Sunday November 17, 2019 Balkan Call Report Back

Click on the camera to see the video of the service.

Intimacy and the power of Prayer

This past week our small team arrived back from Macedonia, so much happened that it is impossible to cover in a short article. But as I look back it seems that there is one theme that God seems to be impressing on the global church.  

The Sunday before we left, we prayed for the persecuted church. Little did we know that we were going to meet some of those we were praying for in person. The three-day conference, the Balkan Call, was closed to photography because a number of the attendees were labelled as terrorists by the places where they were serving the Lord.  We met missionaries who had been imprisoned, some had been kicked out of their countries and others had been threatened or intimidated. All these heroes have one thing in common, they are people of prayer.

God is raising up people all over the world who are starting prayer meetings in churches or homes. Across the globe, people are gathering together to pray for the kingdom of God to come, for His will to be done.

Our dear friend B is a missionary from Germany who lives in Gilane, Kosovo, and is helping people start prayer rooms all over the region. She planned and coordinated the prayer room that our team helped with during the conference. The little prayer room upstairs from the main conference venue, had continuous prayer and worship for 75 hours, covering the conference in prayer. Our Airbnb apartment was constantly busy as people were coming and going all hours of the night, to and from times of prayer.  

One of the speakers was Pastor Andrew Brunson and his wife Norine. The Brunson’s were missionaries in Turkey for over 20 years, but the government only began to take notice and persecute them when they began to pray and mobilize others to pray. We heard how Andrew was imprisoned for two years, until he was released last year. He firmly believes that God chose him to be imprisoned in order to focus millions of people around the world to pray for the Gospel to be proclaimed in Turkey. Many of us were aware of his imprisonment and it is true that millions prayed, not only for his release, but also for the persecuted church in Turkey.

When we begin to pray, the world takes notice, Satan and his demons take notice. In Exodus 33 we read about the Tent of Meeting, the place where Moses met with God face to face (Exodus 33:11). When Moses met with God, the entire nation of Israel came and watched. They came and worshipped and stood at the entrances to their tents.

Today, people notice when we pray. When we pray together as the church, the neighborhood notices. It is as if the neighborhood stands and looks at the church because something is happening, God is meeting with His people. When we pray for our community, the community changes, there is a shifting that takes place.

Satan will do anything to prevent a church from praying, really praying. The governments of this world are afraid of a praying church. Whenever a dictator begins to take power, the first thing they do is attempt to squash the praying church, because there is power in prayer.

Our team met with Maurice, a believer from Egypt, who told us of a miracle that has recently taken place in Egypt. Since the Ottoman empire, there has been a law on the restriction of building churches or even repairing churches in Egypt. This law has stood for over five-hundred years. But this law was finally removed last year by the Egyptian president. The church in Egypt had been faithfully praying for this and God heard their prayers.  

It is important for us to pray together as a church, but we will never have a passion for praying together if we don’t pray alone. If we don’t have a personal, intimate walk with the Lord, we will have no desire to pray with others for revival in our world. The desire to pray for revival and national healing, comes from a deep personal devotional walk with the Lord.

During the final day of the conference, I spent some time with a man from Germany by the name of Heinrich. He was radically saved a number of years ago from a life of drugs and wild living. As a result of his radical conversion he felt that he needed to serve God wholeheartedly and he began doing lots of things for God. He began to get involved with missions, community service, street evangelism and helping the poor.  As I spoke with him, I felt the Lord reminding me of John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

As I began sharing that with him, he began to weep, he broke down and told me that this is exactly what he was told by his pastor back in Germany. You see, Heinrich was serving God out of guilt, but our heavenly Father wants a relationship with us first and foremost and then out of that relationship flows the acts of ministry.

We get it wrong all the time, Jesus calls us to abide in him, to spend time with him. A healthy Christian is one who prioritizes time alone with God. A healthy church is one that prioritizes prayer and dependency on the power of God.

Our natural tendency is to work for God, but that becomes a burden as we see with the priests in Malachi 1. If we do things for God in our own strength, eventually we will grow weary and drift away from God and the joy of serving Him. The truth is that God does not need anything from us, He wants a relationship with us.

God wants to speak to you and show you His love for you. Prayer is critical to our walk with the Lord. How is your personal prayer life?

Sermon Sunday November 03, 2019 – Where is God?

click on the camera to view a video of the worship time at Grace Point.

Malachi 2:17 to 3:5

Where is God?

We live in a very significant time in history. The world is shaking, and most people are living in fear and anxiety. Fear of the unknown, that something terrible might happen at any moment. Many people are turning to the church and asking, where is your God? Why doesn’t God stop the suffering? Why does God allow the terrible natural disasters and the genocides that seem to be increasing around the world? Even regular church attendees are asking the same questions.

This is the same question the people of Judah were asking, 2500 years ago. Where is God? Why does he not seem to answer our prayers? In Malachi 2:17 to 3:5 God responds and promises to bring justice to the people of Israel. His response applies equally to us today.

In verse 17 we read that the people were excusing sinful behavior, but not simply excusing it, they were celebrating it. They were calling evil good by saying that something that God had clearly condemned, is something to be celebrated and embraced. We see this so evident in our world today and in so many churches who celebrate what God has clearly called sinful and saying that it is not sin, it is diversity and an expression of love, therefore it must be good. God says to us as He said to the people of Judah – I am getting tired of this.

But not only that, the people were crying out, “where is the God of justice?”

The people were complaining that the wicked were prospering by oppressing the poor? But, Proverbs 11:18 says, “The wicked earns deceptive wages,”

Today, many followers of Jesus are also asking, “where is the God of Justice?”, why does he allow the celebration of sin, why does he allow the oppressor to go unpunished, why does He allow persecution of Christians?

After God spoke to the prophet Malachi, God was silent for four-hundred years. This cry of “where is the God of justice?” was uttered for generations. But then in verse 1, there is a promise that the Lord will come suddenly to his temple. The messenger of the covenant was Jesus himself, God incarnate, and he entered the temple as a fulfilment of this prophecy one week before his crucifixion.

John the Baptist was the messenger first mentioned in verse 1, he was the one who prepared the way of the Lord. But then the Lord suddenly or unexpectedly comes to the temple.

In Matthew 21 we read about when Jesus came into the temple, the Jews were not ready for him, and with a voice of authority that they have never heard before Jesus says, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” Matthew 21:13

400 years after Malachi, Jesus walks into the temple, and he cleanses it from the corruption and injustice.

That was 2000 years ago, this same Jesus is coming back again, and he is not only going to cleanse the temple, he is going to cleanse the whole world of injustice and sin. Verse 1 speaks of Jesus coming as the messenger of the covenant to redeem mankind by paying the price for our sins, so that we could have a restored relationship with God the Father.

But verse 2 and 3 speak about the second coming of Jesus.  Jesus is coming back again, and when he comes again, it won’t be as a baby in a manger.  Verse 2 begins with, “who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?” These verses speak about The Day of the Lord, the day when Jesus will come to make everything right, to bring justice and the vengeance of God as we read in Revelation 19:11-16. Malachi describes Jesus as a refiner’s fire and a fullers soap, he is coming to burn off sin and make all things pure.

Verse 4 continues, “Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord…” Jesus, the lion of the tribe of Judah, and the spotless lamb, is the only perfect and eternal offering that is pleasing to the Father. It is only because of the perfect offering of Jesus that we can stand before the all Holy God without being consumed.

But there is more good news; verse 5 proclaims the justice the people were crying out for, this is the good news.

There is no oppression, injustice or abuse that God does not see. God is a God of justice and He will punish the wicked. God is faithful and He will not delay in bringing salvation to His people.

As we read the scriptures, we can easily get wrapped up in endless debates and opinions on the timeline and nature of the end-times. But there is a significantly more important question we need to ask; Are you ready?

As followers of Jesus we need be ready by daily examining our walk and the spiritual condition of our soul (see 2 Corinthians 13:5).

We will all one day stand before Jesus and if we are Christians, we will get rewards and the Bible says that he will judge us based on what we have done. How we have used the gifts he has given us (see 2 Corinthians 5:10).

Robby Gallaty said, “Examination of your works today is better than elimination of blessings tomorrow”

For every true Christian, God is working in us to make us more like Christ. We should not be surprised when God allows us to experience trials, challenges, suffering and even persecution as we read in James 1:2-4. As we go through trials, God uses them to purify us as a refiner’s fire and a fullers soap with the purpose of making us more like Christ (see Romans 8:29).

Let us encourage one another and pray for one another as we grow together in unity and community, because the Day is approaching (Hebrews 10:25).

Are you prepared?

Sermon Sunday October 29, 2019 – The Sanctity of Marriage

Malachi 2:10-16

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How do you view marriage?

In the culture today, fewer and fewer people are getting married. Marriage is the first institution that God ordained in Genesis 2:24. God takes marriage seriously, but society has reduced it to a social contract and sometimes a contract of convenience.  

Historians agree that the primary reason for the collapse of the Roman empire (27B.C. to 476A.D.) was the internal decay of morality and the dismantling of the family structure.

In Malachi 2:10-16 the Lord rebukes the nation because of their broken relationships, relationships between the tribes of Israel and also personally in their weak view of marriage.

In verse 10, Malachi reminds them that they are a nation, created and called by God. God called them to be one nation, for His purposes and for His glory. But it seems that as they came out of exile, they became selfish, as the Lord blessed them with comfort and wealth, they forgot about their purpose as a nation.

America is a blessed nation, but the problem with financial blessing is that it frequently leads to selfishness. We have forgotten our roots as a nation. Forgetfulness lead to unfaithfulness.

As followers of Jesus, we are to be known for our unity and love. It doesn’t matter what our race, age or ethnic background, we are to display unity and love because we are united around the Gospel and we have the unity of the Holy Spirit drawing us together. Unity is a miracle because it is only possible by the power of God’s presence.

When we set aside petty differences and we prefer each other in forgiveness, we are putting God first in our church and that is worship. All unity in the body of Christ is only because of what Jesus has done for us.

In verse 11 and 12 we read that the second indictment God has against the people is in their lack of faithfulness to Himself. We don’t know the details but from Jeremiah 7 we can assume that they were turning to idol worship, running after the gods of the land that had been brought in since the exile began. The nation was profaning the name of God and His temple.

Idol worship is something that we can all fall into, it is when we value other things more than we value God.

In verse 11, Judah is described as the bridegroom and the daughter of a foreign god as the bride. Malachi is referring to a practice that whereby the Jewish men were divorcing their wives and marrying the wealthy non-Jewish inhabitants of the land. The Jewish men found this was the quickest way to restore their wealth in their homeland. This was strictly forbidden by God (see Deuteronomy 7:3-4 and 2 Corinthians 6:15-16).

