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.

What are you thankful for? 12/1/14

Psalm 100

The Focus of our Gratitude.

From www.untilallarereached.com

This past week we celebrated another Thanksgiving day. It is probably my favorite holiday of the year. A day set aside to thank God for all His many blessings. When Debbie and I first arrived in America in April 2000, we adjusted to the calendar of a new country and adopted the national holidays; such as 4th July, Labor Day and Memorial Day. But without a doubt the holiday that we most appreciated was Thanksgiving day. It is a holiday that has not been taken over by commercialism and greed, if you ignore Black Friday Shopping that is.

When we enjoyed our first thanksgiving we understood a little bit of the reason behind the early Pilgrims giving thanks on this day. We had arrived with little or nothing and the Lord had put generous people in our path, who cared for us and taught us how to navigate the American system.

Thanksgiving is all about God, and recognizing who he is and all the blessings he has freely given us. In a world that has all but pushed God away in every sphere of society it is amazing that we still celebrate thanksgiving. Because how can we celebrate this holiday if we don’t acknowledge our Lord and creator.

Dante Rossetti once said; “The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful, and has nobody to thank”.

Our scripture today is Psalm 100; it is a Psalm of thanksgiving or put another way it is a sacrifice of praise and thanks to God. The psalmist encourages people to come joyfully into God’s presence, acknowledging him as the creator and Good Shepherd. His goodness, faithfulness and love will last forever.

As I meditated on this Psalm I was drawn to the first part of verse 3; “Know that the Lord is God.” In order to thank God, we need to believe in God, but also we need to believe that he is who he says he is.

This led me to Deuteronomy 6:4; “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” This is the greatest statement in the Hebrew Law and also the first verse that every Jewish child memorizes.

I was also reminded of Hebrews 11:6; “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

In order to be truly thankful, we need to meditate on the nature and character of God.

Do we thank God for his benefits or do we thank God for who he is?

Do we thank God that he is just and kind?

Do we thank God that he is loving, and slow to anger?

Do we thank God that he is merciful and unchanging?

Even though being grateful for the benefits of knowing God is proper and the right thing for us to do, it is only a part of what we must be thankful for. True gratitude must be rooted in the beauty and excellency of the character of God.

When we only focus on the blessings of God we are like a child who gets a gift from a parent and then uses that gift in a way that is not honoring to the parent. Do we focus on what we can get from God? James wrote very directly about this in James 4:3;”When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

Jonathan Edwards once said; “And God is not glorified if the foundation of our gratitude is the worth of the gift and not the excellency of the Giver. If the gratitude is not rooted in the beauty of God before the gift, it is probably disguised idolatry. May God grant us a heart to delight in him for who he is so that all our gratitude for his gifts will be the echo of our joy in the excellency of the Giver?

What are you thankful for today? Do you thank God by giving back to him, by blessing others, by using what God has given you to bring others to a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Let us strive this week to show our gratefulness by looking for opportunities to share the Gospel message with others and spend our resources on the things of the Kingdom of God.

Let us live in thankfulness and always acknowledge God as the source of all our blessings.

Nehemiah 5: Keeping the Faith 11/27/14

Text: Nehemiah 8:1-9

From www.untilallarereached.com

Today is the final sermon in the Series on Nehemiah

Let us remind ourselves of the historical timeline that Israel and particularly the tribe of Judah had been on up to this point.

In 587 BC the Southern kingdom was taken into captivity and 70 years later the first returning exiles returned to Jerusalem and began to rebuild the temple. This was completed in 520 BC.

About 60 years later a Scribe by the name of Ezra returned to Jerusalem and his focus was to rebuild the spiritual lives of those who had returned to the land, his focus was to teach the Jews God’s law. About 13 or 14 years after Ezra returned God sent a man by the name of Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, and this took place in just 52 days as we have seen.

We pick up the account of Nehemiah at a time when the walls were completed and the Israelites had settled in their towns.

Ezra, was a direct descendant of Aaron. When he arrived in Jerusalem the moral and spiritual condition of the people was terrible. But Ezra was a faithful witness and teacher, he taught for 14 years with little fruit, however when the people had been inspired to build the walls, it was they, the people that asked Ezra to read the law. Notice this, the people came to Ezra, as we see in verse 1. The water gate was an open public place that was large enough for all the people to gather. Verse 1 says all the people gathered, scholars estimate that it was between 30 000 and 50 000 people. They even built a platform for Ezra to stand on and read the Law. What followed was an amazing church service. As Ezra opened the scrolls and began reading from the Law of Moses, which was the same as the first five books in our modern Bible. All the people stood in reverence and with a sense of expectancy, they listened attentively. Ezra read aloud, probably very loud from daybreak until noon, six hours.

Two things struck me as I read this first part of chapter 8; firstly the reading took place at the water gate. This place was chosen because the temple court was too small, but it is also significant that God’s Word was proclaimed in the Market place, in the streets and in the public square. The Word of God is meant to be proclaimed in the public places, in the market place and in society, as we do that, whole communities will be transformed. All too often the only place that the Word of God is proclaimed is in buildings like this one, we are doing such a disservice to our community by not proclaiming the Gospel message of Jesus Christ in our communities.

Secondly the proclamation of the Law led to an immediate revival, the people were overcome with remorse and wept as Ezra expounded on the Law of God. Their sins were being exposed by the Holy Spirit and they repented and turned from their ways. This is revival, God’s word proclaimed, the Holy Spirit convicts of Sin and the people respond in repentance. Life change happens.

Let us look at this word revival for a minute, we pray for it, we discuss it, we long for it, but what is it?

Firstly, what it is not is a church meeting. Revival can start in a meeting, but a meeting itself is not revival.

Revival refers to a spiritual reawakening from a state of dormancy and unfortunately many times, stagnation in the life of a believer. Notice how revival is personal, this is not something that we can hope the church encounters, it must start with you and me and our personal walk with God.

As we see from the account in Nehemiah, the people were overcome with grief and repentance as the law was read. This was an unusual encounter with the presence of God.

But this is what happens when we get a glimpse of the Glory of God and of his awesome purity compared to the sin in our lives. None of us is sinless, and as we allow the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sins, and we see how far short of the Glory of God we are, we will break down in sorrow and repentance. Revival is a move of God, it is God’s grace and not something we engineer. Revival results in changed lives as people live in holiness and walk in evangelism and social justice.

There have been some incredible revivals that have taken place in the past and these have been well documented.

In the 1730s, a religious revival swept through the British American colonies. Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitfield proclaimed the word of God and the Holy Spirit transformed the nation.

In 1872 -1873 DL Moody’s evangelism led to the Scottish revival

In 1904 The great Welsh revival took place under the leadership of a coal miner by the name of Evan Roberts.

After the welsh revival there was an awakening in various parts of the world including Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, California, South Korea, China, Chile and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa.

Every Church needs revival, every nation needs revival, we need revival and that is my prayer for our church and our nation. Turning back to God with an overwhelming sense of his Glory and majesty.

 All these accounts of revival and spiritual reawakening are well documented and frequently recalled, but what about today, the American Northeast, where the Great Awakening took place in America is a place where God is all but forgotten, where the church is a historical monument, not a lively representation of the presence of God. What has happened?

When we look at Nehemiah chapter 13 we see that this is not an uncommon occurrence. After serving as the governor in Jerusalem for 12 years, Nehemiah had gone back to Susa. He had gone back to serve King Artaxerxes presumably as his cupbearer. Nehemiah later went back to Jerusalem after what was probably a few years. To his dismay the people had slipped back into lives of disobedience to the Law of God. They were not following the Sabbath day, they were trading and working on the Sabbath. They had also intermarried with the foreign tribes in the region.

Nehemiah took drastic action. He quickly went about restoring order and bringing the city into alignment with the laws of God. In fact his example of church discipline is one that probably would have him thrown in jail in our society (13:25). Nehemiah was angry because he knew the consequences of the sins of the people would lead to further punishment from God. Nehemiah saw things from a heavenly perspective.

So applying this to our lives, how we keep the faith? How do we continue to grow and experience more of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives? Our lives should be a constant growing experience, becoming more like Jesus. If you are not more like Jesus today, than you were a year ago, something is wrong and you need to re-evaluate your walk with the Lord. You see, revival comes and revivals go, but it is up to you to appropriate that to your personal life, you are responsible for how you respond to Jesus’ call.

I want to give you 4 things you need to do to ensure that you are encountering God on a daily basis and living in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

  1. Bible – The first is reading and studying the Word of God, make it the priority of your life. This is the Word of God from which we gain our sustenance; it is the sword of the Spirit. Our primary offensive weapon in this world.
  2. Confession – unconfessed sin will prevent you from experience revival and it will also ensure that you remain a spiritual infant. Confess your sins before God, and ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart and lead you to repentance.
  3. Community – In this day and age, we hear a lot about community, but true community is rare. Even in our church, community is a goal that is seldom achieved. Connect with other Christians and commit to walking together, encouraging and challenging one another in your personal walk.
  4. Prayer – I cannot stress this enough. Prayer in your own private place, find a place, make it a regular encounter with God every day. And then praying together with other believers. Praying for revival. Worshiping God, thanking the Lord, Confessing our sins and bringing our requests before him.

Nehemiah 4: Obstacles the Opportunity for Growth 11/17/14

Text:   Nehemiah 6:9-16From www.untilallarereached.com

Opposition is a normal part of the Christian life, we need to realize that and not be surprised when the enemy comes with his stealth attacks on us. Last week I encouraged you to begin rebuilding; rebuilding in your personal life, praying and reading God’s word and then getting involved in ministry. But be sure that Satan does not want you to do that. He will try multiple ways in which to throw you off the path that God has for you. But challenges allow us to grow. As we encounter challenges, we learn to lean on our Heavenly Father. That is when true growth in our spiritual lives occurs.

We pickup the account of Nehemiah in chapter 6. Last week we saw how Nehemiah got the green light and the building of the walls of Jerusalem was progressing well. But there was opposition to the rebuilding of the walls. Enemies of Judah did not want to see Jerusalem re-established and fortified.

Specifically we read about three men, Sanballat – who was the governor of Samaria; Tobiah who was a Persian official over the region of the Ammonites east of the Jordan and Geshem who was an Arab leader allied to the Samaritans. In these three chapters (4-6), we see multiple forms of opposition to the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, culminating in chapter 6 in the direct attacks on Nehemiah himself.

The first attempt of intimidation against the people of Judah is found in ch4. It was a direct approach, the enemy was coming to kill the workers and put an end to the rebuilding process (4:11).

But Nehemiah encouraged the people to keep their eyes on the Lord (v14). The people rallied together and prepared themselves for the impending attack from the enemy. We read further in chapter 4 that they posted sentries and the workers worked with weapons in one hand to protect themselves. We don’t read that there was actually any attack rather it was a plot by Sanballat and Tobiah to intimidate and stop the building, but the end result was that the people rallied and came through the intimidation stronger and more committed to the project.

The second weapon that Satan used was to create disunity amongst the people. There was an intense famine in the land, coupled with the fact that many of the people were so committed to building the wall that they had neglected their own crops and businesses. The wealthy were beginning to lend to the poor and enslave them with high interest and impossible loan terms. This resulted in dissatisfaction and squabbling among the people. Nehemiah confronted the problem head on he did not wait and hope the problem would take care of itself (5:6). Here was a man who was obviously under stress and it didn’t take much to push him to anger. He was angry not only because of the injustice done to each other, he was angry because he saw the consequences of the disunity. The wall building was being hampered and the workers were being discouraged. Nehemiah once again displayed integrity and leadership in order to bring focus to the people of Judah.

Now in Chapter 6 we see the ways in which Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem focus their attention directly on Nehemiah. The walls had been completed, but the gates were still not in place.

These three men suddenly pretended to want to meet Nehemiah in a display of goodwill, however Nehemiah realized and saw through their plot to do him harm. On four occasions they asked him to come out to them and each time he responded with the same answer v3; “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” Nehemiah displayed discernment and determination as he refused to be influenced by their repeated offers.

The next plan the three enemies hatched was to discredit Nehemiah by slandering him and creating rumors in an attempt to upset the King of Persia. But Nehemiah is secure in the truth and he simply rebuffs their false accusations. And he identifies their true motives as we see in verse 9. Nehemiah knew where his strength lay and did not fear man or the attempts to discredit him.

The final attempt to ruin the mission of Nehemiah was what we read in our scripture portion today. This prophet Shemaiah had been hired by Sanballat and Tobiah to try to get Nehemiah to go into hiding in the temple. This seems like a reasonable suggestion, since there were obviously people trying to do away with Nehemiah.

Just one problem, Shemaiah’s proposal was directly opposed to the Law of Moses. Only the Priests and Levites could go beyond the Altar of burnt offerings at the temple. Numbers 18:7 stated that any layman entering this part of the temple is to be put to death. But Nehemiah saw that this was just an attempt to discredit him, to show him as a coward and as a man who had no regard for the Law of Moses. Nehemiah showed discernment and again Nehemiah prayed and went back to work.

Nehemiah showed incredible courage and perseverance, he could have quite easily given up and gone back to Susa and resumed his role as cupbearer to the King. However he knew that his mission was assigned by God and that God would protect and vindicate him. As a result the wall was completed in just 52 days, a remarkable and miraculous feat.

With every challenge that Nehemiah faced he seemed to grow stronger and more determined.

What is God calling you to build today? Last week I challenged you to begin rebuild the walls of your personal spiritual life and to ask the Lord where he would have you serve him. How has God been directing you? Are you feeling a stirring to begin building something for the Kingdom of God?

I guarantee you that as soon as you begin along the path of building something for the Kingdom of God you will encounter opposition. You will begin to have thoughts of doubt, thoughts along the lines of; “you can’t do this”, “you are not educated enough”, “you will just make a fool of yourself”, “you are going to lose your friends”, “if you get involved in that area of ministry, you will miss out on that favorite TV show”. The enemy will use every trick he has to prevent you from serving the Lord. However as you step forward in faith, you will see that God will give you grace and strength to accomplish more than you ever dreamt of.

Anything worth doing for the Kingdom of God will take somebody who walks in faith and determination. A holy determination, that believes in the promises of God.

Nehemiah 3 Faith leads to Action 11/10/14

Text: Nehemiah 2:11-18 From www.untilallarereached.com

We have all faced large projects at one time or another in our lives. It might have been a large paper due for college or high school, or a business launch, or even building a house or other large construction project. It is an exciting time. I have worked on many large engineering projects, in many different fields. And I can honestly say that the best part of the entire project is always the moment you receive the purchase order. That moment when your bid has been accepted and you finally see all the work of the quoting process paying off.

Right after that however, the work proper begins and you have to roll up your sleeves. The problems start coming and the project begins to give you sleepless nights. What project are you facing right now?

Nehemiah was at the purchase order stage. He had just been given the letters from the King and he had taken the 900 mile journey to Jerusalem. He must have had tremendous excitement and fear at the same time. But his entrance to Jerusalem must have caused quite a stir. He was the king’s representative and had a military escort. His arrival did not go unnoticed. There must have been a lot of people watching him and waiting to see what he would do next.

When Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem he took some time to rest. Actually he rested for three days.

Nehemiah also was watching the people, he was looking for workers, people who had a mind to work. Notice in verse 16 he writes; “The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work” Nehemiah was assigning resources, like any good project manager, he was assessing the workers and seeing who could do what jobs and how best to allocate them.

But Nehemiah was still operating in tremendous faith. He had no idea of all that was about to happen in his life. Nehemiah completely trusted the Lord for the outcome of the project. He did not operate out of fear he operated out of faith as we saw last week. Nehemiah was preparing and doing his part, because he trusted that God would do his.

After completing the survey of the walls and the people, Nehemiah took a very bold step in faith he made his “sales pitch” to the people. Verse 17 tells us that he addressed the people. The people of Jerusalem were discouraged and defeated. They did not have much hope for the future. But not Nehemiah, he was filled with courage and boldness that came from his relationship with God and the secure knowledge that God would allow them to rebuild the wall. His presentation to the people was three-fold;

  1. Firstly he drew their attention to the obvious; “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire.” They didn’t need reminding, but he wanted to create in them a sense of dissatisfaction, this is key like any good salesman will tell you.
  2. Then he went on to say “Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem,” He didn’t say, I am here to make you build the wall, no he was invested, it was their project, he was all in.
  3. And finally he reinforces his appeal by showing them that this was God’s idea and plan, not his; “I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me”. He encouraged them that God was going to bring this rebuilding project to be, and that God was with them.

The people responded immediately; “Let us start rebuilding.” Nehemiah just got his second purchase order!

This is such a great story of fear to faith to action, but it is more than just a Biblical narrative, what is the application for us today? What does God want us to rebuild here at Grace Point? When we look at the hand of God over this church in the last year, it is amazing to see all that He has done. But truthfully there is a lot of rebuilding to do, we are beginning to get a glimpse of the plan the Lord has for his church here. Are we going to respond like the Jews and say; “Let us start rebuilding” starting something new or are we going to hold back and resist the move of God.

But maybe God is speaking to you on a more personal level today. What is God asking you to rebuild in your personal life, in your home? Maybe today you have just received the purchase order to rebuild your personal and spiritual walls. Not walls to prevent others from being able to contact you, but walls from which to operate as a Christian from a position of strength and security in the Lord. Knowing who your God is and moving from fear and defeat into a life filled with peace and most importantly a life that God will use for His glory as you lead others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

So how do you go about rebuilding the walls of your spiritual life?It is all about time management, I am not going to give you a teaching on time management, but we all need that desperately. Time is a precious God given commodity, and we only have a limited amount of time on this earth. God is going to hold us accountable for the use of the time that he has given us. Successful people know the secret of success is what you read and who you spend your time with.Well as a Christian if that is true then we have a perfect answer, reading the Bible and spending time with Jesus in prayer. You can start today, what are you reading, and who are you spending time with? Building up the spiritual walls of our lives only happens as we pray and read God’s word.

But what about Grace Point? There is no doubt that this church is not what it was twenty years ago. But God is doing something here he is stirring in the hearts of his people here, and in this community. There is a definite shift that has taken place. God is bringing new people in, and raising up a new generation of workers who have a heart to build on the work of those who have gone before and have labored to build the foundations and walls of the ministry of this church.

Let us begin rebuilding, starting with our personal lives. We read in the book of Nehemiah that the people all rebuilt the wall section that was directly in front of their homes. They started rebuilding at home. Let us allow the Holy Spirit to examine our hearts, and convict us of areas and places that need rebuilding. Spend more time in prayer and reading God’s word. Praying for the Church and praying for your families. Then as God leads you get involved with the ministry of God here at Grace Point.

Nehemiah 2 From Fear to Faith 11/3/14

Text:  Nehemiah 2:1-10

 In this scripture reading Nehemiah displayed faith that resulted from his season of prayer. I want to look at two specific characteristics of his faith today.

The first was that Nehemiah had the faith to wait. Four months after Nehemiah had received the bad report from his brother, he was still waiting, and Nehemiah was patiently waiting on the Lord for direction (see Hebrews 6:12). It is through faith and patience that we receive the promises of God.

Nehemiah took to heart that great verse in Psalm 46:10; “Be still and know that I am God”. Sometimes the best use of our time is to simply be still, and rest in the presence of God, being patient and secure in His faithfulness. When we wait on the Lord, we are not waiting in vain, it is not a waste of time, rather it is the greatest investment of our time as God is aligning our heart with His purposes. It is a fact that faith and patience go together.

