“Surely I Am Coming Soon!”

024Yesterday, I preached a message at Woodbury Community Church entitled, “The End is Only the Beginning.” It was the conclusion of our year long series “The Challenge,” in which our congregation was encouraged to read through the Bible in a year. Today, many of the people in our congregation are finishing their year of Bible reading with the last chapters of Revelation, including Revelation 22:20, which says:

20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

The last five words of Jesus recorded in the Bible are, “Surely I am coming soon.”

Jesus actually says, “I am coming soon,” three times in the last chapter of the Bible (Revelation 22:7, 12, and 20).

I am convinced that Jesus doesn’t make mistakes. He wants us to understand that our lives are to be lived in light of the fact that He is coming back one day for His bride. Our job is to be ready. We are to live our lives with eternity in mind.

I closed yesterday’s sermon with a video illustration from Right Now Media entitled, “Are You a Trader.” I promised to put that video on this blog. In the coming weeks we are going to be examining what it means to live the blessed life. That life cannot happen until we trade the “American Dream,” for the life that God dreams of for us.

Here is the sermon that I preached yesterday:

Video streaming by Ustream

The Blessed Life

The_Blessed_Life_Series_-_Banner_Graphic_1_preview_587x327In January, I’ll be preaching a new series at Woodbury Community Church entitled, The Blessed Life. As we near Christmas, one of the things that I continually notice is that everyone is looking for happiness. If happiness was a product that could be purchased and given to someone as a gift under a tree, then whoever sold that product would be the wealthiest person on planet earth.

Pursuing happiness takes work. It’s tough to find and even harder to hold. Ever want more than that for your life? God does. He wants us to be blessed. Discover what the Bible says about living The Blessed Life.

January 6 – A Heart of Generosity

January 13 – The Blessed Test

January 20 – The Generous Eye

January 27 – The Heart of Serving

Lifechurch.tv has provided the graphics and videos for this series. I’m grateful for their ministry and heartbeat for giving their resources away to other churches for free.

The Story of a Ministry and the Internet

phone-with-apps1I love the days that we live in! We have opportunities in 2012 to impact culture with the Gospel unlike any time in the history of the world. This morning I watched a video from Desiring God Ministries that touched my soul. It’s the story of a bi-vocational pastor in Massachusetts who caught a vision for how the Internet could be used to impact culture at the front end of the World Wide Web.

There are several things that moved me about the story:

1) The bi-vocational pastor’s conviction that ministries shouldn’t charge for the Gospel.

2) The humility of the bi-vocational pastor, in working so hard to get another pastor’s sermons out to the masses.

3) The way the Internet has changed what tools are available to believers seeking to grow in their walk with Christ. There is a point where the pastor talks about Charles Spurgeon’s sermons being about all that was available to the masses for free at the time the Internet began to be embraced. Now there are thousands of ministries/churches offering their sermons for free.

4) God’s unique anointing on individuals. It is amazing how many people that God has reached through the faithful ministry of one person. This story is repeated over and over again in the lives of individuals all over the world. Ask John Piper, Billy Graham, Beth Moore, Louie Giglio, Andy Stanley, Chuck Swindoll, etc. if they ever dreamed that they would be used the way that God has chosen to use them and I suspect that they would answer, “No.” How God works through people is an amazing and beautiful thing. I’m grateful to be a small part of His story and pray that He will continue to use me and the people in my life in wonderful ways too.

Here is the story of a web pioneer’s wild dream.

A Web Pioneer’s Wild Dream from Desiring God on Vimeo.

Do you have some great stories of how you have used the Internet to make an impact for Christ?

Learning New Things About Christmas

The First ChristmasI’ve been a follower of Jesus for a long time now. My journey of faith began as a child, and it was as a four-year-old boy that I prayed and asked Jesus to be my Savior. I grew up in a church-going family. So, from the time I was an infant, I was in church. That means that in my 43 years of life I have heard (and in recent years, I have preached) a number of sermons about Christmas.

When people ask me about the toughest sermons to preach, I almost always respond that  Christmas and Easter sermons are the most difficult to prepare. These two holidays come  every year and it can sometimes be tough to come up with fresh ideas and insights into the familiar and wonderful stories of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection.

