The Navigator: 12.16.21

**NOTE:  You cannot know how much I love and appreciate you.  Michelle and I wish you the merriest of Christmases.  This is the last publication of The Navigator of 2021.  Love to you all, St. Nick

 

THIS SUNDAY, 12/19

  • Sammy concludes his series of highlighting timeless truths found in Jesus’ “family tree.”

 

  • 12/19 – Regular schedule
  • 12/23-24 – Offices closed; **Office hours 12/20-12/31 will be 9-Noon.
  • 12/24 – Christmas Eve Service; 5pm
  • 12/26 – Choose between in-person or online.  For those desiring to gather in person, join us in the FLC at 10:30.  The online service will be available on our web site on 12/26 as well as the days to follow.
  • 1/2 – 10:30 – Combined Worship; NO SUNDAY SCHOOL
  • 1/9 – Return to regular schedule
  • 1/12 – Mid-week classes/opportunities for learning resume at 6:30pm

 

BETHLEHEM HAPPENED FOR ONE REASON: CALVARY

From Philip Yancey’s award-winning book, The Jesus I Never Knew:

“When the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci went to China in the sixteenth century, he brought along samples of religious art to illustrate the Christian story for people who had never heard it.

The Chinese readily adopted portraits of the Virgin Mary holding her child, but when he produced paintings of the crucifixion and tried to explain that the God-child had grown up only to be executed, the audience reacted with revulsion and horror. They much preferred the Virgin and insisted on worshiping her rather than the crucified God.

As I thumb once more through my stack of Christmas cards (with front covers depicting calm, peaceful manger scenes), I realize that we in Christian countries do much the same thing.

We observe a mellow, domesticated holiday purged of any hint of scandal. Above all, we purge from it any reminder of how the story that began at Bethlehem turned out at Calvary.” [end quote]

For the King, nw

 

**Equipping ourselves to be able to engage in intelligent dialogue where the Christian faith is concerned.

I will never ask you to do something I am not already doing.  That includes engaging in intelligent dialogue where the Christian faith is concerned.

Recently, I posted on social media a post titled “For those who don’t know how, or are scared, to share your faith.”  It was widely read and shared on social media numerous times.  I was soon private-messaged by a person who told me she had shared it on her social media and that her sister, an agnostic, had replied to the post with a good deal of push-back.

The agnostic, in her mid-30’s, was extremely kind.  And, she had some common – yet extremely tough – questions and points.  The person who private-messaged me, a Christian, asked if I could help her respond to her sister’s questions.  I told her I’d be happy to do so.

I was promptly sent screen-shots of her sister’s arguments against the Christian faith.  Her agnostic sister is extremely intelligent and, clearly, a mature thinker.

Before I offered my response – I prayed.  A lot. 

Then, I broke her arguments down into fifteen questions/points and responded to each one individually.

When I was done I had written over 40 pages – a short book.

Dialoguing with an agnostic is, in my opinion, more difficult than with an atheist. They are indifferent and ambivalent toward religion – and have very good reasons for being so.  It’s not that they don’t want to believe – it’s that they just don’t care to.

But, one common denominator that exists when visiting with a skeptic of any kind is the challenge of sharing the truths of the Bible – without using the Bible.

And that’s precisely why I’m estimating 85% of what I wrote was based on philosophy/logic while the remaining 15% was biblical/theological in nature which supported the philosophy/logic.

It was critical that I be able to appeal to her sense of logic and reason.  For example: where did objective morality come from? (why is murder universally wrong and kindness universally good?); consciousness vs. humans beings no more than atoms, neurons, and the like; why it’s reasonable – apart from what the Bible says – to consider there being an afterlife; and so on, and so on.

I had been sending each individual response to my Christian friend who’d initially messaged me.  What I didn’t know is that she had then been forwarding my responses to her agnostic sister who lives in another part of the country.  Then – I was told her sister was reading my responses and was now very interested in what I had to say, even open to talking about it.

What happened next was full of power from the Holy Spirit.

I was encouraged by my Christian friend to connect with her sister personally.  I did (sort of like removing the middle-man.)  A conversation began.  We began getting to know one another.  What follows is what my new agnostic friend wrote to me just a couple of days ago:

“At this point I suppose I’m ok with taking my chances of ending up in hell. Or! Maybe someone will finally convince me that Jesus is my savior and I’ll be good to go.  Thus, my sister’s introduction to you!”

Tears filled my eyes as I read that last sentence.

Only God can orchestrate these encounters.

