Author Archives: salooper57

When Does Happily Ever After Start?

In faith-friendly books and movies, principal characters always face struggles and frequently experience doubts. As their circumstances worsen, their doubts grow and then, at some critical moment, they face a difficult decision. Will they trust God or will they go their own way?

In the few movies and books in this genre with which I’m familiar, a secondary character usually models the wrong choice for the reader or viewer. The protagonist then models the right choice by trusting God. After that moment of faith, the suspense grows greater still. The question of whether the hero will trust God is already decided. Now the question is whether God will prove himself worthy of that trust. Continue reading

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The Sorrows of the Past Will Hurt Us No More

In this 28-minute narrative sermon, we learn that Jesus’s people get confused, sad, broken, and hurt. In this world we have trouble – just as Jesus promised. But Christ enters our trouble and meets us there – and that changes … Continue reading

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Fountain of Life: Love for Jesus

In 1 Peter 1:3-9, we see how the flood of blessing that flows from the Fountain of Life spreads: It blesses us first with new life (verse 3), which comes with hope already installed. It blesses us with a spectacular … Continue reading

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Fountain of Life: Protection

St. Peter says (1 Peter 1:3-5) that the people of the new birth are hopeful people who have an outstanding inheritance kept for them. The word translated “kept” occurs often in Scripture. In Jesus’s prayer for his followers in John … Continue reading

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Fountain of Life

Scot McKnight describes 1 Peter 1:3-9 as a “chain reaction” of blessing. Another way pf putting it is to say the fountain of life surges through the opening made by the resurrection of Jesus, flows over into every aspect of … Continue reading

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RISE (a narrative sermon on Jesus’s Resurrection)

On a Sunday morning just like this – in fact, it was this week, approximately 1990 years ago – a small group of men sat quietly on chairs and benches scattered around a large upstairs room. Their faces were dark, their clothing disheveled, and most looked like they had not slept for days. The few who tried to speak eventually fell silent, their words swallowed up in the gloom.

Just a week ago, things were completely different. Their eyes danced and their faces were bright. There was a constant din, and the clamor was unmistakably joyous. People were saying things like, “This is it.” At last!” “It will just be a few days now.”

They were happy, giddy even. And Jesus—they had never seen him like this – was magisterial, kingly, intimidating. Determination was written all over his face. They had entered the city at the head of a parade, with Jesus riding on a donkey’s colt. That was no accident! He had borrowed the colt to fulfill Zechariah’s prophecy: “See, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” Jesus was announcing his intentions to rule God’s people. Continue reading

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Easter: So Much Bigger Than You Think

At Easter, Christians commemorate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and celebrate what his rising means for people and for the world. Too often, though, this vast hope has been so closely cropped that the only thing left is an expectation of a soulish celestial existence following death.

This is far too narrow a view, which is theologically unsupported and biblically unsound. Resurrection is not just about getting into heaven. It is the pivotal event in God’s plan to save creation. It is not simply a way for humans to live again after they die, but to live for the first time as God intended: joyously, vigorously, lovingly, justly, unendingly.

In the Bible, resurrection is viewed as the doorway into the age to come. Most people in first century Israel assumed this to be true. What surprised them was the Christian claim that the resurrection had already begun in Jesus. Their astonishing news was not just that people go on living after they die – most everyone in the first century already believed that – but that the new age had arrived when Jesus rose from the dead. Continue reading

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Stumbling Block or Steppingstone?

Follow my example, he says. Live the way I do. Be ready to make personal sacrifices in order to help people come over to Jesus’s side. Everything you do, religious or otherwise, must make God look good – that is, “do it all for the glory of God.”

This involves both a negative (what we should not do) and a positive (what we should do). We do certain things and do not do others based on the impact our actions will have on people who have not yet come over to Jesus’s side.

Paul states what we should not do first (verse 32): “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks, or the church of God.” Stumbling here and throughout the New Testament, is not just about falling down but about falling away—from God. Our attitudes, actions, and words can make it harder for people to believe in God and confess Jesus Lord. We can cause them to stumble. Continue reading

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Getting Saved: An Old-fashioned Idea?

Isn’t that old fashioned? Nowadays, when someone starts talking about being saved, people cringe. Maybe it’s not racist or sexist but it sounds religionist—and that’s just as bad. Who are you to tell me I need to be saved? For that matter, who are you to tell me I’m not already saved? You are being discriminatory and narrow-minded.

Some people are offended by the idea – not to mention the assertion – that they need to be saved. And they’re offended even though they don’t know what it means to be “saved,” aren’t sure they want to be saved, and have no intention of finding out. They do have a vague idea that being saved is about getting into heaven and they have heard that not everyone is going to get in – and that offends them too. It is a cosmic violation of the Fair Housing Act!
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Pass it on to the Next Generation

I sit in the same chair each morning, a cup of coffee on the table next to me, the Book of Common Prayer on the chair arm, and a Bible in my lap. I spend a considerable time reading, thinking, and praying.

Whenever I look up, I see a plaque opposite me on the wall. It is an odd decoration. Affixed to the plaque, which cost a couple of dollars, is a tin can bounded on either end by hose clamps. Right below the can are the words, “My God shall supply all your needs,” taken from the fourth chapter of St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

I placed it there, where I will see it every day, as a helpful reminder of how God has taken care of my family in the past and an encouragement to trust God in the future. But I had another reason for putting it there: I wanted to use it to help our grandchildren learn what God is like.

Our grandchildren are still young. But I expect that one of these days our oldest, now six years old, will say: “Grandpa, why is there a can on the wall in your study?” And I will say, “I don’t think you’re ready for that story yet. I’ll tell you when you are older.” And each time they see the tin can mounted on the wall, it will arouse their curiosity about the story behind it.
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