Friday, January 20, 2017

Five years of preaching, how far have I gotten?

While planning out my sermons up through Easter (I normally only plan that far ahead in advance of Christmas and Easter, so as to ensure that my sermon focus lines up with those holidays), I took the time to look back on the past five years here at First Baptist of Franklin to see how much of the text of the Bible I have preached, verse by verse.  This tally doesn't include the five years prior at First Baptist of Palo, as that was a different audience, thus any repeated texts from then don't enter into it.

The results were interesting, to me at least.  I've completed preaching through six books of the Bible, verse by verse, start to finish: Ruth, Jonah, the Gospel of Luke, Philippians, Titus, and James.  I've also completed chapters 1-18 of Acts, and chapters 10-32 of II Chronicles.  Throw in five messages out of Isaiah (one of the Lenten series), and a couple out of Matthew (an Advent series), plus a half dozen Psalms, the sections of 1 Samuel covering Hannah and Samuel, and the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians (my current sermon thread), and that about covers it.  The stack of yellow legal paper I write my sermons upon is now impressively high.

Which makes me wonder: If, Lord willing, I continue on here at 1st Baptist of Franklin for, say 20 more years, to pick a round number, how close to preaching through the whole Bible will I be able to come?  The Bible contains sixty-six books, of varying length, Luke is the only one of substantial length I've finished thus far, but Acts and II Chronicles will be finished in a year or two.  In theory, after 25 years, I might be halfway to preaching through the whole Bible.  What would it take to get the whole way through, and has anyone really accomplished that goal while still doing justice to each phrase, sentence, and verse?  I don't think I have the additional 50 years of preaching in me that it might take for me to finish, but who knows, after all, I am training for the Oil Creek 50k again this year.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Word of God or the words of man?

There are few questions you can answer as consequential as this: Is the Bible the Word of God, or merely the words of men?  From your answer will flow all manner of impactful beliefs and decisions.  If the Bible is the Word of God, it has a claim on your life, you must consider its statements and commands and respond to them, for you will be judged one day by God.  If the Bible is the words of men, it can be argued with, co-opted, taken piecemeal with only the things we agree with given any weight, or ignored all together.

Virtually every moral or ethical issue that we as a society face, has been, or will be, profoundly impacted by our viewpoint upon the Bible.  Is abortion the murder of a child created in the womb by God and given a soul, or the choice to be made by an individual with no moral implications?  Those two conclusions could hardly be further apart, and they both reflect a firm stance on the origin of the Bible.  Is homosexual behavior a reflection of the human sin nature, like all of our other sins and akin to heterosexual lust, or is it a wonderful expression of love?  Once again, opposite viewpoints on an important issue that reflects what we believe the Bible to be.  Is divorce something which God hates, with exceptions for only the abused or cheated upon, or is it simply a personal matter of convenience that either of the two parties to a marriage can choose if they not longer want to be married?  This same divergence of moral viewpoints could be demonstrated again and again.  The key issue will always continue to be our definition of authority.  If the Bible is God's Word, it has authority over us.  If it is but the work of fallible men, any claim to authority is moot, and thus we can be our own authority and make our own decisions based upon whatever standard suits us.

What is the Bible?  Your answer matters, more than your may realize. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Don't let your assumptions about the End Times define the Church.

I could have entitled this post, "Don't let your Eschatology determine your Ecclesiology", but that would probably have made most people skip reading it.  How we define the Church is a very important part of our theology as Christians.  It is imperative that we work together with everyone else who is a genuine part of the Church of Jesus Christ in order to fulfill our mission to share the Gospel.  There is danger in defining the Church too narrowly, which would turn those who are supposed to be our brothers and sisters into rivals, or at worst enemies, and there is danger in defining the Church too broadly, which would turn those who are supposed to be the object of our witness to the Gospel into those we wrongly assume to have already accepted it.  For a doctrine this important, we ought not allow anything other than the entire teaching of Scripture on the subject to be our guide.
In reality, however, a significant segment of those claiming to be Christians are allowing their assumptions about the End Times to be the most significant factor in determining their conclusions to these very important questions.  Most of those who believe that we're currently entering into the final days before the beginning of the Apocalypse also believe that one of the supporting evidences of that conclusion is their belief that 99% of all those who think that they are Christians, are in reality not.  This pessimism about the current state of the Church is a reflection of a theology of the End Times that requires the Church to be in a dire state prior to the return of Christ.  If the return of Christ is imminent, then the Church must be in a dire state, and therefore the definition of those who truly belong to the Church is made to fit that expectation in a predictably gloomy fashion.
There is, of course, great danger in making assumptions about when Christ will return, something that Jesus himself warned about.  One example of that danger is the pessimism and antagonism it fosters among those have convinced themselves that his return is imminent.  The Church, all of the Church, ought to be working together for the sake of the kingdom.  The question of how we define the Church is far too important to let it be influenced by anything other than the Word of God.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sermon Video: Faith Resting on God's Power - 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

In this self-reflective section, Paul explains his attitude and reasoning regarding his initial time in Corinth when he first preached the Gospel, first in the synagogue, and then among the Gentiles.  Paul reveals that he purposefully avoided trying to sound polished and slick in his presentation, not wanting to win people over with anything other than the Gospel message itself.  In addition, Paul admits to a level of trepidation at the weight of the responsibility God had given him, but ends the section with a reassuring thought: It was not upon anything that Paul did that the people built their faith, but on the power of God.  How does Paul know this?  Paul kept his focus upon the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the heart of the Gospel, thus ensuring that what the people believed in was the Word of God, and thus reliant upon the power of God, as it should be.

To watch the video, click on the link below:

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Sermon Video: God's Misfits - 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

The message of the Gospel, a message of redemption and hope, naturally appeals more to the downtrodden and the poor than to the powerful and rich.  It is thus no surprise that the Church has always been more welcome among the outcasts of this world than among its upper crust.  But, as Paul informs us, it is not simply the appeal of the message that is responsible for this outcome, but the will of God itself.  God chose to focus on the lowly for his own purpose: to destroy human pride and ensure that all whom he calls to him will come in humility.  In the end, the only boasting available to the people of God is boasting of the awesome works of our God.

To watch the video, click on the link below: