“Pursuing Holiness” (Hebrews 12:14 sermon)

The old Puritans of England in the 1500-1600’s have gotten what J.I. Packer calls “a bad rap.” Usually if someone calls a person a “Puritan”, or says that something is “Puritanical”, they mean it as an insult: that the person is being a “stick in the mud,” or is acting “holier than thou.” But in reality, the English Puritans were some of the best Christians ever to walk the earth, and we can learn much in our own Christian life from reading them.

One book of Puritan writings is called “The Valley of Vision.” It is actually a little book of prayers from the Puritans which a minister (Arthur Bennett) edited in the 1900’s. Many of these prayers are very beautiful, but they are also very convicting. One prayer in particular asks God: “For if I do not walk holily before Thee, how can I be assured of my salvation?” (p. 14)

That’s a good question. If you don’t walk holy before God, how CAN you be assured of your salvation? Our verse for today answers that question in a very firm way:

“Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.” Continue reading

Posted in Discipleship, Sermon Illustrations, Sermons, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Your Daily Time With God” (Mark 1:35 sermon)

Back in the 1950’s, A.W. Tozer decried many of the weaknesses he saw developing in American Christianity. One thing he preached about was the desire of American Christians for “shortcuts” to spiritual growth:

“In my creature impatience I am often caused to wish that there were some way to bring modern Christians into a deeper spiritual life painlessly by short, easy lessons; but such wishes are vain. No such shortcut exists. God has not bowed to our nervous haste nor embraced the methods of our machine age. It is well that we accept the truth now: The man who would know God must give time to Him. He must count no time wasted which is spent in the cultivation of His acquaintance. He must give himself to meditation and prayer hours on end. So did the saints of old, the glorious company of the apostles, the goodly fellowship of the prophets, and the believing members of the holy church in all generations. And so must we if we would follow in their train.” (A.W. Tozer The Pursuit of Man, p. 5)

Tozer reminded us that time with God is THE key to spiritual growth. A couple of weeks ago, we saw that worshiping God and spending time with Him was the single most important thing that any of us can do. If that’s true, then we need some instruction on how to do it. And that is what we find from the life of Jesus here in Mark 1:35: 

“In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.”

Jesus models for us here several important elements of a morning devotion time with God: Continue reading

Posted in Discipleship, Sermon Illustrations, Sermons, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Reaching, Teaching, Caring” (Matthew 4:23 sermon)

I came home from work last Monday night and Cheryl was sitting on the couch wrapped up in a blanket, and she said, “You remember that thing you said in the sermon yesterday about how ‘If you worshiped God first thing this morning, it doesn’t matter what else you did today, you still did the most important thing’ … Well …” And we both laughed. She was just joking, of course; she had dinner on the table, laundry going, and had gotten all kinds of things done.

But last week we DID see that worshiping God really IS the #1 Priority of a Church or an individual. It is the most important thing we can do. But worship is not the ONLY thing we are supposed to be doing. What else are we supposed to be doing as a church? That should be one of the most important questions we have.
— NOT “what do WE want to do?”
— NOT “what do people in our community THINK we should be doing?”
— NOT just “what did we do last year?”
But what does God’s word say that we should be doing as a church? Continue reading

Posted in Discipleship, Ministry, Sermon Illustrations, Sermons, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Our Greatest Priority” (Matthew 22:34-38 sermon)

I have to admit: I was kind of disappointed last Sunday after we came home from church and eating out, that there wasn’t a football game on tv that I could fall asleep to. Can’t wait till next September — I think we’re really going to enjoy football season in Texas!

But football, like most things, is a game of fundamentals. If you do the fundamentals right, a lot of other things fall into place. And sometimes you’ve just got to get back to those fundamentals. I read that one time at the beginning of training camp, Vince Lombardi decided he needed to get his team back to the fundamentals. So he gathered his men together, and rolled a football out on the practice field grass, and said, “Gentlemen: this is a football.” That’s really getting back to the basics!

And I think from time to time we have to get “back to the basics” in our churches too. There are SO many things that can keep us busy; SO many things that people think we should be doing. And some of them are indeed very good; some of them maybe not so good. But what are the fundamentals? What are the most basic things that GOD wants us to be doing in His church? As we begin our ministry together, I think it’s important for us to see what the Bible says we should be doing, so that we are all on the same page as to what our priorities are, and what we should really be doing as a church.

What’s the most important thing? Well, we don’t have to guess. Jesus was actually asked that question in Matthew 22: Continue reading

Posted in Ministry, Sermon Illustrations, Sermons, Uncategorized, worship | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“On The Banks Of The Promised Land” (Joshua 1:1-9 sermon)

I am so excited to share God’s word with our new church family this morning. As I thought and prayed about what to preach, SO many things came to mind. I found myself wishing I could share dozens of different messages with you today. How much time do we have?

But as I thought and prayed, one passage of scripture kept coming to the forefront: Joshua 1:1-9, where God speaks to Joshua and the people of Israel as they sit ready to go into the Land God has promised to them. I feel like that is just where we are as a church, both physically, and spiritually. So let’s see what God’s word is to a people like us: “On The Banks Of The Promised Land.” Continue reading

Posted in Sermons, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

God’s Children: NOT Exempt From Suffering

In early 1865, hundreds of thousands of men from the North were being drafted into the Union Army to help finally bring an end to the war. President Abraham Lincoln’s own son Robert was now also being sent. Lincoln’s wife Mary did NOT want him to go. She said, “I am so frightened he may never come back to us!” But Lincoln replied, “Many a poor mother, Mary, has made this sacrifice …”. After sending so many others off to war, Lincoln could hardly exempt his own son. Just because he was the President’s son, didn’t mean he didn’t have to go to war. (Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln, The Prairie Years and the War Years, p. 669)

And so it is with us. Just because we are God’s children, does not mean we are somehow “exempt” from various sufferings. In fact, it may rather GUARANTEE them — because God will purposefully use these difficulties to grow us spiritually, and teach us important things He needs us to learn.

Hebrews 5:8, speaking of Jesus’ time here on earth, says, “although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.” Continue reading

Posted in Devotions/Bible Studies, Discipleship, Sermon Illustrations, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Pastor’s Farewell” (Acts 20 sermon)

Cheryl & I want to thank you for the last 4 years we have been allowed to serve at Pleasant Ridge. It is very difficult to say farewell to people with whom we’ve ministered and loved and been loved — and the struggle that Cheryl & I went through when we began to even think about leaving the people of this church reminds me of this passage in Acts 20, where Paul said good-bye to the elders of Ephesus, among whom :31 says he had ministered for 3 years, and with whom he had built a strong bond. In his farewell he emphasized several things that I think are important reminders for any pastor to share with his people: Continue reading

Posted in Discipleship, Ministry, Sermon Illustrations, Sermons, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments