No Dissonance Here, Please

Proverbs 21:20
Luke 16:13-15
II Corinthians 9:6-15

Before I read today’s scripture, I would like to do a little review of last week.

My goal last week was to get us thinking about ‘money.’

I challenged all of us to consider whether or not money is, for us, an idol.

We asked ourselves the question Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Do you love Me more than these?” where we saw the ‘these’ referred to Peter’s friends, boats and nets, in other words, his ability to make money.

I posed the question in the words of a song, “Do we love Jesus ‘more than anything, more than worldly wealth’?”

We saw that Jesus gives us a clear choice in the matter: Who or what gets first place in our lives? God or money?

And we talked about the signs that indicate we might be in danger of putting money first over our relationship with God.

If you missed that message, I highly encourage you to go to, plug in your headphones and give a listen.

I hope that message you got you to thinking about this subject. For I told you last week that today I would point us in the direction of dethroning money in order to give God His rightful place on the throne.

After all, “God is holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.” 1 and because He is, “It Is the Cry of Our Hearts to Follow Him.” 2

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More than Anything?

John 21:15-17

“More than anything, more than anything, I love you Jesus, more than anything.” 1

I don’t know about you but I have a very difficult time singing that song. It makes me examine whether or not I really do love Jesus more than . . . anything. More than I loved spending the day yesterday with family and friends in Columbus tailgating the Ohio State game? Maybe if I really loved Jesus more, I would have spent the day reading the Bible, or maybe I should have given the gas and food money to missionaries.

Every time I sing that song and question how much I love Jesus, I think of John 21 where Jesus asked Simon Peter a similar question about how much he loved Jesus.

After breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”
“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.
A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.

If Jesus had asked me the question He asked Peter, I too would have evaded His question with my answer, “Lord, you know I love you?” For did you notice that the question was not “Do you love Me?” If that would have been the question, it would be a no-brainer, all of us would say with Peter “You know I love You.”

But the question was, “Do you love Me more than these?” And the question is, what are the ‘these’ Jesus refers to?

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Leadership Sunday

This week, members of CrossPointe’s Leadership Team shared their thoughts on the importance of worship.

Taming Troubles

Habakkuk 3:17-19
James 1:2-4

Let’s play a little Trivial Pursuit:
1. Who is known as the Bard of Avon?
William Shakespeare.
2. Which Shakespearean play is most associated with All Hallow’s Eve?
3. What is the common name of the poem recited/sung by the three witches?
Double, Double, Toil and Trouble.
4. When it comes to troubles, the one-hit-wonder group, the Fortunes had a 1965 hit song that all of us can say amen to: You’ve Got Your Troubles, I’ve Got Mine.
5. One last trivia question: what Old Testament and what New Testament authors equate trouble with joy?
And the answer is: Habakkuk and James.

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights. (Habakkuk 3:17-19).

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:2-4).

Notice James doesn’t say “If” trouble comes, but rather, “When.”

Troubles are as old as Adam and Eve, who I guess we can blame for all of ours.

Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Many, if not all of us, are experiencing some sort of trouble right now.

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Objections to Grace

Matthew 20:1-16
Luke 15:25-32

Speaking of sibling rivalries, a twin brother says, “I finally realized my father favored my brother over me. It hit me when they asked me to blow up balloons for his surprise birthday party!”

If this parable were a play and we were sitting in the audience watching it for a second time, knowing the older brother is really upset because his father not only welcomed his younger brother home but threw him a party as well, how would we respond when the older brother appears in this final scene? How many of us might have been tempted to boo the older brother’s boorish behavior as he makes his way to center stage? On the other hand, how many of us would tend to sympathize with him?

Could it be that there’s a little of the older brother in all of us?

My premise for today is that, for the same reasons the older brother did, we have this inbred tendency to struggle with the concept of grace. And if we are not careful, that struggle can keep us from living in freedom.

First, we struggle with grace because we can’t quite accept the idea that something as good as grace is free.

Hearing that younger brother had been welcomed home by their father with a party, older brother responds with, “All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to” (Luke 15:29a).

Like the older brother, many people today labor under the illusion that we must work to earn God’s blessings. Ask the average joe on the street, “How do you get into heaven?” and he will quickly answer, “Be good.”

A Sunday school teacher had been teaching his 7th graders for several weeks about receiving the free gift of God’s grace. “If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale and gave all my money to the church, would that get me into Heaven?”
“NO!” the children all answered.
“Okay, if I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into Heaven?”
Again, the answer was a resounding, “NO!”
“Well, then, if I was kind to animals and gave candy to all the children, and loved my wife, would that get me into Heaven?”
Again, they all answered, “NO!”
“Well, then he continued, “Then how can I get into Heaven?”
And little Larry shouted out, “YOU GOTTA BE DEAD!”

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The Father’s Extravagant Love

Philippians 2:6-11
Luke 15:11-24

Because it is often easy to get lost in the forest for the trees, I’d like for us to take a step back and take a gander at the big picture.

In Luke 15, Jesus weaves together these three splendid stories so that His listeners will be enabled to comprehend something about who His Father is and what He is like. In contrast to the thinking of the day held by the religious teachers, that certain people (the poor, lepers, women, tax collectors, gentiles, sinners) did not matter to God; and therefore, were to be shunned; Jesus paints a picture, especially in the story of the prodigal son, of a God that is always seeking, constantly searching for ALL lost souls and is filled with great joy when those lost souls allow themselves to be found.

Last week, the focus was on the prodigal son; especially as it concerned him coming to his senses and then making a decision to return to his father’s home. And I posed the thought-provoking question, Is it possible that some of us might be living between coming to our senses and coming home? And I encouraged all of us to consider making a decision to come home.

Today, I want to explore the actions of the father of the prodigal.

But before I read the story of the prodigal son, I would like to do some Bible Study with you aided by Professor of Theology, Kenneth Bailey, who for over 20 years of lived and taught throughout the middle-east. Bailey penned four books on Luke 15, including this one, Jacob and the Prodigal.

Bailey notes that we often think of this parable solely in terms of featuring three people; the father, the son and the older brother who appears at the end of the scene. However, reading between the lines affirms what Bible scholars know, that the stories Jesus tells are about people living in community.

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Decisions, Decisions

Luke 15:11-20a

One day, after a man had his annual physical, the doctor came out and said, “You had a great checkup; is there anything that you’d like to discuss?”
“Well,” he said, “I’m trying to decide whether or not to have a vasectomy.”
“That’s a pretty big decision; have you talked it over with your family?”
“Yeah . . . and they’re in favor 15 to 2.”

How many of you would be willing to admit that you do not like to make decisions? That having to make decisions is stressful? That you are sometimes afraid to make decisions because you think you will make the wrong decision? That you sometimes procrastinate when it comes to making decisions? That you OFTEN procrastinate when it comes to making decisions?!

In his book, The Traveler’s Gift, author/motivational speaker Andy Andrews writes: “When faced with the opportunity to make a decision, I will make one. I understand that God did not put in me the ability to always make right decisions. He did, however, put in me the ability to make a decision and then make it right.” 1

I bring this up because I want us to think for a few moments about the decision that the prodigal son made to return to his father after he came to his senses.

After he came to his senses, the decision he made was not an easy decision to make.

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Outhouse Rescue!

Psalm 40:1-5
Luke 15:11-24
Romans 3:20-25a

October 1993, Gatlinburg, Tennessee; three construction workers and their boss are in a bar after work discussing bad odors. You know the ones: rotten eggs, skunk scent, what’s your favorite? And the boss says, “The worse odor has got to be an outhouse.”

He was so convinced he was right that offered $1,000 to anyone who would spend an entire night in an outhouse. How many of you would have done it? By the way, did I mention that in order to collect the money you would have to spend the entire night lowered into the pit of the outhouse? Now how many of you would have done it?

One of those construction workers said that he would gladly dive head-first into that stuff for the $1,000. But the boss said that wouldn’t be necessary. And so it was that at sundown October 16, 1993, his two co-workers and his boss lowered their adventurous friend into the slimy, smelly, stench of a well-used outhouse. After about two hours, in which he said he was tempted to toss his cookies many times, the guy said, “The smell sort of grew on him.”

Sunrise the next morning, the same three who took turns staying awake all night to ensure that the prisoner remained such, threw their perfumed buddy a rope and hauled him out. As the boss handed over a check, he noted his employee just couldn’t wipe the smile off his face.

What’s a story like that got to do with anything? Hang on; you’re about to find out.

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You Matter to God

Luke 7:36-50
Luke 15:1-3, 8

Do you remember the Beatles?

Most of us thought John Lennon had it all; fame, money, girls! We thought he lived a charmed life; a kid from the hicks, Liverpool, nothing good ever came out of Liverpool, makes it big. He lives a glamorous life; instantly recognized all over the world.

And yet despite his fortune and fame, he could describe himself as a Nowhere Man. He had been under pressure to write another hit song. Spent 5 hours late one night trying to come up with something but nothing came. And he began to think, I’m a nobody, a nowhere man, my whole life has been tied up with music but now I can’t think of a thing to write about. “I thought of myself sitting there, doing nothing and getting nowhere.” 1

Lennon’s explanation places the song in a category of his other self-deprecating songs: I’m Down, I’m a Loser, I’m Only Sleeping, I’m So Tired, I’ll Cry Instead.

It’s surprising to many that when John Lennon thought about himself, he often concluded that he didn’t matter. Why? Because he didn’t matter to his father who left him when John was 8 years old. He didn’t matter to his mother Julia, who didn’t want to be a mother and so handed John over to her sister Mimi to raise.

The resultant pain was expressed in Lennon’s song, Mother, which contains the words, Mama you had me, but I didn’t have you, Father you left me, but I didn’t leave you; and a five-time repeated phrase at the end of the song that grows in painful intensity: mama don’t go, daddy come home. 2

He’s a real nowhere man, sitting in his nowhere land, making all his nowhere plans for nobody. Doesn’t have a point of view, knows not where he’s going to, isn’t he a bit like you and me? 3

Isn’t he a bit like you and me?

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