Doors of Opportunity

In Colossians 4:3, Paul urges the church in Colossae to pray that God will open a door for the word so that Paul can proclaim the gospel to the lost.  Not surprisingly, for as long as I’ve been a Christian, I’ve heard Christians similarly praying that God will open doors.  I think it’s wonderful practice to do exactly that.

However, I’m not at all sure that brethren are as comfortable with recognizing and going through doors as they are praying for them.  It’s one thing to be abstractly in favor of evangelism; it’s quite another to look at a friend or a neighbor and say, “That’s someone who might well be receptive to the gospel, so I’m going to talk to them about it!”  It doesn’t do a lot of good, though, to constantly be crying out to God for opportunities while neglecting the ones we have.  This evening, then, let’s consider the subject of doors of opportunity. Continue reading

The Case for the Resurrection

When it comes to our faith, there is no more important question than whether or not Jesus was raised from the dead.  If He was raised, everything else about our faith stands.  If He was not raised, everything else about it falls.  The resurrection is the cornerstone of Christianity.

However, this creates problems when we talk about our faith with unbelievers.  We accept the resurrection because we accept the Bible as inspired; they reject the resurrection because they don’t accept the inspiration of Scripture.  There, the matter tends to rest.

A few years ago, though, I encountered a book that offers a solution to this religious impasse.  It’s called The Case for the Resurrection, by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona.  Frankly, I think their method is brilliant.  Rather than considering the Scriptures from faith, they adopt the approach of scholarly skepticism.  They ask, “What are the things that nearly all scholars of the Bible, believers, agnostics, and atheists alike, agree are true?”  Then, using only this evidence accepted by the scholarly consensus, they are still able to establish as a historical fact that Jesus rose from the dead.  What I’d like to do this morning, then, is work through the argument of The Case for the Resurrection. Continue reading

Why Should I Be Baptized?

There are few subjects in the Bible that cause as much confusion as the subject of baptism.  I’ve always found this rather bewildering.  After all, there are at least a dozen passages that clearly outline why people in the first century were baptized, and why we should be baptized today.  One would think that the subject wouldn’t be difficult for anybody with a Bible and the reading-comprehension skills of a sixth-grader!

However, the opposite is true.  People have been misunderstanding baptism for centuries, and today, the misunderstanding is as widespread as ever.  They’re confused about the appropriate mode of baptism, which we don’t have time to discuss this evening, and they don’t understand why they should be baptized in the first place.

We need to address these errors for several reasons.  First, we have to understand the purpose of Bible baptism for the sake of our own souls.  If we get this wrong, we will be eternally lost because of our mistake, and that’s a sobering thought!  Second, we need to know so that we can teach others.  With both of these goals in mind, then, let’s look at several answers that people offer to the question, “Why should I be baptized?” Continue reading

A Future and a Hope

These days, it is probably true that the Bible verse that is misapplied more than any other is Jeremiah 29:11.  Over the past 10 years or so, prosperity-gospel types have used it to “prove” that God is planning to give every individual Christian earthly riches and earthly happiness.  When we read on a little bit, though, the passage starts to take on a different dimension.  Look at Jeremiah 29:12-14.  At this point, it becomes obvious that God isn’t addressing any individual at all.  He’s speaking to His people as a whole.  They have been carried into exile and are in an apparently hopeless situation, but God is still going to be with them and bless them.

Today, we still can take great encouragement from this.  We aren’t in exile, but I think it is true that most of us don’t like the way things are headed in our country today.  It’s easy for us to look at the moral decline around us and grow discouraged, but the most important factor in our service to God is not our circumstances.  It is the blessing He bestows on those who seek it.  This morning, then, I want to look at why we can be confident that we have a future and a hope too. Continue reading

Heaven Bound for Seniors

A couple of weeks back, after my “Heaven Bound for Singles” sermon, I mentioned to Bradley that my next sermon in the series would be directed at older Christians.  “You’d better make it interesting, then,” he replied.  “Otherwise, we’re likely to go to sleep on you.”

All humor aside, the reality is that old age is a very different stage of life.  The boundaries of this time aren’t sharply defined—getting your AARP card in the mail doesn’t automatically age you 20 years—but most Christians sooner or later find themselves in a very different place.  Their physical abilities are different.  Their mental abilities are different.  Their relationships with other Christians are different.  Indeed, the ways they serve God are different.  It can be extremely difficult to reconcile all of these changes with a sense of self that they established when they were 40.

At this point, I’m reasonably certain that some of you are thinking, “Yes, we know all this, but what do you know about it, o preacher who is 40 years younger than I am?”  Admittedly, I haven’t gone through all of these things myself, but I did go through them with my dad.  He and I were very close, particularly during the last years of his life, and I learned a lot from him about the experience of growing old and even dying.

Similarly, while I was writing this sermon, I did research.  I called older Christian friends of mine, went through my outline with them, and asked them what they thought.  My final product this morning reflects those things, so with much humility, and with some trepidation about outrunning my experience, I’d like to talk to you about what it means to be heaven bound for seniors. Continue reading

Heaven Bound for Singles

I’ve never met a Christian who believed that you had to be married to go to heaven.  However, sometimes the way that we treat the subject might give the opposite impression.  Churches all over the country hold gospel meetings on marriage and the family, but I’ve never even heard of a gospel meeting aimed at the unmarried.  The same holds true with Bible classes.  I’ve been in all kinds of marriage-enrichment classes, but I’ve never seen a Bible class specifically for singles.  It’s very easy for single Christians to draw the conclusion that the ideal disciple is married with 2.4 children, and if that’s not you, you’re some kind of second-class disciple.

However, this impression is as unwarranted as it is insulting.  There is nothing in Scripture that suggests that being single is a spiritual problem.  Arguably the most famous disciple of Christ in history, the apostle Paul, was single.  For that matter, so was Jesus Himself.

Consequently, the notion that we can’t really follow Christ unless we’re married is absurd.  Unmarried Christians need and deserve some attention for their situation too.  Let’s look this morning, then at what it means to be heaven bound for singles. Continue reading

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace

This morning, Shawn tackled the first half of the great prophecy of Isaiah 9:6.  He explained to us what it means that Jesus is our Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God.  However, because he didn’t feel like prolonging his message until midnight, he didn’t finish everything in the verse.  He left the last two names of Jesus unexplained.

That’s going to be my job for the evening, and it’s an important one.  Being a Christian without understanding Christ is kind of like being married without understanding your spouse.  You can try it if you like, but it’s probably not going to go very well!  This is particularly true for aspects of our Lord’s nature that aren’t as easy to understand, as I think both of these last two names aren’t.  Let’s consider, then, what’s behind the second half of Isaiah’s great list of the names of Jesus. Continue reading

God-Pleasing Worship

It’s probably true that most of the people here today have heard at least one sermon on instrumental music and why, in the churches of Christ, we believe that it’s wrong for us to use the instrument in worship.  I certainly have heard sermons like that; indeed, I’ve preached a few myself.  I think that such sermons are true and important to the spiritual health of God’s people.

However, I also think that preaching on the outward form of worship that ignores the substance of worship is gravely incomplete.  If we believe that it’s wrong for us to have a praise band up here on stage blaring away, we must also acknowledge that the worship we offer here without an instrument in sight can be just as wrong.  God doesn’t only instruct us in what our worship should look like.  He tells us how we should worship, and even though obedience to those commands is a much more subtle matter, it is just as important.  This evening, then, let’s consider God-pleasing worship. Continue reading

Comfort and Celebration

I’ve written hymns for a lot of reasons, but until I got the call from David, I had never written one at the invitation of a church.  Even though writing hymns for a specific purpose isn’t something we do much in the churches of Christ, it does happen sometimes in the denominational world.  There, the results are called “occasional hymns”, hymns for a particular occasion.

It didn’t take me long to decide that this occasion was worthy of a hymn, and I reached this conclusion for a couple of reasons.  First, even though I’ve been gone from Dowlen Rd. for almost 12 years now, I still feel a great debt for all that you have done for me, and this is a way I can make a payment on that debt.  Second, even though we live millennia after the time of the early church, the experience of this church over the past several months easily could have come straight from the pages of the Bible.  In fact, it touches on some of the great themes of the New Testament.  This morning, then, let’s look both at my hymn and at the Scriptures to understand the reasons that we have for comfort and celebration. Continue reading

Outsourcing Discipleship

The English language changes more than just about any other language out there, and I’m old enough now that I have seen new words come into common use.  One of those words is “outsourcing”.  For those of you who aren’t up on business jargon, outsourcing is when a company decides to contract out services that it used to provide internally.  For instance, a small business might decide to shut down its marketing department and outsource that to a marketing firm.

In the business world, this can often make a lot of sense.  However, as always, we must be cautious with our applications of worldly wisdom to the spiritual realm.  In particular, we ought to be wary of the dangers of outsourcing our discipleship to the church. Continue reading