Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I'm keynoting a youth retreat this weekend in Mesquite, TX and the theme of the weekend is "Hope." I'll be speaking 4 different times, and the topics will be "Jesus is Our Hope "; "Jesus is Our Family's Hope"; "Jesus is the Hope of the World"; and "Hope Begins In Us." Daunting to say the least. And not just because that's four sermons - also because it's a room full of teenagers and I've only ever preached to adults. Ah well...God is good and I trust that He will give me the words to speak into their lives. As I finish up these sermons, I'm going to post them here so you can let me know if my language is too mature, if my illustrations aren't good enough, if there's a video or song that you think might make my point for me. Thanks for your help. And may I ask if you would pray for me this weekend? I desperately want the gospel to be communicated to these youth, and I want God to be glorified in the whole retreat. Your prayer can bolster not just me, but all of the adults who are striving to disciple these youth. Thanks in advance! ::Smile::

So, without further ado, here's the first sermon. I've titled it "Being Afraid of the Dark."
I wasn’t allowed to watch R rated movies until I was 17 years old. At the time, I thought this was a heinous injustice, as I was one of the only people in the whole world who hadn’t seen any of the terminator movies or any horror movies at all. I didn’t realize how smart my parents were to keep me from these movies until I saw one of them behind their backs. I was at a slumber party in probably the 5th grade and we all decided to watch a movie. The movie we watched was called “The Gate.” Now, Google that and you’ll be horrified – it’s a very cheesy 80’s horror movie about a ‘gate’ in some kids backyard that just so happens to lead to some nether-region of hell. And because You-Tube is so awesome, I actually found the trailer for it. Let me show you just a little bit of it. (SHOW TRAILER - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOX6-Rw5PWc)

Yeah I know. Dumb – Not Scary. But it was definitely scary then. Totally scary. Like, I couldn’t sleep for two days, jumping at every sound, shivering in my blanket in the dark, scary. I still remember laying in my bed at night, scared so badly that something, somehow was going to rise up out of the darkness and get me. I would cry, wishing, hoping that someone would just turn the light on for me.

Now, Jesus certainly didn’t live during a time where they had cheesy 80’s horror movies, let alone movies of any kind. We’re going so far back in time here that there aren’t even books to read. But that doesn’t mean that there world wasn’t full of scary things, of scary people, of scary circumstances. It’s not so hard for me to believe that kids your age and younger, laid in their beds, with the darkness pressing down on them, hoping that the sun would still rise so that they knew there was light left in the world. They, like we, are afraid of the dark, afraid of a world out of our control, of people that can hurt us, of the unknown. But our scripture passage this morning tells us something great: We Have Hope in Christ Because He Is Our Light

Why, though, are we hoping for light? Because we all know what darkness is like.

Now, I’m sure lots of you had night lights when you were smaller. If you won’t admit it, I will. I totally had a night light when I was little. I worked at a church camp last summer as a counselor for 4th and 5th graders, and I left the door to the hallway open at night because my girls were afraid of the dark. If you had asked those little girls that night why they were afraid of the dark, they probably wouldn’t have been able to give you a good answer. Did you have a good answer when you were that age? Really though – why were you afraid of the dark? And don’t tell me a teenager answer – try to remember why the dark was frightening when you were small. (LET THE KIDS TALK BACK FOR A MINUTE). Okay – so you couldn’t see, so anything could come into your room. The room you were in suddenly became unfamiliar. Unknown. Darkness seems to change a place for us. And when I say darkness, I’m not just talking about light on/light off darkness. We also have seen darkness in the people around us. And that is even more scary.

When you were smaller and you were hearing the stories about Jesus and the Bible, they may have used those felt boards with you. You know, a big piece of felt, tacked onto a board and you took other felt pieces in the shape of trees and sheep and people and stuck them up on the felt and let static electricity help you tell a story. All those stories had fluffy sheep and green pastures and smiling shepherds with crooks in their hands. But really, during Jesus times, there weren’t as many fluffy sheep and happy shepherds as there were violent revolutions and short-life expectancies. The people before and during Jesus’ times knew what darkness was, knew what the darkness of the human soul was. They watched their priests cheat them out of money to build bigger temples. They watched their sons die in pointless battles. They saw their babies murdered, their daughters raped, and they saw nothing to stop it. They were surrounded by the darkness of long nights and the darkness of human evil. They knew – like we do, what darkness is like.

Our world is a lot different than Jesus’ was. A lot different. But human experiences haven’t really changed that much. We’re still surrounded by darkness. Every day someone gets murdered. Every day someone gets robbed. Every day someone, adult or child is abused. In Waco, so many people go without food or homes or even someone to love them. You have darkness in your own life. Maybe you’ve told people about it or maybe you haven’t, but you know what I’m saying when I say darkness. But this darkness…well it can’t be chased away by the quick flick of a switch. We all know darkness in our own lives, and I hope that this weekend you will be able to share with each other those dark places of your lives that threaten to swallow you up.

But even though this darkness seems ever present in both the world and in ourselves, we all share this: We Crave Light In Our Lives

I was born in Alaska, during a snow-storm, no less, in the middle of December. Now, the farther you get north, the odder the seasons get. In the summer, the days are so long that it seems like the sun will never set. My mother still has a quilt that she used to hang over my sister’s window in the summer to keep the sun out. That quilt has been permanently faded in a very clear square pattern. During the winter, though, the nights are very long and people start to crave the long days of summer, they start to crave light again. Their craving for light gets so bad, that it affects them biologically. Here’s something I found on national geographic about what happens when you don’t get enough light:
(SHOW VIDEO - http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/01/080103-light-video-ap.html).

So, not only are you hungry, angry and bitter in the mornings without light, but you also have to buy $100 lights to stay functional!

Now, the people of ancient Israel, where Jesus’ stories all take place, they never had to suffer through days when there was only 4 hours of light. Israel is in the middle east – so they’ve got plenty of sun light, thank you very much. But they’re craving, hoping for a different kind of light. A light that brings hope. The people of Israel are the authors of your new testament, and they’ve been waiting hundreds of years for God to not only forgive them for some really terrible choices, but to save them from their enemies. From the darkness of the world around them. And so by the time Jesus steps onto the scene, they’ve been looking and craving this “light” of salvation, this “light of hope” for almost 500 years. They are waiting for the light of God to break into their dark surroundings and show them how to live, love and hope again!

How long have you been hoping for the light to come on in your life? How long have you been craving for light in your dark situations? God gives you the same promise he gave to Israel all those centuries ago – the Light of the World is Coming. The Darkness of your lives will not remain forever. Wait for the Light. Hope for the Light.

But thankfully, we don’t have to wait for that Light any longer. You See, We Have Hope in Jesus Christ – The Light Has Already Come!

In our scripture passage this morning, Jesus says something pretty important, so I’d like to go over it again: “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’” Israel has been hoping and praying for a light to shine in their darkness and Jesus pipes up in front of a crowd of Pharisees who all have stones they were about to throw at someone, that HE is the light of the world! “You will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of light.” Now – let’s be clear about what Jesus is saying here. He’s NOT saying – “Hey, believe in me and nothing bad will ever happen to you ever again!” He is NOT saying “All the bad, terrible evil in the world is gone now!” He is saying, though, that you don’t have to walk in that darkness blind anymore. You have a light – not just any light, but the Light of Lights to guide your life, to show you the way, to keep hope alive in you!

Have any of you ever been to Las Vegas before? Well, for those of you who haven’t, one of the many hotels there is called the Luxor and it’s built to resemble one of the Great Pyramids of Egypt. Except this one has a giant laser light bulb that shines out the top of it and can be seen from SPACE. FROM SPACE. I think I have a picture of it for you. Now that is a bright bright light. It’s so bright that the darkness of space is even lessened by it.

Now imagine how much more powerful the Light of Jesus Christ is in your life. His promises of love, of loyalty, of peace, of comfort, all cut through the darkness of your troubled lives, of your unsure future. The light and hope we have in Jesus Christ doesn’t eliminate all of the darkness from our lives, but it keeps it from swallowing us whole. It keeps us from living in fear, as victims, as hopeless creatures. The Light that is Jesus Christ, helps us look towards our futures and say “I am Not Afraid. I have Hope. The Darkness Will Not Devour Me.”

When you go to sleep tonight, when you lay in the darkness of night, think about the other kind of darkness that surrounds you. And let it know that it has been met and defeated by the Light of Christ which is given to us.

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