Follow Me

Many people today would say that to be a Christian means that you believe in Jesus, or that it means you are nice to your neighbor. Yet when Jesus encountered a group of fishermen by the Sea of Galilee, he did not say to them “Believe in me,” or “Be nice.” He said, “Follow me.”...
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Get Moving

Spiritual inertia is the dominant factor in the spiritual lives of many people today. In contrast, God in the Bible is continually calling people to get moving! This is quite evident in the Christmas stories, where no one stays in the same place. Mary and Joseph journey to...
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Hear the Angels Sing

The reason why many people do not connect with God is not because they reject God, but because they simply are not paying attention. God speaks softly in this world – not shouting at us or overwhelming us with might – in order to leave us free to pay attention to God or not. But...
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God Lifts Up the Lowly

Do we count for anything on this earth? Against the backdrop of world or even national affairs, it often appears we are nobodies. But the story of Christmas Eve proclaims precisely the opposite message; for God’s great work unfolds through the most ordinary people—a small-town...
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He Became One of Us

At the heart of Christmas is an extraordinary proclamation that is unique in the history of world religions—God became one of us, or as the gospel of John put it, “The Word became flesh and dwelled among us.” (John 1:14) Other religious traditions have sometimes mused that...
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Who Shall Climb the Lord’s Mountain?

How do we reach God? We are so small, so imperfect, and so finite; there appears to be an insurmountable distance between us and God. But the good news of Christmas is that God has reached to us! God has bridged the gap between ourselves and God by coming to us in Christ. So...
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The Real King

Do you have high confidence in the world’s leaders? We have reason for concern! All the flaws of humanity are reflected in today’s rulers. Yet God’s Word gives us reason for hope—for the good news is that there is now a truly righteous King who reigns above all, and in whom we...
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Give Thanks

It can be difficult to be thankful when times are tough. On the other hand, it can also be difficult to be thankful when times are good, because in easy times we tend to take our blessings for granted! The Scriptures guide us to realize that thankfulness does not depend on our...
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Aim for the Glory of God

What do you suppose the greatest king in the history of Israel said when he was at the culmination of his glorious reign? King David said, “Blessed are You, O Lord! Yours is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and...
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Saint You

The shooter in Sutherland Springs was clearly among the worst of sinners, and we might want to think of those in the church as “the saints.” Yet everyone in that Baptist Church would have said that he or she is also a sinner, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of...
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A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

We live in chaotic times. From indictments to partisan bickering to international threats, everything that we see is unstable. Where in life can we find anything solid? In such circumstances, the Psalmist spoke timeless words: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help...
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Stand in Faith

There has been a lot of debate in recent weeks over whether or not professional football players should stand for the national anthem. Is standing for the anthem the one clear way to honor our country? Or is kneeling a valid way of “taking a stand” for our country’s values?...
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Encountering the Spirit in a Material World

If we are to have any hope in this world, we need a Power beyond ourselves. We need God! But how can we connect with the Spirit when we are so embedded in a material world? The Bible declares that we can encounter God precisely within the stuff and the events of the world around...
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We Are All First String

As major league baseball teams head into the postseason, they are struggling with how to trim down to the 25-man roster. Only the best will play. God’s approach is the opposite. When it comes to “God’s team,” the roster is expanded to potentially include everyone; and everyone on...
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Christ Alone

Have you ever had the experience of wrestling with something, unable to figure it out, and then someone comes up and shows you the clear answer? You think to yourself, “If only I had known that to begin with!” Humanity is constantly wrestling with the big questions of life. What...
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Have Faith

Are you good enough to merit God’s salvation? Are you good enough for heaven? Fortunately, we don’t have to ask that question! The good news of Jesus Christ is that we are now saved by God’s grace—God’s freely given mercy extended to us through Christ—and we receive that grace...
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Saved by Grace

The central concept of the gospel is also the toughest for many people to grasp. It is the concept of grace—that God gives us far more than we ever deserve. We tend to grow up with an idea of “fairness”—that each person should get what he or she deserves. This carries over into...
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Know the Truth

How do we know what is true? In our day, people pick and choose what they want to believe based on their own personal preference. It is the fulfillment of what the apostle Paul wrote: “The time will come when, to suit their own desires, people will gather around teachers who say...
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The Glorious Future

What does the future hold? When we look at the hate-filled racism being espoused at Charlottesville, or when we look at the antics of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, we have reason to be worried. We also may have personal reasons to fear a grim future—when we are facing enormous...
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Who Enters Heaven?

Can non-Christians go to heaven? Some people offer simplistic answers to that question—on one side or the other. But many Christians wrestle with the apparent tension between the Biblical teaching that Christ is the only way to heaven (“No one comes to the Father but by me...
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The Feast of Heaven

Will you see your loved ones in heaven? Jesus’ answer to that is a resounding yes! New Testament images for heaven are all images of people in community with one another as well as with God. It makes sense—since, according to Jesus, the core of the Christian life is to love God...
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Under the Wings of Grace

“God desires that everyone be saved . . . for Christ Jesus gave Himself as a ransom for all.” (I Timothy 2:4,6) If God’s will is that all people be saved, does this mean that everyone upon death will enter into heaven? That cannot be, since God’s will is also that people have...
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Whatever Happened to Hell?

Is there a hell? We don’t like the idea of hell. It makes us uncomfortable, and since we would rather avoid uncomfortable things, we avoid thinking about hell. It also bothers us that some preachers in years past have used hell as a motivator—with a “scare ‘em into heaven”...
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How Do We Know?

Is heaven real? How can we know? Our age prefers empirical evidence when searching for truth, so people wondering about the afterlife are often especially intrigued by reports of “near-death experiences,” because these seem to offer eye-witness observations of a world beyond this...
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The Golden Streets

What will heaven be like? The popular imagination often constructs images of heaven that are essentially a personal playground—an unending extension of what people wish they were doing right now. But what a paltry sort of heaven that would be! The Biblical vision offers much...
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Heaven on Earth

Can human beings achieve heaven on earth? Utopian ideas and attempts throughout history have generally gone nowhere or ended poorly. Yet the Bible lifts up a vision of a better world, where “they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks—nation...
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What Happens When You Die?

When Christians throughout the centuries have thought about heaven, they have often been tempted to blend current popular notions about the afterlife into Scriptural teaching. This occurred already in the early centuries of the church, as many Christians mixed Greco-Roman ideas...
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Raised from Death to Life

Is death followed by oblivion? Or do we have an immortal soul, that will naturally continue on into another world? The Bible says that neither is true. The Biblical Word affirms that we are flesh and blood creatures, created out of the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7), with...
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Is There an Afterlife?

Is there an afterlife? Many people don’t think much about that question at all; or if they do, they offer fanciful and highly speculative answers. The Bible insists on no-nonsense realism. We are mortal, the Scriptures remind us, and our natural destiny is death. There is no...
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The Talking Donkey

God moves in mysterious ways. In one Biblical story, God communicates a message to a guy named Balaam through a donkey! God can use every means possible to get our attention. That’s a good thing because we often get so distracted in life and so caught up in our own agenda that we...
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What Love Means

When people today think of love, they typically think of a feeling—a feeling that very often is fleeting. How different is the love expressed in the Bible! We can see it in the Old Testament in stories such as the story of Ruth, who said to her widowed mother-in-law Naomi, “Where...
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Take Up the Cross

When people in America are asked in polls what they want in life, the number one answer is “happiness.” But only a third of Americans say in polls that they are really happy in life. The problem, Jesus says, is not simply that people are looking for happiness in the wrong places....
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bishop karen oliveto

The Case of Bishop Karen Oliveto

Last week the Judicial Council ruled on the case of United Methodist Bishop Karen Oliveto, the first openly lesbian United Methodist bishop, who is married to Robin Ridenour, a deaconess in the California-Nevada conference (deacons work in specialized forms of church ministry)....
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Eternal Life Begins Now

Unless we have the answer to death, we will never find the answer to life. In an endless effort to avoid or deny death, human beings engage in all sorts of vain and foolish behavior. But we have the answer to death in Jesus Christ! Through Christ, we can come into an eternal...
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The Final Triumph

On Easter, God turns bad news into very good news. Christ on the cross enters into the depths of human brokenness and wrong and suffering, and it all ends in death—an apparent total defeat. But through it all God brings about victory. Having atoned for our sin on the cross,...
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Jesus Saves

The story of Palm Sunday encapsulates a key element of the cross—that God acts in ways quite different from what people expect! The people of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday expected a triumphant warrior Messiah, but Jesus came as the Lamb of God, who would win the victory, not through...
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Eating the Body, Drinking the Blood—Sounds like Cannibals!

