Sermon Sunday June 20 2021 – Are you a Follower or and Observer?

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Mountain top experiences part 9
Luke 23:21-49

Calvary is the mountain top encounter that all the others point to. This little hill just outside Jerusalem, is the peak on which all of human history pivots. During the Roman empire, this was the place where criminals were executed by the most inhumane method of crucifixion.

As we look at the various people who witnessed the death of Jesus, I want to challenge you by saying that on that day, Jesus had only one follower. There were many observers but only one follower. Looking at your life today, are you a follower or are you an observer?

As we read the account of the crucifixion, we subconsciously categorize people as guilty or innocent. The women were innocent, the soldiers were guilty, Pilate was confused and guilty, Simon of Cyrene was innocent, and the two criminals were both guilty, but one was saved.  

But the reality is that there was only one person innocent in the entire world, and that was Jesus. Luke does well to point this out in Luke 23 verses 22, 41 and 47.

Jesus was the only one who was sinless, and he died for all sinners (see Romans 3:22-23).

Everyone was impacted that day by the decisions they made and what they saw.

Pilate saw that Jesus was innocent and he tried to recuse himself (see Matthew 27:24).
He was a politician and a people pleaser. He did not have the character to stand by his convictions. But I wonder if I would have the courage to stand against the angry crowd on that day. He gave in to the pressure of the fear of man, and as a result he was guilty.

Simon of Cyrene was not involved in the crucifixion but was drawn in (Luke 23:26).He was a religious man from Libya who had travelled eight hundred miles to celebrate the Passover. Jesus was understandably exhausted and weakened by the beatings and interrogations, and could not carry the cross, so the crowd had this foreigner carry the cross.

There is a significant picture here, to carry your cross was a sign of guilt, it was perfectly ordained by God the Father that Jesus was not to carry his cross to the hill.I want to come back to Simon later in this article.

The rulers, soldiers and one of the criminals mocked Jesus. These religious leaders were the men who had studied the law and the prophets, the Old Testament, but they were blind to what they were doing. In verse 36, we read that the soldiers mocked him, getting drawn along by the crowd, they seemed to be enjoying the moment and teased Jesus. Even the dying criminal next to Jesus had energy left to mock and jeer at Jesus.

But then we come to the repentant criminal. His dialogue with Jesus is often used to explain the fact that we are saved by grace and not by works. There is nothing this criminal could do to earn his salvation, he simply asked Jesus to save him. But we can easily miss the tremendous faith that it took for him to ask Jesus to save him. He possibly had never seen Jesus before, we don’t know. But here in front of all the people, as he was dying, he declared that Jesus was the King of Kings. If you were drowning, would you ask a drowning man for help?

Here was a dying man, asking a dying man for help. A crazy idea, unless he really believed that Jesus was the son of God.

As Jesus died, we have a snapshot of a centurion. He was a hardened Roman soldier who had probably witnessed hundreds of crucifixions, but he had never seen anyone die like Jesus did. He knew that Jesus was innocent, and he gave glory to God.  He knew that he had just witnessed God in the flesh, and he was forever changed.

The people who were cheering the crucifixion were changed (Luke 23:48). They came to see a spectacle and to mock but left in fear and remorse. As they witnessed the spotless son of God dying, they became aware of their own sins and began grieving. How terrible and hopeless that must have felt for them.

Coming back to Simon, the man recruited to carry the cross. It is likely that what he saw that day, led him to be a Christian. In Mark 15:21 and Romans 16:13 we see that his sons were a part of the early church.

Carrying the cross changed Simon and, on that day, he was the only true follower of Jesus. He was walking out a prophetic picture of what it means to be a Christian. Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Before Simon met Jesus, he was a religious Jew, going about his devotion. But to come to know Jesus, he had to leave behind his plans and his religion. He had to die to his plans and his ideas of what he wanted to do, and then he had to take up the cross of Jesus. Do you see the picture?

Matthew 16:24 is often misinterpreted. People often talk about a “cross” as a burden to carry, something like a chronic sickness or a thankless job, and we say, “it is my cross to bear”

But this is not what Jesus meant. In the 1st century, to carry your cross, was to walk to your death. It was a cruel and humiliating form of capital punishment. It wasn’t a temporary inconvenience.

Today we celebrate the cross as a symbol of our salvation and the love of God, but when Jesus said these words, it would have sounded a whole lot different.
To take up your cross is to completely abandon our plans and goals and submitting to the perfect will of God. This is the first step in being a follower of Jesus (see Luke 14:27).

Are you a follower of Jesus? Have you seen that radical change in your life? Or are you still the master of your own plan.

I can assure you that the only way to live in peace and have eternal salvation, is to be a follower of Jesus and not an observer.

Sermon, Sunday June 6, 2021 – The Transfiguration

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Matthew 17:1-13

Have you ever been in a meeting or a gathering where you wonder why you were asked to be there? Maybe you were called into a meeting to discuss some important subject with a group of experts, and you were not one of the experts!

This week we are looking at the mount of transfiguration that we have recorded in Matthew and Luke’s Gospel accounts. Peter, James and John must have felt very self-conscious as they stood on the mountain with Jesus, Moses and Elijah.

Why were they singled out to be on this mountain top for this amazing encounter?

As I read the account in Matthew, I had so many questions:

  • Which Mountain?
  • Why Peter, James and John?
  • Why Moses and Elijah?
  • What is a transfiguration?
  • What language were they speaking?
  • How did Peter know it was Moses and Elijah?
  • What was the purpose of the transfiguration?

I will try to answer a few of these questions below:

  • On which mountain did this take place?

There are two choices, Mount Tabor or Mount Hermon for the site of the transfiguration.

Most Scholars believe that Mt Hermon is the correct location of the transfiguration. It is almost 9000 feet high, whereas Mount Tabor is only 2000 feet high.

Matthew’s gospel places events leading up to the transfiguration in the district of Caesarea Philippi, making Mount Hermon the closer site.

  • Why Peter, James, and John?

Jesus had an inner circle, these three disciples. Jesus revealed certain things to them as he was equipping them and training them to lead the early church.

Interestingly, we read in Exodus 24 that when Moses went up mount Sinai to receive the Law, he had three men with him, Aaron, Nadab and Abiu.

Peter, James and John became eyewitnesses to the glory of Jesus (see 2 Peter 1:16-18 and John 1:14). What these men witnessed became their testimony and they were changed forever.

  • Why Moses and Elijah?

Why not some other Old Testament characters?

Moses and Elijah represent the Old Testament. Moses represents the Law and Elijah is the first among the prophets.

Jesus referred to the combination of the law and the prophets frequently as this encompassed the canon of the Old Testament (See Matthew 5:17, Matthew 7:12, Matthew 22:36-40).

The Appearance of Moses and Elijah, declares that Jesus is the Messiah, the fulfilment of everything that they themselves pointed towards.  

  • What is the Transfiguration?

The Greek word translated transfigured gives us our English word “metamorphosis.” A metamorphosis is a change on the outside that comes from the inside.

Jesus did not reflect glory from elsewhere, but he radiated glory and light from within. His human features changed, so that for a brief moment the disciples could see his true glory.

During the transfiguration as Jesus, Moses and Elijah were talking, Peter struggling for words, asked if he could build a shelter for them. He wanted to remain there and enjoy the glory.

But God the Father came down in a cloud and dispelled any confusion that the disciples might have had. God the Father would never permit His son to be placed on the same level as any human being.

This encounter changed the three disciples. When you encounter the risen Lord Jesus, you will never be the same again. Have you encountered the risen Lord?

As Jesus and His three disciples came down from the mountaintop, He cautioned them not to reveal what they had seen, not even to the other nine disciples.

The disciples were obviously full of questions. If Jesus was the Messiah, what about the prophecies that they had been taught since childhood? Malachi 4:5, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.”

Was this the beginning of the Day of the Lord, the great day of judgment?

Jesus explained to them that John the Baptist was the forerunner, he was the Elijah, that made straight the pathway for Jesus. Jesus went on to explain that he was about to suffer and that his agenda was different to the plans that they had been taught for the Messiah. Jesus was the fulfilment of Isaiah 53, the suffering servant.

They still didn’t grasp what Jesus was about to be and do. Do we fully grasp who Jesus is?

He is more than a good man, a powerful miracle worker, a good role model or a respected teacher. The world around us, accepts this version of Jesus, but he is so much more than that.

Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16). He is the way the truth and the life (John 14:6). He is the only name by which anyone can be saved (Acts 4:12).

  • How did Peter James and John know it was Moses and Elijah?

This may shock some of the younger generation, but they did not have Instagram accounts during the time of Moses. There was no way they would know what they looked like.

This is where we get a glimpse into eternity. I believe that in heaven, we will know everyone by name, a supernatural knowledge of each person.

This was such an incredible event in the life of Jesus on the earth, but for me there was one significant moment that precipitated the transfiguration.

Jesus invited the disciples to follow him, and they said yes!

In Matthew 4 we see that Peter, James, and John were of the first disciples to be called by Jesus, and immediately they dropped everything and gave him their yes.

When Jesus invited them up the mountain, they said yes.

Daily God gives us invitations to say yes. Sometimes it is a small yes, like taking a meal to a sick neighbor or helping someone who needs a ride. Maybe it is simply praying for someone you meet in a store.

Sometimes it is a bigger yes, when God might invite you to leave your home and move to a foreign land as a missionary. God might invite you to leave your career and go into ministry.

Whatever the invitation, when you give your yes, I can tell you from experience that your life will never be short of adventure, and it will certainly never be ordinary.

In what area of your life are you withholding a yes from God?

The Lordship of Jesus over your life, is a predetermined yes in your heart.

Sermon Sunday May 30, 2021 – Sermon on the Mount

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In Matthew 5,6 and 7, we have the record of the greatest sermon ever preached, as Jesus taught his disciples in what is known as the sermon on the mount.

Jesus was introducing and teaching the ways of the kingdom that he wants to form in the lives of his followers. At first glance, it seemed that Jesus was giving a new law, one that seemed different to the Law of Moses given at Sinai to the nation of Israel. But, as we read these chapters, we see that Jesus is calling his followers to a radical lifestyle. As followers of Jesus, we are called to live very differently to the world around us. The words of Jesus are a call to selflessness, holiness, and a call to be set apart from the world.

Every sentence in the sermon on the mount declares a separation between living as a Christian and living as an unbeliever. As Jesus addresses every aspect of social, spiritual, and personal relationships, he is setting the bar extremely high. As followers of Jesus, we are to live differently, to speak differently, and to think differently to those who do not know Jesus as Lord.

Sadly, there are many in the church and even many churches, that look no different than the world. Churches are filled with hypocrisy, gossip, sexual immorality, greed, and fear of man. Doesn’t sound like the church of Jesus, does it?

There is often talk about nominal Christians and nominal churches. What does that even mean?

Nowhere in the Bible do we ever find reference to nominal Christianity. To be a Christian is to be all in! To be dead to our old way of life and alive to God, filled with His spirit. There is no neutral ground, you are either radically living for Jesus or you are not.

Sadly, many people today are like the person who buys a Mahomes shirt, watches every game on TV and then thinks he is part of the Chiefs team. You are not saved by going to church or trying to live a good life. Only those who have been raised to new life by the Spirit of God have been saved. Jesus spoke about this very directly in the sermon on the mount in Matthew 7:21-23.

