Hell Froze Over?

Sorry for the break in blogging. I was at the General Council for the Christian and Missionary Alliance, this year in Orlando, FL. Wasn’t able to blog while I was away, but I’m back on track now. Thanks for your patience.

Read this paragraph from one of the most famous sermons in English-speaking history:

jonathanedwards.jpg “O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment.”

Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” stirred America’s first great revival in the 1700’s. It was a sermon that blasted people without Jesus to hell. Seminaries and pastoral training programs used to consider this sermon required reading.

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Compare that quote with this one, in an interview with Spencer Burke. Spencer Burke operates the most popular website for the emerging church–with over 100,000 hits a month, I’ve been told. He is talking about his book, A Heretic’s Guide to Eternity. Continue reading

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The Absolute Need for Doctrine and Theology

Who wrote those marvelous words, and when? Okay, I know it’s a tough question, so I’ll make it easier. Guess a decade in which you think these words were written (they’re all from the same essay).

Here’s a picture of the author: I’ll tell you more about her on the next page.

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“Theologically, this country is at present in a state of utter chaos, established in the name of religious toleration, and rapidly degenerating into the flight from reason and the death of hope. We are not happy in this condition, and there are signs of a very great eagerness, especially among the younger people, to find a creed to which they can give wholehearted adherence. This is the Church’s opportunity, if she chooses to take it.”

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33 Killed at Virginia Tech: Other People’s Craziness

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If you watch the news, I’m sure that you are saddened and angered over the evil, cold-blooded murders at Virginia Tech. Our hearts go out to every parent, family member and friend who lost a loved one so suddenly and so horrifically. Our hearts also go out to every student and young adult across the country who is coming of age in such a difficult culture. We pray for you.

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Laugh Attack

It’s all Pam’s fault. She started it. This has never happened to me before.

I couldn’t stop laughing hysterically, at church, on stage, while preaching, during the middle of a message, while reading Scriptures. I mean snorting, out-of-breath, laughter with tears coming down my face… in front of an almost-packed house and our comfortably full Video Cafe where over a hundred more people watched a live feed. Har! Har! Har! laughteronback.jpeg

This has never happened to me before. At least not while I’m preaching.

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The Case of the Missing Hair

I recently celebrated a birthday. I’m not a fan of it. Celebrating birthdays, I mean. I prefer to fly beneath other people’s birthday radar. Just let me slip silently into my twilight years.

Unless you’d like to send money. That would brighten my day. Or take me bass-fishing.

Yesterday I wore a baseball cap. This very hat, actually: cap-brown.gif

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Chuck the Chicago Mechanic

The following encounter is true… it happened in Chicago at a repair shop in the 1990’s. The repair shop wasn’t Chuck’s and wasn’t named after him. He just worked there… 

Here’s a teaser: this is the start of my Easter Message this weekend… what do you think the point is?

Chuck the Mechanic

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I’ve got to tell you the story of Chuck, the car mechanic. Some time ago my car needed a brake job. This was when I lived in Chicago. So I brought my car in, and they took it right away, put it up in the air, and started working on my car. I struck up a conversation with a very interesting mechanic named Chuck.

Chuck was a guy’s guy. He was tough. He was smart. He was completely rough around the edges. Meaning he was a typical, blue-collar tough guy.

The only thing that Chuck knew about me was that my car needed brakes… actually it needed to have the wheel cylinders rebuilt. So Chuck felt all kinds of freedom to say all kinds of things to me, because to him, I was just another normal guy just like him.

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Welcome to a Pastor’s Weekend (a.k.a. Be Nice to Your Pastor)

I never take meetings on Fridays. It is the one day in my week totally devoted to preparation for preaching four times the coming weekend. I do some sermon prep every single day. But Friday is all for the sermon. Saturday afternoon too. Then on Saturday night I preach. Once on Saturday. Three times on Sunday.

Lesson 1: Don’t hassle your pastor after Thursday.

A sermon is like a bird that keeps on pecking at your head until you preach it. It’s a constant distraction. It’s similar to the feeling you had in college when you got behind in homework, and now assignments are piling up. You couldn’t do anything without thinking about those assignments. I don’t do anything all week long without thinking about my upcoming sermon. It just keeps pecking.

Lesson 2: Don’t ask your pastor how long it takes to prepare a sermon. He/she is always preparing a sermon. When people ask me that question, I answer, “My whole life.”

Before I preach I hunker down in my office and pray. I am not chatty. I am focused. I am nervous. I am on high alert. Warren Wiersbe, the great pastors’ pastor, who preached at the famous Moody Church in Chicago, wrote, “I wish I had a tunnel from my study to my pulpit.” I totally get that. Because the second I emerge from my office to walk to the auditorium, people start chatting with me.

Don’t get me wrong. I love people. I love the people of my church. And I truly enjoy hanging out and visiting with them. Chatting is a good thing.

Except during those pre-sermon moments when I’m so focused on the spiritual conflict ahead that it’s hard to chat about the weather, or to answer the question if I know where Erich is, or to explain what time an event on Tuesday is supposed to be finished and do they have childcare. Continue reading

Why Maxgrace?

Here are three quotes from three great thinkers. Taken together, these quotes motivate my blog.

Albert Einstein

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity. And I’m not sure about the universe.” [Albert Einstein]

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“Alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them.” [Paul, the Apostle]

Lewis Sperry Chafer

“The exact and discriminate meaning of the word grace should be crystal clear to every child of God.” [Lewis Sperry Chafer, founder of Dallas Theological Seminary]

Ignorance is probably the biggest challenge for most Christians. Specifically, ignorance of grace. If ignorance is the problem, then knowledge is the solution. I’m not going to use this blog to preach. You can visit my church website for sermons. Instead, I want to use my daily life to help increase the knowledge grace, and to talk about what it means. Once in a while, my wife, Margi, will post some blogs here too. Look for Margi’s Memo. Thanks for stopping by. I hope you come again.