Sermon, Sunday June 5, 2022 – Do Not Love the World.

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1 John 4 teaches that God is love, but the Bible also teaches that there are some things that God hates and so should we (See Psalm 5:5-6, Proverbs 6:16-19, Revelation 2:6).

As we see in John 2, God hates the love of the world. When we become Christians, we no longer view this world as our home. Rather, we are looking forward to an eternal home with the Lord. If we truly believe this, then why would we give our time, energy, finances, and passions to temporary things that directly oppose God.

As we surrender, God not only takes us into His kingdom, but He also brings us into His family. John uses three terms to identify the people he is writing to in verses 12-14: Children, Fathers and Young Men.

The term children refers to new believers, the fathers are the mature believers who have been following the Lord for many years, and the young men are the maturing believers who are pursuing God with passion and fervor.

In verse 12, John addresses those newer believers and encourages them with the good news of their forgiven sins. Isn’t it great to know that our sins are forgiven?

Next, John addresses the spiritual fathers and mothers who have been walking with the Lord for many years. When we become Christians, we begin a journey that leads to a growing relationship with God our Father. John repeats this in verse 14 to emphasize the importance of growing in our knowledge of our Heavenly Father. We grow in this knowledge and relationship through life experiences, challenges, and trials.

Then John addresses the people who are growing in their passion and zeal for the things of God. These people are young in the faith, maturing, and fighting hard in spiritual warfare. They are strong because the word of God abides in them.

It is important to remember that we don’t overcome the attacks of Satan by our own hard work or efforts, we rest on the completed work of Jesus on the cross. Satan loves to tempt us and hurl accusations at us regarding our past, but our debt has been paid, in Christ there is no more condemnation (Romans 8:1).

These young warriors are abiding in the word of God and as a result they are strong in the face of temptation and trials.  

Sadly, many Christians never grow up and remain as children because they do not have the discipline to read, meditate, and feed on the Word of God.

In the following three verses John warns his readers about the “World”. What he is referring to is a worldview and a way of life that is led by Satan and his demons. Following the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes and the pride of possessions. This is a worldview that leaves God out of our thinking and decisions. Chasing after temporary things while ignoring eternal things.

These verses encourage us to reject anything that goes against God’s word and anything that we would value more than God. That would be an idol in our lives. Worldliness means living only to please our flesh and pursuing the desire of our eyes. This is a life pursuing temporal pleasure and will never satisfy.  

John highlights three things the world promises but cannot deliver:

1: The World Cannot Give You What You Need (1 John 2:15).

Everyone of us has a God given need to love and to be loved. But the object of our love needs to be in the right order for us to experience peace. If we choose to love the world, we are choosing to not love God and we will never be fulfilled.

2: The World Cannot Give You What It Promises (1 John 2:16).

This is one of the most important verses in the Bible. It identifies three weapons Satan uses to seduce men and women away from God. These same three weapons Satan used in the Garden of Eden to tempt Adam and Eve.

Genesis 3:6 says, “Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food [lust of the flesh] and delightful to look at [lust of the eyes], and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom [the pride of life].”

The same three weapons were used by Satan when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness in Luke 4. And today Satan still uses the same three weapons against the followers of Jesus. They are effective, because we don’t recognize them and resist them by the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

  • The desires (lust) of the flesh appeal to our appetites.

“Desires” means cravings, lust, or passion. The word desire is neutral, but the object of our desire is what determines whether such desires are good or bad. It is important to realize that we are not sinful because we sin. Instead, we sin because we are sinful.

  • The desire of the eyes appeals to our affections.

Our eyes, like our natural desire, are not evil (Proverbs 20:12), however, the eyes are windows to the soul by which sinful desires enter.  In 2 Samuel 11, David was led to adultery and murder because of what he allowed his eyes to see.

  • Pride in possessions appeals to our ambitions.

Pride is an unhealthy self-image, boasting and arrogance to impress others. The “Pride of possessions” or “pride of life” speaks of the person who glorifies himself rather than God.

If you think that you don’t fall into this category, just spend a few moments thinking about how much time and energy you spend trying to earn a few extra dollars or gain that next promotion or buy that nice car or phone. We are all prone to stumbling in this area as in the others because of our human nature.

But there is a better way to live, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” 1 Peter 5:6.  

3: The World Cannot Give You What Will Last (1 John 2:17).

