What Child is This? part 1 – December 03, 2017

The Christmas carol “What Child Is This?” was published in the United Kingdom in 1871, and for close to one hundred and fifty years, the question found in the title of this carol has become an annual reminder that something significant happened on that night in Bethlehem as someone significant lay wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger.

The title of the carol is intended to be the primary question the shepherds must have asked on the night they visited the baby Jesus. After their angelic encounter and receiving the startling news while they tended their sheep on the outskirts of Bethlehem, their heads must have been spinning as they tried to comprehend all they experienced on that first Christmas night.

Luke’s Gospel records the scene in Luke 2:8-18.

While no nativity scene is complete without the shepherds’ presence, and the answer to this Christmas Carol’s question also would be only partial without the description of “shepherd.”

What child is this? He is a shepherd; Jesus described Himself as the good shepherd in John 10:11.

He is the one who came to lay His life down for all of humanity just as a good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. While at times the shepherds in the Christmas story have been labeled as the ones who were a bit rough around the edges and living on the lowest rung of society’s ladder, Jesus describes Himself as being a shepherd who has great responsibility. There is no greater responsibility than holding the life of another in the control of one’s own hands. Protecting the life of others was the responsibility and calling of the shepherd.

The imagery of the shepherd is prominent in Ancient Near Eastern history. Shepherds were equated with righteous government and often appear in contexts where the subject of justice is prominent. Shepherds were expected to be the ones who showed kindness in counseling, protecting, and guiding those whom they were responsible for through every difficulty. Even the shepherd’s crook has been viewed throughout the ages as a symbol of power, authority, and strength.

shepherds are mentioned over one hundred times in the Bible. One of the first careers found in the pages of the Bible is that of the shepherd, Abel, the son of Adam and Eve was a shepherd (Genesis 4:2).

In the Bible, those who possessed flocks of sheep and other animals that needed shepherding, were viewed as wealthy and powerful. Great flocks and herds were seen as blessings from the hand of God. Abraham is an example of such a blessing of this type when he is described in Genesis 24:35. Jesus himself, speaks about having many sheep later in John 10:14-16.

Jesse’s son, David, was given the responsibility to take care of his father’s sheep before he would be called to care for and lead the people of Israel as their king. The place David was found before he was anointed as king by the prophet Samuel was out in the fields tending his father’s sheep in 1 Samuel 16.

Remember, the Lord sent Samuel to Jesse to anoint one of his sons as the future King of Israel. Jesse presents each of his sons before the great prophet and the Lord rejects all of them, finally Samuel asks Jesse in verse 11, “Are these all the sons you have?” Jesse responds that there is one more, but he is out tending the sheep. He is the little shepherd boy, and the thinking was that he could never be the future king.

Even after this incredibly significant anointing of David as the future king of Israel, he continued to fulfill his duties as a shepherd while King Saul still sat as the King of Israel.

The child that would be born in the manger in Bethlehem would be near the pastures that David grazed his father’s sheep centuries beforehand. The Savior of the world, the good shepherd, would be born in the City of David and a direct descendant of the King who also was a good shepherd.

What child is this? He is a shepherd and king just as his ancestor David.

The principal duty of the shepherd was to make sure that the animals under his care had enough food and water. David’s most famous Psalm speaks to this in Psalm 23, that begins with truth that echoes the answer to the question of the carol: What Child Is this? (see Psalm 23:1-2).

Just as the shepherd was responsible for the food and water provisions of the sheep, protecting the flock also was a priority that continually must be provided. When David was preparing to fight against Goliath, he told king Saul about his encounters with wild animals as he protected the sheep (1 Samuel 17:34-35)

What Child Is This? He is the one who will provide for and protect all who are under His care.

The good shepherd went to great lengths to take care of those under his or her care. He would make sure they were kept intact and would go to great lengths to find one sheep that was missing (see Matthew 18:10-14).

What child is this?  He is the one who left all the riches and comfort of heaven to look for the ones who went astray. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one of us—to our own way.” (Isaiah 53:6).

This child in the manger would grow to become the one who came to seek and to save those who were lost, alone, exposed, and astray.

What child is this?

He is the one who came to lay down His life.

He is the one who came to provide for and protect His flock.

He is the one blessed with ones He would call His own and who would come to know His voice.

He is the one who is the good shepherd.

Thanksgiving part 2 – November 19, 2017

Recalling the history of the early Pilgrims, Governor William Bradford wrote concerning their faith, “God gave them health and strength in a good measure; and shewed them by experience ye truth of the word.” And he quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word, that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

Thanksgiving is all about God, and recognizing who He is and all the blessings He has freely given us. In a world that has all but pushed God away in every sphere of society it is amazing that we still celebrate Thanksgiving, because how can we celebrate this holiday if we don’t acknowledge our Lord and Creator.

Thanksgiving is such a great holiday, but it is not an end in itself; thanksgiving must lead us into something. Thanksgiving should lead to something that is infinitely more significant.

In Luke 17 we read about a man that was truly thankful. This account from the life of Jesus took place while he was on his way to Jerusalem, on the way he encounters ten men with leprosy. At that time and according to the Law of Moses, people with leprosy had to wear torn clothing and live on their own outside of the city, waiting for their probable death.

They had nothing to lose and they cried out to Jesus, calling him Master, recognizing that Jesus was the messiah. Sadly, it is often only those who are desperate who recognize their need for Jesus.

