Sermon Sunday June 13, 2021 – The Value of Prayer

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Luke 22:39-46 

Contrary to popular belief, you cannot make time.

But you can invest time. What if I said that you could invest your time in something that is infinitely valuable and has eternal rewards?

I am talking about prayer.

This week we come to Luke 22 and the prayer that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives.

This is a pivotal moment in human history. Jesus has just celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples, and he was on his way to be arrested and crucified. Jesus knew the battle that lay ahead of him, and he needed to be alone with the Father.

In Luke 22:39, we read that Jesus had a custom of going to this mountain to pray. Jesus was a man of discipline. When it comes to prayer, people often say, “well I am not that disciplined”. The truth is that every person has the capacity to be disciplined; we just are not motivated.

Motivation comes from what we value. What we value we elevate in importance, which becomes the thing that we worship. Ultimately, we are motivated by what we worship, what we give value to. When people say they cannot discipline themselves to pray and to feed on God’s Word, it is simply evident that they do not place a value on prayer and the Word.

In verse 41, we see that Jesus separated himself from his disciples and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:42

Jesus prayed fervently that God would remove this trial from him. Jesus knew that he was about to take on the sins of the world and the Father would have to turn His back on him. I am so grateful that Jesus submitted to the will of the Father. Jesus had a yes in his heart, he knew that this was the moment he had come to the earth for.

When we approach the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are right to focus on the cross where the price was paid for our salvation. But we must not overlook the Garden, this is where Jesus was tempted by Satan to turn away from the cross. This is where Satan threw everything at Jesus to persuade him not to go through with the crucifixion. I believe that this was the last attempt by Satan. Satan knew that if Jesus was going to submit to the will of the Father, he was defeated.

It was fitting that the battle for our salvation took place in a garden. In the beginning the first Adam rebelled against God in the garden of Eden and ushered sin and death to the world. The second Adam came to fight in the garden on the mount of Olives for you and me, to defeat the power of sin and death.

Jesus knew the plan; he knew that he would be raised from the dead, but his soul experienced agony as he faced what lay ahead of him and was tempted to turn back. This was not a normal quiet time of prayer; Jesus was in agony (Luke 22:43). But the victory was won. The victory for our salvation was won by Jesus on his knees in prayer. Let us always remember that prayer is the most powerful use of our time.

As we compare Luke’s account with the other Gospels, we see that Jesus prayed three times for the cup to be removed and three times he came back to his disciples and found them sleeping. The disciples had no idea of the pain and the trial that would lie ahead of them. Isn’t it incredibly comforting to know that this same Jesus, who was so disciplined in his prayers on earth is now praying for us (see Hebrews 7:25)?

In verse 46, and verse 40, Jesus said “pray that you may not enter into temptation”. As Jesus was being led to the cross, all his disciples eventually fled or disowned him. Notice this, don’t miss this. The only person who remained strong during this terrible day was the one who had stayed awake and prayed. The disciples who didn’t pray, fled, and abandoned Jesus.

Looking at the phrase “that you may not enter into temptation”. This is the same phrase the Jesus used in the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:13, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

We know from James 1:13-14 that God does not tempt us. But the Greek word used in Luke and Matthew’s Gospel account is πειρασμός (pronounced – peirasmos), which is a word used throughout the New Testament and can mean to be tested, or to undertake an examination, or to be tempted to sin. This is the same word that we find in Matthew 4:1, right after the baptism of Jesus, as he was led to be tempted in the wilderness.

God the Father allows trials and testing in our lives. These are the works of Satan, but God allows it for our growth, faith, maturing and for our sanctification (see James 1:2-4).

The Bible teaches that testing is good for us, but we are also encouraged to pray to avoid testing if it is the Father’s will. We have an example in Luke 22:31-32a as Jesus is speaking to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”

Satan the accuser (Revelation 12:10), accuses the saint’s day and night before God. Satan demanded to test Peter, but Jesus, our great High priest, stepped in and prayed for him. Jesus knows the power of prayer before the throne of God!

We know from 1 Corinthians 10:13 that God will not test us beyond our ability in Christ to bear it and will always provide a way out. If the wording of the Lord’s prayer refers to trials, then the meaning of Matthew 6:13 is, “do not test us, do not afflict us”. King David understood this (see Psalm 141:4).

How is your prayer life?

Sermon, Sunday March 7, 2021 – Chosen!

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In 2014 there was an article in the news about a boy by the name of Davion in Florida, who at the age of 15 had been in the foster care system all his life. Davion desperately wanted to be adopted into a loving family and he knew that because of his age, this was highly unlikely.

He decided to be proactive and he worked hard to improve his physical appearance and his grades at school. On his own initiative, Davion boldly stood before the congregation of his local church and asked if anyone would choose him to be their son.

Davion was crying out to be chosen, to be a part of a family. Can you imagine your children having to market themselves and be on their best behavior and get all “A’s” in school to be accepted and loved?

The point is that we all have a deep desire to belong, to be chosen and to be a part of a family. This is the invitation that Jesus introduced when he walked the earth, and the same invitation stands today. We get invited into the family of God, where we are accepted just as we are, and our Father will never give up on us. It’s a family that wants the best for you. It’s a family that offers real hope for today and for your future.

