Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sermon Manuscript: How To Vote for President

How to Vote For President
Kraig Lowell Pullam, M.Div.
Proverbs 11:3; 28:1; 29:2

During World War II, Winston Churchill was forced to make a painful choice. The British secret service had broken the Nazi code and informed Churchill that the Germans were going to bomb Coventry. He had two alternatives: (1) evacuate the citizens and save hundreds of lives at the expense of indicating to the Germans that the code was broken; or (2) take no action, which would kill hundreds but keep the information flowing and possibly same many more lives. Churchill had to choose and followed the second course. As I read of this incident, I thought about the face that the thin line between these two altering and alternative and historical choices was LEADERSHIP.

Many of us will soon be going to the polls and voting in the most important election of our lifetime.  You can be assured that the very future of our Republic is at stake.  And no Christian believer can rightly take this responsibility lightly.

As we examine the words of Solomon, the book of Proverbs is a very practical book with help for daily living.  Proverbs 29:2 says that, "When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn."  In the scripture it is clear that Godly leadership brings rejoicing, triumph and jubilation to a nation, while ungodly leadership brings sorrow, distress and disappointment to all.  

In the New Testament, it teaches that Christians are citizens of two realms; and that the believer has a responsibility to fulfill and a standard to uphold in each realm.  First, we are a citizen in the country in which we reside.  Respectively, that is the United States of America.  In a real sense, we are not only citizens of the country in which we live; but we are called to be good, honorable, law-abiding citizens.  Second (and most important), we are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, more specifically, the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.  And we are called to be good citizens of Christ’s kingdom in word, precept and deed.  And, mark it down: there is no conflict between the two.  For we are called to be good citizens and exercise our privileges in the kingdom of man and in the kingdom of God.  

Some of you may remember several years ago in 2000 the presidential election how close it was. And you can recall that it took several weeks after the election before we knew who had been elected president of the land in which we live.  And finally it had to be determined by the Supreme Court and the judicial system.  And perhaps if you are present and believe that your vote is irrelevant or inconsequential, just remember that the vote of the faithful people of God is vital if you are striving to be a good citizen of this nation and in the kingdom of almighty God.

Years ago, USA Today posted an article and it said: where would you spend Sunday morning?  Will you go to Home Depot or church?  Would you sing in the choir or play golf?  Voters who said they go to church every Sunday usually voted, according to USA Today, for the conservative candidate; while those who expressed going to church less often, or not at all, tended to vote for the more liberal candidate.  Let me rush to say to you that, contrary to popular belief, Jesus doesn’t belong to any particular party.  When it comes to many of the divisive issues that plague our politics, you can be sure that most every issue has its legitimate argument, but most of them are plagued by some alternative hidden agenda.  

But this much is true: over 5,000,000 evangelical Christians did not vote at all in the last presidential election. In a real sense, one out of four believers voted in the last presidential election; but many complained when their choice didn’t get in.  And Godly candidates are often defeated not by the activists and the radicals, but they are defeated by Christian people who are too lazy and who care too little about their citizenship to go to the polls and vote for the candidate who best represents the values of the Bible and of Christian people; and the heart of God.  

Now Christians needs to carry their spirituality and their hallelujahs into the voting booths.  And we have to choose candidates according to Biblical standards if we want to follow the principles of the Word of God.  I would not presume to tell you who to vote for; but I would assure you that it is never a straight ticket.  I would also assure you that many who suggest that God is moving in a certain direction doesn’t necessarily make it so.  

Here in the book of Proverbs we notice that Godly leadership brings rejoicing, triumph and delight to a nation.  I remember reading about Charles Finney, the great revivalist and evangelist of the Second and Third Great Awakenings in America.  He was one of the well-known evangelists of his time.  And Charles Finney said this: “…the time has come when Christians must vote for honest men.  And take consistent ground in politics.  God cannot sustain this free and blessed country that we love and pray for unless the church will take the right ground.  God will bless or curse this nation according to the course Christians take in politics.”

Now if you think that politics do not belong in the church then you are in the wrong place today because the Word of God teaches otherwise.  Admittedly, I cannot tell you who to vote for.  But I will tell you that Godly leadership brings rejoicing to the nation and, moreover, the Scripture teaches very clearly and succinctly how to recognize Godly leadership.

I want you to notice some characteristics that God's word gives us this morning.  

In April 1988 the evening news reported on a photographer who was a skydiver. He had jumped from a plane along with numerous other skydivers and filmed the group as they fell and opened their parachutes. On the film shown on the telecast, as the final skydiver opened his chute, the picture went berserk. The announcer reported that the cameraman had fallen to his death, having jumped out of the plane without his parachute. It wasn't until he reached for the absent ripcord that he realized he was freefalling without a parachute. Until that point, the jump probably seemed exciting and fun. But tragically, he had acted with thoughtless haste and deadly foolishness. Nothing could save him, for his faith was in a parachute never buckled on. Faith in anything but an all-sufficient God can be just as tragic spiritually. Only with faith in Jesus Christ dare we step into the dangerous excitement of life.

And herein the scripture says that when the righteous are in authority the people rejoice.  In contrast, when the unrighteous prevail, the people lament. Now the obvious question we must raise is: who is a righteous person?  Conversely, we are not righteous because of the eloquent words we may impart or the good deeds we may render.  The scripture teaches in Isaiah 64:6 that, ‘…all our righteousness is as filthy rags in the sight of a holy and righteous God.’  He is not talking about who has given the most to charity or who has done the most or who has gone to church the most; moreover he is talking about being righteous rather than DOING righteousness.  To be sure, DOING righteousness is important; but our DOING does us no good if our HEART is not right.  Titus 3:5 says that, ‘…it is not by works of righteousness which we have DONE but according to His mercy He saved us by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of God’s Holy Spirit WITHIN us.’  Being a godly leader who is a person of faith is based not on what is on the exterior, but that which resides in the interior.  Proverbs 4:23 declares, ‘…out of the heart flows the issues of life.’  Question: how are we made righteous?  We are made righteous when God declares us righteous according to our faith, and only our faith, in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Notice, if you will, the words of Paul the Apostle in Romans 4:24b-5: 1, "that we have no righteousness of our own, but to whom God will credit righteousness for us who believe in Him who raised Jesus from the dead.  He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.  Therefore since we have been justified (declared righteous) by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." 

The Bible teaches us that the only righteousness that exists is the righteousness of Jesus Christ, which is given and granted by faith.  And if we depend on our own righteousness we will die and go to hell and spend eternity without God.  But God has provided for us a righteousness that we can receive as a free gift of God.  And it tells us that when we believe God's Word and receive Christ and confess Him as Savior, in that moment God declares us righteous and He looks at us as though we had never sinned.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, in saying that a Godly leader is a man of faith, I am saying that he is a man who has received Christ as his Savior.  The definition of a Godly leader is one who has trusted in Christ as His personal Savior and Redeemer.  Now there are some who would suggest that it doesn't matter whether or not the leader of this nation or the mayor of our town or the governor of our state or whatever leaders they may be are Christians or not?  However, this is patently not true.  The prophets said to Jehoshaphat (this godly leader) about his attachment to Ahab (this evil leader):  “Shouldest thou hate the ungodly and love them that hate the Lord?” 

And that captured my attention.  “Shouldest thou love the godly and help those who hate the Lord?”  Take a moment and substitute love for vote:  Should you vote for those who hate righteousness and hate Christ?  Can you be a Christian and really exercise your duty before a righteous God and declare your right to vote in the direction of one who declares that Jesus is not the only way to the Father?  You see a Godly leader is a man of faith.

You say, “…nobody is faultless.”  Take not that, in Scripture, faultless does not mean without sin.  An anonymous writer has said, ‘If you think you have no faults, that makes another one!’  What, then, does it mean to be faultless?  It is nakah in the Hebrew writing of the Old Testament rendering of the word.  First, it means PURITY OF CHARACTER; a faultless man has purity of character.  Proverbs 11:5 says this, "The righteousness of the blameless makes a straight way for them, but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness."  The word blameless is a word also used in the New Testament about the qualification for pastors.  It says that a pastor must be blameless.  That doesn't mean he is perfect or sinless, for Romans 3:23 affirms that ‘all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.’  Pastors sin just as much as anybody else.  But he must be blameless.  To be blameless means that as far as people can see, his character, motives and intentions are pure.  That his outward life has nothing in it that brings reproach on the kingdom of God or an embarrassment to those that he leads.  And the same thing applies to those who lead in government.   

Proverbs 11:20, "The LORD detests men of perverse heart but he delights in those whose ways are blameless."   This is purity of character.  Sometimes people get excited and they let charisma, popularity, crowds, the evangelical consensus, friendship circles and even peer pressure take the place of seeking a man who is faultless.  

See if you can identify this world leader.  Times were never better.  The national economy was strong during his tenure.  Inflation, which had plagued the country for twenty years, was under control.  Peace and prosperity characterized the nation.  Many consider him to be one of the most gifted politicians to come on the national stage.  One journalist wrote of him, although there was uneasiness about his character and the allegations of corruption and immorality swirled around him, none of his political opponents could touch him.  He was too slick for his accusations to stick.  So charming and personable was this leader that the religious leaders overlooked his lack of integrity. 

Do you think you know whom I am talking about?  Well, if you think it is Bill Clinton you are wrong!  It is Adolph Hitler.  These words were written about Adolph Hitler in 1940, just a few centuries before Hitler came to power, Germany was the bastion of spiritual faith.  It was the place where Protestantism was born.  It was the sight of the Great Reformation and Great Revival in Europe.  What was it that brought this nation from being such a great spiritual power to being a nation who committed the Holocaust?   Well, the people began to overlook the flaws in their leader's character and began to overlook the obvious immorality and lack of integrity and instead they were charmed by a fanatic's deceitful words.   And a whole nation bought it, hook, line, and sinker.

So a man who is flless must possess purity of character.  Secondly it means PRINCIPLES OF CONVICTION.  Look at Proverbs 11:3, "The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity." Have you ever met a person who says one thing and does another?  Further, have you ever run into a friend who expresses to you a view at one moment that fully contradicts what they said to you at a different time and circumstance?  In the same fashion, there are politicians who say one thing and do another.  As Kingdom Citizens, we are to be people whose word matches our bond; and we are to expect our governmental leaders to do the same.  There are some politicians who, when they are with a church crowd they talk the way the church crowd does and when they are with Hollywood, they talk the way Hollywood does.  There are politicians who speak one way with their own party, but will speak another way when they are looking to appeal for the popular vote.  There are politicians who will run around and suggest one things in public, but another when they are with their friends.  That is what he is talking about in Proverbs 11:3 when he says; the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity, that is hypocrisy.

I heard about a little boy that was in Sunday School.  And the teacher had told the story of the rich man and Lazarus.  You remember the story, how the rich man enjoyed his life and poor old Lazarus was a beggar who was full of sores and sat at his gate.  But the rich man didn't know God.  So when he died he went to hell.  But you know, when Lazarus died, his worries were over and he went to heaven.  So the teacher said, now children who would you rather be, the rich man or Lazarus?  The little boy stuck up his hand and he said, I know.  I would want to be the rich man while I’m alive and Lazarus when I die!  That is the way a lot of people are in this country.  They want it both ways and you can't have it both ways.  

Ask yourself the question as you vote: what are his or her convictions?  Where do they stand with regard to the issue of abortion prior to birth?  But take note that that is only half the battle.  If murder is wrong prior to birth then it must be wrong after birth.  There are duplicitous Christians who have become one-sided and exercise partiality and prejudice.  Not only what are their convictions regarding abortion prior to birth, but what are their convictions regarding war and putting our innocent children who are already born in harm’s way to promote an unjust war?  Where do they stand on traditional marriage?  Where do they stand on faith in the public discourse?  How does he or she stand with regard to woman’s rights; and the rights of those who are less fortunate and them who are disenfranchised?  The Godly Leader who is faultless has principles of conviction.  Let it be clear that conviction doesn’t cower in an effort to gain political ground.  You can always sense conviction, for conviction often stands when it would be in their best interest to bow.  
Abraham Lincoln stood for the abolition of slavery, though it was unpopular.  He was a man of conviction.

Martin Luther stood up against the Catholic church and the belief that one must confess Christ to be saved and baptized, though it would cost him his life.  He was a man of conviction.

Rosa Parks stood up against prejudice and segregation, though she ran the risk of being beaten and even murdered.  She was a woman of conviction.

And, even today, there are leaders (political and spiritual) who stand against injustices toward those who are disadvantaged and need to be lifted up.  These are men and women of conviction.

Number three he has PURPOSE OF COMPASSION.  Look at Proverbs 29:7; 14, "The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern. If a king judges the poor with fairness, his throne will always be secure."  To be sure compassion for the poor doesn't mean giving everyone a handout.  It is the unrighteous who are a territorial and tyrannical mentality that goes to the extreme of suggesting nobody deserves any help.    To be sure, God never intended for people who are healthy and can work to live on the backs of those of us who do work and pay taxes.  But there is a segment within the political stream who fail to realize that some won’t work but there are many who can’t work.  I am afraid that there is a certain group cut from a so-called Christian, evangelical cloth that may be theological but it not biblical.  For the Bible I read says in Proverbs 17:5 that, ‘Whosoever mocks the poor insults his Maker; and he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.’  The Bible also says that, when Jesus arrives on the scene, He does not come looking out the interests of wall street, the wealthy or the well-to-do; but He comes speaking the words of Isaiah which state: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed…”  

Interestingly, I think of the words of John C. Maxwell, who writes in his book, ‘Winning with People’: When I was a kid growing up in Ohio, I didn’t know much about the world.  And that led me to have a rather narrow view of life when I was a young man.  I remember thinking that anyone, regardless of circumstances, could get ahead through hard work.  Then I took a trip to a developing country, and I saw people who worked much harder than I did but were unable to escape poverty.  My thinking began to change as my world enlarged.

Maxwell went on to say that in order to change focus, people need to get out of their own little world.  And there are leaders and politicians who are stuck in their own little world.  Godly leaders are concerned about 100% of those who live in a world that is filled with sin, heartache, pain and disappointment, injustices for the poor, lack of adequate healthcare for seniors, discrimination against others because of race, gender or beliefs.  

One of the greatest things I have ever seen is people in government, from our previous president to current president, is in admitting that the church can do more to rehabilitate the alcoholic, the drug addict, the economically disinherited recognizing that the church can do more for individuals than any other kind of group within modern society.  

Ask yourself as you vote, does he or she have a purpose of compassion?  This is truly the character of Christ.  The Scripture teaches that we serve a God who has a purpose of compassion.  On many occasions, we see Jesus in scripture on His way to perform an assignment; but we often see how Jesus would stop in the rush of the moment out of compassion for others.  Mark 6:34 says, ‘He had compassion…for He saw sheep without a shepherd.’  Matthew 14:14 says, ‘He had compassion…and began to heal the sick and give sight to the blind.’  Matthew 9:36 says, ‘He had compassion…because they were harassed and helpless.’  Luke 10:33 says that he saw and a Samaritan and, ‘He had compassion.’  

Compassion cares for the haves and the have-nots; not just the haves and the have-mores.  Compassion will roll up its sleeves and fight for healthcare for everybody when you already have it for yourself.  Compassion is not just concerned about getting all it can, canning all it gets and sitting on the can and to hell with those who can’t.  

But compassion says even if your parents can’t afford to send you off to school, in this land of opportunity, that opportunity doesn’t just exist for those whose family can afford to send them off to the ivory towers of higher learning.

This is purpose of compassion!

I happen upon a story told about 5-year old Johnny, who was in the kitchen as his mother made supper on one particular afternoon. She asked him to go into the pantry and get her a can of tomato soup, but he didn't want to go in alone. "It's dark in there and I'm scared." She asked again, and he persisted. Finally she said, "It's OK--Jesus will be in there with you." Johnny walked hesitantly to the door and slowly opened it. He peeked inside, saw it was dark, and started to leave when all at once an idea came, and he said: "Jesus, if you're in there, would you hand me that can of tomato soup?"

Proverbs 28:1 says, "The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion."  I want to tell you that in the shape we are in as a nation and world, with where we’ve been over the past decade, we don't need a weak kneed, watery-eyed, candy legged character leading the nation in these days.  We need what the writer terms, ‘…the boldness of a lion.’  In many ways, our country is in greater danger than we were in in the Cold War because now people have access to nuclear weapons that do not care when and where they use it, who do not negotiate at anybody's table.  And they may use it anywhere, any time; they are a nameless, faceless enemy who work under no flag, who wear no uniform.  And we are facing a crisis in this world.  And at the same time, we are fighting a culture war in the United States as we speak.  And it is going to take leaders and people as bold as a lion.  

I love lions; admittedly, it (along with the Tiger) is my favorite animal.  I can give you many character traits of the lion.  But at the top of my list, the lion has no fear.  

During World War II, a military governor met with General George Patton in Sicily. When he praised Patton highly for his courage and bravery, the general replied, "Sir, I am not a brave man. . . The truth is, I am an utter craven coward. I have never been within the sound of gunshot or in sight of battle in my whole life that I wasn't so scared that I had sweat in the palms of my hands." Years later, when Patton's autobiography was published, it contained this significant statement by the general: "I learned very early in my life never to take counsel of my fears."

And that is what you and I need in leadership.  You need a pastor who isn’t afraid to stand up and declare the unsearchable mysteries of the Word of God, at the risk of losing his job.  You need elected officials who are more concerned about the convictions of their heart than they are the popular consensus of the crowd.  

One example of fearless leadership was President Ronald Reagan at the Berlin Wall.  All of his advisors told him not to go to Germany.  They said the political situation is too tense; don't go to East Germany the communists are upset with your policies.  Russia may escalate the arms race if you go there.  All of his advisors advised against it.  And then he was asked to speak at the Berlin Wall, The Iron Curtain, all of his advisors said, Mr. President, don't speak, don't do it.  You don't have to do it.   They will just use it against you.  Play it safe.  Then his speechwriter said, after he read his speech, don't say these words that you have planned to say.  But Mr. Reagan ignored them all because he had a fearlessness and a conviction that now was the time to give the Cold War a death blow.  So he stood at the Berlin Wall and he courageously thundered forth those words, Mr. Gorbachov, if you want peace, if you want the United States to be your friend, and then point your missiles away from Western Europe.  Mr. Gorbachov, if you want peace, tear down this WALL! 

And hear me today, loved ones.  This is the kind of leadership we continually need in this day.  We need leaders who will be fearless.  

Mark Hatfield tells of touring Calcutta with Mother Teresa and visiting the so-called "House of Dying," where sick children are cared for in their last days, and the dispensary, where the poor line up by the hundreds to receive medical attention. Watching Mother Teresa minister to these people, feeding and nursing those left by others to die, Hatfield was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the suffering she and her co-workers face daily. "How can you bear the load without being crushed by it?" he asked. Mother Teresa replied, "My dear Senator, I am not called to be successful, I am called to be faithful." 

