Monday, August 26, 2013

Unacceptable Worship

If your car starts once every three tries, is it reliable? If the postman skipped delivery every Monday and Thursday, is he trustworthy? If you don’t go to work once or twice a month, are you a reliable employee? If your fridge stops working for a day or two every now and then, do you say, “Oh well, it work most of the time.”? If your water heater provides an icy cold shower every now and then, is it dependable? If you skipped a couple of electricity bill payments do you think Western Power would mind? If you fail to worship God as He desires, would you expect to be called a faithful Christian?

We expect loyalty and reliability from things and other people; isn't it reasonable then that God just might expect the same from us?
God is passionate for us to have passion for Him.   Jesus as He spoke to the woman at the well in John 4:23-24 said, “But an hour is coming and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.  God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”  

Do we offer God worship that is acceptable and pleasing or unacceptable worship?  Worship of false gods, worship of God that is created to suit our desires, worship of God that is self-styled or worship of God that is done with a wrong attitude of the heart are all forms of UNACCEPTABLE WORSHIP.  Why then do we continue to worship in this way?  Is this Biblical worship?4

No matter how pure our motivation, how sincere we are in our attempt, God cannot and will not bless unacceptable worship.  Instead we receive the same indictment the Israelite received from God in Isaiah 1, 
“What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?  I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats.  When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you this trampling of My courts?  Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me.  New moon and Sabbath  the calling of assemblies – I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.  I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feast, they have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them.  So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen.”
 True worship is based in redemption; God’s redemption of you.  True Worship is not about you, it is about God.  You have been created to worship Him, redeemed to worship Him, called to worship Him… will you surrender yourself to worship Him?

For the full message shared on 08-25-13 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:
Lifestyle Worship Part 2

Monday, August 19, 2013

What is Biblical Worship and are we doing it?

Over this past week I had the privilege of leading a conference on worship up at the Family Retreat.  As I prepared I received a stronger and stronger prompting to bring this subject to the attention of our congregational body. 

I’m not sure of the history here in this church, but a decade or two ago there were the worship wars.  The worship wars focused mainly on the various styles of music that dominate the service,  Some churches proudly stated that they held to a traditional view of worship which meant they sang only hymns.  Other churches boasted of their contemporary worship meaning they sang praise choruses.  Others (like our church) have settled in the middle blending hymns and choruses.

Worship is not based on what or how we sing.  It actually has little to do with us; worship is to be focused on the object being worshiped.  However, when our worship gets skewed, we must ask, is it because we have diverted from the worship of the One who deserves our worship.

As I prepared, I kept being drawn back to something Jesus said to the woman at the well, in John 4, beginning in vs. 21: “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

I bring this topic before you because I believe many churches and many believers have lost the true meaning of worship.  “The true calling of a Christian is to live in the ordinary but realize that through lifestyle worship life becomes extraordinary.” ~ David Adams

Are we worshiping God biblically?  

For the full message shared on 08-18-13 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:

Monday, July 1, 2013

Living by Faith

This past Sunday our youth ran the service.  They played and sang leading our corporate song service and Chad Dillard, our Youth & Children's Intern, brought the message.  They all did a great job and I am looking forward to the next opportunity to let them shine for Jesus.

 It's hard to live by faith.  We each want certainty in our lives, but faith requires us to believe in that which we are not certain of; or does it?  Faith is not placing our hope in uncertain circumstances, but in the God who controls all things.

Faith, as defined in Hebrews 11:1 is: "...the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen."

God, the unseen Creator of all things, the Sustainer of all things, the Sovereign over all things, is the One in whom we are to place our trust.

Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us to "Trust in the Lord with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path."

He will direct your path... Sounds like our faith needs to be acted upon.  In fact, James tells us just that; "Faith without works is dead." (2:17).  The Israelite saw the truth when they chose not to act on their faith in God, but rather refused to enter into the land of Canaan.  God then sent them on a walk in the wilderness for forty years.

God wants you and I to walk with Him; if we don't He may send us walking.  Are you willing to live by faith and walk with Him?

For the full message shared on 06-30-13 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:
(Coming Soon)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Global Gathering

A few weeks ago I had the privilege to attend the Church of God Global Gathering in Anderson, IN.  I took my family with the intent to have a brief vacation, since our last vacation was a whirlwind of activity surrounding my daughter's wedding; but to my surprise we were constantly going from one activity to the next.

Now, don't get me wrong.  The experience was fantastic, but exhausting.  I needed to come home, just to get some rest.

Global Gathering consisted of 63+ countries being represented, and speakers from a variety of backgrounds presenting messages focusing on the church "Standing Together".

Basically it was a call to unity.  Below I have provided links to the archived videos.

Archived Messages

Monday, June 10, 2013

Unity of the Body: Walking Worthy of the Call

EPHESIANS 4:1-6
Therefore as a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.



For the full message shared on 06-09-13 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:
Walk Worthy of the Call

Monday, June 3, 2013

Choose to Serve the Lord

I wish to thank my good friend Osmar Aguilar for filling in for me while I was away attending my daughter's wedding.

Osmar is the Executive Director of YFC (Youth for Christ) in SE Wisconsin.  I have had the opportunity to experience his passion for seeing Christ glorified in the ministry of reaching teens for Christ.  As he came to FCOG-Racine, he challenged us to "Choose to Serve the Lord."


For the full message shared on 06-02-13 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:
Choose to Serve the Lord

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Consequences of Secret Sin

You know what I'm talking about...  those SECRET SINS.  The sins that we want to keep hidden in the closet where nobody looks.  Those sins that we try to dismiss, but when we are alone or outside of the "Christian scene" they rear their ugly heads.  Those sins.

Shhhh!  We don't want to talk about those sins.

What tends to happen is these secret sins have public consequences.  Scripture provides example after example of the consequences of secret sin.  

Adam and Eve tried to hide their sin from God – ultimately they were cast out of the Garden.  Cain denied killing his brother Able and was cursed and forced to wander the rest of his life.  Ananias and Sapphira tried to hide their sin and each died as a result.  Each of these examples reveals the personal consequences of secret sin, but the lives of two other biblical characters, Achan & David, discloses the fact that the consequences of secret sin are born by the corporate body, not just the individual.

{Read Joshua 7 for more information on Achan &  2 Samuel 11 & 12 for more information on David.}

There are three truths we need to understand regarding sin:
1. Sin will always take you further than you wanted to go...

2. Sin will always keep you longer than you wanted to stay...

3. Sin will always cost you more than you wanted to pay.

For the full message shared on 05-26-13 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:
The Consequences of Secret Sin

Monday, May 20, 2013

Sin = Missing the Mark

Human history empirically validates the fact of original sin, but this doctrine has fallen on hard times lately.

People would rather believe that insanity drives the behavior of those who would massacre people who would do them no harm.  Or that the rights of individuals to do what they want with their bodies justifies providing the service of killing the defenseless baby in the womb.  Or that the violence and unruly actions of our youth is just a product of our society.

The truth is these and more are SIN and are an abomination before God.

But whatever became of sin?  It is a word that we rarely hear these days.  Karl Messinger asked this question in his book of the same title:

“[Sin] was once a word on everyone’s mind, but now rarely if ever heard. Does that mean that no sin involved in all our troubles - sin with an “I” in the middle? Is no one any longer guilty of any thing? Guilty perhaps of a sin that could be repented and repaired and atoned for?... Anxiety and depression we all acknowledge, and even vague guilt feelings; but has no one committed any sins? Where, indeed, did sin go? What became of it?” 

Romans 3:23 expresses the severity of our dilemma... "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."  Sin is a problem we each face; it is a issue of the will and desire.  We are known by our actions, and defined by our nature.  Jesus taught that people do sinful things because they are tainted.  

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.   All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”  Mark 7:21-23


R.C. Sproul put it this way: “We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners.” 

The heart or mind of a person is already polluted with something that is opposed to the authority of God or the idea of surrender - something that sets itself up against the life of purity and discipline. This what the Apostle Paul meant when he said, 

“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” Romans 8:5

Dogs bark. Birds fly. Bees sting. Sinners sin. Each one is done for the same reason: it is their nature to do so.

When the will is changed; however, the power of sin is broken.  This is the miracle of conversion.  To find a change, true repentance must take place.

For the full message shared on 05-19-13 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:
Sin = Missing the Mark  

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mother's Day Gifts

Mothers, we know that you have a twenty-four-hour-a-day job, one which demands not only all your time, but also all of your attention and energy. Because of that realization, we salute you today, in the fashion that we should honor you every day - for all you do for us and for all you give to your family.

We give all sorts of gifts which range from the extravagant to the simple, from store-bought to the homemade, from fancy flowers to fattening foods. We should shower Mother with gifts, for indeed she needs to be reminded of our love and gratitude for all she has done. My chief concern is that this gift-giving not be relegated to just one day a year. We should give to Mother each day. 

I want to suggest several gifts of a non-materialistic, noncommercial nature, which are necessary in the Christian family and should be given each day.


Children - these are two gifts you should offer your mother every day.

HonorA child's life-style reflects on his parents. Children, if you want to give honor to your mother, then live an honorable life. When you're out with your friends, having the time of your life, far from your parents' eyes, ask yourself, "Would my mother be proud of what I am doing? Are my actions honoring her?" The way you go about your school work, the way you conduct yourself in your profession, how faithfully you exercise your spiritual life - all those things can bring honor or shame to your parents.


ObedienceAs long as you live in the household of your parents, you have an obligation to obey them - provided they don't demand that you act contrary to God's word and will. For the Bible says in Ephesians 6:11 (and Colossians 3:20), "Children, it is your Christian duty to obey your parents, for that is the right thing to do."  I realize that there are times when you think that your mother knows absolutely nothing about the way life is in the twenty-first century. I am aware that there are many times you think you know what is best for you, much more than your mom does. But let me tell you something that may come as a surprise to you in your youth: Your mother is much wiser than you are. She has a wisdom that can only be gained through years of living.


Mothers - two gifts you can give to your family include...

An Exemplary LifeThe first gift you must present to your children is to be the kind of person you want them to be! You must give them a Christian example in what you say and do. Notice how a little girl mimics her mother. If Mom wears high heels, she will slip into them also. She will stand before the mirror and pretend to put on makeup. The child wants to be like Mother in every way.  For this reason, Mother, it is your sacred duty to live an exemplary life in word and deed. Mother, you are one of the most powerful influences on your child's life through your words and deeds. Are you giving them a Christian example? Do they see you pray and read the Scripture? Do they hear you witness to your love for Christ? Do they see you serve him in the way you live? If they do, your children will grow up to call you "blessed," as we read in Proverbs 31. 
Your TimeThe second thing you must give your child is your time! Each one of us knows how hectic life is these days. There are more demands on us and our time than ever before. And the sad result of all the time-consuming activity in our society is that we leave such precious little time for our children.

As Psalm 127 says, "Children are a gift from the Lord." They are a gift which must be nourished, cared for, trained, and disciplined. And that takes time - lots of time. Children must take priority over social engagements, clubs, adult activities, and in some cases, even work. Your children need you more than they need clothes. They need you more than they need a new bicycle or more toys. They need you - your time, your attention, and your affection - more than they need any other thing on earth.


For the full message shared on 05-12-13 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Lord's Prayer - Pt. 2 - It's All About God's Glory

Rick Warren said it well, "It's not about you."

Well, life is not about you.  Yes, I know, this world would have you buy into their philosophy that everything is about you, but they are sadly mistaken.

We are not here to gather all the toys we can, or amass great wealth.

IT'S ALL ABOUT GOD'S GLORY.

That's right, it's all about God.  "To God be the glory, great thing He hath done..."  But, what does this have to do with The Lord's Prayer?  I'm so glad you asked.

The Lord's Prayer or better yet our Lord's model by which He taught the disciples to pray could be divided into two parts: God's Glory and Man's Need.

This blog will address the first while Man's Need will follow (click here).

When instructing the disciples on how (not what) to pray, Jesus gave this example:
Our Father, who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.

This is just the first half of His model prayer, and if you notice it focuses on God, not us.

Our Father - this address denotes a relationship.  Prayer is communication with God, but is only possible when you have re-established the relationship through Jesus Christ that was severed by sin.  The designation of "Father" also calls our attention to His adoption of us as His children.  We now have access to a very personal God.

Hallowed - God is to be revered above all things.  He is holy, holy, holy.  This eternal, creator God is not a whimsical fantasy made up by man, but He is the self-existent Creator of the cosmos and the One whose image we bear.   

Your kingdom come - How often do you reflect on God's kingdom?  Do you desire God's kingdom here on earth?  Consider how the earth was at the time of Creation, before sin corrupted that which God declared good.  Consider how your life would change if God were to rule over you completely.  Consider how His kingdom would increase as you share the Gospel with everyone you meet.

Your will be done - What does that mean?  God's will be done...  God, do with me as You will.  God, use me in whatever way brings You the greatest glory.  Jesus would present Himself as an example of this in the Garden of Gethsemane as He prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me.  Yet, not as I will, but as You will." [Matthew 26:39].  

See, it's all about God's glory.  

For the full message shared on 05-05-13 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:


Monday, April 29, 2013

The Lord's Prayer - Pt.1


"Lord, Teach us to pray."


That was their request, "Teach us to pray."  Do we ask that of our Savior?  No, but perhaps we should.

Instead we go about the task of praying as if rubbing a bottle and expecting a genie to grant our every whim, or we view it as grueling and tiresome.  More of a requirement than the privilege it is.


Prayer is unfortunately an area where many believers are weak and in need of instruction.  "Lord, teach us to pray."

To my dismay, the model that Jesus used to 'teach' the disciples has become something it was not designed to become, but before we tackle that hurtle let us first heed the instructions of our Lord.

In Matthew 6:5-8, Jesus provides both negative and positive examples of prayer.  To address what NOT to do, He used the hypocrites (a term He often called the Pharisees), who desire "to be seen by others"  and the Gentiles, who use "meaningless babble" so that "they will be heard for their many words."

What's the problem?  Well, as I see it the issue Jesus was addressing was that of their hearts not focusing on the right thing when they pray.  You see, prayer (in its simplest definition) is communication with God.  It is to be for an audience of One - that being the Sovereign, Almighty, Creator God.  Anything that distracts us or seeks to reward us for our prayers actually robs God of the glory due His name.  The reward sought by these will be achieved, but at what cost?

What is the cost of self glorification?  I'm sure you could read pages of negative results from this behavior, but as I see it the ultimate cost is the personal relationship with the Father.  This behavior is driven by pride and pride is not conducive to a healthy relationship with God.  Pride is sin and sin is what separates us from the Father.  A healthy prayer life fosters communication with God and maturity in the life of the believer.

So, what positive examples did Jesus give?  First He instructs that prayer is a secret act.  This does not mean that prayer cannot be done in public, but rather that prayer begins in the heart.  No one knows your heart but the Father and He sees and rewards that which is done in secret.  Secondly, our prayers are not 'meaningless babble' but rather honest communication with God.  God knows what we need (even before the words touch our lips), our prayers express our faith that God will supply that which we need (not what we GREED).

How is your prayer life?  Could you use some instruction?  Let the Master teach you to pray.

For the full message shared on 04-28-13 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:
The LORD's Prayer - Pt.1

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Where is God?

Don't deny it.  You've asked that question before.  This past week many have had their faith shaken and have even come to the point of asking, "Where is God?"


We look around and see the tragedy of the bombings in Boston and ask, "Where is God?"  We reflect on the events of the past year in New Port or Aurora and wonder, "Where is God?"

Where is God when bad things happen to good people?  Where is God when our lives are shaken and our faith is tested?

Where is God?  He is where He has always been; right here, there, everywhere.  In Genesis we see that in the beginning there was God.  And it was God who created and formed the earth, the sky, and the seas.  It was God who placed the sun, moon, and stars in the sky.  It was this Creator God who formed the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and every animal that roams the earth.

Then, this awesome, powerful God made man in His image and formed woman out of man's rib.  He placed man in the Garden and gave him dominion over everything with one caveat - Don't eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  In an act of rebellion, Adam and Eve chose to listen to the serpent who deceived them with a lie.

Their rebellion, sin, forever created a chasm between God and man that man is unable to traverse.  So God, being great in mercy and full of compassion, sent His Son (Jesus Christ) to bridge the gap created by sin.  It is only through Jesus that we have opportunity have fellowship with the Father.

But where is God when things like the Boston bombing happen?  He is right there.  He has never left, but because of sin we simply don't see His presence.  But God is there.  Where ever suffering is, you can find God.  You see suffering has its purpose.  God uses suffering to bring Him glory, to correct sin, or to develop character in the lives of His children.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I don't understand why children die in despicable acts of violence; but through suffering I do know that God has His purpose and I do trust Him.

For the full message shared on 04-21-13 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:
Where is God

Monday, April 15, 2013

Brokenness


Over the years my wife and I have remodeled the homes we have lived in.  Now, if you have never undergone the process of a remodel there are a few things you need to know.

Remodeling can be disruptive.  There is the noise of cutting and hammering and removing the trash; but you also have to deal with all the dust that remodeling creates.

But in order for you to experience the transformation that occurs in a remodel, you must put up with the pain of tearing our the old.

This is exactly what God desires to do in the lives of every believer.  Brokenness is the key to achieving breakthroughs in our lives.  God wants to reveal His Son in our lives, but first He must remove everything that is in the way: our pride, independence, self-sufficiency, and sin.

Revealing these ingrained attributes that cause us to rebel against God is messy business.  But brokenness must come before we can experience a breakthrough.  Consider the picture of a wild horse.

While living in Montana, I was privileged to know a few cowboys who broke horses.  Now a wild horse doesn't mind when the cowboy provides food, water, and shelter, but once that cowboy tries to get on their back - watch out!  That horse will buck and kick, twist and turn; anything to get that cowboy off his back.

Isn't that what we do to God?  As He begins the remodel process, we balk.  Just like the wild stallion we say, "God you can bless me all you want.  Provide me with food, a job, a house, a family, etc... but don't get on my back.  Don't tell me how to live."

You see, the goal of the cowboy is to get the horse to submit to the directions of another.  In the wild, the horse is free to go where he wants, when he wants, and with whomever he wants.  Once it is broken, the strength of the horse is not changed; its muscles have not diminished, it hasn't lost its God given uniqueness or identity as a horse.  It's just a horse under the control of another.  Same is true with you and I.

God wants to break us in order to make us.  Paul says in 2 Cor. 1:8-9, "For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death”
 
Sometimes God will take us further than we can bear so that we can no longer trust ourselves, our resources,  our abilities.  He says, "I want you to trust Me."  Who are you trusting?  Maybe it's time for you to be broken.

For the full message shared on 04-14-13 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Living Sacrifice

Therefore...
Therefore...

THEREFORE

Whenever you come across this word in Scripture you need to stop and see what it is there for...

In Romans we find four instances of "Therefore..."

We have the therefore of Condemnation in 3:20 - "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin."

The therefore of justification in 5:1 - "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Then there is the therefore of assurance in 8:1- "Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

And finally, the therefore of surrender in Romans 12:1 - "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship."

Paul calls us to fully surrendered to God because of the "depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond finding out…for from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory! Amen.” Romans 11:33-36.

He gives three ways to fully surrender: 
Offering our body, Offering our mind, & Offering our will.

This reminds me of Christ's response to the Pharisees when asked what the greatest commandment is.  He said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your strength, and with all your soul."

ALL.  Are you ready to FULLY surrender to God?

For the full message shared on 04-07-13 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:
Living Sacrifice

Monday, April 1, 2013

End of the Walking Dead

Of all the topics I thought I'd never use from the pulpit (especially on Easter Sunday) zombie would likely top the list... but alas God had other plans.


  A man named Brown was hanged in Philadelphia some time ago. Ten minutes after he was legally dead he was resting on a table in the physiological laboratory. Around the table were three of the most famous physiologists of the scientific world. Could motion and life be restored to that inanimate body? Science waited anxiously for an answer to the question.

 A sharp wire, charged with electricity, was applied to the various nerve centers of the body and brain. A superstitious layman would have been horrified at the result. Brown raised first his right hand and then his left. His head moved. His mouth twitched in a convulsive grin. The cords of his neck swelled and the mouth opened as if he would complete his unfinished sentence on the scaffold. The hands drew up and then extended. Unceasingly the electric wire prodded center after center in the nervous organism. At a fresh touch from the plying needle the body sat upright. There seemed to be breath, for the respiratory organs were agitated. Would he walk? Would he talk?

Science was anxious; another stroke and it had found the secret of life. But placed on the floor, the body fell over limp—dead. Science had demonstrated wonders, but had failed to raise the dead.  As I thought about this idea, initially Frankenstein came to mind, then with all the hype surrounding the finale of The Walking Dead I thought of how our lives before Christ was much like that of a zombie.  Yes, you heard me right, here it is Easter morning and I’m talking about zombies from the pulpit.  But much like Mr. Brown or the zombies in The Waling Dead, every person born into life is dead.  Yes, I know that sounds absurd; but turn with me to Eph. 2:1-10 where we find the End of the Walking Dead.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.  Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. 

For the full message shared on 03-31-13 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:
End of the Walking Dead

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Forgiving Father

Stories capture our attention.  Look at how we spend hours upon hours in social media reading or enjoying the stories told regarding friends and family.  Before the days of MySpace, Facebook, and other medias people spoke face to face.

There were some that were talented storytellers.  A Great Storyteller did not just spin an interesting tale, but they engaged their audience in the story.  Every person sat on the edge of their seat waiting the next piece of the story.  The best Storytellers would create a story in which the audience could identify.

In Luke 15 we find just such a man, Jesus.  He had been telling parables to convey heavenly principles using earthly constrains.  One such story was that of the Prodigal Son.  The main theme of the story is "There is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents."  But an underlying counterpoint is also being made.

In this story the father represents God; the Prodigal represents defiant sinners, who eventually in humility come to the father seeking repentance and forgiveness; and the Eldest Son, who represents those seeking to earn their way to heaven through works and adherence to the Law.

The Father is confronted by his younger son who requests his inheritance before his time and then taking the money he leaves for a foreign land, only to loose it all, come to his senses and return home in hopes his father would forgive him and allow him to remain as a lowly servant.

The Father holds out that one day his wayward son would return and when he does the Father wastes no time in celebrating his return and offering complete forgiveness and restoration.

The response of the Elder son is the one that we often overlook.  His behavior seems justified and righteous, but when we look at it through the eyes of the storyteller a different picture tends to come into focus.  This son was consumed with anger, even hatred for his father for receiving his wayward brother back into the family so readily.

The Pharisees and scribes who were in Christ's audience would have identified with this brother.  They would have agreed that the Father was too free with his forgiveness and that atonement would need to be paid before forgiveness could be granted.  Jesus was again trying to express that atonement cannot be made by those tainted with sin; only the grace of the Father and the willing sacrifice of the Perfect Lamb can atone for our sin.

For the full message shared on 03-24-13 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:
A Forgiving Father

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Prodigal

The parable of the Prodigal has inspired many great works.  Charles Dickens described it as the greatest short story ever written.  William Shakespeare borrowed plot points adapting them in The Merchant of Venice and Henry IV.  Hank Williams even recorded "The Prodigal Son" telling the story of joy in coming home.

Throughout the parables in Luke 15, Jesus continually reaffirms the main point: There is Joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents.

In each of the parable in Luke 15 (The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, & The Prodigal (or Lost) Son) we see similar plots: Something is Lost, Active Searching for the Lost Item, and Celebration when the Lost item is Found.

Jesus told these parables to strike at the hearts of those listening.  His audience would have been caught up in the story line and detail that Christ provided.  Insults, Betrayal, Hatred, Greed, and Abandonment: these were the attitudes conveyed by the younger son in Jesus' story.  Oh, in this crowd of sinners there were some who might have inwardly identified with this young man.  Of course, he was the brunt of hostility from the religious elite who were also listening to Christ's parable.

We are all familiar with how the story goes; or at least we think we know, but take a moment and really listen to the story with fresh eyes.

For the full message shared on 03-17-13 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:The Third Parable - The Prodigal

Monday, March 11, 2013

Joy in Heaven

What brings you joy?

Do you understand the question?  I'm not curious about what makes you happy, but what brings you joy.  Joy can be illusive.  It doesn't have to be.  In fact, joy is a gift of the Spirit according to Galatians 5:22.

If we really desire to be the individuals God dreams us to be, we would find joy in the things that bring joy to Him.  So what joys the heart of God?  People.  More specifically, sinners coming to repentance.  At least that is what Jesus said.

Jesus, just prior to heading to Jerusalem (where He would give His life as a sacrifice for the sins of all men), told a parable explaining what brings joy in heaven.  Jesus was a master storyteller.  I like stories, especially when I can relate to the characters in the story.  That's exactly what Jesus did.  

In Luke 15 we find the parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin.  The audience, sinners and tax collectors, would have related to the characters in Jesus' story.  The Pharisees did not.  They heard the same story but they were distracted with the fact that Jesus dined with the downcast of society.  The fact of the matter is that the downcast is exactly the ones that Jesus came to earth to reach.

In each of these stories the main point remained the same, "there is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents."  So what brings you joy?  My prayer is that you find joy in that which brings joy in heaven - sinners coming to repentance. 

For the full message shared on 03-10-13 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:

Monday, March 4, 2013

Repentance

As we have discussed over the past few weeks  God's Dream for the Church, one of the main topics must be that we have a heart of...
REPENTANCE.

What does it mean to be repentant?  Repentance begins with recognizing that our hearts are rebellious. 

“But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, 
and those defile the man.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. 
These are the things which defile the man..." 
(Mt. 15:18-20)

Scripture is full of examples of God dealing with rebellious people.  Isaiah 1 gives us a snapshot of God's actions toward the nation of Israel and their hardened hearts.  Verse 4 of Is. 1 summarizes God's evaluation of His people:  Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lordthey have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.

Does this sound like the people of God; people set apart for His purpose?  NO!  The nation of Israel had split apart and those that had been following Him, Judah, were now becoming more and more rebellious.  Why?  Because they did not deal with the sin that had infected their lives.

 Friends, this could easily describe the church in America today.  When we cease to look to God as the One who has purchased us with the blood of His precious Son, Jesus Christ and instead say “My life is my own to do as I please.” we are in the same boat as the tribe of Judah in Isaiah’s day.

What does a good parent do to a rebellious child?  Provide correction and discipline. God is no different.

“For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines 
and He scourges every son whom He receives.” 
(Heb. 12:6)

Although God is tolerant and patient not wanting any to perish (2 Peter 3:9) His tolerance for rebellion has its limits. The southern tribe of Judah refused to heed the prophets' warnings and God had enough of their mechanical sacrifices and burnt offerings.  His dream was that their hearts would turn to Him.  Instead their festivals and assemblies sickened Him because the people refused to turn their hearts to the Lord.  They were just going through the motions.

Think of the typical church today.  How often to we come to fill our spot, do our duty, warm our seat.  Is our worship from the heart or just mechanical and lacking spirit.  Are we ready to wake up and see that we are not what God desires?

So what is the demise of the church if we refuse to be what God desires us to be?  

For the full message shared on 03-03-13 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:

Monday, February 25, 2013

Passion for the Lost


Have you ever given much thought to what you are passionate about?  It could be photography, paint or sculpture; perhaps singing or playing an instrument, or sports.  I don't know your passion, but I do know mine.  God has placed within me a passion to counsel.  I love to listen to the issues and problems of those I come in contact with and then as God leads provide a Biblical response to their plight.

Over the past week I have been convicted that my sight has been too narrow, focusing only on those with whom I have influence.  But what if I was passionate about the things God is passionate about?  As I understand scripture, Jesus was passionate about people.  In fact, He said, "I have come to seek and to save the lost."  What if that was the passion and drive of the church; to seek and to save the lost?  What are the implications?

A friend recently caught my attention to the converse implications.  If the church remains content to reach only a few with the Gospel; if we are okay that only some that we share are faith with come to Christ; doesn't that imply that we are okay and content with the remainder to be condemned to Hell?  Sobering thought to me, what about you?  Does that strike a cord in you that causes you to re-evaluate your previous passions?

So again I ask, What are you passionate about? The church of God's Dream has a Passion for the Lost.  

For the full message shared on 02-24-13 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:
Passion for the Lost

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Purposeful Unsettledness


I recently returned from a vacation.  For some people the idea of a vacation is sitting on the beach with a good book, soaking up the rays.  Other people might consider that as close to Hell as they ever want to get.  Instead they would be skydiving, rock climbing, or experiencing some kind of adventure.  If they don't come home tired, it wasn't a vacation.  The difference is in what brings contentment.  Often we find ourselves content and according to Paul we can and should be content.  But frequently we allow our contentment to bleed into areas where we should not be content.

This past week, guest speaker Todd Braschler brought a message on Purposeful Unsettledness - Finding our Holy Discontent.

For the full message shared on 02-17-13 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:

Monday, February 11, 2013

FYI FANS - Seven Woes

WOE!  Woe! Woe...

This is an onomatopoeia (a word whose sound gives rise to its definition). Of course, the sound "WOE" suggests a guttural cry of anger, pain, or both.  In the Old Testament it was sued to convey grief, despair, sorrow, dissatisfaction  pain and fear of losing one's life.  In the New Testament it is used to speak of sorrow and judgment  carrying mingled ideas of punishment and pity, cursing and compassion.

Jesus, in Matthew 23, used the word "woe" as a divine declaration of judgment from God; condemning the Pharisees but also pointing them toward repentance and salvation.

The scribes and the Pharisees of the day were much like the Fans of today.  Rather than chose to Follow Christ, they followed religion; rules and regulations, rituals and traditions.  They were called HYPOCRITES referring to their false front and deceitful ways.  This is the life of a Fan.

In Matthew 23, Jesus pronounced seven WOEs directed toward the Fans of His time, but an FYI to Fans of ours.

The Seven Woes due to: Exclusion, Subversion, Perversion, Inversion, Extortion, Contamination, and Pretension.

Each of these marks the life of a Fan not a Follower.  And each results in a WOE or a warning.  FYI Fans, maybe you grew up in a home where you were taught all about Jesus.  Through fear and guilt you learned to keep as many of the rules as possible, hoping it would be enough to keep you out of hell.   You were taught to observe different traditions and rituals in an effort to appease God.  Instead of becoming a follower of Christ, you became a follower of religion.  Today is the day for you to become a true Follower of Jesus Christ.

For the full message shared on 02-10-13 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to:
FYI Fans - Seven Woes

Monday, February 4, 2013

Discerning the Depth of a Disciple


A chicken and a pig were walking past a church building one day when they noticed the Sunday morning sermon posted on the outside bulletin board, "Helping the Poor." They walked away when the chicken suddenly came across with a suggestion. "Brother pig, why don’t we give all the poor people a nice breakfast of ham and eggs?" The pig thought a moment and replied, "That’s all right for you to say because for you it is only a contribution, but for me, it’s total commitment!"
We continue our sermon series : Fan or Follower.  Last week we examined the DTR - Defining the Relationship; specifically our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Today's message falls on Super Bowl Sunday and many will sit on their couches and armchairs and enjoy these two teams battling for supremacy on the field.  Some may even expend their resources on attending the game in person, painting their face in support of their team; but at best these folks are still just fans.  Enthusiastic fans, but fans none the less.  They are involved but not committed.  They don't actually get on the field and play the game.  Fans watch, followers commit.  Fans fill the stadiums, followers get on the field.  The difference is the level of involvement/commitment.  

Jesus had a lot of fans, but when they were confronted with the truth, when they were forced to make a decision to really follow Christ; well, John 6:66 says it all, “From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.

The teachings of Jesus had called those who had been hanging around reaping the benefits of being near the Messiah, but now He called them to make a commitment.  Other passages make similar distinctions:

Luke 9:57-62 –
As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, 'I will follow you wherever you go.' 

Jesus replied, 'Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.' 

 He said to another man, 'Follow me.' 
But he replied, 'Lord, first let me go and bury my father.'  
Jesus said to him, 'Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.' 
 Still another said, 'I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.' 
 Jesus replied, 'No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'” 

Luke 14:26-27 – “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

Matthew 16:24-25 – “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”

A followers of Jesus Christ is not someone looking to receive the benefits of being near to Him.  

Followers sacrifice everything for the sake of being disciples.

For the full message shared on 02-03-13 at First Church of God, Racine, WI; go to: