Category Archives: Sermons

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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What Just Happened? (A Christmas Meditation)

A few months ago, I jumped out of an airplane. After three weeks of weather delays, our group (Jeanette Dembski, Traci Disbro, Brian Ellis, and I) had to wait another four hours for all the other people who, like us, had waited three weeks but, unlike us, didn’t attend church that morning and got to the airfield before we did. I appreciate all of you who came to watch and who waited through the afternoon. I don’t so much appreciate those of you who were taking odds on how likely I was to chicken out.

Finally, after waiting and waiting, Jeanette Dembski and I were aboard the plane. We ascended 14,000 feet in just seven minutes. The door opened. One skydiver after another, including Jeanette, hurled out and into the blue. Then it was my turn. I stuck my feet outside the plane, my heels resting on a four-inch ledge. As we rocked back and forth, my instructor said in my ear, “One…two…three,” and then we were out.

I looked around me and could see for miles. The instructor tapped my shoulders, which meant I could release my grip on the halter and raise my arms. Below me I could see farm fields and roads. There were lakes, lots of lakes, which surprised me. (I hadn’t seen them from the road.) Some had dozens of boats on them, a few leaving white lines, like writing, on the surface of the water. I could see that one of the lakes was too shallow for boating and there were no houses around it. On the roads were Matchbox-like cars that hardly seemed to be moving.

My instructor signaled to me and I looked up – I had been looking down – and there was a photographer, fifteen feet away from me, as if perched in mid-air, taking video. Then he zoomed away, and I went back to surveying the landscape and trying to find the airfield, where we would land. Once again, the photographer flew up, signaled for me to smile, then zipped away. There was so much to take in that the passing of time didn’t really register. Whether a few seconds or a few minutes had passed, it was hard to tell.

As I was taking in the scenery, something suddenly happened – boom! – and I felt like I had been snapped back into the sky. I was shocked by the force of it and didn’t understand what was going on. In the midst of about a thousand visual, audio, and tactile stimuli, a sort of thought emerged: “What just happened?” I really didn’t know.

What happened, of course, was that my chute opened… Continue reading

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I AM the Way, and the Truth, and the Life

It’s the evening before Jesus’s execution. The day – the entire week – has been filled with conflict and high drama. Jesus and the Twelve have just eaten the Passover Seder, which was different from any Passover meal they had eaten before.

Following the meal, Jesus says something that shocks and frightens them: he won’t be with them much longer. He is going to leave and they can’t go with him (John 13:33). So Peter asks Jesus where he is going. When Jesus’s answer doesn’t satisfy him, he asks: “Why can’t I go with you?” Though Jesus does not directly answer his question, he makes it clear that he must travel the path that lies ahead alone. Neither Peter nor the rest can accompany him.

It was in this setting that Jesus spoke the now famous words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” But their hearts are troubled. When Jesus says, “You know the way to the place I am going,” Thomas gets frustrated and blurts out: “We don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus’s answer to that question unveils the sixth of the seven great I AM statements in the Gospel of John: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” If these men could understand this, they would be able to keep their hearts untroubled. They would be able to trust God. If we could understand this, we could do the same. Continue reading

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The Good Shepherd, Part 2 (John 11)

We’ve got to learn to live backwards. That is, we need to learn to live out of our future and not just out of our past. Most people are driven by the unalterable past into an unknowable future, but Jesus’s people can be pulled into the future by the call of the knowable – though always more than comprehensible – God.
People who are driven by the unalterable past are frequently filled with regrets over former days and fears over future ones. They are haunted by would-haves, could-haves, and should-haves and threatened by might-be and could-be possibilities. Only people who learn from Jesus how to live out of the future can be fully alive in the present.
That future can be summed up in a word. No, it’s not “heaven”; it’s “resurrection.” Continue reading

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I AM the Resurrection and the Life

I love books and libraries and bookstores – especially used book stores. I like the feel of uncoated paper against my fingertips and the smell of old leather covers that linger in the air.

I have been helped in my life as a disciple of Jesus more than I can say by books. A.W. Tozer was my guide, as was A. B. Simpson. The unknown author of The Cloud of Unknowing, William Law, Brother Lawrence, Julian of Norwich, F. B Meyer, Andrew Murray – how they all helped me. C. S. Lewis rose through the clouds like the sun after a storm. Chesterton, Kreeft, Williams, Willard, Foster, Wright – the names go on and on.

I have learned much from these people – my debt to them is too great ever to repay. But all those who have helped me most have helped by bringing me into an encounter with Jesus, not just an idea. Books and authors, as much as I treasure them, are not and can never be a substitute for Jesus. At their best, they lead to an encounter with the real Jesus is real life.

Real life – our real life, with all its joys and sorrows – is where we meet Jesus. It is where Martha and Mary met him – in the midst of the biggest crisis of their lives – when Jesus introduced himself as the Resurrection and the Life. Read John 11 to get ready and come prepared for an encounter with Jesus.
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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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