“If I Could Turn Back Time”

Do not turn back timeRegrets

How many people here are fans of Cher…at least musically? Perhaps as part of Sonny and Cher?

How about Eddie Money of “Two Tickets to Paradise” fame?

Both came to mind this week as I was pondering this sermon because they both have songs of regret. With Cher it is “If I Could Turn Back Time” and with Eddie Money it is “I Wanna Go Back.” Cher wanted to unsay some hurtful words and Eddie Money wanted to return to a time when he wasn’t alone.

However, as Eddie Money’s 1986 hit recognized:

But I can’t go back, I know.

[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the “extras” that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]

Although we cannot go backwards in time, do either of those songs speak to you? Is there another song about undoing or reliving the past that does? (For instance, while I was composing this sermon, “Take Me Back” from Van Halen came on my Internet station, 70s Rock XYZ.)

Would you like to be able to go back and slap your younger self ‘side the head before you say or do something really stupid?

Biblical Mistakes — David and Bathsheba

Part of the way we know that the Bible is true is that instead of being some kind of political propaganda whose heroes can do no wrong, it lays out the bad and ugly without favoritism. It records plenty of mistakes, including by those who are lionized by Jews and Christians alike. For instance, do you recall this story of sin?:

11 iIn the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

2 It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. 3 And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. 5 And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant” (2 Samuel 11:1-5).

And it gets worse from there…as David adds the sin of murder to adultery by having Bathsheba’s husband Uriah abandoned on the battlefield.

When David was called out for his sin through the prophet Nathan, do you think if he could turn back time, David would have?

Psalm 51 gives us a clue:

1  Have mercy on me, O God,

according to your steadfast love;

according to your abundant mercy

blot out my transgressions.

2  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

and cleanse me from my sin!

3  For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

4  Against you, you only, have I sinned

and done what is evil in your sight,

so that you may be justified in your words

and blameless in your judgment (Psalm 51:1-4).

In my English Standard Version Bible right over those words it says:


Based on that and the first four verses of Psalm 51…and understanding the Psalm continues with his penitence…do you think David wanted to go back and undo his inexcusable transgression?


Out of that transgression David married Bathsheba and…after the death of the initial child from their illicit affair…the next was…?

Solomon…the wisest man ever (see 1 Kings 3:12 and 4:29-34)

And, more importantly, through the relationship that started in adultery we trace the lineage of the only sinless man ever…

Our Savior Jesus Christ. (See Matthew 1:1-17.)

So, personally, although I am not glad David sinned so horribly, I am glad he could not turn back time.

Biblical Mistakes — Selling Joseph into Slavery

However, perhaps the best scriptural example for looking back on mistakes is the tale of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers. Short story is that Joseph was his father’s favorite and, perhaps, didn’t show a lot of common sense in sharing his dreams that indicated he would rule over his siblings.

And his brothers despised him.

We join the narrative in Genesis after they have thrown Joseph into a pit:

25 Then they sat down to eat. And looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. 26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. 28 Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt.

29 When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he tore his clothes 30 and returned to his brothers and said, “The boy is gone, and I, where shall I go?” 31 Then they took Joseph’s robe and slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32 And they sent the robe of many colors and brought it to their father and said, “This we have found; please identify whether it is your son’s robe or not” (Genesis 37:25-32).

Is selling your brother into slavery a sin? Teensy-weensy sin or big sin?

Big sin.

Even if you brother really is a jerk kids. 🙂

Do you think they ever regretted their sin? Let’s fast forward many years to a famine and the brothers in Egypt trying to buy food. Joseph, sold into slavery, is second only to Pharaoh in the country, and…without realizing it…they are before him.

On the third day Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: 19 if you are honest men, let one of your brothers remain confined where you are in custody, and let the rest go and carry grain for the famine of your households, 20 and bring your youngest brother to me. So your words will be verified, and you shall not die.” And they did so. 21 Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” 22 And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood” (Genesis 42:18-22).

Now, it’s hard to tell if their recognition of fault is only because they regret what they think the punishment is for…but yes…

At that point I suspect they wished they could turn back time, pull him out of that hole, and bring him back to their dad.

