The Promise of Paradise: A sermon by Julian Pace

Below is a link to a sermon I preached at the First Christian Church of Savannah on Memorial Day weekend. It is entitled “The Promise of Paradise.” You will only be able to understand the banter with the congregation in the beginning of the audio by realizing that I preached this sermon from a raised pulpit which greatly limited my ability to move while I preached (I am typically very active while delivering my sermons.) Still, we shared a sweet time of fellowship together and I can’t wait to return. If you want to hear the sermon just click on this link and scroll down to the sermon entitled “The Promise of Paradise.” Blessings!

https://www.fccsavannah.org/sermons

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The Confident Christian

First Peter 3:15 says “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (NIV)”. Ever since the Pilgrims set out for the New World in 1620 in search of religious freedom, the Christian faith has played an integral role in shaping American culture. For many, the Christian faith was a stabilizing and positive influence in society. However, with the rise of secularism in the United States as well as the broader western world, many people increasingly look at the Christian faith with a skeptical, even hostile attitude. Will it be said of us that we as believers responded to this challenge with composure and grace, or that we shrank when skeptics asked the tough questions?

Many Christians live in fear of someone asking them a question such as: Why do you believe in God? Why do you call Jesus your Savior? Why is attending Church services so important to you? While we should always be ready to admit that we don’t have all the answers, we should also be equally confident of the fact that we serve a God who does. In James 1:5 we are given the promise that if we pray and ask God for wisdom he will give us the wisdom we so desire. Thus, we should always remember that before we set out to gather knowledge, we must first ask for wisdom from God. Only then will we know how to wisely apply the knowledge we gain from study and reflection.

Christians should receive a boost of confidence from the fact that the tradition we are a part of is filled with intellectual and spiritual giants. Indeed, great thinkers today still mine the words of Augustine, Anselm, Calvin, and of course, Jesus of Nazareth, for insight on topics as diverse as ethics, philosophy, history, and theology. Indeed, these thinkers ably defended the faith on intellectual grounds in the face of questions from skeptics from many different backgrounds. Leaning heavily on the thinking of the Apostle Paul in Romans 1, Christian apologists have often pointed out that the order and beauty of the universe points to the existence of a wise, master creator. Indeed, Psalm 19:1 proclaims “The heavens declare the glory of God (NIV)” Furthermore, the very existence of the disciples’ faith after Jesus’ crucifixion points to the truth that they actually saw their Savior resurrected on the third day. These are just a few of the arguments that have been put forth in favor of the reasonableness of our faith.

It should be noted that 1st Peter 3:15 is just as concerned with the spirit in which we defend our faith as well as the reasons we suggest for why we think our faith to be true. Christians are to be people who show love to all persons, in all situations. Indeed, the command to love our neighbor is given without qualification. When we share our faith with others we should always take care to be fair and respectful to those who disagree with us.

Perhaps it is only fitting that I should save what I believe the most important aspect of sharing one’s faith for last. While I do think Christians should be both intellectually and emotionally fit witnesses for the faith I think it is perhaps eminently more important, and probably more persuasive, for Christians to be ready to share at a moment’s notice what God has accomplished in their lives personally. Oftentimes, people will be more impressed by someone’s account of how God brought them through a battle with cancer, or how God healed them from bitterness and resentment towards a person who wounded them earlier in life. We should also be ready to share our testimony of how Jesus Christ drew us unto himself and brought us out of darkness into his marvelous light. All the knowledge and eloquence this world has to offer fare poorly when placed in juxtaposition with how God can transform people for the better. Indeed, this must be the most effective evidence for the truth and vitality of what we believe.

 

 

Have you prayed for our President (and President-Elect) today?

I have a knack for picking losers in presidential elections. In 2012, I voted for Mitt Romney and most recently, in 2016, I voted for Evan McMullin. I voted for these men, not because I necessarily thought they were certain winners (they obviously weren’t.) I voted for them because I thought they best reflected my values. Needless to say, you could probably guess that I find neither Barack Obama nor Donald Trump particularly stellar choices for the office of president. Indeed, I have had a number of disagreements with our current president (on issues like abortion, the deficit, and defense) and I have had a number, though fewer, disagreements with Mr Trump (ala defense, trade, and his defense of his complicated and sordid moral past) But, the American people have cast their votes and what’s done is done. At this point we need to be asking what is our responsibility as Christians towards our elected (and newly elected) officials.

In 1st Timothy 2:1-4, the Apostle Paul writes these words to his young protégé and pastoral associate Timothy- “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” In light of other topics, the scriptures don’t have a great deal to say about political issues but here and there we receive poignant advice. In this passage, we are told to pray for all who are in power. No matter who they are, or whether we agree with them, or ever like them! We need to pray for them. We need to be praying that they will make wise decisions. We need to be praying they will make decisions that are pleasing to God. We need to pray that they will be blessed by God. Why? Because no one wants to live in a land wracked with strife and gross misrule and those in authority have the ability to make our lives very difficult if they wish.

I think this verse has a manifold number of practical implications for our day and age but I will only mention three. Firstly, we need to be praying for Barack Obama as he is entering his final two months in office. Oftentimes, presidents will use their final days in office to issue up to hundreds of executive orders and presidential pardons. With no fear of having to justify controversial decisions to an angry electorate, presidents often feel unchained to do what they wish in their final days in office. We need to pray that the President uses his power judiciously as his time in the White House draws to a close.

Secondly, Donald Trump will desperately need our prayers come February as he will enter the presidency facing many incredible challenges. He will not only have to figure out how to deal with an increasingly unstable and violent Middle East, but he will also have to grapple with the challenge of uniting a deeply divided nation. With these issues to deal with, not to mention the economy, immigration, and our national debt, Donald Trump will need all the prayer we can possibly give him. We also need to pray that Donald Trump, who was for a long time staunchly pro-choice, remains committed to creating a culture of life in this country. He has promised to appoint conservative judges to the bench who will review Roe v. Wade. As Christians, we must pray that Mr. Trump will not waver on his promises on this issue.

Thirdly, we must pray for our leaders because the proclamation of the Gospel depends on it. As Americans, we are blessed to live in a free and (mostly) tranquil society. We have an untold number of opportunities to share the Gospel every day without fear of reprisal. We also have the freedom to coordinate international mission work on an incredible scale. Despite the decline in Christian culture in the United States in recent decades we still send more missionaries abroad than almost any other nation. While it is absolutely true that the church is thriving in countries where it faces persecution (particularly China) Christian communities are also being obliterated in places like Syria (that not incidentally, has terrible leadership). Good leaders who foster the development and preservation of free and open societies are a boon to the proclamation of the Gospel.

For these reasons, we need to earnestly pray for President Obama and President-Elect Trump, not to mention the many other people in elected office in our country as well as abroad. Although people in power can often seem unmovable and set in their (sometimes wicked) ways, we must not shirk the command of our Lord and we can always draw inspiration from the truth that “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. (James 5:16)”

Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace: The Prayer of St Francis

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Here is a prayer every Christian should know and reflect upon. May the Lord bless you as you read it and go about your daily work, Julian.

Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me bring your love;
Where there is injury your pardon, Lord;
And where there’s doubt true faith in you.

Oh, Master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there’s despair in life let me bring hope;
Where there is darkness, only light;
And where there’s sadness, ever joy.

Oh, Master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
In giving to all men that we receive;
And in dying that we’re born to eternal life.

Oh, Master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love with all my soul.