A woman came to the house where Jesus was. She was weeping and her tears wet Jesus’ feet. She dried the Lord’s feet with her hair and then poured perfume from an alabaster jar over his feet. The Pharisee, whose house it was, was shocked … “Does He not know what kind of woman this is?”
She was a prostitute. The jar of perfume was the telltale sign. Of course Jesus knew that – he did not object to her tears or the caresses of her hair. It seems that He loved the fact that she poured out her perfume on His feet, certainly He appreciated it. And He heard the disgusted whisper of Simon …
Jesus speaks, “Simon, I have something to tell you … two people owed money to the same person. One owed two years salary, the other only two months salary. Neither of them could repay their debt, so the money lender forgave them both. Which one appreciated it more?”
“No doubt, Lord, the one who owed more.”
“Simon, this woman has lost everything … she has turned to prostitution so that she could live. She could never hope to buy her freedom, but she has given everything she has left to Me. You have much but you gave Me nothing. So while both of you are forgiven, she has appreciated it more.”
And Jesus says to you and I … “I have something to tell you … I love you with an everlasting love, I have bought your freedom with my love; I hope that you value it.”
Do you have something to tell Jesus?
October 6, 2014
Luke 6 is Luke’s Sermon on the Plain which is a parallel of Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus gives some basic but exceptionally radical instructions to His disciples – Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you, turn the other cheek, give your tunic to the one who takes your cloak, lend without expecting repayment, be merciful, do not judge, do not condemn. This is so different to the world’s way that it is not surprising that very little has really come of it. And yet, it is the way of victory through non-retaliatory action. You stop your enemy in his tracks when you don’t fight back. Love and Mercy win every time. It is the way of the Cross. And like the Cross, you have to follow through right to the end to see the ultimate victory. That’s the hard part. Most of us give up loving our enemies, or showing mercy, before the victory is won. We simply revert to our old ways and lose everything we might have won, perhaps more.
Jesus goes to to speak of the student needing to be like his teacher. He was presenting Himself as the model – the teacher. Don’t look to others i.e. don’t bother about the sawdust in your brother’s eye. Look to Jesus – He is the Tree who bears good fruit. He sets us the example for us. The Way of Jesus is not easy … its about taking up your cross, its about dying to your own selfish desires and ambition. That’s tough. How many of us want to “do it my way”?
Our Lord then presents the well known parable about the two men who each build a house. One builds on the rock and the other on the sand. The one on the rock stays steady when the flood comes. The one on the sand is completely destroyed by the torrent. You might have heard this parable several times in your life – even now the Sunday School song rings in my head; but the question is this .. Is Jesus really your model, your teacher? Are you radical enough to be a follower of Christ?
I look to myself and see a man who fails often – most of the time, in fact. In my heart, I want Jesus to be the foundation, the Rock of my life. But I wage this constant war in myself … I am selfish, I do get angry when things don’t go my way, I judge people all the time. Mercy is not my default.
But Jesus IS my Rock! And I will persevere because He is my Teacher, and in time I will be fully trained. I will call Him Lord and I will constantly seek to do what He says.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.
Delivered at H.I.M. Conference, Brisbane 23-26 Sept 2014
God has a wonderful word He wants to speak over Australia. The land down under will become one of the most desirable places to live on earth as the Holy Spirit begins to fall, kissing the hearts of His worshippers. Throughout your nation, the Great Southland of the Holy Spirit, a wave of God favor is about to sweep over you. Churches will grow, new converts will bring more, and churches will be filled with more new converts. Established churches will be like the fathers and mothers of this great move of God. Expect to see many who have migrated to Australia, especially Iranians and middle eastern refugees become mighty evangelists after they come in contact with God’s power flowing in the churches of Australia.
My wife and I just returned from a three week ministry tour of the beloved nation. While there we both received a number of dreams from God, Holy Spirit inspired visions, and words of prophecy for that beautiful land. Allow me to share the 7 prophetic words He spoke to my wife and me. Although Australia is highlighted, I believe these words apply to the wonderful nation of New Zealand as well! These will begin to manifest immediately and move into greater fulfillment throughout 2015:
1. Australia will experience an immediate Holy Spirit shift that could be compared to the WINDOWS of heaven being open over your nation. This involves great financial blessing that will increase (Malachi 3:10-11), but even greater will be the revelation of the Holy Spirit that comes over the nation. Of all the nations, Australia will be given insight into global events that will startle the powers that be. You will be given eyes to see and ears to hear and the Spirit of Understanding will rest upon your political leaders, intercessors, and pastors. Expect to see an even greater alliance forged between Australia and Israel.
2. Australia will be a healing center. Many healings will come to the praying believers who have great faith for healing. The anointing of Smith Wigglesworth, the noted healing evangelist of generations past will be re-deposited in the church. Healing services will begin to fill with people turning to Jesus Christ. I awoke this morning to the sounds of, “I am the Lord who heals you, I am the Lord your healer.” As a sign that you will be healing nation, there will be a great healing of the rift between the native Australians and the government. Watch a tearful move of God sweep into Canberra.
3. Truth will prevail. Aussies love the truth, hate the hype and have been given great discernment. God has put a root of truth into your DNA. You will help the global church navigate many thorny theological issues that will soon arise. Authors will be anointed to point us to truth. You will carry the Spirit of Truth and the Word of Truth as discernment flows through you. Never fall back from your calling to preach the truth.
4. The Battle of Hope continues. The Hope of Christ must win over every pocket of fear of the future. Hope is the answer and will become a great invitation to the lost in your nation to come to the God of Hope. Every state of your nation must bring forth your message of hope! Hope come back and burn bright in Oz! Hope will win in the end! I saw Perth give birth to a move of mercy, giving compassion to the Asians that have come to your land. Perth will soon be called “a global City of Refuge” (See Joshua 20).
5. Judah praises. I see high praises rising from all over the nation. Aboriginals will join in as the celebration of freedom and power sweeps through the church. Expect new moves of God, much like Hillsong, to come forth with a brand new sound that will cause shaking and trembling in God’s presence.
6. You will move from following the pack to leading the pack. As my Aussie friend says, it smells better up front anyway! Your leadership calling will not be stifled. An apostolic renewal will come. What was cut short and went dormant will now break forth with new grace as true apostles begin to emerge. This move of leadership grace will startle Australians who have been content to let other nations lead the way, but now grace has come for you to lay hold of your destiny and use your voice to bring wisdom to global decisions. Your greatest export to the nations will be the move of God’s Spirit.
7. The Gift of Fellowship (Mateship). The redemptive calling of Australia is to model community, fellowship, partnership in the gospel, fighting for your brother and sister, serving them as you display the love Jesus speaks of, “So I give you now a new commandment: Love each other just as much as I have loved you. For when you demonstrate the same love I have for you by loving one another, everyone will know that you’re my true followers.” John 13:34-35 TPT
Lead the way Australia, we’re waiting to celebrate your victories! So we will watch the nation of Australia experience God’s kiss this coming year. May the lovers of God take the nation!
Brian Simmons is known as a passionate lover of God. After a dramatic conversion to Christ, Brian knew that God was calling him to go to the unreached people of the world and present the gospel of God’s grace to all who would listen. With his wife Candice and their three children, he spent nearly eight years in the tropical rain forest of the Darien Province of Panama as a church planter, translator, and consultant. Brian was involved in the Paya-Kuna New Testament translation project. He studied linguistics and Bible translation principles with New Tribes Mission.
After their ministry in the jungle, Brian was instrumental in planting a thriving church in New England (U.S.), and now travels full time as a speaker and Bible teacher. He is also the lead translator for The Passion Translation Project which will result in a new, dynamic version of the Bible for this generation.
Why do we worship … why do we sing
When the world is such a broken and messy place
Full of suffering, pain and worries …….
We do it because in God there is love and hope …
and worship stirs our hearts, awakens our minds and touches our soul
And brings the beauty of God into focus
I want us to look at worship this morning.
For those who are visitors or new to Lighthouse you may have noticed that worship is different.
It is more culturally relevant, more up-to-date than most Uniting Churches.
People raise their hands, some sing in tongues
We clap hands
Some dance and some wave flags
Some stand, some sit, some do both
Song brackets can be lengthy
The Worship Leader may bring a Scripture or a prayer
Actually none of this is new … it’s the way the church has worshipped for ever. We just got sidetracked somewhere around the Middle Ages and it had something to do with low literacy levels, the nationalization of the Christian faith and the human need for organization.
I want us to look at worship this morning using Psalm 95 as a Biblical model of worship. I could have used tons of other Scriptures but this one is good. Its also ancient, Jewish, faith-filled and God-directed.
The psalm is in three parts, there is ….
A call to Rejoice (verses 1-5), A Call to Reverence and a Call to Respond
95:1 Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
3 For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
A call to reverence (verses 6-7a)
6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
7 for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
And a call to respond (verses 7b-11)
Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the desert,
9 where your fathers tested and tried me,
though they had seen what I did.
10 For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways.”
11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
“They shall never enter my rest.”
A Call to Rejoice (V 1-5)
We see first that we are invited to worship as a community. Come, let us ..
We come with joy, thanksgiving, music and song.
We come shouting, singing and extolling.
Worship is meant to be vibrant.
According to the dictionary, that means: pulsing or throbbing with energy or activity.
It is alive – we are alive!
And God is a great God.
As we come together on Sundays, we come with one intent – to worship God.
We are not visiting with each other
We are not coming for a good time, or some kind of pick-me up.
We are not even here for the message.
We come because the Lord is the great God
The great King above all gods.
At the heart of our gathering is our acknowledgement of Him as the Creator –
The One who formed both the Abyss and the mountain peaks; the seas and the dry land …
Who flung the stars into space and set the universe into motion
He is God! Who formed us in His image and breathed His Spirit within us
We come is awe, with lips full of praise and thanksgiving
We can’t contain ourselves, so we shout and sing and make a beautiful noise.
Don’t come to church with a scowl – leave it at home
Yes, bring your troubles, but don’t expect to take them away when you leave
Jesus said, Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.
He said, Come all you thirst and I will give you living water.
Expect to dance, sing, shout and celebrate … for God is the great God.
A Call to Reverence (V 6-7a)
When we first enter in, we are joyous .. we have come to meet the King
But as we worship, we find the mood changes …
Yes, the Lord is the great God
He is the Lord our Maker … and our God
But now He is HERE …
A friend of mine is in London at present, and because the Queen is in Scotland (probably enjoying the vote against independence), the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace are open for public visits.
She sent me a picture of the Throne Room.
Just imagine entering into the Throne Room – there is excitement in the air; this is the King’s special space. You are filled with breathless joy. You look around, you clap your hands as you see each new feature.
Then the King enters … everyone is hushed: He makes His way to the throne and … and ….
As we become aware of God’s awesome presence in worship, we suddenly realize how loved WE are …
All of creation (the pasture) is His, but He has taken us as His people and given us a place within it.
He cares for us – He feeds us and He laments over us (for that’s the meaning of being “under His care”).
Yes, He created us in His image and gave us dominion over the earth
But when we sinned, He did not cast us out, He came to unbind us and set us free
In Jesus, He gave us new life and He breathed His Spirit into us at Pentecost
Suddenly we are still … what can we say, in the face of God’s great love.
We are overawed … our exulting now seems so empty (IT WASN’T!!!)
But aware of God’s great love, we bow down before Him, kneel at His feet.
Our focus changes from His magnificent creative powers to His redeeming love.
We are still – we have no words
This is the moment when we open ourselves to the touch of the Father’s Love.
We are reverent before God – the dictionary describes reverent as showing deep and solemn respect.
The “fear of God” has descended upon us, and He has come to inhabit the praises of His people.
Graham Kendrick has written a beautiful song for this time in worship called “Amazing Love” – it’s a deeply moving reflection of God’s great love and our undeservedness.
My Lord, what love is this
That pays so dearly
That I, the guilty one
May go free!
Amazing love, O what sacrifice
The Son of God given for me
My debt he pays, and my death he dies
That I might live
In this time of reverence and great respect and appreciation of God, the Holy Spirit may come to remind us of the Father’s Love, of Christ’s sacrifice.
It is easy to stop focusing on God at this time …. To say, I’ve been standing too long, I don’t know the songs … Why don’t they just stop so that we can get to the sermon.
We miss the point – this is more important than the sermon. This is God touching our hearts, moving amongst us with healing and hope and restoration.
This is the Presence of God with us.
Be open to it. Be relaxed about it. Feel free to sit, kneel, even to lie down.
You have come to God and now He comes to you.
A Call to Respond (V 7b-11)
In the third part of this psalm – God speaks.
He will only speak when we are still enough to hear Him.
Now the worshippers become the listeners and the worshiped One become the speaker.
His words are a challenge … “Do not harden your hearts”.
God reminds us of others who had hard hearts at Meribah, and Massah.
At these places, the people tested the Lord … Exodus 17:7 says, “And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
It is a call to faith! To trusting obedience.
Trust God, even though you do not see Him.
Don’t question His motives, as if they are against you.
At Massah and Meribah the people who escaped from Egypt with Moses doubted that God was with them because there was no water, no bread and no meat.
Worship reminds us that we are not limited by the absence of things.
We have the Presence of God.
And we trust God – He is our Creator and Redeemer.
He made us with purpose, He saved us on purpose.
He has a plan, He will provide what is needed, even if the situation looks bleak.
Indeed, especially WHEN the situation looks bleak.
When they had NO water, God provided the Rock which gave living water
When they had no bread, God gave mannah in the morning
When they had no meat, God sent the quail.
Worship is about trusting God in the face of all things
It is about acknowledging Him and His purpose in our life.
Yes, we sing, we pray, we share, we listen to a message but the heart of worship is the acknowledgement of God with us.
When we come to the end of the service, we should go away, not necessarily satisfied with our earthly needs, but absolutely confident that God has everything in the palm of His hands.
We have an invitation to prayer at the end of each service – we pray for healing, for all kinds of needs … not every prayer is immediately answered but we are confident that God has heard and our need is known to Him. We trust Him and go away in faith, trusting Him.
So let me close with two conclusions.
First, worship is to be primary. The invitation from God to worship is fundamental. He is worthy of our worship and He longingly seeks people who are committed to worship Him in spirit and in truth. When we fail to worship, our hearts will become hardened which can lead to disobedience in us and discipline from God. Someone has said that there are two times to worship God when we feel like it and when we don’t.
Second, worship is to be persistent. Every day is “today” with God. Ruth Graham kept a sign above her kitchen sink that says, “Worship services held here three times a day.” We can’t put off God’s invitation. When we do, it’s to our own peril. Instead of waiting until another time, do it today or it may be too late.
Adapted from Max Ehrmann’s poem “Desiderata” (Desired Things) written in 1927
I will go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender I will be on good terms with all persons.
I will speak Your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
I will avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
I will not compare myself with others, lest I become vain and bitter; for there will always be greater and lesser persons than me.
I will enjoy my achievements as well as my plans. I will keep interested in my own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
I will exercise caution in my business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But I will not be blinded to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
I will be myself. Especially, I will not feign affection, nor be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
I will take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
I will nurture strength of spirit to shield me in sudden misfortune. But I will not distress myself with dark imaginings. I know that many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
I will hold a wholesome discipline, and be gentle with myself.
I am a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; I have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to me, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore I will be at peace with God, and whatever my labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life I will keep peace within my soul, With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. I will be cheerful. I will strive to be happy.
I love the way that John starts his account of the Gospel with the same words which launch the Bible in the book of Genesis … “In the beginning”: Indeed the apostle sees in the coming of Jesus that not only is this a “new beginning” for creation but that the incarnation of Jesus was intended from the very beginning.
God, who knows all things, created us in His image and gave us the freedom to love Him, or not. He knew that this freedom would create a challenge and that we would fail to really embrace the fullness of His intentions for us – We would want to make other choices which seemed preferable to us, as in Adam and Eve’s choice to eat the forbidden fruit.
God knew that this would create a strain in our relationship with Him; just as a disobedient child or a wayward spouse creates strains in a relationship. But God was not satisfied with an extended separation, so He, who is beyond time itself, entered into His creation to resolve the differences. He “bent over backwards” so to speak, in order to restore our relationship with Him – He allowed us to kill Him, and still He loved us. In the resurrection appearances, Jesus showed again and again, that His desire is nothing less than that we should be “saved into eternity”. What does that mean? Simply put, it means that when we accept this “new beginning” which Jesus heralds and creates, then we enter into a restored relationship with God.
This restored relationship has implications for our life now – we can literally “walk with God” now as did Adam in the Garden of Eden. It also has implications for our life beyond which continues when our mortal bodies fail.
When we admit to our own failures in the broken relationship between God and ourselves, and accept that Jesus’ reconciling work on the Cross has shown God’s continued love for us and His forgiveness of our failures, we enter into a new and eternal relationship with God. He is with us always – “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”
That God became flesh (appeared as a human being, was incarnated) is the most profound mystery of all time. It is beyond our understanding and yet it is the claim of Jesus, and of the Bible. It propels us into the realm of the unbelievable, and yet … look around you, the evidence of the impact of Christ is everywhere: in our symbols, in our morals, in our living and in our aspirations. In a history which has been marked by several civilisations, wars, peace and giant strides in technology and human understanding, this humble Nazarene (or rather, incredible loving God) has stood out as offering the only real meaning and purpose to life itself. He offers us resurrection, new life, a new beginning – grasp it with everything you have got, there is nothing sweeter or more precious.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … in Him was Life, and that Life was the Life of all people … and the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us … we have seen His glory, the glory of the One and only Son. Hallelujah!
Last Sunday evening, as part of our Living Life Dangerously focus (living in the fullness of trust in God) we looked at Suffering. I defined suffering as living in a condition where it seems that God is absent. It might be pain, illness, grief or any other unhappy life circumstance; and in that situation we find ourselves without comfort.
Of course God is right there with us, but we don’t seem to be receiving any help or comfort from Him. So we suffer. This is not an uncommon experience in the world today and the Bible has many stories of such situations. So how do we understand it? Why does God seem to leave us in this uncomfortable situation? Why does He not seem to answer our prayers?
We must, of course, immediately turn to the situation of Job. Job lost his wife, children, possessions and even his health; there seemed no reason for it and his cry for help went apparently unheard. His friends blame sin, disobedience, lack of faith etc but Job denies all that, and he is right! However when we read Job’s story, we know something that Job and his friends do not know. God has a high regard and deep love for Job. Satan says that Job’s reciprocating love is only because God has supplied the man with many blessings. So God allows Satan to take away the blessings to prove to the evil one that Job’s faith is indeed genuine. In our consumer society, it is also easy to claim our blessedness by measuring the extent and wealth of our possessions – but the truth is that our blessedness come from God’s love for us. Job’s story is not about punishment, or even about testing faith; no, it is about proving faith. Job’s faith was genuine; his suffering was because it seemed that the God in whom he had put his trust was ignoring him. But God was not doing that at all, indeed, God’s heart must have ached with Job’s suffering but He could not intervene. Job’s faith had to be proved genuine to the evil one without any assistance from God. And it was!
Similarly, when Jesus was on the Cross, He cried out to the Father, “Why have You forsaken me?” The Father could not intervene, or it would have lessened our salvation – His love for us is great, and our redemption had to be paid in full through the death of Christ.
Sometimes our cry also is “God, why have You forsaken me?” but God has not forsaken us, and He never will. We don’t always have the whole picture though. Job suffered because of Satan’s accusation against God, Jesus suffered because God loves us so much. Our own suffering (the apparent absence of God) might have very wide implications – we don’t know. But we do know that God always works for the good of those who love Him. We do know that it is not God’s desire that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. We do know that God is love and that He loves us. Our response must be to continue in our faith, to trust and love God despite our circumstances and to always hope in Him. We need a childlike faith where we know the Father’s love and are sure always that His intentions are for the good.
Afterwards I offered to pray confidentially with anyone who felt themselves in a “suffering” situation. A few people came forward, and in one case, I felt convicted to tell the person that God would intervene before the week was over. I never do that; I trust God with all my heart but am quite often uncertain about my thoughts and feelings. But I had said that we must pray with childlike faith, and I did, and I had this thought prompt – so I said it.
Praise God that I received a call on Thursday that the prayer had been answered! God is good; all the time! He is worthy of praise and you can trust Him fully, without a doubt.