Sermon on the Ten Commandments (#3): “You Shall Not Take the Name of the Lord Your God in Vain”

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Series Introduction: When I served as a youth pastor, I taught a series on the Ten Commandments. The applications were geared towards teenagers. These sermons were essentially my sermon notes and will hopefully help you in your studies, though I’m sure if I were to preach these again, there are some things I would change. Enjoy!

  • God’s Name was so greatly respected by the Israelites that they wouldn’t write out His full Name; sometimes they wouldn’t even say “God” they would just say, “The Name.”
  • Proposition: What is so great about God’s name?
  • God’s Name Saves (Acts 4:12)
    • (Explanation) Everybody looks for a Savior, the problem is they look in the wrong place. This verse teaches us that no one can be delivered from sin and be restored into a right relationship with God – except through the Name of Jesus. Back when the Bible was written, a Name was more than an I.D. badge. A Name told the story to everyone about who you really were. Somebody’s Name was not just a bunch of letters to make a word, it reminds you of that person’s attributes.
    • (Illustration) Attributes of a person (son, brother, father, Christian, teacher, etc.)
    • (Application) When you hear the name “God,” yes there are the three letters “G-O-D” but you also are reminded that God is Personal; there are attributes about God that might pop into our minds: all-powerful, all-knowing, present everywhere, righteous, loving, good, merciful, gracious, etc. One thing, of course, that we can’t forget is that He is our Savior. [repeat verse] In other words, God Himself, with the authority of His Name, saves you by His grace.
  • God’s Name Provides (John 14:13-14)
    • (Explanation) So, is this passage teaching that Jesus is like a genie? I always thought that if I had a genie to grant me 3 wishes, one of them would be to have an infinite number of wishes. Hmmm, so is Jesus offering us an unlimited amount of wishes? I don’t think so. Consider this: how do we normally end our prayers? “In Jesus’ Name, Amen.” When we pray that way, we are attempting to agree with what the Third Commandment says. So, we’re not trying to get things out of Jesus like he’s a vending machine, but when we pray in Jesus’ Name, we are agreeing with God – we are saying, I trust in Your will, not mine. We can be totally honest with God (ex: God I want you to heal [this person] from her kidney problems, that’s my desire; nevertheless, I know your ways are best, so I pray that in whatever happens, You would be glorified).
    • (Illustration) Paper airplane vs. 747 jet
  • God’s Name is Holy (Matthew 6:9)
    • (Explanation) When we admit that God’s Name is Holy, we are also admitting that God Himself is Holy. Now, what is holiness? Basically, I think it means to be living consistent with God’s character. You often hear the phrase, “Holier than thou.” Well, the truth is, no matter how holy we are, God is still “Holier than thou.”
    • (Argumentation) Isaiah 6
  • Conclusion:
    • Where would we be if God did not reveal Himself to us? Right? Because God’s Name reveals a lot about who He is?
      • 1- We would be lost as sinners and without a Savior
      • 2- We wouldn’t know how to pray according to God’s will
      • 3- We wouldn’t realize how perfect and righteous God is
    • I hope that we leave here tonight with a greater respect for the Name of God and that we wouldn’t take His Name in vain – that wouldn’t treat Him as if He’s worthless but that He is priceless.

 

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Sermon on the Ten Commandments (#2): “You Shall Not Make For Yourself Any Carved Images”

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Series Introduction: When I served as a youth pastor, I taught a series on the Ten Commandments. The applications were geared towards teenagers. These sermons were essentially my sermon notes and will hopefully help you in your studies, though I’m sure if I were to preach these again, there are some things I would change. Enjoy!

