Mission Tahlequah report back. June 19, 2022

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Every Mission trip is different and this one was especially special. This one had so many unique stories that it is going to take all of us quite some time to process all that God did in and through us.

Thank you so much for all who contributed in finances to enable others to go. It was such an incredible blessing to see the Lord provide as He always does.

We began the mission by driving up to an overlook over the city and prayed together for the city and the people that we would be meeting during the week. As we were sitting there, the Lord took me to 2 Corinthians 2:14-17, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.”

As we prayed over the city of Tahlequah, I felt the impact of years of lies spoken over these people. Lies of manipulation and fear, promising them wealth and prosperity, but never delivering. Lies of centuries of belief in ancestral worship.

As I was praying about this, I was reminded of Isaiah 59:14, Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.”

Truth has been removed from the public square in Tahlequah and in America. We must remember that truth is a person. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). As missionaries we are representatives of the truth.

The Lord sent us with a commission as verse 17 says. We came to the city and region around Tahlequah with an authority to proclaim the truth of God’s word, Commissioned by God.

We spread the fragrance of the aroma of Christ as we knocked on doors and met people in the streets. Some people were drawn to us. Drawn into conversation, like Robert who was sitting in his hot car in the middle of the day. He had just moved from California and has been told “you can live here as long as you like, but you will never belong.” It was a joy to be able to share with him the hope of eternal life and connect him with a local church family who would love him and treat him like family.

Then there were others who closed the door and hid behind the blinds of the windows.

We walked out verse 14 and had the joy of seeing lives impacted for eternity.

I asked the mission team to answer two questions on our final evening debrief; what did God show you this week? And what are you going to commit to doing moving forward?

Our son Joshua has many challenges in life, including autism, a brain injury from epilepsy and prolonged seizures in Kindergarten, anxiety, sensory processing disorder, etc. He really has intense struggles that I cannot relate to. On several occasions he was pushed way beyond his comfort zone and had some very tough moments.

When it was Joshua’s time to answer, he said the following: “God showed me that when I feel anxious, I am able to push through and keep going” I cannot tell you how much of a miracle that is. Then he said, “I commit to being a bold witness for God to introduce people to the Kingdom of God”. 

That was the best Father’s Day gift I could have received!

God sent us to a nation within a nation, the people of the Cherokee. I love the different people groups God has created. I love seeing different aspects of Gods character and nature as we fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ who have a different culture.

I was blessed to sit down to lunch with Tommy Flute. He began telling me how ten years ago the Lord set him free from twenty-five years of alcohol addiction. He is now a worship leader in his Church. He is one of only 1900 people who speak Cherokee as a first language.

In the early 1800’s a Cherokee man Sequoyah, developed the Cherokee syllabary a form of script consisting of 86 symbols that became the “alphabet” for the Cherokee people. The first book translated was the New Testament which became the first book for reading and study in the school system. As a result of keeping the Bible as their foundation, the Cherokee advanced far beyond other native American tribes. It is a powerful testimony to the life transforming – nation transforming, power of the Word of God.

I pray that we as a nation of many nations would once more place the Word of God as our foundation.

Sermon, Sunday February 27, 2022 – I AM

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How often do you think about your name?

Research seems to suggest that your name has a significant impact on your life. People are judged by their names based on past positive or negative experiences.

Jesus identified himself with many different metaphors during his ministry. We will be looking at these “I am” statements over the next few weeks.  

In John 8, Jesus was addressing a group of Jewish religious leaders. The interaction was becoming aggressive, and Jesus was not holding back. In fact, in verse 44 he accused the religious leaders of being children of Satan. In return, they called him a demon possessed Samaritan in verse 48. For a Jew to be called a Samaritan was the ultimate insult.

Jesus doesn’t seem moved by their insults, and he immediately makes a profound statement, “…if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” John 8:51.

The religious leaders go back to the father of the nation, Abraham, and the fact that he died and so did all the prophets. Essentially asking Jesus, “Who do you think you are?”

Jesus responds in John 8:54-56 with some incredible statements.

Firstly, Jesus told them that God is his father, while Abraham is their father.  Every Jew would say that Abraham was their father, Jesus was beginning to reveal his true identity.

Then he said that Abraham saw him in that day. How did Abraham “see” our Lord’s Day, that is, his life and ministry on earth? This is answered in Hebrews 11:10.

God did not give Abraham some special vision of our Lord’s life and ministry, but He did give him the spiritual perception to “see” these future events that he was hoping for in faith.

They begin to understand where Jesus is going and push back with logic in verse 57, “…You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”

Jesus makes a simple statement that causes the room to go into chaos, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

Jesus was declaring his eternal nature, his pre-creation eternal existence. He was and is God.

Their response was understandable under the Mosaic law. Jesus had committed blasphemy and deserved to die. They picked up stones to kill him, but Jesus supernaturally evaded their attack. His hour had not yet come.

Jesus was directly revealing himself to the religious leaders, but they were blinded by their religion. The same is true for many people who attend churches all over the world today. They have a knowledge of Jesus, they have religion, but they have no relationship with the Lord. They have no desire to have a daily growing relationship with Jesus.

These religious leaders are the people who crucified Jesus Christ. Jesus called them the children of the devil. Whose child are you? (John 1:11-12).

Why was Jesus’ statement so provocative? (“before Abraham was, I am”)

To understand this, we need to go back to Exodus 3, and the call of God to Moses. God tells Moses to go to Pharoah and instruct him to release the children of Israel. Moses asks God for His name in order to let the people and Pharoah know under who’s authority he was speaking to them. This leads to the most powerful revelation of God in the Bible up to this point, “God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14)

Up to this point in the Bible, God has been called in the Hebrew, Elohim which means God. But now God says, “I am WHO I am.”

“I am” is present tense. God has no past, present or future, everything about God is the eternal present.

The two words “I am” are pronounced in Hebrew as havah, and in verse 14, God identifies himself as, “Yahweh has sent you”. From this time onwards God is known by this statement, “I am Yahweh” this is the name God calls himself. A name that is so holy that most Hebrew people do not even pronounce it.  The Hebrew people would regard the name as so Holy they would simply say Adonai, meaning, Lord.

The name of God, “Yahweh”, speaks of his eternal existence, his majesty, and his nearness. What a promise for Moses as he considered the call of God on his life.

Jesus declared that he is, “I AM”, and even speaking in Aramaic, the religious leaders determined that he was blaspheming the name of God, and they determined to end his life by stoning him. This was in keeping with the Old Testament law found in Leviticus 24:14.

But it’s not blasphemy if it’s true. And it is true. Jesus is “I AM!”

We learn four things from this declaration of Jesus.

1. Jesus is God

Jesus was born of a virgin, conceived by the Holy Spirit. He did not carry the sin nature that was passed down to all generations through Adam. Jesus knew no sin, and as a result his sacrifice on the cross for our sins was perfect and sufficient to atone for all our sins.

2. Jesus saves.

In the Exodus, Yahweh kept his promise and led the children of Israel out of slavery, across the Red Sea and ultimately into the promise land.

The name, “Jesus”, in Hebrew is “Yeshua”, which means, “Yahweh Saves”.

Jesus leads us out of slavery to sin and ultimately into the Promised Land of eternity in his New Kingdom where we will be with him forever.

3. Jesus is present.

The “I AM” is forever present. He is with you right now. If you are a follower of Jesus, you have the presence of the Spirit of Christ in your life, you are never alone.

4. Jesus will give us his name.

In Revelation 22, John is given a vision of our life in the new kingdom. And in verse 4 he writes, “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.

Will you have the name of Jesus on your forehead in that day?

Sermon Sunday July 4, 2021 The New Jerusalem

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Mountain top experience’s part 11

If I were to give you a ticket to fly first class to an amazing destination, your first question would be, “where is it?”. Followed shortly by, “what can I do there?”. We would never sign up to go somewhere without doing some research on the destination, yet this is how we approach our eternal destination.

I am talking about the new Jerusalem. The enormous city that we read about in Revelation 21 will be the eternal home of all who know and love Jesus as Lord of their lives. This is the final mountain, that all others lead to and only one person has ever seen, the Apostle John in the book of the Revelation.

Since heaven or hell are the eternal destination of everyone who has ever lived, it is surprising that so little is said about heaven from our pulpits. The truth is that people fear the unknown and one of Satan’s primary objectives is to make little of Heaven. He would like to convince the world that Heaven doesn’t exist and failing that, he would try to convince the world that it will be boring and unattractive.

Randy Alcorn said, “Grasping what the Bible teaches about Heaven shifts our center of gravity and radically alters our perspective on life”.

Revelation 21 talks about the New Heaven and the New Earth that will be after the tribulation, the battle of Armageddon, the thousand-year reign of Jesus, and the great white throne judgment. This is the final eternal state that we long for, hope for, and all creation is crying out for.

In Revelation 21:10, The apostle John tries his best to describe something that is impossible to capture and describe with words. The description of this city almost defies imagination. The earth is renewed at this stage, it is completely remade, as Jesus says in verse 5 of Revelation 21, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

The structure of the earth and the atmosphere is not limited to our understanding, it will be made new. The New Jerusalem is huge, it is a cube of around 1400 miles in all directions.  It has been calculated that a structure this size can house billions of people. In fact, easily all the people that have ever lived on the planet.

This city unites the Old Covenant and the New Covenant that God made with mankind. The twelve gates are identified with the twelve tribes of Israel, and the twelve foundations with the twelve Apostles.

Heaven is defined as the place where God dwells, making this city Heaven itself. Verse 22 says, “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. The New Jerusalem is incredibly beautiful and filled with all kinds of precious jewels and metals. The New Jerusalem is the ultimate fulfillment of all God’s promises.

