Author Archives: salooper57

The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation (Part II)

You’re reading a novel in which the main character has a fantastical experience which changes him. From that time on, whenever he shakes hands with someone, he can see what that person will be in twenty, thirty, even forty years.

He meets a handsome young man who is brilliantly successful – straight A’s in college, captain of the basketball team, with acceptance letters from Harvard Business and other top graduate schools. But when he shakes his hand, he can see that alcoholism will destroy his life, his wife will leave him at 35, take the kids, and he’ll be dead by 50.

He is amazed to see how people’s lives turn out, some beautifully and some tragically. Then he meets and shakes hands with … you. Continue reading

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Where is Heaven? (Clue: It's Closer Than You Think)

In 1869, The Scientific American ran a short (and sardonic) piece on Dr. D. Mortimer, a medical doctor who believed he had found the location of heaven. His suggestion, if I understand it correctly, was a fascinating one. According to Dr. Mortimer, heaven lay within the sun as a vast globe, “at least 500,000 miles in diameter.”
Apparently, Dr. Mortimer believed that the blessed occupants of heaven were either shielded from its heat or transformed physiologically (an idea based on the Apostle Paul’s writings) so they might flourish there. This location also offers the added convenience of close proximity to a large “lake of fire” for those who are not blessed. Continue reading

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Powerful Prayers: Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation (Ephesians 1:15-21)

I once read about a young Irish woman who emigrated to the U.S. in the first decades of the twentieth century. She had family in New York, who told her she could find work there, so she saved and scraped … Continue reading

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Powerful Prayers: The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation

We’ll discover another way to pray for the people and the church we love.

After Josh Ferrin of Bountiful, Utah, bought his first home, he went poking around and found a little access panel in the ceiling of the garage. He thought it might be a place his kids would like to play. When he investigated, he found eight boxes, each with rolls of cash wrapped in twine – $45,000 worth.

He called the previous occupant, whose family had owned the house for years, and told him to come and get the cash. The owner, a Mr. Bangerter, never realized what treasure he had in his own home.

St. Paul knows that Jesus’s people might not realize what treasure they have in their relationship with Christ, so he prays that they might discover it. Continue reading

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A Different Kind of Climate Change

Though many Americans first became aware of climate science in the last few decades, it has a long history. By the 1850s, scientists investigating large-scale climate differences in past geological ages began to suspect that atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane might have an impact on global temperatures.

Their theories generated debate but not consensus. Nevertheless, interest in vacillating global temperatures (in ages past) grew. By the late 1950s, some scientists were not just thinking about the history of climate change but its future and they saw trouble ahead.

I feel like one of those 1950s climate scientists (minus the math proficiency). Like them, I am warning about climate change, although it is a different climate – the social climate – that concerns me. I too see trouble ahead.

In the earth sciences, climate change is measured by temperature fluctuations in earth’s oceans, on its surface, and in its lower troposphere. In the social climate, change is measured by fluctuations in respect and contempt levels. Currently, respect levels are falling and contempt levels are rising.

Social climate change threatens human flourishing. It puts human institutions like marriage and government at risk. Long-term consequences could include poverty, governmental instability, and the unraveling of the social fabric.

What signs are there of social climate change? Continue reading

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A Prayer for Your Love Life: Philippians 1:9-11 (manuscript)

St. Paul wrote more of the New Testament than any other writer – he is the author of something like one quarter of the New Testament. If we are going to understand his letters, it is important to realize that he wrote them with some basic assumptions in place. He doesn’t argue for these things. He takes them for granted and assumes his readers do the same. For example, Paul assumes that the Creator of heaven and earth is actively involved in what is happening in our world. He is not on vacation. He is paying attention.

He assumes that the Creator, who is the God and Father of Jesus Messiah, is currently at work in our day-to-day world. All people on earth and every institution of which they are a part is known by God, accessible to God, and responsible before God. That includes you and me and Lockwood Church. This is not something Paul argues; he takes it for granted.

