Sermons

JESUS: THE ORIGINAL EVIDENCE

The first in a series of three sermons given by Dr. Ralph Blair at the 2012 Preaching Festival held in Ocean Grove, N.J.

Jesus: The Original Evidence

“Who Invented Christianity?” This provocative question popped up on my computer screen. It was an ad for “an all-star lineup [in] scenic Durham, North Carolina [this weekend]. Four of the greatest powerhouse intellectuals in the field of Biblical studies and archaeology in this three-day program filled with the excitement of discovery, new ideas and dynamic discussion.”

The teaser makes false and misleading allegations of conspiracies: “Some of Christianity’s most important doctrines – the divinity of Christ, the Trinity, the doctrine of heaven and hell – were not found on the lips of Jesus or his earliest followers. They instead represent later developments … . Where did these doctrines come from, and how did Jesus’ later followers modify his teachings to invent what we think of as Christianity today?”

To assert that the Jesus of the New Testament is not the historical Jesus, but an invented “Christ of faith,” how do they know? They don’t; they assume, they pretend. To know would require trustworthy 1st-century evidence of an alternative Jesus. It doesn’t exist. Read more →

JESUS: THE ONGOING EVIDENCE

The second in a series of three sermons given by Dr. Ralph Blair at the 2012 Preaching Festival held in Ocean Grove, N.J.

Jesus: The Ongoing Evidence

The original evidence for Jesus is his resurrection. His ongoing evidence is the Church, his Bride, and what she, by God’s Spirit, gives, in love, to the welfare of each other and the world. (Mk 2:19; Matt 25:1-13; Eph 5; Rom 7)

In Jesus’ day, world population was around 300 million. Today, it’s 7 billion. And 2.3 billion are Christians. The Christian population is rising faster than the world’s population is increasing. Since 1912, the Christian population has quadrupled, and Evangelicals and Pentecostals account for the fastest rate of growth – especially in sub-Sahara Africa and in the Asia-Pacific region. In America, 75 percent identify as Christian – that’s higher than in any other country. In Europe’s increasingly secularized society, the Christian population is in decline.

The second largest world religion is Islam, with 1.6 billion Muslims, nearly a quarter of the world’s population.

Although Jesus’ followers cannot be equated with Western civiliza­tion as such, Western civilization was built from a Christian worldview and on a largely Christian cultural consensus. Without Jesus’ resurrec­tion, there would have been no Christian worldview, and therefore no Western civilization as we’ve known it and know it. Read more →

JESUS: THE EVIDENCE IN OUR LIVES

The third in a series of three sermons given by Dr. Ralph Blair at the 2012 Preaching Festival held in Ocean Grove, N.J.

JESUS: THE EVIDENCE IN OUR LIVES

It’s Sunday morning. We’re meeting on this Sunday morning in the 21st-century because of that 1st-century Sunday morning when God raised Jesus from the dead. Since that Sunday morning, Christians have cele­brated God’s raising Jesus from the dead for well over 100,000 Sunday mornings.

Christianity did not arise from a box of bones. So, the day named for the sun god became God’s Son’s Day. Without Jesus’ resurrection, it would be just another day in the week. Without Jesus’ resurrection, what this world would be and what we would be is anybody’s guess – except that, as Paul realized, we’d still all be lost in our sin and death. (I Cor 15:17ff)

So, now, this Sunday morning, let’s bring it home. We’ve looked into the Gospels’ evidence for Jesus, biblical evidence of the earliest Chris­tians’ trust in Jesus and evidence for Jesus throughout history. But behind and beyond the book, the church, the history, there reigns the living God, the living God incarnate, crucified, dead, buried and raised from the dead, exalted in glory and coming again. Read more →

Preaching Festival 2011

1911 ~ The Centennials ~ 2011

Hannah Whitall Smith – Carry A. Nation – Mahalia Jackson – Bob Jones, Jr.

This is the opening talk by Dr. Ralph Blair given at the 2011 Preaching Festival.  The 2012 weekend focused on a group of centennial, historical Christians whose journeys and testimonies are an encouragement and inspiration to all.  Sermons from the weekend are available here.

Four Christian Departures or Arrivals in 1911

The year is 1911.  None of us has yet been born, much less born again from above. Yet all of us are on God’s timeless Mind and in God’s timeless Heart.

In 1911, were we to ask: “What’s new?”, we’d hear that Orville Wright kept his flying machine in the air for a record 9 minutes, 45 seconds.  Wow!  A Model T hits a new record in hill climbing and gasoline sales now surpass the sale of kerosene.  There’s another new motorcar – the Chevrolet.  And Studebaker is offering something else that’s new, customer credit.  The Stock Exchange now lists car stocks.  A Computer Tabulating Recording Corporation has been incorporated in New York.  100 years from now, it’ll be IBM, the world’s Number 1 “green company”.  You’d think that with a hundred years of experience it would no longer be green!   Read more →

The Prosperity of The Poor in Spirit

The first in a series of three sermons given by Dr. Ralph Blair at the 2011 Preaching Festival held in Ocean Grove, N.J.

His fellow Jews despised Matthew.  As the Roman occupation’s local tax collector, they viewed him as a traitor, taking whatever cash Rome required and keeping for himself whatever more than that he could squeeze out of them.  The Jews hated him.  Jesus chose him.

Not far into Matthew’s presentation of Jesus’ Good News, we find what’s called “The Sermon on the Mount”.  Known as, “the supreme jewel in the crown of Jesus’ teaching” (Michael Green), it’s introduced with a literary alert to signal the weight of Jesus’ words.  That formal phrasing is this: “Jesus opened his mouth and began to teach.”  We read: Read more →

The Privilege of the Appropriately Prioritized

The second in a series of three sermons given by Dr. Ralph Blair at the 2011 Preaching Festival held in Ocean Grove, N.J.

Jesus said:

How fortunate are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

A New Yorker cartoon depicts a sadsack newly arrived at the Pearly Gates.  St. Peter is inspecting the computer screen: “You say ‘meek,’ but your records say ‘passive-aggressive.’”

The meaning of meekness gets misunderstood.  Might the meek be mere milquetoasts?  Or wussies?  Is so-called “meekness” just a strategy for self-protection?  Is it but a pout – a calculated scheme to get one’s way?  Some timidity may intend to intimidate.  Or, she may be only a nervous Nelly.  But all of these are the damned absence of the meekness of the fortunate.

Jesus, himself, models the meekness of which he speaks.  As Paul wrote about him to Philippians, Christ did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.” (Phil 2:6-7)  In his entrance into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday, he’s described as gentle, meek, and astride, not a great horse like a triumphant general, but a young donkey. (Matt 21:5)  And hadn’t he invited the weary with these welcoming words: “Come to me.  I’ll give you rest. Be yoked with me.  Learn from me, for I’m gentle, humble – meek – and you’ll find rest with me, for my yoke eases your burden and lightens the load.” (Matt 11:28-30)  He stoops down to where we are. Read more →

The Peace of the Persecuted for Christ

The third in a series of three sermons given by Dr. Ralph Blair at the 2011 Preaching Festival held in Ocean Grove, N.J.

Six years ago, we celebrated the 1604 launching of the King James Version of the Bible.  After six years’ work on translation, the King James Bible was published.  2011 marks the 400th anniversary of that publication date.  Since we already celebrated the 400th of the launching, we’re skipping celebration of the publishing.  But, at least in passing, and as we continue through Jesus’ Beatitudes and arrive this morning at the one on “peacemaking”, let’s note that King James took for his own motto, the Latin version of this Beatitude: “Beati Pacifici”, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”  And his reign was pretty peaceful.

Jesus said:          

How fortunate are peacemakers, for they will be called God’s children.

Whatever peace this world enjoys, it’s never without disharmony, distress and hostility, too.  And even aside from violent crime and atrocities of war, this world’s precarious peace is disturbed every day by racial rivalry, inter-identity group animosity, pit bull politics, Twitter tantrums, school bullying, interpersonal intimidation, family feuds, divorce, continuing estrangement of former friends and on and on it goes.  Read more →

Preaching Festival 2010

 1910 ~ The Centennials ~ 2010

William Holman Hunt  – Louis Klopsh – The Fundamentals F. F. Bruce

This is the opening talk by Dr. Ralph Blair given at the 20120Preaching Festival.  The 201o weekend focused on a group of centennial, historical Christians whose journeys and testimonies are an encouragement and inspiration to all.  Sermons from the weekend are available here.


Introductory Lecture

 William Holman Hunt     April 2, 1827 – September 7, 1910

In 1854, 27-year-old William Holman Hunt unveiled his first rendering of what eventually would be three versions of his painting, “The Light of the World”.  It was an instant classic – enthusiastically received by both the art world and the general public.  The painting depicted the text of Revelation 3:20 where Jesus says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and I will sup with him and he with me.” Read more →

“Ye Olde Postmodernism”

The first in a series of three sermons given by Dr. Ralph Blair at the 2010 Preaching Festival held in Ocean Grove, N.J.

“Ye Olde Postmodernism”

Prefixing “Postmodernism” with the quaintness of “Ye Olde” and its visions of English village shambles and whiffs of ale and Cheshire cheese, isn’t as anachronistic as “Ye Olde’s” pseudo 16th-century affectation, itself.  And digging through ancient layers of human history to find traces of today’s pop jargon isn’t as out-of-joint as it may seem.

Way back in the mists of Eden, a pontificating snake strikes the pose of a primeval postmodernist.  Not yet cursed to crawling around in the dust, the snake struts its stuff.  The snake sneers at what it dogmatically disdains as a dogmatic God.  It’s judgmental of what it judges to be a judgmental God.  It pretends to push a participatory pluralism but betrays its postured tolerance for a diversity of truths by slithering into its own “grand narrative”: It, alone, is right and God is wrong.  It exchanges the truth of God for it’s own lie and labels that, the “truth”.  It tries to replace God’s revelation for us with its own revolution against God.  Discarding God’s clear meaning, the snake hisses rationalizations that the meaning of any author, including God, is secondary while any recipient’s reading, and especially the snake’s own reading, is primary.  This trickster tells the humans: “Words mean what you say they mean.  There’s no inherent meaning in words, you idiots.”  And with a serpentine “truth” of its own, presented in the guise of a simple question – “Hath God said?” – it proceeds to trap its prey in a wily postmodernist deconstruction of God’s word of love. Read more →

“The Good News: It’s a Whole Lot More!”

The second in a series of three sermons given by Dr. Ralph Blair at the 2010 Preaching Festival held in Ocean Grove, N.J.

 “The Good News: It’s a Whole Lot More!”

Luke gives us this report: “Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were approached by a slave girl who had a spirit of fortune telling on which her owners made a great deal of money.  She trailed after Paul and the rest of us, shouting, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God.  They’re telling you how to be saved.’  She kept on screaming this, day after day.  Finally, Paul became so troubled by the screaming that he turned around and said to that spirit, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to come out of her!’  And at that very moment the spirit left her.”  (Acts 16:16-18)

The Greek term that Luke uses for the source of the slave girl’s fortune telling “talent” literally means “a spirit of puthona”, or Python – the ancient mythical sentinel snake at Gaia’s navel, the supposed “center of the earth” at Delphi.  Was this girl a pawn of con men?  Maybe she did ventriloquism and the peasants took her strange sounds as “secrets from the spirit world”.  Read more →

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