Sermon, Sunday August 25, 2019 – The Healthy Church Part 1

Acts 2:41-47

What is a healthy church? 1 Corinthians 12 describes the church as a body, with each part functioning well so that the whole body is healthy. But we are all broken and hurting people, how can we function together as a healthy body?

In Acts 2, we have a model of a healthy church. One hundred and twenty followers of Jesus, waiting in the upper room, were filled with the Holy Spirit and they went into the streets proclaiming the Gospel message. Three Thousand people were added to the church that day and this same church has influenced every church for the past two thousand years. But what was their secret?

The past three months have been filled with mission trips and praying for those going out to share the message of the Gospel, focusing on the lost in our city and across the nations.

This is all good, but a church that only looks at missions without caring about the discipleship of the members is not healthy. Just like a church that focuses only inward is not healthy.

There needs to be a balance of equipping (discipleship) and mission (going out).

Athletic trainers will tell you that a strong core is vital for all the body to function well, and spend hours strengthening the core. If the core is weak, the whole body is weak and cannot operate at its best. The same applies to the analogy of the church as a body. If the core of the church is weak, the whole body does not function well.

The early church was more than a gathering of like-minded believers who came together once a week for a time of fellowship and worship. It was a body of fully committed people, committed to the lordship of Jesus Christ personally, and committed to each other in fellowship and unity. This church was the healthiest and most effective the church has ever been.

Acts 2:42 begins with the phrase, “And they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching…”

Devotion means a regular observance. Individual committed devotion is a sign of genuine salvation. Someone who does not desire to spend time daily in God’s word is probably not filled with the Holy Spirit and probably not saved. Saying that you do not desire to read God’s Word regularly is like saying that you are alive, but don’t need to drink water. The foundational mark of a true believer is someone who abides in Christ, who feeds on God’s word (see John 8:31).

So, what were they teaching? The Apostles had sat under the greatest teacher of all time for three years. In the upper room at Pentecost, they were filled with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth and now they were teaching the new believers who in turn taught others. This is the pattern of the early church and sadly something that we have lost in the church. We have developed this understanding that only the pastor or person who has a master’s degree in theology can teach. We all need to carefully study doctrine, know what we believe, why we believe it and then be able to teach it. This message is intended to come to us and then flow through us (2 Timothy 2:2).

In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), Jesus commands all of us to make disciples, to win converts and disciple them. This is not only a command to go to the ends of the earth, but also to the person sitting next to you, or the young person who is desperate for a mentor, a role model to help them walk out the Christian life in the twenty-first century.

The Dead sea is the lowest body of water on the planet and lies between Israel and Jordan. The river Jordan flows into it from the sea of Galilee but does not flow out of it. As a result, the Dead sea has ten times the concentration of salt than the oceans and is unable to sustain any life. This is a picture of many individuals and even churches who pride themselves on their theological knowledge, amassing more and more teaching, but never applying the word.

Such people and churches are deep, salty and dead!

A healthy body of water allows the life-giving resource to flow in and then out again, feeding another pond or stream. Are you stagnating on the word? Or are you allowing the word to flow through you to others?

The early church focused on the resurrection of Jesus and the Gospel message, they preached John 14:6. The Gospel is the good news that Jesus is the eternal Son of God, who spoke all of creation into being. He came to earth in the form of a baby, his mother Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit. Jesus lived a perfect life, he was crucified and buried, but he rose again on the third day, overcoming death and paying the price of the judgment of God for our sins. This Jesus ascended into heaven, where he is seated at the right hand of the Father and where he is preparing praying for us and preparing a place for us to be with him. This same Jesus is coming again to restore all things and judge the earth.

This Gospel message is the message that saves us, but it is also the message that sustains us and keeps us growing in our own personal walk with the Lord. John Piper said, “Therefore, the gospel is the power that gives us victory over temptation to despair and to pride and to greed and to lust. The gospel alone can triumph over every obstacle and bring us to eternal joy.”

We have the blessing of the eternal Word of God and a healthy church loves to devote themselves to the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17 and Hebrews 4:12).

The church and individual that studies and meditates on the Word of God will be healthy.

Jonathan Edwards, the 18th century theologian defined 5 metrics for determining a genuine move of the Holy Spirit in a church.

  1. A growing esteem for Jesus Christ.
  2. A discernible spirit of repentance.
  3. A dogged devotion to the Word of God.
  4. An interest in theology and doctrine.
  5. An evident love for God and neighbor.

Are you healthy?

Pray that God the Holy Spirit gives you a passion for the Word of God, and it will bring you life (Proverbs 4:20-22).

Sermon – April 21, 2019 Resurrection Sunday

He is Risen!

We were all struck by the spectacle of the fire that destroyed the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.

As I was watching the coverage, somthing struck me, I began thinking about why this burning building caused so much grief and angst. One of the reasons was that we as God’s created beings, desire transcendence, we have a desire for something that endures beyond our lives. We desperately want to know that eternity is real and achievable. The thought that everything around us that we see will one day fall to decay is simply too hard for us to face (see Ecclesiastes 3:11).

We were made for so much more than the accumulation of wealth, knowledge and the pursuit of comfort and happiness, we were made for eternal glory with Jesus.

On Easter Sunday, we celebrate the fact that Jesus rose from the dead and that he paid the price for our eternal salvation. Isaiah 53 is one of the clearest Old Testament prophetic Scriptures that points to the death and resurrection of Jesus. These words also remind us that Jesus was not a victim of a terribly botched trial, or mistaken identity. Jesus was the creator God, who took on flesh, was born and lived at a specific time in history to die on a Roman cross and then to be raised to life. Only Jesus could do what He did, only Jesus who was fully God and fully man, was the one who could pay the price for the sins of man.

In Isaiah 53:10-12 we see five key attributes of Jesus, starting at verse 10a, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt,”
Jesus is – the Perfect Sacrifice.

Under the Law of Moses, there were multiple different offerings, the prophet Isaiah wrote that Jesus was a guilt offering. The guilt offering was to provide a way to be cleansed from unintentional sin, or a way to provide restitution when someone has been personally wronged because of a sinner’s actions. Jesus knows what sins we have committed in the past, but the guilt offering was for unintentional or yet unknown sin. On the cross, Jesus paid the price for our sins and for the sins we are yet to commit even our unintentional sins. Does this mean I sin without consequence? Absolutely not, it was our sin that drove Jesus to the cross, past present and future. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice, the only pure spotless lamb of God (see Hebrews 10:11-14).

Jesus is – the Risen Lord.

Jesus is alive! Isaiah 53:10b-11a says, “he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;”

Only living people see their offspring, only living people have extended days and prosper.

This is the line in the sand that differentiates Christianity from any other world religion. Our God is alive, the tomb where he was buried was only occupied for a few days. Paul clearly stated this in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6, this is the Good News, he is risen!

Not only that, Jesus was raised with a body that will never decay, the same kind that we will also get one day if we believe in Jesus as Lord. The resurrection of Jesus is our glorious hope of a certain eternal future.

Jesus is – our Righteousness.

Isaiah 53:11b, “by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.”

The word righteous means that there is no longer a need for justice or punishment. For the Christian, to be righteous means to be in right standing before God. This is the privilege that we have as those covered by the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. We cannot stand before the all-holy God without the righteousness of Christ.

Without the righteousness of Christ, we have no hope of any sin being forgiven, but because of what he had done, no sin is too great for his forgiveness.

In Isaiah 64, we read that those who trust in their own righteousness or good works, are described as filthy rags in God’s sight. There is no good work that we could do that would make us righteous.  Nothing we can do will make us righteous before God, only through Jesus can we stand righteous before the all-holy God

In Jeremiah 23:6 we read that Jesus is Jehovah Tsidkenu, meaning Jehovah is our righteousness.

Our being in right standing with God is only because of us placing our faith in the completed work of Jesus on the cross. Righteousness comes through faith.

Jesus is our Inheritance

Isaiah 53:12a, “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,

The Bible is full of references to the inheritance believers have in Christ (see Ephesians 1:11).

Our inheritance is the sum of all God has promised us in salvation. Our inheritance is not dependent on our works, our inheritance is based on our family, being part of the family of God, being a Christian makes us heirs along with Christ (See Romans 8:16-17).

