What Do You Do?

Posted by on December 28, 2008 under Sermons

Freewill vs. Sinful Nature

  • Pelagius (350-418 A.D.)
      Free Will
  • Augustine (354-430 A.D.)
      Sinful Nature

          A full recognition, side by side, of the freedom of the will, the evil consequences of the Fall, and the necessity of divine grace for salvation. Individual writers, or even the several sections of the Church, might exhibit a tendency to throw emphasis on one or another of the elements that made up this deposit of faith that was the common inheritance of all. The East, for instance, laid especial stress on free will: and the West dwelt more pointedly on the ruin of the human race and the absolute need of God’s grace for salvation. But neither did the Eastern theologians forget the universal sinfulness and need of redemption, or the necessity, for the realization of that redemption, of God’s gracious influences; nor did those of the West deny the self-determination or accountability of men. (B. B. Warfield)
          This new heresiarch [“heresy”] came, at the opening of the fifth century, in the person of the British monk, Pelagius. The novelty of the doctrine which he taught is repeatedly asserted by Augustine, and is evident to the historian; but it consisted not in the emphasis that he laid on free will, but rather in the fact that, in emphasizing free will, he denied the ruin of the race and the necessity of grace. This was not only new in Christianity; it was even anti-Christian.
          The controversy began when the British monk, Pelagius, opposed at Rome Augustine’s famous prayer: “Grant what Thou commandest, and command what Thou dost desire.” Pelagius recoiled in horror at the idea that a divine gift (grace) is necessary to perform what God commands. For Pelagius and his followers responsibility always implies ability. If man has the moral responsibility to obey the law of God, he must also have the moral ability to do it.
          Augustine’s view of the Fall was opposed to both Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism. He said that mankind is a massa peccati, a “mess of sin,” incapable of raising itself from spiritual death. For Augustine, man can no more move or incline himself to God than an empty glass can fill itself. For Augustine the initial work of divine grace by which the soul is liberated from the bondage of sin is sovereign and operative. To be sure, we cooperate with this grace, but only after the initial divine work of liberation.
          Augustine did not deny that fallen man still has a will and that the will is capable of making choices. He argued that fallen man still has a free will (liberium arbitrium) but has lost his moral liberty (libertas). The state of original sin leaves us in the wretched condition of being unable to refrain from sinning. We still are able to choose what we desire, but our desires remain chained by our evil impulses. He argued that the freedom that remains in the will always leads to sin. Thus in the flesh we are free only to sin, a hollow freedom indeed. It is freedom without liberty, a real moral bondage. True liberty can only come from without, from the work of God on the soul. Therefore we are not only partly dependent upon grace for our conversion but totally dependent upon grace.

  1. Doing what is wrong without knowledge of the law is simply lawlessness. Doesn’t make it right. However, it isn’t a violation of a command. (Example: Selfish desire for something that someone else owns. A child teasing an animal. Hating someone.)
  2. The Law brings commandments into the equation. Now, what was once lawlessness is transgression. It is violation of a commandment. Now we can name the problem – (Coveting, disobedience to parents, not loving your neighbor). Paul does not consider law the problem. Law is good – it is revelation from God. It reveals God’s will and God’s vision for humanity. It identifies sin (it diagnoses).
  3. However, the downside is that Law can identify sin, but cannot do anything to prevent sin. It is prescription, but not power. Here’s the other tricky part about law – even when it is kept (done) it is less than righteousness because it simply becomes a slavish application of the rules (this isn’t like the weak addict who fails not to use).
  4. So, something greater than Law must prevail. What is that?

Light and Shadow

Posted by on under Sermons

Did you hear about the multiple thefts of Baby Jesus figures from church nativities in Ohio, Florida, and even Arkansas. The controversies surrounding nativities led to thefts in 2007 and this year many of the churches have installed GPS locators into the Baby Jesus’ to track them in the event that they are stolen. I am told that in Arkansas they even chained the Baby Jesus to a cinder block.
In Florida, the perp was caught and arrested and the Baby Jesus was returned to his ceramic family. And they will soon be put away into storage until next year.

Alas, Christmas is over. All the decorations, the lights, the nativities, and the 75% off signs will be put away soon. We will quite soon occupy our attention and our energy with other things – because Christmas is over.

In the gospels, however, the birth of Christ is just the beginning. The proclamation of the birth, the dreams of Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men, and the rage of Herod are just the start. There’s more to come. The child Jesus is growing and Joseph and Mary have much to do. Luke 2 describes an important event in the life of Jesus and his family. They are following the religious mandates by taking the six-week old Jesus to the temple for dedication and they are also arranging for the religious purification of the mother, Mary …

Read Luke 2:22-38 …

Joseph and Mary are going about their business offering up the sacrifice required, or in their case what was allowed for the poor – a lamb would have been offered, but two pigeons were allowed for those who couldn’t afford it. So here they are going about their business, when an old man comes up to them asking to hold their child.

His name is Simeon and he has been waiting to see the Messiah with his own two eyes. He’s seen a lot through those eyes:

  • The Roman invasion and subjugation of Judea
  • Ever increasing taxation
  • Moral decline, beginning with Herod – the king who claimed to be a Jew
  • Samaritan attacks and the desecration of the temple.

He’s waiting for a ray of light to pierce the darkness he’s seen with his eyes. The Holy Spirit promised him that this moment would come. All the years of waiting and praying, the recommitment to believe the Spirit’s promise all pays off in this one simple moment – he has seen with his own eyes the salvation of Israel. He holds salvation in his hands. Now Simeon is at peace. His wait is over.

Simeon has spiritual insight. Chalk it up to the power of the Holy Spirit and years of waiting to see what God has promised. Though he is old, Simeon’s spiritual vision is keen and sharp.

He knows that though he has waited for years to see the Lord’s savior and receives this as a blessing, he knows that some will not be so receptive. And so his blessing for Mary and the child speaks of the grand destiny of the child Jesus – yes, Jesus represents hope and salvation, but that which makes Jesus a hope for many also threatens others.

“This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed-and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Simeon’s blessing has a shadow in it. Some will fall and some will rise. Some will accept the sign and others will speak out against it. Why? Because the inner thoughts and motives of all will be revealed …

  1. Rejection: Simeon knows that the sign to be opposed and rejected threatens what is already there. Everything is not a-okay until Christ arrives and makes it difficult. No, the pain and disease is under the surface and eating away on humanity and the world. The light of Christ simply uncovers it all and makes it known. When you turn on the light, it creates shadows. Some things reject the light.

  2. Renewal: Change and renewal are not always embraced. The experience can be painful and demand sacrifice and even loss. Resurrection follows a death. This is why we must reflect and count the cost of discipleship. There is an investment – a costly one. When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die. Hope is made possible but only through sacrifice. But some would rather remain in the cold shadows than risk the challenge of renewal. They would rather deny than decide.

  3. Simeon and Anna stand apart from those who reject Christ because they realize that the very old promises of God can be kept in new and unexpected ways. They receive the child rather than reject him. And they are renewed! This Child is the light of the world!

    • What sets them apart? How is Simeon able to see this poor family with a newborn and conclude that this is the agent of God’s salvation?
    • According to Luke, they are filled with the Holy Spirit. What does that mean?
      1. A mind and heart open to God. A relationship rather than a contract.
      2. Simeon and Anna had open eyes and open ears.
      3. Beulah.

It’s been centuries since old Simeon and Anna saw the Light come into the world. Simeon died in peace. Like all righteous men, he longed to see God’s work done on earth. When he saw Jesus, he had all the hope he needed. But it’s not over, it’s just beginning …

If you’ve just had enough darkness and are looking to see a ray of light; if you want peace in your heart thus having no fear of death or darkness, then you are Simeon. You are Anna. Don’t get angry or frustrated, get to praying, start praising! Ask God to open you eyes to see and open your ears to hear.

Since the time of Simeon and Anna, Christ has promised that he will return again. Wouldn’t it be great to see that before you die? We could see God’s work of salvation among us.

Can we wait as faithfully as Simeon and Anna to see God working his salvation in this world?
Can we be confident and not grow anxious when shadows are cast and when some reject the light?
Can we have the spiritual vision of God’s Holy Spirit so that we can see that God’s old promises may be kept in unexpected ways?

Keep watch! Keep praying! You will see the Light of the World shine forth ever brighter in your lifetime!

Don’t You Know?

Posted by on December 21, 2008 under Sermons


  • Sin
  • Damnation
  • Reign of Death
  • Misstep
  • Gift
  • Forgiveness
  • Reign of Life
  • Grace

Getting a Grip on Grace

  1. We dare not cheapen it
  2. We dare not limit it
  3. We dare not qualify it
  4. Let’s dare to brag about it

Questions About Grace

  1. Should we keep on sinning so that God’s grace increases? (6:1)
  2. Since God set us free from law, does that mean we can go on sinning? (6:15)

Response to First Question
Should we keep on sinning so that God’s grace increases?

  • We died to sin, so we cannot keep living in it.
  • Experience of baptism

It’s a matter of life and death

Response to Second Question
Since God set us free from law, does that mean we can go on sinning?

  • We are slaves to what we obey
  • Sin leads to death
  • Obedience to God leads to holiness

Till Death Do We Part

  1. Situation 1
    • A woman is “joined” to a man who isn’t her (living) husband.
    • Conclusion = Adultery
  2. Situation 2
    • A woman is “joined” to a man who isn’t her (dead) husband.
    • Conclusion = Not Adultery


  • Baptism and Grace move us into a different system of righteousness
  • Law can name sin, but cannot create righteousness
  • Holiness – Knowing Christ

The Need

Posted by on December 18, 2008 under Bulletin Articles

We need forgiveness! This forgiveness must not be a “one time” event but a continuing state. Stated simply, we cannot “be good” in the sense that God is good. We “goofed”! We repeatedly “goofed”! If God wiped our slates clean but once, we would sin again. None of us are even aware of all our sins! We sin “ignorantly” constantly!

Long ago it was commonly believed that God forgave once-at baptism. Once God forgave, He forgave no more. There arose the practices of (1) guessing when you would die and (2) postponing baptism until anticipated “death time.” Why? So the person might receive God’s forgiveness when he had little time to sin and did not wish to sin. The problems: (1) People delayed baptism too long by dying sooner than expected, (2) God was completely misunderstood, and (3) Sin was completely misunderstood. The result: people lived and died in anxiety, not the peace Jesus came to bring.

Obedience does not earn salvation. It says, “Thank you!” to God for what He did for us in Jesus Christ. No human act places God in debt. We cannot earn anything. We serve God wholeheartedly because we deeply appreciate what God did for all in Christ through Jesus’ death. The more we see our need for forgiveness, the more appreciative we are of God’s gift. The more we fail to see our sinfulness, the more arrogant we become.

We needed an enduring solution that worked. In Christ we find God’s enduring solution that works-regardless of who we are, what we did, and how much we need to grow.

One Man Did Make a Difference

Posted by on December 14, 2008 under Sermons

Structure of Romans

  • Thesis – 1:16-17
  • Antithesis – 2:1-3:20
  • Restatement – 3:21-31
  • Abraham – 4:1-25
  • Conclusions – 5:1-11
  • Comparison – 5:12-21

Conclusions (5:1-11)

    Since we’ve been made right:

  1. Peace (5:1-2)
    • Because of trusting
  2. Patience (5:3-4)
    • Because of love of God
  3. Hope (5:5)
    • Because of Holy Spirit

God is not a hidden policeman trying to catch us breaking the law.

Faith and Confidence

  • Christ died for us when we were sinners
    That’s love!
    Count on Salvation
  • Friendship with God

How Much More

  • 5:9, 5:10, 5:15, 5:17
  • If this is true, then how much more true with God?
  • Lesser to Greater

Life and Death

  • If reconciled to God by his death …
  • How much more are we saved by his life?
  • Friends not Enemies

Boasting and Bragging

  • Where’s our confidence?
  • 5:2 and 5:11
  • Abraham could not boast before God (He trusted = faith)
  • We boast in the reconciliation we’ve received from God


  • Sin
  • Damnation
  • Reign of Death
  • Misstep
  • Gift
  • Forgiveness
  • Reign of Life
  • Grace

Grace Outdoes Sin

  • Law intrudes into the story
  • Law names the sinfulness, even makes it worse
  • Sin magnifies the problem
  • Grace is even more magnified
  • Do we preach Adam or Christ?

Getting a Grip on Grace

  1. We dare not cheapen it
  2. We dare not limit it
  3. We dare not qualify it
  4. Let’s dare to brag about it

The Spirit of the Lord

Posted by on under Sermons

[Reading: Psalm 126:1-6]

Read Luke 4:14-30
(Isaiah 61)

One day, Jesus returned to his hometown. The local boy who had become a Rabbi came home for a visit. They’ve heard the stories about his ministry and miracles. They simply have to have him read Scripture in the synagogue. They came today for a good study and Scripture reading. Read the scroll young Jesus and make us proud.

So he reads this text from Isaiah 61. Jesus is claiming this text. He’s claiming the Spirit of the Lord. He’s here to announce freedom for captive, justice for the oppressed, healing for the sick, good news for the poor. Jesus is reading this ancient text and saying, “That’s me. That’s my agenda. That’s what I’m all about.”

The synagogue doesn’t take to this too well. They’re not buying it. They whisper, “Hey, he’s the carpenter’s boy, right? His folks live down the street you know. When did he get to be such a big deal?” They’re not listening. They’re not listening to the Scripture because they have it all figured out – so they think. They’ve heard it before, but it has no impact on them.

They’re not listening to the Scripture – but a few of them might be waiting to see a miracle. Maybe Jesus can bring some of that magic back to his hometown. They sort of deserve it after all. They made him who he is today. Don’t forget where you came from Jesus!

So Jesus says …
“You will no doubt quote me this proverb: ?Physician, heal yourself’-meaning, ?Do miracles here in your hometown like those you did in Capernaum.’ But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown.
“Certainly there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the heavens were closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine devastated the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner-a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.”

Now they’re listening. They heard that. They heard that God can do as much and maybe more with outsiders than he can do with insiders. They heard that God favors those on the margin. They heard that those who think they are privileged and important really aren’t. Jesus didn’t make this up. It’s Bible. He just claimed it and applied it. And his hometown crowd doesn’t like it. They are so offended that they try to throw him off a cliff.

Why is it so difficult for that synagogue to hear Jesus read these words and apply them? Why is the announcement about God’s grace and his plan to expand the kingdom so offensive?Why is it so hard for them to accept the teaching of the bible? Their very own bible that they have heard read to them for generations?

If our answer is – “well they are just hardhearted and stiff necked,” then stop and think – are they really that different than us? How many times have heard Scriptures read, preached, proclaimed and we haven’t really listened? How often have we just made up our minds and we simply want a good reading, a nice prayer and a sermon that affirms what we already know.

The word that Jesus read requires a certain kind of humility to hear it properly. We have to be humble enough to serve and get outside of self.

We have to be humble enough to confess our sinfulness. We have to be humble enough and attentive enough to confess the ways we’ve contributed to captivity, blindness, and oppression. For if we participate in those evils, then we certainly cannot welcome the good news that comes from the Spirit of the Lord, yes?

But if we are humble enough to listen and confess then we will stand alongside those who experience the comfort of God’s good favor. We can stand with Jesus and also be anointed with the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord.

Can we accept that? What would you think if I said “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News!” Would you listen or just chalk it up as biblical talk?What if I said that “The Spirit of the Lord is upon you, for he has anointed you to bring Good News?”

Are we claiming too much? Is this text just about Jesus? Just think – someone claimed this text before Jesus. The prophet (Isaiah) who shared this good news with the exiles in Babylon. Shouldn’t Jesus’ disciples claim this after him if they are going to follow him? Why is it good enough for Jesus, but not for us?

Just think – this proclamation is the announcement of the Year of Jubilee. Since the time of Moses, God has desired for his people to practice what the Spirit of the Lord proclaims. Why is it good enough for them, but not for us?

The synagogue in Nazareth could have witnessed miracles if they had paid attention to the Spirit of the Lord. Instead they just left worship angry.

We could see this text fulfilled among us if we take it to heart — if we claim it like Jesus.

And let’s not think for a moment that God needs us. Let’s not think we have it all figured out and that Jesus owes us and that we’re the only ones he can rely on. If we read the bible like Jesus, we will know that if we don’t have the Spirit of the Lord and God cannot proclaim his good news and announce his good favor through the people here, then he can get people out there quite easily. He’s done it before and can do it again.

Will this text be fulfilled among us today?
Will we welcome freedom for captives, sight for the blind and justice for the oppressed? Will we welcome the anointed one?
… Or will we take the Son of God and the Spirit of the Lord and throw them off a cliff?

Let us have the courage to confess our sins. Let us know the comfort of being in Christ. If you’ve been baptized into Christ, then you’ve received the Spirit of the Lord – as a gift. Don’t quench that spirit! Rather, let us proclaim the Lord’s favor!

The Problem

Posted by on December 11, 2008 under Bulletin Articles

Paul, in documenting the global need for God’s help, gave a composite view from written scripture (only what we call the Old Testament was in writing then) to declare “everyone needs God’s help.” In that way, some people then were like some people today. These people were certain they (1) understood God, (2) understood God’s teachings, (3) did nothing wrong, and (4) were primarily to teach-they did not need to know anything else. They had the “let me tell you what you need to do” mentality. They saw themselves as God’s “finished product,” God’s righteous people. They were certain they were spiritually okay. Their deeds made them okay! What they perceived as obedient acts was the foundation of their confidence, not their faith in God and what He did in Jesus.

In Paul’s composite statement of our problem, he used thoughts from Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1-3; 5:9; 140:3; 10:7; 36:1; and Isaiah 59:7-8. Basically, scripture says, “People are evil. None of them are righteous!” What we want to do is to scream, “I am not evil! I do nothing wrong! Look at my acts, and it is obvious I am righteous!”

First, consider a statement made by this same Paul. It is found in 1 Corinthians 4:1-4 with emphasis on verse 4. Basically, Paul said, “I am God’s servant. What I do in God’s service is not made better or worse by your opinion of me. Even if I know nothing bad about me, that does not make me good. The only person whose opinion counts is the Lord.”

Second, have you considered all the EVIL God sees daily-all the hate, murders, acts of lust, adulteries, fornications, stealing, greed, injustices, exploitations, and indifference/unconcern He sees? Add to that He knows all the contributing motivations to every evil act. Do each of us realize that something we said, did, or shared contributed to another person’s evil in some way (even when we did our best)? That says nothing of the evil we commit without even being aware of the evil. That gives rise to an incredible question: “How can a God in whom there is not even the slightest speck of evil stand to look at a humanity that does not even know what complete purity looks like?”

There is no person, male or female, who is not in desperate need of God’s help. Not one human can stand on the foundation of his (her) acts or motives. None of us of ourselves are righteous! Every one of us would wither in the presence of God’s total righteousness. All of us can only plead for God’s help. We are a mess, and we need to know it! The failure to realize our personal “mess” is the height of arrogance before God! Without God’s intervention we are helpless. We are not the answer! God is!

What Can We Learn From Abraham?

Posted by on December 7, 2008 under Sermons

Narrative or Proposition

  • Narratives expand
  • Propositions reduce
    • This is why we have four gospels
  • Abraham’s story is foundational to trust/faith
  • Paul is unpacking the story to further his thesis in 1:16-17

Genesis 15

  • And Abraham believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.
    • Abraham becomes the paradigmatic person of faith.
    • Paul regards him as the forefather of all who believe

Q & A (Romans 4:1-12)
One is justified by faith apart from works of law (3:28)

  • But what about Abraham?
    • (4:1-8) – Trust is credited as righteousness.
  • Is this limited to the circumcised?
    • Abraham was not circumcised when faith was credited as righteousness (4:9-10).
  • So what’s the point of circumcision?
    • A seal of the covenant (4:11-12)

Credit on Account

  1. Abraham trusts in God’s promise of offspring and heirs.
  2. Confidence and hope – the issue is one of trust.
  3. This trust is “booked to his credit” as righteousness.

Source of Metaphor

  • Legal or Forensic
  • Since Erasmus
  • Christ’s Righteousness Imputed
      Imputed or reckoned?
      Erasmus translated from Greek and used forensic terms (imputed).
      This notion of legal substitution is strictly interpreted in Protestant tradition.
      Christ’s righteousness is imputed on the believer.
      Legal fiction opens the door to problems with injustice.

