Sunday Sermon 10.30.21
Beginning the season, the August defensive rankings of the NFL listed the LA Ram’s with the best defense, thanks mostly to our main man, Aaron Donald. (He is a beast of a defender!) But now, as of September’s end, the rankings list the Arizona Cardinals as the top defensive team.
Playing the “Big D” has alaways been coaches, (and fans) battle cry.
” Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships.”Bear Bryant
Even that great philosopher, Mister Miagi, from the movie, “Karate Kid” prioritized teaching Daniel defensive moves, although Daniel thought paining a fence, scrubbing the deck, and waxing the car were useless chores. It was only when Miaggi sternly told Daniel, “I HAVE been teaching you karate! Defend yourself!” Miaggi then thrust his arm at Daniel, and using the technique he learned from his chores Daniel defends himself. Another blow, and yet another blow from Miaggi and Daniel utilizes the skills he practiced in those other chores to defend himself too. He had learned karate moves, Miaggi had been teaching him to defend himself all along.
How’s your defense? Your “Big D”?
By that I mean, are you solid in defense of your values, views, standards, and even worldview? Can you defend them rationally, intellectually, soundly and based on facts? How ‘bout your faith?
You see, I am not responsible for defending your viwes, or another’s views, but I am responsible for defending mine. If I can’t, then I have some homework to do. Especially as a Christian living in these days, it is imperative that I be able to defend my Christian worldview with facts coupled with the story of my life experiences.
In the ancient Greek legal system, the prosecution delivered the “kategoria”, the accusation or charge and the defendant replied with an “apologia”, the defence. It was a formal speech to reply to and rebut the charges. (Remember Socrates Apologia defense from Plato’s Apology?)
This Greek word, “apologia” is the basis of our word “apologetics”. Oxford defines it this way,
“Apologetics – reasoned arguements on writings in justification of someone or something.”
Apologetics has become a religious discipline of defending doctrines through systemic arguements and discourse. But more importantly, for you and me, it is our ability to reasonalbly and intellectually support and defend our position in Christian faith, with facts and rational thought.
When I was young, I heard said, “If you were on trail for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” It startled me and caused me to become more serious about my faith.
With that too came the idea- could I provide evidence for my faith? Was my faith in fact based on evidence or was it sort of “blind faith”? My friend, I am 100% against the idea of blind faith. You see, my faith, is in no way blind. My faith is based on fact. That fact, those collections of facts are what has become my defense. My best defense, in fact.
Here’s the deal. Scripture tells us –
” … in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…”1 Peter 3:15 ESV
This word, defense, is that Greek word “apologia”. You see, we are to be ready, as in a court of law, to answer, defend, even rebut charges and questions that we are asked. Again I say, I am responsible for defending my views, answering the charge, being the DEFENDant.
Remember too, this is a formal speech. That means it is premeditated, planned out, ascribed to in advance, and held on paper (as it were) to present when asked for.
I think that is why Jesus said,
” Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer for I will give you a mouth and wisdom…”Luke 21:14
We think Jesus was telling his disciples not to think about what they would say when charged. But that isn’t quite the meaning here. What He was telling them, was to settle in their minds BEFOREHAND how they would answer. Prepare their speech in advance. Have their defense prepared and settled and then, when asked, speak it with His wisdom and help.
We see the same thing in the life of the Apostle Paul. His life was spent preparing his defense of the gospel, preaching the defense of the gospel. It was a speech he had memorized and was thoroughly convinced of, he had facts, reason, intellect, and BAM – his defense.
” Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer each person.”Colossians 4:6 ESV
These are the days when we must know how to answer those who ask. We must be prepared in advance. Settle it ahead of time. So that means study, prayer, filtering, and finally settling on our defense. Memorizing it, or at the very least have it so prayed into our hearts, that the Holy Spirit will call it forth when needed.
If you really want to be prepared, then I offer you one old school and one new school tool.
