The Navigator: 4.1.2021

Per April Fool’s Day…

Every April Fool’s Day my mind is drawn to the scripture above.  My years of ministry, grad studies in Christian Apologetics, and my own effort to prove there is no God has all led to one conviction:  the evidence for the existence of God is overwhelming.  In short, I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.

Then, per Easter Sunday…

THIS SUNDAY, RESURRECTION SUNDAY!

  • Three morning worship services: 8:00; 9:15; 10:45
  • All Sunday School classes meet at regular times.
  • Please, if possible, consider attending one of the two earlier services.  Families like the one in which I grew up, who attend once a year, tend to attend the later service.  We want to make sure there’s plenty of room for everyone.

 

WHAT DO AMERICANS ACTUALLY BELIEVE ABOUT THE RESURRECTION?

Well, the answer is both good and not so good.  Interviewed in this article is Rebecca McLaughlin, an outstanding scholar and apologist for the Christian faith. She grew up in the UK and holds a Ph.D. in English literature from Cambridge and a theology degree from Oak Hill College in London. Her book, ‘Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion,’ is one of the best contemporary resources I’ve read on this topic.  This LifeWay resource article quotes her throughout. Read the article here.

 

I’M SITTING IN & LEARNING WITH YOU

  • This past Sunday – I joined the Transitions Class.
  • This coming Sunday – onto the Travelers.

 

  • Sunday evening, 4/18; 5pm; Rm 108
  • Content is of great importance.  But where teachers often fail is in how we communicate that  content.  What standard of measure are we using to let us know if we are truly connecting and our class is truly learning?

 

TOP TWENTY TIPS FOR TURNING CHRISTIAN CHILDREN INTO ATHEIST ADULTS

Sarah Salviander has a Ph.D. in Astrophysics.  She was raised with an atheistic worldview.  Ironically, it was her study of the cosmos that led her to faith in Christ.  She is a brilliant professor and author.  Although her list here is directed toward the worldview of children, I’m sharing it with you because you can easily translate it into the worldview of adults.  We must “know our stuff”, or we might well end up serving as someone who helps a seeker believe that atheism is the more intelligent and reasonable worldview.

I will include 5 “tips” each week.  Below are No’s 1-5.

Salviander writes:

There is a special type of atheist that deserves your attention. These atheists were raised in Christian families, and walked away from their faith almost as soon as they left their homes. Many of them are quite bitter about it. In speaking with these atheists, I noticed certain patterns popping up again and again. Things their parents said or didn’t say, things their Sunday school teachers told them, things their families modeled for them, issues their pastors didn’t address. These adult-child interactions were so spiritually detrimental it was as though these parents and pastors were consulting a manual on how to turn Christian children into atheist adults. If such a manual existed, it would read something like this.

  1. When your children ask difficult questions–especially questions you don’t know how to answer–just tell them God works in mysterious ways and leave it at that.
  2. Resist the urge to ever say “I don’t know, let’s look into that” to your children.
  3. If your children persist in asking difficult questions, make them feel bad about not having enough faith.
  4. If your children express doubts about Christianity, don’t discuss the reasons for their doubts. Just make them feel guilty about it.
  5. Don’t encourage your children to pray for boring things like faith, wisdom, and obedience to God.

 

From this past Wednesday evening:

To get to the resurrection we must first go through the crucifixion.  To arrive at the Empty Tomb, we must first travel through the Cross.  To celebrate Christ’s victory over sin, it behooves us to consider God’s wrath upon sin – placed upon Christ at the Cross.

Jesus, while transforming the Old Testament Passover meal into what we now call The Last/Lord’s Supper, by introducing God’s new covenant through Christ’s blood, was clear when he used the bread & wine as metaphors for his broken body and his shed blood, and said, “remember me.”

Wednesday evening, we remembered You can view the talk in its entirety here.

 

I HAVEN’T HAD THIS HAPPEN IN A WHILE

The last time I wrote something that went viral was in 2016 when I wrote my blog on the Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why.  It’s was viewed over 200,000 times in over 50 countries and I was interviewed by two local news stations.  Except for a few spikes in views here and there, all has been relatively quiet – until now.  Linked here is a recent blog of mine that has now been shared from my Facebook page almost 400 times.  There’s no way to know how many times it’s been shared from the sites of those 400 who shared it.  It’s a curious thing, really.  You can view the blog here.

 

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ASTRONOMY

Many people know my first aspiration was to be an astronomer.  As such, I never cease to be amazed at the order/fine-tuning of our universe.  I caught this pic with my phone while waiting at a red light the other evening. The sun looked immense and imposing as it was setting just above the horizon. It’s hard to believe (1) it’s 93 million miles from earth, (2) unlike the earth, because the sun is made up of gaseous plasma, different parts of the sun rotate at different speeds, and (3) based on how far its light has to travel to earth, the light we see from the sun is 8 minutes old. “The heavens are telling of the glory of God.”

 

  • Dana Kluzek asked me to ask if your class might be willing to provide one meal during our new format for VBS this June.
  • VBS will take place each Wed. evening in June.
  • The meal will be offered from 6-6:30 in the FLC.
  • Can your class help while these precious children learn about Jesus?  Contact Dana.

 

QUOTE(s) of the WEEK

It is important for this generation to understand that the Jesus in whose resurrection we believe is a brown-skinned, Middle Eastern Jew who broke through every racial and cultural barrier of His day. — Rebecca McLaughlin

I’ve never regretted checking up on a friend. I’ve never regretted encouraging someone. I’ve never regretted telling someone I’m proud of them & I believe in them. The world has enough critics – be an encourager. – Ryan Meadows

 

LAUGHTER IS GOOD MEDICINE

 

SOUL FOOD:  The Desperate Road to Hope

For this week’s devotional entry, I offer you seven and a half minutes of truth from Psalm 42 that, hopefully, will provide insight into the hope of the Empty Tomb.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

The Navigator: 3.25.2021

THIS SUNDAY, 3/28

9:15 & 10:45 – Sammy reminds us that Easter nears!

4pm – 2021-22 BHBC Budget Town Hall Meeting; worship center

 

I’LL BE SITTING IN

I hear nothing but great things about your classes.  And I could never convey to you in words how much I appreciate your love, shepherding and preparation. The only regret I have about our worship services being back-to-back is that I can’t attend a small group class.  That said, in the coming weeks, after I am done with my responsibilities in the worship services, I will be dropping by and sitting in.  I’ll contact you the week before I plan on visiting your class.

 

THE 7 LAWS OF THE LEARNER: Spiritual & Practical Growth for Teachers

To whet your biblical-teaching appetite, allow me to quote the creator of the 7 Laws, Dr. Bruce Wilkinson:

This may sound a bit unusual, but the 7 Laws are the result of ten years of repentance – my repentance.  Though I had been teaching and preaching all my life, I found to my utter surprise and dismay that much of my philosophy and practice of communication had been wrong.  Incredibly wrong.  Tragically wrong.  (This coming from a guy who launched ‘Walk Through the Bible’ and has trained 100,000 professional teachers.)

Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking you’ve learned it all.  Even Paul, writer of the third of the New Testament confessed he had much to learn.  Rick Warren’s axiom is accurate:  When you stop learning, you stop leading.

Mark your calendars for Sun. evening, 4/18, at 5pm, Rm. 108, when we will come together to sharpen our teaching and shepherding skills.  This is required for all Small Group Leadership, both Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings.  The 7 Laws are the kind of tools every leader wants in their ‘toolbox.”  Should you need childcare please let me know by 4/11.

