Sermon July 23, 2017 – It Is Well

Psalm 42 is not a light Psalm, it is a Psalm by someone in intense distress, there is a heaviness about it.

The first two verses of this Psalm use the simile of a deer panting for water. Without water, we could not survive more than three days and one of the effects of dehydration is rapid breathing, in the same way the Psalmist is panting for the living God. His soul is thirsty for a fresh encounter with God. He has experienced God in a special way before and he desires that now more than anything else.

The Psalmist begins with a great question, “where can I go and meet with God?” A question that comes out of a longing and a desire for relationship with the creator of the universe. When you woke up this morning, was that your hearts cry? Do you go to Church on Sunday expectant to have an encounter with the living God?

In verse 4, the Psalmist recalls the good times, when he was close to God, presumably he remembers going to the temple in Jerusalem where he worshipped with many other people. It was a time of joy and celebration. He is longing for that, longing to once again experience the closeness of God.

As you look back on your life, was there a time that you long for when you experienced the closeness of God? But sadly, that is not the case in your life now, you once loved spending time with God in prayer and reading the Bible, but now you are a far off from God. You desire to get back to that place of joy and communion with God. We don’t suddenly wake up one morning and find out that our desire for the Lord has gone, it happens gradually as we allow the cares of the world, our business and our sins to creep in and remove our desire, our thirst, our passion for the Lord.

Verses 5 and 11 are the same in most translations, and the verse begins with two questions;

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” He is feeling depressed and hopeless, but he declares the truth, that God is his hope, God is faithful and God alone is his savior. “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Our emotions often sway us and allow us to feel that God is distant. But our feelings deceive us, God promises to be with us always (see Deuteronomy 31:8 and Matthew 28:20b).

The Psalmist has a burst of faith and then in verse 6 and 7 he seems to go back into a depression. He remembers that he is in the land of the Jordan, in the foothills north of the sea of Galilee, far from Jerusalem and on the fringe of the wilderness. He is attributing his lack of hope to his position. We do the same, we attribute our lack of passion and zeal for the Lord to our circumstances and our surroundings. We complain about our situation in life, but perhaps God has you in that situation in order to be a witness for the Gospel where you are.

As we continue in verse 7, the Psalmist seems to take a turn for the worse. His distress is figuratively portrayed by billows and waves. Trouble has come over him like one wave after another, personified as if they were calling to each other to come down in the waterfalls. He had been overwhelmed as if by a flood. Have you ever had the experience where life just seems to hit you with wave after wave of trouble and trials? So what do we do when the waves of trials overwhelm us? Verse 8 is the key, “By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life”

The Psalmist begins to declare the truths about the character of God. God is loving, faithful and always near! He doesn’t pray a simple prayer hoping that some distant being might hear him, no, he prays to THE GOD OF MY LIFE! He realizes that if everything else is taken away, God, the giver and sustainer of all life is sufficient. Have you come to the realization that Jesus is enough?

The Psalmist ends with that declaration of faith again; “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

Where is your hope today? Do you hope in money, your abilities to work, or for someone else to provide for you? Or do you hope in God?

In the 21st century, why should we have confidence in God?

Hebrews 11:1 says, Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” But when the storms are raging around us, our health is failing, our finances are running out – how can we have confidence?

I can tell you today with absolute certainty that we can have confidence because of Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus the perfect sinless Son of God, died for our sins, and provided a way for us to come and talk directly to the Creator God. And by the Holy Spirit and the Word, He speaks to us, and reveals truth to us (See Hebrews 10:19 and 4:16). Not only are we able to come to God in prayer, but we are encouraged to pray boldly with confidence.

Grander earth has quaked before
Moved by the sound of His voice
Seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard

Through it all through it all – My eyes are on You
Through it all through it all – It is well
Through it all through it all – My eyes are on You
It is well with me

 Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can’t see
And this mountain that’s in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

 So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name

 It is well with my soul

 CCLI Song # 7021972, CCLI License # 122365
Horatio Gates Spafford | Kristene DiMarco | Philip Paul Bliss

Sermon July 9, 2017 Hunger for God

2 Kings 4:1-7

Hunger is an interesting fact of life, our bodies let us know when we need food and when we need more fuel to continue the day. God has created us to have hunger of many kinds, the greatest and highest of which is to know God, to have a personal relationship with him. this is the inner craving of every human being, people try to fill this craving with money, sex, drugs, food, fame, exercise and many other pursuits, but ultimately the hunger for God can only be filled by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Even when we become followers of Jesus, we still have needs that only God can fulfill.

As you read this, what is the one thing that you need God to give you right now? It might be the healing of a sick family member, financial provision, salvation of someone close to you or the mending of a broken relationship. Everyone has something that they are hungry for.

In 1 Kings 4 we read a short account of a fascinating and powerful miracle. A prophet under the leadership of Elisha died and left his wife with unpaid debts. This woman is in a desperate situation, this woman who had just lost her husband was now about to lose her two sons into slavery. So, she cries out in desperation to Elisha, the great leader of the prophets. Elisha starts by asking some simple questions; “how can I help you?” It seems as if he is testing her faith at this point.

I want to take three observations from this account.

  1. Awareness of Great Need

For anyone to cry out to God, there must be an awareness of the need. True hunger creates a capacity for God to work a miracle (see Matthew 5:6 and Matthew 6:33). Where is the focus of your hunger today?

Duncan Campbell wrote: “the crisis of conversion is a conviction of sin, but the crisis of sanctification (growing in our Christian walk) is a conviction of want.”

