Sermon June 25, 2017 – What Time is it? Part 3

John 7:1-13

This past week we noted on the calendar the summer solstice the longest day of the year, marking the beginning of the summer season. However, it is also a sad day as it marks the fact that our days are now getting progressively shorter and shorter.

Think about the season of life that you are in right now. We are all pretty good at categorizing our season of life, but try to set aside those man-made categories and start to dream a bit. Start to think that no matter what age you are, God has something unique and special for you to do. Do you know the time in your own personal life? What is the season that you are in? Rather what is the season that God has set for your life right now.

In the Gospels, we frequently are reminded that Jesus was on a timeline, one that would ultimately lead him to the cross. Jesus was occasionally encouraged by those close to him to adjust the timeline, to speed things up. They did not know the complete picture, but they thought they could help Jesus become the ruler, they wanted him to be.

In chapter 7 of John’s Gospel, we read an interesting exchange between Jesus and his brothers, one of the only recorded dialogues between Jesus and his half-brothers. It seems that Jesus’ brothers want to become his promoters. They witnessed the miracles he did, and they thought that now is the time to take Jesus to the big time, taking his fame to the streets of Jerusalem.

Jesus was staying in the region of Galilee and had been teaching and performing miracles for about six months. Galilee was safer for Jesus, than the region of Judea in the south. The religious leaders in Judea wanted to kill Jesus, but Jesus was on a divine timeline and he knew that his time had not yet come. Throughout the Gospel of John, we see references to this divine timetable that Jesus was on. (see John 2:4; John 7:30, John 8:20 and John 12:23).

In John 7:6 Jesus said, “my time is not yet here” the Greek word for time used here is Kairos. Kairos, is more than a tick on a clock or a day on the calendar, it is a deeper word that means the right time, the most effectual time, or the opportune time.

Jesus was being pushed by his brothers to seize the moment, they thought this was the opportune time for Jesus to be introduced to the world. But Jesus was not interested in worldly fame, he was on a much more important mission. A mission that the creator of the universe was orchestrating, Jesus was on a divine timeline.

We as followers of Jesus Christ, who have the Holy Spirit in us, are not living for ourselves, rather we are on a divine timeline as well. Daily asking God for His plan and direction for our lives.

When we are young we may feel that we have all the time in the world particularly in the summer. However, before we know it, 30 years has flown by and many hours have been wasted.

When we are in the season of parenting Children at home, we have no time there are so many demands on our time. The demands are so great that we don’t realize the season that we are in that is so fleeting. The tremendous blessing of holding and nurturing a child. Being entrusted by God to train up a child in the ways of the Lord, those days pass by quickly.

When you are old and your children are out of the home, the temptation is to feel that you have done your share, you deserve to take it easy and enjoy your final years. What did Jesus say about the man who said exactly that in the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:19-20?

We have this crazy modern notion that we need to work as hard as we can, amass as much wealth as we can, then we can retire early and then we go to Florida and play golf until we die. What a miserable existence! What if you grasped that God has so much more for you. There is so much more joy in living out our days, whatever season of life we are in, totally committed to the will and plan of God for our lives.

When we are young, we miss the sense of urgency to ask the Lord for His plan, and when we are old, we seem to think that God cannot use us because we are past our prime.

I want to tell you that you are in the perfect season for God to use you. He has prepared you, through your past experiences and trials, He has prepared you for today, for the Kairos moment that he has for you today.

The opportune time that God has you in right at this moment. God does not give us breath to breathe and not give us Kairos moments to fill our days.

Moses was 80 years old and as he led the sheep toward the mountain of God, God called him and changed the course of history through the life of Moses.

Abraham and Sarah were promised a child when Abraham was 100 years old, Sarah was ninety when she gave birth to Isaac.

In the book of 1 Chronicles we see a group of men who did understand the times, who did understand the season and they were ready for action. We read in 1 Chronicles 12:32 about the sons of Issachar, men who observed, reasoned and stepped out in faith.

Today we need men and women who understand what is happening in society from God’s perspective, to step out in faith leading the church into action. People who will be on their knees before God asking Him for direction and wisdom to discern the times (see Romans 13:11-14).

What plan does God have for you? Are you willing to pray and make yourself available to God?

We have incredible opportunities presented to us now in history, but we have plenty of excuses. We are too old, we are too young, we don’t have the money, our health is not optimal, we don’t have the right education…… any number of excuses for not recognizing the season that God has placed us here in Kansas City now in history.

I challenge you to pray and ask God for the direction and plan that is perfect for your life, the reason he created you and placed you here right now.

Sermon June 18 2017 What time is it? Part 2

Across the world we are seeing that God is on the move. Millions of people are becoming followers of Jesus, many of them at the risk of losing their lives.

For information on what is happening in the middle east read this article: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/stories/muslims-turn-to-christ-in-unprecedented-numbers-pt-1/

In Asia, Africa and South America we are seeing millions coming to know Jesus Christ as Lord and savior.

So you may say, what does all this have to do with our local church here in South Kansas City?

It is important to realize that we as a small church on the hill here in Kansas City, are a part of something glorious, something far bigger and more powerful than we can ever imagine.

Paul writing the churches in the region of Ephesus wrote to people that he had not met personally but he had heard about their faith and their love for the Lord. Reading Ephesians 1:15-23, Paul lets them know that he is praying for them to have the eyes of their hearts enlightened (v 18). He wants them to know that they are not simply a small insignificant group of believers in Asia minor, he wants them to understand that they are a holy people called by God, and that they are precious to God. Sometimes we need that reminder too, do you know how precious the church is to God? Do you know how precious Grace Point is to God?

But not only that, Paul reminds them of the power of God that is for them. He continues in verse 19 and 20 by encouraging them that no matter what forces are opposing them, the power of God is greater and He is able to sustain His church. Paul continues to elaborate that Jesus is far more powerful than any authority, power and dominion; not only in this age, but also in the age to come.

This same Jesus who is God himself, the all-powerful creator God, has been appointed as the head of the church. God placed all things under Jesus’ feet as we see in verse 22.

Finally, in verse 23 Paul says that the church is the body of Christ. We often say that as the church, we are the body of Christ, but do we really understand that? I doubt we can even begin to fathom what that means for us.

Jesus so identifies with his church, he is so committed to his church, that he calls us to be his ambassadors, his holy representatives in the world, having the fulness of Christ in us (see Colossians 1:24-27).

We as Grace Point Baptist church are part of something so much bigger and so much more powerful than we can ever imagine. And the best part of it is that if we simply remain faithful to what God has called us to do, he is responsible for the results as Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, the he will build his church. We need to simply ask him for the plan and do what he says.

There was a conversation that was common at Grace Point a few years ago, it was the conversation of when we are going to have to close the doors, sell the building and find another church.

I am so glad that we don’t have those conversations anymore, not because of any plan or strategy that we have implemented, but because of what Jesus is doing in his church. Jesus, our head is changing the conversation, he is bringing about new life.

The truth is that any talk about closing or running out of money is not grounded in an understanding of our true identity. Our identity as the body of Christ, this is his church and if we grasp, as Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus that we would have the eyes of our hearts enlightened, in order to see who we are in Christ. Knowing our true identity, we will quickly see that he alone is responsible for the results, our responsibility is to be fervent in prayer and quick to obey what he tells us to do.

I recently read a book by Andrew Davis and in it he writes that every church exists for one purpose alone, to bring Glory to God by making progress on two spiritual journeys.

The first is the internal journey of discipleship and growth towards maturity in Christ. Peter commands this in his second letter, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18. That is the journey that we are on as individuals, we will never complete this journey of spiritual maturity until Jesus comes again.

The second journey is the external journey of evangelism and missions.

The Great Commission that Jesus left the church in Matthew 28:19-20 still applies to us today.

A healthy church, as Davis writes has both journeys in balance; being committed to discipleship while at the same time being committed to missions and evangelism.

As we ask the question, what is the time on God’s calendar for Grace Point? This church that has over 106 years of fruitful ministry, what is the season we are in right now? What does the Lord have for us to be and to do in our ever-changing society?

In our culture, our traditional programs, simply don’t reach the community the way they once did. But a healthy church, functioning as the body of Christ will reach our community.

Programs are not the sign of a healthy church. Rather, relationships, community and being centered on the Gospel message are signs of a healthy church.

I loved the message that Bob Michaels shared three years ago, as he spoke about the transformational church he said; “the transformational church innovates to advance the Gospel.”

This is definitely an exciting time for us as a church as we see what God is doing in our midst and what He is doing all over the earth.

Sermon June 11 2017 What time is it? Part 1

One of the most frequent questions we hear is, what’s is the time?

Frequently we want to know the time to prepare for an event or to prepare for an appointment.

On God’s schedule, the world is one a timer as well, every day takes us closer to the end of the World. It begs the question, what time is it?

Jesus spoke quite plainly to his disciples about the end of the world, the events that would precede his coming again, as we read Matthew 24:1-14

Matthew 24 and 25 is what is known as the Olivet Discourse, where Jesus talks to his disciples privately. Jesus begins with a warning; “Watch that no one deceives you!”

In this the information age, it is so hard to know what is truth and what is deception. There is only one sure foundation and that is the Word of God. We must know and study the Bible, not simply read it on Sunday morning, or listen to sermons on the radio, we need to be digging into the word of God for ourselves. Without a solid knowledge of the truths of the Word of God, you will be deceived. Truth is under attack all around us, and if you don’t know the truth, you will be deceived, and that will affect your eternal destiny.

Jesus continues in verses 6 to 8 and says that his followers will hear of wars, nations rising against nation, famines and earthquakes. Sound a lot like our day and age. But Jesus said, don’t be alarmed.

This is not the end, it is merely the birth-pains or a time of suffering before the end.

In verse 9 Jesus shifts from the suffering happening over there to the very personal persecution and suffering happening to his followers. V9; “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.”

This is very personal and real, we are seeing this kind of persecution happening to Christians all over the world. We in America, have no idea of some of the persecution taking place against followers of Jesus Christ. We get upset if someone hints that the churches tax exempt status might be removed!

We had better wake up and take stock of where we stand, we have been lulled into a comfortable Christianity that is socially acceptable, but Jesus clearly warns that this is not part of his plan for the church, the true followers of Christ.

The book of Revelation is a book comprised entirely of what is known as Apocalyptic material. That word Apocalypse comes from the similar sounding Greek word which means unveiling or revealing, hence the name Revelation. I know some of you when you read the book of revelation, you come to believe that it is anything but a revelation. But I encourage you to not shy away from this book because of the many varied theories and speculations. Revelation 1:3 says, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” Don’t you want to take God up on his offer to bless you?

Here is the great truth about the Bible, we have a promise from God that by his Holy Spirit, we will be given insight and understanding. Before you sit down to read, ask God to speak to you and reveal his truth to you. You may not be able to understand all the details, but as you read God will begin to reveal new truths to you.

John’s Revelation and the book of Daniel predict a threefold process of the end of times.

There are several prominent beliefs regarding the sequence of events that include a time of tribulation, Jesus reigning on the earth for a thousand year and the final judgment, where everyone will stand before Jesus to be judged.

Theologians have wrestled with these scriptures for hundreds of years. And unfortunately, because of the strong opinions of some, we have seen churches split and Christians falling out of fellowship with one another. I know this is not part of God’s plan for the church. The bottom line is that just as the angels promised in Acts 1:11; Jesus is coming back. We do not know when, but one thing is certain, it nearer today than it was yesterday.

Are we eagerly longing for that day?

The more a Christian gets caught up enjoying the good things of this life, the more we neglect genuine Christian fellowship and our daily personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the less likely are we to desire his coming.

On the other hand, our Christian brothers and sisters around the world who are experiencing real suffering and persecution, or an elderly person who is suffering on a bed of illness, or someone who’s walk with the Lord is genuine and deep – these people have a real tangible desire for the Lord to return.

The depth of your desire for Jesus to return is a good measure of your Christian walk and your relationship with the Lord. Are you desperate for Jesus to return?

We might not know the time or the day, but we can see the signs around us that Jesus is coming soon. However, by being lulled into this world of entertainment and comfort, it seems unreal to think of the reality of the return of Christ.

So why do we need to know the time? Are you looking at the signs and getting ready? Preparing for Jesus to come back again.

One of the most terrifying verses in the Bible is verse 10 and 12 of Matthew 24. Jesus said in verse 12, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,”

Let us never grow cold in our love for the Lord, rather let us provoke on another to live every day for him with the intense desire for his return.

Verse 13 is our hope; “but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved

I challenge you to be one of those who stand firm on the Gospel, the only way of salvation.

The Three Characteristics of and Evangelist. May 28, 2017

Three Characteristics of an Evangelist.

It has been such a blessing to have people at Grace Point from many different states and denominations. All the evangelism efforts this week will be driven by one central theme, the Good news of Jesus Christ, the Gospel message. The central theme that Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, fully God and fully man, lived a perfect sinless life, suffered and died on a Roman cross. But God, raised him from the dead. Jesus now lives at the right hand of the father interceding for us, and all who call on the name of Jesus as Lord will be saved.

Focusing on evangelism and the evangelist, we find in John 4:31-38 three characteristics of an evangelist. While our focus may be on those gifted in evangelism, this passage has something to teach all of us.

 In the beginning of John 4, we read that Jesus left Judea and journeyed to Galilee, in order to get to Galilee, he had to go through Samaria and a town called Sychar, the location of Jacobs well. It was at this well that Jesus met the Samaritan woman, and he proceeds to tell her everything about her life. She encounters the living God and Jesus reveals to her that he is the promised Messiah. She immediately believes and runs back to town and becomes a fiery evangelist, convincing the people to come out and meet Jesus, and they do.

The disciples were trying to figure out why Jesus was talking to a Samaritan, and a woman no less. They being good Jews did not associate with the Samaritans, and in their minds, if Jesus was the promised Messiah, then he had come for the Jews only and to establish the nation of Israel once again. But here was Jesus preaching to a Samaritan Women. As they were trying to figure this out, the people from the town were coming in a large crowd towards them (v 30). The disciples tried to save the situation by suggesting to Jesus that it was time to eat and they needed to leave. But Jesus responds in his usual metaphorical way, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about” (v 32).

And then Jesus clarifies by saying; “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work”. This is the first Characteristic of an evangelist

Doing the work of the Father gives life. What is God calling you to do? What are your specific gifts given by the Holy Spirit that when you operate in them, you receive life?

Serving the Lord is never a chore, the only time it becomes a chore is when we work in our own strength, either because of guilt or seeking the recognition of others. When you serve the Lord, when you are seeking to please an audience of one, you will find life and strength for the day.

The Samaritan woman was now doing the Father’s will and finding excitement and enrichment in it. In verse 39 we read that she was going around the town telling people about Jesus, and many believed because of her testimony.

So, the first Characteristic of an evangelist that we see in this passage is devotion.

Jesus was devoted to the task he had been given, and he finished the work the Father sent him to do. We too are to be devoted to the calling God has on our lives.

The second characteristic of an evangelist we see in verse 35, where Jesus says; “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”

I may be reading into the situation a little bit, but I don’t find it hard to believe that as Jesus was saying this, he wasn’t pointing to the fields of corn or some other crop, but rather he was pointing to the crowd of people coming down to them from the town. Jesus was pointing to them and saying, “open your eyes, here is the harvest”.

Jesus could boldly declare that the Samaritans would accept his message because he had faith.

Evangelism takes faith, faith that God will lead us to those that He has prepared in advance to receive the message. The Samaritans had been prepared, they were expecting Jesus to be the messiah and they were not disappointed.

And then finally we find the third characteristic in verse 36; “Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.”

Every person who has given their lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ has one defining characteristic, it is the hope of eternal life. The evangelist goes out, with the hope of a reward for their efforts, but the greatest reward of all is to be able to spend eternity with our Lord and savior (see Colossians 1:25 to 27).

If you are have made Jesus Christ the Lord of your life, then he has a calling on your life, he has a perfect purpose and plan for your life, the Holy Spirit has gifted you uniquely for this purpose.

These three Characteristics; Devotion, Faith and Hope apply to you and me today.

  1. Are we devoted to what God has called us to do?
  2. Do we have faith that God is about to use us for His glory?
  3. Do we have hope in the fact that whatever God has called us to do, it will have eternal results.

Lessons from Jonah – part 4, May 21 2017

Jonah Chapter 4

Is it right for you to be angry?

It seems that our world is getting angrier and angrier. The last election cycle gave an indication to us that our nation is on the verge of rage. And so often we hear the statement; “well, I have a right to be angry!”

But do you really have a right to be angry?”

In Chapter three of the book of Jonah, he finally obeyed the Lord and preached the word of the Lord to the city of Nineveh, the entire city repented and God relented from his punishment.

Now one would think that Jonah would head back home, happy to have been the single most successful preacher in the Bible and tell his friends of his amazing mission trip to Assyria. But no, Jonah surprises us once more and in verse one of chapter four we read, “to Jonah, this seemed very wrong…” Jonah got angry because of his prejudice.

In this short chapter, Jonah gets angry with God’s withholding judgment, and he wants to die, then he gets angry about the plant dying, as if he deserved it, and he wants to die.

The Hebrew word used for Jonah’s anger reveals that Jonah was absolutely furious. In Jonah’s worldview, the city of Nineveh deserved the same fate as the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. And both times God responds to his anger by asking Jonah a simple Question; “Is it right for you to be angry?”

The irony is that Jonah is angry because God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love (Ch. 4:2). Jonah was the beneficiary of these attributes of God, but now when they are applied to a city that he hates, he gets angry. It sounds laughable, but, we are not much different to Jonah.

Jonah was angry because he perceived God as being soft on sin and weak on justice.

But Jonah did not have a healthy understanding of who God is, and neither do we.

Jonah gets angry at God, the uncreated creator of the universe. There is no concept or attribute of God that is more important for us to grasp than His holiness.

In the Prophet Isaiah’s vision in Isaiah 6, we read that the seraphim around the throne of God are constantly calling to each other in verse 3 saying; “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, the whole earth is filled with His glory”. The Hebrew language uses repetition for emphasis and there is no other attribute of God that is repeated three times. God’s holiness is the foundation of his being.

The holiness of God has two primary attributes:

Firstly, God is infinitely separate from all of creation, he is the creator and everything else is the creation.

AW Tozer put it this way: “Forever God stands apart, in light unapproachable. He is as high above an archangel as above a caterpillar, for the gulf that separates the archangel from the caterpillar is but finite, while the gulf between God and the archangel is infinite. The caterpillar and the archangel, though far removed from each other in the scale of created things, nonetheless one in that they are alike created. They both belong in the category of that which is not God and are separated from God by infinitude itself.”

Secondly, God is infinitely separate from Evil, because of his holiness he hates sin with a perfect hatred. The darkest hour in human history was when God the father had to turn his back on Jesus, because Jesus became sin for us at that moment. Your sins and mine were placed on Jesus and God the father could not even look on him.

The Bible calls followers of Jesus to a life of Holiness (see 1 Peter 1:16). God is not soft on sin, he gave his only son to reconcile us to Himself. God hates sin more than we could ever imagine.

Jonah was angry, because he felt that the Ninevites deserved to be punished, and they did deserve punishment.

However, Jonah also deserved punishment because he disobeyed God. And we too also deserve to be punished because of our sins (see Romans 3:23).

So, is it right for you to be angry?

The truth is that the root of our anger is primarily pride. We get angry because we deserve better, because we didn’t get our way, because our rights were challenged or because we feel we deserve respect.

What about righteous anger, you may ask? Righteous anger is rooted in a deep understanding of the holiness of God. One writer states, “Righteous Anger Focuses on God and His Kingdom, Rights, and Concerns, Not on Me and My Kingdom, Rights and Concerns.” When we compare our perceived right to become angry, and we compare it to the word of God, we see that we really don’t have the right to get angry (See James 1:19-20).

Often, we get angry before we know all the facts or before we speak to the person we feel has offended us.

If we would be quick to listen and slow to speak, we would gain more understanding, we would grow in our relationships and we would be angry less. The reality is that out of relationship comes grace.

Oh, that we would see people the way God sees them. There is a difference between wanting God to deal with sin and wanting God to destroy the sinner. God loves the sinner so much that he sent his son to die on the cross for their sins.

We as followers of Jesus Christ, those who have been forgiven of our sins have a responsibility to lead the way in forgiveness. It will require much from us to see the grace of God applied to some people and to forgive those that God has already forgiven.

When it comes to anger and unforgiveness in relationships, What about anger and unforgiveness in the church?

There are very few instances in a church where there is true righteous anger, rather we get angry because somebody moved our favorite chair, or somebody didn’t tell us that the meeting was cancelled, or we get angry because we weren’t invited to that dinner party. All these offenses are rooted in pride.

Paul writing to the Philippian church gives them some encouragement in this area, encouraging them to imitate the humility of Christ (Philippians 2:3-4). How I wish we could take this scripture to heart in our self-absorbed culture.

Lessons from Jonah part 3, May 14, 2017

Jonah chapter 3

Is there an area of your life that you wish you could have the opportunity to try again, or have a do-over?

Every day God invites us to start afresh and see a different ending, this is the amazing truth of the grace of God.

As we see in the third chapter of the book of Jonah, God is gracious to Jonah and gives him a second chance to be obedient to Him. Verse one starts with, “And the Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time”. Jonah is the only prophet in the Bible who had to have his assignment given twice.

One could say that Jonah didn’t obey God the first time because it wasn’t convenient, he was quite comfortable as a prophet to the Hebrews, and this call would change his ministry prospects dramatically.

Quite often it would appear that the call of God is inconvenient. For example, God calls businessmen out of their careers and onto a foreign mission field. Many parents have been challenged by the call of God on their children. The call of God on a young person is often contrary to the plans that their parents had for them. Difficult conversations happen all over the world as the Lord touches people’s lives, and they feel compelled to obey the Lord.

Throughout the Bible, God called people and they responded; Abram was called to leave his family and go to a place he had never seen. Jesus called fisherman who were getting ready for the next fishing trip, he also called a busy tax collector and a physician.

The common theme of all the stories of God calling his children, is that when God calls, the only response is one of obedience. When God called Jonah, he expected Jonah to be obedient. There is incredible blessing in obedience, the journey is sometimes tough, but the blessings are eternal (See Luke 18:28-30).

There is not much talk about obedience in modern Christian conversation, and sadly the truth is that we have made it so easy to be a “Christian”. We have made it a simple matter of coming to church and following some rules. In our Western mindset, we have lowered the bar of what it means to be a Christian. But being a Christian means dying to yourself every day, making a commitment to following the Lord every day, daily asking him for his plan for your life. Being a Christian affects every aspect of your life – where you go, how you spend your money, how you relate to your neighbors and how you behave when no-one is watching.

Jonah had no idea what lay in store for him in Nineveh, but he went there in obedience and faith.

Being obedient to God places us in situations where we are weak and vulnerable living a life of faith, that is what it means to be a Christian. Only when we are living in faith and are weak and vulnerable do we fully understand the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Jonah arrives after a 500-mile journey to Nineveh and begins his ministry. Nineveh is a large city for that time in history, and it takes 3 days for Jonah to walk through the city declaring his message.

“40 MORE DAYS AND NINEVEH WILL BE OVERTHROWN

Jonah’s message is an interesting one, the word overthrown has two possible meanings.

Firstly, it is the same word used in the account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, it was a complete destruction by God, a cataclysmic event that would have been widely known throughout the region.

The second possible meaning is a turning upside down, a changing of headship, or a change of heart.

So, the translation of the word “overthrown” could have a bad or a good outcome. If the people do not repent, it will end badly for them, should they however repent, it will be a good change that would lead to life.

The story of Jonah in Nineveh was also a prophetic message to the People back home.

Jonah – a prophet to the Hebrews delivers his most powerful message to the People of Israel by going to the enemy city of Nineveh and calling on them to repent. The Ninevites immediately repent, and turn to God. This is a far cry from the people back in the Northern Kingdom of Israel where Jonah normally taught. Rather In less than 40 years’ time, God was going to punish the northern kingdom because of their idol worship and immoral practices. Jesus spoke about this when he addressed the Pharisees in Matthew 12:41. This is also a prophetic picture of many in people in our churches, who claim to be followers of Jesus on Sunday, but sadly they are not saved.

Looking back to Jonah, verse 5 says; “The Ninevites believed God”. Now I am certain Jonah was not the most passionate evangelist, I doubt he was trying his best to persuade the Ninevites, but the Lord used his message to save an entire city. The reason for his success lay in the twofold authority of his message.

Firstly, Jonah’s message may have contained elements of what he had just experienced, his personal testimony,

Our personal testimony is powerful, it is something every believer has, stories of brokenness and mistakes, stories of God’s blessing and God’s mercy. Our personal testimony has authority.

Secondly, his message was not delivered with persuasive speech, but it had the authority of the word of God. In the first chapter of Jonah we read that God told Jonah to preach against the Ninevites (Ch 1:2). But in his second commissioning, God tells Jonah to proclaim the message the He would give him. That is the authority of the word of God. (See 1 Cor 2:1-5).

God sees the repentance of the city and he relents and does not destroy the city. We live in a different era than Jonah’s time. While we are still sinners in need of forgiveness, the resurrection of Christ from the dead shows that our sins are dealt with, the price has been paid. God does not have to be persuaded to relent, rather he looks to his son, the spotless lamb that was slain and sees the price paid in full. Our part is to submit to the Lordship of Christ, to be born again and to live in the fullness and the freedom that Christ paid for.

Lessons from Jonah – Part 2 May 7, 2017

Jonah Chapter 2

Have you ever been in a hopeless situation? A time when you were in a place in life where there was no human way for you to get relief or find a way out of the situation?

Jonah was in a desperate situation. He had hoped to die, because his prejudice towards the Assyrian people in Nineveh was so great the he would rather die than preach God’s word to them. I think that in Jonah’s mind, there was a sense of relief when they threw him overboard, now it was over, there was no more tension between being obedient to the Lord or not. But, God was not done with Jonah.

The Lord provided a large sea creature and commanded the fish to swallow Jonah. God is sovereign over all of creation, He made it and he controls it.

This was not a “plan B” by God. Jonah, as we saw last week was a prophetic picture of Jesus, that Jesus used to rebuke the Pharisees who were asking for a sign from Jesus to convince them that he was the Messiah (Matthew 12:40).

Jonah finds himself in the belly of a large sea creature, feeling the digestive acids beginning to eat at his skin, in the pitch dark he remembers the Lord. In the first chapter, Jonah does not pray or address the Lord at all, rather the sailors cry out to God and are saved. But now, Jonah realizes that this is no ordinary fish, God has his attention and he is beginning to re-evaluate his priorities.

God is disciplining Jonah. Just as God is sovereign over all of creation, so too he has the right to discipline and correct his children (see Proverbs 3:11-12). When God disciplines us, it isn’t evidence of his lack of care, it is proof of His love for us.

Jonah begins to repent and recognizes the hand of God in his situation. As we read Jonah’s prayer we see glimpses of hope, he begins to take his focus off the situation he finds himself in and begins to hope in God (Jonah 2:4 &6).

Notice the second part of verse 6. “But you Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit” Jonah realized that he did nothing to deserve his salvation, he realized that he was at the mercy of God and that he had nothing in himself that was good. His salvation was only by the Grace of God. If we ever think that we are saved because of our good life, how much money we have given to the church, how many people we have helped, even how many people we have told about Jesus – we are horribly mistaken. We are saved by Grace alone through Christ alone, Jonah understood this.

In verse 8 it seems that Jonah changes his line of thinking, as he goes from repentance and remorse to condemning people who worship idols. But I think Jonah understood that an idol is not necessarily a block of wood or stone carved into a shape. But rather an idol is anything that takes the place of the pre-eminence of God in one’s life. Jonah realized that his idol was his own patriotism and his own self-righteous prejudice against the people of Nineveh. He realized that his idol had turned him away from God’s love for him.

Anytime we have anything in our own lives that takes the place of God, that is more important to us than God, it is an idol and because of that idol we turn away from God’s love for us, and we miss out on the best that God has for us. An Idol may be the love of money, or a relationship that you know is not right for you, or maybe the love of your own comfort, the list could go on. These things are examples of idols in our lives.

As Jonah repents, he begins to realize his position with God, he begins to rejoice in his love for the Lord (Jonah 2:9). Remember that he is still in the belly of the whale. Jonah’s position has not changed, but his heart has changed. He begins to worship the Lord and praise the Lord in his darkest hour, literally – I don’t think the large fish had any internal lighting.

What we see here is the offering of a sacrifice of praise. The Psalmists often speak of offering a sacrifice of praise to God, and Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”

When we praise God, it pleases Him, our singing and praise is an offering to God.

When you are going through the tough times in life, the loss of a loved one, or financial struggles, your marriage is in a difficult place; when you are going through those tough times, that is when it is the hardest to stand up and sing praises to God. That is the sacrifice of praise, it is white knuckle praise. Praising God in the midst of your darkest hour because even though you don’t see it now, he is faithful and he will always remain true to his promises.

Those are the praises that please God. The same writer to the Hebrews writes in Hebrews 11:6, “without faith it is impossible to please God.”

When you are going through tough times, that is when it takes faith to praise and sing to God, that is a sacrifice of praise that pleases God.

Jonah repents and rededicates himself to his ministry (Verse 9). As we read further in the book of Jonah, he becomes one of the most successful evangelists in the Bible. Talk about a turnaround. Being in the digestive juices of a whale will do that to you.

The Lord knew Jonah’s heart and knew that Jonah’s repentance was genuine, and commands the fish to spit him out on the shore.

What are you struggling with? It doesn’t matter what we are struggling with, it may be because of our disobedience or even our obedience, we must praise God in all circumstances.

God never takes us through difficult times just to see how we will respond, he carries us through the tough times, in order for us to learn to trust him more, in order for us to grow in our relationship with him.

Will you offer a sacrifice of praise to God today?

Lessons from Jonah – Part 1 April 30, 2017

Jonah lived sometime around 760 BC, in one of the best times for the nation of Israel. Under the leadership of Jeroboam II, the northern Kingdom had a significant recovery, you can read about this in 2nd Kings 14.

Some forty years before the Assyrians destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel, the prophet Jonah was sent from Israel to preach in the enemy capital of Nineveh. The Assyrian nation was a regional superpower at the time, and for decades the Assyrians were threatening and terrorizing the Israelites. Jonah probably enjoyed being a prophet to the Hebrews, but when God asked him to preach against the enemy nation, he began to run into some problems.

As we read Jonah ran away from God and goes to Joppa which is near modern day Tel a Viv in Israel. Jonah pre-pays for his ticket, making certain that he can get a place on the ship heading to Tarshish. The port of Tarshish was at the southern end of Spain and at that time it was the furthest west any ship would venture.

Jonah had a one-way ticket, it was a journey to the ends of the earth, such was his fear of the task that God had called him to.

The Lord caused a great wind to blow on the Mediterranean Ocean, the hardened sailors are terrified and they begin to cry out to their own gods. They had probably been in storms before, but this one was different and they were convinced they would all perish, so they were looking for a way out, they were looking for salvation.

It is no different today when people encounter the storms of life, they look for relief and help any way they can. People today try to fix spiritual problems with medication, counselling or drugs, but only God can heal the brokenness of the human heart.

In the middle of the storm, Jonah slept. Just like we read that Jesus was asleep in the bottom of the boat in Mark 4 as the storm is raging around the disciples in the boat.

But there is a difference between the sleep of Jonah and the sleep of Jesus.

Jonah had given up on life, he had left all behind and had a one-way ticket to oblivion, he did not care if he lived or died. But Jesus slept in absolute security and peace, knowing that God the Father was going to protect and keep him from all harm. If you know that you are doing what God has called you to do, you can sleep in absolute peace, because He will keep you from all harm.

The sailors cast lots, they roll a dice to see who caused this unprecedented storm, the lot falls on Jonah and they begin to interrogate him. We read in verse 8 that they ask him 5 short but very direct questions. Jonah’s answer is clear and to the point (see Jonah 1:9).

Notice something about Jonah’s response, even though he is hiding from God and he is hoping to die, he still says; “I worship the Lord…”. Deep in his heart, Jonah knew the truth and it came out in his time of desperation.

The Bible says that His answer terrified the other sailors. They knew he was running away from God, but now they saw the terrible consequences of his actions, and they began to realize that Jonah’s God was the one true God. Notice again another similarity between Jonah and the account of Jesus calming the storm in Mark 4:41.

It took a raging storm for the sailors to be terrified of the one true God in Jonah 1, but it took the calming of the storm to terrify the disciples in Mark 4. When anyone encounters the undeniable presence of the all Holy God, it changes you. These sailors were being changed as they encountered God.

Jonah takes responsibility for his actions and one would think he would repent and ask God for a second chance. But he is so determined not to preach to the Ninevites, that he would rather die – “Throw me into the sea” he says.

The sailors on the other hand, do everything they can to save Jonah, in their compassion they try to row back to shore. Soon they realize that Jonah is the problem, but before they throw him overboard, they cry out to the Lord. Notice that the sailors cry out to the Lord, nowhere in this chapter do we read that Jonah cries out to the Lord, he would rather not talk to God because he knows the answer and he doesn’t want to hear it.

The heathen sailors start praying to God and ask for forgiveness for what they are about to do, then they pick the prophet up and toss him into the sea. Immediately the sea is calm. The sailors feared the Lord and in repentance they offered sacrifices and make vows to God. These sailors were converted to worshipping the one true God.

What was the real sin that Jonah committed? We always assume that the sin was rebellion, but I believe it was more than that.

It wasn’t his fear of the Ninevites, that made Jonah go in the opposite direction, it was the Character of God that made him run away. Jonah knew Psalm 103:8, he wasn’t afraid the Ninevites would hurt him, he was afraid that God would remain true to His character and forgive them. The real sin of Jonah was not rebellion, but rather prejudice.

Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount that we are to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44), reflecting the character of God. The Great Commission still applies to us today, we have been given a message and so often our prejudice towards other people stops us from being obedient to God.

We all have prejudice, we shy away from people who are not like us. Those neighbors who are maybe a different skin color, or speak a different language, or maybe they don’t fit our social circle.

Sometimes the Lord must bring a storm into our lives in order to reveal the prejudice in our lives.

When we read the account of Jonah, who do we identify with? Most of us identify with Jonah, the disobedient messenger. But the story of Jonah is not our story, our story is that of the Ninevites. We were once alienated from God, we were enemies of God (see Romans 5).

Jesus is the greater Jonah, Jesus was obedient to the Father, he came to us, those who were his enemies. Jesus was obedient to God to the point of death. Jesus, the greater messenger, the one who paid the ultimate price, so that we can be reconciled to God.

The Resurrection – Sermon on April 16, 2017 Easter Sunday

He is Risen – the Hope of the Resurrection

Text:  Luke 24:1-12 and 36-49

I love science fiction, especially time travel and movies about alternate dimensions. In our entertainment immersed culture, we sometimes struggle with what is real and what is not. The reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is something that is extremely hard for us to grasp, but yet it is absolutely real – this is not science fiction.

 Death is a very real part of our existence and funerals are often a time when people are confronted by their own mortality, it is a somber time of realization that we all will die someday.

This past weekend we celebrated the fact that Jesus is alive and that by his resurrection from the dead, we do not have to fear death. The Apostle Paul quoted the prophet Hosea in 1 Corinthians 15:55, “Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?”

Jesus is alive! Throughout the pages of the Bible, we see prophecies and fulfilment of those prophecies that were written hundreds of years apart. Notice that when Jesus revealed himself to his disciples, he referred to the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms containing information about himself (Luke 24:44). The entire Bible points to Jesus (see Isaiah 53 or Psalm 22).

The message of the early church was the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And before his ascension, Jesus spoke to over five hundred people at one time (1 Corinthians 15:1-6).

The resurrection was common knowledge at the time and it is also recorded in secular history. Apart from that, if Jesus had remained in the tomb, how did that band of fearful broken disciples start a church that exploded across the world and continues to expand today?

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, we have nothing to hold on to. The Bible is an empty document and cannot be the living word of God. The bodily resurrection of Jesus is what determines our salvation, it is our hope of glory. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we know that he has conquered death. By placing our trust and faith in him we are assured of salvation and eternal life. Because of the resurrection, all the promises of God’s word are true, and we can stand on those promises.

When we talk about the resurrection, we must understand that Jesus didn’t simply rise from the dead. Many people have been miraculously raised from the dead, but they ultimately died again.

Here is the difference: Jesus was raised with a new body, a body that was not subject to aging, or sickness or weakness. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:20 and Colossians 1, Jesus is the firstborn from among the dead, the first of a new kind of body.

The resurrected body of Jesus was a physical body, Jesus ate with his disciples, walked and talked with them; he was flesh and blood but different. His new body was a perfect eternal body, one that he still has today, and the same body he will have when he returns as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, as we read in Revelation 19.

The cross is where Jesus willingly offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins, Jesus being perfectly sinless died in our place. But when Jesus rose from the dead, it was a declaration by God, that the price had been paid and that we now can be made right with God. By raising Jesus from the dead, God was in effect saying that he approved of the work Christ had done and that there was no more penalty needed for sin.

Does that mean we never sin? No, we are still subject to temptation and sin, we are all well aware of the fact that no Christian is perfect. But it does mean that when we do sin, we can come to Jesus and ask for forgiveness of our sins (1 John 1:9).

The cross is where the price was paid for our sins; the resurrection is where we obtain power to live the Christian life.
What does the resurrection of Jesus mean for us?

  • The resurrection meant Satan and death itself was defeated. Since Jesus rose from the dead, we do not have to fear death.
  • Through the resurrection, we are made right with God because of the blood of Jesus shed for us.
  • With the resurrection, we can live victorious Christian lives because Jesus ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit, the third person of the trinity to live inside all who believe in him, to give us power to live a life that brings glory to God (see Acts 1:8).
  • With the resurrection of Jesus, we have hope of a glorious future. Jesus said in John chapter 14; “I am going to prepare a place for you… and if I go, I will come back and take you to be with me…”

    Unless Jesus returns soon, we will all face death one day. For those who die having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we will be receiving a new body someday. We who have given our lives to the Lordship of Jesus will get new bodies, just like the one Jesus has. 1 John 3:2 says; “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

    This is not science fiction my friends, this is reality. Jesus is coming back again; his word promises it. Maybe some of us or all of us will die before he comes again, but that does not mean we need to fear death. Because of resurrection Sunday, we no longer fear the uncertainty of death. Those who have made the decision to live for Jesus in this life will live with him for eternity.

    John 11:25-26, “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

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.”