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

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2 Corinthians 12:1-7

How do you handle pain?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sermon Sunday May 9, 2021 Mountain Top Experiences Part 3

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Exodus 19

How do you prepare to go to church?

Let’s admit it, most people like to sleep in on Sunday. It is a day when the routine of the week is thrown out and we rush around trying to find our shoes that we only wear once a week.

However, if we think about it, how we prepare speaks to how much we value and expect the presence of the Lord as we worship.

The events of Exodus 19 on Mount Sinai are one of the most incredible accounts of the presence of God in the whole Bible. The mountain where God spoke to Moses and gave the children of Israel the Law. Can you imagine the scene, the thunder, the earthquake, the deafening trumpet, the smoke, and the voice of God?

The events at Mount Sinai were monumental in the history of the world. God was creating for Himself a new nation with new laws and a new way of life. God showed Himself as the one who desires relationship and communion with His people. Unlike any other world religion, our God came down to His people. He is the initiator of the relationship.

God gave the Israelites the Law, that became known as the Law of Moses. It revealed the holiness of God and clearly defined sin once and for all. God was preparing this nation to be the nation that would host the presence of God in the form and flesh of Jesus the Messiah.

The giving of the Law is remembered by the Jewish Holiday, Shavuot, which is 50 days from the Passover. The Law was in effect the constitution of the nation at a time when they were celebrating their freedom from Egyptian slavery. Shavuot is also known by the ancient Greek word for fifty, Pentecost.

Over the course of almost a year Moses went up Mount Sinai several times (as many as eight) to meet God as recorded between Exodus 19 and the end of the book. Not bad for an eighty-year-old man!

The first time Moses went up the mountain, God told him that He is offering a blessing to the people of Israel if they will keep the covenant (Exodus 19:5-6). By saying this, God was confirming the covenant He had made with Abraham.

A priest was a mediator between God and man. By making the nation of Israel a Kingdom of Priests, the whole nation would act as a mediator of the presence of God to the whole earth as God promised Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3).

Moses reported the message to the people, and the people respond by saying, “We will do everything the Lord has said” (Exodus 19:8). God spoke to Moses so that all the people could hear Him. By doing this God elevated Moses in the sight of the people (Exodus 19:9).

This is a picture of what would happen during the life of Jesus. When Jesus was Baptized, God spoke from heaven giving His approval of His son in front of the crowd (Matthew 3:16-17).

In verse 10 God told Moses to instruct the people to consecrate themselves, to get ready for His meeting with them on the third day. They had not yet received the ceremonial laws, but they did know enough to clean their clothes and prepare themselves. It isn’t that God demands clean clothes, rather it is the value of preparation, taking time to prepare to meet God.

The third day arrives and verse 16 says, “On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled.” Can you imagine how terrifying that must have been? Verse 18 says that the whole mountain trembled as God descended on it. The mountain is covered in a thick cloud to protect the people from the full glory of God. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, terrifying the people, Moses speaks. He simply speaks and God answers him in thunder (Hebrews 12:28-29).

Over the period of almost a year, the people camped at the base of the mountain. During that time God gave Moses the law, he established the Mosaic Covenant and officially made the children of Israel the nation of Israel.

Our God is an awesome and powerful God, but here is our incredible privilege, we have access like Moses, we can speak directly to God because of what Jesus has done for us. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the perfect sacrifice that paid for our sins once and for all, we can come boldly before the Lord. Jesus is our High priest and mediator.

There is another incredible connection between the Old and New Testaments.

This was the first Pentecost celebration, and we have another Pentecost celebration that stands out in the Bible. In Acts chapter 2, God poured out the Holy Spirit and established the Church during Pentecost.

But there is a further connection. As the people waited for Moses, they grew impatient and had Aaron form them a golden calf to worship. Moses furiously broke the stone tablets as we read in Exodus 32 and the resulting judgement for the sins of the people cost about 3000 men their lives. 3000 people died at the time when they were receiving the law.

Fast forward 1400 years, the disciples gathered at Pentecost as the Holy Spirit comes on them.  They go out into the streets of Jerusalem and Peter preaches a powerful evangelistic sermon, and the result is that about 3000 people are saved! The law leads to death, but the Spirit brings life. The apostle Paul refers to the law of sin and death in Romans 8:1–2.

So, how do you prepare yourself for worship on a Sunday?

Preparation starts all through the week. God repeated over and over, consecrate yourself, get ready, be prepared! Do we prepare ourselves before coming to church on a Sunday? Or do we spend Saturday night watching immoral shows and then wonder why we don’t “feel” God on Sunday morning.

Are we as the church preparing ourselves? Asking God to strip away from us the idols that are keeping us from experiencing His presence.

Sermon, Sunday May 24, 2020 Do You Know How Much God Loves You?

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Ephesians 3:14-21
Do you know how much you are loved?

Truthfully, we simply have no ability to grasp the love of God for us.

The Apostle Paul prays two prayers in the first three chapters of the letter to the church in Ephesus. In Ephesians 3:14-21, Paul prays for the church to live out the knowledge of their position in Christ.

The church has incredible amounts of knowledge and teaching available to us, yet we don’t live from the position of that knowledge, and our position as followers of Jesus and citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

There are three key things we can learn from this prayer by the apostle for the early church.

1: Paul Prays with Humility.
He begins with, “for this reason”. Paul is referring to chapters 1 and 2, and the facts that we are chosen by God, saved by grace, and all called as the body of Christ, being built up as members of the church.

It is crucial that prayer is always from a posture of worship and humility. Prayer begins and ends in worship (See Psalm 95:6-7).
Prayer must begin with worship. If you launch into prayer requests, you are treating God like a vending machine, while He wants a relationship.

But more than humility, Paul approached God with desperation, because he recognized that only God could act on his behalf. Paul knew that believers needed something that only God could give, His power. I don’t think we are aware of how helpless and powerless we are without God. Jesus himself said this in John 15:5.
This should make us humble and desperate, but not only that, it should encourage us, because we are called to be Christ’s ambassadors, to be used by him for his glory by His power.

We can pray with confidence in our position before the throne of God as beloved children (Ephesians 2:18).
In Christ, we have unlimited access to the Father. We can call Him Father and He is unimaginably rich and powerful.

2: Praying for the Fullness of God’s Power and Love.
Paul presents his requests to God in these verses. They seem to flow together and we lose some of the impact of them, but they are like a staircase that climbs to a crescendo, each one separated by the conjunction, “that” (See Ephesians 3:16-19)
Paul begins by praying for strength in the inner man. Strength to stand firm against temptation, strength to courageously proclaim the Gospel, strength to love our neighbor the way Jesus loves them, and strength for many more areas of our life.

Our culture places so much emphasis on the outer man, whether it is Instagram filters, or a supplement to develop ripped muscles overnight. In our culture, image is such an idol.
But the inner person, the soul, is the only eternal part of our being. Everything else is fading away (Proverbs 31:30).

Paul prays in verse 17, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…”
When the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us, he is transforming us to reflect the character of Jesus Christ. This is the process of sanctification that we are all living out.

In the next verses, Paul moves from praying for power, to praying for them to know how much they are loved by God. How much we need this revelation of God’s love today.

When we understand the love of God for us, we easily submit to his perfect will and our lives will become lives of radical obedience, because we know that whatever He asks us to do, He is asking out of love (Galatians 2:20).

There is a huge difference between knowledge of love and experience of love.
I can tell Debbie and my children that I love them all day long, but if I never show affection or care, it will be knowledge that remains intellectual.
This is more than simply reading about the love of Jesus, but experiencing it because of the Gospel and the power of God living in us and through us as we submit to his perfect plan for our lives.

Have you moved from intellectual knowledge of the love of God to the experiential knowledge of God’s love? (See Romans 8:31-39).
Paul knew his readers wouldn’t get it. He knew this understanding of God’s love only comes by a supernatural revelation of God.

Try as we might to comprehend the love of God, we need God to show us how much He loves us and I contend that even then, we still only have scratched the surface of understanding how much we are loved by the creator of the universe.
We are never meant to experience and grow in this knowledge on our own. We need to share stories of His love. We need to encourage one another with miracles and experiences that we share together. God intends us to live in community with other believers as we reflect on the love of Christ in and through the Gospel message.

Paul ends this long sentence in verse 19, with the why of God’s love, “…that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Simply stated, being filed with the fullness of God is to be all that God has called us to be to be spiritually mature. We become spiritually mature, as we know and experience the love of God for us.

Do you know how much you are loved? (see Romans 5:8).

3: Praying with Expectation.
Finally, we come to the doxology in the middle of the letter. But it is a dividing section in the letter and it is an overflow of praise and worship.

This revelation of God’s love is the most important bedrock and foundation for all our Christian life. It begins with God’s love, and if God doesn’t reveal His love to us, everything else is striving to please God.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

Sermon, Sunday April 26, 2020 What are You Wearing?

By Grace Alone – Ephesians 2:8-10

What are you wearing? Rather, what are you wearing spiritually?

More about that later.

In Ephesians 2:8 Paul writing to the church in Ephesus says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—”

You may have heard this said:

Justice is getting what you deserve.
Mercy is not getting what you deserve.
And Grace is getting what you don’t deserve.

Paul says that this saving grace comes to us through faith, and faith is the instrument that allows us to grab hold of the truth of the Gospel and be saved. But faith itself is a gift from God, we cannot muster up faith. Faith comes from God, for us to believe in God.

Everything is a gift; grace is a gift, faith is a gift and salvation is a gift.

We must never ever think of our salvation as a transaction, whereby I give my life to Jesus and he saves me. Rather God gives me grace, then He gives me faith to believe and He saves me.

Because grace, faith and salvation are divine gifts, we cannot earn them, nor do we deserve them. Every human being is equally lost before God grants them grace. We were dead in our sins, dead people cannot have faith in God.

Ephesians 2:9 continues, “not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Salvation can only be attributed to Jesus and what he did for us on the cross, and he deserves all the glory.

God sent Jesus to live the life we couldn’t live, to die the death we should have died, and rise from the dead on our behalf.

We really struggle with this in our culture, we as a culture loves accolades for doing something noteworthy. But in our salvation the glory goes to God (see 1 Corinthians 1:31).

Paul continues in verse 10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

After saying clearly that we are not saved by anything we do, Paul notes the importance of works. Works are not the root of our salvation, but they are the fruit of our salvation.

The Greek word for handiwork here is poiema, which is where we get the word Poem from. The word refers to a work of art or masterpiece, a piece of art created by a master craftsman.

This word is only used one other time in the New Testament, in Romans 1, referring to the glory of God’s creation.

We, as saved believers in Jesus, are God’s new creation (see 2 Corinthians 5:21)

But God does not create a masterpiece to hide it away, we were created to display the work and the glory of God.

As God’s workmanship people around us should see our works and say, “That is a work of God!” (see Matthew 5:16).

We should never be working out of duty or guilt. We do good works because we are walking in a new nature, and as a result we cannot help ourselves from being used by God to do good works.

But not only are we to do good works, we are told that God has prepared these works for us to do. God, in His sovereignty, had tasks in mind for us when He saved us.

We are not saved by faith plus good works, but by a faith that works

The believer has God working in him, and therefore his works are good. His works are not good because he himself is good, but because he has a new nature and the Holy Spirit works in him and through him to produce these good works.

We do not perform good works to glorify ourselves, but to glorify God. Paul wrote that we should “abound to every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8), and to be “fruitful in every good work” (Colossians 1:10).

Back to the question, what are you wearing?

In John 11 we read the account where Jesus raised Lazarus back to life after he had been dead for four days. Jesus stood in front of the tomb and in a loud voice commanded Lazarus to come out. Notice what Lazarus was wearing, he was wearing grave clothes, the embalming material that was wrapped tightly around his body.

As Lazarus comes out of the tomb, Jesus instructs those standing around to… “Take off the grave clothes and let him go” (John 11:44).

So, what are you wearing?

Are you wearing “grave clothes” or “grace clothes”?

Are you enjoying the liberty you have in Christ, or are you still bound by the habits of the old life of sin?

Lazarus was freed from the restrictions of the grave clothes and freed to do what he had been raised to do.

We were dead in our sins when God raised us up with Jesus, sadly many of us are wrapped in the grave clothes. Some of us are so comfortable in the grave clothes that we don’t know how to do the good works that God has prepared for us to do.

They are the grave clothes of addiction, anger, jealousy, lust, pride, fear, self-sufficiency and many more. All of these hold us back and restrict us from being and doing what we are created for. All these are clothes that were your grave clothes, and Jesus commands them to be taken off, for you to be set free. Why are you holding on to your grave clothes?

As a Christian, you have been raised and seated with Christ in the heavenly places, you have been clothed in righteousness.

Practice your position in Christ!

You are clothed in righteousness in Christ Jesus.

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy Part 1 Sermon September 30, 2018

Philippians 1:1-6

Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi was written around A.D. 61, while Paul was in house arrest in Rome. Paul was writing to the church that he planted while in Macedonia about ten years earlier.

This letter is mostly a letter of thankfulness and joy, in these four short chapters, Paul mentions Joy or rejoicing nineteen times. Paul begins the Letter by introducing himself and Timothy as servants of Christ, the Greek word he used is Doulos, which means bond-slave. Picture this, Paul, the accomplished church planter, missionary, Roman citizen, premier theologian in all of history and he introduces himself as a bond-slave.  Paul understood that by becoming a follower of Jesus, he surrendered all his rights, as he wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

Hudson Taylor the missionary to China, once said, “Let us give up our work, our thoughts, our plans, ourselves, our lives, our loved ones, our influence, our all, right into God’s hand; and then, when we have given all over to Him, there will be nothing left for us to be troubled about or to make trouble about.”

This is what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Paul goes on to address the recipients of the letter and says, “to all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi…”

The term Holy People is usually translated as “saints”, the Greek meaning is to be set apart, separate from the rest of the people. The church is made up of people who are different and separate by being in Christ.

To be in Christ, is a positional statement of being set apart unto God and exclusively belonging to Christ.

In verse two Paul proclaims a blessing on them. “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. Grace and peace are promises from God for believers in Jesus Christ. Grace is unmerited favor, getting something that we don’t deserve.

Justice is getting what you deserve, mercy is not getting what you deserve and grace is getting what you don’t deserve.

Additionaly, term used for peace here is more than just peace with God, it can best be described by the Hebrew word Shalom. Shalom is a Hebrew word meaning peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility and can be used like the term Aloha in Hawaiian to mean both hello and goodbye. Paul is reminding his beloved readers that in Christ they have received grace, and experience peace.

Are you experiencing peace? True peace is not a life without trouble, rather it is knowing God’s peace in the midst of troubles (see Philippians 4:7). Maybe today you need to repent of your sins and allow the grace of God to refresh you by the blood of Jesus so that you can know the peace of God in your life.

Paul continues, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” Paul must have been looking back to what took place in Acts 16 some eleven years earlier. He must have remembered Lydia, the cloth trader, the demon possessed slave girl and the jailer, all who became miraculous followers of Jesus.  Paul loves these people, he has great memories of spending time with them and he is thankful to God for them (verse 4).

Notice Paul’s prayers are not simply generic prayers, he remembers them and prays diligently for them because they were true partners with him in the ministry (verse 5). Paul was financially supported by churches that he planted. This letter was to his financial supporters and he thanked them for their partnership. But this partnership was not simply a one-way transaction, Paul gave of himself for the church and prayed diligently for the church that sent him finances and encouraged him.

As we look at the ancient church in Philippi, we will see that we are very similar to the Philippian church, and what Paul wrote to them applies to us today in the 21st century. They were a missionary sending and supporting church.

This is what healthy churches do, we must never see sending missionaries as a financial transaction, rather sending and receiving is all part of the Grace and Peace of God in the church.

Looking at verse 6, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Paul is confident, he has faith that what was begun ten years earlier will continue to grow and be fruitful until Jesus comes again. Paul was confident that Jesus will build His church, just as he promised in Matthew 16:18. Sometimes we need to be reminded, that this is not our church, this church belongs to Jesus and he is continuing to work out his plans and build his church until he comes again to receive his bride.

I hope you see that the church is something so much greater and more glorious than a social gathering on a Sunday morning. Even this small church, is a part of the bigger church, the universal Body of Christ, and we feel those connections through the missionaries we pray for and other Christians we meet from other churches, and as we remember and pray for the persecuted church.

Growing individually and corporately as the church, is not a matter of making ourselves better people, rather it is the power of God working in us, as we lay down our preferences and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us for God’s glory.

Are you daily being changed by the Gospel?

If someone was to write a letter to your church, would they see the three characteristics that Paul saw in the church in Philippi.

  1. Would they see a true partnership? Are you all in? Or are you just attending church.
  2. Would they see that you are motivated by the Gospel? The Good News must be the driving force of the church.
  3. Would they see that we are looking towards Jesus coming again? This world does not offer hope, our only hope is found in Jesus Christ.

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.

Christmas sermon series part 1 – December 4 2016

christmas-pt-1

Every year when Christmas comes around, we traditionally look at the Christmas story in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The story of a baby being born in Bethlehem, not just any baby, but the very son of God. The Christmas story is just another beautiful story unless we connect Christmas with the cross. This baby being born in Bethlehem was part of God’s perfect plan to provide a way of salvation for a lost and dying world.

Jumping ahead 33 years, Jesus’ final words on the cross as recorded in John 19; “it is finished”. What was finished? The mission Jesus came to accomplish? We have to look all the way back to the first book of the Bible to see what Jesus was talking about. What Jesus came to finish began in the book of Genesis chapter 3. In the beginning God created mankind in his own image, he put something of himself in man. There was perfect communion, but then Adam and Eve sinned, and the result of this sin was a separation between God and man. All of creation has suffered as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve. The separation between God and man was so great that mankind could never cross over back to God, no matter how good man tried to be or how many laws man tried to obey. One of the most tragic verses in the Bible is verse 8; ”… and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God…” The tragedy is that mankind has been trying to hide from God ever since.

As Adam and Eve are hiding, God begins to ask a series of questions; “Where are you?”, “Who told you that you were naked?”, “Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

God knows everything, so why is he asking all these questions? God is not asking because he needs information, rather God is asking questions to give Adam and Eve an opportunity to repent. God the Father is walking through the garden with a broken heart, knowing the terrible course of events that have been set in motion. What began with two people eating forbidden fruit, would lead to centuries of pain and heartache for billions of people and ultimately to the death of his own son on the cross at Calvary.

In Genesis 3:14, God begins to deliver judgment and in verse 15 we read what God says to the serpent Satan; “And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

God promised that a child of Eve’s would crush the head of the serpent Satan. Eve thought that this was accomplished when she had her first son Cain as we read in Genesis 4, but Cain was even more wicked and because of his pride he killed his own brother Abel. God was not looking to the immediate offspring of Eve, he was looking thousands of years and many generations down the line to Jesus. Jesus would be the one that ultimately crushed the head of Satan. Genesis 3:15 is the first declaration of the wonderful Gospel message.

Genesis 3:15 says that Satan will bruise the heel of Jesus, Jesus would suffer pain and more pain than we could ever imagine, but the wound inflicted on him would not be fatal (see Isaiah 53).

But by rising from the dead, Jesus crushed the head of Satan, ultimately which will lead to his being sent to hell (see Rev 20:10). In order for Jesus to restore the relationship between God and mankind, he had to become as a man. In part to fulfill what God promised Eve, but also to be the perfect sacrifice. God had to become a man in order to pay the price for sins and the restoration of our relationship to God the Father.

As a result of that first sin the problem of sin permeated the whole world, the solution had to come from God as mankind was helpless. The first step was for God to introduce himself to mankind, a way for God to connect with his creation. We could not connect with God, but he could connect with us and reveal himself to mankind. So God had to become a man, taking on flesh by being born of a woman. What an incredible concept and miracle. The creator of the universe left his throne, disguised himself as a man, and walked among us. The creator became like one of the creatures and revealed his nature to mankind (see John 14:9).

As we celebrate Christmas, let us not become so wrapped up in the beauty of the lights and the tinsel and the singing of Christmas Carols, that we forget the rescue mission, the real story of Christmas that is the enormous price that Jesus paid in setting aside his glory and taking on flesh.

Looking back to Genesis 3 verse 21, we read that God made clothes for Adam and Eve from animal skin. But in order to make those first clothes, God had to kill an animal, this was the first blood-shed in order to cover sin. It became the foreshadow of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus himself.

RA Crisswell wrote:  Somewhere in the ground of Eden the ground drank the blood of the first offering for sin, and from that harmless and blameless creature a coat was made to cover up the shame and nakedness of the man and his wife. It is a picture of the covering, the atonement, the washing away of our sins in the sacrificial victim on the cross of Calvary.

Going Farming – Planting a church part 1 August 21, 2016

Church Planting Bulletin digi-01

Ephesians 3:1-12

What is the church?

We have already determined that the church is not the building, rather it is the gathered believers in Jesus Christ who are the church. But is the church simply a gathering of believers? Or is it more?

The world sees the church as an institution, a definer of moral laws and ethics, a place of tradition, a place where you go to for Christmas or Easter maybe a location to get married or to hold a memorial service.

However, I am not sure that we really understand the significance of the church.

I believe that the church is more significant than we can ever imagine. The church is the most important institution in the world. The church is more powerful and important than any organization or even nation on the planet. John Piper once said; “the drama of international relations compares to the mission of the church like a kindergarten riddle compares to hamlet or king Lear”.

Remember what Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16:18; “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” The gates of hades, the power of death to destroy every man made institution cannot defeat the church. Because it is being built and sustained by the King of kings himself.

Paul writing to the church in Ephesus gives us another perspective into the church that is stunning and actually quite hard to even comprehend with our earth centered minds.

Paul writing to the young church in Ephesus in the first chapters of Ephesians explains how through the Gospel was not just for the Jews, it was for all. In fact, the Gentiles were invited in by the Gospel and even more– the Gentiles were now going to receive an inheritance alongside the Jews when Jesus comes again. The Jews and gentiles are brought into one family. In fact, the Gospel breaks down all cultural, national and racial barriers. Because of two simple words, IN CHRIST (See Ephesians 3:6). This is truly a mystery and a message that we need to declare to the World.

But as we look further down in Ephesians 3, we see something that is even harder for us to understand. Verse 10 says; “10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,” What does this mean? Who are these rulers and authorities? And what is God revealing to them?

These principalities and powers are what Paul refers to in Ephesians 6:12. In Ephesians 3:10 he is writing about, angels, demons, evil forces, both good and evil. In our 21st century post-modern educated minds, we are told to dismiss these beings as myths and superstition. However, if we don’t pay attention and realize as Paul states that we are in a fight against forces we cannot see, we are already giving in to the enemy. It is to these supernatural beings that God is making his wisdom known. Satan and his demons, thought that by killing the Son of God, they could once and for all destroy God’s creation, but the wisdom of God was that by Jesus’ death, Satan was defeated.

Satan creates strife and disunity, but Christ in his Church, through the Gospel, creates a supernatural unity that makes no sense in the natural.

God is using the Church to reveal his wisdom and plans to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. The church made up of broken and frail people, is the vehicle God is using to reveal his wisdom and grace to the supernatural beings of the universe. Do you realize that angels are learning about God’s grace through the church!

God is using our weakness to reveal his grace and glory to the entire universe. Each of us has a part to play, each of us has spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit to be used by God in order for God to reveal his cosmic mission to the universe. The church is so much bigger and more significant than we can ever imagine.

We are not living for ourselves, our mission is so much bigger than just trying to get a group of people to heaven. If this text is to be truly grasped – we need to live with a much bigger vision. Our mission as the church is to demonstrate to the powers and principalities that God was wise in sending his son to die for us, in order for us to be unified in one body with one aim and ambition.

However, everytime we fail, we give the enemy a foothold. Everytime we gossip and create disunity, we give the enemy hope that God made a mistake with us. Every time we tear someone down with our words, we are giving Satan some ammunition to go to our Heavenly Father and point out that we are not worthy of his grace and love.

If we understood this we would see that, gossip, slander and disunity are so much more dangerous than we can ever imagine. Piper went on to say; “The church is the cosmic showcase of God’s mercy, and if we fail to live as joyful beneficiaries of his mercy and fail to maintain the unity of the Spirit, we bring a cosmic reproach upon the wisdom of God.”

Jesus prayed that you and I and all believers would be united. Let us make sure we don’t do anything to disrupt that unity (John 17:22-23).

As a church this week we sent out a young family to plant a church. They are not simply going to start a gathering of believers or build a building. This has been a difficult decision for us as a church, there have been concerns.

But what if this is way bigger than we could ever imagine. What if we took what Paul wrote to heart and really understood the role of the church as part of God’s universal plan.

What if God is going to use our brokenness and struggles to reveal his grace and glory on a cosmic stage. The universe is watching. Can you imagine God pointing to Grace Point Baptist Church and inviting the supernatural beings of the universe to watch what He is about to do.

My prayer is that as we watch the next year and years to come unfold, we will see a glimpse into God’s eternal plan for the Church.