The Adventures of Middle Earth

With today’s The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the big screen adventures of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth come to an end.  I thought I’d show all six of the theatrical trailers from both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.  While I haven’t enjoyed The Hobbit as much as LOTR, I’m grateful to Peter Jackson and those who made these books come alive on the screen.  (Just watching these trailers cleansed the after taste of Exodus: Gods and Kings!)

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Don’t Make Jesus a Stand-in for Santa Claus

santa claus coming to townIn Sunday’s sermon I said that for too many Christians, Christianity isn’t an adventure, it’s a bedtime story we tell our children so they’ll be good little boys and girls.  For some, Christianity is kind of like the Santa Claus is Coming to Town song where Jesus takes the place of Santa.  In this version of Christianity Jesus sees us when we’re sleeping or awake and always knows if we’ve been bad or good, so we better be good for goodness sake!

So how do we as parents, and as churches, guard ourselves from turning Jesus into a motivation for moral living?  How do we help them see Jesus as the goal for all of life out of Whom comes the fruit of righteous living?

1. Parents and churches have to teach that Jesus is the treasure we desire. Jesus is not a means to an end. He is the end!  If we don’t make much of Him, if we don’t overflow with love for Him, if we don’t pursue Jesus, how can we expect our kids to?

2. Parents and churches have to model that Jesus is the treasure we desire. It’s not enough to talk about Jesus as our treasure. We have to model this desire before our children.  Children know when our words don’t match our hearts.  If we have a Sunday only relationship with Christ, our kids will know.  If our churches are filled with these kinds of Christians, we’ll have a hard time convincing our children that Jesus is worth giving our lives for.

3. Parents and churches have to teach that righteous living is a fruit of walking with Jesus, not the root. If we sum up the Christian life by teaching kids to live good, moral lives, then all we’ll do is feed our kids’ pride or despair. They’ll be prideful thinking that they are good enough to be acceptable to the Lord based on their works.  Or, they’ll despair knowing that they will never be good enough to be acceptable to the Lord based on their works.  If we teach our kids that Jesus was good for us, and then teach them to trust in His righteousness, we’ll free them from bondage to live out of what Jesus is doing in their lives.

4. Parents and churches have to model that righteous living is a joy, not drudgery. If we teach and model that Jesus is the treasure we desire, and if we teach that our works are the fruit of walking with Jesus, not the root, then we’ll give them a good foundation of learning that the Christian life doesn’t mean the squelching of joyful living, but that the Christian life is fueled by joy in our Lord Jesus Christ. Because our kids see Jesus as their treasure and because they walk with Jesus out of love, not out of fear, they will see that His commands are not burdensome, they are light and life-giving.

Don’t enslave your children to a life of despair where they are trying to earn the love of Jesus through staying off His naughty list.  Free them up to see Jesus as their only hope for a righteous life so that they will run to Him and find love, mercy, and grace.


A Call to War…The Notes

Yesterday I preached from Luke 1:26-38.  If you would like to hear the sermon or look over the manuscript, you can go here.

Here were the 3 applications I made from the text…

1. Mary’s story tells us that God has plans for us, sometimes difficult plans, for His glory and according to His purposes.

2. Mary’s story tells us that those plans God has for us may radically change everything we thought about our lives and His purposes.

3. Mary’s story tells us that we Christians don’t barter with God, we submit to Him as slaves.

A Call to War

I continue my Christmas sermon series today as I look at Luke 1:26-38 and Mary’s call to be the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Luke 1:26-38 (HCSB)
26  In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27  to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28  And the angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.” 29  But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be.

30  Then the angel told her: Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31  Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name Jesus. 32  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33  He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.

34  Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?”

35  The angel replied to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. 36  And consider your relative Elizabeth—even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. 37  For nothing will be impossible with God.”

38  “I am the Lord’s slave,” said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.

Saturday Stuff

*First, saw Exodus: Gods and Kings last night.  Not a fan.  One of the main differences with biblical movies today and biblical movies from by-gone days is the lack of respect for the source material.  In an age when so many people consider themselves to be spiritual and the supernatural is everywhere in the movies and on TV (both in series and in reality TV), writers and directors seem to do everything they can to run from the biblical material as if it cannot be trusted.  The movie itself is heavy on special effects, but very low on drama.

As an aside, I’m not angry at the depiction because the media isn’t how God determined His story would be spread.  The spread of God’s story is done through His inerrant Word, the Bible, and through Christians who tell His story.  And I agree with lots of people, including my friend Aaron Earls, that what should we expect when Christians have left the entertainment industry instead of serving in that arena.  We don’t necessarily need more biblical epics on the big screen, we need Christians who know how to tell good stories (Lewis, Tolkien as examples).

Now back to more of the usual Saturday Stuff…

*I’m looking forward to Marvel’s Agent Carter.  Check out a clip from the show starting in January.

*What were the 14 best movie trailers of 2014?

*DC Comics Teen Titans is coming to the small screen on TNT.  A pilot for the series will be filmed in 2015.

*After the success of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it seems the Russo brothers are going to be very active in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


6-String Salvo, December 12, 2014

bigstock-Guitar-950679Thanks for taking a look at today’s Salvo…

1. Aaron Earls shares some of C.S. Lewis’s thoughts on the incarnation of Christ.

2. Here are some thoughts on the ends of the incarnation from Scott Swain.

3. Al Mohler summarizes A.T. Robertson on why the virgin birth is so important to the incarnation of Christ.

4. Kevin DeYoung answers the question, “Who was St. Nicholas?”

5. Randy Alcorn tells us that we may not have yet eaten our favorite food.

6. Stephen Altrogge offers some confessions of a hardcore homeschooler.

And here’s Realms of Glory from A Jesus Church…

What’s a Christmas Love Feast?

For our Christmas @ 3BC this year, our worship pastor, Mark Moore, is leading our church in a Moravian Love Feast.  It will be a time filled with music, food, community, and a focus on Jesus.  Below you’ll see what Mark sent out to our worship team concerning who the Moravians are and what a love feast is.  I thought you’d enjoy reading his comments, too…

The much anticipated, oft-misunderstood, frequently mis-pronounced Love Feast is upon us.  I’ll be happy when Sunday night is over…not because I dread the rehearsals or work or details or the program itself…but because I won’t have to answer questions about Moravian Love Feasts.  So, since you’re in the worship team that’s leading a love feast, I’m going to give you the answers to questions you, or others, may have.

Who are the Moravians?  In the beginning, they lived in Moravia, which is now eastern Czechoslovakia.  I suppose, now, you could say that anyone who is a member of the Moravian Church is…well…Moravian.  Not necessarily by ethnicity or origin, but by heritage or association.  For example, my great-great-great-great grandfather was Johann Bullitschek, a Moravian.  He was a carpenter by trade, and built the organ which still exists in the chapel in Old Salem, North Carolina.  So, I guess I’m Moravian by heritage.  You get the idea.

What’s the big deal about Moravians?  The Moravian Church formed in the 14th century and was led by a Catholic monk named Jan Hus.  Hus was a bit tired of the direction the Roman Catholic Church was headed – indulgences, abuse of power, political meddling, and so on – and wanted the Church to be more like the early version, which focused on teaching, fellowship, discipleship, proclaiming the gospel, and so on.  The people in Moravia agreed and began to give great support for Hus and his method of doing church.  But, the Roman Catholic Church didn’t like what was going on, so they accused Hus of heretical teaching and he was burned at the stake.  His followers continued the teachings of Hus, and they, too, began to be attacked by the Church authorities.

Fast forward a hundred years or so, and we find what’s left of the Moravian Church fleeing Moravia to Germany, to avoid persecution.  In Germany, a prince – Count Zinzendorf – gave them land to live on and allowed them to worship freely.  As with any group of people, they encountered some internal strife and dissention and realized they’d forsaken the very principles they were founded on.  So, after revival went through the Moravian Church, the group flourished in Germany and they focused on four things – missions, piety, unity, and music.

Of the many hymns written and collected by Zinzendorf and the Moravians, only one is included in The Baptist Hymnal – “Christian Hearts, in Love United.”

So, the Moravians were the first Protestant church (predating Martin Luther) and were very active in mission work.

Does the Moravian Church still exist?  Absolutely!  The Moravians left Germany and settled in New England in the colony of New York, where they did mission work with the Mohican Indians.  But, because tensions between settlers and various Indian tribes ran high, the Moravians were expelled from New York.  Later, a band of Moravians settled in Pennsylvania.  Because they arrived on Christmas Eve, the named the town Bethlehem.  After flourishing in Bethlehem, another group was sent to settle North Carolina, around what is now the Winston-Salem area.  The settlement was called Bethabara, and if you visit the Winston-Salem area today, there’s much to see in the area regarding the Moravian settlements there.  In addition to the churches in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, there are over 800K members of the Moravian Church, which may also be called The Church of the Brethren.

So, what’s the deal with the Love Feast?  After the revival, or renewal, occurred in Germany, the Moravians began the love feast as a way to return to what the early New Testament Church experienced in its infancy (Acts 2).  These were called Agape Meals, or Love Feasts (Jude 12).  You may recall that the Apostle Paul chided the Corinthian Church because the agape meals they were having promoted everything but unity, and he encouraged them to stop if they couldn’t do it right.  The same thing was going on in Jude, where the Church was being warned that false believers were coming in to be part of their love feasts.

The Moravian love feast is built around a celebration of something – Christmas, missions, Easter – and involves much music, scripture-reading, testimonies, and a meal.  The meal, though, is simple…a sweetly-flavored bun and milk coffee.  It is symbolic in that there is fellowship and sharing (building unity) around a meal, just like the early church.

Some interesting facts about Moravians:

*When a church member dies, they’re buried in God’s Acre, with flat head stones.  This signifies the equality of the dead before God, and members are buried according to gender, age, and marital status rather than by family.

*If you visit the country of Tanzania, you’ll experience the largest concentration of Moravian Churches in the world there.

*The Moravian Church placed a high value on music, and often incorporated brass ensembles in their worship.  Trombone choirs were especially popular.

*Another name for the Moravian Church is Unitas Fratrum, or “Unity of the Brethren.”

*Their motto is “In essentials, unity; In non-essentials, liberty; in all things, love.”

*Salem, North Carolina is one of the early settlements of Moravians.  This is not the Salem of the 17th century witch trials (that one was in Massachusetts).

*There is a restaurant in Salem – The Tavern at Old Salem – where President George Washington stayed on his tour through the Southern States.  Good food,  Great history.

*Speaking of George…the Moravians were pacifists and did not participate in the War for Independence.  As a result, they were criticized by both patriots and loyalists.

The early Moravians had choirs, but these were not the musical sort.  Members were grouped in choirs according to age, sex, or marital status and could be housed accordingly…the Choir of Single Brothers, etc.

Moravians baptize.  But they baptize once.  Re-baptism is not allowed.


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