Eternally Thankful – Sermon November 27, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God and the Election Part 2, November 13, 2016

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Romans 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God and the Election part 1 – November 7, 2016

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1 Samuel 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Power of Forgiveness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sermon October 23, 2016 – The Word Part 2

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The Enduring Word of God

Psalm 119:105-112

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sermon October 16, 2016 – The Word Part 1

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

Roy Peterson, president and CEO of American Bible Society.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sermon series on Stewardship Part 3 – Relationships, October 9, 2016

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Stewarding our relationships

1 John 4:7-21

Each of us is placed in a specific home environment, workplace or community exactly where God wants us to be. If we believe that God is in control of all things, then there is no one in your life who is there by chance. Everyone in your life is there because God knew you needed to be in a relationship with them. Sometimes those relationships are not easy, sometimes they lead to angry words and frustration, but when you look back on your life, you will see that they are there for a reason. I want to challenge you to think about why God has placed the people in your life that He has.

In the book of 1 John, the Apostle John focuses on our relationship with God and our relationships with each other. In 1 John 4:7-21, we see the word “love” repeated 27 times. John starts this section in verse 7 by writing; “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. The Greek language is much more descriptive than our English language and Greek has a number of different words for Love. The Greek word that John uses here for love is Agape. The type of love that characterizes God is not a sappy, sentimental feeling that we think of with our limited vocabulary.

God loves because that is His nature and the expression of His being. Agape love does not come naturally to us, because of our fallen nature, we are incapable of producing such a love. If we are to love as God loves, that agape love can only come from God. This is the love that we receive by the Holy Spirit as we read in Romans 5:5; “…because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Agape love as modeled by Jesus, is not based on a feeling. Rather, it is a determined act of the will, a joyful resolve to put the welfare of others above our own. Jesus went to Jerusalem that final time, determined to go to the cross, he knew what lay ahead and he followed through on the will of his father, because of his love for us. In in this short passage in 1 John 4, we see the Gospel message referred to three times (see verses 9,10 and 14).

This Gospel message is a message of agape love, a love that is always shown by what it does.

So why is this so important?   We get a hint in verse 12 and 17; Christians are to be the demonstration of the Love of Christ to the world around us. The JB Phillips New Testament paraphrase explains verse 17 this way; “for we realise that our life in this world is actually his life lived in us.” We are Christs ambassadors in this world, we are to love with an unconditional determined love. That is what it means to be a Christian.

Our love for our fellow man flows out of our love for God. A vertical relationship enables us to love those around us. If we are struggling to love those around us, it is probably because we are struggling in our personal walk with the Lord.

What relationships has God placed around you? Each of us have spheres of influence, people that are impacted by our lives.

Our families are the first and most important relationships that we are to steward. God has placed you in your family. If you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior you are called to love your family unconditionally in order that those who are not saved might see Jesus through you.

Another sphere is our Church family, our fellowship with other believers. Sometimes in our church family we find it hard to love each other because we have differing opinions and passions. But the truth is that God has called you and placed you in the church you are in for His glory.

In his book, The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer gives this interesting illustration: “Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers [meeting] together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”

True unity comes from being in tune with God through Jesus Christ. At the root of disunity is one or more have taken their tune from another master. Whether that is their own preferences, desires, traditions or opinions. For any church to experience unity, we need to all be focusing on Jesus Christ and him alone. As we do we will find that our disagreements will melt away as we begin to experience God’s love for each other. If two Christians do not love each other, they have taken their eyes off the cross of Jesus Christ.

Paul writing in Romans 12, speaks about love in action and sets the bar high for us in verse 10: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” How many of our family arguments would simply cease to exist if we would take that verse seriously – how many of our church disagreements would dissolve if we honored one another above ourselves.

Then we have our other spheres of influence, our workplaces, community and places of recreation. The people that you encounter on a weekly basis in your favorite restaurant or at the bank or the convenience store. These are all relationships that we are called to steward. Do we see people as a means to get what we want? Or do we see them as people that Jesus died for?

God has entrusted the people in your circles to your care. He has placed you in their lives to love them, to care for them and to show them the love of the Father.

Our families and communities would be transformed if we took what the apostle Paul wrote to heart in Romans 12:10, do we honor our loved ones?

Sermon series on Stewardship Part 2 – Finances, October 2, 2016

 

stewardship-pt-2-title-2-01There are 2350 verses on finances in the Bible, and 15% of all the recorded words of Jesus were on money. Finances are obviously an important topic in the Word of God, and stewarding our finances well is vital to our Christian walk.

The foundation of everything relating to a discussion on finances is that God owns everything. He is the creator and sustainer of all things (see Psalm 24:1). Everything we have comes from God, we are not owners of it, we are stewards of God’s wealth. That is such an important paradigm shift we need to make in our lives.

The second reality is that we cannot take any of our material possessions with us into eternity. When we die, all our accumulation of wealth stays behind and gets divided up according to our estate. This sounds obvious, but so few live according to this reality. The Bible clearly states that what we do with our time and resources here on earth will store up for us riches in heaven. In a currency that we know nothing about.

We use the term tithe or tithing when we talk about giving money to the Lord’s work. This is not simply a modern Church word, rather tithing has been a part of many different cultures and religions throughout history. And in fact it pre-dates the law of Moses. A tithe is ten percent of one’s earnings or crops, set aside and given to God. In the OT book of the Prophet Malachi, we read how God rebukes the nation of Israel for their lack of tithing (see Malachi 3:6-12). You may argue that Malachi is in the Old Testament and it doesn’t apply to us today, we are under the new covenant and we are under grace. It is true that Jesus ushered in the New Covenant by his death and resurrection, but he also said in Matthew 5:17 that he did not come to abolish the Law, but rather to fulfill the Law.

People who view tithing as simply an Old Testament law whereby one is paying a debt back to God, miss the point entirely. The early church in the book of Acts understood this and were an extremely generous people.  Tithing was never meant to pay a debt to God, in the Old or the New Testament, rather tithing builds our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Notice verse 10 of Malachi 3; “Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty….” God challenges the people to test him, this is the only time in the Bible where testing God is seen as a positive action. God encourages us to test our faith in the giving process.

When one gives a tithe to the local church it is never simply to meet a church budget. Rather, you are tithing to the ministry of reaching the lost, sharing the Gospel and bring the light of Jesus to our community. Not simply meeting a budget, who wants to give to that? No as we seek to diligently steward the gifts and tithes, we seek to make an eternal difference for the kingdom of God. Eternal souls are at stake. Give to that.

Looking at one of the lessons Jesus taught on money we read of the rich young man in Mark 10:17-25.

Notice the posture of this man as he runs up to Jesus and falls down, begging Jesus for an answer. There is a desperation. He knows that there must be more to this life and he wants to have eternal security. But notice the question he asks; “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”. This man is looking for a set of rules, a checkbox that he can tick off to say that his eternal salvation is secure.

Jesus knowing his heart lists some of the ten commandments, to which the man responds that he has kept these laws since he was a boy. But notice the commandments that Jesus mentions. Jesus only focuses on the Commandments that relate to our relationship with our fellow man. Jesus saw deep into the heart of this man and saw that he was trying to follow a set of rules rather than seeking a relationship with God.

This is a trap we so easily fall into, we want a set of rules, but God wants a relationship and then out of that relationship we seek to do the will of God. Again it is reinforced that we cannot possibly earn our way into heaven.

Jesus looks at the man and the Bible says, “he loved him”, and then Jesus raised the bar and told him to sell everything he had and give it to the poor and then come and follow him. Jesus loved him, but let him go, because Jesus knew that he loved his money more than he loved God. His money was his idol. It doesn’t mean that all of us are required to sell everything we have. But if we hold on to our money as our security, as our peace rather than Jesus, it has become an idol and we need to rearrange our priorities.

Again, the kingdom of God is not about a set of rules, it is about a relationship with our Heavenly Father.

We don’t give in order to get something from God, even though there is tremendous blessing in a life of disciplined tithing, no we give because he first gave everything for us.

So Jesus raised the bar and made it clear that our response to the Gospel is much more than 10% of our income or following a set of rules. This man lost everything because of his wealth. His wealth robbed him of the greatest wealth of all, eternal life. Today people are still being robbed by wealth, by letting their finances become and idol and it is preventing them from a relationship with the provider of all wealth.

The truth is that God doesn’t need your money, He wants your heart.

God wants you and I to understand that a closed hand is unable to receive his blessing, but a generous hand is open to receive from God.

The challenge for us as followers of Jesus is not if we should be giving 10% of our income, the real challenge is what about the other 90%?

One may argue that after tithing 10% the rest of the money is yours to use as you wish. But is that really true?

As we look at our spending habits, how much of the 90% do we waste? You may not be wasting money on lottery tickets or cigarettes, but what about things like cable TV or high interest rates on debt.

This is vital for us as Christians, we need to do everything we can to get out and stay out of debt.

Live according to a budget. Living according to and within a strict budget is the very definition of what it means to be a good steward.

When we meet people who have a close walk with God and those who have strong faith in God, if you dig a little and find out their story, you will discover that 95% of their faith lessons were lessons on finances.

If you want to grow your faith, it starts with realizing that everything we have belongs to our Father in heaven, and then trust him for the future.

Sermon series on Stewardship part 1 September 25, 2016

stewardship-pt-1-title-01

Redeeming the time.

We all know that life is short and that it is a constant struggle to prioritize our lives. Daily we are faced with more and more distractions from entertainment to the rise of social media.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines stewardship as; “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care”

Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:16; “making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” The King James version says; “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

The Greek word for redeem used here literally means to “purchase out of”. This particular word is only used four times in the Bible and all of those times by Paul. Here in Ephesians, in Colossians 4:5, and twice in Galatians, 3:13 and 4:5. The references in Galatians refers to what Christ has done for us, Galatians 3:13; “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law” KJV.

The Greek word literally means to purchase freedom, the act of paying the price to free a slave. We are redeemed from our slavery to sin by Jesus Christ. So Paul is saying, that by redeeming the time you are set free from the slavery to time.

The Greek word Paul uses for time is Kairos. Kairos does not refer to the passing of time or a duration of time, but rather it means the appointed time. For example, lunch time is a Kairos time – it the appointed time for lunch. Kairos means the appointed time for a task or event. Kairos could be a short window of time or a longer duration, but it is the set and appointed time. Kairos denotes a significant time.

Paul says that we are to redeem the Kairos moments in life, or as the NIV translates it; “Making the most of every opportunity.”

So why does Paul use this imagery of redeeming the time? Looking again at verse 16; ““Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” We need to be redeeming the time, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil and our opportunities to do good will slip away. We will miss the Kairos moments if we do not redeem the time and act now.

I do not need to remind you, that life is short, and our opportunities to serve the Lord when He calls come and go. Sometimes we miss the opportunities, we get busy, we are tired, or worse – we get lazy.

We are redeemed by Christ for the work of the Lord – redeemed to serve Him (see Ephesians 2:10)

In these three verses Paul is in essence saying “wake up and make the most of the day” It is sad to see so many Christians going about their lives simply drifting through life, like sleepwalkers who never really make the most of every opportunity to live for Christ and serve him. As Christians we need to be masters of planning our schedules, taking every day by the scruff of the neck and making wise use of our time. It has been said that “a planned life can better deal with unexpected events

Life consists of millions of decisions that relate to how we spend our time. If you want to do something that is not urgent, you need to plan for it. Many of the activities that we do that have the most long-term benefit, require a steady ongoing effort. They are seldom urgent activities.

How many of us, when we are facing our last days, will look back on our lives and regret that we didn’t spend more time on facebook, or more time watching TV, or more time playing video games. We would never do that, but we would wish we spent more time building meaningful relationships, telling others about Jesus or discipling a person who is younger than us.

Time is our most valuable commodity in life, after all, why do we use the term “spend time” if it is not a valuable commodity.

I want to challenge you to really take a good look at your personal time management. Time is a gift from God, we need to realize that just like the parable of the talents that Jesus told in Matthew 25, time is given to us as our talent. This valuable talent given to us by God is intended to be used for His glory. How are we spending the talent that God has given us?

As believers in Jesus Christ, we no longer live for ourselves, we live a life of purpose, a life dedicated to serving the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what it means to be a Christian, daily asking the Lord for his direction, daily asking Him how we can live for him.

That is a life of purpose that is a life that redeems the time.

Worship – Part 3 September 18, 2016

worship-pt-3-title-2Psalm 8

I recently read an article written by an atheist scientist who was proposing a radical end to life as we know it. His premise is that the earth will not be able to sustain the population within the next 30 years.

We have probably all heard this kind of argument.  Everywhere we hear the news that man is the problem. I want to make the Biblical case today to prove that man is not the problem, there is another cause driving mankind to destruction.

Reading Psalm 8 we will see that this particular Psalm speaks directly to us today in the 21st century and the moral challenges we face as a society.

This Psalm is known as one of the nature Psalms, David praises God’s greatness as he views all of creation. God’s glory is revealed in majesty throughout the universe. But David continues in this Psalm to state that mankind is the pinnacle and crowning glory of God’s creation, this is where the Bible clearly differs from those who view mankind as the problem on the earth.

David “bookends” this Psalm with the same magnificent line of praise; “O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is your name in all the earth!” The Lord’s name is majestic, and the attributes of God are part of His name (see Exodus 34). It is the name of God that carries power, majesty, glory and justice. In our generation it seems we have forgotten the third commandment (see Exodus 20:7). Oh that we would get back to the reverence and awe of the name of God in our society.

The second verse of Psalm 8, doesn’t seem to fit in the Psalm. David is writes about the vast universe, all the animals and the creatures of the sea; and then we have this verse about infants and nursing babies. The weakest and most dependent of society. It is through the weakest of the weak that God shows His power and majesty. Satan has convinced humanity that the unborn child is a mere piece of tissue, a collection of cells, but not a human being. If you ever needed another reason why abortion is evil, just read the rest of this verse; “to make the enemy and the revengeful cease”. Satan is determined to kill as many babies as possible through abortion, because each of them is a threat to him.

David continues by looking at the awesome vastness of God’s creation, he looked up at the stars and saw how small and seemingly insignificant man is. And then he begins to ask God, “what is man that you care for him?”

This is where the psalm begins to offend the post-modern mind, verse 5 says; “yet you have made him a little lower than God, and you crowned him with glory and majesty!”

Post-modern thought hates the truth of the Bible that says that mankind is the pinnacle of God’s creation. But the Bible clearly teaches that man is created in the image of God (see Genesis 1:26). Modern teaching has reduced mankind to an animal and rejected God completely, as a result the world is in chaos. The created order of God is out of alignment and sin reigns. This is all as a result of sin. When Adam sinned, he relinquished his authority over the created order and became a slave to sin. In the world today, we don’t have a mankind problem, we have a sin problem!

But that is not the end of the story! God sent his son, Jesus to come to the earth as a poor defenseless baby, weak and vulnerable. As Jesus lived among us, he exercised dominion over creation. He calmed the seas and the storms, he commanded fish and wild animals to obey him. No human has ever had such dominion over nature. Jesus was fully God and fully man, and he demonstrated to us all what it means to take dominion over creation. Jesus was God in the flesh, visiting his creation and by his death and resurrection he purchased the salvation for all who call on his name (See Hebrews 2:9).

Praise God for the cross, praise God for the Gospel message, the good news of salvation that is only through Jesus Christ our Lord.

There you have the truth. We have looked at eight short verses in Psalm 8 and I have made three points that are considered offensive to the thinking of post-modern man;

  1. Abortion is wrong and contrary to the will of God
  2. Mankind is the pinnacle of God’s creation, created in His image
  3. Salvation is only available through Jesus Christ.

And as we continue along the path of humanism, these statements will only become more and more offensive to the world around us. But the truth is that the Kingdom of God is not like the kingdom that is currently reigning in the world. The kingdom of God takes everything and turns it upside down.

In the kingdom of God:

  • The weak become strong.
  • The poor become rich.
  • The unborn are immeasurably valuable.
  • The last shall be first.
  • Humility and meekness is power.
  • By dying to ourselves we gain eternal life.
  • By the cross, we have freedom.

These are a few of the attributes of the kingdom of God, and our response can only be; “O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!”

The truth is that we only begin to worship when we realize our absolute dependence on God.

We are only able to Worship God with the breath he gives us in the first place. We are only able to worship God because he places the desire for worship in our hearts.

Worship is not about having the right sound or the right songs, it is about a personal heart posture before the Lord. Remember Moses when God proclaimed his name; he simply bowed down and worshipped (Exodus 34:8). We need to live a lifestyle of worship. Worshiping God when we drive to work, worshiping God when we are resting at home, worshiping God as we go about our daily tasks. Worship is from the heart first and foremost and it all stems from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

As we meditate on that we have to simply fall to our knees and say, Father, what is mankind that you are mindful of them? Who am I that you are care for me?