I am a Worshipper

Introduction

What is your favourite type of movie?  That might seem like a really odd question to ask when speaking about the topic of worship.  But there is a point to the question.  Action or romance, chick flick or comedy, Sci-Fi, drama or a movie based on a true story.  We all have different preferences with regards to viewing movies.  Our choice may depend on our mood, who we are watching the movie with, what kind of week we have had, and do we want some excitement or comfort...

This morning I want to speak to you as being the best worshipper of God you can possibly be.  The idea of worship is as old as creation itself.  In the beginning there was pure worship between God and his creation.  It was beauty and glory and holiness and love unhindered.  Put that into a movie...  In today’s context, when you hear the word worship where do your thoughts go to?  Music, Sunday Services, Praise, Communion, or Liturgy.  Some of us approach “worship” happy, others sad, some think of worship is personal, while others like to go to worship together.  Others may like worship based on their religious experience, or style of music.  I hope to remind us this morning what worship is all about.

Worship Defined

What does it mean to say “I am a Worshipper” of God?  There are so many Scriptures in both Hebrew and Greek that are used to define worship.  As I have studied worship over the years, I believe there are two key components of true worship, love and obedience.  Here is one of the best descriptions I’ve come across; “Worship is to honor God with extravagant love and exciting submission”.  Love and submission are at the core of worship, but there are many expressions of worship used in the Scriptures; here are a few of my favourites:

·       Firstly, in the Old Testament - Hallal: To praise, celebrate, boast, rave; Towdah: Give a sacrifice of praise; Barach: To kneel; Makal: To twist, to leap, to dance, to twirl; Tehillah: To sing a new song; Zamar: To play an instrument.

·       Secondly, in the New Testament - Agalliao-jump for joy, exult, be exceedingly glad, with exceeding joy, rejoice (greatly); Kampto-to bend; Humneo-to hymn, religious ode, to celebrate God in song, sing a hymn, praise (unto); Proskuneo-to kiss like a dog licking the master’s hand, to fawn or crouch, to prostate oneself in homage, to reverence, to adore, worship; Ainesis-the act of praising, to thank...

·      The list can go on and on in various expressions and experiences of biblical characters...

Early on in my Christian experience God blessed me with a Scripture verse that has become dear to me; a life verse.  Psalm 27:4 - One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.  This Psalm became key in my become a worshipper of God: Overcoming fear, growing in confidence, sacrifice, shouts of joy, singing, music, prayer, guidance, seeing God’s goodness while waiting in patience.

 

I am a Worshipper

Back to our definition of worship, “What does extravagant love and exciting submission look like?”  Extravagant love speaks to me of nothing else but God in the center of my life.  Over the history of mankind, a lot of worship has been offered up to all kinds of gods, little g.  In our worship of God, we are to have no idols.  In other words, true worship is defined by the priority we place on who God is in our lives.   Where is God on our list of priorities?  Sunday mornings, once in a while, for sure when we are in crisis etc.  True worship is a matter of the heart expressed through a lifestyle of extravagant love.  If our lifestyle does not express the beauty of God through an extravagant or exaggerated love for God, we are missing the mark as a worshipper.  I have learned over the years that being a worshipper of God is the reality of my everyday life.  Do I love like God loves?  Do I love people with the godly love?  Do I treat people in ways that honour God?  1 John 4:19-21 speaks to love; if we don’t love our brothers, we don’t truly love God.  Love is central to being a worshipper of God.  Protect your First Love is a significant warning of Scripture (Rev 2:4).

The second thought relates to exciting submission which sounds like an oxymoron.  Should excitement and submission even be in the same sentence.  Submission has been given a bad rap in our day and age; isn’t submission for losers or those in second place.  The Biblical idea of submission is a lot more appealing. 

·       Submission speaks of being like-minded (Phil 2:2). 

In a similar way to love, being united, agreeable, like-minded is attractive to the Spirit of God. 

In other words, we honour and worship God when we do so corporately in one spirit and purpose.

 

·       Submission speaks of humility (Phil 2:5-11). 

This passage highlights our humility towards each other – “consider others better than yourself”.

In a more profound way, Jesus exemplified humility by not considering equality with God something to be grasped.  Initially, the Son of God made himself of no reputation, a nobody, a servant, a man, in order to show us the way to heaven, through the Cross; this is extreme.  But in the end, there was great excitement as he was exalted to the highest place…

 

·       Submission speaks of obedience (Phil 2:12-13).

Shine Like Stars… Do you remember as a kid putting those little fluorescent stars on your ceiling?  In the middle of the night you could see them shine.  The brighter the light in the room the brighter the stars would shine.  Obedience is like that, Jesus shining his light on our lives and we in turn, reflect back to the world around us our love and obedience to God. 

In Conclusion

Think about these questions for a moment.  There are times in our lives when God seems distant and nowhere to be found.  Will you worship him in your everyday living?  At times there are situations we face that seem too difficult to overcome.  Will you worship him in your everyday living?  Or is your worship dependent upon the abundance of God's blessings upon your life?  Do you only worship God for what he can do for you?  Do you worship only when times are good?  These questions lead us to a certain answer.  We can grow in our worship of God.  Our worship and expressions of worship to God can get better with age as our inner lives grow in love and submission to God and each other. 

I am a worshipper of God who has had to learn how to worship God in these ways - love for God and people along with a submitted heart.  I am grateful that as a worshipper, God does not hold our learning and mistakes against us.  I am able to pick up right where I left off and worship.  Worship is all about learning to reflect, shine like stars, back to God his character and capabilities within us each and every day.  It is about praising God for who he is.  It is thanking him for what he does for us.  It is praying when in need.  It is singing when are hearts are blessed and full. 

We say this regularly on Sundays.  “God is good, all the times, and all the times, God is good.”  In other words, some days are great and others not so.  Regardless of our situations we worship.  God is incredibly generous toward us.  God, in all of his glory and goodness, chooses to respond to us through in our worship.  This is his promise to us in spirit and truth worship.  When we worship God with extravagant love and exciting submission, God will draw near to us and commune with us and by faith we receive his life, his light and love in our hearts.  Hallelujah… 

In Application

What a joy it is to worship God both personally and corporately.  This morning I have reminded us that we are worshippers of the Most High God.  When we offer God our true worship, we are inviting him to search our hearts for anything that is not like him.  The promise of worship is this, God’s Presence shows up and we are invited to reach out and touch him and be transformed into God's likeness.  I am a worshipper who desires to be surrounded by brothers and sisters who have an extravagant and passionate love for God and each other.  And if your life is not submitted fully to him, then I invite you to make worship a priority in your life.  

Let’s put the message into action in the days ahead:

·       By loving each other and our neighbours as Christ would.

·       By living in unity, humility and obedience.

 

 

 

I am Loved

Introduction

            This morning I want for us to consider the Love of God.  We have been looking at “I AM” statements for us as followers of Jesus to believe as truth and to declare as praise to God.  God is fully blessed when his children proclaim and praise back to him the true state of their identity in Christ.  There are times when we feel hard-pressed on all sides.  These challenging times may make it difficult to rise up to God, but that’s ok, because it is during these times that we find ourselves on our knees in dependence and humble prayer.  These times of testing come so that we can discover more and more how much God loves.  He is all that we need in our times of desperate need.  This morning I hope that we can take away this revelation, “I AM LOVED” by a gracious, loving and merciful God. 

Children of God

            The term, children of God, is an all-encompassing phrase that speaks of one’s association, connection, membership, relationship to God’s family.  In John 1:12-13, the Apostle John brings clarity to this point by stating, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”  The reality of being a follower of Jesus begins individually, in the sense of one receiving Christ or being born-again (from above).  But that is just the beginning of the journey.  Our personal faith is brought to maturity when we understand that we belong to a family, God’s family.  And as such we are his children and we are brothers and sisters to each other.  It is within the family of God that we develop our character (Christ-likeness), grow in our calling (we are all ministers of the gospel), express our commitment to God as we are faithful in the small things, and as we are commissioned to fulfilling the dreams God has for us.  This “children of God” understanding is an ongoing and progressive work of maturity in our lives. 