In the days of my youth, there was a hot book that we digested and used in our defense of the gospel. It is by Josh McDowell and called, “Evidence That Demands a Verdict“. It is still available, but is new and expanded, but called, “The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict.”
Last night, I finished reading a block buster book for this generation, of the same caliber. It is by J. Warner Wallace, and is called, “Person of Interest“. This book rocked my world! Talk about preparing you with facts, reason, and evidence for being a believer????? THIS BOOK IS A MUST READ. I kid you not. If you are a believer, you need to read it. If you are a skeptic, you need to read it. I promise you, you will not walk away from your faith (or lack of it) the same. (It is an easy read, I did it in just 3 sittings, over a 24 hour period.)
We are facing days of great questionings, uncertainties and rampant misinformation. How well we know and are able to defend our faith will rock the world – IF WE ARE PREPARED TO GIVE A DEFENSE for the hope that lies within us.
May WE be the ones who turn the world right side up again, because we have the best defense.
Go with God,
Sunday Sermon 10.23.21
Whether it’s waiting in traffic, standing in line, waiting for a delivery, report or answer, psychologists tell us our brain hates waiting, so we speed up everything else.
Dr. Richard Larsen, professor at MIT explains, “Under pressure, our brains stretch time”. In stress, things tend to seemingly slow down but we expect things to happen quickly. That, tends to make us impatient, and we often become angry. It is that anger, that makes it seem like it takes forever.
“How people wait (in line) matters more than the duration of the wait”, he says. Distraction helps though. Notice if you will the TV screens at the gas stations, the end caps along check out lines filled with goodies for you to consider, or how about the master of distractions (entertainment) in line – DISNEY.
The “psychology of waiting” studies suggest these facts: (I didn’t even know there was such a “psychology”)
- uncertain waits feel longer than finite ones
- unexplained waits feel longer than explained waits
- unoccupied time feels longer
- unfair waits are longer than equitable waits
Another consideration when it comes to our brain and waiting, is the idea that whoever makes others wait has the power over them.
As humans, we want to take hold of the reigns and take control, accomplish it on our own effort. Get it done, move on. Waiting is not something we do easily and there is evidence that we can “blame our brain”. (She said sarcastically)
My question tho’ is, what happens in the delay? What do we do in that wait? What do we allow? Remember, “how we wait matters more than the duration of the wait.”
Here’s a story for you to ponder.
There once was a group of over 500,000 people, who were given instructions by their leader to wait at this specific location for his return. He was going to the top of the mountain with his assistant, but he would be back. They were to wait at the bottom of the hill for him.
So, wait they did. Day 1, day 2, day 3. Week 1, week 2, week 3. They were waiting. They were also getting wrestless, impatient and angry. Their brain was not having this waiting.
Finally, at week 5, they had had enough! They were feeling the pressure of their uncertain wait. Their unexplained and unoccupied wait was totally unfair and they were going to take things into their own hands. No one was gonna control them, they were gonna do something about this.
Again, my friend, it’s what we do in the wait that may matter most. Never mind what our brain is telling us, the choices we make in the delay are vital.
So, what did they do? Here’s the account…
” When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain they gathered themselves together… said to Aaron … make us gods… we don’t know what’s happened to Moses…”Exodus 32:1 ESV
In their impatience and anger, they took matters into their own hands. Unfortunately, Aaron, the second in command followed their lead. From their 5 week waiting room they were erupting with a plan of their own, they were done waiting.
Five weeks may or may not seem like a long waiting period to you, but look at what this text says,
” They have turned aside aside quickly...”Exodus 32:7 ESV
In the big picture, their 5 week wait was a “quick” turn around. To them the wait was an eternity, but in the big scheme of things, it was a quick, short wait. Oh, for perspective, right?
In fact, to them it seem liked nothing was happening down here. They were stuck in the dry ole desert, at the bottom of a gigantic mountain, waiting for Moses to hike back down. What, for goodness sake was taking so long? They were unable to find any sort of distraction to take their mind off of the 5 week wait from hell.
As the story goes, from their impatient and raging wating, came a golden calf, fashioned from the rings and jewelry donated by the frustrated mob, by the hands of someone who should have known better. In fact, they all should have known better. But their brains were blazing and they were defeated in the delay. They had turned aside quickly from the instructions to wait.
One last point to make about this group. It was their view that nothing was happening. Here they were, 40 days later, and nothing had changed, nothing was different and of course that meant nothing was happening.
But not so fast. In fact, tucked away on this account is this enormously important phrase,
“… the tablets were the work of God, written by the finger of God…”Exodus 32:16; 31:18 ESV
This is phenomenal! While they thought nothing was happening, God was at work. His finger was intricately involved. They couldn’t see Him working, didn’t believe He was working, and therefore decided to work themselves.
Oh, that lie, shouted from our brain, “YOU have to do something”, it screams. “NOTHING IS HAPPENING, you are stuck here waiting, and God is no where to be found.” Oh, that brain of ours…
All along, something was happening. Something they had no idea about, something so big their puny lil’ mind could never fathom. God was writing with His finger, words for them. God was at work for them. God was the power in control and they could trust Him in the wait.
And that is precisely the key. God was in control and they could trust Him in the wait. But how and why didn’t they?
What we do in the delays can defeat us (like it did them, they were judged with a plague & 3,000 people died by the sword), but it doesn’t have to, because learning to wait on the Lord and trust Him is at issue.
To “wait” for or on the Lord is a phrase that is used over 106 times in the Old Testament. It is an active verb not just sitting and impatiently tapping our fingers on the desk in a frustrated huff for something to happen. In fact, here’s the meaning:
“The Hebrew word, to “wait”, H6960 means – to bind together by twisting. To expect; the straining of the mind in a certain direction with an expectant attitude. “Strong’s Concordance and Lexicon
Here’s what that looks like in my life.
When I find myself waiting for things to change in my life or family or nation, the thing I must choose to do is place my focus on God, His promises, His Word, and not be overcome by the cloud of doubt, impatience, anger or taking matters into my own hands. For me, I must choose to lean into Him, strain through the hard, seemingly inactive circumstance, and trust with confidence that He IS at work, even if I cannot see it. It is a mental and emotional battle I can and must choose.
My waiting in the delay is really about learning to wait in eager expectation of a positive result because the Lord is the one I trust and He has the power. Because He does have the power over me and my circumstances, and He loves me and has a plan for my life, I can trust Him completely.
King David knew this truth and lived this truth quite well.
” Wait on the Lord, and keep His way…”Psalm 37:34 KJV
Isaiah and the prophets, too told us to wait on the Lord:
” … but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”Isaiah 40:31 ESV
As I learn to twist my will with His will in the waiting, I find renewed strength, the ability to fly above the problems, endurance to keep on running and faith to walk each day trusting Him.
Again I say, it is what we do in the waiting that determines our victory or defeat. We can learn to wait and trust in Him or we can, in unbelief make idols.
We are not meant to be idle as we wait for things to change for us. We are meant to be actively twisting our will to His and believing in His outcomes, purposes and plans. As we wait, we are actually waiting on Him.
Even though our brains hate waiting, may we continue shaping them to wait on the Lord in spite of what we see or how long the delay.
Go with God.
In Directions, James Hamilton writes:
Before refrigerators, people used ice houses to preserve their food. Ice houses had thick walls, no windows, and a tightly fitted door. In the winter, when streams and lakes were frozen, large blocks of ice were cut, hauled to the ice houses, and covered with sawdust. Often the ice would last well into the summer.
One man lost a valuable watch while working in an ice house. He searched diligently for it, carefully raking through the sawdust, but didn’t find it. His fellow workers also looked, but their efforts, too, proved futile. A small boy who heard about the fruitless search slipped into the ice house during the noon hour and soon emerged with the watch.
