“Awakenings” (sermon excerpt)

From a Roman prison Paul wrote, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened [flooded with light] in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you,…”  (Ephesians 1:18)

Below is the link to the final 9 minutes of the sermon I preached this past Sunday.  What you will not hear (because I spoke of it during my introduction) is my explanation of what C.S. Lewis calls “looking at” vs. “looking along.”  You can find Lewis’ explanation of this brilliant concept in his book, God in the Dock (a defense of Christianity), in the chapter titled, Meditation in a Tool Shed.

To illustrate the difference between “looking at vs. “looking along” go with me (in your imagination) to Studio B in Nashville, TN.  In July, 2013, my family was given a private tour of this historical address, located on Nashville’s “Music Row”.  Upon entering the main recording area, I immediately noticed the beautiful Steinway piano.  As i “looked at” the piano I saw that it definitely “had some mileage on it” (I had no idea how old it was), but was still in excellent condition,…a sight to behold for a piano man like me.  Then, the lady giving us the tour said, “Elvis played this piano often when he recorded in this very studio.” Being a huge Elvis fan, my heart skipped a beat as I stared at her trying to think of something to say in response. But, before I could speak she continued, “Floyd Cramer not only played this piano, as well; he recorded his monster hit, Last Date, in this studio, on that very piano.”

My entire perspective of that piano changed in a matter of seconds.  I had entered that studio seeing that piano one way, but was leaving seeing it completely differently, recognizing that this piano was merely part of a much grander story. I had gone from contemplating the piano to enjoying not simply the piano, but the history it represented.    I was not longer “looking at” the piano; I was now “looking along” the piano, enraptured by its history.  My imagination ran wild “seeing” Elvis and Floyd Cramer “doing their thing” in the very room in which I was standing. The eyes of my imagination were enlightened.  In short, at least for me, the piano came to life.  (Yes, they did give me permission to sit down and play Cramer’s “Last Date” on that piano.  It’s a moment I’ll never forget.”)

In the sermon I preached on Feb. 15th, using Ephesians 1:11-23 as my text, with verse 18 serving as my primary text, I described the difference between “looking at” the Word of Christ, the Body of Christ, and the Cross of Christ” vs. “looking along” the three.  The sermon excerpt here picks up with “the Cross of Christ“.

Although the excerpt is categorized as a video, there is no video of me – only audio – since I instructed the folks in our A/V booth to leave a logo I’d put together on our video screens.  However, a video clip from the 1998 hit, Patch Adams, begins at the 3:15 mark.  The scene encapsulates what I was trying to communicate and teach from Ephesians 1:18.  “Don’t focus on the problem – look at me,” rails the bitter old man to Adams (played flawlessly by Robin Williams).

Since my 19 year old son took his life, God has patiently and lovingly taught me how to “look along” that day of unspeakable pain, rather than “look at” it. “Don’t focus on Jordan’s death – look at Me,” Christ has taught me.  “[I am] not the God of the dead but of the living…I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”  (Matthew 22:32; John 11:25)

In sum, when we allow God to “open the eyes of our heart”, we quickly become acutely aware of the Hope we have in ChristAnd hope changes everything. 🙂

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

A Halloween Miracle

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Few people knew much, if anything, about Hunter “Patch” Adams before 1998. That’s when Universal Pictures cast Robin Williams in the lead role in a movie about Adams’ life.

In his book, Gesundheit!, Adams shares that, following a series of traumatic emotional experiences that caused him to become suicidal, he told his mother, “I’ve been trying to kill myself. You’d better check me into a mental hospital.” He continues, “My mom called the family doctor, who called a psychiatrist, who admitted me to a locked ward at Fairfax Hospital. I spent Halloween there.

Adams goes on to share about his roommate, Rudy, and the following two week period that became, in his opinion, the turning point of his life: “Talking to Rudy, I realized the importance of love and the people who loved me. I had been surrounded by love but hadn’t let it affect me. I perceived a deep personal truth: I needed to be open to receive love. Without it I was not a strong person. And I realized that if I continued living as I had been – without tender, human love – I would end up like Rudy. He represented the Ghost of Christmas Future that I would become if I refused to surrender to my [need for love.]”

In his book, Adams never indicates that he’s a believer. Nonetheless, his story is universal: he had spent his life underestimating both the power and inherent need of one thing: love.

Patch Adam’s miracle came at Halloween. As believers, our miracle came on a hillside outside Jerusalem on a cross, twenty centuries ago– a miracle resulting from supernatural love.

Have you, due to anxiety, anger, bitterness and the like, forgotten just how much God loves you? Don’t allow satan to steal the abundant life Jesus died to give you.

In 1973, Glenn Frey & Don Henley, of The Eagles, wrote their hit-song, Desperado, which concludes with this warning, “You better let somebody love you…..before it’s too late.” That’s good advice. Embrace the love of Jesus – His heart-pounding, infinitely compassionate love.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick