Palm Sunday April 9, 2017

Luke 18:31-43

Sight is one of our most valuable senses, but there is a blindness that is worse than physical blindness, it is spiritual blindness. Physical blindness even though it could span one’s entire lifetime, is not as bad as spiritual blindness that can lead to an eternity separated from God.

This week we remember Palm Sunday, the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey with crowds cheering him on. Before this day, Jesus had been preparing his disciples for His crucifixion In the Gospel of Luke, he tells them three times what is going to happen in Jerusalem, but they do not understand what he is talking about. To them, Jesus was the invincible Messiah and he was heading to Jerusalem to establish his earthly throne. They did not see the full picture and the amazing purpose of God for Jesus coming to the earth.

Jesus takes his disciples aside and begins by saying that everything that is written through the prophets about him will be accomplished. The disciples knew the scriptures and would have been taught that the Messiah would come and re-establish Israel as a mighty nation. But they did not dwell on passages like Isaiah 53, the prophecy about the suffering servant, rejected by man and even punished by God. That prophecy didn’t fit their understanding or their paradigm of what God was about to do. As Jesus begins to elaborate, the Gospel of Matthew makes it clear that Jesus predicted his death would be by crucifixion; the type of death that was for the worst criminals, the type of death that, according to the Law of Moses, meant the person was under a curse by God.

No other person in all of history was less deserving of suffering than Jesus. Not only did Jesus suffer an excruciating death, he also took on the full punishment of the wrath of God for our sins. That was the real suffering of the cross. It was a suffering by design; it was the plan of God all along (see Isaiah 53:10).

In verse 34 we read; “The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about”. Luke emphasizes the lack of understanding by repeating it three times. The disciples were blind, they did not see with spiritual eyes, they were looking for the establishment of an earthly kingdom but the truth was hidden from them.

In order to reinforce their lack of understanding, the very next miracle we have recorded is that of Jesus healing a blind man. It is clear that when Luke penned this Gospel, he knew what he was doing when he wrote about the healing of the blind man. Jesus performed many miracles that were not recorded for us in the Bible, but this one was significant and it’s positioning in the Gospel is key. Notice the desperation in this blind man, he was rebuked and told to be quiet by the crowd, but he kept on yelling with all his might. The reason he was so desperate was that he understood his blindness, and he had faith that Jesus could do something about it.

Notice the contrast; here was a blind man who was desperate to be able to see, and on the other hand, you have the disciples, those closest to Jesus, who were spiritually blind to what was about to take place. The most significant event in human history was lost on those participating in it, because they were expecting something else.

The blind man knew who Jesus was, he recognized that Jesus was the Messiah; he praised God and followed Jesus.

Those who are the most blind, respond the most readily to the Gospel. Those who realize the depths of their sin are the most appreciative of their salvation.

Remember the words of Jesus to the Laodicean church in Revelation 3:17, “For you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing,’ and you don’t realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.”  This letter to the Laodicean church was not to those who did not believe in Jesus, this was the early church, they were blind, because they did not completely grasp the truth of the Gospel.

Jesus was with God at the beginning of creation, he spoke the earth into existence. Jesus also knew that when he created that hill called Calvary, he would ultimately suffer and die on that hill. Jesus also formed the tree that was cut down to make the cross. He created the instruments of his own suffering, because of his love for you. Jesus not only prepared the instruments of his suffering, he also willingly walked into Jerusalem on this day two thousand years ago. It was because of his love for you that he made this journey to Jerusalem and willingly subjected himself to the excruciating death on the cross.

As we go into this week, a week where all around us we see the cross – that should remind us of the foundation of our faith. Without the cross, we have no Savior, and without the resurrection we have no hope.

The truth about Jesus was hidden from those around him when he walked the earth. And in the same way the truth of the word of God is not self-evident.  The truths of the Word of God are revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. When God starts speaking to you through His Word, it comes alive and in fact you wake up in the morning, looking for the Bible.

As you read about the crucifixion account in the Gospels this week, spend time praying and asking the Holy Spirit to give you insight and understanding. But make it personal, realizing that Jesus was thinking about you as he walked the road to Jerusalem.

My prayer for all of us is that if there is an area of spiritual blindness, the Holy Spirit would give us eyes to see and ears to hear. As Jesus said to his disciples on another occasion in Matthew 13:16, “But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.”

The Inter-Generational Church Part 2 – April 2, 2017

The Inter-Generational church Part 2

1 Timothy 4

The younger generations of today, the young children, the students, the young families, the fathers and mothers of children still at home. This is a generation of people who want to make a difference and they are the future of our churches.  During the last presidential elections, an estimated 23.7 million young voters, between the ages of 18 and 29, participated in the 2016 presidential election, this is almost 50% of that demographic. This generation has seen a dramatic rise in volunteerism and short term mission trips have taken the place of church camping trips.

This is also a media saturated generation, researchers have determined that the average person born after 1970, will see 200,000 violent acts and 16,000 murders on TV by age 18.

However, at the same time we see a tremendous rise in hunger for truth, hunger for the word of God, prayer and authentic Christianity. What has declined is a passion for denominations, and traditions.

False teachers, those proclaiming truth, but are twisting the truth for their own agenda is not something that is new to our age; false teachers have been around the church since the first century. The Apostle Paul wrote his letters to encourage young Timothy to stand firm against false teachers and to be bold in speaking the truth.

In the first letter to Timothy, Paul addresses a young man probably in his mid-30’s who he had asked to stay in Ephesus to correct false teaching, to train up new leaders and to lead the church.

Who were these false teachers? As we read in 1 Timothy 4:2, these people had their consciences seared as with a hot iron. Paul uses imagery is of a branding iron that is used to cauterize an open wound, cutting of the flow of blood, and desensitizing the area of injury.

In the same way as we are constantly exposed to evil in various forms around us, we become desensitized to it. We allow images and language into our houses that go directly against the word of God, and yet we wonder why we do not experience the power of God in our lives. We must pray daily for a heightened sensitivity and discernment. It is a spiritual gift from the Holy Spirit, and in this day and age of confusion and deception, we need discernment more than ever before.

In verse 6, Paul tells Timothy to be nourished on the truths of the faith. The truth of the word of God is our nourishment, as Jesus said in John 4:14. What water are you drinking?

Jumping down to verse 12, Paul encourages Timothy to not to be intimidated by those around him who are older, but rather he must set an example, allowing his lifestyle to speak for him. in the same way, as followers of Jesus Christ we must allow our speech, our conduct, our love, our faith and purity to demonstrate to others what it means to be a Christian.

In Speech – What do people hear from you? What do you speak about and what tone of voice do you use? Remembering that there is power in words.

  • In Conduct – This your lifestyle, the things you do, the places you go, the possessions you accumulate – every aspect of life.  Set an example in your conduct.
  • In Love – This is self-sacrificial service on behalf of others. As a young leader never ask people to do something unless you’re demonstrating it in your life first.  Leaders must be in the trenches with the people you are leading.
  • In Faith – that means faithfulness, or consistency; being there for the long haul.  The Christian life is not a sprint.  Be consistent and trustworthy, unwavering and uncompromising from start to finish.
  • And then he adds Purity – This is moral, sexual purity. Again, in our media saturated society, this is a daily challenge, but as followers of Jesus Christ we are called to lives of purity. How can a young man stay pure? See Psalm 119:9, if you want to be an example of purity, you have to read and meditate on the living the word of God, there is simply no other way.

In verse 15 and 16, Paul tells Timothy to be diligent and to persevere in these matters. Living the Christian life from an early age takes endurance, the same endurance that our Silent Generation exhibit, staying the course.

We are to stay the course because, as Paul says, so that everyone may see your progress. Your life will be a living testimony to the grace of God. And by doing so, not only will you be saved, you will also lead others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

If you are under 50 (or feel like it), children, teens, students, young married couples, singles or parents of teenagers, you are the next generation of leaders. We as the church need you to step up.

We need young leaders to humbly step into roles that have been carried by those who are growing older.

But as you already know, the world is changing rapidly, and we live in a crucial time in history.

As future leaders, you need to be strong in character and faith.

As Paul encouraged Timothy, build your life on the Word of God, it is a sure foundation that even after thousands of years still is the only certain truth that one can hold on to.

Here is the wonderful effect of the younger generation stepping up and setting an example with passion and energy, you will provoke the older generation to finish well, to spend their final years serving the Lord with all their hearts (see Hebrews 10:24).

This is the body of Christ. Not a church exclusively for older people, it is not a church exclusively for young people, but a family working effectively together, focusing on the Great Commission that Jesus gave to the church before he ascended into Heaven.

The Inter-generational Church Part 1 – March 26, 2017

The Inter-generational Church Part 1

Titus 2

A fascinating subject is the study of generations, how we classify people according to their age. If you have a certain amount of gray hair then our assumption is that you process decisions a certain way, if you are under a certain age, you may fit into a certain category of people. Because of these assumptions, we divide ourselves and others into generations.

Sociologists study these categories, and due to the incredible information age in which we live, the generations are changing quicker and becoming more segregated than ever before. Today in our churches we have the Silent Generation, the Baby Boomers, Generation X, the Millennial Generation and finally the Generation Z. Each generation has characteristics that identify them and how they relate to leadership and culture in general.

For the church to be divided by those characteristics as the world has been, is not reflecting the true Body of Christ . As a church, we are meant to grow together, serve together and love together. Fulfilling the Great Commission will take all generations.

Most churches in America today tend to fall into two camps; the first is those who have decided to reach people over the age of fifty, and the truth is that these churches are declining in membership and many are closing their doors. The second camp has decided to primarily reach the younger generation, these churches are often growing in numbers but they are struggling to meet their budgets.

Neither of these models of church is correct, we need to be churches that keep the Gospel message as our central theme. As we do that, we will experience a unity that is uncommon, a unity that will break down any man-made barriers.

The 1st century church also faced challenges in the area of unity. When the Gentiles began to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the Christian Jews were faced with a real challenge, whether to accept them or to let them form their own churches and continue to be separated. However, God called them together into an example of unity that we follow to this day, admittedly some days better than others. As Paul wrote in Romans 12:3, humility is the key, realizing that each of us are only saved by the grace of God.

The Apostle Paul also wrote a letter to a man by the name of Titus in AD 66, who was overseeing the growth and planting of new churches in the island of Crete. The church in Crete was probably founded by people from Crete who heard Peter preach at Pentecost. These churches were multi-generational, however the churches in Crete were struggling because of false teaching that had crept in from people seeking to profit from the churches. Paul instructed Titus to teach the truth, to train up elders or pastors and to firmly establish the church on the truth of the Gospel. Paul gives Titus some very practical advice. He begins the second chapter with the statement, “teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine”. Paul encourages Titus to teach the truth, without truth, the church will not be healthy.

Paul tells Titus to teach four categories of people, the older men, the older women, the young women and the young men.

Starting with the older men, those over the age of 50, Paul says teach them to be “temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.” The senior men in the congregation are to exhibit a depth of character and self-control that comes with seniority and maturity. Paul is saying that the young people are looking to you; they want to see that you control your temper, that you are not impulsive and easily swayed, which is the stability that has marked the Silent Generation.

In addition to character, the senior men are to exhibit a sound faith. Demonstrating a faith that has been tested for some years, it is faith with some battle scars. Paul lists three cardinal Christian virtues – Faith, Love and endurance.
Faith – believing God, trusting Him for the future because you have seen that He has been faithful in your past.
Love – serving others, the silent generation is characterized by people who desire to serve others before they expect to be served.
Endurance – seniors know that it takes discipline and endurance to live the Christian life.

As Paul focuses on the older women he tells Titus to teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live. Paul is saying that the older women are to practice the presence of God in their lives, by allowing the presence of God to permeate every aspect of their lives (V3).

Then Paul tells Timothy to teach the older women to avoid moral failure by sitting around drinking wine and gossiping amongst themselves. The real problem is not the slander or the drinking; the real problem is the misuse of time. Rather than waste time doing what is wrong, “Teach what is good” (v 3b). The older women are to set an example, not only teachimg by verbal instruction, but by being a living example.

Paul tells Titus to instruct the older women to teach the younger women. Older women can relate and teach the younger women far better than Titus could. This is sound advice even for today because it builds up the family. Older ladies, we as a church need you; we need you to teach the younger ladies what God has shown you in your life.

If you are one of our senior citizens, what are you doing to sow into the next generation? The best way is to come alongside a young believer and disciple them. The younger generation of believers is passionate and hungry for reality, and they also want to be challenged. But they want to see the truth of the Gospel lived out in those who go before them.  Unfortunately, many of our churches are full of good traditions but weak on passion. Many people have the misconception that attending church is enough. People go to church, attend Sunday School and even serve in the church for decades, yet they are not growing in their relationship with the Lord (see Hebrews 5:12).

My prayer is that our young people look to our seniors because they see in their lives a hunger and passion for the Lord. Are you growing in your walk with the Lord? Because those coming behind you are watching to see if it is real for you, if you practice what you have learned (see Psalm 145:4).

We have an extraordinary opportunity to be a part of something that is uncommon in the world today, a world that draws deep dividing lines between the generations. We have the opportunity, because of the power of the Gospel to be united in vision and passion as the Body of Christ. We must not to be satisfied by being multi-generational, with multiple generations in one room; rather we are to become inter-generational, working together for the Gospel.

The Four Pillars of the Church Part V March 12, 2017

Two Words that Change Everything

As we close the series on the 4 pillars of the church, it is easy to see that when all the components of the church work together, there are times when it can look messy and disordered.

However, there are two words found in the book of Ephesians that turn this disorder into a masterpiece of God’s creation. Two words that bring together everything that we do, two words that transform the way we view each other, two words that transform the way in which we view the world around us.

There is a difference between the church as we see it, and the church as God sees it. God sees through our masks and our pretensions. Martin Luther was the first to make the distinction between the visible church and the invisible church. It is possible for people to be members of the visible church that are not actually part of the Body of Christ. A person is not automatically saved by being a long-time member of any church.

Jesus spoke about this in Matthew 25:31-46. We have already established that the church is the people of God, not a building or a weekly event. If we want to contain the church to nice orderly meetings, and social events, our church paradigm is too small.

Paul writing to the early church in Ephesus prays that the eyes of their heart may be enlightened (Ephesians 1:17-18). He prays that they would have their spiritual eyes opened, that they would grasp the extent and the implications of what God has called them to as the church.

Jesus is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22-23), he is the head of the church universal and invisible. This is a profound mystery (Ephesians 5:32).

At the beginning of chapter 2, Paul reminds the Ephesian church of their condition before Christ, they were dead. Paul is not referring to a particularly bad segment of society, he is referring to all humanity. The universal human condition is that we are all dead in our sins. This is not being physically dead, but it is a spiritual death, not being aware of the things of the Spirit.

Before we become Christians, we are dull to the Word of God, we are deaf to the voice of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we have no love for God and we have no personal relationship with Jesus.

Without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ everything is meaningless. All debates and discussions on worship style and format is meaningless, giving of your finances to the church is meaningless, attending prayer meetings is meaningless, you may frequently volunteer, or you may be a deacon, a Sunday School teacher or a Life Group leader – if you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you may be a registered member of the church, but you are not a member of the church invisible, and you are not going to spend eternity with Jesus Christ, the head of the church.

Paul clarifies what it means to be dead in sin, and in verse 2 he writes; “when you followed the ways of this world.” Who are you following? Are you more interested in the outcome of a ball game, or the latest news on a TV personality than in knowing and following the will of God for your life? We live in exceptional times, never in the history of humanity has any generation been subjected to so much information. I recent survey revealed that only 19 percent of those who call themselves Christians read the Bible on a regular basis. Of that 19 percent, the average person reads the Bible 30 to 40 minutes a day, assuming they read the Bible about 5 days a week, that would be a total of three hours per week.

Now compare that to the amount of time you and I are subjected to the media; TV, newspaper, smartphones, radio, magazines, billboards and other mass media. One survey combining all the media available to us, listed that we are exposed to the media on average 12 hours per day. That is a stunning 84 hours a week. Now compare that to 3 hours reading God’s Word, no wonder the average church member struggles with temptation and sin.

