Easter series Part 3 4/6/15

He is Risen – the power of the resurrection

Text: 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

From www.untilallarereached.com

I love resurrection Sunday, spring is evident everywhere, the trees are blooming and new life is all around. It is as if nature celebrates our risen Lord along with us.

 “Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in spring-time.”

Martin Luther

 But two thousand years ago the followers of Jesus must have been emotionally destroyed; their best friend and their hope for future glory had been humiliated and killed like a common criminal. Jesus had done so many powerful miracles, but he simply did not respond to any of the questioning or the beatings. Why did he not perform a miracle? They must have watched him on the cross and hoped against hope that he would finally do something. Maybe they thought that Jesus was waiting for the right moment to get down off the cross and begin to conquer the might of the Roman Empire. But that was not to be. They heard Jesus cry; “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me. They went home that Friday night devastated and hopeless.

From www.untilallarereached.com

But then Sunday comes! Slowly the news is spread. First Mary, then the disciples saw for themselves that the stone had been rolled away and the body was missing. The angel appeared and told them that they were looking in the wrong place, Jesus was not amongst the dead, but alive. Jesus appears to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and then Jesus meets with the disciples in Galilee and after that to over 500 people.

In this text, Paul was writing to the Corinthian Church and needed to set some things straight. Corinth was a Greek city and the Greeks did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. The Greek philosophers considered the human body to be a prison and that nothing good is to be found in the flesh. Thus when you die, you were delivered from bondage, there was no resurrection. This attitude had invaded the church and still does today in the form of Gnostic heresies.

In the first 8 verses of chapter 15 Paul reminds the reader that this is the Gospel that he has been preaching all along, and they had believed him. What he received he passed on to them, not as a suggested way of life, but as of first importance! This was vital truth, Jesus Died, he was crucified and buried, but on the third day God raised him back to life and he lived on the earth for another 40 days appearing to many people, eating with them, touching him it was their reality and not a temporary dream.

Jesus is alive; this was not some mystical event or made up story. Paul highlights 3 proofs of the resurrection.

  • Firstly their own salvation. The people believed in the gospel message and their lives were changed, a dead savior cannot save anyone. The fact that they were standing firm in their faith was proof that Jesus was alive.
  • Secondly Paul refers to the Old Testament scriptures, but note he clarifies that Christ died for our sins in verse 3. Many historians will recount the fact that Jesus died, but his death was different, he died for our sins. Many people were crucified, but only the pure spotless son of God could die for the sins of the world. When Paul referred to the Old Testament scriptures, he was also looking at scriptures such as Leviticus 16 where the law stipulated the requirement of a sacrifice for sins, and also he would be referring to the great Isaiah 53 and the suffering servant, pointing to Jesus as the fulfillment of these scriptures in incredible accuracy.
  • And finally Paul points to the witnesses; the disciples, James, over 500 people and finally Paul himself all saw Jesus in his risen form. Every encounter with the risen Lord led to a transformed life.

Since then resurrection is so important, it is no wonder it is the focus of attacks by Satan to cover it up and deceive people regarding the truth of the resurrection. Notice that the chief priests and the Pharisees wanted to make sure that the tomb was sealed and that Jesus was not removed from the tomb by his followers (Matthew 27:64). When the soldiers came and reported to the chief priests that the tomb had been opened, with a bright light and an earthquake that the body of Jesus was not in the tomb, the chief priests hurriedly paid them to change their story and fabricated a rumor that became widely told.

If Satan had been able to produce the body of Jesus then the story of Jesus and Christianity would have remained a dead religion and stayed in the tomb. But Jesus is alive and every sermon that the early church preached was about the resurrection- and that should be the theme and cry from every street corner and pulpit today. Jesus is alive! Jesus never said I am the cross, I am the dead sacrificial lamb, no; he said I am the way, the truth and the life. The bodily resurrection of Jesus is the determining factor in our salvation; it is our hope of glory.

The reason there is so little faith in the church today, the reason there is so little power in the church today is because we have forgotten the power and the promise of the resurrection. The power of the resurrection is available to all those who are the children of God. But we have to lay aside our own lives; we need to realize that to gain the power and the benefit of the resurrection we need to die to our own abilities and our own prideful self (Matthew 16:25).

Our lives are so wrapped up with the temporal, we struggle to make ends meet, or we struggle to pay off the debt we got into because we just had to have that new car or the latest cell phone, why? Just so that we can be noticed or have the latest gadgets. On this side of the resurrection everything is temporary; everything that we are striving to have will not be around in eternity. Only the things that we cannot see are eternal. An encounter with Jesus makes all the difference, our perspective changes; we begin to see things from an eternal perspective. The resurrection makes all the difference. Have you encountered Jesus?

From www.untilallarereached.com

The Praising and Weeping on Palm Sunday 3/29/15

From www.untilallarereached.com

Text: Luke 19:28-44

 Today we celebrate what is commonly known as Palm Sunday, it is a wonderful part of scripture as our Lord is exalted and worshipped, we love this part of the Gospel account. Jesus even tells the Pharisees that if the people keep quiet then the very stones on the ground will cry out. Nature itself recognizes its creator. Up until this point in his 3 years of ministry Jesus had tried to keep his identity somewhat hidden.

Every spring, hundreds of Hollywood “stars” gather for the Academy Awards. Very few “slip in the back door:” instead, they make an entrance. They walk down the long red carpet, smiling at the cameras and waving to the people in the, showing off their clothing, chatting with the reporters. Some will go to great, great lengths just to be noticed.

