Sermons

September 8, 2019

Quit Stealing the Pen     Matthew 20:8-15

Have you ever asked the question “Why me?” You’ve done your best, but your best never seems to be good enough.

You’ve worked just as hard, paid just as many dues, slogged through just as many valleys and hard places as the other guy, yet you never seem to be able to break through to see the light of day.

Have you ever looked around and thought, “Man, they have it better than I do.”? I’m more committed and dedicated to the church than they are, But they’re the ones that have it easy.

There is something that is toxic to Christians and non-Christians alike, It’s called COMPARISION.

They have a better paying job than I have. He has a bigger church than I have. Farmer Brown has a bigger tractor than I’ve got. She has a nice office with a view, and all I have to look at are cinder blocks and mouse traps.

His car is newer than mine. Why do they get a scholarship and make A’s and I have to work at 7-Eleven and go part time and just manage to squeeze by with C’s?

Jimmy has a nice, new shiny bike, and my bike is held together by bungee cords and Duct tape.

Have you been there? Virtually, every one of us from all age groups has done this. We need to step away from the comparison game, look up toward God, and say thanks for what we do have.

In our Scripture reading from Matthew 20

We read about a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agrees to pay them a denarius for the day.

A few hours later he saw others standing around doing nothing and he tells them, “Go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they go.

At noon and at three in the afternoon he does the same thing…And at five he went out and found still others standing around.

He says to them, ‘You also go work in my vineyard.’

Basically, what we have here in this intriguing story is a landowner who needs to contract out short term, temporary labor to harvest his grapes before the Autumn showers hit.

So at 6 AM, he hires a group of workers to go harvest his grapes for the going rate of a denarius a day. The denarius was a silver coin worth a day’s wage for a laborer in Palestine in the 1st century.

The landowner goes looking for workers again at 9 AM, 12 NOON, 3 PM and again at 5 PM to hire additional workers.

So this landowner has quickly amassed a labor force to get the job done. I’m sure that those who started working in the morning appreciated the extra help.

However, when quitting time rolls around, the landowner tells his manager to pay everyone one denarius.

How would you feel if you had worked all day and receive the same as they guy who worked for just 1 hour?

You see, they COMPARED their hours worked and wages earned to those hired later and it didn’t sound right or fair to them.

The latecomers made in one hour what the early comers made in one day. That’s not fair!

I think what Jesus is really saying to his disciples is that there are others that may come into the kingdom of heaven who have not weathered the storms and fought the battles of a long day, but nevertheless, they receive the same reward as those who have been with Jesus from the very beginning.

If that happens Jesus teaches, then don’t start comparing. Focus on your story and your faith journey.

If the Gentiles come in at the last moment and get a place in Heaven, then don’t start comparing. Be grateful that you are there and don’t compare.

Can you accept the fact that God just might be generous to someone who has done less than you?

What Jesus is combating is this idea that what God has done for others then He should also do for me.

Or, if I have paid in more dues, I should get more benefits in return. And the only way to gauge that is to compare yourself with others. Jesus checks that when he told this story. Comparison destroys gratitude. It causes us to grumble and become bitter.

God, like the landowner with his workers, has treated you with fairness, respect, and dignity. He’s been good to you. He’s saved you, He’s given you a measure of health, and enabled you to live and enjoy life. So why would you be ungrateful to Him?

 “Be grateful” Jesus is saying to Peter and his disciples. Don’t worry so much about who you are working with and what their arrangements are.

You follow Jesus and his plan for you. God will make sure that you get what is coming to you. It may not be what you expect or what you want, but it will be what you need.

Hopefully you will take a rest from the comparison game, look around you and see God’s goodness, and then look up to heaven and say “Thank you, Lord. You have been good to me. I will be forever grateful.”

God is writing a unique story of your life. Don’t steal the pen!

God is writing a creative story. How selfish of us to demand that He plagiarize someone else’s story and super impose that on to our stories.

Some of you have interesting chapters that you’ve already experienced – And some of you have lion’s dens to go through.

Some of you have giants to fight. Some of you have battles to win, lands to conquer, and investments to make.

Don’t make God write the story of others on to yours. Let Him write your story, unique, creative, and one-of-a-kind. Don’t steal the pen!

I think you’ll be surprised at how it all ends. Those who allow God to write and complete their stories eventually find that He truly did what was best for them.

American poet Robert Frost wrote “Two paths diverged in a wood. And I – I took the one less traveled and that has made all the difference.”

God is writing your story path. Stop focusing on everyone else’s and listen to what He’s telling you. Go down the path that He has for you.

July 7, 2019

Tackling The Tough Stuff 2 Corinthians 4:7-18

When we face problems in life…and all of us do, we need to lean to lean on Jesus to make it through.

When life hits you with problems, you have a choice to make; you can either become bitter or you can become better.

The Bible is filled with people who endured the tough stuff of life.

Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers

Jeremiah was thrown into a well

Joseph and Mary had to flee to Egypt

Jesus was betrayed by His disciples: Judas turned Him over to the Jewish leaders…and the rest ran off to save themselves.

Peter and John were beaten for preaching the gospel and

Paul was beaten and thrown into prison…

What kind of tough stuff have you had to deal with?

Have you experienced the tough stuff of betrayal when your spouse walked out the door and called it quits.

Have you experienced the tough stuff of sorrow when you stood by the grave of a loved one.

Have you experienced the tough stuff of illness when you discovered your need for surgery…or when the Dr. dropped the C word.

And have you experienced the tough stuff of doubt when you felt like God had left you.

Today, may I assure you…that every problem you face…is an opportunity to prove God's power.

Chuck Swindoll said: Every day we encounter countless golden opportunities, brilliantly disguised as insurmountable problems.

Our Scripture reading this morning said: But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Now what does all that mean?

Hard Pressed means to be squeezed, oppressed, or troubled.

Paul is describing the daily reality of problems that create an ongoing pressure in life. Paul is talking about a situation that is filled with problems that just won’t quit.

Hard Pressed…On every side

Paul is expressing that there can be problems in every possible way, in every place and on every occasion.

Hard Pressed…On every side…but not Crushed

Paul makes it clear that while trouble and problems may surround us, we don’t have to be overwhelmed by them.

Perplexed means to be at a loss, to be doubting, or not knowing. It’s wondering which way to go, what to do, what to say.

Despair means to be hopeless, to have no confidence, no sense of security

We may be persecuted but Christ will never forsake us.

Persecution comes in many forms:

Isolation

Slander

Criticism

Imprisonment

Threats

Martyrdom

But God never leaves us alone. He is always with us and is here to give us His presence and power.

Finally, Paul says we are “Struck down – but not Destroyed” – Pretty self-explanatory.

Many times, people think that they are the only ones who are dealing with trials or hardships. While no difficulty is the same for every person, having problems is universal.

Everyone has problems. Some people have more problems than others but everyone has problems. There is no way to deny it or candy-coat it, we all have problems.

We experience problems on a regular basis, sometimes even daily. But the more problems that we handle…the more prepared we are to face the next one.

Never think that somehow, you will come to a time in life when you will be free of problems.

We try to show everyone a brave face and fake it through daily life.

Problems push through the pleasantries…Problems hold a mirror up to our face to show us who we really are.

Problems have a dual nature to them. They can have polar opposite effects. Problems can either draw us closer to God or they can repel us from God.

The difference in the two effects depends on us. When we start trying to rationalize our problems or blame them on God, we lose the opportunity for increased fellowship with Him.

When we give our problems back over to God, we surrender them to His grace and we gain His matchless strength moving within us. The result is that the problems are able to draw us closer to God than ever before.

You have heard me say it before…but we need to start viewing our problems as stepping stones instead of stumbling blocks.

The way that we view our problems often shapes the way that we react to them. Seeing problems from the perspective that they can help build our faith, helps us to get through them.

There is never a promise in the Bible for a life free of problems but rather God promises to see us through our problems.

Someone has said: Problems produce character.

Character is who we are when no one else is looking. Character is what we have when we lose everything else. Problems can help build character in our lives. The reality is that problems often help us develop character.

Problems cause us to experience a number of things that nothing else does. While these are negative in the midst of the problem, God has a way of bringing good out of our problems…For example…

We have the ability to have greater empathy for those in similar situations.

Those who relate best to people who are going through problems, are those who have already been there.

Say your car is overheating…are you going to take it to the dog groomer? No…You take it to the guy who has fixed 100 overheating cars…a mechanic!

God can use the problems and the hardships that we experience to help others…through us.

Just as we have been given comfort from Christ, we too can give comfort to others. Giving comfort is simply being willing to come alongside those who are suffering with various problems and lending assistance.

Our problems are often far less than anything that Jesus encountered. If God did not spare His own Son from experiencing problems, why do we think that we should be any different?

Problems are part of the fabric of life and dealing with them is a universal fact. Problems help us to gain a small understanding of what Jesus went through to secure our salvation.

Listen again to verse 7. “…we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

We are the jars made out of clay…

Paul clearly tells the Corinthian church that the treasure they have is the personal presence of Jesus in their lives. The treasure that reveals itself in clay pots…is the power of the one who conquered death and lives today.

April 21, 2019

Two Other Men Luke 23:32 - 43

Today is Easter Sunday and, as Christians, we have gathered to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And while Christ coming back to life is the focus of Easter…this morning I would like for us to take a look at another aspect of that first Easter…That being the two thieves who were crucified next to Jesus.

Scripture records that there were two other men who were also crucified that day. Two criminals were led to Calvary with Jesus, and they were crucified with Him, one on His right and one on His left. And there is a great deal for us to learn from these two men.

We might be tempted to think that there is nothing much for us to glean from the example of the two criminals that are spoken of here…But we would be very wrong to think that…

Because the fact is…that when it comes to the most important matters of life and death, sin and salvation from sin…each of us is actuallyexactly like one or the other of these two criminals, hanging to the right and the left of Jesus Christ on the cross.

You see…in the end, there are only two kinds of people in the world – those who believe that Jesus is the Christ…the Son of the Living God, and those who don’t.

And so, this morning we will simply consider these two men:
It is my belief that they are where they are…because of the choices they made.

They stole, they were caught and they are facing the punishment…they were found guilty and were sentenced to death.

Who were these two men? We don’t know their names, their ages, or even what they stole…in fact, we know very little about them…but their responses to Jesus while hanging alongside Him says volumes about who they are, and about us, because the two thieves represent the two basic responses to Christ that are common to all of human history.

In our text for this morning we notice the following about these two men:
1. They hung alongside Jesus.
2. They both observed the intense mockery and ridicule of Jesus.
3. They both heard him called in jest, “The King of the Jews.”
4. One thief joins in the horrific and merciless verbal abuse of Jesus challenging Him to save Himself and them from death.
5. The other thief rebukes his cohort by reminding him that they are deserving of their punishment while Jesus is not deserving of His.

Have you ever wondered what these thieves experienced during the last week of their lives?

We have a record of how Jesus spent His last week before His death…We talked about it Wednesday at our mid-week service. But we don’t really know how these two spent the last week of their lives.

They could have spent the last week of their lives trying to appeal their case before Roman authorities. They could have had the best defense team possible trying stay their executions.

They could have launched a large media campaign trying to portray themselves as innocent bystanders who were at the wrong place at the wrong time.

They could have portrayed themselves as good kids gone bad. Misguided misfits who need to pay for what they did, but who also need to get some help.

Or maybe they spent their last week stealing and barely missed getting caught…until they did get caught and arrested and tried.

Maybe they kept saying, “Just one more time and then we quit stealing.” But they didn’t quit…and their greed finally got them.

Maybe they were in the crowd on Palm Sunday looking for opportunities to pick some pockets while the crowds gathered to welcome Jesus…Or maybe they were so poor and in such dire need that they saw thievery as their only means of making a living.

These were somebody’s children. They mattered to someone. Perhaps, like Mary, their mothers stood nearby and observed their slow and painful death. They also mattered to Jesus.

We don’t know about their last week on earth. We can only speculate. But it is in the Biblical account that we have read this morning that we learn the most important thing about these two thieves. We learn their choice about whether or not they are going to let Jesus into their lives.

Why did the one choose to mock Jesus and die unrepentant? Why did he reject the opportunity to ask for Jesus to “remember” him this day?

Why did the other choose to repent and ask to be remembered in the Kingdom? What was it that made him rebuke his fellow criminal?

I can see the talk shows, the news casts and Dr. Phil all point to relational and psychological reasons for the choices they made…

But…The real reason is deep within their souls. It is a spiritual reason. It is about a basic choice to allow God to be a part of our lives, or not.

In verses 40 - 41, two good clues are present as to why the one criminal seeks Jesus’ forgiveness.

He says: “Don’t you fear God even when you are dying?” “We deserve to die for our evil deeds, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.”

These words indicate a spiritual awakening has taken place in the soul of this man. Perhaps he knew of, and about Jesus for quite a while.

Maybe he had witnessed Jesus doing a miracle. Maybe he had talked with Jesus. Maybe he had been a part of the crowd as recorded by Luke (in chapter 9 and verses 57 – 62) who had wanted to follow Jesus but found it too hard to do at that time in his life.

But he was aware of who Jesus truly is by his desire to be remembered when Jesus enters His Kingdom.

Now time is short. His life is about over. And the man responds to Jesus in the closing moments of his life.

It is his honest confession about his own guilt and the innocence of Jesus as well as his own fear, respect, and recognition of God that creates the opening in his heart through which God goes to him and he to God.

And Jesus assures him “you will be with me in paradise.”

We really know nothing about these two thieves. But, what we do know is that they choose to respond to Jesus in two different ways at a critical moment in their lives. One chose to reject Him and one choose to accept Him.

These two thieves represent the human race throughout all of human history…We each have a choice to make when we encounter Jesus Christ. It is a choice that each of us must make.

If this was your final week, like the thieves, how would you spend it? And would God have a place in it? Would you be open to God and recognize your guilt and your need for a Savior?

This was the final week for these two men. One died without God. One died with God.

It was also the final week for God’s only Son. Jesus died so that all who choose to trust Him can live in Heaven with Him for all eternity.

Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

April 14, 2019

Palm Sunday Mark 11:1 – 10

Palm Sunday starts with a parade as Jesus triumphantly rides into Jerusalem. Jesus is the Grand Marshall of this parade…and the crowds have gathered to see him.

Young and old, from all walks of life…have come to see Jesus. As Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, the people stand by the side of the road and cheer and wave palm branches and shout “Hosanna”.

They stand on tiptoe to see Jesus. They place palm branches along his way. Hosanna. Blest is the coming of the king. It’s a vibrant image, this parade. And one with which we can all identify.

Now in years past you have probably heard me preach something like: “Don’t just stand there watching the parade…Be a part of it!”

Christianity is not a spectator sport! Christianity is not something we observe occasionally, but disregard most of the time. That’s a sermon I give often in one form or another. It’s one I need to hear. It’s one we all need to hear.

Being a Christian isn’t about passively watching or attending some event from the side lines, and then just returning, unaffected, to our regular lives.

Just standing on the sidewalk for the occasional parade isn’t enough. Following Christ is about following. It’s about doing, it’s about spreading the Gospel, about living each and every minute as a follower of Jesus Christ.

Palm Sunday isn’t about watching Christ pass by, taking a few photos and then getting back to our "real" lives. It’s about sharing Jesus in our world today.

So for a usual Sunday sermon I would say, “get off the sidewalk and do something”. Surely in this week leading up to Easter, we should redouble our efforts, recommit ourselves to doing the work of Christ. Don’t just be a bystander…It’s Easter Week. Do something.

That’s not a bad message to hear. And it’s a sermon worth preaching most Sundays…But not this one. Not Today.

 

Today…that message goes on the back burner. Today, I’m not going to tell you to do more. Actually, I suggest we all do less this week.

This week, of all weeks, is not about what we do, or even what we should do; it’s about what Jesus did for us. All of our focus and attention should be on Jesus, and on His acts…on what He did.

Jesus’ story is the only thing that matters this week. The rest of the year we can fret about our spiritual walk with Jesus. This week is all about Jesus’ literal walk to the cross…and we are bystanders.

We cannot do what He did this week. But we can, and should, watch…because He did it for us. The acts of God this week give us eternal life. We are only bystanders…but our life depends upon what Jesus did, what Jesus does. It isn’t about us…it’s about what Jesus does for us.

Our calling this week is to give our full attention, our full awareness, to watching, to hearing, to sensing, to experiencing everything that Jesus does and to contemplating what those mighty acts mean for us.

Have you ever really, truly "lost yourself" in a book or a movie? I remember reading John Grisham’s book, “The Firm”. I was so lost in that book…that I found myself looking in the rearview mirror to make sure I wasn’t being followed.

We don’t really take part in what’s happening. And yet we can lose ourselves in watching, hearing, attending to that sort of experience.

The Easter story should completely overwhelm and transform our lives. We are not the author, or even the primary participants. We are just bystanders… but the story comes to us, enters into our lives, affecting and transforming us.

But only if we give it our attention. Even bystanders have to show up. To lose ourselves in Jesus’ story during Easter Week, we have to make that story, His story…the sole focus of our lives.

Like Zachaeaus...if we want to see Jesus, we must get a good view for ourselves. We must take responsibility in our lives for moving anything out of the way that blocks our ability to hear or see what Jesus does this week.

So we must try…try with all our hearts, to put aside all of life’s distractions, to be less busy with our own business this week. To do less ourselves, so that we may concentrate on what Jesus does.

Let’s put aside all of our anxieties and all of our ambitions, and silence all other demands upon our attention. Easter Week is not one more thing to add to the juggling act of multitasking.

We have one task this week. To focus all of our senses, all of our attention on Jesus. To lose ourselves in Jesus’ story.

We are bystanders… bystanders by the side of the road as Jesus rides triumphantly into Jerusalem. We can only watch. But we must watch… watch as bystanders in the courtyard of Pilate …

and bystanders at the foot of the cross. We are just bystanders. It is not our story to live. But it is a story, Jesus’ story…that if we lose ourselves in it, will give us life. 

Watch as Jesus and the disciples gather for the last supper.

Listen to Jesus as He tells them one of them will betray Him.

Hear Peter boldly proclaim that he will never betray Jesus…even if it means his death…

and hear Jesus tell him that he will deny Him three times before the rooster crows.

Watch Peter deny…listen to the rooster crow.

Watch as Judas betrays our Lord with a kiss.

See Jesus arrested, beaten, spit on.

Watch as the crown of thorns is placed on His brow…see the blood flow down.

Watch a beaten and bloody Jesus as He carries His cross toward Golgotha’s Hill…Mount Calvary.

Listen to the hammer strike the nails that will fasten His hands and feet to that old rugged cross.

Take it all in…and realize how much He loves you.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

April 7, 2019

Elijah and the Widow  1 Kings 17:9-15

In the Bible God gives great honor to widows. He uses them to teach us the deeper lessons of life by their simple acts of faith in God.

Whether you read Moses and the prophets, the Psalms and Proverbs in the Old Testament, or the Gospels, the book of Acts or the letters to the churches in the New Testament…you will not be able to read very far without the subject of widows coming up. There are about eighty direct references to widows in the Scriptures.

The bible has many stories about widows, some of the more well-known include:

The widow of Zarephath…which we will look at today.

The widow who gave her last two coins – Mark 12

And the widow of Nain (Jesus raised her son who had died). Found in - Luke 7

I’m not sure why these ladies’ names are not given. But some were given the names of the cities in which they lived.

Could it be that what these widows did is much more important than their name and that's why their names are not given. Often, we remember people in the bible by what they did…Like the Samaritan woman at the well.

We will start with a little background. The Bible tells us that King Ahab sinned against God more than all his predecessors. We also read that he worshiped the false God Baal and he had married the wicked Jezebel.

As punishment God stopped the rain in the land and told the prophet Elijah to run away from King Ahab and to go to a solitary hiding place. Here God commanded the brook to give him water and the Ravens to bring him food.

So, God stopped the water in one place and provided it in the new place.

God didn't send Elijah to a 5-star hotel with a huge entourage of people. God sent Elijah to a solitary place where he could not be disturbed, it would be just Elijah and God. So that Elijah could hear from God. God even provided the food.

We don't need to be rich or famous or ungodly to fulfil our needs. God can use the basic simple things right in front of you to provide for you.

When it was time for Elijah to move on to his next assignment, the brook dried up. Here we see that God was guiding Elijah. God provided the brook and now he dried it up because he no longer needed it.

Could it be that some things in your life have come to an end, because God is moving you onto the next task.

So, by this time there was famine in the land because God had stopped the rain. God sent Elijah not only to get help from the widow…but to help her. She said: “I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

She was out of food and out of hope.

When God gives us a job to do, it's always to help someone else. It's not about looking after me, me, me... like building bigger barns or bigger bank accounts.

But it's all about helping others. Life and living for Jesus isn't about what I can get, but what can I give.

Elijah asked the widow for some bread and water…In essence He asked her to give him her very last meal.

Before you give up and say “that's it…I'm finished”, give everything to God. Give God a chance to show himself strong to you.

God is saying “I'm here” give all your situations over to me. Think about the things you are worried about and ask yourself, have you given them over to God?

Elijah said in verses 13 & 14:

“Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son.

For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”

Did you catch that? “First make a small loaf for me” We honor God when we give, whether it’s to Him, or to someone in need…maybe even a total stranger.

Matthew 6:33 “Seek first God/s kingdom and his righteousness and it will be given to you.”

God was basically saying to the widow, that until the famine stops, I will keep on providing for you supernaturally. You too can rest assured that while the situation is out of your hand, God will take care of the situation. God will not give us more than we can handle. He knows what we can handle.

If you have experienced losing someone precious for example, when a loved one passes away, losing someone precious is more than we can handle so God steps in and picks us up and carries us through the hardest times of our grief. Even so God will carry you through other difficulties that are out of your control.

Going back to our story we can say that it just took simple obedience to God, God said it, the widow did it, and then the miracle was done.

If the widow hadn't honored God by giving her flour and oil to God, she would have been a victim of the famine, she wouldn't have been remembered in the Bible, she would have died. God wanted to take away her sorrow and give her an oil of gladness instead.

That's what God wants for each one of us. He wants you to be: above and not beneath; head not the tail; He wants you to use what you have for him.

So, give it to him. If you can cook, then cook. If you can help, then help. Think of one talent God has given you. Everyone has at least one. Use it for God and see it multiply.

