Dinner Church

Dinner Church: Grace, 26 May 2019

Dinner Church: Grace

Big Idea:
Grace is truly amazing, a gift from God which needs to be received.

What is grace?

It’s a name.

It’s what some people say before a meal.

In two words, grace is unmerited favor. It’s getting a good thing you did nothing to earn or deserve.

People often confuse grace with mercy or justice. I like to think of it this way:

Justice is when you smash my car and I make you pay for the damages.

Mercy is when you smash my car and I say, “Don’t worry about it.” You’re off the hook.

Grace is when you smash my car and I say, “Don’t worry about it. Let me buy you some ice cream.”

What? That’s crazy, right? Who does that?


We live in a world that seeks justice. We don’t always get justice, but we want it. We like things to be fair. If you break something, you should fix it. If I wrong you, you want me to fix it, to make amends, to make it right. We like to see criminals punished. Justice.

However, when
we are the guilty party, we seek mercy.

When have you experienced grace?

Last Sunday, billionaire tech investor Robert F. Smith announced at Morehead College’s graduation ceremony he’s paying off the student loans of the entire 2019 graduating class. $40 million. That’s grace!

Tonight I’ve got some bad news and some good news for all of us.

Here’s the bad news: the Creator God is perfect. Holy. Set apart. Intolerant of evil, sin, imperfection, mistakes, …us!

Contrary to popular belief, God does not judge on a curve. Our good deeds don’t cancel our flaws. We all mess up…every day. God calls that sin. It might be something awful like murder or something seemingly innocent like a little white lie. It doesn’t matter. We all do it. We have lustful thoughts, greedy intentions, cheat on our taxes, break the speed limit on I-75, gossip, …the list goes on and on!

For some reason, our culture believes if you do more good things than bad things, everything’s ok. That’s like saying if you put enough sugar in your coffee, it will cancel out the drops of poisonous cyanide someone put in it!

How many of you would drink that?

God’s standard is perfection, and since none of us is perfect, we’re all hopeless on our own. There’s a really good chance someday you will die! Me, too! Jesus talked several times about Judgment Day, the moment when we will stand before God and have to give an account for how we lived our lives…and what happens next.

Judgment Day is coming. Are you ready?

Oh, Kirk, forget about the future. Live for the moment!

I can tell you plenty of stories of friends who are living today the consequences of their actions from years ago.

Judgment Day is coming. Are you ready?

The truth is, none of us can be ready…on our own. All of our good works—while important—can’t begin to overcome the death of sin, of our bad deeds. Paul, who wrote much of the Christian Bible, said to some of the first Christians in what is now Turkey,

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. (Ephesians 2:1-3, NLT)

This is not a pretty picture. Every day we make choices, choices to follow God or follow satan, the devil, the world, the culture. Every day we’re bombarded with messages that say ignore God and do what feels good, what makes you happy.

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) (Ephesians 2:4-5, NLT)

Usually I don’t like the word “but.” It’s a setup, like, “I’d love to come to your party, but I might have to binge-watch something on Netflix” or “I’d really like to help, but I’m broke.” This is a good “but.” Here’s the good news! Paul is saying Paul’s speaking to Jesus-followers. He’s saying on our own, we’re hopeless, but God. God is merciful. He loved us. He saw us dead in our sins and hopeless, which is why He sent Jesus to die and be raised from the dead. This is what the Christian faith is all about: the death and resurrection of Jesus.

If our good can outweigh the bad, there never would’ve been a need for Jesus to leave heaven, come to earth, be born as a baby, live and teach, die for your sins and mine, and then come back to life, proving his power to conquer sin and death (the victory we spoke of at our last Dinner Church). In other words, if we can know God and go to heaven by being good, we don’t need Jesus. But we do! Because we can’t!

Do you see the note at the end of the verse? It is only by God’s grace—unmerited favor—that you have been saved. Paul is saying it’s a gift you must receive. You can’t earn it. You can’t buy it. The only way you can know God and spend eternity with him is to let the sacrifice of Jesus deal with it. Jesus died so you can live. Forever. With Him.

Do you want that? It’s a choice. We can choose to follow God now and forever or reject God now and forever. He has given us the freedom to choose. But choose carefully. Your life depends upon it. Your future depends upon it. Your destiny depends upon it.

For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6-7, NLT)

This is a beautiful picture of what it means to follow Jesus. I’m not talking about religion or tradition or even church. This is about reconciling with your Creator, confessing your sins and mistakes, asking Jesus to forgive you, and make him the leader of your life. If we surrender and die to ourselves, our will, and our agenda, he will take over, do life with us, and lead us now and forever.

This morning across the street we did a baptism where a woman was dunked in water to symbolize dying to her old life and then when she came up out of the water, it symbolized she is born again, she is resurrected like Jesus, she has new life. She is not instantly perfect, but her faith in Jesus means her sins are completely removed and forgiven. She has freedom. She has peace. She has experienced amazing grace, the gift of God of Jesus the Messiah.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NLT)

I love these two verses. They remind me I can’t experience salvation or peace or a relationship with God by being a good person or becoming a pastor or going to church or praying or reading the Bible or doing anything religious. It’s as simple as letting go and letting God. It’s about experiencing amazing grace.


No matter where you are in your spiritual journey, I’ve been praying that tonight you might take a next step. It might be to ask more questions and discover Jesus further. It might be tonight’s your night to say for the first time, “Jesus, I give you my life.” Maybe you have been calling yourself a Christian but you’re not really following Jesus. You’ve been living for yourself, filled with pride and selfishness and maybe even hate. Jesus said the true sign of his followers is simply love. Followers of Jesus are to be filled with love—and grace—and extend it to others. Think about your next step with God. He’s here and He’s calling you closer, inviting you into a deep relationship with Him, possible only because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, His gift of grace.

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

Dinner Church: Victory, 5 May 2019

Dinner Church: Victory

Today is Cinco de Mayo, a celebration which, interestingly, is celebrated more in the United States than Mexico. What does this day commemorate?

The Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. It is not Mexico’s Independence Day, but it has become a day for us to eat tacos and burritos! Leave it to USAmericans to take a solemn occasion and turn it into a food feast!

Our them tonight is victory. We’ve all had victories and defeats, wins and losses. We will throughout our lives. Not even the New England Patriots or New York Yankees—or that team down south—win every year!

I love sports. I love to play sports. I love to watch sports. And I’m very competitive. I’ve never been fast, but I want to be! I want to win…and I want my teams to win.

Many years ago, I discovered the key to watching sports is to cheer for a person or team.

The most important part of a game is the…end. As many people have found out, it doesn’t matter the score with one second left on the clock or in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs. Anything can happen in those final moments.

As much as I love basketball, for instance, I rarely sit and watch the first half of a game, even if it’s one of my favorite teams. However, if I know the Pistons or Sixers are in the fourth quarter and the score is tied, get out of my way! Some of the great moments in sports history came when a certain defeat became a miraculous victory.

What is one victory you’ve experienced in your life? It could be field day as a kid, a little league game, watching your favorite team win on tv, getting a job you wanted, winning an award, etc.

How did it feel?

How is a victory different from a defeat?

What does it take to be victorious?

I want to suggest often victory requires defeat. I’ve rarely met anyone who is just a born winner and effortlessly succeeds at everything.

Last month Christians around the world celebrated a day called Good Friday. It was actually terrible. Jesus spent about three years creating a movement, a movement which continues to this day, a movement of faith, hope, and love. He spent three years teaching, healing the sick, raising the dead, attracting crowds, mentoring men and women, and then all of a sudden he allows himself to be arrested on false charges, refuses to defend himself, and goes from celebrity status to that of a criminal. Imagine the horror of all of his friends and fans as he is crucified, nailed to a cross, butchered for all to see in the most humiliating and excruciating of executions.

In a word, all was lost.

The life of Jesus. Lost.
The hope of his followers. Lost.

That’s not all. As Jesus died on the cross, the universe began to shift. Literally.

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. (Matthew 27:45)

Even with all of the cloudy, rainy days we have in Toledo, it’s not dark from noon until three in the afternoon! These were the hours Jesus was dying on the cross. Matthew, the writers of one of Jesus’ four biographies called the gospels, wrote,

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. (Matthew 27:50)

He died. There’s no way anyone could’ve survived the beating, torture, mocking, thorns, and nails.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. (Matthew 27:51-53)

Did you know zombies were in the Bible? When Jesus died—and a spear was shoved into his side causing blood and water to flow, proving he was dead—the whole universe went crazy. All was lost. Or so it seemed.

Have you ever had a moment like that? Maybe it was a day, a week, a month, or even a year. Maybe that moment is right now. Life feels like one big loss.

It could be a literal loss, like the loss of a job or a relationship breakup. Maybe your physical health is failing or your finances are a wreck.

If it feels like Friday, I’ve got good news for you. Your story’s not over. In fact, this very moment of pain, struggle, and storm may actually be preparing you for the greatest victory in your life.

Here’s the thing about Jesus and the cross: it wasn’t a loss. Sure, for a couple days all seemed loss, but something was going on behind the scenes. The crucifixion wasn’t an accident. In fact, Jesus had predicted he would die. He told people he would die. Ancient prophecy from hundreds of years earlier predicted he would die. What looked like a loss was just part of a plan.

On the cross, Jesus died to forgive you and me of all of our sins, our mistakes, our junk. Nobody’s perfect, right? Except Jesus.

See, the bad news is God is perfect and demands perfection from all of us. He doesn’t grade on a curve! If our lives are not 100% perfect, he has to reject us. It’s like the measles that are spreading in parts of the country. Nobody wants to get close to someone with measles because it’s very contagious. If you’ve got the measles—even if you’re a nice person and get good grades in school and make a lot of money and volunteer at the Humane Society and support the Toledo Symphony—you’ve got to be quarantined. You’re contagious.

Sin is contagious, and we’ve all got it…and God can’t get close to it. We were all—all—destined to go to hell when we die. Don’t get freaked out about a place with guys in red suits wearing horns and carrying a pitchfork. Hell is simply where God is not present. It’s not a good place, but it’s where we all deserve to go because we’ve all got sin.

But the amazing thing is Jesus—perfect Jesus—died to forgive our sins, to bring our score to 100%, to cure our sickness, our measles, so we can know God, so we can be with God, so we can go to heaven. Heaven is where God is, and you can experience heaven before you die, and even more after you die in the next life.

But heaven is not for people who are good. You have to be perfect…or know someone who is! Jesus came, lived, and died so you could know God, do life with God, and experience the love, joy, peace, freedom and hope that come only from God.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible says,

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:15, NIV)

On the cross as Jesus died, the real loser was sin, evil, and death. He made a public spectacle over satan and demons.

Jesus took the beating. His body was broken. His blood poured out. For you. For me.

The cross was actually a victory for all of humanity, anyone who would say yes to Jesus, say yes to the cure he offers for our sin disease. And guess what? It’s a gift! You can’t earn it. You can’t buy it. You can’t do enough good things to deserve it.

If someone offers you a gift—a wonderful gift—what do you have to do? Take it!

Tonight I want every one of you to experience sweet victory. I’m not talking about self-help, positive thinking, cheerleading. I mean take your junk to Jesus…your fears, failures, hurts, habits, and hangups. Let go and let God.

“Our God loves triumphing over what looks impossible.” – Lisa Bevere

On the third day—the day we celebrate on Easter—Jesus came back to life. He rose from the dead.

Dr. Tony Campolo famously said, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!”

There’s a lot of talk about Christianity dying in this country. I think some of it has to do with abusive priests, power-hungry pastors, and hypocritical Christians. I’m very sorry for that, by the way. Christian means “little Christ” and a lot of Christians don’t look like Jesus…including me, sometimes. I’m very sorry.

But a lot of people have no need for God. They say they don’t need a crutch. They feel like they’re experiencing victory. But it never lasts. Eventually every team loses, every champion retires, every dollar is spent, every breath is breathed.

If you don’t need God, thanks for coming tonight. I hope you enjoyed dinner and made some friends.

But if there is any part of your soul that needs healing, any part of your heart that needs love, any part of your mind that needs truth, or any part of your body that needs healing, I know where you can find victory tonight. It might not be instant victory, but surrendering your life to Jesus, receiving his forgiveness, repenting and turning away from your past life and running to God will change you forever. Forever!

This isn’t about religion or even church. It’s about Jesus.

Steph Curry’s favorite verse is Philippians 4:13

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

If you want to experience victory in your life, I have a short prayer I want to invite you to pray tonight. It’s simply this: Jesus, I give you my life. I believe for some of you, tonight is your night. This prayer is not the end, it’s just the beginning. Jesus, I give you my life.

At the end of the Bible is a somewhat mysterious book called Revelation. It begins with letters to churches and Jesus speaks to an ancient church in what is now Turkey says this to those who followed Jesus:

All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine. (Revelation 3:5, NLT)

That’s victory! That’s eternal victory! And that’s the victory we can experience with Jesus is greater than any Mexican war victory on Cinco de Mayo, greater than any NBA Finals championship, and even greater than winning the lottery!