Audio: Where Is Heaven?

756px-'Study_of_Clouds_with_a_Sunset_near_Rome',_oil_painting_on_paper_by_Simon_Alexandre-Clément_Denis,_1786-1801,_Getty_Museum wikimedia commons public domain
Study of Clouds with a Sunset near Rome, by Simon Alexandre Clement Denis

Tough Questions 2014
Revelation 21.1 – 22.5
Matthew Raley (10-12-14)

This summer our congregation gathered questions about faith, God, and Christianity from our friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Today’s sermon is the final in a six-week series answering those questions.

Many of the questions we gathered in the summer were confrontational. But some, like this one, were simple requests for information. What does the Bible say about heaven? Is it really in the clouds? And what, if anything, happens there?

We begin our study of heaven with a close look at Eden in Genesis 2.8-17. We see that the garden is richly supplied, and the Lord intended human beings to use all these resources to extend the garden into all the earth. Specifically, there are rivers, the tree of life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Heaven in our text is that garden redeemed and recreated. In today’s message we will see how heaven beautifully fulfills the work God began in that first garden.

Please note: owing to technical difficulties, the audio quality of this sermon is sub par.  In particular there are about 16 seconds of very poor audio near the end of the sermon.  We apologize for the inconvenience.

To follow along with the sermon notes, right click on the link below and select “Open link in new tab.”

Sermon Notes 10-12-14

What If My Loved Ones Aren’t In Heaven?

William_Blake_-_The_Meeting_of_the_Family_in_Heaven public domain commons.wikimedia.org
The Meeting of the Family in Heaven, by William Blake. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Tough Questions 2014
John 17:20-26
Matthew Raley (10-5-14)

This past summer our congregation gathered questions about faith, God, and Christianity from our friends, neighbors, and co-workers. This morning’s sermon is the fifth in a six-week series answering those questions.

Today’s question weighs heavily on the hearts of each one of us. The question came in a form that expressed the problem well: “How will heaven be heaven if my loved ones aren’t there?”

Part of the problem with this issue is the way heaven is sometimes taught in evangelical churches—especially at funerals. Heaven is the place where you see your loved ones again. So part of what we need to do is remind ourselves of what Jesus says about the purpose of heaven.

But that won’t be a pain-killer for us. If anything, Jesus’s priorities sharpen the question of our motivations for wanting to be in his kingdom.

To follow along with the sermon notes, right click on the link below and select “Open link in new tab.”

Sermon Notes 10-5-14

Audio: How Can Jesus Be the Only Way?

One Way Sign, by Karan Jain, licensed under creative commons share-alike 2.0 via wikimedia commons
One Way Sign, by Karan Jain, licensed under creative commons share-alike 2.0 via wikimedia commons

Tough Questions 2014
John 10:11-18
Matthew Raley (9-28-14)

This summer our congregation gathered questions about faith, God, and Christianity from our friends and neighbors. This morning’s sermon is the fourth in a six-week series responding to those questions.

Americans like to treat religions as if they are different covers of the same song. The differences aren’t substantive, just a matter of taste. How can Jesus be the only way when all religions are basically the same?

Today we ask a simple question of fact: Are the claims of Jesus the same as those of other religions?

To follow along with the notes, right click on the link below and select “Open link in new tab.”

Sermon Notes 9-28-14

Audio: Why Does God Allow Evil Against Children?

S. Hnizdovsky, Praying Child , image via Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0
S. Hnizdovsky, Praying Child , image via Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0

Tough Questions 2014
Leviticus 20:1-5
Matthew Raley (9-21-14)

This summer our congregation gathered questions about faith, God, and Christianity from our friends and neighbors. This morning’s sermon is the third in a six-week series responding to those questions. Today we are asking what might be the most gut-wrenching of them all.

There are few things more obviously wicked than crimes against children. This question came from a person who had experienced sexual abuse, but there is a sobering universality to the experience. Evil against children provokes us to wrath. One non-Christian told me in the days after the Sandy Hook massacre, “Now I believe in hell.”

This is a question about evil—intentional crimes—not about suffering from non-intentional things like disease. Further, the question is why God allows people to do evil against children. Isn’t he responsible for the evil he allows people to do? Finally, this is a question about real experience, not an intellectual question about abstract ideas. So we will address this question as an experiential issue. In today’s message our goal is to answer this question clearly, from the Bible’s point of view.

To follow along with the sermon note, right click on the link below and select “Open link in new tab.”

Sermon Notes 9-21-14

Audio: What Happened When Jesus Was Young?

800px-Jesus_and_the_doctors_of_the_Faith_dsc01783 commons.wikimedia.org public domainTough Questions 2014
Luke 2:52
Matthew Raley (9-14-14)

This summer our congregation gathered questions about faith, God, and Christianity from our friends and neighbors. This morning’s sermon is the second in a six-week sermon series responding to those questions. Today we are asking what happened when Jesus was young.

This question came as a simple request for more information. There’s a sizable gap in the Gospels between the end of Jesus’s childhood and the start of his public ministry.  Do we know anything about that gap, and can we draw any conclusions from it? The answer is yes. But before we begin, we need to take a moment to understand the purpose of sermons. They are not meant to speculate or to provide “informed opinions.” Rather, they are intended to take the Bible, which is open for all of us to study together, and demonstrate how to draw conclusions from it. Where the Bible stops, we stop.

With this in mind, we will begin with the broadest statement the Gospels make about his young human experience in Luke 2.52. We will see what kind of child and youth Jesus was, and what his early experiences mean for us and his purpose for our lives.

To follow along with the sermon notes, right click on the link below and select “Open link in new tab.”

Sermon Notes 9-14-14

Audio: Why Would I Want Organized Religion?

Salisbury Cathedral Nave Looking West. Image via commons.wikimedia.org
Salisbury Cathedral Nave Looking West. Image via commons.wikimedia.org

Tough Questions 2014
Ephesians 2:13-16
Matthew Raley (9-7-14)

This summer our congregation gathered questions about faith, God, and Christianity from our friends and neighbors. This morning Pastor Raley begins a six-week sermon series in response. We begin with the question, why would I want organized religion?

Every evangelical is trained with a ready answer that doesn’t really address the question. “Christianity is not a religion. It’s a relationship with Jesus.” We need to do better. Today’s question came in two forms, one that raised the issue of religions causing wars, another that raised the issue of wrongs that are done by church leaders against people in churches.

This morning we will deal with both of these matters from the perspective of Christ’s goal in dying on the cross.

To follow along with the sermon notes, right click on the link below and select “Open link in new tab.”

Sermon Notes 9-7-14