Sermon August 26, 2018 Re-Up Part 2 – Prayer

Re-Up –  Prayer – James 5:13-20

What is the one thing you could do that would have the greatest impact on your life?

The answer is Prayer. There is nothing more important, more strategic or more rewarding than prayer.

James 5 verse 13 has a header that says, “the prayer of faith”. This is what prayer is all about. And when we lack the desire to pray it is because we lack faith. If we could even glimpse the majesty and omnipotence of Who we are praying to, we would never be lacking in our zeal and our time for prayer.

Verse 13 begins with two categories of people; anyone suffering and anyone cheerful. The person going through troubles in life is told to pray, and the cheerful person, who has peace and joy is encouraged to sing praises to God.  But then in the next verse James addresses another category of people, the sick person.

Over the next few verses it seems like James is giving a prescription, a way to pray for the sick that will work every time. James instructs to gather the elders, anoint with oil, pray in the name of Jesus and to pray in faith. The result would seem to be that healing is to be expected. So why do we not see instant healing with every prayer offered for healing?

As we look at each of these “conditions” we see firstly that the sick person is obviously unable to come to the meeting place and calls the elder, this person is possibly bedridden, and in a place of humility and dependence. The sick person takes the initiative and calls out for help. We must never let our culture of self-sufficiency, get in the way of our healing. Our independent culture is actually a form of pride and we need to humble ourselves and reach out to others when we are in need.

Secondly, the elder is another name for a pastor or a shepherd. This does not mean that only pastors are allowed to pray for the sick, according to 1 Peter 2, we believe in the priesthood of all believers. The key here is praying in obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and praying in faith.

Thirdly, James says that one must anoint the person with oil, is this the key that we are missing? Scholars have different ideas on this and the word for anointing oil here could mean a medicinal balm, so that could indicate using some medicine along with the prayer. I have seen miracles happen with or without oil.

Next, James instructs that the prayer be offered in the name of the Lord, this is always a good reminder that human beings cannot do miracles, we can pray for them, but God is the sovereign worker of miracles. To pray in the name of the Lord is to indicate our willingness to permit our prayers to be acted on under the sovereign will and purposes of God.

And finally, in verse 15 we read, “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” So, what is this prayer of faith? The answer is in 1 John 5:14–15, The “prayer of faith” is a prayer offered when you know the will of God. The prayer of faith is twofold; firstly, we pray with faith in the all-powerful God we serve because we believe that He is able and secondly, we pray trusting in the outcome. Trusting in the outcome is faith that God is working all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

We are so focused on the temporary physical need that we miss the eternal and far more important need of every human being.

As you read different translations of verse 15, some read that “the prayer of faith will make the sick person well”. But the ESV translates it; “the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick”, the Greek word SOZO, means to heal or to save, so it could be either. However, in the 20th verse of our text, where James is talking about the backslider who returns to the faith, he uses the exact same Greek word.

In fact, if we carefully note the overarching theme of the text from verse 13 to 20, this passage is more about the need for righteousness and salvation than it is about physical healing. We get so wrapped up in the first four verses that we miss the big picture. The theme of this text is holiness and righteousness, or a right standing before God. We are so focused on our temporal physical needs that we can forget that we are eternal beings and we all have a fatal sin condition. We are all sinners who are desperately in need of saving. We all need saving power of the blood of Jesus to save us from an eternity separated from the presence of God.

Verse 16 says, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” Who is a righteous person? It is a person who is in right standing with God. Someone who has repented of their sins and has trusted in the promises of God’s Word (see 1 John 1:9). Personal holiness is not just being a good person, it flows from a powerful and intimate relationship with God through prayer. Let us be a people who pray with power, because our hearts are in tune with the Holy Spirit.

In verse 17, we read that Elijah prayed fervently. James notes that Elijah was a man just like us, although God used him incredibly (see 1 Kings 17 and 18), but the key was Elijah was a man of fervent prayer.

The Oxford Dictionary describers fervent as, “having or displaying a passionate intensity”.

I pray that we would be a people of fervent prayer.

We can never overemphasize the importance of prayer and the power of prayer. It is the life blood of every true believer. Prayer is so much more than we could possibly imagine as we get to communicate with the creator of the universe!

“Satan dreads nothing but prayer. His one concern is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, he mocks our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.”
Samuel Chadwick

Thanksgiving part 2 – November 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Palm Sunday April 9, 2017

Luke 18:31-43

Sight is one of our most valuable senses, but there is a blindness that is worse than physical blindness, it is spiritual blindness. Physical blindness even though it could span one’s entire lifetime, is not as bad as spiritual blindness that can lead to an eternity separated from God.

This week we remember Palm Sunday, the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey with crowds cheering him on. Before this day, Jesus had been preparing his disciples for His crucifixion In the Gospel of Luke, he tells them three times what is going to happen in Jerusalem, but they do not understand what he is talking about. To them, Jesus was the invincible Messiah and he was heading to Jerusalem to establish his earthly throne. They did not see the full picture and the amazing purpose of God for Jesus coming to the earth.

Jesus takes his disciples aside and begins by saying that everything that is written through the prophets about him will be accomplished. The disciples knew the scriptures and would have been taught that the Messiah would come and re-establish Israel as a mighty nation. But they did not dwell on passages like Isaiah 53, the prophecy about the suffering servant, rejected by man and even punished by God. That prophecy didn’t fit their understanding or their paradigm of what God was about to do. As Jesus begins to elaborate, the Gospel of Matthew makes it clear that Jesus predicted his death would be by crucifixion; the type of death that was for the worst criminals, the type of death that, according to the Law of Moses, meant the person was under a curse by God.

No other person in all of history was less deserving of suffering than Jesus. Not only did Jesus suffer an excruciating death, he also took on the full punishment of the wrath of God for our sins. That was the real suffering of the cross. It was a suffering by design; it was the plan of God all along (see Isaiah 53:10).

In verse 34 we read; “The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about”. Luke emphasizes the lack of understanding by repeating it three times. The disciples were blind, they did not see with spiritual eyes, they were looking for the establishment of an earthly kingdom but the truth was hidden from them.

In order to reinforce their lack of understanding, the very next miracle we have recorded is that of Jesus healing a blind man. It is clear that when Luke penned this Gospel, he knew what he was doing when he wrote about the healing of the blind man. Jesus performed many miracles that were not recorded for us in the Bible, but this one was significant and it’s positioning in the Gospel is key. Notice the desperation in this blind man, he was rebuked and told to be quiet by the crowd, but he kept on yelling with all his might. The reason he was so desperate was that he understood his blindness, and he had faith that Jesus could do something about it.

Notice the contrast; here was a blind man who was desperate to be able to see, and on the other hand, you have the disciples, those closest to Jesus, who were spiritually blind to what was about to take place. The most significant event in human history was lost on those participating in it, because they were expecting something else.

The blind man knew who Jesus was, he recognized that Jesus was the Messiah; he praised God and followed Jesus.

Those who are the most blind, respond the most readily to the Gospel. Those who realize the depths of their sin are the most appreciative of their salvation.

Remember the words of Jesus to the Laodicean church in Revelation 3:17, “For you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing,’ and you don’t realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.”  This letter to the Laodicean church was not to those who did not believe in Jesus, this was the early church, they were blind, because they did not completely grasp the truth of the Gospel.

Jesus was with God at the beginning of creation, he spoke the earth into existence. Jesus also knew that when he created that hill called Calvary, he would ultimately suffer and die on that hill. Jesus also formed the tree that was cut down to make the cross. He created the instruments of his own suffering, because of his love for you. Jesus not only prepared the instruments of his suffering, he also willingly walked into Jerusalem on this day two thousand years ago. It was because of his love for you that he made this journey to Jerusalem and willingly subjected himself to the excruciating death on the cross.

As we go into this week, a week where all around us we see the cross – that should remind us of the foundation of our faith. Without the cross, we have no Savior, and without the resurrection we have no hope.

The truth about Jesus was hidden from those around him when he walked the earth. And in the same way the truth of the word of God is not self-evident.  The truths of the Word of God are revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. When God starts speaking to you through His Word, it comes alive and in fact you wake up in the morning, looking for the Bible.

As you read about the crucifixion account in the Gospels this week, spend time praying and asking the Holy Spirit to give you insight and understanding. But make it personal, realizing that Jesus was thinking about you as he walked the road to Jerusalem.

My prayer for all of us is that if there is an area of spiritual blindness, the Holy Spirit would give us eyes to see and ears to hear. As Jesus said to his disciples on another occasion in Matthew 13:16, “But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.”

A Mother that Never Gave Up May 8 2016

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Matthew 15:21-28

“A Mother that never gave up

Have you ever needed a miracle of provision or healing that seemed impossible? Maybe you are in that position now? Trusting God for what seems impossible. This is faith, faith to believe that God will provide, faith to believe that God will move on our behalf. The truth is that God is pleased with our faith, God rewards faith.

In Matthew 15 we read of a woman who set an example and a standard for what it takes to please God. Do you want to please God?

 This Syrophoenician women comes to Jesus with a problem, her daughter is demon possessed and suffering terribly. She had probably heard that Jesus was coming to town and she trusted that Jesus could heal her daughter. She was desperate, and probably had tried every other avenue to have her daughter set free. This was her last hope, she was desperate.

But it seems like she is being rejected by Jesus and his disciples. We read in verse 23 that Jesus said nothing to her. He completely ignored her and seemed almost callous and cold to her pleas.

The disciples were probably annoyed and they urge Jesus to send her away, because she was crying out persistently.

On the outside it seemed that Jesus didn’t seem to care, it was as if he was testing her. Her situation was desperate, why was Jesus not responding to her need?