Contrast that with Jesus: to the man healed of leprosy in Matt. 8, He said: “See that you don’t tell anyone.” To the two blind men He healed in Matt. 9, He, “warned them sternly, ‘See that no one knows about this.’” And in Mark 1, a demon possessing man in Capernaum yelled out “I know who you are – the Holy One of God!”, to which Jesus replied “Be quiet!” Jesus often chose not to be in the limelight. In fact, most of Jesus ministry happened outside of the capital city of Jerusalem, away from the big pomp and ceremony of the Temple, in small towns and villages along the way. Until today. Until the event we know as “The Triumphal Entry,” the day we remember each year as Palm Sunday. This day all of that changes. Now, we see Jesus entering the city of Jerusalem being proclaimed as Messiah and King.

But I want to draw your attention today to verse 41; “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it” Why did Jesus weep on such a joyous occasion? And what does this mean for us today?

From www.untilallarereached.com We see in the preceding verses the fascinating account of how Jesus obtained a young colt to ride on, His disciples dutifully obeyed and went and got him this wild animal that had never been ridden before. It must have been strange for them, because we are not told anywhere else that Jesus ever rode a donkey. But riding into the city was a public declaration that Jesus was a king coming in peace – The Prince of Peace. Five hundred years earlier, the prophet Zechariah prophesied about this moment in history (Zech 9:9).

But then the mood shifts, something dramatic takes place. Jesus abruptly stops and begins to cry out loud.

The mood in the crowd changed the person they were praising and celebrating suddenly begins wailing. There must have been an awkward silence, but why was Jesus crying?

As Jesus looked at Jerusalem and he saw the eager faces of those around him, he was overcome by the awareness of their emptiness. They were empty because they had not heard the truth of his message; they did not understand the true purpose of his coming to earth. They had eyes, but they did not see, and ears but they did not hear.

As Jesus looked at Jerusalem, he wept because it had destroyed itself. Wherever Jesus looked he found a reason to weep.

  • As he looked back; he saw a nation that had missed his coming, and had wasted its opportunities.
  • As he looked within the hearts of the people he saw spiritual blindness and a hardness of their hearts, they had all the signs and the prophets to convince them, but they still rejected him.
  • As Jesus looked around he saw a lot of dead religious activity that was not accomplishing anything. The temple, which he was about to clean out, had become a den of thieves, and the city was full of people celebrating Passover with little understanding of its true meaning.
  • As Jesus looked ahead, he saw the City of David that was shortly about to come under attack and judgment. Jesus knew that in 70 years time the city would be under siege by the Romans for 143 days. The end result of the siege was destruction of the city and the Temple leaving about 600 000 Jews dead.

And all this because the people did not recognize the time of Jesus’ coming. The tragedy of the national disaster could have been averted. But Jesus knew that judgment must come and that rejection of the Word of God, who is Jesus, ultimately leads to punishment. It grieved Jesus because of his great love for the lost, the people he came to save.

Today as we sit here what does Jesus see as he looks at the hearts and minds of all of us sitting here? Is he grieved because we are going about the motions of church? Is he grieved because we are so encumbered by the weight of the problems of the world that we have no faith or time for a relationship with him?

Does He see people concerned about so many things; worried about income taxes, worried about job security worried about their health, or lack of it? Does He see people who are so busy doing things, so busy that they never bother to consider those things that are eternally important?

As Jesus looks out over us, does he see a people who acknowledge and receive the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God? …. Or does he weep, because of the lost opportunities for a deeper relationship with him.

Jesus calls out to us today just the same was as he did over the city of Jerusalem; we read again in verse 42; ““If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace..”

From www.untilallarereached.com

If Only! If only you would see and acknowledge the true risen Lord, and stop living a life of performance and religion. If only you would stop trying to be good enough for God, you cannot be good enough, you don’t have to be, Jesus Died so that you are forgiven and nothing you can do is good enough to earn the grace of God. If Jesus was to walk in here in the flesh, would he stop next to your chair and weep over you and say; “if only”.

Do you just follow Jesus because of his miracles and what you can get from him? Or do you truly have a relationship with the King of Kings and it brings you peace that is beyond understanding. Do you follow Jesus because it is your tradition? Do you follow Jesus because that is what you have always been taught to do? Do you truly recognize him for who he is?

You know, the last book in the Bible tells us that Jesus is coming back again, and this time he will be coming back as the warrior King on a white horse (Revelation 19), and on that day there will be no doubt who is Lord, every knee will bow before him and every tongue confess that he is God.

You don’t want to wait till that day before you acknowledge him as Lord of your life. Make the choice today, you may be a long time attendee and member here at Grace Point, but you know that you do not have the relationship with Jesus that he offers to you, something is missing, you are dry in your spirit. Make that decision today, Jesus is weeping for you.

Prayer – A Hunger for God 3/16/15

Hunger for God – Fasting and Prayer

Isaiah 58

From www.untilallarereached.com

We have to be so careful that we don’t fall into the trap of making fasting a religious activity, it was never intended to be that. Remember the story in Luke 12 of the Pharisee and the humble tax collector; the humble tax collector was declared righteous before God and not the Pharisee.

It is vital right at the outset that we understand that fasting is not a way for us to persuade God to do what we want. It is not a special technique to ensure that we get what we want in prayer. Rather just as prayer is the way in which God aligns our hearts with his as we spend time with him, so to, as we fast, our hunger for God increases, and we are able to focus more on him as the distractions of the world are forcibly removed from our bodies.

