Sermons

To Forgive or Not

Luke 17:3-4
Colossians 3:12-17

A long time ago, in a land far, far away; two loving grandparents used to stop and pick up 3 brothers and 2 of their cousins on their way to Sunday School. On the way, my cousin Rick began to argue with my brother Tom about something. And as we were getting out of the car, Rick tried to shut the door on Tom. As we all came into the room, the argument was still in full force and teacher must have thought to herself, what a wonderful opportunity to teach the class about forgiveness. So she called those two whipper-snappers up to the front of the room and in fine detective fashion determined the cause of the squabble. Then she asked the all-important question: “Tommy, will you forgive Ricky?”
“Sure,” Tom replied, and then hauled off and slugged Rick in the stomach.
“Wait a minute,” she yelled, “I asked you to forgive him, not hit him.”
“I will forgive him,” Tom protested, “but I had to get even with him first.”

Even though his logic was a little askew, at least Tom was willing to forgive. That may be more than the typical Sunday School student or even many devout Christians are willing to do. George Barna’s latest poll indicates that 40% of Christians admit they are currently struggling with forgiving someone who has wronged them.

Take Jim Rogers of Seattle, Washington, for example; a devout Christian who claims to understand what the Bible says about this subject. “Christ taught us that it’s something we Christians should be willing to do,” he said, “if the person who did you wrong is asking you to forgive him, then it is our clear obligation to do so.” But he has trouble with offering carte blanche forgiveness when that other person refuses to repent and ask for forgiveness. We can sympathize with his feelings: In 2002, his daughter, Jill, was killed in an armed robbery. And his son, Keith was killed two years later by a drunk driver. Neither of the killers has repented of their actions, so Rogers feels no obligation to forgive. “Don’t come asking me to forgive the people who killed my kids.”

Should Jim Rogers forgive the men who killed his two children, even though they show no signs of remorse?

Should we withhold forgiveness until the party who wronged us shows some kind of repentance or remorse or at least asks to be forgiven? + Read More

Hope Resurrected

Luke 24:13-35
I Corinthians 15:1-7

Did you hear the story about a little boy who came home from school to find his pet German Shepard, Rex, with the neighbor’s dead pet rabbit in his mouth? Now, this German Shepard already had a bad rep in the neighborhood. So the ingenious young man, not wanting anything bad to happen to his dog, buried the rabbit in a nearby field. Then he went to the local Pet Store and purchased a similar looking rabbit and carefully placed it back in the neighbor’s rabbit cage. Later that evening as his family was eating dinner, there was a knock on the door. Guess what; it was the neighbor holding the alive and well rabbit exclaiming, “It’s a miracle! This rabbit died three days ago and we buried it the backyard!”

I have a better resurrection saga to tell than that: Luke 24:13-35.

First of all, this story reminds us of the hopelessness of life with Christ.

Verse 21 says, “We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel.”

Perhaps the saddest words in the Bible, “We had hoped.”

The crucifixion had completely dashed the hopes of these disciples. They had followed Christ because they honestly believed that He was who He claimed to be; the Son of God. Just a few days before, they had heard Him say to two broken-hearted sisters, “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me will not really die,” and to prove it they saw Him raise His friend Lazarus. But when they saw Him die, their hope for a Messiah died with Him.

Someone said, “Perhaps the saddest death of all is the death of hope.”

In a powerful article that appeared last August in Psychology Today, titled Dying of Despair, psychiatrist Aaron Kheriaty observes the startling rise in deaths from suicide and drug overdoses over the last ten years. He points to a number of long-term studies that have analyzed the difference between high-risk patients who survive and those who die by suicide. Here’s his conclusion of this research:

Over a ten-year span, it turns out that the one factor most strongly predictive of suicide is not how sick the person is, nor how many symptoms he exhibits, nor how much physical pain he is suffering, nor whether he is rich or poor. The most dangerous factor is a person’s sense of hopelessness. The man without hope is the likeliest candidate for suicide… We cannot live without hope.” 1

Later in the article, the author attributes the waning of hope in America to the decline in the practice of religion.

Our world is filled with so many who have no hope for a preferred future. They are represented by the average Joes who say something like, “I get up in the morning, stop for a donut on the way to work, and for a couple of beers after, then go home for dinner, play with the kids, watch a little TV, go to bed and start the whole thing over again the next day. Is this all there is?”

Perhaps the saddest death of all is the death of hope.

These two on the road to Emmaus had high hopes, but now the flame of hope was all but extinguished. + Read More

Forgiven Forgive

Matthew 18:21-35
Luke 23:32-38

Winston Churchill and Lady Astor were not great admirers of one another. She once remarked to Churchill at a party, “Sir, if I were your husband I would put poison in your tea.” To which he replied, “Madam, if you were my wife, I would drink it.” Publically humiliated for the last time, Lady Astor vowed she would never forgive.

The issue of forgiveness touches us almost every day because we are Christians. And because we are, we value the ideal of forgiveness. We believe in the value of living by the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” (Matthew 7:12). Because we would have others forgive us when we wrong them, we know we should extend the same courtesy to people who wrong us.

But as C. S. Lewis notes: “Forgiveness is a beautiful word, until you have someone to forgive.” 1

It’s not natural for us to forgive because our sinful nature rears its ugly head. Our pride would have us retaliate or at minimum hold on to the desire to pay back the person who did us wrong. Our sinful nature longs for the day to see the other person suffer and even anticipate saying, “You got what you deserve,” and “What goes around, comes around, pal.” Our self-centered sinful nature tempts us to make assumptions about the internal character of the person who wronged us: that person who hurt me is forgetful or careless or doesn’t appreciate me or they hurt me on purpose.

Forgiving someone who wronged us can often be most difficult, but the alternative can be unbearable.

Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart. (Matthew 18:34-35, NLT)

In commenting on these verses, pastor and author, Ray Stedman, writes:

This is a marvelously expressive phrase to describe what happens to us when we do not forgive another. It is an accurate description of gnawing resentment and bitterness, the awful gall of hate or envy. It is a terrible feeling. We cannot get away from it. We feel strongly this separation from another and every time we think of them we feel within the acid of resentment and hate eating away at our peace and calmness. This is the torturing that our Lord says will take place. 2

Because un-forgiveness is so detrimental to our well-being, we must learn to forgive. + Read More

When God Seems Silent

Psalm 22:1-8; 23:1-6

“My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1).

Most of us know that the Psalmist wasn’t the only one to utter those despairing words. Most of us know that as He hung upon the cross, Jesus quoted Psalm 22 when he too cried out, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1a)

To be sure, Psalm 22 is a Messianic Psalm. We refer to it as such because it vividly pictures the passion of the Christ:

Do not stay so far from me, for trouble is near, and no one else can help me. My enemies surround me like a herd of bulls; fierce bulls of Bashan have hemmed me in! Like lions, they open their jaws against me, roaring and tearing into their prey. My life is poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, melting within me. My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead. My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs; an evil gang closes in on me. They have pierced[a] my hands and feet. I can count all my bones. My enemies stare at me and gloat. They divide my garments among themselves and throw dice[b] for my clothing. (vs. 11-18).

Psalm 22 not only reminds us of the terrible price Jesus paid upon the cross, but also that in the midst of the crisis God seemed to be silent. “Why are you so far away when I groan for help?” (Psalm 22:1b).

Sound familiar? All of us have experienced those times when we have cried and cried out to God to answer a certain prayer and it seems like our prayer just bounces off the ceiling. 