Then thankfully the chapter makes a huge turn, and Paul goes from pointing out the depths of sin and God’s wrath and begins to focus on the grace of God. God’s wrath and God’s grace must be held together when we view God’s character. When we have a clear perspective on God’s hatred of sin, it makes his grace a richer treasure than we can ever imagine.

Verse 4 begins with a sentence that changes everything; “But because of his great love for us, God…”

our human minds cannot begin to comprehend how much God loves us.

Verses 5 and 6 are some of the most incredible verses in the Bible, in verse 5 we read; “God, made us alive with Christ…”. Then verse 6; “God raised us up with Christ…” and finally in verse 6; “and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ”

These three phrases are how we describe Jesus being raised from the dead, ascending into heaven and being seated on the throne. But Paul says that we were with Christ as believers. The two words I referred to earlier; “IN CHRIST”, change everything. It is impossible for us to comprehend all that this means for us, and we will only begin to fully understand what it means to be “in Christ” in the age to come as verse 7 states

Those two words, “in Christ” are incredibly important for our daily Christian walk, we need to pray and ask God for understanding, that is why Paul began this passage by praying for wisdom and revelation.

Paul goes on in verses 8 and 9, to make the statement that we are only saved by the grace of God, through faith. This faith is not a simple rational belief, no this is supernatural faith that comes from God.

Our salvation is not a transaction, we cannot do anything in order to be saved, even the faith that we need to believe in Jesus Christ, comes from God.

Paul concludes this section by stating; “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works…” (v10). The Greek translated here handiwork, means a masterpiece or a work of art. We are created, we are not improved on or whitewashed over. We have become new creations in Christ Jesus.

Looking at a masterpiece of art, people want to know who the artist was. And so it must be with a Christian, our lives need to reflect the work of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Do we see ourselves like that? Do we see our fellow Christians like that? Sometimes it is hard to see ourselves and other Christians as masterpieces but because we are “IN CHRIST”, God the Father sees the new creation and not the old broken vessel that we were. That is why Paul prays in verse 18; “that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened

The 4 Pillars of the Church – Part IV March 5, 2017

Joshua 21:43 to Joshua 22:9

If you are in business, you probably know the terms “mission statement” and “vision statement”.

A mission statement is the practical steps or short term goals, that we commit to do on a daily or weekly basis in order to fulfill the vision of the organization.

For the church, the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) is our vision statement, it does not change and it guides our decision making towards short term goals of our mission statement. As a church grows and the community around the church changes, it is not uncommon for the church mission statement to change to reflect the growth of the church. However, the vision statement never changes.

As the church, here at Grace Point our mission is to equip the saints for works of service, so that the Body of Christ may be built up (Ephesians 4). A healthy church always looks beyond the four walls of the church.

But as individuals it is beneficial to have a personal mission statement. Do you have a mission statement? Have you stopped and written down some commitments that you would serve as a guide for your daily decision making?

From time to time I have written a personal mission statement. Usually I take some time on New Year’s Day to pray and write down a personal mission statement in a bullet point format, and these points help me to stay on track for the year ahead.

The Children of Israel had a mission. Their mission was to conquer and take possession of the Promised Land.

Joshua their leader had taken the directives of Moses and led the nation well, and as the nation obeyed God, He was faithful and blessed them with the land.

Looking at Joshua 21:43 to 22:9 we see that this was a good day in the history of the nation of Israel, all the battles were over and they occupied all the cities in the Promised land. This was a day of celebration. Notice verse 45; “Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; everyone was fulfilled.”

As we read in chapter 22, Joshua calls together the forty thousand warriors from the 2 ½ tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh. These were true heroes, looking back to Numbers 32, Moses had allowed them to inhabit the territory on the eastern side of the Jordan, but with one condition, that they help the rest of the nation fight and claim the Promised Land. They remained faithful to the cause of claiming the promised land for 7 ½ years. For 7 ½ years they left their families, their homes and livestock and fought on a mission on behalf of the rest of the tribes of Israel.

Why were they so loyal to their fellow Israelites? It wasn’t because of national allegiance, it was because they were loyal to the Lord God. It was His mission they were carrying out and they were fighting to glorify His name. This too should be the motivation for our lives (see Colossians 3:23).

Now their mission is over and Joshua sends them off with rewards and great wealth for their efforts. As he sends them he issues a warning in verse 5. This short charge that Joshua gave to these men was because Joshua was fearful that they would become separated from the rest of the tribes and drift away from the Lord God. Joshua knew that they would be tempted to fall into complacency and forget all that God had done for them. This is an all too common occurrence in the history of the nation of Israel, the history of other nations and even the church. Whenever the victory is secured and the promised land, whatever that might be, is achieved, we forget the mission and the purpose of God. We forget the faithfulness of God, the miracles of provision and direction.

Why has God placed Grace Point here on this hill in Kansas City, what is our mission?

As we step in obedience to the call of God on this church, the specific mission that God has for us in South Kansas City, we will be amazed how he blesses us with people who will be called to the mission of God here. Some will give six months to the mission, some will give a few years, others will give their whole lives. But we must understand that Jesus is the builder and not us (Matthew 16:18).

A legacy to live for will be a church that; reaches the lost, disciples and equips the saints and sends out the workers. If we focus on that God will take care of the rest.

But what about your personal mission?

Your personal mission is living your life with a very clear purpose and passion, being who God made you to be.

Having a personal mission keeps you accountable to God for every day that He gives you.

If you want a starting point to define your own mission – start with Luke 10:27: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Then look at how God has gifted you; what are your passions? How has God wired you?

It doesn’t mean that everything God calls you to will be comfortable or easy, most of the time it won’t be. But because he loves you so much, he is stretching you so that you make the very most of the days that he has given you.

Use your mission statement as a filter and when opportunities come your way, use the mission God has given you to see if that is what He would have you do. Our lives can so quickly become filled with doing good things, that we lose sight of the best that God has for us. This applies to the church as well, we can be so busy doing things, that we forget our primary calling as a church. A good mission statement is a filter.

Jesus is our perfect example of living a life on mission, he finished what he set out to do (see John 17:4).

Our goal for life must be that when Jesus returns, he will say; “Well done good and faithful servant, you completed the mission I gave you.”

The 4 Pillars of the Church – Part III February 26, 2017

The church by nature must be compassionate; caring for the poor, the emotionally hurt, the abused, the destitute and the unborn. In our efforts to show compassion we can easily become overwhelmed. After all, how can we possibly make a dent amongst all the pain and the suffering we see around us every day? As we begin to attempt to show compassion, we can sometimes lose focus of our purpose as the church. Our commission is to go into all the world and preach the Gospel (Matthew 28).

Throughout the Bible, we see God described as a compassionate Father (Psalm 103:13). The ministry of Jesus always demonstrated compassion, through his teaching, miracles of healing and the ultimate display of compassion was when he allowed himself to be crucified to atone for our sins.

Whenever we see compassion demonstrated in the Bible, it is shown as an emotion that is followed up by action. As compassionate people, we are stirred by emotion at the sight of pain or injustice and thus we are moved to action (Colossians 3:12).

The Gospel of Matthew gives us a clear picture of the compassion of Jesus. In chapter 8, the Apostle lists for us a series of miracles, then in chapter 9 we read the account of Jesus healing the paralyzed man (Matthew 9:1-8).

Jesus had been healing many people, but this time he did something different, he said “your sins are forgiven”.

The religious leaders were offended because Jesus was claiming to do something that only God can do, and that was blasphemy. Jesus confronts them and proceeds to heal the man after challenging the teachers.

To the bystander, it seems easier to walk up to a sick person and say “your sins are forgiven”, because no proof is required, there is no way of knowing. But when Jesus heals the man, the demonstration of his power gives credibility and proof to the fact that he can forgive sins.

Jesus saw the greater need of the man, and still the greater need of all humanity, the problem of sin. The greatest need of every human being, whether they are sick or healthy, rich or poor; is the need for forgiveness of sins. By Jesus forgiving this man’s sins, he is showing real compassion, meeting the man’s real need, not only his temporal need.

As Jesus goes through the towns, teaching, and performing miracles, we read further in verse 36 that Jesus is moved by compassion. He turns to his disciples and makes the statement that is frequently quotes in missionary circles; “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Jesus, moved by compassion as he sees the multitudes of people who are destined for an eternity in hell, tells his disciples to pray that God would multiply the work force.

The prayer to pray for workers must be fueled by a heart of compassion.

But Jesus doesn’t stop there with his disciples, in the very next verse in chapter 10, Jesus calls his disciples, he empowers them and he sends them out. As Jesus sends them out, notice that their title changes from disciple to apostle. An apostle means someone who is sent out as an official representative.

This is an important transition that takes place; Jesus encourages his followers to pray for workers, and then he sends them out in response to that prayer. And as we pray that prayer, we need to realize that we are part of the solution.

A prayer of compassion does not excuse us from acts of compassion.

 That is true compassion, the same compassion that Jesus has for us when he stepped down from his throne in glory and became as one of us to save us.

There are two extremes of compassion in modern day Christianity:

The one is what has become known as the social gospel, where so much focus is on meeting felt needs that the presentation of the Gospel is neglected. The danger in this is that we are helping people for a short term, but neglecting their eternal condition. Sometimes the motivation behind this compassion is the desire to earn our salvation, desperately trying to do enough good things to justify our salvation. Or maybe we serve out of guilt for our past sins, and in some way, we are trying to make things right.

However, the Bible is clear; we are all desperate sinners and no amount of good works will ever earn us salvation, we are saved only by the grace of God through the cross of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Charles Spurgeon once said; “the child of God works not for life, but from life; he does not work to be saved, but because he is.”

The other extreme is the church that is so inwardly focused on their own fellowship that they ignore the needs and the desperate situations of their community. There are many possible reasons for this; one possible reason is simply that the church is overwhelmed by the needs around them and simply chose to look the other way.

Another possibility is a church that has served the community for years and helped so much out of their own strength, that they have become fatigued and burnt out in serving and trying to meet all the needs.

Neither of these two extremes are healthy, nor do they bring Glory to God. As we endeavor to be compassionate and missional, we must pray that we would have discernment in knowing what needs God would have us meet as a church. The answer to that dilemma is found by asking the Holy Spirit to give us guidance and direction.

Compassion under the Guidance of the Holy Spirit provides Temporal Relief but yields Eternal Results.

Our own strength and resources can at best provide some temporary relief to someone in need, but our resources coupled with the power of the name of Jesus, will lead to life transformation and eternal salvation. Every human being on the planet has a desperate need, a need that can only be met by Jesus Christ.

The 4 Pillars of the Church – Part II – February 19, 2017

Nehemiah 8:1-12

A fairly common statement that can be heard in Christian circles after a Sunday morning, goes something like this; “I didn’t get anything out of the service today”. However, we should always come into a worship service with an expectation to encounter the presence of the Lord. Looking at Nehemiah chapter 8 I want to draw five principles that will guarantee that we will always experience a special touch from the Lord every time we meet together.

Worship is more than singing, worship must become a lifestyle for us. We worship what we give value to, we worship by the way we use our money, the way we work, the way we share the Gospel with others and we worship in the way we spend our free time. When we understand worship, we begin to understand that we worship God with our very lives.

Looking at Nehemiah chapter 8 we see the following 5 principles of developing a lifestyle of worship:

Prepare to Worship: The event described in this chapter took place during a two day festival called the feast of trumpets, it was a holy day and to be treated like the Sabbath (see Leviticus 23).  All the people had gathered at the water gate and if we look back a few verses the gathering of people was approximately forty-five thousand thousand. This wasn’t some random gathering, this was a planned event. A platform had been built for Ezra to stand on, and he read from sunrise until noon, which means that all the people had to assemble before sunrise. This took a lot of work and coordinating, there was preparation involved that probably took days before this event.

We need to remember that worship is primarily spiritual, thus we need to look for spiritual solutions to the desire for more effective worship. Before we enter into a worship service we need to prepare our own hearts to worship the Lord. There is much that could be said on this, but just one practical piece, how can you spend Saturday night watching r rated movies and then expect to experience the presence of God on a Sunday morning, our hearts need to be prepared. A very practical step would be to get up early on a Sunday morning and spend time with the Lord, repenting of your sins, praying for the blood of Jesus to cleanse you of your sins. This will require discipline and maybe an adjustment in your schedule, but it all boils down to what we value the most, what do we give value to, what do we worship?

As we need to approach the throne of grace in worship, we need to be seeking personal holiness in our lives (see Hebrews 12:14).

Engage with the Word: As Ezra climbs into the makeshift pulpit, and opened the book, all the people stood up. The people actively engaged in the reading of the Book of the Law. There was not a passive sitting down and expecting Ezra to keep them alert. The people arose and engaged with the word of God, they remained standing all morning, as Ezra read and the Levites went amongst the people explaining the law to them.

Our worship should be response to the word of God. A number of times I have heard the statement made that the singing prepares us for the message, and if the singing is bad, then we don’t get anything out of the message. But throughout scripture we have examples that would suggest we have it the wrong way around. Our worship needs to be in response to the word.

Focus on Heaven:  Before Ezra begins to read he focuses the attention of the people on God, (see verse 6) The people prepared themselves, then they engaged with the Word and thirdly they focused on Heaven. They focused on the object of their worship.

Worship is a time when we take our eyes off of ourselves and our small world and focus on the Glory and majesty of the creator of the universe. Everything in our worship services, should be to draw our attention towards God and to cause people to think about Him. Worship is to be about Him and his majesty and greatness.

Give of Yourself: As the people were hearing the Word of the Law being read, they began to weep and mourn as they became aware of how far they had drifted from God’s original intent for the nation. This wasn’t a little crying or sadness, there was a grief that came over the people that affected everyone, so much so, that the priests had to calm them down as we read in the following verses. The people gave of themselves in repentance and grief.

Worship is activity and requires us to give of ourselves. Not only must we actively engage in worship, but we must also give of ourselves, worship is a sacrifice to God (see Romans 12:1)

Worship is a sacrifice as we declare that we give our all to God in worship. And here is the amazingly powerful truth, our worship literally becomes an incense in the presence of the Lord. David understood this in Psalm 141:2.

When you are tempted not to give of yourself in worship, remember that worship is a privilege we have because of the cross of Jesus Christ, because of what Jesus did on the cross, our sacrifice of praise literally becomes incense in the presence of the all holy God!

Leave Celebrating: After the people had repented and grieved, they all went away rejoicing (see v12). Nehemiah understood the value of the truth that the Joy of the Lord is our strength, and that the people needed to be strong and joyful as they left to go to their homes.

The final principle in worship is how we leave the house of worship. We should leave celebrating because we have just encountered a fresh touch from the Lord, our sins have been forgiven and we are free. As we leave our worship service, our conversation needs to be permeated with the very real fact that we encountered the living God in worship.

Worship is more than an event or a gathering, worship is a lifestyle and not an event. The truth is that If you don’t worship outside the church, you will never worship in the church. If you don’t worship God during the week, don’t expect to come to church on a Sunday and ask the worship leader to lead you into worship.

Worship styles come and go, throughout the History of the church, the music style and the instruments used have been constantly changing. The style of worship today is different from fifty years ago, and it was different fifty years before that. Worship styles may change, but worship itself must never change.

If we become so attached to a particular style, if a particular style of worship becomes our preference and we feel that it is the only way to worship, then we have missed the point of worship. Neither contemporary, traditional or blended are the right way to worship, because worship is a matter of the heart. (read John 4:23)

The 4 Pillars of the Church – Part 1 – February 12, 2017

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John 14:1-7

The Bible is no ordinary collection of ancient writings, the Apostle Paul wrote; “all scripture is God breathed…” we believe that all scripture, all 66 books by multiple authors, is fully inspired by the Holy Spirit.

At the core of our foundation is the understanding that for the Bible to be relevant and to be a pillar of the church, it must contain the absolute truth. And therein lies the point of contention with our society and culture. However, without a certain foundation built on the foundation of truth, cultures fall into chaos. Without the firm foundation of the word of God and the knowledge of absolute truth, churches dissolve into weak and irrelevant institutions.

Jesus in speaking to his disciples is in John 14 begins by addressing their fears and uncertainty, Jesus begins by saying; “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me”. Notice the order of that statement; Jesus knew that the disciples believed in the God of creation, but now their belief must be the foundation of their faith in him.  Jesus knew that the disciples were about to go through the most traumatic time of their lives, it would shake their faith, they would question everything they had learned from Jesus.

Our culture is wrapped in fear. Fear literally drives the economy as products are sold to protect against a yet unrealized danger. This fear unfortunately has paralyzed Christians all over the world. It seems that Christians are no different than the rest of the world in relation to fear. But just like Jesus told his disciples not to let their hearts be troubled, and makes the same statement to us today. As we look at this verse, it becomes clear, that it is not that we have a problem with fear, rather we have a problem with unbelief. We fear the unknown, simply because we do not believe that Jesus is Lord and that our Heavenly Father does indeed hold all things in his almighty hand.

Looking further in verse 6, Jesus makes one of the most profound statements, one that causes the most offence in the post-modern world; “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus is the way, because he is the truth and the life.

As the modern church, we have been guilty of trying to make the church so palatable and user friendly to attract people to the church, that we have lowered the bar and in some cases, denied the truth. The truth of God’s word is an offence to the world because it is exclusive and not all inclusive.

So how do we discern the truth in a world full of so many opinions? The first step is to read the Word, plant the word of God in your heart, let it permeate your life so that when you hear or read something that is slightly out of line with the Bible, the Holy Spirit will reveal the false teaching to you. Every true Christian should know and love the truth. Jesus said in John 8:32; “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (see 1 Timothy 3:15)

History is filled with accounts of people who chose to accept death rather than to deny the truth. These martyrs believed the truth of this book, it was not some theoretical choice of a religion. However, the modern Christian is so concerned about trying to get everyone to like them that they seem willing to lay aside the truth. But precisely because of the truth of the Bible, Christians ought to be the most willing to sacrifice and take a stand for the Gospel.

God and truth are inseparable. God is the foundation of all truth, that is why Jesus, God incarnate, calls himself “the truth”. It should come as no surprise that when people reject God, they reject truth as well. In our colleges and universities, many philosophy teachers deny that truth is a reality or even knowable, unbelief in God is at the root of that teaching (see Romans 8:7).

Truth is the revelation of God himself. The truths of the laws of nature and science are truths leading to the revelation of God (see Psalm 19:1 and Romans 1 and 2). With all the revelation of God, we can say with the Psalmist; “the fool says in his heart, “there is no God”” Psalm 14:1.

Sermon – Starting Over Part 4 – February 5 2017

 

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Part 4 – The Discipline of Giving.

Luke 12:13-34

As the final discipline in this series, we are going to briefly look at the discipline of giving. More often than not, the one discipline we struggle with the most is the giving of our financial resources.

From time to time we all worry about our finances, but many pastors don’t want to preach on money and the rewards of giving for fear of sounding like the prosperity gospel peddlers. Those who preach this way teach that we must become transactional in our dealings with God. But we cannot bribe God, He doesn’t need your money, he already owns it all (see psalm 40:6 and Psalm 24:1). The bible tells us that ‘God loves a cheerful giver’, but if we give out of our selfish ambition and self-interest, God sees it for what it really is.

Stewardship is a term that has been in the church for centuries. In our modern English, stewardship seems to have been assigned to building campaigns or fundraisers. But The word comes from an old English concept of being a steward of the property owned by the lord of the land. The lord owned all the land, the buildings and all the commerce that took place in his realm. The stewards didn’t own anything, but they managed the crops, the labor, the taxes and all the day to day running of the land. In return for this service the lord of the land gave protection, food, housing for the steward.

God owns it all, he owns everything that you think you own. But just like the old stewards, we are called to be stewards for our Lord. We are going to be called on to give an account for what He has given us to manage or to steward. That is what Stewardship is. This is a huge paradigm shift for most people, as we have been raised and taught all our lives that we own things, that we have things and money because we deserve them. But the reality is that everything we have is only ours to steward or manage for God, because after we die, we no longer have ownership over it.

There is a fundamental connection between our spiritual lives and how we think and act about our finances. Fifteen percent of all the teaching we have recorded in the Bible from Jesus relates to money.

The passage of scripture found in Luke 12 is a passage that the western church finds uncomfortable. This is one of those passages that we try to rationalize and water down, because the raw truth is hard to take. Is Jesus saying that we shouldn’t save for a rainy day, or save for retirement? Our culture says that is not wise, it is simply not prudent. This wealthy man had wealth stored up for years, and God said, “you fool!” Now, I am not saying that it is wrong to be wealthy and to have wealth, but this man’s error was that he looked at his wealth as his security, he no longer trusted God for his daily bread, his wealth took the place of God in his life. His wealth had become his idol, his prudence had become his idol. And in many cases in our lives there is a very fine line between prudence and idolatry.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”Jim Elliot

As Jesus turns aside to his disciples in verse 22, and in the next few verses Jesus uses the words, “do not worry” or “do not be afraid” four times. Jesus isn’t suggesting this, he is giving a command; “do not worry”. It is a directive from the creator of the universe, therefore, if we worry about possessions, food, clothing or that rainy day that may never come, it is a sin that we need to repent of.

(see also 1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Randy Alcorn in his book “the treasure principle” breaks down this teaching and Matthew 6. As we give away what we cannot keep, we literally are putting treasure in heaven.

The legalist will tell you that you must give, but in reality, you don’t have to give, but you will be so glad you did. You will be eternally blessed as you give.

Imagine you were Alive during the civil war, you are a northerner, however you were living and doing business in the South. During this time you had accumulated a lot of confederate currency. As you saw the war coming to an end you planned to go back home to the North. So what do you do with all the confederate money you had saved up? After the war it would be worthless as it was not official US currency. Well naturally, you would cash in the money and change it for US currency. You would keep only enough confederate money to meet your immediate short term needs. As Christians, we have inside information, knowledge of how this all ends. We know that when Jesus comes again, all our hard-earned currency will be worthless. Everything you have will be worthless to you when Jesus comes again, or you die. Either of those could happen today.

Some years ago I obtained a real treasure, it is a 500 million Zimbabwean dollar, however it has an expiration date. At the time the country had an inflation rate of 3000%, and the money became worthless after a certain period of time. We may laugh at this, but do you realize that every dollar you have has an expiration date; when you die, it becomes worthless to you.

500 million zim

We have this false idea that as long as we get through this life and believe in the name of Jesus, then we will get wonderful blessings and rewards in heaven. The bible is clear that there will be different rewards given to different people. Those who have not invested in eternal treasures will get a meager reward in heaven. Those who have little regard for temporal treasures, but rather choose to invest them eternally, will receive a return on investment that will make any wall street stock market gain seem miniscule.

Gaze upon Christ long enough and you will become more of a giver. Give long enough and you will become more like Christ.”  Randy Alcorn

Sermon – Starting Over Part 3 – January 29 2017

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Commitment to Serving the Lord

We read John 13:1-17 the account of Jesus washing the disciple’s feet, in which Jesus makes a loud statement in a simple act of service. It is important to note that Jesus was secure in his authority (verse 3), he did not have any doubt as to who he was. This makes the first word of verse 4 so powerful; “So”, in light of his knowledge of his status he got up from the meal and began to serve his disciples. Often people don’t serve others because they feel that it will diminish their position and authority, they feel that it will somehow reduce their power or status. But Jesus did not need to be recognized, and he shows us that servanthood comes out of being secure in who you are. If you have ever felt that a particular act of service was below you, then you really don’t know who you are, as a Christian you already have a title that is far superior to any title given by man; you are a child of God.

Jesus continues to teach, and verses 16 and 17 are the key verses here. “Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him”. Jesus makes it clear, that he as the ultimate example of a leader was willing to serve in such a humble capacity, if we call ourselves his followers, then we better not think any act of service is below our title or position. Verse 17 contains the promise of the blessing; “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” Now that you have learnt this lesson, and if you do them, if you serve others sacrificially, you will be blessed. We will be blessed as we serve others.

Jesus in teaching his disciples frequently challenged the leadership paradigms of the day (see Matthew 20:26-28).

Jesus taught that genuine service ignores the usual arguments about greatness. There is no place for selfish motives and self-promotion when you are serving the Lord (see John 13:13-14).

A healthy church is one where everyone serves the Lord, serves each other and serves the lost. An unhealthy church, and unfortunately this is the typical Western church, is where 10% of the people do all the work of serving, and the rest treat the church as a convenience store where they come to once a week to get what they feel they need.

As we focus on becoming a healthy church this year, I want to challenge you to recommit to serving the Lord right here at Grace Point. We are the body of Christ and our calling is to be the salt and light to our community. Sharing the wonderful gospel message, giving freely of our time and resources in order to invite as many people as possible into the Kingdom of God. Would you re-commit to serving the Lord in 2017 here at Grace Point?

The truth is that you are not going to be always serving grateful or even deserving people, and when we are tempted to question whether or not the person or persons we are serving are deserving of our time and effort, we just need to be reminded of the fact that Jesus washed Judas’ feet. Jesus washed the feet of the one who had already made the decision to betray him, and Jesus knew it! We are not serving each other, we are serving the Lord.

Many of you already serve in so many capacities, and I don’t want you to sign up for more work and more activities, but I want to challenge you to think about your area of service, are you serving out of routine? Are you serving because you figure no-one else will do it? Maybe you are serving out of your own expectations, rather than serving the Lord.

As Christians, every act of service that we perform, points beyond itself and ultimately focuses attention on the cross of Jesus Christ.

There is joy and freedom in serving the LORD, his yolk is easy and his burden is light is what Jesus said in Matthew 11. When our service is to the Lord, it is life giving and it brings joy. If your service to the Lord is not bringing you joy, you need to stop and ask the Lord to realign your motivation and your passion. I know what I am talking about. I sometimes find that in ministry, I get tired and lose my zeal and enthusiasm, I lead between 9 and 11 ministry meetings each week. From prayer meetings to Sunday morning service, each one needs a different amount of preparation. I have found that every now and then, I need to stop, take some time with the Lord and remember why I am doing what I am doing, the tremendous privilege I have, the joy of serving the Lord and seeing lives transformed for the Kingdom of heaven. There is no greater privilege.

We live in a hurting world, all around us there is an abundance of pain and suffering, most the people you will encounter this week as you go about your daily life, do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Everyone of those people are destined to spend eternity in Hell. All around us the need is great. We have the Gospel message, we have the good news, and we also have a towel in our hands, something that the Lord has blessed us with to serve others. Serving your community in what may seem to be a small way, has unlimited potential to change the world for Christ. No act of service is too small.

When we develop a servant mindset in our community, it spills over beyond the four walls of this church and to the check-out counter at the grocery store, or the waiter at your favorite restaurant, or your neighbor who lost their dog. Every exchange with others is an opportunity for us to be a servant, and an opportunity for us to share the Gospel message. Let us be people who serve like Jesus did.