2. Confidence in God to Meet the Need.

As the widow expresses her need, Elisha asks her the question, “what do you have in your house?”

All she has is a small jar of oil. This sounds very similar to the miracle that Jesus performed in Matthew 15.

The principle is that we need to bring what little that we have to the Lord and allow him to perform the miracle. We try to find solutions to our problems through human resources, when God is calling us to first go to Him in prayer. We have such an awesome privilege to go before the creator of the universe in prayer, presenting our requests to Him. Are you confident that God can meet your every need? (see Philippians 4:19).

Confidence that God can perform a miracle is one thing, but are we expectant?

The widow called Elisha not because of confidence in God alone, but because she was expecting that He would bring relief to her situation.

3. Faith in Obedience brings about the Miracle.

The widow goes and collects jars from all her friends and neighbors following Elisha’s instruction, “don’t ask for just a few”. She goes indoors and closes the doors with her sons and takes the first step in faith. She takes the little jar of oil and begins to pour it, as she obeys the miracle takes place. In faith, she proceeds to do as instructed, and the miracle happens. God blesses and is pleased with faith (see Heb 11:6), we cannot please God without faith.

Notice that the jars she collected had to be empty. If one of her caring neighbors gave her a full jar to help her out, would that have done any good? No, the jars needed to be empty to receive the blessing of the miraculous oil.

Similarly, when we pray for a miracle of God’s blessing, we cannot bring anything to the table, we must not come with any of our own merits or qualifications. We must be totally dependent on the Lord to provide. Sometimes our own credits or achievements prevent us from receiving all that God wants to bless us with.

A PERSON WHO IS FULL OF THEMSELVES HAS NO ROOM FOR JESUS.

Notice the lyrics of the classic Hymn “Rock of Ages”

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;

In verse 6 we read that the oil flowed continuously until the last jar was filled, as the last jar was filled the miracle seemed to stop. The supply of oil stopped, not because it dried up, but because the capacity to receive the oil ended.

Our God never runs out of resources, material or spiritual resources, He is more than capable to bless us beyond our wildest dreams. God never looks at his bank account or his supply house and meters out his blessings according to a strict budget.

God desires to bless his children, but we must keep bringing the vessels so that He can pour His blessings into them. We must keep coming back to God in faith and asking him to fill us, no need is too small, no need is too big for God. As His children, we must present our empty vessels to Him, not half full vessels, relying on our abilities, we must rely totally on him.

When we come to Christ we must be dead to ourselves for him to be our life, we must be beggars for him to be our riches, we must be sick and weak for him to be our health and strength. We must know we are lost for Jesus to be our savior.

When we come to God with a need, I believe we don’t realize the capacity that God has to meet our needs. When Elisha told the Woman to borrow many jars, he knew the size of the miracle God could do, and it was only limited by the capacity that she was prepared to receive.

Are you praying for big miracles? The size of your prayers is directly related to your understanding of the glory and majesty of God, which is shown in your level of expectancy. What are you expecting God to do for you?

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

Let us be a people who pray boldly, trusting in the all-powerful creator of all things to provide all our needs according to His riches in Glory.

Sermon June 25, 2017 – What Time is it? Part 3

John 7:1-13

This past week we noted on the calendar the summer solstice the longest day of the year, marking the beginning of the summer season. However, it is also a sad day as it marks the fact that our days are now getting progressively shorter and shorter.

Think about the season of life that you are in right now. We are all pretty good at categorizing our season of life, but try to set aside those man-made categories and start to dream a bit. Start to think that no matter what age you are, God has something unique and special for you to do. Do you know the time in your own personal life? What is the season that you are in? Rather what is the season that God has set for your life right now.

In the Gospels, we frequently are reminded that Jesus was on a timeline, one that would ultimately lead him to the cross. Jesus was occasionally encouraged by those close to him to adjust the timeline, to speed things up. They did not know the complete picture, but they thought they could help Jesus become the ruler, they wanted him to be.

In chapter 7 of John’s Gospel, we read an interesting exchange between Jesus and his brothers, one of the only recorded dialogues between Jesus and his half-brothers. It seems that Jesus’ brothers want to become his promoters. They witnessed the miracles he did, and they thought that now is the time to take Jesus to the big time, taking his fame to the streets of Jerusalem.

Jesus was staying in the region of Galilee and had been teaching and performing miracles for about six months. Galilee was safer for Jesus, than the region of Judea in the south. The religious leaders in Judea wanted to kill Jesus, but Jesus was on a divine timeline and he knew that his time had not yet come. Throughout the Gospel of John, we see references to this divine timetable that Jesus was on. (see John 2:4; John 7:30, John 8:20 and John 12:23).

In John 7:6 Jesus said, “my time is not yet here” the Greek word for time used here is Kairos. Kairos, is more than a tick on a clock or a day on the calendar, it is a deeper word that means the right time, the most effectual time, or the opportune time.

Jesus was being pushed by his brothers to seize the moment, they thought this was the opportune time for Jesus to be introduced to the world. But Jesus was not interested in worldly fame, he was on a much more important mission. A mission that the creator of the universe was orchestrating, Jesus was on a divine timeline.

We as followers of Jesus Christ, who have the Holy Spirit in us, are not living for ourselves, rather we are on a divine timeline as well. Daily asking God for His plan and direction for our lives.

When we are young we may feel that we have all the time in the world particularly in the summer. However, before we know it, 30 years has flown by and many hours have been wasted.

When we are in the season of parenting Children at home, we have no time there are so many demands on our time. The demands are so great that we don’t realize the season that we are in that is so fleeting. The tremendous blessing of holding and nurturing a child. Being entrusted by God to train up a child in the ways of the Lord, those days pass by quickly.