After this miracle of provision, sometime later the widow’s son died and she blamed Elijah. She had seen God’s miracle of provision and mercy and now she thinks God is punishing her because of her sin.

Lamentations 3:22-23 teaches us that God never changes, his mercies are new every morning, great is his faithfulness.

First he saved her son from death by starvation, and now he brought him back to life. Her son was not meant to die before his time, he was saved twice.

Problems may come your way more than once or twice but they cannot stay when you have the Oil (which signifies God the Holy Spirit) of God flowing through you.

What do you want to be known for? Your popularity and possessions or for the power and provision of God in your life…helping you to serve the church and others.

The widow’s oil will always remind us of God’s provision and power…and give us faith to trust God to do the same for us…when we call on him and do what he tells us to do.

March 17, 2019

Finding Strength in Weakness 2 Corinthians 12:5-10

For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10).

The apostle Paul was no stranger to suffering. The book of Acts reads like an action novel as we travel along with the narrative of Paul’s missionary journeys.

He was imprisoned on multiple occasions; he endured shipwreck; he suffered physical infirmity when he visited the Galatians. But the hallmark of Paul is that he never lost hope. Our reading from 2 Corinthians ends with his gem: “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

The demands of life have a way of grinding us down. Life is a marathon! It keeps coming at us, presenting us with demands and unexpected curve balls. When you sustain one setback after another, it’s hard to keep your spirits up.

Our near-record snowfall this winter has taught us that. One or two big dumps we can handle. But they just kept coming and coming and coming!

We’re just plain tired of it! After one of the last snowfalls, I knew it’s been an extraordinary winter when I was happy that we received only six inches of snow! In any normal winter, that would have been a big storm.

But snowstorms and rain showers are nothing in comparison to life’s big challenges: prolonged illness, hard financial times, facing continual criticism from a mean boss, carrying a crushing load of unending duties and responsibilities. Life can be very discouraging.

When we feel weak and worn, it’s a struggle to stay in the game. Hope wanes. We’re tempted to throw in the towel and give up.

In our reading from 2 Corinthians, we catch a glimpse of a prolonged challenge that weighed on Paul. He calls it a “thorn in the flesh”.

There’s been endless speculation as to what his thorn in the flesh was. One line of thought is that he suffered from some ongoing physical problem.

Some think that Paul suffered from a difficulty with his sight, for he writes that the Galatians were ready to tear out their own eyes and give them to him.

Others speculate that it was something of a more spiritual nature, a spiritual weakness. Paul says a messenger of Satan was sent to torment him. Perhaps he felt a pull of temptation? Maybe he was troubled by a perceived character flaw.

We don’t know what it is, and maybe not knowing is better for us…because we can insert our own struggle in its place. What is your thorn? What burden would you like to be relieved from? What malady sticks to you as persistent as a piece of statically charged cellophane?

Paul takes it to God in prayer. “Please, Lord, if it’s possible, could you relieve me from this thorn?”

Paul reflects on his life. He realizes just how blessed he is. In so many other ways, he has attained spiritual heights he never imagined possible. Spiritually, his life has soared into the heavens like a high-flying kite. But this one, nagging problem keeps him tethered to the ground.

Paul sees a relationship. Lest he become too boastful, does this thorn keep him grounded? A kite needs an earthly anchor. It can’t attain its tremendous heights without the tension provided by its anchor. Does Paul’s thorn do the same for him?

Nevertheless, he’d love nothing more than to be freed from it. He prays – not once, not twice –But three times. “Dear Lord, deliver me from this trouble.”

What makes the story of Paul’s thorn so powerful is that it’s so relatable. Who among us hasn’t done the same? That persistent, troubling problem that just won’t go away. It’s always in our prayers.

The profound answer Paul received was not what he expected. In fact, he receives two answers. The first one is this: “My grace is sufficient for you.”

God was saying to him, “Paul, you may have a very tough challenge. But I will never leave you with more than you can endure! My grace is sufficient for you. It will see you through.”

Some time ago I read a story about a critically ill boy in a hospital. The school district in that particular city utilized a tutorial program for hospitalized students or when they had lengthy sick leaves. That way the children would stay up to date with the rest of their class.

One of the tutors received a call to visit a boy in the hospital. The boy’s teacher had called her. The teacher gave her the boy’s name and his room number at the hospital.

We’re studying nouns and adverbs in his class now,” the regular teacher said, “and I’d be grateful if you could help him understand them so he doesn’t fall too far behind.”

The tutor went to see the boy that afternoon. What she did not know was the reason for his hospitalization. It seems that the boy had suffered terrible burns and was in no small amount of pain.

She was jolted when she saw him. She stammered her way nervously through the lesson. “Your teacher wants me to help you with nouns and adverbs. That’s what your class is studying.”

She felt just awful when she left. She didn’t think her visit would make much difference to the boy considering his condition.

But when she returned the next day, the nurse nabbed her as soon as she arrived. “What did you do with that boy yesterday?” Now the teacher felt doubly bad! She should not have put that poor boy through such a difficult lesson. She began to apologize to the nurse.

No, no,” said the nurse. “You don’t understand. We’ve been worried about him. But ever since your visit yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He’s fighting back and responding to treatment. It’s as though he’s decided to live.”

Two weeks later the boy explained. He had completely given up hope of ever getting better – until the tutor arrived. He reasoned: “They wouldn’t send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?”

My grace is sufficient for you.” Just knowing that God will see us through can revive our hope.

The second answer Paul received was just as profound. God said to him…“My power is made perfect in weakness.”

Think about it…the power of God’s salvation has been revealed to us through weakness. In weakness, Jesus went to the cross. Like Paul, He, too, prayed that He may be relieved of His burden. But it was not to be. For God’s power is made perfect through weakness.

Jesus died a beaten man, a spectacle for all to deride. He hung in helplessness, nailed into submission. He gasped for every breath. And at last He died. His lifeless body was removed from the cross and laid in a tomb.

But through His perfect weakness, the total power of God’s saving grace has been realized.

In fact, it was only through Christ’s weakness that the power of divine salvation would be born.

Nothing, nothing at all, can defeat God’s perfect love. That truth was realized in Christ’s death.

Nothing in all of creation can quench this love.

The worst that death and sin could dish out could not extinguish it.

Even the grave cannot overcome it.

Only by dying could Christ defeat death. In His perfect weakness, Christ has overcome.

There is hope in weakness.

God’s grace is sufficient for the living of our days. In living and in dying, whenever we are weak, God’s power is never far from us.

March 10, 2019

Christ and His Church       Psalms 122

Pastor Henry Blackaby wrote a book called: Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God.

In it he says: “Perhaps one of the greatest challenges for Christianity in our day is for churches to so walk with God that the world comes to know Him through their witness. When a church allows God’s presence and activity to be expressed, a watching world will be drawn to Him.”

Too many churches of our day are not walking with God. Perhaps that is because, many churches have forgotten what they are supposed to be. The Church is not simply an organization, but rather a living organism, the Body of Christ.

As such, it is to be wholly under His authority, following His commands, and doing His bidding.

Many church members seem to view their church merely as a glorified business, in which the pastor and board are responsible for its success.

But the Bible tells us that the Church is to function like a body, in which every member operates in concert with the other.

On the whole, the Church is not very important to the world. However, it should be important to the people of God.

God’s people should consider the Church important because…

A. The Church Belongs to Him…it is His body.

Matt. 16:18 “And I tell you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it.”

1 Cor. 3:9 “…you are God’s field, God’s building”.

Remember putting your face above a headless frame painted to represent a muscle man, a clown, or even a bathing beauty? Many of us have had our pictures taken this way, and the photos are humorous because the head doesn’t fit the body.

If we could picture Christ as the head of our local body of believers, would the world laugh at the misfit? Or would they stand in awe of a human body so closely related to a divine head?

B. Christ is the Church’s Head.

Eph. 1:22 “And God…appointed him to be head over everything for the church”

Eph. 5:23 “…Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.”

Col. 1:18 “And he is the head of the body, the church;…” 

My point here should be obvious: Jesus is the head of His church; not the pastor; not the deacons; and not the board, but Jesus.

Certainly, the pastor and board bear authority in the Church…but our authority is subject to the headship of Christ.

The fact is, “No one individual can know all of God’s will for a local church. Each member of the body needs the other members of the body to fully know and do God’s will.”

The Church is to be Holy.

1 Cor. 3:16 & 17 “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple”.

It is sad to say, but the modern-day Church is a far cry from what God intended for her to be.

David Ravenhill of the Christian Renewal Center wrote:

The New Testament Church did not depend on a moral majority, but rather on the holy minority. The Church right now has more fashion than passion, is more pathetic than prophetic, is more superficial than supernatural.

The church the Apostles ministered in was a suffering church; today we have a sufficient church. Events in the early Church were amazing; in this day, the Church is often just amusing. The New Testament Church was identified with persecutions, prisons, and poverty; today many of us are identified with prosperity, popularity, and personalities.

He goes on to say: “We lack power because we lack piety, and we lack piety because we lack purity.

We need revival—God’s way. Revival—Spirit-born, heaven-directed, earth-shaking, and hell-robbing—is not just important to the Church and to America. It is IMPERATIVE!

D. The Church is to be Harmonious.

Ps. 133:1 “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”

1 Cor. 1:10 “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.”

1 Cor. 12:25 “so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.”

If there is one group of people who should be the epitome of love and harmony, it should be the local New Testament church.

But sadly there are four main bones in every church. The wish-bones: Wishing somebody would do something about the problem. The jaw-bones: Doing all the talking but very little else. The knuckle-bones: Those who knock everything. The back-bones: Those who carry the brunt of the load and do most of the work.

Remember Jesus bought the church with His own blood.

Acts 20:28 “…Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”

Eph. 5:25 “…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”.

Usually the value of an item is based on what you had to pay for it…Christ gave Himself for the Church.

The parable of the Pearl of Great Price beautifully illustrates the value that Christ placed on the Church.

Matt. 13:45 & 46 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Should we value so meagerly what Christ has valued so much?

We are to Share Our Lord’s Love with the World.

1 Thess. 3:12 “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you”.

Gal. 6:10 “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

Is the world seeing our love for Christ? Is the love of Christ for the lost world seen through this Church?

We are to Share Our Lord’s Love with the World.

We need to share the Gospel and then build the converts in the Christian life.

Matt. 28:19 “… go and make disciples of all nations…”

Matt. 28:20 “…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

There is not a person in this room for whom Jesus did not shed His blood. You and I are His pearl of great value for which He gave it all. He cares about you. He loves you! The Bible says that He wants good for us…not harm.

This is Christ’s church. He is the head of the church…we are the body. We each have a job to do in this church and for this church. Don’t be a wish bone, a jaw bone or a knuckle bone…Be a back bone. Be the church!

February 17, 2019

A Life Worth Living          Romans 8:1 – 6

 Many people really don't know how to live. They simply exist.  They float through life never really learning how to live.  Jesus doesn’t want you just to exist…He wants you to live life to the fullest.

 Today I want us to look at living positively.

 In John 10:10 the Bible says: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. 

 Jesus didn’t say, "I have come that you might have religion" or "I have come that you might have rules" or "I have come that you might have regulations".  He said, "I've come that you might have LIFE and have it abundantly.”  Some translations say… “have it to the fullest.” 

 One thing you need to realize about true Christianity is that Jesus wants you to really experience life.  He’s not about taking away all your fun.  He wants you to experience abundant life…to be optimistic.

 If you run around and say “Life Sucks”(Excuse my language) Than Life is going to Suck(Excuse my language again)

 But if you say life can be hard…but life is good…It’s gonna be good!

 I love what Zig Ziglar said…He said, ”I’m such an optimist I’d go after Moby Dick in a rowboat and take the tarter sauce with me.”

 Living a positive life benefits you in many ways… and it is part of the abundant life Jesus wants you to live.

 There’s guy named Dr. Martin Seligman who is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.  He has studied thousands and thousands of people and come to the conclusion in his studies that people who are optimistic and people who are positive live longer, have better health, are more happy and accomplish more than people who are not optimistic or positive.

 I think this church is a very positive church… or at least we strive to be.  We emphasize the good news.  There's enough bad news in the world.  The last thing you need to do is come to church and hear more bad news. 

 I want you to hear the good news here.  I think Christians…of all people, ought to be the most positive, optimistic people in the world.  I think that a pessimistic Christian just doesn’t understand what he or she really has. 

 I want to show you 4 reasons why Christians ought to be the most positive people in the world…but sadly by the time I got done with the 4 reasons…this sermon was ten pages long. (And if my sermon is much over 3 pages Denny tries to steal a few pages)

 So today you get the first reason…the best reason…and I hope you can come back next week and I’ll try to finish up the last three.

 # 1…The number one reason Christians should be the most positive people in the world is…As a Christian it’s possible to live life without condemnation.

 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

 The first thing to notice about this verse is the two little words, "in Christ". That's Paul's favorite term for a Christian.  A hundred and sixty-four times in the New Testament it says we are "in Christ".

 The second thing to notice in this verse is that Paul starts explaining why we that are “in Christ” should live a positive life.  Verse 1 states…  "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  The Greek word for “no” is the strongest word for "no" you can use in Greek.  There is absolutely no condemnation if you are a Christian. None, Nada, Zero, Zip…No condemnation!

 That is a hard truth for us to grasp.  Intellectually we can get it.  But emotionally it's just too good to be true.  But it is true!

 If you're a Christian and you blow it…God does not reject you!!  He does not condemn you!  He does not kick you out of His family!

 Even when you sin, He does not hold a grudge and stop loving you.  And you don’t have to pay for your sins… because your sins have already been paid for.  That's what Jesus Christ did on the cross.  Jesus said it Himself in the book of John.

 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  John 3:16-17 (NIV)

 To escape condemnation there is only one condition you need to meet: to be "in Christ".   You can't earn it, you just accept it.  So many people today walk around in self condemnation, beating themselves up continuously for their past.

 They won't forgive themselves, much less accept forgiveness from God.  But in Jesus Christ there is no condemnation!

 Not only are there people who continually beat themselves up over their past and will not accept God’s forgiveness… There are also people today who have just the opposite attitude. 

 These people have the attitude of… I’m a good person, so I don’t need saving.  The Bible says that’s just not true.

 Romans 8:13 says “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.…”

 Basically this verse states that no matter how good you are… you can not save yourself.  The first part of this verse says… “For what the law was powerless to do …”   This means the law was not able to overcome sin.  That means even the 10 commandments could not overcome sin.

Does that mean we toss out the 10 commandments?  Of course not.  The 10 commandments serve a very important purpose.  The 10 commandments point out sin to us. 

 The 10 commandments tell us how to recognize sin so we can do our best to keep it out of our lives.  Because if we don’t…our lives will be full of chaos and destruction.

 But the 10 commandments or “the Law” will not save you… Romans 8:3… “… what the law was powerless to do …”.   Why can’t the 10 commandments save us? 

 The next part of that verse answers that question.  It states… “because it was weakened by the flesh…”

God is saying that there is no one who has ever perfectly kept the 10 commandments except for Jesus Christ.  The 10 commandments won’t save us… because we’re too weak to keep them all.

 But even though we cannot live a perfect life without sin… the last part of verse 3 states why we are able to live a life without condemnation.

 It says, For what the Law could not do…. “God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering…”

 When Jesus died on the cross He became our substitute.  He became the offering for our sin.  That’s why we as followers of Jesus Christ do not live a life of condemnation.  That’s why we should live a positive life.

 Obviously Christians sin, they fail, they make mistakes.  Christians are not perfect, but we are forgiven.  If we just stopped right here, and never get part 2 of this sermon, that's enough reason in the world to be positive.  God has made it possible to live a life without condemnation.

 It’s time to quit being negative…it’s time to live life with a purpose…to see the glass as half full instead of half empty. 

 In this life there are people waiting to pounce if you make a mistake…but not God…There is NO 

 February 10, 2019

God is Love     Ephesians 3:17 – 21
There was a priest by the name of Valentine. He lived in Rome about 250 AD. At that time, Rome was ruled by an emperor by the name of Claudius.
 
As legend has it…Claudius wanted a big army. He thought men should volunteer to go to war…but a lot of men didn’t want to leave their wives and girlfriends. So, not many men volunteered to fight. 

This made Claudius angry. So he had a crazy idea that if men were not married, they would make better soldiers. So Claudius decided not to allow any more marriages.
After Emperor Claudius passed his law, Valentine kept on performing marriage ceremonies – but in secret. He would whisper the words of the ceremony, while listening for soldiers on the steps outside. 

One night, he heard soldiers coming. The couple he was marrying escaped, but he was caught and thrown in jail and was sentenced to death. 

While he was in jail many people came to visit him. One of his frequent visitors was the daughter of the prison guard. Her father allowed her to visit him in his cell.  They often sat and talked for hours. She believed he did the right thing by ignoring the Emperor and performing marriage ceremonies. 

On the day of his execution, February 14, 269 A.D, he left her a note thanking her for her friendship and loyalty. He signed it, "Love from your Valentine."

I was in the Valentine's Day Card section at Wal-Mart this past week to pick out Valentines cards for the grandkids. There were cards of every size and shape. Some were simple and some were fancy. Some were funny and some were romantic. They have Valentines for everyone…not just your sweetheart but for anyone that you love.
 
I did a quick check on the internet and found that over a billion valentines are exchanged every year in America. In fact it is the largest card exchanging day besides Christmas.

As I stood there looking at all those Valentine's Day cards the thought came to me, "God sends Valentines too!" Valentines are messages of love, right? …and

Who loves us more than God? Each one of us is God's beloved. Every day is Valentine's Day, because God showers love upon us in so many ways every second of our lives.

Take a breath…Every breath, is a Valentine from God.
 
Every sunrise is a Valentine from God, and so is every sunset.

Every moonlit night and starry sky is a Valentine from God.

Every meal, Every hug from a friend...Every second of our lives is filled with "I Love You’s" from God.

How have you experienced God's love recently? 

The Bible is a collection of the most wonderful Valentines ever written or given. It’s a love letter from God to you and to me - for us to read over and over again, to cherish...and find strength...and hope...and the assurance that we are loved. 

Listen as I read some of these scriptural valentines of love from God:

Zephaniah 3:17
The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."

Psalm 13:5
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.

Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

1 John 3:1

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

Psalm 33:22
May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.

1 John 4:16& 19

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. We love because he first loved us.

Jeremiah 31:3

 The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love…

Psalm 51:1

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

Song of Solomon 2:4

His banner over me is love

Psalm 59:16
But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.

Isaiah 54:10

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the LORD…

Psalm 86:5
You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you

Romans 8:35, 37 - 39

35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

There have never been any Valentines like these! And they all are sent to us because God loves you more than you can know. If you ever forget that, just pick up your collection of God's Valentines and turn to most anyone of them...or close your eyes and let these words of love come back to mind...

Many people don’t just send a card on Valentine's Day…They often send gifts like flowers or candy. God too gave us more than just words on paper. God gave us the best gift of all...“For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life”. John. 3:16 

This greatest of all Valentines comes from the very heart of God...overflowing with love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and life abundant and eternal...

I remember when we gave out valentines in elementary school. The teacher would send home a paper that had the names of every kid in the class…and you were expected to give valentines to everyone so that no one felt left out.
That’s how Valentines from God are…They are not just for a few. They are for you...for me... for everyone...every day of the year...

For every day is Valentine's Day when you are the beloved of God!

January 27, 2019

Growing in Grace     2 Corinthians 12:7b-10

Have you ever wondered what is it that sets Christianity apart from other religions? It’s grace.

The thing that sets Christianity apart from every other religion or cult in the world is grace, the “unmerited, unearned, undeserved, favor of God.”

In 2 Corinthians 12, we read that Paul had a thorn in the flesh. We don’t know what that was…But we know that Paul prayed several times that God would take it away. But God told Paul “My Grace is sufficient”.

There are those who will tell you that if you pray and don’t get the answer you want that you don’t have enough faith.

But I believe that sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers for the same reason you and I didn’t give our kids everything they ask for. God knows better.

Paul prayed 3 times to have this thorn removed and God said, NO!” Instead of answering Paul’s prayer, God says, “My grace is sufficient.”

God’s grace is enough. It doesn’t take anything else. God’s grace is enough.

I. GOD’S GRACE IS ENOUGH TO SAVE YOU

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you were saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift-

I want you to know this morning, that God’s grace is enough to save you. Do you realize there is nothing you can do to earn your salvation? You cannot be good enough.

The Bible says the best you could hope to do, your best works, are like filthy rags compared to God’s holiness.

My friend, you can never be good enough to be saved. You can never go to church enough. You can never give enough to the church. You can never help enough poor people. You can never visit enough prisons, or light enough candles, or pray enough to earn being saved. It is only by God’s grace that you are saved.

So quit trying to be good enough to be saved, and trust Jesus. Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into Him.”

 “God’s grace is enough to save you.”

II. GOD’S GRACE IS ENOUGH TO SEAL YOU

In Romans 5:21 Paul says, “…My sin increased. But God’s grace multiplied even more.”

Do you realize that if you are truly born again, if Jesus is truly your Savior that you are saved, signed and sealed, just waiting to be delivered? You cannot lose your salvation.

When you invite Jesus Christ into your heart to be your Lord and Savior, He comes in to live, to stay, forever. The Holy Spirit lives within you.

Jesus speaking in John chapter 10 says: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”

Some people are afraid they’ll sin and God will quit loving them. They’re afraid they’ll mess up and lose their salvation, so they go from one day to the next, never knowing if they’re still good enough to be saved.

Guess what? You’re not, and neither am I. My salvation doesn’t depend on my good works, or my good living. It doesn’t depend on my grip on God. It depends on God’s grip on me, and God grips with grace.

Quit living in fear and trust the grace grip of your heavenly Father.

God’s grace is enough to save you. God’s grace is enough to seal you, and

III. GOD’S GRACE IS ENOUGH TO CHANGE YOU

1 Peter 5:10 Now the God of all grace… will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you…

God, because of His grace, will change you.

The Bible says, because of sin, you and I have fallen short of the glory of God. Because of grace, God can and will restore you.

You, like Paul, may feel like the chief of sinners. You feel that you can never get a grip on life again.

You feel that you can never be forgiven, you can never go back. You say, “if you only knew what I’ve done. I can never have a close relationship with God again. He’ll never take me back.

That’s why they call it Grace!

If God’s grace is enough to save us, if it is enough to seal us, if it is enough to change us, what do we do with God’s grace? Easy…We accept it!

Jesus says, come unto Me all ye who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. This morning, accept God’s grace. Tell Him right now, “God, I don’t deserve you forgiveness. I don’t deserve your grace, but I accept it.”

Second, trust Him. When He says He has you in the palm of His hand. Trust him. You worrying about it, isn’t going to change a thing. Rest in the grace that He offers.

Some of the saddest people are Christians who still worry about whether or not they’re saved.

Jesus said, “My peace I leave with you.” Trust His grace, and accept His peace.

If God has shown you grace, then be willing to show grace to others.

I am afraid that too many of us have forgotten how much grace has been shown us by both God and by others.

I am afraid that we have forgotten how much grace God has shown us, and have become unwilling to show grace to others.

If you want your spouse to cut you some slack, to show you grace in what you say, then you had better show grace in the things you say. Give the benefit of the doubt.

If you want your children to cut you some slack when you are unable to do something you told them you’d do; then you had better cut them some slack, show some grace when you interpret their hasty promises.

If you want your friends to show grace, when you inadvertently stick your foot in your mouth; then you had better show them some grace.

If you want your loved one to show grace when you forget to call, then you had better show them some grace and give them the benefit of the doubt.

We’ve got to get the chips off our shoulders and start showing one another grace, the same grace God shows us.

Share God’s grace with others. Share what you receive.

God’s grace is enough to save us, to seal us, and to change us. Our responsibility is to accept His grace, trust His grace, and share His grace.

January 13, 2019

Are you A Tree?     Luke 19:1 - 10

This morning I want us to take a closer look at Zacchaeus.

Zacchaeus represents every person who doesn’t yet have a relationship with Jesus Christ.–Jesus came to seek and to save the lost.

Before I came into a personal relationship with Jesus, I was a Zacchaeus, and so were you. A Zacchaeus is a person who is primarily concerned about one person: Zacchaeus.

Here are a couple of ways in which each of us can relate to Zacchaeus.

1. None of us really measures up.
The one thing we all know about Zacchaeus is that he was vertically challenged–a wee little man. When it comes to God’s standard, we are all wee little people–spiritually. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall SHORT of the glory of God.”

We all fall far short of God’s standard: Jesus Christ. He has a name that is above every other name! The first step in salvation is recognizing that in our own goodness, we will never measure up.

2. He was desperately seeking something.
Zacchaeus was rich, but he wasn’t happy. There was something missing in his life. The details of this story reveal he was a desperate man. He was rich and dignified, yet he ran down the road to try to get in position.

Desperate people run. We used to climb trees when we were kids, but
most adults don’t climb trees, unless they’re chased by a mean dog, or trying to escape a flood. Climbing a tree is an act of desperation.

He didn’t know it, but he was looking for God.

According to Luke 19:10, Jesus came to seek out and to save all the Zacchaeus like you and me. Jesus Christ came on the greatest search and rescue mission in history! So how does that affect our story?

1. He knows us.
The first word Jesus spoke to the little guy was, “Zacchaeus!” He called him by his name.

2. He knows what we need–a relationship
After Jesus called his name, He beckoned Zach to come down from the tree. Jesus spoke those words in love and tender compassion.

Jesus would have been telling the truth if He had said, “Zach, you are a dirty, rotten sinner! Repent, repent, repent! You’d better pay back all the money you’ve stolen from these people. If you don’t God’s gonna getcha’ good!

But Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn sinners–He came to save them. He knew Zacchaeus needed to know he could have a personal relationship with Jesus.

Instead of condemning Zacchaeus, He said, “Let’s go to your house.” At that point, the religious crowd turned against Jesus and criticized Him for spending time with a sinner like Zacchaeus.

I’m not here to point my finger at you and say, “Sinner! Sinner! Sinner!” I’m here to introduce you to Jesus. Maybe you need to make some changes. Zacchaeus did, but you don’t have the power to make those changes on your own. When Jesus becomes your friend, He’ll help you clean up your act.

He sees you not as you are–but as who you can become. Everyone else looked at Zach and saw a mean, little, dirty rotten sinner. When Jesus looked at him in that tree, He must have thought, “I’m going to make this short and sweet!

Do you know what the name “Zacchaeus” means? It means “pure.” Jesus didn’t see a crooked tax collector, He saw a man who could become PURE.

He saw a man who could be so generous he would give half of his money away. At the tree, Jesus didn’t say, “Zach, you’re a thief. Now, after you repent and pay back what you owe to these people, with interest and penalties, then I’ll come to your house and eat with you.”

Instead, Jesus said, “Come one, let’s get to know each other, and once you get to know me, you’ll see yourself in a different light and you’ll want to make some changes.”

There are two kinds of people here today. Some of us are like Zacchaeus. But most of us are what I call former Zacchaeus’. We are recovering Zacchaeus’. We have already had the experience of meeting Jesus.

Do you remember the tree holding little Zach up? That’s us. Here’s the message:

ARE YOU WILLING TO BE A TREE TO LIFT PEOPLE ABOVE THE CROWD SO THEY CAN SEE JESUS?

Years ago, I realized that my role is like that sycamore tree. I can’t be Jesus to people. I can only lift people above the crowd so they can see Jesus clearly. That’s our job!

We can’t save people, only Jesus can. We can’t change people–only Jesus can. Our job is to lift people up until they see Jesus, then He takes over.

What would have happened to Zacchaeus if there hadn’t been a tree there that day? We don’t know. The good news is God had planted a tree just in the right spot so Zacchaeus could see Jesus.

God has planted you and your job is to lift others up so they can see Jesus.

December 23, 2018

What Do We Do With The Baby?   Matthew 1:18-25

A family attended a wonderful, candlelit Christmas Eve service. After the service was over the husband announced that he was hungry. “There must be some place open”.

So the whole family piled into the car and headed out to the interstate junction and the truck stop that they knew would be open… even on Christmas Eve.

Outside a few big diesels rumbled at the far end of the parking lot.

Inside a few truckers sat at the counter eating while a jukebox played a country- western song. On the big window were a few multicolored blinking lights…which might have given a faint Christmassy spirit to the place, had it not been for the fact that it smelled like stale bacon grease.

The family squeezed into a booth near the blinking lights. A waitress greeted them…She looked like you'd expect a waitress to look who was unlucky enough to draw the late shift on Christmas Eve.

She managed a weary smile and dealt out the menus like a poker hand.

The mom looked around, feeling a bit snobbish and out of place. She, after all, had a family who had all just come from the Christmas Eve service, and would end up in their lovely home for the night.

There was a fleeting thought that years from now she might say with a laugh, “Remember that Christmas we ate at that awful truck stop with the country music and tacky lights?" They would all snicker.

She was staring out the window when an old beat-up car drove up. A bearded young man in jeans got out. He walked around and opened the door for a young woman who was holding a baby. They hurried inside, protecting the baby from the cold and took a booth nearby.

As the waitress took their order the baby began to cry. The father shifted the baby around, tried him on his shoulder, but nothing seemed to help. The mother tried rocking the baby in her arms. Nothing worked. The baby was just plain unhappy.

A baby crying in a place where crying babies aren’t welcome…Not an unusual occurrence, It’s something almost any parent here has experienced.

But what if it’s not just the crying, but the baby, the parents, and the entire family, who is unwelcome?

That must have been the way Joseph felt some two thousand years ago as he threaded his way through the streets of Bethlehem, looking for a place to stay.

One thing that has always bugged me about the Christmas story is why Joseph and Mary didn’t have a place to stay. It’s not like this was a sudden trip.

The decree would have gone out months ago, and everyone would have known where and when they had to go. Surely, since this was the home town of Joseph’s clan, he should have family he could call on.

When most people travel…they call ahead to friends and relatives to arrange a place to stay. Are we really that much smarter than Joseph? I don’t think so. I think the reason Joseph didn’t have a place to stay is because his family wouldn’t have him.

Joseph and Mary lived in a culture where premarital pregnancy was cause for stoning. For a young girl to be found pregnant before her wedding day brought shame not only on her, but on her entire family; and for a young man to stay with such a girl brought that shame on himself and his family.

The scandal of Mary’s pregnancy, and Joseph’s refusal to separate himself from her, would have made its way to family and friends in Bethlehem. In spite of the requirement to offer hospitality, they were unwilling to be associated with Joseph’s shame.

Conveniently they found themselves without hospitality to offer. Then, as now, no one wanted the Baby Jesus.

And so they wandered from one inn to the next, desperately seeking a place to rest, a place for Mary to give birth.

Finally, an innkeeper who either hadn’t heard the story, or simply could not put them completely out, offered them a place. It wasn’t fancy, it wasn’t even an air bed in the family room, but it was warm, dry, and quiet.

It was a small, insignificant place, but often… it’s in small, insignificant places, and lives...that God performs miracles.

All God needed for the miracle of Christ’s birth was a small corner of a barn. All God needs for the miracle of salvation to take root in us, is a small corner of our heart.

Just as the baby Jesus, born in that barn grew to be the Savior of the world, the Jesus who takes root in a small corner of our heart grows to walk with you, and be with you, in and through all things.

Jesus didn’t need a castle 2000 years ago…He doesn’t need one today.

Mean while…back at the truck stop, the young mother is trying to hold the crying baby and eat. The waitress reaches over and held out her hands and says, “let me see what I can do."

There was something about the way the waitress took the baby in her arms that made you think that she had probably raised a half dozen of her own.

She began talking and walking round the place…she showed the baby to a man sitting at the counter who wore a battered baseball cap, cowboy boots, and a leather wallet on a chain, an authentic over-the-road trucker.

The trucker made the appropriate silly faces and high-pitched noises at the baby. Then the waitress showed the baby the blinking Christmas lights and the gaudy colors on the jukebox. She brought him over to the family who had just come from church and said, “Just look at this little darlin will ya?"

The lady who was thinking she was above this place suddenly realized there were tears in her eyes. Her husband wanted to know what was wrong.

“Nothing, just Christmas" she told him, and reached into her purse for a Kleenex and a quarter. “Go see if you can find a Christmas song on that jukebox", she told the children.

When they were gone, she looked at her husband and said, “He'd come here, wouldn't he?"

“Who?"

“Jesus. If Jesus was born in this town tonight and the choices were our neighborhood or this truck stop, it would be here, wouldn't it?"

Her husband didn't answer right away but he looked around the place, looked at the people. “Yep" he said, “Either here or at the homeless shelter."

“That's what bothers me” she said. “When we first got here I felt sorry for all these people because they don't have nice houses to go home to like we do, with wreaths and candles and Christmas trees.

Listening to that awful music, I thought, I bet none of these people ever even heard of Handel's Messiah. But now I think that more than any other place I've ever been, this is where Christmas is, and I'm not sure I belong."

As they walked to the car her husband bent close to her ear and said, “Remember, the angels did say 'I bring you good news of great joy to all people."

As Christmas fast approaches…Let me ask this question. What do we do with the baby? Do we send him to the next place, or do we open our hearts, our arms, our lives, and let the miracle begin?

December 9, 2018

At The Point of Our Need        John 1:1-14

Genesis tells us that God spoke and the world was created... All things were created through the Word. In Him was life - in other words, all living things - including you and me - exist today because of Him.

And then as you read on, John wrote...

v.5 "the light shines in the darkness...."

v.9 "the true light... was coming into the world." And then...

v.10 "He was in the world..."

v.11 "He came to that which was His own..."

v.14 "The Word became flesh..."

The Creator came to His creation - the world He made. The Creator became flesh and made His dwelling among His creatures.

Imagine this:

· Jesus who owns the universe, came into this world, and had to find a place to be born.

· Jesus who is Almighty, came into this world, and needed to be carried by human hands.

· Jesus who has everything in His control came into this world and was despised by man.

The humanity of Christ means that he lowered himself when He became human.

Why? Why did God do such a thing? John uses these words: "He came to His own..." (v.11)

God desires a relationship with us. This desire, or love to have fellowship with us is so great that He was willing to do whatever it took, including the cross, to make it possible.

One day a prince was going through the poor section in the local village. As he passed through he glanced out the windows of the carriage his eyes fell upon a beautiful peasant girl.

During the ensuing days he often passed by the young lady and soon fell in love. But he had a problem. How would he seek her hand?

He could order her to marry him. But even a prince wants his bride to marry him freely and voluntarily and not through coercion. He could put on his most splendid uniform and drive up to her front door in a carriage drawn by six horses.

But if he did this he would never be certain that the maiden loved him or was simply overwhelmed with his position or money.

The prince came up with another solution. He moved into the village, entering not with a crown but in the garb of a peasant.

He lived among the people, shared their interests and concerns, and talked their language. In time the maiden grew to love him for who he was and because he had first loved her.

This very simple, almost childlike story, is what John is describing here - God came and lived among us. He has to reveal Himself to us in an understandable way, and this is precisely what Jesus did - became flesh just like you and me. He made Himself understandable.

Phil 2:6-9 says "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!"

As Bill Gaither says in one of his songs: “He came down to my level when I couldn't get up to His”.

I am glad that this happened, because it shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that God desires to reach down to me... God is beyond my reach, but I’m not beyond His reach. He lowered Himself so that I can reach Him. Christ’s birth brought the infinite God within reach of finite man.

He loves us and longs to communicate His love to us. He wants to bless us and save us!

God desires to communicate with us today. We are made to have fellowship with God and He loves that!

He wants you to spend time with Him, to listen to His Word and share your life events with Him. Do that every day... God treasures your time with Him. Whether in devotion or prayer, spend time with Him. He delights in that!

When people ask what God is like, we as Christians can point to the person of Jesus Christ. God himself is incomprehensible, but in Jesus Christ we get a glimpse of His glory.

In Jesus Christ we comprehend God’s great love... that same God, who created the stars and the universe, was willing to go all of the way to the cross, so that we could be redeemed.

GOD MEETS US WHERE WE ARE - at the point of our need.

We were lost - in darkness, we needed light and God gave us the Light.

We needed life - for we are condemned to die in our sin - and "in Him was life" (v.4).

Jesus was God’s way of meeting us where we were to take us where we could never go.

What does man really need?

If our greatest need was money, God may have sent us a banker.

If our greatest need was knowledge, God may have sent us a teacher.

If our greatest need was wisdom, God may have sent us a philosopher.

If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer.

But our greatest need was forgiveness - forgiveness of our sin against God..., so God sent us a Redeemer who would pay to buy us back! "

Matthew 1:21 says: “you are to give him the name JESUS, because he will save his people from their sins."

And so Jesus put on human skin and everything that comes with it. The Son of God sacrificed Himself so that we can become sons and daughters of God.

John 1:12-13 "Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God."

Someday we will go home to where He is, because we are His children. Jesus made all this possible because He fulfilled the righteous demand of the Father who requires that sin be paid for.

God did all He can to meet us at the point of our need, and save us from our sin and death... then today, we can be rest assured He can do the same.

He has not changed. He will meet you at the point of your need today. If He made such a great sacrifice to save your soul, is there any greater need that He cannot meet, or is not willing to?

December 2, 2018

Share The Light    Matthew 3:1-6, 11

Have you ever noticed a house that was really lit up with Christmas lights. It’s on the verge of being too much…but it really isn’t, But…so many lights!

As Christians we are called to be “the light of the world.” Each one of us should strive to be lights that illuminate God’s love. As we approach the Christmas season we begin to see and hear reminders of that first Christmas…”Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”

So if people are already thinking about Christ…isn’t this a good time for us to share the light?

It was a crisp cold evening in mid-December just about this time of year. The sun had just set and a little boy was walking to his best friend's house for dinner.

As the light faded and the darkness came on, the first star appeared and it looked huge to him. As he looked at it he was seized with excitement…He wanted his friend to see this light!

As fast as his sturdy little six-year old legs could take him, he began to run. Running as fast as he could, to see his friend, to tell his friend, Tommy, what he had seen. He's seen the star, star of wonder, star of light.

But near the top step he slipped and fell. Despite the hurt…despite the blood, he was so excited to tell Tommy about the star that he rushed into the house and blurted out, "I've seen it…I've seen the star, come out and see it with me Tommy."

But Tommy's mom said, “Not so fast young man. Looks like you've had a nasty scrape there.” So as she wiped his face he told his friend all about the star and wondered aloud, "could this be the same star that led people so long ago to Jesus?"

What excitement, what eagerness to share the good news, “The light is here, the light is good, come to the light.”

…And it's not just that little boy who's seen that light. I believe most of us here…we've had a glimpse of it…or we wouldn't be here.

Or perhaps, some of you are here today because you want to see that light for the first time…and you've come looking and hoping. But whatever has brought you here, God knows your heart's desire and your eagerness to see that light more clearly…and to love the light more dearly.

But our lives are a little bit like Tommy's friend, aren't they? Even when we catch a glimpse of the light and feel its powerful warmth rising within us, things can go wrong, things can knock us off our feet, discouraging us, filling us with fear…and maybe even holding us back from sharing the light.

I'd like for you to think with me this morning about three different kinds of fear that might keep us from sharing the light. And I would also like you to think with me about ways that those fears need not control us.

First, the fear that if I share my excitement about the light, I'll look like a fool.

Second, the fear that I don't really know enough about the light to talk to others about it.

Third, the fear that if I try to share it; to share my excitement and the glory of the light; I'll somehow do it wrong and I won't succeed.

First, the fear of looking like a fool. Sometimes I think we fear that our enthusiasm will just bleed all over the place and cause trouble for ourselves and others…and embarrassment too. We fear that they won't get caught up in our enthusiasm and joy about the light…and that we will simply end up looking like fools.

I don’t know about you…but I don’t just come to church because it’s what I’m supposed to do…I really enjoy coming. I really enjoy seeing all of you…well, most of you.(Just kidding) There’s a song that’s a bit sappy…but I like it because it’s so true…It goes, “I love the thrill that I feel when I get together with God’s wonderful people…”

So why don’t we invite others to share the light that we have found? Is it because we fear that we will look foolish?

If anyone ever looked like a fool, it was John the Baptist. Remember how he dressed? Camel's skin coat…and remember his diet? Locusts and honey, yummmmmmm. And what did he do? He stood in a river and preached. Talk about looking like a fool. But John doesn't seem to have minded. Somehow whatever fear he might have had about being a fool, he overcame.

The second fear is that we don't know enough to share with others about the light. After all we’re not the experts, we might need another degree or need to study just a little bit more, or need…well you fill in the blank with what you think you need.

Let me say to you…that you don’t need a Ph.D. in Physics to teach others about this kind of light. Nor do you need a Ph.D. in Psychology or a doctorate in divinity to speak to others about this kind of love. The Bible says that the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts…and that Jesus is the light of the world…that’s all we need to know.

And the last fear, is the fear that we won't do it right…that we won't succeed in sharing the light. Once again, John the Baptist is our model. If you think that Jesus had a brief ministry, John's was even shorter. Maybe a few months, a few months two thousand years ago and we are still talking about him? And he was a failure in the world's eyes.

In case you don't remember the story, he got his head chopped off and his head served up on a platter. Not exactly a success story. But here we are two thousand years later celebrating the light that he came to proclaim.

I read the newspaper everyday…and I don’t recall reading any recent stories about someone’s head ending up on a platter for sharing their faith…for sharing the light…especially not here in America.

So this Christmas as you see the spectacular Christmas light displays…ask yourself…Who is it that I can share the light with? Who can I invite to church…who might come with me to the Christmas Eve service?

It’s not like I’m asking you to stand in the river in a camel skin coat and eat bugs…I’m simply asking you to bring someone to the light. To bring them to a place that you enjoy being…and spending time with people you like being with. (Well…most of them).

November 25, 2018

Our Help is in the Lord    1 Kings 19:1-8

Life can be a mixed bag…Some days everything is great…and the next it can leave us feeling abandoned, helpless and useless.

People cope in different ways. Some stand up to the challenge and keep paddling. Some turn and run. Some withdraw into a shell. Some keep muddling through, even though every day is a struggle …and getting out of bed becomes a chore.

There is the mistaken notion that people who are believers - church going people – are somehow immune to these sorts of things.

They think that because they are a believer, God will give them a new car, a huge bank account and a lovely home.

But that isn’t biblical. Matthew 5:45 teaches us that God “…causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”.

Today I’m going to speak about a low, low time in the great prophet Elijah’s life. Let me just give you a little background so that we can have a good context for that event.

Elijah had just experienced one of the most powerful victories a believer can possibly live through. He’d been at Mt. Carmel.

There he had been God’s instrument in doing battle with the prophets of Baal. It was an awesome display of God’s power.

Elijah had literally called fire from the sky and a pile of wet wood on an altar was burned up by a column of fire that God sent from the sky.

After it was all said and done, the prophets of Baal were shown to be the inept, idolaters that God said they were.

The people who witnessed this event fell on their faces and cried, “The LORD - He is God! The LORD - He is God!” So Elijah was literally on a mountaintop – physically and spiritually.

So here we have God’s man, a prophet of God, at the zenith of his career.

The Lord had delivered powerful victories into his hand. Nothing could stop him now – right?

Enter Jezebel, King Ahab’s wife.

As we read in our Scripture reading…She was really ticked off when she heard that Elijah had defeated and put all the prophets of Baal to death.

She swore that by the end of the next day…Elijah would be dead.

No sweat, right? Elijah had seen God’s mighty hand at work. He’d seen God deliver the prophets of Baal into his hands.

He’d seen God use ravens to bring him food when he was hungry.

He’d even seen the power of God raise the dead to life.

There is no threat, no problem, no issue that could scare Elijah, - right?

Wrong! Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.

How many of you can identify with Elijah? Has there ever been a time when you just wanted to say: “Stop the world I want to get off?”

“No one can help you,” says the enemy to you. “God doesn’t care about you,” Satan lies. “How could you possibly think that a God who is so far away is even aware of your problems,” says the devil to us.

And as happened with Elijah, these thoughts can come to us right after the most wonderful manifestations of God’s grace and power.

That’s when the Jezebels of this world can most easily attack us…And our natural inclination is to shrivel up in despair.

This is exactly what Satan wants us to do. He wants us to take our spiritual eyes off Jesus and think only about our problems and our concerns. And that is exactly when we make ourselves even more vulnerable to Satan and his wiles.

What happened when Elijah was down and out? Did he all of a sudden cinch up his belt and puff out his chest and say, “I’m tough. I can handle this.

