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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How to Be a Peacemaker When They Never Stop Fighting

The words of Jesus, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9), gain heightened relevance in the face of the terrible violence that we have been witnessing, from the Middle East to Dallas. But how can you be a peacemaker when it seems that people never stop fighting? The Bible...
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Blessed Is the Nation Whose God is the Lord

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” (Psalm 33:12) What does a nation look like that is blessed by God? The Bible lifts up two key features: a nation that is blessed will be godly and good. Concerning godliness, the Scriptures are clear that it is only through trusting...
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What Are You Hungry For?

What are you seeking in life? “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness,” said Jesus, “for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6) To “hunger and thirst” after something means much more than to just have a casual interest; it means to be focused, passionately and...
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Blessed Are the Lowly

Can a time when we are feeling low in life become a time of blessing? Jesus said that it is just such a time when we may especially experience the blessing of God. In the Beatitudes, the eight “blessed are” sayings that begin the Sermon on the Mount in the gospel of Matthew,...
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Blessed by God

One of the foundational stories of the Bible is when God says to Abraham, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you . . . so that you will be a blessing . . . and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” [Genesis 12:2-3] What does it mean to be...
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God’s Call for Your Life

Are you just randomly wandering through this earth, or does God have a calling for your life? The Bible affirms that God has for you a life purpose, and the Bible encourages us to be receptive to God’s direction. But how do we discern God’s call? In the many “call” stories in the...
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Come to a Personal Faith

Have you ever been at a wedding reception, waiting for the bride and groom, and the wait is very long? This is the scenario in one of Jesus’ parables. People are waiting expectantly for the bridegroom (and the bride), but there is an unexplained delay. The bridegroom in the...
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Ghostbusters

. . . the people who dwell in a land of deep darkness . . . (Isaiah 9:2) The Bible consistently uses the image of darkness to describe the spiritual waywardness and sin of humanity. When we consider all the evils in today’s world, we see that human beings are indeed “in a land of...
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Victory over Evil

How can we possibly win the victory over evil, since we are assailed by evils, both in the world at large, and within our personal lives? We need a Savior. We need a power beyond ourselves that can rescue us from our bondage to sin and death, and deliver us from the power of...
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Many Deceivers

“Many deceivers have gone out into the world,” says II John 1:7. We encounter deception all the time—in business, in politics, and in religion. We are constantly subjected to lies. But lies only work on us if they can masquerade as truth, which is why deception is a major concern...
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Christ against the Demons

Do people confront demons today? Ask a drug addict, or someone who battles thoughts of suicide, or someone whose anxieties bring sleepless nights whether they “wrestle with demons.” We may not think of demons as personal “evil spirits,” but we still confront negative forces in...
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The Dark Side in Today’s World

In the massive wave of Islamist terrorism that is plaguing our world, we see an old Biblical truth painfully clear—there are dark powers, spiritual forces of evil, sweeping the globe. Paul summed up our situation well in his letter to the Ephesians: “Our struggle is not against...
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What Is Your Destiny?

What is your destiny? Can you hope for life beyond death, and if so, what is the nature of the afterlife? Since the dawn of humanity, human beings have had a “sense of the eternal”—a vision of life beyond the grave. It part of our basic God-given spiritual awareness. Yet in...
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Do Something

This Sunday was Youth Sunday, when our teens prepare and present the morning worship services. This year’s theme was “Do Something,” encouraging faith in action. It included music performed by the teen handbell choir ZAMARingers and the vocal choir Resurrection....
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