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

Avoiding Future Regret; Take II

Psalm 32:1-5
John 13:1-11
I John 1:1-2:2

Two weeks ago, we noted that the definition of regret is “being sad, repentant, remorseful or disappointed about past decisions or missed opportunities.” We acknowledged therefore that ‘regret’ interferes with our being happier than we might otherwise be because we can’t be happy and at the same time sad, repentant, remorseful or disappointed.

We noted that the Apostle Paul had regrets but in Philippians, he wrote: “but I focus on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead” (3:14).

We considered some action steps we could take in order to do just that: If you missed that day or would be interested in reviewing, read it here.

Last week, we considered four things we could do in the present to avoid future regret:

Turn mistakes into stepping stones.
Let go of perfectionistic tendencies.
Don’t bring your work home with you.
Strive to live out the fruit of the Spirit.

Review that message here.

Today, I want to continue last week’s theme by giving you steps 5, 6 and 7 to take today
in order to avoid regret in the future. + Read More

Avoiding Future Regret

Galatians 5:22-23

Speaking about regret. . .

A woman awoke during the night to find that her husband was not in bed. She put on her robe and found him sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee. He appeared to be in deep thought, just staring at the wall. She saw him wipe a tear from his eye and take a sip of his coffee. “What’s the matter dear?” she asked.

“Do you remember twenty years ago when we were dating at the age 16?”

“Yes, honey, I do,” she replied.

“Do you remember when your father caught us kissing in your basement?”

“Yes, I remember that like it was yesterday,” she blushes.

“Do you remember when he shoved that shotgun in my face and said, ‘Either you marry my daughter or spend twenty years in jail?’”

“Yea, I remember that too, what are you getting at?” she said.

He wiped another tear from his cheek and said, “You know, I would have gotten out today.”

Last week, we reminded ourselves that regrets cause us to be unhappy. I talked about some action steps we could take in order to deal with past regrets. I also told you that today I would spend some time talking about what we can do in the present to avoid piling up regret in the future.

If you google this subject, you will see that there are many articles that have been written on this subject from different perspectives offering advice that is beyond the scope of our time today and covering things that are beyond the realm of my expertise. Many of them come from the Self-Help/Psychology ilk and offer such advice as Follow Your Dream, Trust Your Gut, Take Risks, Take Life Less Seriously, Be Yourself in order to avoid future regret. And while all of these have merit, and a Christian connection, I need to stick to the kind of advice that comes from a Biblical perspective. I offer four Biblical prescriptions that will help us avoid regret down the road. + Read More

Let it Go

Philippians 3:1-14
Have you ever found yourself wishing you had done things differently in the past? Ever been tempted to think if only I had done this or that my life would have turned out better?

My guess is all of us can sing right along with Frank Sinatra the first line of the second verse of his classic I Did It My Way: ‘Regrets, I’ve had a few.’ And all of us I am sure are envious of the next line: ‘But then again, too few to mention.’

Because the truth is that most of us have more than a few things we regret.

Bonnie Ware, a palliative care nurse, and author of The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, describes the following regrets as being in common among her patients:

“I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
“I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”
“I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”
“I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”
“I wish that I had let myself be happier.”

A regret is defined as when we feel sad, repentant, remorseful or disappointed because of something that we have done, or something we haven’t done or a loss or missed opportunity.

Regret interferes with our happiness because we can’t be happy and sad, repentant, remorseful or disappointed at the same time.

John Greenleaf Whittier expressed the concept of regret poetically:

“Of all sad words of tongue or pen,
the saddest are, ‘It might have been.’” 1

Do you think we are the only people of God who have regrets? + Read More

Waiting on the Lord

Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11, 26-31

I hope and pray that all of us have a wonderful, glorious, healthy, and prosperous and happy new year. But the truth is none of us knows what lies ahead.

For sure this year will bring the kind of bittersweet mixture Solomon wrote about in his oft-quoted passage in Ecclesiastes 3: (selected)

There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven:
A time to be born and a time to die; a time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance; a time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.

My goal as your pastor and friend is to spiritually prepare you for whatever your future may hold in 2018. I want to help you be enabled to face whatever is facing you with the steadfastness that comes from faith and assurance that comes from God.

To assist us in this regard I turn to the words of Isaiah the prophet, who ministered in the 6th century BC.

The Israelites started out the year 587 BC just like you and I do; with high hopes for a prosperous and happy new year. Little did they know that God would allow their land to be invaded by foreigners, that the city of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple would be destroyed, that many would be killed and that many more would be taken into captivity.

That event that we call ‘The Exile’ created a theological crisis. If God lived in the Temple, and the Temple was destroyed, what does that say about God? Where was God when the Babylonians attacked? More to the point, ‘Where is He now?’ these captives wanted to know.

The questions they were asking are sometimes our questions. And the questions boil down to one: “Can we trust that God is for us?” + Read More

CrossPointe 2018

Acts 6:1-7

I read Acts 6:1-7 on this first Sunday of the New Year because it emphasizes an important truth for our church to consider as we begin another year of ministry.

It didn’t take long for the mother church in Jerusalem to develop a problem. And the problem was that there were more things going on in the life of the church than the twelve could handle by themselves. Credit the twelve with addressing the problem by turning it into an opportunity.

We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word” (Acts 6:2b-4).

And they chose the first ‘deacons; ’called that because a derivative of the Greek ‘diakonos’ appears three times in this passage. A ‘diakonos’ is one who ‘serves’ or ‘ministers.’

And that’s exactly what these men did, they took on the responsibility of serving; that is, ministering the program of food distribution, making sure that no one was left out. Now heading up the food program wasn’t necessarily a glamorous or glitzy job, but it was an important one. Important enough to have several individuals working together to pull it off.

The dynamic of deacons in Acts 6 is as relevant today as it was then. We are a busy church; one that is passionately interested in accomplishing our mission to minister to one another, as well as our community. And it is obviously apparent that Gail and I are incapable of carrying out all that we feel God is calling us to do. And therefore this passage serves as a timely reminder that all of us are called to, and given the privilege of being deacons that is servants of Christ who gladly give of our time and energy to accomplish CrossPointe’s mission and ministry. + Read More

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