Sermon, Sunday November 29, 2020 We are at War

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December 7, 1941, September 11 2001, April 15 2013. These dates will always be remembered as days when America was attacked by a foreign enemy. Dates when the distant war was brought close to home. But for the majority of people living in America in 2020, war is something that is glamorized in the movies or watched on the news from distant lands. The horror and the pain of war is not a reality that we are familiar with, and that is something to be thankful for this week as we celebrate Thanksgiving.

However, as Christians, we need to be reminded that we are on the frontlines of a real war with a vicious enemy who does not adhere to conventional rules of engagement. I am talking about the spiritual warfare that we are engaged in daily, whether we realize it or not.

Our enemy is an ancient one. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Satan was the most beautiful and anointed of the angels (Ezekiel 28:11-19). But because of his pride, the root of all sin, he fell and was cast out by God (Isaiah 14:9-20). But Satan still has access to God, and he is the accuser (Revelation 12:10), the deceiver (2 Corinthians 11:3) and the destroyer (1 Peter 5:8–9). The enemy of our souls and the enemy of the church is powerful and real.

The Apostle Paul closed the letter to the Ephesians with an encouragement to stand firm against the enemy of our souls. He began the letter by teaching on our identity as children of God in chapters 1 to 3. Then he continues with instructions of how we are to live and walk in our new identity as followers of Jesus in chapters 4 to the first part of chapter 6. This final section is not simply a closing paragraph, but is rather the capstone of this incredible letter.

Many people claim to be Christians because they have gone through the motions of some religious tradition, but they are not aware of the spiritual forces of evil that surround us on a daily basis. The Bible is clear that as true children of God, we are in a war. We are in a daily battle of life and death. We are fighting for the lives of our children, our co-workers and our neighbors. We are at war against spiritual forces that have the primary objective of taking souls with them to hell.

But there is good news, this enemy is raging because he is already defeated. When Jesus died and rose again, the victory over Satan was accomplished (John 12:31 and John 16:11). The apostle Paul does not urge us to fight for victory, rather we are fighting from the victory that is already completed. Satan is described in the Bible as the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4). We live in a broken world, eagerly waiting for Jesus to come again and finally cast Satan and his demons into the eternal fire of Hell (Revelation 20:10). But until that time, we are called to stand firm.

The encouragement to stand firm is echoed through verses 11 to 14. The key to standing is found in verse 10, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” We are standing not in our own strength, but in the strength of the all-powerful God of the universe. He is our strength, His is the victory (Romans 8:37).

The Apostle Paul was keenly aware of his dependency on the strength of God, he embraced his weakness because he realized that this was the key to victory (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

If dependence is the objective, weakness becomes an advantage. Beware your strengths, not your weaknesses, because your strengths are those places you are most likely to forget God.” JD Greear

We are dependent on God for our salvation and for our daily strength to stand against the enemy. We do not fight for victory, rather we fight from victory.

The key to living the victorious Christian life is living from the first three chapters of Ephesians. If we are not sitting before Jesus in worship, knowing our identity and walking in that, we will never be able to stand against the attacks of the enemy. Only those who sit can stand.

Our spiritual warfare is defensive, standing firm on the ground that Jesus has already secured with his victory over sin and death. As we stand firm, we have been given a defensive armor as we will see in the following verses of Ephesians 6.

Satan primarily attacks believers through our thoughts and feelings. Our emotions and our will. As we sit at the feet of Jesus and know our true identity as children of God, we are able to stand firm against these attacks.

We need to have a paradigm shift in our approach to the attacks of the enemy of our souls. We frequently ask God to help us to defeat Satan in a certain area of our lives, but may I suggest a different way of praying. We need to pray, thanking God for the victory that Jesus has already won and ask Him for the strength to stand firm.

This requires faith. Praising God for the miracle of victory even before we experience it. When you feel oppressed and attacked by Satan and his demons, simply praise God for what He has done and thank Him for the victory. Allowing God then to bring about the experience of that reality.

What is our reality? Remember that we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). Our limited faith and weak flesh struggles to accept this reality and we somehow feel that we have to win battles that have already been won. We have been saved to declare the truth of our position, by being Christ’s ambassadors here in order to bring glory to God.

If only the modern church grasped the truth that we stand from a position of victory. The victory does not occur in the book of Revelation, it has already occurred in the resurrection of Jesus that we read about in the Gospels.

Sermon, Sunday November 22, 2020 Spirit Filled Work.

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What was your worst job?

Our perspective of the work we do and our purpose for getting out of bed in the morning makes all the difference. What is your motivation for work?

This applies to all of us, even if you are retired or a student. How you spend your days matter in the Kingdom of God (See Colossians 3:23-24). As a follower of Jesus, you serve a higher calling and purpose. When you become a Christian, you change your boss without changing your job. When you become a follower of Jesus, it is never about a paycheck.

