Sermon series on Stewardship part 1 September 25, 2016

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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?

Worship – part 2 September 11, 2016

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This past Sunday we remembered the tragic events of 9/11/2001. It is a sad reality of our world today that sometimes it takes a disaster for us to realize what is really important and valuable to us.

Imagine that you were told that your house is about to be sucked into a sinkhole and you have two hours to get your most valuable belongings out of the house. What would you find that is your most precious possession? Assuming all people and animals were safe, some people might grab their passports, personal documents or maybe a family Bible.

In an instant our lives could be changed and we are forced to think hard about what is most important to us. In this series on worship we discovered that we worship what we give value to. We are by nature worshipers, we all give value to different things, and when we give priority to anything above God, we are worshiping that thing and that is the definition of idol worship.

King David the King of Israel was known as the man after God’s own heart (see Acts 13:22). As we know David wasn’t perfect, but he had his priorities right. David found his satisfaction in God, he was a true worshiper of God.

Looking at David’s Psalm 16, we find some of his secrets to true worship. This Psalm is a beautiful picture of someone who has a warm and close relationship with God

This Psalm can be divided into 4 sections.

Verses 1-2  In the first section, David sets the correct perspective. The Hebrew word for God used here is “strong one”. David declares that God is well able to protect and keep him. David declares that God is his highest treasure, his primary joy and delight.

Verses 3-4  Then in the next two verses, David turns his attention to the people around him and divides them into two classes. The first are the saints in the land, the followers of the one true God. David loves to be in fellowship with them. The second group are those who have other things in their life more important than God. Who value other things more than God. David says he will not participate in their worship. David loves the fellowship of those who put God first, but will not even name the names of the idols that people worship.

Verses 5-6  The next two verses begin with the line; “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;” As David looks at his life he sees how God has blessed him, and he is able to say; “God you are all I need” David understood that all things come from God and that God is enough. By saying that you are my cup, David is saying that God satisfies, invigorates and refreshes him. Remember what Jesus said in John 4:13-14. Is Jesus your cup? Do you still look to other things to refresh you? If you do, you will always be thirsty again.

Verses 7-8  In these verses David takes a more introspective tone, as he praises God for counseling him.  When all the noise is gone, and he is alone with his thoughts, he praises God because he knows without a doubt that God is always with him and he will not be shaken. In the 21st century, where man has rejected God, one of the greatest fear of man is silence and being alone with one’s thoughts, it should not be this way.

Verses 9-11  In these last three verses David looks forward; he has reflected on the past, praised God for the present and now he looks ahead, and he looks to the future with joy and peace. If you are anxious about the future, and many in our nation are, it is vital to spend time in prayer alone with God’s word. As you do, you get God’s perspective on your life, and like David, you can rest secure.

The final verse is a triumphant declaration; David knows that while he is still alive, he can experience the joy of the Lord by coming into his presence, and for eternity he is going to experience the pleasures of the goodness of God.

As we see from this Psalm, God is everything to David. He looks to the past, his present situation and the future and boldly states that God is enough.

As you look at your life, can you make the same statement? Is God more important to you than anything else? Worship has to be completely God-centered. The danger is that we as a culture are so performance oriented, that we define worship in terms of songs and practices, things that we do. Our focus shifts away from God as the center and we focus on things like singing quality, instruments or worship leaders. And little by little our attention goes away from the Lord and our absolute dependence on him, and we begin to focus on the quality of our worship performances. That is idolatry.

In Exodus 34, we have an example of pure worship, as Moses is alone with God. God speaks to Moses and proclaims His name; the majestic, all consuming name of God. Moses’ response is to fall to his face and worship God. (Exodus 34:8). That is Worship, when nothing else matters and we are consumed by the presence of God.

When worship becomes more about us and our preferences then it is no longer worship at all. Worship has to be all about God and Him alone.

King David lived a lifestyle of worship, he lived everyday glorifying God through his life.

“God is most Glorified when we are most satisfied in him”

John Piper

How about you? Are you able to look at your life and give glory to God because you are satisfied that He is all you need?

Worship – Part 1; September 4, 2016

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John 4:4-26

Through my mission’s travels, I have experienced many different styles and experiences of worship. Some worship style involves really loud music, some no instruments at all and others include a lot of dancing. From a western church background, sometimes it can be unnerving and unusual, but still the same it is worship to God, and we can enter into worship along with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

It is God’s plan that worship to Him will be lifted up from all corners of the earth, in all languages, and in many different styles. God is bringing about the completion of the Great Commission in order that the world will worship Him. What we are seeing is a beautiful tapestry of praise to God, across the nations, all for the Glory of God.

The well noted quote from John Piper reads; “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church, Worship is. Missions exist because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate and not man.”

As we begin this series, we need to ask the question; what is worship?

Recently I was emailed the results of a survey that was taken amongst people looking for a new church to attend. Amazingly 74% of the respondents say they look for “style of service”. What does that mean? We use terms like; contemporary, traditional, seeker friendly, attractional and even orthodox. Obviously two of the major “style” considerations are preaching and singing. Does the preacher wear jeans or a suit? Does the preacher use relevant applications to the text? Does he use the text at all? Do we sing from hymnals or screens? Is there a choir, band, orchestra, and in many large churches today, you have to have laser lights and smoke machines?

Sadly; what it shows is that the worship service seems to be more about our preferences than what it really is about – worshipping God

Worship is by definition what we give worth to. We are all by nature worshippers, we all give value to something. We give value to many things; bank accounts, houses, land, family and much more. All of these things are not bad, but when we give these things more value than we give to our Heavenly Father, then we are guilty of idolatry.

Take some time to think about that, what would someone who knows you well say that you give worth to?

What would an outside observer of our church say that we give worth to?

The essence of the Christian life is giving worth to God above everything else. God is to be valued and worshipped above all else in our lives.

Jesus broke so many structures when he came to live here on earth. By his death on the cross and his resurrection he removed the Old Testament methods and rituals of worship. The veil to the Holy of Holies was torn and all people now have access to God through Jesus the spotless Lamb of God. Jesus spoke about this shift that was to come in the account of the woman at the well that we read in John 4:4-26.

Jesus was explaining to this woman that a new era of worship was being ushered in. In the Old Testament we know that there were strict instructions given in the Law that Moses received from God about the style and the format of worship. But as we read the New Testament, you will notice that there is a remarkable lack of instruction and format prescribed for the worship service of the church. In fact, the translated Hebrew word for worship is virtually absent from the New Testament. Why is that? The New Testament church that began in Jerusalem did not have a set of rules or Order of Service that we are instructed to follow.

The key to answering that question is in what Jesus said to this woman, in verses 23 and 24; “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Remember the words of Jesus in Mark 11:17; when he is chasing away the temple traders; “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations”, quoting the prophet Isaiah.

Jesus was turning the focus and attention away from the outward acts of the Jewish sacrificial system and directing their focus towards a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father. Worship doesn’t have to have a building or a temple and a series of sacrifices, it has to have faith in the risen Lord Jesus Christ.

True worship takes place within; the Bible says that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). We do not go to worship, but we are to live lives that are constantly worshipping God. That means that worship must be happening before we go to church on a Sunday morning.

 Sometimes we go about our day to day lives, we get so busy running the rat race, we drift further and further in our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Our lives grow cold to the things of the Spirit, then we come to church expecting to experience God and it feels dull and lifeless. My friends, the problem is not the church, the problem is that we are not worshipping God every day. The experience of the heart is the indispensable essence of worship.

Vaughan Roberts wrote; “Are you gripped by the mercy of God? If not, you will never worship Him. An understanding of God’s mercy to us is the fuel that energizes and empowers our worship in all parts of life.”

It is all about a relationship with God that fuels our worship, that relationship is only available through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ the risen lord.

Do you know and worship God this way?

Going Farming – Planting a church part 2 August 28, 2016

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2 Thessalonians chapter 1

Healthy churches plant other churches”, is an often repeated statement, but the question must be asked; why do we plant churches?

Last week as we looked at Ephesians 3:10 we began to understand that the church is more significant than we can ever imagine.

2 Thessalonians is a brief letter that is closely linked to Paul’s first Epistle to the early church in Thessalonica. It was written within three or four months after the first letter, and intended to clear up confusion about the future. In the first letter and chapter 5, Paul wrote about the Day of the Lord – the day when Jesus will come again. The persecution that the early church was going through led some in the city to believe that the “Day of the Lord” had arrived. The early church was struggling under persecution and naturally concluded that Jesus was coming and the Day of the Lord was imminent.  Paul’s focus of the second letter was to teach the young church that trials are a part of the Christian life.

Paul commends them that their faith is growing in verse 3, but then he addresses the trials they are going through in verse 4. Paul tells them that he is proud of them for persevering and not giving in. Paul understood the secret that James wrote about in James 1:2-4.

God’s wisdom is that we go through trials not as punishment, but rather to cause us to lean into God and trust in His grace. Trials deepen our faith and through trials we grow in our Christian walk.

Not only that, trials and hardships are one of the most powerful tools to show unbelievers that your faith is real. It is really easy to say that Jesus is my all and sing; “all I need is you Lord!” when things are going well. But when the challenges mount up, people are watching to see if you really live what you say you believe.

The reality is that church planting is hard and there is a lot of sacrifice and trials along the way. It requires perseverance.

So why do we plant churches?

Firstly, plant churches not because the city needs a church like another convenience store or a bowling alley. No, the city needs a church because Jesus is coming back.

If the first century church in Thessalonica were awaiting the imminent return of Christ, how much more can we see the Day and the hour approaching. All we have to do is read Matthew 24, where Jesus explains the signs of the end times, where he talks about nations fighting against nation, famine, earthquakes, terrible global events and then He will come again in glory (See Matthew 24:19-20).

Jesus is coming back soon and we plant churches in dark places because it is the most effective way to reach the lost and disciple them, drawing people out of darkness into the family of God. I really believe that there is not much time. We need to be reaching the lost.

And then secondly, we plant churches for His Glory. Look at 2 Thessalonians 1:2. Remember that God is revealing his wisdom, his grace, and his glory to the universe through the church. Are we revealing the Glory of God here at Grace Point? Does your church reflect the glory of God?  Look at the powerful benediction that Paul penned in Ephesians 3:20-21; “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

We plant churches, for the Glory of God.

We need to be a church that displays the glory of God, not because of anything special that we have or do, absolutely not. We reveal the Glory of God when we lift the name of Jesus high. When we are known for being followers of the King of Kings and not merely a gathering of the community.

So what is our expectation in planting a church? For some it is simply a financial decision of sending a family with money to support them, and all we see is the drop in our bank balance.

But my prayer is that we could have a bigger vision. Are we planting with the dream of a harvest? Are we planting for the glory of God, for the name of Jesus?

My prayer is that by planting a seed in the city of Cincinnati, we could stand before Jesus on judgment day and say; “Lord, this is what we did with the talent you gave us.”

It is all about the glory of God and that Jesus is coming again soon. Let us pray for our city and the city of Cincinnati as we pray for our nation.

Going Farming – Planting a church part 1 August 21, 2016

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Ephesians 3:1-12

What is the church?

We have already determined that the church is not the building, rather it is the gathered believers in Jesus Christ who are the church. But is the church simply a gathering of believers? Or is it more?

The world sees the church as an institution, a definer of moral laws and ethics, a place of tradition, a place where you go to for Christmas or Easter maybe a location to get married or to hold a memorial service.

However, I am not sure that we really understand the significance of the church.

I believe that the church is more significant than we can ever imagine. The church is the most important institution in the world. The church is more powerful and important than any organization or even nation on the planet. John Piper once said; “the drama of international relations compares to the mission of the church like a kindergarten riddle compares to hamlet or king Lear”.

Remember what Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16:18; “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” The gates of hades, the power of death to destroy every man made institution cannot defeat the church. Because it is being built and sustained by the King of kings himself.

Paul writing to the church in Ephesus gives us another perspective into the church that is stunning and actually quite hard to even comprehend with our earth centered minds.

