A message from the series "99 + 1." This week we’ll be discussing the most important concept in the Bible. Yes, I know that’s a big statement, right? So here’s the thing…if you don’t understand this concept you will not be able to relate to God, Jesus or yourself. You won’t have personal joy or the motivation to serve others. There will be a consistent groan deep within your heart as it searches for what will give it life. I’m talking about the concept of grace. There’s a little known story tucked into the Old Testament and in my opinion, it is one of the greatest testimonies of grace in the Bible. Have you heard the name Mephibosheth? Well, you should. He was a recipient of kindness. He did not deserve it, he could not earn it and he could never repay it. That’s the definition of grace itself and it is the most beautiful truth in God’s Word. Jesus is described as full of truth and grace and when we give grace to others, then we take on the character of Jesus Himself. Grace really does change everything!
A message from the series "99 + 1." If you’ve grown up in Sunday school then you know the story of a diminutive but wealthy man named Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector. You probably know the song about him as well…"Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he…” He climbed above the crowds perched in a sycamore tree just to get a glimpse of Jesus. The story unfolds with Jesus calling him down saying, “I must stay at your house.” People are shocked. The tax collector was a man of few friends. He’s the guy no one wants to spend time with and yet Jesus makes a dinner reservation for the two of them. With this, a relationship begins. The man is radically transformed by the grace of Jesus. That’s what grace does, it changes you. Jesus was not waiting for Zacchaeus to clean up his act, he simply met him where he was…in the tree. You see, we can search for Jesus all we want, but truth is we will never be searching for Him longer than He's been searching for us!
A message from the series "99 + 1." Not all "coming to faith" stories are the same. Some are gradual and some are rapid. The phrase “Damascus Road experience” is used to describe a conversion which is dramatic and startling. It was a man named Saul (you might know him better as the Apostle Paul) who experienced Christ in a life-changing, instantaneous experience, although many others describe their conversion as more of a process in understanding the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But both types of experiences have several things in common. First, salvation is of the Lord, by His will and according to His plan and purpose. As He does one way or another to each of us, Jesus made it clear to Saul that he had gone his own way for long enough. Previously Saul believed heaven was a reward for “good” people and then he discovered that heaven is for people who know Jesus. Now he is an instrument in the hands of the one who died for him.There’s another commonality in Saul’s conversion. One that Saul expressed himself: “What do you want me to do?” Saul didn’t try to bargain, negotiate, question, or come halfway. His response like ours is to be one of obedience. When God truly touches our hearts, our only response can be, “Lord, may your will be done and may you use me to do it.” Such was the experience of Saul on the Damascus Road. Not everyone accepted Saul’s conversion. Some believed in his past and not his future. But that was about to change. Saul knew that his past did not have to determine his future. Therefore, his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus was the beginning of an incredible journey. And while not all conversions are as startling as Saul’s, each of us is commissioned by Jesus to live in obedience to Him, love one another in His name, and tell the world of the wonderful riches in Christ! Who is your 1 and what is your next step in obedience?
A message from the series "99 + 1." Right in the middle of Jesus’ family tree is a shocking name: Rahab. Most of us are familiar with her. She is almost always mentioned in the Bible as “Rahab the harlot." But that’s not all. Rahab was also a Canaanite; the hated enemies of Israel. Her most exemplary deed was telling a lie. Think about that. A harlot, a Canaanite and a bald face liar. You wouldn’t think she would have much chance of making the list, but there she is. There’s no good reason to include a relative like this. This brings dishonor to the family name and family honor was everything in Jesus’ day. Or perhaps God is telling us something about himself and Jesus’ purpose. Hebrews chapter 11 brings attention to her again. This time she is commended for her faith in God. Many people are intimidated by Jesus Christ. They associate him with a lot of religious paraphernalia like big sanctuaries with stained glass and beautiful pipe organs surrounded by formal prayers, and all the rest. To many in the world today, Jesus seems either out of reach or too good to be true. But the story of Rahab shatters that. It reminds us that God will go to great lengths to save just one person. His grace and mercy is for everyone. Rahab’s faith was on display through a scarlet cloth. God still saves today through the color scarlet. Jesus' shed blood brings salvation to all regardless of the past. I can assure you that right now Rahab is no longer referred to as “the harlot.” She will forever be known as Rahab the child of God and a great grandmother to Jesus. Let’s never forget that God is in the business of changing lives and he wants to use you to bring that transformation. Who is your 1?
