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The Hughes Report
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
"The Rest of the Gospel" Free Download
Topic: Christianity
My recent message, "The Rest of the Gospel," is now available for download free at the following link:

http://www.lulu.com/content/2657701

It can also be purchased on CD at:
http://www.lulu.com/content/2657312

You might also find the photo of a little white church on the CD cover interesting.  Saint Stephen's Episcopal Church was built in 1860 or '61 here in Liberty, and is on the state registry of historic buildings.  Since I took the photo years ago, the building was moved to the grounds of the Sam Houston Regional Research Center, a Texas history archive about 2 miles north of town.

Paul

Posted by hughes at 9:21 PM CDT
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Reaction to Wright and Politics in the Pulpit
Topic: Christianity

Over 20 years ago, I attended a white campmeeting in rural East Texas.  The preacher, who was from Mississippi, railed at great length against liberalism.  He actually said, "We might be legalistic, but it's better to be legalistic than liberal!"

Everybody seemed to voice their approval of this message.  I was aware, first, that the preacher was playing to the predispositions of his audience by preaching against "those people out there" who were not "right like us."  Moreover, I marveled at their ready acceptance of one extreme over another, as if there were no rational alternative.  I wanted to get up and leave, but I had left my trombone on the podium, and would have had to walk up in front of the whole church and pack it up.  Maybe I should have done so, with a flourish.  It seemed unwise at the time to do so without due consideration.

This episode made me begin to realize and recognize that pastors and congregations tend to purge out diversity -- for lack of a better term -- from their midst, by extremes of message or methodology, thereby imposing a "sameness" on the congregation.  It would seem that the saying, "the nail that sticks up gets hammered down," is not limited to Japan.

I can think of other episodes.  Once when I had relocated and was looking for a church, I tried out one whose pastor, every service, called everyone forward and told everybody to hold hands.  As a single man and a stranger, I was not comfortable with holding hands in that way, either with strange men or other men's wives or children or teenagers.  I also noticed the discomfiture of those who awkwardly stayed in their seats, and seemed stigmatized by non-participation.  I have come to regard such handholding as a mere gimmick to give the semblance of unity where there may be none.

Finally, cutting things short, I will mention that small community churches tend to become intermarried and thus increasingly closed to "outsiders," and I have suspected some pastors of trying to achieve permanence in their position by driving non-sycophants from the church.  The point is, it is good to preach a solid Gospel and have unity in the church, but having a narrow and exclusive ministry, in which favored persons are well served and others not at all, is hardly the same thing.

PH.


Posted by hughes at 12:49 PM CDT
Thursday, January 3, 2008
The Preacher's Mistake
Topic: Christianity
The Preacher's Mistake

by William Croswell Doane

The parish priest
Of austerity,
Climbed up in a high church steeple
To be nearer God,
So that he might hand
His word down to His people.

When the sun was high,
When the sun was low,
The good man sat unheeding
Sublunary things.
From transcendency
Was he forever reading.

And now and again
When he heard the creak
Of the weather vane a-turning,
He closed his eyes
And said, "Of a truth
From God I now am learning."

And in sermon script
He daily wrote
What he thought was sent from heaven,
And he dropped this down
On his people's heads
Two times one day in seven.

In his age God said,
"Come down and die!"
And he cried out from the steeple,
"Where art thou, Lord?"
And the Lord replied,
"Down here among my people."

William Croswell Doane
First Bishop of Albany
1832-1913

Posted by hughes at 1:32 PM CST
New Year's Resolutions Worth Making
Topic: Christianity
Some Resolutions Are Worth Making

New Year's has come around again, and what do people think of at New Year's?  Resolutions.

But New Year's resolutions, or what passes for them, are not what they used to be.  People don't often take resolutions seriously anymore.  We hear about resolutions that have been broken than those which have been kept.

However, there are some resolutions that are worth making, and keeping.  Many of these we find in the Word of God.  Allow me to mention just a few:

1.  "I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life" (Deuteronomy 30:19).  The Bible says that God's ways lead to life, but man's ways lead ultimately to eternal death.  Jesus said, "I am the Way the Truth, and the Life; no man comes unto the Father except by me" (John 14:6).  God gives us the freedom to choose which way we will go.  Resolve to choose life in 2008.

2.  "Choose you this day whom you will serve" (Joshua 24:15).  After the death of Moses, Joshua led Israel into the Promised Land and helped them conquer it.  Then he called all the people together.  Joshua reminded them of what God had done for them, and that they must remain faithful to Him.

Like Israel did later, we often play games with God.  We figure we can do our own thing now, and serve God later.  But later is often too late.  God calls us to choose--get off the fence, get in or get out.  God hates lukewarm believers (Revelation 3:15-16).  Resolve to serve God in 2008.

3.  "Repent and be baptized . . . and you shall receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).  On the day of Pentecost, Peter stood and told the crowd that Jesus, whom they had crucified, was in fact the Son of God.  It was Jesus, now exalted to the right hand of God, who produced the miracle of speaking in tongues that they had just seen and heard.

Troubled, the people began to ask, "What are we to do?"  Peter told them, essentially, that they must repent of their sins and undergo a conversion experience; and about 3000 were saved that day.  Even saints need to repent now and then.  Resolve to be repentant, to live a converted life, and to be filled with the Holy Spirit in 2008.

4.  "I do not want you to be ignorant!" (Romans 11:25, etc.).  Again and again, both Peter and Paul admonish the Church not to walk in ignorance, but in knowledge and truth.  The Bible and the preaching of God's Word are readily available to everyone today.  Willful ignorance of God's will is inexcusable (Romans 1:18-32).  Resolve to study God's Word faithfully and to know God's perfect will for your life in 2008.

5.  "Present your bodies a living sacrifice . . . and do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:1-2).  Someone has said that the problem with a "living sacrifice" is that it keeps crawling off the altar.  God does not call most of us to die for Him, but He calls all of us to live for him.  Resolve to keep sacrificing your selfish will and lending yourself to do God's will in 2008.

6.  "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16).  Paul recognized his own physical weakness and inability to be perfect before God in his own strength, try as he might.  He said, "What I want to do, I do not do; but what I hate, that I do" (Romans 7:15).

Paul knew he needed the power of God to work through him in order to overcome sin.  Desire to obey God and willpower are not enough (see Galatians 3:3).  Serving God absolutely requires the power of the Holy Spirit working through us.

How do you let the Holy Spirit work in and through you?  It involves all I have said before:  choosing life in Christ, choosing to serve God faithfully, being repentant and undergoing a real conversion experience, being knowledgeable of God's will for your life, offering yourself up to God continually and sacrificially to do His will, and much more.  Walking in the Spirit means being motivated by the Spirit of God rather than by your own desires.  Sure, it's hard, but it must be done.

There are many more great resolutions which we can draw from the Bible.  For instance, just look at those listed in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22.  We can learn a great deal from these admonitions.

So let us resolve together to walk by God's Spirit, not by our flesh, in 2008.
__________________________
©1992, 2008 Paul A. Hughes.  First Published in the Polk County Enterprise, January 5, 1992, p. 5B.

Posted by hughes at 1:29 PM CST
Friday, November 2, 2007
The ENRON Acrostic
Topic: Christianity

In discussing the recent ORU scandal and others past, the Prophecy News Watch Newsletter offers the following acrostic, using the word ENRON, describing the roots of scandal in Christian organizations:

"E is for entitlement. Do leaders in your church or organization feel they deserve to be treated like kings? That style may work OK in a monarchy, but Jesus said that in His kingdom leaders must behave like servants. Those with a spirit of entitlement should be disqualified.

N is for nepotism. When leaders show favoritism to family members, they create arbitrary double standards. Christian organizations must stop building spiritual dynasties.

"R is for robbery. If a Christian leader is using donor funds to purchase lavish perks for himself, he is stealing from God. Let's call it what it is. Though the Bible makes it clear that a Christian worker is worthy of his hire, it also condemns ministers who have their hands in the coffer. When the prophet Malachi asked the probing question, 'Will a man rob God?' (Mal. 3:8 NASB) he was not just addressing people who didn't tithe. He was pointing to greedy priests who stole part of the offerings meant for the poor.

"O is for overinflated egos. Too many leaders today are drunk with power. Like Nebuchadnezzar, their pride has caused them to go insane. When an egomaniac drives an organization, you can be sure he will eventually crash and hurt a lot of people in the process.

"N is for negligence. God looks for integrity in the little things. He judges leaders not by the size of the crowd or the volume of their preaching but by the way they conduct themselves when no one is looking."

[Kade Hawkins, Prophecy News Watch Newsletter, October 25, 2007, http://www.prophecynewswatch.com]

Paul 


Posted by hughes at 1:54 PM CDT
Friday, April 6, 2007
Christ, Our Easter Lamb
Topic: Christianity

Christ, Our Easter Lamb

Beginning as early as Genesis, God used the symbol of the innocent lamb as an example of the Christ who was to come.

Technically, this use of prophetic symbolism is known as "typology."  The spotless lamb is a "type" of Christ.

As a shepherding people, the lamb was a symbol with which all Jews could identify. They viewed the lamb as the embodiment of sweet, beautiful innocence, much as we would view a puppy or a kitten.

The prophet Nathan once told King David a story about a poor man who had raised a lamb as his own child. Unfortunately, a greedy rich man stole the lamb and had it slaughtered to feed his guest. David, a former shepherd, was incensed. He declared that the man who had done such a deed was worthy of death (2 Samuel 12).

In his Word, God chose to give us numerous pictures of just such an
innocent Lamb who would be slaughtered undeservedly, sacrificed for the sins of the guilty.

In Genesis 22, God told Abraham to take his beloved son Isaac to Mt. Moriah and sacrifice him. At the last moment, God substituted a ram in place of Isaac. As Abraham had told his son, "God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering."

When Israel was captive in Egypt, God sent ten plagues upon the Egyptians to force Pharoah to let them go. In the final plague, God sent the angel of death to kill all their first-born.

But God gave Israel a way of escape. They were each to take a spotless, first-born lamb and slaughter it. They were to smear its blood upon their doorposts, and eat its flesh in a memorial dinner.  When the death angel saw the blood, it would pass them by. This was the first Passover (Exodus 11-12).

God instituted various animal sacrifices as an object lesson in sin and forgiveness. When Adam and Eve sinned, God declared that every man would have to die for his own sins. "The soul that sins shall die," He said (Ezekiel 18:4).

But through sacrifice, God showed us that innocent blood could cover our sins. Of course, the blood of animals could never truly pay for human sin. But those paltry sacrifices pointed to the One who would be the ultimate sacrifice.

On the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) came a truly special sacrifice. At this annual event, the High Priest would make a sacrifice for the nation as a whole. He would take two goat kids, one of which would become a burnt offering.

The second kid was a sin offering, called the "scapegoat." The High Priest would place his hands on the goat's head and confess over it the sins of the nation. Thus Israel's sin was symbolically transferred to the goat. Then the goat was released in the wilderness, to die in the wild (Leviticus 16).

Both these goats were types of Christ. The first died for Israel's sins. The second, the scapegoat, symbolized the carrying away of their sin, where it would be lost and forgotten. Like the first, Christ died for our sins. Like the second, Christ carried away our sins "as far as the east is from the west" (Psalm 103:12).

Christ could have called legions of angels to save him from death on the cross. But He had the ultimate task to perform, to die as the spotless Lamb for sinners slain, "who takes away the sins of the world" (John 1:29).

Christ submitted to this ignominious death. "He was brought like a lamb to the slaughter; and like a sheep that is mute before its shearers, He did not open his mouth" (Isaiah 53:7).

In the end, the risen Christ is triumphant. He comes as both Lion and Lamb before the throne of God. He alone is worthy to open the seven seals of judgment (Revelation 5).

Jesus Christ is the spotless Lamb who was killed on that first Easter for my sins and yours. Because He has arisen from the dead, He has conquered death and the grave. His sacrifice long ago has become an eternal sacrifice for all who will believe and follow him, now and forevermore.

"God so loved the world that He gave his firstborn Son, so that whoever believes in him might not perish, but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through him" (John 3:16-17).

"This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:10).

We ought to love and serve, with every fiber of our beings, the kind of God who loved us so much.

Reprinted from Christ in Us: The Exalted Christ and the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit (2006) by Paul A. Hughes
http://www.lulu.com/godstrombone and online bookstores.


Posted by hughes at 3:32 PM CDT

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