Sermon Sunday September 5, 2021 – Hearing God’s Voice

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The sad truth about Christian discipleship today is that we teach people about God, but we don’t teach people to experience God.

As followers of Jesus, we are invited into a relationship, having our daily steps ordered by the Lord (Proverbs 3:5-6 and Psalm 37:23).

I often hear from people who wish they could hear from God regarding His will for their lives.

The incredible news is that God does still speak to His children, and Jesus made this clear in John 10.

The sheepfold of the first century was usually an enclosure made of rocks, and the shepherd would guard the flock at night by lying across the opening. It was not unusual for several flocks to be sheltered together in the same fold. In the morning, the shepherds would come, call their sheep, and assemble their own flocks. This is what Jesus was referring to in John 10:3-4.

Jesus calls himself two different things in this passage, firstly he is the door (John 10:9). He is the Door of salvation for all who put their faith in him.
Then Jesus declares himself to be the Good Shepherd and in verse 11 he says, “the Good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”. Those hearing these words must have struggled to understand what he was saying. Jesus willingly went to the cross to die for our sins so that we could have a relationship with God the Father.

We miss the point when we get so focused on the plan of salvation as a means to get out of hell and into heaven. There is so much more. We are invited into a relationship with Jesus, in verse 10 he says, I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

In verse 16 Jesus speaks to the Gentiles who were outside of the Jewish “fold”. He uses the key phrase, “they will listen to my voice.” Are you listening to the voice of The Good Shepherd?

Prayer is not a monologue where you recite all your needs to God, and He responds like a vending machine. It is a two-way fellowship, where we speak to God, and He speaks to us.

Henry Blackaby wrote, “what God says to you in prayer, is far more important than what you say to Him. After all, God already knows what you are going to tell Him.”

How does God speak to us?

1. Primarily God speaks to us through His word, the Bible.
The bible is the starting point in our pursuit of a personal relationship with God because it is His special revelation of Jesus to mankind (2 Timothy 3:16). However, for us to hear and respond to the God breathed Word, we need to open it and meditate on it.
Having said that, God is not limited to speaking to us through the Bible. God can speak in any way that He knows will get our attention.

2. God speaks through other Christians. God will use other godly people in our lives to speak to us, and we all need mentors and encouragers who will pray for us and then speak the truth in love. God will speak to us through the Holy Spirit, as fellow believers use their spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7-9).   

3. God will speak through Circumstances. In Genesis 50 Joseph saw how God used the seemingly impossible circumstances and redeem them to his glory. Be aware of God leading through circumstances.

4. God speaks audibly. In 1 Kings 19:11-12 God spoke to Elijah. The voice of God was a gentle whisper, and he knew that God was speaking to him.  God also speaks to us in that still small voice, the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
It is so important to be quiet before the Lord and to listen for His voice.

This is where the value of a journal comes in. When you sit down with your Bible each day, come with an expectation that He is going to speak to you. Sometimes through the words on the page, sometimes through the inner voice of the Holy Spirit, and as that happens, write down your dialogue with God. Write out your prayers and write down what you hear from the Lord. I am always encouraged as I look back at my journals from years gone by and see how the Lord was speaking and directing me.

5. God still speaks in dreams.  The life of Daniel was one filled with dreams and interpretation. Today we are hearing stories of thousands of Muslims who are encountering Jesus in dreams and are being converted.

There is no doubt that God speaks today, but we must be careful to test every word. To test to discern if God is speaking, use these five simple tests.

1. Does it Exalt Christ?(John 16:13-14) If what you think you heard does not exalt Christ but exalts something or someone else instead, you can be certain that the leading is not from God.

2. Is it Scriptural? (Proverbs 30:5-6) God will never contradict His Word. If the person presenting the word to you takes the Bible out of context, you can reject it. Always go back to God’s primary revelation, His Word the Bible.

3. Do Other Christians Confirm it?(1 Corinthians 14:29) If you feel that God is speaking to you on a certain issue, but you are not sure. Take it to wise people in the church who can guide you and join in prayer with you.

4. Does it Produce Good Fruit?(John 15:5) Compare what you hear with the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23. God’s word will always produce the fruit of the Spirit.  

5. Does God Bring it to Pass?  (Isaiah 55:10-11) If it never comes to pass, you can be sure God was not in it.

It is essential that you learn to test the word, whether it is something you read or something someone tells you. God is not intimidated by our questions, but He does expect our obedience when His word is confirmed.

The most important part of your day is the time spent waiting on the Lord.

Sermon, Sunday August 1, 2021, The Holiness of God

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Have you discovered the purpose for your existence?

That’s a deep question, but the answer is very simple and yet infinitely complex.

I am reminded of a frequently used phrase, “God loves you and has a plan for your life”.

While that sounds good and it is true, it is not the overarching truth. If we really think about it, the subject of the sentence is, “you” and ultimately that comes from our humanistic focus on self.

God is about God. It really is all about His glory being displayed in all the universe. That sounds harsh to our western ears, because we are so consumed with our own glory and achievements. But the reality is that God is the only uncreated One, from whom all other beings owe their existence, and He is infinitely holy.

Instead of, “God loves you and has a plan for your life”, I propose that, “God’s plan for your life is the display of His glory.”

I want to try to answer two questions:

  1. What is the glory of God?
  2. How do we display the glory of God?

In Romans 11 we see a chapter that some scholars say sums up the entire narrative of the Bible. It is all about God’s plan and purpose for the people of Israel. As Paul writes verses 33 to 36 of chapter 11, it is as if he is reaching the crescendo of a symphony and flows into praise of God.

Verse 36 is the cymbal crash of the chapter, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen”.

God is the source, the means, and the goal of all things. That is so contrary to what we see portrayed in the world around us and sadly in many churches, where we ultimately see that the god that many people worship is created in their own image.   

  1. But what is the glory of God?

John Piper said, “The glory of God is the manifest beauty of his holiness. It is the going-public of his holiness.”

The word Holy means to be separate, a distinctly different being, in a class all by Himself. The holiness of God is the foundational quality of His character.

In Isaiah 6:3, the prophet has a vision of heaven where he sees the Seraphim calling to one another above the throne of God, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

The heavenly creatures, declare the holiness of God and then say that His glory is over the whole earth, not His holiness. The Glory of God is the public display of His holiness (see Psalm 19:1 and Psalm 8:1).

2. So how do we display the glory of God?

Verse 36 tells us that every believer has their source in God. So, as we live on this earth in this church age, we are part of the glory of God being displayed. We get to reflect His glory. We are designed to make the glory of God shine, making it visible to others (see Matthew 5:16 and 2 Corinthians 4:6-7). People seeing your life on display, should declare, “God is glorious!”.

Once again, we run into the idol of self and our culture of humanism. We must realize that God does not need us, but He chose to create us in His image for His glory (see Isaiah 43:7).

The Westminster Catechism begins with the question, “What is the chief end of man?”. To which they answered, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” If we really grasped this, we would realize that we have been created for so much more than we can ever imagine.

But our flesh rises up and says, “hey, what’s in it for me?” If we are honest, we might believe that God is not concerned about us, He is using us for His glory. However, when we live as God intends us to live, we are most satisfied. The answer to the first question of the Westminster Catechism is two-fold, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”

As we glorify God, we experience joy, the joy of living out our original design (see Psalm 73:25-26)

So, the question is, am I satisfied in God? Is He enough? Do I have full satisfaction in God, or do I chase after the things of this world? We chase after good things; friends, health, careers, family and also not good things; wealth, sex, fame, to name a few.

We chase after things, because we don’t find full satisfaction in God.

John Piper writes, “He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

We struggle to grasp this, because we are so easily satisfied with the things of this world.

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

  • We display the Glory of God, when we serve gladly and give sacrificially of our time and our resources.
  • We display the glory of God, when we put our agenda on hold to help someone or stop to pray for them.
  • We display the glory of God when we share the Gospel with someone.
  • We display the glory of God when we care for the widows and the orphans and stand up for the unborn.
  • We display the glory of God when we boldly take a stand against the immoral mainstream of our culture.

These are just some of the many examples of what it means to be living for the glory of God.

What if we woke up every morning with the prayer, “Lord display Your glory through my life today?”

Sermon Sunday July 4, 2021 The New Jerusalem

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Mountain top experience’s part 11

If I were to give you a ticket to fly first class to an amazing destination, your first question would be, “where is it?”. Followed shortly by, “what can I do there?”. We would never sign up to go somewhere without doing some research on the destination, yet this is how we approach our eternal destination.

I am talking about the new Jerusalem. The enormous city that we read about in Revelation 21 will be the eternal home of all who know and love Jesus as Lord of their lives. This is the final mountain, that all others lead to and only one person has ever seen, the Apostle John in the book of the Revelation.

Since heaven or hell are the eternal destination of everyone who has ever lived, it is surprising that so little is said about heaven from our pulpits. The truth is that people fear the unknown and one of Satan’s primary objectives is to make little of Heaven. He would like to convince the world that Heaven doesn’t exist and failing that, he would try to convince the world that it will be boring and unattractive.

Randy Alcorn said, “Grasping what the Bible teaches about Heaven shifts our center of gravity and radically alters our perspective on life”.

Revelation 21 talks about the New Heaven and the New Earth that will be after the tribulation, the battle of Armageddon, the thousand-year reign of Jesus, and the great white throne judgment. This is the final eternal state that we long for, hope for, and all creation is crying out for.

In Revelation 21:10, The apostle John tries his best to describe something that is impossible to capture and describe with words. The description of this city almost defies imagination. The earth is renewed at this stage, it is completely remade, as Jesus says in verse 5 of Revelation 21, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

The structure of the earth and the atmosphere is not limited to our understanding, it will be made new. The New Jerusalem is huge, it is a cube of around 1400 miles in all directions.  It has been calculated that a structure this size can house billions of people. In fact, easily all the people that have ever lived on the planet.

This city unites the Old Covenant and the New Covenant that God made with mankind. The twelve gates are identified with the twelve tribes of Israel, and the twelve foundations with the twelve Apostles.

Heaven is defined as the place where God dwells, making this city Heaven itself. Verse 22 says, “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. The New Jerusalem is incredibly beautiful and filled with all kinds of precious jewels and metals. The New Jerusalem is the ultimate fulfillment of all God’s promises.

Just like it is impossible for us to describe God using our vocabulary and things we can identify with, so to it is impossible to fully describe heaven. We also want to understand heaven through the lens of what brings us pleasure here on earth, and we simply cannot do that, because we live in a world tainted by the effects of sin. Heaven will be filled with pleasures that are infinitely more real and lasting than anything we know here in this lifetime.

But the primary joy of heaven will not be the state of our being, the weather, or the experiences we will taste. The primary pleasure of heaven will be the presence of God.

We are designed to have communion with God. God created man in his own image, to have fellowship with him. However, when sin entered the world, that relationship was broken and there was a separation that took place. Inside every human being is a longing and an unfulfilled desire that can only be met by the perfect presence of God Himself.

Being in the presence of God for eternity is heaven and being separated from God for eternity is hell. Our selfish and humanistic mindset cannot even begin to grasp what it will be like to be in the presence of God and to worship Him. In our, “what’s in it for me” culture, we have no idea what it will be like to be in the presence of the Creator of the universe. Heaven will be primarily a place filled with the glory of God (Revelation 21:23). Heaven will also be a place of service and work. God is creative and He designed us to be creative beings along with Him. We see in Genesis 1, that God created man to rule and care for the creatures of the earth.

The Old Testament references this holy mountain frequently in the Psalms and the prophets (see, Zechariah 8:3., Psalm 48:1-2, Isaiah 2:1-2 and Micah 4:1-5).

As we have gone through this series for the past ten weeks, we have seen that all the mountaintop encounters lead to this incredible mountain of God.

So, who gets into heaven? In Revelation 21:7-8, we have a clear list of people who will not enter into the presence of God. The list is quite comprehensive, so how can we know for sure that we are going to heaven?

Romans 10:9 says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Submitting your life to the lordship of Jesus Christ, being clothed in his righteousness is the only way to be granted access into heaven. Have you submitted to the lordship of Jesus?

Sermon Sunday May 30, 2021 – Sermon on the Mount

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In Matthew 5,6 and 7, we have the record of the greatest sermon ever preached, as Jesus taught his disciples in what is known as the sermon on the mount.

Jesus was introducing and teaching the ways of the kingdom that he wants to form in the lives of his followers. At first glance, it seemed that Jesus was giving a new law, one that seemed different to the Law of Moses given at Sinai to the nation of Israel. But, as we read these chapters, we see that Jesus is calling his followers to a radical lifestyle. As followers of Jesus, we are called to live very differently to the world around us. The words of Jesus are a call to selflessness, holiness, and a call to be set apart from the world.

Every sentence in the sermon on the mount declares a separation between living as a Christian and living as an unbeliever. As Jesus addresses every aspect of social, spiritual, and personal relationships, he is setting the bar extremely high. As followers of Jesus, we are to live differently, to speak differently, and to think differently to those who do not know Jesus as Lord.

Sadly, there are many in the church and even many churches, that look no different than the world. Churches are filled with hypocrisy, gossip, sexual immorality, greed, and fear of man. Doesn’t sound like the church of Jesus, does it?

There is often talk about nominal Christians and nominal churches. What does that even mean?

Nowhere in the Bible do we ever find reference to nominal Christianity. To be a Christian is to be all in! To be dead to our old way of life and alive to God, filled with His spirit. There is no neutral ground, you are either radically living for Jesus or you are not.

Sadly, many people today are like the person who buys a Mahomes shirt, watches every game on TV and then thinks he is part of the Chiefs team. You are not saved by going to church or trying to live a good life. Only those who have been raised to new life by the Spirit of God have been saved. Jesus spoke about this very directly in the sermon on the mount in Matthew 7:21-23.

So how do we live this radical life in a world that continues to get more and more sinful? Jesus knew it would be difficult and that is why he prayed for his disciples right before he went to the cross (read John 17:15-17).

Jesus asked his Father to sanctify his followers, that we might be daily transformed in our thoughts and actions. Jesus said this sanctifying process is done by the truth of the word of God. If you do not have a desire to read and meditate on the word of God, there is a very real possibility that it is because you have no relationship with Jesus.

The Word that Jesus is speaking about and the Law he is referring to is what we know as the Old Testament.

There is a theory in some Christian circles teaching that Jesus came to do away with the Old Testament and that the Law no longer applies to us today. They argue that we are under grace and therefore we are not subject to the punishment of God. But in verse 17 and 18 of Matthew 5 we read, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

If you read the first five books of the Old Testament, you will see that there are a lot of laws that honestly seem quite strange and frankly impossible for us to observe in our culture.

The law that Moses received on Mount Sinai, that was given as the constitution of the nation of Israel consists of three parts.

  1. The moral laws: The Ten Commandments and the moral principles given for all mankind for all history.
  2. The judicial laws: Given as the legislative guide to the nation of Israel for their governance.
  3. The ceremonial law: The instructions regarding the offerings and sacrifices.

Jesus said that he came to fulfill the law or complete the law. If we look at the ceremonial law, we see that it all points to Jesus as the perfect sacrificial lamb, slain for the sins of the world. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, he fulfilled the prophetic law, the law pointing to the messiah. In Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus confirms the authority and his seal of approval on the collection of books that we call the Old Testament.

Jesus didn’t abolish the moral law. Jesus went on to say that not one smallest part of the law will be abolished until it is all completed. The Moral law is the permanent and perpetual way in which we relate to God and the way we relate to each other.

The Old Testament is a rich mine with untold treasures. And the gold nuggets to look for are the ones that point to Jesus, the second person of the trinity, the Word of God. If you look carefully with the help of the Holy Spirit, you will see Jesus written all over the pages of the Old Testament.

If we cannot be saved by keeping a set of rules, why is the moral law of Moses still relevant?

The Law was never intended to save man because we could never keep the Law perfectly. Rather the law was given to us to show us the true character and holiness of God, to show how far short of the glory of God we fall, to show us how desperately we need a savior. The law of God was given to bring us to our savior, Jesus Christ.

And when we come to Jesus in complete dependence on his lordship over our lives, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit that enables us to walk in holiness as we daily are being made new.

Do you know this Jesus?

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 May 16, 2021 The Duel on Mt Carmel

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1 Kings 18:17-40

Have you ever tried walking on two different paths at the same time?

Under the leadership of King Ahab, Israel was walking two different paths, worshipping the one true God and worshipping idols and pagan religions. Ahab had married Jezebel who was the daughter of the pagan king of Sidon. She brought with her the pagan practices and idol worship of her homeland, and was aggressively promoting the idols of Baal and Asherah.

God had judged Israel by bringing about a famine and Elijah the prophet was used by God to confront Ahab and his wicked practices. The drought and famine brought the worship of this pagan god into question, and a perfect time for this standoff on mt Carmel to take place between Elijah and the prophets of the pagan gods.

Elijah was a bold and courageous prophet as he confronted the king who wanted to have him killed. But Elijah knew that he was protected by God. When you know who you represent you can be courageous.

Elijah then boldly calls a duel, telling the King to assemble the nation and the prophets of Baal and Asherah at mount Carmel. Ahab agreed, thinking that this would be the perfect time to have the nation turn against Elijah and have him killed.

The nation assembles at Carmel and Elijah makes this powerful statement in verse 21, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions?”

The prophets of Baal go first and spend most of the day in prayer and aggressive pleading to their god. It was to no avail and the skies were silent. Elijah exposes the false religion and taunts the prophets and mocks them (1 Kings 18:26-29).

Finally, Elijah stops the prophets in their futile effort and says to the people, “come near to me” (1 Kings 18:30). He wants them to observe closely the importance of what he is doing.  

Elijah deliberately begins to repair the altar of sacrifice that had been demolished under the leadership of King Ahab. He takes twelve stones to build the altar representing the unity of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Exposing the foolishness and sin of Baal worship was only half of Elijah’s task for the day, his focus was bringing the nation back to worshipping the God of Abraham, the one true God. The first step was to repair the altar, the place of worship. In our lives, the first step to personal revival is the repairing of the personal altar of devotion.

During this season of COVID, many altars have been allowed to erode and are in need of repair. Maybe you once had a daily time set aside for prayer and reading the Bible, and maybe now is the time to rebuild that altar. Maybe you had a habit of praying together as a family, but schedules and business got in the way, the altar needs to be rebuilt. Maybe you had a discipline of worship and giving to the Lord, but your priorities changed, you need to rebuild those places of devotion to the Lord. What area of your life is God calling you back to wholehearted devotion?

Back to Carmel, the altar is rebuilt, and Elijah prepares the sacrifice. After soaking the sacrifice, Elijah prays. Prayer is the key to revival. There has never been revival without concerted prayer. Elijah prays what seems to be a simple prayer in 1 Kings 18:36-37 and God responds immediately by sending fire from heaven, consuming all the elements of the altar and the sacrifice. This was a powerful display of the glory of God, and the people responded with immediate repentance and worship (1 Kings 18:39). The prophets of Baal were quickly chased down and killed as the people turned from their wicked practices.

In our personal lives, it is not enough for us to acknowledge that “the Lord, He is God” (v. 39); we must also hate that which is evil and remove it from our lives. Judgment always prepares the way for blessing. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we all have idols in our lives, things that take the place of worshipping God. It could be our career, our relationships, entertainment, finances or many other seemingly harmless practices or possessions.

On a personal note, the first thing we turn to in the morning sets the tone for the day. If we open our phones and look at the latest news or social media feed, before we spend time in prayer, that could be an idol. What we turn to first thing in the morning, sets the tone for the day. Do we spend those first few moments focusing on the Lord, or do we fill our minds with fear, anxiety and the fear of man.

So the challenge for us is the same challenge that Elijah threw out to the nation of Israel, “are you limping between two opinions”

Whatever is more important in your life than knowing God, is an idol. The result for us is the same as it was for Israel, if we have a worship problem, we will experience drought and famine in our souls.

AW Tozer once said, “for the Christian, everything begins and ends with worship. Whatever interferes with one’s personal worship of God needs to be properly dealt with and dismissed.”

Our idols cause us to limp, we are weak in our devotion and weak in our witness for Christ.

What idol is the Holy Spirit challenging you to destroy today? It may be an app on your phone, your social media account, your spending habits, your viewing habits, or it may be your career.

What changes to your daily routine is God asking you to make today?

Hebrews12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”

Sermon Sunday May 2, 2021 – Mountain Top Experiences part 2

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Exodus 3:1-15

Can you remember a time when God really revealed himself to you? When you felt God directing your path and giving you a commission? Do you know what it means to follow him and listen to his leading and direction?

In Exodus chapter 3, we read about the call of an 80-year-old fugitive by the name of Moses. Moses had known the heights of the power of the king of Egypt. He was raised and educated in pharaoh’s household, he had power and recognition, but in a fit of rage killed and Egyptian and had to flee Egypt.

Moses spent 40 years in the land of Midian, serving as a shepherd for his father-in-law. He was a broken man, willing to live out his days in insignificance. But God called him, God appointed him, and God commissioned him because God had prepared him.

God speaks to Moses from a burning bush on mount Horeb, also known as mount Sinai, the place where he would later receive the Ten Commandments. This is one of the most holy of mountains in the Bible.  

Moses is routinely tending his sheep and suddenly, he sees a bush that is on fire. This bush is on fire, but it seems as though the the bush is not being consumed.  As Moses turns aside, God begins to speak to him.  

We should always be looking for the supernatural in the mundane. We often miss the call of God because we are so busy going about our routines that we miss the burning bush, the sign of the supernatural (Psalm 19:1-2).

As God called him, Moses responded by saying “Here I am” (Exodus 3:4). When God calls you, how do you respond? Do you respond with, “here I am”, or do you pretend not to hear?

God warns Moses not to come too close and to take off his shoes (Exodus 3:5). Moses was humbled and worshipped God in wonder, this is the true beginning of Christian service. God uses people who humble themselves before Him.

God repeats an important message to Moses (Exodus 3:7 & 9). God sees the suffering of His people. This is such a wonderful encouragement. In the last verse of chapter 2 we read, “God saw the people of Israel, and God knew”. If you ever feel that your actions, your works, your struggles are unseen, be assured that our Father in Heaven sees. This is one of the foundational promises of the Bible.  

“I have seen … I have heard their cry … I know … I have come down!” What a message of grace! You might be crying out to God and wondering if He hears or sees. Nothing is outside of the sight of God; this is a promise you can be sure of. God is the God who sees and the God who delivers His people.

God called Moses to be the one to deliver the children of Israel from Egypt and Moses is understandably resistant. He was not expecting the assignment and he would rather not sign up for this mission. God had called Moses to a seemingly impossible task.

We must always remember that God is never going to call us to do something that we can do in our own strength. God wants to display His glory and power through us. We see this in verse 8, “and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians”

God invited Moses to be a part of what He was about to do. God doesn’t need us, He invites us to be a part of what He already plans to do.

As Moses begins to resist God’s call, God gives him that incredible Bible promise, “But I will be with you…” The inadequacy of Moses is countered by the promise of the power of the almighty God. Remember, however inadequate you may feel, you and God are always the majority.

As Moses considers this, it leads to his next problem,who is the God of Abraham?

The Egyptians worshipped many gods, and the God of Abraham would be just one among many. God responds in verse 14, “God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

Up to this point in the Bible, God has been called in Hebrew, “Elohim”, meaning God. But now God says, “I am WHO I am.” The words “I am” are interchanged with the Hebrew name, “Yahweh”. God said at the end of verse 14, “I AM has sent me to you”

From this time onwards God is known by this statement, “I am Yahweh”. A name that means so much and is so holy that most Hebrew people would be afraid to even whisper it.  God said to Moses, I am Yahweh.

God said to Moses and He says to us, I am wherever you are, and I always will be.

What a promise for Moses as he considered the call of God on his life. This applies to all Christians. Every person who has given their life to the Lordship of Jesus has a mission and a calling. It may be to your workplace, your neighborhood, childcare ministry, youth ministry, across the states or to another nation. God’s name is Yahweh, I AM with you.

Moses kept on making excuses, denying the call of God. Have you ever made excuses when God calls you? We say things like, I am too old, I am poor, I am uneducated, I don’t speak well, I am too shy, I am too sickly, I am…, I am…, I am….

Notice how we focus on ourselves when we make excuses, and God emphatically responds, I AM WHO I am.

We need to repent of the excuses and submit ourselves to the perfect plan of God for our lives. What is God calling you to do today?

Sermon, Sunday February 28, 2021, Burst!

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Burst

Mark 1:14 to 3:12

I have always loved astronomy and love reading about the incredible magnitude of the galaxies and the universe (Psalm 8:4-5). In April 2020, scientist first recorded what is known as a Fast Radio Burst or FRB, coming from a region in space about 32 616 light years away. This was the first FRB recorded within our own galaxy. These bursts appear for only a millisecond but emit energy equivalent to 500 million of our suns. Scientists don’t know why these bursts occur or even what they are, but they hope their research will help us learn about what happens in space between galaxies.

These short, but incredibly powerful bursts make me think about the sudden flash in human history when Jesus, the creator God walked the earth. The impact of Jesus changed the course of human history for all eternity. And just like those radio bursts, Jesus emitted incredible power when he burst on the scene of human history.

As we skim through the Gospel of Mark, this week we will be looking at Mark 1:14 to Mark 3:12 as we see some of the miracles that Jesus performed, displaying his power in bursts of energy. Just like the radio bursts might tell us about the universe, these snapshots of Jesus tell us about the nature of God the Father.

In Mark 1:15 we read that Jesus declared, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand;repent and believe in the gospel.” Jesus burst on the scene in what is known as a Kairos moment in history, a critical and opportune moment defined by God’s perfect plan.

When Jesus said that the kingdom of God is at hand, he was introducing a new “universe”, a new way of seeing everything. This was the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:1-5. The four hundred years of silence is over, and God is now ever so near to His people.

Bursting with presence in Mark 1:18, Jesus goes to two fishermen, Simon and Andrew, and says “follow me”, and they immediately follow him. Then he calls two more fishermen, James and John. They drop everything, leaving their father in the boat and follow Jesus.

Bursting with authority in verse 22, Jesus teaches in synagogues in an astonishing way that the people had never heard before.

Bursting with power in verse 33, Jesus casts out a demon, and then goes on to heal Simon’s mother-in-law and many others as the city gathered at his doorstep.

Bursting with intimacy in verse 35, Jesus rises early in the morning and sneaks away to be with his Father. This frustrated his disciples, but Jesus knew the value of intimacy with his Father in heaven.  

Bursting with compassion in verse 42, Jesus touches a leper and heals him. Jesus forbids the former leper to testify about who healed him, but the man has encountered the Lord and cannot restrain himself. As a result, Jesus must retreat away from the towns and cities, but this didn’t stop the crowds from seeking him (Mark 1:45).

In Chapter 2, the paralyzed friends burst through the roof to bring their friend to be healed by Jesus. Jesus healed the man physically, but not before he healed his heart and forgave his sins (Mark 2:12). This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Bursting through all protocol, Jesus didn’t follow the cultural norms, as he ate with tax collectors and those classified by the religious elite as sinners (Mark 2:17).

Bursting with anger in Mark 3:5, Jesus stares down the religious elite, distressed by their stubborn hearts. Jesus healed the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath in full view of the hypocritical Pharisees. They immediately began plotting to kill Jesus.

The crowds were bursting to see Jesus in Mark 3:1-12. Jesus withdrew with his disciples, but people from all the surrounding regions were desperate to encounter the power that he was displaying. Even the demons burst through as they recognized the Lord, but He rebuked them and silenced them.

That was two-thousand years ago, and we are living in a time where we need a burst of the power of Jesus as well. We live in a world where people feel helpless, vulnerable, cynical, and fearful, as the pandemic has exposed how little control we really have over our lives.

The pain and anguish in our streets, the national and global economies that are teetering on collapse, the divisive and angry political culture, the epidemic of mental illness and suicide, all point to our desperate need for Jesus to burst into our hearts, our homes, our cities, and our nation.

The good news is that Jesus has not changed and his ability to impact lives and nations has not changed (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus is fully God and fully man. He is the second person of the Trinity who created all things from nothing. God is the source of all power and energy.

Not only did Jesus create all things, but he also has all authority (Matthew 28:18). Jesus is the Lord of hosts, the supreme commander-in-chief of the armies of God. This is the same man who walked the earth, bursting on the scene two-thousand years ago.

Can you imagine what that must have been like? He looked like any other Jewish young man. But then he began to burst with power and strength. He was as extraordinary as a cosmic burst, brighter than a trillion suns (Colossians 1:16-17).

What paradigms in your own life does Jesus want to burst open?

What paradigms are you bound to that God wants to topple because they’re keeping you

from experiencing the freedom and the joy of all that Jesus came to introduce within the kingdom? Paradigms in your family, finances, health, and the call of God on your life.

Pray, asking God to reveal the areas of prejudice or old wineskins that need to be thrown out in your life. The things that are holding you back from receiving all the promises of God. Pray for God to break your paradigms and burst into your life with new power.  

Sermon, Sunday February 21, 2021, Hope Fulfilled

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Mark 1:1-13

We have all experienced seasons when we longingly hope for something to happen, but it seems that the fulfilment of the hope is so far away. Proverbs 13:12 says that hope deferred makes our hearts sick.

The people of Israel knew about hope deferred. In 2091 B.C., God told Abraham and Sarah that He is going to make them a great nation. They had to wait twenty-five years for Isaac to be born.

Between the Old and the New Testament, there is a period of 400 years where God does not speak at all to the nation of Israel and they are waiting for a promised messiah. At some point the people must have made the shift from “hope deferred” to “hope lost.”

After 400 years of silence from God, there is a stirring, stories of a miraculous birth and a man who performs amazing signs and wonders, could this be the hope?

Mark, the author of the Gospel account begins by saying that the book is the, “Good News of Jesus Christ”. Christ means the anointed one, the messiah. Mark was making it clear in the first sentence that this is the hope fulfilled, the one the prophet Isaiah wrote about.

As we read in verse 4 and 5, John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As we read in verse 6, he was not the type of herald that the people were expecting to introduce the messiah. But then again, the messiah wasn’t what they were expecting either. They were expecting a military ruler, but Jesus was so much more, and they didn’t recognize him.

As John was preaching one day, Jesus walked up and asked to be baptized. John Baptizes Jesus and suddenly, there is an unexpected display of the glory and power of God.

As Jesus comes out of the water, God the Father declares his love for His son. God the Father is declaring that this man is the one that the world has been waiting for and the hope of all mankind.

Then the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, descends on Jesus like a dove.

John’s retelling of this event informs us that the Spirit came down and remained

with him (John 1:33). It is the Holy Spirit who remained with Jesus, leading him into the wilderness, and throughout his life on the earth.

The Holy Spirit sends Jesus into the wilderness where we are told that he fasted and was tempted by Satan for forty days. Mark’s Gospel does not detail the temptations as the other Gospels, but I think this helps us understand that Jesus was not simply tempted with three questions as we sometimes like to understand the temptation in the wilderness. Jesus was constantly tempted until Satan leaves him.

This is a good reminder that we too are tempted daily. James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. We need to be on guard, daily being aware of the attempts of the enemy to take us off the path that God has for us.

Jesus was God, he was also fully human, and the Holy Spirit was what empowered Jesus to perform miracles (Matthew 12:28). In Romans 8, we read that it was the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus openly declared his dependance on the third person of the trinity.

With that in mind, how can we live as a follower of Jesus without acknowledging and relying on that same Holy Spirit in our lives (John 14:16-18)

So, getting back to verse 12. Jesus has just been recognized as the Messiah, the trinity was all present, the Father declared His love and pleasure in the son. This seems like a perfect time to go into the city and begin establishing his kingdom. But instead, Jesus is led to be broken and tempted. God is orchestrating all of History for His purposes. God the Father orchestrated and allowed Jesus to be tempted for forty days for a clear purpose.

1 Corinthians 15:45 refers to Jesus as the “Last Adam.” In Genesis 3, we read that the “First Adam”, was tempted by the serpent in the Garden and gave into that temptation. As a result of Adam’s sin, we are all born with a sin nature, separated from God. This is the primary need of all mankind, to be made right with our creator.

Jesus is the “Second Adam,” which means he is only the second man to walk the earth without sin. Jesus isn’t born of the seed of Adam but the seed of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20). Unlike Adam, who gave in to temptation, Jesus successfully resisted the temptation of Satan and won a decisive victory in the wilderness and lived the rest of his life without sinning.

Because of his sinless life, when Jesus was crucified, he was the perfect spotless lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice that God required for our sins to be forgiven.

Can you imagine being there for the official introduction of Jesus to the world?

It had been hope deferred for over 2000 years since Abraham. The hope of Jesus was planned before the creation of the world (1 Peter 1:18-21).

The complete Proverb 13:12 reads, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).

Mankind’s longing has been fulfilled. As a follower of Jesus, the longing to have a relationship with your creator and live a life full of meaning and purpose has been fulfilled in Jesus.

Jesus is the tree of life for us today, providing the hope fulfilled. Without Jesus we have no hope.

What are you hoping for today?

Maybe it’s a job, a family member to be saved, financial breakthrough, freedom from addiction, the baby you have been praying for? Whatever you are hoping for, bring that to Jesus today, the one who can fulfill our hopes.

Sermon, Sunday February 14, 2021 – Take Heart!

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Mark 10:46-52

In 2021 the world is under the weight of an epidemic that is far more wide-spread than COVID-19. Considering all that is happening, there is an epidemic of anxiety and depression caused by fear, sickness, death, financial crisis, loneliness, conflict, hate, confusion, division and so much more that causes people to lose heart.

This all leads to trauma, and an outbreak of anxiety and depression on the inside of us. In a recent study, it was found that one in ten people suffer from depression. Truth is, we could all use a little cheering up, couldn’t we?

I am not talking about a temporary laugh or comedy show that only gives fleeting relief. Rather I want us to focus on real hope, hope that leads to joy found in Jesus Christ.

Maybe some of you already walk in this freedom and peace. Maybe some of you believed it at some time in your life, but circumstances have caused you doubt. Maybe some of you don’t really know who Jesus really is and what he is offering.

In chapter 10 of Mark’s Gospel, we read about a man who found hope and joy in Jesus Christ. The man was Bartimaeus and he was a blind beggar outside of Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, Bartimaeus cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

He heard “Jesus of Nazareth” was close by, and when he senses Jesus is within hearing distance, he begins to call out to him.

The blind man knew Jesus was special and would have the ability to do something for him that would change his circumstances. The people around him didn’t like what the blind man was doing and told him to be quiet.

We don’t know why they told him to be quiet. I am sure the blind beggar felt like his chances of getting Jesus’ attention were close to zero. But he keeps on shouting in desperation, calling out the name of Jesus.

What happens next surprises the crowd. Jesus stops and ask his disciples to bring the blind man to him. In verse 49 we read this: “And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” The NIV translation says, “cheer up…he is calling you”

Have you ever been in a situation where you were desperate, and you didn’t think anyone was ever going to come to your rescue? Who knows how many years Bartimaeus sat along the side of the road, hoping someone would pay attention to him?  What would you do? Bartimaeus doesn’t hesitate but jumps up and comes to Jesus. Mark 10:50

Then Jesus asks him this question: “What do you want me to do for you?” Mark 10:51a

Why would Jesus ask him this question? The man’s need is obvious. As in many other instances, Jesus wants Bartimaeus to actually say it aloud as a demonstration of his faith. This is a key for us; when we pray for something, we need to be specific – “what do you want” – pray with faith in the all-powerful God.

Bartimaeus believes in his heart that Jesus can pull it off, so he asks in faith, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” Mark 10:51b. The blind man wants his greatest desire to be met. After all the years of blindness, could he be healed?

Jesus said: “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.” Mark 10:52

The man was not only healed from his physical blindness but from his spiritual blindness as well. Immediately after receiving his sight, he begins to follow Jesus and witnesses the triumphal entrance into Jerusalem in Mark 11 and the crucifixion and resurrection a week later.

His first move with his 20/20 vision? He followed Jesus along the road. He had only been healed for a week and yet he got to see the greatest event in all human history.

As we look at the practical application of this text, there is something in light of Mark’s Gospel that we need to keep in mind. Jesus doesn’t give us everything we ask for. In the previous chapter we see Jesus denying the disciples request to be seated at his side in his kingdom (Mark 10:36).

Jesus didn’t grant them this request because he knew they didn’t understand (see James 4:3).

Thank God Jesus doesn’t answer all our prayers with our exact request. The world would be in chaos. But not only that, we would miss out on so much growth and maturity in our Christian walk.

I am also sure there were other beggars on the road who didn’t get healed that day. Maybe they didn’t cry out like Bartimaeus did, maybe they did. Jesus always answers our prayers, but not always exactly like we ask because he has a bigger plan in mind. The purpose of Jesus is always to give glory to God the father.

Jesus may remove your circumstance that is causing your pain, or he may give you the strength to see you through your circumstances. But Jesus will never leave you alone in your pain.

Jesus always says “yes” to our spiritual healing, and sometimes he does it through our physical sufferings.

In 2 Samuel 24, we read the account of how God brought about a deadly plague, to bring the nation back to holiness.

Blindness, poverty, injustice, and illness are very painful things, but they are temporal conditions. Our biggest need is to overcome death and enter into an eternal relationship with God where these things can never harm us again. Our Heavenly Father is always more concerned for your eternal destination than He is about your temporal comfort.

What is the burden of your heart?

Are you willing to call out to him – “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me”?

Be prepared. When you get to him, he is going to ask you this question: “What do you want me to do for you?”

Bring your burden to the Lord and believe that he has the power to set you free.

Wherever you are, right now pray that prayer.