MAY 27, 2018 – Saul Part 3 – The First Missionaries are Sent

Acts 13:1-4

In Acts 13, we find Saul in Antioch in Syria, the church in Antioch is the first place that the followers of Jesus were called Christians. We must remember that this was not considered a compliment in the first century. The church was growing rapidly in Antioch, and the Apostles in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to them in order to help them. Acts 11:24 reveals a great deal about this man called Barnabas, “for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.”

We tend to think of Barnabas as the guy that was also on stage but never had a real part to play. But the truth is that Barnabas had a significant influence in the explosion of the early church. He was happy to be behind the scenes, but always made things happen. Why? Because he was full of the Holy Spirit and Faith. We need more people like Barnabas. Everyone wants to be the Paul, on stage being bold and declaring the Gospel, but if it wasn’t for the people like Barnabas, very little would actually get done.

In chapter 11:25, we read that Barnabas sees a need in the church in Antioch and he remembers Saul, he is led by the Holy Spirit to go to Tarsus and looks for Saul and when he finds him he takes him back with him to Antioch in Syria.

This is the beginning of Paul’s first missionary journey. As you can see on the map, he and Barnabas go from Antioch to Cyprus in the Mediterranean and then up to Perga and then up to Antioch in the province of Pisidia. This is not the same Antioch as you can see.

This young church in Antioch, a growing, vibrant and healthy church, was meeting together, and the Holy Spirit told them to commission these missionaries as we read in verse 2: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

A few significant things to note here; firstly, they were worshipping and fasting. There are many reasons to fast, one of the most important reasons to fast is when we are facing a big decision. We fast, depleting our bodies of strength, relying on the Holy Spirit to give us strength and to speak to us.

Secondly, these were the first missionaries sent out. We tend to think that this was a common thing at that time, but actually it wasn’t. The church spread as people went about their daily lives, as they travelled for business as slaves were traded and moved around, that is how the Gospel message was spread. No-one really thought of being sent out as missionaries. We all know the great commission that Jesus left his disciples in Matthew 28, but for the most part, up until now, the disciples were still in Jerusalem.

The Holy Spirit began the mission’s movement by sending Barnabas and Paul west and north into modern day western Turkey.

The Holy Spirit must be the driving force of missions, we can have all the good intentions, but unless we are led by the spirit and empowered by the spirit, we are just going on a tour of the land.  

 The mission team we are sending to Cincinnati needs your prayers, that is why we prayed for them today. To go under the power of the Holy Spirit, to hear the Word of the Lord for the people of Cincinnati.

Paul finally arrives in Antioch in Pisidia and on the Sabbath day, they went into the Synagogue and sat down, the early church was worshipping on the first day of the week, Sunday, because of the resurrection. But this was a Jewish Synagogue, Paul and Barnabas went on Saturday as the Jewish tradition, they respected the culture they were visiting, which is another very important piece of missions.

In the Synagogue, traditionally they read the law and the Prophets, the Old Testament, as we know today. And then the leaders of the synagogue turned to these men from the other Antioch and asked them a loaded question, “After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” Acts 13:15

I doubt that the leaders in the Synagogue had any idea what Paul was about to say. Paul preached a sermon that day, taking them through the Law of Moses, the ancient history, and then introduced them to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the risen Son of God.

This sermon is recorded for us in Acts 13 and this is still the message we declare today. This is the Good News, the Gospel message. This Is all we have, this message is still the only message that transforms lives, the only message that brings light into dark places. And as we go to Cincinnati next week, this is the message that we will be carrying in our hearts for the people of that city. There is power in the message, in verse 44 we read, “The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord”

Antioch was turned upside-down by the power of the Word of God. Pray with us that this same message turns Kansas City and Cincinnati upside-down for the glory of God.

The Normal Christian Life – Part 4 – 10/22/17

Romans 9:30-10:17

What is the difference between desire and desperation?

Many of us have a desire to see the lost in our city reached, but few of us have a desperation to see the lost reached and saved by the Gospel message. Are we desperate for our community and our nation impacted by the Gospel?

 Paul writing to the Christians in Rome, is encouraging these early Christians that they have obtained righteousness not by works, but by faith (Romans 9:30). In the next verse Paul says that the People of Israel, did not have faith, rather they tried to follow the law in order to obtain salvation.

I am sure you have heard someone say, “I am sure I am a Christian, I go to church every Sunday, I give money to the church, I try to follow the ten commandments”. Unfortunately, the Bible is clear that without faith in Jesus Christ as the risen Lord, you are not saved.

In Romans 10, Paul realizes that the problem with the Israelites being saved, is not their zeal for God, the problem is Jesus. Jesus is the stumbling block, the hurdle that they cannot overcome. Many people will say that they believe in God, however when asked if they believe in the son of God, Jesus Christ, and that God raised him from the dead, many would struggle at that point of clarification. To say that you believe and have a personal relationship with Jesus, who today is seated at the right hand of the father, is a line in the sand that causes offense. The name of Jesus, was a stone that caused the people of Israel to stumble, and still does the same today.

