Thanksgiving part 1 – November 12, 2017

Psalm 107

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday what are you thankful for? As Christians we have been given something that is so immeasurably good and wonderful, that it should be the very first thing we share around the dinner table. Psalm 107 is a Psalm of thanksgiving and praise to God for deliverance and freedom, it starts with an exhortation to give God thanks (Psalm 107:2). To be redeemed means to have one’s debts paid for and to be set free. As Christians this is you and me, Jesus bought and paid for our freedom on the cross.

But, to be thankful, we need to be aware of what have you been saved from. Do you remember the day you gave your life to the Lordship of Jesus, the redeemer? Do you remember the hopelessness you felt before you encountered Jesus? For many of us, we need to be reminded of our lives before we met Jesus to awaken a heart of thanksgiving in us.

Continuing in verse 3 as the Psalmist paints a picture for us of the exiles returning to Jerusalem from the four corners of the earth and beginning in verse 4 we have four different examples of people being set free. Each of these four represent distinct characteristics of lostness.

The Wanderer (v 4).

The picture we have is of a group of people who have been banished from the promised land, they are lost and wandering in the desert, possibly the Sinai desert. These people were hungry and thirsty, but worse than their physical condition we read that their spirits failed them, they had given into the hopelessness of their situation.

People who do not know Jesus as their lord and savior, wander aimlessly, without the hope of eternity for them life is a hopeless gathering of possessions and wealth to lose it all when you die, what a miserable existence! However, in verse 6 they cried out to God and he rescued them, and led them to a city where they could live. It is a beautiful picture of a people being restored to their God and His Promised Land.

The Rebel Prisoner (v10).

Here the Psalmist paints a picture of someone in chains, in prison because they intentionally went against God’s perfect plan and will. Many of us have experienced the prison of intentionally going against the will and plan of God for our lives. There are many forms of imprisonment; addiction to drugs, pornography, alcohol, and pleasure. And then there is the prison of fear of man, the of fear of failure or guilt and shame from our past. Are you in prison today because of your rebellion to God? He can set you free as he did these prisoners in verses 14 and 15.

The Sick (v17).

This group of people are suffering affliction as a result of their sins, in the form of sickness as we see in verse 18.  This is a group similar to the previous one, whereas the previous group are in prison because of their rebellion, this group suffers sickness because of rebellion.

I want to make clear that not every sickness is because of sin, however, there are times when sickness is the result of our rebellion against God. The fact is that sin separates us from God, it separates us from the peace and joy of the Lord, as a result we suffer from stress, which is a known contributor to many kinds of ailments. Anxiety and hypertension are just two of the symptoms of stress that may be as a result of not walking in the way and the peace of the Lord. In many people’s lives, God has used the desperation of sickness to draw them back to himself, and through his healing power they are redeemed. In verse 19 and 20, the sick people cry out to God and he healed them. Is that your story? Do you remember being healed and set free by the healing power of the cross?

The Sea Traveler (v23).

This is such an interesting picture, because during this time in the history of the nation of Judah, they were not seafarers like the Philistines. But the picture here rather is of someone on a ship consumed by the wind and the waves, it is a picture of someone consumed by a busy life. In verse 27 we read that they were at their wits end, desperate and overwhelmed.  The ocean traveler on a small vessel during a storm is constantly looking at the storm and the waves, just trying to survive. If your life is so busy that all you are doing is simply trying to stay alive, that is not God’s plan for you. Business is not a sin, but business that consumes you and takes your eyes off the plan and purposes of God for your life, can leave you desperately in need of redemption.

So, we have four pictures of desperation, four groups of people who are lost and in need of a touch from God.

Each of these 4 pictures ends with the person, or group of people crying out to God during their troubles. And the psalmist says that God rescued them, he brought them out of their distress. Verses 8 is a verse that is repeated at the end of each of these pictures like a chorus, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind”. These verses echo verse 2, “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—  those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,”

We can all relate to being in one or more of these categories at one time or another in our lives, maybe you are there now, and you are crying out for freedom. God will hear your cry and he is waiting to set you free.

During this season of thanksgiving, I want to challenge you to think back and remember what Jesus saved you from. If you know what you have been saved from, you will never hold back praising God and declaring His wonderful works.

