Wednesday, November 30, 2011


A faith based discussion guide about how advertisers get us to buy things we do not need and what God thinks about it.

1.      Which of these statements would you agree or disagree with?
               Facebook (and other Internet ads) are helpful in making the right choice of what to buy.
               We often buy something we do not need because we see an ad for it.
               Our lives would be better if we did not pay attention to advertising.
               Celebrities should not endorse specific products.
               Most advertisements are truthful.
               Companies should NOT use sexual ads to sell stuff.

2.      As we think about our favorite commercials, what product did they advertise and what made us remember the commercial so much?

3.      When we purchase an item, how often do we buy a popular brand name instead of a less popular brand and why do we do that?

4.      What does God think about all this?

Exodus 20:17 - Do not covet your neighbor's house. Do not covet your neighbor's wife, his male or female slave, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
               What does it mean to covet something?
               Covet means to want something that someone else has.
               What does God tell us about coveting?
               God tells us not to want other people’s stuff.
               Why would God not want us to covet stuff?

James 4:1 - What is the source of the wars and the fights among you? Don't they come from the cravings that are at war within you?
               Entire wars have been fought because one group wanted what another group had.
               Many of the “wars” we fight in our own personal lives come our inner cravings?
               What is a craving?
               A craving is an unusual desire for something.
               A craving is not necessarily bad, but it can become bad if we let it become an obsession in our lives.

James 4:2 - You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask.
               When our desires and cravings become obsessive, they turn into coveting.
               We are often willing to “fight” to get our cravings met.
               This always leads to pain in our lives.
               Instead, we should ASK for what we want.

James 4:2 - You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask.
               Who should we ask?
               Though we can ask our parents, our boss, or our best friend, in the context of this verse we are to ask God.
               Does God always give us what we ask for?
               Why or why not?

James 4:3 - You ask and don't receive because you ask wrongly, so that you may spend it on your desires for pleasure.
               God does not always give us what we ask for because sometimes we only want those things for selfish reasons.
               What are some selfish things we ask for?
               How might be ask for similar things for non-selfish reasons?

               Advertisers often convince us to buy things we do not need.
               When we cannot afford to buy everything we want, we often covet the things others have.
               Our coveting can lead us to do wrong things in an effort to get what we want.
               God tells us to ask Him for that stuff instead.
               God will give us the stuff we need if our motives for desiring it are pure and right.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

It’s All About Faith

A sermon developed by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett based on Galatians 3:1-9.

               Galatians was written by the apostle Paul to churches scattered across what is now central Turkey.
               Paul had started a number of churches in that area that were made up of non-Jewish believers.
               Some Jewish Christians had come into the area after Paul left and told the non-Jewish believers that they had to follow all the Old Testament laws and Jewish traditions in order to be real Christians.
               This was causing a lot of stress for these non-Jewish believers because Paul had told them that all they needed was faith in Christ alone for salvation.
               Though over 2000 years have passed, people still struggle with this same issue.
               Many people are confused about whether we are saved by following the laws of the Old Testament and the traditions of the church, or are we saved by faith in Christ alone?

Verse 1 - You foolish Galatians! Who has hypnotized you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was vividly portrayed as crucified?
               In answering the question of how we are saved, Paul calls the Galatians foolish for thinking salvation could be found in anything other than Christ alone.
               Paul uses the Greek word anoetos, which means that the person can think but fails to do so.
               Paul acknowledges that we HAVE the ability to think this thing through, we just do not do it.
               Though we often think of a “foolish” person as being someone uneducated or ignorant, the biblical definition of a “fool” is a person who does not believe God. (Psalm 14:1, 53:1)
               God has declared that salvation is found in no one else but Christ alone (Acts 4:12).
               God has declared that salvation is not by good works, but is a gift of God to those who believe (Ephesians 2:8-9).
               In some translations the word hypnotized is translated as “put the evil eye on.”
               The Gentiles to whom Paul was writing were terrified of someone putting the “evil eye” on them.
               It was a curse that would cloud their thinking and make them do whatever the spell caster wanted them to do.
               The only defense the Gentiles knew for the evil eye was to NOT look at it to begin with.
               The ONLY defense for not thinking foolishly about salvation is to not even consider other methods of salvation.
               Let us keep our eyes focused on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2)
               They knew that Christ had been crucified for their sins.
               The crucifixion of Christ was not a thing done in secret, but something that many people had heard about even though they may not have been in Jerusalem when it happened. (Acts 26:26).
               Even today most people know the story of Christ’s death, even if they are not followers of Christ.
               Though there may be a few pockets in the world where the name of Christ is not yet known, those pockets are rapidly disappearing thanks to Christian radio and television.
               People in Vermont know ABOUT Jesus. They need to discover RELATIONSHIP with Jesus.

