Lost and Found, 1 May 2022

Lost and Found
Series—Alliance Core Values
Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 15; 19:10; Romans 10:14-15
Series Big Idea: After a 2021 reveal of our First Alliance Core Values, this series is a presentation of the Christian & Missionary Alliance Core Values.
Big Idea: Lost People Matter to God. He Wants Them Found.
Have you ever been lost? I’m sure we have all had such an experience, whether it was as a child in a store, hiking in the woods, or even driving in a strange city. Think about one such moment. How did you feel? Anxious? Scared? Ready for an adventurous challenge?
How did you feel when you were no longer lost? Relieved? Happy? Overjoyed? Our theme today is lost and found.
Last year we introduced the newly-created core values of First Alliance Church. Today we begin a series presenting the core values of our Christian & Missionary Alliance family. Although the Alliance is not among the largest denominations in the US like the Catholics, Southern Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, or Presbyterians, it is a thriving, global movement guided by seven dynamic values which provide clarity and focus to our mission as followers of Jesus. These are not only the Alliance Core Values. I think they are values of Jesus.
Although they are presented in no particular order, our first core value states,
“Lost people matter to God. He wants them found.”
Lost people are those who do not have a relationship with Jesus.
I confess I can’t imagine life without Jesus. I was raised in a Christian home and was introduced to Jesus as a child. I was told Jesus loved me, lived a perfect life, died to pay the penalty for my sins and failures, rose from the dead, and invites me to follow him, to love him, and to love others. A relationship with God is the essence of life’s meaning and purpose.
Some lost people don’t know they’re lost.
They think this life is all there is. They’ve heard he or she who dies with the most toys wins. What hope does this world offer? Suicide statistics show many are so desperate they can’t even tolerate this life (if you’re thinking about it, please tell somebody and call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255). I believe especially today people are searching for peace, for hope, for meaning, for purpose. If we’ve learned anything in the past two years, it’s that science can’t fix everything, politics can barely fix anything, evil is all around us, and nothing of this world is secure. Come to think of it, I think most people on the planet at least know humanity is lost!
All of us were lost at one time.
As I said, I was a child when I began my journey with Jesus. I can barely remember being “lost,” but I was. When we say “lost people matter to God,” it’s important to remember it’s not us versus them. We’re not looking down at “those people.” Because of the sins of our ancestors, Adam and Eve, we’re all born with a sin nature, a rebellious streak, selfish and prideful. We all need forgiveness. We all need mercy. We all need Jesus.
Saul persecuted Christians before his miraculous conversion. He wrote to the church in Ephesus,
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (Ephesians 5:8)
There’s an old song that says,
I once was lost/but now I’m found/was blind but now I see
All of us were lost at one time.
The Pharisees in Jesus’ day were a group of religious people who criticized and condemned “those people,” unaware of their own sinful self-righteousness.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. (Matthew 23:25-26, NIV)
Our attitude toward the lost should never be judgment, but love. That’s how Jesus approached us.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NIV)
It’s important to realize…
Some lost people don’t want to be found.
This is true for some kids lost in the woods and it’s true for the spiritually lost, too. Many have heard the “good news,” the gospel, and rejected it. There are those who simply want to live life their way, on their terms. They think they can control life…and do so effectively.
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. (Psalm 14:1, NIV)
Ouch! I don’t write the news…I just deliver it!
It’s not our job to convert people, to pressure or coerce or sell. Only the Holy Spirit can change a human heart, but He uses ordinary people to deliver the message.
The example of Saul—whose name was changed to Paul—is a reminder no person is beyond God’s reach. We can pray for those who are far from God in hopes that they will desire a relationship with God.
Perhaps the most important message I have for you today is…
It is a joy to seek and find the lost.
This was Jesus’ mission. It is found throughout the Bible, but especially in Luke chapter 15 where He teaches about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and most famously the lost or prodigal son. Jesus said of himself,
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10)
Obviously, our mission is not to die on a cross and rise from the dead, but it is to deliver good news, to offer a map to the lost, so to speak. You know the old adage
you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. We can lead people to Jesus but we can’t make them follow him. We can’t force conversions. We can’t change a human heart. We can’t manipulate someone to surrender their lives and make Jesus the leader of their lives.
But we can make an introduction. We can extend an invitation. Then the ball’s in their court.
One of the most disturbing words for many Christians is “
evangelism.” It comes from the Greek word euangelion, announcing good news. The word “angel” is inside the word. An angel is a messenger.  
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14-15, NIV)
At this point you might be thinking, “That’s the job of the pastor, the missionary, the professional Christian. I could never preach. I could never lead someone to Jesus. I don’t have the gift of evangelism. I’m not qualified to talk about Jesus.”
One of the great lies of the enemy is seeking the lost is only the work of clergy…pastors. If it’s up to clergy—and we are surrounded by Christians all day—the lost don’t stand a chance to be found! You are qualified. Jesus’ final words recorded by Matthew were to a group of men and women, none of whom to my knowledge were professional Christians. We call this the Great Commission:
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)
Jesus didn’t say make converts or “do evangelism.” He said make disciples, but the first step in discipleship is repenting and making Jesus LORD. That can only happen when someone is introduced to Jesus and invited to follow him.
What do you love? Your family? Your hobbies? Maybe sports or entertainment. Do you talk about those things? Sure. We talk about the things we love. It’s natural.
Do you love Jesus? Do you talk about Jesus? I know, we’re told to avoid talking about politics and religion…that doesn’t seem to stop people, does it…at least politics?
If you love Jesus, it should be natural to talk about Jesus. I want to give you a few tips (write them down):
1.    Build relationships with non-Christians (the lost).
    Pray for your friends (they are not projects!).
    Share your story. Nobody can argue with it. It’s personal.
    Listen to their story. Find ways to connect theirs to yours…and God’s
    People in crisis are especially open to help from God. We are all in crisis!
    Share the gospel, the good news, the love of God. Here are key points:
a.    We were created for a purpose…to know our Creator
    God is holy and perfect and our sin and failures destroyed the relationship
     Jesus lived a perfect life and died to reconcile us to God
    Jesus rose from the dead, offers forgiveness and new life to those who follow him
    You can make Jesus the leader of your life
      Trusting Jesus with your life and repenting—turning away—from your sin does not mean an easy life, but guarantees an exciting, satisfying, and eternal life filled with faith, love, hope, peace, and joy
7.    Involve others, if desired, including our church leaders.
    Don’t worry about having all of the answers. None of us does.
    Be patient. It usually takes time for people to surrender to Jesus.
Have fun! You’re delivering good news! You’re introducing people to Jesus. You’re a potentially a part of changing their eternal destiny! What could be better?!
Let me say it again,
It is a joy to seek and find the lost.
It’s not an obligation. There’s no guilt or shame involved. It’s a privilege. I admit my list of non-Christian friends is short, but I love making new friends and I love talking about Jesus.
Don’t you like good news? Don’t you like it when people tell you good news? How would you feel about me if I gave you a website where you could download a free $100 gift card? Sorry, I don’t have one!
But I can give you something far better than a gift card…I can give you life…abundant…eternal! I can introduce you to the Author of joy, love, peace, and satisfaction. I can tell you about the meaning of life and announce you are loved and forgiven because Jesus died and rose from the dead to prove his love to you and he wants to lead your life. This isn’t about a magic prayer to simply go to heaven when you die. It’s about experiencing real life NOW!
Two weeks ago, we celebrated the resurrection. He is risen!
He is risen indeed! Jesus is alive! He will one day return and every man, woman, and child will stand before God and declare their eternal destiny, either eternity with God through Jesus’ death and resurrection or eternity without God. He will honor our choice, our decision, made in this life.
Tragically, many have never heard the good news. Maybe they’ve never heard about Jesus…or maybe all they heard was religion and hypocrisy. We have the joy and privilege to share good news and introduce people not to religion or even church, but Jesus. The lost who have been found sing hallelujah, which means praise the LORD. Let’s do everything we can to make that chorus as loud as possible…for their sake and the sake of our LORD.
Lost people matter to God. He wants them found.

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

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

God Shows Compassion, 27 October 2019

God Shows Compassion
Jonah 4:1-11

Series Big Idea:
The prophet Jonah reveals God’s grace for all nations.

Big Idea:
God showed compassion to the Ninevites…and Jonah…and He shows it to us, too.

Do you like the LORD’s prayer? It would seem sacrilegious to say no. Jesus said,

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. ’ (Matthew 6:9-13)

Many of us have prayed the Lord’s Prayer countless times, either out of tradition and ritual or in seeking to earnestly pursue God and His participation in our lives.

But since all relationships require participation from both parties, I want to draw your attention to verse twelve.

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12)

Do you see it? There’s an assumption, a condition. Jesus tells us to seek forgiveness as we forgive others. Do we deserve forgiveness any more than another?

Before we finish the book of Jonah today, I want to give a quick summary of the first three chapters. The book of Jonah begins…

The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” (Jonah 1:1-2)

Jonah disobeys God and hops aboard a boat going the opposite direction from Nineveh. He hates these people. God causes a terrible storm which results in Jonah confessing his disobedience and being thrown overboard.

God causes a huge fish to swallow Jonah, sparing his life. Jonah prays during his three-day stay in the fish’s belly before God commands the fish to vomit Jonah onto dry land (you can’t make this stuff up!). Jonah learns his lesson, he goes to Nineveh, the people repent—turn from their evil ways—and

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. (Jonah 3:10)

What great news…right?

God relented.
God forgave.
God showed mercy.
God offers compassion.
God loves.

That’s our God!

I’m going to say something very radical, maybe controversial, and certainly outrageous…

Lost people matter to God. He wants them found. He really does. He loved the evil Ninevites. He loves sex traffickers and drug dealers, atheists and even politicians! He doesn’t just love Christians! God doesn’t just love church people! He loves sinners…which includes you and me and the other 7+ billion people on the planet. And catch this: He doesn’t love us because we’re good…which is good…because we’re not good!

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Our culture is so binary, forcing people into categories: Republican or Democrat, Christian or non-Christian, embrace and endorse and celebrate LGBTQ+ or hate them, black or white, rich or poor. We’ve got to get beyond labels. We’ve got to go beyond friend or enemy. That’s the way the world operates. God says we’re all sinners, we all need forgiveness, we all have an opportunity to receive mercy and grace, and we all choose now how we’ll live eternity—with God or without God. We all choose now who we will worship—God or our desires.

I love the late Dallas Willard who said, “
The sinner is not the one who uses a lot of grace... The saint burns grace like a 747 burns fuel on take off.”

Just because I made a decision more than forty years ago to trust Jesus as my LORD and Savior doesn’t mean I don’t need God grace or love…or that I deserve it more than anyone else. This might be the big idea of the entire book of Jonah.

God shows grace to Jonah by giving him a chance to preach to Nineveh.
God shows grace to Jonah by sparing his life through a fish.
God shows grace to Jonah by giving him a second chance to preach to Nineveh.
God shows grace to Jonah by giving him a front-row seat to witness revival.

But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. (Jonah 4:1)

Jonah hates the Ninevites. They were enemies of Israel. He wants God to destroy them. He wants them gone! Instead, God forgives them. He shows mercy. He is compassionate. That’s who God is, and He loves the whole world. Period.

Does that mean everyone will spend eternity with God. No. Many choose hell, eternity apart from God. But my Bible says

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. (John 3:16)

The world. Whoever. Anyone who believes…trusts…surrenders will have eternal life. Anyone who surrenders to Jesus Christ and receives the love and grace and mercy and forgiveness provided by the cross and the empty tomb will spend eternity with God, which, by definition, is what we call heaven…it is where God is present.

God was willing to spare Nineveh, but to do so He could not spare His own Son.

Jonah actually knew God is forgiving, gracious, compassionate, and love.

In chapter one, he was like the Prodigal Son, rebelling against God. Now he’s like the elder brother, angry that God would extend forgiveness and love to others.

In chapter one he asked God to spare his life.
In chapter four he asks God to take his life.

He prayed to the LORD, “Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:2-3)

Are you kidding me?! Jonah should’ve died when he was thrown overboard. He deserved to die for his disobedience, but God still uses him to deliver a message of repentance which is successful. Jonah think God only loves his people, his kind…or that he should.

But the LORD replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4)

God is compassionate. Jonah is angry.
God spares Jonah’s life. Jonah wants to die.

The story continues with one of the most interesting accounts in the entire Bible.

Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the LORD God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. (Jonah 4:5-6)

He wants to see God change His mind and destroy the city. He’s hoping he misunderstood God and that his people, the Israelites, would celebrate the destruction of their enemies. And then Jonah is excited about a plant. A plant! No, it was weed for him to smoke or even food for him to eat, but shade. It says the plant made Jonah very happy! Have you ever had a plant make you very happy because of its shade?

Here’s another sign of God’s grace, His unmerited favor toward Jonah.

But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:7-8)

God provided the plant.
God provided the worm.
Now Jonah is suicidal again…because of a worm!

This guy is a hot mess, proving yet again that God can use anybody.

He can use a murderer and stutterer like Moses to speak to Pharaoh, leading the Israelites for forty years.

He can use a loose-lipped, compulsive person like Peter who denied Jesus three times to build His Church.

He can use a suicidal, prejudiced patriot like Jonah to lead a great city to repentance.

He can use you and me whenever and however He chooses…if we make ourselves available…if we say yes…if we surrender.

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.” (Jonah 4:9)

What audacity!

But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” (Jonah 4:10-11)

And the book ends there—somewhat abruptly—with a question. Jonah’s angry and wants to die. God is compassionate and forgiving and the great city of Nineveh becomes a repentant, God-fearing city. And don’t forget the animals!

So What?

Warren Wiersbe writes, “When reputation is more important than character, and pleasing ourselves and our friends is more important than pleasing God, then we’re in danger of becoming like Jonah and living to defend our prejudices instead of fulfilling our spiritual responsibilities. Jonah certainly had good theology, but it stayed in his head and never got to his heart, and he was so distraught that he wanted to die!”


What makes you happy?
What makes you angry?
What makes you want to give up?

Jesus’ half-brother, James, said that Jonah was “a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8,
NKJV). What about you?

If we return to Jesus’ words following his prayer instruction, he adds…

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15)

I know it’s hard to love…especially people who are different.
I know it’s hard to forgive…especially people who don’t deserve it (which is everyone!).

But this is the test of our faith, of our devotion to Jesus, of our obedience.

Agreeing with a statement of faith does not make you a Christian.
Going to church does not make you a Christian.

The only thing that makes you a Christian is repenting of your sins and following Jesus. Acting like Jesus. Loving like Jesus. Forgiving like Jesus.

Jason Horton: https://levithepoet.bandcamp.com/track/keep-forgiving

Keep forgiving. It doesn’t mean you forget. It doesn’t mean you necessarily trust. But forgiving frees you from bitterness and anger.

Lost people matter to God. He wants them found. He wants them forgiven.

Do lost people matter to you? Do you have compassion for those far from God? Do you have a passion for the broken masterpieces in Toledo that need to be restored? Do you rejoice when sinners repent and trust Jesus?

Tragically, Christians are often known more for what we’re against instead of what we’re for…which should be God…and people. All people.

We’re beginning a series next week on discipleship…becoming like Jesus. It’s easy to get sucked into the binary arguments of our day, seeing everyone as a friend or enemy, us versus them. Jesus looks at all of us as broken, sinful, selfish, messed-up people…and he proved is love for us by giving his very life, dying in our place, taking our sin upon himself, crucified on a cross so we could experience forgiveness, reconciliation with our Heavenly Father, peace, faith, hope, joy, and love. How can you resist that?

Many have, not because of Jesus, but because of those of us who claim to follow him.

Don’t be a Jonah. Be like Jesus (who himself taught about Jonah in Matthew 12 and Luke 11). Forgive. Show compassion.

We may have impeccable doctrine, perfect Sunday School attendance, and give generously to the church, but if we don’t have compassion and forgiveness, we don’t share in the life or character of God.

