Bursting the Bubble (7/16/17)

Isn’t it amazing how we enjoy blowing bubbles no matter what age we happen to be? A $1 bottle of liquid can keep us entertained for a long time. The problem with bubbles is they typically only exist for a few seconds before they pop. The interesting this is, though, that bubbles don’t burst themselves. An outside force putting pressure on the bubble service pops it.

Last week I challenged us to wrestle with whether or not we’ve ended up in a “Christian bubble.” The four main steps that take us there are:

1) We become Christians. This is a good thing.

2) We become part of the church. This too is good.

3) We become part of the Christian bubble. We quit associating with non-Christians. Evangelism is something the church does. It isn’t something we need to do. Many people start “going to church” instead of “being the church.”

4) We become Jonah. We run away from sharing the Gospel with the lost because we think they don’t deserve it. (more…)

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Living in the Bubble (7/9/17)

The last words in Matthew 28:16-20 are, 16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Let’s look closely at the things Jesus commands his followers to do: Make disciples. Baptize them. Teach them to obey his commandments.

If we’re not careful, we’ll completely ignore this passage at Snake Spring Valley CoB. Right now, our congregation is growing in numbers. This is a great thing. To those who are new to Snake Spring Valley and to those who came back after drifting away, we say, “Welcome! We’re glad you’re here.” However, Jesus didn’t say to grow the church by bringing in people who are already Christians. He said to go out among those who don’t know Jesus and bring them in. (more…)

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I’m Focusing On…. (6/25/17)

Fear is something we have to deal with in every stage of life. Our fears typically change as we do. When I was a young boy, I was afraid my parents would die and I wouldn’t have anyone to raise me. As a young parent, I was concerned about the kind of world our children would have to live in. Now that I’m in my late 40s and more mature in my Christian faith, I try not to fear. The truth is sometimes fears still arise in me.

If you’re honest, you have fears too because we live in a world of uncertainty and evil. We understand the uncertainty. The state of the U.S. economy is always on our minds because it affects our livelihood. Every year we wonder if there will be the proper mixture of rain and sunshine for our crops and gardens to be fruitful. We never know when accidents, sickness or financial problems will come upon us. (more…)

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The Greatest Gift (6/18/17

Unless there are medical issues, helping conceive a child isn’t too difficult for most men. Being a good father to that child is one of the hardest things any man can do. Thankfully, all throughout the Bible, God gives men commands about how they should live. Ephesians 5:25-33 says,25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

Many times, husbands hear this command and automatically think, “I do love my wife like Christ loved the church. He died for his bride. I’d die for mine.” If this is you, let me ask you a question. How many men do you know of that have actually had to die for their wives? (more…)

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How Much Control Does God Really Have? (6/4/17)

How many times have you or someone you know asked God a “why” question? Why did this illness have to strike me? Why did I lose my job? Why did you allow this person to hurt me? Why do you allow 20,000 people a day to starve to death around the world? God, why did you take this person away from me?

The difficult problem with these questions is we simply can’t answer them in ways which brings complete understanding and healing to our hurting hearts. This causes many people to doubt God and possibly even walk away from their faith altogether.

Some Christians, with the best of intentions, try to bring comfort by taking this concept and turning it from a negative question into a positive statement. “Well, God is in charge of who gets elected president.” “God gave me this chronic illness so I’m going to trust him.” And, to quote Job 1:21, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

Here’s a question we need to wrestle with: Is God really responsible for the difficulties and suffering that are in the world? (more…)

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New Life (5/28/17)

When our oldest daughter, Katie, was two years old, her Aunt Mary passed away. Several years later, when Katie was nine, Mary’s brother, Kay, went to be with the Lord. When I found out that Uncle Kay had passed, I went into Katie’s bedroom to tell her. After I explained what happened and that Uncle Kay was now in heaven, she looked at me and said, “I bet Aunt Mary was waiting for him when he got there.”

This Memorial Sunday, we honor our family members who have passed from this life during this past year. We trust they are now living a new life in heaven if they knew Jesus as their Savior. And, just like Katie, we wonder what their new life in heaven is like for them.