Sometimes we face a desperate situation, and God is silent. Has He forgotten us? Does He not see our situation?

Jesus finally responds to all the crying and pleading and says to her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (v24)

It seems that Jesus is finally rejecting her completely, the door is shut.

But she grows in her courage and faith, and she kneels before Jesus. Now she calls him Lord. She is not approaching him as a Jew; “Lord, Son of David” that she used in v 22, she calls him Lord! She is worshipping Jesus. “Lord Help Me!”

Jesus seems to insult her as he responds further, calling her and her gentile people dogs. Jesus said; “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs” (v26)

But the woman quickly responds, she is getting bolder now, she has nothing to lose and seeing that Jesus is responding to her, she seems to grow in courage (v27).

Her faith is small but it is maturing. Remember Jesus said in Matthew 17:20, that if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can move a mountain. It is not the size or quantity of the faith it is the maturity of the faith.

As Jesus hears her faith and humility he responds immediately by commending her faith and healing her daughter.  Her faith is rewarded and her daughter is healed. It is interesting to note that Matthew records two occasions in his Gospel of people that had the distinction of having great faith. This Canaanite woman and the Roman centurion in Matthew 8. Both were gentiles, and on both occasions Jesus healed from a distance. The reality was that the gentiles were spiritually distanced from the Jews and the ministry of Jesus. But, that is why Jesus came to die on the cross, to reconcile all nations and people groups to himself. It is simply a matter of faith. Jesus still rewards faith today.

 Sometimes it seems like Jesus is saying no, Sometimes it seems like he is blessing others but we are being ignored – this is what tests our faith and matures our faith.

 Today God is looking for people who walk by faith not by sight. The reward of a lifestyle of faith is great. God does not put us through trials for no apparent reason, rather it is to develop our faith and trust in Him.

 Individually and corporately as a church we are being tested in our faith. Read James 1:2-4: Do you see the progression? Trials test our faith, which produces endurance, which perfects us and then we will lack nothing. We will lack no good thing.

Corporately we are having our faith tested, and the Lord is looking to see how we respond. In a few weeks we are going to vote on a re-allocation of our budget to support a church plant. We know that we are running at a deficit budget, giving is down, it seems illogical. So how do we respond? Do we pray and ask the Lord for His will and then move in faith in the direction he gives us or do we respond in fear?

Read the encouragement of the Psalmist in Psalm 37:25.

Individually, what is the desperate need of your heart today? Don’t give up, be persistent, come to the Lord daily, hourly, but keep believing that what His Word says is true and that He is able to give you what you need. Note I didn’t say all our wants, rather all our needs, God knows our needs and The Lord will provide for you in his perfect timing and perfect way, and you will be able to look back with stronger faith.

Not only will you have a stronger faith, but you will be pleasing God and your life will be a testimony to others about the goodness of God.

Faith is pleasing to God. The Bible says in Hebrews 11:6; “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

In order to have faith we must believe that God exists, this is the root of faith.

If we struggle with faith, it is because we struggle to believe that God exists.

God is the all-powerful creator of the universe and He is your Heavenly Father, if we truly understand the depths of God’s love for us, we would have no problem with faith. And the final part of that verse is the promise of God; “that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Trust in God He will never let you down.

Revival Part 5 The Conditional Preposition

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There are two all-encompassing verses in the Bible that relate to salvation and revival.

  • John 3:16 tells us all we need to know about the way to salvation.
  • 2 Chronicles 7:14 practically tells us all we need to know about the way to revival.

For the next few weeks we are going to look at this verse in Detail – 2 Chronicles 7:14; “ if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

The verse starts with that powerful conditional preposition – “if”.

It has been said that a preposition can alter a proposition, and that is very clear from this powerful promise of God.

Whatever part God plays in a spiritual re-awakening, we have a part to play too. As we have already stated, a revival is the work of God and no-one can take credit for it, however as we see throughout scripture, there is a responsibility that is ours in every move of God.

On the one side we have the sovereignty of God, it is the almighty God who decides when and how to move in revival. However the divine sovereignty of God does not relieve us of our responsibility. There are things that we can and need to do in order to bring revival closer. A famous Welsh revivalist once said; “Revival comes from God but it is borne to earth on the wings of fervent, believing prayer.”

The Word “IF” is a conditional word and the Bible has many examples of the conditional nature of the blessings of God. Here are just two examples.

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.” John 7:37

But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Matthew 6:15

The Bible has many verses that encourage that when we need a spiritual re-awakening, we must start with our own sinful condition and come to God in repentance.

Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’ Jeremiah 33:2

Return, O faithless sons, I will heal your faithlessness.” “Behold, we come to You; For You are the Lord our God.” Jeremiah 3:22

 “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.  Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.” Revelation 2:4-5

Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity and receive us graciously, that we may present the fruit of our lips.”” Hosea 14:2