Sermon, Sunday April 24, 2022 – A Life Like No Other

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Jonathan Haidt recently wrote, “Artificial intelligence is close to enabling the limitless spread of highly believable disinformation.”

We live in a world where truth is almost unbelievable because of the saturation of lies and false narratives that are being promoted globally. Objective truth has been denied and sadly many Christians do not turn to the Word of God for truth and discernment. We should not be surprised by the ever-increasing volume of lies and misinformation in a world where Satan has his domain (John 8:44)

In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”. Jesus embodies truth. He is truth. John the Beloved disciple of Jesus wrote three short letters to the church in and around Ephesus. The primary purpose of the letters was to counter false teaching, causing confusion in the early church. The primary lie that was being promoted in the early church in Asia Minor was that Jesus was not God.

The fact the Jesus is the creator God himself is the foundational truth of the church. If that is not true, then his death and resurrection have no redemptive purpose.

Looking at the first four verses of 1 John, the author focuses our gaze on the Word of Life, the Son of God. In these verses we will see three aspects of how we relate to the truth that is Jesus. It is essential that we get the correct understanding of this man who is fully God and fully man at the same time.

1: A passion to know Jesus.

John wants us to know Jesus, the Word of Life who came down from heaven, and by his life, death, and resurrection provided a way for us to have fellowship with God the Father, now and for eternity. In the first 2 verses, John highlights two key truths about the uniqueness of Jesus.

A: He Is Divine

He begins with, “that which was from the beginning.” And in verse 2, “the eternal life that was with the Father…”

Jesus has always eternally existed with the Father as God. There has never been a time when the Son did not exist (John 8:58 and John 10:30). There never was a time when the Son was not fully God.

B: He Is Human

In these same verses John makes a clear case for the humanity of Jesus. He speaks as an eyewitness of the life and ministry of Jesus. He speaks about hearing Jesus, seeing Jesus and touching Jesus. He was a real person.

At the time, there was a false teaching that John was countering, an early form of what is called “Gnosticism,” a term based on the Greek word that means knowledge. They believed that all matter was evil and that salvation is by a mystical spiritual knowledge. Some of the Gnostics taught that Jesus only appeared to be human.

It is essential that we believe that, Jesus really became a human being in the flesh (John 1:14).

John Piper wrote, “When God becomes a man, man ceases to be the measure of all things, and this man becomes the measure of all things. This is simply intolerable to the rebellious heart of men and women. The incarnation is a violation of the bill of human rights written by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It is totalitarian. It’s authoritarian! Imperialism! Despotism! Usurpation! Absolutism! Who does he think he is! GOD!”

2: Once we know Jesus, we will have a passion to Share Jesus.

“That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you…” 1 John 1:3a.

Jesus chose twelve men, and they were so impacted by following him that the world was turned upside down (Acts 17:6). They were ordinary uneducated men who were compelled to take this Gospel message to the entire world. What they had experienced in Jesus they wanted others to experience too.

Everyone in the Bible who encountered Jesus, was compelled to share Jesus with others. Many believers today excuse themselves from sharing the Gospel because they feel that they don’t have the gift of evangelism. But it is not about a spiritual gift, it is about encountering Jesus. Simply put, encountering Jesus leads to speaking about Jesus.

If you are not sharing Jesus, you are not encountering Jesus. Which begs the question, do you know Jesus?

And what is the purpose of this sharing? Verse 3 continues, “…so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

This sharing is an invitation to relationship with Jesus, and an added blessing is the family that we get introduced to as a result. The invitation is open to everyone.

This fellowship that we enjoy as the body of Christ is far deeper than a gathering of like-minded people, or a social club or a fraternity. We are invited into a family that transcends all earthly barriers. Christianity is all about relationships being restored, firstly our relationship with God, and then we get millions of brothers and sisters all around the world.

3: We will enjoy Jesus.

And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete” 1 John 1:4. John wrote this letter so that we might know the fulness of Joy. Jesus also said this in John 15:11.

That fullness of joy is ours through our friendship with one another and with God, who is now our Father. And all of it made possible by the gospel of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

As we walk this earth daily confronted by sin and pain, how can we experience joy?

The real issue is the difference between Joy and happiness. Happiness is short lived and dependent on external factors. Joy is peace based on security. We have Joy because we are in Christ and we have a certainty of his love for us, displayed on the cross and promised in his return.

To enjoy Jesus, we must receive him as he is; the eternal son of God, crucified, and raised back to life for our sins and coming back again. And as we submit to him as Lord, we will fully enjoy him.

Do you know this Jesus?

Are you sharing this Jesus?

Are you enjoying this Jesus?

Sermon Sunday March 27, 2022 – I am the Good Shepherd – John 10:1-15

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In John 10 verse 11, Jesus called himself, the Good Shepherd, contrasting himself to a hired hand who simply cares for the sheep to get paid. Then Jesus called the Pharisees, “hired hands” in verse 12.

Jesus continues (verse 11 and 15) to say that the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. To those listening, a shepherd was supposed to be brave and fight off wild animals, but dying for the sheep was a tragedy and not the intention of the shepherd.

In John 10, Jesus stated five times that he was going to lay down his own life, and Jesus clearly affirmed the sacrificial nature of His death. He did not die as a martyr, he died as a substitute, willingly laying down his life for us. Remember how John the Baptist identified Jesus when he met him (see John 1:29).

Furthermore in John 10:14 Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.” How well do you know Jesus?

When we think of Jesus as the Good Shepherd many of us think of Psalm 23. It is a wonderful Psalm, but utterly meaningless if you don’t know the Shepherd personally. When you go to church or open the Bible, do you simply want to know about God, or do you desire to know Him personally. This is the personal relationship that Jesus offers us.  

Because God knows our natures, He also knows our needs before we are even aware of them. As the shepherd cares for the sheep, the sheep get to know their shepherd better. The Good Shepherd knows His sheep and His sheep know Him. They get to know Him better by listening to His voice (the Word) and experiencing His daily care.

There are three important aspects between the Shepherd and his sheep.

1: The Shepherd knows his sheep.

The Bible describes close relationships between shepherds and their flocks (See John 10:14-15a). There is an intimacy and a closeness of relationship between Jesus and his followers. Jesus goes on to say in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me…”

In the Gospel of John, the word “know” means much more than intellectual awareness. It speaks of an intimate relationship between God and His people. The shepherd knows each of his sheep personally and therefore knows best how to care for them.

How is your relationship with Jesus? Do you listen for his voice daily? Are you following him as he leads you besides still waters? This is the normal Christian life.

Christ, as the Good Shepherd, knows his sheep perfectly. There is nothing about you that he does not know, from the most obvious to what you think is the most hidden, he knows it all!

Spend a few minutes reading and meditating on Psalm 139:1-4. Verse 4 says, “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.”

He doesn’t just know it after I say it, he knows it before I say it. Who else would we want to know us this well but the one who promises to be with us, to hem us in, to safeguard us, and to minister to us in our weakness? (Psalm 139:5).

Wherever I go, Christ is with me. He surrounds me and never abandons me, because he knows me. He knows that I am weak, and that I need the good shepherd. He gently cares for us and deals with us according to our need.

2: The Good Shepherd Protects His Sheep.

Jesus willingly died in order to save us. It is through his sacrifice that we are protected.

D.A. Carson wrote, “The shepherd does not die for his sheep to serve as an example, throwing himself off a cliff in a grotesque and futile display, while bellowing, ‘See how much I love you!’ No, the assumption is that the sheep are in mortal danger; that in their defense, the shepherd loses his life; and that by his death (and only by his death) could they be saved. This is what makes him the good shepherd above all else: he willingly dies for his sheep, to protect them.”

Normally, if a shepherd dies, the flock is abandoned to wild animals. There is no-one to protect them. So it is never a good thing for the shepherd to die.

In contrast Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, knows that if he does not die, his flock will be abandoned. Jesus is intentional about the sacrifice he offers. Jesus said in both verses 11 and 14, “I lay down my life for the sheep.” A shepherd may be willing to sacrifice his life, but Jesus doesn’t just say that he’s willing. He’s planning and pursuing it. It was his knowledge of what we needed and his willingness to meet that need that led to his death.

It wasn’t the power of Satan or even the Roman Empire, but the authority of the Son, that leads him to lay down his life, so that he might take it up again for us.

3: The Good Shepherd Provides for His Sheep

In Genesis 22 Isaac was spared and God provided a ram to be the sacrifice (see Genesis 22:14). We are introduced to God as our provider. A foreshadowing of the time when the Good Shepherd would lay down his life for his sheep.

It is still true today that the Good Shepherd is providing for his sheep even in the midst of the multiple crises that the world is facing. Our Good Shepherd sees us and provides for us.  

The last verse of Psalm 23 says, “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life…” God’s goodness is guaranteed for all our days.

God is still providing manna and multiplying food for the multitudes (see Philippians 4:19). The Lord knows what you need even before you do. Goodness and mercy follow you all the days of your life: it’s a promise that’s evidenced in his great provision in sacrificing himself for us. He provides for us now and will provide for you forevermore.

Do you know the Good Shepherd?

Sermon Sunday March 6, 2022 “I am the Bread of Life”.

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How easily do you get offended?

Jesus was not afraid to offend in order to reveal the heart. In John 6:35, Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life…” And it offended his followers.

(Please read John chapter 6 before reading any further.)

Aware that his disciples were grumbling about his statement, he said in verse 61, “Does this offend you?”

Throughout his time on the earth, Jesus asked many great questions, but this is one of the best.

The Greek verb for offense here is “Scandalizo”, which means to cause to trip or stumble.                       

When’s the last time Jesus offended you

What causes us to stumble in the Gospel’s?

How about…

  • Blessed are the meek? (Matthew 5:5)
  • Love your enemies? (Matthew 5:44)
  • Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. (Luke 6:28)
  • For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.  (Matthew 7:14)
  • Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  (Matthew 7:21)

As we read the Bible we should be “tripped up” all the time as our neatly packaged Western Christian mindset is challenged. It’s one of the only ways that we know that we’re truly following Jesus and not crafting him into our image, squeezing him through the lens of our expectations and sensibilities.

There are two reasons why we should be offended by Jesus.  

1. Jesus wants to confront our idols.

Jesus should always be offending our; theology, politics, lifestyles and our love for comfort and possessions (1 Corinthians 1:23).                      

Today, Christianity, true Biblical Christianity will still offend us and the world around us.

At the core of this is the question of Lordship. Jesus wants no other competing affection or anything that takes the place or priority of Jesus in our decision making.

2. Jesus wants us to grow more into his image.

The offense of Jesus is one of the best and most effective ways for us to grow into who he wants us to be (1 John 2:5-6).

We are saved to be transformed into the image of Christ and yet too many so-called Christians have a “jesus”, that they have created in their own image. One who will never confront their sin, who will never rebuke them and never ask them to give up anything. That is not Biblical Christianity.                              

When Jesus said, “I am…”, his followers were offended that he was referring to himself in the same way God revealed himself to Moses in Exodus 3.

They were offended when he said that the manna from Heaven was not as lasting as his own Bread.

They were offended when he declared that he was better than Moses.

And they were offended when Jesus said that they would have to eat his flesh and drink his blood.

We must remember that Jesus said everything he said with specific intent. He is not putting down Moses, the Manna, and their worship, rather he was saying, “I am the fulfillment of those things that were simply a picture”.

Jesus had to offend them to reveal the truth to them of who he was. And so must he do with us!

Sometimes we need to be offended by the truth of who Jesus is in order to put away some of what we have believed or been taught about who Jesus really is.

We get offended, we wrestle with truth and it is uncomfortable. However, we need to be confronted in order to grow in our Christian walk.

So, we need to experience his transformational offense in our lives for our own good.

Here are three practical ways that we can invite Jesus to offend us.

1.           Read the gospels and the Bible. Repeatedly.

As we read things in the Bible that we don’t know what to do with, we are challenged, and if we are honest, we get offended, and it is good for us as we wrestle with the truth.

2.           Invite his Spirit to offend. As we read the Word, invite the Holy Spirit to bring conviction and truth to us (Psalm 139:23-24).

3.           Allow people into your life who will speak truth.                                   

Who’s someone in your life that has offended you deeply and yet, it was the best thing that could have ever happened to you?

Sadly, we live in a culture where if someone offends you, you simply walk away. We sever relationship and maybe even leave the church. Rather, we should be pressing through the offense, growing through the truth and granting grace for one another in the process.

If Jesus offends you, either through his Word, the Holy Spirit, or through another believer who you trust, ask, “What about that offends me? Why?”

If you believe and receive the truth it becomes healthy to you. We grow through those experiences. But, in order to grow, we have to confront them.                                                                                                    When Jesus offended the disciples with the truth, many left him as we read in John 6:66. Jesus turns to the twelve in verse 67 and says, “do you want to go away as well?”

Peter quickly responds, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:68-69

What are you wrestling with today?

Maybe there is a difficult scripture that doesn’t fit your view of who God is?

Maybe you are offended at God because of a prayer that was not answered the way you wanted it to be answered?

Maybe you have an offense toward someone else in the church, who spoke the truth and you rejected it.

Humbly lean into the offense and see what the Lord might be teaching you. Ask a trusted Christian who has walked with the Lord for many years, and allow Jesus to continue to conform you into His image.

Sermon, Sunday January 30 2021, Ask Big

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2 Kings 4:1-7

What are you asking God for today? Is it big?

Are you boldly asking for a miracle from God? Many people don’t ask big, because they simply don’t believe that God can or will answer their prayers.

In 2 Kings 4, we read the account of a widow in desperate need, who reaches out to the prophet Elisha for help, knowing that he will have the answer. This poor widow had great confidence that reaching out to Elisha would save her family. She had no backup plan, she knew that she needed to speak to Elisha, he was the man of God who could help.

When you have a need, who do you turn to? Do you try to ask your social media “friends”? How quick are you to turn to prayer?

I have noticed that strangely many Christians ask for prayer, but they themselves are not praying for a miracle. Maybe the feeling is that God hears others who are perhaps more “holy” than me. We must remember that we all have equal access to the throne of grace.

Elisha asks the widow, “what shall I do for you?”  in verse 2.The need is obvious, but she must articulate it, and there is an act of faith in speaking out the need. Jesus required the same from Bartimaeus in Mark 10:51, “what do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus asked big, and he received his sight because he believed in the one who was standing in front of him.

Sometimes we are praying for crumbs when Jesus is inviting us to ask for a feast. Do you believe in the one who can supply all your needs?

Our needs are more than physical, our greatest need is spiritual. How desperate are you for God to intervene in power in your life? Jesus said in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

We don’t thirst for righteousness because we are lulled into comfort by the entertainment of the world, and we don’t realize our deepest need. Remember in all this, God is for you, and He is generous.

Elisha continues and asks the widow, “What have you in the house?” She had nothing left, only a small amount of oil, and she was ready to give that to the Lord.

What do you have that you can bring to Jesus? Sometimes all we have is a little faith. God can use that.

Elisha then gives her an unusual instruction, but it was the step of faith that she needed to take, “Then he said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few.”

This was another test of her faith because the size of the miracle was dependent on the size of her faith; how many vessels she borrowed. There are times when we have to take a step in faith even before we see the miracle we are praying for.

I am certain if the family had known what would happen, they would have rented the local warehouse and brought in vessels from every city in the nation, but how could they have known. They acted in faith.  

In verse 6 we read how the miraculous flow of the oil ended when the vessels were all full. The miracle ended, not because God could not provide anymore, but because the capacity to receive had been exceeded.

The limiting factor is never God’s ability to give, it is our capacity to receive. What it boils down to, is how much of our lives are we willing to give over to the control of the Holy Spirit (see Luke 11:13).

Another lesson we can learn from this is that the oil was multiplied in the pouring out from the little she had. The way to increase what we have is to use it, sometimes to give it away.  It is not hoarding the talents, but trading with them, that doubles them (see Luke 19).

It takes faith to use what God has given you, especially when the world says, “hold on to what you have, you never know when a rainy day will come”. What talent is God inviting you to invest in the kingdom today?

Finally, notice that this miracle took place in the private place, the prophet told the widow to go into her room and close the door. Her need was met when she met certain conditions. One of the acts of obedience was to close the door, to be alone with her sons and the presence of God.

It was a personal miracle and she had to be the one doing the pouring, not Elisha or anyone else. When God tells you to do something, don’t look over your shoulder and see who might be a more qualified person to do it. What God has blessed you with will increase best in your own hands as you are obedient to God.

This miracle not only meets the widow’s needs, but she was blessed with abundance. God performed a powerful creative miracle and it all started with the level of expectation of the widow. She sent for Elisha because she had absolute confidence that a miracle would happen.

What are you praying for today? What is the level of your expectation?

Maybe if your heart was fully exposed, you don’t believe that God is going to give you what you are asking for? Deep down, you don’t believe he is able or that he is generous.

Another word for expectation is faith. Do you pray, believing in the God of the impossible? We read about men and women of faith in Hebrews 11, they all had an expectation in the power of God.

Duncan Campbell wrote, “there is a place beyond consecration, there is a place beyond sanctification, and that is the place of implicit confidence in God”

The level of your confidence in the power of God determines the size of your ask.

What are you asking for?

Sermon, Sunday January 23 2022 – ASK Part 2

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Before You Ask

James 4:1-10

When my son Joshua wants to ask me for something that he knows I might not want to give him, he uses a lot of strategy and downright emotional manipulation. He is a master of the ask. He prepares me for the question, softens me up and then when he thinks the moment is right, he makes his case.

Sometimes as children of God, we think we must prepare God for our ask. But I would propose rather that we need to prepare ourselves before we ask God for what we want.

God is not a mean vindictive father who withholds blessings until we get our act together. Matthew 7:11 says, “…how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

But, what does it mean to prepare ourselves to ask God? I am talking about the personal pursuit of holiness and purity that we are all called to as followers of Jesus.

James was dealing with conflict in the church as a result of the people embracing sinful lifestyles (see James 4:1). Some of the members of the church in Jerusalem were seeking pleasure by running after things which they thought would bring them joy. Things that were contrary to the perfect will of God.

God designed us to enjoy things and to find pleasure in things, so that is not wrong, but the driving desire for pleasure that is selfish is the problem. Looking to the world to satisfy what only God can, leads to dissatisfaction, pain, and broken lives. This is the result of a prayerless and selfish lifestyle.

The battle for holiness is fought in the mind. How healthy are the thoughts you entertain?

In verse 4, James exposes that as Christians, we have a singular allegiance, and that is to Christ alone. He calls our friendship with the world as spiritual adultery.

What are the affections of your heart? Do you find yourself thinking about; sexually immoral things, the accumulation of possessions, a certain addiction you entertain, how to manipulate people or situations for your own personal gain? Do you entertain sin by the movies you watch, the music you listen to or the places you go to?

Some may say that I am being old fashioned and that we need to stay away from challenging people’s moral decisions. But God’s requirement for holiness has never changed, and as James tells us, by accommodating these things, we are making ourselves enemies of God. You are making yourself the enemy of the one who gave His son for your salvation. It is time that we challenged each other in the area of purity.

We pray for revival, and historically a revival is a move of God that is characterized by repentance and people crying out to God for mercy as they were made aware their sins.

The question is, do we want this? Or are we comfortable and satisfied with weak and ineffectual Christian lives? We are no different to the world, we don’t take holiness seriously, we don’t take sin seriously. We fear man more than we fear God.

When we entertain sin in our lives and in the lives of the people around us, we are making ourselves the enemy of God. Sin is never personal; it affects all those around us. There are no private sins. When we entertain sin, we cheapen the grace of God, and we grieve the Holy Spirit.

But there is good news! As followers of Jesus filled with His spirit, when we fall and run after the pleasures that are contrary to the will of God for our lives, we are still greatly loved by our Heavenly Father. He is jealous for us, and He yearns for us to return to him.

When we sin, God does not stop loving us as that would be contrary to His nature. When we sin, God’s love for us is on full display. He reaches towards us to prevent us from hurting ourselves.

The root of all sin is pride, and that is where we need to start. We need to be humble and repent of our sins. Here is the amazingly good news of the Gospel, God offers us salvation freely and he offers his grace freely to grow in humility (James 4:6).

With humility as our starting point, we see a list of remedies for our sin in the following verses. James gives a prescription for our struggle with sin. It is only by the grace of God, but as we follow this prescription, we will know joy, peace, power, and freedom in our Christian lives.

The prescription is found in verses 7 -10, Submit yourself to God, resist the devil, draw near to God (meditating on His word and time in prayer and worship), cleanse your hands (repent of your sins), purify your heart (Psalm 51:10), mourn and weep, humble yourself.

Finally, we come to the closing phrase of verse 10, “and He will exalt you”

We must be careful; this is not an exalting in the way we would exalt a hero or a sports star. James means that after you have humbled yourself, repented and mourned over your sin, then He will lift you up. He will restore your identity. He will restore your standing before the throne of grace. Then you will live and thrive, living from your identity of who you are in Christ.

When we are not humble and in a right relationship with God, we are not going to ask for things that are on God’s heart, the things that are good for us.

Once we prepare our hearts and minds, once we humble ourselves and repent, only then will we know the perfect will of God and we will want what He wants.

What area of your life is God inviting you to deal with today?

Sermon, Sunday January 16 2022, What Are You Asking For?

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Matthew 7:1-11

As we stand on the cusp of a New Year, what are you asking God to give you?

Matthew 7 verses 7 to 11 are amongst the most comforting verses in all of Scripture. And what makes them even more encouraging is that the one who makes the promise is the Son of God who has been given all authority.

We all face uncertainty in the year ahead, but we can face it with certainty in the promise of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus does not promise to remove our hardships and difficulties, he said so in John 16:33. But he always promises to sustain us and provide for us through the challenges.

In the early years of our marriage, Debbie and I prayed fervently for God to give us children. He didn’t give us the answer in the way we wanted. But looking back now, we are so grateful that God has given us far more than we could ever imagine in our two children.

What are you asking God for today that might not be in His perfect plan for your life? Will you have the faith to trust Him with the better gift that He has in store for you?

When we read Matthew 5,6 and 7, we are confronted by the incredibly high standard for Christian living that Jesus presents. In fact, the standard that Jesus lifts up in the sermon on the Mount, is so high it is impossible to keep without the help and grace of God.

And this is exactly what Jesus offers beginning in verse 7. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

Think about this promise from Jesus in the light of living the Christian life.

This passage offers us three conditions to receiving this promise from Jesus.

Firstly, we need to recognize our need.

The fact is that we are born in sin. We are all separated from a relationship with our Creator. We all have the same desperate need, the need to be in a right relationship with God.

The Good News is that we can be reconciled to God through the blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross. However, to be a Christian is not a onetime event causing us to be perfect for the rest of our lives. We all live imperfect lives, subject to failure.

We are saved when we make Jesus Lord of our lives, but the process of sanctification takes the rest of our lives as God, by His mercy, renews us into the image of His son.

The Greek verbs that Jesus used in Matthew 7:7 are in the present active tense. Jesus is saying, keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. There is a daily persistence in prayer, asking the Lord to help us. In fact, the Greek verb conveys urgency. This is an urgent asking, seeking, and knocking, desperate for Jesus to help us.

It’s the New Year and always a time when people make resolutions and lifestyle commitments. Many believers make commitments to pray more, read their bibles more and share the Gospel more regularly. But as we all know all too well, many New Years resolutions fade and are soon forgotten. The reason is that we don’t keep on asking for God to help us, we aren’t persistent in our cry to God for His strength to help us grow in our Christian lives (see Philippians 3:13-14).

If we were honest, this is where we struggle the most. We don’t have the persistence and the endurance. We need help.

Secondly, we see in this passage is that God is our Father.

In verse 11 Jesus said, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

We can get so familiar with our Christian terminology that we can easily miss how crucial this is for us. To say we believe that God is our Heavenly Father is one thing, but is it something we are conscious of on a daily/ hourly basis? Do we really get it?

What a privilege it is that we can come to the throne of God in prayer. We get invited to call on God as Father (see James 1:17).

But not everyone has the privilege to call God Father. The incredible privilege is only available to those who know Jesus Christ as Lord (see John 1:11-12).

Once we become His children, we receive all the benefits of being adopted sons and daughters. He watches over us and gives us good and perfect gifts. Your Heavenly Father is eager to bless you.

God will never give you anything that is evil, but just because God will never give us anything evil, it doesn’t mean that we will never experience anything unpleasant. There is still suffering and evil in the world.

Thirdly, God never makes a mistake.

Matthew 7:8 says, “…how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him.”  How much More! This is the overarching theme of the Bible; God is generous towards His children and he blesses them beyond their expectations.

But what is the best gift God can give us?

Solomon was offered anything he wanted, and he chose wisdom. But there is still a better gift.  

Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Mount gives us the answer in Luke 11:13, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

In giving us the Holy Spirit, God gives us His very presence and we receive spiritual gifts. We receive everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

The need for the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is an ongoing need. Daily we are invited to ask the Father to be filled with the Spirit as we see in Ephesians 5:18. Daily asking the Father for a renewing, a fresh filling, to live the Christian life to the glory of God.

What are you asking for?

Are you asking for a fresh touch from God today?

Are you desperate for more of His presence in your life? (See Matthew 6:33).

Sermon, Sunday October 24, 2021 – The Word of God part 1

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2 Timothy 3:10-17

The Bible is the foundation and authority for our Christian lives and for discipleship. Without the bible, discipleship is merely giving advice. True discipleship is based on the Word of God. The only resource for consistent life transformation.  

Paul wrote two brief letters to Timothy a young man he had trained for ministry. Second Timothy dates during Paul’s second imprisonment in Rome, just months before his execution. Paul gives his final encouragement to Timothy and reminds him of the power of the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16).

Paul says, “all scripture is God breathed…” we believe that this means that the whole bible, all 66 books and multiple authors written over 1500 years, is fully inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Despite the multiple authors and duration of writing, the Bible does not contradict itself. The authors all present different perspectives, but they all proclaim the same one true God, and the same way of salvation: Jesus Christ.

The Bible is the revelation of Jesus Christ. The Psalms and the prophetic books constantly point to the coming Messiah and his suffering for our salvation. The four Gospels record the life of Jesus and the rest of the New Testament speaks about the ongoing work of Jesus through the church, and the Revelation of his second coming.

2 Timothy 3:16 reads, All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,”

  • The Word is profitable; for teaching correctly, giving clear doctrine
  • The word is used for reproof, which means conviction of sin. It is a bright light that exposes our very hearts and intentions.
  • The word of God is good for correction, for setting things right.
  • The Word is used for training in righteousness, that is discipleship.

Verse 17 continues, “that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work”.

It enables the child of God to become a man or woman of God, matured in the things of the Lord. The word, “complete” does not mean perfect, but rather, prepared for the work that lies before us.

The Bible transforms the child of God into a mature person in Christ. The better we know the Bible, the better we are able to live and work for God.  I will always encourage people to begin the day getting equipped by taking up the Bible.

The purpose of Bible study is not just to understand doctrines or to be able to defend the faith, as important as these things are. The ultimate purpose is the equipping of the believers who read it. It is the Word of God that equips God’s people to do the work of God.

The Bible is our authority that we turn to when we face difficult decisions in life.

The Bible addresses the real issues of our lives, for example, the Bible speaks frequently into the area of our finances. Giving to the poor (Matthew 25:37-40). God takes caring for the poor seriously. Giving to the local church (Malachi 3:10). We have such a distorted view of tithing and giving to the church. We feel we have to give, out of guilt and need, but the truth is that the Lord promised to bless the giver. The Bible addresses every aspect of our finances, taxes, inheritance, investing and more.

The Bible teaches us how to resist temptation. At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he went to the wilderness and fasted for forty days in preparation for his ministry. At the end of that time, Satan came and tempted him three times as we read in Matthew 4. Each time Jesus used the authority of Scripture to rebuke Satan. We need to know this weapon and use it against the enemy of our souls.

The Bible addresses every area of our relationships, from parenting to work relationships.

The Bible addresses how we treat widows and orphans (James 1:27).

The Bible addresses our career choices and what we do with the years we have been given.

The Bible addresses our physical health and care for our bodies.

The Bible also addresses the big questions that the world wrestles with: abortion, immigration and refugees, poverty, same sex marriage, transgenderism, caring for the environment and more.

The Bible says that we are to be praying for our government, our president, vice president and all our governing authorities. That means to pray for their blessing and salvation. Praying for God to bless and guide our leaders, even if we didn’t vote for them! Listen to what Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:1-4. Do we desire all people to be saved?

The Bible is our ultimate authority, meaning that if the government makes laws that are opposed to the word of God, we hold fast to the word of God. But to discern whether the government is ruling incorrectly, we need to know the Word of God. We must never be led by the opinions and the thoughts of someone we watched on the internet. We must not allow anything that opposes God’s Word to dictate our actions or control our thinking.

We have been given the Word of God, written by our Heavenly Father who knows us better than we know ourselves, and who knows every moment and situation of our lives. Yet we turn to people who are not invested in us at all and ask their opinion for our life decisions.

Many Christians are struggling today because they don’t know the Word of God. My simple goal as a pastor is to get people to feed on the Word of God. Study and meditate on the Word. Let God’s Spirit speak to you as you read.

The Bible is no ordinary collection of pages and ink.

It is supernatural in its authoring,

it is supernatural in its reading, and

it is supernatural in its application.

Let us be known as people of the Word, who know and apply the Word of God to all situations in our lives.

Sermon, Sunday October 17, 2021 – A Cloud of Witnesses

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Hebrews 12:1-2

How would you answer the question, “The objective of my life is…”

This church, the family, and the mission we are part of exists today for the glory of God because of the hard work and the sacrifice of so many who have gone before us.

The Christian life is described as a race in the Bible, and when you receive Jesus Christ as Lord, the starting gun goes off.

Unfortunately, many people say yes to the offer of salvation but never get into the race. The Greek word for race is where we get the English word agony. Sometimes the Christian life is agonizing, and it requires determination, self-discipline, and perseverance.

The Apostle Paul frequently challenged us to run with determination and to continue pressing on towards the goal, keeping going when everything in you is crying out for respite.

It is pointless to enter a race if you have no intention of winning, or at least having a goal to finish in a certain time, a purpose for running the race. Yet, so many people begin the Christian race and then are content to sit back and wait until the Lord calls them home. We are saved for so much more than simply a ticket to heaven. The goal and motivation of every believer is to bring glory to God by representing Jesus on the earth.

As a reward for faithful living the Bible says that there are five crowns that we can attain as a reward in heaven.  (See https://youtu.be/gHSW9P6zxDU )

Here is a good question to ask yourself: when you die, who at your memorial service will be a better person because you lived?

Hebrews 12:1 begins, Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…”

We are all motivated by encouragement, it is human nature. I don’t believe that there are galleries in heaven where people are watching us. We are not trying to impress people who have gone before us, but rather we are living for an audience of One, to bring honor and glory to God our Father. The word, “witnesses” refers to the fact that they are witnesses to God’s faithfulness, but examples to us.

Hebrews 12:1 continues, “…let us also lay aside every weight…” One of the greatest challenges a runner faces is unnecessary weight. We struggle because we are carrying things we are never intended to carry. Every one of us has a calling on our lives, but if we say no to God because there is some comfort, person, or possession that we cannot let go of in order to obey God, that thing is a weight. Many times, these things are not sinful, but if God tells us to let it go, and we don’t, then it becomes a sin. What are you carrying that is hindering you in the race that God has for you?

Hebrews 12:1 continues, “…and sin which clings so closely…” The Greek word used here for cling or entangle means to control tightly, speaking of a sin that controls us. This is even more dangerous than unnecessary weight, as it is the sin that we entertain and don’t put to death. It causes pain. Identify the sin, acknowledge it before God, lay it aside and crucify it. It may be pride, fear of man, lust, love of money, or a desire to be recognized. Whatever it is, you know where Satan loves to entrap you and prevent you from running the race that God has for you.

The writer continues, “…and let us run with endurance that is set before us.” To endure is to bear up under pressure. Long distance races are all about endurance. How do we learn or grow in endurance? In the training arena of life’s trials. The Christian life is a life of endurance and challenges.

Verse 2 goes on, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” In running, as in most sports, it is extremely important where you focus your eyes. Some Christians are so pre-occupied with themselves and what they are doing for the Lord, or what other people are thinking about them, that they are not focused on Jesus is calling them to do. We are to live Spirit filled lives, and as we do that we will focus on Jesus. If our focus is on Jesus, we will see everything in the world around us in the right perspective.

Jesus is the one who picks us up when we cannot go any more. Jesus is the one running alongside us in the race (see Matthew 11:28-30). Running the Christian race requires endurance, perseverance, but with Jesus as our focus, he makes it so much easier.

This weekend we have remembered and celebrated the lives of those who ran their race for the glory of God while at our church and have set amazing examples for us. But now, we must run our race, everyone of us has a finite amount of time this side of eternity. And there are two ways we can use time; we can spend it, or we can invest it.

We spend time when we use it for frivolous things, on our pleasure and on our own temporal goals.

We invest our time living for the glory of God, living a life with eternity in mind, so that others will be drawn to Jesus.

How are you running the race for the glory of God?

How are you bringing glory to God in your finances, time, possessions and relationships?

