Sermon Sunday September 5, 2021 – Hearing God’s Voice

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The sad truth about Christian discipleship today is that we teach people about God, but we don’t teach people to experience God.

As followers of Jesus, we are invited into a relationship, having our daily steps ordered by the Lord (Proverbs 3:5-6 and Psalm 37:23).

I often hear from people who wish they could hear from God regarding His will for their lives.

The incredible news is that God does still speak to His children, and Jesus made this clear in John 10.

The sheepfold of the first century was usually an enclosure made of rocks, and the shepherd would guard the flock at night by lying across the opening. It was not unusual for several flocks to be sheltered together in the same fold. In the morning, the shepherds would come, call their sheep, and assemble their own flocks. This is what Jesus was referring to in John 10:3-4.

Jesus calls himself two different things in this passage, firstly he is the door (John 10:9). He is the Door of salvation for all who put their faith in him.
Then Jesus declares himself to be the Good Shepherd and in verse 11 he says, “the Good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”. Those hearing these words must have struggled to understand what he was saying. Jesus willingly went to the cross to die for our sins so that we could have a relationship with God the Father.

We miss the point when we get so focused on the plan of salvation as a means to get out of hell and into heaven. There is so much more. We are invited into a relationship with Jesus, in verse 10 he says, I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

In verse 16 Jesus speaks to the Gentiles who were outside of the Jewish “fold”. He uses the key phrase, “they will listen to my voice.” Are you listening to the voice of The Good Shepherd?

Prayer is not a monologue where you recite all your needs to God, and He responds like a vending machine. It is a two-way fellowship, where we speak to God, and He speaks to us.

Henry Blackaby wrote, “what God says to you in prayer, is far more important than what you say to Him. After all, God already knows what you are going to tell Him.”

How does God speak to us?

1. Primarily God speaks to us through His word, the Bible.
The bible is the starting point in our pursuit of a personal relationship with God because it is His special revelation of Jesus to mankind (2 Timothy 3:16). However, for us to hear and respond to the God breathed Word, we need to open it and meditate on it.
Having said that, God is not limited to speaking to us through the Bible. God can speak in any way that He knows will get our attention.

2. God speaks through other Christians. God will use other godly people in our lives to speak to us, and we all need mentors and encouragers who will pray for us and then speak the truth in love. God will speak to us through the Holy Spirit, as fellow believers use their spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7-9).   

3. God will speak through Circumstances. In Genesis 50 Joseph saw how God used the seemingly impossible circumstances and redeem them to his glory. Be aware of God leading through circumstances.

4. God speaks audibly. In 1 Kings 19:11-12 God spoke to Elijah. The voice of God was a gentle whisper, and he knew that God was speaking to him.  God also speaks to us in that still small voice, the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
It is so important to be quiet before the Lord and to listen for His voice.

This is where the value of a journal comes in. When you sit down with your Bible each day, come with an expectation that He is going to speak to you. Sometimes through the words on the page, sometimes through the inner voice of the Holy Spirit, and as that happens, write down your dialogue with God. Write out your prayers and write down what you hear from the Lord. I am always encouraged as I look back at my journals from years gone by and see how the Lord was speaking and directing me.

5. God still speaks in dreams.  The life of Daniel was one filled with dreams and interpretation. Today we are hearing stories of thousands of Muslims who are encountering Jesus in dreams and are being converted.

There is no doubt that God speaks today, but we must be careful to test every word. To test to discern if God is speaking, use these five simple tests.

1. Does it Exalt Christ?(John 16:13-14) If what you think you heard does not exalt Christ but exalts something or someone else instead, you can be certain that the leading is not from God.

2. Is it Scriptural? (Proverbs 30:5-6) God will never contradict His Word. If the person presenting the word to you takes the Bible out of context, you can reject it. Always go back to God’s primary revelation, His Word the Bible.

3. Do Other Christians Confirm it?(1 Corinthians 14:29) If you feel that God is speaking to you on a certain issue, but you are not sure. Take it to wise people in the church who can guide you and join in prayer with you.

4. Does it Produce Good Fruit?(John 15:5) Compare what you hear with the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23. God’s word will always produce the fruit of the Spirit.  

5. Does God Bring it to Pass?  (Isaiah 55:10-11) If it never comes to pass, you can be sure God was not in it.

It is essential that you learn to test the word, whether it is something you read or something someone tells you. God is not intimidated by our questions, but He does expect our obedience when His word is confirmed.

The most important part of your day is the time spent waiting on the Lord.

Sermon Sunday July 4, 2021 The New Jerusalem

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Mountain top experience’s part 11

If I were to give you a ticket to fly first class to an amazing destination, your first question would be, “where is it?”. Followed shortly by, “what can I do there?”. We would never sign up to go somewhere without doing some research on the destination, yet this is how we approach our eternal destination.

I am talking about the new Jerusalem. The enormous city that we read about in Revelation 21 will be the eternal home of all who know and love Jesus as Lord of their lives. This is the final mountain, that all others lead to and only one person has ever seen, the Apostle John in the book of the Revelation.

Since heaven or hell are the eternal destination of everyone who has ever lived, it is surprising that so little is said about heaven from our pulpits. The truth is that people fear the unknown and one of Satan’s primary objectives is to make little of Heaven. He would like to convince the world that Heaven doesn’t exist and failing that, he would try to convince the world that it will be boring and unattractive.

Randy Alcorn said, “Grasping what the Bible teaches about Heaven shifts our center of gravity and radically alters our perspective on life”.

Revelation 21 talks about the New Heaven and the New Earth that will be after the tribulation, the battle of Armageddon, the thousand-year reign of Jesus, and the great white throne judgment. This is the final eternal state that we long for, hope for, and all creation is crying out for.

In Revelation 21:10, The apostle John tries his best to describe something that is impossible to capture and describe with words. The description of this city almost defies imagination. The earth is renewed at this stage, it is completely remade, as Jesus says in verse 5 of Revelation 21, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

The structure of the earth and the atmosphere is not limited to our understanding, it will be made new. The New Jerusalem is huge, it is a cube of around 1400 miles in all directions.  It has been calculated that a structure this size can house billions of people. In fact, easily all the people that have ever lived on the planet.

This city unites the Old Covenant and the New Covenant that God made with mankind. The twelve gates are identified with the twelve tribes of Israel, and the twelve foundations with the twelve Apostles.

Heaven is defined as the place where God dwells, making this city Heaven itself. Verse 22 says, “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. The New Jerusalem is incredibly beautiful and filled with all kinds of precious jewels and metals. The New Jerusalem is the ultimate fulfillment of all God’s promises.

Just like it is impossible for us to describe God using our vocabulary and things we can identify with, so to it is impossible to fully describe heaven. We also want to understand heaven through the lens of what brings us pleasure here on earth, and we simply cannot do that, because we live in a world tainted by the effects of sin. Heaven will be filled with pleasures that are infinitely more real and lasting than anything we know here in this lifetime.

But the primary joy of heaven will not be the state of our being, the weather, or the experiences we will taste. The primary pleasure of heaven will be the presence of God.

We are designed to have communion with God. God created man in his own image, to have fellowship with him. However, when sin entered the world, that relationship was broken and there was a separation that took place. Inside every human being is a longing and an unfulfilled desire that can only be met by the perfect presence of God Himself.

Being in the presence of God for eternity is heaven and being separated from God for eternity is hell. Our selfish and humanistic mindset cannot even begin to grasp what it will be like to be in the presence of God and to worship Him. In our, “what’s in it for me” culture, we have no idea what it will be like to be in the presence of the Creator of the universe. Heaven will be primarily a place filled with the glory of God (Revelation 21:23). Heaven will also be a place of service and work. God is creative and He designed us to be creative beings along with Him. We see in Genesis 1, that God created man to rule and care for the creatures of the earth.

The Old Testament references this holy mountain frequently in the Psalms and the prophets (see, Zechariah 8:3., Psalm 48:1-2, Isaiah 2:1-2 and Micah 4:1-5).

As we have gone through this series for the past ten weeks, we have seen that all the mountaintop encounters lead to this incredible mountain of God.

So, who gets into heaven? In Revelation 21:7-8, we have a clear list of people who will not enter into the presence of God. The list is quite comprehensive, so how can we know for sure that we are going to heaven?

Romans 10:9 says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Submitting your life to the lordship of Jesus Christ, being clothed in his righteousness is the only way to be granted access into heaven. Have you submitted to the lordship of Jesus?

Sermon Sunday June 20 2021 – Are you a Follower or and Observer?

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Mountain top experiences part 9
Luke 23:21-49

Calvary is the mountain top encounter that all the others point to. This little hill just outside Jerusalem, is the peak on which all of human history pivots. During the Roman empire, this was the place where criminals were executed by the most inhumane method of crucifixion.

As we look at the various people who witnessed the death of Jesus, I want to challenge you by saying that on that day, Jesus had only one follower. There were many observers but only one follower. Looking at your life today, are you a follower or are you an observer?

As we read the account of the crucifixion, we subconsciously categorize people as guilty or innocent. The women were innocent, the soldiers were guilty, Pilate was confused and guilty, Simon of Cyrene was innocent, and the two criminals were both guilty, but one was saved.  

But the reality is that there was only one person innocent in the entire world, and that was Jesus. Luke does well to point this out in Luke 23 verses 22, 41 and 47.

Jesus was the only one who was sinless, and he died for all sinners (see Romans 3:22-23).

Everyone was impacted that day by the decisions they made and what they saw.

Pilate saw that Jesus was innocent and he tried to recuse himself (see Matthew 27:24).
He was a politician and a people pleaser. He did not have the character to stand by his convictions. But I wonder if I would have the courage to stand against the angry crowd on that day. He gave in to the pressure of the fear of man, and as a result he was guilty.

Simon of Cyrene was not involved in the crucifixion but was drawn in (Luke 23:26).He was a religious man from Libya who had travelled eight hundred miles to celebrate the Passover. Jesus was understandably exhausted and weakened by the beatings and interrogations, and could not carry the cross, so the crowd had this foreigner carry the cross.

There is a significant picture here, to carry your cross was a sign of guilt, it was perfectly ordained by God the Father that Jesus was not to carry his cross to the hill.I want to come back to Simon later in this article.

The rulers, soldiers and one of the criminals mocked Jesus. These religious leaders were the men who had studied the law and the prophets, the Old Testament, but they were blind to what they were doing. In verse 36, we read that the soldiers mocked him, getting drawn along by the crowd, they seemed to be enjoying the moment and teased Jesus. Even the dying criminal next to Jesus had energy left to mock and jeer at Jesus.

But then we come to the repentant criminal. His dialogue with Jesus is often used to explain the fact that we are saved by grace and not by works. There is nothing this criminal could do to earn his salvation, he simply asked Jesus to save him. But we can easily miss the tremendous faith that it took for him to ask Jesus to save him. He possibly had never seen Jesus before, we don’t know. But here in front of all the people, as he was dying, he declared that Jesus was the King of Kings. If you were drowning, would you ask a drowning man for help?

Here was a dying man, asking a dying man for help. A crazy idea, unless he really believed that Jesus was the son of God.

As Jesus died, we have a snapshot of a centurion. He was a hardened Roman soldier who had probably witnessed hundreds of crucifixions, but he had never seen anyone die like Jesus did. He knew that Jesus was innocent, and he gave glory to God.  He knew that he had just witnessed God in the flesh, and he was forever changed.

The people who were cheering the crucifixion were changed (Luke 23:48). They came to see a spectacle and to mock but left in fear and remorse. As they witnessed the spotless son of God dying, they became aware of their own sins and began grieving. How terrible and hopeless that must have felt for them.

Coming back to Simon, the man recruited to carry the cross. It is likely that what he saw that day, led him to be a Christian. In Mark 15:21 and Romans 16:13 we see that his sons were a part of the early church.

Carrying the cross changed Simon and, on that day, he was the only true follower of Jesus. He was walking out a prophetic picture of what it means to be a Christian. Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Before Simon met Jesus, he was a religious Jew, going about his devotion. But to come to know Jesus, he had to leave behind his plans and his religion. He had to die to his plans and his ideas of what he wanted to do, and then he had to take up the cross of Jesus. Do you see the picture?

Matthew 16:24 is often misinterpreted. People often talk about a “cross” as a burden to carry, something like a chronic sickness or a thankless job, and we say, “it is my cross to bear”

But this is not what Jesus meant. In the 1st century, to carry your cross, was to walk to your death. It was a cruel and humiliating form of capital punishment. It wasn’t a temporary inconvenience.

Today we celebrate the cross as a symbol of our salvation and the love of God, but when Jesus said these words, it would have sounded a whole lot different.
To take up your cross is to completely abandon our plans and goals and submitting to the perfect will of God. This is the first step in being a follower of Jesus (see Luke 14:27).

Are you a follower of Jesus? Have you seen that radical change in your life? Or are you still the master of your own plan.

I can assure you that the only way to live in peace and have eternal salvation, is to be a follower of Jesus and not an observer.

Sermon, Sunday June 6, 2021 – The Transfiguration

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Matthew 17:1-13

Have you ever been in a meeting or a gathering where you wonder why you were asked to be there? Maybe you were called into a meeting to discuss some important subject with a group of experts, and you were not one of the experts!

This week we are looking at the mount of transfiguration that we have recorded in Matthew and Luke’s Gospel accounts. Peter, James and John must have felt very self-conscious as they stood on the mountain with Jesus, Moses and Elijah.

Why were they singled out to be on this mountain top for this amazing encounter?

As I read the account in Matthew, I had so many questions:

  • Which Mountain?
  • Why Peter, James and John?
  • Why Moses and Elijah?
  • What is a transfiguration?
  • What language were they speaking?
  • How did Peter know it was Moses and Elijah?
  • What was the purpose of the transfiguration?

I will try to answer a few of these questions below:

  • On which mountain did this take place?

There are two choices, Mount Tabor or Mount Hermon for the site of the transfiguration.

Most Scholars believe that Mt Hermon is the correct location of the transfiguration. It is almost 9000 feet high, whereas Mount Tabor is only 2000 feet high.

Matthew’s gospel places events leading up to the transfiguration in the district of Caesarea Philippi, making Mount Hermon the closer site.

  • Why Peter, James, and John?

Jesus had an inner circle, these three disciples. Jesus revealed certain things to them as he was equipping them and training them to lead the early church.

Interestingly, we read in Exodus 24 that when Moses went up mount Sinai to receive the Law, he had three men with him, Aaron, Nadab and Abiu.

Peter, James and John became eyewitnesses to the glory of Jesus (see 2 Peter 1:16-18 and John 1:14). What these men witnessed became their testimony and they were changed forever.

  • Why Moses and Elijah?

Why not some other Old Testament characters?

Moses and Elijah represent the Old Testament. Moses represents the Law and Elijah is the first among the prophets.

Jesus referred to the combination of the law and the prophets frequently as this encompassed the canon of the Old Testament (See Matthew 5:17, Matthew 7:12, Matthew 22:36-40).

The Appearance of Moses and Elijah, declares that Jesus is the Messiah, the fulfilment of everything that they themselves pointed towards.  

  • What is the Transfiguration?

The Greek word translated transfigured gives us our English word “metamorphosis.” A metamorphosis is a change on the outside that comes from the inside.

Jesus did not reflect glory from elsewhere, but he radiated glory and light from within. His human features changed, so that for a brief moment the disciples could see his true glory.

During the transfiguration as Jesus, Moses and Elijah were talking, Peter struggling for words, asked if he could build a shelter for them. He wanted to remain there and enjoy the glory.

But God the Father came down in a cloud and dispelled any confusion that the disciples might have had. God the Father would never permit His son to be placed on the same level as any human being.

This encounter changed the three disciples. When you encounter the risen Lord Jesus, you will never be the same again. Have you encountered the risen Lord?

As Jesus and His three disciples came down from the mountaintop, He cautioned them not to reveal what they had seen, not even to the other nine disciples.

The disciples were obviously full of questions. If Jesus was the Messiah, what about the prophecies that they had been taught since childhood? Malachi 4:5, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.”

Was this the beginning of the Day of the Lord, the great day of judgment?

Jesus explained to them that John the Baptist was the forerunner, he was the Elijah, that made straight the pathway for Jesus. Jesus went on to explain that he was about to suffer and that his agenda was different to the plans that they had been taught for the Messiah. Jesus was the fulfilment of Isaiah 53, the suffering servant.

They still didn’t grasp what Jesus was about to be and do. Do we fully grasp who Jesus is?

He is more than a good man, a powerful miracle worker, a good role model or a respected teacher. The world around us, accepts this version of Jesus, but he is so much more than that.

Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16). He is the way the truth and the life (John 14:6). He is the only name by which anyone can be saved (Acts 4:12).

  • How did Peter James and John know it was Moses and Elijah?

This may shock some of the younger generation, but they did not have Instagram accounts during the time of Moses. There was no way they would know what they looked like.

This is where we get a glimpse into eternity. I believe that in heaven, we will know everyone by name, a supernatural knowledge of each person.

This was such an incredible event in the life of Jesus on the earth, but for me there was one significant moment that precipitated the transfiguration.

Jesus invited the disciples to follow him, and they said yes!

In Matthew 4 we see that Peter, James, and John were of the first disciples to be called by Jesus, and immediately they dropped everything and gave him their yes.

When Jesus invited them up the mountain, they said yes.

Daily God gives us invitations to say yes. Sometimes it is a small yes, like taking a meal to a sick neighbor or helping someone who needs a ride. Maybe it is simply praying for someone you meet in a store.

Sometimes it is a bigger yes, when God might invite you to leave your home and move to a foreign land as a missionary. God might invite you to leave your career and go into ministry.

Whatever the invitation, when you give your yes, I can tell you from experience that your life will never be short of adventure, and it will certainly never be ordinary.

In what area of your life are you withholding a yes from God?

The Lordship of Jesus over your life, is a predetermined yes in your heart.

Sermon Sunday May 30, 2021 – Sermon on the Mount

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In Matthew 5,6 and 7, we have the record of the greatest sermon ever preached, as Jesus taught his disciples in what is known as the sermon on the mount.

Jesus was introducing and teaching the ways of the kingdom that he wants to form in the lives of his followers. At first glance, it seemed that Jesus was giving a new law, one that seemed different to the Law of Moses given at Sinai to the nation of Israel. But, as we read these chapters, we see that Jesus is calling his followers to a radical lifestyle. As followers of Jesus, we are called to live very differently to the world around us. The words of Jesus are a call to selflessness, holiness, and a call to be set apart from the world.

Every sentence in the sermon on the mount declares a separation between living as a Christian and living as an unbeliever. As Jesus addresses every aspect of social, spiritual, and personal relationships, he is setting the bar extremely high. As followers of Jesus, we are to live differently, to speak differently, and to think differently to those who do not know Jesus as Lord.

Sadly, there are many in the church and even many churches, that look no different than the world. Churches are filled with hypocrisy, gossip, sexual immorality, greed, and fear of man. Doesn’t sound like the church of Jesus, does it?

There is often talk about nominal Christians and nominal churches. What does that even mean?

Nowhere in the Bible do we ever find reference to nominal Christianity. To be a Christian is to be all in! To be dead to our old way of life and alive to God, filled with His spirit. There is no neutral ground, you are either radically living for Jesus or you are not.

Sadly, many people today are like the person who buys a Mahomes shirt, watches every game on TV and then thinks he is part of the Chiefs team. You are not saved by going to church or trying to live a good life. Only those who have been raised to new life by the Spirit of God have been saved. Jesus spoke about this very directly in the sermon on the mount in Matthew 7:21-23.

So how do we live this radical life in a world that continues to get more and more sinful? Jesus knew it would be difficult and that is why he prayed for his disciples right before he went to the cross (read John 17:15-17).

Jesus asked his Father to sanctify his followers, that we might be daily transformed in our thoughts and actions. Jesus said this sanctifying process is done by the truth of the word of God. If you do not have a desire to read and meditate on the word of God, there is a very real possibility that it is because you have no relationship with Jesus.

The Word that Jesus is speaking about and the Law he is referring to is what we know as the Old Testament.

There is a theory in some Christian circles teaching that Jesus came to do away with the Old Testament and that the Law no longer applies to us today. They argue that we are under grace and therefore we are not subject to the punishment of God. But in verse 17 and 18 of Matthew 5 we read, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

If you read the first five books of the Old Testament, you will see that there are a lot of laws that honestly seem quite strange and frankly impossible for us to observe in our culture.

The law that Moses received on Mount Sinai, that was given as the constitution of the nation of Israel consists of three parts.

  1. The moral laws: The Ten Commandments and the moral principles given for all mankind for all history.
  2. The judicial laws: Given as the legislative guide to the nation of Israel for their governance.
  3. The ceremonial law: The instructions regarding the offerings and sacrifices.

Jesus said that he came to fulfill the law or complete the law. If we look at the ceremonial law, we see that it all points to Jesus as the perfect sacrificial lamb, slain for the sins of the world. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, he fulfilled the prophetic law, the law pointing to the messiah. In Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus confirms the authority and his seal of approval on the collection of books that we call the Old Testament.

Jesus didn’t abolish the moral law. Jesus went on to say that not one smallest part of the law will be abolished until it is all completed. The Moral law is the permanent and perpetual way in which we relate to God and the way we relate to each other.

The Old Testament is a rich mine with untold treasures. And the gold nuggets to look for are the ones that point to Jesus, the second person of the trinity, the Word of God. If you look carefully with the help of the Holy Spirit, you will see Jesus written all over the pages of the Old Testament.

If we cannot be saved by keeping a set of rules, why is the moral law of Moses still relevant?

The Law was never intended to save man because we could never keep the Law perfectly. Rather the law was given to us to show us the true character and holiness of God, to show how far short of the glory of God we fall, to show us how desperately we need a savior. The law of God was given to bring us to our savior, Jesus Christ.

And when we come to Jesus in complete dependence on his lordship over our lives, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit that enables us to walk in holiness as we daily are being made new.

Do you know this Jesus?

Sermon Sunday May 23, 2021 – Mountain Top Experiences part 5

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1 Kings 19:1-18

Psychologists talk about the “fight or flight” response to fear, how we respond when afraid. Fear itself is not a bad thing, it depends on where it leads us.

In 1 Kings 18, the prophet Elijah was used by God to challenge the prophets of Baal. He won a decisive victory as he stood courageously against the 850 false prophets of the pagan gods. Elijah was bold and aggressive, but within a matter of hours this brave prophet was running for his life in fear. Elijah fled from the threats of the wicked queen Jezebel. He began by running to Beersheba in Judah and then on to the wilderness, where it seems he intended to die.

He quickly went from victory to intense depression. It is not uncommon for people serving the Lord to experience an intense struggle after a powerful time of being used by God. Immediately following a mission trip or a time of ministry, is when a believer is most vulnerable to discouragement. Satan loves to come in and attack when we are spiritually spent, that is when we need to be on our guard for the temptations and lies of the enemy.

Elijah was discouraged, focusing on the fact that his life was threatened and that all he had done at Mt Carmel had been for nothing. But, in his weakness, at his most vulnerable, God meets Elijah and sends an angel to feed him. He eats heavenly food in the same wilderness where God fed the children of Israel many years before. As Elijah eats and recovers, the Lord gives him direction and a plan to move forward. One of the best ways to defeat discouragement is to have a fresh vision, something new on which to focus our attention.

In verse 8 we read that the food he ate gave him the strength to walk for 40 days, covering two-hundred miles to Mount Sinai. The mountain where God gave the Law to the nation of Israel.

At Sinai, Elijah has one of the most incredible mountain top encounters in the Bible.

The Word of the Lord comes to Elijah and asks him a rhetorical question, “what are you doing here Elijah?”, 1 Kings 19:9. Elijah twists the truth and distances himself from the nation of Israel blaming the people for the action and threats of Jezebel. He continues to say that he is the only prophet left who follows the Lord, however, we know from chapter 18 that this is not true.  

But God seems to ignore this deviation from the truth and tells him to stand at the entrance of the cave. God causes three powerful displays of His control over nature, a powerful wind, a strong earthquake and a consuming fire. All three of these natural events are attributed to the presence of God in the Bible, but at this time, they are just the preceding the Word of the Lord.  

Then Elijah hears a low whisper, a sound that he was waiting for. God speaks and the dialogue from 9 and 10 are repeated. There are so many similarities to the encounter that Moses had with God on the same mountain, when God gave Moses the Law. God told him to come up the mountain and the Lord spoke to him one to one. When God brought Moses up the mountain, it was to receive the Law. Now when God brought Elijah up the mountain, it was to revive the Law.

God again seems to ignore the complaints of Elijah, and gives him what seems to be a confusing mission in verses 15 and 16. He must go and anoint Hazael as king of Syria, Jehu as king over Israel and he must anoint Elisha to take his place as a prophet. However, as we read further in the Bible, God uses these three leaders to bring punishment on the nation of Israel (see 2 Kings 10:32). Elijah was given the commission to go back and continue the work of seeing the nation of Israel coming back to the one true God. God used Elijah’s fear to bring him to this point of revelation.

One of the most repeated commands in the Bible is, “do not fear”. And a case can be made that in certain circumstances, it is sinful to fear. But simply to say, “do not be afraid”, does not automatically take the fear away. Fear can paralyze us, and it can even become an idol. There are real practical things to fear, like falling off a tall building, or encountering a wild predator in the forest. Fear is a gift from God as it preserves our lives.

Elijah was overcome by fear in his weakened state, but his fear became the very thing that drove him to being restored and totally dependent on God. This account in Elijah’s life is not a story of weakness or burnout, as it is often taught. Rather, it is an account of the Gospel demonstrated in the Old Testament. Elijah was driven to the end of himself and into the arms of God to be cared for like a weak, dependent child.

Our culture honors and respects strength, courage, and independence. But the kingdom of God is about dependence not independence. We cannot be saved by our strength, our good works, or by anything that we might have to offer. Jesus said of the children around him in Matthew 19:14, “…the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to these little ones”. We need to learn what it is to be crucified with Christ, coming to him in our weakness and brokenness.

When fear drives us to Jesus and to the Gospel, it is not a reaction to the situation, it is a revelation. Elijah had to be brought to the end of himself, to become totally dependent on God. Only then did the Lord commission him and give him the next assignment.

Jesus died on the cross so that we do not have to fear the wrath of God. Jesus rose from the dead so that we do not have to fear death.  

What are you afraid of today?

Bring it to the cross.

Sermon Sunday April 25, 2021 – Mountain Top Experiences part 1

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Throughout the Bible God encountered people on the tops of mountains. He revealed Himself to them and changed the course of human history. Over the next several weeks we will be looking at some of those encounters and the lessons we can learn from them.

One of the most significant mountain top experiences took place on Mt Moriah as God tested the faith of Abraham. We read about this in Genesis 22, and it is well known to Christians, Jews and Muslims1.

For Christians, the story is traditionally viewed in light of Abraham’s tremendous faith in response to the unthinkable request from God to sacrifice his only beloved son. However, there is so much we can learn from this mountain top experience.

  • What does this account reveal about Abraham?

The first sentence in chapter 22 simply states, “After these things God tested Abraham…”.  

Here is where we must remove our 21st century “Sunday School” lenses and see that this is a truly horrifying account in history. God asks Abraham to kill his own son. A human sacrifice is counter to everything we know about God. It offends us and challenges our sense of decency and understanding of God. Yet we are told that this was Abraham’s finest hour and his most glorious victory.

We have the advantage of knowing how the story unfolds, but for Abraham it must have been the most difficult few days of his entire life.

Amazingly, we see that Abraham remained silent and seemed passive. Abraham must have been going through tremendous inner turmoil as he scoured through hundreds of scenarios in his mind. Verse 4 of chapter 22 says that; “On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.” It appears that he had been walking for three days with his eyes on the ground before him, deep in thought and anguish. Abraham’s quick response and silence seems to indicate resigned numbness to God’s will, steeling himself against the emotions tearing through his heart.

After passing the test, God pronounces an incredible blessing over Abraham, but life doesn’t go back to the way it was. Most scholars agree that Isaac didn’t return with him to Beersheba (Gen 22:19), and shortly thereafter his wife, Sarah dies. There was an understandable strain in the relationships in the house of Abraham.

