first territory to permit gay couples to legally marry; Massachusetts had already permitted that, and so have a few European nations, for example, like Holland. But what is different this time is that gay activists are now using the State of California law as the green light to push forward the total normalization of same-sex marriages everywhere, and the total and universal acceptance of homosexuality in all of society. This is in direct contradiction to the Word of God and the message of Christianity. If you remember I taught from the New Testament passage in Hebrews 13:4, showing that cohabitation — or living together before marriage — is sinful and wrong. I’d like to go back to that same biblical passage and show how gay or same-sex marriage is even more sinful and wrong according to the Word of God. Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” Now this is not the only Bible passage that teaches Christian sexual morality – there are plenty of biblical passages that teach sex before marriage is wrong, sex outside of marriage is wrong, and also that homosexual sex is wrong. But this passage is very clear in making the strong point that marriage – as a holy institution given by God himself – should be jealously and carefully honored by all. Same sex or so-called gay marriage dishonors holy matrimony, it dirties the whole understanding of marriage. I spoke before how cohabitation or living together in sin before marriage dishonors the holy institution of marriage, but so too does same-sex marriage dishonor marriage in a way greater than does cohabitation. At least with cohabitation there is at least the semblance of real marriage – granted, it’s a cheap and sinful imitation of the real thing – still, it involves a man and woman in a relationship that somewhat resembles marriage as given by God. But with same-sex marriage even that doesn’t exist. A sinful homosexual relationship is recognized, legitimized and perversely endorsed by society and given equal status with God’s holy institution. This is wrong if anything is wrong. Let me outline from God’s Word why this is so wrong. (more…)

Has God Established Roles for Men and Women in Marriage?

September 23, 2008

Title: Has God Established Roles for Men and Women in Marriage?

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Text: Ephesians 5:21-33

Time: September 21, 2008

I’ve been teaching on marriage, divorce and remarriage for the last few months. I almost left these topics to begin another verse-by-verse study of another book of the Bible, as I usually do when teaching God’s Word. But I wanted to finish this series with a final topic that may cause more controversy than any of the other teachings I’ve given concerning marriage, divorce or remarriage. It’s not my intent to cause controversy, but neither is it my design to avoid controversy. It is my goal to teach God’s Word, the Bible, The Word of God, in all areas, whether it is received with popularity or rejection. It’s not a healthy thing for the pastor or church leaders to avoid teaching people from the Word of God solely because there is the chance it might offend or cause controversy in the church. It is a healthy thing for God’s Word to be taught in any case and to challenge all of us to conform ourselves to it, rather than avoid it or try to conform God’s Word to our personal or cultural preferences. And there can be no doubt that as far as cultural preferences go, the topic I’ll be addressing this morning is clear. Contemporary culture definitely has a clear preference – it opposes God’s Word in this case. Most people’s personal preference also clearly opposes God’s Word on this topic. What is the topic? Marriage roles for men and women. Or to put it as a question, “Has God established specific roles for men and women within marriage?” Our contemporary popular culture definitely argues against any specific and absolute marriage roles for men and women. Rather, our age subscribes to the philosophy that men and women are free to make up their own roles within marriage – if they choose marriage, or if they choose not to marry but just live together. The popular view today, a clear majority view today, is that there are no fixed roles for the man or the woman in marriage. Certainly, this view holds, men and women are free to follow traditional marriage roles if they choose to, or they may reject the traditional roles, or come up with some creative alternative arrangement incorporating some parts traditional and some parts modern. But what almost everyone rejects today is that God has fixed certain absolute roles for men and women within marriage, or that all men and women are obligated to recognize certain separate and fixed roles within marriage. And it’s not just unbelieving non-Christians who reject fixed roles within marriage; more and more today many Christians are rejecting the notion of absolute, separate roles for men and women in marriage. So in teaching on this subject, I’m aware that most people, many or even most Christians included, will have a difficult time accepting what God’s Word has to say about marriage roles. But nevertheless, I am reminded of the Great Commission given by the Lord Jesus Christ which says, “Make disciples of all the nations, . . . teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you,” Matthew 28:19-20. So we must learn to obey everything that God teaches us not just those parts we are inclined to agree with anyway, or those parts that already conform to our personal preferences. We must learn to obey “everything” God teaches us, including everything God teaches us about marriage and marriage roles for men and women. And so with that bit of introduction, let us literally “dive into” this topic by raising some typical questions about marriage roles – and then answering them from God’s Word. (more…)

Has God Established Marriage?

September 16, 2008

Title: Has God Established Marriage or Has Man?

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Text: Genesis 1 & 2

Date: September 9, 2008

One day I was challenged as a Christian minister and church pastor to prove from the Bible that God has established marriage. Is there any question that God has indeed established the institution of marriage? After all, most marriages are begun in a church at the wedding ceremony. The traditional vows begin with, “We are gathered here today in the presence of God and these witnesses celebrate the joining of these two lives together in holy matrimony. . . .” Is there any doubt that marriage is something established by God? Yet, the question was posed to me by someone who sincerely wanted to know — is marriage an institution established by God or is it something that developed from human culture? When I began to study the matter of marriage in the Bible I soon realized that as far as actual instruction on the meaning, purpose and practical philosophy of marriage, there isn’t much. I was surprised by the fact that most of what we understand about marriage is inference from general truths found in the Bible, but that there was very little actual specific marriage instruction in the Bible. What is in the Bible is foundational for building a proper understanding of marriage, but it only becomes specific when we read and reflect on what the Bible teaches concerning the basic male/female relationship. So I am grateful to the challenge that came to me through the perceptive observations of some very sincere people, because it has caused me to carefully search the scriptures as to what exactly is taught in the Word of God in order to build upon that foundation a fully-developed theology of marriage. The basic foundational teaching on marriage comes from Genesis 1 & 2 of the Old Testament. It is here that God first explains the purpose of man and So let us turn to Genesis in order to lay a foundation for a correct view of marriage. No, we won’t be able to point to chapter and verse to prove every truth that we now accept as the divine and holy institution of marriage, but we will be able to work out these truths from the foundational truths presented in Genesis. For example, Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created the.” This shows the basic equality of man and woman before God. But then another verse, Genesis 2:18, shows the basic differentiation of man and woman, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” So we see there is similarity but also difference between men and women. We also see that they were both made for community not solitary existence — “It is not good for man (or woman) to be alone.” With that foundational truth established, the next issue is: if a man and a woman were not made to be alone, how then should they relate? What kind of community should they form? We see God answering this question in Genesis 2:22-25, “Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This in now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were naked and they felt no shame.” No, this description isn’t everything we understand marriage to be, but it is the source from which our understanding of marriage comes from. So let’s unpack these truths and build upon them. As we do, we’ll be able to see that God has indeed established the institution of marriage as we understand the meaning of these truths. (more…)

The Purpose of Marriage

September 16, 2008

Title: The Purpose of Marriage

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Text: Genesis 1:26-28, 2:15-24

Time: August 27, 2008

We’ve been studying what the Bible teaches concerning marriage, divorce and remarriage. I’ve talked about what marriage is, but I haven’t taught on what exactly is the purpose of marriage; today, I’d like to do that. From the looks of things today most people who marry don’t have a clue as to what is the actual purpose of marriage. How do I know that? Because of all the divorces that takes place in our society every year. Fully ½ of all marriages will end in divorce. A big reason for the divorce epidemic is simply people don’t know the purpose of marriage to begin with, they get married, and then their marriage fails. If people knew what the real purpose of marriage is, they’d probably have a better chance of succeeding in marriage. So with that in mind, I’d like to attempt to outline what is the purpose of marriage according to God in his Word, since the Word of God is the only authoritative source we can turn to for answers. Genesis 1:26-28, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.’” And Genesis 2:15-24, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. . . . The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him. . . . But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” This is a very famous passage from the Old Testament of the Bible; it is often read at wedding ceremonies and in church services. Unfortunately, the passage is rarely reflected upon and discussed by engaged couples before they get married, which is unfortunate, because if they’d only take the time to clearly understand the purpose of marriage, they might be able to avoid divorce later on. Almost all divorce comes from a total lack of or improper understanding of the purpose of marriage. Once the purpose of marriage is understood, it’s easier to enter into and carry out a successful marriage. So then the need to understand the purpose of marriage is essential. More important is it to spend time studying and discussing the purpose of marriage than the time spent to plan and prepare for the wedding itself. Because the wedding is a one-time event, but the marriage is a long-term process. If you are planning on getting married in the future, or even if you’ve already married, you will benefit from learning God’s plan and purpose for marriage as outlined in the Bible. Let me outline three main purposes for marriage according to God. (more…)

Sharon Keller’s Memorial Service

September 4, 2008

Title: Sharon’s Memorial Service

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Text: Psalm 23

Time: August 27, 2008

Tonight we are here to remember the life of Sharon Keller, who most of you knew because she lived here at the Hotel Jamestown on the 8th floor. She died after she had a stroke and fell in front of the Jamestown Ice Area. She was rushed to the hospital in Buffalo where she died two days later. It’s really a shock to all of us because while people have strokes and fall, they don’t usually die from them, or if they do, they don’t usually die that fast. But that is what happened to Sharon. I knew Sharon from the church services she attended here at the Hotel Jamestown on Sunday mornings at 10am. We have a church service every Sunday and Sharon began attending about a year or so ago. She found out about this church, Crosspointe Church, because she was up and about one Sunday morning doing her laundry when our church service had finished. She saw the people leaving the recreation room and was interested in meeting with me as pastor. She wanted to find out if I would see her for some counseling, which I said I would. But that was the start of Sharon’s involvement with Crosspointe Church. And since that time, she came fairly regularly. At the end of her life, she had attended the Sunday before her death. What was encouraging about the end of her life is that we all could see that the Lord was doing something in her life because she had just got herself a Bible she could read and had told everyone that she had just finished reading the whole book of Matthew in the New Testament. That was very encouraging because that was unusual for Sharon to read from the Bible that much. She also helped Latta and Hilma Hancock up to their apartment after the church service on Sunday. So everyone sensed that something positive was taking place in Sharon’s life, and then, that’s when she died, just a few days later, so it was a shock to us all. Now, it’s my firm believe that Sharon is with the Lord in heaven at this very moment, because I really did see strong evidences of faith, especially at the end of her life. I don’t know everything about Sharon or her past life; I’m told that she went through a very hard life. Nothing was ever easy for Sharon, I’m told. But thank God that when we die with faith and trust in Jesus, we are taken to a place where it doesn’t get any better than that. We are taken to a place so much better than this life. That is where Sharon is today, in that better place, in heaven with Jesus. All the past hardships and troubles she went through don’t matter anymore because she’s home with the Lord now. Thank God. But I’d like to take a few minutes at this time to look at the 23rd Psalm and see how relevant it is for tonight as we remember our friend Sharon this last time. Psalm 23, let me read that for us (read). Now the Psalm is broken up into 3 parts. First, the part that talks about life now. Second, the part that talks about death. Third, the part that talks about eternal life. Sharon is now experiencing that third part now. But let’s look at all the parts. (more…)