Sermon, Sunday May 16, 2021 The Duel on Mt Carmel

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1 Kings 18:17-40

Have you ever tried walking on two different paths at the same time?

Under the leadership of King Ahab, Israel was walking two different paths, worshipping the one true God and worshipping idols and pagan religions. Ahab had married Jezebel who was the daughter of the pagan king of Sidon. She brought with her the pagan practices and idol worship of her homeland, and was aggressively promoting the idols of Baal and Asherah.

God had judged Israel by bringing about a famine and Elijah the prophet was used by God to confront Ahab and his wicked practices. The drought and famine brought the worship of this pagan god into question, and a perfect time for this standoff on mt Carmel to take place between Elijah and the prophets of the pagan gods.

Elijah was a bold and courageous prophet as he confronted the king who wanted to have him killed. But Elijah knew that he was protected by God. When you know who you represent you can be courageous.

Elijah then boldly calls a duel, telling the King to assemble the nation and the prophets of Baal and Asherah at mount Carmel. Ahab agreed, thinking that this would be the perfect time to have the nation turn against Elijah and have him killed.

The nation assembles at Carmel and Elijah makes this powerful statement in verse 21, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions?”

The prophets of Baal go first and spend most of the day in prayer and aggressive pleading to their god. It was to no avail and the skies were silent. Elijah exposes the false religion and taunts the prophets and mocks them (1 Kings 18:26-29).

Finally, Elijah stops the prophets in their futile effort and says to the people, “come near to me” (1 Kings 18:30). He wants them to observe closely the importance of what he is doing.  

Elijah deliberately begins to repair the altar of sacrifice that had been demolished under the leadership of King Ahab. He takes twelve stones to build the altar representing the unity of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Exposing the foolishness and sin of Baal worship was only half of Elijah’s task for the day, his focus was bringing the nation back to worshipping the God of Abraham, the one true God. The first step was to repair the altar, the place of worship. In our lives, the first step to personal revival is the repairing of the personal altar of devotion.

During this season of COVID, many altars have been allowed to erode and are in need of repair. Maybe you once had a daily time set aside for prayer and reading the Bible, and maybe now is the time to rebuild that altar. Maybe you had a habit of praying together as a family, but schedules and business got in the way, the altar needs to be rebuilt. Maybe you had a discipline of worship and giving to the Lord, but your priorities changed, you need to rebuild those places of devotion to the Lord. What area of your life is God calling you back to wholehearted devotion?

Back to Carmel, the altar is rebuilt, and Elijah prepares the sacrifice. After soaking the sacrifice, Elijah prays. Prayer is the key to revival. There has never been revival without concerted prayer. Elijah prays what seems to be a simple prayer in 1 Kings 18:36-37 and God responds immediately by sending fire from heaven, consuming all the elements of the altar and the sacrifice. This was a powerful display of the glory of God, and the people responded with immediate repentance and worship (1 Kings 18:39). The prophets of Baal were quickly chased down and killed as the people turned from their wicked practices.

In our personal lives, it is not enough for us to acknowledge that “the Lord, He is God” (v. 39); we must also hate that which is evil and remove it from our lives. Judgment always prepares the way for blessing. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we all have idols in our lives, things that take the place of worshipping God. It could be our career, our relationships, entertainment, finances or many other seemingly harmless practices or possessions.

On a personal note, the first thing we turn to in the morning sets the tone for the day. If we open our phones and look at the latest news or social media feed, before we spend time in prayer, that could be an idol. What we turn to first thing in the morning, sets the tone for the day. Do we spend those first few moments focusing on the Lord, or do we fill our minds with fear, anxiety and the fear of man.

So the challenge for us is the same challenge that Elijah threw out to the nation of Israel, “are you limping between two opinions”

Whatever is more important in your life than knowing God, is an idol. The result for us is the same as it was for Israel, if we have a worship problem, we will experience drought and famine in our souls.

AW Tozer once said, “for the Christian, everything begins and ends with worship. Whatever interferes with one’s personal worship of God needs to be properly dealt with and dismissed.”

Our idols cause us to limp, we are weak in our devotion and weak in our witness for Christ.

What idol is the Holy Spirit challenging you to destroy today? It may be an app on your phone, your social media account, your spending habits, your viewing habits, or it may be your career.

What changes to your daily routine is God asking you to make today?

Hebrews12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”

Sermon Sunday May 9, 2021 Mountain Top Experiences Part 3

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Exodus 19

How do you prepare to go to church?

Let’s admit it, most people like to sleep in on Sunday. It is a day when the routine of the week is thrown out and we rush around trying to find our shoes that we only wear once a week.

However, if we think about it, how we prepare speaks to how much we value and expect the presence of the Lord as we worship.

The events of Exodus 19 on Mount Sinai are one of the most incredible accounts of the presence of God in the whole Bible. The mountain where God spoke to Moses and gave the children of Israel the Law. Can you imagine the scene, the thunder, the earthquake, the deafening trumpet, the smoke, and the voice of God?

The events at Mount Sinai were monumental in the history of the world. God was creating for Himself a new nation with new laws and a new way of life. God showed Himself as the one who desires relationship and communion with His people. Unlike any other world religion, our God came down to His people. He is the initiator of the relationship.

God gave the Israelites the Law, that became known as the Law of Moses. It revealed the holiness of God and clearly defined sin once and for all. God was preparing this nation to be the nation that would host the presence of God in the form and flesh of Jesus the Messiah.

The giving of the Law is remembered by the Jewish Holiday, Shavuot, which is 50 days from the Passover. The Law was in effect the constitution of the nation at a time when they were celebrating their freedom from Egyptian slavery. Shavuot is also known by the ancient Greek word for fifty, Pentecost.

Over the course of almost a year Moses went up Mount Sinai several times (as many as eight) to meet God as recorded between Exodus 19 and the end of the book. Not bad for an eighty-year-old man!

The first time Moses went up the mountain, God told him that He is offering a blessing to the people of Israel if they will keep the covenant (Exodus 19:5-6). By saying this, God was confirming the covenant He had made with Abraham.

A priest was a mediator between God and man. By making the nation of Israel a Kingdom of Priests, the whole nation would act as a mediator of the presence of God to the whole earth as God promised Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3).

Moses reported the message to the people, and the people respond by saying, “We will do everything the Lord has said” (Exodus 19:8). God spoke to Moses so that all the people could hear Him. By doing this God elevated Moses in the sight of the people (Exodus 19:9).

This is a picture of what would happen during the life of Jesus. When Jesus was Baptized, God spoke from heaven giving His approval of His son in front of the crowd (Matthew 3:16-17).

In verse 10 God told Moses to instruct the people to consecrate themselves, to get ready for His meeting with them on the third day. They had not yet received the ceremonial laws, but they did know enough to clean their clothes and prepare themselves. It isn’t that God demands clean clothes, rather it is the value of preparation, taking time to prepare to meet God.

The third day arrives and verse 16 says, “On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled.” Can you imagine how terrifying that must have been? Verse 18 says that the whole mountain trembled as God descended on it. The mountain is covered in a thick cloud to protect the people from the full glory of God. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, terrifying the people, Moses speaks. He simply speaks and God answers him in thunder (Hebrews 12:28-29).

Over the period of almost a year, the people camped at the base of the mountain. During that time God gave Moses the law, he established the Mosaic Covenant and officially made the children of Israel the nation of Israel.

Our God is an awesome and powerful God, but here is our incredible privilege, we have access like Moses, we can speak directly to God because of what Jesus has done for us. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the perfect sacrifice that paid for our sins once and for all, we can come boldly before the Lord. Jesus is our High priest and mediator.

There is another incredible connection between the Old and New Testaments.

This was the first Pentecost celebration, and we have another Pentecost celebration that stands out in the Bible. In Acts chapter 2, God poured out the Holy Spirit and established the Church during Pentecost.

But there is a further connection. As the people waited for Moses, they grew impatient and had Aaron form them a golden calf to worship. Moses furiously broke the stone tablets as we read in Exodus 32 and the resulting judgement for the sins of the people cost about 3000 men their lives. 3000 people died at the time when they were receiving the law.

Fast forward 1400 years, the disciples gathered at Pentecost as the Holy Spirit comes on them.  They go out into the streets of Jerusalem and Peter preaches a powerful evangelistic sermon, and the result is that about 3000 people are saved! The law leads to death, but the Spirit brings life. The apostle Paul refers to the law of sin and death in Romans 8:1–2.

So, how do you prepare yourself for worship on a Sunday?

Preparation starts all through the week. God repeated over and over, consecrate yourself, get ready, be prepared! Do we prepare ourselves before coming to church on a Sunday? Or do we spend Saturday night watching immoral shows and then wonder why we don’t “feel” God on Sunday morning.

Are we as the church preparing ourselves? Asking God to strip away from us the idols that are keeping us from experiencing His presence.

Sermon Sunday May 2, 2021 – Mountain Top Experiences part 2

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Exodus 3:1-15

Can you remember a time when God really revealed himself to you? When you felt God directing your path and giving you a commission? Do you know what it means to follow him and listen to his leading and direction?

In Exodus chapter 3, we read about the call of an 80-year-old fugitive by the name of Moses. Moses had known the heights of the power of the king of Egypt. He was raised and educated in pharaoh’s household, he had power and recognition, but in a fit of rage killed and Egyptian and had to flee Egypt.

Moses spent 40 years in the land of Midian, serving as a shepherd for his father-in-law. He was a broken man, willing to live out his days in insignificance. But God called him, God appointed him, and God commissioned him because God had prepared him.

God speaks to Moses from a burning bush on mount Horeb, also known as mount Sinai, the place where he would later receive the Ten Commandments. This is one of the most holy of mountains in the Bible.  

Moses is routinely tending his sheep and suddenly, he sees a bush that is on fire. This bush is on fire, but it seems as though the the bush is not being consumed.  As Moses turns aside, God begins to speak to him.  

We should always be looking for the supernatural in the mundane. We often miss the call of God because we are so busy going about our routines that we miss the burning bush, the sign of the supernatural (Psalm 19:1-2).

As God called him, Moses responded by saying “Here I am” (Exodus 3:4). When God calls you, how do you respond? Do you respond with, “here I am”, or do you pretend not to hear?

God warns Moses not to come too close and to take off his shoes (Exodus 3:5). Moses was humbled and worshipped God in wonder, this is the true beginning of Christian service. God uses people who humble themselves before Him.

God repeats an important message to Moses (Exodus 3:7 & 9). God sees the suffering of His people. This is such a wonderful encouragement. In the last verse of chapter 2 we read, “God saw the people of Israel, and God knew”. If you ever feel that your actions, your works, your struggles are unseen, be assured that our Father in Heaven sees. This is one of the foundational promises of the Bible.  

“I have seen … I have heard their cry … I know … I have come down!” What a message of grace! You might be crying out to God and wondering if He hears or sees. Nothing is outside of the sight of God; this is a promise you can be sure of. God is the God who sees and the God who delivers His people.

God called Moses to be the one to deliver the children of Israel from Egypt and Moses is understandably resistant. He was not expecting the assignment and he would rather not sign up for this mission. God had called Moses to a seemingly impossible task.

We must always remember that God is never going to call us to do something that we can do in our own strength. God wants to display His glory and power through us. We see this in verse 8, “and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians”

God invited Moses to be a part of what He was about to do. God doesn’t need us, He invites us to be a part of what He already plans to do.

As Moses begins to resist God’s call, God gives him that incredible Bible promise, “But I will be with you…” The inadequacy of Moses is countered by the promise of the power of the almighty God. Remember, however inadequate you may feel, you and God are always the majority.

As Moses considers this, it leads to his next problem,who is the God of Abraham?

The Egyptians worshipped many gods, and the God of Abraham would be just one among many. God responds in verse 14, “God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

Up to this point in the Bible, God has been called in Hebrew, “Elohim”, meaning God. But now God says, “I am WHO I am.” The words “I am” are interchanged with the Hebrew name, “Yahweh”. God said at the end of verse 14, “I AM has sent me to you”

From this time onwards God is known by this statement, “I am Yahweh”. A name that means so much and is so holy that most Hebrew people would be afraid to even whisper it.  God said to Moses, I am Yahweh.

God said to Moses and He says to us, I am wherever you are, and I always will be.

What a promise for Moses as he considered the call of God on his life. This applies to all Christians. Every person who has given their life to the Lordship of Jesus has a mission and a calling. It may be to your workplace, your neighborhood, childcare ministry, youth ministry, across the states or to another nation. God’s name is Yahweh, I AM with you.

Moses kept on making excuses, denying the call of God. Have you ever made excuses when God calls you? We say things like, I am too old, I am poor, I am uneducated, I don’t speak well, I am too shy, I am too sickly, I am…, I am…, I am….

Notice how we focus on ourselves when we make excuses, and God emphatically responds, I AM WHO I am.

We need to repent of the excuses and submit ourselves to the perfect plan of God for our lives. What is God calling you to do today?

Sermon Sunday April 25, 2021 – Mountain Top Experiences part 1

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Throughout the Bible God encountered people on the tops of mountains. He revealed Himself to them and changed the course of human history. Over the next several weeks we will be looking at some of those encounters and the lessons we can learn from them.

One of the most significant mountain top experiences took place on Mt Moriah as God tested the faith of Abraham. We read about this in Genesis 22, and it is well known to Christians, Jews and Muslims1.

For Christians, the story is traditionally viewed in light of Abraham’s tremendous faith in response to the unthinkable request from God to sacrifice his only beloved son. However, there is so much we can learn from this mountain top experience.

  • What does this account reveal about Abraham?

The first sentence in chapter 22 simply states, “After these things God tested Abraham…”.  

Here is where we must remove our 21st century “Sunday School” lenses and see that this is a truly horrifying account in history. God asks Abraham to kill his own son. A human sacrifice is counter to everything we know about God. It offends us and challenges our sense of decency and understanding of God. Yet we are told that this was Abraham’s finest hour and his most glorious victory.

We have the advantage of knowing how the story unfolds, but for Abraham it must have been the most difficult few days of his entire life.

Amazingly, we see that Abraham remained silent and seemed passive. Abraham must have been going through tremendous inner turmoil as he scoured through hundreds of scenarios in his mind. Verse 4 of chapter 22 says that; “On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.” It appears that he had been walking for three days with his eyes on the ground before him, deep in thought and anguish. Abraham’s quick response and silence seems to indicate resigned numbness to God’s will, steeling himself against the emotions tearing through his heart.

After passing the test, God pronounces an incredible blessing over Abraham, but life doesn’t go back to the way it was. Most scholars agree that Isaac didn’t return with him to Beersheba (Gen 22:19), and shortly thereafter his wife, Sarah dies. There was an understandable strain in the relationships in the house of Abraham.

  • What does the Account reveal about God?

In verse 2 God says, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah…” From this it is evident that God does not recognize that Ishmael was even a child of Abraham. In verse 11 we see that God stopped the sacrifice of Isaac right at the point when there was no doubt that Abraham was going to go through with the killing of his son. God showed that He never intended to allow Abraham to kill Isaac and went on to explain the test to him.

This picture of God is not the soft and amicable Heavenly Father that our modern-day “Christianity” likes to portray. On the contrary, the picture of Abraham lowering the knife was, in God’s eyes, the passing grade of the test. I doubt that this display of the nature of God would be palatable to the masses in our post-modern society (Isaiah 55:8). But we must come to grips with the fact that the God of the Old Testament has not changed. What has changed is our relationship with him because of what Jesus did for us on the cross.  

  • What about Isaac?

Traditionally the focus is on Abraham, but what about Isaac?

According to Jewish historians, Isaac was between 25 and 37 years old and not an unsuspecting child. As mentioned earlier, Isaac left Abraham and the next time we see him is in the Negev in chapter 24.  This event must have been incredibly traumatic for Isaac; his own father betrayed him and tried to kill him.

In contrast, according to a few ancient rabbinical documents, we read of Isaac as a willing sacrifice, actually asking his father to bind him tightly so that he would not move out of the way of the knife. This gives us a totally different picture of Isaac, one of a willing sacrifice and one who understood the importance of obeying his father and God.

  • Jesus and Isaac

There are many parallels between the life of Isaac and that of Jesus.

Both Isaac and Jesus were foretold, and their names were given to their parents by God. They were both conceived miraculously, and both were called “beloved son”.

Leading up to Mt Moriah, Abraham was silent. So too, God the Father was silent in Gethsemane leading up to the crucifixion of His beloved Son.

The fact that the wood for the offering was laid on the back of Isaac is a symbol of the cross that Jesus would one day carry on his shoulders.

Leading up to his crucifixion, Jesus was unwavering in his path to the cross and he was silent during his trial.  In the same way, Isaac walked silently alongside his father.

This account in essence is the salvation of Israel.  Even though Isaac was not killed, the intervention by the angel saved the nation that was to come. So too, Jesus was sacrificed in order to save all nations.

Like Isaac, Jesus’ walk to the cross was not simply passive resignation to his fate, but rather there was a determination to obey his Father’s will (Luke 22:42).

By his resurrection, Jesus provided for the salvation for all who would believe in him. The staying of the sacrifice of Isaac, was his “resurrection”, and that provided for the continuation and fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham (Hebrews 11:17-19)

What makes this account so horrifying is that God instructed Abraham to slaughter his own son, but if we really think about the crucifixion on Calvary we should be even more offended.

Because of our sins, God the Father required a perfect sacrifice. The only way we could be saved was by the perfect sacrifice of the spotless lamb of God (Isaiah 53:6, 2 Corinthians 5:21).

But here is the amazing truth that we miss, Abraham – the father had to raise his hand against his son.

Jesus knew that he would bear the incredible pain of the cross while bearing our sins. God the Father knew that he would have to inflict this pain on his own beloved son Jesus (Isaiah 53:10).

We must never miss the horror and the offense of the cross. God the Father inflicted His perfect wrath on God the Son.

Thank God today for the amazing gift of salvation.

1Muslim accounts of this event replace Isaac with Ishmael.

Sermon, Sunday April 11, 2021 – Washing Each Other’s Feet

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John 13:1-17

The night before he was crucified, Jesus met with his disciples to share what we call today, the Last Supper. Before they ate, Jesus shocked them all by humbling himself and washing their feet. This was the role of the servant of the house, why did the Lord make such a dramatic move?

What was he teaching his disciples and what can we learn from this in the church today?

Jesus loved these men. He wanted to spend this last evening with his inner circle, those he had chosen. Jesus loved his disciples right up to the cross, even though he knew one of them would betray him.

Jesus was teaching them about authority and showing that leadership does not mean you have to have people do your bidding. He could have called angels to come and wash their feet, he could have called a servant in, but he chose to serve them. Notably, Jesus also washed the feet of Judas, who would soon betray him. Jesus was showing that leadership is often a one-way street.

As Jesus comes to wash Peter’s feet, he resists and says in verse 6, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”, further in verse 8 he says, “You shall never wash my feet.”  We must not mistake this for pride, this was respect, Peter knew Jesus was Lord and God.

Jesus responds in verse 8, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”

At first glance, it may seem that Jesus is exaggerating to force peter to allow him to wash his feet. But what if Jesus is referring to a more significant truth than simply cleaning feet?

I want to suggest two interpretations to what Jesus is saying to Peter in this verse.

Firstly, Jesus was humbling himself prior to the ultimate act of humility by dying on the cross.

If it would be beneath Jesus’ position and dignity to wash his beloved disciples’ feet, then it would be beneath him to suffer and die on the cross. The Gospel is a message of humility as the creator stepped down from glory and subjected himself to a cruel Roman cross. The son of God, who poured water into a basin to wash the disciple’s feet, in a few hours poured his blood out into a basin to wash us from our sins.

And secondly, what if Jesus is saying to Peter that if he didn’t learn from this act of servanthood, then he would have no part in the kingdom of God.  I will come back to this in a later in the article.

As Peter begins to understand the significance of what Jesus is doing, he asks Jesus to wash his hands and his head as well. But Jesus explains in verse 10 that this is not necessary. This speaks to us as believers today, daily we need a washing of our sins. Washing off the dirt and grime from our daily contact with a sinful world.

I believe daily repentance is key to a healthy Christian walk. Like dust on our feet, sin lingers in our lives. The more we leave the dirt on our feet, the more it affects us, and we lose our effectiveness in the kingdom.

Jesus reclines at the table and begins to explain what he was teaching them. Not only were they to learn servant leadership, but they were also to learn to wash one another’s feet. In verse 15, Jesus gave them an imperative command to continue to serve one another as he had served them.

Looking back to verse 8, what if Jesus was saying to Peter; “if you don’t learn from this and wash each other’s feet, then you can have no part in the kingdom of heaven.”

Applying this to modern day disciples of Jesus in the church, how often don’t we refuse to “wash each other’s feet? How often do we come to church on a Sunday, wanting to be served, but with no intention of serving?

If you are unwilling to wash the feet of the people around you, you are separating yourself from the body of Christ. The principle that Jesus is displaying is that the kingdom of God must take preference over every desire or self-interest (see Matthew 19:29-30). This is radical, this is true Christianity, this is not the comfortable suit and tie Christianity that the church has been selling.

In verse 17 Jesus says that this command comes with a promise of blessing.  Sadly, even in the church we don’t serve each other because we constantly ask, “what’s in it for me?”

Now that we have established that we are to “wash each other’s feet”, how do we do this?

When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, he showed them that ministry is not done from a platform, but rather it is done with a basin and a towel. One of the greatest roles in the church is refreshment, reminding each other of the basics and the original plan of God for their lives. This is not a ministry reserved for a few who have been to seminary, this is a ministry that we are all called to. We who have the Holy Spirit, have the power in us to encourage and lift the load off the shoulders of our brothers and sisters (1 Peter 2:9).

But before we can do that we have to be in right relationship with God. We cannot act as ministers in the church if we are not in right relationship with God. If we are simply trying to serve in the church out of duty and we are not right with God, we will just bring others down. Watchman Nee wrote, “to be at odds with God is the sure way to be a drain upon the life of His Church”.

It is imperative that when we gather on Sunday mornings, we have prepared our hearts before the Lord, ready to serve one another. If you know there is some sin in your life, something that is hindering your relationship with God, you are not able to serve as a minister in the church and you have gone from being an asset in the church to being a burden. The simple principle in the body of Christ is this, we are refreshing and being refreshed all the time.

During this COVID season of isolation, I am always disturbed when people say that they do not need to gather with the body of Christ and that they are happy to watch a sermon online. The Bible shows clearly that if you do not desire the meeting together with other believers, there is something seriously wrong with your walk with the Lord. Gathering in regular fellowship is way more than simply a cultural tradition, it is essential for our growth and overcoming the plans of the enemy for our lives. Church is essential, no matter what anyone might say to you.

As we actively engage in ministry towards one another, Jesus promises us a blessing. What we wrestle with is our tendency towards passivity.

I pray that everyone would come to a worship service on a Sunday with this prayer in their hearts, “Lord who would you have me pray for and encourage today?”

Sermon, Sunday April 4, 2021, Tremble.

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Mark 16:1-8

In the closing section of Mark’s Gospel we have the well-known record of the three women who were the first to witness the empty tomb of Jesus. What we often fail to notice is that they were filled with fear. The last three words of verse 8 says, “…they were afraid”.

The good news of their risen Lord was clouded by their intense emotions.

We have all experienced the intense emotion of fear. Sometimes when someone intentionally scares us suddenly or when we encounter something that has the potential to cause us loss or harm. Our world in the past year has been driven by fear. The news media and marketing companies have thrived on creating and sustaining fear. There is the fear of getting sick, the fear of losing a loved one, the fear of losing one’s source of income and the fear of life not getting back to normal, whatever that means! Many people have the fear of not being “liked” on social media or being on the wrong side of a prominent social justice issue.

What are you most afraid of right now? How are you coping with these fears?

Fear is not a bad emotion. God designed us to have and experience fear as part of our survival instinct and human connection. Fear is an emotion that we are created with. If you read the Bible, you will notice that one of the most often repeated commands in scripture is, “do not fear”. But simply repeating this, does not automatically remove fear from our lives.

The key is not allowing our fears to control our lives. So, the answer is to choose a better fear, to tremble at something bigger. We need to see our daily fears in perspective. We need to understand that fear is not the problem, rather we misplace our fear. Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

The difference that Jesus is referring to is this, where does the fear lead us? Fear either leads us to self-preservation or to faith. Only faith can ultimately save us.

J.B. Philipps wrote a book that captures this excellently called, “Your God is too small”.  When we walk in fear, it is a result of the fact that we’ve made God too small, reducing Him to our preferences, holding him captive to our desires, projecting on to him our own sensibilities?

Jesus says the Living God is so much bigger than this, we need to fear Him.

Another potential problem is that our fear is too small. Jesus essentially is telling his disciples to have a bigger fear.  We need to develop a healthy fear of the One who created and holds all things together. In short, we don’t fear the Living God (Ps. 111:10).

Bible teachers often soften this by saying that this word fear means respect, or reverence. But what if the Bible really means being afraid, when it connects fear to the majesty of God over 300 times. I would suggest that we miss the point and the clear teaching of Scripture; God is terrifying in His majesty.  Hebrews 12:29 says that our God is a consuming fire!

Probably the greatest weakness of the church is that we have reduced God to a comfortable being who is waiting to give us whatever we desire, whenever we ask Him. We have lost our fear of God and when we lose our fear in God, we will fear everything else.

When we fear something, we give that fear power over us. And left unattended, fear grows and develops into patterns of behavior, and we begin to live afraid. Worship is the act of giving value to something. When we fear things and uncertainties more then God, we have made an idol out of fear.

But the good news is that in the very next verse in Matthew 10, Jesus assures his disciples that they do not have to live in condemnation to fear. Matthew 10:29-31 says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Immediately after telling us to fear God, Jesus tells us not to be afraid. Jesus said that when we fear God, we can rest in His ability to protect and provide for all our needs. God is not only all-powerful, He is also love and is intimately involved in every aspect of our lives.

This is why the empty grave that we celebrated this past Sunday is so important. The empty grave confirms that we serve a living God who gave his life for us and overcame death in order to purchase our freedom.  We can echo what Paul said in Romans 8:38-39.

As a result, in the midst of our 21st century anxiety and fears, we can say, “Cheer Up”, the risen one is calling you. And that’s the difference. The women at the empty grave chose a better fear. They were trembling, bewildered and afraid before an empty grave, not an empty life. The grave was empty, but their hearts were full. They were trembling, bewildered and afraid, because they were encountering the power and presence of the living God.

Do you long to tremble like that? When was the last time you felt like you were standing on holy ground too afraid to speak?

Is your God too small? Are your fears too small?

Choose today a bigger fear, tremble at an empty grave.

Jesus is inviting you to look into the empty tomb today to see what he did for you so that you can stand in holy fear before God with your sins removed, and be able to call Him Father.

Sermon, Sunday March 14, 2021 – Do You See Jesus?

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Mark 8:1-10

Do you ever look at something and not see what’s really there?

There is a phenomenon in the world of art called a stereogram. You can often find them in museums, shopping malls, or art stores. These are three-dimensional pictures hidden inside a two-dimensional picture with a repeating pattern. But a lot of people, like me, cannot see the hidden image.

Not seeing what’s there not only happens in the art world, it also happens in the spiritual world. It happens with Jesus. At first glance when we look at Jesus, we don’t see all that’s there. And if we don’t look long enough, if we don’t look at him in a different way, we’ll have a limited view that will prevent us from seeing how incredible, how powerful, how compassionate, how glorious he is, and will miss out on experiencing the life he offers us. What image do you have of Jesus?

As we skim through Marks Gospel, we are looking at Mark 6:30 to 9:32.Up to this point in the ministry of Jesus, he’s been extremely popular. The things he’s said and done have impacted the entire region. However, this is about to change as he begins to reveal his true mission, one that will culminate on a cruel Roman cross.

Throughout this Gospel, you may have noticed that Jesus uses every moment to reveal himself more fully to his disciples, because like us, they don’t always see things clearly.

One of these moments is found in Mark 8:1-10 as Jesus miraculously feeds four-thousand people with a few loaves and fish.

Jesus isn’t just a powerful teacher and miracle worker; he is a shepherd. He cares about people. His emotion moves him to action, and he wants to feed the people. Jesus has the crowd sit down and blesses the food as he begins to perform a miracle of multiplication that fed the multitude. The disciples saw a crowd that needed to be sent away because the task was impossible. Jesus saw people who needed to be fed and an opportunity to teach.

We might see someone who has made a wreck of their lives and someone who takes up our time, when Jesus sees them as a person who deserves a second chance. Jesus sees the person whom he created in the image of God.

Later, when Jesus is alone with his disciples, he knows that they are struggling to grasp who he really is (Mark 8:18). They were looking at him with the wrong expectation and focus.

We aren’t much different. No matter how many times the Lord has answered our prayers in the past, we still struggle to grasp his power and trust him fully in the present. When we are going through various trials, we need Jesus to help us to see him, see him for who he really is.

In Mark 8:27-30, Jesus reveals who he really is. Jesus wanted his disciples to see his true identity. Jesus posed this question, “Who do people say that I am?” (Mark 8:27)

This is the essential question that we all must answer. What image do you have of Jesus?

If we’re unclear about Jesus, if we have a view of him that comes from our culture, books, or movies, then we could be going in a direction that leads us away from God.

Peter answered with a clear declaration of Jesus’ true identity. “You are the Christ.” (Mark 8:29b). Jesus affirms Peter’s declaration but instructs them not to tell anyone. But then he begins to tell them about the suffering he is about to undergo (Mark 8:31-38). This idea of suffering and death was not the picture they had of their messiah.

Peter boldly takes Jesus aside and begins to rebuke him, getting Jesus back in line with Peter’s vision. But Jesus seizes the moment and in the presence of all the disciples, rebukes Peter (Mark 8:33). Satan didn’t want Jesus to go to the cross and he tried to use a friend of Jesus to derail his mission plan.  Satan has, and always will try to obscure and lie about the true identity of Jesus. He doesn’t want us to see Jesus for who he really is.

Satan is okay with us believing that Jesus was a good man, a moral teacher, a prophet, or a miracle worker. But he is more!  He is the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God who came to seek and save the lost, to set people free. Jesus suffered and died to pay for our sins and rose from the grave to authenticate that his death was a sufficient payment. And now he is alive and inviting whoever will see him for who he is, to accept his offer of eternal life!

Ever since the time of Jesus, men have argued about who this man named Jesus from Galilee really was.  The Pharisees and Sadducees were very curious about Jesus and often followed him around to catch him in a lie, or they simply rejected him.  Two thousand years later, many people continue to trivialize the life and teaching of Jesus. Some will even go as far as calling Jesus a great moral teacher but not the Lord over all creation.

Jesus Christ was the most influential person to ever walk this planet!  He changed the timeline of history forever. 

Colossians 3:4 says, “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Is he your life? Or an add on?

The Bible is clear that the only way to avoid spending an eternity in Hell is through a personal relationship with this Jesus Christ. And that happens by making him Lord of your life. We can never make a true decision about Jesus by taking a poll of what other people think. You need to encounter him and see him in a personal way.  

What is your image of Jesus? What obstacle is keeping you from seeing Jesus clearly?

Sermon, Sunday March 7, 2021 – Chosen!

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In 2014 there was an article in the news about a boy by the name of Davion in Florida, who at the age of 15 had been in the foster care system all his life. Davion desperately wanted to be adopted into a loving family and he knew that because of his age, this was highly unlikely.

He decided to be proactive and he worked hard to improve his physical appearance and his grades at school. On his own initiative, Davion boldly stood before the congregation of his local church and asked if anyone would choose him to be their son.

Davion was crying out to be chosen, to be a part of a family. Can you imagine your children having to market themselves and be on their best behavior and get all “A’s” in school to be accepted and loved?

The point is that we all have a deep desire to belong, to be chosen and to be a part of a family. This is the invitation that Jesus introduced when he walked the earth, and the same invitation stands today. We get invited into the family of God, where we are accepted just as we are, and our Father will never give up on us. It’s a family that wants the best for you. It’s a family that offers real hope for today and for your future.

In Mark 3:13 to 6:29, we catch a glimpse of the life and ministry of Jesus as he is at his most popular. Everywhere he goes crowds follow him in hopes of seeing a miracle or being healed themselves.

In Chapter 3 from verse 13, Jesus chooses the disciples to be in his family. Jesus didn’t pick the best theological minds and esteemed leaders, rather he chose ordinary fishermen, tradesmen, a politician, and a tax collector to be part of his family. Jesus chose them and used them to start a global movement that changed the world.

At the same time, Jesus was rejected by his own family (Mark 3:20-21). When his family heard about his ministry they said, “He is out of his mind.”

Jesus knew what it was like to be rejected, abandoned, and betrayed by your own family.

Jesus identifies with the many people whose family abandon and disown them when they place their faith in him as Lord.

Jesus identifies with Davion’s pain. Jesus identifies with your pain and Jesus chooses you to be in his family. Just a few minutes later Jesus said regarding his family, “For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35). Whoever is willing, has faith and believes becomes a member of this new family.

Faith Comes by Hearing is an organization committed to producing the audio Bible for every language in the world. One of the recordings is for a tribal group of Indians in Bolivia called Quechua. When the Quechuas first heard the Bible in their heart language, the response was amazing. Whole villages came to faith in Christ, families were healed, and churches were planted throughout the region. As the FCBH leadership began asking questions of the Quechua people, they found out that the most impactful Bible story was the healing of the women with the issue of blood found in Mark 5:21-34.

The woman had a chronic bleeding issue that had gone on for twelve years, and like many people with chronic illnesses, she emptied her bank account paying her medical bills. In addition, this medical problem made her ceremonially unclean in the community as per the law of Moses, which meant she was shunned, alone and broken. Out of a place of desperation she takes a huge risk and works her way through the crowd on her hands and knees to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. As she reaches out and touches the edge of Jesus’ cloak, she is immediately healed.

The reason why this particular story impacted the Quechua people was because they could identify with being rejected and shunned by society. It wasn’t until as recently as 1965 that there was a government ruling to declare that the Quechuan’s had a soul. Up until that time, they were regarded as nothing more than primitive animals.

When the Quechua’s hear the story in Mark chapter 5, they identify with the women considered unclean. They join with that woman and when she touched Jesus, they reached out and touched Jesus. Something happened in their souls and their spirits at that moment.

They were set free from their pain when they grasped what Jesus said in Mark 5:34, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease.”

The Quechua at that moment would begin to sob and break down. Their heart hurt because Jesus saw this woman as a human being, he healed her and invited her into his family. He freed her from her suffering. Their hearts hurt because Jesus, who now speaks their language, turns to them, and offers them that same invitation.

Jesus is now turning to you and offering you the same invitation.

After Davion spoke in the church, his story went viral and today he has a forever family.

Someone chose to adopt him into their family.

Imagine yourself standing in front of a church and pleading for someone to welcome you into their family, and even before you finish your speech, Jesus stands up and shouts out, “I chose you!”.  This is what Jesus does every-day, he says, “I love you and choose you just as you are (see Hebrews 2:11).

Jesus is the only one who has the power to set us free from our shame and to present us as righteous before God the Father. Those who believe in Jesus and receive him are the ones who are made holy.

Have you made the decision to make Jesus Christ Lord of your life?

Sermon, Sunday February 28, 2021, Burst!

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Burst

Mark 1:14 to 3:12

I have always loved astronomy and love reading about the incredible magnitude of the galaxies and the universe (Psalm 8:4-5). In April 2020, scientist first recorded what is known as a Fast Radio Burst or FRB, coming from a region in space about 32 616 light years away. This was the first FRB recorded within our own galaxy. These bursts appear for only a millisecond but emit energy equivalent to 500 million of our suns. Scientists don’t know why these bursts occur or even what they are, but they hope their research will help us learn about what happens in space between galaxies.

These short, but incredibly powerful bursts make me think about the sudden flash in human history when Jesus, the creator God walked the earth. The impact of Jesus changed the course of human history for all eternity. And just like those radio bursts, Jesus emitted incredible power when he burst on the scene of human history.

As we skim through the Gospel of Mark, this week we will be looking at Mark 1:14 to Mark 3:12 as we see some of the miracles that Jesus performed, displaying his power in bursts of energy. Just like the radio bursts might tell us about the universe, these snapshots of Jesus tell us about the nature of God the Father.

In Mark 1:15 we read that Jesus declared, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand;repent and believe in the gospel.” Jesus burst on the scene in what is known as a Kairos moment in history, a critical and opportune moment defined by God’s perfect plan.

When Jesus said that the kingdom of God is at hand, he was introducing a new “universe”, a new way of seeing everything. This was the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:1-5. The four hundred years of silence is over, and God is now ever so near to His people.

Bursting with presence in Mark 1:18, Jesus goes to two fishermen, Simon and Andrew, and says “follow me”, and they immediately follow him. Then he calls two more fishermen, James and John. They drop everything, leaving their father in the boat and follow Jesus.

Bursting with authority in verse 22, Jesus teaches in synagogues in an astonishing way that the people had never heard before.

Bursting with power in verse 33, Jesus casts out a demon, and then goes on to heal Simon’s mother-in-law and many others as the city gathered at his doorstep.

Bursting with intimacy in verse 35, Jesus rises early in the morning and sneaks away to be with his Father. This frustrated his disciples, but Jesus knew the value of intimacy with his Father in heaven.  

Bursting with compassion in verse 42, Jesus touches a leper and heals him. Jesus forbids the former leper to testify about who healed him, but the man has encountered the Lord and cannot restrain himself. As a result, Jesus must retreat away from the towns and cities, but this didn’t stop the crowds from seeking him (Mark 1:45).

In Chapter 2, the paralyzed friends burst through the roof to bring their friend to be healed by Jesus. Jesus healed the man physically, but not before he healed his heart and forgave his sins (Mark 2:12). This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Bursting through all protocol, Jesus didn’t follow the cultural norms, as he ate with tax collectors and those classified by the religious elite as sinners (Mark 2:17).

Bursting with anger in Mark 3:5, Jesus stares down the religious elite, distressed by their stubborn hearts. Jesus healed the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath in full view of the hypocritical Pharisees. They immediately began plotting to kill Jesus.

The crowds were bursting to see Jesus in Mark 3:1-12. Jesus withdrew with his disciples, but people from all the surrounding regions were desperate to encounter the power that he was displaying. Even the demons burst through as they recognized the Lord, but He rebuked them and silenced them.

That was two-thousand years ago, and we are living in a time where we need a burst of the power of Jesus as well. We live in a world where people feel helpless, vulnerable, cynical, and fearful, as the pandemic has exposed how little control we really have over our lives.

The pain and anguish in our streets, the national and global economies that are teetering on collapse, the divisive and angry political culture, the epidemic of mental illness and suicide, all point to our desperate need for Jesus to burst into our hearts, our homes, our cities, and our nation.

The good news is that Jesus has not changed and his ability to impact lives and nations has not changed (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus is fully God and fully man. He is the second person of the Trinity who created all things from nothing. God is the source of all power and energy.

Not only did Jesus create all things, but he also has all authority (Matthew 28:18). Jesus is the Lord of hosts, the supreme commander-in-chief of the armies of God. This is the same man who walked the earth, bursting on the scene two-thousand years ago.

Can you imagine what that must have been like? He looked like any other Jewish young man. But then he began to burst with power and strength. He was as extraordinary as a cosmic burst, brighter than a trillion suns (Colossians 1:16-17).

What paradigms in your own life does Jesus want to burst open?

What paradigms are you bound to that God wants to topple because they’re keeping you

from experiencing the freedom and the joy of all that Jesus came to introduce within the kingdom? Paradigms in your family, finances, health, and the call of God on your life.

Pray, asking God to reveal the areas of prejudice or old wineskins that need to be thrown out in your life. The things that are holding you back from receiving all the promises of God. Pray for God to break your paradigms and burst into your life with new power.  

Sermon, Sunday February 21, 2021, Hope Fulfilled

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Mark 1:1-13

We have all experienced seasons when we longingly hope for something to happen, but it seems that the fulfilment of the hope is so far away. Proverbs 13:12 says that hope deferred makes our hearts sick.

The people of Israel knew about hope deferred. In 2091 B.C., God told Abraham and Sarah that He is going to make them a great nation. They had to wait twenty-five years for Isaac to be born.

Between the Old and the New Testament, there is a period of 400 years where God does not speak at all to the nation of Israel and they are waiting for a promised messiah. At some point the people must have made the shift from “hope deferred” to “hope lost.”

After 400 years of silence from God, there is a stirring, stories of a miraculous birth and a man who performs amazing signs and wonders, could this be the hope?

Mark, the author of the Gospel account begins by saying that the book is the, “Good News of Jesus Christ”. Christ means the anointed one, the messiah. Mark was making it clear in the first sentence that this is the hope fulfilled, the one the prophet Isaiah wrote about.

As we read in verse 4 and 5, John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As we read in verse 6, he was not the type of herald that the people were expecting to introduce the messiah. But then again, the messiah wasn’t what they were expecting either. They were expecting a military ruler, but Jesus was so much more, and they didn’t recognize him.

As John was preaching one day, Jesus walked up and asked to be baptized. John Baptizes Jesus and suddenly, there is an unexpected display of the glory and power of God.

As Jesus comes out of the water, God the Father declares his love for His son. God the Father is declaring that this man is the one that the world has been waiting for and the hope of all mankind.

Then the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, descends on Jesus like a dove.

John’s retelling of this event informs us that the Spirit came down and remained

with him (John 1:33). It is the Holy Spirit who remained with Jesus, leading him into the wilderness, and throughout his life on the earth.

The Holy Spirit sends Jesus into the wilderness where we are told that he fasted and was tempted by Satan for forty days. Mark’s Gospel does not detail the temptations as the other Gospels, but I think this helps us understand that Jesus was not simply tempted with three questions as we sometimes like to understand the temptation in the wilderness. Jesus was constantly tempted until Satan leaves him.

This is a good reminder that we too are tempted daily. James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. We need to be on guard, daily being aware of the attempts of the enemy to take us off the path that God has for us.

Jesus was God, he was also fully human, and the Holy Spirit was what empowered Jesus to perform miracles (Matthew 12:28). In Romans 8, we read that it was the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus openly declared his dependance on the third person of the trinity.

With that in mind, how can we live as a follower of Jesus without acknowledging and relying on that same Holy Spirit in our lives (John 14:16-18)

So, getting back to verse 12. Jesus has just been recognized as the Messiah, the trinity was all present, the Father declared His love and pleasure in the son. This seems like a perfect time to go into the city and begin establishing his kingdom. But instead, Jesus is led to be broken and tempted. God is orchestrating all of History for His purposes. God the Father orchestrated and allowed Jesus to be tempted for forty days for a clear purpose.

1 Corinthians 15:45 refers to Jesus as the “Last Adam.” In Genesis 3, we read that the “First Adam”, was tempted by the serpent in the Garden and gave into that temptation. As a result of Adam’s sin, we are all born with a sin nature, separated from God. This is the primary need of all mankind, to be made right with our creator.

Jesus is the “Second Adam,” which means he is only the second man to walk the earth without sin. Jesus isn’t born of the seed of Adam but the seed of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20). Unlike Adam, who gave in to temptation, Jesus successfully resisted the temptation of Satan and won a decisive victory in the wilderness and lived the rest of his life without sinning.

Because of his sinless life, when Jesus was crucified, he was the perfect spotless lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice that God required for our sins to be forgiven.

Can you imagine being there for the official introduction of Jesus to the world?

It had been hope deferred for over 2000 years since Abraham. The hope of Jesus was planned before the creation of the world (1 Peter 1:18-21).

The complete Proverb 13:12 reads, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).

Mankind’s longing has been fulfilled. As a follower of Jesus, the longing to have a relationship with your creator and live a life full of meaning and purpose has been fulfilled in Jesus.

Jesus is the tree of life for us today, providing the hope fulfilled. Without Jesus we have no hope.

What are you hoping for today?

Maybe it’s a job, a family member to be saved, financial breakthrough, freedom from addiction, the baby you have been praying for? Whatever you are hoping for, bring that to Jesus today, the one who can fulfill our hopes.