 

MISSION DELTA

BHBC is headed to Colorado this June 17-22.  For an introduction to this missional work watch Sammy’s brief video below.

 

DID JESUS EXIST?

This is an outstanding article written by Australian Christian author, John Dickson.  Most are aware of the writings of 1st century Roman historian, Tacitus, and 1st century Jewish historian, Josephus, and their references to Jesus, making the question of his existence virtually indisputable. However, Dickson takes extra-biblical references even further.

Even Bart Ehrman, a historian and professor at Duke who describes himself as “agnostic with atheistic leanings,” in his book, Did Jesus Exist?, wrote:

The reality is that whatever else you may think about Jesus, he certainly did exist.

Read the solid article by John Dickson here.

 

A Nugget of Truth from this week’s time of Learning:  John 16The Forgotten God

In his book, The Mystery of the Holy Spirit, R.C. Sproul is spot on:

“Because the Spirit is mysterious, we are vulnerable to superstitions and distortions of his person and work.”

For a couple of reasons, Baptists are either biblically ignorant of, or ignore altogether, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

Even the beloved and learned Chuck Swindoll admits:

“During my growing up years, including my years in seminary, I kept a safe distance [from talking about the Holy Spirit.]  I was taught to be careful…not to enter into any of the realms of His supernatural workings or to tolerate the possibility of such.

But, John MacArthur wrote precisely what Swindoll affirms:

Outside of the command for unbelievers to trust in Christ for salvation, there is no more practical and necessary command in Scripture than the one for believers to be filled with His Spirit. Although every Christian is indwelt, baptized, and sealed by the Spirit, unless they are also filled with the Spirit, they will live in spiritual weakness, frustration and defeat.

This past Wed., we mined the scriptures regarding the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.  Why? Because Jesus had much to say to his disciples about the Spirit’s arrival on the night before he was crucified.  The disciples were confused, and, sadly, most believers even today, are no different.

Francis Chan, in his book, The Forgotten God:

There is a big gap between what we read in scripture about the Holy Spirit and how most believers and churches operate today… If I were Satan, and my ultimate goal was to thwart God’s kingdom and purposes, one of my main strategies would be to get Christians to ignore the Holy Spirit.

He continues:

The church becomes irrelevant when it becomes a purely human creation.  We are not all we were made to be when everything in our lives and churches can be explained apart from the work and presence of the Spirit of God.

We finished the time of learning focusing on why much of North American Church culture is impotent in its effort to change their communities.  Paul wrote to the Ephesians:

“Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life.  Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you.”

Don’t miss this:  Paul is writing to Christians So why would he admonish them to be filled with the Holy Spirit?  Doesn’t the Spirit already fill us?  No, he doesn’t.  At the moment of conversion, you were immediately indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  But, based on Paul’s words to the Ephesians Christians, although we are indwelt by the Spirit, this in no way suggests we are filled with the Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit is evident in us only when we allow the Spirit to fill and control us.  For example, when we gossip, hold grudges, have issues with patience, anger, hatred, sexual sin, criticize, pass judgment on others, and so on, although we are indwelt by the Spirit, we are most clearly not being filled with Him.

You can watch the lesson in its entirety below.

FYI, the remaining Wed. evening schedule:

  • 3/31 – John 18-19 – Medical Account of the Crucifixion of Christ
  • 4/7 – John 20 – The Resurrection of Christ
  • 4/14 – John 21 – Jesus is risen!  What difference does that make?
  • Next Fall – the book of Daniel

 

DATES, INFO & MINISTRY NEEDS

  • 3/28 – 5pm; Town Hall Discussion regarding 2021-2022 church budget.
  • 3/31 – 6:30pm; Budget Vote only; no discussion
  • 4/4 – Easter Sunday; regular schedule except we’re adding an 8am worship service to accommodate the larger Easter crowd. If at all possible, make plans to attend one of the two earlier services to allow room for people who don’t normally attend.  These folks typically attend the later service.
  • VBS; new schedule and concept – Once again, Dana Kluzek is on the cutting edge of creativity and ministry efficiency.  This year, VBS will take place on successive Wed. evenings in June: 6/2, 6/9, 6/16, 6/23, and 6/30. Each evening will begin with a simple meal in the FLC.  Dana has asked for classes to consider providing one of those meals.  Also, if you are interested in serving as a VBS volunteer contact Dana.
  • Youth Camp – June 7-12; Lone Tree Bible Ranch; Capitan, NM.
  • Mission Delta – June 17-22; Delta, CO.

 

RECENT DEAD SEA SCROLLS DISCOVERIES

Fascinating…  Read the article here.

 

QUOTE of the WEEK

“Much of the history of Christianity has been devoted to domesticating Jesus – to reducing that elusive, enigmatic, paradoxical person to dimensions we can comprehend, understand, and convert to our own purposes.  So far it hasn’t worked.” – Andrew Greeley

 

LAUGHTER IS GOOD MEDICINE

A lady took out an ad in the classifieds:  “Husband Wanted.”  The next day she received a hundred replies. They all said the same thing:  “You can have mine.”

A young son asked, “Is it true, Dad, that in some countries a man doesn’t know his wife until he marries her?”  Dad replied, “That happens in every country, son.”

 

SOUL FOOD: America & the Supernatural

Read the blog here.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

The Navigator: 3.11.2021

THIS SUNDAY, 3/11

  • Set your clocks ahead one hour!
  • Sammy continues Part 2 of a 3 part series on our journey to the Promised Land.

 

MAPS & LISTS

It is our desire to keep Sammy’s plea before you.  In every gospel, as well as in the first chapter of Acts, Jesus commands us to share our faith.  It’s a command, not a suggestion.

Keep in mind your “maps” (the biblical word is ‘oikos’, meaning ‘family’ or ‘household’) i.e. those demographics of relationships with which the Lord has entrusted you.  This could be family, people at work, school, recreation, the grocery store, etc.  Then, ask God to lay specific names on your heart that need to hear about Christ.  And, the following counsel by Sean McDowell is worth sharing:  Always talk to Jesus about people before you talk to people about Jesus.

 

“IN WAY OF REMINDER…”

Both Paul & Peter use the phrase, “in way of reminder.”  It’s been a while since I included the following fundamentals for Small Group/Sunday School Leaders. This list is not exhaustive.  But, looking back from the perspective of now 38 years in vocational ministry, I would’ve been so very grateful if someone would’ve said, “Nick, here are some biblical basics for shepherding sheep in a way that honors God. Hold tightly to them.”