This leads us to the next characteristic of faith that Nehemiah displayed in this chapter. Nehemiah had the opportunity to bring the wine before the King, and the king noticed that he was sad and not looking healthy. Immediately the King noticed, this was a serious issue. The king held the life of Nehemiah in his hands. Nehemiah states in verse 2; “I was very much afraid”. Nehemiah knew that this could end really badly for him. However the King discerned that Nehemiah was deeply troubled by something that did not relate to his serving the King as cupbearer and he asked him.

Nehemiah then had the faith to ask; This was his moment to shine, this was the open door that he had been waiting for. He had one shot, what was he going to do? Nehemiah explained to the King that he was deeply burdened for the city of his ancestors, note he did not mention Jerusalem by name, he did not want to risk upsetting the king by using a buzzword that would remind the King the former enemy. Then the king does something surprising, he asks Nehemiah in verse 4; “what is it you want?” Suddenly all the wealth and power of the kingdom supported the question from the King. Nehemiah knew that this was it! He had to act now! But what do we read in the second part of verse 4; “then I prayed to the God of heaven.” This was a very brief, telegraph prayer; he didn’t bow his head, get on his knees and pray. No, he simply and quietly asked the Lord for the right words to say and for favor. After his brief prayer, Nehemiah took a leap of faith. He asked the king to be allowed to go back and rebuild the city. Notice, in verse 6 we read that it pleased the king to send me and he asks him “how long will this journey take?” Nehemiah gives him a timeframe, which we are not given, but it was probably around six months to a year initially. We know from the rest of the book that Nehemiah eventually spent 12 years in Jerusalem. But before the king can give any further comment, in a rush of boldness, Nehemiah asks for letters of safe conduct to the governors of Trans- Euphrates and a letter to give him access to building materials. Nehemiah pushed king Artaxerxes to the limit. Here he was asking one of the nations that had destroyed Jerusalem to help rebuild it. He was literally pushing the limits of the king’s generosity.

This took courage, this was faith in action! The King granted him his request, as we know, the King’s heart had been prepared for this moment as well and the hand of God was directing the situation. Nehemiah went out with authority; he had letters showing that he had the Authority of the king of one of the world’s great superpowers.

This reminds me of the Great Commission, this story of Nehemiah is such a great picture of Matthew 28:18 and 19; When Jesus sends his followers out on the greatest mission of all mankind, he gives authority, but not just any authority; “all authority in heaven and earth”. We don’t have to be afraid or troubled by opposition. Were he sends we must go and have the faith that he will bring about the results. The important thing is that we do as he says.

Martin Luther once said; “Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace. It is so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.” (See Matthew 17:20)

Faith is one of those attributes that is so easy to speak about, but so challenging to completely live out, because for faith to truly operate there needs to be a certain amount of fear and doubt. Without doubt there can be no faith; there must be an element of doubt, even small for faith to flourish.

Nehemiah 2:2 states that Nehemiah was “very much afraid” and for good reason, his life was on the line, everything he was praying for during the last 4 months was in the balance.

It is no small thing that the single command that occurs most in scripture is; “do not fear” This is God’s most frequently repeated instruction; “fear not” (Joshua 1:9). God consistently throughout his word states; “Do not be afraid, be courageous, you can trust me, fear not!”

From www.untilallarereached.com

But fear is such a normal human reaction. In fact fear is a healthy form of self preservation. So why does God tell human beings to stop being afraid more often than he tells them anything else?

I believe it is because fear paralyses us from doing what God asks us to do. Every time in scripture that God commands someone to not fear, it is on the brink of a momentous decision or life change that affects millions of people. Fear is the main reason why we do not do what God tells us to do.

Ten years ago, Debbie and I were both earning really good salaries, I as an engineer and she as a nurse, we had a nice house, a three year old little girl and life in America was good. Then God told us to give up our jobs and trust him to provide as we began our lives in fulltime missions. That first step to resign and begin trusting God for a paycheck was unnerving. How would we respond?

As we look back now we can see how each time God asked us to do something, or go somewhere, or give up something, it became easier and easier. Because we knew that our heavenly father would never let us fall. He was always there, around us and caring for us.

Joe Stowell says,

“In the midst of the changing circumstances of life, we have a choice. We can live in fear of all the uncertainties, or we can cling to the reality of God’s sustaining and intervening presence in our lives.”

What are you earnestly praying for? Will you be ready with faith when God opens the door? Don’t give up, keep pressing in, the Lord will open the door in his timing and you need to be ready.

Nehemiah 1 Building on a solid Foundation 10/27/14

Nehemiah Chapter 1

From www.untilallarereached.com

What is a “Vision”? We often hear about CEO’s and leaders casting vision for the future and directing the future of organizations and corporations. However when we as Christians talk about having a vision for the future, it is not a crystal ball looking into the future. It is a belief in your heart that God is going to do something that is consistent with his word and his will. Over the next few weeks we are going to be looking at this book of Nehemiah. The book of Nehemiah is all about a man who received a vision from God and God allowed him to accomplish a great task.

The Israelites after King David and Solomon were prone to forgetting all that God had done for them, and they began to worship idols and perform the wicked acts of the religions of those who lived in the promised-land before them. As a result, after many warnings by his prophets, God punished the Israelites and they were attacked by the superpowers of the day. God used first the Syrians, and then the Babylonians. In 597 B.C. the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and took the people of Judah into captivity. It was now it 445 B.C., and God was looking for someone to go to the ruined city and restore safety and order. Nehemiah was to be that person.

 So who was this man? He was an Israelite, who was born in ancient Persia and became the cupbearer to the King. This was not simply a fancy term for a butler. No, he was a high ranking official and someone that the King would turn to for personal advice and policy advice. Only a person of exceptional trustworthiness would be given such a post.

Nehemiah was not forgetful of his own people, for he eagerly asked his brother for news about Jerusalem. The news was distressing: the remnant was suffering shame, the walls were broken down, and the gates were burned. (See Ps. 79:1–4)

Instead of being a city of praise and glory, it was a city of shame and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem had been destroyed. It was an ever present reminder of their sin, defeat and disgrace.

Nehemiah was overcome with sadness and remorse. Even though Nehemiah grieved, he didn’t stay there, he didn’t wallow in his sadness and simply burry his head in the sand hoping someone else would take care of the city of Jerusalem. The fact that he was more than 700 miles away made no difference, he could have easily said that the situation in Jerusalem was not his problem.

Nehemiah’s response to hearing the news is indicative of his awareness that God was calling him to a completely new sphere of service, for which his position and training had uniquely prepared him. This is shown in particular by his sense of identity with his people and the fact that he prayed about the situation for four months fasting and praying, asking the Lord for wisdom and direction. (From Dec. to April – 1:1 and 2:1)

Nehemiah was a man of action, he was not someone to sit idly by and wait for someone else to take care of the problem. However he had the wisdom to realize that this was a calling on his life unlike anything else he had ever received. He did not take it lightly, he asked God for timing and guidance. He knew that the burden in his heart was not enough; he needed the wisdom and power of God to move forward. Nehemiah knew that anything worthwhile begins with a solid foundation and a vision from the Lord.

When we are faced with a huge challenge and life changing decision, who do we turn to? Our friends? Parents? Any sympathetic ear? Why do we do this, when we can go to the Solid foundation of the ALMIGHTY GOD.

Nehemiah was a man of prayer and a man of action. He started with prayer and fasting. It is a sad feature of the modern day church that prayer is relegated to a side room for those who “like that sort of thing”. However prayer is our life blood. A church without prayer is a church that is complacent and ultimately will die.

As I mentioned earlier the book shows Nehemiah to be a man of prayer (1:4–11; 2:4; 4:4; 4:9; 5:19; 6:9, 14; 13:14, 22, 29, 31). The book starts and ends with prayer! But we can learn so much from the format and flow of the prayer of Nehemiah in the first chapter of the book. First he begins by worshiping God, acknowledging him for who He is;” Lord God of Heaven, the great and awesome God.” Then he repents for his personal sins and then for the sins of his people.

As Nehemiah continues in prayer, he reminds God of his promises that were given to Moses, because of his knowledge of the Law of Moses he is able to stand firm on the promises of God. This is such a lesson for us. How can we stand firm on the promises of God when we don’t know them? God doesn’t need reminding, but we need to get into the habit of quoting the promised of God from His word.

Nehemiah’s prayer (1:5–11) was a model of adoration (1:5), confession (1:6–7), and petition (1:8–11). I like to add in the aspect of thanksgiving, reminding us of the blessings of God.

I started this sermon with the question; “what is a vision” what is our vision? Where are we going? We need to come together as God’s people in this place and seek His will. Ultimately it will come down to God’s people on their knees in prayer seeking God’s will for His purposes.

From www.untilallarereached.com

Compassion – A Pillar of the Church 10/12/14

Text:  Mark 2:1-12 From www.untilallarereached.com

Today I want to look at the final pillar of the church, that is compassion. This is a function of the church that some people do very well, but unfortunately so often we fail dismally, because compassion costs us. Compassion means that we have to go out of our way, Compassion makes us tired.

Social concern is a more defined way of describing compassion. Compassion is observing and seeking to meet the felt needs of the community. It is important that the church understands its role of bringing the love and comfort of the message of Jesus to those who are hurting, whether they are believers or not. Jesus set the example of caring for the sick and needy of society, we too need to continue with this ministry. James 2:18

Social concern must also include standing against injustice even if it is not popular in modern society. The church needs to be the leader in community service as a key function of the church. We cannot stand idly by and pretend that we did not know, because we do know and we must get involved.

In Mark chapter 2 we read the Jesus looked at the man and declared that his sins were forgiven.

Jesus was looking beyond his physical and temporal condition and knew that he had an eternal need, the same need all of humanity has, the problem of sin. As we read later in the account in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus goes on to heal the man completely and he walks home.          But before Jesus healed the man, he spoke peace into his heart, he forgave his sins. Forgiveness is the greatest miracle that Jesus ever performs, it meets the greatest need of man and it cost the greatest price.

Jesus was full of compassion as we read this throughout the Gospels. However the primary focus of Jesus’ ministry was to save those who were condemned to an eternity in Hell (Luke 19:10). Jesus expects his church to follow his example and to have the same priority.

During this post-modern age, with the advent of 24 hour news and the internet, the plight of the poor and hurting is much more visible. There has arisen a division in the greater body of Christ There are those who say that we need to do everything we can to demonstrate the Gospel and help the poor and hurting in the world, these people are identified with the social gospel. Then there are those who say that it is most important to preach the Gospel, and that the social programs are taking away our focus from the real task of reaching the lost.

We need to strike a balance between these two extremes. We cannot overlook the social justice issues of our day and age, but we also need to understand that if we help people without giving them the life saving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they are still destined for an eternity in hell.

Meeting felt needs is important, but it must lead to meeting the eternal need

There is a popular saying that that is often repeated these days on facebook, twitter, and from our pulpits. It has been attributed to St Francis of Assisi ; “preach the Gospel and if necessary use words” I can see why people are drawn to this way of thinking, however there are two basic problems with this quote; firstly there is not proof that Francis ever said it, and secondly it simply is not biblical. (See Romans 10:13-14)

Let us never be guilty of assuming that people will get to heaven because they have been helped by a well meaning person. Please, let us make sure we help as much as we can, but at the same time lead them to Jesus. In the midst of the darkest places and times in human history, is when people are the most open to the saving message of Jesus. Let us not miss that open door.

So as we have been looking at the church over the last 5 weeks. This picture has developed. As you can see the image is a portrayal of what looks like smoke of different colors – this is intended to represent the aroma that the church presents to the world and to God. Is our worship a pleasing sacrifice to him? Is our edification, evangelism and compassion a pleasing aroma to the world around us? Paul writing to the Corinthian church states in 2 Corinthians 2:15 states ”Forwe are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing”;

 The church does not exist for itself; it exists to bring others to a commitment to Jesus Christ.