The Bible says in Proverbs 11:3, "The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity."  The word ‘integrity’ in the Hebrew tongues is nawkoach, and it means ‘straigthforward, equitable, correct and undefiled.’  We need to know that when a man puts his hand on the Bible and he swears to uphold and defend the law of the Constitution of the United States of America, that he will faithfully carry out that promise.  We believe, that while he is called to be our president, not the chief Bible Scholar, theologian or Sunday School teacher, we need to know that when he puts his hand on the Bible that he believes in the Bible on which his hand rests and resides.  And he knows that it is the Word of God and believes it IS the Word of God; and that there is NO OTHER WORD!  And he looks to it for guidance. Let me ask you: What Bible does he or she read? What Bible does he or she practice?  What Bible does he or she believe in?

There are Bible studies all over the White House every day.  Even Congress, even the Senate and the House, there are Bible studies everyday by Godly leaders.  We have Godly leaders in this land.  We are blessed with men who have given up so much to serve.  They have given up their privacy, they have given up their fortunes, they have given up their businesses, they have given up time with their families in order to be a leader in our land and we ought to thank God for them.  We ought to thank them and be grateful for them.

But we need a leader who will be faithful because he must persevere at all costs.  He must persevere under the stress and tremendous demands of the office that he holds.  

Calvin Coolidge is noted to have said:
Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Mark it down: God outlines in His Word what will happen to a nation under the Godly leader.  

Benjamin Rush, a member of the Continental Congress, had the attitude we should be looking for in our legislators: "I have alternately been called an aristocrat and a democrat. I am neither. I am a Christocrat." That is what we need to be is Christocrats.  We need to vote for those who represent the values that we cherish and uphold the principles that we hold dear; and the things that we know to be the true and the faithful Word of God.

We need a leader like Moses who is determined to obey God no matter what.  
We need generals like Joshua who knew God and could pray and shout down walls. 
We need politicians like Joseph who walked with God and fashioned policy after His will.  
We need preachers like Peter who had the courage to look people in the eye and say repent or perish. 
We need mothers like Hannah who will pray for their children and when God gives them children they will give them back to God.  
We need children like Samuel who will talk to God in the hours of the night and honor their parents in the hours of the day.  
We need physicians like Luke who not only cared for the physical needs but also cared for the spiritual needs of his patients and introduced them to the Lord Jesus Christ.  
We need a God like Israel's God, not the man upstairs but the thrice-Holy God of Israel.  
We need a Savior like Jesus who can save anyone at anytime, anywhere that people will call upon Him.

One stormy night an elderly couple entered the lobby of a small hotel and asked for a room. The clerk said they were filled, as were all the hotels in town. "But I can't send a fine couple like you out in the rain," he said. "Would you be willing to sleep in my room?" The couple hesitated, but the clerk insisted. The next morning when the man paid his bill, he said, "You're the kind of man who should be managing the best hotel in the United States. Someday I'll build you one." The clerk smiled politely. A few years later the clerk received a letter from the elderly man, recalling that stormy night and asking him to come to New York. A round-trip ticket was enclosed. When the clerk arrived, his host took him to the corner of 5th Avenue and 34th Street, where stood a magnificent new building. "That," explained the man, "is the hotel I have built for you to manage." The man was William Waldorf Astor, and the hotel was the original Waldorf-Astoria. The young clerk, George C. Boldt, became its first manager.
And that is what I want; and that is what I need – leaders like Jesus, who care about the left out, the least, the last and the lost.  Those who exemplify how Jesus lived.  Philippians 1 says Jesus Christ humbled Himself….that I may know Him….

I don't know why Jesus loved me
I don't know why He cared
I don't know why He sacrificed His life
Oh, but I'm glad, so glad He did
He left His mighty throne in glory
To bring to us redemption's story
Then He died but He rose again
Oh, but I'm glad, so glad He did.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sunday in Retrospect

Somehow, I missed chronicling my last Lord's Day events.

It was a very hectic weekend, to say he least.  This was my sermon outline for the morning, at the Mt. Salem Church....

When God Meets Us in Tight Places
Psalm 3:1-8

CIT: God's resources are available and sufficient in life's moments of tension and difficulty.

I. David cried out his lament to God.  (David's Charge) Psalm 3:1-2

II. David made a strong confession of trust. (David's Confession) Psalm 3:3-4

David strongly confesses 4 important truths:

When no one would help him; God was his shield.

2) When David had nothing to treasure, God was his glory.

3) When there was no one to encourage him, God Himself would encourage him and lift his head.

4) When David cried out God heard him from His holy hill.

III. David’s faith was determined. (David's Courage) Psalm 3:5-6

IV. David continued to lift his plea to God. (David's Cry) Psalm 3:7-8

In the afternoon p, we journeyed to the Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, in Goliad, Texas, where Rev. Melvin Bedford serves as Pastor.  The church celebrated its church anniversary, and his was also the 85th homecoming of the church.  My paternal family is from Goliad, Texas and, needless to say, I have a few family members who are a part of his historical church.  It was good to see many relatives and familiar faces.  For the afternoon, I shared from Psalm 118.  The Lord was kind!

