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“License to Sin?”

Galatians 5: 18: “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.” If we are no longer under the Law, does that mean we are free to break it? No, it means we are under a higher authority, that of the Spirit and His leading. Do you really think the Holy Spirit will lead you to steal what doesn’t belong to you, or to have a fling with a person who is not your spouse, or to hate your neighbor? He’s called “Holy” for a reason, you know. He leads us into holiness, not unrighteousness.

“Run to Me”

Isaiah 55: 5: “Behold, you will call a nation you do not know, and a nation which knows you not will run to you, because of the Lord your God, even the Holy One of Israel; for He has glorified you.” Once again this week the point is made: God is not just the God of the “nice people,” the “good people,” or the “people I’m comfortable with” because I know them and can relate to them. Even those we don’t know – yet – are called to Him, to respond to His glory just as we did; and they will run to – are you ready for this? us! You see, that door to God’s house just keeps opening wider and wider, if we’ll just stop trying to close it.

“Who Says You Can’t Afford a Helper”

Psalm 72: 12: “For He will deliver the needy when he cries for help, the afflicted also, and him who has no helper.” Even for those outside of relationship with God, especially for those outside of relationship with God, there is no need for despair; for the King of kings, before Whom all rulers and nations bow, has a heart of compassion for you, too. There is really no such thing as someone who has no helper, for what the Samaritan woman and Isaiah the prophet spoke about, Solomon already knew: The Lord is a helper and deliverer to all who come to Him.

Third Sunday After Epiphany: Walking In Fulfillment of Scripture

Nehemiah 8:1-3; 5-6; 8-10 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a Psalm 19 Luke 4:14-21 Epiphany is about manifestation. Epiphany is to see the effects of Christmas in our lives. How has Christmas touched our lives? Is Christmas just about receiving gifts? Is it just about eating food? How has Christmas affected us? Christmas, as it is well understood, is the proclamation of God’s tremendous and only blessing upon mankind. Like the time of Joseph and Mary, very few understood that there was no room for them in the inn. For many, Christmas is just another activity to indulge in to satisfy our desires for the material things, and it will come to pass. But if Christmas is about Jesus and our encounter o

“Clean and Beautiful City”

Isaiah 52: 1: “Awake, awake, clothe yourself in your strength, O Zion; clothe yourself in your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city. For the uncircumcised will no longer come into you.” Good idea, God! Keep the riff-raff out, and the city will be clean! Then we can dress to kill once again. But that’s not God’s way. The uncircumcised and unclean will not disappear due to banishment or exile, but because they’ve been circumcised and cleansed. They, too, have been given beautiful garments of salvation, and the glory of God now rests on the city. This is the completed work of Jesus Christ in His Church today. So you uncircumcised and unclean, put on those ‘glad rags’ and join

“Of Dogs and Children”

Mark 7: 27, 28: “And Jesus was saying to her, ‘Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’ But she answered and said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs.’” What was so wise about this answer that it impressed even Jesus? Possibly this: That both children and dogs are in the house, at the table. Metaphorically speaking, we tend to think the kids belong inside God’s house, where the dogs have no place. This Gentile woman (a dog in the Jewish culture of that time) knew differently. Maintaining the metaphor: God’s house is a pet-friendly establishment, and woe be to anyone w

3rd Sunday after Epiphany: 'Walking in Fulfillment of Scripture'

When we go to church, do we expect something? Do we expect to hear a good sermon or nice hymns and songs? Do we expect to be welcomed or receive comfort from people we know? Maybe some of us do. The people in the synagogue, after Jesus had finished reading the passage from the Old Testament, were all expecting something. In the Gospel today (Luke 4:14-21) Jesus started His ministry by teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath. He read the book of the prophet Isaiah, and after reading it, the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, "Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (verse 21). Jesus' one-sentence sermon was the shortest but the

“Inside/Outside”

Mark 7: 15: “There is nothing outside the man which going into him can defile him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defiles the man.” Is Jesus excusing the classic ‘sins of the flesh’ with these words? Not at all. The alcohol you take into your body may not defile you, but the things you think, do, and say while drunk surely will. The pornography your eyes allow into your mind may not defile you, but the covetous, adulterous, and evil thoughts it produces surely will. The anger you allow to slip into your heart may not condemn you, but the hatred, judgement, and murder it produces surely will. Your life is like a classic car; you have to keep it clean, inside and o

“This Ain’t a Ted Talk”

Psalm 40: 9: “I have proclaimed glad tiding of righteousness in the great congregation; I will not restrain my lips, O Lord, You know.” Many Christians these days no longer see a need for the Church. There’s a multitude of nice sermons available on a zillion websites, so why bother? Except a Church service is more than a lovely self-improvement lecture. It is also worship, often corporate worship, and corporate worship can’t be done solo. David knew that; do we?

“Full of Hope”

Isaiah 49: 23: “... and you will know that I am the Lord; those who hopefully wait for me will not be put to shame.” It’s not enough just to wait; one has to wait with hope. Waiting without hope means one will wait, but live however he pleases. Waiting with hope is waiting with a purpose, and we realize that while waiting in expectation of what God has promised we live in obedience to what He has said. When we wait like that, we won’t be put to shame.

