“Then You Will Know that I Am the LORD” (Ezekiel 37:1-14)

Sermon for the Festival of Pentecost (5/24/2015)

Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14

Theme: “Then You Will Know that I Am the LORD”

The foot bone connects to the shin bone

The shin bone connects to the knee bone

The knee bone connects to the thigh bone

The thigh bone connects to the hip bone

The hip bone connects to the back bone…

I’m sure many of you are familiar with that children’s song. Be honest though, how many of you know this children’s song is actually an African Spiritual based on our lesson from Ezekiel 37?

Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones,

Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones,

Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones,

O, hear the Word of the Lord.

It’s a truly fascinating story, isn’t it? In my opinion, Ezekiel 37 is one of the most fascinating stories in the Old Testament. I mean, the imagination just runs wild with this one. Continue reading

What are you afraid of? God is on your side! (Matthew 10:24-33)

Sermon for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost (7/13/14)

Text: Matthew 10:24-33

Theme: What are you afraid of? God is on your side!

              Miriam Ibrahim. Does that name ring a bell for any of you? Her name was all over social media and the news a month or two ago. Do you remember what for?

Miriam Ibrahim is a young woman in the Sudan who had the guts to become a believer in Jesus as her Savior. Many of you know how that story played out. You see in Sudan it is against the law to convert from Islam to another faith. So she was brought to court and sentenced to execution by hanging because she refused to disown Jesus as her Savior.

Now the good news is, the news of Miriam’s imprisonment with her two year old son and infant daughter created such an outcry around the world that she is now safe in the US Embassy in Sudan.

Miriam has temporarily escaped the noose of persecutors, people who would kill her because of her faith. But all around the world other Christians, whose names often never make it into American mainstream media, are not so fortunate. From China to Nigeria, Christians in the middle east, far east, and Africa – our brothers and sisters in Jesus – are being stoned, blown up, shot, and hung. Their churches are being bulldozed and demolished. They live their life with a bounty on their heads and the constant threat of violence…

All around the world Christians are being persecuted. It’s terrible and horrible, but it’s really nothing new, is it?

“No student is above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!”

Jesus promised that if he was persecuted, so would his followers be. And this has been proven true over and over again, from Jeremiah in the first lesson today, to Paul in the second lesson, to Miriam in Sudan, followers of Jesus have faced persecution. Persecution continues because all mankind is born with a natural hatred toward God and what he says.

And so persecutors try. They tried to label Jesus as “from the devil.” They hung him from a cross. They threw Jeremiah into an empty well and left him there to die. Paul was stoned, beaten, robbed, imprisoned, and eventually killed. Persecutors have been and are busy inspiring fear, all in the hope that they could stop Christians from believing in Christ.

What about us? Do we face persecution? Jesus said that if we followed him, we would. So do we? Continue reading

If I’m Saved, So Are You! (1 Timothy 1:12-17)

Sermon for the 3rd Sunday of Pentecost 6/29/14

Text: 1 Timothy 1:12-17

Theme: If I’m Saved, So Are You!

            How many of you know the name Jeffrey Dahmer? Does it ring a bell? Do you know who that is?

Jeffrey Dahmer was a serial killer in Milwaukee, WI. Between 1987 and 1991 he killed 17 men and boys. Some of them he had relations with first. Some of them he had relations with after he killed them. Some he cut up into pieces and ate. He was caught with refrigerators full of body parts. When the news of Dahmer’s murders hit the news outlets there was outrage and disgust. With people like that out in the world, people started keeping their kids a little closer to home. In 1991 Jeffrey Dahmer, the renowned serial killer and cannibal, was sentenced to 15 consecutive life sentences. He only served three of those years however, because in 1994 an inmate killed him.

For our purposes, the interesting part of the life of Jeffrey Dahmer is the fact that many sources claim that he repented of his sins and became a Christian shortly before he was killed.

Now, stop and think about that for a little this morning. How does that make you feel? You know and believe what Christianity teaches about repentance and forgiveness – which means that if the reports are true, Jeffrey Dahmer is in heaven right now. What does it feel like to think of a person like Dahmer as a brother in Christ? What does it feel like to picture Jeffrey Dahmer standing there right next to your grandma, grandpa, mom and dad waiting to welcome you into heaven? What does it feel like to picture a man like Jeffrey Dahmer next to your mental image of Jesus? Continue reading

You Have the Holy Spirit, Now Go and Make Disciples! (Acts 2:1-21)

Sermon for Pentecost 6/8/14

Text: Acts 2:1-21

Theme: You Have the Holy Spirit, Now God and Make Disciples!

              Have you ever volunteered for something and later came to regret it?

It happens all the time, doesn’t it? You volunteers for some task and it ends up sucking up way more of your time than you originally thought it would. Or you volunteer for one little obligation and soon have a much larger obligation thrown on your lap.

I have to imagine that there was many a night in William Carey’s life when he felt the exact same thing. I have to imagine that at times he regretted that he had ever opened his mouth to volunteer.

You see, William Carey was a Christian pastor in England in the late 1700’s. In 1793 he looked over at the people of India and his heart broke. He saw in India millions of people on the path to hell because they knew nothing about the Bible – they knew nothing about Jesus. So William Carey spoke up, and as often happens, the one who points out a good idea is asked to pursue that good idea. And so, William Carey left the life he knew in England to tell the people of India about Jesus.

I have to imagine that as William’s boat docked in India his stomach was in knots. I have to imagine that right then, when he stepped onto that dock surrounded by people whose skin was darker than his, dressed in clothes very different from his, babbling in languages he didn’t understand, with customs he knew nothing about, there had to have been a least a little regret. What had he gotten himself into?…

Regardless of what he may have been feeling when he stepped off that boat, William Carey was resolute. He knew what he had come here for – he had volunteered for it. He knew that there were millions of people here that needed to know about Jesus. So he set about learning the languages and customs of India, and most importantly he started telling the people of India about Jesus.

But things didn’t go the way, I’m sure, William had hoped they would. I have to imagine that William often regretted his decision to travel to India when after 6 full years of preaching about Jesus not one single Indian had come to faith. Six years of preaching… and not one convert to Christianity!

I have to imagine that there were many nights during those six years when William Carey felt like he had failed – failed as a missionary, failed as a pastor, failed to share the good news of Jesus.

Have you ever felt that way?

God has called each of us to be missionaries, right? When Jesus said to his disciples before he ascended into heaven that they were to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you,” we know that that command was for us too. We are Jesus disciples and we have been called to make disciples.

And I know you try, but does it ever feel like an exercise of frustration to you? Continue reading