Ron • September 25, 2021
Are you hooked on entertainment? How often do you find yourself scrolling through your phone? Even at a restaurant, do you engage with the person across from you or do you pick up your phone? What about in a waiting room? Have moments of meditation and prayer been squeezed out? Even our cars have great entertainment packages. Have we become a generation hooked on distraction and entertainment?
Some come to worship with the expectation that it will be entertaining. No one is suggesting that worship should be boring. It’s a matter of focus. The aim of entertainment is much different than the aim of worship. Entertainment is offered to people for their amusement. Worship has a totally different focus. The focus of worship is God.
As worship began to be used as an outreach and evangelism tool by some, the question became “how can we bring in more people?” This is not something new. The 19th century Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon stated, “The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them.” It’s a noble desire to want to save the lost, but it has caused many to value entertainment over true worship.
As a teen I wondered why worship was called a “church service.” Service? Service is related to the word “serve.” It was a reminder that worship wasn’t about us, but the God we serve. We ascribe honor to God. Worship in Spirit and truth can be hard work, His word can even pierce our soul, but it transforms us, edifies us, and conforms us to the image of God in a way infinitely more powerful than any entertainment. As the 16th century preacher John Calvin cautioned, “The music must not turn the church into an audience enjoying the music but into a congregation singing the Lord’s praises in his presence.”
Slaying a Dragon
Ron • September 21, 2021
Daryl Davis shows us how to kill a dragon. Davis is an accomplished musician. He has played with Chuck Berry, B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis and Muddy Waters. More importantly Davis is a Christian.
Roger Kelly hated Davis because of the color of his skin. Kelly was the Grand Wizard of the KKK. Davis was determined to befriend Kelly. Davis wanted to find out how anyone can “hate me without knowing me.” He spent years building trust between them and laid the foundation of what became a friendship. They visited one another’s homes. Ate together. Davis went so far as to attend Klan rallies as Kelly’s guest.
Davis listened. He didn’t hate Kelly just because Kelly hated him. He listened to Kelly and eventually Kelly started listening to him. This led to the two realizing they had far more in common than not. Davis says, “ignorance breeds fear," and "If you don't keep that fear in check, that fear will breed hatred.”
In the end, Kelly denounced his ties with the KKK. He handed his hood and robe to Daryl Davis. Over the years Davis has seen over 200 Klan members walk away from the KKK. Over 25 have handed him their hoods and robes, including Bob White – Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.
How’s that for a way to kill a dragon? Love conquers hate. Davis is a remarkable man and shows us a remarkable way to overcome racism. By the way, his story was made into a documentary, “Accidental Courtesy.”
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 Jn. 4:7).
What is Truth?
Ron • September 18, 2021
Is there truth? Absolute truth? Objective truth? The majority of Americans (67%) say no. And, over half (52%) of those who call themselves “Christian” say no.
Life is hard. It can be confusing. What makes it work? We’re free to search for our own truth. Unfortunately, there are many paths with promise, but end in disappointment. A waste. This is the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon’s search for meaning. For truth. He tried wealth, pleasure, education, he “denied himself nothing” and found nothing but emptiness and lies. We hear that your truth might not be my truth and my truth might not be your truth. What we’re saying is that we each think we’ve found the path to happiness. But there’s only one truth. At the end of a frustrating, empty search many broken souls beg to know as Pilate, “What is truth?”
Truth corresponds to reality. Solomon came to the conclusion that the ultimate truth is God. He is the ultimate reality. That’s where we are as Christians. We have seen the evidence and have come to the faith that God is ultimate truth.
The notorious infidel Robert Ingersoll persuaded General Lew Wallace to write a book exposing Jesus as merely human. Wallace accepted the challenged and did his due diligence of research. It ended with the book “Ben Hur” that depicts Jesus as the Son of God.
Christianity is objectively true. Truth is what it is whether I think so or not. Whether I find it so or not. Whether I feel it so or not. Jesus is the truth.
Ron • September 14, 2021
“All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isa. 53:6).
The Bible was written in a rural setting that some of us city folks have trouble understanding. Some of you, including myself, have found books like Phillip Keller’s “A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm” to be helpful. Keller is a shepherd. He explains why sheep need more attention and care than any other livestock.
If left to themselves sheep will follow the same trails until they become ruts. They will graze the same hills until they become a desert waste. They will pollute their own ground until it becomes corrupt with disease and parasites. They will paw roots out of the soil leading to erosion. They will literally ruin the land without a shepherd.
People display this same destructive self-determination. “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 14:12). It never ceases to amaze me how many ways people have found to destroy their lives. Our culture is going out of their way to find ways to corrupt their lives. It makes you cringe to consider the consequences of calling “evil good and good evil” (Isa. 5:20). People live in the pollution they’ve created. They are “inventors of evil.” Everyone is wise in their own eyes.
