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Part 1 of the Easter series, "Suffering and Resurrection." We all love a good story. Good stories have the power to connect with us emotionally and to even transform our heart and perspective. But, above even the most inspiring fiction, it is the true story that typically has the greatest impact upon our existence and actions. Why? Because if the story is true, then perhaps it can also be true for us. This is the focus we must remind ourselves of when re-imagining the Easter story. The telling of Christ's death and resurrection is more than just something to touch our hearts or even our character. It tells of an event in time that will revolutionize everything we are...if we'll only believe the stories are true.
Part 2 of the Easter series, "Suffering and Resurrection." When guests enter our home, we love to clean house. But the home they see isn't often reflective of how we normally live. More often, our homes can me messy, but that's not the picture we typically wish to show others. In the same way, even as Christians, our lives can be a mess and we don't want anyone to see. But as Jesus demonstrated so many times as he ministered to others on his way to the cross, God wants to enter the home of our hearts with a sign out front that says, "Welcome to Our Mess!" It is only Jesus who can clean the impurity of our hearts. But we must first recognize our need to be cleansed before inviting him to enter.
Part 3 of the Easter series, "Suffering and Resurrection." Very soon before he would enter Jerusalem to trigger the events that would lead to his suffering on the cross, Jesus had his purpose and his future glory re-affirmed by God on the mount of Transfiguration. God reminded him that he was his "chosen one." Jesus was (it appears) counseled and encouraged by Moses and Elijah, reminding him that his purpose was rooted in the foundations of all that had come before and that his destiny was foreordained before the world began. Because of Christ's finished work on the cross, we too are God's chosen ones, sons and daughters chosen before the world began to share in the fellowship of Christ's sufferings so that we might enjoy the power of his resurrection. In this way, the Easter story has a direct impact, not just on our eternal destiny, but on how we persevere and overcome in the here-and-now.
Part 4 of the Easter series, "Suffering and Resurrection." On Palm Sunday, many churches, like they did so long ago, enter the sanctuary with palms in hand, praising our Savior, Jesus. But, what kind of God are we worshiping? The King who will come again in glory? Or the Suffering Servant who sacrificed himself of the cross? This sermon looks at the last week of Christ's life, detailing the human drama and dramatic irony, and demonstrates that our Savior calls to us in glory, but still bears the wounds of his suffering. Worthy is the lamb who was slain for your sin and mine. Both his suffering and resurrection deserve our focus when we choose to honor him.
Part 5 of the Easter series, "Suffering and Resurrection." The Apostle Peter boldly preached the Gospel, the suffering and resurrection of Jesus and our need to repent and follow him, on the day of Pentecost. But only several weeks prior, we see a different Peter, one without hope, one who is essentially ashamed of the true Gospel of Christ. What brought this change? Peter certainly had a hope in God's Messiah, but the events of the crucifixion and his own denial of Jesus brought him face to face with the reality that perhaps his hope wasn't the hope Jesus offers us all through his suffering and resurrection. At least in part, our hope must be that no matter how badly we might have abandoned him, Jesus will not abandon us...to the grave, or to the corruption of our own hearts.
Part 2 of the post-Easter series, "Cristo Vive" (Christ Lives). What is it that brought Jesus back from the dead? God? Certainly. But specifically, we must assume based on the principles throughout Scripture, that he was made alive again by the breath of God, by God's Spirit entering in once again. You and I have the promise of a future resurrection because Jesus was the first to rise. But, we don't have to wait for heaven to experience this. In many ways, our resurrection begins now: through the regeneration of our heart, our mind, our emotions, our focus, and actions. We can live as a new creation and in newness of life long before heaven. But to do so we must, like Jesus, first breathe in the breath of God's Holy Spirit and honor God's Spirit in everything that we do.
Part 3 of the post-Easter series, "Cristo Vive" (Christ Lives). The people of Nehemiah's day weren't too different than those who heard Peter preach on the day of Pentecost. The Word of God they heard caused sorrow in their hearts. But the good news of God's promised restoration was ultimately a reason to rejoice. Is this how we experience our Christianity? Particularly the truth that Christ is risen? Does it ultimately spark joy in our lives? Despite the fact that there is still darkness in the world, outside us and within, God commands that we take ownership of our restoration in him by confessing, as an act of faith sometimes, the joy and celebration of our new life in Christ. We should be people of joy and should celebrate here on earth as reflection of the eternal celebration that awaits us.
Part 4 of the post-Easter series, "Cristo Vive" (Christ Lives). People always say that it's important to maintain a heart of thanksgiving, an "attitude of gratitude" where we count our blessings and remember why life isn't as bad as we might think. However, the joy God wants us to have isn't just about being thankful for what we have, it's in being thankful for God himself: as the author of life and death, as the one sovereign over all things, as the one who loves us and knows what's best for us. This is a heart of thanks that transcends our circumstances, whether good or bad. It's a heart of thanks that calls us to live our lives returning the favor, to return to God everything he has most graciously given to us.
What does it mean to be a man? The answer to this question isn't always easy to arrive at, especially given the confusion we see in our modern culture. Like everything in creation, man was created with a certain design and purpose, but that design was corrupted by the fall.  This sermon examines what is perhaps the chief launching point for God's answer to this problem—the restoration of God's purposes for men in the calling and ultimate test of Abraham. Abraham was the father of all who believe. And it was his belief in God as his ultimate provision that led him to leave a legacy for other men that will echo into eternity.
Part 1 of the series “Why the Scriptures Are Trustworthy.” Is the Bible trustworthy? If your answer is, yes, how well can you articulate and defend this belief? This sermon series will instill in you, or at least remind you, why you can trust in the written Scriptures completely, how you can strengthen your confidence in the Bible's original source, in the integrity of God's communication within its pages, and in your ability to translate the power and effectiveness of God's living Word to those who need to know its truths.
Part 2 of the series “Why the Scriptures Are Trustworthy.” By what criteria does either your trust or skepticism in the Scriptures come? Are you a person who trusts more in evidence, what is seen or can be tested from within the physical world? Or are you someone who trusts more in faith, that which is unseen, heavenly, and mysterious, that which cannot be tested or approved by human means? This message makes the claim that to trust in the Scriptures we must live in an apparent contradiction, a paradox where we elevate both evidence and faith, or better said, the evidence of faith. This is the only way to please God and to see his written revelation revealed for what it truly is: the infallible, authoritative, inerrant, sufficient, life-giving, and trustworthy Word of God for us and all mankind.
Part 3 of the series “Why the Scriptures Are Trustworthy.” Hebrews 11:1 asks that, in our approach to God, which includes our approach to the Bible, that we value both evidence and faith. This is one of many paradoxes, or apparent contradictions, whereby we are to enter into and embrace the presence and reality of God. To better understand this, this sermon looks at another paradox: the person of Jesus, himself. Jesus is God come into this world as a human being. He was, and is, fully divine and fully man. But Jesus isn't just known as "God made flesh," he is also the "Word made flesh." So to understand this mystery in Jesus is to understand the Word of God, the Bible itself. Within the incarnation of God's living Word, we find the inspiration for God's written Word. Through Jesus, we can approach the Bible depending upon both faith and evidence, divinity and humanity, mystery and reason. Through Jesus and the testimony of the Holy Spirit, our confidence in the written Word becomes sure.
Part 4 of the series “Why the Scriptures Are Trustworthy.” Just a few years after Jesus appeared and spoke words of life here on earth, Peter had to defend the integrity of the Word of God. He said, "We have not followed cleverly devised myths...but were eyewitnesses to his majesty...We have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place." (2 Peter 1:16, 19). If Peter had to make such a defense of God's Word so close to the time of Christ, what about the believers of today some 2,000 years after the events of the Bible? How can we be certain that the Bible of today isn't some "cleverly devised myth" as so many in our world believe? This message seeks to examine the physical evidence for the integrity of the actual written text of the Old and New Testaments. From the standpoint of evidence, can we be certain that the words we read in our bibles today are the words inspired by God so long ago? And should there be evidence in favor of this, is that all we need to fully trust in the written Word? Put on your investigative hats as we explore these and other important questions about our faith and practice in light of the Bible of today, yesterday, and forever.
Part 5 of the series “Why the Scriptures Are Trustworthy.” How did the individual books in the Old and New Testament come to be included in the Bible we have today? Were the books the selection of men as some believe, or was it the determination of God? This sermon takes another look at the evidence: in biblical scholarship, history, and documentary analysis, to help us investigate whether the books in the Bible we have today can be trusted to be the books God intended us to read and guide our lives by. This journey of evidence isn't enough to bring us to complete intellectual certitude in this area, but there is enough evidence to further strengthen our faith and trust in the integrity of God's written Word.
Part 6 of the series “Why the Scriptures Are Trustworthy.” Have you ever been misunderstood? None of us likes it when someone doesn't understand what we're trying to tell them, especially when we're speaking for their benefit. Can you imagine how God feels? From the very beginning, God's words have been misinterpreted by man. This has led to unbelief, disobedience, or at best, a person seeking God who doesn't receive the fullest blessing God wants to give. This sermon explores the topic of biblical interpretation and offers several tools for interpreting the Bible responsibly. A trustworthy interpretation will lead you toward a better understanding of God's truth. But it will also help you trust more in the integrity of God's Word itself, allowing you to enjoy the fullest benefits of relationship with him in his Kingdom.
Part 7 of the series “Why the Scriptures Are Trustworthy.” This series has provided many tools to help build our trust in the source and integrity of the written Scriptures. But the ultimate test of truth is whether the Bible actually delivers on its stated purposes: whether the Bible leads us to an eternal, saving, transformational relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and whether the Bible answers to our satisfaction fundamental life questions such as our origin and destiny, life's meaning, and how we should live. Ultimately, our fullest confidence in the integrity of the Scriptures can't be derived only through a search for evidence or a desire for faith. It must ultimately be discovered through an abiding relationship with the author of the written Word, God himself. This relationship must begin with the belief that there is something...or Someone...greater than ourselves. It is only in submitting to him where our ultimate certainty that the Bible is true will come.
Part 1 of the series, "Entering God's Rest" (July 2019). If you're like most modern people, you have some trouble with rest. Most of us spend our week chasing the never-ending demands of work, whether it's job deadlines, needy children, or unending laundry. But as disciples of God we don't only have the benefit of rest promised to us, it is also a holy expectation. Are Christians meant to observe the Sabbath? Perhaps not in the way they did in the Old Testament. But our very growth and health in the Christian walk is dependent upon us following the rhythm of God's creation. This starts with regularly stopping what we are doing to conquer our world...to pause and sanctify the God who created everything. Entering God's rest is the only way we can give our work the dignity and effectiveness we so greatly desire.
Part 2 of the series, "Entering God's Rest" (July 2019). As developed in Part 1 of this series, Christians aren't required to observe the Sabbath in the ways Israel was in the Old Testament, but Hebrews 4 does encourage us to strive to enter into God's rest. This message suggests practical ways we can do so. Like the relief we felt when our parents pulled off the interstate on summer vacations to stop and regroup at a rest area, there are many rest areas we can enjoy with God as well. These rest areas are accessed by first detaching from our own works (or the things that pull us away from focusing on God as our Creator and Provider), and then attaching to the things of the Spirit. Disciplining ourselves to regularly pull off to the side of the road in our daily lives to rest in God will give us strength and purpose for life's journey.
Part 3 in the series, "Entering God's Rest" (July 2019). In the final message on entering Gods' rest, we look at what Sabbath rest means for the Christian in light of their relationship with Jesus. When Jesus says, "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest," what does he mean? The answer comes from learning about Jesus' understanding of the Sabbath, his observance of the Sabbath, and his declaration that he is "Lord of the Sabbath." Christians have a unique opportunity to enter God's rest in a way that no one before the coming of the Messiah could enjoy. Rest in Christ promises a life empowered by his finished work: a life of love, grace. restoration, and fullness. But he must become Lord of our Sabbath before this rest can occur.
God is beautiful. In everything God has created or touches, there is beauty. This is a message that explores beauty and art in the Christian experience. We can live daily in astonishment and awe amid the godly beauty that surrounds us. We can adorn ourselves and the things we create with the beauty of God. In the shadow of God's sheltering presence, we can bask in the pleasure of eternal wonder and faith.
Part 1 of the series, "Marriage and Singleness." God created marriage for different purposes. One of the chief purposes was to give us the most complete picture of his nature, and to also show the ideal way that human beings can come together to love God and love each other well. However, our purpose for marriage is often at "cross-purposes" with God's. How can we pursue God's purpose for marriage in the midst of our fallenness? The answer is making the cross the fundamental purpose and driving-force behind our marriage. Only through the cross can two truly become one under God for a lifetime. (Note: Due to technical difficulties, you will experience some gaps and broken continuity during the message.)
Part 2 of the series, "Marriage and Singleness." Some people are just fine being single. They are perfectly content with their place in life and frankly, don't want to be patronized or felt sorry for based on their marital status. For others though, being single certainly has its challenges. For those who want to be married, there is a longing for that future spouse. For those single due to tragic events like the death of a spouse, separation, or divorce, the pain can be even more acute. So, to hear that singleness might be called a gift could understandably seem a bit offensive. This message looks biblically at those who are single and in what way this place in life could be considered a gift. God gives us many things. both directly and within our life circumstances. Is it possible that your place as a single person can be considered a gift to him, to yourself, and to others? Arriving at this truth, if accepted, may be eternally liberating.
Part 3 of the series, "Marriage and Singleness." The word "single" certainly seems to be associated with the word "alone." Whether you're single as a young person, never married but still want to be, whether you've lost a spouse due to death, separation, or divorce, or whether you look at your singleness as a lifetime calling––being single can leave a hole in your life that you constantly want filled. How can a single person view their aloneness, their place in God's Kingdom, their desire for wholeness that seems to come only from marriage and romantic relationships? Is there anything they can do to remedy these problems for however long they're single? This message attempts to answer these questions, both for the single person, but also for the church who is called to love, value, and support single people in their desire for purpose and relationship.
Part 1 of the series, "Envy - Yesterday and Today."  What are the dangers of envy and jealousy? Most of us understand that it is unhealthy to envy others, to be jealous or to spend our time desiring or "coveting" what others have. However, a close examination of Scripture and the biblical stories show us that envy is perhaps a far more serious sin than we've ever imagined. At the very least it can lead to dysfunction in our relationships, but it can sometimes lead even to violence and death. In the most common and practical sense, however, the problem with envy is that it distracts us from taking responsibility for our lives and it's often a red flag that we're not trusting in God's purpose and plan. Consider the power envy may have over your life. And then consider ways you can use it as an opportunity to trust in God's sovereign will and plan for you and your future.
Part 2 of the series, "Envy - Yesterday and Today." While the invention of social media has brought us many positives, it has also turned out to be one of the most effective distribution machines for a significant negative: the temptation to envy what others have, and the distraction that everyone else is living a better life than we are. But however we use social media, we should understand that God wants us to live our lives with "no filter": he wants us to be honest about our need and weaknesses, humble and grateful for his love and salvation, and intentional about presenting our lives in such a way as to build others up and lead them to him. How can we use social media in such away that we can minimize our envy and maximize our love and influence? Answering that is the objective of this message.
Are you living life distracted? Consider your use of the internet, social media, online streaming, and the amount of time you may spend obsessed with national news, politicians, and celebrities. While there may not be anything inherently wrong with these things, it's important to realize that these areas reflect a secondhand version of life, and can distract you from focusing and living in the world right in front of you. The goal isn't necessarily to remove technology from your life, but to understand its power, and to use it as a tool for God's Kingdom rather than let it use you. Don't live in the shadow of the treasures that deserve a primary place in your heart and actions.
Where do we find our stability and growth as Christians in the church? Most often, we'd say our stability and growth come from God. But in practice, we too often look for our main stability through human leaders and ministers. But as we see in Scripture, our chief foundation for stability and growth must come from Jesus Christ. And not just Christ, but from our faith and confession in the crucified and risen Christ. Only when our lives are founded upon the rock of this heavenly confession, can Christians ever hope to grow strong and prosper.
Do you pursue self awareness? Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Jesus once said that in knowing the truth, we would be set free. This message makes the assertion that the truth we should seek isn’t just the truth about God, but also the truth about ourselves. Without self-examination, we can never fully transform into Christ’s image and find the freedom his disciples enjoy.
Part 1 of 23 in the extended series "Belonging to Him," which takes an in-depth look at the Gospel through the lens of personal relationship. This introductory sermon claims that the deepest need of the human heart is to belong to others in healthy, fulfilling personal relationship. And by no coincidence, God is both personal...and relational (sermon recorded in 2018.)
Part 2 of 23 in the extended series "Belonging to Him," which takes an in-depth look at the Gospel through the lens of personal relationship. This sermon asks the question: In what ways, when making the God of personal relationship known to others, is he still unknown to us? It introduces three different worldviews: Premodernism, Modernism, and Postmodernism. It discusses how God can be known and unknown in each, and invites the listener to consider which worldviews are present in their own heart and thinking (sermon recorded in 2018.)
Part 3 of 23 in the extended series "Belonging to Him," which takes an in-depth look at the Gospel through the lens of personal relationship. This final introductory sermon declares that in the midst of an impersonal, lonely world, God has shared his personal name and has called us by name. From the very beginning of time through the coming of Jesus, God has reached out to us in the most intimate way imaginable: showing compassion for our affliction, delivering us from sin, coming alongside to walk with us in life's journey. For this transcendent, holy God of Scripture, everything is personal (sermon recorded in 2018.)
Part 4 of 23 in the extended series "Belonging to Him," which takes an in-depth look at the Gospel through the lens of personal relationship. Over seven billion people live on this planet. And yet, the world can be such a lonely place. So often in our despair and hopelessness, we don't know where to turn. But God, more than any other person in the universe, understands our loneliness and offers us the path to belonging to him (sermon recorded in 2018).
Part 5 of 23 in the extended series "Belonging to Him," which takes an in-depth look at the Gospel through the lens of personal relationship. There exists in the human condition—from the heart of both believers and non-believers—something called "The Problem of Evil." We ask the question: 'How could a loving God allow so much evil and suffering?' And from a relational standpoint we might ask this: 'How could I love a God like that?' Drawing from one of the most emotionally-stirring accounts in Jesus’ life, this sermon seeks to answer that question (sermon recorded in 2018).
