Oregon City Church of Christ • August 01, 2021
There are many longing for a lasting relationship. One that won’t disappoint or hurt them. Life is easier when you’re not alone. Struggles that are shared are more bearable. For some, previous heartaches hold them back. Here are three things that everyone needs and wants.
First, someone who cares. Someone who knows all about us, all our faults and all our failures, but loves us anyway. It must be someone who loves us unconditionally. One who is consumed with our wellbeing. Someone willing to forgive us of all our pettiness, faultfinding and irritability. We struggle, yes, we fail to be this person, but it’s who we need.
Then, we need someone we can trust. Someone we can believe in. It should be someone we can always call on and know they’ll give us what we need. Someone who won’t give up or run but will lift us up when we’re struggling. Someone willing to lift us above our problems. Someone who is strong when we’re weak.
Finally, it needs to be someone who knows what they’re doing. They know where they’re going. They know what to do next. They have a plan. They’re able to give you direction. You know your future is secure. You might make some wrong turns, but they’ll put you back on the right track.
Do you recognize these three things? Love, faith, and hope. The triad of Christian virtues. Don’t underestimate their power. Don’t dismiss our great desire and need for these. Faith, hope and love. There’s One who wants a relationship with you and will never let you down or desert you. Not only are we looking for these, we must embrace them in ourselves.
Don't Do Anything Stupid
Oregon City Church of Christ • July 18, 2021
One memorable line from Forest Gump is when Lt. Dan tells the new arrivals to Viet Nam that he has two standing orders. “One, take good care of your feet, and two, try not to do anything stupid (like getting yourself killed).” John Wayne is credited with saying “Life is hard, it’s even harder if you’re stupid.” I found myself yelling to Kyle as he walked out the door to go camping, “don’t do anything stupid.”
Folly and foolish are words the Bible uses for stupid. We’ve all done foolish things. What were we thinking? Or, were we thinking? Fortunately, most of us have gotten away with just some embarrassment rather than injury or death. At the same time, it’s just not that unusual to hear of someone doing something stupid that has resulted in either injury or death. The Bible reminds us that “at one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another” (Tit. 3:3).
God gives us many cautions and warnings. Pay attention! “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8). Being sober has to do with more than just alcohol, other translations say “stay alert!” “be serious” “be watchful” “keep your mind clear.” One stupid mistake and there’s a lion out there ready to devour you! So the Bible warns us “be careful how you walk, not as unwise people but as wise” (Eph. 5:15).
YouTube is filled with videos of folks doing some stupid things. Are they crazy or what? Solomon says “it’s useless to spread a net where a bird can see it” (Prov. 1:17). Even a bird is smart enough to avoid clear danger. Yet, the foolish and naïve rush headlong with no apparent forethought or caution. It’s sad to think back on Christians who ended up doing some stupid things and messing up their lives. How shall the young secure their hearts? By living according to God’s word (Ps. 119:9). Pay attention. Heed the warnings.
“Don’t do anything stupid!”
A Living Hope
Oregon City Church of Christ • July 11, 2021
July 11, 2021
This hope isn’t a worldly hope. Worldly hope is merely wishful thinking. It’s like wishing for a million dollars. The chances are this isn’t going to happen. It’s not something that’s expected to happen. It’s not something on which to build your life. Disneyland is where wishes and dreams come true. It’s where reality is suspended. It’s the end of a fairy tale. It’s make believe. There’s a reason it’s called never, never land. It’s about something no one ever, no never expects to see. The world has come to know hope in these terms.
Christian hope is much different. It’s a confident expectation. It’s a living hope. It’s an expectation that there’s more to life than what is seen. The apostle John had a vision of a door standing open in heaven. We understand doors. Doors separate two areas. We have all passed many closed doors. Just because we haven’t seen the other side of the door doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Since we have seen this side, there’s a hope, an expectation, that we will see the other side too. Hope that is seen isn’t hope. Christians have a confident expectation in the unseen. Christians believe there’s something on the other side of the door.
