Author: Michael S. Miller

One Thing: Press Forward

One of the benefits of documenting and reading history is the ability to learn from the mistakes of the past with the goal of achieving a better future. Avoiding the failures of the past encourages us to create a world which is more enjoyable, less painful and more satisfying than the past. Not only is this true at the macro level, when we view the entire history of the world, but even at the micro level of our individual lives.

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The Reformation: 500 Years Later

The Protestant Reformation was sparked 500 years ago this year when Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517. This session was recorded on October 29, 2017 to discuss the importance of this movement over the past 500 years. There are 3 important impacts discussed.

  1. Restoration of Fundamental Doctrines
  2. Return of the Church to a Community of Believers
  3. The Bible Becoming Accessible to All People

The three videos played during this session can be found below in the order they were shown.

Why Can’t You Be My Neighbor

Why can’t you be my neighbor? If that brings back childhood memories of a man in a zipper sweater changing his shoes, then you are among friends. Mr. Rodgers famously used the persona of a local neighbor to invite himself into the homes of millions of children for nearly 33 years on public television. Over the course of these three decades, the show never changed, but our understanding of a local neighbor certainly has changed.

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Certainty in Uncertain Times

Read the newspaper, turn on the news, open the news app on your phone or scroll through your Twitter feed and you will find a world capable of filling us with anxiety, worry and uncertainty. From church shootings to tax code changes to military tensions with North Korea, we are reminded daily of what life is like in a post-Genesis 3 world where everything is tainted by sin. In that kind of a world, we can be absolutely certain there will be uncertainty. This is why we have news alerts on our phone and 24-hour news networks, to inform us of all the uncertainties that occurred in our country and around the world throughout the day. Likewise, our individual lives are filled with a list of uncertainties that we take with us to bed and are guaranteed to stare us in the face when we wake up in the morning.

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Growing Through the Motions

One of the most common phrases heard in our modern culture is “going through the motions.” We are either tired of, feeling like or warned against “going through the motions;” either at work, school, church, ministry, in our marriages, in our Christian walk or just life in general. There is hardly a need to explain the definition of this phrase, since we have all experienced the frustration of becoming stuck in a repetitive routine of lather, rinse, repeat. It happens anytime we allow certain parts of our life to function without much thought, in the same way pilots use autopilot. Almost always this phrase refers to a negative reality, but we can also grow through what can sometimes be perceived as merely “going through the motions” of the Christian life.

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Thanks to Feminist, Convictions are Dead

Vice President Mike Pence has recently received excessive criticism over what has crudely become known as the “rule.” Something which should be considered encouraging, refreshing and humbling has been completely twisted and relabeled as disheartening, sexists and prideful. Once again the feminist movement is proving to us why they can never be trusted to accurately convey facts and confirming their inability to support anything which goes against their insatiable hunger to destroy any remnant of moral fabric which still exists in American culture.

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Avoid Politics, Offer Hope

Every national election year we are faced with the reality that both Election Day and Thanksgiving Day are located within the same month. This inevitable results in politics being at least one of the primary discussions at some point during the Thanksgiving celebration. This year the Holdness Family attempted to overcome this challenge by encouraging people to reconcile with each other for just this one day out of the year so everyone could take a much need break from discussing politics and focus primarily on being thankful. While the video skit is cute, entertaining and contains an underlining positive message, it does not offer a reason why everyone should “just get along” with one another and not discuss politics. This may create a temporary sense of reconciliation for one day, but the very definition of reconciliation implies the long-term restoration of a relationship, not a temporary truce. Soldiers of war have been know over the centuries to establish formal or informal temporary cease fire agreements to allow for the celebration of major holidays, but they certainly did not believe these would resolve the dispute, it merely suspended it for a short period of time.
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The Faithfulness of God

Matthew 1:1-17

The genealogy in Matthew 1 is more than just a list of names, it is a powerful demonstration of the faithfulness of God to fulfill all His promises and particularly the promise He is about to fulfill through Christ in the rest of Matthew. This should offer us hope that God will continue to be faithful even when we are not. This is the first sermon in a new series on the Gospel According to Matthew. Preached at Potomac Baptist Church in Sterling, VA

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Politics Isn’t Sports

Human beings by nature are competitive individuals.  It was the competitive nature within the heart of Cain which motivated him to murder his brother Abel (Genesis 4).  However, it was not the result of God rejecting his offering that led to murder, but rather it was the contempt Cain had for his brother upon realizing that Abel found God’s favor and he had not.  Nothing exhibits the competitive spirit in human beings more so in modern day American than in the public sports arena.  Anyone with even a vague familiarity of sports would expect athletes to be ruled by an attitude of tough competition, but sadly in our modern day, the competition among sports fans often far exceeds the competitiveness of even the players.  It is the fans who invest so much in the team through the purchase of season tickets, hats, jerseys and endless other apparel items.  It is the fans, not the athletes who defend their favored team at work, participate in fantasy football and brag about the abilities of players; this is where the real competition exists.  While there are certainly exceptions to the rule, sports players are the ones who generally demonstrate a respectable degree of sportsmanship towards each other.  It is not typically the players who become unruly with each other or demonstrate contempt for one another, it is the fans.  Interestingly, the ones who have the most contempt are the ones who have the least to lose.

This election has no doubt generated high levels of tension, competitiveness and even contempt for one another, and it is for this reason we must be very careful in the weeks ahead.  Just as in sports, we selected a team, perhaps made donations and even offered proof of our loyalty by purchasing the team’s hats, shirts, bumper stickers, pins and other memorabilia; all with the hope of defining ourselves as a winner on November 9th.  But politics is not sports, yet one would hardly notice the distinction in modern day America.  A visitor to our country could easily be led to the conclusion that Trump and Clinton were merely the names of two sports teams on their way to a national championship game.

This may point to the unfortunate fact that in many ways we have abandoned a proper perspective behind the purpose of a presidential election and replaced it with a shallow desire to either find ourselves on the winning team or be proven accurate in our prediction of the outcome.  Is the emphasis behind our endorsement of any particular candidate based on our personal convictions regarding the issues at stake or merely from a desire to experience the excitement so often felt by sports fans leading up to the big championship game?  Perhaps it is our sense that the latter is true, which has caused so many to seriously consider withholding their voting privilege on November 8th. 

Our sports saturated culture understands the pride associated with being fans of the winning team, but both winners and losers can so quickly be led down a path which leads to contempt for the other side, especially when the stakes are so high.  Is it any wonder that one of the more popular bumperstickers after the 2008 presidential election read “we won, get over it.”  Perhaps that is the reason this presidential election has created so many divisions and even contempt for our fellow countrymen. Our competitiveness has been driven by the belief that, unlike sports, if our candidate is not elected the entire country and future generations will lose.  There may be some validity to this statement, but even though the President of the United States is recognized as one of the most powerful positions in the world, to consider it the primary position of significance in our government is to misunderstand the constitution which forms our nation.  While the President does retain a significant amount of authority, that individual is only capable of extending power to the point where the authority of Congress and the Supreme Court begins.  This distribution of power across three branches of government was wisely considered by our founders to be the best method of preventing one individual to retain all authority, as in the monarchical system which formerly ruled the original thirteen colonies.

For this reason alone, we can avoid a doomsday view of this election, but for the Christian there is an even greater reason.  Isaiah 14:24, 26 tells us, “The Lord of hosts has sworn: As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand…” (v26) “…this is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations.” (ESV).  It is for this reason we can accurately conclude the elected winner will be one installed by the divine decree of God to fulfill His good and perfect purpose.  However, this should not be viewed as a justification to relegate our voting privilege. God has placed us in a county where such a freedom should be viewed as part of God’s grace and our responsibility as citizens of a country who should “seek the welfare of the city” (Jeremiah 29:7).  Yet, despite the outcome, it is also our responsibility to submit to the government who ultimately serves a divine purpose (Romans 13:1-7).

Attempts to find hope in an earthly system of government is false hope and hardly the basis for the inevitable contempt which is likely to ensue as a result of this election.  As Christians we already belong to a winning team, where victory is only found in salvation from the penalty of sin through Christ and the expected future return of our Lord.  It is for this reason we should always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15, ESV). Without this perspective at the forefront of our minds, we are in danger of conveying the message that our hope is found not in Christ, but in a Presidential candidate.  Nor should we have any reason to share in any demonstration of contempt for those who are also made in the image of God.  The grace from God bestowed upon all who belong to Christ never results in contempt, only sadness in knowing there are many who are in danger of missing out on the grace of God for all of eternity.  This election is not the time for Christians to spurn contempt for their fellow citizens or fellow heirs in Christ, but rather it is an opportunity to highlight the flaws of a fallen world which awaits the coming restoration of all things (Romans 8:22, Acts 3:21) and to demonstrate our willful submission to God’s divinely ordained plan.