Prayer at a high school football game – What we believe

Tomorrow night we will have prayer before a high school football game.  We will pray The Lord’s Prayer.  And we’re not doing it to make anyone uncomfortable or to upset anyone.  We not doing it to put on a show.  We who are praying it are praying it because we believe it.  We believe it:

  • In spite of the chaos of this world
  • In spite of cancer
  • In spite of babies dying
  • In spite of evil
  • In spite of our own doubt
  • In spite of others’ disbelief
  • In spite of imperfect churches full of imperfect people who can’t seem to even get along with each other.

We believe that this earth and solar system did not just happen to hit the one in a gazillion lotto that allows human life to exist.  We believe this world and our lives in it are too amazing to happen by chance and that it had to be made.  We believe there is a Creator who designed this world to support life, a Creator so large and so powerful that it is impossible to know Him unless He makes Himself known to us.  And we believe that is exactly what He has done.  We believe that He wanted to show us who He is and He did so through Jesus Christ.  And we believe that it was His choice to reconcile us to Himself by the shed blood of Jesus on the cross.  We believe that when we turn from our own flawed ways and ask for forgiveness, He is faithful to forgive us.  We believe that when our earthly bodies die, our faith and trust in Jesus will allow us to live forever with Him, even though we’re not really sure what that will entail.  We believe the Bible conveys all of this to us, even though we only understand it in part.  And finally, we believe that He wants us to tell others about Him… and about this opportunity to not only put their faith in this Jesus so they can be forever with Him when this life ends, but to have Him walk through this life with them, as we believe He is doing with us.

frankfortfootballThe majority of us who will be praying tomorrow night believe all of the above.  And we will pray not in order to offend those who don’t believe, even though we may.  We are praying to publicly profess what we believe and to witness to our faith.  And if by chance, our Heavenly Father decides to move among the fans and reach one or two of them through our prayer, then to Him be the glory.  We believe He might.

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Who’s in this class because it’s required?

Diane is taking a math class at Frostburg State University.  She is taking it because she has to take a math class to get her Sociology/Anthropology degree.  Her advisor who helped her with her schedule told her that it was the best class for those who just needed credit for a math class.  Diane said the professor asked the class who was there because they just needed a math class for their degree and 90% of the class raised their hand.  The bottom line is that a single math class is required and this is the easiest math class to pass. I don’t blame Diane or the others in this case.  Math isn’t their major and it’s not even an important thing in the career that their degree will lead to.  For Diane and most in that class, Math is a hoop they have to jump through to get what they really want.

As a pastor in the American church that’s how I feel about a large percentage of church people.  If I asked, and if people were honest, I believe a large percentage of any church in America would hold up their hands and admit that they were living enough of a Christian life to meet the minimum requirement – taking the “easiest course to meet the requirement” if you will.  Attending just enough church, doing the minimum, giving the minimum, praying the minimum, reading a minimal amount of the Bible, and hoping they pass.  And if that’s not you, then don’t be offended.  And if you’re offended by that statement, you’d better ask yourself why.  A “C” is not a Christian’s goal.  The Christian life is pass or fail.

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Persecution Complex

Yesterday’s sermon (you can listen here) was from the book of Revelation and focused on Rev. 2:1-7 written to the church in Ephesus.  Part of it talked about how the church in Ephesus had done a good job of calling out false teachers – or liars as one translation calls them.  They had been warned about false teachers 50 years earlier by Paul in Acts 20.

The thing about false teachers is that I think many of them believe what they’re teaching.  Therefore, they don’t even know they’re teaching falsely.  As a pastor, it’s something I think about.  Is there any way I am teaching false doctrine and don’t realize it?  And I don’t mean to imply that I believe I’m right about every single thing I teach.  On the contrary, I’m certain I’m not right about everything.  I readily admit it.  But I pray that about the big issues, I’m correctly interpreting Scripture, even if I disagree with it.  And about the less eternity-effecting things, I pray I receive grace.

Which leads me to this week’s sermon that I’m working on about the church in Smyrna.  It’s known as the persecuted church.  They were persecuted for following Jesus – I’m talking boiled in oil and burned at the stake persecuted.  And it sickens me when I think about that, or think about Christians being killed in the Middle East today, and then read things about what I would consider the false teachers in the American church talk about being “persecuted” and being “martyrs” for their liberal agendas here in America.  That’s a persecution complex that trivializes the true persecution going on around the world where people are being tortured and killed for the truth of Jesus Christ.

If and when persecution comes to the American church, we’ll know it.  It’s not here yet.

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All’s quiet in the sanctuary

Our church has been very active today for a Friday.  There’s been a truck bringing supplies from the food bank, people doing a deep cleaning of one of the rooms, someone checking on the water situation from some rain water getting in the social hall, and someone else who I think just stopped to go to the bathroom.  And this is only what I’ve seen today.  In my office, I can see everyone coming and going.

