Victorious Christian Living

 

Introduction

I believe one of the greatest desires in the lives of believers is that of walking in victory.  I don't know of anyone who plays a game, whatever it is, to lose.  I believe in the heart of every person, believer or not, that God has placed a desire to win.  Why is that?  Because we are created in the image of God and our God is a winner; there is nothing in our Creator that is not good.  In other words, God's purposes and plans for our lives are one of destiny fulfilled and victorious Christian living.  This was God's desire for Adam and Eve and for the rest of mankind.  Yet we know that mankind fell short of God's glory.  Sin and wounds and lies make it very difficult for victorious living.  In light of the fall of mankind, people became self-loving and self-serving and competitive at the expense of others.  We entered into a world of arrogant winners and sore losers.  Satan was smiling and God was grieving but planning for our future. 

Years ago, I had dream of playing basketball with Satan; the game was 21...  My opponent made the first shot but missed the second and then I got the rebound.  Now it was my turn, I was on fire and made all my shots without missing any.  I won and then I woke up.  I felt terrific.  I was a winner.  Then I realized it was a dream and the reality of life set in.  In the moment of that reality check God spoke to me.  "Larry, you are going through life hoping for victory but thinking that you are a loser.  That is not how I see you - 'You are a winner'".  I made some changes to my life at that time.  There was a lot of repentance – changing the way I thought, felt or acted in life.  It was not easy, but over time, I began to experience transformation from thinking like a loser because of sin, wounds and lies, to that of seeing myself as a winner in God.  Over the next few weeks we will be looking at the victorious Christian life.  I know that we can learn from Scripture and personal circumstances just what it takes to live victoriously. 

Practices of Victorious Christian Living

I remember learning to ride a bike as a young boy in Saskatoon.  My friends were steadying the bike, running beside me, and eventually launching down the street in front of our house.  I rode the bike for about five seconds and then crashed into our neighbours car, breaking his headlight with my knee. Despite the pain it was obvious to me I needed more practice and eventually I learned how to ride a bike.  Practice makes perfect is used to describe a regular exercise of an activity or skill, thereby becoming proficient in it.  This phrase has its limitations, but none-the-less, is accurate when mastering certain activities in life.  The point of this little story is simply this – riding a bicycle, or whatever you are attempting to learn takes time, often involves failure and getting up and getting on again.  To some degree this practicing to make perfect relates to our walk with Jesus, with the understanding the ultimately our perfection is found in the righteousness of Jesus. 

One of my experiences in discovering the victorious Christian life involved the pursuit of faith practices. These spiritual disciplines included Bible Study and teaching, fellowship and communion and prayer and fasting and worship; it was like Acts 2:42. On the one hand, I was very aware of the importance of the confession of sin, and on the other the sharing of my faith in Jesus.  One of the challenges I had to overcome was the over-emphasis on my part of these spiritual disciplines; at times, I grew very weary of trying to live the victorious Christian life.  The Scripture tells us not to grow weary in doing good (Gal 6:9).  In these moments, I was drawn to resting and abiding Scriptures where I found refreshment for my soul (Psalm 23, Psalm 46:10).  A key word for me in my journey of faith and being victorious is abide.  I often reflected on this verse in relation to Jesus as found in John 15; abide in me, abide in my word and abide in love.  I must say I love spending time in God’s Word discovering more of who he is.  It was in those tired moments I realized that these practices came out of God's grace touching my life and faith being acted upon.  There is so much to be said of the importance of grace and faith in the victorious Christian life.  I believe that is why Satan attempts to distort these truths and corrupt true Scriptural grace and faith.  This reminds me of the need for living a balanced (not deceived) life of spiritual discipline and abiding grace and faith.  We need both to enjoy the victorious Christian life.  We cannot over-emphasize one or the other, both are needed to become a mature and victorious Christian.  

The Holy Spirit

I would say the most important aspect of living a victorious Christian life must do with the introduction of the Holy Spirit to the follower of Jesus.  When Jesus ascended to heaven he did not leave the church powerless or as orphans.  In fact, in John 14:16-18 it states – “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”  The key idea is again one of abiding; in other words, the Spirit of God is to live fully and completely in us. 

One of the key Scriptures that impacted my life with regards to living a victorious Christian life is found in Romans 8.  We know from Foursquare Doctrine that Jesus is the Baptizer with the Holy Spirit.  The importance of knowing and experiencing the Holy Spirit is foundational for living a victorious life as a Christian.  Here are some key thoughts to remember:

·       One aspect of victorious Christian living is being guilt free, no condemnation or worry of judgement.  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. Rom 8:1–2.

·       A second point of living in victory is a mind that is controlled by the Spirit.  Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. Rom 8:5–7.

·       Victorious Christian living touches our physical nature, our mind, emotions, will and bodies, with the same power of God that raised Jesus from the dead.  And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.  Rom 8:11.

·       The last point I want to make from this passage is this – we are God’s children by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Rom 8:14-16

In Conclusion

This is an introduction to victorious Christian living.  Romans 8:37 tells us we are more that conquerors.  Over the next few weeks we will be looking at our relationship with the Holy Spirit.  It is possible to live in victory especially as we surrender our lives to the fullness of the Spirit of God living inside us.  We will discover seven aspects of the Holy Spirit that enable us to walk as victorious believers; regeneration, empowering, guidance, unifier, intercessor, comforter and refiner.  Let’s pray…

Re-digging the Wells - Gen 26…

 

Introduction

Over the past few months there has been quite a few “prophetic words” that have spoken of re-digging the wells.  The understanding is that the Spirit of God is encouraging the Body of Christ to consider the past while moving forward into one’s destiny and future.  In the case of re-digging the wells, the thought is that of revival. 

 

Last month at the Prophetic Conference there was a speaker who spoke about RE-DIGGING THE WELLS and that the Lord is emphasizing this now.  There are both personal and corporate applications to this word that I would like us to consider this morning.  The Lord is doing something globally through his church – it’s time to hear the call of the Spirit for greater things of the kingdom of God for the glory of God. 

 

Gen 26

In Genesis 12:10-20, Abraham had fled to Egypt when he experienced famine and spoke of his wife Sarah as his sister to save himself from Pharaoh.  There is another famine in the land and here God appears to Isaac and tells him not to go to Egypt.  Instead, God repeats the covenant promises he made to Abraham and speaks of how he wants to continue these covenant promises for Isaac.  Like father, like son Isaac lies about Rebekah not being his wife causing Abimelech grave concern (Gen 26:1-11). 

 

During this famine, Isaac prospered - Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him. 13 The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy (Gen 26:12–13).  There is another sermon in this passage for another time.  Suffice it to say, his success caused the Philistines to become envious so much so that they plugged up all the wells that Abraham’s servants had dug.  Abimelech orders Isaac to move away; this strong language suggest being driven away forcefully.  So, Isaac moves into the valley of Gerar and settles there.  This is the beginning of the context for Gen 26.

Re-Opening the Wells

Gen 26:18 shows us the beginning of the re-digging of the wells from Abraham’s day.  It is interesting to note that the word for re-opening or digging carries a two-fold meaning; to search out and explore and to dig.  In other words, the wells were covered up and needed to be rediscovered before they could be re-dug. 

 

What does it take to reopen the wells of our forefathers?  The Philistines plugged the wells with rocks, old wood, dead carcasses and garbage to ruin the well for future use.  Isaac and his men would have to remove all the garbage etc to make the well fresh once again.  Once the well was cleared the water would start flowing again, the well would become clean once again and be useful for drinking and watering the flocks and land.

Isaac’s servants discover two new wells and dig them out so that they produced fresh water.  These new wells are named “Dispute” and “Contention” as the Philistines quarreled with Isaac (Gen 26:19-22).  Eventually Isaac digs a well that no one quarrels over and he names it Rehoboth, saying, “Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land.” 

How do we re-dig the wells?  

These new wells caused problems for Isaac and rather that quarrel over the fresh water he moved onto a new well two more times before finding one that was free from dispute.  The new wells of revival often cause problems for those who want to hang onto the old wells.  A new move of God is often opposed.  Don't worry.  The Spirit of God is flowing like a river and there is enough revelation to share around.  The life sustaining water of the Holy Spirit knows no limit.  The Spirit of revelation is always sharing the good truths of God’s Word. 

 

As we begin to consider “re-digging the wells of revival” there must be a sincere place within our hearts that is committed to getting rid of things that have caused the wells to become plugged in the first place.  In a spiritual sense, we too can reopen the spiritual wells of our forefathers, the revivals of old but it takes hard work.  The enemy has plugged the wells of revival with compromise, sinful habits, worldly thinking and religious activities.  This junk must be removed; Independence, Discouragement, Heart break, if we are to ever experience springs of living Holy Spirit water.

 

Once we are accomplished at reopening the old wells, God will lead us to discover fresh waters of revival...  The old wells will be replaced by new wells of the living water of the Holy Spirit.  

