Thursday, April 23, 2009

Walking on Water

Several Gospel writers record the account of Jesus walking on water. Matthew includes a unique perspective which shows that Peter also walked on the water to Jesus. I hope you will be blessed, inspired, and encouraged as you listen to last Sunday's sermon entitled "Walking on Water".

You can listen to the sermon in mp3 format here (if you have any difficulty with the link, you can also click the blue icon to the right which says "Listen Now")

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Repetition is good. And again I say, repetition is good.

(The following is a typical exchange at the Haney house)
Mom: "Dinner's ready!"
Dad/Kids: "**sound of crickets chirping outside**"
Mom: "I said...Dinner's ready!!"
Dad/Kids: "**still faint sound of crickets chirping**"
Mom (this time with feeling): "This is the LAST TIME I'm going to call you to dinner- get in here!!!"
Dad/Kids: "**the sound of small herd of elephants running toward the kitchen**"

Paul used repetition in his teaching. We recently concluded a study at Liberty Worship Center on Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians. It was only after we finished up the series that I realized Paul repeated himself quite a bit. We can usually count on Paul for some repetition. It's not uncommon for him to open a letter with a familiar greeting like "Grace and peace to you" or some equivalent. And we're also familiar with Paul bidding us farewell with a "grace to you" as well.

Paul took it a step further with the Thessalonians though. He touched on several important topics with them (persecution, holiness, brotherly love), but it seems he appealed to one topic over and over again- the second coming of Jesus Christ. I realize the chapter and verse divisions were not in the original autographs (they were added later) but the chapter divisions seem to come at appropriate places and times. Notice how Paul wraps up each chapter (even though not all of these are the exact final verses in each chapter, they seem to be concluding remarks in each one):

1Th 1:10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

1Th 2:19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?

1Th 3:13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

1Th 4:17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

1Th 5:23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This particular church (Thessalonica) was facing some tough times in the form of persecution. In the West, we really know nothing of the sort. But we have our own share of hard times, disappointments, faith trials, etc. I believe (among other things), Paul was helping them to keep a perspective. It's very easy to adopt a myopic view in the midst of difficult circumstances. I remember when I was 15 years old, and it seemed it would take a lifetime for me to turn 16 and actually obtain my driver's license. But now, it seems just yesterday that I was 16.

The Thessalonians needed to be reminded that their best days were ahead of them, not behind them. Maybe you need to hear that today as well. Christ is coming again- will you be ready? So the next time your pastor sounds like a broken record player- try to smile at that joke he's already told 20 times, and for sure pay heed to the things he shares from God's word. Paul wasn't afraid of a little repetition.

Until next time....

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Sunday Message: "The Man Death Could Not Hold"

On the day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter declared that it was not possible for death to hold Jesus. He arose from the grave after a horrific death on the cross for the sins of all mankind. You can listen to Pastor Henry's latest sermon entitled "The Man Death Could Not Hold" by clicking here.

Or you can click on the "Listen Now" icon on the right column and listen to streaming audio from Blast Podcast. (We will have an iTunes subscription option coming shortly)

Thanks and God bless!

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Goodness of Good Friday

Rom 5:6-8
6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.
8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (NKJ)

There is always considerable debate as to the appropriateness of celebrating Christian holidays (holy days) and the manner in which they should be observed. Regardless of your particular conviction on this, it is my belief that any day is appropriate to discuss the Good News (this is what the word "Gospel" means). So what will follow is a few brief remarks about the goodness of Good Friday.

The first good thing I want to point out, is that God didn't wait for us to get our act together. Paul says that while we were "still without strength, Christ died for the ungodly". That's right- Jesus didn't die for perfect people; He died for the ungodly. This is a beautiful picture of the magnificent grace of God. No matter what you've done, or how unsavable you think you are; Jesus has paid the price for you. The first few chapters of the bible speak of the fall of man (which didn't take God by surprise by the way!). The remainder of the bible demonstrates God's attempt to redeem a fallen world.

Paul says that there are some things worth dying for. Jesus even said that one of the greatest acts of love is to lay down your life for your friends (John 15:13). Paul says that perhaps some would be willing to die for a "good" man. Of course the irony here is that in this letter (Romans), Paul has already laid out a convincing case that none of us are truly as "good" as we think we are (Romans 3:9-12). Even on our best day, we still fall short of God's perfect standard.

Now for the ultimate demonstration of love. God became a man, lived among us, and allowed His own creation to crucify Him. Jesus was not a victim in all of this. The events that unfolded during the Passion week were all part of God's plan from the beginning (see Acts 2:23). Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. This is what makes His love Divine. He loves the unlovable, the unworthy, the undeserving. The events of Passion week; the triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the rejection, betrayal, trials, crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are all part of that grand and glorious story we know as "The Gospel".

Now that's some good news!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Palm Sunday Audio Sermon

Click the link below to listen to the Palm Sunday sermon I preached today, entitled "Visit from God"

Be blessed!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Speaking of Parables

I confess that I love reading and teaching about the parables of Jesus. I became fascinated with them from the moment of my conversion. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that I love a good story, and fancy myself somewhat of a storyteller. Parables can be tricky though, and we need to handle them with care. I’m not an authority on the parables of Jesus, so understand these comments are strictly “off the cuff” this morning as I think about tomorrow’s Palm Sunday sermon. Here are some random comments about parables that you may find useful in your own sermon prep and /or teaching (or personal devotions).

#1- The parables are sometimes “occasional”. In other words, there is a specific reason the parable is shared. It wasn’t simply that Jesus and his companions were weary from travel, and decided it was time for a good object lesson. In keeping with the Palm Sunday theme- let’s look at Luke chapter 19. Here, Jesus shares a parable about a nobleman who goes away into a far country to receive a kingdom for himself and then return. As with almost any portion of scripture study- context is vital. This is no different. Within the context of the parable, is found the occasion:

Luke 19:11 And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. (KJV)

The crowds had misconceptions about what was going to happen when Jesus finally arrived in Jerusalem. We have the gift of hindsight that tells us how everything unfolded (Jesus’ rejection, trial, crucifixion, resurrection). Jesus uses this opportunity to speak a parable unto them which had immediate as well as future application.

#2- Parables often teach one central point. Here is where the issue of parables becomes thorny. This is where we sometimes have to resist the temptation to ascribe special meaning to every symbol in a parable. Sometimes symbols and specific applications are clearly identified (by Jesus). In the case of the parable of the sower/soils, the wheat and the tares/weeds (Matt 13), the symbols are clearly identified and defined.

But- what about the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25? Early on in my ministry, I had a detailed theology of the parable of the ten virgins. I could tell you what each number and each symbol represented in the parable. (As a side note, are you aware how many different interpretations exist about the oil and the lamps in the parable?) I’m not saying that there are not layers of meaning about each symbol; God’s word is so rich. But I think Christ gives a clue about the purpose of the parable in verse 13 of the chapter:

Matt 25:13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. (KJV)

So the purpose of the parable is a call to readiness and watchfulness. Whatever deeper meaning the symbols may have, the intent is to teach that Christ will return at an unannounced time and some will be ready, but many will not be and will be punished. Certainly there are symbols that we are familiar with (virgins, oil, lamps) and imagery that we are accustomed to (weddings, slumber, etc.). But we must use caution in being more narrow in our interpretation than scripture allows. As I mentioned earlier, many have adopted a very detailed theology about the Holy Spirit based on the references to oil in the parable. While it does not seem a stretch that the Holy Spirit would be symbolized by oil, any dogmatic attempt to systematically define the application would be subjective at best.

I had planned three points, but I’m beginning to “wax long” in my delivery, so let’s stop there for today. Hopefully this will serve you and I well, and you may have more thoughts on the subject you’d like to share in the comments section. All I ask is that you keep a respectful tone and don’t post profanity (offending posts will be deleted accordingly).

Until next time….