He further assumes that this God is pursuing a specific goal and is employing individuals and institutions to achieve it, whether they realize it or not, whether they cooperate or not. That goal is stated this way in the letter to the Ephesians: “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ” (Ephesians 1:10).

We read over that and miss how revolutionary (in the fullest sense of the word) it is. The goal is to bring all things – nations, for example, and their governments – under the headship of one leader: Jesus. The U.S., Russia, China, England, France – and the other 191 so-called sovereign states – will be governed by one head, Jesus Messiah. That’s the plan. Talk about a one-world government – this is it – and it is God’s intention to make it happen.

But it is not just nations. It is people, animals, weather systems, physical processes, spiritual forces – authorities, powers, and dominions – everything. Paul sees God making all things work together toward this goal and Paul has committed himself – even to the point of sacrificing his life – to that cause. He further assumes that the Colossian church exists for the same purpose: the realization of the universal lordship of Jesus; otherwise, they would not be a church. Continue reading

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Prayer for Your Love Life

I’ve often asked myself what must happen for someone to discern what is best in a given situation. Is it best to take this job or stay with the one I’ve got? Should we move to a larger house or continue making do? Shall we retire or should keep working for a few more years? How can we discern what’s good from what’s best?

When we ask: “What must happen in order to discern what is best?” we’re assuming that discernment is primarily a procedural thing, as if discernment is just a matter of following the right steps. I’ve come to think there is a prior and more important question: “What kind of people do we need to be to discern what is best?” The Apostle Paul’s surprising answer to that question is: We have to be people with a healthy love life.

That love life – what Paul elsewhere calls “a life of love” – is critical to godly discernment. And that’s what Paul prays for in Philippians 1:9-11: that his dear friends’ “love will abound … so that [they] will be able to discern what is best…”

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Grief and Hope in the Face of Kobe’s Death

I watched a video clip of Shaquille O’Neal sitting with his sports show co-hosts, talking about the sudden, tragic loss of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash on Sunday, January 26. At several points in Shaq’s monologue, he was forced to pause, overcome with emotion.

Shaq’s grief is understandable: Kobe was a teammate, friend, and, in times past, an opponent in a very public feud. Shaq’s complicated friendship with Kobe would undoubtedly bring a deep and profound grief. But millions of people who never met Kobe, even people who never saw Kobe play, were deeply affected by the superstar’s death.

What accounts for this outpouring of grief? How is it that so many people experienced shock and disbelief when they learned that Kobe died? Most of us who have reached adulthood, certainly those who are middle-aged or older, are well acquainted with grief. We’ve all lost someone – perhaps many someones – we have loved. So why should the death of a celebrity we never met touch us so deeply?

Kobe’s passing brings the reality of death home to us. If a handsome, healthy young man like Kobe Bryant – a competitor, a victorious warrior – could be vanquished, then none of us is safe. Unlike other celebrities who died young, Kobe was not courting death. He wasn’t living a devil-may-care kind of life. If this could happen to him…
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Powerful Prayers: Colossians 1:9-12 (Part 2)

Note: for the next few weeks , I will post the manuscript that goes with the audio (posted Tuesdays) from a sermon in the Powerful Prayers series. People have requested the sermon manuscripts many time, but I’ve always been reluctant to make it available for two principal reasons: 1) I never simply read a sermon, so what people read is not exactly what I spoke. The manuscript might be better or it may be worse but it will be different. And (2) because the sermon has not been edited for publication. With those caveats, here is Prayers God Love to Answer: Colossians 1:9-12, Part 2. Continue reading

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Powerful Prayers: Prayers God Loves to Answer

How strong are you? How much weight can you bench press? How many miles can you run? (In my case, it might be better to measure in yards.) How high is your vertical jump?

But what about spiritual strength? What does it mean for a follower of Jesus to be strong? Are there tests to measure spiritual strength?

Yes, there are and we learn about them from the Apostle Paul’s description of his prayer for the Colossians. There are three principal tests for spiritual strength. Take the tests – see how you do. Continue reading

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