Read Acts 4: 32-5:11.
Some Bible stories are cheerful and pleasant. This is not one of them. The story of Ananias and Sapphira is a sobering account of the early church. We might read it and see it as a lesson on the dangers of greed and deceitfulness, and certainly, that would be correct. Ananias and Sapphira were undoubtedly greedy, and they were equally deceitful. They chose to sell their property, they chose to give money, and they chose to lie about it. Nothing in that is hard to understand or unfamiliar. The fact that they were so immediately and dramatically called out on their lie and instantaneously judged for it is what makes this passage particularly memorable. They say that if you can’t be a good example, you may instead serve as a horrible warning, and this couple did indeed do that. Continue reading Servants and Selfishness
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
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.
Continue reading Binary States
Read selections from 1 Kings chapter 21 to start.
Who here can recite the ten commandments? Probably most of us are pretty familiar with those. We’re going to look at one of those this morning. It’s not one of the really high profile commandments, not one that gets a lot of attention, such as “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart” or ‘Thou shalt not kill.” We can see several of the commandments being violated in the passage we just read, such as bearing of false witness, and stealing, and obviously thou shalt not kill went right out the window. Those are obviously good and important commandments to follow. But those are not the ones I want to look at today. Frankly, we all know that it’s wrong to kill, that shouldn’t need any explaining. We all know it’s wrong to lie, and it’s wrong to take what belongs to others, and hopefully as adults we all understand this, although we might need reminders from time to time, and if you have children you probably need to remind them of those things on a more regular basis. But we know those commandments, and we understand what they are about.
No, the commandment I want to look at today is the 10th and final commandment – thou shalt not covet. Continue reading The Tenth Commandment
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.
Continue reading Cups and Choices
Read portions of Genesis 2:7-3:24 to start.
In 1969, there was a large music festival held near the town of Bethel, New York. This was of course the Woodstock festival, which was the biggest music festival that had ever happened up to that point, and remains easily the most famous gathering of that type in history. Dozens of musicians and hundreds of thousands of people attended, and it is considered a watershed moment of an entire generation.
Continue reading Back to the Garden
Read Proverbs 23:12-19 to start.
When I was a kid, I frequently had the opportunity to spend time at my friends’ houses. That’s pretty normal for most children I would think, unless they don’t have any friends. The reason I bring this up is because I remember at one house in particular, and I won’t tell you whose house because many of you would know him, or at least know the family, but at this one house there was a sign posted on the fridge. It was there as a joke, no doubt, written as it was in old-fashioned script letters, and I’ve seen the same thing printed on T-shirts more recently. Posted on their refrigerator was the motto Beatings will continue until morale improves.
Continue reading Correction and Discipline
Read Matthew 7:1-20 to start.
When I was younger, there was a topic that many of my friends and I were frequently concerned with. It kept coming up, and was never adequately resolved, because some people took a firm stance on one side, and some on the other side. Some people did not care either way, and some said that it was too difficult to really tell the difference. I recall once actually testing some friends to see if their imagined preferences actually lined up with reality, and could they tell the difference.
This is not some great and important spiritual or philosophical matter. This is not about right versus wrong. This is about Coke versus Pepsi.
Continue reading Evaluation and Condemnation
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
Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-18 to start.
4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. 12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
Let’s get one thing out of the way right now. This is not a sermon about spiritual gifts. Not that that would not be a worthwhile topic, and probably one that we could all benefit from learning more about. I’m sure I could. Maybe some day I’ll preach a sermon about spiritual gifts. They say that the best way to learn about a topic is to teach it to someone else, and I think there is a lot of truth in that. Continue reading Roles, Reminders, and Responsibilities