Charles Stanley challenges us to answer three simple questions:

  1. The objective of my life is…
  2. The weight that I am holding on to is…
  3. The sin that so easily clings to me is…

Sermon Sunday May 23, 2021 – Mountain Top Experiences part 5

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1 Kings 19:1-18

Psychologists talk about the “fight or flight” response to fear, how we respond when afraid. Fear itself is not a bad thing, it depends on where it leads us.

In 1 Kings 18, the prophet Elijah was used by God to challenge the prophets of Baal. He won a decisive victory as he stood courageously against the 850 false prophets of the pagan gods. Elijah was bold and aggressive, but within a matter of hours this brave prophet was running for his life in fear. Elijah fled from the threats of the wicked queen Jezebel. He began by running to Beersheba in Judah and then on to the wilderness, where it seems he intended to die.

He quickly went from victory to intense depression. It is not uncommon for people serving the Lord to experience an intense struggle after a powerful time of being used by God. Immediately following a mission trip or a time of ministry, is when a believer is most vulnerable to discouragement. Satan loves to come in and attack when we are spiritually spent, that is when we need to be on our guard for the temptations and lies of the enemy.

Elijah was discouraged, focusing on the fact that his life was threatened and that all he had done at Mt Carmel had been for nothing. But, in his weakness, at his most vulnerable, God meets Elijah and sends an angel to feed him. He eats heavenly food in the same wilderness where God fed the children of Israel many years before. As Elijah eats and recovers, the Lord gives him direction and a plan to move forward. One of the best ways to defeat discouragement is to have a fresh vision, something new on which to focus our attention.

In verse 8 we read that the food he ate gave him the strength to walk for 40 days, covering two-hundred miles to Mount Sinai. The mountain where God gave the Law to the nation of Israel.

At Sinai, Elijah has one of the most incredible mountain top encounters in the Bible.

The Word of the Lord comes to Elijah and asks him a rhetorical question, “what are you doing here Elijah?”, 1 Kings 19:9. Elijah twists the truth and distances himself from the nation of Israel blaming the people for the action and threats of Jezebel. He continues to say that he is the only prophet left who follows the Lord, however, we know from chapter 18 that this is not true.  

But God seems to ignore this deviation from the truth and tells him to stand at the entrance of the cave. God causes three powerful displays of His control over nature, a powerful wind, a strong earthquake and a consuming fire. All three of these natural events are attributed to the presence of God in the Bible, but at this time, they are just the preceding the Word of the Lord.  

Then Elijah hears a low whisper, a sound that he was waiting for. God speaks and the dialogue from 9 and 10 are repeated. There are so many similarities to the encounter that Moses had with God on the same mountain, when God gave Moses the Law. God told him to come up the mountain and the Lord spoke to him one to one. When God brought Moses up the mountain, it was to receive the Law. Now when God brought Elijah up the mountain, it was to revive the Law.

God again seems to ignore the complaints of Elijah, and gives him what seems to be a confusing mission in verses 15 and 16. He must go and anoint Hazael as king of Syria, Jehu as king over Israel and he must anoint Elisha to take his place as a prophet. However, as we read further in the Bible, God uses these three leaders to bring punishment on the nation of Israel (see 2 Kings 10:32). Elijah was given the commission to go back and continue the work of seeing the nation of Israel coming back to the one true God. God used Elijah’s fear to bring him to this point of revelation.

One of the most repeated commands in the Bible is, “do not fear”. And a case can be made that in certain circumstances, it is sinful to fear. But simply to say, “do not be afraid”, does not automatically take the fear away. Fear can paralyze us, and it can even become an idol. There are real practical things to fear, like falling off a tall building, or encountering a wild predator in the forest. Fear is a gift from God as it preserves our lives.

Elijah was overcome by fear in his weakened state, but his fear became the very thing that drove him to being restored and totally dependent on God. This account in Elijah’s life is not a story of weakness or burnout, as it is often taught. Rather, it is an account of the Gospel demonstrated in the Old Testament. Elijah was driven to the end of himself and into the arms of God to be cared for like a weak, dependent child.

Our culture honors and respects strength, courage, and independence. But the kingdom of God is about dependence not independence. We cannot be saved by our strength, our good works, or by anything that we might have to offer. Jesus said of the children around him in Matthew 19:14, “…the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to these little ones”. We need to learn what it is to be crucified with Christ, coming to him in our weakness and brokenness.

When fear drives us to Jesus and to the Gospel, it is not a reaction to the situation, it is a revelation. Elijah had to be brought to the end of himself, to become totally dependent on God. Only then did the Lord commission him and give him the next assignment.

Jesus died on the cross so that we do not have to fear the wrath of God. Jesus rose from the dead so that we do not have to fear death.  

What are you afraid of today?

Bring it to the cross.

Sermon, Sunday March 7, 2021 – Chosen!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Someone chose to adopt him into their family.

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

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

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