If you think about it, we all know people who are willing to say that they believe in God. But if you mention Jesus, they think you are too radical, you are being judgmental, divisive (read Luke 12:49-53 see what Jesus said about how his presence influences the world).

Getting back to Romans 10, as Paul is writing, he begins to lay out what is salvation through faith in Christ.

  1. In verse 4 he says that Christ is the culmination of the law, literally translated, Jesus put an end to the law of working for salvation by being good enough.
  2. In verses 5-7 Paul writes that salvation is found by faith alone in the risen Lord Jesus.
  3. In verse 8, Paul starts getting to his main point, “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim.” Paul is saying, that we have this message in our mouth and it is in our hearts.
  4. One  gets the picture of a burning message that is so much a part of you, that you cannot hold back, it is in your heart and in your mouth. The message is the Gospel, the Good News about Jesus Christ (v9). Paul goes on to make very clear that this is a global message for all who call on the name of Jesus (v 12).

There is a common thread in verses 8,9 and 10, we must speak this Gospel message out. As Christ’s ambassadors we need to be vocal about telling others about the Good news of Jesus Christ.

Never fall into the trap of thinking that simply be being a kind person people will somehow know the Gospel through seeing you. You must be kind, that is a given, but you must tell those around you about the Gospel that has changed your life.

Paul has defined the message and then he begins to call out the messenger.

 In verses 14 and 15, Paul asks 4 rhetorical questions, 4 statements of building desperation.

  1. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in (v14)? People will only call on Jesus to be the Lord of their lives, if they believe that he is actually able to save them?
  2. And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard (v14)? Belief in Jesus Christ cannot exist without knowledge about him (see Romans 10:17).
  3. And how can they hear without someone preaching to them (v14)?  One hears about Christ only when someone proclaims the Gospel message. A better translation for preaching is to herald, like a town crier announcing an important message. Paul is referring to someone walking down the street and shouting out the Good News of the Gospel.
  4. And how can anyone preach unless they are sent (v15)? This message will never be proclaimed unless someone is sent to give the message. The Greek word for being sent here is Apostolos, meaning, being sent by God.

Paul believed that the only way to be saved was to hear and believe in the Gospel message. Believing that God sent his only son into the world to die for our sins so that by believing in Jesus, our relationship with God can be restored.

And then we have the final “how”, it is a declaration of joy and hope – “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! (v15).

The feet that carry the message of the Gospel are made beautiful by the message. Do you have beautiful feet? Are your feet carrying the beautiful message?

Have you heard the word? Have you heard the Good news about Jesus? And if you have, can you tell the story?

If you have a personal relationship with Jesus, you have a story of the Gospel being applied to your life.

As a follower of Jesus, you are called to go and tell. Everyone fits into two categories. Either you still need to make Jesus Lord of your life or you need to tell others about what Jesus has done for you.

There is no such thing as passive Christianity.

The Normal Christian life is a life of action, being about the Masters business, doing the work that the Lord of your life prepared in advance for you to do (Ephesians 2:10).

The Purpose of Unity – Sunday, August 27, 2017

THE PURPOSE OF UNITY

Ephesians 4:1-16

Have you ever been part of a team of people who share the same vision, share the same passion and are completely united together to accomplish a specific goal? Unity in the church is absolutely critical because we are in a spiritual war that has eternal consequences.

Grace Point is a very diverse church, we have people from many different nationalities, races and socio-economic backgrounds, all of which make unity almost impossible. There must be a common bond, a reason for unity. What is our purpose for gathering as the church? Is it to come on a Sunday and spend an hour, participating in a worship service, is that the purpose? If that was the case, then it is not surprising why so many churches around the world are closing. There must be a bigger purpose that draws us together.

The Apostle Paul writing to the first century church in Ephesus, made a plea for them to be united (see Ephesians 4:1-16).

Paul begins this chapter by pointing out that there is an individual responsibility for unity. Paul makes it personal, “I urge you!” therefore no-one is exempt. And then in verse 2, Paul lists what looks like the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22. Daily submitting ourselves to the Holy Spirit, we will produce the fruit of the Spirit, that will in turn create unity. It starts with the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And in verse 3 he reminds us that this will take effort, requiring us to lay down our own desires and submitting ourselves to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Unity in the church is not something that we can manufacture by a well worked plan and strategy, no, our unity as the church is already established, unity has been established by the Gospel message. Just read to verse 4 to 6,

In these verses, he uses the word ONE 7 times as he draws attention to the Gospel. The unity of the church is already established, it was established in Jesus Christ. True unity is only found in the good news of Jesus Christ. (see what Jesus prayed in John 17:21-23).

 So, all this talk about unity and the will of God for us as a church, how does this work practically? Each of us has a part to play in this, no believer is exempt. Every believer has been given gifts by the Holy Spirit. These gifts have been given not for our own benefit and pleasure, but to be used to build up the body of Christ.

These spiritual gifts are the same gifts that we read about in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12.

In verse 11 we read the beginning of a long sentence and we are frequently guilty of quoting only part of this sentence, as you will see.

We read the Christ gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers given to the church, but why? Verse 12 answers, “12 to equip his people for works of service…” While it is good, to be able to do good things, serve and bless out community, but what’s the goal of this service?

Verse 12 continues, “so that the body of Christ may be built up”. So, as the church serves, it is built up.

But Paul goes further, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God…”

So, as we are equipped, we serve, as we serve we are built up, as we are built up, we achieve unity. Do you see the pattern? Unity is achieved by serving together.

Verse 13 continues, “…and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Paul is talking about spiritual maturity. There are many teenagers who are mature in their faith, while others who may have been in the church for decades, are still spiritual babies. As we work together in the church, we attain unity, as we are united in faith and action, we grow together and become mature.

Verse 16 of this passage wraps up the discussion on unity in the Body of Christ, “16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

From Jesus, the whole body, the whole church is joined together by every supporting ligament. Every little part of the body is valuable, every part is important. As we see the value in each other in the church, we are built up in Love. Without the supernatural love that the Holy Spirit gives us for each other, we would never be drawn together. It is purely the grace of God and the love of God that holds the church together and builds the church. We can talk about unity and church growth all we like, but if it is not held together by the supernatural love that the Lord gives us for each other, we would never grow together as a church.

And then we come to the final six words of verse 16, “…as each part does its work”.

Every one of us is called by God to play a part in the ministry of the church. What is the ministry of the church? It is not to build a better building or to be a comfortable social club. The ministry of the church is the Great Commission, to share the Gospel message, to reach the lost, to disciple the new believers, baptizing them and training them to go and share the Gospel message.

The church as the living Body of Christ, where everyone functions with their own unique spiritual gifts, will be very different than societies idea of a church. Society has the picture of the church that is static, boring, uniform, liturgical. This church will be a place where love is unconditional, charity abounds freely, where differences in race and age are celebrated rather than causing division. A place where we all serve one another in humility and grace, understanding that as we do so, we are contributing to the growth and the maturity of the body.

The Great Commission Sunday July 30, 2017

We as believers have two ordinances in the church. We have Baptism and the Lords supper or communion.

We believe that you are not saved by taking communion or by being baptized. However, you must be saved in order to take communion or to be baptized.

So why do we have these ordinances? Matthew 28:16-20, known as the Great Commission is where Jesus gave his disciples the marching orders for the church.

The disciples obeyed Jesus’ instructions from Matthew 28:10, and go up this mountain in Galilee. Suddenly Jesus presents himself to them and in verse 17 we have a very interesting phrase, “When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.”

Some doubted! The term for doubt here is not complete unbelief but rather it is a hesitation to accept something that seemed so impossible, it was hard to grasp. Some of the disciples struggled to believe that Jesus was alive and that he was exactly who he said he was. These same disciples who witnessed the feeding of the 5000, the feeding of the 4000, Jesus walking on the water, Jesus calming the storm, they witnessed the powerful natural disasters that took place when Jesus was crucified and many other miracles, these same men, who walked with God for 3 years, now doubted.

Now before we are too critical of these disciples, we too are prone to doubt and Jesus knew that. Jesus knew that the enormity of what took place when he was crucified and raised from the dead, is too much for us to fully comprehend and that is why we have these reminders, the reminder of Baptism and the Lords supper.

These ordinances are more than simply things we do. They remind us of who we are, they remind us that without the body and the blood of Jesus, we have no hope. Baptism is such a beautiful picture, when the person being baptized, goes under the water, they are showing that they have died to their old life, and have been buried with Christ. And then the beautiful picture of coming up out of the water, being raised to new life in Christ.

Jesus begins the Great Commission by saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

The authority Jesus has supersedes all earthly authority and all heavenly authority, he truly is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus didn’t assume this authority, it was given to Him by God the Father, the creator and sustainer of all things, Jesus had this universal authority given to him. The authority that Jesus had is secure because it has been given to him by the all-powerful, unchanging, uncreated God of the universe.

When Jesus says that all universal authority has been given to him, he sets the stage for what he is about to say next. Verse 19 begins with the word, “Therefore”, therefore, because he has the supreme authority, Jesus uses that authority to commission the disciples, and all who would follow him. With all the authority in the universe, Jesus says Go!

Notice that Jesus doesn’t, try to go, or if you have time go, or if it is convenient go, no he simply says; “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”

This commission still applies to the church today, it still applies to all followers of Jesus today.

The phrase, “make disciples”, means win converts, win them for Christ by sharing the good news. Go out by the power of the Holy Spirit and win people for Christ.

The natural follow on from salvation is baptism, Jesus follows the winning of souls immediately with baptism.

If you have given your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, but you have not been baptized, I strongly encourage you to be baptized. It doesn’t make you a Christian, but in obedience to Christ, you are making a public testimony of your new life in Christ, and I believe that God places a special blessing and seal on your life as you obey Him in baptism.

Verse 20 continues, “and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…”

This is the discipleship piece, we are not called to simply win souls for Christ, we are commissioned by Jesus to do that hard work of teaching, correcting, training and encouraging. This is sometimes where we struggle, we seem to think that once a person is baptized they automatically are transformed in every way. But that is simply not the case, they need grace to make mistakes just like we do. None of us are perfect, but we are all on the journey of growing more and more in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord.

So, we have the Great Commission, to go, win souls, baptize them and disciples them. After Jesus gave the commission, did he just wave a goodbye, and disappear?

Have you ever been given an impossible task? A task that you know you could not do yourself, but you were told by your parent or your boss to go out and do it! Imagine these eleven disciples, Jesus just told them to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. Can you imagine how overwhelming that must have been?

But then Jesus gives them the promise that makes the Great commission doable, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus promised to be with us, he also gave the Holy Spirit to live inside of us as believers, we are not alone. This is not a task that we have to try and figure out on our own.

In fact, the Great Commission is only possible because of the promise and the gift of the third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit.

What a comfort that is, God not only commissioned us to go, he also provided the power to complete that Great Commission. Let us be a church that always answers the call to go.

Church in the Park – July 16, 2016

We have just celebrated a wonderful service together as a church. We held our church service at John Anderson Park in Grandview. It was well attended and the weather was amazing, although admittedly it was a bit warm for some.

When we promoted the idea of having a church service in the park, it was a bit of a stretch for some, I admit that I had some doubt as to the wisdom of the event.

But the Church met last Sunday, we didn’t meet in our normal building and in our usual seats, but the church still met. The Church, the followers of Jesus Christ, those who have submitted themselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. A healthy church understands that we are to be the church in our community and whenever and wherever we gather, the Church gathers.

There are churches that Satan does not have a problem with people going to. Unfortunately, there are many of these churches, who do not proclaim the Gospel and do not challenge their members to focus on the Great Commission that Jesus left the Church to do in Matthew 28.

However, if the church gets out from behind their four walls and begins to make an impact on the community, then the kingdom of darkness is threatened. I am always reminded of what Jesus said in Luke 10 when the 72 early missionaries returned, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven”.

The basis of the church, our foundational statement is the Gospel message.

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 we read the Gospel in a nutshell, “”Now I make known to you brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures . . .

The Bible says that we are all sinners (Rom. 3:23). This means that we have all offended God and have all broken His law. Therefore, we are guilty of having sinned. Because of this, we are separated from God (Isaiah 59:2), are dead in our sins (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:3), cannot please God (Rom. 3:10-11), and will face an eternity of suffering separated from the presence of God (2 Thess. 1:9).

The only way to escape this judgment is by placing our faith in what Jesus did on the cross (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Pet. 2:24). We can only be saved from Hell by submitting our lives to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ as our savior, we cannot save ourselves by our own efforts (Galatians 2:21).

We have to rely on God to remove our sins. Jesus, who is God in flesh (John 1:1), bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24). He died in our place. He paid the penalty of breaking the Law of God that should have fallen upon us. He satisfied the law of God the Father by dying on the cross.

It did not end there, God raised Jesus from the dead and he appeared to many people in his resurrected body over a period of forty days (1 Corinthians 15). Jesus then ascended into Heaven where he lives today interceding for us (Romans 8:34). Jesus is our advocate with our Heavenly Father and he is coming again one day to take the church to be with him and to rule over the earth with justice restoring all things according to God’s perfect plan.

That is the Gospel message.

Without the Gospel, we have no church

Without the Gospel, we have no hope of salvation

Without the Gospel, we have no testimony

Without the Gospel, we cannot pray for healing

Our mission statement as a church is as follows: “to be a loving church family, worshipping God and transforming our community with the message of the Gospel.”

Our community, our city, our nation desperately needs the Good news. Every day on the evening news we see that violence is everywhere. Kansas City is ranked as one of the most violent cities in the nation.

Our city needs the Church to be the Church and share the Gospel. We cannot change a city by being nice people, only God can change a city and a nation, and that is only by the power of God as the Gospel message is understood and revealed to the world.

So, what does the Gospel mean to you?

The 4 Pillars of the Church – Part II – February 19, 2017

Nehemiah 8:1-12

A fairly common statement that can be heard in Christian circles after a Sunday morning, goes something like this; “I didn’t get anything out of the service today”. However, we should always come into a worship service with an expectation to encounter the presence of the Lord. Looking at Nehemiah chapter 8 I want to draw five principles that will guarantee that we will always experience a special touch from the Lord every time we meet together.

Worship is more than singing, worship must become a lifestyle for us. We worship what we give value to, we worship by the way we use our money, the way we work, the way we share the Gospel with others and we worship in the way we spend our free time. When we understand worship, we begin to understand that we worship God with our very lives.

Looking at Nehemiah chapter 8 we see the following 5 principles of developing a lifestyle of worship:

Prepare to Worship: The event described in this chapter took place during a two day festival called the feast of trumpets, it was a holy day and to be treated like the Sabbath (see Leviticus 23).  All the people had gathered at the water gate and if we look back a few verses the gathering of people was approximately forty-five thousand thousand. This wasn’t some random gathering, this was a planned event. A platform had been built for Ezra to stand on, and he read from sunrise until noon, which means that all the people had to assemble before sunrise. This took a lot of work and coordinating, there was preparation involved that probably took days before this event.

