Sermon – Kingdom Come: Thru Me

You don’t need to look farther than the recent hit movies to see that as a society, we are obsessed with the supernatural. The innate desire for a reality greater than our own is apparent. In fact, while belief in heaven & hell have remained steady in recent decades, the number of Americans that believe in religious miracles has increased 22% in the past two decades (Huffington Post).

The bible asserts time & again that God backs the gospel with supernatural signs and wonders (Acts 14:3, Hebrews 2:4, Mark 16:20). Yet, many times we reduce the gospel today to a mere intellectual message, rather than a God encounter.

God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us and give us the ability to walk as Jesus walked and do what Jesus did. When we say “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” the reality is that God is inviting us into answering this prayer.

I shared a sermon last Sunday on the what and why of miracles, and their importance in our theological framework as followers of Jesus. In fact, in Mark 16:17, 20 the bible boldly claims that miracles are that which should characterize us as Christians –

“And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well….And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.”

This scripture challenges me – it says that the requirement for seeing these miracles is not to go to seminary, or memorize long passages of scripture, or fast for a week – but it says all that we have to do is simply believe. These signs and wonders do not replace the gospel, but are signs of hope for a better future, so that our faith doesn’t rest on man’s wisdom, but on God’s power (1 Cor 2:4). We must restore our faith so that we can pray in expectation that is as big and as powerful today as we see in the bible.

Hear more about the miraculous God that we serve by listening to my sermon here!

http://jcboston.org/kingdom-come-part-1/

Journey’s Church First Missions Trip

Last weekend, three of us ladies went to New York City to serve the people of New York in various ways. We partnered with the New York School of Urban Ministry, who coordinates service projects with teams throughout the city.

After taking a bus down to the city, we arrived and were immediately ushered into clown costumes for our evening ministry in a local park. While I ran around and acted goofy, Cathy and Sarah made dozens of balloon animals for all the kiddos. We sang bible songs and shared a bit about Jesus while trying not to trip over our clown-sized massive feet. It was a lot of fun – and, once the kids got used to us, they found out that us clowns really aren’t all that scary!photo 1(2)
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Saturday morning we helped a local church clean & organize their storage closet. Spring cleaning, yeah! We also did a prayer walk in the neighborhood, and came across a family mourning. It broke our hearts to hear that their son had been murdered just two days before. I was able to lead them in a time of prayer and through tears we all sung “Amazing Grace” together.

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That evening we headed out to serve hot dogs and deliver blankets & toiletries to people who are struggling with homelessness near Penn Station in downtown New York City. It was powerful to sit down with these men and women to hear some of their stories and the situations they are going through. We are all broken and so in need of God!

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Sunday morning, we worshipped at the Brooklyn Tabernacle, and had some time to see some of the other sights around the city including the Brooklyn Bridge, the 9/11 Memorial and Central Park.

Sarah wrote – “God taught me three things through this trip. First, that He is with me through all things that happen- good or bad. Second, that God’s will always prevails no matter how frail I am, and third, to not be afraid and not be discouraged because God is with me to help and fight my battles.”

It was a wonderful weekend and we were super blessed to have this opportunity to learn from what God is doing in New York City and bring it back to Boston!

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God’s Fun Side

As my bike tires sped along the gray asphalt path, spring green leaves canopied above and drizzly mist tickled my skin. I smiled, as the first-time-this-year pleasantly warm temperatures filled me with joy, inside and out.

All of the sudden, the skies ruptured open, flinging sheets of rain downward. I watched as large drops of water splattered onto every dry corner of my clothing, making it tie-dyed, then solid, until every ounce of me was solidly soaked. While other street-goers scampered for shelter, my legs continued pedaling, the water separating around my bike like the parting of the Red Sea. I actually enjoyed getting wet in a warm summer rain, and really, once you’re wet, you’re still wet.

I had been thinking about a lot of things that day, and came to understand that I had lost a bit of my sense of wonder of following Jesus. Somehow, amidst all the ministry meetings, bible studies, and Sunday services, following Jesus had become a bit dry – which is a sign that something needed to change, as Jesus is never boring.

So I prayed, “God, can you show me your fun side?”

A burst of lightning flashed above me, simultaneous with a deafening clap of thunder.