  1. You can’t give what you don’t have. Be faithful and disciplined in your own spiritual growth via daily devotional time involving biblical study, prayer, scripture memory, and meditation – even if its just for a few minutes. Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (emphasis mine) Even Jesus withdrew often to pray and spend quiet time with the Father.  Additionally, you’ve, no doubt, heard, “What’s in the well comes up in the bucket.” If your “well is ever dry” and you need a break/sabbath, let me know.
  2. Take your role as seriously as God does. James, the half-brother of Jesus, gave this warning: Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”  Be a disciplined and responsible student of scripture. Study context. Prepare systematically. Pray fervently. Think deeply. Take the time to think and work through hard passages. When you stop learning, you stop leading. On a practical level, one theologian offered the following in regard to studying a passage of scripture:  “If we can know the author, the audience, and the purpose the author had in mind, this goes a long way in understanding what God is saying to us in that passage.” (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15)
  3. Know why you believe what you believe.  In Peter’s first letter we find this: ‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason (a logical defense) for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.’ Why was it a priority for Peter to include this?  Because Peter was writing this letter during the oppressive reign of the psychopath, Nero.  Christians everywhere were terrified of being tortured and executed for their faith.  Yet, persecution, as it commonly does, birthed boldness and courage in Jesus’ followers.  Peter was saying, “Keep this in mind as you tell people about Jesus: people need to know we’re not offering them some half-baked pseudo-religion, as offered by the Roman pantheon of gods.  Be prepared to tell people why Christianity is by faith, but not blind faith. These are dark times.  People need to know what we believe is real.”  Translation to modernity: “People need to know why the biblical Christian faith is more reasonable – why it makes more sense of reality – than Buddhism, Mormonism, Islam, Post-Modernism, etc.”
  4. Lead with love. Jesus said, “By this all will know if you follow me, if you love one another.” Later in the same discourse, he said, My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Your class may not always remember what you taught them, but they will always remember how you treated them.  I read a poll once asking over 3000 people why they chose to return to a particular church.  Number one answer?  “Because I felt loved.”
  5. Lead by serving. Jesus said – and modeled – “The greatest among you shall be your servant.”  Sheep are led, not driven.  Be on time for your class.  Always show up prepared for your class.  Our listeners can smell “winging it” a mile away.
  6. Regularly share the gospel with your class for two reasons. (1) Never assume everyone who attends is a Christian, and (2) it will remind and equip your class to share their faith as well.

 

WEB SITE UPDATES

Would you do me the favor of checking our web site and making certain all information related to your class is correct?  If it isn’t, please email or call with current information and I will update.  View our Small Group Leadership page here.

 

A Nugget of Truth from this week’s time of Learning:  John 15 – What does ‘abide in the vine’ mean?

FYI, the remaining Wed. evening schedule:

  • 3/17 – No Activities the week of Spring Break
  • 3/24 – John 16-17 – Final words of encouragement for the disciples; The actual Lord’s Prayer
  • 3/31 – John 18-19 – Medical Account of the Crucifixion of Christ
  • 4/7 – John 20 – the Resurrection of Christ; Thomas’ doubt (is it ok to doubt our faith?)
  • 4/14 – John 21 – Breakfast with Jesus; Feed my sheep.

This past Wednesday we continued to peek over the shoulders of Jesus and his disciples as Jesus was saying the last things he wanted them to hear before his death.

In the opening verses of chapter 15, Jesus uses the word “abide/remain” ten times.  Think he’s trying to get a point across?

The Greek word translated “remain” means to “stay around.”  Sounds simple, right?  But, it’s believers’ misunderstanding – or disregard altogether – of this biblical principle that has produced, in large part, the impotence of modern North American Christianity.

Throughout my years in youth ministry, a common call I received was from a parent lamenting their estranged relationship with their teen.  “We’ve grown so far apart,” they would share.  I would recommend we all meet together.  The tension in the room was palpable, representing a light-year-wide-gap between the parent and the teen.  All evidence of intimacy was gone.

What is critical to understand is that this relational ‘parting of the ways’ didn’t happen over night. It was a slow burn.  Then – one day the parent and/or child wakes up only to find they no longer feel like they know their child, and vice versa.  My role was always driven by a singular goal:  help them restore intimacy.

This is a perfect picture of the lost intimacy between God and his children.  We’re busy, in a rush, irritated, distracted, so on and so on.  And, in many instances, we’re just not that interested in God anymore i.e. “Why make my relationship with God a priority? Life seems pretty darn good without him.”

In the opening statements of John 15, Jesus is saying, “Can you imagine how foolish it would be for you to cut a branch off a tree and then water and fertilize the branch?  Yet, this is precisely the imagery of when you disconnect/unplug from me.  It’s only a matter of time until your failing spiritual health (manifested in your words and actions) dies.”

Henry Blackaby, in his powerful study, Experiencing God, rightly said,

“Our love relationship with God is more important than any other single factor in your life. Everything in your Christian life, everything about knowing Him and experiencing Him, everything about knowing His will, depends on the quality of your love relationship to God.”

Abide in Christ. Daily.

 

THE 7 LAWS OF THE LEARNER: Becoming Better Teachers

Mark your calendars for Sun. evening, 4/18, at 5pm, Rm. 108, when we will come together to sharpen our teaching and shepherding skills.  This is for all Small Group Leadership, both Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings.  The ‘7 Laws’ are the kind of tools every leader wants in their ‘toolbox.”  Should you need childcare please let me know.

 

DATES, INFO & MINISTRY NEEDS

  • 3/28 – 5pm; Town Hall Discussion regarding 2021-2022 church budget.
  • 3/31 – 6:30pm; Budget Vote only; no discussion
  • 4/4 – Easter Sunday; regular schedule except we’re adding an 8am worship service to accommodate the larger Easter crowd.
  • VBS; new schedule and concept – Once again, Dana Kluzek is on the cutting edge of creativity and ministry efficiency.  This year, VBS will take place on successive Wed. evenings in June: 6/2, 6/9, 6/16, 6/23, and 6/30. Each evening will begin with a simple meal in the FLC.  Dana has asked for classes to consider providing one of those meals.  Also, if you are interested in serving as a VBS volunteer contact Dana.
  • Youth Camp – June 7-12; Lone Tree Bible Ranch; Capitan, NM.

 

PRAYER REQUESTED

Next week I will be preaching an atypical revival in McKinney, TX.  By ‘atypical’, I mean two things:  (1) Rather than being sponsored by a single church, this is a multi-church outcry for revival.  It has been quite humbling to watch the progress of spiritual preparation by the people.  And, (2) rather than being held in a church, it’s being held in an outdoor amphitheater.  I do not feel adequate.  Please pray that I will know how to get out of the way so that God can release fresh wind and fresh fire.

 

QUOTE(s) of the WEEK

The cross of Christ is “the stillpoint in a turning world. Everything before leads up to it.  Everything that follows flows from it. It is the climax of the story, the centerpiece of the whole drama.”T.S. Eliot

“In prosperity, our friends know us.  In adversity, we know our friends.”G.K. Chesterton

 

LAUGHTER IS GOOD MEDICINE

This week’s entry falls not under the category of ‘laughter’ as much as it does under the category of ‘holy mackerel that’s cool!’  When I first saw this picture it took me a minute.  But, when I saw it, I was blown away.

 

SOUL FOOD:  Marriage is Hard (but worth the work)

Marriage has been cheapened over the years, most couples choosing to live together to see how it works out.  One person asked me, “What good is a piece of paper?”, referring to a marriage license.  But I submit to you that biblical marriage matters.  And, for those of us with a spouse, it’s worth the effort to keep our marriage healthy. Read the blog here.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

The Navigator: 3.4.2021

THIS SUNDAY, 3/7

Series: Promised Land – Pt 1: Don’t settle for the wilderness

Text:  Passages in Exodus & Deuteronomy

 

COVID MASK POLICY UPDATE

After Governor Abbott made the announcement to open Texas 100% on March 10th, our leadership met and agreed on the following:

All signs that had been placed on doors asking you to wear a mask have been removed (we are no longer asking people to wear a mask on campus.)  We simply request people to apply personal responsibility.  If you feel safer wearing a mask, please do so.  If you feel it’s no longer necessary, feel free to not wear one.

