Sermon 8-17-14- There are no “dogs” to Jesus

On Sunday, August 17, I preached on Matthew 15:21-28.  The sermon was about the Canaanite woman who came to Jesus asking for her daughter to be delivered from demonic oppression.  Jesus told her that it wasn’t right to give the childrens’ food to the dogs.  She responded, “Yes, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”  Jesus affirmed her for her great faith, delivered her daughter, and showed that there are no dogs in his eyes.

http://newlifeanglican.com/sermons/2014/08.17.2014.mp3

Sermon- November 3, 2013- Ruth 4

Here is the link to my concluding sermon on the Book of Ruth.  In this chapter, Boaz shows his love for Ruth by dealing with the “other redeemer” and settling the matter quickly in order to be able to redeem, and therefore marry Ruth.  Boaz is successful in his negotiations, he does redeem and marry Ruth, and they have a son, Obed.  Obed was the grandfather of David, the great king of Israel.  So Ruth is the great-grandmother of David, and also a matriarch in the line of the messiah, Jesus.  So Boaz, in his redemption of Ruth, also provides for the eventual redemption of all mankind through his offspring.  Through all of this, God shows his faithfulness to redeem bad situations, to have a plan bigger than our understanding, and to bring all of the threads of that plan together for his good purposes.

Ruth is a beautiful story of love, faithfulness, and redemption, and I hope that you have been blessed by this series.

11.3.2013

Sermon- Sept. 8, 2013- Counting the cost of being a disciple

On September 8 I preached on Luke 14:25-33.  The primary topic is about Jesus calling people to be his disciples, but informing them that it is a very costly path.  He challenges us to recognize that he must be our highest priority and that we may well lose things in this life by committing ourselves to following him.  What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus?

9.8.2013

To those who were lost so young

This post is not intended to be a commentary, or a judgement of should’ves and oughts, but rather a post of compassion and sympathy for those in Newtown, CT.

  I ask you all to keep them in prayer in the days, weeks, and months ahead, for such a tragedy should not become so routine in our schools that our children, let alone their parents,  have to fear getting an education. I am sure that everyone has their own thoughts, theories, etc.. of what caused the suspect to do this, but the sad reality is that 20 families are  at home without their children today, without sons and daughters, neices and nephews, brothers and sisters. May we all come together not just as a country, but more importantly as Gods children and show Newtown our support in this their time of greif.

  I know  that, sadly, this isn’t new in that we’ve had Columbine, Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois University, and many others to add to the list including the Aurora, CO shooting, but think about it, while those lives were taken innocently too, these were precious little ones.  Jesus Himself pointed to the little children as examples of how we all are to be in regards to our faith, and essentially how much He loves them when He said ” For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” I don’t know whether or not the children, and adults, whos lives were taken were Christians, but if they were then we can say 26 angels were welcomed into heaven tonight.

   Let us pray :

Heavenly Father, we lift up to you tonight the town of Newtown, Connecticut and all those at the elementary school where this tragedy ocurred, and we ask Lord that you wrap your loving arms around them, and Lord use this tragedy to bring something beautiful out of ashes, and perhaps to draw more people to you. May we as a country be drawn more to you, and learn to be more dependent on you again, and may you keep all of our children, our family members, and those we love and hold dearly, safe and sound in your sight. Lord your word says that  you give us not a spirit of fear, but  of power and sound mind. I pray this for all who have been affected by tragedy of any kind.

In Jesus name we pray

Amen

Alzheimers : Is there a silver lining in the cloud?

She was bright and vibrant, she wanted to help others always before helping her family or herself, she participated in every activity she could think of, regardless of location or size of crowd, nothing held her back, nothing kept her down.She was fun. she laughed alot. She knew how to make her grandchildren smile, and in some ways she still does today. Who is she?

She’s my grandmother, before Alzheimers took hold of her, for better or for worse.  While she is battling this diseases, and it’s a battle she’s slowly losing, she still remembers who we are, she still gets excited when we visit, but yet there’s something going on cognitively that can , at times, make you realize something’s not quite right.  But, as Romans 8:28 says ” For God works out to the good of things for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.” Could it not be possible, though maybe also slightly far fetched, that maybe , just maybe, she has a deeper communication/understanding  with and of God than any of us do, or ever could?

