Sermon, Sunday October 2, 2022 Who are you listening to?

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Who are you Listening to?

In the first few verses of 1 John 4, we have a warning against false prophets, who are deceiving the church. Satan is the master liar and manipulator.

John says in verse 1, “many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Satan is constantly sending out evil spirits to deceive and spread a false message, influencing false teachers to teach a false Gospel.

We need to be alert, ready and praying for discernment, especially in our world of mass media where we can view thousands of hours of teaching on any subject we choose.

A prophet is a person who declares the truth of God and seldom is it in the context of foretelling the future.

The Bible warns us that not everyone who claims to be speaking for God is actually a prophet of God (Matthew 7:15 and Matthew 24:11). With the advent of the internet, we have seen a rise in false prophets.

In this passage, six times John uses the term “from God”, and six times he uses the term, “the World”. We must not be so naïve as to think that those who are from the world, are not in the church. Satan’s greatest attack against the church has always been from inside the church.

John gives us four tests we can use to avoid being led astray.

1: Am I being deceived? (1 John 4:1).

The problem is that we are theologically lazy. The vast majority of the church is Biblically illiterate or weak at best. How can we know if someone is speaking God’s truth or not if we don’t know the Word of God. Satan and his demons know the Bible and how to twist the word and make it sound true when it is not. Satan is still casting doubt in people’s minds as he did in Genesis 3:1.

Behind every prophet there is an empowering spirit, and their message will let us know if they are from God are not. We don’t have to look further than the recent history of high-profile church leaders who had incredible ministries, but behind the scenes there was manipulation, control, and sexual sin. These sins were often excused by the incredible “fruit” from their ministry. But God is not mocked, and hundreds and thousands of people are hurt in the end.

2: Are they proclaiming the true Jesus? (1 John 4:2).

Christianity is about Jesus. What do you believe about Jesus.

Is he simply a great religious leader? Is he just one option amongst many? Or Is he God in the flesh, fully God and fully man, the only way the truth and the life.

The best way to test the spirits is to ask the Jesus question. The Holy Spirit of God will always honor Jesus Christ, the Son of God (John 16:14).

The alternative is in verse 3, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

John writes that false prophets will not confess that Jesus is the Christ. Many false teachers today, even in some mainline denominations refuse to acknowledge that Jesus is God. This is the spirit of the Antichrist. As we looked at in 1 John 2:22 on June 26, http://atholbarnes.com/2022/06/26/sermon-sunday-june-26-2022-who-is-jesus/

The spirit of Antichrist always diminishes the person and work of Jesus. Rejecting that he is fully God and fully man, rejecting the fact that his blood atones for our sins.

3: Who are you trusting? (1 John 4:4).

What an incredible promise, “for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

Are you trusting in the greater spirit?

Satan and his demons have a large following, the world seems to be powerfully opposed to the things of God. The daily attacks are sometimes overwhelming. But all of Satan’s plans are divinely destined to fail (Matthew 16:18).

Notice the tense of verse 4, “you are of God, and have overcome them…”

We have the misconception that spiritual warfare is about swinging the sword of the spirit and slaying demons. However, the victory has already been won. Spiritual Warfare is about standing firm and declaring the promises of God’s word, as Watchman Nee writes in his book, “Sit, Walk, Stand”.  

As we commit our lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, his victory becomes our victory and God’s Spirit lives in us. The Holy Spirit is the one who glorifies Christ through our lives as we stand firm on the promises of God.

As believers we need to be reminded of this, we hide and don’t speak up in the public square. We pray for Jesus to come again so that we can put all this messy world behind us. But Jesus calls us to live victoriously with a supernatural assurance that the victory is already won. Are we living daily from that victory, boldly living for Christ?

4: Are you listening to the right teachers? (1 John 4:5-6).

False teachers are not of God, but from the world and the domain of Satan and his demons. False teachers have a secular worldview.  

If you have a Biblical worldview, based on the promises and the truths of God’s word, then you will have an eternal perspective on everything, marriage, sexuality, abortion, death, war, finances, and even the pain and challenges of life (1 Corinthians 4:16-18).

A secular worldview proclaims that this is all there is, grab as much as you can, pursue pleasure, make a name for yourself, leave a legacy. A secular world view leads to hopelessness.

Who are you listening to?

Sermon, Sunday September 25, 2022 Boldness Through Faith

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How bold are your prayers?

What are you praying for right now that requires a supernatural move of God?

Prayer is an outflow of our relationship and a declaration of faith.

The boldness of our prayers must come from our faith in the statement, “God is love”, and that we are abiding, or are rooted in the promises of God’s Word.

The Bible frequently talks about the human heart. Our innermost being that is vulnerable, complex, and if properly aligned with God, our hearts are a blessing.

The world around us frequently tells us, “Trust your heart”, “go with what your gut is telling you”. But the Bible tells us in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Many people struggle with their heart and the feelings of self-condemnation. The apostle John recognized that as followers of Jesus, we still struggle with emotions, condemnation, and guilt. He also knew that the truth of God’s word provides healing and a re-alignment of our hearts.

Thus, the question, “How bold is your prayer life” might be preceded by the question, “How is your heart?”

1 John 3:19 says, “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him.”

And as children of God, we have confidence in His presence.

1 John 3:20 may seem confusing at first, “for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.”

Even though we know the scriptures and have heard the Gospel hundreds of times, sometimes we experience condemnation and guilt as Satan brings back to mind past sins. When we experience condemnation, we must go back to the promises of 1 John 1:9 and Romans 8:1.

We must remember who we are, “in Christ”. We stand before the all-knowing God, our Father, covered in the righteousness of Christ. It is a heart issue, we can be misled by our emotions and feelings. That is why King David wrote this in Psalm 139:23, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts”.

Ask God to expose the lies in your life and begin to live by God’s promises.

Like the promises of verses 21-22, “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.”

When we have confidence in our standing before God, we can have confidence in our prayers.

Charles Spurgeon wrote, He who has a clear conscience comes to God with confidence, and that confidence of faith ensures to him the answer of his prayer. Childlike confidence makes us pray as none else can. It makes a man pray for great things, which he would never have asked for if he had not learned this confidence; and makes him pray for little things which a great many are afraid to ask for, because they have not yet felt towards God the confidence of children.… The man of obedience is the man whom God will hear, because his obedient heart leads him to pray humbly, and with submission, for he feels it to be his highest desire that the Lord’s will should be done. Hence it is that the man or obedient heart prays like an oracle; his prayers are prophecies. Is he not one with God? Doth he not desire and ask for exactly what God intends? How can a prayer shot from such a bow ever fail to reach its target?”

Sadly, many Christians are living command oriented Christian lives. We know God’s holy requirements and we are so committed to do the right thing, so that God will approve of us and answer our prayers.

God wants us to live by His promises, from a heart of pure relationship with Him, then we will live every day in the power of His spirit, leading us in obedience, out of relationship.

How are you living today? In fear and law or love and relationship?

Verse 23 says, there is one thing that we need to begin with. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.”

It all begins and ends with belief in Jesus Christ as Lord. A personal relationship with the Creator of the universe.

Believing that Jesus is the son of God, the eternal God, who became like one of his creation 2000 years ago. He lived a perfect sinless life and was crucified and died as a willing sacrifice for our sins. This same Jesus rose from the dead three days later and lives forever today, interceding for us at the Father’s right hand. Believing that Jesus is preparing a place for us and that he will one day return to take the Church to be with him in glory.

Finally looking at verse 24, “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.”

King David knew his purpose in life, found in Psalm 27:4. David knew that the greatest goal in life was to abide in God’s presence.

The Spirit of God is given to us and by the Holy Spirit, we know that God abides with us and we with Him. There is an assurance that comes from abiding.

The presence of the Holy Spirit is not something that we can earn or merit by obedience.  As we abide in Christ, the Holy Spirit gives us the strength and the passion for obeying God. As we abide in God and He in us, we come to know God as our perfect Heavenly Father.

Prayer is an outflow of our relationship with God.

The more we abide in Him and He in us, the bolder our prayers will become, because we will know Him as a good and perfect heavenly Father, who is generous in His gifts.

How Bold is your prayer life?

Are you praying like a child who has absolute confidence in your father?

Sermon, Sunday September 18, 2022 How is Your Love Life?

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Up to this point in the letter, John has focused on the theme, “God is Light” (1 John 1:5).

Now he shifts focus and introduces the theme, “God is love” (1 John 3:11).

It is essential that as Christians, we display God’s love, by loving one another. Jesus taught this in John 13:35.

John begins this section by using the first example we have in the Bible of hate, Cain murdering his brother Abel in Genesis 4 (1 John 3:12).

Why did God reject Cain’s offering? I believe it was the heart posture. Man looks at the outer things, but God looks at the heart. And God saw that Cain’s heart was not in his worship.

Love is at the heart of the Gospel, the phrase to “love one another” is found throughout the New Testament.  God thinks that our loving one another is really important.

We are called to love one another consistently and without favoritism. This is impossible in the natural realm, the love that we have for one another in Christ, is a supernatural love that comes from the Father. When we display love in the church, we display not only who we are, but we display who’s we are. We belong to our heavenly Father.

Verse 12 says that Cain murdered because he was of the evil one, he was a child of Satan. Jesus said the same thing in John 8:44.  

The truth is, you are either a child of God or you are a child of the devil. There is no third option.

The Bible makes it absolutely clear that only those who have been born again, who have given their lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ, can be called Children of God.

If you have not been born again, you are a child of the devil (Matthew 5:21-22).

Hate is equivalent to murder, the only difference between the hate and murder is the actual taking of a life, the intent of the heart is the same.

This does not mean, of course, that hatred in the heart does the same amount of damage, or involves the same degree of guilt, as actual murder. But in God’s sight, hatred is the moral equivalent of murder, and if left unbridled it leads to murder.

One of the benefits of loving one another from the heart, is the assurance that we have been born again. We are given a supernatural love as the Holy Spirit fills us (1 John 3:14).

John doesn’t say that we are saved by our love for one another, rather we are saved by grace and the proof of our salvation is our love for one another.

