“Our Assurance of Glory” (I Corinthians 15:1-4 sermon Easter 2020)

Easter 2020                            “Our Assurance of Glory”

Last week I mentioned Charles Lindbergh’s historic trans-Atlantic flight to Paris in 1927. Not long after he landed, Lindbergh visited nearby Belgium, where he was met by a group of dignitaries. The highly regarded Burgomaster Max welcomed Lindbergh, who proclaimed: “‘In this City Hall, where I have had the honor to receive so many great and illustrious men, ‘I am proud to salute a real hero … your victory is the victory of humanity. In your glory there is glory for all men.’” (A. Scott Berg, Lindbergh, p. 146)

Lindbergh’s flight was indeed a “victory … and glory for all men” — but nothing touches the ultimate victory and glory that was won for all mankind by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. His resurrection is the seal of the victory of the Gospel, as we see in I Corinthians 15:1-4:

“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures …”. Continue reading

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“Faith In Crisis” (Psalm 74 sermon)

Psalm 74 “Faith in Crisis” (COVID crisis Sunday #4, 4/05/20)

The verses we find here in Psalm 74 are not going to make many “verse-of-the-day” Bible calendars:
“O God, why have You rejected us forever?”
“The enemy has damaged everything within the sanctuary.”
“Why do You withdraw Your hand, even Your right hand?”

Those are some tough things to read, aren’t they? Psalm 74 is not one of the “fun” Psalms. It is not “warm & fuzzy” like Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” and others like it. None of those little devotional books are going to be quoting Psalm 74 for their “devotion of the day”! And that’s exactly why we shouldn’t depend on little devotional books for our spiritual food, and why we need to be committed to read God’s word for ourselves every day. Because there are many times when what we need to hear from God is not going to be found in anyone else’s devotional book, but only in one of these (what we consider to be) difficult passages in His word — like Psalm 74. It may not be a “fun” passage – but it’s what we need.

I’ll be honest: when I first saw that Psalm 74 was “next up” in my morning daily Bible reading, my first, honest thought was, “Oh no … this isn’t any good. It’s all about the Asaph complaining about the destruction of the Temple; I don’t want to read about THAT today! That’s not what I need on Monday morning!” But as it turned out, it truly WAS what I needed — and it has some things that I think a LOT of us may need today too! So let’s look at what Psalm 74 has to say to us about “Faith In Crisis,” keeping our faith, during the crisis situations we face in our lives: Continue reading

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“Finding Comfort In God” (II Corinthians 7:6 sermon)

It was not my advance plan to preach two weeks in a row from this Book of II Corinthians. But last week, in the course of my regular daily Bible reading, God impressed me that the verse “we are the Temple of the Living God” fit our situation perfectly – that it is not the building, but we as God’s people who are the church. And then again this week, in the course of my regular Bible reading, I didn’t get very far until I came across this verse in II Corinthians 7:6, which opens with the words:

“But God, who comforts the depressed …”

As soon as I read those words, I was impressed that this is a verse that many of us need today. The world situation with the COVID-19 virus can be discouraging. Our national economy is suffering; the stock market and many of our retirement accounts have fallen dramatically; many of us are ill or hurting in various ways; and on top of all that, so many activities and events have been cancelled that typically get enjoyment from. So where can we find comfort in these days? The Bible tells us here that it is “GOD who comforts the depressed …”. Paul says in :5 that they had “conflcits without, fears within” — just like many of us today! But then he says that GOD comforts the depressed! What a great word for US today too! Philippians 2 says, “Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ …” — and the fact is, there IS encouragement in Christ — He has SO much with which to encourage us — and we need that encouragement in these days. So let’s spend a few minutes looking together at some of the scriptural ways that God can comfort us in a time when it is easy to be depressed or discouraged. What comfort is there for us in the Lord?

Continue reading

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“We Are The Temple” (II Corinthians 6:16 message)

II Corinthians 6:16       “We Are The Temple”  

The White House is one of the most recognizable buildings in the United States.  It was finished in the year 1800, when Thomas Jefferson moved in, and every U.S. President since has lived in it. It is one of the great symbols of our country. But the White House itself is NOT the United States. We were a country before there ever was a White House: our first Presidents, Washington and Adams, did not live in the White House. I just finished reading a biography of Harry S. Truman, and while Truman was living there after World War II,part of the second floor came crashing down, so Truman and his family had to move across the street to Blair House. But that didn’t mean that the country stopped functioning because we didn’t have the White House. It’s a great building — but the building itself is not the country.  

And we need to realize that the same thing is true with the church. When many people think of the church, they think of a building: “First Baptist Church is located at 237 E. Locust in Angleton.” But the church is not a building. In fact, the first church in the Book of Acts, existed without a building, and the early church had no dedicated “church buildings” at all. In fact, the earliest archeologically identified Christian church building was built between 233 and 256 A.D. — over 200 years after the time of Christ! For 200 years, the first Christian churches functioned without any kind of “church buildings” at all!  Just as our country existed before there was a White House, so the church existed before there were ever church buildings!  And the church can exist without buildings today too.

We find ourselves in an environment today which many of us would never have anticipated: a national and international crisis with COVID-19 which has led to a ban on large assemblies. No meeting in “church buildings” — at least for a time. So what happens — no “church” for a while? HARDLY!  The Church existed before there were buildings, and the true church of God can continue to exist without meeting together in church buildings!  

I was reminded of that, as I was reading in II Corinthians 6 in my own worship time this week. Wednesday morning I came to II Corinthians 6:16, which says: 

“For we are the temple of the Living God, just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them, and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’” Continue reading

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“A Christian Response to the Coronavirus Crisis” (II Timothy 1:7 sermon)

How many of you remember where you were on September 11, 2001? I do … I was in my office at First Baptist Church Moss Bluff when someone told me to look at my computer … and those horrendous scenes were played out on the screen before me. I know many of you have similar stories …

I think it may be similar with the crisis we are facing now. This may be a game-changer – of the kind we haven’t seen since 9/11. 9/11 changed the way we live and do things ever since — as our mission team saw as we made our way through the airport on this trip.
It may well be the same with this coronavirus crisis … we may see lasting changes coming out of this that will impact our lives for years to come.

The world is changing, and as Christians, we need to respond to it from the perspective of the word of God. I don’t know of a better scripture for this situation than the one I shared on Facebook earlier this week, from II Tim 1:7 …
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Continue reading

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“Your Circumstances: A Witness Stand For Christ” (Philippians 1:12-20 sermon)

I’ve got a friend and brother in ministry, Jack Tillery, who experienced a LOT of physical difficulties while he served at our church in Louisiana and for some years since. You may get an opportunity to meet Jack some time, as they don’t too far away — near Lake Charles, Louisiana — and he has a great heart for missions. Perhaps he’ll come and share with us some time. But while we were there in Louisiana, Jack had severe heart problems, and eventually had to have a double transplant: heart and kidney, which for a while it looked like a long shot to get, but in God’s Providence he did get it, and he is still going today, over 10 years later. But one thing about Jack: whenever he was in the hospital — and he was in the hospital more than anyone I’ve ever known, he always saw it as an opportunity to share the Lord. And he did share: with doctors, and nurses, and staff, and whoever who would come to visit him. He always saw his circumstances as an opportunity to be a witness for the Lord.

That is exactly what our scripture passage for today tells us that the Apostle Paul did with his imprisonment — and all of his other difficulties. He always saw these things are opportunities to take the witness stand for Christ: Continue reading

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“Prayers For Those You Love” (Philippians 1:7-11 sermon)

During the American War for Independence, John Adams, one of our Founding Fathers, corresponded with his wife Abigail, and thankfully their letters back & forth have been preserved for us. They are full of humor, and history, and love. In one of them, John Adams closes with a prayer: “May God Almighty’s Providence protect you, my dear, and all our little ones. My … Guardian Angel whispers me, that We shall see happier Days, and that I shall live to enjoy the Felicities of domestic Life, with her whom my Heart esteems above all earthly Blessings.”

That was a sweet prayer of blessing from John Adams to Abigail. And our scripture passage for today contains another sweet prayer, from the Apostle Paul to the church at Philippi, that he loved so much. He really did LOVE these people. He said in :7 “I feel this way about you”; he said, “I have you in my heart”; he said in :8, “I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” So he really loved these people. And because he loved them, he prayed so much for them. And we too, will really pray for the people that we love. Prayer is surely one of the greatest indicators of godly love.

But what should we pray for those we love? Prayers can take many forms, but Paul turns around in the next verses and shows us what HE prayed for the Philippians; and it can teach us something about what we should pray for OUR loved ones — as well as what God is trying to work into our lives spiritually:

“For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;
having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

Continue reading

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“A Confident Future” (Philippians 1:3-6 sermon)

Last week Cheryl & I went with Scott & Tina to get some fruit trees at the Fairgrounds — and we bought two different avocado trees and two satsumas. I LOVE avocados, so if those trees really produce a good crop, I will be in hog heaven (or guacamole heaven!) here in SW Texas! We planted those trees that Saturday morning we got them, and we tried to follow the directions, and do all we were supposed to when we planted them, but I don’t know how much confidence I would say I have that we will ever get fruit from them. There are SO many variables: frost can take them out, I hear, and root mold — plus I don’t trust myself to keep them up and protect them the way I should. We’ll see; I mean I HOPE so, but on a scale on 1-10 … I don’t know how confident I would say am that we will see fruit from it!

