Sermon September 17, 2017 – Jeremiah part 3

Jeremiah 17:1-10

The nation of Judah had drifted far from God, worshipping idols and ignoring the covenant and the law that God gave Moses on mount Sinai. Their sin was deep rooted, it wasn’t simply a fleeting failure. Jeremiah uses the picture of an engraving tool in verse 1, the sins were indelibly marked in their culture. This has been the condition of man since Adam’s sin in Genesis 3. Sin is not a matter of mere actions, sin is a matter of the heart, and all of us are desperately sinful in our nature.

The Greek definition for sin is to miss the mark, to miss the standard for which we were created. We as human beings, like no other creature, were created in the image of God, and as such we were created to glorify Him by our worship, and our enjoyment of Him forever.

This is the mark we have missed, we worship, money, sex, fame, various forms of entertainment and objects of our own creation just to name a few idols.  We are no different to the nation of Judah, we have missed the mark, we are sinners. In verse 3 and 4, God says that because of their sins, he will punish them and give away all their treasures and wealth as plunder to their enemies. Even though God spoke so directly through the prophet Jeremiah, the people ignored the message and treated Jeremiah like the enemy.

The irony is that God tells them that he will enslave them in a land they do not know, but the reality is that they were already slaves. When we are living in willful sin, we are enslaved by that sin. Sin itself is slavery, because we are separated from the joy of knowing the pleasure and the grace of God in our lives.

The Lord continues in verse 5, “This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord.”

Where do you place your trust? Do you trust in your retirement fund? Your paycheck? Your savings? Your inheritance? Perhaps you trust in a person to take care of you? The truth is that no matter what we trust in, if it is not God, the Bible says we are under a curse.

The converse of verses 5 and 6 are verses 7 and 8 said. Verse 7 says, “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” Do you want to experience God’s blessing? Trust Him!

In verse 8 we read that the person who trusts in the Lord will receive a promised blessing from the Lord, they will have no fear, no worries, and they never fail to bear fruit.

As we look at ourselves, how do we really know if we trust the Lord? We can easily fool our neighbor, our pastor, even our spouse, but God knows our heart (see Jeremiah 17:10).

Just like God knew the hearts of the people of Judah, he knows our hearts today. As a result of their sin, God punished the nation of Judah, the attack from the north came and most of them were taken into captivity. It was a terrible and dark time for the nation. The captivity in Babylon was relatively short, only 70 years, but the nation was destroyed and would never be the same again.

The punishment for sin was severe, and God still punishes sin today, we don’t like to talk about it, but He does, God loves us too much to leave our sins unpunished.

But there is good news, as we look at Jeremiah 31:31-34. This prophecy in Jeremiah 31 talks about a time far in the future for those living in the 6th Century BC, Jeremiah was prophesying about the new covenant, he was pointing to our time, this day and age.

Obviously, we still struggle with sin and the world is in a desperate state because of our rejection of God. Our problem with sin is far worse than we could ever imagine. Our sinful self is so wicked that we don’t even have the desire to know God, let alone want to come near to Him. Our hearts are inscribed with sin, we cannot erase it, it is impossible for us to change our hearts.

But here is the Incredibly Good News, God made a New Covenant with mankind. Jeremiah was prophesying about The Gospel, Jesus, the son of God, coming to earth as a child, living amongst men, and then giving his life as the ultimate and perfect sacrifice in order to save us from our desperately wicked state. We sometimes take the Gospel for granted, we gloss over it every time we celebrate communion together. But this is incredible news in Isaiah 9:2 we read, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;”

Of all the 1366 verses in the book of Jeremiah, chapter 31 and verse 33 is the pinnacle of his revelation from God.

Notice the contrast between chapter 17, where our hearts are engraved with sin, and the New Covenant in chapter 31, God promises to write a new law on our hearts. It takes a miracle to remove engraving, we cannot do it, but because of what Jesus did on the cross, by submitting our lives to his glorious gift of salvation, we get new hearts. We get the very presence of the living God living inside of us by the Holy Spirit. This is what Jesus spoke about in Luke 22:20

The Old Covenant was important to reveal to mankind that we are desperately sinful and cannot begin to fulfill the holy requirements of God. But God created us with the capacity and the need for a relationship with Him, not simply to follow a set of blind rules.

This is where the church has missed the point I believe. In our desire to make “good Christians”, we have created rules and structures, and our efforts have resulted in legalism. The truth is that:

Rules without a Relationship is Bondage.

