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October 27th, 2017

The first explanation I should make is why I have the privilege of leading this service today.  My wife Linda and I have served in one congregation for almost 25 years.  Whether we try to or not, pastors tend to bond with certain individuals and families, and our family bonded with Kathie’s daughter Carol for a number of different reasons early on.  One of those was that the loss of Carol and Andy’s son Benjamin at six weeks old was still so raw.  For a while, they were also among our closest neighbors in the church – just down the road.  And maybe part of it was how much we came to love Joseph and Sarah.  We also came to know Carol’s older children and her parents, who lived up the mountain, when they would visit Hickory.

The Vaughans have long since moved away, but unlike many other church families who moved away, they and we have kept in touch – especially Carol and Linda.  When we visited California, we met up with Carol.  When we flew to Hawaii to visit our son, we stopped in to see Joseph and his family.  So when Carol said she’d be coming in from California for this service for her Mom just up the road, and wanted to know if I would lead the service, it was an easy yes.  This family is special to the Thompsons. Read more »

October 22nd, 2017

In Christ Alone

Satan doesn’t mind if you believe, as long as you’re not stuck on Christ Alone.

Colossians 1:15-20

 

Christ-plus

This month, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, we are naming the five “solas” that summarize Reformation thinking. Sola means “alone.” We have looked at Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) and Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone). Next week, on Reformation Sunday, we will combine Sola Fide (Faith alone) and Sola Gratia (Grace alone). Today: Solus Christus (Christ alone).

Every era finds a way to flirt with Christ-plus instead of Christ alone. Read more »

October 18th, 2017

Meditation

It will not surprise anyone who knew her that almost 25 years ago, early in my pastorate, when we gave members an opportunity to write out their desires for their funeral so we could keep them on file, within a short time Shirley had submitted a detailed form for herself, her brother, and her parents.

One of her requests was that in lieu of a eulogy we would just read Scripture and sing hymns.  She listed eleven Scriptures (including several long passages) and about six different pieces of music.  With all that included, she also noted she wanted the service “short”!

She clarified on the form, however: “Whatever is desired by the family and pastors.”  I’m taking a little pastoral license to modify her request.  We sang some of her favorite hymns, and I will read at least a portion of each Scripture she requested, interspersed with a few brief comments.  In each case, I’ll read the Scripture first, because I want you to have a chance to connect it to Shirley’s life in your own mind. Read more »

October 16th, 2017

Soli Deo Gloria

Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1

 

Some weeks it’s harder

One of the challenges of preaching is that every week, ready or not, you have to present a message that you’ve got life and faith figured out. Some weeks it’s harder than others.

I like stories that end well. This week they were in short supply. For example, Linda and I went to the Carolina Panthers game Thursday evening. We wore our “Shaq Thompson” Carolina jerseys. I’m such a big fan I have a Carolina Panthers steering wheel cover and own Cam Newton socks my daughter just sent me. We don’t get to go to many games live because they’re on Sunday afternoon. The Panthers should have won with us watching live. They didn’t.

There were more serious stories this week. Read more »

October 9th, 2017

“My conscience is captive to the Word of God.” (Martin Luther)

2 Timothy 3:10-17

 

Sola Scriptura

Five hundred years ago this month, everything changed. An otherwise obscure and somewhat insecure monk challenged the status quo by posting 95 debate propositions on the door of the university chapel. At least that’s how the story has been told. Nothing has been the same since.

Take, for example, the Protestant principle, sola Scriptura, Latin for Scripture alone, or Scripture only. In its most literal sense, it means that all we need is the Bible to make any decision. In the sixteenth century, that was a critical corrective to the absolute power of the Catholic church. Part of the reason was that only about 10% of the German population could read and write in the early 1500s. The Bible as we know it had been around for a long time, but almost no one owned a personal copy and therefore the Church had to tell them what was in it. Then, as now, those who could read and interpret the Bible got some things right and some things wrong.  Read more »