"God judges, the Holy Spirit convicts, we are to love." -Billy Graham

Credits: some ideas from Warren Wiersbe.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Seeking the Savior, 28 April 2019

    Seeking the Savior
    Series—The Quest of the Good Shepherd
    Luke 19:1-10

    Series Big Idea:
    Love is one of the most misunderstood words in our culture, yet it is at the heart of the two greatest biblical commandments: love God, love neighbor.

    Big Idea:
    Lost people matter to God and He wants them found.

    One of the greatest controversies among students of the Bible is whether God chooses us or we choose God. If you are a follower of Jesus today, why? Is it what God did or what you did? Did God seek you to follow Him or did you seek out God?

    My short opinion—if you’re wondering—is yes!

    On the one hand, we are told to seek after God, to pursue a relationship with our Creator.

    Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. (Psalms 105:3)

    Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. (1 Chronicles 16:11)

    The Hebrew word used in both verses is
    baqash. It means to seek, search, look for, inquire about.

    God wants us to seek Him. But ever since sin entered the world, we naturally want to pursue our own pleasures. We want to be god, the master of our own universe. We like to be in control. This led Paul to write to the church in Rome:

    As it is written:

    “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. (Romans 3:10-11)

    Here the verb “seek” is Greek, ekzeteo, meaning “to seek out, investigate diligently, scrutinize.” It’s as if we need God to pursue us because left to our own devices, we’ll selfishly do life our way, oblivious to the wisdom of the Almighty.

    A moment ago, I said my answer is yes—I believe we seek after God and God seeks after us. Who is responsible for my being married, my wife or me? Our relationship requires the participation of two parties, and I believe that’s the same for those in a relationship with God through King Jesus.

    Two weeks ago, we noted again how

    Lost people matter to God and He wants them found.

    Luke chapter 15 tells of the pursuit of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son where God pursues.

    Today we’re going to look at two spiritual seekers, people who pursued God. Both are rich men who want to follow, yet they end up with two very different outcomes.

    A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18)

    “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’” (Luke 18:19-20)

    “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. (Luke 18:21)

    When Jesus heard this, he said to him,
    “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22)

    When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said,
    “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:23-25)

    This man seeks after God, but he became very sad because he was ultimately seeking money more than God.

    Our text for today in the following chapter is similar.

    Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. (Luke 19:1-2)

    Zacchaeus means “righteous one,” but this man was anything but righteous. He was not just a tax collector, but a chief tax collector, hated and despised. The tax system was oppressive to the people (some things never change!). But seriously, he could charge taxes on most anything he wanted, at most any rate he wanted. The comment about his wealth is hardly necessary.

    As Zach walked around town, the people saw their money…used to purchase fancy clothes and expensive food. He could raise taxes and pocket the increase. To make matters worse, if you couldn’t pay the taxes, tax collectors would loan you the money at a huge interest rate, making even more money for themselves. If that wasn’t enough, the taxes went to pay for the unwanted Roman army to occupy your village.

    Zacchaeus was, no doubt, greedy and selfish. His world revolved around himself. Have you ever met someone like this? Maybe it’s your boss or a co-worker or neighbor. They’re climbing to the top and could care less about whatever is in their way, even if it’s you! They’ll beg, borrow or even steal to get what they want. Tragically—as we noted recently in our series on Ecclesiastes—they never have enough. They are never satisfied. They may seem to be beyond hope and help. But he was a masterpiece in the eyes of God.

    He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. (Luke 19:3-4)

    Kids love Zacchaeus. He was short like them. If you’ve ever taken a child to a parade, they usually struggle to see, not unlike Zacchaeus in this crowd. When I was little, I loved it when my dad put me on his shoulders at a parade so I could see over the tops of all of the adults. Zach takes advantage of tree to get a height advantage.

    Luke is the only biblical writer who tells us about Zacchaeus, though it’s a perfect story since he had just written about the problem of riches…and an encounter with Jesus.

    You might call this man a seeker. It says he ran, something unusual for a man in the culture, especially a wealthy government official. He may not have been seeking after God, but Jesus was a celebrity and perhaps he wants an autograph or even a selfie with the Messiah. That would look great on his social media account, right? Although it says he simply wanted to see who Jesus was, I believe God was at work in his heart.

    God the Holy Spirit draws people to Jesus.

    Only God can change a selfish, human heart, and that’s exactly what happens.

    When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him,
    “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. (Luke 19:5-6)

    Did Jesus just invite himself to Zacchaeus’ house? Yes he did, and Zacchaeus was happy to welcome him.

    Let’s face it, there are some celebrities who can do just about anything they want. I’m not suggesting Jesus had selfish motives because he had an agenda far greater than a free meal. But if Lebron James or Julia Roberts or David Jeremiah or Taylor Swift wanted to come over to your place, you’d probably welcome them gladly, right?

    Did Jesus seek after Zach or did Zach seek after Jesus? Yes! It’s a beautiful story! But then religion enters the scene.

    All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” (Luke 19:7)

    Zacchaeus wasn’t just any sinner. This is the man who has been stealing from them, padding his wallet with extra fees and taxes. He was a crook! I’m sure some were jealous simply because they would’ve liked Jesus to invite himself to their house. But beyond that,

    Jesus was criticized for being a friend of sinners.

    Tragically, many godly men and women today experience the same judgment from self-righteous religious people. Like Jonah or the older son in the Prodigal Son story, they want exclusive access to the Father, shunning the lost, the sinner, the broken…even when they come to their senses, repent, and follow God, which is exactly what Zach does here.

    But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” (Luke 19:8)

    What a statement! This is extravagant repentance. Zacchaeus doesn’t simply say, “I’m sorry everyone. I won’t let it happen again.” He makes amends. He turns and does what he can to not only pay back what he had taken, but also make fourfold restitution. Wow!

    Under the Mosaic law, restitution for a theft meant returning what was stolen plus twenty percent. The greatest penalty was if what was stolen could not be restored, then a fourfold repayment was required. Zach self-imposed the harshest penalty.

    The rich young ruler refused to sell his possessions, yet Zacchaeus seemingly gives away all of his cash. In Jesus, he has found something more valuable than all of the gold in the world, and he is forever transformed by his encounter with the Messiah.

    Jesus said to him,
    “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:9-10)

    Salvation comes to those who follow Jesus…with not only their heads but their hands. Faith without works is dead. Zacchaeus is a new man, a found man, a saved man, and now a truly rich man because of the gift of salvation.

    God encounters are transformative.

    Jesus mission was not only to die on the cross. It also included seeking the lost sheep. It involved spending time with sinners far from God. It required intentionality and action and pursuit. Jesus is the one that saves and changes us. It’s all about Jesus!

    I have two questions for you today. First,

    Are you a God-seeker?

    Really. Would you sell everything you have if God called you to do so? Do you generously give now? I believe 10% is the starting point—not the goal—for financial stewardship, giving to your local church.

    Singles, are you willing to honor God with your body and remain sexually pure?

    Does your calendar reflect your pursuit of God, or are your days filled with screens and personal pursuits?

    I know a lot of long-time Christians and I’ve seen spiritual newborns and there’s something exciting about a new believer. They’re hungry, eager to learn and grow. Are you? I pray we will all be God-seekers, regardless of where we are on our spiritual journey.

    How can you serve God-seekers?

    I believe the greatest way you can serve those pursuing God is to share Jesus, share your story, listen to their questions, guide them to the cross…and empty tomb.

    This past week a research study revealed although 56% of Protestant churchgoers said they pray for opportunities to share the Gospel—or good news—with non-Christians, 55% said they haven’t engaged in an “evangelistic conversation” in at least six months. One researcher replied, “Sharing the good news that Jesus paid for our sins through His death on the cross and rose again to bring us new life is the mission of the church, but it does not appear to be the priority of churchgoers.”

    Perhaps even more concerning is a recent report that 47% of Millennials agree at least somewhat that it is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith. We’re never supposed to shove God down anyone’s throat, but there are people all around us who are asking questions, they’re seeking meaning and purpose in life, whether or not they define their search as seeking God.

    Jesus came to seek and save the lost, and he invites us to follow him. After all,

    How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14-15)

    I’m so grateful for this church. For more than thirteen decades we have been seeking and saving the lost, serving Toledo and the world. We have been local and global. We’ve had people serving as missionaries in our city and the ends of the earth. I want to challenge you with three simple yet powerful ways you can help seekers in Toledo and beyond.
    Pray. This is the primary work of God’s people. We are a praying church and I can’t imagine where we’d be without prayer. Transformation will not occur through great sermons and dynamic music alone. It comes through the power of God unleashed when we get on our knees and pray. Imagine what would happen if the Holy Spirit prompts people in Toledo like Zacchaeus to come and see, to pursue God through First Alliance Church. It has been exciting seeing new people join us, many simply because they saw our sign and beautiful campus. We pray that God would draw people to Himself. We pray for our city, its leaders, its churches, and ministries. We pray for spiritual awakening among the 500,000 souls in Northwest Ohio.

    On a global level, you can adopt an International Worker and pray for them. There’s a list of them in each week’s
    Prayer Connection which can be found both in the Information Center kiosk and in each edition of our e-newsletter, The FAC Focus. Please pray for Heather and me as we travel to Africa, not only for our health and safety but effective ministry to youth, leaders, and pastors.

    Give. Today is Great Commission Sunday. We promote the Great Commission Fund regularly because it is the way we support International Workers in The Alliance. Some groups ask individuals to do months of personal fundraising. We prefer to do the work for them so they can be involved in seeking the lost, sharing Jesus, inviting people to experience abundant life. You can give today, next week, or any week. You can put the Great Commission Fund in your estate and will, ensuring your wealth will be invested in people for eternity.
    This year The Alliance is sending 60 International Workers, the most we’ve ever sent in our history! We praise God for 60 people responding to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to go, but now we need people to respond to the call to support them financially through the Great Commission Fund.

    On a related global note, thank you to those who have invested in our trip next month to Burundi, Africa. I don’t know who contributed, but I can’t wait to share stories of God’s faithfulness as we train youth, leaders, and pastors next month.
    On a local level, you can also give to First Alliance Church and our Faith Missions and Home Missions partners. Our books are always open and I can assure you every dollar is spent carefully to maximize effectiveness.
    …to West Virginia or the Dominican Republic or Africa. Maybe God is calling you to leave Toledo for another state or country in the future. He does that sometimes! Maybe God is calling you to go launch a new ministry or church. I’d love to talk with you about that!
    You can go to your next door neighbor or co-worker or family member. Ask them where they are on their spiritual journey. Take them out for coffee and listen to their story. Show them love through random acts of kindness. Take a risk! It can be as simple as inviting them to…
    Dinner Church?

    I know there are some questions about Dinner Church and I want to do my best to address them now. We start with why, and it’s simply to seek and save the lost, following Jesus. He is the one who said,

    Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. (Revelation 3:20)

    Who is going to set the table? We are! We are creating space for sinners, seculars, and strangers to have dinner with Jesus. He said to Peter, “Feed my sheep.” What if he wasn’t speaking metaphorically?

    Although I first heard about the Dinner Church movement two years ago at a conference, it’s nearly identical to the church Heather and I started in Ann Arbor twenty years ago, Frontline. We sat at round tables, met on Sunday evenings, began with dinner, and offered a non-traditional, interactive God experience for people young and old, rich and poor, religious and non-religious. I could spend hours telling stories of the transformed lives we witnessed during those fruitful years.

    Dinner Church is not a soup kitchen, but a community meal for the mind, body, and soul. From 5-6 PM we’ll gather in the Fellowship Hall at round tables, eating together, extending hospitality to our guests, just hanging out with these masterpieces in need of God’s restoration, just like each of us needs.

    The 6 PM hour will include music and the arts, an interactive teaching, Q&A, and prayer. Kids are welcome, though we will have child care available for those who need it. The entire evening will be kid-friendly, casual, and engaging. I’m praying God brings spiritual seekers like Zacchaeus to connect with us and with Him.

    As we’ve said, this is designed for the unchurched, whether they be Christians or not. If you’re a regular on Sunday morning, we’d love for you to either serve or bring an unchurched friend. We want to make sure there’s room for God seekers.

    If you have such a friend, please prayerfully invite them. You might say, “My church is doing an experiment called Dinner Church and we’d love your feedback. Would you come as my guest and tell me what you think, kind of like a mystery shopper? We’ll even treat you to dinner!”

    Next Sunday, Cinco de Mayo, will be our sneak preview gathering. On May 26, we’ll begin meeting on the last Sunday of the month from 5-7 PM.

    Pray. Give. Go.

    What a privilege we have to join God in His work seeking and saving the lost. Amen!

    One more thing

    Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. We have the privilege of joining him in that mission, the mission of restoring masterpieces, of making disciples, of sharing good news. And according to Matthew 24:14, this is not merely good for the sake of the lost and for the sake of God, but it will hasten the return of the King.

    A New York reporter once asked Alliance founder A. B. Simpson, “Can you tell us when Jesus will return?” Simpson replied, “Yes, I will tell you, as long as you promise to print what I say word for word.” The reporter agreed, at which time Simpson quoted Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

    More than 4,000 people groups have not yet had opportunity to receive and respond to Christ’s invitation to experience life with Him now and evermore. Who’s going to tell them?
    VIDEO: The Kingdom Now Snapshot

    I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for Jesus to return, but in the meantime, we’re on a mission from God! Let’s get to work, let’s follow Christ and his mission of seeking and saving the lost.

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

    Get (the) Lost! 14 April 2019

    Get (the) Lost!
    Series—The Quest of the Good Shepherd
    Luke 15:1-32

    Series Big Idea:
    Love is one of the most misunderstood words in our culture, yet it is at the heart of the two greatest biblical commandments: love God, love neighbor.

    Big Idea:
    We are to love everyone and perhaps the greatest way we can love someone is to introduce them to Jesus.

    This morning we’re continuing our look at the gospel or good news of Luke in our series “The Quest of the Good Shepherd.” Today we’re in Luke chapter 15 where Jesus tells three stories of something lost and found. I’ve entitled my message, “Get (the) Lost!” God’s heart is truly for the lost. If we are to love God—and love our neighbor—we are to pursue the lost and guide them toward the Good Shepherd so that they may be found and experience the amazing love of our Creator God.

    One of the Alliance core values states,

    Lost people matter to God. He wants them found.

    Do you believe that? Does your life reflect that value?

    I believe every soul needs Jesus. It is not merely an obligation but actually a privilege to introduce people to the source and definition of love, Almighty God.

    Last week we were reminded of the Great Commandments: love God and love your neighbor. One of the ways in which we love God is by loving our neighbor, even when that neighbor is an enemy.

    If we truly love God, what matters to God must matter to us.

    Every person you encounter this week is masterpiece created in the image of God with dignity, value and worth.

    This Friday we will gather at 7 PM to remember God’s unbelievable love in action through the death of Jesus on the cross, an act so outrageous it is literally the definition of the word “passion.” Is it any wonder that after such a sacrifice, the LORD is

    …not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9b)

    Last Sunday we said love is not just a feeling, but a rugged commitment to another person which requires action. Love is a verb.

    Lost Things

    Have you ever lost something of value?

    I pride myself in keeping track of my stuff, ensuring that I don’t misplace or drop my keys or other such objects. So imagine my surprise when I was at a Detroit Tigers game last year and couldn’t find my phone. It’s a very old phone, but its contents are very valuable to me, especially my photos. One moment I was using my phone and seemingly moments later it was lost. I was so surprised. I had a moment of panic. My pride was squashed (not a bad thing!). What to do?

    After some discussion with people nearby, I learned it had fallen on the ground, someone took it to the lost and found, and I was able to retrieve it, safe and sound!

    I could’ve sat in my seat the entire game, waiting for my lost phone to fall out of the sky onto my lap, but that’s not how we usually find lost things! We need to take action, to search, and even pray!

    If a piece of gum fell out of my pocket or a tissue, I never would’ve gone to the trouble of finding it, but when it was something of value, it was worth the pursuit. Let me say again,

    Lost people matter to God. He wants them found.

    Our text for today actually includes three stories of lost things. The first is the lost sheep.

    Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:1-2)

    Then Jesus told them this parable:

    “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ (Luke 15:3-6)

    Sheep and shepherds are not popular in our culture, but the Bible is filled with them. Psalm 23 tells us the LORD is our shepherd. Jesus is described as the Good Shepherd in John chapter 10.

    The celebration is not merely for the sheep, but also for the shepherd who found the lost animal. He doesn’t simply say, “The sheep has been found,” but “I have found my lost sheep.” Sheep are not the brightest creatures on earth, and when they’re lost, there’s not much they can do to be found.

    Why would the shepherd risk the safety and well-being of ninety-nine good, healthy, “obedient” sheep to find one stray? Jesus continues,

    I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15:7)

    Does this mean Christians don’t matter to God? Hardly, but our Heavenly Father will not be satisfied until all of His children are adopted, reconciled to Him, found. To further make his point, Jesus talks about a lost coin.

    “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:8-10)

    Married Jewish girls often wore a headband of ten silver coins, similar to how women in our day wear wedding rings. Losing one of the coins necessitated a search. Again, it’s not just that the coin has been found, but rejoice that “I have found,” she says.

    Are you getting the point? Angels rejoice over lost person who is found. I’m not sure how angels rejoice, but I bet they know how to throw a party! Imagine how they must’ve partied when you repented and began to follow Jesus…if you have done so.

    If the messages of the lost sheep and lost coin were unclear, the lost son—also known as the prodigal son—surely conveys God’s love for the lost.

    Jesus continued:
    “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. (Luke 15:11-12)

    “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. (Luke 15:13)

    Far or distant country didn’t just mean a place a long ways away, but Gentiles—a different worldview, a different culture.

    After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. (Luke 15:14-16)

    “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ (Luke 15:17-19)

    So he got up and went to his father.

    “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)

    It would've been unusual for the father to run. The wayward boy brought disgrace to his family and could've been stoned to death in the culture. The father running possibly kept the neighbors from stoning the boy. What a picture of Jesus on the cross!

    “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ (Luke 15:21)

    “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:22-24)

    The lost son has returned home and there is a celebration. I know of several prodigals in our church family, men and women who have walked away from the faith and/or their family. The pain is heartbreaking while the prayers seem unending. I have first-hand experience with this and beg God to bring reconciliation to my family. I have the fattened calf ready to go!

    I wish the story ended here. I really do. Lost and found. Lost and found. Lost and found. But there’s more to the story of the prodigal son. It involves the ninety-nine sheep. It’s about the nine silver coins which were not lost. It’s about the older son. We might call him the good Christian boy who went to church every Sunday, never said cuss words, and got straight A’s on his homework while his brother partied until he was broke and hungry.

    “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ (Luke 15:25-27)

    “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ (Luke 15:28-30)

    “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ” (Luke 15:31-32)

    So What?

    Family, I love you. I truly love you, and I know God loves you, too. He loves each and every one of you. He loves our brothers and sisters at Westgate Chapel, the Vineyard, the Tabernacle, Bedford Alliance, That Neighborhood Church, and Cedar Creek.

    But God also loves the lost. Jesus died for the unchurched. He sacrificed his life for atheists. His blood was shed for Muslims. His body was broken for Buddhists.

    Lost people matter to God. He wants them found. Do you? Do we?

    Perhaps there was a day when we would ring the bell and everyone would rush into our church building, but that’s clearly not the case today. Our competition is not Harvest Lane Alliance Church or Calvary Church. Our competition is the television, the golf course, the Internet, and the pillow.

    Our city is packed with people searching for hope and meaning. Some are so depressed and discouraged that they’re taking their own lives…or those of others. Countless men, women, boys, and girls feel unloved, rejected, and worthless. They are lost.

    Sure, I would love for God to appear to them in a dream and reveal His love for them—and that is happening, especially among Muslims—but more often than not God uses people like you and me to go and make disciples, to search for the lost, to introduce people to Jesus. Yes, God can use billboards and radio programs and television shows, but most people are following Jesus because a friend or family member shared their story and God’s story.

    Perhaps the greatest way we can love someone is to introduce them to Jesus.

    John Wesley said, "The church has nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore, spend and be spent in this work."

    This is so important, family, not to get more people to attend First Alliance Church, but rather to get more people into the Kingdom of God! Jesus gave us three examples of lost and found to show us his heart and our mission…our commission.

    I realize it can be difficult to just walk up to a stranger and say, “Hi! Are you lost?” I want to offer some simple, tangible next steps you can take in the next few weeks to get (the) lost!

    1. Breakthrough movie. Opens Wednesday.
    2. Easter. Next Sunday. 9:00 and 10:30 AM
    3. Dinner Church. Preview on May 5, 5-7 PM.
    4. Celebrate Recovery. Relaunches on May 8

    Before you make invitations, please do one important thing: pray. Pray about who to invite. Pray for the person to accept the invitation. Pray for the Holy Spirit to open their eyes to the truth and their heart to Jesus.

    Lets’ get (the) lost!

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

    Eat with Someone, b.l.e.s.s., 20 January 2013

    Eat With Someone.

    Big Idea:
    Eat with one lost person each week.


    Two weeks ago we began our new year with our new series and annual theme, b.l.e.s.s. We said that we have been blessed to be a blessing. This is a theme throughout history, most prominently in God’s covenant with Abram.

    The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

    We have defined success for Scio Community Church. Perhaps you’ve seen this!

    We exist to fulfill the Great Commission and follow the Great Commandment by 

    - serving our communities

    - sharing our story
    - sending disciples to bless the nations

    so that God is glorified.

    Our first week’s challenge was to bless one person.

    Last week’s challenge was spend one hour listening to God.

    These are not one-time challenge, but new rhythms, patterns for the new year, every week. Some would call them spiritual practices or disciplines.

    Do you like discipline? It’s not a very attractive word, is it? We often think of punishment or rules or no-pain-no-gain. In the realm of spiritual disciplines, we commonly think of prayer, fasting, silence, solitude, or Bible study. I’m not opposed to any of those and, in fact, I’ve done quite a bit of each, but they never fell into the category of “fun” for me. Like physical exercise and eating brussel sprouts, I often did them because they were good for me, not because I really wanted to do them.

    Many years ago I read a book by John Ortberg entitled The Life You’ve Always Wanted. The subtitle is “spiritual disciplines for ordinary people.” As I began the book, somewhat tentative about all of the hard work it was going to guilt me into doing, I was struck by the first discipline: celebration.

    “Celebration?” I thought. That doesn’t sound all that bad! The more I read, the more I realized I actually don’t celebrate enough. I’m wired to always be looking for the next hill to climb, the next task, the next project...and I don’t pause to celebrate enough.

    Like celebration, this morning I want to challenge you with a discipline that you might actually enjoy! It could change your life...and the life of others, too.
    Two weeks ago we said the “b” in bless is for bless everyone.

    Last week we said the “l” in bless is for listen to God.

    This week’s letter is “e” and it stands for eat with someone.

    Do you like to eat? What do you like to eat? Why?

    What is your favorite restaurant? Why?

    This week an annual report on restaurants was released and they announced the worst extreme entree: The Cheesecake Factory’s Bistro Shrimp Pasta with 3120 calories!

    We’re not talking about diet today, though what you eat —and how much—is very important. Food is powerful. We all know it is necessary for life. We all recognize it can be enjoyable to our taste buds—sometimes too enjoyable!

    There are over 700 verses that talk about eating, often in mandated celebrations (did you catch that?). The Bible contains many instructions about what, where, and how to eat.

    • - Passover
    • - communion/the LORD’s Supper
    • - Jesus made wine
    • - Jesus ate at Matthew’s house (Matthew 9:9-13)
    • - Jesus went to the house of Zacchaeus
    • - Jesus multiplied loaves and fish, at least twice
    • - Jesus referenced the food provided by God to the Israelites, manna
    • - Jesus calls Himself the bread of life (John 6)
    • - the Jews were very particular about their diet (kosher)

    We are told in Revelation chapter 19 that there will be a great supper of the Lamb, the ultimate feast that will make Mardi Gras look like a trip to Chuck E. Cheese!

    Eating was once central to life. Now we can eat alone, grab a quick bite to eat in a drive-thru, pop a tv dinner in the microwave, or even replace a meal with a shake or protein bar.

    In Jesus’ day, eating was more than sustenance, it was social. Your meal colleague was someone you loved and cared for, someone that was part of your social class. This is why Jesus took such heat for eating at Matthew’s house, with him and his socially outcast friends.

    But have you ever considered its power in conversation?

    Food is found throughout the Bible. It provides a unique setting for conversation.

    There are two short passages I want to look at together.

    Acts 2

    Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:46-47)

    This is part of a description of the early church. It describes food in the context of fellowship.

    I want to draw a distinction between fellowship and hospitality. Fellowship is when we, the Church, gather together. We enjoy a potlucks, gatherings of food brought from our various homes—or favorite restaurants—to share with one another. This is one of the most important things we do as a church, especially since we are geographically scattered. There is something powerful about our conversations at potlucks. Have you noticed? They are often more meaningful than short chats in the hallway. Food brings us together.

    If fellowship is what we do together, hospitality is when we welcome or love the stranger. Our potlucks also serve this function, as evidenced by one particular meal several months ago in which a conversation with first or second-time guests led to their family joining the Scio family. The potluck experience welcomed them.

    Hospitality is one of the most underrated practices of the Church. One of the most fascinating verses is found in Hebrews.

    Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
    (Hebrews 13:2)

    It kind of makes me want to throw a party! Seriously.

    Hospitality is a requirement to be an elder (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8).

    Peter said,

    Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4:9)

    Paul said,

    Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:13b)

    We were all once strangers—to God and one another, yet we were welcomed (Ephesians 2:19-22)

    Jesus was a missional eater. He ate with people, intentionally. In the book
    Right Here Right Now, Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford write

    “Sharing meals together on a regular basis is one of the most sacred practices we can engage in as believers. Missional hospitality is a tremendous opportunity to extend the kingdom of God. We can literally eat our way into the kingdom of God! If every Christian household regularly invited a stranger or a poor person into their home for a meal once a week, we would literally change the world by eating!”

    Change the world by eating!

    This Week’s Challenge

    So what does eating have to do with our annual theme.
    This week’s challenge is eat with one lost person. That’s it. You can do lunch, breakfast, or even coffee. You can welcome them to your home...or your favorite restaurant. The purpose is simple: eating furthers conversations, and the more conversations we have with people, the more spiritual conversations we will have, the more relationships we will form, and the greater our impact in our communities.

    Just like week one, ask God to show you who...and maybe the person can provide the where.

    Most of you will eat at least 21 times this week. Pick one and invite a friend...or make a friend. Eating together is a great way to bless them. And if you’re too uncomfortable one-on-one, grab a friend and have three or four at the table!

    This one simple discipline may change your life...and our church. Imagine what would happen if each person spent 52 meals this year with unchurched people?

    some materials borrowed from Charles Kiser (Storylinecommunity.com).

    You can listen to the podcast