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Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled

New Year’s Eve

Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled

Text: John 14:1-4

Things were not right and they knew it.  Everything was screaming trouble to them.  Clearly enemy opposition was at an all time high.  It may have almost seemed dangerous to be around others.  Then there was all this talk about suffering and death.  Now there was talk about leaving and going away.  What was going on here?  What was going to happen?

On a quiet Thursday night long ago the disciples had heavy hearts that felt like a shaken champagne bottle.  Everything was all mixed up, shaken, bubbling to the top, and about to explode.  They certainly could see and sense the seething hatred of Jesus’ enemies boiling over.  Jesus had been talking more and more about suffering and dying.  Now minutes before he had just said that he wasn’t going to be with them any longer.  Here they had this quiet little Last Supper together in an Upper Room but it certainly had the feel of Jesus’ last will and testament.  Talk of betrayal and death.  Judas had run out of the room for whatever reason.  Talk of leaving.  What was going on here?  What was going to happen?

Almost two millennia later and here you are on a quiet Thursday evening and you feel exactly the same.  Things are not right and you know it.  Everything is screaming trouble to you.   Read the rest of this entry

Make Changes with Something that Doesn’t Change

New Year’s Eve

All men are like grass, all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall.”  New Year’s resolution books and programs and articles make a lot of money off that Bible verse.  Peter quotes from the prophet Isaiah and reminds us that all people are like grass or flowers of the field.  We all wither and die.  If you want evidence of sin in this world and the consequence of death, there is no better time to see this than at New Year’s.

Every year we do the same thing.  We review the previous calendar year.  We look at the things we have done, how our lives have changed, how we have aged.  And with this review we quickly look to make changes for the new year because ever year we see the same sorts of things.  I’ve gotten older this year and more out of shape and more flabby.  I didn’t keep my resolutions for last year.  Some of them fell miserably short.  Some of the resolutions I made I didn’t even start on. Read the rest of this entry

Arise! Shine!


Arise! Shine!

1. To see the light
2. To share the light

Text: Isaiah 60:1-6


I can’t stand it.  It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard.  Good morning to you.  Good morning to you.  We’re all in our places with bright shining faces.  Good morning to you!  Ah!  It sends shivers down my spine and makes my arm hair stand up like porcupine needles.

Every day of elementary school, especially on Sundays, I wanted to sleep.  I was a growing boy.  I needed rest.  So when I didn’t listen to my alarm, my mother would call out, “Wake up.  It’s time to wake up!”  But her soothing voice was like listening to rainfall.  I kept sleeping.  Next would come the little rub on the back.  “It’s time to get up.  Wake up, Philip James.”  (Apparently I got the full name only in the mornings or when I was in trouble.)  But even a pat on the back and the full name didn’t faze me.  A simple roll over cured that.

Then the parenting was taken to the next level.  The light was flipped on.  “Wake up.  You’re going to be late,” they would say sternly.  But I was equally adept.  The pillow and covers went over my head and I was back off to Never Neverland like Peter Pan.

This now is when drastic measures were taken.  The song.  “Good morning to youGood morning to you.  Rise and Shine!”  I’m not sure if I so much wanted to go to church as I wanted to run away from that song, but I was up.  Regrettably.

Sometimes it just feels better to sleep.  Sometimes it feels better to stay in the darkness.  Sometimes you simply want nothing to do with the light. Read the rest of this entry

One More Year of Grace

New Year’s Eve

One More Year of Grace

1. Be thankful this year
2. Be fruitful this year

Text: Luke 13:6-9


December 21, 2012.  I promise this is the last time I mention the Mayan calendar in a sermon for a very long time . . .

There were more than a few people that thought the world would end on December 21, 2012, the day the Mayan calendar expired.  I personally know several people that stockpiled caches of food and supplies and weapons in case some Hollywood version of Armageddon broke out.  I know people that worried about this for weeks leading up to the date, to the point of being afraid to drop their kids off at school.  I know a person that didn’t really know what to believe but made a fortune off of a blog about 2012 and the end of the world.

Yet here we are 10 days later and a little less than five hours from entering 2013.  What have we learned in 2012?  Ancient calendars can’t be trusted.  The internet can’t be trusted.  Only God knows the day or the hour of the end of the world, and our times are certainly in God’s hands alone.

So as we move forward into the year 2013, we’ll turn to Jesus for guidance in Luke 13.  There he shares what we can do with One More Year of Grace. Read the rest of this entry

Resolutions for 2012 . . .

Everyone else is doing it.

I really can’t stand it when people say that. I also really can’t stand to be doing “what everyone else is doing” just because that’s what people do so I should too. But . . .

It is that time of year when people reflect a lot. They look back. They look forward. They get excited by the chance for a “new, fresh start.” I find it a little funny because what’s the difference with tomorrow from any other day? It’s just another day. It only happens to have a different year identifier.

Yet I’ll admit it. I like to do “what everyone else is doing.” At least with New Year’s. So as I have pondered 2011 and my life to date, I’m preparing for 2012 and my life to come. And as 2012 begins tomorrow, I’ve made a few resolutions, too. Actually, I’ve made a lot of resolutions! Like these:

  1. I’m going to be a better husband. My wife is pretty special. Not only is she a wonderful wife, but she is an amazing teacher and coworker.
  2. I’m going to be a better father. Like most parents, I love my kids to pieces. But I can keep my cool more. I can parent more carefully. As a workaholic, I could probably spend more time with them. They are growing up so fast!
  3. I’m going to be a better pastor. This is one area where I thank God regularly for forgiveness. So often I realize how greatly I fall short of what I should or could be doing. I want to serve better. I want to preach better. I want to teach better. The whole pastor-package . . . I want to do a better job of it.
  4. I want to read the Bible more. I’m off to a great start with the 60 Day Bible Challenge I just completed–reading the whole Bible in only 60 days. But I want to continue to fervently and frequently read the holy Scriptures, not just 60 days at a time.
  5. I want to get back in shape. The once athletic body is not too far away from becoming an arthritic body. It’s time to get back to at least a shadow of the athlete I once was, and perhaps lose a few pounds along the way.
  6. I want to sin less. Enough said.

I could probably go on and on with more resolutions and more details about each. But I won’t right now. You get the picture though. Like  most people, there are a lot of things I want to change and do better in 2012.

As I review my list, I’m reminded of a Bible passage. Romans 13:10:  Love is the fulfillment of the law.” In this verse we are reminded that if we want to obey our God and do what he commands, it’s going to involve love. If we want to have him as our one and only God, we will do so by loving him most. If we want to remember the Sabbath Day, we will do so by loving God the most. If we want to keep away from murder, adultery, stealing, gossip, lies, and a host of other sins, it will involve love for our neighbor.

Love truly is the fulfillment of what God wants us to do. He wants us to love him most and best. He wants us to love others as we would love ourselves.

I suppose the same could be said of my many resolutions, and yours too. All of our resolutions have something to do with either God, others, or ourselves. And they all boil down to how much we love God, love others, and love ourselves (like loving ourselves enough to quit something or get in shape).

So what is my resolution for 2012? I guess it’s actually pretty simple.

I want to show love more–much more!