In Mark 3:13 to 6:29, we catch a glimpse of the life and ministry of Jesus as he is at his most popular. Everywhere he goes crowds follow him in hopes of seeing a miracle or being healed themselves.

In Chapter 3 from verse 13, Jesus chooses the disciples to be in his family. Jesus didn’t pick the best theological minds and esteemed leaders, rather he chose ordinary fishermen, tradesmen, a politician, and a tax collector to be part of his family. Jesus chose them and used them to start a global movement that changed the world.

At the same time, Jesus was rejected by his own family (Mark 3:20-21). When his family heard about his ministry they said, “He is out of his mind.”

Jesus knew what it was like to be rejected, abandoned, and betrayed by your own family.

Jesus identifies with the many people whose family abandon and disown them when they place their faith in him as Lord.

Jesus identifies with Davion’s pain. Jesus identifies with your pain and Jesus chooses you to be in his family. Just a few minutes later Jesus said regarding his family, “For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35). Whoever is willing, has faith and believes becomes a member of this new family.

Faith Comes by Hearing is an organization committed to producing the audio Bible for every language in the world. One of the recordings is for a tribal group of Indians in Bolivia called Quechua. When the Quechuas first heard the Bible in their heart language, the response was amazing. Whole villages came to faith in Christ, families were healed, and churches were planted throughout the region. As the FCBH leadership began asking questions of the Quechua people, they found out that the most impactful Bible story was the healing of the women with the issue of blood found in Mark 5:21-34.

The woman had a chronic bleeding issue that had gone on for twelve years, and like many people with chronic illnesses, she emptied her bank account paying her medical bills. In addition, this medical problem made her ceremonially unclean in the community as per the law of Moses, which meant she was shunned, alone and broken. Out of a place of desperation she takes a huge risk and works her way through the crowd on her hands and knees to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. As she reaches out and touches the edge of Jesus’ cloak, she is immediately healed.

The reason why this particular story impacted the Quechua people was because they could identify with being rejected and shunned by society. It wasn’t until as recently as 1965 that there was a government ruling to declare that the Quechuan’s had a soul. Up until that time, they were regarded as nothing more than primitive animals.

When the Quechua’s hear the story in Mark chapter 5, they identify with the women considered unclean. They join with that woman and when she touched Jesus, they reached out and touched Jesus. Something happened in their souls and their spirits at that moment.

They were set free from their pain when they grasped what Jesus said in Mark 5:34, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease.”

The Quechua at that moment would begin to sob and break down. Their heart hurt because Jesus saw this woman as a human being, he healed her and invited her into his family. He freed her from her suffering. Their hearts hurt because Jesus, who now speaks their language, turns to them, and offers them that same invitation.

Jesus is now turning to you and offering you the same invitation.

After Davion spoke in the church, his story went viral and today he has a forever family.

Someone chose to adopt him into their family.

Imagine yourself standing in front of a church and pleading for someone to welcome you into their family, and even before you finish your speech, Jesus stands up and shouts out, “I chose you!”.  This is what Jesus does every-day, he says, “I love you and choose you just as you are (see Hebrews 2:11).

Jesus is the only one who has the power to set us free from our shame and to present us as righteous before God the Father. Those who believe in Jesus and receive him are the ones who are made holy.

Have you made the decision to make Jesus Christ Lord of your life?

January 17, 2021 The Power in Weakness

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2 Corinthians 12:1-10

How easily do you admit to weakness?

If you ever want to have me do something, just tell me I cannot do it.

If I am struggling to complete a household project, Debbie knows that I will be annoyed if she says, “why don’t you hire a professional to do that?” What? Now you have just thrown down the gauntlet.

Our culture despises weakness and values people based on their physical and intellectual strength. As we read the scriptures, we see a paradox. In the kingdom of God, there is power in weakness (Psalm 8:2).

The Apostle Paul was arguably the greatest theologian, church planter and missionary in history. Yet, he understood the power in weakness.  In 2 Corinthians 11:30 he wrote, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” This is not false humility, the apostle understood something we do not.

As Paul goes to great lengths to diminish his own stature, he is aware of the power of God working through him.

To keep him from being conceited, Paul wrote that God gave him a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7). There is good reason why we do not know the specific nature of this thorn, because whatever ailments and challenges we experience, Paul’s thorn becomes our thorn, and we can identify with his struggles.

We do not know what the thorn in the flesh was, but we must never forget that God allowed it. Satan would never do something to keep someone from being prideful, that is the opposite of what he does. God is in control and allowing your thorn in the flesh for his purposes and his glory.

CS Lewis wrote, “we can ignore even pleasure, but pain insists on being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

God used Paul’s thorn in the flesh to focus his attention on Christ and to draw him into a place of greater dependence. Paul prayed for the thorn to be removed but Jesus responded by saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.

Jesus gave Paul the key, power is found in weakness. The perfect power of Jesus is experienced when the grace of God is able to minister to us in our weakness. Our inability is the beginning of the manifest power of God.

Notice the two nouns, “Grace” and “Power”. We agree that the definition of grace is unmerited favor, that is the true message of the Gospel. But we do not often see grace as power. There is power in the Grace of God. Grace is more than a noun; it is a powerful verb.

Grace is not something we receive at salvation and then put on the shelf as a memorial. The Grace of God is active and powerful in our lives. The key to this power is our weakness.  

The Gospel is a picture of power in weakness. Jesus the all-powerful creator God, took on the form of a weak baby, and lived a life of humility setting aside his glory for a season.

The cross of our salvation, where Jesus paid the price for our sins, was where Jesus submitted himself in a picture of weakness and hopelessness. God’s plan of redemption was that there was to be weakness, on the cross, before there was power at the resurrection. God displayed His power when he raised Jesus from the dead. This same power is at work in us as we read in Ephesians 1:19-20. This gift of salvation is available to anyone who truly admits how weak they are. Only then can we experience and begin to live out the immeasurable power of God.

Doing what we cannot do, that is Christ in me. As you submit your life to the will of God, there will be times when God calls you to do something that is impossible to do…in your own strength. God calls you to take a stand against corruption, start a non-profit to help orphans and widows, stand in front of a crowd and preach the Gospel, witness to your family, or any other mission that seems impossible or impractical. The purpose of God is that we step out in faith, relying on Christ to do the impossible through us.

God needs our weakness more than He needs our strength. Our strength is often His rival. Our weakness is His servant as we rely on His resources to accomplish His purposes, to bring Him glory (Galatians 2:20).

We have a wonderful example of this in the life of Jesus in John chapter 6. Here we read the account of the feeding of the 5000 from just five barley loaves and two fish.

Before the miracle, Jesus asked Philip how they were going to be able to buy enough food to feed all the people.  Jesus was testing Philip; he was asking him to do the impossible. We know that Andrew, in faith brought the little that they could find to Jesus. The five loaves and the two fish represented our weakness, that must be brought to Jesus as an offering in faith. And Jesus used what little was offered and miraculously fed a multitude.

At the beginning of 2021, give God what you have, your talents, your finances, your gifts and see what He can do with them.

What vision has God given you that you cannot do in your own strength?

Sermon Sunday December 20, 2020 The Hope of Christmas

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Luke 1:67-80

Are you in a season of hopelessness?

2020 has been a year that has caused anxiety, loneliness, and despair. We have experienced an erosion of our trust in so many spheres of society.  Hopelessness seems to prevail.

2000 years ago, Israel was in a hopeless situation. They had been promised a messiah, someone who would set them free and establish his throne, making the nation greater than it had ever been.

However, it had been seven hundred years since the prophet Isaiah had penned Isaiah 9:6 & 7.

The nation had been destroyed and taken into exile. Now they were under the oppressive rulership of the Roman Empire. For the past four hundred years, God had been silent.

Had God forgotten His promises?

But as hopeless as the situation was, God was at work. God was orchestrating all human history to this one pivotal moment in time (Galatians 4:4).

In Luke 1 God begins to speak. Zachariah, a priest in the temple, and his wife Elizabeth were chosen by God to be the parents of John the Baptist. A miraculous birth to a couple who were beyond childbearing age and had probably given up hope of having children of their own.

John was miraculously conceived, and the Bible says that he was filled with the Holy Spirit even in Elizabeth’s womb.

When the child was to be named, Zachariah confirmed that his name was to be John and God gave him back his ability to speak. Immediately Zachariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and sang this incredible prophetic song. But the song is not about his son John, he is primarily singing about the Messiah, who is yet to come. The hope of the promised Messiah.

This prophetic song gives us four pictures of what the birth of Jesus will mean.

1. The first picture is The Redeemer (Luke 1:68).

A redeemer is a liberator, someone who sets the captives free. This echoes Isaiah 61, which Jesus read in the temple in Luke 4.  This picture makes it clear that we cannot free ourselves from the penalty of our sins and we need Jesus to be our redeemer (Ephesians 1:7)

2. The Victorious Warrior (Luke 1:69).

A Horn in scripture symbolizes strength and power (Luke 1:71). In these verses we have a picture of an army that is about to be defeated, until a redeemer comes to free them. But more than that, the enemy is completely defeated so that he cannot take any more captives.

This redeemer is from the house of David. David was a mighty warrior and ruthless conqueror. God had promised in Micah 5:2 that this redeemer would be of the tribe of Judah.

We as follower of Jesus know What we have been saved from. But do we know what we have been saved for? We are saved for so much more than simply getting to heaven. We get to serve Jesus in this life, to bring glory to the Father (Luke 1:74-75).

3. The Debt is Cancelled (Luke 1:76).

In verse 76, Zachariah turns to his new-born son and declares that this child will be a prophet of the Most-High. He will be someone who goes before to let people know that someone is coming who can forgive sins.

All of us are sinners and owe a debt that we cannot repay, and we have all fallen short of the glory of God. Only by the blood of Jesus can we be set free from the debt of our sin (Romans 3:23).

4. The Dawning of a New Day (Luke 1:78-79).

The Messiah was prophesied to be the light of the world (Isaiah 9:2). This was the dawning of a new day.

Have you ever gone through a season of hopelessness? Everything seems to be heavy and dark, with no end in sight. But suddenly your prayers are answered, and God breaks through. The next morning it is as if everything is new, the weight has been lifted from your shoulders. This is what the priest saw, the lifting of the burden off the shoulders of the nation and the world.

