Ruth - "When you're afraid to commit..."

We’ve entered a great stadium, mid-race, as thousands cheer us on.  One by one, great heroes of the faith have come down to encourage us on our journey.  A lone woman approaches us now…in her eyes we see a deep and unshakeable love, a courageous love that can overcome any obstacle.  As she begins to jog alongside us we know that we are in the presence of one of the greatest women of biblical history.  “Hello, my name is Ruth, and I have something to share with you: “Committed love is risky…but it’s worth it.”  It creates a future of caring, it makes room for others, it blesses our community, it draws us into the circle of God's love, and it's more powerful than death!  Click this link to download.

Gideon - "When you feel inadequate..."

Imagine that we've entered a great stadium, mid-race, as thousands cheer us on.  One by one, great heroes of the faith have come down to encourage us as we jog around the track together. A young man comes down to the field and begins running alongside us. “I am Gideon.  Do you ever feel small and insignificant, unsure that you are up for the challenge that is before you?  What I learned was this: when you feel inadequate, take your eyes off yourself and trust the One who made you.  When you feel inadequate...let God redefine you, let the truth about God guide you, and let the the Spirit, and not your pain, rule in you.  Click this link to download.

Deborah - "When the Future Is Unclear..."

Deborah & Barak defeat Canaanite
forces at Mount Tabor
We’ve entered a great stadium, mid-race, as thousands cheer us on.  One by one, great heroes of the faith have come down to cheer us on our journey. A woman now approaches us with a commanding presence and the voice of a wise counselor: “Shalom Aleichem!" she says. "I am Deborah.” "And upon you also be peace" we reply. What a privilege to speak with this prophetess, counselor, and warrior who led Israel during the period of the Judges.  It was a time when the people were to look to God for leadership; but often failed to do so, plunging them into a cycle of oppression and suffering at the hands of their enemies.  When at last they cried to God for help, he would raise up inspired leaders or “judges” to deliver them. Deborah was the fourth of these Spirit-filled leaders during a period of Canaanite oppression.  As this great woman of faith starts to jog alongside us, we hear these words, “Even when the future was unclear, I could see God’s victory… and so can you.”  Click this link to download.

Joshua - "When There's No Looking Back..."

We’ve entered a great stadium, mid-race, as thousands cheer us on.  One by one, great heroes of the faith have come down to encourage us on our journey. Last week we ran a lap with Moses, but as he returns to the stands with staff in hand, he is passed by a strong and courageous-looking man who suddenly falls to his knees and embraces Moses like a child would his father. Rising to his feet again, he smiles warmly at Moses before continuing down to the field toward us. Could this be Joshua? Joshua who was sent into Canaan by Moses to spy out the land with eleven others (Numbers 13-14)?  Joshua who along with Caleb, were the only men to bring back a hopeful report, saying, “If the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us….” (Num. 14.8)?  Joshua who was chosen by God to succeed Moses, because he trusted that God would indeed bring the Israelites into the Promised Land?  "That's me," he replies, and begins to jog alongside us.  A thought that we've encountered before on this track resurfaces: “My life feels so ordinary when compared to someone like Joshua or Moses, or even one of the Lord's disciples.”  “I know how you feel,” Joshua says, as though able to hear our thoughts, “but believe me when I say that the greatest thing is to be part of the next thing God is doing.”  Click this link to download.

Moses - "When You Want Justice..."

When we read in Heb. 12:1 that we are surrounded by a great “cloud of witnesses”…we may picture a stadium in which men and women of faith who have gone before us, are cheering us on as we run; but instead of being at the end of the race, let’s picture ourselves, as John Maxwell does, entering the stadium somewhere in mid-race, to the cheers of onlookers; drawing inspiration and energy from the crowd.  Great heroes of the faith one by one come down from the stands to encourage us on our journey. As we begin our third lap we see a bearded man with a great staff approach us, a humble man who speaks softly but with authority. His name, he says, is Moses, and as he jogs alongside us he says, “God loves to set captives free!  Click this link to download.

Jacob: "When you feel defeated..."


Life is like a marathon...or is it more like a wrestling match?  When we read in Heb. 12:1 that we are surrounded by a great “cloud of witnesses”…we may picture a stadium in which men and women of faith who have gone before us, are cheering us on as we run; but instead of being at the end of the race, let’s picture ourselves, as John Maxwell does, entering the stadium somewhere in mid-race, drawing inspiration and energy from the crowd.  Making our way around the track, one by one, great heroes of the faith  come down from the stands to encourage us on our journey. It's now our second lap as a man comes jogging toward us with a limp. We rack our brains trying to remember his name from Sunday School...and how he got that limp.  “I’m Jacob,” the man says, seeing our mental strain.  Jacob... the grandson of Abraham and the father of the 12 tribes of Israel?  He nods and then speaks six surprising words: “There is blessing in every defeat!”  Click this link to download.

Abraham & Sarah: "When you're not sure about God's plan..."


When we read in Heb. 12:1 that we are surrounded by a great “cloud of witnesses”…we may picture a stadium in which men and women of faith who have gone before us, and are cheering us on as we run.  Yet, instead of entering the stadium at the end of the race, let’s picture ourselves, as John Maxwell does, entering the stadium somewhere in mid-race, to the inspiring cheers and thunderous roar of the crowd. Imagine next that some of these great heroes of the faith begin coming down one by one from the stands to jog a lap with us; and to encourage us on our journey.  As we begin our first lap, we see a very old man and woman coming down to greet us...their faces are weathered, yet their eyes radiate with life:  “I am Abraham….and I am Sarah.” We only run a few steps when they turn and say with confidence, “You can trust God’s plan."  Click this link to download.

A Life-Giving Life

Katniss volunteers her life in "The Hunger Games"
Bestselling novels like "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins, remind us that our world is literally saved from insanity by acts of self-sacrifice and self-giving love.  Two thousand years ago, Jesus said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."  He gave his life that we might have life and, as we learn in 1 John 5: 13-21,  he also came that we might give life, his life…to others. This kind of "life-giving life" is what this world truly needs; and we need to understand why.  Click this link to download.

A Life of Victorious Faith

Everyone has heard of Nike running shoes, and no doubt there will be many pairs crossing the finish line at today's LA Marathon.  But did you know that Nike is the Greek word for victory? In 1 John 5:4, we read, "This is the victory - or nike -  that conquers the world, our faith."  What does victory look like to you?  Is it winning a foot race? Is it acing a final exam?  Is it landing a good job?  Is it the gift of family or friends?  On the other hand, what does defeat look like to you? The gospels never promise unending victories in this life. John himself spent many years exiled on the Island of Patmos as punishment by the Romans for his subversive missionary work.  Even so, he assures us that we can have victory in this world. Yet the power we have over this world -- rather than being a force we control -- is a life of faith in Christ who has won the victory, the 10th sign of genuine Christianity from 1 John 5: 1-12.  Click this link to download.

A Life Beyond Fear

Few of us can honestly claim we have never been afraid! Fear is part of the fallen human condition. But a life that is paralyzed by fear is not what God desires for us, which is one reason why the command, “Do not be afraid!” is found 104 times in the Bible.  As we continue our study of life signs from First John,the 9th sign of genuine Christian faith is “a life beyond fear.”  I believe that even if we cannot eliminate fear, we can move through it and beyond it.  In 1 John 4: 13-21, John describes three ways that fear is “cast out” …. by love.  Click this link to download.

A Balanced Life

In John’s letter we have seen two main themes…the call to believe in Christ as Lord and Savior of life, and the call to act like believers, chiefly by our love.  In 1 John 4: 1-12 John calls us again to a passion for the truth that is tempered by a love for people.  Jonathan Edwards, one of the most respected leaders of The Great Awakening (peaking in 1740), observed that if false spirituality is marked by imbalance, genuine spirituality is marked by “a beautiful symmetry and proportion” – a life of balance.  Inspired by Edwards, this message explores eight areas of balance that should characterize our lives as Jesus' followers. Click this link to download.

A Cross-Shaped Life



The greatest movies are usually about love.  No, I'm not talking about passionate desire and romance - though that stuff definitely has its place. I'm talking about the power of redemptive, self-giving love. Take this year's academy award nominees for example.  In The Descendents, George Clooney plays a father who must stop being the “back up parent” and start being a real father to his two daughters in the wake of a family tragedy. In The Artist, a washed up silent movie star is saved from ruin by the very woman who he helped to make famous. In The Help, a white woman is willing to lose her standing in the community as well as her boyfriend in order to write about the racist way that black housekeepers are treated in her home town.  Of course the sacrifice that these women make in order to tell their stories is even greater. Redemptive love and self-sacrifice is not just a popular movie theme…it’s the most powerful theme in human history.  We’ve been looking at John’s signs of genuine Christian faith in his first letter; and the seventh of these life signs from 1 John 3: 11-24 is a cross-shaped life…because our love for others should reflect the humility and sacrificial love of Christ.  Click this link to download.

A Life of Boundless Hope

The foundation of our hope in Christ is not not limited by our family history, the size of our bank account, our intellectual ability, the list of our accomplishments, or any other cause for human boasting, but upon God's infinite wisdom and unshakeable love for us in Christ.  That's why we're calling the sixth "Life Sign" of genuine Christian faith from 1 John 3: 1-3, a life of boundless hope.  Click this link to download.

A Life of Confidence (to the End)

John’s letter was written to help us recognize some clear signs of true Christian faith. The fifth of these signs is from 1 John 2: 18-28, what we might call, “A Life of Confidence (to the End)."  I read a “Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook” that explains how to survive various life or death situations.  How to escape from quicksand. How to survive a gunshot wound. How to escape a submerged car.  How to survive a shark or bear attack etc.  Not surprisingly, there’s no chapter on, “How to survive death” or “How to prepare for the End of the World.”  John reveals why we can have confidence to the end of our lives; the day Christ returns, or calls us home.  Click this link to download.

A Growing Life - Rev. Dr. William Craig

How can we recognize true Christianity or be sure that we are genuine followers of Christ?  John's letter was written to help us recognize some clear signs of true Christian faith.  The fourth of these, from 1 John 2: 12-17, is "a growing life."  Listen to this message from my father, the Rev. Dr. William Craig who brings a lifetime of experience to the question of how to keep growing in Christ!  Click this link to download.

A Life of Authenticity

Jefferson Bethke, Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus
John’s letter was written to help us recognize some clear signs of true Christian faith.  The third of these from 1 John 2: 3-11, is a life of authenticity.  There never seems to be any difficulty identifying fake religion…but how to identify authentic religion – that’s the challenge.  John points us to the fruit of authentic faith (obedience to God's commands), the route of authentic faith (walking with Christ), and the heart of authentic faith (love for one another).  Click this link to download.

An Illuminated Life

How can we recognize true Christianity or be sure that we are authentic followers of Christ in the spiritual and religious maze that we live in? John’s letter was written to help us recognize some clear signs of genuine Christian faith.  The second of these “life signs” from 1 John 1:5-2:2 is an illuminated life. On my college ring are the words, “Let there be light,” the motto of the University of California.  These words are intended to point to the light of reason and human knowledge; but in actuality they are a citation from the Book of Genesis ch. 1, where it is revealed that God is the source of all light.  This is true enlightenment…to be illuminated by the light of God…the purifying light which speaks the truth about sin, leads us to the blessing of repentance, and restores our fellowship with him and others.  Click this link to download.

A Life Lived in Fellowship

We live in a time of declining trust in spiritual leaders, an era of disappointment with organized religion, when alternative creeds and philosophies abound, where many feel that “truth is in the eye of the beholder.”  In such a day, how can Christians be sure that their own spiritual experiences are genuine? In his letter, John gives us some clear signs of an authentically Christian faith that will also be compelling to others. 


The first of these “life signs” from 1 John 1:1-4 is a life lived in fellowship.  Now most professing Christians are pretty enthusiastic about “fellowship"  but what is the real basis for our fellowship?  What makes it any different from other social gatherings?  That is the subject of John’s opening verses, where he testifies that…(1) this fellowship broke into history… when the Word of Life appeared in the flesh; (2) this fellowship existed from eternity…with the Father and the Son and (3) this fellowship is a growing family… marked by joy.  Click this link to download.

The Song That Can't Be Silenced

There is no other time of year that the message of God’s love is more omnipresent than right now, when songs of biblical hope, peace, and joy are so in evidence.  We hear them wafting through shopping malls; streaming from car radios, or playing on ipods. For 2000 years, we’ve been singing and chanting and humming with the angels who announced the Messiah's’ birth.  What is the power of these songs, even for skeptics, and why do we sing them?  Click this link to download.

The Testimony of the Tree

Although no one can make a “biblical case” for the display and decoration of Christmas trees, they have had a prominent place in the celebration of Jesus’ birth for centuries.  Is this simply a “heathen tradition” that Christians should avoid, or is there a deeper and more profound reason that we should “light the tree” each year?  Click this link to download.