In Christianity today there was an article called ” Seeing the Hidden Grace of Alzheimers” and it , too, was an account of the authors dealing with her fathers diagnosis of Alzheimers, and the lessons that she learned from it.

In the article she quotes Therese’ of Liseux,  who is known for exhibiting child-like trust in Jesus, which this childlike trust helped her deal with her fathers ailments of strokes, and paralysis, and the like.  She didn’t see her fathers dependence as a burden, however, she saw it rather as a deeper intimacy with his loved ones, and more importantly, with God. She described her fathers suffering, which she agonized over unceasingly, as ” the most bitter and most humiliating of all chalices” (Christianitytoday.com)

God has love for those that are weak and foolish in the eyes of the world, maybe that is a lesson that those who suffer from dementia and alzheimers can teach us. They love people unconditionally, and only desire the same, though on the other hand they can also fear people, without ever knowing or understanding why, they can be hostile and combative. But just as God has love for the week and feeble minded in this world, so , too, should we. For in so doing, either suffering with a family member in this case, or maybe even, heaven forbid, ourselves, we can learn to be more like the suffering Christ.  The Christian life requires suffering.Times may be easy, times may be hard.  But, there is always a silver lining, always something that God is trying to teach us, or show/reveal to us. The question is, will we respond?and if so, how so?

God bless!

Respect for Sanctity of Life

Given that the National Life Chain is coming up this coming Sunday, Oct. 7, I felt it fitting to write a post on the sanctity of life, and why we do, and should, respect it.

  In doing what I do for a living, I do on occasion catch bits and pieces of the news when I take meals to our residents, and one thing that I heard today really shocked me, and that was that I heard that it is on the U.S. Supreme Courts docket to ” determine whether or not an embryo is a person, therefore to determine further whether or not it has rights.”  Now, as someone who is, and always will be, pro-life,  I would of course argue yes, as I’m sure most people who are pro-life, Christian, and have respect for the sanctity of life would.

My question is this, though i realize not everyone feels this way, but how can one look at an ultrasound and see that beating heart, within early stages of conception, and say that’s not a person? Psalm 139 vs. 13-16 says ” For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mothers womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful and I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” He knows the number of hairs on our head, he knew of our days before any of them were to be. How awesome is that? Life begins at conception, so my response to the Supreme Court is that yes that embryo is a person, and yes he or she does have rights.

There’s a sign on the highway that says 4.000 times a day abortion stops a beating heart, but thanks to services like the Pregnancy Care Center that number is slowly dwindling when signs of life via ultrasound are seen. That embryo, whether science wants to acknowledge it or not, is a life, a person, that will eventually see, smell, touch, taste, and hear, who are we to say they are not?

We are made in the image of God, who loves His creation and longs for an intimate relationship with us, thus should we not have the same respect for life that He does? I would argue yes we should. So this isn’t even a question as far as I am concerned. Yes these embryos are a person, yes they have a future, and God has a plan for them, as He does for all of us, Jeremiah 29:11 says ” For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord…. plans for a future with hope.”  This is why, in my opinion, and most pro-lifers I’m sure, things like embryonic stem cell research and other issues are at most even unthinkable.  The other side may say things like “You’re denying a womans right to choose” or may make an argument that , contrary to our opinion, life doesn’t begin at conception, but I know and believe that it does. From the moment that individual is conceived, he or she is a person.

I remember hearing about my neices first ultrasound, and even my nephews’  , my mom told me about how she saw that little miraculous heartbeat. Does that not signify life? It’s easy for us, though, to say “Yes it’s a person, lets move on to the bigger fish we have to fry.” for that is our stance, our battle cry if you will, but thet other side, sadly, will do all they can to refute that.

But, those little ones, are people, they are lives, they do have bright futures, futures with hope, and faith, for they, as do their parents, truly put their lives in the hands of God who made them. I think , personally, that’s where all of this country’s affairs belong, don’t you?