At first glance, this passage doesn’t seem to apply to our 21st century life, but we have to understand that slavery in Biblical times was very different to the type of slavery that took place under the European colonial empires and the North American continent, where people were forcibly taken into captivity from Africa, Asia and South America, being forced to work under harsh conditions for the rest of their lives.

It is estimated that there were sixty million slaves in the Roman empire. Although there was forced slavery with  harsh conditions, some slaves became managers and did what we would consider white collar jobs. Slaves could get an education, buy property and eventually, their freedom if they chose to do so. It was considered as a way to secure housing and many obtained their freedom by the age of thirty.

People became slaves through birth, abandonment, being sold by parents, prisoners of war, inability to pay debts, or even voluntarily subjection to obtain a better life. Race was not a factor in this model of slavery.

But with all that said, this does not make slavery acceptable. It is never acceptable that someone can “own” another human being created in the image of God. It is widely agreed that this first century form of slavery slowly died out as Christianity began to grow and influence society.

From Ephesians 5:5-8, we are taught to live and work with the perspective that Christ is our ultimate master. Paul, writing to slaves, freed them from living in the mundane and gave them a higher purpose to work.

This aligns with the singular purpose for which we were created, to bring glory to God.

So how were slaves instructed to bring glory to God through their work?

We see four instructions in these verses.

  1. They were to work respectfully, with reverence because they were working unto Christ (verse 5).
  2. They were to work wholeheartedly, not simply working when being watched or to please the boss. Rather the emphasis is on working from the heart, unto Christ (verse 6).
  3. They were to work willingly, with a good attitude, not with a begrudging spirit (verse 7).
  4. Finally, Paul reminds them that nothing goes unnoticed before the Lord (verse 8).  

As we know from 2 Corinthians 5:10, every believer will stand before the judgment of Jesus and give an account for the way in which we have used our time.

Thinking about work this way, is quite a paradigm shift for many and should change the way we work. No work is merely work, whether it is cleaning the kitchen or designing the next skyscraper. Everything we put our hands to is to be unto the Lord.

This is particularly challenging to put into practice in our own strength; but remember the context of this passage, Paul is writing about Spirit-filled living. This is the application of starting every day asking God to fill us and use us for His glory. You are God’s missionary and Christ’s ambassador in your place of work. We can only do that by asking the Holy Spirit to fill us and equip us for the day. We are called to live like Christ, with his work ethic (see Philippians 2:7)

Jesus wasn’t a begrudging servant, he lived every-day on purpose to the glory of the Father. If you are a follower of Jesus, you should be displaying Spirit filled excellence in your place of work.

John Stott writes: “It is possible for the housewife to cook a meal as if Jesus Christ were going to eat it, or to spring-clean the house as if Jesus Christ were the honored guest. It is possible for teachers to educate children, for doctors to treat patients and nurses to care for them, for shop assistants to serve customers, accountants to audit books and secretaries to type letters as if in each case they were serving Jesus Christ.”

This passage also addresses leaders and managers (verse 9).

A Christian who has responsibility and influence over others in the workplace, is called to lead like Christ. Jesus displayed servant leadership. He demonstrated leadership by firmly confronting evil one day and then washing his disciple’s feet the next.  Jesus was the model of a perfect leader.

As a manager, you may have less accountability and even opportunity to make unethical decisions. However, any unethical profit will be fleeting. Jesus is your master, audience, and the ultimate judge.

This should change the way we relate to people. Culture teaches that people have different value based on their perceived level of importance. But this text destroys that way of thinking. Our value in the kingdom of God is never in any way determined by our role in this life, only by our obedience to God (see Matthew 20:25-28).

We must be mindful of the subtle ways in which we prefer certain people. Our body language and our tone of voice speaks volumes about the way we view people who are different to us. Remember who we represent and who we are talking to (see Hebrews 13:2).

How do we treat that store assistant, cleaner or waiter? Let us learn to really see people the way God sees them.  

Everything revolves around our relationship with Jesus Christ. It does not matter if you are a mill operator or a corporate executive, what matters is do we serve the master?

Sermon, Sunday November 15, 2020 Spirit Filled Families

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As a church we can proclaim to be fiercely pro-life, from conception to the grave, but sometimes we can be guilty of categorizing the value of people based on their productive ability.

And this is never more prevalent in the area of our children. Our children can be noisy and messy, but they are of inestimable value in the Kingdom of God (see Mark 10:13-14).

We are so blessed to have so many children in our church family and I believe that they are our greatest responsibility. The training up of children in the ways of the Lord is the primary responsibility of the parents, but it is all of our responsibility. The community of believers all bear the responsibility of caring for and setting examples for our children.

In the first century Roman Empire, children were not valued at all. It was legal for a father to discard a newborn onto the trash heap if he decided not to keep the child. But the early church was radically different to their culture and had a high regard for children, as should we. There is no greater responsibility than to be entrusted with the short time that we must teach and mold these children in the ways of the Lord.

Paul begins by addressing children and telling them to obey their parents, “…for this is right”, Ephesians 6:1.

This seems obvious, but sadly our post-modern culture would re-write this verse to say, “Parents, obey your children, for this will keep them happy and bring peace to the home.

When Paul says, “for this is right”, he is simply stating that this is the ordained order of nature. It is part of the natural law of God written on every human heart. If you study history, virtually every civilization in history has regarded this natural law as indispensable for a stable society.

In Paul’s letter to the Colossian Church he adds the phrase, “…for this pleases the Lord” Colossians 3:20.

Now, this must not be a blanket statement that parents use for abuse. Our foremost authority is to Jesus, and if parents instruct their children to do things that are obviously contrary to the Word of God, then the child’s first line of obedience is to the Lord.

Paul writes in verse 2 that children must honor their parents. To honor means to show respect and love. Children do not honor when they talk back to their parents or mock them. This is not simply wrong; it is dishonoring to God Himself who has given you those parents.

Paul was referring to the fifth commandment in Exodus 20:12 and in Exodus 21 anyone who cursed their parent or hit them, was to be put to death!

This commandment does not only apply to a certain age group, God requires all of us to honor our parents. 

Verse 4 has a particular challenge to parents, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” Ephesians 6:4. The word translated as fathers, is translated in other passages as “parents”, so it is safe to assume that Paul is referring to both parents in the role of raising their children.

This verse is more than simply an instruction not to make children angry, it is an instruction to parents to directly teach children and to disciple them in the ways of God. Our society has abdicated the responsibility of raising our children to the public-school systems and we wonder why society is failing in so many areas.

Parents taking the responsibility for the training of their children is the way God intends society to function (Proverbs 6:20).

In the ancient world, fathers had absolute control, they could abuse and even kill their children without any repercussions. We don’t have that challenge in our culture; however, we can be guilty of causing anger and discouragement in our children. Our children are often neglected and fail to receive the love and approval that will cause them to thrive in society. We can easily discourage our children by comparing them to other children or by using sarcasm and ridicule. Conversely, nothing causes a child to thrive like positive encouragement and unconditional love.

The Apostle Paul writes that parents are to, “but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” Ephesians 6:4b.

Contemporary parent counsellors and sociologists teach that we are to be more hands-off in the training of children. We are told to be non-directive and let them, “find their own way”.

Let me assure you, someone has an agenda for your children. Satan and his demons love to find children who have been left to, “find their own way”. Parents, it is our primary responsibility to train and instruct our children in the ways of the Lord. Danny Akin says about parenting, “have fun and talk about Jesus a lot”

We must teach our children that Jesus is Lord, and he is the ultimate and highest good. We must teach our children faith by living it in front of them. Involve our children in the process of praying through important life decisions. Parents, we can talk all day about living under the lordship of Jesus Christ, but unless our children see it in our lives, they will never make it their own.

Sadly, so many young people have left the church the moment they graduated from high school. I believe the primary reason is that they see the church as a social construct or a social club that their parents belong to. They do not see the power of the Gospel on display and the lifestyle of faith that the Bible talks about.

Parents lead your homes by faith and involve your children in the journey.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.

Psalm 127:1a

Parenting is only possible with God and it is a daily walk by faith. We need to learn to commit our children to the Lord daily in prayer as we look to Him for grace and wisdom.

Sermon, Sunday November 8, 2020 – Spirit Filled Marriage.

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Ephesians 5:22-33

The starting point for discussing any relationship is found in Ephesians 5:18-21. Living a Spirit-filled life leads to healthy relationships and communities.  

Ephesians 5:22 to 24 has been challenged, thrown out, and ignored, because it doesn’t seem to sit well with our 21st century, post-modern, post-sexual revolution era. However, I believe it is extremely relevant to our culture. This passage gives us instruction in Spirit-filled marriages and the eternal purpose of God in marriage.

Sadly, in the 21st century, we must define marriage as it has been torn apart and challenged by our secular society. Marriage is ordained by God for an eternal purpose; thus, Satan hates marriage and has a specific purpose in destroying marriage.

John Stott wrote a definition of marriage: “Marriage is an exclusive heterosexual covenant between one man and one woman, ordained and sealed by God preceded by the leaving of parents, consummated in sexual union, issuing in a permanent mutually supportive partnership, and normally crowned with the gift of children

In Ephesians 5:22-24 Paul addresses wives:Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”

Our culture struggles with this language of submission, but this is not about subjection or controlling power. Rather, as followers of Jesus, every aspect of our life is about submission.  

The key is in verse 25; a wife is called to submit to her husband who in turn is willing to die for her.  

While some may view submitting to one’s husband’s authority as something negative, a more accurate way of looking at marital roles is to understand that wives are called to follow their husband’s loving leadership.” – Andreas Kostenberger.

Husbands and wives have equal value, but different roles within marriage. When both are fulfilling their roles, marriage is a beautiful thing to observe. If we struggle with these verses, we have to go back to the basics, this is God’s authoritative word to us and He does not instruct us to do anything that is outside of His perfect nature and for our good.

We must be careful to reject any teaching that says that women are subservient to men, or that the husband is a form of a CEO in the marriage. Submission must be voluntary and follows sacrificial love. Christian wives freely follow the loving leadership of a faithful husband, they should not be forced to do so for a tyrannical husband.

What does it mean to submit? To put the will of the other person ahead of your own, to prefer the other person.

What does it mean to love? To put the needs of the other person ahead of your own needs, to prefer one another.

Love and submission are two sides of the same coin.

In Ephesians 5:25-33 Paul addresses husbands.

The first instruction we find is that Husbands are to display Christ-like love. Christlike love is a sacrificial love, it is the love that took Jesus to the cross to give his own life for the church.

Men, marriage is a call to die to self. It is daily giving yourself away for the good of your bride. It is sacrificial and preferential love.

You cannot love your wife like Christ loved the church and be passive. This is loving by serving and giving of your time and energy.

It is also a sanctifying love, as we see in verse 26. This does not mean that a husband can atone for sins, only Jesus can do that. But men are to be the spiritual leader in the home. Encouraging their wife and children to read and to allow the word of God to bring transformation.

Married men, are our wives more like Christ because she’s married to us?

Or is she more like Christ in spite of us?

Husbands are instructed to prefer their wives and care for her emotional and physical needs as we read in verse 28 and 29. The husbands’ role is not to simply occupy the couch and expect to be waited on. Our role is to care for the health and the needs of our spouse as we would care for our own bodies.

So that is the passage as it is traditionally taught, but there is a greater and more important message in this text. There is an eternal purpose in marriage.

The key is found in verse 32, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Paul writes that this mystery is profound and beyond our understanding. When God created the world, and the covenant of marriage, he had Christ and the church in mind. Not the other way round.

Christ loves the church (v25), he gave his life for the church (v25), he sanctifies the church (v26), he cleanses the church (v26), he will present the church in splendor (v27), he provides and cares for the church (v29).

Marriage is not the ultimate, Christ is. If, the starting point for marriage is my own selfish desires, then I am starting at the wrong place. Marriage exists for the glory of Christ.

Marriage in this life is a shadow of the ultimate marriage of Christ and his bride the church. Christ is ultimate, not our husbands or our wives, our primary loyalty must be to Jesus.

Marriage is ordained by God for the glory of God. Therefore, He is the source of love and the only one who can cause a marriage to flourish and proclaim Christ to the World. The eternal purpose of marriage is to point us to the Gospel message. The church submitting to the headship of Christ, and Christ who already gave his life for the church. Christ is now sanctifying the church, his bride and preparing her for his return and the great marriage feast (Revelation 19).

As followers of Jesus, we need to celebrate marriage, we must pray for marriages, we must fight for marriages, because they have eternal significance.

Sermon, Sunday November 1 2020 A Case for Faith

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In November of 2020, we have no shortage of issues that can cause anxiety and fear. But Psalm 46 gives us a clear case for faith.

This Psalm was written around 700 years before Christ, by the sons of Korah to commemorate a tremendous victory that God won for the city of Jerusalem.

The Assyrian army under King Sennacherib, had surrounded the city, threatening total destruction. This took place under the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah.

The Assyrians had already destroyed the northern Kingdom of Israel and now they continued their march southwards towards Judah and Jerusalem. You can read this fascinating account in 2 Kings 18 and 19.

The situation looked terrible, the greatest army in the world was laying siege to Jerusalem and the people were in fear. There was no hope for deliverance, all would surely be lost.

But the Lord had raised up Hezekiah as a man of faith.

A letter was written by Sennacherib instructing Hezekiah to surrender, because his god was no different than the other gods of the nations the Assyrians had already destroyed. Sennacherib was taunting the one true God. When Hezekiah received the letter, he went to the temple and prayed, laying the letter before God. A few nights later, the angel of the Lord attacked the Assyrian camp and killed 185000 Assyrian soldiers. The victory was the Lords, the city of Jerusalem was saved (Psalm 46:8-9).

Hezekiah the King faced an impossible situation, but he submitted the letter from Sennacherib to the Lord.

What “letter” have you received that is causing you anxiety? It might be a doctors’ diagnosis, a foreclosure letter, a medical bill, or an unexpected layoff from your work. Whatever it is, lay it before the Lord and leave it there allowing the Lord to work a miracle.

This is taking fear and submitting it in faith to God. When we looked at Scripture, we see that it is a command of God that we must not fear. Jesus taught in Matthew 6 that we must not be anxious over anything.  

Fear is a subtle form of idolatry because when we put fear of the unknown over the power of God, fear becomes an idol.

King David knew how to do this, he had many situations that he took to the Lord and left them there. Psalm 131 is a wonderful picture of how David feels after he has taken his problem to the Lord. The key to this peace is a lifestyle of prayer.

Prayer that comes from a relationship with our Heavenly father. God is not limited by us; however, He chooses to orchestrate the events of the world in response to the prayers of His children. This is a mystery that we cannot begin to fathom. Why the eternal Creator invites His creation into the process of governing the universe, but He does!

I have been blessed to travel to many different countries during extraordinary seasons of transition, most of the time I was not aware of what was going on. I was simply there, joining with other believers in prayer. Looking back, I have been amazed at seeing what God did in those situations.

There is much anxiety in America right now, we see it on the streets of our cities. As followers of Jesus Christ how do we navigate these turbulent times? What it really boils down to is where do we place our hope? What is God calling the church to do in this time in America? We are called to pray.  

God can do more in answer to one simple prayer in faith than one-hundred years of political campaigning.

Psalm 46:1 is a powerful declaration of the fact that God is a proven source of help and He will never fail. Is God your refuge and strength?

King Hezekiah prayed to God for help and God responded in power.

The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.

Psalm 46:6

God imply utters His voice and the earth melts. The power of the Creator over His creation!

The world is still before God as we see in verse 10.

Be still and know that I am God.

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.

Psalm 46:10

Being still before the Lord is a good place to start fighting our fear. However, if we do not know God, we will always live lives in fear. Without the knowledge of God, life is a futile treadmill of fear and uncertainty.

God promises to be exalted across the whole earth. Here is the amazing mystery, we are invited to participate in God’s name being exalted in the whole earth. As we pray and as we go and tell others about Jesus, God is being exalted.

What will it take to get you to be a person of prayer?

The most powerful and significant way to spend our time is prayer and so often we use it as a last resort.

Stop trying to win political arguments or post things on social media that make no difference to peoples’ eternal wellbeing.

Pray for repentance and healing in our land

Pray for a powerful move of God and an awakening in the land.

Sermon, Sunday October 25 2020 Faith and the Elections.

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1 Samuel 8

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

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

The church is supposed to be the moral compass of the nation, unfortunately the church has largely compromised with culture to gain acceptance and numbers. As a result, the church has lost the authority to be the voice of morality. Churches and Christians see themselves as poor victims, a weak and victimized minority. But Jesus said in Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world…” As Christians and as the church, we are Christs ambassadors and when we sit idly by, Satan will continue to destroy this nation.

Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.” (Alexander Tytler 1747 to 1813)

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

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

Israel was once again turning their back on God. God’s chosen people, the people of the promise to Abraham, the same people of the covenant that God made with Moses on Mt Sinai, they wanted to settle for an earthly king to rule over them.

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

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

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

We need to prayerfully consider the choice of the election ballot, as a nation God will give us the president we ask for. As believers we have a divine voting guide, it is the Word of God. Don’t be misled for one minute into thinking that the Word of God does not apply to your choice on Tuesday November 3, it has everything to do with it (see Psalm 119:105 and Proverbs 29:2).

Our nation is facing some incredible challenges. As Christians, who are we looking to? If we place our hope in the next president, whomever that may be, we will be disappointed. The day after the election, God will still be on the throne, ruling and managing the worlds affairs. God has never needed a king or a president, he raises them up and he puts them down for his purposes.

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

There is nothing wrong with being involved in politics or voicing our frustrations with the leaders of our country, but we must view everything from an eternal perspective. As followers of Jesus Christ this world is not our home, we must put our trust in Jesus Christ and in no one else.

Do you have an eternal perspective?

Some Christian’s are more afraid of their political party losing the election than they are afraid of their friends and loved ones spending eternity in hell.

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

Join with me in praying with repentance for God to heal our nation.

Sermon, Sunday October 18, 2020 Abiding in the Vine part 2

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John 15:1-17

Fruit that Lasts

We know that as followers of Jesus, we are called to produce fruit for the glory of God, but what does that mean practically?

Here is a quick look at six different types of fruit.

  • Soul winning

A follower of Jesus will have a passion to tell others about Jesus. When Jesus called Simon Peter and Andrew in Mark 1:17, he said, “follow me and I will make you fishers of men”. The Apostle Paul was passionate about winning souls for Jesus fruit (Romans 1:13).

This can be as easy as inviting your neighbor to church or beginning a Gospel conversation with your co-worker. It begins with praying for the people that God has placed in our sphere of influence.

  • Holiness

As we grow in our relationship with Jesus, we become more like him. We grow in behavior that brings glory to God (Romans 6:22). As we grow in holiness, we change the way we think, speak and react in situations. Holiness cannot be manufactured; it comes from abiding in the vine. Holiness focuses the attention on Jesus, the source of holiness.

  • Generosity

Followers of Jesus should be known for their generosity, remembering that everything we have comes from our Heavenly Father and that He never runs out (1 John 3:17).

This principle of giving is that it is impossible to outgive God.

Worshiping God in giving begins with giving 10% to your local church, but that is just the beginning. Once we take the 10% off the table, the Lord asks us how are we stewarding the other 90%. That is where the fruit of generosity is truly displayed.

  • Fruit of the Spirit

In Galatians 5:22-23 we have a list called the fruit of the Spirit. These are all produced in our lives as we die to ourselves and submit our lives to the control of the Holy Spirit.

Being able to display these fruit of the Spirit when the world around us seems to be falling apart, is the work of the Holy Spirit. This will draw the attention to the source of your peace and bring glory to God.  

  • Service

We are saved to serve by giving our time and energy (Colossians 1:10 and Matthew 5:16).

This is not doing things out of duty, guilt or to trying to earn points with God, rather as abiding branches in the vine we will produce as we were designed to do (Ephesians 2:10).

When you are serving the Lord, doing what you were created to do, it will bring life and bring glory to God.

  • Praise

Living a lifestyle of praise is a by-product of abiding in the vine. If you are getting your strength from Jesus, living in a close walk with him, you will be filled with praise (Hebrews 13:15). This is the praise that comes from the heart, singing out of the abundance of the blessings of God on our lives.   Praising God even in the painful situations of life, brings glory to God.

These are just six examples of fruit, but for the vine to be fruitful, there needs to be a vinedresser who tends to the vine.

Jesus said in John 15:1 that His Father is the vinedresser. God the Father is the one who is in charge of caring for the vine and ensuring that it produces fruit.

Part of the job of any vinedresser is pruning. Often Christians pray that God will make them more fruitful, but they do not enjoy the pruning process that follows.

A vinedresser prunes by cutting away dead wood and also by cutting away living branches that are taking away nutrients from the branches that are bearing more fruit. God wants an abundant harvest and sometimes that requires a painful process.

However, the greatest judgement God could bring to a believer is to leave him or her alone. In a garden the vinedresser is never closer to the vine than when he is pruning. If you think that you are going through a tough time and God is pruning you, remember that He is close and He is preparing you for more fruit.

This happens in our churches as well. Sometimes God prunes ministries and programs that we have become comfortable with, God prunes them not because they aren’t producing fruit, but God prunes them and directs our attention to another opportunity that produces much more fruit.

God prunes in different ways, often it is through the reading and application of the Word of God. Sometimes, as we read and hear the Word of God, we are convicted, and God cuts to our heart bringing us to repentance (John 15:3)

Many times, the pruning process comes from difficult situations around us, hardship, sickness, and loss. It is a fact of life that we seldom grow without pain James 1:2-4).

I believe this applies to the church as well as individuals. We have been praying for revival in the church, and we can see God pruning His church in answer to our prayers.

But the reality is that the church in America was not producing fruit. The church as a whole has compromised with culture rather than influencing culture.

God is refining and pruning the church and only the church that is being refined by the whole Word of God will produce fruit.

In verses 7 and 16, we have two promises from Jesus to answer prayers. Both these verses are in the context of producing fruit for the kingdom of God. When we are abiding in the vine, our desire will be to produce fruit.

What are you praying for?

Sermon, Sunday October 11 2020 – Abiding in the Vine part 1

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John 15

Abiding in Jesus

Immediately after Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples, he led them out of the room and on a walk up towards the mount of Olives. Little did they know that this was the most significant night in all of human history.

Jesus was walking to his arrest and was preparing himself to be crucified. But even in this incredibly stressful time, Jesus was teaching his disciples. He used the backdrop of the grapevines to teach them about the importance of bearing fruit by abiding in the vine.

Jesus opens the dialogue with the powerful statement, “I am the true vine…” (John 15:1)

Jesus is the vine the Father is the vinedresser, and the true followers of Jesus are the branches. But branches are not simply for show, they have a role to play and that role is to produce fruit. The true followers of Jesus will produce fruit.

In John 15 we have some incredible promises and terrifying warnings in the words of Jesus.

We love the promise of answered prayer in verse 7 and verse 16, but these promises must be read in the context of the teaching of Jesus. In verse 8 we read that the purpose of producing fruit is to bring glory to God the Father. If we pray that the Lord would allow us to bear fruit, he will surely answer that prayer.

Are we praying that God would bless us with lasting fruit, for His glory?

The challenge facing the church today is, what are we praying for? Are we praying for peace, prosperity, and comfort? Are we praying for a return to “normal”? All the while, God invites us to pray for fruit, fruit that will last.

DR. G.  Campbell Morgan writes, “any prayer which does not react upon my life and make it a more fruit-bearing life, is not a prayer at all”

The terrible warning of this passage is found in verse 6. These branches that are thrown into the fire were at one time attached to the vine. They were possibly attached to the vine because there was promise of peace, comfort, personal blessing, and cultural acceptance.  

However, these branches never had a desire to produce fruit, because they were never abiding in the vine.

In January 2020, I would suggest that the majority of church attendees had no desire to bear any fruit. As we read the words of Jesus in John 15, we see that the key to producing fruit is abiding in Jesus. When we learn how to abide in Jesus, we will know unshakable peace.

One of the fruit that comes from abiding is peace, we know this from Galatians 5:22-23.

If you listen to Christians today there is a lot of fear being expressed. Fear of the pandemic, the financial state of the world, the political state of our nation. Sadly, this is fear being expressed by people who claim to be abiding in the vine. Oh, they will say they are just being realistic, but they are walking in fear.

Fear is not a fruit of the Spirit. Fear is not a result of abiding in the vine. Walking in fear is evidence that you are not abiding in the vine.

One of the evidences of abiding in the vine is getting our sustenance from the word of God (see Psalm 91:1-2, Habakkuk 3:17-19, Psalm 23:4, 1 John 4:18)

The reward for not looking to the world for sustenance and trusting Jesus is life and peace.

Jesus is the true vine and we who know Jesus as Lord of our lives are the branches. In John 15:16 Jesus makes a dramatic statement, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

We must never make the mistake of thinking that we had any part in our own salvation – we are saved by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8).

The branch is weak and useless if it is not connected to the vine. It is only good for being thrown into the fire. The branch is only as good as it is abiding in the vine.  

As Christians we are only going to be producing fruit if we are abiding in Jesus. Getting our daily sustenance and feeding on the vine, getting our life from Jesus.

Abiding in Christ is a cultivated discipline that takes time and effort.  Abiding comes from spending time feeding on God’s word, reading the Bible, praying and staying connected with other Christians.

There is a significant difference between simply being a part of the church by coming to the church when it is convenient and abiding in the vine, getting your life from Jesus through the word and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Where are you today?

Are you abiding or, are you walking in fear?

Are you simply attached to the vine, but you know that you are not really abiding in Christ?

Now more than ever we need to know the lifestyle of abiding in Christ.

Abiding in the Vine – Some thoughts on John 15 and 2020

In the last six months, how many times have you heard someone wishing that things would just get back to normal? Even believers who attend church regularly are wishing that things would return to the way they were in January of 2020.

But what was normal?

For many normal was couched in passivity and many of us didn’t have to face the real problems in society because we were pacified by sport and entertainment.

Even in the church, many were attending a worship service once or twice a month out of tradition, or simply for a sense of wellbeing. The church was a segment of culture that was simply another part of “normal”.

But since March, many things have changed. Many of society’s challenges have been exposed and everyone has had to make some difficult choices.

In John 15, we read some of the most powerful teachings of Jesus. Jesus uses the analogy of the vine and the branches. Jesus is the vine the Father is the vinedresser, and the true followers of Jesus are the branches. But branches are not simply for show, they have a role to play and that role is to produce fruit. The true followers of Jesus will produce fruit. In fact, verse 8 says, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”

In January 2020, I would suggest that the majority of church attendees had no desire to bear any fruit. As we read the words of Jesus in John 15, we see that the key to producing fruit is abiding in Jesus.

But what does it mean to abide? The dictionary says that to abide is to remain firm, fixed, or unwavering. Another dictionary explanation says, “to endure without wavering”. When we learn how to abide in Jesus, we will know unshakable peace.

Psalm 91 has come to mean so much in this season, where again we read about the security of abiding in Him.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust
.”

Psalm 91:1-2

In John 15 we have some incredible promises and terrifying warnings in the words of Jesus.

The promise that we quickly grab hold of is found in verse 7, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

But I would encourage you to read this promise in the context of the entire chapter. The desire of every believer (branch) should be to bear fruit as we read in the very next verse, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”

If we pray that the Lord would allow us to bear fruit, he will surely answer that prayer, for the glory of God the Father. So, are we praying that God would bless us with lasting fruit, for His glory?

This promise is repeated by Jesus in verse 16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

The challenge facing the church today is, what are we praying for? Are we praying for peace and comfort? Are we praying for a return to “normal”? Are we praying for peace and prosperity? All the while, God invites us to pray for fruit, fruit that will last.

The terrible warning of this passage is found in verse 6, “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”

These branches that are thrown into the fire, were at one time attached to the vine. They were attached to the vine because there was promise of peace and comfort. They were attached to the vine because there was promise of personal blessing and cultural acceptance. However, these branches never had a desire to produce fruit, because they were never abiding in the vine. There was attachment without abiding.

I believe that we are beginning to see the pruning process in the Church. The Father, the Vinedresser, is removing the branches that are not abiding in the vine, the branches that are not producing fruit.

What does it mean to produce fruit? The Bible is clear that the followers of Jesus are called to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18). We are called to love one another as Jesus has loved us (John 13:34), a sacrificial and selfless love.

Abiding in Jesus, being used by him to produce fruit is what we are created for. It is the essence of worship. The natural by-product of living a life committed to being used by God, is joy. John 15:11 says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

How about praying a prayer that God will always answer affirmatively? Join me in praying for opportunities to bear fruit for the Kingdom of Heaven. Join me in praying for opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus in these uncertain times.

Are you abiding in the vine?

Sermon, Sunday September 20, 2020 – Walking in the Spirit

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Ephesians 5:18-21

2020 has been a year that has challenged us all in many areas of life, but the area of relationships has been under the most stress as we look at society. People have begun to appreciate the value of being connected and living in community.

When we become followers of Jesus, we take on a new identity as we have seen in Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus. One of the most important results of this new identity is that we have new relationships, we have become part of a new family that is an eternal family (Ephesians 1:5). Our relationships within the Body of Christ is eternal, any relationship outside of the fellowship of believers is temporary. 

But sin is the great separator; it separates us from God and separates us from other people. One of the first signs that someone is struggling with sin in their lives, is that they separate themselves from family fellowship.

In Ephesians 5:18-21, the Apostle Paul exhorts his readers to be filled with the Holy Spirit in order to live in healthy relationships. These verses are all about how we are to relate to one another within the Body of Christ. How we speak to one another in verse 19 and how we submit to one another in verse 21. A Spirit filled believer is someone who lives in a right relationship with God and fellow Christians.

Paul uses the example of a person under the influence of alcohol as the opposite of what it means to be filled with the Spirit of God. Drunkenness leads to a diminished ability to control one’s behavior, whereas one of the fruit of the spirit is self-control.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not an experience that is reserved for a select few followers of Jesus. This is the normal Christian life and it is a command from the Word of God. While every true follower of Jesus is sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13), we all need a constant filling to be able to live a life of joy, thanksgiving, and love.

So how are we daily filled with the Holy Spirit? It is an ongoing discipline of prayer and spending time meditating on God’s Word. The Word and the Spirit are connected, as He is the author of the Word (Compare Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:18-19). Daily asking God for a fresh sense of His Spirit, knowing that the Father loves to give His children good gifts (Luke 11:13).

As we walk in the Spirit, being filled with the Spirit we experience results, effects of the overflow of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We see this in verses 19 to 21.

1: The first effect of being filled with the Spirit is joy. This overflows in a heart that is constantly singing. Notice in verse 19 that we sing to one another and to the Lord. There is a vertical and a horizontal dimension to our expression of joy. As we sing corporately, we also encourage one another through worship, that is why the active participation and gathering is so vital for the spiritual health of the believers in the church. We have all discovered that sitting and watching a sermon on the internet is not the same as experiencing the presence of the Lord in a gathering of believers.

The Spirit-filled believer has a song in their heart. In spite of the circumstances, the believer knows a deep sense of joy, this is singing from the heart.

2: The second result of being filled with the Spirit is thankfulness (Ephesians 5:20). The words gratitude and grace share the same root, and the Spirit-filled believer who has experienced the grace of God understands that every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17). As a result, the thankful heart is a humble heart.

Paul commands his readers to be thankful at all times, this is impossible to do in our own strength, hence our daily need to be filled with the Spirit of God. When we face challenges in life, we should turn to the Lord with thanksgiving by the power of the Spirit to keep our heart from complaining and anxiety. The Devil creates chaos in our minds when we start complaining and feeding the fire of anxiety. Thanksgiving, by the power of the Spirit of God, defeats the enemy of our souls (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

3: The third effect of living the Spirit-filled life is submission (Ephesians 5:21).

In our sinful nature, we balk at the idea of submission, but submission simply means to prefer others, not always getting what we want. Submission is essential for healthy Christian community and it is only possible as one is filled with the Spirit of God.

The word submit has military roots and means “to arrange under”. Any soldier serving in the military knows that in order to defeat the enemy, he needs to submit his own desires to the orders of the commanding officer. So, it is with the Christian, we submit to the leadership of the Holy Spirit as we together serve one another and the mission of the church.

This does not come naturally, anyone who acts brash or arrogant is not walking in the Spirit. As we walk Spirit-filled we will display the meekness and the gentleness of Christ.

These three effects of being filled with the Spirit are not simply ideals for us to experience, rather they are essential for living in a Christian community. The fountain of healthy relationships within the Body of Christ is the Holy Spirit in our lives.

As we look at the church today, do we see evidence of Spirit-filled lives?

As the Holy Spirit convicts, repent and invite the Holy Spirit into your life to fill you and control you for the glory of God and for the health of the church.