A message from the series "99 + 1." One of my mentors would often say, “The most misbelieved verse in the Bible is Ephesians 6:12.” “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” I think he might be right. Very often the Christian community seeks to fight the battle in the natural and ignore the spiritual. Our ignorance is not bliss. C.S. Lewis rightly says, "There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight. ”In other words, if you believe demons don’t exist then they are happy because they can do their work unnoticed and without resistance. If you believe there is a demon behind every rock they are fine with this too because they will keep you in a constant state of fear. The balanced and informed approach comes to us in the Bible. The confrontation between the powers of heaven and hell are nowhere seen in better perspective than in Jesus’ encounter with the demoniac. Several observations can be made... 1. Spiritual warfare is real. 2. Demons worship Jesus. (Yes, you read that correctly.) 3. None is too far gone to be reached by the strong arm and compassionate heart of God. The story ends with a dramatic turn around. The demoniac came naked and bleeding and crying out but he leaves clothed, healed and sane. At the end of Mark’s account of the life of Jesus he says that Jesus was on the cross naked, bleeding and crying out. It’s as if this man and Jesus exchange places. Jesus absorbed all our evil and injustice into himself. He took our wrongs and didn’t place them on an animal, he placed them on himself. He did this for you. Jesus defeated the evil in your life. So now you can overcome evil with good. I don’t care how messed up you think you are. Jesus will restore you and send you on a mission of restoring others.
A message from the series "99 + 1." We have heard it said many times, “God loves you.” But for whatever reason it doesn’t always stick. This is why Jesus spoke in parables. Storytelling captures the imagination and the heart. Jesus was the master teacher. Luke 15 contains three stories that reveal God’s love for all people. The last story is the famous “Prodigal Son.” There is however more than one prodigal son in the story. The younger brother is well known but the older brother has just as much to teach us about ourselves and God. Both sons attempted to get at dad’s wealth. One by being bad and the other by being good. The older son did everything right, but why? So he too can get at the father's money. These boys are lost, each one trying to exploit the father in different ways. The father is gracious and merciful to both. If you say, “I've done everything right and I see others being blessed more than me and now I’m mad!” then you are going to have to slay your deadly goodness. Be moved by the love and compassion of God who says, “I don’t need your righteousness, you need to accept mine.” Return to the one who can satisfy your soul.If you say, “I will earn my way back to God after all the wrongs I’ve committed!” then you are going to have to give up your efforts. God doesn’t need them because Jesus already satisfied them.
A message from the series "99 + 1." As we look into the new year I’m mindful of all the things that make for a healthy church. Certainly at the top of that list is evangelism. After all, this is the reason why Jesus came. John 3:16 tells us that evangelism is the ultimate act of love. Healthy things grow and growing things change so if Illuminate does not see the transformation of lives by the gospel then we’ve missed everything. We should be more concerned with reaching the lost than pampering the saved. Once again Jesus is our example. Beginning this Sunday we embark on a journey with Jesus as he reveals his heart for those who don’t yet know him. The parable of the lost sheep tells it all and I’m reminded of those “Missing Children” flyers. You might spend a few seconds looking at those little faces and perhaps you say a quick prayer that they’ll be found before tossing it in the trash. But what if it was your children? You wouldn’t rest until they are in your home. There’s a sickness inside of your stomach until they return. This is the heart of God for all those who are not yet in his home. We are God’s search and rescue party. So will you pray with me as we ask God to give each one of us his heart for the lost?
A message from the series "Quintessence - Essentials For Your New Year." Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 “None can believe how powerful prayer is, and what it is able to effect, but those who have learned it by experience.” - Martin Luther
A message from the series "Quintessence - Essentials For Your New Year." As we begin this new year let's remember what God requires as Micah wrote: act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.
A message from the series "Glory - Advent 2019." The birth of Jesus changed everything. Just a few minutes before he entered the world, it looked very different. Where there was conflict, there is now peace. Where there was darkness, there is now light. This is why the angels proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest!”