Amazed, the men asked him how he found it.
“I closed the door,” the boy replied, “lay down in the sawdust, and kept very still. Soon I heard the watch ticking.”
Often the question is not whether God is speaking, but whether we are being still enough, and quiet enough, to hear.
Cheers to your listening,
Excerpt taken from Phillip Gunter/Fresh Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching
Sunday Sermon 10.16.21
There will be those who say that God no longer visits men as He did in days of old, but I am not one of them. The God I serve is the great I AM, which means that He is in every moment that we live. He is not confined to the pages of the Bible or the times that they reflect. These too, are the days when God is visiting (and wanting to visit) man(kind).
It is my opinion that what lies ahead for us, and I mean imminent, is a powerful, thurderous, outpouring of the presence of God on men and women. His presence brings release, revelation, fear, awe, miracles, judgment, wonder, and so much more. Could it be possible that the Great I AM would again visit people on Earth?
Could we see Him again like this –
” Now when the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightening and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled and they stood afar off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die. Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of Him may be before you, that you may not sin. Then the people stood afar off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.”Exodus 20:18-21 ESV
It is possible. But what is also possible is that this account has in it some truths for us. Let’s look into them.
We can say without a shadow of a doubt and support it with scripture, that there is nothing more powerful than the presence of God. Scripture is full of ways that His presence is demonstrated, including the description from Exodus 20. We read of thunder, lightening, splitting of cedars and seas, winds of fury, fainted men and women, fallen armies, foes defeated, miracle provisions, and overwhelming awe. People respond to such power by falling down, bowing down, covering their mouth, and crying out for mercy and forgiveness.
The first truth for us to hold onto from this is – God’s presence is real and powerful and we each must come before Him. None will be excluded.
The second truth to chew on is this – God’s presence brings fear. And if we look more closely at Exodus, we see His presence is intended to bring a level of fear to us in order to motivate us to not sin. When we have the proper “fear of the Lord”, we are gripped by it in a respectful and honoring way, so as to desire to please Him, and that we can demonstrate by choosing to not sin.
Scripture is full of what “the fear of the Lord” produces in us and it is all pleasant, peaceful, amd productive.
But there are those, who are like the guys in Exodus 20, who, out of fear choose stand afar off from God. They really have no desire to get close to that thunderous God, they are afraid of Him, and step away from Him, rather that toward Him like Moses did. They fear His voice, don’t want to hear it and don’t want to enter into God’s presence.
This then, is the third lesson. Out of fear, we can choose to step closer to God’s presence or away from God’s presence. And in these days, I am hearing that call… Step closer to His presence, closer to Him, and allow His presence to work in you all that pleases Him. This is a process of constant surrendering to His presence, but in doing so, in choosing to be with God, we are changed. The fear of the Lord does motivate us to live a life that pleases Him. And, by the way – it is a life of abundant joy, provision, happiness and strength. It is NOT burdensome or even close to boring!
Our final lesson from the account is this.
God is looking for more Moses-type people. By that I mean, those who willing choose to move to the place where God is. Those who intentionally mark their steps toward God and not away from Him. Those whose delight it is to be in His presence, be close to Him and hear what He has to say. Those who are not frightened to come near to this powerful God, because they know Him personally to be loving, just, kind, compassionate, as well as powerful, intimidating and holy. God is calling to those who will as a magnet, be drawn to where God is.
Although the book of Exodus was written in 1440 BC, in it we can find plentiful truths that have weight and significance for today. We can still learn from it and we can still be visited by a powerful God in a very personal way.
That Great I Am, who consumed in fire and smoke that mountain in Sinai where Moses met Him, is the same today. He is calling for us to face our fears and come to Him, admitting our sin, yielding it to Him, and allowing His passionate love to consume us and all of our fear. He is calling us to step near Him. He is drawing us to come closer and trust His powerful, lifechanging fire.
