Category Archives: Musings

Fresh and seasoned thoughts about the practice of Sabbath.

The Significance of the Wise Men. Sermon Outline from December 4th, 2016.

worship-the-newborn-king

 

The Wisest Search Ever Made

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
Matthew 2:1-2

  • Truth: God is making himself known to those who hunger for him.

I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
Isaiah 49:6

 

The Old Testament Confirms the Story of Salvation

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.  “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
Matthew 2:3-6

  • Truth: Scripture authoritatively communicates God’s plan.

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2 Peter 1:20-21

 

Those Who Found Christ Worshiped Him

When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 
Matthew 2:10-11

  • Truth: To know Christ is to worship him.

προσεκύνησανfall prostrate, bow down, worship

The Gifts

  • Gold – A King’s Gift

  • Frankincense – A Priest’s Gift

  • Myrrh – A Gift for a Sacrifice

 

The Wise Men Left A Different Way

And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. 
Matthew 2:12

  • Truth: A person’s life hinges on their experience with Christ.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 
1 Peter 2:9-10

 

Sermon Outline from First Baptist Nederland for the First Sunday in Advent.

incarnation-according-to-isaiah

 

The Prophesied Son of God

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14-15

New Testament Fulfilment

…the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.
Luke 1:30-32

 

A King Is Born

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
Isaiah 9:6-7

New Testament Fulfillment

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Luke 2:10-12

 

A Savior to Take Away Our Guilt

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:4-5

New Testament Fulfillment

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
John 19:28-30

 

The Promise of Eternal Peace

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
Isaiah 11:6-9

New Testament Fulfillment

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and … ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Revelation 21:1-4



What if We Asked God for More Joy?

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Last week we started a little study in Prayer Meeting with this thought in mind: What does God want us to have MORE of?

Rather than telling God what we want more of in our prayers, we are seeking for what his word tells us he wants for us.  Look at this passage in Galatians:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 
Galatians 5:22-23

For the 9 things mentioned in this text, there is NO limit on how much of these God wants for us.  There is no law limiting how much of them we are intended to have!

We naturally started with Love last week.  Sorry if you missed out on that one.  Tonight we’re moving onto JOY.  As you pray for more JOY in your life, consider these teachings from Scripture.

7 Principles of Joy

  1. Joy is an Attribute of God

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
John 15:11

  1. God is Our Source of Joy.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Psalm 51:12

  1. Joy is Connected to Eternity.

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness[1]!’”
Matthew 25:23

  1. Our Capacity for Joy Can Increase.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.
Philippians 2:1-2

  1. Seeking for more Joy never got anyone in trouble, whereas looking to make oneself happy has led to the downfall of many a person. 

Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy.
Proverbs 12:20

  1. We Encounter Joy when We are Living in God’s Will.

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
3 John 2-4

  1. Joy is Contagious.

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Luke 15:8-10

 

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[1] Happiness here in translated from the Greek word chara which is translated Joy in other versions and throughout many other places in the New Testament.

Prayer, Not Voting, is the Hope of Our Nation

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Kristi and I went on a Civic Duty date today.  I was surprised at how many people were gathered at our local library to cast their ballots ahead of election day.  The voting booths were all taken and there was a line beginning to form as we left the polling place.

Personally, I’m tired of hearing “Make America Great Again” and “America is Great Because America is Good.”  We’ve all heard these slogans so many times that they have become empty language.

What I want to tell our candidates is this:  America doesn’t have hope without God.

If you haven’t done so already, go vote.  But don’t expect your vote to usher in a Golden Age.

If you want to do something even better than voting, PRAY.  Pray for our nation.  Pray for the people who will be elected.  Pray for those who are already in office.  Pray, trusting that God is in control regardless of who is in the White House.

My words fail to express what is in my heart relating to this subject, but I was reminded of the words a preacher shared a long time ago.  While going through a book of sermons by George W. Truett, I stumbled across this passage. It was a blessing to me, and I trust it will be a blessing to you as well.

Surely, it must be apparent to all discerning minds that irreligion is the world’s supreme peril, and that disobedience to God is the way of defeat and decay and death. Not the vastness of a country’s territory, nor the number of its people, nor the aggregate amount of its wealth, nor the strength of its army and navy, nor even the intelligence of its people can make a country great and safe. The unbroken lesson of history shows that the character of a people is a country’s vital asset. And such character cannot be strong and symmetrical, and the spirit of a people be preserved in wisdom and vigor, without the superhuman help of the Christian religion. Pungently was it declared by the late President Wilson: “Our civilization cannot survive materially, unless it be redeemed spiritually.” The disturbing idealism of Jesus must go on and on, turning and overturning, until the whole world bows before him as its Saviour and Lord.

From George W. Truett’s collection of sermons in Follow Thou Me.

Finding Joy by Leaning on God.

joy

I lose stuff all the time. I lose keys. I lose books. I lose papers, letters, and notes.  I lose my wife every time Kristi and I go into Wal-Mart and split the shopping list to save time.

Thankfully, most things that we lose show up again.  The keys are always right where I put them.  Papers and letters and notes are usually found in a stack of similar items.  My wife calls me from her cell phone and tells me which aisle to find her.

But there are times when a person loses their joy.  You can see it on their face and in their eyes. You can hear it in their voice.  You can sense it from their body language.

Pastor Randy Frazee talks about the source of Joy we have as Christians in his book Think, Act, Be Like Jesus. When we feel out of touch with the joy of being saved, we need to return to the source of our joy.  Consider Pastor Frazee’s words:

We all will have good and bad days. We will all experience life’s ups and downs. But has life robbed you of your joy, or are you growing in this virtue? What does your face reflect to others? What does your attitude communicate about your faith? Happiness will be all too fleeting, but the joy of Jesus is available to your soul right now. When trials arise, choose to lean on him, and you will find his joy.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Psalm 51:12

Contentment in Christ Leads to Great Joy.

eeyore-and-tigger

Remember Eeyore and Tigger in the Winnie-the Pooh books? For Eeyore, no matter what amazing circumstance came his way, doom and gloom remained the focus. For Tigger, bouncing through life without a care in the world, he never perceived anything to go wrong. In our daily lives, it is easy to have the attitude of Eeyore while wishing we could have the outlook of Tigger two quite extreme viewpoints of life. The biblical brand of joy is not simply overcoming our inner Eeyore, nor is it strolling through life in ignorant bliss; rather, it is to be found in facing each day’s ups and downs through the contentment Christ offers.

— From Randy Frazee, Think, Act, Believe Like Jesus

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:8-9

Forgiveness May Be The Most Difficult, And Most Necessary Thing We Can Do.

crucifixion-place-of-the-skull

Every now and then I stumble across a story about forgiveness that merits special attention.  Randy Frazee shares a story about radical forgiveness in his book Think, Act, Be Like Jesus.

The following story is an amazing display of God’s love and a strong example of how radically a life can be changed by Christ.

Chris Carrier of Coral Gables, Florida, was ten years old when a man became so angry with Chris’s father that he abducted Chris. The kidnapper burned him with cigarettes, stabbed him numerous times with an ice pick, shot him in the head, and then dumped him out to die in the Everglades. Miraculously, Chris survived and was found. His only lasting physical effect from the ordeal was losing sight in one eye. His attacker was never captured.

Carrier became a Christian and later served as a youth pastor at a church in Florida. One day, he received word that a man named David McAllister, a seventy-seven-year-old frail and blind ex-con living in a Miami Beach nursing home, had confessed to committing the crime all those years ago. So Carrier headed to Miami.

Did he take a gun? Did he plot revenge on the way there? After all, now the tables were turned. The old man was helpless, just as Chris had been when McAllister tortured and shot him, leaving him for dead.

No. Revenge wasn’t Chris’s motive, as it had been his captor’s. Carrier was going God’s direction toward forgiveness. And, amazingly, yes, even love.

Chris began visiting McAllister regularly and often read the Bible and prayed with him. Through these visits, Carrier eventually led McAllister to his Lord.

Carrier said, “While many people can’t understand how I could forgive David McAllister, from my point of view, I couldn’t not forgive him. If I’d chosen to hate him all these years, or spent my life looking for revenge, then I wouldn’t be the man I am today, the man my wife and children love, the man God has helped me to be.”

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Luke 23:33-34

What Leading Worship Looks Like in a P.O.W. Camp

Shuman

The following article about Lt. Commander Edwin Shuman appeared in the Beaumont Enterprise a couple of years ago.  It was too moving to keep to myself.  I hope it will inspire you to worship God this Sunday with conviction, sincerity, and gratitude.

 

On December 3, 2013, Lt. Commander Edwin Shuman died at the age of 82. During the Vietnam War, Shuman was captured after his Navy jet was shot down. In the fall of 1970 he was transferred to the large Hoa Lo prison, which American prisoners nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton. As Christmas approached, Shuman orchestrated a resistance movement to defy the guards’ insistence that they not worship. In the large cell of 43 POWs, Shuman stepped forward as the highest-ranking officer and asked, “Are we really committed to having church Sunday? I want to know person by person.” He went around the cell pointing at each man individually and the decision was unanimous. At that point he knew he would be the first one tortured. The following Sunday, Shuman stepped forward to lead in prayer and was quickly seized by the guards. The next four ranking officers did the same and they too were removed to be beaten. The guards were furious as the cell was in chaos and they were beating the POWs with their gun butts. At that point the sixth-ranking officer said, “Gentlemen, the Lord’s Prayer.” That time they finished it. The scenario continued like falling dominoes in other cells and the guards finally gave up. From that Sunday until the prisoners were released in 1973 they held a church service every week. Fellow prisoner Leo Thorsness recounted Shuman’s heroics in his memoir, Surviving Hell, where he wrote, “Forty-two men in prison pajamas followed Ned’s lead. I know I will never see a better example of pure raw leadership or ever pray with a better sense of the meaning of the words.” The greatness of America is built upon this type of godly commitment. Beaumont Enterprise, 12/25/13, p.4A

 

Peace, and a Bucket of Popcorn

What’s the price for peace?

About $15 an hour.

That sounds cheap, doesn’t it?

But remember, you get what you pay for.

What are you paying for?  Here’s a breakdown of where peace can be found and what you are getting when you purchase it:

  • Go to the nearest Movie Theatre.
  • Select a mindless RomCom to watch. (RomCom = Romantic Comedy)
  • Purchase a ticket for $12.
  • Buy a bucket of popcorn for $10 and a large drink for $8.
  • Sit in a dark room focused on a big screen for 2 hours while all of your troubles wait outside in the parking lot.

So for $30, you get 2 hours of distraction from the world (a cheap peace) and all of the popcorn and Coke that you can drink.

A movie theatre is an excellent metaphor for the kind of peace we can make for ourselves in this world: it can be bought with enough money, it satisfies us for a moment, and like most RomComs, leaves us dissatisfied in the end.

At the theatre, we are distracted for a moment, and we can escape our worries for a couple of hours at a time. But when our movie is over, we are forced to return to all of our problems.  Our troubles meet us at the door.

Jesus offers us peace, but a better peace than the theatre.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27

The peace Jesus offers is an unconditional gift.  It’s too expensive to be purchased.  His peace is part of the grace relationship we have with our heavenly Father.

The peace Jesus gives us is an eternal peace. It’s not an earthly distraction that diverts our attention. The peace Jesus offers protects us in the midst of life’s troubles.

The peace Jesus provides is a healing peace.  It’s not an escape from our problems.  Rather than distracting our hearts from our worries, Christ’s peace guards our hearts.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

The immeasurable peace of Jesus is infinitely better than the paltry peace we can make for ourselves in this world.

 

Cling to the One who Clings to You

 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Colossians 2:6-7

My flower bed was a mess when I returned from Colorado.  I forget how well plants grow here in SE Texas. 

We didn’t have plants in the summer time back home.  We didn’t have anything green in the yard by the time the 4th of July came around.

But here, in Nederland, everything stays green and lush and healthy.  It’s like we’re in the Garden of Eden, watered with physical and mystical rivers of abundance.

The funny thing is, I don’t even have any flowers in my flower garden.  I suppose if I planted flowers, hedges, and beneficial plants, the rains would stop, the dew would cease to appear every morning, and a great drought would be upon us.  Since that’s not the case this year, I had to get out there and start pulling weeds.

I tried to poison the weeds before I for Colorado.  I bought a container of weed killer and figured one good spraying would be enough to last all season. And it probably would have been enough poison anywhere else, but not here in Nederland. In Nederland the weeds are powerful.  I think I only made them more determined to grow and flourish.

Trimming the weeds doesn’t work.  Unless you get the roots, the plant will spring right back up.  Unless you pluck it entirely from the soil, a remnant will survive.

So Rylie and I got out in the yard and we spent a couple of hours pulling weeds, making sure we got the leaves, stems, stalks and roots.

When we pulled a weed from the ground, it didn’t come out cleanly from the soil.  Each weed extracted a ball of soil from the flowerbed.  We threw the weeds, dirtball and all, from the flowerbed into the yard.  I think we threw half the soil from the flowerbed into the grass along with the weeds.

The roots systems are truly amazing.  The weed we plucked had tendrils of roots, twined together and clinging to the soil; they held tightly onto everything they touched.  These were roots designed to survive.  These roots were why you couldn’t just cut the weeds off at the soil level.

In our walk with Christ, Jesus himself is the soil in which we are planted.  He is our foundation.  Everything about our lives are rooted, and built up, in him and on him.

There’s a powerful metaphor here.  Our faith, rooted in Christ, needs to Cling to Christ, just as the roots of those weeds we were plucking need to cling to the soil they are planted in.

We cling to Jesus because we have no other savior. He is our sole savior a well as the savior of our souls.  He supplies us with everything we need to walk in him.  He provides us an abundance of spiritual nourishment to carry on our tasks and to stay planted in him.

When the winds blow and the rains come, we cling to him.  When we feel like we are losing out grip, we find that he is holding firmly onto us.

Regardless of how strongly we think we are grasping him, the truth is, he is holding onto us with an infinite strength.  Jesus doesn’t let go. He doesn’t relinquish us.  He holds us for eternity.