Paul writing to the young church in Ephesus in the first chapters of Ephesians explains how through the Gospel was not just for the Jews, it was for all. In fact, the Gentiles were invited in by the Gospel and even more– the Gentiles were now going to receive an inheritance alongside the Jews when Jesus comes again. The Jews and gentiles are brought into one family. In fact, the Gospel breaks down all cultural, national and racial barriers. Because of two simple words, IN CHRIST (See Ephesians 3:6). This is truly a mystery and a message that we need to declare to the World.

But as we look further down in Ephesians 3, we see something that is even harder for us to understand. Verse 10 says; “10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,” What does this mean? Who are these rulers and authorities? And what is God revealing to them?

These principalities and powers are what Paul refers to in Ephesians 6:12. In Ephesians 3:10 he is writing about, angels, demons, evil forces, both good and evil. In our 21st century post-modern educated minds, we are told to dismiss these beings as myths and superstition. However, if we don’t pay attention and realize as Paul states that we are in a fight against forces we cannot see, we are already giving in to the enemy. It is to these supernatural beings that God is making his wisdom known. Satan and his demons, thought that by killing the Son of God, they could once and for all destroy God’s creation, but the wisdom of God was that by Jesus’ death, Satan was defeated.

Satan creates strife and disunity, but Christ in his Church, through the Gospel, creates a supernatural unity that makes no sense in the natural.

God is using the Church to reveal his wisdom and plans to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. The church made up of broken and frail people, is the vehicle God is using to reveal his wisdom and grace to the supernatural beings of the universe. Do you realize that angels are learning about God’s grace through the church!

God is using our weakness to reveal his grace and glory to the entire universe. Each of us has a part to play, each of us has spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit to be used by God in order for God to reveal his cosmic mission to the universe. The church is so much bigger and more significant than we can ever imagine.

We are not living for ourselves, our mission is so much bigger than just trying to get a group of people to heaven. If this text is to be truly grasped – we need to live with a much bigger vision. Our mission as the church is to demonstrate to the powers and principalities that God was wise in sending his son to die for us, in order for us to be unified in one body with one aim and ambition.

However, everytime we fail, we give the enemy a foothold. Everytime we gossip and create disunity, we give the enemy hope that God made a mistake with us. Every time we tear someone down with our words, we are giving Satan some ammunition to go to our Heavenly Father and point out that we are not worthy of his grace and love.

If we understood this we would see that, gossip, slander and disunity are so much more dangerous than we can ever imagine. Piper went on to say; “The church is the cosmic showcase of God’s mercy, and if we fail to live as joyful beneficiaries of his mercy and fail to maintain the unity of the Spirit, we bring a cosmic reproach upon the wisdom of God.”

Jesus prayed that you and I and all believers would be united. Let us make sure we don’t do anything to disrupt that unity (John 17:22-23).

As a church this week we sent out a young family to plant a church. They are not simply going to start a gathering of believers or build a building. This has been a difficult decision for us as a church, there have been concerns.

But what if this is way bigger than we could ever imagine. What if we took what Paul wrote to heart and really understood the role of the church as part of God’s universal plan.

What if God is going to use our brokenness and struggles to reveal his grace and glory on a cosmic stage. The universe is watching. Can you imagine God pointing to Grace Point Baptist Church and inviting the supernatural beings of the universe to watch what He is about to do.

My prayer is that as we watch the next year and years to come unfold, we will see a glimpse into God’s eternal plan for the Church.

Compassion – Caring for Someones eternal destiny – July 31, 2016

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Isaiah 58:6-12

Compassion is what we are called to as a church. It is a mark of the Body of Christ, to be outward focused looking to help those in need. But why do we act in compassion? You may say that it’s the right thing to do, but the reality is that by doing kind things and acting compassionately, does not earn salvation. We know that the Bible says in Isaiah 64 that our righteous acts are like filthy rags. You cannot secure eternal life by doing good things for people, so why do we care? Why do we show compassion to the poor and the hurting?

The Bible has a lot to say to us about compassion. The Children of Israel were instructed in the Law of Moses in Deuteronomy 15 to be openhanded in caring for the poor and the needy. Jesus in his time here on earth was moved with compassion and healed many people.

One of the most outstanding portions of Scripture relating to compassion, is found in Isaiah 58.

The bible is full of conditional statements, if-then statements. If we are obedient to God, then there is a promise from Him. If you include the first line of verse 6, we have 3 “IF” statements and 3 “THEN” statements.

God’s people are chosen to “loose the chains of injustice,” and to, “Untie the chords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free” The children of Israel knew slavery, they would have remembered that they were once slaves at the hands of the Egyptians. Now they were living in the promised land and they had taken the people of the land and turned them into their slaves. Today slavery is all around us, moral injustice, oppression, sex-trafficking, and the ultimate injustice, the killing of the unborn.

Not only are we to speak up and act against injustice, but as verse 7 continues, we are to be generous in our compassion. “Share your food”, Provide shelter, Clothe the naked.”

Compassion involves giving; giving of our time and money and energy.

In verse 8 we see the first “Then” statement, a beautiful word picture of the ending of the night, a new day, new blessings. The second line of verse 8 says; “your healing will quickly appear.” Some people ask why we don’t we see healing today. The truth is that healing takes place all over the world, as God’s people pray. Sometimes we don’t see healing because we are too inward focused. God looks to see the motives of our heart, as we give of ourselves to others we will see healing taking place.

The next line reads; “your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard”. Again this is a beautiful word picture that the children of Israel would have understood as being a reference to the pillar of cloud and fire that moved to the back of Israel to protect them against the attacking Egyptians in the Exodus. What a promise! If you are doing what God has called you to, he will protect you and be your rear guard.

Moving to verse 9, we see the second “Then” promise; “Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”

God looks at the heart, if we pray with the right motives God moves on our behalf. (see James 4:3)

Looking further we have two “if” statements – the first is inward focused; “do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
” Gossip and pointing fingers are malicious and are rooted in pride. (See Matthew 7).

The second IF statement reads; “If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed.” Instead of focusing on my little world, what about spending myself for the hungry and the oppressed.

Then what follows are the wonderful blessings in verses 10-12.

As a church that is going through a revitalization, we are seeing God answer our prayers and I believe if we keep our focus on the world around us and not on our own desires, these promises are for us.

In fact, these 6 verses are the prescription for church revitalization.

If we do what God calls us to do, he will ensure that we will stay strong. One of the promises I always cling to is at the end of verse 11; “You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” If we as a church continue to seek the Lord and do what he has called us to do, he will always provide for our needs.

 As we look at compassion it is easy to care for someone when we can see they are oppressed and maybe in bondage because they were victims of abuse. But what about the unlovely? What about the drug addict who keeps making the same mistake? Do we pick and choose who to help? We need to learn how to act in obedience to God, daily ask God to give us wisdom and discernment to be doing His will on the earth.

The ultimate purpose of compassion is leading people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Point them to Jesus using words, otherwise we are simply alleviating a temporary need. True compassion is caring for someone’s eternal destination. Do you see the poor and the needy as someone Jesus died for?

The Gospel message is the ultimate display of compassion, John 3:16, For God so loved…..that He gave” Jesus gave up his position of glory in heaven so that you and I might have eternal life. Jesus set aside his glory in heaven, but sometimes we find it difficult to set aside the remote control to help someone he died for.

How will we respond today? Let us be a people of compassion, in order to see the lost saved, the church revived and our lives blessed.

Samson part 3 God gives Second Chances July 24 2016

Samson pt 3 Title.2-01 Judges 16

We serve a God who gives second chances.

Maybe you know some of the pain of living with your mistakes. The truth is that we have all made painful mistakes and we live to regret them. The most painful regret is the regret of knowing that you are not living to the fullest potential of what God has called you to.

The good news is that no sin is beyond the grace of God, you may live with the consequences of your sin, but in the midst of the consequences and the pain, God can use your life for His glory and purposes.

 Samson was a man who sinned willfully and frequently, living an immoral life. As we look at the final chapter of his life in Judges 16 we read the familiar of his fatal relationship with Delilah. When Samson finally gave in and told Delilah the secret of his strength, he was well aware of what he was doing. In verse 17 we read; “he told her everything”, he told her that he was a Nazarite and that he was specially called by God. Samson was tired of her nagging, but sadly he was also tired of the calling of God on his life. He was fighting against God’s will for his life and just wanted to be free to be like any other man. Sadly, in his attempt to be free from the calling of God on his life, he suffered a far worse imprisonment.

The same happens to us when we know the will of God for our lives, but decide to do our own thing, resulting in pain, suffering and imprisonment.

The Philistines began to celebrate and all their rulers gathered to offer a sacrifice to their pagan god Dagon.

All the while though, Samson’s hair began to grow. The Philistines were not concerned because they knew that Samson’s power was gone, they knew that Samson’s God had rejected him and left him.

They could not possibly fathom a God who would give a second or third or fourth chance. What kind of god forgives? Only the one true God full of grace and love.

Samson realizes how he has neglected to use the gift God had given him for the Lord’s purposes. Every turn of the grinding wheel must have been painful for Samson as he had time to think of his squandered life.

Samson prays in verse 28 and asks God for one more chance, one more time to have his strength back.

Sadly, even in this prayer, Samson’s motives are impure, he doesn’t ask God for strength to give glory to the one true God, he asks for strength for revenge. Revenge is a terrible thing and it is the one characteristic of Samson’s life that had plagued him. In spite of Samson’s motive, God hears his prayer and gives him back his strength.

Samson-web

In his death Samson deals a devastating blow to the Philistines, all their rulers were killed, the nation was thrown into disarray.

God heard Samson’s prayer and reinstated his power, today God still hears the prayers of the backslidden

Samson made a mess of his life and this would be a hopelessly tragic story if it just ended there – but it doesn’t. We find that over in the New Testament that Samson’s name is mentioned in Hebrews 11 verse 32 among the heroes of the faith. That’s a surprise! Samson was a man of faith and in spite of all his mistakes and the chaos of his life, he pleased God by his faith in his final hour.

This is a comforting fact, because God can take a person who made mistake after mistake and still use him or her.

If God only used people who were perfect, nothing would ever get done.

God uses ordinary people; those who have weaknesses and have failed in life. There are no perfect Christians, only broken and humble followers of Jesus.

Maybe you feel that you’ve messed up your life so badly that God will never use you again.

God never gave up on Samson and He has not given up on you. God sees your potential and He remembers why He made you, you were created for great things.

What should you do if you have made some major mistakes in life? Exactly what Samson finally did, turn your life over to the Lord. Give Him all the pieces of your brokenness and allow him to rebuild your life to be something that will be to his Glory.

Only God knows the greatness and potential in your life, but you’ll never bring it out on your own, He must do it in His strength. Allow him to have full control over your life today.

But before you think that this is a teaching on cheap grace, that you can live however you like and God will always forgive you and reinstate you to his calling on your life, Samson is a warning to us of the consequences of living a foolish life of selfishness and pride outside of God’s will. Although God gave Samson his strength back, he was still blind. The consequences of sin in our lives will remain. We suffer the effects of our past sins. Our sins are forgiven, but by God’s grace he allows the consequences to remain in order to remind us of our poor choices and our need for a Savior. (see Galatians 6:7-8)

What about God’s call on your life? Is it being fulfilled, or is it sidetracked by some sin or distraction?

Are you living with the regret of missing the mark, living in sin and avoiding the calling of God on your life?

If this is you, you need to take that first step in acknowledging that you have been trying to do things your own way, repent of your sin and commit your life completely to the perfect will of God. Ultimately this leads to a life of peace and fruitfulness.

Samson part 2 Choosing the ultimate cause July 17 2016

Samson pt 2 Title.2-01

Judges chapters 14 and 15

I am sure most of you have at some time or another been called upon to lead in your life. It goes without saying that in order to be a leader, you need to have people following. A natural leader is one who, when he/she stands up and says; “let’s go”, people follow.

Leaders lead, because they have a cause, there is something they are passionate about and rally others around that cause. Sociologists tell us that this generation – the millennial generation are attracted to causes.

Being a Christian means that you are called by Jesus to the ultimate cause, the cause of saving souls for eternity. There is no greater cause. Quite often this is the most unpopular cause, if you truly obey Jesus, and put into practice what the Word of God teaches us, you will be in the minority, you will be going against the stream of culture. Unfortunately, even in the church if you take seriously what the word of God says, you will incur opposition, people will be provoked by your passion and many will push back, because the cost is too high. Are you willing to give your life for an unpopular cause?

Sampson was unconventional, and he did not follow the rules at all. He was a judge, a tribal leader over Israel for 20 years, but we don’t read that he rallied an army, he seldom had the support of the Israelites, in fact they opposed him. He was a loner and a rebel. But for all his faults, Samson saw the real enemy. Samson saw that the people of Israel were apathetic and had lost their way. They had not taken the land as Joshua had instructed, and were comfortable living in compromise with the Canaanites and the philistines.

Samson was a one-man army using unconventional methods, as a result even his own people didn’t approve of what he was doing. You can read some of his exploits in Judges 14 and 15. Judges 16:24 indicates that he had done many more feats than those listed in these two chapters, feats that had aggravated the Philistine people.

JAWBONE LION FOXES HONEY

As we look at Samson’s life, one gets the impression that he was a fun-loving man, with a sense of humor not taking life too seriously. He certainly didn’t take his calling seriously, he paid little attention to the requirements of being a Nazarite. His strength was probably unlike anyone who has ever lived. The speed required to catch the foxes or jackals, and the strength to carry the city gate and part of the wall for miles were supernatural.

For 20 years, he fought a lone battle against the philistines and didn’t rally the children of Israel around the cause. Samson directed his attacks against the Philistines who were slowly taking over the land, infiltrating the culture, through intermarriage and trade. The Israelites did not see what was happening but Samson did and he fought against it.  God had appointed Samson to be the man to begin the process of freeing the nation from the Philistines.

Sometimes the enemy encroaches on us imperceptibly and slowly, we need to be alert to recognize the danger.

So who is our real enemy? Christians are known to fight for causes, and all of these are issues that need to be resisted, I am not advocating that we passively allow our nation to deteriorate into social atheism. However, I believe that sometimes we pick battles that God did not intend for us to pick. We need to ask God for wisdom and for direction to identify the real enemy (See Ephesians 6:12). Too often we see people as the problem, but Satan is at work, developing his schemes to steal kill and destroy.

Jesus said in the sermon on the mount; “You are the light of the world”, we need to be a people of the light, shining the light in dark places, not condemning sinners but proclaiming the Gospel in love allowing the Holy Spirit to convict people of their sin. Confront evil by shining light. What I mean by shining light, is not simply doing good things for people, we need to be presenting the Gospel message, pointing people directly to Jesus as the only way the truth and the life.

Many mission organizations and ministries I have come across have noble intentions, they are helping educate the illiterate, helping to bring fresh water to sick children, building houses for the poor and needy, all of these are necessary and we must support them (read Proverbs 19:17 and Isaiah 58:10).

But helping someone out of poverty, or giving them a new skill that will help them in life is a temporary measure if we do not lead them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ (see Romans 10:13-14).

We need to look at the temporary pain and suffering in light of eternity. Jesus is the only way of salvation. If we help people, pat them on the back and hope that by our actions, they will find Jesus, we are doing them a great disservice.

I recognize that this is not a popular message, it is counter culture, our culture celebrates the sports star who goes and helps the African village he comes from. Our culture celebrates the movie star who takes a child out of an obscure village and gives the child a “better” lifestyle with every conceivable trinket and gadget.

This is an unpopular message it is counter culture. It is similar to what Samson did, he provoked the enemy in order to wake up his fellow countrymen. What Samson did was not popular but he highlighted what was really going on.

As Christians let’s begin to think differently about the ministries we do. Do we share the Gospel? Or do we do good things, with the hope that people will one day think kindly of the church.

The reality is that there is only one cause that is ultimately worth our lives and that is the Great Commission that Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:19-20. That is a cause worth dying for, that is a cause that will demand a cost from us, possibly even persecution. But this is the only cause that has eternal rewards.

Let us be a Great Commission church, a church that is shining the light of Jesus in our community.

Samson Part 1 – Do you know who you are? July 10, 2016

Sampson Title-01

Who am I?

Judges 13

Do you know who you are? In answer to that question most would answer by stating where they were born, what do you do for a living or how many children or grandchildren you have and if you were brave, you might say your age. We all have an identity, we all have identifiers that we tell people in order for them to know about us and possibly categorize us.

But the truth is, this not how I am defined in the sight of God. Christians face an identity crisis in the modern world. I believe that we struggle simply because we don’t know who we are.

Samson the Judge was one person in the Bible who did not have a clear understanding of his identity, and as a result he missed out on living to his fullest potential.

This period of time in the nation of Israel is called the period of the Judges, roughly 1375 BC to 1050 BC.

Joshua died and left the nation with two instructions, defeat the remaining Canaanites and obey the law of Moses. The children of Israel do neither. The begin to relax and integrate with the local tribes and adopt their religions. During this period there began a familiar cycle; the Israelites rebelled against God, God punishes them by sending oppressive nations to rule over them, Israel repents and cries out to God for deliverance and God sends a hero, a mighty leader who stops the oppression.

That is the period of the judges, the time between Joshua and the anointing of King Saul. Sampson was the most famous judge who was appointed by God to be a Nazarite. A Nazarite was someone who takes a vow of consecration and dedication to the Lord. The Nazarite had three requirements, never to eat or drink anything that came from a grape vine, never to cut their hair, and never to be in the presence of a dead body. The purpose of the Nazarite vow was for a period of consecration, in order to seek the Lord. Sampson on the other hand was to be a Nazirite from birth, for all his life. He didn’t have a choice in the matter, he was a special child.

Sampson’s parents were unusual in their dedication and commitment. They were godly people who prayed and understood the importance of the sacrificial system. (Read the Prayers of Manoah in Judges 13:8 and 12).

Manoah had faith that what God told him was going to happen, and he also knew that he needed to hear from God the instructions he needed to raise up this child. In a time of spiritual darkness, God found a couple who were faithful to Him. Sampson was being born into a good home.

In addition to this, the promise of the Angel of the Lord in verse 5 says that: “He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” It was a promise over his life even before he was born, he was destined for greatness.

So much potential was promised and early in his childhood we read in verse 24; “and the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him while he was in Mahaneh Dan..” He was destined for a life of unlimited potential, unfortunately he did not keep the requirements and he failed to live up to his potential. His poor choices limited his potential.

It is the same with us, the choices we make in life either fulfill the potential we have in Christ, or they hinder the potential we have in Christ.

The truth is that when you and I became followers of Jesus Christ and we are filled with the Holy Spirit, our potential changes, we become people of unlimited potential.

Getting back to that question, do you know who you are?

The Bible is full of descriptions of our identity in Christ; 1 Peter 2:9-10 says; “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Imagine what would happen if we truly got this, if we truly grasped who we are as followers of Jesus.

Too many Christians are walking around in fear, anxious of what might happen tomorrow, this is a symptom of mistaken identity. We fear because we don’t know who we are, we fear because we simply don’t grasp the awesome power of God. We need to walk as Children of the King.

When you and I become followers of Jesus Christ, we begin a new life, we are born again. No matter how old or young we are, we begin a new life of unlimited potential. Sampson began life with unlimited potential, but as we will see next week, he made poor choices and threw away that potential. Maybe you realize that you have not lived up to your potential as a Christian, you are still living for yourself, making poor choices, not trusting God with your life and your future. You realize that you have an identity crisis, and need a fresh understanding of what it means to be a child of the King. A prince or a princess in the kingdom of God.

Pray that God will give you a fresh revelation of who you are, and read the promises found in the Word of God.

Read: Phil 3:20, Phil 4:13, Phil 4:19, Col 1:11, Col 1:22, 2 Timothy 1:7, John 17:14, 2 Peter 1:3, Romans 8:1, 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Galatians 5:1.