The sermon for February 24th 2019 is now available on the New Life web-site.
In this sermon, which is based on 1 Corinthians 15:35-50, I talk about The Resurrection
From “Men Of The West”
Economics teaches us that nothing in this broken world is free but God’s Grace. Everything has a cost. Not matter how universally good you think a thing is, there is always some price to it. Sometimes that price is obvious and well worth it. Other times that price is not so obvious. Often the costliest decisions we make are the ones with the least obvious prices.
You’ve all been indoctrinated, so I know I don’t need to recount the story of the Civil Rights Movement to you. Blah blah blah… fire hoses… marches… evil whitey being evil… noble black man being noble. What I want to point out is one small look at the price that was paid, and who paid it.
Now before we get to deep into this, I have to explain some methodology here. Any research you do on Selma is going to focus almost entirely on the Civil Rights Movement. Period. Wikipedia? The whole article is written through the context of the movement. To get the real story of Selma, you have to talk to the people that lived there, which is exactly what we’ve done.
Rewind past all that, back to 1950. Selma, Alabama in 1950 is something close to idyllic. Its population of almost 23,000 was booming. It had grown 15% in just a few years before. Businesses were opening, new factories were being built, and folks were working and living in what was one of the prettiest little towns in the United States. At the time, the population of Selma was about half white and about half black. Crime was low to non-existent, and jobs were plentiful. The town had extremely high marriage rates and high birth rates.
By 1960 the population of Selma has blown up to over 28,000. The demographics are still pretty much the same, and the town is still in boom mode. More factories are showing up. More businesses are opening. Churches and shops are thriving in a gorgeous down town. The United Methodist Church has build a large children’s home that is something akin to a large orphanage, except it is a lot less like all the negative stereotypes you associate with orphanages, and a lot more like a bunch of kids living at summer camp year round. The adults around today who spent time there still get emotional when they talk about their time there. And they still get emotional when they talk about what a beautiful place Selma was back then. Before Martin Luther King came and killed their town.
Read the rest of the story here
From “Breaking Christian News” comes this great encouragement. Obviously the stats are for the U.S. but the situation here is probably comparable.
Paul Strand : Feb 15, 2019 : CBN News
“We need to change the paradigm of how we talk about marriage—from marriage being in trouble and all this discouraging stuff to saying, ‘No, wait. Most marriages are strong and happy for a lifetime. That makes a total difference to a couple who can now say, ‘You know what? Most people get through this and we can, too.'” -Shaunti Feldhahn
(Atlanta, GA)—[CBN News] Most people believe only half of US marriages make it. But a leading researcher is announcing the true divorce rate is much lower and always has been. (Photo: Pixabay)
Shaunti Feldhahn received her research training at Harvard. She and her husband Jeff help people with their marriages and relationships through best-selling books like, For Women Only and For Men Only.
This Atlanta-based couple often quoted in their writings and at conferences what they thought was accurate research: that most marriages are unhappy and 50 percent of them end in divorce, even in the Church.
“I didn’t know,” Feldhahn told CBN News. “I’ve stood up on stage and said every one of these wrong statistics.”
More than ten years ago, she asked assistant Tally Whitehead for specific research on divorce for an article she was writing. After much digging, neither of them could find any real numbers.
That kicked off a personal, years-long crusade to dig through the tremendously complicated, sometimes contradictory research to find the truth. The surprising revelations are revealed in her new book, The Good News About Marriage.
The Real Divorce Rate
“First-time marriages: probably 20 to 25 percent have ended in divorce on average,” Feldhahn revealed. “Now, okay, that’s still too high, but it’s a whole lot better than what people think it is.”
Shaunti and Jeff point out the 50 percent figure came from projections of what researchers thought the divorce rate would become as they watched the divorce numbers rising in the 1970s and early 1980s when states around the nation were passing no-fault divorce laws.
“But the divorce rate has been dropping,” Feldhahn said. “We’ve never hit those numbers. We’ve never gotten close.”
And it’s even lower among churchgoers, where a couple’s chance of divorcing is more likely in the single digits or teens.
Hopelessness = Divorce
As the truth about these much lower divorce rates begins to spread, Feldhahn said she believes it will give people hope, which is often a key ingredient to making marriage last. She said hopelessness itself can actually lead to divorce.
“That sense of futility itself pulls down marriages,” Feldhahn said. “And the problem is we have this culture-wide feeling of futility about marriage. It’s based on all these discouraging beliefs and many of them just aren’t true.”
Christian psychotherapist Angel Davis has also written about marriage in her book, The Perfecting Storm. The Athens, Georgia-based therapist agreed with Shaunti Feldhahn’s warnings about hopelessness.
“The Bible says hope deferred, it makes a heart sick,” Davis said. “And we are so influenced by numbers and by culture.”
Jeff Feldhahn said anytime he tells people about his wife’s findings about how incorrect the 50 percent divorce rate actually is, they’re stunned.
“Their mouth drops open and they’re just shocked,” he said. “They go, ‘I can’t believe I believed this all these years. And I’ve heard it so many times. And I’ve heard it from the pulpit so many times.'”
Shaunti added, “This is a great chance to stand up and say. ‘We were all fooled. Not anymore.'”
Spreading the Good News
To that end, Feldhahn has been working to spread the news to pastors and other leaders as fast as she can. The news is changing Pastor Daniel Floyd’s counseling because he had bought into fictional research, he admitted to Feldhahn.
“I told her, ‘I’ve said this. I’ve taught this,'” the pastor at Lifepoint Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia, recalled.
Floyd said he’s sure this news will change a generation of marriage counseling.
“I think it’s significant,” he said. “And it could change the conversation from one that is ‘Wow, it’s just the way it is, and half of you are going to make it, half of you are not,’ and change the conversation to know historically, an overwhelming majority have made it and you can make it.”
Psychotherapist Davis said this belief can change lives and marriages.
“We know in psychology that what you believe affects how you feel, and then it leads to action,” Davis stated. “So, when other people are accomplishing something we think is hopeless, it gives us hope. And then we start feeling different and start acting different.”
Feldhahn has more shocking research: four out of five marriages are happy. That number flies in the face of the popular belief that only about 30 percent of marriages are happy.
“Most people think most marriages are just kind of ‘eeh’—just kind of rolling along,” she said. “And they’re shocked when I tell them that the actual average is 80 percent: 80 percent of marriages are happy.”
Not knowing the true statistics often leads couples to avoid marriage and just shack up instead.
Feldhahn said that couples who avoid marriage do so based on wrong assumptions.
“Like, ‘if I’m just going to get divorced and I’m not going to be happy, why bother getting married, right?’ And it’s based on a lie,” she said. “That feeling is based on a lie.”
Pastor Floyd said these new facts can be a game-changer for married couples.
“I think it really helps people in the challenging moments to say, ‘If I’ll just stick with it, then there’s a good chance I’m going to make it the distance,'” he said.
“With hope, you feel you can make it through, even though you’re in a tough patch,” Jeff Feldhahn said.
His wife also pointed to other research that proves most of the unhappily married can turn it around.
“The studies show that if they stay married for five years, that almost 80 percent of those will be happy five years later,” she said.
The Good News About Marriage also reveals the divorce rate among those active in their church is 27 to 50 percent lower than among non-churchgoers. Feldhahn’s hope is that once people learn the truth that they will spread it far and wide.
“We need to change the paradigm of how we talk about marriage—from marriage being in trouble and all this discouraging stuff to saying, ‘No, wait. Most marriages are strong and happy for a lifetime,'” she told CBN News. “That makes a total difference to a couple who can now say, ‘You know what? Most people get through this and we can, too.’
Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Sometimes we get concerned about the way the corrupt and the wicked seem to flourish. Bank executives who charge fees to dead people, rapists, and murderers seem to get away with their deeds too often.
These people will soon fade away. It is up to God to judge them, not us.
Instead we should focus on doing good and on trusting the Lord. Then we will prosper in the land He has given us.
“Delight yourself in the Lord” means to put God first. I celebrate my salvation and rejoice that God is my Father. When I seek His good will, then I know He will meet every need in my heart.
I don’t have to fret about tomorrow because He has promised to support, comfort, and prosper me.
If I obey God today, then the cares of tomorrow will be dealt with, because God is good.
“Be still in the presence of the Lord.” A life of worship and humble prayer is what God required. If I still my heart in God’s presence, then the stillness and the presence go with me.
There is no battle that God cannot be victorious in. So when I seek God’s will and His presence, I will overcome.
People who do not know Jesus have to walk in their own strength and wisdom. They strive for every little thing. But in God I know peace because the battle is His.
Hallelujah! The battle belongs to the Lord. Please help me to delight in you and to trust you in all things. Amen.
Each year our church has a Family Camp. It is a weekend away with activities for all ages. We aim to learn about God and about each other.
This year’s theme was “Deeper Faith”. I encouraged all the campers to go deeper in faith, deeper in Scriptures, deeper with the Holy Spirit.
This year’s camp was smaller in number than last year’s, but that gave us more opportunity to share together. It also made the teaching sessions less formal and more interactive.
Everyone enjoyed the weekend immensely. One little boy when asked if he would come next time said, “I’m coming on Friday!” Well he might be a little lonely but it does give us incentive to plan for the next camp.
“So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh- the manager of his entire palace and governor of all Egypt.”
Joseph finally reveals to his brothers who he is, after several rounds of subterfuge and machinations.
“I am Joseph!” he exclaims. “I am Joseph whom you sold into slavery. But it is God who brought me here to save you.”
It is two years into a famine that must endure for seven years. Joseph invites his brothers to bring their families and livestock to Egypt to wait out the famine.
Joseph could have been biter and vengeful towards his brothers for what they had done to him. Perhaps in earlier years he may have harboured desires for revenge.
God has done a work in his life, so that, despite his exalted position, he is much more humble.
Joseph recognises that the whole saga was orchestrated by God. It was God who brought him to Egypt. It was God who gave him the grace to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams about the famine. It was God who gave him favour to rise to the highest position in the land.
If we can learn to see that while people may treat us harshly, it is God who turns evil to good. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who are called to His purpose.”
When we understand that God is turning the bad things in our lives into blessings, then we can rise above the hurt and suffering. Instead of becoming bitter we can learn to rejoice in every situation.
Lord, you waste nothing in my life. You recycle the deep hurts and turn them into strength. Thank you. Amen.
I remember a fragment of a conversation with my mother when I was a small child. It must have been about the time I was to get some vaccinations. She said with some passion “whooping cough is a wicked thing.”
Who could argue against that? The thought of a tiny baby literally coughing itself to death is just awful. The ready availability of vaccines for this and other deadly diseases means that some of the deadliest diseases are no longer a threat.
So why is it that in the last three weeks two families in our town have been infected with whooping cough with at least one member in each family seriously ill? How can this even be a thing in 2019?
As far as I know both families are fully immunised, and don’t have much direct contact. Which means that there is at least one other family carrying the bacteria in town.
As I understand it, in Australia immunisation rates are about 95%. The whooping cough vaccine gives about 80% protection, and if you do come down with the disease it is generally a less severe condition. In Narrabri there are likely to be about 350 people who are not immunised.
The effectiveness of the vaccine relies on everyone in a community being immunised so that the chances of being exposed to the disease is close to zero. But if the rates of vaccination fall, then everyone in the community is put at risk.
At particular risk then are babies who are yet to be sufficiently old to receive the vaccination. In recent years, pregnant women often receive a booster to pass on immunity to their child.
Some people refuse to immunise their children for all kinds of reasons, most of them not based in fact. There are rare side effects from some of these vaccines, and sometimes these are exaggerated in certain groups.
Whooping cough is still a wicked thing. Sadly it is still a real thing.
As soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.
Jesus is preaching on the shore of Galilee. The crowd presses in around Him, so He gets into an empty boat and tells Simon to go out a little way.
After Jesus has finished preaching, He tells Simon to go deeper and let down his nets. When Simon does this, there is such a large catch, he has to call for help to bring it in. There is enough fish to fill two boats.
Jesus tells Simon, James and John to come with Him to catch people instead of fish. So they immediately leave everything to follow Jesus.
It was the right place, the right time, the right thing to do. So they left everything to follow Jesus.
When Jesus calls, it is always right to go with Him. He is never late, always on time- the kairos time, the time of opportunity, the crossroads moment.
A decision “Yes” or “No” in that moment of calling changes the direction of our whole lives.
Not all of us are called to abandon our business and family on a spur of the moment decision. But when the call to take a new direction comes, you know because God has been talking to you for months, maybe years.
The opportune moment comes, or perhaps a crisis, and Jesus says, “Come and follow me.”
I have found in my life that God plants an idea or dream in my heart. I think “Yes. Some day that will happen.” Suddenly “some day” is “this day” and always too soon in my human thinking. But in God’s timing the opportunity, the resources and support from others, all come together and I am persuaded to say “Yes” again to Jesus.
Lord I thank you for your invitation to work for you in your Kingdom. Help me to always say “Yes” to your call. Amen.
It was the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple.
The heavens open for Isaiah, and he sees the Lord sitting on a high and lofty throne. Mighty six- winged seraphim fly around the throne calling out praise to God. Their noises shake the Temple, and it is filled with smoke.
Isaiah is afraid because of his sin, but one of the seraphim comes down and touches his lips with a burning coal for forgiveness.
Isaiah is given a message to take to the people to hear but not understand. They will fail to repent until the nation is devastated by God’s judgement.
Oh to see the Lord high and lifted up!
When we truly enter into worship, whether at home or in church, we can go beyond ourselves and lift up our eyes to our Redeemer.
To see the Lord high and lifted up, we must lift up our eyes.
The problem is that too often our eyes are firmly pointed down, our focus remains on earth and not in heaven, even when we pray or sing praise. Too many people keep their focus on their circumstances.
For other people, the focus is on themselves. “I can’t pray out loud or sing aloud because other people might think I’m doing it wrong.” We are not to be self-conscious but God conscious.
The open vision that Isaiah experienced is not a common event. That does not mean that we should not expect to see the Lord in dreams and visions or hear His voice through the Holy Spirit.
To do these things we must seek Him. We must look to Him. We must pursue His glory.
It doesn’t have to be spectacular. It is the still, small voice or the tough of the hem of His garment that will change our hearts and our lives.
Lord, let me see our glory. Teach me how to pursue you and to seek your face. Amen.