 

THE SUBTLE AND SYSTEMATIC EROSION OF TRUTH

In 2014, I read an article titled, ‘Chilling words from the highest ranking Soviet bloc intelligence officer to ever defect.’

It affected me to the degree that I saved it.

What follows is a pericope taken from an interview with Romanian Lt. Gen. Ion Pacepa, in connection with the release of his, at that time, most-recent title “Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism.”

Here’s what he said when asked about a government’s strategy for using disinformation to change the ethos of a nation:

“In 1978, when I broke with communism, I left in my office safe a slip of paper on which Gen. Sakharovsky had scrawled: ‘Gutta cavat lapidem, non vi sed saepe cadendo.’ (A drop makes a hole in a stone not by force but by constant dripping.) That Latin saying, Sakharovsky explained, encapsulated the whole concept of disinformation and framing. Lying next to it was Mao Zedong’s version: ‘A lie repeated a hundred times becomes the truth.’ The Kremlin’s repeated lie that Pius XII was Hitler’s Pope has become the ‘truth’ —a lie so firmly established against all evidence to the contrary, that for most educated people who have not looked closely at the subject, there seems nothing to discuss.” [end quote]

Like the serpent in Genesis 3, lies don’t announce their arrival, they slither in unnoticed.  When necessary, stand bravely for biblical truth.  Never shrink from biblical conviction. 

George Orwell famously said,

“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.”

Orwell was repeating, in principle, what Jesus prayed two millennia ago,

“I have given [my followers] your word and the world has hated them,… Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”

To those going into battle for Middle Earth, Tolkiens’ Gandalf offered,

“Courage will now be your best defense against the storm that is at hand.”

Be brave.  Don’t let others do your thinking for you.  And remember what is true:

“In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous; I have overcome the world.” – Jesus Christ

nw

 

Prayer Is Never Out of Season

God is always available. Pray in your bed at midnight, and God will not say, “I will listen to you tomorrow on your knees.” Pray upon your knees, and God will not say, “I will hear you at church on Sunday.” Prayer is never out of season, for God never sleeps and is always present.

Thomas Merton said,

“The only way to fail in prayer is not to show up.”

nw

 

A Nugget of Truth from this week’s time of Learning:  John 14 – Only One Way to Heaven?

I’ve been asked before, “Don’t all religions lead to God?”

Not according to Jesus.

When Thomas asked him, “How can we know the way?”, Jesus replied:

“I AM the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.”

One writer aptly wrote,

“All religions are not the same.  All religions do not point to [the God of the Bible.]  All religions do not say that all religions are the same.  At the heart of every religion is an uncompromising commitment to a particular way of defining who God is – or is not. Anyone who claims that all religions are the same betrays not only an ignorance of all religions but also a caricatured view of even the best-known one. Every religion at its core is exclusive.”

When I see the familiar bumper sticker, ‘Coexist’, spelled out in the icons of different religions I think to myself, “Coexist? Yes.  Co-agree? No.”  I’ve written a blog on this topic here.

The Christian faith is exclusive and, as such, offensive.  People don’t want to hear that, as one ancient theologian wrote, “the only way to God is through God.”

But their argument isn’t with us, it’s with Christ.

nw

 

ANNIE ARMSTRONG OFFERING EMPHASIS THIS SUNDAY

This offering is specifically for mission work in North America.

 

PRACTICAL STUFF:

  • I am presently planning our next time of learning and training to help sharpen our teaching skills while also providing you with encouragement and inspiration.  Date and time are forthcoming.  First on the docket: The 7 Laws of the Learner.
  • Please do your best to start on time.  This is more of a problem among our 9:15 classes.  Your people don’t arrive on time?  They will when you begin starting on time.  If we applied the same “we’ll start when everyone arrives” line of thinking in the 10:45 service we wouldn’t being until 11:00.  If you start on time you will be able to end on time, allowing your class time to visit and use restrooms before the worship service begins. Help us out!  Be early.  And start on time.

 

Quote of the Week

Too Old for Fairy Tales? (not a chance :))

What follows is the dedication to “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” from the “The Chronicles of Narnia”, written by C.S. Lewis to his God-child, Lucy Barefield.

My Dear Lucy,

“I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow much quicker than books.  As a result, you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still.  But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.  You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it.  I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand, a word you say, but I shall still be….”

Your affectionate Godfather, C.S. Lewis

 

LAUGHTER IS GOOD MEDICINE

 

Soul Food: The Two Deaths of Ravi Zacharias

Zacharias was one of present day’s greatest and most gifted Christian apologists.  But he maintained a secret life of wickedness – and it finally caught up with him.  Read the blog here.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

The Navigator: 2.25.2021

THIS SUNDAY, 2/28

Preacher: Sammy

Part 3 of 3:  Our love for one another

 

THE EQUALITY ACT & FREEDOM OF RELIGION

This is not a political post, but rather a biblical one.

My reasons for including this in the Navigator are:

  1. The local church should never exist in a bubble.  Having basic knowledge of topics that are white-hot nationally will, hopefully, help you better engage in intelligent dialogue about this topic, both, with your class and in the marketplace.
  2. To be prepared, when the time comes, to stand strong for biblical  truth.

I don’t know if I’ll see it in my lifetime.  But it’s only a matter of time until preaching on, or standing up for, biblical sexuality and gender will become ‘hate speech’, subject to prosecution.   Businesses, celebrities and the mindless masses on social media continue to impose their convictions on the rest of us in the name of tolerance.  (I have posted more than once, ‘Those who champion tolerance are, often, the most intolerant, hateful and bigoted.  They want to hear your opinion as long as it’s their opinion coming out of your mouth.’)  Speaking of businesses who’ve buckled under the pressure, recent news is that even Mr. Potato Head is now losing his male gender.  (Yes, I’m serious. Read about it here.)  From the article:

“Culture has evolved,” Hasbro SVP and GM Kimberly Boyd explained to Fast Company. “Kids want to be able to represent their own experiences. The way the brand currently exists — with the ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.’ — is limiting when it comes to both gender identity and family structure.”

While the Bill of Rights give us Freedom Of Religion, there are many who advocate for Freedom From Religion. This is sneaky, not to mention unconstitutional.  (By the way, should the teaching of any biblical doctrine become a crime sooner than later I will not shrink from teaching ‘the whole counsel of God’ – regardless of the consequences.  Moreover, I will be one of the people leading the way to fight for our rights.)

NOTE: Don’t think for a minute my conviction regarding this topic in any way determines or affects my love for anyone who believes differently.  Just ask my gay friends.

All over the news and social media is what will be the probable passing of the Equality Act.  The policy is convoluted because (1) it is designed to actually amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act which, argued well in one article here, is far different than the Equality Act, and (2) proponents of the policy are bullying anyone who dare question the Act, accusing them of being opposed to equality, which is foolishness.  In short, if you have personal and/or biblical convictions regarding the topics of homosexuality and transgender, you are labeled as a backwoods hatemonger void of compassion. (Actually, science argues for there being only two genders.  The Bible affirms this.  It appears science is trumpeted only when convenient, and ignored when it doesn’t fit someones’ narrative or agenda.)

To no one’s surprise, those who oppose the Equality Act, far from offered respect for their convictions on sexuality and gender, are vilified, castigated, and verbally assaulted in the most judgmental and acrimonious manner.

