My Sesame Street Lunchbox and Your Faith

You can restore my childhood by purchasing this (http://ebay.to/17COjrB)
You can restore my childhood by purchasing me this (http://ebay.to/17COjrB)

I would imagine that most of you are familiar with the elementary school practice of “show and tell.”  Each child brings an item from home, they stand in front of the class and they tell their classmates about that item.  The only “show and tell” experience that I remember clearly  happened during kindergarten.

I was five years old and I brought my yellow Sesame Street lunchbox.  I loved my Sesame Street lunchbox.  When I would get home from school, my mom would fix my lunch, put it in my lunchbox, and my little brother and I would have a picnic almost every day.  It was one of my favorite things!  So I brought it to class, stood in front of my classmates, and told them all about my yellow lunchbox.

Later, as everyone was getting ready to leave for the day, two little boys walked over to graciously inform me that Sesame Street was for babies and it was stupid that I had brought my lunchbox for “show and tell.”

Experiences like that make us afraid to share.  They make us afraid to show people how we really feel—what we really think.  It makes us afraid of risk and transparency.  I don’t know if you experienced that in kindergarten or in junior high, but once we’ve reached adulthood many of us become very hesitant to really let our inner thoughts and feelings out into the open, lest we “show and tell” and are subsequently ridiculed for what we have shown and told.

Where am I going with this?  “Show and tell” is really what sharing the Gospel is all about.  We tell other people what we have experienced—what we believe—what we value.  We “show and tell” what Jesus has done for us.

Nobody is going to be fought or argued into the Kingdom of God.  But if we’re afraid to “show and tell”—if we’re afraid of how people are going to respond—then they’re not going to make it into the Kingdom of God then either.  So we can’t argue them in—and we can’t keep silent.  So what do we do?  When your neighbor blasphemes, show and tell what Jesus has done for you!  Yes, they may scoff.  Yes, they may tell you that your views are primitive and silly and damaging.  They may tell you that your favorite thing is stupid and for little kids.  But who cares?

This is life or death business here, one that every one of us should be praying about and considering, to prepare ourselves to show and tell what Jesus has done for us.

Do you find it easier that you don’t have to argue someone into God’s Kingdom?  Or is it harder to be honest and make yourself vulnerable?  Sound off in the comments below!

This is an excerpt from last Sunday’s sermon at Faith Presbyterian Church in Covington, LA.  For more, listen here or subscribe to our podcast here.

Jesus, Celebrity Atheists, and Picking Your Battles

Picture by Joe (http://bit.ly/1vvQDWq)
Picture by Joe (http://bit.ly/1vvQDWq)

People around the world disbelieve in the divinity of Jesus.  But you are not responsible to engage every one of them with the news of the Gospel.  No, you are responsible to engage the ones near you.

Why did Jesus engage the blasphemous people in Matthew chapter 9?  Jesus engaged with those men, (1) because He was near them and (2) because they engaged Him first.

Jesus didn’t write letters to the editor about the blasphemous article last week.  He didn’t decry the latest PBS documentary with Facebook posts.  No, He dealt with the people nearby.
And even then, He didn’t go door-to-door looking for blasphemers under every rock.  He waited until they made themselves known and then He interacted with them.  Here’s my point:

People around the world disbelieve in the divinity of Jesus, but it’s not our job to go hunting them down or to go after the big targets.

  It’s very unlikely that God has called you to convert the heart of Stephen Hawking or Neil deGrasse Tyson or whoever the celebrity atheist is this week.  Jesus didn’t bother with those guys!  He engaged those near Him who engaged Him first.

So if you have people you love who disbelieve in Jesus, you’ll want to engage with them.  That actually makes sense.  You already care for their hearts—you care for their souls and their futures.  So it makes sense you’d engage them.  This means family members, coworkers, next-door neighbors, friends.

If those people don’t believe that Jesus is God—that He came to save the world—and that He proved it with His miraculous power—if those close to you don’t believe, then YES you do engage them!  Basically, we’re talking about those whom the Bible call your “neighbors.  They’re near you physically and/or relationally.

How have you found yourself caught in this cycle of wanting to respond to public unbelief?  How did it work out?  Sound off in the comments below!

This is an excerpt from last Sunday’s sermon at Faith Presbyterian Church in Covington, LA.  For more, listen here or subscribe to our podcast here.

Did Jesus Actually Claim to Be God?

Picture by Alex Bobica (http://bit.ly/1CiCssH)
Picture by Alex Bobica

What is forgiveness of sins?

When people forgive someone, we let go of what we held against them.  We decide to no longer hold a grudge—we’re no longer going to hold another person culpable for what they’ve done.  That’s about as far as our forgiveness can go.

But Jesus claimed to do more than that.

When Jesus said in Matthew 9:2, “your sins are forgiven,” He meant something different.  His word for forgiveness could be translated, “your sins are remitted,” which means your sins are actually taken away from you.  You are released not only from the guilt of your sin, but also from the power of your sin.  Your sins are gone, as far as God is concerned.

Jesus is claiming to be able to release sin’s grip from this man’s life.

But I thought only God could do something like that?  Only God can declare someone innocent by freeing them from sin’s grip.  As a result, the law teachers soon begin to accuse Jesus of blasphemy, because there’s no way this manJesus—can forgive sins—because He’s not God!

Or is He?

Jesus’ claims about what He could do tell us just as much about who He is.

Join us at 10:30am this Sunday at Faith Presbyterian Church as we dig deeper into Jesus’ claims to being God in the flesh.

What Is Jesus’ Perspective On Your Suffering?

Used with permission from http://bit.ly/1zjlt9H
Used with permission from http://bit.ly/1zjlt9H

Jesus has an extraordinary perspective on suffering–even on our own very personal suffering.

Well, how could He know what I’m going through right now?  He knows, because He felt your pain on the cross.  On the cross, He took the burden of your sin.  He felt the weight of your heartbreak and your pain, physically, emotionally, relationally.  He endured it all on that dark day that we call Good Friday.  Jesus understands your suffering.

But not only that, He suffers with you.  He is no detached Lord who watches us from afar, thinking, “One day, they’ll understand.”  What happened when Lazarus died and his sisters wept?  Even though Jesus knew that Lazarus would soon be raised from the dead to the glory of God—even though He had that eternal perspective, what did Jesus do?  He wept with them.

When you weep, He weeps with you.  When you hurt, He hurts with you.  He does not abandon us in our suffering, but He walks the road of suffering with us.

So when you suffer, unburden yourself to Jesus.  He understands, He cares, and He hurts with you.

Yet the news of the Gospel urges us to take one more step forward to this part of His perspective: Jesus’ suffering guarantees that our suffering will eventually end.  By bearing the brunt of our sin and suffering, Jesus has undone the eternal grip of suffering on our bodies and our souls.  By dying and being raised from the dead, Jesus has broken the stronghold that suffering had on you.

Your suffering will not last, because Jesus has promised to make all things right through His suffering.  So just because He chooses to allow your suffering right now—it doesn’t mean that it will never end.

How does this thought strike you?  How have you come to terms with it?  Share your thoughts below.

This is an excerpt from last Sunday’s sermon at Faith Presbyterian Church in Covington, LA.  For more, listen here or subscribe to our podcast here.

The One Thing That Limits God’s Actions

Used with permission from http://bit.ly/1vuhPKE
Used with permission from http://bit.ly/1vuhPKE

Jesus’ power and authority in this world are bound only by His divine choice.

  Nothing on this earth binds the will of God!

If He wants to calm a storm, He calms a storm.

If He wants to cast out a demon, He says one word, “Go!” and they’re gone.

If He wants to heal a sickness, He heals a sickness.

But if He does not want to calm a storm—if He does not want to give faith where there is unbelief—if He does not want to convert people’s hearts, then He is not bound to do so.

The only thing that limits the action of God is the desire of God.

I hope by now that you’re seeing why this seems like a problem to us.  I hope you feel the tension.  Because that tension exists in our lives.

The struggles we have, whether physical, spiritual, relational, or otherwise—the struggles we have in every arena of life—these struggles are not bigger than God.  He could solve them with a word right now.

But instead, He has made an intentional choice to allow those struggles to continue.  He is Lord of every arena of your life—His will is ultimate and He can change anything He wants.

And that raises the question:

If He has the power and authority to do so, then why doesn’t He bring peace, freedom, and restoration to every arena of my life?  And more than that, why doesn’t He bring peace, freedom, and restoration to the whole world right now?

How have you come to terms with this difficult question?  Share your thoughts below!

This is an excerpt from last Sunday’s sermon at Faith Presbyterian Church in Covington, LA.  For more, listen here or subscribe to our podcast here.

If Jesus can fix my problem, then why doesn’t He?

Jesus, being God, has the authority and the power to do anything He wants.

We will see that in our sermon text this Sunday, just like we saw it in our text last Sunday:

Where there is sickness, He can heal.  Where there is a storm of chaos, He can bring the calm of peace.  Where there is demonic oppression, He can bring freedom.  He has the power to accomplish all these things!

