Sermon, Sunday March 7, 2021 – Chosen!

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In 2014 there was an article in the news about a boy by the name of Davion in Florida, who at the age of 15 had been in the foster care system all his life. Davion desperately wanted to be adopted into a loving family and he knew that because of his age, this was highly unlikely.

He decided to be proactive and he worked hard to improve his physical appearance and his grades at school. On his own initiative, Davion boldly stood before the congregation of his local church and asked if anyone would choose him to be their son.

Davion was crying out to be chosen, to be a part of a family. Can you imagine your children having to market themselves and be on their best behavior and get all “A’s” in school to be accepted and loved?

The point is that we all have a deep desire to belong, to be chosen and to be a part of a family. This is the invitation that Jesus introduced when he walked the earth, and the same invitation stands today. We get invited into the family of God, where we are accepted just as we are, and our Father will never give up on us. It’s a family that wants the best for you. It’s a family that offers real hope for today and for your future.

In Mark 3:13 to 6:29, we catch a glimpse of the life and ministry of Jesus as he is at his most popular. Everywhere he goes crowds follow him in hopes of seeing a miracle or being healed themselves.

In Chapter 3 from verse 13, Jesus chooses the disciples to be in his family. Jesus didn’t pick the best theological minds and esteemed leaders, rather he chose ordinary fishermen, tradesmen, a politician, and a tax collector to be part of his family. Jesus chose them and used them to start a global movement that changed the world.

At the same time, Jesus was rejected by his own family (Mark 3:20-21). When his family heard about his ministry they said, “He is out of his mind.”

Jesus knew what it was like to be rejected, abandoned, and betrayed by your own family.

Jesus identifies with the many people whose family abandon and disown them when they place their faith in him as Lord.

Jesus identifies with Davion’s pain. Jesus identifies with your pain and Jesus chooses you to be in his family. Just a few minutes later Jesus said regarding his family, “For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35). Whoever is willing, has faith and believes becomes a member of this new family.

Faith Comes by Hearing is an organization committed to producing the audio Bible for every language in the world. One of the recordings is for a tribal group of Indians in Bolivia called Quechua. When the Quechuas first heard the Bible in their heart language, the response was amazing. Whole villages came to faith in Christ, families were healed, and churches were planted throughout the region. As the FCBH leadership began asking questions of the Quechua people, they found out that the most impactful Bible story was the healing of the women with the issue of blood found in Mark 5:21-34.

The woman had a chronic bleeding issue that had gone on for twelve years, and like many people with chronic illnesses, she emptied her bank account paying her medical bills. In addition, this medical problem made her ceremonially unclean in the community as per the law of Moses, which meant she was shunned, alone and broken. Out of a place of desperation she takes a huge risk and works her way through the crowd on her hands and knees to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. As she reaches out and touches the edge of Jesus’ cloak, she is immediately healed.

The reason why this particular story impacted the Quechua people was because they could identify with being rejected and shunned by society. It wasn’t until as recently as 1965 that there was a government ruling to declare that the Quechuan’s had a soul. Up until that time, they were regarded as nothing more than primitive animals.

When the Quechua’s hear the story in Mark chapter 5, they identify with the women considered unclean. They join with that woman and when she touched Jesus, they reached out and touched Jesus. Something happened in their souls and their spirits at that moment.

They were set free from their pain when they grasped what Jesus said in Mark 5:34, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease.”

The Quechua at that moment would begin to sob and break down. Their heart hurt because Jesus saw this woman as a human being, he healed her and invited her into his family. He freed her from her suffering. Their hearts hurt because Jesus, who now speaks their language, turns to them, and offers them that same invitation.

Jesus is now turning to you and offering you the same invitation.

After Davion spoke in the church, his story went viral and today he has a forever family.

Someone chose to adopt him into their family.

Imagine yourself standing in front of a church and pleading for someone to welcome you into their family, and even before you finish your speech, Jesus stands up and shouts out, “I chose you!”.  This is what Jesus does every-day, he says, “I love you and choose you just as you are (see Hebrews 2:11).

Jesus is the only one who has the power to set us free from our shame and to present us as righteous before God the Father. Those who believe in Jesus and receive him are the ones who are made holy.

Have you made the decision to make Jesus Christ Lord of your life?

Sermon, Sunday February 7, 2021

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What is the greatest thing you can do for your neighborhood?

We and the global Church, have been praying faithfully for revival, but what if we were praying for revival for the wrong motives? What if our prayers were only focused on church growth?

The real motive for revival should be our community transformed by a move of the Holy Spirit. Praying for revival must be bigger than our church. We must focus on praying for our community.

In Nehemiah chapter 8, we read the account of a revival that took place in Jerusalem in the fifth century before Christ. Under the governorship of Nehemiah, the walls of the city had been rebuilt and now all the people have gathered at the Water gate and request that Ezra, the priest, reads the book of the law of Moses. These are the first five books of our Bible.

 The water gate was an open public place that was large enough for all the people to gather. Scholars estimate that the crowd was around 50 000 people. As Ezra opened the scrolls and began reading from the Law of Moses, all the people stood in reverence and listened attentively. Ezra read aloud from daybreak until noon with 13 men assisting in the reading and 13 Levites mixing amongst the crowd to help with translation and understanding.

It is significant that this reading took place at the water gate. This place was chosen because the temple court was too small, but it is also significant that Gods Word was proclaimed in the marketplace, in the public square.

The Word of God is meant to be proclaimed in the public places, in the marketplace, and as we do that whole communities will be transformed. All too often the only place that the Word of God is proclaimed is in church buildings. We are doing such a disservice to our community by not proclaiming the Gospel message of Jesus Christ in our communities.

This public proclamation of the Law led to an immediate revival, the people were overcome with remorse and wept as Ezra expounded on the Law of God. Their sins were being exposed by the Holy Spirit and they repented.

What is revival? Firstly, it is not is a church meeting. Revival can start in a meeting, but a meeting itself is not revival. The dictionary states that revival is “restoration to life, consciousness, vigor. An awakening, in a church or community, of interest in and care for matters relating to personal religion

Revival is personal. It starts when individuals repent of their sins and openly proclaim Jesus as Lord. The Israelites were overcome with grief as their sins were exposed. This is what happens when we get a glimpse of the Glory of God and of His awesome purity compared to the sin in our lives.

Revival results in changed lives as people live in holiness and walk-in evangelism and social justice. People are no longer satisfied with the entertainment of the world.  Revival breaks the power of the charm of this world and gives us a heavenly perspective.

There have been some incredible revivals throughout history on every continent. All these revivals had one thing in common, an unusual experience with the presence of God and the overwhelming sense of remorse and repentance from the people (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Our churches, our city, our nation, needs revival. By God’s mercy, we will see a move of God that leads nations to repentance and an overwhelming sense of His Glory and majesty.

But every revival seems to have been relatively short lived. We just must look at the North Eastern United States today, it seems to be so dark and far from recognizing Jesus as Lord. But just a few hundred years ago, it was the center of the Great Awakening under the preaching of Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield.

As we see in Nehemiah chapter 13, this occurred in Jerusalem as well. Less than one year after the revival, it seemed that the people had backslidden, and Nehemiah had to take drastic action to bring them back to observing the Sabbath and worshipping God.

Why did they backslide so quickly?

As we cry out to God for revival, how do we ensure that we do not falter in our faith, but rather continue to grow and experience more of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives?

Our Christian lives should be constantly growing, becoming more like Jesus. If you are not more like Jesus today, than you were a year ago, something is wrong, and you need to re-evaluate your walk with the Lord.

Many Christians go from conference to conference or meeting to meeting and experience amazing encounters with God, but between those experiences they barely live a life that represents a relationship with the living God. After every mountain top experience, we must learn to encounter God in the everyday, mundane life.

How do you grow in your walk with the Lord in the mundane?

Here are four Keys to a growing relationship with God.

  • The first is reading and meditating on the Word of God. There is no substitute for prioritizing time immersed in the Bible.  As we feed on God’s word, it teaches us, rebukes us, and trains us (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Are you allowing the Word of God to align your life with His?
  • Secondly, repenting of our sins. Unconfessed sin will prevent you from experience revival and it will also ensure that you remain a spiritual infant. 1 John 1:9, is a promise from God!
  • Thirdly, living in community. Today we are hearing a lot about community, but true community is rare. Even in our churches, community is a goal that is seldom achieved. Community is more than simply attending a weekly life group, community is living life together, encouraging and challenging each other.  
  • Finally, we pray.  Personal prayer and corporate prayer must be the hallmark of every believer. Prayer is a discipline and a treasure that sadly only a few seem to hold dear.

Prayer is the greatest thing that you can do for your neighborhood.

Sermon, Sunday December 13, 2020 Prayer is Essential

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As Paul closes this letter, its as if he is saying to his readers, “the most important thing is prayer”. Followers of Jesus must be constantly in prayer.

Verse 18 is a continuation of verse 17, putting on the armor of God. But the armor is useless without prayer, much like a military vehicle is useless without fuel.

We put on the armor of God, we take up the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, prayerfully. Prayer is not simply something that we do, prayer is the fuel that is essential for us to stand firm in Christ.

Ephesians 6:18 reads, “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,”

As Christians, we are engaged in a daily spiritual battle, and prayer is the essential means that God has given us to win the battles we face. Prayer is a gift from God and one that is grossly underutilized in our churches.

As we look at the phrase, “praying at all times in the Spirit”, Paul wants us to realize the fact that all true prayer is empowered by the Holy Spirit. We come to the Father, through Jesus by the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:26 tells us that the Spirit is interceding for us when we don’t know how to pray. Only in the power of the Spirit can we pray the will of God. Otherwise, we will always pray with selfish motives.

The Holy Spirit takes our prayers and ignites them so that they become a holy offering before God. It is the Holy Spirit who takes our prayers and presents them in the will of God before the Father. Do you see the importance of prayer?

Now it is possible to pray in the flesh, and not in the spirit, not praying in the will of God. We need to learn how to pray the will of God in the Spirit. As we pick up the sword of the Spirit and we pray the Word of God back to Him, it is infused with power from the Holy Spirit.  

Each piece of armor must be carefully put on with prayer, drawing upon divine resources.

This prayer is Spirit-energized, Spirit-enabled, and Spirit-directed. Prayer is the energy that enables the follower of Jesus to stand firm in the armor and to wield the sword effectively.

In verse 18 we see the word “all” used four times.

  • We are to pray all the time. (see 1 Thessalonians 5:17).

This does not mean we are always on our knees in prayer. Rather it means living with the continuous realization that we have an open line to God. We are always in His presence because His spirit is within us.

God hears and sees everything you say and do. Every curse and every blessing that you speak is heard by God.  We don’t have to let God know that we are coming into His presence, because He is already with us and we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). Are you aware of your continuous prayers?

  • Pray with all prayer and supplication

There is so much more to prayer than simply asking God for things. Prayer is a mixture of worship, thanksgiving, repentance and supplication. The Christian who jumps straight into asking God for things, misses out on the relationship that comes from worship and thanksgiving.

We have one rule at our Tuesday morning prayer times in the chapel. The first thirty minutes is only praise and worship, we don’t ask God for anything. It is amazing how that first thirty minutes aligns our hearts with the heart of God and then we pray with insight and direction for the remaining thirty minutes.

  • Pray with all perseverance:

Like good soldiers, we must stay alert and be disciplined. Jesus encouraged his disciples in his most crucial hour to stay alert and pray (see Mark 4:38).  We need to teach and develop spiritual disciplines today!

It is frightening to learn how few people pray, read their Bibles, fast, or tithe. These are all basic spiritual disciplines that come with a blessing.

If we look at the lack of spiritual discipline in the church, it is no wonder the church has such a weak witness. No wonder people no longer view the church as essential.

Perseverance in prayer does not mean we are trying to twist God’s arm, but rather that we are deeply concerned and burdened and cannot rest until we get God’s answer.

The early church prayed without ceasing when Peter was in prison in Acts 12, and they persevered until the angel set him free. Keep on praying until the Spirit stops you or the Father answers you.

  • Pray for all the saints.

The Lords’ Prayer begins with our Father, not my father. When we become followers of Jesus, we become part of the family. You have a responsibility to look out for and to pray for all your new family.

Unity in the body of Christ is a major focus of this letter and unity grows as we intercede for one another. Even Paul asked for the prayer support of the Ephesians in verses 19 and 20. If Paul needed the prayers of the saints, how much more do we need them.

Note that Paul did not ask them to pray for his comfort or safety, but for the effectiveness of his witness and ministry. Paul is arguably the greatest theologian and missionary in history, and he knows that he is dependent on the prayers of the saints.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is one of the sharp edges of the Sword of the Spirit, however it means nothing if you do not have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Do you know who you are…in Christ?

Sermon, Sunday November 15, 2020 Spirit Filled Families

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As a church we can proclaim to be fiercely pro-life, from conception to the grave, but sometimes we can be guilty of categorizing the value of people based on their productive ability.

And this is never more prevalent in the area of our children. Our children can be noisy and messy, but they are of inestimable value in the Kingdom of God (see Mark 10:13-14).

We are so blessed to have so many children in our church family and I believe that they are our greatest responsibility. The training up of children in the ways of the Lord is the primary responsibility of the parents, but it is all of our responsibility. The community of believers all bear the responsibility of caring for and setting examples for our children.

In the first century Roman Empire, children were not valued at all. It was legal for a father to discard a newborn onto the trash heap if he decided not to keep the child. But the early church was radically different to their culture and had a high regard for children, as should we. There is no greater responsibility than to be entrusted with the short time that we must teach and mold these children in the ways of the Lord.

Paul begins by addressing children and telling them to obey their parents, “…for this is right”, Ephesians 6:1.

This seems obvious, but sadly our post-modern culture would re-write this verse to say, “Parents, obey your children, for this will keep them happy and bring peace to the home.

When Paul says, “for this is right”, he is simply stating that this is the ordained order of nature. It is part of the natural law of God written on every human heart. If you study history, virtually every civilization in history has regarded this natural law as indispensable for a stable society.

In Paul’s letter to the Colossian Church he adds the phrase, “…for this pleases the Lord” Colossians 3:20.

Now, this must not be a blanket statement that parents use for abuse. Our foremost authority is to Jesus, and if parents instruct their children to do things that are obviously contrary to the Word of God, then the child’s first line of obedience is to the Lord.

Paul writes in verse 2 that children must honor their parents. To honor means to show respect and love. Children do not honor when they talk back to their parents or mock them. This is not simply wrong; it is dishonoring to God Himself who has given you those parents.

Paul was referring to the fifth commandment in Exodus 20:12 and in Exodus 21 anyone who cursed their parent or hit them, was to be put to death!

This commandment does not only apply to a certain age group, God requires all of us to honor our parents. 

Verse 4 has a particular challenge to parents, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” Ephesians 6:4. The word translated as fathers, is translated in other passages as “parents”, so it is safe to assume that Paul is referring to both parents in the role of raising their children.

This verse is more than simply an instruction not to make children angry, it is an instruction to parents to directly teach children and to disciple them in the ways of God. Our society has abdicated the responsibility of raising our children to the public-school systems and we wonder why society is failing in so many areas.

Parents taking the responsibility for the training of their children is the way God intends society to function (Proverbs 6:20).

In the ancient world, fathers had absolute control, they could abuse and even kill their children without any repercussions. We don’t have that challenge in our culture; however, we can be guilty of causing anger and discouragement in our children. Our children are often neglected and fail to receive the love and approval that will cause them to thrive in society. We can easily discourage our children by comparing them to other children or by using sarcasm and ridicule. Conversely, nothing causes a child to thrive like positive encouragement and unconditional love.

The Apostle Paul writes that parents are to, “but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” Ephesians 6:4b.

Contemporary parent counsellors and sociologists teach that we are to be more hands-off in the training of children. We are told to be non-directive and let them, “find their own way”.

Let me assure you, someone has an agenda for your children. Satan and his demons love to find children who have been left to, “find their own way”. Parents, it is our primary responsibility to train and instruct our children in the ways of the Lord. Danny Akin says about parenting, “have fun and talk about Jesus a lot”

We must teach our children that Jesus is Lord, and he is the ultimate and highest good. We must teach our children faith by living it in front of them. Involve our children in the process of praying through important life decisions. Parents, we can talk all day about living under the lordship of Jesus Christ, but unless our children see it in our lives, they will never make it their own.

Sadly, so many young people have left the church the moment they graduated from high school. I believe the primary reason is that they see the church as a social construct or a social club that their parents belong to. They do not see the power of the Gospel on display and the lifestyle of faith that the Bible talks about.

Parents lead your homes by faith and involve your children in the journey.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.

Psalm 127:1a

Parenting is only possible with God and it is a daily walk by faith. We need to learn to commit our children to the Lord daily in prayer as we look to Him for grace and wisdom.

Sermon, Sunday November 1 2020 A Case for Faith

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In November of 2020, we have no shortage of issues that can cause anxiety and fear. But Psalm 46 gives us a clear case for faith.

This Psalm was written around 700 years before Christ, by the sons of Korah to commemorate a tremendous victory that God won for the city of Jerusalem.

The Assyrian army under King Sennacherib, had surrounded the city, threatening total destruction. This took place under the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah.

The Assyrians had already destroyed the northern Kingdom of Israel and now they continued their march southwards towards Judah and Jerusalem. You can read this fascinating account in 2 Kings 18 and 19.

The situation looked terrible, the greatest army in the world was laying siege to Jerusalem and the people were in fear. There was no hope for deliverance, all would surely be lost.

But the Lord had raised up Hezekiah as a man of faith.

A letter was written by Sennacherib instructing Hezekiah to surrender, because his god was no different than the other gods of the nations the Assyrians had already destroyed. Sennacherib was taunting the one true God. When Hezekiah received the letter, he went to the temple and prayed, laying the letter before God. A few nights later, the angel of the Lord attacked the Assyrian camp and killed 185000 Assyrian soldiers. The victory was the Lords, the city of Jerusalem was saved (Psalm 46:8-9).

Hezekiah the King faced an impossible situation, but he submitted the letter from Sennacherib to the Lord.

What “letter” have you received that is causing you anxiety? It might be a doctors’ diagnosis, a foreclosure letter, a medical bill, or an unexpected layoff from your work. Whatever it is, lay it before the Lord and leave it there allowing the Lord to work a miracle.

This is taking fear and submitting it in faith to God. When we looked at Scripture, we see that it is a command of God that we must not fear. Jesus taught in Matthew 6 that we must not be anxious over anything.  

Fear is a subtle form of idolatry because when we put fear of the unknown over the power of God, fear becomes an idol.

King David knew how to do this, he had many situations that he took to the Lord and left them there. Psalm 131 is a wonderful picture of how David feels after he has taken his problem to the Lord. The key to this peace is a lifestyle of prayer.

Prayer that comes from a relationship with our Heavenly father. God is not limited by us; however, He chooses to orchestrate the events of the world in response to the prayers of His children. This is a mystery that we cannot begin to fathom. Why the eternal Creator invites His creation into the process of governing the universe, but He does!

I have been blessed to travel to many different countries during extraordinary seasons of transition, most of the time I was not aware of what was going on. I was simply there, joining with other believers in prayer. Looking back, I have been amazed at seeing what God did in those situations.

There is much anxiety in America right now, we see it on the streets of our cities. As followers of Jesus Christ how do we navigate these turbulent times? What it really boils down to is where do we place our hope? What is God calling the church to do in this time in America? We are called to pray.  

God can do more in answer to one simple prayer in faith than one-hundred years of political campaigning.

Psalm 46:1 is a powerful declaration of the fact that God is a proven source of help and He will never fail. Is God your refuge and strength?

King Hezekiah prayed to God for help and God responded in power.

The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.

Psalm 46:6

God imply utters His voice and the earth melts. The power of the Creator over His creation!

The world is still before God as we see in verse 10.

Be still and know that I am God.

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.

Psalm 46:10

Being still before the Lord is a good place to start fighting our fear. However, if we do not know God, we will always live lives in fear. Without the knowledge of God, life is a futile treadmill of fear and uncertainty.

God promises to be exalted across the whole earth. Here is the amazing mystery, we are invited to participate in God’s name being exalted in the whole earth. As we pray and as we go and tell others about Jesus, God is being exalted.

What will it take to get you to be a person of prayer?

The most powerful and significant way to spend our time is prayer and so often we use it as a last resort.

Stop trying to win political arguments or post things on social media that make no difference to peoples’ eternal wellbeing.

Pray for repentance and healing in our land

Pray for a powerful move of God and an awakening in the land.

The Key to Defeating Anxiety – Sermon March 29, 2020

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Philippians 4:4-7

Some have asked, “what do we do now that church has been cancelled? Well, it depends how you define church. Yes, we have cancelled the meeting together at Sunday morning at 10:30 in a building, but you cannot cancel a movement.

The dictionary defines a movement as, “a series of organized activities by people working concertedly toward some goal”.

That is the church, we focus the attention of a group of people on a specific goal. And that specific goal has not changed for 2000 years.

Many churches have temporary goals; building buildings, alleviating poverty, or focusing on some social injustice, but the primary goal of the church remains the Great Commission.

This terrible virus is forcing us to look at everything we do and our religious practices to determine and I believe to refine our goals. As we evaluate the church, I am reminded of the early church in Acts 2, they met in small groups in homes and in the temple courts daily. So, when people say, “I watched a sermon online, I attended church”, I must disagree, you took in some information, but the body of Christ must be together. There is a family aspect that is vital to us functioning as the church.

The important point is that isolation is not the designed posture of the church, we need to be in community, and we need to be caring for one another and praying for one another during this time of anxiety and worry.

Fear has prevented many Christians from experiencing all that God intends for you in your life. Fear of death, fear of failure, fear of a virus that seems to be rapidly affecting everything we know.

The key to victory over worry and anxiety, is found in Philippians 4:4-7.

Anxiety is the most pervasive psychological problem in our society. And we have no shortage of fuel for the fire of anxiety in March 2020.

In Philippians 4:4-7 Paul addresses anxiety and it is very practical and transformational as we apply the principles of God’s word. The Apostle Paul knew what it was like to experience hardship, he was in chains as he wrote this letter, and yet he was 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. The Prophet Habakkuk understood this as he wrote in 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 (see 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, or that God is truly good.

When we 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, some translations will say, gentleness or patience, the Greek word incorporates all the fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23).

As we live the Spirit-filled life we will exhibit these qualities to those around us.

Philippians 4:6 is the key to overcoming anxiety; it is prayer. Paul makes an imperative statement, “do not be anxious about anything”. Prayer is the Biblical prescription for the illness of anxiety.

There are three aspects to this prescription for anxiety found in verse 6; Prayer, supplication and thanksgiving.

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 and a humble attitude towards God.

Prayer is admitting our weakness and submitting with dependence and recognition to the Creator of the universe. But more than that, we as believers in Jesus Christ can call the Creator, Father! We as children of God, come into His throne room, He is delighted to speak to us.  

2: Supplication – This is the act of 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 doesn’t need our prayers, but He responds when we pray, because that is the way He has ordered the universe.

3: Thanksgiving – It is crucial to thank God even before we have received the answer to our prayers. All prayer is to be accompanied by thanksgiving. We are to be thankful because God is going to give us exactly what we need in response to our prayers.

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. This does not mean the absence of trials, Jesus said we would still have that in John 16:33, but the peace of God is the ability to handle the trials without them stealing our joy.

This is too much for us to grasp, “it surpasses all understanding” as verse 7 says.  

This peace is the result of the person who has taken everything to God in prayer, with thanksgiving.

The peace of God is a protection against anxiety, stress and against bitterness towards those who have wronged us.

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.

Did you speak with the Prince of Peace today?

Do You Know God? Sunday March 15, 2020

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Ephesians 1:15-23

The letter to the Ephesian church speaks a lot about our identity, but the more important question is, do we know God?  

The apostle Paul desired the Ephesian Christians to understand what great wealth they had in Christ.

Notice that Paul is not praying for them to receive something from God that they do not have, rather he is praying that God will reveal to them what they already have.

Paul writes in verse 15-16, “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”

Paul heard that they were people of faith and love. The Christian life has two dimensions: faith toward God, and love toward men, and you cannot separate the two (see John 13:35).

Paul writes that he is praying continuously for the believers in Ephesus (see 1 Thessalonians 5:17).

As followers of Jesus we are to be a people of prayer, speaking to God, hearing from Him and practicing a lifestyle of prayer.

In verses 17-19, Paul turns to petition. As he writes out his prayer, he uses three phrases that refer to illumination or understanding. In verse 17: Spirit of Wisdom and of revelation and verse 18: having the eyes of your heart enlightened.

Paul prayed that they would have spiritual eyes to see who God is and what He has done for them.

This is essential when we approach the Bible as we need the Holy Spirit to reveal truth to us (see Luke 24:45).

Charles Spurgeon said, “apart from the Spirit, it is easier to teach a tiger vegetarianism than an unregenerate person the Gospel.”

We will never fully grasp the Word of God if we approach it like a textbook. Sadly, so much of our passion for discipleship is not pointing people to a relationship fed by the word of life, rather, we are trying to teach people a book.

This is also why there is so much false teaching and confusion in Christian circles today. People are not feeding on God’s word for themselves. As a result, there is a self-imposed starvation in the body of Christ.

In Psalm 119, David frequently asks God for revelation and understanding (see Psalm 119:18, 34, 135).

One of the reasons we don’t pray for God to speak to us through the Bible is because we have an over-inflated opinion of our own abilities. We come with our educated opinions and intellect and think that we have it all figured out.

The first step of hearing from God in His word is to approach the Bible with humility.  

Along with our lack of humility, we also have a low view of God. Paul had a healthy view of God, in verse 17 he describes God as “the Father of Glory”.

Paul often related the glory of God with the power of God. Paul was confident that God has the power to open the eyes of our hearts and give us understanding.

Verse 17 ends with the words, “the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him”.

As followers of Jesus, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, we can grow in our knowledge of Him. The Christian walk is daily discovering more about God for the rest of eternity (see John 17:3). The beginning, the middle and the end of the Christian life is about knowing God.

The Christian life is about knowing God and making him known, this is the normal Christian life.

J.I. Packer in his book “knowing God”, says that those who know God have 4 characteristics:

  1. Great energy for God
  2. Great thoughts of God
  3. Great boldness for God
  4. Great contentment in God

Verse 18 continues, “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints”.

What is the hope to which He has called us?

Paul wants the readers to know that they were called by God and as a result there is a hope of eternal life. The Greek word for “hope” means to look forward with the expectation of a certain outcome. As followers of Jesus, we don’t have a distant hope in an uncertain future, we have a certain glorious anticipation in Jesus coming again and the kingdom of Heaven being established for eternity. We have a living hope (see 1 Peter 1:3).

Paul then writes again about an inheritance in verse 18, “…what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” We are God’s inheritance! God looks on the redeemed as a part of His great wealth. God gets the glory from the church and when Jesus comes again, we will be to the praise of His glorious grace as we saw in verse 6.

God the father sees us today as who we are in Christ. God always looks at a person’s destiny rather than their present situation.

Back in Judges 6, the angel of the Lord met with Gideon who was cowering from the Midianites and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” Judges 6:12b

Gideon didn’t know who he was, but God knew who he was called to be. As followers of Jesus, God sees us as who we are in Christ. We are called out and covered by the righteousness and Glory of the risen Lord Jesus. Our lives are controlled by what we shall be when Christ returns. We are Gods inheritance, and we live to bring Him glory.

We are designed and created to know God and to make Him known, to bring Him glory.

Do you know that today?

Do you hunger to know God more?

What’s the Big Deal about Christmas? Part 1. Sermon Sunday December 15, 2019

Click on the camera above to view a video of the church service.

It is the Christmas season and almost everyone is talking about shopping and gifts. Society views Christmas as a big deal, it’s time off work, celebrations and family time. However, a lot of the big deal is driven by greed and commercialism. I wonder if Christmas would be celebrated the same way if we didn’t give gifts? If there was no commercial benefit in Christmas, would the malls and stores promote it so widely, if at all? Sadly, the modern-day Christmas celebration is a distraction of the Big deal that really took place 2000 years ago.

The first few verses of Paul’s letter to the Roman church is not your typical Christmas sermon text, but it is a concise record of why Christmas is such a big deal for us.

Paul introduces himself in verse 1, and in the original Greek, he used ten words to describe all that the Roman church needed to know about him. In English it is around eighteen words, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” Romans 1:1

Paul begins by calling himself a servant. The Greek word is Doulos, which means a humble slave or servant. Paul never exalted himself because he realized that he was a sinner saved by grace (see 1 Timothy 1:15). As followers of Jesus, we are all undeserving sinners, saved by grace, called to be servants of the King of Kings.

Next, Paul says that he was “called to be an apostle”.  Jesus appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus and called him, changing his life completely (see Acts 9). He was called to be an apostle, which means an ambassador or messenger sent by God. Paul was sent by Jesus as his messenger to proclaim the Gospel to the world.

Paul then says that he was consecrated, “Set apart for the Gospel of God”. Paul was completely transformed from his old way of life and he was set on a new path. This is what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, to be set apart and placed on a new pathway, one that leads to eternal life for the glory of God. If you don’t know that you are set apart, you are probably not saved.

Paul was set apart for the Gospel. We sing carols at Christmas that speak about “glad tidings”, which means the good news. The good news that God reached down into this broken world. He lived amongst us, dying for our sins in order to provide the perfect sacrifice so that we could be set free from the burden of sin. Jesus was raised back to life on the third day and through him we can live an abundant life, a life of meaning and purpose for the glory of God (see Isaiah 9:2).

After Paul uses the first verse to introduce himself, he steps out of the way and introduces Jesus, the reason for his letter. He begins with the fact that the Old Testament has hundreds of prophecies declaring the arrival of Jesus, the messiah.

Jesus Christ coming into this world to live and die for our sins was not an afterthought or a “plan b” by God. This gospel message was planned and originated before the foundation of the world.  Jesus came with a primary purpose, to live a perfect sinless life so that he could offer his life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Jesus, the creator God, who spoke all of creation into existence, stooped down, and humbled himself for the sake of his creation.

Donald Grey Barnhouse said, “love that gives upward is worship, love that goes outward is affection, love that stoops is grace.”

This is overwhelming because we have no concept of the greatness of God. We speak about it, we sing “How Great is our God”, but we really have no idea. Moses had a unique relationship with God and in Exodus 33, we read how Moses asked God to show him His glory. God knew it would be too much for Moses, so he sheltered Moses inside the cleft of a rock and then covered him with His hand while God let His goodness pass by Moses.

In the next chapter we read that Moses came down the mountain with the stone tablets of the law and the people are terrified of him because his face is shining. Moses spent time with God, and he radiated the glory of God.

Because of Christmas, the cross and the empty tomb, we can come into the presence of God and speak to God, coming into His presence through Jesus Christ. This is prayer and this is why prayer is such an amazing privilege and source of power. Do you radiate the presence of God because you spend time daily in the presence of the most Holy God? Those around us should see the effects on our lives as a result of our prayer life.

Jesus came down from Heaven to be born in a manger in Bethlehem. This amazing God stoops down and provides a way for us to be saved and then in verse 5 Paul continues, “through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,”

We are not saved to simply sit back and live our “best lives now”. We are saved by God in order to be a witness for him, to proclaim this good news to all the world. When you are saved and filled with the Holy Spirit, you are equipped with power from Heaven, and a new purpose in life (see Ephesians 2:10).

The final phrase of verse 5 is the purpose of it all, for the sake of His name, for the glory of God. All the redemptive story of Christmas and the Gospel focuses on the glory of God.

Christmas is a big deal, but the big deal is that God came down to His creation so that we could be saved from an eternity separated from God and that when we are saved, we are called to share this good news to a lost and dying world.

Oswald Chambers wrote: “There is only one relationship that matters, and that is your personal relationship to a personal Redeemer and Lord. Let everything else go, but maintain that at all costs, and God will fulfil His purpose through your life. One individual life may be of priceless value to God’s purpose, and yours may be that life.”

Christmas is a bid deal, and it is the time of the year when everyone around us is celebrating the birth of our savior. What a tremendous opportunity we have to introduce people to a personal relationship with him.

Who are you going to tell this week about your relationship with the King of Kings?

Sunday November 17, 2019 Balkan Call Report Back

Click on the camera to see the video of the service.

Intimacy and the power of Prayer

This past week our small team arrived back from Macedonia, so much happened that it is impossible to cover in a short article. But as I look back it seems that there is one theme that God seems to be impressing on the global church.  

The Sunday before we left, we prayed for the persecuted church. Little did we know that we were going to meet some of those we were praying for in person. The three-day conference, the Balkan Call, was closed to photography because a number of the attendees were labelled as terrorists by the places where they were serving the Lord.  We met missionaries who had been imprisoned, some had been kicked out of their countries and others had been threatened or intimidated. All these heroes have one thing in common, they are people of prayer.

God is raising up people all over the world who are starting prayer meetings in churches or homes. Across the globe, people are gathering together to pray for the kingdom of God to come, for His will to be done.

Our dear friend B is a missionary from Germany who lives in Gilane, Kosovo, and is helping people start prayer rooms all over the region. She planned and coordinated the prayer room that our team helped with during the conference. The little prayer room upstairs from the main conference venue, had continuous prayer and worship for 75 hours, covering the conference in prayer. Our Airbnb apartment was constantly busy as people were coming and going all hours of the night, to and from times of prayer.  

One of the speakers was Pastor Andrew Brunson and his wife Norine. The Brunson’s were missionaries in Turkey for over 20 years, but the government only began to take notice and persecute them when they began to pray and mobilize others to pray. We heard how Andrew was imprisoned for two years, until he was released last year. He firmly believes that God chose him to be imprisoned in order to focus millions of people around the world to pray for the Gospel to be proclaimed in Turkey. Many of us were aware of his imprisonment and it is true that millions prayed, not only for his release, but also for the persecuted church in Turkey.

When we begin to pray, the world takes notice, Satan and his demons take notice. In Exodus 33 we read about the Tent of Meeting, the place where Moses met with God face to face (Exodus 33:11). When Moses met with God, the entire nation of Israel came and watched. They came and worshipped and stood at the entrances to their tents.

Today, people notice when we pray. When we pray together as the church, the neighborhood notices. It is as if the neighborhood stands and looks at the church because something is happening, God is meeting with His people. When we pray for our community, the community changes, there is a shifting that takes place.

Satan will do anything to prevent a church from praying, really praying. The governments of this world are afraid of a praying church. Whenever a dictator begins to take power, the first thing they do is attempt to squash the praying church, because there is power in prayer.

Our team met with Maurice, a believer from Egypt, who told us of a miracle that has recently taken place in Egypt. Since the Ottoman empire, there has been a law on the restriction of building churches or even repairing churches in Egypt. This law has stood for over five-hundred years. But this law was finally removed last year by the Egyptian president. The church in Egypt had been faithfully praying for this and God heard their prayers.  

It is important for us to pray together as a church, but we will never have a passion for praying together if we don’t pray alone. If we don’t have a personal, intimate walk with the Lord, we will have no desire to pray with others for revival in our world. The desire to pray for revival and national healing, comes from a deep personal devotional walk with the Lord.

During the final day of the conference, I spent some time with a man from Germany by the name of Heinrich. He was radically saved a number of years ago from a life of drugs and wild living. As a result of his radical conversion he felt that he needed to serve God wholeheartedly and he began doing lots of things for God. He began to get involved with missions, community service, street evangelism and helping the poor.  As I spoke with him, I felt the Lord reminding me of John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

As I began sharing that with him, he began to weep, he broke down and told me that this is exactly what he was told by his pastor back in Germany. You see, Heinrich was serving God out of guilt, but our heavenly Father wants a relationship with us first and foremost and then out of that relationship flows the acts of ministry.

We get it wrong all the time, Jesus calls us to abide in him, to spend time with him. A healthy Christian is one who prioritizes time alone with God. A healthy church is one that prioritizes prayer and dependency on the power of God.

Our natural tendency is to work for God, but that becomes a burden as we see with the priests in Malachi 1. If we do things for God in our own strength, eventually we will grow weary and drift away from God and the joy of serving Him. The truth is that God does not need anything from us, He wants a relationship with us.

God wants to speak to you and show you His love for you. Prayer is critical to our walk with the Lord. How is your personal prayer life?

Sermon Sunday October 20, 2019 – Standing for Truth

Stand for Truth

Malachi 2:1-9

What is truth?

We can all agree that gravity causes objects to fall to the ground, fire is hot, and multiple other unquestioned truths.

The second paragraph of the declaration of independence begins with the sentence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident…

But we live in an age when truth is no longer considered self-evident. Truth is under attack and Biblical truth is under attack.

The apostle Paul challenges Timothy to preach the truth in 2 Timothy and then he speaks of a time when truth will be subjective (2 Timothy 4:3-4), that time is now.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we must not only know the truth, but we also must stand for the truth and proclaim the truth.

In Malachi 2, God rebukes the priests for their lack of holding to the truth, and he warns them in verse 2, that if they do not honor His name, He will curse them. God warns them to take the truth to heart. To take something to heart means more than simply hearing the truth, it means applying it to our every day lives. Hearing and then believing.

When we don’t take God’s truth to heart, we can hear it all day long, but we will continue to live in sin. It has been said that, “right belief produces right behavior.”

In verse 3, God says that he will rebuke their offspring, and this principle still applies today.  The way you live your life today, affects the lives of those who are coming after you. If you choose to walk in sin and not follow the path that God has for you, it will affect your children and their children. There are generational blessings and curses that we enact by our daily walk. Even our “secret sins”, which is an oxymoron because there are no secret sins, these affect the lives of those who will come after us.

God warns the priests that He will embarrass them publicly, He will shame them by smearing their faces with the dung from the offering animals, and then throw them out along with the scraps and leftovers. God cursed them not simply because of their laziness and poor offerings, God cursed them because they rejected the truth and misled others. They were not living according to the high standard of their calling as priests.

In verses 4 to 7, God reminds the priests of the covenant He established with Levi. The Levites had a greater honor, they were set apart by God and His covenant with them was one of life, peace, fear and awe (Malachi 2:5).  

The problem in most Christian circles today is that we no longer have reverence for the almighty God. We do a good job of portraying the loving Heavenly Father, full of grace and truth, but we seldom grasp the God who holds the entire universe in the palm of His hand, while at the same time holding every atom in our bodies together. We need to develop an awe, reverence, respect and fear of God. Most people do not fear God.

Oswald Chambers wrote, “The most remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”

The role of the priests was to guard the truth and then to declare the truth (Malachi 2:7). The priest is God’s messenger, declaring the truth of God’s word. This word from the Lord is equally relevant for us today as we are all priests who are called by God to proclaim His glory and majesty (1 Peter 2:9). The purpose of this proclamation is to turn people away from their sin and towards a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Wherever God has placed you, that is where He calls you to be a proclaimer of the truth. We do this as we disciple people in our lives.  

We must be a people who know the truth, stand for the truth and declare the truth.

We live in a time when truth itself has been despised – devalued. Truth has become a set of subjective statements and if you claim that there is objective truth, then you are criticized as being narrow minded at best or even prejudiced and bigoted. But truth, objective Biblical truth, is what holds society together.

President George Washington during his Farewell Address: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.” “Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

We are seeing the consequences of a drift from truth all around us.

In Malachi 2:8, we see that because of the priest’s compromise, laziness and weakness, many had been led astray. God takes this seriously (Mark 9:42).

This sounds like a message that will preach well at a pastor’s conference, and yes, it is much needed in our culture where so many pastors are so concerned about numbers and finances that they will make any accommodation to culture, just to keep the people happy. But this applies to all of us. We as a church are called to be ambassadors for Christ, to stand for the light and truth of the Gospel, and at times this stand will require us to swim against the stream of our culture. We are all called to be priests, standing for the truth in a culture of relativism (John 17:17, and John 14:6).

We are not talking about a culture war, we are talking about life or death, eternal life or eternal separation and punishment. Our interactions with people, have eternal consequences.

The church will also suffer the consequences of turning away from the truth. Every denomination or church that has compromised the truth to accommodate culture, will eventually be dismissed and disregarded by society.

Do you stand for truth?

Do you fear God, or do you fear culture?