Keller speaks of “cast” sheep. A sheep will lay down and will end up rolling over on their back. Their feet are in the air. They flail. They can’t get up. If it’s a hot day they can die in hours. They are helpless prey to buzzards, dogs, coyotes, cougars or other predators. If the shepherd doesn’t arrive their future is hopeless. Ironically, even the largest, strongest, fattest, healthiest sheep can be cast. “All of us”. “All we.” It gives us fuller understanding of Jesus’ perspective; “And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt. 9:36).
How blessed to be sheep of the “great shepherd” (Heb. 13:20), “the good shepherd” (Jn. 10:14), Jesus Christ.
Ron • August 30, 2021
I’m not sure if I should clean up all the debris left from the storm or just wait to see if the locust plague will take care of it. After the year we’ve had, I don’t think any plague would surprise us.
After the death of broadcaster Larry King in January, they played a clip where he challenged a person of faith to answer how they can maintain faith in a good God or any God for that matter in light of all the natural disasters that cause thousands of innocent people to die. Mr. King joins the countless numbers who use pain, suffering and death to keep themselves from a faith in God.
Solomon had an interesting insight on suffering: “On the day of prosperity be happy, But on the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other So that a person will not discover anything that will come after him” (Eccl. 7:14). Solomon says we won’t discover anything new about pain and pleasure after we die. The Bible describes two destinies after death. One of pleasure in the presence of God and another of anguish separated from God. We couldn’t relate to the concept of an eternity of either pleasure or pain unless we experienced it some in this life. Without pain in this life it would come as a total shock and surprise after death. We hear people complain how unfair God is to allow pain, but if He didn’t, imagine the complaints of those separated from God who didn’t understand the concept of pain.
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? Get ready.
God in His goodness gives us a taste of what will come after death. There will be no surprises. He’s not trying to scare us. He’s just loving enough to tell us the truth. He’s fair enough to explain reality. Pleasure or pain awaits us. Then He powerfully warns us. Get ready. Be prepared. Choose God. Choose beauty. Choose pleasure. Without God nothing awaits us except for weeping and gnashing of teeth. Choose eternal life with God.
Ron • August 28, 2021
You might forget that his name is Joseph. We know him better by the name the apostles gave him, Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.” What a blessing he was in the lives of others. His encouragement changed lives! It’s doubtful that Paul would have been the same man without Barnabas. Sermons are preached just about his name. We all need encouragement.
It’s a blessing to think of all the people who have been Barnabas to me! Some have given light to some dark days. Many have put a spring back in my step. Sometimes it’s been a generous gesture, but often it’s just the right word at the right time. “A word spoken at the right time is like gold apples on a silver tray” (Prov. 25:11, HCSB). Some have found some pretty clever ways of saying, “I love you, I’m thinking about you, I care about you.”
All around the world thousands and thousands of sermons are preached. Some in massive buildings, some in homes and others online. But the best ones come wrapped in human skin. Most people would rather see a sermon than hear one. The sermon your life preaches may reach places a preacher can never touch. Some have given hope, peace, and comfort without ever speaking a word.
How many lives have been brought back from the edge of ruin by some kind word or gesture? Jesus mentioned that even a cup of water can have its reward. To all of you who go out of your way to brighten the lives of others, “thank you!”
Ron • August 23, 2021
A story is told of two old ladies who lived together. One summer evening they were sitting on their porch, enjoying the peaceful scene. One woman was listening to the sound of a church choir a few doors away as they practiced. The other woman was listening to the sound of the crickets chirping. The woman listening to the choir said, “Isn’t that a lovely sound?” The woman listening to the crickets replied, “Yes, and I understand that they do it by rubbing their legs together.” Confusion is not typically so funny.
The 7th chapter of the gospel of John can be painful to read. There is so much confusion and division about Jesus. There are the Jewish leaders who want to kill him and his own family who wants to control him. Then, there’s the mixed reviews of the crowd. Among the crowd are those who think he’s a good man. There are those who think he leads the people astray. There are those who think he’s crazy. There are still others who believe that he is the Christ. Merrill Tenney described the situation as “ignorant adulation on one side, and ignorant criticism on the other” (John: The Gospel of Belief, pg. 136). Shallow reasons for believing in Jesus are just as bad as shallow reasons for rejecting Him.
Is there still confusion about Jesus today? Is what we believe about Jesus subjective? Is Jesus whatever you prefer Him to be? Ignorant belief is not much better than ignorant unbelief.
To turn Nicodemus’ question into a statement he said, “Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing” (Jn. 7:51). John is writing this gospel because he knows that we need to have a faith built on who Jesus is and why He came. Unbelief can be shallow “being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart” (Eph. 4:18). Ignorant unbelief may be the norm, but there must never be ignorant adulation. Faith must be built on knowledge. Paul stated that his goal in life was “that I may know Him” (Phil. 3:10).