When we understand and value the glory that awaits us, we are better able to endure whatever comes our way in this life. With an eternal perspective, we realize that this life is gone in a flash and eternity awaits us all. We can praise God during trials because we have His guarantee that we will receive all He has promised (see 2 Corinthians 4:17).

Jesus is our Advocate.

Isaiah 53:12 closes, “because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many and makes intercession for the transgressors.”

An advocate is someone who pleads the cause of another before a court or tribunal, Jesus is our advocate (see 1 John 2:1).

Jesus, the creator of the universe, gave his life for you, and now he is seated next to God the father and he is pleading and advocating for us (see Hebrews 7:23-25).

In addition to this, Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Do you know Jesus?

January 17, 2019 Sanctity of Human Life Day

Life and Adoption

On January 13, 1984, President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation designating January 22 as the first National Sanctity of Human Life Day. (January 22, 1973, was the day the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion-on-demand in all 50 states.) Churches around the United States use the day to celebrate God’s gift of life, commemorate the many lives lost to abortion, and commit themselves to protecting human life at every stage. This year, Americans will celebrate life on January 20, this coming Sunday.

The National Sanctity of Human Life Day, is more than a fight to end the horror of abortion, the church must also see the need to protect and take in those that are born despite the efforts of the abortion industry. As we pray for the ending of abortion, we must be equipping ourselves to care for the orphans, James 1:27. As you know, Debbie and I have adopted our two children. They have brought us such joy and blessing, but also as they have come to terms with their adoption, they have gained a unique insight into God’s heart for adoption.

Recently Christie gave a speech for her school assembly and I asked her permission to share an excerpt from that speech in this article. This is what she shared with her schoolmates and teachers.

———

A lot of the time when you think of adoption you think of parents taking an orphan in and making them apart of their family, but that isn’t the only type of adoption.

I was adopted at the age of 6. I wasn’t an actual orphan, but I was in a position far worse: I was a stranger to the family of God. Now as a 6-year-old you may not understand everything about being Christian, but as you get older you will understand what it truly means. When you become a Christian and understand the sacrifice Jesus made, you too have been adopted. Maybe not physically, I know some have, but spiritually.

Galatians 4:4-7 says,” But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the spirit of adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father’. So, you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also heir.”

God the righteous judge is our merciful Father. Romans 8:14 says,” For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.

No matter what we have done in the past or what is to come, God is our merciful Father.

———

Christie ended her speech with an altar call and a number of children responded.

Christie was legally adopted before she turned one, but she was adopted into the family of God at the age of 6. I praise God that He is the perfect Father. Have you been adopted?

Sermon December 30, 2018 Redeeming the Time

Ephesians 5:11-21

The end of a year is a time of reflection and looking back, reminding ourselves of the good and bad times of the past year. But also, it is a time of looking forward and making resolutions. Sadly, the truth is, if you are waiting till the first of the year to start something new or to quit a bad habit, you probably won’t stick with your resolution. If something was important to you, you would not wait until the first of the year to do it.

Life is short, and life consists of millions of decisions as to how we spend our time. When faced with the end of our lives here on the earth, many people will regret the time wasted watching T.V. or the time spent on social media or being entertained. The vast majority of people will regret not spending time with loved ones or not taking a step of faith when God called you to serve Him. Many people will regret not taking the time to share the Gospel with a loved one or a neighbor. When we are faced with the reality of the brevity of life, what is really important stands out.

In Ephesians 5:11-21, Paul is pleading with the church to leave behind their lifestyle of sin, to let the light of God shine on their lives so that their sin is exposed, and they can begin walking in freedom. In verse 14 Paul paraphrases what could be a portion from Isaiah 60, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” I believe this is a call to the 21st century church. Wake up, because as the days are rushing by, it appears that the world is spinning out of control and it is likely that Jesus is coming soon. We as Christians need to wake up and begin to live out our God given calling, to take the Gospel message to a lost and dying world.

In verse 16, Paul writes, “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil”

Some translations say, “redeeming the time”. Redeeming, means to rescue something from loss or to pay a price to recover (reclaim) something from bondage. This is like having a lien on a property which will only be released when the loan is repaid. Slaves were redeemed by being set free because the purchase price for their freedom was paid, they were redeemed.

When it comes to time, so many of us are slaves to time, we are controlled and are in bondage by our wasteful use of time. Charles Hummel called this the “tyranny of the urgent”. We are under the tyrannical control of the urgent things in our life, when the truly important things get pushed to the side. Every-day is a treasure chest of opportunities, we get 24 hours to either redeem the true value or waste and squander the opportunities presented to us.

How do you value the time God has given you today?

The Bible calls Jesus our redeemer. Salvation is not only a certainty of eternal life in the presence of God. Jesus is the savior of our today and our tomorrow while here on the earth.

Jesus is called the redeemer because his perfect sacrifice pays the debt we humans owe because of our sin nature. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 6:20, that those who have repented and have made Jesus Lord over their lives are “bought with a price”.

Paul continues in verse 16, “redeem the time because the days are evil”, We don’t need a reminder to know that the days we are living in are evil, we simply turn on the evening news.

Paul encourages us to not sit idly by and let the darkness of this world dictate events, but rather we are to make a conscious choice to do good works and let the light of God shine through them. Jesus himself said in Matthew 5 that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Even if we are personally affected by the evil in this world, we are commanded to not respond in kind but instead overcome it by doing what is right and good.

How do we redeem the time? Paul lists a few practical examples in verses 17 to 21:

  • Verse 17: We must do the will of the Father as we hear from God and know what He wants us to do.
  • Verse 18: The Bible says, “do not get drunk with wine…”. Getting drunk is an escape from reality, and I suggest that anything we do to escape reality, whether it is playing video games, watching too many movies, abusing drugs – anything that removes us from the reality of life, is a problem. Rather we are to be filled with the Spirit of God so that we can see clearly the way things really are so that God can work in us and through us.
  • Verse 19: By addressing on another in Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, doesn’t mean that we walk around singing all the time, but rather, we meet together as believers, sharing what God is doing, praising God by sharing testimonies. We redeem the time by spending time in God’s word and in fellowship with other believers.
  • Verse 20: We redeem the time by being thankful for what God has done for us.
  • Verse 21: We redeem the time by serving one another. This doesn’t mean we become doormats, rather, we submit to one another by preferring one another, seeking the good of each other.

There are many ways we can redeem the time in our lives, but the bottom line is that we were bought with a price, we were redeemed by Jesus to live our lives for Him. If you are a Christian, a follower of Jesus, and you have breath in your lungs, God has a purpose for you in 2019. It will take some sacrifice, it will take some rearranging of priorities, but you will not regret a single moment that is redeemed for the Lord.

By putting God first, 2019 be a year of significance.  Psalm 1:1-2

 

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

Re-Up –  Prayer – James 5:13-20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Resurrection of Jesus – Sunday April 1, 2018

He is Risen – the Hope of the resurrection

Luke 24:1-12

  Every Easter we celebrate Jesus being raised from the dead. The cross without the resurrection is simply a story of a good man dying, but the resurrection proves that He is God, and everything he said is true

There are some still who claim that Jesus never died, he was simply in a coma and revived himself in the tomb, however there is indisputable evidence that Jesus was dead, and he was raised to life by the power of God (Romans 8:11). The greatest miracle in all of history is not simply when Jesus rose from the dead by the power of God, but that he defeated death and destroyed the works of Satan.

In Luke 24, we read about the resurrection, and we see three things that Jesus left behind when he came out of the tomb.

  1.  The first thing Jesus left behind was his grave clothes. When Peter and John went into the tomb looking for the body of Jesus, all they saw was the strips of linen, Jesus didn’t need them anymore. In John 11, we read how Jesus raised Lazarus who had been dead for four days.  Lazarus came out of the tomb, bound in the grave clothes, and Jesus instructed those who witnessed the miracle to free him. Jesus left the grave clothes behind because he didn’t need them, but Lazarus was going to die again, he would live a natural life and die like all of us, Jesus would never again die, he had defeated death. He had no need for future grave clothes, the strips of linen were left behind to show us that death has been defeated, it holds no fear for us.
  2.  In John 19:39-40 Joseph and Nicodemus put large quantities of spices and perfumes in the tomb with Jesus, and the women who came on that first resurrection Sunday brought perfumes and spices. These were traditional spices to conceal the smell of death. But when Jesus rose from the dead, he left the incense and the perfumes behind, he left them behind because he transformed death from something that smells awful into something that is filled with the sweet smell of eternal life. In 2 Corinthians 2:15-16, Paul describes the aroma of Christ in those who are his followers. Jesus left behind an aroma that we who have the Holy Spirit in us carry with us. How do you smell to the world around you?
  3.  When Jesus rose from the dead, he left the door open. In Matthews Gospel the angel rolled back the stone and sat on it. Pilate had agreed to the request of the chief priests to post a security detail at the entrance to the tomb, but when the angel of the Lord came, rolling back the stone, the guards trembled and became like dead men. The Angel opened the tomb and then secured the opening, making sure that it was never to be shut again. When Jesus died, the curtain in the temple that separated us from the Holy of Holies was torn by the hand of God, because of what Jesus did, we now have unlimited and free access to the presence of the creator of the universe. Jesus provided an opening and secured it, by defeating death, we will never see the stone rolled in front of the tomb again.

In Luke 24:5 the angels, these two men in dazzling apparel, stood next to the women and said, “why do you seek the living amongst the dead”. This is still the question that needs to be asked of mankind today. At some point everyone begins to question the purpose and the goal of it all, why are we here? Is there life after death? And if there is a heaven, how do I get to go there? Without the secure knowledge of the resurrected Jesus, people are striving and trying to extend their lives or find meaning and purpose in life.

People try to find alternative ways of salvation, from trying to live a good life to earn favor from God. People try religion, traditions, even giving money to the church or other good works, all of these will not save you, all this is looking for the living among the dead.

There is no other way of salvation than through faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). The truth is that there is no other God, who sent his only son, to take on human form, to suffer and die to take our place to offer us salvation as a free gift. There is no other religion that can claim that truth. We celebrate today because of the empty tomb, without it we would be following a hollow religion. Rather we are invited into a relationship with the creator of the universe, we aren’t looking for the living among the dead.

As Christians we are freed from the grave, Jesus paid the price so that you could be free from your past life. As a follower of Jesus, we must never look back, don’t go back to the grave of alcohol addiction, drug addiction, gambling, pornography, gossip, slander and the likes, all these are graves that lead to death. Jesus died that you would be free from the grave, why would we go back and wallow in sin? Jesus left the tomb behind, he didn’t look back and neither should we. He walked away because he was done with death, death had been defeated. When you have been made new in Christ, you have a new life, how can you look back?

Job wrote these words hundreds of years before Jesus walked the earth, but God gave him a prophetic glimpse into the resurrection and the second coming of Jesus. He was so thrilled that he couldn’t contain his joy. I pray that in this season, you would have a glimpse of the risen Lord Jesus.

Job 19:25-27

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.

And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!

A Voice for the Voiceless

Yesterday, if you attended Grace Point, you would have heard from Denny and Mindy Thibault. The Thibault family have been called by God to be the voice for the voiceless in the cry to end abortion in our land. They are collecting signatures for a petition to present a million signatures to the Supreme Court. You can sign the petition here, https://themoraloutcry.com/

I encourage you to sign and do what you can to stand up for the weak and the most vulnerable in our society. Debbie and I are passionate about ending the injustice of abortion and we know that this is more than simply a political decision, this is a spiritual decision and Satan is determined to destroy as many lives as possible in the womb. I believe the reason is that Satan knows the power that children carry in the Kingdom of God, Psalm 8 vs 2 says,

“Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.”

As we closed the service we sang a song called, “Everything and Nothing less” written by Chris McClarney. As I was singing, I really began to think about the lyrics which go as follows,

“Humbly I stand, an offering
With open hands, Lord I bring
Everything and nothing less
My best, my all
You deserve my every breath
My life, my song
I surrender, I surrender all
Oh, I surrender, I surrender all
Lord take control, I trust You
I’m letting go, to give You
Everything and nothing less
My best, my all”

And I began to think of my life, I quickly dismissed the challenge and thought that I have submitted my all to God, I have a list of credentials to say that I have offered my all to God. But very quickly God reminded me that I was a long way off from perfect submission to Him. I had to repent and realize that their were areas in my life that I still held on to, that I still wanted control over.

Oswald Chambers always reminds us in his writing to live a life of abandonment, releasing all our talents to the Lord for His use. I read this little snippet from him this morning.

“Abandon to God is of more value than personal holiness.” Here’s why: “We have to get rid of this notion-‘Am I of any use?’ and make up our minds that we are not, and we may be near the truth. It is never a question of being of use, but of being of value to God Himself. When we are abandoned to God, He works through us all the time.”   Oswald Chambers

As I was repenting of my selfish idols, God was gracious to remind me that our life value does not consist of what we “do” for Christ, but that we are redeemed, loved and adopted into the Kingdom and family of our Heavenly Father.

Sermon February 18, 2018 Treasures of the Kingdom of Heaven

As we look at Matthew 13 we see that Jesus taught eight parables, and each time he said something to the effect of “the Kingdom of Heaven is like….”, and then told the parable. Some longer, like the parable of the sower, and some shorter like the leaven in the flour, which is only one sentence.

But we need to define the Kingdom. Matthew wrote to a predominantly Jewish audience, as a result, he used the term Kingdom of Heaven, whereas Luke and the other gospel writers used the Kingdom of God for the same principle meaning.

The Kingdom of God is the rulership of God over all things. He owns and sustains all things, but because of man’s sin, the world has been under the rulership of Satan. This is not to say that he rules the world completely; God is still sovereign. But it does mean that God, in His infinite wisdom, has allowed Satan to operate in this world within the boundaries God has set for him.

The earth is in subjection to the rule and influence of Satan until Jesus comes again and destroys his evil kingdom. Paul writing in Romans 8 describes how all creation has been groaning and eagerly waiting for the new kingdom to be revealed. When Jesus began his public ministry, he began the introduction of the Kingdom of God to a lost and dying world. The Kingdom of God is not strictly a future hope tied in with Christ’s second coming. it is the realm of God’s rule both present, and future. Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of God, of which He was the embodiment, when He commenced His earthly ministry (see Matthew 4:17).

When Jesus died on the cross and defeated Satan, he began the process of dismantling Satan’s kingdom and installing the Kingdom of heaven. So, the kingdom of heaven is present in the world, but not yet in it’s fullness.

The kingdom of Heaven is so foreign to the world’s kingdom, especially in our era, where the focus of our worship is ourselves. Jesus uses eight parables to introduce some of these foreign concepts of the Kingdom, four of which he tells the crowd, and then another four he tells privately to his disciples, he turns his attention to his inner circle, continuing to explain to them that this is what the Kingdom of heaven is like.

Focusing our attention on two of these parables; the man who finds a treasure hidden in a field and the merchant who finds a pearl great value, what can we learn from them?

When a person makes Jesus Christ Lord of their life, it must cause a dramatic change in one’s value system. The things we valued the most, we set aside;  the things that the world views as treasures become worthless in the knowledge of eternal life.

These two short parables speak volumes about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. What is valuable to you? Not just possessions, but people, titles, position and places. For some people their treasure is their sport, or their hobbies or their career (see  Matthew 6:21).

In both these parables, the man and the merchant sold everything they had to obtain a greater treasure. This is foolishness, this is extreme, this is radical. These are the same adjectives that people use when describing followers of Jesus.

RT Kendall wrote: “Once you have truly experienced the anointing of the Spirit, your money, reputation, love for the world, fear of what people will say and so on all pale into insignificance.”

The Bible does not say that having material possessions is wrong, rather it is when those things become more important to us than God, then we have a problem. This is because there is no comparison between the treasures of this world and the treasures of the kingdom of heaven.

The merchant who sold all that he had to buy one pearl, didn’t simply exchange one treasure for another. He found a treasure supremely more valuable than anything in his life.

This is what Jesus offers us and when we become part of the kingdom of God, we experience a treasure and a life that makes all other desires small in comparison.

So here is the big question, does this reflect your Christian experience?

Or have you simply tried to add a bit of religion to your life by raising your hand in a meeting in response to an altar call, but you really don’t know this treasure of the Kingdom?  Salvation is more than simply avoiding hell because our sins are forgiven. What you have available to you are treasures of inestimable value (see Romans 8:32).

When we ask Jesus to be the Lord of our lives, God gives us his Holy Spirit to fill us and to reign in us; we become a part of the Kingdom of Heaven. When we become a follower of Jesus, we become like the leaven that impacts the dough, we become a change agent in our community, preparing the way for the fulfillment of the Kingdom when Jesus comes again.

When we see it that way, and we see all that it means to be a Christian, we would be fools not to view all our earthly treasures as worthless in comparison. Do you really know what it means to be a part of the Kingdom of Heaven?

But there is a different way of looking at these parables that will hopefully transform your thinking. When Jesus was telling these parables, he was proclaiming the Gospel message. Jesus came to the earth, setting aside his heavenly throne and took on flesh, he became a man just like us as he set aside his golden crown to take a crown of thorns (see Philippians 2:7-11). When we see this, we see that Jesus is the person who found a treasure in a field, it is Jesus who found the pearl of great value and it is Jesus who gave up everything to obtain it. It is Jesus who bought the treasure of salvation by buying the whole field of creation. These parables reveal the Gospel, they reveal the glory of Jesus who denied himself even to the point of dying on the cross so that he would receive the name above every other name.

The kingdom of heaven operates on a completely different currency than our small world.  Have you discovered this kingdom? Give everything you have to the Lordship of Jesus and God will give you a life and a future of infinite value.

The Normal Christian Life – Part 1 – 10/1/17

The Webster dictionary defines a Christian as “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ

What a terrible definition! How does the Bible define Christianity, after all, isn’t the Bible our authority as Christians?

You may have heard it said, that Christianity is not a religion, but it is a relationship. That is somewhat true, but also falls far short of what the Bible defines Christianity. A true relationship with my Creator only begins when I completely submit to Him and lay aside my own desires, wills, passions and preferences. Dying to my will and self is the beginning of what it means to be a Christian.

Galatians 2:20 reads; “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Beginning with the first phrase; “I have been crucified with Christ”.

Even though our sins that we have committed in the past have been forgiven (1 John 1:7), what about our sinful nature? That old nature that desires to do what is contrary to the will of God. We have peace with God, but we don’t have peace in ourselves because we wrestle with sin and temptation. This is where the cross of Jesus Christ provides an answer for us. Obviously, Paul was not on the cross with Jesus, and neither were you and I, but here is the profound miracle. When Jesus died on the cross, it was once for all. The death of Jesus on the cross included all who put their faith and trust in him. This is where those two beautiful words apply, “IN CHRIST” (see Romans 6:6-7, 11).

Do you want to be free from sin? You must realize your old self crucified with Christ, this is powerful, and it is absolutely crucial to being a Christian. The blood deals with what we have done, but the cross deals with what we are, the cross strikes at the root of our capacity to sin.

But do we apply the cross to our lives?

Satan will point to our struggle with sin and bring to mind our weakness in areas in our lives, but that is when we can point to the cross, and quote Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ…”. You see it is a declaration of faith, the essence of Christianity is faith.

So, if we are in Christ, does that make us perfect? Absolutely not, but we will be deeply troubled by sin in our lives. We will not have peace in our lives, because we know that we have fallen short of the Glory of God.

If you are not troubled by sin in your life or have no desire for holiness, I would seriously examine your heart to see if you truly are in Christ – if you have truly given your life wholly to Him and are saved

Galatians 2:20; “ I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

So how do we live this life, this crucified life? We live by faith in the Son of God. Daily asking the Holy Spirit to lead us and direct us. Our life goals are radically different, our aspirations change, instead of trying to build our own kingdom, we live to make the name of Jesus known.

The trouble with many people is that they think that when they become a Christian, God wants to take them and make them a better version of themselves. But we have it all wrong, there is nothing good, nothing worthwhile, nothing redemptive in my old self. God is not out to reform our life, he sent his son so that we can be born again.

This is where Christianity is completely different to any other religion. I cannot save myself, I cannot gradually get better until I am saved, I have to die, and then be reborn of the Spirit of God (John 3:3).

Coming to the final phrase of Galatians 2:20; “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Jesus loves you more than you will ever know, the cross is deeply personal for you and for me. When Jesus went to the cross, it was because he loved you so much, his love compelled him to give his life for you (see Ephesians 1:4).

1 Peter 2:9 tells us that we have been chosen by God, you are royalty, you are God’s special possession!

Have you ever heard of a royal prince cowering in the corner and begging for scraps from the King’s table?

But that is what we do, we don’t realize the value that God has placed on us, we are his special possession. He loves you far more than you will ever know.

When Jesus ascended into heaven he sent his indwelling Spirit. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the trinity, lives inside every true believer in Jesus Christ. The very same God who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you.

I know that we don’t come close to understanding the reality of the presence of God in our lives.

But what is the purpose of the Gospel? Why did God send his son? Why did God choose you and me and then fill us with his presence?  We have a natural tendency to see things from our perspective and say that God saved us so that we wouldn’t go to hell. Yes, that is true, but there is more, there is a greater and more glorious purpose for our salvation. God saved us so that we might bring Glory and praise to His name for eternity. This is what we were created to do. As we live by the Spirit and our lives become a living testimony of His presence we bring glory to His name.

Are you a Christian? If you don’t want to love and follow Christ, you are not a Christian. You may believe in Jesus, but is Jesus Lord of your life? Stop what you are doing right now, get on your knees, and make sure that you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.

Sermon series on Stewardship part 1 September 25, 2016

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Redeeming the time.

We all know that life is short and that it is a constant struggle to prioritize our lives. Daily we are faced with more and more distractions from entertainment to the rise of social media.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines stewardship as; “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care”

Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:16; “making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” The King James version says; “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

The Greek word for redeem used here literally means to “purchase out of”. This particular word is only used four times in the Bible and all of those times by Paul. Here in Ephesians, in Colossians 4:5, and twice in Galatians, 3:13 and 4:5. The references in Galatians refers to what Christ has done for us, Galatians 3:13; “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law” KJV.

The Greek word literally means to purchase freedom, the act of paying the price to free a slave. We are redeemed from our slavery to sin by Jesus Christ. So Paul is saying, that by redeeming the time you are set free from the slavery to time.

The Greek word Paul uses for time is Kairos. Kairos does not refer to the passing of time or a duration of time, but rather it means the appointed time. For example, lunch time is a Kairos time – it the appointed time for lunch. Kairos means the appointed time for a task or event. Kairos could be a short window of time or a longer duration, but it is the set and appointed time. Kairos denotes a significant time.

Paul says that we are to redeem the Kairos moments in life, or as the NIV translates it; “Making the most of every opportunity.”

So why does Paul use this imagery of redeeming the time? Looking again at verse 16; ““Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” We need to be redeeming the time, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil and our opportunities to do good will slip away. We will miss the Kairos moments if we do not redeem the time and act now.

I do not need to remind you, that life is short, and our opportunities to serve the Lord when He calls come and go. Sometimes we miss the opportunities, we get busy, we are tired, or worse – we get lazy.

We are redeemed by Christ for the work of the Lord – redeemed to serve Him (see Ephesians 2:10)

In these three verses Paul is in essence saying “wake up and make the most of the day” It is sad to see so many Christians going about their lives simply drifting through life, like sleepwalkers who never really make the most of every opportunity to live for Christ and serve him. As Christians we need to be masters of planning our schedules, taking every day by the scruff of the neck and making wise use of our time. It has been said that “a planned life can better deal with unexpected events

Life consists of millions of decisions that relate to how we spend our time. If you want to do something that is not urgent, you need to plan for it. Many of the activities that we do that have the most long-term benefit, require a steady ongoing effort. They are seldom urgent activities.

How many of us, when we are facing our last days, will look back on our lives and regret that we didn’t spend more time on facebook, or more time watching TV, or more time playing video games. We would never do that, but we would wish we spent more time building meaningful relationships, telling others about Jesus or discipling a person who is younger than us.

Time is our most valuable commodity in life, after all, why do we use the term “spend time” if it is not a valuable commodity.

I want to challenge you to really take a good look at your personal time management. Time is a gift from God, we need to realize that just like the parable of the talents that Jesus told in Matthew 25, time is given to us as our talent. This valuable talent given to us by God is intended to be used for His glory. How are we spending the talent that God has given us?

As believers in Jesus Christ, we no longer live for ourselves, we live a life of purpose, a life dedicated to serving the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what it means to be a Christian, daily asking the Lord for his direction, daily asking Him how we can live for him.

That is a life of purpose that is a life that redeems the time.