 

I would say that the Spirit of the fear of the Lord is essential when it comes time to re-opening the floodgates of heaven.  The fear of the Lord is a genuine and growing relationship with God that involves reverence, surrender, joy and praise, worship and intercession, hunger for spiritual things, grieving over sin, repentance and much more.  One of the main aspects of re-opening the wells of the Holy Spirit is that of receiving a new heart, instead of stone (Ezek 36:26).  It is the returning to one’s first love (Rev 2:4-5).  We learn to walk in faith and trust with God.  We learn to be led by the Holy Spirit and Grace.  We learn to believe God at his Word.

In Conclusion

We are continuing to “Apprehend God’s Heart” through intimacy with God, growing in our spiritual identity, listening prayer and abiding in worship.  Let’s continue to re-dig, re-open our hearts and lives to God allowing the living waters of the Holy Spirit to flow.  One of the wells of the Foursquare Gospel Church is that of evangelism and missions.  We are intentionally re-digging these wells.  This is “fulfilling God’s Dreams” and causing his kingdom to grow and expand. 

 

Keys to Sharing your Faith

Review

Last week I spoke about the importance of your testimony and how the power of the Holy Spirit can use it to transform lives.  To some degree everyone has a story to share of their life before they came to know Jesus, as followers of Jesus we can share how we became a Christian.  Just as important we need to be able to share how Jesus has impacted our life and how we are living today.  Most of us have stories of sharing our faith both good and bad.  My hope this morning is to give us some pointers that will help us to make it a positive experience.

Have you ever locked your keys in the car?

Keys are very important.  Without them you can find yourself in some very frustrating situations.  One time I locked my keys in our van.  I was so frustrated; Becky was not around so I had to call for Roadside Assistance.  After what seemed like hours the guy showed up and I watched him do his work and within two minutes the van was opened.  In this case, keys open what is locked and start the engine.  The same is true spiritually. 

 

With regards to sharing one's faith there are vital points to consider.  In one sense, there are the positive things we do when sharing a testimony of God’s love and power.  On the hand, there is stuff to avoid. The following thoughts are from years of sharing my faith in Jesus and various testimonies of his grace and mercy in my life.  These practices are personal to my life and have some biblical support, and at the same time involve common sense as a follower of Jesus Christ. 

 

·      Courage

One of the areas I have had to overcome in my Christian walk is that of fear; fear of rejection, fear of speaking in public, fear of the unknown or future.  This has not been helpful when it comes to speaking of Jesus Christ. 

 

In this light, I have consistently sought the Lord for his courage.  This involves prayer, confessing my weakness and coming into the fullness of the Scriptures. 

 

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline 2 Ti 1:7.  Joshua reminds us to be strong and courageous, very courageous (Josh 1:6-9,18).

 

Courage and bravery are keys themes of books and movies in the natural.  So much so in the spiritual realm where stories will be told for eternity of a person’s courage to share their faith about Jesus. 

 

·      A healthy Christian lifestyle

What do I mean by a healthy Christian lifestyle?  There is something advantageous to living in righteousness and holiness that adds confidence when sharing about Jesus Christ.  Last week I spoke of before Christ, how we came to Christ and how we are living now.  We know that Christians have their sins forgiven.  How much more powerful to have the Holy Spirit enablement to live right. 

 

The enemy of our souls (the devil) is looking for ways to disqualify God’s people.  Living righteously silences the accusations he brings against us and empowers our testimony. 

 

The Scriptures exhort us to “put on” Jesus and his character and to “put off” the sins that surround us (Col 3).  We are also told to be alert, be sober, be watchful, against the attacks of the enemy and to submit ourselves to God and resist the enemy (1 Peter 5;8-9; James 4:7). 

 

·      Surround yourself with encouragement

The world can be a hostile place especially when sharing about Jesus Christ.  There is an “anti-Christ” spirit within society and sometimes this comes out against us when we share our testimony.  Therefore, we need to be part of an ekklesia that puts encouragement into action. 

 

To some degree, encouragement and courage go hand in hand.  I see encouragement as brining reassurance and inspiration to help one as they share their faith in a dark world. 

 

Barnabas was the Son of Encouragement (Acts 4:36-37). 

 

1 Thess 5:11 - Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 

 

Hebrews 10:23-25 - Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. 

 

·      Knowledge of Scripture

Another key to effectively sharing your faith is the knowledge of Scripture.  However, this knowledge is never to bash someone with the Bible.  Biblical information is important to understand as it helps us to clearly present the Good News of Jesus; repentance and faith, baptisms, laying on of hands, the resurrection and eternal judgement (Hebrews 6:1-2).  I approach Bible Study is this way - The historical-grammatical method strives to discover the Biblical authors' original intended meaning in the text to the readers while understanding the importance of various types of literature presented in the Scriptures.

 

 

Our knowledge of Scripture must not be legalistic or liberal when it comes to sharing our faith; Jesus condemns both as error. 

 

·      Share stories of God’s power

One of my favourite ways of sharing my love and faith in Jesus is testifying to his acts of power in my current context.  Miracles and healings inspire faith and saving faith is a gift from God (Eph 2:8-9).  The disciples shared stories of God’s power and demonstrated God’s power by praying for the sick etc and seeing them healed.

 

If you want to see more of God’s power the church must see an increase in prayer.  Prayer and power go hand in hand.  Acts 4-31 - 31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. 

 

·      Be a friend

One of the best ways of sharing your testimony is by being a friend.  Friendliness goes a long way when having a conversation.  Jesus was a friend of sinners and yet without sin; this is a good thing.  We, too, have the ability to be friends with sinners while not sinning or even agreeing with their sin. 

 

The Scripture tells us that we are no longer simply servants but are friends of God (John 15:15).  Friendliness is defined by these following words; openness, sociability, outgoing, approachable, kindness, responsiveness. 

In Conclusion

These few pointers that I have shared today can help each of us become effective in sharing our faith in Jesus Christ.  They can put the adventure back into our testimonies concerning God.  I am reminded of the Parable of the Sower in closing.  We must be committed to sharing our faith (planting seeds).  There are all different kinds of people (different soils) who are in various situations of life (birds of the air, thorns and thistles).  There is so much a play when sharing our faith, both practically and spiritually. 

 

I pray that we can remain faithful when it comes to sharing about Jesus Christ. 

I pray that we give a bold and power-filled testimony. 

I pray that we live as righteous friends of sinners.

 

Amen…

 

 

 

 

 

Three Essentials of your Testimony

Introduction

One of the main tasks of leadership within the church is to “prepare God’s people for works of service” (Eph 4:12).  In other words, one of my responsibilities is to make you complete or sufficient for the works and responsibilities that God has placed before you.  The Scriptures tell us that God does not provide tasks for believers without also providing the gifts which are needed to equip believers for those tasks.  In a natural sense, the Scripture provides illustrations of situations in which people are equipped to carry out physical actions; workers are given the tools to get the job done; musicians are equipped to play, travellers are provided for their journeys, equipping for burial, and soldiers are equipped for battle. 

 

Scripture also provides examples of individuals who have been equipped to carry out tasks or responsibilities of a spiritual nature.  With this in mind, there are individuals who are fitted with what they needed to carry out God’s plan supernaturally; Moses, Gideon, and Sampson to name a few.  A significant passage of Scripture is where we see Jesus being equipped for service in Luke 4:18-19 – “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  Jesus equipping was the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  There are two main ways that believers are equipped for service; the Word of God, the Gifts of the Spirit. 

 

In Paul’s time, the Roman Empire was large and in charge.  One of their strengths was the equipping of their armies.  Paul understood this principle and endeavored to make sure followers of Jesus were equipped for the call of God on their lives. 

 

This is Mission’s Sunday and I want to give us three principles of sharing our testimony of faith in Jesus.  This equipping of the saints presents a past, present and future aspect of our salvation encounter with Jesus Christ. 

 

How to share sour Testimony

The Bible tells us “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).   One of the most effective ways of being a “missionary” or an “evangelist” is the story of how Jesus Christ gave you eternal life and how he has enriched your life.  In Youth with a Mission one of the points of training was how to share your testimony in five minutes.  We would listen to student after student share their story of life, their spiritual journey, conversion and life today.  The purpose of these students preparing a testimony was not to memorize it and give it word-perfect, but to help them put into words some of the important and interesting details of their conversion.  A testimony serves primarily as a “door opener” to an ongoing conversation that can be used by the Holy Spirit to bring revelation to someone’s heart talk about the gospel – the Good News of Jesus Christ.

When the Apostle Paul stood before King Agrippa (Acts 26), he spoke simply, logically, and clearly about his life before salvation, how he met Christ, and what his life was like after conversion.  

Your Life Before Christ

Let’s turn to Eph 2:1-10 to discover these truths.  “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath” (Eph 2:1–3).

 

In order to share one’s testimony well, there must be a clear explanation of one’s life before salvation.  Each of us here have very different lives and experiences especially before we were Christians.  Some of us struggled with fears of various sorts; fear of death, rejection, people, and so on.  Others of us had unsatisfied needs; no meaning to life, loneliness, no real friends or purpose to life.  Maybe someone struggled with addictions.  One of your pursuits may have been spirituality and seeking for a deeper meaning to life or education to gain a better lifestyle in the future.  For sure there are some here who grew up in a Christian home which is a positive message that people need to hear.  We must remember that in sharing our testimony we are sharing our story, the good and the bad, so that people can hear our reality. 

 

Pre-Christians are usually trying to satisfy their own deep inner needs through unsatisfactory solutions; maybe just as we did.  Someone once said that everyone has a “God-shaped-hole” in their heart and are trying to fill it with all kinds of solutions, some good and some bad.  The list could go on and on but here are a few ways people try to meet their inner needs; marriage and family, education and work, hobbies or friends to name a few good ones.  Negatively, maybe drugs or alcohol or sex or the wrong friends are the pursuit of Pre-Christians.

 

It is important to take the time to clarify who you were before you met Jesus Christ personally. 

 

How did you meet Jesus?

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:4–9).

 

This is so important to speak of when sharing your testimony.  The person of Jesus Christ brought about a conversion within your life and this experience is eternal in significance.  For many meeting Jesus was a powerful experience – it was Good News.  So, it is important to describe the situations that led up to your salvation; in other words, identify the events that led to your conversion and share who was involved.  In some cases, this may have taken place over a period of time which is normal for many; remember this is your story and it is good.  You should explain the steps you took to become a Christian; prayer or talking with a friend or a Scripture passage.  Sometime during this aspect of your testimony, it is important to include the gospel clearly and briefly: Everyone has sinned (Romans 3:23) … Sin's penalty (Romans 6:23) … Christ paid the penalty (Romans 5:8) … Must receive Christ (Romans 10:9-10, 13)

Your Life After Christ

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10).

 

Salvation is more than describing your conversion experience.  It is how you are living your life now and how Jesus has satisfied your deep inner needs.  Your testimony must present a clear message of how Jesus has fulfilled your life.  In the before you were a Christian stage, you expressed your needs and how you tried unsuccessfully to meet them.  You now want to concisely show the difference that Christ has made in your life; I am no longer alone or afraid, Jesus has given me peace…  It is important to highlight your testimony with a statement like: “I now have purpose in life by which to live and have eternal life to look forward to.”

In Conclusion

We cannot underestimate the power of one’s testimony.  The Scripture tells us “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…” (Re 12:11a).  Your testimony is a powerful tool of the Holy Spirit.  If you became a Christian as an adult you have a definite before, how and after testimony of Jesus touching your life.  If you became a Christian as a young person you made a decision for Jesus but your life was described by spiritual immaturity; your life experience before Christ will be limited, but how you met Christ is still impactful and your life following is genuine and growing.  Some of you may have an early conversion where you grew up with Christian parents and have a strong Christian background; your testimony will describe a decision to follow Jesus and how you are living for him today.

 

Pre-Christians do not understand our Christian lingo; it is helpful to use words that are more understandable for them.  Avoid Christian slang and speak their language; Under the blood, I went forward, I am born-again, I am saved from sin etc… all of these need to be translated in relation to who you are speaking to. Your testimony is just that, it is personal and yours.  Enjoy it, share it.  Your story of salvation is perfect; it is your life being intersected by a holy and loving God.  Within your testimony is the power to bring salvation to someone as seen in 2 Thess 1:10 - …on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you. 

 

I am grateful to those who shared their testimony with me over 30 years ago.  Let’s share our stories of God’s grace and mercy in our lives with others so they can come to know Jesus and his wonderful life. 

Prophetic Word from June 4 2017

Sun, Jun 4, 2017

Here is the Prophetic word that Jay read Sunday morning. 

  "I believe this to be an accurate Word of Prophecy that brings life and encouragement to our lives and church.  Let's continue to dig those wells of living water and see the Fulfillment of God's Dreams here at Courts of Praise."  Pastor Larry

"Just wanted to share with you what I'm already starting to feel. First, When You Sweep into the Room song is especially anointed and a word for our body right now. It describes both God coming in and taking over, but also His sweeping power to sweep away what doesn't belong, not from Him. 

Similarly, I'm feeling "there will be showers of blessing" repeatedly..The habitation of God is coming, a lingering of anointing to happen and keep happening. Look for the LINGERING. God will be felt here like a new season of blessing and conviction in spirit, being soaked and covered in His Presence", in such a way that we will feel the weight and power of His goodness moat times we meet, the water levels rising. Anything not of God, washed away, being consumed by His all encompassing power and love.

As a second stage of water level rising, I see in the" in between times" of services miracles and happenings ordained by God will take place, signs and wonders, doing the same works as Jesus and "greater works." Giftings realized, ministries raised up.  Rather than a part-time couple days a week, stop-over place, the "House" is going to take on a new nature of fullness and priority not experienced before.. No one will have to dictate.. It will be done by the Holy Spirit. Prayer in the House will be catalyst.

The members in particular are going to have growth spurts and come into new "skins" of their identity in Christ. They'll start popping up and bursting forth with "book of Acts" like actions and life flow, many answered prayers, healings, deliverance's, neighbors and friends being brought into the Kingdom. The Lord wants you to know your prayers and labors have not been in vain. Your dreams have been God's dreams. Days of decrease, cutting back, pruning, are coming to an end. Days of fruit bearing and harvest are ahead. Believe God. Be bold in God! The rain and reign of God are coming. 

Your friend,

Jay (prophesying as best I know how and maybe a bit of my own exhortation)

Context – Christianity and Culture

 

Foursquare National Convention

Steve Falkiner, Faytene Grasseschi (the Cry, My Canada), Rick Hiemstra (EFC), and Glen Burris (President of USA Foursquare)

Christianity is flourishing

·       Matt 28:18-20

·       We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.  Col 1:3–6.

·       The Word of the Lord (Prophecy) stands the test of time. 

Culture is changing

·      The culture of Jesus’ day

·      Paul and the Roman Empire

·      The Dark Ages

·      The Reformation

·      Agriculture to manufacturing

·      Colonialization

·      World War

·      Modern culture

Here's the question: How do we connect our Christian faith into a changing culture.  The sad reality today is that claims of religious commitment run high, but impact is at an all-time low.  Stay with my thought that Christianity is increasing, it is, because the Kingdom of God is ever increasing (Isa 9:7).

Here's the problem: Many of us who are Christians have gotten caught up in our increasingly bankrupt culture. We have adopted many of the values of the world around us. Maybe it's the new sexual ethics or pornography, rampant greed and materialism, or winking at the needs of the poor.  Gal. 5:9 explains why adopting these values is a problem: “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”

So, when we try to have the best of both worlds, we exchange the truth of God for a lie and the glory of God for idols, we do what seems right in our own eyes, we get engrossed in the secular world, and we worship created things instead of the Creator. 

What is the result of having our feet in the world and in the church? Cultural Christianity.

·      Cultural Christianity means pursuing the God we want instead of the God who is.

·      It is the tendency to be shallow in our understanding of God, and making God in our image and having our own way.

·      It is a need for God, but on the basis of culture.

·      It is wanting the God we have underlined in our Bibles without wanting the rest of Him too.

·      It is God relative instead of God absolute.

The struggle between genuine Christianity in context with the culture that surrounds us has produced two kinds of Christians; biblical Christians and cultural Christians.  There is a struggle to maintain a genuine and growing Christian identity as a result of the culture in which we live. 

Biblical and Spiritual Christians are to make disciples of nations creating kingdom culture, kingdom thoughts etc.  We are to influence the culture in which we live with Jesus; Loren Cunningham and Bill Bright (1975)

1.     Spirituality and Church

2.     Family

3.     Education

4.     Government and Law

5.     Media and Communication

6.     Arts and Entertainment

7.     Business and Finance

Here is a sad video clip in the area of Education that will help us to see the changing culture we live in today. 

 

Lessons from Elementary School (The Principle of Diffusion).  To be a cultural Christian today is like having the whole bottle of red dye poured in the glass.

Prophetic Revolution:

Changing gears.  The last few days we partnered with the Pexas and were able to host a weekend Prophetic Revolution with Nolan Clarke and TJ Green.  The worship and messages that were brought forth were profoundly impactful. 

Testimonies

What is a Jesus Culture?

There has always been and will always be great variety within the body of Christ. One reason for the surplus of church denominations is that human beings are unique and one size does not fit all. With every generation, down through history, there has been revivals of passion for Jesus that have been expressed through different outlets.  I believe it is helpful to identify some of the key aspects what a Jesus or Kingdom Culture looks like.

·      Joy and Salvation by grace through faith.  

·      Tears and Repentance

·      Prayers and Fasting

·      Personal encounters with the love of God

·      Signs and wonders, including visions, healings, and speaking in tongues. J

·      Abandoned Praise and Worship

·      Worldwide missions

In Conclusion

In the midst of this truth the cultures all around us are confused and presenting so many contrary values to the Kingdom of God.  It is like flying through the clouds and trying to land an airplane.  We have to rely on the instrument panel.  What does the instrument panel represent to you?

 

We live in a world where the King is advancing with an army of believers who are sold out to his plans and purposes.  This is an exciting day in which to live, the Soon Coming King is coming again.

Let’s pray

 

The Heart of Evangelism

Introduction

I have met people in life that have caught my attention and inspired me to life; something captivated my heart and I simply wanted to be around them.  They were fun and risk takers at the same time.  It was my desire to stay close and take in as much as possible.  They carried a message about God or they released contagious passion.  Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg wrote a best seller entitled Becoming a Contagious Christian.  One of their beliefs is that “true followers of Jesus Christ long to become contagious Christians”.  When I consider the word contagious I have several thoughts that come to mind.  Some of the ideas come across are simply bad such as infectious, viruses, unclean.  On the other hand, contagious also speaks of something that is transmitted, or communicable, and when connected to lovers of God, being contagious brings great life.  Contagious Christianity is so much more that evangelistically knocking on doors or speaking to strangers about Jesus Christ.  Contagious Christianity spreads the message of Jesus Christ in such a way as people want to become infected with the love of God.  This morning I want us to look into the heart of evangelism and to grow into being contagious followers of Jesus. 

First Things First

We live in a broken world that does just about anything to keep one from knowing the truth about Jesus Christ.  Nowhere is this plainer than in the area of one’s thinking.  We are told that the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor 4:4).  One of the areas that strongly tries to disavow the existence of God is that of science.  However, in the last fifty years or so, a philosophical principle that affects the world of science was proposed, called the “Anthropic Principle”.  This principle takes into consideration the scientific realities of the universe must be compatible with the existence of growing and intelligent life.  This kind of thinking did not originate in the church but in the pursuit of scientific knowledge.  Because this principle promotes the idea of design (supernatural and intelligent), many secular scientists are looking to other natural explanations.

 

When the Anthropic Principle is fully extrapolated, we begin to see creation as upheld by intelligent design with the purpose of supporting human life.  Let me give you a few examples of how people truly matter to God in light of this principle.  Science has discovered that -

·      If the expansion of the Universe was slowed down or sped up the possibility of life would be ruled out. 

·      If the earth was closer to or farther from the sun human life would burn or freeze to death.

·      Human Life could not be supported on earth if the earth’s rotation was altered (gravity affected) or the earth’s axis was tilted (seasons affected).

 

The Scripture tells us - By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth (Ps 33:6) and Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made (Jn 1:3).  The exciting reality is this – science is now proving what the Bible has spoken of for centuries.  First things first – there is a Creator who perfected his creation from the beginning. 

God is Love

Our Creator, loves and cares for people, therefore God made sure everything is perfect in his intelligent design.  God’s love directs the affairs of his Creation.  Many of us have watched a sporting event and seen the verse John 3:16 in the background.  This simple message is profound and spiritually true; God loves people and has given his Son to the world as Saviour and Lord.  People matter to God.  As a 20-year-old, I was a healthy pagan sinner who by revelation understood two basic things.  First things first, there is a God who created everything including me.  Secondly, he loves me.  When I understood that God was real in the greatness of his creative power I was impressed.  However, it was the love of God that changed my life.  I was overcome by the Love of God.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 Jn 4:10).  It was God’s love that transformed who I was; I was a new creation and the old was gone and the new had come.  This is the contagious part of Christianity that I want us all to experience.  It was love that motivated the Father to send the Son and in turn to empower us with the Spirit.  We know from the Scriptures that God loves us because that is who he is – “God is Love” (1 John 3:16)

 

Compassion of God

In the context of today’s message, the heart of evangelism, the love of God shines bright.  There is one specific aspect of God’s love that truly inspires me and that is his compassion.  I see God’s compassion as the personal and practical application of his love.  We know that he has to love us because God is love, but when he shows us his compassion we are changed. 

 

Read with me Matt 9:35-38 – Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” 

 

Jesus was instructing and proclaiming the good news.  We must remember the good news was the announcement of a favourable message in the Roman Empire.  The gospel writers now use this word to announce King Jesus’ Good News.  The word in the Greek language for healing is “therapeuo” from which we get the word therapy.  Then Jesus saw the crowds and had compassion on them.  This is the love of God in action.  Compassion is to be deeply affected in one’s inner being, which moves one to show kindness, favour, grace, mercy and pity towards the harassed and helpless.  We see this in the following Scripture - When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick (Mt 14:13–14) and then fed the five thousand…   

It was the compassion of God that accompanied the authority of Jesus’ teaching.  I believe it was the compassion of God that released the signs and wonders and miracles that helped people to believe. 

The Heart of Evangelism

This brings us to the main point of today’s message.  We must know that God is the Creator (First Things First), and that God is Love and that his compassion motivates us to share the Good News.  Becoming an excellent evangelistic church is not dependent upon “charismatic or non-charismatic,” Pentecostal or conservative evangelical, nor upon evangelistic activities, etc… but upon the Compassion of God being released.

 

Psalm 103 is one of my favourite passages of Scripture.  We are exhorted to Praise the Lord, oh my soul; and all my inmost being, praise his holy name.  We are told not to forget the benefits of his salvation, but to remember the forgiveness of sins, the healing of sickness, redemption, and the experience of his abundant life.  We are told the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and that “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him” (Ps 103:8,13).

 

There was a time in YWAM when the compassion of God was poured out on one of our schools.  We were overwhelmed by his love for us, we were confronted by his holiness and our sinfulness, his mercy was too good to be true and under the weight of his compassion we wept and we repented of our sins.  Once we caught our breath and composed ourselves our weeping turned to joy as we experienced the heart of the Father.

 

 I believe it is the compassion of God that brings the right motivation for evangelism.  We must have personal experience with God’s compassion so that we can share the message of God with compassion.  All too often believers share their faith without compassion gripping our hearts. 

In Conclusion

I have several thoughts that I believe the Lord wants us to consider in conclusion.  I would care to say that all us of here have a desire to grow in our relationship with God and become a contagious and compassionate Christian; someone who attracts others in life and has good news to share.  We understand the importance of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with others.  However, at times we find ourselves lacking in the area of evangelism.  Why is this? 

I believe one of the reasons is simple – we lack the compassion of God touching our hearts.  In other words, we don’t feel much for God anymore.  J. Edwin Orr was a Scholar and Preacher of True Revival, Evangelism, and Apologetics.  He overheard four preachers speaking of revival and evangelism one day - “We are willing and eager for revival. But we must be quick to crush every appearance of emotional feeling, lest we be led astray.”  His response to these preachers was “this is sheer humbug.”  True evangelism must touch three areas of one’s life to be successful.

 

·      It must reach the intellect with revelation and understanding of Jesus Christ. 

·      It must touch the conscience with the conviction of sin.

·      AND it must stir the emotions.  In other words, if one’s emotions are not touched by God’s compassion then there is something foundationally missing; whether in the evangelistic or the soon-to-be Christian. 

 

As we share the Good News of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, we must influence the minds of people, let them experience the conviction of sin AND not be afraid to get compassionately emotional with them. 

In Application

The question arises, how do we put compassionate spirituality into action?  There are several practical disciplines that enhance spiritual compassion within one’s life and within a congregation.  The concept of “abiding” or waiting on the Lord is clear in the Scriptures.  The Psalmists tell us again and again to wait on the Lord, John the Beloved tells us to abide in Jesus, His love and His Word.  Abiding is all about a lifestyle of devotion to Jesus.

 

Unfortunately, in this world, there are barriers to compassion for Jesus.

·      Busy

·      Distractions

·      Compassion fatigue

 

Even though we can be busy and distracted, and sometimes tired emotionally, these barriers are easily overcome when we come to Jesus.  We need to understand that Jesus is eagerly waiting for you and I to draw near.  His compassion exceeds our love and devotion to him.  God is a Lover, capital L, waiting for you, longing for you because he desires you.  He has already provided forgiveness of sins in Jesus; mercy and grace are abundant in his heart for you and I.  Remember the Lord is compassionate and gracious… 

 

Let’s allow God to plant compassion in our hearts as we continue to grow in sharing our faith in Jesus Christ with others. 

 

 

Resurrection Evangelism

Introduction

This morning I want to share some thoughts with us about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and evangelism.  In our culture, evangelism has become a troubling word for a variety of reasons.  We live is a secular society that has faith in science, faith in New Age thinking, broad-mindedness towards other people’s beliefs but very little tolerance towards Christian faith.  In the Gospel of John, Jesus is recorded saying “I AM” seven times:

·      The Bread of life (6:35, 41, 48, 51);

·      The Light of the world (8:12; 9:5);

·      The Door (10:7-9);

·      The Good Shepherd (10:11-14);

·      The Resurrection and the Life (11:25);

·      The Way, the Truth, and the Life (14:6);

·      The Vine (15:1, 5).

 

The statement - “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6) challenges both believers and unbelievers to its basic message.  Jesus alone is the Saviour and Messiah that brings redemption to mankind; no one comes to the Father except through Jesus. 

 

In the days of the Roman Empire, “evangelists” were sent out on behalf of the Emperors to proclaim the good news and the victories of the Roman Legions.  The authors of the New Testament borrow this common word and make it alive with new meaning.  Evangelism in its simplest form is the preaching and proclaiming of the Good News of Jesus Christ. 

 

Last week was Easter Sunday, therefore, it is important to consider how important the Resurrection of Jesus was in relation to the disciples.  I mentioned that without the Resurrection of Jesus, there is no faith, no good news to share, sin and death still rule over us, and praise and worship are uninteresting and lifeless.  In other words, evangelism rises or falls based upon the reality of the resurrection.  He is Risen.  He is Risen indeed.

 

 

Play Ball…

A father took his five-year-old son to several baseball games where the American National Anthem was played, The Star-Spangled Banner, before the start of each game.  Several months later, the father and son were attending church which happened to be on July 4th, American Independence Day.  The congregation loudly sang the Star-Spangled Banner, after which everyone sat down.  At this point the five-year-old boy jumped to his feet and yelled, “PLAY BALL”!!!   I laughed when I read this little story the other day.  I can just see it happening – “PLAY BALL” …  As I laughed I felt the Lord speaking to me.  The challenge the Lord was bringing to me related to the idea of the ‘playing ball’ but the context was wrong.  Play Ball is good news in the context of a baseball game but doesn’t make much sense in church. 

 

The message that we need to hear in church and proclaimed by the church is this – “Jesus is Alive.”  This was the message of the early church in Acts.  There are 15 recorded sermons in the Book of Acts and only four do not refer to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In fact, both the Apostles, Peter and Paul, make the resurrection of Jesus paramount.

Jesus is Alive!!!

·      But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him (Ac 2:24).

·      You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this (Ac 3:15).

·      They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.  5 The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed (Ac 4:2–10).

·      Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead” (Ac 23:6).

 

Here is what that means specifically for your evangelism.  The Love of God can be demonstrated but the Resurrection of Jesus must be proclaimed.  In other words, love preached and not demonstrated is religious.  In similar thought, the resurrection must be preached in order for faith to enter the heart of people.  Paul highlights this in Romans 10:8-15 - The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

 

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Here are five points to consider when sharing our faith:

1.     Proclaiming the Gospel must include Jesus is Alive today. 

People need to hear that God can change us.

People need to hear that miracles happen today. 

People need to hear that new life is a genuine reality.

People need to hear that hope and a fruitful life is possible.

 

2.     Proclaimers of the Kingdom of God. 

We are not some salesman to the latest spiritual fad. 

We are not some salesman thumping people with the Bible.

We are not some salesman to the latest get-rich-quick scheme.

We represent the King who is Alive with conviction and compassion. 

 

3.     Proclaimers of the forgiveness of sins.

We carry the message of freedom from sin

We carry the message of freedom from the effects of sin.

We carry the message of freedom from guilt, shame and blame.

 

4.     Proclaimers of eternal life.

The resurrection means that we live forever.

The resurrection means that there is life after death.

The resurrection means that there is hope for the future.

 

5.     Proclaimers of Kingdom living.

Holiness and righteousness are possible.

Momentary light afflictions are achieving for us eternal glory.

God can do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine.

 

The Good News is so wonderful when we considering Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  We have all the confidence in the world that the words we speak bring abundant and everlasting life.  We have an answer that makes sense of all the questions about life. 

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the “PLAY BALL” statement of the little five-year-old boy.  Only the context is that of sharing the Good News with others. 

In Conclusion

We can rejoice in our eternal hope because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  The sharing of the Good News is meant to be one of joy and fulfillment.  If it is not a joyful experience, then we may have lost sight of the reality that Jesus is Alive today.  It is important to consider the resurrection of Jesus and how that impacts our lives today. 

 

Therefore, considering Paul’s discourse on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, let’s consider 1 Corinthians 15:58— “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.”  In other words, as you share the Good News:

·      Pray for the lost in faith (Eph 6:18-20)

·      Be ready in season and out of season to preach God’s word (2 Tim 4:2)

·      Build relationships of love with those who don’t know Jesus.  

 

Therefore, abound in the work of evangelism.  Let the reality of the resurrection renew our love for God and compassion for people and encourage our evangelistic zeal.

 

Let’s take some time to pray for those we know who don’t yet know Jesus. 

 

 

 

 

Resurrection Sunday

Introduction:

This past week we have contemplated the last days of Jesus leading up to his crucifixion.  One Friday we had the opportunity to walk through the Stations of the Cross; this was a powerful and sobering time of considering all that Jesus suffered.  In Matt 27:50-51 when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.  51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split.  One of the most powerful images of Jesus’ death is the Temple of the curtain being torn from the top to the bottom.  The reason I want to share this imagery with you is simple.  I believe that in the Spirit of Prophecy Jesus wants to breakthrough in our lives, just as there was a breakthrough in the Temple Curtain being torn, but even more so through his resurrection. 

 

The temple in Jerusalem was the center of Jewish religious life during the lifetime of Jesus.  There were animal sacrifices carried out and worship according to the Law of Moses was followed faithfully.  In the temple, a veil separated the Holy of Holies (the earthly dwelling place of God’s presence) from the rest of the temple where men dwelt.  The veil symbolized the separation from God by sin and only the high priest was permitted to pass beyond this veil once each year to make atonement for sin.  The veil itself was approximately 50 feet in height and believed to be about 4 inches thick.  The size and thickness of the veil makes the events occurring at the moment of Jesus’ death on the cross so much more momentous.


So, by way of introduction, what do we make of this?  What significance does this torn veil have for us today?  Through the death of Jesus God was beginning to release wonderful breakthroughs for mankind.  These breakthroughs are greatly magnified when we know the reality of Jesus resurrection from the dead.  AMEN!

He is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed! 

The Resurrection is foundational to Christianity – in light of Jesus Christ being made alive after suffering a horrible death, we as believers are assured of His Divinity as the Son of God.  Our faith and trust can rest secure in God and his Kingdom plan for mankind.  Great breakthroughs await those who walk in the light of Jesus resurrection. 

 

The magnitude and importance of the Resurrection is seen in the Scripture 1 Cor 15:14 – “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”   Without the resurrection of Jesus from the dead there would be no forgiveness of sins, no church, no faith to please God and no hope for the future.  In his book, Evidence That Demands A Verdict, Josh McDowell states, “I have come to the conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most wicked, vicious, heartless hoaxes ever foisted upon the minds of men, or it is the most fantastic fact of history.”

  • Jesus himself spoke of his death and resurrection, Luke 9:22 And he said, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life."  His resurrection would be the ‘sign’ of his being the Messiah.
  • The details of Jesus’ burial confirm his death while the empty tomb gloriously reveals God’s triumph over death.  The stone, the seal and the guarding of the tomb were to prevent any thievery by the disciples who might be tempted to come and remove the body of Jesus.  The empty tomb is a constant reminder of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  The Roman and Jewish leaders could not explain the disappearance of Christ’s body; nor could they find it.  Even so they rejected the resurrection.
  • The historical references of the early church fathers confirm the resurrection.  The Jewish historian Josephus also confirms the resurrection of Jesus.
     
  • The post-resurrection appearances of Jesus are clearly at the heart of early Christian belief.  Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, the two followers in Emmaus, doubting Thomas, and Jesus eventually appeared to the eleven disciples.  Acts 1:1-3 and 1 Cor 15:3-8 both highlight Jesus appearing to many people after his resurrection.
  • In conclusion, the Resurrection of Jesus, the giving of the Holy Spirit (John 20:22, Acts 1:1-8) and His Ascension to the right hand of the Father (Acts 1:9-12; 2:33), are confirming the reality of Jesus as the Messiah.  The events may be viewed as separate, but the New Testament writers see them closely integrated revealing the beginning of the new, church age.

Resurrection Blessings:

Jesus’ birth, His sinless life, His proclamation and demonstration of the Kingdom of God, His death, His resurrection and His Ascension all verify that He is the Son of God, the Messiah, who came to redeem mankind.  There are so many divine breakthroughs as seen through Jesus Christ, we can only marvel at God’s wisdom and love for us.  I see three overarching results in light of the resurrection. 

 

1.     We have been given a clear mission, because of the Resurrection of Jesus.  Jesus ‘Kingdom’ purpose was for the redemption of mankind – he came to seek and save those who were lost.  We are now to “go and make disciples… baptizing… teaching…” (Matt 28:19-20).

2.     We have been given the authority to carry out that mission.  In the Greek, the word for authority is exousia revealing the sense of ability, privilege or jurisdiction; in other words, we are now Jesus’ Ambassadors who carry the authority of the Kingdom. 

3.     We have been given the power to complete the mission.  The power is the result of the infilling of the Holy Spirit especially highlighted in Acts 1:8 - But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Resurrection Breakthroughs:

We understand the significance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  Now let’s take a moment and think about “breakthroughs”.  I see a spiritual breakthrough as an experience or encounter of having reached a new level of spirituality; the Holy Spirit is directly involved by releasing authority, power and revelation.  The New Testament disciples experienced spiritual breakthroughs of various kinds.  The disciples had their “eyes opened” as a result of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus; some had burning hearts, many had their minds opened to the Scriptures, others had miraculous encounters.

 

·      Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus a spiritual breakthrough resulting in his salvation (Acts 9). 

·      Peter’s revelation on the rooftop in Joppa could be considered a spiritual breakthrough, i.e. the gospel was for both Jew and Gentiles (Acts 10).

·      The conversion of Lydia near Philippi was a spiritual breakthrough, as she was the first person saved in Europe (Acts 16).

 

The greatest spiritual breakthrough anyone can experience is that of salvation.  In the context of the ekklesia (the Body of Christ), a spiritual breakthrough can be defined as salvation for the first time or when a believer gains a deeper revelation of biblical truth.  As well, one may receive an answer to prayer; victory over a harassing sin, overcoming some troubling circumstance.  The idea of a “breakthrough” suggests a forgoing struggle that finally peaks and finds resolution.  Personally, I have sought the Lord for various breakthroughs in my life over the years.  Here are a few examples. 

·      When I needed healing in my Body…

·      When I have felt far from God…

·      When I have felt spiritual warfare…

·      When I have struggled with sin…

·      When I have prayed for victory in certain circumstances; family, finance, future…

In Conclusion:

The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the foundation of our Christian faith.  Our connection with God exists because of Jesus.  We now have great opportunity to grow spiritually as naturally as abiding in the vine.  We grow as we stay near to God (John 15:7-8).

 

The Scriptures are full of exhortations to draw near to God and to seek him personally.

·      We are told to seek God for he is a rewarder of those who seek him (Hebr 11:6).

·      We are encouraged to seek God for his wisdom (James 1:5).

·      Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always (1 Ch 16:11).

 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Pe 1:3–7).

In Application:

The question we must ask ourselves today is – where is there ongoing struggle or opposition in our lives, families or church?  This is where God wants to breakthrough.  Considering Jesus’ resurrection, we can be assured that nothing is too difficult for God.  This is where the resurrection power of Jesus can bring freedom and victory. 

 

I believe that one of the greatest pleasures of God is that of blessing his children.  He is good, and he longs to show his goodness to his people.  He desires to awaken our hearts to love, renew our hearts with faith and to help us break-through those areas of our lives that we feel stuck.  This morning, in light of the resurrection, let’s take time and invite God help us breakthrough and overcome. 

 

The Cross of Jesus Transforms

 

Introduction:

Last week we discovered why the Cross of Jesus is so important.  The Cross opened the way for the redemption of mankind; the forgiveness of sins, freedom from Satan’s power, and ultimately new and eternal life.  The Cross releases the power of God through the Gospel to make those who believe in Christ new creations.  In one sense, the cross cuts off the umbilical cord to our old way of living in the world and causes us to live as members of God’s kingdom.  This clear separation from the world is important for believers as we journey through life together with God and each other.  It is important for the church today to keep the Cross in view.  We find ourselves walking powerfully in God when we keep foremost in our minds.

The Cross Transforms

We need to comprehend the truth of what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross, and receive all that is ours through it.  I am reminded of the illustration of 10 million dollars being deposited into your bank account and all you need to do is to begin writing cheques.  You are a multi-millionaire and no longer have to work to provide for life.  All you have to do is spend the money.  This is what Jesus has achieved on the Cross.  In the spiritual world, we are rich in Jesus – “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Co 8:9).  The poverty referred here signifies Jesus’ death on the Cross.  We become rich, both in the spiritual and natural world as we experience this exchange on the cross. 


We now have a fresh way of living considering Jesus’ accomplishments on the Cross.  This new way of living is all about restored relationship with God. 

·      A New Ruler and Lord – Jesus Christ. No longer do we need to be ruled by the flesh and the devil – “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Col 1:13). 

·      A New Friend – “I have called you friends,” Jesus said. (John 15:15

·      A New Relationship with our Heavenly Father - Jesus introduces us to our heavenly Father.  “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9 KJV) The Cross reveals our good, good Father.  “I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:18 KJV).

·      A New Comforter and Teacher – “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (Jn 14:26).

·      A New Nature - We who were “slaves to sin” (Rom 6:6) are now “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet.1:3,4).  “The law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2 NAS).  “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Cor. 5:17 KJV).

·      Victory over Sin and Satan – “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Col 2:13–15).

·      Victory over Death – “…but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Ti 1:10).

Personal Transformation

Jesus said, “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).  The truth is the means to experiencing personal transformation.  Considering our theme of the Cross, the truth is that Christ died, was buried, was raised, and is alive today.  One of the basic truths I have had to remind myself of is this – “The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.  11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Ro 6:10–11).  The phrase “count yourselves dead to sin” is an accounting term.  In other words - Do the math!  Jesus has bankrupted sin and credited our account with righteousness and grace.  

 

By the power of the Cross we can enjoy our walk with Jesus, we can enjoy righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17).  This abundant life is available to us all, from the newest believer to the oldest saint.  We must apply simple and childlike faith with the understanding this abundant life has already been given to us through the Cross. 


The last words of Jesus on the cross were, “IT IS FINISHED!”  This statement is final and should remind us that the Cross with the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus.  Jesus paid the price for my sin so I don't have to! I thank God for the cross and the glorious blood of Jesus Christ.

In Conclusion

There are two things that are essential to consider as we apply this message to our lives. 

 

First, simply believe. Because of the finished work of the cross, Jesus has empowered me to live in righteousness. Through His blood, His death, and by the power of His resurrection I'm justified. Glory to God! That's where the praise begins and leads to worship! 

Secondly, live each and every day understanding the power of the cross to transform your life.   
Glory in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ! This is the way we sow to the Spirit and reap an eternal harvest in heaven and in this life. We have eternity before us.

 

Believe and live in the power of the Cross.  And remember that Jesus is alive today. 

The Cross of Jesus

Introduction:

There are so many wonderful relationships and works to be considered in studying the life of Christ.  He was a friend of sinners, he turned water into wine and fed the multitudes, he healed the sick, made the lame to walk, the mute to speak, and the blind to see.  He loved men and women with great passion and in total purity.  However, the mission of Jesus was not finished by these mighty deeds nor by the great truths he preached.  Ultimately, the Incarnation of the Son of God comes into focus with the Lamb of God dying on the Cross thereby saving mankind from their sins. “His death was not an afterthought or an accident, but the accomplishment of a divine purpose in connection with the incarnation. The incarnation is not an end in itself; it is but a means to an end, and that end is the redemption of the lost through the Lord’s death on the cross” (Henry Thiessen). 

 

Easter is one of the most significant moments in the history of mankind.  There is so much to consider and contemplate on regarding the person of Jesus and his death, burial and resurrection. The Apostle Paul sums this up in 1 Cor 15:1-5 - Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.  3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 

                                                                                                  

Why the Cross is so important?

This morning I would like us to consider the crucifixion of Jesus and the importance of the Cross to us as followers of Jesus Christ.  The Church has been given the message of the cross amid the technological age, with all its scientific and communication breakthroughs.  Even with all the advancement of wisdom and knowledge in society today, sin and death continue to run rampant throughout the world.  I believe we have been given true wisdom as Christians to live in the Spirit by the power of the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I would say that the cross is paramount in the life of Jesus Christ; it is the most redeeming and liberating and glorious work in the history of mankind because it is on the Cross that the Lamb of God died.  

 

Jesus himself stated “I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:15b); in other words - dying on the cross was indeed the foremost goal of Jesus.  Even John the Baptist, who was sent to bear witness to the Christ, exclaimed to his disciples upon seeing Jesus, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  To some degree, John knew prophetically that Jesus was the incarnate Son of God; the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Yet the most important thing John wanted his disciples to know was that Jesus was the Lamb of God who would pay the price necessary for the forgiveness of sins and the defeat of Satan through the cross. 

 

Later in Jesus ministry we see an interesting interaction between Jesus and his disciples, especially Peter (Matthew 16:13-28).  Jesus asks who his disciples thinks he is and this brings about various responses, John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.  Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).  A few verses later it says “From that time on Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Matthew 16:21).  In other words, Jesus was saying, “It's gonna take the cross to redeem mankind.”  Peter didn’t like the comment and corrects Jesus and in turn Jesus rebukes Peter.  The sharpness of this rebuke to Peter stems from Jesus’ determination to fulfill his Father’s dream – the redemption of mankind, which required a holy sacrifice.  Peter did not realize the centrality of what would be accomplished by the cross - that it was of first importance. 

To a large degree, this is the state of the Church today. We don't fully understand Jesus’ mission to die on a cross or how to glory in it.  One of the main messages spoken in today’s contemporary approach to Christianity is that of God’s grace.  However, we must remember that the fullness of that grace and all that God has accomplished and made available to us is only the result of the Cross!  The Cross opened the way for people to experience grace and faith in God.   The Cross brought about the forgiveness of sins, freedom from Satan’s power, and ultimately new and eternal life.  Without the Cross Christianity is meaningless. 

 

The Power of the Cross

Have you ever met a ‘seasonal’ Christian?  This is someone who claims to know God but shows up for church only at Christmas or Easter or for some special occasion.  This is not a great way to connect to God’s family.  Sometimes I have met ‘fair weather’ Christians, those who like the grace and faith they have in Jesus but are not too committed when the storms of life arise.  We must remember that the Cross is a source of spiritual and natural power for the believer.  There are several verses that speak of God’s power in the New Testament. 

·         I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes… (Rom 1:16).

·         “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18). 

 

Only one life in all creation is supreme and that is the life of Christ and not ourselves.  “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Cor 5:15).  I have met Christians who live, not self-pleasing, not self-promoting, not self-pitying but only for Christ.  When we focus on Christ and the power of the Cross, we find his grace and our purpose and joy in life. This is a powerful way to live.

 

One of the main aspects of the Power of the Cross in action is that of salvation.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Cor 5:17).  Jesus dealt a death blow to our sinful natures and the power of Satan, through the power of the cross, giving us the ability to live a life of victory each day in the Spirit.  

What does it mean to be a NEW CREATION?

·         When Christ died, I died...

·         When Christ died, my sinful nature died...

 

I now live as a new creation no longer a sinner prone to sin but as a saint disposed to righteousness. I am a righteous follower of God who may sin because of my free will, but not because of my sinful nature.  Because my sinful nature or my old man or my flesh has been crucified with Christ.  

 

This is the truth I need to believe.  This is the power of the Cross in action in my life.  Satan’s lie is to get me to think that my sinful nature is still alive.  It is not but has been crucified with Christ.  Therefore, we are called to live as if I have “taken up my cross” and have died to self-living and now live by the power of the Cross, by the power of the Spirit of God from glory to glory, not from sin to sin or struggle to struggle.  

 

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20).

 

In Conclusion:

What can we do to live in God’s blessings and the power of the Cross?  How should we live to reap joy, happiness, and peace, now and through all eternity?  If you want to see God in all his power, look at Jesus Christ dying on a cross.  It's at the Cross that God in Christ conquered death, hell, and sin.  Jesus Christ paid the price for our sins so we don't have to.  He died on a cross and rose again to defeat the power of sin and death in the life of every person who believes.  It’s at the Cross that he purchased for us abundant life and freedom.

 

The mature Christian understands that knowing the power of the Cross brings strength and stability to one’s life.  The Cross minimizes all things of lesser importance and focused first and foremost on the Lamb of God.  The one message that is most important for you and I today is the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.  

 

One of the greatest aspects of Christianity to meditate on is the Cross.  Hebrews 12:2…

 

Let’s pray…

 

 

 

Love and Leadership

Introduction

We have a God who loves us.  There is no question as to the Love of God as seen in the Scriptures or in our life experiences.  Love is such a powerful expression of God.  Several weeks ago, I highlighted the Scripture – “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of spirit of power and of love and a sound mind (2Tim 1:7 NKJV).  Timothy was need some encouragement and the Apostle Paul reminded him of his leadership calling and the importance of God’s power and love being active in his life.  The same is true for us today. 

 

We have a God who is excellent in his leadership.  The Scriptures again highlight some many aspects of God’s leadership.  The Trinity is the prototype of leadership to be seen in the family.  God is the greatest visionary, administrator, teacher, and so on.  Over and over we see his leadership active in the present but always moving mankind towards his ultimate purpose. 

 

I believe it is important to join love and leadership together and I hope to share some insight about this idea today.  It doesn’t matter where your leadership influence takes you, love is a key component and must be involved in all we say and do.  The true love and leadership that God offers to mankind is available to us daily.  We have the opportunity to draw near to God and know his love personally.  We can seek him out for wisdom and understanding in areas of personal leadership.  There is great strength and potential when love and leadership work together. 

Love and Leadership in a broken world

One of the challenges we all face in the reality of a broken and sinful world.  There are some serious distortions of love and leadership that are evident in history and in our present-day society.  These negative twists and turns on true love and leadership open the door to horrible injustices and awful fears.  There is an uneasiness when one looks at the current events worldwide.  Jesus himself said there will be rumors of war that cause fear, and famines and earthquakes.  He even goes onto say that the love of many will grow cold because of the increase of wickedness.  In our culture today, love is presented as sexuality and lust and we have huge problems with pornography and sexual identity issues.  On the other hand, leadership, whether secular, based in the church or home, has its challenges; aggressive communication, unfair criticisms, blame and shame, applying rules inconsistently, stealing, unreasonable demands, personalizing problems or breaking confidentiality.  God’s people will be faced with these awkward circumstances.  The question for the ekklesia is this – Is our love and leadership making a difference?

 

Years ago, I was taken a course in counselling and I remember a great point that the teacher presented.  He shared how we all experience tests and challenges in relationships, whether in the home or at work.  Sometimes little things tick us off.  Sometimes the little things become big problems if we don’t deal rightly with them.  We have two choices before us – we choose to REACT or RESPOND.  Depending on the test our reactions can vary, we can feel rejection, anger, fear, bitterness or revenge; all of these are negative emotions.  On the other, with God’s help we can respond in love which is a thought-out reply, keeping our emotions under self-control, which hopefully leads to a reasonable outcome.  In this broken world, we need a lot more responding in love and level-headed leadership.

 

I remember several situations where I was caught in the influence of this broken world.  One was at the hospital I worked at where a few workers lied about me and gossiped behind my back to my boss; I received a poor job evaluation.  Another situation was in the office of a church where a large and angry man threatened to physically harm me.  In these situations, I struggled with anger and fear and found myself initially reacting in negative emotion.  I was being refined and was learning the importance of responding in love versus reacting.  I grew as a person and leader during this time and although uncomfortable I was being created into the person and leader I was intended to be.  I wouldn’t want to go through this again, but I did learn some valuable lessons as I prayed and cried out to God.  I wouldn’t trade these situations because I was being trained to be a better leader.

Love and Leadership Lessons Learned

I want to share with you several lessons learned in growing in leadership and love.  These points are not exhaustive but personal to my experiences in life.  You will have your own love and leadership lessons because your tests and challenges are different than mine.  So here goes…

 

1.      The challenges created strength and maturity in me.

The Bible tells us “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor 4:16–18).

 

I had to learn how to see God who is unseen behind the challenges of life.  I had to learn how to go from glory to glory not struggle to struggle or defeat to defeat.  Although very difficult, the refining process is something to embrace. 

 

2.      I had to learn how to love, accept and forgive myself and others.

Every challenge or test in life is different.  I had to learn how to love, accept and forgive myself when I fell short of God’s glory be reacting in fear or anger or lust.  It is so important to be able to love yourself the way God loves you.  It was only when God’s love was truly impacting my life that I could love and accept and forgive others.  I had to learn how to treat others with love and respect.  Here is a significant Scripture when it comes to love, acceptance and forgiveness:

 

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.  17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”  21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12:9–21). 

 

I had lots to learn about how to walk in love, to be quick to forgive and to make sure I had proper boundaries established. 

 

3.      Love is at the core of the abundant life.

All people want to experience an abundant life.  The Bible tells us the Jesus came to give us an “extraordinary life” (John 10:10).  The Christian life is meant to be so abundant as to be considerably more than what one would expect or anticipate.  In other words, God is more than enough, God is beyond the normal and routine for life.  

 

What is important to note is this.  It is God’s love for us that is abundant and our response to God’s love is the key to receiving these heavenly blessings on earth.  John 15 reminds us to abide in Jesus Christ, His Word and His Love and to put this into action by our obedience. 

 

4.      Genuine humility is essential. 

True love and biblical leadership is humble.  We know that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).  It is important to be concerned about others and not just yourself.  It is important to be honest with others.  When you open up to people, they open up to you. 

 

Humility and servant leadership go hand in hand.  “The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt 23:11–12).  We need to see this kind of humility active in all areas of leadership influence. 

 

5.      Generosity is key.

For God so loved… he gave…  True generosity is self-sacrificing as in the case of the Father and the Son.  In other words, generosity is not based on what you can do without.  True generosity costs you something.  This can be a very hard lesson to learn especially in such a materialistic me-centered culture.  Jesus said it is more blessed to give than receive (Acts 20:35).  You can never out give God. 

 

True love by nature is generous and must be seen in our leadership.  The more you offer to others, the more they will give back to you.  It is important to learn to be generous in our relationships, not stingy with our lives.  This is a real key to empowered leadership.

In Conclusion

I have just given us five points to consider with regards to our series in leadership.  Love and leadership are to be complimentary with each other so that we can exert great influence on others.  I am the first to admit that I have not fully arrived.  My love and leadership traits are still in need of growth and maturity which means more tests and challenges are on the way.  But I also remind myself that God is my Father and that he has good plans and intentions for my life.  The same is true for each one of us here today. 

 

We are on a journey of Apprehending God’s Heart and Fulfilling His Dreams.  I am reminded of our vision statement – “We are becoming a grace-full, loving, accepting and forgiving community of believers from all nations that celebrate each other and who are committed to bringing souls into God’s kingdom.”  It is my prayer and desire that we see the completion of this statement so that we can begin to fulfill other dreams that God has for Courts of Praise. 

In Application

Love and leadership are both needed in our home life, church life and in the community where we work and go to school.  Let’s take a few moments and consider what the Holy Spirit is saying to us personally.  What are we to apply to our lives?

 

1.      The challenges created strength and maturity in me.

 

2.      I had to learn how to love, accept and forgive myself and others.

 

3.      Love is at the core of the abundant life.

 

4.      Genuine humility is essential. 

 

5.      Generosity is key.

 

 

 

Integrity and Skill

 

Introduction

This morning we are carrying on with our Leadership Series.  Recently we looked at the Heart of Leadership considering the roles and responsibilities found within the Trinity and how this relates to leadership in the home.  As well, we recognize the importance of fanning into flame the gift of God in our lives, and keeping courage forefront in leadership and not giving into “a spirit of fear” but relying on the Holy Spirit for power, love and self-control (2 Tim 1:6-7).

 

One of the lessons I have learned over the years of pastoral ministry is the balance between integrity and skill. When both integrity and skill are sought after and enhanced there is great reward.  I have had the privilege of working with men and women who have put both into practice with positive results.  I have seen parents beautifully display integrity and skill in their homes.  I have seen these qualities in the workplace and at school -  these are the kind of people who inspire others. 

Psalm 78:72

The key verse for this morning is – “And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; 

with skillful hands he led them.”  Psalm 78 is a psalm of wisdom presented in the form of a parable or short stories.  The writer Asaph reminds us of Israel’s history and the lessons they had learned on their journey with God.  Asaph highlights God’s faithfulness despite Israel continuing to sin before him; they struggled with unfaithfulness towards God and they did not remember all that God had done for them.  At the end of the Psalm Asaph recounts God’s eventual rescue of Israel, describing how God has rejected Ephraim and selected Judah to lead his people.  He concludes by emphasizing David’s faithfulness and skill in guiding Israel.  We must remember that no leader is perfect and this includes David.  At this point in David’s life things were going well and his leadership exemplified integrity and skill. 

Integrity of heart…

Integrity of heart is a wonderful word picture.  Think with me for a moment of someone you know who carries truth, honesty, innocence, reliability and uprightness in their hearts.  This does not mean they are perfect or without sin, but that their walk with Jesus is open and vulnerable and this comes out as integrity.  In other words, we all make mistakes but it is our desire to walk with integrity in our hearts. 

 

This reminds me of a funny joke…  A couple decided to go to Cyprus for the weekend, but because they both worked it was hard to coordinate their diaries. So, they decided the husband would go a day early, and his wife would join him the following day. On arriving, the husband thought he would email his wife from his laptop, but he accidentally mistyped her email address and sent it off without realizing.

A widow had just returned from her husband's funeral. He was a minister of many years who had been 'called home to glory' following a heart attack. The widow checked her e-mail, expecting messages from relatives and friends, but instead found this:

I've just arrived and have checked in. I see that everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing you then! Hope your journey is as uneventful as mine was.

 

Integrity has several aspects to it that are important to consider.  Integrity is not a gift of God; it is something that individuals must exercise.  It does not matter where your leadership influence is aired but it does matter that we put into practice these three points of integrity:

 

1.     Say and think

We must understand that right thinking is essential for integrity to be powerful.  The Bible tells us over and over to have godly thoughts and godly speech.  A key verse is found in Phil 4:8 -

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.   When we think about good things it will come out in our speech.  Mental health is a significant part of a life of integrity. 

 

2.     Believe and feel

Another aspect of integrity relates to our beliefs or values.  In the case of David, he not only cared for his father’s flock of sheep he cared for the nation of Israel.  His belief system honoured God and God’s people.  This is why he had such a strong emotional response to Goliath taunting Israel.  His beliefs and feelings were congruent and complimented each other.  One area that is often overlooked in relation to beliefs and values is emotional health.     

 

3.     Do and act

Lastly, integrity of the heart is something that is put into action.  True integrity is something that is seen and heard by others.  In other words, integrity can be measured to some degree.  Only God knows the inner heart of a person but integrity can be examined just as Jesus said, “you will know them by their fruit” (Matt 7:16), whether a good tree or bad tree.

Skill…

This leads us to the aspect of skill in relationship to our leadership influence.  You have heard the question, “which comes first, the chicken or the egg?”  In the case of integrity and skill. Integrity comes first, but it must be followed by skill.  Skill sets vary depending on the ministry or job to be accomplished; social skills, workplace skills, communication skills, some skill sets work with their hands, others work with their minds, leadership skills, research skills, artistic skills, musical skills…  The list could go on and on…

 

There are several words that are used in connection with the word skill:

·      Understanding refers to the knowledge related to a certain skill set.

·      Aptitude is the ability to know how to put the understanding into practice.

·      Competence is the maturity of the skill, in other words, “I’m good at what I do!” 

 

There are examples of skill biblically, David being mentioned in Psalm 78:72.  Other examples are the artisans who crafted the Tabernacle (Ex 31:1-5).  Daniel and his three friends were skilled above others in their day (Daniel 1:4-6).  From tent making to preaching the Gospel, Paul showed skill in his work for God.  It is important the skill be developed in our areas of leadership so that we can be the best as what we do. 

 

I believe that Jesus had both of these leadership traits in his life.  A key verse is found in Luke 2:52 – “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”  This was Jesus experience as a young boy.  Jesus was aware of the need to be in the temple so that he could learn all he could.  Integrity and skill were being developed in him at this young age.   

 

In Conclusion

In 1975, Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade and Loren Cunningham, who founded Youth With A Mission, first spoke to seven areas of society that the Christian needs to influence.  They are Family, Religion, Government, Arts/Entertainment/Sports, Media, Education and Economy/Business.  Why do I mention these “Seven Mountains” as they are commonly referred to?  Because it is in each of these areas that believers are to show leadership and influence, especially integrity of heart and skill. 

 

Over the past few weeks, I have mentioned our leadership influence in primarily two areas – family and religion.  And without a doubt we need to see an increase of integrity of heart and skill in these arenas.  In the home and in the church, integrity and skill must reach maturity.  In the other areas of society, we want to see integrity of heart and skill increase.  Just mention the word politics and we soon discover a lack of integrity and skill no matter who you vote for.  The same can be said of the Arts and Entertainment and Sports arenas; we want to see uprightness and talents that bring glory to God.  The same can be said of the Media, Education or the Business world. 

 

To God, the heart is the person's innermost motivation and attitude for life and is of prime importance:

·      “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isaiah: 66:2). 

·      “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (2 Chron 16:9a).

·      “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Prov 4:23).

 

As Christians, integrity of heart and skill, must be complemental; one without the other can hinder the effectiveness of our leadership.  I have met very nice people who have high integrity but lack certain skills to be a good leader.  On the other hand, I have met many skillful people who lack integrity, not good.  

 

We can no longer fake it and pretend to be something we are not.  We must seek God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  We must be students of God’s Word and be empowered by the Spirit.  Integrity – what we say and think, what we believe and feel and what we do and how we act – must be a desire of our hearts. 

And we must be skillful at what we do whether at home or in the church.  It is only when believers lead by the example of integrity and skill that we will be able to significantly influence the other areas of society and those who don’t yet know the Lord.

In Application

I believe there are several points of application here. 

Firstly, we must have a heart that seeks after integrity.  But we must allow the Holy Spirit to empower us in the pursuit of integrity.  Say yes to integrity. 

 

Secondly, we must recognize that training and skill development is our responsibility.  No one can be trained for us in our areas of skill and talent.  Say yes to continued training. 

 

Thirdly, passion for Jesus and his mission is key.  Say yes to a renewed first love for God.