Jesus heard their cry for help and in response he told them to go and show themselves to the priests. The implication was clear to the lepers, according to the law, people with a skin disease had to be examined by a priest, who would determine whether they were clean allowing them to be re-integrated into society.

They hurried away to do just this, and Luke 17:14 says, “as they went, they were cleansed”. They didn’t go and sit back under the tree and wait for their symptoms to disappear. The Bible is clear that they were healed when they went in faith. Can you imagine their emotional roller-coaster they must have gone through? They started walking and after one mile they still were sick, maybe after two miles, they still saw no sign of relief. Every step was a step in faith and as they continued in faith they were healed. We are not told when the healing took place, but they were healed as they walked in faith. Faith in the healing power of Jesus often requires us to obey before we see the full evidence of God’s work within us

From the account in Luke’s Gospel it seems that all ten are healed, but only one man, a Samaritan comes back praising God (Luke 17:15-16).

The people of Samaria were of mixed Israelite and foreign descent, so the Jewish people did not accept them as part of the Jewish community. The Samaritans were despised by Jews for both ethnic and religious reasons; there was mutual hatred by the Samaritans toward Jews.

We don’t know the nationalities of the other nine, but the response Jesus gave in verse 18 seems to indicate that the other nine were Jews. This Samaritan fell at the feet of Jesus and worshipped loudly. He recognized and glorified God, and this is the key, his thanksgiving led to Worship. Worship is a natural response of a heart filled with gratitude.

It would have been logical for him to have followed the other men and gone to the temple, but he first came to the Lord Jesus with his sacrifice of praise. The law required that after being inspected by the priests at the temple, one would have to offer a sacrifice to God. But this Samaritan didn’t even get to the temple, he turned around and ran to Jesus, this pleased the Lord more than all the sacrifices the other men offered, even though they were obeying the Law. And instead of going to the priest, the Samaritan became a priest, and he built his altar at the feet of Jesus.

If you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are a royal priesthood with a purpose. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

Looking at our last verse, I saw something that I had never discovered before in this passage, in verse 19 Jesus said to the Samaritan man, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

At first glance, this seems to tell us that the faith of this man is the reason for his physical healing, and yes to a certain extent it is. But the word used in the Greek to indicate being made well comes from the root word “sozo”.

What Jesus really said to the man was, “your faith has saved you”

This man was grateful, and he knew the reason for his healing, he immediately came to Jesus and worshipped him.

Dante Rossetti once said; “The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful, and has nobody to thank”.

The essence of Thanksgiving is that it is an act of worship. True worship flows from gratitude which comes from our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Are you worshipping God today? Is your worship coming from a heart of gratitude?

Thanksgiving part 1 – November 12, 2017

Psalm 107

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday what are you thankful for? As Christians we have been given something that is so immeasurably good and wonderful, that it should be the very first thing we share around the dinner table. Psalm 107 is a Psalm of thanksgiving and praise to God for deliverance and freedom, it starts with an exhortation to give God thanks (Psalm 107:2). To be redeemed means to have one’s debts paid for and to be set free. As Christians this is you and me, Jesus bought and paid for our freedom on the cross.

But, to be thankful, we need to be aware of what have you been saved from. Do you remember the day you gave your life to the Lordship of Jesus, the redeemer? Do you remember the hopelessness you felt before you encountered Jesus? For many of us, we need to be reminded of our lives before we met Jesus to awaken a heart of thanksgiving in us.

Continuing in verse 3 as the Psalmist paints a picture for us of the exiles returning to Jerusalem from the four corners of the earth and beginning in verse 4 we have four different examples of people being set free. Each of these four represent distinct characteristics of lostness.

The Wanderer (v 4).

The picture we have is of a group of people who have been banished from the promised land, they are lost and wandering in the desert, possibly the Sinai desert. These people were hungry and thirsty, but worse than their physical condition we read that their spirits failed them, they had given into the hopelessness of their situation.

People who do not know Jesus as their lord and savior, wander aimlessly, without the hope of eternity for them life is a hopeless gathering of possessions and wealth to lose it all when you die, what a miserable existence! However, in verse 6 they cried out to God and he rescued them, and led them to a city where they could live. It is a beautiful picture of a people being restored to their God and His Promised Land.

The Rebel Prisoner (v10).

Here the Psalmist paints a picture of someone in chains, in prison because they intentionally went against God’s perfect plan and will. Many of us have experienced the prison of intentionally going against the will and plan of God for our lives. There are many forms of imprisonment; addiction to drugs, pornography, alcohol, and pleasure. And then there is the prison of fear of man, the of fear of failure or guilt and shame from our past. Are you in prison today because of your rebellion to God? He can set you free as he did these prisoners in verses 14 and 15.

The Sick (v17).

This group of people are suffering affliction as a result of their sins, in the form of sickness as we see in verse 18.  This is a group similar to the previous one, whereas the previous group are in prison because of their rebellion, this group suffers sickness because of rebellion.

