MATH PROBLEM We are a divided nation today. In many ways we are a divided city. The old devil may not be smart in every field of mathematics but he excels at long division. Satan is the great divider. John 17:20-26.
PASCAL’S WAGER Is death the end and there is no afterlife as Dr. Stephen Hawking claimed or as Billy Graham said, is there an afterlife where we may spend eternity with God in a place called heaven? Both of them cannot be correct. And the most important decision in your short life is to decide which position is correct. John 17:1-12.
THE FRIEND At the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples that starting that night, He would call them friends, not servants. It is a revolutionary truth that we can be friends with our Creator. Abraham was called a friend of God. The Bible said Moses spoke to God face to face as a man speaks to a friend. When Jesus was told that Lazarus had died, He said, “Our friend, Lazarus has gone to sleep, but I’m going to wake him up.” John 15:12-27. Audio TBA.
PAUSE FOR PEACE The world doesn’t understand peace. People talk about world peace, and that’s a noble goal. It’s always a good answer in a beauty contest. But according to an article in The New York Times, out of almost 4,000 years of recorded human history, there have only been about 200 years of peace—and those years of peace are just pauses for the armies to reload. John 14:27-31.
ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY One reason people are on edge is because there is so much uncertainty. What if I, or someone I love contract the virus? Am I still going to have a job? Will I be able to retire? When will this pandemic be over? Will life ever be the same again? There is a lot of uncertainty in our world right now. If we just could get some kind of assurance that life will work out—then maybe we can hold on. I want to remind you than in the midst of so much uncertainty there are some things you can be absolutely certain about: God loves you and Jesus died to give you eternal life. John 14:1-11.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN After the two disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus recognized him, they were so fired up they got up and returned to Jerusalem–seven miles. It’s uphill in that direction, but I can imagine they literally ran. What had been a road of despair was now a road of rejoicing. When they found the eleven disciples, they couldn’t keep silent. “It’s true! We’ve seen the Lord! He is ALIVE!” And there was celebration on the first Easter evening—and we’ve been celebrating ever since! Their hearts were on fire. The spark from one heart ignited the hearts of others. Luke 24:13-29.
MISTAKEN People make two big mistakes about what they think love is. Some think love is a feeling. Although love produces feelings, Jesus taught us that love isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice. He chose to lay down His life. Some people make the mistake of thinking love is some uncontrollable force. “I just fell out of love with that person.” You don’t fall out of love; you fall out of trees. Or they say, “I couldn’t help it, I fell in love with that person.” You don’t fall in love; you fall in holes. John 13:31-35.
COLLEGE DROPOUT Judas spent three years attending Jesus University. His mind was full of biblical truth. Judas heard all the parables and teachings of Jesus. He knew more about what Jesus taught than we do because only a small percentage of what Jesus did and said are in the Gospel accounts. Judas’ problem wasn’t information, it was transformation. He hadn’t been transformed. John 13:18-30; 36-38.
SECURITY Once you come to Christ, that relationship is secure forever. God is your Father and you are a child of God. Nothing can change the relationship. But as we walk in a dirty world, we sometimes still stumble into sin. So to stay in fellowship with the Lord we come to Him and regularly confess our sins to Him. John 13:1-17.
MAMA BEAR MENTALITY Have you considered how love can drive out fear? There are several stories about supernatural courage and strength that takes place in a mother when her children are in danger of any sort. It is similar in our relationship: God’s love for us helps remove fear in our lives. Knowing that God loves us and that all things work together for good to them that love Him, we find strength to face fear with faith. 2 Timothy 1:7. Audio: David O. Dykes; Transcript: Michael Gossett.
POLAR OPPOSITES There are three different ways people react to the preaching of the cross. (1) Some are repelled by the thought of a messy, bloody cross. They want a nice clean, sanitary religion. (2) Others have no response. They have no interest in hearing about how a man died on a Roman cross two thousand years ago. (3) For many, the cross is like a magnet, drawing them to it. John 12:27-36.