Looking back to the earlier verses of Luke 1, nine months earlier, Zachariah had a visit from the Angel Gabriel. Zachariah was in the temple and faithfully going about tending to the candle of incense. Zachariah and Elizabeth were both faithful and righteous people (Luke 1:6).

Zachariah was faithful and even after all the years of God’s silence he was still burning the incense and obeying the law. God heard their prayers of the nation, and at the appointed time, the light of the world was revealed, their hope was fulfilled.

Where is your hope today?

Are you hoping in the government, the economy, your bank balance, or some prophetic word that you were watching on YouTube?

We are living in a time where everyone is desperate for hope. Something tangible we can cling to. But there is only one definite promise, this same Jesus who came as a baby 2000 years ago is coming again. That is where we place our hope, not in temporary goals or comforts.

As Jesus was talking to his disciples about the promise of his return in Matthew 24, he said this in verse 14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

The previous verses speak about the terrible things that will come on the world before Jesus comes again. But we have the certain promise that this gospel message WILL be proclaimed to all people groups. That is the hope that we can count on.

Has your hope in the things of this world been shattered?

Only God knows what you are really going through and only God can guarantee His promises over your life.

Repent of the things in which you have been placing your hope and place your absolute trust and faith in Jesus.

He is the only one who has the power to guarantee your future salvation!

Sermon, Sunday October 18, 2020 Abiding in the Vine part 2

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John 15:1-17

Fruit that Lasts

We know that as followers of Jesus, we are called to produce fruit for the glory of God, but what does that mean practically?

Here is a quick look at six different types of fruit.

  • Soul winning

A follower of Jesus will have a passion to tell others about Jesus. When Jesus called Simon Peter and Andrew in Mark 1:17, he said, “follow me and I will make you fishers of men”. The Apostle Paul was passionate about winning souls for Jesus fruit (Romans 1:13).

This can be as easy as inviting your neighbor to church or beginning a Gospel conversation with your co-worker. It begins with praying for the people that God has placed in our sphere of influence.

  • Holiness

As we grow in our relationship with Jesus, we become more like him. We grow in behavior that brings glory to God (Romans 6:22). As we grow in holiness, we change the way we think, speak and react in situations. Holiness cannot be manufactured; it comes from abiding in the vine. Holiness focuses the attention on Jesus, the source of holiness.

  • Generosity

Followers of Jesus should be known for their generosity, remembering that everything we have comes from our Heavenly Father and that He never runs out (1 John 3:17).

This principle of giving is that it is impossible to outgive God.

Worshiping God in giving begins with giving 10% to your local church, but that is just the beginning. Once we take the 10% off the table, the Lord asks us how are we stewarding the other 90%. That is where the fruit of generosity is truly displayed.

  • Fruit of the Spirit

In Galatians 5:22-23 we have a list called the fruit of the Spirit. These are all produced in our lives as we die to ourselves and submit our lives to the control of the Holy Spirit.

Being able to display these fruit of the Spirit when the world around us seems to be falling apart, is the work of the Holy Spirit. This will draw the attention to the source of your peace and bring glory to God.  

  • Service

We are saved to serve by giving our time and energy (Colossians 1:10 and Matthew 5:16).

This is not doing things out of duty, guilt or to trying to earn points with God, rather as abiding branches in the vine we will produce as we were designed to do (Ephesians 2:10).

When you are serving the Lord, doing what you were created to do, it will bring life and bring glory to God.

  • Praise

Living a lifestyle of praise is a by-product of abiding in the vine. If you are getting your strength from Jesus, living in a close walk with him, you will be filled with praise (Hebrews 13:15). This is the praise that comes from the heart, singing out of the abundance of the blessings of God on our lives.   Praising God even in the painful situations of life, brings glory to God.

These are just six examples of fruit, but for the vine to be fruitful, there needs to be a vinedresser who tends to the vine.

Jesus said in John 15:1 that His Father is the vinedresser. God the Father is the one who is in charge of caring for the vine and ensuring that it produces fruit.

Part of the job of any vinedresser is pruning. Often Christians pray that God will make them more fruitful, but they do not enjoy the pruning process that follows.

A vinedresser prunes by cutting away dead wood and also by cutting away living branches that are taking away nutrients from the branches that are bearing more fruit. God wants an abundant harvest and sometimes that requires a painful process.

However, the greatest judgement God could bring to a believer is to leave him or her alone. In a garden the vinedresser is never closer to the vine than when he is pruning. If you think that you are going through a tough time and God is pruning you, remember that He is close and He is preparing you for more fruit.

This happens in our churches as well. Sometimes God prunes ministries and programs that we have become comfortable with, God prunes them not because they aren’t producing fruit, but God prunes them and directs our attention to another opportunity that produces much more fruit.

God prunes in different ways, often it is through the reading and application of the Word of God. Sometimes, as we read and hear the Word of God, we are convicted, and God cuts to our heart bringing us to repentance (John 15:3)

Many times, the pruning process comes from difficult situations around us, hardship, sickness, and loss. It is a fact of life that we seldom grow without pain James 1:2-4).

I believe this applies to the church as well as individuals. We have been praying for revival in the church, and we can see God pruning His church in answer to our prayers.

But the reality is that the church in America was not producing fruit. The church as a whole has compromised with culture rather than influencing culture.

God is refining and pruning the church and only the church that is being refined by the whole Word of God will produce fruit.