Verse 2 - I only want to learn this from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by hearing with faith?
               Paul asked a rhetorical question in order to get them to think about their own experience.
               The Galatians knew very little about the Old Testament laws or Jewish traditions when they first decided to become followers of Christ.
               So the laws and traditions were not what drew them to Christ since they barely knew those things.
               But the Galatians knew the transforming power of the Spirit because they had experienced it.
               Likewise, we may not know all the nitty gritty details of the Old Testament, nor know when to stand, sit, or kneel at all the right times, but most of us have experienced the POWER of Christ at some point in our lives.
               Many of us trusted in Christ with child-like faith knowing little about the teachings of the Bible or about the traditions of the church.
               We just believed and it transformed us!
               Though it is VERY important for us to learn more about the teachings of the Bible and the traditions of the particular church the Lord has drawn us to, we must never let those things make us doubt our salvation.
               Such teachings and rituals should ENHANCE our walk with Christ and make us BETTER Christians, but they are not the FOUNDATION of our faith.

Verse 3 - Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now going to be made complete by the flesh?
               Through the power of the Spirit, the Galatians had overcome a lot of the problems they had in their lives.
               Knowing little of the Old Testament or religious traditions, they had no choice but to trust in Christ alone for all they needed to get through the day.
               As they became more acquainted with Jewish religious rituals, they were tempted to stop trusting in Christ and start trusting in their own abilities.
               The same thing can happen to us if we are not careful.  When we first become Christians we are filled with gratitude toward the Lord.
               But as time goes by, we can become too focused on the rules and the rituals.
               When that happens we tend to forget where we have come from and become stuffy in our faith while loosing our joy.
               When that happens, we also tend to become judgmental of others who are not as “good” as us yet.

Verse 4 - Did you suffer so much for nothing—if in fact it was for nothing?
               Paul reminds the Galatians what a struggle it was for them to believe that Christ could really change their lives.
               It was a real struggle for them to let go of their past and embrace a life changing faith in Christ.
               We often have the same struggle to believe that God can really change messed up people like us.
               At some point we must stop trying to do it all on our own and just jump into the arms of Christ, trusting that He will make the difference in our lives that we have been waiting for.
               When the Father begins to call us to salvation we  have this inner longing for something more and we suffer in our inner spirit until we find it.
               We seldom can articulate it completely to others or even to ourselves, but we know there must be something more to life than what we have been able to do on our own.
               When we finally let go of all our fears, failures and faults and trust in Christ alone, we know deep inside we have found what we were looking for (Hebrews 12:14-16.)

Verse 5 - So then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles
among you by the works of the law or by hearing with faith?
               Paul reminded the Galatians that this was not all just intellectual gobbligock about hard to understand doctrines and traditions.
               This was about the POWER of God in their daily lives.
               The Galatians had experienced miracles in their lives without understanding any of the Old Testament laws or Jewish rituals.
               Take a moment and think back on our own experiences as believers. Have we not also seen God do amazing things in our lives, things that can only be described as miracles?
               Were those miracles dependent on our intellectual understanding of the Old Testament? Did they depend on following the religious traditions of some particular church?
               NO!!!!! They were dependent on the power of the Spirit at work in our lives as we trusted in Christ alone.
               This does not mean that the Old Testament teachings have no value or that we should ignore all the traditions and rituals of our particular church, it just means that we must keep all those things in proper perspective.
               The Old Testament “shalls” and “shall nots”  make far more sense when viewed through the lens of Christ’s life, death, burial and resurrection.
               The traditions of any particular church only have value when understood through the lens of God’s unmerited favor toward those who believe.
               Only when we have placed our faith in Christ alone will all the rest of that stuff have any value or meaning to us.
               If we have not yet placed our trust in Christ alone, we need to do that FIRST and then go back and experience all those rituals and learn all those teachings over again.

Verse 6-7 - Just as Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, so understand that those who have faith are Abraham's sons.
               Since it was the Jewish Old Testament teaching that seemed to be causing the problems for these Galatian believers, Paul reminds them that even Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, had faith.
               It was Abraham’s faith that gained him salvation, not his following of religious tradition (Hebrews 11:8-10).
               If faith is what mattered most to Abraham, who started the whole Jewish experience, why should faith be any less important to anyone else?
               We tend to focus on the religious ACTIONS of those we view as spiritual, when instead we should be focusing on their FAITH.

Verse 8 - Now the Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and foretold the good news to Abraham, saying, All the nations
will be blessed in you.
               Paul then goes on to point out that the whole idea of non-Jews becoming followers of God without having to keep all the Jewish traditions was not a surprise to God.
               God had planned this from the beginning. (Genesis 18:17-19)
               God planned for US to become His followers too!

Verse 9 - So those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith.
               Paul concludes by pointing out that Abraham was blessed by his faith.
               Likewise, those of us who have that child-like faith are blessed as well.
               Why should we continue to toil and struggle on our own through the difficulties of life when we can be blessed through faith in Christ?

Prayer of Faith
               Dear Lord, I have tried my own way long enough and it just is not working. Today, I put aside following both people and rituals. Instead I place my faith in YOU alone. I turn from my own way and commit to Your way. Give me the courage and the strength to become all that You want me to be. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Resolving Unresolved Issues, Part Two

Previously I wrote an article about the importance of resolving issues in our lives. I gave suggestions for how to break down a long list of issues into manageable pieces so they could be worked on one at a time. As we enter the Christmas season, what a great time to begin to resolve all those past issues so that the holidays can be filled with joy instead of sadness. Though it takes courage, sometimes we just have to take a deep breath and start on the list.

Here are some suggestions for how to start this process:

1.  We can go buy a package of ten “thinking of you” cards and mail them to ten people whom we have unresolved issues with. Write a nice note inside about how we appreciate them. Mention how nice it would be to get together again and catch up on what God is doing in their lives. A hand written card that arrives through the mail will mean so much more than an email or a Facebook post.

2. We can take one hour to think of the three biggest disappointments in our lives and then take some ACTION today that begins the process over overcoming those three things. For example, if we are disappointed that we never finished high school, then look up the number for the local adult education center and call TODAY to set up an appointment to learn how to get a GED.

   3. We can write a long letter to ourselves expressing how we feel about some mistake we made in the past. Then give ourselves permission to forgive ourselves for that mistake. Cut the letter up into strips and burn one strip over the flame of a candle. As we watch that strip burn up, let go of that portion of the pain we feel from that past issue. The next day, burn another strip and let go of that portion of the pain. Do this each day until all the strips are burned. (Use common sense about fire safety.)

 4. We can volunteer to help someone else. Helping others often makes us feel better about our own lives and our situation. There are ample opportunities to volunteer during the Christmas season. Instead of stewing in our own pain and bitterness, break out of the rut and go make a difference in someone’s life.
Those sound easy enough right? We can do this!

What if the person that we need to resolve something with has already passed away or there is some other reason in which we cannot contact them? I’ll write about that tomorrow.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Psalm 100 - A Psalm of Thanksgiving

Last Sunday I visited Eureka Baptist Church in Anderson, SC. I served as the Minister of Education and Youth at Eureka before moving to Vermont in 1993. I continue to have many good friends in the congregation. They were very good to me while I served their congregation and I remain thankful for their investment in my life.

Dr. Ron Fousek has been the pastor for the last seven years. Last Sunday he preached from Psalm 100. Though it is a short psalm, it is packed with many great thanksgiving truths. Dr. Fousek did a great job of bringing out those truths and I wanted to share them with you on this Thanksgiving Day.

Psalm 100
 1Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
 2Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
 3Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
 4Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
 5For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations

In verse one we learn to Celebrate God. No matter what struggles we may be having in our lives, we should celebrate the many good things God is doing.

In verse two we learn to Serve Joyfully. Too often we see our service to the Lord and to our fellow man as a chore. When we view service as a chore, it is seldom fulfilling. When we serve joyfully, we get a lot more out of our service and we find a great sense of satisfaction.

In verse three we learn the importance of Knowing Our Limitations. We should be joyfully serving others, but we must also remember that we cannot solve all the world's problems. After all, we are not God. Understanding that we can only do so much and then must leave the rest in the Lord's hands removes a lot of stress from our lives.

In verse four we are reminded to Proclaim His Praise. When we do good things for others, it is tempting to take the praise for ourselves. But God is the one who gave us the ability to do whatever good we accomplish in this life, therefore, all the praise must go to Him.

In verse five we are encouraged to Reaffirm Our Faith. Though the struggles of life sometimes challenge our faith, the way to remain positive and thankful is to keep reaffirming our faith. Faith will carry us through, so long as we keep holding on to it.

As we think through these truths together, let us apply them to our lives, not only on this Thanksgiving Day, but every day of the year.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Responding to Critics of a God – Given Vision

A sermon developed by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett based on Galatians 2:1-10 and preached at Precision Valley Baptist Church in Springfield, VT, and at Faith Community Church in Barre, VT.

               Galatians was written by the apostle Paul to churches scattered across what is now central Turkey.
               Paul had started a number of churches in that area that were made up of non-Jewish believers.
               Some Jewish Christians had come into the area after Paul left and told the non-Jewish believers that they had to be circumcised in order to be real Christians. This was a cause for concern to the non-Jewish believers (especially the men!)
               But the difficulty of this teaching was not just the physical discomfort that circumcision might have caused adult males, but more the idea that people had to add some sort of religious ritual to their faith in order to be saved.
               Though we may not struggle with the connection between circumcision and faith in our modern world, many do struggle to accept the idea that eternal salvation is by faith in Christ alone without any religious ritualism added to it.
               The Jewish believers who were stirring up trouble in the Galatian churches challenged whether Paul was a real apostle or not.
               When trouble makers cannot find something real to argue about, they will often try to use innuendo and personal attacks to win whatever ideological battle they are waging.
               The way Paul defended himself sets a pattern for how we might defend ourselves in similar situations.

Verse 1 - Then after 14 years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also.
               In the previous chapter Paul had shared his testimony of how he came to believe in Christ alone for his salvation and how he had been called to serve Christ.
               Paul then goes on to talk about how he traveled to Jerusalem in the hopes of clarifying whether non-Jewish believers were required to follow all the Jewish traditions.
               Jerusalem was where the “mother church” was. It was also where many of the remaining apostles lived and preached.
               Bible scholars argue about whether this verse refers to a period 14 years after Paul’s conversion or 14 years after Paul’s first visit to Jerusalem.
               Either way, the point is the same. Paul went to the mother church for clarification.
               As we will learn later in this passage, Paul already knew what he was going to do. But if the mother church supported his efforts, his job would be much easier.
               If the mother church did not support his efforts, his calling would still remain, he would just have to do it outside the traditional religious system he was accustomed to.
               When we sense God calling us to do something, we should approach the church we are part of to see if they will support our efforts.
               It makes sense to share the burden with them and see if they will help.
               But what should we do if our church does not share our burden?
               If the church does not share our burden we should first make sure it really is a calling from God and not just our emotions.
               After careful prayer and contemplation, if we determine that it really is God’s calling on our lives, then we have no choice but to pursue that calling.
               But we should not be angry at the church if they sense a different calling than us.

Verse 2 - I went up because of a revelation and presented to them the gospel I preach among the Gentiles—but privately to those recognized as leaders—so that I might not be running, or have run, in vain.
               Paul went to Jerusalem because he received a special word from God that he should go.
               For years Paul had worked on his own, outside the traditional Jewish church.
               But now Paul felt a special burden from the Lord to share what he was doing with some of the more traditional elements of the Jewish religious establishment because of the circumcision issue.
               Sometimes we start a ministry on our own, but then the situation changes and we realize we need to get others involved.
               When we see the need for others to be involved, we have to present the idea through the appropriate avenues in the church.
               The Greek word for “presented” is anatithemi and literally means that he “set up an idea for others to consider.”
               Before we get angry or upset with those who do not support our efforts, we must ask ourselves if we have presented the idea to them in a way that let them fully consider it.
               We typically want people to instantly support our plans.
               But we should give them all the information and all the time they need to fully consider our ideas.
               Notice that Paul met with the leaders of the church privately before sharing his ideas with the rest of the church.
               A private meeting is not the same thing as a secret meeting.
               Secret meetings are usually negative in their outcome, but private meetings can be very positive because it lets us share our ideas without stirring up trouble in the church.
               He simply meant that if the church was  never going to get behind his efforts, there was no point in investing a lot of time trying to convince the leaders to support it .
               There is a fine line between asking people to help us fulfill our calling from God and pushing people to do something they do not feel called to do.
               That fine line can be hard to find when we are excited about something God wants us to do.
               We will never know if the church is supposed to help unless we ask the leadership.
               This must include giving them the information and the time they need to consider our ideas.
               But in the end, if they say no, we should not attempt to manipulate the situation in order to get a different answer.

