Category Archives: Bible

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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“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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A Vision for the Church

More than 20 years ago, a group of Lockwood leaders attended a conference together in the Chicago area. One of the keynote speakers urged church leaders to write a vision statement – what their church will look like as it conforms to God’s will for them. We came home and set about working on a vision statement.

Vision statements were all the rage back then. I know a pastor who undertook the same exercise and, when he was done, had a vision of a new church building, with a beautiful fountain adorning the grounds.

We had no vision of what the church building or grounds would look like. We had no vision of staff positions or programming. I’m not saying that God doesn’t give such visions; to some congregations he might but he did not give them to us. Continue reading

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An Eye for What Others Miss

The biographies of Jesus tell a fascinating story about his encounter with a man named Levi Matthew, a tax collector. The evangelist Luke makes a point of stating that Jesus “saw” him. Other people saw him too, but not in the same way.

They saw him the way motorists see the toll booth worker on the turnpike: most took no notice of him. Those who did tried to avoid him. But others looked at him with disgust. He was a tax collector. People have never cared much for the company of tax collectors – then or now. But people working for the IRS are a hundred times more welcome in our day than tax collectors were in Levi’s day.

A tax collector was a citizen of Israel who went to work for Israel’s conquerors, the Romans. He collected tax money from his people and gave it to the Romans to fund the military occupation of their own country. And he did it for money. When people looked at Levi, the more generous saw a greedy and dishonest low-level bureaucrat. Most saw a traitor. The rest just saw a loser.

St. Luke says that Jesus saw Levi Matthew. He had his eye on him. He saw the things other people saw, but he saw something they didn’t see: He saw what Levi Matthew would become. Not a traitor who sold his life for money but a saint who would sacrifice his life for God; not a low-level bureaucrat but a high-level apostle; not a loser but a saint.

It is unlikely that other people saw this. Continue reading

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