A few seconds later, my bike tire nearly ran over a red rose right in the road in front of me.

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What a cool way for Jesus to answer that prayer! He is so fun, such a romancer.

Yet the most ironic part about this story is that when I got home and checked my email, my friend had written me, saying, “This morning I saw this beautiful red flower all by itself in this abandoned parking lot with lots of garbage everywhere. For some reason I thought of you. You are that beautiful red flower in all its greatness and glory among the world. Keep shining bright Kelly!”

Wow! Isn’t that cool? Yes, God most definitely has a fun side. I dried and hung the rose on my wall to remember that we must never lose our sense of wonder in following Jesus.

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Sermon: Grace is Getting the Good We Don’t Deserve

When you think of grace, what do you think of?

I think of a couple things, like the way ballroom dancers move around the room, or the way my family bows our heads to thank God before a meal.

But grace in the bible is totally different – the word literally means a free gift or favor. It’s an unearned, undeserved blessing of ridiculous and extravagant proportions. I want to define God’s grace today as “Getting the good we don’t deserve.” We don’t deserve unconditional love, but God gives it anyways, and the core of Christianity is receiving and extending this favor of God towards others.

It’s important to notice the distinction between grace, justice, and mercy.

  • Justice is getting what you deserve. You’re worthy of condemnation, and the judge gives it to you.
  • Mercy is not being punished you for what you deserve. If someone has mercy on you, that means you deserve punishment, but they are delivering you from that judgment.
  • Grace extends it further – Grace is God blessing us despite the fact that we do not deserve it.

For example, if you’re speeding on the road, the police pulls you over, and he doesn’t give you a ticket – that’s mercy. If the same officer then writes you a check for $1000 for speeding, that’s grace.

I wrote a sermon on grace, based on the story of the woman caught in adultery. I’d encourage you to watch the movie here, and read John 8:1-11.

After watching the movie, who do you identify with in this story?

Are you the woman, or the people holding the rocks? Are you in a place where you need to receive grace, or extend it to others?

Maybe you feel like you’re the woman here, all too aware of her guilt and sin and shame. You might think that God would say to you, “You’re awful; you deserve to be punished severly.” Yet listen how Jesus responds – “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”

“Neither do I condemn you” – that phrase makes my heart skip a beat. She was absolutely guilty, a sinner with no defense yet the sinless one looks at her, as well as me and you and says “there is grace even for this.”

Jesus is the only one who has the right to condemn her, the only one who hasn’t one ounce of evil or sin within him, and yet he sets her free.

That’s grace, an undeserved gift of God for each of us.

But we also must understand that Jesus didn’t say, “It’s fine that you sin.” God never waves his hand and dismisses sin as though it is of no account. Before God we all have mistakes, things that we’ve done that are short of what He has for us – Romans 3:10 says that there is no one righteous, not even one. Really, we all have to see ourselves as sinners before we can receive His grace.

His character demands that any deviation from righteousness be punished. All world religions answer this question of how we can get right with God, and while other religions say you should do this, that, or the other, only Jesus came down to get to us, bearing our condemnation on the cross so we can be one with Him.

It is God’s unmerited, undeserved favor that he took our sin on the cross. His whole self is built on positioning himself with us, bearing what was ours & lifting us up instead. So when he forgives the woman, telling her, “Go and sin no more,” it mirrors how He said on the cross – “Father, Forgive them for they know not what they do.”

If this is you, I want to encourage you this week to pick a scripture and dwell on the grace that he has given you for a specific area. For example, God has given you grace to overcome addictions, so you can pick a scripture such as John 8:36 “if the son sets you free, you will be free indeed. You can use that scripture to fight back the enemy in the moments of temptation.

But maybe you don’t really relate to the woman in the story. Instead, you resonate with the religious leaders – You see yourself here in the story as the person who is bringing the woman before Jesus. In this, you’re always aiming to throw stones at others.

I’ve definitely been in that place before – yet I’ve also found that what irks me most about others is actually want I need to work on. I need to get the plank out of my own eye first! (Matthew 7:1-5) I also have the tendency to put people into boxes – the “just like me” box – people I like and gravitate towards, whom I give a lot of grace; and then there’s the “not like me” box – people whom I don’t understand and stay away from. I always tend to judge these people, instead of giving them grace.

