In Case You Missed It…

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A weekly recap of the message and madness at First Presbyterian Kings Mountain, NC.  7/05/15:

The Text: Habakkuk

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The Takeaway: What We Believe: Why It Matters

We began our summer series What We Believe, a look at the foundational beliefs of the church…this morning, we laid the groundwork by explaining why it matters.

The church needs to push back hard against the world’s definition of truth (“That may be true for you, but it’s not true for me.”). Jesus said, “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life.”

Cat theology: The cat says, ‘here is my master: he loves me, he feeds me, he cares for me…I must be God.’

Dog theology: The dog says, ‘here is my master: he loves me, he feeds me, he cares for me…HE must be God.’

The world teaches cat theology.

Jonathan Edwards said, “the central problem of our humanistic age is that it is insufficiently God-centered.” He wrote those words almost 300 years ago!

The church must push back and clearly and plainly teach dog theology.

It is not about us. We cannot save ourselves, no matter how highly we think of ourselves. Thank God that He is God, and we are not.

We know the One who will put things to rights!

For the readers: The works of N.T. Wright are a great place to start in your exploration of Christianity, truth, justice, putting things to rights, etc. Simply Christian is the best place to start.

Jonathan Edwards is a challenging read, but worth every minute. Here is a good place to dig in and put all his writings in context. I have a copy of this biography if you would like to borrow it!

Intermission: Speaking of dogs…

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7/12/15:

The Text: Romans 1: 16-25

The Takeaway: What We Believe: God

We continued our series What We Believe, looking at God. If we don’t have a grasp on this whole ‘God thing,’ the rest of our faith will collapse like a house of cards…

“Nothing is intelligible except through God.”

We asked the question, “How can we believe Christianity if we don’t even know whether God exists?”

So we offered up some clues, which, taken together, might point us to a belief in God. To be clear, a rational belief in something does not equal faith; at some point, the Holy Spirit opens our hearts and we begin to see the world through the lens of the biblical rendering of God. As John Frame said, “Nothing is intelligible except through God.”

Paul writes in Romans 1: 18-21,

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

We all have an innate knowledge of, and desire for, God, yet we repress it. It’s all about control. ‘We got this, God,’ we say.

But we don’t.

God IS who He says He is. Praise God!

For the readers: if you struggle with the ‘rational’ side of Christianity, here are a couple places to jump into apologetics: again, Tim Keller’s The Reason For God, along with John Frame and Cornelius Van Til. For a bold defense of the reality of God, Francis Schaeffer has what you are looking for. Christianity has been maligned as ‘non-intellectual.’ God gave us our intellect; the Christian faith is a beautiful blend of the rational and the mystical.

Other Fun Stuff:

Vacation Bible School!!!!!!!!

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Also, First Presbyterian will have a tent at the upcoming City of Kings Mountain Beach Blast! We need some more folks to come and hand out water and  tumblers (with the church info on them), and just love our community. We’re excited about what God is doing at First Prez, and we want everyone to know about it. So if you really love God, and the church, you’ll come to the Gazebo in downtown Kings Mountain and join us. We guilt you into coming encourage you to come! *Saturday, July 25, 10AM-10PM*

God is here, and He is not silent!

Grace and Peace…

 

 

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In Case You Missed It

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A weekly recap of the message and madness at First Presbyterian Kings Mountain, NC. 06/14/15 and 06/21/15:

You can stop crying. I’m back. I’ve been on a retreat* and then a week of youth camp** (you were crying, right?).

What’d I miss?

I understand that we celebrated Christmas at First Prez while I was gone. How cool is that? Here is the bulletin from 6/14/15. No, really. Happy Holidays!

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From last Sunday, 6/21/15…

The Text: 1 Samuel 17, with a focus on verses 45-46

“But David told [Goliath], ‘You are coming against me with sword, spear, and scimitar, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of heavenly forces, the God of Israel’s army, the one you’ve insulted. Today the Lord will hand you over to me. I will strike you down and cut off your head! Today I will feed your dead body and the dead bodies of the entire Philistine camp to the wild birds and the wild animals. Then the whole world will know that there is a God on Israel’s side.'” (italics mine)

The Takeaway:

We boldly go forth in our community, in His name and for His glory! We’re not here to make a name but to glorify a name, and that name is Jesus!

*Retreat: the Session of First Prez headed (way) out of town for a time of prayer and planning. And eating. And it was glorious.

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We prayerfully considered our role in our city, and our role in God’s kingdom. We asked the questions, ‘Where are we?’ ‘How did we get here?’ and ‘Where are we going?’

These are important questions, questions that will be addressed in the Summer Sermon Series What We Believe. The months of July and August will cover what we believe about God, scripture, Jesus, faith, grace and more. Please, please, please join us. And bring your brother-in-law. Yes, him.

**Youth Camp: I was fortunate enough to be able to spend the week with our young folks in Toccoa, GA at Journey Camp, a camp created and run by Nathan Smith. Wow. What a great week. And what a great group of kids. Don’t listen to the knuckleheads on TV who are calling for the end of the world because of ‘the youth of today.’ We’re in good hands, people (and remember, moms and dads, WE were the youth they were warning the world about many years ago). God is going to use these kids in a mighty way. Indeed, He is using them now, in schools, families, and in the mission field.

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Click the Facebook follow button on the right so you can see an entire photo album from Youth Camp. Go ahead, click it now. Now.

Other Fun Stuff You Should Know About:

You have probably heard me mention the book The Reason for God by Tim Keller a couple (hundred) times; I have two copies in the pulpit for anyone who wants to read it (every time I go to a used bookstore, I grab up all the copies they have). You can also pick it up here. I don’t care where you get it, just get it!

Vacation Bible School (VBS) is quickly approaching. First Prez is the host of the Community VBS this year, and we could not be more excited.

WHEN: August 9-13, evenings (just one more reason you need to be following FPC on Facebook).

It’s summertime, but that doesn’t mean we need to take our foot off the gas. Keep pointing people to Jesus, and at the very least, invite them to church. Peace.

***Evidently, this post was hung up in the cybersphere somewhere for a long time.***

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In Case You Missed It…

 

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A weekly recap of the message and madness at First Presbyterian Kings Mountain, NC. 06/07/15:

The people wanted a king! Give us a king! They wanted to be like everyone else, like every other country. They had a king, for goodness sake…

Ok, God said. You want a king, you got it. (Even though God had been faithful and true to the Israelites, they couldn’t see Him, feel Him, touch Him, control Him…). Sound familiar?

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The rest, as they say, is history.

The Text: 1 Samuel 8:1-22, 11:14-15

Chapter 8:

1When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. 2The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.

4So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

6But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

10Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16Your male and female servants and the best of your cattlec and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

19But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”

21When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 22The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”

And in Chapter 11:

14Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.” 15So all the people went to Gilgal and made Saul king in the presence of the Lord. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration.

The Takeaway: We all choose our king(s). And more often than not, that king is not the King of Kings, Jesus the Christ.

We (in the church) are obsessed with church growth strategies, social justice, leadership principles, evangelism principles, and so much more. Good things, in and of themselves, but…

Alexander MacLaren said, “It’s all too possible to serve the ‘god’ of serving Jesus as opposed to serving Him with a heart that is totally consumed by His beauty and love.”

We self-righteously mark ourselves as ‘successful’ in our spiritual walks, based on the mistaken belief that our works (involvement/activities in church and community) are pleasing to God. We are serving the ‘god’ of serving Jesus, and not Jesus Himself.

Ouch.

My mom has always said that “it really is all about Jesus.”

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Okay, this is not my mom, but everyone always said she looked like June Cleaver. And I do have a best friend who is a tad Eddie Haskell-ish.

By the way, what did the Apostles teach the growing church of the first century?

Acts 5:42: “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.”

Acts 8:5: “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ unto them.”

Acts 9:20: “Immediately Saul preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.”

Mom is right…

Don’t give us A king; give us THE King!

Len Sweet and Frank Viola flesh out these thoughts in a marvelous exposition: their book Jesus Manifesto can be found here.

Sunday afternoon was a lake party! Our ‘End-of-the-Year-Party’ was held at Lake Montonia, and much fun was had by all. We really do have a great group of children and youth. Their parents aren’t half-bad either.

Have a great week, and may His Peace be with you.

 

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In Case You Missed It…

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A weekly recap of the message and madness at First Presbyterian Kings Mountain, NC. 05/31/15:

What a great day at First Prez; as usual, much food was involved. We gathered for breakfast to honor our high school graduates. French toast sticks, biscuits, donuts…well, you get the idea.

We celebrated with 10 of our church family and friends as they finished out their high school careers. Way to go gang! Our prayers are with you as you head ‘out yonder!’

In a message aimed specifically, but not exclusively, at our graduates, a number of speeches were referenced, all of which lend value to the discussion of ‘What Now?’ Now that we have concluded this part of our lives, what now?

Randy Pausch’s ‘Last Lecture’ lecture is here.

Alan Watts’ ‘What If Money Was No Object’ talk is here.

Stephen Colbert’s Wake Forest University commencement address is here.

But as practical and helpful as those may be, we want to make sure we’re seeing the ‘big picture,’ if you will. What does Scripture say? What does God say? What really matters? What does God expect from all of us? As we move forward (and we ARE moving forward, right?) with our lives, where should our focus be? What now?

The Text: Romans 8:12-17

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it.  For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

The Takeaway: We focused on verse 13: if we live according to the flesh, we will die; but if we, in the power of the Holy Spirit, mortify sin in our lives, we will live! We must be killing sin, or it will be killing us. (John Owen, 1656) This is a continual battle; we never reach perfection in our lifetime! Remember Anne Lamott, who prays ‘Help me, help me, help me’ each morning, and ‘thank you, thank you, thank you’ each night. We can’t do this on our own, gang. But God has given us the power by which to accomplish this killing of sin. It is only in and through the power of the Holy Spirit that this can be done.

But do it we must! To live, really live, the abundant life promised us in the coming of Christ (John 10:10), we mortify, mortify, mortify (kill, kill, kill! This is the only time you will be encouraged to kill something).

Owen‘s masterpiece can be downloaded here for free. There is a wonderful, updated version here, but it will cost you a couple clams.

Anne Lamott’s Amazon page is here.

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And then there was lunch. A ‘make-your-own’ potato and salad bar awaited us after worship. This was a mission fundraiser luncheon for our own Sarah Johnson, who is heading to Nicaragua next month to help with medical missions. Thank you to all who came out to support missions!

What a great day! God is so good, and He wants us to live in freedom from sin. As we all graduate from today into tomorrow, may Romans 8:13 inform all we do. Peace.

p.s. Seth Godin is a marketing guru, and a fun fellow (and follow). He posted this, and I think it might be helpful if the church understood the power of this principle. Okay, it would be more than helpful; it would be transformational. How often do you brag on your church? On your God?

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Christianity and the L Word: My Conversation With J. Gresham Machen

 

GM: Thanks for joining us. I’m here with J. Gresham Machen, Presbyterian rabble-rouser who has made a career of warning the world of the preaching of a sentimental, non-redemptive gospel. In his spare time, he founded the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Westminster Theological Seminary, where he also was a professor.

Ok, maybe it’s because I turned 50 recently (ok, last year, but who’s counting?). Or maybe it’s because there is so much uncertainty in the world. Or maybe watching the implosion of our American mainline denominations has something to do with it (as a Presbyterian minister, I have a dog in the fight, as they say).  The Kardashians don’t help, either. Bottom line, I’m feeling a little uneasy…

Where did the church go off the rails?