Part 6 of 23 in the extended series "Belonging to Him," which takes an in-depth look at the Gospel through the lens of personal relationship. Jesus came to restore us to relationship with God by dying on the cross. He opened the door for us to belong by experiencing aloneness throughout his life and in his death, aloneness even from God. But while belonging to God absolutely starts with the cross, the spirit of the cross should never leave us. We too must take up our own cross with a spirit of sacrifice that infuses every part of our lives. In this way we will model the life Jesus lived, and we will, like Jesus, better identify with others in their aloneness when inviting them to belong (sermon recorded in 2018).

God so loves YOU!

September 13, 2021
Part 7 of 23 in the extended series "Belonging to Him," which takes an in-depth look at the Gospel through the lens of personal relationship. It's fairly easy to believe that God so loved THE WORLD that he gave his only begotten Son. But given the hurt and rejection many of us have experienced in our relationships, it can be a lot harder at times to believe that God so loves ME—individually and personally, no matter my past, regardless of my beliefs. Including a portion of John's own testimony, this sermon explores the question: "Does God truly love me?" (sermon recorded in 2018).
Part 8 of 23 in the extended series "Belonging to Him," which takes an in-depth look at the Gospel through the lens of personal relationship. Are you in need of a big hug? We all are at times. How about a hug from God? Exploring the story of the Prodigal Son and Jesus's words in the Beatitudes, we can discover the warm embrace of grace and forgiveness that God offers to our love-starved, weary, and heavy-laden souls (sermon recorded in 2018).
Part 9 of 23 in the extended series "Belonging to Him," which takes an in-depth look at the Gospel through the lens of personal relationship. As it says in 1 Corinthians 13, love is the greatest thing. But is love all we need? We certainly need loving relationship where God accepts us as we are. But like with any good parent, mentor, or teacher, the fuller scope of God's love doesn't just include acceptance, it also includes expectation. God accepts us without condition, but because he loves us and wants the best for us, he also wants us to grow up and mature, becoming more like him. And so, in addition to God's love, we also need God's truth. We need God's true love (sermon recorded in 2018).
Part 10 of 23 in the extended series "Belonging to Him," which takes an in-depth look at the Gospel through the lens of personal relationship. So many are in our world are searching for truth. But for most of us, the deepest needs of our hearts aren't fundamentally satisfied by an awareness of truth, but by the integrity of our personal relationships. So, yes, we should ask, "What is truth?" But we also need to ask, "Who is faithful?" "Who will keep their promises?" To satisfy the deepest needs of our heart, we must also ask, "Who is true?" (sermon recorded in 2018).
Part 11 of 23 in the extended series "Belonging to Him," which takes an in-depth look at the Gospel through the lens of personal relationship. Words have power. They shape our world. They inspire and instruct. They create and destroy. God's words, or God's Word (the Bible), does all these things too. But God's Word also transforms us. And God's Word ultimately, as the living embodiment of Christ himself, is the chief means God uses to invite us to live in relationship with him...and belong to him (sermon recorded in 2018).
Part 12 of 23 in the extended series "Belonging to Him," which takes an in-depth look at the Gospel through the lens of personal relationship. For many of us who live in democratic nations, it is right to elevate ideals like independence, freedom of religion, and speech. But these are civil liberties and can never truly liberate us from the deeper areas of bondage: depression, prejudice, compulsive behavior, hopelessness, separation from God. Freedom from that kind of bondage can only be found when we surrender our spiritual right to self-government to the lordship of Jesus Christ. True and transcendent freedom isn’t just about being liberated from what binds us, but liberated for relationship with God and our neighbor in need (sermon recorded in 2018).
Part 13 of 23 in the extended series "Belonging to Him," which takes an in-depth look at the Gospel through the lens of personal relationship. Are the standards Jesus expects from his disciples in the New Testament too high? Most Christians would say, no, yet all the while privately bemoaning the truth that they fail to measure up again and again. We then wonder if it is even possible to answer Christ's call and walk in transcendent relationship. The answer is, yes. It is possible. But, only when our main focus is not on our own strength and abilities, but on our transcendent faith. All things are possible to him who believes. (sermon recorded in 2018).
Part 14 of 23 in the extended series "Belonging to Him," which takes an in-depth look at the Gospel through the lens of personal relationship. Traditional Christian apologetics focus mainly on defending absolute truth. While this should be part of our focus, our first priority should be living in absolute relationship with God. We must know him intimately in every possible way, experiencing the reality of eternal life long before we ever set foot in heaven. Like with his first disciples, it must be clear to others that we have been with Jesus (sermon recorded in 2018).
(Note: We're taking a break from the "Belonging to Him" series for the holiday season and will pick back up with Part 2 on January 17th. This week is one of the sermons John delivered many years ago at The Cove Church in Mooresville North Carolina). The last few decades have shown a surge in spiritual hunger perhaps unknown since the time of Plato and Aristotle. In this age of postmodernism, so many people are chasing after so many ideas that sincerity itself has become the chief virtue of the spiritual seeker. But, does sincerity prove that all religions are the same? This teaching invites an honest look at this question, and invites an honest comparison of the world’s religions. While God loves that we’re sincerely hungry for spiritual things, he does want our search to eventually lead somewhere. And despite protests to the contrary, that destination isn’t just about the absolute truth of the Bible. Ultimately, it’s about a personal relationship with the one who is absolutely true.
(Note: We're taking a break from the "Belonging to Him" series for the holiday season and will pick back up with Part 2 on January 17th. This week is one of the sermons John delivered many years ago at The Cove Church in Mooresville North Carolina). A detailed examination of God’s “rules” for communicating with him through prayer. Most of us focus just on ourselves and our needs in prayer. But, the Lord’s Prayer is truly about God, and it is only by focusing on God’s greatness, his closeness, his kingdom, his will, his power to provide, to forgive, and to save, that we can truly find all our prayer’s answered.

I Thank God For You

November 22, 2021
(Note: We're taking a break from the "Belonging to Him" series for the holiday season and will pick back up with Part 2 on January 17th. This week we’re returning to sermons John delivered while pastoring a church in Honduras with his 2019 Thanksgiving message.) A heart of thanksgiving and gratitude raises our perspective and reminds us about the good stuff we were missing. Likewise, thanking God for his blessings raises our perspective even higher. But what about when we thank God for those around us? Too many live their lives empty of affirmation and grace. They don't know that God loves them unconditionally, that he wants them to come to him as they are and find healing, restoration, and transformation. For our part, we don't often thank others unless it's earned. But God's grace isn't earned, so when we thank God for others, deserved or not, we're simply passing along what God has given us. Live a life of gratitude. Thank God. Thank God for others. You'll be sharing the Gospel in a miraculous new way.
(Note: We're taking a break from the "Belonging to Him" series for the holiday season and will pick back up with Part 2 on January 17th. This week, you’ll be hearing one of the sermons John shared from a 4-part Christmas series while pastoring a church in the country of Honduras.) As children, the question, "What do you want for Christmas?" filled us with great joy and anticipation for the gifts we would receive come Christmas day. As adults, the question should point more to our spiritual expectations for the season, with a chief focus on receiving Christ as our greatest gift. So, what do you want for Christmas? The perfect gift? Family harmony? Hope and peace? This is only possible when Jesus is the reason for the season.
(Note: We're taking a break from the "Belonging to Him" series for the holiday season and will pick back up with Part 2 on January 17th. This week, you’ll be hearing the second sermon John shared from a 4-part Christmas series while pastoring a church in the country of Honduras.) Jesus says that in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, we must become like a little child with a childlike faith. The same applies when it comes to the nature of our focus during the season of Christmas. Like a child, we must return to a pure heart of faith, hope, and dependence, and to an embrace of the new life offered through the birth of Christ. In essence, we must be "born again" during Christmas, and return to the purity of heart that exists within any newborn child of God.
(Note: We're taking a break from the "Belonging to Him" series for the holiday season and will pick back up with Part 2 on January 17th. This week, you’ll be hearing the third sermon John shared from a 4-part Christmas series while pastoring a church in the country of Honduras.) In coming to the earth at Christmas, God fulfilled his dream to be with us and offer us the gift of being with him. Through the divinity and humanity of Jesus, our Emmanuel, we find a God who is eternal and everywhere present, but also present to meet every need that we have.
(Note: We're taking a break from the "Belonging to Him" series for the holiday season and will pick back up with Part 2 on January 17th. This week, you’ll be hearing the final sermon John shared from a 4-part Christmas series while pastoring a church in the country of Honduras.) One of the best ways to describe the birth of Christ is with the phrase, "But...God." It goes like this: the world was sinking deep in sin, but God entered into our world, became one of us, and joined us in our weakness and suffering so we could join him in eternal strength and joy. The light shines in the darkness and, because of the coming of Christ, the darkness will never overcome.
(Note: We're taking a break from the "Belonging to Him" series for the holiday season and will pick back up with Part 2 on January 17th. This week, you’ll be hearing the first sermon John shared from the series, "A Time for Every Purpose Under Heaven" while pastoring a church in the country of Honduras.) Every year around New Year's Eve, people take stock of their lives and make a New Year's resolution. They look forward into the coming year. They look back at the year that was. But looking forward and back again with God offers you a resolution—and revolution—for how to view time itself.
(Note: We're taking a break from the "Belonging to Him" series for the holiday season and will pick back up with Part 2 on January 17th. This week, you’ll be hearing the second sermon John shared from the series, "A Time for Every Purpose Under Heaven" while pastoring a church in the country of Honduras.) Most every day of our lives, we ask ourselves or others, "What time is it?" We find it important to live according to the expectations of time: minutes, hours, years, holidays, life events, etc. The biblical view of knowing the time is to understand that God uses time to fulfill his purposes, including our purpose under his guidance and care. So, what time is it where you are? Your answer will help you better live out God's purpose in your life.
(Note: We're taking a break from the "Belonging to Him" series for the holiday season and will pick back up with Part 2 on January 17th. This week, you’ll be hearing the third sermon John shared from the series, "A Time for Every Purpose Under Heaven" while pastoring a church in the country of Honduras.) If you knew you had 24-hours to live, how would you spend it? What if you had 50 years left to live? Making the most of every opportunity involves living with both priorities in mind. We must live in utter dependence upon God's providence over time. And we must step out and take risks in both our daily lives and in our long-term plans to ultimately sanctify time with a view of eternity in mind.
Part 15 of 23 in the series "Belonging to Him," which takes an in-depth look at the Gospel through the lens of personal relationship. This sermon begins the second major segment of this series, moving to a more practical approach to belonging to God from day-to-day. Despite our claims to being intimate with God, we should inventory our lives to make sure, as seen in John 15, that we're truly connected to the Vine: Jesus. Only by admitting our need for him and staying connected can we produce spiritual fruit and genuinely live with God in healthy personal relationship (sermon recorded in 2019.)
Part 16 of 23 in the series, "Belonging to Him." To "fear God" is a recurring commandment in Scripture. But does it sound strange to your ears that we're likewise called fear Jesus? This sermon takes a look at the Jesus of the Gospels and demonstrates that people didn't just encounter the gentle, humble shepherd, but also the Lord of all creation, a person who regularly incited awe, astonishment, amazement...and reverential fear. How well we fear Jesus will affect the quality of our personal relationship with him, and whether or not we'll live in fear of everything else life throws at us from day to day (sermon recorded in 2019.)
Part 17 of 23 in the series, "Belonging to Him". Jesus once asked his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" In our encounters with Jesus, we should also answer this question, but then we should ask, "Who does God say that I am?" Understanding and claiming our identity in Christ should be a foundational and constant confession of faith. Because who we are is shaped by who we're with. And who we are in Christ will define what we have in him and how we then choose to live (recorded in 2019.)
Part 18 of 23 in the series, "Belonging to Him." How do you relate to the Bible? Is it just a textbook or rulebook? Is it just required reading to become a good person or go to heaven? Or is it also the very essence of God himself? If the Bible is truly the "Word made flesh," then its benefits will surpass simply becoming wiser or a better person. It can be a way to relate to God in the most personal way imaginable (sermon recorded in 2019.)
Part 19 of 23 in the series, "Belonging to Him." How do I relate to prayer? Is it just a way to get what I want? Is it something I just do, but doubt it ever really works? While God desires to meet our daily needs, he also wants us to understand our ultimate need: to belong to him. Prayer should be the avenue we use to nurture connection, intimacy, and oneness with God. If that's our first and main focus, then the answers to our prayers will be abundant...while perhaps looking a bit different than our imaginings (sermon recorded in 2019).
Part 20 of 23 in the series, "Belonging to Him." How do I relate to worship? Is it just about making it to church each Sunday? Is it just singing songs and hymns? Is it just something you’re supposed to do, but I rarely feel connected to God when I do it? Worship should be a chief focus in nurturing divine intimacy. But if we limit it to just Sunday morning or devotional time, we can miss the power of God's presence in all areas of life. Practicing the presence of God in everything we do will empower us to better glorify him, enjoy him...and belong to him (sermon recorded in 2019).
Part 22 of 23 in the series, "Belonging to Him." People like John-the-Baptist, Paul, and Jesus became "less" so that people could see more of God and ultimately, so they could belong to God. John modeled this in his words: "He must increase, but I must decrease." Becoming less doesn't belittle our self-worth. Rather, it's the path to finding our true self-worth and identity and genuinely sharing this quality of life with others. It's the best way to show others a love that comes from above, a love that invites us to belong to him and each other in the here-and-now (sermon recorded in 2019).
Part 23 of 23 in the series, "Belonging to Him." It may seem odd to imagine that we're called to have a "divine romance" with God. But the human marriage and intimacy with God have many parallels, seen especially in the Garden of Eden and in Revelation's Marriage Supper of the Lamb. In the time in-between, Jesus serves as our mediator, calling us to healing and restoration with God. And Jesus serves as our Suitor, the bridegroom who sacrificed himself so we could live with God happily ever after. There's no greater romance than that (sermon recorded in 2019).