But that’s not the only thing we will learn about Jesus this Sunday.  We also learn this difficult truth: while Jesus has authority and power to heal and to restore, He doesn’t always choose to wield that power.

What we have here is a theological, philosophical, and imminently practical problem.  If Jesus has authority and power to bring peace, freedom, and healing, then why doesn’t He do it everywhere and in every circumstance?  We see this problem in the Bible and we see it in our lives.  If Jesus can fix my problem, then why doesn’t He?

How have you dealt with this challenging question?  Share your thoughts below!

And join us at 10:30am this Sunday at Faith Presbyterian Church as we tackle this challenging topic.

Sermon Preview: Hard To Keep Up When Nobody Has Control

We have so many different arenas in our lives that it barely feels possible to keep up with them all.

Work has to be done, so that we can take care of finances and things.  As, a result, we barely have time for our family.

And friendship?  Well, we’ll just try to be friends with people at work, because we don’t have time to make extra phone calls or have dinner parties or write letters.

And who has time for self-care or a spiritual life?  It takes a lot of time, energy, and money to eat healthy and to exercise.  It takes time, energy, and patience to read the Bible and to pray.  So let’s just put all the spiritual stuff on Sunday and we’ll start working on our health next week.

We have a problem with our lives.  Jesus is not in control of them.  And we’re not in control of them.  We’re not living them.  We’re letting our lives control us!

And control is what discipleship is all about.  Who’s in charge?  Who determines how we spend our time?  Who determines what we do and how we do it?  Who sets our priorities?

This is an excerpt from this Sunday’s sermon at Faith Presbyterian Church in Covington, LA.  Please join us at 10:30am for worship!

Is Jesus Willing to Change You?

A man with leprosy came and knelt before [Jesus] and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” (Matthew 8:2)

This man comes to Jesus with faith.  He comes to Jesus in obedience.  Yet he comes lacking hope.

If you’re willing, you can make me clean.  That’s not hope talking.  That’s hopelessness talking!

That’s saying, “I’ve been stuck in this cycle of unhealth and brokenness.  And I don’t know if Jesus wants to save me from it.”  That’s not hope.

Hope is coming to Jesus expecting not only that He is able to change your life, but that He is also willing to do it.  Hear this:

Jesus is willing to help you grow in obedience.

Jesus is willing to help you grow closer to God.

Jesus is willing to make you into the man or woman that He wants you to be.

Jesus is willing to reconstruct your life and your relationships and to put you on a better path.

He is willing!  Hope believes that.

This is an excerpt from last Sunday’s sermon at Faith Presbyterian Church in Covington, LA.  For more, listen here or subscribe to our podcast here.

Can the Cycle of Hopelessness Be Interrupted?

…everyone who hears these words of [Jesus’] and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.  (Matthew 7:26-27)

Every one of us knows the story of the foolish man all too well.  We’ve seen the wreckage over and over again.

We sin, we struggle, we start to do better, and then the storm comes and it all falls apart again.

We start to repair our relationships, but then something cataclysmic happens and we just can’t get it together.

We feel trapped in these cycles of building and collapsing—building and collapsingBut what would happen if that cycle was interrupted?

What if instead of falling to temptation—what if instead of going backwards—what if you actually saw progress?

What if instead of your marriage feeling cold and distant—what if instead of the same arguments over and over—what if you actually saw forgiveness and health?

What if all these cycles in your relationship with God, in your family, in your friendships, in your workplace, in your personal life—what if these cycles could be interrupted and replaced with something better?

That, my friends, is how hope begins.  With the cycle being broken.

This is an excerpt from last Sunday’s sermon at Faith Presbyterian Church in Covington, LA.  For more, listen here or subscribe to our podcast here.

Sermon Preview: What Qualities Define a Disciple?

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  (Matthew 7:24-25)

When you hear the phrase “disciple of Jesus,” whom do you think of first?

An older, wisened saint of the faith?  Someone like Billy Graham or the late Mother Teresa?

Or maybe you go really old school and think of the biblical disciples: folks like Peter, James, and John or perhaps Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

Regardless of whom you identify as a “disciple,” what characteristics set that person apart?

Maybe you think that a disciple of Jesus is someone who has great faith.  They simply believe in the face of insurmountable odds.

Or maybe you think of a disciple of Jesus as someone who follows Jesus with their actions—they have great obedience.  Everyone can tell their life is different.

While both faith and obedience are important, those aren’t the defining marks of a disciple of Jesus.

The defining marks of a disciple are hope and perseverance through the storm.

This is an excerpt from this Sunday’s sermon at Faith Presbyterian Church in Covington, LA.  Please join us at 10:30am for worship!