Archive for the ‘Sermon’ Category

I’ve been preaching through the Sermon on the Mount for the last several months and yesterday we hit the passage that speaks about where your treasure is, there is your heart. It’s a really telling passage because it forces us to check ourselves and so today I ask a question, “Where is your treasure?” It’s really easy to get this question wrong. Many people, especially preachers use this passage to talk about money and giving, and that is rightfully so, but I think there is a bigger principle involved. I think it’s more about investment than it is about money.

Oh, to be sure you can see a lot about your priorities in your checkbook and how we invest our money is important, but I still feel like Jesus is taking this further. I think what He’s really saying to us is…

Don’t waste your life.

It’s true, we only get one and how we invest it matters. I think the overriding principle is we need to invest our lives in what matters most is what will last forever. Consider these words of Paul from 1 Corinthians 3: 10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

Here’s that that means, if you’re a believer, the foundation of your life is Jesus. This is not something you’ve earned. Heaven is a free gift, based on on thing our belief in Jesus because we are saved by grace and not works. That being said, there is a reward based on what we do in this life. Christ is the foundation we build on in this life, and it is important how we build and what we use to build because the work of this life will be tested with fire. If the life you built in this life, stands the test of fire, you will be rewarded, if not, you’ll still be saved but jut barely and without reward. I think the implication is pretty simple. Invest your life in what will matter forever. God and His Kingdom, i.e. God and people, because those are the only two things that last forever. Let God use you and the gifts and talents He has given you to make an eternal difference in the lives of the people around you. Be faithful and honor God with your life. In that way you will store up real treasure that will last for eternity. Some of us have some pet projects to bag in favor of things that will last.

Where is your treasure?

Well I spent most of the day Saturday working on a Powerpoint presentation to go with a message on watching our thought lives, guarding our hearts and minds. I called the message “What Are You Thinking?” I decided to start with humorous stories from my childhood where my mom ended up asking, “What Were You Thinking?” I decided some simple humorous slides were in order. It’s amazing how well cartoons, the combination of words and pictures tel the story. I had some fun with these. I decided to share these without the story, so you can get the idea.

The last few weeks at church, I have been exploring grace. Of course we have this one form of grace that most people understand. It’s the unmerited favor of God that allows us to be forgiven of our sins and receive eternal life.

But there’s another side to grace. It’s the grace that allows us to endure to get through things. It’s important that we understand this. We do very little in our own strength as a matter of fact you could go so far as to say our strength is an illusion. What we are really experiencing is the supernatural power of God allowing us to overcome.

In 2 Corinthians 11, we see Paul boasting about all the things that he has gotten through. To the average person, this can make us feel very weak. But if we look closely we will see that Paul says that when he boasts like this he is acting like a fool. In the following chapter we see Paul speak about his thorn. “A messenger of Satan that God gave Him to keep Him humble.” While Paul endured my things, the thorn brought him to His knees, begging God to take it away. God in effect said, “No.” Rather he said “My grace is sufficient for you and my strength is made perfect in weakness.” This is another form of grace. We don’t have to do everything in our own strength. We can instead lean on God and depend on Him, and when we do that we start to find God’s way through life.

Paul goes on to say that if he boasts he will boast about his weakness for when he is weak, then he is strong. Maybe we Christians need yo stop trying to show the world how strong we are and show them the One who carries us in our weakness.

Give may get us into Heaven, but the other side of grace allows us to survive this world.

When we are weak, He is strong and His grace pours over us.

Okay, I guess technically the first artist in the Bible is God, but today in my devotional reading, I got to Exodus 31, which tells us about Bezalel. If you haven’t read this chapter, as a Christian creative, you need to. As we read through the previous chapters, Scripture takes a break from the story of the exodus from Egypt to give us some very detailed instructions from God on how the tabernacle and all it’s implements, as well as the robes for the priests, incense, etc. are to be constructed. I can almost imagine Moses going, “Lord, I’m not an artist, how am I going to do this?”

Then in chapter 31, God answers the question. God fills someone with His Spirit and gives him gifts to create all that is required. This is incredibly good news for those of us in the church with a creative bent. As far as I can see, this artist, a man named Bezalel, is the first person listed in Scripture to be filled with God’s Spirit. His artistic, creative gifts, come from God, and, just as all good things do, so do yours. You might say we creatives have a Bezalel anointing, though I don’t want to push that too far. Instead, I want to look at something related to our call. God’s specifications for the Tabernacle were very exacting and He gifted Bezalel to meet those specifications. As discussed in an earlier post, there was still plenty of room to create within those boundaries, but the boundaries were very important.

If you go to the next chapter, we see the first recorded misuse of creativity by God’s people, the golden calf. This is the polar opposite of Bezalel’s calling. Here an image was made that not only had nothing to do with the Lord, but was specifically the opposite of what God wants us to do with the skills He has given us. People created in God’s image are not supposed to create gods that fit their image of what God should be. They had just seen God part the Red Sea, dispose of the most powerful army in the world at that time, and free them from 400 years of captivity. It’s only been a few days and already they’re making idols to lead them back to slavery. That’s the only thing an idol can do, enslave us and I think that’s the point.

There is immense freedom in living God’s way and we have immense creative freedom in God. He created us to create. The question then is what will we do with our freedom? Will we use it to honor God or turn away from Him? The best thing we can do with our creative freedom is to submit our gifts to the Lord.

When we are submitted to Him, we are truly free!

This morning, I preached on a most unlikely passage of Scripture, Matthew 1:1-18. The reason it’s unlikely is because it’s a long list of names, a genealogy. What makes the genealogy interesting is it’s the genealogy of Jesus. Matthew’s lineage is the lineage through Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father. The other genealogy from the Gospels is found in Luke and many scholars believe it is the genealogy of Jesus through Mary. Jesus is the King God promised David, who would reign on His throne forever and so He would have to come through the line of David. Most people skip this list of names, thinking it insignificant.

This list of names includes a prostitute, an outcast, great kings and terrible human beings, saints, sinners and a whole lot of people who were a little of both. God worked in each of them to bring our world His greatest gift. I think that’s the point of the genealogies. God worked through them and God will work through you, if you will “let” Him. Jesus came to be our redeemer, our Savior and our Lord. If we will submit our lives to Him, no matter who we are, no matter what we have done in the past, He can and will work in us. He will work in you.

He loves you. Jesus is His gift to you, and in a very real way, you are His gift to the world. There is something He created and designed to you. You have the ability to great good in this world, because He created you to do it. Wherever you find yourself today, you need to know you are loved. 
There is purpose and wonder and beauty in your life. Just as all those flawed people were used to bring about the birth of Jesus. You figure into the plan for His return. You are on mission to prepare the way of the Lord. What John the Baptist was in the first coming is what the Church is in the second coming.

Think God can’t use you? You’re wrong! First of all, you should almost never use the words “God” and “can’t” in the same sentence. We serve a God for whom all things are possible. God can use you and He wants to. Will you submit to Him?

Jesus came on Christmas, He is coming again. Will you be found faithful?

twoPeter is an awesome person in Scripture. I think part of my attraction to this hero of the faith is his “reality.” He’s so much like us. One minute he’s bold and brash, proclaiming truth for the world to hear, the next he crumbles and struggles just like the rest of us.

Jesus asked “Who do you say that I am?” Peter (AKA Simon) said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus blessed him and changed His name to Peter, which means rock. Jesus then went on to say on this “rock” I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

A few minutes later, Jesus is instructing His disciples on His impending death and Peter comes to the rescue. I won’t let this happen, I will protect you. In that moment Jesus calls him Satan. What happened to the Rock? Oh, Peter is still the rock, but right now, he’s off track and Jesus needs to set him straight. You see Peter wants to save Jesus, but it’s Jesus’ death will save Peter (and all the rest of us as well). Getting in the way of that plan would be the work of Satan, not God.

Another time, when Jesus is speaking of His death, Peter vows to stand with Jesus even if he has to die and Jesus informs him that before long he will deny three times that he even knows Jesus. Of course, Peter tries to rebut that, but to no avail because a short time later that is exactly what happens. Peter denied Jesus three times just as Jesus said. What happened to the Rock?

Peter is still the Rock…

Later after Jesus died and was resurrected, He met with Peter again. Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. You can hear the pain in Peter’s voice as he replies yes, over and over. It almost seems like Jesus is being cruel to the one who denied him. In actuality, Jesus was healing a restoring Peter, three denials cancelled out by three affirmations, and after each affirmation, the same command, some variation of feed my sheep.

It’s clear what Jesus is doing. Peter is reinstated. He is still the Rock. He (and HIs proclamation of Jesus’ Lordship) is still the foundation of the Church men like Peter would begin. The road will be a hard one, ending in death for Peter, but God’s Kingdom will be advanced, the church of Jesus Christ will be built and Peter (like us) will receive his eternal reward.

In Acts 2, that church truly is born, and who steps to the forefront? Peter! It’s Peter who declares truth. It’s Peter who preaches the Word. It’s Peter who brings the message, a hard message that includes the fact that the people killed their own Messiah. Yet that message draws thousands to repentance. So you know what that message is?

It’s Peter feeding Jesus’ sheep.

None of us have achieved perfection and we won’t on this side of the grave. We will mess up. We will make mistakes. We may even sin. None of those things change who we are in Christ. Peter was still the Rock, even when he failed. When you fail, repent and return to your path. Don’t give up.

Feed His sheep as we build on the Rock.

My new presentation, Forgiven, deals with sin, repentance, grace and forgiveness. I did this a few months back at St. Thomas Independent Church of the Brethren in Mount Pleasant Mills, PA. They recorded the message and set it to pictures of me in action. Please check it out and if your church could benefit from hearing this presentation, please contact me.