On the opposite end, those whose lives are characterized by a lack of love and concern give evidence that they are not saved (1 John 3:15).

Love and hate cannot reside in the same heart at the same time. Real love is very practical, it is spoken, and it is demonstrated.

How do we really know what Holy Spirit fueled love really is? Here are two practical explanations of Christian love.

1: Love is displayed by dying for others.

God demonstrated his love for us on the cross and then calls us to lay down our lives for others. Does this mean that we run the risk of being used by other people? Yes, and if we struggle with that we need to go back to the cross. We need to keep going back to the cross until we grasp the depth of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.  

Jesus died the death that we should have died, because of love. Love at the core is about self-sacrifice and service. Jesus didn’t die as a martyr, he willingly laid down his life.

“Self-preservation” is the first law of physical life,

But

 “self-sacrifice” is the first law of spiritual life.

Warren Wiersbe

If we think about what has been given to us, we won’t feel obligated to be grateful, we will joyfully present our lives as a living sacrifice in worship.

2: Service to others always involves giving.

In verse 17 and 18, John gets practical.

In our modern cities, there are multiple social agencies that help people in need, and it is easy to simply refer people to an agency when the Lord has told us to step in. It is easy for Christians to forget their obligations (see Galatians 6:10).

Let us not confuse doing good, by simply writing a check or handing over a dollar bill. This doing good that Paul writes about includes giving of our time and physical help. There are many people in our church and community who simply need someone to show them love and concern.

Our lives are busy, and our schedules are full. Sadly people “pray about” getting involved, when really, they are thinking about how much it is going to cost them. The reality is that it will cost to live this lifestyle of love.

If it doesn’t cost us anything to love, is it really love?

It cost Jesus everything, why should we think we are exempt from showing practical love.

It takes faith. Giving our time, our finances, our energy, needs to come from a lifestyle of faith. At times, God calls us to give that which we don’t have and simply trust Him for the provision.

I think sometimes we need to be reminded of the abundance of the Kingdom of God. We cannot outgive God.

In verse 18, John concludes with the word, “truth”. John is addressing our motivation for giving. We are tempted to give to be noticed or even to manipulate, our motives are impure. God cares about our motives.

“What does it look like? It has hands to help others, feet to hasten to the poor and needy, eyes to see misery and want, ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.” Augustine.

How is your love life?

Three ways to bless your Pastor, September 11, 2022

This past Sunday I had the blessing of preaching at the Bethel Family worship center at their pastor’s anniversary celebration. It was a tremendous blessing to honor and celebrate with pastor Dennis Lester.

I spoke about the three things that a church member can do to bless their pastor and bless the church.

We all are familiar with the description of the early church family found in Acts 2:42-47. This is a picture of the first church in Jerusalem after the Holy Spirit has come on the believers, and they are transformed by the power of God.

There is so much that we can learn from this text. Many books and church growth seminars have been devoted to this text. But I want to look at three simple words that we can learn from the people at this church in Jerusalem.

1. The first characteristic we can learn from the early church is that they were present. Verse 42 says that the people devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, fellowship, breaking bread and prayers. The obvious conclusion is that in order to devote yourself to teaching, fellowship, breaking Bread and prayer, is that you have to be present.

Some people are the backbone of the church, showing up at events, giving generously and supporting the ministry in many other ways. Other people only come on Sunday’s and maybe only once a month, or twice, if the chiefs aren’t playing at noon.

I want to encourage you to be present. Show up, get involved, you will be blessed, and it will bless the church family.

2. The second characteristic is participation. Verse 42 continues, “And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need”.

Now let’s be clear, this is not a call to communism, rather it is a call to community. Giving of our tithes is one way to participate, but we are also called to give our time, our energy, and our talents. We as followers of Jesus, have been given spiritual gifts by the Holy Spirit for the building up of the body as Paul writes in Romans 12 and verse 4, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,”

Paul goes on to list the spiritual gifts that are distributed amongst the members of the church. God has given all the gifts necessary for the church to be effective to the church body. When you do not participate the church misses out, the church is weakened, because you are not exercising your gift.

You may be present each week, but if you are not participating by utilizing the gifts that you have been given as a follower of Jesus, the body of Christ is not running on all cylinders. Something is missing.

The church will be blessed when you are present and participate.

3. The final characteristic of the early church was prayer. Verse 42 says that the early church devoted themselves to prayer.

During our time in South Africa in July, I spent a lot of time asking the Lord about the future that He has for us as a church. One thing that kept coming back to me over and over again is that the Lord wants us to be a praying church.

You might say that we already pray, we have two weekly prayer meetings, we gather for prayer as a staff, we pray before the services, and monthly we pray for an unreached people group. We do a lot of prayer, but are we saturated with prayer, are we seeking the Lord as a church family in our homes and whenever we gather?

What will it look like for our church to become a house of prayer? The way Jesus called for when he cleansed the temple in John 2. What if we were saturated in prayer?

What if before we gossiped about someone, we prayed for them?

Becoming a church that is a house of prayer will bless our community.

A healthy church is present, participating and praying. Three simple characteristics, but as we do these three simple things, there is tremendous fruit in the kingdom of God.

