A Memorial Day Prayer -2016

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Almighty, infinite God – it is appropriate that we would pause at this time to invite Your presence here among us at this Memorial Day Service.

For so many, today means a day off, the close of a 3-day weekend or even a vacation.  Today is a perfect time to gather with family and friends, enjoy food and fellowship and just relax.  Some may even be tempted to do nothing today.

However, many have chosen to gather here, because we know that 3-day weekends, vacations, and the freedoms we have to gather with family and friends is granted to us at a great cost.

We pray for the men and women serving in our armed forces even now, who are not afforded the luxury of a day off. This morning we pray for their safe return and we pray for their families who miss them dearly.

I am reminded of the Words of Jesus who said, “Blessed are those who mourn… for they will be comforted.”   God, please lift the hearts of those who see today not a just a joyous celebration but as a painful reminder of sorrow and loss.

Give strength to those who have lost family.  Comfort those whose loved ones died serving their country.   Serving OUR country.

Today, it is with thankful hearts that we celebrate and remember their sacrifice.

Let us cherish, nurture, and handle with care the freedom for which they fought – The freedom for which they fought and died.

We close this invocation by praying the Words of Scripture:

Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised.”

Amen

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Another Great Year at PBL

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Those of us who attended a Church of Christ Christian College know the blessings of Bible Lectureships.  At Ohio Valley, I looked forward to the annual Bible Lectureships each year and for many years after my graduation, while still preaching in the Ohio Valley area.  During my decade serving both God and country in the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps, the opportunity to attend any of our fellowship’s  annual Bible lectureships was not afforded to me.  However, now that I find myself living and preaching on the west coast, I have been afford the opportunity to attend the Pepperdine Bible Lectures {PBL} in the coastal cliffs of beautiful Malibu, California.

This was my 3rd year to attend PBL and each year they keep getting better and better.  N.T. Wright was a featured keynote speaker this year and it was nice to hear something from Dr. Wright and not have to worry about a test to follow or a paper to write as was true during my years in seminary.   Some of the legends in our fellowship (or at least legends in my opinion) were all on tap including Jeff Walling, Randy Harris, Don McLaughlin, and Patrick Mead.  The worship times were amazing.  All the praise teams did a fantastic job leading our hearts and minds in worship to our Great God.  I really appreciated Keith Lancaster (yes, KL himself) taking us back a little old school and leading the well-loved hymns of our fellowship.  And maybe best of all is seeing old friends and make new since this event draws people from all over the US, Canada and even further from within and from without our own tribes.

If you are ever afforded the opportunity to attend the Pepperdine Bible Lectures, I would highly recommend it.  If you cannot, you do have the opportunity to hear and see the lectures on line.  A simple google search will bring up multiple sites that have multiple years of the lectures that Pepperdine provides free of charge.  I can still remember the days of ordering and purchasing cassette tapes of lectures – back in “the day.”  If you go to http://livestream.com/pepperdineuniversity/pbl16, you will even find full worship services and hear all the keynote speakers.  I am confident you will be blessed if you do.

Chad

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What is Advent?

On Sunday November 29, 2015, we are beginning a sermon series on the topic of “Advent” which will lead us into this greatly anticipated holiday season of Christmas. Advent is the season of the year leading up to Christmas and is observed with various traditions within a variety of Christian Churches. The word “advent” means “arrival” or “an appearing or coming into place.” Some churches often speak of Christ’s “first advent” and “second advent;” or His first and second coming to earth. The Advent celebration is both a commemoration of Christ’s first coming and an anticipation and the hope of His second coming. Just as ancient Israel longed for the Messiah to come, so Christ-followers today long for our Savior to come again.   The Advent season begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve.

One of the most common Advent traditions involves the use of evergreen wreaths, branches, and trees. Evergreen has traditionally been used to represent the eternal life that Jesus brings. You may have noticed the evergreens throughout our building this morning. You will also notice an Advent wreath up front this morning, an evergreen circle with four colored candles and one white one in the middle. These candles will be lit one at a time during this Advent series. The first candle represents “hope” and this morning we will discuss the hope that came with the birth of Jesus and the hope we have in His promised second coming.

Commemorating Jesus’ birth and anticipating His return should be an everyday part of the lives of the Christ-follower. However, I think it is advantageous for us to take the opportunity at this holiday season, when people are experiencing the hope of Christmas, to share with them the true hope that came and is coming in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Does observing Advent make one a better Christian or more acceptable to God? No. However, celebrating Advent as a reminder of what this season is about is very good – and therein lies its greatest value.

Here’s a preview of the upcoming sermons:

Sunday Nov 29
Advent: Hope has come…Hope is yet to come!
1 Peter 1:1-25  (focal verses 3, 13, 21)
Sunday Dec 6
Advent: Love has come…Love is yet to come!

1 Peter 1:1-25 (focal verses 8, 22)

Sunday Dec 13
Advent: Joy has come…Joy is yet to come!
1 Peter 1:1-25 (focal verses 6, 8)
Sunday Dec 20
Advent: Peace has come…Peace is yet to come!
1 Peter 1:1-25 (focal verses 2, 25)

 

Wednesday Dec 23 “Christmas Eve-Eve Service”

Advent: Christ has come…Christ is yet to come!
1 Peter 1:1-25 (focal verses 10-13)

 

I hope to see you at our Advent Services this Season. In the meantime our prayers continue to be “Come Lord Jesus, Come!”

Chad

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THE NATURE & STRUCTURE OF THE CHURCH

“For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace…Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way”  (I Cor. 14:33, 40). The structure of the church not be determined by culture, business practices, or even traditions. The structure of the church should be based on the nature of the church. Here is how the Bible describes the nature of the Church, and here at Ham Lane Church, we strive for a biblical structure based on these biblical descriptions of the church.

 

The Church is a fellowship

Acts 2:42

“They continued steadily learning the teaching of the apostles, and joined in the fellowship…”

Top priorities in a fellowship are harmony and unity. 

Ephesians 4:3

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit thorough the bond of peace.”

Romans 14:19

“So let us concentrate on the things that make for harmony and the growth of our fellowship together.”

Any attitude that causes disunity is sin. 

Col. 3:15, I Cor. 1:10, 2 Tim. 2:14, Pr. 17:14, 2 Cor. 13:11, Phil. 1:27, 2:1-3; Col. 2:2, Phil. 4:2, I Pet. 3:8, I Cor. 14:33, John 13:34-35, 2 Tim. 2:23, Rom. 15:5-6, Rom. 12:16-18, Col. 3:13-14, Ps. 133:1

1 Corinthians 11:17-18

“(Often)…your meetings do more harm than good because I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you…”

IMPLICATION: A good structure promotes unity and downplays differences.

The Church is a family

1 Peter 3:8

“You should be like one big happy family, full of sympathy toward each other, loving one another with tender hearts and humble minds.”  (See also Gal. 6:10, Heb. 2:10-12, I Pet. 4:17)

1 Timothy 5:1-2

“Don’t reprimand a senior member of the church, appeal to him as a father. Treat the young men as brothers, and the older women as mothers. Treat the younger women as sisters…”

 

1 Timothy 3:4-5

“(A Pastor) must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. If anyone does not know how to manage his family, how can he take care of God’s church?

IMPLICATION: A good structure operates on the basis of relationships not rules.

 

The Church is a body
1 Corinthians 12:27, Ephesians 5:23, Ephesians 1:22-23, Colossians 1:18 and 2:19

We are a body! We are a living organism – not an organization!  


Romans 12:4-6

“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many from one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We each have different gifts according to the grace given us.”

In an organization, “maintenance” becomes the focus, but in a living organism, “ministry” is the focus.  

