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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Sermon Notes 9-7-14

Audio: Receiving Tough Questions, Part Two

Bertel_Thorvaldsen_-_Christ_and_the_Samaritan_Woman_-_Google_Art_Project public domain commons.wikimedia.org
Christ and the Samaritan Woman, by Bertel Thorvaldsen. (Image via commons.wikimedia.org)

2 Corinthians 5.20 and John 4:7-26
Matthew Raley (8-31-14)

This summer our congregation gathered our friends’ and neighbors’ questions about faith, God, and Christianity. Next Sunday Pastor Raley will begin a six-week sermon series in response. We’ve taken the two weeks before that series to prepare our hearts. What should our attitude toward these questions be? How do we frame our answers? What is our goal?

Last Sunday we saw that we are ambassadors with a message of reconciliation.The method we use is to implore people to be reconciled to God in Christ. So, as we receive these tough questions, our job is to find the issue that calls for reconciliation. Then we are to aim the message of the Gospel directly at that issue.

To do this, we need to understand our audience. It is tempting to paint with a broad brush, as if we face the same person in every conversation: someone who needs to be corrected about social issues that concern us. This is a serious error for an ambassador to make. Our job is to be clear in the context of deep cultural confusion.  In today’s sermon we will see how to do this by using the Samaritan woman as an illustration. She was as divided from Jesus as any post-Christian American is from us. So how did Jesus conduct his own diplomacy?

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Sermon Notes 8-31-14

Audio: Receiving Tough Questions, Part One

2 Corinthians 5.20
Matthew Raley (8-24-14)

This summer our congregation gathered our friends’ and neighbors’ most pressing questions about faith, God, and Christianity. On September 7th Pastor Raley will begin a six-week sermon series in response. Before we start that series, we’re taking two weeks to prepare. How are we to take these questions? How do we frame answers? And what is our goal?

With non-Christians, we face a chasm that is deeper and wider than ever. The cultural common ground that used to exist—even twenty years ago—is gone. Specifically, we are living in an area that has flipped from a predominantly Christian culture to a predominantly post-Christian one. This is a massive opportunity for the Gospel. The question we will be asking today is, how does God want us to seize it?

In this morning’s sermon we will find that the scriptures give us specific direction in all these issues.

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Sermon Notes 8-24-14