Sermon July 23, 2017 – It Is Well

Psalm 42 is not a light Psalm, it is a Psalm by someone in intense distress, there is a heaviness about it.

The first two verses of this Psalm use the simile of a deer panting for water. Without water, we could not survive more than three days and one of the effects of dehydration is rapid breathing, in the same way the Psalmist is panting for the living God. His soul is thirsty for a fresh encounter with God. He has experienced God in a special way before and he desires that now more than anything else.

The Psalmist begins with a great question, “where can I go and meet with God?” A question that comes out of a longing and a desire for relationship with the creator of the universe. When you woke up this morning, was that your hearts cry? Do you go to Church on Sunday expectant to have an encounter with the living God?

In verse 4, the Psalmist recalls the good times, when he was close to God, presumably he remembers going to the temple in Jerusalem where he worshipped with many other people. It was a time of joy and celebration. He is longing for that, longing to once again experience the closeness of God.

As you look back on your life, was there a time that you long for when you experienced the closeness of God? But sadly, that is not the case in your life now, you once loved spending time with God in prayer and reading the Bible, but now you are a far off from God. You desire to get back to that place of joy and communion with God. We don’t suddenly wake up one morning and find out that our desire for the Lord has gone, it happens gradually as we allow the cares of the world, our business and our sins to creep in and remove our desire, our thirst, our passion for the Lord.

Verses 5 and 11 are the same in most translations, and the verse begins with two questions;

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” He is feeling depressed and hopeless, but he declares the truth, that God is his hope, God is faithful and God alone is his savior. “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Our emotions often sway us and allow us to feel that God is distant. But our feelings deceive us, God promises to be with us always (see Deuteronomy 31:8 and Matthew 28:20b).

The Psalmist has a burst of faith and then in verse 6 and 7 he seems to go back into a depression. He remembers that he is in the land of the Jordan, in the foothills north of the sea of Galilee, far from Jerusalem and on the fringe of the wilderness. He is attributing his lack of hope to his position. We do the same, we attribute our lack of passion and zeal for the Lord to our circumstances and our surroundings. We complain about our situation in life, but perhaps God has you in that situation in order to be a witness for the Gospel where you are.

As we continue in verse 7, the Psalmist seems to take a turn for the worse. His distress is figuratively portrayed by billows and waves. Trouble has come over him like one wave after another, personified as if they were calling to each other to come down in the waterfalls. He had been overwhelmed as if by a flood. Have you ever had the experience where life just seems to hit you with wave after wave of trouble and trials? So what do we do when the waves of trials overwhelm us? Verse 8 is the key, “By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life”

The Psalmist begins to declare the truths about the character of God. God is loving, faithful and always near! He doesn’t pray a simple prayer hoping that some distant being might hear him, no, he prays to THE GOD OF MY LIFE! He realizes that if everything else is taken away, God, the giver and sustainer of all life is sufficient. Have you come to the realization that Jesus is enough?

The Psalmist ends with that declaration of faith again; “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

Where is your hope today? Do you hope in money, your abilities to work, or for someone else to provide for you? Or do you hope in God?

In the 21st century, why should we have confidence in God?

Hebrews 11:1 says, Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” But when the storms are raging around us, our health is failing, our finances are running out – how can we have confidence?

I can tell you today with absolute certainty that we can have confidence because of Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus the perfect sinless Son of God, died for our sins, and provided a way for us to come and talk directly to the Creator God. And by the Holy Spirit and the Word, He speaks to us, and reveals truth to us (See Hebrews 10:19 and 4:16). Not only are we able to come to God in prayer, but we are encouraged to pray boldly with confidence.

Grander earth has quaked before
Moved by the sound of His voice
Seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard

Through it all through it all – My eyes are on You
Through it all through it all – It is well
Through it all through it all – My eyes are on You
It is well with me

 Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can’t see
And this mountain that’s in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

 So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name

 It is well with my soul

 CCLI Song # 7021972, CCLI License # 122365
Horatio Gates Spafford | Kristene DiMarco | Philip Paul Bliss

Sermon July 9, 2017 Hunger for God

2 Kings 4:1-7

Hunger is an interesting fact of life, our bodies let us know when we need food and when we need more fuel to continue the day. God has created us to have hunger of many kinds, the greatest and highest of which is to know God, to have a personal relationship with him. this is the inner craving of every human being, people try to fill this craving with money, sex, drugs, food, fame, exercise and many other pursuits, but ultimately the hunger for God can only be filled by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Even when we become followers of Jesus, we still have needs that only God can fulfill.

As you read this, what is the one thing that you need God to give you right now? It might be the healing of a sick family member, financial provision, salvation of someone close to you or the mending of a broken relationship. Everyone has something that they are hungry for.

In 1 Kings 4 we read a short account of a fascinating and powerful miracle. A prophet under the leadership of Elisha died and left his wife with unpaid debts. This woman is in a desperate situation, this woman who had just lost her husband was now about to lose her two sons into slavery. So, she cries out in desperation to Elisha, the great leader of the prophets. Elisha starts by asking some simple questions; “how can I help you?” It seems as if he is testing her faith at this point.

I want to take three observations from this account.

  1. Awareness of Great Need

For anyone to cry out to God, there must be an awareness of the need. True hunger creates a capacity for God to work a miracle (see Matthew 5:6 and Matthew 6:33). Where is the focus of your hunger today?

Duncan Campbell wrote: “the crisis of conversion is a conviction of sin, but the crisis of sanctification (growing in our Christian walk) is a conviction of want.”

2. Confidence in God to Meet the Need.

As the widow expresses her need, Elisha asks her the question, “what do you have in your house?”

All she has is a small jar of oil. This sounds very similar to the miracle that Jesus performed in Matthew 15.

The principle is that we need to bring what little that we have to the Lord and allow him to perform the miracle. We try to find solutions to our problems through human resources, when God is calling us to first go to Him in prayer. We have such an awesome privilege to go before the creator of the universe in prayer, presenting our requests to Him. Are you confident that God can meet your every need? (see Philippians 4:19).

Confidence that God can perform a miracle is one thing, but are we expectant?

The widow called Elisha not because of confidence in God alone, but because she was expecting that He would bring relief to her situation.

3. Faith in Obedience brings about the Miracle.

The widow goes and collects jars from all her friends and neighbors following Elisha’s instruction, “don’t ask for just a few”. She goes indoors and closes the doors with her sons and takes the first step in faith. She takes the little jar of oil and begins to pour it, as she obeys the miracle takes place. In faith, she proceeds to do as instructed, and the miracle happens. God blesses and is pleased with faith (see Heb 11:6), we cannot please God without faith.

Notice that the jars she collected had to be empty. If one of her caring neighbors gave her a full jar to help her out, would that have done any good? No, the jars needed to be empty to receive the blessing of the miraculous oil.

Similarly, when we pray for a miracle of God’s blessing, we cannot bring anything to the table, we must not come with any of our own merits or qualifications. We must be totally dependent on the Lord to provide. Sometimes our own credits or achievements prevent us from receiving all that God wants to bless us with.

A PERSON WHO IS FULL OF THEMSELVES HAS NO ROOM FOR JESUS.

Notice the lyrics of the classic Hymn “Rock of Ages”

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;

In verse 6 we read that the oil flowed continuously until the last jar was filled, as the last jar was filled the miracle seemed to stop. The supply of oil stopped, not because it dried up, but because the capacity to receive the oil ended.

Our God never runs out of resources, material or spiritual resources, He is more than capable to bless us beyond our wildest dreams. God never looks at his bank account or his supply house and meters out his blessings according to a strict budget.

God desires to bless his children, but we must keep bringing the vessels so that He can pour His blessings into them. We must keep coming back to God in faith and asking him to fill us, no need is too small, no need is too big for God. As His children, we must present our empty vessels to Him, not half full vessels, relying on our abilities, we must rely totally on him.

When we come to Christ we must be dead to ourselves for him to be our life, we must be beggars for him to be our riches, we must be sick and weak for him to be our health and strength. We must know we are lost for Jesus to be our savior.

When we come to God with a need, I believe we don’t realize the capacity that God has to meet our needs. When Elisha told the Woman to borrow many jars, he knew the size of the miracle God could do, and it was only limited by the capacity that she was prepared to receive.

Are you praying for big miracles? The size of your prayers is directly related to your understanding of the glory and majesty of God, which is shown in your level of expectancy. What are you expecting God to do for you?

CS Lewis once wrote; “it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Let us be a people who pray boldly, trusting in the all-powerful creator of all things to provide all our needs according to His riches in Glory.

The Three Characteristics of and Evangelist. May 28, 2017

Three Characteristics of an Evangelist.

It has been such a blessing to have people at Grace Point from many different states and denominations. All the evangelism efforts this week will be driven by one central theme, the Good news of Jesus Christ, the Gospel message. The central theme that Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, fully God and fully man, lived a perfect sinless life, suffered and died on a Roman cross. But God, raised him from the dead. Jesus now lives at the right hand of the father interceding for us, and all who call on the name of Jesus as Lord will be saved.