No, Elijah was a completely beaten broken man. He couldn’t help himself. He even wanted to die.

And that is when God did what only God can do – bring hope to the despairing, help to the weary, strength to the weak, food to the hungry, salvation to the lost.

God took the initiative. God restored and strengthened him. God sent an angel to take care of him, and when Elijah looked around, there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water.

He ate and drank and lay down to sleep again. The angel of the Lord returned a second time to care for him.

And so Elijah was able to get up and continued on his 40-day journey until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.

You know…we too are on a journey.

Our time in this life can be likened to Elijah’s journey through the desert. We often encounter despair and pain. And when life gets too hard to handle, it is God who nourishes and comforts and strengthens us.

And it is this same God who sent Jesus Christ to come to our rescue. He subjected himself to the suffering and pain that our transgressions demanded.

He died on the cross to pay for your sins and mine. And He rose from the dead to show that his victory was complete and wholly acceptable to God - and all this because of God’s mercy for you and me.

Why did God do all of this? Love…God’s mercy and love goes beyond our human understanding.

We saw it in His merciful care of Elijah whose trust in God had ebbed.

We see it in Jesus’ incredible love for us. Why? I don’t know. That is the essence of grace. That God looks at our pitiful condition – whether it be sin, or sickness or fear or financial woe – and He loves us.

He has mercy. He lets us know that the forgiveness of the Cross and the salvation and hope that it brings is for you and me. And He does it all for us through Jesus Christ!

Psalm 34 says: “I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.” (Psalm 34:4-8)

When you are worried about life and life’s troubles, look at the evidence of God’s love for you: the Cross, the empty tomb, that bring you forgiveness and restoration.We’ve all got an appointment at Mount Horeb. We all need help to get there, and our help is in the name of the Lord.

November 4, 2018

Here is a Boy John 6:5 - 13

The story we just read together is a favorite of mine…because it never fails to remind me that God can use me. He can use me despite my faults, despite my failures, despite my past.

If you have been around for a while you have probably heard me preach about this story…and just because it is familiar to most of us, doesn’t mean there isn’t something new to learn or apply to our own lives.

As we read…a small lad had come to see and hear Jesus…and he ends up being greatly used by God…and all he did, was all we can do, and that is to be willing to be used by God. Do you want to be used by God?

I believe that there is a willingness in all of us to be used of God in some way, but the truth is, that in our own power we have no ability whatsoever to do anything for God…we can only be used by God.

Now that begs us to ask the question…what is the determining factor in God using us? A good place to find the answer might be to try to find out why God used the boy in our story.

So why did God use him?

First the young man had come prepared to stay for awhile. There were 5,000 men there, plus the women and children…and nobody except this one boy had brought lunch…not even the disciples.

He was going to stay around Jesus for as long as he could. How long are you prepared to stay? In the room over my right shoulder is a large fireproof filing cabinet…One of the things inside that filing cabinet are record books that list all the members of this church going back for more than 100 years.

In the most recent of those books there are literally hundreds of people who are members of this church…but they are rarely here. You don’t stay on accident…you stay on purpose. The boy in our story planned to stay.

Now I doubt that He was the one with the most talent…He wasn’t the one with the highest position…He didn’t have any position at all. He was just a boy…ready to stick around. He was prepared to stay.

The second reason I believe that he was used by God is because, he didn’t try to use what he had…He let God use it as God saw fit. We talked about this at Bible study a few months ago and you have heard it before…But what if the boy had said, “I’m gonna feed the crowd”. He wouldn’t have gotten very far would he?

Sometimes we don’t realize how small we are and how Almighty God is. We try to use ourselves…instead of letting God use us.

Someone asked Francis of Assisi why God used Him. He said, “Maybe this is why…God looked down from Heaven and said, ‘Where can I find the weakest, littlest man in the world?’ Then He saw me and said, ‘I found him. I will work through him-he won’t be proud of it…he will see that I am only using him because of his insignificance.’”

There’s a world out there that needs Jesus…You and I can’t do it…but Jesus can take what we have and feed the multitude. What talent do we have? All we have is five small barley loaves and two small fish…but let God have it…so that He can use us in the way He sees fit.

The boy came prepared to stay, He didn’t try to use what he had...and third: He asked for no recognition.

The story of the Feeding of the 5000 is the only miracle (except for Jesus resurrection) that is recorded in all four Gospels.

Yet in Matthew there is no mention of the boy, Mark…there is no mention of the boy. Luke…again…there is no mention of the boy.

The people are hungry and Jesus asks, “How much food is here.” They go and check and report that there are five small barley loaves and two small fish, but only one time in John 6:9 do we read about the boy.: "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?"

What was his name? Who knows? How big was he? Don’t know. How old was he? Don’t know.  He was a boy and I don’t know anything about him…But he fed 5000 people.

The boy came prepared to stay, He didn’t try to use what he had, He asked for no recognition, and last He didn’t expect anything in return.

The Bible says that after everyone had eaten…they picked up 12 baskets of leftovers. Now doesn’t it make sense that the boy would get to take the leftovers home? But the Bible doesn’t say that. You know what I think the little boy got in return? HE GOT FED! Nothing else.

Listen again to verse 12. “When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." You see with the 12 baskets of leftovers they could keep feeding people.

When you let God take control of what you have He’ll see to it that nothing is wasted…not even the leftovers. Someday we will all leave this earth and the leftovers of your life are the lives of those you have touched.

You know…I used to want to be a great preacher…but the longer I live…the more I realize… that all I want to be is a little boy with 5 small barley loaves and 2 small fish.

So today…as a church…and as individuals may we say: “Lord, Here’s all I have…5 small barley loaves and 2 small fish…You take them, and bless them, and break them, ‘cause you can feed a lot more people that I can. We don’t want any recognition, and we don’t want anything in return…except to be fed too.

It’s a simple little story isn’t it? …But a lot of truth in it. Determine to be like the little boy and you too will be used by God as He sees fit.

October 28, 2018

Cheese Cake or Pop Tarts     2 Samuel 1:21-25A

Marla and I recently returned from a nearly 3 week vacation. 19 days to be precise…And in that 19 days we traveled by car to 18 different states…Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky.

We also went to Washington D.C. and two Provinces in Canada, (New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island)…for a total of slightly over 5,300 miles.

The reason I am going to talk about our vacation…is because it is a perfect opportunity to illustrate that you don’t always get what you want in life and things don’t always work out the way you planned…but if you focus on the good, the bad just kind of fades into the background. Whether it’s a vacation…or life…Don’t dwell on the negative!

Things happen that you don’t like, that you didn’t plan on…but do you let them ruin your life…or keep going? Don’t dwell on the bad…look for the good!

In the verses we just read King Saul has died and David his successor says of him, “He was loved and that people should weep because of his death.”

You might remember that after David had killed the giant Goliath, Saul brought him to live in the palace where David played the harp for King Saul.

David also went out to battle and was so successful that people in the streets were singing, “Saul has slain his thousands and David his tens of thousands”.

Which made Saul very jealous…so while David was playing the harp Saul, threw a spear at him, not once but twice.

Instead of building up Israel, King Saul wasted most of his time chasing David through the hills trying to kill him.

But David, despite several opportunities, refused to harm Saul and says of him, “How the mighty have fallen in battle!” He calls the guy who repeatedly tried to kill him lovely and mighty.

So…For our vacation I rented a 2018 Chrysler 300. I rented one last year and it had lots of leg room and was comfortable for me to drive. But when I got to Avis to pick up my Chrysler 300 they didn’t have any.

So the lady behind the counter says we have a Buick Lacrosse it’s about the same size. My first thought was “It won’t have enough leg room” and I was tempted to get mad and throw a fit…

…But really, what good would that do? If I get mad and yell, “I reserved that car 3 weeks ago”…do you think she’s going to pull a Chrysler 300 from under the counter? Nope.

So I said, Okay…I’ll try it. It was fine…there was plenty of leg room and it had a huge trunk. It wasn’t what I planned…but it worked out fine.

One day on our vacation we had eaten a late lunch…and we weren’t real hungry…but we wanted something…and we saw a sign for Cheesecake Factory, (Anyone ever eaten there?)

We weren’t hungry enough for a meal, so we just ordered two pieces of cheesecake and took them to our hotel…Man that was good!

Another night we were having a little trouble finding a hotel room and we ended up at an overpriced place near the airport…we went to bed with the sound of jet engines singing us a lullaby.

By the time we got the car unloaded and parked we really didn’t want to go back out for dinner…so I stopped by the coffee shop in the hotel and bought two packages of Pop-Tarts…and that was dinner.

Cheese cake one night and pop tarts the next. Life is kind of like that, Maybe today everything is going your way…but next week brings heartache and pain. You wanted cheesecake and ended up with Pop Tarts.

David just wanted to tend sheep and play the harp…but spent years running for his life.

One of the things Marla wanted to do on our vacation was to walk “The Freedom Trail” in Boston. The Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile-long path through downtown Boston that passes by 16 locations significant to the history of the United States.

But when we woke up…it was raining…and it rained the entire day, so instead of seeing the Freedom Trail we drove 500 miles that day in the rain.

For Marla’s birthday I took her to Red Lobster. …and the waitress was a crab, She didn’t smile…she wasn’t friendly. It wasn’t “What can I get you folks to drink?”

So I’m thinking, “Man if she thinks she’s gonna get a good tip, I’ll give her something to grump about”.

But then I wondered, what if she is just tired from sitting up with a sick kid, or taking care of a sick parent has her run down. Maybe she’s a single mom working two jobs to make ends meet.

So we decided we were not going to let this grump ruin our meal…we decided to go out of our way to be nice and friendly.

So when she brought our plates and grumped, “Careful, the plates are hot”…Marla said “and you be careful we wouldn’t want you to get burned either”. And she smiled just a little and her face began to relax…and pretty soon she was joking with us and just to make sure she had a good evening I left her a good tip.

And you know what…we had a great night and helped someone else.

Life is what you make it…You can’t control everything, but you can control how you respond.

A couple of weeks ago was Columbus day…and we were in Vermont. And this time of year the leaves are changing color in Vermont and it is beautiful and people come from all over just to see the pretty leaves… so when we decided to stop for the night there were no hotel rooms available anywhere…Honestly we stopped at 20 motels and called lots more.

So we were tired from driving all day and we decide we will sleep a couple hours in the car, so at the last hotel that told us they were full we just slept in their parking lot…until they called the cops to make us move.

Were we hurting anything? No…we just needed a little sleep. We stopped because we were too sleepy to drive. Life is like that sometime…you are trying to do the right thing and someone just has to mess with you. Life is not always fair…

The last part of our vacation we rented a 72 foot houseboat that had 6 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. My kids and grandkids came and joined us for the weekend.

I got an out of state fishing license because we were in Indiana. I was planning on catching some big fish. (This is the first one I caught). The biggest fish I caught was 6” long!

Now I could have grumbled and complained…about the money I spent on bait and the fishing license to catch a big fish…but I wasn’t gonna keep ‘em anyway…so what did it matter if I caught big fish or little fish?

The little ones were easier to get off the hook anyway. Did I want to catch big fish?…Heck yeah, But we all had a good time laughing when I reeled in this monster.

One of the things we had planned to do on our vacation was to take our kids and grandkids to a huge indoor water park near where we had the boat.

But our daughter realized she hadn’t packed the kids swim suits. We had seen a little railroad on the way to the boat…and so we all went on a 2 hour scenic train ride…Micah our 5 year old grandson was so excited that he got to go on a boat and a train on the same day! Again…not what we planned but we sure had fun.

So if someone were to ask me how my vacation was, I could look at the what didn’t go the way we planned and grumble: I got the wrong car, I ate pop tarts for dinner, I got the cops called on me, I had to sleep in the car, I had a grumpy waitress, the fish weren’t biting…Blah, Blah, Blah.

But when I look at the whole big picture of the vacation…I can honestly say it was great!

Your life will not always go the way you want. People will hurt you, things won’t always go the way you planned them…but live your life so that when you look at the whole thing you can say, “Life is GREAT!

And David…The guy who ran for his life…He became king.

September 30, 2018

I Love The Church     Matthew 18:15-20

As a child I loved going to church, and I felt the church loved me.

Yet as I grew older, I began to see its faults.

One day, I realized my pastor wasn’t God…

and my Sunday School teacher wasn’t perfect.

I wanted to give my life to Christ but not necessarily to the church.

That may sound strange to you, but it made perfectly good sense at the time to me.

But as I felt God’s call on my life, several things occurred to me…

I came to realize that the church was the place I first learned about God, learned about serving others, and learned about myself.

The church nourished me in the Christian faith…and challenged me to set a high standard for myself.

Gradually, I began to realize that if there is to be a church, it must preach a better gospel than it practices.

We must hold up ideals we never quite reach, and confess a faith we don’t always live.

And I realized something else at the same time…I realized that the battle for the cause of Christ will be won or lost in the local church.

These are the front lines.

This is where the action is.

The local church looks imperfect and hypocritical precisely because

this is where the struggle between good and evil takes place.

This is where the war is fought.

The church is actually not a building, though we call this building a church. It is not an organization…though we speak of the Christian Church. It is not a particular doctrine, discipline or creed…though all these things may carry the name “church”.

The Church is the people of God committed to the cause of Christ.

People who are imperfect.

People who make mistakes.

People who often stumble…

But people who are committed to a cause (and an idea) that is greater than themselves.

This is the church…The living, breathing body of Jesus Christ.

I believe in the church…and this is the place I have chosen to give my life.

I don’t know why you have come this morning.

Many of you are members of this church.

Some of you are visitors.

A few of you are not active in any church.

Perhaps you have asked the same questions about the church I have asked.

Perhaps you have been tempted to stay at home and watch those religious programs on television where no one gets angry and everything is always wonderful.

Perhaps you have even wondered why you should attend church at all as long as you live a “good” life, and have put your faith in Christ.

But hear me out. I love the church, and there are some good reasons why I think we should be here.

First, the church is where we encounter God. I know it’s not the only place we encounter God…We don’t control God.

God speaks from thousands of different and unexpected pulpits.

…Yet the church is just about the only organization committed to telling people about Jesus.

Most homes don’t do it,

Schools don’t tell people about God.

The government doesn’t,

The secular press doesn’t.

But the church exists to help people make contact with the God who loves them so much...He was willing to die for them.

How do we make contact with God at Church? 

First there is the preaching and teaching ministry of the church.

I know sermons can be boring…You may think this one is boring.

…Someone asked me why I wanted to be a preacher.

I told them I thought it would be easier to stand up here and talk

then to have to sit down there and listen.

Yet it is through services like this one that we learn about God.

It is a ministry of the word.

 But there is another way we encounter God in a local Church.

We do it through the fellowship of believers.

I have never seen God…but I have caught glimpses of God in the lives of God’s people.

People are not perfect. Sometimes they can make a real mess out of their lives.

God’s people are not perfect. Yet in spite of our frail humanity,

there are people right here in this congregation who have God’s spirit deep within their hearts. Sometimes when they least expect it… others see God in them.

We are the body of Christ. The fellowship of believers helps us encounter the living God.

But encountering God is only one reason to come to church.

The church not only puts us in touch with God, it also challenges us to serve one another.

We are to be good neighbors.  I sometimes get very frustrated when I try to do all the things I see that need to be done. The harder I work, the less I seem to accomplish. I can do very little by myself.

Yet as part of a church it is amazing what we can accomplish together.

There was once a Chinese father who had five sons who quarreled frequently. One day the father gave each son a chopstick and asked him to break it. They did very easily.

Then the father took five chopsticks, tied them together in a bundle,

and passed the bundle to each of his sons. “Now break that,” he said, but none of them could. The same thing is true for us. We can easily be defeated when we stand alone, but when we stand together we have enough strength to do anything.

That is what it means to belong to the church.

As we read in our text…Where two or there are gathered together, Jesus is with us.

His presence makes us strong. We are the body of Christ…

and we can accomplish anything when we unite our efforts with God.

Then finally, the local church is where I encounter myself.

It is easy for us to think that we are pretty good folks.

After all, we are better than most.

Most of the time we do what is right.

But the church confronts us with our sin.

It challenges us to be better than we are.

Most of us make our decisions on what we want rather than on what God wants. We look out for ourselves, and we forget about other people. But the church makes us to face our selfishness.

It tells us we are sinners and offers us the gift of God’s forgiveness.

Then the church tells us that we are children of God.

We are not just sinners.

We are also children of God.

Every person is special and loved.

Think for a moment how different this community would be if there

had never been a church. What would Keithsburg be like today if no one ever preached the gospel here?

I know that is foolishness. There is a church…And the body of Christ has made a difference in the life of this community.

Yet if the church is to be here tomorrow and the day after,

it needs every one of us. We are the ones who must roll up our sleeves and with God’s help make it happen.

We are the ones who must support the church with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, and our service.

I love the church and I believe in the church.

And I believe God has a great future in store for the First Christian Church of Keithsburg. I believe God is not finished with us yet.

 

September 16, 2018

Breaking Point       Isaiah 40:28-31

Some people look so well-adjusted and happy that you think they don't have a care in the world…But they do. If you work with people long enough, you discover that everyone knows about sorrow and heartache.

Many of them have secretly given up on God because they feel He has wounded them and can no longer be trusted. Others grimly hold on to faith because they have nowhere else to turn. To all those people, God says, "I’m still here and I care about you."

All of us come to a breaking point sooner or later. We come to those moments that change the course of life forever. It's amazing how suddenly things can change. The phone rings and a voice says, "I've got bad news."

--There’s been an accident, or
--A medical test came back positive.
-- A death.
--"We're getting a divorce."
--The company doesn't need you anymore.
--"you’re being sued."
--A friendship suddenly ends.


And on and on it goes…Time stops. Life will never be the same again.

A man named Joe Bayly was having some hardship in his life…he was having to move, and as he packed he noticed one of the boxes he was packing has a load limit stamped on it…and he wrote this poem.

This cardboard box, Lord see it says
"…limit 20 lbs. per square inch."
The box maker knew how much strain
the box could take…what weight would crush it.
You are wiser than the box maker
Maker of my spirit, my mind, my body.
Does the box know when the pressure is close to the limit?
No, it knows nothing.
But l know when my breaking point is near.
And so I pray,
Maker of my soul, Determiner of the pressure within me and upon me
Stop the pressure…lest I be broken
or else
change the pressure rating
of this fragile container of Your grace
so that I may bear more.

In our scripture reading this morning the prophet Isaiah is writing to his own people--a nation in exile in Babylon. In their despair they wondered if God had forgotten them completely. In reply the prophet reminds them of the greatness of God. For Isaiah everything begins and ends with God…Nothing in life can be understood apart from Him.
 

To a people whose faith had come to a breaking point, Isaiah points them back to God…and his words still speak to everyone struggling at a breaking point of life today.

He says in v. 28 "Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable".
 

This verse contains four vital truths about God: He is the Everlasting God, He is the Creator of the Ends of the Earth, He Never Grows Weary, and His Understanding No One Can Fathom.

1.   He is the Everlasting God.

Because He is everlasting, He has no beginning and no end. Take a line and draw it from infinity to infinity. When you come to the end of infinity, there you will find God. He stands above and beyond anything that we can imagine.

There are no deficiencies in Him, he does not decay, neither does He change. And so we pray and hear His answer:

"Lord, can you take care of my problem?" "It is no problem to me."
"Lord, have you seen this before?" "I've seen it many times."
"Lord, you won't believe the mess I'm in." "Yes I can."
"Lord, will you be there when I need you?" "I was there before you were here, and I'll still be here after you are gone."

2.   He is the Creator of the Ends of the Earth.

No problem can be too great for him because he made the things that are causing you the problem.

"Lord, can you handle it?" "Handle it? I made it."

When you buy a new car, or a computer, or any appliance, a warranty comes with the purchase. That warranty guarantees the item for a specified period of time. The manufacturer warranties the item because he made it. He stands behind it because his reputation is on the line. He knows how to fix it because he designed it and put it together. Verse 28 is the believer's warranty for all of life's problems. And God's warranty doesn't end after ninety days. It lasts forever.

3.   He Never Grows Weary.

"Weary" is what happens when you work to the point of exhaustion. That never happens to God because His strength has no limits. He is never too tired to help us and never too preoccupied with someone else's problems to listen to our cry. His tank never runs out of gas. If I may put it in human terms, He never answers so many prayers one day that He can't get out of bed the next day…And He never tires of helping His children.

4.   His Understanding No One Can Fathom.

God has perfect insight into your life…which means He understands thing about you that you don't understand about yourself. We see life through a "keyhole" with all our problems filling our field of vision until we can see nothing else, but God sees the big picture… and in the minutest detail.

He is never stumped by our problems.
He is never baffled by our questions.
He is never confused by our confusion.

"When we don’t know what to do, he knows".

Our greatest need is to look up and see the sufficiency of God.

As long as you look at your problems, you are not looking at God. When you look at your problems, they will always seem too big for you to handle—because…they are.

And when that happens remember the words of 1 Peter 5:7 which says:

”Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you”.

September 9, 2018

Fall On Jesus         Matthew 11:28 – 30

Do you remember the Nestea commercials from back in the 80’s? They had pictures of people just letting go and falling backwards into a swimming pool …and the announcer would say: “Take The Nestea Plunge”.  It looked so refreshing.

That’s kind of the same kind of message we get from the verses we just read. Jesus is calling us to fall back on him to find refreshment and rest.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Jesus wants us to take a different plunge. He wants us to fall back to Him. He offers us rest and refreshment.

 I believe that God wants us to fall back into a couple of things that will enhance our relationship with Him. I also believe that no matter where we are right now that we can always grow closer to Him…this is His desire.

First of all I believe that God wants us to FALL BACK INTO HIS WORD.

You may say, “But I read my Bible every day, I can’t fall into something that I am already into.” True, what I am talking about is not simply reading the Scripture but studying them and allowing God’s Word to speak to your heart.

When was the last time you felt God speaking directly to you during your Bible reading? We all can sit down; open our Bibles up and read but are we doing anything else besides reading it?

Are we applying the Word of God to our daily lives? Do we truly accept God’s teachings through His Word? James 1: 22 says: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

James tells us that we need to not only listen to the Word but to actually apply it to our lives. If we are not going to God in times of distress in our lives, we are not applying His Word, we are not being obedient.

