Sunday, January 31, 2016

Paul At MARS HILL: SCS 70

Mars Hill, Athens, Greece
Sunday, January 31, 2016, Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 70

PRAYER for Today:
Father, We admit we are broken, but we know You are able to heal our hearts and souls of all of our brokenness and darkness. Help us Father to accept your freely given grace that we might be reconciled to You. We ask that Your will be done and that we may act saintly towards our fellow sojourners who around the world are hurting so that they might see a little of You in our daily lives.  It is in Your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

SCRIPTURE LESSON for Today: Acts 17:16-34 King James Version (KJV)
16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.
17 Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.
18 Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.
19 And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?
20 For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean.
21 (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)
22 Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.
23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To The Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.
24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;
25 Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;
26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;
27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:
28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.
29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.
30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent:
31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.
32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.
33 So Paul departed from among them.
34 Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

SERMON for Today:

Paul’s ministry in Athens began in the marketplace and there he encountered some Athenian philosophers who wanted to know more about what Paul was saying. This led to a gospel sermon at the Areopagus where Paul preached about the risen Christ.

Athens was filled with examples of artistic beauty, particularly its statues of the Greek gods and the architectural magnificence of its temples. Paul, however, was deeply troubled by the idolatry that the art represented. He was deeply troubled to see the entire city devoted to false gods represented by idols.

Witnessing for Christ was a matter of patient persuasion. Although Paul saw a few people come to faith here in Athens , he had no helpers with him, there is no record of any miracles being done, and there is no record of a church being established.  He stood alone at Mars Hill preaching the Gospel.

Paul conversed with representatives of two of the most popular philosophies of the day, Stoicism and Epicureanism. They called Paul a babbler.  Some suggest the term suggested one who pecks at ideas like a chicken pecks at seeds and then spouts them off without fully understanding them. However, we know that Paul knew what he was speaking of.  He had met the risen Christ on the road to Damascus.

Acts 17:22–34  Paul’s Areopagus (Mars Hill) address is the prime example in Acts of preaching to Gentiles. Although rooted in OT ideas, it appealed to the Greek philosophers by interacting with their thought, even quoting their own writers in a well-informed, respectful way. Its main subject was the error of idolatry. Paul began with and returned to the theme of idolatry in a well-informed manner, clearing the way for a full statement of the gospel, but he was interrupted before he could achieve this.

Paul speaks of the God who made the world and everything in it, including mankind. He identifies this one true God as superior to all the lesser, competing deities that might be worshiped in Athens, with all their foibles and weaknesses. When Paul says that “God does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands,” it is easy to imagine him gesturing toward the magnificent temple, the Parthenon, that stood just above him and his hearers on the acropolis. Paul was claiming that the true God of heaven and earth does not live in temples like the Parthenon and is not served by the sacrifices which the Athenians regularly brought to their temples.

Then Paul begins the real Gospel message. telling them that God will judge the world.  He means that God will hold all people accountable, even these philosophers in Athens.
He speaks of the resurrection of Jesus as the center of God’s plan for history and as the basis for hope in the future resurrection of the body.

As a result of Paul’s address to the Areopagus, Luke notes that some men believed. In addition to these men who initially believed, some others also believed, including Dionysius  and a woman named Damaris, as well as others with them.

May God Richly Bless Your Life This Week and For Evermore. Amen.

  
© Ed Cooper, January 31, 2016, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
  All rights reserved

(Ed Cooper is an ordained Elder and minister in the Christian Church/Churches of Christ which are a part of the Restoration Movement started in Appalachia in the early 1800’s.  Ed started preaching as a teenager in the village churches around Mashoko Mission, Zimbabwe, Africa when he was a teenager there with his parents in the early 1960’s. Ed recognizes he is a flawed sinner needing God’s grace and your prayers.)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

JESUS SAID TEACH WHAT I HAVE TAUGHT YOU: SCS 69

Sunday, January 24, 2016, Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 69


PRAYER for Today:
Father, we know You are able to heal the hearts and souls of all of us who are broken. Help us Father to accept your grace that we might be reconciled to you. We ask for Your will to be done and that we may act saintly towards our fellow sojourners who around the world are hurting so that they might see a little of You in our daily lives.  It is in His name we pray. Amen.


SCRIPTURE LESSON for Today: Matthew 28:16-20 (KJV)
16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.
17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.
18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

SERMON for Today:


Some theologians would have you believe that the doubters spoken of in verse seventeen did not include any of the eleven disciples, but they have no way of knowing.  The appearance of Jesus after His death I am sure was difficult for a lot of folks to comprehend.  They probably went around and around in their heads on what they were seeing and when they were not in His presence probably questioned their own minds.


There is no question as to what Jesus said to them.  He told them flat out that He was all powerful.  That He had been put in charge of everything on earth and in heaven. Then He gave them a command. The command He gave them this time was much different than the one He had given them earlier in His ministry when He sent them out saying, “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matthew 10:5-6)  In His last command He included everyone. He said, “teach all nations.”


What did He want them to teach?  He wanted them to teach everything He had commanded them.  In other words He wanted them to teach “all nations” everything He had taught them.  He promised to go with them “even unto the end of the world.”
Jesus did not say go teach whatever you decide would best fit the culture or social opinions of your day.  Let me repeat this sentence. Jesus did not say go teach whatever you decide would best fit the culture or social opinions of your day.


Jesus did not give the authority to anyone to change His teachings for any political, social, or intellectual reason.  He simply said GO.


May God Richly Bless Your Life This Week and For Evermore. Amen.


  
© Ed Cooper, January 24, 2016, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
  All rights reserved


(Ed Cooper is an ordained Elder and minister in the Christian Church/Churches of Christ which are a part of the Restoration Movement started in Appalachia in the early 1800’s.  Ed started preaching as a teenager in the village churches around Mashoko Mission, Zimbabwe, Africa when he was a teenager there with his parents in the early 1960’s. Ed recognizes he is a flawed sinner needing God’s grace and your prayers.)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

CAN I STILL GET MANIC?

by ed

The question I often ask myself is whether or not I can still get manic?  You may think this is not a very important question.  To you I am sure it is not. However, ever since I went beyond my 65th birthday a couple years ago the question has been on my mind.  Since I have a few heath problems like vascular disease and kidney disease to name a couple, I even wonder if my body could take a manic episode or would it kill me?  Then I ask myself would that really be so bad? Maybe a manic episode would be the way to go.

I am sure by now I am really sounding foolish to you.  You need to know that mania may be the most addictive high any person can experience.  Most people I have talked to say the hardest part about trying to prevent another manic episode is how good it felt.  I am not saying the flip side feels good.  Living through a bipolar depression is not a sure thing.  We (folks with a Bipolar I Disorder label) have a reduction of 9.2 years in expected life span, and as many as one in five of us will complete our suicide attempt. (National Institute of Mental Health)

I have done good.  I am considered an old man or near an old man depending on your age.  The real question here is should I keep on taking the medications which are keeping me from having a manic episode or just take the risk since I have already beat the odds anyway?  Besides these medications are even worse for people my age.

No matter how much I would like to have another manic episode and no matter how little I care if I would survive it I cannot do it.  Why?  Because God did not send me a special message saying, "Ed I am done with you on earth you can now do with your life as you please."  Also, my wife and the other people who love me have not said they are done with me.  I must keep trying not to be selfish and self-centered.  I must keep trying to learn how to have the servant-spirit like Jesus.

© Ed Cooper, January 21, 2016, Stoney Creek, TN
    All rights reserved


Sunday, January 17, 2016

IF OUR FAITH HAD WORKS THERE WOULD BE NO RACE QUESTION: SCS 68

Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya 

Sunday, January 17, 2016, Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 68

PRAYER for Today:
Father, we know You are able to heal the hearts and souls of all of us who are broken. Help us Father to accept your grace that we might be reconciled to you. We ask for Your will to be done and that we may act saintly towards our fellow sojourners who around the world are hurting so that they might see a little of You in our daily lives.  It is in His name we pray. Amen.

SCRIPTURE LESSON for Today: James 2:1-26 (KJV)
My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.
2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;
3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:
4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?
6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?
7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?
8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:
9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.
12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.


SERMON for Today:

“One day we must ask the question, “Why are there forty million poor people in America?” And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life’s marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. You see, my friends, when you deal with this, you begin to ask the question, “Who owns the oil?” You begin to ask the question, “Who owns the iron ore?” You begin to ask the question, “Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that is two thirds water?” These are questions that must be asked.”  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In his last speech to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1967


May God Richly Bless Your Life This Week and For Evermore. Amen.

  
© Ed Cooper, January 17, 2016, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
  All rights reserved

(Ed Cooper is an ordained Elder and minister in the Christian Church/Churches of Christ which are a part of the Restoration Movement started in Appalachia in the early 1800’s.  Ed started preaching as a teenager in the village churches around Mashoko Mission, Zimbabwe, Africa when he was there with his parents in the early 1960’s. Ed recognizes he is a flawed sinner needing God’s grace and your prayers.)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

WHAT DOES BEING RECONCILED TO GOD MEAN?: SCS 67

Reconciliation Statue at Coventry Cathedral, also known as St Michael's Cathedral, is the seat of the Bishop of Coventry and the Diocese of Coventry, in Coventry, West Midlands, England.

Sunday, January 10, 2016, Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 65

PRAYER for Today:
Father, we know You are able to heal the hearts and souls of all of us who are broken. Help us Father to accept your grace that we might be reconciled to you. We ask for Your will to be done and that we may act saintly towards our fellow sojourners who around the world are hurting so that they might see a little of You in our daily lives.  It is in His name we pray. Amen.

SCRIPTURE LESSON for Today: 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 (KJV)
11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.
12 For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.
13 For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause.
14 For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:
15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
16 Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.
17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.


SERMON for Today:

To be reconciled to God is to become new.  This Scripture tells us we have been reconciled to God by Jesus because Jesus took our sins to the grave and then broke the bonds of death and hell.  It is a simple enough plan to understand.  The question then becomes why do so many of us have such a hard time accepting God’s grace and being reconciled to Him?

I believe the main reason is that we cannot imagine anyone doing this for us.  Most of us have a hard time finding another human who we think understands us and gives us a real break when we mess up.  We simply cannot fathom a story in which the creator of all that is and all that will be loves us enough to want to have a personal relationship with us enough to send His Son to the cross.  If we have enough ego to possibly believe that kind of story, then we don’t even think about needing God.

To understand why God would provide such a path to Him you must carefully study the Hebrew Scriptures and God’s interactions with His creation.  All He ever seemed to have wanted was a voluntary relationship with us.  The plan of reconciliation was His last plan to have this voluntary relationship with us.

We are told in this passage of Scripture that the church and all Christians should have a ministry of reconciliation.  If we were doing our job we would be uniting people back with their Creator and with each other.  Reconciliation should become a word on the lips of every Christian rather than judgments, anger and accusations.  We are suppose to be about the business of becoming new.  Not remaining the same old judgmental folks.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:”

May God Richly Bless Your Life This Week and For Evermore. Amen.

  
© Ed Cooper, January 10, 2016, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
  All rights reserved

(Ed Cooper is an ordained Elder and minister in the Christian Church/Churches of Christ which are a part of the Restoration Movement started in Appalachia in the early 1800’s.  Ed started preaching as a teenager in the village churches around Mashoko Mission, Zimbabwe, Africa when he was there with his parents in the early 1960’s. Ed recognizes he is a flawed sinner needing God’s grace and your prayers.)

Thursday, January 07, 2016

I WAS SURPRISED AFTER MY SUICIDE: fiction by ed


I thought after a person died they were surrounded by light and saw a warm friendly face smiling at them.  I found myself in total darkness and stiff as an old piece of driftwood.  I could not move a muscle or hear a sound.  I thought I was going to a better place, but this was a no place.  I could see nothing.  I could hear nothing.  I could move nothing on my body.  All I seemed to have left was the ability to use my mind.  The irony was overwhelming.  It was my mind who had put me here.


I will not bore you with all the details, but we had been sitting alone on the back porch of a house we shared with my wife in Eastern Kentucky looking out on the area around the branch that ran through our property.  If you are confused by the use of “we”, all I can say is I do not have time in my present predicament to explain Dissociative Identity Disorder to you other than to say I had more than one person/personality using my body.  As we sat there one of us decided they were done.  By done I mean they decided they did not want to stay around on earth any longer.  An argument broke out among us and I lost the argument.


I was not really all that disappointed in losing because I was not that fond of living.  The method chosen was opening an artery in the bathtub which would be fairly quick and painless.  Less dramatic than using a gun, but more sure than pills.  That is what we did.  I was surprised after my suicide to find myself in total darkness alone and no longer a we but alone in the darkness.  It had not even been my idea, but I was the one who was going to have to face the consequences and they seemed to be unexpected ones.


I realized I would never have the chance to explain to my wife how this happened.  She would never know who talked me into doing this to our body.  She must at this moment be as alone as me.  How could I have been so foolish as to think I would be greeted as a hero in heaven?  Then I heard faint voices as if they came from the other side of a mountain.


“You know I am just.”


“Yes Father, but you saw what was done to him as a boy.  You know how many times he was sexually abused.  You know what the military did to him when they locked him away for months in what they called a psychiatric unit.  You saw all this.”


“Yes my Son, but I also saw his wife and family when they had to bury his dead body.  Remember I am the giver of life and no one has the right to take a life not even their own.”


Was I hearing God and Jesus discussing what to do with me?  Was this my Judgement Day?  I thought I was going to get to stand before God myself and make my own case.  However, I was glad I was not there.  I had no case.  We had been wrong.  We hurt everyone who ever loved us.  I let we do what I would never have done.


“He will remain in the darkness for his sin.”


“Then Father, I will stay in the darkness with him till you decide he has been in the darkness long enough.  I was there beside him when he was a boy.  I will be by his side now.”

the end

© Ed Cooper, January 7, 2016, Stoney Creek, TN
     All rights reserved