Back to Basics

Sin & Repentance, 24 February 2019

Sin & Repentance
Series—Back to Basics
Romans 7:15-8:2

Big Idea:
Following Jesus would be easy if it wasn’t for sin…but it is possible.

Throughout the month of February, we’ve been going Back to Basics. We began by looking at why we exist, why First Alliance Church was started more than 131 years ago by Albert Benjamin Simpson.

In week two, we looked at two of my four prayers for First Alliance Church: passion and unity. Last week, we examined the other two prayers I have been praying since my first day as your pastor: direction and protection. Jesus is our Senior Pastor, our leader, and we want to know and obey His will and direction for our individual lives and this local church, our church, His church. We also presented the reality of a real enemy who wants to steal, kill and destroy and why we pray, “Deliver us from evil.”

The subject of protection is a great tie-in to our topic today on sin and repentance. If it weren’t for sin, we’d have no problems in our world. It’s virtually impossible to even imagine! A temptation-free planet without satan and demons would seem to be like playing basketball without an opponent. It would be easy.

Unfortunately, sin is real, and we all succumb to temptation. Even Paul, the writer of much of the New Testament of the Bible, was far from perfect. In fact, he once 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)

This is the leader of the early church and he’s the worst of sinners? Where does that leave you and me? That’s our focus this morning—sin and what to do about it.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: sin is not a pleasant subject. It’s not a word we often hear outside the church, yet the word appears more than 900 times in the Bible.

What is sin?

There are two meanings for the word sin:

1) a sin from a human perspective; and
2) a sin from God’s perspective.

Consider the first two Merriam-Webster defin
itions. Merriam-Webster’s first definition of sin:

a. an offense against religious or moral law
b. an action that is or is felt to be highly reprehensible - it's a sin to waste food
c. an often serious shortcoming; fault

The first definition is the common definition. By this definition, a sin is a violation of some specific law or expectation: do not murder, do not steal, do not abuse animals, etc. Using this definition, most people can keep from sinning most of the time.

Sin can be viewed from a human perspective.

Sin can be viewed from God’s perspective.

Merriam-Webster’s second definition involves much more of our lives:

a. transgression of the law of God
b. a vitiated (corrupted) state of hum
an nature in which the self is estranged from God

So what is God’s Law? We could go to the 10 Commandments. We could examine the 613 Jewish Commandments. Or we could jump to Jesus’ summary of the entire Law. When asked the most important of the commandments,

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

If you think that you have recently lived up to these, then you are deceiving yourself. I know of no person who lives up to either of these laws – ever. We are all sinners continually. Think about this past week and the sins you have committed…or those sins of omission. How have you not loved God? How have you not loved your neighbor?

If you’re struggling to think of any sins, perhaps pride is the first thing you need to confess. Jesus’ close friend John wrote,

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8).

I’ve mentioned this verse on more than one occasio
n, partly because some churched people are unaware of their sins.

We all sin.

I don’t mean that just in the past tense. I mean even if you’ve attended church for decades, taught Sunday School for generations, memorized half the Bible, and given thousands of dollars to domestic and global missions, you’ve not yet reached perfection. If you don’t believe me, ask the person sitting beside you!

The remarkable thing about Paul—likely the writer of Romans and much of the New Testament of the Bible—is how he viewed himself not just as a sinner, but the worst of sinners. Even though he was mature, self-controlled, educated, and respected, he continued to struggle with sin.

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (Romans 7:15-20)

Does this sound like a mature Christian or a new believer? Paul’s writing in the present tense. This is arguably the greatest leader in the early church!

I think this may be the most frustrating passage of literature ever written! Do you feel the tension?

Actually, there’s more!

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. (Romans 7:21-23)

This is that war between God and satan, between good and evil, between right and wrong. This is why we pray for protection…from temptation, from evil, from hatred, from division, from sin.

humans have an innate or inherited sinfulness. America’s first textbook, The New England Primer taught this doctrine with the simple poem: “In Adam’s fall – We sinned all.” I’m not sure how many public school textbooks have such statements today!

Two chapter back in Romans 5, Paul writes,

Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:18-19)

Sin against God is very serious. Paul obviously thought so. Perhaps we too often compare ourselves to others.

“I’m not perfect, but at least I didn’t kill anyone like that guy on tv.”
“I pay my taxes. I’m a good person.”

If you’re like me, your favorite teachers are or were those who graded on a curve. You might get an A even if you would’ve earned a B or C on a straight scale.

We’re accustomed to imperfection. Baseball players get three strikes before they’re called out. The best basketball players miss about half of their shots.

Nobody’s perfect, right?

But God’s standard is perfection. 100%. Jesus said,

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

Have you “loved God with your whole heart” today?
Have you displayed selfless love to everyone you encountered today?
If not, you are a sinner.
Can you join with Paul, one of the most important Christians ever, in saying,

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? (Romans 7:24)

Most of you know the good news in this passage.

Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:25a)

We’re all about Jesus because Jesus is all about us. He gave very life for us, to deliver us from the death and penalty of our sins. If you’re good enough to go to heaven when you die, Jesus was an idiot for enduring crucifixion!

But Jesus didn’t just come and die so we could go to heaven when we die. He came so we could experience heaven before we die. Heaven is where God is, and Jesus wants to be with us now. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God lives within every believer, but for many, that Spirit lies dormant. We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit, confessing our sins and surrendering to the power of the Holy Spirit to change us, to sanctify us, to make us more like Jesus. Paul continues,

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (Romans 7:25b)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2)

Because we all sin, we all need forgiveness.

I’m afraid too many people think all they need to do is pray a prayer, believe in a historical Jesus, and never worry about their sin.

Jesus’ invitation was never, “Pray a prayer.” It was, “Follow me.” It was, “Love God and love your neighbor.” This is where we all fall so short. This is where Paul failed, too.

We all must repent. Peter, another one of Jesus’ best friends, said,

… “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)

Repentance means to turn. It means to do a 180. It means to change. It’s both an initial step in following Jesus as well as an ongoing process of becoming like Jesus.

By the way, Peter said, “Repent and be baptized.” Baptism is an outward demonstration of inward repentance. It’s going public with your faith. It is a repeated command of scripture. If you haven’t been baptized and you have accepted Jesus’ invitation to follow him, I’d love to talk with you about getting baptized. It’s arguably the greatest possible celebration our church family can possibly experience.

The initial decision to follow Jesus is so important, making him Savior. But that’s the beginning, not the end.

Jesus can be our Savior, but he must also be our LORD.

The reason so many Christians don’t look like Jesus is because Jesus is not their LORD. They have accepted theological truths, but have never fully surrendered to Jesus.

Two weeks ago when talking about passion, I said if you’re truly passionate for God, prove it! Prove it with your money. Prove it with your time. Prove it with your life.

I get so frustrated with people wearing crosses around their neck and acting nothing like Jesus.

I get so frustrated with people putting fish on the back of their cars or calling themselves Christians and acting nothing like Jesus.

And yes, like Paul, I get frustrated with my own life when I see sin invading my life.

That’s when repentance is necessary. Remember, repentance means to turn. It’s about change. It’s not just saying I’m sorry, but it’s actually changing. It’s confessing, yes, but then it’s surrendering to the Holy Spirit, asking for Jesus to be LORD.

Judas had remorse for betraying Jesus, but not Godly repentance (Matthew 27:3).

Paul said,

I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. (Acts 26:20)

Both King Saul and King David were famous, powerful leaders in the Old Testament. Both were sinners, like all of us. When confronted with his sin, Saul made excuses (1 Samuel 15:30-31). When confronted by Nathan, David immediately said, “I have sinned against the LORD.” (2 Samuel 12:13). Then, David wrote,

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalms 51:10)

That’s more than confession; that’s repentance.

That’s more than, “I’m sorry.” It’s, “I want to change.”

True repentance also means making amends, forgiving others, and being merciful. Following Jesus is not just about loving God. It also means loving others.

If we are truly repentant, we will experience forgiveness.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalms 103:11-12)

We will also become the person G
od created us to be, the restored masterpiece.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:10, NLT)

But it’s a process. Each day we are to pick up our cross and follow Jesus. Each day we are to confess our
sins and acknowledge how we have fallen short of the mark of perfection modeled by Jesus. Each day we are to experience more of God’s unmerited favor, His grace.

The late Dallas Willard wrote,

Consumer Christianity is now normative. The consumer Christian is one who utilizes the grace of God for forgiveness and the services of the church for special oc
casions, but does not give his or her life and innermost thoughts, feelings, and intentions over to the kingdom of the heavens. Such Christians are not inwardly transformed and not committed to it.

Paul understood this, calling himself the worst of sinners. We are all in need of God’s grace, not merely for our salvation, but for our sanctification, our daily journey to follow Jesus.

Credits: I’m grateful for the research and assistance of Doug Oliver.

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

Direction & Protection, 17 February 2019

Direction & Protection
Series—Back to Basics
1 Kings 3:5-14; Matthew 6:13, 31-33; Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalm 27:1

Series Big Idea:
Throughout this series, we will look at the mission of FAC, the four prayers I pray for it, and the one thing that makes it so challenging—sin.

Big Idea:
God will guide and protect us if we faithfully seek Him.


If you could have one wish—anything in the world—what would it be? Imagine God asking the question! Thousands of years ago, such a question was asked.

One of my favorite Bible stories is found in the book of 1 Kings.

At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (1 Kings 3:5)

That’s it. King David’s son, Solomon, had become king. Though not perfect, Solomon loved the LORD, and so God makes this remarkable statement, grants Solomon’s request, and gives him so much more!

How would you respond if God said to you, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you?”

My name is Kirk and this morning we’re continuing our Back to Basics series, a look at our mission, the Alliance Core Values, and my prayers for First Alliance Church. We began on February 3 with the unveiling of our new mission statement:

We are a Jesus-centered family restoring God’s masterpieces in Toledo and beyond for His glory.

Our staff and elders are unanimous in their excitement over this new language. We exist not for our glory, but rather God’s. That’s the bottom line of our existence. We’re all about Jesus, we’re a family, and our mission includes not only Toledo but also the ends of the earth. We are masterpieces broken by sin in the process of becoming like Jesus and helping others become disciples or followers of Jesus—mended masterpieces.

One of the Christian & Missionary Alliance Core Value states,

Completing the Great Commission will require the mobilization of every fully-devoted disciple (Matthew 28:19).

In other words, our mission of restoring God’s masterpieces is not something done by professional Christians such as myself. We are all to be engaged in making disciples, in becoming like Jesus and helping others become like Jesus. We’re in this together, family…loving God, loving others, and making disciples.

Last Sunday, we talked about passion and unity, two of my prayers for First Alliance Church. Do you have a passion for God? Prove it! Your checkbook or bank account will show what you truly value. Your calendar, too, will demonstrate whether or not you are passionate about Jesus, about people far from God, about loving and serving others, and about knowing and obeying God.

Another Alliance Core Value states,

Knowing and obeying God’s Word is fundamental to all true success (Joshua 1:8).

Today we’re going to look at the other two prayers I pray for First Alliance Church: direction and protection. When I say direction, I’m referring to allowing Jesus Christ, our Senior Pastor, to lead us, to guide us, to teach and instruct us.

We must to always seek God’s direction for ourselves, our families, and First Alliance Church.

God speaks through a variety of ways—nature, circumstances, other believers, dreams, music, prayer—but the primary way He speaks is through His Word, the Bible. He will never contradict what is said in the Bible, which is one of the reasons we say the Bible is our authority. I have a measure of authority as your pastor, but Jesus is our Senior Pastor and God is the ultimate authority. You may not like every decision made by the elders and staff since we all have our own preferences, but if you ever find anything around here being done in violation of God’s Word, please let us know. Of course, we’re not perfect, but we desire to follow Jesus and we know the heart of God primarily through the Bible. As it says in the foyer,

"For the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ."

When I pray for direction, I’m both praying for God to both lead us into the proper understanding of the Bible and also for His mission, vision and strategy for this local church. In a word, I pray for wisdom.

Let’s go back to that story of King Solomon.

At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (1 Kings 3:5)

Did you think of your response?

Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. (1 Kings 3:6)

I love how Solomon doesn’t just say, “Give me lots of money or a hot wife or power” but actually worships God. As he talks with God—something we call prayer—he avoids just asking for stuff. Instead, he begins with worship and thanksgiving.

How do you pray? Do you approach God like a cosmic Santa Clause, or do you really enjoy time with God? One tool I’ve often used for prayer is ACTS:

Supplication (requests)

God says to Solomon, “Ask me for whatever you want” and he begins with adoration and thanksgiving. He continues,

“Now, LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:7-9)

It is often said that Solomon asked for wisdom, though technically the request was for a heart of understanding, a discerning heart, which is similar. The prayer that I pray most often for myself is wisdom, and one of my four prayers for First Alliance Church is direction or wisdom, for not only myself but also our elders, staff, and leaders. There are several reasons why I seek wisdom from God. The first is that God was pleased with Solomon’s request.

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. (1 Kings 3:10-12)

I like to learn lessons from the good and bad choices of others, and since God was pleased with Solomon’s request for wisdom in leading, it stands to reason it would please God for me to seek the same.

Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” (1 Kings 3:13-14)

Let me be clear, seeking wisdom does not necessarily lead to wealth and honor. I’m not a king, the date is not around 950 BCE, and God didn’t give me one request. But the extras God gave Solomon just emphasize God’s delight in the request for wisdom.

When Heather and I arrived at First Alliance Church more than three years ago, we knew very little about this city. We knew even less about this church. We came with no agenda, no vision, no strategy…just a clear calling to move to Toledo and serve here. Ever since I began serving as your pastor, I’ve been working with the elders and staff to discern the direction, the next steps, the mission and vision and strategy. An empty baptistry is unacceptable, and simply singing songs and preaching sermons is not enough. Nowhere does Jesus say to plant churches—and I love church planting—or build buildings or start church programs. He said to make disciples.

You see, the Bible never changes, but how it is communicated is constantly changing. I love the example of Billy Graham. He’s best known for his speaking, often using microphones to deliver his sermons, a technology Jesus never had! But he also started a magazine. He wrote books. He delivered the gospel through movies, television, and the Internet. Perhaps you could say the Bible told Graham what to preach, but not how to preach it.

The same is true for First Alliance Church. We must never change the Bible—it is our authority—but how we preach it, how we communicate it must always be changing to connect with an ever-changing world. Without a website, some of you wouldn’t be here today. Without a Facebook page, some of you wouldn’t know about FAC. If it weren’t for this building and the technology of language and the signs outside, you may never have known First Alliance Church existed. At this very moment my words are being recorded for our podcast which can be heard literally around the world.

I don’t know all of the things God has planned for us in the future. We are setting aside funds for church planting. We are praying for God to raise up more International Workers to proclaim Jesus to other people groups. There are emerging technologies which we could use, creative ways to utilize our beautiful campus, and countless opportunities to serve our city and earn the right to be heard as we build relationships with unchurched people. In all of these things we need God’s direction. We need wisdom. We need discernment. Our scripture reading for today is Jesus’ response to worry.

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:31-33)

In other words, seek God’s glory, God’s wisdom, God’s direction, God’s agenda and you can’t go wrong. This doesn’t mean life will always be easy, but you can be confident that where God guides, He provides. Or to quote my favorite passage in the entire Bible,

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Family, if you pray one prayer for me, please pray for wisdom. If there’s one prayer for our elders and staff and leaders, please pray for wisdom. We want to be led by Jesus Christ, our Senior Pastor. We need God’s direction for His church.

While we’re on the subject, I might add another one of the core values of the Alliance:

Achieving God’s purposes means taking faith-filled risks. This always involves change (Hebrews 1).

As an entrepreneur, I love this value, but I know it is disturbing to many of you. Change can be very difficult. We never want to change for the sake of change, but we must be willing to change anything and everything for the sake of the mission (which would never violate the Bible since God’s glory is the bottom line of our mission). As Dan Rogers said two weeks ago, our church has been taking faith-filled risks for decades, and I’m honored and humbled to be able to serve a congregation so willing to trust God for great things, obediently following His call and direction.


I pray for passion, unity, direction, …and protection.

We have a very real enemy, family. His name is satan and he has some friends who—like satan—are fallen angels which we call demons. They don’t necessarily run around with horns and a pitchfork, but they are real nonetheless. Anytime you hear about a death, a theft, a divorce, a tragedy, poverty, drug overdose, suicide attempt, shooting, abuse, disrespect, hate, envy, perversion, …you hear about our enemy in action.

Some people are obsessed with spiritual warfare and the cosmic battle between good and evil, God and satan, right and wrong. They look for a demon in every Coke can and seem to blame everything on the devil. Others dismiss our enemy and ignore the reality of our opponent. C.S. Lewis famously wrote,

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve their existence. The other is to believe and feel an unhealthy interest in them.”

We can pray for God’s protection from our very real enemy.

In fact, we
should pray for God’s protection. When I pray for protection, I think of Jesus’ model prayer for his disciples:

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. ’ (Matthew 6:13)

We don’t have time to do a full examination of spiritual warfare, but I want to acknowledge the reality of it and our need for God’s power. We can’t do ministry apart from God’s power. In fact, we noted several weeks ago,

Without the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, we can accomplish nothing (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).

Furthermore, Paul wrote,

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13, ESV)

Lest you think that means God wants to make us rich, famous, and powerful, consider this cartoon from Skye Jethani.

The Bible is packed with passages that affirm God’s power as far superior to those of our enemy. The prophet Isaiah declared,

…no weapon forged against you will prevail, (Isaiah 54:17b)

Earlier, we read,

The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalms 27:1)

The most common command in the Bible is “fear not,” but don’t think for a moment you can attack satan and demons without God’s power. That power is unleashed through prayer. In fact,

Prayer is the primary work of God’s people (Phil. 4:6-7)

I’m so grateful for the men, women and children who pray for First Alliance Church. We have three groups that meet each week—Sunday at 9 AM, Thursday at 7 PM, and men on Tuesdays at 8:30 AM. Many of you pray in your homes, your small groups, and during your personal time with God. Thank you. We need prayer—for passion, unity, direction, and protection. Prayer is truly work. It can be difficult, especially in a world filled with distractions. But without it, we’re just a bunch of broken people trying to change ourselves, our city, and our world with no power…in the face of a real enemy with real power. But with God, he doesn’t stand a chance!

In his book
Seizing Your Divine Moment, pastor Erwin McManus talks about sending his son, Aaron, off to summer camp and wrote,

“Aaron was just a little guy, and I was kind of glad because it was a church camp. I figured he wasn’t going to hear all those ghost stories, because ghost stories can really cause a kid to have nightmares. But unfortunately, since it was a Christian camp and they didn’t tell ghost stories because we don’t believe in ghosts, they told demon and Satan stories instead. And so when Aaron got home, he was terrified.” That first night home, Aaron asked his dad to stay in the room with him. “Daddy, I’m afraid,” Aaron said. “They told all these stories about demons.” And McManus said he wanted to tell his son, “They’re not real,” but he couldn’t say that. Aaron pleaded, “Daddy, Daddy, would you pray for me that I would be safe?” In that plea, McManus said, he heard a desire for that kind of warm-blanket Christianity that too many people assume is all there is to it. So he said to his son, “Aaron, I will not pray for you to be safe. I will pray that God will make you dangerous, so dangerous that demons will flee when you enter the room.” And Aaron said, “Alright. But pray I would be really, really dangerous, Daddy.”

McManus asks, “Have you come to that place in your own life where you stop asking God to give you a safe existence and start asking him to make you a dangerous follower of Jesus Christ?”

Family, I pray that we would seek God’s direction for ourselves and First Alliance Church, that Jesus would truly be our Senior Pastor, leading us on his mission. I also pray that God would protect us from the evil one who wants to steal, kill, destroy, lie, and divide…and that we would be so dangerous to the agenda of evil—so filled with love and passion—that demons would flee and God would be glorified.

We need not fear satan or demons, but instead become more dangerous.

The first time I spoke at First Alliance Church, I had a four-word outline which some of you remember to this day:

Fear not. Fear God.

We are to fear—or give respect and reverence—to God, but we need not fear anything or anyone. God is in control. There are real battles we face, but we will win the war. The God of angels armies is on our side.

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

Passion & Unity, 10 February 2019

Passion and Unity
Series—Back to Basics
Romans 12:9-13; Malachi 3:10; Mark 12:30; Romans 15:1-7

Big Idea: We are discussing two of my four prayers for FAC: passion and unity and the stewardship and praise which result from them.


What do you love?
Who do you love? Really!

I know, it’s Sunday so God must be the answer, right? If you have a family, your spouse or kids or parents should probably be mentioned. But what do you really love?

I know some of you are passionate about sports. You practice, play, and watch games. Others prefer the electronic variety and devote themselves to video games. Some of you are committed to cooking, your Facebook posts, caring for your pets, traveling, fashion, reading, Netflix, coffee, charity work, entertaining people in your home, going out to eat, cars, …

To quote John Maxwell,

What do you sing about?
What do you cry about?

These are things that we are passionate about today.

What do you dream about?
This speaks to what you hope will bring you fulfillment tomorrow.

In the first part of my message today, we’re talking about passion. It has been described as fuel for the will. It motivates us. It drives us to do—or not do—things. What do you love? What’s your passion?

In our February series, we’re going Back to Basics. Last week we talked about mission, why we exist as a church. Although it is just the beginning of the process of living out God’s mission, we unveiled a mission statement for First Alliance Church.

We are a Jesus-centered family restoring God’s masterpieces in Toledo and beyond for His glory.

You are a masterpiece, God’s masterpiece. Like everyone in our city and world, we’re broken by sin and in need of restoration. We are privileged to partner with God in our own transformation into the image of Jesus as well as helping others become like Jesus. It’s all about Jesus and God’s glory, not our own, though it’s a wonderful—albeit often painful process—to be restored, redeemed, reconciled, repaired.

Last month we looked at the first eight verses of Romans chapter twelve. It continues,

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:9-13)

Did you catch that in the middle? Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the LORD. That’s passion!

Family, one of my four prayers for First Alliance Church is passion…passion for God and the things that matter to God. In case you’re not sure what things those would be, let me draw your attention to one of our Alliance Core Values:

Lost people matter to God and He wants them found. (Luke 19:10)

This relates to our mission of restoring God’s masterpieces, loving our neighbors, caring for “the least of these,” extending hospitality to widows, strangers, and orphans.

The reason I pray for passion is because I can’t give it to you. I can model passion, I can preach about it, I can try to motivate you and challenge you, but passion is something that you have or you don’t. Either you were excited about watching the Super Bowl or you fell asleep during the big game. Either you devote yourself to politics or music or prayer or your kids or parents or neighbors or you don’t.

What’s your passion? Who’s your passion? Prove it!

One of the ways we can prove our passion is with our money. This week is Valentine’s Day, a day in which consumers will spend around $20 billion on flowers, candy, dinner, and gifts. That’s a lot of love!

If your passion is video games, you no doubt spend a lot of money—and time—on entertainment. If your passion is fitness, you probably have a gym membership in your budget and calendar. If you love shoes or pets or family, your Visa bill or bank account will reveal that passion.

See, love is a verb. It requires action. It’s more than just a word or two on a chalky candy heart (which you can’t even buy this year because of a change in manufacturer; don’t worry, they’ll be back next year!). Love requires commitment, sacrifice, cost. Show me your calendar and checkbook and I’ll instantly see your passion. Your time, talents, and treasures reveal what we truly love…and worship.

Where does God fit into your life? Most of you know Jesus stated the greatest command is to love God, but do you? Really?

Author N.T. Wright said,

“When human beings give their heartfelt allegiance to and worship that which is not God, they progressively cease to reflect the image of God. One of the primary laws of human life is that you become like what you worship; what’s more, you reflect what you worship not only to the object itself but also outward to the world around. Those who worship money increasingly define themselves in terms of it and increasingly treat other people as creditors, debtors, partners, or customers rather than as human beings. Those who worship sex define themselves in terms of it (their preferences, their practices, their past histories) and increasingly treat other people as actual or potential sex objects. Those who worship power define themselves in terms of it and treat other people as either collaborators, competitors, or pawns. These and many other forms of idolatry combine in a thousand ways, all of them damaging to the image-bearing quality of the people concerned and of those whose lives they touch.” (Surprised by Hope)
Remember, we were made by God, for God, and for God’s glory.

I want to offer a simple, practical challenge to you regarding passion. It involves your treasures. Just to be clear, we ended 2018 in the black. This is not a backdoor, passive aggressive fundraising tactic. I simply want to ask, “Does your budget reflect your passion for God?”

Some of you may be asking, “What’s a budget?” If so, I urge you to talk with me, Google search “budget,” watch some free Dave Ramsey videos on Right Now Media, or take a class on personal finances.

Like any challenge, this question is more relevant to some of you than others. To all of you who are faithful in your generosity, I want to say thank you on behalf of God. Thank you for honoring God with your finances. Thank you for declaring your allegiance to Jesus every time you write a check, put cash in the offering plate, or give online. I can think of no greater investment than in God’s Kingdom…and our family’s budget reflects that.

Everything We Have Belongs To God; We Are His Stewards (1 Chronicles 29:14)

The word “tithe” means 10% and was established in the Old Testament as a starting point for generosity and stewardship. 100% of what we have is from God and belongs to God. As this Core Value of The Alliance states, we are His stewards.

When you give with passion to your local church, three things happen:

You honor God. You put your money where your mouth is, so to speak. The only time in the Bible I know of where God says, “Test me” is with our finances. In the book of Malachi, the people were instructed to give at least a tithe—ten percent—to God. They were stingy, giving God their scraps and leftovers. Unfortunately, many do this today. When the offering plate comes by, if there’s some spare change in the pocket or purse, they’ll drop it in. If not, nothing. It’s really their loss. God told the people,

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. (Malachi 3:10)

There have been many days when Heather and I could not afford to give, but we did anyway in obedience to God…and every time God provided. If you think you can’t afford to give, I’m here to say you can’t afford to not give. The dollar amount is not as important as the percentage. The city and state take 7¼% of everything we buy. Washington takes even more. And some of us give God nothing?

If ten percent—which I believe is God’s minimum—seems overwhelming, start with 5% or even 1%. If your boss came to you tomorrow and said you’d have to take a 10% pay cut, most of you would find a way to make that work. This isn’t a pay cut, though. It’s an investment in God’s Kingdom. Test Him! See how God honors your faith and obedience.

To be clear, I’m not guaranteeing that you’ll get $100 in the mail tomorrow after you put $100 in the offering plate today. But God honors those who honor Him. Don’t miss out on God’s blessing.

2. You bless our church, city, and world. God is at work in and through First Alliance Church. We are seeing broken marriages healed, the sick receiving care, the hungry fed, those in prison visited, children tutored, artists trained, youth challenged, meals delivered, and the homeless housed. Because of your generosity the gospel is proclaimed—both here and around the globe. God has used this church—His church—to send missionaries around the world, to plant churches, to launch ministries such as Cherry Street Mission and Proclaim FM, to bring hope to the hopeless, love to the unloved, and peace to the troubled. We are a family on mission, God’s mission, and I can’t imagine a greater investment.

Let’s face it, our world is messed up. It needs help, and our government, schools, and businesses are not the answer, though they do good work. There’s no force on our planet like the power of God moving in and through His people.

3. Thirdly,
you experience freedom. So many people live paycheck-to-paycheck with a scarcity mentality, hoarding and living in fear. When you give to God before you pay your bills, you put your faith in action, trust God, and can truly pray for your daily bread. Remember, God says to test him. He can be trusted. In nearly 29 years of marriage, He’s never failed us (and we’ve been through some massive financial storms!).

As James K.A.Smith’s book title states,
You are what you love.

When Jesus was asked the greatest commandment, He replied,

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (Mark 12:30)

What’s missing? Nothing! He said if we are his friends, we’ll do what he commands (John 15:14). He wants us to love him with ALL our heart, ALL our soul, ALL our mind, ALL our strength. When you are passionate about something, you give it your time, your attention, and your money. The word “passion’ means several things, including “a powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, a strong or extravagant desire, or a strong love,” but another definition is “the sufferings of Christ on the cross.” Jesus suffered because he is passionate about you and me. His love is so great that he gave everything for us—even his own life. That’s passion! That’s commitment. That’s love.

One of the primary ways we love God, one of the tools we have for surrendering to the Holy Spirit, one of the best expressions of trusting God, one of the most practical declarations of our faith is how we invest our money. I pray that your greatest passion in the world would be for God, and that your time, talents,
and your treasures would truly reflect your worship and allegiance to Him.


Before we enter a time of worship through music in this slightly unusual Sunday morning gathering, I want to talk about another prayer I pray for First Alliance Church in addition to passion. It’s unity.

Two weeks ago we saw from Romans chapter 14 how judging and condemning others can threaten unity…and even cause people to leave our church family. After all, who wants to be with people who are critical, negative, and self-righteous? Tragically, I’ve learned of several people who no longer attend First Alliance Church because of judgmental attitudes and rejection. One Connection Card from two weeks ago said a young persons, “First Alliance peers no longer come because they say they are judged and spoke to as sinful ‘lost sheep’ when they visit so they go to different churches now, or not at all. So sad.”

Family, I don’t want to “judge and condemn” you, but we’ve got work to do. Actually, the Holy Spirit has work to do…on our hearts. I want to return to the book of Romans, this time chapter 15. Some preachers have spent years going through this incredible book of the Bible. Two weeks ago, we were in chapter 14 and it continues…

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. (Romans 15:1-2)

In chapter 14, Paul tells the church in Rome to avoid quarrelling over disputable matters (14:1). Furthermore, we must be sensitive to those whose faith is weak, not causing them to stumble. Love means looking out for the best interest of another person, and for me to truly love you, I must be willing to sacrifice my freedoms for your conscience. I used the example of a person choosing not to drink a glass of wine around their friend who is an alcoholic. We’re naturally selfish creatures, but love means thinking of others.

This is radical! This is counter-cultural. This is the way of Jesus. He did not come to be served, but to serve. He did not come to save His life, but to offer it up for us. He set a perfect example for us to follow…an example that requires surrender to God, a filling of the Holy Spirit, and a willingness to die to our own selfish desires for the sake of loving God…and others.

This Saturday I’m performing a wedding ceremony in Michigan and one thing I often say to couples is marriage is not 50/50. It’s 100/100. If your attitude is to go halfway, that might be fine in some situations, but there are times in life when the other person—a spouse, child, parent, friend—simply can’t go halfway themselves. Maybe they are sick or struggling in some area of life and they need you to go the extra mile, so to speak. Jesus went all the way with his love. It was unconditional. He didn’t say, “I love you if” or “I love you because,” but “I love you. Period.” As we remembered last Sunday, he gave everything for us, even his very life on the cross.

For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. (Romans 15:3-4)

I’m so glad Jesus did not live a selfish life. Aren’t you? Paul continues,

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6)

You were made by God, for God, and for God’s glory. When we live for ourselves, any hope of unity is lost. When we humbly gather together at the foot of the cross, bowing in adoration of Almighty God, seeking to love God and one another, unity is certain.

The ultimate purpose of unity is to glorify God, to worship and praise Him.

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Romans 15:7)

This doesn’t mean to accept sin, but to accept sinners…that’s all of us. We’ve been accepted by Jesus, despite our brokenness. His love is amazing, and he commands us to love one another, to accept one another, and in doing so, we praise God, in word and deed.

This is really hard. It’s easy to disagree with one another. It’s easy to gossip, slander, and judge. It feels quite natural to be critical, negative and be divisive…especially in our current culture. I’m sorry to say I’ve witnessed this repeatedly within our church family…and it must stop. Now. Our mission is not to about a donkey or an elephant. What brings us together is not having similar educational or economic backgrounds. Our purpose in gathering is not to “have our needs met” or to enjoy the music or feel good about the preaching (especially today, right?!). We are a Jesus-centered family and we exist for the glory of God. Period.

Even if you were an only child, you know family can be difficult. You won’t always agree on what restaurant to visit on vacation, what color to paint the living room, or what to name the puppy. But God uses others to shape us, teach us, and transform us. Others help us to become patient, kind, generous, loving, and selfless…to become like Jesus.

Today we’re going to close with not one song but several. We want to create space for your voice to join others. You can download sermons all day long. You can give money online. You can chat with friends on Facebook. One thing that is unique about our gatherings is corporate worship. You can sing in your car, but there’s something so beautiful about praising God together. This isn’t glee club or choir hour, but rather singing songs to God. He’s the audience. The people on stage are not the performers. We all are performers, together, for God. As a symbol of our unity, of loving God and one another, as a family, we praise God.

Worship Music

I pray for passion, expressed in our time, talents, and treasures.
I pray for unity, expressed in our love for one another, encouragement, sensitivity to one another, and lack of condemnation.

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

Restoring Masterpieces, 3 February 2019

Restoring Masterpieces
Series—Back to Basics
Ephesians 2:1-10

Big Idea: We are on a mission from God to love Him, others, and make disciples…restoring God's masterpieces.

Welcome to Super Bowl Sunday!

My favorite football story comes from the legendary coach Vince Lombardi for whom the Super Bowl winner’s trophy is named. He would begin each season by gathering his team together and saying, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”

Whether it’s football, cooking, parenting, driving, or ministry, it’s impossible to overemphasize the fundamentals, the basics.

Today we’re beginning a new series entitled,
Back to Basics. It’s essential for our church family to be on the same page, clear about our purpose, grounded in the Word of God, and filled with the Holy Spirit.

When I was first approached by District Superintendent Thomas George about submitting my resume to the FAC Pastoral Search Committee, I went to the church website to find the mission statement. I saw several words and phrases such as “connecting with God, others and the world” which were good slogans, but I didn’t find a single, concise statement that was unique to First Alliance Church.

I found three important things in our FAC 101 class for new members, all found in Matthew:

The Great Commandment, Matthew 22:37-40

Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

The Great Commission, Matthew 28:18-20

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

The Great Compassion, Matthew 25:34-41

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matthew 25:34-36)

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ (Matthew 25:37-39)

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41)

We are to be about loving God, loving others, making disciples, and caring for the hungry, thirsty, stranger, sick, and imprisoned. This is basic, right? I found this:

A great commitment to the Great Commandments and the Great Commission done with Great Compassion will grow a Great Church!

I really like that statement. But I wanted something more. I wanted a clear description of what First Alliance Church is to be about, unique from our sister churches in the Christian & Missionary Alliance. All Alliance churches can embrace

a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family

All churches are to love God and others and make disciples. But what sets this local church apart from others? If there’s nothing distinct, perhaps we should just merge with another church.

I have spent more than three years working with our leaders to craft a statement to bring clarity and focus to our FAC family. We used a tool called Church Unique which helped us to assess where we are, who we are, and where God is leading us. We reached out to people within our church family as well is in the surrounding neighborhood. We met, prayed, and discussed language for literally years until we finally settled on sixteen words which I believe will propel us forward on God’s mission.

See, we are on a mission from God, to borrow a phrase from The Blues Brothers. It’s not that our church has a mission, but rather that God’s mission has a church. For more than 131 years, we have had a unique and special calling in this city and region, and our work is far from complete. In fact, I think we’re just getting started! To be clear, mission is not something we do, but who we are. Missions is not a program of the church, it is the reason the church exists. We are all called to be on God’s mission.

A mission statement is not the end of our work. It’s just the beginning. Sixteen words don’t accomplish anything in and of themselves. Rather, they simply help us get on the same page and form the foundation for vision and strategy. They help us define a “win.” They say if you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.

Would you like to hear the mission statement?

The first words out of my mouth as your pastor three and a half years ago were simple:

Why are you here?

If we’re honest, there are probably many reasons why we are together in this room at this moment, good and bad. Why are you here?

Best-selling author Simon Sinek’s book title says it all:
Start with Why.

Why do you exist?

Our District Superintendent, Rev. Thomas George, says, “We were made God, we were made for God, and we were made for God’s glory.” Why does First Alliance Church—its individuals and collective whole—exist? For God’s glory. It’s not about us. It’s about God.

Why does First Alliance Church exist?

for God’s glory

The bottom line of First Alliance Church is not my pleasure, your comfort, or even the people in our city. This isn’t my church or your church. It’s God’s church. The bottom line is God’s glory.

are we to function, live, and act? It’s all about Jesus. It’s not about religion or tradition. It’s about Jesus.

We are Jesus-centered…for God’s glory

are we? We’re a family. Everyone yearns for the love and intimacy of a healthy family, even if they’ve never experienced one. We’re not a perfect family, but we are more than a group of individuals. We were created to be interdependent. We were designed to do life together in community. We are a spiritual family helping biological families.

We are a Jesus-centered family…for God’s glory

are we? Toledo is our epicenter, our home, our primary mission field. Missionaries are sent overseas, but they’re also desperately needed here in our post-Christian culture. There are 500,000 souls here, many of whom are facing an eternity without Jesus. Acts 1:8 says we are to not only serve our “Jerusalem” but also Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. As part of the global Alliance family, our neighbor is both someone down the street and someone on the other side of the planet.

We are a Jesus-centered family…in Toledo and beyond for God’s glory

do we do? There are many churches in our community, but what makes us unique? How are we distinct from Westgate Chapel or Bedford Alliance besides our geography? What makes us different than The Tabernacle or The Vineyard or Cornerstone, neighbors in our city? Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:1-5)

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:6-10)

We are God’s handiwork. Paul originally wrote in Greek, so all English versions are translations. The ESV and King James translations says we are his workmanship. My favorite version of this verse is found in the New Living Translation.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” - Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

You are a masterpiece! You are a work of art! You were created in the image of God with dignity, value and worth. There is no one like you. Your size, shape, color, personality, and story make you a one-of-a-kind in a world of more than 7 billion people.

The same can be said of everyone in our neighborhood. Regardless of their age, gender, race, religion, height, weight, education, or income, they are a masterpiece.

Obviously this word “masterpiece” is not an image most churches would adopt, but part of what makes First Alliance Church unique is its location on Monroe Street, the Avenue of the Arts. Our defining landmark is being located next to the fantastic Toledo Museum of Art. Throughout our history, we have had rich musical performances, taught children at our sports and arts camp, promote family-friendly theater, and even worship in a building which I consider to be a work of art.

God is an artist, and His greatest work came not in speaking or singing into existence the sun or stars or animals, but humans.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

I love the Toledo Zoo. I’m a member, in fact! I like the elephants and monkeys and giraffe. My favorite part of the zoo is the aquarium. I’m fascinated by fish and one of my all-time favorite things to do is snorkel. The diverse colors, shapes, and sizes of sea life are absolutely brilliant. But humans are unique among all of God’s creation. Only humans were created in God’s image. He saved the best for last during creation! You are a masterpiece. Really!

A few months ago, I believe the LORD woke me up at 4:30 in the morning and dropped two words into my head. I wasn’t brainstorming or working on a mission statement. I was sleeping! But two simple words came to mind as I awoke. One was masterpiece.

We are a Jesus-centered family _____________ God’s masterpieces in Toledo and beyond for His glory

We are God’s masterpieces. But there’s one not-so-little problem.

Unfortunately, we’ve all been broken by sin. We’re all messed up, some more visibly than others, but even the best of us—the most healthy and mature—is a work in progress. Fortunately, God is all about redemption, reconciliation, and healing. The work of Jesus offers opportunity, freedom, and hope. As our local partner, Cherry Street Mission, calls their facility, revitalization is possible in humans just as it is in the buildings in our city which are being renovated. Our community is filled with brokenness and desperation in every conceivable sense…economic, educational, moral, safety, family…and we are called to be conduits of God’s shalom—peace and wholeness. Transformation, repair, rehabilitation…it’s all about
restoration. It’s about the restoration of masterpieces created by God, helping each person discover their potential, connecting with God, others, and the world.

We are a Jesus-centered family restoring God’s masterpieces in Toledo and beyond for His glory.

The two words God gave me were “restoring masterpieces.” That’s why we’re here, what we are to be about. First Alliance Church is not a members-only club. We don’t exist for the primary purpose of having a nice building in which to worship God. Our mission is not maintaining the status quo or distributing religious goods and services.

We love God, we love others, and we make disciples by becoming like Jesus, by looking and acting like our Master and LORD. Each one of us is unique. We are a
mosaic of different people, different masterpieces being restored by our Creator to become like Jesus. This includes Christians and pre-Christians, rich and poor, black and white, homeowners and homeless, dropouts and graduates.

I know for some of you this is a radical vision. I’m reminded of Steve Taylor’s satirical song of long ago, “I Want To Be A Clone” in which he sings of how every Christian is supposed to look and act and dress exactly the same. But as I said last Sunday, unity does not mean uniformity. It’s ok for us to have different preferences and opinions, so long as they do not violate the Word of God. It’s good and healthy for us to listen and learn from one another. I don’t know about you, but I’ve changed my view on some things over the years, and will probably continue to do so as I learn and study the Bible and am guided by the Holy Spirit.

Every masterpiece is unique and special…or else it’s not a masterpiece!

When Jesus said he came “to seek and to save the lost” in Luke 19:10, he was expressing the heart of the Father to not only love His children, but also to pursue the lost sheep. The mission of the church goes beyond its members to include every man, woman and child created by God…and for whom Jesus died. “For God so loved the world.” The reason we remain here after surrendering our lives to Jesus is because we are on a mission from God. Every person you meet at the store, in your office, in your neighborhood, at the library, and at school is a masterpiece, whether they know it or not. Broken and flawed, yes. Covered by the dust and dirt of sin, yes. In need of restoration, absolutely! And what an honor and privilege to be commissioned by Jesus himself to make disciples, to reproduce his life in ourselves and others, to love our neighbors, and in doing so loving God.

Restoring masterpieces. You are a masterpiece, and we all have need of some restoration, be it a dusting each day as we confess our sins or a massive work of revitalization needed by a person far from God. We were created to do good works, to love God and others, to make disciples, to help restore the broken masterpieces we encounter each day.

Kintsugi is the centuries-old Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Some consider the restored art more valuable than the original unblemished piece. Although damaged, it is whole.

What a picture of redemption! Ever since Adam and Eve sinned, God has been redeeming, repairing, rebuilding, and restoring humanity. The very best among us are nothing more than wounded healers. We are all in need of God’s grace, forgiveness, mercy, and restoration.

We are a Jesus-centered family restoring God’s masterpieces in Toledo and beyond for His glory.

This is our mission. This is God’s mission. We are His masterpieces, and it’s all about His glory.

As we move into communion, I want you to think upon your value as a masterpiece. People are willing to spend thousands, even millions of dollars for works of art, but I’ve never heard of someone willing to die for a painting or sculpture. But God so loved the masterpieces He created that He sent Jesus to die to redeem us, to reconcile us, to restore us and our relationship with Him broken by sin. We celebrate His sacrifice and respond by not only remembering but also by seeking to restore God’s masterpieces that live in Toledo and beyond.


If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

This is one of my favorite verses, but the verse before it says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” If we think our masterpiece is not damaged by sin, it can never be restored. Everyone else knows we’re broken. Trust me! When we confess our sins and agree we need repair and forgiveness, He can go to work. He loves to shine His light through our cracks and brokenness (2 Cor. 4:7). Today I pray we can all get real with God, acknowledge our flaws and sins, and become restored masterpieces, pursuing purity and holiness and helping others encounter the great Artist, Creator, Redeemer, and Restorer.

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