Posts Tagged ‘sermon excerpts’


November 22, 2009 Leave a comment

For a long time now I have loved the first 14 verses of Ezekiel 16, where God opens his journal and reads the graphic, love-soaked words to his beloved bride, Israel. Detailing his faithful love from her birth, through adolescence, and into womanhood, God tugs on the heartstrings of anyone who has ever held a child, invested in a teenager, or loved a spouse. Powerful. Intimate. Beautiful.

Hideous. A sudden shift occurs in verse 15. In spite of God’s devoted commitment to the marriage, his bride has left him broken hearted. Jealous, angry, and hurt, God reveals his disgust with her adulterous ways. He unloads: “You’re nothing but a prostitute. No, I take that back. You’re worse than a prostitute. A prostitute gets paid to sleep with strangers. You, on the other hand…you do it for free. Even worse, you’re the one paying for the sleazy service.” A little later in the one-sided conversation, God continues: “You’re as bad as Sodom. No, you’re worse than Sodom. As a matter of fact, you are so much worse that you make Sodom look good.” Heart wrenching. Pitiful. Disgusting.

Amazing. Another sharp break comes in verse 60. In spite of Israel’s rebellious ways, God vows his continued faithfulness to the marriage. God won’t let go. He can’t give her up. He renews the vows that she broke, pledging to establish an everlasting covenant with his wayward bride, atone for her heinous crimes, and someway, somehow rediscover the close relationship that has been lost.

Just in case you’re wondering, this story is not unique. It’s my story. It’s your story. It’s humanity’s story. Praise God for his amazing grace!



November 19, 2009 1 comment

For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

-1 Corinthians 10:1-4

This passage speaks of four blessings the wilderness generation enjoyed: guidance from the cloud, deliverance through the Red Sea, nourishment from the manna, and water from the rock. Concerning the water, a rabbinic tradition stated that a stream of water, or rock, travelled with the Israelites during their time in the wilderness. In this passage Paul reinterprets that tradition. Whether or not a physical rock followed the Israelites, there was a Rock that followed them. And the Rock was Christ.

In other words, years before his incarnation, Christ was the source of the wilderness generation’s blessings. He was present with them. He was involved in their lives. He was showering them with blessings.

This passage suggests something marvelous about our Lord: Jesus’ involvement on earth is not limited to the 33 or so years of his earthly life. His involvement on earth began before his incarnation on earth and continues today, years after his incarnation on earth.

Jesus is still God-With-Us, present when we worship (Mt. 18:20), when we share in communion (Mt. 26:29), and when we face trials (Acts 18:10). Even more, he’s always with us (Mt. 28:20) because he’s in us (Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:27).

Just imagine if we were convinced of and conscious of Christ’s presence with us and in us. Imagine how that knowledge has the potential to powerfully change our lives for the better. Imagine how it would change the way we face suffering, approach worship, and pursue holiness. Imagine how it would infuse us with the courage to seize opportunities for service and trade our modest ministry plans for ones that reflect the greatness of our God–our God who is with us, empowering our efforts for him.

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November 9, 2009 Leave a comment

Jesus’ story doesn’t begin at his miraculous conception and lowly birth. Before his life on earth, Jesus had a life in heaven.


The Apostle John, at the outset of his gospel, tells of four amazing aspects of Jesus’ pre-incarnate life:

  1. Jesus (the Word) existed before the creation of the universe. In the beginning was the Word.
  2. Jesus existed in the closest possible relationship with God the Father. And the Word was with God.
  3. Jesus was not the Father, yet Jesus was God. And the Word was God.
  4. Jesus had a part in creating the universe. All things were made through him.

John’s four insights suggest a significant difference between Jesus’ birth and ours. We had no say in whether or not we were born. Jesus, on the other hand, CHOSE to be born. He made himself nothing, in the words of Philippians 2:5-8.

The motivation behind him choosing to live here? LOVE. This love is, in fact, the essence of Jesus’ being and existence.

  • He existed in a loving union with the Father and Spirit prior to creation.
  • In a great act of love, he created us to share the love that already existed in the divine Father-Son-Spirit community.
  • In love he recreated us, trading a life of extreme advantage in heaven for a life of severe disadvantage on earth.
  • In the ultimate act of sacrificial love, he voluntary laid down the life he had previously voluntarily embraced.

In love Jesus came for us. In return, he asks that we love him enough to come to him.

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October 29, 2009 3 comments

Our church is in the process of reading the book of Jeremiah as a part of our Old Testament Reading Plan this year. One of the most shocking statements that Jeremiah makes is that God can’t stand His people’s worship in the temple. All the ceremonies and sacrifices do nothing but frustrate and infuriate God. Why is this? It must be because of some flaw in their procedure, right? Their problem surely stems from having inadvertently overlooked some technicality, whether it’s that they’re offering the sacrifices at the wrong time or at the wrong place or in the wrong way, right?


Wrong. God’s negative response to their worship really has nothing to do with their worship, per se. The problem is not that they’re doing stuff wrong while they’re at the temple; rather, it’s all that they’re doing wrong when they’re not at the temple that’s the problem. Stuff like injustice, oppression, deception, slander, adultery, murder, idolatry, and even human sacrifice. You name it, they’ve done it.

And, in spite of their blatant immorality, they think they have nothing to worry about. After all, they are God’s people! They have the ultimate ace in the hole–the temple of God. The temple–the very place where God dwells on earth–is the center of their city, just a few minutes’ walk from their homes. Of all the people on earth, they are the only ones who worship God the way he’s asked to be worshipped. No other group is observing Passover or Pentecost or offering sacrifices daily, but they are! They have nothing to worry about, right?

Wrong. Terribly wrong. Just read Jeremiah’s temple sermon in chapter 7. In this sermon Jeremiah informs them that the temple is no safe haven for sinners. He tells them that religious rituals don’t cause God to accept disobedience; instead, disobedience causes God to reject religious rituals.

Perhaps Jeremiah’s audience isn’t the only one that could benefit from his challenging insights. Maybe it would do us modern church-goers good, the next time we’re filing out of pews and exiting the parking lot after an hour’s worth of religious expression, to recall Jeremiah’s sermon and remember that formality is only as good as morality.

Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, “We are delivered!”–only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes?

– Jeremiah 7:9-11


October 27, 2009 1 comment


I wish you could have heard the message that Justin Gerhardt (my good friend and coworker) shared Sunday morning at Henderson on pride. It was exceptional. A large part of what made it exceptional was that he helped us to see the pride in our hearts by asking several pointed questions. Then he offered four practical suggestions for overcoming pride. I’ve included them below because I’m confident that they will challenge you (as they did me) to deal with the pride in your heart.

Here are the seven diagnostic questions:

  1. How difficult is it for you to submit to other people?
  2. How do you feel when someone tells you you’re wrong? Or attempts to give you input?
  3. How often do you compliment your peers?
  4. When’s the last time you listened intently and appreciatively to advice?
  5. How much more do you like giving advice than receiving it?
  6. How often do you ask for help?
  7. How easy is it for you to say, “I’m sorry; I was wrong” to the people closest to you?

If your answers to some of those questions uncovered your pride, then perhaps you should consider giving these suggestions a try:

  1. LISTEN to the people around you, humbling yourself enough to see wisdom in their advice, correction, and counsel.
  2. LOOK for strengths in the people around you; not weaknesses.
  3. PRAY for humility. It’ll be the scariest prayer you ever pray, but if you trust God you’ll be able to pray it.
  4. SPEND TIME with God. The closer you get to him, the smaller you’ll look.

[NOTE: You can listen to the sermon by going to the church’s website and clicking the media tab.]

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October 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Spirituality is not inherent in religiosity. Therefore, I must not assume that I possess a dynamic spiritual life on the superficial basis that I possess a rigorous religious life. Even for the most religious, there is no such thing as an automatic dynamic spiritual life.


Since an automatic dynamic spiritual life isn’t ever going to happen on its own, an intentional dynamic spiritual life is the only option. Here are five essentials we must intentionally embrace if we want a dynamic spiritual life:

  1. CONFESSION. Look at the examples of spiritual transformation in the Bible and one thing will become clear: spiritual life gets better after confession, not before. I’ll never have a dynamic spiritual life until I stop pretending that I do and start admitting that I don’t.
  2. PERSONAL DISCIPLINES. Four in particular. Two pairs. The first pair is reading and reflection; that is, getting into God’s word and letting God’s word get into you–ingesting and digesting God’s word. The second pair is prayer and fasting; that is, emptying your heart to God and emptying your stomach for God.
  3. WORSHIP. True worship does three big things: (1) It captures the essence of our relationship with God–that it is not one between two equals. (2) Worship infuses us with the power to continue striving to develop spiritually. (3) Worship makes God happy, which is what spiritual people most want to do.
  4. OBEDIENCE. Christianity is about a lot more than filling our heads with information. It’s about living lives characterized by transformation. Jesus was never content with people knowing the truth. Jesus was relentless in his insistence that people practice the truth. If you know these things, he said, blessed are you…if you do them.
  5. RELATIONSHIPS. Our social lives powerfully impact our spiritual lives. Reflect on how you arrived where you are in your spiritual life. Start telling your story and you’ll undoubtedly see faces and name names of people who have been instrumental in starting you on and guiding you along your spiritual journey.

So, if your spiritual life could stand a bit (or more) of improvement (and whose couldn’t), how about being intentional to make these five essentials a part of your life? I think you’ll be pleased with the results. I know God will be.


October 19, 2009 3 comments


Some time after his surrender at Appomattox, General Robert E. Lee was shown a tree in Lexington, Virginia, that had been all but destroyed by northern artillery. It stood in the yard of a lady who was extremely bitter toward those responsible for the damage. Lee listened to this lady rant about the tree and, when asked his feelings on the matter, sternly replied: Cut it down, dear madam, and forget it.

Good advice. Hard to swallow…but good advice, nonetheless.

Rather than harboring resentment and bitterness and anger, why not forgive? Why not cancel the debt? Why not close the account? Why not begin getting over your hurt?

Forgive. Don’t allow someone else’s sin against you to become your sin against God.

I think Paul would agree with Lee’s advice. It was the Apostle who wrote:

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).