Sermon July 23, 2017 – It Is Well

Psalm 42 is not a light Psalm, it is a Psalm by someone in intense distress, there is a heaviness about it.

The first two verses of this Psalm use the simile of a deer panting for water. Without water, we could not survive more than three days and one of the effects of dehydration is rapid breathing, in the same way the Psalmist is panting for the living God. His soul is thirsty for a fresh encounter with God. He has experienced God in a special way before and he desires that now more than anything else.

The Psalmist begins with a great question, “where can I go and meet with God?” A question that comes out of a longing and a desire for relationship with the creator of the universe. When you woke up this morning, was that your hearts cry? Do you go to Church on Sunday expectant to have an encounter with the living God?

In verse 4, the Psalmist recalls the good times, when he was close to God, presumably he remembers going to the temple in Jerusalem where he worshipped with many other people. It was a time of joy and celebration. He is longing for that, longing to once again experience the closeness of God.

As you look back on your life, was there a time that you long for when you experienced the closeness of God? But sadly, that is not the case in your life now, you once loved spending time with God in prayer and reading the Bible, but now you are a far off from God. You desire to get back to that place of joy and communion with God. We don’t suddenly wake up one morning and find out that our desire for the Lord has gone, it happens gradually as we allow the cares of the world, our business and our sins to creep in and remove our desire, our thirst, our passion for the Lord.

Verses 5 and 11 are the same in most translations, and the verse begins with two questions;

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” He is feeling depressed and hopeless, but he declares the truth, that God is his hope, God is faithful and God alone is his savior. “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Our emotions often sway us and allow us to feel that God is distant. But our feelings deceive us, God promises to be with us always (see Deuteronomy 31:8 and Matthew 28:20b).

The Psalmist has a burst of faith and then in verse 6 and 7 he seems to go back into a depression. He remembers that he is in the land of the Jordan, in the foothills north of the sea of Galilee, far from Jerusalem and on the fringe of the wilderness. He is attributing his lack of hope to his position. We do the same, we attribute our lack of passion and zeal for the Lord to our circumstances and our surroundings. We complain about our situation in life, but perhaps God has you in that situation in order to be a witness for the Gospel where you are.

As we continue in verse 7, the Psalmist seems to take a turn for the worse. His distress is figuratively portrayed by billows and waves. Trouble has come over him like one wave after another, personified as if they were calling to each other to come down in the waterfalls. He had been overwhelmed as if by a flood. Have you ever had the experience where life just seems to hit you with wave after wave of trouble and trials? So what do we do when the waves of trials overwhelm us? Verse 8 is the key, “By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life”

The Psalmist begins to declare the truths about the character of God. God is loving, faithful and always near! He doesn’t pray a simple prayer hoping that some distant being might hear him, no, he prays to THE GOD OF MY LIFE! He realizes that if everything else is taken away, God, the giver and sustainer of all life is sufficient. Have you come to the realization that Jesus is enough?

The Psalmist ends with that declaration of faith again; “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

Where is your hope today? Do you hope in money, your abilities to work, or for someone else to provide for you? Or do you hope in God?

In the 21st century, why should we have confidence in God?

Hebrews 11:1 says, Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” But when the storms are raging around us, our health is failing, our finances are running out – how can we have confidence?

I can tell you today with absolute certainty that we can have confidence because of Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus the perfect sinless Son of God, died for our sins, and provided a way for us to come and talk directly to the Creator God. And by the Holy Spirit and the Word, He speaks to us, and reveals truth to us (See Hebrews 10:19 and 4:16). Not only are we able to come to God in prayer, but we are encouraged to pray boldly with confidence.

Grander earth has quaked before
Moved by the sound of His voice
Seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard

Through it all through it all – My eyes are on You
Through it all through it all – It is well
Through it all through it all – My eyes are on You
It is well with me

 Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can’t see
And this mountain that’s in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

 So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name

 It is well with my soul

 CCLI Song # 7021972, CCLI License # 122365
Horatio Gates Spafford | Kristene DiMarco | Philip Paul Bliss

Church in the Park – July 16, 2016

We have just celebrated a wonderful service together as a church. We held our church service at John Anderson Park in Grandview. It was well attended and the weather was amazing, although admittedly it was a bit warm for some.

When we promoted the idea of having a church service in the park, it was a bit of a stretch for some, I admit that I had some doubt as to the wisdom of the event.

But the Church met last Sunday, we didn’t meet in our normal building and in our usual seats, but the church still met. The Church, the followers of Jesus Christ, those who have submitted themselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. A healthy church understands that we are to be the church in our community and whenever and wherever we gather, the Church gathers.

There are churches that Satan does not have a problem with people going to. Unfortunately, there are many of these churches, who do not proclaim the Gospel and do not challenge their members to focus on the Great Commission that Jesus left the Church to do in Matthew 28.

However, if the church gets out from behind their four walls and begins to make an impact on the community, then the kingdom of darkness is threatened. I am always reminded of what Jesus said in Luke 10 when the 72 early missionaries returned, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven”.

The basis of the church, our foundational statement is the Gospel message.

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 we read the Gospel in a nutshell, “”Now I make known to you brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures . . .

The Bible says that we are all sinners (Rom. 3:23). This means that we have all offended God and have all broken His law. Therefore, we are guilty of having sinned. Because of this, we are separated from God (Isaiah 59:2), are dead in our sins (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:3), cannot please God (Rom. 3:10-11), and will face an eternity of suffering separated from the presence of God (2 Thess. 1:9).

The only way to escape this judgment is by placing our faith in what Jesus did on the cross (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Pet. 2:24). We can only be saved from Hell by submitting our lives to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ as our savior, we cannot save ourselves by our own efforts (Galatians 2:21).

We have to rely on God to remove our sins. Jesus, who is God in flesh (John 1:1), bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24). He died in our place. He paid the penalty of breaking the Law of God that should have fallen upon us. He satisfied the law of God the Father by dying on the cross.

It did not end there, God raised Jesus from the dead and he appeared to many people in his resurrected body over a period of forty days (1 Corinthians 15). Jesus then ascended into Heaven where he lives today interceding for us (Romans 8:34). Jesus is our advocate with our Heavenly Father and he is coming again one day to take the church to be with him and to rule over the earth with justice restoring all things according to God’s perfect plan.

That is the Gospel message.

Without the Gospel, we have no church

Without the Gospel, we have no hope of salvation

Without the Gospel, we have no testimony

Without the Gospel, we cannot pray for healing

Our mission statement as a church is as follows: “to be a loving church family, worshipping God and transforming our community with the message of the Gospel.”

Our community, our city, our nation desperately needs the Good news. Every day on the evening news we see that violence is everywhere. Kansas City is ranked as one of the most violent cities in the nation.

Our city needs the Church to be the Church and share the Gospel. We cannot change a city by being nice people, only God can change a city and a nation, and that is only by the power of God as the Gospel message is understood and revealed to the world.

So, what does the Gospel mean to you?

Sermon July 9, 2017 Hunger for God

2 Kings 4:1-7

Hunger is an interesting fact of life, our bodies let us know when we need food and when we need more fuel to continue the day. God has created us to have hunger of many kinds, the greatest and highest of which is to know God, to have a personal relationship with him. this is the inner craving of every human being, people try to fill this craving with money, sex, drugs, food, fame, exercise and many other pursuits, but ultimately the hunger for God can only be filled by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Even when we become followers of Jesus, we still have needs that only God can fulfill.

As you read this, what is the one thing that you need God to give you right now? It might be the healing of a sick family member, financial provision, salvation of someone close to you or the mending of a broken relationship. Everyone has something that they are hungry for.

In 1 Kings 4 we read a short account of a fascinating and powerful miracle. A prophet under the leadership of Elisha died and left his wife with unpaid debts. This woman is in a desperate situation, this woman who had just lost her husband was now about to lose her two sons into slavery. So, she cries out in desperation to Elisha, the great leader of the prophets. Elisha starts by asking some simple questions; “how can I help you?” It seems as if he is testing her faith at this point.

I want to take three observations from this account.

  1. Awareness of Great Need

For anyone to cry out to God, there must be an awareness of the need. True hunger creates a capacity for God to work a miracle (see Matthew 5:6 and Matthew 6:33). Where is the focus of your hunger today?

Duncan Campbell wrote: “the crisis of conversion is a conviction of sin, but the crisis of sanctification (growing in our Christian walk) is a conviction of want.”

2. Confidence in God to Meet the Need.

As the widow expresses her need, Elisha asks her the question, “what do you have in your house?”

All she has is a small jar of oil. This sounds very similar to the miracle that Jesus performed in Matthew 15.

The principle is that we need to bring what little that we have to the Lord and allow him to perform the miracle. We try to find solutions to our problems through human resources, when God is calling us to first go to Him in prayer. We have such an awesome privilege to go before the creator of the universe in prayer, presenting our requests to Him. Are you confident that God can meet your every need? (see Philippians 4:19).

Confidence that God can perform a miracle is one thing, but are we expectant?

The widow called Elisha not because of confidence in God alone, but because she was expecting that He would bring relief to her situation.

3. Faith in Obedience brings about the Miracle.

The widow goes and collects jars from all her friends and neighbors following Elisha’s instruction, “don’t ask for just a few”. She goes indoors and closes the doors with her sons and takes the first step in faith. She takes the little jar of oil and begins to pour it, as she obeys the miracle takes place. In faith, she proceeds to do as instructed, and the miracle happens. God blesses and is pleased with faith (see Heb 11:6), we cannot please God without faith.

Notice that the jars she collected had to be empty. If one of her caring neighbors gave her a full jar to help her out, would that have done any good? No, the jars needed to be empty to receive the blessing of the miraculous oil.

Similarly, when we pray for a miracle of God’s blessing, we cannot bring anything to the table, we must not come with any of our own merits or qualifications. We must be totally dependent on the Lord to provide. Sometimes our own credits or achievements prevent us from receiving all that God wants to bless us with.

A PERSON WHO IS FULL OF THEMSELVES HAS NO ROOM FOR JESUS.

Notice the lyrics of the classic Hymn “Rock of Ages”

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;

In verse 6 we read that the oil flowed continuously until the last jar was filled, as the last jar was filled the miracle seemed to stop. The supply of oil stopped, not because it dried up, but because the capacity to receive the oil ended.

Our God never runs out of resources, material or spiritual resources, He is more than capable to bless us beyond our wildest dreams. God never looks at his bank account or his supply house and meters out his blessings according to a strict budget.

God desires to bless his children, but we must keep bringing the vessels so that He can pour His blessings into them. We must keep coming back to God in faith and asking him to fill us, no need is too small, no need is too big for God. As His children, we must present our empty vessels to Him, not half full vessels, relying on our abilities, we must rely totally on him.

When we come to Christ we must be dead to ourselves for him to be our life, we must be beggars for him to be our riches, we must be sick and weak for him to be our health and strength. We must know we are lost for Jesus to be our savior.

When we come to God with a need, I believe we don’t realize the capacity that God has to meet our needs. When Elisha told the Woman to borrow many jars, he knew the size of the miracle God could do, and it was only limited by the capacity that she was prepared to receive.

Are you praying for big miracles? The size of your prayers is directly related to your understanding of the glory and majesty of God, which is shown in your level of expectancy. What are you expecting God to do for you?

CS Lewis once wrote; “it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Let us be a people who pray boldly, trusting in the all-powerful creator of all things to provide all our needs according to His riches in Glory.

Sermon June 25, 2017 – What Time is it? Part 3

John 7:1-13

This past week we noted on the calendar the summer solstice the longest day of the year, marking the beginning of the summer season. However, it is also a sad day as it marks the fact that our days are now getting progressively shorter and shorter.

Think about the season of life that you are in right now. We are all pretty good at categorizing our season of life, but try to set aside those man-made categories and start to dream a bit. Start to think that no matter what age you are, God has something unique and special for you to do. Do you know the time in your own personal life? What is the season that you are in? Rather what is the season that God has set for your life right now.

In the Gospels, we frequently are reminded that Jesus was on a timeline, one that would ultimately lead him to the cross. Jesus was occasionally encouraged by those close to him to adjust the timeline, to speed things up. They did not know the complete picture, but they thought they could help Jesus become the ruler, they wanted him to be.

In chapter 7 of John’s Gospel, we read an interesting exchange between Jesus and his brothers, one of the only recorded dialogues between Jesus and his half-brothers. It seems that Jesus’ brothers want to become his promoters. They witnessed the miracles he did, and they thought that now is the time to take Jesus to the big time, taking his fame to the streets of Jerusalem.

Jesus was staying in the region of Galilee and had been teaching and performing miracles for about six months. Galilee was safer for Jesus, than the region of Judea in the south. The religious leaders in Judea wanted to kill Jesus, but Jesus was on a divine timeline and he knew that his time had not yet come. Throughout the Gospel of John, we see references to this divine timetable that Jesus was on. (see John 2:4; John 7:30, John 8:20 and John 12:23).

In John 7:6 Jesus said, “my time is not yet here” the Greek word for time used here is Kairos. Kairos, is more than a tick on a clock or a day on the calendar, it is a deeper word that means the right time, the most effectual time, or the opportune time.

Jesus was being pushed by his brothers to seize the moment, they thought this was the opportune time for Jesus to be introduced to the world. But Jesus was not interested in worldly fame, he was on a much more important mission. A mission that the creator of the universe was orchestrating, Jesus was on a divine timeline.

We as followers of Jesus Christ, who have the Holy Spirit in us, are not living for ourselves, rather we are on a divine timeline as well. Daily asking God for His plan and direction for our lives.

When we are young we may feel that we have all the time in the world particularly in the summer. However, before we know it, 30 years has flown by and many hours have been wasted.

When we are in the season of parenting Children at home, we have no time there are so many demands on our time. The demands are so great that we don’t realize the season that we are in that is so fleeting. The tremendous blessing of holding and nurturing a child. Being entrusted by God to train up a child in the ways of the Lord, those days pass by quickly.

When you are old and your children are out of the home, the temptation is to feel that you have done your share, you deserve to take it easy and enjoy your final years. What did Jesus say about the man who said exactly that in the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:19-20?

We have this crazy modern notion that we need to work as hard as we can, amass as much wealth as we can, then we can retire early and then we go to Florida and play golf until we die. What a miserable existence! What if you grasped that God has so much more for you. There is so much more joy in living out our days, whatever season of life we are in, totally committed to the will and plan of God for our lives.

When we are young, we miss the sense of urgency to ask the Lord for His plan, and when we are old, we seem to think that God cannot use us because we are past our prime.

I want to tell you that you are in the perfect season for God to use you. He has prepared you, through your past experiences and trials, He has prepared you for today, for the Kairos moment that he has for you today.

The opportune time that God has you in right at this moment. God does not give us breath to breathe and not give us Kairos moments to fill our days.

Moses was 80 years old and as he led the sheep toward the mountain of God, God called him and changed the course of history through the life of Moses.

Abraham and Sarah were promised a child when Abraham was 100 years old, Sarah was ninety when she gave birth to Isaac.

In the book of 1 Chronicles we see a group of men who did understand the times, who did understand the season and they were ready for action. We read in 1 Chronicles 12:32 about the sons of Issachar, men who observed, reasoned and stepped out in faith.

Today we need men and women who understand what is happening in society from God’s perspective, to step out in faith leading the church into action. People who will be on their knees before God asking Him for direction and wisdom to discern the times (see Romans 13:11-14).

What plan does God have for you? Are you willing to pray and make yourself available to God?

We have incredible opportunities presented to us now in history, but we have plenty of excuses. We are too old, we are too young, we don’t have the money, our health is not optimal, we don’t have the right education…… any number of excuses for not recognizing the season that God has placed us here in Kansas City now in history.

I challenge you to pray and ask God for the direction and plan that is perfect for your life, the reason he created you and placed you here right now.

Sermon June 18 2017 What time is it? Part 2

Across the world we are seeing that God is on the move. Millions of people are becoming followers of Jesus, many of them at the risk of losing their lives.

For information on what is happening in the middle east read this article: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/stories/muslims-turn-to-christ-in-unprecedented-numbers-pt-1/

In Asia, Africa and South America we are seeing millions coming to know Jesus Christ as Lord and savior.

So you may say, what does all this have to do with our local church here in South Kansas City?

It is important to realize that we as a small church on the hill here in Kansas City, are a part of something glorious, something far bigger and more powerful than we can ever imagine.

Paul writing the churches in the region of Ephesus wrote to people that he had not met personally but he had heard about their faith and their love for the Lord. Reading Ephesians 1:15-23, Paul lets them know that he is praying for them to have the eyes of their hearts enlightened (v 18). He wants them to know that they are not simply a small insignificant group of believers in Asia minor, he wants them to understand that they are a holy people called by God, and that they are precious to God. Sometimes we need that reminder too, do you know how precious the church is to God? Do you know how precious Grace Point is to God?

But not only that, Paul reminds them of the power of God that is for them. He continues in verse 19 and 20 by encouraging them that no matter what forces are opposing them, the power of God is greater and He is able to sustain His church. Paul continues to elaborate that Jesus is far more powerful than any authority, power and dominion; not only in this age, but also in the age to come.

This same Jesus who is God himself, the all-powerful creator God, has been appointed as the head of the church. God placed all things under Jesus’ feet as we see in verse 22.

Finally, in verse 23 Paul says that the church is the body of Christ. We often say that as the church, we are the body of Christ, but do we really understand that? I doubt we can even begin to fathom what that means for us.

Jesus so identifies with his church, he is so committed to his church, that he calls us to be his ambassadors, his holy representatives in the world, having the fulness of Christ in us (see Colossians 1:24-27).

We as Grace Point Baptist church are part of something so much bigger and so much more powerful than we can ever imagine. And the best part of it is that if we simply remain faithful to what God has called us to do, he is responsible for the results as Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, the he will build his church. We need to simply ask him for the plan and do what he says.

There was a conversation that was common at Grace Point a few years ago, it was the conversation of when we are going to have to close the doors, sell the building and find another church.

I am so glad that we don’t have those conversations anymore, not because of any plan or strategy that we have implemented, but because of what Jesus is doing in his church. Jesus, our head is changing the conversation, he is bringing about new life.

The truth is that any talk about closing or running out of money is not grounded in an understanding of our true identity. Our identity as the body of Christ, this is his church and if we grasp, as Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus that we would have the eyes of our hearts enlightened, in order to see who we are in Christ. Knowing our true identity, we will quickly see that he alone is responsible for the results, our responsibility is to be fervent in prayer and quick to obey what he tells us to do.

I recently read a book by Andrew Davis and in it he writes that every church exists for one purpose alone, to bring Glory to God by making progress on two spiritual journeys.

The first is the internal journey of discipleship and growth towards maturity in Christ. Peter commands this in his second letter, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18. That is the journey that we are on as individuals, we will never complete this journey of spiritual maturity until Jesus comes again.

The second journey is the external journey of evangelism and missions.

The Great Commission that Jesus left the church in Matthew 28:19-20 still applies to us today.

A healthy church, as Davis writes has both journeys in balance; being committed to discipleship while at the same time being committed to missions and evangelism.

As we ask the question, what is the time on God’s calendar for Grace Point? This church that has over 106 years of fruitful ministry, what is the season we are in right now? What does the Lord have for us to be and to do in our ever-changing society?

In our culture, our traditional programs, simply don’t reach the community the way they once did. But a healthy church, functioning as the body of Christ will reach our community.

Programs are not the sign of a healthy church. Rather, relationships, community and being centered on the Gospel message are signs of a healthy church.

I loved the message that Bob Michaels shared three years ago, as he spoke about the transformational church he said; “the transformational church innovates to advance the Gospel.”

This is definitely an exciting time for us as a church as we see what God is doing in our midst and what He is doing all over the earth.

Sermon June 11 2017 What time is it? Part 1

One of the most frequent questions we hear is, what’s is the time?

Frequently we want to know the time to prepare for an event or to prepare for an appointment.

On God’s schedule, the world is one a timer as well, every day takes us closer to the end of the World. It begs the question, what time is it?

Jesus spoke quite plainly to his disciples about the end of the world, the events that would precede his coming again, as we read Matthew 24:1-14

Matthew 24 and 25 is what is known as the Olivet Discourse, where Jesus talks to his disciples privately. Jesus begins with a warning; “Watch that no one deceives you!”

In this the information age, it is so hard to know what is truth and what is deception. There is only one sure foundation and that is the Word of God. We must know and study the Bible, not simply read it on Sunday morning, or listen to sermons on the radio, we need to be digging into the word of God for ourselves. Without a solid knowledge of the truths of the Word of God, you will be deceived. Truth is under attack all around us, and if you don’t know the truth, you will be deceived, and that will affect your eternal destiny.

Jesus continues in verses 6 to 8 and says that his followers will hear of wars, nations rising against nation, famines and earthquakes. Sound a lot like our day and age. But Jesus said, don’t be alarmed.

This is not the end, it is merely the birth-pains or a time of suffering before the end.

In verse 9 Jesus shifts from the suffering happening over there to the very personal persecution and suffering happening to his followers. V9; “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.”

This is very personal and real, we are seeing this kind of persecution happening to Christians all over the world. We in America, have no idea of some of the persecution taking place against followers of Jesus Christ. We get upset if someone hints that the churches tax exempt status might be removed!

We had better wake up and take stock of where we stand, we have been lulled into a comfortable Christianity that is socially acceptable, but Jesus clearly warns that this is not part of his plan for the church, the true followers of Christ.

The book of Revelation is a book comprised entirely of what is known as Apocalyptic material. That word Apocalypse comes from the similar sounding Greek word which means unveiling or revealing, hence the name Revelation. I know some of you when you read the book of revelation, you come to believe that it is anything but a revelation. But I encourage you to not shy away from this book because of the many varied theories and speculations. Revelation 1:3 says, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” Don’t you want to take God up on his offer to bless you?

Here is the great truth about the Bible, we have a promise from God that by his Holy Spirit, we will be given insight and understanding. Before you sit down to read, ask God to speak to you and reveal his truth to you. You may not be able to understand all the details, but as you read God will begin to reveal new truths to you.

John’s Revelation and the book of Daniel predict a threefold process of the end of times.

There are several prominent beliefs regarding the sequence of events that include a time of tribulation, Jesus reigning on the earth for a thousand year and the final judgment, where everyone will stand before Jesus to be judged.

Theologians have wrestled with these scriptures for hundreds of years. And unfortunately, because of the strong opinions of some, we have seen churches split and Christians falling out of fellowship with one another. I know this is not part of God’s plan for the church. The bottom line is that just as the angels promised in Acts 1:11; Jesus is coming back. We do not know when, but one thing is certain, it nearer today than it was yesterday.

Are we eagerly longing for that day?

The more a Christian gets caught up enjoying the good things of this life, the more we neglect genuine Christian fellowship and our daily personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the less likely are we to desire his coming.

On the other hand, our Christian brothers and sisters around the world who are experiencing real suffering and persecution, or an elderly person who is suffering on a bed of illness, or someone who’s walk with the Lord is genuine and deep – these people have a real tangible desire for the Lord to return.

The depth of your desire for Jesus to return is a good measure of your Christian walk and your relationship with the Lord. Are you desperate for Jesus to return?

We might not know the time or the day, but we can see the signs around us that Jesus is coming soon. However, by being lulled into this world of entertainment and comfort, it seems unreal to think of the reality of the return of Christ.

So why do we need to know the time? Are you looking at the signs and getting ready? Preparing for Jesus to come back again.

One of the most terrifying verses in the Bible is verse 10 and 12 of Matthew 24. Jesus said in verse 12, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,”

Let us never grow cold in our love for the Lord, rather let us provoke on another to live every day for him with the intense desire for his return.

Verse 13 is our hope; “but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved

I challenge you to be one of those who stand firm on the Gospel, the only way of salvation.

The Three Characteristics of and Evangelist. May 28, 2017

Three Characteristics of an Evangelist.

It has been such a blessing to have people at Grace Point from many different states and denominations. All the evangelism efforts this week will be driven by one central theme, the Good news of Jesus Christ, the Gospel message. The central theme that Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, fully God and fully man, lived a perfect sinless life, suffered and died on a Roman cross. But God, raised him from the dead. Jesus now lives at the right hand of the father interceding for us, and all who call on the name of Jesus as Lord will be saved.

Focusing on evangelism and the evangelist, we find in John 4:31-38 three characteristics of an evangelist. While our focus may be on those gifted in evangelism, this passage has something to teach all of us.

 In the beginning of John 4, we read that Jesus left Judea and journeyed to Galilee, in order to get to Galilee, he had to go through Samaria and a town called Sychar, the location of Jacobs well. It was at this well that Jesus met the Samaritan woman, and he proceeds to tell her everything about her life. She encounters the living God and Jesus reveals to her that he is the promised Messiah. She immediately believes and runs back to town and becomes a fiery evangelist, convincing the people to come out and meet Jesus, and they do.

The disciples were trying to figure out why Jesus was talking to a Samaritan, and a woman no less. They being good Jews did not associate with the Samaritans, and in their minds, if Jesus was the promised Messiah, then he had come for the Jews only and to establish the nation of Israel once again. But here was Jesus preaching to a Samaritan Women. As they were trying to figure this out, the people from the town were coming in a large crowd towards them (v 30). The disciples tried to save the situation by suggesting to Jesus that it was time to eat and they needed to leave. But Jesus responds in his usual metaphorical way, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about” (v 32).

And then Jesus clarifies by saying; “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work”. This is the first Characteristic of an evangelist

Doing the work of the Father gives life. What is God calling you to do? What are your specific gifts given by the Holy Spirit that when you operate in them, you receive life?

Serving the Lord is never a chore, the only time it becomes a chore is when we work in our own strength, either because of guilt or seeking the recognition of others. When you serve the Lord, when you are seeking to please an audience of one, you will find life and strength for the day.

The Samaritan woman was now doing the Father’s will and finding excitement and enrichment in it. In verse 39 we read that she was going around the town telling people about Jesus, and many believed because of her testimony.

So, the first Characteristic of an evangelist that we see in this passage is devotion.

Jesus was devoted to the task he had been given, and he finished the work the Father sent him to do. We too are to be devoted to the calling God has on our lives.

The second characteristic of an evangelist we see in verse 35, where Jesus says; “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”

I may be reading into the situation a little bit, but I don’t find it hard to believe that as Jesus was saying this, he wasn’t pointing to the fields of corn or some other crop, but rather he was pointing to the crowd of people coming down to them from the town. Jesus was pointing to them and saying, “open your eyes, here is the harvest”.

Jesus could boldly declare that the Samaritans would accept his message because he had faith.

Evangelism takes faith, faith that God will lead us to those that He has prepared in advance to receive the message. The Samaritans had been prepared, they were expecting Jesus to be the messiah and they were not disappointed.

And then finally we find the third characteristic in verse 36; “Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.”

Every person who has given their lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ has one defining characteristic, it is the hope of eternal life. The evangelist goes out, with the hope of a reward for their efforts, but the greatest reward of all is to be able to spend eternity with our Lord and savior (see Colossians 1:25 to 27).

If you are have made Jesus Christ the Lord of your life, then he has a calling on your life, he has a perfect purpose and plan for your life, the Holy Spirit has gifted you uniquely for this purpose.

These three Characteristics; Devotion, Faith and Hope apply to you and me today.

  1. Are we devoted to what God has called us to do?
  2. Do we have faith that God is about to use us for His glory?
  3. Do we have hope in the fact that whatever God has called us to do, it will have eternal results.

Lessons from Jonah – part 4, May 21 2017

Jonah Chapter 4

Is it right for you to be angry?

It seems that our world is getting angrier and angrier. The last election cycle gave an indication to us that our nation is on the verge of rage. And so often we hear the statement; “well, I have a right to be angry!”

But do you really have a right to be angry?”

In Chapter three of the book of Jonah, he finally obeyed the Lord and preached the word of the Lord to the city of Nineveh, the entire city repented and God relented from his punishment.

Now one would think that Jonah would head back home, happy to have been the single most successful preacher in the Bible and tell his friends of his amazing mission trip to Assyria. But no, Jonah surprises us once more and in verse one of chapter four we read, “to Jonah, this seemed very wrong…” Jonah got angry because of his prejudice.

In this short chapter, Jonah gets angry with God’s withholding judgment, and he wants to die, then he gets angry about the plant dying, as if he deserved it, and he wants to die.

The Hebrew word used for Jonah’s anger reveals that Jonah was absolutely furious. In Jonah’s worldview, the city of Nineveh deserved the same fate as the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. And both times God responds to his anger by asking Jonah a simple Question; “Is it right for you to be angry?”

The irony is that Jonah is angry because God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love (Ch. 4:2). Jonah was the beneficiary of these attributes of God, but now when they are applied to a city that he hates, he gets angry. It sounds laughable, but, we are not much different to Jonah.

Jonah was angry because he perceived God as being soft on sin and weak on justice.

But Jonah did not have a healthy understanding of who God is, and neither do we.

Jonah gets angry at God, the uncreated creator of the universe. There is no concept or attribute of God that is more important for us to grasp than His holiness.

In the Prophet Isaiah’s vision in Isaiah 6, we read that the seraphim around the throne of God are constantly calling to each other in verse 3 saying; “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, the whole earth is filled with His glory”. The Hebrew language uses repetition for emphasis and there is no other attribute of God that is repeated three times. God’s holiness is the foundation of his being.

The holiness of God has two primary attributes:

Firstly, God is infinitely separate from all of creation, he is the creator and everything else is the creation.

AW Tozer put it this way: “Forever God stands apart, in light unapproachable. He is as high above an archangel as above a caterpillar, for the gulf that separates the archangel from the caterpillar is but finite, while the gulf between God and the archangel is infinite. The caterpillar and the archangel, though far removed from each other in the scale of created things, nonetheless one in that they are alike created. They both belong in the category of that which is not God and are separated from God by infinitude itself.”

Secondly, God is infinitely separate from Evil, because of his holiness he hates sin with a perfect hatred. The darkest hour in human history was when God the father had to turn his back on Jesus, because Jesus became sin for us at that moment. Your sins and mine were placed on Jesus and God the father could not even look on him.

The Bible calls followers of Jesus to a life of Holiness (see 1 Peter 1:16). God is not soft on sin, he gave his only son to reconcile us to Himself. God hates sin more than we could ever imagine.

Jonah was angry, because he felt that the Ninevites deserved to be punished, and they did deserve punishment.

However, Jonah also deserved punishment because he disobeyed God. And we too also deserve to be punished because of our sins (see Romans 3:23).

So, is it right for you to be angry?

The truth is that the root of our anger is primarily pride. We get angry because we deserve better, because we didn’t get our way, because our rights were challenged or because we feel we deserve respect.

What about righteous anger, you may ask? Righteous anger is rooted in a deep understanding of the holiness of God. One writer states, “Righteous Anger Focuses on God and His Kingdom, Rights, and Concerns, Not on Me and My Kingdom, Rights and Concerns.” When we compare our perceived right to become angry, and we compare it to the word of God, we see that we really don’t have the right to get angry (See James 1:19-20).

Often, we get angry before we know all the facts or before we speak to the person we feel has offended us.

If we would be quick to listen and slow to speak, we would gain more understanding, we would grow in our relationships and we would be angry less. The reality is that out of relationship comes grace.

Oh, that we would see people the way God sees them. There is a difference between wanting God to deal with sin and wanting God to destroy the sinner. God loves the sinner so much that he sent his son to die on the cross for their sins.

We as followers of Jesus Christ, those who have been forgiven of our sins have a responsibility to lead the way in forgiveness. It will require much from us to see the grace of God applied to some people and to forgive those that God has already forgiven.

When it comes to anger and unforgiveness in relationships, What about anger and unforgiveness in the church?

There are very few instances in a church where there is true righteous anger, rather we get angry because somebody moved our favorite chair, or somebody didn’t tell us that the meeting was cancelled, or we get angry because we weren’t invited to that dinner party. All these offenses are rooted in pride.

Paul writing to the Philippian church gives them some encouragement in this area, encouraging them to imitate the humility of Christ (Philippians 2:3-4). How I wish we could take this scripture to heart in our self-absorbed culture.

Lessons from Jonah part 3, May 14, 2017

Jonah chapter 3

Is there an area of your life that you wish you could have the opportunity to try again, or have a do-over?

Every day God invites us to start afresh and see a different ending, this is the amazing truth of the grace of God.

As we see in the third chapter of the book of Jonah, God is gracious to Jonah and gives him a second chance to be obedient to Him. Verse one starts with, “And the Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time”. Jonah is the only prophet in the Bible who had to have his assignment given twice.

One could say that Jonah didn’t obey God the first time because it wasn’t convenient, he was quite comfortable as a prophet to the Hebrews, and this call would change his ministry prospects dramatically.

Quite often it would appear that the call of God is inconvenient. For example, God calls businessmen out of their careers and onto a foreign mission field. Many parents have been challenged by the call of God on their children. The call of God on a young person is often contrary to the plans that their parents had for them. Difficult conversations happen all over the world as the Lord touches people’s lives, and they feel compelled to obey the Lord.

Throughout the Bible, God called people and they responded; Abram was called to leave his family and go to a place he had never seen. Jesus called fisherman who were getting ready for the next fishing trip, he also called a busy tax collector and a physician.

The common theme of all the stories of God calling his children, is that when God calls, the only response is one of obedience. When God called Jonah, he expected Jonah to be obedient. There is incredible blessing in obedience, the journey is sometimes tough, but the blessings are eternal (See Luke 18:28-30).

There is not much talk about obedience in modern Christian conversation, and sadly the truth is that we have made it so easy to be a “Christian”. We have made it a simple matter of coming to church and following some rules. In our Western mindset, we have lowered the bar of what it means to be a Christian. But being a Christian means dying to yourself every day, making a commitment to following the Lord every day, daily asking him for his plan for your life. Being a Christian affects every aspect of your life – where you go, how you spend your money, how you relate to your neighbors and how you behave when no-one is watching.

Jonah had no idea what lay in store for him in Nineveh, but he went there in obedience and faith.

Being obedient to God places us in situations where we are weak and vulnerable living a life of faith, that is what it means to be a Christian. Only when we are living in faith and are weak and vulnerable do we fully understand the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Jonah arrives after a 500-mile journey to Nineveh and begins his ministry. Nineveh is a large city for that time in history, and it takes 3 days for Jonah to walk through the city declaring his message.

“40 MORE DAYS AND NINEVEH WILL BE OVERTHROWN

Jonah’s message is an interesting one, the word overthrown has two possible meanings.

Firstly, it is the same word used in the account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, it was a complete destruction by God, a cataclysmic event that would have been widely known throughout the region.

The second possible meaning is a turning upside down, a changing of headship, or a change of heart.

So, the translation of the word “overthrown” could have a bad or a good outcome. If the people do not repent, it will end badly for them, should they however repent, it will be a good change that would lead to life.

The story of Jonah in Nineveh was also a prophetic message to the People back home.

Jonah – a prophet to the Hebrews delivers his most powerful message to the People of Israel by going to the enemy city of Nineveh and calling on them to repent. The Ninevites immediately repent, and turn to God. This is a far cry from the people back in the Northern Kingdom of Israel where Jonah normally taught. Rather In less than 40 years’ time, God was going to punish the northern kingdom because of their idol worship and immoral practices. Jesus spoke about this when he addressed the Pharisees in Matthew 12:41. This is also a prophetic picture of many in people in our churches, who claim to be followers of Jesus on Sunday, but sadly they are not saved.

Looking back to Jonah, verse 5 says; “The Ninevites believed God”. Now I am certain Jonah was not the most passionate evangelist, I doubt he was trying his best to persuade the Ninevites, but the Lord used his message to save an entire city. The reason for his success lay in the twofold authority of his message.

Firstly, Jonah’s message may have contained elements of what he had just experienced, his personal testimony,

Our personal testimony is powerful, it is something every believer has, stories of brokenness and mistakes, stories of God’s blessing and God’s mercy. Our personal testimony has authority.

Secondly, his message was not delivered with persuasive speech, but it had the authority of the word of God. In the first chapter of Jonah we read that God told Jonah to preach against the Ninevites (Ch 1:2). But in his second commissioning, God tells Jonah to proclaim the message the He would give him. That is the authority of the word of God. (See 1 Cor 2:1-5).

God sees the repentance of the city and he relents and does not destroy the city. We live in a different era than Jonah’s time. While we are still sinners in need of forgiveness, the resurrection of Christ from the dead shows that our sins are dealt with, the price has been paid. God does not have to be persuaded to relent, rather he looks to his son, the spotless lamb that was slain and sees the price paid in full. Our part is to submit to the Lordship of Christ, to be born again and to live in the fullness and the freedom that Christ paid for.

Lessons from Jonah – Part 2 May 7, 2017

Jonah Chapter 2

Have you ever been in a hopeless situation? A time when you were in a place in life where there was no human way for you to get relief or find a way out of the situation?

Jonah was in a desperate situation. He had hoped to die, because his prejudice towards the Assyrian people in Nineveh was so great the he would rather die than preach God’s word to them. I think that in Jonah’s mind, there was a sense of relief when they threw him overboard, now it was over, there was no more tension between being obedient to the Lord or not. But, God was not done with Jonah.

The Lord provided a large sea creature and commanded the fish to swallow Jonah. God is sovereign over all of creation, He made it and he controls it.

This was not a “plan B” by God. Jonah, as we saw last week was a prophetic picture of Jesus, that Jesus used to rebuke the Pharisees who were asking for a sign from Jesus to convince them that he was the Messiah (Matthew 12:40).

Jonah finds himself in the belly of a large sea creature, feeling the digestive acids beginning to eat at his skin, in the pitch dark he remembers the Lord. In the first chapter, Jonah does not pray or address the Lord at all, rather the sailors cry out to God and are saved. But now, Jonah realizes that this is no ordinary fish, God has his attention and he is beginning to re-evaluate his priorities.

God is disciplining Jonah. Just as God is sovereign over all of creation, so too he has the right to discipline and correct his children (see Proverbs 3:11-12). When God disciplines us, it isn’t evidence of his lack of care, it is proof of His love for us.

Jonah begins to repent and recognizes the hand of God in his situation. As we read Jonah’s prayer we see glimpses of hope, he begins to take his focus off the situation he finds himself in and begins to hope in God (Jonah 2:4 &6).

Notice the second part of verse 6. “But you Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit” Jonah realized that he did nothing to deserve his salvation, he realized that he was at the mercy of God and that he had nothing in himself that was good. His salvation was only by the Grace of God. If we ever think that we are saved because of our good life, how much money we have given to the church, how many people we have helped, even how many people we have told about Jesus – we are horribly mistaken. We are saved by Grace alone through Christ alone, Jonah understood this.

In verse 8 it seems that Jonah changes his line of thinking, as he goes from repentance and remorse to condemning people who worship idols. But I think Jonah understood that an idol is not necessarily a block of wood or stone carved into a shape. But rather an idol is anything that takes the place of the pre-eminence of God in one’s life. Jonah realized that his idol was his own patriotism and his own self-righteous prejudice against the people of Nineveh. He realized that his idol had turned him away from God’s love for him.

Anytime we have anything in our own lives that takes the place of God, that is more important to us than God, it is an idol and because of that idol we turn away from God’s love for us, and we miss out on the best that God has for us. An Idol may be the love of money, or a relationship that you know is not right for you, or maybe the love of your own comfort, the list could go on. These things are examples of idols in our lives.

As Jonah repents, he begins to realize his position with God, he begins to rejoice in his love for the Lord (Jonah 2:9). Remember that he is still in the belly of the whale. Jonah’s position has not changed, but his heart has changed. He begins to worship the Lord and praise the Lord in his darkest hour, literally – I don’t think the large fish had any internal lighting.

What we see here is the offering of a sacrifice of praise. The Psalmists often speak of offering a sacrifice of praise to God, and Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”

When we praise God, it pleases Him, our singing and praise is an offering to God.

When you are going through the tough times in life, the loss of a loved one, or financial struggles, your marriage is in a difficult place; when you are going through those tough times, that is when it is the hardest to stand up and sing praises to God. That is the sacrifice of praise, it is white knuckle praise. Praising God in the midst of your darkest hour because even though you don’t see it now, he is faithful and he will always remain true to his promises.

Those are the praises that please God. The same writer to the Hebrews writes in Hebrews 11:6, “without faith it is impossible to please God.”

When you are going through tough times, that is when it takes faith to praise and sing to God, that is a sacrifice of praise that pleases God.

Jonah repents and rededicates himself to his ministry (Verse 9). As we read further in the book of Jonah, he becomes one of the most successful evangelists in the Bible. Talk about a turnaround. Being in the digestive juices of a whale will do that to you.

The Lord knew Jonah’s heart and knew that Jonah’s repentance was genuine, and commands the fish to spit him out on the shore.

What are you struggling with? It doesn’t matter what we are struggling with, it may be because of our disobedience or even our obedience, we must praise God in all circumstances.

God never takes us through difficult times just to see how we will respond, he carries us through the tough times, in order for us to learn to trust him more, in order for us to grow in our relationship with him.

Will you offer a sacrifice of praise to God today?