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November 19, 2023
We can come up with a lot of reasons for why bad things happen: we live in a fallen, broken world full of fallen, broken people just like us, making fallen, broken decisions. And while Christ can redraw any picture — the fact remains, we all go through stuff; we all live with the knowledge of good and evil. We may know the broad why, but we rarely know the specific why: "Why ME? Why NOW? Why like this?" In Acts 27, it must have seemed like things were finally beginning to turn around for the Apostle Paul: he's permitted to have some companions travel with him, he receives great favor and kindness from the Roman centurion who’s been assigned to get him to Rome, and he and the ship he's aboard arrive safely at Fair Havens, a safe place to winter. And yet, just like us at times, Paul was still a captive of the choices of others, those who wanted to leave “safe haven” and continue their vain and volatile voyage. We can only imagine what Paul and his companions were feeling as the disaster of that decision began to unfold. But rather than park in his anger or linger in his loss, Paul speaks a word, a sustaining sentence, in the midst of the storm!
November 12, 2023
Have you ever been called crazy? Or Worse? Most things in life that matter are seen as crazy by somebody! When we do such things, and are criticized for them, we’re in good company! Jesus says: "Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!" Paul’s been unjustly accused by his countrymen, unjustly tried by a greedy governor, and unjustly held by the Roman state. Now he’s appealed to Caesar, and his captors, the Romans, are at a loss: what to do with this kind and crazy man named Paul? It must’ve all sounded like a fairy tale. But Paul’s listeners couldn’t find fault with him and didn’t know what to charge him with. They might have thought he was “loco,” but they couldn’t deny his love!
November 5, 2023
Two years ⁓ 730 days ⁓ 1,051,200 minutes! That’s how long the Apostle Paul sat in a cell in Caesarea waiting, not knowing, and aging, maybe even getting antsy or second guessing himself, while seemingly nothing at all was happening and no one seemed to care. Left in prison, Paul sits and ponders the question he must surely have wondered with the psalmist: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me?" Yes, there are always opportunities to love, to pray, to give, to care. But what about when doing those things doesn’t seem to be doing anything? What then? — We stand! Not denying our lot — but by God's grace, defying it!
October 29, 2023
While some opportunities may seem to always be before us, each one is as fleeting as our heartbeats; and while no believer in Jesus ever dies prematurely, we all die eventually, underscoring the importance of making the most of every opportunity we get! Acts 24 is a tale of opportunities: opportunities missed, opportunities ignored, and opportunities taken — and how we must make the most of them, because as Jesus said: “Night (ranging from a closed door to a closed deal — to a closed casket!) is coming, when no one can work.”
October 22, 2023
God’s servant, the Apostle Paul, has finally made it to Jerusalem. And God has kept His word of warning: first he’s bad-mouthed, next he’s nearly beaten to death by Rioters, then he’s bound by the Romans; finally, he’s branded a traitor by a raucous crowd — being attacked, for what he once attacked others for! And all Jesus’ talk about: Loving and doing good to those who hate you, blessing those who curse you, and praying for those who mistreat you, is being put to the test, as a restless crowd begins to shout: “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!”
October 15, 2023
Assumptions can get us in trouble: both the assumptions others have of us, and those we have of others. But we can let go of trying to look good, avoid blame, and caring so much about what others think of us, when we find our identity in whose we are, and who we are in Christ.
October 8, 2023
God had spoken clearly to the Apostle Paul and told him to go to Jerusalem. Yet how easy it would have been for him to take a pass, especially with so many urging him not to go. Paul knew what he was supposed to do — God had bound Him! But there were forces conspiring against him, forces that can weigh heavily on us too, and cause us to pursue less than God’s desire, less than Joyful Abandon to His will.
October 1, 2023
If you’ve ever tried to leave something in God’s hands, you know that it’s far easier said than done. But what we must see, is that there are some things only God can do, some places only He can be, some answers only He has. This doesn’t mean we stop caring! It means that we care enough to take it to the One who can help! That’s kind of the sense we get here in Acts 20. Paul had done much good — had done what he could, but now he was moving on. Paul could give his future and his friends to God, because he’d given HIMSELF to God! — given his best! Yes, difficulties lie ahead, but the trials could be met with courage and even JOY, because Paul knew what he was to be about! — speaking and living Jesus no matter where he found himself. When THAT’S our foundation, giving it all to Jesus moves from being a burden to becoming the greatest blessing of our lives.
September 24, 2023
The Trouts minister to international students studying at DePauw University in New Castle, Indiana
Septmeber 17, 2023
Because this story has such a happy ending, we tend to overlook the trauma of what took place. But consider how jolting it must have been to have someone fall to their death during a church service. We know the Lord graciously raised Eutychus back to life, but what went through Paul’s mind as he and the others rushed down the stairs to find the crumpled mass of a man on the pavement below. Did it occur to Paul, great preacher that he was, that maybe he had put his own plans and priorities before people? The resurrected Eutychus serves as a reminder that people are our priority, not our plans or projects, however noble they might be.
September 10, 2023
In Acts 19, the church in Ephesus was cruising along. The apostle Paul was even planning a road trip, and sent two of his disciples on ahead while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer, just to wrap up loose ends. And that — is when the loose ends — all began to unravel! when a grievance mushroomed into a riot, and that church was reminded again, that there are some things only God can solve.
August 27, 2023
The story of the seven sons of Sceva is a story of failure, a story that shows what happens when we try to do the work of God in our own strength. But it’s also a story of hope, hope that’s never misplaced when we’re relying on the Spirit of God to guide, empower, and use us to bring light and life to the world (the very thing God’s called all of us to do!).
August 20, 2023
Bill Withers was on to something when he sang in his 1972 anthem: "We ALL need somebody to lean on!" None of us can do life alone. None of us were made to do life alone. We all need somebody to lean on! The end of Acts 18, and beginning of Acts 19, tell two stories of need that only God could fill, which He did in Acts 19:6 where it says: "...the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied." What Apollos and the twelve disciples of John needed more than anything else, God gave them: not just an unknown tongue, but also lives that could fully declare the wonders of God.
