I am thankful

Introduction

            We are continuing on with our I AM series.  This morning I want us to consider the importance of being grateful and thankful.  We all have friends in life, but, best friends are awesome to have; someone who is appreciative, thankful and warm hearted.  Please and Thank You are something we teach our kids from a young age.  Why?  Because we want them to grow up and be kind and respectful.  Thank you.  Two of the most pleasant words someone can experience.  Thank you is satisfying to all involved; one has had the pleasure of giving and the other receiving.  “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29)

            We live in the First World where the problems of life are very different from the time that the Letter of the Hebrews was written.  Those believers were persecuted and scattered.  They feared for their lives and well-being.  Many would have been jobless and possibly homeless.  They were reminded that their new found faith welcomed them into a kingdom that could not be shaken, quite the contrast to their reality. In light of this, they were exhorted to be thankful, literally to have grace, thereby worshipping God in reverence and awe.  Troubles come and go, but thankfulness is meant to be constant in the heart of the believer. 

We live in a culture that is so full and rich, and yet in some ways poverty and troubles find us.  There is so much to be thankful about and yet I’m kind of getting tired of all the negativity I see all over the news-world.  Our First World problems are so insignificant in comparison and yet our we find our culture full of complaints, criticism and condemnation.  I believe there should be a considerable difference between the world around us and the life of a believer.  I am reminded that every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights (James 1:17).  So much to be thankful for…

The Ten Lepers

            Turn with me to Luke 17:11-19.  Ten lepers were miraculously healed.  Their troubles were significant; a horrendous and painful disease, rejection, poverty, isolation to name a few.  They ask for Jesus to have pity on them.  As they went to see the Priest, the normal procedure when a leper was cured, they were cleansed.  This also freed these men to return to their families and rejoin their communities.  Everything changed because of what Jesus did.  Leprosy was a slow death sentence in Jesus’ day.  He literally saved these men from a lifetime of hell on earth, so to speak.  So why wouldn’t all 10 return to thank Him?  It’s easy to complain, criticize or condemn the nine, just like our broken world, but Jesus focused on the one.  The one leper completed his faithful by returning to give thanks. 

We may have troubles in this life.  However, when we are healed, forgiven, delivered, or set free, let’s be like the one leper who returns in faith and thanksgiving.  Will you be the one who’s grateful?  Will you grow your daily attitude of gratitude on the realization of what Jesus has done for you?

 

God’s Will for You

The Apostle Paul was a man who knew the amazing grace and mercy of God.   He also experienced pain and persecution personally.  He had to learn how to be content in all kinds of circumstances.  In 1 Thess 5:16-18, he gives us three keys to the Christian life; Be joyful always; Pray continually; Give thanks in all circumstances.  Each of these statements speak of a moment by moment engagement.  This might seem a bit overwhelming at first, but Paul is trying to capture the heart of the believer first, then the practice. 

 

·      Be Joyful Always

A little surprising coming from Paul who suffered so greatly.  It is similar to rejoice in the Lord always.  Being full of joy and rejoicing is a high-water mark of the believer.  In the midst of life, we enjoy the results of being full of the fruit of the Holy Spirit; love, joy, peace…  In other words, joy is not something Christians work up out of their own resources.  Sometimes our resources are limited or low due to challenges and struggles.  This is the moment we want to engage our faith and invite the Holy Spirit to release joy into our lives.

 

·      Pray Continually

“It is not the moving of the lips, but in the elevation of the heart to God, that the essence of prayer consists” (Lightfoot).  It is impossible to continually and verbally pray to God; we have jobs and circumstances that don’t allow us to pray.  It is the attitude of prayer that Paul is addressing.  To pray continually we must grow conscious of God’s presence being with us at all times.  To pray continually we must understand our dependence upon God for all we have and are. To pray continually we must learn to yield ourselves to him in obedience to his will.  Ephesians 6:18 speaks of this type of prayer – “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

 

·      Give Thanks in All Circumstances

Paul had learned that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Rom. 8:28).  We are not giving thanks for all circumstances because some situations are not godly but broken or even downright evil.  Even in our difficulties and trials God is teaching valuable lessons.  In other words, we recognize that God is Sovereign and worthy of our thankfulness in all of life, the good and the bad. 

 

“For this is God’s will” almost certainly refers to these three practices; they form a unity and belong together.  I am sure all of us have questioned what is God’s will at some point in life.  There are times that we need God’s guidance revealed to us in specific circumstances.  In the process of discerning God’s will we can learn to be joyful always, pray continually and give thanks in all things. 

 

 

 

In Conclusion

I am thankful is the theme of today’s message.  We are told in the Scriptures that every good thing comes from God (James 1:17).  But there are challenges and struggles in life and we have to learn how to approach them appropriately, joy-full, prayer-full and thank-full. 

 

Try these exercises whenever you find yourself in difficult circumstances and needing to strengthen your grateful perspective:

·      Think of someone that has blessed your life.  Give thanks.

·      Think of something that has blessed your life.  Give thanks.

·      Take a moment and remember that God is the source of our good.  

 

I am more than a Conqueror

Introduction:

One of the blessings of following Jesus Christ is that of overcoming the challenges of life.  Jesus tells us in John 10:10 that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  Our inheritance in Christ is two-fold.  One aspect involves embracing our fulness of life in Jesus, and the other is learning how to overcome the enemy.  Do you want to live in victory?  The obvious answer is yes, but there are times when we wrestle with our own temptations or weaknesses.  This morning I want to share with us a powerful Scripture that ultimately secures the love of God within our lives. 

More than Conquerors

Romans 8:37-39 tells us that “in all things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Jesus our Lord.”  The Apostle Paul is ending a powerful teaching regarding our life in Christ.  He ends by stating we are more than conquerors.  The Greek language implies we are ‘hyper-victorious;’ to be completely and overwhelmingly victorious.  Have you ever met a hyper person?  The idea is that because of Jesus and through him it is OK to be hyper-successful.  Our victory is not only victory over sin and Satan, but also over natural afflictions in life and death, spiritual challenges, pressures of today or tomorrow.  Not only will we overcome, but better off and greater for it.

 

            We know that we are victors in God’s Court because we have been vindicated and justified by what Christ has done for us.  His grace is sufficient for us and his power is perfected in our weaknesses (2 Cor 12:9).  The question remains, how do we consistently live in the victory provided to us in Christ?  It has been said that good theology leads to a successful life; as a man thinks, so he is (Prov 23:7).  Our thought life is foundational to our faith.  Therefore, it’s time to start thinking about what we’re thinking about!  One of the best weapons of our warfare is our mind.  With our mind we can choose obedience and righteousness.  Our mind is one of the most powerful and creative tools that God has given to us, influencing our lives to be more than a conqueror. 

 

            I want to clarify the difference between the ‘power of positive thinking’ and some New Age teaching.  To think positively and biblically is essential for victorious Christian living.  However, there are New Age teachings which deny foundational truths of Christianity while promoting a life of enrichment, peace, newfound self-worth and spiritual freedom through positive thinking.  Genuine and eternal success is ours in Christ and Christ alone.  There is an abundant life available to us, righteousness, health, happiness, provision and favour.  And it hinges on how we think.  That is something to think about…

 

 

 

Three keys to being more than a conqueror

I want to share with you three keys that can help us begin to tap into the supernatural power of your mind.  By virtue of being a follower of Jesus Christ we have the Spirit of Christ living in us.  In other words, our minds when given over to the Holy Spirit bring the life of Jesus to bear upon our natural and spiritual lives; Rom 8:5-6 - 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…

 

1.   Guard Your Heart

Over the past few months I have become increasingly aware of my heart, physically speaking.  Every ache or pain has been magnified and caught my attention.  Wouldn’t it be appropriate to have the same awareness when we consider our spiritual heart?  “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Prov 4:23).  Some of you may know  Patricia King.  She came to speak at the church we pastored in Williams Lake.  She said, “Whatever we focus on, we empower.” In other words, guard your heart.  Don’t focus on negative things or we empower negativity in our lives.  Don’t focus on sin or we end up empowering our sinful nature.  If we become fixed on fears, doubts, complaints, or focus on how unfair everything seems to be in a difficult situation, we are not helping ourselves.  In fact, we are making this worse.

 

We must learn how to focus on positive truths of the Scriptures, thereby releasing the full effects of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  We may be going through difficult circumstances; however, we still need to direct our thoughts towards God’s solution.  We may find ourselves anxious about this or that.  We need to put Scripture into practice and not be anxious about anything but prayer into action (Phil 4:6).  Paul goes onto to say to the church in Philippi – “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. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Phil 4:8-9).

 

2.   Let Heaven Fill Your Thoughts

I have found myself quite reflective on life and death over the past few months.  I have had various heart tests and have been very aware of what I would call “our frail humanity.”  During this season God has helped me focus my thoughts by engaging in various bible studies relating to heaven.  It has been a wonderful learning experience.  There is a key verse that has been an encouragement to me during this introspective season.  “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col 3:1-2)“So, if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective” (Message).

How do we set our hearts and minds on heaven perspective?  We are not to deny our challenges in life; that would be to lie.  But we are not to dwell on the things of this fallen world anymore.  

·       We have to intentionally choose to think about heaven manifesting on earth. 

·       We have to come into agreement with God’s truth.

·       We have to engage our faith.

 

3.   Think Like a Victor, Not a Victim

There are times in my life, whether personally or related to ministry, I have struggled with victory.  In those times one of my challenges is to not think like a victim.  I have had to learn to take victim thinking to the cross.  In life you cannot move into success without experiencing some kind of defeat.  In a spiritual context, maybe temptations have got the best of us.  Maybe we feel the like the devil is attacking us.  I have had to learn how to think positive hopeful thoughts in those moments, thanking God for the challenge because with every challenge there is an opportunity for God to release victory. 

Recently, I came across 1 Peter 5:8, but in a new translation for me, (NLT 1996).  “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour.”  This has become my favourite translation of this Scripture, because it makes it clear that it is victims the enemy devours.  Therefore, we need to get rid of all victim thinking.  When we think like victims, we are denying the truth that we have victory in Christ over death and in life, over demons, the present or the future, or any powers…

If we think of ourselves as victims, we empower the devil and give him the opportunity to devour us.  Not because he is so mighty, but because we have chosen to lay down our more than a conqueror identity in Christ for a victim identity in our current circumstances.  We must learn to choose to fill our hearts with the truth that we are victorious in Christ…

In conclusion

            We are more than conquerors in Christ and through him.  I hope you are catching the significance of our super and abundant victory that is ours in Jesus.  We have been given everything we need to life, godliness, maturity and success in God’s Kingdom (2 Peter 1:3:11).  We must take care to guard our hearts and minds in Christ.  The good news is that God is committed to the transformation of our minds when our minds wander and conform to this world.  “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom 12:1-2)

·       Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to help us overhaul our hearts of stone and give us a new heart in Christ (Ezek 11:19; 2 Cor 3:3). 

·       Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to help us with our mental transformation so that we think about things from a Kingdom perspective. 

 

Let’s pray…

Who do you say I am?

 

Review

A few weeks ago, we had a Weekend with Jesus retreat designed for ladies to discover their story within “His-Story” and one of the topics was “I am” statements for followers of Jesus.  After the retreat I spoke about Moses and his encounter with God at the burning bush.  It was then that God revealed himself to Moses as - “I AM WHO I AM”.  This was a life changing moment for Moses and propelled him into becoming the deliverer of the Nation of Israel held captive in Egypt.  The “I AM” of God was a progressive revelation throughout the Old Testament becoming fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.  This morning I want to introduce to us the “I AM” sayings of the New Testament in relation to Jesus Christ.

“I AM” Sayings

Jesus often used the saying “I am” (Ego eimi in the Greek) within the Gospels, especially in John’s Gospel as we shall see in the weeks ahead.  Jesus uses this expression in several ways, which describes who he is in character and capabilities.  In one sense, he states “I am the good shepherd” revealing his love and caring.  In a more profound sense, he states, “I am he” declaring his divinity.   Jesus draws on Exodus 3:14 and Moses encounter with super-natural Yahweh,  “asserting His eternality, self-existence, and changelessness, and claiming to bear Yahweh’s presence on Earth.”   (Jeffrey E. Miller, “I Am Sayings,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).)

Exodus 3:14 NIV84

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”

He is our true deliver who sets us free from captivity to Satan, self and sin.  Jesus does not say “I was” which would diminish or devalue his divine nature.  In many translation the word “he” (“I am he”) is used to remind us that Jesus is present with us.  In other words, when Jesus states, “I am” to us in the Scriptures, he is saying - “I am all you need me to be when you need me to be it.”  When we need a deliverer from the evil one, Jesus says, “I am He, our deliverer.”  When we need transformation in our inner life, Jesus says “I am He, our sanctifier.”  When we need forgiveness of sins, Jesus says “I am He, our Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Hallelujah... 

Who do you say I am?

There is an interesting interaction between Jesus and his disciples in Matt 16:13-20. 

The New International Version (1984) Peter’s Confession of Christ

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock,  I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

Those of Jesus’ day respond to the question by saying, John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.  They were uncertain of Jesus - “I am.”  People today have a view of who Jesus is,  although it often has nothing to do with what the Bible tells us.  Some would say he was a good teacher, some a good man,  a would say we should live like him,  others that he was just some guy in the past.  Other religions have a view of who Jesus is,  but it does not line up with the Bible.  Some would say he was a god not the God, some say he is a godly prophet or teacher, others would say he is one of the sons of a god, some say he is the brother of Satan or just a man sent by god.  The various responses to idea behind the question, “Who do you say I am?”  simply reveal that many people do not know Jesus as “I AM”.

•    The religious leaders of Jesus day responded to Jesus “I am” statements by picking up stones, John 8:58-59. 

John 8:58–59 NIV84

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

•    In another passage, John 18:6, those who came to arrest Jesus fell on their faces.

John 18:6 NIV84

When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

•    “Who do you say I am?”  Simon’s response to the “I am” question, is powerful -  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 

Why are there such differences to the same question?  Simon (Peter) got it, but what were the others missing?  Most of the people did not understand Jesus’ purpose and were looking for the wrong thing.  Moses delivered the people of God from the captivity and corruption of Egypt.  Once again, the people of Israel needed a deliverer.  They were under the harsh, tyrannical rule of the Roman Empire and were looking for a conqueror or a military ruler.  So, they missed the point of Jesus living in their midst and all that scripture was speaking of in regard to a Messiah.   There can be times in our lives when we get so wrapped up in the moment, whether the excitement or the mess, we miss the meaning of what a person is telling us because we are so overjoyed or upset. 

Jesus was coming to set the captives free, Luke 4:18-19.

Luke 4:18–19 NIV84

“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, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Two Roads to Travel

We have looked at a few passages of Jesus speaking to us throughout the gospels about himself.  When Jesus finished preaching in his hometown, Nazareth of Galilee, about how the Spirit of God was empowering him (Luke 4:16-30), the reaction of his friends was to throw him off a cliff.  Jesus evaded the crowd and walked right through them.  Jesus did not focus on the negative, or succumb to rejection.  He moved forward in his calling and drove out demons on a Sabbath in the near future.

There are times when our troubles seem to get the best of us, and our mole hills become mountains and we feel overcome by our challenges.  Maybe we feel sting of rejection, or the consequences of bad decisions.  In the midst of these times, Jesus is asking, “who do you say I am?”  We can travel the road of self-pity or fear and find ourselves wandering from God.  Our response to him determines what path we will take in life.  We need to be careful so that we do not find ourselves growing distant from God.

On the other hand, Simon’s response was to declare that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16).  Jesus in turn brings blessing down upon Simon.  The blessing involved a name change.  Simon becomes Peter as a result of divine revelation from the Father.  This is a good experience similar to the burning bush but far more personal.  Jesus, the “I am” of Heaven on earth, is blessing Simon, now Peter, by speaking blessing which often involved the laying on of hands, physical touch.  I am sure that Jesus would often rub shoulders, so to speak, with his disciples as they ate together, or as they walked along the road.  But in this case Jesus is spiritually and physically reaching out to touch Simon Peter.  This wasn’t the touch of deliverance from demons or healing from sickness.  This was a supernatural blessing that was to establish God’s church (ekklesia - gathering of saints) on earth. 

In conclusion

The “I AM” sayings of Jesus found in the Scriptures give us great insight into who Jesus is in both character and capabilities.  The sayings are to be part of our normal faith journey with God.  He is our “I AM” in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.  He is all that we need right when we need it.  He is our God who calls us by name and at times changes our name to reveal more of himself to us (Onesimus - personal story)…  When the road seems challenging in life, Jesus is ready to spiritually and physically touch us with his blessings and encouragement.  There are times when I or you may become the hands and mouth of Jesus extending his blessings. 

Because I am a follower of Jesus, I too, can make I am statements that are true of my life in Christ. 

In my devotions this week I wrote:

•    I am forgiven completely but sometimes sin…

•    I am healed fully but sometimes sick…

•    I am a child of God all the time…

•    I am blessed in Christ…

Amen, Let’s pray

 

I am who I am

Introduction

            I would like to begin a series based on the following statement of God, “I am who I am” (Ex 3:14).  This expression was used by God to describe to Moses who He was at the burning bush.  The Hebrew word for I am is ehyeh and comes from the first person singular of the verb to be.  It could be used in such common statements as, “I am going for a walk”  or  “I am walking the dog.”  But when used as a stand-alone statement related to God it takes on dynamic meaning.  “I AM” speaks of self-existence and sufficiency.  “I am who I am” could also rendered “I will be what I will be” or “I create what (ever) I create”  or “the One who is always present.”  Yahweh would become the covenant name of the God given to Israel and made distinctive to the people of God over the centuries. 

The reason for this study comes from the Weekend with Jesus where Kerry Cook spoke on the “I am” statements that have shaped her life.  It is important for us to know who God is – “I am who I am” – in order to step into the maturity as followers of Jesus.  We are able to believe and confess our personal “I am” statements as we grow in our understanding of God.  The revelation of “I am who I am” is progressive in the context of Scripture and eventually we see Jesus Christ as the “I am” of God in human flesh.  This morning we will take some time to consider Moses and “I am who I am”.

Exodus 3:1-14

            As we read this passage of Scripture this morning, I want us to remember the context of Moses and the Israelites.  But as we read, I want to apply this spiritually and practically to us today as followers of Jesus.  Let’s observe and consider the Scripture and prayerfully ask God to transform our thoughts, emotions and lives.

 

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

·      These verses tell us of the circumstances of Moses’ call by God.  After 40 years of training in the courts of Pharaoh, Moses now neared the end of another 40 years of his life as a shepherd, working for his father-in-law Jethro.

·      This may have been the same mountain where Moses receives the 10 commandments. 

·      It was just another day tending the flock when all of a sudden Moses comes upon a burning bush.  The mystery of a burning bush that is not consumed arouses Moses curiosity.  Let’s keep our curiosity of God fresh and vibrant. 

 

4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

·      God is looking for people who will take a closer look.  There are all kinds of experiences in life, both spiritual and natural, that beg for a closer look. 

·      As followers of Jesus we must take time to hear and respond to God calling our name.

·      When was the last time you personally said to God, “Here I am?”

 

5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

·      The Holiness of God is not to be taken lightly or frivolously; it is time to humble yourself before God. 

·      A burning bush that is not consumed and speaks out your name should cause the fear of God to arise.  Moses was right to be afraid. 

·      There is a message to us today.  There is much being said about grace and love and mercy today which is good and true.  But we must not forgot the holiness of God as followers of Jesus.

·      There are times in my walk with God where the physical ground or place of ministry was sanctified or made holy by God’s divine presence.  The manifestation of the Spirit was so holy that myself or others had open visions or were slain in the Spirit. 

 

7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

·      Just as the Jews were groaning under hard labour, I believe that God hears the cries of his people today, all around the world.  We should take comfort in knowing that God sees our hardships and troubles. 

·      And he will come down to rescue us from the Egypt – a type of the world – and bring us into a good and spacious land (Promises Land) – speaking of salvation.  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.”

 

11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”

·       Moses is just like us.  He wrestles with his humanity, his weaknesses and his uncertainty with regards to the future.  In his mind, he lacked ability and authority to confront Pharaoh. 

·      There are times in our lives, just like Moses, where we question God only to have God answer us, but we respond with more questions.  Who am I?  This will lead us into our personal I am statements in the weeks ahead.

·      I will be with you and this sign will follow.  Moses’ had his burning bush. 

·      “I am who I am” is God’s personal revelation to Moses and to us down through the generations.  Saviour… Holy Spirit… Healer…

In Conclusion

            This is a significant story within the Scriptures.  God reveals himself to Moses as holy, powerful and supernatural.  Moses is confronted with his fears and insecurities.  This Scripture passage carries on, revealing that the Presence and Promise of God will overcome.  The closing verse to the chapter is great - “And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. 22 Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so, you will plunder the Egyptians.”  There is an abundance of life made available to us when God reveals himself to us. 

In Application

            What are some lessons learned from today’s passage of Scripture?           

 

            What are some difficult circumstances you are facing today?

 

            How do you see God today? 

 

            Let’s pray!

 

 

Easter Sunday - The Path of Life

Introduction

            He is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed!  The two men on the road to Emmaus had walked with Jesus and their hearts were burning within them.  It was only after they broke bread with Jesus that their eyes were opened to recognize Jesus.  They immediately sought out the eleven disciples of Jesus and stated - “It is true!  The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon” (Luke 24:34).  Here we are some two thousand years later with the same message.  It is true…  The Lord has risen… The Lord has appeared…  Hallelujah…

Psalm 16

            This morning I want us to look at Psalm 16 for our Scripture passage.  You may wonder why this passage of Scripture for Easter Sunday?  We will see that there are key verses that relate to the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Both Peter and Paul quote from Psalm 16, relating to Christ and the feelings of his human side, also Jesus’ sufferings and his death on the cross, including Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension exaltation at the right hand of God.

·      Peters quotes Psalm 16 in Acts 2:25-28 – David said about him: “‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart is glad, and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, 27 because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’

·      Paul states in Act 13:35 – “So it is stated elsewhere: You will not let your Holy One see decay.”

           

King David wrote this song celebrating the joy and fellowship that comes from faith in the Lord.  The psalm may have been written when he faced great danger in the wilderness from King Saul or during some opposition in his reign.  What circumstances David was encountering, no one knows for sure.  However, he was convinced that because he had come to know and trust the Lord as his Path in Life, he could also trust Him in the face of death. 

Psalm 16:1-8 – The Blessings of God

            In these verses we see God as the source of life.  Great blessings are gained by trusting in God and choosing to serve him.  David begins the Psalm by asking for protection and safety because of certain life-threatening circumstances.  “Keep me safe, O God, for I take refuge in you” – verse 1. At certain points in our own lives, we need to run for dear life to God and find our haven of rest, from all that goes on around our lives. 

            In verses 2-4, David expresses his contentment in knowing God but also contrasts God’s people with those follow after other gods. 

·      I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”  Without God in our lives nothing makes sense.  No God – No Peace… Know God – Know Peace…

Firstly, this reminds us that we need to stay connected with God; like abiding in the vine (John 15).  Secondly, goodness is a by-product of knowing God…

·      3 As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.  4 The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods. I will not pour out their libations of blood or take up their names on my lips.  Based on David’s commitment to the Lord, he now describes his company of friends.  “The glorious ones” (noble, excellent, mighty, famous, gallant) – what a great way to be named of God in the Scriptures; saints -> glorious ones -> all my delight…  This is contrasted by those who goes shopping after other gods and offer their own bloody sacrifices.  David says he will have nothing to do with them.

 

In verses 5-6, David speaks of his gratitude to the Lord.  There is great contentment when one discovers their place in God.  What joy there is in knowing our inheritance, our hope and future, is all taken care of… 

·      5 Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.  6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely, I have a delightful inheritance.

 

Verse 7-9 - As a result of God’s provision, David now praises the Lord for God’s counsel at night (as well as in the daytime) and for his guidance.  We are told in the Scriptures that it is good to praise the Lord (Psalm 18:1; 33:1; Psalm 145:3; 147:1).  In fact, this is the first of about two dozen times in the Psalms where praise and blessing is directed towards God.

·      7 I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. 8 I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

·      THEREFRORE my heart is glad, and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure…  In other words, because of all that God has done for David, he is happy from the inside out and from the outside in.  His body, his life is completely at rest.

 

 Psalm 16:10-11 – The Path of Life

            This now brings us to the verses relating to Jesus’ death and resurrection.  David is speaking of his personal circumstances while prophetically speaking of the Holy One in the distant future.  David was confident that the Lord would protect his life in the face of death.  He took comfort in the fact that God would not, at that time, allow David to suffer death and the grave.  In fact, God had caused him to know the Path of Life, so he anticipated experiencing further joy in God’s presence.

·      because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. 11 You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

 

These two verses also have a predictive because both Peter and Paul quoted them in the Book of Acts.  So, the words of David are typological, in other words, they were not only his personal experience but became historically true in the future Christ.  Jesus did suffer and die on the cross and was buried in a grave, but through his resurrection Jesus overcame death and the grave. 

The Path of Life for David was simply this – at that time death posed no threat to him because he was so fully enjoying the awesome blessings and fellowship with God.  The Path of Life, prophesied for Jesus, spoke of his resurrection from death and the restoration of eternal pleasures at God’s right hand. 

In conclusion

He is Risen! He is Risen indeed!  Jesus told us in John 12:23-24 - “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”  On the cross, Jesus – the seed – died.  However, as a result of Jesus’ resurrection – the seed – was given new life and has provided new life for all those who believe in his message.  How does this Passage encourage us?  As followers of Jesus, we have a fuller understanding and revelation about the resurrection of Jesus.  We have the opportunity to experience eternal pleasures now, because of Jesus’ resurrection.  This is the abundant life that is ours in Christ (John 10:10).  As well, we can say that even when we physically die, God will not let death destroy the abundant life, the fulness of our joy and fellowship with God.  This expression of faith is possible because Christ conquered death.

·      “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again” (Luke 24:5-7).

·      “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15:20).

In application

We are celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection from the grave.  Today is a new day for us.  It is a day for us to remember all that Jesus has done for us, in the same way that David wrote his song to God.  This does not mean that life is easy, because even David was facing death and troubling circumstances.  But we can trust in God to be faithful on our behalf.  To protect us.  To give us an inheritance.   To counsel us.  To guide us.  To give us peace and rest. 

 

            Amen… Let’s pray…

Changing the Atmosphere through Prayer

Changing the Atmosphere through Prayer

Introduction

            Over the past few months we have been talking about the Promises of God.  The importance of living with a daily understanding of these promises is essential to living a life of godliness.  We are transformed one promise at a time.  We live in the world but are not of the world as followers of Jesus Christ; we are called to be world changers, not world chasers.  The Church is to be a ‘counter-culture’ to what the world presents as their way, truth and life.  In other words, we are not a ‘sub-culture’ that ebbs and flows with the shifting philosophies of our day.  Paul exhorts the church of Colossae – “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ (Col 2:8).

The Prince of the Air

            We are told in Eph 2:2 that Satan is the ruler of the kingdom of the air (atmosphere), the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient (on earth).  In other words, Satan is given authority and power through the disobedience of people and this affects the surrounding atmosphere.  Jesus speaks of Satan as the ruler of this world who has now come under judgement through his life and death and resurrection (John 12:31; 16:11).  John the Apostle goes onto say – “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).  As followers of Jesus we are to discern what is of the Kingdom of God in contrast to what is of the world; by simple definition the “world” refers to systems of thought ruled by Satan.  As children of God, we can truly appreciate Christ’s claims that believers are no longer of the world—we are no longer ruled by sin, nor are we bound by the principles of the world.  It is not information but a work of transformation that changes us into the image of Christ, causing our interest in the things of the world to become less and less as we mature in Christ.  A powerful Scripture that captures this transformation is Romans 12:1-2 – “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Changing the Atmosphere

What do I mean by “changing the atmosphere”?  As I have travelled in missions over the years, I have been blessed to see many beautiful and unique physical locations.  The various countries also have distinctive spiritual atmospheres, the pervading mood or tone of the place, sometimes very positive and other times dark and oppressing.  As followers of Jesus, we have the privilege and responsibility to preach and demonstrate the Kingdom of God.  This invites the atmosphere of heaven to change the hearts of mankind. 

There are several keys to change the atmosphere in and around our lives. 

·      Obedience is required.  Obedience is attractive to God and invites the Presence of God, which in turn changes the atmosphere. 

 

·      How we speak is significant.  In many physical areas there are negative things that take place and it is important to speak in a godly spirit.  It is important to speak God’s Word and truth.

 

·      Attitude is 80 % of our success in life, more than knowledge or skill.  The significance of having a positive faith-full mindset brings pleasure to God and changes the atmosphere.

 

·      Prayer is foundational; Jesus told us to pray “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10).  We encounter all kinds of circumstances in life and it is essential to pray with all kinds of prayers for God’s rule and reign to manifest. 

 In Conclusion

            God is looking for his children to be world – changers by inviting God’s Presence and changing the atmosphere.  It is exciting to be part of God’s plan to release his kingdom on earth. The Scripture says, “the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (2 Chron 16:9a).  God is looking and searching for those who will be his ambassadors on earth.  We have the opportunity and pleasure of seeing God at work in these days.  The world may seem to be succumbing to the effects of sin and Satan, but we must remember that as long as we are still here, God is at work changing the atmosphere one salvation at a time…

In application

This morning we want to change the atmosphere through joining together in prayer for each other and for our neighbourhood.  As we pray, we pray in grace.  We pray in love for each other.  We pray for God’s generosity to touch our lives.  The Lord rewards those who seek him in faith.  So, let’s pray believing that God will touch our lives and neighbourhood with his Presence changing the very atmosphere for his glory.

 

The Promiser of the Promises

Introduction

            I was captured by God as a young believer in Jesus.  I know what it is to be powerfully rescued out of the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of Jesus (Col 1:13-14).  The experience of my sins being forgiven was overwhelming.  My encounter with the Saviour was completely life-changing.  I had no religious upbringing so everything I learned was like smelling fresh bread every morning.  I breathed deeply of God’s love. 

            I fell in love with Jesus and was taught early on about salvation by grace through faith (Eph 2:4-10).  This salvation experience was followed by life-long-learning of how to consecrate my life and become like Jesus and ready for his Second Coming.  This is easily compared to God delivering the children of Israel out of Egypt and to bring them into the Promised Land; this is an Old Testament analogy to our New Testament experience of salvation. 

Getting out of Egypt

            God knows everything that happens!  He prophesied to Abraham (Gen 15:13) – “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years.”  Two major predictions help explain this 400 plus year waiting period.  Firstly, as a result of their suffering they would come out with great possessions (Gen 15:14) and that is literally what happened.  When the Israelites left Egypt following the death of all the first-born of Egypt, they were told to ask the Egyptians for items of value for their journey. “The people of Israel . . . asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus, they plundered the Egyptians” (ESV - Ex 12:35-36).  Secondly, God waited before giving the Promised Land to Israel because “the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” The Amorites worshiped false gods and practiced all sorts of evil.  It was God’s desire to remove them from the land of Canaan where Israel would one day live.  Once the Israelites did return to the land promised to them, the Amorites were destroyed as the Lord predicted. 

            The 400-year stay in Egypt included many examples of God’s wisdom and might. Joseph’s preservation of the Israelites during a famine, Moses’ rise to leadership, and God’s great miracles such as the crossing of the Red Sea were all part of Israel’s time in Egypt.  There ‘exodus’ is a type of salvation, Moses a type of saviour, passing through the Red Sea a type of baptism and deliverance from our enemies. 

Getting Egypt out of You

            The events we read of in Exodus 13–19 demonstrate all too clearly that Israel was not yet a holy people, and not yet ready to respond to God.  They were delivered from Egypt but found themselves wanting to return to Egypt; they grumbled and complained and rebelled because their promises were not being fulfilled according to their own perspectives.  Three months after leaving Egypt the Israelites entered the Wilderness of Sinai where God speaks to them at Mount Sinai.  “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites” (Ex 19:4-6).  The people’s response was unanimous – “everything God says, we will do.”  At Mount Sinai, Moses gave instructions for the Israelites to consecrate themselves and then three days later all would encounter God.  During this time Moses is on Mount Sinai receiving the Law for an extended period of time.  The people grow restless and Aaron creates a golden calf.  Exodus 32 paints this story for us.  One of the main take-a-ways is this.  They created a golden calf, similar to the idols of Egypt which were familiar to them.  Aaron “took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt” (Ex 32:4).  The word for gods is the Hebrew “Elohim” which is used over 2000 times to refer to God and around 250 times in reference to a false god, as is noted in this passage.  The real challenge is found in Ex 32:5 – “When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.”  The Hebrew word for Lord is Jehovah or Yahweh.  It is clear to see that Egypt was still in their hearts and they believed that this golden calf – a mixture of Elohim (false god) and Yahweh – brought them deliverance. 

            The story does not end there.  Both God and Moses and Joshua are disturbed by what is going on at the foot of the mountain.  God is ready to destroy them.  Moses intercedes on their behalf.  Joshua hears what he thinks are the sounds of war.  Moses hears the sounds of a celebration.  When Moses sees what is really going on and he breaks the Ten Commandments.  Aaron’s response is disturbing - “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. 23 They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ 24 So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!” (Ex 32:22-24).           What was supposed to be a consecrated time of meeting the Promiser of the Promised Land turned into an unholy and inappropriate celebration of the way things were in Egypt.

Reconciled to God

            In 2 Cor 5, the Apostle Paul speaks to the Church in Corinth about being reconciled with God.  In other words, becoming equally joined together to God and each other; equally yoked. 

·      For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 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 5:14-15)

·      Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Cor 5:17)

·      God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21)

 

Don’t be Unequally Yoked

            In light of the Old Testament story we considered a few moments ago, there is a passage of Scripture that relates and is found in 2 Cor 6:14-7:1.  Now, the Apostle Paul speaks to them about being consecrated to the Lord.  This was the same desire of Moses for the children of God.  Aaron combined a false god, the golden calf, to a celebration to Yahweh, unequally yoked.  Paul tells them not to be unequally yoked; Believers and unbelievers, righteousness and wickedness, light verse darkness, Christ and Belial (lawless, worthless, wicked) or the Temple of God and idols.  “For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people” (2 Cor 6:16b).  These four promises of Scripture can be seen in both Old and New Testaments.  It is the desire of God to be in relationship with his children.  He desires this relationship to be one of consecration and intimacy.  In the same way God and Moses were seeking to lead the people into consecration, Paul is saying, that if you want to know and experience these promises of God, we need to learn how to be separate and clean.  This is being equally yoked to God.  Not compromising.  Not creating God in the image of our culture (like Aaron and Egypt).  Not offering a mixture of worship… 

            Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God (2 Cor 7:1).  One of the means of receiving the promises of God into our lives is consecration; this can be described as sanctification, separating from something unholy and joining oneself to the Holy One.  With such encouraging promises to urge us on, let’s make a clean break with anything and everything that contaminates, defiles or distracts us within and without, spirit or body.  Let’s make our entire lives, thoughts, feelings and actions, complete with perfection, holiness and maturity because we fear, honour and respect God.

In conclusion

            The Israelites left Egypt with plunder and the Promised Land in their minds.  There were going to meet the Promiser of the Promised Land and enter into a land flowing with milk and honey.  However, they struggled in the wilderness.  They grumbled and complained.  And when it came time to cleanse themselves and three days later encounter God, they went astray, and made a golden calf.  In one sense, Aaron fashioned or conformed to the image of the religious world that he was familiar with.  They seemed to have good intentions but were unable to follow through in true consecration and commitment.  The question is why.  Even though their intentions were good, the underlying desires of their hearts were corrupt.  We are told that “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).  We all have good intentions, but we mess it up when our lusts / desires lead us astray.  If we truly want to receive the fulness of God’s promises in our lives:

·      We must learn how to put to death the desires of our sinful nature (Gal 5:24)

 

·      We must learn how to separate ourselves from compromise in relation to our culture.

 

·      We must learn how to join ourselves to God the Promiser, not just the promises.

 

 

The main difference between Moses (Joshua and Caleb too) and the people of Israel was inner motivation.  Moses and his crew wanted the Presence and Promiser, God himself, while the children of God wanted what was best for them.  This is a huge warning for us today.  We must go after God himself and not just what he promises to us.  If we take hold of the Promiser with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, then he will take hold of us with his great and precious promises.  Let’s love God for who he is and not just for what he can do for us…

Keys for receiving the Promises of God

Introduction

This morning I want to give us some keys in order for us to possess the Promises of God in our lives.  One of my favourite games growing up as a kid was “hide-n-seek.”  My friends would spend hours playing this cat and mouse game.  We would come up with variations that we keep us going into the night.  The art of hiding well was something to be admired.  It was always so exciting to find the missing friend.  Sometimes I think God likes “hide-n-seek” too.  The Scriptures often tell us to seek the Lord.  In both the Old and New Testaments we are exhorted to seek after God in various ways; to seek his face, his strength, seek the Lord while he may be found, seek and you will find, seek me with all your heart, seek him and live, seek his kingdom and so on.  The fact is simple, God is looking for those whose hearts seek after him.  The seeking, in and of itself, is not the goal any more than religious activities are to replace of relationship with God.  The joy of seeking is in the finding.  And God can’t wait to be found.  It is the Father’s heart to welcome us into his family and presence on a moment by moment basis.   The Parable of the Lost Son is remarkable and teaches us many lessons.  One of the main points is this – the father is looking and waiting for his son to return home. 

·      But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him (Luke 15:20)

·      But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.  (Luke 15:32)

Possess Your Promises

            There a are times in one’s life when it is time to arise and shine.  Abraham, Moses to Joshua, King David down to the person of Jesus Christ – each individual has those defining moments of life.  I believe it is time for us to possess the Promises of God for our lives!  If you need direction or wisdom God has a promise for you.  If you need healing God has a promise for you.  If you are in need of financial breakthrough the Promises of God are found in the Scriptures and are there waiting for us to discover them.  The opportunity is always before us to acquire the Promises of God.  There are times that we simply need a strong exhortation to engage in the process of taking hold of God at his Word.  God is not trying to keep his promises from you and I, in fact, it is quite the opposite.  God is ready and waiting to be found by those hungry God chasers.  There are many keys that we could take note of in this study.  I have given us some of my personal favourites both spiritually and practically.

Study and Obey the Scriptures

            We are told in Proverbs 2:1-5 - My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2 turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.   

The Bible is unique compared to any other piece of literature ever written.  “Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us” (2 Tim 3:16 – The Message).  If we truly want to possess the Promises of God, we must be students of God Word.  We must become followers of Jesus who learn to accept and store the words of God in our hearts.  This is a call for obedience according to God’s Word. 

Seek and Find

            My first sermon in this series was about discovering the Promises of God.  God’ Word is full of promises.  It is our job to find as many Scriptures as possible and begin to study and meditate and pray over them with regards to our circumstances.  We are told that God’s Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12) and powerful when applied to our life and circumstances.  There are times when I have people ask me to pray for them about this or that situation.  I usually ask them what Scripture they are standing on.  Sometimes the response is positive and thoughtful.  Other times they look at me wondering what I am talking about.  It is important to study and obey God’s Word, as well as, to seek out the promises of God for our individual circumstances.  Then and only then can we begin to gain the promises we hope for.

Learn to Speak the Word

We must not only learn to obey God at this Word, but also to speak out the truth of God’s Word so that our lives and circumstances come into agreement with God.      A key verse is Romans 4:17b“God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.”    Abraham was promised an heir but both he and Sarah were well beyond their prime in regard to conceiving and bearing children.  This Scripture simply means that we speak the truth of God’s Word before we speak about our circumstances.  This is a challenge to our minds, because we often focus on our difficult circumstances first.  Abraham fell short in this area as well and had Ishmael through Sarah’s servant Hagar.  Even when we blow it, God remains true to his promise. 

·      If you are believing God’s promise for wisdom in the midst of confusing circumstances, speak out and apply James 1:5 – “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

·      If you are believing for God’s promise of healing according to 1 Peter 2:24, “by whose stripes you were healed,” then let your confession first be that “I am healed in Jesus,” even in the midst of the sickness. 

 

In other words, we have to learn how to NOT speak the situation but learn to speak the truth of God’s Word.  This is just like Abraham speaking and believing and calling things that be are not as though they were.  However, we don’t want to deny the fact that we are in a place of confusion or not feeling well by saying, “I am not sick.”  We don’t deny the reality of our situation; we need to renew our thinking and begin speaking the truth of God’s Word first.

Overcome double-mindedness

            One of my challenges, and I am sure many others, is this – double-mindedness.  This word is found also in the book of James, 1:8 and 4:8.  It means to have two minds or souls.  In other words, there is a tossing too and fro, like a ship in the waves.  Struggling between the truth and a lie, or faith and unbelief.  There is a restlessness and unsettledness which produces and inability to possess God’s promises. 

            I have had to learn how to take captive my thoughts (2 Cor 10:5).  Several years ago, my mind was a mess.  I was two-minded in my ways.  I took the time to evaluate how I was thinking.  I attended a conference by Dr. Caroline Leaf and bought her book and put into practice her five points of renewing your mind.

1.     Gather

2.     Focused Reflection

3.     Journal

4.     Revisit

5.     Active Reach

 

As I put into practice this simple plan, I found my thoughts changing and I was becoming more and more focused on the Promises of God’s Word.  I took about ten minutes a day to intentionally engage in the process, and then to apply it throughout the day when negative thoughts came against me. 

In conclusion

            I have mentioned a few positive ways to make sure we can attain God’s promises in our lives.  Get into the Bible and get the Bible into you…  The more we read and study the Scriptures, the more enlightened we become, “your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105).  The Scriptures help us to discern between good and evil and to put righteous obedience into practice.  I am so blessed that all the promises of God are yes and amen in Jesus (2 Cor 1:20).  The high-n-seek message of today is this, the Scriptures are full of promises, hiding so to speak, and waiting for you to find them.  And then when we find the great and precious promises, we learn to speak them over our circumstances rather than simply speaking of our circumstances, which oftentimes can be negative.  This kind of negativity can be dangerous and lead to doubleminded stinking thinking.  I am grateful that God remains faithful and true to fulfilling his promises in our lives even when we struggle. 

            It is our responsibility as followers of Jesus to obtain them personally in our lives. Maybe this is the day that you step into your Promised Land so to speak.  Don’t give up.  Don’t grow weary in doing good.  Don’t be afraid of giants in the land.  Don’t doubt God. 

            God has filled his Scriptures with all the promises we need in order to live in this broken world.  God is Good and Faithful and more than able to move us forward in life…

 

Let’s pray together as we put God’s promises into action… 

    

Biblical Promises to Overcome Fear

Review

            Last week we looked at how faith and patience are needed to help us inherit those promises of God that have become personalized to us individually.  The writer of Hebrews identified six elementary teachings for Christians to understand, found in Hebrews 6:1-2.  

I am sure that we all have questions related to these points just as I do in my own walk with Jesus.  What about sin that I struggle with?  When I sin does God still love me?  What happens when I repent over and over?  Can I lose my faith in God?  Why was I born with sickness?  Can I get baptized again and again in the Holy Spirit? (yes please).  What is heaven going to be like? 

The exhortation from the Scriptures last week was not to become lazy in putting these foundational truths into practice, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherited their promises (Hebrews 6:12).

As a young believer, I was full of questions just like a young child growing up in life.  I began to realize that one of the main struggles that I grew up with was fear.  I was afraid of getting sick and dying.  I was afraid of what people thought of me.  I was afraid of conflict.  I was afraid of losing my salvation.  Maybe you can relate to some of these or even have a few of your own fears that you identify with.  Here are some common fears; spiders, snakes, heights, dogs, speaking in public, fear of germs, flying, clowns, death, fear of the unknown…  The world we live in is full of fears and phobias and with all the instant access we have to world events – fear is on the rise.  This morning I want to share with you some key Scriptures and promises that God has used in my life to help me overcome fear. 

Introduction

One of the most comforting thoughts of Scripture is that God loves us.  I was captured by this love when I first became a Christian in 1980.  I found myself in a brand-new world where I saw everything filled with the Presence of God.  His love, mercy and forgiveness burst into my spirit and soul with such power that I was forever changed.  I was a spiritual babe, wrapped and covered in the grace of God, and for several years found myself overjoyed with my new-found faith in Jesus.  As I grew in my faith, I began to realize that I had areas of my life that I needed answers to, struggles in my life that I needed victory over.  Let me begin by saying “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:16-18).  The primary way of overcoming fear is to know and experience God’s love daily.  I still have fears in my life that I wrestle with, however, this is simply an opportunity to be made perfect in love. 

When I think about the root cause of so many mistakes or spiritual pitfalls in our lives, fear is lurking in the shadows.  Fear can cause us to collapse and settle for less than God’s best. It can rob us of our trust in God.  It can damage relationships.  We can lose sleep and even our health.  Here are some Promises of Scriptures that God has used in helping me overcome fear.

 

Overcoming Common Fears of Life

            One of the first promises of Scripture that God used in my life is found in Isaiah 43:1-7.  This passage helped me to overcome the identity of fear that had become common to me.  All too often we let fears and anxieties shape the way we think and feel and act.  I found great strength in knowing that God had created and formed me as his son (verse 1).  I was truly fearfully and wonderfully made by God.  I needed to hear “fear not” for I have redeemed you (verse 1), my salvation was and is secure, even “when you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (verse 2).

Knowing that God was and is with me helped me to, by faith and patience, overcome.  God goes onto say that that you are precious and honoured in my sight because I love you (verse 4). 

Whatever you are fearing - a health crisis, family problem, financial struggle - focus on the power of a God who calls you by name, and commands fear to flee from you heart.  This was the beginning of my journey to freedom from fear.

Three points to overcoming fear

More than any other command in Scripture, God tells us not to fear.  God never promises us a trouble-free life, but He does promise us His presence and the strength (spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional) we require to get through our troubles.  Some have said they are 364 passages of Scripture about “do not fear” in the Bible. One for each day of the year... 

2 Timothy 1:7 states, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline (self-control, sound mind).”  Another lesson to learn is this, there are times that fear has a negative, demonic nature to it, a spirit of fear.  We need to learn to discern between our own fears and anxieties and what is an actual attack of the enemy.  When the enemy rises us with fear, the Spirit of God rises up with power, love and self-discipline.  I like to order of these words that Paul uses, power then love, not the love of power.  We can truly experience the soundness of mind, the freedom from fear, when the Power and Love of God touches our lives. 

Let’s ask God for the Holy Spirit to empower of lives with these three truths: Power, Love and the ability to control our thoughts. 

Overcoming the fear of conflict

Psalm 18 is the song King David sang when he was delivered from the conflict of all his enemies including Saul.  There are many situations in life, hopefully not as serious as King David, where relational conflicts abound.  This can be in the home and family life, at work and even in the church.  Sometimes these conflicts paralyze people with fear.  This was and is one of my struggles in life.  Psalm 18 is one of my favourite passages of Scripture because I see so many promises of God take pray and inherit. 

·      I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies (verse 3).

·      In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help.  From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears (verse 6).  Then God acted…

·      He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.  18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support.  19 He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me (verses 17-19).

 

Speak these words over the source of your fear.  God is our hiding place.  For David, this meant sitting in a cave praying trained warriors did not discover him.  For us, it’s identifying the root cause of our fear and inviting God into our distressing thoughts and feelings.  Practically, this involves taking time in the Scriptures, sitting in your car on lunch break with worship music playing, or going for a walk praying and praising God and resisting fear.  We weren’t saved by Jesus only to be scared out of our wits.  God is the Rock of our Salvation only if we let him.  We need to learn to trust him to deliver us from every fear coming against us!

Psalm 18 ends with these very encouraging words.  “The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Saviour! 47 He is the God who avenges me, who subdues nations under me, 48 who saves me from my enemies. You exalted me above my foes; from violent men you rescued me. 49 Therefore I will praise you among the nations, O Lord; I will sing praises to your name. 50 He gives his king great victories; he shows unfailing kindness to his anointed, to David and his descendants forever.”

In Conclusion

Life is full of challenges and sometimes fear can get the best of us.  There are times when fear has led me into sin.  It is in those moments that I find the mercy of God to help me in my time of need.  He is so gracious to forgive. We need to remind ourselves that God is in control of every struggle whether we pass through water and rivers or the fire.  He so loves us that his Holy Spirit makes power and love and right thinking available to us when confronted by a spirt of fear.  It is never too late for God to help us overcome the mess fear makes in our lives.  He is our Rock and Fortress and comforter who brings his peace into our troubled situations.

 

CAN YOU SLEEP WHILE THE WIND BLOWS?

During a recent hurricane storm, the following story circulated on the Internet:

A farmer on the Atlantic seacoast constantly advertised for hired hands. Most people were reluctant to work on farms along the Atlantic because of the awful storms that wreaked havoc on the buildings and crops. One applicant for the job was a short, thin man, well past middle age.

“Are you a good farm hand?” the farmer asked him.

“Well, I can sleep when the wind blows,” answered the little man.

Although puzzled by this answer, the farmer, desperate for help, hired him. The little man worked well and kept busy from dawn to dusk. The farmer felt satisfied with the man’s work.

Then one night the wind howled loudly from offshore. Jumping out of bed, the farmer grabbed a lantern and rushed to the hired hand’s sleeping quarters. He shook the little man and yelled, “Get up! A storm is coming! Tie things down before they blow away!”

The little man rolled over in bed and said firmly, “No sir. I told you, I can sleep when the wind blows.”

Enraged by the response, the farmer was tempted to fire him on the spot. He hurried outside to prepare for the storm. To his amazement, he discovered that all of the haystacks had been covered with tarpaulins. The cows were in the barn, the chickens were in the coops, and the doors were barred. The shutters were tightly secured. Everything was tied down. Nothing could blow away. The farmer then understood what his hired hand meant, so he returned to his bed to also sleep while the wind blew.

When you’re prepared for storms, spiritually, mentally, and practically, you have nothing to fear. Can you sleep when the wind blows through your life? The hired hand in the story was able to sleep because he had secured the farm against the storm.

We secure ourselves against the storms of life by soaking ourselves with the Word of God, being obedient to it and then placing our faith and trust in God’s goodness. We don’t need to understand, we just need to hold His hand to have peace in the midst of our storms.

Today I will prepare myself practically, mentally and spiritually so that I can sleep and not fear when the storms blow in my life.

In Application

            Let’s make sure there are no loose ends in our lives.  No hidden sin or fears. 

 

Let’s make sure we have done all that we can to secure our life can survive the storms. 

 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  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 (Phil 4:6-8).

 

Faith & Patience Inherit the Promises of God

Review

            Over the past few weeks we have begun to look at the Promises of God.  The journey of discovering the Promises of God is both fulfilling and challenging.  We begin to realize just how committed God is to His family.  The Scriptures lay a solid foundation of knowing God while the promises of God help us to know God more intimately.  In both the Old and New Testaments, we see the Promises of God made available to us.  On one hand, the Promises of God are unconditional, and nothing can stop the purposes of God being fulfilled, not self, sin, or Satan.  However, we know that God is not some Sugar-Daddy who grants us everything we ask for.  The Promises of God directed towards us are both personally and conditional and often begin some sort of qualification.  Ultimately the Promises of God find their fulfillment in Jesus and it is as we draw near to him, we find great satisfaction within life. 

Introduction

            One of the greatest revelations of Scripture is the unconditional Love of God.  The knowledge of God’s love begins to open the door to eternal life.  We understand that through the Love and Mercy of God our sins are forgiven, past present and future.  He promises that His presence and love will never leave us.  Foundations are extremely important and knowing by experience the love of God is one of the foundations of life.  The writer of Hebrews tells us that through the elementary truths of God’s Word we are trained to discern between good and evil (Hebrews 5:11-14).  He then gives us a list of foundations, elementary teachings, for right Christian thinking and living.  These basic teachings are something that we grow into thereby moving onto maturity.

1.     The foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death

2.     Faith in God

3.     Instruction about baptisms

4.     The laying on of hands

5.     The resurrection of the dead

6.     Eternal judgment

 

This is Christianity 101.  Once we have learned the basics of our Christian faith, we can then move onto the deeper rewards and challenges of bringing God’s kingdom from heaven to earth.  We are exhorted to hold onto the flavour of heaven – the Holy Spirit – and beware of “falling away” from God.  The idea of falling away speaks of stumbling, to go astray, to be mistaken; in other words, we forget the elementary teachings of Christ.  The readers are then encouraged that salvation is theirs, and that “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them” (Hebr 6:10).

Imitators of God’s People

            The idea of imitating is also foundational in regard to walking in God’s kingdom.  “In the beginning” speaks of a time when Adam and Eve were to imitate or mimic God.  They were to be fruitful and reproduce and pass this onto their children.  We understand that mankind fell into sin and since that time we have reproduced or imitated a lot of things that are contrary to God’s original design.  In Hebrews 6:12 the writer tells us to imitate men and women of God.  In other words, we are to mimic those who have grown past the elementary truths of God’s Word.  The writer of Hebrews gives a fuller explanation found in Hebrews 11; the hall of fame of faith.

Inherit the Promises of God

Rightful inheritance refers to actual property or goods received after a family member's death.  Jewish inheritances were linked to family blood lines, while Greek and Roman laws provided for the disposition of family possessions through the adoption of an heir. The Scriptures transform the concept of inheritance to include the gaining of spiritual blessings and promises from God; this means to “receive an irrevocable gift” with an emphasis on a special relationship between the benefactor and the recipients.  Unlike legal inheritance, the benefactor, God, does not die, yet he provides material and spiritual blessings for His children. 

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Rom 8:16-17).  The Promises of God are available to us today just as they were to the fathers of our faith as seen in the Scriptures.

The question remains “How do God’s people inherit God’s promises?”  The writer of Hebrews speaks of faith and patience and a man named Abraham.

Faith and Patience

            God’s children have been graced with “salvation faith,” which is the ability to believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  This saving faith is one of the elementary teachings directed towards new believers.  “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 2:8-9).  However, it is my belief that the faith spoken of in Hebrews 6:13 is the gift of faith referred to as one of the spiritual gifts.  So what does this mean for us?  If we want to inherit the Promises of God we must not only believe in God and His Son (even the demons believe and shudder - James 2:19), we must enact on the gift of grace, our salvation, by the gift of faith provided for us by the Holy Spirit.  It is through the faith provided for us that we attain the promises of God.  We are told in Hebrews 11:6 - And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  In order to inherit God’s promises we must engage our divine gift of faith in two ways. 

·      We must also diligently and earnestly make a careful search of God through His Word and Holy Spirit.  It is said of Abraham, (our Father of Faith) “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Gen 15:6).  What did Abram believe – God’s spoken Spirit-Word to him.

·      We must be OK with our faith being tested.  In Gen 22 Abram was challenged to sacrifice his son Isaac. 

           

            The second aspect for inheriting the Promises of God is patience.  And we all want our promises right now…  What is patience?  It is waiting, enduring, sometimes long-suffering.  Was not this the case with Abraham? “So after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised” (Hebrews 6:15).  Patience is necessary in order to prove the genuineness and reality of faith.  The Lord generally does not accomplish his purposes at once.  He usually works by gradations.  Is not this the case in creation?  Is this not the case with Abraham and the forming of the Nation of Israel?  The same is true of men and women of faith who are years growing up to their full stature.  The same is true of the Promises of God.  Through faith and time we receive the fulfillment of God’s promises. 

            We live is a fast pace society.  Fast cars, fast food, quick fixes and so on.  There are “suddenlies” in God’s Kingdom, however they are often preceded by the patient and faithful prayers of the saints.  These prayers and petitions include asking, seeking, pleading, crying and most importantly waiting on God.  To be patient overcomes challenges, hopes in the midst of despair, trusts in God despite circumstances, looks to the light of God in dark places.  It is interesting to note that the Fruit of the Spirit begins with “love is patient” (1 Cor 13:4).  The testing of our faith increases our patience and it is the unconditional Love of God that enables us to pass through those challenging times.

In conclusion

            We all need to learn and grow in knowledge and understanding of the elementary foundations of Christian life.  Hopefully, no one wants to stay in elementary school for the rest of their life.  We are created for growth and maturity.  All of us have dreams and desires that we want to see fulfilled in our lifetime.  As believers in Jesus the promises of God are available to us to help us reach those goals.  We are to become like Jesus, and to imitate the fathers and mothers of our faith.  Therefore, there is a need of faith on the one hand, and of patience on the other, to inherit the promises.  The gift of faith is necessary as we reach out our hands into heaven to lay hold of the promises.  And patience is necessary to wait for their fulfillment.  Faith is necessary to give us possession and the abundance of the glorious realities of God's Promises.  And patience is necessary to prove to ourselves and to others that we are true partakers on our road to maturity. 

            There are many promises in the Scriptures and it is important to identify the one promise that God is highlighting to you.  This allows you to ask God for the specific faith and patience you need in order to attain your promise.  The Scriptures tell us to ask God for the wisdom we lack.  The same is true with regards to faith and patience.  The one challenge of asking for faith and patience is that they both come with testing.  So we don’t want to lose heart is doing good so the sake of God’s Kingdom.

            …Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him… Psalm 37:7a