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Sunday in Retrospect

Today I continued in Matthew chapter 5:17-20 regarding Christ and the Law.  While it proved to be a difficult passage to both cover and preach, I enjoyed the challenge required to develop this passage into sermonic form.  Honestly, I have a deeper respect and appreciation for those preachers and expositors who have successfully travailed and journeyed through Christ’s great Sermon, recorded in Matthew chapters 5 through 7. 
The following is my sermon outline:
Sermon Subject: God’s Word on The Word
Sermon Text: Matthew 5:17-20
  1. Jesus believed that the Word of God is Inspired
  1. Jesus believed that the Word of God is Eternal.  (Vss. 17 & 18)
  1. Christ fulfills His Word through Prefigures
  1. Christ fulfills His Word through Prophecies
  1. Christ fulfills His Word through Precepts
  1. He wants us to practice it (Verse 19a)
  1. He wants us to proclaim it (Verse 19b)
  1. He wants us to perfect it (Verse 20)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday in Retrospect

What a great day this has been!  The Lord smiled upon the pastor and people of Mt. Salem this Lord's Day as we worshipped together around God's Word and in fellowship with God and one another.  

Alas...I continued our study in the Sermon on the Mount, picking up with our exposition of Matthew 5.

Subject: You Are the Light of the World
Text: Matthew 5:14-16

I. THE PRESUPPOSITION OF LIGHT (The Darkness of the World)

a. The Iniquity of Darkness (Proverbs 4:19; John 3:19)

b. The Ignorance of Darkness (John 1:5)

II. THE PLAN OF LIGHT (The Dominion of the Believer)

Verse 16 He says, “Let your light so shine.”  

What is God’s plan to deal with this dark and benighted world?  His plan is US!  

Verses 13-14 that are emphatic: “You and only you are the salt.  You and you only are the light.  If you don’t do it, there is nobody else who can.”  

We have been given the light, and now we are caretakers of the light.  (2 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 5:8)

III. THE PROBLEM OF LIGHT (The Danger of Failure)
He gives here in this text two illustrations: one is of a 1) city and the other of a 2) cottage.  

Jesus’ concern in the text is clear and succinct: the light that He entrusts to us must not be covered up!  

IV. THE PURPOSE OF LIGHT (The Dignity of God)

a. Repels Darkness

b. Reveals Danger

c. Recognizes Delusion

d. Rejects Disease

We thank God for the two who came forward today to rededicate their life.  Also, one baptism today.  Before the conclusion. Of our morning Worship, we communed together around the Lord's Table.  

After this, our congregation enjoyed a nice dinner together in our fellowship hall.  Hats off to our kitchen crew.  They did an outstanding job, as usual.  

If The Lord says the same, I hope to continue our teaching series on The Voice: Hearing God's Voice, and continue our exposition of Matthew 5 next Lord's Day.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Shaping Your Life

The media scandals of a few years ago gave us a painful reminder that there's a Grand Canyon of difference between reputation and character, and that popularity isn't always a guarantee of spirituality.  It's possible to get a flowing but not necessarily promote God's work.  You can fool many of the people some of the time, but eventually the truth comes out. 

Life is built on character, but character is built on decisions.  The decisions you make, small or great, do to your life what the sculptor's chisel does to the block or marble.  You are shaping your life by your thoughts, attitudes, and actions and becoming either more or less like Jesus Christ.  The more you are like Christ, the more God can trust you with His blessing.

- Warren Wiersbe, On Being a Servant of God, Pg.41

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Get Out of Your "Own Little World"

When I was a kid growing up in Ohio, I didn't know much about the world.  And that led me to have a rather narrow view of life when I was a young man.  I remember thinking that anyone, regardless of circumstances, could get ahead through hard work.  Then I took a trip to a developing country, and I saw people who worked much harder than I did but were unable to escape poverty.  My thinking began to change as my world enlarged.
To change focus, people need to get out of their own little world.  If you have a narrow view of people, go places you have never gone, meet the kind of people you do not know, and do things you have not done before.  It will change your perspective, as it has done mind.

- John C. Maxwell, Winning With People, Pg.65, Thomas Nelson Publishers, c2004

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday in Retrospect

Today we had a good day in worship on the Lord's Day.

Last Sunday we celebrated our annual Men & Women's Day.  As our theme, we chose Philippians 4:8 and the theme: Men & Women Walking in Love, Wisdom and Integrity.  One of our new members, Derrick Garrett, did a short theme in the morning.  D'Ani did the afternoon theme.  They both did a great job!

After taking a break from Matthew 5 on September 9, preaching on the Philippians 4:8 passage myself, I have somewhat abandoned my preaching schedule.  Today was no different.  I chose a passage out of Mark chapter 5, dealing with Jairus' encounter with Christ, and the interruptive encounter of the nameless woman with the 12-year old issue; and the impact this took on the dilemma, emotions and faith of Jairus.  Admittedly, I preached this passage years ago. Actually, the same sermon, essentially.

Here is the short outline form:
There Are Lessons in Listening

Mark 5:34-43

When you learn to listen...

