Encounters with Christ
Levi’s Effectual Call
**Scripture reading Luke 18:9-14
Luke 5:27-32 (ESV)
After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.”  And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.
 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them.  And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”  And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
How sane would a person be to wait until they were well before going to the doctor? “I’m alright now Doc, but you should have seen me two weeks ago.” Or what if someone said, “Boy just as soon as I get well I’m going to see the doctor.” That kind of thinking makes no sense at all. Healthy people don’t go to the doctor; sick people go to the doctor.
That type of logic makes no sense in the physical realm but people often use a similar logic in the spiritual realm and think it makes good sense and it’s just as crazy. They say, “When I get my life turned around, I’m going to become a Christian.”
In this text, we are shown how salvation comes about. Notice there is no magical prayer, no coming forward, and no human initiated decision. Read More
Encounters with Christ
Christ’s Gracious Restoration of Peter
John 21:15-22 (ESV)
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”  He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”  He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.  Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”  (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?”  When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”  Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”
Have you ever been in a situation that you thought God was not paying attention? Maybe you were in dire need and you began to pray and it seemed as if God were not listening. Maybe you remained in that situation for a long time…maybe you’re still there. Read More
*The Riches of the Word
I remember a conversation I had with a guy one time who tried to convince me that he didn’t need to read God’s Word. His position was that reading the Bible was for the pastors and that it was the pastor’s job to then tell him what he needed to know. This man has since remained a very immature Christian at best and years after our conversation, he has no more desire to be in the Word than he did years before.
Unfortunately this person’s attitude toward God’s Word is the norm. George Barna’s research indicates that Bible reading among folks that claim to be Christians is at an all time low. 18%, less than 2 out of ten read their Bibles on a daily basis. 23%, almost 1 in 4 claim to never read their Bibles.
Consider these statistics in light of:
1 Tim. 4:7-8 (ESV)
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness;  for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. Read More
The Great Mystery of Sovereignty
Matthew 11:20-30 (ESV)
Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent.  “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.  And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.  But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”
 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;  yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.  All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.  Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
After John the Baptist’s disciples had left, Jesus went on preaching and teaching and doing miracles of healing among the people. We have in the Scriptures recorded for us many miracles that Jesus did, but we don’t have them all. In fact, I would venture to say there were more that went unrecorded than recorded. Read More
A Brief Account of a Pioneer Preacher
Since 2004 I’ve been serving in an independent church called “Bigelow Church”. Often, when I’m asked where I serve and I reply, “Bigelow Church”, I receive a strange look. To most, the name really doesn’t say a whole about who we are, however, there is such a rich history associated with the name, I feel the name is a perfect fit.
The current building where we assemble is very old, being erected in 1858. The congregation was formed in 1803, and their first building was dedicated and named after a circuit riding preacher who served in Ohio many years ago. Originally, the church was called Bigelow Methodist Episcopal Church. As impressive as the history of the church is, this paper is not about the history of church buildings but a history of a man whose passion was for His Lord, a man who loved Jesus—Russel Bigelow.
As I studied the history of Russel Bigelow I was in awe of how the Lord utilized a man who by the world’s standards was in no way impressive. In fact, in many of the eyewitness accounts, he was portrayed as just the opposite. This is an account of an ordinary preacher and his passion for his Lord. Read More
Remember, Prayer Transcends Trouble
1 Samuel 1:1-20
Have you ever been in a situation in which you knew you should pray, but for whatever reason you didn’t? Have you ever simply forgotten to pray? Have you ever been in a terrible situation and so caught up in the circumstances that you forgot to call on the Lord? You were so busy trying everything else that you forgot that God stands ready to hear our pleas.
I was in Cleveland a couple years ago attending a pastor’s conference. I forgot to pray. It wasn’t a real big deal, it wasn’t life or death, but I forgot to pray. Imagine that, on your way to a pastor’s conference and forget to pray. I was driving around the east side of Cleveland for a bout an hour not stopping to ask directions or to pray. I was lost. The road work was everywhere and signs were nowhere. Finally, I remembered to pray. It wasn’t long till I saw what I was looking for…a road sign that told me where to go. God wanted me to forget my situation and remember Him. All I was doing was thinking about being late and I was forgetting God. Pray… Read More
The English Standard Version (ESV) Bible is a new, essentially literal Bible translation that combines word-for-word precision and accuracy with literary excellence, beauty, and depth of meaning. It is, in my estimation the best overall translation found.
First, it is a word-for-word translation as opposed to others that are more thought-for-thought. The Bible says every word was “breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). For this reason, the ESV seeks to translate the original Greek and Hebrew words with the greatest possible accuracy and precision.
Second, the ESV is special because it carries forward the great historic stream of Bible versions in English-with literary excellence, beauty, and depth of meaning, in a fresh and compelling way.
The ESV is unique and special. It’s the Bible to read and treasure through all your life-a great choice for young and old, for daily reading and personal study, for church and family, for teaching and preaching, and for memorizing the words of life.
What this means for GRF is that all our sermons, discipleship material, everything used corporately in the church will be the English Standard Version. Please feel free to use your favorite version and bring it with you to corporate worship if you like. We are in no way saying that the ESV is the only good translation. What we are saying is that if you like to follow along word-for-word with the teaching and preaching, you’ll want to bring your ESV.
Grace and Peace,
How do you know when a person is out of his mind? Well, what if a man behaves like nobody else behaves? What if he says he hears things nobody else hears? What if he fears what nobody else fears? What if he devotes all his energy to a cause nobody else believes in? Would you say he’s crazy? At the very least, you’d think he’s weird, wouldn’t you? Suppose this crazy person goes to work on a strange project. He claims that the world is about to be wiped out and that he’s building the only place where anyone will be able to survive when the disaster comes. How does he know all this? He says he heard a voice telling him so. There’s no sign at all of the disaster he expects, but he keeps working on his project year after year, simply because of that voice he heard. Would you take him seriously? Wouldn’t you instead laugh at him, or, at best, feel sorry for him? The man would have to be crazy!
But what if the “crazy” man is an old fellow named Noah? What if the project he’s working on is an enormous ark? What if the disaster he’s speaking about is a worldwide flood? What if the voice that told him to build the ark was the voice of God? What if the reason his behavior is so different from others is that the whole world has gone crazy with evil and that he, unlike so many, has a relationship with God? Read More
A Portrait of Salvation
2 Kings 5:1-15
In our passage today we are forced to deal with many things about God that stretch our understanding. We just get to the place where we think we are starting to understand God and then He throws a passage like this at us.
In this passage we have God giving Syria success in battle against His chosen people Israel. We have God turning His back on His people and coming to the aid of foreigners. We have God including a Gentile who is unclean in His covenant.
We leave the land of Israel and enter a pagan nation. We step into Syria to the north, a heathen, pagan nation surrounded by darkness, a place of idolatry, and blindness. Naaman’s healing is a portrait of what God would later do through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here is a classic picture of the love God has for those in darkness. We get a glimpse of God’s sovereign work in salvation. At times God shows grace, even to His enemies. Read More
Digging Wells and Planting Churches
As we live the Christian life, we must remember that it is a life of faith in Christ and a life dependant on Him. Believing in the unseen with as much trust as in the things we can see. It’s a life of living in this world but longing for the next. It’s loving those around us but supremely loving Christ. It’s also a life of discontent with what the world has to offer because we believe the true and everlasting treasure is Jesus. Living a life of faith is vital for the Christian. Paul is a great example of someone living in this world but longing for the next.
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord,  for we walk by faith, not by sight.  Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 2 Cor. 5:6-9 (ESV)
One way we manifest walking by faith and not by sight is when we acknowledge our complete dependence on the Lord. We do this best when we pray. Prayer is the keyhole that we look through catching small glimpses of the world to come and longing to be there. As we speak with the God of the universe in prayer, He begins to change our worldly focus to an eternal focus. The more we get God’s vision for our lives, the more the unseen comes into focus and the more the seen begins to loose its grip on our hearts. Read More