Sermon, Sunday October 17, 2021 – A Cloud of Witnesses

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Hebrews 12:1-2

How would you answer the question, “The objective of my life is…”

This church, the family, and the mission we are part of exists today for the glory of God because of the hard work and the sacrifice of so many who have gone before us.

The Christian life is described as a race in the Bible, and when you receive Jesus Christ as Lord, the starting gun goes off.

Unfortunately, many people say yes to the offer of salvation but never get into the race. The Greek word for race is where we get the English word agony. Sometimes the Christian life is agonizing, and it requires determination, self-discipline, and perseverance.

The Apostle Paul frequently challenged us to run with determination and to continue pressing on towards the goal, keeping going when everything in you is crying out for respite.

It is pointless to enter a race if you have no intention of winning, or at least having a goal to finish in a certain time, a purpose for running the race. Yet, so many people begin the Christian race and then are content to sit back and wait until the Lord calls them home. We are saved for so much more than simply a ticket to heaven. The goal and motivation of every believer is to bring glory to God by representing Jesus on the earth.

As a reward for faithful living the Bible says that there are five crowns that we can attain as a reward in heaven.  (See https://youtu.be/gHSW9P6zxDU )

Here is a good question to ask yourself: when you die, who at your memorial service will be a better person because you lived?

Hebrews 12:1 begins, Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…”

We are all motivated by encouragement, it is human nature. I don’t believe that there are galleries in heaven where people are watching us. We are not trying to impress people who have gone before us, but rather we are living for an audience of One, to bring honor and glory to God our Father. The word, “witnesses” refers to the fact that they are witnesses to God’s faithfulness, but examples to us.

Hebrews 12:1 continues, “…let us also lay aside every weight…” One of the greatest challenges a runner faces is unnecessary weight. We struggle because we are carrying things we are never intended to carry. Every one of us has a calling on our lives, but if we say no to God because there is some comfort, person, or possession that we cannot let go of in order to obey God, that thing is a weight. Many times, these things are not sinful, but if God tells us to let it go, and we don’t, then it becomes a sin. What are you carrying that is hindering you in the race that God has for you?

Hebrews 12:1 continues, “…and sin which clings so closely…” The Greek word used here for cling or entangle means to control tightly, speaking of a sin that controls us. This is even more dangerous than unnecessary weight, as it is the sin that we entertain and don’t put to death. It causes pain. Identify the sin, acknowledge it before God, lay it aside and crucify it. It may be pride, fear of man, lust, love of money, or a desire to be recognized. Whatever it is, you know where Satan loves to entrap you and prevent you from running the race that God has for you.

The writer continues, “…and let us run with endurance that is set before us.” To endure is to bear up under pressure. Long distance races are all about endurance. How do we learn or grow in endurance? In the training arena of life’s trials. The Christian life is a life of endurance and challenges.

Verse 2 goes on, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” In running, as in most sports, it is extremely important where you focus your eyes. Some Christians are so pre-occupied with themselves and what they are doing for the Lord, or what other people are thinking about them, that they are not focused on Jesus is calling them to do. We are to live Spirit filled lives, and as we do that we will focus on Jesus. If our focus is on Jesus, we will see everything in the world around us in the right perspective.

Jesus is the one who picks us up when we cannot go any more. Jesus is the one running alongside us in the race (see Matthew 11:28-30). Running the Christian race requires endurance, perseverance, but with Jesus as our focus, he makes it so much easier.

This weekend we have remembered and celebrated the lives of those who ran their race for the glory of God while at our church and have set amazing examples for us. But now, we must run our race, everyone of us has a finite amount of time this side of eternity. And there are two ways we can use time; we can spend it, or we can invest it.

We spend time when we use it for frivolous things, on our pleasure and on our own temporal goals.

We invest our time living for the glory of God, living a life with eternity in mind, so that others will be drawn to Jesus.

How are you running the race for the glory of God?

How are you bringing glory to God in your finances, time, possessions and relationships?

Charles Stanley challenges us to answer three simple questions:

  1. The objective of my life is…
  2. The weight that I am holding on to is…
  3. The sin that so easily clings to me is…

Sermon, Sunday October 3, 2021 – Worship

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What if everything you treasured was suddenly taken away, what or who would you miss the most? Would you agree that what you value determines how you make most decisions?

The definition of worship is ascribing value to something. When we worship God, we are saying that we value Him above everything else (Romans 12:1). We are to present all that we are and all that we have to God. This is the worship God requires of us. Worship is way more than singing songs.

500 years ago, John Calvin stated that the human heart is an idol factory. Isn’t it true that even saved people have a tendency towards idolatry as we value other things above God?

When we do not value God, we value other things, football, cars, careers, houses, celebrities, relationships and many other things. When we give these things greater value than God, we worship them, and we suffer the consequences of giving our affections to temporary things.

In Romans 1:18, Paul writes that the wrath of God is being revealed against those who have chosen to ignore Him and pursue sin. This is not some future event; it is a present reality. In fact, we can see all around us in the state of the world that God is punishing sin. God is pouring out His wrath on people, who do not acknowledge Him as God. But in our weak understanding of the holiness of God, we protest and say, “that is unfair”.

Romans 1:19-20 explains that no-one has an excuse for not acknowledging God, as He constantly reveals Himself through the general revelation of creation (Psalm 19:1). Every person who has ever lived, knows that there is a God, and has an awareness of his majesty and transcendence.

The problem is that we live in a fallen world, and we are given to Satan’s lies over the truth. Idolatry is worshipping other things, replacing the truth with a counterfeit. Mankind is prone to distort the truth of God, reshaping Him into our own image.

Our post-modern world has created a god of our own preferences. We are a nation and a world of people who in essence worship ourselves rather than the one true God. This is the root of humanism. In order to ignore God, there needs to be suppression of the truth (Romans 1:18). A determined and intentional holding down of the truth for mankind to live in sin. Whenever we willfully sin, we have to suppress the Holy Spirit’s voice in our lives.

Mankind is guilty of suppressing the truth today so that they can live their lives without the demands of an all-holy God, and the result is suffering and destruction.

Calvin used the analogy of a blindfold when saying, “mankind chooses to put on a blindfold and then we stumble around cursing the darkness.”

Paul lists the results of idolatry in Romans 1:21-22. Mankind knows that there is a creator but has chosen not to thank or acknowledge Him. The result is a futility of thinking, an aimless existence running after temporary pleasures, leading to a foolish heart. You don’t have to look further than the evening news to see the truth of verse 22, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools”.

In contrast to this, true worship that honors and values God above all else leads to a heart filled with thanksgiving. Worshipping God gives us purpose for life as our hearts are softened to the perfect will of God for our lives.

The reality is that there is a very short step from idolatry towards immorality. If man has become his own god, then he determines what is good and he lives to please his own desires. Sadly, even in our church family, we don’t value God enough to gather and worship Him. The moment something else comes along that is more pressing, a sports game, homework, or the comfort of the pillow or the couch, we value that more than we value God. We prefer other things; we worship other things.

It is time that the church gets serious about where our allegiance lies as individuals and as the church. This is not a season for comfortable Christianity. We are in a war and the enemy wants to prevent us from gathering and encouraging one another.

In verse 24 onwards we see the results of living a life of idol worship. Three times we read, “God gave them up,” in verses 24, 26 and 28. Mankind has decided to ignore God and in turn God steps back and allows man to walk into sin and error.

This is one of the clearest passages in scripture that speaks to the sin of homosexuality. It seems that homosexuality and the rise of the LGBT movement seems to be more prevalent than ever before. Who would have thought that we would have a month of the year given over to the celebration of sin? However as we look back and see that over the last fifty years, the post-modern world has rejected God, and God has given the world over to sin.

In verse 28 we see that mankind’s abandonment to sin leads to a debased or a depraved mind.  Paul lists twenty-one specific sinful behaviors, all of which are commonplace in our communities. We tend to focus on the “bad” sins of murder and the like, but what about the sins of gossip, slander, and envy for example? Sadly, these are all prevalent in the church because we are not worshipping God as we ought to. We can never worship God in Spirit and in truth and gossip at the same time.

We don’t grasp the importance and the power of a worshipping church, and we don’t fully understand worship. Worship is not simply singing songs. There are many people who come to church every week but never worship.

When we realize that we are in a war and that the only way to win the battle is by true worship by truly giving honor to God, we will begin to worship. And worship always wins (see 2 Chronicles 20).

What are you struggling with today? Try valuing God above all things. Worship God.

Sermon Sunday September 26, 2021 The Lord’s Supper

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Communion, The Lord’s Supper, one of the two ordinances that Jesus left for the church to do until he comes again. But we easily miss the gravity of the ordinance in the tradition and the routine.

In Luke 22:15, we read that Jesus earnestly desired to eat the Passover meal with his disciples before his suffering. As Jesus knew what lay ahead, he longed for this final time of fellowship and teaching with his disciples and friends.

We easily miss the importance of sharing a meal in our rushed culture of microwave dinners and busy schedules. But Jesus knew the importance of eating with people, and it was even used as an accusation by the religious leaders (Mark 2:16).  

But this meal was different, it was the most important meal he had ever shared with people. And it must not be overlooked that Jesus chose the Passover to be the last meal he ate before his crucifixion. Can you imagine, Jesus eating the sacrificed lamb with his disciples, knowing that this would be the last Passover that they would need to celebrate. Jesus was establishing the New Covenant. As Jesus eats the bread and drinks the cup, he knows that they will eternally be symbols of what he is about to suffer in the next few hours.

Luke 22:7-13 is all about preparation. Jesus sent Peter and John to go and prepare the meal. It is interesting to note that the two chosen for this important task were to be significant leaders of the church. Leaders who were willing to serve their brothers and sisters. When God gives you an assignment, never think that it is insignificant.

Jesus directed them to an upper room in a house that had been chosen before the foundations of the world. There was never an unplanned moment in the life of Jesus.

The disciples took time to prepare for the meal, and the question for us is how do we prepare to partake of the Lord’s supper? We celebrate communion once a month and we can easily slip into the routine and lose the significance of what we are doing.

In 1 Corinthians 11:29 Paul writes, “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

Discerning the body is not simply referring to the symbol of the bread and its significance. If you read the verses leading up to verse 29, Paul is reprimanding the church in Corinth because there are people who had been feasting when they got together and ignoring the poor and the hungry in their midst. The Lord’s Supper had become a form of segregation between the haves and the have nots. They were creating division, hurting relationships, acting selfishly, and self-righteously.

When Paul refers to discerning the body, I believe it means to discern the health of our relationships. How are we relating to one another as the body of Christ? Are we ignoring division and broken relationships? Verse 28 tells us to examine ourselves, allowing the Holy Spirit to bring conviction leading us to repentance and reconciliation. We need to ask ourselves, whether my relationships in the church, reflect the character of our lord and savior whom we represent (Matthew 5:23-24).

As the Passover meal progressed, the disciples reclined familiarly and began enjoying the evening together. But then Jesus began saying things that caused the atmosphere in the room to shift. Verse 15 ends with, “before I suffer” and then in verse 16 he says, “For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Jesus is saying that on God’s calendar, there would be no more need for the prophetic picture of the Passover, it is being fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus points to the next feast, one that we are still waiting for. The marriage supper of the lamb that we see in Revelation 19. What a feast that will be.

Jesus goes on to institute what we know as the Lord’s supper in the following verses. There are two elements in the memorial celebration, and both are significant.

First Jesus took the bread and broke it saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” Luke 22:19. The Bread broken symbolizes the body of Jesus that was beaten and broken by the Roman soldiers.

Notice that Jesus invites them into participation. He gave it to them, they had to reach out and take it. We too are invited to participate. The invitation to salvation is there, we need to reach out in faith and as we do that we individually say, “I am taking the benefits of Christs body for myself”. Furthermore, bread is nourishment, we are strengthened as we participate in the body of Christ. Feeding on his spiritual body nourishes our souls. The single loaf of bread is a picture of the unity that we have as the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:17).

Then we come to the cup, we read in Luke 22:20, “And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

The cup is the symbol of the blood of Jesus. In our sterile 21st century mindset, blood is not that meaningful. In fact, many people are sickened by the sight of blood and don’t like to talk about blood. But God instructed Moses to sprinkle the blood of the lamb on the book of the law and the people as He instituted the covenant with the Children of Israel.  We read in Hebrews 9:22, “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Blood is a symbol of life.

The poured-out blood of Jesus established the new covenant. The covenant that we live under in the church age. That is why Jesus said in verse 20, “…This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

As we participate in Communion, let us remember that we are celebrating our salvation and declaring the Gospel.

Sermon Sunday September 5, 2021 – Hearing God’s Voice

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The sad truth about Christian discipleship today is that we teach people about God, but we don’t teach people to experience God.

As followers of Jesus, we are invited into a relationship, having our daily steps ordered by the Lord (Proverbs 3:5-6 and Psalm 37:23).

I often hear from people who wish they could hear from God regarding His will for their lives.

The incredible news is that God does still speak to His children, and Jesus made this clear in John 10.

The sheepfold of the first century was usually an enclosure made of rocks, and the shepherd would guard the flock at night by lying across the opening. It was not unusual for several flocks to be sheltered together in the same fold. In the morning, the shepherds would come, call their sheep, and assemble their own flocks. This is what Jesus was referring to in John 10:3-4.

Jesus calls himself two different things in this passage, firstly he is the door (John 10:9). He is the Door of salvation for all who put their faith in him.
Then Jesus declares himself to be the Good Shepherd and in verse 11 he says, “the Good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”. Those hearing these words must have struggled to understand what he was saying. Jesus willingly went to the cross to die for our sins so that we could have a relationship with God the Father.

We miss the point when we get so focused on the plan of salvation as a means to get out of hell and into heaven. There is so much more. We are invited into a relationship with Jesus, in verse 10 he says, I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

In verse 16 Jesus speaks to the Gentiles who were outside of the Jewish “fold”. He uses the key phrase, “they will listen to my voice.” Are you listening to the voice of The Good Shepherd?

Prayer is not a monologue where you recite all your needs to God, and He responds like a vending machine. It is a two-way fellowship, where we speak to God, and He speaks to us.

Henry Blackaby wrote, “what God says to you in prayer, is far more important than what you say to Him. After all, God already knows what you are going to tell Him.”

How does God speak to us?

1. Primarily God speaks to us through His word, the Bible.
The bible is the starting point in our pursuit of a personal relationship with God because it is His special revelation of Jesus to mankind (2 Timothy 3:16). However, for us to hear and respond to the God breathed Word, we need to open it and meditate on it.
Having said that, God is not limited to speaking to us through the Bible. God can speak in any way that He knows will get our attention.

2. God speaks through other Christians. God will use other godly people in our lives to speak to us, and we all need mentors and encouragers who will pray for us and then speak the truth in love. God will speak to us through the Holy Spirit, as fellow believers use their spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7-9).   

3. God will speak through Circumstances. In Genesis 50 Joseph saw how God used the seemingly impossible circumstances and redeem them to his glory. Be aware of God leading through circumstances.

4. God speaks audibly. In 1 Kings 19:11-12 God spoke to Elijah. The voice of God was a gentle whisper, and he knew that God was speaking to him.  God also speaks to us in that still small voice, the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
It is so important to be quiet before the Lord and to listen for His voice.

This is where the value of a journal comes in. When you sit down with your Bible each day, come with an expectation that He is going to speak to you. Sometimes through the words on the page, sometimes through the inner voice of the Holy Spirit, and as that happens, write down your dialogue with God. Write out your prayers and write down what you hear from the Lord. I am always encouraged as I look back at my journals from years gone by and see how the Lord was speaking and directing me.

5. God still speaks in dreams.  The life of Daniel was one filled with dreams and interpretation. Today we are hearing stories of thousands of Muslims who are encountering Jesus in dreams and are being converted.

There is no doubt that God speaks today, but we must be careful to test every word. To test to discern if God is speaking, use these five simple tests.

1. Does it Exalt Christ?(John 16:13-14) If what you think you heard does not exalt Christ but exalts something or someone else instead, you can be certain that the leading is not from God.

2. Is it Scriptural? (Proverbs 30:5-6) God will never contradict His Word. If the person presenting the word to you takes the Bible out of context, you can reject it. Always go back to God’s primary revelation, His Word the Bible.

3. Do Other Christians Confirm it?(1 Corinthians 14:29) If you feel that God is speaking to you on a certain issue, but you are not sure. Take it to wise people in the church who can guide you and join in prayer with you.

4. Does it Produce Good Fruit?(John 15:5) Compare what you hear with the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23. God’s word will always produce the fruit of the Spirit.  

5. Does God Bring it to Pass?  (Isaiah 55:10-11) If it never comes to pass, you can be sure God was not in it.

It is essential that you learn to test the word, whether it is something you read or something someone tells you. God is not intimidated by our questions, but He does expect our obedience when His word is confirmed.

The most important part of your day is the time spent waiting on the Lord.

Sermon, Sunday August 22, 2021 – The Church as a Community

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Why do people join a church?

Today there is much confusion regarding the church. What is the church, is it a building, is it a community, how many people constitute a church?

The church is the gathering of followers of Jesus, locally and globally. We join for the purpose of worship, encouragement, spiritual growth and serving together towards the Great Commission.  

The church is not a club or a social construct of the Western culture.

In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul implores the church in Ephesus to be all that they are called to be.

The root Greek word for the church is “Ekkaléō”, which means to call out. Paul writes in verse 1, “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called”. The church is a group of people who have been called out of darkness into light. A group of people, set apart for the Lord to serve him, being on mission for Jesus.

The church is the Body of Christ. This image emphasizes that the church is the center and focal point of Christ’s activity now, just as was his physical body during his time on earth (1 Corinthians 12:27).Christ is the head of the Body (Colossians 1:18). As the body of Christ, we are interconnected and we need each other.

Verse 3-6 focus on the unity of the church, Paul writes in verse 3, “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” And then he continues to list 7 aspects of our unity; one Body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (Ephesians 4:4-5).

Notice that we don’t create unity, we have unity because of the Holy Spirit. Our role is to preserve the unity. Unity assumes that we are actually committed followers of Jesus, carrying the same vision and the same mission. It is possible for people to be members of a church that are not actually part of the Body of Christ. Many churches have people on their membership roles who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (Matthew 25:31-46).

True church growth is the result of the members of the church being obedient to Christ. Programs don’t grow the church, every member being obedient to the will of God grows the church. The greatest need we have in our communities and world is the church to be the church, in the true sense of the word. We need to return to the principles of the early church in the New Testament.

In our reading today in v11, we see the gifts of ministry that Jesus has given to the church, “

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers”. Why did Jesus give these gifts to the church? We see the answer in verse 12, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ”.   

God’s plan to reach people with the gospel is not primarily evangelists or apologists. God’s plan to reach people with the gospel is the church. You are the plan God has in mind to change the world!

In addition to these five gifts, God has given spiritual gifts to every Christian as we see in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12. The church will be rich when every member is using their spiritual gifts. Tony Merida writes, “Every member should grow up and use a towel, not wear a bib. They should not be immature consumers but eager servants.”

As the body, the church is edified, or built up by the exercising of the gifts, the church grows spiritually. Individuals grow in their walk with the Lord and the church displays evidence of spiritual health. In Ephesians 4 we see 4 evidences of spiritual health in the church.

  1. Christlikeness: Pastors and teachers equip the church members by teaching and explaining the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). As we grow together in the Word of God, we become more like our Lord and Savior
  2. Stability: The maturing Christian is not tossed about by every religious novelty that comes along. There are many false teachers and if we are not careful, we get caught up in a false way of thinking that does not line up with the Word of God. The maturing believer recognizes false doctrine and stays clear of it. Are your feet secure on the firm foundation of the Word of God?
  3. Truth joined with love: (Ephesians 4:15). It has been said that “truth without love is brutality, but love without truth is hypocrisy.” It is a mark of maturity when we can share the truth with our fellow Christians and do it in love (Proverbs 27:6).
  4. Co-operation: (Ephesians 4:16). We realize that, as members of the one body, we belong to each other, we affect each other, and we need each other. Each believer, no matter how, extroverted, or introverted, rich, or poor, educated, or uneducated, has a ministry to other believers. In the Body of Christ when one person is in pain, we are all affected, that person is not functioning as God intended. Every person has an important role to play within the church. This is why the isolation many suffered during the lockdown has revealed how much we need to be in fellowship as the church. An isolated Christian cannot minister to others, nor can others minister to him or her, and it is impossible for the gifts to be ministered either way. A virtual church is not the church at all.

Are you ready to step into healthy church community? Exercising your God given gifts for the building up of the church. We need you!

Sermon Sunday August 15, 2021 – The Fellowship of the Church part 1

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Why do you go to church?

There are various reasons why people attend a worship service; tradition, routine, to meet friends or because they are hungry for the truth. There is tremendous richness in the fellowship we enjoy as we worship with other followers of Jesus.

In the Apostle John’s first letter he begins with the foundation of the church. In chapter 1, there are three keys to a healthy church community.

John begins with, “That which was from the beginning,” (1 John 1:1a). He began his Gospel in a similar way, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1).  Both echoing Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

John begins his letter with the declaration of our foundation in the risen Lord Jesus. John was a living witness to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He begins by saying that Jesus was more than a mere man, but that he was in fact the son of God and that at the beginning of creation, Jesus was there. John confirms that he heard Jesus speak, he saw him with his own eyes, and he touched him with his own hands. And in verse 2 and 3 he writes that this Jesus is the eternal son of God who became flesh.

John was declaring the Gospel message. The son of God who was born of a virgin and lived a perfect sinless life in order to become the spotless lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This Gospel message is the foundational truth on which the church stands.

Sadly, it is possible to know this truth, without this truth transforming your life. It is possible to profess faith in Jesus, without expressing faith by living a consistent life of following Jesus, dying to our own sinful flesh. Believing the truth of the Gospel brings us into fellowship with God and his son Jesus, John ties this to the church in verse 7, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Fellowship with one another in the church begins with the foundation of individual fellowship with God through Jesus. We cannot be in true fellowship as the church if we are not followers of Jesus.  

In verse 5, John writes, one of the greatest theological statements in the whole Bible is, “God is light”. He is the source of light and truth (John 8:12).

God began creation by stating, “let there be light” genesis 1:3. Light is the source of life and the beginning point of creation. Light is a symbol of God’s presence in the Bible and a picture of His perfect holiness and righteousness. Light reveals reality.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “We believe that the sun has risen, not because we see it, but because by it we see everything else”.

Verses 6 to 10 are a repetitive back and forth of walking in the light and walking in darkness.

Each of the verses begin with the word “if”, and John seems to play one against the other for 5 verses. Verses 6, 8 and 10 all depict the danger and the damage caused by walking and living in sin.

Notice that each of these verses begin with the statement, “if we say…”. This is pride, the essence of sin, where I try to convince myself and those around me that I am walking in truth and light, whereas I know in my heart that I am walking in sin and darkness. That there is a separation in my relationship with God and others in the body of Christ.

When we give in to temptation and sin, we are uncomfortable in the light and the natural reaction is to separate from the body of Christ. Slowly we begin to attend church less frequently, we slowly start pulling back and pretty soon we are not in fellowship anymore.

If sin pulls us away from fellowship, what do we need to do? This is where the wonderful promises of 1 John 1:7 and 9 are so incredibly encouraging.

As the light of God reveals our sin, and we are prompted by the Holy Spirit, we repent of our sins, 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God promises to forgive your sin, because of what Jesus has done on the cross.

When we sin, we damage our relationship with God. We struggle to pray and read His word. We experience to loss of Joy and peace as we are outside of the will of God. As a result of this, we also experience a loss of fellowship with each other.

But the wonderful promise is that repentance restores fellowship. I love to pray the prayer of David in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” The cleansing of our sin is a creative miracle of God, and it is something that we need to do daily.

As we daily repent of our sins, we walk in the light, enjoying fellowship with God and we walk in fellowship with other believers.

One aspect of the church has become so clear in the last eighteen months, we need to walk in fellowship with each other. Hebrews 10:23-25 has taken on a renewed meaning to us all.  

When we are separated from the body of Christ, it is easy to be overwhelmed by fear as we see the world around us. It is a world controlled by fear.

Fear comes when we misplace our trust.

The prophet Jeremiah spoke to the nation of Judah when they were in a downward spiral of sin and idolatry. They were blindly heading towards judgment, much the same as our nation today (See Jeremiah 17:5-8). Jeremiah said that trusting in man results in a curse!

How many of us are trusting in man before we trust in God?

God calls us to be a part of the fellowship of believers so that we can encourage one another to keep trusting in the Lord our God.

Keeping the foundation of the Word of God and the Gospel as our starting point.

Sermon, Sunday August 1, 2021, The Holiness of God

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Have you discovered the purpose for your existence?

That’s a deep question, but the answer is very simple and yet infinitely complex.

I am reminded of a frequently used phrase, “God loves you and has a plan for your life”.

While that sounds good and it is true, it is not the overarching truth. If we really think about it, the subject of the sentence is, “you” and ultimately that comes from our humanistic focus on self.

God is about God. It really is all about His glory being displayed in all the universe. That sounds harsh to our western ears, because we are so consumed with our own glory and achievements. But the reality is that God is the only uncreated One, from whom all other beings owe their existence, and He is infinitely holy.

Instead of, “God loves you and has a plan for your life”, I propose that, “God’s plan for your life is the display of His glory.”

I want to try to answer two questions:

  1. What is the glory of God?
  2. How do we display the glory of God?

In Romans 11 we see a chapter that some scholars say sums up the entire narrative of the Bible. It is all about God’s plan and purpose for the people of Israel. As Paul writes verses 33 to 36 of chapter 11, it is as if he is reaching the crescendo of a symphony and flows into praise of God.

Verse 36 is the cymbal crash of the chapter, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen”.

God is the source, the means, and the goal of all things. That is so contrary to what we see portrayed in the world around us and sadly in many churches, where we ultimately see that the god that many people worship is created in their own image.   

  1. But what is the glory of God?

John Piper said, “The glory of God is the manifest beauty of his holiness. It is the going-public of his holiness.”

The word Holy means to be separate, a distinctly different being, in a class all by Himself. The holiness of God is the foundational quality of His character.

In Isaiah 6:3, the prophet has a vision of heaven where he sees the Seraphim calling to one another above the throne of God, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

The heavenly creatures, declare the holiness of God and then say that His glory is over the whole earth, not His holiness. The Glory of God is the public display of His holiness (see Psalm 19:1 and Psalm 8:1).

2. So how do we display the glory of God?

Verse 36 tells us that every believer has their source in God. So, as we live on this earth in this church age, we are part of the glory of God being displayed. We get to reflect His glory. We are designed to make the glory of God shine, making it visible to others (see Matthew 5:16 and 2 Corinthians 4:6-7). People seeing your life on display, should declare, “God is glorious!”.

Once again, we run into the idol of self and our culture of humanism. We must realize that God does not need us, but He chose to create us in His image for His glory (see Isaiah 43:7).

The Westminster Catechism begins with the question, “What is the chief end of man?”. To which they answered, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” If we really grasped this, we would realize that we have been created for so much more than we can ever imagine.

But our flesh rises up and says, “hey, what’s in it for me?” If we are honest, we might believe that God is not concerned about us, He is using us for His glory. However, when we live as God intends us to live, we are most satisfied. The answer to the first question of the Westminster Catechism is two-fold, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”

As we glorify God, we experience joy, the joy of living out our original design (see Psalm 73:25-26)

So, the question is, am I satisfied in God? Is He enough? Do I have full satisfaction in God, or do I chase after the things of this world? We chase after good things; friends, health, careers, family and also not good things; wealth, sex, fame, to name a few.

We chase after things, because we don’t find full satisfaction in God.

John Piper writes, “He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

We struggle to grasp this, because we are so easily satisfied with the things of this world.

C.S. Lewis described it perfectly, “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

  • We display the Glory of God, when we serve gladly and give sacrificially of our time and our resources.
  • We display the glory of God, when we put our agenda on hold to help someone or stop to pray for them.
  • We display the glory of God when we share the Gospel with someone.
  • We display the glory of God when we care for the widows and the orphans and stand up for the unborn.
  • We display the glory of God when we boldly take a stand against the immoral mainstream of our culture.

These are just some of the many examples of what it means to be living for the glory of God.

What if we woke up every morning with the prayer, “Lord display Your glory through my life today?”

Sermon Sunday July 11, 2021 – Activation

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Have you ever been a part of a miracle?

What if we were to have the expectation of God working through us for the benefit of others? We can be used as a conduit of the grace of God for others.

Our mission team to Montana leaves this week, and we go with the expectation that God is going to use us to bless people, as we meet felt needs and share the Gospel. But this expectation should not be reserved for mission teams, this can and should be the way that we live on a daily basis.

How would you like to be used by God in a supernatural way during your everyday routine?

In Acts 3, we read about a miraculous encounter that Peter and John had with a crippled man. The early church was just getting going and they were learning to live as followers of Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit. They were living activated by the presence of the Holy Spirit.

We can learn Four Keys from this passage to living an activated lifestyle.

The early church was vibrant as people were meeting daily for prayer and fellowship (Acts 2:46-47). But they were still attached to the traditions and disciplines of the temple as they adhered to the times of daily prayer and teaching. Peter, John, and the other disciples were people of discipline. And I believe the first key to activation is the key of discipline.

Key #1 – Discipline

How we despise the word discipline, but nothing of value is ever achieved without it.  

In a few weeks the Olympics will be starting in Tokyo, the athletes are people who have achieved the top of their sport because of their discipline. It is the same with the Christian walk. To be used by God, we need to be disciplined in prayer, Bible reading, evangelism, giving, worship, and fellowship. Discipline is key to activation.

In Acts 3 we read that Peter and John were walking towards the temple and passed a crippled man begging for alms.  They probably would have walked right by him, but he called out to them asking for help. In verse 4, we find the second key to activation, “And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” (Acts 3:4). Some translations say, “Peter Fixed his gaze on him.”

There were probably many other people begging at that gate, but Peter saw this man and looked intently at him. We have a pandemic in the world right now, and it’s not COVID. There is a pandemic of people who just want to be seen. Not for fame or fortune, but just to be noticed and valued. I believe that the second key to activation is to really see people.

Key #2 – Seeing People

Seeing people through the lens of the Holy Spirit. Seeing people as human beings that Jesus died and shed his blood for. One of the most dangerous prayers you can pray, is to ask God to give you His heart for people. If He really did that, you would be overwhelmed with love mixed with grief for the pain in peoples lives. Let’s start seeing people.

Peter saw past the lame man’s plea for alms and saw his primary need. His primary need, and the primary need of every human being on the planet is to be reconciled to God.

In verse 6, Peter boldly acts, and God performs a miracle in the power of the name of Jesus. Through the power of the name of Jesus, the beggar was completely healed. Peter did not have the power to heal the man, the power was in the name of Jesus, Peter was the conduit. I believe this is the 3rd key to activation, believing in the power of the name of Jesus.

Key #3 – Believing in the Power of the Name of Jesus.

We cannot perform miracles or repair the brokenness in people, only Jesus can do that. Just like Peter, we need courage to boldly step in, as the Holy Spirit leads us, to be the conduit for a miracle in someone’s life. Bold prayers come from believing who Jesus is and what he has done for us.

Bold prayers come from abiding in Jesus (John 15:7). If you are walking in the will of God, being led by the Holy Spirit, you will be praying the will of God. Peter knew it was the will of God to heal that man, and he boldly called on the power of the name of Jesus.

Prayer is not an escape from responsibility; it is our response to God’s ability.” Warren Wiersbe

The fourth key to activation is very practical, it is simply whatever God has placed in your hand.

Key #4 – Whatever is in Your Hand

Peter said to the lame man in verse 6, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you…”

For many of us, God has put “silver and gold” in our hands. We have material possessions or skills that can be used by God to be someone’s miracle.

When you give your life to the Lordship of Jesus, he controls all your skills, your energy and your possessions. Being activated by God, means that whatever he has blessed you with can be used for His glory to help someone else.

So, what are the results of being activated?

In Acts 3, we read that a large crowd gathered around Peter and John and the formerly lame man. Peter jumped on the opportunity to preach to the crowd and many people began to accept Jesus as Lord and give glory to God.

However, before the day was over, Peter and John found themselves in jail. For Peter and John, being activated didn’t seem to work out that well. And often when we follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit, it doesn’t always work out as we visualize it. Sometimes it gets messy, sometimes we wonder what on earth we are doing.

But in Acts 4:4 we see that the church grew rapidly to well over five thousand. We don’t always see the fruit of what God is doing. We see the mess around us, but God is transforming lives and people are being saved.

It is all about the glory of God. When we are activated for the kingdom of God, He gets the glory.

Sermon Sunday July 4, 2021 The New Jerusalem

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Mountain top experience’s part 11

If I were to give you a ticket to fly first class to an amazing destination, your first question would be, “where is it?”. Followed shortly by, “what can I do there?”. We would never sign up to go somewhere without doing some research on the destination, yet this is how we approach our eternal destination.

I am talking about the new Jerusalem. The enormous city that we read about in Revelation 21 will be the eternal home of all who know and love Jesus as Lord of their lives. This is the final mountain, that all others lead to and only one person has ever seen, the Apostle John in the book of the Revelation.

Since heaven or hell are the eternal destination of everyone who has ever lived, it is surprising that so little is said about heaven from our pulpits. The truth is that people fear the unknown and one of Satan’s primary objectives is to make little of Heaven. He would like to convince the world that Heaven doesn’t exist and failing that, he would try to convince the world that it will be boring and unattractive.

Randy Alcorn said, “Grasping what the Bible teaches about Heaven shifts our center of gravity and radically alters our perspective on life”.

Revelation 21 talks about the New Heaven and the New Earth that will be after the tribulation, the battle of Armageddon, the thousand-year reign of Jesus, and the great white throne judgment. This is the final eternal state that we long for, hope for, and all creation is crying out for.

In Revelation 21:10, The apostle John tries his best to describe something that is impossible to capture and describe with words. The description of this city almost defies imagination. The earth is renewed at this stage, it is completely remade, as Jesus says in verse 5 of Revelation 21, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

The structure of the earth and the atmosphere is not limited to our understanding, it will be made new. The New Jerusalem is huge, it is a cube of around 1400 miles in all directions.  It has been calculated that a structure this size can house billions of people. In fact, easily all the people that have ever lived on the planet.

This city unites the Old Covenant and the New Covenant that God made with mankind. The twelve gates are identified with the twelve tribes of Israel, and the twelve foundations with the twelve Apostles.

Heaven is defined as the place where God dwells, making this city Heaven itself. Verse 22 says, “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. The New Jerusalem is incredibly beautiful and filled with all kinds of precious jewels and metals. The New Jerusalem is the ultimate fulfillment of all God’s promises.

Just like it is impossible for us to describe God using our vocabulary and things we can identify with, so to it is impossible to fully describe heaven. We also want to understand heaven through the lens of what brings us pleasure here on earth, and we simply cannot do that, because we live in a world tainted by the effects of sin. Heaven will be filled with pleasures that are infinitely more real and lasting than anything we know here in this lifetime.

But the primary joy of heaven will not be the state of our being, the weather, or the experiences we will taste. The primary pleasure of heaven will be the presence of God.

We are designed to have communion with God. God created man in his own image, to have fellowship with him. However, when sin entered the world, that relationship was broken and there was a separation that took place. Inside every human being is a longing and an unfulfilled desire that can only be met by the perfect presence of God Himself.

Being in the presence of God for eternity is heaven and being separated from God for eternity is hell. Our selfish and humanistic mindset cannot even begin to grasp what it will be like to be in the presence of God and to worship Him. In our, “what’s in it for me” culture, we have no idea what it will be like to be in the presence of the Creator of the universe. Heaven will be primarily a place filled with the glory of God (Revelation 21:23). Heaven will also be a place of service and work. God is creative and He designed us to be creative beings along with Him. We see in Genesis 1, that God created man to rule and care for the creatures of the earth.

The Old Testament references this holy mountain frequently in the Psalms and the prophets (see, Zechariah 8:3., Psalm 48:1-2, Isaiah 2:1-2 and Micah 4:1-5).

As we have gone through this series for the past ten weeks, we have seen that all the mountaintop encounters lead to this incredible mountain of God.

So, who gets into heaven? In Revelation 21:7-8, we have a clear list of people who will not enter into the presence of God. The list is quite comprehensive, so how can we know for sure that we are going to heaven?

Romans 10:9 says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Submitting your life to the lordship of Jesus Christ, being clothed in his righteousness is the only way to be granted access into heaven. Have you submitted to the lordship of Jesus?

Sermon Sunday June 27, 2021 – The Power of the Holy Spirit

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Acts 1:1-12

Have you ever struggled to complete a project in your home or on your computer, all the time not knowing that you had a tool or program that would have made your task so much easier?

Sometimes, in the church we attempt to do great programs and missional activity, but we do not utilize the one person who has the power to accomplish more than we could ever imagine. We ignore the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is way more than a handy tool, He is the power and the source of all fruit that we can expect as a church. In fact, without the Holy Spirit, there is no church.

It was on the mount of Olives that Jesus promised his disciples that he would send the Holy Spirit to baptize them with power. It was on this mountain where Jesus ascended into heaven as we read in Acts 1.

The book of the Acts of the Apostles is the account of the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the early church. This is the introduction to the church age, the same age in which we live. The time between when Jesus ascended into Heaven and the time he is coming back.

The church is the Body of Christ, the physical manifestation of the presence of Jesus on the earth and we have a job to do, we have a mission. Jesus’ life on earth was just the beginning.

Luke continues in verse 3 to emphasize the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. During the time after the resurrection of Jesus, there were a lot of rumors spread by the religious leaders that Jesus had not in fact risen. Luke just like the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 makes it clear that Jesus gave many proofs of his life. This is the foundation of the message we have; Jesus is alive! If Jesus is not alive the church would not exist. The resurrection was the primary message of the first church, and it should be our primary message today.

Before he ascended, Jesus told his disciples to wait for the promise that he had spoken about in John 14:16-17. Even though they were eyewitnesses to the greatest events in all of History, they were not equipped for the task that lay ahead of them. The Holy Spirit is the indispensable equipment that the child of God and the Church has.  It is imperative to remember that we don’t get to use the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit uses us.

Jesus goes on to say in verse 5, “…for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized withthe Holy Spirit not many days from now.” The tense of the verb “baptized” is a passive voice, which indicates that being filled with the Holy Spirit is a divine activity and comes about as we yield control of our lives to the power and lordship of Christ. This takes place as we yield control of our lives to Him daily. This is a spirit filled life and this is a life lived with Jesus as Lord.

Sadly, too many Christians live lives that do not require the power of the Holy Spirit. Living a passive Christian life does not require us to lean into God in desperation for His power. We as followers of Jesus have to be about the work of Kingdom, and in order to do that we need the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

The Disciples didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about and began asking about the plans to overthrow the Roman authorities. Jesus doesn’t rebuke them for their misunderstanding, but simply states, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:7-8.

Jesus takes their focus off the desire for an earthly kingdom and directs them to the work that needs to be done. The Holy Spirit will enable them to be witnesses to go in ever widening circles from Jerusalem all the way to the ends of the earth.

Jesus explains that the power of the church does not come from programs, leaders, buildings, or political influence, the power of the church to do the work that we have been commissioned to do comes from the Holy Spirit (see Zechariah 4:6). Ordinary people are able to do extraordinary things because of the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is the power to do the work, to be witnesses of the Gospel. That is the primary call on the church. The church must be outward focused, Jesus commanded it to be so.

Any church that focuses purely inward on fellowship and comfort of community, without looking beyond their four walls has already ceased to exist as a church. They may have many people coming to attend and enjoy the fellowship and worship music and programs, but they are not the body of Christ.

Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit comes on them, they will receive power and will be witnesses. You cannot be a witness to something you have not experienced. Do you have a testimony of your life being impacted by a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? You are a witness.

In the church we have turned evangelism into an academic pursuit. We can get trained into the mindset that people are simply targets and we must get through our presentation. If we do that, we miss out on the beauty and joy of the relationship and seeing that people are not targets, they are brothers and sisters that you haven’t gotten to know yet.

Right after Jesus gives this incredible task, verse 9 tells us that Jesus ascended into heaven.

As the disciples were looking up, two angels stood beside them and made an incredible promise that Jesus would return. Are you expecting his return?