Focusing on evangelism and the evangelist, we find in John 4:31-38 three characteristics of an evangelist. While our focus may be on those gifted in evangelism, this passage has something to teach all of us.

 In the beginning of John 4, we read that Jesus left Judea and journeyed to Galilee, in order to get to Galilee, he had to go through Samaria and a town called Sychar, the location of Jacobs well. It was at this well that Jesus met the Samaritan woman, and he proceeds to tell her everything about her life. She encounters the living God and Jesus reveals to her that he is the promised Messiah. She immediately believes and runs back to town and becomes a fiery evangelist, convincing the people to come out and meet Jesus, and they do.

The disciples were trying to figure out why Jesus was talking to a Samaritan, and a woman no less. They being good Jews did not associate with the Samaritans, and in their minds, if Jesus was the promised Messiah, then he had come for the Jews only and to establish the nation of Israel once again. But here was Jesus preaching to a Samaritan Women. As they were trying to figure this out, the people from the town were coming in a large crowd towards them (v 30). The disciples tried to save the situation by suggesting to Jesus that it was time to eat and they needed to leave. But Jesus responds in his usual metaphorical way, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about” (v 32).

And then Jesus clarifies by saying; “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work”. This is the first Characteristic of an evangelist

Doing the work of the Father gives life. What is God calling you to do? What are your specific gifts given by the Holy Spirit that when you operate in them, you receive life?

Serving the Lord is never a chore, the only time it becomes a chore is when we work in our own strength, either because of guilt or seeking the recognition of others. When you serve the Lord, when you are seeking to please an audience of one, you will find life and strength for the day.

The Samaritan woman was now doing the Father’s will and finding excitement and enrichment in it. In verse 39 we read that she was going around the town telling people about Jesus, and many believed because of her testimony.

So, the first Characteristic of an evangelist that we see in this passage is devotion.

Jesus was devoted to the task he had been given, and he finished the work the Father sent him to do. We too are to be devoted to the calling God has on our lives.

The second characteristic of an evangelist we see in verse 35, where Jesus says; “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”

I may be reading into the situation a little bit, but I don’t find it hard to believe that as Jesus was saying this, he wasn’t pointing to the fields of corn or some other crop, but rather he was pointing to the crowd of people coming down to them from the town. Jesus was pointing to them and saying, “open your eyes, here is the harvest”.

Jesus could boldly declare that the Samaritans would accept his message because he had faith.

Evangelism takes faith, faith that God will lead us to those that He has prepared in advance to receive the message. The Samaritans had been prepared, they were expecting Jesus to be the messiah and they were not disappointed.

And then finally we find the third characteristic in verse 36; “Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.”

Every person who has given their lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ has one defining characteristic, it is the hope of eternal life. The evangelist goes out, with the hope of a reward for their efforts, but the greatest reward of all is to be able to spend eternity with our Lord and savior (see Colossians 1:25 to 27).

If you are have made Jesus Christ the Lord of your life, then he has a calling on your life, he has a perfect purpose and plan for your life, the Holy Spirit has gifted you uniquely for this purpose.

These three Characteristics; Devotion, Faith and Hope apply to you and me today.

  1. Are we devoted to what God has called us to do?
  2. Do we have faith that God is about to use us for His glory?
  3. Do we have hope in the fact that whatever God has called us to do, it will have eternal results.

The Inter-Generational Church Part 2 – April 2, 2017

The Inter-Generational church Part 2

1 Timothy 4

The younger generations of today, the young children, the students, the young families, the fathers and mothers of children still at home. This is a generation of people who want to make a difference and they are the future of our churches.  During the last presidential elections, an estimated 23.7 million young voters, between the ages of 18 and 29, participated in the 2016 presidential election, this is almost 50% of that demographic. This generation has seen a dramatic rise in volunteerism and short term mission trips have taken the place of church camping trips.

This is also a media saturated generation, researchers have determined that the average person born after 1970, will see 200,000 violent acts and 16,000 murders on TV by age 18.

However, at the same time we see a tremendous rise in hunger for truth, hunger for the word of God, prayer and authentic Christianity. What has declined is a passion for denominations, and traditions.

False teachers, those proclaiming truth, but are twisting the truth for their own agenda is not something that is new to our age; false teachers have been around the church since the first century. The Apostle Paul wrote his letters to encourage young Timothy to stand firm against false teachers and to be bold in speaking the truth.

In the first letter to Timothy, Paul addresses a young man probably in his mid-30’s who he had asked to stay in Ephesus to correct false teaching, to train up new leaders and to lead the church.

Who were these false teachers? As we read in 1 Timothy 4:2, these people had their consciences seared as with a hot iron. Paul uses imagery is of a branding iron that is used to cauterize an open wound, cutting of the flow of blood, and desensitizing the area of injury.

In the same way as we are constantly exposed to evil in various forms around us, we become desensitized to it. We allow images and language into our houses that go directly against the word of God, and yet we wonder why we do not experience the power of God in our lives. We must pray daily for a heightened sensitivity and discernment. It is a spiritual gift from the Holy Spirit, and in this day and age of confusion and deception, we need discernment more than ever before.

In verse 6, Paul tells Timothy to be nourished on the truths of the faith. The truth of the word of God is our nourishment, as Jesus said in John 4:14. What water are you drinking?

Jumping down to verse 12, Paul encourages Timothy to not to be intimidated by those around him who are older, but rather he must set an example, allowing his lifestyle to speak for him. in the same way, as followers of Jesus Christ we must allow our speech, our conduct, our love, our faith and purity to demonstrate to others what it means to be a Christian.

In Speech – What do people hear from you? What do you speak about and what tone of voice do you use? Remembering that there is power in words.

  • In Conduct – This your lifestyle, the things you do, the places you go, the possessions you accumulate – every aspect of life.  Set an example in your conduct.
  • In Love – This is self-sacrificial service on behalf of others. As a young leader never ask people to do something unless you’re demonstrating it in your life first.  Leaders must be in the trenches with the people you are leading.
  • In Faith – that means faithfulness, or consistency; being there for the long haul.  The Christian life is not a sprint.  Be consistent and trustworthy, unwavering and uncompromising from start to finish.
  • And then he adds Purity – This is moral, sexual purity. Again, in our media saturated society, this is a daily challenge, but as followers of Jesus Christ we are called to lives of purity. How can a young man stay pure? See Psalm 119:9, if you want to be an example of purity, you have to read and meditate on the living the word of God, there is simply no other way.

In verse 15 and 16, Paul tells Timothy to be diligent and to persevere in these matters. Living the Christian life from an early age takes endurance, the same endurance that our Silent Generation exhibit, staying the course.

We are to stay the course because, as Paul says, so that everyone may see your progress. Your life will be a living testimony to the grace of God. And by doing so, not only will you be saved, you will also lead others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

If you are under 50 (or feel like it), children, teens, students, young married couples, singles or parents of teenagers, you are the next generation of leaders. We as the church need you to step up.

We need young leaders to humbly step into roles that have been carried by those who are growing older.

But as you already know, the world is changing rapidly, and we live in a crucial time in history.

As future leaders, you need to be strong in character and faith.

As Paul encouraged Timothy, build your life on the Word of God, it is a sure foundation that even after thousands of years still is the only certain truth that one can hold on to.

Here is the wonderful effect of the younger generation stepping up and setting an example with passion and energy, you will provoke the older generation to finish well, to spend their final years serving the Lord with all their hearts (see Hebrews 10:24).

This is the body of Christ. Not a church exclusively for older people, it is not a church exclusively for young people, but a family working effectively together, focusing on the Great Commission that Jesus gave to the church before he ascended into Heaven.

The Inter-generational Church Part 1 – March 26, 2017

The Inter-generational Church Part 1

Titus 2

A fascinating subject is the study of generations, how we classify people according to their age. If you have a certain amount of gray hair then our assumption is that you process decisions a certain way, if you are under a certain age, you may fit into a certain category of people. Because of these assumptions, we divide ourselves and others into generations.

Sociologists study these categories, and due to the incredible information age in which we live, the generations are changing quicker and becoming more segregated than ever before. Today in our churches we have the Silent Generation, the Baby Boomers, Generation X, the Millennial Generation and finally the Generation Z. Each generation has characteristics that identify them and how they relate to leadership and culture in general.

For the church to be divided by those characteristics as the world has been, is not reflecting the true Body of Christ . As a church, we are meant to grow together, serve together and love together. Fulfilling the Great Commission will take all generations.

Most churches in America today tend to fall into two camps; the first is those who have decided to reach people over the age of fifty, and the truth is that these churches are declining in membership and many are closing their doors. The second camp has decided to primarily reach the younger generation, these churches are often growing in numbers but they are struggling to meet their budgets.

Neither of these models of church is correct, we need to be churches that keep the Gospel message as our central theme. As we do that, we will experience a unity that is uncommon, a unity that will break down any man-made barriers.

The 1st century church also faced challenges in the area of unity. When the Gentiles began to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the Christian Jews were faced with a real challenge, whether to accept them or to let them form their own churches and continue to be separated. However, God called them together into an example of unity that we follow to this day, admittedly some days better than others. As Paul wrote in Romans 12:3, humility is the key, realizing that each of us are only saved by the grace of God.

The Apostle Paul also wrote a letter to a man by the name of Titus in AD 66, who was overseeing the growth and planting of new churches in the island of Crete. The church in Crete was probably founded by people from Crete who heard Peter preach at Pentecost. These churches were multi-generational, however the churches in Crete were struggling because of false teaching that had crept in from people seeking to profit from the churches. Paul instructed Titus to teach the truth, to train up elders or pastors and to firmly establish the church on the truth of the Gospel. Paul gives Titus some very practical advice. He begins the second chapter with the statement, “teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine”. Paul encourages Titus to teach the truth, without truth, the church will not be healthy.

Paul tells Titus to teach four categories of people, the older men, the older women, the young women and the young men.

Starting with the older men, those over the age of 50, Paul says teach them to be “temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.” The senior men in the congregation are to exhibit a depth of character and self-control that comes with seniority and maturity. Paul is saying that the young people are looking to you; they want to see that you control your temper, that you are not impulsive and easily swayed, which is the stability that has marked the Silent Generation.

In addition to character, the senior men are to exhibit a sound faith. Demonstrating a faith that has been tested for some years, it is faith with some battle scars. Paul lists three cardinal Christian virtues – Faith, Love and endurance.
Faith – believing God, trusting Him for the future because you have seen that He has been faithful in your past.
Love – serving others, the silent generation is characterized by people who desire to serve others before they expect to be served.
Endurance – seniors know that it takes discipline and endurance to live the Christian life.

As Paul focuses on the older women he tells Titus to teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live. Paul is saying that the older women are to practice the presence of God in their lives, by allowing the presence of God to permeate every aspect of their lives (V3).

Then Paul tells Timothy to teach the older women to avoid moral failure by sitting around drinking wine and gossiping amongst themselves. The real problem is not the slander or the drinking; the real problem is the misuse of time. Rather than waste time doing what is wrong, “Teach what is good” (v 3b). The older women are to set an example, not only teachimg by verbal instruction, but by being a living example.

Paul tells Titus to instruct the older women to teach the younger women. Older women can relate and teach the younger women far better than Titus could. This is sound advice even for today because it builds up the family. Older ladies, we as a church need you; we need you to teach the younger ladies what God has shown you in your life.

If you are one of our senior citizens, what are you doing to sow into the next generation? The best way is to come alongside a young believer and disciple them. The younger generation of believers is passionate and hungry for reality, and they also want to be challenged. But they want to see the truth of the Gospel lived out in those who go before them.  Unfortunately, many of our churches are full of good traditions but weak on passion. Many people have the misconception that attending church is enough. People go to church, attend Sunday School and even serve in the church for decades, yet they are not growing in their relationship with the Lord (see Hebrews 5:12).

My prayer is that our young people look to our seniors because they see in their lives a hunger and passion for the Lord. Are you growing in your walk with the Lord? Because those coming behind you are watching to see if it is real for you, if you practice what you have learned (see Psalm 145:4).

We have an extraordinary opportunity to be a part of something that is uncommon in the world today, a world that draws deep dividing lines between the generations. We have the opportunity, because of the power of the Gospel to be united in vision and passion as the Body of Christ. We must not to be satisfied by being multi-generational, with multiple generations in one room; rather we are to become inter-generational, working together for the Gospel.

Sermon – Starting Over Part 4 – February 5 2017

 

startingover-image1

Part 4 – The Discipline of Giving.

Luke 12:13-34

As the final discipline in this series, we are going to briefly look at the discipline of giving. More often than not, the one discipline we struggle with the most is the giving of our financial resources.

From time to time we all worry about our finances, but many pastors don’t want to preach on money and the rewards of giving for fear of sounding like the prosperity gospel peddlers. Those who preach this way teach that we must become transactional in our dealings with God. But we cannot bribe God, He doesn’t need your money, he already owns it all (see psalm 40:6 and Psalm 24:1). The bible tells us that ‘God loves a cheerful giver’, but if we give out of our selfish ambition and self-interest, God sees it for what it really is.

Stewardship is a term that has been in the church for centuries. In our modern English, stewardship seems to have been assigned to building campaigns or fundraisers. But The word comes from an old English concept of being a steward of the property owned by the lord of the land. The lord owned all the land, the buildings and all the commerce that took place in his realm. The stewards didn’t own anything, but they managed the crops, the labor, the taxes and all the day to day running of the land. In return for this service the lord of the land gave protection, food, housing for the steward.