As John Piper frequently says; “God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in him” The truth is that the thing or things that we hunger for most, are the very things that we worship.

And herein lies the problem, we are so incredibly blessed, we live in the wealthiest country in all of history, God has truly blessed this nation. The danger is that we focus on the gifts and blessings of God and forget the giver. We can all agree that this country has forgotten the giver of the gifts. Another great quote from John Piper says; “The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. Fasting is not the forfeit of evil, but of good.”

Richard Foster in his great book called “Celebration of Discipline” say’s; “more than any other discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. “

The prophet Isaiah is the foremost prophet in the Bible, in a ministry that spanned some 60 years from 739 to about 681 B.C. The people of Judah to whom he was talking were fearful of their future, the Northern Kingdom had been destroyed and now they looked like they would be next. The people were going about the tradition of fasting, a religious tradition that had begun with the Day of Atonement. In fact, that was the only official fast set aside according to the Law of Moses. This was instituted in Leviticus 16:31, and is still celebrated today as Yom Kippur by orthodox Jews.

But the people of Judah had a heart problem, they were going about the outward expressions of worshiping God, but in their day to day lives they were not obeying the Sabbath, they were not taking care of the elderly and the poor, they were proud and arrogant. Yet they were expecting God to notice their outward acts of religion and grant them favor (Isaiah 58:3 &4).

Isaiah told them that proper fasting must be accompanied by a life of obedience and commitment to God. Accompanied with their one day of fasting there must be the taking care of the poor and needy, freeing the slaves and the oppressed and clothing the naked. (see James 1:27 )

Jesus gave instructions to his disciples on the topic of fasting, again he harshly criticized the Pharisees for their outward displays and attention seeking.

Jesus taught by example and in the final act of his preparation for his ministry on earth, he went into the wilderness to fast and pray for 40 days.

In Matthew 9 we have probably the most important word on fasting by the Lord Jesus, some of the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus and enquired about fasting (see Matthew 9:14-15). Jesus clearly teaches that fasting is appropriate and a good way to remind ourselves of the fact that Jesus is coming back again to claim his bride, the true church. We are mourning, waiting watching. Jesus is coming back, but until that time we discipline ourselves in order to keep our eyes fixed on the horizon, waiting for his appearing.

Fasting played a vital role in the foundation of the early church, individually and corporately. When faced with difficult decisions, or a decision regarding direction, we would do well to fast individually and corporately. In our nation, there have been numerous times when the leaders have called for a national/ corporate day of prayer and fasting. Since 1952, the President of the United States has, by law, annually issued a proclamation recommending a National Day of Prayer. This seeks to revive a similar practice that emerged in Revolutionary times, and again in the Civil War. The modern proclamations, however, differ in important ways from the earlier ones. The main difference is evident in the change of titles — from the earlier ‘Day of Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer’ to the modern ‘National Day of Prayer.’ The earlier proclamations emphasized humiliation — understood as including a deep conviction of God’s providence and sovereignty in all things, unfortunately today it is so often seen as a political event or an opportunity to be seen and heard.

From www.untilallarereached.com

We need to get back to the true humility and recognition of God as our source and our creator.

Fasting is refraining from something in order to focus our attention and worship on God. Here is another warning, If you are refraining from watching soap operas, but in that time you are reading junk novels, then you are just substituting one vice for the other, you are not fasting, you are merely abstaining from something you like to do. You need to replace the time spent on worldly pleasures with time spent in prayer and seeking God’s face.

Are you hungry for God? Ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart and see what is God asking you to do in the way of humbling yourself before him. And in so doing allow him to create a hunger for himself in your life.

From www.untilallarereached.com

 

Prayer – Our Privilege and Our Responsibility 3/9/15

 

From www.untilallarereached.comMatthew 6:5-15

 DL Moody wrote; “Man can as well live physically without breathing, as spiritually without praying”.

I believe that the reason we don’t place such an emphasis on prayer in our private devotions and corporately is because we don’t understand the privilege we have in prayer, and we don’t understand the incredible potential in the power of prayer. (James 5:16)

 Have you ever been around someone who, when they pray, you want to know how to pray the way they do – not because of their words, but because of the obvious power and faith that is exhibited in their prayers?

There is a mystery to prayer that we will never fully understand this side of heaven, but it takes faith. Faith to trust and believe that the God of the universe hears our every word, and that prayer changes things.

Prayer takes faith. We don’t need to know how it works – how the God of the universe can hear our prayers, even the unspoken ones, and move on our behalf for his Glory.  It is when we begin to pray that the spiritual war starts.  Satan is unsettled when the saints pray,so he does everything in his power to distract and prevent you from praying. If only we knew the importance and effectiveness of our prayers!

In Matthew 6; Jesus turns his attention to prayer.  He doesn’t say that the disciples should be praying, rather he says, “when you pray”.  He takes it as a given that they will be praying, that prayer is part of their lives. But their model for prayer was wrong; Jesus needed to correct some things about the way they prayed. He points to the Pharisees and condemns their method of praying – they stood on street corners and in the synagogue, praying loud and eloquent prayers, repeating phrases that made them sound more holy than the man beside them. They were praying to man and not to God. Jesus said the Pharisees have already received their reward in full, they had received the desired effect of their prayers – being recognized by those around them and having their egos stroked.

Jesus goes on to teach the disciples what we know as the Lord’s prayer, but in reality it is the disciples prayer, and Jesus presented this prayer as a model for prayer for all his disciples. Jesus never intended for it to be a prayer that is simply memorized and repeated on a daily basis without thinking about the words. Rather, he intended to model for the disciples the basic principles of prayer, and a format that they (and we), can use in our prayers.

Look how the prayer starts; “Our Father in heaven….” What a statement! Our father – the omnipotent God, wants us to call him father, and we can walk directly into his presence. There is no middle man, no barrier, and we can present our prayers directly to the throne of the Almighty, who is also our heavenly Father!

In this format of prayer that Jesus gave, we have various aspects of prayer that we can emulate. We have worship, repentance, petition, and we also have in verse 10; “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. Not our own selfish and shortsighted requests, but God’s plans and purposes.

What a privilege, we as believers, have.  We get to speak directly to God. The creator of the universe. So many people have a wish list of who they would like to speak to; various presidents, both living and dead, great military leaders, sports stars, human rights leaders – who would you like to speak to? But we get to speak to the Lord of Lords, the Creator, the Great I am. We squander that privilege, and oftentimes we couldn’t be bothered. It is too hard to pray, we don’t have the time.

Jesus encouraged his disciples to pray alone. We must always pray in secret before we pray in public. It is not wrong to pray in public. In fact corporate prayer is the life blood and a sign of the health of a church. But, we must first develop our prayer life in private, wrestling with God over issues and burdens that he lays on our heart.

From www.untilallarereached.com We as believers also have a responsibility to pray.

Jesus taught his disciples to pray for the Kingdom of God to come, for his will to be done. We complain about crime in our neighborhoods, but are we praying for God’s will to be done – for his kingdom to come? We complain about our leaders – but are we praying for them? It is our responsibility. The primary purpose of prayer is to glorify the name of God. To worship him and to praise him, and then we ask him to accomplish his will on the earth. Prayer always begins with God’s interests and not ours; God’s name, God’s Kingdom and God’s will – it is all about Him. Robert Law said; “Prayer is a mighty instrument, not for getting man’s will done in heaven, but for getting God’s will done in earth.”

From www.untilallarereached.com As we focus and on what is on God’s heart, He aligns our hearts and minds with his purposes, and then we begin to pray correctly. If we put what is on God’s heart first, then we can bring our own needs before him and know with certainty through faith that we are praying according to God’s will, because we will know what is on God’s heart.

Looking at Matthew 6:8; you may ask if God knows what we need even before we ask, then why do we need to pray? Because prayer is the God-appointed way in which he responds and moves. Prayer prepares us for the proper use of the answer – if we voice our needs and concerns to God, trusting him in faith for the provision, then we will be able to make better use of the answer than if God forced it on us. God aligns our hearts with his purposes.

So we see that prayer is our privilege and prayer is our responsibility, but prayer is primarily about a relationship; a growing relationship with God. As you spend time with God, he reveals glimpses of his personality and his character – and you begin to pray differently. As you know and trust God, you begin to pray from the depths of your heart, getting away from clichés and the recitation of prayers that we have memorized for years.

How is your prayer life? None of us can say that we have arrived – we have achieved some goal in our personal prayer life, we can all be growing and learning more about the character and nature of God through the discipline of a personal prayer time.

Sermon Series on Faith Part 3 2/23/15

Faith Part 3 – “Living Faith” (Try this at home)

Text: Genesis 12:1-9

From www.untilallarereached.com Abraham is a man who stands as a benchmark of faith in the bible, but what made this man so special?

Genesis 12 picks up the story some 4000 years ago, Abram, lived about 2090 years before Christ. We know that his father was Terah, and they were originally from a place called Ur. Ur was in modern day Iraq, and was an important center of culture in ancient Mesopotamia.

But if we look at the dates between the death of Terah and the age at which Abram was, we see that Abram moved on some 60 years before his father died. The first verse of chapter 12 says the Lord told Abram to leave his father’s household and move on, do not settle. I don’t think we fully grasp how difficult this must have been for Abram, leaving homeland and family was a huge risk in the ancient Middle Eastern culture.

From www.untilallarereached.comAbram had no idea where he was going or what it would be like there, this was early civilization, the incident at the tower of Babel had occurred a few generations before, the world was splintering and there was no way to communicate. He did not have our 21st century communication tools, he was going in faith, leaving all he knew and to make his step in faith even more impressive, God didn’t tell him where he was going, God simply said, “go to the land I will show you”

Abraham knew that in leaving he would never see his family again, it was goodbye. Abram risked everything that he held most dear to be obedient to God. You will remember from the story of Abraham later on that he did a similar thing when he was prepared to offer his only son Isaac as a sacrifice in obedience to God.

Abram’s speedy response and ongoing obedience to God resulted in him being called the “spiritual father of all who have faith” Paul dedicates the entire Romans 4 to Abraham (see Romans 4:16-17).

But where did this faith come from? Surely Abram was brought up in a Godly home and taught the ways of the Lord?

Not so, Abram lived in the Old (Old) testament, before Moses and the giving of the law on mt Sinai. Abram grew up in Ur of the Chaldees, a city devoted to Nannar, the moon God. Abraham did not know the true God, probably his family worshipped gods and idols of the day. But then the God of the universe intervened in History, and He visited Abram and all of history changed. Abram left the idolatry and ways of the Chaldeans, and followed the one true God, because he met him and heard his voice!

From www.untilallarereached.com Genesis 12:1 is the first recorded time when God speaks to Abram and he does so on seven different occasions in the rest of the account of the life of Abraham. But God gives Abraham two imperative instructions, the first is; “Leave your country and Go…” and the second is missed in some of our modern translations as we read verse 2, it literally means; “go and be a blessing”.

Abraham was told to leave his home and family and then to go and be a blessing to the nations he met along the way. Abraham’s calling had a purpose.

God made several promises to Abraham in verses 1-3, Firstly, the promise of a great nation. The fact that Jews, Christians and Muslims all call Abraham their father is a testament to this promise of God coming true, approximately half the world’s population. Secondly the promise of land, Abraham was promised land, but died with only a burial cave as his personal real estate (see Gen 23). The promise of the nation of Israel was to be fulfilled long after the death of Abraham. And then finally the best promise of all, the promise of a savior. Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise that Abraham’s people would be a blessing to all nations. Jesus is the blessing to all nations, the provision of salvation to all who would put their faith and trust in him as their savior. ‘

From www.untilallarereached.comIt all started with the God of creation speaking to a man who was receptive and open to God. The voice of God spoke and faith grew (See Romans 10:17). You may be wishing you had more faith, well the prescription is as simple as Romans 10:17, read the Word of God, live the Word of God and your faith which is more precious than Gold will grow and you will begin to touch other lives in ways you never even imagined.

No one is naturally born with faith, it is a gift of God and not something we can boast about in any way.

Faith is like a muscle, the more you exercise it the more it grows, but if you do not exercise it, your faith will wither and die.

As you begin to live a lifestyle of faith, you will discover two things;

With God’s strength in you, no test is impossible, and with his Grace, no failure is permanent.

You may have walked with the Lord for many years, but you have become sidelined, not because you are injured, but somewhere along the way you just lost your trust in God. He is your savior, but you just don’t have that experience of the life that it totally given over to him. This happens so easily in a world that teaches us to plan carefully our own futures, make sure you have a plan…. It would be irresponsible to live otherwise, wouldn’t it???

Rather than living the way that the world prescribes try living Proverbs 3:5 and 6 says; “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”

Whatever it is, you know what God is telling you today, be obedient. God is not looking for your expertise or your credentials, he is simply looking for you to say yes. Will you say yes to him today and commit to a lifestyle of faith? You know when you see a daredevil perform a stunt on TV, they always say; “don’t try this at home”, but this is a dare that I want to challenge you to “try this at home” and let God build up your faith.

 

Sermon Series on Faith – Part 2 2/16/15

“Standing Faith” (Standing in the Storms)

Text: Psalm 23

From www.untilallarereached.com

We all have experienced trials and difficulties in life and dark days that threaten to overwhelm us, even sometimes to the point of questioning whether God really cares for us. Being able to walk through dark days knowing that God still sees you and cares for you in the midst of your pain takes faith, sometimes the greatest faith of all. It is in the midst of the dark times that Satan is the most active in casting doubt in your mind, in order to trip you up have you blaming God for your situation.

There are different kinds of trials; sickness, loss of a loved one, financial loss, violence, terror attacks, abuse and rejection by a loved one, the list could go on. There are no neat categories of pain and suffering, sometimes it comes as a result of poor decisions on our part – consequences for our own sins, and sometimes the loss is as a result of the sinful nature of the fallen world. The truth is that even in the midst of the darkest days, God is still on the throne; he is there for you and cares for you. But it takes great faith to see through the storm the faithfulness and the grace of God.

As we look at this Psalm we see that David begins in verse 1-3 by talking about God in the third person. It sounds like his life is wonderful and pleasant; all things are going well – green pastures – quiet waters – refreshing his soul. But then in verse 4 there is a shift; we get a glimpse into the dark side of the life of King David, things are tough, he knows what it is like to go through dark valleys. But notice it is when he focuses on the dark valleys of life, that he directly addresses God in the first person; “for you are with me” – “your rod and staff comfort me”. David found the secret to living a life of faith; it was clinging to the faithfulness of God in the midst of the storm.

From www.untilallarereached.com

David goes on to reveal more about the faithfulness of God as he writes in verse 5; “5you prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” Note Daviddidn’t say that God removed his enemies and then set a banquet table for him. He didn’t say that he was through the storm and now the Lord had blessed him with rest and a good meal. No, the Lord prepared a table for him in the presence of his enemies. David was still going through trials; he was still struggling to overcome his enemies.

The table here is significant; it represents the provision of God, it also represents sustenance and refreshment. In the midst of trials and the deadly onslaught of the enemy, God by his great love for us and his matchless grace, provides sustenance and refreshment to endure and go through the storm.

We need to understand that in our Christian walk is that there will be valleys, there will be dark days. Our natural tendency is to shrink back and try to avoid the valley, but just like the grieving process is important in the processing of the loss of a loved one, so to it is important to go through the valley to receive the healing and growth that God has in store for us. It is in the tough times that we need to learn to lean on God and to understand that he is still on the throne and working in our lives. It is in the valley that the Lord prepares a banquet table for us, where we can enjoy sweet times of refreshment and sustenance with him. The valley is a journey not a destination, we must understand that God doesn’t intend for us to stay in the valley, it is a journey that takes us to where he wants us to be.

The valleys of life are real and you will experience them; Jesus said in John 16:33; ““I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” As people who have put our faith in Jesus Christ, we will experience trials and difficulties, but Jesus said, “take heart”; be courageous, don’t give in, trust in me – this where true faith comes in. When we have nowhere else to turn, that is when the Lord is the closest to us.