In these days, when God visits men, what will you do?
God with God,
Perhaps you have heard of this tendency, or perhaps it is more easily recognizable because you have lived it. It is rooted in the neuroscience behind the power of our words and basically says,
” any word we hear, read or speak daily has more truth to us… we don’t care if it is true or false, we believe it.”Icytales.com “The Power of Words”
Neruoscience supports the power of words, both positive and negative.
Researchers, while monitoring brain responses to auditory and imagined negative words, discovered painful or negative words increase IMP (Implicit Processing). What that means is, negative words release stress and anxiety inducing hormones in subjects. Imagine that now, on a daily basis and its affects upon you, me, us. Those negative words produce not only anxiety and stress in me, but also in the way I see my world. They have built for me the lens through which I see people, events and my world.
” Positive and negative words affect us on a deep psychological level and have significant impact on the outcome of our lives.”“The Neuroscience Behind Words” – Business Relationship Management Institute
But positive words have effects too, positive effects!
” A single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.”Dr. Andrew Newberg- “Words Can Change Your Brain”
Dr. Newberg states that exercising positive thoughts can quite literally change one’s reality.
In fact, those positive words and ideas produce not just an illusion of truth, but a positive view of ourselves; and a positive view of ourselves, trains our brain to see good in others, because over time, our brain starts to change. (Dr. Newberg)
There is power in repetition. The more we read, speak or listen to a thing or idea, the more it controls us. Our brain uses repetitive words and phrases to search for meaning and make connections for us. That’s why –
” A repeated weak message is more powerful than a strong message heard only once.”
One single, repeated message can change your mind! (and life)
I know you beleive me. Look into your life and the words that have bombarded you. Look at their affects. Whether it be from a parent, teacher, friend, spouse, pastor…whether it be from the news, government, or CDC. ONE SINGLE, REPEATED MESSAGE CAN CHANGE YOUR MIND.
Words build present and future, but our thoughts are what become our words. That’s why I would like to challenge you to consider your thoughts. Because by exercising consistent, positive thoughts and speech, we change and how we see the world changes.
Therefore, I am calling on you to be intententional about what words you are reading, listening to and speaking. Turn off, shut out, and stop the negative words that have controlled your life. Now is the time. You can do it.
But then, your focus must be shifted to positive words and energy. Here’s a suggestion.
Write these 5 word pairs on a 3×5 card, or post-it. Heck, use several and make more than one. Then place these cards where ever you spend the most time. At your desk, on the bathroom mirror, on the car dash, near the remote control or game controller. Wherever you need to see these positive words repeatedly.
- Authentic and Real
- Honorable and Admirable
- Beautiful and Respectful
- Pure and Holy
- Merciful and Kind
THESE are the words and thoughts that can change your mind, your outlook and world. These repeated messages will cange the way you see yourself and others. By focusing on the positive, the good, real, honorable, beautiful, pure and kind, we will begin to believe those things. It won’t be an illusion. It is truth.
The influences in our society are repeating ideas and words that are becoming reality to some of us. What a tradegy.
But we hold between our ears the world’s most powerful computer with the ability to reframe reality. Words predict behavior. Words become thoughts. Thoughts become actions. Actions become habits.
Let’s take the first steps to begin retraining our brain – away from the negative, ugly and destructive and turning to the positive, beautiful, and hopefilled.
Now, go get those cards or post-its and start that list. 🙂 Today, a new, repeated message begins, because we are thinking on these things, speaking these things, and watching only these types of things. We are shutting out and turning off all other negative words, ideas and influences. We are choosing to focus on those things that are:
- Authentic and Real
- Honorable and Admirable
- Beautiful and Respectful
- Pure and Holy
- Merciful and Kind
This is no illusion of truth, this is the truth.