Modern men say, ‘we are not interested in the theology of the creeds; we are not interested in the doctrines of sin and salvation; we are not interested in atonement through the blood of Christ: enough for us is the simple truth of the fatherhood of God and its corollary, the brotherhood of man.’ It is very strange how intelligent persons can speak in this way. (Christianity and Liberalism, Eerdmans, 1923, 2009, p.51)

GM: But aren’t we supposed to love ev…

The modern doctrine of the universal fatherhood of God is not to be found in the teaching of Jesus. (52)

GM: Okay. So the belief that everyone is going to heaven, which is poisoning the church today, means that the Crucifixion was a cruel joke, correct? And totally unnecessary. And, further, the church is just as unnecessary, right? Might as well turn our sanctuaries into condos.

How did we get to this point?

(M)odern liberalism…tends everywhere to break down the separateness between God and the world, and the sharp personal distinction between God and man. (55)

GM: Practically speaking, what does this mean?

At the very root of the modern liberal movement is the loss of the consciousness of sin. (55) 

GM: But talking about sin might hurt someone’s feelings! And since we’re the Church, aren’t we supposed to be all about love? I know I keep saying that, but that seems to be the argument from everyone I talk with.

This is how I usually respond: is it love if we fail to discipline our children? Are we loving them by letting them do whatever they want? I discipline my children because I love them!

It is not love when we allow sin to go unchecked and unaddressed. If I truly love you, I am going to tell you what the bible says. The entire bible. The whole ‘Creation>Fall>Redemption>Restoration’ narrative. Am I on the right track? This sounds heartbreaking…

(A)lthough Christianity does not end with the broken heart, it does begin with the broken heart; it begins with the consciousness of sin. (57)

GM: Go on…

(W)hen a man comes under the conviction of sin, his whole attitude toward life is transformed; he wonders at his former blindness, and the message of the gospel, which formerly seemed to be an idle tale, becomes now an instinct with light. But it is God alone who can produce the change. (58)

GM: This is great news! Not only are lives changed, but it is God who does the changing! It’s not up to me to ‘talk someone into salvation,’ right? Ravi Zacharias said, “An argument may remove doubt, but only the Holy Spirit can convict of truth.” And that’s what you’re affirming here.

So the church is to be faithful in teaching the fullness of the gospel. The redemptive gospel. This is freeing!

The fundamental fault of the modern Church is that she is busily engaged in an absolutely impossible task- she is busily engaged in calling the righteous to repentance. Modern preachers are trying to bring men into the Church without requiring them to relinquish their pride; they are trying to help men avoid the conviction of sin. Even our Lord did not call the righteous to repentance, and probably we shall be no more successful than He. (58)

GM: Ha, good point! By the way, can you tell us all how to correctly pronounce your name? I’ve heard some real train wrecks…(laughing)

(Not laughing) The first syllable is pronounced like May, the name of the month. In the second syllable the ch is as in chin, with e as in pen: may’chen. In Gresham, the h is silent: gres’am. (The Literary Digest)

GM: Um, okay. Before we leave, can you tell us, in a nutshell, what we should be looking and listening for in the days to come? Any final words of advice?

(L)iberalism is totally different from Christianity, for the foundation is different. Christianity is founded upon the Bible. It bases upon the Bible both its thinking and its life. Liberalism on the other hand is founded upon the shifting emotions of sinful men. (xv)

GM: Thank you so much! Looks like the church has her marching orders! Hallelujah, and amen.

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Perception, or Rats and Thieves

Um, yeah, I was totally wrong about that…

Have you ever been totally wrong in your perception about someone, or something?

Story #1:

I was sitting on my porch one Saturday morning, looking across the road at an empty lot, wondering when they were going to cut the grass.

And then I saw it. A huge, disgusting rat.

Great. My lazy neighbors won’t keep their lot cleared, and now we have rats. Wonderful.

I watched it wander around the tall grass, back and forth, looking for who knows what. I wondered how many more of them were out there, plotting the next yard to invade. I looked away for just a second, and when I looked back, it was gone.

Well, it was never actually there.

What I thought was a rat across the street was actually an ant on my porch screen.

Perception.

Story #2:

My wife and I were out shopping, and when we returned to our car, I noticed that the car parked behind us had the driver’s door open. But I didn’t see anyone in the car.

