Tag Archives: love

This Is Your Time

19 Jan

Today we looked at the story of Stephen in the book of Acts. In the midst of doing good, he along with the rest of the Jerusalem church experienced intense persecution. Please listen and be blessed as we look at Stephen’s life and what we can learn from this challenging piece of Scripture.

To play or download the message, click here.

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Unity In Purpose

24 Nov

Previously we looked at how we in the church find unity through our identity. Today we spoke of how we find unity in the church through our purpose. Please listen and be blessed in Jesus’ name!

To play or download the message, click here.

You Are Amazing

19 Oct

Does God have to hold his nose when He interacts with us? Does He grit his teeth and say, “Well, I died on the cross so I guess I have to deal with them.” Many in the church would give this impression of God and his view of humanity. A popular term I have heard in books is “worm.” It is seen as humble for church leaders to say, “I am such a worthless little worm, yet for some reason God continues to love me.”

But is that really how Jesus sees us? An important term used in the New Testament is “redemption.” To redeem something means to buy it back, or to return it to its original value. Jesus illustrates this in Matthew 18.11-14 when He tells the story of a sheep who wanders away from the fold. When the shepherd realizes that the sheep is gone, He sets out to find it and bring it home, or redeem it. The concept of redemption assumes original value. Something can not be brought back to its original value unless it had value to begin with.

We each have individual value as unique and special creations by God, and our value was proven by Jesus’ death on the cross. In Romans 8.31-32, the apostle Paul says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” According to Paul, we lost the right to question God’s love and value for us when Jesus sacrificially gave his life for us. This is also emphasized in 1 John 4.9a where we read, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world…”

We are each children of God, but when we sin we take on guilt and shame which causes us to flee from God just as Adam and Eve did long ago (Gen 3.1-8). But God was not willing to leave us wallowing in guilt and shame. So He came to the earth and weighing his own life against ours, He willingly chose to sacrifice his own life for us. When He was killed, he took all of our shame and guilt and buried it deep in the ground, never to be seen again. But did He do it reluctantly? We read in Ephesians 1.5 that He has adopted and redeemed us “according to the good pleasure of his will.” Did you hear that? It pleased God to save us and adopt us as children!

When we speak down of ourselves we are misrepresenting the heart of God. He does not see us as disgusting little worms, He sees us as something amazing, as something worth redeeming. We lost the right to question God’s love and value for us when He gave himself for us on the cross. God did not die for you because you are a disgusting worm, He died for you because you are amazing and worth it! Let’s praise Jesus for that.

Love, Justice, and the Heart of God

21 Jul

I was given the opportunity to speak at our church service today! What is justice? What is the heart of God? Does the world see justice in the same way God sees it? This was straight from my heart by the power of the Spirit. Be blessed in Jesus’ name!

To download the MP3, click here.

A Time To Be Set Apart

18 Jan

“Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” Romans 12.17-19

We live in a world obsessed with violence. You turn on the news and hear of wars fought both overseas and at home. The United States government has turned video games into reality and now war can be waged from behind a computer screen while heartless drones injure and kill countless thousands. Then, when robots won’t suffice, they send well-programmed human killing machines to do the work. And as if that is not bad enough, the government is now making its intentions clear that it plans to invade the lives and homes of its own citizens in order to steal more of their property, guns in particular. But the violent government is not the only group obsessing over guns and violence. While they plan their attack on American citizens, many otherwise good people are buying weapons and preparing to defend themselves and their families with violent force.

What I am about to say here is for those of us who follow Jesus. When he walked the earth, he laid out a brand-new way of living in a world much like ours today.

When Jesus came into the world, he came into the very center of conflict. Israel was a crucial junction between Rome to the west and Asia to the east. It was critical that Rome keep control of it, no matter the cost. The Israelites were a proud people and armed resistance was common. Assassinations were a daily reality. When Jesus arrived, the Jews were looking for a leader to defeat the Romans and drive them from their land. That is why his disciples asked him, “Now are you going to set up your kingdom!?!?” (Luk 19.11; Act 1.6) They expected him to send out a call to arms at any moment.

But that was never his intention. The kingdom he came to set up is “not of this world” (Jhn 18.36). In other words, it does not fit within the structure and ways of the world. The kings of this world vie for power and take it by force (Mat 11.12; 20.25). But Jesus knew that “those who live by the sword will die by the sword” (Mat 26.52). He instead advocated a way of life where if someone takes your goods, you willingly let them take them and do not even ask for them back (Luk 6.30). To the world’s way of thinking, that is absolutely crazy. But Jesus took it even further and told his followers to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who spitefully use you” (Luk 6.27-28). While their desire had been to kill and drive out their enemies, Jesus left the people with a new challenge, a challenge to love (Jhn 13.34-35). They had to ask themselves the important questions, “Can I love my enemy while killing them? Am I doing good to my enemy by using violence against them? Can I bless and pray for my enemy while attempting to spill their blood?

The church was primarily pacifist until the time of Constantine when the church came to believe that it could make Jesus’ kingdom physical through force. That was a terrible experiment which we are still suffering through today.

Jesus’ followers are to be set apart from the world, and a life lived the way of Jesus is very different from the way of the world. It is impossible to not be set apart when you only pledge your allegiance to God (Act 5.29), when you love your enemies and do good to those who oppress you. Everyone around you will know you are different when you begin treating every living human being as your neighbor (Luk 10.29-37), and love them as yourself (Luk 10.27).

We have seen these truly set-apart people throughout history. Two examples are the Quakers and the Anabaptists. During the Catholic church’s wars against the Muslims, the Anabaptists experience extreme persecution because they were unwilling to join in the fight. Their stance of non-violence made them stand out and they became seen as a threat and were dealt with violently. Then later, during the American Revolution, the Quakers stood their ground as pacifists yet were treated as enemies by the American “patriots.” History shows time and again that the nonviolent lifestyle brings violent persecution. Maybe that is why Jesus warned his followers multiple times that persecution would always follow them.

Today we have a chance to stand out once again, to truly live like Jesus and let our lives be a clear contrast to the world around us. By the power of the Holy Spirit within us, we can live out Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6. This is our chance to be salt and light (Mat 5.13-14) in a world set on its own destruction. This is a time for us to be set apart.

Matthew 18

10 Nov

This chapter contains Jesus’ discourse on the childlikeness of believers. It is a beautiful reminder of God’s love for us, but also a warning for us on how we treat each other.

To download the MP3, click here.