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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Move Forward with Faith and Thanksgiving

“Give thanks in all circumstances.” So declares the apostle Paul in I Thessalonians 5:18. But how can we be thankful if our circumstances look bad? One of the most dramatic Biblical stories on that theme is in II Chronicles 20. The people of Judah, facing a massive foreign...
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God Will Provide

Last week’s election shocked almost everyone. Some were elated at the result. Others were devastated. For all of us, our situation is rather much like that of the people of Israel when they were heading into the wilderness—we are journeying into uncertain territory. So we can...
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Navigating the Political Storm

We are in the midst of a political storm. This presidential campaign has delivered a barrage of endless negatives, and our nation is sharply polarized. Can faith enable us to navigate the storm? We can find sound guidance in the Scriptures. Flawed political leaders are nothing...
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When Life Throws You Overboard, It’s Time for Serious Thinking

Things did not go well for Jonah. He was caught in a terrible storm on a ship. He was thrown overboard. He was swallowed by a huge fish. After he was spewed out by the fish onto dry land, he felt compelled by God to go to the people of Nineveh, a people that he hated, to tell...
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Voyage through a Raging Storm

Can the story of a shipwreck be a story of hope? It is when the travelers had been lost on stormy seas for weeks, and the ship’s crash lasting was on an inhabited island, bringing all the travelers to safety. This is the story of Paul’s voyage to Rome—the most dramatic sea voyage...
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Good and Bad All in a Mix

With the evils that rage in today’s world, it is easy to fall into an age-old pattern—to classify human beings as the good or the bad, the righteous or the unrighteous, and to decide that the way to improve the world will be to eliminate the unrighteous. The church in the Middle...
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Christ Calms the Storm

Fear is at the center of much of modern life. Whether we look at the world at large, or at the political situation in our own country, or perhaps at our personal lives, we have multiple reasons to be afraid. Fear also gripped the disciples on multiple occasions, and there are two...
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From Despair to Hope

If you ever find yourself in deep despair, read the book of Lamentations. You will find that the prophet Jeremiah was right where you are! But in the midst of despair, Jeremiah reached to God in faith and said, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope. The...
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Deliverance from Evil

This past weekend, the anniversary of 9/11, a man in New York City attacked a Muslim woman, dressed in a traditional hijab, and set her clothes on fire. Horrible acts of human evil, of every size and threatening everyone, continue unabated. Should God prevent such evils? To do so...
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Where Is God When the Waters Rage?

The Biblical writers knew what it meant to be in times of trouble. Of the many different types of Psalms, the most common is a psalm of lament – a cry to God out of the midst of trouble. These psalms can be very helpful for us, because they not only connect with our life...
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Navigating the Storm

One of the greatest challenges in dealing with any issue is when nothing is happening—when there is no progress day after day, and no resolution of the issue in view. This is a key element in the story of Noah’s Ark. When people think of the story of Noah, they often think of...
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The Meek Inherit the Earth

The idea of “blessing” is not much in vogue today. People want “the good life” more than “the blessed life.” The “good life” is a long, pleasant life with lots of nice stuff. You gain it for yourself through your own effort and some good fortune. The good life is prosperity and...
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How to Be Happy When the World Gives You Grief

Happy are the persecuted, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:10) That’s one way of translating what Jesus says in the final “beatitude,” and it points to a central teaching of the Bible – happiness is found, not in our outward circumstances, but in our connection with...
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Blessed Are the Pure in Heart

“Blessed are the pure in heart,” said Jesus, “for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) What is purity of heart? “Purity of heart is to will one thing,” said the Danish theologian Soren Kierkegaard, in a classic book by that title. Our problem is that very often we will more than...
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The Blessing of Mercy

Jesus’ words in the Beatitudes—“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7)—speak directly to what is desperately needed in our time. From Nice, France, to Istanbul, from Dallas to Baton Rouge, we see a world torn with resentment, hatred, and violence—a...
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