While we’re encouraged about the hope we have of a new life in heaven, we don’t have to wait until we die to have new life. In Romans 5, Paul said we have peace with God because of what Jesus did on the cross. We need Jesus because Adam only had one law to follow. Don’t eat the fruit. As we know all too well, Adam disobeyed and that brought death and suffering to all of creation. Jesus’ resurrection, which came after millions of people had lived and committed countless sins, freed us from the curse of sin through God’s grace. (more…)

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The One Word That Kills Spiritual Growth (5/21/17)

Are there areas in our lives where we’re doing things which are in direct opposition to the teachings of Jesus but we’re convincing ourselves that we’re innocent of doing anything wrong? We can all say “yes” if we’re really honest with ourselves. The next question is: Are we willing to change and be faithful to Jesus even if it means stepping out in faith, trusting God and perhaps even walking alone?

After all, there’s no question that following Jesus is downright difficult at times. Sometimes family members shy away from us because of our faith. Co-workers avoid us and perhaps even mock us for taking Jesus too seriously. Sometimes our bosses will ask us to do things that are morally wrong but saying “no” to them might cost us a good paying job. It’s easier to ignore people than it is to work at restoring broken relationships with them. Turning a blind eye to suffering and injustice is much easier than standing against it. And the list goes on and on… (more…)

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Hearing God’s Voice (5/14/17)

As most of you know, I used to be part of a family logging and firewood business. My father and I would visit our logging crews together on a regular basis while our office manager took care of the office. One time dad and I were going to check on a logging crew but our office manager happened to be off that day. My mom came into the office to answer the phone when dad and I left.

The area in West Virginia we lived in has very sporadic cell phone service. There was only one area where we had service between our office and the logging job. When we reached that area, my dad said, “Call mom and make sure everything is ok.”

I called and she answered, “Hello. Clearwater Timber Resources and Frontier Firewood.” Instead of saying, “Hey mom. Is everything OK? We wanted to check in before we got out of cell range.”, I disguised my voice and said, “How much is your firewood?” Mom didn’t recognize my voice. I carried on a conversation with her and she never realized who she was talking to her. (more…)

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Letting Go (5/7/17)

One of the things I like about the Church of the Brethren is our understanding of God. According to brethren.org, “The central emphasis of the Church of the Brethren is not a creed, but a commitment to follow Christ in simple obedience, to be faithful disciples in the modern world. As do most other Christians, the Brethren believe in God as Creator and loving Sustainer. We confess the Lordship of Christ, and we seek to be guided by the Holy Spirit in every aspect of life, thought, and mission.”

As Christians, we want to experience the love of God, the saving power of Jesus and to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in our lives, which includes our thoughts. We should strive to be obedient to every person of the Trinity in everyday life and the ministries God gives us.

Stephanie and I have never questioned God called us to Snake Spring Valley Church of the Brethren. We’ve felt nothing but love from you and we’ve seen God working here from the moment we arrived. We also like living in Bedford County.

Still, there were areas in our lives where we needed God to work. Although we loved each other and had a solid marriage, after 30 years of being together there were a couple of areas in our relationship where we achieved the level of “miserable comfortableness.” If you’ve been married for a while, you know what I mean. I’m talking about those areas where you’re not happy but you know things may never change so you find a place where you can endure it. Stephanie and I were aware of these problem areas but we didn’t have the ability to change them on our own So, we kept praying: Lord, make my spouse the person I need and make me the person my spouse needs. (more…)

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Bearing Fruit (4/30/17)

During the summer of 2000, a friend of mine, Harry, and I decided to attend the NASCAR race at Daytona, Florida. As we made our plans, Harry said, “I’ll print a map off the computer so we know which routes to take.” (This was before GPS.) When I picked him up to leave for the trip, I asked about the map. He responded, “I didn’t print one. We just head south don’t we?”

I didn’t agree with his philosophy. When you’re going from Point A to Point B, you need a map. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting off-course or, even worse, completely lost. I went back to my house and got a road atlas.

God is calling us to go on a journey with him. He wants to take our relationship with Jesus to the next level. Since we’re going from Point A, where we are now, to Point B, the place where Jesus wants to take us, we need a map. We have one. It’s called the Bible. If we want to be all that we can be in Christ, we need to believe it’s true and live according to its principles and teachings. If the Bible says something is sin, then it’s sin. If the Bible tells us to love, then we need to love. If the Bible tells us to submit to Jesus, then we need to submit to Jesus. If the Bible tells us to walk with the Holy Spirit, then we need to walk with the Holy Spirit. (more…)

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