Sermons

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 →

“The Light of the World”

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

“The Light of the World”

In the biblical book of Revelation, at 3:14-22, we read Christ’s letter to the messenger of the congregation at Laodicea in Asia Minor.  Here it is:

   “These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.  I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  How I wish you were either one or the other!  So, since you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I’m about to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’  But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

   Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline.  So be earnest, and repent.  Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. 

   To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.  He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

A 19th century art critic referred to Holman Hunt’s famous painting, “The Light of the World”, as “a painted text, a sermon on canvas”.  And, so it has been since it was first displayed.  Jesus is knocking at a door in the dark, a door all overgrown with weeds and dead flowers.  His lantern shines the light.  As he knocks, he calls out:  “Listen!  If anyone in there hears me and opens this door, I’ll come in and we’ll dine together.”  (Rev 3:20)  And remember that, in the biblical culture, dining together wasn’t about just grabbing a quick bite.  It was evidence of most intimate fellowship. Read more →

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