Jesus wants us to fall into His Word, to find rest and to be refreshed. His call is clear to us...When times are tough, when you are weary, when you feel like throwing the towel in and giving up, Jesus is there for us, to give us rest.

In Psalm 62 David tells us where he finds his rest. It is a wonderful picture of obedience in going to the Lord to receive rest.

It says: “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.  Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” David knew where to find rest.

We need to Fall Back into His Word and 2nd we need to…FALL BACK INTO HIS GUIDANCE.

-Isaiah 30:21says: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

With all that we have going on in our lives we can get lost and confused very easily. The world can misdirect us, without us even realizing it, until we are already on the wrong path.

If we are not being guided by God…our lives become controlled by fleshly things with fleshly desires.  

How many of you have ever seen the bumper sticker that says, “God is my Co-pilot”? It’s a great thought, to have God bedside you…but the problem I have with God being our co-pilot is that you are not placing Him in the driver’s seat, He is only listed as your assistant and that places you and your driving skills for your life above God’s.

I don’t always act like it…but I want God to be my pilot and I will gladly be His co-pilot. Where he says to turn, I wanna turn. When he says to stop, I’m wanna stop and when He says go, I’m wanna go!

It all comes down to having control issues. We may have given our lives to Jesus Christ but we have a Kung-Fu grip on some areas of our lives that we just can’t seem to release.

God calls us to release that control and to fall back to Him. The truth is we can’t do it alone, but yet we still fight it. We try our hardest and fail. We need to give it to Him and succeed.

With God guiding me and with me placing Him in the driver’s seat, how could I not succeed? With God in control all things are possible.

I know this not only because He proves it to me each week but because Jesus tells us this in His Word. And I want to live my life by falling back into His Holy Word…-Matthew 19:26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

A man challenged another man to an all-day wood chopping contest. The challenger worked very hard, stopping only for a brief lunch break. The other man took several breaks during the day.

At the end of the day, the challenger was surprised and annoyed to find that the other fellow had chopped more wood than he had. "I don’t get it," he said. "Every time I looked, you were taking a break. How did you chop more wood than me?"

 
"Because…” said the winning woodsman, “when I sat down to rest I was sharpening my ax."

 
When we fall back into God’s Arms we gain a rest that we will find nowhere else. The rest that will sharpen us to do His will, the rest that will sharpen us to overcome all obstacles.
 
Today, we can choose to take the plunge and fall back into His arms or we can choose to keep on going the path we have been, spinning our wheels going nowhere.

The choice is yours today. You can accept the rest that Jesus gives. The rest that will give you refreshment for your souls…or you keep running the show.

-Don’t you think it is time to fall on Jesus?

August 19, 2018

They Began to Grumble          Exodus 16:1-8

Can you imagine for a moment being homeless, having no money in your pocket, no way to provide for your most basic need—food?

That describes the situation of the Israelites as they were traveling through the desert to get to their new home in Canaan. They were rapidly running out of water and they had no food. It is believed that the size of this group of Israelites numbered about 2 million people.

Question. Have you ever been hungry before? You say well I’m kind of hungry right now…a Snickers would be great. I mean really hungry.

When someone gets hungry and has not been able to eat for several days they can often become very grumpy. Some of us get that way if we don’t get to eat lunch on time. So can you imagine what this must have been like to be leading a group of about 2 million grumpy people. That was the job Moses was facing.

No store to go to…no Casey’s, no Mercer Market, no Wal-Mart…no time to stop and plant a garden and besides that they were in the middle of the desert. The Israelites believed that God was leading them to a new land, but they didn’t believe it 100% of the time.

When things were good they would stop and praise the Lord and worship Him. And at that time they were happy with the leadership Moses was providing. But as soon as things turned bad they did exactly what you and I might do……they began to complain. The Bible says they began to grumble.

There is a truth that I realized years ago and you know it to be true as well.
Here it is: People who grumble can always find something to grumble about. Here they were in this journey—they had come into the wilderness—they had been traveling for about 5 days—just freed from slavery under Pharaoh… Then verse two says: “the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.”

At this point we realize that the Israelites had learned absolutely nothing from their past experience. And unfortunately we might just be the same way. Trials come along and we fall apart and we lose trust in God. And all we know to do at that particular time is to grumble. So why do we do that? Well basically grumbling is a gratitude problem. In other words we’re just not very grateful…..we’re not content with our lives. We grumble when pain or problems enter our lives.

And we do it because we don’t think we deserve for these things to happen to us. We think that instead of pain we should always have pleasure; we think that instead of adversity we should always have prosperity.

The truth is we need to take a moment and review the past and remember all of the things God has done. Stop and count your blessings. Name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done. Hmm. That could be a song.

Mark Twain said: “Don't complain and talk about all your problems--80 percent of people don't care; the other 20 percent will think you deserve them.”

And I understand that it’s only natural to grumble when you just spent $300 to get your car fixed and something is still wrong. I know it’s hard to praise the Lord when your washing machine is broken.  It’s not easy to smile when the dog just tore the stuffing out of his doggy bed…all over the family room floor.

When we begin to think this way it would be good if we would just stop and ask ourselves: Lord what have I done that is worthy of even having a washing machine, a car, let alone a bed for a dog?

God, why did you bless me with these things? Why do I have so many things and many others have nothing. Lord why have you spared me from so many tragedies when others are never spared?

We grumble because we are not content…And the cure for grumbling is to stop and count your blessings, not your problems.

The children of Israel had developed what I would call a perception problem. They were basically saying we want to go back to the good old days…but if we are honest the good old days were not as good as we make them out to be.

The Israelites said in the good old days when we were in Egypt we sat by our pots of food and we ate all we wanted---anything we wanted. The truth is they were living as slaves doing back breaking labor every day and likely they had very little to eat. But you see there was a problem with how they perceived their past. They were no longer being realistic.

You see the problem with grumbling is that it’s contagious. Like a virus it was spreading through their camp…it spreads through families, it spreads through churches … it is highly contagious. Look at v. 2. “the whole community grumbled” and what had begun with a few had now spread through the whole camp.

Then in verse 4 we read: “Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you”

We find ourselves in the middle of some predicament that we simply cannot escape. We can’t find a way out. So God says I’ll provide the way out . I’ll show you the way out.

But they continued to complain. And the problem was they thought they were simply venting their frustrations on Moses, but in reality they were grumbling against God. (v.8)

Grumblers are never satisfied with what they have no matter what God gives them. It is a “heart” problem. God meets their needs…Manna falls from Heaven every morning. They didn’t have to work for it, they didn’t have to grow it, they didn’t have to prepare it…all they had to do was eat it but they still didn’t like it.

Grumblers are never happy with what they get and no matter how much they get, it is never enough. Never. Because the issue is the heart and the heart has to change.

Is it possible we can be addicted to grumbling? Is it possible that we actually enjoy it? As blessed as we are.

As someone has well said: “We can complain because roses have thorns…or we can rejoice because thorns have roses.”

August 12, 2018

KEEP PRAYING       Luke 18:1 – 8

I believe in prayer and in the power of prayer. And, I believe it is a part of our relationship with God where we can never do too much.

I believe prayer is a wonderful privilege that God extends to us to come and talk to Him, to lay everything at His feet. I believe prayer shouldn’t be our last resort when times become difficult...

Rather, it should be the life-line we grab when we are drowning and hold on to it for dear life.

Is it always easy? No. But, then again, neither is life. That is why we should take everything to the Lord in prayer before, in the middle of, and after feeling totally overwhelmed by it all.

Prayer is something that should be a natural part of everyday life, not something we stop when we don’t receive immediate answers…or the answers we want.

Prayer is something that is given to us as an honor; as a way to reach the heavenly Father personally, one on one. How awesome is that?

 Luke 18:1-3 “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought.And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’”

What Jesus teaches us in this parable is…sometimes you have to keep going for it. We cannot always expect microwave results. Sometimes we must labor in prayer, and through the power of prayer, repeatedly keep bombarding heaven with those requests.

During His earthly ministry, Jesus demonstrated a life of prayer. I believe He did this to help His disciples find strength to continue the ministry He left for them.

If Jesus depended on prayer, surely the disciples, needed it all the more…and so do we!

Corrie Ten Boom once asked, “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” Because, if it’s your steering wheel it is something you will be using to guide every step of every day, but if it’s your spare tire, you only pull it out of your spiritual trunk in times of emergencies.

To have a strong life of faith, going to the spiritual trunk for emergencies just won’t do.

Prayer is an appropriate action for the Christian to take at all times.

The Apostle Paul taught, “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God,” (Philippians 4:6). Simply put, prayer is something that we should always do.

Prayer will also help us to “faint not.” Pray, and don’t let the temporary problems of this life get the best of you.

The word “faint” speaks of weariness.

Many of us have been tired, annoyed, and weak because of a situation, work, or even just dealing with people.

But, for Jesus’ disciples, there would be no room in their new mission for weak, fainthearted workers.

Life and death would hang in the balance to those who received the words the disciples would soon be proclaiming. They had to be strong.

Prayer would help keep them strong; it would help keep them grounded and tied to their Savior in His absence. Never give up on prayer!

So, as in other parables, Jesus gives them a story of how this may look in their real, everyday lives. He doesn’t just tell the disciples what to do, He shows them how to do it.

With that, He opens his story talking about a “judge” who dwells in a certain “city.” This judge is later identified by Jesus as being “unjust”…

Jesus even stated that this judge “neither feared God nor cared what people thought.” He had an, “I don’t care” attitude. He did what benefited him, and most likely, his own pockets.

Nevertheless, he was in a position to help and to judge fairly those who sought his assistance. But, as we find out, this is not what he is in the habit of doing.

The next character in this parable is a “widow.” Widows got a rough deal in those days and without a husband or children to care for them their situations could turn disastrous quickly.

They could become prey for those who would take advantage of them and fall victim to the many schemes of unscrupulous peoples.

God had many stipulations in His Word to guard the widows. Exodus 22:22 says, “Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.”

This “widow” came seeking justice. She came because she had a case and apparently, to say that things weren’t going well, is an understatement.

She had an “adversary” to deal with and unless she was “avenged;” unless someone like this judge would pay attention to her needs and stand up for her cause, she would most likely go under and succumb to the unfair treatment she was receiving.

She had nowhere else to go, and so, she wasn’t going anywhere. She refused to accept things as they were.

Luke 18:4-5 ““For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice…”

 “For some time” the judge refused her or turned away any fair judgement she was searching for. “For some time” he ignored her pleas and her dire circumstance. “For some time” he “would not” do anything for her to bring her case to a satisfactory conclusion. But, then there came a time when he was ready to move on her behalf.

The judge finally says to himself: ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice.”

Not because suddenly he turned his life over to God or got a spiritual revelation. That wasn’t it. Not because he suddenly developed a warm spot in his heart for this woman. That wasn’t it either.

But, because she wouldn’t be stopped, he was going to take up her case and make sure she received justice.

She wore him out! She came and invaded his space repeatedly with her pleas. However many times it took, she was all in. She came until her request was heard, and her situation was resolved.

God is not an unjust judge, nor can He be worn out through our prayers. The point of this story is to persist in prayer. If the unjust judge heard the woman and saw to she was avenged due to her diligence, what do we think God will do for us?

Is not God so much more! He said, “He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.,” (Psalm 91:15).

Keep going to God! Never stop looking to Him as your source for everything in life. Handle everything with prayer! The widow refused to be silenced, and don’t you be silenced by those around you or your circumstance either.

God has an opened invitation for His people to hold on to Him and seek Him no matter how hard it may be sometimes. Those who persist in prayer will see a righteous end to everything they are facing.

Yes, it will be hard sometimes, but persist. Yes, it will seem unfair at times, but persevere. Yes, there will be times when you will be wronged, and it will hurt, but keep going and keep coming to God to seek everything you need.

The widow woman was unrelenting in her pursuit of justice. Are we just as unrelenting in our faith? True faith requires commitment, and commitment requires one to persist and not yield to the pressure to give up and throw in the towel.

One day Jesus is coming back. Until then, keep praying and don’t give up!

August 5, 2018

I Am The Bread Of Life  John 6:22-35

It was the day after Jesus had fed 5000 with 5 loaves and two fish. Jesus had reached the apex of his popularity. In fact, the crowds wanted to make Him their King.

Because of this, Jesus crossed the lake to get away from their demands. But the next day…when they figured out where He was, the crowd followed Him back across the lake.

It was at that point that Jesus told a record-breaking crowd: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

John chapter 6 tells us the crowd grumbled, mumbled, argued, whined, and ultimately they left --- in droves.

Our scripture reading gives us some clues as to the kind of people that left Jesus when He preached the “bread of life” sermon. For one thing, the materialistic folks just couldn’t stomach it when Jesus shifted from physical food to spiritual talk.

Many of the people who followed Jesus at this point were hoping for free handouts, and material goodies. For them Jesus was the latest and greatest gravy train.

When the crowd arrived, look at how He greeted them. He said: “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” John 6:26

Missionaries in some third-world countries use the term “Rice Christians.” These are people who will quickly convert to Christianity in exchange for food or some other physical benefit. The problem with Rice Christians is that when goodies are gone, so are they.

Rice Christians can be found all over the world. These people look to God only for what they can get…and they are quick to turn their back on Him the first time He fails to deliver.

Jesus told the crowd: “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” John 6:27

So…the materialistic folks turned away from His message. Others would also turn away. They were the legalists.

They asked Him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" John 6:28

If these people couldn’t get a free lunch, they at least wanted a list of rules they could hang on to.

I never cease to be amazed that religion, by its very nature, draws some people who are actually looking for a dominating, charismatic leader to call the shots and take over their lives.

Throughout Christian history, the church has often fallen into the sin of legalism. The problem is… it’s easier to make rules than to build relationships.

Jesus wants to live in the heart of every individual believer. He calls every one of us to study His word for ourselves and learn from Him.

When we do that, the church enjoys an amazing unity in morals and principles. That’s why you won’t find our congregation publishing a list of Keithsburg Christian Church Do’s and Don’ts.

Instead, we want to teach the scripture and to encourage everyone to seek a personal relationship with the Lord.

Jesus came to build relationships, not rules.

When the crowd demanded a list of works, Jesus gave this surprising answer: "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." John 6:29

As amazing as it sounds, Jesus wants a genuine love relationship with every one of us...The kind of relationship that can’t be bought with goodies, and can’t be built on rules.

The materialists wanted the goodies more than they wanted God. The legalists wanted the law but not the giver of that law. They rejected Jesus as a replacement for the rule-keeping religion of that day.

And one more group walked out on Jesus that day. They were the sensationalists.

These people asked Jesus this absurd question: "What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?” John 6:30

Think about it. Jesus had just fed over 5,000 people with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread. The very next day, they are asking Him for a SIGN!

Obviously the miracle of feeding the 5,000 gave them enough faith to climb in boats and row all the way across the lake to find Jesus. But yesterday’s miracle was not enough to last until the next morning.

We have plenty of these kind of churchgoers in America today. Keep them “wowed” and you’ll keep them around; bore them and they are gone.

These people crave spiritual excitement. They love spectacular entertainment. They want new experiences all the time. They want Jesus to take them from one mountaintop experience to the next with no valleys in between. They want all kinds of rewards but no responsibility.

The sad truth is that many believers are very fickle. That’s why so many people hop from church, to church, to church --- always looking for the newest style, the latest seminar, the most electrifying concert, and the most exciting presentation.

Now, I’m not saying these things are bad. But it’s way too easy for church-going folk to start chasing after the latest fad in the religious world.

Jesus did not come to give us endless spiritual highs. He came to give us a chance to know Him.

Look again at the message Jesus gave them: “The bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."

"Sir," they said, "from now on give us this bread."

Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.” John 6:33-36

The response of the crowd tells us a lot about the difference between what people WANT and what people NEED. So often the very thing people need the most is the last thing they are looking for. Look at the sad response of the crowd:

At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven."

They said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ’I came down from heaven’?" John 6:41-42

So they walked away.

It turns out that even some of His closest disciples wanted Jesus only for what they could get out of Him. They had no real interest in a relationship with God. Verse 66 gives this sad indictment: From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

That led to what I think is one of the most poignant moments in the Bible. Jesus turned to his apostles with a question that must have been hard to ask and hard to hear: Jesus asked the Twelve  "You do not want to leave too, do you?".

Peter spoke for the group: Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." John 6:67-69

Peter understood what the crowds had missed. The Apostles weren’t there for fish sandwiches, or to start a Jewish revolt against Rome, or to find a new list of rules to keep, or to get in on a Jesus pep rally.

They were there because they believed and knew that Jesus was the Messiah --- the Bread of Life. All they needed…was what they already had --- Jesus himself.

Is He all you need? Is he YOUR Bread of Life? If you had been there the day Jesus preached the “Bread of Life” sermon would you have walked away…

…or would you have echoed Peter’s words, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy one of God.”

July 29, 2018

Clouds and Rainbows     Genesis 9:11-16

Clouds are often used as a sign of trouble…as in: “Dark clouds are on the horizon”…meaning that there is an impending storm which may be an actual storm…or they may be referring to problems that are looming large.

On the other hand, rainbows are generally seen as a sign of blessing…after all you never heard of a pot of gold at the end of a cloud.

Hardly a day passes in which we don’t see a cloud in the sky somewhere. And hardly a day passes but that there is a cloud of some kind in our lives.

The Bible is full of examples of people who experienced clouds in their lives, but in the end they saw a rainbow of blessings as a result.

First let’s look at Joseph. His brothers were jealous of him and that jealousy grew into hatred, as it usually does. His brothers put him into a pit and later sold him into slavery.

He had a right to say, “My life is a hard one with many clouds. Here I am far from home and the father I love.” But his troubles had just begun.

His master’s wife lied about him…so he was thrown into prison, even though he was completely innocent. An innocent man, being lied about and thrown into prison through no fault of his own, he had a right to think that God had forgotten him. But of course God never forgets, and he didn’t forget Joseph.

Next we’ll look at Jeremiah. His preaching offended the king, so he was thrown into a pit and left there to die. I can imagine his feelings. I can imagine him saying, “I’ve been true to God, I have preached his word and this is what happened to me. It must have all been in vain.”

His own country men tried to destroy him because of his prophecies against them. He was thrown into a hole and left there to die. He must have despaired…but a man tied some rags together into a rope and let that rope down into the pit and Jeremiah was able to get out.

He must have been pretty discouraged while he was in the pit. The clouds must have been pretty dark, but God had not forgotten him.

The third person I want us to look at is Daniel.

Daniel knew God’s will for his life and tried to obey it. What did he get for it? He was thrown into a lion’s den to be killed. But again we see the hand of God. He remembered His faithful servant and prevented the fierce lions from harming him.

Daniel was as safe in that lion’s den as if he were at home in his own bed, all because God was watching over His faithful servant.

The last person we will look at this morning is the Apostle Paul.

The truth is…the clouds began to cover Paul on the day he met Jesus on the Damascus road and never completely cleared until God called him home to glory.

In between these two events he was persecuted unmercifully for the sake of the gospel. He was beaten, he was lied about, he was imprisoned, he was shipwrecked, he suffered mentally, physically, and spiritually as no man ever suffered for the Lord.

He lost his position, his friends, and his money. The clouds were always there. But he endured it all for Jesus, knowing that “all things work together for good to them that love God”.

Since those days millions of people have followed in the example of these great Christians…but no follower of Christ has ever escaped the clouds…but thank God…He Provides a rainbow!

You see…God knows what’s best for us. He knows that all sunshine and no clouds only create a desert. If we never saw clouds, we would never see the rainbow. God uses adversity to build out lives…as well as prosperity.

One of my favorite poems is called The Weaver…and it explains what I mean.

My life is but a weaving,
between my God and me,
I do not choose the colors,
He worketh steadily. 

Ofttimes he weaveth sorrow,
and I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper,
and I the underside.

Not till the loom is silent,
and the shuttles cease to fly,
Will God unroll the canvas,
and explain the reasons why

The dark threads are as needful
in the skillful weaver's hand
As threads of gold and silver
in the pattern He has planned.

Life isn’t always easy…but when we see things in the true light, we see that life is better… because of some of the hardships we have to endure.

Sometimes we can look back and see the reason that clouds came into our lives, and other times we can see no rhyme or reason for the clouds…but have faith, there is a rainbow up ahead.

Please remember that the same God who allows the clouds to come, also sends the rainbows.

God allowed the clouds to come to Joseph, but He also sent a rainbow, and finally Joseph became the Prime Minister and the most important man in Egypt.

God allowed the clouds to come to Jeremiah, but He also sent the rainbow and Jeremiah became a great preacher. 

God sent the clouds to Daniel’s life, but He also sent the rainbow, shut the mouths of the lions, and made Daniel the greatest man in the land.

God darkened Paul’s life with many clouds, but in time God made him the most influential man, except for Jesus, who ever walked the face of this earth.

When the kids were little we took a trip out to California to see my folks. While we were there we went to Sea World. As the day wore on Andy said he needed to go to the bathroom. So being a proud over protective parent I went with him to the bathroom.

I stood outside the stall while he did his business with people looking at me like I was a weirdo. And as people came in and out, Andy wanted to make sure I was still there and so he said, “Hey Dad?”…I said “Yes”.

Well He had part “A” of his plan worked out…which was: Find out if Dad is still there…But he hadn’t worked out part “B” which was what to say next. So our conversation in the men’s room went like this.

“Hey Dad?” “Yes?” There is a pause…while he thinks of what to say next…

Finally he says, “I love you”. Here I am in the restroom at Sea world watching guys come and go(No pun intended)…and this little 5 year old voice says “I love you”…What do you do. “I love you too son…”

I have often felt like my young son and I call out to God, “Father are you still there?” And always I seem to hear Him say, “Yes, my son, I will never leave you nor forsake you”.

The clouds of this life often beset our pathway, but just look up into the father’s face and you’ll soon know that He has a rainbow somewhere just for you.

July 22. 2018

THE POWER OF A BLANK CHECK       Hebrews 13:1-8

Think of the power of a BLANK CHECK!

Now if it was my blank check, it wouldn’t be worth much. But if it was a blank check belonging to Bill Gates, there would be the potential of $93.3 billion dollars to spend.

But an even bigger thought is a blank check from God. We can’t even imagine how much it could be written for!

Today we’re going to look at five spiritual blank checks from God’s Word.

The first blank check from God’s Word is: The Promise of His Presence.

As we studied last week, Jesus Himself said in Hebrews 13:5, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

What could be more wonderful than being with God forever? Think how incredibly interesting it will be to get to talk to God every day forever! You would never lack for something to talk about.

We may lose family members or friends…but there is one Person who will never leave us: Jesus Christ.

And Jesus is someone who will always help us and comfort us. In fact, if we only have this one relationship, we will be satisfied forever.

The Bible says in Isaiah 43, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned….For I am the LORD, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior”

What a tremendous comfort that when we are going through our most difficult trials, God is right there in the fire, or in the waters, and will preserve us and bring us through to victory!

The second blank check from God’s Word is: The Promise of His Provision.

Philippians 4:19 tells us: “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus”.

This Scripture was written by Paul when he was in prison. It’s amazing to me that Paul didn’t feel abandoned by God after being in prison for so long. Probably because he knew he was in the center of God’s will.

Like the first promise, which had the infinite pledge “never”, this one contains the word “ALL.” That’s a pretty big word. It means without limit.

Now God didn’t promise He would meet all our “WANTS,” but He did promise to meet all our “NEEDS.”

God said, “I am Jehovah-Jireh,” which means, “I am God your Provider.”

God hasn’t changed and His nature as our Creator and Provider hasn’t changed either. Be confident in taking all of your needs to Him.

The third blank check from God’s Word is: The Promise of His Power.

Philippians 4:13 says: “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me”.

Now we all know that’s impossible for a mouse to hold up an elephant’s foot, but it represents the power we can expect with God as our helper.

You see there are many “mountains” in life, many difficulties that seem impossible to overcome, but that is where this verse comes in.

 “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me”.

Notice again the blank check: “ALL THINGS!” This is the promise of God’s power to overcome all the obstacles and challenges of our life.

So whenever you face an insurmountable mountain in your life, remember that God has given you the strength – in Christ – to overcome it. Victory is assured!

The next blank check from God’s Word is: The Promise of His Perpetual Love.

Jeremiah 31:3 “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness”

God has loved you for all eternity; from before time began. And when the bubble of time has been removed and there’s a new heaven and a new earth, God will love you still!

How do I know? He sent His Son to die so that you and I could be with Him forever. 1John 4:10 reads, “This is love; not that we loved God, but that God loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

We love, because He first loved us. What a love story! Eternal Love!

The final blank check from God’s Word is: The Promise of Perseverance.

“And He [Jesus] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” 2 Corinthians 12:9.

What a great promise! The promise of perseverance!

Last year on vacation Marla expressed a desire to walk the length of the Golden Gate Bridge…And so I decided to join her. From end to end the bridge is about 1.7 miles long…but by the time you get to the bridge from the parking lot…I’m pretty sure we got two miles in.

As we started across the bridge I wondered if I would be able to reach the other side…but I did.

I’m guessing there have been times when you wondered if your faith might fail, that you might not make it to the end of the spiritual race. But thank God there is a promise to keep you in the rough times.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9 Jesus said: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness”.

This promise is for you! The weaker you feel, the greater is God’s grace to bring you through. Rely on God’s arm of power. He has never failed you; He never will.

God’s grace will never run out! Draw on His grace to get you through!

You might be tossing about in a sea of despair. You might even feel as if your life may crash about you and you will never again be healed, whole or happy.

They say Robert Louis Stevenson told the story first. It's worth retelling: It seems a storm caught a seafaring vessel off a rocky coast. The wind and waves threatened to drive the boat to its destruction.

In the midst of the terror, one daring passenger, contrary to orders, made his way across the deck of the ship. Groping along a passageway, he found the pilot house.

There he beheld an intriguing sight; the ship's pilot was lashed to his post. Secure against the raging elements, he held the wheel fast, turning the ship, inch by inch, once more out to sea. The pilot saw the watcher and smiled.

The daring passenger found his way below deck where other passengers huddled. Encouragingly, he said, "I have seen the face of the pilot, and he smiled. All is well."

There are times we need to hear that. Especially when we feel tossed about by a raging storm, it helps to look up and see that our Pilot Jesus Christ is smiling! Everything is going to be OK!

Let not your hearts be troubled! The Master of the winds and waves is at the helm of your life, and no ship can go down while He’s on board. So be of good courage: He has overcome the world!

The Promise of His Presence.

The Promise of His Provision.

The Promise of His Power.

The Promise of His Perpetual Love.

The Promise of Perseverance.

July 15, 2018

Never, Never, Never, Never, Never Hebrews 13:1 – 8

How amazing is that? God promises that He will never leave you and He Will Never forsake you.

God first stated this promise to the nation of Israel in Deuteronomy 31:8, which says: "The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."

God also spoke these words to Joshua as he prepared to lead God's people into the Promised Land.

God promised: "No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, ... so I will be with you; ... I will never leave you nor forsake you." Joshua 1:5

This promise is a constant theme throughout the Old Testament.

God's people were repeatedly assured; ... that God would not leave them.

And God makes that same promise to us…He will never leave you or never forsake you!

Now some people may think that if God is going to always be with me and never leave me... That they will never encounter any difficulties and that life will be smooth sailing.

So is that true?

Matthew 5:45 tells us: Your Father who is in heaven makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Circumstances that befall a believer are no worse and no better than they are for anyone else. But in the midst of our circumstances…God will never leave us to fend for ourselves!

Romans 8:35 asks: "What then will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress or persecution, or famine, or nakedness or peril or sword?"

Paul is saying these things will happen to those who love God…including you and to me.

But take heart: because… God will never leave or forsake us.

Theologian Adam Clarke notes that in the original Greek ... there are five negatives in this short statement.

Literally it states: "No, I will not leave you; no, neither will I not utterly forsake you."

In the Greek language the more negatives there are in a sentence, the more emphatic that negative statement is. And in this case there are 5.

God says: I will Never ... Never ... Never ... Never ... Never... leave you or forsake you.

In verse one of the verses we read together, God says, "To Love one another"…Then in verse 2 He tells us to: "Be good to strangers".

So… we should be known not just for how well we treat each other ... but also for how we treat strangers.

Verse 3 -- we are called to "remember those in prison".

Verse 4 we are commanded to: "Honor our marriage vows ... and to not commit adultery.

We need to be people who take our vows seriously.

Verse 5 continues "Don't put your faith in money. Instead be satisfied with what you have"

We are to be good stewards ... with all that God has given us.

Then suddenly ... God declares the wonderful promise: I will never leave you or forsake you.

God is asking his people to: "Do the right thing"

To do the right thing even when facing difficulties ...

Why? Because He will never leave us nor forsake us.

God's promise is crystal clear ... "I will never leave you or forsake you.

So does that mean God has never forsaken anyone who belonged to Him?

That God ... never left someone He cared about?

Well yes, there was one person who was forsaken by God. His name is Jesus.

We are told in the Scriptures that on the cross “…Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama, sabachthani?"... Which means, "My God, my God why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46)

Jesus was quoting Psalm 22... a Psalm well-known by the people ... so there could have been little doubt in the minds of those who were standing there as to what Jesus was saying.

Jesus was crying out in anguish because of the separation He now experienced from His Heavenly Father.

Separation ... For the first and only time ... in all eternity.

This passage is the only time in the Scriptures that Jesus did not address God as the Father.

Why? Because the Son had taken sin upon Himself, And the Father turned His back on Him.

In some way... by some means, the God-Man, Jesus Christ, was separated from God the Father for a brief time at Calvary…as He became sin for those who believe in Him.

The Prophet Isaiah spoke of Christ’s appearance on the Cross as He paid the ransom for the sins of the world:

"... his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness." (Isaiah 52:14)

He no longer looked human.

Your sins ... my sins ... entered his very being. 1 Peter 2:24 says: "He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross"

Jesus did not die as a martyr to a righteous cause or simply as an innocent man wrongly accused and condemned.

The Father could have looked favorably on such a selfless death.

But since Jesus died as a substitute sacrifice for the sins of the world, the righteous heavenly Father had to judge Him.

The Father forsook the Son ... because the Son took upon Himself "our transgressions, our iniquities" (Isaiah 53:5).

Jesus "was delivered up because of our transgression" (Romans 4:25) and "died for our sins" (1 Corinthians 15:3).

He "who knew no sin ... became sin on our behalf" (2 Corinthians 5:21) and became "a curse for us" (Galatians 3:13).

Jesus "died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust" (1 Peter 3:18), and became "the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10).

Jesus Himself declared, the reason for His coming to earth was not only to teach and be an example but "to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).

When Christ was forsaken by the Father, He did not in any sense or degree cease to exist as God or as a member of the Trinity.

Yet Jesus was forsaken for a while…ceasing fellowship with His Heavenly Father.

He did not cease to be the Son, any more than a child who sins severely against his human father ceases to be his child.

Jesus was forsaken so that God might never, never, never, never, never ... leave you or forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5; Romans 8:31-39)

Now, why do I need to know that? Why do I need to remember that God will never leave nor forsake me?

Well, if I forget that – there may come a time when I am facing difficulties and troubles so great that I say to myself, “Why bother?

Why not just give up this ‘Christianity’ thing?” Or even, “Why not just give up on life altogether?”

But that would be tragic, because God has a special purpose. He has specific things He wants us to do with our lives to make a difference in this world.

May 20, 2018

The Power of the Gospel  Romans 1:8 – 17

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation.”

The gospel is power! The Greek word for power is dunamis, from which we get the English words “dynamic,” “dynamo,” and “dynamite.” The gospel contains the dynamic power of God.

What does the gospel do? It saves sinners. What else will save sinners? Not science, not education, not religion, not being good, not fame or fortune. The gospel, and only the gospel, can save a sinner.

The gospel has the power to forgive our past sins…Impart new life in the present and get us into Heaven in the future!

No other power on earth can do that!

In the verses we just read Paul explains how the gospel saves sinners. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.”

If you check your trusty dictionary…the word “believe” means to “make a personal commitment to trust, by an act of the will”.

That means that the gospel always needs a personal response. It’s never enough just to hear the gospel…You have to respond to it one way or the other.

Let us suppose that you aren’t feeling well so you decide to go to the doctor for a check-up. He says, “Let’s run a few tests and see what we can find.”

When the results come back, the doctor says, “I’m sorry, but I’ve got some bad news. You’ve contracted a very rare disease...Keithsburgitis.  

And if left untreated… it’s fatal. But there is a cure! A medicine has just been developed but you have to take it immediately to have any chance of surviving.”

The Doctor gives you a bottle of pills… you go home, put the bottle in your medicine cabinet…and forget about it.

What will happen to you? Before you answer, consider this: You’re sick, and you know it. (Keithsburgitis) The medicine will cure you. All you have to do is take it.

You’ve got the medicine in your own cabinet.  The healing power is only a few feet from your lips.

You see…the medicine by itself does you no good. It’s not even good enough to personally own the medicine. It’s not good enough to think to yourself, “I’ll take that medicine someday.” You’ve got to personally take the medicine now.

It is the same with the gospel of Christ. We are sick with the disease of sin…we’ve been sick for a long time, and maybe we don’t even know it.

The gospel of Christ is the medicine you need. It has the power to save you from sin. But what good will it do you if you never “take it?”

What hope is there for you? There is no hope at all!

The gospel alone has the power to save you, and that power is found nowhere else but in the gospel.

Not only that…but it’s for everyone! Listen again to our verse:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

The Jews are God’s chosen people. Although most of them have said No to Jesus, the gospel still has the power to save them…if they will only believe.

The “Greeks” were the Gentiles, that is, all non-Jews.

You see…The gospel has the power to save people without regard to the distinctions that divide us. It has the power to save without regard to:

Race, Education, Age, Income, Skin Color, Family Background, Religious Preference…The good news of Jesus is for everyone!

Here is where the greatness of the gospel is clearly seen. It provides for us what we could never provide for ourselves.

On our own merits we all stand condemned before Almighty God. Who could ever say, “I am good enough to go to Heaven?” Someone has said, “A clear conscience is the result of a poor memory.”

So…What if God made rules to get into heaven that could only be met by a small portion of the human race.

If God demanded a certain degree of intelligence to get into Heaven…some of us dummies would be in trouble.

If He demanded wealth, it would unfair to poor people.

If only skinny people could get into Heaven…I’d be left out!

To get into Heaven God doesn’t insist that we be smart, rich, or skinny…but what God does demand is perfection and he will not accept anything less.

If you want to go to heaven, you’ve got to be perfect. If you think about that, you’ll soon realize it basically rules out all of us.

So let’s suppose that God demands 100% perfection. Perhaps you have 65% perfection, while that sketchy neighbor of yours might only have 30%.

Who knows? There may even be some extraordinary person who has been perfect 80% of the time…But nobody has been perfect a hundred percent of the time.

Our problem is that we tend to look at what we’ve already done and say, “God, I’m good 65% of the time…so I need you to provide the other 35%.”

Or we say, “Lord, let’s go halves. I’ll put in 50% and you put in 50%.” And the guy who is especially good says, “Lord, I’m good 80% of the time…so I’ll only trouble you for the 20% I need to get into Heaven.”

It doesn’t work that way. Never has…Never will.

We need to abandon all hope of earning salvation by our own goodness…be it 20, 50, or 80%.

We need to come to Jesus Christ who died on the cross to pay the price required for our sins 100%.

How much faith does it take to go to heaven? It depends. The answer is not much and all you’ve got. If you are willing to trust Jesus Christ with as much faith as you have, you can be saved.

But if you’re holding anything back, thinking that maybe you need to do something to help save yourself, forget it!

Saving faith is putting your trust in Jesus Christ and Him alone. To do that you have to stop trying to save yourself.

You have no other hope of heaven outside of Jesus Christ. Good works cannot save you. Church membership cannot save you. Baptism cannot save you. Giving money cannot save you. Keeping the Ten Commandments cannot save you. Nothing you can do will make the least bit of difference concerning your eternal salvation.

If you are trusting in your good life or in your religion to get you to heaven, someday you will be sadly (and eternally) disappointed.

Acts 4:12 says:  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Now for the good news. Everyone who put their trust in Jesus Christ is saved forever!

Don’t be ashamed of the gospel. Don’t be ashamed to preach it, to teach it, to share it with those you meet.

It alone has the power to meet the deepest needs of mankind.

The Gospel is the answer  to school violence.

The Gospel is the answer for a rising divorce rate

The Gospel is the answer for hate and bigotry and racism.

It has the power to wipe away the darkest stain of sin. No one is beyond the reach of the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ.

Those who trust in Christ alone will never be put to shame, not in this life…Not in the next.

May 13, 2018

Mother’s Day 2018   Ephesians 4:29 – 32

You may recall that I am not real big on preaching Mother’s Day Sermons. This aversion to Mother’s Day Sermons has a few causes…that make perfect sense to me…but I might be the only one.

Many churches have taken to avoiding Mother’s Day and Father’s Day because it could bring up painful memories for those who had less than stellar parents.

I never really bought into that reasoning…because parents are just people and when you are dealing with people…you get what you get…you don’t get to pick your family.

In my desire to avoid the Mother’s Day topic I had another sermon prepared for this morning…It was from the book of James and was on the subject of gossip.

When I got out of bed at 5:45 this morning and started doing my pictures for the Video display…I realized that not only was I minimalizing Mother’s Day…but in preaching against gossip I was taking away your fun!

And while I am attempting to make a funny…It is true…Gossip is fun. And I am just as guilty of it as anyone…So that might be the real, albeit, subconscious reason I decided to scrap my gossip sermon…I like to gossip.

In lieu of a 15 minute sermon about gossip, let’s just promise each other that we will try…at least once this coming week…to stifle the urge to gossip. You with me?

And as a nod to Mother’s Day…every one of us in this room who had a mother…is blessed. You are still here…you survived. Even if you had the worst, meanest, hateful mother in the world…your life is so much more than that!

I have made it no secret that my mother and I didn’t have the greatest relationship. And I don’t say that to get sympathy…but rather to admit that doing life with people is messy.

So how do I reconcile my mommy issues with the scriptures admonition to “Honor your father and mother”?

First I had to take an honest look at the relationship and work with what I had. You can’t bake a cake with egg noodles!  Yeah…Darn it…I wanted a chocolate cake relationship…wasn’t gonna happen…so I took my egg noodles and made a pretty decent casserole.

In every relationship in life you are working with less than perfect people…There was only one perfect person…and you are not Him.

So in taking inventory of my relationship with mom I came up with the following. I loved my mother…but I didn’t like her…can I build on that. You bet.

I told myself that no matter what had transpired she was my mother. She gave birth to me…For nine months she carried me in her body…she didn’t abort me…I owed her honor for that.

She fed me…She didn’t just give birth and toss me in a ditch…she provided food and clothes when I couldn’t do that for myself…so no matter what came later…I owed her honor.

So every week or two until she died I called her…They were short conversations mostly about the weather and her dog…Honestly she spent half the time we were on the phone talking to the dog…But I never hung up without saying “I love you Mom”.

Her birthday was May 4th and she always got flowers and a week later Candy for Mother’s Day.

I hope you hear what I am saying…because it applies to every relationship in life. Life is messy…There are no perfect people.

If you think you are a perfect parent or a perfect child or a perfect husband or wife or the perfect friend…you need a reality check…we all have faults…and we all need to cut each other some slack.

Quit making life harder than it has to be. Be Kind. Ephesians 4:32 says:  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ…God forgave you.

Did you catch that?  Be kind, compassionate and forgiving.

Kindness…Good grief…I looked on Facebook yesterday and someone was complaining about their neighbors tall grass. And others were jumping in with brilliant Ideas like, cut the grass and put it a pile in front of their door, or call city hall.

Make sure you notice my yard on the way out…You want something to gossip about …I got a hayfield next door! I was gonna see if could Dave bale for me.

Kindness. Yes it would be the kind neighborly thing to do for the offending neighbor to mow their yard so the rest of the neighborhood looks better. But is it really worth getting upset about?

My favorite line is, “What’s he doing parking in front of our house…doesn’t he have a house of his own to park in front of?”

I’m not calling on you to be a doormat and let people walk all over you.  But… “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ…God forgave you”.

I am not sure how well this all flows…I just sat down and started typing what was on my heart and mind…cause I didn’t feel like preaching the sermon I had prepared…but now it’s 7:07…I need a shower…and Marla needs the computer to do the bulletin.

And if perchance she makes a mistake in it…Again…  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Life is too short to worry about a lot of what we worry about.

So in closing…here are a few words to encourage you on this Mother’s Day 2018.

Be strong, Have Faith, Give Generously, Be Sweet, Worry Less, Be Happy, Be positive, Be Grateful, Love More, Be Joyful…Enjoy each Moment. Be Kind and Forgive.

God is Good…All the time, All the Time…God is good.

April 29, 2018

"Making Excuses Or Making It Happen" John 5:2-9  

Today I want us to look at two different people who had two very different encounters with Jesus. As we look at these two people and how they encountered Jesus we should think of how we encounter Jesus.

When Jesus is in our midst do we tend to make excuses or do we reach out to Him and make it happen?

The first person we will be looking at today is a man who has been battling His problem for a long time, 38 years to be exact. When he encounters Jesus he has a multitude of excuses of why he hasn’t been healed already. We just read his story in John 5.

The next person I want to talk about is a woman that has an issue of blood. This lady has been battling her problem for 12 long years. She has tried everything and now she is planning to try Jesus. This woman is about to have a close encounter with Christ. Her story is found in Mark5:25-34 (read)

Now these are two very different people but they are also similar in a few ways. They are both very sick and have been for a long time, they both have been seeking a cure, and they both have a close encounter with Jesus.

Let’s look at the man, he wasn’t looking for Jesus, he wasn’t even thinking about finding Jesus. He was there doing the same old thing he had always done, Just waiting for the angel to stir the water so that he might be healed.

Not only was he there but many others who were sick were there also. But this day would be different, even though this man wasn’t seeking Christ, it seems that Christ was seeking him. Today was much different he had a close encounter even though he wasn’t expecting it.

Think about it, day in and day out this man had done the same thing and never changed, all these years and he was never able to find healing and this day Jesus came to him, but look what Jesus asked him, “do you wish to be well?”

The man said sure I want to be well but I can’t because I have no one to put me in the pool and when the water is stirred someone else always gets in before me, this man had an excuse for his condition remaining the same.

He wanted to be well but for whatever reason he just couldn’t do what was necessary to get well on his own, the man knew he needed someone to put him in the water.

Even at this point the man didn’t know who Jesus was, even after Jesus healed him he didn’t know that he had encountered Jesus. The truth is the man didn’t know who had healed him until Jesus found him again in the temple and told him “Behold you have become well; do not sin anymore so that nothing worse happens to you” Jesus continued to seek this man even though the man wasn’t looking for him.

Some of us may be like this man was, trying to be made whole, or trying to become satisfied with no results.

We realize that there is something more for us in life but we just can’t seem to take hold of it, someone else always gets what we think we deserve. We make excuses for why things are like they are, “nobody will help me” “someone else gets all the breaks”, we all know about making excuses, there are millions of them.

Sometimes despite ourselves we have an encounter with Jesus, and we may not even recognize that it’s him, but during this encounter we realize that we can’t do it on our own and that’s when the healing begins.

It may take a little while but Jesus continues to seek us out and continues to work in our lives and then our eyes become open and we realize that Jesus has been in our midst and changed us. We realize that Jesus has pursued us even though we weren’t looking for Him.

Now the women is a different story. Listen to her encounter with Jesus from Mark Chapter 5.  25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

This woman had tried everything in her power in order to be made whole. She knew she couldn’t do it on her own and had been to countless doctors, and spent all her money trying to find the cure.

She knew she needed someone other than herself to make it happen and was seeking and searching for someone or something that would make her well.

One day she heard about Jesus and that’s when her life became changed. She said if only I could just touch the hem of his garment I will be made whole. This woman was desperate for an encounter with Jesus and she fought through the crowd and reached out and when she touched Him, she immediately was made whole.

Do you see where the difference in these two people lies, the man was just waiting for something to happen, but the woman was “making it happen” she was seeking Jesus out, she was longing for an encounter and nothing was going to stop her from a close encounter with Jesus, she knew who He was and was humbled before Him after her encounter.

A lot of us are probably like this woman, we know that something is missing in our lives, but we don’t make excuses we just try and find it in the wrong places.

We think that money, or stuff will fill the void, we think that our jobs or prestige will make us whole. Sadly peace and wholeness stays just out of our reach and we seek but can’t find whatever it is that our heart longs for.

Then we hear about this man called Jesus and we realize if I can just touch Him, if I can just have a close encounter with Him that will change everything and I will find the peace that has eluded me for so long.

We begin to seek Jesus and when we reach out to Him we realize this is what has been missing all along. After our encounter we find the peace that we have longed for and our lives will never be the same.

Two very different people, and two very different encounters but both left Jesus with the same results. They were both changed by their close encounters. One didn’t know who Jesus was, and the other sought Him out and both were made whole.

I don’t know who you relate to today but I want you to think about this. Have you tried to get through life all by yourself and you are just sick and tired of being sick and tired?

Have you made every excuse in the book for your current situation and realized that if you keep doing the same old thing you will get the same old results?

Jesus is seeking you, He wants to make you well, and it doesn’t matter whether you know Him or not He wants to know you, let Him have a close encounter with you today.

Maybe you have tried everything, maybe you have searched to fill the emptiness that you have inside, maybe you have tried everything to find satisfaction but it remains out of your grasp.

Try Jesus, reach out and touch Him. You’ve tried everything else, now try Jesus, He can heal your brokenness, He can heal your pain, He can help you find that peace and joy that you have been searching for.

Whatever your situation is we all come away whole after a close encounter with Jesus.

April 22, 2018

Have Mercy on Me  Luke 18:9 – 14

There’s nothing wrong with me,” the man says.
“But sir, you’ve just been in a terrible car accident. You’re bleeding and have some deep bruises. There may be internal damage!”
“There’s nothing wrong with me!”
“At least have a doctor check you out, sir. We have an ambulance right here – it wouldn’t take very long..”
“I told you, there’s nothing wrong with me!”
“But sir.”
Then the man walks away from the car accident. His wife picks him up and drives him home. Later he dies from internal bleeding.

There’s nothing wrong with me” can be a dangerous thing to say. Spiritually, it is probably the worst thing a person could possibly say. For a person to stand before God and say, “There’s nothing wrong with me” – is incompatible with Christianity, and unacceptable to God.

What is the opposite of “there’s nothing wrong with me”? Wouldn’t it be “there’s everything wrong with me”? A Christian is someone who stands before God and says “there’s everything wrong with me.” A Christian is also someone who says, “But Jesus Christ has overcome my sin. He has taken away all the things that are wrong with me.”

Jesus tells about two opposite people – one who said “there’s nothing wrong with me” and one who said “there’s everything wrong with me.” Today we focus on these two people as we seek to learn better what serving Christ really is, and what it means to us today.

Jesus told this story to people who were confident in their own righteousness, and looked down on everybody else. “Two men” Jesus said “went up to the temple to pray – a Pharisee and a tax collector.”

Remember, the Pharisees were the people who lived good, clean lives. The tax collectors were people who swindled and intimidated others out of their money.

Both of them came to church – went to the temple to pray. “The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” Maybe you can sum up his prayer this way: “I thank you, God, that there’s nothing wrong with me.”

Maybe he was right! He was a good citizen. He obeyed the law, lived a moral and upright life. He even did the religious things you were supposed to do – he gave ten percent of his income to church, and he even fasted twice a week. Really, there’s wasn’t much wrong with him.

Then Jesus focuses on the tax collector in his story – the opposite of the Pharisee. He had been stealing money from people his whole life – hurting others so that he could live it up.

He knew that his whole life had been a disaster. Jesus says that “the tax collector stood at a distance” – he wouldn’t even walk up to the front of the temple – “He would not even look up to heaven” – he was so ashamed of his sin – “but beat his breast and said, ‘God have mercy on me, a sinner.’”

His prayer was the opposite of the Pharisee’s, wasn’t it – maybe you can sum it up this way, “God, there’s everything wrong with me. Help me.”

Jesus goes on to say that the sinful tax collector was the one that was forgiven by God, and not the Pharisee. Why? Jesus tells us: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Pharisee was proud, looking down on others, exalting himself. The tax collector was humble, sorry for his sins. What is Jesus saying there? Is Jesus saying that you earn the forgiveness of sins by being humble?

That’s what a lot of people think, but that’s not how it works. If that’s why God forgives you, then your salvation would be completely dependent on you, and your level of humility. Then, you could never be sure if you’re forgiven by God or not, because you will never know if you have been humble enough for God to forgive you.

The truth of the matter is, neither the Pharisee nor the tax collector deserved God’s forgiveness. The Pharisee didn’t because he was conceited and self-righteous – thought he was better than everybody else, thought he was perfect.

The tax collector didn’t deserve God’s forgiveness because of the terrible life he had led. Neither one deserved to be forgiven by God.

God forgives people purely out of his mercy. As a result of his undeserved love, God forgives people because of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross – He offers forgiveness to all.

In his mercy, God chooses to forgive all those who humble themselves before him. Those who stand before Him and say, “There’s everything wrong with me. Lord have mercy on me. I am a sinner” – those humble people who recognize their sin, and recognize their need of a Savior…those are the people that receive God’s forgiveness.

Not because they’re earning it by groveling, but because God shows undeserved love to all who are humble and sorry for their sins.

God is looking on the inside.

He wants us to give up the sin of hypocrisy – acting like a Christian on the outside, but being proud and self-centered on the inside.

He wants us to give up the sin of duplicity – being a Christian on Sunday, but living like an unbeliever on Friday.

It’s time to give up the sin of being lethargic – “someday I’ll get my act together spiritually. Right now, though, I’m just too busy focusing on everything except God.”

Be that man who stood in the back of the temple, and looked down at the ground, and prayed to God, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It’s time for us to be like that man, to give up our sinful habits, our sinful attitudes, to stand before God and to ask him to forgive us, and to empower us to turn away from our sinful past and to live new lives that are dedicated to God.

And after we lay our sins before Christ, it’s also a time to give up our guilty feelings. Just as that tax collector walked home justified before God, so can we walk away, knowing that we have been forgiven.

I no longer have to feel guilty about my sins. I no longer have to beat myself up about the way I’ve been living. I have been forgiven. My sins have been washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ. I can start over. I can work hard to be someone who obeys God, who worships God every day with the way I live my life.”

Christianity is an attitude…It’s an attitude of honesty and humility, as we confess our sins to God. But it is also an attitude of relief and joy, knowing that our sins have been forgiven, that our slate has been wiped clean as we seek to serve God with our lives. 

Today may we see just how serious and terrible our sins are…But may we also see how wonderful and deep our Savior’s love is for us. 

April 15, 2018

An Invitation to Change! Luke 14:16-20

If I asked you, “What changes would you like to see in your own life?” Most of you could give me two or three things. The problem isn’t seeing the need for change…it’s making the change a reality.

The reason for that is because as soon as we decide to embrace change, Satan gives us excuses to stay the same.

Jesus told a story about this problem in the verses we just read.

In this parable, Jesus compares the call to follow Him to an invitation to a great banquet.

Everything was ready and the invitations extended. But the invitations were greeted with excuses. And as a result…none of those invited benefited from the invitation.

Let’s see what lessons this passage can teach us to help with the problem of making excuses.

When I said each of us could come up with one or two things we’d like to change, the fact is, what we want to change today, might be different tomorrow, because we really don’t know what changes are best… because we are influenced by our feelings, our friends, and advertising…

Which is why we must understand that a changed life comes from God. He made us and has a plan for us; and His plan is the best.

Jeremiah 29:11says: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.

This banquet invitation was something that people should have been excited to receive. But because they didn’t appreciate its value, they easily made excuses.

And notice what kind of excuses: a piece of land, a team of oxen, and a wife.

For some reason they seemed to be under the impression that if they went to the banquet…then they would miss out on the other opportunities.

But accepting the banquet invitation didn’t mean that the one guy couldn’t look at his land later (although I don’t know why he bought it without first seeing it);

And it didn’t mean the other guy couldn’t try out his oxen another day; and the 3rd guy could have brought his new wife with him!

God’s plan might mean setting some things aside, but it also means receiving so much more!

Ephesians 3:20 tells us that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,”

I wonder…is there a person in your life with whom you would trust your very life?…maybe your spouse, a parent, a sibling or a friend?

Now…think of that person and realize…that God loves you infinitely more than that person with whom you would trust your life!

Proverbs 3:5 Tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;” 

So even if embracing God’s plan includes suffering and sacrifice for now, I know that isn’t all there is. God’s plan includes an eternity full of great peace and fulfillment.

Paul describes God’s plan for us as “good, acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). We can see the good, acceptable and perfect nature of God’s plan by faith, and we’ll definitely see it in heaven, when faith becomes sight.

What will be sad is that when eternity comes, many who have been climbing the ladder of success in this life, will find that their ladder was leaning against the wrong building…because they were following their own faulty plan…rather than God’s good, acceptable and perfect plan.

They thought their plan was better than God’s, so they found it easy to make excuses when it came to accept the change God had in mind for them.

You see…a changed life only comes through a relationship with God.

Each person was given a personal invitation to the banquet. No doubt, each invitation had that person’s name on it. Likewise, God’s interest in each of us is personal. He cares about each of us individually.

My relationship with God began when I made a personal decision to accept the salvation provided through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. No one else can accept God’s invitation for me.

And just as each person in our parable had to make a personal choice, every person here has to make their own choice about accepting Jesus as Savior.

You can’t get by on the faith of your parents or grandparents.

A real relationship with God is a personal experience that comes about because of a personal choice. There is no such thing as hand me down Christianity.

A personal relationship with God is where a changed life begins; and a growing, intimate relationship with God is how meaning life-change continues.

And the reason why a personal and growing relationship with God is essential to change…is because God is the One who made you; and He made you with a purpose in mind.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” - Proverbs 9:10

Notice that it is the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. How do I get to know someone better?

I love my wife. And I can honestly say I love her more after 34 years of marriage than when we first met, because I have spent so much time with her.

The better I know her, the more I love her. When we first met…the more time we spent together, the more we fell in love. But I also learned a lot about her by spending time with her family.

It’s the same way when it comes to knowing God better. I come to know Him better by spending time with Him and with His family.

How do I spend time with God? Through prayer and reading His Word. How do I spend time with His family? You’re doing right now…Like the song says, “You’re part of the family, that’s been born again!...”

A banquet is something you attend with other people who have also accepted the invitation. Likewise, growing in my knowledge of God is something I do with others who also know Him personally.

Walking with God in a growing personal relationship brings about a changed life… because you can’t walk with God and stay where you are. No excuses…Just start following Jesus.

I love what the master of the banquet says, “Come, for everything is now ready.” God has provided everything necessary for bringing positive change to you and me.

2 Peter 1:3 says: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him…”  

Stop making excuses and start letting God bringing change to your life…

God’s plan for my life is the best; because experiencing God’s best is simple, it comes through a personal, growing, loving relationship with God, and spending time in His Word, in prayer and with His family!

Let’s quit making excuses and let God to make the changes He wants to make in us. What change does God want to bring to your life?

Accept His invitation and find out!

April 8, 2018 am

The Next Week      John 20:24-29

As He hung on the cross…Jesus Himself said, “It is finished!”

His earthly body has been resurrected…His mission to redeem humanity has been completed.

So…Now what?  What happened the next week after Easter?

The gospel of John provides us with the most complete and comprehensive picture of the risen Christ.

According to John, Jesus convenes a reunion of his disciples just one week after his resurrection in the same upper room where He last broke bread with them on the night He was betrayed.

John’s gospel tells us that the risen Jesus had seen nearly all of his disciples during the course of the previous week.

But I imagine that Jesus was not prepared to return to the right hand of his Father until all of the disciples that He had spent time with, and invested in, had seen the reality of His resurrection.

John tells us that what makes this meeting of the disciples different from the previous encounters of that week … is that Thomas, also called Didymus, who had not been present earlier, was there to see for himself that Jesus was alive.

Permit me to insert right here that it is the desire of Jesus Christ that none be lost and that all be saved. Jesus loves you so much that His heart’s desire is that you spend eternity with Him.

Now the choice is up to you, you can choose to receive Him into your life or you can choose to reject Him. But HIS intent is that you be saved.

In fact…He refused to return to heaven without giving Thomas the opportunity to choose Jesus for himself.

Secondly let me point out to you that Thomas wasn't with the other disciples when Jesus first returned.

Thomas took the risk of losing his ultimate blessing because he, for whatever reason, made the mistake of forsaking fellowship with the other disciples.

It is God’s plan that His followers hang out together…There is a reason we come to church. Hebrews 10:25 instructs us “not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together…”

Now I know that you don’t get saved by coming to church and I agree, church attendance will not save you. But it will strengthen our walk with the Lord.

Okay…back to our story…Picture this, the other disciples come and find Thomas and tell him that Jesus the Messiah has returned from the dead, That He is resurrected and lives again.

Thomas says, “Until I see the nail-print in his hand and the wound in his side, I will not believe”.

Thomas says “you are telling me what you are telling me because you have seen Jesus for yourself.

You are not telling me this because somebody told you…you are telling me this because of what you have seen with your own eyes.

In other words, Thomas is saying I want to see what you saw.

If you are going to expect me to have the same excitement and enthusiasm that you are showing me,

if you expect me to risk life and limb going around preaching this story,

if you expect me to travel the world and convince others to follow Jesus, then I want to have the same experience that you have had.

Thomas is saying, “I want to be able to say I know that He lives because I have seen him for myself. I don’t want to have to say because Peter told me or because James told me or because John told me. I want my own story”.

So is it possible that Thomas was really saying, I’m not doubting Jesus; I just want to see for myself.

If I am going to talk about the risen savior, I don’t want to base my words on second hand accounts…I want to know for myself.

So the Bible says that a week later Jesus joins Thomas and the other disciples in the upper room. Now consider this. John the gospel writer is particular and precise on his description of Jesus’ arrival.

Notice that he says that Jesus enters the room with the doors being not just closed...but also locked. (John 20:19)

Now I ask you, how does Jesus get into a room where the doors are closed and locked?

I know that there are some things that a closed door can’t keep out. A closed door can’t keep out: Cold, or Misery, or Sickness, or Depression.

If a closed and locked door can’t keep those things out…then might I suggest to you that a closed door can’t keep Jesus out either.

In John 10:9 Jesus says: “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved…” Then in Revelations 3:20 He says: I stand at the door and knock. If you…open the door, I’ll come right in…”

Notice that after Jesus walks through the locked door…He goes directly to Thomas and says, in so many words, Thomas I am here for you and since you said that you needed to see my hands and see my side, here they are take your own look so that you won’t be without faith…and so you can have your own testimony like the other disciples.

Listen closely to what happens next…Thomas responds by saying, “My Lord and my God”.

Notice, Thomas never does what he said he had to do in order to believe. He doesn’t put his finger in print of the nail…nor does put his hand in the wound on Jesus’ side.

He just takes one look at Jesus and says My Lord and My God. Now the term My Lord and My God is a two-fold term. My Lord means that you have dominion over my life here on earth:

I can trust you,

I can follow you,

I believe in you,

I can stand on your word, I can depend on you

Today my I assure you that you can trust Jesus, you can lean upon His everlasting arms, you can depend upon Him to make a way out of a no way out situation… because He is your Lord.

Thomas says My Lord and My God. “My God” refers to His eternity, to His supreme power and authority.

When Thomas says “My God”, he is acknowledging that even when life down here on earth is ended...he will still a have a relationship with God.

God is not bound by time and space…which means that He is not only my Lord here on earth but also my God for all eternity.

I am thankful for all that God does for me here on earth. But friends all that He does for me here on earth cannot compare what He has prepared for me in Heaven.

So Thomas says to Jesus, I thought I needed to put my finger in your hand and my hand in your side, but just one look at your face has convinced me that you are who you say you are…and that worthy of my worship and obedience.

Jesus says Thomas, you believe because you have seen me, but blessed are those who believe and have seen not.

Did you catch that? That is us He is talking about: blessed are those who believe and have seen not.

Do you believe?

It is my sincere prayer that every person here today has your own story about how you met Jesus.

If not…I pray your story starts today.

April 1 2018

Easter 2018   1 Peter 1:3 – 9

It had been the worst two and a half days of their lives…

First the Master had brought them to the Garden of Gethsemane just outside of Jerusalem to pray…but instead they fell asleep, after all it was late.

Perhaps if they had been awake and watchful they would have noticed the torches of the crowd coming to arrest Jesus, and they could have warned Jesus and saved him.

And who would have imagined that one of their own, Judas, would betray him with a kiss. They all felt betrayed, they felt scared and angry inside,

Peter even took his sword out and struck the high priests servant cutting his ear off. Jesus rebuked him and after a very short scuffle every single disciple fled.

In a sense they all betrayed Jesus that day. None had the courage to stay and walk the road with Jesus, even though they had just sworn to Jesus they would never abandon him even to the point of death.

I wonder…would I have been able to walk this road with Jesus?

Peter managed to muster up enough courage to follow the crowd at a distance to the courtyard of Caiaphas’, the chief priest’s, house where the religious leaders had gathered.

Peter saw it all. He saw them falsely accuse Jesus of many things, spit on him, slap him, Then…someone in the crowd recognized him as being one of Jesus’ disciples, and confronted him, he denied it.

Simon Peter, the Rock, the one who walked on water with Jesus, denied knowing Jesus three times before the rooster crowed. Peter had disowned Jesus. Didn’t Jesus once say, Matt. 10:32 "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven”?

The religious leaders weren’t satisfied with insulting Jesus, they wanted him dead, out of the way, that was their plan all along.

So they took him to the Roman Governor Pilate who had him beaten, they mocked him, beat him, placed a crown of thorns on his head, and then with the chant of the crowd, “crucify him, crucify him,” they sentenced him to death.

They nailed him to a tree, a cross, outside of Jerusalem, a spectacle for all of Jerusalem to watch, yet only one disciple made it to the cross that day, and it wasn’t Peter.

Where do you suppose the other ten were that day? Jesus died that Friday afternoon, and along with him died their hopes and expectations. Then he was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea…which was sealed with a stone.

How do you suppose Peter and the disciples felt during those long two and a half days? Worthless, ashamed, failures?

They had abandoned Jesus, they were afraid and locked themselves in a room in Jerusalem. Peter because of his denial of Jesus felt he didn’t deserve to be part of God’s kingdom.

The truth is at some point all of us have denied or abandoned Jesus, perhaps with our words, our thoughts, or our actions. As the Bible says “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way (Is. 53:6).”

In other words…at times… we have chosen to follow our own path rather than following Jesus and doing what he wants us to do. When we follow our own path we are denying Jesus.

As a result of our selfish choices we may get what we think we want out of life, a great career, money, possessions, toys, lifestyle, but anytime the focus is on ourselves there is always a cost.

Perhaps not at first but eventually our relationships suffer, sometimes our health suffers, many times there is an empty feeling inside, because we have climbed the ladder of life only to realize the ladder was on the wrong wall.

Perhaps like Peter we come to a point where God convicts our hearts and we too feel worthless, ashamed, disappointed, a failure, and believe there is no hope for us…that we deserve to be disowned by Jesus.

Or perhaps the emptiness of our own lifestyle causes us to wonder in our hearts if this is all there is to life.

Did Peter and the disciples go through the rest of their life like this? Feeling like failures?

If we continue with the rest of the story (as Paul Harvey says) we notice they aren’t the same people at all.

The book of Acts shows that instead of the disciples being frozen with fear, guilt, sorrow, disappointment…something changed in their life, they become bold, fearless, driven, men and women with purpose. What had changed? They encountered the risen Christ.

On that Sunday morning the women went to the tomb and discovered it was empty. In their excitement they rushed back to tell the disciples and the risen Jesus appeared right before them. Their lives were changed.

They went and told the disciples. Simon Peter and John rushed to the tomb and saw that it was empty.

John’s gospel tells us that later that day, Jesus suddenly appeared to all the disciples except Thomas in a locked room. Once they encountered the risen Jesus and were filled with the Holy Spirit, their lives were never the same.

They were new people, transformed, because they were forgiven of their past by the sacrifice of Jesus, and given a new future, new life.

If you hear nothing else this morning remember this, people who encounter the risen Christ are never the same. We become a new person, a new creation in Christ Jesus. As the Scriptures say the old has gone and the new has come. Romans 6:4 

And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

Years later it was Peter, the same disciple who had denied Jesus three times, who would write these words to Christian believers which has been handed down to us in the Bible:

1 Peter 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-- kept in heaven for you,

Peter could give praise to God because Jesus’ resurrection from the dead meant new birth…a new life and living hope.

Peter knew because he experienced it himself. God restored Peter, he was forgiven of his past along with the rest of the disciples.

Their life went from being failures to forgiven!

They lived with new purpose and new meaning because they had hope. In fact that’s what we are doing here this Easter Sunday morning, we are praising God, worshipping him because he brings new birth and living hope to us.

New birth or new life is a gift, just like our first birth into this world was a gift, we didn’t earn it, we didn’t work for it, God offered it to us free.

The new life God offers us is free. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus he offers to forgive us, lifting our burden of self-centered sin and guilt, and gives us a fresh start, and puts his life within us.

The beauty of Jesus’ resurrection is to show us that we can have a new life, a fresh start. We don’t have to be limited by our past, our sin, our mistakes, our pains, our hurts, our failures.

They no longer need to define who we are. We become new people living for God.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ brings hope that no matter what happens here on earth, no matter what people do to us, or what circumstances occur in this world, we have the promise of an eternal inheritance that can never be taken away from us, it doesn’t perish, spoil, or fade.

The inheritance Peter is referring to is life after death, eternal life in heaven. That is the hope Jesus gives those who trust in him.

March 18, 2018 pm service

Come and See    John 1:43 – 50 

In our Scripture reading for today, Jesus meets Philip and says to him simply, "Follow me."

Philip immediately goes to his friend Nathanael and says to him, "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Apparently Nathanael was a bit of a skeptic and replies, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"

Philip doesn't argue with Nathanael. Perhaps he understands his friend well enough to know that arguing will get him nowhere. Instead, Philip says simply, "Come and see." Come and see for yourself.

I think those are three of the most powerful words in the entire Bible.

Come and see.

Maybe we should write those three words above the doors to the sanctuary: Come and see.

Are you looking for a church where you might be welcomed just as you are?

Come and see.

Are you curious about the exciting things you hear happening at that church on the hill? Come and see.

Are you looking for meaning, for answers, for it all to make sense?