But thank God we can have more confidence than that in our future as God’s people! Paul writes to the Philippians here about the confidence he has in their their future, and he says:

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Here we see that Paul was very confident of the Philippians’ walk with God: where they had been; where they were now, and where they were headed in the future. That confidence was based on several things: Continue reading

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“The People of Joy” (Philippians 1:1-2 sermon)

A few weeks ago I mentioned Hudson Taylor, who began a great mission work in China in the 1800’s. While he was there, the work was difficult, and funds were getting low, but he reported to one of his friends that

“the Lord … makes our hearts so very glad in HIMSELF — not Himself plus a bank balance.”

So even in his hardship and financial shortfall, Hudson Taylor was able to “rejoice in the Lord,” just in God Himself. 

The Apostle Paul was able to do that same thing when he went to the city of Philippi in Northern Greece. That is where he first landed in Europe with his little mission team and sat down by the riverside and began speaking to some women who had assembled there, and the first person in Europe, a woman by the name of Lydia, came to Christ. And it was there a few days later that Paul & Silas were thrown into prison for sharing the gospel, and while they were in that prison, on mission in a foreign land, they sang praises to God at midnight. God shook the place and opened the doors, the jailer cried out “What shall we do to be saved?” A few days later they were released from prison, went back to Lydia’s house and encouraged the new believers there — and then left to go on to Thessalonica. But that’s how the church at Philippi, the church that Paul was writing to here, got started.  (As a side-note, we had pastor Grozdan Stoevski from Bulgaria, here last week speak to us about partnering with them for future trips to minister to unreached people groups in Bulgaria. Grozdan told me that the city of Philippi is actually only about 2 hours south of where we would be working in Bulgaria, so when we go there on mission, we would be able to take a little side trip to Philippi — which would be really interesting!) 

But here Paul is writing back to this new church of believers in Philippi, about ten years or so later, while he was prison in Rome.  And he is writing to them about the LIFE OF JOY that God has for them. That says something right there: Paul is in PRISON (again!) and in his letter to them he continually tells them to “rejoice in the Lord.” He who could sing at midnight while he was in prison in Philippi, was STILL rejoicing from prison in Rome; and he encouraged the Christians in Philippi — and us today — to find our joy in God too. As we go through this book together over the next weeks, we will see how Paul continually commands these believers (and us) to rejoice in the Lord; to find our joy in Him.

But what kind of person is able to have the joy that he talks about in this book? He shows us right off, in the letter’s opening lines:

“Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons; Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

We saw in our study of I Peter that “overseers,” “bishops,” and “pastors” are all the same thing; so when he says “overseeers” here he just means “pastor.” And we recognized our church deacons just a bit ago; our men who just like in the Book of Acts care for widows and others in our church. That is who deacons are. But these opening words also tell us some important things about those who can be “The People of Joy”:  Continue reading

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“Defective Discipleship” (Matthew 26:58 sermon)

Several times in recent weeks I have mentioned Martin Luther, the German Reformer of the 1500’s. After he brought the authority of the Bible, and salvation by grace through faith, back to the forefront of Christianity, he was not satisfied with the discipleship he saw going on among his people. In fact in 1529 (12 years after his Reformation began) he wrote:
“‘Dear God help us … The common man, especially in the villages, knows absolutely nothing about Christian doctrine; and indeed many pastors are in effect unfit and incompetent to teach. Yet they are all called Christians, are baptized, and enjoy the holy sacraments — even though they cannot recite either the Lord’s Prayer, the (Apostles) Creed or the (Ten) Commandments. They live just like animals.”

Somehow I get the sense that Luther was not satisfied with the discipleship he saw among the German people! But most of us would admit that Christians in America today are not the disciples that we should be, either. I finished reading the Book of Matthew the other day, and near the end of the book is a verse that really stuck out to me. It comes after the Jews had arrested Jesus, and they took Him to the high priest to be examined, and Matthew 26:58 says:

“But Peter was following Him at a distance as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and entered in, and sat down with the officers to see the outcome.”

In this verse we see several ways that Peter fell short as a disciple, that should challenge us too, not to be “defective disciples”: Continue reading

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