Thankfulness a Spiritual Discipline

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As we celebrated another thanksgiving, we were grateful to spend time with some of our church family. I am so glad we live in a country that celebrates a day of gratitude.

I think Thanksgiving means so much to Debbie and I because like the Pilgrims, we are immigrants and have been blessed by God in these United States. The word “Pilgrim” means, “a person on a sacred journey in a foreign land.” We must remember that we who are followers of Jesus are all pilgrims and foreigners in this world.

Thanksgiving is all about God and recognizing all the blessings He has freely given us. In a world that has all but pushed God away in every sphere of society, it is amazing that we still celebrate thanksgiving.

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

The Psalms are full of wonderful anthems of praise and thanksgiving, and Psalm 103 is one of them.

It is interesting to see what David focuses on as he thanks God. Not once in that entire Psalm does he give thanks for his family, his home, his possessions, or even his throne. David doesn’t give thanks for many of the things most people would mention. Instead, he praises God for forgiving his sins, healing all his diseases, redeeming his life from the pit, crowning him with love & compassion, and satisfying his desires with good things so that his youth was renewed. David couldn’t lose those things.

Jesus emphasized the same thing in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 6:19-21). How thankful are we for the things we can never lose?

Psalm 103:2 says, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,”

This is such a crucial verse. If we forget the blessings of the Lord, we will quickly become ungrateful, take things for granted, and maybe even begin to feel entitled. The danger of this is that we become focused on what we don’t have, rather than on the many things we receive from the Lord that we don’t deserve.

Psychologists will tell you that there is tremendous benefit in being thankful. It is needed for our physical health and for developing healthy relationships. I would like to suggest that thankfulness becomes a spiritual discipline that we can and must develop, and it will produce enduring fruit.

The Bible is full of commands, and it encourages us to be thankful (see Ephesians 5:19-20).

We know that the Bible is practical and recognizes the pain and suffering that we encounter on life’s journey. The command to be joyful and give thanks is not an excuse to turn a blind eye to pain and suffering. Rather it reveals to us that are unable to be continually thankful without the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Real thankfulness is not dependent on our circumstances, it is a response to the goodness of God and the Gospel message.

The Psalms are full of examples of thanksgiving during pain. Several the Psalms of David begin with him crying out in pain, but by the end of the Psalm, as he recognizes the hand of God, he thanks and praises the Lord.

Our lives are fragile, and we easily forget how dependent we are on God for everything we have (see Psalm 103:13-16). Our lives may be fragile and fleeting, but to God we are precious in His eyes, and He will never forget us.

Our Father provided a way to redeem us and bring us into relationship with Himself. Our sins and prideful nature separate us from God, and unless our sins are atoned for, we will never enter into eternal life in relationship with God. Psalm 103:12 says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” That is something to be thankful for!

Tim Keller observed: “The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself or less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.”

Isn’t it amazing that two people who live in similar situations can have such a different outlook on life. One person is negative and complaining, while the other is optimistic and joyful.  The difference is gratitude.

Praise and thanksgiving make all the difference in life.

Each moment that we’re given is a precious gift from God. We can choose to have a thankful attitude and live each moment full of joy.

Being thankful is an act of worship because it reminds us of our provider, our Heavenly Father.

My challenge to you this week is that as you go about your day, make a point of being grateful for the little things, and if you struggle with identifying them, ask the Holy Spirit to give you eyes to see the blessings all around you.

As you do that, you will be praying without ceasing!

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “pray without ceasing,” we repeat that verse but often overlook the full sentence starting in verse 16, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

We are called by God to rejoice always, pray without ceasing and give thanks in all circumstances.

Why? Because it is the will of God in Christ Jesus. God knows that this is the best for you and me. A spiritual discipline that will produce a harvest of righteousness.

Good News for Sinners

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The following is for sinners. And that means that this message is for everyone.

John made it clear in the previous chapter, that if we are born of God, we are children of God, and that practicing righteousness, provides evidence that we are saved.

Dictionaries define righteousness as “behavior that is morally justifiable or right.”

The Bible’s standard of human righteousness is God’s own perfection in every attribute, every attitude, every behavior, and every word. The Bible describes the character of God and gives us the plumbline by which he measures human righteousness.

The apostle John is addressing people in the first century church, but it is the same people that we have also today in our churches all over the world. People who think they are Christians, but really, they are not born again. This is a shock tactic of John, that should make us all take a hard look at our lives.

The number one problem in the world today is sin. And only God can rescue us and solve this problem. In verse 4 we read that sin is breaking God’s law. Sin is a defiant rejection of God’s rightful rule over your life.

Daniel Akin wrote, “Sin is nothing less than personal treason against the Sovereign of the universe.

Because the problem with sin is so great, a great rescue was needed. That great rescue was in the form of the sinless lamb of God (John 1:29). Jesus is the only one who never sinned (1 John 3:5 and 2 Corinthians 5:21).

John continues his logic in verse 6, “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.”

As we abide in Christ, it is illogical and impossible to live in a consistent lifestyle of sin. If you continually practice sin, you haven’t encountered Jesus, let alone know him, or abide in him.

This does not mean Christians live in sinless perfection. The verb tenses in verse 6 and 9 point to an ongoing practice of willful rebellion against God with no remorse or desire for reconciliation.

If you are knowingly sinning and it doesn’t bother you, you have no relationship with Jesus, and you are not saved.

