Tag Archives: following God

Straight Lines

Read Judges 17 to start.

We’ll get back to the story of Micah from mount Ephraim in a few minutes, but first, I’m going to talk about my backyard. I know, I know, it’s January, and there’s a foot of snow covering it, but I want to talk about that yard to start this morning. Most everyone here has been to my house I think, if not when it was my house then at some point over the past 30 years. So you’ve seen my backyard, even if you aren’t all that familiar with the back part of it. It’s a double lot, which is great for the kids to play in, but it takes a while to mow it all. The back portion, the area behind the row of pine trees, we call it the back forty, although it’s not even half of an acre, there’s really nothing back there apart from a little area where the kids attempted to plant a garden, a big bush at the back, and a whole lot of grass. I haven’t specifically gone out there with a tape and measured it, but it’s a lot of walking back and forth and back and forth when you mow it.

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Envy

Read James 3:13 – 4:6 to start.

Before I get to my topic for this morning, or rather as a lead up to it, I want to talk about stupid internet memes. Specifically, I want to talk about Tide Pods, and the eating of them. I wanted to bring one along this morning as a visual aid, but we don’t actually use them at home, and I was hardly going to go and buy a box of them to use as a prop. In short, Tide Pods, or for that matter other brands of laundry pods, have become popular over the last several years because they are really easy to use, no measuring required, just biff one of those puppies into your washing machine and away you go. The fact that they look like candy probably hasn’t hurt sales either. Of course, the fact that they look like candy is also a big problem, because when something looks like candy there is a temptation to eat it. About a year ago there was a trend of people posting videos of themselves doing the so-called Tide Pod Challenge, which involved a biting down on a laundry Pod and recording the results.

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Priorities and Motivations

Read 1 Corinthians 1:17-31 to start.

I’d like to start this morning by talking about a movie. You might be familiar with it, it was a highly successful film, although it’s certainly not recent. The movie is The Bridge on the River Kwai. It’s a war movie, set during WWII, quite a good movie, it won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, in 1958. I remember watching it years ago. While the movie is fictional, it does depict real some historical events, as it takes place during the building of the Burma Railway, which the Japanese built to assist the war effort in Southeast Asia in 1942-43. There was indeed a major railroad bridge built in the same area as the movie indicates.

If you haven’t seen the movie, or if it’s been a long time, as it has for me, here’s a brief summary. A group of British POWs are brought in to build a bridge as part of the railway. The highest ranking British officer, played by Alec Guinness, in an effort to demonstrate superiority to his captors, orders his men to build the best bridge they can. They protest, not wanting to help the enemy finish the railroad, but the officer insists. He points out this will demonstrate British ingenuity and skill, and he points out that the bridge will be used by locals for many years after the war is over. Why not built a bridge that will last? He sees this as a triumph of civilization over barbarism. Continue reading Priorities and Motivations

Peace and Rest

Read John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Not long ago I read an article about the end of the conflict in Columbia. Specifically, the article described it as the last armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere, and a peace deal brokered in 2016 was supposed to have brought an end to an internal war that had simmered since 1948.

The thought that once that peace deal was in place there would be no ongoing war in the Americas or the Caribbean was hailed by this article as a great accomplishment, something that we should be happy about, something that we should take as a sign of increasing peace throughout the world. Continue reading Peace and Rest

Marked by the World

Read James 1:19-27 to start.

How do you feel about winter? Maybe you enjoy it. Maybe you endure it and just hold on waiting for spring. Even if you do like winter, I’m sure there are some aspects of winter that you don’t particularly appreciate. Myself, I don’t like the bitter cold, it bothers more than it used to. And I don’t like slush, it’s lousy to drive on, and worse to walk through. And I don’t like road salt. I appreciate that it serves a useful purpose, but when you’ve had a few cold days in a row and the trucks have been out salting the roads and the parking lots, then the salt gets everywhere. You drag it in on your boots, even if you are careful to wipe your feet. It gets all over the vehicles, and it gets all over your clothing. If you wear black pants in the winter, you know it’s only a matter of time until those white stains get all over them. Even if you are careful, the salt gets on you, and it leaves its mark. And you may not even realize it.

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Finishing Well

Read Genesis 49:29-33, 50:22-26.

Is everyone familiar with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? Even if you’ve never actually read it, or if it’s been many years since you have, it is of course a very well known book. It is the best known book from The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, which is a series of seven books about people from this world who travel into a different dimension, into a land called Narnia. Perhaps you’ve read only the first book, or just a couple of them. Perhaps you’ve read them all. They come highly recommended.

I would give you a cautionary note, though, about the last book, entitled The Last Battle. It’s, how can I say it, it’s odd. I remember reading it when I was much younger, and finding it dark, somewhat disconnected with the other stories, and frankly, dissatisfying. While the Narnia books are allegorical fiction, and certainly not a text for Biblical instruction, The Last Battle also implies some rather questionable theology. It is not a strong end to an otherwise superb series. Continue reading Finishing Well

Binary States

This morning I’d like to talk about binary states. No, we are not going to have a lesson in technology, although you would be entirely within reason to think that. Computers use binary code in order to store information. That’s how computer storage works, it’s all ones and zeroes. Every piece of data on your computer, on your phone, on the entire internet, in fact, it is all stored as ones and zeroes. A bit is a one or a zero, and from that single piece of information, from millions and billions of ones and zeros, we store information.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. A binary state is something that is an either/or condition. Ones are zeroes are hardly the only examples. Look at the lights above you. Those are all LED bulbs, they are either on or off. These bulbs don’t dim, but even if they did, they are still on or off, because on-but-dim is still one. The windows on either wall, those are either open or closed. They’re closed right now, but if it was summer the windows would probably be open. A window might be open a little or a lot, but it’s still either open or closed.

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Cups and Choices

Psalm 23. 1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

The passage we just read is of course one of the best loved and best known of all the Psalms, indeed in all of scripture. It is a passage that I would expect most of us here know by heart. I know Laura had her Sunday school class learn it last year, and I believe they all got to the point so they could recite it from memory. You’ve probably heard it preached on in the past, probably more than once. So I’m not actually going to preach on the 23rd Psalm today. Yes, I know that we read it a moment ago, and that does seem like a bait and switch to read something and then not speak on it. Well, I didn’t just read because I like it, I am going to speak on one verse, actually one phrase from one verse, at least in a way of introduction. That phrase is from verse 5: my cup runneth over.

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A Prudent Man

Proverbs 22:3 & 27: 12 A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.

Sometimes when you read scripture you might encounter a verse and think that it sounds familiar. This can apply to well known verses as well as less familiar ones. For example, if you read John 3:15, that would sound very familiar indeed, because John 3:15 says 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. That no doubt sounds like something you’ve heard many times before, something that comes one exactly one verse later. The verses we read from Proverbs are of course not so well known. Some time ago when reading Proverbs I read chapter 27 and thought that verse 12 sounded like something I had read a few chapters earlier, which of course it did. It didn’t just sound similar, it was in fact the same. The two verses are a word-for-word match. To be sure of this checked and confirmed that the same Hebrew words are used in both verses.

This is not a sermon about repeated verses, although that could be an interesting topic for another day. This is a sermon about the verses we read, and what it means to be prudent, and what it means to be not so prudent. Continue reading A Prudent Man

Darkness, Lies, Truth, and Light

1 John 1: 1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. 5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. Continue reading Darkness, Lies, Truth, and Light