His activity in our lives is yet another “reason to believe.”

 

QUOTE(s) of the WEEK

The One True King

By a single touch, Jesus healed. By a single word, demons fled. By a single event of torture, death, and resurrection, we are saved.

That’s the baby in that manger.

And,…

 

LAUGHTER IS GOOD MEDICINE

And, a couple of bonuses…

A little known fact: Before the crowbar was invented, most crows drank at home.

My doctor asked if any of my family members suffered from mental illness.  I said, “No, they all seem to enjoy it.”

 

SOUL FOOD:  Who were the mysterious Magi?

Read the blog here.

Merry Christmas, St. Nick

The Navigator: 12.9.21

THIS SUNDAY, 12/12

  • Sammy continues his present series from Matthew 1.
  • 5pm – Christmas Carol Sing-a-long.  Also, solos, trios, and instrumentals of your favorite carols.

 

This week’s tip:  Being sensitive to the other side of the holidays.

I mention it every year in our worship services.  While the holidays are filled with laughter, joy, fun and frolic, for many it is a time of great pain and loss.  As you shepherd your flock, remind your people that being broken and feeling defeated is as much a part of the Christian faith as feeling joyful and victorious.  Jesus was born for such as these.  Sam Allberry couldn’t have said it better:

 

‘TIS THE SEASON – for impatience and anger

Share these passages with your class.  Encourage them to jot the verses down on a card and place it where they see them everyday, or better yet – memorize them.   It will help when they’re stuck in that long line of traffic or the store, or when someone is rude to them during this “merry” time.

“Short-tempered people do foolish things…” – Prov. 14:17

“…a hot temper shows great foolishness.” – Prov. 14:29

“Better to be patient than powerful,…Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent;…” – Prov. 16:32; 17:28

“Sensible people control their temper,…”  – Prov. 19:11

We’re never weaker than when we’re angry.

 

HOSTAGES IN HAITI: Update

One of the most powerful lines I remember from contemporary Christian music is the opening line from Steve Camp’s “Run to the Battle:”

“Some people want to live within the sound of chapel bells; but I want to run a mission a yard from the gates of hell.”

Christian missionaries are living that line right now.

For those who are aware of the Christian missionaries taken hostage in Haiti, click here for an update from CNN.  Pray for these people.

 

**Equipping ourselves to be able to engage in intelligent dialogue where the Christian faith is concerned.

J.I. Packer wrote,

“Nothing so humbles the mind as thoughts of God.”

“In the beginning, God created…” – Gen. 1:1

**The universe contains more planets than seconds that have passed since the Big Bang.  (Read that again.)

Below is a photo from the Hubble Ultra Deep Field. Astronomers pointed the Hubble Space Telescope at a point in space where there appeared to be absolutely nothing, the emptiest part of space.

The telescope remained fixed on a tiny region of space – 1/26,000,000th of the visible sky – in the constellation Fornax for 11.5 days. (Fornax is 62 million light years from earth.)

The results were both shocking and breath-taking. 

Not only was something there in the seeming interstellar emptiness, but scientists discovered approximately 10,000,000 galaxies (every blip in this photo is not a star, it’s an entire galaxy!).

Believe this all happened by accident if you want. I don’t have that much faith.

God roared at Job:

“Can you direct the movement of the stars— binding the cluster of the Pleiades or loosening the cords of Orion? Can you direct the constellations through the seasons…? Do you know the laws of the universe?… – Job 38:31-33

 

UPCOMING EVENTS

  • 12/12 – Christmas Sing-along with the SonShiner Choir; 5pm
  • 12/24 – Christmas Eve Service; 5pm
  • 1/2 – Combined Worship; NO SUNDAY SCHOOL

 

QUOTE(s) of the WEEK

“It is impossible to enslave mentally or socially a Bible-reading people. The principles of the Bible are the groundwork of human freedom.” – Horace Greeley

“The better you know the gospel, the better you’ll share the gospel.”- Bobby Jamieson.

 

LAUGHTER IS GOOD MEDICINE

 

 

SOUL FOOD: Who were the mysterious Magi?

Read the answer here.