So how do we live this radical life in a world that continues to get more and more sinful? Jesus knew it would be difficult and that is why he prayed for his disciples right before he went to the cross (read John 17:15-17).

Jesus asked his Father to sanctify his followers, that we might be daily transformed in our thoughts and actions. Jesus said this sanctifying process is done by the truth of the word of God. If you do not have a desire to read and meditate on the word of God, there is a very real possibility that it is because you have no relationship with Jesus.

The Word that Jesus is speaking about and the Law he is referring to is what we know as the Old Testament.

There is a theory in some Christian circles teaching that Jesus came to do away with the Old Testament and that the Law no longer applies to us today. They argue that we are under grace and therefore we are not subject to the punishment of God. But in verse 17 and 18 of Matthew 5 we read, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

If you read the first five books of the Old Testament, you will see that there are a lot of laws that honestly seem quite strange and frankly impossible for us to observe in our culture.

The law that Moses received on Mount Sinai, that was given as the constitution of the nation of Israel consists of three parts.

  1. The moral laws: The Ten Commandments and the moral principles given for all mankind for all history.
  2. The judicial laws: Given as the legislative guide to the nation of Israel for their governance.
  3. The ceremonial law: The instructions regarding the offerings and sacrifices.

Jesus said that he came to fulfill the law or complete the law. If we look at the ceremonial law, we see that it all points to Jesus as the perfect sacrificial lamb, slain for the sins of the world. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, he fulfilled the prophetic law, the law pointing to the messiah. In Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus confirms the authority and his seal of approval on the collection of books that we call the Old Testament.

Jesus didn’t abolish the moral law. Jesus went on to say that not one smallest part of the law will be abolished until it is all completed. The Moral law is the permanent and perpetual way in which we relate to God and the way we relate to each other.

The Old Testament is a rich mine with untold treasures. And the gold nuggets to look for are the ones that point to Jesus, the second person of the trinity, the Word of God. If you look carefully with the help of the Holy Spirit, you will see Jesus written all over the pages of the Old Testament.

If we cannot be saved by keeping a set of rules, why is the moral law of Moses still relevant?

The Law was never intended to save man because we could never keep the Law perfectly. Rather the law was given to us to show us the true character and holiness of God, to show how far short of the glory of God we fall, to show us how desperately we need a savior. The law of God was given to bring us to our savior, Jesus Christ.

And when we come to Jesus in complete dependence on his lordship over our lives, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit that enables us to walk in holiness as we daily are being made new.

Do you know this Jesus?

Sermon Sunday May 23, 2021 – Mountain Top Experiences part 5

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1 Kings 19:1-18

Psychologists talk about the “fight or flight” response to fear, how we respond when afraid. Fear itself is not a bad thing, it depends on where it leads us.

In 1 Kings 18, the prophet Elijah was used by God to challenge the prophets of Baal. He won a decisive victory as he stood courageously against the 850 false prophets of the pagan gods. Elijah was bold and aggressive, but within a matter of hours this brave prophet was running for his life in fear. Elijah fled from the threats of the wicked queen Jezebel. He began by running to Beersheba in Judah and then on to the wilderness, where it seems he intended to die.

He quickly went from victory to intense depression. It is not uncommon for people serving the Lord to experience an intense struggle after a powerful time of being used by God. Immediately following a mission trip or a time of ministry, is when a believer is most vulnerable to discouragement. Satan loves to come in and attack when we are spiritually spent, that is when we need to be on our guard for the temptations and lies of the enemy.

Elijah was discouraged, focusing on the fact that his life was threatened and that all he had done at Mt Carmel had been for nothing. But, in his weakness, at his most vulnerable, God meets Elijah and sends an angel to feed him. He eats heavenly food in the same wilderness where God fed the children of Israel many years before. As Elijah eats and recovers, the Lord gives him direction and a plan to move forward. One of the best ways to defeat discouragement is to have a fresh vision, something new on which to focus our attention.

In verse 8 we read that the food he ate gave him the strength to walk for 40 days, covering two-hundred miles to Mount Sinai. The mountain where God gave the Law to the nation of Israel.

At Sinai, Elijah has one of the most incredible mountain top encounters in the Bible.

The Word of the Lord comes to Elijah and asks him a rhetorical question, “what are you doing here Elijah?”, 1 Kings 19:9. Elijah twists the truth and distances himself from the nation of Israel blaming the people for the action and threats of Jezebel. He continues to say that he is the only prophet left who follows the Lord, however, we know from chapter 18 that this is not true.  

But God seems to ignore this deviation from the truth and tells him to stand at the entrance of the cave. God causes three powerful displays of His control over nature, a powerful wind, a strong earthquake and a consuming fire. All three of these natural events are attributed to the presence of God in the Bible, but at this time, they are just the preceding the Word of the Lord.  

Then Elijah hears a low whisper, a sound that he was waiting for. God speaks and the dialogue from 9 and 10 are repeated. There are so many similarities to the encounter that Moses had with God on the same mountain, when God gave Moses the Law. God told him to come up the mountain and the Lord spoke to him one to one. When God brought Moses up the mountain, it was to receive the Law. Now when God brought Elijah up the mountain, it was to revive the Law.

God again seems to ignore the complaints of Elijah, and gives him what seems to be a confusing mission in verses 15 and 16. He must go and anoint Hazael as king of Syria, Jehu as king over Israel and he must anoint Elisha to take his place as a prophet. However, as we read further in the Bible, God uses these three leaders to bring punishment on the nation of Israel (see 2 Kings 10:32). Elijah was given the commission to go back and continue the work of seeing the nation of Israel coming back to the one true God. God used Elijah’s fear to bring him to this point of revelation.

One of the most repeated commands in the Bible is, “do not fear”. And a case can be made that in certain circumstances, it is sinful to fear. But simply to say, “do not be afraid”, does not automatically take the fear away. Fear can paralyze us, and it can even become an idol. There are real practical things to fear, like falling off a tall building, or encountering a wild predator in the forest. Fear is a gift from God as it preserves our lives.

Elijah was overcome by fear in his weakened state, but his fear became the very thing that drove him to being restored and totally dependent on God. This account in Elijah’s life is not a story of weakness or burnout, as it is often taught. Rather, it is an account of the Gospel demonstrated in the Old Testament. Elijah was driven to the end of himself and into the arms of God to be cared for like a weak, dependent child.

Our culture honors and respects strength, courage, and independence. But the kingdom of God is about dependence not independence. We cannot be saved by our strength, our good works, or by anything that we might have to offer. Jesus said of the children around him in Matthew 19:14, “…the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to these little ones”. We need to learn what it is to be crucified with Christ, coming to him in our weakness and brokenness.

When fear drives us to Jesus and to the Gospel, it is not a reaction to the situation, it is a revelation. Elijah had to be brought to the end of himself, to become totally dependent on God. Only then did the Lord commission him and give him the next assignment.

Jesus died on the cross so that we do not have to fear the wrath of God. Jesus rose from the dead so that we do not have to fear death.  

What are you afraid of today?

Bring it to the cross.

Sermon, Sunday May 16, 2021 The Duel on Mt Carmel

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1 Kings 18:17-40

Have you ever tried walking on two different paths at the same time?

Under the leadership of King Ahab, Israel was walking two different paths, worshipping the one true God and worshipping idols and pagan religions. Ahab had married Jezebel who was the daughter of the pagan king of Sidon. She brought with her the pagan practices and idol worship of her homeland, and was aggressively promoting the idols of Baal and Asherah.

God had judged Israel by bringing about a famine and Elijah the prophet was used by God to confront Ahab and his wicked practices. The drought and famine brought the worship of this pagan god into question, and a perfect time for this standoff on mt Carmel to take place between Elijah and the prophets of the pagan gods.

Elijah was a bold and courageous prophet as he confronted the king who wanted to have him killed. But Elijah knew that he was protected by God. When you know who you represent you can be courageous.

Elijah then boldly calls a duel, telling the King to assemble the nation and the prophets of Baal and Asherah at mount Carmel. Ahab agreed, thinking that this would be the perfect time to have the nation turn against Elijah and have him killed.

The nation assembles at Carmel and Elijah makes this powerful statement in verse 21, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions?”

The prophets of Baal go first and spend most of the day in prayer and aggressive pleading to their god. It was to no avail and the skies were silent. Elijah exposes the false religion and taunts the prophets and mocks them (1 Kings 18:26-29).

Finally, Elijah stops the prophets in their futile effort and says to the people, “come near to me” (1 Kings 18:30). He wants them to observe closely the importance of what he is doing.  

Elijah deliberately begins to repair the altar of sacrifice that had been demolished under the leadership of King Ahab. He takes twelve stones to build the altar representing the unity of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Exposing the foolishness and sin of Baal worship was only half of Elijah’s task for the day, his focus was bringing the nation back to worshipping the God of Abraham, the one true God. The first step was to repair the altar, the place of worship. In our lives, the first step to personal revival is the repairing of the personal altar of devotion.

During this season of COVID, many altars have been allowed to erode and are in need of repair. Maybe you once had a daily time set aside for prayer and reading the Bible, and maybe now is the time to rebuild that altar. Maybe you had a habit of praying together as a family, but schedules and business got in the way, the altar needs to be rebuilt. Maybe you had a discipline of worship and giving to the Lord, but your priorities changed, you need to rebuild those places of devotion to the Lord. What area of your life is God calling you back to wholehearted devotion?

Back to Carmel, the altar is rebuilt, and Elijah prepares the sacrifice. After soaking the sacrifice, Elijah prays. Prayer is the key to revival. There has never been revival without concerted prayer. Elijah prays what seems to be a simple prayer in 1 Kings 18:36-37 and God responds immediately by sending fire from heaven, consuming all the elements of the altar and the sacrifice. This was a powerful display of the glory of God, and the people responded with immediate repentance and worship (1 Kings 18:39). The prophets of Baal were quickly chased down and killed as the people turned from their wicked practices.

In our personal lives, it is not enough for us to acknowledge that “the Lord, He is God” (v. 39); we must also hate that which is evil and remove it from our lives. Judgment always prepares the way for blessing. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we all have idols in our lives, things that take the place of worshipping God. It could be our career, our relationships, entertainment, finances or many other seemingly harmless practices or possessions.

On a personal note, the first thing we turn to in the morning sets the tone for the day. If we open our phones and look at the latest news or social media feed, before we spend time in prayer, that could be an idol. What we turn to first thing in the morning, sets the tone for the day. Do we spend those first few moments focusing on the Lord, or do we fill our minds with fear, anxiety and the fear of man.

So the challenge for us is the same challenge that Elijah threw out to the nation of Israel, “are you limping between two opinions”

Whatever is more important in your life than knowing God, is an idol. The result for us is the same as it was for Israel, if we have a worship problem, we will experience drought and famine in our souls.

AW Tozer once said, “for the Christian, everything begins and ends with worship. Whatever interferes with one’s personal worship of God needs to be properly dealt with and dismissed.”

Our idols cause us to limp, we are weak in our devotion and weak in our witness for Christ.

What idol is the Holy Spirit challenging you to destroy today? It may be an app on your phone, your social media account, your spending habits, your viewing habits, or it may be your career.

What changes to your daily routine is God asking you to make today?

Hebrews12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”

Sermon Sunday May 9, 2021 Mountain Top Experiences Part 3

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Exodus 19

How do you prepare to go to church?

Let’s admit it, most people like to sleep in on Sunday. It is a day when the routine of the week is thrown out and we rush around trying to find our shoes that we only wear once a week.

However, if we think about it, how we prepare speaks to how much we value and expect the presence of the Lord as we worship.

The events of Exodus 19 on Mount Sinai are one of the most incredible accounts of the presence of God in the whole Bible. The mountain where God spoke to Moses and gave the children of Israel the Law. Can you imagine the scene, the thunder, the earthquake, the deafening trumpet, the smoke, and the voice of God?

The events at Mount Sinai were monumental in the history of the world. God was creating for Himself a new nation with new laws and a new way of life. God showed Himself as the one who desires relationship and communion with His people. Unlike any other world religion, our God came down to His people. He is the initiator of the relationship.

God gave the Israelites the Law, that became known as the Law of Moses. It revealed the holiness of God and clearly defined sin once and for all. God was preparing this nation to be the nation that would host the presence of God in the form and flesh of Jesus the Messiah.

The giving of the Law is remembered by the Jewish Holiday, Shavuot, which is 50 days from the Passover. The Law was in effect the constitution of the nation at a time when they were celebrating their freedom from Egyptian slavery. Shavuot is also known by the ancient Greek word for fifty, Pentecost.

Over the course of almost a year Moses went up Mount Sinai several times (as many as eight) to meet God as recorded between Exodus 19 and the end of the book. Not bad for an eighty-year-old man!

The first time Moses went up the mountain, God told him that He is offering a blessing to the people of Israel if they will keep the covenant (Exodus 19:5-6). By saying this, God was confirming the covenant He had made with Abraham.

A priest was a mediator between God and man. By making the nation of Israel a Kingdom of Priests, the whole nation would act as a mediator of the presence of God to the whole earth as God promised Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3).

Moses reported the message to the people, and the people respond by saying, “We will do everything the Lord has said” (Exodus 19:8). God spoke to Moses so that all the people could hear Him. By doing this God elevated Moses in the sight of the people (Exodus 19:9).

This is a picture of what would happen during the life of Jesus. When Jesus was Baptized, God spoke from heaven giving His approval of His son in front of the crowd (Matthew 3:16-17).

In verse 10 God told Moses to instruct the people to consecrate themselves, to get ready for His meeting with them on the third day. They had not yet received the ceremonial laws, but they did know enough to clean their clothes and prepare themselves. It isn’t that God demands clean clothes, rather it is the value of preparation, taking time to prepare to meet God.

The third day arrives and verse 16 says, “On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled.” Can you imagine how terrifying that must have been? Verse 18 says that the whole mountain trembled as God descended on it. The mountain is covered in a thick cloud to protect the people from the full glory of God. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, terrifying the people, Moses speaks. He simply speaks and God answers him in thunder (Hebrews 12:28-29).

Over the period of almost a year, the people camped at the base of the mountain. During that time God gave Moses the law, he established the Mosaic Covenant and officially made the children of Israel the nation of Israel.

Our God is an awesome and powerful God, but here is our incredible privilege, we have access like Moses, we can speak directly to God because of what Jesus has done for us. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the perfect sacrifice that paid for our sins once and for all, we can come boldly before the Lord. Jesus is our High priest and mediator.

There is another incredible connection between the Old and New Testaments.

This was the first Pentecost celebration, and we have another Pentecost celebration that stands out in the Bible. In Acts chapter 2, God poured out the Holy Spirit and established the Church during Pentecost.

But there is a further connection. As the people waited for Moses, they grew impatient and had Aaron form them a golden calf to worship. Moses furiously broke the stone tablets as we read in Exodus 32 and the resulting judgement for the sins of the people cost about 3000 men their lives. 3000 people died at the time when they were receiving the law.

Fast forward 1400 years, the disciples gathered at Pentecost as the Holy Spirit comes on them.  They go out into the streets of Jerusalem and Peter preaches a powerful evangelistic sermon, and the result is that about 3000 people are saved! The law leads to death, but the Spirit brings life. The apostle Paul refers to the law of sin and death in Romans 8:1–2.

So, how do you prepare yourself for worship on a Sunday?

Preparation starts all through the week. God repeated over and over, consecrate yourself, get ready, be prepared! Do we prepare ourselves before coming to church on a Sunday? Or do we spend Saturday night watching immoral shows and then wonder why we don’t “feel” God on Sunday morning.

Are we as the church preparing ourselves? Asking God to strip away from us the idols that are keeping us from experiencing His presence.

Sermon Sunday May 2, 2021 – Mountain Top Experiences part 2

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Exodus 3:1-15

Can you remember a time when God really revealed himself to you? When you felt God directing your path and giving you a commission? Do you know what it means to follow him and listen to his leading and direction?

In Exodus chapter 3, we read about the call of an 80-year-old fugitive by the name of Moses. Moses had known the heights of the power of the king of Egypt. He was raised and educated in pharaoh’s household, he had power and recognition, but in a fit of rage killed and Egyptian and had to flee Egypt.

Moses spent 40 years in the land of Midian, serving as a shepherd for his father-in-law. He was a broken man, willing to live out his days in insignificance. But God called him, God appointed him, and God commissioned him because God had prepared him.

God speaks to Moses from a burning bush on mount Horeb, also known as mount Sinai, the place where he would later receive the Ten Commandments. This is one of the most holy of mountains in the Bible.  

Moses is routinely tending his sheep and suddenly, he sees a bush that is on fire. This bush is on fire, but it seems as though the the bush is not being consumed.  As Moses turns aside, God begins to speak to him.  

We should always be looking for the supernatural in the mundane. We often miss the call of God because we are so busy going about our routines that we miss the burning bush, the sign of the supernatural (Psalm 19:1-2).

As God called him, Moses responded by saying “Here I am” (Exodus 3:4). When God calls you, how do you respond? Do you respond with, “here I am”, or do you pretend not to hear?

God warns Moses not to come too close and to take off his shoes (Exodus 3:5). Moses was humbled and worshipped God in wonder, this is the true beginning of Christian service. God uses people who humble themselves before Him.

God repeats an important message to Moses (Exodus 3:7 & 9). God sees the suffering of His people. This is such a wonderful encouragement. In the last verse of chapter 2 we read, “God saw the people of Israel, and God knew”. If you ever feel that your actions, your works, your struggles are unseen, be assured that our Father in Heaven sees. This is one of the foundational promises of the Bible.  

“I have seen … I have heard their cry … I know … I have come down!” What a message of grace! You might be crying out to God and wondering if He hears or sees. Nothing is outside of the sight of God; this is a promise you can be sure of. God is the God who sees and the God who delivers His people.

God called Moses to be the one to deliver the children of Israel from Egypt and Moses is understandably resistant. He was not expecting the assignment and he would rather not sign up for this mission. God had called Moses to a seemingly impossible task.

We must always remember that God is never going to call us to do something that we can do in our own strength. God wants to display His glory and power through us. We see this in verse 8, “and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians”

God invited Moses to be a part of what He was about to do. God doesn’t need us, He invites us to be a part of what He already plans to do.

As Moses begins to resist God’s call, God gives him that incredible Bible promise, “But I will be with you…” The inadequacy of Moses is countered by the promise of the power of the almighty God. Remember, however inadequate you may feel, you and God are always the majority.

As Moses considers this, it leads to his next problem,who is the God of Abraham?

The Egyptians worshipped many gods, and the God of Abraham would be just one among many. God responds in verse 14, “God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

Up to this point in the Bible, God has been called in Hebrew, “Elohim”, meaning God. But now God says, “I am WHO I am.” The words “I am” are interchanged with the Hebrew name, “Yahweh”. God said at the end of verse 14, “I AM has sent me to you”

From this time onwards God is known by this statement, “I am Yahweh”. A name that means so much and is so holy that most Hebrew people would be afraid to even whisper it.  God said to Moses, I am Yahweh.

God said to Moses and He says to us, I am wherever you are, and I always will be.

What a promise for Moses as he considered the call of God on his life. This applies to all Christians. Every person who has given their life to the Lordship of Jesus has a mission and a calling. It may be to your workplace, your neighborhood, childcare ministry, youth ministry, across the states or to another nation. God’s name is Yahweh, I AM with you.

Moses kept on making excuses, denying the call of God. Have you ever made excuses when God calls you? We say things like, I am too old, I am poor, I am uneducated, I don’t speak well, I am too shy, I am too sickly, I am…, I am…, I am….

Notice how we focus on ourselves when we make excuses, and God emphatically responds, I AM WHO I am.

We need to repent of the excuses and submit ourselves to the perfect plan of God for our lives. What is God calling you to do today?

Sermon Sunday April 25, 2021 – Mountain Top Experiences part 1

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Throughout the Bible God encountered people on the tops of mountains. He revealed Himself to them and changed the course of human history. Over the next several weeks we will be looking at some of those encounters and the lessons we can learn from them.

One of the most significant mountain top experiences took place on Mt Moriah as God tested the faith of Abraham. We read about this in Genesis 22, and it is well known to Christians, Jews and Muslims1.

For Christians, the story is traditionally viewed in light of Abraham’s tremendous faith in response to the unthinkable request from God to sacrifice his only beloved son. However, there is so much we can learn from this mountain top experience.

  • What does this account reveal about Abraham?

The first sentence in chapter 22 simply states, “After these things God tested Abraham…”.  

Here is where we must remove our 21st century “Sunday School” lenses and see that this is a truly horrifying account in history. God asks Abraham to kill his own son. A human sacrifice is counter to everything we know about God. It offends us and challenges our sense of decency and understanding of God. Yet we are told that this was Abraham’s finest hour and his most glorious victory.

We have the advantage of knowing how the story unfolds, but for Abraham it must have been the most difficult few days of his entire life.

Amazingly, we see that Abraham remained silent and seemed passive. Abraham must have been going through tremendous inner turmoil as he scoured through hundreds of scenarios in his mind. Verse 4 of chapter 22 says that; “On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.” It appears that he had been walking for three days with his eyes on the ground before him, deep in thought and anguish. Abraham’s quick response and silence seems to indicate resigned numbness to God’s will, steeling himself against the emotions tearing through his heart.

After passing the test, God pronounces an incredible blessing over Abraham, but life doesn’t go back to the way it was. Most scholars agree that Isaac didn’t return with him to Beersheba (Gen 22:19), and shortly thereafter his wife, Sarah dies. There was an understandable strain in the relationships in the house of Abraham.

  • What does the Account reveal about God?

In verse 2 God says, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah…” From this it is evident that God does not recognize that Ishmael was even a child of Abraham. In verse 11 we see that God stopped the sacrifice of Isaac right at the point when there was no doubt that Abraham was going to go through with the killing of his son. God showed that He never intended to allow Abraham to kill Isaac and went on to explain the test to him.

This picture of God is not the soft and amicable Heavenly Father that our modern-day “Christianity” likes to portray. On the contrary, the picture of Abraham lowering the knife was, in God’s eyes, the passing grade of the test. I doubt that this display of the nature of God would be palatable to the masses in our post-modern society (Isaiah 55:8). But we must come to grips with the fact that the God of the Old Testament has not changed. What has changed is our relationship with him because of what Jesus did for us on the cross.  

  • What about Isaac?

Traditionally the focus is on Abraham, but what about Isaac?

According to Jewish historians, Isaac was between 25 and 37 years old and not an unsuspecting child. As mentioned earlier, Isaac left Abraham and the next time we see him is in the Negev in chapter 24.  This event must have been incredibly traumatic for Isaac; his own father betrayed him and tried to kill him.

In contrast, according to a few ancient rabbinical documents, we read of Isaac as a willing sacrifice, actually asking his father to bind him tightly so that he would not move out of the way of the knife. This gives us a totally different picture of Isaac, one of a willing sacrifice and one who understood the importance of obeying his father and God.

  • Jesus and Isaac

There are many parallels between the life of Isaac and that of Jesus.

Both Isaac and Jesus were foretold, and their names were given to their parents by God. They were both conceived miraculously, and both were called “beloved son”.

Leading up to Mt Moriah, Abraham was silent. So too, God the Father was silent in Gethsemane leading up to the crucifixion of His beloved Son.

The fact that the wood for the offering was laid on the back of Isaac is a symbol of the cross that Jesus would one day carry on his shoulders.

Leading up to his crucifixion, Jesus was unwavering in his path to the cross and he was silent during his trial.  In the same way, Isaac walked silently alongside his father.

This account in essence is the salvation of Israel.  Even though Isaac was not killed, the intervention by the angel saved the nation that was to come. So too, Jesus was sacrificed in order to save all nations.

Like Isaac, Jesus’ walk to the cross was not simply passive resignation to his fate, but rather there was a determination to obey his Father’s will (Luke 22:42).

By his resurrection, Jesus provided for the salvation for all who would believe in him. The staying of the sacrifice of Isaac, was his “resurrection”, and that provided for the continuation and fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham (Hebrews 11:17-19)

What makes this account so horrifying is that God instructed Abraham to slaughter his own son, but if we really think about the crucifixion on Calvary we should be even more offended.

Because of our sins, God the Father required a perfect sacrifice. The only way we could be saved was by the perfect sacrifice of the spotless lamb of God (Isaiah 53:6, 2 Corinthians 5:21).

But here is the amazing truth that we miss, Abraham – the father had to raise his hand against his son.

Jesus knew that he would bear the incredible pain of the cross while bearing our sins. God the Father knew that he would have to inflict this pain on his own beloved son Jesus (Isaiah 53:10).

We must never miss the horror and the offense of the cross. God the Father inflicted His perfect wrath on God the Son.

Thank God today for the amazing gift of salvation.

1Muslim accounts of this event replace Isaac with Ishmael.

Sermon, Sunday April 11, 2021 – Washing Each Other’s Feet

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John 13:1-17

The night before he was crucified, Jesus met with his disciples to share what we call today, the Last Supper. Before they ate, Jesus shocked them all by humbling himself and washing their feet. This was the role of the servant of the house, why did the Lord make such a dramatic move?

What was he teaching his disciples and what can we learn from this in the church today?

Jesus loved these men. He wanted to spend this last evening with his inner circle, those he had chosen. Jesus loved his disciples right up to the cross, even though he knew one of them would betray him.

Jesus was teaching them about authority and showing that leadership does not mean you have to have people do your bidding. He could have called angels to come and wash their feet, he could have called a servant in, but he chose to serve them. Notably, Jesus also washed the feet of Judas, who would soon betray him. Jesus was showing that leadership is often a one-way street.

As Jesus comes to wash Peter’s feet, he resists and says in verse 6, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”, further in verse 8 he says, “You shall never wash my feet.”  We must not mistake this for pride, this was respect, Peter knew Jesus was Lord and God.

Jesus responds in verse 8, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”

At first glance, it may seem that Jesus is exaggerating to force peter to allow him to wash his feet. But what if Jesus is referring to a more significant truth than simply cleaning feet?

I want to suggest two interpretations to what Jesus is saying to Peter in this verse.

Firstly, Jesus was humbling himself prior to the ultimate act of humility by dying on the cross.

If it would be beneath Jesus’ position and dignity to wash his beloved disciples’ feet, then it would be beneath him to suffer and die on the cross. The Gospel is a message of humility as the creator stepped down from glory and subjected himself to a cruel Roman cross. The son of God, who poured water into a basin to wash the disciple’s feet, in a few hours poured his blood out into a basin to wash us from our sins.

And secondly, what if Jesus is saying to Peter that if he didn’t learn from this act of servanthood, then he would have no part in the kingdom of God.  I will come back to this in a later in the article.

As Peter begins to understand the significance of what Jesus is doing, he asks Jesus to wash his hands and his head as well. But Jesus explains in verse 10 that this is not necessary. This speaks to us as believers today, daily we need a washing of our sins. Washing off the dirt and grime from our daily contact with a sinful world.

I believe daily repentance is key to a healthy Christian walk. Like dust on our feet, sin lingers in our lives. The more we leave the dirt on our feet, the more it affects us, and we lose our effectiveness in the kingdom.

Jesus reclines at the table and begins to explain what he was teaching them. Not only were they to learn servant leadership, but they were also to learn to wash one another’s feet. In verse 15, Jesus gave them an imperative command to continue to serve one another as he had served them.

Looking back to verse 8, what if Jesus was saying to Peter; “if you don’t learn from this and wash each other’s feet, then you can have no part in the kingdom of heaven.”

Applying this to modern day disciples of Jesus in the church, how often don’t we refuse to “wash each other’s feet? How often do we come to church on a Sunday, wanting to be served, but with no intention of serving?

If you are unwilling to wash the feet of the people around you, you are separating yourself from the body of Christ. The principle that Jesus is displaying is that the kingdom of God must take preference over every desire or self-interest (see Matthew 19:29-30). This is radical, this is true Christianity, this is not the comfortable suit and tie Christianity that the church has been selling.

In verse 17 Jesus says that this command comes with a promise of blessing.  Sadly, even in the church we don’t serve each other because we constantly ask, “what’s in it for me?”

Now that we have established that we are to “wash each other’s feet”, how do we do this?

When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, he showed them that ministry is not done from a platform, but rather it is done with a basin and a towel. One of the greatest roles in the church is refreshment, reminding each other of the basics and the original plan of God for their lives. This is not a ministry reserved for a few who have been to seminary, this is a ministry that we are all called to. We who have the Holy Spirit, have the power in us to encourage and lift the load off the shoulders of our brothers and sisters (1 Peter 2:9).

But before we can do that we have to be in right relationship with God. We cannot act as ministers in the church if we are not in right relationship with God. If we are simply trying to serve in the church out of duty and we are not right with God, we will just bring others down. Watchman Nee wrote, “to be at odds with God is the sure way to be a drain upon the life of His Church”.

It is imperative that when we gather on Sunday mornings, we have prepared our hearts before the Lord, ready to serve one another. If you know there is some sin in your life, something that is hindering your relationship with God, you are not able to serve as a minister in the church and you have gone from being an asset in the church to being a burden. The simple principle in the body of Christ is this, we are refreshing and being refreshed all the time.

During this COVID season of isolation, I am always disturbed when people say that they do not need to gather with the body of Christ and that they are happy to watch a sermon online. The Bible shows clearly that if you do not desire the meeting together with other believers, there is something seriously wrong with your walk with the Lord. Gathering in regular fellowship is way more than simply a cultural tradition, it is essential for our growth and overcoming the plans of the enemy for our lives. Church is essential, no matter what anyone might say to you.

As we actively engage in ministry towards one another, Jesus promises us a blessing. What we wrestle with is our tendency towards passivity.

I pray that everyone would come to a worship service on a Sunday with this prayer in their hearts, “Lord who would you have me pray for and encourage today?”

Sermon, Sunday April 4, 2021, Tremble.

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Mark 16:1-8

In the closing section of Mark’s Gospel we have the well-known record of the three women who were the first to witness the empty tomb of Jesus. What we often fail to notice is that they were filled with fear. The last three words of verse 8 says, “…they were afraid”.

The good news of their risen Lord was clouded by their intense emotions.

We have all experienced the intense emotion of fear. Sometimes when someone intentionally scares us suddenly or when we encounter something that has the potential to cause us loss or harm. Our world in the past year has been driven by fear. The news media and marketing companies have thrived on creating and sustaining fear. There is the fear of getting sick, the fear of losing a loved one, the fear of losing one’s source of income and the fear of life not getting back to normal, whatever that means! Many people have the fear of not being “liked” on social media or being on the wrong side of a prominent social justice issue.

What are you most afraid of right now? How are you coping with these fears?

Fear is not a bad emotion. God designed us to have and experience fear as part of our survival instinct and human connection. Fear is an emotion that we are created with. If you read the Bible, you will notice that one of the most often repeated commands in scripture is, “do not fear”. But simply repeating this, does not automatically remove fear from our lives.

The key is not allowing our fears to control our lives. So, the answer is to choose a better fear, to tremble at something bigger. We need to see our daily fears in perspective. We need to understand that fear is not the problem, rather we misplace our fear. Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

The difference that Jesus is referring to is this, where does the fear lead us? Fear either leads us to self-preservation or to faith. Only faith can ultimately save us.

J.B. Philipps wrote a book that captures this excellently called, “Your God is too small”.  When we walk in fear, it is a result of the fact that we’ve made God too small, reducing Him to our preferences, holding him captive to our desires, projecting on to him our own sensibilities?

Jesus says the Living God is so much bigger than this, we need to fear Him.

Another potential problem is that our fear is too small. Jesus essentially is telling his disciples to have a bigger fear.  We need to develop a healthy fear of the One who created and holds all things together. In short, we don’t fear the Living God (Ps. 111:10).

Bible teachers often soften this by saying that this word fear means respect, or reverence. But what if the Bible really means being afraid, when it connects fear to the majesty of God over 300 times. I would suggest that we miss the point and the clear teaching of Scripture; God is terrifying in His majesty.  Hebrews 12:29 says that our God is a consuming fire!

Probably the greatest weakness of the church is that we have reduced God to a comfortable being who is waiting to give us whatever we desire, whenever we ask Him. We have lost our fear of God and when we lose our fear in God, we will fear everything else.

When we fear something, we give that fear power over us. And left unattended, fear grows and develops into patterns of behavior, and we begin to live afraid. Worship is the act of giving value to something. When we fear things and uncertainties more then God, we have made an idol out of fear.

But the good news is that in the very next verse in Matthew 10, Jesus assures his disciples that they do not have to live in condemnation to fear. Matthew 10:29-31 says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Immediately after telling us to fear God, Jesus tells us not to be afraid. Jesus said that when we fear God, we can rest in His ability to protect and provide for all our needs. God is not only all-powerful, He is also love and is intimately involved in every aspect of our lives.

This is why the empty grave that we celebrated this past Sunday is so important. The empty grave confirms that we serve a living God who gave his life for us and overcame death in order to purchase our freedom.  We can echo what Paul said in Romans 8:38-39.

As a result, in the midst of our 21st century anxiety and fears, we can say, “Cheer Up”, the risen one is calling you. And that’s the difference. The women at the empty grave chose a better fear. They were trembling, bewildered and afraid before an empty grave, not an empty life. The grave was empty, but their hearts were full. They were trembling, bewildered and afraid, because they were encountering the power and presence of the living God.

Do you long to tremble like that? When was the last time you felt like you were standing on holy ground too afraid to speak?

Is your God too small? Are your fears too small?

Choose today a bigger fear, tremble at an empty grave.

Jesus is inviting you to look into the empty tomb today to see what he did for you so that you can stand in holy fear before God with your sins removed, and be able to call Him Father.