Getting the Roots Out

Back when my family and I still lived in Illinois, my children were responsible for weeding the flowerbed on the north side of the house.  When I first gave them the job, I showed them how to weed properly.  I emphasized that they couldn’t only rip the leaves off.  Instead, if they wanted to do the job right, they had to pull the root up too.  Not surprisingly, my children took the easy course rather than the necessary course.  They pulled all the leaves off the dandelions, thistles, etc., and in two weeks, they were rewarded with a fine new crop of weeds. Continue reading

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Overcoming Fear

As we observed last week, one of the most common reasons that Christians give for not engaging in personal evangelism is fear.  They’re afraid that they might not know what to say, that somebody might get mad at them, or that the whole effort might go horribly wrong in some other way.  I can certainly identify with this.  Back before I became a preacher and had to learn to run studies whether I wanted to or not, I myself was afraid of personal work.

However, simply because this fear is common doesn’t make it something we can live with.  As Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 1, God hasn’t given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and self-control.  Our brethren in the first century were bold, even to the point of risking and sometimes sacrificing their own lives.  If we want to be like the early disciples, we have to be bold too.  Fear isn’t a problem, but being paralyzed by our fears certainly is!  Let’s consider this morning, then, what we can do to overcome fear. Continue reading

Why Be Foster Parents?

As most people who talk to me regularly are aware, my wife and I are in the midst of getting certified as foster parents by the state of Tennessee.  It’s not the easiest process in the world, but it’s one that very morally and spiritually important to us both.  I thought it would be worthwhile, then, to share the reasoning and motivation behind our decision.

Not surprisingly, both Lauren and I are strongly motivated in this by religious conviction.  We think that beliefs have logical consequences and impose moral obligations, and Christians who say “No!” to one thing had better be saying “Yes!” to something else even more loudly. Continue reading

The Future of Song Worship

A week ago, my brother D. J. Bulls posted an article about the high-church standard “All Creatures of Our God and King” on his blog.  At the beginning of the article, though, he said something even more interesting than his analysis of the hymn.  He reported that according to his observations (and D.J. is vastly more knowledgeable about worship trends than I am), we are in the middle of a worship shift away from Christian contemporary music back to. . . traditional hymns.

Frankly, I find this astounding.  My worship tastes are moderately conservative, but I figured that in holding those tastes, like Elijah in 1 Kings 19, I alone was left.  Instead, I learn that rather than being a voice crying in the wilderness, I am part of A Trend.

It’s almost disappointing.  I enjoy being a solitary prophet of doom, equipped with sandwich boards bearing “Abide With Me” on one side and “Sun of My Soul” on the other, proclaiming, “The end is near!”  Except apparently the end isn’t near.  The beginning is.

If indeed this is the case, if people are beginning to look back in order to move forward, here is what I would like to see from the worship of the church in the decades to come. Continue reading

Will Those Who Never Hear the Gospel Be Lost?

In the comments below my post yesterday of a sermon entitled “Answering Common Challenges”, I received the following question:

“I heard one yesterday I’ve been pondering. The man said that unless you believe in God you will be lost. So what about all those people who have never had the opportunity? I have him some answers but I’d be interested to hear what you think.”

I’ve run into this one before too.  The argument goes like this.  If we claim that only those who believe in Jesus Christ can be saved from their sins, we are implicitly condemning everyone who never has heard the gospel (say, for instance, a tribesman in the remotest Amazon basin).

If that’s the case, then God is being unfair.  After all, those people never had a chance.  They are unavoidably lost.  As a result, we should conclude that people who have never heard the gospel are somehow saved, perhaps by being good people.  Continue reading

Answering Common Challenges

As I first noted about a month ago now, Shawn and I are preaching concurrent sermon series on Sunday morning and Sunday evening, both pointing forward to our special service on April 15th.  In the morning, we continue to consider the subject of the resurrection, the foremost proof of our faith, and in the evening, topics pertaining to sharing our faith with the lost.

For many Christians, this is not their favorite spiritual activity!  In fact, they find it intimidating, and one of the things that intimidates them most about it is the possibility of somebody asking them something or saying something that they don’t know how to answer.  Some of these responses are novel, but many of them are extremely common.  This evening, then, I want to consider five of the most frequent, so that all of us will know how to answer these common challenges. Continue reading

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

During my last two sermons on the resurrection, I’ve basically been preaching in a phone booth.  In order to build a case that will stand up to scholarly skepticism, I’ve been limiting myself to the facts accepted by scholarly skeptics.  Now, though, that we’ve established the resurrection as a historical fact, there’s no longer any reason for skepticism.  We can turn to the recorded experience of the eyewitnesses.

The apostle John describes this experience in 1 John 1:1-2.  Even though he doesn’t say so explicitly, it’s clear here that he’s talking about the encounters of the early disciples with the risen Lord.  They saw Him, they examined Him, they touched His resurrected body, and they wrote down their experiences so we could know the truth.

This morning, then, let’s turn our attention to those records.  I’m going to do much more reading than normal and let the stories largely speak for themselves, but with each story, I will highlight a few things.  Let’s marvel together at the power of the story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Continue reading