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.

Looking back at God’s faithfulness 12/28/14

Text: Lamentations 3:22-27

 As we rapidly approach the end of another year, it is normal and healthy to look back and evaluate the year. It is vital to spend some time in prayer, looking back and evaluating our lives. How have we grown? And to have the courage to look at the mistakes we have made, learning from them and making adjustments to our lives. If we are not more like Jesus today than we were this time last year, we need to take a serious look at our Christian walk. Often times looking back is painful, reminding ourselves of the hurts we have experienced, perhaps the loss of a loved one, or the sting of a broken relationship, or maybe the regret of missed opportunities. But if we look back and are honest with ourselves, we will also see something that even in the midst of brokenness and pain is undeniable, we will see the faithfulness of God. It is in the midst of pain and suffering, struggles and hardship that God is most real to us.

From www.untilallarereached.com

It is widely agreed that the prophet Jeremiah is the author of Lamentations. This poetic collection was probably written after 586 BC, right after the fall of Jerusalem and the time when the Southern Kingdom of Judah was taken into exile. The people were still overwhelmed with grief, Jeremiah himself describes the agony of the time and the personal pain that he himself went through. The book of Lamentations describes in detail some of the pain and the anguish that the nation experienced. But Jeremiah was not simply a reporter recording the things he was seeing, no, he was personally in pain as well. Looking at the verses that precede our scripture reading today, we see a vivid picture of the suffering prophet. He ascribes his affliction to the hand of God, he understands that this is God’s punishment for the sins of the nation.

Can you imagine the depths of despair that Jeremiah was experiencing, it was not a happy time of looking back.

But then we see a shift in his mindset, in verse 21 we read; “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:”

He begins to look at the faithfulness and love of God, and he sees things from a different perspective. In the midst of his pain, he sees the compassion of God! He understands that God is compassionate in his correction and discipline. God is not playing with his people, rather he is working out his perfect plan.

Looking back on 2014 at Grace Point, we can also see the faithfulness and compassion of God. It has been a year of change, and a year of fruitfulness. I believe that we have seen the beginning of a revival that the Lord is doing in our midst. We are seeing lives changed and the community being impacted with the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.

On a personal level, this has been a defining year for us. At the beginning of 2014 we were in South Africa visiting my mom and family, and we really did not know what the Lord had for us. It was a time of uncertainty that certainly stretched our faith. I knew that the Lord wanted me to apply for the position at Grace Point, but couldn’t see how it would all work out. It seemed all to unlikely. Yet we began the interview process. Graduating from Seminary in May and beginning the position of Senior pastor here on August 1st, all seemed to happen so quickly and smoothly. It was not without its stress, but the Lord was clearly moving and directing our path. I had the absolute joy of baptizing Christie, and in addition to all this we were miraculously blessed to be able to buy a house right near the church.

Maybe for you, 2014 was a very difficult year, you experienced the sharp pain of the loss of a loved one. You may have experienced some other loss or personal brokenness. I want to assure you that what Jeremiah experienced is still valid. If you go through trials and pain without God, it is impossible to sustain hope, true hope can only be found in the promises and the knowledge of the faithfulness of God. You heavenly Father knows you better than you know yourself, he is working all things together for your good as Paul writes in Romans 8:28. He has not forgotten you, his promises are still valid. We are always in such a rush to get out of the hot fire of the crucible that God has us in, we want to find a shortcut, an easy way out to avoid the pain and discomfort. But God knows what you need, and he Loves you more than you can imagine.

The truth that we so easily forget is that we are not made for this world, this world of corruption and sin will pass away, and Jesus will come again as our savior and King. Our role throughout our journey here on this earth is to be the salt and the light, declaring his praises and proclaiming the message of Jesus to a lost and dying world.

We need to remember that we are living for eternity, this brief sojourn on earth is merely a blink of an eye, but the decisions we make here and now affect eternity.

So this week as you look back, I encourage you to spend some time sitting down and writing a journal. Asking the Holy Spirit to remind you of the many times that God has been faithful to you, and I am sure you will be surprised. Looking back is not healthy if we wallow in the pain or regret. Rather looking back should fuel our passion to give more of our lives to living for Jesus next year. Committing to make the most of every opportunity and making our lives count.