  • What does the Account reveal about God?

In verse 2 God says, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah…” From this it is evident that God does not recognize that Ishmael was even a child of Abraham. In verse 11 we see that God stopped the sacrifice of Isaac right at the point when there was no doubt that Abraham was going to go through with the killing of his son. God showed that He never intended to allow Abraham to kill Isaac and went on to explain the test to him.

This picture of God is not the soft and amicable Heavenly Father that our modern-day “Christianity” likes to portray. On the contrary, the picture of Abraham lowering the knife was, in God’s eyes, the passing grade of the test. I doubt that this display of the nature of God would be palatable to the masses in our post-modern society (Isaiah 55:8). But we must come to grips with the fact that the God of the Old Testament has not changed. What has changed is our relationship with him because of what Jesus did for us on the cross.  

  • What about Isaac?

Traditionally the focus is on Abraham, but what about Isaac?

According to Jewish historians, Isaac was between 25 and 37 years old and not an unsuspecting child. As mentioned earlier, Isaac left Abraham and the next time we see him is in the Negev in chapter 24.  This event must have been incredibly traumatic for Isaac; his own father betrayed him and tried to kill him.

In contrast, according to a few ancient rabbinical documents, we read of Isaac as a willing sacrifice, actually asking his father to bind him tightly so that he would not move out of the way of the knife. This gives us a totally different picture of Isaac, one of a willing sacrifice and one who understood the importance of obeying his father and God.

  • Jesus and Isaac

There are many parallels between the life of Isaac and that of Jesus.

Both Isaac and Jesus were foretold, and their names were given to their parents by God. They were both conceived miraculously, and both were called “beloved son”.

Leading up to Mt Moriah, Abraham was silent. So too, God the Father was silent in Gethsemane leading up to the crucifixion of His beloved Son.

The fact that the wood for the offering was laid on the back of Isaac is a symbol of the cross that Jesus would one day carry on his shoulders.

Leading up to his crucifixion, Jesus was unwavering in his path to the cross and he was silent during his trial.  In the same way, Isaac walked silently alongside his father.

This account in essence is the salvation of Israel.  Even though Isaac was not killed, the intervention by the angel saved the nation that was to come. So too, Jesus was sacrificed in order to save all nations.

Like Isaac, Jesus’ walk to the cross was not simply passive resignation to his fate, but rather there was a determination to obey his Father’s will (Luke 22:42).

By his resurrection, Jesus provided for the salvation for all who would believe in him. The staying of the sacrifice of Isaac, was his “resurrection”, and that provided for the continuation and fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham (Hebrews 11:17-19)

What makes this account so horrifying is that God instructed Abraham to slaughter his own son, but if we really think about the crucifixion on Calvary we should be even more offended.

Because of our sins, God the Father required a perfect sacrifice. The only way we could be saved was by the perfect sacrifice of the spotless lamb of God (Isaiah 53:6, 2 Corinthians 5:21).

But here is the amazing truth that we miss, Abraham – the father had to raise his hand against his son.

Jesus knew that he would bear the incredible pain of the cross while bearing our sins. God the Father knew that he would have to inflict this pain on his own beloved son Jesus (Isaiah 53:10).

We must never miss the horror and the offense of the cross. God the Father inflicted His perfect wrath on God the Son.

Thank God today for the amazing gift of salvation.

1Muslim accounts of this event replace Isaac with Ishmael.

Sermon, Sunday April 11, 2021 – Washing Each Other’s Feet

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John 13:1-17

The night before he was crucified, Jesus met with his disciples to share what we call today, the Last Supper. Before they ate, Jesus shocked them all by humbling himself and washing their feet. This was the role of the servant of the house, why did the Lord make such a dramatic move?

What was he teaching his disciples and what can we learn from this in the church today?

Jesus loved these men. He wanted to spend this last evening with his inner circle, those he had chosen. Jesus loved his disciples right up to the cross, even though he knew one of them would betray him.

Jesus was teaching them about authority and showing that leadership does not mean you have to have people do your bidding. He could have called angels to come and wash their feet, he could have called a servant in, but he chose to serve them. Notably, Jesus also washed the feet of Judas, who would soon betray him. Jesus was showing that leadership is often a one-way street.

As Jesus comes to wash Peter’s feet, he resists and says in verse 6, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”, further in verse 8 he says, “You shall never wash my feet.”  We must not mistake this for pride, this was respect, Peter knew Jesus was Lord and God.

Jesus responds in verse 8, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”

At first glance, it may seem that Jesus is exaggerating to force peter to allow him to wash his feet. But what if Jesus is referring to a more significant truth than simply cleaning feet?

I want to suggest two interpretations to what Jesus is saying to Peter in this verse.

Firstly, Jesus was humbling himself prior to the ultimate act of humility by dying on the cross.

If it would be beneath Jesus’ position and dignity to wash his beloved disciples’ feet, then it would be beneath him to suffer and die on the cross. The Gospel is a message of humility as the creator stepped down from glory and subjected himself to a cruel Roman cross. The son of God, who poured water into a basin to wash the disciple’s feet, in a few hours poured his blood out into a basin to wash us from our sins.

And secondly, what if Jesus is saying to Peter that if he didn’t learn from this act of servanthood, then he would have no part in the kingdom of God.  I will come back to this in a later in the article.

As Peter begins to understand the significance of what Jesus is doing, he asks Jesus to wash his hands and his head as well. But Jesus explains in verse 10 that this is not necessary. This speaks to us as believers today, daily we need a washing of our sins. Washing off the dirt and grime from our daily contact with a sinful world.

I believe daily repentance is key to a healthy Christian walk. Like dust on our feet, sin lingers in our lives. The more we leave the dirt on our feet, the more it affects us, and we lose our effectiveness in the kingdom.

Jesus reclines at the table and begins to explain what he was teaching them. Not only were they to learn servant leadership, but they were also to learn to wash one another’s feet. In verse 15, Jesus gave them an imperative command to continue to serve one another as he had served them.

Looking back to verse 8, what if Jesus was saying to Peter; “if you don’t learn from this and wash each other’s feet, then you can have no part in the kingdom of heaven.”

Applying this to modern day disciples of Jesus in the church, how often don’t we refuse to “wash each other’s feet? How often do we come to church on a Sunday, wanting to be served, but with no intention of serving?

If you are unwilling to wash the feet of the people around you, you are separating yourself from the body of Christ. The principle that Jesus is displaying is that the kingdom of God must take preference over every desire or self-interest (see Matthew 19:29-30). This is radical, this is true Christianity, this is not the comfortable suit and tie Christianity that the church has been selling.

In verse 17 Jesus says that this command comes with a promise of blessing.  Sadly, even in the church we don’t serve each other because we constantly ask, “what’s in it for me?”

Now that we have established that we are to “wash each other’s feet”, how do we do this?

When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, he showed them that ministry is not done from a platform, but rather it is done with a basin and a towel. One of the greatest roles in the church is refreshment, reminding each other of the basics and the original plan of God for their lives. This is not a ministry reserved for a few who have been to seminary, this is a ministry that we are all called to. We who have the Holy Spirit, have the power in us to encourage and lift the load off the shoulders of our brothers and sisters (1 Peter 2:9).

But before we can do that we have to be in right relationship with God. We cannot act as ministers in the church if we are not in right relationship with God. If we are simply trying to serve in the church out of duty and we are not right with God, we will just bring others down. Watchman Nee wrote, “to be at odds with God is the sure way to be a drain upon the life of His Church”.

It is imperative that when we gather on Sunday mornings, we have prepared our hearts before the Lord, ready to serve one another. If you know there is some sin in your life, something that is hindering your relationship with God, you are not able to serve as a minister in the church and you have gone from being an asset in the church to being a burden. The simple principle in the body of Christ is this, we are refreshing and being refreshed all the time.

During this COVID season of isolation, I am always disturbed when people say that they do not need to gather with the body of Christ and that they are happy to watch a sermon online. The Bible shows clearly that if you do not desire the meeting together with other believers, there is something seriously wrong with your walk with the Lord. Gathering in regular fellowship is way more than simply a cultural tradition, it is essential for our growth and overcoming the plans of the enemy for our lives. Church is essential, no matter what anyone might say to you.

As we actively engage in ministry towards one another, Jesus promises us a blessing. What we wrestle with is our tendency towards passivity.

I pray that everyone would come to a worship service on a Sunday with this prayer in their hearts, “Lord who would you have me pray for and encourage today?”

Sermon, Sunday March 14, 2021 – Do You See Jesus?

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Mark 8:1-10

Do you ever look at something and not see what’s really there?

There is a phenomenon in the world of art called a stereogram. You can often find them in museums, shopping malls, or art stores. These are three-dimensional pictures hidden inside a two-dimensional picture with a repeating pattern. But a lot of people, like me, cannot see the hidden image.

Not seeing what’s there not only happens in the art world, it also happens in the spiritual world. It happens with Jesus. At first glance when we look at Jesus, we don’t see all that’s there. And if we don’t look long enough, if we don’t look at him in a different way, we’ll have a limited view that will prevent us from seeing how incredible, how powerful, how compassionate, how glorious he is, and will miss out on experiencing the life he offers us. What image do you have of Jesus?

As we skim through Marks Gospel, we are looking at Mark 6:30 to 9:32.Up to this point in the ministry of Jesus, he’s been extremely popular. The things he’s said and done have impacted the entire region. However, this is about to change as he begins to reveal his true mission, one that will culminate on a cruel Roman cross.

Throughout this Gospel, you may have noticed that Jesus uses every moment to reveal himself more fully to his disciples, because like us, they don’t always see things clearly.

One of these moments is found in Mark 8:1-10 as Jesus miraculously feeds four-thousand people with a few loaves and fish.

Jesus isn’t just a powerful teacher and miracle worker; he is a shepherd. He cares about people. His emotion moves him to action, and he wants to feed the people. Jesus has the crowd sit down and blesses the food as he begins to perform a miracle of multiplication that fed the multitude. The disciples saw a crowd that needed to be sent away because the task was impossible. Jesus saw people who needed to be fed and an opportunity to teach.

We might see someone who has made a wreck of their lives and someone who takes up our time, when Jesus sees them as a person who deserves a second chance. Jesus sees the person whom he created in the image of God.

Later, when Jesus is alone with his disciples, he knows that they are struggling to grasp who he really is (Mark 8:18). They were looking at him with the wrong expectation and focus.

We aren’t much different. No matter how many times the Lord has answered our prayers in the past, we still struggle to grasp his power and trust him fully in the present. When we are going through various trials, we need Jesus to help us to see him, see him for who he really is.

In Mark 8:27-30, Jesus reveals who he really is. Jesus wanted his disciples to see his true identity. Jesus posed this question, “Who do people say that I am?” (Mark 8:27)

This is the essential question that we all must answer. What image do you have of Jesus?

If we’re unclear about Jesus, if we have a view of him that comes from our culture, books, or movies, then we could be going in a direction that leads us away from God.

Peter answered with a clear declaration of Jesus’ true identity. “You are the Christ.” (Mark 8:29b). Jesus affirms Peter’s declaration but instructs them not to tell anyone. But then he begins to tell them about the suffering he is about to undergo (Mark 8:31-38). This idea of suffering and death was not the picture they had of their messiah.

Peter boldly takes Jesus aside and begins to rebuke him, getting Jesus back in line with Peter’s vision. But Jesus seizes the moment and in the presence of all the disciples, rebukes Peter (Mark 8:33). Satan didn’t want Jesus to go to the cross and he tried to use a friend of Jesus to derail his mission plan.  Satan has, and always will try to obscure and lie about the true identity of Jesus. He doesn’t want us to see Jesus for who he really is.

Satan is okay with us believing that Jesus was a good man, a moral teacher, a prophet, or a miracle worker. But he is more!  He is the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God who came to seek and save the lost, to set people free. Jesus suffered and died to pay for our sins and rose from the grave to authenticate that his death was a sufficient payment. And now he is alive and inviting whoever will see him for who he is, to accept his offer of eternal life!

Ever since the time of Jesus, men have argued about who this man named Jesus from Galilee really was.  The Pharisees and Sadducees were very curious about Jesus and often followed him around to catch him in a lie, or they simply rejected him.  Two thousand years later, many people continue to trivialize the life and teaching of Jesus. Some will even go as far as calling Jesus a great moral teacher but not the Lord over all creation.

Jesus Christ was the most influential person to ever walk this planet!  He changed the timeline of history forever. 

Colossians 3:4 says, “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Is he your life? Or an add on?

The Bible is clear that the only way to avoid spending an eternity in Hell is through a personal relationship with this Jesus Christ. And that happens by making him Lord of your life. We can never make a true decision about Jesus by taking a poll of what other people think. You need to encounter him and see him in a personal way.  

What is your image of Jesus? What obstacle is keeping you from seeing Jesus clearly?

Sermon, Sunday March 7, 2021 – Chosen!

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In 2014 there was an article in the news about a boy by the name of Davion in Florida, who at the age of 15 had been in the foster care system all his life. Davion desperately wanted to be adopted into a loving family and he knew that because of his age, this was highly unlikely.

He decided to be proactive and he worked hard to improve his physical appearance and his grades at school. On his own initiative, Davion boldly stood before the congregation of his local church and asked if anyone would choose him to be their son.

Davion was crying out to be chosen, to be a part of a family. Can you imagine your children having to market themselves and be on their best behavior and get all “A’s” in school to be accepted and loved?

The point is that we all have a deep desire to belong, to be chosen and to be a part of a family. This is the invitation that Jesus introduced when he walked the earth, and the same invitation stands today. We get invited into the family of God, where we are accepted just as we are, and our Father will never give up on us. It’s a family that wants the best for you. It’s a family that offers real hope for today and for your future.

In Mark 3:13 to 6:29, we catch a glimpse of the life and ministry of Jesus as he is at his most popular. Everywhere he goes crowds follow him in hopes of seeing a miracle or being healed themselves.

In Chapter 3 from verse 13, Jesus chooses the disciples to be in his family. Jesus didn’t pick the best theological minds and esteemed leaders, rather he chose ordinary fishermen, tradesmen, a politician, and a tax collector to be part of his family. Jesus chose them and used them to start a global movement that changed the world.

At the same time, Jesus was rejected by his own family (Mark 3:20-21). When his family heard about his ministry they said, “He is out of his mind.”

Jesus knew what it was like to be rejected, abandoned, and betrayed by your own family.

Jesus identifies with the many people whose family abandon and disown them when they place their faith in him as Lord.

Jesus identifies with Davion’s pain. Jesus identifies with your pain and Jesus chooses you to be in his family. Just a few minutes later Jesus said regarding his family, “For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35). Whoever is willing, has faith and believes becomes a member of this new family.

Faith Comes by Hearing is an organization committed to producing the audio Bible for every language in the world. One of the recordings is for a tribal group of Indians in Bolivia called Quechua. When the Quechuas first heard the Bible in their heart language, the response was amazing. Whole villages came to faith in Christ, families were healed, and churches were planted throughout the region. As the FCBH leadership began asking questions of the Quechua people, they found out that the most impactful Bible story was the healing of the women with the issue of blood found in Mark 5:21-34.

The woman had a chronic bleeding issue that had gone on for twelve years, and like many people with chronic illnesses, she emptied her bank account paying her medical bills. In addition, this medical problem made her ceremonially unclean in the community as per the law of Moses, which meant she was shunned, alone and broken. Out of a place of desperation she takes a huge risk and works her way through the crowd on her hands and knees to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. As she reaches out and touches the edge of Jesus’ cloak, she is immediately healed.

The reason why this particular story impacted the Quechua people was because they could identify with being rejected and shunned by society. It wasn’t until as recently as 1965 that there was a government ruling to declare that the Quechuan’s had a soul. Up until that time, they were regarded as nothing more than primitive animals.

When the Quechua’s hear the story in Mark chapter 5, they identify with the women considered unclean. They join with that woman and when she touched Jesus, they reached out and touched Jesus. Something happened in their souls and their spirits at that moment.

They were set free from their pain when they grasped what Jesus said in Mark 5:34, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease.”

The Quechua at that moment would begin to sob and break down. Their heart hurt because Jesus saw this woman as a human being, he healed her and invited her into his family. He freed her from her suffering. Their hearts hurt because Jesus, who now speaks their language, turns to them, and offers them that same invitation.

Jesus is now turning to you and offering you the same invitation.

After Davion spoke in the church, his story went viral and today he has a forever family.

Someone chose to adopt him into their family.

Imagine yourself standing in front of a church and pleading for someone to welcome you into their family, and even before you finish your speech, Jesus stands up and shouts out, “I chose you!”.  This is what Jesus does every-day, he says, “I love you and choose you just as you are (see Hebrews 2:11).

Jesus is the only one who has the power to set us free from our shame and to present us as righteous before God the Father. Those who believe in Jesus and receive him are the ones who are made holy.

Have you made the decision to make Jesus Christ Lord of your life?