In the past four or five decades, we have seen the emergence of the mega church in America. These are something like the Home Depots of churches, complete with slick programming, smoke machines and big-name speakers. But I still believe in the community church, I still believe in the growing family church, where people are called to commit and feel like they belong.

I believe that a mega church model is by necessity self-serving, and they can only scratch the surface of what a fully committed, fully present, fully praying community church can do in the kingdom of God.

The first church had results, not by adding numbers from other churches but by winning souls. Acts 2:47 says, “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

That’s real church growth, participating by going out and winning people to Christ.

Let’s commit as a church family to be present, to participate and to pray.

Sermon, Sunday September 4, 2022 – Good News for Sinners

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The following is for sinners. And that means that this message is for everyone.

John made it clear in the previous chapter, that if we are born of God, we are children of God, and that practicing righteousness, provides evidence that we are saved.

Dictionaries define righteousness as “behavior that is morally justifiable or right.”

The Bible’s standard of human righteousness is God’s own perfection in every attribute, every attitude, every behavior, and every word. The Bible describes the character of God and gives us the plumbline by which he measures human righteousness.

The apostle John is addressing people in the first century church, but it is the same people that we have also today in our churches all over the world. People who think they are Christians, but really, they are not born again. This is a shock tactic of John, that should make us all take a hard look at our lives.

The number one problem in the world today is sin. And only God can rescue us and solve this problem. In verse 4 we read that sin is breaking God’s law. Sin is a defiant rejection of God’s rightful rule over your life.

Daniel Akin wrote, “Sin is nothing less than personal treason against the Sovereign of the universe.

Because the problem with sin is so great, a great rescue was needed. That great rescue was in the form of the sinless lamb of God (John 1:29). Jesus is the only one who never sinned (1 John 3:5 and 2 Corinthians 5:21).

John continues his logic in verse 6, “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.”

As we abide in Christ, it is illogical and impossible to live in a consistent lifestyle of sin. If you continually practice sin, you haven’t encountered Jesus, let alone know him, or abide in him.

This does not mean Christians live in sinless perfection. The verb tenses in verse 6 and 9 point to an ongoing practice of willful rebellion against God with no remorse or desire for reconciliation.

If you are knowingly sinning and it doesn’t bother you, you have no relationship with Jesus, and you are not saved.

When we become followers of Jesus, we are born again, we take on a new nature. Sin no longer has control over us, and we are free from its enslaving power.  

As followers of Jesus, we are not without sin, but it is not our daily practice and as the Holy Spirit brings conviction, we repent of our sin and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can gain victory in that area of our lives. This is the process of sanctification.

We are in a titanic battle until the day Jesus calls us home or he returns (Hebrews 12:4).

John wrote this letter to challenge false teachers who were saying that it is possible to be a follower of Jesus and still be practicing sin. We have the same false teaching today and it is sending people to hell. There is a false Gospel that says, “God is love, He is full of grace and no matter what you do, He will never send you to hell, keep on sinning allowing the grace of God to bless you.”

This is a lie from Satan himself and it has infiltrated the church, convincing people that simply raising your hand or going forward in a meeting is enough to be saved, and you can live however you please (1 John 3:7). We should be concerned that people are being deceived about the seriousness of sin.

We need to be clear that we aren’t righteous because we do good things, we are righteous because we are in Christ. He is our righteousness. Abiding in Christ, with Jesus as Lord, we are positionally right with God and experientially we live that position out in acts of righteousness (Galatians 2:20).

Verse 8 explains the reason why Jesus came to the earth, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”

The devil means the accuser, and he has been lying, and destroying lives since the garden of Eden.

The Son of God came invading enemy territory and defeated Satan.

“God’s infiltration of rebel planet earth, was a search and destroy mission.” John Piper

Jesus destroyed Satan’s schemes on the cross and the empty tomb is proof of his victory over death and ours too.

To be saved we need to have a life altering conversion encounter (2 Corinthians 5:17).

John points out three clear distinguishing marks of conversion.

  • We have experienced the new birth.  

What does it mean to be born again? It is a miraculous work of God’s grace. There is a change of heart as we are convicted of sin, and we respond in repentance before God. We are transformed from the inside by the Holy Spirit. Every conversion is a radical conversion, moving from darkness into light.

When that happens, we get God’s seed abiding in us (1 John 3:9). God fills us and deposits His presence in us, abiding in us. We can only abide in Christ as God’s Spirit first abides in us. We will try in vain to overcome sin in our lives. We cannot do what only the creator of the universe can do.

  • God’s children don’t practice sin.

As followers of Jesus, we will not be able to make a practice of sinning. We don’t have to live in constant defeat (1 John 4:4). Are you living from your identity?

  • God’s children will love one another (1 John 3:10).

There are two very simple and fundamental tests for identifying a Christian:

A: Do you do what is right?

B: Do you love other believers?

True Christians are to love one another, not because we are forced to love each other, but because we love the spirit of Christ in each other.

When we despise other believers and gossip about them, we are living as an unbeliever, and we are serving the purposes of the devil.

“By a carpenter mankind was made, and only by that Carpenter can mankind be remade.” Desiderius Erasmus.

Have you been remade? Have you truly been born again?

Sunday August 21, 2022. Do You Know Your Identity?

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Do you know who you are?

Recently as we visited South Africa, Debbie and I were reminded of the challenge we face around identity. We haven’t lived in South Africa for twenty-two years, but even then, as white English-speaking south Africans, we face an identity crisis. We are of European heritage; the vast majority of South Africans are not. We were very much tourists in our own place of birth.

We came home to Kansas City, and every time we open our mouths, people ask, “where are you from?” We will never be completely American; no matter how much sweet tea and Barbeque we enjoy.

But there is a blessing in my identity struggle. My true identity is found in being a child of God. I belong in the kingdom of God, I am an adopted child of the Living God.

Where is your identity? Do you identify as a follower of Jesus first and then as an American? Whatever your nationality, do you identify as a child of God first?

Do you know your identity? Are you living out your identity?

John begins these verses with his customary greeting, “little children”, he wants the best for them and continues in verse 28 to encourage them to abide in Christ.

Abiding is the theme of the previous section and as we have seen, it means to be rooted in Christ and to remain steadfast and unwavering (see 1 John 2:24). By abiding in Christ John knows that his readers will be protected against false teachers.   

There are two blessings in abiding.

1. In abiding there is confidence that there will be no shame when Christs return (1 John 2:28).

Jesus is coming again. When Jesus returns, will you be confident? Or will you be ashamed?

Will you run towards him with excitement or will you be ashamed. Will you draw back because you have some unfinished business to care of, something you need to try and make right?

Are you confident that you are making the most of your time, your gifts and your resources for the Kingdom of God?

If not, today is the day for you to start living exclusively under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, allowing him to lead you to be everything he designed you to be for his glory.

2. In abiding there is certainty of identity (1 John 2:29).

Verse 29 says, “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.”

Practicing righteousness is the fruit of abiding in Christ. Like a tree that feeds on good soil produces good fruit, so to a Christian that feeds on the good soil of God’s Word, prayer, and healthy fellowship will produce good fruit.

However, some Christians are trying to produce good fruit, while at the same time they are feeding on bad nutrients like social media, R-rated movies, gossip, pornography, and the likes. If you are feeding on unhealthy nutrients, you will not be able to practice righteousness.

What are you feeding on?

John begins the 3rd chapter with a wonderful declaration of the identity of followers of Jesus.  “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him” 1 John 3:1 NIV.

John writes a word picture of unconditional, abundant, outpouring of unlimited love. Not because we deserve it, but because he desired to pour out his love on us.

He poured out His love by sending His only son to die for us to reconcile us to Himself.

More than reconciliation, we are called His children. When we make Jesus Lord of our lives, God the Father adopts us into His family. In the Roman Empire adoption was forever and secure. What a beautiful promise for us.

Children of God should act like Children of God (v29 and v3).

But we know from Ephesians 2:8-9 that we cannot earn our salvation,

Sadly, in the modern church we have become so clear on the doctrine of salvation by grace, that we seem to have forgotten that we need to live out and work out the righteousness that God calls us to.

And the end result is that we have a church of passivity. A stagnant form of Christianity that many drift away from because it wasn’t a Christianity to begin with. There was no abiding and as a result, there was no fruit.

The church today loves the doctrine of being saved by grace in Ephesians 2:8-9. But we must continue on to verse 10 which says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

There is very definitely work in the Christian life. We are not saved by works, rather we are blessed to be able to be used by God for His glory.

Looking at verse 2, we see another reminder of our identity, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”

The DNA that is found in the smallest baby at conception, has all the information to develop that life into a fully grown person.

As followers of Jesus, we also have an eternal DNA. And yet, while we live here on the earth, we display aspects of the nature of God in this world. Are you displaying your Heavenly Fathers Character?

Have you been born again?

Are you living like a child of God?

Sermon Sunday August 14, 2022 Kisses from Heaven

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It is so good to be back, thank you so much for the prayers. For those who don’t know, our family has been away in South Africa on a Sabbatical for the month of July.

I didn’t know how much I needed the time off. Honestly, everyone around me, mostly my family could see that I was emotionally and spiritually spent. The last few years have been particularly challenging with a global pandemic and family health concerns.

This month 8 years ago I began pastoring here at Grace Point, and it has been the best and most challenging assignment of my life. I want to say that I am grateful. Grateful to you as a church for the gracious time off, grateful to Debbie and my kids for their love and support. And I am most grateful to the Lord for His faithfulness and His goodness.  

When we left on July 3, we decided to be on the lookout for what we began calling, “Kisses from Heaven”. Unforeseen gifts and blessings from the Lord.

It would take weeks to share all of them with you but one overarching kiss from heaven was the way God orchestrated the beauty of His creation to minister to us.

I love mountains and the ocean. I love speaking with the Lord while gazing upon the beauty of creation. I quickly realized that God was refreshing my soul through nature. I wasn’t simply looking at a vista, I was drinking in the beauty of creation into my very soul.

It was winter, and chilly, but when we decided to go up Table Mountain for instance, it was a perfect near windless day. When we visited Cape Point, it was a howling north easterly wind that whipped up the ocean. We were in awe of the power of creation as the mighty waves crashed on the rocks.

From long prayer walks on the beach, standing on mountain tops, gazing at the majestic milky way and the southern sky, seeing multiple rainbows after a storm, seeing the incredible beauty of the birds and the majestic big five animals, God was restoring and filling our souls. He was so good to us.

Over the last week, the Lord has highlighted a certain text and it is found in Lamentations 3:19-26

The context for this book is the judgment of God on Judah. In 587 BC, the Lord used the Babylonian empire to destroy and take into exile most of the nation of Judah. Most scholars agree that the book was written by Jeremiah and it is a sad outpouring of grief. But right in the middle of the book, it seems like Jeremiah has a change of heart, he sees God in the midst of the grief and he begins to pour out his worship and appreciation.

Amid anguish and suffering, Jeremiah declares one of the greatest confessions of faith in the Bible. In the midst of his sorrow, he remembers the mercy of God.

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

In the world around us, there is much that can cause us to grieve and become anxious. If we look to our finances or personal security as a foundation for hope and peace, we will always be discouraged. But if we build on Christ, the faithful one, he will never fail us.

Lamentations is a call to repentance, as we see in verses 39 and 40,  

“Why should the living complain
    when punished for their sins?

Let us examine our ways and test them,
    and let us return to the Lord.

Under the New Covenant we have the incredible promise of 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

God is faithful to forgive.

He is faithful to carry our burdens (Hebrews 2:17).

He is faithful to deliver us from temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).

God is Faithful to keep us in this life and for eternity.

Do you trust God to be faithful?

One of the things the Lord impressed on me during the last month, was that the path ahead for us individually, as a church, and as a nation, is treacherous. This is not a word we often hear today, and it is defined as, “hazardous because of presenting hidden or unpredictable dangers.Sounds like the world we live in.

How are we to respond?

We can become discouraged, and retreat into escapism. Hiding from reality by numbing our senses with addictions, whether it is drugs, pornography, social media, accumulating things, entertainment, sport, or any number of other distractions. How do we face the treacherous future?

The answer is clearly given in Lamentations 3:24-26,

24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.”

Notice the underlined words, “wait and seek”

Waiting and seeking is prayer, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2).

Truthfully it is difficult to wait on the Lord, our human nature craves activity, we want to fix things.

As you wait on the Lord, you will see the fulfilment of another prophet, Isaiah 40:31. During our time in South Africa, the Lord slowed me down, he taught me to wait on Him, and he renewed my strength.

What about you? Are you experiencing kisses from heaven?

Are you waiting on the Lord? Are you seeking Him? What do you need to bring to the Lord today, that only He can solve?

As a church, do we know what it means to wait on the Lord?

Are we a praying church? I would say we have begun to scratch the surface of all that God has for us in the place of prayer.

We still have so much more that God wants to show us and power that He would release as we wait on Him.

Are you prepared to seek Him? Are you prepared to wait on the Lord?

Sermon Sunday June 26, 2022 – Who is Jesus?

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What is the most important question you will ever have to answer? Life is all about questions, asking and answering questions.

The most important question you will ever have to answer is, “Who is Jesus?” There is no other question that comes close.

In 1 John 2, John warns his readers that we are in the last hour and that the world has many Antichrists.

The word, “antichrist”, has a way of stirring up fear and wild speculation. What are these antichrists, and what do they do?

In the text today, John gives us three keys to help us recognize and defeat these enemies of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

  1. Antichrists Attack Christ (1 John 2:18).

The word “antichrist” means “against Christ” or “in the place of Christ.”

John writes at the beginning and the end of verse 18, “it is the last hour.” This means the entire period of time between when Jesus walked the earth and when he comes back again (See Acts 2:16-17 and Hebrews 1:1-2).

The phrase, “the last hour”, creates a sense of urgency that this world is temporary. We live in the age when the antichrists are active. This activity opposing Christ will increase until the Antichrist comes; the primary representative of Satan himself. Jesus spoke about the time we live in in Matthew 24:4-5.  

As we see the Gospel going out to the nations, we are seeing incredible things happening on the mission field as millions are coming to know Christ as Lord, at the same time Satan has his missionaries, these antichrists, and they are also going out into the world and into churches.

In 1 John 2:22, he makes plain what the spirit of antichrist is all about: “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.”

The strategy of Satan and his demons is deception. They don’t directly oppose Jesus, they redefine him.

  • They will say, “he is good, but he is not God”.
  • They will say, “He may be a son of God, but He is not the Son of God.”
  • They will say, “He may have died on the cross as a martyr, but He did not die as a Savior.”

The spirit of antichrist always diminishes the person and work of Jesus. If Jesus wasn’t God, then his death and resurrection would have no power over sin. The core of Christianity is Jesus, his person and his work as the eternal son of God. If we get this wrong, then everything else in our faith falls apart.

The apostle John makes it clear that there is a difference between the many antichrists who are already here and have been around for centuries, and the one Antichrist who is coming at the very end of the age. This man will have such power and charisma that the whole world will follow him (Revelation 13:2-4).

2: Antichrists Abandon the Church (1 John 2:19).

The greatest threat to the church comes from within the church. Satan plants antichrists in the church and uses them to subtly persuade the church that Jesus is not really who he claims to be. When these antichrists leave the church, they leave a trail of pain and sometimes even take captives with them who have been deceived.

There are some who share [for a while] our earthly company who do not share our heavenly birth” Alistair Begg.

Now let me be clear, not everyone who leaves a church is an antichrist, there are many different reasons why people come and go in the modern church.

But sometimes when people leave it is because they were never really saved. They never had a personal relationship with Jesus as Lord. Breaking fellowship could indicate a defective faith (see 1 John 3:9).

3: Antichrists Assault the Christian

We can easily get discouraged and confused about who to believe. The antichrists, people who teach against the person and work of Jesus are all around us. These people have influence, they are intellectually very strong, and it is hard to even wrap our minds around some of their deceptive arguments. John makes it clear that these antichrists are committed to defeating the church. But we have the promise of 1 John 4:4.

John reminds his readers that we have a two-pronged weapon to defeat Satan’s plans. We have the anointing and the indwelling Holy Spirit, and we have the Word of God (1 John 2:20-21 and 27).

The apostle Paul calls this the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God in Ephesians 6:17.

In verse 20, John emphatically says, “…you have been anointed by the Holy One…”  it is a promise and refers to the promised Holy Spirit.

As followers of Jesus, we are consecrated and set apart by God and for God by the Holy Spirit, we now have an internal and abiding Teacher who will guide us in all knowledge and truth. As we abide in him, we will not be misled by false teaching.

The teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit does not involve revelation of new truth. Rather, it is the revelation of the written Word of God to us. In verse 24, John challenges the believer to simply remain in the teaching of Christ. To abide and remain in this teaching is to abide and remain in both the Son and the Father.

There is not any additional thing you need. Jesus plus something extra equals heresy and the teachings of the antichrist.

Jesus is the center of Christianity. He does not stand and point to a way; he is the way!

This is what the Bible teaches and what the holy spirit affirms.

Do you know the Word? Are you abiding in the Word by the Holy Spirit? If not, you are at risk of being deceived.

Who do you say Jesus is?  Is he Lord of your life?

Mission Tahlequah report back. June 19, 2022

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Every Mission trip is different and this one was especially special. This one had so many unique stories that it is going to take all of us quite some time to process all that God did in and through us.

Thank you so much for all who contributed in finances to enable others to go. It was such an incredible blessing to see the Lord provide as He always does.

We began the mission by driving up to an overlook over the city and prayed together for the city and the people that we would be meeting during the week. As we were sitting there, the Lord took me to 2 Corinthians 2:14-17, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.”

As we prayed over the city of Tahlequah, I felt the impact of years of lies spoken over these people. Lies of manipulation and fear, promising them wealth and prosperity, but never delivering. Lies of centuries of belief in ancestral worship.

As I was praying about this, I was reminded of Isaiah 59:14, Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.”

Truth has been removed from the public square in Tahlequah and in America. We must remember that truth is a person. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). As missionaries we are representatives of the truth.

The Lord sent us with a commission as verse 17 says. We came to the city and region around Tahlequah with an authority to proclaim the truth of God’s word, Commissioned by God.

We spread the fragrance of the aroma of Christ as we knocked on doors and met people in the streets. Some people were drawn to us. Drawn into conversation, like Robert who was sitting in his hot car in the middle of the day. He had just moved from California and has been told “you can live here as long as you like, but you will never belong.” It was a joy to be able to share with him the hope of eternal life and connect him with a local church family who would love him and treat him like family.

Then there were others who closed the door and hid behind the blinds of the windows.

We walked out verse 14 and had the joy of seeing lives impacted for eternity.

I asked the mission team to answer two questions on our final evening debrief; what did God show you this week? And what are you going to commit to doing moving forward?

Our son Joshua has many challenges in life, including autism, a brain injury from epilepsy and prolonged seizures in Kindergarten, anxiety, sensory processing disorder, etc. He really has intense struggles that I cannot relate to. On several occasions he was pushed way beyond his comfort zone and had some very tough moments.

When it was Joshua’s time to answer, he said the following: “God showed me that when I feel anxious, I am able to push through and keep going” I cannot tell you how much of a miracle that is. Then he said, “I commit to being a bold witness for God to introduce people to the Kingdom of God”. 

That was the best Father’s Day gift I could have received!

God sent us to a nation within a nation, the people of the Cherokee. I love the different people groups God has created. I love seeing different aspects of Gods character and nature as we fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ who have a different culture.

I was blessed to sit down to lunch with Tommy Flute. He began telling me how ten years ago the Lord set him free from twenty-five years of alcohol addiction. He is now a worship leader in his Church. He is one of only 1900 people who speak Cherokee as a first language.

In the early 1800’s a Cherokee man Sequoyah, developed the Cherokee syllabary a form of script consisting of 86 symbols that became the “alphabet” for the Cherokee people. The first book translated was the New Testament which became the first book for reading and study in the school system. As a result of keeping the Bible as their foundation, the Cherokee advanced far beyond other native American tribes. It is a powerful testimony to the life transforming – nation transforming, power of the Word of God.

I pray that we as a nation of many nations would once more place the Word of God as our foundation.

Sermon, Sunday June 5, 2022 – Do Not Love the World.

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1 John 4 teaches that God is love, but the Bible also teaches that there are some things that God hates and so should we (See Psalm 5:5-6, Proverbs 6:16-19, Revelation 2:6).

As we see in John 2, God hates the love of the world. When we become Christians, we no longer view this world as our home. Rather, we are looking forward to an eternal home with the Lord. If we truly believe this, then why would we give our time, energy, finances, and passions to temporary things that directly oppose God.

As we surrender, God not only takes us into His kingdom, but He also brings us into His family. John uses three terms to identify the people he is writing to in verses 12-14: Children, Fathers and Young Men.

The term children refers to new believers, the fathers are the mature believers who have been following the Lord for many years, and the young men are the maturing believers who are pursuing God with passion and fervor.

In verse 12, John addresses those newer believers and encourages them with the good news of their forgiven sins. Isn’t it great to know that our sins are forgiven?

Next, John addresses the spiritual fathers and mothers who have been walking with the Lord for many years. When we become Christians, we begin a journey that leads to a growing relationship with God our Father. John repeats this in verse 14 to emphasize the importance of growing in our knowledge of our Heavenly Father. We grow in this knowledge and relationship through life experiences, challenges, and trials.

Then John addresses the people who are growing in their passion and zeal for the things of God. These people are young in the faith, maturing, and fighting hard in spiritual warfare. They are strong because the word of God abides in them.

It is important to remember that we don’t overcome the attacks of Satan by our own hard work or efforts, we rest on the completed work of Jesus on the cross. Satan loves to tempt us and hurl accusations at us regarding our past, but our debt has been paid, in Christ there is no more condemnation (Romans 8:1).

These young warriors are abiding in the word of God and as a result they are strong in the face of temptation and trials.  

Sadly, many Christians never grow up and remain as children because they do not have the discipline to read, meditate, and feed on the Word of God.

In the following three verses John warns his readers about the “World”. What he is referring to is a worldview and a way of life that is led by Satan and his demons. Following the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes and the pride of possessions. This is a worldview that leaves God out of our thinking and decisions. Chasing after temporary things while ignoring eternal things.

These verses encourage us to reject anything that goes against God’s word and anything that we would value more than God. That would be an idol in our lives. Worldliness means living only to please our flesh and pursuing the desire of our eyes. This is a life pursuing temporal pleasure and will never satisfy.  

John highlights three things the world promises but cannot deliver:

1: The World Cannot Give You What You Need (1 John 2:15).

Everyone of us has a God given need to love and to be loved. But the object of our love needs to be in the right order for us to experience peace. If we choose to love the world, we are choosing to not love God and we will never be fulfilled.

2: The World Cannot Give You What It Promises (1 John 2:16).

This is one of the most important verses in the Bible. It identifies three weapons Satan uses to seduce men and women away from God. These same three weapons Satan used in the Garden of Eden to tempt Adam and Eve.

Genesis 3:6 says, “Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food [lust of the flesh] and delightful to look at [lust of the eyes], and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom [the pride of life].”

The same three weapons were used by Satan when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness in Luke 4. And today Satan still uses the same three weapons against the followers of Jesus. They are effective, because we don’t recognize them and resist them by the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

  • The desires (lust) of the flesh appeal to our appetites.

“Desires” means cravings, lust, or passion. The word desire is neutral, but the object of our desire is what determines whether such desires are good or bad. It is important to realize that we are not sinful because we sin. Instead, we sin because we are sinful.

  • The desire of the eyes appeals to our affections.

Our eyes, like our natural desire, are not evil (Proverbs 20:12), however, the eyes are windows to the soul by which sinful desires enter.  In 2 Samuel 11, David was led to adultery and murder because of what he allowed his eyes to see.

  • Pride in possessions appeals to our ambitions.

Pride is an unhealthy self-image, boasting and arrogance to impress others. The “Pride of possessions” or “pride of life” speaks of the person who glorifies himself rather than God.

If you think that you don’t fall into this category, just spend a few moments thinking about how much time and energy you spend trying to earn a few extra dollars or gain that next promotion or buy that nice car or phone. We are all prone to stumbling in this area as in the others because of our human nature.

But there is a better way to live, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” 1 Peter 5:6.  

3: The World Cannot Give You What Will Last (1 John 2:17).

We have two opposing worlds to give our lives to, why would we give our lives to something that is temporary and an illusion. Why would we give our lives to the temporary deception of Satan’s world that leads only to death? The only life that produces eternal fruit, is a life that is committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and living to do the will of God.

One of the saddest stories in the Bible concerns a man by the name of Demas. In Colossians 4, we read that he is faithfully serving alongside Luke for the Gospel ministry. However much later in 2 Timothy 4:10, the Apostle Paul writes these tragic words, “Demas has deserted me, because he loved this present world.”

The history of Christianity is filled with people who have followed in the path of Demas. Don’t live for the temporal and lose out on the eternal.

What are you pursuing in life?