Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020 Do You Know the Season?

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Luke 19:28-44

What a season to be living in this world! Who would have thought that the world would be so different four short months ago.

This Sunday we remember Palm Sunday and a week that began like any other week, but within seven days the world was completely changed forever.

In Luke 19, we read the account of the disciples who “stole” a colt for Jesus. Not only did Jesus know exactly what was going to happen, he even tells them the conversation that they were about to have with the owner of the colt.

But I know that the colt recognized his creator, and the reason for his existence. Jesus the creator God put all the pieces together for this moment. Jesus grew the thorn tree that was used to make his crown, and he nurtured the tree that was used to make his cross. Jesus had prepared for this moment.

If Jesus knew that a donkey was waiting for him in the next town, he certainly knows what’s down the road for you and me. Jesus knows how this global pandemic is going to play out. Jesus knows how you are going to be provided for. Though Satan would have us believe otherwise, living by Jesus’ words will never send you on a fool’s errand.

We as followers of Jesus can take tremendous encouragement in this. Do not let doubt and fear paralyze you today.  

As the crowd saw what is happening, their excitement began to boil over. Some of them had probably memorized the prophet Zechariah and what was prophesied in Zechariah 9:9.

Can you imagine the excitement? They were seeing prophecy fulfilled and Jesus was coming to establish his kingdom in Jerusalem. The promised messiah was here, and he was going to throw off the oppressive Roman rulers. But Jesus was focused on a much bigger battle, he was focused on defeating Satan, sin and death.

Jesus was surrounded by a crowd of people praising him, and many of them had been healed and touched by this amazing man. Initially Herod and Pilate did not take him seriously, otherwise they would have sent a garrison of troops to prevent him from entering the city.

The fact that the people were waving palm branches showed that they didn’t grasp who Jesus was, and why he was coming to Jerusalem. Waving palm branches was symbolic of the Maccabean rebellion that took place two generations before, against the Syrian oppressors. They were showing that they expected Jesus to be another warlord who would lead them to overthrow the Romans.

There are many times in our lives when we don’t accurately perceive the moment. We miss what is going on for lack of knowledge, understanding or simply because we have an unmet expectation.

But then the mood shifts, Jesus abruptly stops and bursts into tears.

As Jesus looks at Jerusalem and sees the eager faces of those around him, he was overcome by the awareness of their emptiness. They were empty because they had not heard the truth of his message and they did not understand the true purpose of his coming to earth.

Wherever Jesus looked he found a reason to weep.

As he looked back; he saw a nation that had missed his coming and had wasted its opportunities.

As he looked within the hearts of the people, he saw spiritual blindness and a hardness in their hearts. They had all the signs and the prophets to convince them, yet they still rejected him.

As Jesus looked around, he saw a lot of dead religious activity that was not accomplishing anything. The city was full of people celebrating the Passover but with little understanding of its true meaning.

As Jesus looks at our churches today, he sees a lot of dead religion. People going through the motions with no real knowledge of our savior. People who are content with going to a building once a week, when in fact Jesus offers a relationship and eternal life.

Finally, as Jesus looks ahead, he sees the City of David that was soon about to come under attack and judgment. Jesus knew that in 40 years, the city would be under siege by the Romans, and the total destruction of the city and the Temple, leaving about 600 000 Jews dead.

And all of this because the people did not recognize the time of Jesus’ coming. The tragedy of the national disaster could have been averted. But Jesus knew that judgment must come and that rejection of the Word of God, who is Jesus, ultimately leads to punishment.

But it grieved Jesus because of his great love for the lost, the people he came to save (see John 1:11).

God’s chosen nation did not recognize the messiah when he came into their lives, and because of that Jesus wept and mourned.

Jesus did not simply come to set the nation of Israel free from the Roman oppression. He came to die on a Roman cross, seemingly defeated by Satan. But God’s plan was to raise Jesus from the dead and in so doing, defeat Satan, defeat death, and provide a way for eternal life for all who would place their faith and trust in Jesus.

What about us today? Do we know the season?

We are living in a season that is unprecedented. There are predictions from every corner about the infection rates, death tolls and eventual end of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

But only God knows the end, and the purpose of this season.

The role of the Body of Christ is extremely significant in this season.  

This is the time for the church to rise up boldly and to be a place of prayer, truth and compassion.

How we respond in this season will determine the eternal destination of the people all around us. If we act as people who have no hope, then people will not listen to us when we tell them about our faith in Jesus.

To discern the season, we need to pray and ask God for wisdom and insight.

Through the Holy Spirit we will be able to see this season through spiritual eyes, with the lens (perspective) of Christ.  

The Key to Defeating Anxiety – Sermon March 29, 2020

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Philippians 4:4-7

Some have asked, “what do we do now that church has been cancelled? Well, it depends how you define church. Yes, we have cancelled the meeting together at Sunday morning at 10:30 in a building, but you cannot cancel a movement.

The dictionary defines a movement as, “a series of organized activities by people working concertedly toward some goal”.

That is the church, we focus the attention of a group of people on a specific goal. And that specific goal has not changed for 2000 years.

Many churches have temporary goals; building buildings, alleviating poverty, or focusing on some social injustice, but the primary goal of the church remains the Great Commission.

This terrible virus is forcing us to look at everything we do and our religious practices to determine and I believe to refine our goals. As we evaluate the church, I am reminded of the early church in Acts 2, they met in small groups in homes and in the temple courts daily. So, when people say, “I watched a sermon online, I attended church”, I must disagree, you took in some information, but the body of Christ must be together. There is a family aspect that is vital to us functioning as the church.

The important point is that isolation is not the designed posture of the church, we need to be in community, and we need to be caring for one another and praying for one another during this time of anxiety and worry.

Fear has prevented many Christians from experiencing all that God intends for you in your life. Fear of death, fear of failure, fear of a virus that seems to be rapidly affecting everything we know.

The key to victory over worry and anxiety, is found in Philippians 4:4-7.

Anxiety is the most pervasive psychological problem in our society. And we have no shortage of fuel for the fire of anxiety in March 2020.

In Philippians 4:4-7 Paul addresses anxiety and it is very practical and transformational as we apply the principles of God’s word. The Apostle Paul knew what it was like to experience hardship, he was in chains as he wrote this letter, and yet he was full of joy and encouragement.

What was Paul’s secret?

Paul starts verse 4 by making an imperative statement, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice.”

There is a huge difference between joy and happiness; joy flows out of security in a relationship.

There is a direct connection between joy and love.

Gaining a greater understanding of the love that God, your Heavenly Father, has for you, will give you peace and joy. The Prophet Habakkuk understood this as he wrote in Habakkuk 3:17-18,

Paul had the same confidence as the prophet Habakkuk, Paul was convinced that God was in control and that God would fulfill the promises of His word (see Romans 8:28).

Do we have that same confidence? Or am I anxious because deep down, I am not fully convinced that God is able, or that God is truly good.

When we search our hearts, the root of anxiety can be traced to unbelief in the all-powerful Creator of the universe.

Verse 5 continues, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand”

We as followers of Jesus are to be known as people who are reasonable. But not just reasonable, some translations will say, gentleness or patience, the Greek word incorporates all the fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23).

As we live the Spirit-filled life we will exhibit these qualities to those around us.

Philippians 4:6 is the key to overcoming anxiety; it is prayer. Paul makes an imperative statement, “do not be anxious about anything”. Prayer is the Biblical prescription for the illness of anxiety.

There are three aspects to this prescription for anxiety found in verse 6; Prayer, supplication and thanksgiving.

1: Prayer – Is the attitude of the person coming before the all-holy, all-powerful Creator. Prayer is by nature humility, a recognition of who we are communicating with. Prayer never begins with words; it begins in the heart and a humble attitude towards God.

Prayer is admitting our weakness and submitting with dependence and recognition to the Creator of the universe. But more than that, we as believers in Jesus Christ can call the Creator, Father! We as children of God, come into His throne room, He is delighted to speak to us.  

2: Supplication – This is the act of sharing our needs and problems with God. Not because He doesn’t know what we need, but rather because as we verbalize our needs, God works in our own hearts and prepares us for the answer to our prayers. God doesn’t need our prayers, but He responds when we pray, because that is the way He has ordered the universe.

3: Thanksgiving – It is crucial to thank God even before we have received the answer to our prayers. All prayer is to be accompanied by thanksgiving. We are to be thankful because God is going to give us exactly what we need in response to our prayers.

And then finally verse 7: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Through prayer, we can experience the peace of God, a miraculous work of God bringing peace to the heart and mind of the believer. This does not mean the absence of trials, Jesus said we would still have that in John 16:33, but the peace of God is the ability to handle the trials without them stealing our joy.

This is too much for us to grasp, “it surpasses all understanding” as verse 7 says.  

This peace is the result of the person who has taken everything to God in prayer, with thanksgiving.

The peace of God is a protection against anxiety, stress and against bitterness towards those who have wronged us.

Verse 7 ends with the key, the key to this peace and joy is found “in Christ Jesus”. Only in the completed work of what Jesus did on the Cross and by his resurrection power are we able to experience the peace of God.

Did you speak with the Prince of Peace today?

The Power of God for Us March 22, 2020

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Ephesians 1:19-23

We live in tumultuous times. But we can take comfort, in trusting that our loving heavenly Father holds each of us in the palm of His hand.

As Followers of Jesus, we are not encouraged not to be fearful or anxious, we are commanded to not be afraid. In Matthew 6:25 Jesus is not suggesting that try not to worry, he is emphatically stating it.

But how do we avoid being anxious in a 24/7 news cycle of constant coverage of a pandemic that is threatening everything that we have become accustomed to.

Therein lies the problem, we are so accustomed to our lives being predictable and seeming to be under control. We trust the healthcare systems and the government, both of which will ultimately fail us.

Jesus at the end of Matthew 6 gives the antidote to fear and anxiety, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

In this season of uncertainty, are we going to lean into God and meditate on the truths of His Word, or are we going to look to man for the answers that only God can give?

As true followers of Jesus, we belong to Him and are in His care. Therefore, we can remain at perfect peace in any circumstance (see Isaiah 26:3–4).


I believe that this is a wonderful opportunity for the church to proclaim the Good News, to serve our neighbors and our community, not giving in to fear, but boldly walking in the fact that we know our trust is in the one who created the universe,  who still holds all things together.  

We have always said that the church is not the building; now we get to display that truth.

Today I want to continue to move through Ephesians 1, and only God could have set this up, because these next few verses are exactly what we need to hear today in our season of uncertainty.

Looking at Ephesians 1:19-23

In verse 19, Paul continues to pray for revelation that the eyes of their hearts would be opened, that they would understand, “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might”.

God is all-powerful, He is not simply more powerful, He is the source and the sum of all power. There is nothing in all creation that does not derive its power from God in the first place. And here is the incredible news, His power is for us and is given to all who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord.

The power of God is available to us to overcome temptation, fear, anxiety and the plans of Satan. This is even more relevant in March 2020, where we are suddenly faced with uncertainty and the realization of our inability to control our own destiny.

We have an overinflated opinion of our own strength, and a low view of God.

We don’t fully grasp the fact that Satan hates followers of Jesus, and his plan is to destroy us and our families.

We as Christians, need to lean into Christ, rely on the power of God. This immeasurable power that is for us and more than that, it is in us through the Holy Spirit. We must pray for His resurrection power to strengthen us and empower us to live victoriously for Him in our day to day lives. How relevant this is for us today!

In verse 20, Paul writes that this immeasurable power is the power that God raised Jesus from the dead is living in us and for us (see Romans 8:11).

The challenge we face in the church today is that we have a power problem.  Too many people are trying to live the Christian life without leaning into the power of the Holy Spirit.

Do you know the power of God in your life?

Starting today, you can know by experience the power of God that is for you and in you as a follower of Jesus.

JB Philipps wrote a short book called, “Your God is too small”, in it he challenges us to look beyond the religious god that we have created and are able to quantify and understand. The reason we lack faith, is because our god is too small. This is also why we struggle with passages in the Bible, because we reason with limited minds and think that God is in some way limited to our understanding of Him.

The Apostle Paul then goes on a powerful flowing explanation of who Christ is now in his resurrected form (Ephesians 1:20-23). Wow! That is our savior and Lord who is in all and overall.  

God raised Jesus from the dead, a miracle that we will celebrate in a few weeks at Easter, but more than that, Jesus is seated at the right hand of God the Father, a position of power and might above everything that has ever been created. Not only is every power inferior to Jesus, they are also subject to him. And when he comes again to take his bride, the church, to be with him, Jesus will simply speak and all of creation will melt at his voice (see Psalm 46).

In these challenging times, we must remember that God is for us. The church is not simply a gathering at a place and time, rather the church is the true followers of Jesus.  Jesus has promised to build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matt 16:18).

So, we as the church are faced with a challenge, how do we function? I believe that problems are opportunities wrapped in a challenge.

For the next few weeks we will not meet as a large group, but my prayer is that we will meet in small groups or via video. We will encourage, care and pray for one another, meeting one another’s needs like the first century church did.

I believe we will emerge from this as a stronger church with stronger ties of fellowship and community. More than that, our community needs us to be the church. Reaching out in love and care, with the deep knowledge that God has promised that His immeasurable power is still for those who love Him.

Do You Know God? Sunday March 15, 2020

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Ephesians 1:15-23

The letter to the Ephesian church speaks a lot about our identity, but the more important question is, do we know God?  

The apostle Paul desired the Ephesian Christians to understand what great wealth they had in Christ.

Notice that Paul is not praying for them to receive something from God that they do not have, rather he is praying that God will reveal to them what they already have.

Paul writes in verse 15-16, “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”

Paul heard that they were people of faith and love. The Christian life has two dimensions: faith toward God, and love toward men, and you cannot separate the two (see John 13:35).

Paul writes that he is praying continuously for the believers in Ephesus (see 1 Thessalonians 5:17).

As followers of Jesus we are to be a people of prayer, speaking to God, hearing from Him and practicing a lifestyle of prayer.

In verses 17-19, Paul turns to petition. As he writes out his prayer, he uses three phrases that refer to illumination or understanding. In verse 17: Spirit of Wisdom and of revelation and verse 18: having the eyes of your heart enlightened.

Paul prayed that they would have spiritual eyes to see who God is and what He has done for them.

This is essential when we approach the Bible as we need the Holy Spirit to reveal truth to us (see Luke 24:45).

Charles Spurgeon said, “apart from the Spirit, it is easier to teach a tiger vegetarianism than an unregenerate person the Gospel.”

We will never fully grasp the Word of God if we approach it like a textbook. Sadly, so much of our passion for discipleship is not pointing people to a relationship fed by the word of life, rather, we are trying to teach people a book.

This is also why there is so much false teaching and confusion in Christian circles today. People are not feeding on God’s word for themselves. As a result, there is a self-imposed starvation in the body of Christ.

In Psalm 119, David frequently asks God for revelation and understanding (see Psalm 119:18, 34, 135).

One of the reasons we don’t pray for God to speak to us through the Bible is because we have an over-inflated opinion of our own abilities. We come with our educated opinions and intellect and think that we have it all figured out.

The first step of hearing from God in His word is to approach the Bible with humility.  

Along with our lack of humility, we also have a low view of God. Paul had a healthy view of God, in verse 17 he describes God as “the Father of Glory”.

Paul often related the glory of God with the power of God. Paul was confident that God has the power to open the eyes of our hearts and give us understanding.

Verse 17 ends with the words, “the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him”.

As followers of Jesus, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, we can grow in our knowledge of Him. The Christian walk is daily discovering more about God for the rest of eternity (see John 17:3). The beginning, the middle and the end of the Christian life is about knowing God.

The Christian life is about knowing God and making him known, this is the normal Christian life.

J.I. Packer in his book “knowing God”, says that those who know God have 4 characteristics:

  1. Great energy for God
  2. Great thoughts of God
  3. Great boldness for God
  4. Great contentment in God

Verse 18 continues, “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints”.

What is the hope to which He has called us?

Paul wants the readers to know that they were called by God and as a result there is a hope of eternal life. The Greek word for “hope” means to look forward with the expectation of a certain outcome. As followers of Jesus, we don’t have a distant hope in an uncertain future, we have a certain glorious anticipation in Jesus coming again and the kingdom of Heaven being established for eternity. We have a living hope (see 1 Peter 1:3).

Paul then writes again about an inheritance in verse 18, “…what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” We are God’s inheritance! God looks on the redeemed as a part of His great wealth. God gets the glory from the church and when Jesus comes again, we will be to the praise of His glorious grace as we saw in verse 6.

God the father sees us today as who we are in Christ. God always looks at a person’s destiny rather than their present situation.

Back in Judges 6, the angel of the Lord met with Gideon who was cowering from the Midianites and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” Judges 6:12b

Gideon didn’t know who he was, but God knew who he was called to be. As followers of Jesus, God sees us as who we are in Christ. We are called out and covered by the righteousness and Glory of the risen Lord Jesus. Our lives are controlled by what we shall be when Christ returns. We are Gods inheritance, and we live to bring Him glory.

We are designed and created to know God and to make Him known, to bring Him glory.

Do you know that today?

Do you hunger to know God more?

Do You Know Your Net Worth? Sermon, Sunday March 8, 2020

Ephesians 1:7-14

Do you know your net worth?

If you are a follower of Jesus, you are infinitely more valuable than Jeff Bezos who is currently the wealthiest man on the planet.

Ephesians 1:11 says, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”

Romans 8:17 says that as adopted children, we are co-heirs with Christ. The inheritance that Jesus is one day going to receive is infinite and we are co-heirs. There is real net-worth in being a child of God.

This is a reality that we see in Ephesians 1:7-14. It all begins with Jesus, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.

The word redemption is a word that means to set free by paying a price. In the Roman empire, slaves were often bought and sold like pieces of furniture. It was possible under Roman law for someone to purchase a slave and then set him free. This is exactly what Jesus has done for us. We were once slaves to sin, and Jesus paid the price for our freedom (see Galatians 1:3-4).

But more than simply being freed slaves, we have been adopted by God, with full rights of inheritance as His children.

The word forgive means “to carry away”, as we see in the picture of the scapegoat in Leviticus 16.

Christ died to carry away our sins so they might never again be seen. When John the Baptist saw Jesus in John 1:29 he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

No written accusation stands against us because our sins have been taken away!

Verse 7 and 8 continue that all this is, “according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight”

God’s grace has been defined as “God’s favor toward the unworthy or the undeserving.”

In His grace, God is willing to forgive us and bless us abundantly, even though we don’t deserve to be dealt with so generously.

More than that, this grace is lavished on us. God pours out His amazing grace with abundance, more than we ever need or could ask for. Our Heavenly Father is generous, He gives freely and abundantly.

But it gets better. Not only are we redeemed, forgiven and blessed with abundant grace, we are also given wisdom and insight.

It is one thing to set someone free, but what if they have never been free before?

When we are set free from Satan’s grasp, we have no idea how to walk in the light. This is where God blesses us with wisdom and insight by the Holy Spirit, to be able to walk as His child.

Paul continues this long sentence in Ephesians 1:9-10, “making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

All of history is controlled and purposed by God, and as His children God lets us in to the secrets of His plan of redemption for the world. We get to see first-hand that God’s plan centers around a redeemer – Jesus (see Ephesians 1:10). Jesus is the redeemer that the whole earth is waiting for (see Romans 8:22-23).

In Ephesians 1:11 and 14, we read about an inheritance, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” (see also 1 Peter 1:3-4).

Then we come to the final verses in this section and in verse 13 we have the complete plan of salvation, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,”

  1. The first step is hearing the Gospel, the news about what Jesus has done on the cross and the power of his resurrection.
  2. Then there is the belief component, this is where the mystery of predestination and faith collide as we read in Romans 10:9-10.
  3. And the third component of salvation is that those who believe are sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit, who was promised by Jesus and by the Old Testament prophets. The Holy Spirit is not an optional extra for living the Christian life. If you don’t have the presence of the Holy Spirit, you do not have the seal of ownership of God on your life. When you are saved God puts His mark on you; the Holy Spirit is God’s seal of ownership and the fulfillment of His promise.

But the Holy Spirit is way more than a seal of God’s ownership, in verse 14 we see, “who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

We know that the Holy Spirit is our counsellor, the revealer of truth and so much more, but he is also a guarantee, a down payment of what is to come. God doesn’t only promise us an amazing future, He has brought the future into the present, so that we might have a foretaste of what is to come.

Here is the bottom line, we need all the Trinity for our salvation.

  • The adoption by the Father
  • The redemption by the Son
  • The seal of the Holy Spirit

Do you know your net worth?

Something is only as valuable as the price someone is willing to pay for it.

Jesus paid the price for our redemption. The creator of the universe redeemed us by His own precious blood. He sacrificed everything, gave up his position in heaven to ultimately suffer and die on a cruel Roman cross. The price that Jesus paid for your salvation was infinite (See Romans 5:8), therefore God places an infinite value on your life.

Do you know what you have been saved from?

Do you really know how much God values your life?

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

Do You Know Why You Are Here? Sunday March 1, 2020

Ephesians 1:3-6

Do you know your purpose in life?

These are two fundamental questions everyone should ask themselves at some point in their lives.

Who am I? And why am I here?

You don’t hear much about this anymore, but a few years ago, people were always trying to find themselves, by going on vacations or pilgrimages. Ultimately, we will never know ourselves unless we know the One who created us. The prophet Jeremiah wrote a letter to the exiled children of Israel, who had lost their identity and in Jeremiah 29:13 we read, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

Worship is the foundation of our lives and the beginning foundation for this letter. We worship many things, whatever we value, we worship at some level. Idolatry is when we worship something else above God. Idolatry is not having the right view of God.

What we do with our time, how we spend our money, how we use the talents that God has given us, all these things reveal who or what we worship.

Verse 3 of our passage begin with a declaration of worship, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…”

The verse continues that we praise God because He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. This indicates that we are blessed today, and in eternity, blessings that we cannot even begin to imagine.

But notice the foundation of these blessings, they are in Christ. We have everything only because of who we are in Christ and what he has done for us. Now it is true that we are blessed by walking in the will of God. We cannot expect God’s blessing on our lives if we are knowingly walking in sin.

But the blessing that Paul is writing about here is the free gift of God, blessings that we do not deserve and cannot earn. This is the grace of God. Getting something that we do not deserve. Verse 6 says, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved”

In verses 4 and 5 we encounter the truth that God chooses us, more than that he predestined us for adoption. The idea that God chooses a people for himself to reveal His glory is found throughout the Bible:

  • God chose to create the World for His glory.
  • He chose Abraham to be a great nation to bless the world.
  • He chose the nation of Israel to bless the world.
  • Jesus chose his 12 disciples.

In many Bible passages we read that God has chosen people for salvation for His glory, for His worship.

For centuries, theologians have wrestled with the doctrine of election and sadly it often leads to division and conflict. In very simple terms, one opinion states that God chooses us for salvation, and we don’t have a say in the matter. The other opinion is that we choose God, but He knows in advance who will choose Him.

That is really simplified, but the Bible is full of texts that indicate God chooses us without our knowledge or even input. Verse 4 says, “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world…”

In the eternal purposes of God, He planned your days, before He created the world. That is a mystery that should make your head hurt, but we should be comfortable with mystery (see Deuteronomy 29:29).

If we were to really think about it, is it not better to be called chosen by a loving God than for us to choose a distant God.

Election is a mystery, because it seems to me from personal experience that the more we share the Good news of Jesus Christ, the more people are chosen! And we as the church, are called to be a part of this mystery by being a faithful witness of the Gospel to the world around us.

In all the debates, the nature of God cannot be dismissed, God is perfectly loving.

Verse 5, “In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will”. Election is an expression of the love of God.

The mystery deepens as we read in John 3:16, And Romans 10:9. There is obviously a choosing and then on our part there is a belief or faith component.

We need to keep calling people to Jesus, and then when they put their faith in him as Lord, we can say together, “thank you God for drawing me to you”

Our ultimate response to election is humility, humbled that the Creator of the universe would call us by name, and this should put us on our faces in worship of the Almighty God.

As we look again at verse 5, we see the purpose of election, “In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

We were chosen for adoption. Adoption is a beautiful picture of what God has done for us. Roman law placed a very high standard on adoption and an adopted child was under legal protection and permanently part of the family. The adopted child had every right to inheritance and received a new identity (see Romans 8:15).  

In our minds we love the fact that we are adopted, but we don’t like the fact that we are chosen.

But we must understand that adoption is choosing one who is helpless. This is the same as what God has done for us (see Romans 5:8).

So why did God adopt us? What is our purpose?

The answer is found in verse 6, “to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved”

Adoption magnifies the greatness of God the Father.

When we are adopted, we get brought into the family business, and we are given a mission.

The mission is to see the glory of God made known in all the world so that God is worshipped in all the world.

We are made to praise, and we are the most fulfilled in life when we are praising God.

We are the most useful when we are praising God and worshipping His holy name.

Do you know God as Father? Have you been adopted?

Do You Know Who You Are? February 23, 2020

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Ephesians 1:1-2

Do you know who you are?

The contemporary business culture loves to analyze and categorize people based on surveys and questionnaires. There is a huge industry that has evolved simply around the concept of profiling and the analysis of personalities. However, you can go through all the programs and personality profiles you like, you can be placed in fifteen different categories, but ultimately your identity, your real self can only be found in Christ Jesus and who he created you to be.

The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the churches in Ephesus around A.D. 62, and the primary focus of the letter is our identity, who we are in Christ.

This book is only six chapters that will take about 20 minutes to read aloud. But it is one of the most influential and practical books in the Bible.

Unfortunately, we live in an age, particularly in the western church where we have a very superficial, cultural Christianity. This book will make us think and challenge us by what the Apostle Paul calls, “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8)

This book is extremely practical, for example, through these six chapters we learn:

  • Why we worship.
  • What we should pray for.
  • We learn about the incredible gift of God’s grace.
  • We learn about our identity in Christ.
  • We learn why the church is really important.
  • We learn how we can be unified as a church.
  • The letter to the Ephesian church teaches us about marriage, parenting and our careers.
  • And finally, as we come to the last chapter, we learn about the war we are engaged in and how we are to fight.

The Apostle Paul was the former persecutor of the church who had a dramatic conversion experience as he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus. He was radically changed; he received a new identity because he knew what Jesus has done for him.

The letter begins in verse 1, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God”

Paul knew he was an apostle, someone who was sent and commissioned by Jesus.

Notice he says, “by the will of God”, not of his own choosing, and along with that came the responsibility to proclaim the Gospel and to suffer for the Gospel.

The recipients of this letter are the church in Ephesus. Ephesians 1:1b, “To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:”

It is quite likely this letter was meant for the entire region; hence it is general and does not call out specific people or false teachers as his other letters do. We read about Paul’s ministry in Ephesus in Acts 19. Paul came to the region of Ephesus in Asia Minor (Modern Turkey) and stayed in Ephesus for about three years during his third missionary journey, the longest he stayed in any city while on his missionary journeys. Ephesus was a large city, possibly the 4th or 5th largest city in the world at that time.

But his ministry was not without difficulties. Because of his teaching, there was fierce opposition from idol manufacturers who made a living out of making silver idols for the people to buy.

Here is something to note as we remember Paul writing this letter while in chains. Just because there is opposition it does not mean that you are outside the will of God. The plan of God for your life and mine does not include freedom from opposition. In fact, opposition is very often the opportunity to give glory to God in the midst of the challenge.

Ephesus was also the headquarters of the cult that worshipped the Roman goddess Diana and the Gospel threatened the trade of idols. Paul confronted this warfare head-on and in Acts 19, we read of the account of the seven sons of Sceva who were beaten and stripped by a demon possessed man. These sons of Sceva brought glory to Jesus through their humiliation and many burned their magic books and turned to Christ (see Acts 19:20).

The result of Paul’s preaching was a city-wide disturbance. Are we creating a holy disturbance in our city?

Paul writes this letter to believers who needed to be reminded of the warfare they were engaged in. We too need to be reminded that this world is not our home and we will encounter things and see things that deeply trouble us and offend us, if we aren’t aware of our true identity.

You see, in our western educated mindset, we compartmentalize our Christian Spiritual experience and then our American life experience. But as followers of Jesus we are not of this world.  If we are people who have truly given our lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, then we have a new identity and that is what this entire book of 155 verses is all about.

Paul has a term that is used in the first verse that explains it all, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus”

While the believers in Ephesus lived in Ephesus, they were spiritually IN CHRIST.

That term in Christ has intrigued me for years and I don’t think we will ever fully understand the incredible blessing that it brings to us.

Paul uses the term “IN CHRIST” about 164 times in all his letters, and 36 times alone in this letter to the Ephesians.

To be IN CHRIST, is the heart of Christianity.

As we look through Ephesians, we will see:

  • IN CHRIST, we have access to every spiritual blessing.
  • IN CHRIST, his riches are our riches.
  • IN CHRIST, his resources are our resources.
  • IN CHRIST, his righteousness becomes our righteousness.
  • IN CHRIST, his power is our power.
  • IN CHRIST, his position is our position.
  • IN CHRIST, where he is, we are.

Even though you may encounter opposition on every side, we are secure in him. We have our identity in Jesus Christ.

Our identity has nothing to do with our performance, popularity or our productivity, we have everything, because we are “IN CHRIST”.

Christianity, being a follower of Jesus is not religion. It’s not about becoming a nice person who follows a set of rules, becoming a Christian is about becoming a new person.

Steve Timmis wrote in Total Church, “It is not that I belong to God and then make a decision to join a church. My being in Christ means being with others who are in Christ. This is my identity… If the church is the body of Christ, then we should not live as disembodied Christians.”

Sermon February 16, 2020 A life Well Lived

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“A Life Well Lived” – A phrase we often hear at funerals to refer to someone who has made a remarkable impact on the lives of those around them. In our culture we tend to think about greatness as a descriptor that is reserved for those who speak in front of thousands, who’s books make it onto the bestseller list, or who’s faces are on T.V. But how does the Bible define greatness?

Jesus said in Matthew 20:26, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,”

How do we define a life well lived?

Andrew was the first disciple of Jesus to discover that Jesus was the Messiah, but one who was always in the background.

In John 1:35-42, we see that Andrew was the person who invited his brother, Peter, to come and see the Messiah. He may have lived in obscurity, but he was used by our Lord to touch one who touched thousands. His eagerness to follow Christ, combined with his zeal for introducing others to Christ, typifies Andrew’s character.

Scripture doesn’t tell us a lot about Andrew. He appears in the New Testament only nine times and most references simply mention him in passing.

Andrew lived his life in the shadows of his better-known brother, Peter. He is even mentioned in the text as Simon Peter’s brother.

Andrew’s personal encounter with Jesus took place a few months after Jesus’ baptism (see John 1:36). Andrew and John became Jesus’ first disciples. The news Andrew heard was too good to keep to himself, so he went and found the one person in the world he whom he most wanted to know Jesus and led him to Christ (see John 1:42).

We can learn three things from the Apostle Andrew.  

I. HE SAW THE VALUE OF INDIVIDUAL PEOPLE.

Andrew appreciated the value of a single soul and he was known for bringing individuals, not crowds, to Jesus. Almost every time we see him in the gospel accounts, he is bringing someone to Jesus.

He brought Peter to Jesus and we know the impact the Apostle Peter has had on the world.

In John 6, we have the miracle of Jesus feeding the five-thousand, and it was Andrew who brought the boy with his lunch to Jesus. We don’t know the age of the boy, but he was someone that Andrew had noticed. Andrew was the kind of person who would notice a little boy in a crowd of thousands, where Jesus was the focal point. Andrew was not interested in being noticed himself, rather he went out of his way to notice others. This is such a valuable trait and gift that we neglect in our busy self-absorbed society today. Because Andrew brings this young boy to Jesus, one of the greatest Biblical miracles occurs.  

Most people do not come to Christ as an immediate response to a sermon they hear in a crowded setting. They come to Christ because of the influence of an individual. Andrew brought Peter, and Peter’s ministry impacted thousands. All the fruit of Peter’s min­istry is ultimately also the fruit of Andrew’s faithful individual witness. Few people have ever heard of Edward Kimball, but he was the Sunday School teacher who led D.L. Moody to Christ. D.L. Moody lived around 1860 and during his ministry he addressed more than 100

million people in person and personally prayed for and pleaded with seven-hundred and fifty thousand people. He started the Moody Bible college for training pastors and started two printing companies. Millions know the name of Moody, but few remember Kimball. Kimball brought Moody to Jesus.

Many Christians are intimidated by the lie that they cannot share the good news about Jesus because they won’t get it right. But, it’s really not that complicated, it could be simply inviting someone to church, introducing them to Jesus. Step out in faith and you will be amazed what God can do through you.

II. HE SAW THE VALUE OF INSIGNIFICANT GIFTS.

Andrew noticed the small things. Some people see the big picture more clearly just because they appreciate the value of small things. In the Gospel account of the feeding of the five thousand,

Philip’s vision was overwhelmed by the size of the need. But Andrew noticed the five loaves and the two fishes. No gift is insignificant in the hands of Jesus (see Luke 21:1-4).

God’s ability to use a gift is in no way hindered or enhanced by the size of that gift. It is the sacrificial faithfulness of the giver, not the size of the gift, that is the true measure of the gift’s significance. It’s not the greatness of the gift that counts, but rather the greatness of the God to whom it is given.

We dismiss the value of the little things. The phone call or a card to a neighbor who has recently lost a loved one or suffered some other kind of loss. In our fast-paced culture, your little gift of time and care is the very thing that can change someone’s life forever as you bring them to Jesus.

III. HE SAW THE VALUE OF INCONSPICUOUS SERVICE.

Andrew is the picture of all those who labor quietly in humble places (see Ephesians 6:6).

Andrew did not mind being hidden as long as the work was being done. We have lost the capacity to grasp the importance of serving without recognition. Not because recognition is wrong, but we have been duped into thinking that the only effective people in the kingdom of God are the one’s speaking to thousands or writing books as mentioned earlier. But we forget that we are serving an audience of One.

It is infinitely better to be recognized and approved by the Creator of the universe than to receive the temporal applause from man that is forgotten the next day.

Andrew the Apostle never stopped working behind the scenes. He never stopped bringing people to Jesus from as far afield as Russia, and it was this passion that ultimately led to him to be crucified himself by the Roman authorities.  

How has God gifted you? God has placed you where you are to reach the one person that He has called you to.

 “Never allow this thought—’I am of no use where I am,’ because you certainly can be of no use where you are not!” Oswald Chambers:

Sermon February 09, 2020 The Truth About Hell

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Who’s your One – part 4

Luke 16:19-31

The doctrine of hell seems to be outmoded in these days, we don’t like to talk about it, and contrary to a few decades ago where it was preached regularly and taught clearly, today it seems to be viewed as old fashioned and irrelevant. Part of the problem I believe, is that in the past few decades the evangelical world has focused so much on the love of God, which is a primary characteristic of His nature, that we find tension when we wish to discuss the judgment of God and eternal consequence for sin.

But the doctrine of eternal punishment is clearly taught in scripture. In fact, Jesus spoke three times more about Hell than he did about Heaven.

The descriptions that Jesus uses for Hell involve fire and a place of torment. In Mark 9:48, Jesus calls it a fire that is not quenched. Revelation 20:15 calls Hell a lake of fire. Some argue that the term “fire” may be symbolic, and even if we say that then it must represent something that is worse than we can possibly imagine.

If we try to take the lake of fire and the fiery furnace as symbolic, we must be confronted with the terrible thought that these symbols are not overstatements, but rather understatements of a reality that we would otherwise not be able to grasp.

Jesus also taught that Hell is a place of conscious torment in Luke 16, and in Matthew 22:13 he said it is a place of outer darkness. Not only is hell eternal it is also conscious, all the images that we read of hell in the Bible point to the fact that it is going to be an experiential eternity. Experiencing of the wrath of God, it is the reality of our sins before an infinitely holy God.

But the wonderful news that we have today is that Hell is escapable. No-one has to spend eternity in torment, anyone can be saved. Jesus took our punishment on the cross and as a result, those who place their trust in him as their personal Lord and savior will escape the fire of hell.

When Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane and asked that the cup be taken from him in Matthew 26:39, he was not simply asking for the occasion to be taken away, he was looking to the prophetic revelation John received in Revelation 14 describing the punishment of those who worshipped the beast in the last days. Jesus experienced the cup of God’s wrath. The Beloved Son became sin for us and experienced the full amount of the wrath of God, as we read in 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Jesus took the full punishment of the wrath of God, Jesus the eternal son of God, always in the presence of God, was separated from God as God had to turn away from him when he took on the sins of the world. That is the suffering of Jesus on the cross, the physical pain was real but the cup of the wrath of God was infinitely more painful and excruciating.

The future judgment of unbelievers will not only be final and irreversible, it will also be eternal. Based on Scripture, we must reject the doctrine of universalism, which is so prevalent today, which says that all people will eventually be saved.

It is important to note that God does not send anyone to hell (1 Peter 3:9). It is not God’s choice to have man spend eternity in hell, but the sin choices of the individual sends them there. As C.S. Lewis wrote; “The doors of hell are locked from the inside.” Ever since Adam and Eve sinned and rebelled against God mankind has been saying to God; “go away and leave me alone” Hell is God’s way of granting that wish.

Hell is not an easy subject to talk about, but we must, it is imperative that we are provoked to share the wonderful message of the Gospel with others because we are driven with compassion for them. The reason we are driven by compassion is that we know that we too are sinners saved only by the grace of God.

John Piper wrote; “When the heart no longer feels the truth of hell, the Gospel passes from good news to simply news.”

The more we realize and remember how close we came to destruction; the more keenly will we feel compassion and urgency to rescue those around us from a similar plight.

We need to feel the underserved grace that has been given to us, not because we did anything, but because it was a free gift that plucked us from the fires of hell.

We simply don’t love the lost because we don’t truly believe in the reality of hell

There is almost a sick pride within us, whereby we feel that for some reason we deserve to be saved and others simply are not making good decisions, therefore we are more deserving than them. My friends we are no better and no more deserving of grace than anyone else. We must remember that Jesus himself said that we didn’t choose him, he chose us.

The Gospel is really Good News, who are you sharing it with?

Sunday February 2, 2020 – The Value and Qualifications of Deacons

Acts 6:1-7

This past weekend we had the joy of praying for three new deacons as they were installed into the role of deacon. But, is the role of a deacon still relevant in the twenty-first century?

The first deacons were appointed in Jerusalem as we read in Acts chapter 6. In the book of Acts, we get a glimpse of the first century church. The church was growing rapidly and due to the work of the Holy Spirit it is estimated that the church had grown to somewhere between 20,000 and 50,000 disciples.

The Church was a radical movement of people gathering daily for prayer and teaching. The believers sold their belongings and gave to anyone who had a need. The early church was a healthy and thriving community as the Gospel message was being told from person to person all over the region.

But then a complaint arose. There was a disagreement that some of the people were being overlooked as food was being distributed to the poor and the widows.  This imbalance may have arisen due to the logistical challenge caused by the rapid addition of Hellenistic Jewish Christians.

The church was initially made up of Aramaic and Hebrew speaking Jews who believed in Jesus, but as the church grew into the region, more and more Greek speaking Jews came to faith in Christ.

The church had two distinct groups, Hebrews and the Hellenists. It was sadly a form of racism that was being practiced as the needs of the widows and the poor among the Greek speaking believers were overlooked.

The Apostles called a meeting and said in verse 2, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables” Acts 6:2b.

Does this mean that the original disciples who were trained by Jesus himself were above helping the poor? Not at all, but they had a primary purpose and calling to preach the word and to pray.

This is the primary calling on pastors in the church, to primarily focus on the clear and correct teaching and preaching of the Word and to prayer. For the health of the church and the continued growth of the Gospel message in our community, I must give attention to prayer and preparation for preaching, constantly hearing from God the word that he would have for us as a church. It doesn’t mean that I as the pastor do not care about people, I do very much. I love to visit and share life with people, but I need to prioritize my time and remember my primary calling.

Research has shown that if a pastor would be the only one in the church doing the ministry of visitation, care and prayer for the congregation, that pastor could only put his arms around seventy people. Hence the average size of churches in America is around seventy-five.

The number of our current active members and adherents at Grace Point is a little over 260.

That is impossible for one or two pastors to stay in touch with. The role of the deacon in our church is the same as it was in the first century; to assist in member care, to minister and love the people of God.

In the first church in the book of Acts, the people chose seven and brought them to the Apostles. These men had particular requirements, they were “men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3). These were men of godly Character.

As we held our deacon meeting on Thursday night, I shared with the men from 1 Timothy 3:8-13 what the Apostle Paul wrote about the qualifications of a deacon.  It is a very intimidating and demanding list of qualifications. Can anyone meet those requirements? And in verse 10 we read that they must prove themselves blameless! Well that excludes all of us, because we all fall short, we are all sinners saved by Grace. But there is a key verse of hope in what Paul wrote, 1 Timothy 3:9, “They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.”

What is the mystery of the faith? It is the mystery of the age in which we live, the current church age, between when Jesus came to the earth to die for our sins and when Jesus is coming back again to make all things new.

The mystery is that we who have placed our trust in Jesus Christ as Lord, are covered by his righteousness, we have died to our old way of life and have literally put on Christ like a garment. When God the Father looks down on His children, He sees us covered with the righteousness of Christ. We are not perfect; we will never be perfect until Jesus comes again, but by God’s grace we are being made more like Christ every day. This is the mystery of the Gospel; this is the only hope we have of being able to stand before our Heavenly Father in prayer.

Getting back to the first century church, the result of the deacon ministry was healthy growth. Notice that verse 7 says that the number of disciples multiplied, these were disciples, not believers, adherents or attendees. No, these were followers of Jesus, people who looked like and spoke like Jesus – disciples. This is the result of effective church ministry; this is a sign of a healthy church.

You may wonder if we have deacons in the church helping with visitation, discipleship and member care, does that mean the rest of the church is not involved in the caring ministry?

Absolutely not, in 1 Peter 2:9, the Bible clearly states that we all are royal priests in the kingdom of God. We are all in ministry and we all carry the responsibility to do the work of the ministry as we read in Ephesians 4:15-16.

As we grow as a church we will continue to see an increase in opportunities to serve one another, the deacons are to spearhead the care for the needy, but the entire church is to be a part of the care and the visible demonstration of the Gospel being lived out.

Let us continue to pray for the leaders in our church as they serve the Lord.