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Boyd Avenue Baptist Church
1930 Boyd Avenue, Casper, WY

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Wednesday
May292013

June 2013

In a recent set of conversations with a long time pastor friend of mine, we talked about a whole series of church conflicts with which we were familiar.  These included conflicts within local church bodies, conflicts between pastors and churches on an associational level, struggles within some larger state conventions (not Wyoming), and battles that seem to be never ending on a national level.  In these conversations, we did a lot of head wagging.  Then my friend posed a very important question:  “In all these arguments and conflicts, where is Jesus?”  These discussions center around ministry philosophy, biblical interpretation, financial feasibility, who is in control and many other things, but is seems that the name of Jesus rarely, if ever comes up.

HMMMM, could we be on to something here?  Is not the name of Jesus and the proclamation of that precious name central to our purpose as Christians?  In fact, could it be that one of the reasons that the modern American church and many of our historically powerful denominations are waning these days is because we have forgotten about Jesus?  We are big on strategies.  We are always seeking out new programs.  We are deeply concerned about what is being taught.  While all of these are valuable topics, we cannot allow these things to divert our attention away from that which is truly important.  Can our central message of Jesus, His life, death and resurrection be pushed to a back burner, while other issues catch our attention?  And if so how does our heavenly Father feel about such things? 

I’m pretty sure we know that answer.  He can be nothing other than very displeased.  Lest we get caught up in our condemnation of ecclesiastical big-wigs and spend our time and energies self-righteously throwing rocks in their direction, a little self evaluation may be in order.  Are there things in our daily lives that we allow to divert our attention away from Jesus?  I really cannot speak for anyone other than myself, but I’m pretty sure that all of us struggle with this from time to time.  Schedules, family responsibilities, work, financial pressures, and so much more are things that can easily distract us from our personal callings and responsibilities as Christians.

When we are having a family discussion time to come to an important decision, do we ever ask ourselves the question: “Where is Jesus in this?” or “How will this decision affect our walk with and work for our Savior?”  When our Church is in a time of discussion whether it is about our building needs, or our programming, or our direction, do we ask ourselves and one another: “Where is Jesus in this?”  When we get up in the morning and make our internal plans for the day, do we ask ourselves “Where is Jesus in today’s schedule?”

If we disdain church and denominational leadership for forgetting consideration of that which is most important, then should we not hold ourselves to a similar standard?  Now, please do not get me wrong.  I am in no way trying to let anyone off of the hook for what I consider a grievous offense.  I am very disappointed in some very poor leadership that I have observed through the years.  But, at the same time, I feel compelled to hold myself to a higher standard, so that I will not be guilty of the things for which I condemn others.

Let us resolve together to always and in all things ask that central and most important question: “Where is Jesus in this?”

 

Tuesday
Apr302013

May 2013

“Gpt Hpf dp ;pbrf yjr ept;f. Jr hsbr Jod pm;u nrhpyyrm Dpm.  Dp yjsy ejpdprbrt nr;orbryj om Jo, epi;f mpy [rtodj. Niy jsbr rbrt;sdyomh ;obr/”

The above quote is John 3: 16 typed with my hands held one key off from the position for which the keyboard is designed.  While I purposefully did this for this demonstration, there have been many times that I made such errors unintentionally.  With modern word processors, this is really no big deal.  With a couple of keystrokes or with the click of a mouse, the error is erased and I am ready to go again with no evidence of my ineptitude as a typist.

I was considering this reality recently, (which may point out the profound subjects that dominate my musings) when it struck me that placing my hands in the wrong position on a keyboard has a certain set of parallels to the effect of sin on our lives.  While the error may not seem to be a big mistake, (only one key to the right) it makes a big difference in the result of my text.  Notice in the above example, not one letter is correct, the entire message of John 3: 16 is garbled to the point that it is completely unintelligible. 

This is exactly what sin does in our lives.  We may be able to say, that a sin is no big deal.  After all, our actions are only slightly off of the intent of the Designer.  But, in reality, sin throws everything off of center.  As life goes askew, nothing truly makes sense anymore.  We also tend to complicate the situation by pretending that the confusion that sin brings into life is normal.  After all, each of us hates to admit that our actions have created a deeper problem.  For we tend to join in the new American motto:  “It’s not my fault!”  But, in truth, it is our fault.  We are the ones who choose to sin.  In the context of today’s illustration, we choose to place our hands in an improper position, but we seem confused why things seemed garbled around us.

The good news is that John 3: 16 tells us that God has provided a means of correction for our mistakes.  Now the correction is far more difficult than hitting a “delete” button.  The correction is bought with the suffering and sacrifice of the Son of God Himself.  Jesus came and died as an atonement for our sin.  Through the exercise of our faith in Him as our Savior, He “deletes” our sin, corrects our hand position, and allows us to live in abundance and clarity.

As Christians we face a problem.   Once we have come to Christ and He has cleansed and adjusted our lives, we are compelled to share our experience with Christ.  In sharing this Good News, inevitably we have to point out the errors that sin brings.  When we do this, those whose hands are still out of position will aggressively defend their erroneous living.  They will redefine right and wrong and cling to the proposition that their garbled lifestyles are “normal” and our attitudes make us “narrow minded”, “bigoted”, or “judgmental”.  They become so defensive of their garbled lives that they attack anyone and everyone who points out the senselessness of the messages their lives produce.

So how do we respond?  We have no other option other than to live in the clarity that God brings.  To do anything else would be to regress into our old lives of sin that twist life into a senseless series of keystrokes that leaves everything in confusion and hopelessness.  For it is far wiser to live this truth:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

 

Tuesday
Apr022013

April 2013

As I sit here writing this letter to you a couple of weeks before your receive it, I have been listening to the recording of one of our recent worship services as Pam (our secretary) prepares it for our radio program on KUYO.  It will also be placed on our web site for anyone who may want to listen to the service.  This particular service ended with the old invitation hymn, “Jesus Paid It All.”  I was first struck by the pleasant sounds of our praise team’s melodies and harmonies.  Then I was struck by the powerful message of this old hymn.  Elvina Hall penned these words in a poem in 1865.  It was set to music to a tune written by John Thomas Grape soon thereafter and has been a traditional part of evangelical church music ever since. 

The chorus goes like this: “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.  Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.”

Take a moment and think of these words, “Jesus paid it all”.  Truly, this expresses the heart of the Christian message.  For Jesus did pay it all.  Despite our attempts to devise other means of salvation and other paths to the Throne of God, there is no other way by which man can be saved.  Our sin made a debt for each of us that we could not pay.  So Jesus paid our debt for us.  He bore our sins upon Himself as He went to the cross as an atoning sacrifice.  He is the only being in all of existence past, present, or future who could take our sin and pay the price of our sin for us.  This is an act of love and grace that is unequalled. 

“All to Him I owe” speaks of the debt that we owe to Christ.  In this case, “all” means everything.  All we are, all we have, all we will ever be is a result of what Jesus has done for us.  Even when I give Him “my everything”, He is still getting shortchanged.  His suffering and sacrifice provides more for me that I could ever return to Him.  He is OK with this deal, because His love for us is His motivation for what He did.  He did not offer Himself on a cross to profit from His labor.  He did it because He loves us more than we can imagine.

“Sin had left a crimson stain” refers to the affect of our sin on our lives and our world.  “He washed it white as snow” illustrates the power His resurrection has over our sin.  Nothing else in all of existence can wash away the stain our sin leaves other than the blood of Jesus.

So you see this hymn, when done well, is not only pleasant to the ear, but the meaning of its words is also pleasant to the heart.  When you read this letter, most likely, you will have just completed your celebration of the Easter event.  As you consider the horror of the cross, the beauty of the empty tomb, and the power of the Resurrection, remember this was the means by which “Jesus Paid It All.”

 

Thursday
Feb282013

March 2013

Influence is a simple and often used word in our vocabulary.  We speak of how we are influenced in many ways.  The weather will influence our plans.  Our plans will influence our schedules.  Our schedules will influence our commitments.  Our commitments will influence daily choices that we may make.  And on and on we could go.

In this regard we need to ask ourselves two questions. 

1) What things influence our lives? 

2) How do we influence other people?

Let’s tackle the first question.  There are many, many things that influence us in small ways.  Some of these like weather, politics, unforeseeable emergencies and such things influence us in a variety of ways.  We have little or no ability to seek out or avoid these influences. 

On the other hand, there are influences that we choose to seek out.  Each of us must choose what and who will influence our outlook on life and ultimately how we choose to live.  If we choose negative influences, obviously, these influences will have a negative affect on our lives.  If we choose positive influences then these influences will lead us in a better direction. 

This is exactly why God gives His people disciplines.  Prayer, Bible study, Christian fellowship, and so forth will have positive influences on us.  If we embrace these disciplines, then we will have daily contact with powerful influences that will lead us in a good and healthy direction.  If we ignore these disciplines then they will have no influence on our lives.  As a result, we will leave ourselves open to influences that will likely not be good for us. 

So perhaps we should spend time in prayer rather than spending so much time watching trashy TV shows.  Perhaps we should spend more time reading our Bibles rather than tracking down the latest You-tube video.  Perhaps we can become more involved in a class or small group that will increase our fellowship, rather than going to see Hollywood’s latest product.  Now don’t get me wrong, TV (not the trashy kind), the internet (not the trashy kind), and movies (not the trashy kind) all have their place in our lives.  But, we should be sure to seek out the positive influences that God has given us.

But the second question is at least as important as the first question.  As Christians, we are called upon to be positive influences on those around us.  If we walk with Christ, others will be affected by our lives.  Our actions, good or bad, will influence others.  The New Testament illustrates this influence by referring to followers of Christ as salt, light, and leaven.  Each of these strongly influence things that come into contact with them.  Salt flavors, preserves, and cleanses.  Light drives away darkness.  Leaven makes dough rise.  All of these are good things.  So God expects us to make a difference. 

For in this, as in other things in our Christian walk, this is not about us.  But rather, it is about others.  We are responsible to make a difference in the lives of other people.  We are to lead people in the ways of God.  Each of us has a certain number of people who come into contact with us.  Some of these we see regularly, others only once in a while.  But, if we are going to be faithful to God we must take seriously His expectations.  If we truly love our neighbor as ourselves, then we will do all we can to be a good and loving influence. 

Since God loves us enough to send His Son for our salvation, so we ought to love others enough to be salt, light, and leaven.  This is how the Kingdom of God grows.  This is how our world is influenced by the power of God working through His people.

 

Wednesday
Jan302013

February 2013

Through the month of January I have been preaching a series of sermons about our culture.  It is my current plan to go through most of the month of February to conclude this series.  In February, we will shift our focus from the culture to the church.  We will talk about our shortcomings, as well as our strengths.    Ultimately, we will take a look at our responsibilities to our culture and the opportunities that lie before us.

The basic premise from which I am working is that our culture is suffering from a spiritual issue.  Many may say that it is an over-simplification to say, “Jesus is the answer.”  But, in truth it is just that simple.  While this truth may be simple, it is by no means easy to grasp or initiate.

Our culture tends to recognize the symptoms of our problem as being the problem.  We fail to recognize the core of our problem.  Our symptoms are many, abortion, substance abuse, violence, greed, dishonesty, morality (or lack thereof), anger, sexuality, hunger, homelessness, and so on.  Suffice it to say, I will not be preaching sermons on each of these issues.  For each of them is simply a symptom of the much deeper spiritual void that plagues our culture.  As a culture, we fall short in dealing with these things because we cannot see past the symptoms.  And in reality, we would rather try to fix a small painful thing than to deal with a deeper need.  It is true that fixing the deeper need will also take care of the symptom that may have our attention.  But, we would rather look into the horror of a young man murdering innocents than to look into the ugliness that a spiritual mirror would reflect.  The reason for this is simple.  To look into the horror of human depravity will cause us to view the problems of other people.  To look into a spiritual mirror reflects our own shortcomings.  And in all honesty we find it much more palatable to identify the problems of other people than to deal with our own needs.  All too often when we look into our own problems, we ultimately see that the problem has been inflicted upon us, rather than being embraced by us.  In other words we suffer from that common American position of, “It is not my fault.”  It is someone else’s fault.  Even if there is no way anyone else had anything to do with the situation.  We will find someone else to blame.

We who are the Church must guard against this great temptation.  It is easy to identify other sources of social sufferings.  It is society’s fault, it is government’s fault, it is my parent’s faulty, and so on we could go.  Now, do not misunderstand me.  While the Church has had some failures that have contributed to our cultural woes, there are many other factors, which have no affiliation with Christianity that have led us to and pushed us into the abyss we find ourselves.  That being stated, the truth of the matter is that we can only affect what we can affect.  We cannot take upon ourselves the burden of the government, or the medical community, or the business world, or the environment.  While we may contribute to all of these forces, we cannot do what they do.  Nor should we.  But, we must understand that they cannot do what only we can do either.  We and we alone (the Bible believing church) have the answer.  And that answer is Jesus.  Culture has just rolled her eyes at this statement, but that does not keep the truth from being the truth.  The only answer to the spiritual emptiness that plagues our culture is for there to be what we would call a Spiritual Awakening, when large numbers of men, women, boys, and girls would recognize the true salvation that comes through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Upon this profession their world-view would change and we would see the symptoms shrink dramatically.  Historically, this has happened before.  Why could it not happen again?

Alas, you may say, the job is too big.  Is it really?  First of all, nothing is too big for our God.  Second of all, the only way to see large numbers of people come to Christ is to begin with one.  The second victory never comes until the first victory has been accomplished.  So if I am faithful, perhaps God will use me to reach one, who will reach one, who will reach one. 

This is the only answer. This is our only hope.