The season of Lent is once again at hand. It is observed by many Christians and receives special attention in Lutheran and Catholic circles. Traditions can often serve a good purpose in our spiritual lives. At the same time, they can also become entrenched in such a way that we are no longer able to view them objectively.
Our nation attended church on Saturday at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey, when Whitney Houston's nearly four-hour funeral service was broadcast on national television. Many of those who witnessed it were incredibly touched by the testimonies, the singing and the preaching. The highlight for me and for others was when members of the Winans family sang "Tomorrow."
As someone who has spent all 47 years of my life in Lutheran churches, I am very familiar with Martin Luther's complex teaching regarding the Lord's Supper. I have seen plenty of people over the years struggle to grasp his puzzling perspective that Christ's literal body and blood are located "in, with and under" the bread and wine. Luther's highly nuanced description of communion 500 years ago was a curious twist on the Roman Catholic position.
How do I know if God was glorified and if He did a work in my soul through a particular message from a preacher? Well....did I come away marveling at the preacher, or marveling at God? As a result of the message, am I enthralled with the man or with the Lord? Who stands out more in my mind and in my heart? Who have I been more inspired to talk about to others.....the Lord, or the preacher?
By opening Thursday's Republican presidential debate asking Newt Gingrich about allegations from his ex-wife, CNN host John King may have inadvertently handed the presidency to Gingrich.
Have you noticed the significant number of ministers in recent decades who have been promoting magic in their teaching? They truly believe that their very words contain the power to create and change reality around them. They teach people that man has the ability to speak things into existence the same way that God spoke the world into existence. They have been deceived into believing they have this power within themselves and in the words they speak out loud.
Outgoing Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has stirred up quite a hornet's nest. On his way out of office, he decided to pardon about 200 convicted criminals, including a handful of murderers. Needless to say, it hasn't gone over well with everyone. Now a Mississippi judge has blocked the release of 21 of those inmates.
Tim Tebow sure knows how to praise others. I guess he is so good at it because he has been doing it for quite awhile now. His highest praises always go to the Lord. After the Broncos defeated the Steelers in their playoff game last weekend, Tim said: “First and foremost, I just want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Tim has never been ashamed to boast about the One who created the world and who died on the cross for his sins.
I hope you don't view Christmas as merely a holiday. It is so much more. In fact, Christmas is either a "game changer," or it is a hoax. Christmas means everything, or nothing at all.
With another winner being crowned this week on the hugely popular show "Survivor," it seems that more and more of the contestants these days are engaging in prayer and Christian commentary as a way to build their "alliance" with others. One contestant from this latest season even vowed as a "Christian man" that he would not break his promise to those he courted for support. When he eventually went against his word and against those who had trusted him, he was doing what the contest encourages people to do: betray, lie, deceive, manipulate, and use others in an attempt to win one million dollars for yourself.
What if this was the Christmas you began to doubt your doubts, and instead, began to place confidence in the One who became the babe of Bethlehem? After all, what have your doubts ever done for you? Did your doubts come to earth to die for your sins and be your Savior? Are your doubts able to take you to heaven when you die?
You have probably heard the saying, "Get your Groove On." It means to get back in the flow of doing what you do best and enjoy it while you're at it. How about this one: "Get your 'Scrooge' On." You remember ol' Ebenezer from "A Christmas Carol"? He was visited by several ghosts who gave him a glimpse of his past, his present, and his future. It was a real wake-up call for a man who was on the wrong road.
I had a fresh reminder about prayer as I worked on my message for this weekend. The message is based on Matthew 8:5-13 where the centurion believed Jesus would grant his request even before he saw any evidence of the answered prayer.
Can you and I take a little walk and discuss some spiritual matters for a few minutes? I promise not to keep you too long. I would like to touch base with you today about God and Satan.
If you are sick and tired of having nightmares, this message is for you.
If you were wrong about God, would you want to know? That question is absolutely critical. Do you realize there is no logical way you can answer “no” to that question? Think about it for a second. If you were to answer “no,” you would be saying that you don’t want to know about a future in hell that could be avoided by trusting in Jesus and the punishment He took in your place.
Man in his natural state is extremely slow to recognize sin. It generally has to become intensely wicked for it to start to register on man's warped radar. When it reaches the level of depravity which is now known to have transpired for years at Penn State, it then becomes clear even to natural man that it is utterly evil. These sins against children at Penn State are truly sickening and repulsive to anyone whose conscience is not completely seared.
Most people accept a particular "Jesus." Unless you are naive enough to think Jesus of Nazareth never existed, you accept him in your mind as either a religious prophet, a good teacher, or perhaps as your personal Savior. Islam teaches that Jesus was a messenger of God but that he was not crucified. That is one example of a particular "Jesus."
Bertrand Russell was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, and social critic. He is recognized as one of the most important logicians of the 20th Century. He is also credited for showing that the naive set theory created by Georg Cantor leads to a contradiction. This is known as "Russell's paradox."
Some movie stars are fanatics. So are some politicians. Even some famous athletes are fanatical. So it shouldn't surprise us that some Christians have to work hard at avoiding their tendency toward fanaticism.
When a major league baseball player enters the Hall of Fame, he is entering "baseball heaven." When a whole team wins the World Series, the entire team enters "baseball heaven." The Texas Rangers made it to the front gate of that utopia last week, but were not allowed inside. They were so close they could taste it, but that euphoric tease quickly turned very bitter.
Joel Osteen's recent interview with Sally Quinn of The Washington Post revealed some interesting things. Joel clearly conveyed a biblical position on whether or not he would officiate a same-sex wedding. He said he could not in "good faith" do such a thing. The Bible repeatedly identifies adultery, homosexual behavior, and sex before marriage as sinful practices.
If you have not yet trusted Christ to save your soul, a lot is riding on your upcoming decisions. It is not only your soul at stake here. It also involves the souls of your loved ones.
Jesus came to provide redemption. The Holy Spirit was sent to reveal redemption. Man is a pro at resisting what Jesus came to provide and what the Holy Spirit came to reveal. Just look around you. How many people do you know who are resisting the Holy Spirit?
My wife, Tammy, and I have been married for 21 years. When she was a teenager, she was hanging out with some friends one day who were messing around with a Ouija board. The letters began moving without any of the teenagers touching the board. The board spelled out the letters, "K I L L T A M M Y." If you are a Wiccan, you know all about this type of magical power. I sure am thankful that none of those teenagers followed the direction of those spirits that day. Those spirits were trying to entice the teenagers to go deeper into the dark world of the occult.