quote: the God of the second chance


“In terms of qualifications and rights, we are all like Jonah. Who can claim to be qualified for participation in the divine work? Who has not disobeyed in the past and forfeited any rights that might pertain to serving God? The service of God is thus … always a second chance, always an undeserved privilege. And if vocation comes to us, we can never say that it is on the grounds of our gifts and qualities, or our capacities for the job at hand. The call of God is … a sign of mercy, in that he is willing to employ the unworthy …” (Peter C. Craigie)

quote: how is it God reaches out to us?


“God is holy and just. In all his deeds, God is true to himself and faithful to his promises. In contrast, we act in opposition to our true selves and break our covenant promises. Rather than acknowledging God’s gifts with grateful hearts, we take our lives for granted; or, even worse, we use them as if we had created ourselves. When we ought to honor God by conforming to his holiness and justice, we follow our own foolish inclinations and reject the divine wisdom embodied in God’s law.

“Even if we admit that God has bridged the gaps between being and nothingness, between meaning and meaninglessness, why should the righteous and holy God reach out to an arrogant and ungrateful sinner? That which is nothing might at least arouse pity, since its pitiful state is not its own doing. But the ungrateful lawbreaker who considers himself wiser than God clearly deserves the consequences of his actions. Divine righteousness on one side and human unrighteousness on the other, God’s holiness above and our unholiness beneath – how can God bridge such chasms? And why would he do so if he could?

“To our amazement, God wills to have fellowship with the unrighteous: he chooses to save sinners from the consequences of their actions. … Why does God forgive sinners and reconcile them to himself by taking on their sin? Because he loves us with a love that ‘surpasses knowledge’ (Eph. 3.19), and that provokes our wonder and amazement.”

(Ron Highfield, Great Is the Lord: Theology for the Praise of God; pp. 175-176)

LIFE group discussion guide: strength

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Mar. 1) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.


Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon.

To call us to never forget the ultimate source and shape of our strength in the Lord.


These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to possess eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you understand it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, his heart went out to him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two day’s wages and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10.25-37)


Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump for group conversation.

1. Tell us of a trip you made which simply didn’t even begin to turn out like you’d planned.

2. Tell us of a time someone was a Good Samaritan to you in some big or small way.


These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with Scripture related to this sermon.

1. Read 1 Cor. 16.13-14. What would it look like to be “courageous” and “strong” in the context of the life of the church in Corinth, knowing what we know from 1 Corinthians?

2. Read Eph. 6.10-18. What exactly are some of the “flaming arrows” the “evil one” shoots at us? Hint: consider some of the exhortations of the immediately preceding context (cf. 5.1-2,15,21; 6.9 – especially 5.1-2).


These questions help us discern and share what we sense God’s Spirit is doing as we encounter his word.

1. Does giving strength to others increase, or diminish your own? Explain. (cf. 2 Cor. 9.8)

2. What are some the barriers/challenges to giving compassion and mercy? Which is biggest?

3. Discuss: “To demonstrate mercy is to simply reveal God’s strength to another.” (cf. Heb. 13.20-21a)

4. A disciple wants to “build muscle for mercy.” What habits will they do well to adopt?

Response These ideas/suggestions are for use beyond the group meeting; to aid your living out today’s message.

1. ID and face your deepest fears and sources of hesitation that cause you to withhold mercy.

2. Deliberately and regularly put yourself in situations where you’re near folks in deep need.

links: this went thru my mind

Acceptance, evangelism, fellowship, forgiveness, hypocrisy, love, mercy, murder & outreach: He Befriended a Serial Killer, and Opened the Door to God [essential reading]

“Mr. Dahmer left behind confused parents, dozens of distraught relatives of the victims, the traumatized city of Milwaukee — and this white-bearded minister, struggling still at 60 with the sense that he, too, had been condemned, for having the audacity to grant God’s blessings upon the devil.”

Announcements & corporate worship gatherings: Nine Observations about Announcements in Worship Services

“I asked a number of church leaders of congregations of varying sizes about their practices in this area. They pretty much confirmed what I am seeing as well. Here are my nine observations.”

Capital punishment, death penalty, payback & revenge: Don’t Give Tsarnaev Death Penalty [required reading]

“Should we kill Tsarnaev? And the answer, despite the abhorrent nature of the crime, is simple: No, we should not. We are better than that. The fact is that the death penalty isn’t justice, it’s revenge.”

Choices, farming, generations, life, lifestyle, Millenials & priorities: A Young Generation Sees Greener Pastures In Agriculture

“America’s heartland is graying. The average age of a farmer in the U.S. is 58.3 — and that number has been steadily ticking upward for more than 30 years. Overall, fewer young people are choosing a life on the land. But, in some places around the country, like Maine, that trend is reversing. Small agriculture may be getting big again — and there’s new crop of farmers to thank for it.”

ISIS, money, Muslim, power, stereo-typing, terrorism & violence: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: These Terrorist Attacks Are Not About Religion [required reading]

“When the Ku Klux Klan burn a cross in a black family’s yard, prominent Christians aren’t required to explain how these aren’t really Christian acts. Most people already realize that the KKK doesn’t represent Christian teachings. That’s what I and other Muslims long for—the day when these terrorists praising Mohammed or Allah’s name as they debase their actual teachings are instantly recognized as thugs disguising themselves as Muslims. It’s like bank robbers wearing masks of presidents; we don’t really think Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush hit the Bank of America during their down time.”

links: this went thru my mind

Church, Christian faith, immigration, justice & mercy: * Immigration and Church – Why It Matters; * 5 Immigration Myths Debunked [essential reading]; * Obama, Daring Congress, Acts to Overhaul Immigration; * 4 Ways (Im)migration Impacts the Mission of the Church [essential reading]

* “…  Christians must agree that we have a responsibility to love and care for the immigrant.”

* ” Here are 5 myths about undocumented immigrants, and why they’re wrong. Myth # 1: They don’t pay taxes. [ Undocumented immigrants are already U.S. taxpayers. Collectively, they paid an estimated $10.6 billion to state and local taxes in 2010 … On average they pay about 6.4% of their income in state and local taxes] …

Myth # 2: They don’t pay into Social Security. [… undocumented immigrants contribute more in payroll taxes than they will ever consume in public benefits. Take Social Security. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), unauthorized immigrants — who are not eligible to receive Social Security benefits — have paid an eye-popping $100 billion into the fund over the past decade. ] …

Myth #3: They drain the system. [Undocumented immigrants do not qualify for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, and most other public benefits. Most of these programs require proof of legal immigration status and under the 1996 welfare law, even legal immigrants cannot receive these benefits until they have been in the United States for more than five years] …

Myth # 4: They take American jobs. [ The American economy needs immigrant workers. The belief that immigrants take jobs that can otherwise be filled by hard-working Americans has been disputed by an overwhelming number of economic research studies and data. ] …

Myth # 5: It’s just a matter of following the law. […  under current immigration laws, there are very few options for legal immigration, the costs are increasingly prohibitive and the wait for any kind of status can be long and frustrating.]”

* “… Mr. Obama told Americans that deporting millions is ‘not who we are’ and cited Scripture, saying, ‘We shall not oppress a stranger for we know the heart of a stranger — we were strangers once, too.’ … Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law?”

* “While there isn’t space in this blog post to propose and unpack all the issues, I think it’s valuable to examine four ways immigration is impacting the church and its call to share the gospel with all peoples.”

Compassion, love & mercy: Gate A-4

“This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.”

Consumerism & contentment: * The Cult of Contentment [required reading]; * God is Not Santa Claus: How the Consumerist Worldview Affects the Church

* “… I have a modest proposal, instead of fighting to ‘keep Christ in Christmas’ what if we fought to keep the Friday in Black Friday?”

* ” God is not Santa Claus. But we seem to forget that sometimes because we have embraced a worldview called consumerism. In this way of seeing the world, the consumer is at the center, and his or her goal is to find pleasure and avoid pain by consuming things, experiences, and people. Unfortunately, we take this same consumerist worldview to Jesus and his church, but he wants to move us from being consumers to contributors.”