Is our faith a set of ideas about Jesus? Or is faith a personal connection with Jesus? That it can be the latter is suggested by Jesus when he says that he is the “bread of life” (John 6:35) and urges us to “eat his body and drink his blood.” (John 6:54-56) With this dramatic...
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The Cross Brings Victory

“Our struggle,” says the apostle Paul, “is not against flesh and blood, but against . . . the powers of this dark world, against the spiritual forces of evil on a cosmic scale.” (Ephesians 6:12) We struggle against all sorts of negative spiritual forces in life—temptation,...
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How the Cross Changes the World

Does the cross of Christ change life? If so, how, since the world is still full of trouble? The cross indeed changes life, and in three distinct ways— The cross changes life by addressing human problem number one—sin, that is, the spiritual brokenness and alienation from God...
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Ash Wednesday

Father, Forgive Them

Do you struggle with forgiveness? Do you find it hard to forgive some individual for a serious wrong? Do you find it hard to forgive yourself for some way you believe you failed? The answer is found at the cross! Christ brings forgiveness that is without limit. When he pronounces...
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The Price Is Paid

“The cross is the only place where the loving, forgiving, merciful God is revealed in such a way that we perceive that God’s holiness and God’s love are equally infinite.” (Emil Brunner, The Mediator) God comes to us in Jesus Christ; and on the cross, Jesus takes upon himself the...
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He Bears Our Burdens

When dealing with our problems, human beings tend to do one of two things—1) We project “the problem” as being something beyond ourselves. We focus on the misdeeds of other and blame others; or 2) We ignore or overlook the problem. Particularly when it comes to our own...
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The Foolishness of the Cross

How can the cross be a sign of salvation? It was an instrument of execution! How can a man’s death on a cross help us? You can understand why, as Paul said, people have considered the message of the cross to be “foolishness.” (I Cor. 1:18) But when we truly see what is happening...
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River of Promise

In the mysterious timing of the Holy Spirit, a long-planned sermon about a barrier—the River Jordan blocking the entry of the people of Israel into the Promised Land—coincided with the White House travel ban that blocked the entry of numerous people into America. We experience...
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River of Healing

Are you in need of healing? The Bible speaks many times of how God works to heal – healing bodies, minds, and hearts, and healing relationships and whole communities. One common place of healing in the Bible is at a river or a pool. The image of flowing water is a poignant symbol...
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River of Life

Water—it is a central image in the Bible, a powerful symbol of life, cleansing, refreshment, and renewal. So we find a river appearing repeatedly in Biblical stories and visions as an image of God’s abundant blessing, and the theme comes to its culmination in Jesus, who declared...
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The Inauguration

Next week, our country will be having an inauguration; but this past Sunday, we celebrated a far more important “inauguration”—when we remembered the visit of the wise men, and how they acclaimed Jesus as the true king over all. This brings an important message for today! Even as...
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You Need Fear Disaster No More

“Fear not.” This is the message of the angels to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds; and it continues to be God’s message to us today! There have always been endless reasons in this world for people to be afraid; but six hundred years before Christmas, the prophet Zephaniah...
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The Unlikely Recipients of the Good News

They look quaint on Christmas cards, but in the first century no one wanted them around – the shepherds occupied one of the lowliest places in first century society. Spending all their time in fields with dirty, smelly sheep, shepherds were not the sort of people that you would...
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God Pitches His Tent

Have you ever had times when you wondered, “Where is God?” The ancient Israelites asked this question when they were wandering in tough circumstances in the wilderness. But God gave them a decisive answer—an answer that would come to its ultimate expression in Jesus Christ. The...
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