Just like it is impossible for us to describe God using our vocabulary and things we can identify with, so to it is impossible to fully describe heaven. We also want to understand heaven through the lens of what brings us pleasure here on earth, and we simply cannot do that, because we live in a world tainted by the effects of sin. Heaven will be filled with pleasures that are infinitely more real and lasting than anything we know here in this lifetime.

But the primary joy of heaven will not be the state of our being, the weather, or the experiences we will taste. The primary pleasure of heaven will be the presence of God.

We are designed to have communion with God. God created man in his own image, to have fellowship with him. However, when sin entered the world, that relationship was broken and there was a separation that took place. Inside every human being is a longing and an unfulfilled desire that can only be met by the perfect presence of God Himself.

Being in the presence of God for eternity is heaven and being separated from God for eternity is hell. Our selfish and humanistic mindset cannot even begin to grasp what it will be like to be in the presence of God and to worship Him. In our, “what’s in it for me” culture, we have no idea what it will be like to be in the presence of the Creator of the universe. Heaven will be primarily a place filled with the glory of God (Revelation 21:23). Heaven will also be a place of service and work. God is creative and He designed us to be creative beings along with Him. We see in Genesis 1, that God created man to rule and care for the creatures of the earth.

The Old Testament references this holy mountain frequently in the Psalms and the prophets (see, Zechariah 8:3., Psalm 48:1-2, Isaiah 2:1-2 and Micah 4:1-5).

As we have gone through this series for the past ten weeks, we have seen that all the mountaintop encounters lead to this incredible mountain of God.

So, who gets into heaven? In Revelation 21:7-8, we have a clear list of people who will not enter into the presence of God. The list is quite comprehensive, so how can we know for sure that we are going to heaven?

Romans 10:9 says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Submitting your life to the lordship of Jesus Christ, being clothed in his righteousness is the only way to be granted access into heaven. Have you submitted to the lordship of Jesus?

Sermon Sunday June 20 2021 – Are you a Follower or and Observer?

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Mountain top experiences part 9
Luke 23:21-49

Calvary is the mountain top encounter that all the others point to. This little hill just outside Jerusalem, is the peak on which all of human history pivots. During the Roman empire, this was the place where criminals were executed by the most inhumane method of crucifixion.

As we look at the various people who witnessed the death of Jesus, I want to challenge you by saying that on that day, Jesus had only one follower. There were many observers but only one follower. Looking at your life today, are you a follower or are you an observer?

As we read the account of the crucifixion, we subconsciously categorize people as guilty or innocent. The women were innocent, the soldiers were guilty, Pilate was confused and guilty, Simon of Cyrene was innocent, and the two criminals were both guilty, but one was saved.  

But the reality is that there was only one person innocent in the entire world, and that was Jesus. Luke does well to point this out in Luke 23 verses 22, 41 and 47.

Jesus was the only one who was sinless, and he died for all sinners (see Romans 3:22-23).

Everyone was impacted that day by the decisions they made and what they saw.

Pilate saw that Jesus was innocent and he tried to recuse himself (see Matthew 27:24).
He was a politician and a people pleaser. He did not have the character to stand by his convictions. But I wonder if I would have the courage to stand against the angry crowd on that day. He gave in to the pressure of the fear of man, and as a result he was guilty.

Simon of Cyrene was not involved in the crucifixion but was drawn in (Luke 23:26).He was a religious man from Libya who had travelled eight hundred miles to celebrate the Passover. Jesus was understandably exhausted and weakened by the beatings and interrogations, and could not carry the cross, so the crowd had this foreigner carry the cross.

There is a significant picture here, to carry your cross was a sign of guilt, it was perfectly ordained by God the Father that Jesus was not to carry his cross to the hill.I want to come back to Simon later in this article.

The rulers, soldiers and one of the criminals mocked Jesus. These religious leaders were the men who had studied the law and the prophets, the Old Testament, but they were blind to what they were doing. In verse 36, we read that the soldiers mocked him, getting drawn along by the crowd, they seemed to be enjoying the moment and teased Jesus. Even the dying criminal next to Jesus had energy left to mock and jeer at Jesus.

But then we come to the repentant criminal. His dialogue with Jesus is often used to explain the fact that we are saved by grace and not by works. There is nothing this criminal could do to earn his salvation, he simply asked Jesus to save him. But we can easily miss the tremendous faith that it took for him to ask Jesus to save him. He possibly had never seen Jesus before, we don’t know. But here in front of all the people, as he was dying, he declared that Jesus was the King of Kings. If you were drowning, would you ask a drowning man for help?

Here was a dying man, asking a dying man for help. A crazy idea, unless he really believed that Jesus was the son of God.

As Jesus died, we have a snapshot of a centurion. He was a hardened Roman soldier who had probably witnessed hundreds of crucifixions, but he had never seen anyone die like Jesus did. He knew that Jesus was innocent, and he gave glory to God.  He knew that he had just witnessed God in the flesh, and he was forever changed.

The people who were cheering the crucifixion were changed (Luke 23:48). They came to see a spectacle and to mock but left in fear and remorse. As they witnessed the spotless son of God dying, they became aware of their own sins and began grieving. How terrible and hopeless that must have felt for them.

Coming back to Simon, the man recruited to carry the cross. It is likely that what he saw that day, led him to be a Christian. In Mark 15:21 and Romans 16:13 we see that his sons were a part of the early church.

Carrying the cross changed Simon and, on that day, he was the only true follower of Jesus. He was walking out a prophetic picture of what it means to be a Christian. Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Before Simon met Jesus, he was a religious Jew, going about his devotion. But to come to know Jesus, he had to leave behind his plans and his religion. He had to die to his plans and his ideas of what he wanted to do, and then he had to take up the cross of Jesus. Do you see the picture?

Matthew 16:24 is often misinterpreted. People often talk about a “cross” as a burden to carry, something like a chronic sickness or a thankless job, and we say, “it is my cross to bear”

But this is not what Jesus meant. In the 1st century, to carry your cross, was to walk to your death. It was a cruel and humiliating form of capital punishment. It wasn’t a temporary inconvenience.

Today we celebrate the cross as a symbol of our salvation and the love of God, but when Jesus said these words, it would have sounded a whole lot different.
To take up your cross is to completely abandon our plans and goals and submitting to the perfect will of God. This is the first step in being a follower of Jesus (see Luke 14:27).

Are you a follower of Jesus? Have you seen that radical change in your life? Or are you still the master of your own plan.

I can assure you that the only way to live in peace and have eternal salvation, is to be a follower of Jesus and not an observer.

Sermon, Sunday April 11, 2021 – Washing Each Other’s Feet

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John 13:1-17

The night before he was crucified, Jesus met with his disciples to share what we call today, the Last Supper. Before they ate, Jesus shocked them all by humbling himself and washing their feet. This was the role of the servant of the house, why did the Lord make such a dramatic move?

What was he teaching his disciples and what can we learn from this in the church today?

Jesus loved these men. He wanted to spend this last evening with his inner circle, those he had chosen. Jesus loved his disciples right up to the cross, even though he knew one of them would betray him.

Jesus was teaching them about authority and showing that leadership does not mean you have to have people do your bidding. He could have called angels to come and wash their feet, he could have called a servant in, but he chose to serve them. Notably, Jesus also washed the feet of Judas, who would soon betray him. Jesus was showing that leadership is often a one-way street.

As Jesus comes to wash Peter’s feet, he resists and says in verse 6, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”, further in verse 8 he says, “You shall never wash my feet.”  We must not mistake this for pride, this was respect, Peter knew Jesus was Lord and God.

Jesus responds in verse 8, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”

At first glance, it may seem that Jesus is exaggerating to force peter to allow him to wash his feet. But what if Jesus is referring to a more significant truth than simply cleaning feet?

I want to suggest two interpretations to what Jesus is saying to Peter in this verse.

Firstly, Jesus was humbling himself prior to the ultimate act of humility by dying on the cross.

If it would be beneath Jesus’ position and dignity to wash his beloved disciples’ feet, then it would be beneath him to suffer and die on the cross. The Gospel is a message of humility as the creator stepped down from glory and subjected himself to a cruel Roman cross. The son of God, who poured water into a basin to wash the disciple’s feet, in a few hours poured his blood out into a basin to wash us from our sins.

And secondly, what if Jesus is saying to Peter that if he didn’t learn from this act of servanthood, then he would have no part in the kingdom of God.  I will come back to this in a later in the article.

As Peter begins to understand the significance of what Jesus is doing, he asks Jesus to wash his hands and his head as well. But Jesus explains in verse 10 that this is not necessary. This speaks to us as believers today, daily we need a washing of our sins. Washing off the dirt and grime from our daily contact with a sinful world.

I believe daily repentance is key to a healthy Christian walk. Like dust on our feet, sin lingers in our lives. The more we leave the dirt on our feet, the more it affects us, and we lose our effectiveness in the kingdom.

Jesus reclines at the table and begins to explain what he was teaching them. Not only were they to learn servant leadership, but they were also to learn to wash one another’s feet. In verse 15, Jesus gave them an imperative command to continue to serve one another as he had served them.

Looking back to verse 8, what if Jesus was saying to Peter; “if you don’t learn from this and wash each other’s feet, then you can have no part in the kingdom of heaven.”

Applying this to modern day disciples of Jesus in the church, how often don’t we refuse to “wash each other’s feet? How often do we come to church on a Sunday, wanting to be served, but with no intention of serving?

If you are unwilling to wash the feet of the people around you, you are separating yourself from the body of Christ. The principle that Jesus is displaying is that the kingdom of God must take preference over every desire or self-interest (see Matthew 19:29-30). This is radical, this is true Christianity, this is not the comfortable suit and tie Christianity that the church has been selling.

In verse 17 Jesus says that this command comes with a promise of blessing.  Sadly, even in the church we don’t serve each other because we constantly ask, “what’s in it for me?”

Now that we have established that we are to “wash each other’s feet”, how do we do this?

When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, he showed them that ministry is not done from a platform, but rather it is done with a basin and a towel. One of the greatest roles in the church is refreshment, reminding each other of the basics and the original plan of God for their lives. This is not a ministry reserved for a few who have been to seminary, this is a ministry that we are all called to. We who have the Holy Spirit, have the power in us to encourage and lift the load off the shoulders of our brothers and sisters (1 Peter 2:9).

But before we can do that we have to be in right relationship with God. We cannot act as ministers in the church if we are not in right relationship with God. If we are simply trying to serve in the church out of duty and we are not right with God, we will just bring others down. Watchman Nee wrote, “to be at odds with God is the sure way to be a drain upon the life of His Church”.

It is imperative that when we gather on Sunday mornings, we have prepared our hearts before the Lord, ready to serve one another. If you know there is some sin in your life, something that is hindering your relationship with God, you are not able to serve as a minister in the church and you have gone from being an asset in the church to being a burden. The simple principle in the body of Christ is this, we are refreshing and being refreshed all the time.

During this COVID season of isolation, I am always disturbed when people say that they do not need to gather with the body of Christ and that they are happy to watch a sermon online. The Bible shows clearly that if you do not desire the meeting together with other believers, there is something seriously wrong with your walk with the Lord. Gathering in regular fellowship is way more than simply a cultural tradition, it is essential for our growth and overcoming the plans of the enemy for our lives. Church is essential, no matter what anyone might say to you.

As we actively engage in ministry towards one another, Jesus promises us a blessing. What we wrestle with is our tendency towards passivity.

I pray that everyone would come to a worship service on a Sunday with this prayer in their hearts, “Lord who would you have me pray for and encourage today?”

Sermon, Sunday April 4, 2021, Tremble.

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Mark 16:1-8

In the closing section of Mark’s Gospel we have the well-known record of the three women who were the first to witness the empty tomb of Jesus. What we often fail to notice is that they were filled with fear. The last three words of verse 8 says, “…they were afraid”.

The good news of their risen Lord was clouded by their intense emotions.

We have all experienced the intense emotion of fear. Sometimes when someone intentionally scares us suddenly or when we encounter something that has the potential to cause us loss or harm. Our world in the past year has been driven by fear. The news media and marketing companies have thrived on creating and sustaining fear. There is the fear of getting sick, the fear of losing a loved one, the fear of losing one’s source of income and the fear of life not getting back to normal, whatever that means! Many people have the fear of not being “liked” on social media or being on the wrong side of a prominent social justice issue.

What are you most afraid of right now? How are you coping with these fears?

Fear is not a bad emotion. God designed us to have and experience fear as part of our survival instinct and human connection. Fear is an emotion that we are created with. If you read the Bible, you will notice that one of the most often repeated commands in scripture is, “do not fear”. But simply repeating this, does not automatically remove fear from our lives.

The key is not allowing our fears to control our lives. So, the answer is to choose a better fear, to tremble at something bigger. We need to see our daily fears in perspective. We need to understand that fear is not the problem, rather we misplace our fear. Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

The difference that Jesus is referring to is this, where does the fear lead us? Fear either leads us to self-preservation or to faith. Only faith can ultimately save us.

J.B. Philipps wrote a book that captures this excellently called, “Your God is too small”.  When we walk in fear, it is a result of the fact that we’ve made God too small, reducing Him to our preferences, holding him captive to our desires, projecting on to him our own sensibilities?

Jesus says the Living God is so much bigger than this, we need to fear Him.

Another potential problem is that our fear is too small. Jesus essentially is telling his disciples to have a bigger fear.  We need to develop a healthy fear of the One who created and holds all things together. In short, we don’t fear the Living God (Ps. 111:10).

Bible teachers often soften this by saying that this word fear means respect, or reverence. But what if the Bible really means being afraid, when it connects fear to the majesty of God over 300 times. I would suggest that we miss the point and the clear teaching of Scripture; God is terrifying in His majesty.  Hebrews 12:29 says that our God is a consuming fire!

Probably the greatest weakness of the church is that we have reduced God to a comfortable being who is waiting to give us whatever we desire, whenever we ask Him. We have lost our fear of God and when we lose our fear in God, we will fear everything else.

When we fear something, we give that fear power over us. And left unattended, fear grows and develops into patterns of behavior, and we begin to live afraid. Worship is the act of giving value to something. When we fear things and uncertainties more then God, we have made an idol out of fear.

But the good news is that in the very next verse in Matthew 10, Jesus assures his disciples that they do not have to live in condemnation to fear. Matthew 10:29-31 says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Immediately after telling us to fear God, Jesus tells us not to be afraid. Jesus said that when we fear God, we can rest in His ability to protect and provide for all our needs. God is not only all-powerful, He is also love and is intimately involved in every aspect of our lives.

This is why the empty grave that we celebrated this past Sunday is so important. The empty grave confirms that we serve a living God who gave his life for us and overcame death in order to purchase our freedom.  We can echo what Paul said in Romans 8:38-39.

As a result, in the midst of our 21st century anxiety and fears, we can say, “Cheer Up”, the risen one is calling you. And that’s the difference. The women at the empty grave chose a better fear. They were trembling, bewildered and afraid before an empty grave, not an empty life. The grave was empty, but their hearts were full. They were trembling, bewildered and afraid, because they were encountering the power and presence of the living God.

Do you long to tremble like that? When was the last time you felt like you were standing on holy ground too afraid to speak?

Is your God too small? Are your fears too small?

Choose today a bigger fear, tremble at an empty grave.

Jesus is inviting you to look into the empty tomb today to see what he did for you so that you can stand in holy fear before God with your sins removed, and be able to call Him Father.

Sermon Sunday January 26, 2020 The Importance of One

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The Bible makes it abundantly clear that God created man for His glory (see Isaiah 43:7), therefore, the ultimate purpose of man is simply to glorify God.

We must always remember, that our evangelism will be fueled and sustained by recognizing who God is, and bringing glory to His name.

In his book, “Let the Nations be Glad” John Piper wrote, “when the flame of worship burns with the heat of God’s true worth the light of missions will shine to the darkest peoples on the earth.”

As we grow in our worship for the Lord, we will see an awakening in Kansas City and across the world.

We’re prone to think of “one” as small and insignificant. Afterall, who wants just one cookie?

But the Bible consistently speaks of one: one pearl of great price, one lost sheep, one wayward son. We as followers of Jesus, often overlook the value of one. One invitation to church, one message of hope, one neighbor, one coworker, one friend.

Billy Graham said that the Great commission will only be accomplished by one-on-one evangelism and not stadium events. This is the way Jesus taught and modelled for his disciples, one person inviting another.

Jesus emphasized the value of one in the parable of the lost sheep, which Jesus closed by making this statement in Luke 15:7, “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

The Gospel makes this all possible. You see, our role is simply to begin to pray for the person that the Lord lays on our heart and then to start the conversation, but the real work is done as the Holy Spirit takes the words of the Gospel and empowers them (see Romans 1:16).

In Matthew 13:45-46, we read of the parable of the pearl of great price. Jesus is the pearl of great price, and when the man found Jesus, he sold everything he had. One man found one pearl, our salvation is deeply personal. I was not saved because my father and mother were Christians, I had to find the pearl of great value for myself. I had to have a personal encounter with the living God. Only through a personal relationship with Jesus can we find peace of mind, freedom from addictions, security, identity, and rest for our souls.

If you are a Christian, you have found the pearl of great price. There is nothing more important in your life than your eternal home, and the Bible says that, “there is no other name among heaven whereby we may be saved” (see Acts 4:12).

The call of Philip and Nathanael to discipleship is recorded in the first chapter of John verses 43 to 49. Jesus went to Galilee and found Philip first, who then went to Nathanael, his friend and told him that he had found the Messiah. Initially, Nathanael was skeptical and said, “…Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  (see John 1:46a). This response was understandable; at that time Nazareth was an obscure little hill town, remote and of no consequence. It was not a place that anyone expected the Messiah to come from. Remember, the people of Israel were looking for a mighty king, the messiah, who would free them from the Romans.

Philip doesn’t try to convince Nathanael, he simply says “Come and see.” That is the key, in our sharing the Good news, we are simply introducing people to Jesus. When you are inviting people to come to church, you are asking them to simply, “come and see”. Our role is simply to bring people to Jesus and then let the power of God transform their lives. We have the joy of walking alongside them and seeing what God does.

Despite his skepticism, Nathanael followed Philip to meet Jesus. When the Lord saw Nathanael coming toward Him, He said, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit” (John 1: 47).

Notice that Nathanael didn’t argue, but wondered how Jesus knew his character, having never met him before. But Jesus astounds Nathanael by saying, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you” (John 1:48).

Nathanael then immediately recognized Jesus as the Christ, calling him “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49). We don’t know what Nathanael was thinking about while sitting under the fig tree, but Jesus did, and his statement cut to the heart of Nathanael and he had no doubt that Jesus was the Messiah.

This is an amazing promise for us as we reach out to our one. Before we even speak to them, God has seen them and has been preparing their heart. You see, God is always at work preparing people for the Good News, before we even open our mouths to tell them.

But our role is to be intentional as those God conversations will not simply happen. It all begins with prayer, the most challenging and effective tool that we have for evangelism. Prayer is the most powerful activity you and I can do for the spread of the Gospel. Prayer aligns our heart with the Heart of God. As we pray, God will miraculously open the door for opportunities for us to share the message of salvation with that one person.

As we pray and focus on the one, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the number of people who don’t know Jesus as Lord and savior.  Someone said, “We can’t see the forest for the trees.” The problem is, we can’t see a tree for the forest, just one!

Would you join with me in beginning to pray for the salvation of one?

Sermon, Sunday January 12, 2019 – Are you a Disciple?

To view the sermon click on the camera above.

Are you a Disciple?

Matthew 4:18-22

What comes to mind when you hear the word Christian? The culture we live in has a very wide spectrum of descriptions of the term “Christian”.

The first followers of Jesus didn’t call themselves Christians. It was a derogatory term used by people outside of the faith. In Acts 11:26, we see that the first Christians were known as “disciples”.

The word Christian is used 3 times in the whole Bible, whereas the word disciple is used 281 times. Disciple is a far more accurate description of what it means to follow Jesus. In fact, the concept of a disciple exposes the fact that many who claim to be Christians today are not actually disciples of Jesus.

A brief look at Hebrew history shows us that all young boys at the age of five went to school to learn the Torah, the first five books of our Bible. By the age of ten, all young boys knew the Torah and the best students went on to study the remainder of the Old Testament, while the rest returned home to work in their families’ businesses.

At the age of seventeen, the brightest of these students, who wanted to pursue a life of religious studies, would find a rabbi that they admired and then they would go and sit at his feet.

The rabbi would then scrutinize the student to see if he was worthy of being his disciple.

The rabbis could choose the smartest, most talented boys to be their disciples, because they were choosing whom they believed could become just like them—to not just know what they knew, but to do what they did. The goal of a disciple was to be like the rabbi.

I. JESUS DOESN’T CHOOSE THE BEST, HE CHOOSES THE WILLING.

In Matthew chapter four, Jesus, this new rabbi, chooses Peter and Andrew, who are fishermen. The fact that they are fishermen shows that they were not among the group that at the age of ten were selected to be a future rabbi. These guys did not make the cut, they weren’t the best of the best.

When Jesus chose his team to build His movement, he chose the B-team! So, naturally when Jesus called them, they jumped at the opportunity. Jesus chose the B-team because his work in the world wouldn’t come from their abilities for him, but from what he would do through them.

People with a lot of talent and ability would only get in the way because they would never learn to lean on his power.

JD Greer said, “Jesus taught that His power in the weakest vessel was infinitely greater than the greatest talent without Him.

God wants to use you in your family, school and workplace. Stop making excuses that you are not able. He doesn’t need your ability; He requires only your availability.

II. HE CHOSE US, NOT WE HIM.

And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”.  Matthew 4:19

This was very unusual for a rabbi to come and ask men to follow him, they didn’t even come to sit at his feet. He came seeking them when they weren’t even looking for Him.

But his selection gave them a great deal of confidence. If they were struggling, they could say, “Ah, but my rabbi believed in me! he chose me.” If and when you find yourself struggling with your calling as a Christian, remember that Jesus chose you (see John 15:16).

III. OUR PRIMARY CALLING IS TO BE WITH HIM.

“Follow me,” he told them …

He didn’t tell them where they were going or what assignment he had for them. And this is critical for us to understand, his primary call is not to do something; it is to become like Him. And to become like him, you must know him. To know him, you have to know his Word.

In order to be a follower of Jesus you need to meditate and feed on God’s word so that it dominates all your thinking and all your behavior. Spending time reading and praying God’s word is the what Jesus calls us to and it is essential to us knowing him.

IV. TO FOLLOW HIM, WE HAVE TO LEAVE ALL.

 “Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him” Matthew 4:22

Matthew mentioned that the fishermen left their boat and their father.

The boat represents our career, our livelihood, the way we take care of ourselves.

The father represents the most significant relationship in our lives.

To follow Jesus, he must take precedence over both. Most people will not lose their family as a result of following Jesus, but for people in other parts of the world, it is a real concern.

For some, God may tell you to change careers. Maybe God will tell you transfer your job to be part of a church plant. Or leave your job and carry the gospel overseas. For many of you, it probably won’t be that dramatic. But you’ll have moments where you decide which holds greater sway over your life.

V. HE COMMANDS US TO SPIRITUALLY REPRODUCE.

And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”.  Matthew 4:19

Following Jesus means you subject everything in your life to his lordship. You forsake all that he has forbidden and pursue all that he has prescribed. Just like he was a fisher of men, His followers would become fishers of men. This is an essential part of being a disciple. It’s not something that only a few of us do; it’s something that each of us does. There is no such thing as a non-reproducing Christian.

How do you prove you are a disciple? By bearing fruit. And if you are not bearing fruit, you have reason to question whether you are a disciple at all (see John 15:8).

Jesus summarized his ministry, Luke 19, by saying, “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” If we are His disciples, that’s how we’ll summarize our lives, too.

You are God’s method. Disciple making is simply teaching someone to follow Jesus as you follow Jesus with the help of the Holy Spirit. And Jesus has promised to help you. So, identify your one. Ask God to help you identify one person you can, with the help of the Holy Spirit, bring to faith in Christ this year.

Who’s your One?

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?

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 3:7-11 – Sermon February 10, 2019

Philippians 3:7-11

THE ULTIMATE GOAL OF A CHRISTIAN

What is the ultimate goal of Christianity? Getting to heaven? Getting saved?

The Apostle Paul writing to the church in Philippi taught that knowing Christ was the most excellent pursuit of his life. Having an intimate relationship with Jesus the creator God.

Paul wrote that for the sake of Christ, he had suffered the loss of all things. After becoming a Christian, he had lost his prestige, his paycheck as a Pharisee, his status in the community and power in the community. He viewed all these things as rubbish compared to knowing Christ.

To gain Christ was his life’s pursuit. When we become a Christian, we begin the journey of sanctification, the process of becoming more like Christ. We are not instantly holy and perfect, we are still in need of continual spiritual housecleaning. But as God deals with the sin in our lives, He reveals more areas of our lives that are not fully committed to Him. As we pursue Christ, the “little” sins, become more and more obnoxious as we see them for what they really are. Sin is sin, and my sin is what drove Jesus to the cross so that I can become pure and holy. Why would I hold on to anything when Jesus did so much for me?

In verse 9 Paul continues, “not having a righteousness that comes from the law…”

Righteousness is defined as the quality of being morally right or justifiable. However, being morally right will not save you, being morally justifiable does not mean that you are in right standing with God. Paul said in this verse that the righteousness he was pursuing was from the law, his own works and good deeds, but the righteousness that God looks for is faith in Jesus Christ. When you place your faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life, you are in right standing with God and justified before him (see 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Paul continues in verses 10-11, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

Many Christians, think that when they have placed their faith in Jesus, there is nothing more to pursue. The thinking is that I just have to live my life trying not to sin and get by until I die, or Jesus comes back. This is infant Christianity, when you are born again, you are a baby, and it is essential to grow and develop into full maturity. We were saved by God to grow and mature as followers of Jesus. By God’s grace, as we pray and read God’s word, He graciously gives us the desire for more of him and we begin to get that appetite and we grow.

Paul’s primary desire that shaped his life, was to know Christ. Philippians chapter 3 describes Paul’s satisfaction in knowing Christ, but also his dissatisfaction in that he was a longing to know him better. I pray that we will become dissatisfied Christians, longing to know Christ more.

To know something is to acquire knowledge, but there is a huge difference between intellectual knowledge and experiential knowledge. When you go to college or attend a class, you gain intellectual knowledge, that hopefully you can retain and use at some point. But experiential knowledge comes from experiencing something personally.

We can know Christ by experiencing his presence through the Holy Spirit, by reading His word, by spending time with Him in prayer. We come to know Christ when we step out in faith and see how He provides. Knowing Christ takes discipline, it takes hard work, but it should be our deepest longing as believers.

Paul writes in verse 10, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection…”

The power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in every believer, this is something that we aren’t capable of fully grasping (see Galatians 2:20). Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus to gain this understanding (see Ephesians 1:18-20). We need a revelation from God to begin to grasp the power of God that is for us, in us, and operates through us as believers.

The resurrection power of God is the only power that can defeat the power and hold of sin in your life. If you are struggling with persistent and ongoing sin in your life, you need to grasp and hold on to the power of the resurrection.

We like this part of Philippians 3:10, but Paul continues and writes, “…, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,”

This does not mean that we have to go back to the cross and physically suffer the way Jesus did,  but rather, as we display the power of the resurrected Lord in our lives, as we so identify with Christ, that when we face abuse and persecution for being a follower of Jesus we react the way Jesus did and in so doing we are drawn closer to him (see 1 peter 4:12-13).

As believers in Jesus, we like to hear about the resurrection power, but there can be no resurrection without crucifixion. Dying to ourselves, our desires and our will, is the requirement of becoming like Christ and knowing his power at work in our lives. Dying to self is not a one-time event, it is the daily process of choosing death to sin’s hold on our lives, as we are being conformed to the image of Christ.

Paul ends verse 11 by writing, “that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

At first glance it seems that Paul is trying to attain eternal life, it seems Paul was uncertain of his salvation! But, the word resurrection used here means to stand up, to come alive spiritually while still here on the earth. I might paraphrase the Apostle, “I want to know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his suffering that I may give the spiritually dead a preview of eternal life in action as I am standing up among those who are spiritually dead”

Does your life display the resurrection power of Jesus to those around you? Do you know Jesus experientially?