Real Love (part 2)

Do you know how Jesus said that his disciples will be recognized throughout the world? It’s not our views on abortion or homosexuality. It’s not our involvement in a Bible-believing church or our doctrinal stance on salvation. No. What arrests people, what causes us to stand out from the world, is not our convictions, as important as those are—it is love. Jesus commanded us to love God, first and foremost. He commanded us to love one another, to love our neighbors, even to love our enemies. “All people will know that you are my followers,” Jesus said, “if you love each other” (John 13:35). When we can live a life of love, the world sits up and takes notice.


Real Love (part 1)

Recently, I had the privilege of performing weddings for two committed couples here at the Grove. In each of those ceremonies, I spoke about just one word. It’s a word uttered in every wedding and whispered by every couple. It’s a word the youngest child can write with crayon, yet so deep that only God’s stylus can engrave it on our hearts. It’s a concept as vast as the universe yet small enough to deposit in the humblest home. It’s the largest, broadest, deepest word in the world. It’s the theme of a thousand songs, the topic of a million letters, and the subject of countless sermons. This word occurs 544 times in the Bible and is an infinite attribute of our everlasting God. That word is—love. We talk about falling in love, being in love, staying in love, making love, and loving one another with all our hearts. Our prayers, poems, and promises are all tethered to love.


The Case for a Creator (Part 5)

In his book Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, Charles Swindoll tells a story about the 19th century agnostic Thomas Huxley, who was sometimes called “Darwin’s Bulldog” because of the ferocious way he promoted Darwinism and attacked Christianity.

One day Huxley was in Dublin and was rushing to catch a train. He climbed aboard one of Dublin’s famous horse drawn taxis and shouted to the driver, “Hurry, I’m late. Drive fast.” Off they went at a furious pace as Huxley sat back in his seat and riffled through some of his papers. After a while Huxley glanced out the carriage notice that they were going in the wrong direction. Realizing that he hadn’t told the driver where to take him he called out “Do you know where you’re going?” The driver replied, “No, your honor, but I am driving very fast.”


The Case for a Creator (Part 4)

If you’re a guest here this morning or you just missed a couple of Sundays, we are now on week four of a five-week series examining the evidence for God’s existence—the case for a Creator.

I began this series telling you about a debate that was held twenty years ago at Willow Creek Community Church in Algonquin, IL, between Christian author and apologist, Dr. William Lane Craig and atheist biology professor, Frank Zindler. Throughout the course of this debate, Dr. Craig produced such a compelling case for the existence of God that an overwhelming 82% of the atheists, agnostics, and other non-believers voted that the evidence for Christianity had won the night. I also mentioned that the debate was thought up and organized by one of the pastors there named Lee Strobel.


The Case for a Creator (Part 3)

A lecturer in Hyde Park, London was speaking out against religion one day and said, “My hatred of religion is inherited; my grandfather was an atheist; my father was an atheist; and, thank God, I’m an atheist, too.”

Unfortunately, that little tirade is representative of a growing number of people in America and around the world—and so is the logic. According to a new worldwide poll, called “The Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism,” the number of Americans who say they are “religious” dropped from 73% in 2005 (the last time the poll was conducted) to 60% in 2013. At the same time, the number of Americans who say they are atheists rose, from 1 percent to 5 percent, with the reminder identifying themselves as non-religious or agnostic. The seven years between the polls is notable because 2005 saw the publication of “The End of Faith” by Sam Harris, the first in a wave of best-selling books on atheism by authors like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett—sometimes called the Four Horsemen of the New Atheism. Sadly, many of these “new atheists” either don’t understand or have never considered the incoherence of atheism.


Case for a Creator (Part 2)

I like the story of a little boy who was asked if he believed in God. He answered, “Well, yes I do.” When asked why, he said, “Well, I guess it just runs in the family.” Maybe your kids can say the same thing.

Not everyone’s story is like that, though.

When C.S. Lewis, who many of you may recognize as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, came to Oxford University he was an atheist. He had lost his mother at age nine and the rest of his life was spent in boarding schools. He had no use for God in his life and no faith whatsoever. But, while attending Oxford, he met a man who became his best friend—J.R.R. Tolkien. You know him as the author of The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien, along with some other friends challenged Lewis to investigate the evidence for God’s existence and the Bible’s inspiration. So Lewis did. It was from that investigation and the encouragement of friends like Tolkien that Lewis moved from atheism to a deep Christian faith. He went on to become one of the most influential theologians and most successful Christian apologist of the twentieth century.

Unfortunately not everyone has a friend like J.R.R. Tolkien.


The Case for a Creator (Part 1)

Twenty years ago, back when I was attending Algonquin Middle School in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, Lee Strobel was a pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in Algonquin, just a few miles from my house. Lee was a former atheist and still had several friends who were atheists, including one in particular who was a national spokesmen for American Atheists, Inc. One day, Lee and his friend came up with the idea of holding a debate where the case for atheism and the case for Christianity could both be laid out and the audience could decide where the evidence pointed.

The atheists choose Frank Zindler, a colleague of renowned atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair and a former professor of biology and science. Representing the Christian view was author and apologist, Dr. William Lane Craig. The news media—amazed that a church was unafraid to tackle the toughest objections by skeptics—was quickly abuzz. The church started getting phone calls from radio stations all across the country, and pretty soon over a hundred 100 stations singed up to broadcast the event.


The Bible (Part 5)

I’m reminded of a young mom named Peggy who was trying to explain the special significance of Easter to her kids in the back seat on the way to church one Easter morning. She said, “This is the day we celebrate Jesus coming back to life.” Immediately her three-year-old piped up, “Does that mean He’ll be in church today?”

Well, the answer is—yes! You may not see him, but I hope that you feel his presence this morning. I’d like to start by sharing the story of Charles Fulton Oursler.

Charles grew up in Baltimore, the poor son of a city transit worker. Although he was raised in a devout Baptist family, at just fifteen-years-old he rejected the faith of his family and declared himself an agnostic. In time he discovered a talent for storytelling. Throughout the 1920s and 30s Charles wrote a number of novels, detective stories, magazine serials, and even a few stage plays. He married a young woman who also grew up in the church, had children, but still practiced no religion and did not raise their children with any faith. Then, in 1935, the Oursler family toured the Middle East and spent a week in the Holy Land. On the journey home, Charles started writing a book titled A Skeptic in the Holy Land. He assumed that once the book was published, he would forget about religion; but instead, he found himself increasingly drawn to the person of Christ. Astounded at how little people knew about the life and teaching of Jesus, he decided that he would write the story of Jesus and, as he put it, “try to make it as interesting as a serial story in a popular magazine.” By the time he was finished writing it, Charles’ childhood faith had been restored. He received Christ as his Savior and over the next five years led his wife and two children to faith in Jesus. His novelization of the Gospels was finally published in 1949 under the title The Greatest Story Ever Told, which—as you may know—was adapted into a film by the same name.


The Bible (Part 4)

Michael Hauge knows all about storytelling.

Michael is a story and script consultant who works with writers and filmmakers on their screenplays, novels, movies and television projects. He’s also written a number of books about the art of storytelling and script-writing. According to Michael Hauge, there are five key elements that go into creating a good story. The first and most important element is this—it’s got to have a hero.

Every story needs a hero.

The story of Scripture is no different.


The Bible (Part 3)

Someone once said, “To be a person is to have a story to tell.”

Storytelling is a part of life, intrinsic to most cultures. Stories help people make sense of the world—life’s experiences, dilemmas and hardships. Stories can educate, inspire and build relationships. And human beings spend more of our free time immersed in story than doing anything else. Stories about things that aren’t true and people that don’t exist, for the most part. We watch movies and television, play video games, read books, comics and cartoons. We tell each other stories around the dinner table or the campfire. Even Jesus used stories to teach and tantalize his listeners. In fact, the Bible actually says, “Jesus used stories to tell all these things to the people; he always used stories to teach them” (Matthew 13:34 NCV).