Sermon, Sunday August 22, 2021 – The Church as a Community

Click on the camera to view the full message

Why do people join a church?

Today there is much confusion regarding the church. What is the church, is it a building, is it a community, how many people constitute a church?

The church is the gathering of followers of Jesus, locally and globally. We join for the purpose of worship, encouragement, spiritual growth and serving together towards the Great Commission.  

The church is not a club or a social construct of the Western culture.

In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul implores the church in Ephesus to be all that they are called to be.

The root Greek word for the church is “Ekkaléō”, which means to call out. Paul writes in verse 1, “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called”. The church is a group of people who have been called out of darkness into light. A group of people, set apart for the Lord to serve him, being on mission for Jesus.

The church is the Body of Christ. This image emphasizes that the church is the center and focal point of Christ’s activity now, just as was his physical body during his time on earth (1 Corinthians 12:27).Christ is the head of the Body (Colossians 1:18). As the body of Christ, we are interconnected and we need each other.

Verse 3-6 focus on the unity of the church, Paul writes in verse 3, “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” And then he continues to list 7 aspects of our unity; one Body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (Ephesians 4:4-5).

Notice that we don’t create unity, we have unity because of the Holy Spirit. Our role is to preserve the unity. Unity assumes that we are actually committed followers of Jesus, carrying the same vision and the same mission. It is possible for people to be members of a church that are not actually part of the Body of Christ. Many churches have people on their membership roles who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (Matthew 25:31-46).

True church growth is the result of the members of the church being obedient to Christ. Programs don’t grow the church, every member being obedient to the will of God grows the church. The greatest need we have in our communities and world is the church to be the church, in the true sense of the word. We need to return to the principles of the early church in the New Testament.

In our reading today in v11, we see the gifts of ministry that Jesus has given to the church, “

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers”. Why did Jesus give these gifts to the church? We see the answer in verse 12, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ”.   

God’s plan to reach people with the gospel is not primarily evangelists or apologists. God’s plan to reach people with the gospel is the church. You are the plan God has in mind to change the world!

In addition to these five gifts, God has given spiritual gifts to every Christian as we see in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12. The church will be rich when every member is using their spiritual gifts. Tony Merida writes, “Every member should grow up and use a towel, not wear a bib. They should not be immature consumers but eager servants.”

As the body, the church is edified, or built up by the exercising of the gifts, the church grows spiritually. Individuals grow in their walk with the Lord and the church displays evidence of spiritual health. In Ephesians 4 we see 4 evidences of spiritual health in the church.

  1. Christlikeness: Pastors and teachers equip the church members by teaching and explaining the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). As we grow together in the Word of God, we become more like our Lord and Savior
  2. Stability: The maturing Christian is not tossed about by every religious novelty that comes along. There are many false teachers and if we are not careful, we get caught up in a false way of thinking that does not line up with the Word of God. The maturing believer recognizes false doctrine and stays clear of it. Are your feet secure on the firm foundation of the Word of God?
  3. Truth joined with love: (Ephesians 4:15). It has been said that “truth without love is brutality, but love without truth is hypocrisy.” It is a mark of maturity when we can share the truth with our fellow Christians and do it in love (Proverbs 27:6).
  4. Co-operation: (Ephesians 4:16). We realize that, as members of the one body, we belong to each other, we affect each other, and we need each other. Each believer, no matter how, extroverted, or introverted, rich, or poor, educated, or uneducated, has a ministry to other believers. In the Body of Christ when one person is in pain, we are all affected, that person is not functioning as God intended. Every person has an important role to play within the church. This is why the isolation many suffered during the lockdown has revealed how much we need to be in fellowship as the church. An isolated Christian cannot minister to others, nor can others minister to him or her, and it is impossible for the gifts to be ministered either way. A virtual church is not the church at all.

Are you ready to step into healthy church community? Exercising your God given gifts for the building up of the church. We need you!

Sermon, Sunday December 13, 2020 Prayer is Essential

Click on the image above to view the full sermon

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 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?

Sermon Sunday October 13, 2019 – Worship

Worship with our whole lives.

Malachi 1:6-14

If someone was to describe your Christian walk, would they use words like: “devoted, excellent or dedicated?” These descriptors are the very essence of what it means to be a Christian. As a Christian, we should have one singular focus; to bring glory to His name in whatever context God has placed us. This is true worship.

We worship something when we give it worth and we all worship many things.  However, the only meaningful and appropriate object of our worship should be the creator and sustainer of all things. John Calvin said, “The heart is an Idol factory”. We constantly attach god-like value to created things, and this is idolatry.

In Malachi 1:6, God begins his complaint against the priests by asking why they do not honor Him or fear Him.  There was no honor shown by the priests, because there was no understanding of who God is. Reverential fear, or respect for the Lord, comes from knowing Him.

God uses the name “Lord of Hosts” a total of 7 times in these 9 verses. The Hebrew name is Jehovah Sabaoth, found 260 times in the Old Testament, and is a name referencing God as the supreme leader of the angels and armies of the Lord. The Lord of all power and might. As humanism has crept into the church, we have lost a reverence and awe for the almighty God (Hebrews 12:28-29).

God continues in verse 6, and says to the priests, “you despise my name…”. To despise something means to have an attitude of ongoing disrespect. God was in essence saying, “you don’t value me”. God points them to two ways in which they are despising His name.

  • The Priests despise God’s name in their contributions.

The animals that they are offering as sacrifices are blind and lame. The sacrificial animals were supposed to be pure and spotless, but they were giving their leftovers, thus despising the name of God.

We do the same today by giving God the leftover time, energy and resources of our lives. We know that we cannot earn merit with God and are saved by Grace, but by giving God the leftovers of our time, we are despising the name of God. God looks at the heart, and as we come to worship Him, He knows the condition of our hearts. As Christians we must give ourselves completely to Him, giving the first fruits of our time and our resources.

Whenever we give to the Lord something that is convenient, we are giving out of our excess, meaning that we are giving our leftovers to God. We don’t miss something that is leftover. This applies to time, money, possessions and skills. Are you honoring God with your contributions?

It has been said, “if there is no sacrifice in your sacrifice, it’s not a sacrifice”

  • Israel priests despised God’s name in their commitment.

The priests were going through the rituals and they were getting bored (Malachi 1:13). Their attitude to worship had become listless and apathetic. They were just checking the boxes of worship, wanting to get their job done so that they could go home and put their feet up.

When God looks at us, what does he see?

You can fool everyone around you, but God knows your commitment and the condition of your heart. God is looking for committed followers.

When challenged by Malachi, the priests seemed confused. Apparently, they had deluded themselves into thinking that when it came to worship or offerings, something was better than nothing, lukewarm was better than cold. Remember what Jesus said to the church in Laodicea in Rev. 3:15–16, it is dangerous to be lukewarm.

Matthew Henry wrote, ‘Nothing profanes the name of God more than the misconduct of those whose business it is to do honor to it.’  Worship is so much more than words, it is an attitude of the heart. Our attitude is directly related to our view of God and our relationship with God.

Five ways that we offer worship to God:

  • We worship with our bodies – Romans 12:1. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we need to look after our bodies so that we can use our energy and strength to serve the Lord. We worship God by using our bodies to bring glory to His name.
  • We worship with our finances – The apostle Paul writing to the Philippian church, thanked them for the gift they sent to support his ministry (Philippians 4:18b). Giving money to a ministry or church is never a horizontal transaction of simply paying a bill, it is a vertical offering to God. God invites us to worship Him as we sacrificially give to His work.
  • We worship God with our praises – (Hebrews 13:15) Our singing the praises of God is an act of sacrifice and worship. Whenever we are tempted to refrain from singing in worship, we must remember who it is we are worshipping.
  • We worship God with our good works – (Hebrews 13:16) Serving others is an act of worship. When we don’t have the time to volunteer or help, but we do it anyway because we are doing it unto the Lord, we show that we are trusting that He will redeem the time. That is worship.
  • We worship God when we share the Gospel – (Romans 15:16) As we share the Gospel and see new believers coming into the Body of Christ, we glorify God. Jesus said in Luke 15 that when people come to know the Lord, it is a time of praise and worship in heaven and it brings Glory to God here on the earth. The greatest miracle is a life transformed by the saving power of the Gospel. We worship God by telling His story.

May we be people who worship God with all that we have. Praising God with our lives, our finances, our time, and our relationships.

Are you worshipping God with your leftovers? Which area(s) of your life is not fully committed to Christ?

God is calling us to be dedicated and devoted followers of Jesus, because He is worthy of it all.

January 7, 2018 Worship or Fear, we have a Choice

Matthew 6:25-34

At the beginning of the New Year we are looking at the four foundational pillars of our church, which are Worship, Word, Mission/ Evangelism and Compassion. This week we will be turning our attention to Worship by looking at Mathew 6 and verses 25-34. Not normally a scripture portion that is associated with worship.

What is Worship?  Is worship singing? Is it a church service? Do we only worship on a Sunday morning?  The word Worship comes from an old English word which is made up of two words, Worth and Ship. We worship what we give value to and what we dwell on. It is not just singing, or meditating, although that is a large part of worship. We worship what we give value to, the way we use our money, in the way we work, the way we share the Gospel with others and how we spend our free time. When we understand worship, we understand that we worship God with our very lives.

Frequently we hear the question, “how did you like worship today?” If you think about it, that is an absurd question as it reveals that the true nature of our desire to come to a church gathering is not to worship God, but rather to worship our own desires and our own preferences.

One of the ways that a lack of worship manifests itself is in fear and anxiety, this is especially true at the beginning of the New Year as the global future looks more and more unstable.

We don’t have a fear problem, we have a belief in God problem. And I contend that We don’t have a fear problem, we have a worship problem. If we really knew God, and that begins by daily reading His word and daily talking with him in prayer, we would find that our fears would melt away.

In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus has just been teaching his disciples about the importance of not storing up for themselves riches on the earth, but rather store up for themselves riches in heaven. Jesus taught things that were counter culture in the first century and even more so today. Jesus makes it very plain in verse 24, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Jesus makes it very clear, that if we focus on the things around us, if we focus on building our own little kingdom here on this earth we cannot serve God. You may say that saving money for a rainy day is simply prudent, but how much of our saving is based on the fear of the unknown, which in turn is based on the fear that God really cannot take care of His children.

Jesus continued in verse 25, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”

Notice that Jesus doesn’t try to encourage them to try not to worry, rather he forcefully tells them not to worry at all. It is a sin to worry, because when we worry, we show that we doubt the power of God over our circumstances. When we worry, we take God off the throne in our lives and we pay lip service to the all-powerful God, but do not believe it.

Putting God first is a constant struggle as we are so overwhelmed with information and entertainment in our day.

Think of how God feels when we carry around useless burdens which do nothing but weigh us down. Like a good parent God doesn’t want His children to struggle with things that He could help them with. God is our heavenly Father, the all-knowing Father who owns everything and lavishes his love on us. Jesus continues in verse 26 to say that Our Heavenly Father is committed to caring for His creation, why would we think that He is not able to care for us His children?

In verse 32, Jesus said, “your Heavenly Father knows you need all these things.” God is not unaware of your need to pay your mortgage, your health issues, your children’s education, or your ailing parent. God knows everything about your life.

“No man ever sank under the burden of the day. It is when tomorrow’s burden is added to the burden of today, that the weight is more than a man can bear.” — Gordon MacDonald

If worrying is a sin, how do we practically stop worrying? Jesus makes this clear in verse 33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Worship is focusing on the Kingdom of Heaven, worship is focusing on the God who created the universe (see Psalm 145:13-16). Worship is about taking our eyes off our small world and focusing on the Kingdom of God

(see Philippians 4:6-7). That is living by the Spirit, God designed us to live by the Spirit in Christ and when we do that our very lives are consumed by worship. Being led by the Holy Spirit we are directed into His presence where our fears melt away.

We can worry, or we can worship, it is a choice we make and a decision we will live by. Worshipping God is always the best option, one that produces life. Anything in our lives that is more important than God, that causes us to take our eyes off God is and idol. Fear and worry are idols. Which altar are you worshipping at?

When we truly worship God, and get a glimpse of His glory on the throne, all the problems and the concerns of life will melt away. As the song by Helen Lemmel goes,

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth
Will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace”

Thanksgiving part 2 – November 19, 2017

Recalling the history of the early Pilgrims, Governor William Bradford wrote concerning their faith, “God gave them health and strength in a good measure; and shewed them by experience ye truth of the word.” And he quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word, that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

Thanksgiving is all about God, and recognizing who He is and all the blessings He has freely given us. In a world that has all but pushed God away in every sphere of society it is amazing that we still celebrate Thanksgiving, because how can we celebrate this holiday if we don’t acknowledge our Lord and Creator.

Thanksgiving is such a great holiday, but it is not an end in itself; thanksgiving must lead us into something. Thanksgiving should lead to something that is infinitely more significant.

In Luke 17 we read about a man that was truly thankful. This account from the life of Jesus took place while he was on his way to Jerusalem, on the way he encounters ten men with leprosy. At that time and according to the Law of Moses, people with leprosy had to wear torn clothing and live on their own outside of the city, waiting for their probable death.

They had nothing to lose and they cried out to Jesus, calling him Master, recognizing that Jesus was the messiah. Sadly, it is often only those who are desperate who recognize their need for Jesus.

Jesus heard their cry for help and in response he told them to go and show themselves to the priests. The implication was clear to the lepers, according to the law, people with a skin disease had to be examined by a priest, who would determine whether they were clean allowing them to be re-integrated into society.

They hurried away to do just this, and Luke 17:14 says, “as they went, they were cleansed”. They didn’t go and sit back under the tree and wait for their symptoms to disappear. The Bible is clear that they were healed when they went in faith. Can you imagine their emotional roller-coaster they must have gone through? They started walking and after one mile they still were sick, maybe after two miles, they still saw no sign of relief. Every step was a step in faith and as they continued in faith they were healed. We are not told when the healing took place, but they were healed as they walked in faith. Faith in the healing power of Jesus often requires us to obey before we see the full evidence of God’s work within us

From the account in Luke’s Gospel it seems that all ten are healed, but only one man, a Samaritan comes back praising God (Luke 17:15-16).

The people of Samaria were of mixed Israelite and foreign descent, so the Jewish people did not accept them as part of the Jewish community. The Samaritans were despised by Jews for both ethnic and religious reasons; there was mutual hatred by the Samaritans toward Jews.

We don’t know the nationalities of the other nine, but the response Jesus gave in verse 18 seems to indicate that the other nine were Jews. This Samaritan fell at the feet of Jesus and worshipped loudly. He recognized and glorified God, and this is the key, his thanksgiving led to Worship. Worship is a natural response of a heart filled with gratitude.

It would have been logical for him to have followed the other men and gone to the temple, but he first came to the Lord Jesus with his sacrifice of praise. The law required that after being inspected by the priests at the temple, one would have to offer a sacrifice to God. But this Samaritan didn’t even get to the temple, he turned around and ran to Jesus, this pleased the Lord more than all the sacrifices the other men offered, even though they were obeying the Law. And instead of going to the priest, the Samaritan became a priest, and he built his altar at the feet of Jesus.

If you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are a royal priesthood with a purpose. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

Looking at our last verse, I saw something that I had never discovered before in this passage, in verse 19 Jesus said to the Samaritan man, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

At first glance, this seems to tell us that the faith of this man is the reason for his physical healing, and yes to a certain extent it is. But the word used in the Greek to indicate being made well comes from the root word “sozo”.

What Jesus really said to the man was, “your faith has saved you”

This man was grateful, and he knew the reason for his healing, he immediately came to Jesus and worshipped him.

Dante Rossetti once said; “The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful, and has nobody to thank”.

The essence of Thanksgiving is that it is an act of worship. True worship flows from gratitude which comes from our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Are you worshipping God today? Is your worship coming from a heart of gratitude?

Sermon September 17, 2017 – Jeremiah part 3

Jeremiah 17:1-10

The nation of Judah had drifted far from God, worshipping idols and ignoring the covenant and the law that God gave Moses on mount Sinai. Their sin was deep rooted, it wasn’t simply a fleeting failure. Jeremiah uses the picture of an engraving tool in verse 1, the sins were indelibly marked in their culture. This has been the condition of man since Adam’s sin in Genesis 3. Sin is not a matter of mere actions, sin is a matter of the heart, and all of us are desperately sinful in our nature.

The Greek definition for sin is to miss the mark, to miss the standard for which we were created. We as human beings, like no other creature, were created in the image of God, and as such we were created to glorify Him by our worship, and our enjoyment of Him forever.

This is the mark we have missed, we worship, money, sex, fame, various forms of entertainment and objects of our own creation just to name a few idols.  We are no different to the nation of Judah, we have missed the mark, we are sinners. In verse 3 and 4, God says that because of their sins, he will punish them and give away all their treasures and wealth as plunder to their enemies. Even though God spoke so directly through the prophet Jeremiah, the people ignored the message and treated Jeremiah like the enemy.

The irony is that God tells them that he will enslave them in a land they do not know, but the reality is that they were already slaves. When we are living in willful sin, we are enslaved by that sin. Sin itself is slavery, because we are separated from the joy of knowing the pleasure and the grace of God in our lives.

The Lord continues in verse 5, “This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord.”

Where do you place your trust? Do you trust in your retirement fund? Your paycheck? Your savings? Your inheritance? Perhaps you trust in a person to take care of you? The truth is that no matter what we trust in, if it is not God, the Bible says we are under a curse.

The converse of verses 5 and 6 are verses 7 and 8 said. Verse 7 says, “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” Do you want to experience God’s blessing? Trust Him!

In verse 8 we read that the person who trusts in the Lord will receive a promised blessing from the Lord, they will have no fear, no worries, and they never fail to bear fruit.

As we look at ourselves, how do we really know if we trust the Lord? We can easily fool our neighbor, our pastor, even our spouse, but God knows our heart (see Jeremiah 17:10).

Just like God knew the hearts of the people of Judah, he knows our hearts today. As a result of their sin, God punished the nation of Judah, the attack from the north came and most of them were taken into captivity. It was a terrible and dark time for the nation. The captivity in Babylon was relatively short, only 70 years, but the nation was destroyed and would never be the same again.

The punishment for sin was severe, and God still punishes sin today, we don’t like to talk about it, but He does, God loves us too much to leave our sins unpunished.

But there is good news, as we look at Jeremiah 31:31-34. This prophecy in Jeremiah 31 talks about a time far in the future for those living in the 6th Century BC, Jeremiah was prophesying about the new covenant, he was pointing to our time, this day and age.

Obviously, we still struggle with sin and the world is in a desperate state because of our rejection of God. Our problem with sin is far worse than we could ever imagine. Our sinful self is so wicked that we don’t even have the desire to know God, let alone want to come near to Him. Our hearts are inscribed with sin, we cannot erase it, it is impossible for us to change our hearts.

But here is the Incredibly Good News, God made a New Covenant with mankind. Jeremiah was prophesying about The Gospel, Jesus, the son of God, coming to earth as a child, living amongst men, and then giving his life as the ultimate and perfect sacrifice in order to save us from our desperately wicked state. We sometimes take the Gospel for granted, we gloss over it every time we celebrate communion together. But this is incredible news in Isaiah 9:2 we read, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;”

Of all the 1366 verses in the book of Jeremiah, chapter 31 and verse 33 is the pinnacle of his revelation from God.

Notice the contrast between chapter 17, where our hearts are engraved with sin, and the New Covenant in chapter 31, God promises to write a new law on our hearts. It takes a miracle to remove engraving, we cannot do it, but because of what Jesus did on the cross, by submitting our lives to his glorious gift of salvation, we get new hearts. We get the very presence of the living God living inside of us by the Holy Spirit. This is what Jesus spoke about in Luke 22:20

The Old Covenant was important to reveal to mankind that we are desperately sinful and cannot begin to fulfill the holy requirements of God. But God created us with the capacity and the need for a relationship with Him, not simply to follow a set of blind rules.

This is where the church has missed the point I believe. In our desire to make “good Christians”, we have created rules and structures, and our efforts have resulted in legalism. The truth is that:

Rules without a Relationship is Bondage.

I am not advocating for the erasing of all rules, that is anarchy, but if we are content to follow the rules without a relationship with our Heavenly Father, in a sense we are still living under the Old Covenant.

Are you still living under the Old covenant, trying to be good enough for God? That is impossible, that is why Jesus came to save us, that is why we have the Gospel!

The 4 Pillars of the Church – Part II – February 19, 2017

Nehemiah 8:1-12

A fairly common statement that can be heard in Christian circles after a Sunday morning, goes something like this; “I didn’t get anything out of the service today”. However, we should always come into a worship service with an expectation to encounter the presence of the Lord. Looking at Nehemiah chapter 8 I want to draw five principles that will guarantee that we will always experience a special touch from the Lord every time we meet together.

Worship is more than singing, worship must become a lifestyle for us. We worship what we give value to, we worship by the way we use our money, the way we work, the way we share the Gospel with others and we worship in the way we spend our free time. When we understand worship, we begin to understand that we worship God with our very lives.

Looking at Nehemiah chapter 8 we see the following 5 principles of developing a lifestyle of worship:

Prepare to Worship: The event described in this chapter took place during a two day festival called the feast of trumpets, it was a holy day and to be treated like the Sabbath (see Leviticus 23).  All the people had gathered at the water gate and if we look back a few verses the gathering of people was approximately forty-five thousand thousand. This wasn’t some random gathering, this was a planned event. A platform had been built for Ezra to stand on, and he read from sunrise until noon, which means that all the people had to assemble before sunrise. This took a lot of work and coordinating, there was preparation involved that probably took days before this event.

We need to remember that worship is primarily spiritual, thus we need to look for spiritual solutions to the desire for more effective worship. Before we enter into a worship service we need to prepare our own hearts to worship the Lord. There is much that could be said on this, but just one practical piece, how can you spend Saturday night watching r rated movies and then expect to experience the presence of God on a Sunday morning, our hearts need to be prepared. A very practical step would be to get up early on a Sunday morning and spend time with the Lord, repenting of your sins, praying for the blood of Jesus to cleanse you of your sins. This will require discipline and maybe an adjustment in your schedule, but it all boils down to what we value the most, what do we give value to, what do we worship?

As we need to approach the throne of grace in worship, we need to be seeking personal holiness in our lives (see Hebrews 12:14).

Engage with the Word: As Ezra climbs into the makeshift pulpit, and opened the book, all the people stood up. The people actively engaged in the reading of the Book of the Law. There was not a passive sitting down and expecting Ezra to keep them alert. The people arose and engaged with the word of God, they remained standing all morning, as Ezra read and the Levites went amongst the people explaining the law to them.

Our worship should be response to the word of God. A number of times I have heard the statement made that the singing prepares us for the message, and if the singing is bad, then we don’t get anything out of the message. But throughout scripture we have examples that would suggest we have it the wrong way around. Our worship needs to be in response to the word.

Focus on Heaven:  Before Ezra begins to read he focuses the attention of the people on God, (see verse 6) The people prepared themselves, then they engaged with the Word and thirdly they focused on Heaven. They focused on the object of their worship.

Worship is a time when we take our eyes off of ourselves and our small world and focus on the Glory and majesty of the creator of the universe. Everything in our worship services, should be to draw our attention towards God and to cause people to think about Him. Worship is to be about Him and his majesty and greatness.

Give of Yourself: As the people were hearing the Word of the Law being read, they began to weep and mourn as they became aware of how far they had drifted from God’s original intent for the nation. This wasn’t a little crying or sadness, there was a grief that came over the people that affected everyone, so much so, that the priests had to calm them down as we read in the following verses. The people gave of themselves in repentance and grief.

Worship is activity and requires us to give of ourselves. Not only must we actively engage in worship, but we must also give of ourselves, worship is a sacrifice to God (see Romans 12:1)

Worship is a sacrifice as we declare that we give our all to God in worship. And here is the amazingly powerful truth, our worship literally becomes an incense in the presence of the Lord. David understood this in Psalm 141:2.

When you are tempted not to give of yourself in worship, remember that worship is a privilege we have because of the cross of Jesus Christ, because of what Jesus did on the cross, our sacrifice of praise literally becomes incense in the presence of the all holy God!

Leave Celebrating: After the people had repented and grieved, they all went away rejoicing (see v12). Nehemiah understood the value of the truth that the Joy of the Lord is our strength, and that the people needed to be strong and joyful as they left to go to their homes.

The final principle in worship is how we leave the house of worship. We should leave celebrating because we have just encountered a fresh touch from the Lord, our sins have been forgiven and we are free. As we leave our worship service, our conversation needs to be permeated with the very real fact that we encountered the living God in worship.

Worship is more than an event or a gathering, worship is a lifestyle and not an event. The truth is that If you don’t worship outside the church, you will never worship in the church. If you don’t worship God during the week, don’t expect to come to church on a Sunday and ask the worship leader to lead you into worship.

Worship styles come and go, throughout the History of the church, the music style and the instruments used have been constantly changing. The style of worship today is different from fifty years ago, and it was different fifty years before that. Worship styles may change, but worship itself must never change.

If we become so attached to a particular style, if a particular style of worship becomes our preference and we feel that it is the only way to worship, then we have missed the point of worship. Neither contemporary, traditional or blended are the right way to worship, because worship is a matter of the heart. (read John 4:23)

Worship – Part 3 September 18, 2016

worship-pt-3-title-2Psalm 8

I recently read an article written by an atheist scientist who was proposing a radical end to life as we know it. His premise is that the earth will not be able to sustain the population within the next 30 years.

We have probably all heard this kind of argument.  Everywhere we hear the news that man is the problem. I want to make the Biblical case today to prove that man is not the problem, there is another cause driving mankind to destruction.

Reading Psalm 8 we will see that this particular Psalm speaks directly to us today in the 21st century and the moral challenges we face as a society.

This Psalm is known as one of the nature Psalms, David praises God’s greatness as he views all of creation. God’s glory is revealed in majesty throughout the universe. But David continues in this Psalm to state that mankind is the pinnacle and crowning glory of God’s creation, this is where the Bible clearly differs from those who view mankind as the problem on the earth.

David “bookends” this Psalm with the same magnificent line of praise; “O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is your name in all the earth!” The Lord’s name is majestic, and the attributes of God are part of His name (see Exodus 34). It is the name of God that carries power, majesty, glory and justice. In our generation it seems we have forgotten the third commandment (see Exodus 20:7). Oh that we would get back to the reverence and awe of the name of God in our society.

The second verse of Psalm 8, doesn’t seem to fit in the Psalm. David is writes about the vast universe, all the animals and the creatures of the sea; and then we have this verse about infants and nursing babies. The weakest and most dependent of society. It is through the weakest of the weak that God shows His power and majesty. Satan has convinced humanity that the unborn child is a mere piece of tissue, a collection of cells, but not a human being. If you ever needed another reason why abortion is evil, just read the rest of this verse; “to make the enemy and the revengeful cease”. Satan is determined to kill as many babies as possible through abortion, because each of them is a threat to him.

David continues by looking at the awesome vastness of God’s creation, he looked up at the stars and saw how small and seemingly insignificant man is. And then he begins to ask God, “what is man that you care for him?”

This is where the psalm begins to offend the post-modern mind, verse 5 says; “yet you have made him a little lower than God, and you crowned him with glory and majesty!”

Post-modern thought hates the truth of the Bible that says that mankind is the pinnacle of God’s creation. But the Bible clearly teaches that man is created in the image of God (see Genesis 1:26). Modern teaching has reduced mankind to an animal and rejected God completely, as a result the world is in chaos. The created order of God is out of alignment and sin reigns. This is all as a result of sin. When Adam sinned, he relinquished his authority over the created order and became a slave to sin. In the world today, we don’t have a mankind problem, we have a sin problem!

But that is not the end of the story! God sent his son, Jesus to come to the earth as a poor defenseless baby, weak and vulnerable. As Jesus lived among us, he exercised dominion over creation. He calmed the seas and the storms, he commanded fish and wild animals to obey him. No human has ever had such dominion over nature. Jesus was fully God and fully man, and he demonstrated to us all what it means to take dominion over creation. Jesus was God in the flesh, visiting his creation and by his death and resurrection he purchased the salvation for all who call on his name (See Hebrews 2:9).

Praise God for the cross, praise God for the Gospel message, the good news of salvation that is only through Jesus Christ our Lord.

There you have the truth. We have looked at eight short verses in Psalm 8 and I have made three points that are considered offensive to the thinking of post-modern man;

  1. Abortion is wrong and contrary to the will of God
  2. Mankind is the pinnacle of God’s creation, created in His image
  3. Salvation is only available through Jesus Christ.

And as we continue along the path of humanism, these statements will only become more and more offensive to the world around us. But the truth is that the Kingdom of God is not like the kingdom that is currently reigning in the world. The kingdom of God takes everything and turns it upside down.

In the kingdom of God:

  • The weak become strong.
  • The poor become rich.
  • The unborn are immeasurably valuable.
  • The last shall be first.
  • Humility and meekness is power.
  • By dying to ourselves we gain eternal life.
  • By the cross, we have freedom.

These are a few of the attributes of the kingdom of God, and our response can only be; “O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!”

The truth is that we only begin to worship when we realize our absolute dependence on God.

We are only able to Worship God with the breath he gives us in the first place. We are only able to worship God because he places the desire for worship in our hearts.

Worship is not about having the right sound or the right songs, it is about a personal heart posture before the Lord. Remember Moses when God proclaimed his name; he simply bowed down and worshipped (Exodus 34:8). We need to live a lifestyle of worship. Worshiping God when we drive to work, worshiping God when we are resting at home, worshiping God as we go about our daily tasks. Worship is from the heart first and foremost and it all stems from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

As we meditate on that we have to simply fall to our knees and say, Father, what is mankind that you are mindful of them? Who am I that you are care for me?

Worship – part 2 September 11, 2016

worship-pt-2-title-2

This past Sunday we remembered the tragic events of 9/11/2001. It is a sad reality of our world today that sometimes it takes a disaster for us to realize what is really important and valuable to us.

Imagine that you were told that your house is about to be sucked into a sinkhole and you have two hours to get your most valuable belongings out of the house. What would you find that is your most precious possession? Assuming all people and animals were safe, some people might grab their passports, personal documents or maybe a family Bible.

In an instant our lives could be changed and we are forced to think hard about what is most important to us. In this series on worship we discovered that we worship what we give value to. We are by nature worshipers, we all give value to different things, and when we give priority to anything above God, we are worshiping that thing and that is the definition of idol worship.

King David the King of Israel was known as the man after God’s own heart (see Acts 13:22). As we know David wasn’t perfect, but he had his priorities right. David found his satisfaction in God, he was a true worshiper of God.

Looking at David’s Psalm 16, we find some of his secrets to true worship. This Psalm is a beautiful picture of someone who has a warm and close relationship with God

This Psalm can be divided into 4 sections.

Verses 1-2  In the first section, David sets the correct perspective. The Hebrew word for God used here is “strong one”. David declares that God is well able to protect and keep him. David declares that God is his highest treasure, his primary joy and delight.

Verses 3-4  Then in the next two verses, David turns his attention to the people around him and divides them into two classes. The first are the saints in the land, the followers of the one true God. David loves to be in fellowship with them. The second group are those who have other things in their life more important than God. Who value other things more than God. David says he will not participate in their worship. David loves the fellowship of those who put God first, but will not even name the names of the idols that people worship.

Verses 5-6  The next two verses begin with the line; “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;” As David looks at his life he sees how God has blessed him, and he is able to say; “God you are all I need” David understood that all things come from God and that God is enough. By saying that you are my cup, David is saying that God satisfies, invigorates and refreshes him. Remember what Jesus said in John 4:13-14. Is Jesus your cup? Do you still look to other things to refresh you? If you do, you will always be thirsty again.

Verses 7-8  In these verses David takes a more introspective tone, as he praises God for counseling him.  When all the noise is gone, and he is alone with his thoughts, he praises God because he knows without a doubt that God is always with him and he will not be shaken. In the 21st century, where man has rejected God, one of the greatest fear of man is silence and being alone with one’s thoughts, it should not be this way.

Verses 9-11  In these last three verses David looks forward; he has reflected on the past, praised God for the present and now he looks ahead, and he looks to the future with joy and peace. If you are anxious about the future, and many in our nation are, it is vital to spend time in prayer alone with God’s word. As you do, you get God’s perspective on your life, and like David, you can rest secure.

The final verse is a triumphant declaration; David knows that while he is still alive, he can experience the joy of the Lord by coming into his presence, and for eternity he is going to experience the pleasures of the goodness of God.

As we see from this Psalm, God is everything to David. He looks to the past, his present situation and the future and boldly states that God is enough.

As you look at your life, can you make the same statement? Is God more important to you than anything else? Worship has to be completely God-centered. The danger is that we as a culture are so performance oriented, that we define worship in terms of songs and practices, things that we do. Our focus shifts away from God as the center and we focus on things like singing quality, instruments or worship leaders. And little by little our attention goes away from the Lord and our absolute dependence on him, and we begin to focus on the quality of our worship performances. That is idolatry.

In Exodus 34, we have an example of pure worship, as Moses is alone with God. God speaks to Moses and proclaims His name; the majestic, all consuming name of God. Moses’ response is to fall to his face and worship God. (Exodus 34:8). That is Worship, when nothing else matters and we are consumed by the presence of God.

When worship becomes more about us and our preferences then it is no longer worship at all. Worship has to be all about God and Him alone.

King David lived a lifestyle of worship, he lived everyday glorifying God through his life.

“God is most Glorified when we are most satisfied in him”

John Piper

How about you? Are you able to look at your life and give glory to God because you are satisfied that He is all you need?