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Showing posts from March, 2009

The Unity of Diversity (Reading Romans 12:3-8)

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The Western Church lives in paradox. On one end of the compendium there is a feeling that we must take it upon ourselves to unify the church. In doing so there is a feeling that somehow we must deal with diversity while at the same time creating it. Such ideas have literally caused the church to stand on its head. In Romans 12 Paul teaches that the reality of the church is that it IS a diverse unity. No one needs to create unity, or diversity, and so on and so on. God has created the church as is. God has not given us the ideal of unity and made it our duty to hasten toward it. God has created unity. Unity is not the ideal of the church it is the reality of the church. Learning to deal with the church “as is” will cause us to return the body of Christ from standing on its head to standing on its feet. If we apply the principle of Paul here in Romans 12, that the church is a paradox, a “diverse unity”, it may cause us to see things quite differently. “For as in one body we have many

Horrible People Believe in Jesus (Reading Romans 12:3-21)

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Paul has made a transition in his writing. He moves from dealing with difficult doctrines to now living them in an even more difficult world. With this transition Paul acknowledges a constant theme of the Bible; knowledge is not enough. Spiritual knowledge without practice is a damning deception of the soul. Professing Christ without following Christ is not saving faith. This is why a person can believe in Jesus and yet remain a horrible person. We must journey away from horrible. It is ironic then that Paul’s first imperative for practicing the Christian life is to think about the self (12:3). Horrible people think only of themselves. All things are in reference to their own comforts, preferences, agendas, and perceptions of the world. Sadly, but churches are full of horrible people. All decisions of the church are in reference to them. When things do not go according to plan whether it is for their family, their child, or their agenda, horrible people show the rest of the church how

God Wants My Body (Reading Romans 12:1)

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“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of god, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice. . .” Romans 12:1a So God wants my body? For the bulk of us there is nothing in this world about which we are more insecure and displeased with than our bodies. People who are proud of their bodies wear tight T-shirts in the winter. Most of us hate those people. People who are proud of their bodies take lots of pictures of themselves and put them on Facebook. The rest of the world is much more insecure. The reason I know this is because their Facebook profile picture is not them. It may be a picture of a comic book hero. Most often it is a picture of their kids. There are a lot of people I went to High School with who now look like they are seven years old. Most of us hate our bodies. So why does God want my body? In a previous post I talked about how the prevalent philosophy in Paul’s day viewed the body as an awkward prison of the soul. The body was a trap. The logical concl

The Mercy(ies) of God (Reading Romans 12:1-2)

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In my opinion Romans 12:1-2 is one of the most powerful statements in the Bible. It is well crafted. The words are well chosen. There is a cavern of meaning here of which the depths have yet to be plumbed. A testimony to the power of this statement is that in the commentaries I read almost all of them devote an entire section to these two verses. When you encounter a short Biblical statement that says so much it is good policy to stop and study the words. Yesterday I studied the word “living.” “Present your bodies a living sacrifice.” In one dictionary I used there were twenty five pages on the meaning of the word “living.” If you read my post from yesterday I hope you discerned that in the philosophical climate in which Paul was writing his choice to use the word “living” was not accidental or trite. For a man to have the consciousness, awareness, and knowledge to offer his body as a living sacrifice to his god was a profound philosophical and theological insight. So what can we sa

The Grace of God in the Graft (SERMON AUDIO: SUN. A.M.)

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Paul invites his Gentile readers to peer into the plan of God to save Israel . It is the most unlikely of paths full of unexpected turns all to reveal the marvelous wisdom of God. From examining this plan the reader cannot help but respond with respect for Israel and with worship to our incredible God. Outline: How should we respond to Romans 11:11-36? We should be a people of incredible hope (vv. 11 -12, 25-27) We should participate in God’s plan of bringing people to Jesus (vv. 13-16) We should be students of the Jewish context of our faith (vv. 17-20) We should be careful to care about Israel (vv. 21-24) We should take comfort in the sovereignty of God (vv. 28-32) We should worship God in awe and humility (vv. 33-36) Listen to audio

What Does it Mean to Be Alive? A Reflection on Paul's Counter-Cultural Use of the Word "Living" (Reading Romans 12:1)

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In Romans 12:1 Paul uses the word “living” which is a Greek word used to describe the essence of life. It means to be “alive.” I have been exploring that word for a couple of hours now and I must admit my mind is exited by what I have found but at the same time it is muddled by it. It is at these moments that I ink thoughts like those that follow. I know what I am trying to say, but I am not really sure where to end. All in all, the simple point I would like to make about the word “living” in Romans 1 is that Paul’s use of it was radically counter-cultural in the first century and remains so today. As a student of Scripture we need to read it with the understanding that each word is carefully chosen and equally beautiful. I believe Romans 12:1 – 2 is one of the most well crafted statements in human history. I wish I could choose my own words so well. Maybe you, the reader of this blog, can help me bring all of this to some conclusion! I am out of time today. I value your in

A Surreal Day of Fatherhood

Today was one of those surreal days for a father. Just before lunch I picked up my nine year old and held her. On my shoulder was her chin. Over my shoulder was a picture on the refrigerator taken more than seven years ago. She may have been almost two. She was making biscuits at my mom’s house. As I held her I realized I could only do so now with her permission. Nine years ago I held her in her helplessness. Now I can only hold her with her help. When I picked her up I realized she was growing. Am I? In the afternoon we went to a wedding. I sat on the aisle side of the pew. When the congregation stood in honor of the bride my daughters rushed to my end of the row so they could see her enter. They love brides. There I stood with my five year old holding my right hand and my sandy blonde daughter leaning in as far as she could in front of me. I held them both as I watched the bride, another man’s daughter. When I held my girls and watched the bride I realized my daugh

The Grace of God in the Remnant (SERMON AUDIO: SUN. AM)

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How does God respond when people reject Him? The answer is unexpected and surprising. He saves some of them. If a God of grace exists one would naturally scan the planet looking for evidence of the grace of God. Where are the people who have experienced the grace of God? Yet, our culture is experiencing a sin tsunami that is destroying the human soul. Rejection of God is so rampant one wonders if there is any evidence of His grace. In Romans 11 Paul teaches that a remnant exists, a group of people who have experienced the grace of God. God’s grace has made a moral impact on their soul. Are you a part of the remnant? Have you experienced the grace of God? If you have experienced God’s grace the evidence should be unmistakable. Listen to Audio

Shocks and Snakes in the Comedy of Humanity

Strange things happen to humans. Humanity is comedy. I defend my thesis by simply observing not only the strange things humans do, but also the seemingly pointless things that happen to them. Case in point #1 is static electricity. I understand that the ability to generate energy is a blessing. I understand that God has woven certain laws into the fabric of life that make living amazing. I understand that the physical laws that make generating power for Manhattan possible, also operate in the micro moments of life. For instance, nuclear reactors generate electricity, and so do shoes. I simply wonder why, in the infinite power of God, that the Creator did not allow electricity to be manufactured by the turbine while at the same time taking clothing, the human body, or shampoo off the list. Shampoo? Yes, shampoo! During the winter months I am electric. I am so electric in the winter that even wood seems to shock me. I experience horrible static cling on my belly. Every shi

Questioning Romans 11:1-10 (Reading Romans 11)

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On Sunday (3/15/09) we will tread deep water, Romans 11. This will be a three week swim. You will need to be well prepared. None of those biceps “swimmie” things will be allowed. Frankly, they just look way too ridiculous and they chafe. Yet when it comes to Sunday sermons most pew dwellers wear the equivalent of theological “swimmies.” We approach Sunday with little thought or preparation about the coming text. As a result most leave church a little chafed but relatively unchanged. Sermons are merely morning swims; routine, relaxing, and easily forgotten over lunch. Allow me to give you an arsenal of questions about this week’s text that may help you to be well prepared for Sunday’s sermon. If you have never taken the time to think through a text before your preacher feeds it to you I think you will find this exercise to be incredibly rewarding. Whether you are at RBC on Sunday or another church you may be amazed to find how much more interesting your preacher’s sermon beco

The Remnant, Survivors of the Decadent Tsunami (Reading Romans 11)

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The word remnant describes those that remain. They are survivors. Something devastating has taken place and multitudes have perished. Perhaps it is the coming wrath of God that will be so cataclysmic only a few, a remnant, will remain (Romans 9:27). We are facing a godless cultural tide. It is a tsunami of sexual perversion, amoral values, relativism, and spiritual chaos. A Google search is an x-ray of the human soul. Whether it be statistical data, rampant cursing, hopeless blogs, or decadent images the moral devastation is apparent. Elijah has faced the prophets of Baal and by the power of God has won. In 1 Kings 19 he faces the wrath of Queen Jezebel. He hides alone in a cave. His move is more than a posture but a metaphor for his fear. God questions Elijah as to why he is in the cave and Elijah explains in short it is because he is alone. He is the remnant of Israel . He feels the decadent culture of Baal worship has swept away those who worship God. “Lord they ha

