Archive for October, 2013

Confusing God and Country

October 29, 2013

 

Title: Confusing God and Country

Text: 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Acts 6:3-5, 2 Kings 4:7

Time: October 16th, 2013

Way back in the day when I was a Boy Scout there was an award that I earned called the “God and Country” award. It was all about faith and patriotism, and the two were linked together in a seamless whole. I can’t remember exactly the requirements but if I recall it had something to do with service to both one’s church and the community, and also knowing the basic teachings of one’s faith – for me Christianity – and knowing the basic principles of democracy upon which the U.S. was founded.  At the time I couldn’t imagine there ever being a conflict between commitment to Christianity and commitment to the United States. Now that’s ok for a young boy growing up in America in the 70s, but it’s not acceptable to an adult Christian today. Anyone who knows anything about Christianity in America today knows that there are plenty of conflicts between where our U.S. government is headed and where our faith leads us. For example, there’s legal abortion since the 1973 Row v. Wade decision of the Supreme Court. That’s a direct conflict between Christian moral teachings and national social policy in the United States. More recently, there’s the whole so-called right to gay marriage, which is a direct conflict with Christian morality if there ever was one. The list could go on. There was a time when Christian teachings and U.S. government policy were almost identical, or at least highly compatible; but not today. It seems as if the official government position today is that Christianity shouldn’t influence public policy — that there’s something wrong with the values of the Bible influencing society, or that anything other than non-religious, secular legal reasoning is prohibited. That’s a lot different than when I was a small boy growing up in America, where God and government, church and state where a lot more compatible. But the reality is that today as Christians we have to be a lot more discerning and wise in how we view Christianity and culture. We can’t simply assume that our government or even our economic system is automatically compatible with our faith. So in an effort to bring clarity to this whole subject I’d like to take a few minutes and outline the differences between the three major traditional influences in society as far as philosophies and religion are concerned. They are, first, of course, Christianity; second, democracy; and third, capitalism. Now people routinely get these three influences confused or mixed up together. Christians often find themselves defending capitalism and democracy with the same zeal as they might defend their Christian faith. That’s wrong. Let me show why it’s wrong, and why we need to hold to our faith priority. (more…)

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Financial Survival For Christians — “Let Nothing Be Wasted”

October 29, 2013

 

Title: Financial Survival For Christians – “Let Nothing Be Wasted”

Text: 6:12-13

Time: October 10th, 2013

A news report appeared in the papers and on television broadcasts around the world in which the new Pope Francis reminded Christians to not waste food. When I first heard the report, I thought to myself, “Now there’s a great suggestion, but how sad that a world leader needed to remind people of something so basic.” We’re all aware by now that there is a lot of food waste in the United States and other wealthy nations; a lot of food simply thrown out or left to spoil. Now in poorer nations, that doesn’t happen very often because the people are careful to not waste anything, as their very survival depends on consuming every last drop of food. But in the U.S. and other Western nations food is routinely wasted. I’m continuing in a series today on the topic of financial survival for Christians that started in response to the so-called recession of the last three or four years here in our country. I’m trying to teach how Christians can apply the faith teachings of Christianity and the Bible in order to make it through difficult financial times. We’ve all heard of people losing their home, of being laid off work, of having their cars and other items repossessed, and so forth. How can Christians who are going through economically difficult time survive?  They can survive by faith, by believing in the promises of God found in the Bible, and by living out those promises in the real world of daily living. So in my series “Financial Survival For Christians,” I try to lay out some very practical ways Christians can make it through the rough financial times we find ourselves in. Today I’d like to turn to the whole topic of waste, or rather, avoiding waste. Not only is wasting food a problem in countries like the United States, waste in general, in all areas is a real problem as well. We waste a lot of money, for example, that really hurts, especially in financially challenging times. Waste is a problem and a bad habit. But fortunately it’s a bad habit that can be broken when we apply ourselves to eliminating waste. If we’re on a tight budget, if we are having trouble paying bills, if we are scraping by as best we can, eliminating waste is not only important, it’s essential for financial survival. It was Ben Franklin who once said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” It’s still true today, and it’s something that if we took seriously would help motivate us to cut waste in our lives immediately. But eliminating waste isn’t something Ben Franklin invented; it’s something that Jesus actually taught during his ministry here on earth two thousand years ago. In connection with the Feeding of the Five Thousand, John 6:12-13 records, “When they had all had enough to eat, he (Jesus) said to his disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.’ So they gather them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.” This is a great encouragement for Christians to cut their waste too. Let me explain. (more…)

Questions and Answers About God

October 29, 2013

 