One of the greatest quotes I’ve read in response to this mindset:

Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate. – Lee Strobel

Think deeply.  Pray fervently.  Stand strong in biblical truth.

 

HOW TO DEAL WITH DARK TIMES – TIM KELLER

Tim Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, as well as a strong and erudite defender of the Christian faith.  (I recommend his book, The Reason for God.)

Linked here for you is a short sermon by Keller titled, How to Deal With Dark Times.  It’s excellent.  His primary text, Psalm 88, is one I’ve used often when counseling people going through the dark times.

 

A Nugget of Truth from this week’s time of Learning:  John 13 – UnChristian

In John 13, Jesus is one day from completing his mission – the Cross.

The parting words of a dying man are telling.  Some share final philosophies, final affections, final requests.  Less than 24 hours from being executed, Jesus, in John 13, is sharing parting words with his closest friends.

One of those words is this:

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

There are numerous sermons in these two statements, alone.  Permit me to point out just one principle/truth.

In vs 35, Jesus is saying that our love for one another is our distinguishing characteristic.  Not church attendance, or how much we give, or how much scripture we can recite (Satan can quote the entire Bible).  Everything begins with Christ’s love in us being shared with others.  Paul made this crystal clear:

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

In his outstanding book, UnChristian, David Kinnamen, interviews thousands of non-Christians about their perception of the Christian faith.  Look at what he says:

“A non-believers most common reaction to the Christian faith [is this]: they think Christians no longer represent what Jesus had in mind… One person made this blunt observation: Christianity has become bloated with blind followers who would rather repeat slogans than actually feel true love and compassion.”

Ouch.

Loving one another, as Christ loved us, is the manifest evidence of a transformed life. Actions really do speak louder than words.  I close with another ‘ouch’ quote by the late Brennan Manning, a recovering alcoholic who eventually became an Episcopal Priest as well as an extremely gifted author.  (I recommend his books, Ragamuffin Gospel and Ruthless Trust.)  Here’s what he said:

The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.

Never think for a moment that (1) how we treat one another doesn’t matter, and (2) that the lost world isn’t watching.  Watch the entire lesson here.  nw

 

QUOTE of the WEEK

[Because of the Gospel], “the finger of God is at work. Demons flee. The grip is lifted. Satan’s house is plundered, his kingdom is being dismantled.  At the center of it all stands Jesus Christ.”  – Darrell Bock

 

LAUGHTER IS GOOD MEDICINE

You Know It’s Time to Diet When…
  1. You are diagnosed with a flesh-eating virus and the doctor gives you 22 more years to live.
  2. Your drivers license says, “Picture continued on other side.”

 

SOUL FOOD:  Hell Under Fire

No one in their right mind enjoys teaching on the doctrine of hell.  That said, God chose to have his Son talk about hell more than heaven.  So, it behooves us to know what the Bible says about it.  Because once we do, the word ‘saved’ takes on a whole new meaning.  Read the blog here.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

The Navigator: 2.19.2021

As the sub-zero temperatures held their death-grip, I would think about the above quote from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia.  Narnia – where it was always winter.  Well, until Aslan roared.

“Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” – Psalm 30:5

 

THIS SUNDAY

Preacher: Sammy – Part 2 of 3 in a series on the love of God

 

SHEPHERD YOUR SHEEP

I know – I keep saying this.  But, we forget, right?  Which is precisely why both Paul and Peter would use the phrase, “In way of reminder,” when writing letters to believers.

COVID, coupled with the winter weather we’re experiencing, can make us feel isolated.  Sheep do not ever need to be isolated.  They/we weren’t designed that way.  So, always remember to reach out with a call, an email or a text just to check on them.

 

SOBERING FOOD-FOR-THOUGHT

A warning to the sneaky, scheming, and manipulating…

“If you set a trap for others, you will get caught in it yourself. If you roll a boulder on others, it will crush you instead.” – Proverbs 26:27

Thinking about sabotaging the reputation or plans of another?  Think again. And save your own life a world of hurt.

 

CARMAN LICCIARDELLO:  1956-2021

 

After Carman passed away this past Tuesday, 2/16, at a Las Vegas hospital due to complications associated with a hernia surgery, one writer penned: “There will never be another Carman.”

He was the Elvis of Christian music. His music played a huge role in my youth ministry. We attended concerts. Watched his music videos (my favorite is ‘Witch’s Invitation”). On one summer mission trip our youth choir – 100 strong – sang a musical comprising choral arrangements of all Carman songs. And on more than one Easter Sunday I’ve sung his powerful ‘Sunday’s On the Way.’

My girls are good friends with Carman’s niece, Loni Licciardello. She did my daughter, Kelsie’s, makeup before her and Brandon’s Wedding No. 2 near Branson, MO. I got to visit with Loni that day. My daughter, Macy, told her I sing ‘Sunday’s On the Way’ on some Easter Sundays. Loni later told Macy Watts she told Carman about that. He told her, “He may keep me out of a job.” 🙂

I will keep singing it.

 

A PRAYER

From The Valley of Vision:

O incomprehensible but prayer-hearing God,

I thank you for the riches to me in Jesus – for the unclouded revelation of him in your Word where I behold his person, character, grace, glory, humiliation, sufferings, death and resurrection.

I come to you with nothing of my own to offer – no works, nothing of worth, no promises. Just me.

Deliver me from the natural darkness of my own mind, from the corruptions of my heart, from the temptations to which I am exposed, from the daily snares that attend me.

O Lord, I am astonished at the difference between what I receive and what I deserve – the heaven I am bound for, the hell I deserve.

O God, it is amazing that we can talk so much about our mere human power and goodness when, if you did not hold us back at every moment, we would be devils incarnate.

Nothing exceeds your power. Your might is infinite, your grace limitless, your name glorious.

Let angels sing for sinners repenting, for prodigals restored, for Satan’s captives released, for blind eyes opened, for broken hearts healed, for giving us hope in a sometimes hopeless world.

Destroy in me every lofty thought.  Break my pride to pieces and scatter it to the winds.

Let my words and actions be firmly rooted in your Word.

I ask great things of a great God.

Amen

 

 

QUOTE(s) of the WEEK

Are you in the dark right now in your circumstances, or in your life with God? If so, then remain quiet…darkness is the time to listen. – Oswald Chambers

Tell me about the God you don’t believe in. There’s a good chance I don’t believe in that God either. – Tim Keller

 

LAUGHTER IS GOOD MEDICINE

“A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.” – Steve Martin

“Frisbee-tarianism is the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck.” – George Carlin

I’m not fat – I’m just easier to see.

 

SOUL FOOD: The Privilege of Drawing Near to God (and what it cost)

Until the New Covenant was instituted by Jesus as the Last Supper, approaching God was different than it is now.  Read the blog here.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

The Navigator: 2.14.2021

THIS SUNDAY, 2/14

Welcome Sammy & Anita Elliot!

See above for news related to this Sunday’s activities.

Rationale for cancellation of activities this Sunday: 

  1. The threat of inclement weather is probable.  Making a plan now allows people to go ahead and make their own plans to remain safely at home and join us for worship online.
  2. It eliminates the “should I try to risk the road conditions and make it to church, or not” decision.  We’ve made your decision for you.  Stay home and stay safe.

To be clear, the cancellation includes all Sunday School/Small Groups in addition to corporate worship services.  Emails have been sent to all membership but feel free to forward this information to your class if you desire.

Caveat: Of course, we could all get up on Sunday and find it sunny and 60 degrees (although I doubt this since temperatures aren’t scheduled to get above freezing for another week).  I remember when twelve inches of snow was predicted one year when I was helping host a regional youth event on the TTU campus.  So we cancelled.  How much snow did Lubbock get? None.  Alas, it’s always better to err on the side of caution.

 

A VIDEO MESSAGE FROM OUR NEW PASTOR, SAMMY ELLIOT

(He recorded this before we knew we were cancelling on-campus activities.)

 

***While you’re attempting to stay warm at home, here are some resources to strengthen your faith and equip you to have intelligent dialogue where the Christian faith is concerned:

QUESTIONS ATHEISTS LOVE TO ASK

Sarah Salviander has a Ph.D. in Astrophyics.  You can read more about her here.

Salviander shares that she is commonly asked the same questions by atheists and skeptics so she published “Frequently Asked Questions by Atheists” on her web page.  It is outstanding.  Her intelligence is razor-blade sharp. Read her article here.

 

 

A Nugget of Truth from this week’s time of Learning:  John 12 – Dangerous Faith

John, the disciple and eye-witness of Jesus, records:

10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.

 Translation:  Because of his passion for telling others about Christ, Lazarus’ faith had become dangerous to Satan’s kingdom.  And the Jewish leaders wanted to murder him.

Does your faith concern Satan?

In North America, we know little to nothing of persecution for our faith.  Persecution in the west pales in comparison to Christians who are being slaughtered in Muslim and Communist areas around our globe.

The life-threatening global persecution notwithstanding, potential consequences of dangerous faith are mentioned by Princeton philosopher, Robert P. George, who wrote in Touchstone Magazine,

“The days of comfortable Christianity are past [in the West]…To be a witness to the gospel today [has the very real potential] to make oneself a marked man or woman. To unashamedly proclaim the gospel in its fullness is to place in jeopardy one’s security, one’s personal ambitions, one’s standing in society. One may, in consequence of one’s public witness, be discriminated against and denied educational opportunities, or may lose valuable opportunities for employment and professional advancement…It may produce familial discord and even alienation from family members…There are costs to discipleship. Heavy costs.”

Yes, the day is coming when the line will be drawn and our faith will cost us more than ever before. I can promise you that.  Jesus promised us that.

But the truth is on our side.  Further, those around us are desperate to see Christians who, rather than nominal and casual in their faith, are brave enough to not only die for our faith, but live for it.  Every day.

I used to tell students (and still do when I speak at youth events), “Your friends are never going to be drawn to a plastic, milk-toast level of Christian faith.”

The 20th century preacher, A.W. Tozer, rightly said,

“I believe the time is coming when we will not be able to take our Christianity as casually as we do now. A scared world needs a fearless church.”

May Satan consider you dangerous, nw

 

WHY THE COVID VACCINE CAN BE A RUDE AWAKENING

NOTE: the article linked below has nothing to do with conspiracy theories, but everything to do with why some people have such strong reactions to the shots, particularly the second shot.  Get ready to be educated.

This article falls under the category of practical rather than theological.  Yet, I thought it was extremely well written and informative.  After I posted it on my Facebook page it was shared 30 times to other pages.  As such, I felt it might perhaps be of interest to you.  Read the article here.

 

QUOTE(s) of the WEEK

“Apathy is a bigger problem than atheism for Christianity.” – Tim Keller

And,…

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. – unknown

One more,…

“I have had many items in my hand and have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hand I still possess.” – 16th century German Reformer, Martin Luther

 

LAUGHTER IS GOOD MEDICINE

“Did you ever notice when you blow in a dog’s face he gets irritated? But when you take him in your car he sticks his head out the window?” – Steve Bluestone

“I’m desperately trying to figure out why kamikaze pilots wore helmets.” – Dave Edison

“Anytime four New Yorkers get into a cab together without arguing, a bank robbery has just taken place.” – Johnny Carson

“Why does Sea World have a seafood restaurant? I’m halfway through my fish burger and i realize, ‘Oh no – I could be eating a slow learner.” – Lynda Montgomery

 

SOUL FOOD:  The 23rd Psalm

Charles Spurgeon’s description of this psalm is the most powerfully accurate I’ve ever read.  Read the blog here.

Solus Christus, Nick

The Navigator: 2.4.2021

THIS SUNDAY, 2/7

Preacher: Shawn Coleman

I am thrilled to announce that our University Pastor, Shawn Coleman, will be filling the pulpit this Sunday.  The University Ministry continues to grow – even during the pandemic.  He and his wife, Kimberly, have two young daughters, Abigail (6) and Mattie (3).

 

REMINDER: The articles I include in this weekly E-news are intended not only for your equipping & encouragement, but also for the “sheep” you shepherd.  I spend considerable amounts of time carefully reading and choosing resources I am convinced will help you become a better shepherd/teacher, as well as help you to engage in intellectual dialogue regarding the Christian faith. Never hesitate to forward particular articles to your class you believe will help them navigate their Christian faith.

 

BE WARNED WHEN YOU SAY, “I WANT TO BE JUST LIKE JESUS.”

This is a sobering truth…

“When we say we want to be the hands and feet of Jesus, we must remember what happened to the hands and feet of Jesus.” – Trevin Wax

Jesus told his followers, “Take up your cross and follow me.”

Translation: “Following me will not often be easy.  So if you choose to follow me – bring your cross.”

The disciple and eye-witness to the suffering of Jesus, Peter, wrote the following while the psychopathic tyrant, Nero, was emperor, to remind his readers that following Christ always involves suffering:

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

 

“TAKE UP AND READ”

Philosopher and defender of the Christian faith, Douglass Groothuis, writes,

“Deep reading is required for wise thinking and courageous action.”

He’s right.

This is precisely why I spend so much time reading, studying and dialoguing with people about diverse, even controversial, topics.

Linked here you will find Dr. Groothuis’ “Reading Guide to Political and Cultural Discernment.” In a culture where people readily allow others to think for them, working themselves up into an emotional lather, it serves us better to develop the discipline of thinking deeply, critically, and prayerfully.  Meditating on the principles of scripture brings to us a corrective property to the madness of modern day.

Of Note: You will notice Groothuis recommends a number of books written centuries ago.  To think the latest and greatest best-seller contains the best content, permit me to include here sage advice from one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century, C.S. Lewis:

“It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it.”

What we need is a “good, clean sea breeze.”  Lewis continues,

None of us can fully escape this blindness (to comprehensive knowledge and wisdom), but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books.  The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes.

Strongly consider picking up a copy of one of the books Groothuis recommends, and be challenged.  Read his blog here.

 

DON’T READ THE BIBLE THROUGH IN ONE YEAR

I stumbled across this blog by professor, author, and defender of the Christian faith, Sean McDowell, and thought it was brilliant.  Why?  Because Sean offers encouragement to those who, desperately trying to read the Bible through in a year, grow discouraged and quit when they fall behind in the designated schedule. From the article:

Why should [reading the Bible through in a year] be our goal? Why should our Scripture reading be about how much we read? There is undoubtedly value in daily Scripture reading. My point is not to minimize this important discipline. But honestly, how much do people really retain after the “Bible in a year plan”? My suspicion is that it may be less than we think… We should have a different goal. Rather than focusing on quantity by aiming to get through Bible entirely in 2021, focus on quality.