I want to make clear that not every sickness is because of sin, however, there are times when sickness is the result of our rebellion against God. The fact is that sin separates us from God, it separates us from the peace and joy of the Lord, as a result we suffer from stress, which is a known contributor to many kinds of ailments. Anxiety and hypertension are just two of the symptoms of stress that may be as a result of not walking in the way and the peace of the Lord. In many people’s lives, God has used the desperation of sickness to draw them back to himself, and through his healing power they are redeemed. In verse 19 and 20, the sick people cry out to God and he healed them. Is that your story? Do you remember being healed and set free by the healing power of the cross?

The Sea Traveler (v23).

This is such an interesting picture, because during this time in the history of the nation of Judah, they were not seafarers like the Philistines. But the picture here rather is of someone on a ship consumed by the wind and the waves, it is a picture of someone consumed by a busy life. In verse 27 we read that they were at their wits end, desperate and overwhelmed.  The ocean traveler on a small vessel during a storm is constantly looking at the storm and the waves, just trying to survive. If your life is so busy that all you are doing is simply trying to stay alive, that is not God’s plan for you. Business is not a sin, but business that consumes you and takes your eyes off the plan and purposes of God for your life, can leave you desperately in need of redemption.

So, we have four pictures of desperation, four groups of people who are lost and in need of a touch from God.

Each of these 4 pictures ends with the person, or group of people crying out to God during their troubles. And the psalmist says that God rescued them, he brought them out of their distress. Verses 8 is a verse that is repeated at the end of each of these pictures like a chorus, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind”. These verses echo verse 2, “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—  those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,”

We can all relate to being in one or more of these categories at one time or another in our lives, maybe you are there now, and you are crying out for freedom. God will hear your cry and he is waiting to set you free.

During this season of thanksgiving, I want to challenge you to think back and remember what Jesus saved you from. If you know what you have been saved from, you will never hold back praising God and declaring His wonderful works.

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story…” (Psalm 107:2a).

Sermon November 05, 2017 – International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

November 05, 2017

In his book, “The Global War on Christians”, John Allen calls the worldwide persecution of Christians, “the most dramatic religion story of the early twenty-first century, yet one that most people in the West have little idea is even happening.”

Christian persecution is any hostility, experienced from the world, because of one’s identification with Jesus Christ. In Matthew 5:10-12, Jesus said that persecution is a blessing! For those who have not undergone persecution, it is difficult to understand why persecution is a blessing. But it is a known fact that the church grows quicker in nations where it is persecuted.

John 15:18-25 is a passage that does not preach well in our western “Prosperity Gospel” mindset, where our culture, upbringing and education all teach us that we have rights.  It is expected that Christians are respected members of society and by living out our Christian values and principles people will give us honor. But this is so far from the reality of what Jesus taught.

We have the mindset that persecution is something that happens somewhere else, in third world countries, where people are less educated perhaps. We also tend to think that persecution of Christians was something that only happened in history.

However, persecution is right on our doorstep, Jesus taught that this world is not our home (see John 15:19), and Jesus continues in verse 20 to say that a servant is no greater than his master, this is the normal Christian life. We have recently completed the series on the normal Christian life, noting that the foundation for the normal Christian life is applying the cross of Jesus Christ to our lives, daily dying to ourselves, being willing to lay aside our preferences, our rights and our desires for the sake of the Gospel.

It is almost predictable that when I teach in any setting on dying to our rights, people get angry. It just proves how conditioned we are to expect that this Christian life is a life of leisure and prosperity and peace. Jesus taught the opposite and he was persecuted more than any other man in history. In 1 John 3:13 we read, “Do not be surprised, brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.”  This is the normal Christian life.

For millions of Christians around the world, persecution is their daily reality. From intimidation to isolation, beatings, imprisonment and even death, they live with the ongoing threat of persecution, and yet they choose to faithfully follow Jesus.

Faithfully being a follower of Jesus is the cause of persecution. Remember we saw that the life of the Christian is not found in simply becoming a better person, but rather we are “in Christ”. Being in Christ is the reason for and the target of persecution in our world.

In Romans 8:17, the apostle Paul tells us, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.” So, when we share in Jesus’ sufferings we become heirs who will also share in his glory. Suffering is part of it the process that leads to us sharing in the glory of our resurrected Lord.

Persecution isn’t something we think about often, but it is incredibly real for believers all over the globe. The Pew Research Center estimates that 75% of the world’s population lives in regions with severe religious restrictions—with many of those being Christians. And according to the United States Department of State, Christians face persecution from their neighbors or government in as many as 60 different countries, simply because they claim Jesus as Lord.

Todd Johnson of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary documents that one hundred thousand Christians, eleven per hour, have been killed on average every year of the past decade. And it is estimated that more Christians died for their faith in the last century than in the previous nineteen centuries combined. Unfortunately, many Christians today, operate under the assumption that persecution is a part of the Church’s past.

Jesus told His followers to expect persecution, John 15:20 reads,“…If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” So this is expected but what is our response to be? How are we to respond as we sit here in comfort and ease without the threat of violence for our belief in Jesus.

It’s easy to hear about Christian persecution and feel afraid, but God did not give us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).

It’s also natural to want to put an end to the suffering of persecuted Christians. But the persecuted Church isn’t asking for an end to their hardships, for them, persecution is normal. In fact, many of our Christian brothers and sisters who are being persecuted are praying for you and I, that we would remain strong in the face of an increasingly godless society. Instead, they pray for the strength to withstand persecution. These hardships produce believers with genuine faith, who truly understand the cost involved in being “In Christ”, and they ask for our prayers for strength to withstand.

