Archive for August, 2010

What is the Bible? Is It Really the Word of God

August 26, 2010

Title: What is the Bible? Is It Really the Word of God?

Text: 2 Peter 1:21, Matthew 4:4, Deuteronomy 29:29

Time: August 20th, 2010

One of the biggest objections to the Christian faith is that the Bible is not the Word of God but instead is merely the words of men – and on top of that, ancient and ignorant men. The skeptics then ask the question, “Why should we ever base our lives on a book that was written by ignorant, uneducated men in some obscure location in the Middle East a long time ago?” They further ask, “With so much better knowledge gained since the Bible was written, why should we ever be drawn to follow its advice about anything, anything at all?” My first response to the last question would be something along the lines that the Bible addresses universal human questions, the really big questions of life, that haven’t been sufficiently answered by either philosophy or science. Yes, in many, in most areas of human endeavor, knowledge has increased incredibly in the last two thousand years since the last book of the Bible was written; this knowledge is for the most part valid, but most of it has nothing to do with what is written in the Bible. The Bible deals with ultimate questions, life, death, what becomes of us after death, what happens after death, is there a God, who is God, how can we know God, for example. For all the knowledge gained in the last few thousands years, these kinds of questions have barely been advanced. The Bible doesn’t attempt to teach us the full range of fields of knowledge, but mostly centers on the fields of religion and philosophy; therefore, there is room for expanding knowledge within the biblical worldview. Why should we be drawn to follow the ancient advice of the Bible? Because the questions it addresses are still universally valid and the new knowledge that man has gained in the meantime through science and other kinds of research doesn’t answer them, or doesn’t answer them fully or adequately. As for the charge that the Bible is an ancient book written by ignorant, uneducated (by our standards) men with limited experience and knowledge – so why should we listen to them, let alone follow their advice – that is a question of another kind which I’d like to spend greater time dealing with today. If the Bible is merely a collection of the ancient writings of uneducated and ignorant men, then I don’t think we should be listening and following its advice for our lives today. But the Bible isn’t that; it’s a collection of divinely inspired writings of men (called prophets) who were used of God to give us his revelation, word-for-word, so that we have something to make our way in life beyond the fumbling, bumbling guesses of our own cleverness – with the ultimate goal of providing for us, or anyone who will listen and believe and follow, a path to eternal life. Now I realize that the burden of proof is clearly upon my shoulders to prove that the Bible is more than just the wise (wise for that time), old writings of ancient men. I’m not sure I can prove to everyone’s satisfaction that the Bible is revelation from God, but I’ll at least layout the logic of it and hopefully an open-minded person can think about it, ponder it, and maybe be convinced that it’s possible, and finally, that it’s true. I’m convinced that the Bible is revelation from God and my life has reflected this conviction because I try to read and study from it ever day, and I try to live out its teachings, although I’m the first to admit that I fall short. But let me see if I can layout a case for the Bible as revelation from God. (more…)

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The Disaster of Promoting Homosexuality

August 20, 2010

Title: The Disaster of Promoting Homosexuality

Text: Genesis 19:1-29

Time: August 18th, 2010

At this time, as I’m preparing this message, the State of California is embroiled in a controversy to preserve the traditional family definition of marriage as the union of man and woman. For a number of years now homosexuals have lobbied to redefine marriage as the union of man or woman with another man or woman, allowing for same-sex marriages. At one point they redefined the law to allow for same-sex marriages, then the law was changed back to the traditional definition, then that was reversed by a court decision, now it’s back to the traditional definition, but there are further court cases that everyone believes will eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court. Why the conflict? Why the swinging back and forth? Because we are in the midst of a real cultural war between the forces that seek to preserve a sense of moral sanity and those who wish to overturn almost all morality. Just a few years ago the debate was whether there should be domestic partnerships for gay people to resemble in some sense the marriage relationship enjoyed by heterosexual couples. I’m not sure what happened to that debate because today it seems that we’ve come light years beyond it in the course of just a few years to the point where the debate is over gay marriage. What this shows is that homosexuality and all of the evils that go with it – gay marriages, the promotion of the gay lifestyle by the state, for example – is gaining momentum. If nothing interrupts it, this momentum towards a fully legitimate homosexual tolerance and acceptance in society should come about in the next few years. But if that happens, it spells the end to the noble American experiment in freedom and self-government, because it spells the destruction of the nation. How so? Through what means shall America be destroyed? That we can’t predict, but that it’s destruction will take place, we can confidently say for certain. How can we know that America will be destroyed if it finally reaches that point of accepting homosexuality as a legitimate and normal lifestyle? Because we have the biblical example of Sodom and Gomorrah to warn us. Here was an ancient society that fully accepted, tolerated and embraced the gay lifestyle – and it was destroyed by God! God sends angels to Sodom to investigate the wicked reports coming from the city, then the citizens converged on these holy messengers with the intent of homosexual rape. “All the men from every part of the city of Sodom – both young and old – surrounded the house. They called to Lot. ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them,’” Genesis 19:4-5. The result of this wickedness was destruction. The angels conclude, “The outcry of the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it,” Genesis 19:13. And that’s what happened, destruction. And that same judgment of destruction will come upon the U.S. for its growing acceptance, toleration and promotion of the homosexual lifestyle. But let me explain further. (more…)

Not Ashamed of the Gospel

August 18, 2010

Title: Not Ashamed of the Gospel

Text: Romans 1:16-17

Time: August 14th, 2010

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one who believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, The just shall live by faith,” Romans 1:16-17. The Apostle Paul is writing to the Christians in the capital city of the great Roman Empire. We don’t know how many Christians were in Rome at the time but it might have been a few thousand or it could have been lower, like a few hundred. It’s too bad that the Christians didn’t take more care to count attendance and membership because then we’d know. Although it’s kind of refreshing to see the early church as not obsessed with numbers like churches seem to be today. But whether there were many Christian living in Rome or few, Paul takes the time and effort to write to them in order to instruct them in the basics of the Christian life. There’s a lot we don’t know about these Christians, for example, we don’t know who actually brought the gospel to Rome, although the Catholics have a tradition that says the Apostle Peter did – that can’t be verified for sure. Somebody brought the gospel to the Roman capital because there’s already a Christian church community there for Paul to write to. But what Paul wants to do is clarify the Christian message and make sure that the Roman Christians are building on a solid foundation.  It’s easy to get the gospel in bits and pieces. In fact, that’s probably how most people hear it today too, in bits and pieces. We hear some of the gospel on the radio, some of the Bible from a television ministry, a little bit of Christianity we learn from Christian books or literature of some kind. We learn a little Bible teaching from family and friends, in conversation. Then, we learn some of the gospel from attending church, whether just visiting a church or regularly attending. Now it’s great that we learn bits and pieces of the gospel. It’s great that the Christians in Rome knew the gospel from somewhere, but what Paul was concerned about was whether they knew it enough for it to serve as a foundation for their lives. That’s the same concern we should all have today. Do people who call themselves Christians really know the gospel enough to make it the foundation for their lives? Do I know the gospel well enough for it to stand on by faith? Do you know it enough for it to be the foundation of your life? So Paul writes the Book of Romans with the goal of laying the foundation for the Christians in the Roman church, just in case they might have missed the essential ingredients of salvation. He starts out by saying he’s not ashamed of the gospel. That’s a strange statement isn’t it? Why would Paul even have to bring the topic of shame up? We’ll look at that question. Then Paul also talks about the gospel as God’s method of salvation for all who believe. What does that mean? He then states that the gospel imparts God’s righteousness to us. How does that take place? Finally, Paul talks about the importance of faith in the gospel formula, but just what is salvation faith? We’ll touch on this too. It’s a joy to be here today with you as your guest this morning. And it’s an added blessing to preach the gospel to you who are here today. Some of you know the gospel from one end to the other, while others of you may know parts of it, and maybe, some of you don’t know much of the gospel at all. But that’s ok, because I’d like to spend the next few minutes explaining it from the Book of Romans. (more…)

Financial Survival For Christians, Part 7 (Church)

August 5, 2010

Title: Financial Survival For Christians, Part 7 (Church)

Text: 2 Timothy 4:1-2, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Matthew 5:42

