Category Archives: From the Pulpit

Love your Enemy

Powerful Prayers: Prayers God Loves to Answer

Colossians 1:9-12 http://lockwoodchurch.org/media (Listening time: 23:04) Most of us don’t see obvious answers to our prayers as often as the New Testament might lead us to expect. While the Bible offers insight into why prayers are sometimes not answered (without … Continue reading

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I AM the Vine

Excerpt from I AM the Vine http://lockwoodchurch.org/media (Listening time: 21:00) An exceptionally popular pastor and writer came out with a book in which he criticized the church’s “incessant habit of reaching back into the old covenant concepts, teachings, sayings, and … Continue reading

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Extraordinary Savior

“Extraordinary Savior.” “Extraordinary” is, of course, a term of comparison: If there were no ordinary people, there would be no extraordinary ones. That got me to thinking: in order to appreciate the extraordinary savior, I need to understand what an ordinary one is like.

Is there such a thing as an ordinary savior? There is, and (sadly) Jesus is often presented as one. If you spend any time at all on religious broadcasting, you’ll run into the ordinary savior. He saves people from their circumstances – poor health, insufficient income, and troubling emotions. That’s one way of identifying an ordinary savior: he only saves people from, while the extraordinary Savior – the real one – saves people for. Let me give you a few examples.

An ordinary savior saves people from a religionless, churchless existence. He pities those unfortunates who sleep in on Sunday mornings, go out to eat, and travel. He wants to save them from their laziness, gluttony, and wanderlust, though they aren’t looking to be saved. I suspect most people who don’t really know Jesus – they’ve heard about him, of course, but have never joined themselves to him – think of Jesus as this kind of savior: one who loves organ music, 18th century hymns, and those rousing 19th century gospel songs. He doesn’t want people missing out on these good things.

An ordinary savior also saves people from hell; that’s why he came. People were going to hell in a handbasket (or maybe a shopping cart) and he stepped in to save them. The extraordinary savior does that too, but he does more: He saves people for heaven; he saves people for service in his kingdom. It is the repeated promise of the New Testament that Christ is saving us for something important. He has a role in mind for us. He intends for us to reign with him. The ordinary savior just saves from. The extraordinary savior saves for.
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I AM the Good Shepherd (Part 2)

In “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm Twenty-Three,” Philip Keller writes about his time as a shepherd in east Africa. The tract of land next to his was owned by an absentee landlord and run by a manager – a contract employee type – who was supposed to care for the sheep. But they were sickly, skinny (the land was overgrazed) and beset by predators. Keller says that those poor sheep would stand across the fence and just stare into his green pastures and at his healthy sheep. It was as if they hoped some good shepherd would free them from the abusive one with whom they were stuck. Continue reading

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I AM the Good Shepherd

It is wintertime and Jesus is walking in the historic Portico of Solomon on the east side of the temple courts. In an orchestrated effort, some of the Judean leaders and influencers encircle Jesus so he cannot slip away. They order him to tell them whether or not he is the Messiah. Jesus’s answer at first seems baffling. He responds: “I did tell you.” Is it possible that Jesus tells us things today and we miss what he is saying? Continue reading

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The Best Defense…

Imagine growing up in a home that idolized the New York Yankees. You were born in 1950, and your earliest memories involve the Yankees: going to games, watching them on TV, trading baseball cards for great Yankees players: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra. Your Yogi card is even signed. Now your hoping to get your Mickey Mantle Card signed.

In your home, the Yankees are the subject of conversation every evening at dinner—and those conversations are full of anxiety. “In the good old days, we were the winners. Oh, when the Iron Horse, Lou Gehrig, was at the plate. Those were the golden years. Now, everyone is out to get us. The bullpen looks weak – don’t know about that Whitey Ford guy. Mickey is playing injured. And Roger Marris – he used to be a Cleveland Indian, and those Cleveland guys never amount to anything. This year will be bad. Things are going in the wrong direction for us.”

Of course, the Yankees won the World Series twelve times in the 23 years following Lou Gehrig’s retirement, including a five-year stint in which they won every series.

Sometime people talk about the church in the same way: “This year will be bad. Church people aren’t what they used to be. Things are going in the wrong direction for us.” But this is a distorted view, if ever there was one. Jesus’s church will not fail. The kingdom of God will win.
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I AM: The Door for the Sheep (Series: Allow Me to Introduce Myself)

I was speaking at a conference years ago. During the break a woman came up and introduced herself. She was a Christian who had married a reformed con man after he found Jesus and had been released on parole. It turned out, however, that he had not reformed, only revised his approach. He became a minister and started his own religious radio program in Northeastern Ohio. She told me that money was pouring in from listeners who were inspired by his spiritual cant. All the while, he was living a godless life, sleeping with his secretary, and laughing all the way to the bank. Continue reading

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Desperate

A great sermon by Kevin Looper on Mark 5. Jesus returns to his home base Capernaum to find massive crowds gathered and a respected religious professional in desperate straits. The man pleads with Jesus to come and heal his daughter, even though association with Jesus was at this time risky for religious professionals reputations and careers. Continue reading

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I AM the Light of the World

http://www.lockwoodchurch.org/media (listening time approx. 28 minutes) Jesus makes the extraordinary claim that he is the light of the world. This claim is rooted in Old Testament texts and is made in conjunction with the Jewish Feast of Booths (or Tabernacles). … Continue reading

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Now You See Me (John 14:1-12)

People read about God’s wrath in the Bible, hear how Jesus died in our place, and bore our sins, and conclude that an angry God just had to punish someone and Jesus (who is not angry) didn’t want it to be us. So, he deflected the blow and took the punishment. People don’t usually put it that crudely but that is how many people understand what happened.
This summary of the good news sounds a lot like bad news, but because there is truth mixed in with the falsehood, people swallow it whole. The worst part of it may be the heretical way it separates the Father and the Son into a kind of good cop/bad cop team. Instead of seeing a Father who is determined to rescue his children, we get a God who is determined to hurt them. Instead of the biblical understanding that sin is ruining us, we get a God who will ruin us. Fortunately for us, the Son, who in nicer than his Father, intervenes. Otherwise, we’d all be toast.
That is heresy. The Son is not the good cop and the Father the bad cop because they are both good and neither one is a cop. This teaching does one of the greatest disservices possible: it makes it almost impossible for a person to fully trust the God and Father of Jesus.
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