I. Jesus will transform chance into belief

II. Jesus can teach us to eliminate distractions

III.  Jesus can take the impossible and move beyond schedule

All week long, I have come to several conclusions.  One....my preaching has changed since being at Mt. Salem.  Some of this could be my congregational makeup, and how invariably different it is from my previous congregation, or maybe an element of my own life circumstances, to perhaps my own spiritual growth and broadening worldview, and a list of other dynamics.  But...if I am honest, I took one of my previous 'sticks', and it didn't fly as I know it previously has.  Admittedly, I did not immerse myself into preparing as I should have.  In both prayer and preparation, I could have gone 'deeper.'.

All in all, God allowed some to be touched by the message....I trust.

Now...I am hoping to pick up with Matthew 5:14-16.

In other news...the Cowboys and Texans both pulled out a win.  Karter Lowelle, our baby boy, turns 2 tomorrow.  That's a big deal; and I think he knows it....no help to his parents and 2 older brothers.  We love that boy! Happy Birthday Karter!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Be An Original...Well, An Original Copy! (Part Seven)

As last stated....my major disappointment came in April of ’97.....

In April of 1997, a letter from Morehouse College, stating that I had NOT been accepted!  I felt as if all of my dreams had been shattered.  By then, I just knew that I would be accepted, especially after being accepted into Baylor College.  This was not the case.  It took me years after to publicly admit that I had not been accepted.  But, yes, I was NOT accepted into Morehouse!  Then I seemed to receive clear direction.  The idea of Dallas Baptist kept popping up.  However, I had no desire to attend such an unpopular, ‘boring’ school; and saw no way how this would fit into God’s ultimate plan for my life and ministry; and how this would even connect to my intended plan of attending Princeton.  Plus…I HATED Dallas!  But along the way, doors began to open at Dallas Baptist.  It was clear to me, if no one else – that is where God wanted me!

Just after graduating high school, and being accepted into Dallas Baptist University, our city (Corpus Christi) hosted a City-Wide revival.  Interestingly, the preachers who were on to share that week just so happened to hail from Dallas.  One of the evangelists was Frederick D. Haynes, III.  When I finally heard him preach, I thought he was good, but different.  After a while, his preaching began to grow on me.  While I didn’t connect with his exposition at first, I was blown away by his linguistic ability, his use of words (which sort of reminded me of A. Louis Patterson) and his seeming ability to touch the heart of the hip hop culture.  One of the things that fascinated me, when it came to the preaching of Frederick Haynes, is that he seemed to get a very enthusiastic response and dialogue from the crowd without ever utilizing the ‘hoop’.  In fact, it seemed to me, the response was even stronger!  It was then, that I began to develop atleast a momentary confidence and comfort in my ability to ‘tell the story’ and use my mind to speak to and capture the hearts and minds of the hearer.  During that season of my life, this is when Haynes became very instrumental in my use of illustration and introductions in my sermon delivery.  For me, Haynes’s preaching never failed to provide me with anecdotes, word pictures and heart-wrenching questions that would help me to build my own sermons and content.  Unfortunately, it somewhat became a crutch along the way.  I began to study less and listen to tapes for insight and enlightenment.  I discovered at the moments when my study would outweigh the listening aspect, my preaching would be more empowering; and when I listened and copied more, studying less…it had the opposite effect. 

As I prepared to go off the school in the fall of ’97, I was very excited about attending some of the churches of the preachers I had grown to admire.  Unfortunately….my parents didn’t allow me to take my car that fall.  Incidentally, the only church within walking distance of our aloof campus was The Potter’s House of Dallas, where Bishop T.D. Jakes served as the founding pastor.  At that time, Jakes was somewhat of a stigma, seen as highly charismatic and highly misunderstood.  For many, he was very new; and had yet to gain the crossover title of ‘The next Billy Graham’, friends with presidents, renowned publisher, Dr. Phil consultant, Oprah friend, etc.  To say the least, I had to sneak over to his church.  This was during a time when Saturday services were quite new.  I left my dorm room at about 5:30pm, and walked over to The Potter’s House.  Whatever I had seen regarding a ‘church crowd’ paled in comparison to what I saw that night.  Of course, this would be the beginning of what I would encounter in Dallas, but this was ‘epic’.  Imagine coming from Corpus Christi, where things were a little ‘simpler’, entering into a church with thousands of people there, on a Saturday night, with screens, music that could rival a Michael Jackson or Madonna concert, and ball players within you eyeview.  I guess you can say that it was ‘culture shock’.  Interestingly, this was my first experience seeing an epilogue leading up to the worship, and an actual countdown to the opening of the worship experience.  What seems so commonplace now was quite astonishing to me then.  During this first-class worship experience, Jakes comes out!  I don’t know how I remember what the people wear; but I actually know he had on a mauve suit with a curved lapel jacket.  I noticed that, as he stood in the pulpit, he seemed to be in a modus operandi of CEO; checking out the staff, musicians, crowd, etc.  Then he stepped to the podium and welcomed everyone to worship.  After his welcome, he actually came down and shook hands.  Somehow, he and I shook hands.  Tough I would come to know his children in the coming years, that was really the only encounter I’ve had with him personally.  One thing is clear….he preached!  Though different from most of the preaching I’d grown accustomed to; I vividly remember being a little shocked that he preached a solid message.  Don't ask me why I was shocked...I guess during that time many only knew of Jakes as a Pentecostal preacher who hollered and screamed.  Somehow, I played into the hype.  But there was and is not doubt in my mind that, even in listening to the sermon today (I somehow managed to purchase the sermon), the quality and content of his sermon was solid and strong.  He preached, ‘Christ in Crisis’, from an obscure passage in Colossians, dealing with the all-sufficiency of Christ, along with the familiar story of Christ in the boat with his disciples.  I remember walking back, as all of those nice cars left the building…uplifted by the message; while also saying to myself, ‘I can’t do that!’?.....