You know it’s often been said ” We are given a choice, to choose life or choose death. Choose life.”  and yes this applies salvifically just as it does physically. Those little ones, yes persons, deserve just as much of a future with hope as we do, if not more, so why even make something as precious and fragile as life an issue, when this country has so many bigger problems to solve? I’ve seen premie babies, I’ve seen full term babies, I’ve seen first week ultrasounds, all are lives all are people with hopes, wishes, goals, and dreams. Why shouldn’t we reward those to them? In my opinon we should and we ought to, for then, and only then, are we  showing, and do we  show, true respect for one of the greatest gives God has ever given us, the gift of life.

So unto our Supreme Court Justices, when this discussion comes to the bench, I offer all 9 of you the same answer we have all been told, time and time again. “Choose Life”

It’s about the cross: Freedom of Religion, or Historic Memorial

  A few days ago, as I was reading the news online, I came across this article about the cross that was being displayed at the 9/11 memorial, and the controversy it has caused.

 Those who support such a display, mostly presumably Christians, offer myriad reasons for doing so, and some have said ” It’s part of a story.” Now, one could easily argue that by that statement they mean the story of one of the most tragic days of our nations history, but I would offer an alternative in saying that the cross, in and of itself, is indeed part of a bigger story. Gods story, and His redemptive plan for the world.  The fact that, as John 3:16 says ” God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have life everlasting.

   Perhaps this is the story that we should focus on, and not necessarily the story of the tragic events of that day. There are many who are opposing this display, namely the athiests, and perhaps other religions, who are arguing that such a display may not show pluralism, or tolerance- values that our culture increasingly intends to push. Yet at the same, those who encourage are encouraging the cross to be displayed for that very reason.

So if we look at the two sides of this coin, we can see that one side is saying its too exclusive in that it only explains one worldview- namely the Christian worldview,  and those on the other side are saying ” It’s inclusive, and a great act of freedom of expression.”

One has to wonder, though, is this display being made as an expression of the pluralism that those who support it for this reason claim? or is it a sign that just as Jesus’ death on the cross was a sacrifice and atonement for our sins, so too the cross in this display is present to show that 1)the U.S. was founded on Christian Values, and that  God is present always with us regardless of what life may throw at us.

People who say ” It’s part of a story”  aren’t necessarily claiming it as part of the story that we all know it’s apart of. They are saying that because the cross is made from two beams from the trade center, hence it’s apart of history, and a reminder of hope in the midst of tragedy.

  The point of this memorial, as I see it  though, isn’t that it’s a part of a tragedy that our nation has unfortunately faced, but a sign that God is present no matter what we are going through, and that He is bigger than any tragedy or crisis that we face. In essence, through this display, I would say that people are giving a brilliant display of when Jesus said ” In this world you will have trouble, but  behold I have overcome the world.”

  It seems to me that we need to put less emphasis on what we think something means, or our interpretation thereof, and more emphasis on who the story- that is the Greatest story ever told- is all about.  Focus not just on the image of the cross – in this display or anywhere- but focus on what that cross represents to us, and who it’s about. It is indeed part of a story, but the people who made that statement seemed to have missed the point.

John Stott made sure that people understood that our faith centered on the cross, on Jesus Himself, and Jesus has called all of us to share this great story- and in so doing we fulfill the Great Commission.  So yes it is part of a story, the question is, regardless of the controversy we may encounter from our surrounding culture, regardless of the persecution we may bear, will we share it?

What is Systematic Theology?

     Wayne Grudem defines Systematic Theology as ” Any study that answers the question “What does the whole bible teach us today?” about any given topic- this involves collecting and understanding all the passages in the bible on various topics and summarizing the teachings clearly so we know what to believe about said topics (Grudem, 21).

Systematic Theology also requires the use of, and is related to, myriad other disciplines such as :

Historical Theology– A historical study of how Christians in different periods have understood various theological topics.

Philosophical Theology- Studying theological topics largely without the use of the bible, but using tools and methods of philosophical reasoning, and what can be known about God from observing the universe.

Apologetics: Providing a defense of the truthfulness of the Christian Faith for the purpose of convincing unbelievers.

They connect in the following way.

