Wednesday, April 20, 2016

REDEEMED

This Sunday I will begin a new series titled, REDEEMED. The series, taken from the Book of Genesis, will focus on the account of Joseph – and walk through his fascinating life-story of being blessed by God, suffering under trials and discovering redemption through becoming a source of blessing to others.

In preparing these messages I have found much inspiration by watching many of you. Not surprisingly, I have discovered story after story of the very same redemption seen in Joseph. Indeed, a lifetime of pastoring has taught me that what Jim Denison says is true, ‘God will always redeem what He allows.’ Though, I would humbly add - ‘if we let Him." And, of course, that, ’if,’ is a big one. Joseph, like us, had a choice. In the pit, under Potiphar’s service, in prison, and as he faced his former foes.

But – I cannot say too much now or I’ll peach the sermon. So… I invite you to join me at parkwayhills this Sunday as, together, we begin this series. For, after all, redemption is something we all need. And our Redeemer, Christ, is ready!

Till Sunday, then

Pastor Sam

Friday, March 25, 2016

FRIDAY of Holy Week -

On this day Christ died for our sins. As I write these words I cannot help but shudder. Thinking on the richness of God's love and the depth of His sacrifice brings me to my knees; for, for me, it is difficult even to stand when thinking of God's great love.

Now according to Scripture, on Friday Judas Iscariot was overcome with remorse and hanged himself early in the morning.

Meanwhile, before the third hour (9 a.m.), Jesus endured the shame of false accusations, condemnation, mockery, beatings, and abandonment. After multiple unlawful trials, he was sentenced to death by crucifixion, one of the most horrible and disgraceful methods of capital punishment.

Before Christ was led away, soldiers spit on him, tormented and mocked him, and pierced him with a crown of thorns. Then Jesus was made to carry His own cross to Calvary. Put out, perhaps, with the speed or events along the way, along the way Simon of Cyrene was 'compelled' to carry the cross for Jesus. Then, arriving at Golgotha Christ was once again mocked and insulted, as Roman soldiers nailed him to the cross.

Jesus spoke seven statements from the cross. His first words were, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34, NIV). His last were, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." (Luke 23:46, NIV) Then, about the ninth hour (3 p.m.), Jesus breathed his last and died.

By 6 p.m. Friday evening Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus' body down from the cross and lay it in a tomb. All of the Friday events are recorded for us in: Matthew 27:1-62, Mark 15:1-47, Luke 22:63-23:56, & John 18:28-19:37. And though they are horrific to read, and reminders to us of God's great sacrifice and love, we must never forget they tell us but part of our story - a story as fresh today as ever it was.  For... as we know, though it is Friday... Sunday's coming!  

He is Risen, indeed!


Pastor Sam


Saturday, February 27, 2016

A 'good service' on Good Friday, indeed - March 25

I have enjoyed bringing this winter’s preaching series at ParkwayHills, REVIVE, for many reasons – and particularly for ONE that I am excited to share now. For... this series has formed a perfect prelude to our coming Easter Week, which includes a new opportunity for us. This year our Worship Team has added a Good Friday Service, allowing ParkwayHills worshippers an additional opportunity to make Easter Week, 2016 memorable - as we reach out to others and invite them to church and the gospel.

As a first time experience here at ParkwayHills, this Good Friday Service will be a reflective evening of worship - one focusing on the Last Supper of Christ through sharing in the LORD’s Supper together. This will be followed by a poignant message, one highlighting Christ's sacrifice on the cross - a necessary prelude to the joy of resurrection morn when Christ stepped from the grave victorious over sin and death.

So mark your calendars for this ‘good service’ on Good Friday, March 25, 2016. Decide now to come and to bring someone with you as we worship as family around the Cross of Christ. The music will be inspiring. God's Word - sure. And the observance of our LORD's Supper in communion together, a blessed time indeed!

He is Risen,

Pastor Sam

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Streams in the Desert

On the first day of this New Year, with our friends in Texas fast asleep, our ParkwayHills tribe of 35 made its way out of ancient Jerusalem and into the Judean desert. We were leaving to see Qumran, the Dead Sea and Masada - and because the hills of Jerusalem had experienced naught but rain for days - our cold, wet troop was looking forward to this respite, anticipating the warmth and sunshine of the desert.

As we traveled along, our guide commented to me of the rarity of rain at the bottom of the Judean Hills southwest of Jerusalem, but warned of the possibility of our road becoming impassable due to rain water running down from Jerusalem and the surrounding mountains - causing the dry wadis to become active - and spilling across our highway making travel dangerous or impossible. Looking about I thought his worry unnecessary. The area was as dry as a bone, save the drops now hitting our windshield, which he'd just said amounted to only a few millimeters per year.

As we moved south, with the Dead Sea on our left and the mountains to our right, a strange sight appeared. At each place where a dry wadi abutted our road, whether with bridge or not, cars were parked with people standing beside them looking down the crevice of the wadi and towards the mountain top. Our driver, Dubi, and guide, Danny pointed toward the people and began talking to each other excitedly in Hebrew. I couldn't wait to hear them speak an explanation in English to me, so I jumped quickly to ask, "what's going on?" "Oh Pastor Sam," Danny replied, "the people are waiting to see an unusual sight." "They have come to watch the water cascade from the mountains and fill the wadis below." "It is a powerful sight, and one of the favorite things for the people of this area to see."

In Isaiah 43:19, God said this: Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

The NIV translates the word "rivers" as "streams." But, either way, the picture from God's Word to His people became ever more real for me as I gazed at this sight. I thought, 'here they are waiting for this steam, this river to flow - not knowing that God has already done an even greater thing than what they are looking for through His Son, our LORD, Jesus Christ.'

Now that I am far away from the land of Israel - and back in my surroundings of traffic and shopping, football and news, Facebook and friends, I can't help but wonder of my own life.  Am I simply standing by the road watching for sights that pale in comparison to that which I've already been given - life in Christ and fellowship with Him?"

When God told Israel to look (behold) the streams in the desert, He did so because it was something unusual AND something the dry desert desperately needed - water. He did this to show them His ability to make any wasteland flourish. This was something only He could do - both in the desert AND in their hearts.

So now I am back home, and I am praying I shall not forget this sight of something new - of streams in the desert nor my view of the people waiting to see it. And... hoping for more! Hoping I will also always recall the lesson it teaches. For, indeed - Christ is my 'stream in the desert,' and, certainly He is all I need.

Pastor Sam


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Christ is Come

One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). John 1: 40-41

In the early days of Jesus' ministry He came to the village of Capernaum situated on the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Now known as a favorite stop of tourists, the village was then known for its fishing trade. It also was not far from the homes of the young 'Sons of Thunder', James and John - and two other brothers, Andrew and Peter (Bethsaida) - all four of whom were fishermen, zealous after God, and called out by Christ to follow Him and become disciples.

In John the Apostle's recording of Christ's earliest encounter with these men there exists a set of arresting lines that captivate me. They comprise our first example of evangelical witness - or at least its seeds - and read thusly, 'we have found the Messiah (which means Christ, or the one 'anointed').

Thinking today of the countless sermons I have preached and of the many times I've attempted to offer a witness, I suspect I might have fared better had I kept it simply this - "We have found him! Come and see!"  Yes!  I know that there an assumption made in the statement. To say 'we have found him' assumes 'we' were looking.  But... it has been my experience that this is yet and universally true. People I meet are looking - looking for someone, something, and often for both. So to begin a conversation using the words, 'hey!' I have found Him!" if it is true, is an absolutely perfect place to begin.

As you spend your Christmas celebrating the advent of our LORD, why not consider adding the words of the good brother Andrew to your Christmas greeting... "Merry Christmas. I have found Him! Have you?"

For perhaps, like Andrew, you may have the joy of bringing someone to Jesus, too. :-)


Pastor Sam


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Anxious for Nothing

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to youMatthew 6:25-33

These words of Christ are arresting - and I suspect that if more time were spent heeding and less time were spent discussing them even we preachers might benefit.

As a young man I foolishly thought a time would come when the temptation to worry would wane. Naively I suspected that flourishing in a good job, possessing a stable family and enjoying relatively good health would usher me to a place where this temptation was no more. But, alas, as the years have passed I have learned otherwise. No one prepared me for coming to my 'sixties' and dealing with aging parents, concerns over health and challenges of a transitioning career - or, for that matter, even 'grown' children occupying my thoughts and raising my concern from time to time. So what happened? Well this - the 'natural' life - the one God spoke of in Genesis 3, after the fall - a life of work, produce, measure, comparison and... unfortunately worry.  

Now I do 'know' better. I know that Jesus spoke as He did to instruct those listening to step away from their natural bent and choose otherwise. And I know, too, that the Apostle Paul's similar instruction to the Philippians (Philippians 4:6-7) is a command to the same followed by and made possible based upon a theology that 'in Christ' we are given power to do so (Phil. 3:1). But still... I fail, and do so 'miserably' at times.

Ahhhh... but when I do get it right! Yes, when times occur that I am able by God's grace to walk away from what is 'natural' and step up to the possible 'in Christ' it feels oh so good. When I do as my LORD instructed and consider the lilies of the field and the reasonableness and sanity of the truth that worry will not add one day to my life, nor money to my pocket, nor any thing close to peace of mind. When I consider His love for me - a love so great as to die for me on the cross, causing me, as Paul puts it, to 'rejoice in the LORD,' I am in a place where His blessings, already given, can be realized - and that is where I want to be.

So be gone all you devils and all of you demons and be quiet you 'old man of the flesh'. For I choose today to think on these things - my LORD, the truth, the honorable and the just. To remember the pure, the lovely, the commendable and the excellent. And to see those things most worthy of praise and thereby live in Him worry free - today, tomorrow, and much more than I'm 'naturally' won't, always!

Pastor Sam

Saturday, August 22, 2015

I called my pastor today!

I called my pastor today. Pastor Gordon Dorian, affectionately known by me and many as, "Bro. D." Gordon is now 93 and he and his wife, Doris, still live in Wichita, KS., where he served as the Pastor of the Olivet Baptist Church from 1954-1989.

Gordon was called to Olivet Baptist after completing his seminary training in 1954. While attending seminary and college he did itinerant preaching and served smaller churches, the last of which was the Alta Mere Baptist Church of Ft. Worth. In the early 40s Gordon served in the United States Navy, and after WWII ended and he was discharged, he came back home to attend 'Carson Newman College' (now university), one of our great old Baptist Schools nestled in the mountains of Tennessee. At Carson Newman he met Doris, 5 years his junior, and the handsome couple stepped forward to answer his call to ministry together. While at Southwestern Baptist Theological seminary in Ft. Worth they started a family; then, after completing seminary, a four-year-old Southern Baptist mission, now a newly formed church of the Kansas Nebraska Southern Baptist Convention, called him as their pastor.

The next years were filled with dynamic growth, and by the time the Dennis' arrived from Texas in 1964 - then followed by joining Olivet in 1965, the church was booming with a strong youth ministry to the students of the North-West Wichita community. The Dorians' first two children were classmates of mine and my eldest sister, Pam, and their youngest daughter, born in Kansas, was a classmate of our little sister, Kim. The Dorian family were active in every area of our community, and Gordon was ever-ready to share the gospel with anyone who might sit still long enough to listen. I can't count the number of times he 'shocked' or 'embarrassed' me by engaging in conversation with a stranger at restaurant or store about either his church, the gospel, or both - so that when the same now happens to me with my own (family or staff) I simply smile sheepishly at them thinking how I was trained and held accountable by this wonderful man.

One Wednesday, when I was about 20 (ca.1970), Gordon asked me to ride with him in his Buick Electra to Oklahoma City. He wanted to take me to First Southern Baptist Church of Del City, where Johnny Bisagno was pastor. On the way down he told me that we were going to a youth service led by a young preacher on Johnny's staff.  The young preacher was Richard Hogue, and the program was called "Encounter."  What I saw was unbelievable.  There were over 200 hundred High School students - if not more - engaged in s service that was just theirs. The music was loud, enthusiastic, and almost rock and roll like - and Richard preached in a way I had never heard - speaking from God's Word but to the hearts of young people in a way and with illustrations they could understand.

After the service ended, Bro. D and I got back in his car to drive home. But, by the time we had hit Edmond, he asked me, "Well, Sam, what did you think of that?" Still excited over what I'd seen, I told him that I was impressed - that I'd never seen anything like that before, but loved it.  After a pause, Gordon replied, "Sam, I'd like to start something like that at Olivet."  Then asked, 'do you think that could work in our city?"  I said, "Bro. D, that would be great -and, yes, I think it could."  After another pause he continued, "Sam, I believe that you're the one to lead that service." When he said that my heart began to race. I was shocked - and felt so insecure - but in my heart of hearts I knew that this was what God wanted me to do. Bro. D then asked me to pray about it and the rest, as the cliche goes, is history.  Within 6 months over 100 students were meeting on Wednesday nights at Olivet Baptist Church, and "Encounter Christ" became a place where scores of young men and women gave their hearts to Christ, and a young preacher/pastor was born.

When I was young man people would often ask me about Encounter Christ.  I would tell the story - but, somehow, in my youth I often left out the part of this pastor who'd put me in his car to drive me to Oklahoma City. Now that I am a pastor of many years, I realize that pastor's all over, just like Gordon, who dream dreams and see visions, and who call out the called, are the very reason many of us are now doing what we do.

This week one of my church members came by to see me. He had no agenda. His purpose was simply to love on me, and... it was good.  After lunch, and as I stepped out of his truck to return to my office, my heart was overwhelmed with joy for my call. And, right then I thought of Bro. D. I thought of how much I loved him and of the impact he'd had on my life and the lives of so many.  So... I texted the pastor who had succeeded him, one who'd been called into the ministry under my own preaching, and who followed me by serving on Gordon's staff as Youth Pastor before stepping up to take his place after Gordon retired. I asked Ron Pracht if he'd talked to Bro. D. lately, then, I paused - why should I ask Ron this question?  Why shouldn't I call to talk to Bro. D.?  So... I did!  After three rings Gordon answered the phone with a voice as strong as ever. "Is this Sam Dennis?" "Yessir, it is."  "Well how are you?"  With tears running down by cheeks I reported I was fine, and vainly kept trying to turn the conversation back to him. But, Bro. D would not let me. "What are you reading?"  "With whom have you shared the gospel?" "How's the church doing?"

Thankfully, I must add, when the question came to me about the gospel I had an answer for him.  Bro D never allowed anything otherwise. He always said, 'any preacher who doesn't share the gospel is really no preacher at all."  He was right!

Thank you, Bro. D.

Pastor Sam