In verses 7 and 16, we have two promises from Jesus to answer prayers. Both these verses are in the context of producing fruit for the kingdom of God. When we are abiding in the vine, our desire will be to produce fruit.

What are you praying for?

Abiding in the Vine – Some thoughts on John 15 and 2020

In the last six months, how many times have you heard someone wishing that things would just get back to normal? Even believers who attend church regularly are wishing that things would return to the way they were in January of 2020.

But what was normal?

For many normal was couched in passivity and many of us didn’t have to face the real problems in society because we were pacified by sport and entertainment.

Even in the church, many were attending a worship service once or twice a month out of tradition, or simply for a sense of wellbeing. The church was a segment of culture that was simply another part of “normal”.

But since March, many things have changed. Many of society’s challenges have been exposed and everyone has had to make some difficult choices.

In John 15, we read some of the most powerful teachings of Jesus. Jesus uses the analogy of the vine and the branches. Jesus is the vine the Father is the vinedresser, and the true followers of Jesus are the branches. But branches are not simply for show, they have a role to play and that role is to produce fruit. The true followers of Jesus will produce fruit. In fact, verse 8 says, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”

In January 2020, I would suggest that the majority of church attendees had no desire to bear any fruit. As we read the words of Jesus in John 15, we see that the key to producing fruit is abiding in Jesus.

But what does it mean to abide? The dictionary says that to abide is to remain firm, fixed, or unwavering. Another dictionary explanation says, “to endure without wavering”. When we learn how to abide in Jesus, we will know unshakable peace.

Psalm 91 has come to mean so much in this season, where again we read about the security of abiding in Him.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust
.”

Psalm 91:1-2

In John 15 we have some incredible promises and terrifying warnings in the words of Jesus.

The promise that we quickly grab hold of is found in verse 7, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

But I would encourage you to read this promise in the context of the entire chapter. The desire of every believer (branch) should be to bear fruit as we read in the very next verse, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”

If we pray that the Lord would allow us to bear fruit, he will surely answer that prayer, for the glory of God the Father. So, are we praying that God would bless us with lasting fruit, for His glory?

This promise is repeated by Jesus in verse 16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

The challenge facing the church today is, what are we praying for? Are we praying for peace and comfort? Are we praying for a return to “normal”? Are we praying for peace and prosperity? All the while, God invites us to pray for fruit, fruit that will last.

The terrible warning of this passage is found in verse 6, “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”

These branches that are thrown into the fire, were at one time attached to the vine. They were attached to the vine because there was promise of peace and comfort. They were attached to the vine because there was promise of personal blessing and cultural acceptance. However, these branches never had a desire to produce fruit, because they were never abiding in the vine. There was attachment without abiding.

I believe that we are beginning to see the pruning process in the Church. The Father, the Vinedresser, is removing the branches that are not abiding in the vine, the branches that are not producing fruit.

What does it mean to produce fruit? The Bible is clear that the followers of Jesus are called to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18). We are called to love one another as Jesus has loved us (John 13:34), a sacrificial and selfless love.

Abiding in Jesus, being used by him to produce fruit is what we are created for. It is the essence of worship. The natural by-product of living a life committed to being used by God, is joy. John 15:11 says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

How about praying a prayer that God will always answer affirmatively? Join me in praying for opportunities to bear fruit for the Kingdom of Heaven. Join me in praying for opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus in these uncertain times.

Are you abiding in the vine?

Sermon, Sunday August 9, 2020. Walk in Love

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Walk in Love

Ephesians 5:1-2

“Like father like son.” We have all heard this expression and seen it played out in the lives of those around us. Young boys take on the characteristics and mannerisms of their fathers, sometimes without even being aware of it. A few weeks ago, Christie mentioned that Joshua was standing next to the car with the same posture that I always use. No one told Joshua to stand that way, he simply was following what he saw in me, hopefully he learns my good habits and not my bad ones.

Sadly, today we are witnessing the effects of a fatherless generation.  A generation growing up with absent or abusive fathers. But praise be to God, we have the privilege and blessing to call the creator of the universe, Father. Ephesians 5:1 says, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.”

In The previous chapters of the letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul paints a glorious picture of God the Father, and now he adds that we must imitate Him. Obviously, we cannot be exact imitators of all the characteristics and nature of God, but we can and must reflect His character as we have put on the “new self” in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 4:24).

Ephesians 5 verses 3 to 21 are clear and direct instructions for walking in love and walking in the light as followers of Jesus. These verses are setup by verses 1 and 2, we can only walk in Christ as we walk in love.

When we become followers of Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit who enables us to love the way we were first loved by God (Romans 5:5). Paul reminds his readers in verse 1 that we are “beloved children”. This takes us back to Ephesians 1:5, “In love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will.” We are adopted sons and daughters of God our Heavenly Father. We have probably heard that so many times, it has lost its impact on us. I encourage you to spend time praying and meditating on all that it means to be adopted and chosen by the Great I Am.

Along with being adopted, we are welcomed into a family, the church filled with brothers and sisters. We as family have responsibilities, chores to do. Our responsibilities include caring for the widows and the orphans, practicing hospitality, caring for the poor, sharing the Gospel, praying together and living sacrificially for one another (James 1:27, Romans 12:13, Ephesians 4:28, Luke 6:36). As part of this family, we gather together, not out of tradition, but because we need each other. We are created and adopted for community to live and grow together. This is why, even in the midst of this pandemic, we need to meet together regularly, building one another up as we read in Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Paul continues in verse 2 to focus our attention on the ultimate example of love. Jesus is the perfect imitator of the Father, he was able to say, “…Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” In John 14:9. Jesus loved perfectly, and the greatest display of this love in history was when he willingly died on the cross for us. Jesus died the death we deserved, and he rose again from the dead, overcoming death so that we might have eternal life.

When we submit ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus, we are empowered with the Holy Spirit to be able to love others sacrificially.

The love that Jesus displayed for us is the love that we are called to. This love is not sentimental o a feeling, this love is displayed in sacrifice and action (1 John 3:18).

Last week, we returned from our mission trip to Cincinnati, where we displayed the love of God as we prayed for people and shared the Gospel with people we met in the streets. One of the greatest displays of Christlike love, is sharing the Gospel. Telling people we have never met about Jesus. We go because we are driven by the love of Christ for the lost (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)

One of the most transformative prayers you can pray is to ask the Father to give you His heart for the lost. You will be overwhelmed with compassion and love for those you meet.

Meditate on the love of your savior, and you will be filled with love like your savior.

Paul ends the sentence in verse 2 stating that the sacrifice that Jesus made for us was a fragrant offering to God. We read in the Old Testament occasions that God received the burnt offerings that were placed on the altar as a pleasing aroma. The sacrifice that Jesus made was the ultimate acceptable offering and was pleasing to the Father. Christ gave himself for us, but the offering was to God to atone for our sins. In response to this, we offer our lives as living sacrifices, living generously for the glory of God (Philippians 4:8).

May we be a people who love others like Christ loved us and may our love be a pleasing aroma to God.

Sermon, Sunday July 19, 2020. What Are You Wearing? part 2

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Ephesians 4:25-32

What are you wearing part 2

Ephesians 4 verses 17 to 32 can be divided into two sections. Verses 17 to 24, deal with our new spiritual condition as followers of Jesus. As Christians we put off the old self and put on Christ as a new creation, daily asking the Holy Spirit to help us in the renewing of our minds.

Verses 25 to 32 address the practical aspects of living as a new creation. How to live a life that conforms to the purposes of God and the direction of the Holy Spirit.

When we become followers of Jesus, we learn how to replace sinful habits with holy habits by the process of the renewing of our minds (Ephesians 4:23 and 24).

The list of sinful actions that we find in these verses are not an exhaustive list, and the Apostle Paul probably has some specific people he is addressing in the church. But he doesn’t simply have a list of things we should not do, he also gives the positive alternative and the theological reasons for these new behaviors or habits. As followers of Jesus, we must know the reason why certain behaviors are detrimental to our lives and the reason why we should make better behavioral choices. As we know, Christianity is not simply a lifestyle made up of rules and regulations, but rather it is based on a relationship with our loving Heavenly Father through His son, Jesus.

The behavior choices that Paul addresses are as follows:

1:Replace lying with Truth-telling (v25).

We speak the truth to each other because we are all part of the same body. God’s people are to be truth-tellers. But there is more to this; in verse 15, Paul encourages the church to, “speak the truth in love”, and in verse 21, we read that, “the truth is in Jesus”. As followers of Jesus, we are to be constantly talking about the person who is truth personified.

When we encourage one another by talking about Jesus, we are not simply pointing out sin, we are pointing to the perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

2: Replace unrighteous anger with righteous anger (v26-27).

Anger itself is not sinful. Anger is part of the nature of God. God is angered by sin, and as His children we too should feel anger when we encounter sinful injustice (Mark 1).

Unrighteous anger is rooted in selfish motives and leads to violence, jealousy, envy and even murder. The Apostle Paul encourages us to quickly repent of our unrighteous anger and humbly ask for forgiveness to those we have wronged. This takes humility and dying to our own selfish pride. Someone has once said, “don’t go to bed with unresolved conflict or else you will sleep with the Devil”. Always seek reconciliation and forgiveness quickly.

3: Replace stealing with working and giving (v28).

We are created to work, and work is a gift from God to give us fulfilment and purpose in life. Even Jesus worked hard as a carpenter. The Apostle Paul said to the Thessalonian church that those who don’t work, shouldn’t eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12).

But we don’t simply work to eat or amass riches, we work to be able to give generously to anyone in need. John Wesley said, “Work as hard as you can, make as much as you can, then give as much as you can”. Those who have lived this way, know the secret of a truly fulfilled life.

4: Replacing corrupt talk with edifying talk (v29-30).

The translated word for corrupt or foul language in verse 29, is the same word used for rotting food. Sinful language does not nourish and leads to a stench. Sadly, Christians have accepted gossip and slander, even vulgar joking as acceptable. The fruit of such language leads to sickness in the Body of Christ. See what Jesus said about careless speech in Matthew 12:36.

The Apostle Paul adds in verse 30 that we must not grieve the Holy Spirit. Anything that we say that does not align with the Holy Spirit’s holiness, grieves Him. As we are careless with our speech, we will gradually experience the withdrawal of the influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is a good practice to ask the following question, “Will what I am about to say or do please the Spirit or grieve the Spirit”.

It is the renewed life of Christ in us that leads us to affirm, encourage and build one another up. We should make a habit of only saying about people what we would say to them.

5: Replacing bitterness and rage with kindness and forgiveness (v 31-32).

These verses speak directly to our emotional outbursts, the way we behave when we have reached our “limit”. There is never an excuse for such behavior.

In the place of these outbursts, we should “put on” kindness and forgiveness. The Body of Christ should be a people known for kindness and forgiveness, because of the immeasurable kindness and forgiveness that God has shown us (See Romans 2:4 and Psalm 145:8).

One of the most powerful verses on forgiveness in the Bible is verse 32, “…forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” We have absolutely no right to harbor unforgiveness towards anyone, because of the infinite debt that we have been forgiven in Christ.

As we go through this week, let us meditate on the love, forgiveness, and kindness of Jesus towards us. It will change the way we speak, behave, and respond. It will make us more like Jesus.

So, are you wearing Christ? Are you living out your identity as a follower of Jesus for the good of others and for the glory of God?

Sermon, Sunday July 5, 2020. What Are You Wearing?

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Ephesians 4:17-24

Who are you Wearing?

One of Hollywood’s silliest oddities occurs during awards ceremonies, when actresses walking the red carpet are asked, “Who are you wearing?”, and they attribute their dress or lack of dress, to the name of some overpaid designer.

However, it really is a relevant question for us today in light of what God’s Word says in Ephesians 4.

In the Old Testament, we frequently see the metaphor of God being clothed in Majesty. The Apostle Paul used the illustration of putting off the old and putting on the new, to describe the Christian experience.

Paul is exhorting his readers to be transformed and no longer live the way they did before making Jesus Lord of their lives (see Ephesians 4:17).

In verses 18-19, Paul reminds the Ephesian Christians of what life was like before they knew Jesus as Lord. the overarching theme of these verses is “futility” (see Ephesians 2:1). These two verses in chapter 4 are hard to absorb and describe an ever-deepening pit of despair and hopelessness for those who deny Christ.

The first century world was a depraved time and people had little or no moral compass. In the twenty-first century, we know that Paul could be describing people in our own cities and neighborhoods, people darkened in their understanding and alienated from God. People are ignorant because they have made the choice to harden their hearts towards God.

Left to our human nature, we are sinful and do not even have a desire for God. The normal human condition, apart from a relationship with Jesus Christ is vile, even though it may seem that some people are less vile than others. We worship ourselves and only think about what will make our lives more pleasurable. Calvinists call this total depravity. We only have a desire to know our creator because He places that desire in us by His Spirit.

But the good news is that the next five verses, beginning with verse 20, describe the wonderful truth that God can transform anyone. In Christ we are new creations, behaving differently to those around us.   

In these few verses the Apostle Paul uses three images to describe the transformation that takes place as we become followers of Jesus.

  1. A Place of Education.

This is not formal education – this is transformational education. Life change more than knowledge transfer.

In verse 20, Paul uses the phrase, “you have learned Christ”. Christ Jesus is the subject matter of the education.

But notice the verse does not say, “you have learned about Christ”. Christianity is not knowing about a person; it is knowing and being taught by the person of Jesus. It is about a personal relationship with the risen Lord Jesus.

When I became a Christian, I did not gain some new knowledge, the creator God spoke truth into my heart, and I began a relationship with him. Have you come to know Jesus? Rather than knowing about Jesus.  Christianity is about knowing the truth and the truth is a person (see John 14:6).

JB Philips in his paraphrase translates the verses 20-21, “But that isn’t the way Christ taught you, if you have really heard his voice and learned from him the truths concerning himself.”

2. There is a clothing change.  

In verses 22, 23 and 24 Paul writes, “take off the old self”, “be renewed in the spirit of your minds”, and “put on the new self”(see also Colossians 3:8-10).

The verb tense in Colossians 3:8-10 indicates a completed work with ongoing action. When you and I submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, we put off the old when we turned from our sins and followed Jesus. But there is the daily ongoing practice of saying no to sin and being renewed in the image of our creator.

Ephesians 4:24 describes putting on the new self like a coat of righteousness.  God’s original design for mankind was to walk in perfect relationship with Him, when sin entered the world through the deception of Satan, that design was broken. But now, in Christ, we put on a new garment, we are literally re-created into His image, we put on the righteousness of Christ and have the access to God the Father as originally intended. We who are alive in Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, have become a new person.

3. Our Renewed Mind.

The Apostle Paul writes in verse 23, “and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds.”

Again, the verb tense is in the present tense and we are, “being renewed in the spirit of our minds.”

This indicates an ongoing process of daily being renewed and transformed into the image of Christ.

When we become followers of Jesus, we receive all his righteousness. We are made new and washed by his shed blood. And then we grow more like him as we follow him. As we grow into Jesus, we reflect the glory of God by living holy righteous lives as His image bearers.

Practically, this happens as we spend time reading and soaking in God’s word, as we daily allow the Holy Spirit to have more control over our lives. God does the work in us, but we have the practical task of “Setting our minds on heaven” as we read in Colossians 3:1-3 and Romans 12:2.

The renewing of our minds is a miracle as we are daily surrounded by the garbage of the media world. A practical and necessary step we must take every-day is to pray for the Holy Spirit to renew our minds.

We need this more than ever before in history. There is a war for the mind, and we are too easily distracted by the never-ending digital world around us.  

Being renewed is an essential part of being a follower of Jesus because he is the one you are wearing, and along with the cloak of righteousness comes the renewal of the Holy Spirit.

What are you wearing?

Sermon, Sunday May 31, 2020 Are You Healthy?

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Ephesians 4:1-6

Is your church healthy?

The first three chapters of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians address our position as followers of Jesus. The next three chapters speak about the very practical aspects of our Christian walk. We need to know our position before we can look at our walk.

Paul urges the church in verse one to walk worthy of their calling. Being a follower of Jesus is not a religion or becoming a nice person who follows a set of rules, becoming a Christian is about becoming a new person. Walking a different walk.

The term Christian literally means, “little Christs”. The more we walk with him, the more we look like him, daily being changed into his image.

Paul knew who he was. In verse 1 of chapter 4 he begins, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord…”

Paul didn’t say, “I therefore a prisoner of Rome”. He didn’t let his temporary situation define his position. Paul was a prisoner for Jesus and he surrendered his life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. His position with Christ had led him to be temporarily imprisoned in Rome.

Paul was not defined by His temporary situation. Are you defined by your current work situation, relationships, or financial status?

If you are defined by your temporary situation, you will never know what it means to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.

As followers of Jesus we have a common call, we are all saved by grace alone in Christ alone. We share a common experience of grace. And this is what unites us.

A healthy church is marked by unity.

When a church struggles with a lack of unity, it is often because they have taken their eyes off their common call and identity.

In verses 2 and 3, Paul explains how to practically walk worthy of the calling by listing five characteristics of the follower of Jesus: humility, gentleness, patience, love, and unity.

Jesus exemplified these 5 characteristics in his life on the earth:

Humility (Philippians 2:5-8); Gentleness (Matthew 11:28-29); Patience (1 Timothy 1:16); Love (Romans 5:8); and Unity (Ephesians 2:14).

Jesus is our example of how to walk as Christians. The more we look like Jesus individually, the more we live like Jesus relationally, and the more united the church will be.

Looking at each of these individually:

Humility

Paul constantly refers to humility as an essential characteristic of being a Christian in his letters. Humility was not common in the first century, Greek literature shows us that pride was highly valued and admired. We live in such a similar time. If people a thousand years from now look at our culture, they would see a culture obsessed with our own self-image.  

Our culture screams, “exalt yourself, pamper yourself, think about yourself first”. But being a follower of Jesus calls us to walk in the opposite spirit (Philippians 2:3).

Tim Keller wrote, “the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less”.

Gentleness:

This does not mean weakness or timidity, rather it is self-control.

Moses, arguably the greatest leader in the whole Bible, was the role model of meekness and gentleness (Numbers 12:3).

Moses had a special relationship with the Lord. He knew that God would defend him, and God was the source of his strength.

Galatians 5 tells us that gentleness is a fruit of the spirit and it is the way we are to live as believers.

Patience:

For some of us, no matter how fast the microwave heats up the milk, it will never be fast enough. A lack of patience is a display of a lack of humility and a lack of love. In 1 Corinthians 13, the Bible says that love is patient.

So how do we cultivate patience? By relying on the Holy Spirit and meditating on the patience that Christ has shown us (2 Peter 3:9).

Accepting one another in love:

Out of relationship comes grace. Unity in the church is impossible without loving acceptance of our differences. The Bible says in 1 Peter 4:8, “Love covers a multitude of sins”

Diligently keeping unity.

Verse 3 says, “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Notice Paul doesn’t write, “work towards unity”. This is an active maintaining, not a passive resting in unity.

We don’t create unity. We have unity because of the Holy Spirit. God unites us as the body of Christ, our role is to keep the unity.

How do we keep unity?

  • By walking in humility and preferring others.
  • By renouncing harshness and walking in gentleness towards others
  • By setting aside our own agenda and walking in patience.
  • By setting aside our own expectations and walking in love.

Anytime the church lacks unity, it is because we have stopped living in Christlike humility, patience, gentleness, and love.

Then in verses 4 to 6, we have what was possibly an early church creed, which includes seven “one” statements.

One body: the church is the body of Christ.

One Spirit: The Holy Spirit is the one who creates unity and then empowers us to maintain it.

One hope: We share a common hope in Jesus Christ. This hope is not wishful thinking, and the Greek word used here is one of trusting in a certain outcome. Jesus is coming again and those who put their trust in him will be saved.

One Lord: The early believers, by stating that Jesus is Lord, they were proclaiming that Caesar is not Lord. This could mean the death penalty. By declaring Jesus is Lord, we are giving him authority and lordship over every decision of our lives.

One faith: These are the essential truths of our faith.

One baptism: This may refer to the act of being baptized in water, but it probably means what John the Baptist was referring to in Luke 3:16.

One God and Father: We have been adopted into the family of God. Regardless of our ethnicity, we are all part of one body.

This creed includes the doctrine of the trinity. The three in one, Father son and Holy Spirit are in perfect unity. The trinity not only creates unity but serves as the ultimate picture of unity.

A healthy church maintains unity.