Compromise by Addition (Revelation 2:18-29)

(For a video of this sermon, click here.)

Years ago, I read a book by Dr. Erwin Lutzer titled, Hitler’s Cross (1998). In the book, Dr. Lutzer, who at time was Senior Pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, described how Adolf Hilter used the church in Germany to advance his agenda. Unbelievably, throughout much of Nazism, the church was Hitler’s leading advocate. And not just any church. It was the Germany Evangelical Church, led by Ludwig Muller! Eventually a group of believers, including Martin Neimoller and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, broke from the Germany Evangelical Church and formed the Confessing Church. For this, “act of treason,” Neimoller spent eight years in a concentration camp and Bonhoeffer, after spending two years in a concentration camp, was hanged on April 9, 1945. On the back of the book’s jacket, the publisher wrote, Hitler’s Cross is the story of a nation whose church forgot its primary call and discovered its failure too late.” Continue reading

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The Serpent and the Saint (Revelation 2:12-17)

Have you ever wondered why the universal medical symbol is a staff with a snake wrapped around it? I thought it was rooted in the story of the bronze snake in Numbers 21:1-9. In that story, the Israelites, became impatient in their wilderness journey and complained, saying to Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” (Numbers 21:5) Sounds like your children in the middle of a long road trip, doesn’t it? In response to their complaining, God sent poisonous snakes into their camp, killing many people. As a result, the people repented. God then, instructed Moses to “Make a snake and put it on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live” (Numbers 21:8). Thus, the snake on the pole symbolizes healing, and that is why it has been used as a symbol for healing. Continue reading

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The Three Legged Stool of an Impactful Church

All kinds of people and organizations use a three-legged stool to illustrate their three most important values or ideas or systems. The idea is that while a one-legged or two-legged stool is weak and flimsy, a three-legged stool is strong and provided the proper balance.

Over the last few months, I have been in deep study about the seven churches mentioned in Revelation 2 and 3. In a lot of ways, studying these churches has changed my view of the entire Revelation of John. I think a lot of my previous studies and understanding of Revelation has been an exercise in missing the point. When you read Revelation through the lenses of the seven churches, instead of the lenses of eschatology, a whole new theme opens up. A theme is highly applicable to pastoring a church, especially an evangelical church, in the United States today. Continue reading

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A Glorious Day

What a great day today! Monday, January 29, 2018. Our church ordained an inmate on death row. He will now be our pastor behind prison walls. I wrote about this last week. Today’s service was one of the highlights of my ministry. To receive communion from a condemned man is transformational. Thanks to all who prayed with me about this service. Below is what I read today. I have changed the name of the ordained. I have done so out of respect for the victim and their family, as well as my incarcerated friend. Continue reading

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Do Not Be Afraid of Suffering (Revelation 2:8-11)

In 1905, German sociologist, Max Weber, compiled a series of essays and put them into a book titled, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Twenty-five years later, in 1930, American sociologist, Talcott Parsons, translated Weber book into English. In his book, Weber saw a connection between the economic system of capitalism and the religious system of Protestantism (mainly Calvinism). Calvinism (named after Protestant reformer, John Calvin, d. 1564), teaches that all men are sinners and deserving of hell. But God, in His sovereign grace, unconditionally chose to save some (“the elect”). Capitalism, Weber thought, arose out of this doctrine because one way to show you were part of the “elect” was by material gain and blessings. Thus, if you worked hard, developed your own business or trade, accumulated wealth, and invested your wealth, then God would bless you, and since God only blesses His chosen ones, then hard work and wealth and success were signs you were part of God’s elect. Fast forward to present day, and what you see is an extreme case of what Weber was talking about in the teaching known as the “prosperity gospel;” “name it and claim it;” “it is God’s will for His followers to be rich;” “sow a seed into my ministry and you will reap a harvest ten-fold;” etc, etc, etc. Lost in the health and wealth gospel, is the idea of suffering for Christ. The logic is simple: If material blessings are signs you have been chosen by God, then physical sufferings must be signs that God has not chosen you. Even worse, He has cursed you. Continue reading

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Benjamin Randall

This Monday, January 29, 2018, our church is ordaining a gentleman who is currently on death row in Tennessee. It is going to be an exciting day, and a day full of redemption and reconciliation! I hope to blog more about this after Monday. But today, while preparing for this special occasion, I ran across an old prayer that has been in my files for years. I am going to use this prayer Monday. It is a prayer by Benjamin Randall in 1777. If you don’t know who he was, he was the founder of the Free Will Baptist denomination, the denomination that still allows me to be an ordained minister. Here is the prayer: Continue reading

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Lost Love (Revelation 2:1-7)

Someone wisely commented that the opposite of love is not hate, but apathy. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Jesus told a parable about seeds sprouting up quickly, but then withering from the heat of the sun, or trampled on by people, or chocked by weeds (see Luke 8:5-15). We have idioms that warn against burning the candle at both ends, or being a flash in the pan. These idioms illustrate the difficulty of being committed, and consistent, over the long-haul. How many times have we excitedly started something, only to lose interest a few days (or weeks, or months, or years) later? How many times does that describe our relationship with Jesus?

Following Jesus is a marathon race, not a 100-yard sprint. Many believers start out fast, but then, just as fast, burn out, get tired, or become apathetic. Keenly aware of this possibility caused the Apostle Paul to write, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). Continue reading

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