Power Preaching

With so many preachers with their “hot” sermons all trying to make an impression across the western world one could get quite confused about what makes a powerful message.

In view of that, let me take you back to basics and get you looking at what the Apostle Paul declared was pretty powerful preaching.

The Right to Speak

Paul has the right to tell us what works, since his own preaching was claimed to have “turned the world upside down”.  Paul was hunted from city to city through sheer hatred from those who knew the power of his preaching and who didn’t like what he was achieving.

Paul seemed to have a way of getting his message through in city after city and culture after culture. He was able to birth church after church in places where he simply preached his basic message.

In view of the power of Paul’s preaching we ought to pay attention to what Paul instructs.  And it is worth noting that Paul instructed the early church to imitate him.  I suggest we are well advised to do that in this day, almost two thousand years later.

Paul’s Power Preaching

Paul tells us quite directly that the “Gospel of Christ” is his power message.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16

Paul then explains the two basic truths of his gospel message as he continues his letter to the church in Rome.  Those two basic truths are simply that man is a sinner facing judgment and that faith in Christ saves us.  Paul was not ashamed to declare those truths.

Sinners Facing Judgment

Paul states the first basic principle of the gospel of Christ just two verses after declaring that the gospel is powerful.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” Romans 1:18

Paul uses the rest of chapter 1 and all of chapter 2 to expand on the fact that man is sinful and thus God’s judgment rests on him.  Several verses that state that truth are well known among Christians.

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one.” Romans 3:10-12

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23

We later have Paul advising that the penalty for our sin is a death sentence from God.

“For the wages of sin is death” Romans 6:23a

Paul did not shrink from revealing to people that they had a sin problem and that sin brought God’s judgment on them.  This is the starting point of Paul’s gospel message.  The good news of Christ (the gospel of Christ) is not good news if you don’t first understand the “bad news” of our sin.

Faith in Christ Saves Us

Having established that all mankind is ruined by sin and that God’s wrath rests on the whole human race because no-one can reach God’s holy standard, Paul then testifies to the wonder of forgiveness and salvation we have through faith in Christ.

“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference” Romans 3:21,22

“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” Romans 3:24

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:1,2

It’s a pretty simple message.  Our sin separates us from God and brings God’s judgment upon us.  Our faith in Christ saves us and brings God’s grace upon us.

Ashamed of the Gospel

The way some preachers preach you could think they are “ashamed” of the gospel Paul preached.  Many preachers avoid giving the simple, clear gospel message Paul found so effective.

I talked about this with a Chinese Christian today who admitted that in his youth he heard people preach the simple gospel Paul preached.  But today, he said, he does not hear people preach so directly.

He asked me why I thought that was so, and I suggested that many modern preachers are more interested in pleasing their audience than in pleasing God.  They preach what they think people want to hear, rather than what Paul says will transform the hearers.

Maybe, too, modern preachers don’t want to risk the opposition and challenge Paul received when he preached that simple gospel.

Fear God of Man

The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom but the fear of man brings a snare.

So who you give respect to impacts who and what you are.

This is important for preachers.  If you fear God you will preach God’s truth, no matter whether the audience likes it or not.  Some will reject what you say and others will be transformed by the message.  The gospel of Christ will release the power of God into their lives to save and transform them.

If you fear man, you will preach what people want to hear, but you will have no impact on their lives.  You will also offend God and have none of His blessing and fruit in your ministry.  In fact, you will get trapped (a snare is a trap) and maybe mess up the rest of your life.  That’s what the fear of man does to you.

“The fear of man brings a snare: but whoever puts his trust in the LORD will be safe.” Proverbs 29:25

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10

Let us hear again the simple gospel that transforms lives.

Faith and Banks Audio Message

For the past few months I have been sharing a message around the place about Faith and Banks.

It is a sermon I have been able to preach in many different churches and small groups, sharing my perspective on Faith in God and how that has been part of my fight with Macquarie Bank and Perpetual Trustees, the courts and sheriff over my home.

I hope to have a video version of the message available on YouTube, but so far I do have an audio version uploaded by Ps Larry Sebastian, where I preached this message last Sunday (March 20) in Casey City Church in Fountain Gate, Melbourne.  Click here to listen to the Audio of that message.

The first half of the message explores what the Bible shows us about God’s grace, which is the basis of my life of faith.

Then I explain how my understanding of faith has supported me over the past 18 months as I have engaged in taking on lies and fraud in the banking industry and injustice in the courts.

That battle is not over, but so far we are delighted with where things have come to and where they are heading.

Here is the link to that message: http://media.monkserve.com/EKK/3955/parenting.mp3

Someone wrongly labeled the message as Parenting, since I shared on that topic at Casey City Church last year.  Ignore the title and enjoy the message.

Marriage Moment of Truth

Marriages start out on an exciting note, full of happy expectation. Yet some of those marriages end up on the trash heap. At some point from the engagement to the divorce something went wrong. Whatever the challenges are that lead to a failed marriage other marriages weather the storm and come through stronger.

So, along the way from the proposal to the decree nisi there is some telling moment or development that tips the scales from success to sabotage; from freedom to failure; and from celebration to shame. So, we’re looking for the Moment of Truth in Marriage, where that tipping point is encountered.

Tipping Point

The Moment of Truth is that point in the couple’s journey where they make a decision, balk at a hurdle, draw a line or otherwise change the course of their relationship. What started as delight became bogged down with disappointment. Strife replaced celebration and the couple began to move toward the death of their marriage.

Now, the tipping point is not the same for each couple. Some couples know that it is all over by the end of the honeymoon. Other couples work together for thirty-five years before ending their marriage. For some there is a major shock, such as unfaithfulness, that bombards the relationship. For others some subtle, slow process sets in that eats away at the union.

This makes it hard to come up with a simplistic “tipping point” definition.

Attitude Not Action

The tipping point, or Moment of Truth, when a relationship takes a turn toward its own destruction cannot be built on an action. Marriages have proven to be incredibly resilient. Marriages have survived and even flourished after such tragedies and traumas as abuse, violence, adultery, death of a child, financial ruin, war, betrayal, attempted suicide, mental breakdown, and more.

The tipping point, then, is not an action. Instead it is an attitude. The attitude may spring to life in response to an action, but it is wrong to blame the action. Others have endured the same treatment, circumstances, disappointment, stress and so on, without destroying their marriage. So it must be firmly stated that the problem is NOT the action.

However, when a wrong attitude comes into the picture it can be poisonous, impossible to endure and persistent to the point of total destruction. The tipping point is the point at which a wrong attitude takes root, setting the course toward ultimate ruin.

Biblical Warning

Since the Bible is supremely relevant and current, we should expect it to speak clearly to this issue, and it does. There is a serious warning given in the New Testament which is probably directly linked to the Moment of Truth, or Tipping Point in marriage.

The Biblical warning is that people MUST give grace to one another. Specifically they are to give each other the “grace of God”. That means that they are to forgive each other, accept each other and be considerate of each other, in the same way that God is gracious to all of humanity. God gives sunshine and rain to both the good people and evil people. God is gracious, even to people who are campaigning to prove that God does not exist.

Humans, then, are to be ever willing to tolerate and be gracious to each other, just as God is.

But the warning goes further than that. The Biblical warning is that if a person fails to provide God’s grace to others the only alternative is that the evil attitude of bitterness will spring up in their life and lead to all kinds of problems.

“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” Hebrews 12:14,15

Let me paraphrase that text for you this way: “Be at peace with everyone. And keep yourself holy. If you are not holy you will never see God. Be diligent to keep on giving God’s grace to people. If you don’t a root of bitterness will spring up within you and agitate you. A root of bitterness will make trouble for many people around you.”

Key Moment

The key moment in your marriage is not how or where you propose. It’s not how long your engagement is. It is not the wedding day, or the wedding night. It’s not the honeymoon. It’s not your first year, or your first home. It’s not based on how soon the kids come along, or how many you have or don’t have. It’s not about how much money you have or whether one, both or none of you work.

The key moment in any marriage is that moment when one or other of the couple decides to stop giving grace to the other. When one person makes the internal decision, “I’ve had enough of that”, “I’m not taking any more of this”, “I won’t forgive them this time”, or something like that, they have tipped the marriage into the path toward destruction.

It is possible for a couple to come close to that point several times, and still survive. If the person tips back, changing their mind and forgiving, extending grace, accepting the one they had decided to reject, then they can undo the damage that has been done. But when they come to that point and decide to stick on that track, that’s when the end has been determined.

The Grace of God

The most valuable ingredient you can bring into any relationship, then, is the grace of God. A couple which has determined to always forgive and extend grace to each other will be able to ride over the ups and downs of their relationship.

Remember that bitterness only springs up when someone has determined to stop giving God’s grace. As long as the graces of forgiveness, compassion, acceptance, sacrificial commitment and such like are poured into a marriage that marriage can weather any storm or strain.

When the attitude turns from one that gives grace to one that digs in with hardness of heart, bitterness takes root and poisons the mind, attitudes, decisions and relationships.

Remember, the problem is not the actions experienced, but the attitudes taken up in response to those things.

Moments of Grace

Protect your marriage with moments of grace. Tip your marriage toward success and indestructibility. Determine, with God’s help, to give grace to each other. Determine to continue extending grace, God’s grace, no matter what.

Instead of having Moments of Truth and Tipping Points that turn your marriage into dust, have Moments of Grace and multiple Turning Points which turn your marriage back to God’s grace and God’s miraculous provision for your happiness and success.

Little One 1

Welcome into my family, precious one. You are a gift from God. God, Himself, chose to trust you into our family and my care. I am so thrilled to have you as part of my life. You are a precious jewel that I have the privilege of keeping, loving and preparing for the throne-room of God.

I love you and I rejoice in the delight of having you in my care. Please make yourself completely at home in my love. Be ready at any time to call on me to help and to bless you.

I commit myself today to be everything God asks me to be in your life. I realise I don’t have the strength, wisdom or character to be the perfect parent such a wonderful child as you deserves. So I humbly ask God to help me. I ask Him to rescue me from my limitations and my selfishness, and all those things that will get in the way of nurturing you to the fullness of God’s plan for you.

I also realise that you will have some hard lessons to learn, as God deals with your weaknesses and directs your strengths. Some times we will have to work through problems created by my failings and your own. Only God can help us through those times. So I commit myself to you today, to be ready and willing to seek and find God’s grace, so that we can successfully triumph over ever obstacle. We will learn every lesson, cross every hurdle, avoid every pitfall and be delivered from every evil. That will happen despite our own failings, because we will find God as our deliverer and saviour, even when we are the ones who have created the problem.

So, I’m looking forward with joy to the amazing journey ahead for us all. It is much more than a journey of friendship and family. It is much more than the navigation of human and social challenges. It is an eternal journey, starting here on earth and continuing forever, in God’s presence. We will not only experience wonderful things, but, together, and as a family, we will all impact others in ways that change them for eternity too. We will be blessed and we will be a blessing. We will be an example and we will be trophies of God’s grace. We will be pipes through which God will pour some of His finest blessings into others.

So, it’s a delight to bring you into that amazing process. It’s a delight to welcome you into the team. We all have so much to explore and discover in the years ahead. And there will be so many wonderful moments, so many smiles, and hugs and celebrations. There will be many tears as well, but those will be part of making us wiser, stronger and deeper than we could have been. So we are not afraid of the tears, but confident that each tear drop will become a splash of joy as God works His wonderful purpose in our lives.

You have just stepped into eternal destiny. You will work as part of our family destiny, and in the process God will allow you to own it and to expand on it in your own unique way. I just can’t wait to see what God is going to do through you as we all build you toward your life calling.

Welcome. Welcome into the wonderful world of God’s grace.

You’re Not Dead Yet

There is still hope for you yet. In fact there is going to be hope for you until the day you die. You may have given up already and others may have written you off, but “you ain’t dead yet!” and so there’s still plenty of hope for you and your situation.

Death was once defined as “the cessation of all radical change”. When I tried to track down that definition I couldn’t find it, but it catches the idea that as long as someone is alive they are able to make significant change to who and what they are.

A sinner can choose to put their faith in Christ even as they slip from life. Until death has made its final blow people are open to change, even quite radical change.

So, if you’re still breathing there is hope for you and the mess you are in.

Sadly we make the assumption we are locked into things and we endure our circumstances as if they are unchangeable. We see ourselves as unchangeable too.

But, as I’ve said already, “You’re not dead yet”!

History is littered with testimony of people who made significant, revolutionary and unexpected change. The power of God changes people. The grace of God changes people. A wake-up shake-up can cause people to take action they have kept avoiding. New insights have empowered people to make changes they previously thought impossible.

So, cheer up. You ain’t dead yet! Today is jam packed with miracle potential. You can change the rest of your life, the future of your descendents and even eternal destinies by what you choose to do today.

Aren’t you glad you’re alive?