Come and see. Come and see for yourself.

Here at Keithsburg Christian Church we don't have all the answers -- in fact, we have lots of questions ourselves. But we'll add your questions to our questions and we'll all "Come and see" together.

Maybe we should write those three words on the front of our Bibles: Come and see.

Come and see what others saw when they went looking for God.

Come and see how God changed people’s lives and gave them a reason to hope. Come and see for yourself.

Come and see if you might discover grace instead of condemnation. Come and see if you might find direction for your life, motivation for your work, peace for your soul.  Come and see.

Maybe we should write those three words on the doors of our homes, inside and out, so that every time we come home and every time we leave we will remember the invitation.

Come and see God at work in your own family. Or come and see God at work in you in the quietness of your thoughts.  Whether you are entering or leaving, come and see God in the faces you meet.

Maybe we should write those three words on the dashboards of our cars, on our lockers at school, on our office desks or work stations or tucked in our pocket. Come and see.

Come and see what God might do. Come and see what might happen when you're not afraid to declare, "I believe…help my unbelief!"

Come and see, Jesus said to each of us…and we followed -- not with great faith and not even without fear. But the invitation was impossible to resist.

Come and see, Philip said to Nathanael. And Nathanael took his questions and his doubts and his skepticism, and Jesus welcomed him with all his questions and his doubts and his skepticism.

Come and see what happens when you bring your skepticism to Christ. Come and see what happens when you're not afraid of the questions. Come and see for yourself…And the invitation was impossible to resist.

Speaking of invitations. A young couple had just been married and they made plans to spend the first night at a very nice hotel by the airport…so they could fly out the next day for their honeymoon in Hawaii.

The best man being a bit of a jokester went to that motel after the couple had checked in and taped a large sign on the inside of the elevator. It read: Party Tonight! Room 210, 8:00. Everyone Invited!

A man who was a guest at the hotel saw the sign and thought to himself, “I think I’ll go to that party…I don’t have anything else to do”.

He imagined Room 210 at 8:00 "filled with an odd assortment of people: traveling salesmen looking for relief from the tedium, tourists bored with sightseeing, wary hotel employees checking out what was going on.

"After knocking on the door he discovered that the invitation was a hoax…a joke played on the newlyweds!

Nevertheless, for a brief moment there existed the tantalizing possibility that there was a party going on somewhere to which all were invited, where it didn't make any difference who you were, where even if you came out of boredom or loneliness, you were welcome...A party where it didn't matter nearly as much what got us in the door, as what would happen to us after we arrived."

The invitation was a hoax, but the idea is authentic: a party to which everybody is invited, where there's no dress code and no cover charge, and all are welcome and no one is turned away.

If there is to be such a party, the church is going to have to throw it. Nobody else can…Nobody else will. It is up to us to extend the invitation...And to mean it.

Come and see...Come and see, Jesus says. Come and see for yourself. Come and see love. Come and see God. Come as you are...Just come.

March 11, 2018

Thaddeus       Mark 3:13 – 18

I want to talk to you today about a man that you probably know nothing about! His name is Thaddeus, and he was one of Jesus’ 12 Disciples.

Throughout the Bible you will not hear Thaddeus preach a powerful sermon. You will not see him (specifically) healing someone who was sick. You will not read that he ever cast out a demon. But it is very possible, dare I say even probable that he did all of these things.

Mark 6:7 says: And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two…; and gave them power over unclean spirits; … Then verse 12 says: And they went out, and preached that men should repent. 13 And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.

Thaddeus may not have been a Peter, James, John or even an Andrew. He may not have penned a gospel or written an epistle. I submit to you that Jesus did not want him to be a Peter, James, John or Andrew. Jesus wanted Thaddeus to be just that …Thaddeus!

Sometimes we look at other people and we want to be like them. We long for the opportunities they have. 

You may desire the talents that they have been given. You may envy the success that they have experienced. But you are not them!

God has another path for you. It is a better path for you, simply because it’s God’s path for you!!

The world may not know your name. You may never see your name in lights or go down in the history books. But, Jesus knows your name and that is worth more than the notoriety of man. You are special in God’s eyes.

For whatever reason, we do not have an in depth record of Thaddeus’ service as a disciple of Christ. But just the fact that he is named among the twelve should show us something.

At this point in Jesus’ ministry there were multitudes following Him everywhere He went. Out of this great number of followers Jesus only selected 12. Thaddeus was privileged to be in that number.

Whatever your service, whatever the task that Jesus has chosen for you, it is an honor to be chosen to serve. Don’t let anyone tell you that your place of service is insignificant.

Whatever you situation He chose you to serve Him. We all have a calling. Will you treasure that calling or will you take it for granted. Will you be so prideful as to look at your place of service and compare it to someone else and then become bitter because yours is not as prominent a position as theirs?

Even before Jesus chose Thaddeus to be his disciple…Thaddeus was precious to Jesus. Before the foundation of the world, you were precious to Jesus! Ephesians 1:4 says: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world…

You are important enough to God for Him to send His Son to die on the cross for you!

People may not know your name, but Jesus does …people may not realize your worth, but Jesus does and people may not recognize your effort…but Jesus does!

The fact is, you may never get the pat on the back that you think you deserve. People may never see all that you do. They may not see the long hours and late nights.

They may not know the financial sacrifices that you have made. Others may not know of the emotional struggles and burnout that you have endured.

There are rewards for those who are simply faithful wherever God has placed them - Colossians 3:23 says: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Whatever you do…Do it with all of your heart. God will reward your faithfulness!

Though we don’t know much about Thaddeus’ life… We are certain that like Peter, James, and John he left everything he had in order to follow Jesus.

Notice a conversation between Peter and Jesus on the subject of rewards -Matthew 19:27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Though the world may not recognize your effort, though you may never be “rewarded” down here, Jesus has much more in store for you. You too have an eternal reward! – 

Matthew 6:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Every deed done in the name of Jesus will be blessed and rewarded in eternity. Men may not recognize your effort, but rest assured that Jesus knows and He will reward your faithfulness! – 

Matthew 25 says: “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Do you ever feel like you are wasting your time …Ever been ready to throw your hands up and quit. The world says you should, the enemy says you should, and at times you think you should!

You may never have anything that the people of this world would want. You may never have power, you may never have prominence, you may never have possessions...you may never have prosperity.

But as a child of God you will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. – 

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

At that Judgment seat there will be crowns given to the faithful.

We may not know very many details of Thaddeus’ story but I can assure you he stored up treasures in Heaven.

The world may not know your name; they may not realize your worth or recognize your effort ….But Jesus does! And if He does, isn’t that all that matters?

Fox's Book of Martyrs records that Thaddeus’ was crucified for his faith at Edessa in A.D. 72. he was martyred for his faith in Christ. He was bold and he was faithful… He was somebody!!

Have you listened to the attacks from the enemy? Somewhere along the way did you walk away from your service because you felt unworthy?

Did you quit because you thought no one saw or cared what you did? If you walked away, chances are you were serving for the wrong reason in the first place.

I encourage you to remember who called you, who sent you out and who will enable to accomplish His will in your life …His name is Jesus! So, you think you are a nobody, well ….God says you are somebody and that is all that really matters!

March 4, 2018

Seeing Our Sin    Romans 5:12 – 17

One Sunday morning a woman woke up not feeling well and running a fever and so she said to her husband…You go on to church without me…so he did,

When the man returned home from church and his wife asked...

 “What did the preacher preach about this morning?”

“Sin,” he replied.

“Well,”… “What did the preacher say about sin?” his wife persisted.

“He was against it!”

That pretty well sums up my sermon this morning.

It is about sin…and I am against it. 

Today, sin is almost a forbidden subject. The very word sin has an old fashioned ring to it. It is hard for us to call anything a sin without being called narrow minded, opinionated and hateful.

You may have noticed that the only sin our culture seems concerned about is the sin of intolerance.

No one wants to be thought intolerant. We all want to be open-minded. We want to accept other people’s values and culture.

And that means that almost no one calls anything a sin anymore.

Yet, I have to be honest with you.

I believe in sin.

I don’t advocate it.

I don’t endorse it.

I certainly don’t want to encourage it.

But I believe sin is real.

I believe sin plays a powerful role in our lives.

And I believe that we as individuals…and as a nation…need to face our sin squarely and honestly.

Just read through your morning newspaper (or FaceBook or where ever you get your news) and you will see what I mean. School shootings…elected officials involved in scandal, meth labs, domestic abuse…and on and on it goes.

I believe in sin, and I believe sin is a powerful force in our world today. And I believe it is time for the church to take sin seriously again.

I am not sure how we ever lost our focus on sin. The church gradually turned its attention from the serious to the trivial. The word sin became synonymous with smoking, drinking, & cussing.

Almost nothing can be called sin…instead it’s an illness…And everyone knows sick people belong in hospitals or rehab.

I realize I am over stating and over simplifying the case.

And yet at the end of the day the bottom line is we don’t talk much about sin anymore.

We don’t talk much about right and wrong.

We don’t use moral language.

And our world is poorer because of it.

Call me bigoted and old fashioned if you wish, but I believe in sin.

I believe some things are right…and some things are wrong.

I believe God will hold us accountable for how we live our lives.

And I believe the Church of Jesus Christ should not be ashamed to stand up and say so.

But what is a sin?

What am I talking about? Why are some things wrong?

After a lot of thought, I realized it comes down to this. Sin is anything that goes against the will of God.

Sin is disobedience…If it is not what God wants…then it is wrong.

God made the world the way it is for a reason.

A man was sitting under a walnut tree contemplating the meaning of life.

In nearby field, he saw a pumpkin patch and thought, “God you really made a mistake with those pumpkins. Pumpkins grow a tiny little vine.

You should have put pumpkins on a great strong tree like this walnut tree and you should have let the walnuts grow on that little vine.”

About that time a walnut fell out of the tree and struck the man on the head. He thought about it for a moment and then said, “Lord, thank you for not putting pumpkins in walnut trees.”

God knows more about running the universe than we do.

God made the world the way it is for a reason.

We are governed by fixed natural laws and it is a sin to break those laws. We can’t violate God’s natural law without suffering the consequences.

Gravity is a natural law…What goes up…must come down…Step off the roof of any building in the world…and the law of Gravity will bring you down,

But there are also social laws that are just as important as natural laws.

You learned most of them in kindergarten as Robert Fulghum reminds us in his best selling book, “All I really need to know... I learned in kindergarten.”

In it he says social laws are as simple as:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.                

And when you go out into the world, hold hands and stick together.

Sin is putting yourself ahead of others. It is selfishness.

And human selfishness lies at the very heart of every sin.

I believe in sin, because I believe we are basically selfish people.

We generally look out for our own interests before we even consider other people.

When you look at sin that way, we are all guilty.

We are all condemned.

Romans 3:10 teaches that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

But that is not the end of the story.

We are not just guilty.

As Christians we are also forgiven.

God wipes the slate clean and makes us whole again.

In Christ we can become a new creation.

If you don’t know that you are a sinner…you can never know the saving grace of God.

You have to face up to your own selfishness, before you can be transformed by God’s love into the person God wants you to be.

One of our problems is that of perception. You see we look at someone like Nikolas Cruz…the recent school shooter, and we subconsciously pat ourselves on the back because we are not a sinner like him.

No…but we are still sinners and we need to stop excusing our own sin because we perceive someone else’s sins to be worse. 

I believe in sin.

I believe sin is real.

And I believe sin lurks inside every human heart.

But I also believe the words of an old gospel hymn.

“Come every soul by sin oppressed there is mercy with the Lord, And he will surely give you rest, by trusting in his Word."

Febuary 4, 2018

A Bad Hair Day     2 Samuel 14, 15 & 18

His name was Absalom and he was the son of King David. Absalom decided that he would make a better king than his father and so he led an unsuccessful coup against his Dad.

Here’s the background. Absalom was David's third son. And there is all kinds of history here. David's life reads like a series from Netflix. He had multiple wives and so his children, in a lot of cases, were half siblings, same father different mothers.

And that is really where the problems began. Absalom had a sister by the name of Tamar who was “attacked” by their half-brother, Amnon, David's oldest son.

When the King wouldn't do anything about it Absalom took matters into his own hands and had his brother murdered. And you thought you had problems with your kids.

Because of that, David and Absalom became estranged and Absalom went to live with his grandfather.

It was during that time of exile that Absalom decides that he should be king.

So…after three years in exile, David allowed Absalom to return to Jerusalem and that's when Absalom made his move and attempted to overthrow his father King David.

And while David was willing to put up a defense he told his commanders in 2 Samuel 18:5 … "For my sake, deal gently with young Absalom."

To be honest there are stories in the bible that make me scratch my head and go huh?

In 2 Timothy 3:16 we read: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”

So…Keep in mind… “All scripture is inspired and useful…” Back to our story…

David's troops seem to get the upper hand and the rebels are on the run. As Absalom attempts to flee, his mule goes under a tree and Absalom gets caught in a tree and hung by his hair. A bad hair day to be sure!

And that's where David's men find him. And what’s weird is that the first guy who finds him just left him there. He goes back to Joab, his commander and says "Hey, you'll never guess who I just saw hanging from a tree?"

And Joab was like, "You found Absalom in a tree and you didn't kill him?"

Remember David had said “deal gently with young Absalom”…You see David saw his son as just going through a phase…but Joab figure that Absalom wouldn't rest until he had overthrown his father, so he killed him, in direct disobedience to the King.

Remember, all scripture is useful, and there are a couple of lessons here.

We don't really hear a lot about Absalom and his siblings before 2 Samuel chapter 13. As a matter of fact, the only time they are mentioned is when their birth order is given in 2 Samuel 3.

We don't hear anything about their childhood or their teen years, Going to the prom or getting driver’s licenses…nothing, nada, zip.

It would appear that everything was going well for the royal family, in that they weren't making the news.

But everything changes in 2 Samuel 13, It seems like all of a sudden, the wheels come off the wagon.

That's where we see the story of Tamar being attacked by her half-brother who is then killed by Absalom.

What happens that suddenly causes the family that nobody hears about to suddenly look like they should have their own reality show?

It is the story of David and Bathsheba. Maybe you remember it.

David was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath.

David discovers that the woman, whose name was Bathsheba was the wife of one of his soldiers. He has her summoned to the palace where we are told that things happen that shouldn’t have happened and she is expecting. OOPS!

In an effort to fix the problem David has her husband killed and marries Bathsheba…And then everything flies to pieces.

The lesson is that there are consequences to our actions.

In David's case his children's moral compass had been shattered. David who had been described as a man after God's own heart is revealed to be an adulterer and a murderer.

Their moral compass had been shattered. Their father who helped defined their morality had basically, through his actions, told them it didn't matter what they did.

Children learn from what they see….As they say…”more is caught then taught”.

A good way to sum it up is found in Proverbs 6:27, which says: Can a man scoop fire into his lap and not be burned? Or in today’s vernacular…”You play with fire…You get burned”.

Sin will always take you further then you want to go, it will always cost you more then you want to pay, and it will always keep you longer then you want to stay.

You may not be cheating on your spouse, but are you cheating on God.

Your relationship with God is setting an example that your kids are going to follow, for better or for worse.

But…understand this, regardless of how we were raised, regardless of the decisions that our parents made, in the end Point #2…We all make our own decisions.

Regardless of what his father may have done or not done the only person making choices in Absalom's life was Absalom.

Yes…David acted horribly, but that didn't mean that Amnon had to attack his sister or Absalom had to kill his brother.

Absalom may have felt that his father's behavior justified his attempted coup, but that was a decision that Absalom made. And in the end it resulted in his death.

Every person here can rise above their past and above their parent's mistakes.

If you are a follower of Christ and people know that, then they are watching you. If you are a follower of Christ and people don't know it, that is a sermon for a another time.

Each one of us is responsible to make good choices. And at the end of the day we can't, in good faith, blame our bad behavior on anyone but ourselves.

Our lives might be colored and shaped by our past, our genetics or our circumstances…but in the end each of us has what it takes to do what is right, if we want to.

God has promised us forgiveness from past sins and the ability to resist future temptations. But the choice is still ours.

When we pray: "Lead us not into temptation" we need to do our part.

Have you ever taken your dog for a walk and he wants to go in a different direction. You're pulling and tugging and he's pulling and tugging.

Do you ever feel that God is leading you in one direction, but you are tugging on the lead wanting to go where you want to go? Eventually He will let you go, that's the reality of the free will.

I don't know when Absalom starting making bad choices, but he could have stopped at any time.

Today is the day for each of us to make good choices in our lives.

As long as we blame other we won’t grow. We are all the result of the choices we make.

The decision to accept responsibility for our lives is just that, accepting responsibility, not blame.

Once we accept that we are where we are today because of choices that we made yesterday then we understand that we have the power to determine where we will be tomorrow by the choices that we make today.

And the great thing is that as a Christian we don't have to do it on our own.

In John 14 Jesus says: "If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.”

Today as Christians we have the opportunity to choose to do what is right. And when we make that choice…then God will give us the power to do it.

January 14, 2018

A Talking Donkey        Numbers 22:21-31

A man named Balaam is taking a journey with his donkey…and as they ride along there is an angel of the Lord standing with a sword to prevent them from going any further.

For whatever reason Balaam doesn't see the angel and the only thing that prevents things from turning nasty is that the donkey refuses to keep going.

At first the donkey goes off the road to avoid the angel. He is then forced back onto the road and at that point he tries evasive maneuvers and ends up crushing his master’s foot against a rock wall.

Balaam flies into a rage and again tries to force the donkey to keep going…but the donkey just stops and lies down … And Balaam responds each time by beating the poor donkey.

Finally the Donkey turns around and says “Hey, stop it.” Well actually we read in Numbers 22:28 Then the LORD gave the donkey the ability to speak…“What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”

Balaam shouts... “If I had a sword with me, I would kill you!” “But I am the same donkey you have ridden all your life,” the donkey answered. “Have I ever done anything like this before?” “No,” Balaam admitted.

At that point, God opens Balaam eyes and he sees the Angel with the Sword who’s standing in front of him and as far as we know the donkey never talks again.

The story is set in the period of time after the Israelites had escaped from slavery in Egypt while they were wandering in the wilderness.

During this time the king of a small country called Moab hears about the Israelites and is afraid about what these undocumented aliens might do to his kingdom.

The King’s name is Balak, and he decides to be proactive and we pick up the story in Numbers 22:5-6 (Balak) sent messengers to call Balaam…His message said: “Look, a vast horde of people has arrived from Egypt…Please come and curse these people…because they are too powerful for me…I know that blessings fall on any people you bless, and curses fall on people you curse.”

Now we don’t know what qualifications Balaam had for blessing and cursing people, but apparently that was his reputation.

Balak’s messengers come to Balaam offering him all kinds of money to put a curse on the Israelites and God basically tells Balaam, “Don’t you dare.”

What God actually said was Numbers 22:12 But God told Balaam, “Do not go with them. You are not to curse these people, for they have been blessed!” 

Well, the messengers return to Balak with Balaam’s refusal…but the King sends them back with a better offer. Balaam again refuses in Numbers 22:18 by saying…“Even if Balak were to give me his palace filled with silver and gold, I would be powerless to do anything against the will of the LORD my God.

Which was pretty impressive, until he adds Numbers 22:19 But stay here one more night, and I will see if the LORD has anything else to say to me.”

God had already said “No”…So basically, he was saying, “Wait here while I see if I can get God to change his mind.”

Now we don’t know what Balaam said in his conversation with God but eventually God says, “Fine, go ahead…but only do what I tell you to do.”

So…After the donkey has his say the angel of God reiterates to Balaam that he can go to Moab, but that he is only to say what God tells him to say. Presumably that means no cursing Israel.

And if we follow the story we discover that when the King demands that Balaam curse Israel he doesn’t and instead he pronounces blessings on them, not once but four different times.

I’m assuming that he didn’t get paid. And maybe you are thinking “So what’s the problem? Balaam didn’t curse Israel all’s well that ends well.”

And this part of the story ends with Numbers 24:25 Then Balaam and Balak returned to their homes.

You see what happens here, right? Balaam basically approaches God to ask if it’s alright for him to curse the Israelites, and he’s told “no, in no uncertain terms are you to curse the Israelites.”

So, he does the right thing and sends Balak’s servants away telling them to let their boss know that he won’t take the gig. Good for Balaam.

Then they come back with a better offer, and he says “nope, still not going to do it.” He’s still doing good…but then he adds “But let me check with God maybe he’s changed his mind.”

I don’t know how the conversation went, but in the end God lets him go with the provision that he only do what God tells him to do.

But then God sends an angel with a sword to stop him. Why do you think that is?  

I think that God knew that Balaam was planning on cursing the people. Maybe Balaam was thinking that it would be easier to get forgiveness then permission.

But he obviously didn’t understand what David understood when he wrote in Psalm 139…which says: O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.

Have you ever started down a path that you knew was wrong, but you keep hoping that God’s view of what you are going to do will change, or that you’ll be able to convince him to let you go ahead with whatever it is you want to do?

And then we try to justify or rationalize our behavior. Or we figure, “sure it’s wrong, but in the end I’ll just play the grace card and ask for forgiveness.”

And in most of those situations we already know what God wants or doesn’t want us to do. And if we aren’t sure, that’s why we have the bible.

Let me ask you this…Do you really want to change God’s mind? I mean, seriously, He is God…You know…The Master of the universe, Creator of all things.

So…when He says something is wrong and we have a different opinion, do we really think we are smarter than He is? Obviously, it just shows how dumb we are.

We know that God had permitted Balaam to make the trip, so why did he then put the angel with a sword and a talking donkey in his path?

Well, Balaam was allowed to go with the caveat that he only says what God tells him to say…and that he not curse the Israelites. But while Balaam says he will do what God says…he makes other plans, or God would have let him go on his way.

And so, God puts an angel in Balaam’s way, and when Balaam couldn’t or wouldn’t see the barrier that God put in his path…then God gives the donkey a voice. And that was kind of hard for Balaam to ignore.

The other option was that God could have allowed Balaam to do what he planned on doing and then punished him for it.

God wants us to do the right thing. He doesn't want us to be disobedient. A scripture that I keep coming back to over and over again is 1 Corinthians 10:13 which reminds us that: 

"No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."

Which brings us to, In the end it’s up to us.

 

 Jeremiah 50:4 (KJV)
In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the LORD their God.
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