We have two opposing worlds to give our lives to, why would we give our lives to something that is temporary and an illusion. Why would we give our lives to the temporary deception of Satan’s world that leads only to death? The only life that produces eternal fruit, is a life that is committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and living to do the will of God.

One of the saddest stories in the Bible concerns a man by the name of Demas. In Colossians 4, we read that he is faithfully serving alongside Luke for the Gospel ministry. However much later in 2 Timothy 4:10, the Apostle Paul writes these tragic words, “Demas has deserted me, because he loved this present world.”

The history of Christianity is filled with people who have followed in the path of Demas. Don’t live for the temporal and lose out on the eternal.

What are you pursuing in life?

Sermon Sunday May 22, 2022 Love One Another

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Church numerical growth has been a topic of study for decades. Many books have been written and seminars delivered. However, there is a very simple three-word prescription for church growth, “Love One Another”.

It might sound simplistic, but it is one of the most challenging things to do.

The apostle John is a succinct writer who simplifies the Christian life down to the essential elements, know Jesus, obey God, and love others.

John uses the term “beloved” six times in this letter. John makes the case that the love of God is essential for us to be able to love our brothers and sisters. We aren’t called to love out of duty or legalism, that would be hypocritical. What John is writing about is a supernatural love, seen and experienced in those who abide in Jesus. This is the love that is the fruit of the Spirit.

There is way more to this supernatural love than a mushy, warm and fuzzy experience, there is power in this love. As we see in verse 8, perfect love as revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ has dealt a death blow to darkness. Darkness is on the run, and it cannot outrun the light. How we love one another gives evidence of all of this.

The love of Christ in us is not a shallow sentimental emotion. It is a matter of the will not of feelings. Christlike love is a determined decision to allow the love of God to reach others through you. Christlike love is the essential ingredient of true evangelism.

The best explanation of Christian love is found in 1 Corinthians 13. This chapter is not a text for weddings or valentine’s day messages, it is a day-to-day church passage. It is the prescription for how we are to live as the body of Christ.

The love of God is given to the church supernaturally for the building up of the church (Romans 5:5). God has poured his love into the hearts of everyone who has given their lives to the Lordship of Jesus.

John’s life was transformed by this supernatural love. He was not always loving, he and his brother James were known as the “sons of thunder”, because of their emotional outbursts. In Luke 9, James and John asked Jesus if they could call down fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritan village who rejected Jesus. John was transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and he loved as Jesus loved.

And there is good reason why this love is supernatural, because it is a cosmic war between light and darkness. The world of light and love always go together (1 John 2:9-10).

The natural question that follows is, who is my brother? The Greek word used for brother here means a person who lives close by, literally my neighbor. Well, who is my neighbor? Jesus addressed this in Luke 10 by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus explained that our neighbor is the person in front of us right now. The person in need, the person we work with or the person we bump into while walking into the store. Are you aware of your neighbor? Those daily opportunities to love the way Jesus loved.

Verse 11 returns to those who are in darkness, “But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”

If you hate someone, you are walking blindly in continual darkness. This kind of darkness is spiritual death. Hatred is blinding people today and this happens in the church as little disagreements creep in, and relationships are broken.

This kind of blindness can creep into the church in many ways. It is not necessarily through arguments. Sometimes blindness can creep into the church in the form of doctrine and spiritual elitism. People have their favorite doctrine, theology, or experience and if they are not careful, they become critical of others who do not share the same view or experience. This kind of person thinks he is a spiritual giant, having it all figured out, but really, he is a spiritual babe, lacking the ability to discern what is important, loving one another. Some people are so in love with their doctrine and “rightness”, that they have lost their love for their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

In recent years it seems that we have lost the ability to disagree and still love each other.

It is impossible to be in fellowship with the Father and out of fellowship with another Christian at the same time. The Christian life has two relationships: the vertical (Godward) and the horizontal (manward). We need both, which is why gathering for worship and fellowship on a Sunday morning is so vital to our spiritual health.

If you put a group of people in a room long enough, someone is going to get offended. So how do we respond?

The follower of Jesus who has been offended must understand two things;

1) I have no right to be offended. I gave up my rights when I asked Jesus to be Lord of my life.

2) Harboring unforgiveness only harms the offended person.

“Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die.”

Marianne Williamson

Loving one another in the church is very practical and essential for the health of the church.

Practically we love each other by:

  • Serving one another.  Stepping up and volunteering when there is a need.
  • Love one another through theological differences. Jesus was critical of the pharisees, not because of their doctrine, but because they didn’t care for the flock.
  • Love one another through joy and pain. Carry one another’s burdens, look for practical ways to care when someone is hurting.
  • Love one another on mission. Serving alongside each other as we share the Gospel in our community.  
  • Love one another by confronting sin. Do we love one another enough to call out a brother or sister who is living in sin?
  • Love one another to grow spiritually. Just as the fruits and flowers need sunshine, so God’s people need love if they are going to grow.

How are you loving each other today?

Sermon Sunday May 8, 2022 – Let God be True and Every Man a Liar

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The number one problem in the world today is that humanity has a sin problem, and it affects everyone. But not everyone agrees with this assertion.

Today, we don’t hear people call sin for what it is. Sin is labelled an error of judgment, a mistake, a bad decision, etc. In fact people go to great lengths to rationalize or hide their sin.

But we must understand this basic truth, to deny sin is to call God a liar and question His character. In this passage, John uses the word “sin” nine times, and two times he will use the word “darkness.” To think correctly about Jesus, we must think correctly about sin.

In verse 5 we are reminded that we have good news, and it is a message that the world needs. This message concerns Jesus Christ, “the Word of life”. When we meet Jesus as our savior, our assignment is to take this message to the whole world. According to the JoshuaProject.net there are 7,418 unreached people groups who are yet to hear the Gospel.

A key component of the Gospel message is to convey an understanding of the nature and character of God. This is a constant theme of John’s writing.For example, he teaches us that; God is light (1:5), God is love (4:8, 16), and God is true (5:20).

In 1 John the statement “God is light” means God has as His very nature and being the source of life. Martin Luther said, “There is no darkness in Him, not even the slightest”.

This is a message that we must passionately share with the world.

But our message must also include what God says about sin. The essence of sin is our attempting to take the place of God. We want to be in charge. And we want to provide our own definitions of what is right and wrong.

John is not interested in human opinions on the matter of sin. He uses three “if we say” statements to lead his readers to understand sin. He says we are prone to lie to others, lie to ourselves and ultimately call God a liar.

1: Do Not Lie to Others (1 John 1:6–7)

John writes in 1 John 1:6, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth”.

If we say we have fellowship with God, but are walking in spiritual darkness, we are lying. We say to others, “I know God,” but our beliefs and behavior contradict our words. We lie to others about who we are.

In contrast, verse 7 says that if we live our lives in the realm of light, as God is in the light, our fellowship with one another is authentic and the blood of Jesus, His Son, keeps on cleansing us from all sin.

2: Do Not Lie to Yourself (1 John 1:8–9)

 Verse 8 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Those who live in death and darkness do not just lie to others, and eventually they lie to themselves. They lose their moral compass, and their conscience is seared (1 Timothy 4:2).  

If we claim to be sinless, a declaration that we are free from the guilt and penalty of sin, we are deceived, and the truth is not in us.  The truth is a person, if we say we have no sin, we really have no relationship with Jesus.

John then follows up with one of the greatest verses in the Bible, verse 9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.

John writes that there are two kinds of people

  • There are some who cover and conceal their sin. They are liars.
  • There are also confessors who acknowledge and admit their sin. They are forgiven.

John is not saying that we need to be perfectly sinless as that is impossible. We need an advocate who can forgive us.

3: Do Not Lie about God (1 John 1:10)

John makes the case that we can lie to others about our sin, we will then lie to ourselves and ultimately, we will actually call God a liar. Verse 10, “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

Moving on to 1 John 2 verses 1 and 2, the world must know what God says about Jesus.

Jesus Is Our Advocate (1 John 2:1)

John has made it clear that in this life we cannot be sinless. However, he does believe we can sin less because we are now in intimate fellowship with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

We all still sin, but we have the amazing promise of 1 John 1:9. In verse 1, John tells his readers to run to our savior, our advocate to the Father. This advocate is sinless, undefiled, and spotless in his nature and in all his actions. There is no one else like him.

The word “advocate” means helper, who comes alongside in a time of need. This helper is the cleanser of sin (1:7), the forgiver of sin (1:9), and the helper when we do sin.

We have this misconception that when we sin, Jesus turns away from us and leaves us because we have disappointed him. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus is drawn to us when we sin, he cares for us and knows that our sin leads to pain. He comes near to prevent us hurting ourselves further.

Jesus Is Our Atonement(1 John 2:2)

Jesus can be our advocate, because he has made propitiation, an atonement for our sins.

The word “propitiation” is a very important word that carries the idea of satisfaction. Jesus Christ, by His sacrifice on the cross, satisfied God’s holiness and turned away His righteous wrath from sinners.

The work of atonement accomplished by Christ on the cross is where God’s holiness and God’s love meet. (See Isaiah 53:10 and Philippians 2:9).

How do you stand before God today? Are you lying to those around you? Are you lying to yourself? Are you calling God a liar?

Jesus offers right standing before God, his forgiveness is instant and paid for.

Sunday May 1, 2022 Volunteering in the Church

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Today we recognized volunteers, the people that make everything run smoothly. As we called each volunteer forward, we asked them to put a crayon in a vase. Each one of the crayons represents a task that needs to be done in the church. It was evident that it took a lot of people to do all that needs to be done in the church.  

But let’s think about the church, why do we come to church?

I think one of the failures of the church in the past fifty years is the advent of the mega church and the multiple campus church models. One of the primary motivators of the seeker friendly church is to make the church as welcoming and inviting as possible in order to get people through the doors.

Now, don’t get me wrong, we absolutely need to be welcoming and inviting. And there is nothing wrong with large numbers. But what has happened is that the church has gone from being a sending agent and become a Christian entertainment venue.

Feeding peoples wants and desires by programs, features, and entertainment. Instead of people coming to church to be equipped for the work of the ministry, people are coming to church to be entertained, and they are dictating to the leadership what they want in order to stay.

If we are honest, who has become the object of attention? It is the attendees, and if we are focusing on the attendees, who are we worshipping?

The church is not a professional organization, it is a body. We are all members of the body and as such we all serve alongside one another, for one purpose – for the glory of God.

We are saved for more than simply getting a ticket to heaven – there is so much more for us.

God delivered us so that we would have a relationship with him, through which He calls us to be a part of His mission to bring the Gospel message to the lost. What a privilege. Paul makes this clear in Ephesians 2:8-10.

We are saved in order to do good works. Now, the church is not the only place where we can do these works, but it is an essential part of serving the Lord. Every volunteer that we recognized this morning has a motivation to serve.

As I was thinking about it, there are many different reasons why people serve as a volunteer, but only one right reason.

Some people serve for recognition, others for the applause of man or to earn favor with God, and some serve out of guilt. But the true motivation to serve the Lord comes from a genuine experience of joy. When you genuinely serve the Lord out of love for the Lord and understanding the call of God on your life, you experience joy, deep seated contentment, and it is not a burden or hardship at all.

One of the keys to contentment is serving in the place of obscurity. Doing things that no one sees other than the Lord. Genuine contentment and joy is knowing that the only person who really notices is the only one who really matters.

The truth is that the church would not exist without volunteers, so how do we get people to volunteer? The normal way is to make a good promo video and beg people to sign up to serve. Failing that we could offer them free donuts and coffee!

But I propose that there is a purer motivation that comes from a move of God. We don’t need more manipulation; we need more of the power of God. As God begins to move on peoples’ hearts, they are compelled by a sense of calling and purpose. Doing what God has called them to do. In Psalm 110:3 we read, “Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours.”

This Psalm is speaking about Jesus coming in glory and his followers offering themselves to serve him. What we need in the church is not more calls for volunteers or pleading videos, what we need is revival. Throughout the history of revivals, there has never been a shortage of workers who give themselves to the work of the Lord.

Henry Blackaby wrote, “Only the power of God can free us from our natural self-centeredness and reorient us toward the mission of God”

And finally, we have the privilege to serve the Lord because we gain an eternal reward. Revelation 19:7-8 reads, “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.”

At the marriage feast, the church, the Bride of Christ, will be clothed in fine linen, bright and pure, but the linen is made up of the righteous deeds that we do. Now we know that we are not made righteous by what we do. Rather, we work from a position of righteousness because of the blood of Jesus.

The good works that we do, are righteous deeds that have an eternal value. Christ will reward us for our faithfulness. And the rewards we receive will make up the wedding gown.

Dr. Lehman Strauss writes, “Has it ever occurred to you … that at the marriage of the Bride to the Lamb, each of us will be wearing the wedding garment of our own making?”

That is a tremendous paradigm shift; we don’t serve out of duty, we serve as an act of worship.

How is your heart? What is the response of your heart today? Is your heart so filled with gratitude and worship that you are waiting for the opportunity to say like Isaiah, “here I am, send me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

1: A passion to know Jesus.

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

A: He Is Divine

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

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

B: He Is Human

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3: We will enjoy Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

Do you know this Jesus?

Are you sharing this Jesus?

Are you enjoying this Jesus?

Sermon Sunday April 3, 2022 – Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

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We live in a time of fear and uncertainty, and the Bible is filled with relatable accounts of ordinary people wrestling with doubt and fear. The disciples of Jesus were thrown into confusion and doubt as Jesus began to explain to them what was going to happen as they celebrated the Passover meal. A night of celebration turned into a night of uncertainty and then terror as Jesus was arrested.

However, in chapter 14 Jesus begins by encouraging the disciples saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled”. How would they do this? Jesus continued in the rest of verse 1, “…you believe in God; believe also in me.” In other words, “trust me, like you trust God.”

Jesus continues to build their faith as he says in verse 6, “…I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus is clear that he is the only way. This is not widely accepted today, even in many so-called Christian circles. But Jesus is the only Son of God, who rose from the dead. Jesus Christ is the only way to be restored to a right relationship with God, the creator of Heaven and Earth. Wealth, fame, achievements, and good works are not good enough to bridge the divide caused by sin. The only thing that matters is our relationship with the living savior Jesus Christ (See Acts 4:12).

Jesus comforts his disciples by saying, “I am the way, the truth and life”.

  • Jesus is the way

Sadly, many people today are on the wrong path, and the result is deadly (See Proverbs 14:12). Jesus does not simply teach about the way to go; Jesus is the way.

We all get lost when we think that our way is the right way. Our pride causes us to persist along a path that ends up destroying us.

We are driven by various appetites, ambition, fear, desire for recognition and instead of changing direction when we realize our error, we push harder thinking it will ultimately lead to success. But ultimately, if it is not the perfect path that Jesus has for you, it will only cause pain. Jesus offers us a better way in Matthew 11:28-30. Jesus is the way to peace, freedom from addictions and a life of purpose.

Are you living a life that follows Jesus as the way? Or are you making your own way, hoping for the best.

  • Jesus is the truth

Truth is a regularly debated word in our culture. Is truth fixed? Many in our culture will argue that there is no such thing as objective truth, but by making that statement, they are making an objective statement. Daily we are inundated with information that claims to be factual, but is it really?

Jesus is truth and it leads us to peace (see Isaiah 26:3). What is your mind fixed on? What consumes your thoughts? Paul encourages us to, “Take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

We do this by aligning our thoughts with the Word of God and meditating on the Truth (see Philippians 4:8). The truth isn’t an opinion, truth is a person, and his name is Jesus. And truth is found in his Word, which can set us free from the lies that we believe.

In the building industry, a true wall is one that follows a plumbline.  A true line does not deviate from its path. Jesus is true in that he is the exact representation of God the Father (see John 14:9). Not only does Jesus reveal the truth of God to us, he displays the nature and Character of God.

As Christians we are to be people of the truth, people so aligned with Jesus that we are known for our integrity and honesty, even when it costs (see Ephesians 4:25).

  • Jesus is the life.

Unless Jesus returns, we will all experience a physical death. However, through Jesus we no longer have to fear death, because he defeated the grave.

But there are other deaths that we experience. Sometimes we experience the death of hope or dreams that we held.  Even though we pray and cry out to God, we don’t see the miracle we are praying for.

Some are dying because they have allowed the enemy to steal their joy, killing their peace and contentment.  

There are some whose marriage seems like it’s dying. Some see the death of a close relationship; Satan has slowly eaten away at the relationship and now it is dying.

But Jesus came to give us life, which means there’s nothing that’s dead or seems dead that he can’t bring back to life because the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in you (see 1 Peter 1:3).

The Bible is a book all about life; in the Garden of Eden, we read about the tree of life, in the book of revelation we read about the river of the water of life flowing from the throne of God. And between those two books, the other 64 books are the history of life. Unfortunately, today we have Christians who do not fully realize this life.  The degree to which we as the church are fully alive in Christ, determines our effectiveness of bringing life and salvation to our community. Being led by the spirit we will be truly alive in Christ, and as a result, our community will be changed for the glory of God.

Are you truly alive in Christ? Or are you going through life just getting by, but numbed by the cares and entertainment of the world?

Thomas A Kempis wrote,without the way there is no going; without the truth there is no knowing; without the life there is no living”. Are you truly living?

Unfortunately, many people make the mental decision to agree with the gospel message, but then slip back into a state of passivity. What a waste of a life that has unlimited potential in Christ! Sadly, many people are trying so hard to stay alive, yet they are spiritually dead. Don’t be so in love with this world and the temporary things of this world that you slowly stop living for God.

Sermon, Sunday February 27, 2022 – I AM

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How often do you think about your name?

Research seems to suggest that your name has a significant impact on your life. People are judged by their names based on past positive or negative experiences.

Jesus identified himself with many different metaphors during his ministry. We will be looking at these “I am” statements over the next few weeks.  

In John 8, Jesus was addressing a group of Jewish religious leaders. The interaction was becoming aggressive, and Jesus was not holding back. In fact, in verse 44 he accused the religious leaders of being children of Satan. In return, they called him a demon possessed Samaritan in verse 48. For a Jew to be called a Samaritan was the ultimate insult.

Jesus doesn’t seem moved by their insults, and he immediately makes a profound statement, “…if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” John 8:51.

The religious leaders go back to the father of the nation, Abraham, and the fact that he died and so did all the prophets. Essentially asking Jesus, “Who do you think you are?”

Jesus responds in John 8:54-56 with some incredible statements.

Firstly, Jesus told them that God is his father, while Abraham is their father.  Every Jew would say that Abraham was their father, Jesus was beginning to reveal his true identity.

Then he said that Abraham saw him in that day. How did Abraham “see” our Lord’s Day, that is, his life and ministry on earth? This is answered in Hebrews 11:10.

God did not give Abraham some special vision of our Lord’s life and ministry, but He did give him the spiritual perception to “see” these future events that he was hoping for in faith.

They begin to understand where Jesus is going and push back with logic in verse 57, “…You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”

Jesus makes a simple statement that causes the room to go into chaos, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

Jesus was declaring his eternal nature, his pre-creation eternal existence. He was and is God.

Their response was understandable under the Mosaic law. Jesus had committed blasphemy and deserved to die. They picked up stones to kill him, but Jesus supernaturally evaded their attack. His hour had not yet come.

Jesus was directly revealing himself to the religious leaders, but they were blinded by their religion. The same is true for many people who attend churches all over the world today. They have a knowledge of Jesus, they have religion, but they have no relationship with the Lord. They have no desire to have a daily growing relationship with Jesus.

These religious leaders are the people who crucified Jesus Christ. Jesus called them the children of the devil. Whose child are you? (John 1:11-12).

Why was Jesus’ statement so provocative? (“before Abraham was, I am”)

To understand this, we need to go back to Exodus 3, and the call of God to Moses. God tells Moses to go to Pharoah and instruct him to release the children of Israel. Moses asks God for His name in order to let the people and Pharoah know under who’s authority he was speaking to them. This leads to the most powerful revelation of God in the Bible up to this point, “God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14)

Up to this point in the Bible, God has been called in the Hebrew, Elohim which means God. But now God says, “I am WHO I am.”

“I am” is present tense. God has no past, present or future, everything about God is the eternal present.

The two words “I am” are pronounced in Hebrew as havah, and in verse 14, God identifies himself as, “Yahweh has sent you”. From this time onwards God is known by this statement, “I am Yahweh” this is the name God calls himself. A name that is so holy that most Hebrew people do not even pronounce it.  The Hebrew people would regard the name as so Holy they would simply say Adonai, meaning, Lord.

The name of God, “Yahweh”, speaks of his eternal existence, his majesty, and his nearness. What a promise for Moses as he considered the call of God on his life.

Jesus declared that he is, “I AM”, and even speaking in Aramaic, the religious leaders determined that he was blaspheming the name of God, and they determined to end his life by stoning him. This was in keeping with the Old Testament law found in Leviticus 24:14.

But it’s not blasphemy if it’s true. And it is true. Jesus is “I AM!”

We learn four things from this declaration of Jesus.

1. Jesus is God

Jesus was born of a virgin, conceived by the Holy Spirit. He did not carry the sin nature that was passed down to all generations through Adam. Jesus knew no sin, and as a result his sacrifice on the cross for our sins was perfect and sufficient to atone for all our sins.

2. Jesus saves.

In the Exodus, Yahweh kept his promise and led the children of Israel out of slavery, across the Red Sea and ultimately into the promise land.

The name, “Jesus”, in Hebrew is “Yeshua”, which means, “Yahweh Saves”.

Jesus leads us out of slavery to sin and ultimately into the Promised Land of eternity in his New Kingdom where we will be with him forever.

3. Jesus is present.

The “I AM” is forever present. He is with you right now. If you are a follower of Jesus, you have the presence of the Spirit of Christ in your life, you are never alone.

4. Jesus will give us his name.

In Revelation 22, John is given a vision of our life in the new kingdom. And in verse 4 he writes, “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.

Will you have the name of Jesus on your forehead in that day?

Sermon, Sunday February 13, 2022 – The Question of Suffering

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2 Corinthians 12:1-7

How do you handle pain?

How do you respond when God doesn’t answer your prayers and remove painful situations in your life?

In the last few chapters of 2 Corinthians, the apostle Paul makes a case for his apostleship. In chapter 12 he outlines some of the incredible experiences he has had with the Lord. As a result of these incredible confirmations from God, Paul could easily have become proud. But God was gracious to him, keeping his life in balance.

God allowed Paul a thorn in the flesh, “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited” 2 Corinthians 12:7.

God allowed Paul to experience a form of suffering, something that caused him physical pain to keep him weak and humble. We don’t know what the thorn in the flesh was, and we don’t need to know. The mystery of suffering will not be understood by us in this life.

We see throughout the scriptures that while we don’t fully understand the origins of evil, we do know that Satan and his demons do not have free reign, they can only act with the permission of God. This is not easy for us to grasp, or to counsel someone with when they have been a victim of some horrible trauma. But I firmly believe that the Bible teaches us that God is in control.

Paul pleaded with the Lord to remove the “thorn” on three occasions, and probably with extended seasons of prayer and fasting. But the Lord allowed Paul to model for us how to suffer well, how to endure when God doesn’t give us the answer that we want.

As Paul prayed, God was not silent, and in verse 9 we read the Lord’s response, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

God promised Paul something better than instant healing, it was God’s power in Paul’s life. What we see is that the grace of God is a gift that enabled Paul to endure well, it was strengthening grace.

The paradox is that the weaker Paul became, the stronger the power of Christ would rest on him. That is something that we must wrestle with in our first world culture where strength is celebrated, and weakness is demeaned. The Kingdom of Heaven is very different to the kingdom of the world where the overarching theme is pride and self-sufficiency.

Paul’s suffering doesn’t go away, but he is changed through it.

Warren Wiersbe wrote, “In the Christian life, we get many of our blessings through transformation, not substitution.”

We ask God to substitute the pain, to make it go away, but sometimes God gives us transformation, changing us by His grace.

It is a greater thing to pray for pain’s conversion than its removal,” wrote P.T. Forsyth

When God answered Paul, He gave Paul a promise,” My Grace is sufficient for you.”

As Christians, we are not people who live on explanations from God. Rather we live on the promises of His word. As we meditate on the promises, our faith grows and so does our hope.

As we are transformed by the grace of God, we can display peace and joy during suffering to the world around us. At the end of verse 9, Paul writes, “so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” The Greek word used for “rest” is a complex word that means to shelter or to cover over like spreading a tent over someone. What a beautiful picture of the power of Christ resting over you when you are going through the trial of suffering.  

On January 25, 1736, John Wesley was sailing in a wooden vessel across the Atlantic, and they sailed into what can best be described as a hurricane. The vessel was being torn to shreds by the vicious winds and the huge waves. If you don’t know John Wesley’s story, at this point he didn’t know that salvation was by grace through faith in Jesus. He was terrified of dying and along with him, everyone else onboard including the captain and the sailors.

However, on the ship at the time was a small group of Moravian Christians, and they displayed a supernatural calm. In fact, they were singing praises in the bottom of the ship. Wesley quizzed them because he was so puzzled by their calm demeanor.

After speaking to them Wesley wrote this, “from them I went to the crying, trembling sailors, and pointed out to them the difference in the hour of trial, between him that feareth God and him that feareth him not.”

Wesley was so moved by their peace that eventually he was led to true faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

How we respond during suffering can be the most powerful testimony of our lives.

One of the greatest promises in the Bible is Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” We long for that day, but the same one who will wipe away every tear said these words in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

If you are going through a trial of pain right now, you know that the pain and the tears are very real. Our Heavenly Father is not removed from the pain, He hears the cries, and he feels the pain. God is deeply moved by the pain an suffering in this world. When the Father turned his back on His son on the cross, it cost Him everything.

But we have the incredible promises of God that nothing He brings us through will ever destroy us, rather it is preparing us for glory! (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Sermon, Sunday February 6, 2022 – ASK specifically

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“Lord bless everyone”, “Lord please heal all the sick people”. How often have we prayed similar broad and general prayers? Is it possible that we pray generally because we don’t have the faith that God will actually do what we ask if we pray a specific prayer?

I believe that a specific prayer request is something that draws God in. As we get specific in our prayers, our relationship with our Heavenly Father grows more personal.

God will answer specific prayers directed to His throne, linked with the authority of the name of Jesus. It has been said that “Prayer is the key to unlocking God’s prevailing power in your life”.

In James 5:13-16, we see four categories of people who are encouraged to pray.

1: The first person is the person in trouble, “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray” James 5:13a.

The word “trouble” used here could also mean suffering or hardship. Any form of emotional, mental, spiritual, or physical hardship.

James tells the troubled person to pray. We must realize that this is not a promise of immediate relief from the suffering, but there is a promise of strength and peace from the Lord during suffering. When we choose not to pray, we are compounding the problem and heading towards even further distress. Prayerless people cut themselves off from God’s power, and this leads to emotional defeat and the feeling of being overwhelmed.

The key is persisting in prayer even when we don’t see a solution or outcome.

2: The second person is the happy person, “Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” James 5:13b.

Singing worship songs with lyrics that declare the attributes and glory of God, is singing a prayer.  When we are happy and at peace, we want to thank God for His blessing and goodness. What better way to do this than to sing out His attributes, praising Him for who He is.

Sadly, there are too many modern songs and old hymns that speak about the emotions and feelings of the singer. These songs are not bad, but simply are not worship songs, because the Lord is not the object of our focus. The sad reality is that we live in a church culture that thinks that the worship service must be designed to cater to our needs and desires. However the Lord needs to be the object of our focus and our affection (Mark 12:29-30).  

It doesn’t matter if we have plenty or are struggling, whether we are doing well or just getting by, whether we are emotionally drained or emotionally strong; we have the privilege to declare the praises of the One who is sovereign over all.  

What if we had a paradigm shift and worshipped because it blesses God. Who cares if we don’t sound good or don’t feel like it, it’s a privilege to bless our Father in Heaven.

3: The third person is the desperately sick person, “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord” James 5:14.

The Greek word used here for sick, is a debilitating illness, leading to death. James gives a prescription for how to pray for the sick person.

  • Call the elders. The church elders are spiritual leaders in the church.
  • Pray with faith. This is the faith of the one (s) offering the prayer. Remembering that faith is not something we muster up in our own will. Faith comes from God. 

Prayer offered in faith is circular, beginning and ending in Heaven.

I have prayed for many people; some have been healed and some have not.  We cannot muster up faith and expect God to heal when a certain level has been reached. He gives us faith and we return that faith in the form of prayer for the sick person, God then uses the faith we have, to heal the person.

  • Anoint with oil. In the first century, anointing oil was widely regarded as best medical practice at the time (Luke 10:34). The practice of anointing with oil today during prayer is different, but no less powerful in its application. It is a symbolic act, much like washing each other’s feet.
  • Pray in the name of Jesus. Or praying with the will of the Lord” (1 John 5:14-15). This is where the asking specifically is key.

We have all prayed the prayer that goes something like, “Lord if it is your will then please…” While this sounds good and Biblical, we are forgetting that the Lord has invited us to ask for what we need.

Why don’t we pray specifically, and ask the Lord for what is on our heart? If you have a sick loved one, or any other need, we have the permission to come before the throne of the almighty God and ask. Why not ask specifically for what we want and leave the results up to Him.

4: The fourth category is the person who is sinning, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” James 5:16

As followers of Jesus, we are called to a lifestyle of holiness (James 4:1-10). Righteousness is a free gift from God, when we confess our sins and are washed by the blood of Jesus. There is power and healing in the confession of our sins to one another, and this is a necessary discipline in the Body of Christ. However, confessing to each other does not bring righteousness, only Jesus can do that (1 John 1:9).

Righteousness is not something we do, it’s something we receive. That is why, when we pray in the name of Jesus, and we are covered in his righteousness, our prayers are powerful and effective.

How is your prayer life? Is it effective?

As your prayer life goes, so goes your spiritual life, as your spiritual life goes, so goes the rest of your life.” Ronnie Floyd.

Sermon, Sunday January 30 2021, Ask Big

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2 Kings 4:1-7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you asking for?