But they could not.

Now, do you know why I said this story was a better example for this sermon?

Because after their father Jacob dies, Joseph says something that is very, very important as we look back in history with regret. Let’s take a look at it in Genesis 50:15-21:

15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” 16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: 17 ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.” ‘ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Did you catch that?! Not that the brothers added the sin of lying again to the repertoire. Instead…

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

What Joseph’s brothers meant for evil, God meant for good.

God is a master at making lemonade out of lemons, and He will ultimately accomplish His will…

Whether it be through an adulterous affair…

Or siblings treating their brother horridly…

Or you saying or doing that really, really stupid thing.

As you consider that, consider also these words in Romans:

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

When you look at things you wish you could change in history, I suspect it isn’t only what you did…but it might be what someone else did to you.

Yet, what does God say through Paul?

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

It may not be until the other side of eternity, but all these dumb things you’ve done…or have had done to you…

God will take them and will work them for your good.

God’s Purposes

Before we wrap up, I want to add one more situation for you contemplate as you mull over what you would/would not do if you could turn back time.

You may have heard the question, “If you could go back in time and kill Hitler, would you?”

And there is no question that Hitler was an evil, evil man.

But the greatest injustice in the world’s history wasn’t what he did. Instead, it was crucifying the sinless Son of God.

Remember that as we read this dialogue between Peter and Jesus:

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matthew 16:21-23).

Should Jesus have been crucified? [No.]

Was Peter wrong in not wanting Jesus to be tortured and killed? [No.]

Was Peter wrong? [Yes!]


Because Peter was not “setting [his] mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Peter wasn’t putting God’s will first.

And the Father intentionally was giving up His son…not to mention the Son was intentionally giving up His life.

For us.

If you could go back in time and prevent some wrong.

Even the worst kind of wrong.

You might be fighting God’s will.

Speaking of wrong…

Don’t get me wrong.

God never wants sin. However, it is a constant reality in a world with free will after our first parents blew it…and God will…

Bring about good from what people meant for evil

Work all things, including bad ones, for your good as His adopted child

You can bank on those!


Final thought from Matthew 6:25-34. Jesus is telling us not to be anxious about anything, with the punchline in verse 34:

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble (Matthew 6:34).

If our Lord tells us not to worry about tomorrow, wouldn’t it also make sense not to worry about yesterday.

What is past is past. If you need someone’s forgiveness, especially God’s, ask for it.

Then move on.

God will…

Bring about good from what people meant for evil

Work all things, including bad ones, for your good as His adopted child

Do not turn back time, even in your head. Move forward with the Lord.

And When You Pray… (Part 2)

Praying angel statue

Quick Review

Last week we spent a good amount of time looking at two principles and sub-principles when it comes to prayer:

  • Do not pray like Jesus said not to
    • Do not pray selfishly
    • Do not pray for show
    • Do no pray thinking you can control God with your prayer
  • Pray like Jesus said to
    • Pray constantly
    • Don’t lose heart
    • Remember who you are praying to
    • Pray that others will recognize who God is too
    • Pray for God’s will versus what you want
    • Look to God for your needs
    • Ask God for forgiveness
    • Ask God to protect you from temptation

We all still in agreement that those are good principles? No second thoughts after a week to reconsider? 🙂

Emulating Jesus

As promised, this week we are going to discuss the third principle…along with its sub principles.

Pray like Jesus did.

When I first started preaching in Churches of Christ, I began with a series based on “What did Jesus do?”: WDJD. We all probably have heard people say in situations we should ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?”: WWJD…but Ray Comfort’s Living Water’s ministry rightly pointed out that it may be better to ask, “What did Jesus do?” Scripture tells us what that is, whereas people can argue until the cows come home about what Jesus would do. [Read more…]

And When You Pray… (Part 1)

Praying angel statueBecoming Mormon

Some of you may already be aware of where my “formal” spiritual journeys began. Neither of my parents were religious while I grew up. My dad was, theoretically, Catholic…and my mom was just as theoretically Lutheran.

So they had me baptized as a Methodist as a toddler.

