One of the greatest gifts we can give people is the hope that their death is nothing to fear - you know, not that it has no fear in it, but the promise of scripture is that God will lead us through the valley of the shadow of death.
I was raised in the greatest of homes... just a really great dad, and I miss him so much... he was a good man, a real simple man... Very faithful, always loved my mom, always provided for the kids, and just a lot of fun.
About four days a week, I do pretty good at having a morning prayer time. But even at that, it's a rambling sort of thing. What I have learned to do better is to try to keep my mind turned toward God and ear inclined toward God throughout the day, and I think I'm doing better at that, but I've got a long way to go.
The apostle Paul never seemed to exhaust the topic of grace - what makes us think we can? He just kept coming at it and coming at it from another angle. That's the thing about grace. It's like springtime. You can't put it in a single sentence definition, and you can't exhaust it.
Initially, when I first became a Christian and got into ministry, my thought was that God existed to make my life better and to take me to Heaven. Now I realize that it is not about me at all. It is all about God and that He did this to display His plan to restore the Earth to the Garden of Eden state.
The idea of a spiritual heart transplant is a vivid image to me; once you have the heart of somebody else inside you, then that heart is there. Jesus' heart is inside me, and my heart is gone. So if God were to place a stethoscope against my chest, he would hear the heart of Jesus Christ beating.
For years I thought my assignment or the Church's assignment was to articulate the Gospel and nothing more. Now I believe that if we don't support the verbal expression of the Gospel with physical demonstration of compassion, we are not imitating Jesus.
We are Jesus Christ's; we belong to him. But even more, we are increasingly him. He moves in and commandeers our hands and feet, requisitions our minds and tongues. We sense his rearranging: debris into the divine, pig's ear into silk purse. He repurposes bad decisions and squalid choices. Little by little, a new image emerges.
What we realize is number one, people want to know what the Bible says. In their heart, they want to know the Bible but it is just hard to understand the big picture of it. And number two, they want to know where they plug in.
If we think that this life is all there is to life, then there is no interpretation of our problems, our pain, not even of our privileges. But everything changes when we open up to the possibility that God's story is really our story too.
People assume when they come into a church and see a person up there speaking, 'That person must be a good person.' My challenge through the years has been believing that: 'I guess I must be a really good person.' I struggle with it. It just helps me to keep that confessional posture.
My first encounters with faith came about the time I was a Boy Scout, at about 14 or 15. I made the logical deduction that they operate the same way; I treated my faith like earning a merit badge, and everything about Christianity was about earning merit badges.
I choose gentlenessNothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.
We see a hearse; we think sorrow. We see a grave; we think despair. We hear of a death; we think of a loss. Not so in heaven. When heaven sees a breathless body, it sees the vacated cocoon & the liberated butterfly.
Our Savior kneels down and gazes upon the darkest acts of our lives. But rather than recoil in horror, he reaches out in kindness and says, I can clean that if you want. And from the basin of his grace, he scoops a palm full of mercy and washes away our sin.
If anybody understands God's order for his children, it's someone who has rescued an orphan from despair, for that is what God has done for us. God has adopted you. God sought you, found you, signed the papers and took you home.
God loves you simply because He has chosen to do so. He loves you when you don't feel lovely. He loves you when no one else loves you. Others may abandon you, divorce you, and ignore you, but God will love you always. No matter what!
You weren't an accident. You weren't mass produced. You aren't an assembly-line product. You were deliberately planned, specifically gifted, and lovingly positioned on the earth by the Master Craftsman.
Tragically, some people believe they are going to heaven when they die just because a few drops of water were sprinkled over their heads a few weeks after their birth. They have no personal faith, have never made a personal decision, and are banking on a hollow ceremony to save them. How absurd.
You have a God who hears you, the power of love behind you, the Holy Spirit within you, and all of heaven ahead of you. If you have the Shepherd, you have grace for every sin, direction for every turn, a candle for every corner and an anchor for every storm. You have everything you need.
The next time you find yourself alone in a dark alley facing the undeniables of life, don't cover them with a blanket, or ignore them with a nervous grin. Don't turn up the TV and pretend they aren't there. Instead, stand still, whisper his name, and listen. He is nearer than you think.
Become a worry-slapper. Treat frets like mosquitoes. Do you procrastinate when a bloodsucking bug lights on your skin? 'I'll take care of it in a moment.' Of course you don't! You give the critter the slap it deserves. Be equally decisive with anxiety.
He came, not as a flash of light or as an unapproachable conqueror, but as one whose first cries were heard by a peasant girl and a sleepy carpenter. God tapped humanity on its collective shoulder, "Pardon me," he said, and eternity interrupted time, divinity interrupted carnality, and heaven interrupted the earth in the form of a baby. Christianity was born in one big heavenly interruption.
Parents, what are your children learning from your worship? Do they see the same excitement as when you go to a basketball game? Do they see you prepare for worship as you do for a vacation? Do they see you hungry to arrive, seeking the face of the Father? Or do they see you content to leave the way you came?.....They are watching. Believe me. They are watching.
When we look at the love of Christ, we make a wonderful discovery. Love is more a decision than an emotion! Christ-like love applauds good behavior. At the same time Christ-like love refuses to endorse misbehavior. Jesus loved His apostles, but He wasn't silent when they were faithless. Jesus loved the people in the temple, but He didn't sit still when they were hypocritical.
I choose faithfulness...Today I will keep my promises. My debtors will not regret their trust. My associates will not question my word. My wife will not question my love. And my children will never fear that they father will not come home.
There is a canyon of difference between doing your best to glorify God and doing whatever it takes to glorify yourself. The quest for excellence is a mark of maturity. The quest for power is childish.
If you're feeling pain, express that to the Lord. If you're feeling worried, express those worries. One passage that gives me comfort is in Psalms, Chapter 11, verse 3, it reads, "When all that is good falls apart, what can good people do?" That's really the question of the day.
Don't you need a fountain of love that won't run dry? You'll find one on a stone-cropped hill outside Jerusalem's walls where Jesus hangs, cross-nailed and thorn-crowned. When you feel unloved, ascend this mount. Meditate long and hard on heaven's love for you.
I choose gentleness... Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.
The most powerful life is the most simple life. The most powerful life is the life that knows where it's going, that knows where the source of strength is; it is the life that stays free of clutter and happenstance and hurriedness.
I think it's noteworthy that the Almighty didn't act high and mighty. The Holy One wasn't holier-than-thou. The One who knew it all wasn't a know-it-all. The One who made the stars didn't keep his head in them. The One who owns all the stuff of earth never strutted it.
Let's be the people who look at the hurting until we hurt with them. No hurrying past, turning away, or shifting of eyes. No pretending or glossing over. Let's look at the face until we see the person.
The wizard [of Oz] says look inside yourself and find self. God says look inside yourself and find [the Holy Spirit]. The first will get you to Kansas. The latter will get you to heaven. Take your pick.
You will be at your best forever, Even now you have good moments. Occasional glimpses of your heavenly self. When you change your baby's diaper, forgive your boss's temper, tolerate your spouse's moodiness, you display traces of saintliness.
You don't impress the officials at NASA with a paper airplane. You don't boast about your crayon sketches in the presence of Picasso. You don't claim equality with Einstein because you can write 'H20.' And you don't boast about your goodness in the presence of the Perfect.
After a hard day scrambling to find your way around in the world, it's assuring to come home to a place you know. God can be equally familiar to you. With time you can learn where to go for nourishment, where to hide for protection , where to turn for guidance. Just as your earthly house is a place of refuge, so God's house is a place of peace.
The purpose of the Bible? Salvation. God's highest passion is to get His children home. His book, the Bible, describes His plan of salvation. The purpose of the Bible is to proclaim god's plan and passion to save His children.
And we need to share our story. Not with everyone but with someone. There is someone who is like you were. And he or she needs to know what God can do. Your honest portrayal of your past may be the courage for another's future.
I don't get the impression that most sources of media - like television and movies - are trying to get out a positive message, necessarily. My impression is they're trying to get a message out that promotes their personal opinion, position or belief and they're trying to do something that makes money. They want to turn a buck.
Prayer is the window that God has placed in the walls of our world. Leave it shut and the world is a cold, dark house. But throw back the curtains and see His light. Open the window and hear His voice. Open the window of prayer and invoke the presence of God in your world.
There is a rawness and a wonder to life. Pursue it. Hunt for it. Sell out to get it. Don't listen to the whines of those who have settled for a second-rate life and want you to do the same so they won't feel guilty. Your goal is not to live long; it's to live.
Our Savior kneels down and gazes upon the darkest acts of our lives. But rather than recoil in horror, he reaches out in kindness and says, "I can clean that if you want." And from the basin of his grace, he scoops a palm full of mercy and washes away our sin.
If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning... Face it, friend. He is crazy about you!
God never prefabs or mass-produces people. No slapdash shapingI make all things new, he declares (Rev. 21:5 NKJV). He didn't hand you your granddad's bag or your aunt's life; he personally and deliberately packed you. . .
If you knew that only a few would care that you came, would you still come? If you knew that those you loved would laugh in your face, would you still care? If you knew that the tongues you made would mock you, the mouths you made would spit at you, the hands you made would crucify you, would you still make them? Christ did.
Nature is God's first missionary. Where there is no Bible there are sparkling stars. Where there are not preachers there are spring times... If a person has nothing but nature, then nature is enough to reveal something about God.
God must've had a blast. painting the stripes on the zebra, hanging the stars in the sky, putting the gold in the sunset. What creativity! Stretching the neck of the giraffe, putting the flutter in the mockingbird's wings, planting the giggle in the hyena. And then, as a finale to a brilliant performance, He made a human who had the unique honour to bear the stamp, In His Image.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek his grace. And then, when this day is done, I will place my head on my pillow and rest.
My book centers in on the New Testament, the goal being to help a person who wants to understand the Bible to see how what God did as revealed in the New Testament will reveal to them their own personal story.
There's something about compassion that causes society to say, 'We're going to take this person seriously.' Take Mother Teresa. She was confrontational on abortion, but she wasn't rejected by society.
Well, I think the main message is there is more to your story. There is more than what happens between the crib and the grave, and that is what I am really trying to speak to, this idea that all of life is this life and that there is nothing more than what we see and experience right here on this earth.
[ Christianity], in and of itself, sets itself apart inherently, and so, for somebody to say, Well it just seems to me like you can pick between all these religions and still have the same thing. Its kind of like somebody saying, You could pick between 80 bananas and one apple and say you have a banana. You cant call that apple a banana.
All I did was collect a few of the questions I've been asked through the years, write up a brief response and put them in this publication. As a pastor, you get asked questions and receive emails. Many of them I had answered, but just in conversation. So we kind of re-crafted the question and answered it. It turned out to be an interesting exercise. I hope it's encouraging for people.
All I know is that the stable is empty, and the horse is gone. The rest I don't know. Whether [in the future] it be a curse or a blessing, I can't say. All we can see is a fragment. Who can say what will come next [and what is good or bad in the long run]?
All preaching should be as creative as we can make it. We've been entrusted with such a treasure. To have anywhere from 50 to 5000 people who give us 30 minutes of their time to hear whatever we want to say - I think they deserve all the creativity that we can give.
Are you on the eve of change? Embrace it. Accept it. Don't resist it. Change is not only a part of life, change is a necessary part of God's strategy. To use us to change the world, he alters our assignments.
As long as you hate your enemy, a jail door is closed and a prisoner is taken. But when you try to understand and release your foe from your hatred, then the prisoner is released and that prisoner is you.
Be less about protecting any type of identity affiliated to a country or even ethnic background. Be more about the fact that we're here for a short time and Heaven is going to be a rainbow of people, multiculture, every generation.
Biblically defined marriage is a man and a woman for life, and so anything different than that is not God's ideal whether it be polygamy, whether it be divorce, whether it be a marriage between a man and a man or a woman and a woman. The ideal would be a man and a woman under a covenant of God's blessing.
Christmas begins what Easter celebrates. The child in the cradle became the king on the cross. And because he did, there are no marks on my record. Just grace. His offer has no fine print. He didn't tell me, "Clean up before you come in." He offered, "Come in, and I'll clean you up." It's not my grip on him that matters but his grip on me. And his grip is sure. So is his presence in my life.
Confession is the act of inviting God to walk the acreage of our hearts. "There is a rock of greed over here, Father. I can't budge it. And that tree of guilt near the fence? Its roots are long and deep. And may I show you some dry soil, too crusty for seed?" God's seed grows better if the soil of the heart is cleared.
December is the most difficult month. Medications for insomnia or depression go up during the month of December. A lot of people who experience loss feel that loss magnified in December. Everybody seems happy and you feel all alone. You're not all alone.
Do you purchase the first tree you see? Of course not. You search for the right one. You walk the rows. You lift several up and set them down. You examine them from all angles until you decide, This one is perfect. You have a place in mind where the tree will sit. Not just any tree will do. God does the same.
Do you understand what God has done? He has deposited a Christ seed in you. As it grows you will change. It's not that sin has no more presence in your life, but rather that sin has no more power over your life.
Every movie really does have a message. Somebody somewhere is trying to make a point or advance a cause or promote their agenda. There's nothing wrong with that. They try to do so in an entertaining fashion.
Every time we equip the church with a verse, chapter or a story from the Bible, we're really placing another weapon in the hands of the Holy Spirit that He uses to challenge and strengthen the church. I think that's very important.
Fear never wrote a symphony or poem, negotiated a peace treaty, or cured a disease. Fear never pulled a family out of poverty or a country out of bigotry. Fear never saved a marriage or a business. Courage did that. Faith did that. People who refused to consult or cower to their timidities did that. But fear itself? Fear herds us into a prison and slams the doors. Wouldn't it be great to walk out?
First, God does not send people to hell. He simply honors their choice. Hell is the ultimate expression of God's high regard for the dignity of man. He has never forced us to choose Him, even when that means we would choose Hell.
For all its peculiarities and unevenness, the Bible has a simple story. God made man. Man rejected God. God won't give up until he wins him back. God will whisper. He will shout. He will touch and tug. He will take away our burdens; he'll even take away our blessings. If there are a thousand steps between us and him, he will take all but one. But he will leave the final one for us. The choice is ours. Please understand. His goal is not to make you happy. His goal is to make you His. His goal is not to get you what you want; it is to get you what you need.
From my perspective, most of my life has been dealing with the day-to-day, kitchen-to-bedroom-to-living-room-to-garage life with people. Most people are just trying to figure out how to love the people in their world, to love their God and to deal with some of these questions about God.
God didn't overlook your sins, lest he endorse them. He didn't punish you, lest he destroy you. He instead found a way to punish the sin and preserve the sinner. Jesus took your punishment, and God gave you credit for Jesus' perfection.
God rewards those who seek Him. Not those who seek doctrine of religion or systems or creeds. Many settle for these lesser passions, but the reward goes to those who settle for nothing less than Jesus himself. And what is the reward? What awaits those who seek Jesus? Nothing short of the heart of Jesus.
God sees us with the eyes of a Father. He sees our defects, errors, and blemishes. But He also sees our value. What did Jesus know that enabled Him to do what He did? Here's part of the answer: He knew the value of people. He knew that each human being is a treasure. And because He did, people were not a source of stress, but a source of joy.
God wants us to know we are saved, for saved people are dangerous people, willing to face off with the world, unafraid of the consequences since they know that, whatever happens, they will have eternal life.
God's love has a width, length, height, and depth, but we will never reach the end of it. Our capacity to experience God's love will be exhausted long before God's capacity to give it is strained. The picture of having Christ dwell inside us by faith presents us with compelling and comforting possibilities. What Christ does in us and through us will always be 'exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think.'
God's love never ceases. Never. Though we spurn him. Ignore him. Reject him. Despise him. Disobey him. He will not change. Our evil cannot diminish his love. Our goodness cannot increase it. Our faith does not earn it any more than our stupidity jeopardizes it. God doesn't love us less if we fail or more if we succeed. God's love never ceases.
Greed is not defined by what something costs; it is measured by what it costs you. If anything costs you your faith or your family, the price is too high. Such is the point Jesus makes in the parable of the portfolio.
Have you been called to go out on a limb for God? You can bet it won't be easy. Limb-climbing has never been easy. Ask Joseph. Or, better yet, ask Jesus. He knows better than anyone the cost of hanging on a tree.
HEAVEN knows the difference between SUNDAY morning and WEDNESDAY afternoon. God longs to speak as CLEARLY in the workplace as He does in the sanctuary. He longs to be WORSHIPED when we sit at the dinner table and not just when we come to His communion table. You may go days without THINKING of Him, but there's never a moment when He's not thinking of YOU.
How can a person deal with anxiety? You might try what one fellow did. He worried so much that he decided to hire someone to do his worrying for him. He found a man who agreed to be his hired worrier for a salary of $200,000 per year. After the man accepted the job, his first question to his boss was, "Where are you going to get $200,000 per year?" To which the man responded, "That's your worry.
I believe the Bible tells a story we recognize as true. I don't just mean it tells an accurate story - though it's telling that the Bible stands tall even after more than 2,000 years of secular criticism.
I choose joy... I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical... the tool of the lazy thinker. I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.
I co-pastor now, so I preach six months, then another guy preaches six months. So that's really why I'm preparing for January, because I'll finish in June; then I'll be writing and doing other projects for the rest of the year.
I could easily go through all my books and mark the ones that were original, mark the ones that were adapted or pre-published that I've found. I'm guessing though that probably 75% of them are personal events. I just love a personal story.
I do think there is great strength, though, in starting a sermon with a story, then returning to that story at the end. That puts book ends to a sermon. It is a real simple technique that communicates to the audience that there is a sense of closure, that they have a package here, or we began and we closed with this. I think that's just a nice technique.
I don't have a lot of time in the sermon anyway. The sermon is only 25 minutes, which to me is frighteningly short. So I feel as if I need to get into that pretty quickly and make it as practical and accessible as possible.
I don't think God is a gender. He presents himself as a father but he comes to us with the tenderness of a mother. In some of the parables, he is the housewife who cleans the house looking for the lost coin.
I have a lot of special memories with my parents but my toughest one is, I had, as a teenager, a pretty insatiable appetite for beer. The first time I got drunk my father found me throwing up in the bathroom. I was 15, maybe 16, and the disappointment in his voice, I can hear it to this day, and the sorrow that that brought to him. He just felt like a failure as a father, and Id give anything to take that day back because that was so hard on him. In time, my life got better, and his did too, but that was really memorable, one of those memories Id like to forget.
I have some friends whose sermons are extremely practical - so practical that I can put them right to use. I'm trying to learn how to do that better; but I don't think my approach or style really has changed in these 30 years. Whether that's good or bad I don't know, but I don't think it has.
I just love those [saying of Christ ]: "Father forgive them, they know not what they do. I thirst. It is finished. Into Your hands I commit My spirit. Today you will be with Me in paradise." That was really the heart of the second book I wrote called No Wonder They Call Him Savior.
I noticed people would read these short articles I was assigned to write for our church bulletin and they would say, Boy, thats good stuff. I got letters from people around the country saying, Thats really good. And I thought, Is it really?
I really enjoy making people laugh; I've discovered that's a great technique. That's as powerful as stirring their sorrow, stirring their compassion, because that befriends you to them. It engages you with them and then you can come in; they will remember that point.
I spent the better part of a week trying to figure out how to organize these stacks of 30 years of conversations and dialogues. I finally began clustering them in these different categories, and I ended up with the ones you listed.It's interesting to me the kinds of questions I haven't been called to wrestle with. For example, I don't know what this says, but I'm not asked a lot of political questions.
I think that the Holy Spirit works through the pastors of the church. It helps me avoid the trap of writing to the reading market. It helps me stay a pastor first, because they have no agenda; they are not thinking: "This would this be a good book someday." They're thinking: "How this will help Bob and Suzy who are going through a tough marriage? What series can encourage them?" And so I really bow to their preference.
I think the hardest one had to do with suffering. It had to do with all of our church members and friends passing through difficult times. Sometimes it's the global climate: tsunamis, earthquakes, radiation. I think these kinds of questions are absolutely the most difficult, yet we need to be ready to respond to them because we have to be able as pastors to walk people through these valleys, these tough times in their lives.
I think there is, not in the sense that I enjoy it, but that it's an important question. It's the question, "Does the presence of pain mean God doesn't care? Does God not love me anymore?" I think that's a very common connection we tend to make.
I think theres just this mystique of writing a book that appeals to people. A person has to really check their motives and say, Am I really being called by God to do this? Or is this just something that would look neat in my funeral? I dont mean to be harsh but I think a person really needs to, so they wont be disappointed.
I think what happens is that we're so busy as pastors that we never get around to trying to turn that material into a book. It's a shame because there is so much good material out there that needs to be published.
I think you can tilt too far to the side of the story where the message is just simply entertainment. So I think your goal has to be to craft in one sentence what the truth is you are trying to convey. And then you find or create a story that you wrap around that truth.
I work in theology and Christian books all day long, when Im studying, so its just kind of nice to pick up something different. The books that have influenced me, theres not just one book that was a watershed, although Mere Christianity was as much as any.
I would love to have a more earnest prayer life! In my life, prayer is the single most difficult discipline. I love God and there's something in me that would rather do things for God than talk to God. I'm not by nature a mystical, devotional person. I like to do things. And so it's a challenge for me to have a faithful prayer life, but I know God loves me and He's not mad at me. He just wishes I would slow down and turn things over to Him. And that's what I think you achieve through prayer.
I would not have said anything about Mr. Trump, never - I would never have said anything if he didn't call himself a Christian. It'd be none of my business whatsoever to make any comments about his language, his vulgarities, his slander of people, but I was deeply troubled ... that here's a man who holds up a Bible one day, and calls a lady "bimbo" the next.
If the purpose of life is just to live this life and then die, it's hard to answer the purpose of pain question; but if we can help people see from an eternal perspective - that all of this is working together to prepare us for something higher than we've ever imagined, more noble than we've ever dreamed - then we discover some hope that we can hold on to.
If today were your last, would you do what you're doing? Or would you love more, give more, forgive more? Then do so! Forgive and give as if it were your last opportunity. Love like there's no tomorrow, and if tomorrow comes, love again.
If you knew Jesus was returning tomorrow, how would you feel today? Anxious, afraid, unprepared? If so, you can take care of your fears by placing your trust in Christ. If your answer includes words like happy, relieved, and excited, hold tightly to your joy.
I'm right now wrapping up the sermon series on grace. I'd like to figure out what this next series will be in January. To do that, I'm going to come up with four or five really good ideas - at least that I think are really good ideas - and if I don't sense God really highlighting one of those, I will go to the elders of our church and my co-pastors.
I'm thinking, "What difference will this sermon make in their lives tomorrow? What am I trying to give them that will make a difference?" For example, had to do with the theme that Jesus will not let go of you. He's holding onto you. I talked to them about the disciples and Peter on the night before the crucifixion of Christ - how Jesus said that all of you are going to turn away, but He would be waiting for them in Galilee.
In a sense we're all children of God - Jesus is called the one and only Son. Monogeneo is the word, God's only "genetic" child. He bears the very essence of God. What we say about God we say about Jesus. So the promise rises and falls on the identity of Jesus.
In order to find Jesus, every one of us needs direction. God gives it. The story of the wise men shows us how. The star sign was enough to lead the magi to Jerusalem. But it took Scripture to lead them to Jesus.
In this post-modern culture in which we live - where people question absolute truth - stories are resistant to platitudes; they're resistant to me making declarations of truth to them. A story can do that in kind of a Trojan-horse fashion.
It deeply concerns me that somebody who knows little or nothing about the Christian faith would hear Mr. Trump call himself a Christian and then make a decision based on the Christian faith, based on his behavior.
It seems to me that the prayers of the Bible can be distilled into one. The result is a simple, easy-to-remember, pocket-sized prayer: Father, you are good. I need help. They need help. Thank you. In Jesus' name, amen. Let this prayer punctuate your day.
It was a matter of going back through a lot of sermons and remembering the questions and conversations, where these ideas came from. So the book [Max on Life] is really kind of a second chance to answer these questions.
It works well for me to go ahead and prepare the sermon with a chapter in mind. What that does is to force me to be very thrifty in my language, tighten up my words and not ramble so much. It puts some fiber in the sermon.
It's important to preach like there's a broken heart on every pew. That's always been a phrase that stuck with me. Not everybody is having a tough time, but you can bet your buck that there's a good tenth of your church that's going through a hard season. There really is a broken heart on every pew.
It's one thing for me to tell people not to worry. It's another thing entirely to quote Matthew 6, where Jesus says, "Why do you worry? The birds of the air, the flowers of the field..." He says, "I tell you, do not worry."
I've found great virtue in two-thirds of the way into the message; right before I'm really want to nail home a point, pausing to tell a joke or to tell a light-hearted story, because I know my audience has been working with me now for 20 or 25 minutes. And if I can get them to laugh, get oxygen into their system, it wakes up those who might be sleeping, so there's something about using a story to draw people back in right before you drive home your final point. In that case I think it's real legitimate just to use a story for story's sake.
Jesus humbled himself. He went from commanding angels to sleeping in the straw. From holding stars to clutching Mary's finger. The palm that held the universe took the nail of a soldier. Why? Because that's what love does. It puts the beloved before itself.
Jesus is not "out of touch with our reality. He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all - all but the sin. So let's walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help" (Heb. 4:15 - 16 MSG).
Look at the Bethlehem birth. A king ordered a census. Joseph was forced to travel. Mary, as round as a ladybug, bounced on a donkey's back. The hotel was full. The hour was late. The event was one big hassle. Yet, out of the hassle, hope was born. It still is.
Matthew loved the magi. He gave their story more square inches of text than he gave the narrative of the birth of Jesus. He never mentions the shepherds or the manger, but he didn't want us to miss the star and the seekers. It's easy to see why. Their story is our story.
Maybe your life resembles a Bethlehem stable. Crude in some spots, smelly in others. Not much glamour. Not always neat. People in your circle remind you of stable animals: grazing like sheep, stubborn like donkeys, and that cow in the corner looks a lot like the fellow next door. You, like Joseph, knocked on the innkeeper's door. But you were too late. Or too old, sick, dull, damaged, poor, or peculiar. You know the sound of a slamming door.
Maybe you've had the experience where somebody's asked you a question and you give an answer, then later in the day you think, "Oh, I wish I'd said that!" I tend to journal these things and put the answers in sermons.
Michael Jordan once said that the most peaceful moments of his life were on a basketball court, because that's the only place he knew exactly what to do. And to me the most peaceful moments in my ministry are in the pulpit because that's when I really know what I'm going to do.
No matter what the storm clouds bring, you can face your pain with courage and hope. For two thousand years ago-six hours, one Friday-Christ firmly planted in bedrock three solid anchor points that we can all cling to. For the heart scarred with futility, that Friday holds purpose. For the life blackened with failure, that Friday holds forgiveness. And for the soul looking into the tunnel of death, that Friday holds deliverance.
Not everybody can create a foundation that's worth a billion dollars, but all of us can figure out those things we do. I really think God loves us too much to give us an assignment we don't enjoy doing.
Off to one side sits a group of shepherds. They sit silently on the floor, perhaps perplexed, perhaps in awe, no doubt in amazement. Their night watch had been interrupted by an explosion of light from heaven and a symphony of angels. God goes to those who have time to hear him-and so on this cloudless night he went to simple shepherds.
One of the secrets in life is that we really lead a better life when we're living for others than we do when we're living for ourselves, and I think that's the way for our creator intended for it to be, is that if we can live for other people, we really leave this world in a different way.
Our kids were God's kids first... We tend to forget this fact, regarding our children as "our" children, as though we have the final say in their health and welfare. We don't. All people are God's people, including the small people who sit at our tables.
Our moods may shift, but God's doesn't. Our minds may change, but God's doesn't. Our devotion may falter, but God's never does. Even if we are faithless, He is faithful, for He cannot betray himself. He is a sure God.
Our task is to stand tall in God's love, secure in our place, sparkling in kindness, surrounded by his goodness, freely giving to all who come our way. You, me, and the Christmas tree. Picked, purchased, and pruned.
Pastoring the flock with words. I love that. We always have a prayer time in the middle of our service. We take about eight or ten minutes before I preach, after we've sung, and invite people to come forward for prayer. That's a tender moment to me. I don't preach much in that, but I like to speak to the people.
Resentment is when you allow what's eating you to eat you up. Revenge is the raging fire that consumes the arsonist. Bitterness is the trap that snares the hunter. And mercy is the choice that can set them all free.
Scot McKnight stirs the treasures of our Lord's life in an engaging fashion. He did so with The Jesus Creed, and does so again with 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed. Make sure this new guide for living is on your shelf.