I am not advocating for the erasing of all rules, that is anarchy, but if we are content to follow the rules without a relationship with our Heavenly Father, in a sense we are still living under the Old Covenant.

Are you still living under the Old covenant, trying to be good enough for God? That is impossible, that is why Jesus came to save us, that is why we have the Gospel!

Sermon Sunday September 10, 2017 – Jeremiah part 2

Jeremiah 1:9-19

As Christian we can speak with authority, the authority we have comes from the word of God. When we speak our own words of wisdom, people can reject us, however, when we speak the word of God, we are referring to a much higher authority, one that we don’t have to try and defend. Do you know how to use the authority of the word of God?

In Jeremiah 1:9, we read that God touched Jeremiah’s mouth and gave him the message, God summarizes the message in verse 10. Notice the first words, “today I appoint you”. God gave Jeremiah authority over nations and kingdoms by the power of the word of God.

Jeremiah’s message was to be one of both judgment and blessing. The uprooting and tearing down was the coming judgment, but the metaphor of planting and building was a sign of God’s blessing to come after the judgment.

Then God gives Jeremiah 2 visions.  The first is a vision of an almond branch.  The Hebrew word for Almond tree sounds very similar to the word for watching. The symbolism of the Almond tree is that it is watchful, God is not slow in responding in judgment, the time is coming sooner than expected, and in verse 12 God confirms this vision and explains that He is watching the nation of Judah. The theme of God watching his people flows through the book of Jeremiah. This message to humanity is still the same today: God is watching! He will watch over the fulfilment of His word. When sin and immorality engulf nations and even penetrate the Church, we should remember, God is watching!

The second vision is of a boiling pot, shows that the message would be one of judgment at the hands of a people from the north. Ultimately this was the armies of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon coming to lay siege to Jerusalem.

The sin for which the people would be judged was the fundamental one of breaking the covenant with the Lord, by the rejection of him in favor of other gods (as we see in v16), and it continued to be a constant theme in the book.

God put His words into the prophet’s mouth and those words were effective to accomplish His will. God not only gave Jeremiah His words, but He also promised to “watch over” those words until they were fulfilled (Jer. 1:12).

Prophecy is not necessarily foretelling the future, rather it is to declare the words of God, to declare the truth, in that sense, the act of preaching the word of God is an act of prophecy.

Just like it was in Jeremiah’s day, so it is now, that the declaration of the word of God was not well received.

There were prophets in Jerusalem during Jeremiah’s time, those who spoke only words of blessing and wellbeing to the people. These prophets were well liked and had an adoring following, and the Kings who rejected God’s law loved to hear from these prophets.

Today as preachers, we have the same challenge.  Paul the apostle knew this and wrote the following in his second letter to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:3. Today, there are false teachers, those who twist the word of God for their own benefit. Stretching individual verses out of context with the primary goal of deceiving their hearers into parting with their money. If you don’t know the Word of God, you too will be deceived in these days as Jesus said in Matthew 24:11. We need to pray for wisdom and discernment as we read the word of God in order to stand firm in the calling that God has on our lives.

In verse 17, God speaks to Jeremiah and tells him to get ready, to brace himself for the challenge that lay ahead.

When Jesus sent out the disciples in Matthew 10, he issued a similar warning (read Matthew 10:16-20).

Both Jeremiah and the disciples were told that they were going to speak the very words of God, they didn’t have to figure out what would be the best thing to say, they could simply stand firm on the words of God. And this is the key, standing on the authority of the word of God. The church needs to be the prophetic voice in our culture. Not simply a voice known for what we oppose, but a voice that declares the truth in love and offers alternatives that bring life. What does the Bible have to say about the issues that we wrestle with in our culture, issues such as racism, broken homes, homosexuality, money, abortion and homelessness to name just a few.

Take the abortion debate as an example, the fact that there is any debate whatsoever is a sign of how far we have slipped as a culture, the Bible is clear that we are created in the image of God and it is wrong to take another human life, but as the church, the prophetic voice in our culture, what alternatives are we offering? Are we offering to take the children and raise them up?

We live in an age where Bible is regarded as offensive, but the word of God supersedes culture, the Bible transcends seasons, Isaiah 40:8 says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”

God continues in verse 17 to say to Jeremiah, “do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them.”

God knew Jeremiah and God knows us too, He knows that our natural inclination is to be afraid of what others might be thinking. But the fear of God is the best antidote against the fear of man. Let us always be afraid of offending God first (see Proverbs 1:7). Remember you and God are a majority, even if everyone else opposes you, as they opposed Jeremiah, as you follow God’s leading in your life, you are in the majority.

But in order to be the prophetic voice in our culture, we need to know the word of God. There is no substitute for living the Christian life in our culture, other than to spend time daily reading the Word of God, allowing God to speak to you.

Sermon Sunday September 03, 2017 – Jeremiah part 1

Jeremiah chapter 1:1-9

Think back to a time when you were called on to do something and you felt unequipped to accomplish the task, when you could have listed any number of reasons why you were the wrong person for the job. How did you respond?

Every person who has committed their lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ, has a specific calling on their life, a calling that God has uniquely equipped you to accomplish.

Jeremiah was a prophet in the nation of Judah who began his ministry around 627BC during the reign of King Josiah. Josiah was a God-fearing King and the nation was blessed by God during his reign, unfortunately the succession of Kings after Josiah were evil and as a result God used the Babylonian nation to punish Judah and take most of the nation into exile (see 2 Chronicles 35 and 36). Jeremiah was left behind and was taken by the remnant of the nation of Judah down to Egypt.

Jeremiah, known as the weeping prophet was called to a very difficult task. He had to put up with a lot of abuse, death threats and imprisonment. He was even placed in a muddy cistern in the ground and left to die, yet he was faithful to the calling of God on his life. Jeremiah struggled with his ministry, he complained and wrestled with God, in fact chapters 11-20 of the book are often referred to as Jeremiah’s confessions, where he pours out his heart to God.

Before Jeremiah even began his ministry, God orients him and tells him something that kept him faithful to God for all his life (Jeremiah 1:5). God spoke to Jeremiah and as a part of his calling to ministry, God tells him that he was intentionally put together. The same applies to every person alive today. King David was also aware of this in Psalm 139: 13-17. God wove Jeremiah together perfectly for the task he was called to. God knit every cell in your body for a specific purpose and calling. If we would only grasp the fact that we are not a jumble of cells as the scientists tell us, but rather there is unlimited potential in the created human life. This should change the way we look at others, the way we look at children and the way, we need to look at the unborn.

How would your self-image change if you truly understood that God has formed you specifically for his purpose for your life?

If God has made you and I for a specific purpose, how do we know what it is?

Here is the good news, not only does God form us and knit us together, he also calls us.

The God who created the universe, who gives life and breath to every living thing, looked out over all of creation and chose you.

God created Jeremiah with the physical and the emotional capacity he would need for the life he would be called to.  God prepared Jeremiah and then when he was still a teenager, God calls him by saying, “I appointed you as a prophet to the nations”. God reminds Jeremiah of his specific design, and then he tells him his purpose. The calling of God on your life is real. Every one of us is called by God to fulfill the specific ministry that we were designed for.

But surely only those who are called to ministries such as pastors or missionaries are actively called by God? That is simply not true, we are all called by God to serve him and His purpose for our lives.

The Bible teaches that every Christian is called to “full time” Christian service, regardless of his or her vocation (see 1 Peter 2:9). You may be a caregiver, an executive, a builder or an administrative assistant, where you are is where God has placed you in order to be his priest and minister of the Gospel in that environment.

If we get this, it will make a radical change in our view of day to day lives.

It is tragic to see Christians who work purely for a paycheck, or work just to get to the weekend.

What a tragedy, this is not why God has called you, this is not why Jesus died for you ( see Colossians 3:23).

But what if you feel completely ill-equipped to accomplish the task that God calls you to. Jeremiah felt that way, Moses and many other characters in the Bible felt that way. See how Jeremiah responded in verse 6.

Jeremiah was hesitant to take on the mission, and when God calls us we also hesitate and doubt. The primary reason we doubt is the same reason that Jeremiah doubted, our focus is in the wrong direction. Jeremiah was looking at his own skills and his own abilities or lack thereof, we look at ourselves and immediately try to disqualify ourselves because of our perceived weaknesses. But God wants us to focus on him and on His power to fulfill the mission.

Read God’s response to Jeremiah in verse 7. Notice, God didn’t disagree with Jeremiah or try to give him a half time pep talk, God simply reaffirms his call and says, go! To God and to everyone around, including Jeremiah, he didn’t have the skillset to accomplish the task, but God did. Notice what God then did in verse 9. God knew full well that Jeremiah wasn’t up to the task, all he needed was for Jeremiah to be a willing vessel to be used by God, a willing mouthpiece to speak the words that God put in his mouth.

Has the Father given you an impossible task to do? Then you’re in the right place! Only when you realize that you are completely unable to do what God calls you to do, will you be ready to be used by God.

The mission that God calls you to, may not be easy, it certainly wasn’t for Jeremiah.

Was Jeremiah successful? By human standards it didn’t seem that way, but by his obedience to God, he will receive a reward on the day of judgment. Don’t be tempted to measure your ministry success by the worlds standards.

Success is found in obedience not results!

Our part is obedience, God is responsible for the results and He is most certainly capable for that.

What is God calling you to do today?

The Purpose of Unity – Sunday, August 27, 2017

THE PURPOSE OF UNITY

Ephesians 4:1-16

Have you ever been part of a team of people who share the same vision, share the same passion and are completely united together to accomplish a specific goal? Unity in the church is absolutely critical because we are in a spiritual war that has eternal consequences.

Grace Point is a very diverse church, we have people from many different nationalities, races and socio-economic backgrounds, all of which make unity almost impossible. There must be a common bond, a reason for unity. What is our purpose for gathering as the church? Is it to come on a Sunday and spend an hour, participating in a worship service, is that the purpose? If that was the case, then it is not surprising why so many churches around the world are closing. There must be a bigger purpose that draws us together.

The Apostle Paul writing to the first century church in Ephesus, made a plea for them to be united (see Ephesians 4:1-16).

Paul begins this chapter by pointing out that there is an individual responsibility for unity. Paul makes it personal, “I urge you!” therefore no-one is exempt. And then in verse 2, Paul lists what looks like the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22. Daily submitting ourselves to the Holy Spirit, we will produce the fruit of the Spirit, that will in turn create unity. It starts with the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And in verse 3 he reminds us that this will take effort, requiring us to lay down our own desires and submitting ourselves to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Unity in the church is not something that we can manufacture by a well worked plan and strategy, no, our unity as the church is already established, unity has been established by the Gospel message. Just read to verse 4 to 6,

In these verses, he uses the word ONE 7 times as he draws attention to the Gospel. The unity of the church is already established, it was established in Jesus Christ. True unity is only found in the good news of Jesus Christ. (see what Jesus prayed in John 17:21-23).

 So, all this talk about unity and the will of God for us as a church, how does this work practically? Each of us has a part to play in this, no believer is exempt. Every believer has been given gifts by the Holy Spirit. These gifts have been given not for our own benefit and pleasure, but to be used to build up the body of Christ.

These spiritual gifts are the same gifts that we read about in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12.

In verse 11 we read the beginning of a long sentence and we are frequently guilty of quoting only part of this sentence, as you will see.

We read the Christ gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers given to the church, but why? Verse 12 answers, “12 to equip his people for works of service…” While it is good, to be able to do good things, serve and bless out community, but what’s the goal of this service?

Verse 12 continues, “so that the body of Christ may be built up”. So, as the church serves, it is built up.

But Paul goes further, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God…”

So, as we are equipped, we serve, as we serve we are built up, as we are built up, we achieve unity. Do you see the pattern? Unity is achieved by serving together.

Verse 13 continues, “…and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Paul is talking about spiritual maturity. There are many teenagers who are mature in their faith, while others who may have been in the church for decades, are still spiritual babies. As we work together in the church, we attain unity, as we are united in faith and action, we grow together and become mature.

Verse 16 of this passage wraps up the discussion on unity in the Body of Christ, “16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

From Jesus, the whole body, the whole church is joined together by every supporting ligament. Every little part of the body is valuable, every part is important. As we see the value in each other in the church, we are built up in Love. Without the supernatural love that the Holy Spirit gives us for each other, we would never be drawn together. It is purely the grace of God and the love of God that holds the church together and builds the church. We can talk about unity and church growth all we like, but if it is not held together by the supernatural love that the Lord gives us for each other, we would never grow together as a church.

And then we come to the final six words of verse 16, “…as each part does its work”.

Every one of us is called by God to play a part in the ministry of the church. What is the ministry of the church? It is not to build a better building or to be a comfortable social club. The ministry of the church is the Great Commission, to share the Gospel message, to reach the lost, to disciple the new believers, baptizing them and training them to go and share the Gospel message.

The church as the living Body of Christ, where everyone functions with their own unique spiritual gifts, will be very different than societies idea of a church. Society has the picture of the church that is static, boring, uniform, liturgical. This church will be a place where love is unconditional, charity abounds freely, where differences in race and age are celebrated rather than causing division. A place where we all serve one another in humility and grace, understanding that as we do so, we are contributing to the growth and the maturity of the body.

The Great Commission Sunday July 30, 2017

We as believers have two ordinances in the church. We have Baptism and the Lords supper or communion.

We believe that you are not saved by taking communion or by being baptized. However, you must be saved in order to take communion or to be baptized.

So why do we have these ordinances? Matthew 28:16-20, known as the Great Commission is where Jesus gave his disciples the marching orders for the church.

The disciples obeyed Jesus’ instructions from Matthew 28:10, and go up this mountain in Galilee. Suddenly Jesus presents himself to them and in verse 17 we have a very interesting phrase, “When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.”

Some doubted! The term for doubt here is not complete unbelief but rather it is a hesitation to accept something that seemed so impossible, it was hard to grasp. Some of the disciples struggled to believe that Jesus was alive and that he was exactly who he said he was. These same disciples who witnessed the feeding of the 5000, the feeding of the 4000, Jesus walking on the water, Jesus calming the storm, they witnessed the powerful natural disasters that took place when Jesus was crucified and many other miracles, these same men, who walked with God for 3 years, now doubted.

Now before we are too critical of these disciples, we too are prone to doubt and Jesus knew that. Jesus knew that the enormity of what took place when he was crucified and raised from the dead, is too much for us to fully comprehend and that is why we have these reminders, the reminder of Baptism and the Lords supper.

These ordinances are more than simply things we do. They remind us of who we are, they remind us that without the body and the blood of Jesus, we have no hope. Baptism is such a beautiful picture, when the person being baptized, goes under the water, they are showing that they have died to their old life, and have been buried with Christ. And then the beautiful picture of coming up out of the water, being raised to new life in Christ.

Jesus begins the Great Commission by saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

The authority Jesus has supersedes all earthly authority and all heavenly authority, he truly is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus didn’t assume this authority, it was given to Him by God the Father, the creator and sustainer of all things, Jesus had this universal authority given to him. The authority that Jesus had is secure because it has been given to him by the all-powerful, unchanging, uncreated God of the universe.

When Jesus says that all universal authority has been given to him, he sets the stage for what he is about to say next. Verse 19 begins with the word, “Therefore”, therefore, because he has the supreme authority, Jesus uses that authority to commission the disciples, and all who would follow him. With all the authority in the universe, Jesus says Go!

Notice that Jesus doesn’t, try to go, or if you have time go, or if it is convenient go, no he simply says; “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”

This commission still applies to the church today, it still applies to all followers of Jesus today.

The phrase, “make disciples”, means win converts, win them for Christ by sharing the good news. Go out by the power of the Holy Spirit and win people for Christ.

The natural follow on from salvation is baptism, Jesus follows the winning of souls immediately with baptism.

If you have given your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, but you have not been baptized, I strongly encourage you to be baptized. It doesn’t make you a Christian, but in obedience to Christ, you are making a public testimony of your new life in Christ, and I believe that God places a special blessing and seal on your life as you obey Him in baptism.

Verse 20 continues, “and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…”

This is the discipleship piece, we are not called to simply win souls for Christ, we are commissioned by Jesus to do that hard work of teaching, correcting, training and encouraging. This is sometimes where we struggle, we seem to think that once a person is baptized they automatically are transformed in every way. But that is simply not the case, they need grace to make mistakes just like we do. None of us are perfect, but we are all on the journey of growing more and more in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord.

So, we have the Great Commission, to go, win souls, baptize them and disciples them. After Jesus gave the commission, did he just wave a goodbye, and disappear?

Have you ever been given an impossible task? A task that you know you could not do yourself, but you were told by your parent or your boss to go out and do it! Imagine these eleven disciples, Jesus just told them to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. Can you imagine how overwhelming that must have been?

But then Jesus gives them the promise that makes the Great commission doable, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus promised to be with us, he also gave the Holy Spirit to live inside of us as believers, we are not alone. This is not a task that we have to try and figure out on our own.

In fact, the Great Commission is only possible because of the promise and the gift of the third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit.

What a comfort that is, God not only commissioned us to go, he also provided the power to complete that Great Commission. Let us be a church that always answers the call to go.

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.