March 22, 2020
Good sermons are supposed to start out by identifying a problem or a fear we face, then show us how scripture helps us deal with that problem or fear.
This week, that’s a no-brainer. Continue reading
October 6, 2019 – World Communion Sunday
Second Timothy is a great example of ‘testament’ writing in the Bible. A testament gives the author an opportunity to summarize important teaching when it’s time to say goodbye. Jesus gives a testament in John 14-17 as he pulls together the most important things he wants the disciples to remember after he is gone. Moses gives a testament on Mount Sinai, just before the tribes of Israel enter the Promised Land without him.
About the only time we use the word ‘testament’ today is in a Last Will and Testament. It usually starts with the words, “I, (fill in your name here), being of sound mind, …” It’s a statement of identity and an assurance that the one making that statement has the ability and the authority to do so. A testament is what we leave behind as a witness to what matters most to us. Continue reading
March 10, 2019 (A more recent sermon on Luke 11:1-13 can be found here.)
Jesus has just taught his disciples to pray, using words we say every Sunday, and now he continues the lesson …
And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
The summer I turned ten, I knew exactly what I wanted for my birthday. I wanted a diary. I wanted a private place where I could write down my most personal thoughts, and lock them away where my sisters couldn’t see them. I wanted something that I could call my very own, that didn’t have to be shared, that wasn’t a hand-me-down. I wanted a diary. Continue reading
God’s been pretty busy around here lately. I’ve been trying to catch up, but the Holy Spirit keeps surprising me with new things. I love that about the Holy Spirit!
The homeless shelter for single mother families that we have been dreaming and praying to develop got a big shot in the arm last week. Anonymous donors stepped forward to underwrite most of the renovation costs, so construction can begin in a few weeks, and we should be able to open the shelter by April 1. I wish it were sooner, but I know God’s timing is perfect, so I will rest in that assurance as we put all the other pieces in place.
Our church council approved a significantly larger budget for the coming year, nearly doubling the amount we hope to spend on mission and ministry. Our building is ninety years old, so upkeep of the physical plant is always going to need a significant chunk of the budget, but this increase toward ministry is a huge step.
It’s especially significant because we lost 4% of our membership to death this year, and the estimates of giving for the coming year are frighteningly lower than last year. I look at this as God saying, “Remember Gideon? I wouldn’t let him fight the battle in the strength of a human army. I want to be sure the world can see that what you are doing is being done in my strength alone.” You go, God. Let’s show ’em.
How’s your Fall season shaping up? What surprises has God dumped on your head, or into your lap? Where do you see God saying, “I want to be sure the world can see that what you’re doing is by my strength alone” and how are you responding to that challenge?
You can watch the video of this sermon here.
Over the last couple of weeks, we have seen that in the Bible there are two story lines. The upper story is God’s story where God fulfills his purpose and the lower story is the human characters’ story with all the complexities and details of life. Sometimes those details look like God is acting unfairly.
It doesn’t seem fair for God to kick Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, for example. It doesn’t seem fair for God to favor Isaac over his older half-brother Ishmael, either. But God’s purpose is only made known to us when we see things from an “upper story” perspective. God calls us to capture the upper story and its effects on our lives. The story of Joseph is a great example of how the upper and lower story lines come together in the Bible. Help me out here. Tell me when you think something that happens to Joseph is good (thumbs up), and when it’s bad (thumbs down). Then let’s see how God uses the bad to create good through Joseph.
The story starts in Genesis 37, when Joseph is sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. (That’s bad) Joseph is 17 and is “the favorite” of his father Jacob (Rachel’s son). (That’s good) Joseph had dreams of his brothers and parents bowing down to him. This does not make him popular. (That’s bad) Joseph’s brothers sell Joseph to a band of Ishmaelites, and they tell Jacob that Joseph was killed by a ferocious animal. The Ishmaelites take Joseph to Egypt as a slave. (That’s bad)
Joseph is sold as a slave to an Egyptian official named Potiphar and becomes Potiphar’s right hand man. (that’s good) Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph. (that’s bad) When Joseph refuses her advances, she falsely accuses him of assaulting her, and Joseph ends up in prison. (that’s bad) While in prison Joseph gets a reputation for correctly interpreting dreams. (Baker, cupbearer) (that’s good)
Joseph never plays the victim card, but he stays connected to God.
Over and over, we read that “The LORD was with Joseph” (39:2, 23). (That’s good)
Pharaoh has troubling dreams that none of his wise men and magicians can interpret for him. (that’s bad) But remember the reputation Joseph built in prison for being a good dream interpreter? (this could be good) Joseph is called to Pharaoh and correctly interprets Pharaoh’s dreams and counsels Pharaoh to prepare for what they say about the future. (that’s good)
Dream #1- Egypt will have 7 years of bountiful harvests (that’s good)
Dream #2- Egypt will have 7 years of famine. (that’s bad)
Pharaoh puts Joseph in charge of carrying out a plan to prepare for the years of famine, and this puts Joseph exactly where he needs to be in God’s upper story of redemption. Joseph is promoted to Deputy Pharaoh in Egypt at age 30 (Genesis 41). (that’s good)
The famine hits Canaan, where Jacob and his other sons still live. (that’s bad) Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt to ask for food, and they do bow down to Joseph. (is this good or bad, do you think?) Joseph is now age 39. It’s been 22 years from the time of his initial dream to its fulfillment.
This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for in Joseph’s story. Continue reading
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