Archive for Faith

Gettysburg Address was 272 Words, So are These 2 Sermons

Today, I had the honor and privilege of preaching at Parkview Christian Church, Wooster, Ohio. I wanted to do something totally different, and with the help of my friend, Ron Maxwell, we did.

Sermon

Some time ago, I heard the Gettysburg Address was only 272 words. Some consider it the most important speech in American history (see here). President Abraham Lincoln shared his remarks at the dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pa. His remarks lasted three minutes, and they still resonate today.

Given what Lincoln accomplished in 272 words, I always wondered what it would be like to write and deliver a 272–word sermon. In my mind, I thought about creating something called The 272 Project. I envisioned it as a preaching festival where all of the preachers would deliver messages of 272 words: No more, no less.

Well, this morning I had the opportunity to preach not only one, but two 272–word sermons. I appreciate Parkview’s senior minister, Brian White, giving me the opportunity to preach. He had no idea what I was going to do, and he wanted to be surprised. So, we surprised him.

After the worship team opened the service, we had communion and we took up the offering. I explained to the congregation this idea I had about The 272 Project, then Ron Maxwell came up to present the Gettysburg Address. Interestingly, a woman came up after the sermon and told me she did not realize how relevant the address was even to this day. The praise team played Awake My Soul, and then I preached. Here is the video:

The Parkview Address

#PrayForBoston

Pray for Boston

What do Magic and Christianity Have in Common?

There are some Christians and some churches that want nothing to do with magic, we’re talking the David Copperfield, Criss Angel, David Blaine kind not the black magic kind. I am a Christian who performs magic, so I sometimes find myself caught up in this debate.

Newspaper Magic

Bobby Warren performing a Torn and Restored Newspaper effect at Wooster Jam 2013. Photo by Dick Beery / 3 Oaks Enhancements.

I do not have a problem with it, because I am performing entertainment. When we go to the movies, we are actually watching a series of still photographs shown in rapid succession that gives the appearance of movement. It is magic. Any way, …

This past week provided ample opportunity to perform magic. I had four performances over a three-day span with three of them coming on the same day.

The first show was for an event for the Northeast Ohio Division of the Salvation Army, and it was in Ashland on Thursday. The other three performances were Saturday: Two were in conjunction with the Wooster Jam and the final one as a private show.

Needless to say, I was kept busy … very busy.

Each show provided interesting opportunities.

  • The Salvation Army show allowed me the opportunity to weave a Christian message into the effects I was performing.
  • The Wooster Jam performances were done to music, and they allowed me to create a sense of awe and wonder without saying a word.
  • The private show was for a group of girls ages 8–16, and a few adults, so I had to put together a show that would connect for young kids, teenagers and adults.

Each show, also had its challenges, but the goal was always to provide the best show I am capable of performing for each different situation and each different audience. In other words, I had to set aside my interests and focus on the interests of my clients.

When I perform, I do not always perform my favorite effects, and I don’t always perform my most stunning and amazing effects. Why? Because my audiences dictate my shows. If I were to perform my favorite effects, it would be a combination of rope magic and mindreading.

  • In creating the Salvation Army show, the challenge was to find effects that would provide a variety of different things, yet, I could still share a Christian message with it.
  • The Wooster Jam performances required me to put together effects that would be visually stunning and stand on their own. This required me to perform classics of magic, like the Linking Rings, something I have performed, but do not perform regularly.
  • The challenge of the private show was to find effects that little kids and adults would enjoy. I performed everything from a coloring book trick to a mindreading trick at the end.

So, what do magic and Christianity have in common? Well, it is all about serving others.

Leland Pennington, my magic mentor, taught me a long time ago that when performing shows, the goal is not to design a show that will fool other magicians or create a series of effects in which they would approve. No, you perform effects the audience likes. Your shows are about your audiences, not you.

Leland is an amazing magician who has studied so many areas of magic. So much so, that he is perhaps best known for his silk magic and metal bending, perhaps two aspects of magic people would not normally link together.

What Leland and I do might not suit other magicians, but that is OK, because it suits our audiences. (Do I need to mention we both get repeat bookings?)

A True Classic from the Halls of Atheism, You Won’t Believe This

In a piece on RawStory.com, David Edwards writes this: Professor Peter Higgs said recently that there is no God and so people should stop referring to the theoretical particle that bears his name as the “God particle.”

Theoretical

This is classic. I say print it out and frame it. This is one for the ages.

Let me see if I understand this correctly: A scientist with a theoretical particle named after him claims there is no God, therefore, do not call his theoretical particle, that I assume does not exist, after a God he believes does not exist.

File this under the heading: You can’t make this stuff up.

I might need to break open one of those big city dictionary’s, but am I right in thinking “theoretical” does not mean “actual.” Wait a second, let me check the interwebs.

The truth of the matter, even though I have faith that God exists, and even though I believe there is strong evidence that points to a transcendent Creator, both Prof. Higgs and I are two sides of the same coin: We both accept our views in faith.

