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11th Hour Grace

We continue our series, Cross Words, and I invite you to open your Bible to Luke 23:39-43.  As we move toward Good Friday and Easter, we are lingering at the cross.  We are listening to the last words of Jesus before his death.  Jesus is suffering.  Yet before he thinks to pray for himself, he prays that the Father forgive those who crucified and mock him.  He takes a…

A Bigger Family Than You Know

As we continue our series, Cross Words, I invite you to open your Bible to John 19:25-27. Family devotions.  Something most every Christian parent wants to do but finds a bit elusive.  Author Larry Crabb encouraged creativity when his kids were young.  Sometimes their devotions took the form of one of the children impersonating a biblical character.  The rest of the…

Grace In Our Face

I invite you to open your Bible this morning to Luke 23:32-38.  Between now and Easter we are going to linger at the cross and listen to the words of Jesus as he suffered there.  It’s important that we do.  We far too easily miss the cross. We don’t miss the image of the cross.  It’s everywhere: hanging on necklaces, imprinted on T-shirts, planted over graves, decorating…

God the Provider

Keith, a pastor-friend of mine, preached a sermon on tithing to his congregation.  One of the members of the church visited with Keith later that week.  “I want to tithe,” he said, “but if I do, I just don’t think I could pay the rest of my bills.” “Well, how about a little experiment?” Keith asked.  “Commit tithe for one month.  At the end of the month, if you have any…

An Offering That Makes Jesus Smile

As we continue our series, The Money Challenge, I invite you to open your Bible to Mark 12:41-44. Though I’ve heard it happens in some churches, I’ve never seen it for myself.  The congregation parades to the altar to bring their Sunday offering as the pastor stands over the basket.  A child drops his dollar, another a handful of change.  Still another has no offering to…

Money Talks

Sometimes I think God should have given ministers an extra ear.  We get engaged in so many conversations.  Across the years, most of those conversations get lost from memory because of sheer volume.  Unlike your laptop, my memory isn’t measured in terabytes or even megabytes; maybe kilobytes.  I forget a lot.  But some conversations get lodged in the memory so deeply that…

God the Owner

Let’s do a little word association this morning.  I’m going to say a word and you whisper the first thing that pops in your mind.  The word is money.  Question: was the word challenge on anybody’s lips? This morning we’re beginning a January series called The Money Challenge.  It is, isn’t it?  For most of us.  How are we supposed to maintain a decent standard of living,…

121 For the Next 365

I invite you to open your Bible to Psalm 121.  Except for the 16 years I lived in Kansas City, I’ve spent my entire life in the hills—younger years in the Ozarks, later years in the Ouachitas.  I like the hills.  They feel like home.  At first glance it sounds like Psalm 121 was written with an eye toward the hills.  But when we listen closely, we see that the psalm was…

Remember the Manger

Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr said that on Christmas, he preferred to go to a church where there was no sermon, only music, art, and drama.  “Words just aren’t up to it,” he said.  Niebuhr’s right.  Words aren’t up to it.  That’s why we’ll keep our words to a minimum today.  But there is good news in Christmas worth telling.  A few of those words are found…

Follow the Light

Is it just me, or does Christmas get more complicated every year?  Online shopping has made that part of it easier for some, but there are lots of decisions to make, lots of complications to negotiate, lots of questions to answer: Are we staying home, or do we go to Grandma’s? What do I get my dad who has everything? Do we decorate before Thanksgiving, or do we wait?  And…

Light and Life

I invite you to open your Bible to John 1:1-5, 14.  This is John’s Christmas text.  He writes nothing of shepherds watching their flocks by night, nothing of angels singing in the sky, nothing of a young Nazarene couple, nine-months pregnant, frantically searching for a place to stay in crowded Bethlehem before the baby comes.  There’s no nativity scene in John’s account,…

It’s Gonna Be Alright

If there’s one thing that every Christian can say with full confidence, it’s what the choir just sang to us: “It’s gonna be all right.”  That’s what the prophet Isaiah is saying to God’s’ people.  I invite you to open your Bible to Isaiah 60:1-3.  This is a classic Advent text.  I encourage you to read the whole chapter.  We’re going to hear the first three verses: Arise,…