Here’s My Heart, Lord

“Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths.” (Proverbs 7:25, NIV)

Does God have your heart? Or does your heart wander? Does your heart stray? The key to victory over sin is not hating sin–let’s be honest, sometimes we don’t hate sin! Sometimes the reason why it’s hard to leave sin is that we like it… sometimes we even love it. But as much as our fallen human natures love the darkness, we can overcome sin with love for God. We may at times love our sin, but we love Jesus more.

Love is stronger than fear or duty. I may give God my will to do what is right, but unless I give Him my heart, it’s short-lived. Love endures when the will falters. Love compels when fatigue sets in. Love drives on when duty fades away. That’s why worship is so vital to the Christian life! It is in and through worship that we give our hearts to God, and when He has our hearts, He has all of us. This morning I was deeply moved by this verse and the song below. My prayer for the week is that you will make this song your anthem, and in so doing will find yourself more deeply in love with our Lord than ever before.

Photo above by Jamez Picard on Unsplash

Better is One Day

“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” (Psalm 84:10, NIV)

You may be wondering why I’m writing from Psalm 84 when I said a few weeks ago I was going to work through Leviticus. No, I haven’t given up on Leviticus (again)! In my study of the third book in the Bible, I came across this great quote from L. Michael Morales:

“Entering the house of God to dwell with God, beholding, glorifying and enjoying him eternally, I suggest, is the story of the Bible, the plot that makes sense of the various acts, persons and places of its pages, the deepest context for its doctrines. For this ultimate end the Son of God shed his blood and poured out the Spirit from on high, even to bring us into his Father’s house, in him, as sons and daughters of God… The primary theme and theology of Leviticus (and of the Pentateuch as a whole) is YHWH’s opening a way for humanity to dwell in the divine Presence.”1

What a great (and I think accurate) perspective of Leviticus! The primary theme isn’t the Law or all the regulations concerning sacrifices and offerings. The main point of the book is how we can dwell with God. All the other things drive toward that end. This brought to mind Psalm 84 and one of my favorite songs to sing in worship. I’ve linked it below.

My prayer for this week is that you will enjoy some time in the personal presence of God, even if it’s just for a few moments while you listen and maybe sing along with the song below.

1 L. Michael Morales, Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?: A Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus, ed. D. A. Carson, vol. 37, New Studies in Biblical Theology (England; Downers Grove, IL: Apollos; InterVarsity Press, 2015), 21–23.

Down But Not Out

So the first Sunday of March (the 6th), I tried something new with preaching… I had been scheduled to preach from Acts 15:36-16:5.  As I studied the passage, I felt like God was telling me to do something a little different.  Normally I would preach an exegetical-expository sermon, but this time I decided to try a first-person narrative.  In my passage, Barnabas and Paul, the great missionary team, argue and split over whether or not to take John Mark along with them on their second missionary journey.  Barnabas takes Mark and goes one way; Paul takes Silas and goes another.

No doubt Mark was pretty upset that they parted company over him.  But, God had other plans for Mark.  He brought Mark and Peter together, and they ended up in Rome, where many scholars believe Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark.  He and Paul reconciled in Rome while Paul was imprisoned there, and according to the testimony of some early church fathers, Peter sent Mark to plant a church in Alexandria, Egypt.  Mark was likely with both Peter and Paul when they were martyred, and eventually would himself be martyred for preaching the gospel.

What may have seemed like a failure in Mark’s life became an opportunity for God to move people around where He needed them to be so that Mark would be mentored by Peter and eventually write his Gospel.  God took a mess and painted an amazing picture with it!  In this first-person narrative of Mark’s life, I explore what Mark may have felt in the middle of the controversy, and how God’s resolution of the problem actually turned into a great victory for the Kingdom.  I hope it’s helpful to you!

This message was delivered at Pontiac Bible Church.

Integrity: Be Who You Are

Sermon delivered at Pontiac Bible Church on June 21, 2015.

This message was part of our summer series through Proverbs, Keep Calm and Be Wise.  Integrity has become a relic of the past in our society. News anchors lie, athletes cheat, few people are honest unless of course, it’s convenient. But, God designed us to live with integrity, and living the way God designed you to live is the very definition of wisdom. In this message, we’ll see what integrity really is, and how we can walk in it.