Even Richard Dawkins, a staunch atheist who vigorously attacks Christianity and world religions, holds out the remotest possibility, though, admittedly not much, there might be a God.

Look, I am not a scientist, and I don’t play one on television (though I did play Doc Burton in a high school production of “Cheaper by the Dozen”), but there are questions science has yet to answer for me, and most likely others.

How did sexual reproduction start? How in the world did an organism who never engaged in sexual reproduction and had absolutely no history with it realize it could happen?

If the odds were astronomical that nonlife could become life, how is it that it happened repeatedly and how was it that there ended up being a male and a female organism in the same proximity that this type of union could happen?

Then, there is always the fact no one was around to observe how the universe or life began, so that makes us all speculators at best.

Then, there is this: The fool says in his heart, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1, NIV).

Should There Be One More Stop on the Romans Road to Salvation?

The Romans Road to Salvation is a series of verses from Paul’s letter to the Romans that points a person toward a saving relationship with God.

Depending upon whom you are reading, there might be four or five stops along this road. Generally, this is how the Romans Road to Salvation proceeds:

The Romans Road to Salvation

There is a good overview of the Romans Road on About.com in the Christianity section. You can read the full post here, but here is a brief description:

  1. Everyone needs salvation because we have all sinned. Romans 3:23 states, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (all Scripture from the New International Version).
  2. The price (or consequence) of sin is death. Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  3. Jesus Christ died for our sins. He paid the price for our death. Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
  4. We receive salvation and eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. Romans 10:9-10, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. {10} For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”
  5. Salvation through Jesus Christ brings us into a relationship of peace with God. Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Romans 8:1,”Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:38–39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, {39} neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Is that the end of the Romans Road?

I would maintain there needs to be an additional stop on this path: Baptism.

This is what Paul writes in Romans 6:3–4, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? {4} We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

This passage suggests to me those who have been baptized (immersed) were connected with the death of Christ (v. 3). Why were we baptized? So we may have new life (v. 4).

Today, Joe Rubino, our community outreach minister at Parkview Christian Church in Wooster, Ohio, said baptism is important, which is why it is part of the Great Commission and is included in every conversion account in the book of Acts.

We’ll discuss baptism further, but ponder Romans 6:3–4 and consider how it fits in with salvation. What do you think?

Are You Headed in the Right Direction

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

Proverbs 14:12, NIV

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I love the Tom Cochrane song, “Life is a Highway.” It is a fun, upbeat tune. I admit, I am one who does not get caught up in lyrics, unless it is a Christian song. So, don’t ask me what the song by Cochrane really means, but I will tell you want it means to me:

Life is an open book, and we can take ours wherever we want to.

We have the opportunity to strive for greatness or wallow in complacency. We can choose to do good or no good at all. It is up to us.

As for where we find direction, there is no lack of influences: Parents, preachers, friends, teachers, book, movies and bands. All of these can be positive influences, but not necessarily. People, even those with the best intentions, can fail and fall.

As it says in Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Not everything is as it seems. We need to be careful and cautious.

For me, I have strayed off the straight and narrow, but a good guide for me has been God’s Word, the Bible. It helps me to stay on track. It has a lot of wonderful advice in it, and it leads us to heaven.

We’ll explore more tomorrow, but for now, enjoy Tom Cochrane’s “Life is a Highway” on Spotify:

Or, on YouTube

How do you Tackle Debt? One Bill at a Time

Guest Post by Beverly Hootman

“Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude.”

Col. 4:2b, The Message

Wendi with an Eye

We were at one time debt-free and only left with a mortgage.

What?! Yes, it is true. We went through a financial program, and it was free. We were diligent about getting things paid off, and we did it early.

Then … we decided we wanted to move from Ohio to Florida, and so we did. That is where a lot of our debt came from.

When my husband’s retirement ran out, we lived off of credit cards until he was able to get a full-time job. Why? Because we wanted what we wanted and we got it!

We also got a pile of debt in the process!

This year Dave Ramsey kept popping up all around us here and there. Then it was at church, of all places!

Every Sunday someone was reminding us about the Financial Peace University (FPU) class coming up in February. My husband and I kept saying, “We have gotten out of debt before and we will just keep with that plan; it was free.”

Then someone at church suggested we audit the class to see how it is different. It only took one class and we were hooked. Life has not been the same since.

The Results

  • We see the light at the end of the tunnel. Debt will be done and we will not be going back. That has lifted a weight off all our shoulders.
  • We are working together as a couple and tackling this mole hill. We are meeting weekly to discuss our budget and future expenses. We have discussed the necessary cutbacks with our children, to become debt free in the next two years.
  • Our children have now learned to hate debt. This pleases my mommy heart. Yes, learn from our mistakes little ones!!
  • We took all of last years bank statements and placed every transaction in a category.
  • We found our biggest problem area is food. Our grocery “budget” was $600-700 in reality it was $1,200-1,300.
  • Our eating-out “budget” was $0, but in reality it was $100-150. We solved this by using Dave Ramsey’s envelope system and not using a debit card.
  • We also plan meals for two weeks and go shopping in one big trip with only a milk and produce run in between.
  • I have been giving out snacks when dinner is running late and cooking it anyways, even if it means we eat at 7 o’clock at night. Last month we spent $900 for groceries and eating out!! It makes our goal of $700 feel reasonable.

Tax Return

  • First we built up our emergency fund to $1,000.
  • Then we paid off the lender with the smallest balance. Now we will throw that monthly payment onto the next lender with the smallest balance.
  • In January of this year we were looking at being debt-free by May of 2015. We are now looking at February of 2015 being debt-free. It is just a matter of throwing what we can when we can and knocking that debt down even faster.

So are you staying alert? Are you looking with things with wide eyes or narrow? Are you appreciating what you have and saving for the future?

About Beverly Hootman: I am just a girl who loves running after God and falls flat on her face doing it. I like being real and transparent, not sugar-coating life’s issues. I love my husband and the five children God has blessed us with. I stay at home and home-school our children. I enjoy my morning time with God, blaring music, dancing with my children and giving my husband a kiss goodnight.

Free Gift for Everyone If You Accept It

Guest Post By Wendi Warren

When I wrote my fairy tale, Princess Grace: A Tale of Faith, Hope & Love, I did so because I wanted to write an allegorical tale of God’s love for us—for me.

Princess Grace

I wanted to show His love for us, even when we make choices that aren’t good for us. I wanted to show that He is coming to get us some day and take us back with us to His kingdom—heaven.

When I finished my story initially in 2007/2008, I shared it with a woman that I had come to respect. I didn’t know (and still don’t know) where she stands in her relationship with God. The feedback she gave me was that my story would have been better if I gave power to the princess to save herself and not have to rely on her father or brother to save her. Perhaps that is why I kept it on the shelf for so long.

The message of needing someone to save us, is not a popular one—especially in the United States. We are an independent lot. We believe we are more than capable of accomplishing anything if we just put our mind to it. Honestly, I feel this way a lot.

But when it comes to the salvation of my soul, there is nothing I can do to save myself. I must fully rely on and trust the message of the Bible.

Jesus Christ, the only son of God, came to earth as fully God and fully human to rescue me from the penalty of death, which is caused by my own willful disobedience to God’s law (i.e. sin). It is only through his death, burial and resurrection that I have hope of ever being rescued. I can’t earn it. I can’t buy it. I can’t do anything to get it, except receive it as it is, a free gift from God.

So because of the free gift that God gave me, that we celebrate on Easter, this coming Sunday, I want to give my fairy tale away as a free gift. It doesn’t have the power to save you, but maybe God will use it lead you to want to know about His free gift of grace.

Editor’s Note: Wendi’s book will be offered free through Amazon’s Kindle store on Saturday and Sunday. The Amazon link to Wendi’s book is on a special page about “Princess Grace,” you can click here. In addition to the Amazon link, the page contains other blog posts about the book and a podcast of an interview with Wendi about her book.

It’s Friday, But Sunday’s Coming

May you all have a blessed Resurrection Sunday. It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.

How Does a Blogger Discover One’s Voice?

When I knew I wanted to be a writer back in the ’80s, I read a Writer’s Digest article that offered a simple path: Get an apartment in New York City, place a typewriter on your kitchen table, sit down and start writing. When you get up in 10 years, you will be a writer.

Microphone.jpg

Well, I did not get an apartment in New York and opted for a dedicated word processor (I believe it was an Amstrad sold by Sears) in 1986 and a few years later an IBM-clone. Wouldn’t you know, in about 10 years I finally got the sense that maybe I could write.

Another way of looking at this is that it took 10 years for me to find my voice in writing.

Since December 2012, I have been blogging regularly, and it is mildly discouraging that I have found neither a voice for my blogging nor my blog.

The Z Section is supposed to be about anything. I fought the urge to “specialize” and focus on a niche to give me the freedom to write about whatever caught my attention. What I have discovered is anything can be anything and sometimes anything can be too daunting so anything becomes nothing.

Will I specialize? Will I focus on a niche? Truthfully, I am not sure.

But, here is what I know:

  • I have varied interests.
  • These interests include my Christian faith,
  • Reading the Bible,
  • Family,
  • Technology,
  • Smartphones,
  • Tablets,
  • Computers,
  • Social media,
  • Leadership principles,
  • Journalism,
  • Blogging,
  • Writing,
  • Pets, and
  • so much more.

The thing is, down the road I want to write books, and I want them to focus on potential material for Sunday school classes. However, as I look over this blog, admittedly about anything, I find very little that point toward that direction.

So, you can expect more regarding faith and how it intersects with all of those things above. Perhaps there I will find my voice.

I hope it doesn’t take 10 years.