I have to say that I am energized about preaching on Christmas this year. One of the reasons is that I’m learning so many new things about Christmas. On Christmas Eve, I’ll be preaching a dramatic monologue sermon. My sermon will come from the perspective of Bethlehem’s innkeeper. In preparation I’ve been reading an old book that I found at a used bookstore several years ago. It’s a book entitled, The First Christmas, by Rev. Denis O’Shea. It was published in 1952 by The Bruce Publishing Company in Milwaukee.

I’m enjoying the book for several reasons.

1) It was written by a Catholic priest. I’m Protestant. That means that my views on who Mary is are very different than O’Shea’s. So, I’m forced to read this book critically. Seeing things from a perspective radically different than mine is a sharpening process.

2) It was written in 1952. This was shortly after Israel was resettled by the Jewish people. The historical context of this book is fascinating. The illustrations that are used about what the Holy Land was like in the 1950’s make me wish I could have seen it then. I’m reading a section about the Samaritan people, and at the time only 260 were living in Palestine. O’Shea had visited with the present High Priest of the Samaritans and the information written about that encounter is fascinating.

3) Like William Barclay, one of my favorite New Testament commentators, O’Shea writes from the perspective of a historian. (If you want to read great stuff on the times of the Bible read any of Barclay’s commentaries.) The quoting of ancient historians, the visuals that he paints about what houses, inns, roads, landscape, food, clothes, animals, etc. were like in the days surrounding Christ’s birth are fascinating. He also does a great job painting a picture of the geo-political culture of the day. Understanding how Herod achieved his position, the world of Caesar Augustus, what a census involved, and why the Jewish people were required to go to the land of their ancestors to register is fascinating. I felt that I could picture the abodes of the first century world, and the inns that Mary and Joseph would have stopped at on their route from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

There is so much more that I could say. Again, there is a lot that I would disagree with in this book, particularly O’Shea’s insistence that Mary was a perpetual virgin. But, all-in-all this book has opened my eyes and my mind to see things I’ve never seen before about Christmas. I can’t wait to share them in the form of a drama on Christmas Eve.

If you are in town, I’d love to have you join us for Christmas Eve services at Woodbury Community Church at 5 or 7 PM. I hope the sermon will be something that you’ll be talking about for a long time.

What is something new that you’ve learned about Christmas this year?

Make Much of Jesus

radical
Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
When I accepted the call to serve at my first church, my Grandfather, who had been a pastor for many years looked at me and said, “Brian, make much of Jesus. In your ministry of the Word, in your life, in your home, in your church . . . make much of Jesus!”I loved my Grandpa, and to this day, his advice was the best that I have ever been given as it relates to the life of a Christian. David Platt, in his book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream writes, “While the goal of the American dream is to make much of us, the goal of the gospel is to make much of God.”Beginning this Sunday, Woodbury Community Church will take a journey to the heart of what it means to live as citizens in the Kingdom of God. The Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5-7 is the most famous sermon that Jesus ever preached. Thousands of people gathered to hear the Rabbi teach about a new way of living. Jesus taught like no one else ever had. His sermon would shake the contemporary understanding of what it meant to live as a child of God. If you pay serious attention to Jesus’ message, it will shake us to the core as well. I wrestled with how I would begin the 2011 sermon year. There were about ten themes that I kept studying, but I couldn’t escape Jesus’ sermon. The words of Jesus are as revolutionary today as they were when he preached them two thousand years ago. We are going in depth, spending 33 weeks to unpack Jesus’ words in Matthew 5-7. Take some time between now and Sunday to read through Jesus’ sermon, and come ready to learn how we can best live as citizens in the Kingdom of God. If you would like some additional resources to study while we go through Jesus’ sermon, check out these three books, which will be my primary study tools outside of the Bible.


hughes

The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom (Preaching the Word)

1)    Kent Hughes book, The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom, is part of the Preaching the Word Commentary set published by Crossway Books. The Preaching the Word Commentaries are among my favorite, because they are simply the sermons that the authors’ preached in the churches that they serve. This book is from a series of sermons that Hughes taught at The College Church in Wheaton, Illinois. I used this book as a template for the way that I would divide up the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. 