We need to remember that worship is primarily spiritual, thus we need to look for spiritual solutions to the desire for more effective worship. Before we enter into a worship service we need to prepare our own hearts to worship the Lord. There is much that could be said on this, but just one practical piece, how can you spend Saturday night watching r rated movies and then expect to experience the presence of God on a Sunday morning, our hearts need to be prepared. A very practical step would be to get up early on a Sunday morning and spend time with the Lord, repenting of your sins, praying for the blood of Jesus to cleanse you of your sins. This will require discipline and maybe an adjustment in your schedule, but it all boils down to what we value the most, what do we give value to, what do we worship?

As we need to approach the throne of grace in worship, we need to be seeking personal holiness in our lives (see Hebrews 12:14).

Engage with the Word: As Ezra climbs into the makeshift pulpit, and opened the book, all the people stood up. The people actively engaged in the reading of the Book of the Law. There was not a passive sitting down and expecting Ezra to keep them alert. The people arose and engaged with the word of God, they remained standing all morning, as Ezra read and the Levites went amongst the people explaining the law to them.

Our worship should be response to the word of God. A number of times I have heard the statement made that the singing prepares us for the message, and if the singing is bad, then we don’t get anything out of the message. But throughout scripture we have examples that would suggest we have it the wrong way around. Our worship needs to be in response to the word.

Focus on Heaven:  Before Ezra begins to read he focuses the attention of the people on God, (see verse 6) The people prepared themselves, then they engaged with the Word and thirdly they focused on Heaven. They focused on the object of their worship.

Worship is a time when we take our eyes off of ourselves and our small world and focus on the Glory and majesty of the creator of the universe. Everything in our worship services, should be to draw our attention towards God and to cause people to think about Him. Worship is to be about Him and his majesty and greatness.

Give of Yourself: As the people were hearing the Word of the Law being read, they began to weep and mourn as they became aware of how far they had drifted from God’s original intent for the nation. This wasn’t a little crying or sadness, there was a grief that came over the people that affected everyone, so much so, that the priests had to calm them down as we read in the following verses. The people gave of themselves in repentance and grief.

Worship is activity and requires us to give of ourselves. Not only must we actively engage in worship, but we must also give of ourselves, worship is a sacrifice to God (see Romans 12:1)

Worship is a sacrifice as we declare that we give our all to God in worship. And here is the amazingly powerful truth, our worship literally becomes an incense in the presence of the Lord. David understood this in Psalm 141:2.

When you are tempted not to give of yourself in worship, remember that worship is a privilege we have because of the cross of Jesus Christ, because of what Jesus did on the cross, our sacrifice of praise literally becomes incense in the presence of the all holy God!

Leave Celebrating: After the people had repented and grieved, they all went away rejoicing (see v12). Nehemiah understood the value of the truth that the Joy of the Lord is our strength, and that the people needed to be strong and joyful as they left to go to their homes.

The final principle in worship is how we leave the house of worship. We should leave celebrating because we have just encountered a fresh touch from the Lord, our sins have been forgiven and we are free. As we leave our worship service, our conversation needs to be permeated with the very real fact that we encountered the living God in worship.

Worship is more than an event or a gathering, worship is a lifestyle and not an event. The truth is that If you don’t worship outside the church, you will never worship in the church. If you don’t worship God during the week, don’t expect to come to church on a Sunday and ask the worship leader to lead you into worship.

Worship styles come and go, throughout the History of the church, the music style and the instruments used have been constantly changing. The style of worship today is different from fifty years ago, and it was different fifty years before that. Worship styles may change, but worship itself must never change.

If we become so attached to a particular style, if a particular style of worship becomes our preference and we feel that it is the only way to worship, then we have missed the point of worship. Neither contemporary, traditional or blended are the right way to worship, because worship is a matter of the heart. (read John 4:23)

Eternally Thankful – Sermon November 27, 2016

church-thanksgiving

I am reading a challenging book right now in which the author states that true happiness in one’s life comes from a grateful heart. A grateful spirit keeps you from feeling sorry for yourself and this is key;

“the seeds of depression cannot take root in a grateful heart”.

The book of Psalms is wonderful to read in order to find language to thank God for his many blessings.

Psalm 105 starts with the line; “Give thanks to the Lord...” and then verse 2 begins with; “sing praise to him”. The Psalmist is not simply thankful for the blessings, but he is thankful for the attributes of the giver himself. The Psalmist is praising God for all his attributes; his mercy, his kindness, his justice and his goodness. A natural outflow of a thankful heart is worship. Spending time thanking God should always lead to worship as we realize that without his perfect and enduring attributes, we would have nothing.

But verse one and two show us something else that flows out of thankfulness;

1  Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. 2  Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.

As we are thankful to God, we praise him and then we make known to others what he has done. We tell of all his wonderful acts as the Psalmist wrote. You see if we are thankful to God for what he has done for us, we will be compelled to share the Good news of salvation with those around us. A heart for missions is driven by a heart of gratitude.

Reading the following two verses, we see that the psalmist changes the focus from what God has done, to worshipping God himself.

3  Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. 4  Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.

We as children of God, can become so wrapped up in what we need from God that we become so focused on the mighty hand of God that we seldom seek the face of God. As we seek the face of God we see his attributes; his love, his mercy, his omnipotence, his glory, his grace, his justice, his wrath – we could go on and on forever listing the glorious attributes of God.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to remember what the hand of God has provided for us and in so doing we begin to praise him as we praise him we declare his attributes. Thanksgiving needs to be public, it needs to be a witness to the goodness of God.

The Psalm continues;  5 Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,

The word the Psalmist uses here for “remember” is not a simple recollection of the facts, but it is to call to mind the wonders God has done and then to dwell on them. It is as if the Psalmist is saying to the reader, slow down, stop what you are doing and hit the pause button, then dwell on what God has done. Much like a day of thanksgiving where we slow down, stop our normal routine and remember the miracles that God has done.

Looking at verse 6 the Psalmist seems to be stating the obvious, by telling the people who they were;  6  O descendants of Abraham his servant, O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones.

In essence he is saying; “do you remember who you are?” We as followers of Jesus Christ, we are his chosen ones. We sometimes forget who we are. We have so much to be thankful for because our God, the creator of the universe, calls us his own. The Apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:9, we are God’s special possession!

This God who calls us his special possession, is also the same God who is over all the earth. There is nothing outside of His control. His ways are perfect and He is our God.

7  He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth.

So we see a progression here, the Psalmist begins by thanking God for his blessings, and he progresses to worshiping God for who he is. Then the Psalmist acknowledges that God is working out his eternal plan and judgments over all the earth. The Lord God sent his only son, in order to pay the price for the judgement that was on our heads. Ultimately as we stop and begin to thank God for the blessings in our lives, we are naturally drawn to the greatest gift and blessing of all, the message of the Gospel.

Jesus Christ came to this earth to suffer and die, only to be raised from the dead by the power of God, in order to provide the only way for us to be saved from eternal suffering and to be restored to a right relationship with God the Father.

As we look at our lives in light of eternity, we are drawn to the fact that all we have on this earth, all the many blessings, will one day pass away. Everything we treasure on this earth will one day pass away, only one blessing from God is infinitely more valuable than any other, the giving of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Over the next few weeks we will be focusing our attention of Christmas. It is easy to be drawn away from the greatest gift of all as we focus on buying and giving gifts to each other.

Jesus came for a purpose and that purpose was to suffer and die on the cross, in order that whoever believes in the risen Lord Jesus Christ will have eternal life. That is something we are grateful for today, but we will also be eternally grateful for what God has provided for us.

Sermon series on Stewardship Part 3 – Relationships, October 9, 2016

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Stewarding our relationships

1 John 4:7-21

Each of us is placed in a specific home environment, workplace or community exactly where God wants us to be. If we believe that God is in control of all things, then there is no one in your life who is there by chance. Everyone in your life is there because God knew you needed to be in a relationship with them. Sometimes those relationships are not easy, sometimes they lead to angry words and frustration, but when you look back on your life, you will see that they are there for a reason. I want to challenge you to think about why God has placed the people in your life that He has.

In the book of 1 John, the Apostle John focuses on our relationship with God and our relationships with each other. In 1 John 4:7-21, we see the word “love” repeated 27 times. John starts this section in verse 7 by writing; “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. The Greek language is much more descriptive than our English language and Greek has a number of different words for Love. The Greek word that John uses here for love is Agape. The type of love that characterizes God is not a sappy, sentimental feeling that we think of with our limited vocabulary.

God loves because that is His nature and the expression of His being. Agape love does not come naturally to us, because of our fallen nature, we are incapable of producing such a love. If we are to love as God loves, that agape love can only come from God. This is the love that we receive by the Holy Spirit as we read in Romans 5:5; “…because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Agape love as modeled by Jesus, is not based on a feeling. Rather, it is a determined act of the will, a joyful resolve to put the welfare of others above our own. Jesus went to Jerusalem that final time, determined to go to the cross, he knew what lay ahead and he followed through on the will of his father, because of his love for us. In in this short passage in 1 John 4, we see the Gospel message referred to three times (see verses 9,10 and 14).

This Gospel message is a message of agape love, a love that is always shown by what it does.

So why is this so important?   We get a hint in verse 12 and 17; Christians are to be the demonstration of the Love of Christ to the world around us. The JB Phillips New Testament paraphrase explains verse 17 this way; “for we realise that our life in this world is actually his life lived in us.” We are Christs ambassadors in this world, we are to love with an unconditional determined love. That is what it means to be a Christian.

Our love for our fellow man flows out of our love for God. A vertical relationship enables us to love those around us. If we are struggling to love those around us, it is probably because we are struggling in our personal walk with the Lord.

What relationships has God placed around you? Each of us have spheres of influence, people that are impacted by our lives.

Our families are the first and most important relationships that we are to steward. God has placed you in your family. If you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior you are called to love your family unconditionally in order that those who are not saved might see Jesus through you.

Another sphere is our Church family, our fellowship with other believers. Sometimes in our church family we find it hard to love each other because we have differing opinions and passions. But the truth is that God has called you and placed you in the church you are in for His glory.

In his book, The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer gives this interesting illustration: “Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers [meeting] together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”

True unity comes from being in tune with God through Jesus Christ. At the root of disunity is one or more have taken their tune from another master. Whether that is their own preferences, desires, traditions or opinions. For any church to experience unity, we need to all be focusing on Jesus Christ and him alone. As we do we will find that our disagreements will melt away as we begin to experience God’s love for each other. If two Christians do not love each other, they have taken their eyes off the cross of Jesus Christ.

Paul writing in Romans 12, speaks about love in action and sets the bar high for us in verse 10: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” How many of our family arguments would simply cease to exist if we would take that verse seriously – how many of our church disagreements would dissolve if we honored one another above ourselves.

Then we have our other spheres of influence, our workplaces, community and places of recreation. The people that you encounter on a weekly basis in your favorite restaurant or at the bank or the convenience store. These are all relationships that we are called to steward. Do we see people as a means to get what we want? Or do we see them as people that Jesus died for?

God has entrusted the people in your circles to your care. He has placed you in their lives to love them, to care for them and to show them the love of the Father.

Our families and communities would be transformed if we took what the apostle Paul wrote to heart in Romans 12:10, do we honor our loved ones?

Sermon series on Stewardship Part 2 – Finances, October 2, 2016

 

stewardship-pt-2-title-2-01There are 2350 verses on finances in the Bible, and 15% of all the recorded words of Jesus were on money. Finances are obviously an important topic in the Word of God, and stewarding our finances well is vital to our Christian walk.

The foundation of everything relating to a discussion on finances is that God owns everything. He is the creator and sustainer of all things (see Psalm 24:1). Everything we have comes from God, we are not owners of it, we are stewards of God’s wealth. That is such an important paradigm shift we need to make in our lives.

The second reality is that we cannot take any of our material possessions with us into eternity. When we die, all our accumulation of wealth stays behind and gets divided up according to our estate. This sounds obvious, but so few live according to this reality. The Bible clearly states that what we do with our time and resources here on earth will store up for us riches in heaven. In a currency that we know nothing about.

We use the term tithe or tithing when we talk about giving money to the Lord’s work. This is not simply a modern Church word, rather tithing has been a part of many different cultures and religions throughout history. And in fact it pre-dates the law of Moses. A tithe is ten percent of one’s earnings or crops, set aside and given to God. In the OT book of the Prophet Malachi, we read how God rebukes the nation of Israel for their lack of tithing (see Malachi 3:6-12). You may argue that Malachi is in the Old Testament and it doesn’t apply to us today, we are under the new covenant and we are under grace. It is true that Jesus ushered in the New Covenant by his death and resurrection, but he also said in Matthew 5:17 that he did not come to abolish the Law, but rather to fulfill the Law.

People who view tithing as simply an Old Testament law whereby one is paying a debt back to God, miss the point entirely. The early church in the book of Acts understood this and were an extremely generous people.  Tithing was never meant to pay a debt to God, in the Old or the New Testament, rather tithing builds our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Notice verse 10 of Malachi 3; “Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty….” God challenges the people to test him, this is the only time in the Bible where testing God is seen as a positive action. God encourages us to test our faith in the giving process.

When one gives a tithe to the local church it is never simply to meet a church budget. Rather, you are tithing to the ministry of reaching the lost, sharing the Gospel and bring the light of Jesus to our community. Not simply meeting a budget, who wants to give to that? No as we seek to diligently steward the gifts and tithes, we seek to make an eternal difference for the kingdom of God. Eternal souls are at stake. Give to that.

Looking at one of the lessons Jesus taught on money we read of the rich young man in Mark 10:17-25.

Notice the posture of this man as he runs up to Jesus and falls down, begging Jesus for an answer. There is a desperation. He knows that there must be more to this life and he wants to have eternal security. But notice the question he asks; “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”. This man is looking for a set of rules, a checkbox that he can tick off to say that his eternal salvation is secure.

Jesus knowing his heart lists some of the ten commandments, to which the man responds that he has kept these laws since he was a boy. But notice the commandments that Jesus mentions. Jesus only focuses on the Commandments that relate to our relationship with our fellow man. Jesus saw deep into the heart of this man and saw that he was trying to follow a set of rules rather than seeking a relationship with God.

This is a trap we so easily fall into, we want a set of rules, but God wants a relationship and then out of that relationship we seek to do the will of God. Again it is reinforced that we cannot possibly earn our way into heaven.

Jesus looks at the man and the Bible says, “he loved him”, and then Jesus raised the bar and told him to sell everything he had and give it to the poor and then come and follow him. Jesus loved him, but let him go, because Jesus knew that he loved his money more than he loved God. His money was his idol. It doesn’t mean that all of us are required to sell everything we have. But if we hold on to our money as our security, as our peace rather than Jesus, it has become an idol and we need to rearrange our priorities.

Again, the kingdom of God is not about a set of rules, it is about a relationship with our Heavenly Father.

We don’t give in order to get something from God, even though there is tremendous blessing in a life of disciplined tithing, no we give because he first gave everything for us.

So Jesus raised the bar and made it clear that our response to the Gospel is much more than 10% of our income or following a set of rules. This man lost everything because of his wealth. His wealth robbed him of the greatest wealth of all, eternal life. Today people are still being robbed by wealth, by letting their finances become and idol and it is preventing them from a relationship with the provider of all wealth.

The truth is that God doesn’t need your money, He wants your heart.

God wants you and I to understand that a closed hand is unable to receive his blessing, but a generous hand is open to receive from God.

The challenge for us as followers of Jesus is not if we should be giving 10% of our income, the real challenge is what about the other 90%?

One may argue that after tithing 10% the rest of the money is yours to use as you wish. But is that really true?

As we look at our spending habits, how much of the 90% do we waste? You may not be wasting money on lottery tickets or cigarettes, but what about things like cable TV or high interest rates on debt.

This is vital for us as Christians, we need to do everything we can to get out and stay out of debt.

Live according to a budget. Living according to and within a strict budget is the very definition of what it means to be a good steward.

When we meet people who have a close walk with God and those who have strong faith in God, if you dig a little and find out their story, you will discover that 95% of their faith lessons were lessons on finances.

If you want to grow your faith, it starts with realizing that everything we have belongs to our Father in heaven, and then trust him for the future.

Going Farming – Planting a church part 2 August 28, 2016

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2 Thessalonians chapter 1

Healthy churches plant other churches”, is an often repeated statement, but the question must be asked; why do we plant churches?

Last week as we looked at Ephesians 3:10 we began to understand that the church is more significant than we can ever imagine.

2 Thessalonians is a brief letter that is closely linked to Paul’s first Epistle to the early church in Thessalonica. It was written within three or four months after the first letter, and intended to clear up confusion about the future. In the first letter and chapter 5, Paul wrote about the Day of the Lord – the day when Jesus will come again. The persecution that the early church was going through led some in the city to believe that the “Day of the Lord” had arrived. The early church was struggling under persecution and naturally concluded that Jesus was coming and the Day of the Lord was imminent.  Paul’s focus of the second letter was to teach the young church that trials are a part of the Christian life.

Paul commends them that their faith is growing in verse 3, but then he addresses the trials they are going through in verse 4. Paul tells them that he is proud of them for persevering and not giving in. Paul understood the secret that James wrote about in James 1:2-4.

God’s wisdom is that we go through trials not as punishment, but rather to cause us to lean into God and trust in His grace. Trials deepen our faith and through trials we grow in our Christian walk.

Not only that, trials and hardships are one of the most powerful tools to show unbelievers that your faith is real. It is really easy to say that Jesus is my all and sing; “all I need is you Lord!” when things are going well. But when the challenges mount up, people are watching to see if you really live what you say you believe.

The reality is that church planting is hard and there is a lot of sacrifice and trials along the way. It requires perseverance.

So why do we plant churches?

Firstly, plant churches not because the city needs a church like another convenience store or a bowling alley. No, the city needs a church because Jesus is coming back.

If the first century church in Thessalonica were awaiting the imminent return of Christ, how much more can we see the Day and the hour approaching. All we have to do is read Matthew 24, where Jesus explains the signs of the end times, where he talks about nations fighting against nation, famine, earthquakes, terrible global events and then He will come again in glory (See Matthew 24:19-20).

Jesus is coming back soon and we plant churches in dark places because it is the most effective way to reach the lost and disciple them, drawing people out of darkness into the family of God. I really believe that there is not much time. We need to be reaching the lost.

And then secondly, we plant churches for His Glory. Look at 2 Thessalonians 1:2. Remember that God is revealing his wisdom, his grace, and his glory to the universe through the church. Are we revealing the Glory of God here at Grace Point? Does your church reflect the glory of God?  Look at the powerful benediction that Paul penned in Ephesians 3:20-21; “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

We plant churches, for the Glory of God.

We need to be a church that displays the glory of God, not because of anything special that we have or do, absolutely not. We reveal the Glory of God when we lift the name of Jesus high. When we are known for being followers of the King of Kings and not merely a gathering of the community.

So what is our expectation in planting a church? For some it is simply a financial decision of sending a family with money to support them, and all we see is the drop in our bank balance.

But my prayer is that we could have a bigger vision. Are we planting with the dream of a harvest? Are we planting for the glory of God, for the name of Jesus?

My prayer is that by planting a seed in the city of Cincinnati, we could stand before Jesus on judgment day and say; “Lord, this is what we did with the talent you gave us.”

It is all about the glory of God and that Jesus is coming again soon. Let us pray for our city and the city of Cincinnati as we pray for our nation.