When we become followers of Jesus, we are born again, we take on a new nature. Sin no longer has control over us, and we are free from its enslaving power.  

As followers of Jesus, we are not without sin, but it is not our daily practice and as the Holy Spirit brings conviction, we repent of our sin and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can gain victory in that area of our lives. This is the process of sanctification.

We are in a titanic battle until the day Jesus calls us home or he returns (Hebrews 12:4).

John wrote this letter to challenge false teachers who were saying that it is possible to be a follower of Jesus and still be practicing sin. We have the same false teaching today and it is sending people to hell. There is a false Gospel that says, “God is love, He is full of grace and no matter what you do, He will never send you to hell, keep on sinning allowing the grace of God to bless you.”

This is a lie from Satan himself and it has infiltrated the church, convincing people that simply raising your hand or going forward in a meeting is enough to be saved, and you can live however you please (1 John 3:7). We should be concerned that people are being deceived about the seriousness of sin.

We need to be clear that we aren’t righteous because we do good things, we are righteous because we are in Christ. He is our righteousness. Abiding in Christ, with Jesus as Lord, we are positionally right with God and experientially we live that position out in acts of righteousness (Galatians 2:20).

Verse 8 explains the reason why Jesus came to the earth, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”

The devil means the accuser, and he has been lying, and destroying lives since the garden of Eden.

The Son of God came invading enemy territory and defeated Satan.

“God’s infiltration of rebel planet earth, was a search and destroy mission.” John Piper

Jesus destroyed Satan’s schemes on the cross and the empty tomb is proof of his victory over death and ours too.

To be saved we need to have a life altering conversion encounter (2 Corinthians 5:17).

John points out three clear distinguishing marks of conversion.

  • We have experienced the new birth.  

What does it mean to be born again? It is a miraculous work of God’s grace. There is a change of heart as we are convicted of sin, and we respond in repentance before God. We are transformed from the inside by the Holy Spirit. Every conversion is a radical conversion, moving from darkness into light.

When that happens, we get God’s seed abiding in us (1 John 3:9). God fills us and deposits His presence in us, abiding in us. We can only abide in Christ as God’s Spirit first abides in us. We will try in vain to overcome sin in our lives. We cannot do what only the creator of the universe can do.

  • God’s children don’t practice sin.

As followers of Jesus, we will not be able to make a practice of sinning. We don’t have to live in constant defeat (1 John 4:4). Are you living from your identity?

  • God’s children will love one another (1 John 3:10).

There are two very simple and fundamental tests for identifying a Christian:

A: Do you do what is right?

B: Do you love other believers?

True Christians are to love one another, not because we are forced to love each other, but because we love the spirit of Christ in each other.

When we despise other believers and gossip about them, we are living as an unbeliever, and we are serving the purposes of the devil.

“By a carpenter mankind was made, and only by that Carpenter can mankind be remade.” Desiderius Erasmus.

Have you been remade? Have you truly been born again?

Sermon, Sunday April 24, 2022 – A Life Like No Other

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Jonathan Haidt recently wrote, “Artificial intelligence is close to enabling the limitless spread of highly believable disinformation.”

We live in a world where truth is almost unbelievable because of the saturation of lies and false narratives that are being promoted globally. Objective truth has been denied and sadly many Christians do not turn to the Word of God for truth and discernment. We should not be surprised by the ever-increasing volume of lies and misinformation in a world where Satan has his domain (John 8:44)

In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”. Jesus embodies truth. He is truth. John the Beloved disciple of Jesus wrote three short letters to the church in and around Ephesus. The primary purpose of the letters was to counter false teaching, causing confusion in the early church. The primary lie that was being promoted in the early church in Asia Minor was that Jesus was not God.

The fact the Jesus is the creator God himself is the foundational truth of the church. If that is not true, then his death and resurrection have no redemptive purpose.

Looking at the first four verses of 1 John, the author focuses our gaze on the Word of Life, the Son of God. In these verses we will see three aspects of how we relate to the truth that is Jesus. It is essential that we get the correct understanding of this man who is fully God and fully man at the same time.

1: A passion to know Jesus.

John wants us to know Jesus, the Word of Life who came down from heaven, and by his life, death, and resurrection provided a way for us to have fellowship with God the Father, now and for eternity. In the first 2 verses, John highlights two key truths about the uniqueness of Jesus.

A: He Is Divine

He begins with, “that which was from the beginning.” And in verse 2, “the eternal life that was with the Father…”

Jesus has always eternally existed with the Father as God. There has never been a time when the Son did not exist (John 8:58 and John 10:30). There never was a time when the Son was not fully God.

B: He Is Human

In these same verses John makes a clear case for the humanity of Jesus. He speaks as an eyewitness of the life and ministry of Jesus. He speaks about hearing Jesus, seeing Jesus and touching Jesus. He was a real person.

At the time, there was a false teaching that John was countering, an early form of what is called “Gnosticism,” a term based on the Greek word that means knowledge. They believed that all matter was evil and that salvation is by a mystical spiritual knowledge. Some of the Gnostics taught that Jesus only appeared to be human.

It is essential that we believe that, Jesus really became a human being in the flesh (John 1:14).

John Piper wrote, “When God becomes a man, man ceases to be the measure of all things, and this man becomes the measure of all things. This is simply intolerable to the rebellious heart of men and women. The incarnation is a violation of the bill of human rights written by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It is totalitarian. It’s authoritarian! Imperialism! Despotism! Usurpation! Absolutism! Who does he think he is! GOD!”

2: Once we know Jesus, we will have a passion to Share Jesus.

“That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you…” 1 John 1:3a.

Jesus chose twelve men, and they were so impacted by following him that the world was turned upside down (Acts 17:6). They were ordinary uneducated men who were compelled to take this Gospel message to the entire world. What they had experienced in Jesus they wanted others to experience too.

Everyone in the Bible who encountered Jesus, was compelled to share Jesus with others. Many believers today excuse themselves from sharing the Gospel because they feel that they don’t have the gift of evangelism. But it is not about a spiritual gift, it is about encountering Jesus. Simply put, encountering Jesus leads to speaking about Jesus.

If you are not sharing Jesus, you are not encountering Jesus. Which begs the question, do you know Jesus?

And what is the purpose of this sharing? Verse 3 continues, “…so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

This sharing is an invitation to relationship with Jesus, and an added blessing is the family that we get introduced to as a result. The invitation is open to everyone.

This fellowship that we enjoy as the body of Christ is far deeper than a gathering of like-minded people, or a social club or a fraternity. We are invited into a family that transcends all earthly barriers. Christianity is all about relationships being restored, firstly our relationship with God, and then we get millions of brothers and sisters all around the world.

3: We will enjoy Jesus.

And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete” 1 John 1:4. John wrote this letter so that we might know the fulness of Joy. Jesus also said this in John 15:11.

That fullness of joy is ours through our friendship with one another and with God, who is now our Father. And all of it made possible by the gospel of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

As we walk this earth daily confronted by sin and pain, how can we experience joy?

The real issue is the difference between Joy and happiness. Happiness is short lived and dependent on external factors. Joy is peace based on security. We have Joy because we are in Christ and we have a certainty of his love for us, displayed on the cross and promised in his return.

To enjoy Jesus, we must receive him as he is; the eternal son of God, crucified, and raised back to life for our sins and coming back again. And as we submit to him as Lord, we will fully enjoy him.

Do you know this Jesus?

Are you sharing this Jesus?

Are you enjoying this Jesus?

Sermon, Sunday April 17, 2022

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In John 11, we read the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, and in John 11 verse 25, Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life…”

I want to make three observations from this amazing chapter.

First, why does God sometimes wait to answer our prayers?

In verse 6, we read that after receiving the news of his sick friend, Jesus decides to wait two days before travelling to Bethany. Jesus tells the messenger that Lazarus will not die.

From verse 5, we know that Jesus loved this family. The delay in responding to their prayers was not a denial of his love.

As we look at this account and apply it to our lives, we are the Mary’s and the Martha’s. We are praying for a miracle, and our Lazarus is something or someone that we hold dear and fear losing.

There are times in our lives when we cry out to God for a miracle, for a life situation that seems to be getting desperate, and we need God to save our Lazarus.

How often have you prayed asking God to intervene, but He did not respond immediately? We know God hears our prayers, but the answer is, “wait”.

Secondly, from John 11:20-27 and 32-37, it seems that sometimes God acts too late.  

Note the sequence of events. After receiving the message, Jesus waited for two days and then traveled to Bethany. When he arrived, Lazarus had been dead for four days. This means the messenger must have taken a day to travel to Jesus, Jesus took a      day to travel back to Bethany, and Lazarus must have died after the messenger left. So, when Jesus said, “This illness does not lead to death,” Lazarus was already dead! Did Jesus make a mistake? Or did Jesus mean something else?

The sisters noticed this (see John 11:21 and 32), and the people grieving with the family also noticed (see John 11:37). At times, this same tension exists in life. We are told that Jesus loves us. Yet we wrestle with unbelief when we don’t receive the relief from pain that we are asking for. And Satan loves to throw in seeds of doubt into our minds.

The Bible is full of accounts of men and women who suffered long after praying for a miracle. Why does God do this? Jesus said: for the glory of God! In John 11:4b Jesus said, “It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Instead of answering their prayers, Jesus showed empathy and deep emotion for their pain. Jesus feels and understands our pain (see Hebrews 4:15-16).

At times it may look like God has failed you, but He will never leave or forsake you. He is faithful to minister to you.

Jesus knew that Lazarus would soon be raised, and that their grief would turn to joy. Yet he took time to grieve with them. Jesus wasn’t putting on a show of emotions, and in verse 33, we read that Jesus was “deeply moved”. The Greek word means “indignant” or “enraged.” Jesus hates death, and he was angry at the suffering and grief that it caused. Jesus hates the effect of sin in the world, and death was not part of God’s original plan. Jesus came to defeat death, and he knew this was his enemy.

Jesus said to them in verse 23, ‘Your brother will rise again.’” Remember earlier on he said, “This illness does not lead to death.” It must be hard to trust what he is saying or promising the second time.

From the declaration of Jesus in John 11:25-26, we know that those who believe in Jesus will receive the resurrection power and life that is in him. They may die in the flesh, but we know that eternal life is found in Jesus (John 5:24, ESV). Those who believe in Jesus have passed from death to life. We were spiritually dead, but in Christ we are made alive in the spirit.

In verse 26, Jesus asked Martha, “do you believe this?”. To which she responded, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”  What a powerful declaration! Do you believe this?

Finally, we read in verses 38 to 44, that Jesus always keeps his promises. Jesus arrived at the tomb and requested that the stone be removed. Martha protested, struggling to trust Jesus again.

Jesus called Lazarus, and he came out from the tomb alive! Martha and Mary’s faith was vindicated. They simply chose to trust Jesus again.

God keeps His promises, and we can trust Him even when we don’t understand. God will fulfill His promise in His timing and for His glory!

As followers of the one and only person who is the resurrection and the life, we don’t have to fear death. Eternal life starts the moment you give your life to Christ.

Maybe today, you have already made Jesus Lord of your life, but you are wrestling with your faith. You have asked for something, and he seems to be waiting.  Even though you have the faith that he is able, it seems that the miracle is still not coming.

And just maybe it seems too late, the miracle that you were praying for seems to be too late. I want to remind you today of Psalm 145:13,

“Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,

 and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

The Lord is faithful in all his words
    and kind in all his works.”

God keeps His promises. He is never late, and we can trust Him with the outcome, even when we don’t understand it.

We serve a risen Savior, and one who always keeps his promises!

Sermon Sunday April 3, 2022 – Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

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We live in a time of fear and uncertainty, and the Bible is filled with relatable accounts of ordinary people wrestling with doubt and fear. The disciples of Jesus were thrown into confusion and doubt as Jesus began to explain to them what was going to happen as they celebrated the Passover meal. A night of celebration turned into a night of uncertainty and then terror as Jesus was arrested.

However, in chapter 14 Jesus begins by encouraging the disciples saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled”. How would they do this? Jesus continued in the rest of verse 1, “…you believe in God; believe also in me.” In other words, “trust me, like you trust God.”

Jesus continues to build their faith as he says in verse 6, “…I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus is clear that he is the only way. This is not widely accepted today, even in many so-called Christian circles. But Jesus is the only Son of God, who rose from the dead. Jesus Christ is the only way to be restored to a right relationship with God, the creator of Heaven and Earth. Wealth, fame, achievements, and good works are not good enough to bridge the divide caused by sin. The only thing that matters is our relationship with the living savior Jesus Christ (See Acts 4:12).

Jesus comforts his disciples by saying, “I am the way, the truth and life”.

  • Jesus is the way

Sadly, many people today are on the wrong path, and the result is deadly (See Proverbs 14:12). Jesus does not simply teach about the way to go; Jesus is the way.

We all get lost when we think that our way is the right way. Our pride causes us to persist along a path that ends up destroying us.

We are driven by various appetites, ambition, fear, desire for recognition and instead of changing direction when we realize our error, we push harder thinking it will ultimately lead to success. But ultimately, if it is not the perfect path that Jesus has for you, it will only cause pain. Jesus offers us a better way in Matthew 11:28-30. Jesus is the way to peace, freedom from addictions and a life of purpose.

Are you living a life that follows Jesus as the way? Or are you making your own way, hoping for the best.

  • Jesus is the truth

Truth is a regularly debated word in our culture. Is truth fixed? Many in our culture will argue that there is no such thing as objective truth, but by making that statement, they are making an objective statement. Daily we are inundated with information that claims to be factual, but is it really?

Jesus is truth and it leads us to peace (see Isaiah 26:3). What is your mind fixed on? What consumes your thoughts? Paul encourages us to, “Take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

We do this by aligning our thoughts with the Word of God and meditating on the Truth (see Philippians 4:8). The truth isn’t an opinion, truth is a person, and his name is Jesus. And truth is found in his Word, which can set us free from the lies that we believe.

In the building industry, a true wall is one that follows a plumbline.  A true line does not deviate from its path. Jesus is true in that he is the exact representation of God the Father (see John 14:9). Not only does Jesus reveal the truth of God to us, he displays the nature and Character of God.

As Christians we are to be people of the truth, people so aligned with Jesus that we are known for our integrity and honesty, even when it costs (see Ephesians 4:25).

  • Jesus is the life.

Unless Jesus returns, we will all experience a physical death. However, through Jesus we no longer have to fear death, because he defeated the grave.

But there are other deaths that we experience. Sometimes we experience the death of hope or dreams that we held.  Even though we pray and cry out to God, we don’t see the miracle we are praying for.

Some are dying because they have allowed the enemy to steal their joy, killing their peace and contentment.  

There are some whose marriage seems like it’s dying. Some see the death of a close relationship; Satan has slowly eaten away at the relationship and now it is dying.

But Jesus came to give us life, which means there’s nothing that’s dead or seems dead that he can’t bring back to life because the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in you (see 1 Peter 1:3).

The Bible is a book all about life; in the Garden of Eden, we read about the tree of life, in the book of revelation we read about the river of the water of life flowing from the throne of God. And between those two books, the other 64 books are the history of life. Unfortunately, today we have Christians who do not fully realize this life.  The degree to which we as the church are fully alive in Christ, determines our effectiveness of bringing life and salvation to our community. Being led by the spirit we will be truly alive in Christ, and as a result, our community will be changed for the glory of God.

Are you truly alive in Christ? Or are you going through life just getting by, but numbed by the cares and entertainment of the world?

Thomas A Kempis wrote,without the way there is no going; without the truth there is no knowing; without the life there is no living”. Are you truly living?

