Monday, May 31, 2010

How do you handle the pain?

Hurt. Anguish. Betrayal. Disappointment. Can you imagine having people who you shared your life with and had so many special moments with suddenly turn their backs on you? The sorrow would be enough to break your heart and make you want to give up. Many of us have been there at some point in our lives. Whether it was a girlfriend who stole your boyfriend in high school or a colleague who got your promotion at work, most of us have experienced something akin to that if we have lived for any length of time.

Over the last six months I have walked that dark valley. I was blindsided by some people I cared about very much. One day they just turned on me and began giving me the angry, silent treatment. They began talking to other people and before long I lost a few more friends who I considered very close. When I tried to reach out to them to find out what precipitated their actions, I was rebuffed. They wouldn't talk to me. They stopped coming to church.

As a Christian it is hard to know what to do. How do you handle the pain and feeling of betrayal? I have to be honest with you. At times I felt like retaliating and getting mean. I wanted to shout to the whole world and tell everyone what was happening. I wanted to do something that would make them hurt as much as I did. But that isn't me. The truth is that to this day, I still care for them a great deal.

So I looked to Jesus and asked him what to do. Believe me, I prayed an awful lot. When I felt overwhelmed, I gave it to Jesus. I asked him to take the hurt and the pain. You know what he told me. HE said "come to me and I will give you rest." The truth is that nobody knows the pain of betrayal better than Jesus. When you read through the Gospels you see how the very men he loved, turned their backs on him. Peter denied him three times. The inner circle of his friends, Peter, James and John, fell asleep when he asked them to sit with him on the night of his agony. Judas betrayed him to the authorities. The crowd who had hailed him as the king on Palm Sunday were shouting "Crucify him" on Friday. As he looked down from the cross, Jesus revealed how we should handle the hurt when people turn on us. He said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

When I read those words I think about the number of times my actions have offended Jesus. I can't tell you how many times I have done things out of my own selfishness and neglected to consider Jesus' thoughts. I get on my high horse about certain things and act as if I'm the one who needs to be pacified. I live my life without thinking about God and his feelings. Yet, he continually reaches out to me and calls me back. HE forgives my arrogance and knows how weak and foolish I can be.

That's the man I want to be. I want to be more like Jesus, more forgiving, more filled with grace. The truth is that this is what it means to be a Christian. It isn't about being a judge or jury in God's courtroom. It isn't about making sure we keep every iota and tittle of the law. It isn't about us at all. It is about God and being His agents of reconciliation in this lost and broken world. We are called to follow Jesus' lead. He forgave the sinner on the cross. He forgave Peter for his denial. He forgave Thomas' doubt. He restored each and every one of those who let him down and he declared his love for them was stronger and deeper than life and death. That is how we should strive to live our lives: giving grace and reflecting God's love.

The truth is that even if we strive to be more forgiving like Jesus, we will still have our moments. For example on one particularly emotional day, I left church and heard a song on the radio. It was about a man who had been wronged by his girlfriend. He happened to go to church one day and heard the minister say, "Pray for those who hurt you." So he began to follow that advice and began praying all kinds of nasty things happen to his ex-girlfriend. I laughed when I heard the song. He had captured my sentiments at that particular moment.

None-the-less, I am praying for my friends in the proper way. I pray for their peace. I pray they find what they are looking for. I pray that someday we can be friends again. If not, I pray that God will fill the hole they left in my heart and help me find peace.

So enough for confessions. Now it is time to praise God for He is good.


Let God be the judge

This afternoon I went out driving with my 16 year old daughter. We have been out once before. Now she is finished with the classroom part of Driver's Ed and ready to head out with her instructor with the road part of the class. So I planned a drive out to the nearby town of Lebanon where she could get behind the wheel and drive on some country roads. I thought this might help her feel a bit better prepared for her time with the instructor.

I was wrong. She wanted no part of driving on the road. So we went up to the school instead. For 20 minutes she practiced going around the parking lot and driving down the two way roads of the long driveway. She felt good about that.

I thought she would enjoy the freedom and opportunity to get out on the road. I based that on a few mistaken assumptions that came out of my own experience. I grew up in the country and by the time I was fourteen I had already driven go-carts, lawn mowers, tractors, motorcycles and cars. We had 38 acres of woods and a big yard. On my first day with the Driver's Ed instructor I already had hours of experience behind the wheel of the car. I did fine and was not nervous at all. My story is not my daughter's story.

Later tonight it struck me that we often project our own experience and understanding onto others. If we get annoyed easily, we think everyone does. If we check out all the facts before we draw a conclusion, then most people probably do the same. If we have a lot of faith, we think others should too.

That's why when someone acts different then we expect, we are taken aback and wonder what they must have been thinking. We jump to conclusions based upon our own assumptions and make judgments about their character, their motivations and their actions. I think that's why God said that we are not to judge one another. We don't know their hearts. We don't know their struggles. We don't know what they are thinking. But here's the good news. God does. It's good news because God also knows our hearts and what we are thinking. He knows our motivations and He still reaches out to offer forgiveness.

My daughter did great today. She was driving with more confidence by the time we finished our circles. By the time she hits the road she will be ready. I'm not saying this from my own experience. I'm saying it because she will hit the road when she's ready, not me.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010

People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.

When you know which one it is, you will know what to do for that

When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need
You have expressed.

They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with
Guidance and support,

To aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually.

They may seem like a godsend and they are.

They are there for the reason you need them to be.

Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time,

This person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an

Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away.

Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand.

What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire
Fulfilled, their work is done.

The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on.


Some people come into your life for a SEASON, because your turn has
Come to share, grow or learn.

They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh.

They may teach you something you have never done.

They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.

Believe it, it is real. But only for a season.


LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons,

Things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional

Your job is to accept the lesson,

Love the person and put what you have learned to use in all other
Relationships and areas of your life.

It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.


Thank you for being a part of my life,

Whether you were a reason, a season or a lifetime.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

You need to speak their language

How do you reach this generation with the good news of Jesus Christ? You have to speak their language. When shows like Survivor, American Idol and CSI are at the top of the charts, there is little room for Jesus. When Two and a Half Men, Sex and the City and shows that promoted twisted relationships are more popular than attneding worship each week, you have a problem. What are we missing? How do we translate the faith to such a generation? Well this young woman is trying. She is good. Enjoy.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Lost series sparks debate

'Lost' producers, actors speak about tonight's 'they did not just do that!' shockers

The "Lost" television series is coming to and end and things are heating up. People are debating the meaning behind everything that has happened. It's been a lot of fun. I wonder why we can't approach our theology in the same way? Why can't we talk about what certain passages of scripture mean without getting angry at each other.

You would think that we could take the tact of the rabbis and discuss and debate what the prophets meant. We should be able to take Paul's wisdom and see how it applies to the church today without trying to limit its reach. We should be able to read and share what the passages say to us. I know that the Bible is much more important than a TV show but God is also not afraid to have us question, debate and try to seriously understand his word.

That is the great thing about community. If you are with people you love and trust, this becomes much more possible. People won't question your motives. People wil bear with your crazy thoughts. In the end, God's truth will always come out. So if you aren't involved in a Bible Study, you should think about getting into one. You will be surprised at the discussion and interest that will flow out of it.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Breakfast. A wake up call.

I wish I was creative enough to make a music video like this. Just what you need to start the day. Breakfast with Newsboys!


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Singing of God's amazing grace

Amazing Grace! Not bad for a seven year old. I pray that I will be singing of God's grace in my own way for the rest of my life. When we sing God's praises, it is always beautiful.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Look at my new clothes

May 2, 2010 Philippians 4:4-9

Something happened when each of the disciples went into that empty tomb. They came out different than when they went in. It is almost as if they came out with a new set of clothes. I want to talk about that change today in our last message in the series about the empty tomb.

Most of you know that my girls have been involved in pageants. Right now Sarah is competing for the crown of Miss Connecticut. She is having fun going shopping with Lori and Rachel. You should see some of the new outfits they bought. Sarah looks stunning in them. Well the truth is that whenever we get something new to wear, it can make a tremendous difference even for those of us who aren’t quite so beautiful.

You see, a new set of clothes, whether it is a suit, a dress, a pair slacks and a shirt, all do something not only for our appearance, but for our attitude as well. When we put on a new outfit, we feel different. When the girls were younger, Lori would always buy them a new outfit for Easter. Lori would buy a new dress for herself and she’d get me a new shirt and tie. The new clothes made Easter seem even more special.

I thought about that and it made perfect sense because scripture tells us that in Christ we are a new creation. There is no better way to show that than to put on a new set of clothes. I don’t know about you, but I have an awful lot of old clothes in my closet. Some of them are worn out. Some of them are too big. Others are, if you can believe it, too small. (Just a side note here: As this contest between Mark Kane and I continues, I just might be able to fit in some of them again!) The truth is that these old clothes are only taking up room in my closet. Instead of throwing them out, even though they are tattered and ill fitted, I keep wearing them.

The truth is that clothes aren’t the only thing we hang onto. Sometimes we hang onto old attitudes as well. That was the problem in Philippi and Paul addresses it in his letter to the church. He tells them at the outset that they have to have a different attitude. They need to live in Christ instead of living in the past.

Since Easter we have been talking about the gift of forgiveness. Jesus died on that cross to take away our sin and give us new life. The problem is that too many of us have carried over the baggage of our old life and it keeps us from truly experiencing all of God’s blessings. So today I want to invite you to do some spring cleaning so you can make room in your closet for our new set of clothes. In order to do that, you need to get rid of five things that often clutter the closets of our lives.

First, let’s get rid of the burden of doubt. The definition of doubt is this: It is the uncertainty of belief that interferes with decision making. If you aren’t sure of something, you won’t be able to make a clear decision.

The truth is that the empty tomb proves that Christ rose. As a result, it confirms everything he said. He died for your sin. You are forgiven. God has given you new life. You never have to worry about being apart from him again. God loves you, there’s no doubt about it. So stop doubting it. Live like a child of God.

President Franklin Roosevelt once said, “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.” Christ has risen. There is no longer any reason to doubt that God loves you. Second, we can get rid of the burden of guilt. Too many of us keep wearing this even though Christ has taken it away. That’s the message of the cross. You were guilty. Once you came to Christ and asked him to forgive you, it is gone. If you haven’t done it yet, it’s never too late. Every sin you’ve ever committed was nailed to the cross with Jesus. He paid the price and you are free now.

I’ve told this story before but I’ll tell it again. Lori and I used to enjoy going into Bee Bee Dairy. One time shortly after Becky was born, we went in for lunch and had a good meal. When I went up to pay, the cashier told us that someone else had already paid our bill. I felt a little guilty about walking out but when I tried to pay it anyway, she said “Didn’t you hear me? It’s already been paid. You don’t owe anything. Just go and enjoy the rest of your day.”

In Act 13 it says “Everyone who believes in Him is free from all guilt and declared right with God.” Now we can enjoy the peace of God in our lives.

The third burden we need to get rid of is that of old grudges. These hurts, that cause us anger and pain, are making us ugly. I have a silk shirt in my closet that I wore when I was in college. I used to wear it to disco dances. It is so ugly, but I can’t seem to let it go. That is how it is with grudges. But God says we need to forgive and forget. We need to remember that even as God forgives us our debts, we need to forgive our debtors.

A few weeks ago we talked about the unmerciful servant. God calls us to share the measure we have received and he tells us that in doing so we will find blessing. You can trust him on that.

The fourth thing we must clean out of our closets is regret. God doesn’t want us to experience regrets in our lives. Instead, He wants to replace regret with hope.

Roman 4:7 says, “Oh what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight.”

You see, this verse says that past mistakes, sins, missed opportunities are put out of sight when we are forgiven. They are no longer remembered. We no longer have to dwell on them or bring them up over and over to punish ourselves in our minds. We can remove them, wipe them away, as if they had never happened. Why can we do that? With God’s forgiveness, second chances, third chances, fourth chances, will always be there. Every new day is filled with possibilities. The Prophet tells us that God has a future and hope planned for us.

Alexander Graham Bell said this, “When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long as so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one that is open for us.” Don’t spend so much time looking back with regret and missed opportunities and mistakes that you miss the door that God has opened right in front of you.

Finally get rid of that burden of fear. For many people this is the heaviest weight they carry. We are afraid of the future. We are afraid of looking foolish. We are afraid of not being successful in our careers. We are afraid of what a financial situation is going to be. We are afraid of commitment. We are afraid of not finding Mr. Right or Mrs. Right. We are afraid of losing our marriage. We are even afraid of death. We have a lot of fear in our life and it is so heavy.