When you are old and your children are out of the home, the temptation is to feel that you have done your share, you deserve to take it easy and enjoy your final years. What did Jesus say about the man who said exactly that in the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:19-20?

We have this crazy modern notion that we need to work as hard as we can, amass as much wealth as we can, then we can retire early and then we go to Florida and play golf until we die. What a miserable existence! What if you grasped that God has so much more for you. There is so much more joy in living out our days, whatever season of life we are in, totally committed to the will and plan of God for our lives.

When we are young, we miss the sense of urgency to ask the Lord for His plan, and when we are old, we seem to think that God cannot use us because we are past our prime.

I want to tell you that you are in the perfect season for God to use you. He has prepared you, through your past experiences and trials, He has prepared you for today, for the Kairos moment that he has for you today.

The opportune time that God has you in right at this moment. God does not give us breath to breathe and not give us Kairos moments to fill our days.

Moses was 80 years old and as he led the sheep toward the mountain of God, God called him and changed the course of history through the life of Moses.

Abraham and Sarah were promised a child when Abraham was 100 years old, Sarah was ninety when she gave birth to Isaac.

In the book of 1 Chronicles we see a group of men who did understand the times, who did understand the season and they were ready for action. We read in 1 Chronicles 12:32 about the sons of Issachar, men who observed, reasoned and stepped out in faith.

Today we need men and women who understand what is happening in society from God’s perspective, to step out in faith leading the church into action. People who will be on their knees before God asking Him for direction and wisdom to discern the times (see Romans 13:11-14).

What plan does God have for you? Are you willing to pray and make yourself available to God?

We have incredible opportunities presented to us now in history, but we have plenty of excuses. We are too old, we are too young, we don’t have the money, our health is not optimal, we don’t have the right education…… any number of excuses for not recognizing the season that God has placed us here in Kansas City now in history.

I challenge you to pray and ask God for the direction and plan that is perfect for your life, the reason he created you and placed you here right now.

Sermon June 18 2017 What time is it? Part 2

Across the world we are seeing that God is on the move. Millions of people are becoming followers of Jesus, many of them at the risk of losing their lives.

For information on what is happening in the middle east read this article: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/stories/muslims-turn-to-christ-in-unprecedented-numbers-pt-1/

In Asia, Africa and South America we are seeing millions coming to know Jesus Christ as Lord and savior.

So you may say, what does all this have to do with our local church here in South Kansas City?

It is important to realize that we as a small church on the hill here in Kansas City, are a part of something glorious, something far bigger and more powerful than we can ever imagine.

Paul writing the churches in the region of Ephesus wrote to people that he had not met personally but he had heard about their faith and their love for the Lord. Reading Ephesians 1:15-23, Paul lets them know that he is praying for them to have the eyes of their hearts enlightened (v 18). He wants them to know that they are not simply a small insignificant group of believers in Asia minor, he wants them to understand that they are a holy people called by God, and that they are precious to God. Sometimes we need that reminder too, do you know how precious the church is to God? Do you know how precious Grace Point is to God?

But not only that, Paul reminds them of the power of God that is for them. He continues in verse 19 and 20 by encouraging them that no matter what forces are opposing them, the power of God is greater and He is able to sustain His church. Paul continues to elaborate that Jesus is far more powerful than any authority, power and dominion; not only in this age, but also in the age to come.

This same Jesus who is God himself, the all-powerful creator God, has been appointed as the head of the church. God placed all things under Jesus’ feet as we see in verse 22.

Finally, in verse 23 Paul says that the church is the body of Christ. We often say that as the church, we are the body of Christ, but do we really understand that? I doubt we can even begin to fathom what that means for us.

Jesus so identifies with his church, he is so committed to his church, that he calls us to be his ambassadors, his holy representatives in the world, having the fulness of Christ in us (see Colossians 1:24-27).

We as Grace Point Baptist church are part of something so much bigger and so much more powerful than we can ever imagine. And the best part of it is that if we simply remain faithful to what God has called us to do, he is responsible for the results as Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, the he will build his church. We need to simply ask him for the plan and do what he says.

There was a conversation that was common at Grace Point a few years ago, it was the conversation of when we are going to have to close the doors, sell the building and find another church.

I am so glad that we don’t have those conversations anymore, not because of any plan or strategy that we have implemented, but because of what Jesus is doing in his church. Jesus, our head is changing the conversation, he is bringing about new life.

The truth is that any talk about closing or running out of money is not grounded in an understanding of our true identity. Our identity as the body of Christ, this is his church and if we grasp, as Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus that we would have the eyes of our hearts enlightened, in order to see who we are in Christ. Knowing our true identity, we will quickly see that he alone is responsible for the results, our responsibility is to be fervent in prayer and quick to obey what he tells us to do.

I recently read a book by Andrew Davis and in it he writes that every church exists for one purpose alone, to bring Glory to God by making progress on two spiritual journeys.

The first is the internal journey of discipleship and growth towards maturity in Christ. Peter commands this in his second letter, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18. That is the journey that we are on as individuals, we will never complete this journey of spiritual maturity until Jesus comes again.

The second journey is the external journey of evangelism and missions.

The Great Commission that Jesus left the church in Matthew 28:19-20 still applies to us today.

A healthy church, as Davis writes has both journeys in balance; being committed to discipleship while at the same time being committed to missions and evangelism.

As we ask the question, what is the time on God’s calendar for Grace Point? This church that has over 106 years of fruitful ministry, what is the season we are in right now? What does the Lord have for us to be and to do in our ever-changing society?

In our culture, our traditional programs, simply don’t reach the community the way they once did. But a healthy church, functioning as the body of Christ will reach our community.

Programs are not the sign of a healthy church. Rather, relationships, community and being centered on the Gospel message are signs of a healthy church.

I loved the message that Bob Michaels shared three years ago, as he spoke about the transformational church he said; “the transformational church innovates to advance the Gospel.”

This is definitely an exciting time for us as a church as we see what God is doing in our midst and what He is doing all over the earth.

The Three Characteristics of and Evangelist. May 28, 2017

Three Characteristics of an Evangelist.

It has been such a blessing to have people at Grace Point from many different states and denominations. All the evangelism efforts this week will be driven by one central theme, the Good news of Jesus Christ, the Gospel message. The central theme that Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, fully God and fully man, lived a perfect sinless life, suffered and died on a Roman cross. But God, raised him from the dead. Jesus now lives at the right hand of the father interceding for us, and all who call on the name of Jesus as Lord will be saved.

Focusing on evangelism and the evangelist, we find in John 4:31-38 three characteristics of an evangelist. While our focus may be on those gifted in evangelism, this passage has something to teach all of us.

 In the beginning of John 4, we read that Jesus left Judea and journeyed to Galilee, in order to get to Galilee, he had to go through Samaria and a town called Sychar, the location of Jacobs well. It was at this well that Jesus met the Samaritan woman, and he proceeds to tell her everything about her life. She encounters the living God and Jesus reveals to her that he is the promised Messiah. She immediately believes and runs back to town and becomes a fiery evangelist, convincing the people to come out and meet Jesus, and they do.

The disciples were trying to figure out why Jesus was talking to a Samaritan, and a woman no less. They being good Jews did not associate with the Samaritans, and in their minds, if Jesus was the promised Messiah, then he had come for the Jews only and to establish the nation of Israel once again. But here was Jesus preaching to a Samaritan Women. As they were trying to figure this out, the people from the town were coming in a large crowd towards them (v 30). The disciples tried to save the situation by suggesting to Jesus that it was time to eat and they needed to leave. But Jesus responds in his usual metaphorical way, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about” (v 32).

And then Jesus clarifies by saying; “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work”. This is the first Characteristic of an evangelist

Doing the work of the Father gives life. What is God calling you to do? What are your specific gifts given by the Holy Spirit that when you operate in them, you receive life?

Serving the Lord is never a chore, the only time it becomes a chore is when we work in our own strength, either because of guilt or seeking the recognition of others. When you serve the Lord, when you are seeking to please an audience of one, you will find life and strength for the day.

The Samaritan woman was now doing the Father’s will and finding excitement and enrichment in it. In verse 39 we read that she was going around the town telling people about Jesus, and many believed because of her testimony.

So, the first Characteristic of an evangelist that we see in this passage is devotion.

Jesus was devoted to the task he had been given, and he finished the work the Father sent him to do. We too are to be devoted to the calling God has on our lives.

The second characteristic of an evangelist we see in verse 35, where Jesus says; “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”

I may be reading into the situation a little bit, but I don’t find it hard to believe that as Jesus was saying this, he wasn’t pointing to the fields of corn or some other crop, but rather he was pointing to the crowd of people coming down to them from the town. Jesus was pointing to them and saying, “open your eyes, here is the harvest”.

Jesus could boldly declare that the Samaritans would accept his message because he had faith.

Evangelism takes faith, faith that God will lead us to those that He has prepared in advance to receive the message. The Samaritans had been prepared, they were expecting Jesus to be the messiah and they were not disappointed.

And then finally we find the third characteristic in verse 36; “Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.”

Every person who has given their lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ has one defining characteristic, it is the hope of eternal life. The evangelist goes out, with the hope of a reward for their efforts, but the greatest reward of all is to be able to spend eternity with our Lord and savior (see Colossians 1:25 to 27).

If you are have made Jesus Christ the Lord of your life, then he has a calling on your life, he has a perfect purpose and plan for your life, the Holy Spirit has gifted you uniquely for this purpose.

These three Characteristics; Devotion, Faith and Hope apply to you and me today.

  1. Are we devoted to what God has called us to do?
  2. Do we have faith that God is about to use us for His glory?
  3. Do we have hope in the fact that whatever God has called us to do, it will have eternal results.

Lessons from Jonah – part 4, May 21 2017

Jonah Chapter 4

Is it right for you to be angry?

It seems that our world is getting angrier and angrier. The last election cycle gave an indication to us that our nation is on the verge of rage. And so often we hear the statement; “well, I have a right to be angry!”

But do you really have a right to be angry?”

In Chapter three of the book of Jonah, he finally obeyed the Lord and preached the word of the Lord to the city of Nineveh, the entire city repented and God relented from his punishment.

Now one would think that Jonah would head back home, happy to have been the single most successful preacher in the Bible and tell his friends of his amazing mission trip to Assyria. But no, Jonah surprises us once more and in verse one of chapter four we read, “to Jonah, this seemed very wrong…” Jonah got angry because of his prejudice.

In this short chapter, Jonah gets angry with God’s withholding judgment, and he wants to die, then he gets angry about the plant dying, as if he deserved it, and he wants to die.

The Hebrew word used for Jonah’s anger reveals that Jonah was absolutely furious. In Jonah’s worldview, the city of Nineveh deserved the same fate as the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. And both times God responds to his anger by asking Jonah a simple Question; “Is it right for you to be angry?”

The irony is that Jonah is angry because God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love (Ch. 4:2). Jonah was the beneficiary of these attributes of God, but now when they are applied to a city that he hates, he gets angry. It sounds laughable, but, we are not much different to Jonah.

Jonah was angry because he perceived God as being soft on sin and weak on justice.

But Jonah did not have a healthy understanding of who God is, and neither do we.

Jonah gets angry at God, the uncreated creator of the universe. There is no concept or attribute of God that is more important for us to grasp than His holiness.

In the Prophet Isaiah’s vision in Isaiah 6, we read that the seraphim around the throne of God are constantly calling to each other in verse 3 saying; “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, the whole earth is filled with His glory”. The Hebrew language uses repetition for emphasis and there is no other attribute of God that is repeated three times. God’s holiness is the foundation of his being.

The holiness of God has two primary attributes:

Firstly, God is infinitely separate from all of creation, he is the creator and everything else is the creation.

AW Tozer put it this way: “Forever God stands apart, in light unapproachable. He is as high above an archangel as above a caterpillar, for the gulf that separates the archangel from the caterpillar is but finite, while the gulf between God and the archangel is infinite. The caterpillar and the archangel, though far removed from each other in the scale of created things, nonetheless one in that they are alike created. They both belong in the category of that which is not God and are separated from God by infinitude itself.”

Secondly, God is infinitely separate from Evil, because of his holiness he hates sin with a perfect hatred. The darkest hour in human history was when God the father had to turn his back on Jesus, because Jesus became sin for us at that moment. Your sins and mine were placed on Jesus and God the father could not even look on him.

The Bible calls followers of Jesus to a life of Holiness (see 1 Peter 1:16). God is not soft on sin, he gave his only son to reconcile us to Himself. God hates sin more than we could ever imagine.

Jonah was angry, because he felt that the Ninevites deserved to be punished, and they did deserve punishment.

However, Jonah also deserved punishment because he disobeyed God. And we too also deserve to be punished because of our sins (see Romans 3:23).

So, is it right for you to be angry?

The truth is that the root of our anger is primarily pride. We get angry because we deserve better, because we didn’t get our way, because our rights were challenged or because we feel we deserve respect.

What about righteous anger, you may ask? Righteous anger is rooted in a deep understanding of the holiness of God. One writer states, “Righteous Anger Focuses on God and His Kingdom, Rights, and Concerns, Not on Me and My Kingdom, Rights and Concerns.” When we compare our perceived right to become angry, and we compare it to the word of God, we see that we really don’t have the right to get angry (See James 1:19-20).

Often, we get angry before we know all the facts or before we speak to the person we feel has offended us.

If we would be quick to listen and slow to speak, we would gain more understanding, we would grow in our relationships and we would be angry less. The reality is that out of relationship comes grace.

Oh, that we would see people the way God sees them. There is a difference between wanting God to deal with sin and wanting God to destroy the sinner. God loves the sinner so much that he sent his son to die on the cross for their sins.

We as followers of Jesus Christ, those who have been forgiven of our sins have a responsibility to lead the way in forgiveness. It will require much from us to see the grace of God applied to some people and to forgive those that God has already forgiven.

When it comes to anger and unforgiveness in relationships, What about anger and unforgiveness in the church?

There are very few instances in a church where there is true righteous anger, rather we get angry because somebody moved our favorite chair, or somebody didn’t tell us that the meeting was cancelled, or we get angry because we weren’t invited to that dinner party. All these offenses are rooted in pride.

Paul writing to the Philippian church gives them some encouragement in this area, encouraging them to imitate the humility of Christ (Philippians 2:3-4). How I wish we could take this scripture to heart in our self-absorbed culture.

Lessons from Jonah – Part 2 May 7, 2017

Jonah Chapter 2

Have you ever been in a hopeless situation? A time when you were in a place in life where there was no human way for you to get relief or find a way out of the situation?

Jonah was in a desperate situation. He had hoped to die, because his prejudice towards the Assyrian people in Nineveh was so great the he would rather die than preach God’s word to them. I think that in Jonah’s mind, there was a sense of relief when they threw him overboard, now it was over, there was no more tension between being obedient to the Lord or not. But, God was not done with Jonah.

The Lord provided a large sea creature and commanded the fish to swallow Jonah. God is sovereign over all of creation, He made it and he controls it.

This was not a “plan B” by God. Jonah, as we saw last week was a prophetic picture of Jesus, that Jesus used to rebuke the Pharisees who were asking for a sign from Jesus to convince them that he was the Messiah (Matthew 12:40).

Jonah finds himself in the belly of a large sea creature, feeling the digestive acids beginning to eat at his skin, in the pitch dark he remembers the Lord. In the first chapter, Jonah does not pray or address the Lord at all, rather the sailors cry out to God and are saved. But now, Jonah realizes that this is no ordinary fish, God has his attention and he is beginning to re-evaluate his priorities.

God is disciplining Jonah. Just as God is sovereign over all of creation, so too he has the right to discipline and correct his children (see Proverbs 3:11-12). When God disciplines us, it isn’t evidence of his lack of care, it is proof of His love for us.

Jonah begins to repent and recognizes the hand of God in his situation. As we read Jonah’s prayer we see glimpses of hope, he begins to take his focus off the situation he finds himself in and begins to hope in God (Jonah 2:4 &6).

Notice the second part of verse 6. “But you Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit” Jonah realized that he did nothing to deserve his salvation, he realized that he was at the mercy of God and that he had nothing in himself that was good. His salvation was only by the Grace of God. If we ever think that we are saved because of our good life, how much money we have given to the church, how many people we have helped, even how many people we have told about Jesus – we are horribly mistaken. We are saved by Grace alone through Christ alone, Jonah understood this.

In verse 8 it seems that Jonah changes his line of thinking, as he goes from repentance and remorse to condemning people who worship idols. But I think Jonah understood that an idol is not necessarily a block of wood or stone carved into a shape. But rather an idol is anything that takes the place of the pre-eminence of God in one’s life. Jonah realized that his idol was his own patriotism and his own self-righteous prejudice against the people of Nineveh. He realized that his idol had turned him away from God’s love for him.

Anytime we have anything in our own lives that takes the place of God, that is more important to us than God, it is an idol and because of that idol we turn away from God’s love for us, and we miss out on the best that God has for us. An Idol may be the love of money, or a relationship that you know is not right for you, or maybe the love of your own comfort, the list could go on. These things are examples of idols in our lives.

As Jonah repents, he begins to realize his position with God, he begins to rejoice in his love for the Lord (Jonah 2:9). Remember that he is still in the belly of the whale. Jonah’s position has not changed, but his heart has changed. He begins to worship the Lord and praise the Lord in his darkest hour, literally – I don’t think the large fish had any internal lighting.

What we see here is the offering of a sacrifice of praise. The Psalmists often speak of offering a sacrifice of praise to God, and Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”

When we praise God, it pleases Him, our singing and praise is an offering to God.

When you are going through the tough times in life, the loss of a loved one, or financial struggles, your marriage is in a difficult place; when you are going through those tough times, that is when it is the hardest to stand up and sing praises to God. That is the sacrifice of praise, it is white knuckle praise. Praising God in the midst of your darkest hour because even though you don’t see it now, he is faithful and he will always remain true to his promises.

Those are the praises that please God. The same writer to the Hebrews writes in Hebrews 11:6, “without faith it is impossible to please God.”

When you are going through tough times, that is when it takes faith to praise and sing to God, that is a sacrifice of praise that pleases God.

Jonah repents and rededicates himself to his ministry (Verse 9). As we read further in the book of Jonah, he becomes one of the most successful evangelists in the Bible. Talk about a turnaround. Being in the digestive juices of a whale will do that to you.

The Lord knew Jonah’s heart and knew that Jonah’s repentance was genuine, and commands the fish to spit him out on the shore.

What are you struggling with? It doesn’t matter what we are struggling with, it may be because of our disobedience or even our obedience, we must praise God in all circumstances.

God never takes us through difficult times just to see how we will respond, he carries us through the tough times, in order for us to learn to trust him more, in order for us to grow in our relationship with him.

Will you offer a sacrifice of praise to God today?

Lessons from Jonah – Part 1 April 30, 2017

Jonah lived sometime around 760 BC, in one of the best times for the nation of Israel. Under the leadership of Jeroboam II, the northern Kingdom had a significant recovery, you can read about this in 2nd Kings 14.

Some forty years before the Assyrians destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel, the prophet Jonah was sent from Israel to preach in the enemy capital of Nineveh. The Assyrian nation was a regional superpower at the time, and for decades the Assyrians were threatening and terrorizing the Israelites. Jonah probably enjoyed being a prophet to the Hebrews, but when God asked him to preach against the enemy nation, he began to run into some problems.

As we read Jonah ran away from God and goes to Joppa which is near modern day Tel a Viv in Israel. Jonah pre-pays for his ticket, making certain that he can get a place on the ship heading to Tarshish. The port of Tarshish was at the southern end of Spain and at that time it was the furthest west any ship would venture.

Jonah had a one-way ticket, it was a journey to the ends of the earth, such was his fear of the task that God had called him to.

The Lord caused a great wind to blow on the Mediterranean Ocean, the hardened sailors are terrified and they begin to cry out to their own gods. They had probably been in storms before, but this one was different and they were convinced they would all perish, so they were looking for a way out, they were looking for salvation.

It is no different today when people encounter the storms of life, they look for relief and help any way they can. People today try to fix spiritual problems with medication, counselling or drugs, but only God can heal the brokenness of the human heart.

In the middle of the storm, Jonah slept. Just like we read that Jesus was asleep in the bottom of the boat in Mark 4 as the storm is raging around the disciples in the boat.

But there is a difference between the sleep of Jonah and the sleep of Jesus.

Jonah had given up on life, he had left all behind and had a one-way ticket to oblivion, he did not care if he lived or died. But Jesus slept in absolute security and peace, knowing that God the Father was going to protect and keep him from all harm. If you know that you are doing what God has called you to do, you can sleep in absolute peace, because He will keep you from all harm.

The sailors cast lots, they roll a dice to see who caused this unprecedented storm, the lot falls on Jonah and they begin to interrogate him. We read in verse 8 that they ask him 5 short but very direct questions. Jonah’s answer is clear and to the point (see Jonah 1:9).

Notice something about Jonah’s response, even though he is hiding from God and he is hoping to die, he still says; “I worship the Lord…”. Deep in his heart, Jonah knew the truth and it came out in his time of desperation.

The Bible says that His answer terrified the other sailors. They knew he was running away from God, but now they saw the terrible consequences of his actions, and they began to realize that Jonah’s God was the one true God. Notice again another similarity between Jonah and the account of Jesus calming the storm in Mark 4:41.

It took a raging storm for the sailors to be terrified of the one true God in Jonah 1, but it took the calming of the storm to terrify the disciples in Mark 4. When anyone encounters the undeniable presence of the all Holy God, it changes you. These sailors were being changed as they encountered God.

Jonah takes responsibility for his actions and one would think he would repent and ask God for a second chance. But he is so determined not to preach to the Ninevites, that he would rather die – “Throw me into the sea” he says.

The sailors on the other hand, do everything they can to save Jonah, in their compassion they try to row back to shore. Soon they realize that Jonah is the problem, but before they throw him overboard, they cry out to the Lord. Notice that the sailors cry out to the Lord, nowhere in this chapter do we read that Jonah cries out to the Lord, he would rather not talk to God because he knows the answer and he doesn’t want to hear it.

The heathen sailors start praying to God and ask for forgiveness for what they are about to do, then they pick the prophet up and toss him into the sea. Immediately the sea is calm. The sailors feared the Lord and in repentance they offered sacrifices and make vows to God. These sailors were converted to worshipping the one true God.

What was the real sin that Jonah committed? We always assume that the sin was rebellion, but I believe it was more than that.

It wasn’t his fear of the Ninevites, that made Jonah go in the opposite direction, it was the Character of God that made him run away. Jonah knew Psalm 103:8, he wasn’t afraid the Ninevites would hurt him, he was afraid that God would remain true to His character and forgive them. The real sin of Jonah was not rebellion, but rather prejudice.

Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount that we are to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44), reflecting the character of God. The Great Commission still applies to us today, we have been given a message and so often our prejudice towards other people stops us from being obedient to God.

We all have prejudice, we shy away from people who are not like us. Those neighbors who are maybe a different skin color, or speak a different language, or maybe they don’t fit our social circle.

Sometimes the Lord must bring a storm into our lives in order to reveal the prejudice in our lives.

When we read the account of Jonah, who do we identify with? Most of us identify with Jonah, the disobedient messenger. But the story of Jonah is not our story, our story is that of the Ninevites. We were once alienated from God, we were enemies of God (see Romans 5).

Jesus is the greater Jonah, Jesus was obedient to the Father, he came to us, those who were his enemies. Jesus was obedient to God to the point of death. Jesus, the greater messenger, the one who paid the ultimate price, so that we can be reconciled to God.

The Four Pillars of the Church Part V March 12, 2017

Two Words that Change Everything

As we close the series on the 4 pillars of the church, it is easy to see that when all the components of the church work together, there are times when it can look messy and disordered.

However, there are two words found in the book of Ephesians that turn this disorder into a masterpiece of God’s creation. Two words that bring together everything that we do, two words that transform the way we view each other, two words that transform the way in which we view the world around us.

There is a difference between the church as we see it, and the church as God sees it. God sees through our masks and our pretensions. Martin Luther was the first to make the distinction between the visible church and the invisible church. It is possible for people to be members of the visible church that are not actually part of the Body of Christ. A person is not automatically saved by being a long-time member of any church.

Jesus spoke about this in Matthew 25:31-46. We have already established that the church is the people of God, not a building or a weekly event. If we want to contain the church to nice orderly meetings, and social events, our church paradigm is too small.

Paul writing to the early church in Ephesus prays that the eyes of their heart may be enlightened (Ephesians 1:17-18). He prays that they would have their spiritual eyes opened, that they would grasp the extent and the implications of what God has called them to as the church.

Jesus is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22-23), he is the head of the church universal and invisible. This is a profound mystery (Ephesians 5:32).

At the beginning of chapter 2, Paul reminds the Ephesian church of their condition before Christ, they were dead. Paul is not referring to a particularly bad segment of society, he is referring to all humanity. The universal human condition is that we are all dead in our sins. This is not being physically dead, but it is a spiritual death, not being aware of the things of the Spirit.

Before we become Christians, we are dull to the Word of God, we are deaf to the voice of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we have no love for God and we have no personal relationship with Jesus.

Without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ everything is meaningless. All debates and discussions on worship style and format is meaningless, giving of your finances to the church is meaningless, attending prayer meetings is meaningless, you may frequently volunteer, or you may be a deacon, a Sunday School teacher or a Life Group leader – if you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you may be a registered member of the church, but you are not a member of the church invisible, and you are not going to spend eternity with Jesus Christ, the head of the church.

Paul clarifies what it means to be dead in sin, and in verse 2 he writes; “when you followed the ways of this world.” Who are you following? Are you more interested in the outcome of a ball game, or the latest news on a TV personality than in knowing and following the will of God for your life? We live in exceptional times, never in the history of humanity has any generation been subjected to so much information. I recent survey revealed that only 19 percent of those who call themselves Christians read the Bible on a regular basis. Of that 19 percent, the average person reads the Bible 30 to 40 minutes a day, assuming they read the Bible about 5 days a week, that would be a total of three hours per week.

Now compare that to the amount of time you and I are subjected to the media; TV, newspaper, smartphones, radio, magazines, billboards and other mass media. One survey combining all the media available to us, listed that we are exposed to the media on average 12 hours per day. That is a stunning 84 hours a week. Now compare that to 3 hours reading God’s Word, no wonder the average church member struggles with temptation and sin.

Then thankfully the chapter makes a huge turn, and Paul goes from pointing out the depths of sin and God’s wrath and begins to focus on the grace of God. God’s wrath and God’s grace must be held together when we view God’s character. When we have a clear perspective on God’s hatred of sin, it makes his grace a richer treasure than we can ever imagine.

Verse 4 begins with a sentence that changes everything; “But because of his great love for us, God…”

our human minds cannot begin to comprehend how much God loves us.

Verses 5 and 6 are some of the most incredible verses in the Bible, in verse 5 we read; “God, made us alive with Christ…”. Then verse 6; “God raised us up with Christ…” and finally in verse 6; “and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ”

These three phrases are how we describe Jesus being raised from the dead, ascending into heaven and being seated on the throne. But Paul says that we were with Christ as believers. The two words I referred to earlier; “IN CHRIST”, change everything. It is impossible for us to comprehend all that this means for us, and we will only begin to fully understand what it means to be “in Christ” in the age to come as verse 7 states

Those two words, “in Christ” are incredibly important for our daily Christian walk, we need to pray and ask God for understanding, that is why Paul began this passage by praying for wisdom and revelation.

Paul goes on in verses 8 and 9, to make the statement that we are only saved by the grace of God, through faith. This faith is not a simple rational belief, no this is supernatural faith that comes from God.

Our salvation is not a transaction, we cannot do anything in order to be saved, even the faith that we need to believe in Jesus Christ, comes from God.

Paul concludes this section by stating; “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works…” (v10). The Greek translated here handiwork, means a masterpiece or a work of art. We are created, we are not improved on or whitewashed over. We have become new creations in Christ Jesus.

Looking at a masterpiece of art, people want to know who the artist was. And so it must be with a Christian, our lives need to reflect the work of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Do we see ourselves like that? Do we see our fellow Christians like that? Sometimes it is hard to see ourselves and other Christians as masterpieces but because we are “IN CHRIST”, God the Father sees the new creation and not the old broken vessel that we were. That is why Paul prays in verse 18; “that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened

The 4 Pillars of the Church – Part IV March 5, 2017

Joshua 21:43 to Joshua 22:9

If you are in business, you probably know the terms “mission statement” and “vision statement”.

A mission statement is the practical steps or short term goals, that we commit to do on a daily or weekly basis in order to fulfill the vision of the organization.

For the church, the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) is our vision statement, it does not change and it guides our decision making towards short term goals of our mission statement. As a church grows and the community around the church changes, it is not uncommon for the church mission statement to change to reflect the growth of the church. However, the vision statement never changes.

As the church, here at Grace Point our mission is to equip the saints for works of service, so that the Body of Christ may be built up (Ephesians 4). A healthy church always looks beyond the four walls of the church.

But as individuals it is beneficial to have a personal mission statement. Do you have a mission statement? Have you stopped and written down some commitments that you would serve as a guide for your daily decision making?

From time to time I have written a personal mission statement. Usually I take some time on New Year’s Day to pray and write down a personal mission statement in a bullet point format, and these points help me to stay on track for the year ahead.

The Children of Israel had a mission. Their mission was to conquer and take possession of the Promised Land.

Joshua their leader had taken the directives of Moses and led the nation well, and as the nation obeyed God, He was faithful and blessed them with the land.

Looking at Joshua 21:43 to 22:9 we see that this was a good day in the history of the nation of Israel, all the battles were over and they occupied all the cities in the Promised land. This was a day of celebration. Notice verse 45; “Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; everyone was fulfilled.”

As we read in chapter 22, Joshua calls together the forty thousand warriors from the 2 ½ tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh. These were true heroes, looking back to Numbers 32, Moses had allowed them to inhabit the territory on the eastern side of the Jordan, but with one condition, that they help the rest of the nation fight and claim the Promised Land. They remained faithful to the cause of claiming the promised land for 7 ½ years. For 7 ½ years they left their families, their homes and livestock and fought on a mission on behalf of the rest of the tribes of Israel.

Why were they so loyal to their fellow Israelites? It wasn’t because of national allegiance, it was because they were loyal to the Lord God. It was His mission they were carrying out and they were fighting to glorify His name. This too should be the motivation for our lives (see Colossians 3:23).

Now their mission is over and Joshua sends them off with rewards and great wealth for their efforts. As he sends them he issues a warning in verse 5. This short charge that Joshua gave to these men was because Joshua was fearful that they would become separated from the rest of the tribes and drift away from the Lord God. Joshua knew that they would be tempted to fall into complacency and forget all that God had done for them. This is an all too common occurrence in the history of the nation of Israel, the history of other nations and even the church. Whenever the victory is secured and the promised land, whatever that might be, is achieved, we forget the mission and the purpose of God. We forget the faithfulness of God, the miracles of provision and direction.

Why has God placed Grace Point here on this hill in Kansas City, what is our mission?

As we step in obedience to the call of God on this church, the specific mission that God has for us in South Kansas City, we will be amazed how he blesses us with people who will be called to the mission of God here. Some will give six months to the mission, some will give a few years, others will give their whole lives. But we must understand that Jesus is the builder and not us (Matthew 16:18).

A legacy to live for will be a church that; reaches the lost, disciples and equips the saints and sends out the workers. If we focus on that God will take care of the rest.

But what about your personal mission?

Your personal mission is living your life with a very clear purpose and passion, being who God made you to be.

Having a personal mission keeps you accountable to God for every day that He gives you.

If you want a starting point to define your own mission – start with Luke 10:27: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Then look at how God has gifted you; what are your passions? How has God wired you?

It doesn’t mean that everything God calls you to will be comfortable or easy, most of the time it won’t be. But because he loves you so much, he is stretching you so that you make the very most of the days that he has given you.

Use your mission statement as a filter and when opportunities come your way, use the mission God has given you to see if that is what He would have you do. Our lives can so quickly become filled with doing good things, that we lose sight of the best that God has for us. This applies to the church as well, we can be so busy doing things, that we forget our primary calling as a church. A good mission statement is a filter.

Jesus is our perfect example of living a life on mission, he finished what he set out to do (see John 17:4).

Our goal for life must be that when Jesus returns, he will say; “Well done good and faithful servant, you completed the mission I gave you.”