Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Organized Church versus Private Religion

Two weeks ago a man sat in my office. I have known him for several years. He wanted some advice about a relationship he was in that was about to fall apart. He also wanted some financial assistance to help pay his rent. After listening to him for a while, I did what I could to meet both his needs. Though I am not a professional counselor, the issues in his relationship were of a nature that I have dealt with before, so I gave him a couple of ideas to try as a way to improve the quality of the relationship. I also authorized a check to his landlord to help him and his family keep their apartment and then gave him the check.

As the conversation drew to a close, I invited him to church. Though he has come to church from time to time over the years I have known him, he has never come with much frequency and had not been at all in a very long time. It seemed that he needed the strength that faith can give and it was natural to remind him that he was always welcome at our church. He responded by saying, "I do not believe in the organized church because I do not see how it ever helped anyone. I have my own private religion that works for me."

To be honest, I almost asked for the check back! The irony of the situation was nothing short of amazing. Here he sat in the pastor's office in a church getting both relationship advice and financial assistance and has the audacity to say that the organized church never helped anyone. Where did he think I got the training to listen to his situation and offer advice? Where did he think the money came from to provide the check he held in his hand? Where did he think my salary came from that allowed me to be available to listen to his problems and offer advice that would have cost him money had he gone to a professional counselor? Who did he think provided the chair he sat in during the entire session? He was receiving multiple benefits from the organized church even as he was declaring that it had no benefit to offer him. It was one of the clearest displays of emotional hypocrisy I have ever seen!

I wish I could say he was the only person who has ever said such a thing to me. Unfortunately, I have such conversations often. People tell me they have their own "private religion" and do not believe in the organized church. Yet when they need a place for a wedding or a funeral or pastoral advice or help paying their bills, they turn to the organized church to help them out.

Having a "private religion" may be convenient, but it is not much help in a time of difficulty. The organized church, even with all her faults, has so much to offer to the community. Advice, hope, peace, prayer, children's programs, youth programs, soup kitchens, food pantries and direct financial assistance to the needy are but a few of the benefits of organized religion. The next generation needs the organized church and the organized church needs the next generation. Together they can do what neither can do alone.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven

Sermon outline based on Acts 22:22-29.
Written by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett and preached at Faith Community Church, Barre, VT on July 18, 2010

  • Paul had been attacked by a mob and then arrested for something he did not do.
  • The soldier who arrested Paul gave him a chance to defend himself and Paul chose to use the opportunity to share the story of how he became a Christian.
Verse 22 - They listened to him up to this word. Then they raised their voices, shouting, "Wipe this person off the earth—it's a disgrace for him to live!"
  • The mob listened to most of Paul's testimony, but when he got to the really convicting stuff, they went crazy! They shouted over Paul. They shouted for Paul to be killed.
  • People have not changed much since the First Century.
  • Our messed up culture can still only take so much religion. Our culture does not seem to mind when Christians talk about God in general terms, but when we begin to focus on Jesus, society gets nervous. So much for tolerance!
  • Culture can only tolerate God as a distance concept, but Jesus is much more personal and our culture struggles with how to deal with the personal nature of Jesus.
  • Many people do not want to get personal with Jesus because it requires them to be accountable for sin. None of us like to admit that we are sinners. But we all know we are. Why deny it?
Verse 24 - the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, directing that he be examined with the scourge, so he could discover the reason they were shouting against him like this.
  • The commander of the soldiers ordered for Paul to be taken to the dungeon to be beaten until he confessed.
  • Paul was innocent and had done nothing to which he could confess. Yet he was about to be beaten.
  • The world can sometimes be a cruel place in which innocent people are hurt and evil people remain free.
  • Many of us have experienced injustice at least once in our lives. We must keep our eyes on Jesus to keep from getting a bitter spirit.
Verse 25 - As they stretched him out for the lash, Paul said to the centurion standing by, "Is it legal for you to scourge a man who is a Roman citizen and is uncondemned?"
  • They were going to torture Paul with the lash.
  • The lash was a terrible torture device more commonly called a flagellum.
  • It was made of leather thongs with pieces of metal and bone tied to the ends.
  • Many men died when whipped with the lash, others were crippled for life.
  • Though Paul was trusting in Christ to deliver him, he did not mind appealing to the law.
  • Our focus should also be on Christ during times of difficulty. But sometimes we have to use the legal system.
  • Just because we are Christians does not mean we cannot use the law. But as Christians, we must use the law in an honest way.
  • Paul already knew it was illegal for Roman citizens to be tortured into a confession with the lash. But he asked them the question because he was trying to help the soldiers see the wrongness of what they were about to do.
  • Sometimes we have to ask probing questions of those who do injustice to help them see the wrongness of their actions.
  • Paul appealed to his Roman citizenship as a way to escape being beaten.
Types of First Century Citizenship
  • Romans citizens were at the top of the legal ladder and had many more rights than everyone else. This sounds so wrong to us today, but was just the way it was back then.
  • There was also a second class of citizenship called the "Latin rite" which was as high as most people could ever hope to go.
  • There was another class for women, who were allowed to own property but not vote.
  • There was also the slave class. Slaves could be sold, tortured, maimed, raped and killed at the whim of their owners.
  • There were no equal rights in the Roman Empire until Christianity became the dominant religion. 
Verse 26 - When the centurion heard this, he went and reported to the commander, saying, "What are you going to do? For this man is a Roman citizen."
  • Paul's Roman citizenship gave him special rights and privileges that most people did not have. Even the guard about to beat Paul did not have as many rights as Paul did.
  • The guard realized he had already broken the law and could be in serious trouble.
Verse 27 - The commander came and said to Paul, "Tell me—are you a Roman citizen?" "Yes," Paul said.
  • The commander was nervous and asked Paul if it was true that Paul was a Roman citizen with special rights. Paul verified that it was true. 

Rights of a Roman Citizen to which Paul was entitled:
  • 1. The right to vote in the Roman assemblies.
  • 2. The right to run for civil or public office.
  • 3. The right to make legal contracts and to hold property as a Roman citizen.
  • 4. The legal recognition to deal with situations between Roman citizens and foreign persons.
  • 5. The right to have a lawful marriage with a Roman citizen, to have the legal rights of the paterfamilias over the family, and to have the children of any such marriage be counted as Roman citizens.
  • 6. The right to preserve one's level of citizenship upon relocation to a city of comparable status. This right did not preserve one's level of citizenship should one relocate to a colony of lesser legal status; full Roman citizens relocating to a Latina colony were reduced to the level of the jus Latii, and such a migration and reduction in status had to be a voluntary act.
  • 7. The right of immunity from some taxes and other legal obligations, especially local rules and regulation.
  • 8. The right to sue in the courts and the right to be sued.
  • 9. The right to have a legal trial and to appear before a proper court and to defend oneself.
  • 10. The right to appeal the decisions of magistrates and to appeal lower court decisions.
  • 11. A Roman citizen could not be tortured or whipped, nor could he receive the death penalty, unless he was found guilty of treason.
  • 12. If accused of treason, a Roman citizen had the right to be tried in Rome, and even if sentenced to death, no Roman citizen could be sentenced to die at the cross.
  • Adapted from

Verse 28 - The commander replied, "I bought this citizenship for a large amount of money." "But I myself was born a citizen," Paul said.

  • The commander was also a Roman citizen, but he had purchased his citizenship.
    It was rare for someone to buy his citizenship because it cost a great deal of money, but it could be done.
  • Paul was born a citizen, which was a great honor.
  • Those who bought their citizenship were never really accepted by Roman cultural elitists because everyone knew they were pretenders and wanna-bes.
  • There were a number of other ways to gain citizenship that were better than buying it.

Methods to Obtain Roman Citizenship
  • Roman citizenship was granted automatically to every male child born in a legal marriage of a Roman citizen.
  • Roman auxiliary soldiers from other nations were rewarded with Roman citizenship after their term of service. (Note: only Roman citizens could enlist in the actual Roman Legion, but a second level of soldiers served in the auxiliary service.)
  • Some individuals received Roman citizenship as a reward for outstanding service to Rome.
  • Though it was extremely rare for a slave to be freed by a Roman citizen, if a slave was freed, he was given a limited form of Roman citizenship. However, they were still obliged in some aspects to their former owner who automatically became their patron.
  • The sons of freed slaves became full citizens, which is why a slave who somehow became free would be happy with his limited citizenship since his children would have full citizenship.
  • One could also buy citizenship, but at a very high price.
  • Adapted from
Spiritual Applications:
  • Being a Roman citizen was important in the First Century but being a citizen of the Kingdom of God is important in every century.
  • There were several ways to become a Roman citizen, some more respectable than others. But there is only one way to become a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven and that is to trust Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of our lives.
  • People could buy their way into citizenship in Rome. But becoming a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven can only be achieved through accepting the gift of God's grace.
  • There were several classes of Roman citizenship, each with its own set of rights and privileges. But citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven are all equal at the foot of the cross.
  • The contrast between Roman citizenship and citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven is huge. Roman citizenship definitely had some advantages, but citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven has benefits that far exceed anything Rome could offer.
  • Many people have not yet accepted Jesus Christ's offer of citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven and should consider accepting Christ as soon as possible.
  • Many people who have accepted Christ's offer have not yet claimed the benefits of their citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven and are still acting as if they live in "Rome." It is time for Christians to stop acting like we still live in Rome, with all its classes of people and special rights for each group and start enjoying the benefits of being a citizen of heaven.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Crazy Risk

The other day I had the best discussion with an agnostic who recently became a Christian. Let's call her Mary. Like so many young adults, Mary went to church when she was a child but dropped out when she was 14 and became a committed agnostic. Mary enjoyed volunteering and helping others; but going to church, prayer, Bible study and similar religious activities were no longer part of Mary's life.

Mary held to this position all through high school and into her college experience. In college Mary met a young woman named Casey who was a committed Christian. Unlike the Christians Mary had known at the ritualistic church of her childhood, Casey seemed to radiant powerful faith in Jesus Christ. Casey did not mind Mary's many deep questions about faith. Sometimes Casey had an answer, sometimes she did not. Either way, Casey welcomed and encouraged Mary's questions. Mary enjoyed the friendship but was not moved from her agnostic position.

One day Mary heard Casey talking to some Christian students about a trip they were taking to a big city on the East Coast where they would serve some of the hurting residents who were stuck in cycles of poverty. Since Mary enjoyed volunteering, she asked Casey if non-Christians could participate. Casey said yes. Mary recalls spending a week with some of the most committed and dedicated Christians she had ever met. One young couple in particular stuck out in her mind. The husband and wife both had excellent educations and were quite affluent. After their marriage they chose to buy a large house in a very bad section of town so they could make a difference for Christ in that troubled community. They could have moved to the suburbs and chased the American dream but their faith made them take a crazy risk. Mary had never seen the Gospel lived out in such a way before. Before the week ended, Mary found herself praying to a God she still was not sure existed.

Sometime later Mary decided to go with a group of students to a Christian retreat center. Mary remembers thinking that she would become a Christian for one week just to see if it worked. She quickly realized that she could not just turn faith off and on like that. Mary concluded that "You can choose to believe in God and make the logic work out. You can choose not to believe in God and make the logic work out. But you can't reason your way from one position to the other. Whichever way you move, you have to take a crazy risk and make a leap of faith."

Mary has made a powerful point. If a person views the world through "agnostic glasses," he or she can ignore all the proof of God's existence. If a person views the world through "Christian glasses," he or she can ignore difficult questions like why is there evil in the world or how can people justify doing terrible things in the name of God. Either way, we choose which glasses to put on and then we view the world through those glasses. This is why Christians will never be able to "argue" someone to their position, and vice versa. There is no logical road between the two that can be traveled back and forth intellectually. Choosing either road requires faith, either in a supernatural force, or in humanity. Choosing either road requires a crazy risk because we cannot know scientifically how either road will end.

Mary decided to take a crazy risk and become a real Christian. She still has lots of deep questions and she says "Sometimes I find a verse in the Bible I REALLY DO NOT LIKE, but I believe anyway because God is bigger than what I like or dislike." Churches that want to reach young adults like Mary better get ready to encourage lots of such questions and leaders of churches that want to reach out to young adults had better make sure they are living out the Gospel in a radical way. Otherwise, most young adults like Mary will not be moved to take the crazy risk and become a Christian.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Light Shines Brightest Where It is the Darkest

Since November 1993 I have lived in Vermont. I moved to Vermont for a very specific reason. Vermont has a very small evangelical Christian population and I felt a calling from God to try to do something about it. After living here so long, I was not surprised when USA Today newspaper and various Gallup polls began to report that Vermont was the least churched state in America.

In the nearly 17 years that I have lived in Vermont I have seen many people in Vermont profess faith in Jesus Christ. I have seen many people who had fallen out of church return to a more active faith in Christ. Sadly, Vermont still remains the least churched state in America.

In my ministry of church planting and evangelism in Vermont, I have the honor of working with 37 churches affiliated with the organization I serve. Some of those churches are very small, with less than 25 in worship on a typical Sunday. Several have 100 or more in worship. One has over 400. Regardless of the size of the church, each of them is a bright light of the Gospel in their community.

Sometimes well meaning friends will refer to Vermont as a "dark state." I must confess that when I first moved to Vermont I often used that term myself. But I no longer refer to Vermont as a dark place. Though the evangelical community in Vermont remains small, it is growing. And each person added to the Kingdom of God is one more light added to the overall mix of spirituality in Vermont. I prefer to focus on the light that is shining brighter than ever than on the darkness that lies at the outer edges of our spiritual vision.

Everyone knows that a dark room is transformed by a tiny point of light. When lots of tiny points of light are put together, the whole house is transformed. That is also true spiritually. As each church, regardless of size, and each individual, shines bright for Jesus, our state will be transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By faith I believe that one day Vermont will be the Bible belt of New England. Lord, shine Your light!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How to Have a Good Testimony

A sermon developed by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett based on Acts 22:6-18.

  • Many years ago Paul's name was Saul and he persecuted Christians.
  • Paul had a dramatic conversion experience that led him to become a Christian missionary.
  • So many people responded to the Christian message through Paul's ministry that some people became jealous and upset.
  • Paul realized that his ministry was about to come to an end so he traveled back to Jerusalem under the leadership of the Spirit.
  • While in Jerusalem he tried to make peace with his opponents by taking part in a Jewish religious ritual.
  • However, his opponents used the ritual against him and got him arrested for something he did not do.
  • In this passage we find Paul standing on the steps to the jail about to give a defense of his actions.
Verse 6 - About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me.
  • Of all the types of defense that Paul could have given, he chose to share his testimony of how he became a Christian.
  • When things are going bad in our lives, sometimes need to remember our testimony.
  • We may not be where we want to be, but praise God we are not where we once were.
  • Paul's testimony started with bright lights flashing from heaven while he was still an unbeliever.
  • Our testimony may be a bit less dramatic, but our story is still powerful and begins when we were still unbelievers.
  • When sharing our testimony, we should tell how we realized we needed Christ. 
Verse 7 - I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, 'Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?'
  • In Paul's story, he got knocked off his horse and ended up in the dirt.
  • Lying in the dirt, he heard Christ speak to him for the first time.
  • Many times our own story begins with us getting knocked off our "high horse."
  • Many of us came to Christ in a time of crisis or difficulty in which we had to admit that we could not continue on without help.
  • It was often in those moments of crisis that we began to hear the Spirit speak to us in ways we had never heard before.
  • Even for those who did not come to Christ in a time of crisis, it is often a crisis that forces us to get serious and grow in our faith.
  • Notice that Christ said that Paul (Saul) was persecuting, or hurting him.
  • Paul did not realize that every time he sinned, it was like driving another nail in the hands or feet of Jesus.
  • Have we come to realize this in our own lives yet?
Verse 9 - My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.
  • The people who were with Paul when he had this amazing experience could see the light, so they knew something big was happening.
  • But they did not understand the voice of God that was speaking to Paul.
  • When we give our lives to Christ, people around us will know something has changed.
  • But they do not always understand what it is. 
Verse 10 - What shall I do, Lord? I asked. "Get up, the Lord said, and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do."
  • Paul asked the Lord what he was supposed to do. This indicated Paul was not just making an intellectual decision; he was also making a change of behavior and lifestyle.
  • When we become a Christian, it should cause a change of behavior in our lives.
  • What behaviors have changed in our lives? 
Verse 11 - My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me. 
  • When Paul was first converted, someone had to hold his hand and walk him through the experience because he was overwhelmed.
  • When we first become Christians, sometimes we are confused by the Bible and all the "church stuff" and we need someone to walk with us until we begin to understand. 
Verse 12 - A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there.
  • Paul was assisted by a man named Ananias.
  • Ananias was a strong and respected Christian.
  • We all need a spiritual mentor to help us in our early Christian experience.
  • Have we found a mentor yet?
  • If we have been a Christian awhile, have we become a mentor to anyone yet? 
Verse 14 - Then he said: The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth.
  • Ananias helped Paul understand that God had chosen Paul.
  • Ananias helped Paul understand God's will for his life and how to hear the word of God.
  • Spiritual mentors help us find purpose in life and help us learn to hear from God.
  • Once we find purpose and learn to hear from God, then we "graduate" from the mentoring process and should start mentoring someone else.
  • Have we graduated yet? Or are we still in spiritual kindergarten? 
Verse 15 - You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.
  • Part of Paul's purpose was to become a witness to others of what God had done.
  • This is part of each of our purposes.
  • We are not saved from sin so we can sit and soak up the love of Jesus.
  • We are saved from sin so we can serve the Lord by sharing His message of hope with others.
  • This does not mean that we all have to become pastors as our "job."
  • But it does mean that we should all look for people to whom we might minister.
  • One reason we need to know how to share our testimony is so that we can fulfill this part of our purpose.
  • Our testimony is the story of God's work in our lives. When was the last time we shared? 
Verse 16 - And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.
  • Ananias asked Paul what he was waiting for.
  • Sometimes we just need to "do it!"
  • Paul also needed to make his commitment to Christ public through baptism.
  • If we have not yet been baptized AFTER our conversion experience, this is something we should do soon.
How to Have a Good Testimony:
  • Make sure we have called on Jesus for salvation.
  • Make sure we have been baptized as an outward sign of our inner commitment.
  • Find someone, ANYONE, that we can share our testimony with.
  • Find a mentor to help us discover our purpose and learn to hear God's voice.
  • Become a mentor to someone else.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Dealing with Entitlement

The other day I was hanging out with a friend of mine. This person is a young adult and quite talented in a lot of areas, but does not get a lot of support from immediate family. My friend only has a part time job and a number of Christians in my circle of friends have been helping this individual stay afloat financially. Since helping people in need is part of what it means to be a Christian, it is okay that many of us have been helping this person out. But this has been going on for nearly two years and some people have begun to feel taken advantage of. As we were hanging out, I mentioned that it was time for my friend to find additional employment in order to provide for personal financial needs. My friend's answer amazed me. I was told that additional employment was not needed because the part time job was enough. After all, it was important to have time to hang out with friends and do fun stuff.

I was somewhat flabbergasted by this response. After a moment of fumbling around verbally, I finally worked up the courage to point out that it was only working with a part time job because other people were helping out. I went on to point out that all those people who were helping worked full time jobs themselves and some of them even worked two jobs. I asked how long other people should work extra hours at their own jobs in order to help out a person who only worked a part time job. There was no answer.

As the conversation continued, it became increasingly awkward. It was obvious that my friend felt entitled to receive help from others even though there was so much more my friend could to make the situation better. The fact that my friend is a healthy able-bodied young adult quite capable of working more hours apparently had never occurred my friend. My friend had gotten used to other people meeting the need and somehow imagined that they would keep doing it indefinitely. I tried to be gentle as I attempted to help my friend understand that people had grown weary of helping when my friend was capable of doing more personally. I am still not sure my friend really grasped the responsibility each adult has to provide for oneself.

This experience reminded me of what Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, "For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: If a man will not work, he shall not eat." I wonder if this Christian young adult had somehow missed that verse. This experience also reminded me of the truth of Galatians 6:5, "for each one should carry his own load." Both of these verses teach that ultimately each individual should be doing their best to make their own way in life.

We all go through hard times and need help in those moments. But there is a difference between going through a short term crisis in which we need help and just expecting others to pay our way through life so we can hang out with our friends. This sense of entitlement is not healthy, nor is it biblical. Churches that want to help young adults discover a vibrant faith must find the courage to talk about these kinds of issues openly, lovingly, and firmly. Lord, give us courage to speak the truth in love!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Stranded in the Night

A week ago I got a flat tire. The particular tire I needed was a bit hard to find in the rural area which I live, so I had to drive on the spare for a week before the new tire came in. Yesterday the tire finally came in. I was in a hurry to get it changed and make it to a meeting. I went to a "quick fix" tire repair place and then went on my way thinking everything was okay. My meeting went very well. As the day drew to a close I was driving home late in the evening. I felt a wobble in the tire. Since I had been driving on a dirt road for much of my journey, I thought it might have been mud in the wheel. But as the wobble got worse, I thought that perhaps I had another flat. I began to slow down and started to pull over. Suddenly I heard a loud noise and to my utter amazement my brand new tire went rolling past me down the road and into the woods. The car came to a sudden stop and there I was beside the road on a dark night in the middle of nowhere. I used my cell phone to contact my wife, who called AAA. They sent a wrecker. I was sure happy when help finally arrived!

Today I reflected on yesterday's experience and realized it contains many parallels to real life. We often experience problems in life for which we seek to find quick fixes. Though the quick fixes that we use seem to get us back on the road to enjoying life, they do not really address the deeper issues. When we use quick fixes, it does not take long before the problem re-emerges. When the problem does re-emerge, it is often bigger and more complicated to correct than before. We must learn to take the time to fix our problems correctly. That may require calling for help, just as I had to contact my wife for help with the tire.

That is where the church comes in. The church is a family and we help each other when one of our members finds themselves stranded on a dark road in the middle of the night. We take the time to walk with each other through the darkness and help each other get safely home. If we are not part of a church like that, we should find one and become involved. It's hard to make it through life on our own, but with the help of God and our fellow Christians, we can overcome anything.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Life: a Journey, a Destination, or Both?

A couple of days ago a friend said she was on a journey through life and it did not matter where she ended up, so long as she enjoyed the journey. I challenged her thinking a bit and asked her to consider if that was really true. Did it really not matter where she ended up? After some thoughtful conversation, she agreed that it did matter after all.

The whole concept of life as a journey instead of a destination has become popular in our culture. The sentiment is on bumper stickers. People post it as their status on Facebook. Whole books have been written about it. The concept conjures up a carefree life that one just enjoys without having to worry about the consequences that must come at the end of the journey. While that might be a cool concept to fantasize about, it is just not reality.

Reality is that life does have a destination. It has both an earthly destination (purpose, point, reason for existence) and it has an eternal destination. Rick Warren's bestselling book, The Purpose Driven Life became a best seller precisely because people have grown weary of traveling around in emotional, relational and spiritual circles without getting anywhere. Deep inside people need to have a purpose for living. While a Sunday afternoon drive through the country without any particular destination might be fun once in a while, a person cannot live their entire life that way. A person needs goals to accomplish, tasks to complete and dreams to fulfill in order to be truly happy. Though life should be an exciting journey, for it to have value, it also must have a destination or purpose.

Just as people need to have a purpose for living which leads them to some destination that has meaning and value, people also need to realize that there is more to this universe than our current existence. Hebrews 9:27 reminds us that "it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment." Every person will eventually die. After death, each person will stand before God to be judged. Jesus told us in Matthew 8:11-12 that "many will come from east and west, and recline at the table in the kingdom of heaven. But the followers of the Kingdom of Darkness will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Each of us has an eternal destination, heaven or hell. We may not like that truth. We may not want to think about that truth. We can deny that truth. But it is still true and one day each of us will have to face the reality of that truth. Our eternal destination is very important. We can know that our eternal destination is heaven if we will repent of our sins (Acts 3:19) and call upon the name of Jesus for salvation (Romans 10:13).

Life may be a journey, but it also is a destination. Where will our destination be in this life? Where will it be in eternity?

Watch this video on YouTube to think more about this subject:



Monday, July 12, 2010

We Say We Do Not Want To Be Judged, But Secretly We Do

Over the past few months a number of my friends have revealed some pretty heavy stuff about themselves on Facebook. Many of the things revealed were not exactly positive. It always amazes me what people will reveal about their poor behavior in a public forum such as Facebook. Though I try to think positively about my friends, it is hard sometimes when people produce a steady barrage of posts about their unhealthy activities. It is even harder when they also feel compelled to lecture everyone about judging them for their bad behavior.

My advice is that if we do not want people to think badly of us, then we should not tell the world about all our bad decisions. If a person tells everyone about his or her multiple sexual partners, they should not be upset if people conclude that the individual may have a morality problem. If a person tells everyone about his or her substance abuse at countless parties, that person should not be upset if others conclude that the person may have an addiction. If a person posts vicious rants about his or her parents, or ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, teachers, co-workers, etc, that person should not be upset if others conclude that the person might have an anger management problem. Giving people lectures about not judging is pointless if by our own admission we are indeed guilty of doing bad things.

The other day some friends and I were discussing why people would post such negative things about themselves and then ask people not to judge them. Some people are probably looking for acceptance of their poor behavior in hopes that such acceptance will make them feel better. It never does.

But I think that in some weird twisted way, some people are actually hoping they will get judged by others for their bad behavior. Why would they want to be judged? Judgment has become the ultimate "sin" of our society. If someone judges another person then the person being judged can justify attacking the person who judges them. By attacking the person who does the judging, it distracts people from realizing that the judgment is in fact correct because person is indeed guilty.

In our mixed up culture, other people will jump on the bandwagon and also attack the "judge." By attacking the judge, who in reality is simply stating what most people already know, we feel we do not have to deal with our own problems. It becomes the ultimate blame shift game. We make bad choices. We tell the world about them. The world points out that they were indeed bad choices. Then we attack people for pointing out the obvious as a way to not have to deal with the original issue.

The problem with all of this blame shifting is that it does not solve the root problem, which is our bad behavior. Perhaps we need to learn not only to stop posting comments on Facebook about our poor behavior; perhaps we should STOP taking part in the bad behavior to begin with! Then there would be nothing to judge us about anyway. I am reminded of the truth found in First Corinthians 11:31, "But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment." Instead of being angry at others for pointing out the truth, instead, let us examine ourselves and work on our issues. Then we can become the people we always wanted to be anyway.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Handling Relationship Problems

A youth sermon written by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett for the Faith Community Church Youth Group.

  • Ask students what problems they may have encountered in the past week.
  • Explain that we ALL have problems in life, it is HOW we respond to those problems that matters!
  • Ask students what causes problems in our lives?
  • Explain that though there are many reasons why we have problems in life, our relationships with other people often contribute significantly to whether our problems are major or minor.
  • For many people, relationship troubles are the biggest trials they experience in life.

James 1:2 - Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.

  • James tells us to consider it pure joy when we face trails.
  • If our biggest trials come from relationship problems, does James mean that we should consider it pure joy when someone is annoying us or being a pain in neck?
  • Is James crazy?

What is real joy?

  • Someone said that happiness is an emotion that comes and goes based on circumstances of the moment but that joy is a state of mind that on one can take from us.
  • We have to choose to be joyful even when we are surrounded by people who bring us pain.
  • How can we make such a choice?

James 1:3-4 - We know that the testing of our faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

  • When our faith is tested, and we persevere, we become stronger.
  • When we become stronger, we also become more mature emotionally and spiritually.
  • Too many of us are still emotional and spiritual pre-schoolers. It is time to grow up.
  • Though we may not like everything that people around us do and we may not be able to control them, we can control how we respond to the actions of other people.

There are two primary ways to respond to relationship pain: bitterness or loving acceptance
  • The road of bitterness
    watch Pray for You
  • Ask if the singer been done wrong?
  • Ask how the singer dealt with the hurt he felt?
  • Ask if the way he responded made him feel better?
  • Ask what other healthier ways might he have dealt with his pain?
  • The road of loving acceptance
    watch Rain by Rob Bell
  • Ask what "bad thing" happened in the video?
  • Ask how Trace (the baby) responded to the bad thing?
  • Ask how Rob (the dad) responded to Trace?
  • Ask what point was Rob trying to make?
  • Discuss how can we apply this to our own problems?

James 1:12 - Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
  • Ask what the word "blessed" mean?
  • Ask who is blessed according to this verse?
  • Ask when did he get that blessing?
  • Ask what does he receive when he has passed the test?
  • Ask what "life" often symbolized in the Bible?
  • Life often symbolized connection in the Bible. Having an abundant life meant being connected with both people and God on earth and also in heaven.


  • We all have people problems from time to time.
  • We cannot control other people; we can only control our response to their actions.
  • We can respond by becoming bitter and wishing harm on them. OR
  • We can respond by accepting the love of God into our lives and letting that love transcend the pain people cause.
  • The way of bitterness only leads to more pain.
  • The way of love leads to better connections to people and to God both in this life and in eternity.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Contemplating Baptism

Baptism has been an important part of the Christian faith since Jesus walked into the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist. Jesus was baptized to set an example for us and to bring glory to His Father. We know from the Scriptures that God the Father was pleased with Jesus when He was baptized.

There are many different ideas of what baptism means. There are also a number of views on when a person should experience baptism. Though we want to be respectful of the sincere beliefs of others, according to the New Testament baptism was the way that Christians publicly proclaimed their faith in Christ. It was not a covenant with the parents, but it was the outward expression of the individual's inner commitment to Christ. In the New Testament people were not baptized until they were old enough to make the decision for themselves. In the New Testament, people were always baptized by being immersed or dipped completely under the water. The word "baptism" actually means to immerse or dip under. If that was what baptism meant in the New Testament, why would it have a different meaning today? Much of the confusion concerning the meaning and timing of baptism would be cleared up if we simply practiced baptism when and how it was done in the New Testament.

Baptism is a picture of how Christ died for us, was buried for us, and rose again for us. When we stand in the water we are saying that we are taking our stand for Christ. As we are dipped under the water it symbolizes us "dying and being buried" to our old way of life. When we come up out of the water it symbolizes how we are raised to "new life" through our faith in Christ.

Baptism does not save us from hell; instead it shows the world that we have already been saved from our sin and received new life in Christ. The New Testament makes it very clear that every person who has trusted Jesus as their Savior and made a commitment to follow Him should be baptized after making that decision. If we have never been baptized, then we should be baptized after making a sincere commitment to Christ. This is how we publically proclaim our faith in Christ. Baptism will enhance our connection to God and improve our personal spirituality. Occasionally I meet a person who tells me they publicly professed their faith in some way other than baptism. While it is not my place to judge others, it seems that God already has shown us the way He wants us to publicly profess our faith in Him. Efforts to "edit" God's clearly declared system seem unwise to me.

Some people were baptized as infants before they are old enough to understand what baptism meant. While that may have been a very lovely ceremony to watch, we cannot find any examples in the Bible of an infant or small child being baptized. There are some examples in the Bible of children being "dedicated" to the Lord. So we know it is appropriate for parents to dedicate their children. But we should not confuse a baby dedication with the ritual of baptism. People who were baptized as infants should get re-baptized when they are older as a testimony of their own faith. Being re-baptized does not mean they do not appreciate what their parents did for them; it simply means that now they are making the decision themselves to be a Christian.

There is something powerful about being baptized. It gives us a sense of spiritual cleansing. It makes us feel closer to God. It is also a step of obedience to God, since He is the one who told us to do it once we had trusted His Son as our Savior. If we have not been baptized at all, we should do it as soon as we can. If we were baptized as an infant but it had no real meaning to us, then we should consider being re-baptized as our own expression of faith in Jesus Christ.

Anyone living in Central Vermont who is interested in being baptized, Faith Community Church of Barre will be holding their next baptism service on Sunday, August 8, 2010 at the annual church picnic. If you are interested in being baptized, please contact Pastor Terry Dorsett so that he can set up a time to meet with you to make sure you understand baptism and are ready for this exciting spiritual experience.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Church of Today

I visit a lot of churches in my efforts to promote church planting and evangelism. Because of my passion for reaching the next generation for Christ, people often speak to me about their desire to build the "church of tomorrow." I also find that phrase used frequently in articles and online discussions with other Christian leaders. Though I know that people mean well when they use that phrase, it actually communicates something negative to young adults.

What church leaders are actually communicating to young people when they refer to them as the "church of tomorrow" is that young people have no current value to the church. They may have value in some future "tomorrow" but they have no value right now. Young people hear that message and decide that if they are not valued at church, they will go somewhere that does value them, which all too often ends up being places they should not be.

If churches want to attract the next generation, they have to begin to value them the way God does. Churches must begin to recognize that young people are gifted by God and can be used by Him in powerful ways. At
Faith Community Church young people are full partners in leading the church and in sharing the Gospel with our community. They help lead the worship, teach children's church, clean the building and offer valuable insights into how ministries should function. They are valued as the church of today.

Churches that lack the ability or willingness to value young people as the church of today will most likely continue to hemorrhage young adults to other churches or to the world. Churches that really value young people will soon have a new problem, where to put them all!