The idea that Jesus is fully Divine, and perfectly human may be difficult to grasp. Coming to an understanding of this truth is life changing.
The Old Young Earth
Ron • August 21, 2021
Every year I’m asked how old I think the earth is. My typical answer is “I don’t know,” but there’s a caveat. How old do you think Adam was when God created him? Of course, he was one day old, but I seriously doubt that he was an infant or a toddler. How old did he look? If you saw Adam on the day that he was created how old would you guess him to be? In my mind I see him as a twenty- or thirty-year-old man.
God created the universe that displayed age on day one. The Bible speaks of full-grown animals and birds and sea creatures that certainly didn’t look a day old when they were created. Genesis speaks of God creating fruit trees bearing fruit. A full-grown earth could have been created already containing the vast petroleum reserves that appear to be millions of years old. A loving Creator would have planned for everything we might need. This is much easier to believe than something coming from nothing and slowly, randomly changing over endless ages to become what we have today.
From the theologian James Ussher’s calculation that creation happened in 4004 B.C. to the evolutionist’s claim that the earth is over 4 billion years old, there’s the realization that both could be right, although it’s more likely that both are wrong. The Bible doesn’t tell us the age of the earth. It tells us of a God who in His wisdom and love created the heavens and the earth and placed us here as intelligent, rational beings capable of seeing, hearing, and talking and most importantly able to have a relationship with our Creator.
Ron • August 20, 2021
The word “perhaps” is an interesting word in the Bible. Upon entering the Promised land, Caleb said, “perhaps the Lord will be with me, and I will drive them out as the Lord has spoken” (Jos. 14:12). Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “perhaps the Lord will help us” (1 Sam. 14:6). When David’s baby was near death, he fasted and wept thinking “who knows, perhaps the LORD will be gracious to me that the child might live (2 Sam. 12:22). When Paul wrote to Philemon about Onesimus he said, “perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever” (Philemon 15).
The word “perhaps” implores that God might work in the favorable way we want. The dictionary says that “perhaps” is used “when one does not wish to be too definite or assertive in the expression of an opinion.” It is also a reminder that we can’t be too sure about what God is doing. James says “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city…. Instead, you ought to say, “if the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that” (Jm 4:13, 15). We don’t always understand God’s ways.
The good news is that God cares for us. He loves us. He wants the best for us. God is active in our lives. He hears our prayers. We can depend on Him and trust Him. As someone has said, “if God had a wallet, He’d have your photo in it.” Every morning He sends you a sunrise and closes each day with a beautiful sunset. For a Christian, every crumb of food, every drop of water, every breath we take has been given us by God.
There are cycles of nature - time and chance overtake us all. There are consequences of our poor choices and the poor choices of others. There are events that bring us to our knees. If we’re not careful we can lose perspective and forget to see God’s hand in the big picture. Perhaps God will allow us to continue to experience His goodness!
Ron • August 19, 2021
Skeptics. Mockers. Cynics. Unbelievers. There never appears to be a shortage of those who would try to ridicule God.
Recently I heard the son of a well-known pastor criticize the Bible. The son considers himself to be an atheist. Deconversion has become popular. Ex-preachers. Ex-Christians. Exes apparently have more credibility. It’s the appeal of saying I was one of them, I know what they believe, but I reasoned my way out of it. His message is that “Christians are stupid.” He mocks Christianity with what he calls “Silly Bible stories.”
A common attack is what I’d call “did you realize that the Bible says…..” This is the approach I heard from this young man. The rant that I heard was from Ecclesiastes. Did you realize that the Bible says that it’s better to have never been born? In Ecclesiastes 4 it says, “So I congratulated the dead who are already dead, more than the living who are still living. But better off than both of them is the one who has never existed.” He mockingly emphasized, “It’s better to be dead.” “It’s better to never have existed.” “This is what the Bible says.” “And since it’s in the Bible you must take it LITERALLY” (emphasis is his).
It needs to be clear. Christians do not take the Bible literally, we take it “literarily.” Like all literature, context, genre, recipients, and other literary factors must be considered. For instance, Ecclesiastes is written from the perspective of life without God. Without God, life is a waste (“vanity”). Without God, it would have been better not to be born. In fact, the irony here is that Ecclesiastes is written from the perspective of our critic. He is unknowingly mocking himself. His worldview is being scorned. His childish rampage falls apart with just a little bit of thought.
It might be admitted that this guy’s tactics are emotionally effective, but they certainly are not intellectually effective. This man’s unbelief is caused by his own arrogant pride and not by the Bible. Mockers think they’re smarter than God.