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story…” (Psalm 107:2a).

Sermon November 05, 2017 – International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

November 05, 2017

In his book, “The Global War on Christians”, John Allen calls the worldwide persecution of Christians, “the most dramatic religion story of the early twenty-first century, yet one that most people in the West have little idea is even happening.”

Christian persecution is any hostility, experienced from the world, because of one’s identification with Jesus Christ. In Matthew 5:10-12, Jesus said that persecution is a blessing! For those who have not undergone persecution, it is difficult to understand why persecution is a blessing. But it is a known fact that the church grows quicker in nations where it is persecuted.

John 15:18-25 is a passage that does not preach well in our western “Prosperity Gospel” mindset, where our culture, upbringing and education all teach us that we have rights.  It is expected that Christians are respected members of society and by living out our Christian values and principles people will give us honor. But this is so far from the reality of what Jesus taught.

We have the mindset that persecution is something that happens somewhere else, in third world countries, where people are less educated perhaps. We also tend to think that persecution of Christians was something that only happened in history.

However, persecution is right on our doorstep, Jesus taught that this world is not our home (see John 15:19), and Jesus continues in verse 20 to say that a servant is no greater than his master, this is the normal Christian life. We have recently completed the series on the normal Christian life, noting that the foundation for the normal Christian life is applying the cross of Jesus Christ to our lives, daily dying to ourselves, being willing to lay aside our preferences, our rights and our desires for the sake of the Gospel.

It is almost predictable that when I teach in any setting on dying to our rights, people get angry. It just proves how conditioned we are to expect that this Christian life is a life of leisure and prosperity and peace. Jesus taught the opposite and he was persecuted more than any other man in history. In 1 John 3:13 we read, “Do not be surprised, brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.”  This is the normal Christian life.

For millions of Christians around the world, persecution is their daily reality. From intimidation to isolation, beatings, imprisonment and even death, they live with the ongoing threat of persecution, and yet they choose to faithfully follow Jesus.

Faithfully being a follower of Jesus is the cause of persecution. Remember we saw that the life of the Christian is not found in simply becoming a better person, but rather we are “in Christ”. Being in Christ is the reason for and the target of persecution in our world.

In Romans 8:17, the apostle Paul tells us, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.” So, when we share in Jesus’ sufferings we become heirs who will also share in his glory. Suffering is part of it the process that leads to us sharing in the glory of our resurrected Lord.

Persecution isn’t something we think about often, but it is incredibly real for believers all over the globe. The Pew Research Center estimates that 75% of the world’s population lives in regions with severe religious restrictions—with many of those being Christians. And according to the United States Department of State, Christians face persecution from their neighbors or government in as many as 60 different countries, simply because they claim Jesus as Lord.

Todd Johnson of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary documents that one hundred thousand Christians, eleven per hour, have been killed on average every year of the past decade. And it is estimated that more Christians died for their faith in the last century than in the previous nineteen centuries combined. Unfortunately, many Christians today, operate under the assumption that persecution is a part of the Church’s past.

Jesus told His followers to expect persecution, John 15:20 reads,“…If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” So this is expected but what is our response to be? How are we to respond as we sit here in comfort and ease without the threat of violence for our belief in Jesus.

It’s easy to hear about Christian persecution and feel afraid, but God did not give us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).

It’s also natural to want to put an end to the suffering of persecuted Christians. But the persecuted Church isn’t asking for an end to their hardships, for them, persecution is normal. In fact, many of our Christian brothers and sisters who are being persecuted are praying for you and I, that we would remain strong in the face of an increasingly godless society. Instead, they pray for the strength to withstand persecution. These hardships produce believers with genuine faith, who truly understand the cost involved in being “In Christ”, and they ask for our prayers for strength to withstand.

Christian persecution is overwhelming, and we can all too easily become desensitized by the statistics.

But I want to challenge you to spend some time today praying on your own or as a family for the persecuted church. Let us pray with them rather than for them, that the word of God will move swiftly across the whole earth.

 “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

Tertullian

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

Romans 9:30-10:17

What is the difference between desire and desperation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is no such thing as passive Christianity.

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

Church in the Park – July 16, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is the Gospel message.