God owns it all, he owns everything that you think you own. But just like the old stewards, we are called to be stewards for our Lord. We are going to be called on to give an account for what He has given us to manage or to steward. That is what Stewardship is. This is a huge paradigm shift for most people, as we have been raised and taught all our lives that we own things, that we have things and money because we deserve them. But the reality is that everything we have is only ours to steward or manage for God, because after we die, we no longer have ownership over it.

There is a fundamental connection between our spiritual lives and how we think and act about our finances. Fifteen percent of all the teaching we have recorded in the Bible from Jesus relates to money.

The passage of scripture found in Luke 12 is a passage that the western church finds uncomfortable. This is one of those passages that we try to rationalize and water down, because the raw truth is hard to take. Is Jesus saying that we shouldn’t save for a rainy day, or save for retirement? Our culture says that is not wise, it is simply not prudent. This wealthy man had wealth stored up for years, and God said, “you fool!” Now, I am not saying that it is wrong to be wealthy and to have wealth, but this man’s error was that he looked at his wealth as his security, he no longer trusted God for his daily bread, his wealth took the place of God in his life. His wealth had become his idol, his prudence had become his idol. And in many cases in our lives there is a very fine line between prudence and idolatry.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”Jim Elliot

As Jesus turns aside to his disciples in verse 22, and in the next few verses Jesus uses the words, “do not worry” or “do not be afraid” four times. Jesus isn’t suggesting this, he is giving a command; “do not worry”. It is a directive from the creator of the universe, therefore, if we worry about possessions, food, clothing or that rainy day that may never come, it is a sin that we need to repent of.

(see also 1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Randy Alcorn in his book “the treasure principle” breaks down this teaching and Matthew 6. As we give away what we cannot keep, we literally are putting treasure in heaven.

The legalist will tell you that you must give, but in reality, you don’t have to give, but you will be so glad you did. You will be eternally blessed as you give.

Imagine you were Alive during the civil war, you are a northerner, however you were living and doing business in the South. During this time you had accumulated a lot of confederate currency. As you saw the war coming to an end you planned to go back home to the North. So what do you do with all the confederate money you had saved up? After the war it would be worthless as it was not official US currency. Well naturally, you would cash in the money and change it for US currency. You would keep only enough confederate money to meet your immediate short term needs. As Christians, we have inside information, knowledge of how this all ends. We know that when Jesus comes again, all our hard-earned currency will be worthless. Everything you have will be worthless to you when Jesus comes again, or you die. Either of those could happen today.

Some years ago I obtained a real treasure, it is a 500 million Zimbabwean dollar, however it has an expiration date. At the time the country had an inflation rate of 3000%, and the money became worthless after a certain period of time. We may laugh at this, but do you realize that every dollar you have has an expiration date; when you die, it becomes worthless to you.

500 million zim

We have this false idea that as long as we get through this life and believe in the name of Jesus, then we will get wonderful blessings and rewards in heaven. The bible is clear that there will be different rewards given to different people. Those who have not invested in eternal treasures will get a meager reward in heaven. Those who have little regard for temporal treasures, but rather choose to invest them eternally, will receive a return on investment that will make any wall street stock market gain seem miniscule.

Gaze upon Christ long enough and you will become more of a giver. Give long enough and you will become more like Christ.”  Randy Alcorn

Contentment January 16, 2017

contentment

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 the Apostle Paul writes; “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Paul is encouraging the young church to be continually grateful for the blessings of God. Thanksgiving is not simply a weekend once a year, it is meant to be part of our lives on a daily basis as we see the hand of God at work for our daily provision.

Looking at another of Paul’s letters we read in Philippians 4:12;  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

This past Monday during our staff meeting we discussed the topic of contentment. I asked the staff to imagine their own scene of contentment. Most of the team responded with images of picturesque landscapes, warm sunshine and restful armchairs. This is the response and image most of us have when we imagine contentment.

But is it possible to be grateful and yet not content? The answer to that question is yes, we can be grateful for a gift from someone, but yet that gift does not completely fulfill a specific need that we might have. However, in our daily lives as Christians, we are challenged by Paul to be content in every situation. As we pray for God to give us our daily bread, not only do we need to live in gratitude but in order to be content we need to have faith. Faith that what God provides for us is perfect for us and that he will provide for us tomorrow as well.

In James chapter 1, James writes about perseverance under trials and persecutions, but before he concludes this section of the letter we read verse 17; “ Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

James reminds his readers that in the midst of challenging and life threatening situations, we can be content because our Heavenly Father will take care of us.

What are you grateful for today? As we think about the many things and people we are grateful for, we must remember that there is only one thing that we will be eternally grateful for and that is our salvation because of the Gospel message. Everything else is temporary, all our personal possessions are secondary and are fleeting in their joy. In our current situation, we may not have all we want, but in Christ we have exactly what we need.

We develop contentment as we relinquish control of our lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

So, what is contentment? Is it sitting overlooking a beautiful valley, drinking a cup of tea, in the comfort of a rocking chair? Even though this is a good image of contentment, it has one flaw. Contentment is not passive, contentment is engaged in life and actively moving forward in God’s will and plan for our lives.  Contentment is walking in faith, knowing that all of our tomorrow’s are already in His mighty hand.

Thank God daily, and ask him to cultivate your contentment. Remember what Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:6; “But godliness with contentment is great gain. “

God and the Election Part 2, November 13, 2016

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Romans 13

Welcome to post election 2016. There is much anxiety in America right now, we see it in our streets and in the media. As the church, how do we navigate these turbulent times? What it really boils down to is the question, where do we place our hope? Do we trust in our government, or do we trust in our God?

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As an immigrant, I have the unusual experience of being a dual citizen. I have a passport from America, and I have a passport from South Africa. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you too have dual citizenship.

The Bible has a number of passages that guide us in our relationship with our earthly rulers. Paul writing in Romans 13 has much to say to us as Christians in 2016.

One of the more challenging verses in the Bible is Romans 13:1. Paul states that every authority has been established by God, and he repeats himself to ensure that the readers would not misunderstand the dramatic statement he was making. This article is too short to try to understand why God would allow rulers like Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung and so many other dictators. There is much we don’t and won’t understand this side of eternity. But God is either Lord of all or he is a victim of unexplained circumstances.

I don’t for one minute believe God is reacting to sinful man. God is not the author of evil, neither is he the victim of evil.  God is the creator and sustainer of all things, he knew from the beginning of time who would win the election this past week. God alone is in control and he is not fretting about election results.

Looking at Romans 13:2, any thinking person immediately struggles – are we to obey everything that the government tells us to do, even if it is immoral? These verses written by the apostle Paul are not intended to be an absolute rule demanding unconditional obedience to evil regimes in the world, rather it is a general exhortation for believers to be good citizens of the nation, paying taxes, following the law and playing our part in society. However, when the government requires citizens to go against the stated will and law of God in the Bible, then we are compelled to follow the law of God rather than the law of the government. There are many occasions in the Bible where God approves and even commands disobedience towards the rulers of the land. Look at Esther, Daniel, Peter and the Apostles directly defying the Sanhedrin in Acts 5 by continuing to preach the Gospel as but a few examples.

As we read further in the chapter, it seems that Paul shifts focus entirely and begins to write about loving our neighbor. Paul is going back to the law of God, he started the chapter by writing about the laws of the land, now he is looking at the higher law, the law of God. If this portion sounds similar it is very similar to what Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40. Paul confirms this and he ends verse 10 by saying; “Therefore Love is the fulfillment of the law”.

Paul continues in verse 11 by saying; “and do this…” do what? Obey the law of the land, and obey the law of God. Being model citizens of both the land and the Kingdom of God. Why?

Here is the most important verse of the chapter, verse 11 states; “And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”

Understanding the present time, the times we are living in are truly incredible, history is culminating towards the return of Jesus. What Paul says to the Roman church he says to us, “wake up”, wake up and focus on eternal things. If we have been living in sin, it is time to wholeheartedly live for Jesus Christ and his kingdom. If we have been compromising with the world, we cannot afford to do that anymore. Now is the time to wake up!

You may have been completely isolated and had your head in the sand, but the world around us is scared. There is uncertainty all around, we as followers of Jesus, do not need to live in fear and uncertainty.

As the Church we need to take very seriously the task of praying for our nation. In fact, if we really took seriously God’s word and we really cared for our nation and the world at this time, our prayer meetings will be the most well attended meetings in the church. The church doors would be open all the time as people would be gathering together to pray and ask God for mercy and healing for our land.

The well-known verse 2 Chronicles 7:14, recounts a pivotal time in the history of Israel. As we apply this verse to ourselves, we too are in a pivotal time. Notice that God does not say that if the nation humbles themselves and prays, rather he says “if my people”. We as followers of Jesus Christ need to start the process by humbling ourselves and by repenting of our wicked ways. Paul called on the Roman church to repent in verse 13, calling on the church to commit themselves to holiness and purity. We as followers of Jesus Christ need to set the standard in our own lives.  

Do you have dual citizenship? Are you a citizen of the land and a citizen of heaven? You may say yes, but you are living in fear and uncertainty. As a citizen of heaven, a citizen under Jesus Christ as the king of Kings, you need to repent of fear and begin to display the kingdom of God to those around you, being a light in your community. If we truly grasped the truth of the Word of God we should be the most hopeful and joyful people in the world.

A Mother that Never Gave Up May 8 2016

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Matthew 15:21-28

“A Mother that never gave up

Have you ever needed a miracle of provision or healing that seemed impossible? Maybe you are in that position now? Trusting God for what seems impossible. This is faith, faith to believe that God will provide, faith to believe that God will move on our behalf. The truth is that God is pleased with our faith, God rewards faith.

In Matthew 15 we read of a woman who set an example and a standard for what it takes to please God. Do you want to please God?

 This Syrophoenician women comes to Jesus with a problem, her daughter is demon possessed and suffering terribly. She had probably heard that Jesus was coming to town and she trusted that Jesus could heal her daughter. She was desperate, and probably had tried every other avenue to have her daughter set free. This was her last hope, she was desperate.

But it seems like she is being rejected by Jesus and his disciples. We read in verse 23 that Jesus said nothing to her. He completely ignored her and seemed almost callous and cold to her pleas.

The disciples were probably annoyed and they urge Jesus to send her away, because she was crying out persistently.

On the outside it seemed that Jesus didn’t seem to care, it was as if he was testing her. Her situation was desperate, why was Jesus not responding to her need?

Sometimes we face a desperate situation, and God is silent. Has He forgotten us? Does He not see our situation?

Jesus finally responds to all the crying and pleading and says to her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (v24)

It seems that Jesus is finally rejecting her completely, the door is shut.

But she grows in her courage and faith, and she kneels before Jesus. Now she calls him Lord. She is not approaching him as a Jew; “Lord, Son of David” that she used in v 22, she calls him Lord! She is worshipping Jesus. “Lord Help Me!”

Jesus seems to insult her as he responds further, calling her and her gentile people dogs. Jesus said; “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs” (v26)

But the woman quickly responds, she is getting bolder now, she has nothing to lose and seeing that Jesus is responding to her, she seems to grow in courage (v27).

Her faith is small but it is maturing. Remember Jesus said in Matthew 17:20, that if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can move a mountain. It is not the size or quantity of the faith it is the maturity of the faith.

As Jesus hears her faith and humility he responds immediately by commending her faith and healing her daughter.  Her faith is rewarded and her daughter is healed. It is interesting to note that Matthew records two occasions in his Gospel of people that had the distinction of having great faith. This Canaanite woman and the Roman centurion in Matthew 8. Both were gentiles, and on both occasions Jesus healed from a distance. The reality was that the gentiles were spiritually distanced from the Jews and the ministry of Jesus. But, that is why Jesus came to die on the cross, to reconcile all nations and people groups to himself. It is simply a matter of faith. Jesus still rewards faith today.

 Sometimes it seems like Jesus is saying no, Sometimes it seems like he is blessing others but we are being ignored – this is what tests our faith and matures our faith.

 Today God is looking for people who walk by faith not by sight. The reward of a lifestyle of faith is great. God does not put us through trials for no apparent reason, rather it is to develop our faith and trust in Him.

 Individually and corporately as a church we are being tested in our faith. Read James 1:2-4: Do you see the progression? Trials test our faith, which produces endurance, which perfects us and then we will lack nothing. We will lack no good thing.

Corporately we are having our faith tested, and the Lord is looking to see how we respond. In a few weeks we are going to vote on a re-allocation of our budget to support a church plant. We know that we are running at a deficit budget, giving is down, it seems illogical. So how do we respond? Do we pray and ask the Lord for His will and then move in faith in the direction he gives us or do we respond in fear?

Read the encouragement of the Psalmist in Psalm 37:25.

Individually, what is the desperate need of your heart today? Don’t give up, be persistent, come to the Lord daily, hourly, but keep believing that what His Word says is true and that He is able to give you what you need. Note I didn’t say all our wants, rather all our needs, God knows our needs and The Lord will provide for you in his perfect timing and perfect way, and you will be able to look back with stronger faith.

Not only will you have a stronger faith, but you will be pleasing God and your life will be a testimony to others about the goodness of God.

Faith is pleasing to God. The Bible says in 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 have faith we must believe that God exists, this is the root of faith.

If we struggle with faith, it is because we struggle to believe that God exists.

God is the all-powerful creator of the universe and He is your Heavenly Father, if we truly understand the depths of God’s love for us, we would have no problem with faith. And the final part of that verse is the promise of God; “that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Trust in God He will never let you down.