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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 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 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 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.
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 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 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).
(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.
The word, "temper" can be understood in different ways. Our first thought is usually related to anger, or the effects of anger. But something can also be tempered when it's been made stronger or more stable by things like pressure, heat, or the passage of time. Both understandings are closely linked with the formation of writer, priest, and pastor, Arthur Boers. In John's fifth interview in the Unto Life series—Arthur shares how his life-experience and the influence of God have shaped him into who he is today. In Part One, Arthur shares thoughts from his book, Living Into Focus, on ways he has strengthened his center by focusing on what's most central to life. He says we can find more stability, contentment, and truth by turning away from the virtual and returning to what's real and true. In Part Two (minute 51:30), Arthur explores themes from his newest book, Shattered: A Son Picks Up the Pieces of His Father's Rage. In his earliest years, Arthur was the victim of his father's temper. He interweaves this trauma—along with stories of his Dutch immigrant heritage and faith formation—with the metaphor of glass. The way glass shatters when broken. The way glass—through exposure to pressure, heat, and time—can be formed, or tempered, into something strong and beautiful. And so, while sometimes still brittle along the edges, the center of Arthur's life is well-tempered. Out of the lure of the virtual, he has found contentment. Out of severe family trauma, he has discovered understanding and healing. Arthur's hope is that through his story and wisdom, others might strengthen their center, too.