Sunday May 12, 2019 Mothers Day

As we honor mothers on Mother’s Day, we are reminded that the tasks that a mother performs often go unnoticed, however when they are not done, everyone notices.

God gives each of us assignments in life, one of the most important is that of being a godly mother.

In his final moments Jesus gave assignments to two men, John and Peter.

In John 19: 26-30, we read the well-known account of the crucifixion, the worst and the best day in all human history as Jesus gave his life for our sins.  As he was about to die, Jesus turns to Mary and John, the disciple he loved, and says, “here is your son”, “here is your mother”.

Jesus doesn’t simply ask John to look after his mother, he connects them as family and John took Mary into his home. At this time Mary was probably in her late forties and we assume that she was already widowed and had no way of supporting herself in that culture.

For Jesus, this was not an afterthought, it was part of his plan. Jesus never did anything without a definite purpose (See John 19:28). Jesus was not finished until he had taken care of his mother, in this he displayed the importance and value of caring for our mothers.

He entrusted his mother to John and in so doing, he honored his mother (see Ephesians 6:1-3).

In Ephesians 6, Paul taught the 5th commandment to the Gentile church in Ephesus, the only commandment with a promise, “that is may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

We know that the children of Israel were the recipients of this law and it directly pointed them to the promised land that awaited them, but the principle of God is still the same, there is a blessing in honoring our parents.

This 5th commandment is not directed only to children, but to adults, honoring parents as we become adults, as we become parents and as they age.

Jesus honored his mother by ensuring that she is well cared for. Jesus gave John this assignment and the Bible tells us that he did as he was asked.

This takes us to the second assignment, the assignment that Jesus gave to the Apostle Peter in Matthew 16:13-20. Jesus and his disciples are making their way to Jerusalem, and as they come into the region of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks this question, “who do you say that I am?”, the most important question that we all must answer.

Peter, the bold disciple, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus affirms Peter’s declaration and makes a profound statement in verse 18, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

In the Greek language, Jesus uses the word “Petros” for Peter, which means small stone. And then he says, “and on this rock I will build my church”, the Greek word Jesus used for rock is “Petra”, which is a much bigger rock or a bedrock.

Jesus is saying that Peter is one of the small stones, but the foundation of the church was the message that Peter was to declare, the foundation of the church is the Gospel message, the Good news of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, the son of the living God, which make a way for us to be righteous before God.

Jesus assigned Peter to declare the Gospel, and this is also the first time in the Bible that we see the word, “Church” used in the New Testament.

In verse 19, Jesus tells Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom”. We use keys to open doors; these keys are not keys to open doors in heaven. Peter was given the keys to opening the door of faith in people by sharing the Gospel message. The key to the kingdom is the proclamation of the gospel. This is the role and responsibility of the church, to share the good news about Jesus Christ to unlock the hearts by faith as the Holy Spirit takes the message and transforms lives.

The Jewish rabbis often spoke of “binding and loosing,” meaning forbidding or permitting.

Jesus’ statement later included all the Apostles, as the representatives of their Lord, they would exercise authority according to His Word.

Verse 19 is frequently confused, and the Greek verbs for binding and loosing are crucial to our understanding. Both verbs, binding and loosing are in the perfect passive tense. This means that it is an already completed work. So, the original Greek translates as follows, “And whatever you bind on earth [forbid to be done], shall have been already bound … in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth [permit to be done], shall have already been loosed in heaven.”

Thus, Jesus is saying that Peter is to declare what God has already done in Heaven. Jesus did not say that God would obey what the Apostles declared on earth, but that the Apostles should do on earth whatever God had already willed. The church does not get man’s will done in heaven; it obeys God’s will on earth.

For Peter, this sounds like a mighty calling.

So, who got the more important role? Peter or John?

The keys to the kingdom or caring for a widow

We tend to view value or importance by the number of people influenced.

For example, don’t we view the CEO of a large company as being much more important than a CEO of a small company?

Surely, Billy Graham who preached to hundreds of thousands of people must have been more important than the unnamed preacher who walks the streets in India?

We tend to look for the impact or the influence, but God doesn’t look at influence, God looks at obedience.

We as those who have submitted ourselves to the lordship of Jesus Christ, daily need to be asking the Lord for direction and assignments. Sometimes the Lord asks us to do things that make a big noise in the world. Other times we are asked to do things that no-one notices, but God does!

So, who had the more important role, Peter or John? Both were equally important, both were equipped by God for the task that they had to do.

In the Kingdom of God as His children, there are no levels of importance, there is only obedience and disobedience to the calling of God on your life.

What is God inviting you to do with him?

(See Ephesians 4:11-12)

 

 

Sunday May 5, 2019 The Prescription for True Joy

click on the camera to watch the video of the message

TRUE JOY

Paul’s letter to the Philippians

Are you joyful? The letter to the Philippian church is known as Paul’s letter of Joy. In Chapter 4:4 Paul makes a command, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”

So many people live joyless lives, we are surrounded things that steal our joy. Paul challenged the Philippian church to guard against things that would steal their joy.

Fear of opposition and suffering (Philippians 1:28 and 29)

In the western church, we have grown accustomed to the church being a respected part of society. The world is changing rapidly, and the true principles of Christianity are not welcomed or even tolerated. This should not surprise us if we read what Jesus taught as the signs of the end times in Matthew 24.

But we don’t need to be afraid of those who oppose Christianity, they are controlled by a different kingdom, a kingdom that tried to kill Jesus. As you live your life, being Christs ambassador, you will encounter opposition, it should not come as a surprise.

And then there is suffering; suffering is when things we desire, love and enjoy are taken away from us. We suffer when we lose a loved one, our health, our job, or we encounter a tragedy such as a natural disaster. We don’t ask for suffering, but it is a real part of our lives.

The challenge is, how do we prevent opposition and suffering from stealing our joy.

Lack of unity (Philippians 2:2-4)

Paul was joyful because the Philippian church was united. Does this mean there are never disagreements in the church? Of course not. It is quite normal to expect differences of opinion on certain subjects, but we must never compromise on the essentials of our faith and the truth of the Word.

So, when we do have differences of opinion, the governing rule must be love, “having the same love” (Philippians 2:2). This is a preferential love, a love that always seeks the highest good of others. This goes against the narcissism of the age in which we live.

Verse 2 ends with two more descriptions of unity, “being in full accord and of one mind”. This means that the church knows its God given purpose.  The purpose of the church is to, worship God, proclaim the Gospel, reach the lost and to care for the broken. The mission of the church always supersedes our personal preferences, that is Holy Spirit unity.

When the church is united around its mission and calling, the individual members of the church will experience joy. We will joyfully give, joyfully serve and joyfully fellowship with each other.

Grumbling or disputing (Philippians 2:14-15)

Paul is clear that all everything we do must be done without grumbling or disputing. The church is the representation of Christ on the earth and if we are characterized by grumbling and disputing, we are not going to attract people to Jesus.

Grumbling is also translated, Murmuring. This is the muttering under your breath or gossiping. This is like an undercurrent at a beach. From the surface, everything looks great, but as you get deeper into the water, the undercurrent sucks you under.

Disputing is the open arguments within the body. Normally where there is grumbling, arguments and disputes will follow. This has no place in the church.

When we argue, we are showing the world that our own personal opinions are more valuable than the name of our savior that we preach. Grumbling and disputing rob us of our joy.

False teaching (Philippians 3:2-3)

Paul rebukes the Judaizers, those false teachers who teaching that to become true Christian, you must go back to the law of Moses and begin practicing and conforming to the ancient Levitical law with all the rituals and sacrifices. These Judaizers prided themselves in their holiness and their morality, but Paul says that they were evildoers who were deceived, and deceiving others.

Today we have so many people who are trying to work for their salvation and striving to be good enough for salvation. Philippians 2:12 says “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling

We cannot work for our salvation, but we must work out our salvation. When you try to do things for God to earn salvation, not only are you not saved, you will also not experience true joy and peace with God.

Bad thinking (Philippians 4:8)

Proper actions come from proper thinking. What we think about will ultimately determine our practices. What you choose what to dwell on affects your whole life. Spending hours looking at other peoples posts on facebook or Instagram will rob you of joy. Harboring resentment against someone, dwelling on past pain, thinking impure thoughts, will all rob you of joy.

Lack of contentment (Philippians 4:11-13)

Paul had learned the secret of contentment as he trusted in the Lord in every circumstance. This is knowledge he has gained because of walking with God. We all go through seasons of need and abundance and if we don’t have a God given contentment, we will never experience joy.

So, with all these warnings of things that steal our joy, how do we find true joy?

In the middle of the letter Paul makes one of the most powerful declarations in all of scripture in Chapter 2:5-11.

Paul emphasizes the centrality of Christ in his life and in the life of the Church. The example of Christ is the key. It was because of Christs humility that God exalted him.

The key to joy is humility. Humility means that I trust that Jesus is enough. Humility is the very act of submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in every area of my life.

How have you lost your joy?

Where have you turned your focus away from the supremacy of Christ?

It doesn’t happen with one decision, it is a gradual process of neglecting spiritual disciplines. Neglecting prayer, neglecting God’s word, pulling back from fellowship with other believers.

All these things lead to a gradual turning away from the lordship of Christ and a gradual turning away from Joy.

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 4:14-20 – Sermon April 28, 2019

Philippians 4:14-20

 Are you content?

Contentment could be financial security, family security or relational security. The marketing agencies dislike content people, because they cannot sell you anything. They prey on discontentment and strive to create discontent.

But there is a big difference between worldly contentment and Christian contentment. Worldly contentment is fleeting and short lived. But Christian contentment is different, Charles Kelley said, “Christian contentment is the God-given ability to be satisfied with the loving provision of God in any and every situation.”

To be content in every situation is what Paul is referring to in these verses. He has known comfort, and has known poverty, but he could honestly say that he was content (see 2 Corinthians 3:5).

At the time of writing this letter, Paul was in prison and he was reflecting on his life and journey as a Christian and in spite of all he had gone through, he was rejoicing.

The Philippian church had sent Paul a financial gift for his ministry and Paul was expressing his gratitude. God had stirred in the hearts of the people in Philippi, Paul realizing that the Lord had used this early church to provide for his need was thanking the Lord.

Philippians 4:14, “yet it was kind of you to share in my trouble.” The word Paul uses for share means to have fellowship in, or to participate alongside. The Philippian church really were suffering with Paul, they cared deeply for him and considered his suffering to be their suffering.

