God’s Not Grey

If yesterday was like Valentine’s Days of the past, over $1 billion was spent on chocolate, 180 million cards were exchanged, and 196 million roses were sold! Unless you’re Charlie Brown, you’ve probably given and received some special valentines in your life. You’ve probably had some things wrapped in red foil or a heart-shaped box. Or maybe you’ve stood at a florist’s counter trying to decide on a “just right” arrangement of roses. Even a Snickers looks better if it’s got a red ribbon around it. Valentine’s Day offers us the opportunity to say “I love you” in elegant, ornamental ways.

Sadly, this Valentine’s Day also marked a new low in our cultural comprehension of love. By now you’ve heard of the book or the movie, 50 Shades of Grey. There is no denying that the books and movie are having a huge impact on our culture. Book sales passed $100 million in November. One of the fastest selling series of all times, it passed The Da Vinci Code and is swiftly catching up to books series like Harry Potter and Twilight. The movie opened yesterday to sold-out audiences. But it’s not really a Valentine’s Day movie. It’s not simply a love story. It’s not sweet or romantic. The story centers on a complex and creepy sexual relationship. Its messages are disturbing and even degrading, especially to women.


Encountering Jesus (Part 6)

Two thousand years ago, Jesus entered our world and changed everything.

Jesus is the most famous person in all of history. More songs have been sung to him, artwork created of him, and books written about him than anyone who has ever lived. In fact, Jesus looms so large over human history that we actually measure time by him! H.G. Wells, who is famous for his fiction novels like The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds, once said, “I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure [of all time].”

But more important than Jesus’s impact on history is his impact on humanity. Everywhere Jesus goes, he leaves changed lives in his tracks. Over the past five weeks, we’ve examined the stories of five people whose lives dramatically changed after an encounter with Jesus. A theologian who grew weary of his religion, a five-time divorcee looking for love in all the wrong places, a blind man who longed to see, a little tax collector who was more than a little curious about Christ, and a woman caught in the act of adultery—their lives were touched and forever changed by an encounter with Jesus.


Encountering Jesus (Part 5)

Over the last few weeks, we’ve discovered the stories of four changed lives! They include a scholar, a five-time divorcée, a couple of blind men, and a wee-little tax-collector from Jericho. Each of them was burdened with baggage—the luggage of life. A suitcase of discontentment. A backpack full of shame and regret. A duffel bag overflowing with weariness and rejection. A satchel of greed and ill-gotten gain. Yet, each of them laid their luggage down at the feet of Jesus. Their lives were changed by an encounter with Christ.


Encountering Jesus (Part 4)

How many of you remember the story of Zacchaeus? Of course, you remember. Anyone who hears his story never forgets. Zacchaeus is one of those memorable Bible characters we learn about in Sunday School. In fact, to this day, every time I hear his name I immediately hear that children’s song playing in the back of my mind.


Zacchaeus was a wee little man,

A wee little man was he.

He climbed up in a Sycamore tree

For the Lord he wanted to see.


Zacchaeus has the lamentable fortune of being remembered primarily because of his less-than-impressive stature—he was a “wee little man.” That’s just about all most of us remember about him so we tend to sell him short, so to speak.


Encountering Jesus (Part 3)

The past few weeks, we’ve been talking about change. Change doesn’t always come easy for us. As the old saying goes, “A leopard can’t change his spots.” But I disagree. Where did we get the idea that we can’t change? From whence come statements like “It’s just my nature to worry,” or “I’ll always be pessimistic. I’m just that way,” or “I have a bad temper. I can’t help it. I’m a red-head.” Would we make similar statements about our bodies?  “It’s just in my nature to have a broken leg. There’s nothing I can do about it.” Of course, not. If our bodies malfunction, we seek help. Can’t do the same with our hearts? God wants to transform each of us in some pretty dramatic ways. He wants us to have a heart like his. But we can’t transplant our own hearts any more than we can remove our own appendix. New Year’s resolutions, willpower, and best intentions are not enough. What we need is an encounter with Jesus!