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The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Bible Speaks Today)

2)    John Stott’s book, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, is a classic exposition of Jesus’ teaching. Stott is a brilliant Bible teacher and gives so many unique insights into Jesus’ words. 

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Studies in the Sermon on the Mount

3)    D. Martyn Lloyd Jones’ book, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, was mentioned in almost every commentary on The Sermon on the Mount that I read. It is a spiritual classic, written by the longtime minister of Westminster Chapel in London. All three of these books make much of Jesus, and I hope that our series will as well! Looking forward to God doing some great things in the weeks ahead!

The Joy of Proclamation

It’s cold today in Minnesota.

The reading on the thermostat read -5 as I left for the office this morning. This is just another in a long string of cold days. The weather forecast says that we are in for more snow tomorrow.

On Saturday, we had the worst snowstorm in the Twin Cities in nearly nineteen years. There was so much snow that the roof on the Metrodome, home of the Minnesota Vikings, collapsed. We made the tough decision to cancel church. The Senior Pastor, Worship Director, and several members of the worship team were unable to get out of our driveways due to 5-6 foot snow drifts.

This means that I didn’t get a chance to preach the sermon that I had planned for Sunday. So, let me give you a quick synopsis of where we were going.

We are in the middle of our yearly Advent Series. This year we decided to take the four weeks before Christmas and focus on the traditional themes of Advent. This week’s theme was “The Joy of Proclamation.”

In Luke 2:8-18 we read the following:

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,  14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
   and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”  15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”  16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

The angels had the wonderful job of announcing to a group of shepherds on the hills outside of Bethlehem a six-fold message from God.

1) A Savior Has Been Born to You
    
The words were magnificent, and the message changed everything. The world desperately needed a Savior. Why? Because, from the time of Adam and Eve, man’s relationship with God had been damaged. Our sin created a gap between man and God that could only be bridged through a Savior.

When people think about a Savior in contemporary culture, we think about fictional superheroes, or real life heroes like police officers, fire fighters and military personnel. Fictional superheroes will never change your life. Real life heroes may save your physical life, but only God, only the true Savior can save your eternal life.

Many of us have fallen for the lie that we don’t need a Savior. We somehow think that this life is all there is. Look out for number one. Get all that you can out of this life because there are no guarantees about eternity. Jesus changes that.

2) Jesus Christ, Born in Bethlehem is the promised Messiah

There are over 300 Old Testament prophecies that were fulfilled in the person of Jesus. No words written about the coming Messiah failed to be fulfilled in the person of Jesus. The angels declared from day number one that Jesus was the Messiah. As such, He will fulfill the future promises of Messiah too. Do you believe it?

3) Jesus Christ is Lord

Think about the gravity of that statement. Angels, who had worshipped Jesus in the realms of heaven, now said that the babe who was lying down in a feeding trough in the stable of an innkeeper was Lord. This is the same Lord who will one day be worshipped by all who ever lived. Every knee shall someday bow, and every tongue shall someday confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Make no doubt about it, Jesus is Lord and God wants that message known by all who live in this world.

4) Jesus Christ Came To Serve

“Unto you, is born this day . . .” The angels announced that Jesus born “unto” us. Jesus was born so that we might be born again. He said himself that He didn’t come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. This One who came to serve also said that His people should serve. How are we doing on our end of that bargain? Are we serving Him faithfully?

5) All Glory in Heaven and Earth Belongs to God

The Ultimate Servant, Jesus Christ, is the one to Whom all glory is due.

When an athlete makes a spectacular play we cheer like crazy. When we see a famous person, we kind of want to meet them. When we are around a terrific leader, we want to learn from them. We give glory to lots of people. But, are we giving glory to the One who truly deserves it?

6) Jesus Came To Bring Peace Between Man and God

Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Now that is a great message! That is a message worth proclaiming to the world!

When the shepherds returned from seeing Jesus, they couldn’t contain the message of hope that had been brought to them. There is joy that comes in proclaiming Jesus. May you share that joy today!