Pastor Kirk

Reflections from a spiritual pilgrim in Toledo, Ohio

Great is Greater than Your Mistakes, 10 September 2017

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Grace Is Greater Than Your Mistakes
Series: Grace is Greater
Romans 3:23; John 4:1-30; John 21:15-19
 
Series Big Idea: No sin is so great, no bitterness so deep that God’s grace cannot transform the heart and rewrite the story. This 3-week series, based on the book Grace is Greater by Kyle Idleman, explores what the Bible teaches about grace, developing a deep understanding of the life-changing power of God’s unconditional love and forgiveness. For more resources and information on the book, visit https://www.graceisgreaterbook.com/.
 
Big Idea: Our sin is ugly, but God’s grace is greater than any past mistake or regret.
 
Introduction
 
I love words. Obviously! I’m fascinated by the use and meanings of words…and the creation of new ones. In his book, Grace is Greater—the source of our title and series outline—Kyle Idleman mentions a few new words.
 
Phonesia
The affliction of dialing a phone number and forgetting whom you were calling just as they answer.
 
Disconfect
To sterilize the piece of candy you dropped on the floor by blowing on it, assuming this will somehow remove all the germs.
 
Blamestorming
meeting intended to determine why a deadline was missed or a project failed, and who was responsible. 
 
Unlike these words, “grace” is a term we’ve heard countless times. People sing about amazing grace. They say grace before meals. People have named their daughters grace. Businesses often talk about a grace period with payments. But what is grace…and what does it matter? This will be our focus during these three weeks.
  
Grace. It’s a word Jesus never used in the Bible, yet His entire life demonstrated it. The original Greek word is charis (χάρις). It is where we get our word charm. It is simply is unmerited favor. A free gift. It is not deserved. It is not earned. It truly is amazing for those reasons. God’s grace is more beautiful, freeing, and altogether greater than we could ever imagine. I’m no expert on the subject but I know I love it. But before we get to the wonder of grace, we need to begin with a harsh reality…
 
We’re not ok.
 
Let me say it in a way I often say: we’re not perfect. No perfect people are allowed at First Alliance…except Jesus. If you are perfect, you are invited to get up, grab some great Claro coffee in the lobby and head home. There’s not much here for you! But the Bible says that
 
…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)
 
See, God is perfect. He is God and we are not. The sooner we grasp this, the better. I’m messed up…really messed up. I’m selfish. I’m prideful. I’m judgmental. The Bible calls it sin. I don’t have time to list all of my sins—past or present—but it’s a long list. And God hates it.
 
The More We Recognize the Ugliness of Our Sin, the More We Can Appreciate the Beauty of God’s Grace. (Romans 3:23)
 
If you’ve got your act together, don’t worry about God. New York City’s former mayor Michael Bloomberg apparently feels he doesn’t need to worry about God. In a New York Times interview, Bloomberg stated, “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.” He felt his good deeds were greater than his bad deeds so he can waltz into heaven.
 
Here’s the problem: we all sin—even politicians, if you can believe it!—and one sin is enough to keep us from God.
 
Let me reiterate a statement I made several months ago:
 
Heaven is where God is present.
Hell is where God is absent.
 
Let me add: God is absent where sin is present. Period.
 
How much sin? It doesn’t matter. How much cyanide in your water is enough to kill you? A drop will kill you! It doesn’t matter if you place a teaspoon, a tablespoon, or a half-cup of cyanide in your water, you’re dead regardless. You wouldn’t knowingly drink water with any cyanide and God won’t tolerate even a little sin. Maybe you think you’re a better person than the leader of North Korea or Charles Manson or a serial killer but that’s beside the point. Your sin and my sin have offended God enough to separate us from Him.
 
It’s not that God sends us to hell, it’s that our sin separates us from God. Do you see the difference? God wants to be with us. Just like you might want to drink water on a hot day…but you won’t touch it if you know it’s laced with poison. We try to convince ourselves that we’re not that bad, but any bad, any imperfection, any sin is too much for a perfect, holy God.
 
And if you think you’re a really good person, let me remind of what Paul said:
 
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. (1 Timothy 1:15)
 
Paul—he wrote much of the New Testament…what’s on your resume?—announces he’s not only a sinner, he’s the worst of sinners. No, he doesn’t say I was the worst when I persecuted Christians as Saul, he declares to Timothy he is the worst of sinners. That makes me the second worst of sinners since I’m not arguing with Paul. Seriously. I’m the second worst of sinners. I desperately need grace. I want to go back to that verse in Romans 3 which ended with a comma.
 
…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24)
 
Grace! Jesus died to reconcile us to God. He died to offer forgiveness of our sins through his blood and broken body. I hate religion—man’s futile quest to be good enough for God—but I love Jesus. He not only showed us what it means to be human, he sacrificed his life for us…not because we’re so good, but because we’re so loved.
 
One of my favorite passages in the Bible two chapters over, says
 
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)
 
Jesus died for us because of our sin. He recognized how we are not good, yet his love for us compelled him to make such a sacrifice.
 
Parents understand this in a small way. We make tremendous sacrifices for our kids, beginning with sleepless nights and diaper changings for infants that are so good, so talented, so capable that…all they do is sleep, cry, and fill their diapers! But it’s out of love. Things don’t get any easier when they learn to talk—back—and drive and…well, many of you understand! We invest countless time, money, and energy on our kids often not because they’re so good but because we love them so much. I have often said the day I became a dad was the day I began to truly understand the great love my heavenly Dad has for me…and you…although we can only imagine it.
 
God’s Grace Is More Beautiful than Your Brokenness (John 4:1-30)
 
There are two types of people distant from God—those who feel they’re so good they don’t need God and those who feel they’re so bad they can’t have God.
 
If you think you don’t need God because you’re so good, you are more messed up than you can imagine! Pride is killing you…literally.
 
Nothing you can do can make God love you more than he already does.
 
I love that quote from Philip Yancey. You can’t do enough good things. You can’t earn your way to heaven. You’re not perfect—which isn’t a license to just intentionally be a jerk and do evil—but all of your good works the Bible calls “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).
 
Nothing you can do can make God love you more than he already does.
 
But you may feel like you’re not worthy of God. You’ve done so many awful things. “Kirk, if you only knew what I’ve done.” God knows! And I’ve got wonderful news for you:
 
Nothing you can do can make God love you less than he already does.
 
Philip Yancey said that, too. There’s a great story in the fourth chapter of John’s biography of Jesus. I wish we had time to study it in detail. It’s a great personal study. In fact, if you have a Bible, turn to John 4. Jesus—a Jew—goes to Galilee through Samaria, a region no Jew ever entered.
 
When we lived in Ann Arbor I used to joke whenever we drove to Florida we would drive around Ohio! It was just a joke—and I obviously don’t tell it anymore now that I live in Ohio (don’t tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor!)—but some people do avoid certain cities or neighborhoods, even today. But back in the day Jews hated Samaritans, but here’s Jesus going through Samaria around noontime and sits by a well.
 
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) (John 4:7-8)
 
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans. ) (John 4:9)
 
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)
 
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” (John 4:11-12)
 
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)
 
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” (John 4:15)
 
He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” (John 4:16)
 
“I have no husband,” she replied. 
 
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” (John 4:17-18)
 
“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. (John 4:19)
 
That’s an understatement! He didn’t learn about her past on Facebook! It’s nearly impossible for us in our culture to understand just how radical it is for Jesus to engage this adulterous Samaritan in conversation. She is so sinful, so disgraced, so shamed that she goes alone to the well in the middle of the day to get water. First, you never traveled alone and second you don’t go in the desert heat…unless you’re hoping to avoid being seen. She has messed up her life, yet Jesus responds with grace and love.
 
How do you respond to sinners? It’s a trick question because we’re all sinners! But how do you respond to those “really bad” sinners? Do you avoid people who don’t look like you, act like you, talk like you, or smell like you? I admit there are people that make me uncomfortable and my first thought is usually not to engage them. I want to be safe. I want to mind my own business. I often want to ignore those different from me.
 
But that’s not what Jesus did. He demonstrated grace…and sets an example for us to follow. I’ve said First Alliance is not to be a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners…and we’re all sinners!
 
Jesus engages the woman in conversation and later the text says
 
Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him. (John 4:28-30)
 
When God’s mercy and grace collide with our guilt and shame it’s messy but it’s beautiful. Jesus knows everything you’ve ever done…but his grace is greater.
 
Nothing you can do can make God love you less than he already does.
 
In the words of Kyle Idleman, “The worst thing that could happen is that you spend your life trying to outrun God because you think he’s chasing you to collect what you owe—when he’s really chasing you to give you what you could never afford.”
 
Finally…
 
God’s Grace Redeems All Our Past Regrets (John 21:15-19)
 
If you could go back in time, what would you change? Maybe a selfish act, a harmful word, a lack of self-control, the beginning of an addiction? It might be a split second or a decade.
 
I’m pretty sure I know what Peter would do over. He was one of Jesus’ three best friends and despite Jesus even predicting it, Peter denied he even knew Jesus not once, not twice, but three times…all during Jesus’ most desperate hours. Some friend!
 
After Jesus dies and is resurrected, he cooks breakfast for his friends.
 
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” 
 
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” 
 
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
 
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” 
 
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” 
 
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
 
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” 
 
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” 
 
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:15-19)
 
Peter denied Jesus three times and Jesus asks him three times, “Do you love me?” He knows Peter has great regret about the denials and yet Jesus offers grace. He doesn’t want Peter imprisoned by his regrets. He has a great plan for Peter, a man who will become one of the greatest leaders in the history of the Christian Church. Grace has the power to redeem regret—to save it, to recycle it, you might say. Grace takes our trash and makes it useful, valuable.
 
We all have regrets, and ever since Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, we often try to hide our sins, thinking they are unforgiveable. Our regrets should lead to remorse, but God doesn’t leave us in our mess of sin. He doesn’t shame us. God’s grace most often finds us in the midst of our remorse and redeems us, forgives us, restores us.
 
If one of my best friends denied even knowing me three times when I needed him most, I’m not sure I would assign him to be the president of my company, but that’s grace. Remember…
 
Nothing you can do can make God love you less than he already does.
 
And God doesn’t tolerate you. He loves you. He forgives you. He embraces you. He redeems you.
 
I wish I had time to share all of the times I’ve messed up—well, maybe not! That would be the longest sermon I’ve ever preached! But seriously, God has taken my arrogant, wicked heart and a lifetime of failures and done some things in and through me I could never take credit for. Even standing before you today I feel incredibly inadequate and unworthy. I am continually reminded that when I am weak, He is strong and His grace is enough. It is sufficient.
 
So What?
 
I desperately want you to know and experience God’s grace.
 
If you’re like me, you’re not even aware of how bad you are, how sinful you are. We need grace.
 
Others of you are on the other end of the spectrum, feeling unworthy. You are! That’s grace!
 
Nothing you can do can make God love you more than he already does.
Nothing you can do can make God love you less than he already does.
 
Don’t let your past mistakes destroy your future. Become a trophy of God’s grace, trust Jesus, and allow him to transform your life.
 
Credits: outline, title, and some ideas from Grace is Greater by Kyle Idleman. Other ideas from Philip Yancey.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

Going Back in Order to Go Forward, 17 April 2016

Going Back in Order to Go Forward
Series: Go Deeper
Genesis 50:15-21

  • Series Theme
  • “Emotional health and contemplative spirituality, when interwoven together, offer nothing short of a spiritual revolution, transforming the hidden places deep beneath the surface of our lives,” says author and pastor Pete Scazzero in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. This series is based upon the biblical themes of Scazzero’s book in an effort to help us better understand ourselves in order to better love God and others.

  • The Big Idea: The second pathway to emotionally healthy spirituality is to embrace our past, breaking free from the destructive sinful patterns of our past to live the life of love that God intends.

Pete Scazzero notes two essential biblical truths:

1. The blessings and sins of our families going back two to three generations profoundly impact who we are today.

2. Discipleship requires putting off the sinful patterns of our family of origin and re-learning how to do life God’s way in God’s family.

Introduction

What comes to mind when I say the word…family? My guess is for some it conjures up positive emotions while for others negative ones.

The Background

We all come from broken families. Some are certainly more functional than others, but since the first child, Cain, killed his brother Abel, we have passed down dysfunction and sin from generation to generation.

Joseph’s story fills the last quarter of the book of Genesis. His family is about as dysfunctional as they come.

a. He comes from a blended family. His dad had children from two wives and two concubines. Twelve sons all lived together.

b. Joseph was clearly the special son, making his brothers jealous.

c Joseph’s brothers sell him off and tell their dad that he was killed by an animal.

He is sold into slavery, then rots in a prison for years on false rape charges.

How would you feel sitting in a prison cell for years for something you did not do? What would you think/feel about your family? About God?

Family Genogram

Joseph is the eleventh child, one of twelve brothers and one sister. Here is his family genogram, showing not only his family tree but also key features of his family:

Take some time to sketch your family genogram.

Joseph has three major traumas

1. At age 17, he is thrown into a deep well by his brothers (Genesis 37).

2. He gets sold as a slave for $80,000 (two years wages) and his father is told he is dead. He loses his language, culture, family, freedom, everything!

3. He was in prison unjustly for many years (Genesis 39-40).

Twenty-two years later, he encounters his brothers (Genesis 42).


He had every reason to be bitter and enslaved by his past. Instead, he clearly understands his heritage but allows God, not his family of origin, to determine his future.

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.

His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:15-21)

Joseph breaks from the “normal” family tradition by forgiving his brothers. What would you have done?

What has Joseph learned about himself, God, and his family (see 19-21)?

Genesis 50:20 is a summary of the Old Testament.

5 Basic Needs be Met for Healthy Development (Pesso)

-- need for “place” the world was waiting for your arrival; you were wanted
-- need for nurture words and touch
-- need for support loving, caring environments
-- need for protection physically, emotionally from harm
-- need for limits boundaries (see Townsend and )

Sin and rebellion destroy families from God’s original intention

Cain and Abel were just the beginning! All of our families are messed up! Jesus allows us to be born again, but we cannot ignore our past. We must put off the sinful elements of our past to become transformed and a blessing to the world.

Iceberg

We must know what went on deep beneath the surface of our family.

Ten Commandments of Your Family

Which of the following messages were sent to you by your family, spoken or unspoken?

1. Money
Money is the best source of security.
The more money you have, the more important your are.

2. Conflict
Avoid conflict at all costs.
Don’t get people mad at you.
Loud, angry, constant fighting is normal.

3. Sex
Sex is not to be spoken about openly.
Men can be promiscuous but women must be chaste.
Sexuality in marriage will come easily.

4. Grief and Loss
Sadness is a sign of weakness.
You are not allowed to be depressed.
Get over losses quickly and move on.

5. Expressing Anger
Anger is dangerous and bad.
Explode in anger to make a point.
Sarcasm is an acceptable way to release anger.

6. Family
Duty to family & culture comes before everything.
You owe your parents for all they’ve done for you.
Don’t speak of your family’s “dirty laundry” in public.

7. Relationships
Don’t trust people. They will let you down.
Nobody will ever hurt me again.
Don’t show vulnerability.

8. Attitudes toward other cultures
Only be close friends with people who are like you.
Do not marry a person of another race or culture.
Certain cultures/races are not as good as mine.

9. Success
Is getting to into the ”best schools.”
Is making lots of money.
Is getting married and having children.

10. Feelings and Emotions
You are not allowed to have certain feelings.
Your feelings are not important.
Reacting with your feelings without thinking is okay.

3 Practical Applications

  1. 1. Recognize the iceberg in you from your family

We can easily ignore or underestimate it. The effect of our families is deeper than any of us realize. Your family is filled with patterns. We all have negative patterns. When we recognize them, we can choose to maintain or change them. When you are unaware of them, you are doomed to pass them on.

  1. 2. Discern the good God intends “in, through, and in spite of,” your family and past

God knew what He was doing. He has a great plan for you and your life. God is working in a hidden, mysterious way. He was doing it in Joseph’s life and He’s doing it in you. We are often unaware of what God is doing, but He can be trusted. Joseph trusts God. He knows that God is good and God is sovereign (in control). He knows God. He certainly spent many years in prayer and solitude.

  1. 3. Make the decision to do the hard work of discipleship

This includes silence, solitude, Scripture, and small groups. Discipleship is breaking the sinful patterns of our past and being recreated into the image of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2Corinthians 5:17

Pete Scazzero writes

“Going back in order to go forward is something we must do in the context of community—with mature friends, a mentor, spiritual director, counselor, or therapist. We need trusted people in our lives of whom we can ask, ‘How do you experience me? Tell me the feelings and thoughts you have when you are with me. Please be honest with me.’ Prayerfully listening to their answers will go a long way toward healing and getting a perspective on areas of our lives that need to be addressed. Needless to say, this takes a lot of courage.”

Four Lessons From Joseph’s Life

  1. 1. He understood God’s goodness and love, even during the storms
  2. 2. He expressed his emotions and loss, allowing him to truly forgive
  3. 3. He moved forward despite his past
  4. 4. He partnered with God to bless others

The Good News

God is in the business of transformation! His grace (unmerited favor) and love are endless. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are a new creation. God is your father. Your sins are forgiven. You have been given a new name. You have been given a new inheritance. You have been given new brothers and sisters (Ephesians 1).

In the movie
“Good Will Hunting,” Sean (Robin Williams) repeatedly tells his patient Will Hunting, “It’s not your fault.” We are all products of the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve. We have all been dealt an imperfect deck. But it can be restored. There is hope in Jesus Christ. His plans for you are fantastic!

Are you willing to go back in order to go forward? Ignoring it won’t make it go away. Fear of bringing secrets and sin into the light paralyzes so many followers of Jesus from truly experiencing the abundant life and transformation that Jesus wants us to experience.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

Questions for Discussion

What words would describe the way your family related to one another when you were growing up?

What does this text tell us about God?

What does this text tell us about ourselves?

On a scale of 1 (very troubled) to 100 (very nurturing), how would you describe your family?

What messages did you receive from your parents or guardians as a child?

What “earthquake” events sent “aftershocks” into your family?

How do these messages compare to messages you have received about God’s family?

What one area needs the most change?

How does your family of origin impact you today? What areas do you need to address in order to move forward?

Take some time to sketch your family genogram.

    Credits and Stuff

    Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.

    Series outline and ideas from
    Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero (Thomas Nelson, 2006).

    Some study questions from Lyman Coleman (
    The Serendipity Bible and The Serendipity Student Bible). Used with permission from the author.

    Other study questions from
    Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Workbook by Peter Scazzero (Center for Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, 2007).

    • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

    Always Remember, Family rules, 1 March 2015

    Big Idea: A healthy church family remembers its history…and His story.

    Introduction

    Every year Oxford University Press, publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary, announces a “word of the year.” For example, in 2005 it was “podcast.” 2009’s word was “unfriend.” The 2013 word of the year was “selfie.”

    Have you ever taken a selfie? Why?

    We take pictures for one primary reason—to capture a moment and remember an event. I remember when my dad borrowed the first Sony video camera from a friend. We saw ourselves in black and white on our television and would later fill literally hundreds of videotapes (remember those?) with events recorded for future viewing. In fact, it’s not uncommon when we visit my mom to see our younger selves on her TV!

    Imagine a world without video or even photography. How would we record an event? Primal cultures often drew pictures or used hieroglyphics. The most common tool we have is letters and books. Folk songs and folk tales have been popular oral traditions of remembering the past.

    Know Thyself
    Be Real
    Welcome Strangers
    Resolve Conflict
    Serve Together
    Celebrate Diversity
    Make Disciples

    Today’s rule is “always remember.”

    Always remember. Like the others, it’s simple. Two words. Always remember. The opposite would be…never forget!

    Why do remember…or why do we forget?

    There’s a prominent subject in school dedicate to remembrance: history.

    Do you like history?

    Here are a few famous history quotes:

    “The more you know of you history, the more liberated you are.” - Maya Angelou

    “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” - Edmund Burke

    “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” - Winston Churchill

    Of course no quotes are more important than those from God. Did you know God remembers? “Of course,” you say, “He never forgets.” In the ninth chapter of Genesis he speaks to Noah following the flood.

    I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” (Genesis 9:15-16)

    Often the English word “remember” is a command to us. Why? Because we forget!

    “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. (Exodus 20:8)

    Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. (Deuteronomy 5:15a)

    Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, (1 Chronicles 16:12)

    I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. (Psalm 77:11)

    This morning, family, there are three things I want us to always remember.

    Scio’s History

    First, our church family history. We began as the Ypsilanti Gospel Tabernacle in 1934. You may recall we celebrated our 80th anniversary last year.

    The name was changed to the Alliance Bible Fellowship in 1984 when it moved to Carpenter School in Ann Arbor.

    In 1988, this building was completed and our family became known as Scio Community Church.

    (If the westward migration continues, we’ll eventually be called the Chicago Alliance Church!).

    Many great pastors have guided our family over these 81 years and I’m humbled to serve today.

    As we did last year, we celebrate God’s faithfulness over more than eight decades. A lot has changed since 1934, but our family remains together following Jesus.

    The Alliance

    Our church’s history doesn’t actually begin in Ypsilanti in 1934, but rather in New York City in the late 1800’s with a Canadian named A.B. Simpson. He established the New York Gospel Tabernacle “to bring likeminded people together into an organization that could facilitate outreach ministries.” This included the first team of missionaries to the Congo in 1994. Although the Christian & Missionary Alliance did not officially become a denomination until 1974, mission has literally been our middle name. We have brothers and sisters in 70 countries planing churches, training national church leaders, providing relief and development assistance, medical and dental care, and microenterprise projects. We have nearly 2000 churches in the USA, about 600 of which are intercultural. Globally, there are over 3 million people in our Alliance family

    The Church

    The third thing I want us to remember is the Church of Jesus Christ. It began about two thousand years ago from Jewish roots dating back to a covenant made between God and Abraham.

    Theologian N.T. Wright views the Bible as a 5 Act Play.

    Act 1: creation
    Acts 2: the Fall
    Act 3: Israel
    Act 4: Jesus
    Act 5: New Testament and the people of God (the Church)

    Some have suggested we are in Act 6, with Act 7 being the new heaven and new earth mentioned in Revelation.

    If indeed there are seven acts, Jesus is at the center in Act 4. His life, death and resurrection were not intended to begin a new religion, but rather pave the way for us to reconcile with our heavenly Father, discover what it means to be truly human, and experience the kingdom of God.

    Perhaps you’ve looked at our
    list of family rules and thought we should include “love God” or “love others,” but those two basic commands of Jesus have been interwoven throughout, and today we remember our Messiah who faithfully modeled those two simple yet challenging commands.

    Communion

    For centuries our brothers and sisters have remembered Jesus through an act known as the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, or communion. It’s obedience to a command of Jesus.

    For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

    Sometimes we are tempted to go through the motions, eating a tiny cracker and drinking a taste of grape juice. The context was actually supper. It was a meal. Perhaps we should do communion during our potlucks.

    Paul continues to the people of Corinth

    So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. (1 Corinthians 11:27-29)

    Paul adds…

    That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:30-32)

    So What?

    Throughout the scriptures we are told by God to remember. Without understanding the past we will struggle to understand the present and we will surely repeat mistakes.

    Some want to live in the past. This is extremely dangerous. The rear view mirror helps us see where we’ve been and how we’ve got here, but if we stare too long in the rear view mirror we’ll have a tragic future!

    We must remember the past. We can even celebrate the past. But we must never live in the past. God is always doing a new thing.

    You have heard these things; look at them all.
    Will you not admit them?
    “From now on I will tell you of new things,
    of hidden things unknown to you. (Isaiah 48:6)

    See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
    I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19)

    Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:17)

    And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” (Mark 2:22)

    And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. (Luke 5:37-38)

    We are in Act 6 of the 7 act play God is producing. Many fear the future, but I’ve got great news for you: Jesus is already there! He’s in 2016. He’s in 2017. He’s in 3017! Every generation experiences things better and worse than previous generations, but God is with us…always. He is gradually unveiling His plans for humanity that will eventually lead to a new heaven and a new earth—an eternity with Him! I’ve read the end of the book.
    The best is yet to come!

    In the meantime, let’s remember the past, fully embrace the present, and co-create the future with Jesus until He returns.

    Conclusion

    Selfies are fun ways to capture ourselves in various places. Perhaps even better than a selfie is a group photo that shows us with family, in community. We were created for relationships—with God and others—and often our best memories come from shared experiences with others.

    One More Thing

    One more thing…join the family! You know our history. You know our mission. You know our rules. All that’s left is for you to briefly share your story with the elders.

    Some people have told me they don’t need a piece of paper in order to be married, but a marriage certificate has meaning. It formally declares one’s commitment to another.

    Church membership is similar. Perhaps you’ve thought, “This is my family, but why do I need to become a member?” Unlike American Express, membership is not loaded with privileges, but it does make a statement to the rest of the family that you’re committed to us. You want to be more than a roommate or spectator.

    If you’re not yet a member of Scio, I urge to speak with an elder about formally joining our family. It really matters. Every Sunday is a family reunion, and you’re invited to join our family!

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

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