This is how it should be in the body of Christ (See1 Corinthians 12:26).

Philippians 4:15-16: “And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.”

Paul had no other church supporting him in ministry. Even in Thessalonica, a wealthy sea-port, had not yet experienced the blessing of supporting world evangelism. They were inward focused and missed out on the blessings that the church in Philippi was experiencing.

We can easily fall into the thinking that supporting missions is simply a horizontal transaction, the donor giving to the missionary and the missionary going out. But when we truly understand that everything we have comes from God, and that we are merely stewards of all that Has entrusted to us, it becomes a vertical transaction. The missionary asks God the Father for provision, the giver asks God the father how much he/she should give, and then in obedience, both are blessed to be a part of the Gospel ministry.

In verse 15, Paul says that they were entering into, “giving and receiving”. There is no giving without receiving. The church gave materially but received a spiritual blessing. Paul looked on their missionary gift as an investment that would pay them rich spiritual dividends. No gift we make to the Lord’s work will ever leave us poorer (see Luke 6:38). The Bible is clear, that if we give, we will receive, but we must also be clear that we do not give in order to receive, it doesn’t work that way.

Paul continues in verse 17 “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.” Paul’s real joy was not in the gift that he received, rather his joy was in what the gift did for the Philippians.

We are in danger of seeing people as goers and suppliers, but the reality is that in the kingdom of God, we are all a part of the Great Commission, and no Christian is excused.

Philippians 4:18, “I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”

Paul could say this because his heart was pure, he was not relying on man, he knew exactly who provided his needs. Paul had the abundance mentality of the kingdom of God, knowing that God never runs out.

Paul said that this gift was a fragrant offering to God an acceptable sacrifice. Paul is not referring to tithing, the regular giving to the Lord’s work, this is giving over and above, as an offering to the Lord.

In the Old Testament, the temple tithe was 10%, but in the New Covenant we don’t have this as a law. Rather if we have submitted ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, we are called to give our all to the Lord. In our giving to the work of the ministry of the church 10% is a guideline, but this is simply the beginning. Over and above that we prayerfully give to the Great Commission ministry of missions. Not only does this build us up in our walk with the Lord, it also is an invitation into a blessing.

Paul looked on their gift as a spiritual sacrifice, laid on the altar as a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord, this is true worship. Seeing this in relation to Hebrews 11:6, we must understand that faith and giving must go hand in hand.  A sacrifice that is pleasing to God, is a sacrifice that is given by faith, faith in the existence of God, faith in the provision of God and faith in the promises of God.

We have to realize that God doesn’t need our money, He is inviting us into a lifestyle of blessing.

In verse 19, we have one of the most quoted promises in the Bible, but unfortunately it is almost always taken out of context and misused. Philippians 4:19: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Many people quote this verse without meeting the condition of verse 18. Paul is saying, “You met my need, and God is going to meet your need.” But more than that, “You met one need that I have, but my God will meet all of your needs.”

The primary purpose of giving and receiving is in verse 20, “To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Missions and the church exist for one purpose, to declare the glory and the praises of God.

Will you ask the Lord for His invitation into the blessing of giving towards the Great Commission?

Sermon – April 21, 2019 Resurrection Sunday

He is Risen!

We were all struck by the spectacle of the fire that destroyed the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

As I was watching the coverage, somthing struck me, I began thinking about why this burning building caused so much grief and angst. One of the reasons was that we as God’s created beings, desire transcendence, we have a desire for something that endures beyond our lives. We desperately want to know that eternity is real and achievable. The thought that everything around us that we see will one day fall to decay is simply too hard for us to face (see Ecclesiastes 3:11).

We were made for so much more than the accumulation of wealth, knowledge and the pursuit of comfort and happiness, we were made for eternal glory with Jesus.

On Easter Sunday, we celebrate the fact that Jesus rose from the dead and that he paid the price for our eternal salvation. Isaiah 53 is one of the clearest Old Testament prophetic Scriptures that points to the death and resurrection of Jesus. These words also remind us that Jesus was not a victim of a terribly botched trial, or mistaken identity. Jesus was the creator God, who took on flesh, was born and lived at a specific time in history to die on a Roman cross and then to be raised to life. Only Jesus could do what He did, only Jesus who was fully God and fully man, was the one who could pay the price for the sins of man.

In Isaiah 53:10-12 we see five key attributes of Jesus, starting at verse 10a, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt,”
Jesus is – the Perfect Sacrifice.

Under the Law of Moses, there were multiple different offerings, the prophet Isaiah wrote that Jesus was a guilt offering. The guilt offering was to provide a way to be cleansed from unintentional sin, or a way to provide restitution when someone has been personally wronged because of a sinner’s actions. Jesus knows what sins we have committed in the past, but the guilt offering was for unintentional or yet unknown sin. On the cross, Jesus paid the price for our sins and for the sins we are yet to commit even our unintentional sins. Does this mean I sin without consequence? Absolutely not, it was our sin that drove Jesus to the cross, past present and future. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice, the only pure spotless lamb of God (see Hebrews 10:11-14).

Jesus is – the Risen Lord.

Jesus is alive! Isaiah 53:10b-11a says, “he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;”

Only living people see their offspring, only living people have extended days and prosper.

This is the line in the sand that differentiates Christianity from any other world religion. Our God is alive, the tomb where he was buried was only occupied for a few days. Paul clearly stated this in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6, this is the Good News, he is risen!

Not only that, Jesus was raised with a body that will never decay, the same kind that we will also get one day if we believe in Jesus as Lord. The resurrection of Jesus is our glorious hope of a certain eternal future.

Jesus is – our Righteousness.

Isaiah 53:11b, “by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.”

The word righteous means that there is no longer a need for justice or punishment. For the Christian, to be righteous means to be in right standing before God. This is the privilege that we have as those covered by the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. We cannot stand before the all-holy God without the righteousness of Christ.

Without the righteousness of Christ, we have no hope of any sin being forgiven, but because of what he had done, no sin is too great for his forgiveness.

In Isaiah 64, we read that those who trust in their own righteousness or good works, are described as filthy rags in God’s sight. There is no good work that we could do that would make us righteous.  Nothing we can do will make us righteous before God, only through Jesus can we stand righteous before the all-holy God

In Jeremiah 23:6 we read that Jesus is Jehovah Tsidkenu, meaning Jehovah is our righteousness.

Our being in right standing with God is only because of us placing our faith in the completed work of Jesus on the cross. Righteousness comes through faith.

Jesus is our Inheritance

Isaiah 53:12a, “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,

The Bible is full of references to the inheritance believers have in Christ (see Ephesians 1:11).

Our inheritance is the sum of all God has promised us in salvation. Our inheritance is not dependent on our works, our inheritance is based on our family, being part of the family of God, being a Christian makes us heirs along with Christ (See Romans 8:16-17).

When we understand and value the glory that awaits us, we are better able to endure whatever comes our way in this life. With an eternal perspective, we realize that this life is gone in a flash and eternity awaits us all. We can praise God during trials because we have His guarantee that we will receive all He has promised (see 2 Corinthians 4:17).

Jesus is our Advocate.

Isaiah 53:12 closes, “because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many and makes intercession for the transgressors.”

An advocate is someone who pleads the cause of another before a court or tribunal, Jesus is our advocate (see 1 John 2:1).

Jesus, the creator of the universe, gave his life for you, and now he is seated next to God the father and he is pleading and advocating for us (see Hebrews 7:23-25).

In addition to this, Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Do you know Jesus?

Sermon on Palm Sunday April 14, 2019 Matthew 21:1-17

Matthew 21:1-17

Have you ever been to an event or meeting and something happened that you didn’t expect or fully understand?

The Sunday prior to Easter is Palm Sunday, the day when we traditionally remember Jesus coming into Jerusalem one week prior to his crucifixion and resurrection.

Everything that Jesus did on that day made a statement, he was intentionally dropping hints along the way about his identity and intentions. Those witnessing the events, did not see the significance of what Jesus was doing. Jesus was following a script that had been written before the creation of the world (see John 5:19).

Jesus avoided the limelight, throughout his public ministry. Most of Jesus’ ministry happened outside of towns or in small towns, away from the center of Jerusalem. But on Palm Sunday, all of that changed. In Matthews Gospel account we see six signs that Jesus left indicating his identity and purpose.The first sign we see is that Jesus instructs his disciples to go and get a donkey and her young foal and bring them to him.

His disciples dutifully obeyed and went and got him this wild animal that had never been ridden before. Riding into the city was a public declaration that Jesus was a king (See Zechariah 9:9). In times of war a conquering king would ride on a chariot or a stallion, but Jesus rode on a colt to declare that he is a king proclaiming peace.

But aside from the obvious declaration, this animal had never been ridden before. Anyone who has worked with horses before would know that you cannot simply ride a wild foal, it needs to be broken in, unless the creator of the foal was the one riding. The people didn’t recognize the creator God, but the foal did, the animal knew who was riding on its back, and it submitted to the authority of Jesus.

The people reacted by spreading their cloaks in front of Jesus, this was a sign of honor for a king as we see in 2 Kings chapter 9. 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. Two generations before this time, the Maccabean revolt took place that liberated the Israelites from the Syrian oppressors, at that time the worship in the temple was re-established. By waving palm branches, the people were expecting a military ruler to free them from the oppression of Rome, they expected Jesus to be another warlord or general of the armies, one who would lead them to liberation from their oppressors. They were ready to pick up their swords and go to war if Jesus would lead them!

In verse 9 we see that the people were crying out, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”.

We sing the word, Hosanna, and assume it is simply a declaration of worship, but it is a cry for help, it is a cry for salvation. The Aramaic word, Hosanna, comes from the Hebrew and the same word we find in Psalm 118:25, Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success!”

The crowds were full of expectation that Jesus was coming to save them, but it was originally a cry for help. The people were misguided in their expectations of Jesus as the military messiah, but their declaration of Hosanna, was a prophetic declaration of the salvation that Jesus was about to bring through his death and resurrection.

Jesus enters Jerusalem and the whole city was stirred up, little did they know what was about to take place. The greatest and the darkest day in all of history. Jesus goes to the temple and begins to turn over the tables of the money changers and the traders. Jesus then quotes the Prophet Isaiah and says, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”

We easily miss the significance of what Jesus was doing, he was making a public statement that the sacrificial system was not needed anymore, he was about to become the perfect and final sacrifice for all who would put their faith in him. Jesus was passing judgment on the sacrificial system. Even today we still need to be reminded that there is only one sacrifice that gains us favor with God, and it has already been completed when Jesus died and rose again.

In verse 14 we read, “And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.” During the chaos and confusion, Jesus takes time to heal the blind and the lame.

Jesus was intentionally making a declaration of his true identity. The irony is that the seeing people were the blind ones. The blind came to him, because they recognized him for who he was.

Remember at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he went to the synagogue in Nazareth and read from Isaiah chapter 61 (see Luke 4:18-19). Jesus was declaring who he was, but the seeing were blind.

And then finally in verse 15, we read that the chief priests and scribes were indignant, they were offended because of the miracles, they were offended because the children were upsetting their neat little world of religion and crying out, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

The priests were very religious, but religion – a set of rules and regulations to earn salvation – that is not for children. Christianity is a true relationship with our heavenly father through Jesus Christ and children get that much easier than adults do. Jesus quotes King David from Psalm 8:2. There is power in the praise of children, but more than that, the children hear from God much clearer than we adults do. The children are the faith and prophetic voices for the church as we get so busy “doing church”. We get so busy doing religion, that we miss the power of the praises and prayers of the children.

Jesus made statement after statement, declaring his true identity, but all the people in Jerusalem that day missed what he was saying.

Do you know who Jesus is?

Perhaps you follow Jesus because of his miracles and what you can get from him?

Do you follow Jesus because it is your tradition?

The only way of salvation is through recognizing who Jesus is and then submitting to him as Lord of your life.

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 4:10-13 – Sermon April 07, 2019

Philippians 4:10-13

 How are you doing?

This is a question each of us ask or are asked many times everyday and the response in our culture is a simple, “I am good”.

As you look back on your life, have you found being financially blessed or being in want to be more challenging? Most would say being without is more challenging, but the Bible warns us against the comfort and real challenges of prosperity (see Proverbs 70:7-9).

Looking at your spiritual life, did you grow more in your faith when you experienced hardships or when everything was going well?

Paul was in prison, and he was reflecting on his life and journey as a Christian. He had been through some tough times, beaten, left for dead, shipwrecked, abandoned and imprisoned, but in spite of it all, he was rejoicing.

In Philippians 4:10, Paul was thanking the Philippian church for a financial gift, he was deeply appreciative of the people in the church that he had planted ten years before.

The word “providence” comes from two Latin words: pro, meaning “before,” and video, meaning “to see.” God’s providence simply means that God sees to it beforehand. It does not simply mean that God knows beforehand. It is the working of God in advance to arrange circumstances and situations for the fulfilling of His purposes in providing for our needs.

Trusting God for financial blessing makes no sense in the natural realm. In our modern day thinking, we don’t hear much about the providence of God, rather we hear a lot about man’s ingenuity and ability to create wealth.

We have God in a box, that we turn to on Sunday’s or when we have a need, but the rest of the week we work with all our effort to figure out ways to provide for our needs and wants. This is practical atheism, we claim to worship God, but when we have a practical need, we ignore the providence of God.

This does not mean we sit back and do nothing, rather our starting point is different.

We begin by presenting our needs before our heavenly father and ask Him for the provision.

Then wait on the Lord and asking Him for what we must do, following His direction.

Initially the Philippian church did not have the opportunity to send Paul support, but now they could, and it was the perfect timing as Paul was in prison and had a desperate need. Paul thanked them and showed that even though he was in need, he was still content (Philippians 4:11-12)

What Paul described his secret of contentment.

Paul had learnt from what the Lord has taken him through.

V11: for I have learned – to be content

V12: I know how to be brought low – how to live in poverty

V12: I know how to abound – live with riches.

V12: I have learned the secret…

This is knowledge he has gained because of walking with God in obedience to the call of God on his life. James 1:4 calls this, “lacking in nothing”. Lacking in nothing is the outcome of the faith produced by the trials of life. The original Greek says, “wanting for nothing”.

When you grow in your faith, you may go through seasons of need, and seasons of abundance, but you will never want for anything (Philippians 4:19).

But we focus so much on the discomfort of being in need we sometimes miss the challenge of abounding, which means to have more than enough. Read the warning in Revelation 3:17 as Jesus writes the letter to the church in Laodicea. In the light of eternity, prosperity is far more dangerous than poverty. We must guard against the false sense of security that comes with financial gain, that takes our eyes off the source of all our provision.

This passage is so well known for verse 13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me”.

This verse has been used by sportsmen and women all over the world. But you cannot take this verse out of the context of scripture and use it like a magic bullet, expecting God to bless everything we decide to do. The key to this verse is “through Christ”, and the verse must be seen in light of the previous text.

Everything in nature relies on hidden resources to grow and flourish. The most important part of a tree is the part you cannot see, the root system. The most important part of the Christian’s life is the presence of the Holy Spirit, where we get our life sustaining power to live the Christian life.

Paul depended on the power of Christ at work in his life.

Paul was declaring that through the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit, he could do anything that God called him to do. The Greek wording for this verse says, “all things I can do in the one empowering me.”

Paul states that to be a Christian, is to be “IN CHRIST”, this is the very essence of what it means to be a Christian (Acts 17:28, Job 12:10).

Some quote this verse as, “I can do whatever I dream up, because Christ is with me.” This is not claiming the promise of God’s Word, this is the very definition of witchcraft. Rather the follower of Jesus who has submitted to his lordship says, “I can do all that he asks me to do because I am in him.” Jesus teaches this same lesson in John 15. He is the Vine; we are the branches, the branch does not bear fruit through its own self-effort, but by drawing on the life of the Vine (John 15:5).

A common mistake Christians make is trying to do things for Jesus, out of gratitude or guilt we somehow try to pay for our salvation. But that is not what the Bible says at all. We are called to abide in Jesus and allow the presence of the Holy spirit to transform us and then being IN CHRIST, he works through us, leading us to do what he calls us to do.

What is God calling you to do, that only God can do, that is the essential message of Philippians 4:13. What have you been trying to do in your own strength, that Christ never intended for you to do?

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 4:8-9 – Sermon March 31, 2019

Philippians 4:8-9

How is your thinking?

Anxiety, depression, worry and fear all stem from our thinking.

“You are not what you think you are, but what you think – that you are”

You choose what to think about, and what you think about, affects your whole life.

In Philippians 4, Paul is coming to the end of the letter and he wants to encourage the Philippian church to healthy disciplines. Our thought life is a discipline, meditating on God’s word, allowing the Holy Spirit to renew our minds daily.

All sin begins with a thought, we see something, and it triggers a thought that leads to temptation.

We hear something in passing and a thought builds that leads to offence and we begin to hold a grudge. Our minds are the epicenter of the spiritual warfare that we are engaged in.

Whenever we begin to believe a lie, Satan has control over us in that area.

There is a battle for the control of our minds, therefore it is imperative for us to daily spend time in God’s word. We live in a world with a constant stream of information.  We are saturated with up to 16 hours a day of information and not much of it good. When we neglect feeding on God’s word, saturating ourselves with the truth, we will find it impossible to discern the between lies and the truth. it is impossible to have a growing relationship with Jesus Christ without spending time daily meditating on God’s word.

In 2 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul made it clear that we are in a battle for our minds (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

In Philippians 4:8 Paul lists eight adjectives:

1. True: For something to be true, it is genuine, and not counterfeit. In Ephesians 6, we read about the armor of God, of which the belt of truth is the first part of the armor, so that we will be able to stand firm against the lies of the enemy.

2. Honorable: Honorable or noble. Someone who is worthy of respect, who acts honorably is thinking honorably. This is the inward thought life of the follower of Christ.

3. Just: This suggests dealing in justice towards every-person, not given to favoritism or partiality. How we think about people will determine our justice towards them. Do we think about people differently because of the color of their skin, their age, their financial status or their education?

4. Pure: Authentic, stainless or without blemish. A pure glass of water can allow the light to go through unfiltered and clear. We as believers, as we keep ourselves pure, we allow the light of Jesus to shine through us. Sin is impurity that hinders the light of Christ to shine through our lives.

5. Lovely: Something that is lovely is pleasing and orderly. This speaks of harmony of thought not chaotic and hap-hazard thinking. When we allow sin to dwell in our hearts, when we think about impure things, our minds get flustered and easily frustrated.

6. Commendable: This is the opposite of Gossip. In our fallen and sinful state, we tend to gossip about someone rather than commend them. If you want to change the mood and atmosphere in a room, start speaking highly of each other, honoring and commending each other, and those not present.

7&8: Excellence and worthy of praise

Moral excellence is virtue and develops our fellowship with God.

Worthy of praise; to praise someone, rather than to tear them down.

As we look at these eight adjectives, these are the adjectives of the way we should be thinking. As we think about these things, we see that they are adjectives describing God.

God is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, praiseworthy.

God’s word is encouraging us to think about God, spending our time thinking deeply about the Creator God. Meditating on His awesome attributes and worshipping Him.

Then verse 9 Paul writes, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you

Proper actions come from proper thinking. What we think about will ultimately determine our practices. We often are surprised when someone we know is caught in a grievous sin or criminal activity, but it all begins with improper thinking.

J.D. Pentecost said, “Maturity in the Christian is not measured by what a man knows, but by what a man does.”

Thinking translates to doing and Paul was a living example of the conduct he expected the Philippian believers to walk in. Live by these thought patterns, taking them to heart allowing the Holy Spirit to dwell in you and transform your life, then you will know and experience the peace of God.

If you struggle to know the will of God for your life, you need to have a renewal of the mind (see Romans 12:2). Every-day we are exposed to images, words, experiences that soil our minds, we begin to become desensitized to sin and as a result our minds are full of impure thoughts and images. But here is the good news, God is able to transform our minds. As we ask God with repentance and thanksgiving, He renews our minds. Make a daily habit to pray for your mind to be renewed.

King David, after he sinned with Bathsheba he repented in Psalm 51. We read in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” David cried to God to supernaturally renew his spirit to change his thinking.

Our thought patterns can be so destructive.

Thoughts of unforgiveness

Thoughts of shame

Thoughts of rejection

Thoughts of inadequacy.

When Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave, he didn’t only make a way for us to be made right with God so that we would not have to spend eternity separated from God in Hell.

Jesus also made a way for us to know peace, for us to have renewed minds, healed and restored minds.

How is your thinking?

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 4:4-7 – Sermon March 24, 2019

Philippians 4:4-9

Peace Beyond Understanding

 Anxiety is the most pervasive psychological problem in our society, however, studies have shown that 90% of what we worry about never happens.

Anxiety is largely about perspective. Marketers and politicians know this all too well, using it to their advantage.  Today, get anxious about things they haven’t seen but have heard about on the internet.

JB Phillips in his book “your God is too small” wrote: “the trouble with many people today is that they have not found a God big enough for their everyday needs”

Fear prevents many Christians from experiencing all that God intends for our lives. Satan uses anxiety to create a cowardly, joyless soul. Fear wants you to take your eyes off the mountain peak and settle for the dull existence of the flat lands. But Satan has been overcome and Jesus won the victory on the cross (Hebrews 13:6).

In Philippians 4:4-7 Paul addresses anxiety and it is very practical and transformational as we apply the principles of God’s word. Jesus, while preaching the sermon on the mount, took a significant portion of his discourse to address the futility of anxiety (Matthew 6:34).

The Apostle Paul knew what it was like to experience hardship, he was in chains as he wrote this letter. He had every reason to be anxious, but rather he is 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 (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 (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, that God is truly good. When we really 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, the Greek word incorporates all the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). As we live the Spirit-filled life we will exhibit these qualities to those around us.

Verse 6, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

The key to overcoming anxiety is prayer. Paul makes an imperative statement, “do not be anxious about anything”. Anxiety leads to multiple physical maladies, prayer is the Biblical prescription for the illness of anxiety.

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, a humble attitude towards God.

Prayer is stepping away from the rushing world, trying to do it myself, a place where I am the problem solver, and throwing myself with dependence and recognition on the Creator of the universe. But so much more than this, we as believers in Jesus Christ can call the Creator, Father! This is prayer.

2: Supplication –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 uses the prayers of the saints, His children, to change things. God doesn’t need our prayers, but He responds when we pray, because that is the way He has ordered the universe. We have a vital and powerful part to play through prayer. Prayer is a declaration of faith, because by presenting our requests to God, we are stating that He is able (Hebrews 11:6).

3: Thanksgiving – This is crucial, thank God before you have received the answer to your prayers.

All prayer is to be accompanied by thanksgiving. Thankful that God has heard our prayers, that God is moving on our behalf, that God has answered our prayers. We are to be thankful because God is going to give us exactly what we need in response to our prayers. Satan’s lies, cannot exist in a life full of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is Worship, putting God in the place of preeminence.

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. It does not mean the absence of trials, Jesus said we would still have that (John 16:33). The peace of God is the ability to handle the trials without them stealing our joy.

This is supernatural, this is too much for us to grasp, “it surpasses all understanding”. This is the peace that makes the people around ask how we can remain calm during the storms of life. This peace is the result of the person who has taken everything to God in prayer, with thanksgiving.

This peace of God will also provide a guard for our hearts and minds. the peace of God is a protection against anxiety, stress and against bitterness towards those who have wronged us.

The peace of God is a guard and a protection against the lies of the enemy.

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.

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 4:1-3 – Sermon March 10, 2019

Living in Unity

Philippians 4:1-3

 Have you ever had an argument with a fellow believer?

What was the fruit of that argument?

In Philippians 4 we read about two women who had a disagreement in the church in Philippi. These women were gifted leaders, who’s argument had the potential to create division in the church.

The Apostle Paul addressed the issue directly because he saw the bigger picture, the eternal implications. We need to have an eternal perspective on disagreements, if someone is turned away from the church because of a personal disagreement and that person rejects Christ as a result, they will spend eternity in Hell.

Paul had been building the letter to get to this point, teaching and leading the church to pursue maturity and victorious Christian living. He begins the chapter by using a number of phrases to show his affection for the people of the church in Philippi;

my brothers, whom I love”, the Greek word he uses is agape, which refers to the love of God that has been given to us through the Holy Spirit (see Romans 5:5). This is the love that God gives us for each other in the Body of Christ. Without the agape, “love glue”, the church would simply not be able to stay together while on mission.

And long for”, Paul is approximately 800 miles away, he misses his family, longing to be with them.

my joy and my crown”, not only does he love them and miss them, he celebrates them. The members of the church in Philippi were his favorites, and his crown. Paul writes that the Philippian church was a reward for faithful service.

How often do we celebrate our brothers and sisters in Christ? Sadly, as a culture we only celebrate someone at their funeral.  Let us be Christians that celebrates on another, speaking life and encouragement over each other, this will bring joy and unity to the church.

Paul writes in verse 1 encouraging the Philippian believers to stand firm, standing on the truth’s that they have been taught. We need this encouragement today, we need to stand firm, unwavering on the truth’s that we have in God’s unchanging word.

Standing firm is a Roman military term of standing guard against any attack from the enemy. The implication is that the victory has already been won, Jesus won the victory on the cross and we are to hold the ground that he conquered as we declare the truth of the Gospel.

Watchman Nee writes “Remembering that we fight from victory not for victory. “

We stand firm by holding to the Word of God, not twisting it to be acceptable to culture.

We stand firm by loving God’s people.

We stand firm by loving the lost.

We stand by obeying what God tells us to do, even if it seems crazy to those around us.

In verse 2, Paul calls out two women, Euodia and Syntyche who were engaged in a fruitless argument. We don’t know anything about their dispute, but since Paul mentions them by name, it must have been a severe threat to the unity and the ministry of the church. Not taking sides, Paul pleads with them to end their disagreement. Paul knows that this argument is a threat to unity.

As believers, we can be right in an argument, but we have no right to create disunity in the church.

This does not mean that we forgo standing firm on foundational Biblical truths, but when an argument is a difference of opinion regarding secondary church issues, church unity and fellowship is more important.

Paul pleads with them to agree in the Lord. Essentially what he is saying is that their vision is too small. So often we disagree over secondary things, because we have forgotten the glorious purpose of the church, to proclaim the Gospel to every tribe and people group to the ends of the earth.

Satan loves to have the church fight over styles and colors and vehicles, all the while we are distracted from the primary purpose of our existence. What opinions do you need to let go of today that are hindering the ministry of the church?

Then in verse 3, he appeals to an unnamed person, someone he could trust to help these two women come to forgiveness and restore their relationship. This person, most likely a woman, may have been Lydia, who was the first Philippian convert. Early scholars suggested that this may have been Paul’s wife. Whoever this was, Paul was appealing to her to help bring restoration of the relationship between Euodia and Syntyche.

These two women were dedicated committed believers, who had served to advance the Gospel, but now they were wasting their energy on a fruitless argument. Not only that, they were also robbing themselves of joy. When you have a disagreement with someone and you refuse to forgive them, you are the one who suffers the most. You are robbing yourself of joy and even possibly your health.

Paul gently rebukes them, while at the same time he lovingly affirms them. Paul knows they are saved, but that they were not living out their calling and their fullest potential because they were living with unforgiveness. It’s not that they didn’t know Christ, but for a time, they had stepped away from the Lordship of Christ in their lives. This can happen to us at any-time as we fall into sin by giving in to temptation and step out of the Lordship of Christ over our lives. As soon as the Holy Spirit convicts us, we need to quickly repent and ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins (See 1 John 1:9).

Realistically we will always have disagreements in the church over matters of opinion, but we need to quickly repent and seek restoration, always remembering the mission, the greater purpose of the church.

What do you need to let go of today?

Who do you need to forgive?

Who do you need to ask for forgiveness?

Psalm 133

Hearing God’s voice March 3, 2019

Psalm 29 and Romans 12

When I have my devotional time with the Lord in the morning, I have developed the routine of reading a Psalm and then a chapter from the New Testament. As I meditate on the Word, I am frequently amazed to find that the two passages are linked around a certain theme.

The Lord speaks through His word to us and as I take time to be still and know… I hear from the Lord and am encouraged.

This morning I read Psalm 29 and Romans 12, at first glance there seems little that connects these two passages. Then I was reminded of a conversation that we had yesterday.

A group of us were taking a break from painting and the conversation led to the unfathomable majesty of God as it is displayed in creation. Psalm 29 mentions the power of God and that He is due all glory and majesty as He sits in the splendor of His holiness (Psalm 29:2).

As the conversation developed we began to discuss how God leads us as we have to make daily decisions that affect the course of our lives. To be followers of Jesus, we must submit ourselves to His perfect will for our lives, the difficulty comes in discerning what that will for our lives.

Sometimes we wrestle with the big decisions such as, marriage, career, international mission trips or buying a house, to mention a few. How can we know the will of God for a specific situation? What we are talking about is hearing the voice of God.

Psalm 29, as I read it this morning mentions, “the voice of the Lord”, seven times between verses 3 and nine. The voice of the Lord in Psalm 29 describes God’s general revelation of Himself through creation. The Psalmist pictures the voice of the Lord as crashing thunder, earthquakes, floodwaters and mighty winds.

Years ago, I used to love walking along a deserted beach during the fiercest storms and howling winds. My shouting prayers would be swallowed up by the power of God’s wind and rain. I felt the presence of the Lord and He spoke to me in those times, bringing clarity and direction when I needed it most.

In order to hear God’s voice, we need to position ourselves where we are ready to hear. It may be a walk in a storm or a silent prayer room, but our position needs to be one of submission and expectation. Sit with the Bible open, read with expectation, praying with intensity. As we walk with the Lord, as we mature in our faith, we begin to recognize the voice of God. He may speak to us through nature, through the Bible, through the Holy Spirit or through wise counsel of a mature believer.

This is where the New Testament reading connected in my morning meditation. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

The key to knowing the voice of God, is a renewed mind. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:16 that we have the mind of Christ. At first this sounds impossible to us; how can we have the mind of the creator God? But as we are transformed into the image of Christ, as we mature and submit our will daily to the perfect will of the Father, we will find that our decision making is led by the Holy Spirit. Spiritual maturity is being transformed by the renewal of our minds. This is not an immediately completed work when we become a Christian, nor is it ever completed on this side of Heaven. But, as we mature, as our minds are renewed, we are able to discern the will of God as Romans 12:2 says.

The tragedy is that too many Christians do not mature, and as a result they are tossed about like a rudderless boat in a storm. Everyday we make decisions that have eternal consequences, let us ensure that we submit ourselves daily to the will of God and then position ourselves where we can hear His voice.