It’s about hope in Jesus. Christian hope is built on the historical fact that Jesus came to earth. It was foretold for generations just exactly what it would look like, and every prediction came true. His crucifixion was witnessed by many and was entered into the historical records, both secular and sacred records. And, most important of all, He came back from the dead, a fact witnessed by hundreds. Over and over, He spoke of an eternal kingdom, His Father’s house, a place for His friends to live with Him. God is not the Father of the dead, but of the living. Since everything else the Bible said would happen came true, it’s reasonable to have a confident expectation that everything else it predicts will be true as well.
This is a hope you can build your life on. It’s a hope that you’ll want to share. It’s a hope that has been passed down from generation to generation. Christians should always be ready to give an explanation for the hope that lies within them. We have a glorious expectation of living with God eternally in a new heaven and a new earth.
Oregon City Church of Christ • July 11, 2021
July 4, 2021
Wow, a record setting heat wave! Just about 4 months before that we had a record setting freeze. Back in September there were record winds that resulted in fires that caused many, including some of you, to be evacuated while thousands lost their homes. And about 6 months before the winds, the COVID pandemic began. In 2019, there were billions of dollars in damages around the world caused by natural disasters.
Revelation 8 tells us of the 7 trumpets that will sound. For the ancients a trumpet was to warn the community of danger. It made a statement. Get ready. Be prepared. Danger and disaster are on the way. In Revelation, the first 4 trumpets were natural disasters. Natural disasters remind us that life is fragile - life is brief. Are you prepared for the life to come after death? Hear the warnings and repent!
Then there’s the political upheaval. The constant protests and riots. It was distressing to see so many Christians invested and adamant about one extreme or another. It generated hateful rhetoric, fear, suspicion, and despair. Too many are convinced that the best way to change society is political power rather than the power of the gospel.
In contrast to all of this chaos is the call for Christians to live in hope. A “living hope.” Prayers are to result in peaceful, tranquil lives. Our lives should be lived in such a way that everyone will know we are Christians because of our love. Our aim is not power or control, but authentic lives characterized by good works. Our faith and trust in God will lead us to desire to live peaceful lives with all. He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8)?
Friends of Jesus
Oregon City Church of Christ • July 11, 2021
In the sermon about Jesus calling us friends, I mentioned some of the songs that refer to Jesus as our friend. It made me start to wonder about the history of those songs. With a bit of research, here are some things I discovered.
The opportunities for Joseph Scriven were abundant in Ireland. His parents were wealthy enough to give him a college education. Everyone, including him, had high expectations and ambitions. However, his life was derailed when the woman he
loved drown the day before their wedding. The grief led him to travel and he settled in Canada. He was highly regarded there and began to tutor the local children. He fell in love again and had great plans to get married. Unfortunately, before they could wed, she died of pneumonia. Later, Scriven himself turned ill. A friend came to visit and found a poem Scriven had written to encourage his mother who still lived in Ireland. The poem, rising from a heart that knew its share of grief has comforted generations, maybe even you. “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear….”
Johnson Oatman was expected to work in the family business, but he wasn’t satisfied. He thought he would become a minister, but he couldn’t find a church that would hire him. Apparently he wasn’t a good preacher. He was a better than average singer and so he thought that might be his calling. His father had a booming voice and was in great demand as a gospel singer and was considered one of the best singers in the state. He was a good singer, but he would never attain to the level of his father. At the age of 36 Oatman just couldn’t figure out where he could fit in. He needed a friend like Jesus. That’s when he found his talent. Within 3 years hundreds of churches were singing his song, “There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus, No, not one….” Thousands have been encouraged by his songs. I know and have sung all his songs in our hymnal: “Count Your Blessings,” “Hand in Hand with Jesus,” “Higher Ground,” “I’ll Be a Friend to Jesus,” “Lift Him Up,” “Sweeter than All,” “The Last Mile of the Way,” and “What Shall It Profit?”
My motivation when I started writing this was to encourage all the graduates wondering what kind of work they’ll do. Sometimes, the best job is the one that finds you.
Oregon City Church of Christ • June 20, 2021
The Gospel of John has been called the “Gospel of Belief.” He’s making a case for faith. A faith that transforms our lives. John reveals a tension between Divine sovereignty and human responsibility. God is sovereign in His purpose, but we must be submissive to His will. We must believe.
Another obvious theme presented by John is the centrality of love. “God so loved the world” is one of the best-known phrases of scripture. As God has loved, so we too must love one another. You don’t love God if you don’t love one another.
The conclusion that the gospel of John wants us to come to is that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” The importance of being the Son is that He has a Father. This terminology wasn’t to challenge Jewish monotheism, but to explain it. How can God take on flesh, dwell among us, be submissive to the Father, die and still be God? There’s a thematic tension between the divinity and humanity of Jesus. This is seen in the terminology of “father” and “son.”
If word count can direct us to the importance of a topic, then we should note that in John the word “believe” is found about 50 times, while the word “love” is only mentioned 20 times, but the word “father” is mentioned 102 times. Almost more than all the other gospels combined.
We say, “like father, like son.” But John takes it another step. The deeds and words of Jesus are the deeds and words of His Father. If this is not true, then the book is blasphemous. The Son is sent by the Father (Jn 1:14). The Son explains the Father (Jn 1:18). Jesus’ work reflects His Father’s work (Jn 5:17, 19). The Son is the only way to the Father (Jn 14:6). The Father has many dwelling places that the Son is preparing (Jn 14:2-3). The Father is glorified in the Son (Jn 14:13). This just scratches the surface of the similarities. It is nearly impossible to separate the two – but we must.
To take it one step further, as disciples we must reflect the Father as we reflect Jesus. Jesus says “abide in me.” Connect with Him. Have an intimacy with Him. From that closeness we bear fruit that glorifies the Father because it looks like Him!
Oregon City Church of Christ • June 13, 2021
Jesus’ statement that “the Father is greater than I” (Jn. 14:28) says a lot about His love and sacrifice for us!
If you only have a shallow, elementary understanding of what He’s saying you might conclude with the cults that He’s saying He isn’t deity. That He’s not equal to the Father. However, throughout the gospel of John the fact of Jesus’ deity has been well established. Then what does He mean that “the Father is greater?”
Jesus became flesh (Jn. 1:14). For Him to be crucified He had to become flesh, He had to have a body, He had to become human. One of the greatest sacrifices for Jesus was to empty Himself. Jesus “already existed in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself by taking the form of a bond-servant and being born in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:6-7). Jesus set aside His glory in becoming our Savior. As a man He put Himself under total submission to the Father. In this role He could say that the Father is greater.
The word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible, but the concept is certainly there. Three persons making up one God. We read the phrase, there is one God (singular) and we read our God is one (unity). Each took on an equal, but different role in our salvation. At Jesus’ birth all three played a part (Lk. 1:35). At His baptism the Son is baptized, the Holy Spirit descends like a dove and there’s a voice from the Father in heaven (Mt. 3:16-17). Who raised Jesus from the dead? The Father (Gal. 1:1). The Son (Jn. 2:18-19; 10:18). The Holy Spirit (1 Pt. 3:18). It was God who raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 2:24). Each person of the Godhead continues to play a part in the lives of Christians (1 Pt. 1:2).
Oregon City Church of Christ • June 05, 2021
I have been shocked at how submitting to governing authorities has been seen as showing a lack of faith in God by many Christians today.
Oh, I get it. I’m a rebel at heart. Don’t tell me what to do. Don’t tread on me. Rebellion? I’m in! I want my rights. It’s all about freedom. Too many mandates. Too much regulation. There’s a little lawyer inside me that rises up within me and cries “I object!” That’s my old self for sure. It sneaks out of me if I’m not careful.
