The Church Part 3 Missions 11/22/15


Text: Matthew 5:13-16

What we are called to do as a church? What is our primary Mission?

It is clear that Evangelism is an outward function of the church. In Matthew 5 we read that Jesus was teaching a small group of his disciples, his closest followers. As he is teaches he makes two statements; firstly in verse 13 he says; “You are the salt of the Earth”, and in verse 14; “you are the light of the World”.

As we come to the end of another year, we as a church are looking forward to the future of Grace Point, what is God doing and what is God calling us to do? One of the first things we want to see in the natural sense is growth; new families coming to church, our church growing. And by the grace of God we are seeing that. However how do we do that? What is the method? I believe that it is very simple. Just do what Jesus commanded us to do, “Go into all the World and preach the Gospel”.

The church will only grow as we GO, and the going is evangelism, proclaiming the message of the Gospel.

Looking at those two statements that Jesus made in Matthew 5, you are the salt of the earth and the light of the World. Notice he said, you ARE salt and light. You as a believer have the gift of the Holy Spirit living inside you, the Bible shows us in Acts 1:8 that you have received power to be witnesses for Jesus Christ. As Christians, you are empowered to be the salt and the light, the decision is yours whether or not you are going to live that out.

In what Jesus is saying here, essentially, salt and light serve the same function, to influence for good. But I want you to notice the area of influence. Salt operates internally, it gets into the mix, when salt gets into a stew, you don’t see it, but you can taste it. In just the same way, we as Christians can only influence the world by being a part of the mix, working and influencing from within. What does salt do? It preserves, it flavors, and it promotes thirst. As Christians, we need to be people who promote a thirst for righteousness. Do people look at your life and ask what makes you different?

Then we have the metaphor of light; light brings radiance and clarity. Light operates from the outside and shines. Light also exposes sin and wipes away darkness. Jesus used the imagery of light to describe himself (see John 8:12).  Are you a follower of Jesus? Then you have the light of life, let that light shine (See also Proverbs 4:18-19).

So what are we to do?  We are called to live for Jesus, to share the Gospel message and to let our lives shine. But if you are like me, we like to measure our effectiveness, and in our western culture that is numbers, results, and fruit. But the Bible is clear that our part is to declare the Gospel, we speak it out as clearly and as persuasively as we can, but the Holy Spirit is the one who brings about the conviction of sin leading to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit does the conviction and the work, not us.  Successful evangelism is sharing the Gospel.

Sharing the Gospel is a discipline, it needs to be prioritized in our lives. One of the primary reasons we don’t share the Gospel is because we don’t prioritize it, we don’t discipline ourselves. Much the same way in which we don’t get enough sleep, eat properly or exercise enough. Sharing the Gospel is a command of Jesus to all the church, to all of us. Can we really stand before Jesus one day and say that our careers or hobbies kept us too busy to share the Gospel? We are so focused on temporal things that we don’t prioritize the eternal things in life.

We also must realize that Satan and his demons will do everything they can to stop the proclamation of the Gospel. Evangelism is spiritual warfare, so we need to know and use the weapons of our warfare, the Word of God, as we discussed last week, and prayer. Without prayer, our evangelism is weak and ineffective (see Mathew 9:37-38).

It is clear that evangelism or mission is a foundational pillar of the church, and the purpose of this article is not to make you feel guilty for not sharing the gospel, rather it is to encourage you because if you are not sharing the Gospel you are missing out on one of the greatest joys in life. Witnessing the Holy Spirit transform someone’s life is exhilarating, you get to see the greatest miracle known to man as a life is transformed from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light.


The Church Part 2 The Word of God 11/16/15

Text: 2 Timothy 3:10-17

True discipleship, discipleship that encourages us to live a victorious Christian life, is discipleship based on the Word of God. The Bible is central to the church and central to our lives.

In Paul’s second letter to Timothy chapter 3 and verse 16 Paul says; “all scripture is God breathed…” we believe that this means that all scripture is fully inspired by the Holy Spirit. Humanly speaking, the Bible was written by approximately 40 men of diverse backgrounds over the course of 1500 years. Despite being penned by different authors over 15 centuries, the Bible does not contradict itself. The authors all present different perspectives, but they all proclaim the same one true God, and the same one way of salvation—Jesus Christ.

The purpose of Bible study is not just to understand doctrines or to be able to defend the faith, as important as these things are. The ultimate purpose is the equipping of the believers who read it. It is the Word of God that equips God’s people to do the work of God.

The Bible is our authority. The Word of God needs to be the authority we turn to when we are faced with difficult decisions and challenges. Without this foundational authority the church has no relevance and is simply another social club or community gathering.

So since this series is about the church – the 4 foundational pillars of the church, how do we allow the Bible – the Word of God to define our purpose and give us direction? What does the Bible say about the local church?

Here are some basic questions that every church should ask themselves, and the answer each time is found in the Bible.

  1. What shall we do?  – A major function of the church is the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).  These are the instructions Jesus gave to the disciples as he was about to ascend into heaven. This still applies to us today, Jesus never said – “build big buildings” no he said, God and tell. If we are to be a church following Jesus the head of the church, we will be a church on mission.
  2. What shall we believe? – God has revealed the truth about him and us in the Bible. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

There is no other Gospel (good news) anyone who teaches anything other than the true Gospel message is preaching a false doctrine.

  1. How shall we worship? – God tells us how to approach him in public worship. The true God spoke and told people how to approach him, when the veil was torn, we were given access to the throne of God. (John 4:22-24)
  2. How shall we live together in our local church? God created the church, therefore the author is in authority and how it should function is in the Bible. The Apostle Paul spends a lot of time writing to churches in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Thessalonica, Colossae, and throughout these letters we see him correcting abuse, restoring order and giving instructions for church order. God gave us a written manual. It is a manual for our personal lives and it is a manual for the church.

That is the Word of God for the Church, but what about you and me as individuals? What does the Bible say about the pressing issues of life?

Let’s look at some examples that apply to our personal lives.


  • What does the Bible say about our finances and worrying? Look what Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-27.
  • What does the Bible say about amassing wealth?  Read Matthew 6:19-21
  • What does the Bible say about the poor?  Read what Jesus said to his followers in Matthew 25:37-40.
  • What does the Bible say about praying for the sick? Read what James wrote in James 5:14-15.
  • What does the Bible say about caring for the elderly and widows and orphans; see James 1:27
  • What does the Bible say about giving to the ministry of the Lords church? Read Malachi 3:10.
  • What does the Bible say about being a part of a local church? Read what the writer says in Hebrews 10:24 and 25.
  • What does the Bible say about sin? Look at Romans 3:23; and in Romans 6:23, we are all sinners.
  • What does the Bible say about eternal life? Romans 6:23 goes on to say; “..but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Read the Bible, study and meditate on the Word. Let God speak to you as you read and the Holy Spirit will reveal truth to you.

This Bible contains your Heavenly Father’s love letter to you, He wrote it for you, it is your daily bread, it is your sword of the spirit and it is the truth that gives light to your path.

The Bible is no ordinary collection of pages and ink; it is supernatural in its authoring, it is supernatural in its reading and it is supernatural in its application.

Let us become people of the Word, people who know and apply the Word of God to all situations in our lives.

The Church Part 1 – Worship 11/9/15

From www.untilallarereached.comSo what is the church?

It goes without saying that the church is not a building. Although we designate the building as a church building, it is not the church. We do not “go to church” we go to a building where the church meets.

The first and primary function of the church is Worship.

What is Worship? Is worship singing? Is it a church service a worship service? Do we only worship on a Sunday morning? The word “Worship” comes from the old English word which is made up of two words, Worth and Ship. We worship what we give value to, what we think about, what we dwell on. It is not just singing, or meditating, although that is a large part of worship. We worship by the way we use our money, we worship in the way we work, we worship by the way we share the Gospel with others, we worship in the way we spend our free time. Our lives are to be a living testimony as we show what we value. We are to worship God with our lives.

A wonderful example of worship is Psalm 96.

As we study this Psalm we see that is can be divided into 4 distinct parts.

1. A call to praise the Lord  (verses 1-3)

Three times in the first three lines, the composer says “Sing to the Lord”, this is pretty clear that when we focus on the presence and greatness of the Lord, we are compelled to sing out.

The result of singing about the greatness of God is that we proclaim his salvation, what God has done for us. For the nation of Israel at this time, it was a recalling of their deliverance from Egypt, and their claiming the promised land. For us it is the glory of the cross and our salvation bought by the sacrifice of Jesus. As we do this we declare the good works of God among the nations – this sounds a lot like the Great Commission (Matthew 28). The Gospel is a call to worship, to turn from sin and call on the name of the Lord. (Ephesians 1:12)

The main point of these first three verses is that if we truly grasp the greatness of God, how incredibly awesome he is, we will make him known to others, we will tell of the goodness of God, the Good news, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

2. A focus on the greatness of God. (verses 4-6)

These three verses seem to reflect Psalm 93 as the author focuses on the majesty and greatness of God as opposed to the man-made idols. And let us remember that we still have idols today, anything that takes the place of God in our lives, whether it is a relationship, money, etc. these are all Idols, things that capture our attention.

Everything in our worship services, should be to draw attention to this God and to cause people to think about him. When we focus on the greatness of God, praise is the natural response. (Revelation 4:11)

3. A focus on our coming to God in worship. (verses 7-10)

In verses 7 and 8 we see the word “Ascribe” used 3 times. This word means to write down, to credit these things to God, to make note of it. What we find in these verses is that the focus is on giving credit to God, to give an offering of praise, to make a sacrifice of praise. We need to fiercely guard against coming to worship God out of routine and habit. Our worship is about God and not us, we are giving credit to Him for his attributes. (see Hebrews 13:15)

As verse 8 continues, we see that as we bring this sacrifice of praise, we are invited to come into his courts, we are invited to come into the presence of God. As a result of what Jesus did on the cross, we have access to the throne room of God, the Holy of Holies, we are invited to worship God in the splendor of his holiness.