From www.untilallarereached.com

What we can Learn From Simeon 12/22/14

Text : Luke 2:25-32

 In the reading today we see Mary and Joseph taking Jesus to Jerusalem to offer a sacrifice. Earlier in the chapter we see a reference to the purpose for their visit to Jerusalem from Bethlehem. We read in Leviticus chapter 12 that a woman who gives birth to a son is ceremonially unclean and needs to offer a purification sacrifice at the temple on the fortieth day after the birth of the child. This could only be done in Jerusalem, hence their journey to the city.

In addition to this Mary was presenting Jesus to the Lord as per the requirements of the Law in Numbers 18:15-16. Parents were required to consecrate their firstborn to the Lord at the temple and then offer a sacrifice to God in order to redeem the child back. The standard offering was a young bull or lamb, however if the parents were very poor they could offer two young birds. Joseph and Mary offered the birds as a sacrifice, which gives us another indication of the poor and humble family into which the Son of God came. From www.untilallarereached.com

As Jesus is brought into the temple, probably Joseph and Mary were a little shy and feeling embarrassed because they could only afford the poor offering, this probably old man comes up to them and grabs Jesus in his arms and begins to sing a hymn at the top of his voice. Praising God and prophesying aloud. It must have been a bit disconcerting to say the least. Here they were wanting to get in and out quickly, trying not to be noticed, and this man they have never seen before begins to draw attention to this baby Jesus.

We know very little about Simeon, this is his only cameo we have of him in the Bible. We do know that he was a faithful Jewish remnant, who was waiting and believing in the Old Testament prophecies regarding the coming messiah. He was a righteous man who was waiting for the consolation of Israel, that means the redemption or freedom of Israel. The Holy Spirit was on him. For four hundred years, God had been silent, and all prophecy had ceased, Israel hardly remembered what a prophet was or did, but here was a man moved by the Holy Spirit, sensitive to the Holy Spirit. He was watching and waiting, he believed in the promises of God. Simeon must have been an exceptional man. Probably an outcast amongst society and probably an outcast amongst the religious community and the Pharisees of the day.

He had been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would see the Messiah before he died and he lived for that day. In fact it had been his burden to bear, he was laboring through life, waiting for this day, never giving up hope. He was literally ready to be released of the burden of this life, he was ready to go home. Simeon knew that he was not a citizen of this world.

All those around Simeon at that time were waiting for the Messiah and hoping for the political deliverance from the Roman empire, but I believe that Simeon understood the greater significance of Jesus. He was led by the Holy Spirit to sing a song that included in verse 32 a reference to the salvation of the Gentiles. This must have sounded so strange to those who heard him. Can you imagine being in the temple at that time, everyone there hated the Romans and despised their occupation, and here was this crazed old man who was declaring that this baby Jesus was the light for revelation to the Gentiles? It was probably the last thing they wanted or expected. But Simeon, being led by the Holy Spirit was aware of the bigger picture, he had an eternal perspective.

This song of Simeon, as he held Jesus in his arms, has glimpses of the great commission that Jesus would give some 33 years later. He talks about Jesus being a light for all nations, not just the Jewish people. The coming of Jesus changed everything. The Jewish people would need to have a change of perspective, a complete paradigm shift.

We need to be like Simeon, he was doing three things that we can do:

  1. He believed the promises of God and was not swayed by the mood of the day or the false teaching of the day. We too need to know the word of God, believe the promises of God and not be swayed by the false teachers who say whatever people want them to say in order to fill church buildings or sell books.
  2. Simeon was also a man who waited and prayed he was patient and had faith in the consolation of Israel. We also need to watch and pray. Simeon was righteous and devout, are we walking in the righteousness that Jesus gives us and are we devout in our walk with the Lord waiting for him to come again
  3. And finally we read in verse 27 that Simeon was moved by the Holy Spirit to go to the temple at the time when Joseph and Mary were there presenting Jesus. He would have missed it if he hadn’t heard the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Being led by the Spirit is a requirement of our Christian walk. It is not an optional extra that a chosen few experience. If we have made the commitment to make Jesus Lord of our lives, we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us and we can hear his promptings and direction. We need to pray and ask God the Holy Spirit to make us sensitive to his direction and leading in our lives. There is so much that we miss out on because we fill our lives with so much noise and busyness. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to lead us and begin to live by the Spirit as we are supposed to do.