You can see that Jesus’ first response here is to bend down low – I believe that’s really significant. The real issue is pride. If this is you, ask that you would lay your rock down.

If this is you, this week, ask God to show you a person or situation that you need to extend grace to. And ask God how you can do this in a practical way, such as by having a conversation with them, writing a note of forgiveness or engaging in an act of service. In extending grace towards them, know that you’re not condoning their sin but rather giving them mercy, because that’s what Christ did for you.

This is just the beginning! You can listen or download my full sermon here

There’s also a great story about grace involving a professor, donuts, and a whole bunch of push-ups – click here to read that story

Have a great day!

Arise & Shine: A Message for Boston

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Above: Sunrise over the Charles River

Do you like watching the sunrise? I sure do.

Whether or not you prefer to wake up that early in the morning, we are in an amazing time where God is rising over this city, awakening hearts and calling people to the place of prayer.

Isaiah wrote this message to the city of Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, and I believe it’s also a representation of what God wants to do in here in the city of Boston.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” (Isaiah 60:1)

I want to specifically draw your attention to verse 3: “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” This is actually strikingly familiar to a sermon preached by John Winthrop on his way to America, where he spoke that the new community they would form would be “a city upon a hill, that the eyes of all people are on us…We shall be made a story and a by-word throughout the world.”

You see, Boston’s destiny is to be a beacon of the nations.

Thus, the question becomes: what do we want to be known for?

Currently, Boston is one of the smallest world-class cities, known for its rich history and being an intellectual hub. With over 300,000 college students, Boston is a popular place to come to pursue high-class education.

But I believe that God has so much more for us – This is only the beginning.

What if Boston were to be known for the way the Christian community works together? As a city where people pray? As a place where love is displayed?

If you’re intrigued by this, I’d encourage you to listen to the short message that I shared on Easter at the first Awaken Winchester service.

We all cry out for revival but don’t realize that what brings revival is repentance. Two weeks ago, Dr. Paul Jehle gave a lecture on the spiritual history of Massachusetts - he said that the Great Awakening was a direct result of the repentance that happened after the Salem witch trials.

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Above: Pastors and leaders gathering to pray for Boston at the New England Regional Leaders meeting

I’m convinced that God wants to bring revival to Boston, we’re not ready for it. Our light shines brightest when we extinguish the darkness, so my prayer is for conviction and changed hearts, that we might be capable for the revival God seeks to pour out.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, may we arise and shine, so that the glory of the Lord can come upon us, that Boston might be awakened to its destiny as a city on a hill and a light to the nations.

Below: A photo of His Eminence Sean O’Malley of the Boston Catholic Archdiocese and His Eminence Methodios of the Metropolitan of Boston of the Greek Orthodox Church joining together to light the first candle of Easter night. Photo taken by Alexander Mavradis.

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Have you ever wanted to go on a treasure hunt?

ImageTreasure hunting is no longer just for children, or those storybook figures that find dusty maps in attics that fall apart at the seams. Whether you’re five or fifty, anyone can go on a spiritual treasure hunt.

You might be thinking, what exactly is a spiritual treasure hunt? It’s simple. First, you pray and ask God for clues of the people that you might encounter, people that are ready to receive Jesus’ love. The clues could be locations, a person’s name or appearance, or prayer needs. You write these down and use these words of knowledge to lead you to the “treasures,” the people who correspond in some way to the clues. Truly, it’s a grand adventure just waiting to be had – I have found this prophetic evangelism to not only be effective, but also a lot of fun!

At Journey Church we have life groups where we meet together weekly to grow deeper together in our relationships with one another and with God. My life group is geared around outreach and living a missional life, and last week our group went treasure hunting. What God did through this evening is CRAZY!

First, Leah and I prayed together, and we wrote down the various clues that we felt like God was speaking to us. These ranged from a streetlight, to Bob, to heavy bags, as well as the color red, a twisted ankle, the “pit,” and more.

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Then, we departed and asked the Lord to guide our steps…I felt like we were supposed to go to the Harvard Square “pit” first, and there we found a man sitting on a table with two huge canvas bags. We came up to him and said, somewhat hesitantly “Hi – this might seem a little odd, but we’re on a treasure hunt, and we think you’re on our list.” We showed him the clues that pointed to him, and then just listened and heard his story.

He kept trying to convince us that he wasn’t our treasure, but about halfway through our discussion, I felt prompted to ask him if he had a twisted ankle. To my surprise, he looked at me with wide eyes and said, “Actually, yes, as a matter of fact!” He told us how when he was walking there that night, a car had bumped into his foot and bruised his ankle.

We asked if we could pray for him, and he readily accepted. We asked God to bless his life and new job, to give him a happy summer (his request) as well as heal his ankle completely. He had no pain after we prayed, and it was obvious that the Lord had led us to him as our first treasure of the evening!

We then ventured downstairs and reviewed our clues, one of which was “guitar.” We stood in the middle of the subway station, watching and waiting, and not ten seconds later we noticed someone walking by that was carrying a guitar. He also had red on! We started talking to him, trying to find clues on our paper that pointed that he was our treasure, and I randomly asked him, “Is your name Bob?” convinced that it wouldn’t be, because he was Asian. To my surprise, he said, “How did you know that?” Turns out that he as from Taiwan but his American name was Bob!

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The crazy thing is that two days later, Leah had a dream that she saw Bob again, and this actually happened last night when we did our “Free Hugs” outreach!

Yes, God still speaks today, and He will lead us when we trust Him and step out to share his love.

Now, treasure hunting is something that has to be experienced to really appreciate it…so go out and do it!  I’d encourage you to check out Kevin Dedmon Ministries to learn more about Treasure Hunting and here’s a sheet that you can use to go on your own treasure hunt!

I can’t wait to hear about your crazy awesome Jesus stories and the people that He will lead you too!

Sermon: Strength in Weakness

Last week, I shared a sermon at Journey Church, which I titled “When I am weak, then I am strong.”

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This is a photo of me on Mt Kilimanjaro. Climbing this mountain was one of the most physically & emotionally challenging experiences I have ever gone through. Yet, I can say that the struggle made the triumph of the summit all the more rewarding. I learned so much about myself through this experience, and I feel like that is largely true of any type of hardship we go through.

A lot of people question the purpose of suffering. If God is love, and He is as good as everyone talks about, then why did _______ happen? I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that yes, God is love, but love can be painful. The purpose of suffering is not just because God wants you in pain, but because He is doing a deep work in you. A good father isn’t one that shelters his children but one that allows them to go through things that will mold and shape their character, that they might become the person that they are created to be.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

This passage is really rich with biblical language – I want to encourage you to listen to my sermon to hear an explanation of the significance of these words as I exegete these verses. Keeping this in mind, the “Kelly” translation of this verse is:

You need nothing more than God’s grace, because His resurrection power is completing a process in you. Therefore, rejoice in your powerlessness, because as your weakness increases, God’s power grows and dwells within you.

CS Lewis said “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” The fact of the matter is, suffering is, well, painful. How do we rejoice in the midst of it?

We can rejoice in these sufferings because God is taking us through trials which humble us, taking our eyes off of ourselves and onto Jesus. We begin to understand that we can accomplish nothing without His strength. Through our weaknesses, He shines through and is glorified. Because when we become less, Christ in us becomes more.

What I want to challenge you today is – in those moments, who do you turn your eyes to? Do you grit your teeth and fight through it, or are you quick to God and admit your need for His help?

Personally, I tend to turn inward, gritting my teeth and bearing it in my own power, saying, “I can do this!” Or, sometimes I turn away from the pain, doing what I can to change the circumstances and making myself comfortable.

But in reality, the only proper response is to say, “Jesus, your grace is sufficient for me. Give me power in my weakness.”

Terry Fullam said that there is one prayer that is irresistible to God: “Whenever we ask him for the grace, the wisdom, the insight, the knowledge, the courage, the resources to accomplish what He has assigned us to do.” This prayer is irresistible to God because it’s an acknowledgement that we are nothing without Him.

So this week, in your moments of greatest weakness, I want to challenge you to say, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” You’re literally asking God to pour His strength through you. And He will. He delights to.

The reality is that in heaven, it won’t matter how rich you were, or how prominent you were. All that will matter is how wonderfully the strength of God poured through your weaknesses.

There’s more! To hear my entire sermon, and some stories of how God has turned my greatest weaknesses into strengths, click here: http://jcboston.org/weak-strong/