Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Sermon Video: Paul's extra-long sermon - Acts 20:1-12

Of what value is knowledge of God to you?  What are you willing to do to obtain it?  While Paul was teaching at Troas, a young man named Eutychus nearly paid for such knowledge with his life.  If not for the mercy and power of God, which enabled Paul to bring Eutychus back from the dead, that quest for knowledge would have ended in tragedy.  And yet, such knowledge for Christians today, at least in the West, is readily available, even free.  Do those who claim to be disciples of Christ thirst after knowledge of God, do they seek it diligently and guard themselves against error and falsehood?  As God's people, his holy Church, we need to make every effort to educate ourselves and to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the Church and its ministers to learn more and more about our Savior and our God.

To watch the video, click on the link below:

Thursday, July 20, 2017

"In Every Age, O Lord" - Reflections on 150 years from Psalm 90

When First Baptist of Franklin celebrates its 150th year of existence this July 30th, the choir will sing a version of Psalm 90 entitled, "In Every Age, O Lord" by William Monaghan.  Psalm 90 was written by Moses in acknowledgement of the providential care of the LORD for Israel throughout each generation.  After contemplating the briefness of man in comparison to the eternality of God, the psalm ends with this prayer, "May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us - yes, establish the work of our hands."

God is indeed the Alpha and Omega, the author and finisher, but in his wisdom, God has chosen to work in and through his chosen people, first Israel, and now the Church.  This willingness of God to work out his will through the efforts of mortal men and women makes the prayer of Moses entirely appropriate.  We plan, strive, and hope, seeking to fulfill God's will and be useful servants for his kingdom, but we need the power of God to establish the work we have undertaken.  Why?  To make it effective, to make it last.  The Church has been able to endure, as a whole, because of the empowerment it has received from the Holy Spirit at work among its individual members.  If we were but a human institution, we would have surely collapsed long ago, like Rome itself, under the weight of our own foibles and follies.  But the Church of Jesus Christ has endured, despite the faults of those who comprise it and their foolishness, for it is an expression of the power of God.

Here at First Baptist we have had ups and downs.  We had a generation where a 1,000 people came to be a part of this church's worship, and we have had a generation where a couple dozen were all we could muster.  And yet, the work of God has endured here among his people.  Those redeemed of the Lord continue to be trained and equipped, worship and prayer still rises up from our gatherings, and ministries of outreach both local and global continue to be undertaken.  God, in his wisdom, has been with us thus far, allowing us today to stand at the end of a line of God's people stretching back at this location to the 19th century.

God has been our refuge, in each generation, and God has established the work of our hands for his kingdom.  May God continue to bless his people, gathered here in Franklin, in his name and for his glory, for many generations to come.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Sermon Video: The Gospel vs. the Love of Money - Acts 19:21-41

Since the beginning, the desire to have more than we already have has led many to greed which often manifests itself as a love of money.  While in Ephesus, the success of Paul's ministry for the Gospel inspired a reaction against the new Christian religion on behalf of those who were making a considerable sum of money from the pilgrims who came to worship at the Temple of Artemis.  Because Paul preached that idols were mere objects made by the hands of men, and no god at all, the growth of Christianity in Ephesus and its surrounding areas threatened their economic prosperity, for only those who believed in the value of idols would spend their money at the Temple.
The hostility toward the new religion led to a near riot in Ephesus, one that was only prevented from leading to violence through the intervention of a local politician who suggested taking any grievance into the courts instead of seeking mob justice.  In the end, the people who came to the Temple, and spent their hard earned money, were being robbed as surely as by any thief, for the idol of Artemis was indeed but a hunk of rock, it could neither hear nor respond to the prayers sent its way, invalidating the commerce of all those who benefited from the pilgrims.  What the Gospel offered was of true value, for Christ offers to the Lost not only forgiveness and reconciliation, but transformation, a purpose, hope, and peace as well.

To watch the video, click on the link below:

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Once again, rushing to judgment leads to error.

It should be obvious to Christians that being quick to judge another Christian, especially one you don't know personally, especially one who you only have an incomplete picture of, is both foolhardy and dangerous, and an avenue leading to sin.  While the phrase, "Judge not, lest ye be judged" is ingrained in our minds, we are at the same time bombarded with snap judgments and half-truths (if that) from the constant stream of information flowing our way, much of it politically motivated, through both the news media and social media.  The desire to get a story out fast, and the ease of sharing or re-tweeting something, especially something that confirms our own viewpoint or something salacious, can turn a small story into an avalanche that leaves fact-checking and a balanced view in the dust.

In recent months, a handful of people with an online/media presence have hammered away at an apologist that I often listen to (though don't agree with on everything, of course) named James White.  I first came across James White in college when his book, The King James Only Controversy was required reading for my Biblical Criticism class, that book would later form the nucleus of my History of the Bible lectures.

Those critical of James White in relation to a two-part dialogue he participated in with a Muslim Imam, have filled the airwaves/internet with a vast amount of partial truths, innuendo, name calling, and outright lies (easily refutable ones).  Why would they be able to get away with such character assassination?  Because God's people have allowed themselves to become lazy.  They've been spoon fed opinions in the political realm, leaning one way or the other, and have long since grown accustomed to accepting what they hear as the truth without verifying it.  I know that while watching the news, or reading an article online, it isn't possible to verify everything that you see, but when the issue involves accusations of "heresy", "cowardice", and claiming that a Christian is in league with mysterious Islamic forces that are trying to take over the world, one would think that you and I would be willing to at least dig enough to see whether such startling accusations have a basis in the truth.

Throughout this whole ordeal, the video of the dialogue in question has been available online, easily accessible to any willing to watch before reaching a conclusion about it.  Unfortunately, many of those who have been critical have too much invested (politically, emotionally, financially) in an apocalyptic narrative that is threatened by peaceful dialogue with Muslims.  For some, a clash of civilizations, WWIII style, is a desired outcome.  They see this as a pre-cursor to the 2nd Coming of Christ, and/or are looking at this issue through Nationalist eyes and not through Gospel ones.  Do some within Islam want worldwide Jihad and death to all the infidels?  Of course, many of them have joined terrorist groups to further their vision of utopia.  Does their desire make such a global fight to the death inevitable?  Not at all.  The Cold War ended without WWIII erupting, that was a far more grave situation against an enemy far better equipped to wage war, yet it never fully erupted into all out war.  One should then ask, why are so many people in Europe and America so heavily invested in seeing the current level of conflict become a global war?  Why do they want the dream of the terrorists, global war, to come true?

For the sake of the Church, and the sake of the Gospel, we cannot afford, as Christians, to close our hearts and minds to the need of the Muslim people to hear and receive faith in Jesus Christ.  If we choose to write off a billion people as beyond the reach of the Gospel, great will be our shame, and severe our judgment before Almighty God.  If we choose to abandon them, for any reason, we will have failed as the people who have been called by God to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

We won't reach Muslims with the Good News by lumping them all into one group as terrorists.  We won't reach Muslims by shouting from street corners, posting insulting videos, or insisting that any conversation include condemnation of Muhammad.  That avenue offers no hope of success, only the self-righteousness of condemning those who are already lost (as if have been told to do so by God).  How will the Muslims of the world be reached for Christ?  Through patience, understanding, friendships, honesty, and kindness.  If you're not interested in being a part of such a loving approach, your problem isn't with James White or the countless missionaries at work for the Kingdom in Muslim countries today, your problem is with the Gospel.

For the sake of the truth, and to show at least a modicum of interest in it.  Read the article below published by ChristianNews.net  If you still think White is a "dupe" or Judas, dig further, or perhaps look in the mirror and ask yourself why you won't want Muslims to hear about Jesus.

Apologist James White Draws Concerns After Holding, Defending Interfaith ‘Dialogue’ at Church With Muslim Imam

FYI, one of the issues being condemned is the use of a church building for this event.  The Church in the NT is not a building, it is a people.  It is not the place which is sacred, but the people who meet there who make it so by having been saved by God's grace.  To use such a building to further the spread of the Gospel is a use that brings glory to God, not shame.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Sermon Video: Often imitated, never duplicated - Acts 19:13-20

How genuine does your faith need to be?  Can you get by with the equivalent of a generic version?  In Acts 19, the people of Ephesus learn the answer to such questions when seven Jewish men attempt to utilize the name of Jesus, without actually believing in Jesus, in order to cast out a demon from a possessed man.  Their attempt didn't go according to plan, the demon recognized their lack of faith and instead of obeying those empowered by Jesus as per usual, it beat all seven men brutally as they barely escaped with their lives.  Still think that a knock-off or diet version of the Gospel is good enough?
When news of this spread to the people of Ephesus, those who already believed publicly confessed their sins to each other, and brought a huge pile of scrolls used in their former life for sorcery to be burned.  The people of Ephesus got the message: Take God seriously.  Will you?

To watch the video, click on the link below: