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 April 4, 2021, Tremble.

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Mark 16:1-8

In the closing section of Mark’s Gospel we have the well-known record of the three women who were the first to witness the empty tomb of Jesus. What we often fail to notice is that they were filled with fear. The last three words of verse 8 says, “…they were afraid”.

The good news of their risen Lord was clouded by their intense emotions.

We have all experienced the intense emotion of fear. Sometimes when someone intentionally scares us suddenly or when we encounter something that has the potential to cause us loss or harm. Our world in the past year has been driven by fear. The news media and marketing companies have thrived on creating and sustaining fear. There is the fear of getting sick, the fear of losing a loved one, the fear of losing one’s source of income and the fear of life not getting back to normal, whatever that means! Many people have the fear of not being “liked” on social media or being on the wrong side of a prominent social justice issue.

What are you most afraid of right now? How are you coping with these fears?

Fear is not a bad emotion. God designed us to have and experience fear as part of our survival instinct and human connection. Fear is an emotion that we are created with. If you read the Bible, you will notice that one of the most often repeated commands in scripture is, “do not fear”. But simply repeating this, does not automatically remove fear from our lives.

The key is not allowing our fears to control our lives. So, the answer is to choose a better fear, to tremble at something bigger. We need to see our daily fears in perspective. We need to understand that fear is not the problem, rather we misplace our fear. Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

The difference that Jesus is referring to is this, where does the fear lead us? Fear either leads us to self-preservation or to faith. Only faith can ultimately save us.

J.B. Philipps wrote a book that captures this excellently called, “Your God is too small”.  When we walk in fear, it is a result of the fact that we’ve made God too small, reducing Him to our preferences, holding him captive to our desires, projecting on to him our own sensibilities?

Jesus says the Living God is so much bigger than this, we need to fear Him.

Another potential problem is that our fear is too small. Jesus essentially is telling his disciples to have a bigger fear.  We need to develop a healthy fear of the One who created and holds all things together. In short, we don’t fear the Living God (Ps. 111:10).

Bible teachers often soften this by saying that this word fear means respect, or reverence. But what if the Bible really means being afraid, when it connects fear to the majesty of God over 300 times. I would suggest that we miss the point and the clear teaching of Scripture; God is terrifying in His majesty.  Hebrews 12:29 says that our God is a consuming fire!

Probably the greatest weakness of the church is that we have reduced God to a comfortable being who is waiting to give us whatever we desire, whenever we ask Him. We have lost our fear of God and when we lose our fear in God, we will fear everything else.

When we fear something, we give that fear power over us. And left unattended, fear grows and develops into patterns of behavior, and we begin to live afraid. Worship is the act of giving value to something. When we fear things and uncertainties more then God, we have made an idol out of fear.

But the good news is that in the very next verse in Matthew 10, Jesus assures his disciples that they do not have to live in condemnation to fear. Matthew 10:29-31 says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Immediately after telling us to fear God, Jesus tells us not to be afraid. Jesus said that when we fear God, we can rest in His ability to protect and provide for all our needs. God is not only all-powerful, He is also love and is intimately involved in every aspect of our lives.

This is why the empty grave that we celebrated this past Sunday is so important. The empty grave confirms that we serve a living God who gave his life for us and overcame death in order to purchase our freedom.  We can echo what Paul said in Romans 8:38-39.

As a result, in the midst of our 21st century anxiety and fears, we can say, “Cheer Up”, the risen one is calling you. And that’s the difference. The women at the empty grave chose a better fear. They were trembling, bewildered and afraid before an empty grave, not an empty life. The grave was empty, but their hearts were full. They were trembling, bewildered and afraid, because they were encountering the power and presence of the living God.

Do you long to tremble like that? When was the last time you felt like you were standing on holy ground too afraid to speak?

Is your God too small? Are your fears too small?

Choose today a bigger fear, tremble at an empty grave.

Jesus is inviting you to look into the empty tomb today to see what he did for you so that you can stand in holy fear before God with your sins removed, and be able to call Him Father.

January 24, 2021 The Power in Weakness part II

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Psalm 146

In these days of political change and a global health crisis, what we need is a dose of realism. A focus on what is eternal and what is temporal.

God does not need a Republican government or a Democrat government to bring about His purposes. The kingdoms of this world are in place for the purposes of God.

Chuck Colson said it best, “The kingdom of God will not arrive on Air Force One, no matter who is occupying it.” 

In seasons of national change, we must take a step back and realize that we, as followers of Jesus, are part of a different kingdom, we are part of a far greater and eternal kingdom. That is where our allegiance and our faith must lie (Revelation 5:9-10).  

The author of Psalm 146 lived in a time of national change and upheaval. While we don’t know the exact time and authorship of this Psalm, some early Greek manuscripts refer to this Psalm as being of Haggai and Zechariah. Which may refer to this Psalm being penned around the time of Nehemiah when Jerusalem was being rebuilt and the remnant was returning from exile. It was a time of refocusing the nation and worshipping the one true God.

The Psalm begins and ends with the phrase, “praise the Lord”, the Hebrew word, “Hallelujah.” The Psalmist goes on in verse 2, “I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.” This worshipper was not a Sunday morning believer, he was committing every moment of every day to the worship and praise of God. So captivated by the throne of God that nothing else mattered.

It then seems that the Psalm takes an abrupt turn, obviously referring to something that was happening in the political arena at the time. “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.” (Psalm 146:3-4)

People put their trust in many different things, the stock market, the military, their family, and the most prominent form of trust is placed in leaders. And sometimes we make the mistake of not remembering that these are also broken and weak people who need a savior just as we do.

A healthy exercise is to take a step back and really think about where and in whom you are placing your trust. The frailty of humanity will always let you down.

The Psalmist goes back to praising God and says, “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalm 146:5).

Putting your trust in God is not simply a good thing to do. It has eternal rewards, and lifelong blessing. The real test was in our personal responses to the inauguration on Wednesday this past week; if you were despondent and fearful for the future, or if you were elated and excited for the future, your hope might be in the wrong person.

The Psalmist says that the one we put our trust in is the uncreated Creator and sustainer of all things. The one we put our trust in, is the one who gives President Biden breath.

God is not simply the creator who set things in motion, He is the sustainer as verse 6 says, “…who keeps faith forever”. Our God is eternally faithful and cares for His creation. You will never find a follower of Jesus who has found God to be unreliable (Psalm 37:25).

The next three verses, the Psalmist lists eight oppressed and suffering people groupings, people that the world often overlooks, but God sees and cares for.

  • The Lord executes justice for the oppressed.
  • The Lord feeds the hungry.
  • The Lord sets the prisoner free, (Possibly referring to the Exodus).
  • The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. (Possibly referring to God opening the spiritual eyes of the people to see the truth).  
  • The Lord raises up those who are bowed down, those who are weighed down by the cares and the worries of the world.
  • The Lord watches over the sojourner or the foreigner.
  • The Lord cares for the orphan and the widow.

Only God can bring lasting relief to all these categories. Our God is the Lord who cares for the weak and the helpless.

The Apostle Paul knew this, writing in 1 Corinthians 1:27, “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.”

As we come to the end of the Psalm, it seems that the writer takes an abrupt turn, “but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin” Psalm 146:9b.

God is a god of justice. He defends the weak and He always brings the wicked to justice. God is consistent. It might not be in the timing we like, just like the relief for the downtrodden. But be sure, God will always bring justice. And that is a sobering thought.

God is not to be mocked, He is to be worshipped as the Psalm closes with a final Hallelujah in verse 10, echoing Psalm 46:6-7. What a declaration of the majesty of God!

For the Christian in America our role has not changed. The calling on your life does not change with the political winds of the nation. The mission of the church has not changed in the last month, it remains the same.

Do you trust in the faithfulness of God today? Or are you guilty of putting too much trust in man?

Joe Biden is our president, and Jesus is our King. 

There is only one King who will reign forever and only one King who will make perfect decisions and rulings. There is only one king who has the power to transform the world.

Are you trusting that King today?

Sermon, Sunday November 1 2020 A Case for Faith

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In November of 2020, we have no shortage of issues that can cause anxiety and fear. But Psalm 46 gives us a clear case for faith.

This Psalm was written around 700 years before Christ, by the sons of Korah to commemorate a tremendous victory that God won for the city of Jerusalem.

The Assyrian army under King Sennacherib, had surrounded the city, threatening total destruction. This took place under the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah.

The Assyrians had already destroyed the northern Kingdom of Israel and now they continued their march southwards towards Judah and Jerusalem. You can read this fascinating account in 2 Kings 18 and 19.

The situation looked terrible, the greatest army in the world was laying siege to Jerusalem and the people were in fear. There was no hope for deliverance, all would surely be lost.

But the Lord had raised up Hezekiah as a man of faith.

A letter was written by Sennacherib instructing Hezekiah to surrender, because his god was no different than the other gods of the nations the Assyrians had already destroyed. Sennacherib was taunting the one true God. When Hezekiah received the letter, he went to the temple and prayed, laying the letter before God. A few nights later, the angel of the Lord attacked the Assyrian camp and killed 185000 Assyrian soldiers. The victory was the Lords, the city of Jerusalem was saved (Psalm 46:8-9).

Hezekiah the King faced an impossible situation, but he submitted the letter from Sennacherib to the Lord.

What “letter” have you received that is causing you anxiety? It might be a doctors’ diagnosis, a foreclosure letter, a medical bill, or an unexpected layoff from your work. Whatever it is, lay it before the Lord and leave it there allowing the Lord to work a miracle.

This is taking fear and submitting it in faith to God. When we looked at Scripture, we see that it is a command of God that we must not fear. Jesus taught in Matthew 6 that we must not be anxious over anything.  

Fear is a subtle form of idolatry because when we put fear of the unknown over the power of God, fear becomes an idol.

King David knew how to do this, he had many situations that he took to the Lord and left them there. Psalm 131 is a wonderful picture of how David feels after he has taken his problem to the Lord. The key to this peace is a lifestyle of prayer.

Prayer that comes from a relationship with our Heavenly father. God is not limited by us; however, He chooses to orchestrate the events of the world in response to the prayers of His children. This is a mystery that we cannot begin to fathom. Why the eternal Creator invites His creation into the process of governing the universe, but He does!

I have been blessed to travel to many different countries during extraordinary seasons of transition, most of the time I was not aware of what was going on. I was simply there, joining with other believers in prayer. Looking back, I have been amazed at seeing what God did in those situations.

There is much anxiety in America right now, we see it on the streets of our cities. As followers of Jesus Christ how do we navigate these turbulent times? What it really boils down to is where do we place our hope? What is God calling the church to do in this time in America? We are called to pray.  

God can do more in answer to one simple prayer in faith than one-hundred years of political campaigning.

Psalm 46:1 is a powerful declaration of the fact that God is a proven source of help and He will never fail. Is God your refuge and strength?

King Hezekiah prayed to God for help and God responded in power.

The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.

Psalm 46:6

God imply utters His voice and the earth melts. The power of the Creator over His creation!

The world is still before God as we see in verse 10.

Be still and know that I am God.

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.

Psalm 46:10

Being still before the Lord is a good place to start fighting our fear. However, if we do not know God, we will always live lives in fear. Without the knowledge of God, life is a futile treadmill of fear and uncertainty.

God promises to be exalted across the whole earth. Here is the amazing mystery, we are invited to participate in God’s name being exalted in the whole earth. As we pray and as we go and tell others about Jesus, God is being exalted.

What will it take to get you to be a person of prayer?

The most powerful and significant way to spend our time is prayer and so often we use it as a last resort.

Stop trying to win political arguments or post things on social media that make no difference to peoples’ eternal wellbeing.

Pray for repentance and healing in our land

Pray for a powerful move of God and an awakening in the land.

Sermon, Sunday October 11 2020 – Abiding in the Vine part 1

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John 15

Abiding in Jesus

Immediately after Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples, he led them out of the room and on a walk up towards the mount of Olives. Little did they know that this was the most significant night in all of human history.

Jesus was walking to his arrest and was preparing himself to be crucified. But even in this incredibly stressful time, Jesus was teaching his disciples. He used the backdrop of the grapevines to teach them about the importance of bearing fruit by abiding in the vine.

Jesus opens the dialogue with the powerful statement, “I am the true vine…” (John 15:1)

Jesus is the vine the Father is the vinedresser, and the true followers of Jesus are the branches. But branches are not simply for show, they have a role to play and that role is to produce fruit. The true followers of Jesus will produce fruit.

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

We love the promise of answered prayer in verse 7 and verse 16, but these promises must be read in the context of the teaching of Jesus. In verse 8 we read that the purpose of producing fruit is to bring glory to God the Father. If we pray that the Lord would allow us to bear fruit, he will surely answer that prayer.

Are we praying that God would bless us with lasting fruit, for His glory?

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

DR. G.  Campbell Morgan writes, “any prayer which does not react upon my life and make it a more fruit-bearing life, is not a prayer at all”

The terrible warning of this passage is found in verse 6. These branches that are thrown into the fire were at one time attached to the vine. They were possibly attached to the vine because there was promise of peace, comfort, personal blessing, and cultural acceptance.  

However, these branches never had a desire to produce fruit, because they were never abiding in the vine.

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

One of the fruit that comes from abiding is peace, we know this from Galatians 5:22-23.

If you listen to Christians today there is a lot of fear being expressed. Fear of the pandemic, the financial state of the world, the political state of our nation. Sadly, this is fear being expressed by people who claim to be abiding in the vine. Oh, they will say they are just being realistic, but they are walking in fear.

Fear is not a fruit of the Spirit. Fear is not a result of abiding in the vine. Walking in fear is evidence that you are not abiding in the vine.

One of the evidences of abiding in the vine is getting our sustenance from the word of God (see Psalm 91:1-2, Habakkuk 3:17-19, Psalm 23:4, 1 John 4:18)

The reward for not looking to the world for sustenance and trusting Jesus is life and peace.

Jesus is the true vine and we who know Jesus as Lord of our lives are the branches. In John 15:16 Jesus makes a dramatic statement, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

We must never make the mistake of thinking that we had any part in our own salvation – we are saved by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8).

The branch is weak and useless if it is not connected to the vine. It is only good for being thrown into the fire. The branch is only as good as it is abiding in the vine.  

As Christians we are only going to be producing fruit if we are abiding in Jesus. Getting our daily sustenance and feeding on the vine, getting our life from Jesus.

Abiding in Christ is a cultivated discipline that takes time and effort.  Abiding comes from spending time feeding on God’s word, reading the Bible, praying and staying connected with other Christians.

There is a significant difference between simply being a part of the church by coming to the church when it is convenient and abiding in the vine, getting your life from Jesus through the word and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Where are you today?

Are you abiding or, are you walking in fear?

Are you simply attached to the vine, but you know that you are not really abiding in Christ?

Now more than ever we need to know the lifestyle of abiding in Christ.

Thoughts on the Unexpected June 28, 2020

Unexpected things happen all the time and how we respond sometimes has significant implications. This past Thursday, I received a call from Lynn and the first words out of her mouth were not the words a pastor or any leader likes to hear, “Athol, we have a huge problem…”

Usually when I hear those words, I downplay them and try to minimize my stress response. But something about her tone of voice, indicated that this really was a “huge problem”.

I was on my way down the hill from the church, and I rushed back as quickly as my 2008 Kia could get me up the hill. On my arrival I was greeted by many anxious faces and saw water all down the hallway and flooding into the sanctuary. I headed to the back of the church and found that the backflow valve was expelling as much water as a four-inch line would allow.

I was able to shut it off and then the process of cleanup and calling companies to help began. As usual, Nicole was on top of it and had people there to begin the cleanup within the hour.

It is going to take a few days until we can get the water on, and unfortunately as a result we were unable to hold services today. But in spite of all the drama, God is still in control. We see a setback, but God is following His eternal and perfect plan.

We decided not to use Zoom, or stream a service this morning, but rather we encouraged everyone to spend time alone or in your families with the Word of God, allowing God to speak to you.

Last week, as I was preaching through Ephesians 4:13-16, I spoke on the four attributes of spiritual maturity. The second one was, “spiritual maturity involves doctrinal stability”.

That sounds very much like, “seminary speak”, but the bottom line is that we need to feed on God’s word for ourselves in order to mature. And as we mature we will be able to discern between false doctrine and the truth found in God’s word.

So, on this day, you and I have the wonderful opportunity to feed on the glorious riches of the Word. Allowing the author, the Holy Spirit to give us a feast.

This morning I was reading Deuteronomy 30. Moses is giving his final instructions of the Law of God to the children of Israel. Moses was encouraging them to choose life, to choose to worship God alone and not to be distracted by the false gods and idols of the nations around them.

In Deuteronomy 30:11-15 we read, “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.”

Notice the emphasis I underlined. If the truth of God’s word was close during the time of Moses, how much more for us under the New Covenant. We have the blessing of the 3rd person of the Trinity, living in us as true followers of Jesus.

Jesus prepared his disciples for the coming of the Holy Spirit and in John 14:26-27 we read, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

In June of 2020, we certainly have a lot going on in the world around us. It would be easy for us to be so consumed by the events of the world that we become fearful and lacking peace.

Whether it be a sudden flood in a building, the Corona virus, political chaos or an earthquake in Mexico, our God is still the one who gives us peace. Our Heavenly Father does not react to the events of the world, rather, He is perfectly orchestrating all of the worlds events in preparation for His son, Jesus, to come again in glory.

In this season, if you are not spending time in God’s word, allowing the Holy Spirit to bring you peace and comfort, you will be easily swayed. Let us be a people who discern the season through the lens of God’s word.

Who are you listening to?

Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020 Do You Know the Season?

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Luke 19:28-44

What a season to be living in this world! Who would have thought that the world would be so different four short months ago.

This Sunday we remember Palm Sunday and a week that began like any other week, but within seven days the world was completely changed forever.

In Luke 19, we read the account of the disciples who “stole” a colt for Jesus. Not only did Jesus know exactly what was going to happen, he even tells them the conversation that they were about to have with the owner of the colt.

But I know that the colt recognized his creator, and the reason for his existence. Jesus the creator God put all the pieces together for this moment. Jesus grew the thorn tree that was used to make his crown, and he nurtured the tree that was used to make his cross. Jesus had prepared for this moment.

If Jesus knew that a donkey was waiting for him in the next town, he certainly knows what’s down the road for you and me. Jesus knows how this global pandemic is going to play out. Jesus knows how you are going to be provided for. Though Satan would have us believe otherwise, living by Jesus’ words will never send you on a fool’s errand.

We as followers of Jesus can take tremendous encouragement in this. Do not let doubt and fear paralyze you today.  

As the crowd saw what is happening, their excitement began to boil over. Some of them had probably memorized the prophet Zechariah and what was prophesied in Zechariah 9:9.

Can you imagine the excitement? They were seeing prophecy fulfilled and Jesus was coming to establish his kingdom in Jerusalem. The promised messiah was here, and he was going to throw off the oppressive Roman rulers. But Jesus was focused on a much bigger battle, he was focused on defeating Satan, sin and death.

Jesus was surrounded by a crowd of people praising him, and many of them had been healed and touched by this amazing man. Initially Herod and Pilate did not take him seriously, otherwise they would have sent a garrison of troops to prevent him from entering the city.

The fact that the people were waving palm branches showed that they didn’t grasp who Jesus was, and why he was coming to Jerusalem. Waving palm branches was symbolic of the Maccabean rebellion that took place two generations before, against the Syrian oppressors. They were showing that they expected Jesus to be another warlord who would lead them to overthrow the Romans.

There are many times in our lives when we don’t accurately perceive the moment. We miss what is going on for lack of knowledge, understanding or simply because we have an unmet expectation.

But then the mood shifts, Jesus abruptly stops and bursts into tears.

As Jesus looks at Jerusalem and sees the eager faces of those around him, he was overcome by the awareness of their emptiness. They were empty because they had not heard the truth of his message and they did not understand the true purpose of his coming to earth.

Wherever Jesus looked he found a reason to weep.

As he looked back; he saw a nation that had missed his coming and had wasted its opportunities.

As he looked within the hearts of the people, he saw spiritual blindness and a hardness in their hearts. They had all the signs and the prophets to convince them, yet they still rejected him.

As Jesus looked around, he saw a lot of dead religious activity that was not accomplishing anything. The city was full of people celebrating the Passover but with little understanding of its true meaning.

As Jesus looks at our churches today, he sees a lot of dead religion. People going through the motions with no real knowledge of our savior. People who are content with going to a building once a week, when in fact Jesus offers a relationship and eternal life.

Finally, as Jesus looks ahead, he sees the City of David that was soon about to come under attack and judgment. Jesus knew that in 40 years, the city would be under siege by the Romans, and the total destruction of the city and the Temple, leaving about 600 000 Jews dead.

And all of this because the people did not recognize the time of Jesus’ coming. The tragedy of the national disaster could have been averted. But Jesus knew that judgment must come and that rejection of the Word of God, who is Jesus, ultimately leads to punishment.

But it grieved Jesus because of his great love for the lost, the people he came to save (see John 1:11).

God’s chosen nation did not recognize the messiah when he came into their lives, and because of that Jesus wept and mourned.

Jesus did not simply come to set the nation of Israel free from the Roman oppression. He came to die on a Roman cross, seemingly defeated by Satan. But God’s plan was to raise Jesus from the dead and in so doing, defeat Satan, defeat death, and provide a way for eternal life for all who would place their faith and trust in Jesus.

What about us today? Do we know the season?

We are living in a season that is unprecedented. There are predictions from every corner about the infection rates, death tolls and eventual end of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

But only God knows the end, and the purpose of this season.

The role of the Body of Christ is extremely significant in this season.  

This is the time for the church to rise up boldly and to be a place of prayer, truth and compassion.

How we respond in this season will determine the eternal destination of the people all around us. If we act as people who have no hope, then people will not listen to us when we tell them about our faith in Jesus.

To discern the season, we need to pray and ask God for wisdom and insight.

Through the Holy Spirit we will be able to see this season through spiritual eyes, with the lens (perspective) of Christ.  

The Power of God for Us March 22, 2020

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Ephesians 1:19-23

We live in tumultuous times. But we can take comfort, in trusting that our loving heavenly Father holds each of us in the palm of His hand.

As Followers of Jesus, we are not encouraged not to be fearful or anxious, we are commanded to not be afraid. In Matthew 6:25 Jesus is not suggesting that try not to worry, he is emphatically stating it.

But how do we avoid being anxious in a 24/7 news cycle of constant coverage of a pandemic that is threatening everything that we have become accustomed to.

Therein lies the problem, we are so accustomed to our lives being predictable and seeming to be under control. We trust the healthcare systems and the government, both of which will ultimately fail us.

Jesus at the end of Matthew 6 gives the antidote to fear and anxiety, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

In this season of uncertainty, are we going to lean into God and meditate on the truths of His Word, or are we going to look to man for the answers that only God can give?

As true followers of Jesus, we belong to Him and are in His care. Therefore, we can remain at perfect peace in any circumstance (see Isaiah 26:3–4).


I believe that this is a wonderful opportunity for the church to proclaim the Good News, to serve our neighbors and our community, not giving in to fear, but boldly walking in the fact that we know our trust is in the one who created the universe,  who still holds all things together.  

We have always said that the church is not the building; now we get to display that truth.

Today I want to continue to move through Ephesians 1, and only God could have set this up, because these next few verses are exactly what we need to hear today in our season of uncertainty.

Looking at Ephesians 1:19-23

In verse 19, Paul continues to pray for revelation that the eyes of their hearts would be opened, that they would understand, “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might”.

God is all-powerful, He is not simply more powerful, He is the source and the sum of all power. There is nothing in all creation that does not derive its power from God in the first place. And here is the incredible news, His power is for us and is given to all who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord.

The power of God is available to us to overcome temptation, fear, anxiety and the plans of Satan. This is even more relevant in March 2020, where we are suddenly faced with uncertainty and the realization of our inability to control our own destiny.

We have an overinflated opinion of our own strength, and a low view of God.

We don’t fully grasp the fact that Satan hates followers of Jesus, and his plan is to destroy us and our families.

We as Christians, need to lean into Christ, rely on the power of God. This immeasurable power that is for us and more than that, it is in us through the Holy Spirit. We must pray for His resurrection power to strengthen us and empower us to live victoriously for Him in our day to day lives. How relevant this is for us today!

In verse 20, Paul writes that this immeasurable power is the power that God raised Jesus from the dead is living in us and for us (see Romans 8:11).

The challenge we face in the church today is that we have a power problem.  Too many people are trying to live the Christian life without leaning into the power of the Holy Spirit.

Do you know the power of God in your life?

Starting today, you can know by experience the power of God that is for you and in you as a follower of Jesus.

JB Philipps wrote a short book called, “Your God is too small”, in it he challenges us to look beyond the religious god that we have created and are able to quantify and understand. The reason we lack faith, is because our god is too small. This is also why we struggle with passages in the Bible, because we reason with limited minds and think that God is in some way limited to our understanding of Him.

The Apostle Paul then goes on a powerful flowing explanation of who Christ is now in his resurrected form (Ephesians 1:20-23). Wow! That is our savior and Lord who is in all and overall.  

God raised Jesus from the dead, a miracle that we will celebrate in a few weeks at Easter, but more than that, Jesus is seated at the right hand of God the Father, a position of power and might above everything that has ever been created. Not only is every power inferior to Jesus, they are also subject to him. And when he comes again to take his bride, the church, to be with him, Jesus will simply speak and all of creation will melt at his voice (see Psalm 46).

In these challenging times, we must remember that God is for us. The church is not simply a gathering at a place and time, rather the church is the true followers of Jesus.  Jesus has promised to build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matt 16:18).

So, we as the church are faced with a challenge, how do we function? I believe that problems are opportunities wrapped in a challenge.

For the next few weeks we will not meet as a large group, but my prayer is that we will meet in small groups or via video. We will encourage, care and pray for one another, meeting one another’s needs like the first century church did.

I believe we will emerge from this as a stronger church with stronger ties of fellowship and community. More than that, our community needs us to be the church. Reaching out in love and care, with the deep knowledge that God has promised that His immeasurable power is still for those who love Him.

Do You Know God? Sunday March 15, 2020

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Ephesians 1:15-23

The letter to the Ephesian church speaks a lot about our identity, but the more important question is, do we know God?  

The apostle Paul desired the Ephesian Christians to understand what great wealth they had in Christ.

Notice that Paul is not praying for them to receive something from God that they do not have, rather he is praying that God will reveal to them what they already have.

Paul writes in verse 15-16, “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”

Paul heard that they were people of faith and love. The Christian life has two dimensions: faith toward God, and love toward men, and you cannot separate the two (see John 13:35).

Paul writes that he is praying continuously for the believers in Ephesus (see 1 Thessalonians 5:17).

As followers of Jesus we are to be a people of prayer, speaking to God, hearing from Him and practicing a lifestyle of prayer.

In verses 17-19, Paul turns to petition. As he writes out his prayer, he uses three phrases that refer to illumination or understanding. In verse 17: Spirit of Wisdom and of revelation and verse 18: having the eyes of your heart enlightened.

Paul prayed that they would have spiritual eyes to see who God is and what He has done for them.

This is essential when we approach the Bible as we need the Holy Spirit to reveal truth to us (see Luke 24:45).

Charles Spurgeon said, “apart from the Spirit, it is easier to teach a tiger vegetarianism than an unregenerate person the Gospel.”

We will never fully grasp the Word of God if we approach it like a textbook. Sadly, so much of our passion for discipleship is not pointing people to a relationship fed by the word of life, rather, we are trying to teach people a book.

This is also why there is so much false teaching and confusion in Christian circles today. People are not feeding on God’s word for themselves. As a result, there is a self-imposed starvation in the body of Christ.

In Psalm 119, David frequently asks God for revelation and understanding (see Psalm 119:18, 34, 135).

One of the reasons we don’t pray for God to speak to us through the Bible is because we have an over-inflated opinion of our own abilities. We come with our educated opinions and intellect and think that we have it all figured out.

The first step of hearing from God in His word is to approach the Bible with humility.  

Along with our lack of humility, we also have a low view of God. Paul had a healthy view of God, in verse 17 he describes God as “the Father of Glory”.

Paul often related the glory of God with the power of God. Paul was confident that God has the power to open the eyes of our hearts and give us understanding.

Verse 17 ends with the words, “the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him”.

As followers of Jesus, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, we can grow in our knowledge of Him. The Christian walk is daily discovering more about God for the rest of eternity (see John 17:3). The beginning, the middle and the end of the Christian life is about knowing God.

The Christian life is about knowing God and making him known, this is the normal Christian life.

J.I. Packer in his book “knowing God”, says that those who know God have 4 characteristics:

  1. Great energy for God
  2. Great thoughts of God
  3. Great boldness for God
  4. Great contentment in God

Verse 18 continues, “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints”.

What is the hope to which He has called us?

Paul wants the readers to know that they were called by God and as a result there is a hope of eternal life. The Greek word for “hope” means to look forward with the expectation of a certain outcome. As followers of Jesus, we don’t have a distant hope in an uncertain future, we have a certain glorious anticipation in Jesus coming again and the kingdom of Heaven being established for eternity. We have a living hope (see 1 Peter 1:3).

Paul then writes again about an inheritance in verse 18, “…what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” We are God’s inheritance! God looks on the redeemed as a part of His great wealth. God gets the glory from the church and when Jesus comes again, we will be to the praise of His glorious grace as we saw in verse 6.

God the father sees us today as who we are in Christ. God always looks at a person’s destiny rather than their present situation.

Back in Judges 6, the angel of the Lord met with Gideon who was cowering from the Midianites and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” Judges 6:12b

Gideon didn’t know who he was, but God knew who he was called to be. As followers of Jesus, God sees us as who we are in Christ. We are called out and covered by the righteousness and Glory of the risen Lord Jesus. Our lives are controlled by what we shall be when Christ returns. We are Gods inheritance, and we live to bring Him glory.

We are designed and created to know God and to make Him known, to bring Him glory.

Do you know that today?

Do you hunger to know God more?

Sermon December 01, 2019 – It’s a Heart Issue

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Malachi 3:13-18

What are you afraid of? Ultimately, fear is a matter of perspective.  Fear can hinder us from being all that God calls us to be. Fear of the unknown is a lack of faith, a lack of belief that God is able to provide or care for His children.  

Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and he would constantly teach his followers to not be afraid.

In Luke’s gospel, when the angel Gabriel visited Mary to pronounce the birth of Jesus, he said, “do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God”.

But as we read the Bible, we see many references to the fear of the Lord. Should we be afraid of God or not?

True believers should never be afraid of God, but we should always have a reverence and respect for the all-holy, all-powerful God who spoke the universe into existence.

The fear of the Lord is healthy reverence, but the children of God should never live in a cowering fear of God. He is our loving heavenly Father.

Unhealthy fear in our relationship with our heavenly Father leads to legalism. But a healthy fear leads to a heart response to the will of God (See Proverbs 16:6).

During the time of Malachi, the people didn’t have a healthy fear of God, they were operating out of legalism and as we read in chapter 1, they even despised God.

Malachi 3:13 to 18 can be divided into two groups of people; in verses 13-15, God addresses those who are far from Him, going through the motions of being followers of God, but actually they are not serving Him at all. They have a form of religion without a relationship.

These people were living in legalism and simply following a set of rules, but they were tired of going through the motions (See Malachi 3:14). Essentially the people were asking the question “why are we doing this?” At the same time they were also asking, “what’s in it for me?”.

People who serve God out of legalism are serving with the intention of getting something from God. The have a mentality of reciprocity, a “what’s in it for me” attitude.

Before we criticize this group of people, we must come to terms with the fact that we all have a form of this reasoning in us.

Some may say that we are not under the law, that was before Jesus died for our sins on the cross and paid our debt once and for all. In response to this argument, we have two ways of thinking in our churches today, License and legalism.

License says, we have been saved by grace through Jesus Christ and therefore we can live as we please. God promises us forgiveness and we claim the promise of 1 John 1:9, and live however we want. However, the Apostle Paul addresses this in Romans 6:1-2.

As followers of Jesus, we will never be perfect this side of heaven, but we also know that there is joy and blessing in doing what God instructs us to do. Walking in holiness and purity leads to peace and blessing.

Legalism is the opposite way of thinking. People build fences, a man-made set of rules in order to prevent even the temptation to sin.  

The real answer is found in neither license nor legalism. We must not make the mistake of thinking that guarding ourselves and our children from sin is wrong, but it does become a problem when we miss the real reason for the rules and the law. Ultimately it is a heart issue, it all boils down to a healthy relationship with our heavenly Father.

Legalism says, you must give to the church, you must read your bible and pray every day.  legalism says, you must go to church and you must give to the poor.

But relationship changes our worldview. Relationship leads us to want to give, and we get to read our Bibles allowing the word of GOD to speak to us. We get to go to church, to fellowship with other believers. We have the joy of blessing others because of what God has blessed us with.

But then in verse 16, God speaks to another group, this group of people differs from the first primarily in their attitude towards God.

“Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name.” (Malachi 3:16)

This group of people had a healthy fear and respect for God (Proverbs 3:7).

When we have a healthy fear of the Lord, we have a respect and a reverence for the almighty God that will keep us from doing anything that is contrary to His perfect will.

Verse 16 also gives a promise that God notices them and listens to them. God knows your heart and He listens to those who come to Him with the right posture, with humility and reverence.

The verse continues and says that a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed Him name.  The Bible clearly teaches us that God records everything. Every decision we make in life is recorded, both good and bad. If we really understood this, it would change the way we view the simple decisions we make every day.

As we come to verse 17, we see an amazing promise, “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him.”

God looks at His people as His treasured possession. The Hebrew word used here is one to describe a collection of jewels. We are viewed by God as his treasured possession (See 1 Peter 2:9).

God goes on to say that “because you are my treasured jewel, I will keep you, I will save you from the coming judgement.” This is not because of what we have done, but all because God is true to His promises, and it is God’s nature to be faithful.

The chapter ends with a summary statement of these two groups.  The righteous who serve God out of relationship, and the wicked who do not. Do you know who you are?

Do you know that you are God’s treasured possession, bought with the precious blood of Jesus? Read and Meditate on Psalm 34:8-9.