(The podcast launches its brand-new format with John's first spiritual meditation based on thoughts from his upcoming book: "UNTO LIFE: Reflections on Both the Journey and the Destination.") When does eternal life begin? When we die and go to heaven? If God is now with us and the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, eternal life begins now. (Music courtesy of Coma-Media and Dream-Protocol from Pixabay.)
The classic book Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis finds its power in showing us a simple faith. A plain faith. One that leaves an immense impact without a lot of noise and fanfare. That's one way to describe Nashville singer-songwriter, Andy Gullahorn. Andy's music and life are purposely quiet and understated, but they are no less powerful. He speaks to us as a close friend. One who helps us relax. To laugh. To feel the joy of community and counsel. But he also shows us a way to discover holiness in the most common, everyday things, broadening our view of how to live eternally in the here-and-now. Join us for this first in a series of Unto Life Interviews: an in-depth conversation with Andy Gullahorn on his life, focus, and mission. (Music courtesy of Andy Gullahorn and Coma-Media from Pixabay.)
(John shares his next spiritual meditation based on thoughts from his upcoming book: UNTO LIFE: Reflections on Both the Journey and the Destination.) Romans says that "since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made." In this way, our opportunity to worship God spans far beyond the four walls of the church building. When you step outside, the filter between you and God is removed, and God's divine nature is clearly seen. (Music and sound effects courtesy of Coma-Media, Lesfm, JuliusH, Conleec, Lynmakeren, and Cobratronik from Pixabay.) 
In this second Unto Life Interview, John speaks with Ukrainian Orthodox priest, Father Anthony Perkins. Father Anthony has led a fascinating life, living as a political scientist, military intelligence specialist, college and seminary professor, and in his most recent years, as an Orthodox priest and pastor. On the other side of the more simple ways we can experience God, Father Anthony dives deep into the waters of theology and mystery. He seeks to recognize eternity within the rituals of worship, through the use of imagination, within social relations and politics, in music, literature, nature, and so on. He says we should join God in his work to restore harmony in a world that is so often discordant and broken. In this interview, you'll learn how to better nurture God's presence and holiness in most every corner of your life. Only by doing so will you ever discover the patterns of perfection that lie just under the surface of the world in which we live. (Music courtesy of Father Archimandrite Sergius and Coma-Media from Pixabay.) To explore Father Anthony's extensive online presence, listen to his podcasts, and watch his YouTube channel, look through the "My Outlets/Content" box on his website, orthoanalytika.org.
(John shares his next spiritual meditation based on thoughts from his upcoming book: UNTO LIFE: Reflections on Both the Journey and the Destination.) God is first-and-foremost a Creator. And as our Creator, he is also the world's first artist. As discussed in a previous meditation, the beauty we see in the natural world exists because it is a reflection of God's beautiful eternal nature. In the same way, when human beings who are made in God's image create works of art, it is possible for those works to have the mark of eternity, too. This meditation encourages you to consider how art creates a longing for God, helping you live and move and have your being in the God who made you. (Music courtesy of Coma-Media and ZakharValaha from Pixabay.)
In so much of life, we feel adrift. Bounced left and right by the chaos of our world, pummeled by the anxiety of just making it through the day. We need a stable shore, a place of shelter and solace to know we're safe and that there's hope for life beyond the things of earth and frail humanity. The sacred beauty in Fernando Ortega's music gives us this hope. It awakens in us a desire for something more and empowers us to believe we can experience that something in the here-and-now. Join John for his third interview in the Unto Life series—a conversation with Christian singer-songwriter Fernando Ortega about his upbringing amid the high terrain of New Mexico, his approach to quiet and worshipful songwriting, his love for nature and other mediums of art, and his belief that God can use both sacred and secular art to draw us to him, calm our souls, and offer us peace under the shadow of his wings.
Christianity is about change. We are born again of God's Spirit as a new creation. We then, by God's grace, pursue spiritual change and transformation. But for most of us, that change feels like a monumental task. First, it's so difficult to believe we're now something different. Our doubt and insecurity prevents our change. Second, we often fail as often as we succeed. So it's difficult to live out this change promised to us in Scripture. But the key to spiritual transformation isn't a manic focus on self-improvement or always making the right choices. The foundation of our faith isn't moral, it's believing in the power of miracles. It's believing that only God can change us, and while we are active participants, God must do more than simply shift our motives or thinking. He must raise us from the dead. While you may look forward to heaven and the promise of future resurrection, part of the good news of Christianity is that your resurrection begins now.

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