A few years later…maybe when I was six?…they gave my me a choice of whether I wanted to continue to attend Sunday school at Canaan United Methodist Church (although I don’t know if “United” was in its title back then).

How do think a six year-old kid with no true spiritual life at home decided?

Zoom forward to fifteen year-old Alan. Although I think I may have said a simple prayer every night and definitely believed there was a God, I was far from saved. Then my parents had Mormon missionaries over…and what they taught seemed to make a lot of sense.

However, fifteen year-old Alan did not “get religion.”

Now shift ahead to maybe 20 year-old Alan…for 52 year-old Alan the timing of the past gets foggier and foggier… 🙂

At that point I decided (a) that if there was truth in the physical world there is truth in the spiritual world and (b) that I wanted to know it. I was, and hopefully remain, a very logical person…and wanted the truth about God.

And based on my short spiritual history, guess who I went to to start that search? [Read more…]

When the Mob Comes

Don't join mobsWhat Is a Mob?

What is a mob? How would you define it?

My Mac’s dictionary describes it as…

a large crowd of people, especially one that is disorderly and intent on causing trouble or violence: a mob of protesters.

You can see that it technically can just be “a large crowd of people”…but I think we’ve all been within large crowds that we wouldn’t call a mob. For instance, when I saw The Police at Fenway Park, it was a large crowd, but it wasn’t a mob. Ditto for all the Red Sox games I saw there. 🙂

“Mob” generally has a negative connotation, doesn’t it? Even if we drop “especially one that is disorderly and intent on causing trouble or violence,” “mob” denotes a group of people intent on a purpose.

Beyond watching a concert or baseball game. 🙂 [Read more…]

Who Would You Kill?

Who would you kill?Thou Shalt Not Kill

We are going to jump right into Scripture today, starting with Exodus 20:13. Although I normally use the English Standard Version, I’m going to quote from the King James Version since its translation is the way I learned this commandment:

13 Thou shalt not kill.

Pretty straight forward, right?

What shouldn’t you do?


Now, having said that, the English Standard Version probably gives a better idea of what the commandment means with its:

13 “You shall not murder (Exodus 20:13)

Again, pretty straight forward, right?

What shouldn’t you do?


Everybody agree?

Boy, I sure hope so! 🙂

The Trolley Problem

Given we all concur we shouldn’t murder each other, our neighbors, or anyone else…let me share a situation in a Ted Talk video a wonderful listener and friend, Evette, sent my way on Facebook. It was called the Trolley Problem1, and it goes like this:

[Read more…]

Half-Baked (Again)

God will not leave you half-baked

Re-Using a Sermon

I have an aversion to re-using sermons. I would never re-use some else’s, but…other than quoting parts of them…I have avoided re-preaching any of mine. I can only recall reusing a sermon once. It was when I was in my 20s and originally studying religion, and I got an evening call to preach the next morning…so I re-used one on the Kingdom of God.

Funny enough, the closest thing I ever did to using one of my sermons a second time was when I got a call the same morning to preach, and I quickly threw together a sermon on the Kingdom of God…my sermon notes from over a decade before long gone. It was rushed and not typed out like I did all my other sermon notes…

And the wonderful matriarch of the church, Mabel, told me it was the best sermon I had delivered up to that point. 🙂

[Read more…]

Allow Yourself to Be Pleasantly Surprised

Give people a chance

Who Do You Want to Emulate

On Friday night I asked this on Facebook and Twitter:

If there is anyone (alive or dead) you would like to emulate, who is he/she? How are you doing? Do you care? Do you _really_ care?

The reason I posted it is because there are some people on both who I really care for…and who I know could answer the first question…but don’t really spend time pondering the other three. For instance, as Christians we all want to be like Jesus, right?

How are we doing? How are you doing?

If we are honest and (generally) answer, “Not so good”…do we care? Do we really care?

If we really care we would be actively pursuing fixing it, right?

And on social media there are tons of people who I’m pretty sure would say they want to be like X, but they don’t show it in their actions. It saddens me. Too often, I sadden me. 🙁

A Friend of God

Now, I suspect if I asked a Jew in Jesus’ day, “If there is anyone (alive or dead) you would like to emulate, who is he/she?,” a decent number of folks would say, “Abraham.” [Read more…]

Happy New Year (2017)

2017 in blocksI suspect I was not the only one to start off 2017 staying up way too late, but after about six hours of sleep I began the new year in one of the best ways possible.