Read the article here.

 

A FEW GOOD MEN

You, no doubt, recognize the above phrase as used by the U.S. Marine Corp in their slogan, “We’re looking for a few good men.”

So is God.

I was raised by a single mom. The quotes below are in no way intended to minimize the value of single moms, or moms in general. My only point here is to remind men to step up and be the dad and husband (or never-married man) God clearly commands us to be. I’ve said it many times: “You teach what you know, but you reproduce what you are.” Model for your sons what a godly man looks like. Model for your daughters the kind of man you want her to marry. Lead your family.

“I know for a fact that had I had a father I’d have some discipline. I’d have more confidence.  Your mother cannot calm you down the way a man can.  Your mother can’t reassure you the way a man can… You need a man to teach you how to be a man.” – Rapper, Tupac Shakur

“We know the statistics – that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of school and twenty times more likely to end up in prison.” – Former President, Barak Obama; Father’s Day; June 15, 2008

 

A Nugget of Truth from this week’s time of Learning:  John 11 – “I Am the Resurrection and the Life”

John and Luke are the only two gospel authors who include clearly stated purposes for why they wrote their gospels.  John explains,

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

No other author records more miracles than John.  Why? Because Jesus never expected people to believe who he was based on assertions alone.  This is precisely why he, more than once, stated,

Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.

If we read chapter 11 too quickly, focusing only on the miracle of Lazarus’ resurrection, we will miss important details.  Here’s one for you to think about.  In 11:25-26, Jesus says to Martha,

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Do you believe this?

This is the question Jesus asks us at the moment of every single back-breaking crisis of our life:  “Do you believe what I’ve told you?  Do you trust me?”

It was C.S. Lewis, in his heart-wrenching testimony about the loss of his wife, who wrote,

You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you.

Flashback to May 13, 2013.  The scene at the Watts house was hysterics, chaos and unspeakable pain.  Our son had taken his life.  As Michelle, Macy and I were on our hands and knees in our yard I will never – ever – forget what Michelle told Macy.  She placed her hands around Macy’s face and said these words:  “Macy, today we decide what we truly believe.”

Jesus asked a grieving Martha, on one of the worst days of her life, “Do you believe?”

Do you?

The entire lesson can be viewed here.

 

QUOTE(s) of the WEEK

“One of the painful signs of years of dumbed-down education is how many people are unable to make a coherent argument. They can vent their emotions, question other people’s motives, make bold assertions, repeat slogans– anything except reason.” – Thomas Sowell

Sharing your faith becomes a lot easier if we follow this advice…

“Before you talk to people about Jesus, talk to Jesus about those people.”

And, this powerful truth by the 11th century philosopher & theologian, Anselm, on why God become man:

“The debt was so great that while man alone owed it, only God could pay it.”

 

LAUGHTER IS GOOD MEDICINE

Actual 911 call – Caller:  “My wife got gored by a wart hog and I need an ambulance right now.”  Operator:  “Where is she?”  Caller: “946 Eucalyptus”.  Operator:  “Spell that for me please.”  “Ah, tell ya what – I’ll just drag her over to Oak and you can get her there.”

A lady took out an ad in the classifieds:  “Husband Wanted.”  The next day she received a hundred replies. They all said the same thing:  “You can have mine.”

A young son asked, “Is it true, Dad, that in some countries a man doesn’t know his wife until he marries her?”  Dad replied, “That happens in every country, son.”

 

SOUL FOOD:  Ichthys (the Christian fish decal)

“Actions speak louder than logos.”  Read the blog here.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

The Navigator: 1.28.2021

 

THIS SUNDAY, 1/31 – THANK YOU, DL & ALICE

I can’t believe the day has come to say thank you & good bye to DL & Alice Lowrie.  The Lord has poured a wealth of grace and wisdom into my life through them.  I love them so very much.

This Sunday, 1/31, BHBC will host a reception in our Commons after each morning’s service.  All are encouraged to bring thank you notes and/or gift cards.

Also this Sunday:

Quarterly Business Meeting; 5pm; Worship Center

 

SHEPHERDING THE SHEPHERDS: Systematic Theology

Part of my role is to make certain all of you are set up for success by means of being encouraged, challenged, equipped and resourced.

Per my email to you last Friday, we will soon be embarking on a journey of intense learning.  One of those times of learning will involve acquiring a basic understanding of systematic theology.

Simply put, systematic theology is the discipline of interpreting scripture in light of scripture.  It’s understanding there’s no better commentary for God’s Word than God’s Word. This is precisely one of Paul’s points when he told the elders at Ephesus, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”  “Whole counsel” meaning all of it.  Not just bits and pieces but, during Paul’s ministry, the entire Old Testament; and in our time, all 66 books of the canon. 

Systematic Theology helps us learn how one part of the Bible is complemented and affirmed by the Bible.  It helps us to confidently answer hard questions such as: What, at times, do I find a verse that appears to contradict another verse?  What OT laws and imagery relate to Jesus being called the Lamb of God?  Does Hebrews 6:4-6 teach that we can lose our salvation? And what about the seeming contradictions of Proverbs 26:4-5, and James 2:24 when compared to Galatians 2:16?  What is the OT Law’s relationship to the New Covenant in the NT?  Is the Law nullified or fulfilled?  And what’s the difference?  And so much more.

When the gospel authors, Paul and Peter quote the OT repeatedly to support and prove right the New Covenant through Christ we are witnessing a masters class in people using systematic theology.

There is a theological term, Biblical Theology, that serves as a close sibling of Systematic Theology.  And, by the way, before you counter, “Wait – I’m not a theologian!”, I’ve got news for you:  all Christians are theologians.  The word, theology, simply means “the study of God.”  Sure, many have dedicated their lives and careers to vocational theology.  But, all Christians are theologians on some level.  Nay, we are commanded to be theologians.  It was Paul who instructed Timothy,

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

This command goes for all of us.  The instruction to Timothy (and us) provides an implied warning: to be instructed to rightly handle the word of truth suggests that there was much wrongly handling the word of truth.  The potential of teaching in error (via hurried preparation, little to no prayer, etc.) should send terror into everyone who has been given the assignment to stand before people and exposit scripture.  This is why James, the half-brother of Jesus, warned:

Not many [of you] should become teachers [serving in an official teaching capacity], my brothers and sisters, for you know that we [who are teachers] will be judged by a higher standard [because we have assumed greater accountability and more condemnation if we teach incorrectly]. (Amplified)

Dr. Wayne Grudem’s text on Systematic Theology is the “go to” text for many pastors and teachers (my copy is well worn).  Grudem was recently interviewed on why systematic theology matters to Bible study.  Below is an excerpt from the article:

Grudem defines his approach sytematic theology as “any study that answers the question, ‘What does the whole Bible teach us today?”  The conviction that theological teaching should be clear (to our listeners) is borne out of conviction that Scripture is clear.

He qualifies,

Though God’s revelation is clear, to understand it rightly you must study it responsibly, putting in effort to improve the skills necessary for effective reading and teaching.

Soon, we will take a look at ways to improve those skills.  Until then, pray fervently, study intensely, and rightly handle the word of truth.  nw

 

A Nugget of Truth from this week’s time of Learning:  John 10 – “The Good Shepherd”

Jesus is publicly exposing the teachers and religious leaders as “false shepherds” by contrasting his shepherding with theirs:

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

Why does Jesus refer to himself as the Good Shepherd?  Because Israel (and modern day churches) are filled with bad shepherds who were lazy and self-centered, being interested in nothing other than position, prestige and power.  (I shared with my class a couple of stories of things I’ve heard pastors say and do that were unbelievably unbiblical, self-righteous, and self-serving.)

