June 17, 2018 – Fathers Day

 Father’s Day – Genesis 18:1-19

Fathers-day is a day of mixed emotions and quite often it is a day of pain for those who have lost fathers or who had abusive fathers. I was blessed to have a father who loved his family and who set an example for his family. My father was not perfect, but he was steadfast in his, love for God, and his love for his family.

The Bible has so many examples of good fathers and poor fathers, but one of the best examples we have of a father in the Bible is Abraham. God called this mighty man of faith to be the father of a great nation. Abraham was a man of exceptional faith who had a unique relationship with God. In Genesis 18 we have the account of God speaking to Abraham about the birth of Isaac, and the reaction of Sarah to the good news.

After the declaration of Isaac, the two angels prepare to leave and go to Sodom where they will rescue Lot and his family, but the Lord stays with Abraham. The Lord stays behind and discloses to Abraham what he is about to do in punishing Sodom and Gomorrah. God has a special role for Abraham, to raise up God’s chosen people and to be the father of the nation of Israel which will bless all the nations of the earth.

In verse 19 we read,For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

In this verse we see four characteristics of a good father that we need to develop in our own lives.

1: A godly father teaches…”that he may command his children…” Genesis 18:19a

The Greatest Command in the Bible is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, the Shema is the very first scripture a Hebrew boy would learn, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

But the Scripture doesn’t stop there, verses 6 and 7 continue, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

God tells the Hebrew fathers that they have a responsibility to teach their children to love Him with all their hearts. He tells them how to impress this command on the children by talking about it when you sit down or walk along the road, when you lie down to sleep and when you get up first thing in the morning. The teaching continues all day and every day. Teaching happens all the time, even when we aren’t intending to teach, but right teaching does not happen by accident. You have to teach on purpose the things of the Lord.

Fathers teach your children to love God. This is your first and primary discipleship role as a Christian parent. Our children have a much better chance to grow up to love God, if they see the love for God in our lives (see Proverbs 22:6 and Ephesians 6:4).

2: A Father is to lead his children,For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord…” Genesis 18:19a.

God told Abraham to command his children and his household, the people who were under his sphere of influence. Abraham was to lead his family.

You can lead by rule, or force, but a good father leads primarily by example (Joshua 24:15).

Fathers are you leading your families well? Are we leading those in our sphere of influence to know and love the Lord?

3: A father disciplines his children, “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord… Genesis 18:19a

 Keeping the way requires discipline, it requires intentional correction in order to maintain a life that walks along the pathway that God has for us.

Discipline is not beating a child into submission, it can be affected without the rod, although sometimes a child may need to feel correction.

But discipline is correction, guidance, keeping the child in the pathway that is right. A fathers’ discipline is always done in love (Hebrews 12:6-11, Proverbs 3:11-12).

True discipline is an act of love. We need to know the difference between discipline and punishment.

Punishment causes rebellion, but Discipline builds relationships.

Punishment is spoken harshly in anger, but Discipline is usually spoken kindly and lovingly.

Punishment produces a bitter, poisonous fruit, but Discipline produces the fruit of acting in the right way, which is righteousness.

4: A father loves his children.

In Matthew 22, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6, when he was asked about the greatest commandment, and he responds by saying what we read in verse 37, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…” and the second, Jesus said is to love your neighbor as yourself.

Fathers, your children need to know that you love them (see 1 Corinthians 13:1). Parents tell your children they are loved and show them that they are loved. Bringing a paycheck home is not loving your children.

God blesses good fathers.

The last part of verse 19 contains a promise, “so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

Those two little words, “so that”, introduce the promise.

If you want to see all that God has in store for you, follow these four principles in your homes. You will be overwhelmed by the goodness of God and his blessings to you and your family.

It all stems from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If you don’t know Jesus, that is the place to start. Only then can you teach your children by example to love God and you can introduce them to Jesus, the Way the Truth and the Life.

MAY 27, 2018 – Saul Part 3 – The First Missionaries are Sent

Acts 13:1-4

In Acts 13, we find Saul in Antioch in Syria, the church in Antioch is the first place that the followers of Jesus were called Christians. We must remember that this was not considered a compliment in the first century. The church was growing rapidly in Antioch, and the Apostles in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to them in order to help them. Acts 11:24 reveals a great deal about this man called Barnabas, “for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.”

We tend to think of Barnabas as the guy that was also on stage but never had a real part to play. But the truth is that Barnabas had a significant influence in the explosion of the early church. He was happy to be behind the scenes, but always made things happen. Why? Because he was full of the Holy Spirit and Faith. We need more people like Barnabas. Everyone wants to be the Paul, on stage being bold and declaring the Gospel, but if it wasn’t for the people like Barnabas, very little would actually get done.

In chapter 11:25, we read that Barnabas sees a need in the church in Antioch and he remembers Saul, he is led by the Holy Spirit to go to Tarsus and looks for Saul and when he finds him he takes him back with him to Antioch in Syria.

This is the beginning of Paul’s first missionary journey. As you can see on the map, he and Barnabas go from Antioch to Cyprus in the Mediterranean and then up to Perga and then up to Antioch in the province of Pisidia. This is not the same Antioch as you can see.

This young church in Antioch, a growing, vibrant and healthy church, was meeting together, and the Holy Spirit told them to commission these missionaries as we read in verse 2: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

A few significant things to note here; firstly, they were worshipping and fasting. There are many reasons to fast, one of the most important reasons to fast is when we are facing a big decision. We fast, depleting our bodies of strength, relying on the Holy Spirit to give us strength and to speak to us.

Secondly, these were the first missionaries sent out. We tend to think that this was a common thing at that time, but actually it wasn’t. The church spread as people went about their daily lives, as they travelled for business as slaves were traded and moved around, that is how the Gospel message was spread. No-one really thought of being sent out as missionaries. We all know the great commission that Jesus left his disciples in Matthew 28, but for the most part, up until now, the disciples were still in Jerusalem.

The Holy Spirit began the mission’s movement by sending Barnabas and Paul west and north into modern day western Turkey.

The Holy Spirit must be the driving force of missions, we can have all the good intentions, but unless we are led by the spirit and empowered by the spirit, we are just going on a tour of the land.  

 The mission team we are sending to Cincinnati needs your prayers, that is why we prayed for them today. To go under the power of the Holy Spirit, to hear the Word of the Lord for the people of Cincinnati.

Paul finally arrives in Antioch in Pisidia and on the Sabbath day, they went into the Synagogue and sat down, the early church was worshipping on the first day of the week, Sunday, because of the resurrection. But this was a Jewish Synagogue, Paul and Barnabas went on Saturday as the Jewish tradition, they respected the culture they were visiting, which is another very important piece of missions.

In the Synagogue, traditionally they read the law and the Prophets, the Old Testament, as we know today. And then the leaders of the synagogue turned to these men from the other Antioch and asked them a loaded question, “After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” Acts 13:15

I doubt that the leaders in the Synagogue had any idea what Paul was about to say. Paul preached a sermon that day, taking them through the Law of Moses, the ancient history, and then introduced them to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the risen Son of God.

This sermon is recorded for us in Acts 13 and this is still the message we declare today. This is the Good News, the Gospel message. This Is all we have, this message is still the only message that transforms lives, the only message that brings light into dark places. And as we go to Cincinnati next week, this is the message that we will be carrying in our hearts for the people of that city. There is power in the message, in verse 44 we read, “The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord”

Antioch was turned upside-down by the power of the Word of God. Pray with us that this same message turns Kansas City and Cincinnati upside-down for the glory of God.

May 20, 2018 Saul part 2 – The Church Multiplies

Acts 9:26-31

The early church in the book of Acts grew rapidly, as we think about this, there are two methods of church growth. Firstly, a church can grow as more people come into the immediate fellowship, but secondly the church grows as we multiply by planting other churches and meeting in homes around the city.

As we look at these two options, the one that you prefer will tell you a lot about your motivation for being a part of the local body of believers.

In Acts 9:26, we find Saul trying to join the disciples in Jerusalem, and just like the Christians in Damascus, they are afraid of him because of his reputation. But Saul is introduced by Barnabas, the “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36). Barnabas is the bridge-builder, the encourager and he brings Saul to Peter. Every church needs these bridge builders, someone who welcomes people in and connects them.

As we get back to Saul, we read in verse 27 and 28, that he first preached boldly in Damascus, and then when he came to Jerusalem, he preached boldly in the name of the Lord. Where did this boldness come from? He was not in the slightest bit ashamed of the fact that a few years earlier he was persecuting believers in Jesus, now he was defending the resurrection of Jesus. In verse 17, when Saul was healed by the prayer of Ananias, he was filled with the Holy Spirit. And then in verse 22, we read, “But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.”

Saul was filled with the Holy Spirit, and then in the next few days we read that he increased in strength, he increased in spiritual authority as he prayed, as God prepared him for the work that lay ahead. We need to understand that it is important to spend time with God in order to be prepared and strengthened for the task ahead. It is crucial that every day we spend time reading and praying over God’s word, so that we may be strengthened.

In verse 29, we read, “And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him”

These Hellenists were Greek’s who followed Judaism, and as a result they carried with them the reasoning, the passion for Rhetoric, and the culture of the Greeks. They would not have simply taken Saul’s word for it, they wanted to test him and debate with him. And they eventually realized that there was going to be only one way to deal with Saul, and that was to kill him. The disciples sent Saul out of town for his own safety, he is sent back to Tarsus where he stays for the next seven or eight years. We don’t know much of what he did in Tarsus, but he was probably, studying, writing and teaching, I doubt he simply went into hiding.

At the beginning of Acts 9, Saul first leaves Jerusalem as a man of power with authority from the High Priest to capture and persecute Christians, then he meets Jesus on the way to Damascus and finally he has to leave Jerusalem as one who himself is being persecuted. In the rest of the book of Acts we read that he suffered much as he obeyed the call of God on his life. He was stoned in Lystra and left for dead. He was beaten and imprisoned in Philippi, he caused a riot in Ephesus, he was shipwrecked, imprisoned in Jerusalem and imprisoned in Rome.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “suffering then, is the badge of true discipleship”.

As Luke closes the Chapter, he gives us a snapshot of what is happening to the early church, “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” (Acts 9:31).

The Roman Emperor seems to ignore the growth of Christianity, and the church spreads and grows throughout the region. Looking at this verse we see four factors that contributed to the growth of the church.

Firstly, they had peace, they were free from external persecution and influence. God gave the church time to settle.

Secondly, the church was being built up, it was in this time that the early church began to determine their fundamental core beliefs such as believer’s baptism and celebrating the Lords supper. A strong church, a healthy church is one that has the core beliefs firmly in place.

Thirdly, the early believers were walking in the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is walking in holiness. This doesn’t mean that we never sin, but that when we do sin, we quickly repent, and ask Jesus to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The fear of the Lord is what drives us to want to please God, to honor and respect Him so much that we don’t want to be out of His perfect will for our lives.

And then finally they walked in the comfort of the Holy Spirit. This is the special ministry of the Holy Spirit in the church, the Greek word is Paraklesis used here by Luke the writer of Acts.

Paraklesis is a multi-faceted word, just like the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the church. Amongst other definitions it means; appealing, comforting, encouraging, urging, inviting, imploring and exhorting.

The Holy Spirit is the fuel of the church, the Holy Spirit is the energy and the driving force of the church.

And then the last two words of Acts 9 say that the church multiplied.

And as the church multiplies, by nature, it becomes healthy and grows. Healthy churches plant other churches. Healthy churches trust the Lord to send their best people away, into the mission field.

A healthy church is not a perfect church, a healthy church is one where we identify our brokenness, and humbly encourage one another to walk in the light. A healthy church is where we obey the Great Commission that Jesus left us in Matthew 28.

A healthy church is a praying church, if we want to be led and built up in the comfort of the Holy Spirt, we need to be gathering to pray.

The early church didn’t simply grow, it multiplied, there is a significant difference. Multiplication is the result of active discipleship.

We can grow without multiplication, but it is impossible to multiply and not grow.

May 13, 2018 Mothers Day

Mother’s Day is a wonderful time to celebrate mothers. But what about spiritual mothers?

In the world today, there is a huge need for spiritual mothers. Some people have the tendency to think that after their own children are out of the home, their role as a mother is minimized. But the church needs spiritual mothers.

The Apostle Paul had spiritual mothers, in Romans 16, he sends greetings to a list of people, and in verse 13 he says, “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.”

Most mother’s days, the pastor tends to focus a message towards mothers in the church. But Mother’s Day is not a pleasant day for everyone. For those who long to be mothers and are not able to have children, Mother’s Day is extremely painful. For young women who want to be married and have children, it can also be painful and disconnected from where they are in life.

But today I want to change our focus. While not everyone is a mother – we all have mothers. We all are here today because someone carried us for nine months and gave birth to us. The Bible says that we are to honor our mothers (See Ephesians 6:1-3).  Here Paul quotes the ten commandments, and he adds a little commentary by saying, this is the first commandment with a promise.

This passage from Ephesians 6, is in the middle of an extended portion where Paul is addressing all our human relationships. Wives and husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters, or our modern work relationships, and then he ends with section with an exhortation to put on the full armor of God, because our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but rather against all the spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6v12).

Why does he end this whole section with this seemingly disconnected challenge to spiritual warfare?

Because, Satan is constantly out to destroy relationships, to tear down the bond of families, to destroy our love and respect for each other. God ordained families to be the place where children are raised up to know and love Him, to learn the truth about love, respect, and the Gospel. Our families are under attack daily and we need to be aware of this. The best way for families to be strong, is to pray together, it is no small thing for families to pray together, and often it is the mother who must take the initiative and lead this.

What does it mean to “honor” your mother? If you’re a child, then it means to obey, to submit to her authority. And not just to do what she says, but to yield graciously, willingly and cheerfully. Simply doing what you are told, with a bad attitude it not honoring. True obedience flows from a heart attitude that freely accepts the mother’s rightful authority.

Parental authority is given by God, and so the attitude the child develops toward the parent’s authority will be the attitude they develop towards God’s authority. Parents, if you allow your children to ignore and despise your authority over them, then they will learn to ignore and despise God’s authority over them as well.

What about children who are out of the home? An adult child is no longer obligated to comply with the desires and wishes of their parent, you and I have a choice to listen, evaluate the request and to choose whether or not to comply with the request of our parent. Sometimes, parents can be quite overbearing and use this scripture verse to manipulate and control their adult child. but this is not what God intended with this commandment.

Honoring is not blind obedience, it is respect and courtesy, taking time to hear their opinion, treating our mothers with honor is as simple as giving them time.

Honoring your mother also includes how you speak to her, and about her. This applies both to young people and to adults. Pay attention to your tone of voice when you’re talking with your mother, is it kind, gentle, gracious? Or is it impatient, angry or bitter?  Your tone of voice reflects your heart attitude.

Another thing we can do to honor our mothers is to praise them, to verbally acknowledge their virtues and accomplishments, to give thanks for all the things they do for us.

Husbands, acknowledge and praise your wives, this is a crucial way to develop an honoring culture in your home. Children will learn how to treat their mother by watching how you treat her, and if you are regularly praising and thanking her, then they will too.

Our mothers are a gift from God, the blessings that we receive from our mothers are from God (James 1:17). The good characteristics that we see in our mothers, the creativity, the strength, the wisdom, the love and so much more come from God. Let us remember as we honor mothers, to praise God for mothers.

But we can talk about honoring mothers, respecting them and obeying them, however as followers of Jesus Christ our ultimate loyalty must be Christ. Jesus is the one who paid for our sins by dying on the cross for us, Jesus was raised from the dead by God and Jesus is the one who paid for our eternal life. As well-meaning and wonderful as our mothers may be, as followers of Jesus Christ, our lives belong to him. As we seek to live our lives as followers of Jesus, ultimately, we answer to him as Lord of our lives (Matthew 10:37-39).

We are to love and honor our mothers, because there is blessing in that as the commandment says, but even more than that, we need to love and honor Christ. Are you doing that?

Mothers and fathers, are you pointing your children to the savior, are you encouraging them to love Christ even more than they love you?

May 6, 2018 – Saul – An Encounter with Jesus

Acts 9:1-24

Over the next few weeks we are going to be looking at the life of the Apostle Paul. The man Saul, changes his name to Paul in to have a name that would not hinder his ministry to the Gentiles.

Saul, didn’t grow up as the great missionary, apostle and writer of almost a third of the New Testament. Saul was the exact opposite, but one day, God reached down and touched his life.

Born a Roman citizen to Jewish parents in 6 A.D. in the town of Tarsus, he was sent by his parents to Jerusalem to study the Torah under Gamaliel, one of the most prominent Jewish scholars of his time. Saul was so dedicated that at a relatively early age he was admitted to the Sanhedrin, which was the ruling group of Jewish leaders.

Saul was zealous and ambitious, probably in his twenties we read in Acts chapter 7, that when Stephen, the first Christian Martyr was stoned to death, a young man by the name of Saul, stood by and approved of his death.

Saul’s ambition drove him to persecute Christians, and he decided to go to Damascus to round up followers of the “Way”. As Saul gets close to Damascus, he is blinded by a light from the sky. This light is so powerful that it knocks him to the ground. And as he is lying there, a voice from heaven speaks to him. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  Saul had an immediate understanding, but he needed clarification, and the voice responds, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Can you imagine the fear, guilt and the shame as Saul realized that Jesus was risen, and that he was the son of God?  It all made sense, he must have been in fear that surely Jesus would kill him now, but Jesus graciously doesn’t leave him there as he immediately continues, “rise up – go to the city and you will be told what to do”.

Jesus takes attacks on the church very personally. When we hurt a fellow Christian, someone who is part of the body of Christ, Jesus takes it very personally. Jesus feels the pain, when his body, the church is slandered, persecuted or ill-treated. Never think it is a small matter to ill-treat another believer, whether it is in business or gossip, it is always a very serious matter.

Saul encountered the risen Christ and it transformed him. Saul was blinded, so bright was the encounter with Jesus that he could not see. I believe that Saul didn’t just see a bright light, but he actually saw the risen Christ, what he saw was Jesus in his current glorified being. Jesus, the exact representation of the Father, is so glorious and so powerful that he is brighter than any sun, or any light we could imagine (1 John 1:5).

Saul later writing in 1 Corinthians 15 about the resurrected Christ, was speaking from experience. He was an eyewitness to the fact that Jesus rose from the dead in a resurrected glorious body.

Saul is led into Damascus, where he refuses to eat or drink, he is blind and trying to process all that just happened. He goes through this mourning period of 3 days. And just like Jonah who was in the fish for 3 days, Saul was being reborn, he was being born of the Spirit, being made new so that God could use him for His Glory.

In verse 10 we are introduced to Ananias, we know little about him, but we are told he was a disciple, a follower of Jesus. A disciple is a follower of Jesus who makes other followers of Jesus.

A disciple is an active follower, not just a passive student.

Ananias was looking for people to win to Christ and to disciple. But I doubt he ever expected to encounter someone like Saul. Saul was praying, and his prayers were being answered as God directed Ananias.

Don’t ever think prayer is not the most valuable thing you can do with your time.

Ananias, knew exactly who Saul was and he responds with some hesitation, But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” Acts 9:15-16.

God chose Saul. Whether you agree with the doctrine of election or not, the apostle Paul in his later writings, made it abundantly clear that he was chosen by God and not the other way around.

Saul was called to be a suffering servant, Jesus made it very clear that Saul was going to be persecuted for his faith. But this is nothing new and a clear expectation of all who would follow Jesus as Lord (John 15:18-20).

As Ananias prays for Saul, something like scales fall from his eyes, these were a physical manifestation of the healing that took place, but the miracle of his spiritual eyesight was far more important. As Ananias prayed for him, Saul’s spiritual blindness was lifted, and he was able to see the truth that Jesus is the Son of God.

In verse 20 we have the evidence of Saul’s conversion, as he immediately began to tell others about Jesus. He went into the synagogues and declared boldly that Jesus was the Son of God. The priests had obviously heard about what had happened on the road, but now they were seeing the evidence of a life transformed by Jesus.

And the people ask the question, “Is this not the man?”  When you encounter Jesus, those around you should ask the same question. You may not have been a terrible person in the eyes of those around you, but the change in your life must be evident to everyone. Your priorities change, when it comes to how you spend your time and your money, people will notice your commitment to the things of the Lord.

Have you had that life changing encounter with Jesus, where he changed your priorities and your goals in life?

Saul had priorities and goals, being a driven man, he was motivated to eradicate Christianity. But when he encountered Jesus, all that changed, and he was never the same again.

Sermon April 29, 2018 Faith and Holiness

Galatians 3:1-14

In Galatians 3, Paul writing to the young church is extremely harsh in his letter. In the first 5 verses, it seems that Paul is interrogating them, as he asks them a series of rhetorical questions. Twice in the first three verses he calls them fools. False teachers had come into the church, teaching that in order to be saved the needed to be circumcised and follow the Mosaic Law in addition to their belief in Jesus. Why is Paul so harsh in his approach? I believe it is because Paul knows that eternity is at stake, he knows that the false teachers are not simply trying to add to their religious activity, these false teachers have been sent by Satan to destroy the church.

By asking these rhetorical questions Paul makes very clear that it is illogical for these Galatians to try to add to their Christian experience by adding works of the law (ch3:2). The key argument he makes is whether they received the Holy Spirit of God by the law or by faith? Three times in those first 5 verses he implies that they received the Holy Spirit only because of faith and not because of obedience to the law.

When you have the Holy Spirit in your life, you cannot add anything to your salvation by following a set of rules or regulations. The Holy Spirit which we receive when we make Jesus Lord of our lives, completes us. It is by the Spirit of God that miracles are done, it is by the Holy Spirit that we can communicate with God (1 Peter 1:3).

As a regenerate believer in Jesus Christ, you have everything you need because of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

In the next few verses of Galatians 3, Paul refers to Abraham five times. What makes Abraham so significant to the issue of false teachers? The key is verse 6, just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Verse 6 is the continuation of the rhetorical question he began in verse 5, where he quotes Genesis 15:6.

Abraham simply believed God, he obeyed God and left his father’s home in Genesis 12, and in return God gave him great promises about being a blessing to the nations. Abraham knew that he would never see his home again, he would never see his father again, but he went in faith and obedience.

Abraham was promised many descendants by God, and God tests him once again to see if he would sacrifice the son of the promise. Abraham obeyed God and Isaac is miraculously spared.

Abraham was a man of incredible faith, but how did he become such a man of faith?

In Hebrews chapter 11, Abraham gets eight verses recognizing his faith. The key to faith is found in Hebrews 11:6, faith begins with knowing God. Faith, as a gift from God grows in us as we grow in our relationship with God.

The Gospel message, the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ is only good news if it is received by faith. The Gospel is not an academic pursuit or a following of the law, rather it is a celebration of faith in the provision of salvation through Jesus.

The key difference between faith and the law is relationship. Obedience to the law does not require relationship. Many people obey a set of rules, but they have no relationship with God and therefore they have no faith (Galatians 3:11). Many law abiding people will be in hell, because they chose to obey the law when a relationship was offered to them. The narrow road that Jesus taught in Matthew 7:13 is narrow because it is so hard for people trapped in humanism to walk by faith.

We have the ongoing challenge between law and relationship in our church on a weekly basis.

My mother’s generation would say, “you have to go to church”. A good principle but without relationship it is mere legalism.

We have seen this over and over throughout the generations, we force our children to go to church each Sunday, assuming the church will save them. But we don’t teach our children to love Jesus, and as soon as they can they leave the church because they do not see and encounter the living God. Our default condition is legalism, we think if we put enough rules around people they will turn out alright. However, if we invite them into a growing relationship with the living God, then and only then will they experience life change (John 14:15).

Notice Jesus didn’t say, obey my commands and then you will love me. No, the obedience is as a response to our love for Jesus, obedience is a direct response to our relationship with the living God.

What about tithing? We tithe ten percent of our income to the Lord as an act of worship, recognizing the reality of our relationship with God.

In Malachi 3:8-10 we read a challenging prophecy from God on giving to the Lord, which at first glance seems legalistic, but look a little deeper at verse 10, “and thereby put me to the test”. We test someone to learn something about them. Our children test us all the time, pushing the boundaries and testing our patience, why? It is natural for children to test their parents, because deep down there is one fundamental question every child wants to know, “do you love me?”.

There is no where else in the Bible where God invites us to test him. God is calling His people to a relationship with Him. He invites us to test him in the area of giving, for us to learn that He is able to provide. But not only is God able to provide, He is a good Father, a perfect Heavenly Father who we will only get to know as we grow in our faith.

Don’t regard faith as an academic pursuit, live a life of faith, and you will grow in your relationship with God.

Sermon Sunday April 22, 2018 – The Reality of Hell

Luke 16:19-31

There was a day when all one seemed to hear was “fire and brimstone” sermons, we’ve now gone to the opposite extreme. There is so much preaching on love, grace, and forgiveness, but little or nothing is said about hell. The undeniable truth is that no one in the Bible places more stress on hell as the final consequence of God’s judgment of condemnation than Jesus. Jesus compared hell to the burning trash dump outside of Jerusalem called the valley of Hinnom or Gehenna, he also compared hell to a prison and outer darkness. Jesus likened hell to “a fire” at least twenty separate times.

In Luke 16 we read that Jesus told the Pharisees a story of a poor man called Lazarus and an unnamed rich man. Jesus doesn’t say that this was a parable. It may have been a true account of which only Jesus knew the truth. Or it was a parable that Jesus used to teach the Pharisees the truth of their own lostness.

The rich man was extravagant in his lifestyle, dressing in fine linen, Jesus even said that he feasted every day. And then as if a divinely arranged contrast, we have Lazarus, a poor beggar sitting at his gate, who was possibly a cripple. The name Lazarus means “God is my help”, in contrast, the rich man trusts in his wealth.

Both these men died, and Lazarus taken by the angels to Abraham’s side. He was given special treatment for a man who was never treated well in this life. In contrast, the rich man, “died and was buried”, no angels, no special treatment. His friends probably began fighting over his estate and soon forgot that he even existed.

The rich man may have had a prestigious funeral with many dignitaries, in contrast the poor Lazarus, probably didn’t have a funeral at all, in fact the body of Lazarus might have been thrown on the burning rubbish dump, Gehenna, the place where unclaimed bodies would have been disposed. But even though his body was burned and discarded, he was taken by angels to Abraham’s side.

The rich man is sent to Hades, a place of torment and utter loneliness, where he begins to cry out for mercy. First, he asks that Abraham sends Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water to cool his tongue. The rich man was experiencing torment and real flames, it was a very genuine experience, so much so, that a little cool water on his tongue would bring some relief. Abraham responds and explains to the rich man that he has already received his good things in his life, but by rejecting God, he is never going to experience anything good ever again.

But aside from that, Abraham says it is impossible for Lazarus to come to him, there is a great divide between heaven and hell.

Jesus taught that Hell is a real place of eternal suffering, but the worst part of hell is not the physical pain, it is the absence of the presence of God. We have all heard someone say, “Well, I don’t mind if I go to hell. I’ll have a lot of company!” But there is no friendship or “company” in hell! Hell is a place of total loneliness and abandonment.

So how can a loving God permit such a place to exist, let alone send people there?” In asking that question, we reveal that we don’t understand the love of God or the wickedness of sin. God’s love is a perfect holy love, not a shallow sentiment, and sin is rebellion against an all holy and loving God (1 John 1:5).

God does not send people to hell, they send themselves there by refusing to believe on His Son. Hell, ultimately is the absence of God and sin is what separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). Hell is the natural response of the all-holy God to the wickedness of sin, and unbelief in Jesus as the son of God is the primary source of that wickedness.

God hates sin and evil so much, that he sent his only son Jesus to suffer and die on the cross as the perfect sacrifice, atoning for our sins. Jesus went to the cross as our substitute because he does not want anyone to go to Hell (2 Peter 3:8-10).

The rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his five brothers about their eternal destination. But Abraham tells him that they have the words of Moses and the prophets, the Old Testament Scriptures, the word of God. But the rich man argues that this is not enough, they need miracle. We are no different, we struggle to believe in the power of the word of God to transform lives. We must never underestimate the power of the word of God, under the direction and conviction of the Holy Spirit to transform lives (Romans 1:16).

Jesus loved us so much that he spoke about hell a lot. He did not hold back in describing the consequences of sin.

Do we believe in Hell enough to care for our friends and neighbors? If we really believed in Hell, we would not hesitate to share the Gospel, we would give our lives to praying for the lost. We would re-organize our lives in such a way that we would maximize our time on this earth to be able to be witnesses for Jesus Christ.

Sadly, the way our churches operate, the way we struggle to pray for our neighbors, the way our evangelism and mission efforts are so weak and small, we give evidence to the fact that we do not believe in hell.

In the 21st century in the western culture has become a source of unending distractions and entertainment. We focus on our careers, movies, food, sport or hobbies, while all the time our perspective of eternity is being whittled away and we seldom think of the fact that our lives are so very brief.

Live your life in the light of eternity. Every pleasure you could have here on earth ultimately passes away, it is fleeting, but if we live for eternity, storing up for ourselves treasures in heaven, we will experience pleasure that is lasting.

“The safest road to hell, is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” C.S Lewis.

Sermon April 15, 2018 – Heaven

Revelation 21:1-8

Do you know where you are going when you die? We are all eternal beings, designed by God to live forever. We as frail humanity, for fear of the unknown, struggle to live in these broken bodies for as long as we possibly can.

We struggle to hold on to something that is temporal, because we don’t see ourselves as eternal. We are afraid of the unknown, but the unknown is going to be infinitely better than anything we have ever experienced in this life.

There are two primary reasons why one fears death,

Firstly, if you don’t have the security of knowing that you are saved by the blood of Jesus, death is to be feared.

And secondly, we don’t trust the God who created us for eternity, we don’t trust that the one who created us knows what would be best for us.

We fear the unknown primarily because we don’t trust the goodness of the Designer.

Heaven is a real place, in Revelation 21:3 we read that God himself speaking from the throne, says that the dwelling place of God is with man. The new earth is a real place as Jesus promised in John 14:1-2.

This earth will one day be renewed made perfect, delivered from sin and the curse, will one day be our home and the place where God dwells. Heaven is a real place, and the new heaven and the new earth will be real as well.

While it is probable that heaven is in another dimension, we still can be assured that heaven is both a place and a state. I do not agree that it is primarily a state, since we are living on earth in a physical / spiritual dimension, why would this be so different in heaven. We would live in our resurrected bodies, but our soul would still exist and commune with God. I agree with the theologian Erickson that wrote, “life in heaven will be more real than our present existence.”

When we die, we are not going to have one single complaint, not one single thing about heaven will be imperfect. We have no idea of the glory and the beauty and the peace of the presence of our Heavenly Father.

In the new heaven, we will have real, perfect resurrected bodies, as Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15. These will be our eternal bodies, ones that will never fail or break down. And we will live with God in His presence.

We were made to have communion with God, God created man in His own image to have fellowship with him. But when sin entered the world, that relationship was broken, there was a separation that took place. Inside every human being is a longing and an unfulfilled desire that can only be met by the perfect presence of God himself, we read in Ecclesiastes 3:11; “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

Being in the presence of God for eternity is heaven and being separated from God for eternity is hell. Our selfish and humanistic mindset cannot even begin to grasp what it will be like to be in the presence of God and to worship him. It will not be boring, that is a lie from Satan, Heaven will be the most exciting and thrilling experience that we cannot imagine. I know that sentence doesn’t make sense, because we cannot begin to grasp heaven. In our self-serving culture, we have no idea of what it will be like to be in the presence of the creator of the universe. Heaven will be a place of unending worship and praising God for all that He has done and all that He is.

Heaven will be a place of rest, peace and worship of God, but heaven will also be a place of service and work. We will not be idly sitting on clouds playing harps. God is a creative God and he designed us to be creative beings along with him. We see in Genesis 1, that God created man to have dominion and care for the creation. Remember the parable that Jesus told about the parable of the Talents given to the servants in Matthew 25. The servants who served faithfully were given more to rule over and more responsibility, this is a glimpse into our eternal destiny.

So, we know heaven is real, it is eternal, we have some idea of what we will be doing, but how can we be certain we are going to heaven? Randy Alcorn, in his book on Heaven said that a recent Barna poll shows that for every American who believes he or she is going to Hell, there are 120 who believe they’re going to Heaven. Yet Christ said otherwise in Matthew 7:13-14.

Heaven is not our default condition. Increasingly in our politically correct culture we don’t often hear people preaching on the fact that heaven is only for people who have submitted themselves to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Only people who have acknowledge that Jesus is the way the truth and the life are going to heaven.

If heaven was the default position of everyone who dies, then Jesus gave up his position in heaven, he humbled himself and even humbled himself to die on the cross, for nothing. The greatest act of love in all of human history was a waste of time, if heaven is the default position.

Heaven is where God dwells and before we are even allowed into the presence of God we need to deal with our sin problem, the sin that separates us from God. You deal with that sin by accepting Jesus as Lord and repenting of your sins. You can know, with absolute certainty, that you are going to heaven (see 1 John 5:13).

on the cross, he took upon himself the Hell we deserve, in order to purchase the Heaven we don’t deserve”

Randy Alcorn.

The Resurrection of Jesus – Sunday April 1, 2018

He is Risen – the Hope of the resurrection

Luke 24:1-12

  Every Easter we celebrate Jesus being raised from the dead. The cross without the resurrection is simply a story of a good man dying, but the resurrection proves that He is God, and everything he said is true

There are some still who claim that Jesus never died, he was simply in a coma and revived himself in the tomb, however there is indisputable evidence that Jesus was dead, and he was raised to life by the power of God (Romans 8:11). The greatest miracle in all of history is not simply when Jesus rose from the dead by the power of God, but that he defeated death and destroyed the works of Satan.

In Luke 24, we read about the resurrection, and we see three things that Jesus left behind when he came out of the tomb.

  1.  The first thing Jesus left behind was his grave clothes. When Peter and John went into the tomb looking for the body of Jesus, all they saw was the strips of linen, Jesus didn’t need them anymore. In John 11, we read how Jesus raised Lazarus who had been dead for four days.  Lazarus came out of the tomb, bound in the grave clothes, and Jesus instructed those who witnessed the miracle to free him. Jesus left the grave clothes behind because he didn’t need them, but Lazarus was going to die again, he would live a natural life and die like all of us, Jesus would never again die, he had defeated death. He had no need for future grave clothes, the strips of linen were left behind to show us that death has been defeated, it holds no fear for us.
  2.  In John 19:39-40 Joseph and Nicodemus put large quantities of spices and perfumes in the tomb with Jesus, and the women who came on that first resurrection Sunday brought perfumes and spices. These were traditional spices to conceal the smell of death. But when Jesus rose from the dead, he left the incense and the perfumes behind, he left them behind because he transformed death from something that smells awful into something that is filled with the sweet smell of eternal life. In 2 Corinthians 2:15-16, Paul describes the aroma of Christ in those who are his followers. Jesus left behind an aroma that we who have the Holy Spirit in us carry with us. How do you smell to the world around you?
  3.  When Jesus rose from the dead, he left the door open. In Matthews Gospel the angel rolled back the stone and sat on it. Pilate had agreed to the request of the chief priests to post a security detail at the entrance to the tomb, but when the angel of the Lord came, rolling back the stone, the guards trembled and became like dead men. The Angel opened the tomb and then secured the opening, making sure that it was never to be shut again. When Jesus died, the curtain in the temple that separated us from the Holy of Holies was torn by the hand of God, because of what Jesus did, we now have unlimited and free access to the presence of the creator of the universe. Jesus provided an opening and secured it, by defeating death, we will never see the stone rolled in front of the tomb again.

In Luke 24:5 the angels, these two men in dazzling apparel, stood next to the women and said, “why do you seek the living amongst the dead”. This is still the question that needs to be asked of mankind today. At some point everyone begins to question the purpose and the goal of it all, why are we here? Is there life after death? And if there is a heaven, how do I get to go there? Without the secure knowledge of the resurrected Jesus, people are striving and trying to extend their lives or find meaning and purpose in life.

People try to find alternative ways of salvation, from trying to live a good life to earn favor from God. People try religion, traditions, even giving money to the church or other good works, all of these will not save you, all this is looking for the living among the dead.

There is no other way of salvation than through faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). The truth is that there is no other God, who sent his only son, to take on human form, to suffer and die to take our place to offer us salvation as a free gift. There is no other religion that can claim that truth. We celebrate today because of the empty tomb, without it we would be following a hollow religion. Rather we are invited into a relationship with the creator of the universe, we aren’t looking for the living among the dead.

As Christians we are freed from the grave, Jesus paid the price so that you could be free from your past life. As a follower of Jesus, we must never look back, don’t go back to the grave of alcohol addiction, drug addiction, gambling, pornography, gossip, slander and the likes, all these are graves that lead to death. Jesus died that you would be free from the grave, why would we go back and wallow in sin? Jesus left the tomb behind, he didn’t look back and neither should we. He walked away because he was done with death, death had been defeated. When you have been made new in Christ, you have a new life, how can you look back?

Job wrote these words hundreds of years before Jesus walked the earth, but God gave him a prophetic glimpse into the resurrection and the second coming of Jesus. He was so thrilled that he couldn’t contain his joy. I pray that in this season, you would have a glimpse of the risen Lord Jesus.

Job 19:25-27

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.

And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!

Sermon March 25, 2018 – Seeing but not Seeing

Matthew 21:1-11

Seeing but not Seeing

The way we view the world around us is clouded by our culture, education and ultimately our worldview. We filter what we see, hear and read through what we have been taught or have seen and heard in the media, and if we are bold enough to admit it, we don’t always see things the way they really are.

In Jerusalem on the Sunday before the traditional Passover feast, the people of Jerusalem witnessed a world changing event, something that set in motion the greatest weekend in all of history. However, as we will see because of their worldview, and their cultural expectations, they were not able to grasp what was happening.

On that first Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt. The crowd was celebrating the long-awaited Messiah coming into the city, however Jesus was painting a visual picture, a parable for those who would look back on that day.

The account begins with Jesus instructing two disciples to go and borrow a donkey and her colt. Jesus gave the disciples the instruction in verse 3, that, “If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” Jesus called himself the Lord, he was saying that he was in control, and the sovereign orchestrator of the events. Not only was Jesus the Lord over the events taking place, and the events that were about to take place, he was also the Lord over all creation. Jesus rides on a wild colt, Matthew is the only Gospel author who notes this detail, but Jesus was riding on an animal that was never ridden before, amid a screaming crowd. Jesus was showing, just like he did when he calmed the storm, the creator is in complete control over his creation.

As Jesus rode down the hill to Jerusalem, the people threw down their cloaks on the road, symbolizing submission to Jesus as king (see 2 Kings 9).

The crowd broke branches and palm branches and waved them as Jesus went by. This was significant because this reflected a scene that took place in Jerusalem about 200 years before, during the Maccabean uprising against the ruling Seleucid empire and the Hellenistic Jews. This is a fascinating time in the history or Israel, but the palm branches became symbols of the revolt and the interesting feature of the Maccabean revolt is that after entering Jerusalem, the rebels, came into the temple and cleansed the temple of all the false idol worship. This is also what Jesus did as he went to the temple and cleared out the traders. The people must have seen the messianic symbolism and they began to ask the question which we find in verse 10, “who is this?” (see Matthew 21:9).

The crowd around Jesus had no doubt that he was the promised Messiah, the one who would set up his throne in Jerusalem, ushering in a new Kingdom and empire for Israel. But they were filtering what they were seeing through their worldview, they were seeing what they wanted to see. Jesus was coming to introduce the Kingdom, but not a temporary earthly kingdom, but to overthrow the works of the devil and setup the eternal Kingdom of God on the earth. Jesus was walking out a parable, and like most of Jesus’ parables, the people did not understand what he was saying (read Matthew 13:10-17).

The crowds on that first Palm Sunday wanted a Warrior King, they wanted the prophesied messiah to come and re-established the glory days of the nation of Israel. But we know that Jesus came as the suffering servant of Isaiah 53.

The crowd was seeing without really seeing, they were hearing but not understanding (Matthew 13:13).

Jesus knew that he was about to disappoint these crowds, he knew that they would be turning on him in a few days and calling for his crucifixion. But all the while as Jesus was riding on the colt into Jerusalem, he was thinking about you and me, he was thinking about the mission he was on. Jesus saw through the lens of heaven, he saw the purposes of God through all eternity.

But what about us? We know that Jesus came 2000 years ago as the suffering servant, entering Jerusalem knowing that he would suffer and die, and that God would raise him from the dead, to be the atonement for our sins, but what about Jesus today? Are we looking for a messiah to call on when we have a problem or need something to be made right? Are we only looking for a messiah who would make all our injustices right? Or are we really looking forward to the King Jesus coming to rule over the earth in justice and righteousness. Are we looking for a temporal messiah rather than the eternal Lord?

As we look at the world around us, there is a crowd gathering, a crowd of people waiting for a messiah, someone who would make all the wrongs of the world right. The world around us is looking for a political messiah or a military ruler who can correct all the evil in the world. But, Jesus won’t be that either. As we read in Revelation 19, when Jesus comes again, he will be the rider on the white horse. The next time Jesus rides, things will be quite different. He will no longer be a reluctant King riding on a colt. He will come in the clouds with great glory as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords – not as ‘king for the day,’ but as ‘King for all time and eternity.'”

Jesus spoke about the end times in Matthew 24, where Jesus goes on to describe the great tribulation, famines earthquakes, terrible unprecedented global disasters and persecution.

Sadly, the church is being deceived and losing its focus on the eternal Kingdom of God, rather the church is focusing on the temporal things such as wealth and prosperity.

Are you seeing but not seeing? Hearing but not understanding? Are you so caught up in the things of this present age, that you don’t even have a desire for Jesus to come again?

As Jesus was teaching in John 8 he said to those who believed in him, “…If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32.

Let us be a people who have a Biblical Worldview and an eternal perspective.