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Ghost Story Part #1: Who are you?

Who or what is the Holy Spirit? This is the question we began our sermon this past Sunday with. Below you will find a link to the sermon, as well as a copy of the completed sermon notes that were handed out on Sunday. At the end, you will find some questions to ponder by yourself, with a partner, or with your children. To listen to the sermon, click the link directly below.

Ghost Story Part 1

Sermon Notes:
When it comes to explaining the Holy Spirit, we are at a loss (like trying to explain what electricity is)

When it comes to the Holy Spirit, you might have baggage or stereotypes. Please try to put them aside!

1) The Holy Spirit is God

“Is it because Christians have lost the sense of the Holy Spirit being God?” Robert Kuglin (from A Layman’s Handbook on the Holy Spirit)

Practical ways we show that we have lost the sense of the Holy Spirit as God?

The Holy Spirit is worthy of praise, prayer, worship and adoration, as much as the Father and the Son!

A) Equality with the Father and the Son (see Matt 28:19, 2 Cor 13:14 & 2 Cor 3:18-19)
B) He is eternal (Heb 9:14)
C) He is all powerful (Rom 15:18-19)
D) He is all-knowing (1 Cor 2:10-11)
E) He IS God (Acts 5:3-4)

2) He is a Person

In the Bible we don’t read of the Holy Spirit as a thing, but as a person!

Billy Graham writes: “Whoever speaks of the Holy Spirit as “it” is uninstructed, or perhaps even undiscerning…We see from the Bible that the Holy Spirit has intellect, emotions, and will. In addition to this, the Bible also ascribes to Him the acts we would expect of someone who was not just a force but a real person.”

HE, HIM (see John 14:16-17 & John 16:7-8)

  • He can be lied to (Acts 5:3-4)
  • He can be grieved (Isaiah 63:10)
  • He can be insulted (Hebrews 10:29)
  • He loves (Romans 15:30)
  • He speaks (Acts 13:2)
  • He leads (Acts 8:29)

#3 He is Present

A) He is omnipresent (all places at all times)

Psalm 139:7-12 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

B) Have you ever prayed for God to send the Spirit? Why do you do that?

John 16:7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

Did Jesus do that? YES (Acts 2:2-4)

After this, did the Spirit leave or get recalled to heaven? NO!

John 14:16-17 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you FOREVER — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

The Spirit is always present. Instead of praying for God to send the Spirit, we need to pray to be filled with the Spirit, to be sensitive to the Spirit, to have the Spirit speak to us, guide us, convince us of sin.

Dr. Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ tells this story of a famous oil field called Yates Pool. During the depression this field was a sheep ranch owned by a man named Yates. Mr. Yates wasn’t able to make enough on his ranching operation to pay the principal and interest on the mortgage, so he was in danger of losing his ranch. With little money for clothes or food, his family (like many others) had to live on government subsidy. Day after day, as he grazed his sheep over those rolling West Texas hills, he was no doubt greatly troubled about how he would pay his bills. Then a seismographic crew from an oil company came into the area and told him there might be oil on his land. They asked permission to drill a wildcat well, and he signed a lease contract. At 1,115 feet they struck a huge oil reserve. The first well came in at 80,000 barrels a day. Many subsequent wells were more than twice as large. In fact, 30 years after the discovery, a government test of one of the wells showed it still had the potential flow of 125,000 barrels of oil a day. And Mr. Yates owned it all. The day he purchased the land, he had received the oil and mineral rights. Yet, he’d been living on relief. A multimillionaire living in poverty. The problem? He didn’t know the oil was there, even though he owned it.

Many Christians live in spiritual poverty. They are entitled to the gifts of the Holy Spirit and his energizing power, but they are not aware of their birthright, they are unaware of what they have been given. As we walk through this series, it is my earnest prayer that you will begin to understand the amazing presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

Questions to Ponder:
1) Who is the Holy Spirit to you? (answer honestly)
2) What part of this sermon challenged you the most?
3) How are you denying the Holy Spirit as God in practical ways?
4) How are some ways you can begin to see the Spirit in a different light?
5) What is some of the baggage you carry when it comes to the Holy Spirit?

Congregational Round-table

While many churches, and even the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada as a whole, have taken steps to include women in all levels of church leadership, Palmerston EMC has maintained a tradition of male-only leadership in the Deacon role. A little over a year ago, Palmerston EMC began having a conversation about the place of women in leadership of the church, specifically in the role of Deacon by asking for the church’s opinion on the matter. The response to that question was limited, with only about 20 responses coming in, but decidedly one sided, with the vast majority of those who responded stating that it is about time that PEMC allowed women to serve in the role of Deacon.

Over the past year, church leadership has been continuing this discussion and we believe it is time to move that discussion to a close. Toward that end, the church leadership would like to invite everyone to a round-table discussion to be held after church on November 1st. This will be the kick-off to our “Souper Sunday” events for the fall and winter months, and our round-table discussion will be held afterward.

The intent of this event is for people to come and share their thoughts and opinions openly about women holding the position of Deacon in our church. It is important to me and the church leadership that people be given the opportunity to share their opinions openly about this topic. While we will not be holding a vote regarding this topic on November 1st, we are interested in learning the feelings of as many people as we can through this discussion.

To help in preparation for that event, we have asked our denominational leadership to provide us with some resources that might speak to this topic. While there are no specific position papers available, our president Phil Delsaut, did write a series of papers on headship that speak to the role of women in leadership in a Christian community. These papers are available in print on the literature table in the church foyer or by clicking on the links below.

President Delsaut Headship #1
President Delsaut Headship #2
President Delsaut Headship #3
President Delsaut Headship #4
President Delsaut Headship #5
President Delsaut Headship #6
President Delsaut Headship #7

You will note that there was to be a final paper after #7, but it was not to be found when I made this request to head office.

The other thing to do to prepare for this round-table discussion is to take a look at the pertinent scriptures associated with this discussion. Of course, there are the passages from 1 Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:5-9, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

I would encourage you to read these passages in their full context. Read all of 1 Timothy and Titus. Read 1 Corinthians 11-14 to grasp the context of Paul’s statements.

I would also encourage you to read those passages in light of passages like:
Genesis 3 – where male headship is a curse as a result of sin
Galatians 3:26-29
Romans 16:1
1 Peter 5:13

One thing that I desperately want to avoid with this conversation is the polarizing effect it might have. Some of us have very strong feelings one way or the other about this topic, either because of a tradition we have grown up with or because we have come to believe that the scriptures say one thing or the other.

The truth is, either side of this discussion can be strongly argued with the use of scripture, either accurately or by bending scripture to fit our opinions.

One other thing to consider when preparing for this discussion is these scriptures about how the Holy Spirit determines giftedness for ministry and leadership: Hebrews 2:4 & 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.

Thank you for considering this discussion and for your participation in the discussion November 1st.

Pastor Phil.

Overcomers: Royalty

Revelation 3:21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.

When you look around at the people who surround you on a daily basis, what do you see? When you look at yourself in the mirror, what do you see?

Sometimes when we look at others we like what we see, sometimes we are disappointed by what we see, and other times we plain old detest what we see. The same can be said when we look in the mirror.

But what does God see when he looks as you?

Sermon Big Idea:
We are a chose, royal and holy people that God treasures.

Sermon Points:

  • 1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
  • This is what God sees when he looks at us.
  • This is God’s promise to Israel in Exodus 19:5-6, a promise passed on to Christians (Revelation 1:6)
  • We have a new position before God when we come to faith in Christ.
  • Galatians 4:4-7 proclaims that we are adopted as children, that we are no longer slaves but sons and daughters, and because we are his children we are also his heirs. These are all changes in our position before God.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:16 tells us that we should no longer view one another with a worldly point of view because we are all royalty, reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.
  • C.S. Lewis: “There are no ordinary people…it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit…Next to the blessed sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object present to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy for in him also Christ – the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.” (from his book The Weight of Glory).
  • The final promise from Jesus to the overcomers in Revelation 3 is a promise to reign on the throne with him, because Jesus has won the victory and has given us the right to sit with him.
  • This truth should do two things in our lives: 1) it should change the way we view other people; 2) it should change the way we view ourselves and live our lives.

Follow-up questions:
Do you live as a chosen, holy, royal one who is treasured by God? If not, why not? Do you live like the victory Jesus died to make you, or do you live as a defeated one?

Questions for parents with children:
Take a few minutes to ask your children what they think a royal, holy, chosen person looks like. Ask them if they realize that the the Bible is describing them.

Overcomers: New Names

Names are something that have had different meanings all through history. Unfortunately, we live in an age when names are rather neglected parts of our existence. We have come to a place in time when names are almost second-thoughts. But in different ages names meant a great deal. At some points in time they were closely guarded, because it was believe that to know someone’s true name was to have power over them. At other points in history, names were very carefully considered because it was believe that names had the power to change or influence the kind of person a child would become. At still other points in history, a person’s true name was not given to them until their character had revealed itself in puberty or adulthood. In fact, it was not uncommon in some periods of history for people to have more than one name throughout their lives.

As we continue our journey this week though chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation, looking at “those who overcome”, we will come to a promise from Jesus to give us new names, names only known to Jesus and the individual. While there have been many attempts over the centuries to explain and understand this new name, I have always taken a rather simplistic view of the matter: Jesus knows me better even than I do. He knows me, not in my fallen, sinful state, but in the redeemed, purified, justified state that will be “me” when I spend eternity with him in heaven. That new “me” will need a new name, a name that identifies me not as the broken person I am now, but as the redeemed son of God that I will be then. That new name will embody everything God intended me to be when he breathed me into creation.

I think that is pretty cool.

Fan or Follower: Yada, yada, yada

No, I’m not trying to imitate the sound you thought your parents were making when they were trying to tell you something important about life (past or present). The word “yada” is actually a Hebrew word used in the Old Testament, and the best way of defining it is “to know completely and to be completely known.” It is the word used in Genesis 4:1 when we are told that “Adam lay with his wife Eve.” It is more than just a sexual activity that Genesis 4 is talking about here. The word yada talks about the mingling of souls, the very depth of intimacy.

This word, yada, appears in many places throughout the Old Testament, and if you were to take time to follow it, you would find that it is the word used over and over again to describe God’s relationship with us. It is the word that is used to describe how God wants to be known by us, and it describes how God already knows you.

Take the beginning of Psalm 139 for example:
Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; You understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; You are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, You know all about it, Lord.

It is God’s desire to know us and to be known by us. That is the principle of following that we are going to explore this week. A fan knows about Jesus, a follower knows Jesus.

As we march toward Sunday, take some time in Psalm 139, one of my favourite pieces of scripture, to contemplate how deeply God already knows you.

Perhaps takes some time in John chapter 10 as well, where Jesus talks about being the good shepherd. In that section of scripture, Jesus talks about the sheep recognizing (knowing) the shepherds voice, and so they follow him.

The truth of the matter is that there are many competing voices in our world today, many things that push and pull us to follow. We must learn to hear the voice of the Shepherd, and the only way to do that is to know him enough that we recognize his voice.

See you Sunday.

Fan or Follower: The Way

Good Tuesday morning!

We had the privilege of having Claran Martin with us on Sunday. Claran is a Regional Minister with the EMCC, a member of the EMC’s National Team as well as the gentleman who helps resource, coach and equip me as a Pastor with the Evangelical Missionary Church.

Claran was with us on Sunday to bring greeting from President Phil Delsault as well as to give us some further conversation about what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

I don’t have Claran’s notes to share exactly when he spoke on, but I will share my thoughts with you about it. Following Jesus means going on a journey with him, a journey of transformation. Claran spoke from Matthew 4, where Jesus calls Simon and Andrew to follow.
19 “Follow Me,” He told them, “and I will make you fish for people!” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.

I will make. Jesus calls us on this journey to follow him, but he does not call us into something that we must do alone. This has struck me on several occasions as I have been studying this topic. Many commentators, many authors reiterate the point that the Christian walk is not a lone walk. It is not something we endeavour to do on our own. Jesus asserts “I will make”. The transformation we experience as we journey with Jesus is not something we generate on our own, it is not something we make happen. It is something God does in our lives through the work of the Holy Spirit. It is also something that we are encouraged in by other Christians in our lives.

Claran made several other points during his time with us that I will try to outline briefly. First, the North American church is experiencing a time of decline. 60% of youth leave the church when they move away from their families, and of that 60%, 60% leave and never return. This is a startling statistic. Part of the issue is that the church has expected people to come to it, instead of realizing that the the call to follow Jesus is a call to go out, a call to be a blessing to the world around us. We need to go to those around us as a blessing, instead of waiting for them to come to us.

Second, Claran reminded us that our journey with Jesus is our own responsibility. We can’t rely on hearing a sermon once/week to grow as a Christian. In fact, did you know that you forget 80% of what you have heard within 24hrs? That is one of the reasons I am doing these blogs, to remind of what we have learned on Sunday and give you some thoughts/questions to ponder to keep it fresh in your minds.

Follow-up questions:
What does it mean to you to let Jesus make you into someone who fishes for people? What is something you would like Jesus to work on in you to make you a better “fisher-person”? What is one way you can be a blessing to a neighbour, friend, family-member, co-worker or complete stranger this week? Follow through on your plan. Share your experience with a Christian friend.

Questions for families with young children:
Ask you child to think of a time when they received a blessing from someone? Ask them how that made them feel. Ask them if they have any ideas about how they can be a blessing to someone in their lives, and then help them to follow through on their idea/plan.

Fan or Follower: Interference

We all have things that interfere with our lives. A child’s cry at 3 am interferes with our sleep. A construction zone interferes with travel plans and arrival times. Snow storms interfere with school days and plane rides to southern climes. An unexpected death interferes with, well, life. The arrival of this blog post may also interfere in your life, especially if it lends itself to distracting you from work :). (Don’t worry, I’m guilty of that one too).

These types of interferences will often cause us to view any interference in a negative light. This past Sunday we explored the truth that following Jesus will interfere with our lives.

Principles of following:
1) Jesus is the only one worth following. 2) Following is essential to believing, just as believing is essential to following. 3) following means being a doulos (slave) to Jesus. 4) following means expecting Jesus to interfere with your life.

Sermon Big Idea: Following Jesus means being prepared for him to interfere with your life.

Sermon Points:

  • as you read the gospels, notice that Jesus interferes all over the place.
  • Jesus interferes with:
    • the rich young man’s priorities (Mark 10:17-21)
    • the rich young man’s religion (Mark 10:17-21)
    • James and John’s family (Matthew 4:18-22)
    • Matthew’s career (Matthew 9:9-13)
    • Nathanael’s point of view (John 1:43-49)
  • if following Jesus does not interfere with your life, it is likely that you are not really following Jesus.
  • being in a doulos relationship with Jesus means being ready and willing for him to interfere in your life.
  • deny yourself, take up your cross and daily follow Jesus: it has to be a daily thing, being willing for Jesus to interfere in your life on a daily basis.
  • Jesus interferences aren’t negative, and they bring rewards (Mark 10:28-31)
  • following Jesus means expecting him, waiting for him to interfere with your life, with your priorities, your religion, your family, your relationships, your career, your way of thinking and maybe even your very life.

Follow-up questions:
When was the last time you remember Jesus interfering with your life? How did you react to his interference? If you have never had God interfere with your life, is it possible that you have been blocking his influence in your life? What might that look like? Does the thought of Jesus interfering in your life scare you? Why?

Questions for families with young children:
The next time you get angry with your child for interrupting you (be honest, it happens), take a moment to talk to them about how not all interruptions are bad things. Ask them if they have ever felt like God wanted them to do or say something in a specific situation. Did they act or speak? Why or why not?

Fan or Follower: Doulos

Good morning my friends.

I hope and pray that your journey through the New Testament is going well, and that you are enjoying what John is laying out for you through his gospel. Again, let me encourage you to take time to really reflect on the readings and ponder what John is laying out for you about Jesus. Who he was and still is? What does he ask of us? What does he promise for us?

This past Sunday was our second Sunday exploring the question: Are you a follower of Jesus? In the first week of the series we explored that a follower of Jesus recognizes that there is no one else worth following (taken from Peter’s words at the end of John 6). This past Sunday we spent our time talking about one particular word used to identify Christ-followers in the New Testament. That is the word “doulos”.

Doulos, literally means bondslave, and talks about someone who is fully committed to serving their master. The big problem with this concept is that we are taught to be individuals, to be independent, self-sufficient, free-thinking, to take control of our own destiny. This concept from the Bible flies in the face of all of that.

Sermon big idea: Being a follower of Jesus means living out a slave relationship to him.

Sermon Points:

  • Being a Christian means both believing and following, they go hand-in-hand
  • New Testament word used to describe Christians is “doulos”
  • Doulos means bondslave:
  • Bond-slave: someone who was purchased at a price, who serves the master’s needs, is at the master’s beck and call every moment; someone who is devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests
  • A true bond-slave has no will of their own, but whose will is completely consumed by the will of the master
  • Slave not just to God, but to other Christians and to the world around us
  • Our slavery to God is lived out in our slavery to others
  • Pride and cultural sensitivity to this word can make us shy away from being identified as a slave
  • We must remember that Jesus was the first slave, he modeled slavery to us (Philippians 2:5-8)

Follow-up Questions:
Whose will is in control of your life, Jesus’ or yours? In what areas of your life do you still call the shots instead of letting Jesus call the shots? What is holding you back from more fully giving Jesus control? Are you at Jesus’ “beck and call”?

Questions for families with young children:
Take a moment next time your child is being will-full and talk to them about what it means to submit, to live obediently in relationship with those who have authority in their lives. Ask them how they should respond next time someone in authority (a teacher, bus-driver, parent) talks to them.

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Those are the closing words from Peter in John chapter 6. The words are spoken in response to a question by Jesus, the question was: “What about you? Are you going to leave too?”

On Sunday we explored the story of the feeding of the 5000 from John 6, a story that spans all 71 verses of this chapter, not just the first 15 that we often associate with the story. Jesus feeds the crowd, departs from them during the night (when he walks on water to get the disciples boat), and the crowd (or part of it) follows him across the sea the following day. When they find him, Jesus makes it plain that they were only looking for him because he had fed them.

Instead of offering them more food, Jesus offers them himself as the bread of life. John makes it clear that from that moment on, many people stopped following Jesus. So Jesus challenges the 12, asking if the would leave too. And we have Peter’s fantastic response. Who else can we go to? Only you have the words of eternal life.

Sunday began the start of a journey in answering the question: Are you a fan or follower? A fan follows Jesus based on what he can do for them, based on how he can meet their needs, based on how he can scratch their itch. A follower follows Jesus because he/she recognizes that it is all about Jesus; that there is no one else that gives life that lasts, not just fills their stomachs. In many ways, this is the first step in being a full follower of Jesus: recognizing that he is the ONE and ONLY Lord who brings life and gives us truth.

Follow up questions:
What was new about the story of the feeding of the 5000? Was anything shocking? Where do you see yourself in that story: like one of the crowd that went home or like one of the disciples? Do you follow Jesus because he is Lord or because he scratches your itch? Why do you follow Jesus?

Discussion for young families:
Take a few moments to talk with your kids about why you say grace before (or after) a meal. Talk about how Jesus meets more than just your physical needs as an adult and ask you kids what needs they have that Jesus can meet. Pray with them about the things they mention.

Challenge for the week: 
Spend time reflecting on why you follow Jesus.

New Year, New Challenge

Alright, so our Bible Challenge for 2014 is completed. Let me congratulate all of you who journeyed with me through the entire Bible in 2014! Let me reiterate, the point of this challenge was not read every word in the Bible (if you did then well done indeed). The point was to get you reading your Bible more in 2014 than you did in 2013, or maybe more than you ever have in your whole life. The point was to whet your appetite for the Word of God.

On numerous occasions, Jesus tells people that he offers us food that will sate their hunger and quench their thirst. Accomplishing those things only happens when we are going deeper into our relationship with Jesus, and that only happens as we spend time with him, in prayer, meditation and, yes, reading the Bible.

Sometimes you don’t even know you are hungry for something until you get a taste for it. It is my prayer that as you took part in the challenge for 2014 that you appetite has been thoroughly whetted because of the taste that you got of God’s Word.

We are going to embark on another journey together for 2015, starting January 5th. The schedule will be posted under the “Bible Challenge” tab on the main page of this website. We’re going to slow things down for 2015 and take the year to journey through the New Testament together. That will mean a little bit lighter reading schedule, which I’m sure some of you will enjoy. Basically you will be reading a chapter a day, sometimes only part of a chapter.

This challenge is going to be less about quantity and more about quality. While there will be less reading to do each day, I hope you will take the time to dig deeper into each reading. Really ask the Holy Spirit to show you what he wants YOU to hear during each day’s reading. How does he want to continue transforming your life to better imitate Jesus? What actions does he want you to do in response to what you read? I don’t know about you, but I felt that we blasted through the New Testament in 2014’s challenge, and there is so much to unpack. It is my hope that by reading less, we will have room to respond and process more.

Another change for 2015 is that I will not be blogging as much. I’m sure many of you realize how much of a commitment it was for me to write as often as I did. It was my goal to write every day when we first began our challenge, but that soon whittled its way down to four or five times per week. My goal for this year will be to blog twice per week, once on Friday and once on Tuesday. The focus of my blogs will not be as much our Bible Challenge, although I will be commenting on it from time-to-time. The focus is going to be on what I am going to be speaking on during our Sunday morning gathering. Friday’s post will be some opening thoughts, scriptures to read and some questions to ponder going into Sunday, and Tuesday’s post will be some follow-up material about Sunday’s sermon.

Here’s a preview of how 2015 is shaping up regarding our 2015 Sunday gatherings. We’re going to start by spending some weeks exploring what the difference is between being a follower of Jesus, and being a fan of Jesus. Then we’re going to take some time looking at one of the outcomes of being a follower of Jesus: that we are “those who overcome”. This phrase shows up in Jesus’ letters to the churches in the book of Revelation. What does it mean to be an overcomer and what does Jesus say about those who overcome?

Then we’re going to take time between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to explore “The Art of Biblical Manliness”, and that will lead us into a walk through the book of Daniel through the summer months.

I want to encourage you to continue the pattern you started in 2014, and build on it in 2015. I know we have so much that demands our time, but there is nothing more important than our spiritual nourishment; and I have never heard anyone say that spending time with God is a waste. It takes away from other things, sure, but it is all a matter of priority and importance. Our time with God should take away from other things, because it is more important.

So thank you for journeying with me through the Bible in 2014, and I sincerely pray that God richly blessed you as you dedicated time to be in his Word. And I invite you to continue the journey withe me and with PEMC as we key in on the New Testament in 2015.

Happy Reading.