  • Financial – Accounting
  • In the text
  • Historical background
      Greek is commercial/bookkeeping language.
      Awareness of the imagery being used to describe God’s work of justification (no single image base).

Romans vs Galatians

  • Romans
    • Paul accepts basic Jewish truths – “Abraham is father of all”
    • Applies it to Gentiles
    • Emphasis on trust and faith
    • The particular Jewish worldview is made universal
  • Galatians
    • A polemical letter
    • Paul has relationship with them
    • Crisis situation
    • Legalists imposing circumcision
    • Doing more abandons the sufficiency of the gift
  • 2 similar discussions (Galatians 3-4)
      Faith precedes works.
  • 2 different situations
      Galatians are practicing circumcision as a way of keeping law and thus being Christian.
      Romans are ignoring the Jewish heritage/story and putting more faith in culture and ethnicity (Gentile).
      Boasting in works and payment due is only Romans; don’t read this into Galatians.

Gift or Law (4:13-17)

  • This contrast has everything to do with God’s power
  • If we can secure righteousness and justification via the law, then God does not take initiative – rather we do.
  • But if it is a gift, then Jew and Gentile both must respond in trust/faith.

Hoping Against Hope (4:18-25)

  • Abraham trusts even though the evidence goes against it
  • God has power to bring life out of death
    • Isaac (Birth and Sacrifice)
    • Creation
    • Resurrection

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

Posted by on under Sermons

Congregational Reading: Psalm 85:1-13

Read Isaiah 40:1-11

  • A man sits alone on the bed of a hotel room that he rents by the week. His family has told him that he cannot be with them if he continues to drink and hurt himself and everyone else. He sits in his room and changes channels on a broken TV set. A blank look on his face masks the sorrow and guilt deep inside. He longs for the day that he can be with his family again.

  • A family gathers around a small Christmas tree in front of a drafty window. Their living room and their dining room are the same room. The children open a gift. The parents look on with twisted smiles. They know something that the children don’t. They know how much they’ve lost and how much they will continue to lose because they squandered their fortune in a foolish deal. They know how strained their relationship has been. They long for a day when they can be free of the burdens of debt and penalty and speak words of love again.

  • A church gathers to worship. Their singing is tired. There’s an odd silence and nervousness as people gather and say very little to each other. They notice who’s missing, but they ignore those who are there. The words of the sermon and the Scriptures are drowned out by the memories of angry and painful words spoken and whispered. Relationships have been hurt. Fellowship has suffered. The people long for a day when their spirits are renewed.

I love Isaiah 40. It says that God forgives. It says that God makes a way out of the sadness, the despair, the suffering, and the sorrow. It says that God is leading us out of temptation and sin. It says that that God is going to pull us out of the muck and mire of our mistakes. It says that the worst things are never the last things. It says that the word that God wants spoken to his people is “comfort.”

I love Isaiah 40 …

It’s a promise of even more than THE Day of the Lord. A day of comfort is coming. A day of “finally” when the consequences and penalty ends …

    • The captives in Babylon. Their exile will not last forever, but his promises will. That day came and the glory of the Lord shone forth.
    • The disciples of John waiting for a champion from God. They will not wait forever, but they will see and hear the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. That day came and the glory of the Lord shone forth.
  • It says to the man in the lonely hotel room: There’s a way out. God is coming. That day is coming – not just the day of the Lord, but a day of comfort. The day to be with his family is coming – and the glory of the Lord will shine forth.

  • It says to the family in the crumbling drafty house: There’s a way out. God is coming. There will be and end to your hard service, you will pay off the debts and the penalties will end and your love will increase. That day is coming – not just the day of the Lord, but a day of comfort. That day is coming – and the glory of the Lord will shine forth.

  • It says to the hurting and broken church that their sins have been paid for and that the shepherd will take them up in his arms. They will be revived and sing songs of joy. They will share that joy with others who are broken and hurting. That day is coming – not just the day of the Lord, but a day of comfort. That day is coming – and the glory of the Lord will shine forth.

You might want to ask me, “Are these stories true?” Of course they are. They are true in all the thousands of circumstances that they resemble.

These stories are as true as the promise of Isaiah 40 that a day will come when the punishment and consequences of the sin will be lifted. The darkness will lift and the light will shine forth on a new day. They are as true as the glory of the Lord that is revealed every day he brings comfort.

These stories are real. God restores. We’ve seen it happen before and we will see it again. It may be dark and dreary right now, but the message of Isaiah 40 is that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

Get Ready
Of course the pessimist says that the light at the end of the tunnel is a train. Well, what if it is a train? What if it is restoration and renewal barreling down on us? What if it is the Kingdom of God moving in and declaring an end to the darkness?
I say it is a train – and what that means is this: getting out of the tunnel isn’t a matter of us simply clawing our way out – it’s about God rushing in. In the 1960’s, the singing group The Impressions were inspired to write a song about that kind of a train coming …

People get ready, there’s a train a comin’
You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin’
Don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord

People get ready for the train to Jordan
It’s picking up passengers from coast to coast
Faith is the key, open the doors and board ’em
There’s hope for all among those loved the most.

There ain’t no room for the hopeless sinner
Who would hurt all mankind just to save his own
Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner
For there’s no hiding place against the Kingdom’s throne

So people get ready, there’s a train a comin’
You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin’
Don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord

The train that is coming in the song speaks to a chance for redemption. It’s a way out for those who long for an end to the sin.

But pay attention: There’s no room for the hopeless sinner who hurts others just to protect self-interest. There’s no room for hateful self-righteousness. There’s no room for those who glorify themselves.
But for those who have faith in the coming of the Lord, there’s a seat on the train. There’s comfort and way out …

I love it that this word about the train, about the light at the end of the tunnel has been preached and is being preached in all sorts of ways. Whether it is the Psalmist, John the Baptist, the Impressions, or preachers like me … The message of Isaiah 40, the word that God wants shouted is being preached.

  1. A day of comfort will come.
  2. There is forgiveness – the burden of sins, the pain of mistakes can end
  3. Get ready for it and make ready for it. Make ready for God because he’s making a way out.

Are you ready? If you’re longing for a day of hope then get ready for it. Prepare the way for the Lord.
It may seem like there’s no way out of the despair, the sin, the mistakes that you’ve made. But God can make a way when there seems to be no way. Prepare the way for the Lord.

The Challenge

Posted by on December 4, 2008 under Bulletin Articles

The challenge can be stated simply: The challenge is to see this world and human life as God sees it. That challenge is easily stated, but done with extreme difficulty. Perhaps in that can be seen the enormous difference between Jesus and us-he could see life and this world as God sees it. Nothing changes a person’s life as profoundly as being able to look at the world and physical, human life as God does.

When I see my enemy as God sees my enemy, that changes the way I look at my enemies. When I see physical possessions as God sees the physical, that changes my motivation for work. When I see my spouse and children as God sees them, that changes the way I treat them. When I see friends as God sees them, it changes the way I treat friends. In fact, seeing the world and life as God sees them changes the way I look at people-in every relationship. The number one person I will look at differently if I see as God sees is … ME.

Why will I see ME differently? I discover in increasingly profound ways God’s purposes. My society (since childhood) taught me how to look at myself, at needs, at wants, at the future, at plans, and at my purposes. God teaches me something different.

The more I trust God (the more faith I place in God), the more I see and grasp His purposes. The more I see and grasp His purposes, the more I redefine my purpose. The more I redefine my purpose through God’s objectives, the more I understand that God’s objectives are permanent and my self-centered purposes are temporary. Physical death ends my self-centered purposes. Physical death has no impact on God’s purposes.

I am faced with an immediate but continuing decision: “Will I allow God’s permanent purposes to replace my temporary, self-centered purposes? Or, will I resist God’s purposes?” When I discover and accept God’s purposes, I really can live for something bigger than me. I can live for something more permanent than physical existence. I actually can live for something bigger than death-even when self-centered, physical existence of itself can never be bigger than death.

However, this can only be if I look through God’s eyes. Only by looking through God’s eyes can I see the power of resurrection. Through whose eyes do you see?