1. Historical study informs us of the insight gained and the mistakes made by others previously in understanding scripture

2. Philosophical study helps us understand right and wrong thought forms common in our culture and others.

3. Apologetic study helps us bring the teachings of scripture to bear on the objections raised by unbelievers.

Broad Sense v. Narrow

     Those who advocate Grudem’s narrow definition agree these areas of studies contribute in a positive way to understanding systematic theology. Those who advocate the broader definition feel these other disciplines or subsets of theology can be distinguished from the process of collecting and synthesizing all relevant scripture passages on various topics. Only scripture can define what we are to believe thus focusing on the process of analyzing and teaching of scripture is vital.

Systematic theology v. OT and NT Theology

Old Testament Theology– “What do the OT passages teach about a certain topic and how did that teaching develop over its history?”

New Testament Theology–  “What does the NT teach about certain topics and what’s the development of that teaching in its progression of the NT?”

Biblical Theology-  Contains both OT and NT theology as defined above. It gives special attention to the teachings of individual authors and sections of scripture, and to the place of each teaching in its historical development. Ones place in history can affect ones understanding of Doctrine that the original authors and readers possessed.

Systematic Theology makes use of biblical theology and often builds on its results. It attempts to summarize the teaching of scripture in a brief, understandable, and very carefully formulated statement.

How does one apply it?

     It summarizes doctrines as they should be understood by present day Christians. This sometimes involves the use of terms and even concepts not used by individual biblical authors, but results from combining myriad teachings thereof. A Doctrine is seen in terms of how it applies to living the Christian life. Nowhere in scripture is Doctrine found in isolation from life- as the biblical authors intended to apply their teachings to life.

Systematic and Disorganized Theology

Most Christians do systematic theology many times a week. Every time a Christian says something about what the whole bible says, in a way, they are doing systematic theology. Systematic theology means carefully organized topics- seeing that they fit together in a consistent fashion and will include all major Doctrinal topics in the bible. This enables formulation of summaries of biblical teachings with much more accuracy than Christians would normally arrive at without such study. This depends on very careful exegesis.

What are Doctrines?

     He defines them as what the whole bible teachings us today about some particular topic. They can be very broad or very narrow. Examples of such are the following

Doctrine of the Word of God

Doctrine of God

Doctrine of Man

Doctrine of Christ and Holy Spirit

Doctrine of Application of Redemption

Doctrine of the Church

Doctrine of the future

3 Criteria

1. Doctrines that are most emphasized in scripture

2. Have been most significant throughout the history of the church and important for all Christians at all times.

3. have become important for Christians in the present situation in the history of the church.

Systematic Theology v. Christian Ethics

     Systematic theology emphasizes what God wants us to believe and know while Christian ethics focuses on what God wants us to do and what attitudes He wants us to have.

Christian ethics is : Any study that answers the question ” What does God require us to do and what attitudes does He require us to have today?” with regard to any situation. Theology focuses on ideas while ethics focuses on situations in life.

Why should Christians study theology?

1. Basic Reason: To teach believers all that Jesus commanded as stated in the Great commission- this requires not only teaching, but also evangelism. Teaching what the whole bible says to us today. In order to do so, we must collect and summarize all scripture passages on a said topic. It enables us to teach ourselves and others what the whole bible says and in so doing we fulfill the second part of the Great Commission.

2. Benefit to our lives:  It helps us overcome our wrong ideas as it helps us overcome the possibility of not accepting some teachings while accepting others. It helps us to make better decisions later on new questions of doctrine that may arise- everything the bible says is somehow related to everything else the bible says- Any new questions can be answered from what has already been learned from Scripture.

Two objections to the study of Systematic Theology:

1. Conclusions are too neat to be true– some scholars look at systematic theology with suspicion because teachings fit together in a non contradictory fashion

2 responses:

1. Ask people making the objection to tell us at what specific points scripture has been misinterpreted and then deal with the understanding of the passages. If mistakes have been made, then there should be corrections. This may be held by those in our skeptical culture who feel it is virtually impossible to find universally true conclusions about anything- even God- sounds postmodern, does it not? This view is rampant in universities where systematic theology is only study from other theologies’ viewpoints. Must be rejected by evangelicals who see scripture as the product of human and divine authorship, and a collection of writings that teach non contradictory truths about God and the universe He created.

