The Gospel Change

Bulletin 2

The Bible teaches that believers in Christ are actually an altogether new creation.  That is what the bible says.   2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  That means those who have placed their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and have been justified (declared righteous) by faith in Him are living in a new sphere of life.  Old things have passed away; all things have become new because of this new position in Christ.

Let me say it this way.  There was a time in each and every one of our lives we lived in the womb of our mother.  That was the sphere of our life.  It was a very necessary sphere, but it was limited and narrow.  But now, things have changed.  We are no longer in the womb but are now living in this world.  Our natural birth has brought about an enormous change in our lifestyle.  In fact, we have changed so much, none of us even remember that way of life.  It is foreign to us now.

In the same manner, those that are in Christ have been born again.  There has been this spiritual rebirth and our spiritual rebirth has changed our lives completely and absolutely; once and for all.  Things will never be the same.  We have been made new and, at the same time, are being made new.  We are in Christ.  He covers us and consumes us; so now we live, and move and have our being in Christ.  He eclipses everything this world has to offer.  We have seen His glory and we are now changed.  He has made us new and our lives reflect that transformation.

However, this is where we must be careful.  We must recognize what happens when pledging our faith in Christ.  When embracing faith, the gospel of Jesus Christ changes us.  Therefore, we begin to do different, because we are different.  Our spiritual birth has awakened us to a brand new way of life.  Yet, sometimes it comes off as this religious pressure to perform, when in reality our responsibility in living a Christ centered life has everything to do with the awareness that Christ is changing us.

In essence, our dreams and desires change.  Our passions and priorities change.  Our wants and our wishes change.  We are motivated to do different and to be different because we are different.  We are made new and are being made new.  So then, we are not transitioning in life by implementing change, we are transforming in life evidenced by the change.  Therefore, our doing is not some mechanical prescription to do better, our doing is God’s supernatural power that is making us new.  This is the gospel change and it changes everything about us.

Does it Matter What You Do with Your Life?

reActionSIntroduction

Saul was a chosen vessel.  On the road to Damascus to persecute Christians, Christ confronted Saul and revealed Himself.  It was this authentic revelation of Jesus in Saul’s life that caused an immediate revolution in Saul’s heart.  Saul saw the light.  He was forever changed.  The old things had instantly passed away, and everything became new.  Saul was delivered and God had determined to use this man to be the instrument that would, in effect, change the world.

Saul’s previous life had prepared him for this moment.  He was born into a Roman family and thereby a citizen of the most powerful nation of its time.  The Roman Empire was noted for its commerce and trade over land and sea, it provided the best schools and learning institutions of its day and the privileges of society were unmatched and only offered to its citizens.

Specifically, Saul was born into a Jewish family of the Diaspora.  In other words, as a Jew, Paul was familiar and in touch with secular society.  He knew the Greek language, identified Greek logic and understood the influence of Greek culture upon the lives of men.  Saul had a clear perspective of the world.

Being a Jew, Saul had a number of insights into the lifestyle of God’s people.  Saul was brought up in the synagogue.  He had a working knowledge of the Scriptures.  For as long as Saul could remember, he had been taught the traditions of old.  Even though he had a Greek intellect, he had the training of a rabbi and was inducted into the elite Jewish ruling counsel known as the Sanhedrin.

Now everything was different.  Everything was new.  Yet God would use all of these personal experiences of Saul to fulfill His sovereign plan.  Clearly, Saul was chosen by God to do an extraordinary work of ministry.

Much could be said about this man Saul.  I could identify his character and his conduct in order to learn from his example.  Excluding Christ, one could argue that there has been no better man to ever walk this earth than Saul.  Saul has an amazing story; Saul the murderer of the faithful becomes a miracle of faith.  This man that purposely persecuted the church prior to his conversion eventually would proclaim the hope of Christ in like passion.  God ultimately elevated Saul well beyond his own comprehension to a place of legendary status within church history.  Humanly speaking, Saul would author half the New Testament writings.  Therefore, it can be said that no man would make any greater contribution, have any greater influence or be of any greater value to the world than this man Saul.

Clearly Saul was someone special which had something special, but what about the rest of us?  Those of us that will never be center on the world’s stage, do we have anything substantive to offer?  Does it really matter what we do with our life?

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How We Stole Christmas

How_We_Stole_Christmas_std_tDid you know that during the early days of Christianity, different parts of the world celebrated the birth of Christ on different dates?  The Bible does not reveal the exact date of the Lord’s birth and the earliest believers did not have a fixed time for observing it.  However, that did not stop many from trying to figure out the day Jesus was born.  So, as a result of scholarly consideration, multiple dates have been suggested to commemorate the Lord’s birth:  January 6, April 18, April 19 and May 20.  According to Hippolytus, a 3rd century theologian that lived from the year 170 to 236 A.D., Christ was born on Wednesday, December 25, in the 42 year of the reign of Augustus. (which is 2 B.C.)   

Therefore, if you traveled widely in the Roman world, you could conceivably enjoy 5 or even six different celebrations of the Savior’s birth in the span of a single year.  However, it was Pope Julius I in the mid-fourth century who appointed a monk named Dionysius to set up a calendar standardizing a universal date.  December 25 officially became the recognized date and on that day a special mass was celebrated, hence the word Christmas (meaning a Christ mass).  This date was primarily selected because it coincided with the pagan festivals celebrating Saturnalia and the winter solstice.[1]  In other words, we stole Christmas. 