Christian persecution is overwhelming, and we can all too easily become desensitized by the statistics.

But I want to challenge you to spend some time today praying on your own or as a family for the persecuted church. Let us pray with them rather than for them, that the word of God will move swiftly across the whole earth.

 “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

Tertullian

The Normal Christian Life – Part 4 – 10/22/17

Romans 9:30-10:17

What is the difference between desire and desperation?

Many of us have a desire to see the lost in our city reached, but few of us have a desperation to see the lost reached and saved by the Gospel message. Are we desperate for our community and our nation impacted by the Gospel?

 Paul writing to the Christians in Rome, is encouraging these early Christians that they have obtained righteousness not by works, but by faith (Romans 9:30). In the next verse Paul says that the People of Israel, did not have faith, rather they tried to follow the law in order to obtain salvation.

I am sure you have heard someone say, “I am sure I am a Christian, I go to church every Sunday, I give money to the church, I try to follow the ten commandments”. Unfortunately, the Bible is clear that without faith in Jesus Christ as the risen Lord, you are not saved.

In Romans 10, Paul realizes that the problem with the Israelites being saved, is not their zeal for God, the problem is Jesus. Jesus is the stumbling block, the hurdle that they cannot overcome. Many people will say that they believe in God, however when asked if they believe in the son of God, Jesus Christ, and that God raised him from the dead, many would struggle at that point of clarification. To say that you believe and have a personal relationship with Jesus, who today is seated at the right hand of the father, is a line in the sand that causes offense. The name of Jesus, was a stone that caused the people of Israel to stumble, and still does the same today.

If you think about it, we all know people who are willing to say that they believe in God. But if you mention Jesus, they think you are too radical, you are being judgmental, divisive (read Luke 12:49-53 see what Jesus said about how his presence influences the world).

Getting back to Romans 10, as Paul is writing, he begins to lay out what is salvation through faith in Christ.

  1. In verse 4 he says that Christ is the culmination of the law, literally translated, Jesus put an end to the law of working for salvation by being good enough.
  2. In verses 5-7 Paul writes that salvation is found by faith alone in the risen Lord Jesus.
  3. In verse 8, Paul starts getting to his main point, “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim.” Paul is saying, that we have this message in our mouth and it is in our hearts.
  4. One  gets the picture of a burning message that is so much a part of you, that you cannot hold back, it is in your heart and in your mouth. The message is the Gospel, the Good News about Jesus Christ (v9). Paul goes on to make very clear that this is a global message for all who call on the name of Jesus (v 12).

There is a common thread in verses 8,9 and 10, we must speak this Gospel message out. As Christ’s ambassadors we need to be vocal about telling others about the Good news of Jesus Christ.

Never fall into the trap of thinking that simply be being a kind person people will somehow know the Gospel through seeing you. You must be kind, that is a given, but you must tell those around you about the Gospel that has changed your life.

Paul has defined the message and then he begins to call out the messenger.

 In verses 14 and 15, Paul asks 4 rhetorical questions, 4 statements of building desperation.

  1. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in (v14)? People will only call on Jesus to be the Lord of their lives, if they believe that he is actually able to save them?
  2. And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard (v14)? Belief in Jesus Christ cannot exist without knowledge about him (see Romans 10:17).
  3. And how can they hear without someone preaching to them (v14)?  One hears about Christ only when someone proclaims the Gospel message. A better translation for preaching is to herald, like a town crier announcing an important message. Paul is referring to someone walking down the street and shouting out the Good News of the Gospel.
  4. And how can anyone preach unless they are sent (v15)? This message will never be proclaimed unless someone is sent to give the message. The Greek word for being sent here is Apostolos, meaning, being sent by God.

Paul believed that the only way to be saved was to hear and believe in the Gospel message. Believing that God sent his only son into the world to die for our sins so that by believing in Jesus, our relationship with God can be restored.

And then we have the final “how”, it is a declaration of joy and hope – “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! (v15).

The feet that carry the message of the Gospel are made beautiful by the message. Do you have beautiful feet? Are your feet carrying the beautiful message?

Have you heard the word? Have you heard the Good news about Jesus? And if you have, can you tell the story?

If you have a personal relationship with Jesus, you have a story of the Gospel being applied to your life.

As a follower of Jesus, you are called to go and tell. Everyone fits into two categories. Either you still need to make Jesus Lord of your life or you need to tell others about what Jesus has done for you.

There is no such thing as passive Christianity.

The Normal Christian life is a life of action, being about the Masters business, doing the work that the Lord of your life prepared in advance for you to do (Ephesians 2:10).

The Normal Christian Life – Part 3 – 10/15/17

In the next few lines I aim to convince you that prayer is the single most powerful activity that you could possibly do in your life. And this power prayer is to be the expectation of the Normal Christian!

Many people are limping along in our Christian lives, trying to make themselves better people, trying to overcome temptation and sin in their lives and all the while the greatest power in the universe is available to us wherever we are, all we must do is to turn our situation over to God in prayer.

From Exodus 33 I want to point out four reasons why we should pray.

1. To express your need of God

Moses had a special relationship with God, he would pitch a tent outside the camp where he would go and pray. As Moses prayed, the pillar of the glory of the Lord would come and rest on the entrance of the tent.
In Exodus 33:1, God told Moses that they must go to the Promised Land, but in verse 3 God said that he will not go with them. Moses was faced with a decision would he accept God’s offer of the Promised Land without the presence of God? God promised to prepare the way, but God was going into the land with them. Would Moses take the offer? We can quite easily say that Moses would never be tempted to accept God’s offer, but we in the church, are tempted in much the same way.

Books and websites abound on how to grow the church through social media and catchy methods. We can deceive ourselves to the point that we start mistaking the presence of people in the seats for the existence of spiritual life in a church. Motions and programs in the church that look like success and the blessing of God, might not have anything to do with the Holy Spirit in the church. David Platt the IMB president recently said; “The greatest hindrance to the advancement of the Gospel in our day, might actually be the attempt of the people of God, to do the work of God without the power of the presence of God.

One of the greatest hindrances to the church being a missional force for the spread of the Gospel, is the mentality that we have got this program under control. We have all the resources and the skill to manage the programs of the church and even see the church grow, and we forget our total dependency on the Holy Spirit of God. Our church may be a small church but it can become a mighty force for the advancement of the kingdom of God, if we truly understand our desperate need for the Holy Spirit to lead and guide our every step. We need to pray in desperation for God to do only what he can do in His church.

2. Pray to experience intimacy with God.

Moses would go into the tent and the cloud of the presence of God would descend on the entrance of the tent. All the people would stand in awe and worship as Moses met with God

But here is the amazing miracle of being a normal Christian, we don’t have to stand and watch some amazing leader go into the tent, we all get to go into the presence of God at any time because we are the temple of the Holy Spirit! The Old Testament saints longed for what you and I get to experience all the time.

We know that God knows everything and nothing we bring to Him is a surprise to him, so why do we pray?
As we follow that thinking we begin to realize that the primary purpose of prayer is to meet with God and to grow in our intimacy with God. To know God the omnipotent creator of the universe. Prayer is the deepest and highest work of the human spirit.

3. Pray to participate in the plan of God

In verse 17 we read that God responded and promised to go with Moses. We so easily miss the gravity of that statement because in our post-modern culture we have such a low view of the power and majesty of God. The sovereign creator of the universe, was pleased with Moses and he responded in favor to his request.

This brings up a theologically challenging question, so if God responds to the prayers of His people, does God change his mind? We know from the revelation of God in the scriptures that God does not change his mind, but rather God ordains his people to pray and God responds to those prayers. God knows all things from beginning to end, and yet, in his love for us, he involves us by our prayers in directing the course of History.

The same applies to us here at Grace Point, God has ordained that our prayers will lead to his response to spread the Gospel in our mission field, this part of the city that God has placed us in. If we only knew the awesome privilege and responsibility that we have in the process of the move of God, our prayer meetings would be so well attended that we would not be able to hold them in the chapel.

4 Pray to raise up the next generation of leaders.

The danger that we can fall into with praying for the revival of today’s church, is that we become so focused on the church today, that we miss the fact that the church is going to exist long after we have passed away. If Jesus doesn’t come in our lifetime, the church, the representation of Jesus Christ on the earth will continue to exist and move forward in proclaiming the Gospel. If we really believe that, then are we training up the next generation to be a people of prayer?

In verse 11 we read that Joshua stayed in the tent after Moses left. I believe this was the preparation of Joshua as he was praying to know the ways of God. This was the crucial difference between Joshua and the other men in the nation. Only Joshua and Caleb had faith that God would be able to do what seemed impossible because Joshua knew his God.
This faith comes from a lifestyle of prayer, a lifestyle of spending time with God.

When you have a high view of God, the problems and challenges of this world fade into insignificance. A lifestyle of faith comes from a lifestyle of prayer.

“When God has something very great to accomplish for His church, it is His will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayers of His people.”

Jonathan Edwards

The Normal Christian Life – Part 2 – 10/8/17

John 20:19-31

Do you need a miracle?  Any area of your life that needs a touch from God.

In John’s Gospel chapter 20, John records for us how Jesus rose from the dead, and revealed himself first to Mary, then the Disciples, and finally to Thomas.

This revelation of the risen Messiah was foundational to the early church and it is the truth and the power of the resurrection of Jesus which is the essence of our faith.

When Jesus appeared to the disciples and to Thomas, the first words he says are,” peace be with you”. More than calming the disciples, whenever Jesus enters a situation he brings peace. We as followers of Christ and his ambassadors bring the presence of the risen Lord into everyday situations. Remember that as you go about your daily life.

Jesus goes on to commission them for the ministry and he breathes over them as a promise of the Holy Spirit which was to be given them at Pentecost.

Thomas was not with the disciples when Jesus first revealed himself, and because of his reaction to the other disciples, he is known as doubting Thomas. But a week later, Thomas is with them behind locked doors and Jesus appears to them and says, “peace be with you.”

Immediately Thomas believed and makes a powerful declaration of faith in Jesus; “My Lord and My God

That is all John records for us, and it is enough, Thomas saw the risen Lord Jesus and became a believer.

 The confession My Lord and my God in verse 28 is remarkable for its theological grasp.  Thomas saw the risen Lord and in five words stated that Jesus was the Messiah, fully God and fully man.

Thomas gets a bad reputation as the one who doubted, but the truth is that Thomas is you and me.

