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

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Have you discovered the purpose for your existence?

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

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

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

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

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

I want to try to answer two questions:

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

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

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

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

  1. But what is the glory of God?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sermon Sunday December 27, 2020 The Hope of Christmas Part 2

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Have you ever had someone come to you and tell you about something that would happen to you in your future that was impossible to know or predict? We call this prophecy, a special word of knowledge from God, given for encouragement.  

It is about that time when people begin to predict what will happen in 2021. However, if we have learnt anything in the last twelve months, we know this is an exercise in futility.

And yet, there are many so-called prophetic voices, people sharing their musings on social media. We need to pray for wisdom and discernment being careful not to place our hope in mere man.  

We see time from a singular perspective. We can look a few days or weeks ahead clearly. But God is not bound by time, He not only sees the road from a different vantage point, but he also sees the entire universe and all of time in one sweep of his perspective.

The Old testament itself points to the coming Messiah. The Old Testament has over three hundred prophecies by multiple authors pointing towards Jesus. Most of these were completely fulfilled during the life of Jesus on the earth. But some of them refer to the great Day of the Lord when Jesus will come again in judgement.

The overall message of these Old Testament prophets is that the people must wait for one more King. He will be the greatest of all and he will bring an end to all struggles and wars.

This time of the year we will often read Micah 5:2, but the verses that surround this verse seem to be disconnected. In Micah 5 verse 1, the prophet begins with a call to arms. He mentions the city of troops, which is probably Jerusalem as the seat of power and the place where most of the military were staying at the time. Micah predicts that the city will come under attack.  He predicts that this attack will succeed and that the enemy will strike the king of Israel on the cheek with a rod. Most scholars believe that this was foretelling the attack on Jerusalem by the Babylonians and the capture and torture of King Zedekiah. Thus, the first verse is a prophecy of the impending defeat of Jerusalem and the exile of the tribe of Judah which took place around 586BC, pointing to something that would take place around 100 years after Micah.

Then we have the very familiar verse 2. We know this verse refers to Jesus, the promised Messiah who will be born in Bethlehem in the region of Ephrathah. The name Bethlehem means, “house of bread”. Interestingly, Jesus called himself the Bread of Life and it is no mistake that he was born in the “house of bread”. This King will be born in the same town that David came from, he would be in the line of David. The people were hoping for another king like David.

But then Micah mentions that this rulers’ origins will be from old, from ancient times. The literal translation says, “days of antiquity”. The origins of this king will be before the beginning of time. This king will be one who transcends time. As we know from history, the second verse points to the first century, almost 700 years after Micah’s prophecy.

Looking at verse 3, it would seem that this verse refers to Mary and the birth of Jesus, however there are two other clues that point to the fact that this might be another time in history.  Verse 3 begins with, “Therefore Israel will be abandoned until…”.  Israel ceased to be a nation until 1948, when the Jewish nation was restored. And the last part of the verse; “and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites”, is something that we have seen taking place for the last 72 years.  Many scholars feel that this birth that is predicted is the birth of the nation of Israel that was witnessed in the 20th century, some 2700 years after the prophecy.

As we turn to verse 4, we see that this ruler will be one who stands, meaning that he will be established and unmovable as the King, and that his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. Micah is not prophesying about the first time Jesus came to the earth, he is writing about the second coming of Jesus. When Jesus will establish his throne on the earth, and he will reign over all the earth There will be no doubt of his majesty and authority.

Looking at the prophecy of Micah from this perspective, we see that it is relevant for us today, because it points to our future as well as he was inspired to write by the Holy Spirit.

These are the words of God to us, as they were to the people of the tribe of Judah, who were about to be invaded by the Babylonians, and to the remnant looking for and awaiting the Messiah who came in the form of a little baby born in a stable in Bethlehem. These were the words of God that confirmed the re-establishment of the nation of Israel. And these are the words of God to us as believers all over the world, to encourage us to keep looking ahead and keep looking down the road because Jesus is coming back again.

As we see with the prophetic writing of the past, people missed it. Jesus came after 400 years of silence from God, and even the most respected scholars of the day missed it. Those who studied the prophetic writings did not recognize the Messiah when he came in the form of a Baby in Bethlehem.

But I can assure you that when Jesus comes back again there will be no doubt as to who he is, the Lion of the tribe of Judah is coming back to rule and reign in glory.

The only question we need to be concerned about is whether or not we are ready.

Only by making Jesus Christ lord of your life, will prepare you for the second coming of Jesus.

Are you ready?   It could be today.

Thoughts on the Unexpected June 28, 2020

Unexpected things happen all the time and how we respond sometimes has significant implications. This past Thursday, I received a call from Lynn and the first words out of her mouth were not the words a pastor or any leader likes to hear, “Athol, we have a huge problem…”

Usually when I hear those words, I downplay them and try to minimize my stress response. But something about her tone of voice, indicated that this really was a “huge problem”.

I was on my way down the hill from the church, and I rushed back as quickly as my 2008 Kia could get me up the hill. On my arrival I was greeted by many anxious faces and saw water all down the hallway and flooding into the sanctuary. I headed to the back of the church and found that the backflow valve was expelling as much water as a four-inch line would allow.

I was able to shut it off and then the process of cleanup and calling companies to help began. As usual, Nicole was on top of it and had people there to begin the cleanup within the hour.

It is going to take a few days until we can get the water on, and unfortunately as a result we were unable to hold services today. But in spite of all the drama, God is still in control. We see a setback, but God is following His eternal and perfect plan.

We decided not to use Zoom, or stream a service this morning, but rather we encouraged everyone to spend time alone or in your families with the Word of God, allowing God to speak to you.

Last week, as I was preaching through Ephesians 4:13-16, I spoke on the four attributes of spiritual maturity. The second one was, “spiritual maturity involves doctrinal stability”.

That sounds very much like, “seminary speak”, but the bottom line is that we need to feed on God’s word for ourselves in order to mature. And as we mature we will be able to discern between false doctrine and the truth found in God’s word.

So, on this day, you and I have the wonderful opportunity to feed on the glorious riches of the Word. Allowing the author, the Holy Spirit to give us a feast.

This morning I was reading Deuteronomy 30. Moses is giving his final instructions of the Law of God to the children of Israel. Moses was encouraging them to choose life, to choose to worship God alone and not to be distracted by the false gods and idols of the nations around them.

In Deuteronomy 30:11-15 we read, “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.”

Notice the emphasis I underlined. If the truth of God’s word was close during the time of Moses, how much more for us under the New Covenant. We have the blessing of the 3rd person of the Trinity, living in us as true followers of Jesus.

Jesus prepared his disciples for the coming of the Holy Spirit and in John 14:26-27 we read, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

In June of 2020, we certainly have a lot going on in the world around us. It would be easy for us to be so consumed by the events of the world that we become fearful and lacking peace.

Whether it be a sudden flood in a building, the Corona virus, political chaos or an earthquake in Mexico, our God is still the one who gives us peace. Our Heavenly Father does not react to the events of the world, rather, He is perfectly orchestrating all of the worlds events in preparation for His son, Jesus, to come again in glory.

In this season, if you are not spending time in God’s word, allowing the Holy Spirit to bring you peace and comfort, you will be easily swayed. Let us be a people who discern the season through the lens of God’s word.

Who are you listening to?

Sunday May 5, 2019 The Prescription for True Joy

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TRUE JOY

Paul’s letter to the Philippians

Are you joyful? The letter to the Philippian church is known as Paul’s letter of Joy. In Chapter 4:4 Paul makes a command, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”

So many people live joyless lives, we are surrounded things that steal our joy. Paul challenged the Philippian church to guard against things that would steal their joy.

Fear of opposition and suffering (Philippians 1:28 and 29)

In the western church, we have grown accustomed to the church being a respected part of society. The world is changing rapidly, and the true principles of Christianity are not welcomed or even tolerated. This should not surprise us if we read what Jesus taught as the signs of the end times in Matthew 24.

But we don’t need to be afraid of those who oppose Christianity, they are controlled by a different kingdom, a kingdom that tried to kill Jesus. As you live your life, being Christs ambassador, you will encounter opposition, it should not come as a surprise.

And then there is suffering; suffering is when things we desire, love and enjoy are taken away from us. We suffer when we lose a loved one, our health, our job, or we encounter a tragedy such as a natural disaster. We don’t ask for suffering, but it is a real part of our lives.

The challenge is, how do we prevent opposition and suffering from stealing our joy.

Lack of unity (Philippians 2:2-4)

Paul was joyful because the Philippian church was united. Does this mean there are never disagreements in the church? Of course not. It is quite normal to expect differences of opinion on certain subjects, but we must never compromise on the essentials of our faith and the truth of the Word.

So, when we do have differences of opinion, the governing rule must be love, “having the same love” (Philippians 2:2). This is a preferential love, a love that always seeks the highest good of others. This goes against the narcissism of the age in which we live.

Verse 2 ends with two more descriptions of unity, “being in full accord and of one mind”. This means that the church knows its God given purpose.  The purpose of the church is to, worship God, proclaim the Gospel, reach the lost and to care for the broken. The mission of the church always supersedes our personal preferences, that is Holy Spirit unity.

When the church is united around its mission and calling, the individual members of the church will experience joy. We will joyfully give, joyfully serve and joyfully fellowship with each other.

Grumbling or disputing (Philippians 2:14-15)

Paul is clear that all everything we do must be done without grumbling or disputing. The church is the representation of Christ on the earth and if we are characterized by grumbling and disputing, we are not going to attract people to Jesus.

Grumbling is also translated, Murmuring. This is the muttering under your breath or gossiping. This is like an undercurrent at a beach. From the surface, everything looks great, but as you get deeper into the water, the undercurrent sucks you under.

Disputing is the open arguments within the body. Normally where there is grumbling, arguments and disputes will follow. This has no place in the church.

When we argue, we are showing the world that our own personal opinions are more valuable than the name of our savior that we preach. Grumbling and disputing rob us of our joy.

False teaching (Philippians 3:2-3)

Paul rebukes the Judaizers, those false teachers who teaching that to become true Christian, you must go back to the law of Moses and begin practicing and conforming to the ancient Levitical law with all the rituals and sacrifices. These Judaizers prided themselves in their holiness and their morality, but Paul says that they were evildoers who were deceived, and deceiving others.

Today we have so many people who are trying to work for their salvation and striving to be good enough for salvation. Philippians 2:12 says “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling

We cannot work for our salvation, but we must work out our salvation. When you try to do things for God to earn salvation, not only are you not saved, you will also not experience true joy and peace with God.

Bad thinking (Philippians 4:8)

Proper actions come from proper thinking. What we think about will ultimately determine our practices. What you choose what to dwell on affects your whole life. Spending hours looking at other peoples posts on facebook or Instagram will rob you of joy. Harboring resentment against someone, dwelling on past pain, thinking impure thoughts, will all rob you of joy.

Lack of contentment (Philippians 4:11-13)

Paul had learned the secret of contentment as he trusted in the Lord in every circumstance. This is knowledge he has gained because of walking with God. We all go through seasons of need and abundance and if we don’t have a God given contentment, we will never experience joy.

So, with all these warnings of things that steal our joy, how do we find true joy?

In the middle of the letter Paul makes one of the most powerful declarations in all of scripture in Chapter 2:5-11.

Paul emphasizes the centrality of Christ in his life and in the life of the Church. The example of Christ is the key. It was because of Christs humility that God exalted him.

The key to joy is humility. Humility means that I trust that Jesus is enough. Humility is the very act of submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in every area of my life.

How have you lost your joy?

Where have you turned your focus away from the supremacy of Christ?

It doesn’t happen with one decision, it is a gradual process of neglecting spiritual disciplines. Neglecting prayer, neglecting God’s word, pulling back from fellowship with other believers.

All these things lead to a gradual turning away from the lordship of Christ and a gradual turning away from Joy.

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 4:8-9 – Sermon March 31, 2019

Philippians 4:8-9

How is your thinking?

Anxiety, depression, worry and fear all stem from our thinking.

“You are not what you think you are, but what you think – that you are”

You choose what to think about, and what you think about, affects your whole life.

In Philippians 4, Paul is coming to the end of the letter and he wants to encourage the Philippian church to healthy disciplines. Our thought life is a discipline, meditating on God’s word, allowing the Holy Spirit to renew our minds daily.

All sin begins with a thought, we see something, and it triggers a thought that leads to temptation.

We hear something in passing and a thought builds that leads to offence and we begin to hold a grudge. Our minds are the epicenter of the spiritual warfare that we are engaged in.

Whenever we begin to believe a lie, Satan has control over us in that area.

There is a battle for the control of our minds, therefore it is imperative for us to daily spend time in God’s word. We live in a world with a constant stream of information.  We are saturated with up to 16 hours a day of information and not much of it good. When we neglect feeding on God’s word, saturating ourselves with the truth, we will find it impossible to discern the between lies and the truth. it is impossible to have a growing relationship with Jesus Christ without spending time daily meditating on God’s word.

In 2 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul made it clear that we are in a battle for our minds (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

In Philippians 4:8 Paul lists eight adjectives:

1. True: For something to be true, it is genuine, and not counterfeit. In Ephesians 6, we read about the armor of God, of which the belt of truth is the first part of the armor, so that we will be able to stand firm against the lies of the enemy.

2. Honorable: Honorable or noble. Someone who is worthy of respect, who acts honorably is thinking honorably. This is the inward thought life of the follower of Christ.

3. Just: This suggests dealing in justice towards every-person, not given to favoritism or partiality. How we think about people will determine our justice towards them. Do we think about people differently because of the color of their skin, their age, their financial status or their education?

4. Pure: Authentic, stainless or without blemish. A pure glass of water can allow the light to go through unfiltered and clear. We as believers, as we keep ourselves pure, we allow the light of Jesus to shine through us. Sin is impurity that hinders the light of Christ to shine through our lives.

5. Lovely: Something that is lovely is pleasing and orderly. This speaks of harmony of thought not chaotic and hap-hazard thinking. When we allow sin to dwell in our hearts, when we think about impure things, our minds get flustered and easily frustrated.

6. Commendable: This is the opposite of Gossip. In our fallen and sinful state, we tend to gossip about someone rather than commend them. If you want to change the mood and atmosphere in a room, start speaking highly of each other, honoring and commending each other, and those not present.

7&8: Excellence and worthy of praise

Moral excellence is virtue and develops our fellowship with God.

Worthy of praise; to praise someone, rather than to tear them down.

As we look at these eight adjectives, these are the adjectives of the way we should be thinking. As we think about these things, we see that they are adjectives describing God.

God is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, praiseworthy.

God’s word is encouraging us to think about God, spending our time thinking deeply about the Creator God. Meditating on His awesome attributes and worshipping Him.

Then verse 9 Paul writes, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you

Proper actions come from proper thinking. What we think about will ultimately determine our practices. We often are surprised when someone we know is caught in a grievous sin or criminal activity, but it all begins with improper thinking.

J.D. Pentecost said, “Maturity in the Christian is not measured by what a man knows, but by what a man does.”

Thinking translates to doing and Paul was a living example of the conduct he expected the Philippian believers to walk in. Live by these thought patterns, taking them to heart allowing the Holy Spirit to dwell in you and transform your life, then you will know and experience the peace of God.

If you struggle to know the will of God for your life, you need to have a renewal of the mind (see Romans 12:2). Every-day we are exposed to images, words, experiences that soil our minds, we begin to become desensitized to sin and as a result our minds are full of impure thoughts and images. But here is the good news, God is able to transform our minds. As we ask God with repentance and thanksgiving, He renews our minds. Make a daily habit to pray for your mind to be renewed.

King David, after he sinned with Bathsheba he repented in Psalm 51. We read in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” David cried to God to supernaturally renew his spirit to change his thinking.

Our thought patterns can be so destructive.

Thoughts of unforgiveness

Thoughts of shame

Thoughts of rejection

Thoughts of inadequacy.

When Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave, he didn’t only make a way for us to be made right with God so that we would not have to spend eternity separated from God in Hell.

Jesus also made a way for us to know peace, for us to have renewed minds, healed and restored minds.

How is your thinking?

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 4:4-7 – Sermon March 24, 2019

Philippians 4:4-9

Peace Beyond Understanding

 Anxiety is the most pervasive psychological problem in our society, however, studies have shown that 90% of what we worry about never happens.

Anxiety is largely about perspective. Marketers and politicians know this all too well, using it to their advantage.  Today, get anxious about things they haven’t seen but have heard about on the internet.

JB Phillips in his book “your God is too small” wrote: “the trouble with many people today is that they have not found a God big enough for their everyday needs”

Fear prevents many Christians from experiencing all that God intends for our lives. Satan uses anxiety to create a cowardly, joyless soul. Fear wants you to take your eyes off the mountain peak and settle for the dull existence of the flat lands. But Satan has been overcome and Jesus won the victory on the cross (Hebrews 13:6).

In Philippians 4:4-7 Paul addresses anxiety and it is very practical and transformational as we apply the principles of God’s word. Jesus, while preaching the sermon on the mount, took a significant portion of his discourse to address the futility of anxiety (Matthew 6:34).

The Apostle Paul knew what it was like to experience hardship, he was in chains as he wrote this letter. He had every reason to be anxious, but rather he is full of joy and encouragement.

What was Paul’s secret?

Paul starts verse 4 by making an imperative statement, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” There is a huge difference between joy and happiness; joy flows out of security in a relationship. There is a direct connection between joy and love. Gaining a greater understanding of the love that God, your Heavenly Father, has for you, will give you peace and joy (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

Paul had the same confidence as the prophet Habakkuk, Paul was convinced that God was in control and that God would fulfill the promises of His word (Romans 8:28).

Do we have that same confidence? Or am I anxious because deep down, I am not fully convinced that God is able, that God is truly good. When we really search our hearts, the root of anxiety can be traced to unbelief in the all-powerful creator of the universe.

Verse 5 continues, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand”

We as followers of Jesus are to be known as people who are reasonable. But not just reasonable, the Greek word incorporates all the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). As we live the Spirit-filled life we will exhibit these qualities to those around us.

Verse 6, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

The key to overcoming anxiety is prayer. Paul makes an imperative statement, “do not be anxious about anything”. Anxiety leads to multiple physical maladies, prayer is the Biblical prescription for the illness of anxiety.

1: Prayer – Is the attitude of the person coming before the all-holy, all-powerful creator. Prayer is by nature humility, a recognition of who we are communicating with.

Prayer never begins with words – it begins in the heart, a humble attitude towards God.

Prayer is stepping away from the rushing world, trying to do it myself, a place where I am the problem solver, and throwing myself with dependence and recognition on the Creator of the universe. But so much more than this, we as believers in Jesus Christ can call the Creator, Father! This is prayer.

2: Supplication –Sharing our needs and problems with God. Not because He doesn’t know what we need, but rather because as we verbalize our needs, God works in our own hearts and prepares us for the answer to our prayers. God uses the prayers of the saints, His children, to change things. God doesn’t need our prayers, but He responds when we pray, because that is the way He has ordered the universe. We have a vital and powerful part to play through prayer. Prayer is a declaration of faith, because by presenting our requests to God, we are stating that He is able (Hebrews 11:6).

3: Thanksgiving – This is crucial, thank God before you have received the answer to your prayers.

All prayer is to be accompanied by thanksgiving. Thankful that God has heard our prayers, that God is moving on our behalf, that God has answered our prayers. We are to be thankful because God is going to give us exactly what we need in response to our prayers. Satan’s lies, cannot exist in a life full of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is Worship, putting God in the place of preeminence.

And then finally verse 7: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Through prayer, we can experience the peace of God, a miraculous work of God bringing peace to the heart and mind of the believer. It does not mean the absence of trials, Jesus said we would still have that (John 16:33). The peace of God is the ability to handle the trials without them stealing our joy.

This is supernatural, this is too much for us to grasp, “it surpasses all understanding”. This is the peace that makes the people around ask how we can remain calm during the storms of life. This peace is the result of the person who has taken everything to God in prayer, with thanksgiving.

This peace of God will also provide a guard for our hearts and minds. the peace of God is a protection against anxiety, stress and against bitterness towards those who have wronged us.

The peace of God is a guard and a protection against the lies of the enemy.

Verse 7 ends with the key, the key to this peace and joy is found in Christ Jesus. Only in the completed work of what Jesus did on the Cross and by his resurrection power are we able to experience the peace of God.

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.