Category Archives: From the Pulpit

Love your Enemy

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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Nevertheless: God’s Will and Our Will

http://www.lockwoodchurch.org/media (Listening time: 27:00) Jesus taught his students that God is good and kind and loving. He’s better than we ever dreamed! But what about when things go sideways? Is he still good, kind, and loving when the thing we … Continue reading

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The Emu and the Kangaroo (Matthew 28:18-20) – What Is Baptism All About?

Many countries have a national coat of arms, often featuring magnificent beasts and birds, like the majestic lion and the soaring eagle. They carefully chose such images to convey the idea that their people are courageous and strong.

The Australian coat of arms also features two animals: The emu, a graceless bird that can’t even fly, and a kangaroo. Courage and strength are hardly the first things one thinks of when seeing the comical-looking emu and kangaroo. Why did Australia choose those two animals?

Because they share a common characteristic with which the Australians identify: Both the emu and the kangaroo can only move forward, not back. The emu’s three-toed foot causes it to fall if it tries to go backwards, and the kangaroo is prevented from moving backwards by its large tail.
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The Forgiver

During the closing song at a special service in an Indiana state prison, Chuck Colson noticed one of the inmates, a man named James Brewer, singing out at the top of his lungs. Colson says the man’s face was radiant. James Brewer had come to know Jesus Christ in prison and his life had been transformed.

As soon as the song was over, the Prison Fellowship Team began shaking hands and saying goodbye. Brewer returned to his cell, walking shoulder to shoulder with a Prison Fellowship volunteer. Colson was meeting the governor in Indianapolis in just two hours, so he followed them and urged the volunteer to hurry.

“We’ve got to go!” he called to the volunteer, but the man answered, “Just a minute, please!”

Colson shook his head. “I’m sorry, but the plane is waiting. We have to go right now!”

The volunteer said, “Please, please, this is very important. You see, I am Judge Clement. I sentenced this man to die. But now he is born again. He is my brother and we want a minute to pray together.”

Colson said, “I stood in the entrance to that solitary, dimly lit cell, frozen in place. Here were two men – one black, one white; one powerful, one powerless; one who had sentenced the other to die. Yet there they stood, grasping a Bible together, Brewer smiling so genuinely, the judge so filled with love for the prisoner at his side.”

Forgiveness. God is the Forgiver: he can forgive anyone – even me; even you. And because we are the Forgiven, we are called to forgive, just as God does. “Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). To forgive like God does puts us in a place where remarkable things can happen in our lives. Continue reading

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The Giver

The singer Carolyn Arrends was warned by her friend not to make a purchase that seemed to be too good to be true. She ignored him and suffered the consequences. Then she began avoiding him because she didn’t want him to know what she’d done. She started thinking of him as someone who was against her, not for her.

The same thing happens between us and God. Our idea of him gets distorted. We start to see him as against us, not for us; as a taker, not a giver.

But God is for us, not against us (Romans 8:31-39). He is not just a giver, he is The Giver.
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The Family Business: Doing the Work of God

How often we … miss what is happening around us. Because we don’t see it, we think nothing is happening, that God is on break. But Jesus helped us to see that his Father is working all around us, all the time. Continue reading

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