Seek first the kingdom of wealth and you'll worry over every dollar. Seek first the kingdom of health and you'll sweat every blemish and bump. Seek first the kingdom of popularity, and you'll relive every conflict. Seek first the kingdom of safety, and you'll jump at every crack of the twig. But seek first His kingdom and you will find it. On that, we can depend and never worry.
Someday I want to go back and maybe write another book on those seven sayings. I just think they are kind of like a table of contents to the Christian hope. They invite us to go into all the aspects of the heart of Jesus. Everything about them from the drama, the setting, the passion around them - I think the seven sayings of the cross are powerful.
Somewhere, sometime, somehow you got tangled up in garbage, and you've been avoiding God. You've allowed a veil of guilt to come between you and your Father. You wonder if you could ever feel close to God again. The message of the torn flesh is you can. God welcomes you. God is not avoiding you. God is not resisting you. The curtain is down, the door is open, and God invites you in
The Bible is the story of two gardens: Eden and Gethsemane. In the first, Adam took a fall. In the second, Jesus took a stand. In the first, God sought Adam. In the second, Jesus sought God. In Eden, Adam hid from God. In Gethsemane, Jesus emerged from the tomb. In Eden, Satan led Adam to a tree that led to his death. From Gethsemane, Jesus went to a tree that led to our life.
The book on my nightstand right now isnt anything that inspired me, but it entertained me. I read a book on Labor Day, it was a holiday, and I have three daughters, and we all went to the shopping mall and I sat on the bench and read a book while they shopped, it was called The Greatest Golfer there Ever Was, it was a great book, easy to read and entertaining.
The Prodigal Son story is, I think, the greatest short-story ever written. It has such drama in it, such great characters, it's so clear and concise, and it's entertaining in the sense that everyone can relate to it. But you have no doubt what our Lord was trying to communicate in the heart of that story. So the truth was not sacrificed on the altar of entertainment in that case. And it can be.
The purpose of the Bible is simply to proclaim God's plan to save His children. It asserts that man is lost and needs to be saved. And it communicates the message that Jesus is the God in the flesh sent to save His children.
The same hand that stilled the seas stills your guilt. The same hand that cleansed the Temple cleanses your heart. The hand is the hand of God. The nail is the nail of God. And as the hands of Jesus opened for the nail, the doors of heaven opened for you.
The step between prudence and paranoia is short and steep. Prudence wears a seat belt. Paranoia avoids cars. Prudence washes with soap. Paranoia avoids human contact. Prudence saves for old age. Paranoia hoards even trash. Prudence prepares and plans, paranoia panics. Prudence calculates the risk and takes the plunge. Paranoia never enters the water.
The temptation is for us to share our own opinions, our own thoughts and to speak from the whole realm of possibility. We can't do that as pastors. We need to have a strong voice of conviction, and the way we can do that is through Scripture.
There are some facts that will never change. One fact is that you are forgiven. If you are in Christ, when he sees you, your sins are covered-he doesn't see them. He sees you better than you see yourself.
There is not a hint of one person who was afraid to draw near him [Jesus]. There were those who mocked him. There were those who were envious of him. There were those who misunderstood him. There were those who revered him. But there was not one person who considered him too holy, too divine, or too celestial to touch. There was not one person who was reluctant to approach him for fear of being rejected.
There is something about keeping Him divine that keeps Him distant, packaged, predictable. But don't do it. For heaven's sake, don't. Let Him be as human as He intended to be. Let Him into the mire and muck of our world. For only if we let Him in can He pull us out.
Theres a verse thats meant a lot to me ever since I was in my early 20s. 2 Timothy 2:8, Paul told Timothy to remember Jesus Christ, descended from David and raised from the dead. Thats a good principle, that if my theology, my whole life can be focused on remembering Jesus. Just trying to remember who He is, what He did, being strong in what He did and what He accomplished.
Theres some inherently unique characteristics of Christianity, the chief of which is that Christianity teaches that we are saved by what Christ has done for us, instead of we are saved by what we do for God.
To live as God's child is to know that you are loved by your Maker not because you try to please him and succeed, or fail to please him and apologize, but because he wants to be your Father. Nothing more.
Usually I'm able to prepare a message about two to three weeks in advance.I know some preachers don't like that. They want to be finishing it on Friday before they preach it on Sunday, but our worship team really likes me to get it done way in advance.
We (Christians) are always in the presence of God. There is never a non-sacred moment! His presence never diminishes. Our awareness of His presence may falter, but the reality of His presence never changes.
We get a lot of unsolicited manuscripts here. Im not even a publisher, but we get several a week. I dont read them, but I do glance through some of them, and some people dont need to be writing, they have something else.
We have a place where we can take people when they come to us with questions so we're not just speaking out of our own opinion. We're really speaking to them out of an authoritative place, not because of what we discovered, but because of what God says.
We preachers, people entrust us with their time week after week. I'm still stunned that people will let me talk to them for thirty minutes about anything I want to. It's a wonderful treasure that we are to steward.
Were studying in Philippians, and Im trying to figure out this passage, Paul says I want to know Christ. What does that mean? See, hes fascinated by Jesus. I think thats a desire Id like to have on my heart, to know more about Jesus.
What I try to do is narrow the sermon series down to one big question. In this case the question is: What happens when grace happens? I knew I wanted to preach about grace. I just felt as if it was time for our church to be refreshed and see the beauty of God's grace - the uniqueness of the Christian grace as compared to the teachings of other world religions on forgiveness.
What you and I might rate as an absolute disaster, God may rate as a pimple-level problem that will pass. He views your life the way you view a movie after you've read the book. When something bad happens, you feel the air sucked out of the theater. Everyone else gasps at the crisis on the screen. Not you. Why? You've read the book. You know how the good guy gets out of the tight spot. God views your life with the same confidence. He's not only read your story...he wrote it.
When he says we're forgiven, let's unload the guilt. When he says we're valuable, let's believe him. . . . When he says we're provided for, let's stop worrying. God's efforts are strongest when our efforts are useless
When I was a young kid, my dad, a man of few words, told my brother and me, "Boys, Christmas is about Jesus." I thought about what he said, and I began asking the Christmas questions. I've been asking them ever since. I love the answers I've found.
When it comes to Christ, you've got to do the same. Call him crazy, or crown him as king. Dismiss him as a fraud, or declare him to be God. Walk away from him, or bow before him, but don't play games with him.
When you are in the final days of your life, what will you want? Will you hug that college degree in the walnut frame? Will you ask to be carried to the garage so you can sit in your car? Will you find comfort in rereading your financial statement? Of course not. What will matter then will be people. If relationships will matter most then, shouldn't they matter most now?
When you recognize God as Creator, you will admire Him. When you recognize His wisdom, you will learn from Him. When you discover His strength, you will rely on Him. But only when He saves you will you worship Him.
Worry is anti-trust. If you're worried, you don't trust something: your kids, their friends, strangers, the church, even God. Can He take care of your children? Certainly. Jesus says, 'I tell you, stop being anxious and worried about your life.' Pretty blunt. Stop it! Easier said than done, huh? Worry tests your trust, so hand your children to God and let Him babysit your babies when you're not around. He's pretty good at it!
You are saved, not because of what you do, but because of what Christ did. And you are special, not because of what you do, but because of whose you are. And you are his. And because we are his, let's forget the shortcuts and stay on the main road. He knows the way. He drew the map. He knows the way home.
You come before the judgment seat of God full of rebellion and mistakes. Because of his justice he cannot dismiss your sin, but because of his love he cannot dismiss you. So, in an act which stunned the heavens, he punished himself on the cross for your sins. God's justice and love are equally honored. And you, God's creation, are forgiven.
You don't have wisdom for tomorrow's problems. But you will tomorrow. You don't have resources for tomorrow's needs. But you will tomorrow. You don't have courage for tomorrow's challenges. But you will when tomorrow comes.
You present a challenge to Satan's plan. You carry something of God within you, something noble and holy, something the world needs - wisdom, kindness, mercy, skill. If Satan can neutralize you, he can mute your influence.
You want to make a difference in your world? Live a holy life: Be faithful to your spouse. Be the one at the office who refuses to cheat. Be the neighbor who acts neighbors. Be the employee who does the work and doesn't complain. Pay your bills. Do your part and enjoy life. Don't speak one message and live another. People are watching the way we act more than they are listening to what we say.
You'll get through this. It won't be painless. It won't be quick. But God will use this mess for good. In the meantime don't be foolish or naÃ¯ve. But don't despair either. With God's help you will get through this.
Trust God's love. His perfect love. Don't fear He will discover your past. He already has. Don't fear disappointing Him in the future. He can show you the chapter in which you will. With perfect knowledge of the past and perfect vision of the future, He loves you perfectly in spite of both.
God did everything necessary to get Herod's attention. He sent messengers from the East and a message from the Torah. He sent wonders from the sky and words from Scripture. He sent the testimony of the heavens and the teaching of the prophets. But Herod refused to listen. He chose his puny dynasty over Christ. He died a miserable old man.
Your challenge is not your challenge. Your challenge is the way you think about your challenge. Your problem is not your problem; it is the way you look at it. You can't always control your circumstances, but you can control the way you process them.
We need to remember that the first disciples were ordinary men called to an extraordinary mission. Their devotion to Jesus outweighed- by hair- their fears and insecurities. As a result God change them and use them to accomplish some mind-boggling things. Why couldn't God - why wouldn't God do the same in your life?
It's one thing to be discouraged. It's another thing to have despair. Despair is when you think there's just no end to this [suffering]. There's no solution for this. Despair is when you think that your suffering has no purpose, and your suffering has no end.