Sunday, July 29, 2007

Vacation Week

Due to my son's wedding, I was not in the pulpit this week.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Understanding Grace
Watch the Video

Understanding Grace


Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,

I once was lost, but now am found.

  1. It is one of the most well-known hymns in the church.

  2. This past spring, a film was in local theaters that ;focused on the lives of the men and women, including John Newton, who lived in late 18th century England, who fought to remove slavery from English culture.

  3. John Newton wrote the epitaph that eventually was put on his tombstone: John Newton, clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slavers in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had so long labored to destroy.

  4. At the age of 82, as he faced poor health and a fading memory, it was suggested that he retire. He responded, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior.”1

  5. John Newton experienced God's grace – his life was transformed.

  6. I want to look at three lessons we can learn from the Old Testament about grace.

Read: Psalm 45:1-2


  1. Grace effects our actions

(Ill.) It was three or four years ago at one of our Halloween parties. Jim cam dressed as Popeye the Sailor Man. It was great. But, I want to go back to the familiar cartoon that many of us probably watched on TV as grew up – you probably remember some or all of the theme song - “I'm Popeye the Sailor Man, toot – toot”. But do you remember Popeye's motto? It went something like this, “I yam what I yam.” Popeye was satisfied with the way he was and was not about to change.

    1. And too often we all fall into that trap. We want God to love us the way we are and leave us alone. I don't want to change! (Stamp foot!)

    2. But something does change when we finally meet the grace of God. He allows us to approach just as we are. But then he reaches out and begins to reshape us – so that when we walk away, we are not the same person. In God's presence we are changed.

    3. Solomon knew that God's grace would wear on us like a piece of jewelry:

My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment,

do not let them out of your sight;

they will be life for you,

an ornament to grace your neck.2

(Ill.) In the great iron foundries in making Bessemer steel, the process of purification is watched through a spectroscope, in which the changing colors of the flames show exactly when the metal is perfectly ready for its uses. When the flame becomes a certain precise shade of color then the great crucible is tilted and the metal poured into molds. So the great Divine Refiner, the loving Christ sits down by the crucible of our discipline and chastening, watches intently to see when the fire has done its work; and when this is reached, the metal is removed from the flames. Not a pang, a pain, or a sorrow that is not necessary to our purifying will He permit.3

    1. God continues to refine us.

  1. Grace effects our appearance

    1. But change is not only something that happens to us. It will also effect us around us.

    2. We are thinking a lot about weddings around here – my son in a week and Bob and Deb, the week after that. And we are all getting primed for those events. Hair is being cut, clothes are being cleaned, travel plans are being finalized. But when I say the “grace effects our appearance”, I am talking about all those outward things. Rather, what I am suggesting is that when God changes us on the inside, those around us will see the difference on the outside.

(Ill.) One way to think of this is as a regular table lamp. Inside that lamp is a small piece of glass. But it really is a rather large paper weight when it comes home from the store. In fact, some of them look rather dumb just sitting their on the edge of the buffet or the beside table. But once they are connected to a power source – it has the wonderful potential of effecting the world in which it finds itself. And when the power is turned on, something amazing happens – the whole world becomes alive. We can see what we are eating, we can read, we won't trip over the corners of the bed. In the same way, when we let God's power flow through us, those around us will see us differently.

(Ill.) I am reminded of that children's song that we have all sung:

This little light of mine

I'm gonna let it shine

This little light of mine

I'm gonna let it shine

This little light of mine

I'm gonna let it shine

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.4

    1. Where will you find yourselves this week? Work, shopping, at a wedding, your family. This is where your light can shine

  1. Grace effects our world

    1. Well, let's see: We started by saying that grace effects us

    2. And once we experience God's grace, then those around us will see us differently.

    3. But our story of grace goes one more step – not only will others see us differently, but we will also be influencing those around us as we live out our faith.

    4. It is our prayer that our faith will impact positively those around us; but, Isaiah 26:10 reminds us that we live in a world that can and does reject God's grace:

Though grace is shown to the wicked,

they do not learn righteousness;

even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil

and regard not the majesty of the Lord.

    1. But because some will reject the offering of God's grace, that is not any reason to stop sharing it. There will be those who will respond.

    2. We are left with three choices

      1. We can give up – after all there will be those who reject God's grace, why should we bother living it.

      2. We can live just as we have -

      3. Or we can allow God to take us to where He wants us, realizing the we owe it all to Him and we are ultimately only responsible to Him.

Conclusion: The choice is yours.


1Petersen, William J. and Peterson, Ardythe (2006). The Complete Book of Hymns: Inspiring Stories About 600 Hymns and Praise Songs. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

2The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Pr 3:21-22). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

3AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Meanings of Grace
Watch the Video

Meanings of Grace

Read: Ephesians 1:3-8

Intro.: Today we continue our “Studies in Grace”

  1. Probably the most common definition for grace is the little definition that many were probably taught in Sunday School: God's Riches At Christ's Expenses

  2. But this definition is just a memory device that only that gives us a glimpse of the true meaning of Grace.

Trans: Jesus, or any of the New Testament writers, never used the word grace.

  1. That is not surprising Jesus lived in Israel – and in the 1st century, English was not spoken.

  2. Jesus most likely use Hebrew as he wandered through areas around the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee.

  3. Though Hebrew was the most common language in the world at the time. For example, if the writers of scripture were to write today, they might use English. But English is really only the third most common language in the world. So, if scripture were written today, they might use Hindi – spoken by 366 million people in India. But the most used language in the world is Chinese, the language spoken by more 874 million people in China.

  4. But in the first century, the language of choice was Greek. There were other languages available – the west in Rome the language was Latin. To the north, in England and Spain, the languages were a number of Celtic languages. But Greek was the scholarly language of the day.

  5. The New Testament writers never used the word grace. The word translated “grace” in the NT is “caris“. During the next few minutes, I would like to look at three ways in which the New Testament writers used the word “caris“.

  6. caris“ is translated “grace” 130 times in the New Testament – but it is also translated four other ways. It would seem to me that one way to understand the meaning of “caris“, “grace”, might be to understand how the other ways in which we use the word is used by the New Testament writers.


T.S. During the next few minutes, I want to look at some meanings behind “GRACE” in the New Testament.

  1. caris“ is translated “kindness”

    1. Every so often, I am caught by surprise. But I should not have been.

    2. Most of you have heard me say, “I don't have to be nice. Nothing in scripture says I have to be nice. Scripture does say I have to be kind. Being nice is doing what you want, being kind is doing what God wants. Sometimes, they are the same, but often they are not.”

    3. Now why was I surprised that our the same word that describes God's grace, would also describe him as kind.

    4. the Lord is with you, you to whom (the Lord) has shown kindness” is one translation of Luke 1:28.

(Ill.) Longfellow once wrote:

Kind hearts are the gardens,

Kind thoughts are the roots,

Kind words are the flowers,

Kind deeds are the fruits.

Take care of your garden,

And keep out the weeds;

Fill it up with sunshine,

Kind words and kind deeds.1

    1. God may not be nice – but his grace is kind.

  1. caris is also translated by the English word “gift”

    1. Paul is ready to send a gift from the people of Corinth to the Jerusalem church. He writes, “Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.” That word “gift” is the word that is translated grace elsewhere.

    2. There are lots of ways of saying “I love you” to a person.

(Ill.) Gary Chapman has suggested that there are at least five ways to hear “I love you”. He makes the point that each of us can hear those words in different ways. If I want to really communicate that my love to someone, I need to be willing to find out how they best hear love. 1. Words of affirmation 2. Quality time 3. Physical tokens 4. Acts of service 5. Physical touch For example, the surest way for me to communicate to my wife that I love her is to do something for her – acts of service are the best way to say I love you to her. On the other hand, I respond to physical tokens – a stuffed animal or a coffee mug will say more about love than all the words in the world.2

    1. But all of the ways of saying I love you become more powerful when we give it as a gift – not something we earn or out of obligation.

    2. That is how God distributes his grace. It is not expected, it is not earned. But God gives it anyhow.

  1. caris“ is translated as good will or favor

    1. One of my favorite verses after I became a Christian in my first year of college was found early in the book of Luke. Luke 2:52 reads, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” That verse became my vision during those first years of my walk with Jesus.

    2. But, though I did not know it at the time, that verse was about grace. That word “favor” is the same word that we have been looking at this morning.

    3. And as a young man, it was my dream to model my life after that of Christ, after Luke 2:52.

    4. You know what, there is no reason that we could not make this our dream even now.

    5. As we leave today – I can choose, you can choose to live a life that will allow us to grow in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

  2. Finally, the word caris“ means “thanks.”

    1. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Our word caris“ again shows up.

    2. Our practice of giving thanks for all of God's wonderful blessings, ought not come from mere habit, but from a genuine appreciation of all God has given us.

(Ill.) One of the best statements of thankfulness comes from a classic work of literature, Robinson Crusoe after finding a Bible on his island: I learned to look more upon the bright side of my condition, and less upon the dark side, and to consider what I enjoyed, rather than what I wanted; and this gave me sometimes such secret comforts, that I cannot express them; and which I take notice here, to put those discontented people in mind of it, who cannot enjoy comfortably what God has given them, because they see and covet something that He has not given them. All our discontents about what we want appeared to me to spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have.3

    1. Have you learned to experience grace? Have you learned to be thankful?


1Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.


3Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (145). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Sacred Words
Watch the Video

Sacred Words

Intro.: If you have been following my sermons for any length of time you could probably list some of the core beliefs that define my ministry.

  1. At the very top would be the authority of Scripture as God's written word to us.

  2. You would also note that I am firmly convinced that God created this world – including mankind. All creation is God's gift.

  3. Though we are God's creation, we are also broken people. This is of course partly result of the fact that we are created and therefore limited. But in Adam and Eve, the human race was damaged. We continue to experience the effects of the Fall on the human race – the evidence is in each days news.

  4. But God addressed the flaws introduced by the Fall. Much of this is summed up in Ephesians 2:8-9

Read: Ephesians 2:8-9


Trans:I expect that very first Bible verse I ever memorized was John 3:16

  1. But I stopped memorizing scripture for many years until I met a group of Christians in college who helped me understand what it meant to be a Christian.

  2. One of the first verses (along with John 3:16) that I was presented with by the student leaders of the Campus Crusades chapter was the verse that we are looking at today.

T.S. These verses provide a foundation upon which we can better understand our faith.

  1. The first keyword is GRACE

    1. Over the last few weeks we have been looking at the book of Galatians. If there is one lesson that Paul focused on in this book it is this – works will get us no where.

      1. It is an easy trap to fall into. It started with our parents, or as we practiced our own parenting skills. We heard those words all too often – don't do that, do this, why don't you hang up your clothes.

      2. Or in school, Johnny, stop that.

      3. Or even on our jobs, we are measured by what and how we DO.

      4. And we, too often, measure our success in ministry by how well we are living the Christian life.1

      5. You see, at some point we are all legalists at heart.

    2. Though at some point, we need, as we have the last couple of weeks, talk about the doing of the Christian life; we also, like Paul, must return to beginning – God's blessing comes from grace.

    3. Howard Hendricks, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, understood grace. His words make it very clear, “Nothing you ever do will ever make God love you any more or any less. He loves you strictly by His grace given in Christ.”

    4. Whether we stand tall before God or fall flat on our face, God's grace will carry us.

    5. There is something powerful here – when we fall, we we get overly worried, when we act out our anger, when we find ourselves giving into temptation – God's love does not fade. His love is rooted in His grace, not in our behavior.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

  1. The second keyword is SAVED

    1. I learned something this week. Not only did I learn something, but I learned that I had to unlearn something first. I don't think it is a surprise to anyone that I like to attend Red Wings baseball. I had always thought when a pitcher was awarded a “save” it meant that he took a losing game and turned it around. He would then have both a “win” and a “save”. But I found out this week that a pitcher is given a “save” when, as a relief pitcher, his team is winning and does not lose the game.

    2. Scripture does not look at a save as something awarded to a winning team. You see, it is only given to those who know that they are losing the game. It is only given to those who know that they are broken. It is only given to those who know they have sinned.

    3. God's does not save those who are winning the game, He shows his grace toward those who are losing.

(Ill.) As we saw, baseball does not help us to understand what it means to be saved. But a story from the mid-1800's might help us to better understand. In a remote district of Wales a baby boy lay dangerously ill. The widowed mother walked five miles in the night through drenching rain to get a doctor. The doctor hesitated about making the unpleasant trip. Would it pay? he questioned. He would receive no money for his services, and, besides, if the child’s life were saved, he would no doubt become only a poor laborer. But love for humanity and professional duty conquered, and the little life was saved. Years after, when this same child—David Lloyd-George—became Prime Minister of England, the doctor said, “I never dreamed that in saving the life of that child on the farm hearth I was saving the life of the leader of England.”

    1. God works like that doctor – he saves the most needy, and then uses them to accomplish great things.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

  1. The third keyword is FAITH

(Ill.) One of the best illustrations that I have found for faith is found in the history of the Northwestern University Wildcats football team. The year was 1995 and Northwestern had the reputation for being the smallest school in the Big Ten and its most academically demanding and had been in one Rose Bowl in its entire history. And that was 45 years earlier. Gary Barnett was the coach and he was convinced that his team could make into the Rose Bowl. He put his faith into his convictions. He ordered a Tournament of Roses flag for the football stadium and kept a silk rose on his desk to remind him and the team of where they were headed. One of the players on the team noted later that “At the first team meeting he told us we needed belief without evidence. He asked, 'Do you know what that is? That's faith.'”2

    1. That may have been about football, but it is also true in the spiritual realm.

    2. The writer of Hebrews put it this way, “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

    3. Do you need to experience God's grace today?

    4. Do you need to know God's salvation?

    5. Take a minute to put your faith in Christ today.


1Bridges, J. Discipleship Journal: Issue 22. 1999 (electronic ed.). Colorado Springs: The Navigators/NavPress.

2Burfurd, S. L. quoted in Rowell, Edwark K. (2005). 1001 Quotes, Illustrations, and Humorous Stories for Preachers, Teachers, and Writers. Grand Rapids, MI:Baker Books.