Without the Gospel, we have no church

Without the Gospel, we have no hope of salvation

Without the Gospel, we have no testimony

Without the Gospel, we cannot pray for healing

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

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

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

So, what does the Gospel mean to you?

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

John 7:1-13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sermon June 18 2017 What time is it? Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Resurrection – Sermon on April 16, 2017 Easter Sunday

He is Risen – the Hope of the Resurrection

Text:  Luke 24:1-12 and 36-49

I love science fiction, especially time travel and movies about alternate dimensions. In our entertainment immersed culture, we sometimes struggle with what is real and what is not. The reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is something that is extremely hard for us to grasp, but yet it is absolutely real – this is not science fiction.

 Death is a very real part of our existence and funerals are often a time when people are confronted by their own mortality, it is a somber time of realization that we all will die someday.

This past weekend we celebrated the fact that Jesus is alive and that by his resurrection from the dead, we do not have to fear death. The Apostle Paul quoted the prophet Hosea in 1 Corinthians 15:55, “Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?”

Jesus is alive! Throughout the pages of the Bible, we see prophecies and fulfilment of those prophecies that were written hundreds of years apart. Notice that when Jesus revealed himself to his disciples, he referred to the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms containing information about himself (Luke 24:44). The entire Bible points to Jesus (see Isaiah 53 or Psalm 22).

The message of the early church was the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And before his ascension, Jesus spoke to over five hundred people at one time (1 Corinthians 15:1-6).

The resurrection was common knowledge at the time and it is also recorded in secular history. Apart from that, if Jesus had remained in the tomb, how did that band of fearful broken disciples start a church that exploded across the world and continues to expand today?

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, we have nothing to hold on to. The Bible is an empty document and cannot be the living word of God. The bodily resurrection of Jesus is what determines our salvation, it is our hope of glory. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we know that he has conquered death. By placing our trust and faith in him we are assured of salvation and eternal life. Because of the resurrection, all the promises of God’s word are true, and we can stand on those promises.

When we talk about the resurrection, we must understand that Jesus didn’t simply rise from the dead. Many people have been miraculously raised from the dead, but they ultimately died again.

Here is the difference: Jesus was raised with a new body, a body that was not subject to aging, or sickness or weakness. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:20 and Colossians 1, Jesus is the firstborn from among the dead, the first of a new kind of body.

The resurrected body of Jesus was a physical body, Jesus ate with his disciples, walked and talked with them; he was flesh and blood but different. His new body was a perfect eternal body, one that he still has today, and the same body he will have when he returns as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, as we read in Revelation 19.

The cross is where Jesus willingly offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins, Jesus being perfectly sinless died in our place. But when Jesus rose from the dead, it was a declaration by God, that the price had been paid and that we now can be made right with God. By raising Jesus from the dead, God was in effect saying that he approved of the work Christ had done and that there was no more penalty needed for sin.

Does that mean we never sin? No, we are still subject to temptation and sin, we are all well aware of the fact that no Christian is perfect. But it does mean that when we do sin, we can come to Jesus and ask for forgiveness of our sins (1 John 1:9).

The cross is where the price was paid for our sins; the resurrection is where we obtain power to live the Christian life.
What does the resurrection of Jesus mean for us?

  • The resurrection meant Satan and death itself was defeated. Since Jesus rose from the dead, we do not have to fear death.
  • Through the resurrection, we are made right with God because of the blood of Jesus shed for us.
  • With the resurrection, we can live victorious Christian lives because Jesus ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit, the third person of the trinity to live inside all who believe in him, to give us power to live a life that brings glory to God (see Acts 1:8).
  • With the resurrection of Jesus, we have hope of a glorious future. Jesus said in John chapter 14; “I am going to prepare a place for you… and if I go, I will come back and take you to be with me…”

    Unless Jesus returns soon, we will all face death one day. For those who die having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we will be receiving a new body someday. We who have given our lives to the Lordship of Jesus will get new bodies, just like the one Jesus has. 1 John 3:2 says; “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

    This is not science fiction my friends, this is reality. Jesus is coming back again; his word promises it. Maybe some of us or all of us will die before he comes again, but that does not mean we need to fear death. Because of resurrection Sunday, we no longer fear the uncertainty of death. Those who have made the decision to live for Jesus in this life will live with him for eternity.

    John 11:25-26, “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

The Inter-generational Church Part 1 – March 26, 2017

The Inter-generational Church Part 1

Titus 2

A fascinating subject is the study of generations, how we classify people according to their age. If you have a certain amount of gray hair then our assumption is that you process decisions a certain way, if you are under a certain age, you may fit into a certain category of people. Because of these assumptions, we divide ourselves and others into generations.

Sociologists study these categories, and due to the incredible information age in which we live, the generations are changing quicker and becoming more segregated than ever before. Today in our churches we have the Silent Generation, the Baby Boomers, Generation X, the Millennial Generation and finally the Generation Z. Each generation has characteristics that identify them and how they relate to leadership and culture in general.

For the church to be divided by those characteristics as the world has been, is not reflecting the true Body of Christ . As a church, we are meant to grow together, serve together and love together. Fulfilling the Great Commission will take all generations.

Most churches in America today tend to fall into two camps; the first is those who have decided to reach people over the age of fifty, and the truth is that these churches are declining in membership and many are closing their doors. The second camp has decided to primarily reach the younger generation, these churches are often growing in numbers but they are struggling to meet their budgets.

Neither of these models of church is correct, we need to be churches that keep the Gospel message as our central theme. As we do that, we will experience a unity that is uncommon, a unity that will break down any man-made barriers.

The 1st century church also faced challenges in the area of unity. When the Gentiles began to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the Christian Jews were faced with a real challenge, whether to accept them or to let them form their own churches and continue to be separated. However, God called them together into an example of unity that we follow to this day, admittedly some days better than others. As Paul wrote in Romans 12:3, humility is the key, realizing that each of us are only saved by the grace of God.

The Apostle Paul also wrote a letter to a man by the name of Titus in AD 66, who was overseeing the growth and planting of new churches in the island of Crete. The church in Crete was probably founded by people from Crete who heard Peter preach at Pentecost. These churches were multi-generational, however the churches in Crete were struggling because of false teaching that had crept in from people seeking to profit from the churches. Paul instructed Titus to teach the truth, to train up elders or pastors and to firmly establish the church on the truth of the Gospel. Paul gives Titus some very practical advice. He begins the second chapter with the statement, “teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine”. Paul encourages Titus to teach the truth, without truth, the church will not be healthy.

Paul tells Titus to teach four categories of people, the older men, the older women, the young women and the young men.

Starting with the older men, those over the age of 50, Paul says teach them to be “temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.” The senior men in the congregation are to exhibit a depth of character and self-control that comes with seniority and maturity. Paul is saying that the young people are looking to you; they want to see that you control your temper, that you are not impulsive and easily swayed, which is the stability that has marked the Silent Generation.

In addition to character, the senior men are to exhibit a sound faith. Demonstrating a faith that has been tested for some years, it is faith with some battle scars. Paul lists three cardinal Christian virtues – Faith, Love and endurance.
Faith – believing God, trusting Him for the future because you have seen that He has been faithful in your past.
Love – serving others, the silent generation is characterized by people who desire to serve others before they expect to be served.
Endurance – seniors know that it takes discipline and endurance to live the Christian life.

As Paul focuses on the older women he tells Titus to teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live. Paul is saying that the older women are to practice the presence of God in their lives, by allowing the presence of God to permeate every aspect of their lives (V3).

Then Paul tells Timothy to teach the older women to avoid moral failure by sitting around drinking wine and gossiping amongst themselves. The real problem is not the slander or the drinking; the real problem is the misuse of time. Rather than waste time doing what is wrong, “Teach what is good” (v 3b). The older women are to set an example, not only teachimg by verbal instruction, but by being a living example.

Paul tells Titus to instruct the older women to teach the younger women. Older women can relate and teach the younger women far better than Titus could. This is sound advice even for today because it builds up the family. Older ladies, we as a church need you; we need you to teach the younger ladies what God has shown you in your life.

If you are one of our senior citizens, what are you doing to sow into the next generation? The best way is to come alongside a young believer and disciple them. The younger generation of believers is passionate and hungry for reality, and they also want to be challenged. But they want to see the truth of the Gospel lived out in those who go before them.  Unfortunately, many of our churches are full of good traditions but weak on passion. Many people have the misconception that attending church is enough. People go to church, attend Sunday School and even serve in the church for decades, yet they are not growing in their relationship with the Lord (see Hebrews 5:12).

My prayer is that our young people look to our seniors because they see in their lives a hunger and passion for the Lord. Are you growing in your walk with the Lord? Because those coming behind you are watching to see if it is real for you, if you practice what you have learned (see Psalm 145:4).

We have an extraordinary opportunity to be a part of something that is uncommon in the world today, a world that draws deep dividing lines between the generations. We have the opportunity, because of the power of the Gospel to be united in vision and passion as the Body of Christ. We must not to be satisfied by being multi-generational, with multiple generations in one room; rather we are to become inter-generational, working together for the Gospel.

The 4 Pillars of the Church – Part III February 26, 2017

The church by nature must be compassionate; caring for the poor, the emotionally hurt, the abused, the destitute and the unborn. In our efforts to show compassion we can easily become overwhelmed. After all, how can we possibly make a dent amongst all the pain and the suffering we see around us every day? As we begin to attempt to show compassion, we can sometimes lose focus of our purpose as the church. Our commission is to go into all the world and preach the Gospel (Matthew 28).

Throughout the Bible, we see God described as a compassionate Father (Psalm 103:13). The ministry of Jesus always demonstrated compassion, through his teaching, miracles of healing and the ultimate display of compassion was when he allowed himself to be crucified to atone for our sins.

Whenever we see compassion demonstrated in the Bible, it is shown as an emotion that is followed up by action. As compassionate people, we are stirred by emotion at the sight of pain or injustice and thus we are moved to action (Colossians 3:12).

The Gospel of Matthew gives us a clear picture of the compassion of Jesus. In chapter 8, the Apostle lists for us a series of miracles, then in chapter 9 we read the account of Jesus healing the paralyzed man (Matthew 9:1-8).

Jesus had been healing many people, but this time he did something different, he said “your sins are forgiven”.

The religious leaders were offended because Jesus was claiming to do something that only God can do, and that was blasphemy. Jesus confronts them and proceeds to heal the man after challenging the teachers.

To the bystander, it seems easier to walk up to a sick person and say “your sins are forgiven”, because no proof is required, there is no way of knowing. But when Jesus heals the man, the demonstration of his power gives credibility and proof to the fact that he can forgive sins.

Jesus saw the greater need of the man, and still the greater need of all humanity, the problem of sin. The greatest need of every human being, whether they are sick or healthy, rich or poor; is the need for forgiveness of sins. By Jesus forgiving this man’s sins, he is showing real compassion, meeting the man’s real need, not only his temporal need.

As Jesus goes through the towns, teaching, and performing miracles, we read further in verse 36 that Jesus is moved by compassion. He turns to his disciples and makes the statement that is frequently quotes in missionary circles; “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Jesus, moved by compassion as he sees the multitudes of people who are destined for an eternity in hell, tells his disciples to pray that God would multiply the work force.

The prayer to pray for workers must be fueled by a heart of compassion.

But Jesus doesn’t stop there with his disciples, in the very next verse in chapter 10, Jesus calls his disciples, he empowers them and he sends them out. As Jesus sends them out, notice that their title changes from disciple to apostle. An apostle means someone who is sent out as an official representative.

This is an important transition that takes place; Jesus encourages his followers to pray for workers, and then he sends them out in response to that prayer. And as we pray that prayer, we need to realize that we are part of the solution.

A prayer of compassion does not excuse us from acts of compassion.

 That is true compassion, the same compassion that Jesus has for us when he stepped down from his throne in glory and became as one of us to save us.

There are two extremes of compassion in modern day Christianity:

The one is what has become known as the social gospel, where so much focus is on meeting felt needs that the presentation of the Gospel is neglected. The danger in this is that we are helping people for a short term, but neglecting their eternal condition. Sometimes the motivation behind this compassion is the desire to earn our salvation, desperately trying to do enough good things to justify our salvation. Or maybe we serve out of guilt for our past sins, and in some way, we are trying to make things right.

However, the Bible is clear; we are all desperate sinners and no amount of good works will ever earn us salvation, we are saved only by the grace of God through the cross of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Charles Spurgeon once said; “the child of God works not for life, but from life; he does not work to be saved, but because he is.”

The other extreme is the church that is so inwardly focused on their own fellowship that they ignore the needs and the desperate situations of their community. There are many possible reasons for this; one possible reason is simply that the church is overwhelmed by the needs around them and simply chose to look the other way.

Another possibility is a church that has served the community for years and helped so much out of their own strength, that they have become fatigued and burnt out in serving and trying to meet all the needs.

Neither of these two extremes are healthy, nor do they bring Glory to God. As we endeavor to be compassionate and missional, we must pray that we would have discernment in knowing what needs God would have us meet as a church. The answer to that dilemma is found by asking the Holy Spirit to give us guidance and direction.

Compassion under the Guidance of the Holy Spirit provides Temporal Relief but yields Eternal Results.

Our own strength and resources can at best provide some temporary relief to someone in need, but our resources coupled with the power of the name of Jesus, will lead to life transformation and eternal salvation. Every human being on the planet has a desperate need, a need that can only be met by Jesus Christ.

The 4 Pillars of the Church – Part 1 – February 12, 2017

word

John 14:1-7

The Bible is no ordinary collection of ancient writings, the Apostle Paul wrote; “all scripture is God breathed…” we believe that all scripture, all 66 books by multiple authors, is fully inspired by the Holy Spirit.

At the core of our foundation is the understanding that for the Bible to be relevant and to be a pillar of the church, it must contain the absolute truth. And therein lies the point of contention with our society and culture. However, without a certain foundation built on the foundation of truth, cultures fall into chaos. Without the firm foundation of the word of God and the knowledge of absolute truth, churches dissolve into weak and irrelevant institutions.

Jesus in speaking to his disciples is in John 14 begins by addressing their fears and uncertainty, Jesus begins by saying; “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me”. Notice the order of that statement; Jesus knew that the disciples believed in the God of creation, but now their belief must be the foundation of their faith in him.  Jesus knew that the disciples were about to go through the most traumatic time of their lives, it would shake their faith, they would question everything they had learned from Jesus.

Our culture is wrapped in fear. Fear literally drives the economy as products are sold to protect against a yet unrealized danger. This fear unfortunately has paralyzed Christians all over the world. It seems that Christians are no different than the rest of the world in relation to fear. But just like Jesus told his disciples not to let their hearts be troubled, and makes the same statement to us today. As we look at this verse, it becomes clear, that it is not that we have a problem with fear, rather we have a problem with unbelief. We fear the unknown, simply because we do not believe that Jesus is Lord and that our Heavenly Father does indeed hold all things in his almighty hand.

Looking further in verse 6, Jesus makes one of the most profound statements, one that causes the most offence in the post-modern world; “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus is the way, because he is the truth and the life.

As the modern church, we have been guilty of trying to make the church so palatable and user friendly to attract people to the church, that we have lowered the bar and in some cases, denied the truth. The truth of God’s word is an offence to the world because it is exclusive and not all inclusive.

So how do we discern the truth in a world full of so many opinions? The first step is to read the Word, plant the word of God in your heart, let it permeate your life so that when you hear or read something that is slightly out of line with the Bible, the Holy Spirit will reveal the false teaching to you. Every true Christian should know and love the truth. Jesus said in John 8:32; “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (see 1 Timothy 3:15)

History is filled with accounts of people who chose to accept death rather than to deny the truth. These martyrs believed the truth of this book, it was not some theoretical choice of a religion. However, the modern Christian is so concerned about trying to get everyone to like them that they seem willing to lay aside the truth. But precisely because of the truth of the Bible, Christians ought to be the most willing to sacrifice and take a stand for the Gospel.

God and truth are inseparable. God is the foundation of all truth, that is why Jesus, God incarnate, calls himself “the truth”. It should come as no surprise that when people reject God, they reject truth as well. In our colleges and universities, many philosophy teachers deny that truth is a reality or even knowable, unbelief in God is at the root of that teaching (see Romans 8:7).

Truth is the revelation of God himself. The truths of the laws of nature and science are truths leading to the revelation of God (see Psalm 19:1 and Romans 1 and 2). With all the revelation of God, we can say with the Psalmist; “the fool says in his heart, “there is no God”” Psalm 14:1.