Author Archives: salooper57

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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A Three-Point Sermon (in Nine Words)

In Romans 12:12, the Apostle Paul writes: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” There is a wonderful three-point sermon in those nine words.[1] Point one: there is a great future ahead of us, so be joyful in hope. Point two: there are great difficulties surrounding us, so be patient in affliction. And point three: there is a great God above us, so be faithful in prayer. Continue reading

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Climate Change in a Desert of Disrespect

Outside the church, people rationed respect (and still do). Inside the church, there was an abundance of it. James Dunn translates this phrase, “Showing the way to one another in respect.” In other words, in the church we are not to wait for others to show respect. We are to go first.

Now, wait a minute! Why should I go first? I’ll show you respect … as soon as you show it to me. I’ve heard husbands say, “As soon as she starts showing me some respect, I’ll start being more loving.” I’ve heard parents say, “My kids aren’t getting anything from me until they start showing me the respect I deserve.”

We think that honor is a zero sum game: giving it to someone else diminishes our own. How will we ever go first when that is what we think? But going first is just what Paul expects us to do. Continue reading

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The Case of the Displaced Yard Signs: How We Gather Evidence Is Important

In our already splintered America, the last thing we needed was something else to divide us, but that is what we got. Solar power has come to our rural neighborhood. Or rather, solar power wants to come to our neighborhood.

Some of us in the neighborhood want solar power and some of us do not. More precisely, some of us want it and some of us want very much not to have it. Signs have appeared up and down our road, most opposing the massive solar farm but others supporting it.

My wife and I take a two-mile walk each morning along our country roads, so we walk by many signs. On a recent walk, I noticed that the signs opposing solar power were all standing where they had been placed, but more than half of the pro-solar signs were lying on the ground. It appeared that there was some mischief at work. Continue reading

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Spiritual Formation: Anything but Boring

God, according to the Bible, intends to conform humans to the image of his Son. We might think it would be boring to have a world full of people who were all the same, even if they were like Jesus. But that is to think wrongly. If everyone were like me, the world would be a boring place. In becoming like me, so many of the things that make people interesting would be lost. But in becoming like Jesus, nothing that is good is lost. Boring? It’s just the opposite. The world goes from black and white to living color – colors we have not yet imagined – as we become like Christ.

But wait a minute. If I become like Jesus – so different from what I am now – won’t I cease to be me? No. It is quite the opposite. The more I become like Jesus, the more I become myself. In fact, I can only be me to the degree that I become like him. If I refuse to be like him, I will inevitably lose myself and everything that makes me me.

Here is a mystery. If you become more like Jesus and I become more like Jesus (which, remember is God’s plan), we won’t become more like each other in a way that makes one of us superfluous. Instead, as each of us becomes more like Christ, our uniqueness becomes more apparent, not less. The good but undeveloped possibilities within each of us spring to life. Continue reading

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What Is God Up To?

Romans 8:28 is one of the Bible best-loved verses. “All things work together for good to those who love God…” And yet things frequently don’t seem to work together for good. For example, let’s say you have been saving up for a better car for the last 18 months. The one you have now is unreliable and you finally have enough money to replace it. But before you do, you incur unexpected bills that wipe out all the money you’ve saved and then some. How does that work for good?

And that is nothing compared to what some people experience. How does a cancer diagnosis work for good? A tragic accident? How about a tsunami? The death of a child? The deaths of tens of thousands of children in war and famine? In what sense are any of these things good?

The answer is, they are not and the Bible never says they are. In fact, it says quite the opposite. These things are not good but God is. He is so wise, so capable, and powerful that he can make even bad things like these serve his people’s good. Continue reading

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Committed to Christlikeness

This sermon is from Romans 8:28-30, and treats the Christian’s commitment to becoming Christlike.

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Is God an Angry Person?

Is God an angry person? Someone might object that even to ask the question is to denigrate the God whom the Bible declares “is love.” Further, is it not misleading to speak of God as a person? The Bible plainly states that “God is not human.” To refer to the Deity as a “person,” someone might argue, is to use overly human terms.

This second objection needs to be answered before the first can be addressed. Christian theology, unlike pantheism, understands God to be a person; in fact, to be “the” person. Humans, unlike some other created beings, are persons precisely because they were made “in the image of God” with the intention that they should in some sense become like God.

If God is then a person – albeit more than a person – one might further ask if he is an angry person. Indeed, this is precisely what many of the new atheists have asserted about the Christian God. Richard Dawkins, for example, described God as “the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser…” He goes on like this with ten more contemptuously descriptive terms.

Before such a verbal onslaught, many of us cry, “Foul.” Dawkins descriptions ignore most of the biblical revelation and misrepresent what is left.
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Committed to Christ

This sermon is the first of a four-part series titled, What We Are All About.

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“Woke” Culture and a Righteousness of Our Own

In our day as in Paul’s, people try to establish a righteousness of their own. In fact, we live in what might be the most self-righteous moment in western history. So much of the impetus behind the “woke” movement is … Continue reading

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