Sunday, October 26, 2008

the believer, the Bible and the ballot box

OK, I don't usually self-promote. But, the response to God's Word and biblical principles relating to our involvement in the political process may be helpful for others outside of PBC who are looking for direction regarding the upcoming election. You may access today's sermon online at Sermon Resources or download a free audio file from the PBC archives on iTunes.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

on the front lines

Several days ago, on my way home from the office, I noticed three military helicopters flying in formation overhead. They continued to circle southwest Arlington in an ominous flight path. As I watched them, I wondered what it must be like to live in a country where the presence of war is so normal. What is it like to not simply read about cafe bombings, but to be near enough to hear them? What is it like to like to see soldiers walking your neighborhood instead of retired couples with their poodle on a leash? What is it like to drive past barbed wire and road blocks instead of garage sale signs and lemonade stands?

Truth is, we all live on the front lines, whether we know it or not. Spiritual people face a spiritual battle every day. In Ephesians 6:10ff, Paul warns Christians to "be strong" and "take on armor" because of the intense warfare that is waged, not in the physical sphere, but in the invisible dimensions where the enemies of God are hiding.

I was aware of the spiritual attack this morning. Relationships are harmonious, calendars are clear, the body is healthy, great things are happening...then, WHAM!....spiritual ambush. You know the experience. Out of nowhere, your heart is thrown into battle.

In times like this, I read a lot into Luke 4:13: "When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time." The temptation of Jesus is recorded in 2 Gospels [Matthew and Luke]. And, when the dust had settled, Luke mentions that the devil departed until another "opportune time." The word "time" doesn't mean hours and minutes. It means "season" or "occasion." In other words, the enemy doesn't attack me every day at 3:20 p.m. He looks for the opportune seasons in my life to launch his spiritual assault.

When I study Jesus' temptation, I discern 4 characteristics of that season of His life that may have made him susceptible to attack. These seasons are dangerous for me too:

1. When I am alone. Jesus was alone in the desert. And, when we're alone, we leave ourselves vulnerable to enemy forces. See Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

2. On the heels of success. Jesus had recently returned from the Jordan where he was baptized. His Father's voice boomed from heaven, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased" [Matthew 3:17]. When I feel affirmed, strong and supported, the Devil will try to kick my legs out from under me. See 1 Corinthians 10:12.

3. At the start of a great thing. Jesus' 40 day stint was in preparation for His earthly ministry. He was about to revealed as the long-awaited Messiah. The enemy works to undo the momentum we have moving forward in the joys of life. I think this is why couples have their worst arguments while packing the car for a family vacation. See Ephesians 5:15-16.

4. When I am tired, hungry and spent. Jesus had been fasting for 6 weeks. He lived out in the open (perhaps in caves) and endured the elements. Satan knows that when we are physically weary, we are spiritually vulnerable. See Psalm 63.

During Pearson's baseball games, his coach will sometimes yell to the players, "Heads up!" The phrase means "be alert!" Peter warns Christians, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" [1 Peter 5:8]. This means war. This means that I am on the front lines. And, when all is going well for me in every possible way, I can expect that a battle is brewing beneath the surface. Fortunately, by the power of Christ, the war is already won!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

red floor chronicles | Christ

If you do not attend Pantego Bible Church, or missed the service this last Sunday, you must review the "Cardboard Testimonies" at the end of today's sermon [here]. This idea didn't originate at PBC. Many other churches have used this effective presentation of changed lives. But, to see it in the context of people you

Thursday, October 9, 2008

red floor chronicles | death

Today in Staff Chapel, we talked about this second movement of the Gospel: the penalty of death. Romans 6:23 warns us that "the wages of sin is death." Literally, the just compensation for our sin is separation from God. All of us start life as "dead men walking."

Today, the Stock Market dropped 679 points. That's 1700 points in the last 5 days...the lowest market close in 5 years. Ironically, it comes on the anniversary of the highest close of 14,164 one year ago. In just a few months, investors have lost 20% of their portfolio.

One day, all of us will retire from this life and too many will not have the investments to sustain them in the presence of God. The spiritual bankruptcy will be the ultimate Great Depression. What if people saw their impending eternal loss with the same concern?

My financial advisor encourages me to do nothing in these sparse economic times. But, as spiritual advisers, we must urge our neighbors and friends to radically change their investment strategy. As those who have been made rich through Christ [2 Corinthians 8:9], we must show the Way to those living in spiritual poverty. It doesn't matter whether it's a Bull or Bear Market. The most important thing is that the world knows the Lion--Jesus Christ as Lord.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

sin: part 3

Bill Maher has taken his crusade against religion to the big screen. Maher, who has been picking on organized religion for years on his TV shows "Politically Incorrect" and "Real Time," zealously traveled the world for "Religulous," his documentary challenging the validity and value of Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths.

Raised in a Roman Catholic household by a Catholic father and Jewish mother, Maher decided at an early age that the trappings and mythology of the world's religions were preposterous, outdated and even dangerous. "Religulous," directed by fellow doubter Larry Charles ("Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan"), is intended to inspire similar skepticism in others — and perhaps get nonbelievers to talk more openly about their lack of faith.

Maher, 52, who started mocking religion back in his early standup comedy days, has no misconceptions that "Religulous" will shake people's lifelong convictions to the core. He's mainly looking for laughs such as those the film elicited from the enthusiastic crowd at its Toronto premiere.

"When you're talking about a man living to 900 years old, and drinking the blood of a 2,000-year-old god, and that Creation Museum where they put a saddle on the dinosaur because people rode dinosaurs. It's just a pile of comedy that was waiting for someone to exploit."

Charles shot 400 to 500 hours of material around the world as Maher visited a Christian chapel for truckers in North Carolina, a gay Muslim bar in the Netherlands, the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, and Christian, Muslim and Jewish holy places in Israel. Maher meets with priests at the Vatican, chats with rabbis and Muslim scholars in Jerusalem, encounters street preachers in London, and hangs out with the performer who plays Christ in a crucifixion enactment at the Holy Land Experience theme park in Florida. They left Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism alone largely for budgetary reasons, saying the extra travel and expanded scope would have made the film too unwieldy. They also figured that Christianity, Islam and Judaism were the trinity of faiths at the heart of Western conflict.

Never one to soft-pedal his own opinions, Maher openly scorns remarks made by Christians, Jews and Muslims he interviews. He hopes audiences will laugh with him, and that "Religulous" will stand as a testament for people who share his scorn. "It is a sobering thought to think that the U.S. Congress has 535 members and there's not one who represents this point of view, and yet there are tens of millions of Americans who feel this way," Maher said. "Comedians have always made jokes about religion. It's a rich topic. I did when I was a young comedian, but they weren't jokes that got right to the essence of it, which is, this is dangerous and this is silly."

[article condensed from "Maher vs. God: `Religulous' flays organized faith" by David Germain, AP Movie Writer]