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


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...

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: