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Magnify

Ron Writes


“O magnify the Lord with me,

And let us exalt His name together”

Psalm 34:3


It’s amazing that we are called to “magnify” God. To magnify is to make something look bigger than it is. We use a magnifying glass to make something small look larger. How can we make God bigger in size, status, or importance? God is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), and omnipresent (everywhere). Omni is Latin for “all.” Nothing is greater or bigger than God. You cannot overstate His undefeatable power. There is nothing God doesn’t know. His presence is unlimited. How can He possibly be magnified?


One human frailty is to allow God to become too small in our minds. Rather than focusing on God we begin to magnify things we shouldn’t. We magnify our problems. We make them look bigger than reality. We magnify our trials, our weakness, our futures, and we become overwhelmed by their greatness. The smaller our God, the greater is our anxiety. We magnify our sins and become crippled by guilt and shame. Christianity becomes neurotic when our God is too small. And then on the opposite extreme, as crazy as it may seem, we magnify ourselves and become overconfident and filled with pride. The only place God is ever limited is in our minds.


We must practice magnifying God in our minds. The only way to have peace of mind and find balance in our lives is to recognize the greatness of God. Our God is so big, so strong, and so mighty, there’s nothing our God cannot do. It’s only by magnifying God in our minds that we can put everything in our lives into proper perspective.


Worship words are so important. Let us magnify, exalt, praise, and bless our God!


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Snakes!

Ron Writes


Everyone knows that the one thing Indiana Jones is afraid of is snakes. “Snakes, why did it have to be snakes?” He seems to run into snakes in many of his adventures. On the other hand, most of us don’t. Judy Headrick recently posted a picture of a rattlesnake they came across hiking in Arizona. I’m with Indiana Jones, I would just as soon not run into any snakes, and we usually don’t.


Jesus made an interesting comment about snakes. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. So be as wise as snakes and as harmless as doves” (Mt. 10:16). If someone called you a snake, it’s probably not a compliment. It sounds okay to be compared to a dove, but what about a snake? And what is wise about a snake? What is it about snakes that Jesus expects us to emulate?


This week I was gardening. I reached down for a weed and a snake slithered away. I hadn’t even seen it. That’s the thing about snakes, they’re rarely seen, but they’re there. Snakes are shrewd, they blend in. They don’t call attention to themselves.   The Bible tells us “to aspire to live quietly, to attend to your own matters, and to work with your own hands, (1 Thess. 4:11-12). Our prayers should be “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Tim. 2:2). By the end of gardening, I had seen 6 different snakes. None tried to call attention to themselves. They just blended with their surroundings, minding their own business. “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom” (Jm. 3:13).


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Silent Where the Bible is Silent

Ron Writes


It’s easier to speak where the Bible speaks, than to be silent where the Bible is silent. Speak the Word of God. It’s the black letters. Read them. God said it. That settles it. No comas, semicolons; Period. Exclamation! Some translations have emphasized the words of Jesus with red letters. These are God’s Words. Jesus loved hyperbole and parables, which often need some explanation. These words are easier to preach because they’re filled with narrative and stories. Speak what is written.


Keep silent. Preachers can get in more trouble over what they don’t say than for what they say. Despite this, they must not say too much.


It’s easy to go beyond what is written because we often want to know “why?” Why did God say this? Unfortunately, there are plenty of speculations. People draw conclusions and have many opinions. Preachers don’t always clarify which parts are their opinions. Opinions are never binding – they’re just opinions. We all have them. Romans 14 speaks about getting along with each other despite having differing opinions.


Another problem that arises out of silence is trying to get specific about applications. People want to know “how”. How do we apply this to our lives? Where the application begins is where the sermon begins. The Bible often speaks of principles rather than specific laws or actions. Sometimes we get carried away and demand that others apply the principles the same way we do. They can easily become more than suggestions. The principle of prayer, for example, can become three rules you must follow to pray.


A couple of things to remember. First, Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.”


And then, another slogan comes to mind. I heard this in church, but I also saw it embroidered on a plaque in a Grange Hall: “In Faith: Unity. In Opinion: Liberty. In All Things: Love.”

 


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Where Have All the Preachers Gone?

Ron Writes


Previously, I have written about the decline in church membership across America and the closure of scores of churches. Corresponding to this general decline in membership has been the decline in the number of men preaching. “The Christian Chronicle” (an international newspaper for churches of Christ) used to have a few notices each month for churches looking for preachers. Lately, it has been pages of churches looking. It’s a deeper problem than can be addressed in a couple of sentences. Let me just mention a couple of the obvious reasons.


One of the biggest obstacles has been a lack of job security for preachers. This is a real and serious stress for many preachers. Looming over their head is the knowledge that today might be their last day working with a church. The reason could be as trivial as “it’s time for a change,” “you’ve been here long enough,” or “you just upset the wrong person”. The rejection of being fired is extreme. Trying to explain what happened to your kids, who you had hoped would grow up in a church filled with joy and love, can be discouraging. If the man decides that he wants to continue preaching, he will most likely need to move to another city, maybe another state. After once or twice most men have had enough and their wives have certainly had enough.


Another obstacle has been preacher’s pay. 85% of churches have less than 200 members and half have an average attendance of 34. Many young men are asking themselves why go to college to get the needed degrees, graduate with a mound of debt, to work at a job that doesn’t pay well? Preachers often hear in an interview, “what’s the least you’ll take to come here?” Of course, there are two sides to the equation, preachers must live within their means and churches must take responsibility to care for their preacher.


After reading to this point, you might understand why I say so often how proud I am to be your preacher. It’s wonderful to be a part of a church dedicated to ministry. Your support and encouragement here should be an example to the entire brotherhood. 


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The Unshakable Kingdom

Ron Writes


It’s troubling to hear reports that the church is in decline. Some have blamed it on COVID, but even before the pandemic Christianity has been in decline. Over the past three decades there has been a decline in membership and hundreds of churches have ceased to exist. Some have suggested that this trend will continue.


This isn’t the first time that the church of Christ has been in decline. Most scholars believe that the NT book of Hebrews implies that because of persecution and imprisonment, many Christians were simply walking away from the faith. The writer of Hebrews intends on reversing this trend by calling on his readers to refocus on Jesus. The superiority of Jesus is then spelled out throughout his sermon. Another thing that this preacher recognizes is that it’s easy to think of the church in merely physical terms, as flawed people who have failed to connect to their culture. He calls on his readers to see the church as an unshakable kingdom rooted in eternity: “….you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant….” (Heb. 12:22-24).


Too often the response to decline has been church growth programs “to help us grow.” Evangelism workshops have their place, but let’s take a cue from Hebrews. Our focus need not be on growth or decline, but on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. Let us elevate Jesus and call on one another to remain faithful. Let us look to Jesus to transform our lives. Hebrews shows how faith overcame in the lives of our spiritual forefathers despite insurmountable obstacles. Faith in Jesus will not disappoint neither in this life nor in the life to come. The church will not fail for it is an unshakable kingdom (Heb. 12:28).

 


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The Wrath of God

Ron Writes


Does the wrath of God bother you? Do you ever feel that you need to apologize for God’s wrath?


In Scripture God makes no excuses for His divine wrath as if it was a flaw upon His character. In fact, if you look in a concordance, you’ll find that anger, fury and the wrath of God are mentioned more often than His love and tenderness. Wrath is a result of God’s perfect holiness. Because He is holy, He hates sin. Because He hates sin, His anger burns against the sinner. Indifference to sin would be a moral blemish. As Arthur Pink writes, “The wrath of God is His eternal detestation of all unrighteousness.” It is the balance of God’s perfect attributes, as the Hebrew writer declares, “you have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness” (Heb. 1:9).


The OT prophets declared God’s wrath, “The Lord takes vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies. The Lord is slow to anger and great in power. And the Lord will by no means leave the guilty unpunished” (Nahum 1:2-3). How can you explain the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, Nadab and Abihu, Achan, the destruction of Jerusalem, the fall of Israel and Judah and so many other terrible things without an understanding of God’s wrath? History declares the wrath of God. Don’t mess with God! God is fierce! They got what they deserved.


By no means is wrath merely an OT topic. The character of God doesn’t change with the covenants. When Jesus came, His first public act in Jerusalem was to make a whip and chase people out of the temple (Jn. 2). It’s a dramatic scene. What a way to begin a ministry. Jesus was expressing His holiness.


The cross loses its meaning without an understanding of God’s wrath. To fully appreciate the Good News, you need to begin with the bad news. We preach the Good News because “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom. 1:18).


When a person gets what he deserves it’s called wrath. It’s justice! When he doesn’t get what he deserves it’s call mercy. When a person gets what he doesn’t deserve it’s called grace.


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Sermon on the Amount

Ron Writes


The budget for 2022 is completed. John Jones works closely with the deacons and other ministry leaders to come up with a workable budget for the church. It’s a lot of hard work. It’s a tough job. When working on a personal budget, it’s usually a bit easier since we typically know our weekly income. With a church the challenge is coming up with a budget based on a projection of giving.


As with any budget, the goal is not to spend more than you take in. During the past couple of years COVID presented the church with some financial challenges along with everything else. Although we out spent our giving the past two years, we stayed in the black. Because of everyone’s generous giving in previous years and because of some special gifts, there was a buffer in the savings account. It’s anticipated that there will be a shortfall again this year that will be supplemented once again by the savings. While this process can keep us going for the next couple of years, it’s not a viable long-term plan.


