Do Not Fear Man

Click on the Camera to view the full sermon video

Fear of man is a weapon that Satan uses to prevent us from doing what God calls us to do. In many parts of the world, there is the very real fear of being martyred for being a follower of Jesus. But in America the fear we most often deal with is the fear of being ridiculed or “cancelled”, for standing for the truth of God’s word.

In Matthew 10, Jesus prepares his disciples to go out and proclaim the good news of the Kingdom. From verse 16 his teaching is directed towards all who would be his disciples in the generations to come. Jesus teaches us to be fearless in proclaiming the Gospel boldly (Matthew 10:27).

In this passage we have five reasons to have courage:

1. Jesus experienced it.

Jesus said in Matthew 10:25b, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.”

By being mistreated for proclaiming the Gospel, we are simply being treated the way Jesus was treated. It is a sign that we belong to him. The insults bind us closer to the Lord. It brings great comfort to know that we are being identified as a child of God.

2. You will be vindicated.

Jesus continued in Matthew 10:26, “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.”

When you know you are right, you don’t have to continue to argue, because you know that you will be vindicated. The same way with the truth of the Gospel, even though people may reject it, it is seldom helpful to try to argue with someone. You and I cannot do the work of the Holy Spirit in convicting people of their sins. Jesus said if they ridicule you for the truth, take heart, the truth will be revealed, and you will be vindicated.

3. What’s the worst that can happen?

We read in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

The worst the anyone can do to someone who proclaims the Gospel, is to kill the body. This is a very real fear for millions of believers around the world. But as we know, the worst that man can do, God turns around for His glory and for our good. Killing the body of a believer is an upgrade to glory.

The second sentence of this verse has always struck me. Hell is a real place of eternal suffering, and Jesus spoke about it more than anyone else in the Bible. Hell is the penalty of God’s wrath and that is why Jesus said, “fear Him”.

It may seem like Jesus is saying, “stay in line, do what you are commanded to do, or else the One who has the power will destroy you?” But in the following verses, Jesus speaks about how much more valuable we are than the sparrows. Essentially Jesus is saying that we should fear God, but if we believe in him, we do not have to fear the wrath of God, because He is a good Father.

While it is true, the fear of the Lord is reverence and awe of God, but this teaching of Jesus really means, be afraid of God. Be afraid of the wrath of God towards sin. The only way this fear is removed is when we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord (Romans 8:1-2).

Jesus is teaching that we need to see sin as something more serious than we could ever imagine. The real problem is that we don’t see sin for what it really is. We are sinning against the One who is infinitely holy and infinitely worthy of our worship. When we sin, we are displaying that something else is more desirable and worthy than God. When we understand that sin is an afront to and infinitely good, holy, powerful, and worthy God, then we become aware that our sin is infinitely deserving of eternal punishment. God cannot overlook sin; it goes against His character.

However, Jesus not only warns us, but he also rescues us and promises salvation (Luke 12:32).

Do not fear man, the worst that he can do is send your soul to paradise.

4. God sees you.

In Matthew 10:30 Jesus said, “But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.”

God sees you and He knows everything about you. When we suffer some hardship or persecution for speaking the truth, it is not that God is oblivious, on the contrary, He sees, and He knows the outcome even before we experience the persecution. The creator of the universe is with us, He is close, we can be of good courage and speak the truth.

5. God has a plan for you.

Jesus continued in verse 31, “Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

God governs the world, He controls the lives of the sparrows and the smallest flowers, there is nothing that will happen to us that is outside of His perfect will. This truth has encouraged followers of Jesus for centuries. Henry Martyn said, “if God has work for me to do, I cannot die”.

This difficult conversation with Jesus is really an encouragement to live a life of freedom. Freedom from fear, expectations, criticism, and even the persecution of man.

If we succumb to the “cancel culture” of the day, it is because of one of two things; either we don’t believe the words of Jesus that he is the only way (John 14:6), or we don’t believe in Hell.

We need to be people who love the truth and speak the truth.

Are you going to fear man or are you going to fear God?

Do Not Worry

Click on the camera to view the full message.

Are you anxious? What worry keeps you up at night?

Worry hurts us, and it is a sin. Jesus dealt with the sin of anxiety in Matthew 6, speaking about the most basic human needs; food, water, and clothing.

In modern day America we can miss the impact of these verses. For people living in the 1st century, they didn’t have refrigerators, or a grocery store on every corner. They would have to wake up every day concerned about fresh food and water. Most people only had two articles of clothing and wore them until they were unusable. A far cry from the clothing store app on our phones.

Most of us don’t have anxiety about food and water, but we do worry about safety, job security, and unexpected illnesses.  

It doesn’t matter what we find to be anxious about, we are prone to anxiety and Jesus gives us eight reasons not to be anxious in these verses.

We need to view these as commands from Jesus for our own good.

1. Matthew 6:25, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”

If we are worried about the need for the most basic human necessities, we are missing out on the greatness of life as God intends for us. Missing out on the reason why God created us.

Jesus said in Luke 12:21, “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

When we are focused on necessities, we miss the glory of God in the world around us.

2. Matthew 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

This is not an encouragement to carelessness or laziness. Birds are constantly busy, scratching and digging for food. But God feeds the birds, they are not anxious about their next meal. God provides it, but they must work for it. We too, trust God for provision, but we must work diligently trusting God for tomorrow.

3. Matthew 6:27, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 

By worrying, you won’t be able to add a single hour or day to your life. On the contrary, it may shorten your life and make you miserable.

4. Matthew 6:28-30,And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Obviously, we are not all dressed like Solomon, but Jesus isn’t saying that we will have extravagant clothing, rather that we will have the clothing that we need.

God doesn’t promise us riches here on earth, but the one who follows the Lord and fulfills the call of God on their life will never lack basic provision at a minimum (see Psalm 37:25).

5 and 6. Matthew 6:32,For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”

In other words, by worrying you are acting as if God doesn’t exist, you are acting like an unbeliever. We might believe that God exists, but we don’t believe that He sees or can provide for our needs. Perhaps we doubt the goodness of God, we doubt that He is a good father. When it comes to the day-to-day needs of this life, we can be guilty of being practical atheists.

“Anxiety shows that we are too close to the world and too far from God”. John Piper

This world has nothing lasting to offer and our Heavenly Father has, and always will, prove Himself faithful.

7.  Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

This is not a formula for obtaining wealth, it is a description of how the kingdom of God works. Jesus taught that our focus should be turned away from this world and towards the things of God’s kingdom.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t diligently work at a job, rather it means that we put the things of God above the things of this world.

This is an encouragement by Jesus to avoid idolatry. An idol is anything that we value more than the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Worry and anxiety is an idol.

8. Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

The Lord provides for us today, but we are frequently guilty of taking tomorrow’s uncertainties and bringing them into today as a worry. Jesus desires his followers to be free from fear and anxiety.

Worry is a sin, because deep down, we do not trust that God is able to provide for us.

We worship what we value, and frequently we value our worries in our day-to-day decision making. The root cause of anxiety is misplaced worship.

So how do we avoid worry? Psalm 119:11 has the answer, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

Meditating on the promises of God’s word is the antidote for worry. Psalm 46 is a great place to start.

When we sit in the presence of God and encounter His omnipotence, goodness, and glory, our tomorrow fears crumble. That is what it means to, “Seek He first the kingdom of God…”

What is the worry that you are carrying today?

Love Your Enemies

Click on the camera to view the full video of the message

Of all the teachings of Jesus, this is one of the hardest to obey. How do we love our enemies? Perhaps Matthew made a mistake when he wrote down the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount?

However, deep down we know that these words of Jesus align with the truth and the heart of the Gospel. Jesus did say these words and meant them to be the authoritative word of God for every generation, including ours.

So, what did Jesus mean and how do we apply these truths to our life today?

We must understand that this instruction from Jesus is not a way for us to get God’s approval, we are not saved because we are able to love our enemies (see Ephesians 2:8-9).

These teachings of Jesus are not meant to be rules for actions, rather they are instructions for behavior. These aren’t a list of specific responses to specific scenarios, rather they are principles for a way of life.

Turning the other cheek and going the second mile doesn’t mean resigning yourself to the evil plans of others. That is not what Jesus is teaching here.

In order to understand this teaching, we have to ask; who is my enemy?

The legal expert came to Jesus in Luke 10 and asked the telling question, “who is my neighbor?” To which Jesus responds by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan.

The Jews hated the Samaritans and to the hearers, when Jesus told this parable, he was saying, “love your enemies, even the Samaritans, for they are your brothers.”

In Matthew 5:43, Jesus quoted the teachings of the Pharisees and Scribes, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’”

But you will not find this statement in the Pentateuch or the first five books of the Bible containing the law of Moses, in fact you will find the opposite (see Exodus 23:3-4).

The religious leaders had twisted the word of God for centuries and taught their fellow Israelites to hate any foreigner. There were many devout Jews and pharisees who firmly believed that they were honoring God by hating all Gentiles.

But before we judge the first century Jews too harshly, we don’t have to look very far to see that we are guilty of the same sin. Throughout modern history and particularly in the advent of the mass news media, we are constantly told who to hate, and we do it pretty well as a culture.

As human beings, we don’t think much of hating someone we have never met. It is a side effect of the fall in the garden of Eden.

But when we see people as created in the image of God, fellow image bearers of our heavenly Father, people that Jesus died for, we can, by the power of the Holy Spirit begin to love them.

The challenge comes when our rights are violated, when we are the victim of persecution or crime, we want swift justice, we want to see our rights upheld.

But what is the greatest act of injustice that the world has ever seen? Without a doubt, the greatest act of injustice was when the Son of God was nailed to a Roman cross. The sinless creator of the universe was persecuted and killed by his creation.

And in the height of the injustice, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34.

That is the standard. So how do we love our enemies like Jesus loved those who were nailing him to the cross?

Do we pray for those who spitefully use us?

Do we ask God to have mercy on them and not to punish them?

Do we ask God to save their souls, to open their eyes to the Gospel message before it is too late?

Because that is the mind of Christ (see Romans 5:8).

We must note that there is a difference between loving someone and liking them. Jesus said, “love your enemies”, he didn’t say, “like your enemies”.

People who hurt us and treat us unfairly are probably people that we don’t like. But we are called to love them, praying for them, praying that God may work in their lives and we find that we begin to like them, because we see in them the renewed character of Christ.

Loving your enemies is a display of spiritual maturity and it is the same language the we see in the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.

How do we do this? Here are three points to pray through.

1: Loving your enemy does not display how good you are, rather it displays Who’s you are.

By loving our enemies, we show that we are a child of God. As His children we don’t have to fear being cheated or “short changed”.

John Piper wrote, “the intimate knowledge and tender, sovereign care of our omnipotent, all-wise, heavenly Father frees us for the radical kind of risks and losses that enemy-love demands.”

2: In loving our enemies, there is great reward.

In Matthew 5:11-12, Jesus taught about the rewards of enduring persecution.

The sustaining joy that carries us through persecution and slander from others is not the temporal gain we get out of enduring suffering, rather it is the certain knowledge that we will be receiving a reward in the age to come. Do we live with an eternal perspective?

3: Give what you have received.

We can love, because we have been loved by God (see Luke 6:36).  

Sometimes we need to be reminded of what it took for us to be reconciled with God. Before we became followers of Jesus, we were God’s enemies (See Romans 5:10).

We did nothing to save ourselves. The mercy that we are called on to show others is nothing compared to the mercy that we have already received.

Will you take the courageous step to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you?

You Must Be Born Again

Click on the Camera to view the full message video.

Have you ever noticed that some of the teachings of Jesus are hard to grasp.

Ultimately, what he said led to his crucifixion, and they are still offensive to the world today.

Sometimes we gloss over the hard sayings, or worse yet, we think that they don’t apply to us. But the teachings of Jesus are the Word of God to every generation.

In John 3, we read of a high-ranking Pharisee coming to meet with Jesus.

This well-known account of a senior leader a pharisee coming to Jesus to know more about Jesus. Nicodemus lived sincerely under the law as best as he could. He adhered to the strictest possible religious rules. But he desperately wanted to find out the truth about Jesus.

We see Nicodemus showing up a few times in the Gospel of John, a man who was not afraid to stand against the crowd and be identified with Jesus after his crucifixion. Nicodemus was bold and Jesus took time to meet with him.

Nicodemus doesn’t ask a question, But Jesus jumps right to the heart of the matter in verse 3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God”.

Jesus knew his heart and the fact that he was seeking truth and cuts to the chase, he jumps into a difficult conversation.

A better translation of verse 3 could read, “unless one is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God”.

Can you imagine poor Nicodemus, he must have been quite confused. Jesus was using language that we are familiar with because we hear it all the time, but Nicodemus was hearing this for the first time, and it made no sense. The familiarity of what Jesus said can also be lost on us.

Obviously, we are by nature flesh, referring to our ordinary humanity. But we are born spiritually dead. We are not spiritually attuned to the things of God.

Ephesians 2 begins with the shocking statement, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sinsin which you once walked, following the course of this world,” Ephesians 2:1-2a.

Until you are born again, you are spiritually dead, you are unable to see or understand the things of God. The problem with spiritually dead people is that they don’t know they are dead.

Spiritually dead people are unable to hear God speak to them, because they do not have the Spirit of God in them, they have no desire to read God’s word, because it makes no sense without the Spirit’s revealing truth to us.

Tragically, spiritually dead people can raise their hands and come forward in a meeting, saying all the right things, get baptized and become good church members. Spiritually dead people can serve on committees and even teach Sunday School or lead a life group.

Sadly, when it comes to eternal salvation, the church might just be a dangerous place. Because you can put on a clean face, clean up your language, give money, even mouth the right prayers, but unless you are born from above, you are not a child of God, and you are destined for an eternity separated from God in hell.

Becoming a Christian is not becoming a better person or cleaning up your act, becoming a Christian is coming alive! Being born from above.

Nicodemus was spiritually dead, but the Spirit of God was drawing him in. That is what the Holy Spirit does, He makes people aware of their desperate situation and leads them to encounter the risen lord Jesus.  

Nicodemus began to wrestle with the beauty of the Gospel, he asked Jesus in verse 4, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

You see, this leader and rule follower, this man of exceptional discipline and obedience, was looking for something to do, but the new birth does not come by a set of accomplishments. It is a free gift.

Jesus says to Nicodemus in verse 5, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

What does Jesus mean when he says, to be born of water?

Nicodemus would have known Ezekiel 36:25-26. Where God tells the nation of Israel that He will spiritually wash them of their sins, a washing that will come with the new covenant when God puts His spirit inside of believers (see Titus 3:5 and Ephesians 5:26).

Being born of the Spirit means to be filled with the presence of God by the Holy Spirit, it means coming alive spiritually. If you don’t know what it means to be born of the spirit, you will never know what it means to walk in the spirit.

Walking in the spirit affects every aspect of our lives, our decisions and plans are all led by the Spirit of God. How we steward our finances, how we interact with people, where we go and how we spend our time. Being born of the Spirit means that we will begin to display the fruit of the Spirit as described in Galatians 5:22-24.

If someone was to follow you around for the next 7 days, and see everything you do and hear everything you say, would they be able to testify that you are born of the Spirit?

Are you born again? Are you born of the Spirit of God?

Are you daily experiencing the power of the resurrected Christ in your life?

Get Back on Track

Click on the camera to view the full message

Have you felt that the past three months were a bit of a blur?

It has been a busy summer and we have seen God work in amazing ways in Kansas City, Tahlequah, and South Africa.

The danger of coming to the end of a sprint or a summer of outreach is to look back and to rest on our laurels. However in sports, any winning team knows that the very next day, they need to get back into the gym and get back to the discipline of training in order to achieve the same results.

As we come off a season of spiritual warfare and victories, we need to slow down and get back to the basic disciplines of preparing ourselves for what God has in store for us.

What I am talking about is getting back on track with our spiritual disciplines. Those things that we do that few people see but produce a life of faith and spiritual strength.

Don Whitney said, The spiritual disciplines are those practices found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth among believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Sadly many Christians are unfit spiritually, because they are undisciplined. Nobody drifts into discipline. Just as the undisciplined body becomes sluggish and fat, the undisciplined spirit becomes weak (See 1 Timothy 4:7-8).

This is why Paul coaches Timothy (1 Tim 4:7-8).

There are many spiritual disciplines but let’s look at four today:

  1. Prayer:

Prayer is the one thing that you can do, that will have the greatest impact on your life. There is nothing more important, strategic, or more rewarding than prayer.

While Jesus was on earth, he was constantly in prayer. As followers of Jesus, shouldn’t we be a people of prayer, constantly asking God for direction, wisdom, healing, and interceding for those around us.

Personal holiness is not just being a good person, it flows from a powerful and intimate relationship with God through prayer.

I invite you to commit to joining one of the scheduled church prayer times during the week, or one of our bi-monthly nights of prayer.

2. Bible reading/ study:

In John 17 Jesus asked the Father for his disciples, that He would “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Jesus said that the Word of God is the truth that transforms us and brings about our sanctification.

The truth of God’s word does not change, it is our plumb-line and our authority for all aspects of life. However, we are tempted to redefine truth to fit our own personal preferences or desires. Let us be careful not to ignore or discard selected truths, just because we find them hard to receive or difficult to understand. Above all, we must be careful not to become lazy or apathetic with the truth of God’s word because it is not socially acceptable or because the cost of defending or standing on the truth becomes too demanding.

As you read the Bible, you will encounter Jesus, the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit will reveal his glory and majesty to you.

Will you get back on track with the daily reading, studying, and Memorizing God’s word.

3. Disciple making

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he left a commission for us (Matthew 28:19-20).

Jesus said, “go and make disciples…”, which means, to win people to Christ.

Disciple-making is a spiritual discipline, it does not happen by accident.

To make disciples, as the Bible commands, we must actively seek out opportunities to share the Gospel, baptize new believers, and teach them how to obey everything that Jesus commanded.

All Christians should practice disciple-making. Sadly, many leave it to just the hired professionals.

Most of us don’t make disciples because we don’t discipline ourselves to do it.

Making disciples will cost you something. It may cost you your reputation or even a promotion. But in many parts of the world, it will cost you your life.

Sharing the Gospel is valuing the message and the person you are speaking to, more than your own comfort, finances and even life. This is what it means to be a follower of Jesus. To value Jesus more than our own lives. Didn’t Jesus value you more than his own life?

Will you determine today to develop this discipline in your life?

4. Fellowship/ Community

Finally, I want to invite us all to get back on track in fellowship.

Fellowship is so much more than a handshake, a hug, or a pat on the back. Fellowship in the church is doing life together, growing together, challenging one another, and picking one another up when we stumble.  

God has put us in community, so that we can build one another up and walk together through the challenges of life.

Fellowship is one of the keys to the effectiveness of the church. A church will never be able to grow beyond its fellowship. If the fellowship is healthy in the church, it will continue to minister and grow in maturity and in number. The early church did this well (Acts 2:42).

Fellowship is also staying in community even after a disagreement. True fellowship is fighting for restoration and unity. That’s hard work, that requires discipline (Hebrews 10:24-25).

One of the first signs of drifting away from fellowship with God is a tendency to pull away from fellowship with each other.

Together the embers of a fire glow red-hot. But scattered, they soon grow cold. That is why the discipline of fellowship is so important. We all need brothers and sisters united in Christ to strengthen our faith.

These are four foundational disciplines. If you are waiting to rekindle a particular discipline when you feel like it, you will never begin the discipline.

Discipline does not come from desire; it comes from decision and determination.

I encourage you to enter into discipline, get back on track, and see how God uses your commitment.

To God be the Glory

click on the camera to view the full message and reports

It is good to be back in Kansas City. Our team was an exceptional team of fifteen people from Grace Point. Debbie and I really enjoyed sharing the beauty and culture with our family from Grace Point.

The schedule was demanding, and the team was exhausted, but they approached every day with zeal and optimism. Even as we struggled with sickness and cold early mornings, there was no complaining.

I got regular text messages from our ministry partners asking for the team to return and pray for more people because the Lord was moving so powerfully wherever they went.

There was so much that God did, and still doing in the lives of the people we encountered. Lives were eternally changed, simply because we brought the Gospel message, prayed, and invited the Holy Spirit to do his work.

We served a wonderful ministry called Living Hope in Fishoek, South Africa, near Cape Town. Founded by John and Avril Thomas almost 24 years ago, they serve thousands of people annually. The entire Living Hope team are heroes and some of the most selfless people you could meet.

During our time in Fishoek, we served in many different capacities; we served with after school programs, helped with the sustainable farming, sorted donations, rebuilt and stained a deck, prayer walked, taught and served at a drug and alcohol recovery center, led staff devotions daily, served and prayed for people in their in-patient medical facility and served with their disabled and home health care teams. We prayed for people, served food, shared the Gospel, washed feet, and taught the Bible; it was such a powerful experience for our whole team.

One of the questions often asked about short term missions is, what is the fruit? Can we quantify the “return on investment”?

A lot of money was raised, and many people sacrificed in order to go to South Africa, how can we know if it was worthwhile?

Short team missions is a double edged sword; lives are impacted as we pray and share the Gospel, ministries are encouraged, churches are built up, people are healed and souls are won for the kingdom of Heaven.

But missions is also a tremendous discipleship tool for those who go. They grow in their faith as they rely on the Lord. Being stretched to speak in front of people and lead when they never thought they could. Seeing the faith of others around the world who have little or nothing in the way of material goods, yet they joyfully praise God. Seeing people with absolute faith that God will come through and heal or provide daily bread. This mission team are changed people and they will continue to grow as God leads them to serve and share what they have learned.

I love to invite people into a relationship with Jesus, and I had the opportunity to do that on several occasions.

During the after-school ministry, Bob Strawn had just taught the children the parable of the Good Samaritan. As we closed, we impressed on the children that without Jesus Christ they would not be able to love their neighbor. Many of the children have been abused by their neighbors, how could they love them?

As we spoke about the power of the Holy Spirit to enable them to love like Jesus does, we invited them to make Jesus lord of their lives, about twenty of the children responded to the Gospel that day.

A few days later, at the recovery center, we were asked to come and pray with Samuel. Samuel was writhing in pain as he was going through heroin withdrawal. Tim Bardy and I prayed with him to be set free from pain and he prayed to make Jesus Christ lord of his life. A temporal and an eternal miracle. Two days later we saw Samuel again and he was a visibly different person as the Lord had begun to transform his life.

A number of our team spoke at the recovery center, and I was scheduled to close with a Gospel invitation. I took them to Romans 6:1-6 and specifically verse 6, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”

The clients could all identify with being a slave to sin, and six of them responded to the Gospel invitation. It was a great day, we were seeing a harvest of souls.

Throughout the trip, the Lord would wake me up early, each morning I would look at my watch and it was 4:38am. This happened day after day, each day the exact time I looked at my watch was 4:38am.

As we spoke about it, I wondered if it was maybe a scripture reference that the Lord was calling me to meditate on. I began looking and immediately came across John 4:38, Jesus speaking to his disciples said, For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” The Lord impressed on me that we are simply experiencing the harvesting of the fruit of other peoples’ faithful labors.

There are seasons of sowing, nurturing, and reaping. God moves his servants around and we must always be aware of the season that we are in. The people at Living Hope have sown for years with incredible sacrifice, then God sent a small team from Kansas City to reap the harvest that they had been praying for. What a joy to be used by the Lord to partner with these incredible people thousands of miles away from home.

Kansas City is our mission field, it is the primary area of our sowing and nurturing. There are thousands of people in our community that do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Are we faithfully sowing and praying to the Lord of the harvest?

Thank you to all who sacrificially gave and blessed the people of South Africa.

kuThixo makube luzuko (Xhosa)

Aan God die eer (Afrikaans)

To God be the glory.

Pray Boldly.

Monday July 17, 2023

Yesterday was a very sad day for our church family. As the service was beginning, we were notified that Judy Pickens had just passed away. She had an asthma attack that led to a heart attack and within a few minutes, she was in the presence of the Lord.

As we grieve and pray for Clarissa and the family, we are not without hope. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 reads, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”

One thing we all know for certain is that Judy was a follower of Jesus and a very passionate one at that. She loved prayer and loved to include others in her prayer circles.

Once again, we are reminded that this for believers, this is not our home, our bodies will all be discarded one day, and we will step into eternity with Jesus. However, while we are still alive on this earth, we all have a calling, a mission, and a promise of God’s presence in us by the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes we are tempted to think that we just need to get through our lives and then one day, we will receive our inheritance as followers of Jesus. While it is true, we are awaiting the glorification of our bodies and the righteous will receive crowns as rewards, but what about today?

This morning I was reading Luke chapter 15 and the parable that Jesus told about the prodigal son. It is such a well-known parable, and we tend to breeze through the text that is so familiar to us. But in verse 12 of Luke 15 I found something very significant, “And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them.”

Notice the last word in the verse, “them”, the good father gave both sons their inheritance at the same time. The older son, who we often view as the disgruntled and complaining son, actually knew he already had access to his inheritance. But he lived as if he was a slave.

At the end of the parable, Jesus highlights this when the father speaks to the older son in verse 31, “…Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.”

We can so easily live like that older son, we are in the Kingdom, but we live as if we are servants. We pray weak prayers because we don’t know that we have access to the blessings of heaven today. Eternal life starts the moment you receive Jesus Christ as Lord, and along with that comes access to the throne of the Father and he loves to give good gifts to His children.

Matthew 7:11, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

This week as you pray, remember that you have access and that your Father in heaven is generous and only gives the best to His children.

This coming Sunday, our South African Mission team leaves for Cape Town. The journey over the past 5 months has been miraculous as we have seen the Lord provide more than we need, so much that we are praying and asking the Lord for direction as to what to do with the resources He has given us. I believe that God has much more in store for us, beyond even what we could ask or think (Ephesians 3:20-21).

In God We Trust

Click on the camera to view the full message video

“In God we Trust”. It is the official national motto, signed into law in 1956.

The sad irony is that in our nation today, few people really trust in God. Many people say that they have faith in God, but their actions and lifestyle show that they do not trust God.

In Psalm 25, David is crying out to God for direction, and in verse 2 he states, “O my God, in You I trust…”. And then in verse 3 he says, “Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame…” Waiting on the Lord is the equivalent of trusting in Him. It is actively trusting the Lord, waiting on Him to reveal His plans. Choosing to wait on the Lord and not run ahead of him, that is trusting in the Lord.

In verse 4 and 5, David asks the Lord to show him the way he should go. He is prepared to wait all day for the Lord. David acknowledges that he doesn’t have the ability to move forward, he is pleading with the Lord for direction. How often do we cry out to God like this for our future? Do we know what it is to wait on the Lord? Or do we offer a 30 second prayer and then rush out and make our own plans, hoping that God will bless it.

We read in verse 9, “He leads the humble in justice, and He teaches the humble His way.”

Now we know that in order to trust God we need come before him humbly and acknowledge our weakness. But the word “humble” in the Hebrew could also mean, afflicted or broken.  

We tend to think of being humble as a posture that we present to God in the way of our attitude, but rather David describes being afflicted and humbled by God. We don’t like the sound of that. David was pleading with God to teach him, and the humbling process was the way God taught David dependence on Him.

By God’s Grace he does that to all of us, when we are brought to the place where we realize we have nothing to offer and are humbled in the presence of the almighty God.

Part of learning to be directed by God, begins with the fear of the Lord (see verses 12,14 and Psalm 111:10). To fear the Lord is a theme throughout the Old Testament.

Fearing the Lord means to be in reverent awe of His holiness, to give Him complete reverence and to honor Him as the God of great glory and majesty. This will bring us into a position of understanding and wisdom, which is knowledge given by God. Only as we truly fear the Lord will we be freed from all destructive and satanic fears.

In verse 15 David declared, “My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.” David trusted God to deliver him when he was in trouble. Do we know how to trust in God when we face trouble? (See Psalm 91:2).

Jesus died for our sins and rose again from the dead to free us from the power of sin and death. We have a risen savior that rules today at the right hand of the Father. Our struggles today are temporary and fleeting in the light of eternity.

We look around and we see a nation that is very different to the one we knew 20 years ago. However, nothing that is happening today or will happen tomorrow will ever shake God or surprise Him. And along with that, the church, the body of Christ that is built on the foundation of the Word of God will never be shaken.

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8.

In order to put our trust in the word of God, we need to know the word of God and meditate on the word of God. What a privilege we must open the Bible and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal truths to us. The Bible is a sure foundation that will not be shaken in an ever-changing world.

When we see the changes taking place around us, we need to be drawn to our knees to pray for our country. We weep and mourn as we see changes that seem to be out of our control, but we are not a people without hope. If you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and have a growing relationship with him, you are part of another Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven. This kingdom will endure forever (see Psalm 145:13).

Matt Chandler once said, “The Kingdom of God wasn’t born on the Fourth of July.” 

Do you trust in God?

The Armor of God

Click on the camera to view the full message

As Christians, we need a daily reminder that we are in a war, a spiritual war as Paul writes in Ephesians 6:10-12. But here is the great truth that Watchman Nee writes, “We don’t fight for victory, we fight from victory”.

We stand in victory that Jesus completed when he died and rose again.

I have found that the armor of God which we find in Ephesians 6:13-18, to be extremely important on mission trips, and for everyday life.

There is a reason verse 13 says, “take up the whole armor of God”, every piece is vital for our Christian walk. Satan and his demons are looking for a weak point in our defenses where they can attack us.

1 The first is the Belt of Truth.

We know that Satan is a liar and John says that he is the father of lies (John 8:44). The belt is the piece that holds all the suit of armor together, truth is foundational to standing firm.

The Belt also holds the sword, without the truth, the sword of the spirit will be ineffective in the life of the follower of Jesus.

2 The Breastplate of righteousness.

The breastplate was a metallic covering that covered the front and the back of the soldier, from the neck to the waist.

This breastplate is not of our righteousness, it is the righteousness of Christ. This is the only righteousness that we have (2 Corinthians 5:21). What a blessing to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

3 The shoes of the Gospel.

The Gospel of peace is that Jesus, who was fully God and fully man, lived a perfect sinless life, died in our place on a roman cross, taking the punishment that we deserved. He rose from the dead, appeared to hundreds, before ascending into heaven where he is now interceding for us. The Gospel is like spikes in our shoes, allow us to stand firm in the face of any enemy attack.

But more than standing firm, we have the blessing and the calling to share the Gospel with the world around us, as the prophet Isaiah writes:

How beautiful upon the mountains
    are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
    who publishes salvation,
    who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

Isaiah 52:7

4 The Shield of Faith.

Satan is firing darts at us all the time. These darts are aimed at our hearts and our minds. Lies, evil thoughts, hateful thoughts about others, and temptation, these are all darts with flaming points that Satan wants to penetrate the Christians armor. We must constantly hold up the shield of faith.

One of the features of the shields in the Roman times was that they could lock together and form a near impenetrable barrier. This is why we are safer together in the body of Christ. Never attempt to go into a battle alone, we need the support of other believers in the Body of Christ.

5 The Helmet of Salvation

Satan wants to attack the mind;  planting seeds of doubt, envy, lust, greed and the like.

It is how he caused Adam and Eve to sin, by sowing a seed of doubt about the goodness of God.

What we think about, dwell on, meditate in is really important. Our thoughts need to be submitted to God (2 Corinthians 10:5-6).

Paul writes in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

The Helmet of salvation is put on with diligent reading and studying the Word of God. Don’t neglect the study of the word of God. In order to recognize the lies of the enemy, we need to know the truth.

6 The Sword of the Spirit.

Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

The Word of God brings conviction of sin, piercing to the heart.  Have you noticed how aggressive some unbelievers become when Scripture is quoted? The reason is that the Bible is inspired and empowered by the very spirit of God.

When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, he used the sword of the Spirit, he used the word of God to defeat Satan. The better you know the word of God, the better you will be able to discern the lies of the enemy.

The Armor of God is also picture of Jesus:

  • He is the truth.
  • He is our righteousness.
  • He is our peace.
  • He is our salvation.
  • He is the word of God.

Daily we should be in the habit of putting on the armor of God. Satan never stops his attacks; we must never be defenseless.

We need to have a paradigm shift in our approach to the attacks of the enemy of our souls. Usually, we ask God to help us to defeat Satan in a certain area of our lives, but may I suggest a different way of praying. We need to pray thanking God for the victory that Jesus has already won and ask Him for the strength to stand firm. This requires faith. That is why Paul wrote in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

If we are a church that is about missions, fulfilling the Great Commission, spiritual warfare should be normal. And putting on the armor of God should be a way of life.

Why Missions?

Click on the camera to view the full message video

Why does the church do missions?

The term missions conveys the idea of a military campaign and the truth is that when we go out to share the Gospel, we are going out into enemy territory, with the goal and purpose of winning souls for Christ. It is spiritual warfare. The enemy is real, and the warfare is real, particularly in regions where there is prevalent witchcraft and demonic worship.

Some people argue that the church focuses too much on mission and not enough on the discipleship and nurturing of our own church family. We have this tension between mission and discipleship.  

The truth is that the church is called to do both. One without the other is disobedience to the instructions of Jesus. Jesus instructed Peter in John 21 to, “feed my sheep”, to instruct and feed the followers of Jesus with the Word of God. The apostle Paul also instructed Timothy to preach the word patiently to those in the church (2 Timothy 4:2).

The church needs discipleship, and the church is a place where believers can come and be fed the word of God. But the church also needs to be obedient to the command of Jesus to go and preach the Gospel.

We all know the Great Commission found in Matthew 28, but we can sometimes forget that the Great Commission is found in each of the four Gospels, and also in Acts 1:8.

Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:14–18, Luke 24:44–49, John 20:19-23, and Acts 1:4–8.

The Gospel of Luke has a different perspective on the Great Commission and each of the Gospels give us a different view of the Gospel account. It’s like turning a diamond around in the light and seeing the beauty of the Gospel from different angles.

Luke recalls that after his resurrection, Jesus explained the Scriptures to the disciples (Luke 24:44-45). Jesus reminded them of all the prophecy’s that had been fulfilled in his life up to that point and how the Old Testament was a prophetic revelation of Jesus. It was probably a very gentle “I told you so” moment.

And then in verse 47 we read, “and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

Luke, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, highlights that salvation comes through repentance and turning from our old way of life. Sadly, the message of repentance is not preached enough today.

Luke continues in verse 49, “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Luke recalls that Jesus told his disciples to wait, not to go anywhere until they had been filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit coming on the gathering in the upper room in Acts 2, is the fire of God that was and is the catalytic power of the church.

Luke records that Jesus told them about a promise that was made long ago, the promise of the Father to send the Spirit. Jesus was referring to Isaiah 32:15 and Joel 2 for a couple of examples.  

This is crucial for the mission of the church; we must never think that we can do anything for God in our own strength.

The disciples before Pentecost were a group hiding behind locked doors, fearing for their lives and not a very effective group at all. But then, the Holy Spirit comes on them and they run out into the streets proclaiming Jesus as the risen Son of God, the Messiah. Their boldness was staggering, and the effectiveness of their witness changed the world. They were used by God the Holy Spirit.

They had courage as they went with the Power of the Holy Spirit.

Boldness like this is not restricted to the early church or to the disciples who walked with Jesus. This boldness accompanies and characterizes any believer who, against opposition, boldly proclaims the truth of God’s word.

None of the people who are heading out on mission trips from Grace Point this summer are under any illusion that they have some unique ability that qualifies them to go and preach the Gospel with power. Rather, they are humbly saying yes to the Lord and then inviting the Holy Spirit to empower, lead, and use them for the Glory of God.

So Why missions?

Because it builds the church. Not only are new converts added to the church, but it also builds the faith of the church as we hear stories of God moving in power.

Missions is a double-edged sword.  It grows the people going by stretching them in their faith and accomplishes much more in discipleship than any classroom environment could ever do. And then there is the blessing of seeing people saved and entering into the kingdom, helping other churches to grow in health and welcome new converts.

Missions is not only the instruction that Jesus gave the church, but it is the fuel and the impetus that ensures the church stays healthy.