Offended by the Extent of God's Mercy
Sun, Jan 10, 2021
Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” -- Jonah 1:1–2 (ESV) It's a familiar Sunday school story. It has pretty amazing elements. There is a prophet, a mission, a storm, a whale, and a revival. The illustrations pretty much draw themselves. Jonah is one of those Old Testament tales we have heard again and again. I wonder how much of it we have taken in. Have we considered why Jonah ran? What did he think he was escaping from? Who did he think would replace him? What did he think God would do? How did he respond when God did exactly what he thought he would do? This week we begin a 4 week series on the book of Jonah. In it we will exploring the audacious grace and mercy of God. I'd encourage you to read through this little book. It's just 4 chapters and I think it lays out some themes and confronts us in some much needed ways.
Love with Mary
Sun, Dec 20, 2020
And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. -- Luke 2:17–19 (ESV) One of the dominating images of the Christmas story is a young woman deep into her pregnancy enduring the long uncomfortable journey to Bethlehem. Through the scriptures we see a woman not only with a maternal love for her child, but also a love for him as her savior. It is both amazing and beautiful. This week we take some time to examine that kind of love, but I want to look beyond Mary's love (as great as it is) to a love that is even wider and deeper. As you consider what love that might be, I'd encourage you to read 1 John 4 to prepare your heart to worship together.
Joy with the Angels
Sun, Dec 13, 2020
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. -- Luke 2:9–11 (ESV) There are few things as exciting as the birth of a child. Most parents mark it down as one of the greatest memories of their life. We want to let people know. We post about it online. We send out announcements. We hold parties. It's a life-defining moment in so many ways. When that child is the offspring of someone important or famous, this excitement takes on another dimension. Even people outside of family and friends are celebrating and want to know the details. So it's not surprising that for one very special and unique child a grand, joyous announcement was made. It wasn't mailed out, but it was broadcast across the night sky to some unlikely shepherds and they could not wait to pass along the news to everyone they met. This week we examine the Joy of the Shepherds. Take a few minutes to read back through the very special birth announcement there. Consider why it was so joyous and what that joy propelled the shepherds to say and do.
God's Peace
Sun, Dec 06, 2020
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” -- Luke 2:13–15 (ESV) 'I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day' is a song adapted from a Henry Longfellow poem. The poem tells of Longfellow's struggles over the death of his wife and war injury of his son. As he sadly ponders those realities, the Christmas bells of the local church ring and remind him of the true peace found at Christmas. What is the source and basis of that peace? Is it just a ceasing of conflict? Is it just a reminder for us to get along with each other? This week we continue our celebration of Advent by considering these angels and the Peace they announce. We will celebrate together around the advent wreath and will sing of the One who is to come.
Hope of the Prophets
Sun, Nov 29, 2020
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. -- Isaiah 9:6–7 (ESV) The characters of the Advent story are familiar. You have the unsuspecting shepherds who would be confronted with the annoucement of the angels. There are the mysterious wisemen who came carrying gifts and seeking a king. You have the gracious step-father of Jesus, Joseph who cared for the woman he loved. Then there is Mary, who miraculously carrieded the son of God in her womb. All of these characters surround Jesus in our nativity scenes worshiping the Christ Child. There is one group that does not make it into those scenes, but they lurk in the shadows of each retelling of the story. Without them the backdrop of the story is blank. They fill in the significance of this anticipated event. Who are these characters? The prophets foretold the coming of one that would come to rescue His people from slavery. They told of one that would come in the spirit of Moses as a deliverer. They told of one who would be the true son of David. This week we begin our celebration of Advent by considering these prophets and the hope they present of a coming deliverer.
Gifts of Grace
Sun, Nov 22, 2020
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. - Philippians 4:19–20 (ESV) It seems like some subjects are off limits in church. We like talking about theology and Jesus. Leave things like politics and money at the door. In fact, if those (and several other subjects) come up especially from the pulpit, people tend to pull back and even leave churches because of it. This makes pastors and congregations hesitant to say anything at all in these areas. These fears don't seem to bother the Apostle Paul. He has already talked a little politics early in Philippines. In the last half of chapter 4, he has been talking about money. In one sense he is writing a thank you note. (The whole letter to the Philippians could be thought of this way). He wants to give us more. This week we close out our study of Unrestrained Joy in the final few verses talking about money. Paul will point us not only to the generous example of the Philippians, but he will point us beyond them to where and why they were so generous. I want to encourage you to take a look at Phil 4 to prepare your heart and mind for worshiping together on Sunday.
Joy's Little Secret - Contentment
Sun, Nov 15, 2020
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. - Philippians 4:12–13 (ESV) Some verses seem to get memorialized. They end up on plaques and mugs. They become phrases and mottos. Unfortunately, most of them get severed from their context which endangers their true meaning and interrupts their true power. One of those verses is Philippian 4:13. I like to call it the Kool-Aid man verse. Remember him. He was the big, giant picther with a face that would bust through walls to serve kids that red sugary goodness. Many people read Phil 4:13 and think they too can be the Kool-aid man, busting through walls both figuratively and actually with God's empowerment. (OH YEAH!) But is that what it means? As Paul closes out the letter, he pens a brief thank you. He calls on God's strengthening grace for a very specific need. It's a need that very relevant today and one that requires God's strengthening grace. Take a few minutes and read through Philippians 4 to discover it.
Continue in the Way of the Lord
Sun, Nov 08, 2020
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. - Philippians 4:8–9 (ESV) Proverbs 14:12 tells us, "There's a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." This proverb is so striking because it shows how deceptive our perceptions of reality can be. Before believing in Christ, our ways of living led to death and we believed they were life. God is gracious to not only give us eternal life, but he shows us how we are to continue living as we wait for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. As we continue in the way of the Lord, there are various ruts along the way that can keep us joyless, ineffective, and lacking peace. What are the ruts that derail you from continuing in the Lord? Rather than do what seems best to us, we can continue in what we've been told and what we've seen modeled. Paul knows that we will face disunity, disagreements, difficulties, temptations, and worries. He also knows God desires to reform our hearts and minds to make us more like his son. He admonishes us to continue walking in the way of the Lord, instructing us how to relate to one another, what sort of disposition to have, and what life of the mind we should cultivate, so that we live in the abundance of joy and peace that Christ provides for us in his glorious gospel. Will you take a few moments to read Philippians 4:2-9?
Living with Joy in Between - Part 2
Sun, Nov 01, 2020
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself - Philippians 3:20–21 (ESV) A few weeks ago we sent out the State of Theology survey. It was helpful to get a snapshot of our congregation's thoughts and understanding about what the Bible teaches. If you didn't see the results, take a look. There were several noteworthy things that we will talk about in time, but one highlighted our current moment in this country. Question 21 stated: Christians should be silent on issues of politics - true or false. A bit to my suprise the scale was tipped toward the 'false' answer. You asked (sort of), so I'm going to answer (sort of). This week we continue to look at Philippians 3. Paul is addressing what it looks like to live in between the cross and eternity. As he does that, he includes their politics. Take a few minutes to read through Philippians 3 to prepare your heart and mind to worship. Then plan to join us at 10AM either in person or online. I'm looking forward to it.
Living with Joy in Between - Part 1
Sun, Oct 25, 2020
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. - Philippians 3:14–15 (ESV) The story of the Bible is the one grand story of our creation, fall, redemption, and glory. It is a story filled with unexpected turns. It reveals the dark depths of humanity and the glorious heights of God's character. It covers from the very beginning to the very end of everything. Often it is hard for us to locate our place in that story. We aren't sure where we are. We aren't sure what part we are to play. We see the grand movements of the past and we hope in the grand conclusions we await. We are left here in what feels at times like the doldrums of the redemptive storyline. This week Paul starts to wrap up the letter to the Philippians. While doing so he gives us instruction on how we should live with joy in the 'in-between'. These are important and relevant encouragements as we seek to run the race ahead. Will you take a few minutes before Sunday to read through Philippians 3. What is Paul pointing us toward? How does this state of 'in-between-ness' both motivate and challenge us to move forward?
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