Looking for Theophilus

Some of us “wear our hearts on our sleeves.” Our affection and feelings are obvious to others.

Some of us also wear our hearts on our car bumpers. Your car may sport one of those “I heart” stickers. You know the ones – I heart Siamese cats… I heart Jack Russell Terriers… I heart tractor pulls… I heart my Nana…


Developmental psychologists tell us that human beings need to be loved from the first breath. We need 4 essentials for a healthy life – 4 A’s: Attachments; Appreciation; Affirmation; Affection. To be created in the image of God means giving and receiving love, putting our hearts out there.

God’s love FOR us is the bedrock of faith, and our love FOR God is the core of our life’s calling. And that love should show. The Israelites were exhorted to post that command — Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and might — on more than the rear bumpers of their chariots – on the entrance to their homes, on their arms and foreheads, and, most importantly, on the hearts and minds of their children.

So, are our lives a love offering to God?

Luke’s ambitious account of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his account of the Acts of the Apostles are addressed to someone particular: most excellent Theophilus.

For some time, there’s been quite a debate about the identity of this Theophilus – some contend Theophilus is the name of a Roman dignitary, your EXCELLENCY Theophilus.

The name itself means “one who loves God.” And so, many believe Luke is writing the Good News for ANYONE who seeks to know and love God more fully.

Could YOU be Theophilus? (Perhaps you’re thinking, “I cannot even pronounce ‘Theophilus.’”)

But Jesus himself sums up all 613 commandments of the Jewish law in the practical demonstration of love for God and neighbor. OUR Greatest Commandment is to love God with heart, mind, soul, and strength, Jesus says.

Most excellent Theophilus, writes Luke, I resolved to share with you God’s great gift of undying love in Jesus Christ. Is Luke addressing us? Well, if we claim our true names, our true identity, if we respond with our whole lives to God, than “Theophilus” IS us.Image result for looking in a mirror clipart

If looking for Theophilus, will you look in the mirror?





Sleeper, awake!


When she nodded off — and fell over in the pew — it made quite a ruckus in that small, country church. Her sister and sister-in-law made more noise, however, laughing at her from the pew behind.

And me only halfway through the sermon.

In my defense, I approached that pulpit every Sunday that summer as a ministry intern with only one semester of preaching class and limited experience under my (Bible) belt. I was still learning how to preach, and my sermons tended to be a bit dryer… and longer.

After 30 years, I am still learning, and though more experienced and possessing a few homiletic tricks, folks in the pews still nod off on occasion.

It happens to the most impassioned of us. In the 20th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, the apostle Paul is speaking late into the night with a house church in Troas. And then it happens:

A young man named Eutychus, who was sitting in the window, began to sink off into a deep sleep while Paul talked still longer. Overcome by sleep, he fell to the ground three floors below and was picked up dead. (Acts 20:9-12)


Much to everyone’s relief, Paul goes down, takes Eutychus into his arms, and pronounces him still living. Then, Paul continues speaking with those Christians till dawn.

Sometimes, when worshippers admit struggling to stay awake in church, we preachers assure them that there are worse times and places to fall asleep. But perhaps, as they confess, they also suspect they could be missing out on a crucial word from God.

Such is the practice of preaching in a sleep-deprived society. At least, that’s what health professionals tell us is lacking from too many lives – deep and sufficient sleep. We come to worship unrested after a late night watching movies or sports highlights. But we all know that there is also Gospel, good news, that is lacking in too many lives.

And yet, and this is no small miracle, worshippers gather all the time to listen to preachers of the Gospel both scintillating and somniferous (snore-inducing). We focus intently and are moved by a timeless and timely truth from Scripture.

However skilled the preacher or teacher, these regularly occurring miracles are always the work of the Holy Spirit.

Mindful of Eutychus and his fall, gripped by the necessity of the message of Jesus Christ, we appointed and anointed preachers keep at it, praying and trusting the Spirit of God will use “the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts,” to rouse and disturb and even let the saints rest for a few moments.

In our sleep-deprived society, we are dependent, as ever, on the enlivening and eye-opening work of that Spirit that Jesus himself sends at the right moment.

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. Romans 13:11