The people of Israel were marrying idol worshippers, people outside of the faith. The problem with marrying someone who doesn’t believe what you believe, someone today who has not submitted himself or herself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, is that they simply do not have the same worldview. A worldview is the lens by which we view everything that is happening in your life. A Christian worldview determines how we use our time, the places we go to, the way we spend our money and raise our children. The Christian worldview makes it difficult to be in unity with someone who does not share the same value system.

In Verses 13 and14, we see a picture of a man weeping and the groaning. This is a man who has divorced his wife and married a pagan woman for her wealth and God has judged him. The husband cannot understand why God is taking marriage so seriously as we see in verse 14.

A marriage is where both participants leave their past influences and begin a new life together. Jesus taught in Mark 10:6-9, that marriage is serious and that it is a covenant before God whereby both partners leave their past influences and begin a new life together. In our culture divorce is no longer viewed as the last resort, rather it is simply viewed as a way out of a difficult relationship. Celebrities have made a living out of marrying and divorcing each other simply for the media attention. And sadly, as marriage is treated with less significance the true casualties of marriage are the children and the next generations.

As Christians, we view marriage as a holy commitment, not simply between two people, but before Almighty God, who instituted marriage in the first place.

Finally, in verses 15 and 16 God issues a warning and a challenge. In the last sentence of verse 16, God says, “So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless”

Walking the Christian life takes daily monitoring; in the same way, being faithful in marriage takes daily monitoring and attentiveness.

The reason God takes marriage so seriously is that it is designed by God primarily to display the relationship that Christ, the bridegroom has with his church. In Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul writes about the roles of a husband and a wife, but we get so tied up about wives submitting to their husbands that we don’t see the big picture that God is pointing to. Wives are to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ in faith and love. Husbands are to give their lives for their wife as Christ who gave his life for the church. This passage is primarily about the glorious relationship between Christ and the church.

Marriage is so much more significant than what our culture teaches us. If you are married, remarried, about to be married or single, settle in your heart right now that marriage is a covenant before God, it is His institution that He chose to portray the relationship between Christ and the church.

Ultimately, we are weak in our faithfulness, but Jesus is the faithful one. The nation of Israel was easily seduced away from God, but Jesus is faithful. Even when we are unfaithful and value other things more than God, Jesus relentlessly pursues us as his bride. Jesus remained faithful to the point of death, giving his own precious blood for our sins.

God takes marriage seriously, commit today to pray for the marriages in your life.  

Sermon Sunday October 20, 2019 – Standing for Truth

Stand for Truth

Malachi 2:1-9

What is truth?

We can all agree that gravity causes objects to fall to the ground, fire is hot, and multiple other unquestioned truths.

The second paragraph of the declaration of independence begins with the sentence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident…

But we live in an age when truth is no longer considered self-evident. Truth is under attack and Biblical truth is under attack.

The apostle Paul challenges Timothy to preach the truth in 2 Timothy and then he speaks of a time when truth will be subjective (2 Timothy 4:3-4), that time is now.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we must not only know the truth, but we also must stand for the truth and proclaim the truth.

In Malachi 2, God rebukes the priests for their lack of holding to the truth, and he warns them in verse 2, that if they do not honor His name, He will curse them. God warns them to take the truth to heart. To take something to heart means more than simply hearing the truth, it means applying it to our every day lives. Hearing and then believing.

When we don’t take God’s truth to heart, we can hear it all day long, but we will continue to live in sin. It has been said that, “right belief produces right behavior.”

In verse 3, God says that he will rebuke their offspring, and this principle still applies today.  The way you live your life today, affects the lives of those who are coming after you. If you choose to walk in sin and not follow the path that God has for you, it will affect your children and their children. There are generational blessings and curses that we enact by our daily walk. Even our “secret sins”, which is an oxymoron because there are no secret sins, these affect the lives of those who will come after us.

God warns the priests that He will embarrass them publicly, He will shame them by smearing their faces with the dung from the offering animals, and then throw them out along with the scraps and leftovers. God cursed them not simply because of their laziness and poor offerings, God cursed them because they rejected the truth and misled others. They were not living according to the high standard of their calling as priests.

In verses 4 to 7, God reminds the priests of the covenant He established with Levi. The Levites had a greater honor, they were set apart by God and His covenant with them was one of life, peace, fear and awe (Malachi 2:5).  

The problem in most Christian circles today is that we no longer have reverence for the almighty God. We do a good job of portraying the loving Heavenly Father, full of grace and truth, but we seldom grasp the God who holds the entire universe in the palm of His hand, while at the same time holding every atom in our bodies together. We need to develop an awe, reverence, respect and fear of God. Most people do not fear God.

Oswald Chambers wrote, “The most remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”

The role of the priests was to guard the truth and then to declare the truth (Malachi 2:7). The priest is God’s messenger, declaring the truth of God’s word. This word from the Lord is equally relevant for us today as we are all priests who are called by God to proclaim His glory and majesty (1 Peter 2:9). The purpose of this proclamation is to turn people away from their sin and towards a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Wherever God has placed you, that is where He calls you to be a proclaimer of the truth. We do this as we disciple people in our lives.  

We must be a people who know the truth, stand for the truth and declare the truth.

We live in a time when truth itself has been despised – devalued. Truth has become a set of subjective statements and if you claim that there is objective truth, then you are criticized as being narrow minded at best or even prejudiced and bigoted. But truth, objective Biblical truth, is what holds society together.

President George Washington during his Farewell Address: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.” “Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

We are seeing the consequences of a drift from truth all around us.

In Malachi 2:8, we see that because of the priest’s compromise, laziness and weakness, many had been led astray. God takes this seriously (Mark 9:42).

This sounds like a message that will preach well at a pastor’s conference, and yes, it is much needed in our culture where so many pastors are so concerned about numbers and finances that they will make any accommodation to culture, just to keep the people happy. But this applies to all of us. We as a church are called to be ambassadors for Christ, to stand for the light and truth of the Gospel, and at times this stand will require us to swim against the stream of our culture. We are all called to be priests, standing for the truth in a culture of relativism (John 17:17, and John 14:6).

We are not talking about a culture war, we are talking about life or death, eternal life or eternal separation and punishment. Our interactions with people, have eternal consequences.

The church will also suffer the consequences of turning away from the truth. Every denomination or church that has compromised the truth to accommodate culture, will eventually be dismissed and disregarded by society.

Do you stand for truth?

Do you fear God, or do you fear culture?

Sermon Sunday October 13, 2019 – Worship

Worship with our whole lives.

Malachi 1:6-14

If someone was to describe your Christian walk, would they use words like: “devoted, excellent or dedicated?” These descriptors are the very essence of what it means to be a Christian. As a Christian, we should have one singular focus; to bring glory to His name in whatever context God has placed us. This is true worship.

We worship something when we give it worth and we all worship many things.  However, the only meaningful and appropriate object of our worship should be the creator and sustainer of all things. John Calvin said, “The heart is an Idol factory”. We constantly attach god-like value to created things, and this is idolatry.

In Malachi 1:6, God begins his complaint against the priests by asking why they do not honor Him or fear Him.  There was no honor shown by the priests, because there was no understanding of who God is. Reverential fear, or respect for the Lord, comes from knowing Him.

God uses the name “Lord of Hosts” a total of 7 times in these 9 verses. The Hebrew name is Jehovah Sabaoth, found 260 times in the Old Testament, and is a name referencing God as the supreme leader of the angels and armies of the Lord. The Lord of all power and might. As humanism has crept into the church, we have lost a reverence and awe for the almighty God (Hebrews 12:28-29).

God continues in verse 6, and says to the priests, “you despise my name…”. To despise something means to have an attitude of ongoing disrespect. God was in essence saying, “you don’t value me”. God points them to two ways in which they are despising His name.

  • The Priests despise God’s name in their contributions.

The animals that they are offering as sacrifices are blind and lame. The sacrificial animals were supposed to be pure and spotless, but they were giving their leftovers, thus despising the name of God.

We do the same today by giving God the leftover time, energy and resources of our lives. We know that we cannot earn merit with God and are saved by Grace, but by giving God the leftovers of our time, we are despising the name of God. God looks at the heart, and as we come to worship Him, He knows the condition of our hearts. As Christians we must give ourselves completely to Him, giving the first fruits of our time and our resources.

Whenever we give to the Lord something that is convenient, we are giving out of our excess, meaning that we are giving our leftovers to God. We don’t miss something that is leftover. This applies to time, money, possessions and skills. Are you honoring God with your contributions?

It has been said, “if there is no sacrifice in your sacrifice, it’s not a sacrifice”

  • Israel priests despised God’s name in their commitment.

The priests were going through the rituals and they were getting bored (Malachi 1:13). Their attitude to worship had become listless and apathetic. They were just checking the boxes of worship, wanting to get their job done so that they could go home and put their feet up.

When God looks at us, what does he see?

You can fool everyone around you, but God knows your commitment and the condition of your heart. God is looking for committed followers.

When challenged by Malachi, the priests seemed confused. Apparently, they had deluded themselves into thinking that when it came to worship or offerings, something was better than nothing, lukewarm was better than cold. Remember what Jesus said to the church in Laodicea in Rev. 3:15–16, it is dangerous to be lukewarm.

Matthew Henry wrote, ‘Nothing profanes the name of God more than the misconduct of those whose business it is to do honor to it.’  Worship is so much more than words, it is an attitude of the heart. Our attitude is directly related to our view of God and our relationship with God.

Five ways that we offer worship to God:

  • We worship with our bodies – Romans 12:1. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we need to look after our bodies so that we can use our energy and strength to serve the Lord. We worship God by using our bodies to bring glory to His name.
  • We worship with our finances – The apostle Paul writing to the Philippian church, thanked them for the gift they sent to support his ministry (Philippians 4:18b). Giving money to a ministry or church is never a horizontal transaction of simply paying a bill, it is a vertical offering to God. God invites us to worship Him as we sacrificially give to His work.
  • We worship God with our praises – (Hebrews 13:15) Our singing the praises of God is an act of sacrifice and worship. Whenever we are tempted to refrain from singing in worship, we must remember who it is we are worshipping.
  • We worship God with our good works – (Hebrews 13:16) Serving others is an act of worship. When we don’t have the time to volunteer or help, but we do it anyway because we are doing it unto the Lord, we show that we are trusting that He will redeem the time. That is worship.
  • We worship God when we share the Gospel – (Romans 15:16) As we share the Gospel and see new believers coming into the Body of Christ, we glorify God. Jesus said in Luke 15 that when people come to know the Lord, it is a time of praise and worship in heaven and it brings Glory to God here on the earth. The greatest miracle is a life transformed by the saving power of the Gospel. We worship God by telling His story.

May we be people who worship God with all that we have. Praising God with our lives, our finances, our time, and our relationships.

Are you worshipping God with your leftovers? Which area(s) of your life is not fully committed to Christ?

God is calling us to be dedicated and devoted followers of Jesus, because He is worthy of it all.

Sermon, Sunday October 6, 2016 – God Loves You

Malachi 1:1-5

If you are a parent, you know that you don’t simply want a child to follow the rules in order to get what they want. You want a close, loving relationship with your child, a relationship where love is the motivation for obedience.

We know this to be true in our relationships with each other, but we miss this in our relationship with God our Father. If we are honest, many of us obey God out of fear or tradition. God loves us more than we could ever understand, and He wants us to respond out of a relationship with Him rather than duty.

The Hebrew name for Malachi means “My Messenger”. This book may be short, but it carries some powerful truths. Even though this prophetic book was written more than four hundred years before Christ, we will find that it is extremely relevant to our culture and in particular, to the Western church.

During the time of Malachi, the people of Israel had returned from exile and had rebuilt the city and the temple as we read in Ezra and Nehemiah. It was a season of blessing and peace for Israel, but not all was going well. The people were being led by corrupt priests, and the people had turned away from the law of Moses. They had lost sight of the destiny that God had for them and they abandoned hope for personal growth and change.

The book is a call by God for the people to set aside traditionalism and return to relationship. Isn’t that the call of God on the church today? Traditions and religious activity will never be able to replace a personal relationship in Jesus Christ.

Malachi speaks of the coming Messiah as this is the last time God speaks through His Prophets before a period of 400 years where God is silent until John the Baptist arrives.  

The book begins with Malachi stating that this is an oracle of the word of the Lord. Malachi was stating he was carrying a heavy burden that the Lord had called him to deliver. It was not an easy message, it was a message of judgment against the people of Israel (see Hebrews 12:5-6 & 11).

Verse 2 begins with, ““I have loved you,” says the Lord”. The Hebrew word for love is in the perfect continuous tense, it shows a completed action, but with ongoing ramifications. God is referring to His covenant love for the people of Israel. Before the prophecy begins, God is reminding them of His commitment and relationship.

They never earned God’s love, they never deserved God’s love, God loved them because of His covenant with Abraham. Throughout history, there were many times when God saved His people even when they didn’t want saving. The classic example is when God called Moses to lead them out of slavery, but when times got hard, the children of Israel wanted to go back to Egypt. God loved His people even before they knew Him, even when they rejected Him.

We are no different than the children of Israel (see Romans 5:8). When Jesus went to the cross, he knew your name and it was because of his love for you that he suffered and died.

Yet the people of Malachi’s day replied with a childlike whine: “How have You loved us?” They behaved like spoilt children who complain when they are denied some new toy. With all the evidence of history and with all their present prosperity, Judah could still claim to be uncertain of God’s love!

God could have taken them on a history tour of 2000 years of His faithfulness to them, but God’s answer is to point to the fact that He chose their ancestor Jacob over his twin Esau (who was the ancestor of the people who even then surrounded Judah).

The phrase, “Esau I have hated” (v. 3), bothers us. It seems best to understand this expression not as a statement of feeling or attitude, but as a legal term based on the covenant that God had made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. A better way to understand the terms love and hate would be “chosen” or not chosen” (See Romans 8:10-13).

God never seems to give grace based on merit, although obedience is crucial. If our own righteousness was a condition for God’s grace, no one would ever be saved. God chose the nation of Israel to display His glory and to bless all the nations of the world through the Messiah, the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

God’s rejection of Edom, the descendants of Esau, was in response to their wickedness, pride and arrogance. God chooses Jacob and rejects Esau.

So, we have two opposing peoples, God chooses one and rejects the other. The Bible is full of texts that indicate God chooses us without our knowledge or even input (see Ephesians 1:4-5).

I wrestle with this in my mind but what we often lose in the wrestling over doctrine is that God chooses because of love. And the greatest declaration of God’s love for us is the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the pinnacle of history and the pinnacle of God’s display of His love for us.

If we were to really think about it, is it not better to be called chosen by a personal God than for us to choose a distant God.

The doctrine of election is a mystery, God does choose His children, but it seems to me from personal experience that the more we share the Good news of Jesus Christ, the more people are chosen! This is the mystery (see 1 John 4:9)

Do you know God’s love for you? Are you living out your Christian walk based on a love relationship with the Creator?

Or, are you like the children of Israel, living a life of routine and tradition, but you don’t really know how much God loves you? Following a set of rules does not produce a life transforming relationship with God. He desires a relationship with you.

Sermon Sunday September 22, Healthy Church Part 5

Click on the camera to view the full service from Sunday

Acts 1:1-14

In the first chapter of Acts, we read the last words that Jesus spoke on the earth before he ascended into heaven. Jesus was preparing the disciples, he told them to go to Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit, which was the power that they would need to be the church.

The church cannot be the church without us recognizing and responding to the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We can hold meetings and run programs, but we cannot be the church without the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 1:8 we read, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit so that the church would have the power to do what Jesus called them to do. The Holy Spirit is given to the church to be the church and to proclaim the good news.

A healthy church is like a railroad track.  The two tracks of the church are: Evangelism and Discipleship. These two tracks run parallel and continuously in order for the church to be what God has called it to be.

The first component of the church is Discipleship.

Discipleship is the walking out of the Christian life with a community of believers. It involves instruction and the study of God’s word, but more importantly, it involves a walking together in community, encouraging each other as we all pursue becoming more like Christ.

Andrew Davis in his book, “Revitalize”, uses the acronym K.F.C.A.

Knowledge: More than just head knowledge, the church matures as we study and feed on God’s word. Discipleship occurs as we allow the Holy Spirit to transform us by the power of the Word of God applied to our lives. When Jesus was tempted in Matthew 4, he quoted scripture when he was tempted. How can we expect to stand against the attacks of the enemy unless we know the Word.

Faith: Having a strong sense and firm belief that the promises of God’s Word are true. An active reliance on Christ and trusting that God really does speak to us. Growing in faith pleases God as we read in Hebrews 11:6.

Character: Character is who we are when we are alone before God.Our life before making Jesus Lord must be different to our life today. Our decision making is no longer selfish, our language is different, we are more generous, and we care for the broken and the hurting. Our character is transformed as we become more like Christ.

Action: Mature Christians do what God tells them to do (see John 14:15). Mature followers of Jesus are on mission for Christ, daily walking out their salvation (see Ephesians 4:16).

Andrew Davis wrote, “I believe Scripture shows that biblical knowledge feeds faith, faith transforms character, and out of a transformed character, we walk in newness of life.”

Discipleship is not getting together once a week, studying a book written by a Christian author and drinking coffee. That is good, but true discipleship is activation, leading to a church on mission. True discipleship challenges and transforms us to be a people of action, doing what God has called us to do.  

The second component of the church is evangelism. Jesus said in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

If the purpose of our Lord was to seek and save the Lost, why would we as his representatives, those who call him Lord, not have the same passion.

As Jesus instructed his disciples in Acts 1:8, we are also to go to our neighbors, our city, our nation and to the ends of the earth. As people empowered by the Holy Spirit, we have all we need to do the work God calls us to do (see Ephesians 1:3).

The church exists to bring glory to God, and the greatest example of the Glory of God is the salvation of sinners as they put their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

The world around us is a mess and desperate for hope. Everyone we meet is an eternal soul, and they will either spend eternity in heaven, or in hell, eternally separated from God.  

Frequently, you will hear that there are many different ways to get to heaven, however there is no other religion or system of faith that has a living savior. Jesus is the resurrected Lord and only He can save (See John 14:6).

We as a church must be focused on evangelism, sharing the good news of the Jesus Christ from our homes to the ends of the earth. It is such a blessing that we have so many people at Grace Point who understand this. This past summer we had individuals and teams that went to seven different nations, while at the same time we have outreaches to Ruskin Heights, Warford elementary and right here in our neighborhood.

Evangelism, like discipleship, is a primary component of the church, and like two railroad tracks they are tied together. The tie that holds these two components together is the Gospel message, God’s plan of salvation (See 1 Corinthians 15:1-5).

This Gospel message is the most important message we have, and it holds the church together in discipleship and mission.

Just like railroad tracks, which are only useful if each track is perfectly parallel and that they continue together. If the one track veers off or is longer than the other, the railroad track is of no use. So, it is with the healthy church, discipleship and evangelism must run parallel and continuously, held together by the Good news of Jesus Christ.

The progress of the Gospel is the evangelism track

The progress in the Gospel is the discipleship track.

But you can only participate in either of these if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

As a follower of Jesus are you participating in both discipleship and evangelism?

Sermon Sunday September 15, 2019 A Healthy Church part 4

Growth

Acts 2:41-47

I’ve had two trees in our backyard since we moved into our house five years ago.  They have grown rapidly and have quickly exceeded my ability to manage their growth.

As I was thinking about this problem, I realized that this is a common problem in churches that are experiencing growth. When the growth exceeds the capacity to manage the growth, the result is a poorly maintained organization that leaves people frustrated on the outside and burnt out on the inside.

Growth can be challenging, so how does a healthy church grow?

The early church is a model of church health and as we have seen in Acts 2:42, there were 4 distinctive indicators of a healthy church.

  1. Devoted to the study of the Word of God
  2. Devoted to community and fellowship
  3. Devoted to breaking bread together
  4. Devoted to prayer.

These are the four devotions of a healthy church and being devoted to these four principles leads to dramatic results as we see from verse 43 to 47.

  • Awe resulting from miracles (v 43)

The apostles had walked with Jesus, they had seen his many powerful miracles and they began to do the same things. Signs and wonders are for the express purpose of bringing glory to God. Today, all over the world, amazing miracles are happening, and the primary purpose is to declare the glory of God and the Gospel message. We see this throughout the book of Acts; signs and wonders lead to salvations. Awe or fear came upon everyone because they recognized a greater power at work, they couldn’t ignore that God was working in power and it caused a reverent fear (See Hebrews 2:3-4).

  • They were a unified church (verse 44)

This was the church in its infancy.  There were no arguments over false teaching, doctrine or opinions. This was before the church began to argue about buildings and programs. A church that is devoted to the things of God, will be a unified church. The moment we lack unity, it is because we have lost our purpose.

The early church had an intense feeling of responsibility towards one another (see John 17:21-22). The early church as described in Acts 2, was an answer to that prayer of Jesus, and many were drawn to the Savior as a result.

  • They were a generous church (verse 45)

This verse is not promoting a form of socialism, rather this was a voluntary caring for each other as they shared their wealth to help those in need.

The rapid growth of the early church resulted in many physical needs. During Pentecost, there were Jews from every nation of the world, who had been converted and most of them stayed in Jerusalem. They would have quickly run out of money and food, and they needed places to stay. There was an outpouring of generosity as the unity of the church led to caring for these needs.

Generosity must be an essential mark of the church (see 1 John 3:16-18).

William Barclay wrote, “a real Christian cannot bear to have too much while others have too little.”

  • They were a rejoicing church (verse 46).

Daily the believers were celebrating their salvation, they were celebrating that Jesus was alive and that their lives had purpose. They weren’t simply following a religion of going through the weekly and yearly festivals, this new devotion to Christ affected every aspect of their lives.

There was not a separation between secular and sacred, they didn’t only gather once a week for a time to dress up in their Sunday best and try to impress people with their holiness. Their lives were transformed by being totally committed to the Lordship of Jesus in their lives and it affected every aspect of their lives.

This is such a challenge for us in the western culture, we have bought into the idea that we can be Christians so long as we attend church regularly and give to the church. This is not what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Being a Christian affects every minute of every day of our lives, whether it is at home, work, school or in fellowship with other believers.

We don’t add Jesus to our lives, we give our lives to Jesus, that is Lordship, and real Christianity.

  • They were an attractive church (verse 47).

There have been many books and seminars regarding the subject of church growth, encouraging churches to change the décor, the music, the lighting, the website and much more. Some even encourage pastors to reduce the amount of teaching using the Bible and please don’t tell people that they are sinners! These books and seminars have made a lot of people rich, but what they have also done is created a church culture that is so focused on the desires of the attendees that the church has forgotten their reason for gathering.

A consumer driven church culture has been created and it is extremely damaging to the understanding of the Church. If we cater to what people want in order to gather a crowd, it will necessitate a deviation from the Gospel message.

The church is good at religion, creating a list of things to do that a good Christian should do. But the early church focused not on what they should do, rather they focused on what has already been done by Jesus’ death and resurrection.  

The early church praised God for all that He has done, they were not seeking any fame or notoriety, they gave all the glory to God. As a result, they grew in number. People were attracted to the miracles that were being done, and to the genuine, authentic worship of the early church.

True church growth must be a work of God as it is an authentic display of individuals living as followers of Christ which will draw others to want the same.

We can do our part to welcome people and invite people and witness to people, but ultimately Jesus is the one who builds the church (see Matthew 16:18).

Sermon Sunday September 8, 2019 A Healthy Church part 3

Click on the Camera to watch the video of the sermon

1 Peter 2:1-12:

Do you know who you are?

If you have been at Grace Point at anytime during the last 5 years, you will know that we value prayer as a church. But with all the emphasis on prayer, we still don’t see our prayer times well attended. I have been wrestling with this and have concluded that we don’t have a prayer problem, we have in identity problem. We don’t pray because we don’t really believe our prayers make a difference, because we don’t know who we are in the Kingdom of God. As followers of Jesus, we have an identity problem.  

As Christians, our identity is not our nationality, our education or our career, our identity is to be found in being a child of God, adopted by the creator of the universe and being a member of the eternal kingdom of God. But more than that as Peter wrote in our text this morning, I am part of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession (see 1 peter 2:9).

If you are a follower of Jesus, someone who has committed your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, you are a priest, that is your identity.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9

Andrew Murray in his book, “With Christ in the school of prayer” writes, “every member of the Body of Christ – the church, has a right to the priesthood. But not everyone exercises it, many are still entirely ignorant of it. And yet it is the highest privilege if a child of God.”

What does it mean to be a priest in the kingdom of God?

As a church we believe in the priesthood of every believer, we believe that every believer is called to fulltime ministry, whatever their vocation might be (see Revelation 1:5-6).

In the Old Testament, under the Mosaic Law, God’s people had a priesthood. There were definite qualifications for this, and it was an awesome privilege. No man in Israel could serve at the altar, or enter the tabernacle or temple holy places, except those born into the tribe of Levi and consecrated to God for service. The priest’s role was to be the mediator between God and man. And only the High priest could enter the holy of holies in the tabernacle. Once a year, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the high priest was permitted to enter and sprinkle the blood of a sacrificial animal on the mercy seat of the Ark. By doing so, the high priest atoned for his own sins and those of the people.

The Holy of Holies was separated from the rest of the tabernacle/temple by the veil, a huge, heavy drape made of fine linen that was up to 6 inches thick.

When Jesus died on the cross in Matthew 27:51 we read that this veil was torn by God from top to bottom. It was a supernatural event done by the power of God to declare that man was no longer separated from God. The Old Testament temple system was made obsolete as the New Covenant was ratified. No longer would we have to depend on priests to perform once-a-year sacrifices on our behalf (see Hebrews 10:19-22).

We as followers of Jesus have now a great and eternal High priest, who mediates for us, he represents us before God the Father. More than that, because of the perfect and final sacrifice that Jesus performed on the cross, we are declared righteous before God. Jesus is not only the High priest, but he is also the King of Kings, therefore we are a royal priesthood and a holy nation, because we are forever covered and made holy by the blood of Jesus.

We have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, to be priests in our culture, praying for our culture and representing God to the culture. Sadly, we don’t realize who we are, we have a case of mistaken identity and we don’t see ourselves as priests, we are happy just to take our salvation and hide from the world until we die, or Jesus comes again. Instead of influencing our culture, we hide from our culture.

But we are called to be priests who as a body of believers represent Christ to the world. When we display Christ, we display the power of the Gospel and people are drawn to the authentic display of the power of the Gospel.

If we want to see miracles, salvations, people set free from addictions, marriages healed and lives restored, we need to act like priests who have unhindered and unlimited access to the Great High Priest. That is what it means to pray, that is why a healthy church prays.  

We cannot work our way into church health, we cannot come up with strategies and programs that will somehow create sustainable church health. The only lasting strategy is prayer. Because we desperately need the holy spirit to give us life, we are a dependent people, unity and community are not possible without the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our church.

Our worship services need to be permeated with prayer, because prayer is an expression of our dependence on God. A healthy church prays, not only on a Sunday morning, but also during the week as we gather together.

How do you prepare your heart to worship on a Sunday morning?

Do you realize that as a follower of Jesus Christ, you are a priest in the kingdom, not only on a Sunday morning, but also on a Saturday night. How you spend your time during the week in private has a very real and definite effect on our gathering here together.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book Life Together says, “we are members of a body, not only when we choose to be, but in our whole existence. Every member serves the whole body, either to its health or to its destruction. This is no mere theory; it is a spiritual reality.”

Bonhoeffer went on to write, “A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me.”

Sermon Sunday September 1, 2019 A Healthy Church part 2

(watch the video by clicking on the picture)

Fellowship/ community

Romans 15:1-7

We live in an era where we are more connected than any other time in the history of man.

But psychologists tell us that loneliness is the number one health issue of our time. How can it be it that we are so connected but at the same time so lonely?

In Acts 2:42, we read that the early church devoted themselves to fellowship, the Greek word Koinonia, which means; partnership, participation, communion and companionship.

In Romans 15:1-7, the Apostle Paul instructs the Roman church how to live and how to relate to one another in light of the Gospel. In the first verse he gets straight to the point, “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” He uses the word obligation, which could also mean, duty, or legal requirement,

We don’t like this kind of language in our culture today, we are free individuals, why should we be obligated to do anything for someone else? Obviously, just as in 2019, this was a problem in the first century. Paul answers the question very clearly in verse 3 of Romans 15, “For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”

Christ gave himself for us. This is the foundation for the Gospel message, Jesus being obedient to the Father preferred us over his own life and his position in heaven. True unity in the church is an outworking of the Gospel, it is a miracle of God as the Holy Spirit draws us to prefer each other, in light of what Jesus has done for us.

But It still takes work, Paul repeats the phrase “endurance and encouragement” in verse 4 and

It takes endurance, it takes hard work, it takes commitment (that word that our generation seems find troublesome).

Endurance is the ability to endure and continue to do something even when the finish line never seems to get any closer.  Walking in unity requires endurance, there are days when it seems easier than others, but we keep on going, because we are committed to each other.

Along with endurance, we need Encouragement, we are encouraged by the faithfulness of those who have gone before us (see Hebrews 12:1), We are encouraged by the Word of God,

And we are encouraged by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the church.

All of these encourage us and keep us moving forward towards greater unity, towards a healthier community.

Community literally means living with unity. But what is the purpose of unity in the church?

Is it so that we can just get along? Is it so that we portray the image of a nice happy family?

Is it so that we attract more people to our happy community and grow? Actually it is significantly important than all of those, unity in the church is to bring glory to God (see Romans 15:6).

How do we display the glory of God as the church? In Ephesians 3:10 we read, “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”

God is using the followers of Jesus to display His wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. The word for manifold is the same word that one would use to describe the many facets of a diamond. God holds the church up like a diamond and points to the church and teaches about himself to the angels and principalities of the spirit world. Even as we are weak, broken and struggling towards unity, because of the Gospel and the righteousness of Jesus, we are used by God more than we will ever know. When we walk in unity and prefer others, we display the Glory of God. In John 17:22 and 23, as Jesus was praying for the church, he prayed that we would display the glory given to him by the Father, in order to draw others to a saving knowledge of himself.

Unity is not simply getting along for the sake of peace, unity is a miracle of God in order to display the glory of God to a lost and dying world. Jesus desires unity more than we do, he went to the cross so that we could be a community of believers in fellowship and love.

There is much at stake, it is vital that we are a healthy community, the eternal destiny of our neighbors is at stake. Our culture is starving for authentic community.

Many people are thirsting for community but are afraid to step into community, reaching out and being proactive, not for what we can get out of it, but for the Glory of God to be displayed. When you do that, you will get more out of a community than you ever imagined.

The focus will be off ourselves and we will lift our heads up and be healthy.

When we grasp how Jesus went to the cross for us, we will easily give ourselves and our self-interests away in order to step into a community where Jesus is glorified. If we struggle to stay in fellowship with each other, it is because we are not allowing the Gospel message to permeate our relationships, we are self-centered rather than grace centered.

We live in a culture of individualism and consumerism and the church can easily fall into the trap of feeding the desires of the consumers, instead of focusing on the glory of God. A healthy church is where people willingly step into community in order to display the glory of Jesus.

So how do we step into community?

Firstly, we need to understand that supernatural unity can only be found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as the head of the church. A church community that is not centered around a common relationship with Jesus will always leave us wanting (see John 4:13-14a).

Stepping into community requires vulnerability, it requires a risk. Step into community, volunteer to serve, host a meal and invite people around. We are all busy, but we prioritize what we value. What is we prioritized and valued authentic community, what can be a better way to spend our time than displaying the glory of God?

Take a step today.