Sermon, Sunday January 12, 2019 – Are you a Disciple?

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Are you a Disciple?

Matthew 4:18-22

What comes to mind when you hear the word Christian? The culture we live in has a very wide spectrum of descriptions of the term “Christian”.

The first followers of Jesus didn’t call themselves Christians. It was a derogatory term used by people outside of the faith. In Acts 11:26, we see that the first Christians were known as “disciples”.

The word Christian is used 3 times in the whole Bible, whereas the word disciple is used 281 times. Disciple is a far more accurate description of what it means to follow Jesus. In fact, the concept of a disciple exposes the fact that many who claim to be Christians today are not actually disciples of Jesus.

A brief look at Hebrew history shows us that all young boys at the age of five went to school to learn the Torah, the first five books of our Bible. By the age of ten, all young boys knew the Torah and the best students went on to study the remainder of the Old Testament, while the rest returned home to work in their families’ businesses.

At the age of seventeen, the brightest of these students, who wanted to pursue a life of religious studies, would find a rabbi that they admired and then they would go and sit at his feet.

The rabbi would then scrutinize the student to see if he was worthy of being his disciple.

The rabbis could choose the smartest, most talented boys to be their disciples, because they were choosing whom they believed could become just like them—to not just know what they knew, but to do what they did. The goal of a disciple was to be like the rabbi.

I. JESUS DOESN’T CHOOSE THE BEST, HE CHOOSES THE WILLING.

In Matthew chapter four, Jesus, this new rabbi, chooses Peter and Andrew, who are fishermen. The fact that they are fishermen shows that they were not among the group that at the age of ten were selected to be a future rabbi. These guys did not make the cut, they weren’t the best of the best.

When Jesus chose his team to build His movement, he chose the B-team! So, naturally when Jesus called them, they jumped at the opportunity. Jesus chose the B-team because his work in the world wouldn’t come from their abilities for him, but from what he would do through them.

People with a lot of talent and ability would only get in the way because they would never learn to lean on his power.

JD Greer said, “Jesus taught that His power in the weakest vessel was infinitely greater than the greatest talent without Him.

God wants to use you in your family, school and workplace. Stop making excuses that you are not able. He doesn’t need your ability; He requires only your availability.

II. HE CHOSE US, NOT WE HIM.

And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”.  Matthew 4:19

This was very unusual for a rabbi to come and ask men to follow him, they didn’t even come to sit at his feet. He came seeking them when they weren’t even looking for Him.

But his selection gave them a great deal of confidence. If they were struggling, they could say, “Ah, but my rabbi believed in me! he chose me.” If and when you find yourself struggling with your calling as a Christian, remember that Jesus chose you (see John 15:16).

III. OUR PRIMARY CALLING IS TO BE WITH HIM.

“Follow me,” he told them …

He didn’t tell them where they were going or what assignment he had for them. And this is critical for us to understand, his primary call is not to do something; it is to become like Him. And to become like him, you must know him. To know him, you have to know his Word.

In order to be a follower of Jesus you need to meditate and feed on God’s word so that it dominates all your thinking and all your behavior. Spending time reading and praying God’s word is the what Jesus calls us to and it is essential to us knowing him.

IV. TO FOLLOW HIM, WE HAVE TO LEAVE ALL.

 “Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him” Matthew 4:22

Matthew mentioned that the fishermen left their boat and their father.

The boat represents our career, our livelihood, the way we take care of ourselves.

The father represents the most significant relationship in our lives.

To follow Jesus, he must take precedence over both. Most people will not lose their family as a result of following Jesus, but for people in other parts of the world, it is a real concern.

For some, God may tell you to change careers. Maybe God will tell you transfer your job to be part of a church plant. Or leave your job and carry the gospel overseas. For many of you, it probably won’t be that dramatic. But you’ll have moments where you decide which holds greater sway over your life.

V. HE COMMANDS US TO SPIRITUALLY REPRODUCE.

And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”.  Matthew 4:19

Following Jesus means you subject everything in your life to his lordship. You forsake all that he has forbidden and pursue all that he has prescribed. Just like he was a fisher of men, His followers would become fishers of men. This is an essential part of being a disciple. It’s not something that only a few of us do; it’s something that each of us does. There is no such thing as a non-reproducing Christian.

How do you prove you are a disciple? By bearing fruit. And if you are not bearing fruit, you have reason to question whether you are a disciple at all (see John 15:8).

Jesus summarized his ministry, Luke 19, by saying, “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” If we are His disciples, that’s how we’ll summarize our lives, too.