2. Must be answered in that in Gods own mind, and the nature of reality itself, true facts and ideas are all consistent with one another. Thus our conclusions should fit together and be mutually consistent. Internal Consistency, then, is an argument for any individual results of systematic theology.

2. The choice of  topics dictate the conclusions:

Those who espouse this objection would say our traditions and our cultures have determined the topics we treat, and the arrangement of topics, so that what results of this systematic theological study of scripture though acceptable in our own theological tradition is untrue for scripture itself (Grudem, 31). Our starting point determines our conclusion on controversial topics. It seems from this viewpoint that most important theological questions can be decided by flipping a coin to decide where to start.

     Those who makes this objection say the best way to avoid this problem is not to teach or study systematic theology, but to limit topical studies to the field of biblical theology, treating only topics only the biblical authors emphasized and describe historical development of biblical themes throughout scripture. There is absolutely nothing preventing us from going to scripture to look for answers to any doctrinal questions in any sequence.

Lastly : How should we as Christians study it?

     1. With Prayer-  studying theology is a spiritual activity in which we need the help of the Holy Spirit. If we do not continue to pray for God to give us an understanding mind and a believing and humble heart, and we do not maintain a personal walk with the Lord- scripture will be misunderstood and unbelieved, and doctrinal error will result. The heart and mind would not be changed for the better, but for the worse. We must pray for Gods help. We need not more data, but more insight into the data we have.

2. With Humility- Those who study will learn many things about scripture that may or may not be esoteric for most Christians in their churches or their relatives older in the Lord than they are. They may find things their church officers do not understand, or may not have learned as well. My personal opinion : We’re all on a journey to learn and spiritually grow. In this case an attitude of pride and superiority may be easy to adopt to others who may not have studied this. Understanding of scripture is to be imparted in humility and love leading to humility and love for others.

3. With Reason-  It is often found in the NT that authors quote a verse and then draw logical conclusions from it. They reason from Scripture. It’s not wrong to use human understanding, logic, and reason to draw conclusions from the statements of scripture. We can make mistakes though. We are free to use our reasoning abilities to draw deductions from any passage of scripture so long as they don’t contradict the clear teachings of some other passages of scripture.

4. With help from others-  We should be thankful that God put teachers in the church. We should allow those with the gift of teaching to help us understand scripture and should talk with other Christians about what we study. Conversation between those attempting to understand Biblical Doctrines can be an incredible learning tool- as we all know!

5. By collecting and understanding all Relevant passages of Scripture on any topic    1. Find all relevant verses using a good concordance.

 2. Read, make notes on, and try to summarize points made in those relevant verses.          

3. Teachings of various verses should be summarized into one or more points that the bible affirms on said subject.

6. With Rejoicing and Praise:  Study of theology isn’t just an exercise of  the intellect, but a study of the living God and the wonders of all His works in creation and redemption. Our response should be breaking into joyful praise at the richness of Gods doctrine.

It is important, however, to not just know what we believe, but why, in order to share it, to build the kingdom, and  to grow the church.

When it Comes to Worldviews, Neutrality is not an Option

As we approach the Christmas Season, I hear of more incidences in which the word “Christmas” is being removed from the public scene in the name of tolerance – that is by openly celebrating, in the public forum, our Christian heritage during this season we are disrespectful of other people who do not share our Christian beliefs.

It seems to me that there are two issues that can be addressed at this point: (1) is the heritage of this country based on Christian beliefs? And (2) is it appropriate, out of tolerance for others, to remove its identification from all public display?  It is not the purpose of this article to address the first issue.  The Christian underpinnings of this nation’s history are literally carved in stone in monuments and buildings in our nation’s capital and depicted in the grand paintings in the Capitol Rotunda, in Washington D.C. not to mention the numerous books that address this issue.  It is the second issue that is the focus of this writing.  So, with the recognition that this nation has a Christian heritage, is it intolerant or disrespectful of nonbelievers when we celebrate that heritage in public displays?  For instance, should reference to “Christmas” in the public arena, during this season, be removed out of tolerance and respect for those who do not share the Christian faith?

For clarity, what do I mean by “tolerance” which has become so closely associated with the word “respect”?  Greg Koukl in his article “When Tolerance Is Intolerant” at the Stand to Reason web page tells of writing the following two sentences on a board while at a Christian high school in Des Moines:

“All views have equal merit and none should be considered better than another.”

“Jesus is the Messiah and Judaism is wrong for rejecting that.”

The students applauded the first sentence but challenged the second as disrespectful and intolerant.  Greg Koukl then pointed out that if they believed in the first position they could not reasonably take issue with the second.  The class had previously agreed that all views have equal merit or value.  Therefore, the position that Jesus is the Messiah just as valuable as the position that He is not.  But if all views are of equal merit, even those that contradict each other, doesn’t that suggest that they both are true?  It is at this point that I would hope that this sort of reasoning is exposed as being clearly nonsense.  Non-truth cannot be set on par with truth.  Contradicting views cannot have equal value or truth.

As Greg points out further in the article, our present culture misrepresents the idea of tolerance.  We have changed its classical understanding from tolerance and respect for individuals to equal evaluation of ideas.   As we saw above, and as Greg Koukl calls it, this is “gibberish”.  All ideas are not of equal merit.  We should, however, accord individuals equal respect.

But how does all this fit into the public display of faith such as naming parades as “Christmas” parades or trees as “Christmas” trees, etc.?  Isn’t this imposing the Christian faith on those who do not similarly believe?

Remember, the underlying presupposition of this article is that the Christian faith is a fundamental fact of this nation’s heritage.  I am not asserting that the majority of citizens of this country today are born-again believers, but rather that this nation was founded on Christian values and the recognition of those values has played a significant part in our history.

Today, however, we are confronted with those in positions of influence who want to remove recognition of our nation’s Christian heritage.  In this season of celebration, they want to erase the identification of “Christmas” with all that is happening.  They want to do this in the name of “tolerance” and “respect”.  But tolerance and respect of whom?

Everybody has a worldview of reality.  Everybody makes choices and decisions based on their understanding of the most fundamental question of life – are we responsible only to just ourselves or is their something higher than ourselves to whom we owe allegiance?  Does God exist?  People may claim one belief or another but it is how they carry out their lives that speak to what they really believe.  What their worldview truly is.  Everybody has one, whether they realize it or not.

So when those who are in a position to influence our culture remove our nation’s Christian identity from public display (such as eliminating the word “Christmas”) they are not only denying historical fact, they are replacing one worldview, that Christianity is true, with another, that it is false, in deference to the non-believer!

If the non-believer’s worldview prevails, and instead of the word “Christmas” the word “holiday” is used instead, then a pagan secular term becomes the identifying symbol of the season. There is no neutral ground here.  Whoever is making the decision to remove “Christmas” from the public display is making that determination to satisfy the worldview of some group of people who do not believe in Christianity.  When Christians remain silent as this occurs, they allow the Christian worldview and its identification with this nation’s heritage to be replaced with a worldview held by those who believe that Christianity is false!

The words “tolerance” and “respect” when used to justify the elimination of the Christian faith from the public forum are red herrings.  They are words used to appease the Christian with the false notion that some good is being accomplished out of respect for others – that a neutral position can be taken without elevating one idea above another.  What is really happening is that the truth of our heritage and belief in Christ as our Lord and Savior is being trumped by a worldview that denies our heritage and does not believe in the God of the Bible.  All ideas do not have equal value.  There is no neutral position regarding belief in God.  As the Christian worldview is removed from the public forum another is inserted in its place whether directly or implied.  When it comes to worldviews, neutrality is not an option!

Welcome

Welcome to the New Life Anglican Blog.  This is the blog home for New Life Anglican Church in Petoskey, MI.  My hope for this blog is to provide resources for people to go to for thinking deeper on issues regarding the Christian faith.  There are issues that come up in church and in our adult Sunday school classes that we don’t have time to deal with fully, so hopefully we can deal with them a little more on here.  Also, feel free to comment or to ask me questions about different things that you would like me to post about or to give me topics to cover.  Ultimately, I simply want to encourage everyone to be engaged on a deeper level, and this is just another tool to help that happen.