And we wonder why do I find it so difficult to hear You? Is there something wrong with me? Am I doing something wrong? Or is that You can’t hear . . . or worse don’t even really care? Sometimes the silence is deafening. + Read More

Guest Speaker: James Brandenburg – Meet You at the Cross

Col 1:13-22

A troubled and burdened man prayed and prayed that God would lift his burden. Day after day he prayed that his life would be easier and he begged for God’s intervention.

One day, Jesus came to the man and asked, “My child, what troubles you?” The man replied that his life was full of turmoil and that it had become too much to bear. He again asked for help stating that he just couldn’t continue to go on.

Jesus, feeling the man’s anguish, decided help was in order. The man was so happy that his prayers were about to be answered, that his burden already felt lighter.

Jesus took the man to a room and stopped in front of the door. When he opened the door, what the man saw was amazing. The room was filled with crosses; little crosses, big crosses, giant crosses. The man, bewildered, looked at Jesus and asked how this would help him. Jesus explained that each cross represented a burden that people carry; small burdens, big burdens, giant burdens — and every burden in between.

At this point, Jesus offered the man the opportunity to choose his burden. The man, so excited that he was finally able to have some control over his life, looked around the room for just the right cross. He saw a tiny little cross way back in the corner. It was the smallest cross in the room. After a bit of thought, he pointed to the cross and said, “That one, Lord. I want that one.” Jesus asked, “Are you sure, my son?” The man quickly replied, “Oh, yes Lord. Most definitely, yes.”

Jesus turned to the man and replied, “My child, you have chosen your own cross. It is the burden you already carry.”

The burden of sin is one we all carry.

God has given each of us talents and life experiences that follow His plan. Each of us has something different and unique to offer the world. Everything we experience in life guides us to the place God has chosen for us. He works through us . . . if we allow Him.

He needs each and every one of us for the work that He needs to be done in the world. There’s so much to do, and we all have our part in it!

Listening to testimony is one of the most powerful experiences that I have witnessed. Each one of us has a story. Where we began, where we are, and where we hope to be. Looking back at my beginning, I can say that the love that I’ve experienced from God and His forgiveness is what puts me here in front of you this morning. + Read More

Lavished

Luke 22:14-20
Ephesians 1:1-8a

R. R. Donnelley used to be the nations’ largest printer of magazines. Several years ago they mistakenly sent a rancher in Powder Bluff, Colorado 9,734 notices that his subscription to National Geographic had expired. So he sent back the money and wrote, “Send me the magazine, I give up.’ 1

That’s how God brings many persons to salvation. He hits them with the message so many times they finally give up. Perhaps as we hear about grace again, someone today will give up.

“He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins. He has showered His kindness on us” (Ephesians 1:7-8a NLT)

This is one of my favorite verses, but I like it better rendered by the NASB: “In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us” (Ephesians 1:7-8a).

When was the last time you were lavished? Merriman’s Online Dictionary defines lavish as: ‘bestow something in generous or extravagant quantities upon.’ 2 As in; “That rancher was lavished with expiration notices.” Or, “They lavished their children with many gifts at Christmas.”

That English definition is pretty close to the Greek: The online Expositor’s Greek Testament defines it as “furnishing richly so that there is not only enough but much more.” 3 Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of New Testament Words has “to be present over abundantly or to excess to make over-rich, to provide superabundantly.” 4

Paul says we have been ‘lavished’ with the riches of His grace. What does he mean? + Read More

God’s Great Grace Gospel

Genesis 1:1-Revelation 22:21

A boy watched as the pastor took off his watch and set it on the pulpit in front of him.
“What does that mean?” he asked his mother.
“Absolutely nothing,” she answered.

That little ditty serves as a warning that I intend on preaching through the entire Bible from the first verse of the Bible in Genesis through the last verses in the book Revelation. For the two most important verses in the Bible are the first verse and the last verse. Everything sandwiched between those two verses explain the first verse and the last verse. You get the first verse and the last verse and you’ve got it all!

And who can recite for us the first verse of the Bible? “In the beginning God.” And the last? “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1); the stars, the planets, this planet, the oceans, the fishes, the animals, women and men and everything that men and women can hear, see, smell, taste, and touch.

But this morning, I’m talking about something else He created that cannot be discerned with the five senses. “In the beginning, God created,” that is, He placed within the man and the woman an instinctive seed of belief in Himself.

Travel to the far reaches of this planet, to any time period that you wish to research and you will discover every society, every culture, every civilization worshipping that which they believe is God.

I’ve heard people say they were atheists, but I don’t believe there’s any such thing. I believe people like to proclaim themselves atheists so they can get away with any kind of behavior without feeling guilty.

In my days at Ohio State, I took a philosophy class with a professor who was at that time the editor of and still writes for American Atheist Magazine. I couldn’t understand why he spends so much time and energy thinking about, talking about, and writing about something he doesn’t believe in. One day he came to class and told us that as he sat down to dinner with his wife and 10-year-old son, his boy asks, “Dad, do you think God knows we don’t believe in Him?” + Read More

Wrath and Grace

Psalm 19:1-4
Romans 1:18-25; 3:9-25a

I am holding in my hand (dad’s wooden paddle) the instrument of my father’s wrath! It is as you can see his fraternity pledge paddle.

During that process, he was probably hit with it more than I ever was (ha!) In fact, my father only took his wrath on me with this paddle two times. On one of those occasions, I don’t recall what I did to deserve it. But the other one is very clear in my mind.

Last Sunday, I mentioned that my two brothers and I were known in our neighborhood as the Katzenjammer Kids; the kids that were always at heart of the trouble. One day, my cousin Mark, Tom and I were in the weed field behind my uncle’s house, which was right across Herbert Street from our house. Tom took out a box of matches and said, “Look what I have.”
I said, “I dare you to light the weeds on fire.”
Tom lit a match, dropped it on the ground and some of the dry weeds immediately caught fire, but Tom quickly stomped the little fire out.
“I bet you can’t do that again,” I said, as I winked at my cousin Mark.
Tom lit a second match, dropped the match into the weeds, the weeds caught fire, but just when my brother raised his foot to stomp out the fire, Mark and I grabbed him and held him back. The fire quickly spread.

+ Read More

Fears Relieved

Mark 4:35-41

Speaking of fears, my two younger brothers and I were exceptionally mischievous.

We were always getting into trouble and our parents knew that if any mischief occurred in our neighborhood the Katzenjammer Kids were always involved. When my mother heard that the new pastor at the Christian Church had a gift of putting boys on the right track she took us to see him. The clergyman took my youngest brother, Steve, into his office, while Tom and I waited with mom. Rev. Pugh, a rather rotund fellow with a deep booming voice that we could hear through the closed door, asked Steve sternly, “Where is God?”

We knew Steve didn’t have a clue about where God was because the Rev. in an even sterner tone, repeated, “I said, where is God!!?” Steve bolted from the room in fear and as he ran past us, said, “We’re in really big trouble this time; God is missing and he thinks we did it!”

Of course, it was our parents’ fault.

One of the decisions they made that probably wasn’t too well thought out was to allow us to watch the 1951 movie, “The Thing from Another World,” on television. That was the movie that gave James Arness, alias Matt Dillion of GunSmoke fame, his big break. “The Thing” was about a group of scientists stationed in the Arctic Circle who discover a 100-foot wide flying saucer buried under the ice. Of course, they dig it up and discover the frozen body of The Thing, who accidentally thaws allowing him to wreak terror on their little compound. At the climax of the movie, they first try to burn him. That doesn’t work, so then they decide to electrocute him as he enters a hallway, and that does The Thing from Another World in.

To add insult to injury, after the movie, we were tiptoeing down the hallway toward our bedroom when dad suddenly jumped out from behind his door making the same alien noises and gestures that had just scared us to death. We were so utterly afraid we begged to sleep with mom and dad that night. + Read More

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