If we think it is a simple matter of walking into God’s presence we are reminded that as we encounter the presence of God we will tremble before him, it is no small thing to come into the presence of the Almighty.

But the truth is that it is God who has initiated the communion. He is the one who invites us to join Him in fellowship. True worship also flows out of seeing and realizing God for Who he is. Genuine worship is not something that is self-generated or something that we can work up in our emotions, rather it is a natural response to the realization of who God is.

Then as we come to verse 10 we once again focus on evangelism, missions telling the nations about the Good News. As we come into the presence of God, the natural response will be to tell others.

Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church, Worship is. Missions exist because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate and not man. John Piper

But missions must never supersede worship. Missions is a temporary necessity, worship will continue forever. Worship is the fuel and goal of missions, In order for us to direct others to Jesus, we need to come from a place of intimacy and worship. Where passion for God is weak, zeal for missions will be weak.

4. A focus on all of creation waiting for the coming of the Lord. (verses 11-13)

In these verses we read of the entirety of creation rejoicing, why?

Because he comes! Jesus is coming again. All of creation is waiting for that day with excitement, because it was not only mankind that suffered because of sin, but all of creation is suffering. The world is deteriorating because of the fall of man. All of creation is designed to reveal the Glory of God (Psalm 19).

Not only is He coming, but he is coming to judge the world. This judgment is the act by which God will restore things to their proper order. Wrongs will be put right, the suffering that we are undergoing because of the evil in the world will be ended. Suffering from injustice will be made right. All of creation is looking forward to that divine restoration.

In biblical worship, God has already acted on the behalf of the worshiper. In fact, it is God who provides the means for a sinner to draw near to him, and thus is it God who invites those who come with a true heart in full assurance of faith to draw near to him and worship.

Serving one Another 10/25/15



Text: Mark 10:35-45

This account in Mark’s Gospel took place on the road to Jerusalem, Jesus was walking with his disciples on the way to his final destination before his crucifixion, and as he is walking he was telling them that he was about to die. He did not speak in figurative language, but told it plainly as we read in Mark 10:33 – 34. Their request revealed their own selfish ambition and gross misunderstanding of what Jesus was about to do. They still were expecting him to go to Jerusalem, overthrow the Roman government in a fantastic display of supernatural power and setup his throne in an earthly kingdom.But Jesus is patient and explained to them that he must drink a cup and undergo baptism. This time Jesus uses symbolism and they didn’t understand. But the cup represented the cup of the wrath of God that was about to be poured out over Jesus as he took on the sins of the world on the cross. The baptism that Jesus was referring to was the symbol of judgment, in the Old Testament, the great flood was a picture of the judgment of God on mankind. Jesus was predicting his suffering and judgment.

You see the disciples were making the same mistake that we make today, we follow the wrong examples. The disciples were looking at the glory and authority of the Roman rulers, and their hearts were set on being important, being recognized by man, making a name for themselves. We today look at the people on the big stages of life and want to be like that person, we make idols out of “successful people” we want to be known for who we know.

While there is nothing wrong with having ambition of great aspirations, being driven to excellence by a goal is not a bad thing, but we must be careful how we define greatness. This is where the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world clash. Jesus defined greatness in a whole new light. Jesus came to be a servant, the greatest man who ever walked the earth, described himself as the servant of all.  Jesus the King of kings, was also the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. If Jesus Christ followed this pattern in accomplishing the great work of redemption, then surely there is no other pattern for us to follow. Unless we know how to obey orders, we do not have the right to give orders. Before a person exercises authority, he or she must know what it means to be under authority.

In John 13, we read the account of Jesus washing the disciple’s feet. They were sitting or reclining at the table where they were about to feast in celebration of the Passover. They had all walked some distance and their feet were probably very dirty, and it was customary to have a servant of the house wash the feet of the guests. Since they were hosting their own Passover celebration, who would wash their feet?


Maybe one of the disciples who was chosen last, who hadn’t walked with them since the beginning?  But then Jesus does the unthinkable, he stuns the room and begins washing the disciple’s feet. In one practical step of service, Jesus redefined service, and he also redefined leadership. This is the Kingdom of God, it is upside down, it is counterintuitive, and it goes against everything we have been taught about leadership and self-worth. But my friends there is great freedom in this way of living.

However as we look at service, we must note that there are two types of service;

There is the self-righteous service that comes from human effort and the desire to be recognized. Doing things in order to make us feel good about ourselves or to build some kind of a “good works resume”. My friends this type of service is a hard task master, and leads to little long lasting peace. Self-righteous service actually tears down community and often leads to gossip and discontent.

Then there is the true service, the person who does not seek recognition, who is quite happy to work content in the shadows. Never seeking or expecting recognition. These people minister simply because there is a need and they have the ability to meet that need.  True service builds community and respect, quietly going about caring for the needs of others. This type of service draws people together, heals wounds, and builds a community.

We have to decide between serving and being a servant; serving and being a servant. If you serve, you are still in control and you can decide when to pull the plug and demand an out.

However when you choose to be a servant, you give up the right to be in charge, and there is tremendous freedom in that. As a servant, we give up our rights as Jesus commands us to, we become available and vulnerable. But in the Kingdom of God that is where the true value is to be found as Jesus said in our text; “and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”

Below are six practical examples of ways in which we can become servants.

1) There is the service of giving up your time to help someone else.

2) There is the service of guarding someone’s reputation. (avoiding gossip and slander)

3) There is the service of common courtesy.

4) There is the service of hospitality.

5) Then there is the service of listening.

6) Finally there is the service of sharing the Gospel message with someone else.

Series on James Part 5 Pray for healing 10/20/15


Text: James 5:13-20 Persistence in prayer

“Satan dreads nothing but prayer. His one concern is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, he mocks our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.”

Samuel Chadwick

But as we close our series on James, we come to two of the more difficult and controversial passages in the Bible, James 5:14 & 15.  This passage has been dealt with differently across the centuries; for example the Roman Catholic Church uses these verses as the basis of their practice to anoint a dying person with oil. But this doesn’t seem to fit the context, where James clearly says that the sick person will be made well.

Then we have those who believe that this only applies to the first century church and that we do not live in an age where God works in this way anymore, since we have access to modern medicine that negates our need of supernatural healing. I have multiple problems with this theory, not least of which is the fact that I have experienced supernatural healing myself and I have seen many people physically healed.

Then there is the other end of the spectrum, which is equally dangerous and that is the categorical claiming of healing. The proponents of this practice claim that if we have enough faith. The danger of this is the broken hearted people who come away disappointed that they have not been healed and have been told that it is their own fault that they were not healed. I cannot see the character of our Heavenly Father in that approach.

But as we read these verses, it is clear that James does not expect anything other than healing. He makes a clear categorical statement in v 15; “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well;” James does not give a time frame, but he says the healing will take place. As we study this topic it is important to look at the rest of the Bible. We don’t have to look further than the book of Job to see someone who went through incredible pain and suffering, without any relief for a long period of time. And again we see in 2 Cor 12, how Paul was given a thorn in the flesh, some kind of painful ailment that tormented him. Three times he prayed earnestly and agonized in prayer over this ailment, but the Lords response was; “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So both Job and Paul understood that the pain and suffering they were going through was at the will of God and that ultimately He was working all things for His glory.


With all that said, God can and chooses to heal in answer to prayer – that is how He works. We must never give up praying for the sick, we must be a people of faith and a people of prayer, we need to wrestle with this and apply it to our lives.

But what is the prayer of faith? We find the answer in 1 John 5:14 & 15. A prayer of faith is a prayer offered when we know the will of God, when we have spent time with God in prayer, discerning His will in the matter and then praying accordingly. Jesus also told his disciples that he never did anything apart from what The Father told him to do. Jesus never did anything outside of the will of the Father.

James also highlights the connection between sin and sickness as we see in verse 16. I want to make it clear that not all sickness is a result of sin, Jesus made this clear in his ministry as he healed the man born blind in John 9. But sin can cause sickness as Paul warns us in 1 Corinthians 11. God is more invested in the condition of your soul and your eternal salvation than he is in your temporal physical condition. He is going to allow sickness in your life to get your attention, repent and to bring you back to him. If you are sick, and the Holy Spirit reveals sin in your life, then confess it, make right with God and James assures us that you will be healed. Let’s get the right perspective here. We focus so much on praying for the sick, when often we need to be praying for their salvation.

God does heal today and prayer makes a difference. God our Heavenly Father loves it when His children come to him in humility and faith. We can have faith because by the cross we have the right standing with God, so that we can come before the throne of the Creator of the universe.

The key is faith, faith in the sovereignty of God. God is sovereign in all matters, but we must still come boldly in prayer – asking for healing. Relying on the promises of God’s word.

Saying that God is sovereign is not an excuse for not praying. Rather let’s pray boldly and ask for what we want, pray specifically for healing and then allow God to work in the individual’s life.

Let us never shy away from praying for the sick, because we don’t want to fail – God never fails, it is not up to you. He can defend Himself.

Let us never shy away from praying because we don’t feel qualified. If you have made Jesus Christ Lord of your life – you are a child of the King and He delights to hear from you in prayer. The blood of Jesus bought your access to the throne, don’t be hesitant to use that access.


Series on James Part 4 Taming the Tongue 10/11/15


Text: James 3:1-12 Taming the tongue

Whenever we speak about the tongue and the dangers of what damage can be done by the words we use, we cannot help but remember the times when we have said something inappropriate or said something that we wish we could take back.

The truth is that when we have said something, it is impossible to take it back. But James makes it clear that the instructions he is giving us are impossible to do (James 3:2 and 3:8). The tongue also betrays what is in our soul, what we are really thinking about. And then there is the damage that can be caused by the tongue, the character assassination, the gossip, the slander, the malicious talk (James 3:9).

