Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Truly Single Greatest Love Story

It seems that if one is going to make up a story and release it for public consumption, one should at least be certain that noone is still alive to refute your fabricated account,

Herman Rosenblat recently took a stab at revising history. In his book, Angel At The Fence, Rosenblat, a Holocaust survivor, writes about meeting what would be his future wife at a Nazi concentration camp.

Oprah Winfrey called Rosenblat's account, "the single greatest love story..."

One problem - it wasn't true. Family and friends of Rosenblat said the details didn't add up.

This reminded me of another story, written nearly 2,000 years ago. The Apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthian church in the first-century A.D. concerning the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus Christ, stated, "Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep." (1 Corinthians 15:6, ESV). Why does Paul call attention to the fact that most of these eyewitnesses "are still alive"? He was saying to his original audience, "Hey, if you don't believe me go talk to the eyewitnesses, they can verify my account - they saw Him."

Berkley Books withdrew Rosenblat's book, but Paul's inspired letter carries on, echoing details of the truly single greatest love story of all.

Pastor Van


Monday, December 22, 2008

Are You Seaworthy?

For years I have been a Titanic enthusiast. So when the new book by Brad Matsen,, 'Titanic's Last Secrets', came out I got me a copy right away.

There's just something riveting to me about the fact that the RMS Titanic, dubbed by the press "The Unsinkable Ship", would indeed sink in just two hours in the freezing North Atlantic on that infamous night April 15th, 1912, taking 1,504 souls to a watery grave.

Of course we know the Titanic struck and iceberg - ripping a 35-foot gash in its hull. Thanks to James Cameron's movie "Titanic" in 1997, the sinking of the Titanic is forever etched in our mind. You'll remember the dramatic scene where the stern of the ship rises to a forty-five-degree angle before breaking in half .

But did it really happen that way? According to John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, the answer is no.

Chatterton and Kohler, both divers, worked with a marine forensic analysis team that came to a most compelling conclusion. Titanic's hull plating was to light, causing the ship to actually break apart on the surface - not at all as portrayed in Cameron's movie. The conclusion - the builders and owners sent Titanic to sea not knowing if it was strong enough to survive.

The analogy of a ship on the sea is often used to describe the life of a Christian. Using such an analogy, we could ask, "Am I strong enough to survive the hazards which will come my way?" Some may put it this way, "Is my faith strong enough?"

A pastor was asked by a business man to speak to his staff. After his talk, a woman in the group asked to speak to the pastor privately.

"When I was 22," she said, "I was in a serious car accident, and my boyfriend was killed. I have gone through a lot of surgery and am now doing well. When that happened, I lost my faith."

As kindly as he could, the pastor responded, "You know, when they built the Queen Elizabeth, and the QE2, they did not test them in dry dock. They didn't leave them and get big hoses on them to see if they would leak. They got those ships out into the open ocean to put them through sea trials. These trails were not intended to sink the ship. These trials were to prove that the ship was seaworthy. The only way you can know whether your faith is real or not is when the pressures of life come, when you go through trials. Then you know if you are seaworthy or not. Can I ask you honestly, did you lose your faith or did you find you had none?

She answered, "I guess you are right, I had none."

But how can we know about our faith? I've heard it said that a person can have big faith on thin ice and fall through, while another can have little faith on thick ice and stand secure. What's the difference? You see it's not so much the size of our faith, it's the object of our faith that make the difference. Who or what is your faith truly in? We can be sure that trials will ultimately reveal the object of our faith.

We will all face the storms of life at some time or another. Are you seaworthy?

Pastor Van


Thursday, July 31, 2008

God Knows What We Need

Over the past few weeks I've been working my way through a, biography of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, two-volume set by author Iain H. Murray. It has been fantastic! Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981), was pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, England, and is believed to be, according to many, one of the greatest preachers of the 20th - century.

One particular excerpt from Murray's 2nd-volume is a portion of a letter Lloyd-Jones received from a gentleman who was a guest during a Sunday worship service. The letter was written in 1945:

"If I had spent hours in trying to tell you of my own particular problems and needs at the present moment and had you designed the whole of this morning's service for my special benefit, not a verse or petition or a word would have needed to be altered. Perhaps the very reason for the difficulties that have kept me in London this week was to enable me to be present in service this morning."

As I read this I couldn't help but smile. So often I have had dear people come to me after a service and ask, "How did you know?" Or, "Did someone tell you what I've been going through?". My answer of course is "I didn't know", and "No" - But God knows. It reminds me that there is so much more going on in a worship service than we can actually see. The Wonderful Councelor is present, He's speaking. Oh that we would hear Him and obey.

Pastor Van

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Evidence Against Us

Consider the following verses from the Bible:

"Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." (Romans 3:19)

"For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil."

(Eccles. 12:14)

According to God's Word we are all guilty before God, and we will one day stand before Him to give an account for our deeds. For some this sounds outrageous. It did for me at one time - but not anymore. I became convinced and convicted, with the evidence overwhelming me.

It's hard to imagine, but prior to the twentieth century there was no reliable way to distinguish between the guilty and the innocent. All that changed in 1905 with one solitary fingerprint left behind at a grizzly crime scene.

On the gripping surfaces of the hands and feet, 3,000 sweat glands per square inch crowd together more densely than anywhere else on the body. Keeping the skin lubricated so it does not crack, the glands also make each finger like a self-inking rubber pad, leaving calling cards on every surface it touches.

What is the fingerprint evidence against us that establishes our guilt before God? Actually there's much, but here is a sample. We were created by God to know Him, to make Him our ultimate, but by nature we rebel against this. We don't want to know Him, much less obey Him. Then, to make matters worse, we idolize other things, (even good things: beauty, career, reputation, etc.), and make them our ultimates instead. And according to the Bible, this is sin.

In 1907, a criminal tried to remove his finger ridges. He chopped away at his fingertips with a dirty metal tag attached to his boot lace, all in a desperate attempt to avoid being identified and face heavy sentence as a repeat offender. But in a few weeks the ridges grew back.

In a similar way, some will deny the evidence of their guilt before God. But the bad news is the fingerprints are there. Still, there's good news. Jesus Christ died to erase our guilt. Through faith in Him our sins are washed away. We are justified (declared "not guilty") through faith in Jesus.

"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace..." (Eph. 1:7)

Pastor Van Morris



Thursday, June 5, 2008

Words Are Important

In September of 1861, the Union army issued General Orders no. 33, giving detailed instructions regarding burial procedures for slain soldiers. The Orders read in part, "In order to secure, as far as possible, the decent interment of those who have fallen, or may fall, in battle, it is made the duty of Commanding Generals to lay off plots of ground in some suitable spot near every battlefield..." It went on to say, "...with headboards to the graves bearing numbers, and, when practicable, the names of the persons buried in them."

When language such as "as far as possible" and "when practicable" is employed what can it lead to? According to author Drew Gilpin Faust, in her book This republic of Suffering: Death and The American Civil War, such language made the instructions "more an aspiration than an order, and commanders treated it as such." Faust goes on to write, "...more than 40 percent of deceased Yankees and a far greater proportion of Confederates - perished without names..."

This is not how it's done today. In fact, the United States expends more than $100 million each year in the effort to find and identify the approximately 88,000 individuals still missing from World War 2, Korea and Vietnam. The obligation of the state to account for and return - either dead or alive - every soldier in its service is unquestioned.

So language is important. Words are important. So when the Scriptures tell us:

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."

(Acts 17:30-31 , ESV) , how should we respond?

God's command is not repent as far as possible, or repent when practicable. No, this command is not something that we simply aspire to as far as possible, it is a command we must expend our all to obey.

Pastor Van Morris

Pastor Van Morris
Calvary Christian Center
850 Fisher Lane
Mt Washington, KY 40047
(502) 538-7768
(502) 955-6436

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Practical Atheism

We cannot be certain just how many atheists there are in the U.S. Some have estimated their numbers range from 3% up to 11% of the population, though it's hard to be certain simply because some may be uncomfortable admitting a disbelief in God.

But I wonder how many practical atheists there are? An atheist is one who believes there is no God. A "practical atheist" is a person who on one hand may profess a belief in God, but lives as if there is no God. The God they profess to believe in has no authority in their life. To say it another way; it is not in their mind that they reject God, it is in their behavior.

Recently, in the wake of the now former New York governor Spitzer's involvement with a prostitute, a high-price call-girl agreed to an interview with one of the major networks. When she was asked, "Was there anything you wouldn't do?" her response was very telling. She responded, "I'm not comfortable answering that, partly because my mom's going to hear this." This is quite amazing to me. This woman is more afraid of what her mother will think of her behavior than what God thinks about it. She quite likely would profess a belief in God, but the God she believes in obviously has no influence upon, nor authority regarding her behavior. This is practical atheism.

We should remember that the Bible states: "You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!" (James 2:19, ESV).

Yes, even the demons believe, but that's not all - they shudder! This is quite appropriate considering who God is.

So is believing in God a sufficient response on our part? Should God feel lucky that we profess a belief in Him? Or is there an additional reaction to His holiness that we should have? Let's let Jesus answer that:

"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28, ESV)

Pastor Van Morris


Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Sin Beneath The Sin

I read this week that a Vatican official has listed drugs, pollution and genetic manipulations as well as social and economic injustices as new areas of sinful behavior. These sins are in addition to the traditional list of seven deadly sins (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride). The Vatican said that its time to modernize the list to fit a global world.

However, is making a list of specific sins the most effective way to deal with the problem of sin? Doesn't this just limit sin to a list of bad things? What about the sin beneath the sin?

For example, let's consider why we were made. We are creatures, created by a gracious Creator. We were made not only to believe in God in some general way, but to love Him supremely, to give Him glory and thanks. We are to center our lives on Him above everything else in the world. To put anything else in God's place of honor, even good things, is a sin. This is the root problem from which all the deadly fruit comes from.  It's the sin beneath the sin.

Pastor Van Morris


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

God Adjusting To Us

Unfortunately, some marriages suffer from a minimalist view of marriage. By this I mean, that some individuals fail to embrace the reality that marriage is a life altering experience, a re-orientation of every aspect of their life.

Imagine receiving a proposal that sounded like this: "I want you to know this proposal changes nothing about my allegiances and my behavior and my daily life. However, I do want you to know that if you accept my proposal, we shall, in theory, be considered married. There will be no other changes in me on your behalf."

Now of course no one in their right mind would accept such a proposal. For a marriage to be healthy there must be a mutual loss of independence, a willingness to adjust for the other person, serving them though it means sacrifice for you.

For a love relationship to be healthy, there must be a mutual adjusting. But what about a relationship with God? Of course I must adjust to Him - He is the Creator and I am the creature - but how could He ever adjust to me? Holy Week is a good time to consider this question.

I'm indebted to Timothy Keller for the following thought. In the incarnation of Christ: His coming into this sinful, fallen world as a man; and through His atoning death upon the cross, God has said in Christ, "I will adjust to you...I will serve you though it means sacrifice for Me."

It's interesting that the Scriptures utilize the metaphor of marriage when speaking of a saving relationship with Jesus Christ: " Wherefore, my brethren, you also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that you should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God." (Romans 7:4)

The gospel of Jesus Christ is a call, an invitation to be joined to Jesus Christ, to re-orient every aspect of your life toward Him. He is not inviting you to be a good moral person, but instead to believe that He died for your sins and through faith in Him God will forgive you and accept you.

Pastor Van Morris


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Finding Treasure

When was the last time you made a discovery that left you pleasantly surprised? As for me and my wife, it was about a year ago. For years we thought the Schwan's home delivery truck that passed through our neighborhood was filled with expensive frozen foods that were much too pricey for us. That was until Brian, our salesman, knocked on our door. He gave me a catalog of their many products, and explained what made Schwan's unique. My wife and I were pleasantly surprised to find that not only was their food very affordable, it was also delicious.

That's not the first time that my wife and I made a find that was pleasantly surprising. You see, we used to think that Christianity was rigid, restrictive - like a straightjacket! But we eventually came to see things much differently.

I agree with Timothy Keller who wrote, "In may areas of life, freedom is not so much the absence of restrictions as finding the right ones, the liberating restrictions." Liberating restrictions are those that produce greater power and scope for our abilities and a deeper joy.

Jesus talked about such a discovery: "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." (Matthew 13:44) The "kingdom of heaven" (living under the Lordship of Christ) is something that will totally re-make you. It is not more religion. It's not adding another self-help book to your library. It is giving yourself utterly to Jesus Christ. It is a "treasure".

When the man finds the treasure he sells all he has to purchase it. He is basically saying, "What good is all this stuff if I don't have this." How could he do this? How could he seemingly give up so much? Because he had already made the emotional transfer - "in his joy". He saw the value of the real treasure.

Someone put it well when they said: Anyone who will not give themselves utterly to Jesus has not realized that He gave Himself utterly for you.

Pastor Van Morris

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Worthy Leaders

A short time back, I read something from the Old Testament book of Isaiah that deeply disturbed me - it made me do some thinking about the 2008 presidential election.

As I write this article, no one knows who the nominees for each party will be. We're all waiting for the smoke to clear so we can see who our guy is going to be. Of course, we all have strong opinions about who that person should be. So as we wait, some say, "We'll have to see who God is going to give us." But what if God might be taking away? Let's consider the following words from Isaiah:

"For behold, the Lord GOD of hosts is going to remove from Jerusalem and Judah Both supply and support, the whole supply of bread, And the whole supply of water; The mighty man and the warrior, The judge and the prophet, The diviner and the elder, The captain of fifty and the honorable man, The counselor and the expert artisan, And the skillful enchanter. And I will make mere lads their princes And capricious children will rule over them, And the people will be oppressed, Each one by another, and each one by his neighbor; (Isaiah 3:1-5)

Now of course our country does not have the same theocratic-national form as did Israel. However, is there a principle here? I am intrigued by Ray Ortland Jr.'s commentary on these verses:

"He [God] is taking away their [Israel} leaders and replacing them with irresponsible "boys", so that social cohesion dissolves into chaos. In their desperation, the people will look around for someone, for anyone, to provide guidance and courage. But no one will be willing. The warning for every generation is this: One way God judges his people is by depriving them of worthy leaders."

So in this election year I'm praying, asking God to have mercy upon this nation ( though we certainly don't deserve it), and I'm asking him to give us a worthy leader. I hope you'll join me.

Pastor Van Morris


Thursday, January 3, 2008

Excellence In 2008 ?

As we begin a new year,  all followers of Christ should take time to reassess their calling:

"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence..." ( 2 Peter 1:3 ESV). God has called us to Himself, a God of glory and excellence.

Since we have been given the ability to believe - what one writer has called the God-awakened capacity to respond fully to Jesus - and we now share in God's divine nature, this results in a newness of life. We now must add to our faith:

"For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue..." (2 Peter 1:5 ESV).

We should note that the word excellence in verse 3, and the word virtue in verse 5 come from the same Greek word, meaning moral excellence. When a tool worked correctly it was said to be excellent.

The point is this, when we express an appetite for good, for what pleases God, we are demonstrating that we do indeed share in His divine nature. We are working correctly.  When He takes us in His hand as a tool for His glory, may we hear He say, "You're excellent."

Pastor Van Morris