Peace Through Pain. Sunday May 29, 2022

It is Memorial Day, a day filled with family and friends gathered around a grill and enjoying the smells of meat cooking and the sound of children playing. But this year, it feels different as we wrestle with the tragedy of the past week.

It is impossible to wrap our minds around the senseless horror of nineteen fourth-grade children who are missing from the family meal table today. As a church family we spent some time in silence yesterday, praying for the families and friends who have lost loved ones in Uvalde Texas this past week. We must pray that the Prince of Peace and Wonderful Counselor will be near to those who are mourning today.

In this world, we are surrounded by pain and grief at every turn, and sometimes it becomes overwhelming. Many people look for a way to escape the pain and turn to substances or other forms of addictions.

When I am overwhelmed by the hurt in this world, I turn to the promise of Jesus in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

The Greek word for “tribulation”, could also mean, “distress”. The world around us will cause us to be distressed, troubled and many times confused, Jesus said it would be so. But we have the enduring promise from our Lord and Savior, “in me you may have peace.”

Memorial Day is a day when we remember those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedoms that we enjoy. Throughout the generations, there have been hundreds of thousands of people who have faced the grief and distress of losing a loved one on the battlefield. Their lives are changed forever in an instant as they begin the process of grieving.

The words of Jesus are not a well-worn platitude, rather, it still carries immeasurable power and hope. However, this promise of peace is only available to those who find their comfort in Christ. To be in Christ is to have a personal relationship with Jesus as Lord. Jesus was speaking these words to his disciples as he was preparing them for his crucifixion and ultimate departure.

In the same chapter Jesus encourages his disciples that he must go in order for the Holy Spirit, the Helper and Comforter, to come to them. This same Holy Spirit is in all who truly follow Jesus and he is praying for us when we don’t know what to pray as Paul writes in Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

As we see the Day of the Lord approaching, it is certain that we will also see an increase in pain and suffering (distress), in the world. We will be exposed to it and we will also experience it, however we have the promise of Jesus that we will be able to know his peace through the distress.

Do you need peace today?

Place your faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and lean on his unbreakable promises.

Sermon Sunday May 22, 2022 Love One Another

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Church numerical growth has been a topic of study for decades. Many books have been written and seminars delivered. However, there is a very simple three-word prescription for church growth, “Love One Another”.

It might sound simplistic, but it is one of the most challenging things to do.

The apostle John is a succinct writer who simplifies the Christian life down to the essential elements, know Jesus, obey God, and love others.

John uses the term “beloved” six times in this letter. John makes the case that the love of God is essential for us to be able to love our brothers and sisters. We aren’t called to love out of duty or legalism, that would be hypocritical. What John is writing about is a supernatural love, seen and experienced in those who abide in Jesus. This is the love that is the fruit of the Spirit.

There is way more to this supernatural love than a mushy, warm and fuzzy experience, there is power in this love. As we see in verse 8, perfect love as revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ has dealt a death blow to darkness. Darkness is on the run, and it cannot outrun the light. How we love one another gives evidence of all of this.

The love of Christ in us is not a shallow sentimental emotion. It is a matter of the will not of feelings. Christlike love is a determined decision to allow the love of God to reach others through you. Christlike love is the essential ingredient of true evangelism.

The best explanation of Christian love is found in 1 Corinthians 13. This chapter is not a text for weddings or valentine’s day messages, it is a day-to-day church passage. It is the prescription for how we are to live as the body of Christ.

The love of God is given to the church supernaturally for the building up of the church (Romans 5:5). God has poured his love into the hearts of everyone who has given their lives to the Lordship of Jesus.

John’s life was transformed by this supernatural love. He was not always loving, he and his brother James were known as the “sons of thunder”, because of their emotional outbursts. In Luke 9, James and John asked Jesus if they could call down fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritan village who rejected Jesus. John was transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and he loved as Jesus loved.

And there is good reason why this love is supernatural, because it is a cosmic war between light and darkness. The world of light and love always go together (1 John 2:9-10).

The natural question that follows is, who is my brother? The Greek word used for brother here means a person who lives close by, literally my neighbor. Well, who is my neighbor? Jesus addressed this in Luke 10 by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus explained that our neighbor is the person in front of us right now. The person in need, the person we work with or the person we bump into while walking into the store. Are you aware of your neighbor? Those daily opportunities to love the way Jesus loved.

Verse 11 returns to those who are in darkness, “But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”

If you hate someone, you are walking blindly in continual darkness. This kind of darkness is spiritual death. Hatred is blinding people today and this happens in the church as little disagreements creep in, and relationships are broken.

This kind of blindness can creep into the church in many ways. It is not necessarily through arguments. Sometimes blindness can creep into the church in the form of doctrine and spiritual elitism. People have their favorite doctrine, theology, or experience and if they are not careful, they become critical of others who do not share the same view or experience. This kind of person thinks he is a spiritual giant, having it all figured out, but really, he is a spiritual babe, lacking the ability to discern what is important, loving one another. Some people are so in love with their doctrine and “rightness”, that they have lost their love for their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

In recent years it seems that we have lost the ability to disagree and still love each other.

It is impossible to be in fellowship with the Father and out of fellowship with another Christian at the same time. The Christian life has two relationships: the vertical (Godward) and the horizontal (manward). We need both, which is why gathering for worship and fellowship on a Sunday morning is so vital to our spiritual health.

If you put a group of people in a room long enough, someone is going to get offended. So how do we respond?

The follower of Jesus who has been offended must understand two things;

1) I have no right to be offended. I gave up my rights when I asked Jesus to be Lord of my life.

2) Harboring unforgiveness only harms the offended person.

“Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die.”

Marianne Williamson

Loving one another in the church is very practical and essential for the health of the church.

Practically we love each other by:

  • Serving one another.  Stepping up and volunteering when there is a need.
  • Love one another through theological differences. Jesus was critical of the pharisees, not because of their doctrine, but because they didn’t care for the flock.
  • Love one another through joy and pain. Carry one another’s burdens, look for practical ways to care when someone is hurting.
  • Love one another on mission. Serving alongside each other as we share the Gospel in our community.  
  • Love one another by confronting sin. Do we love one another enough to call out a brother or sister who is living in sin?
  • Love one another to grow spiritually. Just as the fruits and flowers need sunshine, so God’s people need love if they are going to grow.

How are you loving each other today?

Sermon Sunday May 15, 2022 To Know and Obey Jesus.

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Is it possible to know God and to live like the Devil? Is it possible to truly know God and have no life change?

Obedience follows relationship. If there is no obedience – is there relationship at all?

Adrian Rogers wrote, “Study the Bible to know about God. Obey the Bible to really know God.”

This is the theme of 1 John 2. John’s goal is for the reader to know God rightly and have assurance of salvation, which leads to a life of joy in Jesus. To know God is to love God and to love God is to obey God.

Obedience to God reveals the genuineness of our faith. There is a huge difference between saying and doing. The true Gospel transforms us and leads to obedience. 1 John 2:3 reads, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments”.

The word “Keep”, means to guard, or protect like we would treat a precious treasure. And as we keep this treasure, our assurance in our salvation grows and we enjoy Jesus more. To obey His commands is never a burden, it is a blessing and a natural response to what He has done for me.

However we see in verse 4 that if we do not guard or keep the commands of the Lord, we are spiritual deceivers. We really don’t have a relationship with God.

Verse 5 gives is such a great promise, “but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him.”

Keeping the commands of God is not a condition of knowing God, but it is a clear sign and indication that we do know God.

The phrase, “the love of God”, refers to our love for God, and it is true that the more I know Him, the more I love Him, and the more I love Him, the more I know Him.

The same thing happens in a godly marriage. It should be that the more a husband and wife grow to know one another, the more they love one another. And the more love they share with each other, the more they will desire to know each other.

There is a tradition that on one occasion the apostle John, near the end of his life, was brought to the church on a pallet. All he said to the believing community was, “Love one another.” When he was asked why that was all he had to say, he responded, “Because it is enough.” (Matthew 22:37-40).

So how do we walk in the love of Christ? When we were saved it was so that we might be conformed in the image of His son (Romans 8:29). He saved us that we might “walk just as He walked.”

We have a moral obligation for our walk to match our talk. To truly abide in Christ means I will walk like Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1, Ephesians 5:1, 1 Peter 2:21).

Like Father, like Son. Like Savior, like saint. Christ’s life becomes my life, my example, my goal, and my pattern. And we must note that it is abiding in Him that enables me to live like Him. I don’t do it in my strength. I do it in His!

Looking back to verse 3, how can we tell if we “know” him?

What then does it mean to “know” Jesus? The Greek word used here, “ginosko”, means basically “grasping the full reality and nature of an object under consideration.”

John was writing to people who knew about Jesus but didn’t really know him personally. Today there are millions of people who know about Jesus, but don’t know him as Lord of their lives.

Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me”. Those who belong to Jesus are responsive to His voice.

John does not suggest that relationship with God is established by obedience; rather, that relationship is demonstrated by obedience.

Sometimes people claim to know God but are unresponsive to His Word and His way of life. Such a person may possess accurate information about God and may be able to debate the finer points of theology. I have met people who have a deep grasp of the Bible and doctrine, but their lives do not match their words. Relationship is demonstrated by walking “as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6).

Jesus addressed this as he was speaking to the Jews, the scribes and the pharisees in John 8:44a, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.”

The religious leaders, knew about God, they knew the Torah, they knew a lot of theology, but they didn’t know God Himself or else they would have recognized His son, Jesus. They were worshipping the law of Moses, but they weren’t hearing the word of God. Jesus continued in verse 47, “Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

So, my question today is, who are you listening to?

I always get discouraged when I talk to people who have not been in church for a long time and they say, “well, I am not in church, but I listen to Charles Stanley (or their favorite radio or TV teacher) each Sunday morning.” What they fail to realize is that they are neglecting to gather with his body, disobeying the word of God that calls us to commit to a fellowship of believers to grow together in love and unity.

Listening to good teaching is excellent, but the question is, are you listening to the words of God? Why do we run after the words of the created being, when we can sit at the feet of the creator?

Many Christians wrestle with decisions and they often say the same thing. “I am not getting a clear word from God.” My friends, it’s not that God doesn’t speak clearly, it’s that we don’t listen. It’s time to turn off the TV, YouTube, the cell phone and all the other noise surrounding us and open the Word of God. Make time to listen to the God who created you with the ability to hear His voice.

Are you abiding in Him, keeping his commandments?

Do you know Jesus?

Sermon Sunday May 8, 2022 – Let God be True and Every Man a Liar

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The number one problem in the world today is that humanity has a sin problem, and it affects everyone. But not everyone agrees with this assertion.

Today, we don’t hear people call sin for what it is. Sin is labelled an error of judgment, a mistake, a bad decision, etc. In fact people go to great lengths to rationalize or hide their sin.

But we must understand this basic truth, to deny sin is to call God a liar and question His character. In this passage, John uses the word “sin” nine times, and two times he will use the word “darkness.” To think correctly about Jesus, we must think correctly about sin.

In verse 5 we are reminded that we have good news, and it is a message that the world needs. This message concerns Jesus Christ, “the Word of life”. When we meet Jesus as our savior, our assignment is to take this message to the whole world. According to the JoshuaProject.net there are 7,418 unreached people groups who are yet to hear the Gospel.

A key component of the Gospel message is to convey an understanding of the nature and character of God. This is a constant theme of John’s writing.For example, he teaches us that; God is light (1:5), God is love (4:8, 16), and God is true (5:20).

In 1 John the statement “God is light” means God has as His very nature and being the source of life. Martin Luther said, “There is no darkness in Him, not even the slightest”.

This is a message that we must passionately share with the world.

But our message must also include what God says about sin. The essence of sin is our attempting to take the place of God. We want to be in charge. And we want to provide our own definitions of what is right and wrong.

John is not interested in human opinions on the matter of sin. He uses three “if we say” statements to lead his readers to understand sin. He says we are prone to lie to others, lie to ourselves and ultimately call God a liar.

1: Do Not Lie to Others (1 John 1:6–7)

John writes in 1 John 1:6, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth”.

If we say we have fellowship with God, but are walking in spiritual darkness, we are lying. We say to others, “I know God,” but our beliefs and behavior contradict our words. We lie to others about who we are.

In contrast, verse 7 says that if we live our lives in the realm of light, as God is in the light, our fellowship with one another is authentic and the blood of Jesus, His Son, keeps on cleansing us from all sin.

2: Do Not Lie to Yourself (1 John 1:8–9)

 Verse 8 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Those who live in death and darkness do not just lie to others, and eventually they lie to themselves. They lose their moral compass, and their conscience is seared (1 Timothy 4:2).  

If we claim to be sinless, a declaration that we are free from the guilt and penalty of sin, we are deceived, and the truth is not in us.  The truth is a person, if we say we have no sin, we really have no relationship with Jesus.

John then follows up with one of the greatest verses in the Bible, verse 9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.

John writes that there are two kinds of people

  • There are some who cover and conceal their sin. They are liars.
  • There are also confessors who acknowledge and admit their sin. They are forgiven.

John is not saying that we need to be perfectly sinless as that is impossible. We need an advocate who can forgive us.

3: Do Not Lie about God (1 John 1:10)

John makes the case that we can lie to others about our sin, we will then lie to ourselves and ultimately, we will actually call God a liar. Verse 10, “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

Moving on to 1 John 2 verses 1 and 2, the world must know what God says about Jesus.

Jesus Is Our Advocate (1 John 2:1)

John has made it clear that in this life we cannot be sinless. However, he does believe we can sin less because we are now in intimate fellowship with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

We all still sin, but we have the amazing promise of 1 John 1:9. In verse 1, John tells his readers to run to our savior, our advocate to the Father. This advocate is sinless, undefiled, and spotless in his nature and in all his actions. There is no one else like him.

The word “advocate” means helper, who comes alongside in a time of need. This helper is the cleanser of sin (1:7), the forgiver of sin (1:9), and the helper when we do sin.

We have this misconception that when we sin, Jesus turns away from us and leaves us because we have disappointed him. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus is drawn to us when we sin, he cares for us and knows that our sin leads to pain. He comes near to prevent us hurting ourselves further.

Jesus Is Our Atonement(1 John 2:2)

Jesus can be our advocate, because he has made propitiation, an atonement for our sins.

The word “propitiation” is a very important word that carries the idea of satisfaction. Jesus Christ, by His sacrifice on the cross, satisfied God’s holiness and turned away His righteous wrath from sinners.

The work of atonement accomplished by Christ on the cross is where God’s holiness and God’s love meet. (See Isaiah 53:10 and Philippians 2:9).

How do you stand before God today? Are you lying to those around you? Are you lying to yourself? Are you calling God a liar?

Jesus offers right standing before God, his forgiveness is instant and paid for.

Sunday May 1, 2022 Volunteering in the Church

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Today we recognized volunteers, the people that make everything run smoothly. As we called each volunteer forward, we asked them to put a crayon in a vase. Each one of the crayons represents a task that needs to be done in the church. It was evident that it took a lot of people to do all that needs to be done in the church.  

But let’s think about the church, why do we come to church?

I think one of the failures of the church in the past fifty years is the advent of the mega church and the multiple campus church models. One of the primary motivators of the seeker friendly church is to make the church as welcoming and inviting as possible in order to get people through the doors.

Now, don’t get me wrong, we absolutely need to be welcoming and inviting. And there is nothing wrong with large numbers. But what has happened is that the church has gone from being a sending agent and become a Christian entertainment venue.

Feeding peoples wants and desires by programs, features, and entertainment. Instead of people coming to church to be equipped for the work of the ministry, people are coming to church to be entertained, and they are dictating to the leadership what they want in order to stay.

If we are honest, who has become the object of attention? It is the attendees, and if we are focusing on the attendees, who are we worshipping?

The church is not a professional organization, it is a body. We are all members of the body and as such we all serve alongside one another, for one purpose – for the glory of God.

We are saved for more than simply getting a ticket to heaven – there is so much more for us.

God delivered us so that we would have a relationship with him, through which He calls us to be a part of His mission to bring the Gospel message to the lost. What a privilege. Paul makes this clear in Ephesians 2:8-10.

We are saved in order to do good works. Now, the church is not the only place where we can do these works, but it is an essential part of serving the Lord. Every volunteer that we recognized this morning has a motivation to serve.

As I was thinking about it, there are many different reasons why people serve as a volunteer, but only one right reason.

Some people serve for recognition, others for the applause of man or to earn favor with God, and some serve out of guilt. But the true motivation to serve the Lord comes from a genuine experience of joy. When you genuinely serve the Lord out of love for the Lord and understanding the call of God on your life, you experience joy, deep seated contentment, and it is not a burden or hardship at all.

One of the keys to contentment is serving in the place of obscurity. Doing things that no one sees other than the Lord. Genuine contentment and joy is knowing that the only person who really notices is the only one who really matters.

The truth is that the church would not exist without volunteers, so how do we get people to volunteer? The normal way is to make a good promo video and beg people to sign up to serve. Failing that we could offer them free donuts and coffee!

But I propose that there is a purer motivation that comes from a move of God. We don’t need more manipulation; we need more of the power of God. As God begins to move on peoples’ hearts, they are compelled by a sense of calling and purpose. Doing what God has called them to do. In Psalm 110:3 we read, “Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours.”

This Psalm is speaking about Jesus coming in glory and his followers offering themselves to serve him. What we need in the church is not more calls for volunteers or pleading videos, what we need is revival. Throughout the history of revivals, there has never been a shortage of workers who give themselves to the work of the Lord.

Henry Blackaby wrote, “Only the power of God can free us from our natural self-centeredness and reorient us toward the mission of God”

And finally, we have the privilege to serve the Lord because we gain an eternal reward. Revelation 19:7-8 reads, “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.”

At the marriage feast, the church, the Bride of Christ, will be clothed in fine linen, bright and pure, but the linen is made up of the righteous deeds that we do. Now we know that we are not made righteous by what we do. Rather, we work from a position of righteousness because of the blood of Jesus.

The good works that we do, are righteous deeds that have an eternal value. Christ will reward us for our faithfulness. And the rewards we receive will make up the wedding gown.

Dr. Lehman Strauss writes, “Has it ever occurred to you … that at the marriage of the Bride to the Lamb, each of us will be wearing the wedding garment of our own making?”

That is a tremendous paradigm shift; we don’t serve out of duty, we serve as an act of worship.

How is your heart? What is the response of your heart today? Is your heart so filled with gratitude and worship that you are waiting for the opportunity to say like Isaiah, “here I am, send me.”