If we only knew what it is we are doing when we slander someone else, or gossip. If we are slandering a fellow brother or sister in Christ, we are speaking badly about a child of God. Do we know what we are doing? The implications go far beyond a simple conversation between two people. How dare you and I destroy a person with our words, a person that Jesus Christ suffered and died for, and purchased with his blood.

So how do we fix this? How do we get back to using our words for good, to build up, to recognize and appreciate one another?

The first thing we need is a revelation of who God is.

In Isaiah 6:3-5 we read of the revelation that God gave to Isaiah the prophet that changed his life, it was his commissioning. Isaiah has a vision of heaven, he sees God seated on the throne in all his glory. Isaiah sees a vision of God and the first thing he says is, I am a man of unclean lips! I am ruined! He sees his utter depravity in the light of the Glory of God.

We need to understand that every word we utter is in the presence of God. God knows our every thought and every word we say. With this in mind, we need to repent, ask the Creator to forgive of every word that we have spoken against His creation. Repentance is recognizing our sin, asking God to forgive us and then turning in the opposite direction. Changing the way we speak.

In order to do this we need to make a commitment to using our words only in accordance with the will of God. I want to encourage you to make a covenant with your tongue. In the book of Job chapter 31, we read that Job made a covenant with his eyes not to look lustfully at women. But more than just a covenant with our eyes, we need a covenant with our ears, to only listen to that which is right and pure and holy as we read in Philippians 4:8. But what about a covenant with our tongue? James give us some help here, as we read throughout the book of James (1:19, 4:11, 5:9, 5:12, 5:13 and 5:16)

As we read these verses, we quickly realize how much we fall short of what the Word of God is calling us to, and the truth is that we will always fall short, we will never be perfect as James points out in our text. But what these verses do is they make us realize that we need a savior. We need Jesus to save us from our own selfish ways. As we turn to Jesus we have to look at the cross and the fact that when Jesus died on the cross he took on the sins of man, he bore the punishment that was due to us.

As we look at the life of Jesus we see a man who was perfect in all that he said and did, he never sinned. He never misspoke, he never gossiped, but he always spoke the truth in absolute perfect love.

I want to point out something very crucial in the life of Jesus, as Jesus stood before Pilate and Herod he was silent. He did not defend himself or try to explain himself. Jesus knew when he had to speak and when he had to remain silent. Jesus said that he only did what the Father told him to do. Jesus was silent because he was about to suffer the punishment for every word of slander that you and I speak every day. Everytime we are tempted to gossip or cut someone down with our words, let us remember what it cost Jesus to remain silent and take upon himself what was due to us.

But every one of us speaks with a spiritual accent, a tone that is evident in our words and our tone.

There are two kinds of accents that I am talking about, one is an accent that comes from being immersed in the things of the world. Listening to dirty jokes, immersing ourselves in television shows that try to convince us that the Bible is wrong on social and moral issues. We listen to music that fills our minds with impure thoughts. This all leads to a particular accent in the way we speak and interact with others.

Then there is another accent that we develop, this comes from spending time in the presence of Jesus. Allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to us and transform our thinking. As we are transformed on the inside, those who we interact with on the outside will see that our accent has changed. We speak as one who is walking with Jesus. Just like one learns and develops an accent, you learn and develop a way of speaking as one who is being led by the Holy Spirit. Your language will be marked by encouragement, optimism, and peace.

What accent do you speak with?


Series on James Part 3 Faith and Deeds 10/4/15


Text: James 2:14-26 – Faith and Deeds

There has been a great deal of discussion and comment regarding the apparent disagreement between the writing of Paul and the writing of James. We read in James 2:14; “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

But Paul writes in Romans 3:28; “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” This is what we believe that by what Jesus did on the cross, we can be forgiven and become righteous in God’s sight, not of anything we did to deserve it. That is the glory of the cross and the majesty of the grace of God. The beginning of all of our lives as Christians is that we are justified by faith alone.

So it seems that James is contradicting Paul. But we cannot take one verse of any writer in isolation and base our case on that, we need to see what else Paul wrote on the subject of faith and works. In fact, Paul became aware that his teaching on Justification by faith alone was being distorted and abused. People were taking what Paul wrote to the Roman church and saying; “if I sin, then the grace of God increases, because he forgives me all the more, and thus God gets more glory!” (Romans 3:7-8)

This is another example of Satan taking a good instruction and perverting it, by twisting the truth just a little. But Paul actually responds this this distortion of his teaching in just about every letter he writes after the book of Romans, virtually all his letters show that good works and love necessarily flow from real justifying faith in the work of Jesus Christ (see Galatians 5:6 and 13).

So we see that Paul is saying, you start with justification by faith alone, but then the product of that will be serving one another and demonstrating love. But let’s understand one thing, works that we do, the good things that we do, do not count in our favor with God. Rather the only thing that counts with God is faith, saving faith in the cross of Christ. What Paul clarifies and James also says is that faith in the cross of Christ gives us right standing with God, but then out of that flows love and good deeds that demonstrate the completed work of Christ in our lives.

In fact what Paul is against is the works of the law, the religious rituals of dietary rules, circumcision, and Sabbath keeping as a form of salvation as we see Pauls letter to the Galatians chapter 3-4. For Paul, faith was way more than simply belief in orthodox doctrines, but a commitment to Christ. Unfortunately this is still prevalent today in our culture, people have an intellectual belief in Christ, but not a heart belief. They believe in the facts and historic Christianity, but they don’t have a saving knowledge and faith in Jesus Christ.

Then James uses two examples from the Old Testament to make his point clear, to show that real faith is demonstrated by a changed life.

Firstly James mentions Abraham, we read in Genesis 15 the salvation experience of Abraham. During an encounter with God, Abraham is taken outside at night, and God tells him to try to count the stars, and the he will have as many descendants as the stars in the sky. Abraham believes God and Genesis 15:5-6 tells us that his faith was credited to him as righteousness – a perfect and right standing before God.

Abraham did not work for this righteousness, he received it as a gift from God. He was justified by faith. We see in the life of Abraham how he lived as a man of faith, his actions displayed his faith. James mentions the account from Genesis 22 when God tests Abraham and instructed him to sacrifice his own son, the son of the promise. Abraham obeys, and God intervenes to stop the death of Isaac, but Abraham was not saved by passing this test, rather passing of the test was proof of his justified position with God by faith.


Then James goes to the opposite end of the spectrum in verse 25, he mentions Rahab. Rahab was not heroic like Abraham, she was not of good character. Yet Rahab, when she heard the spies, she knew and believed in the God of the children of Israel. She believed that her city was condemned, she went on to demonstrate her faith by protecting the spies. As a result of her actions, she and her family were saved.

Her mind knew the truth, her heart was stirred by the truth and her will acted on the truth.

So why do some people respond to the Gospel message and some simply have a faith that is stagnant and dead? Jesus tells a parable that explains this perfectly, the parable of the sower and the 4 soils that is found in Matthew 13.


In the Parable of the Sower Jesus described four kinds of soil. Only one out of four represented those with saving faith, the kind of faith that produces fruit.

Which soil represents your life?

An authentic lifestyle of faith does not only happen on a Sunday morning – it must permeate our lives and affect the way we live from day to day. How we speak, how we react when placed under pressure, how we respond when unjustly treated, how we care for the poor and the broken in our community.

This is a living faith, a growing faith and it is a dangerous faith, it simply must affect everything that we do. We step forward, not because we can do it, but because God tells us to, and we trust him for the resources and the strength.

Living a life of faith will always look dangerous, but it is never risky!

Series on James Part 2 Hearing and Doing 9/28/15



Text: James 1:19-27

Hearing and Doing the Word

This week we read a section from the epistle that is titled “Listening and Doing”.  As we look at these verses, it seems like James is writing a random collection of brief instructions. But since the Holy Spirit inspired James to put this all in these verses, they are not just random instructions, they fit together and apply to our lives in a very meaningful way. What ties this all together is what James calls the Word. The Word of God (see verse 18). And then five times James goes on to references the Word and the Law. So what he is saying in essence is that we need to listen to the Word of God, listen carefully, let it inhabit our lives and then in the second portion of the text, James says now, go and do what it say.

Looking briefly at these two aspects of listening or receiving and then doing.

James mentions three aspects of receiving the Word.

Firstly he says; we must submit ourselves to the Word, “be quick to listen”. The Word of God is our guide, it is the living Word of God to us. If our reading of the Bible is simply a lifeless formality of getting through a chapter or two everyday but we don’t allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us through it, we are wasting our time. This is what James means to submit to the Word, to listen and allow the Word of God to guide us and be our primary source of direction, by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

The second point that James makes is that as we receive the Word, we must do so with purity (verse 21). What he is saying here is that before we can take in the word and allow it to produce fruit in our lives, we need to deal with sin. Holiness is something we need to strive for (see Romans 13:12).

Thirdly he says in verse 21, that we must receive the word in humility. One of the reasons people don’t want to hear the word of God is because they have it all figured out. They have all the answers to life and don’t need God telling them what to do. But in order to receive the Word of God, we need to come humbly, acknowledging our dependence on the Jesus, the Word of God in the flesh. He alone can save us.

But receiving the Word is only one part of it, we need to put it into practice. We need to become doers of the Word as James says in verse 22, and in verse 25, we see that the person who looks intently at the Law – the law that gives freedom, is the one who will be blessed in what they do. What James is talking about here is the law that Jesus fulfilled (see Matthew 5:17).  Notice James doesn’t say, he will be blessed by simply reading the Word. No, he is blessed by meditating or intently reading the Word and then doing.  If you look intently on the word of God, it is going to change the way in which you live. The word of God will reflect in your life, in the way you speak, think and act.

But truly hearing the Word of God will also flow over into the way in which you care for others (1 John 3:10). This leads us to verse 27, and this is the culmination of all James is talking about in this portion. The NASB translates verse 27 as; “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

But James is saying here that Pure Religion, right religion that is acceptable to God is works coupled with a relationship with almighty God. We are listening for His voice, and then being obedient to what he says. We need to be reminded that everything we do, is in the presence of God, our speech, our thoughts, our actions our response to the needy, all of this is in the presence of God.

As I looked at the call to care for widows and orphans in this verse, I wondered how this fits into our context in Kansas City in 2015. Well it is obvious that in our church and community we have a number of widows and widowers. People who are lonely and possibly homebound. How are we caring for the widows and widowers in our community? Theirs is more often than not an emotional and compassionate need as they wrestle with daily loneliness. As a church we do a reasonable job of caring for the elderly in our congregation.  But then I starting thinking about another group of people in our community. The single moms and the children who are growing up not knowing their fathers. These too are modern day widows and orphans. Many of these single moms are struggling to make ends meet. Many are not getting any form of child support and they are trying to work and sometimes study at the same time to make a better life for their children. It occurred to me that there are three basic needs for a single mom; Work, Housing and Childcare. Without work they cannot pay rent. Without childcare they cannot work. It is a vicious cycle. And then you have the children, who have no fathers, and moms who are so busy trying to make ends meet that they are unable to provide the emotional and spiritual training that a young child needs.

How are we doing as a church family in this sphere? This is a new and very real part of our society and community. We cannot simply ignore it and hope that they will make it. No I believe we can make a difference as God leads us, to save families and children for the Glory of God. Because that should be our only motivation.

Series on James Part 1 9/20/15


Text – James 1:2-12

This is the first part in a five part series on the Epistle of James, that small book that is packed with practical advice for Christian living and some challenging words that were relevant to the first century church, but they are very relevant to us today in the 21st century.

James is the half-brother of Jesus and the oldest son of Mary and Joseph. James was one of the brothers of Jesus who did not recognize that he was the son of God, but we read in 1 Corinthians 15 that Jesus appeared specifically to James after his resurrection and then everything changed for James. He had an encounter with the risen Lord and he knew that Jesus was God in the flesh. James becomes one of the premier leaders of the early church.

The people James was writing to had fled persecution, probably in a foreign land having left everything behind. If you want a picture of what they experienced, just turn on the evening news and see the refugees flooding into Europe. Those are trials, losing loved ones, losing all property, losing a sense of justice.

For us today, this is not a question of whether or not we will have trials, no, it is when we have trials. Trials are a promise of scripture (see John 16:33). The reality is that God brings trials our way, to mature us, to strengthen us, to make us more like Jesus. Jesus knew trials, rejection, abuse, discouragement, and physical pain – if this was the way of our Lord, why should we expect any different.

James tells us that when we experience this pain, we should not shy away from it, rather we should rejoice! The Word of God commands us to rejoice in the dark times, but how is this possible?

You may be in the midst of a dark trial, you have almost given up hope, you see no end to the pain and the cares of the world are crushing the life out of you. You do not feel the slightest hint of joy. I want to encourage you with two reasons why you can have hope and how you can have joy in the midst of trials;

Firstly; for those who have committed their lives to Jesus Christ, trials are a pathway to maturity. Look at v4: “4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” We all know that life is full of painful mistakes, it often starts with how we learn to walk, we do this by falling down many times until we get it right. The reality is that life is full of painful experiences, and if we try to avoid them, we simply avoid growing and maturing.

I invite you to read this excellent essay by A.W. Tozer called;   Miracles follow the Plow;

God loves you too much to leave you as a fallow field that never experiences the miracle of new life that follows the plow. Today you may be experiencing the plow in your life, it is painful and you are feeling like everything is being turned upside down and broken. The fact that you are going through pain and suffering is reason to rejoice because the creator of the universe is so interested in you, so invested in you, that He is refining you. He is working away those self-dependencies, those parts of your life that are not totally committed to Him. He is refining your life so that it will bring Glory to His name, people will look at your life and it will be a testimony of the faithfulness of God.

This is still very difficult to grasp, especially when the dark clouds are blocking out the sun in your life. The key to this understanding is the next point and we find it in verse 5, ““5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

Secondly; this verse seems out of place in this letter. Looking at the previous verses, we see James writing about pain, suffering, trials, perseverance and maturity. And then in verse 5 he seems to lose that track and start writing like Solomon in the book of Proverbs, why is this?

What is wisdom? The Webster Dictionary defines wisdom as; “the ability to understand things that most other people cannot understand”.  Knowledge is gained by learning, wisdom is knowing how to apply that knowledge.

How does that apply to the previous 3 verses of this opening chapter in James? It actually fits perfectly, James is saying in effect, if you don’t understand why you are going through trials, if you are unable to “consider it pure Joy”. If you are wrestling with the goodness of God, then you should ask God for wisdom. Wisdom to see things from God’s perspective, to be able to see things from an eternal perspective. When we view trials in the light of eternity, they shrink rapidly. Wisdom to understand that whatever I am going through is ultimately going to be used by God for my good and for His glory.

As Christians we are not promised lives that never go through any pain or difficulties. No, we are in fact promised to experience difficulties, but in the midst of these we are commanded to consider it Pure Joy. These trials are not sent to break us, but rather they are a given to us by the grace of God, to get our attention, to mature us, to strengthen us and to grow our faith in our Heavenly Father.

Jesus knows about pain. Jesus gave up his position in heaven, and became nothing, he became homeless, and rejected, abused, betrayed, disowned, beaten, crucified and murdered. The creator of the universe went through the ultimate pain of having God the Father turn his back on him and forsake him. This would have been pain unimaginable. Nothing we can ever experience will come close. Why did he do that? He did it so that you and I might have life, and have life in abundance, real life now and eternal life with him when he comes again. In the midst of your pain, you can lift up your head and rejoice, because as we see in verse 12 we will receive the crown of Life! This is the abundant life, joy in spite of circumstances, Joy in spite of pain. Joy now, not some distant hope in the future when everything gets better.

The crown of life is truly knowing the blessing and smile of God on your life in the midst of the maturing process. And then also the crown of life is eternal life, eternity with God starts when you commit your life to Jesus as your personal lord and savior.

Joshua part 5 The results of faith/ Possess your possessions. 9/6/15


Text Joshua 4:14-5:1

The record of the Children of Israel crossing the Jordan is an account of incredible faith, nothing that they did under the leadership of Joshua made any sense. Militarily it made no sense to do what they did. Here we have a nation going across the river to conquer the land. They invaded the land, by sending in front of them a small band of unarmed men carrying a golden box. Then the invading nation crossed into the land with their women and children, livestock and all their possessions. They were not very mobile – a very poor move strategically. They also crossed the river with no way out,  this was a one way crossing, the river returned to flood stage behind them, ahead of them lay many armies and nations that wanted to kill them. Israel did not know what they would face on the other side of the Jordan, but they trusted God.

Living a life of faith has multiple benefits as we trust the promises of the Word of God, here are two very important benefits;

Firstly living by faith brings Glory to God. When the children of Israel crossed the Jordan in the most remarkable way, news spread throughout the land (Joshua 5:1).

When you step out in faith and do something that may seem crazy in the eyes of those around you, God alone gets the glory.

Secondly, as we step out in faith we get the blessing of drawing closer to God. When the children of Israel crossed the river in faith they had their eyes on one thing, the ark of the covenant, the symbol of the presence and the promises of God. As you step out in faith, you feel the presence of God in your life. Sometimes you feel his nearness because you are simply desperate for him in a way that you have never experienced before.

The Children of Israel were promised this land, and now they were beginning the task of possessing the land God promised them. God has given us great and wonderful promises, he has given us possessions, spiritual gifts, blessings that are ours right now. When you and I turned to Jesus as our personal Lord and savior, we received the Holy Spirit and we received spiritual gifts along with that (2 Peter 1:3).

In many ways the parallels between the Christian life and the children of Israel are very clear. They miraculously crossed the Jordan into the land that God had given to them. But they had to fight for it. With Him fighting for them, they saw God win many miraculous victories, battles that seemed impossible, but God won the victory for the armies of Israel. God was building a nation that would know him and bring Glory to his name.

When you and I make the decision to die to our old self and make Jesus Christ the Lord of our lives, we aren’t immediately changed into people who never struggle with sin, who never have problems in life, who always know exactly what to do in any given situation. No, we begin a journey, and that journey is the process by which God, by his love for us, allows us to go through experiences and challenges. Learning to walk by faith and trust our Heavenly Father, in order that we might become more like Christ. The process is called sanctification, and it leads us and those around us to glorify God as we see the process unfolding.

Sanctification is a gradual process and sometimes we forget who we are.  Do you know you are Gods special Possession? You are special to God. The creator of the universe, thinks you are special (see 1 Peter 2:9).

Further we read in chapter 9 of the book of Joshua that the Gibeonites tricked Joshua into a treaty that would ensure their protection, this seemed like a good idea at the time, because it provided cheap labor for the rebuilding of the cities, but it would come back to bite the nation of Israel as history shows us.

When God is working his purpose in your life, do not leave any enemies behind. Do not make a pact with something in your life that you know is not in accordance with the will of God. Do not leave the devil a foothold in your life, he will use that to destroy you.

As God points to things in your life, deal with them. God is calling us to a lifestyle of holiness (See Hebrews 12:14). And holiness will also lead to  a life of fruitfulness.

As we end the series on Joshua, the central message of the book of Joshua is;

“unreserved obedience is the key to seeing God move in Power.”

Joshua was obedient and saw God move in incredible ways.

Are we being obedient to God? If we want to prosper as Joshua did, then we need to act as he did; being strong and courageous. Stepping out in faith.