GOD – Part 8

GOD as Sovereign King
Sunday, March 3, 2019
1 Timothy 1:17, 6:11-16

Now to the king of the ages, to the immortal, invisible, and only God, may honor and glory be given to him forever and always! Amen.

1 Timothy 1:17

My daughter loves Disney Princesses. Truth be told, it could be a lot worse. They do teach some great values in life, but one thing I have noticed about so many of the “princess” stories is how foolish the king looks.

Now don’t get me wrong. I do like all of the shows and movies I’m about to describe, but consider just a few examples of how kings are portrayed:

  1. Sofia the First (Disney Junior):

    Sofia is only a child, but somehow she is the only one who can save the day. Not even her older brother and sister are as wise as she. And certainly not her dad. King Roland might as well be the court jester. He is quick to react, to judge, and often to jump to false conclusions. He is always the last one to know what’s going on and by the time he gets involved, the kids have generally already taken care of the situation.

  2. Moana:

    The chief (or king, if you will), rules primarily out of fear and self-preservation. He is unwilling to take risks or think outside the box. The harder things get for his people, the more he digs his heals in to doing things the way they’ve always been done and preserving what little they have. These are hardly marks of bold, strong leadership. But then again, if he was a strong leader, why would we need to send a teenage girl half way across the ocean to save her people?

  3. The Little Mermaid:

    King Triton is portrayed as an unfair and mean-spirited father for trying to protect his 16 year old daughter. Sixteen?! His image only changed when he sympathizes and lets her have her way in the end. Now I ask you, what good and descent father would let his 16 year old daughter run off to another country to get married. Is he really the bad guy here?

It’s hard enough to get past our political idealization of democracy to recognize the authority of a King in our lives. Kings in our world are often viewed as either corrupt or simply the stuff of fairy-tales. And so many of those fairy-tale kings are portrayed as weak, clumsy, clueless, and insecure. Hardly qualities worthy of all honor, glory and praise.

Clearly the images of King we find in our world are significantly lacking. We have forgotten what it means to live in absolute obedience to our ruler. We have forgotten how to honor and revere our leaders, or even what it might look like for a leader to be worthy of our honor or reverence. This cultural amnesia often leads us to reject the sovereignty and authority of God. At the very least, God’s Kingship or Royal status is viewed more like the British Monarchy. Heaven’s throne-room offers a glorious setting for a ceremonial religious figurehead, but little more.

Perhaps we struggle to see God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, not so much because it is not present, but rather because we do not recognize the everyday authority of our Almighty Sovereign King.

  • What images come to mind when you think of a King? In what ways is God’s Kingship different than the images of kings we see on earth?

  • How does your image of serving a King affect the way you relate to God?

  • What would it look like for you to truly honor and revere God as King this week?

“Sing praises to God! Sing praises!
    Sing praises to our king! Sing praises
because God is king of the whole world!
    Sing praises with a song of instruction!

God is king over the nations.
    God sits on his holy throne.
The leaders of all people are gathered
    with the people of Abraham’s God
    because the earth’s guardians belong to God;
        God is exalted beyond all.” (Psalm 47:6-9)




GOD – Part 7

GOD as Righteous Judge
Sunday, February 24, 2019
John 8:1-11, 12:44-50, 1 Corinthians 4:3-5

Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Is there no one to condemn you?” She said, “No one, sir.” Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on, don’t sin anymore.”

John 8:10-11

We’ve heard a million sermons on how it is not our place to judge. We know what Jesus says about the log in our own eye preventing us from clearly seeing the speck in the eye of a brother or sister (Matthew 7:1-6).

On the other hand, we know that God does judge our actions. This truth is uncomfortable for several reasons.

  1. The idea of judging someone has such a negative connotation that we don’t want to think of God as being “judgmental.”

  2. We know we are saved by grace, not by works, so why would our works be judged?

  3. Jesus says explicitly that he did not come to judge or condemn, but to save (John 3:17, 12:47).

And we’ve only scratched the surface.

In the infamous story of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus demonstrates that he is the only one righteous enough to enact true justice, and in the case of this woman, he declared her “forgiven” (John 8:1-11).

We must be careful not to mistake judgementalism with justice, righteousness and consequences.

God’s judgment is just and true, not judgmental. Where judgmentalism is often subjective, opinionated, condescending and condemning, God’s judgement stands as an objective, factual standard of what is right and good.

Dr. Robert Mulholland described God’s justice like gravity. If we choose to step off the roof of a building, we will fall. We will be hurt. We may even die. This truth does not imply that gravity had anything against us. The laws of nature were not punishing us. Rather, the fall is the natural consequence of our choice to act in a way that is contrary to the laws of nature.