Title: Questions and Answers About God

Text: Psalms 90:2, 1 Corinthians 2:10-11, Isaiah 43:18-19

Time: October 9th, 2013

Around the beginning of the year I gave a few messages about God, and tried to answer a few questions about who God is, what is God like, and so forth. Today, I’d like to pick up on that initial conversation about God by asking and answering a few more questions, like, “How can God exist forever?” and “Does God know who He is?” and “How can God avoid being bored?” Of course, there are so many questions we could and should ask about God, but we’ve only got time today to ask and answer about three of them. I’ve heard a number of people ask these questions about God, usually rhetorical questions by skeptics or atheists designed to show the idea of the Christian God is silly. But these questions aren’t only asked by atheists but also by children who sincerely want to know the answers without any hidden, ulterior motive.  Unbelievers love to ask questions about God because they think that there are no good answers to their questions, and therefore they seek to embarrass Christians by merely asking the questions. But there’s no reason why believers have to be ashamed of asking questions about God, especially since the Bible itself in various places raises questions and gives answers. As a Christian, as opposed to an unbeliever or atheist skeptic, I assume the basic concept of God given in the Bible is sound. Therefore, my task is to explore further what it means to understand and believe in God through seeking answers to questions raised about God. Also, it’s just plain interesting to think about God and then formulate questions about him that motivate us to seek out answers. In the seeking we can learn a lot more about the God we worship and obey. I think it would be rather dull to simply say, “I believe in God,” but then never ask any questions about him, how he exists, what he thinks, how he acts, and so forth. One of the great benefits of being a Christian believer is that we are motivated to explore more deeply our own faith and gain the added inspiration of finding satisfying answers to our investigations that increase our faith. At the present time I can’t say that I have answers to all my questions about God, but I feel I know a lot more about him now than if I’d never raised the questions. Also, even in the case where I can’t say I can find a satisfying answer for some question about God, I’m challenged to keep seeking more information and think deeper. Again, this is why being a Christian is so interesting – we’re inspired by what we do know about God, and challenged to keep seeking to discover more knowledge by what we don’t know about him. In either case, it’s a win-win situation. So let me raise and attempt to answer three more questions about God. I hope you find them interesting and helpful. (more…)

Challenges Facing the Catholic Church #3

October 29, 2013

 

Title: Challenges Facing the Catholic Church #3

Text: Jeremiah 1:7-8, 9-10, 17

Time: October 8th, 2013

Well it’s been months since the new Catholic Pope Francis took office, but already he’s making the news almost every day with some comment, speech, interview or pronouncement. Earlier this year I gave two messages outlining challenges the Roman Catholic church faces. As a Protestant Christian and not a member of the Church of Rome, I’m still interested in the fate of Christianity’s largest branch of over one billion members. That’s why I try to keep up on everything happening in respect to the new pope, and the reaction of the church and the world to his activity. To be honest, I’m a bit puzzled by Pope Francis’s perspective because it’s definitely different from the last two popes – John Paul II and Benedict XVI. He seems to be saying to the church and the world that while he’s a loyal and faithful son of the Catholic church, he’s also going to approach the challenges facing the church from a different perspective. For example, he’s given interviews where he’s said that Catholics don’t always have to talk about abortion, gay marriage and divorce. Now that’s understandable since Christianity is so much more than opposition to these things. But it’s also odd because as Christians we’re supposed to be the “light of the world” and the “salt of the world” as Jesus Christ taught his disciples. So in other words, we’re supposed to be prophetic and speak truth to the world whether it’s popular or not. But what the present pope seems to be saying is that while he continues to hold firm to catholic teachings on these issues, he isn’t interested in talking a whole lot about them in public. As a Protestant Christian, and especially as an evangelical Christian in the United States, I’ve heard and seen this angle taken by church leaders before – by the mega-church pastors and denominational leaders. They too claim to hold faithfully to the spiritual and moral teachings of the Bible, yet they too share a distaste for speaking publicly on these controversial issues. For example, mega-church pastor Rick Warren is a member of the conservative Southern Baptist Convention and holds to all the points of the Baptist Faith and Message statement of faith; yet he also tries to avoid taking any public and highly visible stand on the more controversial issues of the day in order to avoid being unpopular or causing offense. Other mega-church pastors and denominational leaders take the same approach. It seems that Pope Francis is following this same game plan in speaking with the press about issues. Now I have to say I’m not a big fan of this strategy in Christianity because it squanders opportunities we’re given as Christians to bear witness to the truth before a watching world. It also smacks of cowardice and the absence of one’s courage of conviction. Rather than dodge controversial spiritual and moral questions, why not answer them frankly? This is a more faithful and consistent biblical approach. Let me explain what I mean in three areas. (more…)