August 13, 2023
Night can be scary, a time when doubts and fears blow up and discouragement reigns. Night can also be a time when God meets us in the quiet and still of the dark. In Acts 18, Paul receives a vision in the night, Jesus saying to Him: “Don’t be afraid! Stick with it! Remember I’m with You and no one’s going to destroy you! Because I have much I want to do through and around you!” Know these things, and you’ll know peace and great joy!
August 6, 2023
Waiting is NOT one of our favorite things to do, but waiting on God is never a waste. As the Apostle Paul waited in Athens, it might have been easy for him to want to quit, to become apathetic or discouraged. But because Paul was standing on the truths he was coming to know, he was able not just to acknowledge those truths, but also, to act on and announce them, to pray and sing hymns to God even in the night, to be a Truth Teller, to those held captive by lies!
July 30, 2023
Devoted! What's Taking Shape? - Guest Speakers: Jonathan & Alisa Lade
Sharing the same good news in two different places will often yield different results. Not because the message has changed, but exactly because those hearing the message have. A dry thirsty sponge will always soak up more than one that’s already full. The lesson for us is to always have hearts hungry for God so we can receive the good gifts He wants to give us.
July 23, 2023
Aren’t you glad God knows everything! that nothing in all creation is hidden from His sight, that everything is uncovered and laid bare before His eyes. Because God can do all things, sees all things, and is in all places all at once, we can trust God! And because we trust God, we can trust God to lead us. The 16th chapter of Acts is all about this good guidance from God: how the Lord shows us who to speak to, where to go — and not to go, when to stay put, and when to set out again, and gives us songs in the night, even when the way’s uncertain. But here’s what we must know: God’s direction is only as good as our determination to follow it.
July 16, 2023
Think of every problem we face in the church — and you can trace it back to people. But like it or not, we’re stuck with each other! And for better or worse — people are still going to be “people.” Disruptive divisions and opposing opinions in the church are nothing new! Read nearly every letter in the New Testament and you will find the apostles dealing with contentious Christians! Unity is hard! Overcoming disagreements is work! Being perfectly united takes patience and grace! But it’s so worth it! What’s notable then in Acts 15 is not that there was conflict in the church, but how the church handled that conflict! not by sweeping it under the rug, not by devouring one another, not by storming off mad and taking our tithes with us, but by doing the hard work of dialogue, discernment, and decision.
July 9, 2023
July 2, 2023
Our trials are not the danger we face; how we face our trials is! Paul and Barnabas have just been shown the door, told never to come back, and probably threatened with violence. And yet — they rejoice, count it all joy, and keep going! We can do the same in hardship and difficulties; but we’ll never get there — if we keep tripping over the temptations that inevitably come with our trials.
June 25, 2023
It’s one thing to say that the Good News is for everybody! but we also need to show that it’s for everybody! — to make it attractive by “being” it before all people. The Apostle Paul, in his first sermon, is setting the table of grace; not just a grace that sounds good, but a grace that IS good. A Grace our Heavenly Father has been giving all along. A Grace that’s revealed in Jesus, the Son. A grace the Spirit enables all people to hear and receive. In other words, a grace as good — as the God who gives it!
June 18, 2023
Notwithstanding the great miracle they experienced in chapter twelve of the book of Acts, it would have been easy for the church to be engulfed in their trials and tribulations: saints had been scattered, leaders had been killed, opposition had not stopped. And the struggle continues up to today! Yet, the word of God continues to spread and flourish. God blesses the church so that she can be a blessing to a hungry world. Is there opposition? Undoubtedly. But when believers in Jesus are set apart, saturated, and sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, they have all they need to be a gift to the world!
June 11, 2023
Eventually, we all face a problem that’s bigger than us: the diagnosis that has no treatment, the natural disaster in a far away land we can’t do anything about, the family member who refuses to be helped, the habit we’ve been unable to shake. But our job is not to figure out our impossible situations, nor to fix, flee from, fight, or flatter them. Our job is to bring them to the Lord — in fervent faith (something we do better together than apart!) and to trust that He already has an answer in hand.
June 4, 2023
Sometimes it takes a little while for word to reach everyone. Peter had had his revelation and acted on it; the church had affirmed it, saying: “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.” (Acts 11:18). And yet — many were still clinging to a limited view of themselves and of others, and sadly — not loving others as God loves them. There were some however — who dared to walk in the the new seeing of the Kingdom, that caused God’s vision to Peter, to become God’s will being done in His people!
May 28, 2023
There are certain things that happen to us in life that require a response: starting a new life as husband and wife, the birth of a child, getting a new job, even retirement. While we celebrate these milestones; we often fail to appreciate how much they will change our lives, in both big ways and small. In the case of Peter, that milestone was a revelation he received while retreating on a rooftop by the sea. But for what Peter now knew — to become who Peter now was — required action! Revelation from the Lord isn’t given just to “amaze” us; it’s given to “activate” us!
May 14, 2023
Only God knows how many opportunities you and I have passed on because we saw them only as problems rather than possibilities! The story of Saul reminds us that no one is beyond the grace of God: not even a mean and menacing man — who’s “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.” But it also reminds us that Jesus (and the opportunities he brings us) often cause disruption and call for great humility! Because only when we’re willing to make ourselves small, will we have grace for those, who like Saul and ourselves, are coming to know Jesus.
May 7, 2023
Have you noticed that there’s always a “meanwhile”? An alternate reality vying for your attention, a vexing problem tempting you to be anxious. Your “meanwhile” may be a mean person; it may be a mean set of circumstances, or — it may even be a mean steak — in you! There’s always a “meanwhile” because we live in a “mean” world. There is hope however. If we’ll make ourselves small enough, and realize that God’s Big enough, we’ll find the Lord making US a “meanwhile,” in the midst of all our meanwhiles!
April 30, 2023
We’ve all been pleasantly surprised by how something we wanted to say “no” to ended up being something we’re glad we said “yes” to. That’s what Philip experienced! great signs and miracles in Samaria, people coming to know Christ, his mentors coming to see! But then, out of the blue, everything seems to “go south” when an angel of the Lord says to him, “Go south to the road — the desert road — that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” There’s no explanation, no clue what to expect, and no further directions — just a challenging command and a choice to stay or obey.
April 23, 2023
Because it can mean so many things, “Great” is one of those catch-all words in the English Language that comes in handy. It’s also a word we see used throughout our text today; and that’s appropriate (“great”), because in the midst of what seemed disastrous, God was up to something Great! bringing something beautiful out of what could have been ashes, causing stones to cry out, after one of God’s servants had been silenced with stones.
If living is “Christ” — then living, real living, is giving! — even to the point of death! And if dying is gain — if it leads to resurrection and restoration as the Bible says it does and as Christ showed it does, then we need not fear it. Stephen, one of the seven selected to serve the underserved, shows us how to find life in Christ and gain in death. And not just in the death of our last breath, but in the daily death of taking up cross, denying self, and following. Long before he’s sentenced and stoned to death, Stephen had been dying daily, so that he could depart beautifully.
April 9, 2023, Easter
On Easter, we cheer Christ's victory over sin, death, and the grave, and thrill to hear the angel's words: "He is not here; he has risen, just as he said." But what we often forget, is that Jesus' first disciples first response, on that first evening after the resurrection, wasn't to hold a public celebration service; it was to go into hiding! to lay low, so that what happened to Him might not happen to them! These first followers of Jesus didn’t know what to believe, and so they hid themselves away behind locked doors on Easter.
April 7, 2023, Good Friday
Holy week is full of contradictions: Jesus cries my soul is troubled — but then prays glorify thy Name. He weeps — in the middle of a joyous parade in His honor. He shows that He’s Lord — by washing the disciples’ feet. He fights back — by surrendering himself to His accusers. He secures life — by dying on a coarse cross. And... in what is perhaps the greatest contradiction of all, in the hours leading up to Jesus’ death, the one we’d expect to condemn Jesus, comes to His defense; and the ones we think would rally around the Messiah, instead rail against Him! This is the the strange exchange that took place on Good Friday.
April 2, 2023, Palm Sunday
On the day we call Palm Sunday, a crowd took palm branches and went out to meet Jesus, shouting, “Hosanna! ” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” It would seem this throng had their theology straight; you’d be hard pressed to find a clearer confession than the one they gave with great joy and jubilation. But then — the story takes a turn. Because in the midst of all the adulation, as Jesus approaches and sees the city — he weeps. On this day that seems a triumph, Jesus is instead grieving a great tragedy, the tragedy of His peace being hidden from the eyes of so many.
March 26, 2023
No church is perfect! We know this in our heads, when we hurt or offend a brother or sister. But too often we forget when it affects our hearts, when it’s us who are hurt or offended. This is why walking with Jesus calls for great grace! to have the same grace Jesus modeled when he walked the earth, to have the same grace for others as we’d like them to have for us, to have the same quality of grace God freely gives us — because you can’t come up with grace yourself; you can only come IN to grace yourself. When we follow the way of grace: people are valued and included, wisdom is followed and proven, and Ministry is shared among all of us.
March 19, 2023
Lies can be lethal, deception deadly! Left unchallenged; left to themselves, they can rapidly color our thinking and cloud our vision, cause us to believe things that aren’t true, and keep us from living truthFULLY! This is what happened to Ananias and Sapphira in the first half of Acts 5; and it’s what threatened to happen to the Apostles in the second half of Acts 5. They’re rounded up, thrown in jail, threatened, and even tortured. Would they walk by faith, or by sight? Would they obey God, or men? Would they shut up, or speak up?
March 12, 2023
The story in today’s text is not a story about “them.” It’s a story about us! a story about how we need to test and examine ourselves to see whether we are “in the faith.” People talk a lot about having faith, but here, the tables are turned. It’s not, do you have faith? It’s, does the faith have you? Have you so immersed yourself in Jesus that he’s guiding every part of your life, every aspect of your being? Are you living truthFULLY — full of truth. This is vital, because living a lie can be lethal!
March 5, 2023
That prayer was central to the early church is no secret. The Holy Spirit was given in a prayer meeting; in Acts 2 the believers continued together in prayer day by day; and here in Acts 4, after being released by religious rulers who didn’t know what to do with them, we read that: Peter and John went back to their own people, who when they heard all that the chief priests and the elders had said, raised their voices together in prayer. Because prayer changes things, prayer is what they did. But prayer doesn’t just change “things,” prayer changes us! Prayer makes us more like the One we pray to, enables us to model new life, and makes a real difference in the lives of those that surround us. Let us pray!
February 26, 2023
When you’ve been with Jesus, your life will spread His fragrance everywhere you go! Some folks are going to love the aroma; others, not so much! When we find ourselves in such predicaments (and we will, if we’ve been with Jesus!), we do well to remember that His word — spoken by our lips and lived out in our love — is not chained! When you've been with Jesus, people will notice because Christ will shine in you. Above all else, when you've been with Jesus, God will soften the hearts of those you've touched!
February 19, 2023
Every day we’re surrounded by opportunities to do good: chances to help others see Jesus more clearly, divine appointments that if we choose to take, can literally turn another person’s day, if not life around! They may seem like small gestures, but they can be huge in the eyes of those we bless, and larger still, in the eyes of our Giving God, who calls us to trust in the LORD and do good.
February 12, 2023
A mob of mockers became one of marvelers! A crowd who had put Jesus to death, became a chorus of seekers asking Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter tells them, saying: “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation!” — take hold of the life that is truly life. Once they did, they began to be changed even more, in ways deep and definitive, lasting and far-reaching! Those who'd saved themselves, were being saved; they were becoming!
February 5, 2023
The bible says that on the day of Pentecost, the crowd that gathered was “bewildered” And why not? They had heard the followers of Jesus declaring the wonders of God in their own language! More than that: the messengers were mere men and women, the means was miraculous, and the message — mystifying. No wonder they asked one another “What does this mean?” What a wonderful question to ask! What a beautiful demonstration of what the Gospel — declaring the wonders of God full of the Spirit, declaring the wonders of God, in word, deed, and attitude — can do! It gets people’s attention! It astounds and amazes, and it causes them to ask questions. It cannot, “not” be noticed!
January 29, 2023
Jesus had said, "wait for the gift!" Don’t fill up on anything else! Don’t waste your time with food that isn’t real, drink that doesn’t satisfy. Wait for the good stuff! — Which is exactly what the disciples were doing when the day of Pentecost came! And they were not disappointed. Because when Pentecost comes, it’s not the full who receive, but those who know they’re empty, not the rich, but those who understand their poverty, not the powerful, but those who confess their weakness — those who will wait!
January 22, 2023
Our text today, begins with a walk, the walk the disciples took back to the city after Jesus was taken from them. It wasn’t a long walk, but what a walk it must have been! Can you imagine the conversations they must have had — or maybe, the silence — as they struggled to take it all in, to figure out what Jesus meant by "wait for the gift my Father promised." Whatever they were thinking on their way back, what we DO know, is what they did once they stopped walking — they waited! Acts 1:14 tells us they joined together constantly in prayer!
January 15, 2023
From the very beginning, as far back as the history of mankind goes, we humans had been groping in the night. We had hunches of who God was, inspired flashes, hopeful guesses, but largely — we were in the dark. And often, we got God wrong! But then! Jesus appeared! God! shining in the darkness; God! working in His creation; God! loving the world — to show us what God is like! In the Gospels, God gave this witness through a man, the One who is God & Man — Jesus! But in Acts, he does it through a people, saying: “you will be my witnesses!”
January 1, 2023
The net effect of weaving strand upon strand to make a rope, is great strength, durability, and longevity! It’s also — the net effect of receiving the promises of God! weaving them into our lives, letting them uphold us. If we haven't done this, if we’ve recited His promises but not responded to them: we’ll be like waves of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind, instead of travelers of a bridge over and above troubled waters.
December 25, 2022, Christmas Day
Our God is not a machine to be maintained or a constituency to keep happy; He is a person who longs to be known! by us! and through us! This is the bottom line, the conclusion of the matter, God is indeed looking for something! And Micah reveals what it is! His mission is not just to rescue us; it’s to reconcile us! to sharpen, refine, and perfect us! to restore us to His original vision for Adam, the man of the earth, so that we can shine like Christ, the man who came from heaven!
December 24, 2022, Christmas Eve
Over the past several years civility has disappeared from the public square. Trust in our institutions (even our churches) seems to be at an all time low. Kindness is viewed by countless as a weakness; cynicism has overtaken the hope of many. The message proclaimed to the shepherds of old, "Peace on earth, good will to men!" is under siege, doubted, dismissed, and disregarded. When we strike our ruler, we expect Him to strike back! to use that staff and rod not to comfort us, but to clobber us! Instead, God meets all our unruliness — with a Ruler! and all our smallness — with a Savior!
December 18, 2022
Reading the words of Micah 4:1-4, it’s hard to believe that the prophet can be talking about anything even remotely in season. Instead, the wondrous pronouncements seem like something we not only have to wait for — but wait a long, long time for! But when Micah says, “in the last days,” He’s giving promises to all who’ve lived, will live, and live today, between Christ’s first and second arrivals! He’s giving us the Good News the angels declared to shepherds! describing what God’s good rule, his Kingdom, brings, what it does, and what it looks like! — in these last days!
December 11, 2022
Micah opens chapter three with a list of charges against God’s people — words that aren’t easy to hear. The people Micah saw around him had adopted the world’s way of doing things over God’s. These whom God had received as objects of grace, gathered together as sheep in a pen, cared for like a shepherd for his sheep, guided, guarded, and gave good pasture to — saw others merely as objects of gain! Micah offers a better way, a more just way, a way that comes about by being filled with the Spirit of the Lord.
December 4, 2022
It’s hard not to become cynical about the state our world is in — to believe that everything’s getting worse rather than better. When you see people seemingly getting away with murder, it’s hard to wait for God to act! (let alone show you how to act!) Yet Advent, this season of waiting for His coming, is a perfect opportunity for us to do just that: to wait and rest in the God who promises to come and shepherd his people.
November 27, 2022
The Light of the world has come — and is coming again! Are we living our lives in light of that Light? Are we holding onto the promises that arrive with that arrival, that come with the “present” of his presence? These are the questions the prophet Micah invites us to ponder as he gives us what the Apostle Peter calls God’s “great and precious promises,” promises that allow us to “participate in the divine nature:” to love the world like He does, humble ourselves as He has, and die to ourselves as He did.
November 13, 2022
The final scene of Mark’s Gospel is sort of like a surprise party — except in reverse! Usually a group gathers to surprise an individual. But after the resurrection, it’s Jesus who surprises his group of disciples, who catches them off guard, who resets their expectations and refires their imagination. By imparting a mission to them before parting from them, Jesus lets them know they’ll not only survive, speaking a word of peace over them, but that they’ll also thrive, live to speak words of peace over those to whom He’s sending them.
October 23, 2022
For 14 chapters Jesus has preached and practiced the Kingdom of heaven, demonstrated in word and deed what it’s like, debated with his critics about what it’s not like, and invited a small band of disciples to join him on the journey. In their closing days together, he’s shared not only his heart, but also his heartbreak. He's withheld nothing! Which makes the stark, sparse language of Mark 14:50 a particularly crushing blow: "Then everyone deserted him and fled." How it must have wounded him to have all his friends leave him so suddenly, to know he’d invested his whole heart into them over the course of 3 years, only to have them take off in terror in his time of trouble. Yet Jesus doesn't do what we so often do. He doesn't desert them, despair, or depend on dead ends. And because he doesn't, we can know he'll be with us through every trial we face.
October 16, 2022
Just as foliage is no substitute for fruit, so admiration is no substitute for abiding. Those who followed Jesus admired him greatly! But would they abide in Him? That’s the central question as Jesus nears the end of his journey, begins to feel the crushing burden of humanity’s sin and the cruel heaviness of our indifference. At the fig tree and the temple, Jesus invited us to know his heart, now in the garden, just before his death, He invites those who will watch and pray to know his heartache! to see the depth of His great compassion on all he has made.
October 9, 2022
Jesus was hungry! But Jesus’ hunger didn’t just show his humanity, it also shared his heart: His deep longing for a people who would reflect the Father and His Love, just as He reflected the Father and His Love. Unfortunately, what he found both at the fig tree and the temple was lots of foliage, but little fruit, lots of buying and selling, but little blessing and serving! Jesus’ heart is for a fruitful people, a people who will say: “We belong to You; we believe on You, we want to bless like You!”
October 2, 2022
We dare not get our fill from the fading food found in this life: food that is lacking, food that is finite; food that will perish. Jesus says: "I am the bread of life." Mark 13 tells us that as Jesus was leaving the temple, (the very temple where he’d just finished praising the might of the widow’s mite!), one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” In highlighting the widow’s offering, Jesus had told them: “Here’s the Kingdom; here’s what it looks like; this widow quietly putting in her two small coins, and nobody noticing!” And how do the disciples reply? “Yes! But have you seen our kingdom! its massive stones, its imposing structures! Aren’t you impressed Lord?” Jesus isn’t! He asks, “Do you see all these great buildings? Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” If it’s how Jesus responded to the disciples’ awe of a man-made temple, it tells me I need to evaluate how I see all the man-made temples that surround me.
September 18, 2022
There’s no indication that Jesus ever spoke to her, that she was aware Jesus was holding her up as an example, or that her act would be memorialized in the pages of scripture (We don’t even know her name!). And yet, when Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched, he saw this poor widow’s consciousness of the Kingdom and praised her for it. The crowd was making their many offerings; the widow brought her two cents. The difference though, wasn’t in how much they gave; it was in how they gave! The crowd gave based on what others would think, the widow in spite of it! The crowd gave to look good; the widow because she was good! The crowd gave out of obligation; the widow gave out of willing obedience.
September 11, 2022
Jesus says: You cannot follow me unless you change and become like little children. We might be tempted to argue otherwise, until we realize, that’s exactly what He did! Changed and became a little child! (see Philippians 2:7,8). If we’re to follow Him, the question isn’t: Do I have to become like a little child? You DO, if you want to follow! The only question left is: How do I receive the kingdom of God like a little child? What does that look like right here, right now, with this body, in this season I’m in?
September 4, 2022
All of us have favored ourselves over others; all of us have faced the consequences of our choices; all of us have followed our own wisdom over God’s. Because of this, the question isn't do we need Jesus; we do! The real question is do we want Jesus? Do we want Jesus and all that comes with Jesus?: forgiveness, freedom, eternal life! Most would say: “Sign me up!” But sadly, many haven’t counted the cost! Because that’s not all that comes with Jesus! Salvation is free, but it’s not cheap. Jesus taught that it’s the treasure you find in a field that requires you to go, sell everything, and buy the whole field! How much do we want the treasure? What are we willing to do to BE His disciple?
August 28, 2022
We say things like, “God has won the battle!” and talk about “the finished work of Jesus at the cross.” But often, our lives betray our lips! and we find ourselves working as if it’s all up to us, getting our value and worth in what we’re doing more than in who we’re becoming. God doesn’t love you for what you can DO; He loves you for who You ARE: fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. There’s work for us to do: good, meaningful, fulfilling work that pleases God and blesses people. But we’ve got to keep our work in perspective, so we don’t lose sight of God’s work! God working in us! God giving us the desire and power to do what pleases him.
August 21, 2022
In Mark 5, a man named Jairus comes to Jesus pleading earnestly: “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” If you’ve heard the story, you know that Jesus did just that: He heard; He went; He healed! But there’s more to the story than just the "what;" there’s also the “how” to this story: how Jesus showed before he told, went before He sent, and sent his disciples out with safety nets. Jesus wanted them to see this little girl raised to life! But he also wanted them to see how He would do it, and how they too would be able to do it, becoming a people whose lips and lives proclaim and heal.
August 14, 2022
Whether we receive it directly from Him, or through those created in His image: There’s not one of us who don’t need and rely on the grace of God. And strange as it may sound, one of the greatest ways we need the grace of God, is in having grace FOR God. Sometimes we get frustrated with Him because he isn't behaving the way we think he should. Sometimes his behavior bewilders and perplexes us, maybe even frightens us! But if His ways remain to us foreign and foolish, outdated or undoable, we won’t practice them! And both we and the world will lose out.
August 7, 2022
When I've been out in the sun, it shows! But does it show that I've been in the "Son?" Are those watching my life able to take note that I’ve been with Jesus? Do I have any encouragement from being united with Christ? Am I receiving comfort from his love? Am I sharing in the Spirit with Him? Have I embraced His tenderness and compassion (Philippians 2:1)? That’s the “tan” we wear when we’ve been in the Son of God: what shows we’re His disciples, what reveals us to be children of the Most High God! and sadly — what can fade, when we neglect our time with Jesus. There simply is no substitute! We are formed by the time we spend knowing God, and being known by Him.
July 31, 2022
July 24, 2022
The story of Levi is a story of hope - for all of us. The God who turns water into wine turns takers into givers and the despised into disciples. Levi, whose name means "joined," was transformed from one joined with sin, to one who lived up to his new name of Matthew, meaning "gift." May God make each of us a gift to the world as Levi became!
July 17, 2022
God is Good! And Jesus is like God in every way - because He is God in every way! So when a desperate man with a desperate situation questions Jesus willingness, Jesus sets the record straight with words followed up with action: "I am willing; be clean!" If willingness is the heart and mind of Jesus; it needs to be our heart and mind too!
July 10, 2022
When Jesus says "come, follow me, " it's more than a command, it's an invitation to join him in his passion of bringing people into fellowship with Him: to see people as we've been seen; to love people as God loves us. What's more, as we respond to the invitation, God promises to put this divine passion in our hearts! Jesus says, "come, follow me, and I WILL MAKE YOU (form and shape you) into fishers of men (people who pursue people over everything else; people who pursue people like God does)!"
July 3, 2022
We often pray, “Lord, open doors and opportunities for me!” and we should! because He is! But do we have the vision to see it? Jesus longs to give us eyes that choose to see, want to see, yearn to see! But we need to join Him in the effort! To join Jesus in His mission of saving the world, we need to walk with him at his PACE: slow, patient, intentional — and join Him in his PLACE, the place where sinners are! This is the GRACE of Jesus, manifest in us.
June 26, 2022
To those that are His, Jesus says, "You are the light of the world." That's the "what." Identifying with sinners, being filled with His Spirit, and co-suffering with our neighbors in the wilderness is the "how." But where does all this take place? Where are we forged and formed? Where are our impurities removed? Where are our wills surrendered to His? In the place of prayer! There is no greater act you or I can do, nor no greater act we struggle with - than to pray. Jesus leads the way!
June 19, 2022
The glory of the Gospel -- the Good News, is Jesus! Jesus! showing us God, and godliness! in the middle of our struggles! Jesus! revealing how God’s ways work, even in unlikely places! Jesus! pointing us to the path that points those around us to the life that is life! In the beginning of Mark's Gospel, we see how Jesus embodied the Kingdom-centered life and how we can too! how we can live lives that make others want what we’ve received.
June 12, 2022
Whereas the Gospel of John begins with a theological treatise, Matthew Christ’s credentials, and Luke with the whole story of Jesus birth, Mark, in 1:1, begins with a simple, concise statement: "The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God." Read that sentence and you instantly know what this book is going to be about: How Jesus revealed the Kingdom of God and brought others along, and how His desire is that we would live lives do the same. To see how you and I can point people to Jesus, we need look no further than John the Baptist. This is where Mark starts his account of the beginning of the good news, so it’s where we start too.
June 5, 2022
We’ve seen the Circumstances of the promise: that the Spirit comes when we’re in fellowship with Jesus waiting for the promise, that this special and unique gift isn’t given to restore the kingdom but to reveal the Kingdom, and that receiving the gift of the Spirit isn’t a matter of gaining control but giving control back to God to whom it belongs! Now, in Acts 1:8, Jesus gives us the Certainties of the promise: those things we can count on taking place "in a few days," those things He’s going to breathe into us, those things that are going to transform us and our work, those things that are going to demonstrate the Kingdom of Heaven and bless all nations of the earth.
May 29, 2022
We all like to be in control! When the disciples, in verse 6, ask Jesus: “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to us?” it’s a question about control: “When do we get this power Lord?” “When can we start getting our plans done?” But following Jesus isn't about gaining control; it's about forfeiting control. The words Jesus, after His resurrection, spoke to the Apostle Peter, (John 21:18,19) he speaks to all who would seek the promise of the Father: "when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go... Follow me." Control belongs to God, we do best when we stop trying to take it.
May 22, 2022
May 15, 2022
On hearing the command to stop, stay, and seek the promise, the disciples ask Jesus if He’s now going to “restore the kingdom to Israel.” While it was an honest question, it was also misguided, because the disciples were thinking too small, still seeing from a human rather than a heavenly perspective, still thinking in terms of their own goals instead of God’s Glory. But the Kingdom the Spirit wants to open to us is more than we think it is. And the outpouring of the Spirit that reveals it, and enables us to walk in it, is for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord!
May 8, 2022
When someone decides to be water baptized, we might say that it shows they’re “getting into God.” When God decides to baptize someone in the Holy Spirit though, it shows that God is getting into them! The evidence of the Spirit-filled life, is a life filled with the Spirit! a life that speaks, sings, and shows praise for God!
May 1, 2022
We don’t like to wait! Waiting forces us to stop. Waiting frustrates our sense of control. Waiting feels like lost opportunity. And yet, an undeniable reality of living — is waiting! Waiting is also — a key activity of the Kingdom and a discipline of would-be disciples of Jesus. His followers had been in the school of Jesus; they’d been taught by him, watched him, even performed miracles with him! But they lacked one thing — what Jesus called: “the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” We need the baptism in the Holy Spirit; it’s a gift worth waiting for!
April 24, 2022
What we do with these bodies of ours matters! what we allow our eyes to gaze upon, our ears to listen to, our minds to contemplate, our mouths to speak. That’s the significance of this meal — not only the fact that the disciples were eating: taking care of themselves, taking in nourishment — but who was eating with them! They were in the company of Jesus! Being made ready to receive the promise!
April 17, 2022, Easter Sunday
Jesus had been placed in the tomb on a Friday night, and now it was morning of the third day. The world had spun, night and day had come, and most people were beginning to get on with their lives. Jesus must have seemed like just one more lost cause, that gathered great momentum for a while only to fizzle out under the weight of his undeniable death. The questions for those who’d followed him, no doubt, were starting to set in: What had it all meant? Had it been a waste of time? Where would they go now? Why had it ended like this? We still ask these things. But God isn’t afraid of our questions. In fact, it’s our questions — that can lead us to God!
April 15, 2022, Good Friday
Pilate prepared a notice. People read the notice. Jesus’ enemies protested that notice. And Pilate refused to retract his notice. But tonight is not about Pilate’s notice, tonight is all about the cross that notice was attached to, seeing it for what it is, understanding what it is not.
April 10, 2022
Of all the things Jesus did that astounded, bewildered and amazed, arguably the most shocking, was when he died! We can’t emphasize this enough: Jesus was truly dead! In the hearts and minds of his friends and foes, Jesus was gone! No one was planning for his bodily return. None of his followers were camping out at the tomb. No one was thinking: “This is how God is going to save the world; this is where we’ll find our hope.” And yet, true to Himself (His glory of surprising us), God attaches hope to the ultimate hopelessness! We see it in the lives of the two men in our text, Joseph and Nicodemus, in what seemingly was their most hopeless hour.
April 3, 2022
When Jesus, quoting from Psalm 22, cries from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?,” the sense of abandonment was as real as the darkness that descended over the land that day. But what was even more real, was that God had not abandoned Him. Because from the same psalm, in the middle of the darkness, comes a declaration of faith, the sufferer proclaiming: “For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” (Psalm 22:24). If God did not forsake His Son in his darkest hour, He will not forsake us in ours!
March 27, 2022
In the moment Jesus’ followers should have felt the most cast aside, the most alone, the most forsaken, they were actually the most cared for! — even if they didn’t realize it at the time! Their hope lay in heaps at the foot of the cross, but just as Jesus was never alone, they weren’t alone either! Because “near the cross,” they were close enough to hear Jesus say: “behold your son!... Behold your mother!”
March 13, 2022
It would be easy to write off the thief who called out to Christ in the last moments of His life, to question his sincerity, to think him a mere opportunist. It would be easy — but wrong! Wrong, because Jesus didn’t write him off! The thief did the only thing any of us can do: He responded to the grace of God!
March 6, 2022
When Jesus cries out from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (verse 34), His words weren’t so much a request to the Father; as they were a revelation of the Father! — a prayer that God would be seen for who He is and what He’s like: “slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6). Those words, spoken to Moses, aren’t what God became after Jesus died on the cross; they’re what God has always been and always will be! When Jesus says, “Father, forgive them,” he’s saying: May the reality of what you’re like — that’s known in heaven — be a reality that’s known on earth!
February 27, 2022
In a culture that too often overlooked and undervalued them, Jesus, as he carries his cross, takes the time to see the women who mourn for him and to acknowledge their grief! He sees them! But Jesus doesn’t just want us to know we’re seen, He also wants us to SEE! And so when Jesus turns and looks at them, He doesn’t say “weep for me!” cry your eyes out; feel sorry for me; have pity. No, Jesus surprises us; He tells them to "weep for yourselves and for your children." — Feel the weight of your sin, so that you'll be able to lay it aside (Hebrews 12:1-3), and run with perseverance the race marked out for YOU!
February 20, 2022
Simon of Cyrene didn’t volunteer to carry a cross; it was thrust upon him! Of all the people who lined the narrow street that day, he was chosen to bear Christ’s cross. Could he have resisted, run away, struggled against his lot? Of course! But in doing so, he may well have been arrested for his defiance or even put to death with Jesus! More than that, his example wouldn’t have sparked our imagination as it does today. And those he impacted, including his boys: Rufus and Alexander, may not have been touched and gone on to touch others! Like Simon, we could refuse, but to do so is to miss out on the honor and privilege of joining Jesus in what He’s doing!
February 13, 2022
Back in Genesis, Abraham takes the wood for a burnt offering and places it on his son Isaac as they make their way up the mountain. Isaac, it would appear, is on the same path as Jesus, being made to carry the wood for his own sacrifice. But that’s where the stories take different turns, because Isaac is told by Abraham, “God will provide the lamb,” and indeed God does! a ram caught by its horns in a thicket! But for Jesus — there is no other lamb, because Jesus — IS that Lamb!
February 6, 2022
Jesus doesn’t just preach and promise the Kingdom to us; He practices the Kingdom for us! He turns the other cheek: lets the Roman soldiers strike him on the head and spit on him. He hands over his coat: lets them put a purple robe on him, twist together a crown of thorns and set it on him. He goes the extra mile: lets them lead him out to be crucified. He gives to the ones who take: lets them fall on their knees in mock homage, lets them call out in false worship, “Hail, king of the Jews!” repays those who would take his dignity, with silent, non-retaliating love! This is how the kingdom comes; this is how Jesus becomes King!
January 30, 2022
We humans often confuse what we need with what we want! We buy into everything others are telling us we should want, that come in fancy packaging with labels like: Freedom, Fun, Fulfillment and Fame. Of course, the one label they never show you, is: fleeting! The things we need more are found in the good news that's been brought to us, the good news that says: "Your God reigns!" That’s what we NEED! That’s the news that will never disappoint; that’s what gets us through the storms and shocks of life; that’s what was before the people when they brought Jesus to be questioned by Pilate, the Roman governor over Judaea.
January 23, 2022
We've all done things we’ve thought better of, things we wished we’d never done, people we wished we’d never sinned against, sins that in some cases still bedevil us today. Because of this, we've all heard the rooster crow, wept bitter tears, and felt remorse for our failures. When this happens, we need to know that sin isn't our biggest problem; quitting is! We have a choice: We can either join Judas in giving up, or we can join Peter in giving in to grace and mercy. Peter hung his head in shame, but then returned; Judas, in shame, hung himself, and threw away his chance to return.
January 16, 2022
At the third station of the cross, the way from the garden of grief to the garden of gladness, Jesus stands trial before Israel’s high priest, one who sadly, had already made up his mind about Jesus. Because so many have already done the same, Jesus still stands trial today by people unable or unwilling to see Him beyond a closed mind. Jesus stands trial every time we “turn our nose up” to His words, every time we think we’ve heard it all before, every time we’re too full to taste anymore, every time we’re so secure we no longer need a refuge. But there is hope! Jesus says, “you all will see!” Revealing himself for who He is, He loves us too much to leave us unchallenged and unchanged.
January 9, 2022
Jesus doesn’t play by our rules; he startles and surprises us; he will not be “tamed.” We can either accept and rest in this, or — we can stumble over it, falling into either trying to control him or to counter (stop) him. Judas and the other disciples chose the first option, the crowd and those who sent them chose the later; neither worked! We can try to control Jesus; we can come against Jesus, but we will never stop Jesus! We do better to embrace Jesus!
January 2, 2022
To journey with Jesus, to say "be glorified in me," is to journey with Him from the garden of Gethsemane to the garden tomb, from saying "not my will but thine" to saying "into your hands I commend my Spirit." It's to journey with Jesus from the prayer of surrender to the place of surrender - and every point in between, those points what have commonly been called the stations of the cross: the significant intersections and encounters Jesus had on the way to dying for us.
December 26, 2021
Joseph's dream ends with the angel declaring the central message of the Gospel and the hope of all who've put their trust in Emmanuel, the son Mary bore: Jesus Saves! He willingly does what we cannot do ourselves and He does it to the uttermost! This is His work for us, His welcome to us: saving His people from their sins!
December 19, 2021
The message of the angel in Joseph’s dream is Good News! Mary will give birth to a son! From this unlikely birth, from this unlikely vessel, in this unlikely place, in this unlikely way: the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. The words are a reminder to us that God is indeed no respecter of persons or circumstances. And in case we’re still not convinced, the Son given, is the seal and unshakable sign that God will do all He has said He will do!
December 12, 2021
Prior to the angel’s appearance, Joseph was planning to do the right thing, but He wasn’t yet seeing God’s fingerprints on his life or the life of his bride. So God speaks in a dream saying, "what is conceived in Mary is from the Holy Spirit!" - "what you're seeing as a problem Joseph, you need to see as a possibility!" It's a reminder to us that if God is in it, there are no limits. If God is in it, things fantastic and impossible can and do happen; things fantastic and impossible are normal, if God is in it!
December 5, 2021
Fear is real, and is best dealt with rather than denied. In Joseph's dream, after addressing him by name and assuring him of the promise, the angel speaks the words to Joseph that God has been speaking from the very beginning: "Do not be afraid!" Joseph heard those words and responded - in spite of his fears! And over the course of three more dreams, Joseph's obedience undoubtedly became more natural and easy, rooted in his being.
November 28, 2021
In the first chapter of Matthew, Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus has a dream that will change the course of his life. Joseph had decided on a plan of action to deal with a situation he didn’t understand; but God, speaking through an angel in a dream, meets Joseph to help him take a different path.
November 21, 2021
Rich and his wife Wanda are Assemblies of God Missionaries to Peru.
November 14, 2021
It’s great to have something; it’s better to KNOW you have something: to know God always answers our prayers, to know the depth of His love towards us sinners, to know how good Jesus is, to know the joy of His ongoing rescue. “That we would know” these things, is why John has written!
November 7, 2021
There are three that testify says John: the water, the blood, and the Spirit. The water is the willingness of Jesus at his baptism to enter the life God called Him to; the blood, the wounds He shed to secure that life for us; the Spirit is God using that willingness and those wounds to draw us to himself saying: "This is my Son in whom I am well pleased! Listen to Him and learn from Him!" This is the Life!
October 31, 2021
We CAN live in love! As Moses told the Israelites on the verge of entering the land of promise: "what I am commanding you today is not too difficult...or beyond your reach." John echoes Moses; he wants us to know that living in love (living in God!) is not only pleasant and productive (good for you, good for others) it’s also possible! But we won’t find out if we’re not willing to try.
October 24, 2021
We’ve been talking a lot about the Love of God — that’s because John talks a lot about the Love of God! Yet, as much as we crave love, we also fear it! But John, the one who calls us friends, doesn’t give up on us, and he wants us to know: neither does God! As John has already told us: God is Love! God cannot, not love — it’s who He is! So if the fact that God is love is settled, what remains? For us to acknowledge and accept it! For us to make love our life’s aim.
October 17, 2021
John says: God is love! — that All God does, flows out of all God is! This is what sets the Living God apart from all others! — what makes Him the light in whom there is no darkness at all. Our God is love! — a love that parts seas, causes the sun to back-up, and turns water into wine; but more than these, a love that: reveals God’s Heart, removes barriers that keep us from loving like He does, and completely redirects the tone and temper of our lives!
October 10, 2021
Recognizing and Responding to God's Voice is the essential task of those who call Him Lord. We do this by "testing the spirits to see whether they are from Him;" and we are able to test spirits, only when we're continually immersed, taking the time to listen to the voice of Jesus, by His Holy Spirit.
October 3, 2021
Our hearts are broken: incapable, incurable, and incomprehensible. Thankfully, the God who knows everything is greater than our hearts! When we choose to be guided by a faithful Savior rather than a faulty heart, we receive the blessings of that good decision: the witness that we are His, the well-being of resting in Him, and the oneness with Him that welcomes His Holy Spirit and enables us to pray, “Lord, make your love complete in me that I might be made complete in You!”
September 5, 2021
“Love” IS the message, and has been the message from the very beginning! God’s love can be seen in everything He has made! In fact, John says that it IS the way He has made!: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” Any goal pursued without love is a goal pursued without God. And any goal pursued without God is a goal pursued in folly.
August 29, 2021
Like the dust that blankets the furniture in our homes, we all deal with sin, ours and others', on a daily basis. Because of this, remaining free from sin is a daily exercise! We don’t remain free from the power of sin by accepting Jesus, that's simply where we start. We remain free from the power of sin by abiding in Jesus.
August 22, 2021
John, in short, direct, one sentence sermons, has given us a lot to consider. Now he says: “Continue!” That word reminds us that it’s not just knowing what to do that’s important; it’s also doing what we know!
August 15, 2021
The Light has come! even as the world remains largely in darkness. To walk in the light as Jesus is in the Light, we must understand the day we live in and guard against the darkness creeping into our hearts. In short, we must Remain in Jesus!
August 8, 2021
We can be so busy doing so many things that we neglect the ONE thing of tending to the knowledge that enables us to overcome: the knowledge of who we are, what we’ve been given and where our life is found.
August 1, 2021
There is no greater command of God than to Love; and there is no greater way we demonstrate that we know God, than to fully obey that command - living in the light as Jesus did, with nothing within us that causes stumbling.
July 25, 2021
Walking in the Light, John's description of being in right relationship with God and man, consists of receiving God's Forgiveness, experiencing Freedom from sin, and enjoying Fellowship with God and man. God, who is pure light and no darkness, has freely given these to all; all we have to do is reach out and take hold of them!
July 18, 2021
1 John begins with a proclamation of Jesus, "the Word of Life." John says we have seen, heard, and touched Him; this is the Gospel News that God has come into the world! But the news doesn't end there, because John says the reason we proclaim the Gospel News, is so that you may have fellowship with us. This is the Good News of the Gospel: We can KNOW God! - experience the Word of Life ourselves! No wonder John speaks of joy being made complete! There is no greater wonder than being caught up in Christ!