Sermon July 22, 2018 – Lessons from the life of Gideon part 4

Judges 7:1-23

Have you ever been in a situation where you faced insurmountable odds? Maybe a financial situation where there seemed to be no way out, or a health scare when the doctors told you that you, or someone you love, has less than ten percent chance of survival. Maybe you have a work deadline that seems impossible to meet.

How do you respond when the chances of success or even survival seem impossible? Maybe you are in that place right now, and you are here simply hoping to get through another day.

In Judges 7, we see that Gideon was in a desperate situation. In the previous chapter we see that Gideon is filled with the power of the living God, and he blows the trumpet calling the men of his clan to battle. As word goes out some 32,000 men from four tribes gather under Gideon’s leadership to fight against the invading Midianites. However, they were heavily outnumbered as the Midianites and the Amalekites numbered over 135,000. Even being this outnumbered, God said to Gideon that they were too many and he allowed those who were afraid to go home. At which point 22,000 soldiers leave, imagine how Gideon must have felt? 10,000 of the Israelite army remain, but God looks on the army and says to Gideon that he has still too many. God instructs Gideon to have the army go and drink some water, those who knelt down and scooped the water into their mouths were singled out from those who lay down and put their mouths directly to the water.

There are all kinds of theories of why God singled out those who kneeled, but the bottom line is that God singled out 300 men and told the rest to go home. Now everyone could see that this was an impossible task.

When you are facing an impossible situation, it just might be that God has orchestrated it to be that way, in order for His own glory. If there is even a possibility of us being able to save ourselves by our own ingenuity or skill, we will take the credit for ourselves. God loves to show His glory, but in order to do that, the situation has to be absolutely impossible.

God continues to speak to Gideon and tells him to go down to the camp of Midian and spy out what is going on. Gideon was clearly afraid, but he still had the courage to obey God.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

Gideon goes down to the enemy camp not knowing that God has prepared a blessing for him. God gave one of the enemy soldiers a dream about a cake of barley bread that came down the hill and destroyed the camp of Midian. Another soldier listening immediately interpreted the dream and recognized that the God of the Israelites had appointed Gideon to be the one to destroy the mighty Midianite army. It just so happened that as this conversation began, Gideon was right there to hear it. God orchestrates circumstances all the time, we just need to recognize the hand of God in the situation. Gideon immediately worshipped God. This was all he needed, going back to his base camp he began to give orders for battle.

What follows is one of the greatest victories in the history of warfare. Gideon divides the men into three camps and has them take a trumpet in the one hand, and a clay jar with a torch in the other, obviously leaving behind their sword and their shield, they were totally unarmed and unprotected.

Gideon knew that this was going to either be a complete slaughter or a mighty miracle, he had faith for the miracle and did what was absolutely reckless. From the observer’s perspective, this was a suicide mission, the soldiers were totally unarmed and spread out around the enemy. They were not hiding in the tall grass, rather, they were standing tall, and at the call of Gideon they would blow their trumpets, calling attention to themselves and then if that wasn’t enough, they were to smash the jars and reveal the torches. Completely exposing themselves to the enemy. It was reckless and certain suicide.

We know what happened next, the men do as Gideon showed them to do and shout, “the sword of the Lord and of Gideon.” The shout was to identify that God was wielding the sword, but also that Gideon was God’s anointed man on the ground, the man of faith.

The battle begins and in verse 21 we read that Gideon’s men did not move, they simply stood in place holding the torches. They didn’t carry a sword, they didn’t strike the enemy, but they did what God told them to do.

Sometimes, we want to go and fight the enemy, attack the person who offended or belittled us, take legal action against the person who wronged us, but as we ask God, He may tell you and I to do something that makes no sense at the time. As Christians, we have to stop thinking as the world thinks, fighting for our rights and making sure we get revenge. But God’s way is quite often different, if we truly believe in the all-powerful God, who is actively involved in our daily lives, why would we do anything other than what He tells us to do (See Romans 12:19-21).

The Midianites fled in confusion with over 120,000 of them perishing mostly by their own swords. God won the victory and there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that this was an extraordinary miracle.

The challenge for us today is to grasp that this is not simply a cool motivational story, this actually happened, it is a true historical account in the nation of Israel. The same God who overwhelmingly defeated the Midianites is inviting you today to trust him to fight your battles.

We all have an enemy who wants to destroy our lives (see 1 Peter 5:8), but just like Gideon, the weapons of our warfare are unconventional (see 2 Corinthians 10:4).

In Ephesians 6, we have the armor of God and the only offensive weapon we have is the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. If you want to know why you aren’t seeing victory in your life, it is probably because you aren’t familiar with your sword. The reasons why so many of the churches in the world are struggling and lack power, it is because they have relied on human reasoning and tradition rather than the life-giving power and authority of the Word of God.

Just as God gave Gideon the victory, He can give you the victory, all because of what Jesus did on the cross for you.

What is the battle you are fighting today? Turn the battle over to God and let Him lead you into victory.

Sermon Sunday July 8, 2018 – Lessons from the life of Gideon part 3

Judges 6:25-40

One of the most prevalent struggles we face as Christians is Idolatry. Adrian Rogers said, “An idol is anything you love more, fear more, value more or serve more than you do Almighty God. Fill in the blank.”

We all have things we give worth to, we all worship something and if God does not have the priority in our lives, those things we value become idols.

The children of Israel during the time of the Judges thought they were still following God, although they had added some of the idols of the Canaanites to their lives. As a result, God punished the Israelites by using the Midianite invaders. The people cried out to God for help, and God called Gideon to be a judge, a great military leader, to save the people from the oppressive Midianites. God had called and revealed Himself to Gideon, but now it was time for Gideon to do what God called him to do.

God instructs Gideon to take a bull and tear down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah pole and use the wood of the Asherah to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. That night Gideon does what he is instructed by tearing down these false idols and offering the second bull to the Lord. It is remarkable to note that Gideon may only have been twenty years old at this time. But he starts at home and deals with the idols in his own home first.  This is such a vital lesson for us. In our lives today, we have idols, the gods of humanism that draw our attention away from God; comfort, entertainment, peace, wealth, sport, politics and many more, all of these are not bad in themselves, but when left unbridled, they quickly become idols that we need to tear down.

When God tells you to put away an idol, it won’t be easy but whatever God is calling you to do, be completely obedient just as Gideon was obedient.

Notice that Gideon did something that no one could see at the time, it was hidden in darkness, but it had clearly visible and spiritual consequences. This is where the battle is won, not on the battle field, but in the secret place as you spend time alone with God in prayer. Never discount the time spent alone with God as waiting and marking time, it is the most valuable use of your time. Don’t for one moment think that you can live a victorious Christian life without a healthy prayer life. Prayer is where the real church growth takes place, and the kingdom of God is advanced.

The people of the town of Ophrah quickly find out who destroyed the idols and they go to the house of Joash and demand that he hand his son over for execution. Joash reacts quickly and with wisdom, challenging the people to test Baal and see if he will defend himself? Joash was convicted of his own sin, provoked by the faith and obedience of his son. As you and I step out in faith, it will provoke faith in others, others will look at your steps in faith and it will rekindle in them a fresh love for the Lord.

Never underestimate the power of obedience to the calling of God to transform the lives of those around you.

At the same time, the Midianites and the Amalekites were invading the land once more (Judges 6:33). But then we read in verse 34 that the Spirit of God clothed Gideon. Gideon became a physical manifestation of the presence of God and when he blew that trumpet, everyone could see that he was different. Jacob Myers says, “The Spirit of the Lord became incarnate in Gideon, who then became the extension of the Lord.”

We must remember that this is pre-Pentecost, and during the Old Testament God chose to clothe men and women by His spirit for specific tasks. When the Holy Spirit was given to the church at Pentecost, we all, who have given our lives to the Lordship of Jesus have this same Holy Spirit power in us.

Gideon was prepared for battle, as he blew the trumpet the tribes came together in response. What an incredible miracle. Here was a young man who moments ago was hiding and fearing for his life, suddenly filled with power, calls the nation to war, and they respond!

It all seems to be happening so fast and in verse 36 it seems that Gideon begins to waiver in his faith. He asks God for a sign of confirmation of His call. Gideon tests God, and we need to ask ourselves how often do we test God ourselves? As we question whether or not God is leading us we stand frozen in place, asking God for another sign.

The two miracles of the fleece and the dew are powerful miracles in verses 36 to 40, God confirms his presence and call on the young warrior. Gideon is now ready, and the battle is about to begin.

As we look at these few verses, we see a progression:

  • Gideon destroys the Idols. He is all in, there is no turning back
  • The Spirit of the Lord comes on the obedient Gideon and equips him for the task.
  • God confirms His call of Gideon

But Gideon would never have progressed beyond the first step if he didn’t destroy the idols, after that there was no turning back. Retreat is easy when you leave yourself an option, but God calls us to follow Him without looking back. God calls us to destroy the idols in our life and walk with Him.

What Idol is God calling you to destroy?

We make idols out of savings accounts, cars, careers, unhealthy relationships, anything that hinders you from moving forward and experiencing the very best that God has for you. As you trust completely in God for the future you will find that it is the very safest way to live your life.

Sermon Sunday July 1, 2018 – Lessons from Gideon Part 2

Have you ever questioned whether or not God was speaking to you? God sent his only Son in order to restore His relationship with you, why would He not speak to you if you have given your life over to the lordship of Jesus Christ?

Gideon was called by God to be the deliverer of the Israelites from the oppressive hand of the Midianites in Judges Chapter 6. It was an overwhelming task and Gideon is understandably cautious.  Gideon was almost certain that he was talking to God, but he needed a sign. He rushes off to prepare a meal from his meager supplies, killing a young goat he makes some unleavened cakes and some broth, bringing it to this Holy Messenger.

It is quite possible that Gideon was thinking that this meal would be a test to see who this messenger was. If he ate the meal, then he was a prophet, but if he didn’t eat the food, maybe disposed of it some way, it just might be a divine messenger.

The angel tells him to put the meat and broth on the rock, which was probably the winepress stone, and then proceeds to touch the meat and the unleavened cakes with the tip of his staff. Immediately fire came up out of the rock and consumed the meal.

That was enough for Gideon, he knew that he had not been talking to a prophet, but this was a supernatural being. But more than that, Gideon knew that he had been talking to God, because he immediately begins to fear for his life (Judges 6:22). Gideon used the Hebrew word YHWH, the unspoken name of God. He knew that he had seen God and should not live (Exodus 33:20).

There has only ever been one person pure enough to be able to stand in the presence of the holiness of God. That person is the pure spotless lamb of God, Jesus himself. All humanity is born in sin and as a result, we could never live if we were to be exposed to the holiness of God, it would consume us. That is why, what Jesus did on the cross, by providing a way for us to have communion with God, is so incredible.

The Angel of the Lord disappears, but God doesn’t stop speaking to Gideon, the physical manifestation of his presence has gone, but God continues to speak and calms him down. God says to him, “peace be to you, do not fear, you shall not die”. God’s presence and name brings peace. Maybe you are lacking peace right now, you are worried about finances, your future or maybe your child’s future. Have you spent time asking the Prince of Peace for his peace in your life?

The Bible is full of promises of peace from God, here are three verses you can meditate on, Hebrews 13:5-6, Psalms 27:1 and Isaiah 41:10. My friends, fear and anxiety must melt in the presence of the Lord, go to him, spend time with him.

As soon as Gideon calmed down, he built an altar, and he called it Jehovah-Shalom, the Lord is Peace. In a land where there were idols and altars to false gods, Gideon builds an altar to the one true God, a place that he can come back to and remember his encounter with the Lord. Gideon knew that he would need a reminder and a place he could come back to when times got tough.

We also need altar moments in our life, we need to commemorate those key moments in our life when God speaks to us. Those moments when the course of our life was altered because God met us. The day we became a follower of Jesus is an altar, it is our testimony. The day we were baptized is an altar, a remembrance of what God has done for us. The day we were set free from an addiction is an altar of remembrance to what God has done for us.

God spoke to Gideon and called him to be the next leader of the people of Israel. The Bible is full of accounts of people that God spoke to, and God still speaks today, calling people and activating them in ministry.

You may say that God doesn’t speak to you, you are not unique in this feeling, but the truth is that if you have given your life to the Lordship of Jesus, God will speak to you and direct you, you are just not listening!

Psalm 46:10 says” Be still and know that I am God.” Just be quiet and let him speak! There are so many things competing for our attention that it is hard for us to hear God’s voice, we need to get away from the noise of our busy lives and spend time quietly before God.

God speaks to us primarily through His Word the Bible.  When Joshua led the Children of Israel across the Jordan in Joshua 4, the Lord told them to take twelve stones out of the river and set them in place on the west side of the Jordan, so that they could remember what God had done for them.

We should have memorial stones, and the best memorial stones are Bible verses. Verses from the Bible that we can go back to and be reminded of His faithfulness and His promises. As we memorize and meditate on these memorial stone scripture texts, our lives will be enriched as we grow in our relationship with the Author of the Bible.

Sermon Sunday June 24, 2018 – Lessons from Gideon Part 1

Judges 6:1-16

Have you ever been put into a position of leadership that you felt totally unprepared for? God constantly puts his children in positions where they feel stretched even uncomfortable. And that is okay, God seldom calls you and I to lead in an area in which we are fully equipped. Gideon felt the same way when God called him in Judges chapter 6.

The book of Judges covers a period of roughly three-hundred years in the life of the nation of Israel. Joshua has died and left the nation with two instructions; defeat the remaining Canaanites and obey the law of Moses. The children of Israel fail on both accounts. As a result, God uses the nations surrounding them to punish them and cause them to cry out to Him for help.

As the chapter begins with a familiar phrase, “The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord…”

Israel had begun worshiping the idols and follow the pagan ways of the tribes that remained in the land. They had turned their backs on God after all that God had done for them.

God used the pagan nations of the Midianites and the Amalekites to punish the Israelites for a period of 7 years. The first six verses of the chapter describe the fear and the oppression of the Israelites. The Midianites forced them out of their homes and towns and caused them to hide in the hills, they were hiding in caves to get away from these invaders. The midianites came in vast numbers and raided their crops, taking their livestock and their tents.

In verse 11 we read that Gideon is also hiding, as he is beating out wheat in a winepress. Normally one would grind wheat in a large open area so that the wind could blow away the chaff. But a winepress was a smaller area, hidden in trees for shelter, probably a hollowed rock in the ground. Gideon was hiding and grinding out just a small portion of wheat, probably just enough for his family.

When the Israelites had nowhere left to turn, their own resources and means were over, they remembered the Lord and cried out to him (verse 7). The Lord responds by sending a prophet with a clear message (verses 8-10). The prophet tells them the obvious, he tells them all that God has done for them, and then he tells them how ungrateful and disobedient they are. The prophet declares the obvious, but the people needed to hear the obvious.

Sometimes we also need to hear the obvious as we miss the mark in our Christian walk. Maybe you have been blessed with a family, a home and many good things, but along the way you have lost your first love, you have stopped worshipping God, you have stopped spending time with God everyday in prayer and reading your Bible.

The prophet ends his message from God with a powerful accusation, “but you have not obeyed my voice.”

In the very next verse, we see the plan of deliverance that God began working out. God’s plan of salvation for his people always involves a person. God used Abraham, Noah, Sampson, David and many others in the Old Testament. But ultimately God sent His only son, Jesus Christ, to bring his perfect and eternal plan of salvation.

The Angel of the Lord appears to Gideon and sits under the Oak tree (V12). But this is no ordinary angel. The writer begins by calling him by the Hebrew term, “Malak”, which means messenger, but as the account progresses, we see in verse 13 that Gideon addresses him as, “Adonai” or my Lord, and then in verse 22 he calls him “Yahweh” – The Lord God. This messenger is God himself, the second person of the trinity, the pre-incarnate Christ. God was implementing a rescue plan for his people and as a foreshadowing of what is to come a thousand years later, God the Father sends the Son.

The angel addresses Gideon with a dramatic introduction, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor

Gideon must have looked around to see who the Lord was talking to. Here is was hiding in a cave and grinding a little wheat to make some food for his family. But God saw the real Gideon, the man that He had created.

When God calls you and I to serve him, to witness for him, to be his ambassador, He knows our weaknesses, but he also knows what he created in us. We must never respond to God’s call by explaining to Him our weaknesses, he knows them, but he also knows everything about us, because He created us and His ways are perfect.

The Lord responded to Gideon with a firm directive (verse 14). But Gideon continues to try do persuade God by pointing out his weaknesses in verse 15. Some of what Gideon said was out of humility, but mostly he was simply stating the facts, and asking “why me?”

And that is precisely what God wanted to hear. Gideon could not do anything in his own strength, and this is the position everyone who is to be used by God must come to. God loves to use people who are keenly aware of their weakness. Because when someone is fully conscious of their weakness, then God can begin to use them for His glory.

The person who relies on his own strength, intellect, skills and financial resources, is not likely to lean into God for courage and provision, and that person is also not likely to give God the glory for anything that is achieved.

Gideon tried to voice his lack of skill, and the Lord responded with an amazing promise in verse 16. God promised to be with Gideon, and that he would strike the Midianites as one man!

Remember, if you are doing what God has called you to do, you will always be in the majority – even you and God alone is the only majority that counts.

Jumping forward over one thousand years, when Jesus gave the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 he gave the church an impossible mission, but just like the Lord said to Gideon, Jesus said to the Disciples, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

What is God calling you to do? Where is he calling you to go? What excuses are you using?

God can use you like He used Gideon, because he promises to be with you always.

June 17, 2018 – Fathers Day

 Father’s Day – Genesis 18:1-19

Fathers-day is a day of mixed emotions and quite often it is a day of pain for those who have lost fathers or who had abusive fathers. I was blessed to have a father who loved his family and who set an example for his family. My father was not perfect, but he was steadfast in his, love for God, and his love for his family.

The Bible has so many examples of good fathers and poor fathers, but one of the best examples we have of a father in the Bible is Abraham. God called this mighty man of faith to be the father of a great nation. Abraham was a man of exceptional faith who had a unique relationship with God. In Genesis 18 we have the account of God speaking to Abraham about the birth of Isaac, and the reaction of Sarah to the good news.

After the declaration of Isaac, the two angels prepare to leave and go to Sodom where they will rescue Lot and his family, but the Lord stays with Abraham. The Lord stays behind and discloses to Abraham what he is about to do in punishing Sodom and Gomorrah. God has a special role for Abraham, to raise up God’s chosen people and to be the father of the nation of Israel which will bless all the nations of the earth.

In verse 19 we read,For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

In this verse we see four characteristics of a good father that we need to develop in our own lives.

1: A godly father teaches…”that he may command his children…” Genesis 18:19a

The Greatest Command in the Bible is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, the Shema is the very first scripture a Hebrew boy would learn, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

But the Scripture doesn’t stop there, verses 6 and 7 continue, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

God tells the Hebrew fathers that they have a responsibility to teach their children to love Him with all their hearts. He tells them how to impress this command on the children by talking about it when you sit down or walk along the road, when you lie down to sleep and when you get up first thing in the morning. The teaching continues all day and every day. Teaching happens all the time, even when we aren’t intending to teach, but right teaching does not happen by accident. You have to teach on purpose the things of the Lord.

Fathers teach your children to love God. This is your first and primary discipleship role as a Christian parent. Our children have a much better chance to grow up to love God, if they see the love for God in our lives (see Proverbs 22:6 and Ephesians 6:4).

2: A Father is to lead his children,For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord…” Genesis 18:19a.

God told Abraham to command his children and his household, the people who were under his sphere of influence. Abraham was to lead his family.

You can lead by rule, or force, but a good father leads primarily by example (Joshua 24:15).

Fathers are you leading your families well? Are we leading those in our sphere of influence to know and love the Lord?

3: A father disciplines his children, “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord… Genesis 18:19a

 Keeping the way requires discipline, it requires intentional correction in order to maintain a life that walks along the pathway that God has for us.

Discipline is not beating a child into submission, it can be affected without the rod, although sometimes a child may need to feel correction.

But discipline is correction, guidance, keeping the child in the pathway that is right. A fathers’ discipline is always done in love (Hebrews 12:6-11, Proverbs 3:11-12).

True discipline is an act of love. We need to know the difference between discipline and punishment.

Punishment causes rebellion, but Discipline builds relationships.

Punishment is spoken harshly in anger, but Discipline is usually spoken kindly and lovingly.

Punishment produces a bitter, poisonous fruit, but Discipline produces the fruit of acting in the right way, which is righteousness.

4: A father loves his children.

In Matthew 22, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6, when he was asked about the greatest commandment, and he responds by saying what we read in verse 37, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…” and the second, Jesus said is to love your neighbor as yourself.

Fathers, your children need to know that you love them (see 1 Corinthians 13:1). Parents tell your children they are loved and show them that they are loved. Bringing a paycheck home is not loving your children.

God blesses good fathers.

The last part of verse 19 contains a promise, “so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

Those two little words, “so that”, introduce the promise.

If you want to see all that God has in store for you, follow these four principles in your homes. You will be overwhelmed by the goodness of God and his blessings to you and your family.

It all stems from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If you don’t know Jesus, that is the place to start. Only then can you teach your children by example to love God and you can introduce them to Jesus, the Way the Truth and the Life.

May 20, 2018 Saul part 2 – The Church Multiplies

Acts 9:26-31

The early church in the book of Acts grew rapidly, as we think about this, there are two methods of church growth. Firstly, a church can grow as more people come into the immediate fellowship, but secondly the church grows as we multiply by planting other churches and meeting in homes around the city.

As we look at these two options, the one that you prefer will tell you a lot about your motivation for being a part of the local body of believers.

In Acts 9:26, we find Saul trying to join the disciples in Jerusalem, and just like the Christians in Damascus, they are afraid of him because of his reputation. But Saul is introduced by Barnabas, the “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36). Barnabas is the bridge-builder, the encourager and he brings Saul to Peter. Every church needs these bridge builders, someone who welcomes people in and connects them.

As we get back to Saul, we read in verse 27 and 28, that he first preached boldly in Damascus, and then when he came to Jerusalem, he preached boldly in the name of the Lord. Where did this boldness come from? He was not in the slightest bit ashamed of the fact that a few years earlier he was persecuting believers in Jesus, now he was defending the resurrection of Jesus. In verse 17, when Saul was healed by the prayer of Ananias, he was filled with the Holy Spirit. And then in verse 22, we read, “But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.”

Saul was filled with the Holy Spirit, and then in the next few days we read that he increased in strength, he increased in spiritual authority as he prayed, as God prepared him for the work that lay ahead. We need to understand that it is important to spend time with God in order to be prepared and strengthened for the task ahead. It is crucial that every day we spend time reading and praying over God’s word, so that we may be strengthened.

In verse 29, we read, “And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him”

These Hellenists were Greek’s who followed Judaism, and as a result they carried with them the reasoning, the passion for Rhetoric, and the culture of the Greeks. They would not have simply taken Saul’s word for it, they wanted to test him and debate with him. And they eventually realized that there was going to be only one way to deal with Saul, and that was to kill him. The disciples sent Saul out of town for his own safety, he is sent back to Tarsus where he stays for the next seven or eight years. We don’t know much of what he did in Tarsus, but he was probably, studying, writing and teaching, I doubt he simply went into hiding.

At the beginning of Acts 9, Saul first leaves Jerusalem as a man of power with authority from the High Priest to capture and persecute Christians, then he meets Jesus on the way to Damascus and finally he has to leave Jerusalem as one who himself is being persecuted. In the rest of the book of Acts we read that he suffered much as he obeyed the call of God on his life. He was stoned in Lystra and left for dead. He was beaten and imprisoned in Philippi, he caused a riot in Ephesus, he was shipwrecked, imprisoned in Jerusalem and imprisoned in Rome.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “suffering then, is the badge of true discipleship”.

As Luke closes the Chapter, he gives us a snapshot of what is happening to the early church, “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” (Acts 9:31).

The Roman Emperor seems to ignore the growth of Christianity, and the church spreads and grows throughout the region. Looking at this verse we see four factors that contributed to the growth of the church.

Firstly, they had peace, they were free from external persecution and influence. God gave the church time to settle.

Secondly, the church was being built up, it was in this time that the early church began to determine their fundamental core beliefs such as believer’s baptism and celebrating the Lords supper. A strong church, a healthy church is one that has the core beliefs firmly in place.

Thirdly, the early believers were walking in the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is walking in holiness. This doesn’t mean that we never sin, but that when we do sin, we quickly repent, and ask Jesus to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The fear of the Lord is what drives us to want to please God, to honor and respect Him so much that we don’t want to be out of His perfect will for our lives.

And then finally they walked in the comfort of the Holy Spirit. This is the special ministry of the Holy Spirit in the church, the Greek word is Paraklesis used here by Luke the writer of Acts.

Paraklesis is a multi-faceted word, just like the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the church. Amongst other definitions it means; appealing, comforting, encouraging, urging, inviting, imploring and exhorting.

The Holy Spirit is the fuel of the church, the Holy Spirit is the energy and the driving force of the church.

And then the last two words of Acts 9 say that the church multiplied.

And as the church multiplies, by nature, it becomes healthy and grows. Healthy churches plant other churches. Healthy churches trust the Lord to send their best people away, into the mission field.

A healthy church is not a perfect church, a healthy church is one where we identify our brokenness, and humbly encourage one another to walk in the light. A healthy church is where we obey the Great Commission that Jesus left us in Matthew 28.

A healthy church is a praying church, if we want to be led and built up in the comfort of the Holy Spirt, we need to be gathering to pray.

The early church didn’t simply grow, it multiplied, there is a significant difference. Multiplication is the result of active discipleship.

We can grow without multiplication, but it is impossible to multiply and not grow.

May 13, 2018 Mothers Day

Mother’s Day is a wonderful time to celebrate mothers. But what about spiritual mothers?

In the world today, there is a huge need for spiritual mothers. Some people have the tendency to think that after their own children are out of the home, their role as a mother is minimized. But the church needs spiritual mothers.

The Apostle Paul had spiritual mothers, in Romans 16, he sends greetings to a list of people, and in verse 13 he says, “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.”

Most mother’s days, the pastor tends to focus a message towards mothers in the church. But Mother’s Day is not a pleasant day for everyone. For those who long to be mothers and are not able to have children, Mother’s Day is extremely painful. For young women who want to be married and have children, it can also be painful and disconnected from where they are in life.

But today I want to change our focus. While not everyone is a mother – we all have mothers. We all are here today because someone carried us for nine months and gave birth to us. The Bible says that we are to honor our mothers (See Ephesians 6:1-3).  Here Paul quotes the ten commandments, and he adds a little commentary by saying, this is the first commandment with a promise.

This passage from Ephesians 6, is in the middle of an extended portion where Paul is addressing all our human relationships. Wives and husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters, or our modern work relationships, and then he ends with section with an exhortation to put on the full armor of God, because our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but rather against all the spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6v12).

Why does he end this whole section with this seemingly disconnected challenge to spiritual warfare?

Because, Satan is constantly out to destroy relationships, to tear down the bond of families, to destroy our love and respect for each other. God ordained families to be the place where children are raised up to know and love Him, to learn the truth about love, respect, and the Gospel. Our families are under attack daily and we need to be aware of this. The best way for families to be strong, is to pray together, it is no small thing for families to pray together, and often it is the mother who must take the initiative and lead this.

What does it mean to “honor” your mother? If you’re a child, then it means to obey, to submit to her authority. And not just to do what she says, but to yield graciously, willingly and cheerfully. Simply doing what you are told, with a bad attitude it not honoring. True obedience flows from a heart attitude that freely accepts the mother’s rightful authority.

Parental authority is given by God, and so the attitude the child develops toward the parent’s authority will be the attitude they develop towards God’s authority. Parents, if you allow your children to ignore and despise your authority over them, then they will learn to ignore and despise God’s authority over them as well.

What about children who are out of the home? An adult child is no longer obligated to comply with the desires and wishes of their parent, you and I have a choice to listen, evaluate the request and to choose whether or not to comply with the request of our parent. Sometimes, parents can be quite overbearing and use this scripture verse to manipulate and control their adult child. but this is not what God intended with this commandment.

Honoring is not blind obedience, it is respect and courtesy, taking time to hear their opinion, treating our mothers with honor is as simple as giving them time.

Honoring your mother also includes how you speak to her, and about her. This applies both to young people and to adults. Pay attention to your tone of voice when you’re talking with your mother, is it kind, gentle, gracious? Or is it impatient, angry or bitter?  Your tone of voice reflects your heart attitude.

Another thing we can do to honor our mothers is to praise them, to verbally acknowledge their virtues and accomplishments, to give thanks for all the things they do for us.

Husbands, acknowledge and praise your wives, this is a crucial way to develop an honoring culture in your home. Children will learn how to treat their mother by watching how you treat her, and if you are regularly praising and thanking her, then they will too.

Our mothers are a gift from God, the blessings that we receive from our mothers are from God (James 1:17). The good characteristics that we see in our mothers, the creativity, the strength, the wisdom, the love and so much more come from God. Let us remember as we honor mothers, to praise God for mothers.

But we can talk about honoring mothers, respecting them and obeying them, however as followers of Jesus Christ our ultimate loyalty must be Christ. Jesus is the one who paid for our sins by dying on the cross for us, Jesus was raised from the dead by God and Jesus is the one who paid for our eternal life. As well-meaning and wonderful as our mothers may be, as followers of Jesus Christ, our lives belong to him. As we seek to live our lives as followers of Jesus, ultimately, we answer to him as Lord of our lives (Matthew 10:37-39).

We are to love and honor our mothers, because there is blessing in that as the commandment says, but even more than that, we need to love and honor Christ. Are you doing that?

Mothers and fathers, are you pointing your children to the savior, are you encouraging them to love Christ even more than they love you?

Sermon April 29, 2018 Faith and Holiness

Galatians 3:1-14

In Galatians 3, Paul writing to the young church is extremely harsh in his letter. In the first 5 verses, it seems that Paul is interrogating them, as he asks them a series of rhetorical questions. Twice in the first three verses he calls them fools. False teachers had come into the church, teaching that in order to be saved the needed to be circumcised and follow the Mosaic Law in addition to their belief in Jesus. Why is Paul so harsh in his approach? I believe it is because Paul knows that eternity is at stake, he knows that the false teachers are not simply trying to add to their religious activity, these false teachers have been sent by Satan to destroy the church.

By asking these rhetorical questions Paul makes very clear that it is illogical for these Galatians to try to add to their Christian experience by adding works of the law (ch3:2). The key argument he makes is whether they received the Holy Spirit of God by the law or by faith? Three times in those first 5 verses he implies that they received the Holy Spirit only because of faith and not because of obedience to the law.

When you have the Holy Spirit in your life, you cannot add anything to your salvation by following a set of rules or regulations. The Holy Spirit which we receive when we make Jesus Lord of our lives, completes us. It is by the Spirit of God that miracles are done, it is by the Holy Spirit that we can communicate with God (1 Peter 1:3).

As a regenerate believer in Jesus Christ, you have everything you need because of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

In the next few verses of Galatians 3, Paul refers to Abraham five times. What makes Abraham so significant to the issue of false teachers? The key is verse 6, just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Verse 6 is the continuation of the rhetorical question he began in verse 5, where he quotes Genesis 15:6.

Abraham simply believed God, he obeyed God and left his father’s home in Genesis 12, and in return God gave him great promises about being a blessing to the nations. Abraham knew that he would never see his home again, he would never see his father again, but he went in faith and obedience.

Abraham was promised many descendants by God, and God tests him once again to see if he would sacrifice the son of the promise. Abraham obeyed God and Isaac is miraculously spared.

Abraham was a man of incredible faith, but how did he become such a man of faith?

In Hebrews chapter 11, Abraham gets eight verses recognizing his faith. The key to faith is found in Hebrews 11:6, faith begins with knowing God. Faith, as a gift from God grows in us as we grow in our relationship with God.

The Gospel message, the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ is only good news if it is received by faith. The Gospel is not an academic pursuit or a following of the law, rather it is a celebration of faith in the provision of salvation through Jesus.

The key difference between faith and the law is relationship. Obedience to the law does not require relationship. Many people obey a set of rules, but they have no relationship with God and therefore they have no faith (Galatians 3:11). Many law abiding people will be in hell, because they chose to obey the law when a relationship was offered to them. The narrow road that Jesus taught in Matthew 7:13 is narrow because it is so hard for people trapped in humanism to walk by faith.

We have the ongoing challenge between law and relationship in our church on a weekly basis.

My mother’s generation would say, “you have to go to church”. A good principle but without relationship it is mere legalism.

We have seen this over and over throughout the generations, we force our children to go to church each Sunday, assuming the church will save them. But we don’t teach our children to love Jesus, and as soon as they can they leave the church because they do not see and encounter the living God. Our default condition is legalism, we think if we put enough rules around people they will turn out alright. However, if we invite them into a growing relationship with the living God, then and only then will they experience life change (John 14:15).

Notice Jesus didn’t say, obey my commands and then you will love me. No, the obedience is as a response to our love for Jesus, obedience is a direct response to our relationship with the living God.

What about tithing? We tithe ten percent of our income to the Lord as an act of worship, recognizing the reality of our relationship with God.

In Malachi 3:8-10 we read a challenging prophecy from God on giving to the Lord, which at first glance seems legalistic, but look a little deeper at verse 10, “and thereby put me to the test”. We test someone to learn something about them. Our children test us all the time, pushing the boundaries and testing our patience, why? It is natural for children to test their parents, because deep down there is one fundamental question every child wants to know, “do you love me?”.

There is no where else in the Bible where God invites us to test him. God is calling His people to a relationship with Him. He invites us to test him in the area of giving, for us to learn that He is able to provide. But not only is God able to provide, He is a good Father, a perfect Heavenly Father who we will only get to know as we grow in our faith.

Don’t regard faith as an academic pursuit, live a life of faith, and you will grow in your relationship with God.

Sermon Sunday April 22, 2018 – The Reality of Hell

Luke 16:19-31

There was a day when all one seemed to hear was “fire and brimstone” sermons, we’ve now gone to the opposite extreme. There is so much preaching on love, grace, and forgiveness, but little or nothing is said about hell. The undeniable truth is that no one in the Bible places more stress on hell as the final consequence of God’s judgment of condemnation than Jesus. Jesus compared hell to the burning trash dump outside of Jerusalem called the valley of Hinnom or Gehenna, he also compared hell to a prison and outer darkness. Jesus likened hell to “a fire” at least twenty separate times.

In Luke 16 we read that Jesus told the Pharisees a story of a poor man called Lazarus and an unnamed rich man. Jesus doesn’t say that this was a parable. It may have been a true account of which only Jesus knew the truth. Or it was a parable that Jesus used to teach the Pharisees the truth of their own lostness.

The rich man was extravagant in his lifestyle, dressing in fine linen, Jesus even said that he feasted every day. And then as if a divinely arranged contrast, we have Lazarus, a poor beggar sitting at his gate, who was possibly a cripple. The name Lazarus means “God is my help”, in contrast, the rich man trusts in his wealth.

Both these men died, and Lazarus taken by the angels to Abraham’s side. He was given special treatment for a man who was never treated well in this life. In contrast, the rich man, “died and was buried”, no angels, no special treatment. His friends probably began fighting over his estate and soon forgot that he even existed.

The rich man may have had a prestigious funeral with many dignitaries, in contrast the poor Lazarus, probably didn’t have a funeral at all, in fact the body of Lazarus might have been thrown on the burning rubbish dump, Gehenna, the place where unclaimed bodies would have been disposed. But even though his body was burned and discarded, he was taken by angels to Abraham’s side.

The rich man is sent to Hades, a place of torment and utter loneliness, where he begins to cry out for mercy. First, he asks that Abraham sends Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water to cool his tongue. The rich man was experiencing torment and real flames, it was a very genuine experience, so much so, that a little cool water on his tongue would bring some relief. Abraham responds and explains to the rich man that he has already received his good things in his life, but by rejecting God, he is never going to experience anything good ever again.

But aside from that, Abraham says it is impossible for Lazarus to come to him, there is a great divide between heaven and hell.

Jesus taught that Hell is a real place of eternal suffering, but the worst part of hell is not the physical pain, it is the absence of the presence of God. We have all heard someone say, “Well, I don’t mind if I go to hell. I’ll have a lot of company!” But there is no friendship or “company” in hell! Hell is a place of total loneliness and abandonment.

So how can a loving God permit such a place to exist, let alone send people there?” In asking that question, we reveal that we don’t understand the love of God or the wickedness of sin. God’s love is a perfect holy love, not a shallow sentiment, and sin is rebellion against an all holy and loving God (1 John 1:5).

God does not send people to hell, they send themselves there by refusing to believe on His Son. Hell, ultimately is the absence of God and sin is what separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). Hell is the natural response of the all-holy God to the wickedness of sin, and unbelief in Jesus as the son of God is the primary source of that wickedness.

God hates sin and evil so much, that he sent his only son Jesus to suffer and die on the cross as the perfect sacrifice, atoning for our sins. Jesus went to the cross as our substitute because he does not want anyone to go to Hell (2 Peter 3:8-10).

The rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his five brothers about their eternal destination. But Abraham tells him that they have the words of Moses and the prophets, the Old Testament Scriptures, the word of God. But the rich man argues that this is not enough, they need miracle. We are no different, we struggle to believe in the power of the word of God to transform lives. We must never underestimate the power of the word of God, under the direction and conviction of the Holy Spirit to transform lives (Romans 1:16).

Jesus loved us so much that he spoke about hell a lot. He did not hold back in describing the consequences of sin.

Do we believe in Hell enough to care for our friends and neighbors? If we really believed in Hell, we would not hesitate to share the Gospel, we would give our lives to praying for the lost. We would re-organize our lives in such a way that we would maximize our time on this earth to be able to be witnesses for Jesus Christ.

Sadly, the way our churches operate, the way we struggle to pray for our neighbors, the way our evangelism and mission efforts are so weak and small, we give evidence to the fact that we do not believe in hell.

In the 21st century in the western culture has become a source of unending distractions and entertainment. We focus on our careers, movies, food, sport or hobbies, while all the time our perspective of eternity is being whittled away and we seldom think of the fact that our lives are so very brief.

Live your life in the light of eternity. Every pleasure you could have here on earth ultimately passes away, it is fleeting, but if we live for eternity, storing up for ourselves treasures in heaven, we will experience pleasure that is lasting.

“The safest road to hell, is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” C.S Lewis.

Sermon April 15, 2018 – Heaven

Revelation 21:1-8

Do you know where you are going when you die? We are all eternal beings, designed by God to live forever. We as frail humanity, for fear of the unknown, struggle to live in these broken bodies for as long as we possibly can.

We struggle to hold on to something that is temporal, because we don’t see ourselves as eternal. We are afraid of the unknown, but the unknown is going to be infinitely better than anything we have ever experienced in this life.

There are two primary reasons why one fears death,

Firstly, if you don’t have the security of knowing that you are saved by the blood of Jesus, death is to be feared.

And secondly, we don’t trust the God who created us for eternity, we don’t trust that the one who created us knows what would be best for us.

We fear the unknown primarily because we don’t trust the goodness of the Designer.

Heaven is a real place, in Revelation 21:3 we read that God himself speaking from the throne, says that the dwelling place of God is with man. The new earth is a real place as Jesus promised in John 14:1-2.

This earth will one day be renewed made perfect, delivered from sin and the curse, will one day be our home and the place where God dwells. Heaven is a real place, and the new heaven and the new earth will be real as well.

While it is probable that heaven is in another dimension, we still can be assured that heaven is both a place and a state. I do not agree that it is primarily a state, since we are living on earth in a physical / spiritual dimension, why would this be so different in heaven. We would live in our resurrected bodies, but our soul would still exist and commune with God. I agree with the theologian Erickson that wrote, “life in heaven will be more real than our present existence.”

When we die, we are not going to have one single complaint, not one single thing about heaven will be imperfect. We have no idea of the glory and the beauty and the peace of the presence of our Heavenly Father.

In the new heaven, we will have real, perfect resurrected bodies, as Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15. These will be our eternal bodies, ones that will never fail or break down. And we will live with God in His presence.

We were made to have communion with God, God created man in His own image to have fellowship with him. But when sin entered the world, that relationship was broken, 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, we read in Ecclesiastes 3:11; “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

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. It will not be boring, that is a lie from Satan, Heaven will be the most exciting and thrilling experience that we cannot imagine. I know that sentence doesn’t make sense, because we cannot begin to grasp heaven. In our self-serving culture, we have no idea of what it will be like to be in the presence of the creator of the universe. Heaven will be a place of unending worship and praising God for all that He has done and all that He is.

Heaven will be a place of rest, peace and worship of God, but heaven will also be a place of service and work. We will not be idly sitting on clouds playing harps. God is a creative God and he designed us to be creative beings along with him. We see in Genesis 1, that God created man to have dominion and care for the creation. Remember the parable that Jesus told about the parable of the Talents given to the servants in Matthew 25. The servants who served faithfully were given more to rule over and more responsibility, this is a glimpse into our eternal destiny.

So, we know heaven is real, it is eternal, we have some idea of what we will be doing, but how can we be certain we are going to heaven? Randy Alcorn, in his book on Heaven said that a recent Barna poll shows that for every American who believes he or she is going to Hell, there are 120 who believe they’re going to Heaven. Yet Christ said otherwise in Matthew 7:13-14.

Heaven is not our default condition. Increasingly in our politically correct culture we don’t often hear people preaching on the fact that heaven is only for people who have submitted themselves to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Only people who have acknowledge that Jesus is the way the truth and the life are going to heaven.

If heaven was the default position of everyone who dies, then Jesus gave up his position in heaven, he humbled himself and even humbled himself to die on the cross, for nothing. The greatest act of love in all of human history was a waste of time, if heaven is the default position.

Heaven is where God dwells and before we are even allowed into the presence of God we need to deal with our sin problem, the sin that separates us from God. You deal with that sin by accepting Jesus as Lord and repenting of your sins. You can know, with absolute certainty, that you are going to heaven (see 1 John 5:13).

on the cross, he took upon himself the Hell we deserve, in order to purchase the Heaven we don’t deserve”

Randy Alcorn.