Category Archives: Sermons

Exaggerthinking: How to Counter It

St. Paul says (Romans 12:3) to “every person” (not just to the proud): “Do not exaggerthink.” But how do we avoid it? Some of us, because of the way we were raised – and I’m not thinking of kids whose parents were always bragging on them – are predisposed to exaggerthinking. How do we stay out of the trap?

In spite of the way dozens of translations render verse 3, Paul does not say we are to think about ourselves. What he says is: “Don’t exaggerthink but think in a way that leads to realistic thinking” (my translation). Realistic thinking can’t happen if you are only thinking about yourself. To think realistically, we must include God and others in our thoughts. Continue reading

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Spiritual Gifts and the Church

When it comes to the use of spiritual gifts, we often think in terms of serving the church. We talk about serving the church by teaching Sunday School or becoming a trustee, which promotes the idea that God gives us gifts so we can serve the church.

Well, yes; that’s true. But we mustn’t miss the more important reason God gave us gifts: to serve the Lord Jesus. The gifts are not, first of all, so that individuals can serve the church but so that the church can serve the savior. The purpose of the gifts, as we will see in the coming weeks, is to make possible through us the actions of the Son by the Spirit to fulfill the intentions of the Father.

When people think solely in terms of serving the church, they often feel their part is small and not especially important. Or they think that their part goes unnoticed and start feeling they are being taken for granted. Either way, that kind of thing is hard to avoid when we think that what we are doing is all for the church.

It is better (and more in line with Scripture) not to think we are doing something for the church but that we are the church doing something for the Lord. We are not functioning for the body, as if we were not a part of it. We are the body. Continue reading

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The New Humanity (excerpt)

…see the sheer enormity of God’s plan. It begins with two people groups who do not get along with each other and yet are the media in which the Divine Artist is working. To accomplish his purpose, to make his … Continue reading

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The New Humanity

We are thinking about the church, what it is, what it does, and whether or not it is important. I’ve noticed that when people try to answer that last question, even church leaders, they usually do so in terms of what the church can do for a person or a family. It educates our children. It provides us with friends. It encourages us to be faithful to Christ through sermons and teaching. Its music gives us an emotional lift.

Whether or not those things are so, the true importance of the church will never fit through the narrow window of personal benefit. To evaluate the church’s importance by the benefits I accrue is like saying, “Air is important because I couldn’t dribble my basketball without it.” The importance of air extends beyond my basketball and the importance of the church extends beyond the personal benefits it provides.

Today, we will be looking at the church as imaged in Ephesians 2, but before getting into the text, let’s do a quick survey of what Ephesians has to say about the church. I think we will see is that the church has a central and extraordinary place in the purpose of God for the world.

The church, as presented in Ephesians, is headed by Jesus himself. (That is Ephesians 1:22 and 4:15). There is no other organization on earth about which that can be said. The people of the church are God’s personally chosen, glorious inheritance. (That is Ephesians 1:18.) The church is a still-under-construction yet already functioning temple in which God lives by his Spirit. (That is 2:21-22.) Continue reading

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The Holy Spirit: Getting the Facts, Missing the Point

This is Pentecost Sunday, the day the church celebrates the reality-transforming, church-birthing, human-metamorphosing outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The God who so loved that he gave his Son also so loved that he gave his Spirit … and nothing has been the same since.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost. It has been said that a person without the Spirit can never be more than a second-class Christian, but St. Paul went further than that. He said that without the Spirit, a person cannot be a Christian at all: “…if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9).

Without the Spirit, there would be no church. A religious group can have a nave, altar, sacristy, pulpit, and steeple, but they’ll only have a church if they have the Spirit.

The Greek phrase ἐν πνεύματι (in or by the Spirit) appears 152 times in the New Testament. We are led by the Spirit, we rejoice by the Spirit, we worship the Father by the Spirit, are indwelt by the Spirit, are gifted by the Spirit, are marked as God’s people by the Spirit, love each other by the Spirit – I could go on.

With the Holy Spirit, we are connected to God’s own life. With the Spirit, we are connected to each other. With the Spirit we can confess Jesus Christ and actually know him. With the Spirit, we can live the Christian life now and expect glory in the future.

But what is the Holy Spirit—so ominously called by earlier versions the “Holy Ghost”? Continue reading

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How to Get Through Tough Times: 5 Things You Need to Know

A farmer once told me he doesn’t like to get much rain in the weeks after planting because the corn won’t need to send its roots deep to get nourishment. If there is enough moisture near the surface, the plants will root near the surface. Later, when the hot days of July and August dry out the ground, there won’t be enough moisture for the plants to flourish, and yield will be down.

People are like that. It may seem counter-intuitive, but no one flourishes without a fight. That is true both of families and individuals. Flourishing doesn’t happen in the absence of sustained effort; it happens because of it – if people go through it well.

Individuals and families that don’t endure difficulty in healthy ways don’t flourish. They may look impressive on the outside, like a nine-foot cornstalk but, like that cornstalk, they will bring little good into God’s world.

Parents want their kids’ lives to flourish but they also want their kids’ lives to be easy; want success to be right at the surface. They want their kids to have sports’ triumphs, academic honors, and scores of friends. But if life is always easy, those kids won’t root deeply and they won’t flourish. Continue reading

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A Life That Means Something (MS.)

I just want my life to mean something. Ever feel like that? People usually young adults who are just setting out but sometimes middle-aged adults who feel like they have been missing out – have said that kind of thing to me.

I’ve watched as they try to give their life meaning through their experiences, as if having a meaningful experience would make them meaningful. They volunteer at a food pantry, or go on a mission trip, or enroll in Teach for America. Other people try to add something exciting to life, like jumping out of an airplane (for example). And some take on strenuous, test-your-limits pursuits – they join the Marine Corps or go in for an extreme fitness regimen.

Then they wait for meaning to come pouring into their lives. It’s as if they think of their life as an empty vessel which, when they tap into the right thing, will be filled with meaning.

From my observations, the person who says, “I want my life to mean something” is proceeding from a false position; a wrong assumption. His or her life already means something. Everyone’s life means something because God meant them – he made them for a purpose. But that meaning is, at least in part, a significant– sign-ificant – meaning; the kind of meaning a sign possesses. Continue reading

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A Life That Means Something: Deuteronomy 6:1-9

Join Lockwood Community Church’s May 10th service, premiering at 11:00, at this link: https://youtu.be/GqIfTXx03no Today’s message, from Deuteronomy, helps us understand the kind of life God wants for his children – a life that matter; a flourishing life. The manuscript … Continue reading

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A Mind for What Matters: Philippians 4:1-9

The first instruction, given previously and now repeated, is to rejoice always.

Really, Paul? Rejoice always? You have no idea what you’re asking. Working from home amidst a thousand interruptions. The kids are out of control. Can’t find toilet paper. Didn’t get my economic impact payment from the IRS, which I need to pay the mortgage. Will probably lose my job, which means no insurance. And you want me to rejoice?

To which Paul (from a dank, dark prison cell, where he has been quarantined for a long time, separated from friends and family, and waiting to hear the outcome of his trial, which might be death by beheading) answers, Of course! “Rejoice in the Lord always.” And in case you missed it the first two times I said it, “I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4).

Many people, hearing this, simply brush it aside as unrealistic and unfeasible. When you’re having marriage problems, when you can’t stomach your boss, when your hopes have been dashed yet again, when you’re sick, and tired, and in debt, how can Paul – how can God – expect you to rejoice? It’s impossible!

Yes, absolutely. It is impossible … for some people, but not for us – if our minds are undergoing a process of renewal. Continue reading

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There Is Love: Our Astonishing Hope (1 Cor. 15)

In the resurrection, Christ cut death down to size. Through Christ, we can rise above our fear of death. The great English poet George Herbert said, “Death used to be an executioner, but the gospel” – he’s referring to the death and resurrection of Jesus – “has made him just a gardener.” When those who are planted with Jesus come up, they will be glorious as he is glorious.

But our hope is far greater than the hope that we will somehow survive death. The resurrection gives us reason to believe that we will be – that nothing can stop us from being – fulfilled, completed, perfected. Paul puts it this way: “The body that is sown” – gardener imagery again! – “is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power…” (vv. 42-43). And verses 52-53: “we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.”

Susan Sontag got it wrong. Earth is not a grave but a garden. This – weakness, sickness, inability, depression, aging, loss – is no more the whole story than the kernel is the whole stalk of corn or the acorn is the towering oak. God’s plan for humanity is not pain and suffering but joy and glory. It is not weakness but power. It is not sadness but joy. It is not the shame we know so well but a glory that eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor human mind imagined. (1 Cor. 2:9). Continue reading

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