Outer Space

I’m a Christian, and sometimes a teacher/preacher.

This sermon uses outer space to express the love, wonder, and provision of God.

“Space is big. Really big.  You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts next to space.” — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

I preached this at ConGlomeration science fiction convention in Louisville, KY in 2017. A friend of mine, Les Johnson, is NASA’s program director for their solar sail program, and as such was a Guest Of Honor at the convention. We’ve been friends for a few years, and since we’re both Christians and we both have a NASA background (although mine is way old), I decided that an outer space sermon would be cool.

The Hitched Guide to the Galaxy

Since the church is called the bride of Christ, and being married can be known as getting hitched, I titled this one after The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a classic science fiction comedy radio-play / novel / game / movie / etc.

I was volunteering at a Star Wars-themed event at the same time, and found a way to make PowerPoint slides do an opening crawl, which was pretty cool. I quoted the Hitchhiker’s Guide for the opening text, since the point it made was fitting for my message.

Sermon Around the Moon

On December 23, 1968, humanity was about to get its first glimpse at the dark side of the moon. Apollo 8 was about to orbit our orbiter. The crew radio’ed this message back to Earth just before they lost communication.

Bill Anders: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.”

Jim Lovell: “And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.”

Moon SermonCommander Frank Borman: “And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
“And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.”

My God, It’s Full of Stars

The Bible often gets flak for being scientifically inaccurate. But there are some interesting phrases that were written many centuries before mankind understood space.

He sits above the circle of the earth. (Isaiah 40:22)

He drew a circular horizon on the face of the waters, at the boundary of light and darkness. (Job 26:10)

He hangs the earth on nothing. (Job 26:7)

He made all the stars: Arcturus and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations. (Job 9:9)

Isaiah identifies the Earth as a globe. Job describes the day/night separation as a circle, claims that it’s floating in empty space, and names several heavenly bodies.

A scientist once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.” The scientist asked, “What is the tortoise standing on?” “The first turtle stands on the back of a second, far larger, turtle, who stands directly under him.” “But what does this second turtle stand on?” “It’s turtles all the way down!”

Heaven and Earth

God created everything — whether or not we believe it, whether or not we understand it, whether or not we can even see it.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky above proclaims His handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)

He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved. (Psalm 104:5)

The Lord answered Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38:1)

He made the universe for the same reason he made us — to glorify and praise Him.

The Final Frontier

As we study astronomy and other sciences, it can be easy to get lost in the details. The facts can distract us from the truth. Just about everything we learn only leads to more questions.

Do not regard the sun, moon, and stars as gods to worship. God your father has given them to all the people on earth. (Deuteronomy 4:19)

What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. Since creation, God’s invisible qualities have been clearly seen, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20-21)

The universe that God made is so wondrous, many consider the universe to be the biggest and most powerful thing there is. But the creation is not greater than the Creator.

A friend of mine is a geneticist. As he studied bodies, then organs, then cells, then nuclei, then DNA, and so on, he found God by looking smaller and smaller and smaller.

With my NASA experience, and a long interest in astronomy, I found God as I looked bigger and bigger and bigger.

The Ox-Files

*He later identifies them as cherubim in (Ezekiel 10:15).

Some people wonder if Ezekiel saw extraterrestrials in his wheels within wheels.

In appearance their* form was human, but each of them had four faces. Each of the four had the face of a human being, of a lion, of an ox, and of an eagle. (Ezekiel 1:5,10)

They sound pretty weird, I’ll grant. But the four-faced heads can represent four kinds of authority.

  • Mankind has been given domain over the plants and animals on Earth.
  • The lion is known as the king of the beasts.
  • The ox is the strongest domestic animal (“as strong as an ox”).
  • The eagle has been called the lord of the air.

So it’s not a freaky alien — it’s metaphor for complete sovereignty.

To clarify, Ezekiel opens and ends the chapter with this:

I saw visions of God. (Ezekiel 1:1)
This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. (Ezekiel 1:28)

Those were visions that described the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. That there’s a lot of prepositional clauses.

“I’m not saying it was cherubim… but it was cherubim.”

Aliens Among Us

There are, however, alien beings here with us.

You might know one, or even be one.

I urge you as strangers and aliens to abstain from sinful desires that battle for your soul. (1 Peter 2:11)

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They admitted that they were strangers and aliens on earth. (Hebrews 11:13)

Obviously, this wasn’t meant to mean space aliens, but to call out that as followers of Christ, our lives should be so distinctive that all can see we’re “not from around here.” Our citizenship is in the kingdom of heaven. Earth is just our way-station, our temporary assignment, our airport layover.

Read more about aliens here.

New Heaven

Sure, the universe is cool and all, but that’s just the start.The Hand of God

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. (Revelation 21:1)

The new and improved model is coming.

Well, the improved model is coming, anyway.

Jesus must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised. (Acts 3:21)

I believe that the new heaven and new earth are not separate and distinct from the heaven and earth we have now — they’re the perfected and redeemed heaven and earth.

When sin entered the world, all of creation fell. But God cannot make something that is beyond his redemption.

Just as he is redeeming our souls and giving us perfect bodies, He will redeem the entirety of creation.

“Even old New York was once New Amsterdam. Why they changed it I can’t say. People just liked it better that way.” — Istanbul (Not Constantinople), as popularized by They Might Be Giants

New City

God’s new Jerusalem will be roughly one half the size of America.

I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven. (Revelation 21:2)

Its perimeter length and width and height were each 1,400 miles. (Revelation 21:16)

As Winston Zeddemore said in Ghostbusters, “That’s a big Twinkie.”

New Land

Besides having a new enormous city to live in, the redeemed land will flourish.

The desert will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. It will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. (Isaiah 35:1-2)

On each side of the river grew a tree of life, used for medicine to heal the nations. (Revelation 22:2)

Creation is currently in a holding pattern, waiting for the day that God will remove the curse.

“We can make him stronger. Faster. Better. We have the technology.” — The Six Million Dollar Man

New Bodies

I may look like an overweight balding middle-aged guy, but… Well, yeah, I am an overweight balding middle-aged guy, but that’s just temporary.

There will be no more death, mourning, crying, nor pain. No longer will there be any curse, hunger, nor thirst. (Revelation 21:4,22:3,7:16)

The people will no longer be sick and helpless. The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the mute will sing, and the lame will leap. (Isaiah 33:24,35:5-6)

Every physical ailment and infirmity will vanish. I’ll actually be able to sing and dance.

New Fun

Heaven won’t be sitting around in the clouds playing harps. Unless you really really enjoy that sort of thing, I guess.

He will fill us with eternal pleasures. (Psalm 16:11)

In those days people will live in the houses they build and eat the fruit of their own vineyards, and long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall sing with everlasting joy on their heads. (Isaiah 65:21,22, 51:11)

Many will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 8:11)

We’ll never get bored. Each day will bring new fun, new discoveries, new travel, new work, new food, new friends, and more.

Yes, I have favorite theoretical physicists. Why don’t you?

Come, Let Us Reason Together

As two of my favorite theoretical physicists say…

Albert Einstein: “The more I study science, the more I believe in God.”

Michio Kaku: “It is clear that we exist in a plan which is governed by rules that were created, shaped by a universal intelligence and not by chance.”

Download

You can download the PowerPoint slides here.

Additional Reading

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Who What Where?

I’m a Christian, and sometimes a teacher/preacher.Question

This lesson doesn’t teach anything; it only asks. It’s good to periodically review all that we know and that we don’t know.

This is intended as an interactive group participation lesson. Taken as a whole, I’ve tried to organize it to paint a picture of God’s love for us, and what we should do from there.

God

  • Who is God?
  • What is God’s name?
  • What features/qualities does God have?
  • Does God love everyone or just Christians?
  • Does God ever change his mind?
  • Why is God so different in O.T. and N.T.?

Jesus

  • Is Jesus God, partly God, or the Son of God?
  • How do we know Jesus was born/real?
  • How do we know Jesus died? that he rose?
  • Where was Jesus for the three days between?
  • Was Jesus mortal or immortal?
  • Did Jesus perform miracles, or did God?

Holy Spirit

  • What does the Spirit actually do?
  • How/when does the Spirit come into us?
  • Does an identical Spirit live inside each of us?
  • Did the Spirit come to earth before Jesus?
  • Are there still miraculous gifts today?
  • How do we know our gifts?

Prayer

  • Why should we pray?
  • Should we pray the Lord’s Prayer?
  • Does God hear all of our prayers?
  • Does God answer all our prayers?
  • Does God hear the prayers of nonbelievers?
  • How do we know God’s answer?

Heaven and Hell

  • Who goes to heaven? Who goes to hell?
  • What about those who never hear the gospel?
  • What must we do to be saved?
  • How is Jesus the only way to heaven?
  • Are there other nonearthly realms?
  • Will we have physical bodies in heaven?

Church

  • What is the church?
  • What should the church be/do?
  • Who’s in charge of the church?
  • What makes Christianity different?
  • Why are there so many denominations?
  • Which denomination are we?

Us / People

  • Who are we?
  • Why did God make us?
  • Why did God die for us?
  • What happens when we die?
  • Why do we have troubles?
  • Do we have a truly free will?

The Bible

  • What is the Bible?
  • Who wrote the Bible?
  • How was the Bible assembled?
  • Why are there so many translations?
  • Are there/can there be errors in the Bible?
  • How did people know God before the Bible?

More Questions

To find more questions to consider, check out these great resources:

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You can get a copy of the PowerPoint slides PowerPoint slides here.

Winter Quest

This weekend, I went to www.Winter-Quest.com, a charity comic-con to benefit the homeless in Louisville.

Comic-Con for the Homeless?Hotel Louisville

The event was held at Wayside Christian Mission‘s Hotel Louisville.

Wayside is a homeless shelter that has been in Louisville for many years. A good friend of mine runs the “Samaritan Patrol” for them, delivering coffee, sandwiches, coats, and such to the homeless camps, bridges, train tracks, etc. every Sunday.

Hotel Louisville was once a Holiday Inn, but it ran into financial troubles right after a major remodel. So Wayside bought the hotel, where it now houses the homeless. The homeless also run the entire hotel, gaining experience at cooking, cleaning, managing, and otherwise taking care of business.

The Waycool Cafe inside the hotel is crazy cheap ($5 buffet, anyone?), and they have a very good selection, including vegan and Esselstyn diets.Ministries

Ministries

I was at the con representing some of the various outreaches that I’m a part of:

  • the Christian Gamers Guild (geared toward board gamers, card gamers, and roleplayers)
  • the Grave Robbers (geared toward punks and goths)
  • Game Church (geared toward video gamers)
  • Fans for Christ (sadly now defunct, geared toward fandom, cosplayers, anime, etc.)
  • …and others that I didn’t specifically have materials to send home with people

Guests

The range of people and groups there was impressive for such a new event.Family Tree

Fun

Leia Cupcakes

“I love these cupcakes.”
“I know.”

For a small first-year event, there was a lot going on.

 

Building Bridges

I’m a Christian, and sometimes a teacher/preacher.

This lesson looks at how we can reach out to those around us, and is a good followup to the The World Around Us lesson.

Be There

“No matter where you go, there you are.”The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

Many of us know people that don’t know the Lord. It’s difficult to get to know someone if you never spend time with them. The first step in building a bridge is to be where they are, now and then.

How can they believe if they have not heard? How can they hear without someone to preach? (Romans 10:14)

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)

In this way, I have aspired to preach the gospel where Christ was not known. (Romans 15:20)

Paul didn’t just wait for the people to come to him — he went where the people were, and specifically sought out the people who no one else was talking to.

Thing Explainer

Relate

Finding something in common with people isn’t always easy. Paul adapted himself to his audience, but without crossing the line to join them in sin.

Even though I am free, I become a slave to all. When I am with Jews, I live like a Jew. When I am with gentiles, I too live apart from the law. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with the weak, I share their weakness. I have become all things to all people so that by any means some may be saved. (1 Corinthians 9:19-22)

Move beyond small talk about traffic and weather, by looking for topics around food, kids, travel, music, movies, and hobbies.

One of my favorite examples of how to get idea across to people is the book Thing Explainer by Randall Munroe, of xkcd webcomic fame. Here are some sample pages thanks to the fan site explainxkcd. (You can write your own ten hundred words people use most set of words, thanks to this word checker.)

Integrate

After finding some common ground, and beginning to build that relationship, find ways to keep it going. Help them out with something. Text or message them an article or video related to what you talked about. Don’t do it with a sneaky motive, but out of a genuine desire to help them and to know them better.

The entire Law is fulfilled in a single decree: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

Love one another with genuine affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10)

Be a part of the community around you.

Do

Talking is nice. Praying is nice. But faith and love “with hands and feet” will usually have more impact.

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10)

Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness will be as bright as noon. (Isaiah 58:10)

Get out and do something for someone. If you’re the first one home on garbage day, drag the garbage cans for all your neighbors back to their houses. Rake their leaves, shovel their driveways, offer to walk their dogs, “accidentally” bake too many cookies.

Don’t just be good. Do good

GiveGenerous

Generosity is an outgrowth of gratitude. All that we have come from God. The blessings he grants us can be shared with others.

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Luke 6:38)

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in all its forms. (1 Peter 4:10)

Besides money, which is the most common application of generosity, we can also give: time, empathy, support, and others.

Evangelize

If all we do is get into the world around us, but never share the gospel, what have we ever accomplished?

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations. (Matthew 28:19)

The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. (Matthew 9:37)

I pray that sharing your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. (Philemon 1:6)

If the watchman sees the enemy coming and doesn’t sound the alarm to warn the people, God will hold the watchman accountable for their blood. (Ezekiel 33:6)

There are two outcomes for the afterlife – heaven or hell. By grace, we’ve been saved through faith, and we are commanded to share that same good news with all people.

Stay

The “drive-by save” is okay, if that’s all we can do, but if we have any ability to do so, we need to stay to become an ongoing part of life.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20)

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine. (John 15:4)

A faithful man will abound with blessings. (Proverbs 28:20)

If we don’t spend any time with our people, we can’t disciple them. “Go therefore… and teach them to obey.”

Building Bridges

Bridge, by Don E Yeoman, (c) 2016

Thanks to my buddy Don E Yeoman for this photo

  • B – Be There
  • R – Relate
  • I – Integrate
  • D – Do
  • G – Give
  • E – Evangelize
  • S – Stay

The acronym BRIDGES can serve as a roadmap on ways to reach others.

Examples

So, let’s look at how this BRIDGES approach can work…

With my variety of interests and contacts, I have friends in technology, business, the arts, and …less respectable parts of society.

Here are some of the recent sermons I’ve given to some very different audiences.

  • at a series of technology (database) conference:

I frequently present at technology conferences, especially those related to data
In 2016, I focused on text analytics — the science of collecting, matching, and learning from massive amounts of words
On the standard technology side of things, text analytics can do a lot of cool things
The Bible is unique in that it has dozens of translations in English, and that each block of words is identified through a system of books, chapters, and verses
When I present, I always give several non-Biblical examples first, but then ask my audience if there are any objections to me diving deeper into Bible text, and there have not yet been any
Here are some really cool findings from other text experts that have looked at the Bible:

  • at a horror film festival:
    • I spoke about “Bible Gore” — the scary, gross, and bloody parts
    • It was fun for me to preach about parts of scripture that rarely get preached on, at least that I’ve seen
    • It was a good way to use the symbols and trappings of the genre to find relatable common ground

So here I was able to use the Bible to reach out to people who use computer databases for a living, and for people who like blood and thrills, and might be a part of the filmmaking process themselves. I’ve preached or taught at a punk/goth concert/festival, some prisons, a creative writing conference, a board game convention, a disability camp, and plenty of sci-fi/comic/fantasy/costume/etc. events. It’s fun to find ways to bring the topic at hand to the Bible, and vice versa. Stretching my brain to make those connections also helps me to learn more about God’s word, and helps me to see all of God’s people as real people.

You can check out my repertoire of sermons and lessons on my downloads page.

GroupsGroups

I’m involved in a lot of local groups, clubs, organizations, associations, events, and such. Part of the reason is that I like to learn things and meet people. But I’m also a bit of a homebody, and enjoy sitting around the house doing nothing, so the real reason I’m out there so much of the time is that I’m there to help people. Helping with small temporary things is fine, but the long-term goal is always to help them eternally.

Here are some of the major groups of things that I’m a part of.

  • Church: worship, study, serving
  • Software: security, data, code
  • Hardware: drones, robots, VR, makerspace
  • Business: startup, networking, openings
  • Government: chamber, hackathons, comprehensive plan
  • Arts: theater, comedy, books, visual
  • Games: board, card, party, apps
  • Health: food, medical, life science

I can’t be at all of those events all the time, of course. Many of them happen at the same time as other events. But I do try to pick a handful that I attend almost all the time, and then I “keep my hand in” with the others by joining one or two events a year with them. And I’m not saying that any of you should be a part of dozens of groups at once. That’s me.

My public calendar (which doesn’t have any of my private “none o’ ya business” appointments) is always available here. I keep it public so that other local people with similar interests can check where I’ll be (or at least where I might be), and find events that they may also enjoy.

Here’s a typical week (with the day-job and other private details not publicly shown). Green is for tech events (“The Matrix” colored), pink is for the arts (“heart” colored), gold is for church (“halo” colored), brown is for business (“briefcase” colored), and light blue is for webinars (“IE” colored). Not pictured on this selection below are: red for medical (blood), black for personal (just because that’s the default), dark blue for job events (that’s one of the company’s logo colors), and purple for holidays (since that’s Outlook’s out-of-office color). The colors I’ve chosen aren’t any kind of exact science, or anything, but I’ve gotten used to them, and I know instantly what my day looks like based on the colors present.

Calendar Sample

Having a public calendar is also a great excuse to hand out a business card. You never know what’ll come up in conversation, so when I mention something cool that I’ve done or I’m about to do, it’s a natural segue to give a card with a mention of “We’re meeting again in two weeks. The calendar on my blog will have the details.”

Discuss

  • How can you touch lives to save souls?
  • What skills and hobbies can help you help others?

Download

You can get a copy of the PowerPoint slides here.

The World Around Us

I’m a Christian, and sometimes a teacher/preacher.Louisville

This lesson looks outside the church, to America and the world as a whole, then brings it back home.

People Around Us

Depending on which statistics you look at, and how they were counted, the population of the US is between 250M and 500M. Let’s go with 250M for now.

Here’s how my state and city compare to the country at large.

Place Population Relative
US 250,000,000
Kentucky 4,000,000 (1½% US)
Louisville (city limits) 250,000 (6½% KY, 0.1% US)
Louisville (metro area) 1,250,000 (30% KY, ½% US)

My city’s metropolitan area amounts to half a percent of the entire country. Not too bad, for a “big small town.”

Louisville! Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46)

Half the US Population

Half of the people in America live in the 39 most populous city areas.

The other half are spread out over the entire rest of the country.

People We Know

This varies a lot by personality, job, age, region, and such, but here are some broad averages of the people we know.

Relation People
See 80,000
Meet 10,000
Acquaint 1,000
Friends 150
Close 10

And most Americans these days move around a bit, too, which helps to expand the pool of people we meet.

Moves
Jobs 10
Homes 12
Churches ?

I know more people than that (and have worked more jobs than that). Part of that scope comes from me working at a lot of places, but most comes from my wide variety of interests and activities. I’m fairly involved in the circles of technology, business, arts/theater, and church, and belong to many groups inside each of those areas.

Church Sizes in America

Churches around the county vary in size, with most of them serving fewer than 100 people on a weekly basis.

Size Churches Total Weekly Attendance
<100 150,000 9,000,000
<500 100,000 25,000,000
<1,000 12,000 9,000,000
<2,000 6,000 8,000,000
<10,000 1,000 4,000,000
>10,000 50 1,000,000
Total 300,000 56,000,000

Pew Research300,000 churches account for 56 million people each week. That’s a lot of church attendance.

* These figures account for Christian Protestant (non-Catholic) churches

100 Americans

These numbers are still fairly large, and not easy to grasp.

Let’s boil it down, and pretend that the entire US is only 100 people. If you’re in a room with 100 people, you can imagine each person filling one of these categories.

Numbers taken from Pew Research.

Religion People
Christian 69
Mormon 2
Jewish 2
Muslim 1
Hindu 1
Buddhist 1
Other 2
None 23

The Christians are comprised of these people:

Religion People
Catholic 21
Evangelical 25
Protestant 15
Black Protestant 6
Other Christian 2

As you can see, there are a lot of Christian in America.

From what we often hear on the news, it might not always sound like it.

I was a bit surprised to find out that out of 100 people, only two would be Jewish, and only one Muslim.

World Around Us

Let’s look at that first set of numbers again, but add in the rest of the world.

Place Population Relative
World 7,400,000,000 (30x)
US 250,000,000 (3%)
Kentucky 4,000,000
Louisville (city limits) 250,000
Louisville (metro area) 1,250,000

The rest of the world is 30 times larger than the US; the US is just 3% of the world population.

This time, let’s pretend that the whole world is 100 people, not just the US.

So, where is everybody?

Numbers taken from 100 People.

Continent People
Asian 60
African 16
American (North and South) 14
European 10
Australia 0

What do they speak?

Language People
Chinese 12
Spanish 6
English 5
Hindi 4
Arabic 3
Bengali 3
Portuguese 3
Russian 2
Japanese 2
Other 60

(The languages don’t add up to 100, since many people speak more than one language.)

The Bible has been translated into 2,500 languages. That’s quite a lot, but there are 7,000 languages spoken in the world today.

Other ways of looking at us :

Factor People
Read/Write 86
College 7
Internet 45
Safe Water 91
Shelter 78
Overweight 22
Underfed 11
Starving 1

Out of 100 people in the world, 9 have no water, 1 has no food, and 22 have no shelter from the elements.

We’ve already looked at the religious counts in the US. Here’s how it looks worldwide:

Religion People
Christians 31
Muslims 23
Hindus 15
Buddhists 7
Other 8
None 16

The international landscape is a lot different than what we’re used to here in the US.

People Around Us

That’s all a fine intellectual exercise, but let’s bring it home and make it personal.

Taking the national averages of 69 out of 100 Americans being Christian, and applying it locally, we get:

Place Population Christian Lost
US 250,000,000 170,000,000 80,000,000
Kentucky 4,000,000 2,500,000 1,500,000
Louisville (city limits) 250,000 170,000 80,000
Louisville (metro area) 1,250,000 850,000 400,000

FriendsThere are roughly one and a half million non-Christians in Kentucky. Close to half a million in the metro area.

People who need the Lord aren’t just “out there” — they’re here in our own neighborhoods.

People We Know

To bring it one more step closer to home, if we do the same thing to the number of people that we know:

Relation People Christian Lost
See 80,000 55,000 25,000
Meet 10,000 7,000 3,000
Acquaint 1,000 700 300
Friends 150 100 50
Lost 10 7 3

It’s those final two numbers that particularly draw my attention.

On average, each of us has 50 friends and 3 close friends that don’t know the Lord.

We can’t individually bring the gospel to the world, but even if we could, the world wouldn’t listen to us. But we each have dozens of people that will listen to us, that might not listen to anyone else.

In my case, the stakes are even higher. I know more people than average, and I intentionally have a higher percentage of non-Christians, by putting myself into new situations and stretching my comfort zone as far as I can.

Discuss

  • How many people do you know fairly well?
  • How many are non-Christians?
  • How much time do you spend with them?
  • How can you reach your 50+3?
  • If you don’t have any 50+3, should you? how?

Download

You can download the PowerPoint slides here.

Costumes in the Bible

MaskI’m a Christian, and sometimes a teacher/preacher.

Some of you may know that Christmas really isn’t my favorite holiday, so here’s another Halloween-themed one. 🙂

This sermon talks about the various costumes and disguises that have appeared in the Bible — there are more than you might expect.

Costume Tricks

Many times, costumes were used underhandedly, to trick people.

You may remember Jacob and Esau, the brothers with very different lives and physiques. Esau was the outdoorsman, and has his father’s approval. Jacob was the quiet type, and stayed close to mama.

Rebekah took the best clothes of Esau her older son, and put them on Jacob. She covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck with goatskins. (Genesis 27:15-16)

Rebekah tricked her blind husband Isaac into giving most of his inheritance to the wrong son.

But two can play at that game. Years later, Jacob met the girl of his dreams, and worked for her father for seven years in exchange for marrying her. But Laban pulled the old switcheroo on him.

Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife Rachel.” But when evening came, Laban took his daughter Leah to Jacob. (Genesis 29:21-23)

Not so fun now, is it, Jacob?

But he didn’t necessarily learn from that experience, either. Years later, he has a son he liked more than the rest, and he dressed him in weird clothes.

Jacob loved Joseph more than all his children, and made him a coat of many colors. When his brothers saw that their father loved him most, they hated him. (Genesis 37:3-4)

His jealous brothers used that very coat as a terrible disguise to break their father’s heart and to cover up their own treachery.

They dipped Joseph’s coat in goat’s blood, and told their father, “We found this.” He recognized it and said, “Some ferocious animal has eaten him!” (Genesis 37:31-33)

Eventually, Joseph gets promoted to the top of the slave totem pole, and practically runs Egypt. When his brothers came to ask for food during a famine, they didn’t recognize their brother, so he took advantage of the situation.

Joseph recognized his brothers, but he disguised himself. He accused them, “You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.” (Genesis 42:7-9)

What’s good for the goose, eh, brothers?

Moving away from that family tree, we look at an even weirder one. Tamar tricked her own father.

Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute, and Judah slept with her. She took his seal and cord as a pledge for payment. (Genesis 38:14-18)

She used that seal and cord to blackmail him. Two wrongs still don’t make a right.

And finally, king Saul disguised himself to hide his own wrongdoing.

Saul disguised himself, and went to the seer in the dark of night. He asked her to consult a spirit. But the woman said, “Saul has cut off mediums from the land.” (1 Samuel 28:7-9)

That ain’t right, Saul.

Costume TreatsGroucho

But costumes and disguises have been used for good, as well.

We are encouraged to “wear” godliness.

I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will exult in my God; the Lord has clothed me with garments of salvation and a robe of righteousness. (Isaiah 61:10)

I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; justice was my mantle and turban. (Job 29:14)

And to use it for protection.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may stand against the schemes of the devil. (Ephesians 6:10)

Wearing love can cover up evil.

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love will veil a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)

The Almighty doesn’t care about the latest fashion trends.

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)

Even Jesus wore a disguise.

Jesus himself came up and walked with them, but they were kept from recognizing him. When their eyes were opened, he disappeared from sight. (Luke 24:15,31)

Of course, it was a miraculous thing, possibly similar to the transfiguration, but it’s kind of funny to think of Jesus removing a set of Groucho glasses at the end of a long walk with his friends.

But our words hold the power of life and death, and those words will remove all costumes.

A good man draws good from the good in his heart; an evil man draws evil from the evil in his heart. For from the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45)

There’s no hiding from our true selves.

Costume Warningsghost

Besides costumes in the past, there are more on the way, and many will not be used for good.

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (Matthew 7:15)

There are some who pretend to be rich, yet have nothing. There are some who pretend to be poor, yet have great wealth. (Proverbs 13:7)

When Jesus comes back, he’ll be wearing some serious duds. Beware, evildoers.

The Lord wore the breastplate of righteousness, and helmet of salvation. He wore vengeance for his garment, and zeal as his cloak. Righteousness is his belt, and faithfulness his sash. (Isaiah 59:17, 11:5)

We have to be careful ourselves, even in the church.

Watch out for the teachers who wear flashy robes to get respect in public, and take the best seats at church. They mask their evil by making long prayers. (Mark 12:38-40)

Enemies disguise themselves with their lips, but in their hearts they harbor deceit. (Proverbs 26:24)

But we must know ourselves and repent, to truly know God.

We are all infected and impure with sin. Our righteous deeds are nothing but filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6)

Costume PromisesHero

Jesus had (and will have) even more costumes.

This is the one that makes the rest possible.

Christ Jesus made himself nothing, by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (Philippians 2:7)

He became not just a mortal being meant to die, but a servant.

And he continues to hide among us, or close enough.

I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, sick and you tended to me, in prison and you visited me. (Matthew 25:35)

His sacrifice granted him authority as Judge over all.

He wore a garment soaked with blood, and his name is called The Word of God. (Revelation 19:13)

And his own blood also covers us, and extends his righteousness to those who believe in him.

Her household has no fear; for everyone is clothed in scarlet. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. (Proverbs 31:21, Isaiah 1:18)

Discuss

  • How have you ever been misled?
  • How do you react?
  • How do you form your opinions of someone when you first meet?
  • Based on your “costume” (actions, words), who do people think you are?

Download

You can download the PowerPoint slides here.

Bible Gore

Bible GoreI’m a Christian, and sometimes a teacher/preacher.

This sermon talks about some of the scariest and goriest scenes in the Bible, and was prepared for my church service at the 2016 Fright Night Film Festival. It had been a while since I’d preached at a horror convention, and it was great to be invited to speak at this one.

Bible Gore

Sometimes, people ask me what I think is the scariest/goriest movie, and I generally answer, “The Passion of the Christ.” The graphic violence is very disturbing, but the same could be said of many other movies. What makes this one so horrible is that (Christians believe) it’s real, and was necessary because of our own sin.

In this sermon, I didn’t cover the crucifixion, which is brutal by almost anyone’s standards. I left that one out due to its familiarity. Most churchgoers and horror fans already know it, so I focused my attention on some lesser-known bits of horror.

Your Days are Numbered

Days are NumberedKing Nebuchadnezzar subjugated the Israelites, and forced them all to worship a large statue of himself or be put to death (or life in prison). One of them was Daniel, one of God’s prophets. Daniel was in prison until the king’s son, Belshazzar, took the throne.

King Belshazzar drank from a gold goblet stolen from God’s temple in Jerusalem. Then fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the wall: mene, mene, tekel, parsin (Daniel 5:3,5,25)

A disembodied hand wrote on the king’s wall!

The king’s advisors could not interpret the writing (which was written in Aramaic), so they sent for the prisoner Daniel. Over his many years in prison, he had gained a reputation for being a godly man who could understand visions.

PeggedDaniel explained that the writing said, “numbered, numbered, weighed, divided.” This was God’s warning that:

  • the king’s days are numbered (which is where we got the phrase that we still use today),
  • he had been weighed, he had been measured, and he had been found wanting (as so wonderfully quoted in A Knight’s Tale),
  • his many possessions would be split among his enemies; he would leave no legacy

Pegged

The Israelites were being attacked by the Canaanites, whose army was led by Sisera. When the Israelite army had the upper hand, the commander fled to take shelter in the tent of a Kenite ally.

Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to Sisera while he lay fast asleep. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died. (Judges 4:21)

Nailed it!

What a way to go. Very Saw or Final Destination.Big Hair

Locked Up

King David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). His son, Absalom, planned to kill his father and take the throne violently. Until the day he was outnumbered and ran away.

Absalom’s hair got caught in the tree, leaving him hanging midair. Joab plunged three javelins into Absalom’s heart while Absalom was still alive. On top of that, ten of Joab’s men ran him through with swords. (2 Samuel 18:9,14,15)

“Dude, don’t leave me hanging!”

Absalom had long flowing studly hair that he was very proud of. But after riding so fast to get away, his hair bobbing up and down got snagged, and suspended him from the tree like a piñata. The army commander decided that he’d look better as a pincushion instead, and his men agreed.

Gut Reaction

Fat ManEvil king Eglon was soooo fat (“how fat was he?”) that when Ehud the Left-Handed stabbed him with a sword about 18 inches long (45 cm), Eglon’s fat closed up over the hilt (probably another 6 inches), and it got left there.

Ehud delivered tribute to the very fat King Eglon, and said, “I have a message from God for you.” Ehud plunged his sword into the king’s belly. Even the handle sank in, and his bowels discharged. (Judges 3:24,25)

Ehud stabbed the ████ out of Eglon.

Because of Eglon’s obesity, when his bowels emptied, his servants on the other side of the door assumed their master was relieving himself. He probably had a reputation for some real stinkers. This extra delay gave Ehud the time he needed to escape.

Inside Out

Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat (dontcha love that name?) was the king of Judah, the southern kingdom of Israel, and formed an alliance with the northern kingdom by marrying Athaliah, daughter of king Ahab (no whales were harmed in the making of this story).Pig Lizard

Despite his alliance, he rebelled against God (2 Chronicles 21:10). The prophet Elijah sent him a warning letter, which Jehoram ignored. As a result, God inflicted him with a slow painful death.

God afflicted Jehoram with an incurable disease of the bowels. After two years, it caused his bowels to come outside, and he died in agony. His people did not build a great funeral pyre to honor him like his ancestors. (2 Chronicles 21:18,19)

His insides became his outsides. His entrails became his extrails (another great quote from A Knight’s Tale).

My guess is that his intestines swelled to the point that they pressed up against his skin, and eventually pushed through. Doesn’t sound pleasant.Tremors

Baited Breath

Not all of the gory stuff happened in the Old Testament. King Agrippa got eaten while he was on stage.

Herod Agrippa sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” Immediately, he was eaten by worms and died. (Acts 12:21-23)

Most people are eaten by worms after they die. You’re doing it wrong, Herod.

This wasn’t a Tremors-style giant worm, but bunches of tinier worms eating him form the inside.

WTF, Man?

Why is all this stuff even in the Bible? Do we really need to know all of that grossness?

Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16,17)Cannot Be Unseen

So what can we learn from these stories?

  • Belshazzar: We may not always see the hand of God, but our own days are also numbered.
  • Sisera: There is nowhere to escape God’s justice, even when it takes unexpected forms.
  • Absalom: The object of his vanity became the object of his ruin.
  • Eglon: Gluttony is a tool for our enemy.
  • Jehoram: When we don’t put God first, our life turns inside out.
  • Herod: Despite what Ghostbusters advocates, when someone calls you a god, say no.

I’m sure there are other lessons. The same story can teach many lessons to many students.

But I think the bottom line is this…

Terrible Vengeance

God made the world; he made us; he will judge us.

God said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:30,31)

Unless we turn to God and repent, a horrible fate awaits each of us.

Download

You can download the PowerPoint slides here.

If you’d like to further explore the intersection of the Bible and the macabre, check out the Grave Robbers Ministry.

The Walking Dead

I’m a Christian, and sometimes a teacher/preacher.

This sermon uses zombies to relate the gospel of Christ.

The Walking Dead

Are you ready for the zombie apocalypse?Zombie

The dead will indeed rise.

Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! The earth will give birth to the dead. (Isaiah 26:19)

Many who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some to everlasting life, and some to everlasting shame and contempt. (Daniel 12:2)

But many who rise will not be at all happy about it.

The Lord will smite Jerusalem’s enemies. Their flesh will rot while they still stand, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. (Zechariah 14:12)

In those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them. (Revelation 9:6)

Hell is where the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched. (Mark 9:48)

God once gave Ezekiel a vision of a dead nation coming back to life, as a metaphor for the nation of Israel reawakening their spiritual lives.

There was a rattling noise across the valley. The bones joined to form skeletons. Muscles, flesh, and skin formed on their bodies. I spoke as the Lord commanded, and they came to life and stood on their feet; a great army. (Ezekiel 37:7-8,10)

When Jesus came back to life, he was not the only one. He brought some friends with him.

The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. (Matthew 27:52)

Through the power of His resurrection, Jesus defeated death.Death

Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. (Romans 6:9)

He can extend that same benefit to us.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection, and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25)

Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24)

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:11)

But this is a limited time offer (we never know when our number will come up).

Today if you hear his voice, harden not your heart. (Psalm 95:8)

See AlsoJesus

  • John 17:14
  • Ephesians 2:1
  • Romans 6:11
  • Proverbs 21:16
  • Matthew 8:22
  • Luke 15:32
  • 2 Corinthians 5:14
  • Colossians 2:13
  • 1 Timothy 5:6
  • Romans 6:23

Discuss

  • What place makes you feel the most uncomfortable?
  • What people-group makes you feel the most uncomfortable?
  • What dead sin have you been walking with?
  • What dead people are you walking right by?
  • How can you lead the walking dead into life?

Download

You can download the PowerPoint slides here.

Pirate Church

I’m a Christian, and sometimes a teacher/preacher.

This sermon uses pirates to relate the gospel of Christ. I preached it in 2014 as part of the Imaginarium creative writing convention. Since Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19) was also that weekend, we held “Church Like a Pirate Day.”

Booty

What do pirates seek? Booty.

Jesus told a parable about a man who found a treasure more valuable than everything he owned, so he sold everything he owned to make it his own.

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure that is hidden in a field. A crafty man found the treasure buried there and buried it again so no one would know where it was. Thrilled, he went off and sold everything he had, and then he came back and bought the field with the hidden treasure part of the bargain. Or the kingdom of heaven is like a jeweler on the lookout for the finest pearls. When he found a pearl more beautiful and valuable than any jewel he had ever seen, the jeweler sold all he had and bought that pearl, his pearl of great price. (Matthew 13:44-46)

Jesus also warned us to focus on eternal treasures, which have true everlasting value, instead of getting distracted by the temporary appeals of this life.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

Like the man that sold all he had, we give our lives to Christ. The treasure we are given in return is worth far more than anything we’d given.

Blood

What do pirates thirst for? Blood.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. (Hebrews 9:14)

We owe a debt that we cannot pay.

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and the wages of sin is death. There can be no forgiveness without the shedding of blood. (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Leviticus 17:11)

But there is one who has already paid on our behalf.

Jesus said to them, “This is my blood. The blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many.” (Mark 14:24)

All the people answered, “May his blood be on us, and on our children!” (Matthew 27:25)

As Christians, we thirst for the blood of righteousness, the blood of Christ. That alone can save us, and wash away our sins.

Broken

With peglegs, hooks, and eyepatches, how are pirates’ bodies? Broken.

Living in our fallen world, our bodies are broken, as is all of creation.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. For Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one foot than to be thrown into hell with two feet. (Mark 9:45)

That brokenness encourages us to seek God, who will make us whole. By using our broken vessels, His strength and glory are made known to the world.

Bones

What is on a pirate flag? Bones.

When a ship raises its flag, its allegiance is known to all.

Everyone will know that you are my disciples by you love for one another. (John 13:35)

For a tree is recognized by its fruit. (Matthew 12:33)

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Proverbs 18:21)

Do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:16)

Every one of us also waves a flag, identifying our loyalty. A wedding ring waves our flag of marriage. A military uniform, a sports jersey, a lapel pin, a bumper sticker, and many other items can indicate who or what we are beholden to.

As Christians, our flag is our love. It’s not a church membership, a seminary degree, or anything of that sort. Only our actions — our love for one another — waves our flag for Christ.

Shanty 23

I found this “pirate-ese” translation of Psalm 23:

The Lord be me cap’n, oi shall not mutiny.
He steers me clear o’ land lubbers, and pilots me thru the doldrums.
He trayned me up roight or else.
E’entho I stagger thru seedy ports,
Oi feares no wun, fer ye be wif me;
yer pistol an yer cutlass hinspoire me;
the grog flows freely.
Surely the Kinge’s navy and ninjas
shall foller me all the dayes ov me loife,
an’ Oi be swabbin’ the Lord’s decks forever.

Discuss

  • What’s your favorite book or movie that involves pirates?
  • Would you rather go to a game with the Pittsburgh Pirates or Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
  • What do you treasure?
  • What do you thirst for?
  • What breaks you?
  • What are you known by?

Download

You can download the PowerPoint slides here.

Pokemon Go

Pokemon GoI’m a Christian, and sometimes a teacher/preacher.

This sermon looks at Pokemon-Go.

Background

Pokemon Go is an augmented reality (AR) game. It’s played on phones, and mixes the real world with the digital world. In a way, it’s like a cross between geocaching and yelp, but with a scoring system.

Seek

To play Pokemon Go, first players must find Pokemon.Pokemon Go Map

Jesus came to seek and save the lost (us). When he sent out his disciples, he gave them instructions on where they should look for their audience.

Jesus called His twelve disciples to Him and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out and to heal every disease and sickness. He sent out the twelve apostles with these instructions: “Don’t go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” (Matthew 10:1-7)

Choose

After finding some Pokemon, players choose which ones to keep.

Jesus chose all of us, while we were not worthy.

You didn’t choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatever you will ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. But because you are not of the world, since I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:16,19)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

TrainTraining

To advance in the game, players train their Pokemon.

Spiritual training keeps us “in shape” as followers of Christ. Just like a physical muscle or skill, if we don’t exercise, we’ll lose strength.

The more frequently we’re kind to others, help those in need, study the scriptures, and pray, the better we’ll get at it. Then, in moments of stress, expressing the love of Christ will be second nature to us.

Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things — for both the present life and the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:8)

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (1 Corinthians 9:25)

Bible books that sound like they could be Pokemon:
• Amaziah
• Baalam
• Basemath
• Dodo
• Jehoshaphat
• Nergalsharezar
• Zebedee

Evolve

In the Pokemon Go game, the creatures improve their abilities after enough training, and actually become a new creature.

In Christ, we also become new creations, after being born the second time.

He will change our weak mortal bodies into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power he will use to bring everything under his control. (Philippians 3:21)

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. (Romans 12:2)

Go

What makes Pokemon Go different from other games is that it overlays the real world. To travel in the game, you must travel in real life.Bible

For us to advance the gospel, we often must travel in real life. Christ’s last words to us before he ascended were:

Jesus said, “Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:18-19)

It’s hard to make disciples of all nations when we’re sitting on the couch. Going out, meeting people, making friends, helping others, trying new things… all of that leads to us building relationships. By following Christ ourselves and spending time with others, we can share God’s love and fulfill our purpose.

Download

You can download the handout and a flyer for the sermon here.