Ephesians 4:11-12
“God gave…some to be pastors and teachers to prepare God’s people for works of ministry, so that the body of Christ may be built up…”


IMPLICATION: A GOOD STRUCTURE EMPOWERS PEOPLE TO USE THEIR GOD-GIVEN GIFTS TO FULFILL HIS PURPOSES.

 

The Church is a flock
Jesus’ favorite description of the Church: John 10:1-30, Matthew 26:31, Matthew 25:33 

Those who care for the Church are like shepherds.

John 21:16-17
“Jesus asked Simon Peter, ‘Do you really love me?'” “Yes Lord’, said Peter. Then take care of my sheep.”

I Peter 5:1-2
“To the elders I say…Be shepherds of God’s flock, serving as overseers…”

Three different terms are used in the New Testament to refer to the same church leaders:

  • “Poimen”:  Pastor or Shepherd
  • “Presbyters”:  Elder
  • “Episcopos”:  Overseer or Bishop

Acts 20:17-18, 28
“Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church.  When they arrived he said to them…Guard yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be pastors of the church of God…”

IMPLICATION: A GOOD STRUCTURE RECOGNIZES SOME INDIVIDUALS HAVE A GOD-GIVEN CHARGE TO OVERSEE THE CHURCH AS SHEPHERDS.

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Life And Liberty for All

liberty_bellJuly 4, 1776 is a day all patriotic Americans re­member as the birth of our nation. It was on that historic date that British colonies declared their in­dependence from England. On July 8, 1776, along with church bells throughout the colonies, the Lib­erty Bell peeled out the symbolic message of free­dom and independence. On the bell is found the inscription, “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” The inscrip­tion is taken from the Bible, Leviticus 25:10.

Until 1835 the bell rang every year during the celebration of the declaration of independence. Now it is just a relic. The Liberty Bell is one of the few remaining national symbols on which a passage from the Holy Book of God remains. That indicates the respect the founding fathers of this nation held toward God and His word. The current legislators reflect just how far away from that respect this na­tion has come. The Bible has been made an illegal book in federally funded programs and in public schools.

The declaration of independence cost many re­bellious colonists their lives. They fought for free­dom, the right to pursue their own happiness. They inscribed on our currency, “In God We Trust.” But like the Liberty Bell, that inscription means very little to Americans. Some have tried to get it re­moved from our currency. Quite candidly, I believe it may as well be removed — not to satisfy the fool­ish purposes of some radical group of godless people, but to come even with the way most Ameri­cans really think. How much trust do you think the majority of Americans really put in God Almighty? Americans show very little trust in anyone or any­thing. This nation’s problems could easily be fixed by a return to the foundational disposition ex­pressed in “In God We Trust.” “Every word of God is pure: He is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him” (Proverbs 30:5).

Men will shed blood for political freedom. It is not so with spiritual freedom. More seek to avoid spiritual freedom than to achieve it. Bruce Barton once said, “What a curious phenomenon it is that you can get men to die for the liberty of the world who will not make the little sacrifice that is needed to free themselves from their own individual bondage.” The way to spiritual liberty is through Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. He said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

Truth is the only thing that frees man from spiri­tual slavery. But liberty requires that the slaves to sin rise up in a spiritual revolution and rebellion. A declaration of freedom against the bondage of sin is made the very moment one comes out of sin into freedom. By inspiration, Paul wrote, “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18). The turning point from slavery in sin to freedom in Christ is wholehearted obedience.

Obedience must be grounded in faith. Faith is produced by divine revelation (Romans 10:17). Saving faith obeys the word of God without reser­vation. Obedience is compliance with law. Cicero said, “Liberty consists in the power of doing that which is permitted by the law.” Living under God’s law is the only way to be free from the blight of sin.

This year, when you celebrate the 4th of July, remember the wide discrepancy between the moral and spiritual values of America today and those of the men and women who died to make this one free nation under God. We need to return to the former disposition toward God and to a time when men felt free to inscribe passages from the Holy Word of God on our most valued national symbols.

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Why A Memorial Day?

memorialday1Do you know how “Memorial Day” was established?  Do you know its original purpose?  Unfortunately, many view Memorial Day as simply an opportunity to have a three day weekend and go to the lake.  The very purpose has either been forgotten by some or never known by others.  After the Civil War, people in the South created special memorials to remember the southern soldiers who died.  These were referred to as “Confederate Memorial Days.”  In the North it was called “Decoration Day” and most southerners did not recognize this day as it honored northern soldiers who died in the Civil War or as some called it “The War of Northern Aggression.”   It was only after World War II that it became known as Memorial Day and was intended to honor all fallen soldiers who gave their lives for their country.  But this is lost on many today.

Why do we have a memorial day? Why have days to remember? The answer is simple, because we forget. In the Bible there are a number of memorials.  God gave Noah the rainbow as a sign of the covenant that He would never again destroy the world by flood (Genesis 9).  To the children of Israel, God gave the Passover as a reminder of the Tenth Plague upon the land of Egypt, the death of the 1st born (Exodus 12.14). There are other memorials in the Bible, but this Sunday at Ham Lane Church we are going to focus on the most important.  Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper on the night before His death.  The unleavened bread is His body and the fruit of the vine is the blood of the New Covenant (Matthew 26.26-28).  We often refer to this as the Lord’s Supper.  This Supper is something we do so that we do not forget the amazing sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and more importantly to celebrate His resurrection. Paul stated that as often as we drink this cup and eat this bread we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11.26).  This morning we celebrate a living memorial in that it looks back at Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins but recognizes the fact that Jesus lives today.  He is in heaven and will return to take the faithful to heaven.  It is important for us not to forget Jesus’ sacrifice, His authority today, and His return in the future.

This memorial is observed by all Christians on the first day of every week (Acts 20.7).  Unlike the Passover which was observed only by the Jews or “Decoration Day” observed only by those in the North; this Supper is recognized by all Christians.  We are unified in proclaiming Jesus’ death and His return.  While there is only one Lord’s Supper, it is commemorated all over the world.

Chad

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Christmas: Myth vs. Fact #3 Jesus’ Birth Date

For many who align themselves as a Christ-follower, Christmas Day, December 25th, is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.  But is December 25th the actual day that the virgin Mary give birth to the Christ Child?  Some say “yes” and other declare “no.”  The fact is that the Bible does not tell us exactly what date Jesus was born.  And just like bellybuttons, throughout the years everyone has had an opinion as to the date of the birth of Christ.

Speculation as to the time of Jesus’ birth dates back to the 3rd century, when Hyppolytus (ca. 170-236) claimed that Jesus was born on December 25. The earliest mention of some sort of observance on that date is in the Philoclian Calendar, representing Roman practice, of the year 336. Later, John Chrysostom favored the same date of birth. Cyril of Jerusalem (348-386) had access to the original Roman birth census, which also documented that Jesus was born on the 25th of December. The date eventually became the officially recognized date for Christmas in part because it coincided with the pagan festivals celebrating Saturnalia and the winter solstice. The church thereby offered people a Christian alternative to the pagan festivities and eventually reinterpreted many of their symbols and actions in ways acceptable to Christian faith and practice.

December 25 has become more and more acceptable as the birth date of Jesus. However, some argue that the birth occurred in some other season, such as in the fall. Followers of this theory claim that the Judean winters were too cold for shepherds to be watching their flocks by night. History proves otherwise, however, and we have historical evidence that unblemished lambs for the Temple sacrifice were in fact kept in the fields near Bethlehem during the winter months.

Throughout these articles we’ve been talking about fact vs. myth and the fact is that He was born, that He came into the world to atone for our sins, that He was resurrected to eternal life, and that He’s alive today. This is what we should celebrate, as we are told in the Old Testament in such passages as Zechariah 2:10: “’Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,’ declares the LORD.” Further, the angel that announced the birth to the shepherds brought “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). Surely here is the cause for celebration every day, not just once a year on December 25.

 

Chad

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