What is the Bible About? Missing the Obvious Answer (Reading Romans 11)

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The most elementary key to interpreting a story is to recognize what the story is about. No one would ever say that the story of Snow White is about the plight of woodland dwarfs or that Cinderella is a masterpiece about the artistic skill of mice. I am the father of two daughters, I know my princess stories. Though dwarfs and talking animals are essential to any Disney movie they are not the subjects of the story. Failing to recognize the main character of Biblical literature is a common problem in reading Scripture. The normal approach to Genesis is to see it as a succession of stories about characters such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. The book is read as if it is a collection of chronological sagas rather than a cohesive whole. Yet since it is one book I would ask the question, what is Genesis about? Are the Psalms just Psalms? Is there any sort of rhyme, rhythm or reason to the Psalms, a single thread that would bind them together as they are presented in the

The Intertestamental Period (SERMON AUDIO: WED. TEACHING)

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Why did first-century Jews reject Jesus as Messiah? Paul's answer is that their unbelief is a part of God's elective purpose (Rom. 9-11). While this is true, the sovereignty of God works in human theaters. So the proper question may be something like, "What historical events did God use to shape Israel's unbelief?" The answer to this question may be found in the intertestamental period. This teaching explores some critical events that may lend some clarity to the context in which Jesus ministered and Paul wrote. Audio

Lodging in a Cave With "Only I" and "They"

(Reading Romans 11:2-5, Context of Paul quoting Elijah) "I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away." 1 Kings 19:10 My two greatest enemies are “only I” and “they.” These enemies appear during lonely and fearful moments of the soul. They lodge with me in darkness. Sometimes “they” masquerades as “everyone.” His voice is a trickle to the ear but a trumpet blast to the heart. He has spoken to you as well, you have heard him. Unity is a lofty ideal. Even the best and most godly plans are met with resistance. It is impossible to gather any sized cluster of people who think and speak the same. Yet when it is “only I” and “they” it is amazing how my mind is able to give “they” a common voice. “Everyone is saying . . .feels that . . . thinks. . .”, with amazing unity. “Only I”

Whitestone

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I usually don’t post things of this nature but I will make an exception for good reason. You must visit Whitestone Country Inn in Kingston, TN. I try to post articles that will do something for the soul, Whitestone fits the genre. My wife and I have visited Whitestone five times over the past 8 years. It is one of our favorite places on earth. In my personal opinion CocoCay, Bahamas runs neck and neck. Outside of those two everything else is at least a distant second. Whitestone is a picturesque bed and breakfast that sits on Watts Bar Lake in Kingston, TN. The picture I posted shows only one of the four buildings on the property that host rooms. Each building is placed with precision throughout the 300+ acres of hills and pastures providing a truly magnificent scene. The beauty is topped off by the chapel on a hill overlooking the entire property. If I could preach in a certain scene each week, the chapel at Whitestone would be it. Go to the website and check out the pics. Whitesto

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day (SERMON AUDIO: SUN. A.M.)

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After taking a week off to rest I found out early on Sunday morning that I would be preaching both services as we had to reschedule a visiting evangelist due to inclement weather. It was a snowy day. Two weeks ago I read a book by Mark Batterson In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day . Since it was a snowy day I took the opportunity to share with our congregation some things I had learned from the book. The book centers on the story of Beniah from 2 Samuel 23. What is your lion? Sometimes our greatest opportunities exist in our greatest fears and challenges. AUDIO

In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day (Book Review)

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A couple of weeks ago I read Mark Batterson’s In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day . The book was an incredible blessing in two ways. Today Evangelist Scott Dawson was to speak at our church, but it was a snowy day. We had to reschedule for next Sunday (3/8) which meant that I found out I would be preaching at our 9:30 and 11 a.m. services at 7:30 a.m. With the book fresh on my mind it gave me some great material to share with those in our church who braved travel to church on a snowy day. Blessing number two: this is a very inspiring book; one that I needed to read on so many levels. In his book, In a Pit , Batterson takes an obscure passage of Scripture, 2 Samuel 23:20-22, and uses it to motivate his readers. The passage is about one of David’s mighty men named Benaiah who had a more than impressive resume. He was not only a mighty warrior but he had killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day. Obviously using this passage for teaching would require some creativity. Sadly creati