Sermon September 16, 2018 – Re-Up part 5 – Fellowship

1 John 1

Over the last four weeks, we have been looking at various spiritual disciplines, and making personal commitments to Re-Up in the areas of Bible reading, prayer and evangelism. However, to make these commitments without support and encouragement will lead to discouragement. What we need is to re-up to fellowship to encourage one another in our personal lives. Fellowship is so much more than a handshake, a hug, or a pat on the back, fellowship in the church is doing life together, challenging one another and picking one another up when we stumble.

John starts this letter and it sounds very much like the Luke 24, where Jesus revealed himself to the disciples, he spoke to them, ate with them and allowed them to touch him in order to reveal his full and complete resurrection.

John begins this letter by making an overwhelming statement of the fact that he was a witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He makes the strongest possible case for the fact that he is a credible witness and what he is about to write, needs to be taken seriously.

He takes the first two verses to lay his foundation and then in verse three he explains why, “so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ”.

One of the primary reasons for John’s letter was to emphasize fellowship, the importance and the value of fellowship in the life of the church.

John writes that fellowship with each other is interconnected with our fellowship with God. As we walk in fellowship with each other, we have fellowship with God the Father and the Son. As we walk in fellowship with God, we grow in fellowship with each other. If either of those connections begins to fail, it affects the other.

In verses six to ten, John bounces back between and forth between walking in darkness and sin, and walking in repentance, light and freedom. 1 John 1:6, says that you are lying to yourself and to those around you if you claim to be in fellowship with God, yet you are allowing sin in your life. And in verse 8 and 10, the Apostle John is blunt and direct. If you say you are currently without sin, then you are deceiving yourself, because we all sin and we are all prone to sin. Daily we must repent of our sins and ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins. Our sin doesn’t only affect our fellowship with God, it affects our fellowship with each other. Our relational fellowship is hurt when we give in to sin in our lives. It may be imperceptible at the start, but eventually our relationships in the body of Christ will be destroyed by our sin.

Verses 7 and 9 give the beautiful contrast, as we walk in the light, allowing the light of the Holy Spirit to destroy the darkness of sin in our lives, our fellowship is restored with God and with each other and the blood of Jesus purifies us from our sins. Please note the order of this verse, walking in fellowship or walking in the light comes first and then the blood of Jesus purifies us. We have this crazy notion that we have to be sinless to be a part of the church. John responds to this in verse 8 by saying that we are deceived, and the truth is not in us.

We don’t have to be pure to walk in fellowship, but we do have to walk in the light, admitting our struggles and our weaknesses. The church is a place for sinners in need of grace, not perfect people. If you are waiting to be good enough to get connected to a group or a fellowship, you never will, and when you finally do, you will find that we are all sinners moving forward by the grace of God. Because we have a wonderful promise from God, found in verse 9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” This is one of the greatest verses in the Bible.

The blood of Jesus is what provides the way for fellowship with God and fellowship with each other. There are no higher levels of Christian, or lower-class Christians, we are all sinners desperate for a savior and saved by the blood (see 1 Corinthians 10:12).

God has put us in community, so that we can build one another up and walk together through the challenges of life. Fellowship is one of the keys to the effectiveness of the church. A church will never be able to grow beyond its fellowship. If the fellowship is healthy in the church, it will continue to minister and grow in maturity and in number.

The Greek word for fellowship is Koinonia, it is a beautiful word that means the sharing of common life. Not just the sitting next to each other on a Sunday morning, social gatherings or drinking coffee together, fellowship is standing with someone through the tough times in life. Fellowship is also staying in community even after a disagreement. True fellowship is fighting for restoration and unity even after a disagreement.

It all stems from our fellowship with God. As children of God we have two dimensions to our standing with God, we have a relationship which is based on the righteousness of Jesus. The blood of Jesus in faith brings us into a right standing with God. Romans 8 says we are adopted as His children (see Romans 8:15-16). Our relationship as adopted sons and daughters of God the Father never changes, that is fixed.

But, our fellowship can change. Our fellowship with God is damaged by our disobedience. As we allow sin into our lives, we pull away from God and our fellowship with God is disrupted, and at the same time our fellowship with other Christians is disrupted.

But confession restores fellowship. Confession is when we agree with God as to the nature of what we have done, and we apply the promise of 1 John 1:9 to our lives. Sin is not a simple, “slip up”, sin is terrifying. Our sin is what took Jesus to the cross, sin must never be taken lightly.

One of the first signs of drifting away from fellowship with God is a tendency to pull away from fellowship with each other. We need to be sensitive to each other, when you see another Christian struggling, gently reach out to them, pray for them and encourage them. This is what the Body of Christ is all about. (see Hebrews 10:24-25).

Sermon September 9, 2018 Re-Up part 4 – Evangelism

 Evangelism, the mission of the church.

Luke 24:36-53

At the end of Luke’s Gospel, we read how Jesus revealed himself to select groups of people. Firstly, to the women who went to the tomb and found it empty, then Jesus met the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. At the end of the chapter 24 Jesus appears in the room where the eleven disciples were meeting.  The disciples must have been terrified, they had seen Jesus die, and now he simply appears in the middle of the room.

Jesus begins to give them multiple proofs of his physical resurrection. He invites them to touch him and see that he is really in human form and not a spirit being. They were still struggling to comprehend what was happening when Jesus asks them for something to eat, and he eats the fish in front of them to prove his resurrection.

Jesus’ resurrection from death opens the way for all who trust in him to follow him in a resurrection like his when he returns. This is important because it shows that our ultimate hope is not just for our souls to go to heaven, but for our physical bodies to be raised to new life like Jesus’ was (see 1 John 3:1-2).

Jesus continues in verse 44 to show them that the Old Testament was not simply a record of history or a collection of stories and poetry, but rather the entire Old Testament points towards Jesus. In verse 45 we read, “he opened their minds to understand the scriptures”.  This simple statement has profound implications, up till now the disciples had heard the teachings of Jesus, but they really struggled to understand the implications of what they were witnessing. Jesus gave them supernatural understanding of the Word of God. Jesus gave them a gift.

True understanding of the Bible is a gift from God. As Christians we have the Holy Spirit in us, not only to guide and counsel but also to understand the Bible (John 16:13). The Bible is the supernatural word of God and before you open the pages pray for understanding through the Holy Spirit (pray Psalm 119:18).

Jesus explained that his death and resurrection was the necessary process by which people can be restored to a right relationship with God. Jesus gave them the Great Commission, and then told them to stay in Jerusalem to wait for a mysterious power to do the work he was telling them to do. Jesus ascended into heaven with the promise that he would send the helper, the comforter, the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.

As we go out to share the Gospel, we must never try to go out in our own strength, we must never go without relying on the Holy Spirit for direction, for wisdom and for power. It is the Holy Spirit who takes our weak words and transforms them into life changing authority.

The disciples did not know what exactly Jesus was talking about, but as we know in the second chapter of the book of Acts, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and they were given the power to do what Jesus had instructed them to do.

As Jesus ascended into heaven he blessed the disciples. What a blessing that must have been, the disciples were a truly privileged group of men who had personally witnessed the greatest moments in all of history. But privilege always brings responsibility, they were to be witnesses of all that Jesus had said and done, Acts 1:8 reads, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

A witness is somebody who accurately reports what he or she has seen and heard. The disciples were witnesses, the word witness is used in one way or another twenty-nine times in the Book of Acts. As Christians, we are not judges or prosecuting attorneys sent to condemn the world, we are witnesses who point to Jesus Christ and tell lost sinners how to be saved. The Greek word for witness is “Martys”, which is where we get the word Martyr.

To be a witness for Christ will cost you something, it may cost you your reputation, or a promotion, in many parts of the world it will cost you your life. But the very act of sharing the Gospel is valuing the message and the person you are speaking to, more than your own comfort and preferences. This is what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. To value the Gospel more than our own lives, to value Jesus more than our own comfort. After all, didn’t Jesus value you more than his own comfort? Didn’t Jesus value you more than his own life?

As the church, we are a people who gather to worship, sing, pray and study God’s word. But with all those activities of the gathering of the body of Christ, what is the primary goal of the church? Worship, fellowship and praise are important and necessary, but all of these will continue on for eternity when we get to heaven. However, we will never be able to share the Gospel with the lost when life on this earth is over. It is and always has been the primary role of the church, to be the salt and light in the world, proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ.   John McArthur

Sermon September 2, 2018 – Re-Up part 3, The Gospel

Re-Up to the Gospel

We talk a lot about the Gospel, but are we really able to articulate the Gospel message?

The word, “Gospel” is translated from the Greek word “euangelion” from which we get our word, Evangelism. The Gospel means the Good News and it all starts and ends with God.

The most succinct text we have for the Gospel is 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. God created the heavens and the Earth, and it was good. But, sin entered into the world as Satan tempted eve, she and Adam sinned by eating the fruit that God told them not to eat. Satan tempted Eve by making asking the question, “did God really say?” And that is the same question he tempts us with every day, if we don’t know and stand firmly on the authority of God’s word.

As a result of their sin, we are all sinners (Romans 3:23).  Sin has resulted in a break in relationship, a separation between God and man. All of creation suffers as a result of this separation. In order to provide for the restoration of the broken relationship between God and man, God required a perfect sacrifice, Jesus was that sacrifice. He came to earth as a baby, born of a virgin and he lived a perfect sinless life. Jesus was persecuted and crucified on the cruel Roman Cross where he died. But Jesus was raised to life on the 3rd day, by the power of God, overcoming death. After forty days of teaching and appearing to many people, Jesus ascended to heaven and today he is at the right hand of God the father. But Jesus didn’t leave us alone, he sent the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit to live in us, to empower us to do what he calls us to do. The Holy Spirit is the power and the fuel of the church.

This sacrifice that Jesus made was for all who would put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior. Paul tells us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We did nothing to deserve his love and sacrifice. All we have to do is accept this free gift from God (Romans 6:23). The Bible says that there is no other way to be saved, this makes the Gospel a message of offence and one that causes division, just as Jesus said in Luke 12. The Gospel is offensive in our culture mostly because of its exclusivity. Our age of political correctness hates the exclusivity of the Gospel (John 14:6).

In 2 Timothy 4:1-5, Paul was commissioning Timothy to Gospel ministry. In the first verse, Paul reminded Timothy that this commissioning is before God and Jesus Christ who is also going to judge all people when he comes again. If Timothy wasn’t aware of the weight of his commission he certainly got it there in the first sentence. Paul charges Timothy to be an evangelist, a Gospel proclaimer (2 Timothy 4:2). In the end of the previous chapter, Paul told Timothy that all Scripture is God-breathed and the he needs to preach all of scripture and not simply his favorite texts, or the texts that he knows people will enjoy hearing (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Paul writes and tells Timothy to be ready, “in season and out of season”, to preach the word. Naturally, we understand that Timothy is to be ready to preach the word when he is in front of a crowd or simply when he is sharing a meal with a family, being ready to speak about the Gospel at all times. But I suggest that there is more to this statement. Let us never forget that if we call ourselves Christians, the world is watching, and we preach a “form” of Gospel with our actions. How we respond to immorality in our workplaces, how we respond to financial and family challenges, how we respond to these and other challenges preaches a form of Gospel to the watching world.

But what about the bigger issues of life, the cultural issues that demand a response from the church?

What Gospel are we as a church preaching to the world when it comes to our response to the plight of the unborn in our nation? What Gospel are we preaching in our response to caring for those caught in sex slavery and trafficking?

What Gospel are we preaching in our response to the re-definition of marriage in our society? What Gospel are we preaching to those around us in our care for the widows and the orphans in our communities?

We have the opportunity everyday to declare the truth of God’s Word to those around us as they see our response to the challenges of everyday life.

Paul continues in his encouragement to Timothy and writes about a future time where there will be false teachers (2 Timothy 4: 3-4). Over the course of the past 2000 years, cultures have come and gone that have rejected the truth of God’s word, but it really sounds like Paul was talking about the era in which we now live.

There are primarily two kinds of false teachers today; firstly, those who intentionally teach a false Gospel in order to attract crowds and make people feel good about themselves. Many large churches have built enormous buildings and have incurred huge debts, now the pastors feel compelled to preach what the people want to hear in order to keep them coming to pay for the buildings.

Secondly, there are those who are too afraid of the cultural resistance to the Gospel, this is the preacher who doesn’t want to offend.

The truth is that the days of unquestioned respect for the church are gone. In our 21st century culture, if you truly believe and hold fast to this Gospel message, you could be risking your reputation, your social status and possibly you will face legal threats as we have already seen in our country.

But here is the wonderful good news, God himself by the Holy Spirit is committed to the results of the proclamation of the Gospel. You are not alone in this task, Jesus ended the Great Commission in Matthew 28 by promising, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

What is the Gospel that you are declaring to the world?

Sermon August 26, 2018 Re-Up Part 2 – Prayer

Re-Up –  Prayer – James 5:13-20

What is the one thing you could do that would have the greatest impact on your life?

The answer is Prayer. There is nothing more important, more strategic or more rewarding than prayer.

James 5 verse 13 has a header that says, “the prayer of faith”. This is what prayer is all about. And when we lack the desire to pray it is because we lack faith. If we could even glimpse the majesty and omnipotence of Who we are praying to, we would never be lacking in our zeal and our time for prayer.

Verse 13 begins with two categories of people; anyone suffering and anyone cheerful. The person going through troubles in life is told to pray, and the cheerful person, who has peace and joy is encouraged to sing praises to God.  But then in the next verse James addresses another category of people, the sick person.

Over the next few verses it seems like James is giving a prescription, a way to pray for the sick that will work every time. James instructs to gather the elders, anoint with oil, pray in the name of Jesus and to pray in faith. The result would seem to be that healing is to be expected. So why do we not see instant healing with every prayer offered for healing?

As we look at each of these “conditions” we see firstly that the sick person is obviously unable to come to the meeting place and calls the elder, this person is possibly bedridden, and in a place of humility and dependence. The sick person takes the initiative and calls out for help. We must never let our culture of self-sufficiency, get in the way of our healing. Our independent culture is actually a form of pride and we need to humble ourselves and reach out to others when we are in need.

Secondly, the elder is another name for a pastor or a shepherd. This does not mean that only pastors are allowed to pray for the sick, according to 1 Peter 2, we believe in the priesthood of all believers. The key here is praying in obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and praying in faith.

Thirdly, James says that one must anoint the person with oil, is this the key that we are missing? Scholars have different ideas on this and the word for anointing oil here could mean a medicinal balm, so that could indicate using some medicine along with the prayer. I have seen miracles happen with or without oil.

Next, James instructs that the prayer be offered in the name of the Lord, this is always a good reminder that human beings cannot do miracles, we can pray for them, but God is the sovereign worker of miracles. To pray in the name of the Lord is to indicate our willingness to permit our prayers to be acted on under the sovereign will and purposes of God.

And finally, in verse 15 we read, “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” So, what is this prayer of faith? The answer is in 1 John 5:14–15, The “prayer of faith” is a prayer offered when you know the will of God. The prayer of faith is twofold; firstly, we pray with faith in the all-powerful God we serve because we believe that He is able and secondly, we pray trusting in the outcome. Trusting in the outcome is faith that God is working all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

We are so focused on the temporary physical need that we miss the eternal and far more important need of every human being.

As you read different translations of verse 15, some read that “the prayer of faith will make the sick person well”. But the ESV translates it; “the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick”, the Greek word SOZO, means to heal or to save, so it could be either. However, in the 20th verse of our text, where James is talking about the backslider who returns to the faith, he uses the exact same Greek word.

In fact, if we carefully note the overarching theme of the text from verse 13 to 20, this passage is more about the need for righteousness and salvation than it is about physical healing. We get so wrapped up in the first four verses that we miss the big picture. The theme of this text is holiness and righteousness, or a right standing before God. We are so focused on our temporal physical needs that we can forget that we are eternal beings and we all have a fatal sin condition. We are all sinners who are desperately in need of saving. We all need saving power of the blood of Jesus to save us from an eternity separated from the presence of God.

Verse 16 says, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” Who is a righteous person? It is a person who is in right standing with God. Someone who has repented of their sins and has trusted in the promises of God’s Word (see 1 John 1:9). Personal holiness is not just being a good person, it flows from a powerful and intimate relationship with God through prayer. Let us be a people who pray with power, because our hearts are in tune with the Holy Spirit.

In verse 17, we read that Elijah prayed fervently. James notes that Elijah was a man just like us, although God used him incredibly (see 1 Kings 17 and 18), but the key was Elijah was a man of fervent prayer.

The Oxford Dictionary describers fervent as, “having or displaying a passionate intensity”.

I pray that we would be a people of fervent prayer.

We can never overemphasize the importance of prayer and the power of prayer. It is the life blood of every true believer. Prayer is so much more than we could possibly imagine as we get to communicate with the creator of the universe!

“Satan dreads nothing but prayer. His one concern is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, he mocks our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.”
Samuel Chadwick

Sermon August 19, 2018 Re-Up Part 1

 

The Word – John 1:1-5

This week we began a new series called “Re-Up”, this is a call to re-enlist, to recommit to personal spiritual disciplines, gathering together and being a church on mission. The summer break has a way of breaking our good routines and disrupting our spiritual growth.

We begin with the Bible, which is a perfect place to start in getting back to personal spiritual disciplines and growing in our knowledge and the call of God on our lives.

In John 17 Jesus asked the Father that He would “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Jesus prayed that believers would be transformed as they are exposed to the truth that is God’s Word.  God’s Word is the truth that re-creates us, refines us and makes us more like Jesus.

The Bible is no ordinary book, it is the Word of God. We need to get a fresh perspective of the value and the immense importance of this book in our lives.

In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul writes that, “all scripture is God breathed…” we believe that all scripture, all 66 books written by multiple authors over thousands of years, is fully inspired by the Holy Spirit.

The Gospel of John is a portrait of Jesus Christ and his saving work. The central theme is the eternal majesty and deity of Jesus Christ, and we see in the first five verses this theme being developed. John does not mention the name of Jesus until the 29th verse, rather he calls Jesus the Word. John calls Jesus the Word because he had come to see the words of Jesus as the truth of God, and the person of Jesus as the truth of God in such a unified way that Jesus himself — in his coming, and working, and teaching, and dying and rising — was the final and decisive message of God. As we read the first five verses of John’s gospel there are six key phrases that jump out of the page:

1 In the beginning.

The apostle John began his Gospel in a very different way to the other gospels, he went back to the beginning of time on the earth, echoing Genesis 1:1. Jesus is the pre-existent God who spoke creation into existence.

2 The Word was with God.

The Word has always been in a relationship with God the Father. Christ did not at some point in time come into existence or begin a relationship with the Father. In eternity past the Father (God) and the Son (the Word) and the Holy Spirit, have always been in a loving communion with each other. verse 2 clarifies this point, “He was in the beginning with God.”  Jesus was always God.

3 The Word was God.

The Word, who became flesh and dwelt among us, Jesus Christ, was and is God. Jesus Christ was with God, and he is God, he is the image of God. There is one divine essence and three persons in the trinity.

4  All things were made through him.

Why is there something rather than nothing? That is the great question in philosophy. The answer is God, He is eternal, and He is the Creator of all things. And the Word was the Father’s agent, or Word, in the creation of all things. God, the Word, created the world. Your Savior, your Lord, your friend, this same Jesus is your Maker.

5 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

This is one of the key themes in the Gospel of John, John 10:10 states, “…I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”. John makes it clear that Jesus was not only the creator of life, he is the sustainer and supplier of life. Jesus said in john 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life”

Not only is Jesus the life, he is also the light. In John 8, Jesus declares himself the “light of the World”.

In the Bible darkness is commonly used to denote death, ignorance, sin, and separation from God. The prophet Isaiah described the coming of the Messiah in Isaiah 9, saying, “the people living in darkness seeing a great light.”

6 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Light dispels darkness, Jesus exposes darkness and in his presence, all evil must retreat. Jesus coming to the earth was God turning on the light switch and exposing and defeating the darkness of sin. The light shines, it has not gone out it is still shining through his church, we are the ambassadors of Christ to go into dark places and turn on the light.

___________________

The entire Bible is the revelation of Jesus to us, the Old Testament points to him, the Gospels reveal his life and the rest of the New Testament point back to the cross and reveal the church, the Body of Christ and then in the Revelation, we read about this same Jesus who will come again as the warrior king. All scripture points us to Jesus.

With all that we have been given, how can we call ourselves followers of Jesus, and not have a passion for his word?” Why do we struggle to spend time reading and meditating on the Word of God?

We need to rekindle a love for the Word of God. It is no ordinary collection of pages and ink, it is supernatural in its authoring, it is supernatural in its reading and it is supernatural in its application.

The word of God does not change, the truth of God’s word does not change, it is our plumb-line and our authority for business, for parenting, for marriage and all other aspects of life.

But, we like to redefine truth to fit our own personal preferences or desires. Let us be careful not to ignore or discard selected truths, just because we find them hard to receive or difficult to understand. And above all, we must be careful not to become lazy or apathetic with the truth of God’s word because it is not socially acceptable or because the cost of defending or standing on the truth becomes too demanding.

This world we live in is vehemently opposed to the truth of the Word of God.

The Word of God was truth before the beginning of time and will continue to be truth for all eternity.  (See, 1 Peter 1:23-25.)

We desperately need time away from the business and steward our time reading and meditating on God’s word.

As you read the Bible, you will encounter Jesus, the Word of God and the Holy Spirit will reveal his glory and majesty to you.

Have you read the Word of God today?

Sermon July 22, 2018 – Lessons from the life of Gideon part 4

Judges 7:1-23

Have you ever been in a situation where you faced insurmountable odds? Maybe a financial situation where there seemed to be no way out, or a health scare when the doctors told you that you, or someone you love, has less than ten percent chance of survival. Maybe you have a work deadline that seems impossible to meet.

How do you respond when the chances of success or even survival seem impossible? Maybe you are in that place right now, and you are here simply hoping to get through another day.

In Judges 7, we see that Gideon was in a desperate situation. In the previous chapter we see that Gideon is filled with the power of the living God, and he blows the trumpet calling the men of his clan to battle. As word goes out some 32,000 men from four tribes gather under Gideon’s leadership to fight against the invading Midianites. However, they were heavily outnumbered as the Midianites and the Amalekites numbered over 135,000. Even being this outnumbered, God said to Gideon that they were too many and he allowed those who were afraid to go home. At which point 22,000 soldiers leave, imagine how Gideon must have felt? 10,000 of the Israelite army remain, but God looks on the army and says to Gideon that he has still too many. God instructs Gideon to have the army go and drink some water, those who knelt down and scooped the water into their mouths were singled out from those who lay down and put their mouths directly to the water.

There are all kinds of theories of why God singled out those who kneeled, but the bottom line is that God singled out 300 men and told the rest to go home. Now everyone could see that this was an impossible task.

When you are facing an impossible situation, it just might be that God has orchestrated it to be that way, in order for His own glory. If there is even a possibility of us being able to save ourselves by our own ingenuity or skill, we will take the credit for ourselves. God loves to show His glory, but in order to do that, the situation has to be absolutely impossible.

God continues to speak to Gideon and tells him to go down to the camp of Midian and spy out what is going on. Gideon was clearly afraid, but he still had the courage to obey God.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

Gideon goes down to the enemy camp not knowing that God has prepared a blessing for him. God gave one of the enemy soldiers a dream about a cake of barley bread that came down the hill and destroyed the camp of Midian. Another soldier listening immediately interpreted the dream and recognized that the God of the Israelites had appointed Gideon to be the one to destroy the mighty Midianite army. It just so happened that as this conversation began, Gideon was right there to hear it. God orchestrates circumstances all the time, we just need to recognize the hand of God in the situation. Gideon immediately worshipped God. This was all he needed, going back to his base camp he began to give orders for battle.

What follows is one of the greatest victories in the history of warfare. Gideon divides the men into three camps and has them take a trumpet in the one hand, and a clay jar with a torch in the other, obviously leaving behind their sword and their shield, they were totally unarmed and unprotected.

Gideon knew that this was going to either be a complete slaughter or a mighty miracle, he had faith for the miracle and did what was absolutely reckless. From the observer’s perspective, this was a suicide mission, the soldiers were totally unarmed and spread out around the enemy. They were not hiding in the tall grass, rather, they were standing tall, and at the call of Gideon they would blow their trumpets, calling attention to themselves and then if that wasn’t enough, they were to smash the jars and reveal the torches. Completely exposing themselves to the enemy. It was reckless and certain suicide.

We know what happened next, the men do as Gideon showed them to do and shout, “the sword of the Lord and of Gideon.” The shout was to identify that God was wielding the sword, but also that Gideon was God’s anointed man on the ground, the man of faith.

The battle begins and in verse 21 we read that Gideon’s men did not move, they simply stood in place holding the torches. They didn’t carry a sword, they didn’t strike the enemy, but they did what God told them to do.

Sometimes, we want to go and fight the enemy, attack the person who offended or belittled us, take legal action against the person who wronged us, but as we ask God, He may tell you and I to do something that makes no sense at the time. As Christians, we have to stop thinking as the world thinks, fighting for our rights and making sure we get revenge. But God’s way is quite often different, if we truly believe in the all-powerful God, who is actively involved in our daily lives, why would we do anything other than what He tells us to do (See Romans 12:19-21).

The Midianites fled in confusion with over 120,000 of them perishing mostly by their own swords. God won the victory and there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that this was an extraordinary miracle.

The challenge for us today is to grasp that this is not simply a cool motivational story, this actually happened, it is a true historical account in the nation of Israel. The same God who overwhelmingly defeated the Midianites is inviting you today to trust him to fight your battles.

We all have an enemy who wants to destroy our lives (see 1 Peter 5:8), but just like Gideon, the weapons of our warfare are unconventional (see 2 Corinthians 10:4).

In Ephesians 6, we have the armor of God and the only offensive weapon we have is the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. If you want to know why you aren’t seeing victory in your life, it is probably because you aren’t familiar with your sword. The reasons why so many of the churches in the world are struggling and lack power, it is because they have relied on human reasoning and tradition rather than the life-giving power and authority of the Word of God.

Just as God gave Gideon the victory, He can give you the victory, all because of what Jesus did on the cross for you.

What is the battle you are fighting today? Turn the battle over to God and let Him lead you into victory.

Sunday July 15, 2018 What about the Children?

Luke 18:15-17

As the New school year is just around the corner we honor our school teachers and commit to praying for our local schools and the children in our communities.

It is right for us to show appreciation to the teachers of the children in our community, we need to pray for our local schools and encourage our local teachers. It is sad that our culture has developed the false mindset that schools are the place where education takes place and that is their domain.

Our society is in a mess; rampant gun violence, crime, abuse and the overflowing prisons, are all consequences of a society that has abdicated the responsibility to train up the next generation.

I believe that the Word of God and the Gospel, are the very best tools we can give our children to equip them to be healthy contributing members of society. We are all responsible to train up the next generation (see Proverbs 22:6). I believe that the level of criminal activity that we will see in the next generation in our cities will be a direct indicator of how seriously we took that verse.

A great teacher is not someone who simply conveys information, rather a great teacher wants their students to be lifted to higher heights than they were able to go themselves. We have a church word for this, it is called discipleship. Discipleship is teaching, it is inspiring life change. True discipleship is intentionally helping the person you are leading to reach for goals that you weren’t able to attain

Henry Brooks Adams said, “Teachers affect eternity, they can never know the full range of their influence.”

Throughout History we have had incredible teachers, people who have changed the world by their ideas and their vision. Just think of people like Galileo, sir Isaac Newton, Einstein and many others. But standing above all these is the ultimate teacher, Jesus Christ.

Jesus never got a degree and he never had a classroom, but no teacher has impacted humanity more than Jesus. He was a master communicator who used everyday objects to convey eternal truths. The Bible says in Matthew 7:28-29 that Jesus spoke with authority. The authority of the creator of the universe speaking to his creation. Jesus was also the greatest teacher because he had an eternal perspective and knew what was at stake (see John 3:16).

When you have the opportunity to impact the life of a young person, do you realize that you have just touched eternity? No moment with a child is insignificant.

The children of our churches and our community are so special to us, they are our life, our hope, our innocence and our future.

Christ himself tells us of their importance in Luke 18:15-17. The disciples were managing the crowd, ensuring that the high-profile people got to meet with Jesus. They were frustrated by the children because in that ancient culture, children were regarded as a burden until they could contribute to the family and society.

But, Jesus invited the children to bless them, and to teach the adults around him that the Kingdom of God belonged to those who were innocent and had childlike faith. It takes faith in Jesus Christ as Lord in order to enter into the kingdom of God, there is no other way. Faith is more than simply trusting, it is trusting without all the knowledge, trusting with abandon, trusting like a child.

Children are not a lower class of Christian merely because of their youth. The Apostle Peter, in Acts 2:38 and 39, as he ended his sermon on the street in Jerusalem, the people asked him “what shall we do?”.

Peter responded that the promise of the Gospel is for you and your children. The children were ready to receive the truth, not a watered-down fairy tale version of the Gospel. We do our children a disservice by trying to make the good news into a cartoon format.

With all this talk about education and training, whose responsibility is it to teach our children?

We live in a culture where we have abdicated our responsibility for teaching our children and left it up to the schools. It is not that schools are at fault, we are at fault for not taking our role as parents to train up our children. Whether you choose a public school, a private school, or you decide to homeschool your child, it is still the primary role of the parents to train up a child.

When we can come together and have fathers and mothers who love and train their children to understand and follow the way of the kingdom of God, we will grow stronger as families and as a church family, which will significantly impact our communities.

When we really see our children in church, their innocent faith challenges and provokes us. When we are challenged by our children with questions about the Bible, we will be inspired to learn more ourselves.

hen it comes to Biblical truths, children need to be taught among family. Fathers need to be there with their children to teach them and train them in the matters of God. Men take note, your careers are not as important as training your children. A generation ago we were told that children should be seen and not heard, children should not make a noise in the church, they are messy and disruptive. If that is still your thinking, my question to you is, do you think God minds? Do you think God the perfect Heavenly Father is disturbed if children feel free to be joyful in this place where we come to worship Him? Personally, I think He smiles, He may even desire that we all could be more like the children.

Are you a teacher? We are all called to help train up the next generation, the generation who will lead our churches and lead our communities. Let us be a church who see the children the way Jesus sees them.

Sermon Sunday July 8, 2018 – Lessons from the life of Gideon part 3

Judges 6:25-40

One of the most prevalent struggles we face as Christians is Idolatry. Adrian Rogers said, “An idol is anything you love more, fear more, value more or serve more than you do Almighty God. Fill in the blank.”

We all have things we give worth to, we all worship something and if God does not have the priority in our lives, those things we value become idols.

The children of Israel during the time of the Judges thought they were still following God, although they had added some of the idols of the Canaanites to their lives. As a result, God punished the Israelites by using the Midianite invaders. The people cried out to God for help, and God called Gideon to be a judge, a great military leader, to save the people from the oppressive Midianites. God had called and revealed Himself to Gideon, but now it was time for Gideon to do what God called him to do.

God instructs Gideon to take a bull and tear down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah pole and use the wood of the Asherah to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. That night Gideon does what he is instructed by tearing down these false idols and offering the second bull to the Lord. It is remarkable to note that Gideon may only have been twenty years old at this time. But he starts at home and deals with the idols in his own home first.  This is such a vital lesson for us. In our lives today, we have idols, the gods of humanism that draw our attention away from God; comfort, entertainment, peace, wealth, sport, politics and many more, all of these are not bad in themselves, but when left unbridled, they quickly become idols that we need to tear down.

When God tells you to put away an idol, it won’t be easy but whatever God is calling you to do, be completely obedient just as Gideon was obedient.

Notice that Gideon did something that no one could see at the time, it was hidden in darkness, but it had clearly visible and spiritual consequences. This is where the battle is won, not on the battle field, but in the secret place as you spend time alone with God in prayer. Never discount the time spent alone with God as waiting and marking time, it is the most valuable use of your time. Don’t for one moment think that you can live a victorious Christian life without a healthy prayer life. Prayer is where the real church growth takes place, and the kingdom of God is advanced.

The people of the town of Ophrah quickly find out who destroyed the idols and they go to the house of Joash and demand that he hand his son over for execution. Joash reacts quickly and with wisdom, challenging the people to test Baal and see if he will defend himself? Joash was convicted of his own sin, provoked by the faith and obedience of his son. As you and I step out in faith, it will provoke faith in others, others will look at your steps in faith and it will rekindle in them a fresh love for the Lord.

Never underestimate the power of obedience to the calling of God to transform the lives of those around you.

At the same time, the Midianites and the Amalekites were invading the land once more (Judges 6:33). But then we read in verse 34 that the Spirit of God clothed Gideon. Gideon became a physical manifestation of the presence of God and when he blew that trumpet, everyone could see that he was different. Jacob Myers says, “The Spirit of the Lord became incarnate in Gideon, who then became the extension of the Lord.”

We must remember that this is pre-Pentecost, and during the Old Testament God chose to clothe men and women by His spirit for specific tasks. When the Holy Spirit was given to the church at Pentecost, we all, who have given our lives to the Lordship of Jesus have this same Holy Spirit power in us.

Gideon was prepared for battle, as he blew the trumpet the tribes came together in response. What an incredible miracle. Here was a young man who moments ago was hiding and fearing for his life, suddenly filled with power, calls the nation to war, and they respond!

It all seems to be happening so fast and in verse 36 it seems that Gideon begins to waiver in his faith. He asks God for a sign of confirmation of His call. Gideon tests God, and we need to ask ourselves how often do we test God ourselves? As we question whether or not God is leading us we stand frozen in place, asking God for another sign.

The two miracles of the fleece and the dew are powerful miracles in verses 36 to 40, God confirms his presence and call on the young warrior. Gideon is now ready, and the battle is about to begin.

As we look at these few verses, we see a progression:

  • Gideon destroys the Idols. He is all in, there is no turning back
  • The Spirit of the Lord comes on the obedient Gideon and equips him for the task.
  • God confirms His call of Gideon

But Gideon would never have progressed beyond the first step if he didn’t destroy the idols, after that there was no turning back. Retreat is easy when you leave yourself an option, but God calls us to follow Him without looking back. God calls us to destroy the idols in our life and walk with Him.

What Idol is God calling you to destroy?

We make idols out of savings accounts, cars, careers, unhealthy relationships, anything that hinders you from moving forward and experiencing the very best that God has for you. As you trust completely in God for the future you will find that it is the very safest way to live your life.

Sermon Sunday July 1, 2018 – Lessons from Gideon Part 2

Have you ever questioned whether or not God was speaking to you? God sent his only Son in order to restore His relationship with you, why would He not speak to you if you have given your life over to the lordship of Jesus Christ?

Gideon was called by God to be the deliverer of the Israelites from the oppressive hand of the Midianites in Judges Chapter 6. It was an overwhelming task and Gideon is understandably cautious.  Gideon was almost certain that he was talking to God, but he needed a sign. He rushes off to prepare a meal from his meager supplies, killing a young goat he makes some unleavened cakes and some broth, bringing it to this Holy Messenger.

It is quite possible that Gideon was thinking that this meal would be a test to see who this messenger was. If he ate the meal, then he was a prophet, but if he didn’t eat the food, maybe disposed of it some way, it just might be a divine messenger.

The angel tells him to put the meat and broth on the rock, which was probably the winepress stone, and then proceeds to touch the meat and the unleavened cakes with the tip of his staff. Immediately fire came up out of the rock and consumed the meal.

That was enough for Gideon, he knew that he had not been talking to a prophet, but this was a supernatural being. But more than that, Gideon knew that he had been talking to God, because he immediately begins to fear for his life (Judges 6:22). Gideon used the Hebrew word YHWH, the unspoken name of God. He knew that he had seen God and should not live (Exodus 33:20).

There has only ever been one person pure enough to be able to stand in the presence of the holiness of God. That person is the pure spotless lamb of God, Jesus himself. All humanity is born in sin and as a result, we could never live if we were to be exposed to the holiness of God, it would consume us. That is why, what Jesus did on the cross, by providing a way for us to have communion with God, is so incredible.

The Angel of the Lord disappears, but God doesn’t stop speaking to Gideon, the physical manifestation of his presence has gone, but God continues to speak and calms him down. God says to him, “peace be to you, do not fear, you shall not die”. God’s presence and name brings peace. Maybe you are lacking peace right now, you are worried about finances, your future or maybe your child’s future. Have you spent time asking the Prince of Peace for his peace in your life?

The Bible is full of promises of peace from God, here are three verses you can meditate on, Hebrews 13:5-6, Psalms 27:1 and Isaiah 41:10. My friends, fear and anxiety must melt in the presence of the Lord, go to him, spend time with him.

As soon as Gideon calmed down, he built an altar, and he called it Jehovah-Shalom, the Lord is Peace. In a land where there were idols and altars to false gods, Gideon builds an altar to the one true God, a place that he can come back to and remember his encounter with the Lord. Gideon knew that he would need a reminder and a place he could come back to when times got tough.

We also need altar moments in our life, we need to commemorate those key moments in our life when God speaks to us. Those moments when the course of our life was altered because God met us. The day we became a follower of Jesus is an altar, it is our testimony. The day we were baptized is an altar, a remembrance of what God has done for us. The day we were set free from an addiction is an altar of remembrance to what God has done for us.

God spoke to Gideon and called him to be the next leader of the people of Israel. The Bible is full of accounts of people that God spoke to, and God still speaks today, calling people and activating them in ministry.

You may say that God doesn’t speak to you, you are not unique in this feeling, but the truth is that if you have given your life to the Lordship of Jesus, God will speak to you and direct you, you are just not listening!

Psalm 46:10 says” Be still and know that I am God.” Just be quiet and let him speak! There are so many things competing for our attention that it is hard for us to hear God’s voice, we need to get away from the noise of our busy lives and spend time quietly before God.

God speaks to us primarily through His Word the Bible.  When Joshua led the Children of Israel across the Jordan in Joshua 4, the Lord told them to take twelve stones out of the river and set them in place on the west side of the Jordan, so that they could remember what God had done for them.

We should have memorial stones, and the best memorial stones are Bible verses. Verses from the Bible that we can go back to and be reminded of His faithfulness and His promises. As we memorize and meditate on these memorial stone scripture texts, our lives will be enriched as we grow in our relationship with the Author of the Bible.

Sermon Sunday June 24, 2018 – Lessons from Gideon Part 1

Judges 6:1-16

Have you ever been put into a position of leadership that you felt totally unprepared for? God constantly puts his children in positions where they feel stretched even uncomfortable. And that is okay, God seldom calls you and I to lead in an area in which we are fully equipped. Gideon felt the same way when God called him in Judges chapter 6.

The book of Judges covers a period of roughly three-hundred years in the life of the nation of Israel. Joshua has died and left the nation with two instructions; defeat the remaining Canaanites and obey the law of Moses. The children of Israel fail on both accounts. As a result, God uses the nations surrounding them to punish them and cause them to cry out to Him for help.

As the chapter begins with a familiar phrase, “The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord…”

Israel had begun worshiping the idols and follow the pagan ways of the tribes that remained in the land. They had turned their backs on God after all that God had done for them.

God used the pagan nations of the Midianites and the Amalekites to punish the Israelites for a period of 7 years. The first six verses of the chapter describe the fear and the oppression of the Israelites. The Midianites forced them out of their homes and towns and caused them to hide in the hills, they were hiding in caves to get away from these invaders. The midianites came in vast numbers and raided their crops, taking their livestock and their tents.

In verse 11 we read that Gideon is also hiding, as he is beating out wheat in a winepress. Normally one would grind wheat in a large open area so that the wind could blow away the chaff. But a winepress was a smaller area, hidden in trees for shelter, probably a hollowed rock in the ground. Gideon was hiding and grinding out just a small portion of wheat, probably just enough for his family.

When the Israelites had nowhere left to turn, their own resources and means were over, they remembered the Lord and cried out to him (verse 7). The Lord responds by sending a prophet with a clear message (verses 8-10). The prophet tells them the obvious, he tells them all that God has done for them, and then he tells them how ungrateful and disobedient they are. The prophet declares the obvious, but the people needed to hear the obvious.

Sometimes we also need to hear the obvious as we miss the mark in our Christian walk. Maybe you have been blessed with a family, a home and many good things, but along the way you have lost your first love, you have stopped worshipping God, you have stopped spending time with God everyday in prayer and reading your Bible.

The prophet ends his message from God with a powerful accusation, “but you have not obeyed my voice.”

In the very next verse, we see the plan of deliverance that God began working out. God’s plan of salvation for his people always involves a person. God used Abraham, Noah, Sampson, David and many others in the Old Testament. But ultimately God sent His only son, Jesus Christ, to bring his perfect and eternal plan of salvation.

The Angel of the Lord appears to Gideon and sits under the Oak tree (V12). But this is no ordinary angel. The writer begins by calling him by the Hebrew term, “Malak”, which means messenger, but as the account progresses, we see in verse 13 that Gideon addresses him as, “Adonai” or my Lord, and then in verse 22 he calls him “Yahweh” – The Lord God. This messenger is God himself, the second person of the trinity, the pre-incarnate Christ. God was implementing a rescue plan for his people and as a foreshadowing of what is to come a thousand years later, God the Father sends the Son.

The angel addresses Gideon with a dramatic introduction, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor

Gideon must have looked around to see who the Lord was talking to. Here is was hiding in a cave and grinding a little wheat to make some food for his family. But God saw the real Gideon, the man that He had created.

When God calls you and I to serve him, to witness for him, to be his ambassador, He knows our weaknesses, but he also knows what he created in us. We must never respond to God’s call by explaining to Him our weaknesses, he knows them, but he also knows everything about us, because He created us and His ways are perfect.

The Lord responded to Gideon with a firm directive (verse 14). But Gideon continues to try do persuade God by pointing out his weaknesses in verse 15. Some of what Gideon said was out of humility, but mostly he was simply stating the facts, and asking “why me?”

And that is precisely what God wanted to hear. Gideon could not do anything in his own strength, and this is the position everyone who is to be used by God must come to. God loves to use people who are keenly aware of their weakness. Because when someone is fully conscious of their weakness, then God can begin to use them for His glory.

The person who relies on his own strength, intellect, skills and financial resources, is not likely to lean into God for courage and provision, and that person is also not likely to give God the glory for anything that is achieved.

Gideon tried to voice his lack of skill, and the Lord responded with an amazing promise in verse 16. God promised to be with Gideon, and that he would strike the Midianites as one man!

Remember, if you are doing what God has called you to do, you will always be in the majority – even you and God alone is the only majority that counts.

Jumping forward over one thousand years, when Jesus gave the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 he gave the church an impossible mission, but just like the Lord said to Gideon, Jesus said to the Disciples, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

What is God calling you to do? Where is he calling you to go? What excuses are you using?

God can use you like He used Gideon, because he promises to be with you always.