God did not create us to be afraid. We don’t have to be paralyzed with fear because we know God will be there and God will take care of us. When we fall down, God will help us up. II Timothy 1:7 says “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self discipline.”

You see we can get rid of these things because God has given us a new set of clothes. When we step into that empty tomb, we can put on Christ. The Apostle Paul gives us a picture of what that looks like in his letter to the church at Philippi. It is powerful. It is beautiful.

Rejoice in the Lord, always, again I say rejoice. You see God has called us to a new ministry, the ministry of reconciliation. He has sent us into the world to share the good news and to invite people to get to know him. To know him, is to love him. I’ll never forget the day my friend Dave Debowsky went out for his very first job interview after college. He put on his new suit. I asked him how much it cost. He told me, now this was in 1980, $500. He told me he bought two suits. I was blown away. You see my last suit had cost $35 at a Sears two for one sale. I laughed at Dave. You know what he said? He told me that in sales you had to make an impression. How you looked would either make or break the deal even before you said a word. His clothes were his life.

I think that is what the apostle Paul was saying. If you want to work for Christ, if you want to serve him, then you need to be humble. You need to fill your closet with whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable and wear it wherever you go. If anything is excellent or praiseworthy, then it will reflect God and the fact that you belong to him.

God has got a new set of clothes for you and me. Let’s put them on and show the world what Jesus has done for us and what he wants to do for them. Amen

Is That A Promise Ring?

April 25, 2010 Ephesians 1:3-14

Disappointment. Betrayal. Anguish. Sorrow. Regret. As the women took that slow, long walk to the tomb every hope that they had clung to had been dashed. They thought Jesus would be with them forever. He was their friend. He had been faithful. Now he was gone.

There are moments in life when everything you believe in is challenged by what is happening around you. People you thought would always stand by you, suddenly disappear. People who you believed in are no longer there. Jesus was everything to them. Now their world was forever turned upside down.

That’s why I believe that when they looked in that empty tomb they found things that brought them hope. Now if you weren’t here on Easter you might be a little confused. I’m talking in metaphors and playing off of Geraldo Rivera’s big television extravaganza in revealing the contents of Al Capone’s tomb in the 1980’s. Hence the theme, “What Did They Really Find in the Empty tomb?” Each of the items we are looking at represent some aspect of the forgiveness that Jesus’ death brought us.

We have already talked about the mirror and the ability to forgive themselves. Last week we talked about the friendship bracelet and how it reminded them to forgive one another. Today I want to talk about the thing that allowed them to really step up and move forward with hope again as they took on the mantle of discipleship.

In the coming months we will be talking a lot about what it means to be a disciple and a discipling community. The first step in that process is an understanding that in Christ, you and I have been given a promise. Hence, the thought that in that empty tomb the women found a promise ring. What’s a promise ring? It is a pre-engagement ring. When you receive a promise ring it means that the other person will be faithful to you, and only you, from now through eternity. It says that now I belong to you. We aren’t married yet, but I am yours. I will live now as though we are already in a committed state.

Today we are talking about God’s promise that came out of the empty tomb. The Apostle John puts it this way. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)

Eternal life. When these words were spoken, when you look at the words in their native language, they didn’t simply refer to the time after death. Eternal life also dealt with life here on earth. It pointed to a life of peace, a life of joy, a life that is all that God wants to give us. That’s why in another passage Jesus says he came to give us an abundant life, a life of blessings.

When we decide to come home, like the prodigal son we talked about on Easter, God says “I forgive you and I give you a promise. I will never let you go.” There is a theological term that is often used to express what happens when we give our lives to Christ. When we return to God and ask for his forgiveness, he gives it to us and he also secures our future. This is called “eternal security.” What it means is this: God seals your future. You no longer have to worry about your salvation. Christ died on the cross and paid the price for your sins. You are forgiven. You are free. God won’t take it back. That’s his promise. You are his and he is yours and God is faithful on his promises.

In ancient times a king would put his seal on any declaration he made. He would take his ring and make an impression on the edict. When you come to God and give your life to him, confess your sins and ask forgiveness, he grants it and signs off on his promise. You are now safe forever. That is eternal security.

You can now live life without fear. You can now live life as a joint heir with Christ. You know why this is important? Because we can’t do it ourselves. Some people live their whole lives trying to be perfect, trying to follow the law, only to fail. They live in fear that if they make one mis-step that God will reject them.

Others live their whole lives trying to find sin in others and make it their job to be God’s secret police. In doing that they can disregard their own sin and feel they are making amends by helping God out. It doesn’t work that way. Sooner or later we are all faced with our own sinfulness. The apostle Paul said it best when he declared that whenever he takes two steps forward, he falls three steps back. We can never justify ourselves so we will always worry and become obsessed with it.

But in Christ, we have security to live and to love God. This idea of being in Christ is so important. “Being In Christ” is one of the big themes of Scripture. For example in Ephesians 1 we find that “in Christ” is used over and over.

Four times it says “in Christ”. God says—in Christ you are blessed, in Christ you were adopted, in Christ you were set free, and in Christ you are eternally forgiven. In fact, that’s what it means to become a Christian. Becoming a Christian simply means that you made a spiritual decision to take your life and you place it in Christ. When you do that you have God’s promise that you are forgiven and that He will love you forever. That’s the good news.

Now as a result of this promise several other things flow out of it. First, as children of God we want to please Him. That means trying to live a life that will glorify God. There is a bumper sticker that was popular a number of years ago. It read” Christians aren’t perfect. They are forgiven. The truth is that we will never be perfect. Following the scriptures is impossible. We all stumble and fall. But as children of God we need to go to God whenever we fall and ask forgiveness.

We don’t have to be afraid anymore. Our life is sealed by the blood of Christ. But if we don’t go to God with our sins, our relationship will suffer. If you aren’t feeling close to God right now, it isn’t because of what somebody else is doing, it isn’t because God isn’t listening, it is because there is something in your life that needs to be forgiven. It may be a big thing, one of the “top ten.” It could be an attitude, pride, greed, envy. It could be that you are living with sexual immorality in your life. I can tell you this: If you are not feeling close to God, you need to go to Him and ask forgiveness and then see what you can do to change what you are doing.

The good news is that you don’t have to worry about him rejecting you. You have his promise ring. You are sealed in his love forever.

During the height of my bad spell during college, I went to a wedding with some friends of mine. I was drinking heavily. On the way home I got too close to a car in front of me and I hit it. My car was a mess. I got a ticket. The worst part of it all was the fact that I had to call my father and have him drive to the Hartford police station to pick me up at 1:00 a.m in the morning.

The worst part of that experience was imaging what my father would say when he got there. I figured he would be angry and start ripping me up one side and down the other. I was truly afraid. But when he got there his first question was, “Are you alright?” My response was I am so sorry.”

I learned that night about unconditional love. It was the beginning of a turning point in my life. I never wanted to embarrass my father again like that. So I vowed to change. Now I wish I could say that was the end of it. It wasn’t. Just like the next time you go to God won’t be the last time. But I began taking small and we are called to do the same.

In I John 1:9 we read “But if we confess our sins to Him, He can be depended upon to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.” Confession is good. First it tells God that we know that what we are doing is wrong. Second, it tells him that we are going to take responsibility for it and try to change. IT may not be today, but we will continue to work on it until it isn’t a problem anymore.

It took me over five years to quit smoking. I knew it was wrong but I couldn’t break the habit. Sometimes I even gave up trying for a while, figuring it wasn’t the worst thing in the world. We do that don’ we? Today I am living with the consequence of that sin. I have heart disease. MY temple, this body, will not make it as long as if I had quit years earlier. I am paying the price for my sin. Praise God that I did quit in 1989.

The truth is there is always a price for sin. That’s why God calls us to turn from it. The good news is that he is there to help. He has given us his promise. We have been forgiven. That is what the cross and the empty tomb is all about. When we give our lives to him, he will never leave us. But if we want to enjoy the fullness of his blessing, if we want to live in his presence, then we need to confess our sins, ask his forgiveness and try to walk in his ways.

This morning I’m going to do things a little different as we close our service. I’m going to give any who want to come forward the opportunity to ask for God’s forgiveness. If there is something in your life that is stopping you from fully enjoying God’s presence, I’m going to invite you to come forward and give it to God. You don’t have to tell me what it is. Just tell God and then let me pray for you. Okay. And Know this. God has a promise ring with your name on it and he’s giving it to you today, just in case you forgot. Amen

Look! A Friendship Bracelet

April 18, 2010 Matthew 18:25-29

A FRIENDSHIP BRACELET! It’s not in the Bible exactly, but from everything I’ve read, they must have found one in a back corner of that empty tomb. For the scriptures have a lot to say about our relationships. The truth is that God seems to care almost as much about the way we treat each other as he does about the way we relate to him.

Just think about the Great commandment for a minute. Jesus said the greatest commandment; the one that all the others rest on is this: that we are to love God with all our being and that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. When we look at the cross we usually think about how God forgave our sins but that was clearly only the first step. For you see in forgiving us and restoring our relationship to God, he also made it possible for us to in turn to forgive everyone who has hurt us. I want to talk about that today.

Did you know that friendship bracelets date back to our Native American ancestors? According to indigenous tradition, the recipient of a friendship bracelet must wear it until the cords wear out and fall off naturally. The idea is that the friend paid for it with the hard work and love that made it, The recipient repays the friend by honoring the work. Removing the bracelet before it naturally falls off is a sign that the friendship has gone sour. Another variation of this tradition is that the recipient of a bracelet is entitled to a wish. After the bracelet wears out and falls off naturally, the wish will come true. No wonder so many young people share and wear them.

This morning I want to talk about broken relationships in the context of the sermon series we began on Easter Sunday titled, “What did they really find in the empty tomb.” On Easter I said that in the shadow of the cross, in the shadow of the cross, IN THAT EMPTY TOMB WE FOUND FORGIVENESS FOR OUR SINS. We found a fresh start, a new beginning and a chance to walk with God anew. Last week we found a mirror which helped us see ourselves as God sees us. It allowed us to forgive ourselves and claim that new relationship with God.

Today I want to talk about the most difficult aspect of forgiveness: Forgiving those who have hurt us. Now I’ve got to confess that I am much better at this now than I was but it is still hard. I used to hold onto the hurts that others caused me. It got so bad at one point in my life that I couldn’t say the Lord’s prayer. It was like a hot poker and I just put my head down and mumbled the words. Not all of them. I loved God and wanted his will to be done. I asked him to supply my basic needs and lead me out of temptation and trial. It was THAT FORGIVENESS part in the middle that I couldn’t say. “Forgive us our sins/debts/trespasses as we forgive those who trespass,/sin against us.” That phrase hurt too much. I didn’t want to give up my hurts and forgive.

I told you about my grandparents. It seems silly now but when I was going to graduate from high school we invited them to the graduation. We only had four tickets but being the first grandchild of the generation, my dad made sure they got the invite. He was so proud. The night of the graduation my grandmother called and said they couldn’t make it. They had too much work to do to get the cottage ready for rental. It was like a slap in the face. My father had always felt like the black sheep of the family and this was one more straw in the basket. I was offended for him and I carried that grudge for years.”

You know the truth is that if we really kept count, we couldn’t begin to number the times that others have disappointed, hurt, and offended us. I am sure that right now, you could name a few people that you are angry or upset with for things they have said and done in the past. It could be a family member, a co-worker, someone here at church or your next door neighbor. We carry around these hurts, these grudges and they simmer just below the surface. I’ve got news for you. They hurt you a lot more than they hurt the person you are angry with. God knows that. The Bible says—just as God has forgiven us, we also must forgive others. This is tough stuff. But our Father knows best.

I think one of the reasons it is so hard to forgive others is because of a misunderstanding about what forgiving others really is.

Forgiving others is not— Justifying their actions. You don’t have to say things like—well, they were under a lot of stress. Well, I certainly don’t think they meant it that way.

Forgiveness has nothing to do with their motives. We don’t need to make sense of why they did what they did so we can feel good about it. Face it, most of the time we don’t care. They hurt us and we have the scars to prove it. So when we say we forgive them we are not sayin they had a right to do what they did.

Second it is not about letting enough time pass. You’ve heard people say “time heals all wounds.” That’s a bunch of baloney. We all know that time alone doesn’t make things better. Some of us sitting here are still feeling the sting of betrayal that happened fifteen or twenty years ago or more. Forgiving doesn’t get any easier over time. As a matter of fact it is often harder because that pain has been internalized and become a part of us. So there is no good reason to wait and believe that it will come naturally.

Third it is not pretending that you aren’t hurt and it didn’t matter. Men are especially good at acting macho but all of us do it. Sometimes we try to play nice in church and pretend that what someone said or did to us didn’t bother us. But it did! We keep a lid on it and tell everyone we are over it but denying it doesn’t make it go away. When somebody hurts you, it’s like getting a splinter in your finger. It may be really small, but if you try to ignore it, it will eventually get infected and you’ll be in worse shape later on.

Finally forgiveness is not about confrontation. It’s not going to them, grabbing them by the shirt, and saying—give me an apology. Forgiveness is not seeking revenge and getting in their face, as much as we want to do that when someone hurt us. The truth is that forgiveness is not totally about them. It is more about addressing something within us.

I’m going to give you four words to hold onto this morning to help you grasp it. It might not make it any easier but at least you will have a path you can follow as you try out live out God’s call to forgive as you and I have been forgiven.

Here they are. Remember Release Recognize Repeat. Can you say them with me?

Remember, release, recognize and repeat.

First, Remember how much we’ve been forgiven. Remember how much (with emphasis) I’ve been forgiven is how that should be said. Because the first step in forgiving others is to understand how much God has forgiven us.

A couple of weeks ago we talked about the Prodigal Son? It is actually our story. You see, we are the Prodigal Son, we are the Prodigal Daughter who has turned our back on our loving Father. We have gone our own way. We have enjoyed sin for a season and yet, when we return home, God welcomes us back. And God forgives us—not just partially, but God forgives us completely. God doesn’t make us pay it back. So we have to be reminded over and over, because we, as humans, have amazing capacities to forget and we forget just how good we have it. We forget how completely and fully and how freely God has forgiven us. Isaiah 1:18 is such a great verse because it talks about God’s complete forgiveness. It says. “Come, let us talk this over says the Lord. No matter how deep the stain of your sin, I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson. I can make you white as wool.”

We hurt God whenever we sin but he opens his heart and forgives us anyway. We need to remember that.

Now I want you to think of somebody who has hurt you. Conjure up those feelings. Then think about Jesus and the fact that he feels the same way whenever you hurt him. I get the image of Peter and Jesus in the courtyard. In the movie The Passion of Christ, it is portrayed so well. As Jesus is being led away Peter is denying Christ in no uncertain terms. At that moment Peter sees Jesus. They lock eyes and the regret is so deep. The anguish and hurt fills the screen. If Jesus can forgive us then we have no excuse.

That brings me to our scripture today. It’s a story that Jesus told about forgiveness. The point is simple: A man who owes a great debt calls on the king and asks for mercy. The king hears his plea and forgives him his debt. The next thing you know this same man confronts another who owes him a debt and he shows no mercy. He lives by the rule “an eye for an eye.” He has the man thrown in prison and his family left destitute. When the king hears of it he is outraged. It is like a slap in the face. All the pity, all the compassion he felt for this man dissipates and he throws the book at him.

The moral of the story, Matthew tells us is this: "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. And Jesus said "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

Ouch! Do you think Jesus thinks forgiving others is important? We need to remember that we have been forgiven. Maybe there is someone who has hurt you. Well now is the time to think about forgiving them.

That brings me to our second point. Release them. Let them go. Set them free. What does that mean? It means to stop replaying that tape of their offense over and over again in your mind. We do that don’t we? We relive the hurt. We keep it fresh by living through it again. Well you’ve got to let it go.

You don’t need to confront them or try to make amends or even try to repair the relationship to do this. You just simply go to God and ask him to help you forgive and let it go. You see, forgiveness is always a choice. It is not an emotion, it is a choice.

This process of setting someone free, of releasing them, is so key to the freedom that God wants you to experience in forgiveness. When you do that you are saying I’m giving up my rights to repayment. You no longer have TO WAIT FOR THEM to make amends, BECAUSE THEY PROBABLY NEVER WILL. So you are taking charge and reclaiming your own peace of mind. Let God deal with revenge, payment or what they need to do. He’s better at it than we are anyway.

Third Recognize that God has bigger things in mind. The truth is that every experience in life shapes us. It prepares us for the next thing. The struggles, the adventures, the relationships we have prepare us for the job that God is waiting to call us to. Joseph is the perfect example of this. Do you remember his story? It as tragic. It was ironic. He was a dreamer, the favorite son of his father, Jacob. His brothers get jealous of his favored status and they plot against him. They sell him to slave traders going to Egypt and tewll their father he was killed. Through a series of misadventures he lands in prison and then into the court of Pharoah. He interprets a dream and Pharoah places him in a position of authority. A famine hits the land and Jacob sends his sons to Pharoah for help. Guess who is there to greet them. Joseph could have taken his revenge. But instead he has forgiven them and in that process recognized that God used that circumstance to get his will done. Joseph was now in a position to save his family.

The truth is that God uses our circumstances to achieve his will. Now hear me: I am not saying that God sends pain and trouble into our lives so he can do something about it later. I am saying that God takes these difficult and tragic situations and uses them, like scraps off the table, to bring blessings down the road.

In Romans 8:28 it says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

That’s why it is so important to forgive. God has a plan and he can take your hurt and still make it work for good if you can forgive.

The fourth step is to reestablish if possible. I’m going to be brief here. If you can re-establish the relationship, then go to it. There is a television show called “All About Earl.” I’ve seen it a few times. It’s really wacky. But essentially this guy has a list of all the people he has ever wronged and he has to go back and make it right. Some people readily accept his apologies and others don’t and that makes for the humor. The truth is that some bridges are broken and you can’t go back over them. But if you can build a new bridge after forgiveness, God calls us to do it.

In Romans 12:21. It says, “Don’t let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.” What does that mean? It means, even if you can’t reestablish the relationship, you can still act in a good way toward that person.

Pray for the person who hurt you. Ask God to heal their hearts. Ask God to bless them. When you can do that you know that your healing and forgiveness is well on its way. Finally, Repeat this process again and again. If you are lucky. Your life will be long. You will suffer hurts and you just need to keep doing this over and over again.

For you see, on the cross God was not only reconciling the world to himself, but he was doing the same for each of us. He died so that we would have the power of forgiveness in our hands. Don’t waste it. Use it to share God’s love with the people in your life. Life is too short to bear grudges and to walk alone. Reach out and share that friendship bracelet God has left for you and me in that empty tomb.

Let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for how much You have forgiven me. Today, I forgive (just say their name, the person you are forgiving). God, I’m forgiving them for (you just tell God what it is. He already knows, but there is something about saying it and releasing that person). And God show me the action I need to take to reestablish the relationship even if it is just to pray for them. Now Lord, Help me to forgive others as much as you have forgiven me. In Jesus name. Amen.

There's A Mirror in There!

April 11, 2010 John 21:15-19

Look what I found. It’s a mirror. No it’s not the one from the empty tomb. But I am sure that when the disciples looked in to find Jesus they found something very similar to this. For you see, they were all carrying some heavy baggage.

It reminds me of a story I heard of a guy who was at LaGuardia Airport and he was afraid he was going to be late for his flight, so he goes up to a complete stranger who is carrying two really big heavy looking black bags and he asks him for the time. Well, the stranger makes a big deal about carefully setting down his two bags. Then looks at his watch and says, the time is 6 PM. In Singapore, it’s 12 AM. The temperature outside is 37 degrees, and the barometer is dropping. My stocks went up two points today. Well, the guy was amazed. He said—your watch told you all of that. He said—oh, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This watch tells you so much more than just that. Well, the guy was amazed. He said—I have to have that watch. I will pay you $1,000 right now for that watch. The guy said—no, you don’t understand. I made this watch. I invented this watch. It’s not for sale. The guy wanted the watch. He said—I will write you a check right now for $5,000 if you will give me that watch. He said—no, you don’t understand. I made it as a gift for my son. He has graduated from college. I am taking it to him right now. He said—I will write the check right now for $10,000 if you will give me that watch. Well, $10,000 was too much for the stranger to resist, so he said—okay, it’s a deal. So the guy writes out a check for $10,000, hands it to the stranger. The stranger hands him the watch. He puts it on his wrist and is satisfied, turns away from the stranger and he says—hey, wait a second. He reaches down and grabs the two big heavy black bags, and smiles, and hands them to the guy and says—you forgot the batteries.

Baggage. It is part of life. No one wants to look in the mirror and face it. We have made bad choices in our lives. We have put off doing things that could have been a blessing. We have done stupid things. And we carry around the residue of these things in our hearts and on our minds. They weigh us down. They stop us from reaching out, from loving, from believing. The worst part of all is that sometimes they stop us from reaching out to God. We know that we have blown it. We know that we aren’t part of the A team anymore. So we settle for less.

You may remember the animated classic “The Beauty an the Beast.” The Beast covered over every mirror in the house because he couldn’t bear the thought of what he had become. Many of us do the same thing. We run from it. We ignore it. We live as though it never happened but deep inside we keep beating ourselves up. That’s the baggage that sin brings with it.

The Bible says sin separates us from God. Too often we get caught up in naming other people’s sin. He’s an alcoholic. She runs around. He’s always at the casino. She’s extended on her credit cards and deep in debt. He’s caught up in pornography. She’s… You get the point. But to God sin is sin and all of us have this baggage that we carry around. We feel better if we can shine the mirror on someone else. But every once in a while, we turn and catch our own reflection and it isn’t nice.

The only solution, the only way to get rid of this baggage is to look in the mirror and tackle it head on. And I’ve got good news for you. If you were here last week you heard that the first thing the disciples found in the empty tomb was forgiveness. That’s what Good Friday and Easter was all about. When Jesus was nailed to the cross, every one of our sins was nailed up there with him. The scriptures tell us that he was punished, he was crucified, he was killed for our sins… every one of them. He didn’t die just for the little white lies we tell. He didn’t die just for the cheating you and I did on this year’s tax return. He died for our financial irresponsibility. He died for our sexual immorality. He died for our slanderous, libelous mouth that destroys relationships. He even died for us if we have rejected him and are living only for ourselves.

I love that song we just sang. “Years I lived in vanity and pride, caring not my Lord was crucified. Knowing not it was for me he died on Calvary. Mercy there was great and grace was free. Pardon there was multiplied to me. There my burdened soul found liberty. At Calvary.”

Now I always went to church. Many of you know that I went through a bad spell in college. I let everything that had happened to me in my life catch up with me and I went wild. I partied. I got involved in things and relationships that were unhealthy. Basically I didn’t care about my life or anything. I flunked out of school and was lost for a while. Then one Sunday my Pastor said something, I don’t even remember what it was, but it clicked. And we sang this song and it fit. I was beating myself up because I couldn’t forgive myself for things I had done. So I was digging a deeper hole for myself. But then I realized that God had already forgiven me and all that was left was for me to go to him and find a way to forgive myself.

Last week we talked about the Lost son, the prodigal son who came to himself and returned home to ask his father’s forgiveness. We heard that even before he came through the gate, his Father was reaching out to him, ready to restore him to grace. Jesus told that story for your benefit and mine. God is more ready to forgive then we can imagine. All we need to do is ask.

It’s funny, but one of the people who was there in person and who heard Jesus tell the parable of the Prodigal Son, was a man named was Simon Peter. Bold, outspoken, one of the inner circle, Peter stood up and scolded the other disciples when Jesus told them that they would all fall away and betray him. Peter boldly declared, “Well the rest might, but not me.” His pride got the best of him. You see pride is a sin. Jesus warned him that even he would fall. That famous prediction that Peter would deny him three times before the cock could crow, came true and the scriptures say that Peter wept when he realized what he had done. – Talk about some baggage.

We don’t blame Peter. We all have done things like that. Every time we choose to do something we know is wrong, we deny Christ. We may not think of it that way, but inside we know it. After a while we justify it and then try to forget it. But it is there. So we go to the tomb like Peter and we find a mirror. God wants us to see ourselves so that we might come to him and ask forgiveness so we can be restored.

There are five things you need to know about God’s forgiveness. First God forgives specifically. Many of us have no problem asking God to forgives us with a generic prayer. “God forgive me if I have done anything wrong today.” That’s great but it doesn’t do anything for the baggage. It’s kind of like putting on a rain coat after you’ve been out in the rain for an hour or two. Good, but it won’t make you dry.

When we go to God with specifics, he responds specifically. No matter what it is, God will forgive you if you ask him. Scripture says no sin is greater than another. Because sin isn’t a list of rules, it is an attitude of the heart. When you confess that you thought you knew better than God on some issue and ask him to forgive you, he does.

Second God also forgives instantly. You don’t have to stand and beg. You don’t have to plead your case. You don’t have to justify it. You can’t. God forgives because Jesus has already pleaded your case and won your acquittal. You just need to show up. Case closed.

The third one is this—God forgives completely. Specifically, instantly and completely. You see with God, there are no leftovers. There is no residual unforgiveness. God doesn’t come back and say—remember when you did this? God doesn’t bring up our past sins and then throw them in our face. Your wife might. Your kids might. Your mother in law might. But not God. When God forgives, it’s done and it never has to be forgiven again. You are forgiven.

Fourth, God forgives repeatedly. With God, there are no limits. Turn to the person next to you and say—there are no limits.You see, God will forgive you over and over again without end. There is never a time when you can’t turn to God. There is no sin too great. There is no sin that you may have committed too many times that God won’t forgive it. God forgives repeatedly.

I know we have a hard time with this. We don’t think it is fair. Why should they get a break? Don’t they know any better? You know what God says to that? I am who I am. How many times have I forgiven you? You worry about you and let me worry about them.

Then the fifth one is this—God forgives freely. You see Jesus has already paid the price. That is what Easter was all about. You just ask for it and it is yours. So if God has forgiven you, then why are you still carrying your baggage? You need to let it go. You need to look in the mirror and say “God loves me. God has forgiven me. I need to let go and forgive myself so I can begin life anew.”

Then you need to begin life over again. That’s what Jesus meant when he said you need to be born again. He was saying you and I need to put the past behind us and to walk with Christ from this day forward. We need to make the commitment to love him and serve him and walk with him forever more.

That means you will try to get rid of the bad habits, the obvious sin in your life and live in a way that will bring glory to God. But if you do stumble, then you simply need to go back and ask him to forgive you. Ask him to help you not do it again, and go back every time for as long as it takes.
The good news is that once you realize that God loves you and that he has forgiven you, then you can look in the mirror and see the beauty that God saw when he created you. God bless that mirror. For it truly helps us see us as children of God. Amen.

What They Really Found in the Empty Tomb

What They Really Found in the Empty Tomb

John 20:1-18 April 4, 2010

In April 1986, Geraldo Rivera captivated the imagination of a generation when he discovered a hidden vault in an underground basement of a building in Chicago. He claimed it held a fortune that once belonged to the infamous Al Capone. The promo for his special two hour session went like this: It may be Chicago’s equivalent to King Tut’s tomb. It belongs to the king of a criminal empire. It’s a mystery. What secrets lie within Al Capone’s Vault? Find out when we open it on live television…

Now long before television, an even greater mystery was unveiled on a morning just like this one. Two women made their way to a tomb in the side of a mountain. It was dark as they arose that Sunday morning... The two got up and put on their garments grabbed their spices and headed out on the dirt road that lead out of the city. As they headed out on the road and as the sun began to rise the path was lined with many dark shadows... but no shadow or darkness could compare with the darkness that hovered over their soul.

As they walked up the path towards the tomb... thoughts and sights of the last week -- ripped through their minds like violent tornados.. They had been there when Jesus rode in on the colt before thousands shouting his praises, what an incredible moment that was. But unfortunately their minds and the events of last week didn’t stop there.

Try as they might they couldn’t stop those other thoughts, those terrible scenes from playing out again and again in their minds. They saw Jesus tied to a post a Roman scourge filled with broken pieces of pottery, glass and bones ripping across His back. As they recalled the purple robe -- the beatings, the cruel mocking and the crown of thorns, the tears began to flow again.

They had seen it all -- they had seen Jesus, their teacher, their friend, their Lord they had witnessed everything that Jesus went through... And these 2 women, these two Mary’s (Mary of Magdala and Mary the mother of James) were there at the cross... They saw Jesus hanging there on that rough cross of wood... they saw His body struggle and wince with pain with every breathe that he took... They were there when Jesus cried out, "ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI -- MY GOD MY GOD WHY HAS THOUGH FORSAKEN ME" -- and they saw his head fall as he cried, "IT IS FINISHED."

They where there when Jesus died, and when he died they died too. O’ they were still alive physically but their hopes and joy died on that cross with Jesus, on that dark Friday nearly 2,000 years ago.. Their Lord was dead... And their hope was gone.

So what were they doing up so early on this Sunday morning? Why weren’t they lying in bed wallowing in their misery? What was it that drove them from their beds before dawn, and put them on this dark uphill climb?

The thing that drove them, was their love for and devotion to Jesus -- someone had to prepare the body for burial and no one else had volunteered; Peter didn’t, James didn’t, neither did John -- So it was up to these 2 faithful followers, 2 women who had never left the side of Jesus, who were with Him until the end -- it was up to them to do it, and they did..

The task they were going to perform was a somber task, a difficult task... They would be the ones, who would wipe the blood from the brow, from the legs, from the sides, They would be the ones, to clean the blood from the body of Jesus... they would be the ones, to remove the blood that had matted in his beard, They would be the last ones, to touch his face and close His eyes. I don’t know what they thought they would find that morning, but when they got there, they found something they never expected. So what did they find?

Geraldo was disappointed but the women and disciples weren’t. Inside that empty tomb they found forgiveness. The truth is that all who look into the tomb can find it. Isaiah says that “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Today, and for the next four weeks we are going to talk about this great discovery. We are going to talk about what this means in our own personal life as we deal with our own disappointments. We are going to talk about what it means in our relationships with our friends, our family and even those who have hurt us. We are going to talk about what it means as a people of God who are living in the world. So I hope you will join us as we look at this in more depth in the coming weeks.

But getting back to today, it’s Easter. In all the hype, in all the fun, in all the stories about Easter, the one thing that you and I need to know is that the empty tomb confirms everything that Jesus said. He was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. He came to reconcile us to God. His resurrection meant that God had accepted his offering and that our sins were forgiven forever. The good news is that our past no longer controls our future.

A group of six-year-old kids were asked what each wanted to become when they grew up "President," "a fireman," "a teacher." One by one they answered until it became Billy’s time. The teacher asked, "Billy, what do you want to be when you grow up?" "Possible," Billy responded. "Possible?" asked the teacher. "Yes," Billy said, "my mom is always telling me I’m impossible. When I grow up I want to become POSSIBLE."

We are a possibility now. We are now free to start over. Nothing can stop us from becoming children of God. The apostle Paul writes “God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins.” Col. 2:13 The best illustration of this can be found in a story Jesus told. Some call it “the Lost Son” but most of us know it as the story of “the Prodigal Son.” Basically it is about a man who has two sons and one of them decides to go his own way. He takes his inheritance and fritters it away on loose living and selfish pleasures. Before long he has nothing left and his life is in shambles. The text then says that “he came to himself” and he began to think about returning home. He was embarrassed and ashamed but he hoped that if he humbled himself and came back on his knees, that just maybe his father would have mercy on him and give him a servant’s job. Amazingly enough, the Father, when he heard that his son, who was lost, was coming home, he set out a feast to celebrate his return.

Jesus shared this story with people who were hungry for God’s acceptance. They were lost. They were cast offs of society. In it was a word of hope that they too might one day find forgiveness and acceptance by God.

Imagine what this story said to them. It said that even though they had lived a sinful life, one that offended God, one that was steeped in every kind of selfish pleasure, greed, sexual immorality, gluttony, hatred, resentment, pride, idolatry, and even unbelief… they could still come home. All they had to do was humble themselves and ask God for forgiveness. It seems easy but it still scary.

Here’s the truth. The journey back to God is not a long one. All we have to do is take the first steps. The empty tomb tells us that God is waiting to receive us with open arms. Sometimes we think we have to be perfect, but we don’t. We don’t have to get rid of all the sin in our life first. We don’t have to overcome all of our addictions. We don’t have to have some supernatural revelation from God. We don’t even have to have a warm fuzzy feeling inside to come back home. All We have to do is take the one step and ask Him for forgiveness, a gift he’s already given us in the risen Christ. One step. And if We take that one step toward God, the Bible says, that God will cover the rest of the distance.

You see, Easter is not about us overcoming our sin so that we can be with God. Easter is about God overcoming it so that He can be with us. At the time of Jesus’ death, the Jews worshiped in the Temple and at the very center of the Temple was a place called the Holy of Holies. This is where it was believed that God’s presence dwelt most intensely. And the Holy of Holies was separated by a thick, big curtain. And nobody could enter the Holy of Holies, except for one priest, one time a year. This priest had to be completely pure and had to go through all of these rituals before he was worthy to enter there. These curtains served as a separation between God and people. It separated us from God. And when Jesus died on the cross, that curtain was ripped in two. It symbolized that everyone now has access to God, because of Easter. It was God reaching out to us.

Here’s the point of Easter. God was reaching out for you and me. The empty tomb is like a big bill board that says, “Come home. I forgive you!” He was saying he loves us and wants to restore our relationship to what it was meant to be. If anyone ever needed a dose of hope, if anyone ever needed to know that what Jesus said was true, it was a distraught, guilt ridden, sun weary fisherman named Peter....

Peter was standing with John when the Marys came running into town... And when they came in screaming, crying and laughing, when Peter and John saw them in this frenzied state they ran to them... And they said “the tomb is empty! Jesus isn’t in the tomb!"

And at that moment Peter and John headed to the tomb at warp speed. Peter was running as fast as he could, his heart pounding and his powerful legs were pumping his feet up and down the winding paths of the dusty roads leading to the tomb.... Suddenly Peter began to think to himself --


His thoughts had slowed him down but once he made it to the tomb, without hesitation went in, he had to go in, he had to see for himself. And when Peter walked inside, he saw the strips of linen and the burial clothes, that had been around Jesus’ head folded laying on the stone slab. And he found the forgiveness he so badly needed.

Peter’s heart was racing and tears of joy were flowing, "HE’S ALIVE! JESUS IS ALIVE!!!"

And somewhere, but we don’t know where, maybe on the shoreline overlooking the Jordan, Peter felt a hand on his shoulder-- and he looked at the hand and he saw that it had been pierced.... His heart stopped beating and as he turned to fall to his feet, He heard the voice of the one he loved more than life itself say , "PETER" Jesus his hand on Peter’s shoulder saying "IT’S ALL RIGHT PETER, IT’S ALRIGHT, I KNOW, I KNOW, IT’S ALRIGHT NOW, I FORGIVE YOU PETER, PETER I FORGIVE YOU.."

The empty tomb means there is forgiveness....
The empty tomb means that our sins can be washed away......
The empty tomb means that Jesus has won the battle over death, sin and the grave..... that is what the gospel is… the good news of the forgiveness of sin....

The lamb of God has come -

"He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed.." Is 53:5

Glory be to God! God loves has claimed the victory. He arose!

As you leave this morning I want to give you two things. The first is a little booklet by the people who publish the daily bread. It is called “The Forgiveness of God.” If you want to read more about this wonderful gift of God and how it affects your life and mine, I hope you’ll take a copy as you leave. I’ll have some on the table by the door.

Second, I have some stones. I want you to take one with you as a reminder that the stone has been rolled away. Now there is nothing separating you from the love of God and his forgiveness. He arose, not to show his power… but that he might walk with you and me forever more.

Now let’s sing.

Back from a little hiatus

I have to admit that I have been in a little funk because life has been so busy. I just haven't felt like writing. A lot has happened. We had a great Easter Sunday and the services following Easter at First Baptist have been great. I finished a series of sermons on Forgiveness last Sunday that I'm going to include here. I hope you enjoy them.

I'll begin with the sermon from Easter Sunday and include all five. The theme was "What They Really Found in the Empty Tomb." The messages dealt with the idea of forgiveness. I have to confess that I purchased the rights to a sermon series from the Journey Church in New York City in February. The original title was a little racy. When I mentioned it to Lori, she said it was too provocative. When I actually read the sermons I immediately realized that they were too long for our context and very simplistic as well. I liked the ideas but not the messages. So I began playing with the ideas. At that time I remembered the television expose that Geraldo Rivera hosted back in the 1980's that revealed the contents of Al Capone's tomb. That turned out to be a bust but Christ's tomb changed the world. So I picked up that theme and incorporated some of the thoughts from the other series that reminded us of the prominent place of forgiveness in the Easter message.

On Easter I revealed that when the women and the first disciples looked in that tomb on Easter morning they found forgiveness. For the next four weeks I talked about four particular aspects of it. I played these out by talking about a mirror, a friendship bracelet, a promise ring and a new set of clothes.

Well instead of telling you about the sermons, I'll let you read them for yourselves. I just have to remind you that the actual sermons did change some when they were delivered as I was moved by the Holy Spirit.