In the same way, when we act against the moral laws rooted in the righteousness and love of God, we are bound to fall. This is why Paul writes that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). God is not out to condemn us, destroy us, or to harm us in any way. God desires that all might come to salvation.

And yet God’s perfect nature stands as a moral standard by which our lives are judged and by which natural consequences result. All sin leads us down a path of death and destruction, whether physical or perhaps emotional, mental, relational or spiritual.

As righteous judge, God forgives our sin, but the consequences of sin are ours to bear.

  • What emotions do you feel when you think of God as judge?

  • How do you see God as a judge in your life? Where do you feel convicted and where do you feel forgiven?

  • In what ways do you try to step into God’s role as a judge over others? How does your judgment of others differ from God’s pure and perfect judgement?

“Judgment will again be founded on righteousness, and all the upright in heart will follow it.” (Psalm 94:15)



GOD – Part 6

GOD as Pure Priest
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Hebrews 4:14-16, 9:1-28

Finally, let’s draw near to the throne of favor with confidence so that we can receive mercy and find grace when we need help.

Hebrews 4:16

Priest is not a term we consider very often unless we worship in a more Catholic or Orthodox tradition. For protestants, this title has been all but banned from our language. We see ourselves as people with a direct line to God. The Holy Spirit not only gave us God’s e-mail address, but also inside access to God’s cell number, Facebook account, Instagram, Snapchat, and whatever other social medium God might use to keep up with his beloved children.

Yet the writers of Scripture are clear that we are still in desperate need of a priest. That is why Paul writes to Timothy,

There is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the human Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a payment to set all people free.

1 Timothy 2:5-6a



GOD – Part 4

GOD as Loving Father
Sunday, January 27, 2019
John 11:18, 5:16-42, 14:1-14

No one has ever seen God. God the only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made God known.

John 1:18

We begin our prayers as Jesus taught us, by saying, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” but if we’re honest, sometimes the Father image of God is one of the most difficult roles to accept.

For so many who grew up with absent or even abusive father figures, it is no wonder they might not be interested in some all-powerful father in the sky. The image of father often brings pain and even trauma in a society where fatherhood is broken in so many ways.

Instead of allowing a broken father experience on Earth to cause rejection of the possibility of experiencing a good Father in Heaven, why don’t we allow for the possibility of a good Father in heaven to heal our memory of a broken Father on Earth?

J.D. Walt, Seedbed Daily Text

Even for those who have good relationships with their fathers, it may be difficult to see the need for another one. My father died when I was 20 and everyone said, “Don’t worry, God will be your father.” The last thing I wanted was an “invisible father replacement.” I wanted my real father back.

We don’t hear God the Father speaking very much in scripture, at least not directly. God typically speaks through prophets and mostly through the Son. We can see the face of Jesus but the face of the Father seems obscured by the light of glory. Even if we wanted to, how can we know this “Divine Father figure” who exists so far beyond our comprehension?

We are not alone in our confusion, our uncertainty, or even our fear around the idea of Father God. Even Jesus’ own disciples didn’t quite get it.

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father; that will be enough for us.”

Jesus replied, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been with you all this time?

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I have spoken to you I don’t speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me does his works. Trust me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or at least believe on account of the works themselves.

John 14:8-11 (CEB)

Regardless of how close or distant your Heavenly Father may seem, I invite you to check out the full sermon below as we wrestle more with what it means to be “fathered by God.”

  • What emotions do you feel when you think of God as father? Joy, pain, sadness, love, hope, comfort, anger, fear, insecurity… etc.

  • How does your relationship with your earthly father affect or inform your relationship with God?

  • In prayer, come as a child to God your Father. What do you want to say to your Heavenly Daddy? What does he say to you? How does it feel to be wrapped up in his embrace?

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,  is God in his holy dwelling” (Psalm 68:5)




GOD – Part 3

GOD as Good Shepherd
Sunday, January 20, 2019
John 10:1-16, Ezekiel 34:11-16

[The shepherd] calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. Whenever he has gathered all of his sheep, he goes before them and they follow him, because they know his voice.

John 10:3b-4

Every one of us has most likely experienced a time or even a season in life where we felt hopelessly and utterly lost. I don’t mean that our GPS stopped working and we took a wrong turn. Rather, we have probably had that moment, likely more than once, when we paused just long enough to look at our life and wonder, “How did I get here?” or “Where am I going?” We might have even asked ourselves, “Where is here?” or “Where am I?”

These are existential questions about the meaning and purpose of life, about our journey and the path it has taken us on. Robert Frost wrote that we should consider taking the road less traveled rather than following the crowd, but there are times when we stop and say, “I took the road less traveled and now I don’t know where I am!”

If we’re not careful we find ourselves walking with Jesus and one day we look out from the mountaintop like Peter and John and say, “This is a nice place, let’s just pitch our tent and stay here.” Then Jesus wants to go back down to the valley and we think he’s crazy. Why would we want to go back down there.

It’s safe up here on the mountain. I have a comfortable pew. The light shines so beautifully through the stained glass. All my friends are here. And oh, by the way, did I mention it was safe?

The problem is that Jesus didn’t call us to “stay with him”. He said, “Come, follow me.” As our shepherd, he leads us beside still waters but he also leads us through the valley of the shadow of death. He cares for us in the safety of the sheep-pen but he also leads us out to pastures where we might just run into a few wolves.

Nobody ever said following the shepherd would be easy or safe. As C.S. Lewis puts it, “Of course he isn’t safe, but he’s good.”

not safe but good.jpg

In what ways are you feeling a bit lost or disoriented in your life right now?

  • Where do you sense the shepherd leading you this week?

  • What practical steps would you need to take in order to follow?

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1)




GOD – Part 2

GOD as Powerful Redeemer
Sunday, January 13, 2019
John 8:31-36, Romans 6:12-23, Isaiah 43:1-3a

Jesus answered, “I assure you that everyone who sins is a slave to sin. A slave isn’t a permanent member of the household, but a son is. Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you really will be free. 

John 8:34-36

Our baptismal vows or membership vows as a professing Christian in the church are more than a simple statement that we believe in Jesus.

The second vow in the United Methodist Hymnal reads as follows:

Do you accept the freedom and power God give you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?

Baptismal Covenant I – United Methodist Hymnal

Likewise, in our confession and pardon we pray:

Forgive us, we pray. Free us for joyful obedience, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Confession & Pardon, Service of Word and Table I & II – United Methodist Hymnal

Perhaps it would be more prudent to notice what is not said. We do not simply accept freedom from death and hell. Rather we accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil and injustice of every kind in this life. We do not merely accept a free ticket to heaven when we die. Instead, we pray that God might free us for a life of joyful obedience.

This is not to question or deny the reality of eternal life in Glory of God through the grace of Christ. It does, however, significantly expand our understanding of redemption. Christ did not live among us and die as one of us just to redeem us in death. Jesus himself said that he came to set us free and that he came that we might have life, here and now, and life more abundantly (John 8:36, 10:10).

In Romans 6, Paul declares that we are dead to sin and therefore redeemed from the power sin once held over us. When Jesus says, “Go and sin no more,” he is not giving a command he knows we cannot keep (John 8:11). Rather, as Paul writes:

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NASB)

This verse is not, as many have claimed, a statement that God will not give us more than we can handle. In fact, it is just the opposite. We will face trials and temptations in life far beyond what we are able to handle on our own… but with those temptations, the Holy Spirit will provide a way so that we might endure in the power and all-sufficient grace of our Lord.

  • What does redemption mean to you personally?

  • How have you called upon the power of the Lord to set you free from sin this week?

  • What might be different about the week to come if you began each day by praying, “Lord, set me free for joyful obedience.”?

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so! (Psalm 107:2)


Personal Revealer


GOD – Part 1

GOD as Immanent Personal Revealer
Sunday, January 6, 2019
Matthew 2:1-12

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him”

Matthew 2:1-2

Take a moment to reflect on the image below. Where do you see God in this picture?


In a spiritual formation class many years ago, the professor asked us to find an image that represented our relationship with God. I honestly can not remember where I found this image, but I have kept it tucked in my journal ever since.

At first glance for me, I saw myself sitting at a table like this on the beach gazing out upon the horizon in amazement at the wonder and beauty of God’s creation. Christianity is not exclusive in seeing or experiencing the divine presence in creation.

But the longer I looked at this image, the more I realized a second truth about God’s presence, equally as important. God wasn’t just “out there”, somewhere beyond the sunset. God was also sitting in the other chair, watching the sunset with me.

God not only knows us intimately as one who created us along with all of the universe. God also wants to be known by us. God humbles himself to take on flesh and dwell among us, to sit with us at the table and enjoy the beauty of all that he created.

We have many images of who God is… Creator, King, Judge, Priest, Shepherd, Father, Redeemer… but understanding God as “Personal Revealer” brings all of these roles together. Jesus said that if we have seen him, we have seen the Father. (insert reference).

Everything we know about God, we know because God chose to make himself known to us, even though our finite minds could never fully process what God continues to reveal.

  • Who are we that God would be mindful of us and care to go to such great lengths that we might know him and love him as he knows and loves us?

  • How do we respond to the grace of God’s self-revelation?

  • How do we react when God, the Creator of the universe, calls out to us in the cry of a helpless baby in a manger?

O Come, let us adore Him! Praise be to God!