The Love of the Father        

Here is a wonderful key text for this morning.  “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).  This verse begins with a key word that is translated “behold” in the English language; to take special notice, to consider, to pay attention to, don’t miss the point…  Here are several behold-revelations that God wants us to discover in this verse. 

·      Great is the Love of the Father.  This great love is sacrificial, (1 John 4:10; John 3:16).  His love is great, marvellous, of an incredible quality.  This love is out of this world, intentional, head over heels kind of love. 

·      This love has been lavished, bestowed, given, extended to us.  Here is a great way to picture this.  Jesus loves picnics.  When Jesus fed the Five Thousand as seen in Matthew 14, he fed the masses; “he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples” (verse 19).  This phrase includes the same word found in the Greek language, to lavish or bestow.  God’s love is more than enough to meet our needs in all circumstances.

·      We are children of God.  This is a broad statement.  We understand that we have God as our Father; this is super-natural and super-spiritual, this is Divine, there is an inheritance now and, in the age-to-come, we are chosen, adopted, redeemed and forgiven in Christ (Eph 1:3-8).  This ends with a declaration – “That is what we are!”  In other words, not only do we behold revelation, but we are to boldly declare it.  I am a child of God and I am loved!

Children Grow

            The last point I would like to make this morning speaks to the Love of God related to Christian maturity.  As cute as children, or grandchildren can be, we desire them to grow and mature and reach their full potential.  This is also true in the family of God.  There are rights-of-passage in every culture.  This is true in the context of Scripture as well.  We see in the Scriptures moments in the life of Jesus relating to growth. 

·      Firstly, he was born and 8 days later was circumcised (Luke 2:21) and marked as a Hebrew child.  After his circumcision Jesus “grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him (Luke 2:40).  This is the season of growth as a young child, learning to discover love and life.  Learning that “I am loved” at this stage is foundational for the healthy upbringing of a child.

·      Secondly, when Jesus was 12 years old Joseph and Mary took him to the Temple for the Feast of Passover.  Jesus stayed behind in the Temple while his parents and family returned home.  When they realized he was missing they returned to find him.  His response is significant.  “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).  “Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:50-51).  Learning that “I am loved” at this point in life leads to a lifestyle of obedience, while growing in wisdom and stature and favour with God and men.

·      Lastly, we see in Jesus life his baptism and commissioning into ministry.  He was about 30 years old when his Father’s business in heaven was transferred to Jesus’ life on earth.  The Father states, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).  We all need to know we are loved as an adult and that we please God.  If this was good for Jesus it is good for us as well. 

In Conclusion

            I am Loved (by God) is the statement we are focusing on this morning.  It is important to us to have a knowledge of the Love of God, not just in our heads (intellect) but also in our hearts (experientially).  Love is action and needs to be encountered on a regular basis.  No matter the age of maturity we find ourselves in, we must be open to the Love of God touching our lives.  We can’t live just on the Love of God as immature believers, we need to grow and learn all about obedience, wisdom and godly character.  But we don’t want to stop growing as spiritual teenagers, but grow into maturity as sons and daughters, who can handle the Father’s business on earth as it is in heaven.  God is looking for children growing in the knowledge of “I AM LOVED” at whatever stage of spiritual maturity they find themselves.  What an exciting journey of faith and love we are living.  Be blessed today knowing that You are Loved. 

 

 

 

In Application

Eph 3:14-21 - For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

 

I am Holy

Introduction

            We are in a series titled “I am” based on the Scripture found in Ex 3:14 – “I AM WHO I AM.”  We have spoken about being more than conquerors, being thankful, being prayerful, being a Temple of God.  This week I want to highlight the thought – “I am Holy.”  The Holiness of God is one of the most significant characteristics by which he reveals himself to us.  “Holy” and “holiness” occur more than 900 times in Scripture, and both the Old and New Testaments speak more about his holiness than any other attribute.  Jonathan Edwards said, “A true love of God must begin with a delight in His holiness, and not with a delight in any other attribute; for no other attribute is truly lovely without this.”  God’s Holiness SETS HIM APART from his creation, there is none like him.  So how do we develop a “delight” in holiness?  How do we state “I am Holy” while living in a fallen and sinful world?  Even preaching on holiness is challenging because I know that in some areas of my life I struggle with temptation and sin.  Tozer found it difficult to preach about, because he sensed that he could never do it justice.

Beginning in Leviticus, we see that nature of God’s holiness introduced:

·      I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy... (Lev 11:44a).

·      I am the Lord who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy (Lev 11:45).

·      1 Peter 1:15-16 offers a direct quote from Leviticus – “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 

 

What’s meant by “holy” in 1 Peter 1:15-16?  The word translated “holy” means sacred, morally blameless, consecrated, and saint.  God is looking for some people who are set apart or consecrated His use.  

Our Salvation

            In our day and age there is much emphasis on “getting saved” and taking on the name Christian.  We are told our – “Salvation is found in no one else (Jesus Christ), for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  We receive instruction about getting saved and being born-again and this is all good.  Our salvation rests on the great love and mercy of God as we see Ephesians 2:1-10… These are such fulfilling words of Scripture that captures of salvation experience with Jesus. 

However, Christ does not just save us from our sin, he saves us so that we might become holy and blameless in his sight (Eph 1:3-4).  Holiness, on the one hand, is apprehending God’s heart and holiness.  It is an intentional connection with the Divine.  On the other hand, holiness is separation from the ordinary and sinful ways of life.  As followers of Jesus, we should stick out and stand out, in other words, be set apart.  Our lifestyles should be unique from unbelievers and match our profession of faith.  That is easier said than done.  In a day and age where good is evil and evil is good, we are constantly faced with compromise and temptations to live in a manner which isn’t pleasing to God.

·      Justification is the completed act of God not only forgiving the believer’s sins but imputing to him the righteousness of Christ (Rom 5:1)

·      Sanctification is the lifelong process by which we become holy (1 Thess 5:23).

I am Holy

            So back to the declaration, “I am Holy.”  How can this be true?  I confess that my spiritual life and position with God is one of having been forgiven and made righteous.  However, I am justified because of what Jesus has done for me and if I was to die and pass into eternity today, I enter as a (holy) saint, not as a sinner.  Jesus Christ is the perfect example of one who walked in holiness.  If we look at how He lived and exemplified holiness, we see a life committed to honoring a Holy God, while showing love and mercy to us.  Holiness and love in action is key – “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” (1 Thess 3:12-13).

Here a five keys to practicing “I am Holy”

1.     Apprehend God’s Heart and holiness.

Let us make holiness a goal in life.  Rather than going with the flow of a society moving away from God, let’s seek God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  If you want to grow in holiness, learn to hang out with our Holy God (Hebr 12:14)

2.     Don’t resist the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the one who applies God’s righteousness to our lives as holiness (1 Peter 1:2).  The Spirit works in us so that we can be holy as Christ, a process referred to as sanctification, because we are growing and maturing toward holiness.

3.     Obedience is essential.

In other words, there is no outward holiness without obedience.  All the heroes of faith were set apart (made holy) by God as they obeyed by faith (Hebr 11:8).

4.     Avoid legalism.

As we pursue God, we will become more like him in holiness.  We must not make holiness into a set of morals or rules by which we live our lives.  Our salvation started with the Spirit of God and must continue in our passion and pursuit of Jesus (Gal 3:1-5).

5.     Aim for Progress, Not Perfection.

There are times when Christians don’t strive to be holy because we consider it  impossible.  God is not leading us to an unachievable level of perfection, but to persistently strive to growth in our faith.  How?  Through the power of God’s Word (John 17:17).

In conclusion

As believers we are to be holy not because we want to be loved by God but because we are already loved in Christ.  “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).  And the best way to show that we love God is by seeking to become holy because he is holy.  I am Holy and it is my desire to live in such a way as to honour our Holy God… Amen…

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…