I walked around the car, looked under it, and didn’t see a soul. Weird, I thought.

I looked around the lot, and a man got out of his car and said, ‘Yeah, I’ve been watching that car for a while now. I thought that was pretty weird, too.’

I told him that I was going to look in the car, to make sure there wasn’t a phone, keys, purse, or any signs of strangeness. So I leaned across the driver’s seat to see if there were any keys in the ignition…

At this very moment, if the owner had returned to his/her car, they would have assumed that I was trying to steal something in the car, or the car itself.

Perception.

‘We tend to see ourselves primarily in the light of our intentions, which are invisible to others, while we see others mainly in the light of their actions, which are visible to us…a situation in which misunderstanding and injustice are the order of the day.’
-E.F. Schumacher, paraphrasing J.G. Bennett

Oh, how often we are wrong about people, and about their intentions. We immediately jump to conclusions, without ever stopping to ask a couple simple questions. Without ever hearing their story.

We know they have a story. We know they have reasons behind their actions. We may not agree with their actions, but the story would at least bring some understanding to the party.

But it’s more fun (and much, much easier) to jump to false conclusions.

‘Those good-for-nothing neighbors refuse to cut their grass, and now we have a rat infestation. Lazy sons of…’

Come to find out, they HAD tried to cut the grass, but could not because of road construction in front of the property.

So I was wrong in my perception on TWO counts: no rats, and no laziness.

If I really loved my neighbor, I’d cut his grass for him.

But would he perceive that as a critique of his property management skills? ‘Oh, so this guy thinks he can do a better job, huh?’

See what I mean?

*First posted August 27, 2014*

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A Call To Discipleship

Let’s listen in on a church nominating committee meeting…

‘We need someone to teach the middle schoolers; Alice said she’s been doing it for 2 years and needs a break.’

‘Anybody have any suggestions?’

‘What about that guy who helped us build the stage for the Christmas play?’

‘Yeah, he IS in church every week, as far as I can tell.’

‘And he DID say the blessing before lunch that day.’

‘Who wants to call him?’

If you’ve ever been a part of church life, or had the distinct pleasure of serving on a nominating committee, this scenario is probably way too familiar.

As we seek leadership in the church, our default list of qualifications consists of two items:
1). Can they be here every week, and
2). Can they pray publicly (because SOMEone has to close the class/meeting/study in prayer!).

The discussion rarely turns to spiritual qualifications, maturity in the faith, or history of discipleship.

Wait, did someone say ‘discipleship?’

Church leaders bemoan the lack of leadership in the church, yet we fail to intentionally disciple our people.

Hello, hello, hello, is there anybody out there…?

I love the folks I serve with. I try to encourage them as best I can. But that doesn’t mean they all need to be teaching a class in the church. Not now, anyway.

But what opportunities are available to those who really want to grow in their faith? What systems are in place to move our folks from where they are to where they need to be? How exactly do they get from Point A to Point F, for example?

This is a huge failure on the part of the Church, of which I am a part. Guilty as charged.

We build people up and praise them for the little things they do. We tell our potential teacher, ‘You were so awesome helping us build that stage, and your blessing before lunch was so special to me. Have you ever considered teaching middle schoolers?’

That sounds ludicrous.

But we do it every year when the time comes…

Consider the following from Don Carson (from his ‘For The Love of God’ devotional):

“…praise itself is in some respects the ultimate test of character. You can tell as much about people (and maybe more) by how they respond to praise as you can by how they respond to adversity. Ask football heroes, movie stars, and people in church too rapidly promoted. Perhaps this is the ultimate crucible. It does not destroy us; it exposes what is there, and very often it is not much.”

Shame on us for putting people in leadership positions who are clearly not ready for the task. The fact that they are faithful in attendance and willing to pray are not sufficient. If you haven’t discovered this yet, hang on. You will.

We can do so much better, and we must. The life of the Church depends on it.

p.s. This post was for me. If it spoke to you, woo-hoo! Bonus points.

*First Posted April 9, 2014*

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