Archive for December, 2012

Thoughts on Newtown

December 20, 2012

Below is an excerpt from a sermon I preached from Luke 1:57-66 this past Sunday.
Our nation was shocked out of its happy preparations for Christmas by the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday. This was senseless violence, and it breaks our hearts. It should. It has all the marks of the Evil One. Satan loves to spread misery and confusion and death. But remember that the ground Satan would like to claim, God already owns. The sick feeling we all felt when we heard the news is a needed wake-up call for a sleeping society. The shooting was surreal. It happened “where these kinds of things aren’t supposed to happen.” But don’t you see? It wasn’t surreal. It was real. Most of our society walks in their sleep, unaware or deliberately denying that there is real evil and a real Devil, a real heaven and a real hell. There is a spiritual battle.
Newtown, CT will not quickly move on from this. But the rest of the country will want to do so. It makes them uncomfortable. We want to get on to pleasant celebrations and happy thoughts. But all these pleasant celebrations were going on in Newtown while the killer was making his plans. What makes people uncomfortable is the very thing and the only thing that can save them. Adam Lanza’s actions arose out of a heart of darkness and evil intent, but also, doubtless, deep sadness, depression and loneliness. Though no one else has taken the actions he took, that deep sadness and depression and loneliness exists in countless thousands of hearts this Christmas. We have the answer. We have the hope that can prevent another hundred Adam Lanzas from developing. We have the true source of deep, abiding joy and contentment that gives meaning to the pleasant celebrations and joyful gatherings. God got the attention of Judea at John’s birth. God wants to get the attention, I believe, of our region and our nation through Friday’s events. Let’s not let the moment pass us by. Take the opportunities that God presents to speak truth about where your peace and contentment, even amidst disappointment and tragedy, is rooted. Share the good news of the greatest gift. God will do the rest.
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The Antidote to Exasperation

December 6, 2012

In John 16:28-33, Jesus tells his disciples, “I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.” “You believe at last!” Jesus answered. “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

I read this the other day and laughed out loud. (There really is a lot of humor in the Bible, you know.) Jesus, the Son of God, had been pouring his life into these 12 men. He had taught them, prayed with them, shown them his glory at the Transfiguration, healed lepers in their presence, raised people from the dead in front of them, calmed the sea in their boat, and who knows how many other things that no ordinary man could do. After three years of this, within literally minutes of being arrested and put on trial and crucified, his disciples came out with this gem: “we now believe you came from God.” I think I might have said, “it’s about time!!” I truly believe that the Lord put this account in the Bible to humor us and encourage us, particularly in our ministry endeavors. If you get exasperated by the excruciatingly slow progress of the building of God’s kingdom around you and at times want to pull your hair out in frustration, just remember that you are not alone. The Son of God Himself dealt with all that and more.
Jesus’ response is really helpful for us. “You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me….in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” He recognized that his own peace came from the relationship he has with his Father. It was that fellowship, that perichoresis or mutual indwelling, that enabled him to comfort us.
Thankfully, the progress of God’s kingdom does not depend on the success of our individual ministry efforts or of our church. It does not succeed at our successes or falter at our failures. If Jesus could rest in his Father when he was disappointed, how much more can we.

Let us praise God for the way He is building CTR with His people, in His time, and for His glory as we serve Him here.