Sermon November 18, 2018 The Gift of Reconciliation

Text: Acts 17:22-31

In Acts 17 we read about Paul speaking to the people of Athens in the Areopagus, while he was on his second missionary journey. Seeing their many idols, Paul addresses them regarding their idol named for the “Unknown God”, and he proceeds to tell them about the God who created all things and sustains all things, the one true God.

In verse 26 he says, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place”.

Paul made it clear to the Greeks that we are all descendants of one man. It is the lack of understanding of this fact that still creates untold pain and suffering in the world. God is the God of all people groups. The Greek word for nation that Paul uses is ethnos, that is people group and not national boundaries. In Genesis 1:27 we read that God created man and woman in His own image. That means that every human being is eternal and valuable because we are all created in the image of God. Every human being has an immortal soul in the image of God, everyone has a mind with unique reasoning abilities and everyone has the potential for a relationship with their creator God.

With that in mind, we must be so careful to avoid the sin of prejudice, we have no right to hate someone that Jesus died for, who was created uniquely in the image of God. Jesus came to the earth, he suffered and died to redeem people from every people group, and one day we will all sing together in his presence (see Revelation 5:9).

Then why is there so much hatred and strife in the world? The FBI recently announced that reported hate crimes in the United States increased by 17 percent in 2017. That marks the third consecutive year the number has gone up, and as you are well aware, it seems that our nation is becoming angrier and more divided every year. Hatred and racism is nothing new in the world, it has been around since the beginning of time. In 1 John 3:15 we read, Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” Which begs the question, who is my brother? In Luke 10, the expert of the law asked Jesus this question, and Jesus tells a parable about a good Samaritan, that was so provocative at the time it must have made the Jews cringe. We are supposed to love all people groups, even those who despise and hate us. Because of what Jesus has done on the cross for us, we have no right to hate anyone else.

In this regard, sadly we know all too well that the church has been guilty of some of the worst racism. Christians today should be more aware than ever before that if we allow hate to remain in our hearts, it will eventually find its way out. Where all of this becomes most critical for Christians today is when we come to hate a culture that increasingly appears to hate us. We are told daily in our news media and culture, exactly who we are supposed to hate, but this is not a Biblical worldview.

As our culture turns further and further away from a Biblical worldview, we will find it harder and harder to love the lost the way Our Heavenly Father does. Do you have a love for the lost? Do you love those who hate you? That is tough. In a recent article, Anne Lamott wrote, “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

Hate is a real part of being human beings, but that does not make it less sinful, we hate because of sin in the world and because Satan has devised a way to divide humanity.

Here is a simple question to ask ourselves, “Does God hate the people you hate–or will you love the people he loves?” How you answer that question will go a long way toward determining your impact for the Kingdom of God and the culture today.

How do we see reconciliation in the nations? How is it possible for hatred to be overcome? It starts by realizing that as a human race, God has put a piece of His nature into all the various people groups, as we come together we see and experience more of the character of God.

At a recent conference I attended in Kosovo, Pastor Venco Nakov from Macedonia encouraged the attendees to pray for the nations on their borders. I was struck by this and wondered how often we as the American church pray for God to bless our neighbors? Pastor Venco said, “Blessing your neighbors doesn’t mean you don’t love your country, it means that you are more of a patriot than anyone else.” He went on to say that no one asks you where you would like to be born, rather God has chosen you and I to be born when and where He divinely appoints.

As Americans, God has chosen you and I to live in this land at this time, to be His representatives, to pray for peace, to bring reconciliation to point the way to Jesus by proclaiming the Gospel. May we be a people who are known for loving our neighbors irrespective of their race and national identity to the glory of God.

June 17, 2018 – Fathers Day

 Father’s Day – Genesis 18:1-19

Fathers-day is a day of mixed emotions and quite often it is a day of pain for those who have lost fathers or who had abusive fathers. I was blessed to have a father who loved his family and who set an example for his family. My father was not perfect, but he was steadfast in his, love for God, and his love for his family.

The Bible has so many examples of good fathers and poor fathers, but one of the best examples we have of a father in the Bible is Abraham. God called this mighty man of faith to be the father of a great nation. Abraham was a man of exceptional faith who had a unique relationship with God. In Genesis 18 we have the account of God speaking to Abraham about the birth of Isaac, and the reaction of Sarah to the good news.

After the declaration of Isaac, the two angels prepare to leave and go to Sodom where they will rescue Lot and his family, but the Lord stays with Abraham. The Lord stays behind and discloses to Abraham what he is about to do in punishing Sodom and Gomorrah. God has a special role for Abraham, to raise up God’s chosen people and to be the father of the nation of Israel which will bless all the nations of the earth.

In verse 19 we read,For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

In this verse we see four characteristics of a good father that we need to develop in our own lives.

1: A godly father teaches…”that he may command his children…” Genesis 18:19a

The Greatest Command in the Bible is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, the Shema is the very first scripture a Hebrew boy would learn, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

But the Scripture doesn’t stop there, verses 6 and 7 continue, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

God tells the Hebrew fathers that they have a responsibility to teach their children to love Him with all their hearts. He tells them how to impress this command on the children by talking about it when you sit down or walk along the road, when you lie down to sleep and when you get up first thing in the morning. The teaching continues all day and every day. Teaching happens all the time, even when we aren’t intending to teach, but right teaching does not happen by accident. You have to teach on purpose the things of the Lord.

Fathers teach your children to love God. This is your first and primary discipleship role as a Christian parent. Our children have a much better chance to grow up to love God, if they see the love for God in our lives (see Proverbs 22:6 and Ephesians 6:4).

2: A Father is to lead his children,For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord…” Genesis 18:19a.

God told Abraham to command his children and his household, the people who were under his sphere of influence. Abraham was to lead his family.

You can lead by rule, or force, but a good father leads primarily by example (Joshua 24:15).

Fathers are you leading your families well? Are we leading those in our sphere of influence to know and love the Lord?

3: A father disciplines his children, “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord… Genesis 18:19a

 Keeping the way requires discipline, it requires intentional correction in order to maintain a life that walks along the pathway that God has for us.

Discipline is not beating a child into submission, it can be affected without the rod, although sometimes a child may need to feel correction.

But discipline is correction, guidance, keeping the child in the pathway that is right. A fathers’ discipline is always done in love (Hebrews 12:6-11, Proverbs 3:11-12).

True discipline is an act of love. We need to know the difference between discipline and punishment.

Punishment causes rebellion, but Discipline builds relationships.

Punishment is spoken harshly in anger, but Discipline is usually spoken kindly and lovingly.

Punishment produces a bitter, poisonous fruit, but Discipline produces the fruit of acting in the right way, which is righteousness.

4: A father loves his children.

In Matthew 22, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6, when he was asked about the greatest commandment, and he responds by saying what we read in verse 37, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…” and the second, Jesus said is to love your neighbor as yourself.

Fathers, your children need to know that you love them (see 1 Corinthians 13:1). Parents tell your children they are loved and show them that they are loved. Bringing a paycheck home is not loving your children.

God blesses good fathers.

The last part of verse 19 contains a promise, “so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

Those two little words, “so that”, introduce the promise.

If you want to see all that God has in store for you, follow these four principles in your homes. You will be overwhelmed by the goodness of God and his blessings to you and your family.

It all stems from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If you don’t know Jesus, that is the place to start. Only then can you teach your children by example to love God and you can introduce them to Jesus, the Way the Truth and the Life.

May 13, 2018 Mothers Day

Mother’s Day is a wonderful time to celebrate mothers. But what about spiritual mothers?

In the world today, there is a huge need for spiritual mothers. Some people have the tendency to think that after their own children are out of the home, their role as a mother is minimized. But the church needs spiritual mothers.

The Apostle Paul had spiritual mothers, in Romans 16, he sends greetings to a list of people, and in verse 13 he says, “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.”

Most mother’s days, the pastor tends to focus a message towards mothers in the church. But Mother’s Day is not a pleasant day for everyone. For those who long to be mothers and are not able to have children, Mother’s Day is extremely painful. For young women who want to be married and have children, it can also be painful and disconnected from where they are in life.

But today I want to change our focus. While not everyone is a mother – we all have mothers. We all are here today because someone carried us for nine months and gave birth to us. The Bible says that we are to honor our mothers (See Ephesians 6:1-3).  Here Paul quotes the ten commandments, and he adds a little commentary by saying, this is the first commandment with a promise.

This passage from Ephesians 6, is in the middle of an extended portion where Paul is addressing all our human relationships. Wives and husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters, or our modern work relationships, and then he ends with section with an exhortation to put on the full armor of God, because our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but rather against all the spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6v12).

Why does he end this whole section with this seemingly disconnected challenge to spiritual warfare?

Because, Satan is constantly out to destroy relationships, to tear down the bond of families, to destroy our love and respect for each other. God ordained families to be the place where children are raised up to know and love Him, to learn the truth about love, respect, and the Gospel. Our families are under attack daily and we need to be aware of this. The best way for families to be strong, is to pray together, it is no small thing for families to pray together, and often it is the mother who must take the initiative and lead this.

What does it mean to “honor” your mother? If you’re a child, then it means to obey, to submit to her authority. And not just to do what she says, but to yield graciously, willingly and cheerfully. Simply doing what you are told, with a bad attitude it not honoring. True obedience flows from a heart attitude that freely accepts the mother’s rightful authority.

Parental authority is given by God, and so the attitude the child develops toward the parent’s authority will be the attitude they develop towards God’s authority. Parents, if you allow your children to ignore and despise your authority over them, then they will learn to ignore and despise God’s authority over them as well.

What about children who are out of the home? An adult child is no longer obligated to comply with the desires and wishes of their parent, you and I have a choice to listen, evaluate the request and to choose whether or not to comply with the request of our parent. Sometimes, parents can be quite overbearing and use this scripture verse to manipulate and control their adult child. but this is not what God intended with this commandment.

Honoring is not blind obedience, it is respect and courtesy, taking time to hear their opinion, treating our mothers with honor is as simple as giving them time.

Honoring your mother also includes how you speak to her, and about her. This applies both to young people and to adults. Pay attention to your tone of voice when you’re talking with your mother, is it kind, gentle, gracious? Or is it impatient, angry or bitter?  Your tone of voice reflects your heart attitude.

Another thing we can do to honor our mothers is to praise them, to verbally acknowledge their virtues and accomplishments, to give thanks for all the things they do for us.

Husbands, acknowledge and praise your wives, this is a crucial way to develop an honoring culture in your home. Children will learn how to treat their mother by watching how you treat her, and if you are regularly praising and thanking her, then they will too.

Our mothers are a gift from God, the blessings that we receive from our mothers are from God (James 1:17). The good characteristics that we see in our mothers, the creativity, the strength, the wisdom, the love and so much more come from God. Let us remember as we honor mothers, to praise God for mothers.

But we can talk about honoring mothers, respecting them and obeying them, however as followers of Jesus Christ our ultimate loyalty must be Christ. Jesus is the one who paid for our sins by dying on the cross for us, Jesus was raised from the dead by God and Jesus is the one who paid for our eternal life. As well-meaning and wonderful as our mothers may be, as followers of Jesus Christ, our lives belong to him. As we seek to live our lives as followers of Jesus, ultimately, we answer to him as Lord of our lives (Matthew 10:37-39).

We are to love and honor our mothers, because there is blessing in that as the commandment says, but even more than that, we need to love and honor Christ. Are you doing that?

Mothers and fathers, are you pointing your children to the savior, are you encouraging them to love Christ even more than they love you?

Sermon February 4, 2018 – The Pillar of Compassion of the Church

In Luke 10, we read the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan. This well-known parable has become a part of our culture, even past presidents have referred to it in speeches. The parable was told by Jesus in response to a challenge, a question posed by an expert in the Mosaic Law. His question was interesting, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He was obviously trying to trick Jesus, because he knew exactly the requirements of the law. Jesus answers the question with a question, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” (Luke 10:26). Jesus immediately directs the man to an authority that they both can accept, the Law of Moses.

The scribe answers Jesus’ question by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.

This is the correct answer, but the learned man is not satisfied, he knows that that he is not perfectly loving towards his fellow man, so he is looking for a lower standard. He tries to limit the law’s command by limiting its parameters and asked the question “who is my neighbor?” One of the meanings of the word “neighbor” in the Greek could be translated as someone of the same race or tribe. But this makes the goal attainable, so Jesus tells this parable of the Good Samaritan to correct the false understanding that the scribe had of who his neighbor was.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan tells the story of a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, Jesus doesn’t mention anything about the man, we don’t know his nationality or race, and while on the way he is robbed of everything he had, including his clothing, and is beaten to within an inch of his life. Both a priest and a Levite pass by the man and refuse to offer assistance to him. The next person to come by is the Samaritan, the one least likely to have shown compassion for the man, due to the racial prejudice between the Jews and the Samaritans.

We do not know if the injured man was a Jew or Gentile, but it made no difference to the Samaritan; he did not consider the man’s race or religion, he only saw a person in need of assistance, and he assists him by going above and beyond what would have been expected.

He pays for the man’s care and essentially gave the innkeeper a blank check. He seemed to be very trusting, but I don’t think the lesson is trust, I think the lesson is abundance, he was not concerned because he knew that his supply was from God, and that God never will run out of money. So even if the innkeeper took advantage of him, it would be okay, because it wasn’t his money anyway, it was God’s money and He will pay the bill (see Proverbs 19:17). God’s kingdom is not a kingdom of lack or a miserly mindset, God’s kingdom is a kingdom of excessive abundance, of extravagant generosity, of joyful giving, because that is what our Heavenly father gives to us (see Luke 6:38). Let us be extravagant in our generosity because we serve an extravagant God.

The Samaritan saw his neighbor as anyone who was in need, and we are to follow the Samaritan’s example in our own conduct by showing compassion and love for those we encounter in our everyday activities regardless of their race or religion; the criterion is need.

However, there is no person on earth who can meet this standard, our desires are mostly selfish. When left to our own, we do the wrong thing, we see the person in need and justify why we don’t need to help them. What about the drug addict, the homeless person or what about the Muslim refugee? One could go on listing examples of modern-day needy people who make us look far worse than priest or the Levite.

Even if we do right by the Lord, and those in need,  we must realize that no amount of good works will ever meet the standard set by Jesus. We will never be able to do enough good things to inherit eternal life. The question of the legal expert, is the question of the ages, “what must I do….to inherit eternal life?”

We don’t need a list of tasks, we need a savior. To inherit eternal life, we must put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, the risen Lord and allow the Holy Spirit’s transforming power to enable us to love our neighbor. We cannot love our neighbor without the Holy Spirit in us, leading us and giving us the love of God for those around us. If you find it difficult to love that person who annoys you at work, who offends you or who hurt you, you don’t need patience or more strength; you need Jesus Christ in you, transforming you by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Compassion is a pillar of the church but does not stand alone, there needs to be a strong connection between compassion and mission, between compassion and worship and between compassion and the Word. James chapter 2 explains to us that faith without works is dead; rather we show our faith in God through our works of good deeds.

The compassion of the church must always bring glory to the name above all names. Acts of social justice done for the Glory of God are in themselves acts of worship. However, compassion without the foundation of the Word of God lacks true empathy because it lacks true power to change lives. Only the word of God coupled with the revelation of the Holy Spirit has the power to change lives.

Compassion is essential in the church, not because it is what good people do to help one another, compassion is essential because it is the way the church points people to Jesus. As Jared Wilson wrote in his book, “the story telling God”, “Economic justice is temporal justice…the Gospel’s justice is eternal.”

Just like the work of the church is not done until the Great Commission is completed, so too the opportunities for the church to be a compassionate example of Christ will not go away until Jesus comes again. Let us be a church that proclaims the Gospel loud and clear, intentionally helping those in need with an eternal perspective.

What Child is This? part 3 – December 17, 2017

So much of our Christmas season focuses on the birth of Jesus, but we cannot look at the birth of Jesus without looking at the reason why Jesus came to live amongst us.

Luke’s Gospel tells the narrative of how Jesus would be conceived and named. In Luke 1:26-35 we read how Mary had an encounter with the angel Gabriel, and he told her that the baby would be called Jesus. Jesus means God Saves, this must have been another indicator to Mary of who Jesus really was.

Every child carries some of the attributes and characteristics of their mother and their father. The angel told Mary that Jesus would be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus would have some of the attributes of Mary and some of the attributes of God himself. And we know from Hebrews 1:3 that Jesus is fully God and fully man.

Jesus said to his disciples in John 14 verse 9, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

So, this child, conceived miraculously by the power of the Holy Spirit, is the exact representation of God the Father and he is fully God, but by being born of Mary, he also has some of the nature of Mary. This is by God’s infinite design so that by being a man, Jesus would one day be able to offer himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

The Apostle Paul wrote about this in Philippians 2:6-8.

We know that Jesus reflected the nature and character of God the Father, but how much of the character of Mary did Jesus possess as he walked the earth?

Looking at the way in which Jesus dealt with people we can see some of what Mary must have been like. Jesus was compassionate and kind, especially with children Jesus displayed patience and tenderness.

Jesus sought out the people on the fringes of society, calling them, showing them compassion and embracing them.

When the angel encountered Mary, he told her in verse 30, that she had found favor with God. God saw in Mary something special, she found favor with God possibly because she displayed the characteristics of gentleness, compassion, patience and tenderness. Perhaps it is possible that God saw in Mary the character traits, that He placed in her in the first place, but the character traits that would be necessary for Jesus to be who he was.

This child that lay asleep on her lap would one day grow up to have the character traits of care and compassion that his mother had.

There are several times in the Bible where the nature of God is described using motherly language and imagery (See Isaiah 66:13, Deuteronomy 32:11-12a, Psalm 22:9-10, Hosea 13:8a, Luke 13:34).

We see these images of God in the Bible as partial descriptions of the nature and character of God. Jesus is the exact representation of God; therefore, he must have these attributes himself. The same attributes that Mary displayed.

In addition to these characteristics, Mary and Jesus both displayed strong character in their lives. They both displayed great faith and trust in God. They were both willing and committed to the mission that God the Father had called them too. When Mary received the instructions from the Angel, her response was in Luke 1:38, “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

When the time came for Jesus to face the completion of his mission, just before he was arrested and crucified, he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, humbly submitting to the perfect plan and will of the Father (Luke 22:41-42).

Both Jesus and Mary lived lives of extraordinary consequence, but both suffered deep pain. We only have a glimpse from the account of the crucifixion of how much pain and suffering Jesus went through as he paid the price for our salvation, but Mary also suffered. When Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple they met Simeon who praised God for allowing him to see the Messiah before his death, and went on to prophecy over Mary foretelling of the pain that she would one day endure (Luke 2:34-35).

Even in the Christmas carol, focusing on the birth of Jesus, we read of the purpose of why Jesus came to earth and gave up his glory in heaven. Mary was present at the crucifixion, standing by the cross, and enduring the agony of seeing her son die in the most excruciating way. Mary never left the side of Jesus, she was committed to being there for her son. This is also a promise of Jesus and one of the primary characteristics of the nature of God, he is a faithful God who promises to never leave us.

No matter how dark the season is that you are going through, no matter how lonely you feel at this Christmas season God is always near and his Word promises that He will be with you.

Jesus promised his disciples when he left them his Great Commission (Matthew 28:20b).

One of the most powerful scenes of compassion took place as Jesus hung suffering on the cross. Mary was there, and she wanted to help alleviate the pain, but Jesus looked at her and cared for her as he instructed the Apostle John to care for his mother (see John 19:26-17). What an incredible picture of love and compassion, in his pain he made sure that Mary was going to be taken care of.

“What child is this?” He is the one who came to love and to be the selfless sacrifice for all those who would believe in his name. But praise God, it didn’t end there. Jesus rose from the dead in a new resurrected body, Jesus became the first born of the new creation, and by his re-birth we can be born again.

Mary came to understand that this miraculous baby became the greater miracle, the way of salvation for millions of people who would put their faith and trust in him.

This Jesus is still the same today, full of compassion and love, ready to meet your needs.

If you are facing a huge trial and difficulty, Jesus knows what you are going through and he can meet your need.

If you are lonely and struggling with depression, Jesus knows your pain and is full of compassion.

Jesus came to earth as a little baby, to be fully man, so that he could identify with you and me (see Hebrews 4:15-16).

The Purpose of Unity – Sunday, August 27, 2017

THE PURPOSE OF UNITY

Ephesians 4:1-16

Have you ever been part of a team of people who share the same vision, share the same passion and are completely united together to accomplish a specific goal? Unity in the church is absolutely critical because we are in a spiritual war that has eternal consequences.

Grace Point is a very diverse church, we have people from many different nationalities, races and socio-economic backgrounds, all of which make unity almost impossible. There must be a common bond, a reason for unity. What is our purpose for gathering as the church? Is it to come on a Sunday and spend an hour, participating in a worship service, is that the purpose? If that was the case, then it is not surprising why so many churches around the world are closing. There must be a bigger purpose that draws us together.

The Apostle Paul writing to the first century church in Ephesus, made a plea for them to be united (see Ephesians 4:1-16).

Paul begins this chapter by pointing out that there is an individual responsibility for unity. Paul makes it personal, “I urge you!” therefore no-one is exempt. And then in verse 2, Paul lists what looks like the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22. Daily submitting ourselves to the Holy Spirit, we will produce the fruit of the Spirit, that will in turn create unity. It starts with the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And in verse 3 he reminds us that this will take effort, requiring us to lay down our own desires and submitting ourselves to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Unity in the church is not something that we can manufacture by a well worked plan and strategy, no, our unity as the church is already established, unity has been established by the Gospel message. Just read to verse 4 to 6,

In these verses, he uses the word ONE 7 times as he draws attention to the Gospel. The unity of the church is already established, it was established in Jesus Christ. True unity is only found in the good news of Jesus Christ. (see what Jesus prayed in John 17:21-23).

 So, all this talk about unity and the will of God for us as a church, how does this work practically? Each of us has a part to play in this, no believer is exempt. Every believer has been given gifts by the Holy Spirit. These gifts have been given not for our own benefit and pleasure, but to be used to build up the body of Christ.

These spiritual gifts are the same gifts that we read about in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12.

In verse 11 we read the beginning of a long sentence and we are frequently guilty of quoting only part of this sentence, as you will see.

We read the Christ gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers given to the church, but why? Verse 12 answers, “12 to equip his people for works of service…” While it is good, to be able to do good things, serve and bless out community, but what’s the goal of this service?

Verse 12 continues, “so that the body of Christ may be built up”. So, as the church serves, it is built up.

But Paul goes further, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God…”

So, as we are equipped, we serve, as we serve we are built up, as we are built up, we achieve unity. Do you see the pattern? Unity is achieved by serving together.

Verse 13 continues, “…and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Paul is talking about spiritual maturity. There are many teenagers who are mature in their faith, while others who may have been in the church for decades, are still spiritual babies. As we work together in the church, we attain unity, as we are united in faith and action, we grow together and become mature.

Verse 16 of this passage wraps up the discussion on unity in the Body of Christ, “16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

From Jesus, the whole body, the whole church is joined together by every supporting ligament. Every little part of the body is valuable, every part is important. As we see the value in each other in the church, we are built up in Love. Without the supernatural love that the Holy Spirit gives us for each other, we would never be drawn together. It is purely the grace of God and the love of God that holds the church together and builds the church. We can talk about unity and church growth all we like, but if it is not held together by the supernatural love that the Lord gives us for each other, we would never grow together as a church.

And then we come to the final six words of verse 16, “…as each part does its work”.

Every one of us is called by God to play a part in the ministry of the church. What is the ministry of the church? It is not to build a better building or to be a comfortable social club. The ministry of the church is the Great Commission, to share the Gospel message, to reach the lost, to disciple the new believers, baptizing them and training them to go and share the Gospel message.

The church as the living Body of Christ, where everyone functions with their own unique spiritual gifts, will be very different than societies idea of a church. Society has the picture of the church that is static, boring, uniform, liturgical. This church will be a place where love is unconditional, charity abounds freely, where differences in race and age are celebrated rather than causing division. A place where we all serve one another in humility and grace, understanding that as we do so, we are contributing to the growth and the maturity of the body.

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

The Inter-generational Church Part 1

Titus 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sermon series on Stewardship Part 3 – Relationships, October 9, 2016

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Stewarding our relationships

1 John 4:7-21

Each of us is placed in a specific home environment, workplace or community exactly where God wants us to be. If we believe that God is in control of all things, then there is no one in your life who is there by chance. Everyone in your life is there because God knew you needed to be in a relationship with them. Sometimes those relationships are not easy, sometimes they lead to angry words and frustration, but when you look back on your life, you will see that they are there for a reason. I want to challenge you to think about why God has placed the people in your life that He has.

In the book of 1 John, the Apostle John focuses on our relationship with God and our relationships with each other. In 1 John 4:7-21, we see the word “love” repeated 27 times. John starts this section in verse 7 by writing; “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. The Greek language is much more descriptive than our English language and Greek has a number of different words for Love. The Greek word that John uses here for love is Agape. The type of love that characterizes God is not a sappy, sentimental feeling that we think of with our limited vocabulary.

God loves because that is His nature and the expression of His being. Agape love does not come naturally to us, because of our fallen nature, we are incapable of producing such a love. If we are to love as God loves, that agape love can only come from God. This is the love that we receive by the Holy Spirit as we read in Romans 5:5; “…because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Agape love as modeled by Jesus, is not based on a feeling. Rather, it is a determined act of the will, a joyful resolve to put the welfare of others above our own. Jesus went to Jerusalem that final time, determined to go to the cross, he knew what lay ahead and he followed through on the will of his father, because of his love for us. In in this short passage in 1 John 4, we see the Gospel message referred to three times (see verses 9,10 and 14).

This Gospel message is a message of agape love, a love that is always shown by what it does.

So why is this so important?   We get a hint in verse 12 and 17; Christians are to be the demonstration of the Love of Christ to the world around us. The JB Phillips New Testament paraphrase explains verse 17 this way; “for we realise that our life in this world is actually his life lived in us.” We are Christs ambassadors in this world, we are to love with an unconditional determined love. That is what it means to be a Christian.

Our love for our fellow man flows out of our love for God. A vertical relationship enables us to love those around us. If we are struggling to love those around us, it is probably because we are struggling in our personal walk with the Lord.

What relationships has God placed around you? Each of us have spheres of influence, people that are impacted by our lives.

Our families are the first and most important relationships that we are to steward. God has placed you in your family. If you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior you are called to love your family unconditionally in order that those who are not saved might see Jesus through you.

Another sphere is our Church family, our fellowship with other believers. Sometimes in our church family we find it hard to love each other because we have differing opinions and passions. But the truth is that God has called you and placed you in the church you are in for His glory.

In his book, The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer gives this interesting illustration: “Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers [meeting] together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”

True unity comes from being in tune with God through Jesus Christ. At the root of disunity is one or more have taken their tune from another master. Whether that is their own preferences, desires, traditions or opinions. For any church to experience unity, we need to all be focusing on Jesus Christ and him alone. As we do we will find that our disagreements will melt away as we begin to experience God’s love for each other. If two Christians do not love each other, they have taken their eyes off the cross of Jesus Christ.

Paul writing in Romans 12, speaks about love in action and sets the bar high for us in verse 10: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” How many of our family arguments would simply cease to exist if we would take that verse seriously – how many of our church disagreements would dissolve if we honored one another above ourselves.

Then we have our other spheres of influence, our workplaces, community and places of recreation. The people that you encounter on a weekly basis in your favorite restaurant or at the bank or the convenience store. These are all relationships that we are called to steward. Do we see people as a means to get what we want? Or do we see them as people that Jesus died for?

God has entrusted the people in your circles to your care. He has placed you in their lives to love them, to care for them and to show them the love of the Father.

Our families and communities would be transformed if we took what the apostle Paul wrote to heart in Romans 12:10, do we honor our loved ones?