Imagine you are an actor, who has moved to Los Angeles, is sharing an apartment with four other people, working odd jobs, and waiting for your big break. One day your agent calls. A famous director is looking for someone to play a role in his new major motion picture. The audition is at 3:00.
So, you call your part-time employer, tell him you’re going to miss work today, and you go in for the audition. You’re given a script with the lines: “Don’t even think about it. Please. Please. You’ll ruin everything.”
You ask, “So what is this scene about?” and are told, “The Director isn’t telling anyone. Just do your best.”
You don’t know if your character is a scientist, working in a lab with highly explosive material or a spouse whose partner has threatened to file for divorce. How can you know how to act if you don’t know the story?
That is the same kind of problem many people have in trying to live as a Jesus-follower: They don’t know what story they’re in. This text will help us understand our story. This message is based on John 1:1-18, and is meant to open the new series, “Allow Me to Introduce Myself” -Jesus. Each week of the series, we will be introduced to a truth about Jesus from the Gospel of John, revealed in Jesus’s fascinating “I Am” statements. Continue reading
Kevin Looper preaches from Mark 4 and 5, with insights into who Jesus is and what he is like. In the heart-pounding adventure of the turbulent night at sea and in the heart-stopping horror story centered around the tombs, Kevin points out the startling insight that the disciples (in the first story) and the demons (in the second) were afraid of Jesus and that Jesus was afraid of nothing! Continue reading
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.
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
I still remember where we were when our oldest son took his first steps. He was a year old, give or take a few days. We were in a cabin in northwestern Ontario. Joel had been pulling himself up and standing for a few weeks, but while we were there, he took his first steps. He got one solid step in, followed by a two-step Lindy Hop, and then crashed to the floor.
We all cheered. You’d have thought he’d won the Nobel Prize. Instead, he took three wobbly steps. Three wobbly steps, but full of promise. We knew this was just the beginning.
One can imagine the same scenario with a different outcome. We’re in the cabin. One-year-old Joel is standing up with his hands on the sofa, and I’m urging him to come to me. I say, “Come on, son. You can do it. Come on.” He turns toward me. He lifts and extends his foot. We all hold our breath. He shifts his weight – he’s taken his first step! He then quickly takes another and another, then goes crashing down in a heap.
And that’s when I say: “That’s all you got? What’s the matter with you? I give you a year, and all you can give me is three lousy steps! You are such a disappointment to me.”
Some people think God is like the critical, impossible-to-please me in the second scenario. Continue reading
Young marrieds Jim and Jane Flynn were swimming in Lake George in New York state. When Jim got out of the water, he realized his wedding ring had slipped off and was somewhere at the bottom of the lake. Jane continued to wear her ring but Jim’s was lost.
Thirty-nine years later, a woman snorkeling in Lake George spotted something shiny on the bottom. She at first thought it must be a bottle cap, but when she retrieved it, she found it was an engraved wedding ring, with the anniversary date inscribed on the inside. After some research, she found Jim and Jane and returned the ring to them. How surprised and delighted they were to find it again! Jim now sleeps with it under his pillow.
To have the cherished thing returned after a long absence is a cause for celebration. That is just what Jesus says in Luke 15, only there we discover that we are the cherished thing! God cherishes us and wants us to be with him, no matter how long ago we hit bottom. Luke 15 shows us it is never too late to come home.
I’ve had my share of discussions with people who identify as atheists. I respect them, for the most part. There have been a few whose anger damaged both the rationality of their argument and the mutual respect that would have made our discussion profitable. But anger and flawed reasoning are hardly unique to atheists.
Most people I’ve met who identify as atheists do so not because reason has compelled them but because experience has led them to believe the God presented in the Bible is unlikely to exist. That experience is generally characterized by two realities that are impossible to ignore: first, the overwhelming present-ness of physical things, coupled with the underwhelming present-ness of spiritual things; and, second, the undeniable presence of evil, expressed as suffering. Continue reading
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.
These people imagine, to misquote Hanani the seer, that the eyes of the Lord go to and fro throughout the whole earth, seeking to criticize those who don’t do everything perfectly. But the truth lies in the opposite direction. What Hanani really told King Asa was: the eyes of the Lord go to and fro throughout the whole earth, seeking to show himself strong to those who hearts are fully his. Not those who do everything perfectly. God is not looking for opportunities to criticize but to reward. Continue reading