The 2022 budget is $5000.00 each week. You have been so generous in your giving. This church supports six full-time preachers which consumes most of the budget. Your giving directly supports them along with everything else we do.


Our giving says so much. As King David gave, he said to God, “But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You” (1 Chron. 29:14).


This reminds me of when I was an adolescent with no money. When it came time for my mom’s birthday, my dad would hand me some cash and say, “go buy something nice for your mother for her birthday.” I got to go and pick out just the right thing that let her know how much I loved her. Obviously, it was my father’s generosity, but I got to participate.


When we give, we must recognize that our generosity is the result of God’s generosity. God allows us to give Him what is His and be blessed. Like King David, we should be so swelled with gratitude for God’s blessings that our thanksgivings, praise, love and generosity just pour out. Giving is truly a worship experience. It’s a moment with God to reflect on how good He is to us. We give because He first gave.


What does our giving mean to God? The OT sacrifices that were totally burnt up, were “a soothing aroma to the Lord.” Does God like the smell of burnt meat? No, but He sees the heart. When we give, our hearts say “I love you”, “thank you”, “I’ve been blessed”, “God, you are so good.”

 


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Choose

Ron Writes


“Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Peter was calling on his audience to choose. He is asking them to make a decision. He wanted them to act.


There are those who claim that not everyone can make this choice. They say that only those “predestined by God” or “the elect” can respond. Of course, predestination and election are mentioned in Scripture. Ephesians 1 is rich with these terms, such as “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (1:4). One phrase repeated over and over in this chapter is “in Him.” Election is only “in Christ.” There is no election outside of Christ. What God predestined is that only those “in Christ” could be part of the elect. You should choose to be “in Christ” since only those “in Christ” will be saved. “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).


Sometimes we hear “but Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (Jn. 6:44). Their interpretation is that only those who are predestined can be drawn to God. Yet in the very next verse Jesus indicates how God draws us to Him. “It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught of God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me” (6:45). Jesus says we are drawn to God by being taught about God.


Those who hear the gospel can make a choice – to either accept it or reject it. It would be a callous God who presents hope to the whole world when He knows only some can respond while the rest He has destined for hell. When Jesus returns, He will deal out retribution to those who do not obey the gospel (2 Th. 1:8). What a cruel God He would be to punish those who could not obey the gospel. If it’s not possible to obey the gospel you cannot disobey it because disobedience is an act of the will. If men are responsible to obey the gospel, certainly they must be able to make that choice.


Choose to follow Jesus – it’s the only way!


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Love for a Lifetime

Ron Writes


New Sermon Series

Love for a Lifetime

By Ron Murphy

April – May

 

The great message of the Bible is God loves us! One of the first songs many of us learned in Bible school was “Jesus Loves Me.” He is not only the “God of Love” (2 Cor. 13:11), but “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8). This is the backbone of Christianity. Most can quote John 3:16. God’s love transforms us.


Our response to God’s love is to love Him and take on His `qualities. We are to love as God loved. We love because He first loved us. God’s love is behind our love for others. This is important since man’s most desperate need is to be loved. It motivates us to get along with others, to get married, to have children, and it directs every aspect of our lives.


Because of the centrality of love in Christianity, marriage, family and all aspects of life – we will be taking a few weeks to look at love. These sermons will have titles such as “What Love Is,” “What Does Love Look Like,” “God’s Love,” “Love as Christ Loved,” “Love and Respect,” “Changing Love from a Noun to a Verb,” “Rekindling Love,” “The Language of Love,” and “Love Never Fails.”


Come and Bring a Friend!


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Choose Gratitude

Ron Writes


It has been estimated that King Solomon’s net worth was $2.1 trillion. That would make him the richest person to ever live. It is staggering to think of that much wealth. John D. Rockefeller comes in at a distant second with only $663.4 billion. The Bible says “All King Solomon’s drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold. None was of silver; it was not considered valuable in the days of Solomon” (1 Kgs 10:21). Wealth poured into Solomon’s treasury.


As the wealthiest man to have ever walked the face of the earth, I’ve often wondered – did Solomon ever know the joy of indoor plumbing? I wonder if Solomon ever took a hot shower. Oh, I realize the extreme extravagance that so much wealth could have bought him. He could have hot baths surrounded by his wives and concubines. However, the simplicity of turning the facet and having hot water spraying out – that would be extreme extravagance to anyone living even just two hundred years ago.


Jesus encouraged us to look at the simple things of life and realize just how rich we are: “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these” (Mt. 6:28-29). Paul writes “If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content” (1 Tim. 6:8).


A preacher friend of mine posted:

   18% of the world’s population are directly affected by rising gas prices –

         they own a vehicle

    82% of the world’s population are not directly affected by rising gas prices –

         they don’t own a vehicle

   100% have a reason to be happy and 100% have a reason to complain

         Choose gratitude


“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18).


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