  • Proposition: How do we “make carved images” for ourselves today?
  • Transition: There’s a couple of ways, but we’ll see that it has a more to do than a matter of carving things from wood.
  1. We Worship An Incorrect God (Exodus 2:4-6)
    • (Explanation) We probably aren’t tempted to go out, buy some wood and a decent carving knife, and then make little icons of God. Because, after all, the people of Israel were surrounded by other people who had gods that could be touched and you could see them. Why is that a big deal? Because people are more comfortable with a god they can see, touch, and have some control over. On the other hand, if we come to realize that God is a lot bigger than a totem pole, that He is able to whatever He pleases, and that we’re held accountable to God for how we live, that scares us! So what do we do? We start making up in our minds how we think God should be like, instead of looking into His Word and drawing out truths [Ex: Heaven & Hell]. WWJD compared to WHJD.
    • (Argumentation) John 4:24
  2. We Worship the Correct God…Incorrectly (Amos 5:21-24)
    • (Explanation) The problem wasn’t that their songs were bad, or that their offerings were poor quality, the issue was their heart attitude. They would come to their place of public worship, and they would have this incredible “appearance” of being sold-out followers of God, but when you would take a look at their lives outside of what was kind of like their “church services,” they were completely different people. It was Bi-polar spirituality: when it was time to be religious they put on a good show, but at other times they were completely different. What can you do if you are caught up in the problem of knowing and believing in the right God, but you don’t care to worship Him?
    • (Argumentation) Romans 12:1-2…That verse is talking all about our lives being submitted to God for worship. What’s the remedy? First, to submit ourselves to God, but especially this, “renewing your mind.”
    • (Application) 3 Ways to Renew Your Mind: [1] Scripture Reading [2] Scripture Memorization [3] Meditation: Thinking on what you know about God. You see, the mind is a very powerful part of your soul, and when you live your everyday life, your mind encounters all kinds of things – both lies and truths.
    • (Illustration) For example, someone sins against you, or you are diagnosed with a health problem, or you go through a tough break-up in a relationship, and the question pops into your mind, “Does God really love me?” “Did God mess up this time when he allowed this to happen?” And slowly we start to lose that passion for God because we get discouraged and confused. We mouth the lyrics, and might fake a smile, but our hearts just aren’t there in public worship, and so our private worship is no different either.
    • (RE-Application) 3 Ways to Renew Your Mind
  • Solution to the 2nd Commandment: (Colossians 1:15-16)
    • Jesus is our image we look to.

Sermon on the Ten Commandments (#1): “You Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me”

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Series Introduction: When I served as a youth pastor, I taught a series on the Ten Commandments. The applications were geared towards teenagers. These sermons were essentially my sermon notes and will hopefully help you in your studies, though I’m sure if I were to preach these again, there are some things I would change. Enjoy!

  • Question: Why Is God Greater Than Idols?
  • Transitional: 3 Reasons…
  1. Idols Do Not Hear Us – God Does {1 Kings 18:25-39}
    • (Explanation) A long time ago (1000 B.C.?) there was a prophet of God (someone who speaks on behalf of God), Elijah, who believed in the one true God, the God of the Bible. But during his day there were these prophets who believed in a different god, his name was Baal. And so you can understand the confusion as an average person back then, you would just want to know who is God? So this is what happened: Elijah and the prophets of Baal basically had this contest to see who was the real God. Baal’s prophets would bring an animal sacrifice to an altar, and pray to Baal to hopefully bring fire to consume the sacrifice. But, Elijah would have the same chance. And so, if either Elijah or the prophets of Baal were worshiping the True and Living God, we would find out.
  2. Idols Are Harmful – God Is Good
    • (Explanation) The prophets of Baal did everything in their power to get a response from their god. They even starting cutting themselves, thinking if Baal sees how much we’re sacrificing for him, then he will finally listen (1 Kings 18:28). But if you look in the very next verse we see the most terrifying thing about worshiping false gods (there was no voice, no one answered, no one paid attention). You see, this is the very dangerous thing about idols – we look to them for making ourselves feel good, we look to them to give us pride, but they always leave us empty because they are a poor substitute for God.
    • (Illustration) Sugar & Equal packets – what’s the difference? One is the real thing and one is a substitute. One is satisfying, and the other tastes similar but leaves you with an aftertaste. This is not a perfect illustration by any means, but you get the picture, an idol is a god-substitute.
    • (Application) “Dating relationships” are one of the most common god-substitutes, not just for those in high school, but for people of all ages. Can a dating relationship be a good thing? Absolutely (the question of when and who you should date is another question that we don’t have the time to go into tonight). Here’s a tough question to consider, (take the example of dating relationships) how do we know when something becomes an idol? I would suggest that it is when we are willing to sacrifice everything in our lives for that thing – God says keep the marriage bed undefiled, idolatry says I’ll do whatever he or she wants; God says that if you aren’t married yet that you are to marry “only in the lord” (Christians are to marry other Christians), but idolatry says, “I know what the Bible teaches, but I just don’t care.” Idolatry is harmful in the long-run: you will constantly have to choose between pleasing your idol or pleasing God, and that is a struggle that you don’t need to have. Instead, you can choose to give God the highest attention in your life. And then what you will find is a much more fulfilling life when you rest on God instead of idols. Which leads us to our third point.
  3. Idols Are Created – God Is Creator {Isaiah 43:1-2 and 5-7}
    • (Explanation) Not only does this passage show us the incredible things that God did for His people, but it also tells us “why we were created” – [Why were we created??) “For His glory.” So that means when we get caught up in idolatry, we are going against God’s intentions for us.
    • (Illustration) Ever try to walk up an escalator in a mall when the steps are going downward? That’s the thing about idolatry: we’re so stubborn that we want to do things the hard way, it’s like walking up an escalator going down.

Song: “Matthias Job”

Earlier in this year, my nephew, Matthias Job, passed away shortly after birth. My wife and I wrote and recorded a song as a surprise for my sister-in-law and her husband. My wife’s parents and my brother-in-law and his wife helped with the lyrics and we also took some lines from my sister-in-law’s letter that she wrote to Matthias. We want to share it with you and hope it will bring comfort to others who have faced burdens and tragedies in their lives.

Lyrics:

As you felt your mother’s heart beat out her love for you,
And you heard your father’s whispered words of care,
Through a rain of tears we watched you slowly slip away,
And this path of pain seemed more than we could bear.

Yet I’ll trust in God, who heals and brings me peace.

Through it all God remains the same,
He’s still good and perfect and merciful,
And though he gives and He takes away,
Still I’ll choose to say blessed be His name.

Now we long to hold you, mourning memories never made,
And we hold to hope until that glorious day,
As we ache for Heaven, this Earth loses it’s appeal,
When we join you, sin’s curse in our hearts will heal.

In the afterward of Heaven.

Through it all God remains the same,
He’s still good and perfect and merciful,
And though he gives and He takes away,
Still I’ll choose to say blessed be His name.

You went far so we would draw near,
Pain is not wasted, God’s will is made clear;
Richer through losses, empty we are filled;
Joy in the morning, in the afterward of Heaven.

God healed your broken heart when He took you home,
And I have this hope, my God will carry me.

Through it all God remains the same,
He’s still good and perfect and merciful,
And though he gives and He takes away,
Still I’ll choose to say blessed be His name.

Book Review: “Reformation Women” by Rebecca VanDoodewaard

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A large majority of the most famous Protestant reformers are, indeed, men. There are many reasons for this, but it would likewise be a mistake to think that the Protestant Reformation was a movement instigated and propagated solely by men. Rebecca VanDoodewaard’s Reformation Women: Sixteenth-Century Figures Who Shaped Christianity’s Rebirth takes on the task of better understanding the role of women in the Reformation. While numerous women could possibly be selected, VanDoodewaard narrows down her research to twelve in particular. Some were fairly well-known, but others were virtually unheard of (to me, at least). At about 115 pages, this was a remarkably quick read. I finished more than half of it during down time on a weeklong missions trip, so it’s certainly not an intimidating size. For those interested in learning about women of the Reformation, who likewise want to be exhorted to Christian godliness, will find this concise book to be delightful.

By far, my favorite chapter was number one, which covered the life of Anna Reinhard. It is refreshing to hear of the personal details of what life was like for Anna and family in sixteenth century Switzerland, as the entire family pressed on to win people over to the Reformation. Many of VanDoodewaard’s citations are drawn from primary sources, though occasional secondary texts are referred to or quoted. VanDoodewaard makes it manifestly clear in her introductory remarks that she is not trying to follow the patterns of modern feminist historians, though she argues there is some good to be found in this recent historiographical movement. One thing that is probably most necessary to know from a historiographical perspective is the underlying motivation that VanDoodewaard seems to have in Reformation Women, namely, that this book is not merely to revise historiographical viewpoints of how women lived during the Reformation (in fact, that generally was not the case). And for that, professional historians might be a little disappointed. More so, this book could be lumped together in the “Christian Living” genre, since a great deal of emphasis is placed on finding these women  to be inspiring role models for Christian women today, and men as well. Furthermore, it is especially geared towards women in the “Reformed” theological camp. That is not to say that non-Reformed readers will find this book valueless, but there are noticeable criticisms of Catholics and Anabaptists that just did not seem to be as equally represented among those in the Reformed traditions. Overall, though, there is much to gain from reading Reformation Women, both for historical enrichment and spiritual encouragement.

***Disclaimer: Special thanks to Cross Focused Reviews for providing a free review copy. All opinions were my own.***

My Week in Rio Bravo, Mexico

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June 17th

Our trip appeared to have a smooth start. Thankfully, God provided the necessary finances. We drove safely to Charlotte, but by God’s providence, our flight was delayed close to two hours. Consequently, we did not make it to Dallas/Fort Worth in time to connect to McAllen, TX. Graciously, we received food vouchers and a hotel to try again next morning. For whatever reason, God did not want us in Mexico yet. Maybe it was so that our shuttle driver, Yousef, could receive a gospel tract? Maybe it was so that the team could bond more, or get extra rest? We don’t know for sure. Nevertheless, God is sovereign. He makes no mistakes. “In Him we live and move and have our very existence.” We trust that God will bring us to Mexico safely, and that His timing is perfect.

 

June 18th

God brought us safely here to Mexico. We trust God in His timing, as today, while having breakfast with a fellow team member, I shared a gospel tract with our waitress in the airport. In McAllen, TX, we were greeted by Pastor Efrain and the Daniel family—ministers in Rio Bravo. As we crossed the US-Mexican border, it was almost surreal—no other place have I been immersed in a culture with a different language than English. At ICCD, members from two local churches greeted us with great joy. Tossing confetti upon as, and preparing a delicious lunch, they considered us more important than themselves, which is truly Christlike love. Yes, the heat of the day can be exhausting (one member had a severe reaction), but God is good. For dinner, we had an amazing meal at a local restaurant. Clearly, we Americans stuck out, as three different people walked up to us from the street to either sell candy or roses. Today, we especially ministered to the local ministers and their families through games and fellowship. Tomorrow, our goal is to fulfill the call of missions: proclaim the gospel.

June 19th

Tonight was the first night of VBS. It was located in an “upper-lower” class neighborhood in Rio Bravo. We didn’t know how many kids would show up, especially since the local school denied our entrance to pass out fliers. A handful of kids showed up at six o’clock, but they kept on coming—all the way to 30! God was gracious in how the night proceeded. Though separated by language, my limited vocabulary allowed me to communicate on a basic level, and more so via an interpreter. I had the opportunity to teach a Bible lesson and even a memory verse, the latter almost entirely in español. We had lot of fun, and I even scored a goal in futbol…against third and fourth graders. Most importantly, the gospel was clearly presented. This is missions!

 

June 20th

Our team had a little extra time for rest and recreation this morning. Many of us took a ride on the zip-line. However, the men (not the women, though) have been bitten many, many times by what seems to be bugs. We have not narrowed it down to which bug, and why only the men have been affected, but a couple are covered in these bites. We don’t know why God allowed this, but we trust His plan, and pray for progress in treatment. VBS was good once again, where we saw at least five visitors. While my Spanish is limited, many of my third and fourth graders know me well as “Juan.” Overall, the night was exciting, and we earnestly expect God to be at work in these next few days as we preach the gospel and build relationships—even if we aren’t united by language, we are/can be through the work of Christ.

 

June 21st

The sun was scorching hot this morning as I helped reinforce wiring along a chicken fence. I cut my fingers, I got sun burn in the 106 degree heat, and experience digestive problems as a result of this. We followed the instructions of a Mexican man named Aurelio, who is in charge of the landscaping work of the ICCD campus. It’s humbling to think of how hard this man works—truthfully I wonder if I caused more or less work for him. Although I felt sick to start the VBS, I prayed that God would allow me to lead the third and fourth graders well, especially since I was teaching the evangelistic Bible lesson. As I taught, I believe God spoke through me. Pastor Salvador gave a fervent evangelistic invitation to close the teaching time, and several responded positively to the pastor. God kept me healthy through it all and was active in our group. Xochitl (pronounced So-chee), an ICCD, Spanish-speaking missionary even commented that my lesson was “very good,” and that the kids listened so carefully in my group and in the other two (grades 1-6 in all). We finished the night at a surprisingly modern ice cream shop, which was a nice treat. While my health weakened after a three-hour night sleep, I am joyful for God’s powerful presence this day!

 

June 22nd

After a more relaxed morning than usual (for most of us), we visited the homes of three deaf children associated with ICCD. At the first house, one man (uncle of two deaf kids) provides for his family by driving buses, yet is the only one who sleeps on the floor while the others have their own beds. The family of the second home is supported by the father’s taco stand business. ICCD played a major role in helping deaf children acquire necessary skills for making a decent living, and especially to know Jesus. At VBS we had a record-high attendance, with several more responding positively to a gospel invitation. Afterwards, Pastor Salvador invited us to his beautiful home for an extraordinary evening. We had a delicious dinner, accompanied by bottled sodas (Coke, apple, and strawberry), sweet desserts, and even a Mexican mug filled with their country’s famous candies. He makes $13 per month from his church (after having a very good paying job, where he was laid off), yet provided a night I will not forget.

 

June 23rd

As we walked along the streets of Nuevo Progresso, a US-Mexican border city, it was quite obvious that we American were prime targets for local vendors. I bought a backpack from one man for a price he said was $2 cheaper than the guy next to him (not an uncommon sales pitch in Nuevo Progresso). I liked it so much that I returned for a second. When he asked me if I could take out of the filling on the latter occasion, I realized he only had one arm (the other attendant helped the first time). Many Mexicans struggle to make ends meet, with some having more obstacles than others. We finished our VBS week with over forty students in attendance. Our hosting church prepared hot dogs for everybody and provided each leader from my home church, Colonial Baptist of Blue Ridge, VA, with certificates of ministry. It was hard saying goodbye to my Mexican brothers- and sisters-in-Christ, as well as those who have not received Jesus.

I will miss the “jokesters,” Refugio and Cesar.

I will miss the bilingual and warm-spirited Justin.

I will miss the kindness of Enrique.

I will miss the passionate messengers of the gospel, such as Salvador, Efrain, and Edgar.

I will miss the delicious food from the ladies who were so hard working in the kitchen, before, during, and after meals.

I will miss the fun fellowship with the Daniel family.

I will miss the unifying partnership in the gospel from both my Mexican and American hermanos y hermanas.

To be sure, I am extremely eager to be back in Roanoke, Virginia with my family and the comforts of the US, like air conditioning and fewer bugs. This has been a trip I will hold in my heart forever. I have been admonished to speak the gospel with much more earnestness. I have been reminded, and in many ways, taught, of how huge God truly is. His providential work in missions outshines beauty that can be found in art and nature. God does not desire that Mexicans be left in ignorance, as pertaining to the gospel. By taking part in this trip, I am thankful to have been privileged to be one of the few that have preached the gospel to the precious people of Rio Bravo, Mexico.

Help Me Get to Mexico!

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I am excited to announce to the world that I am planning on going to Mexico this summer (2017) for a missions trip opportunity through my local church, in coordination with International Christian Centers for the Deaf (ICCD). There, our team will work with one of the largest unreached people groups in the world–the deaf–in a very needy country. This trip will be a little over a week long in June, so it won’t be long until I cross the border to Rio Bravo, Mexico. Of course, in order for me to get there, I will need to raise some money, most of which will go towards the plane ticket cost. Although I plan to send out a prayer letter to people I personally know, anyone can help financially contribute to this cause in one simple way: buy one (or more) of my paperback books!

From the time I started selling two of my books on paperback and until the goal of $1,000 is reached, ALL of my royalties earned from the sale of these books, The Other Reformers and A Brief History of Virginia, will go to a fund for the Mexico trip. The books are quite low in price, so the royalty is not incredibly large, but every bit helps!

Click here to buy The Other Reformers from Amazon.com

 

Click here to buy A Brief History of Virginia from Amazon.com