The Word Became Flesh and Dwelt Among US. 12/15/14

Text: John 1:14-18

In this second part of our Christmas series, I want to look at the miracle of Jesus coming to earth as a child, what in theological lingo is called the incarnation, which comes from the Latin word for “flesh” – carnis. Literally it is the taking on of flesh by almighty God.

From www.untilallarereached.com

John the Apostle was the last apostle to die and wrote this Gospel or portrait of Jesus, some 40 years after Jesus’ ascension to heaven. John’s Gospel is unique in that its purpose was to unveil the Man Jesus and reveal him as God in the flesh. (John 1:14)

Let’s go way back to get some perspective. Let’s go back to before the creation of the world. A time before time existed, before light existed. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit existed together in unity. Jesus, the Word of God, speaks creation into existence. Jesus was present at the moment of creation and He spoke it into existence. (Colossians: 1:15-17)

Jesus always was God and will always be God. He is uncreated, eternal God. (John 1:1-2)

Jesus clearly understood himself to be equal with the Father, and had the right to do things that only God had the right to do. He was self conscious of his deity, he referred to “his angels” his kingdom”, Jesus forgave sins; he declared that he would judge the world. And in his most revealing and powerful declaration of his deity, Jesus said in John 8:58; “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” I AM! That is the name God called Himself when Moses asked for his name. (Exodus 3:14)

Jesus made many statements regarding who He was, “I and the Father [God] are one” John 10:30. “If you knew me, you would also know my Father” John 8:19. “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” John 14:9 . “I am the way and the truth and the life” John 14:6.

One of the difficulties that people have in understanding the Deity of Jesus is the term “Only Begotten Son” that is found in John 3:16, in the KJV and the NASB and other versions. This does not mean that Jesus was created by God, or there was a time when Jesus did not exist. However here the NIV gets it right by translating the term “one and only son”, meaning that Jesus is unique and the only one of his kind. Jesus Christ is eternal God and has always existed.

God has revealed himself to mankind in various ways. Theologians use the term “general revelation” to explain the revelation of God through nature and through his works in History. But the Word of God is what is known as “special revelation”. Special Revelation is needed, so the gospel can be known and preached. The Bible is the written word of God and Jesus is the incarnate, living Word of God. Jesus is the special revelation of God.

Jesus came to reveal and explain the nature of God (1:18), and everything he said and did revealed something of the nature of God the Father.

Verse 14 of our text today says that Jesus dwelt among us. This is a reference that the people would have understood, to the time in the Wilderness when God had Moses construct the tabernacle for the dwelling place of the Lord. Now let us be sure to understand, God does not need a place to reside, or be confined to. But by the grace and omniscience (all knowing) nature of God, he had Moses build the tabernacle to point to Jesus. Jesus would be confined in the human form for a time, dwelling with mankind, revealing God to us. The Greek word that John uses here describes literally that Jesus “pitched his tent” here on earth. I love the way the Old Testament points towards Jesus!

Jesus said in John 8:12; “I am the light of the World”. He came to his own creation, pitched a tent here and humbled himself. Jesus became a man in order to lead us to our salvation, he took on flesh, pitched a tent here on earth in order to be the light to direct us to God the Father. Even though Jesus was and always is God, he was also fully man. He experienced temptation, he experienced hunger and thirst. He felt sorrow, joy and anger. He was not exempt from the human experience. He experienced life on earth just like you and me.

Jesus did this in order to be the bridge between God and man. Jesus had to become a man in order to be the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. This is the foundation and ultimate truth of Christianity that sets it apart from any other religion.

Jesus is the only way. I don’t care how well meaning any other religious leader might be. Christianity is the only “religion” where God himself stepped down and became one of us in order to provide a sacrifice for us to spend eternity with him in Heaven.

Here is a great story told by the late Paul Harvey that puts a unique perspective on the incarnation:

Why Did Jesus Have to Come? 12/8/14

The Real Meaning of Christmas

 Text : Mark 1:1-8

If you know the Gospels you might be asking why I am preaching this first week of December on the Gospel of Mark and his introduction to Jesus. We pick up the account of John the Baptist pointing the way to Jesus, but Jesus was already born and about to start his ministry. So I might be accused of getting my chronology mixed up and jumping ahead of the story, but the fact is that we cannot talk about Christmas without looking to the cross, the crucifixion, death, burial and glorious resurrection of our Savior. Jesus came for a purpose.

The story of Christmas is a powerful miracle of the Son of God coming to earth in the form of a baby. However the world celebrates the little baby, the nice sweet Jesus who is meek and mild and who is contained safely in a manger in a stable. But Jesus came to change the world. He taught with authority, he recruited a band of brothers, he raised the dead, he was crucified and died, but he rose again and conquered death, he ascended to the right hand of the father and lives today ever interceding for you and me. This is the story of Jesus, the Gospel message.

The introduction or prologue of the Gospel of Mark begins with a triumphant declaration, leaving the reader with no doubt as to the identity of this man Jesus. He bypasses the birth narrative that Matthew and Luke describe in much detail. He focuses on the man, the Messiah. He starts with a man called John, who is called John the Baptist. John’s primary focus was to point the way towards Jesus. He was not like the Pharisees and religious leaders of the day, he was a humble man, and probably didn’t smell too good. He lived in the wilderness and ate locusts and wild honey. He was not someone who people were attracted to, but people came out to him in droves. Verse 5 states; “The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him.” He had the attention of the people, but he pointed them to someone else. He was aware of his role and understood that he was unworthy even to untie the straps on the sandals of Jesus.

When the Gospel account of Mark begins, the people of Judah had experienced over a century of oppressive Roman occupation. The people of Judah were longing for the Messiah, the one who would come and establish his throne in Jerusalem. The people had been holding on to the writings of the prophets that spoke about the coming Messiah. Zechariah, predicted the coming Messiah about 500 years before Jesus’ birth. Micah prophesied about Jesus some 700 years before Christ. And Isaiah prophesied about Jesus around 700-740 BC. Even though they had these prophecies, they still did not expect Jesus to come and live the way that he did. They were waiting for a mighty ruler, a conquering hero, someone who would establish Israel as a powerful kingdom.

As we read Isaiah 9:6-7, it is plain to see how easily the people of Israel would have been looking for a mighty warrior king? But The Kingdom of God is not like earthly kingdoms. It is a kingdom of power; true power not the weak authority and power of earthly kingdoms that rise up quickly and the fade away.From www.untilallarereached.com

When Jesus did come he came to a spiritually dry and barren land. Those who were following the Law of God were following rituals and the Pharisees had added many many laws to burden the people. They saw the law as a burden to bear and not a way to salvation.

But we can’t talk about Isaiah 40 without Isaiah 53. Isaiah 40 speaks about John the Baptist as he points towards the coming Messiah, Isaiah 53 speaks about the suffering servant, who was despised and rejected. That is our savior, the suffering servant, the true Messiah.

You may say to me “pastor this is Christmas, a joyous season, why are you talking about Jesus as the suffering servant?”

I would say that the Christmas story is just as much about Calvary as it is about Bethlehem. Jesus was born in a manger as a poor weak child in order to become the suffering servant of Calvary. Without Calvary and the cross, the manger is meaningless and just another story.

The Christmas story is one that we have heard many times over and we tend to lose the true facts of what took place some 2000 years ago.

In many respects, John the Baptist and the Prophet Isaiah are still calling out today. Calling out in a dry and barren world.

We are seeing Christmas lights all around, shinning in the darkness. But January is coming. You and I are meant to be the light of the World as Matthew 5:14 and 16 states;    14 “You are the light of the world………” and “16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

That is our role, our commission, our privilege. We are to be the voices crying out in a dry and weary land, preparing the way for the coming Lord.

So in answer to the question that was asked in the title of this sermon; “why did Jesus have to come?”

He didn’t have to come, he chose to come in order to provide salvation and eternal life for you and me and all who would believe. Mark 10:45 states, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus came to give his life as a ransom for you and for me and for all who would believe in him and put their faith in him. Jesus came as a baby, humbling himself because of his great love for you and for me. That is the miracle of Christmas.