Unfortunately, many people make the mental decision to agree with the gospel message, but then slip back into a state of passivity. What a waste of a life that has unlimited potential in Christ! Sadly, many people are trying so hard to stay alive, yet they are spiritually dead. Don’t be so in love with this world and the temporary things of this world that you slowly stop living for God.

Sermon Sunday March 27, 2022 – I am the Good Shepherd – John 10:1-15

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In John 10 verse 11, Jesus called himself, the Good Shepherd, contrasting himself to a hired hand who simply cares for the sheep to get paid. Then Jesus called the Pharisees, “hired hands” in verse 12.

Jesus continues (verse 11 and 15) to say that the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. To those listening, a shepherd was supposed to be brave and fight off wild animals, but dying for the sheep was a tragedy and not the intention of the shepherd.

In John 10, Jesus stated five times that he was going to lay down his own life, and Jesus clearly affirmed the sacrificial nature of His death. He did not die as a martyr, he died as a substitute, willingly laying down his life for us. Remember how John the Baptist identified Jesus when he met him (see John 1:29).

Furthermore in John 10:14 Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.” How well do you know Jesus?

When we think of Jesus as the Good Shepherd many of us think of Psalm 23. It is a wonderful Psalm, but utterly meaningless if you don’t know the Shepherd personally. When you go to church or open the Bible, do you simply want to know about God, or do you desire to know Him personally. This is the personal relationship that Jesus offers us.  

Because God knows our natures, He also knows our needs before we are even aware of them. As the shepherd cares for the sheep, the sheep get to know their shepherd better. The Good Shepherd knows His sheep and His sheep know Him. They get to know Him better by listening to His voice (the Word) and experiencing His daily care.

There are three important aspects between the Shepherd and his sheep.

1: The Shepherd knows his sheep.

The Bible describes close relationships between shepherds and their flocks (See John 10:14-15a). There is an intimacy and a closeness of relationship between Jesus and his followers. Jesus goes on to say in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me…”

In the Gospel of John, the word “know” means much more than intellectual awareness. It speaks of an intimate relationship between God and His people. The shepherd knows each of his sheep personally and therefore knows best how to care for them.

How is your relationship with Jesus? Do you listen for his voice daily? Are you following him as he leads you besides still waters? This is the normal Christian life.

Christ, as the Good Shepherd, knows his sheep perfectly. There is nothing about you that he does not know, from the most obvious to what you think is the most hidden, he knows it all!

Spend a few minutes reading and meditating on Psalm 139:1-4. Verse 4 says, “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.”

He doesn’t just know it after I say it, he knows it before I say it. Who else would we want to know us this well but the one who promises to be with us, to hem us in, to safeguard us, and to minister to us in our weakness? (Psalm 139:5).

Wherever I go, Christ is with me. He surrounds me and never abandons me, because he knows me. He knows that I am weak, and that I need the good shepherd. He gently cares for us and deals with us according to our need.

2: The Good Shepherd Protects His Sheep.

Jesus willingly died in order to save us. It is through his sacrifice that we are protected.

D.A. Carson wrote, “The shepherd does not die for his sheep to serve as an example, throwing himself off a cliff in a grotesque and futile display, while bellowing, ‘See how much I love you!’ No, the assumption is that the sheep are in mortal danger; that in their defense, the shepherd loses his life; and that by his death (and only by his death) could they be saved. This is what makes him the good shepherd above all else: he willingly dies for his sheep, to protect them.”

Normally, if a shepherd dies, the flock is abandoned to wild animals. There is no-one to protect them. So it is never a good thing for the shepherd to die.

In contrast Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, knows that if he does not die, his flock will be abandoned. Jesus is intentional about the sacrifice he offers. Jesus said in both verses 11 and 14, “I lay down my life for the sheep.” A shepherd may be willing to sacrifice his life, but Jesus doesn’t just say that he’s willing. He’s planning and pursuing it. It was his knowledge of what we needed and his willingness to meet that need that led to his death.

It wasn’t the power of Satan or even the Roman Empire, but the authority of the Son, that leads him to lay down his life, so that he might take it up again for us.

3: The Good Shepherd Provides for His Sheep

In Genesis 22 Isaac was spared and God provided a ram to be the sacrifice (see Genesis 22:14). We are introduced to God as our provider. A foreshadowing of the time when the Good Shepherd would lay down his life for his sheep.

It is still true today that the Good Shepherd is providing for his sheep even in the midst of the multiple crises that the world is facing. Our Good Shepherd sees us and provides for us.  

The last verse of Psalm 23 says, “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life…” God’s goodness is guaranteed for all our days.

God is still providing manna and multiplying food for the multitudes (see Philippians 4:19). The Lord knows what you need even before you do. Goodness and mercy follow you all the days of your life: it’s a promise that’s evidenced in his great provision in sacrificing himself for us. He provides for us now and will provide for you forevermore.

Do you know the Good Shepherd?

Sermon Sunday March 13, 2022 – I AM the Light of the World.

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I am the light of the World – John 8:12

Let’s be honest, we have all been afraid of the dark at some point in our lives. Clinical Psychologist Alicia Clark said, “We are not as afraid of the dark as we are afraid of what is in the dark that we can’t see.”

That’s why this “I AM” declaration of Jesus is so powerful, …” I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Jesus provides light where there is darkness like a flashlight or lantern, so we know we are not alone. Jesus also shines a light for us along the path of life, directing us as we go.

But there is so much more to this statement. We read in John’s introduction to the Gospel, “In him was life and that life was the light of all mankind” (John 1:4). The first few verses of John chapter 1 point us to Genesis 1 and in verse 3 we read, “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”

Jesus, the very source of light, said “Let there be light” at creation. Now, he’s saying it again, “Let there be light.” This time he’s depositing that light into us who believe.

During the second world war, the people in Britain would set lights out in the field so that the German bombers would bomb the lights in empty fields thinking they were hitting a factory or town. The light didn’t need a sign telling the pilots that they were there, they testified for themselves.

Light bears witness to itself, it tells you it is there, and Jesus told the Pharisees this in John 8:14. Jesus didn’t need another witness, he gave witness and God the Father gave witness to them through His word (see John 5:37-38).

How tragic that these experts in the Law did not even know their own Messiah as he stood before them! They claimed to know the Law of God, but they did not know the God of the Law. They did not have His Word abiding in their hearts. They saw the light of Jesus but did not acknowledge it or believe in him.

To be a follower of Jesus, is to believe in him, to submit to his lordship over your life and have the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life. As a result, we become Christ’s ambassadors, we become the lights of the world, representing Christ.

In the sermon on the mount, in Matthew 5, Jesus said to his disciples that they were the light of the world (see Matthew 5:14-16). The problem with many so called “Christians” is that they compartmentalize their lives. They are Sunday Christians, but during the week, they are far from Christ’s ambassadors. They do not shine the light of Christ before their co-workers or even their families.

You will not be able to shine the light of Christ to those around you unless you truly have an encounter with the living God.

In Exodus 34, we see that Moses’ face shone, it radiated light from spending forty days on top of mount Sinai in the presence of God when he received the law for the Children of Israel. You might say, “well, that is Moses, he was in the presence of God, naturally his face shone.” But those who are true followers of Jesus have an even better position with God. In Ephesians 2:6 we read, And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,”

We have to remember that we have the Holy Spirit, and we have the privilege to enter into the presence of God. That is why it is crucial to set aside a daily time with the Lord in prayer, and his word. As you do, the world notices, you shine because, like Moses, you have been with the Father. Does your life shine with the light of Christ? This is what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 5:14-16.

Jesus places his light into us who believe, and his light source is actually life. The light of Jesus in us is life that will keep us living for eternity. The light is also to be dispersed from us to produce good works that will bring glory to God.

What does John 8:12 mean for you today? “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

We all face darkness and uncertainty in our lives. In fact, the greatest epidemic in the world today is not COVID, it is fear. Fear and uncertainty are all around us. Just ask your neighbor or co-worker. The media fuels this and the marketing companies feed on this. They know that if they can tap into your fears, they can take advantage of you. Fear is formed in the darkness of uncertainty.

Jesus said, “…whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” John 8:12b. If you claim to be a follower of Jesus, but you are overwhelmed by fear and uncertainty, either you don’t know who you are in Christ or you aren’t a true follower of the one who is the light of the world.

Ephesians 5 we read, “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:13-14.

Allow the light of Christ to shine on you and through you to a lost and dying world.

Sermon Sunday March 6, 2022 “I am the Bread of Life”.

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How easily do you get offended?

Jesus was not afraid to offend in order to reveal the heart. In John 6:35, Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life…” And it offended his followers.

(Please read John chapter 6 before reading any further.)

Aware that his disciples were grumbling about his statement, he said in verse 61, “Does this offend you?”

Throughout his time on the earth, Jesus asked many great questions, but this is one of the best.

The Greek verb for offense here is “Scandalizo”, which means to cause to trip or stumble.                       

When’s the last time Jesus offended you

What causes us to stumble in the Gospel’s?

How about…

  • Blessed are the meek? (Matthew 5:5)
  • Love your enemies? (Matthew 5:44)
  • Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. (Luke 6:28)
  • For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.  (Matthew 7:14)
  • Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  (Matthew 7:21)

As we read the Bible we should be “tripped up” all the time as our neatly packaged Western Christian mindset is challenged. It’s one of the only ways that we know that we’re truly following Jesus and not crafting him into our image, squeezing him through the lens of our expectations and sensibilities.

There are two reasons why we should be offended by Jesus.  

1. Jesus wants to confront our idols.

Jesus should always be offending our; theology, politics, lifestyles and our love for comfort and possessions (1 Corinthians 1:23).                      

Today, Christianity, true Biblical Christianity will still offend us and the world around us.

At the core of this is the question of Lordship. Jesus wants no other competing affection or anything that takes the place or priority of Jesus in our decision making.

2. Jesus wants us to grow more into his image.

The offense of Jesus is one of the best and most effective ways for us to grow into who he wants us to be (1 John 2:5-6).

We are saved to be transformed into the image of Christ and yet too many so-called Christians have a “jesus”, that they have created in their own image. One who will never confront their sin, who will never rebuke them and never ask them to give up anything. That is not Biblical Christianity.                              

When Jesus said, “I am…”, his followers were offended that he was referring to himself in the same way God revealed himself to Moses in Exodus 3.

They were offended when he said that the manna from Heaven was not as lasting as his own Bread.

They were offended when he declared that he was better than Moses.

And they were offended when Jesus said that they would have to eat his flesh and drink his blood.

We must remember that Jesus said everything he said with specific intent. He is not putting down Moses, the Manna, and their worship, rather he was saying, “I am the fulfillment of those things that were simply a picture”.

Jesus had to offend them to reveal the truth to them of who he was. And so must he do with us!

Sometimes we need to be offended by the truth of who Jesus is in order to put away some of what we have believed or been taught about who Jesus really is.

We get offended, we wrestle with truth and it is uncomfortable. However, we need to be confronted in order to grow in our Christian walk.

So, we need to experience his transformational offense in our lives for our own good.

Here are three practical ways that we can invite Jesus to offend us.

1.           Read the gospels and the Bible. Repeatedly.

As we read things in the Bible that we don’t know what to do with, we are challenged, and if we are honest, we get offended, and it is good for us as we wrestle with the truth.

2.           Invite his Spirit to offend. As we read the Word, invite the Holy Spirit to bring conviction and truth to us (Psalm 139:23-24).

3.           Allow people into your life who will speak truth.                                   

Who’s someone in your life that has offended you deeply and yet, it was the best thing that could have ever happened to you?

Sadly, we live in a culture where if someone offends you, you simply walk away. We sever relationship and maybe even leave the church. Rather, we should be pressing through the offense, growing through the truth and granting grace for one another in the process.

If Jesus offends you, either through his Word, the Holy Spirit, or through another believer who you trust, ask, “What about that offends me? Why?”

If you believe and receive the truth it becomes healthy to you. We grow through those experiences. But, in order to grow, we have to confront them.                                                                                                    When Jesus offended the disciples with the truth, many left him as we read in John 6:66. Jesus turns to the twelve in verse 67 and says, “do you want to go away as well?”

Peter quickly responds, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:68-69

What are you wrestling with today?

Maybe there is a difficult scripture that doesn’t fit your view of who God is?

Maybe you are offended at God because of a prayer that was not answered the way you wanted it to be answered?

Maybe you have an offense toward someone else in the church, who spoke the truth and you rejected it.

Humbly lean into the offense and see what the Lord might be teaching you. Ask a trusted Christian who has walked with the Lord for many years, and allow Jesus to continue to conform you into His image.

Sermon, Sunday August 1, 2021, The Holiness of God

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Have you discovered the purpose for your existence?

That’s a deep question, but the answer is very simple and yet infinitely complex.

I am reminded of a frequently used phrase, “God loves you and has a plan for your life”.

While that sounds good and it is true, it is not the overarching truth. If we really think about it, the subject of the sentence is, “you” and ultimately that comes from our humanistic focus on self.

God is about God. It really is all about His glory being displayed in all the universe. That sounds harsh to our western ears, because we are so consumed with our own glory and achievements. But the reality is that God is the only uncreated One, from whom all other beings owe their existence, and He is infinitely holy.

Instead of, “God loves you and has a plan for your life”, I propose that, “God’s plan for your life is the display of His glory.”

I want to try to answer two questions:

  1. What is the glory of God?
  2. How do we display the glory of God?

In Romans 11 we see a chapter that some scholars say sums up the entire narrative of the Bible. It is all about God’s plan and purpose for the people of Israel. As Paul writes verses 33 to 36 of chapter 11, it is as if he is reaching the crescendo of a symphony and flows into praise of God.

Verse 36 is the cymbal crash of the chapter, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen”.

God is the source, the means, and the goal of all things. That is so contrary to what we see portrayed in the world around us and sadly in many churches, where we ultimately see that the god that many people worship is created in their own image.   

  1. But what is the glory of God?

John Piper said, “The glory of God is the manifest beauty of his holiness. It is the going-public of his holiness.”

The word Holy means to be separate, a distinctly different being, in a class all by Himself. The holiness of God is the foundational quality of His character.

In Isaiah 6:3, the prophet has a vision of heaven where he sees the Seraphim calling to one another above the throne of God, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

The heavenly creatures, declare the holiness of God and then say that His glory is over the whole earth, not His holiness. The Glory of God is the public display of His holiness (see Psalm 19:1 and Psalm 8:1).

2. So how do we display the glory of God?

Verse 36 tells us that every believer has their source in God. So, as we live on this earth in this church age, we are part of the glory of God being displayed. We get to reflect His glory. We are designed to make the glory of God shine, making it visible to others (see Matthew 5:16 and 2 Corinthians 4:6-7). People seeing your life on display, should declare, “God is glorious!”.

Once again, we run into the idol of self and our culture of humanism. We must realize that God does not need us, but He chose to create us in His image for His glory (see Isaiah 43:7).

The Westminster Catechism begins with the question, “What is the chief end of man?”. To which they answered, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” If we really grasped this, we would realize that we have been created for so much more than we can ever imagine.

But our flesh rises up and says, “hey, what’s in it for me?” If we are honest, we might believe that God is not concerned about us, He is using us for His glory. However, when we live as God intends us to live, we are most satisfied. The answer to the first question of the Westminster Catechism is two-fold, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”

As we glorify God, we experience joy, the joy of living out our original design (see Psalm 73:25-26)

So, the question is, am I satisfied in God? Is He enough? Do I have full satisfaction in God, or do I chase after the things of this world? We chase after good things; friends, health, careers, family and also not good things; wealth, sex, fame, to name a few.

We chase after things, because we don’t find full satisfaction in God.

John Piper writes, “He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

We struggle to grasp this, because we are so easily satisfied with the things of this world.

C.S. Lewis described it perfectly, “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

  • We display the Glory of God, when we serve gladly and give sacrificially of our time and our resources.
  • We display the glory of God, when we put our agenda on hold to help someone or stop to pray for them.
  • We display the glory of God when we share the Gospel with someone.
  • We display the glory of God when we care for the widows and the orphans and stand up for the unborn.
  • We display the glory of God when we boldly take a stand against the immoral mainstream of our culture.

These are just some of the many examples of what it means to be living for the glory of God.

What if we woke up every morning with the prayer, “Lord display Your glory through my life today?”

Sermon, Sunday January 31 2021 – The Sanctity of Life

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Psalm 8

Do you know your net worth?

What if I told you that your net worth is infinitely more than you can imagine?

It may shock you that in America today there is an abortion every 96 seconds, or 2362 Lives taken every day. As tragic as that is, there is a sinister and extremely worrying shift that has taken place in our world today. With an increase in atheism and godless narcissism, life is under attack at both ends of the spectrum, the unborn, the elderly, and even the disabled.

When it comes to the sanctity of life, Psalm 8 has a poignant message for us. No other Psalm draws attention to the dignity and value of mankind as this one. It begins and ends with worship, placing God the creator of all things, at the place of ultimate worship and glory.

In verse 2, the Psalm then takes a sharp turn, from the glory and majesty of God, to the weak and helpless babies and infants. Of all the scriptures speaking to the sanctity of human life, this one gives us the clearest evidence of why Satan is on a mission to destroy the unborn. Abortion is not a decision regarding freedom of choice, it is a war against the giver of life Himself.

Jesus himself quoted this verse in Matthew 21. He had just cleared the temple of the money changers and the traders, there was pandemonium, and the children were running around the temple shouting, “hosanna to the son of David!”. The chief priests are furious, but Jesus simply quotes this verse and leaves.

There is tremendous power in the prayer and praises of innocent children. If you are struggling to pray, invite your children into the prayer time.  There is power in the praises of children to break down spiritual walls of opposition. Satan quakes at the sound of children praying.

In 2007 we took a mission planning trip to Philadelphia as a family. Joshua was ten days old at the time. On one of the days, we decided to visit some historic sites and took the tour of Independence hall, the room where the declaration of independence was adopted on July 4th, 1776. As we were listening to the tour guide, he wanted to find the youngest person in the room. Joshua was by far the youngest and Debbie took him to the front. As he looked at Joshua, he made his point, “here is the person in the room with the greatest potential”.

At the time we thought his statement was quite special, but Joshua’s life has been filled with challenges. He has Autism, Epilepsy, and a host of other diagnoses. On two occasions, we have sat at his hospital bed, not sure if he was going to wake up.

Today, does Joshua still have that potential?

We say, “absolutely”, the fact that the enemy tried to destroy him, points to the fact that God has a special calling and purpose for his life. Every life is valuable and has unlimited potential when given over to the calling and purposes of God.

The Psalmist then goes back to gazing at the magnificence of the universe – the general revelation of God (Psalm 8:3-4). If you are struggling to worship and encounter God in your daily life, take a few minutes on a cloudless night and look up at the sky. Within a few moments you will be worshipping as you see a glimpse of the magnificence of God.

The next two verses of the Psalm seem jarring considering the world we live in today. Some educators and environmentalists tell us that the world would be perfect, if only mankind was eliminated. According to them, man is the problem, the weak link in the order of things.

Considering what we see in Hebrews 2, we know that Psalm 8, is a messianic Psalm. Verses 5 and 6 find their fulfillment in Jesus. When Jesus died and rose again, God put all things under his authority (Hebrews 2:8).

It was God’s original plan in Genesis chapter 1 for mankind to have dominion over creation.

But when Adam sinned, he lost that dominion. The original sin damaged the original design. Instead of being a king, mankind has become a slave.

When Jesus came, he began to show us the original design of God. Jesus displayed in many miraculous ways, the power and dominion that he has over creation, by calming storms, commanding fish, walking on water, multiplying food and much more.  The fact that Jesus died and rose again, is all the assurance we need that one day, when he returns, his people will reign over a renewed earth. Jesus is the firstborn of the new creation; he has the first resurrected body that is incorruptible and eternal.

What makes mankind so incredibly valuable, is that we are created in the image of God and as followers of Jesus, we have been adopted by God and have become co-heirs with Christ. God places no greater value on any other part of creation.

Post-modern teaching has lowered man to an animal and rejected the image of God in creation. All around us, we are seeing the effects of this because we don’t see human beings as being created in the image of God.

Whenever you are tempted to gossip or speak angrily to someone, remember they are created in the image of God. Next time you are tempted to dismiss someone or look down on them for their dress or personal decisions, remember that they are created in the image of God and God views them with incredible love and value.

This applies to all people, the unbeliever, the criminal, the homosexual, the disabled, the elderly, those suffering from Alzheimer’s or any other debilitating illness, it does not matter. God puts priceless value on every human being. Even those that the world says are of no value.

The value of something is based on the price someone is willing to pay for it.

How much is someone willing to pay for you?

Your creator has demonstrated your value (Romans 5:8).

Jesus gave his life for you and he redeemed you.  The cost of your redemption was the perfect priceless spotless lamb of God.

You are infinitely valuable (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

How does this fact change the way you view yourself and the people in your life?