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sharing in Suffering

Try...to increase your knowledge of this Mystery of Redemption. - This knowledge will lead you to love - and love will make you share through your sacrifices in the Passion of Christ.

...Without suffering, our work would just be social work, very good and helpful, but it would not be the work of Jesus Christ, not part of the redemption. - Jesus wanted to help us by sharing our life, our loneliness, our agony and death.  All that He has taken upon Himself, and has caqrried it in the darkest night.  Only by being one with us He has redeemed us.  We are allowed to do the same: All the desolation of the poor people, not only their material poverty, but their spiritual destitution must be redeemed, and we must have our share in it. - Pray thus when you find it hard - "I wish to live in this world which is so far from God, which has turned so much from the light of Jesus, to help them - to take upon me something of their suffering." - Yes...let us share the sufferings...for only be being one with them - we can redeem them, that is, bringing God into their lives and bringing them to God.

- Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light, The Private Writings of the "Saint of Calcutta", Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., Doubleday Broadway Publishing Group, c2007, pg.220

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Life & Language

To speak of the person as a living human document is to acknowledge this connection between life and language.  It is to acknowledge that to understand what Boisen calls the inner world is dependent upon understanding the language by which that inner world of experience is connected to external events.  To understand the inner world of another is therefore a task of interpretation—interpretation of a world of experience that is itself an interpretation of the myriad events and relationships that make up a life.  Said another way, the task of understanding another in the depth of that other’s inner world is a hermeneutical task.  It is therefore subject to all the problems and possibilities that the interpretation of an ancient document, such as a New Testament Gospel or Epistle, involves.  The difference is that this document is living and continues to disclose itself in new language and behavior that expresses its inner world.  – The Living Human Document, Charles V. Gerkin, Abingdon Press, c1984

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Sunday in Retrospect

What a wonderful, yet challenging day, it has been!

The weekend started off great.  Kaden, our five-year old, has been under the weather.  As a consequence, D'Ani and Karter stayed behind with him in Houston as Kai and I journeyed to Victoria on Saturday for a Christian gospel concert being help at the Victoria Fine Arts Center.  I must admit, I was quite impressed by the venue, attendance, the flow of the service, etc.  An up and coming gospel artist, Chester D.T. Baldwin did a phenomenal job taking the crowd to 'church.'.

While my mind and thoughts were in Pearland, and on the recovery of my 5-year old, my short time with Kai and being at Saturday's event were quite enriching and rewarding.

Sunday morning came fast!  Little did I know that Saturday's enrichment would empower me to deal with varying personalities on Sunday.  In my 34 years of life, I have learned continually that life is a  journey, not a destination; pastoring isn't for the faint of heart; sheep are dumb and they bite; it's important to love God's people irrespective of their stations in life; worship is not a spectator sport! All in all, God is faithful; and those personalities will be dealt with during the course of the week.  I paused from my study in Matthew 5 from the Sermon on the Mount and took a text from Phillippians 4:8-9.  This is our theme for next week's observance of our Men and Women Annial Day.  

Here is the simple outline:

I. The admonishment of Godly Attributes.

II. The attainment of Godly Associations

III.  The acceptance of Godly Actions

All in all, I am excited about what God is doing in my life and ministry.  Oh, how He stretches us by stretching our faith and experiences.  Even my commitment to continually blog and chronicle my walks of faith have served as a strengthening of my own discipline and spiritual formation.  

Ironically, my day concluded with a dear pastor friend of mine calling in his moment of disappointment and disillusionment regarding his pastoral experience.  This was quite disheartening after knowing of his moving his young family to another area of the country for this particular ministry venture, only to encounter difficulty and seeming hardship in the move, a few years later.  I had to remind him of our charge to go where God sends us, bloom where He plants us, remain where God places us, and stand still until God speaks.  Comfort is not always a sign of God's presence any more than inconvenience is an indicator of God's conspicuous absence.  God is in every detail, every adversity and in every obstacle that seems insurmountable.  Often, God is trying to stretch you!

I thank GOD for stretching!!!