Sermon December 8, 2019 – The King is Coming

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 Malachi 4:1-6

We all love warm sunny days, and we know that the sun provides what we need to sustain life on the planet. We are so dependent on the sun for life, but the Bible speaks of another giver of life, another source of light.

In Malachi 3, we see God addressing two groups of people; those that merely go through the routine of religion and those who truly fear the Lord. We see those who fear the Lord crying out to God for justice because they see that the arrogant and the wicked are being allowed to prosper. And we see the same happening all around us in the 21st century.

In Malachi 4 verses 1 and 3 we see that a day is coming when the Lord will bring judgment on all the wicked who have rejected Him. In the Bible, whenever we read the term “the day”, we are aware this is speaking of when Jesus returns and everyone who has ever lived is judged. The arrogant, wicked and all who do not worship Jesus as Lord will be punished for eternity.

When the apostle Peter preached his sermon in Jerusalem in Acts 2, he spoke about “the day” in verses 20 and 21.

The first century church lived for that day, they spoke primarily about the resurrection of Jesus and his imminent return. The early church lived daily with an expectation of Jesus coming again. If they had that expectation, how much more should we. We must live with a preparedness, we must be about His business, working for the Kingdom of God and not building kingdoms that will soon be burnt up and the ashes scattered.

In verse 2, God addresses those who fear His name, “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall”. Malachi 4:2

I love the sunrise, it is a powerful reminder that God is watching over His creation. But this sunrise that Malachi speaks about is the ending of a period of time, the ending of the reign of darkness in the world, a new day of righteousness when Jesus will come and restore all things.

The picture that Malachi paints of calves leaping in joy, would have been a familiar sight to the Israelites. During the dark cold months of winter, the young animals would be kept in stalls for protection and warmth, but after the winter as these calves were released and they would jump and leap for joy, running into the pastures. This is a picture of the joy that the followers of Jesus will experience when he comes again.

In Malachi 4:4, God reminds the children of Israel that the Law was not a set of rules to be followed out of routine or tradition, rather the Law was given to bring them into relationship with God.

You cannot separate God’s word from a relationship with God, in that case it simply becomes an academic pursuit. God gave us His word to point us to Christ and the way to salvation through him. Jesus himself said in Matthew 5:17-18 that all of God’s word is relevant for us today until he comes again. The Bible contains many prophesies that will be fulfilled when Jesus comes again, and that is what these last few verses of Malachi speak about.

God’s word is our daily bread, inspired by the Holy Spirit. We need to be a people who meditate and live by the light of God’s word daily.

Verse 5 speaks about the prophet Elijah who will come before Jesus comes again to bring judgment on the whole earth. In Matthew 17, we read about the time when Jesus took Peter, James and John up a high mountain and there they saw Jesus with Elijah and Moses. The appearance of Jesus was transfigured, and his face shone like the sun.

Interestingly, if we read Revelation 11, we read about two witnesses who will prophecy and do mighty works on the earth before Jesus comes again. If you read the account in Revelation 11, you will see that the signs and wonders the two witnesses do are the same kinds of miraculous signs that God allowed Moses and Elijah to do when they lived on the earth.  

This forerunner will have an important role to play, in verse 6 we read, “And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” Malachi 4:6

This prophet would turn the hearts of the people back to the faith of their fathers. Reminding the people of the Faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is a revival! A time of great repentance. God says, repent and listen to the prophet or I will come and destroy the land.

The same applies to us, repent while you still can, turn away from your sins, turn to Jesus as Lord of your life and you will avoid the punishment that is coming for all who reject Jesus.

The Old Testament ends with a call to repent and a warning in the same way the New Testament closes with a call to repentance in Revelation 22:12-13.

The rays of the sun take about 8 minutes to reach us. If the sun was to stop shinning, life on earth would come to an end. That day is coming as we read in Joel 2:31-32. In verse 2 of Malachi 4 we read, “for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.”  The Hebrew word for wings here is “כָּנָף” “kanaph”, which could mean wings of a bird or the hem of a garment. In Matthew 9, when Jesus was walking through the crowd and a woman who had suffered from bleeding for 12 years, reached out and in faith simply touched the hem (Kanaph) of Jesus’ garment. She was instantly healed. God did this miracle to point to a time when Jesus would come again with healing in his wings for the whole earth. Jesus is the sun of righteousness, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the light of the world.

Has the light of Jesus shone in your life?

Sermon December 01, 2019 – It’s a Heart Issue

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Malachi 3:13-18

What are you afraid of? Ultimately, fear is a matter of perspective.  Fear can hinder us from being all that God calls us to be. Fear of the unknown is a lack of faith, a lack of belief that God is able to provide or care for His children.  

Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and he would constantly teach his followers to not be afraid.

In Luke’s gospel, when the angel Gabriel visited Mary to pronounce the birth of Jesus, he said, “do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God”.

But as we read the Bible, we see many references to the fear of the Lord. Should we be afraid of God or not?

True believers should never be afraid of God, but we should always have a reverence and respect for the all-holy, all-powerful God who spoke the universe into existence.

The fear of the Lord is healthy reverence, but the children of God should never live in a cowering fear of God. He is our loving heavenly Father.

Unhealthy fear in our relationship with our heavenly Father leads to legalism. But a healthy fear leads to a heart response to the will of God (See Proverbs 16:6).

During the time of Malachi, the people didn’t have a healthy fear of God, they were operating out of legalism and as we read in chapter 1, they even despised God.

Malachi 3:13 to 18 can be divided into two groups of people; in verses 13-15, God addresses those who are far from Him, going through the motions of being followers of God, but actually they are not serving Him at all. They have a form of religion without a relationship.

These people were living in legalism and simply following a set of rules, but they were tired of going through the motions (See Malachi 3:14). Essentially the people were asking the question “why are we doing this?” At the same time they were also asking, “what’s in it for me?”.

People who serve God out of legalism are serving with the intention of getting something from God. The have a mentality of reciprocity, a “what’s in it for me” attitude.

Before we criticize this group of people, we must come to terms with the fact that we all have a form of this reasoning in us.

Some may say that we are not under the law, that was before Jesus died for our sins on the cross and paid our debt once and for all. In response to this argument, we have two ways of thinking in our churches today, License and legalism.

License says, we have been saved by grace through Jesus Christ and therefore we can live as we please. God promises us forgiveness and we claim the promise of 1 John 1:9, and live however we want. However, the Apostle Paul addresses this in Romans 6:1-2.

As followers of Jesus, we will never be perfect this side of heaven, but we also know that there is joy and blessing in doing what God instructs us to do. Walking in holiness and purity leads to peace and blessing.

Legalism is the opposite way of thinking. People build fences, a man-made set of rules in order to prevent even the temptation to sin.  

The real answer is found in neither license nor legalism. We must not make the mistake of thinking that guarding ourselves and our children from sin is wrong, but it does become a problem when we miss the real reason for the rules and the law. Ultimately it is a heart issue, it all boils down to a healthy relationship with our heavenly Father.

Legalism says, you must give to the church, you must read your bible and pray every day.  legalism says, you must go to church and you must give to the poor.

But relationship changes our worldview. Relationship leads us to want to give, and we get to read our Bibles allowing the word of GOD to speak to us. We get to go to church, to fellowship with other believers. We have the joy of blessing others because of what God has blessed us with.

But then in verse 16, God speaks to another group, this group of people differs from the first primarily in their attitude towards God.

“Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name.” (Malachi 3:16)

This group of people had a healthy fear and respect for God (Proverbs 3:7).

When we have a healthy fear of the Lord, we have a respect and a reverence for the almighty God that will keep us from doing anything that is contrary to His perfect will.

Verse 16 also gives a promise that God notices them and listens to them. God knows your heart and He listens to those who come to Him with the right posture, with humility and reverence.

The verse continues and says that a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed Him name.  The Bible clearly teaches us that God records everything. Every decision we make in life is recorded, both good and bad. If we really understood this, it would change the way we view the simple decisions we make every day.

As we come to verse 17, we see an amazing promise, “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him.”

God looks at His people as His treasured possession. The Hebrew word used here is one to describe a collection of jewels. We are viewed by God as his treasured possession (See 1 Peter 2:9).

God goes on to say that “because you are my treasured jewel, I will keep you, I will save you from the coming judgement.” This is not because of what we have done, but all because God is true to His promises, and it is God’s nature to be faithful.

The chapter ends with a summary statement of these two groups.  The righteous who serve God out of relationship, and the wicked who do not. Do you know who you are?

Do you know that you are God’s treasured possession, bought with the precious blood of Jesus? Read and Meditate on Psalm 34:8-9.

Sermon November 24, 2019 – The Blessing of Giving

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How many times a day do you think about money?

Whether it is the lack thereof, or the abundance of money, both can be a snare.

In Malachi 3:6-12, God rebukes the nation of Israel because of their lack of faith with their finances. God had blessed the nation and things were going well, but there was a problem. The people had become complacent and their true devotion and worship of God had become mere religious activity.

In verse 6, God declares his immutability. The Immutability of God means that God is unchanging in his character, will, and covenant promises

God then pleads with the people to repent (see Malachi 3:7). The biggest problem was not that the people were needing to repent, but that they didn’t even know they were outside of the will of God. This is sadly the state of much of the church in the 21st century. It is exceedingly difficult to convince someone that they need to repent when they think that what they are doing is okay with God.

People can even do good things “for God”, but without a personal and growing relationship with Jesus Christ, they are destined to spend eternity separated from God in Hell.

Being a Christian is not about the things that we do for God. It is everything about what Jesus has already done for us when he died and rose again.

The key issue that God is dealing with in the nation of Israel in these verses is their finances. As we see in verse 8, “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.”

Our finances are a big deal to God. Of all that we have recorded of what Jesus taught, 15% of  was related to money. The foundation of our understanding is that God owns everything (see Psalm 24:1). Everything we have comes from God and we are called to be stewards of God’s wealth. The dictionary defines stewardship as “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care”

In verse 9 of Malachi 3, God not only rebukes the nation, He actually says that they are under a curse because of their lack of stewardship.  

You may argue that we are under the New Covenant and we are under grace, so this principle does not apply to us today. You would be right that we are under the New Covenant, but remember the words of Jesus in Mathew 5:17 where he says that he did not come to abolish the Law, but rather to fulfill the Law. Jesus took the law and raised the bar. He made what was a legal system of rules and regulations and turned it into something so much more significant, a personal relationship.

In verse 10 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 is challenging the people to step out in faith.  

As a church we rely on the gifts and tithes of attendees to maintain the budget. But what if we didn’t focus on meeting a budget, rather we were giving so that the church could advance the Kingdom of God, reaching the lost and setting the captives free.

One of the lessons Jesus taught on money is recorded in Mark 10:17-25. As Jesus was walking a man ran up to him and fell on his knees, crying out, “what must I do to inherit eternal life”. This man claimed that he had kept all the commandments, he was living a holy life, the Bible even says Jesus looked at him and loved him. But then Jesus pressed to the heart and told him to, “go and sell everything he had and give it to the poor, then you will have treasure in heaven.”

Sadly, the man couldn’t do it, he was tied to his wealth and he got up and walked away broken. Jesus went on to teach how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

The rich man was looking for a set of rules. He was looking for a checkbox that he could tick off to say that his eternal salvation is secure, but Jesus saw deep into his heart and knew that he was seeking rules rather than a relationship. This is still the situation that so many people find themselves in today. We don’t give to God because the law requires it, we give because He has already given us His only Son. Jesus Christ gave everything to purchase our salvation.

When Jesus taught, he always raised the bar of the law, and made it clear that our response to the Gospel is much more than 10% of our income or following a set of rules. The truth is that God doesn’t need your money, He already owns it, He wants your heart.

The challenge for us today is not if we should be giving 10% of our income, that is a given, the real challenge is what about the other 90%? How do we steward the money that God has given us? You may not be wasting money on lottery tickets or cigarettes, but what about things like cable tv or high interest rates on debt. Living according to and within a strict budget is the very definition of what it means to be a good steward.

During the year, I frequently challenge the church to give over and above their regular giving to the church. Right now, we are raising money for the end of the year mission offering, going to support international missionaries. From time to time we have a visiting missionary or a team heading on a mission trip. All these special offerings are times when we pray and ask the Lord how much we should give, but this is not out of the 10%, this is out of the 90%, this is trusting God for the supply. Giving in faith deepens our walk with the Lord and we are blessed as we do.

This is not a prosperity gospel teaching. God doesn’t promise wealth, he promises a blessing and a lack of need (see Malachi 3:10). God promises to meet our every need, and that is a blessing.

This Thanksgiving week, demonstrate your faith in God by giving, testing the goodness and faithfulness of God.  

Sunday November 17, 2019 Balkan Call Report Back

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Intimacy and the power of Prayer

This past week our small team arrived back from Macedonia, so much happened that it is impossible to cover in a short article. But as I look back it seems that there is one theme that God seems to be impressing on the global church.  

The Sunday before we left, we prayed for the persecuted church. Little did we know that we were going to meet some of those we were praying for in person. The three-day conference, the Balkan Call, was closed to photography because a number of the attendees were labelled as terrorists by the places where they were serving the Lord.  We met missionaries who had been imprisoned, some had been kicked out of their countries and others had been threatened or intimidated. All these heroes have one thing in common, they are people of prayer.

God is raising up people all over the world who are starting prayer meetings in churches or homes. Across the globe, people are gathering together to pray for the kingdom of God to come, for His will to be done.

Our dear friend B is a missionary from Germany who lives in Gilane, Kosovo, and is helping people start prayer rooms all over the region. She planned and coordinated the prayer room that our team helped with during the conference. The little prayer room upstairs from the main conference venue, had continuous prayer and worship for 75 hours, covering the conference in prayer. Our Airbnb apartment was constantly busy as people were coming and going all hours of the night, to and from times of prayer.  

One of the speakers was Pastor Andrew Brunson and his wife Norine. The Brunson’s were missionaries in Turkey for over 20 years, but the government only began to take notice and persecute them when they began to pray and mobilize others to pray. We heard how Andrew was imprisoned for two years, until he was released last year. He firmly believes that God chose him to be imprisoned in order to focus millions of people around the world to pray for the Gospel to be proclaimed in Turkey. Many of us were aware of his imprisonment and it is true that millions prayed, not only for his release, but also for the persecuted church in Turkey.

When we begin to pray, the world takes notice, Satan and his demons take notice. In Exodus 33 we read about the Tent of Meeting, the place where Moses met with God face to face (Exodus 33:11). When Moses met with God, the entire nation of Israel came and watched. They came and worshipped and stood at the entrances to their tents.

Today, people notice when we pray. When we pray together as the church, the neighborhood notices. It is as if the neighborhood stands and looks at the church because something is happening, God is meeting with His people. When we pray for our community, the community changes, there is a shifting that takes place.

Satan will do anything to prevent a church from praying, really praying. The governments of this world are afraid of a praying church. Whenever a dictator begins to take power, the first thing they do is attempt to squash the praying church, because there is power in prayer.

Our team met with Maurice, a believer from Egypt, who told us of a miracle that has recently taken place in Egypt. Since the Ottoman empire, there has been a law on the restriction of building churches or even repairing churches in Egypt. This law has stood for over five-hundred years. But this law was finally removed last year by the Egyptian president. The church in Egypt had been faithfully praying for this and God heard their prayers.  

It is important for us to pray together as a church, but we will never have a passion for praying together if we don’t pray alone. If we don’t have a personal, intimate walk with the Lord, we will have no desire to pray with others for revival in our world. The desire to pray for revival and national healing, comes from a deep personal devotional walk with the Lord.

During the final day of the conference, I spent some time with a man from Germany by the name of Heinrich. He was radically saved a number of years ago from a life of drugs and wild living. As a result of his radical conversion he felt that he needed to serve God wholeheartedly and he began doing lots of things for God. He began to get involved with missions, community service, street evangelism and helping the poor.  As I spoke with him, I felt the Lord reminding me of John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

As I began sharing that with him, he began to weep, he broke down and told me that this is exactly what he was told by his pastor back in Germany. You see, Heinrich was serving God out of guilt, but our heavenly Father wants a relationship with us first and foremost and then out of that relationship flows the acts of ministry.

We get it wrong all the time, Jesus calls us to abide in him, to spend time with him. A healthy Christian is one who prioritizes time alone with God. A healthy church is one that prioritizes prayer and dependency on the power of God.

Our natural tendency is to work for God, but that becomes a burden as we see with the priests in Malachi 1. If we do things for God in our own strength, eventually we will grow weary and drift away from God and the joy of serving Him. The truth is that God does not need anything from us, He wants a relationship with us.

God wants to speak to you and show you His love for you. Prayer is critical to our walk with the Lord. How is your personal prayer life?

Sermon Sunday November 03, 2019 – Where is God?

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Malachi 2:17 to 3:5

Where is God?

We live in a very significant time in history. The world is shaking, and most people are living in fear and anxiety. Fear of the unknown, that something terrible might happen at any moment. Many people are turning to the church and asking, where is your God? Why doesn’t God stop the suffering? Why does God allow the terrible natural disasters and the genocides that seem to be increasing around the world? Even regular church attendees are asking the same questions.

This is the same question the people of Judah were asking, 2500 years ago. Where is God? Why does he not seem to answer our prayers? In Malachi 2:17 to 3:5 God responds and promises to bring justice to the people of Israel. His response applies equally to us today.

In verse 17 we read that the people were excusing sinful behavior, but not simply excusing it, they were celebrating it. They were calling evil good by saying that something that God had clearly condemned, is something to be celebrated and embraced. We see this so evident in our world today and in so many churches who celebrate what God has clearly called sinful and saying that it is not sin, it is diversity and an expression of love, therefore it must be good. God says to us as He said to the people of Judah – I am getting tired of this.

But not only that, the people were crying out, “where is the God of justice?”

The people were complaining that the wicked were prospering by oppressing the poor? But, Proverbs 11:18 says, “The wicked earns deceptive wages,”

Today, many followers of Jesus are also asking, “where is the God of Justice?”, why does he allow the celebration of sin, why does he allow the oppressor to go unpunished, why does He allow persecution of Christians?

After God spoke to the prophet Malachi, God was silent for four-hundred years. This cry of “where is the God of justice?” was uttered for generations. But then in verse 1, there is a promise that the Lord will come suddenly to his temple. The messenger of the covenant was Jesus himself, God incarnate, and he entered the temple as a fulfilment of this prophecy one week before his crucifixion.

John the Baptist was the messenger first mentioned in verse 1, he was the one who prepared the way of the Lord. But then the Lord suddenly or unexpectedly comes to the temple.

In Matthew 21 we read about when Jesus came into the temple, the Jews were not ready for him, and with a voice of authority that they have never heard before Jesus says, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” Matthew 21:13

400 years after Malachi, Jesus walks into the temple, and he cleanses it from the corruption and injustice.

That was 2000 years ago, this same Jesus is coming back again, and he is not only going to cleanse the temple, he is going to cleanse the whole world of injustice and sin. Verse 1 speaks of Jesus coming as the messenger of the covenant to redeem mankind by paying the price for our sins, so that we could have a restored relationship with God the Father.

But verse 2 and 3 speak about the second coming of Jesus.  Jesus is coming back again, and when he comes again, it won’t be as a baby in a manger.  Verse 2 begins with, “who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?” These verses speak about The Day of the Lord, the day when Jesus will come to make everything right, to bring justice and the vengeance of God as we read in Revelation 19:11-16. Malachi describes Jesus as a refiner’s fire and a fullers soap, he is coming to burn off sin and make all things pure.

Verse 4 continues, “Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord…” Jesus, the lion of the tribe of Judah, and the spotless lamb, is the only perfect and eternal offering that is pleasing to the Father. It is only because of the perfect offering of Jesus that we can stand before the all Holy God without being consumed.

But there is more good news; verse 5 proclaims the justice the people were crying out for, this is the good news.

There is no oppression, injustice or abuse that God does not see. God is a God of justice and He will punish the wicked. God is faithful and He will not delay in bringing salvation to His people.

As we read the scriptures, we can easily get wrapped up in endless debates and opinions on the timeline and nature of the end-times. But there is a significantly more important question we need to ask; Are you ready?

As followers of Jesus we need be ready by daily examining our walk and the spiritual condition of our soul (see 2 Corinthians 13:5).

We will all one day stand before Jesus and if we are Christians, we will get rewards and the Bible says that he will judge us based on what we have done. How we have used the gifts he has given us (see 2 Corinthians 5:10).

Robby Gallaty said, “Examination of your works today is better than elimination of blessings tomorrow”

For every true Christian, God is working in us to make us more like Christ. We should not be surprised when God allows us to experience trials, challenges, suffering and even persecution as we read in James 1:2-4. As we go through trials, God uses them to purify us as a refiner’s fire and a fullers soap with the purpose of making us more like Christ (see Romans 8:29).

Let us encourage one another and pray for one another as we grow together in unity and community, because the Day is approaching (Hebrews 10:25).

Are you prepared?

Sermon Sunday October 29, 2019 – The Sanctity of Marriage

Malachi 2:10-16

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How do you view marriage?

In the culture today, fewer and fewer people are getting married. Marriage is the first institution that God ordained in Genesis 2:24. God takes marriage seriously, but society has reduced it to a social contract and sometimes a contract of convenience.  

Historians agree that the primary reason for the collapse of the Roman empire (27B.C. to 476A.D.) was the internal decay of morality and the dismantling of the family structure.

In Malachi 2:10-16 the Lord rebukes the nation because of their broken relationships, relationships between the tribes of Israel and also personally in their weak view of marriage.

In verse 10, Malachi reminds them that they are a nation, created and called by God. God called them to be one nation, for His purposes and for His glory. But it seems that as they came out of exile, they became selfish, as the Lord blessed them with comfort and wealth, they forgot about their purpose as a nation.

America is a blessed nation, but the problem with financial blessing is that it frequently leads to selfishness. We have forgotten our roots as a nation. Forgetfulness lead to unfaithfulness.

As followers of Jesus, we are to be known for our unity and love. It doesn’t matter what our race, age or ethnic background, we are to display unity and love because we are united around the Gospel and we have the unity of the Holy Spirit drawing us together. Unity is a miracle because it is only possible by the power of God’s presence.

When we set aside petty differences and we prefer each other in forgiveness, we are putting God first in our church and that is worship. All unity in the body of Christ is only because of what Jesus has done for us.

In verse 11 and 12 we read that the second indictment God has against the people is in their lack of faithfulness to Himself. We don’t know the details but from Jeremiah 7 we can assume that they were turning to idol worship, running after the gods of the land that had been brought in since the exile began. The nation was profaning the name of God and His temple.

Idol worship is something that we can all fall into, it is when we value other things more than we value God.

In verse 11, Judah is described as the bridegroom and the daughter of a foreign god as the bride. Malachi is referring to a practice that whereby the Jewish men were divorcing their wives and marrying the wealthy non-Jewish inhabitants of the land. The Jewish men found this was the quickest way to restore their wealth in their homeland. This was strictly forbidden by God (see Deuteronomy 7:3-4 and 2 Corinthians 6:15-16).

The people of Israel were marrying idol worshippers, people outside of the faith. The problem with marrying someone who doesn’t believe what you believe, someone today who has not submitted himself or herself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, is that they simply do not have the same worldview. A worldview is the lens by which we view everything that is happening in your life. A Christian worldview determines how we use our time, the places we go to, the way we spend our money and raise our children. The Christian worldview makes it difficult to be in unity with someone who does not share the same value system.

In Verses 13 and14, we see a picture of a man weeping and the groaning. This is a man who has divorced his wife and married a pagan woman for her wealth and God has judged him. The husband cannot understand why God is taking marriage so seriously as we see in verse 14.

A marriage is where both participants leave their past influences and begin a new life together. Jesus taught in Mark 10:6-9, that marriage is serious and that it is a covenant before God whereby both partners leave their past influences and begin a new life together. In our culture divorce is no longer viewed as the last resort, rather it is simply viewed as a way out of a difficult relationship. Celebrities have made a living out of marrying and divorcing each other simply for the media attention. And sadly, as marriage is treated with less significance the true casualties of marriage are the children and the next generations.

As Christians, we view marriage as a holy commitment, not simply between two people, but before Almighty God, who instituted marriage in the first place.

Finally, in verses 15 and 16 God issues a warning and a challenge. In the last sentence of verse 16, God says, “So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless”

Walking the Christian life takes daily monitoring; in the same way, being faithful in marriage takes daily monitoring and attentiveness.

The reason God takes marriage so seriously is that it is designed by God primarily to display the relationship that Christ, the bridegroom has with his church. In Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul writes about the roles of a husband and a wife, but we get so tied up about wives submitting to their husbands that we don’t see the big picture that God is pointing to. Wives are to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ in faith and love. Husbands are to give their lives for their wife as Christ who gave his life for the church. This passage is primarily about the glorious relationship between Christ and the church.

Marriage is so much more significant than what our culture teaches us. If you are married, remarried, about to be married or single, settle in your heart right now that marriage is a covenant before God, it is His institution that He chose to portray the relationship between Christ and the church.

Ultimately, we are weak in our faithfulness, but Jesus is the faithful one. The nation of Israel was easily seduced away from God, but Jesus is faithful. Even when we are unfaithful and value other things more than God, Jesus relentlessly pursues us as his bride. Jesus remained faithful to the point of death, giving his own precious blood for our sins.

God takes marriage seriously, commit today to pray for the marriages in your life.  

Sermon Sunday October 20, 2019 – Standing for Truth

Stand for Truth

Malachi 2:1-9

What is truth?

We can all agree that gravity causes objects to fall to the ground, fire is hot, and multiple other unquestioned truths.

The second paragraph of the declaration of independence begins with the sentence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident…

But we live in an age when truth is no longer considered self-evident. Truth is under attack and Biblical truth is under attack.

The apostle Paul challenges Timothy to preach the truth in 2 Timothy and then he speaks of a time when truth will be subjective (2 Timothy 4:3-4), that time is now.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we must not only know the truth, but we also must stand for the truth and proclaim the truth.

In Malachi 2, God rebukes the priests for their lack of holding to the truth, and he warns them in verse 2, that if they do not honor His name, He will curse them. God warns them to take the truth to heart. To take something to heart means more than simply hearing the truth, it means applying it to our every day lives. Hearing and then believing.

When we don’t take God’s truth to heart, we can hear it all day long, but we will continue to live in sin. It has been said that, “right belief produces right behavior.”

In verse 3, God says that he will rebuke their offspring, and this principle still applies today.  The way you live your life today, affects the lives of those who are coming after you. If you choose to walk in sin and not follow the path that God has for you, it will affect your children and their children. There are generational blessings and curses that we enact by our daily walk. Even our “secret sins”, which is an oxymoron because there are no secret sins, these affect the lives of those who will come after us.

God warns the priests that He will embarrass them publicly, He will shame them by smearing their faces with the dung from the offering animals, and then throw them out along with the scraps and leftovers. God cursed them not simply because of their laziness and poor offerings, God cursed them because they rejected the truth and misled others. They were not living according to the high standard of their calling as priests.

In verses 4 to 7, God reminds the priests of the covenant He established with Levi. The Levites had a greater honor, they were set apart by God and His covenant with them was one of life, peace, fear and awe (Malachi 2:5).  

The problem in most Christian circles today is that we no longer have reverence for the almighty God. We do a good job of portraying the loving Heavenly Father, full of grace and truth, but we seldom grasp the God who holds the entire universe in the palm of His hand, while at the same time holding every atom in our bodies together. We need to develop an awe, reverence, respect and fear of God. Most people do not fear God.

Oswald Chambers wrote, “The most remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”

The role of the priests was to guard the truth and then to declare the truth (Malachi 2:7). The priest is God’s messenger, declaring the truth of God’s word. This word from the Lord is equally relevant for us today as we are all priests who are called by God to proclaim His glory and majesty (1 Peter 2:9). The purpose of this proclamation is to turn people away from their sin and towards a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Wherever God has placed you, that is where He calls you to be a proclaimer of the truth. We do this as we disciple people in our lives.  

We must be a people who know the truth, stand for the truth and declare the truth.

We live in a time when truth itself has been despised – devalued. Truth has become a set of subjective statements and if you claim that there is objective truth, then you are criticized as being narrow minded at best or even prejudiced and bigoted. But truth, objective Biblical truth, is what holds society together.

President George Washington during his Farewell Address: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.” “Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

We are seeing the consequences of a drift from truth all around us.

In Malachi 2:8, we see that because of the priest’s compromise, laziness and weakness, many had been led astray. God takes this seriously (Mark 9:42).

This sounds like a message that will preach well at a pastor’s conference, and yes, it is much needed in our culture where so many pastors are so concerned about numbers and finances that they will make any accommodation to culture, just to keep the people happy. But this applies to all of us. We as a church are called to be ambassadors for Christ, to stand for the light and truth of the Gospel, and at times this stand will require us to swim against the stream of our culture. We are all called to be priests, standing for the truth in a culture of relativism (John 17:17, and John 14:6).

We are not talking about a culture war, we are talking about life or death, eternal life or eternal separation and punishment. Our interactions with people, have eternal consequences.

The church will also suffer the consequences of turning away from the truth. Every denomination or church that has compromised the truth to accommodate culture, will eventually be dismissed and disregarded by society.

Do you stand for truth?

Do you fear God, or do you fear culture?

Sermon Sunday October 13, 2019 – Worship

Worship with our whole lives.

Malachi 1:6-14

If someone was to describe your Christian walk, would they use words like: “devoted, excellent or dedicated?” These descriptors are the very essence of what it means to be a Christian. As a Christian, we should have one singular focus; to bring glory to His name in whatever context God has placed us. This is true worship.

We worship something when we give it worth and we all worship many things.  However, the only meaningful and appropriate object of our worship should be the creator and sustainer of all things. John Calvin said, “The heart is an Idol factory”. We constantly attach god-like value to created things, and this is idolatry.

In Malachi 1:6, God begins his complaint against the priests by asking why they do not honor Him or fear Him.  There was no honor shown by the priests, because there was no understanding of who God is. Reverential fear, or respect for the Lord, comes from knowing Him.

God uses the name “Lord of Hosts” a total of 7 times in these 9 verses. The Hebrew name is Jehovah Sabaoth, found 260 times in the Old Testament, and is a name referencing God as the supreme leader of the angels and armies of the Lord. The Lord of all power and might. As humanism has crept into the church, we have lost a reverence and awe for the almighty God (Hebrews 12:28-29).

God continues in verse 6, and says to the priests, “you despise my name…”. To despise something means to have an attitude of ongoing disrespect. God was in essence saying, “you don’t value me”. God points them to two ways in which they are despising His name.

  • The Priests despise God’s name in their contributions.

The animals that they are offering as sacrifices are blind and lame. The sacrificial animals were supposed to be pure and spotless, but they were giving their leftovers, thus despising the name of God.

We do the same today by giving God the leftover time, energy and resources of our lives. We know that we cannot earn merit with God and are saved by Grace, but by giving God the leftovers of our time, we are despising the name of God. God looks at the heart, and as we come to worship Him, He knows the condition of our hearts. As Christians we must give ourselves completely to Him, giving the first fruits of our time and our resources.

Whenever we give to the Lord something that is convenient, we are giving out of our excess, meaning that we are giving our leftovers to God. We don’t miss something that is leftover. This applies to time, money, possessions and skills. Are you honoring God with your contributions?

It has been said, “if there is no sacrifice in your sacrifice, it’s not a sacrifice”

  • Israel priests despised God’s name in their commitment.

The priests were going through the rituals and they were getting bored (Malachi 1:13). Their attitude to worship had become listless and apathetic. They were just checking the boxes of worship, wanting to get their job done so that they could go home and put their feet up.

When God looks at us, what does he see?

You can fool everyone around you, but God knows your commitment and the condition of your heart. God is looking for committed followers.

When challenged by Malachi, the priests seemed confused. Apparently, they had deluded themselves into thinking that when it came to worship or offerings, something was better than nothing, lukewarm was better than cold. Remember what Jesus said to the church in Laodicea in Rev. 3:15–16, it is dangerous to be lukewarm.

Matthew Henry wrote, ‘Nothing profanes the name of God more than the misconduct of those whose business it is to do honor to it.’  Worship is so much more than words, it is an attitude of the heart. Our attitude is directly related to our view of God and our relationship with God.

Five ways that we offer worship to God:

  • We worship with our bodies – Romans 12:1. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we need to look after our bodies so that we can use our energy and strength to serve the Lord. We worship God by using our bodies to bring glory to His name.
  • We worship with our finances – The apostle Paul writing to the Philippian church, thanked them for the gift they sent to support his ministry (Philippians 4:18b). Giving money to a ministry or church is never a horizontal transaction of simply paying a bill, it is a vertical offering to God. God invites us to worship Him as we sacrificially give to His work.
  • We worship God with our praises – (Hebrews 13:15) Our singing the praises of God is an act of sacrifice and worship. Whenever we are tempted to refrain from singing in worship, we must remember who it is we are worshipping.
  • We worship God with our good works – (Hebrews 13:16) Serving others is an act of worship. When we don’t have the time to volunteer or help, but we do it anyway because we are doing it unto the Lord, we show that we are trusting that He will redeem the time. That is worship.
  • We worship God when we share the Gospel – (Romans 15:16) As we share the Gospel and see new believers coming into the Body of Christ, we glorify God. Jesus said in Luke 15 that when people come to know the Lord, it is a time of praise and worship in heaven and it brings Glory to God here on the earth. The greatest miracle is a life transformed by the saving power of the Gospel. We worship God by telling His story.

May we be people who worship God with all that we have. Praising God with our lives, our finances, our time, and our relationships.

Are you worshipping God with your leftovers? Which area(s) of your life is not fully committed to Christ?

God is calling us to be dedicated and devoted followers of Jesus, because He is worthy of it all.

Sermon, Sunday October 6, 2016 – God Loves You

Malachi 1:1-5

If you are a parent, you know that you don’t simply want a child to follow the rules in order to get what they want. You want a close, loving relationship with your child, a relationship where love is the motivation for obedience.

We know this to be true in our relationships with each other, but we miss this in our relationship with God our Father. If we are honest, many of us obey God out of fear or tradition. God loves us more than we could ever understand, and He wants us to respond out of a relationship with Him rather than duty.

The Hebrew name for Malachi means “My Messenger”. This book may be short, but it carries some powerful truths. Even though this prophetic book was written more than four hundred years before Christ, we will find that it is extremely relevant to our culture and in particular, to the Western church.

During the time of Malachi, the people of Israel had returned from exile and had rebuilt the city and the temple as we read in Ezra and Nehemiah. It was a season of blessing and peace for Israel, but not all was going well. The people were being led by corrupt priests, and the people had turned away from the law of Moses. They had lost sight of the destiny that God had for them and they abandoned hope for personal growth and change.

The book is a call by God for the people to set aside traditionalism and return to relationship. Isn’t that the call of God on the church today? Traditions and religious activity will never be able to replace a personal relationship in Jesus Christ.

Malachi speaks of the coming Messiah as this is the last time God speaks through His Prophets before a period of 400 years where God is silent until John the Baptist arrives.  

The book begins with Malachi stating that this is an oracle of the word of the Lord. Malachi was stating he was carrying a heavy burden that the Lord had called him to deliver. It was not an easy message, it was a message of judgment against the people of Israel (see Hebrews 12:5-6 & 11).

Verse 2 begins with, ““I have loved you,” says the Lord”. The Hebrew word for love is in the perfect continuous tense, it shows a completed action, but with ongoing ramifications. God is referring to His covenant love for the people of Israel. Before the prophecy begins, God is reminding them of His commitment and relationship.

They never earned God’s love, they never deserved God’s love, God loved them because of His covenant with Abraham. Throughout history, there were many times when God saved His people even when they didn’t want saving. The classic example is when God called Moses to lead them out of slavery, but when times got hard, the children of Israel wanted to go back to Egypt. God loved His people even before they knew Him, even when they rejected Him.

We are no different than the children of Israel (see Romans 5:8). When Jesus went to the cross, he knew your name and it was because of his love for you that he suffered and died.

Yet the people of Malachi’s day replied with a childlike whine: “How have You loved us?” They behaved like spoilt children who complain when they are denied some new toy. With all the evidence of history and with all their present prosperity, Judah could still claim to be uncertain of God’s love!

God could have taken them on a history tour of 2000 years of His faithfulness to them, but God’s answer is to point to the fact that He chose their ancestor Jacob over his twin Esau (who was the ancestor of the people who even then surrounded Judah).

The phrase, “Esau I have hated” (v. 3), bothers us. It seems best to understand this expression not as a statement of feeling or attitude, but as a legal term based on the covenant that God had made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. A better way to understand the terms love and hate would be “chosen” or not chosen” (See Romans 8:10-13).

God never seems to give grace based on merit, although obedience is crucial. If our own righteousness was a condition for God’s grace, no one would ever be saved. God chose the nation of Israel to display His glory and to bless all the nations of the world through the Messiah, the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

God’s rejection of Edom, the descendants of Esau, was in response to their wickedness, pride and arrogance. God chooses Jacob and rejects Esau.

So, we have two opposing peoples, God chooses one and rejects the other. The Bible is full of texts that indicate God chooses us without our knowledge or even input (see Ephesians 1:4-5).

I wrestle with this in my mind but what we often lose in the wrestling over doctrine is that God chooses because of love. And the greatest declaration of God’s love for us is the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the pinnacle of history and the pinnacle of God’s display of His love for us.

If we were to really think about it, is it not better to be called chosen by a personal God than for us to choose a distant God.

The doctrine of election is a mystery, God does choose His children, but it seems to me from personal experience that the more we share the Good news of Jesus Christ, the more people are chosen! This is the mystery (see 1 John 4:9)

Do you know God’s love for you? Are you living out your Christian walk based on a love relationship with the Creator?

Or, are you like the children of Israel, living a life of routine and tradition, but you don’t really know how much God loves you? Following a set of rules does not produce a life transforming relationship with God. He desires a relationship with you.

Prayer as an Act of War

 In a few days we will be setting up the chapel at Grace Point for another 24 hours of continuous prayer. We hold these prayer times every two months and encourage people to sign up for an hour or two.

 Why do we do this? I firmly believe that prayer is the single most important activity of the church and if we want to see transformation in our lives, our church, our families and our community, then the starting point is prayer.

 A few weeks ago, I attended a conference where Dr. Steve Gaines spoke on prayer, Dr. Gaines is the senior pastor at the Bellevue Baptist church in Memphis Tennessee, and he is the author of the book, “Pray like it matters”.  Below are some of the insights that Dr Gaines shared from Matthew 5:5-15, which we know as the Lords’ Prayer.

 Jesus taught his disciples how to pray by praying the greatest prayer in the middle of the greatest sermon ever preached (Matthew 5 – Matthew 7).

 Our lives need to be saturated by prayer, and any day that is not begun with prayer is a wasted day for the follower of Jesus. We all know that prayer is a discipline and as such it requires daily maintenance. Every day we connect our cell phones to a charger, but we struggle to see the importance of being connected to the all-powerful creator the same way.

 Dr. Gaines stated that God will never anoint a prayerless preacher or a prayerless church. The most important asset we have in the church is the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and he is poured out on us in response to our prayers. The anointing comes from prayer, thus there is incredible power that comes from prayer.

 There are three lessons that we can learn from what Jesus taught in what we call the Lords Prayer.

 1: Pray in secret (verses 5 and 6).

There is no heavenly reward in praying to be heard and to impress those in the room. This is the very definition of a hypocrite. The real Christian life is what happens when you are alone with God. As we spend much time in secret with God, we develop our relationship with Him, and we develop holiness. As a result of the secret times spent with Jesus, other people will know as they encounter you during the day. Sometimes we don’t feel like praying, but that is when we need to obey despite our feelings.

 2: Pray sincerely (verse 7 and 8).

As we pray, we must focus on the kingdom of God and the fact that every prayer uttered comes before the throne of God (Revelation 5:8). As we pray sincerely, we leave the results of our petitions in God’s hands because He knows what is best for us, He won’t give us what we don’t need nor will He give us what will be harmful to us or to the Kingdom (Matthew 7:7-11).

 3: Pray systematically (verses 9 to 13).

I have always used the acrostic “ACTS” for prayer (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication). Jesus modelled for us a systematic approach to prayer in his teaching on prayer.

 In Verse 9, Jesus began with praise and worship, calling on the name of God. It is a valuable study to look at the names of God in the Hebrew language and pray specifically worshipping the names and attributes of God.

In verse 10, Jesus taught us to pray in submission to the will and the kingdom of God, as he modelled for us in Matthew 26:39.

 After we submit to the will of God, we boldly come before God presenting our requests as a child does before their father, as we see modelled in verse 11. We pray in faith, knowing that our Father loves to give us good things and as we present our requests, we are filled with the peace of God as we leave our petitions before the throne.

 In verse 12, Jesus teaches us to pray for forgiveness for our sins, as we trust in the promise of 1 John 1:9. And then we forgive each other. We must forgive those who have wronged us, even if they do not ask for forgiveness. Jesus modelled this for us on the cross as we read in Luke 23:34. As followers of Jesus, it is impossible to walk with Jesus while at the same time harboring unforgiveness towards others (Matthew 6:14-15). 

 In verse 13, Jesus teaches us the crucial need to pray prayers of prevention. We see in James 1:14, that we are easily tempted, and we need to pray without ceasing for temptation to be nipped in the bud. If we begin a day that has not been bathed in prayer, we are extremely vulnerable to falling prey to Satan’s schemes.

 And finally, we need to understand that our prayers are an act of warfare. As we know from Ephesians 6:12, we need to take authority over the enemy by the power of prayer. So often we focus our attention on people and situations as the problems in our lives, when in reality the problem is spiritual. We have a very real enemy and his purposes are to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10a).

 As we turn our attention to gathering to pray as the Body of Christ, we must realize that this is way more important than we could ever imagine. It is important for our church, our lives, our families, our city and our nation.

 Dr. Gaines concluded with this statement, “The church is not a cruise liner, it is a battle ship.”

 Are you prepared to go into battle?