Through the prophet Ezekiel, God thundered,

‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? …but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals…

After calling out the bad shepherds, God then delivers their consequences:

“‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because my flock lacks a shepherd…I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock… – Ezek. 34:2-8

You can view the lesson in its entirety here.

Shepherd your sheep humbly and tenderly.

 

TEENS, COVID & SUICIDE

Professional counselors will tell you that, during the past year, a new term emerged among mental health workers:  ‘COVID Depression.”

A FOX News article caught my eye with the headline:Las Vegas schools pushing to get students back quickly following rise in suicides, report says.  (You can read the article here.)

An article was posted this past week by local news, KCBD, citing the spike in ER visits at UMC related to the mental health of children.  2020 has been a devastating year.  Read the KCBD article here.

Keep your eyes open. Be “present.”  Look for any signs or signals a teen could be in danger of hurting themselves.

 

QUOTE(s) of the WEEK

“The claim ‘only science can discover truth’ is self-refuting, as the statement itself cannot be verified using science.” – Dr. Andy Bannister (Ph.D. in Islamic Studies)

And,…

“In Science we have been reading only the notes to a poem; in Christianity we find the poem itself.” – C.S. Lewis

 

LAUGHTER IS GOOD MEDICINE

I’ve actually said No. 4 to young men before.

And, a bonus for my fellow Red Raider/Chiefs fans…

 

SOUL FOOD:  Lord, teach me to pray. (here you go…)

Read the blog here.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

The Navigator: 1.21.21

 

WELCOME SAMMY & ANITA!

(I tried to get a photo with Anita, but had to settle for Sammy.)

Sammy & Anita will begin their ministry here on Sunday, Feb. 14th.  What a joy it is to have them.  Please pray for:

  1. Their departure from FBC, Levelland.  They have been there 11 years, are dearly loved, and will be missed.
  2. FBC, Levelland.  As we conclude the search for a lead pastor, they are just getting started.
  3. The sale of the Elliott’s home in Levelland.

 

A NOTE FROM SAMMY:

MEN:

I want to encourage all husbands to be a part of the Marriage Summit Challenge this Saturday, 1/23.  It will require TWO hours of your time but could be the catalyst to strengthen your marriage.  In a day where too many marriages are just surviving, I would encourage all husbands to be intentional in taking a step or two to help build strong and thriving marriages.

Saturday will be the start of a three-week challenge.  Husbands are to gather to be encouraged and challenged in their marriages.  They will be given a three-week challenge and then will be invited back to a virtual rally at the end of the three weeks.  Husbands are encouraged to bring their wives to that final rally.

Join us this Saturday in the FLC.  I am looking forward to getting to know each of you and doing life with you as well.  I hope to see you this Saturday.

Sammy

 

A Nugget of Truth from this week’s time of Learning:  John 8-9

What price are you willing to pay to stand up for biblical truth?

Take the two most combustible issues of the day:  sexuality & the rights of the unborn.

If someone asks your position on either of these topics are you willing to pay the price for biblical truth?   Someone once said, “If you want to help others  you will tell them the truth; if you want to help yourself you will tell them what they want to hear.”

Having the courage to stand firmly for biblical truth will cost you friends, prestige and status.  How can we be sure of this?

That’s what it cost Jesus.  And much more.

In 1945, only days before the end of the war in Nazi Germany, Deitrich Bonhoeffer was standing trial because he refused to shrink from biblical truth.  Below is from the memoirs in the introduction to his classic, The Cost of Discipleship:

He was then executed.

In 1521, the reformer, Martin Luther, stood before the most powerful man in the land.  Told to recant his commitment to biblical truth or risk arrest, or even death, Luther made his famous statement:

Immediately pursued for assassination, Luther became an outlaw and was confined to isolation at the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, Germany.  (Michelle and I have stood in the very room at Warburg where Luther would eventually translate the Greek New Testament into German.)

We sometimes contemplate dying for our faith.  The more unsettling question is, “Are you willing to live for it?”

Jesus did both.

And Jesus says to us, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”

You can view the lesson in its entirety here.

 

 

Our Youth Ministry volunteers are hard at work providing solid opportunities to our teens for learning and spiritual growth. FYI – Wednesday nights (Breakthru) resumed this past week. 6:30-7:30 in the FLC.  Bible 101 series:

  • How did we get the Bible?
  • How can we know the Bible is true?
  • How the Bible is organized.
  • Overviews of Old Testament and New Testament books.
  • How to study the Bible.

 

THANK YOU, DL & ALICE! – Jan. 31st

What can I say about DL and Alice Lowrie?  On Sunday morning, Jan. 31st, their final Sunday here at BHBC, we will host a Thank You Reception for them in our Commons.  More on this in next week’s Navigator.

 

AMERICA: Spiritual, not necessarily Christian

A few years back I sat in a room in Los Angeles and listened to sociologist, Tony Campolo, speak on the current spiritual state of mind in North America.

I wrote down this statement he made:

“America is not a Christian nation. But it is a deeply spiritual nation.”

Based on my own decades working with students at the time, I immediately agreed.

So, this recent article linked below is no surprise. From the article:

“Even among the quarter of Americans who do not identify with a religion (atheists, agnostics, and those who say they are “nothing in particular”), most still describe themselves as a spiritual person.”

This is precisely why visiting about the supernatural remains relevant.  It demonstrates a wide-open receptiveness to the Bible, God, etc. We see this demonstrated over and over again in Paul’s ministry as he connects with those who worship pagan gods. He was able to build common ground due to their openness to a metaphysical reality.

Let’s take this a step further.

One of my grad professors (and former atheist), Dr. Holly Ordway, in her book, Apologetics and the Christian Imagination: An Integrated Approach to Defending the Faith, rightly observed:

We live in what is essentially a post-Christian age. Church attendance has dropped; increasing numbers of people feel comfortable admitting to agnosticism or atheism; every day the media gives evidence of a deep-seated hostility toward Christianity (especially on any topic related to sexual ethics).

Ordway’s point is that, unlike life up until the mid/late 20th century, society no longer readily accepts the Bible as absolute truth.  As Ordway later writes,

“People have only a vague idea of Jesus, one that’s frankly not interesting enough to be worth bothering about; for them, Christianity is just one more option on the spiritual menu, and an outdated one at that.”

The point in the article linked here for you below is exciting because it tells us what was written millennia ago is still true:

[God] has also planted eternity [a sense of divine purpose] in the human heart [a mysterious longing which nothing under the sun can satisfy, except God].

People, although not Christian, are still open and hungry for God – and they don’t even know it.  It’s our job to be ready and available to visit with them. Read the brief article here.

 

QUOTE(s) of the WEEK

“Christianity gives a meaning for life that suffering can’t take away from you.” – Tim Keller

And,…

“I pray that when I die, all of hell will rejoice that I am no longer in the fight.” – C.T.Studd.

 

LAUGHTER IS GOOD MEDICINE

And,…

My mechanic told me, “I couldn’t repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder.” – Steven Wright

 

SOUL FOOD:  A Wait Problem

Few, if any, of us do patience well.  Read the blog here.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick