Monday, February 29, 2016

RISEN - The Jesus Who Calls You to Stop Playing It Safe (a blogpost for a sermon to be preached at Kenwood Church in Livonia, MI, on March 6, 2016)

Jesus was no exhibitionist.  He did not perform miracles to be watched.  He did not feed the hungry to gain attention for his cause.  He did not call out hypocrites to make a spectacle.  He did not prefer  large crowds so his amazing ability would be declared.

Jesus did incredible things so we might do the same.

Jesus Walks on the Water (Matthew 14:22-29 NIV)

22Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone,24and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
25Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
27But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
28“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29“Come,” he said.

12Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  (John 14:12 NIV)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

RISEN - The Real Point of the Story (a blogpost for a sermon to be preached at Kenwood Church in Livonia, MI, on Feb. 28, 2016)

It may sound cliche, but the gospel is the main part of the story of Jesus.

In this modern world where Jesus is lifted up as a good example, kind man, amazing healer, astounding rabbi, prophet of God, great philosopher, or exemplar of Judeo-Christian values, we are often reminded of the great ways of Jesus and forget about the singular reason he came into this world.  He came to save us from our sins.

The living, dying, resurrecting Jesus is the summation of the story.  This is the embodiment of God's love for humanity.  The solitary truth upon which we can understand the extraordinary love of the Father.

John 3:16

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

RISEN - Do You Know Jesus or Just the Story about Jesus? (a blogpost for a sermon to be preached at Kenwood Church in Livonia, MI, on Feb. 28, 2016)

Have you ever heard about a person only to find out that they are very different than what you had heard?  Have you read about someone in books or articles and then you got to know them in person and were surprised because they were so different from what you imagined?  On a number of occasions I have been told that I am nothing like what so-and-so had told that person about me.  As social creatures, we intuit what people are like from many different sources-gut feeling, first impression, a friend's opinion, national polling data, personal bias, history, etc.

I have found that rarely do people live up to (or down to) the stories told about them.  People are usually different than we imagine based on the information we are given.  Most scoundrels have some redeeming qualities, and most saints have some ghosts in their closets.  We are more than the brief synopsis that might be used at our funerals.

Do you know about Jesus or do you know Jesus?  This is a critical point as we approach Easter.  Most of the world is familiar with the story about Jesus, but do you KNOW him?  While the story of Scripture can help us get to know who Jesus is, through the Holy Spirit of God, I can come to know the Father and the Son.  

This Easter my challenge is to help you get to know Jesus, not just the story about Jesus.  I want you to know the Son of God who loved you so much that He died for you and His Father who sent Him into the world.  Join me as we get to know the Jesus of the Easter story a little bit better over the next 5 weeks. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

RISEN - "The Jesus You Never Knew" (a blogpost for a sermon to be preached at Kenwood Church in Livonia, MI, on Feb. 28, 2016)

As we approach Easter, I want to approach the story differently.  I want to look at it from a new perspective.  I want to challenge my already formed ideas about the resurrection of Jesus.  I want to see this familiar event from another point of view.

This exercise is not motivated by doubt, confusion, denial, posturing, or fancy.  I need to observe Easter anew because it is the most important event in the history of humanity.  I, we, should examine this moment in time as closely as possible.  We should know it, understand it, study it, feel it, hold onto it, memorize it.  

The sermon for Feb. 28, 2016, will come from John 3:16 & 17-“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him."

Thursday, February 18, 2016

GOD USES SMALL THINGS! - 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 Message Text (a blogpost for a sermon to be preached at Kenwood Church in Livonia, MI, on Feb. 21, 2016)

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

26Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. 30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

GOD USES SMALL THINGS! Do You Have Too Much To Offer (a blogpost for a sermon to be preached at Kenwood Church in Livonia, MI, on Feb. 21, 2016)

God uses small things.

Do you have too much to offer God?  No, really.  Think about it.

Does God need all you have to offer?  Or does God use what little we have to accomplish His big work?

Sometimes I think too highly of myself.  I can do so much for the Kingdom.  I can accomplish so many things.  I can . . .

Really, I can't.

God can do amazing things with the little bit we have to offer (when we let Him).

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

GOD USES SMALL THINGS! Faith as reflection (a blogpost for a sermon to be preached at Kenwood Church in Livonia, MI, on Feb. 14, 2016)

Does faith have a substance?  Is faith a "real" thing?

I think faith is like a reflection.  While our reflections are real enough, they only exist as an image of what is reflected.  Reflections do not exist unto themselves.  Without a subject, there is no reflection.

Could faith be a reflection of God?  Could faith be more about Him and less about what I know, understand, fathom, intuit, ascertain, grasp, etc?  Could He be the subject, and my faith is just a reflection?  Isn't there a subject of a reflection even if no one looks in the mirror?  Isn't there a God even if no one has faith?  Isn't our faith merely a reflection of the God who is there in the mirror?


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

GOD USES SMALL THINGS! Scripture for Feb. 14 (a blogpost for a sermon to be preached at Kenwood Church in Livonia, MI, on Feb. 14, 2016)

Matthew 17:14-21

The Demoniac
      14When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him and saying, 15“Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16“I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.” 17And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” 18And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once.
      19Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” 20And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. 21[“But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”]

GOD USES SMALL THINGS! A Lot of Doubt (a blogpost for a sermon to be preached at Kenwood Church in Livonia, MI, on Feb. 14, 2016)

I would like to say that I have deep and sturdy faith.  There certainly are times when that is true, but there are also times when that is far from true.  Sometimes I recognize my sparse faith; other times I don't even notice that my faith meter is running low.

Where is your faith-o-meter registering right now?  How full is your tank?  How are you doing?

Jesus seems to say that the amount of faith is not the issue, but faith itself is the issue.  Faith is not a skill or a work that we can learn to employ better.  Faith is not a measure of our worthiness quotient.  Faith is not a standard for the "holier-than-thou" crowd.  Faith is not a badge for the religiously gifted.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.  Faith is about what's out there; not what's in here.

Monday, February 8, 2016

GOD USES SMALL THINGS! A Little Faith (a blogpost for a sermon to be preached at Kenwood Church in Livonia, MI, on Feb. 14, 2016)

"Faith like a mustard seed" is a phrase that communicates very, very little faith.  A mustard seed is a tiny seed that becomes a huge plant.

Is the point that our little faith with grow into something larger or that our little faith can wind up producing something great through the power of God?  There is a difference.  Is the point that my faith needs to get bigger or that God can do really big things with my tiny faith?

Think about it.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

GOD USES SMALL THINGS! Why Can't I See It? (a blogpost for a sermon to be preached at Kenwood Church in Livonia, MI, on Feb. 7, 2016)

Jesus tested Philip by asking him, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" (John 6:5).  Philip basically said, "There is no way for us to be able to afford all that food!" (John 6:7).  Philip could not see the solution to the problem.

Have you ever had someone try to help you see something that you just can't see?  Something in the bushes, a cloud formation in the sky, a Corn Flake in the shape of a dinosaur.  I have a visual perception disorder that makes seeing those hidden 3D pictures difficult.  I can sometimes tell what is there, but I can never really "see" it.  Images can be hard to apprehend at times.

Jesus' closest followers often could not see what the Master was trying to show them.  The feeding of the 5,000 demonstrates this so clearly.  Jesus knew how to take care of the problem; what he wanted to know is if the disciples could see it too.  Philip and Andrew tried but ultimately failed.

I often fail when trying to peer through the murky waters of this life to see the hand of God at work.  I look and stare and turn my head sideways but often see little more than what my eyes initially saw.  I don't have the creativity, vision, or faith to see what God would have me see.

God open my eyes to your marvelous work and help me to take my limitations off your work.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

GOD USES SMALL THINGS! A Little Shame on the Side (a blogpost for a sermon to be preached at Kenwood Church in Livonia, MI, on Feb. 7, 2016)

One of the theories for the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 claims there was no miracle at all.  The shame and guilt felt by the crowd as they heard of the selfless sharing of a young boy made everyone else reach into their cloak and bring out their secret stash of goodies.  I am amazed how we can try to talk ourselves out of believing that God can do what He says He can do.  Seriously, God can create the universe but not summon up a simple meal for a few thousand people.

Simple answers, convenient truth, understandable results, un-miraculous explanations.  What is the problem with mystery?  Why do we want to take God out of the equation and insert natural causes?  Why do we limit God to parlor tricks and coincidental timing?  Why is it easier to believe that 5,000+ people felt the same shame and acted in the same manner than the Son of God just created a meal out of thin air?  Why?

Perhaps we need to take our doubting ways and add a side of shame to that.    

Monday, February 1, 2016

GOD USES SMALL THINGS! A Lunchbox (a blogpost for a sermon to be preached at Kenwood Church in Livonia, MI, on Feb. 7, 2016)

I did not have a cool lunchbox in grade school.  In fact, I don't think I owned one.  I always ate cafeteria food.  Actually, I love lunchroom food.  OK, I like anything.  I did not own a lunchbox though.

 I doubt the kid in John 6 (the one who had the five loaves and two fish) had a cool lunchbox.  While it might not have been the Samson and Goliath Special Edition, it was very important on that day.  5,000+ people had gathered and were without food.  Jesus' compassion demanded food right now.

There was no offering collected.  No cry was sent out to the local United Way.  God chose to use what was there.  A small boys lunch would be the seed for that meal, a little lunch to feed a great crowd.

I am sure a little planning could have easily taken care of this problem.  A note given earlier in the week could have reminded everyone to bring a meal or a dish to pass.  The apostles could have had a contingency plan ready.  Ravens could have fed the crowd like in the days of Elijah.  Nope, 5 loaves and 2 fish would work just fine.

When you have too little, do you see a big problem for you or a little problem for God?