We are no different from Thomas, we depend upon secure evidence. We have the Bible, the inspired word of God, we have the witness of the church through the ages, we have the ministry of the Holy Spirit and we have our own personal testimony that all leads us to believe that Jesus is Lord. Jesus is not with us in person and in verse 29 Jesus makes that wonderful statement, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

 So how do we who have never seen believe? The Bible is primarily how God has revealed himself to us, Jesus is the Word made flesh, and the Bible is the Word pointing us to Jesus from cover to cover. As we read it, the Holy Spirit reveals truth to us, brings conviction, encouragement, guidance and so much more.

If you struggle with foundational faith, believing that Jesus is the risen Lord, read the Word of God. It is not just a religious duty as a Christian, it is the life blood of your Christian walk. It is impossible to life a lifestyle of faith without daily being fed by reading the Word of God, you might get by, but you will never reach the full potential of all that God has in store for you.

Thomas had faith because he saw the risen Lord, it transformed his life and he probably travelled further than any of the other apostles, and he was eventually martyred in India. Thomas the doubter became a man of extraordinary faith, because he saw the risen Lord.

Anyone who truly encounters Jesus, the risen Lord, will have faith in Him. Many people will state, “I believe in God”, and this in itself is not wrong. One of my favorite verses Hebrews 11:6. Do you want to please God? Live a lifestyle of faith, but for faith to grow in us, we need to start with believing that He exists.

But sadly today, many people believe in God, but do not believe in the Gospel. There are teachers today who claim to believe in the God who created all things, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but they are teaching that Jesus didn’t need to come to earth and be our atoning sacrifice. Please beware of any teacher who does not believe in salvation through Jesus Christ alone (read John 14:6).

In light of this, what if we changed our language, when people asked us if we believe in God, we would say, “I believe in Jesus Christ the risen Lord”. That statement will clearly define what you stand for. If you respond in that way, people will either agree with you or reject you.

The revelation of the risen Lord, transformed Thomas’ life and the foundation of our faith is in the power that raised Jesus from the dead and the fact that he is interceding for us (read Romans 8:34).

An encounter with the resurrected Lord will change your life, it will enable you to abandon all and pursue a lifestyle of faith. As I think about our church, I am thrilled to see so many people who have abandoned all to follow Jesus and God’s plan for their lives. What a joy to be surrounded by people who truly believe in the resurrected Lord.

True faith is demonstrated in obedience. The title of Hebrews chapter 11 in the NIV translation is, “Faith in Action”. Hebrews 11, is a record of Biblical heroes who obeyed God and trusted him in faith for the outcome.

James 2:14 encourages us to do likewise and step out in faith in our lives, faith in the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ.

How is God asking you to step out in faith today?

Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us— 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

The Normal Christian Life – Part 1 – 10/1/17

The Webster dictionary defines a Christian as “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ

What a terrible definition! How does the Bible define Christianity, after all, isn’t the Bible our authority as Christians?

You may have heard it said, that Christianity is not a religion, but it is a relationship. That is somewhat true, but also falls far short of what the Bible defines Christianity. A true relationship with my Creator only begins when I completely submit to Him and lay aside my own desires, wills, passions and preferences. Dying to my will and self is the beginning of what it means to be a Christian.

Galatians 2:20 reads; “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Beginning with the first phrase; “I have been crucified with Christ”.

Even though our sins that we have committed in the past have been forgiven (1 John 1:7), what about our sinful nature? That old nature that desires to do what is contrary to the will of God. We have peace with God, but we don’t have peace in ourselves because we wrestle with sin and temptation. This is where the cross of Jesus Christ provides an answer for us. Obviously, Paul was not on the cross with Jesus, and neither were you and I, but here is the profound miracle. When Jesus died on the cross, it was once for all. The death of Jesus on the cross included all who put their faith and trust in him. This is where those two beautiful words apply, “IN CHRIST” (see Romans 6:6-7, 11).

Do you want to be free from sin? You must realize your old self crucified with Christ, this is powerful, and it is absolutely crucial to being a Christian. The blood deals with what we have done, but the cross deals with what we are, the cross strikes at the root of our capacity to sin.

But do we apply the cross to our lives?

Satan will point to our struggle with sin and bring to mind our weakness in areas in our lives, but that is when we can point to the cross, and quote Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ…”. You see it is a declaration of faith, the essence of Christianity is faith.

So, if we are in Christ, does that make us perfect? Absolutely not, but we will be deeply troubled by sin in our lives. We will not have peace in our lives, because we know that we have fallen short of the Glory of God.

If you are not troubled by sin in your life or have no desire for holiness, I would seriously examine your heart to see if you truly are in Christ – if you have truly given your life wholly to Him and are saved

Galatians 2:20; “ I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

So how do we live this life, this crucified life? We live by faith in the Son of God. Daily asking the Holy Spirit to lead us and direct us. Our life goals are radically different, our aspirations change, instead of trying to build our own kingdom, we live to make the name of Jesus known.

The trouble with many people is that they think that when they become a Christian, God wants to take them and make them a better version of themselves. But we have it all wrong, there is nothing good, nothing worthwhile, nothing redemptive in my old self. God is not out to reform our life, he sent his son so that we can be born again.

This is where Christianity is completely different to any other religion. I cannot save myself, I cannot gradually get better until I am saved, I have to die, and then be reborn of the Spirit of God (John 3:3).

Coming to the final phrase of Galatians 2:20; “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Jesus loves you more than you will ever know, the cross is deeply personal for you and for me. When Jesus went to the cross, it was because he loved you so much, his love compelled him to give his life for you (see Ephesians 1:4).

1 Peter 2:9 tells us that we have been chosen by God, you are royalty, you are God’s special possession!

Have you ever heard of a royal prince cowering in the corner and begging for scraps from the King’s table?

But that is what we do, we don’t realize the value that God has placed on us, we are his special possession. He loves you far more than you will ever know.

When Jesus ascended into heaven he sent his indwelling Spirit. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the trinity, lives inside every true believer in Jesus Christ. The very same God who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you.

I know that we don’t come close to understanding the reality of the presence of God in our lives.

But what is the purpose of the Gospel? Why did God send his son? Why did God choose you and me and then fill us with his presence?  We have a natural tendency to see things from our perspective and say that God saved us so that we wouldn’t go to hell. Yes, that is true, but there is more, there is a greater and more glorious purpose for our salvation. God saved us so that we might bring Glory and praise to His name for eternity. This is what we were created to do. As we live by the Spirit and our lives become a living testimony of His presence we bring glory to His name.

Are you a Christian? If you don’t want to love and follow Christ, you are not a Christian. You may believe in Jesus, but is Jesus Lord of your life? Stop what you are doing right now, get on your knees, and make sure that you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.

Sermon September 17, 2017 – Jeremiah part 3

Jeremiah 17:1-10

The nation of Judah had drifted far from God, worshipping idols and ignoring the covenant and the law that God gave Moses on mount Sinai. Their sin was deep rooted, it wasn’t simply a fleeting failure. Jeremiah uses the picture of an engraving tool in verse 1, the sins were indelibly marked in their culture. This has been the condition of man since Adam’s sin in Genesis 3. Sin is not a matter of mere actions, sin is a matter of the heart, and all of us are desperately sinful in our nature.

The Greek definition for sin is to miss the mark, to miss the standard for which we were created. We as human beings, like no other creature, were created in the image of God, and as such we were created to glorify Him by our worship, and our enjoyment of Him forever.

This is the mark we have missed, we worship, money, sex, fame, various forms of entertainment and objects of our own creation just to name a few idols.  We are no different to the nation of Judah, we have missed the mark, we are sinners. In verse 3 and 4, God says that because of their sins, he will punish them and give away all their treasures and wealth as plunder to their enemies. Even though God spoke so directly through the prophet Jeremiah, the people ignored the message and treated Jeremiah like the enemy.

The irony is that God tells them that he will enslave them in a land they do not know, but the reality is that they were already slaves. When we are living in willful sin, we are enslaved by that sin. Sin itself is slavery, because we are separated from the joy of knowing the pleasure and the grace of God in our lives.

The Lord continues in verse 5, “This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord.”

Where do you place your trust? Do you trust in your retirement fund? Your paycheck? Your savings? Your inheritance? Perhaps you trust in a person to take care of you? The truth is that no matter what we trust in, if it is not God, the Bible says we are under a curse.

The converse of verses 5 and 6 are verses 7 and 8 said. Verse 7 says, “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” Do you want to experience God’s blessing? Trust Him!

In verse 8 we read that the person who trusts in the Lord will receive a promised blessing from the Lord, they will have no fear, no worries, and they never fail to bear fruit.

As we look at ourselves, how do we really know if we trust the Lord? We can easily fool our neighbor, our pastor, even our spouse, but God knows our heart (see Jeremiah 17:10).

Just like God knew the hearts of the people of Judah, he knows our hearts today. As a result of their sin, God punished the nation of Judah, the attack from the north came and most of them were taken into captivity. It was a terrible and dark time for the nation. The captivity in Babylon was relatively short, only 70 years, but the nation was destroyed and would never be the same again.

The punishment for sin was severe, and God still punishes sin today, we don’t like to talk about it, but He does, God loves us too much to leave our sins unpunished.

But there is good news, as we look at Jeremiah 31:31-34. This prophecy in Jeremiah 31 talks about a time far in the future for those living in the 6th Century BC, Jeremiah was prophesying about the new covenant, he was pointing to our time, this day and age.

Obviously, we still struggle with sin and the world is in a desperate state because of our rejection of God. Our problem with sin is far worse than we could ever imagine. Our sinful self is so wicked that we don’t even have the desire to know God, let alone want to come near to Him. Our hearts are inscribed with sin, we cannot erase it, it is impossible for us to change our hearts.

But here is the Incredibly Good News, God made a New Covenant with mankind. Jeremiah was prophesying about The Gospel, Jesus, the son of God, coming to earth as a child, living amongst men, and then giving his life as the ultimate and perfect sacrifice in order to save us from our desperately wicked state. We sometimes take the Gospel for granted, we gloss over it every time we celebrate communion together. But this is incredible news in Isaiah 9:2 we read, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;”

Of all the 1366 verses in the book of Jeremiah, chapter 31 and verse 33 is the pinnacle of his revelation from God.

Notice the contrast between chapter 17, where our hearts are engraved with sin, and the New Covenant in chapter 31, God promises to write a new law on our hearts. It takes a miracle to remove engraving, we cannot do it, but because of what Jesus did on the cross, by submitting our lives to his glorious gift of salvation, we get new hearts. We get the very presence of the living God living inside of us by the Holy Spirit. This is what Jesus spoke about in Luke 22:20

The Old Covenant was important to reveal to mankind that we are desperately sinful and cannot begin to fulfill the holy requirements of God. But God created us with the capacity and the need for a relationship with Him, not simply to follow a set of blind rules.

This is where the church has missed the point I believe. In our desire to make “good Christians”, we have created rules and structures, and our efforts have resulted in legalism. The truth is that:

Rules without a Relationship is Bondage.

I am not advocating for the erasing of all rules, that is anarchy, but if we are content to follow the rules without a relationship with our Heavenly Father, in a sense we are still living under the Old Covenant.

Are you still living under the Old covenant, trying to be good enough for God? That is impossible, that is why Jesus came to save us, that is why we have the Gospel!

Sermon Sunday September 10, 2017 – Jeremiah part 2

Jeremiah 1:9-19

As Christian we can speak with authority, the authority we have comes from the word of God. When we speak our own words of wisdom, people can reject us, however, when we speak the word of God, we are referring to a much higher authority, one that we don’t have to try and defend. Do you know how to use the authority of the word of God?

In Jeremiah 1:9, we read that God touched Jeremiah’s mouth and gave him the message, God summarizes the message in verse 10. Notice the first words, “today I appoint you”. God gave Jeremiah authority over nations and kingdoms by the power of the word of God.

Jeremiah’s message was to be one of both judgment and blessing. The uprooting and tearing down was the coming judgment, but the metaphor of planting and building was a sign of God’s blessing to come after the judgment.

Then God gives Jeremiah 2 visions.  The first is a vision of an almond branch.  The Hebrew word for Almond tree sounds very similar to the word for watching. The symbolism of the Almond tree is that it is watchful, God is not slow in responding in judgment, the time is coming sooner than expected, and in verse 12 God confirms this vision and explains that He is watching the nation of Judah. The theme of God watching his people flows through the book of Jeremiah. This message to humanity is still the same today: God is watching! He will watch over the fulfilment of His word. When sin and immorality engulf nations and even penetrate the Church, we should remember, God is watching!

The second vision is of a boiling pot, shows that the message would be one of judgment at the hands of a people from the north. Ultimately this was the armies of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon coming to lay siege to Jerusalem.

The sin for which the people would be judged was the fundamental one of breaking the covenant with the Lord, by the rejection of him in favor of other gods (as we see in v16), and it continued to be a constant theme in the book.

God put His words into the prophet’s mouth and those words were effective to accomplish His will. God not only gave Jeremiah His words, but He also promised to “watch over” those words until they were fulfilled (Jer. 1:12).

Prophecy is not necessarily foretelling the future, rather it is to declare the words of God, to declare the truth, in that sense, the act of preaching the word of God is an act of prophecy.

Just like it was in Jeremiah’s day, so it is now, that the declaration of the word of God was not well received.

There were prophets in Jerusalem during Jeremiah’s time, those who spoke only words of blessing and wellbeing to the people. These prophets were well liked and had an adoring following, and the Kings who rejected God’s law loved to hear from these prophets.

Today as preachers, we have the same challenge.  Paul the apostle knew this and wrote the following in his second letter to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:3. Today, there are false teachers, those who twist the word of God for their own benefit. Stretching individual verses out of context with the primary goal of deceiving their hearers into parting with their money. If you don’t know the Word of God, you too will be deceived in these days as Jesus said in Matthew 24:11. We need to pray for wisdom and discernment as we read the word of God in order to stand firm in the calling that God has on our lives.

In verse 17, God speaks to Jeremiah and tells him to get ready, to brace himself for the challenge that lay ahead.

When Jesus sent out the disciples in Matthew 10, he issued a similar warning (read Matthew 10:16-20).

Both Jeremiah and the disciples were told that they were going to speak the very words of God, they didn’t have to figure out what would be the best thing to say, they could simply stand firm on the words of God. And this is the key, standing on the authority of the word of God. The church needs to be the prophetic voice in our culture. Not simply a voice known for what we oppose, but a voice that declares the truth in love and offers alternatives that bring life. What does the Bible have to say about the issues that we wrestle with in our culture, issues such as racism, broken homes, homosexuality, money, abortion and homelessness to name just a few.

Take the abortion debate as an example, the fact that there is any debate whatsoever is a sign of how far we have slipped as a culture, the Bible is clear that we are created in the image of God and it is wrong to take another human life, but as the church, the prophetic voice in our culture, what alternatives are we offering? Are we offering to take the children and raise them up?

We live in an age where Bible is regarded as offensive, but the word of God supersedes culture, the Bible transcends seasons, Isaiah 40:8 says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”

God continues in verse 17 to say to Jeremiah, “do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them.”

God knew Jeremiah and God knows us too, He knows that our natural inclination is to be afraid of what others might be thinking. But the fear of God is the best antidote against the fear of man. Let us always be afraid of offending God first (see Proverbs 1:7). Remember you and God are a majority, even if everyone else opposes you, as they opposed Jeremiah, as you follow God’s leading in your life, you are in the majority.

But in order to be the prophetic voice in our culture, we need to know the word of God. There is no substitute for living the Christian life in our culture, other than to spend time daily reading the Word of God, allowing God to speak to you.