I’ve been in the sanctuary doing a little reading.  The thing I notice is that nobody who comes into the church on a Friday comes into the sanctuary.  And I feel the Holy Spirit moving to have us start something different.

Here’s what I’m supposed to propose. When anyone comes into the church through the week for any reason:

  • board meetings
  • trustee meetings
  • pprc meetings
  • UMW meetings
  • Women With Faith meetings
  • dropping off juice
  • bringing in clean dish towels
  • work the food pantry
  • and all the other reasons people come to the church through the week

sanctuaryI’m going to ask that everyone go to the sanctuary and pray before they do what they came to do.  Doesn’t this make sense?  And I know many of you who read my blog don’t go to church here.  Why don’t you suggest this in your church?

My prayer is that church sanctuaries would not be the most desolate place in the church through the week, but the most active.  It will change the way we look at what we came to the church to do.

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Second Chances will come to an end

This is a snippet from this coming Sunday’s sermon:

…His eyes like a flame of fire… – Revelation 1:14

The same eyes that John saw crying and caring all those years ago will one day be penetrating and ready to judge sin and all evil. Do you remember in the book of John chapter 8 when the people brought the woman caught in adultery? And they asked Jesus, what should we do? The law of Moses says that we stone her. And what did Jesus do? They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Don’t miss the fact that that John relayed the story of the woman caught in adultery to us in the book named after him –The woman caught in adultery comes from John, chapter 8. In Revelation, John sees the same eyes that at one time looked away and forgave sin, no longer weeping.  One day those forgiving eyes will be like a flame of fire no longer giving second chances, but ready to judge the sin he was once willing to forgive.  One day it will be too late.  And all we can do is warn people…… before it’s too late.

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Kathie Lee preaches Jesus on national TV

Diane asked me this morning if I heard about Kathie Lee Gifford and what she said on TV.  I told her that I read that she gave a “loving tribute to Frank”, whatever that means.  Diane said, Kathie Lee preached about Jesus on her show.

Well, I watched it and guess what?  She did.  She talked about Frank’s faith in Jesus Christ.  She said as a young child that Frank confessed faith in Jesus and while he strayed some from his faith on occasion, his faith never left him.  She said “his world got smaller as his God got bigger”.  She said “Those of you who are hurting today or feel hopeless, this (Jesus) is the answer for you.”  She said that the key is to trust in a living God, not a religion.

I thank God for giving her the boldness to speak the Word that God put on her heart.  And she spoke to me most when she talked about Frank’s gratitude.  She said he was the most grateful man she’d ever known.

Gratitude is what I’m going to talk about tonight after our Wednesday dinner here at the church. I invite you to watch the video:   You can click here to watch it.

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You who don’t go to church…

I often use the analogy of a person who claims to be a Christian, but doesn’t go to church  is like a ship sailing alone in pirate infested waters.  It’s easy pickings for the enemy.  It’s much more difficult for pirates to attack a ship that is sailing in an armada.

Yesterday morning I had breakfast with some people and one of them is a missionary.  He shared about a safari tour he was on and watching a gazelle give birth. He said a hyena came up behind the gazelle and killed the baby as it was born and the mother was helpless to stop it.

kuduHe said the very next day he saw a pack of kudu (look like gazelles to me) chasing a predator away when one of the kudu was giving birth.  All the other kudu were watching out for the helpless one in her time of need.  It’s safe to assume the helpless one had been the more able one watching out for others at other points in time.

When someone hangs around with people who do drugs, how hard is it to give up drugs?  When all your friends go out and drink all the time, it’s too easy to drink too often and too much, and you may not even see anything wrong with it.  On the other hand, there’s something beneficial to gathering together as a bunch of imperfect people trying to live life like Jesus.

transformedThere’s something beneficial to having the Word of God poured into you an a weekly (or twice weekly) basis.  And it’s not that you will remember every sermon or song, but you’re being formed. We’re always being formed.  We’re all on a path.  The question is what path are you on, who is influencing you, who is looking out for you in your lowest moment? Who is helping to form you?  If you don’t attend church, I hope you will consider checking out church – our church or any church. 

When Diane and I started checking out churches in Sistersville in 1985, we settled on the Sistersville First United Methodist Church and that church changed our lives.  That’s why we’re United Methodist today. And it didn’t happen overnight. I went for 15 years off and on until I was saved and gave my life to Christ.  And that church and the pastor there eventually saw something in me that led me into the ministry.  It wasn’t going to happen without the church.  Diane and I wouldn’t still be married without the church. And it’s not about “church worship”.  The church is merely the means to connect with and grow closer to Jesus.

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. ~ Hebrews 10:25

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