The Land of Beginning Again

Mark 16:1-7
John 21:1-17

In the various accounts of the resurrection of Jesus that appear in the four gospels, I believe the most personal, the most touching, the most poignant words can be found in the first gospel we read, the gospel of Mark. The phrase is so short that we easily gloss over it without realizing the tremendous significance that it had on that first glorious Easter morning . . . as well as this day.

I’ll read the verse again, and emphasize the little phrase of which I speak:

but the angel said, ‘Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.’

See how easily those two words gets lost in the holiness of the angel as he speaks, in the initial incredibility and amazement of the empty tomb, in the shadow of the One who has been raised from the dead.

‘Now go and tell His disciples; including Peter!’ Including Peter? Why Peter? Why not John or James or Andrew or one of the others? Why does Peter get special mention? + Read More

Museum of CrossPointe; Not!

Matthew 5:13-16
Acts 1:1-8

This past week, Gail and I spent 5 days in Sarasota, Florida with her son, Brett, who moved there after Christmas. Sarasota is a wonderful place to visit as there are so many things to do, not the least of which is to hang out on Siesta Keys Beach; voted the # 1 beach in America.

Sarasota is also home to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus Museum. It’s appropriate there is a museum because in 22 days that’s all that will be left, as they perform for the very last time in Uniondale, New York on May 21st. Why did this great American icon give up the ghost after 146 years? Plain and simple; not enough people are interested in going to the circus anymore; especially younger people.

Would you believe the same dynamic is affecting the church? Guess how many churches in America will become museums this year? About 3,700 churches will close up shop this year (that’s 71 every Sunday). And why is that? Simply because like the circus, fewer and fewer people are interested in going to church; especially younger people.

Especially the Millennials. 75,000,000 strong, they range in age from 20 to 36 and last year surpassed the Baby Boomers as the most populous of generations. By and large, they are not (at this time) interested in attending church, as they believe that churches are populated with people who only care about themselves. + Read More

I Am the Resurrection and the Life

John 11:1-53, I Corinthians 15:12-22

A pastor’s son and his friends were playing in the backyard when they found a dead robin. They decided that the bird should be given a proper burial, so they put him in a Kleenex box, dug a hole and solemnly placed their feathered friend in the ground. Naturally, the minister’s son was chosen to say something appropriate. Remembering what his father often said at times like this, the young boy sang, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son…and into the hole he goooooes!”

On Feb. 27, 1991, at the height of Desert Storm, Ruth Dillow’s worst fears were realized as she opened her front door to see two army officers standing there with grim looks on their faces. She knew why they were there. It was their job to inform her that her son, Pvt. 1st Class, Clayton Dillow, had stepped on a landmine in Kuwait and was now dead. She later said, “I can’t begin to describe my grief and shock. It was almost more than I could bear. For 3 days I wept, for 3 days I expressed my anger toward God, for 3 days people tried to comfort me, but to no avail, because the loss was too great.”

Then, three days after she received that dreaded message the telephone rang. The voice on the other end said, “Mom, it’s me, I’m alive.” Ruth Dillow said, “I couldn’t believe it at first. But then I recognized his voice, and he really was alive. The army had made an identification mistake! I laughed, I cried, I felt like turning cartwheels because my son whom I had thought was dead . . . was really alive. I’m sure none of you can even begin to understand how I felt.”

It’s probably true that none of us can, but two sisters who made their home in a place called Bethany could and did.

As we join Mary and Martha, we come to a very heavy scene of mourning with all the reality of grief, heartache, and tears. The Bible doesn’t gloss over what we are so afraid to talk or even think about. + Read More

I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life

John 13:31-14:1-6
Colossians 1:15-22

We must not consider today’s ‘I am’ saying – ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’ found in John 14:6 apart from its context set for us in the previous chapter. For the beginning of chapter 13 marks a solemn divide in John’s plot. Whereas the first twelve chapters picture the public ministry of Jesus; chapters 13 through 17 provide us an intimate look at Jesus with His disciples for the last few hours of His time on earth before His death and resurrection in chapters 18 through 21.