Soli Deo Gloria, St. Nick

The Navigator: 12.2.2021

THIS SUNDAY, 12/5

  • Sammy continues his sermon series on the “Ancestry.com” of Jesus.
  • Silent Communion: 4-6pm; Tell your class to arrive any time within that time frame.  There will be tables set up on the floor at the front of the sanctuary.  When there is an empty seat they can take a seat and partake of the Lord’s Supper as a family or individual.
  • Fostering Hope: Sunday evening in the FLC

 

This week’s tip:  Beware of these Pitfalls of Ministry

A friend working on a grad-studies paper on “ministry pitfalls” contacted me recently to get my input.  As I thought about what I wrote and sent to her it occurred to me these pitfalls can be easily translated to volunteer church leadership.

Read the blog here and send me your thoughts.

 

HOMOSEXUALITY & MINISTRY: One story and my response

From the article linked below:

Former Southern Baptist Convention President, James Merritt, has resigned from his position as a visiting professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary amid controversy that followed his decision to share a short message by his son, who is gay.

I was heart-sick as I read through comments on Twitter attacking Merritt’s son.

You can read about this story here.

The conflict is as follows:  James Merritt’s son, Jonathan, is gay.  But, Jonathan is a Christian and preaches gospel messages. Although James and Jonathan know full well they disagree on sexuality, James loves his son more than life itself, was proud of his son, and shared his son’s sermon on social media.

The pharisees of social media exploded with vitriol.  Both James and Jonathan were vilified with hateful comments, many of which were hurled by a newly formed group within the Southern Baptist Convention.  They call themselves the Conservative Baptist Network, or CBN.  In response to the formation of this group, Southern Baptist Seminary president, Albert Mohler, tweeted,

“We already have a conservative Baptist network.  It’s called the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Both James and Jonathan have been flooded with love and support.

About the CBN’s treatment of Merritt, one pastor tweeted,

My pastor asked me today if i had heard of what is happening and for my thoughts. He wanted to make sure his idea that the CBN was blatantly attacking without grace a man who’s navigating a difficult situation was accurate. I agreed with him.

I could share my opinion on the CBN.  But, I won’t, for now.  Suffice it to say, I disagree with just about every aspect of their divisive methods and political motives.

I resisted commenting on the topic of James Merritt supporting his son because, frankly, God hadn’t given me permission to do so.  But, finally God said, “Now.” So I did.  I don’t shrink from controversial issues of the day.  Homosexuality being sin is clear.  Homosexuality being an orientation is complicated.  Posting self-righteous hatred on social media will win the ear of no one.

Below is what I posted on Twitter. 

My kids earned degrees in fine arts. They were surrounded by gay and lesbian classmates. Those gay and lesbian kids were/are precious, respectful, and some of the kindest people I’ve met. We’ve had them in our home, taken them out to eat. I even told one young gay man I would raise him as my own if I could.

Does this mean I agree with their lifestyle? Absolutely not. And they all know that. However, these kids are people. People who have feelings. And, given the suicide rate among the LGBT, many are looking for answers and hope.

I’ve been in vocational ministry almost 40 years. Spurgeon said, “I don’t preach a soft gospel.” Likewise, my biblical worldview is uncompromising. That said, Jesus had the profound ability to love people deeply while simultaneously strongly opposing their lifestyle. We can do the same.

Calling out and taking cheap-shots – publicly via social media – at anyone, much less someone’s child is the reason (as I heard one preacher say decades ago) bars are full and churches are empty.

It’s significant that the people Jesus spent the most time calling out for sin was the self-righteous Pharisees.

Paul addressed this very topic when he wrote to the Philippians.  Some of the believers were troubled that some with less-than-pure-motives were preaching the gospel.  Paul, in essence said, “Relax.  Let them preach.  Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice.”

 

**Equipping ourselves to be able to engage in intelligent conversation where the Christian faith is concerned.

Watch this brief video of Dr. John Lennox, professor of Mathematics at Oxford, explain why human consciousness is yet another reason to believe in God.  The clip is less than four minutes.

 

QUOTE of the WEEK:

“Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us, we have to see it as something done by us.” – John Stott.

 

LAUGHTER IS GOOD MEDICINE

Sorry ladies!  Too funny not to share.

 

UPCOMING EVENTS

  • 12/5 – Silent Communion; 4-6pm; Fostering Hope to follow in FLC
  • 12/8 – Children’s Ministry Family Night
  • 12/12 – Christmas Sing-along with the SonShiner Choir; 5pm
  • 12/24 – Christmas Eve Service; 5pm
  • 1/2 – Combined Worship; all Small Groups meet at early hour

 

SOUL FOOD: The Daily Grind of Faith

While we would rather spend our lives on the proverbial “mountain top,” the “valley” is actually where God has created us to be most of the time. Read the blog here.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick