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.
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.
For centuries, Christmas has been a time marked by celebration, by office parties, by neighborhood and family gatherings. Is all this partying really appropriate for Jesus' followers? While the Bible does not encourage "partying," God has created in us a longing to celebrate, to experience the promise of God's Kingdom jubilee...and in the advent of the Messiah that celebration has already begun. Click this link to download.
This Christmas, a billion people across the face of the earth -- many without understanding -- with candle flames and multi-colored lights, will announce one glorious fact: The Light has come! Christ is the Light of lights before all worlds; the Redeeming Light of our darkened world; and the Eternal Light of that glorious New World. Click this link to download.
When Jesus said he was going to send his disciples into Samaria as his witnesses (Acts 1:8), he meant he was going to send them into enemy territory. Jews and Samaritans had agreed to hate one another for nearly a thousand years. To a Jew, the Samaritans were despised half-breeds who intermarried with their Assyrian conquerors back in 723BC, and adopted some of their pagan religious practices. The Mishnah (a rabbinic commentary) says: “He that eats the bread of the Samaritans is like to one that eats the flesh of swine.” Yet there is no escaping that, after two millennia, Jesus continues to send us with his message to the very ones with whom we’d rather not talk, or associate; and yes, even to those we may think...are swine. Click this link to download.
According to Acts 1:8, the Risen Christ sent his disciples first into Jerusalem, and then into “all Judea." We may think of “Judea” today as the immediate surrounding area, the community in which we live and work. In Acts 16:11-15 we learn how Paul was able to extend God’s kingdom in the Roman city of Philippi through a business woman named Lydia. The story reminds us that how we live and work in our own community is a witness to the King and his mission. Click this link to download.
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1: 8). The first place that Jesus wanted his disciples to bear witness to him was in Jerusalem. That is, he wanted them to start at home, with those they knew best. Sometimes the hardest place to be a witness to Jesus is among those who know us the best...our family members and closest friends. Click the link to download.
Over the years, a popular college application question asks, “What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed?” These have been some answers: The building of the pyramids, the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln at Gettysburg, D-Day WWII, the assassination of JFK, Woodstock, the first moon landing. One person said, ‘my parent’s wedding.’ I noticed that many said a day in the life of Jesus Christ, and in particular his crucifixion. Jesus told his disciples in Acts 1:8, “You will be my witnesses.” Now, the definition of a “credible witness” in a court of law is “someone who has personal, believable, first-hand knowledge of an event or who has told the whole truth.” The reason I am a follower of Christ is that I find the testimony of the gospels to be believable, credible, accounts of what eye-witnesses heard and saw concerning him. None of us were “eyewitnesses” of Jesus’ life, death, or resurrection. But as followers of the King who are filled with his Holy Spirit, Jesus promises that we will bear witness to him. In Matthew 9:36-10:10 we learn that to be a witness is to share the heart of the King, to speak the words of the King, and to do the works of the King. Click this link to download.
In John’s gospel the Holy Spirit is referred to as the Comforter or the Advocate. When we hear the word “comforter” today we may think of a quilt that keeps us warm on a cold night, or we may think of one who cheers us up or makes us feel, well, comfortable. In reality, the word “comforter” comes from the Latin root “fortis” meaning “strength and courage" (William Barclay). “In the drag races,” a friend wrote me, “they say ‘stay on it’ or ‘don't lift.’ In other words, “keep the throttle mashed to the floor from the starting line until past the finish line.” The Holy Spirit is the one who gives us the strength and courage to “stay on it,” to roll out instead of rolling over. The Comforter didn’t come to make us comfortable. He came to make us missional. Click this link to download.
Steve Jobs remarked this year in the Wall Street Journal, “When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. I wonder how many of us live life with that kind of clarity? I wonder how many of us have a mission that is worthy of our life’s devotion? Steve Job’s mission was “to make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.” In other words, advancing humankind through technology. I love technology; and there is no doubt that humankind has advanced technologically because of Steve Jobs. But has humankind advanced morally and spiritually? A good man can use technology to cure a disease or send a message of hope. An evil man can use technology to destroy a city or broadcast fear. How many of us are texting on our cell phones right now? How many hours do we spend a week on facebook, or checking our email? I want to invite you to unplug for a moment and consider whether you have a mission that is worthy of your full attention, and your life’s devotion? In this message we consider Jesus’ mission, to redeem humankind by advancing the kingdom of God. Click the link to download.
In any group, team, or organization, there are two great needs: unity and diversity. We need unity -- unity of vision, unity of purpose; but we also need diversity -- diversity of abilities, gifts and perspectives. Nehemiah’s plan to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem would have come to nothing were it not for his ability to inspire unity among a variety of workers who shared his passion. As we declare a new season of restoration and renewal, let Nehemiah's conviction be our own: God will give us success as we give him our service (Neh. 2:20). Click this link to download.
Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem in 445 BC to rebuild the city walls that had been destroyed by the Babylonians 150 years before. His story reminds us that to tear something down takes a moment, but to build something that truly lasts takes passion, planning and, above all, prayer. Click this link to download.
“Without wine” said the Rabbis, “there is no joy”. Hospitality in the east was a sacred duty as it is to this day, and it would have been humiliating for the bride and groom to run out. For many people, life feels just like that. The wine has dried up...and that’s where John 2: 1-11 comes in, because on the third day of Jesus’ public ministry, at a wedding feast in Cana, we learn what we need when the wine of life begins to run dry: (i) intercessors who will go with us and for us to Jesus; (ii) fellow servants who will help us follow His directions (iii); witnesses to encourage us when they see the first signs of new life (9-10); (iv) and a believing heart when Jesus’ glory is revealed to us. Click this link to download.
There are times when we may feel God has run away, is absent, or cares little about what we want. Is this true? Jesus’ parents discover the answer when as a boy he goes missing…for three days. (i) When God seems absent, it is we who may have moved on. (ii) When God seems absent, we will find him where his people are. (iii) When God seems absent, we can tell him all our fears. (iv) When God seems absent, he is still at work, and invites us to join him. Click this link to download.
The story of Jonah is not so much about a man who was swallowed by a whale, as it is about a man who is swallowed by hate. It’s about a man who has three days to contemplate how important obedience and compassion are to God… Click this link to download.
On the third day, a Jewish harem girl risks her life when she approaches the king on behalf of her people. The Story of Esther challenges me to embrace my responsibilities; to respond to the world as it is, to go nose to nose with evil and so make a difference for God’s kingdom. Click this link to download.
On the third day of the month of Adar (516 BC), the people of Israel who had returned from exile, finished the rebuilding of the Temple. The story of how they did this gives us hope in God’s power to rebuild not only sacred temples…but sacred lives. Click the link to download.
King Hezekiah’s prayer and God’s answer on the third day, challenge us to ask three questions that will help us put things in order and take care of unfinished business. (i) Have you acknowledged your mortality as a human being? (ii) Do you recognize the only lasting Source of help and salvation? (iii) Are you ready to receive the gifts that only God can give? Click this link to download.
In this message we consider the three days leading up to Joshua's entrance into Canaan as he prepares to take possession of the land (Joshua 1: 1-18); how God instructs and equips him for this task and what our attitude needs to be if we are to claim this land or any land for Him today. Click this link to download.
If you had three days to prepare to hear God’s voice, would you know what to do? Moses didn't...until God gave him clear instructions in Exodus 19: God told him to set aside a holy time, to set aside a holy place...to adopt a holy mind-set, and to prepare to hear and receive all of God's holy words. Click this link to download.
The story of the sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22 is a story that has troubled many people. Why would God ask Abraham and Sarah to sacrifice their one and only miracle son born to them in their old age, this child whom God had solemnly promised them twenty-five years before?! The Bible tells us that it was a test…a three day test of Abraham’s obedience and faith in God, and on this three day journey, Abraham and Isaac learn how God provides for and blesses those who honor him. Click this link to download.
The Bible is both an incredibly human and God-breathed collection of stories, histories, poetry, prophecies, and letters. We can divide the Bible up by book and author: the Protestant Bible contains 66 in all. We can divide the Bible up into categories like The Five Books of Moses, the Prophetic Writings, the Gospels of Jesus Christ, or the Letters of Paul. Another way to divide up the Bible, suggests John Ortberg, is by time frame. One of these time frames is what might be called the "Three-Day Story.” Beginning with the Third-Day of Creation in Genesis 1: 1-13, let’s take a look at these powerful stories over the next several weeks and what they have to teach us about getting from despair to hope, from chaos to creativity, and from barrenness to new life…because from the dawn of Creation the power of the Third Day is God’s promise to each of us who trust in him. Click this link to download.