"Dearly Beloved…" That's the way I started out my last wedding sermon. I know it's a little bit of a throwback. We don't call too many people "beloved" anymore, but I hope you know what I mean. Today, I want to think about why that's a perfect way to greet one another…"beloved."
You call yourself a Christian, right? You do realize that just by doing that, you are taking on a very specific job description. You are now "His witnesses". You are the "light of the world" and the "salt of the earth". You are "Christ's ambassadors", a "holy priesthood" you are to be "Declaring the praises of him who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light". Do I have to go on? Realize it - you have a job, whether you like it or not, you are blessed to serve. There is no such thing as a part ...
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." You've heard that, right? How about, "The pen is mightier than the sword"? I'm sure you've heard both. But both can't be true. Which is it? Do words have no power or are they more powerful than armies and tanks?
"I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." God said that (Jeremiah 29:11). Have you ever felt like saying, "Yeah, right" when you hear it? Intellectually, we can say that we agree. We know God is in control and he knows what he's doing and he's working for our good. We can say that with our mouths….but do our hearts always buy it? Do we always live like it?
Last week, we saw how intimidating it is to see what God expects of us as Christians. If you missed it, check out the 7/13/14 sermon at www.abidinggrace.com. For now, let's just say that Jesus made it pretty clear that we'd suffer for following him. Only once we realize what God expects of us and how far we fall short, and the punishment we should have for that, only then are we ready to read the rest of this section of Scripture where Jesus sends out his disciples as workers in his harvest field.
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"Sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace" (Romans 6:14). Nearly 2000 years ago, Paul wrote that to Christians, to people he included with himself when he said, "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life" (Romans 6:4-5).
I had always thought of the Garden of Gethsemane as some hidden away place. My mind's eye had pictured the Palm Sunday donkey ride as rather long and stretched out. My picture of the Jordan River was more like the Mississippi River. It's not that I didn't understand what the Bible was saying. I had just attached the words of scripture to the pictures my mind developed for them over the years. But then I saw it. And the images that play in my head as I read God's Word all look a little different now.
Are you religious? Would you call yourself spiritual? Do you believe in your church? In your pastor? In your faith? How about in the Bible? Or, do you believe in Jesus?
Do you know what a siren is?
How do I know this is all true? I mean, we tell our kids stories and explain which ones are true and which ones aren't. How do I know all this stuff about faith, and heaven and hell, and religion - how do I know it is all true? Honestly, I don't know of many people who haven't struggled with that question - either in their own hearts or in the head of someone they love. And since it is a matter of faith, and the devil is constantly attacking faith, it can be a heart-wrenching question on both ...
Last week we worked through the first part of Matthew 28 and saw how Jesus was risen to free us. Since He isn't dead but alive, we are free from the power of nature since he's the one who controls it. Since Jesus lives and reigns on heaven's throne, we're free from the fear of any authorities since they only serve at his command. And since Jesus did what he promised he would do - pay the price for our sins - and his resurrection proves that it was good, he has freed us from our guilt and ...
On Christmas Eve, we talked about a child who was born to save us. We talked about his purpose. Tonight, we see that baby, now grown, fulfill it. And I have to warn you - it's not pretty. No longer a cuddly little baby in swaddling clothes, this grown man had been beaten, stripped, mocked, whipped, and could barely physically drag his pulp of a body out to this hill for the climax of this cruelty. It is not pretty. Yet this Friday is Good, precisely because it is Him doing what He came for. In order to save us ...
I was blind for an hour. And that was enough. Granted, I paid for the privilege when that exhibit "Dialogue in the Dark" was in Atlantic Station. It gave you the chance to experience life blind for a short time. I'll just say it was an eye-opening experience. I don't know how truly blind people do it.
Last week, we started looking at Genesis 3, that story of the first sin, to try to understand why we do some of the things we do. We compared it to the victims in a horror movie opening the door that we know so much danger is behind. Like helpless moviegoers, we watched Adam and Eve walk through that door. We saw how dangerous Satan's lies are to lead us to sin.
I just can't watch horror movies. I get too frustrated. You see, it bugs me that they always go through that door.
Last Wednesday, at about midnight, one guy shoved something up my dad's nose, another person shoved something down his throat, and then the kicker – this guy took a knife and cut my dad's midsection wide open. And we thanked him for it.
Dear readers: For the last 10 years, I have been the guy on call to be there for people when they're going through tragedy. I've tried to comfort them with God's Word as they mourn the loss of a loved one, face uncertain surgeries, and deal with pain in so many different ways.
We go through a lot to do "church". Think of the time and money and effort and energy put into making sure we've got a place to meet on Sundays, all the work that goes into the various events and traditions. People give up so much in the name of church, so today I ask you, "Why?" What's the point?"
OK guys, we've got a problem, it's Valentine's Day. If there was ever a day the pressure is on to prove your love, this is it. And there are countless ideas out there, but every one of them could just as easily backfire, since one woman might love what another would not. And if you ask your special someone how you can show your love, well, then you run the risk of her saying that if you really loved her you'd know.
I have so many great memories of my grandma, especially when all the cousins would be together, playing in the basement while all the grown-ups were upstairs. Sometimes, we even all got to stay overnight down there. It was awesome, except for one thing: the coatrack. It was one of those things that was always there but you didn't always notice it, unless it was the middle of the night and you woke up and looked toward the one ray of light. That's when I saw what I was sure was a person or a monster - whatever it ...