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Fairfield Municipal Court Swearing In Ceremony

JudgeCampbellOn Monday, I had the opportunity to witness and participate in the swearing in ceremony of Fairfield’s municipal court judge, Joyce Campbell.  Judge Campbell is a fabulous woman that has served our city well since 1999.  She ran for another term this past November and ran unopposed.  No doubt her tireless work ethic, her relentless commitment to excellence and her level head has won the hearts of the residents in which she presides.  Judge Campbell is a fair minded and impartial judge that serves as a faithful example of what is admirable regarding our local court system and the City of Fairfield.  I was honored to be asked to lead in the invocation during her swearing in ceremony and privileged to be sitting beside her while she took her oath of office. 

Thank you Judge Campbell for dedicating your life to serve and protect the community in which we love!  Below is the prayer I offered.  Please join me in praying for her and all other elected officials.

Father,    

We pause to gain a faithful perspective to what is essential.  Lord, we desire to be honest stewards.  We seek to be worthy guardians of all you have given us.  We long to bring justice and to love mercy as we walk humbly before you God.  Help us to reflect your light and redeeming grace to others by declaring with our actions that truth, integrity and service preserves and protects the life we share together as a community.

Today is a special day for Judge Campbell.  As we are reminded today of her calling in serving the people of this city, may her position, her privilege and the power of her office be used to impede evil, enable goodness and encourage peace among every people.  Therefore Lord, we ask you to grant her wisdom to judge, patience to endure, strength to stand, compassion to care, devotion to deliberate and stamina to finish strong. 

Lord, we are a needy people and so we look to you to pour down all that is necessary so that those that come after us will see more than a city that lived well, they can identify a community that loved well.  Lord, you are our great example.  Therefore, may we walk together in your word, work together according to your will and witness together the glory of our God and King for it is in the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

 

The Confession of a King

Sermon image“You’re the man!”  In our culture, when we hear these words we may initially think someone is intending to show admiration to another.  When we hear someone say, “You’re the man” we may think that a friend scored the game winning RBI or perhaps scored tickets to the big game.  In those cases it is not uncommon for these words to be followed by a chest bump, a victory dance or high five’s all around for this expression is often articulated to celebrate or congratulate achievement.  However, when David heard these words they were purposely hurled at him as an indictment as if he was just fingered in a police lineup.  Scripture paints a vivid picture of the prophet Nathan boldly pulling back the ragged and repugnant veil David used to cover up an adulterous affair and a calculated murder.  Those words, “you are the man” were meant to confront David’s reprehensible sin and expose his life of hypocrisy.  (II Samuel 12)

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Murder in Fairfield: How Do We Overcome the Evil?

How can we explain evil in the world?  As we go through life we are accustomed to witnessing various forms of suffering.  For example, we can turn on the news and see catastrophic events unfold in living color.  Famines, earthquakes and wars fill the headlines, but that seems so distant as if it is in another world.  So we quickly move beyond those fleeting images and stories.  We then busy ourselves with life rarely considering others who are suffering because of evil.

But then it happens, senseless violence hits home and we are greatly troubled about the evil that exists in this world.  On April 16 the body of a young 15 year old girl from Fairfield was discovered in a wooded area in the heart of town.  Upon hearing of Chelsea’s death, I was confronted with all kinds of emotions.  Like many others, I was first shocked and horrified that this could happen here in Fairfield.  As a father of 3, my thoughts quickly went to the family.  My heart began to break for them knowing that the next several days would become the most difficult days of their life and that their life would be forever changed.  And to be completely transparent, that’s when I began to get mad for I thought, “What gives anyone the right to senselessly take the life of another and devastate an entire family; devastate an entire community?”

Here is the truth; evil exists in our world today.  It is not uncommon for bad things to happen.  Live long enough, we will all experience the shadows of evil and hardships of suffering in one form or another.  No one is exempt from hardship, trial or tragedy even a young teen age girl.  So how then can we explain all this evil in the world today?

For many, the existence of evil serves as a real problem in embracing the Christian faith.  The Christian claim of an all loving and all powerful God seems to contradict the common fact that evil exist in our world.  Think about it.  If God is omnipotent, then there is nothing God cannot do.  God could do anything.  That means God could abolish evil.  If God is omniscient, then He would know how to handle evil and prevent it.  And if God is omni-benevolent, that would mean that God should want to abolish evil.

Yet, evil exists in the world today.  How then can we explain that?  Is God unable to abolish evil?  Does He not know how to put an end to our suffering?  Is God’s hands tied?  Does God not want to abolish evil?  If God can do something about the evil in the world than why doesn’t He?

By the authority of God’s word, I am here to boldly declare that He has.  An all loving and an all powerful God would do something about evil and He has.  Although the final chapter of our lives has yet to be written, God has given us victory to overcome evil in this world.

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Marks of Maturity

Many see education as a program of schooling that we achieve or an institution that we attend, but it is far more than that.  Education is a process that does not just prepare us for life; it extends us the opportunities in life. The goal of education is not to cram the most into a student, but get the most out of a one.  Education is a process not of stuffing people, like sausage into a casing, but of drawing from people the potentials hidden even from themselves.

Therefore, I want to encourage all of this years graduates as well as all other members of society to continue their education by continuing to learn.  Maybe you are you are looking forward to attending college, an university or some other institution of higher learning, or perhaps you have already entered the work force and are a productive citizen, or maybe you are enjoying your years in retirement; you should always continue to learn.  I know education is not cheap.  Pursuing a degree in today’s university is expensive and not an easy task.  Maintaining discipline in your mind and body after there is no instructor holding you accountable is quite difficult.  Opening up your mind to allow fresh understanding to adjust your thinking after years of living is hard work indeed.  In a nutshell, education is expensive and it will cost you dearly; but make no mistake, education is not as expensive as ignorance.