How Can Only One Religion Be True?

Sermon delivered at Pontiac Bible Church on 5/3/2015.

It is arrogant and intolerant to insist that your religion is right and try to convert others to it.

This statement is widely accepted in our culture, and Christians who choose not to be converted to this way of thinking are not tolerated by many in our society. But, can’t we admit that religion is, by its very nature, exclusive? Religion creates an “in-group” of people who know the “truth,” live the “right” way, and who are “loved” by God. Anyone not belonging to that religion is in the “out-group.” They don’t know the truth, they don’t live the right way, and therefore God doesn’t love them. They’re infidels that need to be converted, killed, or at least marginalized. Surely, we must acknowledge the divisiveness, bigotry, persecution and war that religion has caused! This is the religious problem. Religion is exclusive; it rejects tolerance in the name of truth.

But, non-religion isn’t much better. It rejects truth in the name of tolerance. Popular arguments against religious exclusivity abound in our society. Some believe that all religions are equally valid and basically teach the same things. This is not true, however. Christians say Jesus is God, but Muslims say Jesus is not God. Both religions cannot be equally true, nor do they teach the same things, especially about who God is.

Others say that every religion is false, none see the whole truth, and/or God doesn’t actually exist. But if you are going to make these claims, you must also claim that you, alone, possess all knowledge and truth. How do you know that no religion is true, unless you know what is true? And how do you know that God doesn’t exist outside of your knowledge, unless you possess all knowledge? Thus, you are claiming that every religious claim throughout thousands of years of human history has been wrong, except the claim that you are making. And that you are smarter than every one of the billions of people who have believed (and currently believe) in God (a list of names that include some of the most brilliant people who have ever lived). In the end, this is a pretty arrogant and intolerant position, just like the religious problem it seeks to fix!

So, religion rejects tolerance in the name of truth, and non-religion rejects truth in the name of tolerance. But is it possible to have both truth and tolerance? Is it possible to believe something is exclusively true, and also treat people who disagree with respect and love? I suggest that Christianity gives us the ability to believe in exclusive truth while being an inclusive people.

Christians believe that every human being, even one who is not a Christian, is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Thus, every person is infinitely valuable and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of the color of their skin, the amount of money in their bank account, their religious beliefs, or their sexual orientation.

Christians also believe that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ, and not by anything good we do (Ephesians 2:1-10). This means we cannot think that we are better than others because we are Christians. We’re not Christians because we’re good, or because we’re smart, or because we’re talented. If Jesus hadn’t died on the cross to save us, we’d be lost, enemies of God, and destined to eternal death. We have nothing to boast about except how amazing Jesus is!

Christianity is the most inclusive religious movement in history! It isn’t bound to a nationality, a gender, a socioeconomic class, or a single people group. Anyone and everyone can come to Christ and receive grace, forgiveness, mercy and eternal life. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past, what addictions you have, what your struggles are, how much money you have, what talents you possess, what you have to offer, who you vote for, how you dress, what music you listen to, or what your last name is. None of these things earns salvation. Jesus offers that freely to all who come to him.

Can a Homosexual Be a Christian?

Sermon delivered at Pontiac Bible Church on 5/3/2015.

Homosexuality has become an explosive and divisive issue in our society. Culture demands full acceptance and legitimization, claiming that homosexuals are born that way and have a right to live however they want. Conservative Christians are attacked as bigots and homophobes, and in response many congregations and denominations have redefined Scripture and what the Church has taught on this issue for thousands of years. But what does the Bible really say about homosexuality? And what should our response be? We’ll find out as we continue the Too Hot To Handle series.

A Normal Christian Life

Sermon delivered at Pontiac Bible Church on 3/15/2015.

When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost, the Church was born. Peter preached the first sermon and 3,000 people were saved (in a single day)! Then what happened? How did these new Christians go about living their lives? Did their faith in Christ change anything about the way they lived? What about you? If you belong to Christ, you also belong to His Body, the Church – a new community, a new group in society. What does your life as a Christian look like? As we study Acts 2:42-47, we’ll get a glimpse of a normal Christian life. How normal is yours?