May 13, 2018 Mothers Day

Mother’s Day is a wonderful time to celebrate mothers. But what about spiritual mothers?

In the world today, there is a huge need for spiritual mothers. Some people have the tendency to think that after their own children are out of the home, their role as a mother is minimized. But the church needs spiritual mothers.

The Apostle Paul had spiritual mothers, in Romans 16, he sends greetings to a list of people, and in verse 13 he says, “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.”

Most mother’s days, the pastor tends to focus a message towards mothers in the church. But Mother’s Day is not a pleasant day for everyone. For those who long to be mothers and are not able to have children, Mother’s Day is extremely painful. For young women who want to be married and have children, it can also be painful and disconnected from where they are in life.

But today I want to change our focus. While not everyone is a mother – we all have mothers. We all are here today because someone carried us for nine months and gave birth to us. The Bible says that we are to honor our mothers (See Ephesians 6:1-3).  Here Paul quotes the ten commandments, and he adds a little commentary by saying, this is the first commandment with a promise.

This passage from Ephesians 6, is in the middle of an extended portion where Paul is addressing all our human relationships. Wives and husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters, or our modern work relationships, and then he ends with section with an exhortation to put on the full armor of God, because our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but rather against all the spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6v12).

Why does he end this whole section with this seemingly disconnected challenge to spiritual warfare?

Because, Satan is constantly out to destroy relationships, to tear down the bond of families, to destroy our love and respect for each other. God ordained families to be the place where children are raised up to know and love Him, to learn the truth about love, respect, and the Gospel. Our families are under attack daily and we need to be aware of this. The best way for families to be strong, is to pray together, it is no small thing for families to pray together, and often it is the mother who must take the initiative and lead this.

What does it mean to “honor” your mother? If you’re a child, then it means to obey, to submit to her authority. And not just to do what she says, but to yield graciously, willingly and cheerfully. Simply doing what you are told, with a bad attitude it not honoring. True obedience flows from a heart attitude that freely accepts the mother’s rightful authority.

Parental authority is given by God, and so the attitude the child develops toward the parent’s authority will be the attitude they develop towards God’s authority. Parents, if you allow your children to ignore and despise your authority over them, then they will learn to ignore and despise God’s authority over them as well.

What about children who are out of the home? An adult child is no longer obligated to comply with the desires and wishes of their parent, you and I have a choice to listen, evaluate the request and to choose whether or not to comply with the request of our parent. Sometimes, parents can be quite overbearing and use this scripture verse to manipulate and control their adult child. but this is not what God intended with this commandment.

Honoring is not blind obedience, it is respect and courtesy, taking time to hear their opinion, treating our mothers with honor is as simple as giving them time.

Honoring your mother also includes how you speak to her, and about her. This applies both to young people and to adults. Pay attention to your tone of voice when you’re talking with your mother, is it kind, gentle, gracious? Or is it impatient, angry or bitter?  Your tone of voice reflects your heart attitude.

Another thing we can do to honor our mothers is to praise them, to verbally acknowledge their virtues and accomplishments, to give thanks for all the things they do for us.

Husbands, acknowledge and praise your wives, this is a crucial way to develop an honoring culture in your home. Children will learn how to treat their mother by watching how you treat her, and if you are regularly praising and thanking her, then they will too.

Our mothers are a gift from God, the blessings that we receive from our mothers are from God (James 1:17). The good characteristics that we see in our mothers, the creativity, the strength, the wisdom, the love and so much more come from God. Let us remember as we honor mothers, to praise God for mothers.

But we can talk about honoring mothers, respecting them and obeying them, however as followers of Jesus Christ our ultimate loyalty must be Christ. Jesus is the one who paid for our sins by dying on the cross for us, Jesus was raised from the dead by God and Jesus is the one who paid for our eternal life. As well-meaning and wonderful as our mothers may be, as followers of Jesus Christ, our lives belong to him. As we seek to live our lives as followers of Jesus, ultimately, we answer to him as Lord of our lives (Matthew 10:37-39).

We are to love and honor our mothers, because there is blessing in that as the commandment says, but even more than that, we need to love and honor Christ. Are you doing that?

Mothers and fathers, are you pointing your children to the savior, are you encouraging them to love Christ even more than they love you?

May 6, 2018 – Saul – An Encounter with Jesus

Acts 9:1-24

Over the next few weeks we are going to be looking at the life of the Apostle Paul. The man Saul, changes his name to Paul in to have a name that would not hinder his ministry to the Gentiles.

Saul, didn’t grow up as the great missionary, apostle and writer of almost a third of the New Testament. Saul was the exact opposite, but one day, God reached down and touched his life.

Born a Roman citizen to Jewish parents in 6 A.D. in the town of Tarsus, he was sent by his parents to Jerusalem to study the Torah under Gamaliel, one of the most prominent Jewish scholars of his time. Saul was so dedicated that at a relatively early age he was admitted to the Sanhedrin, which was the ruling group of Jewish leaders.

Saul was zealous and ambitious, probably in his twenties we read in Acts chapter 7, that when Stephen, the first Christian Martyr was stoned to death, a young man by the name of Saul, stood by and approved of his death.

Saul’s ambition drove him to persecute Christians, and he decided to go to Damascus to round up followers of the “Way”. As Saul gets close to Damascus, he is blinded by a light from the sky. This light is so powerful that it knocks him to the ground. And as he is lying there, a voice from heaven speaks to him. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  Saul had an immediate understanding, but he needed clarification, and the voice responds, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Can you imagine the fear, guilt and the shame as Saul realized that Jesus was risen, and that he was the son of God?  It all made sense, he must have been in fear that surely Jesus would kill him now, but Jesus graciously doesn’t leave him there as he immediately continues, “rise up – go to the city and you will be told what to do”.

Jesus takes attacks on the church very personally. When we hurt a fellow Christian, someone who is part of the body of Christ, Jesus takes it very personally. Jesus feels the pain, when his body, the church is slandered, persecuted or ill-treated. Never think it is a small matter to ill-treat another believer, whether it is in business or gossip, it is always a very serious matter.

Saul encountered the risen Christ and it transformed him. Saul was blinded, so bright was the encounter with Jesus that he could not see. I believe that Saul didn’t just see a bright light, but he actually saw the risen Christ, what he saw was Jesus in his current glorified being. Jesus, the exact representation of the Father, is so glorious and so powerful that he is brighter than any sun, or any light we could imagine (1 John 1:5).

Saul later writing in 1 Corinthians 15 about the resurrected Christ, was speaking from experience. He was an eyewitness to the fact that Jesus rose from the dead in a resurrected glorious body.

Saul is led into Damascus, where he refuses to eat or drink, he is blind and trying to process all that just happened. He goes through this mourning period of 3 days. And just like Jonah who was in the fish for 3 days, Saul was being reborn, he was being born of the Spirit, being made new so that God could use him for His Glory.

In verse 10 we are introduced to Ananias, we know little about him, but we are told he was a disciple, a follower of Jesus. A disciple is a follower of Jesus who makes other followers of Jesus.

A disciple is an active follower, not just a passive student.

Ananias was looking for people to win to Christ and to disciple. But I doubt he ever expected to encounter someone like Saul. Saul was praying, and his prayers were being answered as God directed Ananias.

Don’t ever think prayer is not the most valuable thing you can do with your time.

Ananias, knew exactly who Saul was and he responds with some hesitation, But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” Acts 9:15-16.

God chose Saul. Whether you agree with the doctrine of election or not, the apostle Paul in his later writings, made it abundantly clear that he was chosen by God and not the other way around.

Saul was called to be a suffering servant, Jesus made it very clear that Saul was going to be persecuted for his faith. But this is nothing new and a clear expectation of all who would follow Jesus as Lord (John 15:18-20).

As Ananias prays for Saul, something like scales fall from his eyes, these were a physical manifestation of the healing that took place, but the miracle of his spiritual eyesight was far more important. As Ananias prayed for him, Saul’s spiritual blindness was lifted, and he was able to see the truth that Jesus is the Son of God.

In verse 20 we have the evidence of Saul’s conversion, as he immediately began to tell others about Jesus. He went into the synagogues and declared boldly that Jesus was the Son of God. The priests had obviously heard about what had happened on the road, but now they were seeing the evidence of a life transformed by Jesus.

And the people ask the question, “Is this not the man?”  When you encounter Jesus, those around you should ask the same question. You may not have been a terrible person in the eyes of those around you, but the change in your life must be evident to everyone. Your priorities change, when it comes to how you spend your time and your money, people will notice your commitment to the things of the Lord.

Have you had that life changing encounter with Jesus, where he changed your priorities and your goals in life?

Saul had priorities and goals, being a driven man, he was motivated to eradicate Christianity. But when he encountered Jesus, all that changed, and he was never the same again.

Sermon April 29, 2018 Faith and Holiness

Galatians 3:1-14

In Galatians 3, Paul writing to the young church is extremely harsh in his letter. In the first 5 verses, it seems that Paul is interrogating them, as he asks them a series of rhetorical questions. Twice in the first three verses he calls them fools. False teachers had come into the church, teaching that in order to be saved the needed to be circumcised and follow the Mosaic Law in addition to their belief in Jesus. Why is Paul so harsh in his approach? I believe it is because Paul knows that eternity is at stake, he knows that the false teachers are not simply trying to add to their religious activity, these false teachers have been sent by Satan to destroy the church.

By asking these rhetorical questions Paul makes very clear that it is illogical for these Galatians to try to add to their Christian experience by adding works of the law (ch3:2). The key argument he makes is whether they received the Holy Spirit of God by the law or by faith? Three times in those first 5 verses he implies that they received the Holy Spirit only because of faith and not because of obedience to the law.

When you have the Holy Spirit in your life, you cannot add anything to your salvation by following a set of rules or regulations. The Holy Spirit which we receive when we make Jesus Lord of our lives, completes us. It is by the Spirit of God that miracles are done, it is by the Holy Spirit that we can communicate with God (1 Peter 1:3).

As a regenerate believer in Jesus Christ, you have everything you need because of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

In the next few verses of Galatians 3, Paul refers to Abraham five times. What makes Abraham so significant to the issue of false teachers? The key is verse 6, just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Verse 6 is the continuation of the rhetorical question he began in verse 5, where he quotes Genesis 15:6.

Abraham simply believed God, he obeyed God and left his father’s home in Genesis 12, and in return God gave him great promises about being a blessing to the nations. Abraham knew that he would never see his home again, he would never see his father again, but he went in faith and obedience.

Abraham was promised many descendants by God, and God tests him once again to see if he would sacrifice the son of the promise. Abraham obeyed God and Isaac is miraculously spared.

Abraham was a man of incredible faith, but how did he become such a man of faith?

In Hebrews chapter 11, Abraham gets eight verses recognizing his faith. The key to faith is found in Hebrews 11:6, faith begins with knowing God. Faith, as a gift from God grows in us as we grow in our relationship with God.

The Gospel message, the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ is only good news if it is received by faith. The Gospel is not an academic pursuit or a following of the law, rather it is a celebration of faith in the provision of salvation through Jesus.

The key difference between faith and the law is relationship. Obedience to the law does not require relationship. Many people obey a set of rules, but they have no relationship with God and therefore they have no faith (Galatians 3:11). Many law abiding people will be in hell, because they chose to obey the law when a relationship was offered to them. The narrow road that Jesus taught in Matthew 7:13 is narrow because it is so hard for people trapped in humanism to walk by faith.

We have the ongoing challenge between law and relationship in our church on a weekly basis.

My mother’s generation would say, “you have to go to church”. A good principle but without relationship it is mere legalism.

We have seen this over and over throughout the generations, we force our children to go to church each Sunday, assuming the church will save them. But we don’t teach our children to love Jesus, and as soon as they can they leave the church because they do not see and encounter the living God. Our default condition is legalism, we think if we put enough rules around people they will turn out alright. However, if we invite them into a growing relationship with the living God, then and only then will they experience life change (John 14:15).

Notice Jesus didn’t say, obey my commands and then you will love me. No, the obedience is as a response to our love for Jesus, obedience is a direct response to our relationship with the living God.

What about tithing? We tithe ten percent of our income to the Lord as an act of worship, recognizing the reality of our relationship with God.

In Malachi 3:8-10 we read a challenging prophecy from God on giving to the Lord, which at first glance seems legalistic, but look a little deeper at verse 10, “and thereby put me to the test”. We test someone to learn something about them. Our children test us all the time, pushing the boundaries and testing our patience, why? It is natural for children to test their parents, because deep down there is one fundamental question every child wants to know, “do you love me?”.

There is no where else in the Bible where God invites us to test him. God is calling His people to a relationship with Him. He invites us to test him in the area of giving, for us to learn that He is able to provide. But not only is God able to provide, He is a good Father, a perfect Heavenly Father who we will only get to know as we grow in our faith.

Don’t regard faith as an academic pursuit, live a life of faith, and you will grow in your relationship with God.