I heard a humorous testimony this week. A recent convert was asked to share her testimony in church about the difference accepting Jesus had made in her life. She nervously walked up to the pulpit and declared, “I’m so glad I got saved. Jesus has really turned my heart around. For example, I have an uncle I used to hate so much I vowed I’d never go to his funeral. But then I met Jesus, and now I just can’t wait to go to his funeral!”


Encountering Jesus (Part 2)

I read a story this week about an Amish family visiting the big city for the first time. They were amazed by everything they saw. Having grown up and lived all their lives on a rural farm everything was completely new to them. Arriving at a fancy hotel, the father and son went inside to check into their room, leaving Ma with the horse buggy outside. While waiting at the reception desk, an old lady hobbled towards the lobby elevator and pressed the button. They’d never seen an elevator before and so they just watch the old lady to see what would happen. A moment later the doors slide open, the women stepped inside, pressed another button and the doors close. Curious, the father and son kept watching. About a minute later, the doors opened again and out came a stunningly attractive young woman. Without turning his head the father patted his son’s shoulder and said, “Boy, go get your mother.”


Encountering Jesus (Part 1)

As another year begins, we’re reminded once again that Jesus is the world’s preeminent person. He looms so large over human history that we actually measure time by him; we date our letters, our birth certificates, our checks, and everything else from the year of his birth. It’s been 2015 years since Jesus came into our world and today there is no other name in heaven or on earth that is more loved, more revered or more controversial than Jesus.

At first glance, Jesus’ résumé is rather simple. He never traveled more than a few hundred miles from his hometown. He never wrote a book, never held a political office, never married, never went to college, never visited a big city, and never even won a poker tournament. Yet, everywhere he went, he left changed lives in his wake.

He still does.


New Year’s 2015: Starting Over

It’s hard to believe today is the last Sunday of 2014. Where has this year gone?

As you look back over this year, it’s likely had its highs and lows. For some 2014 may have been a year full of joy and good memories. Maybe everything was going your way this year. And if that’s case, I’m happy for you. We praise God the years like those. But for others, this past year may be full regrets. The frustrating thing about time is that it always moves forward. The hands of the clock always move clockwise, and the pages of the calendar are torn off in only one direction. Time never moves backward; not an inch, not a step, never. Therefore a deed once done, can never be undone. A word once spoken, can never be unsaid. As a result, many of us live with certain regrets. People deal with those regrets in a variety of ways.


Church Matters: Correcting the Corinthians (6)

Let me start this morning by sharing a riddle with you.

There was a perfect man who met a perfect woman.  After a perfect courtship, they had a perfect wedding.  Their life together was, of course, perfect until, one snowy, stormy Christmas Eve this perfect couple drove along a winding road when and noticed someone at the roadside in distress. Being the perfect couple, they stopped to help. There stood Santa Claus with a huge bundle of toys.  Not wanting to disappoint any children on the eve of Christmas, the perfect couple loaded Santa and his toys into their vehicle. Soon they were driving along delivering the toys. Until, the driving conditions deteriorated and the perfect couple and Santa Claus had a horrible accident. Only one of them survived.

Question: Who was the survivor?

Answer: Santa Clause, because everyone knows there’s no such thing as a perfect man or a perfect woman in the first place.


Church Matters: Correcting the Corinthians (5)

A university student was seen with a large “K” printed on his T- shirt. When someone asked him what the “K” stood for, he said, “Confused.” “But,” the questioner replied, “you don’t spell “confused” with a “K.” The student answered, “You don’t know how confused I am.”

As we’ve seen throughout this series, the Christians in Corinth may as well have worn the same shirt. They were about as confused as a chameleon in a bag of Skittles. This congregation wrestled with problems ranging from elitism to eroticism. They struggled with everything from successful marriages to spiritual maturity. As we turn to chapter 11, we find Paul addressing yet another problem in the Corinthian congregation. This problem centered on the way they observed the Lord’s Supper.