Our Journey with God

 

Introduction

We are all on a life journey.  One of my favourite pastimes is travelling and watching people on their journeys, whether on the road or at airports.  Everyone is going from point A to point B and experiences life’s twists and turns, sometimes very good and at other times challenging.  I hope to inspire us this morning while we journey with God.  I hope to help us find God’s goodness in our travels, so to speak, and I hope that we will find comfort for those puzzling and perplexing times of life.  Proverbs 3:5-6 is a key passage to meditate on…

“Apprehending God’s Heart and Fulfilling His Dreams”

Our Mission Statement at Courts of Praise is “Apprehending God’s Heart and Fulfilling His Dreams”.  The idea behind this statement is simple – It is very important in life to know God personally.  Knowing God helps us develop godly identity and intimacy with God and each other.  Knowing God through prayer and worship and discovering our spiritual gifts is a wonderful experience.  However, knowing God is only half of the equation – It is equally important in life to fulfill our God-given destinies.  Fulfilling God’s Dreams is all about serving others, loving people, helping people to know God for themselves personally.  A beautiful verse is found in Romans 8:28 – And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  This reminds me of our Mission Statement – Love him according to his purpose.  The Apostle Paul writes this passage to the Church in Rome during times of trial and hardship.  He goes onto say that he is convinced that if God is for us then I doesn’t really matter who is against us.  “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ro 8:37–39).

We are becoming…

We have a saying at Courts of Praise – “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.”  I have mentioned this phrase over and over because it describes the journey we are on together.  Several weeks ago, I spoke out of 2 Peter 1:3-11.  One of the keys thoughts was this – “make every effort to add to your faith…”  In other words, we are on a journey of becoming a follower of Jesus.  Sometimes it is a point of trial where we make every effort to overcome in our faith, add to our faith – we are more than conquerors as we make certain our destiny. 

 

·      Grace-full -  I love this word picture.  When I think of grace-full I picture the Holy Spirit coming upon the lives of people.  Oftentimes graceful is seen a pretty and feminine; this is good and attractive, but is not the full picture of grace.  The picture of God’s grace touching Caleb’s life is awesome.  “But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it” (Nu 14:24).  There were twelve spies, two of which responded with a good report.  Caleb chose the perspective with which he defined life's events; ‎High tide verses low tide, Optimist verses pessimist, God verses circumstance, Faith verses doubt, Opportunity verses obstacles.  Can do it verses can't do it.  We must learn how to live in a godly spirit with God's perspective.  

‎            -Constantly correct your perception of yourself by seeing yourself as God sees you.  

‎            -The perception of your past, learn from your history.  Jesus covers your past.  

‎            -The perception of your future, learn to be inspired.  Jesus gives us a future and a hope.

Choose the measure of difficulty you will assign to... The greater the reward the greater the difficulty.  The same is true in gymnastics; the greater the difficulty the greater the score.  The ten spies had a measure of difficulty in entering the promised land, it is going to be a ten, we will die...  Joshua and Caleb has a measure of difficulty in entering the promised land, it is going to be a one or maybe two.  With God, we will win.  We cannot lose with God on our side.  

·      Loving and accepting and forgiving – This is foundational to our Christian faith.  Jerry Cook wrote the book, Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness: Being Christian in a Non-Christian World.  One of the questions Jerry considered is this - How can the church be a healing force in the world?  The answer is simple - it is only when believers admit their own brokenness that they can love, accept, and forgive those who are hurting around them and put out the welcome mat to their church community.  We must first receive God’s love, acceptance and forgiveness personally, before we can effectively offer this to the world.  God’s church is not broken, but it is the broken people within who can change the world through love and acceptance and forgiveness.

·      Community of believers from all nations who celebrate each other.  I recommend the movie “All Saints”.  It is a true story of an Episcopalian Church in Smyrna Tennessee.  In the movie Karin believers from Burma come to join a struggling little church.  These believers begin to know each other, experience the differences of their cultures, work side-by-side, and celebrate each other’s achievements they form a close-knit community.  This is just like Acts 2:42-45.

·      Who are committed to bringing souls into God’s kingdom.  One of the primary dreams of God is the redemption of mankind; friendship to God is very important.  It is interesting to note that when gathering of the saints is grace-full, loving, accepting and forgiving that God adds to their number (Acts 2:46-47).  It is our desire to continue to be committed to sharing our faith in Jesus through a variety of means; Stephen’s Backpacks, community outreach, Prairie Light Christian Fellowship… 

In Conclusion

We are on a journey, whether personally or corporately, in our faith relationship with God.  Salvation is a free gift as we choose to believe in Jesus Christ as our Saviour, but is a journey of genuine and growing pursuit of God.  We grow in our faith the best when we are a part of a grace-full, loving, accepting and forgiving community of believers.  This is a new season, so to speak, as we gather together seeking to see God glorified in our midst.  Let’s pray…

Living Victoriously In Shaky Times - Part 6

 

Introduction

I have some thoughts I want to share with us this morning that I trust will bring us into greater love for God and each other.  I want to start with a Scripture that can help us to center on the King we love and serve.  In Hebrews 12:28-29 the writer tells us, 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.”  There are a lot of things being shaken right now in the world and in the church, but the Kingdom of God is not one of them.  God’s Kingdom is enduring, unchangeable, immovable.  However, many people are shaken over disasters that are confronting them; fires, hurricanes, earthquakes etc.  We look at the news, which mostly tells us “bad reports”, which is unbiblical.  We are confronted with wars and rumors of wars and politics, all of which clamor for our undivided attention.  Believers and unbelievers are prophesying about why these things are happening.  In the midst of all of this what kind of people are we to be.  There are four kinds of people that I want to identify this morning; Kingdom people, thankful people, worship people, obedient people etc. 

Kingdom People

The Gospel Matthew is a “Kingdom Gospel”.  From the beginning of Matthew Jesus preached and taught on the Kingdom of Heaven; Matt 4:17; Matt 5 – 7; Matt 10:7; the Parables of Matt 13, 18, 20, 21,22, 25; Matt 16:19; Matt 19:14; Matt 24 – “what will be the signs of your coming and the end of the age”; Matt 26:29; and Matt 28:18.  There are many things transpiring in our country and the world around us which can lead to question what is going on.  There are prophets prophesying – remember to make sure that no one deceives you…  There is fear and insecurity…  There is persecution… Love growing cold…  Israel in the news…  “Immediately after the distress of those days “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken’” (Mt 24:29).  There is a lot of shaking going “in the last days” in which we live. 

 

In the midst of all this shaking there is a counter culture aspect that distinguishes Kingdom People.  In other words, we are to be different than the world around us.  We stay true to God’s Word and make sure there is no deception, we understand that persecution and suffering are part of being followers of Jesus.  “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Mt 24:42).  In other words, pray and then pray some more.

 

How can we be counter cultural in the midst of so much shaking and fear?   Do not fear is repeated over and over in the owners Manuel.  Therefore, we need to take notice.  Whenever God says, “Do not fear” he is giving us the understanding that his grace, empowering and ability are available to carry us through.  We are to be strong and courageous.  We are to be loving and kind.  We are to be pure and holy.  We are to be anxious about nothing but praying for everyone. 

Thankful People

One of the best solutions for all this terrible shaking is thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving takes our minds off the problem onto the solution.  So many people today are trapped in the troubles that they have no time to be thankful to God for all that he has done for us.  Psalm 107 is a wonderful Psalm about troubles and thanksgiving.  Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men… (Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, and 31).

·      Psalm 107:4-9 – wandering, hungry and thirsty followed by thanks equals provision.

·      Psalm 107:10-16 – darkness, prison, rebellion followed by thanks equals freedom.

·      Psalm 107:17-22 – foolish, sinful and dying followed by thanks equals sacrifice and joy.

·      Psalm 107:23-32 – hard work with challenges followed by thanks equals praise.

 

The world around us needs to see a counter cultural display of gratitude and thanksgiving empowered by God not followers of Jesus who engage in the spirits of this world.  Thanksgiving opens the door to God’s grace and kindness being demonstrated through our lives.

Worship People

We all understand the importance of being worshipful towards God, showing him our desire to honour him and have no others gods before him.  The word used here for worship carries with it another aspect of our worship towards God – service.  In others words, Worship People in the midst of a world that is being shaken are servants to God but especially towards those struggling in their calamities.  Worship is more than the songs we sing on Sunday; it is about being selfless and caring for others.  Oftentimes when trials and tribulations assault people they tend to lose their footing, their sure foundation becomes a little shaky, and those things they trust in become questionable.  It is in those times that true Worship People can offer service; food, clothing, safety, and the reason of their love and kindness. 

Obedient People

Lastly, I want to focus on what is means to worship acceptably with reverence and awe before our consuming fire.  The Fear of God is clearly a biblical theme throughout the Old and New Testaments.  It is a knowing of who God is in his love and holiness, his power and majesty, righteousness and justice (and so much more) and then living appropriately and obediently before him and our fellowman.  Obedience is one of the greatest weapons we can use in our resistance before whatever challenges, circumstances or especially the attacks of the enemy.

In Conclusion                                    

How do we live victoriously in challenging times?  We need to remember that our citizenship as be believers in Jesus is in an unshakeable Kingdom.  We are Kingdom People that must ask these questions - What am I doing?  What am I thinking?  What am I saying?  I hope that our actions, thoughts and words accurately represent Kingdom truth.  Thanksgiving needs to be an intentional aspect of our walk with Jesus.  We must worship God appropriately while serving those in trouble.  All of this is followed up by followers of Jesus who live righteous and obedient lives before God and our neighbour.   

Let’s pray…

Victorious Christian Living – Part 5

Review

We have looked at various keys for Victorious Christian Living as related to our personal relationship with Holy Spirit; regeneration, being empowered, being guided, being unified, and being prayed for…  We know from the Scripture that His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Pe 1:3).  In other words, we can live as more than conquerors in this life – IF – we choose to connect with and abide in Jesus Christ, but also Holy Spirit.  As we surrender to Holy Spirit moment by moment we begin to overcome challenges and the temptation to sin.  This means that we can be genuine and growing in our faith, from glory to glory, enjoying our victorious Christian life and living to the fullness that God has intended.  This morning we will look at two more aspects needed in relation to the Holy Spirit that will enable us to live in the success that God has planned for each of us. 

The Holy Spirit Is Our Refiner

On the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) the Spirit came upon the 120 disciples in the Upper Room.  There were two significant signs that came with the Spirit being poured out, wind and fire.  I often this of a nice breeze or sitting by a warm fire, and yet wind and fire can be very devastating as well, tornadoes and wild fire.  However, both with and fire speak of God is different ways relating to character and abilities.  Wind relates to the life in the sense of creation, spirit is referred to as wind or pneuma, and when combined with the Spirit of God wind denotes holiness.  Fire is the other manifestation that touched the disciples on Pentecost.  It was not a physical fire because they were not burned up.  However, the fire was noticeable and seen coming upon their individual heads and we know that this fire represented the Holy Spirit.  There are many references to fire in the Scripture; angels with fiery swords protected the entrance to the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:24), Moses at the burning bush (Ex 3:1-5), the pillar of fire by night, the fiery furnace (Dan 3), and fire and judgement is a biblical theme. 

 

A key thought with regards to fire is that of holiness or refining – “These have come (referring to challenges and trials of life) 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 1:7).  The certainty of Victorious Christian Living involves the refining work of the Holy Spirit.  The question is - are you willing to allow God to purify you, even in hidden areas?  House cleaning can be a dirty business… 

 

As we surrender to the refiner’s fire, we must remember the character of God is not to shame or blame or embarrass his children.  The refining of the Holy Spirit is always unto restoration.  Our Mission Statement states, “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.”  Loving, accepting and forgiving is the attitude we must have while the Holy Spirit is refining us personally or another follower of Jesus. 

It can be very intimidating when God comes to “clean his temple”; secret sins, ugly attitudes, unforgiveness etc…  He moves the furniture around, so to speak, to purify us of gossip, resentments, pride, anger, shame, addictive behaviours so that we can be restored to Victorious Christian Living. I encourage you to open your heart to the Spirit’s fire.

The Holy Spirit Is Our Comforter

I have been through the refiner’s fire a few times in my life, it was intense and somewhat terrifying.  However challenging the refining process can be, the comfort of the Holy Spirit is never far off.  In the case of the disciples, as Jesus approached the cross things became more confusing and troubling for them.  Prior to his death Jesus told them in John 14:16–18“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” (Jn 14:16–18).  Jesus knew that his crucifixion would cause them to lose all hope and confidence.  The disciple’s faith was tested and they came up short of God’s glory. 

Here are some thoughts from these verses:

·      Another Counselor – Jesus was the first Counselor, Advocate or Helper...  “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 Jn 2:1–2).

·      The Spirit of Truth describes the Comforter; Holy Spirit is our “teacher and reminder” (John 14:26) and Holy Spirit testifies of Jesus (John 16:7) which causes our faith to grow.  As well, Holy Spirit is described as the “spirit of grace” (Hebr 10:29).

·      Holy Spirit comfort lives in us…  There is never a moment when we are separate from the potential experience of our comforter. 

·      We are the children of God, take comfort in this fact.

 

These are a few of the amazing blessings of the Comforter.  When the Spirit brought regeneration to you, He brought the eternal life of God.  Now we have been given the very Presence of God to comfort and counsel us in the various circumstances of life, in all the trials and testing’s.  The Spirit supports us with supernatural strength and joy, and hope and faith, in the midst of life so that we can be full of victory.

In Conclusion

There are times in our Christian walk when the fire of God touches our lives to make us holy; Conviction… Confession… Repentance…  We know what it is like to experience spring cleaning, the same can be true when we surrender our lives to the Holy Spirit.  He comes to make sure our faith in God and walk with God are congruent, in other words, righteous…  These times can be challenging but we must never forget that the Holy Spirit as our comforter is far off.  In fact, the very help and encouragement we need for Victorious Christian living lives inside of us.  We need to again consider the importance of surrendering our lives to God so that we can fulfill his plans and purposes for our lives.  We are created as winners in God’s image.  Let’s live so…  Let’s pray…

Victorious Christian Living Part 4

 

Review

In the beginning of this sermon series we came to understand that everyone has the potential for greatness, believer or unbeliever, because we are all created in the image of God.  In other words, winning and success were to be a part of his sons and daughters.  Mankind’s disobedience created a horrible separation between a holy God and a sinful mankind.  But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir (Gal 4:4–7).  Jesus does not offer to make bad people good, but to make dead people alive - Ravi Zacharias; the first is religious and the other is called regeneration – born-again…  Being made alive “in Christ” is the beginning of the journey towards victorious Christian living.  Victorious Christian Living then moves towards a personal relationship with the Spirit of Jesus in our hearts and leads us towards the fullness of our inheritance.  Once on the road of faith in Jesus, the person of Holy Spirit, empowers us to be and do like Jesus while he was on earth; naturally supernatural.  As well as the Holy Spirit guides the children of God, like an internal spiritual GPS, into moral and wise decisions for life and living. 

Holy Spirit brings Unity

The “empowering and guidance of the Holy Spirit” began in Acts 2.  Later, in the same chapter we see the beginning of the apostles and disciples meeting – 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:42–47).  We often focus of the disciple’s devotion to the apostles teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer.  And yet one of the key aspects of the Holy Spirit is that of unity or togetherness as seen in Verse 44.  This commonness comes from a Greek word “koinos” and when joined together with people forms fellowship or “koinonia”.  This unity of the Spirit is mentioned 18 times throughout the New Testament; in other words, the ekklesia was filled with partnership and love for one another.  It was the unity of Holy Spirit that held the early Christians together in the face of persecution and caused them to lay down their lives for one another; this was victorious Christian living.  You can’t fake this kind of success; it is not event driven or programed.  It is the result of believers giving themselves over to the Holy Spirit and turning away from sin which is a disruptive force, always dividing, and separating. 

 

I believe that is why Jesus prayed for unity in the Body of Christ (John 17) or why the Apostle Paul spoke of “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3).  So, the unity that we have in Christ is part of the God’s grand design. Therefore, one of the distinguishing marks of the Victorious Christian Life is to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; this is especially practical between God’s sons and daughters. 

The Holy Spirit Is Our Intercessor

The second point today with regards to Victorious Christian Living is the Holy Spirit as our “intercessor”.  Both Jesus and the Spirit intercede for the saints of God.  Hebrews 7:25 tells us of Jesus – “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebr 7:25).  The apostle Paul told us that the Holy Spirit, who lives inside us, “helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Rom 8:26–27).  The help the Spirit offers is the same help Mary was looking for in Luke 10:40; Martha was distracted and Mary needed help.  In other words, she was tired, weak, needed extra strength.  In our moments of weakness, not sinfulness, whatever they are, when we don’t know what to do or how to pray, the Spirit is there to intercede for us bringing us into God’s will.  Sometimes in our times of uncertainty we may find ourselves “groaning in prayer”.  Oh, God help…  We may feel faithless and not very spiritual.  This is where the Spirit of God comes to intercede for us.  The Holy Spirit petitions and prays to the Father on our behalf. He is an advocate who pleads for us according to the will of the Father. The Spirit can intercede according to the will of God because He knows the things of God. 

 

There is an amazing point to consider here.  The Spirit of God, who knows our spirit and mind and emotions intimately, sympathizes with whatever weakness is upon us and then prayer for God’s will to be done in our situation.  No matter what kind of dark difficulty we face, the Spirit travails for us until we literally come into God’s light and freedom.

In Conclusion

Victorious Christian Living is all about a genuine and growing relationship with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus invites us into the family of God, making us one with God and each other.  This unity is empowered by the Holy Spirit and is organic, not programmed, it is diversity, not uniformity. The Holy Spirit is committed to ensuring unity is present in the Body of Christ because that is where we discover our calling and step into ministry.  In addition, the Spirit helps us by interceding for us.  It is like spiritual childbirth (until Christ is formed in you – Gal 4:19).  This is how we grow spiritually.  We encounter challenges and at times find ourselves weak, that’s when the Holy Spirit helps us through these situations.  He prays for God’s children with groanings too deep for words until faith gives birth to the answer we are waiting for. 

 

I trust that the more we study and think of our relationship with Holy Spirit, the more we are encountering Victorious Christian life and living.  Let’s Pray…

Victorious Christian Living – Part 3

Review

We have all been given the opportunity to live a Victorious Christian Life.  Because we are created in the image of God we have the potential for great love and goodness.  The Fall of Mankind into sin produced great sin and struggle into the world.  And yet in God’s plan his own Son Jesus Christ became the Saviour of All who call and believe on him.  The potential to live in victory is not possible within our own choices, but only when one receives Jesus as Lord and Saviour and comes into the reality of regeneration by the Holy Spirit.  The wonderful miracle of “new birth” is just the beginning of our journey towards a victorious Christian life.  This morning we will look at two aspects of the Holy Spirit’s involvement in the life of a follower of Jesus. 

Holy Spirit Empowers

I woke up the other day not feeling well, tired and looking towards a busy day.  I was not too enthusiastic about my new day where the mercies of God await.  I wish that I could have put on a new attitude or maybe some new clothes to make me feel better.  This reminded me of Jesus telling his disciples that they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit.  This baptism was not to be a tame experience but being “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).  I remember washing my clothes in London England when I reached down to steady the portable washing machine.  Needless to say, some of the wiring was touching the water and I received the shock of my life, my arms flying in the air, my heart racing and the colour draining from my face.  Power from on high sounds to me like “heaven was about to shake the world”!  In other words, we, the regenerated Body of Christ, are empowered by the Spirit who changes people into radical lovers of God and people.  He gives them the power to preach boldly, heal sick people, even raise the dead.

 

Last week I shared about Ezekiel’s vision about a new heart of flesh instead of a heart of stone.  This vision of the Spirit being poured out was hundreds of years before the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the early church on the Day of Pentecost as seen in Acts 2.  The Book of Ezekiel begins with fantastic visions of storms and wind and a cloud glowing with fire, lightning and thunder, and extraordinary living creatures with four faces.  The vision continues to a throne and figure that looked like a man glowing with fire and dazzling in light.  Ezekiel then pens these words, “This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking” (Ezekiel 1:28).   This is power from on high…  I believe that God was showing Ezekiel power from on high and one day God would clothe his people with power on Pentecost.  The early disciples experienced this empowering - the sound of a rushing wind and flames of fire descending on every believer’s head.  But the Holy Spirit didn’t stop with just a good half time show, but also filled, imparted and empowered the followers of Jesus with super-natural power from on high.  What does this power look like?  Just look through the rest of the Book of Acts; supernatural healing, fierce courage, boldness, willing martyrs, dreams and visions to name a few.  

The empowering of the Holy Spirit was life changing and far from comfortable for the early church.  The Holy Spirit gives the power to Jesus’ statement that “all authority in heaven and earth has been given to me” (Matt 28:18).  This empowering of the Spirit is life transforming and in some sense, brings radical change but not chaos.  We need to allow the freedom of the Spirit to move in our lives and corporate gatherings.  We need to be careful to “not put out the Spirit’s fire” (1 Thess 5:18).  We need to be careful that we do not try to control the “power from on high” so we can keep our church services safe and without unexpected Holy Spirit interruptions.  I love Peters words to the crowd on the Day of Pentecost, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38–39).

Holy Spirit Guides

GPS is something we rely on in our day and age, 20 to 30 years ago we would use maps and a compass and many years ago a sextant and the stars.  Everyone desires how to get from A to B without a lot of hassles.  The same is true spiritually or morally in life.  The Holy Spirit is like our internal GPS, except that he never gets confused or offers wrong information – “re-routing” … 

 

We briefly mentioned some of the characteristics of God last week, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient.  Omniscience has to do with God not lacking in wisdom or knowledge, past, present or future.  The Holy Spirit has access to all the wisdom and knowledge of God; in other words, he makes a great guide no matter what the situation of life.  Several Scriptures come to mind when I think of the Spirit as my guide. 

·      Romans 8:14 tells us: “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”  If you are a child of God, you have access to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

·      Ga 5:18 - But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.  Christians do not find their righteousness through the Law but through Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  In other words, the Spirit knows how to led us into righteous victorious living.  

·      1 John 2:27 - He is our teacher and those who depend on Holy Spirit will know where to go and what to do because they are following his heavenly directions.

 

But if you want to know the Holy Spirit’s guidance, you must learn to discern His voice and His subtle nudgings.  We must learn to abide in the Spirit and the Word of God. 

In Conclusion

The world we live in is looking for genuine expressions of God’s Holy Spirit power, not religion that has denied God’s power.  The challenge for the followers of Jesus today is to surrender to this power from on high and let the Spirit of God fully direct your life.  All too often we play it safe spiritually and do not press in beyond our comfort levels. However, power without direction can be a little scary, therefore we also need Holy Spirit to be our leader and guide.  He will direct us through life in wise and knowledgeable ways.  There is a world out there to win for Jesus and we need Holy Spirit empowering and guidance to be victorious Christians. 

Let’s pray

Victorious Christian Living – Part 2

 

Review

Everyone has been created in the image of God and therefore has the potential for greatness and victorious Christian living.  As followers of Jesus we live in an age of tension between living in the fullness of God’s righteousness or in the struggle with temptation and sin.  The Apostle Paul identifies this in Gal 1:4-5 - Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.  Jesus came to rescue mankind from the effects of sin and the present evil age in which we live.  After Jesus’ ascended the Scripture tells us he did not alone but gave us the Holy Spirit.  Jesus was bringing words of comfort and peace to the disciples in troubling and confusing time – “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). 

 

Victorious Christian living is not about living “happily ever after” but being peace-full in the Holy Spirit in this age of tension.  In my experience the Holy Spirit is much more than I can handle, in other words, Christianity is not something we control to our personal level of comfort, but something we surrender to.  Just a Jesus surrendered his life for us on the Cross of Calvary, we must learn how to yield and come under submission to the Holy Spirit.  I hope that over the summer months we can discover more of who the Spirit of God is in relation to you and I.  And I trust that this will bring us into greater victorious Christina living for God’s glory.

Faces of the Holy Spirit

Moses spoke with God face to face and thousands of people encountered Jesus face to face.  How do we see the face of the Holy Spirit?  He is Spirit, unseen, everywhere all the time and fully involved in the purposes and plans of God.  It is very important for us to understand how to relate to Holy Spirit so that we can live in victory.  My thought about the Spirit is this – what does he look like, face to face, so to speak?  There are various symbols that describe the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures; the Spirit hovered over the waters (Gen 1:2), fire (Ex 3:2; Acts 2:3), the cloud (Ex 16:10), wind is used of the Spirit (Acts 2:2), the dove (Matt 3:16), oil (Acts 10:38).  In A. W. Tozer’s book Knowledge of the Holy, he describes various attributes of God; omniscience, omnipotent, omnipresent, the wisdom, holiness, love, goodness, faithfulness of God to name a few.  These characteristics give us a glimpse into our eternal God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), who is beyond our finite understanding.  He is all of the above mentioned by Tozer, with specific roles and responsibilities, in relation to the Church of Jesus Christ.

God is the ultimate Multi-tasker!

Multi-tasking was the new buzz word in the 60’s and 70’s.  Originally it was directed towards computers that could perform several tasks at the same time.  Eventually, psychologists began to experiment with humans and their ability to multitask.  Simply multitasking is possible and we all do it in some form or fashion.  However, recent research has found out that multitasking can negatively affect the brain resulting in a lesser degree of focus and accomplishment. 

 

However, when it comes to God, his multi-tasking is totally exceptional, especially in relation to the Holy Spirit.  He can teach and comfort and empower and guide all at the same time with everyone who has surrendered to him.  How awesome is that…  I hope to help us understand this idea in relation to the Scripture Rev 1:4-6 - John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.  To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.   Here are a two multi-tasking points to highlight.  God multitasks through time and is not limited by time.  God multitasks through the seven spirits; not seven different spirits but seven aspects of the Holy Spirit – i.e. – the seven-fold Spirit of God.  The number seven is significant in Hebrew culture and seen as a sign of covenant and of grace, it is a number of purification and fulfillment.  This morning I would like to focus on one area of the Holy Spirit with regards to his role in our lives. 

The Holy Spirit our Regenerator

Regeneration is synonymous with words such as rebirth, renew, revival, restoration.  One of the initial activities of the Holy Spirit is that of bringing someone’s dead spirit to life.  We see this clearly in John 3:5 – you must be born of water and the Spirit in order to enter the Kingdom of God.  A key Old Testament passage, Ezek 36:25-27, prophesies about the work of the Holy Spirit -  I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.  What a wonderful thought – a new heart and a new spirit instead of a heart of stone. 

 

The Valley of Dry Bones is a classic Old Testament passage highlighting the Holy Spirit as the source of regeneration to a vast army.  In Ezekiel 37 the Holy Spirit breathes life into the army of dry bones, there is a rattling sound as sinew and flesh form over the bones resulting in life. 

 

Titus 3:5 speaks to the same idea – “he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit…”  Water and washing refer to baptism while Spirit and renewal refer to the Holy Spirit.  This is not the recharging of a dead battery; it is a total battery replacement with a new and ever-ready charge.  This power encounter with the Holy Spirit brings to life a dead spirit due to the effects of the fall of mankind into sin and death.  This conversion is the transference out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light (Col 1:13), considering the cross but by the power of the Spirit.  

In Conclusion

The Victorious Christian Life begins with regeneration.  It is the Holy Spirit who makes anew what once was but became dead because of sin.  This miracle of “new-life” brings a fresh and new perspective for living.  Victory becomes possible.  Our dreams come alive again.  Regeneration is the first step towards a victorious Christian life.  The Holy Spirit has so much more to offer if we are willing to surrender.  I know many Christians who long for a deeper walk with Jesus, they have been born-from-heaven’s Spirit, but they need to learn to yield to the fullness of the Spirit’s activity.  A victorious Christian life requires an increase of the Holy Spirit working and a decrease of one’s self-rule.  This might sound like hard work as in applying the spiritual disciplines we talked about last week, and to some degree it requires effort.  Let’s approach the Holy Spirit with passion and hunger, allowing him to work in us because it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom (Luke 12:32).

 

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.