When did rebelling against government authorities become a sign of faith in God? Especially when God’s Word tells us the opposite. Romans 13:1-3, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” How much clearer can God be? You are not obey-ing God by refusing to submit.
But if I obey it will be taken as agreement. It’s not as if there has ever been a perfect government. In Paul’s day, when he wrote Romans the government was filled with corruption, inefficiency, injustice, and every conceivable vice. Obedience doesn’t mean that you necessarily agree – it means that you love God enough to obey! Re-fusing to submit to the government is not a demonstration of faith – it’s disobedience to God!
Peter wrote “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him….” (1 Pt. 2:13-14a). “For the Lord’s sake” clarifies that it is God who wants us to submit. Eve-ry inconvenient mandate is not an afront against Christianity.
What did Jesus say? If you see a Christian compelled by the government to go one mile, then taunt him for his lack of faith. No, remember to go the extra mile (Mt. 5:41). Jesus wants us to be known by our humility and submission.
“Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men” (Tit. 3:1-2).
Oregon City Church of Christ • May 30, 2021
Have you ever been misunderstood? Don’t you understand anything? Murphy’s law says that if you make something absolutely clear, someone will be confused. Human interaction is fraught with miscommunication. Some days seem to be filled with the frustration of clearing up misunderstandings. At times it seems that some want to misunderstand. I know you think you understand what I said, but what I said isn’t what I intended to say.
The dialogue in the upper room (Jn 13-17) appears to be driven by misunderstandings. Peter asks, “Lord, where are You going? Jesus answered, “Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.” Peter said, “Lord, why can I not follow you right now” (Jn. 13:26-27)? Thomas said, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way” (Jn. 14:5)? Phillip doesn’t understand, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us” (Jn. 14:8). Judas (not Iscariot) asked, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world” (Jn. 14:22)? Some disciples were asking “What is this thing He is telling us” (Jn. 16:17)? And “What is this that He says…. We do not know what He is talking about” (Jn. 16:1)? John uses dialogue and these misunderstandings to teach us some of the most amazing truths from Jesus.
Sometimes you’re the windshield and sometimes you’re the bug. Sometimes we feel the frustration of Jesus and wonder why we have to be surrounded by those who just don’t get it. Why do people always seem to disappoint us? Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the patience of Jesus.
Then there are the times when we’re so dense, we just don’t get it. Jesus’ disciples were physically with Him for years, but they still didn’t always understand Him.
So what’s the lesson? Stop being so hard on yourself. Especially stop being so hard on others. Now, who doesn’t understand what I’m talking about?
Oregon City Church of Christ • February 11, 2021
Most of us have been vaccinated against a host of diseases. Soon, we’ll be getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccines introduce our bodies to a weakened or inert amount of the virus. This teaches our immune system how to recognize and fight the virus. In simple terms, you get just enough of the virus to prevent you from getting the real thing.
Is it possible to get just enough of the gospel to prevent you from getting the real thing? Jesus explained in the parable of the soils that some believe for a while, but then fall away (Lk. 8:13). There are those who start out being drawn to Jesus, but never have more than a superficial faith.
It’s amazing that in John 8:30-31 Jesus begins speaking with those Jews “who had believed in Him,” yet in vs 44 he says to this same group of Jews, “You are of your father the devil.” Then in the following verse, He told them “you do not believe in Me” (Jn. 8:45). There was something very shallow about their belief. In the parable of the wheat and the tares Jesus implies that it’s not always easy to tell the difference between the false and genuine believer. Most of us have known those who started off well, even leaders in the church, but they fell away. Exposed to the Truth but falling short.
What is the benchmark of genuine faith? In the same text referenced above Jesus said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn. 8:31-32). Continuance. Endurance. Perseverance. As Hebrews emphasizes, “But My righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in Him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul” (Heb. 10:38-39). As we sing, “Oh for a faith that will not shrink, though pressed by every foe” (Bathhurst).