REDEEMER When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the Jews were looking for another military Messiah. But Jesus rode a donkey to show that He wasn’t a Hammer, He was a Redeemer. A radical revolutionary kills others for his cause but a loving Redeemer lays down His life so that others may live. John 12:12-19.
LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF FELLOWSHIP Jesus gave Lazarus life, then He gave Him liberty, and now Lazarus is enjoying a fellowship meal with Jesus. Some people think the Christian life is like a funeral but it’s more like a feast. He invites you from the spiritual tomb of your lostness to the spiritual table of fellowship with Him. John 11:28-44.
WHEN YOU CAN’T JUST SIT THERE Sometimes when we experience a disappointment or a setback, we want to hide out and just be alone. It was part of the Jewish mourning custom that Martha should have stayed in her home sitting Shiva for seven days after Lazarus died. But when she got word that Jesus was on the way, she couldn’t sit still. She ran to Jesus. John 11:17-27.
THE LAZARUS LESSON Jesus’ delay in going to Lazarus was a lesson He was trying to teach His disciples and us—that death is like sleeping. It is not to be feared any more than lying down and pulling up the covers under your chin to sleep. Jesus took the sting of fear out of death. John 11:1-16.
MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE The truth about Jesus isn’t just something to believe. It isn’t a set of facts to inform you, it is life-giving truth that transforms you. Belief that doesn’t affect your behavior isn’t true belief. If you believe Jesus is God it will affect the way you approach your marriage, your singleness, or being a parent or grandparent. It will transform your job, your hobbies, and how you handle God’s money. And believing in Jesus will affect your relationship with everyone you meet. John 10:29-42.
WORKING NON-STOP Have you ever started something you couldn’t finish? I have and probably so have you. But God has never started something He couldn’t finish. He began a good work in you and He will persevere until the day of Jesus: That means either the day you die and meet Jesus or the day Jesus returns. Either way, He won’t stop working on you. John 10:22-29.
Jesus knew He was going to die, but He also knew the time and the place He would die. He was in complete control. That’s why He said He would lay down His life for the sheep. They couldn’t kill Him until He was ready to lay down his life. He said, “No man takes my life from me. I lay it down willingly.” John 10:10-21.
IT’S PERSONAL Our Good Shepherd deals with each one of us individually. Have you noticed all the personal encounters Jesus had in this study? He was one-on-one with Nicodemus. He spoke to the woman at the well. He spoke to the paralyzed man at the Pool of Bethesda. He dealt personally with the man who was blind from birth. Jesus redeems individuals, not groups. John 10:1-10.
FRIENDS OR JESUS? So if you are going to stand up for Jesus, prepare to be rejected. Many Christians, especially young people and young adults, can’t resist the peer pressure. They want to be accepted by their friends, so they make a decision to reject the truth of the Bible to go along with the popular culture’s definition of truth. If you stand for truth, like this blind man did, you are going to be kicked out of the popular crowd. John 9:13-38.
SPIN DOCTOR The first recorded words of the devil are found in Genesis 3:1. He asked Eve a question. “Did God REALLY say you can’t eat from ANY tree in the Garden?” That’s not what God had said. So we see from the first that the devil tries to twist God’s words. And the devil always puts a question mark about the statements of God.
DEALING IN ABSOLUTES Today, truth is subjective and personal. People say, “There are no absolute truths. Whatever I feel to be true is my truth. And my truth may not be your truth.” But think about the contradiction. For someone to insist that there are no absolute truths is a statement of an absolute truth.
THE JESUS FLASHLIGHT Just as we need a good light to read, we need the illumination of Jesus to empower us to understand the Word of God. Before a person comes to Christ, their understanding is darkened. But as they begin to truly seek the Lord, He begins to illuminate their minds. The light comes on. I’ve had people tell me they read the Bible for years and I couldn’t understand it, and then one day it was as if someone turned on the light and suddenly it started to make sense.” That is the illuminating power of Jesus.
What’s that in your hand today? Is it a rock and you find yourself being obsessed with a sense of always being cynical and hypercritical? You can’t have an open hand of grace as long as you’re holding on to a rock in your fist. The message the Holy Spirit has for some of you today is to drop your rocks.
If you want to know what’s filling a person’s heart listen to what they talk about. If it’s a certain music filling their heart, they’ll talk about it. If it’s a hobby like golf or horseshoes they’ll talk about it. If it’s the latest television series, they’ll talk about it. If their heart is full of Jesus, they’ll talk about Him. I don’t mean that’s all you’ll talk about—but if you never or seldom speak about Jesus, you need to check your heart.
Those who know God intimately have come to see that He often allows us to face adversity in order to conform us to the image of Christ. God determined from the beginning that we should be shaped into the image of His Son. Part of this plan involves the painful removal of those things in our lives that don’t reflect this image.
I can stand up here and say anything, but that doesn’t make it true. I can say, “I’m a tree. I’m a flowering pear tree.” And if I insisted on saying that you’d say, “No, you’re not a flowering tree. You’re a blooming idiot.” The reason I’m not a tree is that I don’t have the inner nature of a tree. A person can say, “I’m a Christian.” But saying doesn’t make it so unless they have had their hearts changed by Jesus.
The manger is empty so we can be filled with the truth about God. The cross is empty so we can be filled with forgiveness. And the tomb is empty so we can be filled with hope. To put it another way, the manger, the cross, and the tomb are all empty so that Heaven can be filled with people who trust Jesus.
We live in a culture where the world, the devil and the flesh are doing everything possible to draw us away from Jesus. We can be drawn in two different directions. Have you ever been at the ocean and you’re in the surf near the shore? The waves are pulling you toward shore and the undertow is pulling you in the other direction. On the surface, there is so much in our culture trying to distract you and draw you away from Jesus.
We live in a hungry world. Every creature has an open mouth wanting to be fed. From the baby bird in the nest to the eagle soaring in the sky; from the minnow in the creek to the whale in the ocean; from the mouse nibbling on a crumb to the mighty elephant in jungle; every creature has to be fed. In fact, most creatures in the animal world devote most of their lives to finding food. But physical food only satisfies us temporarily.
When the disciples were caught in the storm at sea, they couldn’t see Jesus, but the good news was that Jesus could see the disciples. When you’re going through a dark struggle, you may look around and ask, “God where are you?” You may not think you can see God, but you can be certain that God sees you and He cares for you.
In the miracle of the fishes and loaves, there were five thousand men, plus women and children. All of them had been following Jesus all day. It was late and they were tired and hungry. On the surface, you would think their main problem was a lack of food. But that was just the surface problem; there was a deeper spiritual problem.
There’s a great deal of misunderstanding of what eternal life is. Many of us grew up on the good old King James Version which often translated it “everlasting life.” So it’s easy to get the idea that eternal life is talking about a length of existence. Eternal life really is a quality of life.
I’m always looking for ways to help you understand how the Holy Spirit lives in you. I usually drink coffee in the morning, but a few weeks ago, I was in a restaurant for breakfast and I ordered a cup of hot tea. The server brought a cup of hot water with a tea bag on the saucer beside the cup. I unwrapped the tea bag and started dipping it into the hot water. In that moment, the power of that tea was infused into the water and it changed it. Within a few minutes, the plain, tasteless water was transformed into something totally different. It looked, smelled and tasted differently. Just having the tea bag beside the cup of water didn’t change anything. It was only when it was in the water that it infused it. I was reminded that I am totally incapable of reproducing the life of Jesus in my personality. In order to live the Christian life, His life and power has to be infused into my personality. When you put a tea bag in hot water, you don’t even call it water any more. You call it tea.