Cheers to you,
Sunday Sermon 10.9.21
I’d like to give you a visual metaphor that I hope will stay with you as a reminder each time you see these.
Powerlines of all shapes and sizes are scattered throughout the landscape of your life. Have you given much attention to them? Typically they only require our attention when they are not standing as they should, but rather, have been damaged in some way or their line has beed damaged, right?
Those electrical cables suspended between towers or poles provide energy to homes, businesses and everything needing power. They are power lines, they carry power and operate at voltages above 765,000 volts between conductors. That’s alot of power available, alot of power that you and yours are nestled under.
In these lines and supports we have a helpful, spiritual reminder of the power that is always over our heads and avaliable to us. Here’s what I mean –
Those lines represent the Omnipotence of our fearful and loving God, that is always hanging just above our heads. Here’s the meaning of His power, of His “dunamis” that is available to us:
” Dunamis = Strentgh, ability. Inherent power residing in a thing. Power for miracles, moral power, excellence of soul, influence, resources and resting on armies, forces and hosts.”Strongs G #1411
His power lines are always energized, charged and flowing at full capacity. His power is not low voltage, high voltage or even ultra high voltage. His power created the power and energy in our sun, and it’s temperature is 10,000 degrees F at the surface, and millions of degrees F in the center. His power put those crazy atoms and their electrons orbiting with their energy in every single thing known to man.
Matthew 6:13- … yours is the power, oh Lord
Mark 12:24 – men don’t know the power of God
Luke 4:35 – the power of the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary
Luke 9:1 – Jesus gives us power and authority over all devils and diseases
Luke 10:19 – we have power to tread on serpents
Acts 3:12 – it’s not by might… but by the power of the Spirit
Romans 1:16 – I am not ashamed of the gospel… it is the power of God
Friend, you are nestled under the power lines of God. They are surrounding you. Everywhere you look or find yourself, you will see His power lines. They are over your head and so, so close. (Unless, of course, you are living in a place without electricity, then you won’t see the power lines, but the power will still be there for you.)
But notice please, that those power lines, in order for them to be effective, are supported by structures. Each structure is designed to not only carry the load imposed upon it, but also withstand the elements.
Let’s look at the structure of these two poles first.
These two poles, supporting the power lines can respesent the two pillars needed in our life of:
- Prayer – prayer has great power, James 5:16 tell us, and our prayer life supports the power of God in our life. Without the foundation of prayer, our power is not energized.
- The Word – His Word is living and active, sharp and powerful. When it is hidden in our hearts and we live by it, the power of God flows in and through us, as does His power. Hebrews 4:12; Psalms 119:9
Our personal prayer life and the time we spend reading, listening to and studying the Bible are the supports in our life we must have in order to experience the fullness of the power of God.
There’s another type of structure that supports these power lines tho’. It is called the tower.
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run into it and are safe.”Proverbs 18:10
Jesus is our tower of strength. The Lord, Almighty, is where I run for strength, refreshing, renewal, hope, peace, and happiness. And THAT, dear reader, is the support I must have, to expereince His power in my life. The tower that supports my power is Jesus, and His name alone. There is no other name under heaven….
So let’s put it together,
God’s power for the miraculous, for moral rightness, for influence, healings, excellence and even the release of angel armies is available to us, always. And what sustains, supports, and releases that power is our personal prayer life, bible reading, and finding our refuge in His name.
You see, my friend, you are nestled under His power lines, but it is time for that power to flow in your life and be shared with those around you. The power is there, available and sufficient for any need that you or those near you may face. Jesus is omnipotent, and you are connected to Him. Let His power flow through you.
How then, are your support structures?
Your prayer life? Your personal reading of the Word? Finding your refuge in Him and not other sources or influences in your life?
I pray that everytime you look around and see power poles and power lines, that the Holy Spirit will remind you of these ideas and encourage you to tap into God’s power, allowing Him to flow through you, rather than just be nestled under the powerlines.
Go with God,