Sermon Sunday October 13, 2019 – Worship

Worship with our whole lives.

Malachi 1:6-14

If someone was to describe your Christian walk, would they use words like: “devoted, excellent or dedicated?” These descriptors are the very essence of what it means to be a Christian. As a Christian, we should have one singular focus; to bring glory to His name in whatever context God has placed us. This is true worship.

We worship something when we give it worth and we all worship many things.  However, the only meaningful and appropriate object of our worship should be the creator and sustainer of all things. John Calvin said, “The heart is an Idol factory”. We constantly attach god-like value to created things, and this is idolatry.

In Malachi 1:6, God begins his complaint against the priests by asking why they do not honor Him or fear Him.  There was no honor shown by the priests, because there was no understanding of who God is. Reverential fear, or respect for the Lord, comes from knowing Him.

God uses the name “Lord of Hosts” a total of 7 times in these 9 verses. The Hebrew name is Jehovah Sabaoth, found 260 times in the Old Testament, and is a name referencing God as the supreme leader of the angels and armies of the Lord. The Lord of all power and might. As humanism has crept into the church, we have lost a reverence and awe for the almighty God (Hebrews 12:28-29).

God continues in verse 6, and says to the priests, “you despise my name…”. To despise something means to have an attitude of ongoing disrespect. God was in essence saying, “you don’t value me”. God points them to two ways in which they are despising His name.

  • The Priests despise God’s name in their contributions.

The animals that they are offering as sacrifices are blind and lame. The sacrificial animals were supposed to be pure and spotless, but they were giving their leftovers, thus despising the name of God.

We do the same today by giving God the leftover time, energy and resources of our lives. We know that we cannot earn merit with God and are saved by Grace, but by giving God the leftovers of our time, we are despising the name of God. God looks at the heart, and as we come to worship Him, He knows the condition of our hearts. As Christians we must give ourselves completely to Him, giving the first fruits of our time and our resources.

Whenever we give to the Lord something that is convenient, we are giving out of our excess, meaning that we are giving our leftovers to God. We don’t miss something that is leftover. This applies to time, money, possessions and skills. Are you honoring God with your contributions?

It has been said, “if there is no sacrifice in your sacrifice, it’s not a sacrifice”

  • Israel priests despised God’s name in their commitment.

The priests were going through the rituals and they were getting bored (Malachi 1:13). Their attitude to worship had become listless and apathetic. They were just checking the boxes of worship, wanting to get their job done so that they could go home and put their feet up.

When God looks at us, what does he see?

You can fool everyone around you, but God knows your commitment and the condition of your heart. God is looking for committed followers.

When challenged by Malachi, the priests seemed confused. Apparently, they had deluded themselves into thinking that when it came to worship or offerings, something was better than nothing, lukewarm was better than cold. Remember what Jesus said to the church in Laodicea in Rev. 3:15–16, it is dangerous to be lukewarm.

Matthew Henry wrote, ‘Nothing profanes the name of God more than the misconduct of those whose business it is to do honor to it.’  Worship is so much more than words, it is an attitude of the heart. Our attitude is directly related to our view of God and our relationship with God.

Five ways that we offer worship to God:

  • We worship with our bodies – Romans 12:1. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we need to look after our bodies so that we can use our energy and strength to serve the Lord. We worship God by using our bodies to bring glory to His name.
  • We worship with our finances – The apostle Paul writing to the Philippian church, thanked them for the gift they sent to support his ministry (Philippians 4:18b). Giving money to a ministry or church is never a horizontal transaction of simply paying a bill, it is a vertical offering to God. God invites us to worship Him as we sacrificially give to His work.
  • We worship God with our praises – (Hebrews 13:15) Our singing the praises of God is an act of sacrifice and worship. Whenever we are tempted to refrain from singing in worship, we must remember who it is we are worshipping.
  • We worship God with our good works – (Hebrews 13:16) Serving others is an act of worship. When we don’t have the time to volunteer or help, but we do it anyway because we are doing it unto the Lord, we show that we are trusting that He will redeem the time. That is worship.
  • We worship God when we share the Gospel – (Romans 15:16) As we share the Gospel and see new believers coming into the Body of Christ, we glorify God. Jesus said in Luke 15 that when people come to know the Lord, it is a time of praise and worship in heaven and it brings Glory to God here on the earth. The greatest miracle is a life transformed by the saving power of the Gospel. We worship God by telling His story.

May we be people who worship God with all that we have. Praising God with our lives, our finances, our time, and our relationships.

Are you worshipping God with your leftovers? Which area(s) of your life is not fully committed to Christ?

God is calling us to be dedicated and devoted followers of Jesus, because He is worthy of it all.

Sermon, Sunday October 6, 2016 – God Loves You

Malachi 1:1-5

If you are a parent, you know that you don’t simply want a child to follow the rules in order to get what they want. You want a close, loving relationship with your child, a relationship where love is the motivation for obedience.

We know this to be true in our relationships with each other, but we miss this in our relationship with God our Father. If we are honest, many of us obey God out of fear or tradition. God loves us more than we could ever understand, and He wants us to respond out of a relationship with Him rather than duty.

The Hebrew name for Malachi means “My Messenger”. This book may be short, but it carries some powerful truths. Even though this prophetic book was written more than four hundred years before Christ, we will find that it is extremely relevant to our culture and in particular, to the Western church.

During the time of Malachi, the people of Israel had returned from exile and had rebuilt the city and the temple as we read in Ezra and Nehemiah. It was a season of blessing and peace for Israel, but not all was going well. The people were being led by corrupt priests, and the people had turned away from the law of Moses. They had lost sight of the destiny that God had for them and they abandoned hope for personal growth and change.

The book is a call by God for the people to set aside traditionalism and return to relationship. Isn’t that the call of God on the church today? Traditions and religious activity will never be able to replace a personal relationship in Jesus Christ.

Malachi speaks of the coming Messiah as this is the last time God speaks through His Prophets before a period of 400 years where God is silent until John the Baptist arrives.  

The book begins with Malachi stating that this is an oracle of the word of the Lord. Malachi was stating he was carrying a heavy burden that the Lord had called him to deliver. It was not an easy message, it was a message of judgment against the people of Israel (see Hebrews 12:5-6 & 11).

Verse 2 begins with, ““I have loved you,” says the Lord”. The Hebrew word for love is in the perfect continuous tense, it shows a completed action, but with ongoing ramifications. God is referring to His covenant love for the people of Israel. Before the prophecy begins, God is reminding them of His commitment and relationship.

They never earned God’s love, they never deserved God’s love, God loved them because of His covenant with Abraham. Throughout history, there were many times when God saved His people even when they didn’t want saving. The classic example is when God called Moses to lead them out of slavery, but when times got hard, the children of Israel wanted to go back to Egypt. God loved His people even before they knew Him, even when they rejected Him.

We are no different than the children of Israel (see Romans 5:8). When Jesus went to the cross, he knew your name and it was because of his love for you that he suffered and died.

Yet the people of Malachi’s day replied with a childlike whine: “How have You loved us?” They behaved like spoilt children who complain when they are denied some new toy. With all the evidence of history and with all their present prosperity, Judah could still claim to be uncertain of God’s love!

God could have taken them on a history tour of 2000 years of His faithfulness to them, but God’s answer is to point to the fact that He chose their ancestor Jacob over his twin Esau (who was the ancestor of the people who even then surrounded Judah).

The phrase, “Esau I have hated” (v. 3), bothers us. It seems best to understand this expression not as a statement of feeling or attitude, but as a legal term based on the covenant that God had made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. A better way to understand the terms love and hate would be “chosen” or not chosen” (See Romans 8:10-13).

God never seems to give grace based on merit, although obedience is crucial. If our own righteousness was a condition for God’s grace, no one would ever be saved. God chose the nation of Israel to display His glory and to bless all the nations of the world through the Messiah, the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

God’s rejection of Edom, the descendants of Esau, was in response to their wickedness, pride and arrogance. God chooses Jacob and rejects Esau.

So, we have two opposing peoples, God chooses one and rejects the other. The Bible is full of texts that indicate God chooses us without our knowledge or even input (see Ephesians 1:4-5).

I wrestle with this in my mind but what we often lose in the wrestling over doctrine is that God chooses because of love. And the greatest declaration of God’s love for us is the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the pinnacle of history and the pinnacle of God’s display of His love for us.

If we were to really think about it, is it not better to be called chosen by a personal God than for us to choose a distant God.

The doctrine of election is a mystery, God does choose His children, but it seems to me from personal experience that the more we share the Good news of Jesus Christ, the more people are chosen! This is the mystery (see 1 John 4:9)

Do you know God’s love for you? Are you living out your Christian walk based on a love relationship with the Creator?

Or, are you like the children of Israel, living a life of routine and tradition, but you don’t really know how much God loves you? Following a set of rules does not produce a life transforming relationship with God. He desires a relationship with you.

Prayer as an Act of War

 In a few days we will be setting up the chapel at Grace Point for another 24 hours of continuous prayer. We hold these prayer times every two months and encourage people to sign up for an hour or two.

 Why do we do this? I firmly believe that prayer is the single most important activity of the church and if we want to see transformation in our lives, our church, our families and our community, then the starting point is prayer.

 A few weeks ago, I attended a conference where Dr. Steve Gaines spoke on prayer, Dr. Gaines is the senior pastor at the Bellevue Baptist church in Memphis Tennessee, and he is the author of the book, “Pray like it matters”.  Below are some of the insights that Dr Gaines shared from Matthew 5:5-15, which we know as the Lords’ Prayer.

 Jesus taught his disciples how to pray by praying the greatest prayer in the middle of the greatest sermon ever preached (Matthew 5 – Matthew 7).

 Our lives need to be saturated by prayer, and any day that is not begun with prayer is a wasted day for the follower of Jesus. We all know that prayer is a discipline and as such it requires daily maintenance. Every day we connect our cell phones to a charger, but we struggle to see the importance of being connected to the all-powerful creator the same way.

 Dr. Gaines stated that God will never anoint a prayerless preacher or a prayerless church. The most important asset we have in the church is the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and he is poured out on us in response to our prayers. The anointing comes from prayer, thus there is incredible power that comes from prayer.

 There are three lessons that we can learn from what Jesus taught in what we call the Lords Prayer.

 1: Pray in secret (verses 5 and 6).

There is no heavenly reward in praying to be heard and to impress those in the room. This is the very definition of a hypocrite. The real Christian life is what happens when you are alone with God. As we spend much time in secret with God, we develop our relationship with Him, and we develop holiness. As a result of the secret times spent with Jesus, other people will know as they encounter you during the day. Sometimes we don’t feel like praying, but that is when we need to obey despite our feelings.

 2: Pray sincerely (verse 7 and 8).

As we pray, we must focus on the kingdom of God and the fact that every prayer uttered comes before the throne of God (Revelation 5:8). As we pray sincerely, we leave the results of our petitions in God’s hands because He knows what is best for us, He won’t give us what we don’t need nor will He give us what will be harmful to us or to the Kingdom (Matthew 7:7-11).

 3: Pray systematically (verses 9 to 13).

I have always used the acrostic “ACTS” for prayer (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication). Jesus modelled for us a systematic approach to prayer in his teaching on prayer.

 In Verse 9, Jesus began with praise and worship, calling on the name of God. It is a valuable study to look at the names of God in the Hebrew language and pray specifically worshipping the names and attributes of God.

In verse 10, Jesus taught us to pray in submission to the will and the kingdom of God, as he modelled for us in Matthew 26:39.

 After we submit to the will of God, we boldly come before God presenting our requests as a child does before their father, as we see modelled in verse 11. We pray in faith, knowing that our Father loves to give us good things and as we present our requests, we are filled with the peace of God as we leave our petitions before the throne.

 In verse 12, Jesus teaches us to pray for forgiveness for our sins, as we trust in the promise of 1 John 1:9. And then we forgive each other. We must forgive those who have wronged us, even if they do not ask for forgiveness. Jesus modelled this for us on the cross as we read in Luke 23:34. As followers of Jesus, it is impossible to walk with Jesus while at the same time harboring unforgiveness towards others (Matthew 6:14-15). 

 In verse 13, Jesus teaches us the crucial need to pray prayers of prevention. We see in James 1:14, that we are easily tempted, and we need to pray without ceasing for temptation to be nipped in the bud. If we begin a day that has not been bathed in prayer, we are extremely vulnerable to falling prey to Satan’s schemes.

 And finally, we need to understand that our prayers are an act of warfare. As we know from Ephesians 6:12, we need to take authority over the enemy by the power of prayer. So often we focus our attention on people and situations as the problems in our lives, when in reality the problem is spiritual. We have a very real enemy and his purposes are to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10a).

 As we turn our attention to gathering to pray as the Body of Christ, we must realize that this is way more important than we could ever imagine. It is important for our church, our lives, our families, our city and our nation.

 Dr. Gaines concluded with this statement, “The church is not a cruise liner, it is a battle ship.”

 Are you prepared to go into battle?

Sermon Sunday September 22, Healthy Church Part 5

Click on the camera to view the full service from Sunday

Acts 1:1-14

In the first chapter of Acts, we read the last words that Jesus spoke on the earth before he ascended into heaven. Jesus was preparing the disciples, he told them to go to Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit, which was the power that they would need to be the church.

The church cannot be the church without us recognizing and responding to the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We can hold meetings and run programs, but we cannot be the church without the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 1:8 we read, “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.”

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit so that the church would have the power to do what Jesus called them to do. The Holy Spirit is given to the church to be the church and to proclaim the good news.

A healthy church is like a railroad track.  The two tracks of the church are: Evangelism and Discipleship. These two tracks run parallel and continuously in order for the church to be what God has called it to be.

The first component of the church is Discipleship.

Discipleship is the walking out of the Christian life with a community of believers. It involves instruction and the study of God’s word, but more importantly, it involves a walking together in community, encouraging each other as we all pursue becoming more like Christ.

Andrew Davis in his book, “Revitalize”, uses the acronym K.F.C.A.

Knowledge: More than just head knowledge, the church matures as we study and feed on God’s word. Discipleship occurs as we allow the Holy Spirit to transform us by the power of the Word of God applied to our lives. When Jesus was tempted in Matthew 4, he quoted scripture when he was tempted. How can we expect to stand against the attacks of the enemy unless we know the Word.

Faith: Having a strong sense and firm belief that the promises of God’s Word are true. An active reliance on Christ and trusting that God really does speak to us. Growing in faith pleases God as we read in Hebrews 11:6.

Character: Character is who we are when we are alone before God.Our life before making Jesus Lord must be different to our life today. Our decision making is no longer selfish, our language is different, we are more generous, and we care for the broken and the hurting. Our character is transformed as we become more like Christ.

Action: Mature Christians do what God tells them to do (see John 14:15). Mature followers of Jesus are on mission for Christ, daily walking out their salvation (see Ephesians 4:16).

Andrew Davis wrote, “I believe Scripture shows that biblical knowledge feeds faith, faith transforms character, and out of a transformed character, we walk in newness of life.”

Discipleship is not getting together once a week, studying a book written by a Christian author and drinking coffee. That is good, but true discipleship is activation, leading to a church on mission. True discipleship challenges and transforms us to be a people of action, doing what God has called us to do.  

The second component of the church is evangelism. Jesus said in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

If the purpose of our Lord was to seek and save the Lost, why would we as his representatives, those who call him Lord, not have the same passion.

As Jesus instructed his disciples in Acts 1:8, we are also to go to our neighbors, our city, our nation and to the ends of the earth. As people empowered by the Holy Spirit, we have all we need to do the work God calls us to do (see Ephesians 1:3).

The church exists to bring glory to God, and the greatest example of the Glory of God is the salvation of sinners as they put their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

The world around us is a mess and desperate for hope. Everyone we meet is an eternal soul, and they will either spend eternity in heaven, or in hell, eternally separated from God.  

Frequently, you will hear that there are many different ways to get to heaven, however there is no other religion or system of faith that has a living savior. Jesus is the resurrected Lord and only He can save (See John 14:6).

We as a church must be focused on evangelism, sharing the good news of the Jesus Christ from our homes to the ends of the earth. It is such a blessing that we have so many people at Grace Point who understand this. This past summer we had individuals and teams that went to seven different nations, while at the same time we have outreaches to Ruskin Heights, Warford elementary and right here in our neighborhood.

Evangelism, like discipleship, is a primary component of the church, and like two railroad tracks they are tied together. The tie that holds these two components together is the Gospel message, God’s plan of salvation (See 1 Corinthians 15:1-5).

This Gospel message is the most important message we have, and it holds the church together in discipleship and mission.

Just like railroad tracks, which are only useful if each track is perfectly parallel and that they continue together. If the one track veers off or is longer than the other, the railroad track is of no use. So, it is with the healthy church, discipleship and evangelism must run parallel and continuously, held together by the Good news of Jesus Christ.

The progress of the Gospel is the evangelism track

The progress in the Gospel is the discipleship track.

But you can only participate in either of these if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

As a follower of Jesus are you participating in both discipleship and evangelism?

Sermon Sunday September 15, 2019 A Healthy Church part 4

Growth

Acts 2:41-47

I’ve had two trees in our backyard since we moved into our house five years ago.  They have grown rapidly and have quickly exceeded my ability to manage their growth.

As I was thinking about this problem, I realized that this is a common problem in churches that are experiencing growth. When the growth exceeds the capacity to manage the growth, the result is a poorly maintained organization that leaves people frustrated on the outside and burnt out on the inside.

Growth can be challenging, so how does a healthy church grow?

The early church is a model of church health and as we have seen in Acts 2:42, there were 4 distinctive indicators of a healthy church.

  1. Devoted to the study of the Word of God
  2. Devoted to community and fellowship
  3. Devoted to breaking bread together
  4. Devoted to prayer.

These are the four devotions of a healthy church and being devoted to these four principles leads to dramatic results as we see from verse 43 to 47.

  • Awe resulting from miracles (v 43)

The apostles had walked with Jesus, they had seen his many powerful miracles and they began to do the same things. Signs and wonders are for the express purpose of bringing glory to God. Today, all over the world, amazing miracles are happening, and the primary purpose is to declare the glory of God and the Gospel message. We see this throughout the book of Acts; signs and wonders lead to salvations. Awe or fear came upon everyone because they recognized a greater power at work, they couldn’t ignore that God was working in power and it caused a reverent fear (See Hebrews 2:3-4).

  • They were a unified church (verse 44)

This was the church in its infancy.  There were no arguments over false teaching, doctrine or opinions. This was before the church began to argue about buildings and programs. A church that is devoted to the things of God, will be a unified church. The moment we lack unity, it is because we have lost our purpose.

The early church had an intense feeling of responsibility towards one another (see John 17:21-22). The early church as described in Acts 2, was an answer to that prayer of Jesus, and many were drawn to the Savior as a result.

  • They were a generous church (verse 45)

This verse is not promoting a form of socialism, rather this was a voluntary caring for each other as they shared their wealth to help those in need.

The rapid growth of the early church resulted in many physical needs. During Pentecost, there were Jews from every nation of the world, who had been converted and most of them stayed in Jerusalem. They would have quickly run out of money and food, and they needed places to stay. There was an outpouring of generosity as the unity of the church led to caring for these needs.

Generosity must be an essential mark of the church (see 1 John 3:16-18).

William Barclay wrote, “a real Christian cannot bear to have too much while others have too little.”

  • They were a rejoicing church (verse 46).

Daily the believers were celebrating their salvation, they were celebrating that Jesus was alive and that their lives had purpose. They weren’t simply following a religion of going through the weekly and yearly festivals, this new devotion to Christ affected every aspect of their lives.

There was not a separation between secular and sacred, they didn’t only gather once a week for a time to dress up in their Sunday best and try to impress people with their holiness. Their lives were transformed by being totally committed to the Lordship of Jesus in their lives and it affected every aspect of their lives.

This is such a challenge for us in the western culture, we have bought into the idea that we can be Christians so long as we attend church regularly and give to the church. This is not what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Being a Christian affects every minute of every day of our lives, whether it is at home, work, school or in fellowship with other believers.

We don’t add Jesus to our lives, we give our lives to Jesus, that is Lordship, and real Christianity.

  • They were an attractive church (verse 47).

There have been many books and seminars regarding the subject of church growth, encouraging churches to change the décor, the music, the lighting, the website and much more. Some even encourage pastors to reduce the amount of teaching using the Bible and please don’t tell people that they are sinners! These books and seminars have made a lot of people rich, but what they have also done is created a church culture that is so focused on the desires of the attendees that the church has forgotten their reason for gathering.

A consumer driven church culture has been created and it is extremely damaging to the understanding of the Church. If we cater to what people want in order to gather a crowd, it will necessitate a deviation from the Gospel message.

The church is good at religion, creating a list of things to do that a good Christian should do. But the early church focused not on what they should do, rather they focused on what has already been done by Jesus’ death and resurrection.  

The early church praised God for all that He has done, they were not seeking any fame or notoriety, they gave all the glory to God. As a result, they grew in number. People were attracted to the miracles that were being done, and to the genuine, authentic worship of the early church.

True church growth must be a work of God as it is an authentic display of individuals living as followers of Christ which will draw others to want the same.

We can do our part to welcome people and invite people and witness to people, but ultimately Jesus is the one who builds the church (see Matthew 16:18).

Sermon Sunday September 8, 2019 A Healthy Church part 3

Click on the Camera to watch the video of the sermon

1 Peter 2:1-12:

Do you know who you are?

If you have been at Grace Point at anytime during the last 5 years, you will know that we value prayer as a church. But with all the emphasis on prayer, we still don’t see our prayer times well attended. I have been wrestling with this and have concluded that we don’t have a prayer problem, we have in identity problem. We don’t pray because we don’t really believe our prayers make a difference, because we don’t know who we are in the Kingdom of God. As followers of Jesus, we have an identity problem.  

As Christians, our identity is not our nationality, our education or our career, our identity is to be found in being a child of God, adopted by the creator of the universe and being a member of the eternal kingdom of God. But more than that as Peter wrote in our text this morning, I am part of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession (see 1 peter 2:9).

If you are a follower of Jesus, someone who has committed your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, you are a priest, that is your identity.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9

Andrew Murray in his book, “With Christ in the school of prayer” writes, “every member of the Body of Christ – the church, has a right to the priesthood. But not everyone exercises it, many are still entirely ignorant of it. And yet it is the highest privilege if a child of God.”

What does it mean to be a priest in the kingdom of God?

As a church we believe in the priesthood of every believer, we believe that every believer is called to fulltime ministry, whatever their vocation might be (see Revelation 1:5-6).

In the Old Testament, under the Mosaic Law, God’s people had a priesthood. There were definite qualifications for this, and it was an awesome privilege. No man in Israel could serve at the altar, or enter the tabernacle or temple holy places, except those born into the tribe of Levi and consecrated to God for service. The priest’s role was to be the mediator between God and man. And only the High priest could enter the holy of holies in the tabernacle. Once a year, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the high priest was permitted to enter and sprinkle the blood of a sacrificial animal on the mercy seat of the Ark. By doing so, the high priest atoned for his own sins and those of the people.

The Holy of Holies was separated from the rest of the tabernacle/temple by the veil, a huge, heavy drape made of fine linen that was up to 6 inches thick.

When Jesus died on the cross in Matthew 27:51 we read that this veil was torn by God from top to bottom. It was a supernatural event done by the power of God to declare that man was no longer separated from God. The Old Testament temple system was made obsolete as the New Covenant was ratified. No longer would we have to depend on priests to perform once-a-year sacrifices on our behalf (see Hebrews 10:19-22).

We as followers of Jesus have now a great and eternal High priest, who mediates for us, he represents us before God the Father. More than that, because of the perfect and final sacrifice that Jesus performed on the cross, we are declared righteous before God. Jesus is not only the High priest, but he is also the King of Kings, therefore we are a royal priesthood and a holy nation, because we are forever covered and made holy by the blood of Jesus.

We have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, to be priests in our culture, praying for our culture and representing God to the culture. Sadly, we don’t realize who we are, we have a case of mistaken identity and we don’t see ourselves as priests, we are happy just to take our salvation and hide from the world until we die, or Jesus comes again. Instead of influencing our culture, we hide from our culture.

But we are called to be priests who as a body of believers represent Christ to the world. When we display Christ, we display the power of the Gospel and people are drawn to the authentic display of the power of the Gospel.

If we want to see miracles, salvations, people set free from addictions, marriages healed and lives restored, we need to act like priests who have unhindered and unlimited access to the Great High Priest. That is what it means to pray, that is why a healthy church prays.  

We cannot work our way into church health, we cannot come up with strategies and programs that will somehow create sustainable church health. The only lasting strategy is prayer. Because we desperately need the holy spirit to give us life, we are a dependent people, unity and community are not possible without the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our church.

Our worship services need to be permeated with prayer, because prayer is an expression of our dependence on God. A healthy church prays, not only on a Sunday morning, but also during the week as we gather together.

How do you prepare your heart to worship on a Sunday morning?

Do you realize that as a follower of Jesus Christ, you are a priest in the kingdom, not only on a Sunday morning, but also on a Saturday night. How you spend your time during the week in private has a very real and definite effect on our gathering here together.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book Life Together says, “we are members of a body, not only when we choose to be, but in our whole existence. Every member serves the whole body, either to its health or to its destruction. This is no mere theory; it is a spiritual reality.”

Bonhoeffer went on to write, “A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me.”

Sermon Sunday September 1, 2019 A Healthy Church part 2

(watch the video by clicking on the picture)

Fellowship/ community

Romans 15:1-7

We live in an era where we are more connected than any other time in the history of man.

But psychologists tell us that loneliness is the number one health issue of our time. How can it be it that we are so connected but at the same time so lonely?

In Acts 2:42, we read that the early church devoted themselves to fellowship, the Greek word Koinonia, which means; partnership, participation, communion and companionship.

In Romans 15:1-7, the Apostle Paul instructs the Roman church how to live and how to relate to one another in light of the Gospel. In the first verse he gets straight to the point, “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” He uses the word obligation, which could also mean, duty, or legal requirement,

We don’t like this kind of language in our culture today, we are free individuals, why should we be obligated to do anything for someone else? Obviously, just as in 2019, this was a problem in the first century. Paul answers the question very clearly in verse 3 of Romans 15, “For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”

Christ gave himself for us. This is the foundation for the Gospel message, Jesus being obedient to the Father preferred us over his own life and his position in heaven. True unity in the church is an outworking of the Gospel, it is a miracle of God as the Holy Spirit draws us to prefer each other, in light of what Jesus has done for us.

But It still takes work, Paul repeats the phrase “endurance and encouragement” in verse 4 and

It takes endurance, it takes hard work, it takes commitment (that word that our generation seems find troublesome).

Endurance is the ability to endure and continue to do something even when the finish line never seems to get any closer.  Walking in unity requires endurance, there are days when it seems easier than others, but we keep on going, because we are committed to each other.

Along with endurance, we need Encouragement, we are encouraged by the faithfulness of those who have gone before us (see Hebrews 12:1), We are encouraged by the Word of God,

And we are encouraged by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the church.

All of these encourage us and keep us moving forward towards greater unity, towards a healthier community.

Community literally means living with unity. But what is the purpose of unity in the church?

Is it so that we can just get along? Is it so that we portray the image of a nice happy family?

Is it so that we attract more people to our happy community and grow? Actually it is significantly important than all of those, unity in the church is to bring glory to God (see Romans 15:6).

How do we display the glory of God as the church? In Ephesians 3:10 we read, “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”

God is using the followers of Jesus to display His wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. The word for manifold is the same word that one would use to describe the many facets of a diamond. God holds the church up like a diamond and points to the church and teaches about himself to the angels and principalities of the spirit world. Even as we are weak, broken and struggling towards unity, because of the Gospel and the righteousness of Jesus, we are used by God more than we will ever know. When we walk in unity and prefer others, we display the Glory of God. In John 17:22 and 23, as Jesus was praying for the church, he prayed that we would display the glory given to him by the Father, in order to draw others to a saving knowledge of himself.

Unity is not simply getting along for the sake of peace, unity is a miracle of God in order to display the glory of God to a lost and dying world. Jesus desires unity more than we do, he went to the cross so that we could be a community of believers in fellowship and love.

There is much at stake, it is vital that we are a healthy community, the eternal destiny of our neighbors is at stake. Our culture is starving for authentic community.

Many people are thirsting for community but are afraid to step into community, reaching out and being proactive, not for what we can get out of it, but for the Glory of God to be displayed. When you do that, you will get more out of a community than you ever imagined.

The focus will be off ourselves and we will lift our heads up and be healthy.

When we grasp how Jesus went to the cross for us, we will easily give ourselves and our self-interests away in order to step into a community where Jesus is glorified. If we struggle to stay in fellowship with each other, it is because we are not allowing the Gospel message to permeate our relationships, we are self-centered rather than grace centered.

We live in a culture of individualism and consumerism and the church can easily fall into the trap of feeding the desires of the consumers, instead of focusing on the glory of God. A healthy church is where people willingly step into community in order to display the glory of Jesus.

So how do we step into community?

Firstly, we need to understand that supernatural unity can only be found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as the head of the church. A church community that is not centered around a common relationship with Jesus will always leave us wanting (see John 4:13-14a).

Stepping into community requires vulnerability, it requires a risk. Step into community, volunteer to serve, host a meal and invite people around. We are all busy, but we prioritize what we value. What is we prioritized and valued authentic community, what can be a better way to spend our time than displaying the glory of God?

Take a step today.

Sermon, Sunday August 25, 2019 – The Healthy Church Part 1

Acts 2:41-47

What is a healthy church? 1 Corinthians 12 describes the church as a body, with each part functioning well so that the whole body is healthy. But we are all broken and hurting people, how can we function together as a healthy body?

In Acts 2, we have a model of a healthy church. One hundred and twenty followers of Jesus, waiting in the upper room, were filled with the Holy Spirit and they went into the streets proclaiming the Gospel message. Three Thousand people were added to the church that day and this same church has influenced every church for the past two thousand years. But what was their secret?

The past three months have been filled with mission trips and praying for those going out to share the message of the Gospel, focusing on the lost in our city and across the nations.

This is all good, but a church that only looks at missions without caring about the discipleship of the members is not healthy. Just like a church that focuses only inward is not healthy.

There needs to be a balance of equipping (discipleship) and mission (going out).

Athletic trainers will tell you that a strong core is vital for all the body to function well, and spend hours strengthening the core. If the core is weak, the whole body is weak and cannot operate at its best. The same applies to the analogy of the church as a body. If the core of the church is weak, the whole body does not function well.

The early church was more than a gathering of like-minded believers who came together once a week for a time of fellowship and worship. It was a body of fully committed people, committed to the lordship of Jesus Christ personally, and committed to each other in fellowship and unity. This church was the healthiest and most effective the church has ever been.

Acts 2:42 begins with the phrase, “And they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching…”

Devotion means a regular observance. Individual committed devotion is a sign of genuine salvation. Someone who does not desire to spend time daily in God’s word is probably not filled with the Holy Spirit and probably not saved. Saying that you do not desire to read God’s Word regularly is like saying that you are alive, but don’t need to drink water. The foundational mark of a true believer is someone who abides in Christ, who feeds on God’s word (see John 8:31).

So, what were they teaching? The Apostles had sat under the greatest teacher of all time for three years. In the upper room at Pentecost, they were filled with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth and now they were teaching the new believers who in turn taught others. This is the pattern of the early church and sadly something that we have lost in the church. We have developed this understanding that only the pastor or person who has a master’s degree in theology can teach. We all need to carefully study doctrine, know what we believe, why we believe it and then be able to teach it. This message is intended to come to us and then flow through us (2 Timothy 2:2).

In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), Jesus commands all of us to make disciples, to win converts and disciple them. This is not only a command to go to the ends of the earth, but also to the person sitting next to you, or the young person who is desperate for a mentor, a role model to help them walk out the Christian life in the twenty-first century.

The Dead sea is the lowest body of water on the planet and lies between Israel and Jordan. The river Jordan flows into it from the sea of Galilee but does not flow out of it. As a result, the Dead sea has ten times the concentration of salt than the oceans and is unable to sustain any life. This is a picture of many individuals and even churches who pride themselves on their theological knowledge, amassing more and more teaching, but never applying the word.

Such people and churches are deep, salty and dead!

A healthy body of water allows the life-giving resource to flow in and then out again, feeding another pond or stream. Are you stagnating on the word? Or are you allowing the word to flow through you to others?

The early church focused on the resurrection of Jesus and the Gospel message, they preached John 14:6. The Gospel is the good news that Jesus is the eternal Son of God, who spoke all of creation into being. He came to earth in the form of a baby, his mother Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit. Jesus lived a perfect life, he was crucified and buried, but he rose again on the third day, overcoming death and paying the price of the judgment of God for our sins. This Jesus ascended into heaven, where he is seated at the right hand of the Father and where he is preparing praying for us and preparing a place for us to be with him. This same Jesus is coming again to restore all things and judge the earth.

This Gospel message is the message that saves us, but it is also the message that sustains us and keeps us growing in our own personal walk with the Lord. John Piper said, “Therefore, the gospel is the power that gives us victory over temptation to despair and to pride and to greed and to lust. The gospel alone can triumph over every obstacle and bring us to eternal joy.”

We have the blessing of the eternal Word of God and a healthy church loves to devote themselves to the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17 and Hebrews 4:12).

The church and individual that studies and meditates on the Word of God will be healthy.

Jonathan Edwards, the 18th century theologian defined 5 metrics for determining a genuine move of the Holy Spirit in a church.

  1. A growing esteem for Jesus Christ.
  2. A discernible spirit of repentance.
  3. A dogged devotion to the Word of God.
  4. An interest in theology and doctrine.
  5. An evident love for God and neighbor.

Are you healthy?

Pray that God the Holy Spirit gives you a passion for the Word of God, and it will bring you life (Proverbs 4:20-22).

Sermon Sunday August 11, 2019 The Word of God – The Bread of Life

The Power of the Word

We have just returned from our third Grace Point mission trip to the city of Cincinnati. It was a smaller team, but we were so blessed to have a team of passionate followers of Jesus who love the Gospel.

The trip was a combination of door-to-door evangelism and running a VBS at the 1st Baptist Church in Reading Ohio.

As we knocked on doors and met people in the community, we were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of need in the area, so many people in desperate situations who were just trying to get through another day. Sadly, as we offered to pray with people, the common response was, “no thanks, I am good.”

The same response is common even in our churches as people have a form of religion, where they pray to God, hoping He hears, but honestly, they don’t have a relationship with Him. A relationship comes from the starting point of submitting ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus and walking as we are led by the spirit.

In Revelation 10, we read about the angel who holds a scroll in his hand and instructs John to eat the scroll, and then to go and prophesy to the nations about the contents of the scroll.

In Ezekiel 3:3, we read a similar account of the Lord instructing Ezekiel to eat of the scroll and to go and speak the Word to the house of Israel.

These two men were called to prophesy by eating the scroll which represented the Word of God given to them. This is similar language to what Jesus used in John 6:25-36 as he instructs his followers that he is the bread of life given from heaven.

We read in John 1:14 that Jesus is the Word made flesh, and later in John chapter 6 Jesus explained the Lords supper to those who were questioning him and who clearly didn’t understand what he was talking about when he said, “eat my flesh and drink my blood” (John 6:54).

In the crowd following Jesus were some scribes who knew the prophecy of Jeremiah and would have understood the concept of receiving God’s Word into one’s heart.

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33).

Jesus, when he was tempted by Satan to turn stones into bread responded in Matthew 4:4 by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every WORD that comes from the mouth of God

In his letters, the apostle Paul frequently writes about being “in Christ”, and one of the crucial characteristics of being in Christ is to be filled with the Word, feeding on the Word of God as it sustains us. The Word of God is the bread of life that fuels our daily walk as followers of Jesus.

We live in what is called the post-modern culture, and we are all driven by hunger, desires and wants. Daily we seek comfort, joy, happiness, fulfilment, love and so many other pleasures, but only one thing can satisfy the hunger in man and that is the Bread of life that we feed on as people submitted to the Lordship of Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit.

The adults we that we spoke to in Cincinnati were all struggling, they had spent a life feeding on other things and nothing has brought them satisfaction. But during the last night of our VBS, one of the young girls who became a follower of Jesus, really got it. As we were praying with her, we could see the joy of the Lord filling her life. This young 5th grade child was fully satisfied in Jesus and she didn’t want or need anything else. She was alive with the joy of the Lord and I know she is going to feed on the Word. Our prayer for her as she begins her Christian walk, was that she remains steadfast and true to the path that the Lord has for her as He reveals Himself to her in the Bible.

As followers of Jesus, as the Body of Christ in the 21st century, we must be people of the Word.

The secular humanistic society is constantly looking for meaning and purpose, but deny that objective truth exists, we know that the only truth that can satisfy is the glorious Gospel message.

As the church we are to know the word by feeding on the word, so that we can be the prophetic voice that God has called us to be. We cannot begin to address the problems around us, unless we are feeding on the Word.

Do you love God’s Word?

Sermon June 30, 2019 Hearing God’s voice part 2

 

Hearing God’s Voice Part 2

How does God speak?

We often use the well-known Americanism, “we must grab coffee sometime”, when we want to catchup with someone or want to get to know them better. What if I told you, God wants you to grab coffee with him every day!

if we are truly honest with ourselves, most of us want to hear from God when we need something, when we have a decision to make or we have a sick loved one. Herein lies the problem, we want to use God for our purposes, but God wants us to know Him, to worship Him and to grow in our relationship with Him. Out of that relationship, we develop the lifestyle of walking with God, being led by the Holy Spirit.

In Exodus 3:1-6 we read about God calling Moses from the middle of a burning bush. Little did Moses know that morning when he took his sheep out to pasture, that he would have such a significant encounter, one that would not only change his life, and the life of the nation of his birth. What follows in the next two chapters is one of the longest and most significant dialogues between God and man that you will find anywhere in Scripture. It was significant because it forever changed the nation of Egypt and proved the faithfulness of God in keeping the covenant that he had made with Abraham.

Moses is drawn to this strange sight of a bush that is burning but not consumed, and then suddenly God himself calls Moses out of the Fire. “Moses!; Moses!” Moses must have been scared to death being all alone on the mountain, but Moses responded, “Here I am”. Moses was available, God is still looking for people who respond when he calls today. Moses was still not sure who was speaking to him until God reveals His identity in verse 6.

As God calls Moses, he does his best to disqualify himself for the task that God was giving him, going to great lengths arguing with God about his calling. You see Moses had been in the wilderness for so long, that he had disqualified himself in his own eyes. But God knew who He was calling. When God calls you, He knows you better than you know yourself, there is no need to remind Him of your faults. But as a child of the king, when God calls you, he sees the only redeeming quality you have, he sees Jesus in you the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). The only quality that God looks for is a submitted life (Galatians 2:20).

In Exodus 19, when God gave the Law to Moses and he went up the mountain to meet with God face to face. But what a different encounter that was, Moses was a different man then, it was only a few months after Moses had met with God in the wilderness at the burning bush, but what a different man he was (Exodus 19:16-19). Moses knew the voice of God and he was bold, he was not the hesitant shepherd in the wilderness. Moses knew God and it changed him, he had become one of the greatest leaders in all of history. This is what happens when someone hears the voice of God and acts in obedience and faith; lives are transformed, and nations are changed.

Never underestimate the call of God and never dismiss the call of God on someone.

God still speaks today, but how does God speak?

God speaks primarily through His word, the Bible is our primary source for God to speak to us.

The bible is the starting point in our pursuit of a personal relationship with God, because it is His revelation of himself to mankind (2 Timothy 3:16). But for us to hear and respond to the God Word of God, we need to open it, meditate on it, and pray on it.

But God is not limited to speaking to us through the Bible, he is God after all and can speak in any way that He knows will get our attention, after all God used a rooster crowing three times, he even spoke through a donkey.

God will use other godly people in our lives to speak to us. We all need mentors and encouragers who will pray for us and then speak the truth in love (Isaiah 28:11).

God will speak through circumstances, Joseph saw this in Genesis 50:20 when he spoke to his estranged brothers.

God will use words of wisdom and knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:7-9). God will speak to us through the Holy Spirit, as he uses other members of the Body of Christ using their gifts.

God will also speak with an audible voice (1 Kings 19:11-12).

Often speaks to us in that still small voice which are the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

As I wait on the Lord spending time in prayer, I hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit and here is where the journal comes in. As God speaks, I write down what I hear Him say to me. Some people suggest using two pens of different color, one color for your prayers, the other color for what you feel God is saying. As you do this you can go back years later and see how God was true to His word, you can see how your relationship has grown and how faithful He has been.

God still speaks in Dreams; the life of Daniel was one filled with dreams and interpretations. And today we are hearing stories of thousands of Muslims who are encountering Jesus in dreams and following Jesus.

However, God speaks, we must be very careful to test and make sure that it is the voice of God.

God will never contradict Scripture and God will also not ask us to do anything that does not exalt the name of Jesus.

It is not uncommon for people to struggle to hear from God, usually it is because we are not positioning ourselves to hear from Him.  Remember Psalm 46:10 and Philippians 4:8, as we are silent, meditate on Scripture and the things of the Lord we are better able to better hear His voice. In our society we have an incredible access to information and we need to limit our time dwelling on things that are not part of God’s plan and will for our lives (Proverbs 4:23).

Are you ready to develop a lifestyle of listening to God?