The setting for both chapters 13 and 14 is the Upper Room; the place Jesus sent two of His disciples to prepare for Him and them to observe the Jewish Passover. The scene opens with Jesus taking on the role of servant as He washes the feet of His disciples followed by Jesus releasing Judas to carry out his betrayal.

With the betrayer departed, Jesus is alone with His own, and now begins what is known as His ‘farewell discourse,’ in which He is going to remind them of His most important truths and at the same time prepare and comfort them for what lies just ahead. + Read More

I Am the Vine

John 15:1-17

John 15 is a very deep passage of scripture. An entire sermon series could be preached on this passage, answering questions that I am not going to touch on today, including:

  • If we are bearing fruit, why do we have to be pruned? Sounds painful to me.
  • What does it mean to be pruned?
  • How does the pruning process help us bear more fruit?
  • Who are the useless branches that are cut out?
  • What does it mean to be thrown in the fire and burned?
  • What is the nature of the fruit?
  • How is the promise of answered prayer related to the rest of this passage?

My goal today must be to stick to the big picture of this passage. To do so, I need to begin by informing you that the Old Testament often pictures the nation of Israel as the vine in the vineyard of God. For example:

  • Isaiah 5 speaks of ‘the vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel’ (Isa 5:1-7).
  • Jeremiah proclaims on behalf of God: “I planted you a choice vine” (Jer 2:21)
  • Ezekiel (Eze 15:1-8) and Hosea (Hos 10:1) both use the same imagery.
  • Psalm 80:8 testifies: ‘You brought us from Egypt like a grapevine; you drove away the pagan nations and transplanted us into your land.”

As time went on, the Jewish people adopted the vine as a symbol of their nation. We in the US have the bald eagle . . . the Jews had the vine. They even put a vine on some of their 1st century coinage.

But the most interesting place they displayed the vine has much to do with today’s ‘I am’ saying. It was at the Holy Temple located in the heart of Jerusalem. + Read More

I Am the Good Shepherd

John 10:11-30

A shepherd was looking after his sheep one day on the side of a deserted road, when suddenly a brand new Porsche screeches to a halt. The driver, a man dressed in an Armani suit, Ray-Ban sunglasses, Rolex wrist-watch, and a Pierre Cardin tie, gets out and asks the shepherd: “If I can tell you how many sheep you have, will you give me one of them?”
The shepherd looks at the young man, and then looks at the large flock of grazing sheep and replies: “Okay.”
The young man parks the car, connects his laptop to his mobile, scans the ground using his GPS, opens a database with 60 Excel tables filled with logarithms and pivot tables, and finally prints out a 150-page report on his high-tech mini-printer. He turns to the shepherd and says, “You have exactly 1,586 sheep here.”
Rather surprised the shepherd replies, “That’s correct, you can have your sheep.”
The young man takes an animal and puts it in the back of his Porsche.
Just as the man is about to drive off, the shepherd asks him: “If I guess your profession, will you return my animal to me?”
The young man always up for gamesmanship answers, “Sure, why not?”
The shepherd says, “You are an IT consultant.”
“How did you know?” asks the young man.
“Very simple,” answers the shepherd. “Firstly, you came here without being called, secondly, you charged me a fee to tell me something I already knew, and thirdly, you don’t understand anything about my business. Now please can I have my dog back?”

One of the most loved sayings of Jesus is “I am the good shepherd.” In the Old Testament, God is often pictured as the shepherd and the people as his flock. Six Psalms display this imagery; epitomized by everyone’s favorite, the 23rd: “The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want” (23:1). In the Old Testament, God’s Messiah is also pictured as the shepherd of the sheep: “He will feed His flock like a shepherd: He will gather the lambs in His arms, and will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:11).

This picture passes over into the New Testament. Both Matthew (9:36) and Mark (6:34) inform us that Jesus had compassion for the people because they are as sheep without a shepherd. According to both Matthew and Luke, Jesus is the shepherd who will risk his life to seek and to save the one straying sheep (Matthew 18:12; Luke 15:4). Luke tells us Jesus referred to His disciples as His ‘little flock’ (Luke 12:32). And according to Peter’s first letter, Jesus is the shepherd of the souls of men (2:25).

Jesus is the ‘good shepherd.’ + Read More

I Am the Door of the Sheep

John 10:1-10

There are 2 “I am” sayings embedded in John 10. Today we’ll tackle “I am the door of the sheep;” and next Sunday we’ll address, “I am the good shepherd.”

But before we read it, it would be helpful to know that in the first century, there were two kinds of sheepfolds. One was the ‘communal sheepfold’ located in the villages and towns. During the winter, shepherds wouldn’t take the sheep very far from the villages and each night they would bring their sheep back into the village and they would enter these communal sheepfolds. It was a place with a strong door, and that door had a doorkeeper. Only the doorkeeper had a key to the door, no one could enter the sheepfold except a shepherd known by the doorkeeper. That’s the kind of fold Jesus was talking about in the first part of the text. 1

“I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice” (John 10:1-5).

Now, during the warm season, the shepherds would take the sheep out to range for weeks at a time, and at night they would enclose the sheep in folds that were simply walls about 4 feet high that enclosed a space with an open entrance. There was no door to that entrance. Once all the sheep were in the fold, the shepherd himself would lay down across the opening and thus was the door. And for the sheep to enter or depart from the sheepfold, they had to pass over the shepherd’s body. It was that kind of sheepfold Jesus is talking about in this next section where he refers to Himself as the door. 2

“Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, so he explained it to them: ‘I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life’” (John 10:6-10). + Read More

I Am the Light of the World

John 8:12, 31-59; 9:1-7

In Mark Twain’s story, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom and Becky Thatcher join some classmates for a game of hide and seek in a cave. But when Tom and Becky wander off the marked path, they get lost. They stumble around in that dark dungeon for several days and slowly lose hope as their flickering candle finally goes out, leaving them in the darkness. They can’t see a thing; not even their hands held close to their faces. Tom begins to crawl about, but Becky is afraid she might fall in a hole. Finally Tom catches a glimpse of daylight through a crevice, makes his way back to get Becky, takes her by the hand and leads her out of the darkness of the cave and into the bright light of the day. Hurray!

Reminds us of that famous proclamation of the prophet from Jerusalem Isaiah, “The people who wander in darkness will see,” what, not just a glimmer of light but a “great light” (9:2 NLT). If even the smallest glimmer of light can be a marvelous source of hope, guidance and direction as it was for Tom and Becky, just imagine what a bright light can do for anyone wandering in darkness, especially spiritual darkness.

750 years after Isaiah, along comes the prophet from Nazareth to boldly proclaim: “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me will not walk in the darkness but have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Let’s consider the context of this great ‘I am’ saying. + Read More

Hungry Hearts

John 6:22-59
Ephesians 2:4-9

Every time I read John 6, which features Jesus first offering bread to satisfy hunger and then offering the bread of life to satisfy spiritual hunger, I think of Bruce Springsteen’s song, Hungry Heart:

Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack
I went out for a ride and I never went back
Like a river that don’t know where it’s flowing
I took a wrong turn and I just kept going
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Lay down your money and you play your part
Everybody’s got a hungry heart

Both Springsteen and Jesus acknowledge a fundamental truth about human beings: that we possess a deep desire to seek and find that something in life that will truly satisfy.

In His ‘bread of life’ sermon, Jesus not only acknowledges this need to discover satisfaction but also attempts to derail two of the most common philosophies that falsely promise to deliver. + Read More

1 7 8 9 10 11 12