Reading Scripture.

Many of us at the Strasburg Church of Christ are taking the blessed trek through all 66 books together in 2017, and today’s reading was Genesis 1-3. Because the kids will be joining us on this journey, I am at least beginning it in the version they are using, the New Revised Standard Version. I am glad I did, because in the first chapter of the Bible there was a very cool pairing that happened frequently.

“God said” and “And that’s exactly what happened.”

If there is one thing that history has proven, it is that when God says that He is going to do something, or that something is going to happen…well…

That’s exactly what is going to happen.

My prayer for you is that you will have faith in the One who is so reliable, even when what He promised was at such great cost to Himself.

That is, when He said He would provide a Savior and sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross so we could spend eternity with Him.

Happy New Year everyone! Grace, peace, and love to you all.

2017 New Year's clock

Returning to the First New Year’s Day

Happy New Year with angel

How Many?

Just curious…how many New Year’s Days do you think there have been?

[Wait for answers.]

Personally, based on the Bible, I think it has been less than ten thousand. I know that seems to contradict the geological record and other scientific evidence of the age of the universe, but science also cannot explain how Jesus Christ was resurrected.

“And if Christ has not been raised, then [my] preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14).

Christ was raised and your faith is not in vain…so let’s trust Scripture when it comes to the age of the universe, of the earth, of humanity…and it is difficult to believe things have been around for millions or billions of years based on what is written in the 66 books.

However, regardless of how many New Year’s Days there have been, today’s we label as the one for 2017. Mathematically, what is special about that number?

That’s right, it is a prime number!

Of course, that doesn’t mean it is going to be special…but the mathematician in me likes it. 🙂

The First

2017 will likely not be special…no worse than most and no better than most…but there are some truly monumental New Year’s Days. Today we’ll quickly talk about four of them, starting to the one spoken of in Genesis 1:1-5:

1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.


Before God created, there was nothing.

Think about that.

When I was young, I could get a shiver up my back by pondering, “If there is such thing as nothing, why do we exist?”

I suspect I could still create that shiver if I focused on it.

But, before the first New Year’s Day, there was absolutely nothing.

[Read more…]

Baby Jesus, Did You Know?

Mary and the baby JesusAway in a Manger

I’m not sure I would say it is in my top three, but I really like Christmas carol, “Away in a Manger.” We all know its first verse, right?:

Away in a manger, no crib for his bed,

The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head;

The stars in the sky looked down where he lay,

The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

It is a simple tune…and the fact that I can recall those words means it’s pretty easy to remember. 🙂

It brings to mind this part of the nativity story:

2 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn (Luke 2:1-7).

In the adult Bible study a week back we discussed how the angel Gabriel gave Mary a heads-up about her miraculous pregnancy and the Savior it would produce, but at that point in Scripture’s narrative I imagine she looked at Jesus the same way Michelle did at Mikey and at Augie when they were first born.

With love, awe, and thankfulness.

However, at some point after His birth, Mary had to ponder the incredible words from God’s divine messenger. What exactly did she know about her newborn’s future fate? [Read more…]

Merry Christmas (2016)

Magi pointing to the starIt is past midnight here in Strasburg, Colorado…so we have crossed into Christmas Day. In a world where minute-by-minute (and overall) life can seem quite askew…Christmas reminds us of a Savior that came to set everything right. To bring peace on earth and goodwill to men.

Merry Christmas and our love to all! 

Anticipating the Arrival

Magi on camels traveling to nativityJust Can’t Wait!

Have you ever really, really looked forward to something?

Looked forward to it so much you just couldn’t wait…and it seemed to take forever?

What was it? A trip to some exotic place? Your wedding day? Something else?


Kids, when I was your age I just couldn’t wait for Christmas. It truly was a magical season for my brothers and me, and boy we wanted the day to arrive weeks ahead. Then…Christmas Eve…we couldn’t wait for Santa to come. My parents would keep our full Christmas stockings away from us until about 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning…since they knew as soon as we had them we were going to be wide awake. 🙂

And then…to torture us all the more…after my parents got an hour or two more of sleep…we’d go downstairs…and although we could see all of the awesome gifts under the tree…many with our personal names on them…we weren’t allowed to open any until we had breakfast.

The horrors! The anticipation could have killed us!

Anybody else feel that way with Christmas? [Read more…]

The Reunion

Sunset with light and beamsDenver International Airport

Yesterday, Michelle, Augie, and I got up a bit early for a Saturday, headed over to Denver International Airport and picked up…

Who did we pick up Augie?

That’s right! His big brother Mikey…or “Michael” as he is more formally known to most others. 🙂

And although mom and dad were also excited for his return, clearly Augie couldn’t wait…telling lots of people all week that his big brother was coming home.

We look forward to reunions with the ones we love, don’t we?

And speaking of Denver International Airport…although it basically stopped the latter half of this year, many of you know that, historically, I have travelled a lot for work. One of the blessings in doing that is, while at the airports, seeing couples and families reunited. The same joy and happiness we three felt yesterday when Mikey came up the escalator and crossed over into our “un-secure” area in the airport is repeated millions of times a year all over the world.

We are blessed by reunions with the ones we love, aren’t we?

Now, I have to admit that if I drove out to the airport to watch something it might be the planes taking off and landing…but sometime, if you are in a funk and want to break out of it, you may want to drive 30-40 minutes to DIA and watch the holiday reunions. Joy and happiness are infectious. Even watching the anticipation itself is fun and spirit-lifting. People just can’t wait for that special someone to suddenly come in sight, because…

We look forward to reunions with the ones we love, don’t we?

We are blessed by reunions with the ones we love, aren’t we? [Read more…]

I Didn’t Do It!

Butter, dish, and knifeGood or Evil

What do you think? Are humans inherently good or evil?

How many here believe humans are inherently good?

How many here believe humans are inherently evil?

I suspect the best answer to the question, “Are humans inherently good or evil?” is…



But, if there is one thing that I think argues for the latter…that we are inherently evil…at least in part…is our propensity to lie.

It seems to me that, even at an early age, when you are going to get into trouble for doing something, human nature automatically wants to say…

“I didn’t do it!”

Pretty much as soon as we can feel guilt and/or understand we might get in trouble, we want to (and to often do) lie. Say we didn’t do it. Blame someone else. Claim ignorance about it. Anything but just fess up and admit we are the guilty party. [Read more…]

Do You Understand?

Empty tomb with crosses in the backgroundFiverr

Has anyone here heard of Fiverr? The description in the title on its web site’s main page is:

Fiverr: The Marketplace for Creative & Professional Services

And it is a great marketplace for various services. For instance it’s main menu lists Graphics & Design, Digital Marketing, Writing & Translation, Video & Animation, Music & Audio, Program & Tech, Advertising, Business, and Fun & Lifestyle. I have used it for logos and some video intros and outros…and have found it a relatively inexpensive place to get quality work.

However, it does have one problem that has caused my hairline to shrink a little…related to its providers being all over the globe.

Can you figure out what that is?

Not time zones…if anything that seems to work in my favor with work getting done while I am sleeping. Instead…

It is language.

I think I am being very clear about what I would like and the responses…very congenial and timely…often show English is not their first language…or second, for that matter. This past week it just meant more back-and-forth than should have been needed…but one time it was so bad I had to cancel the order. Sometimes…

They just don’t understand.

However, even when you and someone else both fluently speak the same language, can’t you get in the same situation? Where you think you’ve explained something very clearly, but…for whatever reason…even after restating it several different ways…sometimes..

They just don’t understand.

Sometimes it is just a lack of knowledge. I can try to explain quantum mechanics to a four year-old, but nobody would be surprised if the kid stares blankly at me and just burps. 🙂

However, and I don’t want to psychoanalyze this too much, I think occasionally the incapacity to comprehend is because of a mental block. It could be an inability to pay attention, an unwillingness to accept the truth, and so on…but it’s not that that they cannot understand…sometimes…

They will not understand.

[Read more…]