Contentment January 16, 2017

contentment

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 the Apostle Paul writes; “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Paul is encouraging the young church to be continually grateful for the blessings of God. Thanksgiving is not simply a weekend once a year, it is meant to be part of our lives on a daily basis as we see the hand of God at work for our daily provision.

Looking at another of Paul’s letters we read in Philippians 4:12;  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

This past Monday during our staff meeting we discussed the topic of contentment. I asked the staff to imagine their own scene of contentment. Most of the team responded with images of picturesque landscapes, warm sunshine and restful armchairs. This is the response and image most of us have when we imagine contentment.

But is it possible to be grateful and yet not content? The answer to that question is yes, we can be grateful for a gift from someone, but yet that gift does not completely fulfill a specific need that we might have. However, in our daily lives as Christians, we are challenged by Paul to be content in every situation. As we pray for God to give us our daily bread, not only do we need to live in gratitude but in order to be content we need to have faith. Faith that what God provides for us is perfect for us and that he will provide for us tomorrow as well.

In James chapter 1, James writes about perseverance under trials and persecutions, but before he concludes this section of the letter we read verse 17; “ Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

James reminds his readers that in the midst of challenging and life threatening situations, we can be content because our Heavenly Father will take care of us.

What are you grateful for today? As we think about the many things and people we are grateful for, we must remember that there is only one thing that we will be eternally grateful for and that is our salvation because of the Gospel message. Everything else is temporary, all our personal possessions are secondary and are fleeting in their joy. In our current situation, we may not have all we want, but in Christ we have exactly what we need.

We develop contentment as we relinquish control of our lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

So, what is contentment? Is it sitting overlooking a beautiful valley, drinking a cup of tea, in the comfort of a rocking chair? Even though this is a good image of contentment, it has one flaw. Contentment is not passive, contentment is engaged in life and actively moving forward in God’s will and plan for our lives.  Contentment is walking in faith, knowing that all of our tomorrow’s are already in His mighty hand.

Thank God daily, and ask him to cultivate your contentment. Remember what Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:6; “But godliness with contentment is great gain. “

Sermon – Starting Over part 1 – January 8 2017

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Beginning the year well.

Every day is an opportunity to start over.

We all have our stories of starting over, maybe it has been after a bankruptcy, the loss of a spouse, a divorce or some other life change. Starting over has a certain appeal to it, leaving behind the past and beginning again. Starting over is not simply a reboot, as when you hit the reboot button on your computer, because after you reboot your computer it may start-up again and work well for a time, but the reality is that the problem caused by the virus or the spyware is still there, and your computer is going to crash again sooner or later.

The same principle applies to our lives, there is no point in simply trying to hit the reset button in our lives if we don’t address the root cause of the problem, the deep down issues that are causing our pain and the lack of victory in our Christian walk.

The writer of Hebrews uses a number of metaphors in chapter 12 pointing to the fact that the Christian life is a race, it is not a life of ease, rather it requires discipline. And the first discipline we have is the discipline of repentance and turning away from sin (Heb 12:1). Confession of sin is a discipline that needs to be done on a regular basis. As the writer to the Hebrews says, sin so easily entangles, and we get the picture that sin is like a creeping vine that wraps around a person’s legs and prevents them from walking and eventually chokes the life out of them. At the outset of the new year, have you spent time, confessing your sins, repenting and recommitting your life to following Jesus?

So as we throw off the sin, verse 1 continues; “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9, the Christian life is not a meandering in the forest, or a life of ease, it is a race that requires strict discipline. The reason is that there are eternal consequences for your daily life. The decisions you make today about how you spend your time, your money, the people you talk to, the places you go, all of these have eternal consequences.

So how do we run this race? Verse 2 starts with the crucial phrase for every Christian; “fixing our eyes on Jesus”. There is simply no other way to live the Christian life. A great picture we have in the Bible is when Peter walked on the water to Jesus. The moment Peter took his eyes off of Jesus, he began to sink. Taking your eyes off of Jesus is the moment your faith begins to waiver. Who or what are you looking to in life? Where is your faith? Jesus is the only security that we can trust for 2017 and beyond.

Verse 3 goes on; “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  Jesus is not someone who is aloof and unfamiliar with our suffering and difficulties. The ESV version of the Bible says, “don’t become fainthearted”. In the last year did you feel weary or fainthearted? It is something that we all struggle with at one time or another, but the Bible says that the reason we grow weary and fainthearted is because we take our eyes off of Jesus, we begin to look at the storm clouds on the horizon. We get fainthearted when we look at the uncertain future for our children, we see the number of murders in our city, we look at the unstable financial markets, we get fainthearted because we take our eyes off of Jesus.

Going back to verse 2 again we read; “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith “. Jesus is not only our guide he is also the perfecter of faith. It is all about faith; believing that the blood of Jesus covers our sins, believing that Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us, believing that all our earthly struggles are temporary because this is not our home.

But then Hebrews 12 goes on to talk about discipline (Hebrews 12:5-6). We need to have a clear understanding of the difference between discipline and punishment, there is so much confusion between these two words in the church today.

Punishment is a consequence of sin, whereas Discipline is preventative. If you study your Bible, everytime God punishes someone, there is an eternal consequence for sin. But discipline is a training or a correction in order to fulfill the promise of a better future. Discipline has nothing to do with retribution and everything to do with redemption.

If you have made Jesus Christ Lord of your life, you will experience the discipline of the Lord, simply because he loves you so much that he does not want you to struggle with the same sins day after day, week after week and year after year.

Then there is the fruit of this discipline (see Hebrews 12:11).  Do you want to have peace in your life this year? Allow yourself to be under the discipline of God, don’t resist the corrections that God brings into your life. He is your perfect Heavenly Father and he will only do things in your life that will be for your good. (see also; Jeremiah 29:11, Luke 12:7, Romans 8:28).

 Not only are we disciplined by God, but we are also taught to discipline ourselves. We need to practice disciplines in order to run the race God has planned for us. Over the next few weeks we will be looking at some of these spiritual disciplines that will help us in the running the Christian race in 2017.

Are you ready to commit to run the race that God has for us, throwing off all that hinders you in your personal life?

Christmas sermon series part 2 – December 11 2016

christmas-pt-2As we study the Old Testament we see that it all points to the coming Messiah, it is as if the Old Testament is a road that leads to the little town of Bethlehem, and to a seemingly insignificant event on a global scale, a child being born who will be the savior of the world.

The Old Testament has over 300 prophecies by multiple authors and prophets pointing towards Jesus, most of these were completely fulfilled in the life of Jesus while he was here on the earth, some of them refer to the second coming of Jesus that we are waiting for.

Micah was a prophet of God in the eighth century BC. He was a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah who lived at the same time. This time of the year we will often year read Micah 5 verse 2, but the verses that surround this verse seem to be disconnected and hardly seem to fit the Christmas narrative. As we look at the first 6 verses of Micah chapter 5, we see that the prophet is taking a wide, sweeping view of history.

Chapter 5 begins with a call to arms. The first verse mentions the city of troops; this is probably Jerusalem as the seat of power where most of the military were staying at the time. Micah writes that the city is under siege. Micah prophesy’s that this attack will succeed and that the enemy will strike the king of Israel on the cheek with a rod, a sign of humiliation.  Most scholars believe that this was foretelling the attack on Jerusalem by the Babylonians and the capture and torture of King Zedekiah. So the first verse is a prophecy of the impending destruction Jerusalem and the exile of the tribe of Judah which took place around 586BC, an event that would take place around 100 years after Micah.

Then we have the very familiar second verse of Micah chapter 5, we know this verse refers to Jesus, the promised Messiah who will be born in Bethlehem. The name Bethlehem means “house of bread”, again we see a prophetic glimpse. Jesus called himself the Bread of Life, it is no mistake that he was born in a town called the “house of bread”.

But then Micah mentions that this ruler’s origins will be from of old, from ancient times. The literal translation means, “days of antiquity”. The origins of this ruler will be before the beginning of time, one who transcends time, only God can do that.

So, verse 1 points to a time about 100 years in advance of Micah’s life, verse 2 points to the birth of Jesus, almost 700 years after Micah’s writings.

Then at first glance verse three refers to Mary and the birth of Jesus, however if we read carefully the phrase, “Israel will be abandoned until….”.  Israel ceased to be a nation until 1948, when the Jewish nation was restored. And the last part of the verse; “and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites”, is something that we have seen taking place within the last 68 years.

Many scholars feel that this birth that is predicted is actually the birth of the nation of Israel that we witnessed in the 20th century.

The progression follows; verse 1 points 100 years down the road, verse 2 points 700 years down the road, and verse three points almost 2700 years down the road of history.

But then we come to verse 4. This promised ruler who is to come will stand, this means that he will be established and unmovable as the King, there will be no challenge to his authority and he will shepherd his flock. And not only that, but his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.

Micah is not talking about the first time Jesus came to the earth, he is talking here about the second coming of Jesus. When Jesus will establish his throne on the earth and he will reign over all the earth, there will be no doubt of his majesty and authority. So in verse 4 we see a glimpse not only into the future of the prophet Micah, but also into our own future as we await the second coming of our Lord.

So this prophet who lived around 2800 years ago, was led under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to write these words that we have translated for us today. These are the words of God to us, as they were to the people of the tribe of Judah, who were about to be invaded by the Babylonians, and to the remnant looking for and awaiting the Messiah who came in the form of a little baby born in a stable in Bethlehem. These were the words of God that confirmed the re-establishment of the nation of Israel. And these are the words of God to us as believers all over the world. Words to encourage us to keep looking ahead, keep looking down the road because Jesus is coming back again. And when he does come back again, as Paul wrote in the letter to the Philippians chapter 2:10; “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,”

As we see with the prophetic writing of the past, people missed it. When Jesus came to the earth even the most respected scholars of the day completely missed it. Those who studied the prophetic writings did not recognize the Messiah when he came in the form of a Baby in Bethlehem.

But I can assure you that when Jesus comes back again, there will be no doubt as to who he is, there will be no doubt about his power and authority.

The Lion of the tribe of Judah is coming back to rule and reign in glory. The only question will be whether or not you are ready.

Christmas sermon series part 1 – December 4 2016

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Every year when Christmas comes around, we traditionally look at the Christmas story in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The story of a baby being born in Bethlehem, not just any baby, but the very son of God. The Christmas story is just another beautiful story unless we connect Christmas with the cross. This baby being born in Bethlehem was part of God’s perfect plan to provide a way of salvation for a lost and dying world.

Jumping ahead 33 years, Jesus’ final words on the cross as recorded in John 19; “it is finished”. What was finished? The mission Jesus came to accomplish? We have to look all the way back to the first book of the Bible to see what Jesus was talking about. What Jesus came to finish began in the book of Genesis chapter 3. In the beginning God created mankind in his own image, he put something of himself in man. There was perfect communion, but then Adam and Eve sinned, and the result of this sin was a separation between God and man. All of creation has suffered as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve. The separation between God and man was so great that mankind could never cross over back to God, no matter how good man tried to be or how many laws man tried to obey. One of the most tragic verses in the Bible is verse 8; ”… and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God…” The tragedy is that mankind has been trying to hide from God ever since.

As Adam and Eve are hiding, God begins to ask a series of questions; “Where are you?”, “Who told you that you were naked?”, “Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

God knows everything, so why is he asking all these questions? God is not asking because he needs information, rather God is asking questions to give Adam and Eve an opportunity to repent. God the Father is walking through the garden with a broken heart, knowing the terrible course of events that have been set in motion. What began with two people eating forbidden fruit, would lead to centuries of pain and heartache for billions of people and ultimately to the death of his own son on the cross at Calvary.

In Genesis 3:14, God begins to deliver judgment and in verse 15 we read what God says to the serpent Satan; “And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

God promised that a child of Eve’s would crush the head of the serpent Satan. Eve thought that this was accomplished when she had her first son Cain as we read in Genesis 4, but Cain was even more wicked and because of his pride he killed his own brother Abel. God was not looking to the immediate offspring of Eve, he was looking thousands of years and many generations down the line to Jesus. Jesus would be the one that ultimately crushed the head of Satan. Genesis 3:15 is the first declaration of the wonderful Gospel message.

Genesis 3:15 says that Satan will bruise the heel of Jesus, Jesus would suffer pain and more pain than we could ever imagine, but the wound inflicted on him would not be fatal (see Isaiah 53).

But by rising from the dead, Jesus crushed the head of Satan, ultimately which will lead to his being sent to hell (see Rev 20:10). In order for Jesus to restore the relationship between God and mankind, he had to become as a man. In part to fulfill what God promised Eve, but also to be the perfect sacrifice. God had to become a man in order to pay the price for sins and the restoration of our relationship to God the Father.

As a result of that first sin the problem of sin permeated the whole world, the solution had to come from God as mankind was helpless. The first step was for God to introduce himself to mankind, a way for God to connect with his creation. We could not connect with God, but he could connect with us and reveal himself to mankind. So God had to become a man, taking on flesh by being born of a woman. What an incredible concept and miracle. The creator of the universe left his throne, disguised himself as a man, and walked among us. The creator became like one of the creatures and revealed his nature to mankind (see John 14:9).

As we celebrate Christmas, let us not become so wrapped up in the beauty of the lights and the tinsel and the singing of Christmas Carols, that we forget the rescue mission, the real story of Christmas that is the enormous price that Jesus paid in setting aside his glory and taking on flesh.

Looking back to Genesis 3 verse 21, we read that God made clothes for Adam and Eve from animal skin. But in order to make those first clothes, God had to kill an animal, this was the first blood-shed in order to cover sin. It became the foreshadow of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus himself.

RA Crisswell wrote:  Somewhere in the ground of Eden the ground drank the blood of the first offering for sin, and from that harmless and blameless creature a coat was made to cover up the shame and nakedness of the man and his wife. It is a picture of the covering, the atonement, the washing away of our sins in the sacrificial victim on the cross of Calvary.

Eternally Thankful – Sermon November 27, 2016

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I am reading a challenging book right now in which the author states that true happiness in one’s life comes from a grateful heart. A grateful spirit keeps you from feeling sorry for yourself and this is key;

“the seeds of depression cannot take root in a grateful heart”.

The book of Psalms is wonderful to read in order to find language to thank God for his many blessings.

Psalm 105 starts with the line; “Give thanks to the Lord...” and then verse 2 begins with; “sing praise to him”. The Psalmist is not simply thankful for the blessings, but he is thankful for the attributes of the giver himself. The Psalmist is praising God for all his attributes; his mercy, his kindness, his justice and his goodness. A natural outflow of a thankful heart is worship. Spending time thanking God should always lead to worship as we realize that without his perfect and enduring attributes, we would have nothing.

But verse one and two show us something else that flows out of thankfulness;

1  Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. 2  Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.

As we are thankful to God, we praise him and then we make known to others what he has done. We tell of all his wonderful acts as the Psalmist wrote. You see if we are thankful to God for what he has done for us, we will be compelled to share the Good news of salvation with those around us. A heart for missions is driven by a heart of gratitude.

Reading the following two verses, we see that the psalmist changes the focus from what God has done, to worshipping God himself.

3  Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. 4  Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.

We as children of God, can become so wrapped up in what we need from God that we become so focused on the mighty hand of God that we seldom seek the face of God. As we seek the face of God we see his attributes; his love, his mercy, his omnipotence, his glory, his grace, his justice, his wrath – we could go on and on forever listing the glorious attributes of God.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to remember what the hand of God has provided for us and in so doing we begin to praise him as we praise him we declare his attributes. Thanksgiving needs to be public, it needs to be a witness to the goodness of God.

The Psalm continues;  5 Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,

The word the Psalmist uses here for “remember” is not a simple recollection of the facts, but it is to call to mind the wonders God has done and then to dwell on them. It is as if the Psalmist is saying to the reader, slow down, stop what you are doing and hit the pause button, then dwell on what God has done. Much like a day of thanksgiving where we slow down, stop our normal routine and remember the miracles that God has done.

Looking at verse 6 the Psalmist seems to be stating the obvious, by telling the people who they were;  6  O descendants of Abraham his servant, O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones.

In essence he is saying; “do you remember who you are?” We as followers of Jesus Christ, we are his chosen ones. We sometimes forget who we are. We have so much to be thankful for because our God, the creator of the universe, calls us his own. The Apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:9, we are God’s special possession!

This God who calls us his special possession, is also the same God who is over all the earth. There is nothing outside of His control. His ways are perfect and He is our God.

7  He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth.

So we see a progression here, the Psalmist begins by thanking God for his blessings, and he progresses to worshiping God for who he is. Then the Psalmist acknowledges that God is working out his eternal plan and judgments over all the earth. The Lord God sent his only son, in order to pay the price for the judgement that was on our heads. Ultimately as we stop and begin to thank God for the blessings in our lives, we are naturally drawn to the greatest gift and blessing of all, the message of the Gospel.

Jesus Christ came to this earth to suffer and die, only to be raised from the dead by the power of God, in order to provide the only way for us to be saved from eternal suffering and to be restored to a right relationship with God the Father.

As we look at our lives in light of eternity, we are drawn to the fact that all we have on this earth, all the many blessings, will one day pass away. Everything we treasure on this earth will one day pass away, only one blessing from God is infinitely more valuable than any other, the giving of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Over the next few weeks we will be focusing our attention of Christmas. It is easy to be drawn away from the greatest gift of all as we focus on buying and giving gifts to each other.

Jesus came for a purpose and that purpose was to suffer and die on the cross, in order that whoever believes in the risen Lord Jesus Christ will have eternal life. That is something we are grateful for today, but we will also be eternally grateful for what God has provided for us.

God and the Election Part 2, November 13, 2016

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Romans 13

Welcome to post election 2016. There is much anxiety in America right now, we see it in our streets and in the media. As the church, how do we navigate these turbulent times? What it really boils down to is the question, where do we place our hope? Do we trust in our government, or do we trust in our God?

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As an immigrant, I have the unusual experience of being a dual citizen. I have a passport from America, and I have a passport from South Africa. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you too have dual citizenship.

The Bible has a number of passages that guide us in our relationship with our earthly rulers. Paul writing in Romans 13 has much to say to us as Christians in 2016.

One of the more challenging verses in the Bible is Romans 13:1. Paul states that every authority has been established by God, and he repeats himself to ensure that the readers would not misunderstand the dramatic statement he was making. This article is too short to try to understand why God would allow rulers like Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung and so many other dictators. There is much we don’t and won’t understand this side of eternity. But God is either Lord of all or he is a victim of unexplained circumstances.

I don’t for one minute believe God is reacting to sinful man. God is not the author of evil, neither is he the victim of evil.  God is the creator and sustainer of all things, he knew from the beginning of time who would win the election this past week. God alone is in control and he is not fretting about election results.

Looking at Romans 13:2, any thinking person immediately struggles – are we to obey everything that the government tells us to do, even if it is immoral? These verses written by the apostle Paul are not intended to be an absolute rule demanding unconditional obedience to evil regimes in the world, rather it is a general exhortation for believers to be good citizens of the nation, paying taxes, following the law and playing our part in society. However, when the government requires citizens to go against the stated will and law of God in the Bible, then we are compelled to follow the law of God rather than the law of the government. There are many occasions in the Bible where God approves and even commands disobedience towards the rulers of the land. Look at Esther, Daniel, Peter and the Apostles directly defying the Sanhedrin in Acts 5 by continuing to preach the Gospel as but a few examples.

As we read further in the chapter, it seems that Paul shifts focus entirely and begins to write about loving our neighbor. Paul is going back to the law of God, he started the chapter by writing about the laws of the land, now he is looking at the higher law, the law of God. If this portion sounds similar it is very similar to what Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40. Paul confirms this and he ends verse 10 by saying; “Therefore Love is the fulfillment of the law”.

Paul continues in verse 11 by saying; “and do this…” do what? Obey the law of the land, and obey the law of God. Being model citizens of both the land and the Kingdom of God. Why?

Here is the most important verse of the chapter, verse 11 states; “And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”

Understanding the present time, the times we are living in are truly incredible, history is culminating towards the return of Jesus. What Paul says to the Roman church he says to us, “wake up”, wake up and focus on eternal things. If we have been living in sin, it is time to wholeheartedly live for Jesus Christ and his kingdom. If we have been compromising with the world, we cannot afford to do that anymore. Now is the time to wake up!

You may have been completely isolated and had your head in the sand, but the world around us is scared. There is uncertainty all around, we as followers of Jesus, do not need to live in fear and uncertainty.

As the Church we need to take very seriously the task of praying for our nation. In fact, if we really took seriously God’s word and we really cared for our nation and the world at this time, our prayer meetings will be the most well attended meetings in the church. The church doors would be open all the time as people would be gathering together to pray and ask God for mercy and healing for our land.

The well-known verse 2 Chronicles 7:14, recounts a pivotal time in the history of Israel. As we apply this verse to ourselves, we too are in a pivotal time. Notice that God does not say that if the nation humbles themselves and prays, rather he says “if my people”. We as followers of Jesus Christ need to start the process by humbling ourselves and by repenting of our wicked ways. Paul called on the Roman church to repent in verse 13, calling on the church to commit themselves to holiness and purity. We as followers of Jesus Christ need to set the standard in our own lives.  

Do you have dual citizenship? Are you a citizen of the land and a citizen of heaven? You may say yes, but you are living in fear and uncertainty. As a citizen of heaven, a citizen under Jesus Christ as the king of Kings, you need to repent of fear and begin to display the kingdom of God to those around you, being a light in your community. If we truly grasped the truth of the Word of God we should be the most hopeful and joyful people in the world.

God and the Election part 1 – November 7, 2016

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1 Samuel 8

The day before the elections and people have made the choice to skip voting altogether, because they don’t agree with the principles of any of the candidates. It seems in this nation that many people take for granted the privilege to choose and they don’t even bother to exercise that right. Sadly, history shows us that if you don’t exercise your rights, you are likely to lose them.

Over the last few decades there has been a lot of discussion about the separation of the church and the state. While a don’t believe a pastor should direct the congregation to vote for a specific candidate, I also don’t think that the church should stand idly by and allow corruption and immorality to govern our nation.

DR. Adrian Rogers once said, “the church and state should remain separate institutionally, but the church should be the conscience of the state.

The church is supposed to be the moral compass of the nation, unfortunately the church has spent so much time arguing amongst themselves and debating between denominations, that we have abdicated our voice of morality. Churches and Christians see themselves as poor victims a weak and victimized minority. But Jesus said in Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world…” As Christians and as a church, we are Christs ambassadors and when we sit idly by, Satan will continue to destroy this nation.

I came across an interesting quote this week attributed to the 19th century prime minister of England, Benjamin Disraeli.

Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.”

In 1 Samuel 8 the nation of Israel was going through a leadership transition. The great prophet Samuel was getting old and the people began asking for a King. Under Samuel’s leadership, the nation had expanded, their enemies had been subdued and the nation’s surrounding Israel were at peace. But the people were not satisfied, they wanted a king and God gave them what they desired.

The nation of Israel began looking around to the nations around them and asked for a king to be like the other nations (See 1 Samuel 8:5). The people were crying out for a savior, they thought that Samuel would give them a King and he would solve all their problems. On the surface, to ask for a king seemed like a reasonable request, it seemed like Israel was coming of age as a nation and needed to fit the mold of a successful nation. But this request upset Samuel because he realized that the nation had rejected God as their King and were looking for an earthly leader (verse 7).

The problem was not that they wanted a King, the problem was that they were turning their back on God. This nation of God’s chosen people, the people of the promise to Abraham, the same people of the covenant that God made with Moses on Mt Sinai, they wanted to settle for an earthly king to rule over them.

Sadly, in America today we are not much different, we look to a president or the leaders in Washington to solve our problems, instead of turning to the only one who can solve the problems of this nation and the world – Jesus Christ.

Israel had forgotten who they were, they had lost their moral compass. In response God tells Samuel to warn the nation that a king will require from them a heavy burden of taxes, their sons and daughters will be required to serve in his army and in his courts. The burden on the people will be heavy, but yet, they demanded a king. God gave the children of Israel what they wanted, God in his great mercy and wisdom gives nations what they ask for because ultimately God uses the leaders of nations for his purposes.

Even though the people came to Samuel and demanded a King, God chose Saul the son of Kish a Benjamite to be the first King of Israel. We read in chapter 9 and 10 of 1 Samuel, how God chose Saul, who seemed to have amazing leadership skills and potential to be a powerful King. Unfortunately, Saul became a bad king and just as God had said, the nation became his slaves. Bad leaders enslave their people, and that is what Saul did.

We need to prayerfully consider the choice of the election ballot, because as a nation God will give us the president we ask for. As believers we have a divine voting guide, it is the Word of God. Don’t be misled for one minute into thinking that the Word of God does not apply to your choice on Tuesday November 8, it has everything to do with it (see Psalm 119:105 and Proverbs 29:2).

The next president of the United States faces some incredible problems, foreign and domestic terrorism will always be a concern, our economy and national debt is spiraling out of control, the polarization of the nation between liberals and conservatives has reached a boiling point and the next president will have the opportunity to determine the judges on the Supreme court for many years to come.

But as Christians, who are we looking to? If we are placing our hope in the next president, whomever that may be, we will be disappointed. This coming Wednesday God will still be on the throne, he will still be ruling and managing the worlds affairs. God has never needed a king or a president, he raises them up and he puts them down for his purposes.

There are so many issues that we can identify in the world that need fixing, there is no human leader who can possibly solve even some of the nation’s problems Our only hope is in Jesus Christ, the King of Kings.

There is nothing wrong with being involved in politics or voicing our frustrations with the leaders of our country, but we must view everything from an eternal perspective. As followers of Jesus Christ, this world is not our home, and we must put our trust in Jesus Christ and in no one else. We don’t need a king to be our savior we have Jesus Christ.

Sometimes we get so anxious about the temporal kingdoms here on earth that we forget about God’s eternal Kingdom. (see 1 Peter 2:9-10)

The Power of Forgiveness.

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While Jesus was teaching in Matthew 18, Peter came to Jesus and asked him the following question; “…Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Jesus went on to tell the parable of the unmerciful servant in verses 23 to 34. We sometimes read only as far as verse 34 and neglect to read what Jesus said in verse 35; ““This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” What a remarkable cautionary word from Jesus. We have been forgiven so much because of what Jesus did for us on the cross and yet we are often reluctant to forgive those who wrong us.

But not only are we told to forgive each other, Jesus said that we must forgive from the heart. Our forgiveness must be complete which includes letting go of the offense. The offense of sin hurts, and sometimes the scars run deep, but when someone sins against us, we are called to forgive.

Boyd Bailey puts it this way; “When their sin assaults your character, you are to forgive them. When

their sin berates your work, you are to forgive them. When their sin violates your trust, you are to forgive them. When their sin steals your joy, you are to forgive them. When someone’s sin crushes your dreams, you are to forgive them. When their sin steals from you, you are to forgive them. This level of

forgiveness is counterintuitive and countercultural, but it is the way of Christ. Forgiveness is God’s game plan. You will lose if you don’t forgive. Un-forgiveness is torturous to the soul. It is unhealthy for the

body and emotions. Un-forgiveness fills prescriptions and leaves hollow lives in its wake.”

Forgiveness is a precious gift that only has value when you give it away. Forgiveness that is not granted is un-forgiveness, and it will become a festering wound in your heart.

Most of us have had the experience of being hurt or offended by someone who has no idea that they have wronged us, perhaps they were unthinking, perhaps they were uncaring. We lie awake at night with thoughts running through our mind of an imaginary conflict that we will have when we confront them. We are the ones suffering while the other person is probably sleeping soundly. By choosing to forgive, we set ourselves free. We are to forgive those who do not even ask for forgiveness. We are called to forgive those who intentionally hurt us and offend us.

Jesus teaching on prayer and faith said this; “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25. Our standing before God, is tied to our forgiveness of others. A Christian who has accepted God’s forgiveness is expected to forgive others just as God has forgiven us. If we don’t forgive others, we forfeit God’s forgiveness in our daily lives.

Let us be a people who forgive often and forgive quickly. As a result we will experience peace and freedom in our own lives.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32.

Sermon October 23, 2016 – The Word Part 2

 word-pt-2-title-2 

The Enduring Word of God

Psalm 119:105-112

Throughout history many dictators and rulers have tried to eradicate the Bible from their society, but the Word of God is still the most published book and read book in all of history.  The word of the lord endures forever – Isaiah 40:8

The truth is that the Bible is not always popular, and as followers of Jesus Christ if we obey the Word of God we will be in the minority in our culture. Here in America, we need to come to terms with the fact that this world is not our home, we are living for our eternal home and as time moves closer to Jesus coming again, we are going to experience more persecution for believing the Bible. No matter who wins the election next month, we need to understand the season we are living in, and it is not one that promises wealth and prosperity to Christians.

The writer of Psalm 119 was living in similar times. In the 176 verses of this Psalm there are 27 references to persecutors or an enemy who were making life difficult for the Psalmist. But the attacks on the Psalmist seem to get worse, as we see mocking and slander in verses 51 and 69 leading to violence and fear of death in verses 87 and 95. The Psalmist is in real danger of physical harm and even death.

Looking at the four sections of Psalm 119 verses 105 to 112:

  1. The first section starts with that well known verse; “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” The Psalmist was referencing a small flickering olive oil lamp, which was only bright enough to light the way for a traveler to see a few steps ahead. As Christians, we look at God’s word as a lamp that gives us light for the next few steps, we are called to walk in faith that the next steps and the months and years ahead are in God’s hands.

The Psalmist continues in v106 stating that he took an oath to follow the righteous laws of God, he was willing to give his life to this. But not only that, he confirmed it, he followed through and did what he promised to do. It doesn’t help to make a commitment and then sit back and do nothing, we cannot simply drift into holiness, we cannot become more like Jesus in our personal lives without intentional effort.

  1. The second section of the stanza begins with a harsh line that stands out; “I have suffered much”, but the suffering and danger is not over, he goes on to cry out to God to; “preserve my life” how? “According to your Word” According to the promises in God’s word. In the midst of trials and our darkest seasons, we can go back time and time again to the promises of God’s word. There are over 2000 promises in God’s word, these promises are our hope and strength in difficult times. In the midst of suffering and persecution the Psalmist praises God (v108). He praises God for the many good things he has learnt from the Word of God and he goes on to ask God for more teaching of the word because in it he knows that he has life, the priceless treasure of God’s word.
  1. Continuing to verse 109; the author uses the expression; “I constantly take my life in my hands”. This is similar to what Job experienced in Job 13:14; “Why do I put myself in jeopardy and take my life in my hands?” or when Jonathan defending David before his father King Saul in 1 Samuel 19, said that David took his life in his own hands when he killed Goliath. We don’t know who the Psalmist’s enemies were, but it is evident that he was in mortal danger and his enemies had set a trap for him.

In the face of such opposition he stands firm and declares “I have not strayed from your precepts”. Even in the face of death, he will keep his oath to following the word of God. Much the same as so many people around the word today who face death for believing that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Open Doors has released its annual list of countries where Christians face the greatest persecution and found that it has reached unprecedented levels worldwide. Over 7,000 Christians were killed for their faith between Nov. 1, 2014, and Oct. 31, 2015. There are millions of Christians in the world today, who face persecution and death simply for believing this book.

see: https://www.opendoors.org/

  1. Looking to verses 111 and 112, we see the Psalmist gaining an eternal perspective, he looked beyond the trials and challenges he was facing and looked to his eternal destiny, the reason why he could stand firm. The author knew and acknowledged that the Word of God was his heritage forever.

in the midst of his challenges and threats, his heart was glad, he experienced joy in his heart, a real deep-seated joy that is found in knowing the presence of God.

The author of this Psalm made a commitment to follow the Word of God, even when times got tough and his very life was threatened, he still stayed true to his commitment that he made. The word of God was his foundation, it was his security and it was his joy.

What are you struggling with today? You may not be facing a life threatening persecution as the author of this Psalm, but the Word of God has promises that apply to your life right now;

  • You may be going through financial trials that don’t seem to have any answer. Philippians 4:19
  • You may be struggling to believe that your sins are truly forgiven. 1 John 1:9
  • You may be struggling with the weight of a stressful life that is crushing you. Matthew 11:28-29
  • You may be struggling to really grasp that God loves you. Romans 8:38-39

The Word of God is relevant and has the answers for your situation today. Where are you turning for help?

In order to apply the promises of the word of God, we need to know the Bible.

Psalm 119:165 says; “Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.”

In 2016 we need a firm foundation for our lives and our families, there is no better foundation than the Word of God.

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Sermon October 16, 2016 – The Word Part 1

word-pt-1-title-2Psalm 119 v9-16

As Christians we often hear about the importance of setting time aside to read the Bible. This is not simply a religious observance or tradition, the daily reading the Word of God is absolutely critical in our lives, especially in the 21st century.

Roy Peterson, president and CEO of American Bible Society.

It’s not getting any easier. As we look at modern-day America, we see a country moving away—for decades now—from the foundational, biblical values so cherished by those who have come before us, but as America is shaken by skepticism, this is the time to renew hope in the promises of God’s Word. When people are battling extreme violence, poverty and oppression, this is our time to open the healing words of Scripture.”

Psalm 119, is the longest chapter in the Bible and one of the most outstanding features of Psalm 119, is that it uses ten different terms for the Word of God in almost every verse. In fact, all but 5 verses mention the Word of God in some way.

It is believed that this Psalm was anonymously written around the time of Nehemiah and Ezra, when the Israelites were coming back out of captivity and Ezra the Priest led a revival as people once again heard the Word of God after decades of not being taught the scriptures (see Nehemiah 8:5 and 6). Nehemiah records that as Ezra read the scriptures for almost 6 hours, the people were shaken and wept upon hearing the Word of God. Can you imagine that? How I wish we would regain just some of the sense of awe and respect for the Word of God.

In the second stanza of Psalm 119 and verse 9, the Psalmist poses the question; “how can a young person stay on the path of purity?” This is a verse that we often give to young teenagers in order to encourage them to read and study the Bible. But the reality is that this is a truth that applies to all of us. One of the most basic needs of sinful man is the need to walk in the pathway of purity.

The answer given by the Psalmist is seemingly straightforward and simple; “By living according to your word”.

So it would seem that a life of purity is quite simply, following a set of rules. However, if life was simply about following a set of rules, why do we still struggle with sin in our personal lives? Jesus explained this in Matthew 15:18-19, we all have a heart problem. The Psalmist realized this too and in verse 10 and 11 we hear his cry of desperation;

“I will seek you with all my heart” – v10

“I have hidden your word in my heart” – v11

The Psalmist knew that the way to a life of purity is found when the heart and mind are filled with the powerful word of God.

The outward life comes from our inner thoughts and desires. We see the outward manifestation of the inward problem. The solution is not outward, but rather inward. The solution to the problem of sin is reading, meditating and memorizing the Word of God.

The Psalmist sees the problem, identifies the solution, but then realizes that he needs help. You see if the Bible was simply another self-help manual, then we could read it without any outside help and gain wisdom and understanding from it. But the Bible is like no other book.

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As a born again believer, you have the Holy Spirit within you and he reveals truths of scripture to you. The Psalmist understood he could not master the word of God without supernatural help. And so in verse 12 he cries out; “teach me your decrees”.

And finally; in verses 14-16 we see the fruit of meditating and allowing the Word of God to permeate his life. He rejoices in verse 14 and delights in verse 16. These are not the emotions of someone who is trying his or her utmost to follow a set of rules and regulations.

When the Word of God is in your heart, it comes out as an expression of joy and delight. There is a peace that comes from allowing the Word of God to permeate and infiltrate every aspect of your life.

We live busy and stressful lives, we desperately need time to pull away from the busyness and useless information and steward our time reading and meditating on God’s word. The result will be the same as the Psalmist – we will rejoice as we allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us through the Bible and we will delight in the truths of God’s word.

This Bible contains your Heavenly Father’s love letter to you, He wrote it for you. It is your daily bread, your sword of the spirit and the truth that gives light to your path.

Love this book, treasure this book, it is no ordinary collection of pages and ink. As we apply the words of truth to our lives, we will see supernatural transformation taking place.

The purpose of Bible study is not just to understand doctrines or to be able to defend the faith, as important as these things are. The ultimate purpose is the equipping of the believers who read it. It is the Word of God that equips God’s people to do the work of God.

Your ability to overcome temptation and to live a victorious Christian life, is directly proportional to the time you spend reading God’s word.

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church, and chapter 6, he writes about the armor of God that every Christian must put on. The only offensive weapon is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

We need to know how to use this weapon effectively or else we will always be weak and ineffective as Christians (see Hebrews 4:12).

The Bible is no ordinary book, and we don’t simply pick it up like we would a novel or a textbook. When you open the Bible, you must come with expectation that what you are going to read has the ability to transform you.

“The scriptures were not given for our information but our transformation.”  DL Moody