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 29, 2020 We are at War

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December 7, 1941, September 11 2001, April 15 2013. These dates will always be remembered as days when America was attacked by a foreign enemy. Dates when the distant war was brought close to home. But for the majority of people living in America in 2020, war is something that is glamorized in the movies or watched on the news from distant lands. The horror and the pain of war is not a reality that we are familiar with, and that is something to be thankful for this week as we celebrate Thanksgiving.

However, as Christians, we need to be reminded that we are on the frontlines of a real war with a vicious enemy who does not adhere to conventional rules of engagement. I am talking about the spiritual warfare that we are engaged in daily, whether we realize it or not.

Our enemy is an ancient one. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Satan was the most beautiful and anointed of the angels (Ezekiel 28:11-19). But because of his pride, the root of all sin, he fell and was cast out by God (Isaiah 14:9-20). But Satan still has access to God, and he is the accuser (Revelation 12:10), the deceiver (2 Corinthians 11:3) and the destroyer (1 Peter 5:8–9). The enemy of our souls and the enemy of the church is powerful and real.

The Apostle Paul closed the letter to the Ephesians with an encouragement to stand firm against the enemy of our souls. He began the letter by teaching on our identity as children of God in chapters 1 to 3. Then he continues with instructions of how we are to live and walk in our new identity as followers of Jesus in chapters 4 to the first part of chapter 6. This final section is not simply a closing paragraph, but is rather the capstone of this incredible letter.

Many people claim to be Christians because they have gone through the motions of some religious tradition, but they are not aware of the spiritual forces of evil that surround us on a daily basis. The Bible is clear that as true children of God, we are in a war. We are in a daily battle of life and death. We are fighting for the lives of our children, our co-workers and our neighbors. We are at war against spiritual forces that have the primary objective of taking souls with them to hell.

But there is good news, this enemy is raging because he is already defeated. When Jesus died and rose again, the victory over Satan was accomplished (John 12:31 and John 16:11). The apostle Paul does not urge us to fight for victory, rather we are fighting from the victory that is already completed. Satan is described in the Bible as the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4). We live in a broken world, eagerly waiting for Jesus to come again and finally cast Satan and his demons into the eternal fire of Hell (Revelation 20:10). But until that time, we are called to stand firm.

The encouragement to stand firm is echoed through verses 11 to 14. The key to standing is found in verse 10, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” We are standing not in our own strength, but in the strength of the all-powerful God of the universe. He is our strength, His is the victory (Romans 8:37).

The Apostle Paul was keenly aware of his dependency on the strength of God, he embraced his weakness because he realized that this was the key to victory (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

If dependence is the objective, weakness becomes an advantage. Beware your strengths, not your weaknesses, because your strengths are those places you are most likely to forget God.” JD Greear

We are dependent on God for our salvation and for our daily strength to stand against the enemy. We do not fight for victory, rather we fight from victory.

The key to living the victorious Christian life is living from the first three chapters of Ephesians. If we are not sitting before Jesus in worship, knowing our identity and walking in that, we will never be able to stand against the attacks of the enemy. Only those who sit can stand.

Our spiritual warfare is defensive, standing firm on the ground that Jesus has already secured with his victory over sin and death. As we stand firm, we have been given a defensive armor as we will see in the following verses of Ephesians 6.

Satan primarily attacks believers through our thoughts and feelings. Our emotions and our will. As we sit at the feet of Jesus and know our true identity as children of God, we are able to stand firm against these attacks.

We need to have a paradigm shift in our approach to the attacks of the enemy of our souls. We frequently ask God to help us to defeat Satan in a certain area of our lives, but may I suggest a different way of praying. We need to pray, thanking God for the victory that Jesus has already won and ask Him for the strength to stand firm.

This requires faith. Praising God for the miracle of victory even before we experience it. When you feel oppressed and attacked by Satan and his demons, simply praise God for what He has done and thank Him for the victory. Allowing God then to bring about the experience of that reality.

What is our reality? Remember that we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). Our limited faith and weak flesh struggles to accept this reality and we somehow feel that we have to win battles that have already been won. We have been saved to declare the truth of our position, by being Christ’s ambassadors here in order to bring glory to God.

If only the modern church grasped the truth that we stand from a position of victory. The victory does not occur in the book of Revelation, it has already occurred in the resurrection of Jesus that we read about in the Gospels.

Sermon July 22, 2018 – Lessons from the life of Gideon part 4

Judges 7:1-23

Have you ever been in a situation where you faced insurmountable odds? Maybe a financial situation where there seemed to be no way out, or a health scare when the doctors told you that you, or someone you love, has less than ten percent chance of survival. Maybe you have a work deadline that seems impossible to meet.

How do you respond when the chances of success or even survival seem impossible? Maybe you are in that place right now, and you are here simply hoping to get through another day.

In Judges 7, we see that Gideon was in a desperate situation. In the previous chapter we see that Gideon is filled with the power of the living God, and he blows the trumpet calling the men of his clan to battle. As word goes out some 32,000 men from four tribes gather under Gideon’s leadership to fight against the invading Midianites. However, they were heavily outnumbered as the Midianites and the Amalekites numbered over 135,000. Even being this outnumbered, God said to Gideon that they were too many and he allowed those who were afraid to go home. At which point 22,000 soldiers leave, imagine how Gideon must have felt? 10,000 of the Israelite army remain, but God looks on the army and says to Gideon that he has still too many. God instructs Gideon to have the army go and drink some water, those who knelt down and scooped the water into their mouths were singled out from those who lay down and put their mouths directly to the water.

There are all kinds of theories of why God singled out those who kneeled, but the bottom line is that God singled out 300 men and told the rest to go home. Now everyone could see that this was an impossible task.

When you are facing an impossible situation, it just might be that God has orchestrated it to be that way, in order for His own glory. If there is even a possibility of us being able to save ourselves by our own ingenuity or skill, we will take the credit for ourselves. God loves to show His glory, but in order to do that, the situation has to be absolutely impossible.

God continues to speak to Gideon and tells him to go down to the camp of Midian and spy out what is going on. Gideon was clearly afraid, but he still had the courage to obey God.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

Gideon goes down to the enemy camp not knowing that God has prepared a blessing for him. God gave one of the enemy soldiers a dream about a cake of barley bread that came down the hill and destroyed the camp of Midian. Another soldier listening immediately interpreted the dream and recognized that the God of the Israelites had appointed Gideon to be the one to destroy the mighty Midianite army. It just so happened that as this conversation began, Gideon was right there to hear it. God orchestrates circumstances all the time, we just need to recognize the hand of God in the situation. Gideon immediately worshipped God. This was all he needed, going back to his base camp he began to give orders for battle.

What follows is one of the greatest victories in the history of warfare. Gideon divides the men into three camps and has them take a trumpet in the one hand, and a clay jar with a torch in the other, obviously leaving behind their sword and their shield, they were totally unarmed and unprotected.

Gideon knew that this was going to either be a complete slaughter or a mighty miracle, he had faith for the miracle and did what was absolutely reckless. From the observer’s perspective, this was a suicide mission, the soldiers were totally unarmed and spread out around the enemy. They were not hiding in the tall grass, rather, they were standing tall, and at the call of Gideon they would blow their trumpets, calling attention to themselves and then if that wasn’t enough, they were to smash the jars and reveal the torches. Completely exposing themselves to the enemy. It was reckless and certain suicide.

We know what happened next, the men do as Gideon showed them to do and shout, “the sword of the Lord and of Gideon.” The shout was to identify that God was wielding the sword, but also that Gideon was God’s anointed man on the ground, the man of faith.

The battle begins and in verse 21 we read that Gideon’s men did not move, they simply stood in place holding the torches. They didn’t carry a sword, they didn’t strike the enemy, but they did what God told them to do.

Sometimes, we want to go and fight the enemy, attack the person who offended or belittled us, take legal action against the person who wronged us, but as we ask God, He may tell you and I to do something that makes no sense at the time. As Christians, we have to stop thinking as the world thinks, fighting for our rights and making sure we get revenge. But God’s way is quite often different, if we truly believe in the all-powerful God, who is actively involved in our daily lives, why would we do anything other than what He tells us to do (See Romans 12:19-21).

The Midianites fled in confusion with over 120,000 of them perishing mostly by their own swords. God won the victory and there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that this was an extraordinary miracle.

The challenge for us today is to grasp that this is not simply a cool motivational story, this actually happened, it is a true historical account in the nation of Israel. The same God who overwhelmingly defeated the Midianites is inviting you today to trust him to fight your battles.

We all have an enemy who wants to destroy our lives (see 1 Peter 5:8), but just like Gideon, the weapons of our warfare are unconventional (see 2 Corinthians 10:4).

In Ephesians 6, we have the armor of God and the only offensive weapon we have is the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. If you want to know why you aren’t seeing victory in your life, it is probably because you aren’t familiar with your sword. The reasons why so many of the churches in the world are struggling and lack power, it is because they have relied on human reasoning and tradition rather than the life-giving power and authority of the Word of God.

Just as God gave Gideon the victory, He can give you the victory, all because of what Jesus did on the cross for you.

What is the battle you are fighting today? Turn the battle over to God and let Him lead you into victory.

The Resurrection of Jesus – Sunday April 1, 2018

He is Risen – the Hope of the resurrection

Luke 24:1-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Job 19:25-27

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

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