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.

Sermon March 18, 2018 – Who Is This Man?

Mark 4:35-41

 Every Easter we focus on the cross where Jesus died, we need to be reminded and perhaps for the first time realize who it was that died on the cross 2000 years ago.

C.S. Lewis has made famous the trilemma that Jesus must either be a lunatic, a liar, or the Lord of all in his book “Mere Christianity”.  Ever since the time of Jesus, men have argued about who this man from Galilee really was.  During Jesus’ time on earth the religious leaders did not grasp the fact that the long-awaited Messiah had arrived.

The disciples had to answer that question themselves, even after seeing many miracles and the authority with which he taught, they took some time to realize that Jesus was no ordinary man. In Mark 4:35-42 we read the incredible account of Jesus calming the storm.

Jesus had just completed the preaching of the sermon on the mount. He was tired he tired physically and spiritually, he had been teaching and healing the sick. Jesus needed some time to recharge and get away, verse 36, tells us that Jesus left just as he was, he didn’t go back to the town to pack a bag, he just needed to get away, but we read that other boats followed them. This was a fishing community, so people followed in their boats, little did they know what they were about to witness. Soon after leaving Capernaum Jesus went to sleep on a cushion.  A storm turned the sea into a deadly nightmare for the sailors and the disciples thought they would surely all drown. The disciples woke Jesus and rebuked him for not caring. The original Greek says something like, “we know you care about us, but right now it seems as if you don’t.” Isn’t that so much like us, when we encounter the storms of life, we know in our hearts and believe by faith that Jesus does care, but in that moment, it seems like he is distant. But God is always near, and even in the fiercest storm, he is right there, and you are one miracle away from peace and calm.

Jesus stands ignoring the disciples and rebukes the wind and the waves. Jesus didn’t just perform a miracle, this was the creator speaking to his creation. Jesus speaks directly to the wind and the waves and there is instant calm. The Bible says in verse 39, there was a great calm.

Jesus rebukes the disciples and says, “Have you still no faith?” What he really was asking them was, “do you still not know who I am?” Obviously, they didn’t because verse 41 tells us that they were filled with great fear and asked each other, “who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey him?” The truth was beginning to become real to them, as the apostle Paul would later write in Colossians 1:15-17.

As the disciples looked back on this moment they might have realized that what took place on the sea of Galilee that night was written by king David prophetically over a thousand years before in Psalm 107:23-31.

Jesus was God: This short record for us that we have in the three synoptic Gospels, is incredibly powerful in revealing that Jesus was what he claimed to be. He was fully God and fully man. Jesus’ incarnation was not a loss of his divine attributes, but rather it was an addition of human attributes (Philippians 2:6-7). This does not indicate that Jesus emptied himself of his divine nature, but rather as Colossians 2:9 clarifies, Jesus was the fullness of the deity in bodily form. Rather Jesus subordinated himself to the Father and became a servant in his incarnation. By giving up his equality with God, he willingly poured his divine essence into human form and submitted himself as a servant for a season to reveal God to mankind and provide the means to salvation at the same time.

Jesus always was God and will always be God. He is uncreated, eternal God (John 1:1-2).

Jesus was Human: Mathew and Luke both record the genealogy of Jesus, even though we know he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, he still had a long and somewhat controversial family tree. Also, Jesus grew in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52). This sounds obvious, but sometimes we forget that Jesus was a toddler, a young boy, a teenager and a young man before he began his ministry. Jesus also experienced the same physical discomforts that we experience, he was hungry (Matthew 4:2), Jesus was thirsty (John 19:28) and he grew tired (John 4:6). Jesus felt emotions, he wept at the death of Lazarus he had compassion on the crowds, and he expressed anger and disappointment. He experienced life as a human being just like you and me.

This same Jesus allowed himself to be killed on a cross and then on the third day he rose again triumphant over death. He ascended into heaven and forever lives at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. This same Jesus is coming back as a conquering warrior, what a terrifying day that will be (Revelation 19:11-16).

Jesus is Lord, but is he your Lord?

This is what it means to be a Christian. Not simply believing that Jesus was the son of God or believing that he died for your sins. You must allow Jesus Lordship of your life. When you submit to the Lordship of Jesus, only then will you experience freedom, Joy and true purpose in life. Is Jesus Lord of your life? Or is Jesus someone you confess, but, he is just one aspect of your busy schedule. Sometimes Jesus gets in the way of your plans, if he is not lord of your life, you probably are not saved.

Sermon March 11, 2018 The Sending God

Luke 20:1-18

Throughout scripture we see that God is the one who sends, He sent Abraham, Moses, David and he sent the prophets of the Old Testament amongst many others. Jesus was sent with the authority of Heaven to complete a mission to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).

In Luke 20, the chief priests, the scribes and the elders approached Jesus as he was teaching in the temple. This was a clash of kingdoms’; the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man were coming face to face. Jesus had just made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and he had cleansed the temple and had begun proclaiming that the Kingdom of God, the rulership and authority of God, had arrived.

The question that the chief priests asked Jesus was legitimate, who was Jesus and by what authority did he teach? Here was a man who had no formal training, he was not a scribe or a priest, but he assumed the role to cleanse the temple, and to teach strange new teachings. Jesus was a threat to established traditions and dead religion. Jesus is still a threat to established tradition and dead religion today.

Jesus responds as he often does, by asking them a question that stumps them, “was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” Luke 20:4.

Immediately thy chief priests had a problem, if John had the authority of God over his prophetic ministry of declaring that the messiah was coming, then why did they reject him?

If they said that John was not sent from God, the people who followed and believed John would rise up in anger against the chief priests and the elders.

They were afraid of the people because they were not ministers of the truth, they were politicians who were only concerned about protecting their own position and authority.

So, they respond in by saying,” we don’t know…” But Jesus doesn’t let them off the hook and says, “neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things” (verse 8).

Jesus only increased their hatred of him, he knew what was coming, and he didn’t attempt to change their minds. He knew that they wanted to kill him, and he added to their anger by further telling a parable to the crowd.

The land owner, a metaphor for God the Father, develops the land, he goes to great expense to prepare it for a successful crop to be harvested. The landowner then leaves and leased it to tenants to maintain the land and take care of the crop.

At the time of harvest the landowner sends three different delegations to receive the landowners share of the crop. But the wicked tenants beat them and treated them shamefully. The abuse and violence escalated for each representative that was sent. In Mark’s Gospel he writes that the tenants killed some of the servants who were sent.

The vineyard was a well-known metaphor for Israel. As the scribes heard the words of Jesus they would have known that he was talking about the Prophet Isaiah chapter 5 where God calls Israel his vineyard that he has prepared. The servants or the ambassadors that the landowner sends are clearly the prophets of the Old Testament, which the people of Israel rejected and even killed.

The landowner decides to step up the pressure and send his son as his royal ambassador. But the tenants in the parable decide that if they kill the son, they will inherit the land. By doing away with the son, the owner will leave them alone. That was the plan of Satan all along, he thought that by killing the son of God he would have absolute dominion over the earth and prevent God the father receiving any of the harvest of souls.

The people Jesus was speaking to could not imagine the possibility of God taking the land away from Israel as Jesus ended the parable in verse 16. But this happened in a real sense in AD 70, when the Roman empire destroyed Jerusalem, but it will happen in a complete destruction when Jesus comes again and there is the final judgment. The people seemed offended by what Jesus was saying, but Jesus pauses and looks them straight in the eyes and quotes Isaiah 8 in Luke 20:17-18. Again, a passage the scribes would have recognized that Jesus was not only calling himself the messiah, but he was also calling himself God, because that passage in Isaiah is preceded by the verse stating this is the Lord of Hosts. Jesus not only has the authority of the one who sent him, but he will also come back again one day to judge the world.

Jesus the Beloved Son, the chief cornerstone, the head of the Church who was sent by God the Father. God the Father sent his only son on a mission that looked like a certain defeat. Satan thought the cross was his greatest victory, but it is his ultimate defeat.

God sent his son, to bring the Kingdom to reintroduce his people to himself. But sadly, just as the parable states, his people killed his son (John 1:11-12). You now have been given the right to be called a child of God. You have the right to be a representative and ambassador of the kingdom of God.

Jesus was sent by God the Father and in turn he sends us. The story of the cross is a completed victory, but also the beginning of our commissioning, the sending out of the church with the message of the Good news.

God is a sending God, he has always been sending his people into the vineyard and now, he is sending you into the vineyard. God prepared the vineyard, he is expecting a harvest.

How are you going to respond to the God who sends?

A Voice for the Voiceless

Yesterday, if you attended Grace Point, you would have heard from Denny and Mindy Thibault. The Thibault family have been called by God to be the voice for the voiceless in the cry to end abortion in our land. They are collecting signatures for a petition to present a million signatures to the Supreme Court. You can sign the petition here, https://themoraloutcry.com/

I encourage you to sign and do what you can to stand up for the weak and the most vulnerable in our society. Debbie and I are passionate about ending the injustice of abortion and we know that this is more than simply a political decision, this is a spiritual decision and Satan is determined to destroy as many lives as possible in the womb. I believe the reason is that Satan knows the power that children carry in the Kingdom of God, Psalm 8 vs 2 says,

“Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.”

As we closed the service we sang a song called, “Everything and Nothing less” written by Chris McClarney. As I was singing, I really began to think about the lyrics which go as follows,

“Humbly I stand, an offering
With open hands, Lord I bring
Everything and nothing less
My best, my all
You deserve my every breath
My life, my song
I surrender, I surrender all
Oh, I surrender, I surrender all
Lord take control, I trust You
I’m letting go, to give You
Everything and nothing less
My best, my all”

And I began to think of my life, I quickly dismissed the challenge and thought that I have submitted my all to God, I have a list of credentials to say that I have offered my all to God. But very quickly God reminded me that I was a long way off from perfect submission to Him. I had to repent and realize that their were areas in my life that I still held on to, that I still wanted control over.

Oswald Chambers always reminds us in his writing to live a life of abandonment, releasing all our talents to the Lord for His use. I read this little snippet from him this morning.

“Abandon to God is of more value than personal holiness.” Here’s why: “We have to get rid of this notion-‘Am I of any use?’ and make up our minds that we are not, and we may be near the truth. It is never a question of being of use, but of being of value to God Himself. When we are abandoned to God, He works through us all the time.”   Oswald Chambers

As I was repenting of my selfish idols, God was gracious to remind me that our life value does not consist of what we “do” for Christ, but that we are redeemed, loved and adopted into the Kingdom and family of our Heavenly Father.

Sermon February 18, 2018 Treasures of the Kingdom of Heaven

As we look at Matthew 13 we see that Jesus taught eight parables, and each time he said something to the effect of “the Kingdom of Heaven is like….”, and then told the parable. Some longer, like the parable of the sower, and some shorter like the leaven in the flour, which is only one sentence.

But we need to define the Kingdom. Matthew wrote to a predominantly Jewish audience, as a result, he used the term Kingdom of Heaven, whereas Luke and the other gospel writers used the Kingdom of God for the same principle meaning.

The Kingdom of God is the rulership of God over all things. He owns and sustains all things, but because of man’s sin, the world has been under the rulership of Satan. This is not to say that he rules the world completely; God is still sovereign. But it does mean that God, in His infinite wisdom, has allowed Satan to operate in this world within the boundaries God has set for him.

The earth is in subjection to the rule and influence of Satan until Jesus comes again and destroys his evil kingdom. Paul writing in Romans 8 describes how all creation has been groaning and eagerly waiting for the new kingdom to be revealed. When Jesus began his public ministry, he began the introduction of the Kingdom of God to a lost and dying world. The Kingdom of God is not strictly a future hope tied in with Christ’s second coming. it is the realm of God’s rule both present, and future. Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of God, of which He was the embodiment, when He commenced His earthly ministry (see Matthew 4:17).

When Jesus died on the cross and defeated Satan, he began the process of dismantling Satan’s kingdom and installing the Kingdom of heaven. So, the kingdom of heaven is present in the world, but not yet in it’s fullness.

The kingdom of Heaven is so foreign to the world’s kingdom, especially in our era, where the focus of our worship is ourselves. Jesus uses eight parables to introduce some of these foreign concepts of the Kingdom, four of which he tells the crowd, and then another four he tells privately to his disciples, he turns his attention to his inner circle, continuing to explain to them that this is what the Kingdom of heaven is like.

Focusing our attention on two of these parables; the man who finds a treasure hidden in a field and the merchant who finds a pearl great value, what can we learn from them?

When a person makes Jesus Christ Lord of their life, it must cause a dramatic change in one’s value system. The things we valued the most, we set aside;  the things that the world views as treasures become worthless in the knowledge of eternal life.

These two short parables speak volumes about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. What is valuable to you? Not just possessions, but people, titles, position and places. For some people their treasure is their sport, or their hobbies or their career (see  Matthew 6:21).

In both these parables, the man and the merchant sold everything they had to obtain a greater treasure. This is foolishness, this is extreme, this is radical. These are the same adjectives that people use when describing followers of Jesus.

RT Kendall wrote: “Once you have truly experienced the anointing of the Spirit, your money, reputation, love for the world, fear of what people will say and so on all pale into insignificance.”

The Bible does not say that having material possessions is wrong, rather it is when those things become more important to us than God, then we have a problem. This is because there is no comparison between the treasures of this world and the treasures of the kingdom of heaven.

The merchant who sold all that he had to buy one pearl, didn’t simply exchange one treasure for another. He found a treasure supremely more valuable than anything in his life.

This is what Jesus offers us and when we become part of the kingdom of God, we experience a treasure and a life that makes all other desires small in comparison.

So here is the big question, does this reflect your Christian experience?

Or have you simply tried to add a bit of religion to your life by raising your hand in a meeting in response to an altar call, but you really don’t know this treasure of the Kingdom?  Salvation is more than simply avoiding hell because our sins are forgiven. What you have available to you are treasures of inestimable value (see Romans 8:32).

When we ask Jesus to be the Lord of our lives, God gives us his Holy Spirit to fill us and to reign in us; we become a part of the Kingdom of Heaven. When we become a follower of Jesus, we become like the leaven that impacts the dough, we become a change agent in our community, preparing the way for the fulfillment of the Kingdom when Jesus comes again.

When we see it that way, and we see all that it means to be a Christian, we would be fools not to view all our earthly treasures as worthless in comparison. Do you really know what it means to be a part of the Kingdom of Heaven?

But there is a different way of looking at these parables that will hopefully transform your thinking. When Jesus was telling these parables, he was proclaiming the Gospel message. Jesus came to the earth, setting aside his heavenly throne and took on flesh, he became a man just like us as he set aside his golden crown to take a crown of thorns (see Philippians 2:7-11). When we see this, we see that Jesus is the person who found a treasure in a field, it is Jesus who found the pearl of great value and it is Jesus who gave up everything to obtain it. It is Jesus who bought the treasure of salvation by buying the whole field of creation. These parables reveal the Gospel, they reveal the glory of Jesus who denied himself even to the point of dying on the cross so that he would receive the name above every other name.

The kingdom of heaven operates on a completely different currency than our small world.  Have you discovered this kingdom? Give everything you have to the Lordship of Jesus and God will give you a life and a future of infinite value.

January 7, 2018 Worship or Fear, we have a Choice

Matthew 6:25-34

At the beginning of the New Year we are looking at the four foundational pillars of our church, which are Worship, Word, Mission/ Evangelism and Compassion. This week we will be turning our attention to Worship by looking at Mathew 6 and verses 25-34. Not normally a scripture portion that is associated with worship.

What is Worship?  Is worship singing? Is it a church service? Do we only worship on a Sunday morning?  The word Worship comes from an old English word which is made up of two words, Worth and Ship. We worship what we give value to and what we dwell on. It is not just singing, or meditating, although that is a large part of worship. We worship what we give value to, the way we use our money, in the way we work, the way we share the Gospel with others and how we spend our free time. When we understand worship, we understand that we worship God with our very lives.

Frequently we hear the question, “how did you like worship today?” If you think about it, that is an absurd question as it reveals that the true nature of our desire to come to a church gathering is not to worship God, but rather to worship our own desires and our own preferences.

One of the ways that a lack of worship manifests itself is in fear and anxiety, this is especially true at the beginning of the New Year as the global future looks more and more unstable.

We don’t have a fear problem, we have a belief in God problem. And I contend that We don’t have a fear problem, we have a worship problem. If we really knew God, and that begins by daily reading His word and daily talking with him in prayer, we would find that our fears would melt away.

In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus has just been teaching his disciples about the importance of not storing up for themselves riches on the earth, but rather store up for themselves riches in heaven. Jesus taught things that were counter culture in the first century and even more so today. Jesus makes it very plain in verse 24, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Jesus makes it very clear, that if we focus on the things around us, if we focus on building our own little kingdom here on this earth we cannot serve God. You may say that saving money for a rainy day is simply prudent, but how much of our saving is based on the fear of the unknown, which in turn is based on the fear that God really cannot take care of His children.

Jesus continued in verse 25, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”

Notice that Jesus doesn’t try to encourage them to try not to worry, rather he forcefully tells them not to worry at all. It is a sin to worry, because when we worry, we show that we doubt the power of God over our circumstances. When we worry, we take God off the throne in our lives and we pay lip service to the all-powerful God, but do not believe it.

Putting God first is a constant struggle as we are so overwhelmed with information and entertainment in our day.

Think of how God feels when we carry around useless burdens which do nothing but weigh us down. Like a good parent God doesn’t want His children to struggle with things that He could help them with. God is our heavenly Father, the all-knowing Father who owns everything and lavishes his love on us. Jesus continues in verse 26 to say that Our Heavenly Father is committed to caring for His creation, why would we think that He is not able to care for us His children?

In verse 32, Jesus said, “your Heavenly Father knows you need all these things.” God is not unaware of your need to pay your mortgage, your health issues, your children’s education, or your ailing parent. God knows everything about your life.

“No man ever sank under the burden of the day. It is when tomorrow’s burden is added to the burden of today, that the weight is more than a man can bear.” — Gordon MacDonald

If worrying is a sin, how do we practically stop worrying? Jesus makes this clear in verse 33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Worship is focusing on the Kingdom of Heaven, worship is focusing on the God who created the universe (see Psalm 145:13-16). Worship is about taking our eyes off our small world and focusing on the Kingdom of God

(see Philippians 4:6-7). That is living by the Spirit, God designed us to live by the Spirit in Christ and when we do that our very lives are consumed by worship. Being led by the Holy Spirit we are directed into His presence where our fears melt away.

We can worry, or we can worship, it is a choice we make and a decision we will live by. Worshipping God is always the best option, one that produces life. Anything in our lives that is more important than God, that causes us to take our eyes off God is and idol. Fear and worry are idols. Which altar are you worshipping at?

When we truly worship God, and get a glimpse of His glory on the throne, all the problems and the concerns of life will melt away. As the song by Helen Lemmel goes,

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth
Will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace”

What Child is This? part 3 – December 17, 2017

So much of our Christmas season focuses on the birth of Jesus, but we cannot look at the birth of Jesus without looking at the reason why Jesus came to live amongst us.

Luke’s Gospel tells the narrative of how Jesus would be conceived and named. In Luke 1:26-35 we read how Mary had an encounter with the angel Gabriel, and he told her that the baby would be called Jesus. Jesus means God Saves, this must have been another indicator to Mary of who Jesus really was.

Every child carries some of the attributes and characteristics of their mother and their father. The angel told Mary that Jesus would be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus would have some of the attributes of Mary and some of the attributes of God himself. And we know from Hebrews 1:3 that Jesus is fully God and fully man.

Jesus said to his disciples in John 14 verse 9, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

So, this child, conceived miraculously by the power of the Holy Spirit, is the exact representation of God the Father and he is fully God, but by being born of Mary, he also has some of the nature of Mary. This is by God’s infinite design so that by being a man, Jesus would one day be able to offer himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

The Apostle Paul wrote about this in Philippians 2:6-8.

We know that Jesus reflected the nature and character of God the Father, but how much of the character of Mary did Jesus possess as he walked the earth?

Looking at the way in which Jesus dealt with people we can see some of what Mary must have been like. Jesus was compassionate and kind, especially with children Jesus displayed patience and tenderness.

Jesus sought out the people on the fringes of society, calling them, showing them compassion and embracing them.

When the angel encountered Mary, he told her in verse 30, that she had found favor with God. God saw in Mary something special, she found favor with God possibly because she displayed the characteristics of gentleness, compassion, patience and tenderness. Perhaps it is possible that God saw in Mary the character traits, that He placed in her in the first place, but the character traits that would be necessary for Jesus to be who he was.

This child that lay asleep on her lap would one day grow up to have the character traits of care and compassion that his mother had.

There are several times in the Bible where the nature of God is described using motherly language and imagery (See Isaiah 66:13, Deuteronomy 32:11-12a, Psalm 22:9-10, Hosea 13:8a, Luke 13:34).

We see these images of God in the Bible as partial descriptions of the nature and character of God. Jesus is the exact representation of God; therefore, he must have these attributes himself. The same attributes that Mary displayed.

In addition to these characteristics, Mary and Jesus both displayed strong character in their lives. They both displayed great faith and trust in God. They were both willing and committed to the mission that God the Father had called them too. When Mary received the instructions from the Angel, her response was in Luke 1:38, “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

When the time came for Jesus to face the completion of his mission, just before he was arrested and crucified, he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, humbly submitting to the perfect plan and will of the Father (Luke 22:41-42).

Both Jesus and Mary lived lives of extraordinary consequence, but both suffered deep pain. We only have a glimpse from the account of the crucifixion of how much pain and suffering Jesus went through as he paid the price for our salvation, but Mary also suffered. When Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple they met Simeon who praised God for allowing him to see the Messiah before his death, and went on to prophecy over Mary foretelling of the pain that she would one day endure (Luke 2:34-35).

Even in the Christmas carol, focusing on the birth of Jesus, we read of the purpose of why Jesus came to earth and gave up his glory in heaven. Mary was present at the crucifixion, standing by the cross, and enduring the agony of seeing her son die in the most excruciating way. Mary never left the side of Jesus, she was committed to being there for her son. This is also a promise of Jesus and one of the primary characteristics of the nature of God, he is a faithful God who promises to never leave us.

No matter how dark the season is that you are going through, no matter how lonely you feel at this Christmas season God is always near and his Word promises that He will be with you.

Jesus promised his disciples when he left them his Great Commission (Matthew 28:20b).

One of the most powerful scenes of compassion took place as Jesus hung suffering on the cross. Mary was there, and she wanted to help alleviate the pain, but Jesus looked at her and cared for her as he instructed the Apostle John to care for his mother (see John 19:26-17). What an incredible picture of love and compassion, in his pain he made sure that Mary was going to be taken care of.

“What child is this?” He is the one who came to love and to be the selfless sacrifice for all those who would believe in his name. But praise God, it didn’t end there. Jesus rose from the dead in a new resurrected body, Jesus became the first born of the new creation, and by his re-birth we can be born again.

Mary came to understand that this miraculous baby became the greater miracle, the way of salvation for millions of people who would put their faith and trust in him.

This Jesus is still the same today, full of compassion and love, ready to meet your needs.

If you are facing a huge trial and difficulty, Jesus knows what you are going through and he can meet your need.

If you are lonely and struggling with depression, Jesus knows your pain and is full of compassion.

Jesus came to earth as a little baby, to be fully man, so that he could identify with you and me (see Hebrews 4:15-16).

What Child is This? part 2 – December 10, 2017

In Matthew chapter 2 we read the account of the wise men who came from the east to meet Jesus.

We must ask ourselves, who were these men, and why did they get invited to meet the Messiah?

 The first thing we notice is that these wise men came from the east, most likely they were Gentiles from Arabia, this would have included modern day Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, UAE and Iraq.

One of the clearest explanations for their place of origin would be the types of gifts they brought to Jesus as we read in verse 11 of Matthew 2. The Gold which these wise men brought was probably mined in the region of Ophir and Sheba, which is mentioned in 2 Kings 9 as the place where King Solomon obtained huge quantities of gold for his extravagant building projects. The gifts of Frankincense and Myrrh are also derived from trees that primarily grow in Southern Arabia. It is important to understand the origin of these wealthy travelers in order to understand that they were fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 60:1-6

So how does knowing this information about the wise men help us in answering the question, “what child is this?”

Firstly; both Jesus and the wise men came from a distant place to Bethlehem. The Wise men travelled from a distant country in the east, and Jesus as we know came from God the Father and took on human form as he became Emmanuel, God with us (see John 1:1-2, 9-12).

Secondly; one might be tempted to think that because of all the prophecies relating to the messiah being Jewish, it would mean that he only came for the Jews. However, with these wise men coming from the east, God clearly announced that Jesus came for all mankind.

Thirdly; these wise men were wealthy, but to say that Jesus came from a place of means, is probably the greatest understatement in history. If you read Revelation chapters 4 and 5, you will see a glimpse of the majesty and the incredible riches of heaven. Jesus was surrounded by wealth, power and majesty in heaven, and yet he humbled himself to come as a poor baby born to a poor couple in a humble stable.  This child born in the manger is the Lord who created everything and owns everything.

And finally, the wise men were generous as they brought extravagant gifts for Jesus. Jesus himself came to bring a gift of unimaginable worth to all who would receive it. Jesus came from a position of wealth and he came with a gift, the ultimate gift of eternal life (see Galatians 1:3-4a, 1 John 3:16, John 14:27a, Philippians 4:13, Mark 10:45).

Have you ever wondered why the wise men came to Bethlehem?

The greater question is, how did these wise men know that the King of the Jews was to be born. We know that ancient eastern scholars were students of the natural sciences and in fact they came from a culture that valued the study of the stars and the planets. Thus, when they saw this strange star in the sky, they began digging to find out why it was there. To find out how they came to know about Jesus, you must go back nearly six centuries to the Babylonian exile of the southern kingdom of Israel in 587 B.C. After the exile had ended, some of the people of Judah remained in the eastern lands where they maintained their oral traditions and scriptures. They would have taken the tradition of telling the stories of the ancient scriptures to whoever would listen. These transplanted exiles would have told of the prophecies of Jeremiah, Daniel, and Isaiah about the coming Messiah the King of the Jews.

These wise men would have known of the ancient prophecies of the Messiah coming in the west. And when they saw the star, they came to meet this king. However simply knowing of an important birth happening hundreds of miles away probably wasn’t the real motivation for their coming to Bethlehem. I believe is the real reason the wise men visited Bethlehem was that God the Holy Spirit invited them and compelled them to meet Jesus.

Just as God invited, and prompted the wise men to come and see Jesus, so to, today, the Holy Spirit invites and compels people to come and meet Jesus.

One of the incorrect statements we often hear is, “I found Jesus”. Well the truth is that you didn’t find Jesus, he invited you to meet him.

When the wise men finally come to the house of Mary and Joseph, imagine Mary’s surprise when these wealthy, well dressed, upper class men come into her home and when they see the baby, they bow down and worship. These gentiles probably didn’t speak Aramaic or Hebrew, but they bow down and worship the king. They had been invited to witness the most important birth in all of history and unlike the rest of the people around them, they knew who deserved to be worshipped. The rest of the people in Bethlehem at that time did not recognize Jesus for who he was, and they never did.

These wise men were the first non-Jewish people to worship the Son of God, and just like you and me today, they were invited in. Because Jesus didn’t come only for the Jews, but he came for all nations for all people groups.

So, what about you? You have been invited to meet the King of Kings, the one born in Bethlehem, who brought the gift of eternal life to all mankind

Have you met Jesus? Have you worshipped Jesus? There is only one gift that we have to offer Jesus, and that is the gift of our lives, fully committing our lives to worship him and live for him.

Thanksgiving part 2 – November 19, 2017

Recalling the history of the early Pilgrims, Governor William Bradford wrote concerning their faith, “God gave them health and strength in a good measure; and shewed them by experience ye truth of the word.” And he quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word, that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

Thanksgiving is all about God, and recognizing who He is and all the blessings He has freely given us. In a world that has all but pushed God away in every sphere of society it is amazing that we still celebrate Thanksgiving, because how can we celebrate this holiday if we don’t acknowledge our Lord and Creator.

Thanksgiving is such a great holiday, but it is not an end in itself; thanksgiving must lead us into something. Thanksgiving should lead to something that is infinitely more significant.

In Luke 17 we read about a man that was truly thankful. This account from the life of Jesus took place while he was on his way to Jerusalem, on the way he encounters ten men with leprosy. At that time and according to the Law of Moses, people with leprosy had to wear torn clothing and live on their own outside of the city, waiting for their probable death.

They had nothing to lose and they cried out to Jesus, calling him Master, recognizing that Jesus was the messiah. Sadly, it is often only those who are desperate who recognize their need for Jesus.

Jesus heard their cry for help and in response he told them to go and show themselves to the priests. The implication was clear to the lepers, according to the law, people with a skin disease had to be examined by a priest, who would determine whether they were clean allowing them to be re-integrated into society.

They hurried away to do just this, and Luke 17:14 says, “as they went, they were cleansed”. They didn’t go and sit back under the tree and wait for their symptoms to disappear. The Bible is clear that they were healed when they went in faith. Can you imagine their emotional roller-coaster they must have gone through? They started walking and after one mile they still were sick, maybe after two miles, they still saw no sign of relief. Every step was a step in faith and as they continued in faith they were healed. We are not told when the healing took place, but they were healed as they walked in faith. Faith in the healing power of Jesus often requires us to obey before we see the full evidence of God’s work within us

From the account in Luke’s Gospel it seems that all ten are healed, but only one man, a Samaritan comes back praising God (Luke 17:15-16).

The people of Samaria were of mixed Israelite and foreign descent, so the Jewish people did not accept them as part of the Jewish community. The Samaritans were despised by Jews for both ethnic and religious reasons; there was mutual hatred by the Samaritans toward Jews.

We don’t know the nationalities of the other nine, but the response Jesus gave in verse 18 seems to indicate that the other nine were Jews. This Samaritan fell at the feet of Jesus and worshipped loudly. He recognized and glorified God, and this is the key, his thanksgiving led to Worship. Worship is a natural response of a heart filled with gratitude.

It would have been logical for him to have followed the other men and gone to the temple, but he first came to the Lord Jesus with his sacrifice of praise. The law required that after being inspected by the priests at the temple, one would have to offer a sacrifice to God. But this Samaritan didn’t even get to the temple, he turned around and ran to Jesus, this pleased the Lord more than all the sacrifices the other men offered, even though they were obeying the Law. And instead of going to the priest, the Samaritan became a priest, and he built his altar at the feet of Jesus.

If you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are a royal priesthood with a purpose. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

Looking at our last verse, I saw something that I had never discovered before in this passage, in verse 19 Jesus said to the Samaritan man, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

At first glance, this seems to tell us that the faith of this man is the reason for his physical healing, and yes to a certain extent it is. But the word used in the Greek to indicate being made well comes from the root word “sozo”.

What Jesus really said to the man was, “your faith has saved you”

This man was grateful, and he knew the reason for his healing, he immediately came to Jesus and worshipped him.

Dante Rossetti once said; “The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful, and has nobody to thank”.

The essence of Thanksgiving is that it is an act of worship. True worship flows from gratitude which comes from our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Are you worshipping God today? Is your worship coming from a heart of gratitude?