Time: July 23rd, 2010

So far I’ve talked about how we can survive as Christians in an economically hard time by standing on the promises of God and through prayer. But today I’d like to explain our relationship as an individual Christian to the corporate Christian church in times of economic recession. What is our relationship to the Body of Christ – on in other words, the Christian community, the church? How should the church respond to us? How should we respond to the church? To begin with, it’s a little difficult to talk about “the church” in general, because there are so many different aspects to defining the church. Are we talking about the denominational structure, such as the American Baptist Church or the United Methodist Church or the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, for example? Or are we talking about the local church – the First Baptist Church of Hammond, IN or the First Assembly of God in Erie, PA, for example? So we have to be careful in talking about “the church,” that we’re talking about the same thing, otherwise, we’ll misunderstand ourselves and miscommunicate something. For this message I’ll be limiting myself to the local church, the one we normally attend on Sunday, the one we go to hear God’s Word taught, where we worship through song and prayer, the one we participate in fellowship, where we give financially also. What is our responsibility to the local church during financially hard times? What is the church’s responsibility towards us in economically tough times? Throughout this message series on surviving financially through hard economic times, I’ve mostly addressed our role as individuals responsible for our own money matters, but today I’d like to talk more in terms of our role in community – how we should be functioning with others in the church during financially challenging times. Obviously, if everyone in a community is hurting financially, the church community as a whole will also suffer, because the combined impact of everyone giving makes up the church budget. Churches going through a building campaign or facility expansion might have to put that on hold for a while until the economy turns around. Church communities in heavy debt load might have even bigger worries to think about, especially if the loan comes with higher interest. I haven’t heard of many churches going bankrupt, but I’m sure it happens from time-to-time. I have heard of denominational structures going bankrupt – for example, the Roman Catholic Church in Boston, I think it was, filed for bankruptcy, not the local churches but the overall Diocese of Boston. Hopefully, local churches can weather the economic storm just like individual church members without going bankrupt. But the question remains, “How can the local church help us during our struggle through financial problems?” What is realistic help coming from the local church to individual members? Let me list three ways. (more…)

Financial Survival For Christians, Part 6 (Finding Work)

August 3, 2010

Title: Financial Survival For Christians, Part 6 (Finding Work)

Text: Matthew 7:7-12

Time: July 22nd, 2010

While our nation and the world is still in an economic recession, I’ve been taking about ways Christians can survive in the midst of financial difficulties by standing on God’s promises found in the Bible and by prayer. I’ve covered many different ways we can get the most bang for the buck, so to speak, and stay alive financially even in troubling times. Today, I’d like to talk about a related topic – employment, namely, finding work. One of the components of this current recession is unemployment. Companies are laying-off works in order to implement budget cuts. And companies are reluctant in hiring new workers out of fear the recession isn’t over, or even that it might get worse. So there’s a lot of unemployment these days – which has a direct influence on one’s personal finances. If we aren’t working, we aren’t earning a living wage. And if we aren’t earning a living wage, we’re going to fall behind in our finances. Some people are losing their homes, not only because of rising interest rates on their mortgages, but also because they’ve been laid-off from work. For some, there are at least unemployment benefits for a while, but for others there isn’t even that. What are we supposed to do as Christian if we are laid-off work, or if we’ve moved to another location looking for a job? Is there anything unique a Christian can do in searching for employment? It’s a very discouraging and depressing job market out there at the present moment. Like I said before, most companies are not hiring right now, some are only hiring part-time workers, and still others may be hiring once-in-a-while but paying very little wages. What’s a Christian to do? Are we supposed to respond to the present economic situation like unbelievers? Is there no difference between how a genuine Christian approaches employment in a tough economy versus how a non-Christian approaches the same challenge? Yes, there’s a big difference. As Christians we have God and God’s promises to stand on in our job search. In economically hard times we have the Lord to lean on in prayer. We don’t have to resort to doing what the unbelievers are doing to provide for ourselves, because “the pagans run after all these things” (Matthew 6:32) – jobs, food, housing, clothing, resources, for example. But as Christians we know “[our] heavenly Father knows that [we] need them” (Matthew 6:32) – the necessities of life. We are encouraged in the Bible to trust in the Lord for everything during hard times. But what does that exactly look like in searching for a job? Has God given us any instructions in searching for work? Yes! “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets,” Matthew 7:7-12. Here’s encouragement and practical helps to anyone searching for employment. Let me explain. (more…)