You are God’s method. Disciple making is simply teaching someone to follow Jesus as you follow Jesus with the help of the Holy Spirit. And Jesus has promised to help you. So, identify your one. Ask God to help you identify one person you can, with the help of the Holy Spirit, bring to faith in Christ this year.

Who’s your One?

Sermon, Sunday January 5, 2020 – Three Types of People in the Church

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Ephesians 4:1-16

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, he describes the church as the body of Christ.  Have you really thought about that? The Creator of the universe has empowered the church with the Holy Spirit and we are His representation, His hands and feet in the world today. The mobilized church is the most powerful force on the earth. Nothing can stand in the way of the power of the Creator when He inhabits the praises and answers the prayers of His people.

We have often talked about being a missional church, but this should be normal for any church. A missional church is one which equips and sends. Equipping the believers and then sending them out on a weekly basis.

We are guilty in the western world of being so focused on church growth that we have set aside the purpose of the church. There are many books and seminars on the topic of church growth, with strategies and ideas that include, environment, music, style and even coffee. Sadly, this all sounds very much like what the business world calls “customer service”.

We become so concerned with filling seats, making budgets and building buildings that we must treat attendees as paying customers and not as chosen members of the body of Christ.

In Ephesians 4:1-16, the Apostle Paul focuses the attention of the reader on the theme of unity in the church. The church is not the building or the institution, the church is the gathering of believers, those who have committed their lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:3-6).

The church may be one body, but we also have an individual responsibility and part to play in this body. As Ephesians 4:7 says, we have been given spiritual gifts to be exercised in the church. There are no passengers, we are all called to be active and participate in the call of God for His church.

As I have been thinking about the church, I have identified three types of people who attend a worship service. Where do you fit in?

  1. The first group is the sick.

This includes the hurting and the broken. The church is for hurting and broken people (see Mark 2:17).  The church is not for people who have it all together, it is for those who desperately know that they need the power of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit in their lives. As we walk and serve together, healing comes as the power of the word of God is applied to our lives.

We can experience freedom as we focus on what God has in store for us as a church.  

The lie of the enemy is that when you struggle with sin, you must withdraw from community, but isolation is a powerful tool of the enemy (see John 8:31-32).

What Jesus did on the cross is sufficient to heal all your pain and sickness, the Bible makes this clear. The church is a place for spiritually and physically sick people.  

2: The second group is the satisfied.

This is the typical 21st century church goer who finds a church that they like after shopping around for a long time. They will stay until they are dissatisfied with the pastor or the music or what someone said.

Or, a satisfied person is someone who has been in the church since birth and everything is just the way they like it, please do not rock the boat, they are quite comfortable just the way it is.

This is the person who thrives on the customer service of the church and feels that they are paying for a quality “service”.  Another word for this person is complacent.

This churchgoer possibly made a decision for Christ years ago, they were baptized, but they are quite happy with being a Sunday Christian as long as it is convenient.

A missional church is not a comfortable church, it will be challenging for the “satisfied” church goer. A missional church grows in depth and number, but this growth comes out of stretching (Ephesians 4:15 and Galatians 2:20).  

Are you satisfied? I hope not! I hope that you will be provoked this year as we seek God’s will and purpose as a church

3. The third type of person is the searching person.

These are those people who want more out of life, who want to live a life of significance. Those who believe that they were saved for more and desire to be used by God for His eternal purposes.

Do you want to live a life of significance for the kingdom of God?

This is not living a life to be noticed or recognized by those around you. This is living for the audience of one,  our Heavenly Father. This is living a life that focuses on eternity rather than the temporal. Are you living for eternal rewards?

Deep down everyone wants significance, to live a life that makes a difference. People try to find significance in so many different ways; money, career, titles, degrees even Instagram followers, but all of these are fleeting and have no eternal value. They will not satisfy and will not lead to a life of significance.

Jesus said in Matthew 20:26 that significance comes in serving. When we prefer others and sacrificially give of our time and talents and energy to serve the body of Christ, we are living a life of significance.

So, we have three categories if people in the church.

My prayer for Grace Point is that in 2020;

  • The sick will be healed.
  • The satisfied will be provoked.
  • The searching will find significance.

It all comes down to the purpose of the church as Paul writes in Ephesians 4:12 and 16. This is a healthy church, a missional church.

What’s the Big Deal about Christmas? Part 2. Sermon Sunday December 22, 2019

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Isaiah 9:6-7

When Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph had some idea who he was, but didn’t begin to grasp the full potential of the baby they were called to care for. Why did God choose for Jesus to be born as a baby? Why didn’t he simply appear as a full-grown man and begin to perform miraculous signs and wonders?

When speaking of the promised Messiah, the teachers of the day would have described someone who had the wisdom of Solomon, the charisma and authority of David, the leadership ability of Moses and the military genius of Joshua. But, instead, Jesus came into the world as a little baby, weak, needy, and humble. It was, and still is hard for us to fully understand how the second person of the trinity would enter the world in the form of an infant.

But Jesus was both fully God and fully man. The virgin birth is proof that he was divine, but being born as an infant shows that he was also human in every way (see Hebrews 4:15). If Jesus did not take on the form of a man, his sacrifice would have been unconvincing, because he would have been aloof and separated from the common man. If Jesus had been a mere man and not God, he would have died a martyr’s death. We can trust this same Jesus with our lives, because he knows what we are going through, he overcame the world and all its temptations.

In the first chapter of Matthew, we read that the angel told Joseph that the child born to Mary was to be called Jesus. The name Jesus is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Joshua”, which means, “God Saves”. The Hebrew name Joshua, and the Greek equivalent, Jesus, were common names at the time of Jesus’ birth and life. But after Jesus died and rose again, historians have found that the name Jesus was no longer used in the region. The simple reason is that the name Jesus took on a much more controversial meaning. For early Christians, they felt that no child was worthy to carry the same name as the messiah. For those who did not believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah, they did not want their child to be associated with such a controversial character.

But now the name of Jesus means so much more to us.  We call on the name of Jesus for our salvation and we pray in the name of Jesus (see John 14:13-14 and Acts 4:12).  

The Prophet Isaiah calls Jesus, “…Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace,” (Isaiah 9:6b)

If you are struggling to lead your family in the ways of the Lord, or you are struggling with a difficult situation in life and need wisdom to make tough decisions, remember that Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor.

If you are facing spiritual warfare and opposition in your Christian walk, and if you seem to be facing impossible mountains, always wrestling with temptation, remember that Jesus is the Mighty God.

If you simply need to cry in the loving embrace of One who understands when everyone seems to have abandoned you, remember that Jesus is the Everlasting Father. – He is the uncreated creator of all things.

If all around you seem to be facing personal conflict, and it seems that your world is in a state of perpetual conflict, remember that Jesus is the Prince of Peace

Jesus wasn’t simply a baby born with potential, he is the one who was born so that every child born could have unlimited potential. A personal relationship with Jesus begins the unleashing of that potential (see Acts 4:12).

This time of the year many people who don’t even know Jesus, are celebrating Christmas. Sadly, many people who attend churches every Sunday, may believe in the existence of the historical person of Jesus, but that is not enough (see James 2:19). James wrote that belief in God is not enough unless it is accompanied by a life of faith and action.

Merely giving mental agreement to the virgin birth, even believing that he came to be a sacrifice for our sins is not enough. Someone who is truly saved is someone who takes the truth of the Gospel, believes it and then acts accordingly.  The Gospel message must change our lives, as we make Jesus lord of our lives. Belief doesn’t change lives, lordship does.

Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again in John 3:3. The term Jesus used, “Born again”, is better translated, “Born from above”.

So, what does it mean to be born from above? We say; “I was saved”, “I became a Christian”, “I decided to follow Christ”, and other phrases. For many people what this translates to is a decision to raise your hand in a meeting or walk down the aisle for prayer. But the truth is that there are many people who claim to be Christians, who show no evidence of a transformed life, they show no evidence of being born from above.

Jesus made it clear that to follow him is not a simple decision to raise your hand or saying a prayer; to follow Jesus means to die to your old self, to take on a new name, to completely give everything you have to God.

When we are born again, we take on the name of Jesus, we become so closely identified with him, that we are his ambassadors, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:20.

As we are born again, the Holy Spirit works in our lives to produce faith and change the way in which we live our lives. We grow in a Biblical worldview, seeing everything through a different lens with an eternal perspective.

In Isaiah 9:7, the prophet speaks of a time yet to come. The final outworking of this prophesy is not fully realized, and we wait for the day when Justice and righteousness will be established and continue forever.

The first coming of Jesus was a mission of humility and sacrifice where he came to deal with the problem of sin and conquer death. But the next time Jesus comes, he will come on a mission of triumph and justice. Only those who know Jesus Christ as Lord and savior will celebrate with him when he comes again.

Can you say today that you will be part of that celebration?

What’s the Big Deal about Christmas? Part 1. Sermon Sunday December 15, 2019

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It is the Christmas season and almost everyone is talking about shopping and gifts. Society views Christmas as a big deal, it’s time off work, celebrations and family time. However, a lot of the big deal is driven by greed and commercialism. I wonder if Christmas would be celebrated the same way if we didn’t give gifts? If there was no commercial benefit in Christmas, would the malls and stores promote it so widely, if at all? Sadly, the modern-day Christmas celebration is a distraction of the Big deal that really took place 2000 years ago.

The first few verses of Paul’s letter to the Roman church is not your typical Christmas sermon text, but it is a concise record of why Christmas is such a big deal for us.

Paul introduces himself in verse 1, and in the original Greek, he used ten words to describe all that the Roman church needed to know about him. In English it is around eighteen words, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” Romans 1:1

Paul begins by calling himself a servant. The Greek word is Doulos, which means a humble slave or servant. Paul never exalted himself because he realized that he was a sinner saved by grace (see 1 Timothy 1:15). As followers of Jesus, we are all undeserving sinners, saved by grace, called to be servants of the King of Kings.

Next, Paul says that he was “called to be an apostle”.  Jesus appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus and called him, changing his life completely (see Acts 9). He was called to be an apostle, which means an ambassador or messenger sent by God. Paul was sent by Jesus as his messenger to proclaim the Gospel to the world.

Paul then says that he was consecrated, “Set apart for the Gospel of God”. Paul was completely transformed from his old way of life and he was set on a new path. This is what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, to be set apart and placed on a new pathway, one that leads to eternal life for the glory of God. If you don’t know that you are set apart, you are probably not saved.

Paul was set apart for the Gospel. We sing carols at Christmas that speak about “glad tidings”, which means the good news. The good news that God reached down into this broken world. He lived amongst us, dying for our sins in order to provide the perfect sacrifice so that we could be set free from the burden of sin. Jesus was raised back to life on the third day and through him we can live an abundant life, a life of meaning and purpose for the glory of God (see Isaiah 9:2).

After Paul uses the first verse to introduce himself, he steps out of the way and introduces Jesus, the reason for his letter. He begins with the fact that the Old Testament has hundreds of prophecies declaring the arrival of Jesus, the messiah.

Jesus Christ coming into this world to live and die for our sins was not an afterthought or a “plan b” by God. This gospel message was planned and originated before the foundation of the world.  Jesus came with a primary purpose, to live a perfect sinless life so that he could offer his life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Jesus, the creator God, who spoke all of creation into existence, stooped down, and humbled himself for the sake of his creation.

Donald Grey Barnhouse said, “love that gives upward is worship, love that goes outward is affection, love that stoops is grace.”

This is overwhelming because we have no concept of the greatness of God. We speak about it, we sing “How Great is our God”, but we really have no idea. Moses had a unique relationship with God and in Exodus 33, we read how Moses asked God to show him His glory. God knew it would be too much for Moses, so he sheltered Moses inside the cleft of a rock and then covered him with His hand while God let His goodness pass by Moses.

In the next chapter we read that Moses came down the mountain with the stone tablets of the law and the people are terrified of him because his face is shining. Moses spent time with God, and he radiated the glory of God.

Because of Christmas, the cross and the empty tomb, we can come into the presence of God and speak to God, coming into His presence through Jesus Christ. This is prayer and this is why prayer is such an amazing privilege and source of power. Do you radiate the presence of God because you spend time daily in the presence of the most Holy God? Those around us should see the effects on our lives as a result of our prayer life.

Jesus came down from Heaven to be born in a manger in Bethlehem. This amazing God stoops down and provides a way for us to be saved and then in verse 5 Paul continues, “through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,”

We are not saved to simply sit back and live our “best lives now”. We are saved by God in order to be a witness for him, to proclaim this good news to all the world. When you are saved and filled with the Holy Spirit, you are equipped with power from Heaven, and a new purpose in life (see Ephesians 2:10).

The final phrase of verse 5 is the purpose of it all, for the sake of His name, for the glory of God. All the redemptive story of Christmas and the Gospel focuses on the glory of God.

Christmas is a big deal, but the big deal is that God came down to His creation so that we could be saved from an eternity separated from God and that when we are saved, we are called to share this good news to a lost and dying world.

Oswald Chambers wrote: “There is only one relationship that matters, and that is your personal relationship to a personal Redeemer and Lord. Let everything else go, but maintain that at all costs, and God will fulfil His purpose through your life. One individual life may be of priceless value to God’s purpose, and yours may be that life.”

Christmas is a bid deal, and it is the time of the year when everyone around us is celebrating the birth of our savior. What a tremendous opportunity we have to introduce people to a personal relationship with him.

Who are you going to tell this week about your relationship with the King of Kings?

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.