“Face Time”

Galatians 2: 11: “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.” The relationship between Peter and Paul was marked by one thing: There was often disagreement, but never disrespect. They were simply opposite people – uneducated vs, scholar; provincial vs. city-born; strong, healthy he-man vs. sometimes sickly short guy. Even their ministries were at different ends of the spectrum - one for the Jews, the other to the Gentiles. But whenever there was conflict it was face-to-face, not behind the back. Everything was with respect. We gotta get back to that!

“God’s All Over It!”

Isaiah 48: 14: “Assemble, all of you, and listen! Who among them has declared these things? The Lord loves him [Jacob]; He shall carry out His good pleasure on Babylon, and His arm shall be against the Chaldeans.” Do you know what politics is NOT? It’s not us being God’s good little helpers and punishing all the peoples and nations who don’t do things the way we think they should. That’s His job actually, and He’s much better at it than we are. God loves His people, He’s watching out for them, and He knows how to deal with their adversaries. The cool part is, He deals with them with a view toward their salvation, and not just their punishment. Ever seen a politically-motivated action

“Look Deeper”

Mark 5: 30b-31; 39b-40: “… Jesus said, ‘Who touched My garments?’ And His disciples said to Him, ‘You see the multitude pressing in on You, and You say, ‘”Who touched Me?”’ ... And Jesus said, ‘The child has not died, but is asleep.’ And they began laughing at Him.” Mark places side-by-side two incidents with similar messages: With Jesus, there’s always more happening than meets the eye. A mere touch of a garment can be an act of faith that goes far beyond the limits of medicine; and what seems the unconquerable stillness of death is just a little nap when Jesus gets finished with it. It still works that way in the Kingdom of God – when we walk by sight alone, we miss most of what’s rea

Feast of the Lord and Giver of Life

Genesis 1:26-28a Psalm 10 Romans 8:35-39 Matthew 18:1-5 Today it the Feast of the Lord and Giver of Life, and we proclaim that all life is sacred. All comes from our God who is the Giver of all good things and the Source of life. In the book of Genesis, it proclaims that all human beings have been made in the image and likeness of God. In Latin, it is call “Imago Dei” the image of God imprinted in us. All of human life is sacred. Every person is an image of God and bears the image and likeness of God. I can think of four levels of existence. First, the inanimate objects that just exist with no life. Second, the flora, like the trees and the plants which have life in them, but no awaren

“The Duty of the Church”

Ephesians 3: 18, 19a: “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf..” If you want to know the duty of the Church, read Ephesians. This verse is often known as the least obeyed command in the Bible; does your life disprove this statement? As long as everything is going Ok, we neither take the time nor feel the need to pray. But this same Paul did not say without reason to the Thessalonians, “Pray without ceasing.” The Church prays in good times and bad; it is our duty, yes, but deeper, it is our joy and our completion.

“The Culture of the Church”

Ephesians 6: 1, 4: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right … and fathers, do not provoke your children to anger.” If you want to know the culture of the Church, read Ephesians. The culture of the Church is love, expressed in a model of familial respect. Transcending age, economic, and ethnic distinctions, God’s love in us reaches out to all, recognizing the dignity of each of us as a precious creation of the one God, our Father, in Whom we all have our life. The family and the Church go hand in hand, the family being the expression of the Church and the Church being the expression of the family.

“The Lover of the Church”

Ephesians 5: 28, 29, 32: “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the Church … this mystery is great, but I am speaking concerning Christ and the Church.” If you want to know the lover of the Church, read Ephesians. Attack the Church if you want, but remember that it is the apple of Christ’s eye. If you disregard the Church, you disregard Christ. If you disrespect the Church, you disrespect Christ. If you reject the Church, you reject Christ. He nourishes and cherishes us as Himself, for we are His body, His bride; and He is o

“The Purpose of the Church”

Ephesians 5: 1-2a: “Be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love.” If you want to know the purpose of the Church, read Ephesians. Let all the other elements be as they may: Organization, structure, size, leadership, buildings or lack thereof – Jesus never said any of those things would prove the discipleship of anyone. But fulfillment of His greatest commandment, that to love God and one another, is the foundation of His whole Gospel. For this purpose were we born; for this purpose does the Church exist.

“The Nature of the Church”

Ephesians 4: 22b-23: “,,, lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and put on the new self ...” If you want to know the nature of the Church, read Ephesians. A highly visible minority may look otherwise, but Christ’s church is righteous, holy, truthful, peaceable, honest, and industrious; disciplined in speech and forgiving in spirit. All this is part of the new nature given by the Holy Spirit, of which putting it on is part of the maturation process discussed yesterday. It is easy to throw accusations, but this is the true Church.

“The Identity of the Church”

Ephesians 4: 12: “… for the building up of the body of Christ.” If you want to know the identity of the Church, read Ephesians. We are the body of Christ. And though sometimes accused (and rightly so) of being immature, as individuals and corporately, God has no intention of leaving us that way. As a natural human body grows in maturity of thought and function, so Christ has body-building and body-growing at the top of his to-do list. He knows how to develop His own body.

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