So what do we do in the valleys of life? How are we to respond when all that we know is falling down around us. David gives us a clue in verse 5 and 6. In these verses he is declaring the promises of God. David is still in the midst of the valley, but he has faith in the promises of God, he knows that God is the only answer and he declares the promises of God’s goodness and faithfulness (see 2 Corinthians 4:17-18). Our troubles on this side of heaven are temporary – no matter how long the trial lasts or how deep the valley, they are but a blink of an eye when compared to eternity and the glory we will experience there with Jesus.

But if we just try to endure, grit our teeth and hang in there, we are in danger of missing what God has for us. We might be missing the nugget of Gold in the river at the bottom of the valley (see 1 Peter 1:6-7). Peter is saying is that our trials are to prove and refine our faith, to bring Glory to God.

As Christians we often pray that God would use us to bless someone else, or use us to build his kingdom, but we shy away from the refining process. The writer Philip Keller wrote that water can only flow in a ditch or a channel. And this channel might have been carved out of hard rock by the excruciating process of erosion or excavation. The process is painful, but the end result is that we are able to bring rivers of living water to those around us as we use those scars and channels for the Glory of God.

From www.untilallarereached.com

 

Sermon Series on Faith 2/8/15

Part 1 – “Saving Faith”

Ephesians 2:2-9 From www.untilallarereached.com

This is the 1st part of a sermon series on Faith. What is Faith? Faith is a multi-faceted term that is often misunderstood. Hebrews 11:1 states; “ Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not seeThe writer to the Hebrews goes on to say in ch 11:6; “And without faith it is impossible to please God,…” How many of us want to please the creator of the universe, to have the almighty God look upon us and smile? The Bible says that this is impossible without faith. No good works, no amount of helping the poor, no amount of money given, no amount of preaching the Gospel message, …only through faith. Well then it is pretty important then isn’t it? We had better know what faith is and live it out.

In Ephesians 2:5 and 8, Paul mentions twice that it is through grace that we are saved, but in verse 8, he hints at another aspect of the salvation process – through faith. Let’s look briefly at these two well known terms; Grace and Faith.

Grace is such a profound word and an overwhelming topic to cover in a few sentences, many books have been written about it, and the implications of the Grace of God extend to every aspect of our lives.

Grace is defined as unmerited favor, a gift from God. There is nothing we can do to earn it. Grace is apart from works.

But what God in His great mercy does, is he wipes out all our sins, they are no longer counted against us. We are saved by grace. Ephesians 2:9 goes on to say that we are not saved by our own works, so that no one can boast. Imagine if getting to heaven one day was like attending school, and only the top 10% of students would get in. unfortunately many people today think this way and already count themselves out. Salvation is a gift and not a reward, Jesus has already completed the work on the cross.

Grace Glorifies God, Works Glorify Man.

Ephesians 2:8 says; “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith…” So weunderstand that we have been saved by Grace, but a gift is no good to us unless we open it. How do we open the gift of grace? The Bible says it is through Faith. (see Philippians 3:9)

Knowledge is not enough we need to appropriate that knowledge to our lives. Knowing that Jesus is the Son of God, Knowing that he came to earth and died for our sins, knowing that he rose again on the third day is not enough. James 2:19 says that even the demons believe in the facts of the son of God, does that mean they are saved? In fact knowing the facts of Jesus’ life and even agreeing with them are not enough.

Faith is taking the facts into account, believing in them and then committing to a course of action that radically changes your life.

 From www.untilallarereached.com

Believing in Jesus is not enough, you need to put your faith and trust in him as your Lord and savior. Faith is trusting in Jesus as a living person, still alive today, for the forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life.

Perhaps a better word for faith is “trust”. Trusting Jesus as your personal savior, not just believing the facts of his death and resurrection.

But for true conversion to take place, our faith must be put into action by repentance. Repentance is the heartfelt sorrow for our sins, and the turning away from it. Turning away from a lifestyle of sin. Repentance is like faith in that it starts with an intellectual understanding of the need, sin is wrong and we need to renounce it, turn away from it.

From www.untilallarereached.comMerely being sorry for our sins is not enough, most often that sorrow is as a result of the felt consequences of our sin. No, repentance is a determined conscious decision to turn away from our sins. Thus we have faith in Jesus Christ and repentance of our sins, two components of conversion leading to salvation. One doesn’t happen before the other, they are simultaneous. As I turn from my lifestyle of sin, I turn to my savior and trust him for my salvation.

Are you trying to earn your salvation? Working as hard as you can to be noticed by God, to get a good grade?

Why don’t you put your trust (faith) in him and make Jesus Christ lord of your life today, the gift of grace is free and available to you.

Love God, Love Others, Change the World Part 3 1/18/15

From www.untilallarereached.com

“Change the World”

Text; Matthew 5:13-16

If you are reading this today, you are still on this side of eternity; God has called you to be a change agent, someone who God can use to change the world around you.

Evil and sin are so prevalent in our society and world today it can be overwhelming. But as Edmund Burke once stated; “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” The reality is that throughout history, there have been excessively evil days. Gen 6:11, Psalm 14:3 and in the New Testament we find frequent references to the presence of evil all over the world.

God has an ultimate solution to this problem of sin and evil, it is the rule and reign of Jesus when he returns in Glory. But until that day God has placed Christians all over the world to be change agents, to influence and halt the spread of corruption and evil. Jesus calls us to be the salt and light in a dying and corrupt world.

Let us look at these two elements of Salt and Light. Often we read these two elements as having the same functions, and being a similar symbol. However they have quite different functions. Salt is a preservative and an enhancer and provider of flavor. Salt was also used as a method of payment and a trading commodity; it affected many lives on a daily basis. The Rabbis and the teachers used salt as a symbol for wisdom; in fact they would say that if someone loses their saltiness, they had become foolish. Another aspect of salt is that is produces thirst. Jesus is saying that as his followers, we need to be setting an example in every area of our lives so that people who see us are drawn to the source of life, the living water. Haven’t you been around someone who so lives their Christian walk that people around them are drawn to them, or want to be like them? So we see that salt is such a rich symbol of the personal Christian walk, it serves to preserve against the evils of society, impacting the people who are in direct contact with the Christian, creating a thirst for righteousness.

Then we need to look at the analogy of the Light. Light emphasizes visibility and illumination. Those who want to do evil will use darkness to conceal their actions. But followers of Christ are to be those who dispel darkness and illuminate the way to Jesus as the true source of light.

As Christians we should not strive to be a light that people look at, rather we need to be a people who turn the spotlight on Jesus, so that he can be illuminated. The attention must always be on Jesus. As I mentioned last week, we must never attempt to draw any attention to ourselves, if we do things in order to receive a pat on the back or for the glory of recognition, we are in a dangerous position indeed. Verse 16 is very clear; “16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” We must let our light shine, we must be doing good deeds, we must be serving and blessing our community, we must be involved in the alleviation of poverty and pain in our society. But the sole purpose of doing this is to bring Glory to our Father in heaven. Our light is to be a reflection of Jesus.

So how do we live this out? How do we change the world? In order to make a difference, to have the influence of salt, we need to be involved in the world. Too many Christians are trying to live a monastic lifestyle, separating themselves from contact with those who do not know Jesus. Salt is a wonderful flavor enhancer and preservative, but it is only effective if it is used. We need to be influencers of our environment, affecting the world by being a living and breathing representation of the Gospel message. As we live our lives are we joyful or complaining? Are we generous or selfish? Are we caring or careless? As we live lives of Joy, generosity and care, we will promote a thirst for the one thing that the world needs most. We will create a thirst for righteousness, a thirst for the life giving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Note Jesus says; “you are the light of the world” not; “you should be the light of the world”, or; “I wish you were the light of the world”, no; “YOU ARE”. We need to understand that all true believers, who live lives that are led by the Holy Spirit and who have died to their past lives of sin, are a light to the world around them.

What we value is expressed in our actions. Those who hold kingdom values, the values of the Word of God, will witness by words and deeds of the Love of God to those around them. The very real danger is to put our light under a bowl, or to keep the salt next to the pot. We can change the world, we can make a difference. That is the reason God has placed each of us where we are.

Love God, Love Others, Change the World Part 2 1/19/15

“The 2nd Greatest Commandment”

Matthew 22:34-40

From www.untilallarereached.com

“To love your neighbor as you love yourself.” This is a law that would have been well known to the scholars and scribes at the time and is found in Leviticus 19:18. In looking at this command, I want to refer to Luke 10 where Jesus tells the very well known parable of the good Samaritan. The lead up to the parable Luke 10:25-29 sounds very familiar to Matthew 22. We have an expert of the law who is trying to trick Jesus into making a mistake, the expert in the law actually proclaims the profound truth that Jesus told in Matthew 22. And then Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the good Samaritan, a story about a Samaritan man helping a Jew who was attacked as he walked along the road to Jericho. And even though the Samaritan was considered by many Jews to be a lesser race, this Samaritan helped the Jewish man and went above and beyond what could have been expected of a fellow Jew. Jesus was using an extreme example of someone that the Jews would not have even remotely considered as their neighbor. At the end of the parable, Jesus asked the expert of the law; “Which one of the travelers was a neighbor to the injured man?” The legal expert had to sheepishly admit that the Samaritan was the true neighbor, and then Jesus dismisses him by saying, “Go and do likewise”. Jesus very simply, but very profoundly silenced the devious critic.

Jesus knew that what he was saying was impossible to do. Jesus knew that the man asking the question was far from the Kingdom of God, he was an expert in the law of God, but had no personal relationship with God. The response from the scholar should have been one of resignation; he should have said “how can I do this? I am not able I need help, please help me.” But the expert of the law rather tries to justify himself, to find an out, to find a lower standard that he can handle, a palatable law that would work for him.

Does this sound familiar? Sadly too many teachers of the Word are trying to make the commands and requirements of the Bible easier to accept. The clear instructions of the Bible are simply not politically correct as a result scholars try to find a way to get around it. “Well, maybe the translation is not very good? Maybe we have the context wrong.” No, my friends, the truth is that if you truly follow the word of God and do as it says, you will be in the minority and will probably be ridiculed for it.

So, the question that was posed to Jesus is still posed to us today, who is our neighbor? And I would like to add another question; why does it matter?

I think we can all agree that our neighbor is not only the person or persons who live in the adjacent house or apartment. Jesus was drawing attention to the fact that our neighbor is anyone we come into contact with. Whether or not they look like us, dress like us, have the same socio economic standing, or even believe in Jesus as the Son of God. We are not allowed to discriminate in any way. If God brings a person into your path, that person is your neighbor.

Jesus came to earth with the purpose to offer himself as a sacrifice to provide the way of salvation to all who would call on his name, not just a few people who we like to hang out with. Not just those that we feel comfortable with.

We need to be the hands and feet of Jesus for those who do not know Jesus as their personal savior. By our actions and love for the hurting, we will be able to introduce them to Jesus. We need to be careful here, it is easy to care and help the needy and hurting, but if we are not introducing them to Jesus, we are not helping them at all, they may have a temporary respite from their pain and discomfort, but their eternal destiny remains unchanged.

And then there is the aspect of loving fellow believers, this is something that Grace Point is known for and commended for. We are a loving Church. But our society is becoming more and more insular. There is an epidemic of loneliness, and unfortunately it is no different in the church. Jesus said it once again in John 13:34 & 35. Jesus was speaking here to his disciples, just before his crucifixion. Jesus knew how important it would be for them to love and care for each other in the days ahead. In this day and age, the world is longing for genuine love and care; they need to see in us the kind of love that Jesus was talking about here. I praise God for Grace Point, God’s grace is truly here and by his grace we have an unusual love and care for each other. I pray that this will never be diminished but rather it will grow and continue to be a witness and testimony to those in our community.

Love God, Love Others, Change the World Part 1 1/11/15

“The Greatest Commandment”

From www.untilallarereached.com

Text; Matthew 22:34-40

 37Jesus replied: “?‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38This is the first and greatest commandment.39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Jesus’ quick reply summarized the entire ten commandments in two laws. If we look at the Ten Commandments, we see that the first four are focused on our relationship with God and the next six are relating to our fellow man. Jesus took a step back from the letter of the law and surveyed the intent of the law. Love for God and Love for others is the intent of the law of God.

But then Jesus goes on to make a statement that must have stunned them into silence, we read in verse 40; “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

These two commandments are the sum of the entire Old Testament that the Pharisee’s had devoted their lives to studying.

Jesus has a way of making the profound sound simple. All the Laws that the Lord God had given to Moses and all that the prophets had written could be summed up in the law of Love.

There has been much debate and discussion over the differentiation between heart and soul and mind; simply put, our heart is the source of our passion and drive, our soul is the eternal part of our being, that part of us that connects with the Holy Spirit in prayer, and our mind is our reasoning and intelligence. Jesus was not saying that we need to develop three different types of love and work at bringing them all into agreement. No, he was saying that we need to love God with every single aspect of our being. In our passions, our reasoning, and our prayers. Total commitment and obedience to God.

But the reality is that this is impossible for us to do. How do we Love God with all our heart and soul and mind? It is impossible. In the natural state of man, it is impossible no human being with a fallen and sinful human nature can possibly love God with all his heart, soul and mind, and that is precisely the point that Jesus was making to the Pharisees. Jesus was trying to get them to see that they were spiritually bankrupt and that they needed a savior. This applies to us today, we are sinful and have no hope without the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus, and without the presence of the Holy Spirit within us giving us the ability, we would never be able to Love God completely.

But if you know Jesus as your personal savior, you have the Holy Spirit within you and you have the ability to love God the way you should.

There are three things that we need to understand in this regard;

First and most importantly we need to realize that we are not the originator of love, God is. The apostle John writes in 1 John 4:7-8; “7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”   – God is Love! He is the originator of love, we cannot generate love within us without it first coming from God himself.

Secondly we need to understand that God is personal, he is not a being who is way off in the distance and who is not approachable. God wants to have a relationship with us. God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden to have fellowship with them, but man chose to walk away from God. God wants that relationship to be restored, so much so that he sent his son to the world to provide a way for us to be restored to a right standing with him. The uncreated creator of the Universe wants to reveal himself to you in a personal relationship.

And thirdly our love for God grows as time goes by. If you have been married for a number of years, you know that love grows deeper as you grow together and navigate the trials and joys of life together.

  • As we walk with God in our daily lives we become aware of his hand protecting us, we love him more.
  • As we step out in faith, and we see him providing for us as we stretch our faith, we love him more.
  • As we feel the comforting arms of our heavenly father, when we encounter the pain of life, we love him more.

God’s protection, provision, and comfort draw us to love him more.

We cannot Love someone we do not know, and we cannot know someone unless we spend time with them. If you are serious in obeying the Lords commands, it starts with spending time with him, studying the Word of God and spending time in prayer. Those who are consumed with the love of God are hungry for his Word, they spend much time in prayer and they are eager to tell others about their personal relationship with Jesus. It is as we live out these spiritual disciplines that our love for God grows and matures to the Glory of God.

Will you commit this year to Loving God with all your heart, soul and mind? Ensuring that there is nothing in your life that hinders your walk with God. Anything that is taking the place of God in your life. If there is anything in your life that draws your attention away from God, and his place of preeminence, it is an idol.

Making money, building a business, exercise in excess, watching too much TV, and food, are examples of things that can become idols in our lives.

The truth is that if we are faced with the choice between spending time with God, in worship and prayer, sharing the Gospel or serving Him, if we are faced with the choice to do what God asks us to do, or to relax on the couch with a remote control, or anything I have previously mentioned, that thing becomes an idol in your life.

As you look forward into the New Year, make some new year’s resolutions and ensure that they have the goal of drawing you closer to God and loving our Heavenly Father. Let us ask the Lord to reveal the idols in our lives, we all have them, it doesn’t take much for us to realize how we make choices in our lives reveals our idols.

Let us pray and ask the Lord for wisdom and strength to put him first.