Are you willing to leave your comfort zone to trust God completely? God didn’t save you to make your comfortable, but you make you obedient. You’ll never go on a mission trip is you’re not willing to leave your comfort zone. You’ll never start tithing until you are willing to leave your comfort zone. You’ll never start travailing in prayer until you are willing to leave your comfort zone. You’ll never vocally share your faith with others until you’re willing to leave your comfort zone. You’ll never volunteer to serve the Lord if you aren’t willing to leave your comfort zone.
We are surrounded by people who are living miserable lives. They have no peace, no joy, and no hope of life getting any better. It’s our job to tell them, “You know, I used to be like that, but what a wonderful change in my life has occurred since Jesus came into my heart.” If you’ve been changed, you’ll want to share your story.
Sometimes we fall into the same trap of thinking that worship is about a place, practice, or posture. It is not. It’s about the Lord. We call this the Worship Center, but there’s nothing more holy or sacred about this place than your prayer closet where you worship the Lord all alone. Or there’s nothing more sacred about this place you’re your kitchen table where you have family devotions. My automobile is a worship center, because every Sunday morning on my way here I am singing praises to God.
Whether you are looking for satisfaction in possessions, pleasure, prestige, or power–you will never be satisfied. All those pursuits are like the liquid water Jesus spoke about: You can drink it and feel refreshed momentarily but you will still get thirsty again. But He offers something so radical and powerful that once you experience it, you will find absolute and total satisfaction.
To borrow some baseball lingo, the Samaritan woman wasn’t close to being in the ballpark of the Kingdom of God. She was socially, racially, and morally way off base. But Jesus knocked it out of the park by telling her about living water. And for the Samaritan woman, it was a whole new ball game.
The Pharisees not only had to keep the laws of the Torah, but also obey all the laws written to explain the laws of the Torah. For instance, it was determined that tying a knot on the Sabbath constituted work. But there was an exception. A woman could tie a sash around her waist to remain modest. So this exception led to a loophole. If a man needed to get water from the well on a Sabbath and the bucket wasn’t tied to the rope, he couldn’t tie the rope; that was work. But he could tie one end of a woman’s sash to the rope and the other end to the bucket. That’s a loophole.
We don’t want to follow the example of these lousy best men. We want to be like John the Baptist. We are friends of the groom, and we should commit our lives to making the bridegroom famous. Remember it’s not about me and it’s not about you—it’s all about Jesus. And when you come to understand who you are in relationship with Jesus, all your other relationships will be healthier.
Once we hear the truth about the good news of God’s forgiveness, it is like someone turning on a light in our soul. We’ve all seen the cartoons where a light bulb flashes on above a character’s head when they have an idea. That’s what happens when we receive the truth about Jesus. It’s like walking out of the darkness into the light. Suddenly, we can see everything clearly. Salvation occurs when Jesus moves us from the darkness into His glorious light.
The reason the Bible is such a long book is because God never gave up on us. It is the story of His repeated efforts to restore this loving relationship that our sin had broken. Otherwise the Bible could have been a short book. God created human beings because He wanted to love them. They didn’t love Him back. The end. But instead He kept trying and wouldn’t give up—and He won’t give up on you.
Here is one of the best examples of God’s grace in the Old Testament. The Israelites, who had a proven track record of rebellion, unbelief, and nagging didn’t deserve a cure for the snake bites. But because it is God’s nature, God graciously provided a means for healing. He had Moses make a brass snake and put it on a pole. Then God said, “Whoever looks at the serpent will be healed.”
Jesus cleaned house. He had the right to do it. It was the right of ownership. It was His Father’s house. If I come over to your house and it’s dirty, I’m not going to start cleaning it up. But I see something in my house that needs cleaning up I will take care of it as soon as my wife tells me to!
I like the fact that this was a quiet miracle. Because miracles don’t have to be loud to be miracles. There was no word of command, no hysterical shouting, no laying on of hands, or the binding of Satan. There was no hocus-pocus or mumbo jumbo. Jesus didn’t even touch the water. The water simply became wine.
John the Baptist was a curious looking preacher. His attire was unusual, too. There was much about him that created curiosity as well. He had never cut his hair or beard. He wore a camel hair coat with a leather belt. He ate locusts and wild honey. Matthew and Mark tell us that huge crowds flocked out into the desert to hear him. Yet John the Baptist was so humble even he didn’t realize the full extent of how God was using him as the forerunner of the Messiah.
Everyone you meet this week is in one of three positions regarding the light. Some are walking in the light as He is in the light. Those folks know the Lord. Some you meet aren’t walking IN the light, but they are walking TOWARD the light. They are interested in knowing the truth about Jesus. Your job is to lovingly point them to Jesus. But then you are going to meet some people who have turned their backs and are walking away from the light. And they are at risk of dying without ever finding the truth about salvation.
When it comes to praise, we can’t just THINK praiseworthy thoughts about God, we must express these thoughts with our lips—it must be verbal and vocal. It’s not enough to have a feeling of gratitude to God; you don’t complete the praise requirement until it is sung or spoken. An inner attitude of gratitude is the root of praise, but it doesn’t become praise it until it becomes the fruit of praise expressed by our lips.
Is death the end and there is no afterlife as Dr. Stephen Hawking claimed? Or as Dr. Billy Graham said, is there an afterlife where we may spend eternity with God in a place called heaven? Both of them cannot be correct. And the most important decision in your short life is to decide which position is correct.
God put us in this world to deliver his message to others. And we do this by putting our faith to work. Hospitality, prison ministry, and marriage may seem to be three random topics. But they all show us how believers relate to others. First, our relationship to strangers should be one of hospitality. Second, our relationship with prisoners and those mistreated should be one of compassion and caring. And third, our relationship in marriage should be one of commitment and purity.
Bitterness is created when you harbor a hurt in your heart. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Bitterness writes down every single slight and offense. Bitterness is like an iceberg. You can only see the cold top of an iceberg, but most of it is submerged Bitterness exists when you have a cold heart toward someone, yet most of the resentment is still below the surface.
Have you ever had this experience? You’re reading along in the Bible, and you are studying a passage of scripture you’ve read many times before. And suddenly, you see truth in that passage you had never experienced before. That has happened to me hundreds of times. Do you know what is happening? God is breathing life into His Word in your presence.
Stephen tells us Moses was forty years old when he made a momentous decision. He could continue to live in palace and enjoy all fringe benefits of being the grandson of the Pharaoh but he decided to turn his back on the trappings of royalty and identify with the plight of the Hebrew slaves. He knew that choice would cause him to suffer alongside them.
It wasn’t so much how Jacob started, but how he finished the race. Maybe you’ve left a trail of mistakes behind you as well. But God can change your life without changing your name. There’s still time to grab hold of His grace and let him turn you from a cheater to someone who is a blessing to others.
Every relationship you have here with Believers will be deepened and enhanced in Heaven. Yes, you will know your loved ones who are in heaven. You will maintain your distinct identity. People want to know, “How old will I be in heaven?” Ready for the answer? You will be the perfect age. And you will know people of faith in Heaven that you’ve never met before. You’ll get to ask David how tall Goliath really was. You can ask Jonah what it was like to sleep on a foam blubber mattress for three nights. You can ask Ruth to tell you her love story with Boaz.
Let’s face it. God must have an interesting sense of humor. He chose a couple of super seniors to begin his chosen nation. We know God laughs because Psalms 2 says that he who sits enthroned in the heavens laughs. If we had been making that plan we would have chosen a couple of young twenty-something’s.
God has placed us in a wicked and corrupt culture and we are to do what Noah did. We don’t need to build an ark, because we already have one. Jesus is our ark who will carry us safely through the waters of God’s final judgment. So our job is to warn the people around us that there is going to be a final judgment against sin. And don’t be surprised if people mock you the same way they mocked Noah.