Verse 3 - But not even Titus who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.
               Since the key issue was whether the non-Jewish believers had to follow the Jewish religious traditions, Paul took a non-Jewish believer with him to the meeting.
               Titus was a Greek. Greeks did not practice circumcision.
               The Jewish leaders accepted Titus as a brother without making him be circumcised.
               It is worth noting that Paul took a PERSON with him instead of just presenting a program or an idea.
               Any time we feel called by God to do something new, we should focus on the PEOPLE it will help and not just the position we will have, or the budget we need, etc.
               People are important, the rest is just details.

Verse 4 - This issue arose because of false brothers smuggled in, who came in secretly to spy on our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, in order to enslave us.
               Paul points out that this entire issue existed only because of some “false brothers” who were “smuggled” in to “spy” on his ministry.
               This may sound like a pretty judgmental statement for Paul to make.
               But remember, Paul had been dealing with this for 14 years!
               Though our society tends to think that all judgment is bad, that is not really true.
               For society to work, at some point, we must make judgments about certain kinds of behavior.
               What we must avoid is premature judgment based on only part of the story.
               After 14 years, Paul had seen enough to know that his judgment of these false brothers was fair and accurate.
               Paul called them “false brothers,” which means that he did not believe they were actually followers of Christ.
               There are many people who are religious but lack a relationship with Christ. Like Paul, I have come to believe that they are the ones who often cause the most trouble in churches.
               The Greek word for “smuggled” is pareiserchomai and refers to a person who acts harmless but actually plans harm.
               Though some people mean well but cause harm unintentionally, the ones Paul refers to MEAN to cause harm and they purposely disguise their efforts in order to gain trust so they can cause even greater harm.
               They have a passive-aggressive tendency.
               They are not healthy in their relationships.

Verse 5 - But we did not yield in submission to these people for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain.
               When people who are unhealthy emotionally seek to destroy the vision that God has placed in our lives, we must not yield to them.
               But we must not stoop to their level by responding in equally unhealthy ways.
               Instead, we should focus on the truth of the gospel. The truth has a way of working itself to the top if we just keep focusing on it.

Verse 8 - For He who was at work with Peter in the apostleship to the circumcised was also at work with me among the Gentiles.
               Paul recognized that God calls different people to different things.
               Peter was called primarily to minister to the Jews who loved their religious traditions.
               Paul was called primarily to minister to the Gentiles who had never heard of most of those  same Jewish religious traditions.
               Notice that it was the Holy Spirit at work in BOTH of these men even when they were doing very different types of ministry.
               Though we should avoid wasting time with emotionally unhealthy leaders, we should celebrate the efforts of good leaders even if they are doing something very different than we feel called to do.

Verse 9 - When James, Cephas, and John, recognized as pillars, acknowledged the grace that had been given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to me and Barnabas, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.
               Paul recognized the apostles who were primarily serving the Jewish believers as “pillars” of the church.
               This was a Jewish metaphor that referred to the pillars of the temple in Jerusalem.
               Just as the pillars held the temple up, these leaders held the church in Jerusalem together.
               We should respect the pillars of the church even when they feel led to go a different direction than we do in ministry.
               These men gave Paul and Barnabas the “right hand of fellowship.”
               In that culture, this was only done to people that were considered equals. It was a token of approval and agreement.

Verse 10 - They asked only that we would remember the poor, which I made every effort to do.
               The traditional church leaders found common ground with Paul’s more innovative ministry by agreeing to both care for poor people.
               When we feel called to do something that the rest of the church does not, instead of complaining about it, we should find common ground that we can all agree on.

               God calls each of us to do something special for Him, whether inside or outside the traditional “church” culture.
               There are appropriate times for us to ask the leadership of the church for help in fulfilling whatever task God has given us.
               We must give the church leadership the info and the time to decide if they should help.
       We should accept whatever answer they give and focus on what we have in common.